And worse, up until the very end, he'd convinced himself that it was his responsibility to feed her. No wonder he'd been so fucked up.
That cottage still stood today in the Woods of Murk, a constant reminder of his weakness.
"Ruelle took much from me," he said, the understatement obvious.
"But now you've a future to look forward to," Munro said. "Everyone likes your mate. She fits in-even with wolves. That's no' something just any mortal can boast of."
"Everything feels different now that she's in my life. Munro, I think I can bed Chloe." He'd kept his beast on the leash, hadn't wanted to miss-or rush through-a single second of her first orgasm.
He'd been there, mindful. He'd won the day. If Will could take Chloe like a normal man, Ruelle would finally lose.
"You think you can bed her?" Munro looked uncomfortable. "You'd best be sure. If your beast rose . . . it would be a horrific way for a mortal to die."
"We were"-Will gazed around-"intimate. And I kept the beast in its cage. With her, I can."
"But the risk!"
He exhaled a gust of breath. "Aye, I know. You're right. Wishful thinking on my part. I would never jeopardize her." He took a swig of his beer. "Hey, dinna Garreth get a talisman from the witches to curb his beast?"
Munro nodded. "Doona know all the details. Just know he would no' recommend the H.O.W. in matters of the beast."
"I canna believe I'm about to say this, but I wish I had my goddamned torque." As soon as Will had been freed of it, he'd flung it into the ocean.
Though hated, that collar had taught him much about himself. He'd realized how much he depended on his beast, how much it defined him.
"You'd wear it once more?"
"For her? Oh, aye." After the day he'd had with Chloe, Will was shamed to have confused what he'd felt for Ruelle with a mate's bond. Already he was experiencing a soul-deep need for Chloe, stronger than he'd ever imagined. Chest bowed out, he said, "She's bluidy perfect for me, brother. Aside from her family, I love everything about her."
Again Munro looked less than comfortable. "This is moving verra fast. Even by matehood standards."
Chloe had yanked Will back from the brink. It made sense that he'd now be falling backward, falling for her. Will shrugged. "When you know, you know."
The more he learned about her, the more fascinated he became. She'd never had a nip of alcohol, because she'd been so serious about training. She was a smart-arse with a clever wit, and a tomboy uneasy in the girly clothes the clan had brought her. She was constantly fiddling with her skirt, and when she'd caught him glancing down her billowy blouse, she'd been startled, as if she'd forgotten she was showing skin. Will figured his lass was most accustomed to a jersey and cleats.
At his earliest opportunity, he would take her past the wall and buy her a new wardrobe of whatever she fancied. He didn't give a damn what she wore-as long as she came naked to their bed.
These discoveries came on the heels of what he'd learned in the glade today. Though innocent, his mate was lusty and sexually curious. The hungry way she'd stared at his cock . . . He scrubbed his hand over his face, stifling a groan. His Chloe had wanted to suck it.
He couldn't remember the last blow job he'd received. They'd been short-lived, because his beast would rise without fail. And the beast had no patience for them, would always turn the female on her hands and knees for a crude and brutal rutting.
If Will could seize control from his beast, he could look forward to a thousand new experiences with Chloe.
A fresh start with her-in all ways.
"So tell me what it's like to love everything about her." Munro drank his whiskey. "Is this no' the way of it? The attraction to a mate?"
"Nay, I've discovered something. I always thought you were compelled to like things about your female because she was your mate. The truth is, she's my mate because I like everything about her."
Munro looked a shade skeptical.
Will couldn't tell him how well they'd meshed sexually, not without admitting how badly he'd needed a woman to look into his eyes and trust that he would take her where she needed to go. So he said, "She's fierce as a wee Lykae. And nothing like Webb. Was outraged over the things I told her about her father. She actually wanted to know how I was doing after finding my mate."
"You're taking the piss."
"Nay! And she likes me just as well. Has agreed to stay with me for a week, to give us a shot."
"Even though you plan to kill her father?"
Will was conflicted on this, knowing he probably oughtn't to kill his mate's sire, no matter the circumstances. "Hell, it's likely someone else will get to him before I do."
"What are you going to do about her mortality?"
"I've got to find a way to turn her." All day, the more he recognized how perfect she was for him, the more he'd dreaded her mortality.
Theoretically, Chloe could be turned into a Lorean, but the catalyst for the transformation was death.
If Will tried to turn her into his kind, he would have to bite her-then kill her. If she managed to survive, the beast would rise up in her so strong that she wouldn't be able to control it for years. If ever. Vampires had much more success at turning humans than Lykae did.
Transforming her into the type of creature who'd killed their mother?
Even these grim options had to be considered. He gazed over at her companionably sipping beers with Ronan. Will sighed when she tugged at her wee skirt.
"What about the Olympics?" Munro asked.
Again, Will felt a flare of pride for his mate, shockingly strong. Pride was not an emotion he was accustomed to these days. "I wouldn't turn her until after the Games. I doona know how that will work out, but I'll figure out some way to get her there." The only way to take the heat off her would be to find Webb, feed him to the Pravus. Which he hadn't been able to do before-and there was scant time left before she was due in Europe.
"Speaking from experience, I suggest turning her sooner rather than later. Mortals . . . they perish so readily," Munro said as a flash of sorrow crossed his expression. He had his own past tragedies as well. "What species were you considering? Vampire? Demon?" He took a slug of whiskey. "Nix would know."
Will had already put in a call to the soothsayer. "I've contacted her."
Munro nodded. "In the meantime, the full moon's in eight days. We can do as we did with Garreth."
Knowing that no cage or chains could keep him from his mate when the moon was full, Garreth had ordered them to break his legs repeatedly-so he couldn't reach his spooked female.
"Aye," Will said easily. "Anything to keep her safe." Had Chloe just rubbed her forehead? Will stalked off without another word, hurrying toward her. She probably had a headache. Judging by commercials, mortals got splitting headaches all the sodding time.
"What's wrong?" he asked when he stood before her. "Is Ronan pestering you? Do you have a headache?"
"No, not at all." Her words were slurring. "Feel great."
His gaze flickered over her face, and his lips curled. "Aye, 'cause you're drunk."
She blinked up at him. "I am?"
"You've had a dram too much. I should no' have let you drink this soon after your injury. But you look so healthy, your color so good, I forgot." He swung her up in his arms, and she laughed. Ach, the sound of it! "My mortal needs sleep. Off to bed, love."
She gazed up at him like she was half in love with him already. Feeling's mutual, little mate. How could one woman be so fucking adorable and sexy at the same time?
As he carried her inside, she said, "So about your first name . . ."
"It's a sore subject," he answered in a dry tone.
She grinned. "It's Gaelic for William?"
"Aye. Like Uilleam Uallas."
"Can I call you Will?"
Will was what his family had called him. Yes, Chloe was his mate, but the name reminded him of his past.
Hell, he'd figure all this out tomorrow. "Mayhap." He ran up the stairs three at a time, making her laugh again. "If you're verra good."
In their room, he laid her on the bed. Any hopes of doing more with her were dashed when he saw her yawning. "You need to rest." He slipped her heels from her wee feet, then reached for her skirt. She swallowed, turning those big hazel eyes up toward him.
"Just getting you ready for bed." He couldn't tell if she was happy about that or not. Once he'd tucked her in, he said, "Need to go shower off."
This shower was slightly slower than the one he'd raced through the night before. Towel wrapped around his waist, he swiftly hunted for a pair of worn jeans and another T-shirt.
When he returned, her mood had turned more somber.
"What happens to you if I die?"
He sat beside her on the bed, stroking her hair from her forehead. "I'm going to find a way to make you immortal, lass."
"You want that?"
"It must be so."
"MacRieve, I . . ." She trailed off, as if she had too many things to tell him at once. "There's something you need to know."
"What? You can tell me anything."
She bit her lip. "Um, I really appreciate all you've done for me."
Clearly not what she'd been about to say, but he didn't press. They had time.
"I had a lot of fun with you today." She traced the sheet with her forefinger. "There were a couple of times . . . when I found myself grinning up at you and you were already smiling at me. And it felt like we'd pulled off some kind of coup. Just the two of us."
"We did. Simply by finding each other. And I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the day, since this has been the best one I've ever had."
She frowned. "You don't have to say that."
"You asked me how old I am. I was born roughly nine centuries ago. I've lived for more than three hundred thousand days. And you made this one my favorite one of all."
"Oh, aye. And I vow to you, Chloe, somehow, someway, we're going to have an eternity more of them."
Just then, one of the creatures beyond the wall gave a particularly loud screech.
"Talking about the future?" She gazed away. "Mine is a bit in flux." She seemed to be sobering up. "You said you'd move heaven and earth to get me to the Olympics, but even if you got a talisman, I'd still be in public. Those things would find me."
When he said nothing, she asked, "Have you ever worked for something-giving everything, sacrificing all you could-only to have it snatched away?"
He'd helped in the search for their king when Lachlain had been captured by vampires. For decades, they'd searched only to fail.
Lachlain had escaped on his own.
"I want verra badly to give you the chance to play," Will finally said. "But there's only one way to ensure your safety."
She read his tight expression. "By giving them my father."
"It would erase all our problems."
She shook her head, tawny curls bouncing. "I could never let that happen."
He exhaled. "What can I do to make you believe that he's a villain?"
"Nothing. There is nothing you can do. I've known you for only twenty-four hours. I've known him for twenty-four years. I just need to talk to him."
"I bet you're telling yourself this is all a big misunderstanding. It's no'. People were hurt." His voice was rough as he recalled being strapped down on Dixon's operating table, a chest-cracker poised above him. He'd never wanted anything more than to free himself. To deny her what she sought . . .
Chloe's gaze dropped. Only then did he notice that his hand was pressed over his chest, as if guarding his heart, his claws digging into his skin.
By the look on her face, she comprehended his reaction. So Ronan had told her. Only a matter of time before she found out in the compound.
"I was hurt," he said brusquely, letting her know he wouldn't discuss this further.
She sat up, laying her small hand on his forearm. "I am so sorry, MacRieve. I wish that you hadn't been. But for all my life my dad was the guy who picked me up when I fell, who taught me to be strong. If it wasn't for him, I probably would've cracked at that auction. I can't forget all he's done for me. I just can't. In my position, you wouldn't be able to either."
And on top of everything, she was loyal. Just to the wrong man. "Nay, I would no'. But I fear for you, lass. One day you will learn what he's done; one day it will grieve you."
"If only I could see him."
"As I said, no one in the Lore can find him."
"Maybe if you helped me past the wall, he would make contact with me."
Will cupped her nape. "You vowed seven days with me, Chloe. Could you leave me behind so easily? Even after today?"
"I'm not going to lie to you-I feel some kind of connection to you that's different from any I've ever felt with another. It's . . . staggering to me." She squeezed her temples, clearly bewildered. "For weeks, I've been so confused and lonely. And something about you feels right." Turning watering eyes up to him, she clutched his free hand and squeezed it hard. "You're the only thing in my life that makes sense right now."
"You're the only thing that makes sense to me." You're going to bring me peace. Finally, after so long of feeling nothing but guilt and self-hatred.
"This is really intense." Her gaze darted. "I just feel like I should watch myself." She looked utterly spooked.
As Munro had said, this was moving fast even by matehood standards. She must be overwhelmed. "We'll figure this out in the morning. I'm going to help you however you need me to. All will be well. For now, lie with me."
If any part of his body below his waist touched any part of hers, he'd lose control. So he lay beside her on the outside of the cover. But then she looked hungrily at his arms, like she wanted to be within them. He chucked off his shirt and reached for her. Cradling her head to him, he reclined back.