Authors: Lorie O'Clare
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
For Life Copyright © 2007 Lorie O’Clare
Edited by Mary Altman.
Cover art by Syneca.
Electronic book Publication: June 2007
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
S – ENSUOUS
E – ROTIC
Ellora’s Cave Publishing offers three levels of Romantica™ reading entertainment: S (S-ensuous), E (Erotic), and X (X-treme).
The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers. This story has been rated E–rotic.
love scenes are explicit and leave nothing to the imagination.
love scenes are explicit, leave nothing to the imagination, and are high in volume per the overall word count. E-rated titles might contain material that some readers find objectionable—in other words, almost anything goes, sexually. E-rated titles are the most graphic titles we carry in terms of both sexual language and descriptiveness in these works of literature.
titles differ from E-rated titles only in plot premise and storyline execution. Stories designated with the letter X tend to contain difficult or controversial subject matter not for the faint of heart.
“I can’t believe you’d ask me such a thing!” If Bob Abbey’s face turned any redder, it would surely explode.
Maura Wagner lowered her head, quickly swiping at her nose so she wouldn’t
sneeze from the spicy smell of anger.
“I can’t keep living like this.” She balled her fists, then relaxed them, failing miserably at keeping her anger at bay.
Although she would get nowhere with her pack leader if she lost her temper.
“Do you think you’re the first young bitch to learn that mating isn’t an easy life?”
Bob lowered his voice, turning from her and walking over to his coffee table. He picked up the remote, studying it while flipping it around in his large, thick hand. “
don’t divorce. That is a human failure, and one we’ll never lower ourselves to. How long have you been mated? Almost a year?”
Maura swallowed the lump swelling in her throat. “Almost six months,” she said quietly. “And it wouldn’t be a divorce. Just dissolving the mating. Bob, please, you’ve heard how it is between Pete and me. Everyone has.”
“And that hurts your pride.” Bob nodded, his expression softening. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t tame him a bit. Hell, Maura, we’re all a bit on the wild side when we first mate. You asked me to let you out of this mating a few months ago. I’d hoped since I hadn’t heard from you that you took my advice then. Maybe if I have you talk to some of the other bitches—”
“No,” she said quickly, cutting him off, and then scowled.
Bob raised one eyebrow and frowned disapprovingly. A scar next to his eye
puckered a bit and he stared at her with pity now overwhelming the spicy outrage that had filled the air moments before.
And there was nothing she hated more than pity. Well, maybe being humiliated, cheated on and beaten for no reason whatsoever. She hated Pete, despised everything about him. Talking about him to other mated bitches wouldn’t make her love him. The damage was done. It was irreversible. If Pete swore to her tonight that he would never touch another bitch, never hit her and leave bruises for her to explain, she wouldn’t believe him. It had gone on for too long—and she’d had enough.
“If Pete came to you asking to be let out of the mating, you’d consider it,” she challenged, forgetting her lecture to herself to remain humble, respect her pack leader and keep the conversation civil.
Bob rubbed his thick hand over his forehead and blew out a sigh. “I am not going to dissolve the mating, no matter what. The only way a mating ends is if someone 4
challenges the male or the bitch for their mate. That is how we do things, how things have always been done.”
“Don’t tell me you aren’t willing to adjust pack laws and traditions for the benefit of the pack. You shunned Heidi…” She bit her lip, knowing she’d just brought up a forbidden subject.
Bob narrowed his gaze on her, the pity fading back into anger. She said something she shouldn’t have, something she’d sworn she wouldn’t bring up. Hell. Mentioning Heidi was forbidden. That was part of the shunning. And Heidi, her oldest and dearest friend, had been shunned because she’d fallen in love with the wrong werewolf—a werewolf who wasn’t
Maura prayed her friend was happy. She hadn’t talked to her in several months, ever since Heidi had remained with Nicolo, her male, who was a Malta werewolf.
“As long as I’m pack leader,” Bob began in a voice so low and controlled that it chilled Maura’s blood, “I will always make decisions that are best for the pack. If I dissolve your mating, then any bitch or male who is having a bad day will beg to be set free.” He sliced his hand through the air. “That will never happen.” He bellowed his final sentence so loud that Maura jumped.
Avery Abbey, Bob’s mate, hurried from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a
dishtowel as she looked anxiously from Bob to Maura. Maura looked her way and straightened when Avery focused on the green bruise covering Maura’s temple—the mark Pete had left on her this morning for not having his breakfast ready. The smell of Avery’s confusion filled the air as she turned her attention to Bob. Her expression was lined with pity when she spoke quietly to her mate.
“Maybe Maura can help me with the meals I’m getting ready to haul around to the older members of the pack.” Avery moved closer to Bob and ran her hand down his arm.
He looked down at her, his hardened expression softening immediately. Maura
would kill to have a male look at her like that. Bob focused on Avery, and with that quick glance he showed how much he loved and cared for her. That was a trait Maura doubted Pete would ever have—the ability to love someone other than himself.
Avery turned before Bob answered. “Come with me.” It wasn’t a question. And
Maura couldn’t dishonor her queen bitch by refusing. Silently, she followed Avery into the kitchen.
For a few minutes, they were quiet while Avery returned to her task of slicing meat into small cubes and preparing a handful of plates. They would be delivered to the older members of the pack—males and bitches who could no longer run and kill for themselves.
“Tell me what is going on,” Avery said in her usual quiet tone after she finished slicing the meat.
The back door opened and a young pup, not old enough for school yet, let the screen door slam behind him as he focused on the smell of meat. His mother grabbed 5
his dirty hand, preventing him from pulling one of the plates off the counter, and handed him a small slice of meat. Her pup devoured it quickly.
“Go find your sire,” she told her son, ruffling his hair and then giving him a pat on the back.
Maura waited for the pup to leave the room before answering Avery’s question.
“Bob seems to think I can make Pete love me, that I can fix our mating.”
“And you don’t think you can?” This time when Avery looked at her, she
intentionally avoided staring at the colorful bruise on the side of Maura’s face.
Avery would never say anything that contradicted her mate. Maura moved to the stove and lifted the lid on the large silver pot simmering on the back burner. Green beans with large chunks of bacon filled her nose with their warm scent. Her stomach turned. In spite of having no breakfast, there was no way she could eat a thing.
“Most of them turn their noses up at vegetables,” Avery said, sighing and then smiling. “But I have to try.”
“Where’s the ladle? I’ll dish them onto the plates for you.” She didn’t feel like helping, although running supplies to older pack members was a common chore and one she’d helped with many times in her life. Maybe the charitable act would aid in clearing her mind, keeping it off the fact that by now Pete would be over at his girlfriend’s house, more than likely gaining her sympathy over the fact that he had such a terrible mate while he fucked the shit out of the bitch.
Avery pointed to the drawer where kitchen supplies were and Maura helped
prepare the plates.
“There are ways to help make your den a happy one.” Avery pulled out a roll of foil to wrap the plates. “It’s high time you started having pups. That often keeps a male around the den more. And when the pup comes into the world, males are so proud, strutting around as if they’d carried that pup for nine months instead of you.”
“It’s hard to get pregnant when you don’t have sex.”
Avery frowned. “Look at you. You are so pretty. You can’t tell me that Pete isn’t interested. Maura, try harder and he’ll be a good mate. Pete Wagner comes from a very good den.”
Which was exactly what Maura had seen in him when she mated him. He was
respected in the pack, had a solid, good-sized den that was active in meetings and runs.
Maura had craved the respect of a pack. Having never had a den to speak of and a mother who’d run with any male who’d sniff her way, she wanted the strength of a den that would smell of honor and love. She’d made a hell of a choice. Looks and smells weren’t all they were cracked up to be.
She wanted to say she had tried, done everything she could think of to get Pete to stay at home and not sleep around on her. Nothing had worked. “I’m sure you’re right,” she forced herself to say.
“Good.” Avery smiled, either not smelling Maura’s lie or simply like every other member of her pack, not wanting to sniff her way too far into an ugly situation.
“Thanks for helping me with the plates. And if you ever want to talk, please stop by.”
Maura was being dismissed. And she couldn’t have been happier. Assuring Avery she would stop by, Maura slipped out the back door and walked around to the
driveway where her car was parked. Her pack wouldn’t help her. No one would help her. She headed back across town, their tight, small
community business as usual on this cold winter day. The mountains spread like silent sentinels surrounding their pack, rocky and snow-covered and never budging. Once she’d believed the perfect male would be like those gorgeous mountains. Hard and solid, never swaying and always there to protect her.
Damn, had she been the fool.
The den she’d lived in for the past few months appeared clean and quiet when she pulled into their shoveled drive. Pete was all about appearances. They lived well, had a large house that his den helped buy for them and all the comforts she’d dreamed of having as a pup. In an odd sort of way, she had everything that should make a bitch happy. She had the respect of her pack, one of the nicer dens on their street, an attractive male who had a good job and provided her with new clothes and anything she wanted. Everything but love and respect and honor.