Then, in a singsong voice, she called, "Here, Boa! Come, my sweetheart!"
Summoning a pet? "Loa and Boa? You dicking with me?"
"I'm not jesting, if that's what you mean."
The lights began flickering, the candles fluttering. An ominous air stifled the room.
"There you are," she cooed-to the boa constrictor slithering from a hole in the floor.
A big hole in the floor.
"Ah, fuck me." It must weigh a hundred and fifty pounds. His Instinct was screaming at him to get Chloe away from the snake-and Loa. "Put that thing back in the motherfuckin' hole, Loa!"
As if Chloe sensed the snake, she turned her face into Will's palm.
Unperturbed, Loa said, "Boa keeps death away. And your female has lost a lot of blood. Do you want us to save her or not?"
Eventually, he gave a curt nod. But when the boa began to climb Loa's leg like a jungle gym, he almost lost his nerve.
From her pocket, the priestess drew a pinch of dust, blowing it over Chloe's face. Again the lights flickered, the candle flames dancing.
"What the hell was that?"
"A narcotic. Something for the pain." At his look, she said, "Relax. Your new mate will just be a touch bamcocked."
Chloe moaned then, and her lids fluttered open to reveal the bonniest hazel eyes he'd ever seen. "Hi," she murmured, blinking up at him. She raised one hand, evidently to press it to her forehead, but ending up missing.
He swallowed, voice gone hoarse as he answered, "Hi, yourself." You're my mate. I'm gazing down at my female, at her mesmerizing eyes. Her irises seemed to hold every color, like when sunset burns across the sea: golds, bronzes, greens, blues.
The moment began to feel surreal, as if he were going to wake any minute, hungover and choking on rage as usual.
"Feel funny. Um, I'm stoned. I think."
"We're getting you patched up, sweet." He brushed her light brown hair off her forehead. Her tresses were drying into sun-streaked tawny curls that felt soft as gossamer.
She sighed. "You look different than I imagined."
The obligatory gushing would follow: You're so hot, you're gorgeous, you're sexy-
"You have kind eyes."
"Do I, then?" Again, his voice was hoarse. "Chloe, I need you to be strong and get well."
"Because I'm your, um, mate?"
"And mayhap because I fancy you. I want to know you better."
She motioned haphazardly at her side. "Rub some dirt on it. S'll be fine."
"Rub some dirt, then?" he repeated, unable to keep the amusement from his tone. "I like your attitude, lass."
When she grinned crookedly, his heart thudded. I think I'm bluidy in love.
Gods, he was so eager for this, too eager, running headlong. Experience told him to slow down, but this girl was rousing feelings in him he'd never experienced before. They were so different from anything he'd ever known that he wanted to seize these feelings with ten claws. "Doona worry, I'll take care of you." He grasped her hand in his. "You're going to be all right."
Chloe's gaze drifted to Loa. "That a snake?"
Loa said, "She keeps death away."
Chloe blinked those big eyes up at him and whispered, "Wish that was the weirdest thing . . . I've heard tonight."
Loa popped open the medicine jar, handed it to him. He took a whiff. Licorice? With a grimace, he stuck two fingers into the witchy paste, pulling out a generous dollop. He murmured to the priestess, "Is this going to work?"
She nodded. "Between that, me, and Boa, you're in good hands."
He told Chloe, "Going to put some medicine on your wound." While Loa chanted, he smeared the stuff over the gash. It bubbled like hydrogen peroxide, making Chloe wince. Sweat dotted her brow as she clenched her jaw against the pain, not making a sound. Fierce wee thing. "There's my brave lass."
Loa murmured, "Distract her, wolf."
"Oh, aye. Uh, who do you play football for?"
She grated, "You're looking . . . at the Seattle Reign's . . . playmaker."
He almost grinned at her cocky tone. His mate was a professional footballer. Who would've thought?
Then his brows drew together. She'd said she was a center forward? Without a doubt, it was the most hazardous position, bound to leave those scars. She'd been getting her arse kicked out on a field. "Are you no' a bit wee to play football in the big leagues?"
At once, her eyes narrowed, her stubborn chin jutting. "It's soccer. And I made the Olympic team, asshole."
Bluidy-in-love. He solemnly raised a palm. "My apologies."
She mumbled, "Uh-huh. Don't forget it."
Gods, she couldn't be more appealing to him.
When her lids slid closed and she went limp once more, he said, "Wait, Chloe, stay with me!"
The priestess said, "No, let her rest."
"I canna lose her, Loa." Because already he needed her. In the short span since he'd found her, changes had been occurring inside him, things clicking into place.
He now had a purpose. He was her protector. There'd be no more idling. No more benders.
Everyone in the clan spoke of how rewarding it felt to protect a mate, but he'd never imagined that it would be . . . life-changing.
Munro ducked in from the front to find Will clutching Chloe's hand in both of his. Will briefly glanced up, not bothering to hide what he was feeling.
Munro's brows drew together. With a nod of understanding, he turned back to guard the entrance.
"Just let the medicine do its job," Loa said. "And remember, Boa's here."
While the paste continued to fizzle, Will wetted the towel and washed off the worst of the blood covering his mate.
Loa brought him a Saints T-shirt to dress her in. A gentleman wouldn't have looked at Chloe in her underthings. So no' a problem for me.
Peeling off what remained of her frock, he discovered that her figure was as bonny as her face. She wore a tiny bra over full, pert breasts. Her panties covered a lot, but they also highlighted how narrow her waist was, how toned her legs. He could tell she was an athlete, yet she still had curves in all the right places.
Women's football-excuse me, women's soccer-was officially his favorite sport.
By the time he was ready to apply a bandage, the paste on her wound had dried into a hard shell. And he could've sworn Chloe's color was already better. "Is the shell thing normal?" he asked, beginning to bandage her.
Loa nodded. "She's going to be fine." She looked confident, but tired. This must've taken something out of her.
"Thank you, priestess. I'm in your debt."
"Wait until you see your bill. You'll find we're even."
As he bundled Chloe in the blanket, Loa said, "You cared for her well and trusted the spirits. They ended up liking you. They want you to make a wish."
He scooped Chloe up in his arms, already thinking of getting her home. "That's easy. I wish that this lass was immortal."
Let's see Daughter of Webb!" Ronan exclaimed when Will and Munro stormed into the lodge-covered in dried blood and with company.
"I suppose everyone knows?" Will said, adjusting his bundled mate in his arms.
"We saw the forces mustering to protect her," Ben quietly said. "Got Madadh to tell us what was going on."
One phone call had mobilized hundreds of Lykae at the wall and outside their lodge. It wasn't every day that a member of the clan found a mate, especially not one in such danger.
Getting through the handful of enemies who'd gathered on the other side of the wall hadn't proved too challenging. A centaur had attempted to ram them, which had only resulted in it decorating the Range Rover's grille for precious, thrilling seconds.
But Will knew they'd keep coming, increasing their numbers.
Ronan said, "I thought you two would come home hours from now, reeking of nymph perfume and covered in grass stains. Now you've got a mate? Is Daughter of Webb drunk?" In a deadpan tone, he added, "Like seeks like, huh? But I'm no' judging."
Will gazed down at Chloe's pretty face, again thinking that her color was returning. Could she rebound from blood loss this quickly? "She's no' drunk. She was injured tonight. And she has a name-Chloe MacRieve." Had his shoulders gone back? Bloody hell, they had.
"Well, it's your lucky day, gentlemen," Ronan said. "Because I just had a sweet protection spell installed on the lodge. No one who means us harm can enter."
Munro crossed to the window, raising his hand against it. "I sense something's here."
"What?" Will hugged Chloe tighter. "We doona use spells and magic," he snapped, well aware that he'd just used spells and magic.
But not here. And never again. Slippery slope and all that.
Munro said, "The spell might help us. At least the Pravus won't be able to simply trace inside and steal her."
"I purchased it from this young, beautemous witch." Ronan sighed. "Ach, you would too if you saw her. Legs for miles, goes by the name of Belee. She sells spells door-to-door like Girl Scout cookies. Put me down for five thousand boxes of Thin Mints, you know what I mean?"
Munro narrowed his eyes. "Witchcraft is what you used Will's credit card for?"
When Chloe stirred against him, Will turned toward the stairs, keen to put her in his bed for the first time. Munro followed, the boys hurrying up the stairs behind them.
On the way up, Will remembered the hazmat condition of his room. The squalor. For the second time tonight, his neck heated.
He couldn't stand the idea of laying her on those sheets. Where to take her? The guest rooms were directly beside the boys', which wouldn't do. He could swap rooms with Munro, as they had shirts, or use the smaller room adjoining this one-but the wolf in him wanted his mate in his bed.
As they approached the thick oak door, Will braced himself-
His room was . . . spotless? He swung his head around to his brother.
"What?" Munro leaned against the doorway, looking like the Godfather. "I made a call from Loa's. You still have to get Chloe to like you. Saw no reason to load the dice against you from the outset."
Always having his back. "Appreciated." Will laid Chloe on the bed, covering her with another blanket.
"Now, get yourself cleaned up too," Munro said. "I'll watch her."
Will hesitated to leave her for even a second, but he had blood all over him. "Aye, then." He raced for the shower, ripped off his pants, then sloshed cold water over himself until the worst was removed. Less than two minutes later, he returned in a towel.
Munro motioned to Will's closet. "Clean clothes in there."
Will rooted for garments. He'd never cared about looking good; all his clothes were worn. He selected his least-frayed pair of jeans and his nicest button-down.
Ronan asked, "So is this a like-father, like-daughter situation? Is she also into slicing and dicing Lykae?"
From inside the closet, Will answered, "She dinna know about the Lore, has never harmed any immortals."
Once dressed-it is what it is-he returned to the bed and sat beside her. "When she wakes, we need to ease her into this." Will stared down both of the boys. "If I so much as spy a hint of your beast . . ." He trailed off, the threat clear.
"You are worried about us beast-wise? Good one, Head Case." Ronan sat on the opposite side of the bed to study Chloe. "I have to say, well done, chief. If being cute were a crime, she'd get the chair. Is she going to be doing the cooking and cleaning? Man, I hope she can cook."
Ben smacked him on the back of the head. "Mayhap you should be more concerned about whether she'll recover or no'?"
"She'll be fine," Will quickly said. "She's on the mend." Aye, her color was better. In fact, her skin now looked sun-kissed. From days spent on the field?
Now that the worst of his worry had faded, he had new ones to contend with, namely those sexual hang-ups of his. The most unusual? Will unleashed his beast whenever he fucked-something no Lykae did outside of a mate's bed on the night of a full moon.
If any Lorean female ever wondered what it was like to be a wolf's fated one, to be taken by the beast under the light of the moon, Will had showed them. The girlfriend experience? Try the mate experience.
Or at least, he'd shown them a brutal, debauched rendition of it.
Ruelle had molded Will to have sex a certain way, and in nine hundred years, he'd never been able to refashion himself. For Will, every night was the night of the full moon.
If he took Chloe in that state, she wouldn't survive the size and strength of his body, his rising beast. She wouldn't survive his Lykae claiming bite. Much less all of that together. . . .
He gazed up at Munro, who must have sensed his disquiet. His brother's slow nod and steady gaze said, We'll get through this. Keep your head.
As ever, it helped.
Ronan leaned down until he was almost nose to nose with Chloe. "I'd even go so far as saying she's as pretty as Belee. Though this one's got more of an I-eat-testicles-for-breakfast kind of rock-star look about her. Hey, speaking of hot arse, now that you've got a woman, can I inherit the pornucopia I found stashed in here-"
Chloe head-butted Ronan, who howled with pain.
Before Will could register his surprise, she'd darted to her feet and sprinted away from them.
Chloe charged toward a door, struggling to keep her balance. Her equilibrium was shot. Weapon, she needed a weapon-
She'd run into a bathroom. Trapped. Shit!
She heard males talking in a foreign language, words underscored with urgency. A door opened . . . closed.
When she warily exited the bathroom, one man was standing alone in the center of the bedroom, with his palms raised. "Easy, lass."
She backed into a corner. The room was large, tastefully decorated, but definitely a man's domain. This man's.
The most handsome male she'd ever seen.
Molten gold eyes and chiseled features. Thick, dark hair that couldn't decide if it wanted to be brown or black. Broad shoulders on a muscle-packed frame. He had to be more than six and half feet tall. "Who are you? Where am I?"