Authors: T. A. Grey
Willow wasn’t so sure she wanted to hear this.
“Shapeshifters get one mate; one chance. Sometimes it takes hundreds of years before the other one can be found. In many cases, they die before ever finding their mate. Sometimes it’s much easier. I found my Jack while visiting in California.” Her soft smile was infectious.
“Is he a shapeshifter, too?”
Rachel nodded. “Yes, I met him while visiting a cousin in a different pack. He asked me out right away and after that first kiss,” she sighed blissfully. “We knew right then.”
Willow felt a pang of bitterness in her chest. She used to want that, to know what it was like to feel something on that kind of level. And she did get to experience it, in a tainted, disgusting way.
“I didn’t know shapeshifters can mate with other breeds,” Willow said.
“It’s a bit unusual that’s for sure, but not uncommon.” Rachel paused. “So I don’t want to make you awkward or anything but you can’t leave him.”
“What do you mean?” The baby fussed a bit and Rachel moved her to the other shoulder. The baby quieted.
“To have your mate not accept you is...geez I don’t even know how to say it. It’s considered shameful. Not to mention that the one who’s left can never be with anyone else. After they find their mate, that’s it. They are locked together forever.”
Willow’s head throbbed with a migraine. “Are you saying that if I leave him, he’ll want only me and can never just find some Suzy Homemaker to make him happy?”
Rachel gave her a sad look. “It’s sad I know but it’s true. We spend our lives looking for our other half, if we lose them after finding them, it breaks us.”
Willow sighed, of course it does. This couldn’t be easy. Nope. She had to either stay here and be with the dominating Alpha or hurt him for the rest of his life. She wasn’t so sure she was mean enough to do something like that.
“But I’m not a shapeshifter, how would that affect me?” Rachel frowned and shook her head.
“I’m not sure. You might be able to move on with your life and find another, but he’d be left the same. This is me,” she said as they neared a small white house. Willow walked with her to the door.
“Thanks for the info, Rachel.”
Rachel laughed. “Anytime you need anything just come by.” When she turned around her smile was gone. “Listen, I know you don’t know him very well, but you should try it. I’ve lived in this pack since I was a child and I’ve never seen him so happy. Is he really so bad?”
Willow swallowed the lump in her throat. How did she explain old fears without revealing herself? She couldn’t.
“Yes, he wants me to be someone I’m not.”
Rachel smiled as if she was remembering something. “Then maybe you need to push back.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sometimes an Alpha needs to have control exerted on them. It might help to keep him in check.”
How did she control someone like him? The man was so physical it was in everything he did. She wouldn’t be able to do it without being physical.
Nodding, Willow said goodbye and walked back to Lyonis’ cabin, lost in her thoughts. Could she really leave him if that meant his suffering?
Could she stay and actually put up with him? She went into the cabin and fell onto the couch. Why did everything have to be so difficult? This was all Papa’s fault. Him and that stupid will.
She wasn’t so mean that she could do that to him, but she also wasn’t going to put herself in the same situation she’d done with David. Tucking her knees into her chest, Willow curled up on the couch.
She contemplated what Rachel had said. Pushing back against the Alpha. Wasn’t that what she’d been doing? Shit, she’d literally fought him, had outrun him, and outsmarted him through most of Europe. In fact, if it wasn’t for that stupid ice she slipped on, he might not have even caught her. If that wasn’t pushing back then she didn’t know what was.
Willow closed her eyes as she remembered this morning. Her mouth suddenly dried out and she swallowed hard. He did please her in that way, but even she knew that was no basis for a relationship.
“Ugh!” she said and slammed a pillow over her face. She didn’t want a relationship. Not with him. Did she want someone...yes. She wanted someone to talk to and share things with, to love. Lyonis Keelan wasn’t that man. Sure he was nice, but he’d break her so fast if she let her guard down.
Moisture dampened her cheek. Willow blinked and felt it again. Touching her cheek, she saw a tear. Quickly she dried her face on the pillow and squeezed her eyes shut.
She would figure something out. She always did. Her eyes drifted closed and she went to sleep.
Lyonis’ smile widened as he spotted his mate sleeping on his couch. The sight made him feel lighter than air; something he wasn’t used to yet.
After three hundred years of searching, he finally found his mate. Crouching down beside her, Lyonis chuckled as he removed the pillow crammed against her face.
His breath caught as he looked at her. Beautiful as she was awake, she was even more so in sleep. Relaxed and calm with her light hair spilled around her, Willow was an enticing woman. His gaze caught on her cheek and narrowed.
A quick glance at the pillow in his hands proved him right—she’d been crying. His hands curled into fists as a red haze fogged his mind. Who or what had made her sad?
He gentled his hand to trail his fingertips over her wet cheek. A hard knot filled his gut like lead and slithered up to his heart. Did he make her cry? His heart nearly stopped at the thought.
She’d been with him for barely a day and already she was sad. Lyonis stood and rocked back on his feet, his hand running over the back of his neck. He could fix anything. He’d fix this. She will be happy; she will be his mate.
A knock sounded at the door. Lyonis quickly answered it before it woke her up. His two lieutenants, Jackie and Thane waited for him. Closing the door behind him, he stepped outside.
“What’s going on?”
“We have visitors,” Jackie said.
“Willow’s sisters, Tyrian en Kulev, and a demon.”
“What kind of demon?”
“Send them to my office. I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Sir,” Jackie asked, “is there any particular reason why these...individuals would be here, uninvited.” Lyonis grimaced as he considered his answer.
“Willow and her sisters summoned a demon from below the rift. Last I heard, Chloe and Tyrian defeated the beast but I witnessed something in Germany that shows there may be more to the story.”
Thane and Jackie exchanged glances before nodding and leaving. Lyonis quietly entered his house. He squatted down beside his mate and pushed the hair back from her face. She frowned and pushed his hand away with a grumble.
The corner of his mouth kicked up. Even in sleep, she was a fighter. The needs he felt around his mate were more amazing than anything he’d ever felt. Hunger, desire, generosity, protectiveness were all taken to degrees he’d never imagined. Yet, she was sad. The first day with him and already she was losing her spirit.
Lyonis’ heart thumped painfully in his chest. He would not have this. He will make her happy and she will mate with him. They will love each other and run the pack together.
“Willow,” he said softly. The furrow between her eyes deepened and he laughed. “Time to wake up, tawicue.”
She grumbled something inaudible.
“What was that, my Willow?” He combed his fingers through her soft hair. Her hand came up and slapped his hand away.
“I said I’m not your wife.” Not yet, he added silently.
As her eyes fluttered open, he said, “I have some news that you might be excited about.” Her eyes shot wide with hope.
“You’re letting me go!” Surprisingly it hurt more than he’d thought it would to hear that.
“No, but your sisters are here.” Excitement instantly lit up her face. The impact of it hit him hard and fast. He couldn’t ignore the urge and quickly wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. She wiggled and squirmed to get away.
“Let me go. I need to see them.” He did but not before he held her head still for a kiss. The sound of her breath catching soothed his nerves infinitely. Pulling away from her soft heat, he watched a flush stain her cheeks. She might not like it but she liked his touch. Hope filled his chest. He could fix this. He could make her happy. She was meant to be his.
“Alright, let’s go see your family. I’m excited to meet them.”
She paused at the front door and turned back to him slowly. “Why? You aren’t coming with me. I need to talk to them alone.”
Lyonis prided himself on his ability to control his anger and frustration, but she seemed to push his buttons at every turn. He closed in on her, loving the way she backed into the door to get away from him.
He’d rather have her meeting him halfway with a kiss and a touch, but her instincts were right. They told her to be weary of him, because it knew the effect his touch had on her. In fact, in his time chasing her, he learned just how well she responded to his touch.
He cupped her throat gently; the feel of her pulse racing under his fingertips threatened to send his desire out of control. He traced her jaw with only the soft press of his fingertips. Her eyelids fluttered shut and only then did he slowly remove his hand and step away from her.
She watched him suspiciously before turning around and opening the door. “Where are they?”
“I’ll show you.” Lyonis contained his laughter as she mumbled about stupid alphas under her breath. “It’ll be quicker if we drive.” She nodded and Lyonis couldn’t help but feel as though he’d just taken a small step with her.
They arrived at his office on the other side of his town. A flurry of talk was already spreading through his pack at the new arrivals. Lyonis led Willow through his main office where he conducted most of his work with the pack. She would try to escape with her sisters that much he knew. She wouldn’t be successful though, he’d make sure of it.
The sight of her sisters sent Willow into the most feminine frenzy he’d ever seen in her. She squealed and ran to them, hugging them close as they started chattering over each other.
Lyonis grinned at his mate and met up with the men.
“Tyrian, Telal,” he nodded.
Tyrian spoke first. “Alpha Lyonis, thank you for seeing us on such short notice.”
“It’s not as if you gave him much choice,” Telal said with a frown. His eyes skirted over to the sisters and the frown around his mouth became even deeper.
“True enough but Willow’s family is always welcome here.”
“We need to talk business,” Tyrian said, his eyes cold and serious.
“Of course, I have a free office down the hall. We can talk there.” Lyonis looked back at the sisters and realized he might as well not even be in the same room. None of them seemed to notice they were leaving.
Entering the office, Lyonis turned to Telal. “Are you looking forward to your own Bellum sister, Telal?” The demon took a seat; he looked like he’d just tasted something awful.
“I don’t see why either of you have bought into their nonsense. They are nothing but trouble. First they summoned Karr and now another demon is stalking across the earthen realm.”
“You looked into what I saw in Germany?” Lyonis asked Tyrian.
“Yes, I did. We sent out some scouts and they found exactly what you said—the stench of ancient demon. I think that whatever the sisters did in that spell has set something in motion. The first demon is dead—”
Telal scoffed. “How is it dead? I told you; it cannot be defeated. Even the demons who first bound the demon into the rift couldn’t kill it. It was far too strong.”
Tyrian shrugged. “All I know is that it’s dead. It was bound by the spell that the sisters made and then decapitated with an axe. I assure you, it’s dead. We burned the body and spread the ashes into the ocean.”
Telal, if anything, looked even unhappier at this news. His blue hair fell in waves over his shoulders and his skin was like gold. Lyonis knew the demon had the power to cover up his unusual appearance, but he refused to. Lyonis understood that and would do the same.
“We have no idea what Karr did while he was awake. He could have amassed other ancient demons, maybe even brought one of them back to life.”
“How and why?” asked Tyrian.
“Perhaps so that if he died, he’d have a way to resurrect himself.”
“How?” Lyonis asked.
Telal steepled his golden fingers, drumming them together. “Have you ever heard of a demonic pact? We demons refer to it as a revargen. It’s a magical pact done in blood. The terms of the pact must be completed within the specified time frame or you die.”
“You think the demon Chloe killed might have had the time to make one of these demonic pacts?” Lyonis’ instincts were on high alert. The safety of his pack and his mate may be in jeopardy.
Telal nodded. “The succubus sisters messed with something far greater than them. They are fools who have endangered not only themselves but countless innocents as well.”