Authors: Stacey Kennedy
Tags: #Romance, #Adult, #Vampires
As he reached her, she spun around. Briggs smiled sweetly, hoping to disguise the lust rushing through him. Good thing her connected sense to him hadn’t developed or she’d be running from him right now. He had to get control of himself soon. Once she gained more control over her wolf, she’d discover all her senses and he’d be unable to hide anything from her. She’d smell his desire for her miles away.
He reached out and took her hand in his. “Come, love. We have things to discuss,”
he pulled a little and she willingly obliged, following him back to the couch.
“So,” she took a seat next to him and turned a little to face him. “Is people disappearing is a normal occurrence around here?”
Briggs chortled and kept her hand in his while he traced his thumb over the back of it. “No, nothing this serious usually happens. Mainly it’s just Alphas being Alphas—
testosterone overload. Pack members wanting to join others, Alphas overstepping their territories, those kinds of things.”
She appeared relieved by that, her hand relaxed a little in his. “And it keeps Valor busy enough that he needed you too?”
“Alphas are territorial and very proud creatures. Their mates are worse.”
Her brows rose and her hand tensed again. Little worried lines sat around her eyes.
“This is what we need to discuss.” He drew in a deep breath to stabilize himself, truly hating the idea that he even had to have this conversation. It was absurd. “Now I need you to trust me. Will you promise to do that?”
She shrugged in a very nonchalant way. “Depends on what you’re going to tell me.”
Amusement filed through him. He adored this side of her. Adored her smarts and wit. Her reaction eased him a bit, certain she could handle what she was up against here.
“You need to prepare yourself for the reactions the others will have to you.”
“Their reactions to me.” she retorted, “What do you mean? Cause I’m new here?”
He shook his head and squeezed her hand. He didn’t want to tell her any of this, didn’t want her to worry but what choice did he have? As Valor said, he needed to prepare her. Embarrassment raged within him. “No. It’s because you were not born a wolf, you were made.”
Her eyes widened, clearly taken aback. “Aren’t we all made?”
“No, darlin’. Most of us are born, bred through long lines of werewolves. You were the first made werewolf in more years than Valor can remember.”
She gulped deeply and looked away. “I didn’t know that.”
His assumption of her strength faltered. He did not like the shameful look that crossed her face. He reached out, cupping her chin, brought her focus back to him. “I’m not telling you this to frighten you or segregate you. I just want you to understand what you will be up against. The women can be cruel and vicious.”
“But I don’t even know any of them.” Her voice was a soft whisper. “How can they be like that without even knowing me?”
“It is a prejudice is all.” His embarrassment soon led to rage. He shouldn’t even have to speak a word of this. His job was to see to her well-being. He ran his hand along her cheek. “Do not worry yourself. If I hear it, see it, I will stop it.” He grasped her chin again and raised her head up high, proud as she should be. “You can trust in that.”
His face was just an inch from hers and her lips had a slight swell to them. With his Alpha roaring inside him, his sense of mind drifted away. Arousal stirred within him as he breathed in her sweet scent and it stimulated his senses. Before he could stop himself, he leaned in and pressed his lips against hers.
He ran his hand from her chin to trace along her face, until he cupped the back of her head and angled her so he could kiss her as deep as possible.
Their mouths opened and closed in sync. His other hand caressed the side of her face as a growl erupted from deep in his throat. Rynn gave herself over to him and it took all the control on his part not to ravish her. When she kissed him, it came without restraint.
None of the worry or fear showed through her kisses and he could spend a lifetime just doing this with her. She let out little whimpers with each stroke of his tongue and the Alpha in him roared for more. In response, he released his hold on her face, grasped her arms and pulled her closer toward him.
Immediately, she yelped and flew backwards, landed with a thud on the floor.
“Sorry,” Briggs gasped, breathing heavily. His body shook from the desire flooding him and rage at himself for how he just acted. “I’m sorry, Rynn. Please come back to me.”
She trembled, her whole body shook as tears welled up and shame filled her features.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Briggs slowly crept forward and wrapped his arms around her. “Shhh…your kisses are incredible is all. I just have to get used to that. I’m lacking a little control when it comes to physical contact with you, but it will come, darlin’.”
She sniffed against his chest, her head sank in against him as he cradled her in his arms. “It’s just so confusing. I want to kiss you, touch you…I feel excited around you, but then, when you move fast it…”
He ran his hand along her hair, furious at himself for scaring her. “You are right to be afraid. We will take our time as I told you, love. We just have to find a way to relax you. I also need to gain a little self-control around you.”
She glanced up to him, pain and confusion sat heavy in her eyes. “You know that I want you, right?”
The side of his mouth arched up as she attempted to console him. It was sweet, but unnecessary. “You wouldn’t kiss me like that if you didn’t.”
“I just don’t want you to think it’s you…”
He interrupted her, placed a finger against her lips. “None of that now. I am not going without anything I can’t handle. A kiss here or there is enough.”
Her expression clearly said she didn’t believe him. He would have said more, but Valor cleared his throat from the doorway. Briggs glanced toward him.
Briggs stood and assisted Rynn to her feet. He lifted her chin, raised her head until her gaze met his. “Can you handle doing this now?” She sucked in a deep breath and nodded. “Do not lower your eyes to them. Never look away. It is a sign of weakness and you rank higher than any of them.”
Her brows came together in a mask of surprise. “I do?”
“You’re the Beta’s mate. Essentially that puts you third in command.”
She laughed and took a step back from him. “Okay, now you’re just being silly.”
His grip on her arm tightened, kept her gaze locked on him. “No I am not. You must do this. Promise me that no matter what is said or what they do, even with the Alphas, never look away first.”
“Well…” she hesitated a moment, looking unsure, but then gave him a steady glance. “Okay, I promise.”
Appeased, Briggs released her arms, took her hand and made his way toward Valor.
“Come then, let’s go get this bloody well over with.”
Rynn’s thoughts ran furiously through her mind as she followed Briggs and Valor outside.
It didn’t take her long to realize that what Briggs and Valor were talking about had to do with sex.
She wasn’t supposed to be listening. So what? Being a nosy-parker isn’t the worst trait in the world to have. But now, the thought of them talking about it had her heart pounding. Why did it matter that they hadn’t had sex? Whose business was it anyway?
Plus this whole ‘do not lower your eyes’ bit. Briggs was so serious when he had said it—so tense—she agreed because she didn’t want to disappoint him. She wasn’t entirely confident she could keep that promise though.
Once she stepped out onto the lawn and glanced around at the crowd of werewolves, everything in her screamed to lower her eyes and hide behind Briggs. Not just because the steely look in the Alphas gazes demanded it but there was also an uncomfortable feeling in the air.
Soon, every face she passed or stared at for a moment, examined her, only to quickly look away. It was an immediate sense of empowerment and just the thing she needed to get through this. At least, they couldn’t gawk at her.
“Let me first welcome you all here,” Valor said, stopping before the horseshoe shaped group. “I will give you time to get settled before the gathering will commence.
Let’s meet in the Grand Hall at eight. Agreed?”
Everyone nodded in unison.
Valor turned on his heels, stood behind Rynn and rested his hands on her shoulders.
“As you have heard and seen, our Beta has found himself his mate.” He gave her a squeeze. “I’m pleased to introduce Rynn.”
One by one, the Alphas bowed their heads. The women next to them smiled, then looked away quickly. But not everyone was smiling. Some of them just glared before averting their gazes. Not a very settling feeling of welcome.
After the introductions, a woman stepped away from the crowd and approached her.
A perfect replica of Barbie, the woman didn’t have a single flaw. Bright dark eyes, perfect bone structure, and plump lips matched a spectacular body. She gave Rynn a lingering glance then shifted her focus to Briggs. “We were so pleased to hear you had discovered your mate, Briggs.”
Briggs nodded and returned the smile. “That is quite kind of you, Echo.”
Her Alpha stepped forward to step next to his mate. He was as powerful as he was handsome. Clean cut, auburn hair that was gelled prim and proper, soft brown eyes that held knowledge and humanity. “The Minnesota Pack welcomes you, Rynn. I am Sayer.
As I have heard, your roots are from my territory.”
Rynn nodded softly. “Born and raised.”
She noticed immediately how this whole eye contact thing worked. It was only at introductions because Echo and Sayer looked away from Rynn immediately when they first spoke, but now their eye contact was steady.
Rynn sighed to herself. There went the whole gawking thing. Glares were coming her way and if looks could kill, she’d be six feet under with pretty carnations on top.
“Rynn, you came!” Isla said, rushing forward. She glanced back at Thor. “I told you she would.” She pulled Rynn into a tight embrace. “How do you like it here? It’s nice, isn’t it?”
Rynn laughed quietly and patted her back. Isla was always welcoming, but at the same time, someone to only spend a little time with. She could be overbearing and annoying.
Isla backed away, beaming with excitement. “You and Briggs should come and stay with Thor and I. We’re just over there.” She pointed to a pretty bungalow down the lane.
Thor suddenly appeared irritated with her.
Rynn tensed. More time with Isla was not on her top priority list.
Briggs chuckled and placed his hand on Rynn’s back in reassurance. “Our place is with Valor, Isla. You know this.”
Isla made an all-out grumpy face. “The rules are so stupid.” She wrapped her arm in Rynn’s. “We should change that. You’re a top dog now, what do you say, Rynn? Put your foot down and get this tight ass bunch to loosen up a little.”
Thor sighed heavily and glared at his mate.
Valor frowned and shook his head. “Isla.” His voice held a warning.
Rynn couldn’t help but smile. As much as Isla could drive her batty, it
reassuring to know that she had someone on her side. Isla was one tough cookie and having her unleashed mouth nearby was a source of confidence.
Suddenly, Rynn felt a penetrating glance. It tickled up her spine and sent cold shivers along her skin. She quickly searched for the source of it and found a woman focused on her intently. This woman, hidden earlier, now stood clear from her Alpha and looked at Rynn with pure revulsion.
She wasn’t averting her gaze from Rynn. She would not give her respect, that much was clear. Her small bright, blue eyes were barely visible through her glare. Her slender features were tight with revulsion. Even her light brown hair, a rough spiky cut, looked pissed.
No one had ever looked at Rynn with such disgust in her life. It took every ounce of strength that lived in her to maintain a steady eye contact. Part of Rynn wanted to run while the other part wanted to knock the woman on her ass. She didn’t deserve to be looked at like this, never asked for any of this. This woman’s look implied that her being attacked, violated and left for dead was her fault. It was enough for her to snap.
Briggs leaned down and whispered in her ear. “What’s upsetting you, darlin’?”
She never dropped her gaze from the woman’s—kept her focus glued to the bitchy wolf. She fought against herself since she promised Briggs she wouldn’t look away and didn’t want to break her word.
Without looking away, she responded, “What do I do if she won’t look away?”
Briggs followed her gaze. In a blink of an eye, chaos erupted around her. A roar ripped through the air as Briggs slammed into his wolf form, taking a protective stance in front of her.
Valor’s hand tightened on Rynn’s shoulder, clearly telling her not to move. As if she could. She desperately wanted to look at Briggs, but the woman hadn’t looked away yet.
Even though she didn’t understand the importance of this, she knew what was happening was serious and something deep within her demanded she keep her gaze glued on this woman.
Just as quickly as Briggs shifted, so did the woman’s Alpha. Rynn feared they would go at each other and was surprised when they didn’t.
Instead of Briggs and the Alpha having a go out of it, the Alpha turned on his woman and growled deep, teeth snarling.
Still, the woman’s gaze never left Rynn as she shifted into wolf form. Her Alpha lunged at her, breaking the connection when he tackled her to the ground. Loud snarls and vicious growls filled the air as the two of them went at it like two rapid dogs.
Instant relief flooded Rynn now that the staring contest was over. She let out a deep breath just as Briggs backed up to stand in front of her.
A big wolf—much bigger than the other Alphas before her—his coat was a mixture of black, grey, and white. His ears, eyes and muzzle all defined by dark black fur, he was just as sexy in wolf-form as he was human.
Seeing him so protective brought a smile to her face. She stepped away from Valor’s grip and settled close to Briggs’ side. She ran a hand along his thick back, needing nothing more than to be close to her Alpha.
At her touch, he glanced at her, his yellow eyes glowed with anger and protectiveness.
Moments later, the commotion silenced. The fight was over as quick as it started.
With a loud yelp, the Alpha pinned his mate to the ground and growled loud above her.
He shifted, returned to his stockbroker self—short blond tousled hair, tailored suit with brown loafers. “My apologizes, Briggs. Nera forgets her place. She will be reminded.”
Briggs returned to two feet in a flash and took Rynn’s hand tight in his own. “See that she is, Rainer.”
Nera’s shift came slower. The anger on her face was fierce and filled with hate, but she never once looked up from the ground as he yanked her away from the crowd.
Right then, three lone wolves stepped forward—their gazes glued on Rynn. She was immediately unsettled about the severity in their eyes. What could be wrong now? Rynn glanced at Briggs in question.
He wasn’t looking at her. His eyes locked on the wolf approaching them. Rynn followed his gaze to see teal eyes tight with intensity and a sly and calculating smile.
The man stopped a few feet away from Rynn, raised his head and inhaled deeply. His nostrils flared as he turned his head, the smile had grown in size. “Well, well, what do we have here?”
Briggs grabbed Rynn by the arm and pushed her behind him as the other two men stepped forward. In an instant, she was shielded from them and felt completely lost. Why were they looking at her like that? Why was Briggs ready to kill someone? His tense emotions were sending flickers of harshness through their bond.
Compelled to have a look, she peeked around Briggs’ back to find the three men standing in front of them. Any of them could be an ideal candidate for an ultimate fighting challenge. That alone was cause for concern.
Briggs was as tall as any of them, but his body wasn’t as overbearing. He was still in every way muscular—defined—just not bulky. In a fight against them, Rynn wasn’t totally convinced he could win. As a wolf, she didn’t doubt they’d lose. Briggs’ size came close to Valor’s, which was saying a lot. Valor as a wolf is comparable to a small horse.
Right now though, they weren’t shifting—all stood in silence with testosterone filtering through the air.
Before Rynn could voice her questions, Briggs pushed her behind him further. Valor stepped away from her to move between Briggs and the men. “I declare my protection on her. Step aside, Tiago.” Valor’s voice rang strong with authority.
“This is fair game, Valor,” Tiago said, his tone challenging. “You have no right to protect her here.”
Rynn snuck another peek around Briggs’ side to see the other two Alphas had backed away, appearing uninterested. She still had no clued to what held their attention in the first place. But this Tiago wolf challenged Valor, face-to-face.
“You will not have her,” Briggs growled. “You will die before you do.”
She was confused. From their conversation earlier, she believed that because they hadn’t slept together it could cause a bit of a rift, but she thought it had something to do with the women thinking badly of her or that she was strange. Considering they would already hold not being a pure blood against her, it just added to the problem.
What was this about and what did he mean ‘have her’? Have her do what?
Quicker than she could blink, Valor’s wolf form stood in front of Tiago—cinnamon-colored fur dusted with black tips. He was quite a striking wolf—one to gawk at for sure.
Tiago however hadn’t shifted. He looked more annoyed than anything else and stepped back within the crowd. Tiago’s gaze never left Rynn’s. She swallowed deeply.
Those eyes were not only that of a predator, but were also very possessive.
Briggs’ tension rippled through him, angry and protective. Those emotions also ran through Rynn from their bond. Never had she felt anything like it, especially coming from Briggs. He was always so gentle, the strength of it made her feel safer. His security was like a warm blanket around her.
Still, this was such a huge mess.
Half of them hated her because she wasn’t pure blood, and now, it appeared that this Tiago was ready to pounce because she and Briggs hadn’t done
yet. Nothing in her felt good about any of this.
Briggs didn’t miss her somber mood, pulled her around from behind him and brought her close to his chest. “It doesn’t matter. You hear me? All this is not important.
You are my only concern here.”
She wasn’t settled.
“Go on,” Valor ordered to the crowd. “Get yourself settled, then we can meet and get to the business that has brought us all here.”
The crowd dissipated. Briggs looked at Rynn concern tightened his eyes. He sighed deep, but gave her a little grin. “Rough crowd.”
Jokes weren’t appropriate now, she needed answers to her questions and the truth.
“What was that about with Tiago?”
Briggs’ opened his mouth, but Valor interrupted. “Briggs, I need a minute with you, alone.”
Oh, all this wasn’t sitting well at all. Knowing there were secrets didn’t make her happy.
“I will be only a moment,” Briggs, obviously sensing her distress, gave her a soft smile and kissed her cheek. “Wait here,” he told her. He approached Valor, who stood near the front porch.
Once there, Valor placed a hand on Briggs’ shoulder, just as he had before, leaned in and whispered something in his ear. Immediately, Briggs’ shoulders sank and his gaze cut to Rynn’s. She shuddered at the concern in his eyes and the torment raging through him.
Valor said something again that made Briggs glance at him and nod.
While Valor made his way into the house, Briggs headed back toward her, gaze on the ground. When he stopped in front of her, he lifted his gaze, his eyes soft but conflicted.