"I'm signaling for a tee-oh." Her voice was throaty from her screams of pleasure.
He'd been insatiable, taking her repeatedly, determined to satisfy her in every way. They'd both been so much stronger that at one point, he had indeed worried about Conall.
Their new home had proved as enduring as time.
"Perhaps when you reach my age, you will no' peak so early." He tucked her hair behind her wee ear, marveling at his female. Adorable and sexy, all at once. "I'll grant you a reprieve. But know that it's reluctant and verra temporary."
"Good." She was dreamily running the pads of her fingers over his chest.
He'd sought peace with her, and he'd found it. Will felt right with the world for the first time. He could recognize that feeling just by virtue of how long he'd felt wrong.
Chloe had given him this. He'd conquered and claimed. And, gods, so had she.
"I still can't believe you kept your beast on the leash."
He shrugged modestly, though he was damn proud of himself. "You'll only see it on the night of the full moon, if that's your wish."
"Can it hear me?"
"Aye." He let it stir. "Try now."
She cupped his face, gazing into his eyes. "You were so good tonight. In one month's time I'll have the sweetest treats for you."
Putting the beast to bed, Will said, "And what treats are those? A Lykae's curiosity is a powerful thing."
"I know," she murmured with a coy grin, even as her lids were growing heavier. "You'll have to wait to see, MacRieve."
He curled a finger under her chin. "Will."
"I want you to call me Will."
His name on her lips and a smile on her face, she fell asleep, with him still inside her.
You're deft at this," MacRieve told her as they practiced attacks and parries with swords.
For the last four days, he'd been training her to use various weapons, so she could protect herself. Though he'd had to admit, "You're so strong, you could probably just crush your opponents."
Chloe had never in her life felt so powerful-or so connected to another being. If she thought she'd been energized from sex before, she'd seen nothing. Evidently, now that her big Scot was in love with her and they were mated both ways, he was providing only the highest-grade energy. If she were still playing sports, his stuff would be banned.
And MacRieve-or rather, Will-was stronger than he'd ever been. She was trying to remember to call him Will, but it would take a while.
He thrust his sword with a quick jab.
She easily deflected it. "Sword-fighting is just like soccer. Read opponent, adjust tactic, misdirect. I am going to be so bad-ass at this."
He scratched his head with one hand while he twirled his sword with the other. "You kind of already are."
"So are there any Lore competitions I could enter?" Today would've been check-in for the Olympics training camp. And even though a fascinating new life was opening up for her, she still missed aspects of her old one.
"There's one competition. We old ones like to call it survival."
She laughed. "Smart-ass."
He grinned. "Doona worry. If you've got a skill in the Lore, there will be someone around to test you. Especially during an Accession. But then, I have a feeling you'll enjoy war. It's like sports, though sudden death actually means death." He subtly telegraphed to the left, then struck to the right.
She blocked and misdirected with a two-handed strike upward-only to change it midair to a one-handed sweep.
MacRieve barely blocked it, raising his brows again. "You vow you've never held a blade in your hands?"
"It's in my blood, remember?" With a saucy grin, she brushed off one shoulder, then the other. "Raw talent. Rookie phenom. At least I won't embarrass myself with the new sword-fighting fam."
He'd relayed all that had occurred in the Ubus Realm. She'd been amazed by the developments, convinced, as he was, that everything had been fated.
That littlest hope-spark? Now an inferno, never to be extinguished.
The morning after the full moon, she'd wanted to let her new kin know that she was okay, but there'd been no need. They'd found a note from Nieve affixed to the front door:
Judging by the shock waves originating from Conall Keep throughout the night, we assume you've made a complete recovery-and that Uilleam MacRieve, Lord of Conall, is indeed your fated mate. Please do us the honor of joining us for our Cider Fair. . . .
The fair was this weekend, and MacRieve had readily agreed to take her: "They healed my mate. For that, I'll even be civil to Nieve."
In truth, she was a little embarrassed to see them again. By now everyone in that realm would know she'd been hauled off by a ravenous werewolf for Richter-scale sex under the full moon. That was probably scandalous, even to the Ubus.
She shrugged. Oh, well, I'll be sure to wear red.
Only a few things marred her honeymoon with MacRieve. One was his unrelenting remorse over the way he'd treated her. She made sure to jank him continually for all his misconceptions, which seemed to ease his guilt.
Yesterday he'd drawn her close, saying against her hair, "I canna get enough of you, Chloe. Gods help me, I know I never will."
"I'm sure it's just my strew-oh, wait . . ."
He'd nipped her neck, making her squeal with laughter.
Her confusion over her father was another source of worry. When she and MacRieve talked late into the night, they'd discussed his childhood and Ruelle, his parents-and her dad.
By clinging to some tenuous belief in his goodness, was she being loyal-or willfully blind? MacRieve had been grievously harmed by him. Immortals all over the Lore had. Her relatives believed Preston Webb had killed Chloe's own mother. Yet she didn't feel right passing judgment until she'd heard his side of the story.
Which might never happen.
For MacRieve's part, he'd relinquished his urge for vengeance, explaining, "I canna kill my mate's sire. I'm too much in his debt. Without him, no Chloe."
Now MacRieve said, "I doona understand why Munro has no' rung me back."
Another worry. He couldn't get in touch with his brother.
MacRieve had left his first message for Munro the day after the full moon. She remembered him placing his phone on the bathroom counter just before they'd taken their first shower together.
She shivered to recall that shower. MacRieve had knelt before her, placing a hand over her belly. "When you're ready, I'm goin' tae put a babe in here." His hand had been so hot, even in the water. "Mayhap even twins." He'd gazed up at her, his eyes flickering. "Honor me so?"
Breathless, she'd only been able to nod.
"Tha gradh agam ort, Chloe. I love you. And I'm about tae show you how much." Then he'd leisurely-lovingly-washed her from head to toe, still learning her body. When she'd done the same to him, one thing led to another.
By the time he'd finally released her to get dressed, the water had grown cold and she'd been grinning ear to ear like she'd just medaled. Since then, they always shared showers. As he'd repeated, "We like to conserve water around here."
And so it went with them.
"Has Munro ever gone this long without calling?" she asked.
"Since telephones were invented, Munro has never no' returned my calls. I worry." In a gruffer tone, he said, "Feels strange to be apart from him again."
She couldn't imagine how it must feel to be separated from one's twin, wondering if he was safe and well. "Let's give it to the end of the day. If no one at the compound has seen him, then we'll return to Louisiana."
He lowered his sword. "You'd miss the fair with your family?"
"Munro's my family too," she said, making MacRieve's brows draw tight with feeling. "Why don't you go try him again? I'll chill for a bit."
He nodded. "Doona leave the immediate grounds, no?" After giving her a sweet kiss, he jogged off.
Alone, she strolled through the courtyard, treading upon cobblestones where countless MacRieves had walked, long before Will was born.
God, this place was so beautiful. Over these four days, he'd drilled into her head that this was her home. "Conall belongs to you as much as to me. You're Chloe MacRieve, lady of this keep." She could invite whomever she wanted, could decorate it however she chose.
She wouldn't touch a thing, already found it perfect. Finally, she lived in a home with character. No McMansion here!
She and MacRieve had even talked about reviving the area, bringing in more sheep, inviting clan members to resettle in the old village of Conall.
As she walked, she ran her fingertips along the cool stone wall. She could feel the history here, and it grounded her. No longer did she feel like her world had been upended. She'd landed on her feet.
Here. With MacRieve.
Maybe the lads could come and stay for the summer? She missed them. But then, she might be seeing them directly. She'd meant what she'd said earlier: she and MacRieve would be on a plane tonight if he didn't hear from his brother-
"Chlo . . ."
She whirled around at the strange voice. Standing not ten feet from her was the same towering, cloaked demon that had been in her father's study.
"You!" She raised her sword. "What do you want from me?" She didn't expect a real answer; last time, it'd barely been able to speak.
It surprised her by saying, "You don't recognize me?" Its words were still rough, though much clearer than before. It stepped closer.
Recalling this creature's strength, she choked up on her sword. "Should I?" Chloe was first and foremost a fighter. But she wasn't above calling on her ally. She drew a breath to scream a heads-up for MacRieve-
The creature pulled its hood past its horns.
Her scream died on her lips. Her sword hand went limp, the blade clattering to the ground. "Dad?" It was him, but he'd been altered.
When she'd seen him before, he'd been obscured in shadow; now every feature was sharp in glaring daylight.
He had unnaturally pale and flawless skin, ageless. Tapered fangs had replaced his teeth. Matte-black horns rose from his head like an old-timey devil drawing. His irises were so dark, they brought to mind the bottom of an abyss.
Yet he was arresting, with the air all Loreans seemed to possess. "Dad? Wh-what happened to you?" She rushed up to him, tentatively touching his face. "You were the one in our house? Why didn't you talk to me?"
With a claw-tipped hand, he brushed a curl of hair from her face. "I was trying to ask if you were still mortal, but I'd only recently been transformed. I've had to relearn how to speak, how to move, how to think."
"Transformed into what? You need to explain this before I freak the hell out." And before MacRieve scents you. She lowered her hand, reminded of what her dad had done to the male she loved. "Start spilling."
A hint of Dad's old smile rose. "I see you haven't changed-even with your own transformation."
She bit out, "Talk."
He inclined his head. "I was being hunted by one of the most fearsome vampires in the Lore, Lothaire the Enemy of Old. I knew sooner or later he would find my hideout. But I was prepared. Just before he drained me to death, I popped a capsule full of blended immortal blood. Though he did kill me, I was resurrected."
"The blood contained a mix of several creatures. My powers will be endless, once they've all manifested."
She crossed to the courtyard's low wall, sinking down on it. "Why didn't you warn me about the Lore and what I might be? Why didn't you tell me about the Order?"
"I thought I could keep you separate from all this. God, I wanted that! Your life was uncomplicated, so focused. I never wanted to take that away from you."
"You could've told me what I was turning into before you left. You gave me zero explanation. Just left me an encyclopedia-of creatures you hated."
"That night I was . . . dumbfounded." He sat beside her. "Your blood had tested out as human, again and again for twenty-four years. Even our most advanced arrays picked up nothing."
"I was so alone, and you just disappeared for weeks," she said, hating how weak she sounded.
"I forced myself not to contact you, fearing that would put you in Lothaire's crosshairs-a place you never want to be. Only after I'd turned did I come home for you, but you disappeared that night."
"Yeah, the witches found me."
Irritation flickered over his uncanny face. "I was betrayed by a former ally."
"Wonder what that feels like."
He reached for her, but she drew back.
"Did you do all the things I've heard? Torturing Loreans, killing them in front of their children?"
He let his hand drop. "I did what any general at war would do to his enemy. I did whatever it took."
Admitting it so easily? Even . . . proudly? The fears about her dad that she'd barely allowed herself to entertain all came crashing down on her.
"I believed those creatures were subhuman, which meant they needed to be destroyed."
Though she felt even more stunned, she forced herself to her feet. "And now what? You've switched teams? You're a detrus now."
"Precisely. We in the Order knew we would need stronger soldiers to defeat immortals. To fight the monsters, we would have to become them. So I headed a project designed to blend Lorean blood for human use. When my death was imminent, I decided to test it on myself." He scrubbed a palm over one horn. "The transition has been . . . challenging."
She could tell this. His fangs had cut his lips. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth, but he didn't seem to notice.
"With each day that I come into my powers, I've recognized that immortals will always prevail. You've felt the strength-you must understand that humans have no chance against us."
"Who the hell is fighting against humans?"
"A war is inevitable, and I've been on the wrong side."
She sensed a growing tension inside him, as if his veneer of calm was fracturing.