The beast inside me didn’t speak, but she was there, watching, prompting my every emotion.
“Are you all right?” Vi asked for the tenth time. “Where is Grayson?” She peered across the room, trying to find the alpha.
“Chivalry is dead.” I gave her a weak smile.
She didn’t have to stay with me, hell, she barely knew me, but she stuck by me, grounding me while the alphahole and my supposed escort fucked off to mingle. Tonight was all about the covens showing off their muscle. Look, my Loup is bigger than yours.
It was easy to tell the witches from the Loup. They carried themselves with grace and superiority, and the Loup were ravenous beasts wrapped in Armani who escorted their witches as they mingled and fake smiled.
“They all hate each other,” Vi said. “The covens, that is. They’re in constant competition. The Loup needing them has just made it worse.”
I spotted a beautiful woman with long chestnut waves and huge brown eyes staring at me from across the room.
I nudged Vi. “Who is that woman with the wavy brown hair?”
Vi leaned in closer to follow my gaze, and the woman quickly turned away. Vi snorted. “That is Magenta Grimswood, the bastard niece of the Grimswood head witch. Her power would be a five on the magi-scale if there were such a thing. I guess the rumors about the anchor being sick must be true. Otherwise, there is no way that Magenta would be here. The tri-alphas haven’t shown either. I’ve heard they’re devoted to the anchor.”
Magenta was nowhere to be seen now. She’d melted into the crowd. Question was, why had she been staring at me?
It was Vi’s turn to nudge me now. “Ooh, over there. Look, that’s Shree, the Khatri Coven leader’s daughter.” Vi pointed out a young Indian woman with dark hair streaked with gold and huge hazel eyes. Her skin was bronze perfection, dusted with gold, so she looked like a goddess, and her cream Grecian-style dress draped her body in a way that was almost indecent, but it was her escort that drew my eye. Tall, broad-shouldered, with eyes like midnight and hair as dark as obsidian, Hunter was like a lethal blade cutting through the crowd. They stopped by a group of witches, and Shree patted Hunter’s arm. She flipped her hair and looked my way with an arched brow before focusing on the conversation before her.
But then my breath twisted in my lungs, desperate for escape as Hunter’s searing gaze fixed on me. Loup stepped aside to let him pass.
Fight or flee. Fight or flee.
“Shit,” Vi said softly. “Where’s Grayson?”
No. I needed to act weak. Look down, look down. But I couldn’t. I was pinned, snared, trapped. A heat grew at my solar plexus and whiplashed outward, tearing a soft gasp from my lips. Hunter’s eyes flared. He faltered a moment but kept coming.
“Fee, look away.” Vi nudged me.
I clenched my teeth and tore my gaze from his, dropping it to his chest.
“Seraphina Dawn.” His voice was just as smooth and dulcet as I remembered. It was a manipulator’s voice, the purr of a cat before it unleashed its claws.
What was he? What beast was he when he turned?
“Your alpha’s careless, leaving you unprotected in a sea of monsters,” he said.
I wanted to say I could handle myself. That I didn’t need protecting, but I bit back the words.
“If you were mine, I wouldn’t leave you alone. Not for one moment.” He leaned in so his mouth brushed my ear, and it took everything I had not to shove him away. “If you were mine, I’d have you pinned beneath me while I fucked you balls-deep.”
Heat traveled up my neck and set my ears on fire. But it wasn’t anger, it was something else. Oh, God. What the fuck was wrong with me? Where was the indignation and the rage?
The beast was silent. Listening. Reveling in the tone of his voice and in his scent. Grayson, where the fuck are you?
“Get away from her, Hunter.” Grayson’s gruff voice was a lifeline.
I grabbed hold of it and allowed it to push away the unwelcome sensations Hunter’s presence evoked.
Hunter’s chuckle reverberated through me. He stepped away, and I could breathe again.
“You don’t deserve her,” Hunter said in a lazy tone.
“Maybe not, but neither do you.”
“It’s not too late to change your mind,” Hunter said to me. “Join my pack, and I won’t be asking you to play subservient. I’d have you by my side, chin up, staring every fucking Loup in the eye like the alpha you are.”
Shit. My gaze shot up to meet his, and his lips curved in a smug smile. “I can smell your dominance, Miss Dawn, and I’m not threatened by it.”
Shit, shit, shit. He knew. Which meant he’d come hard at me in the culling.
Grayson slipped an arm around my waist and tucked me into his side. I caught the pained look on Vi’s face before she masked it.
God, she was a classy chick.
“Get your own woman,” Grayson said, baring his teeth. “This one is mine.”
The word mine was a possessive growl that had the hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention. His fingers dug into my waist as he faced off with Hunter.
“You may be the older twin,” Hunter said. “But you were never the strongest.”
Twin? What the…And then I saw it, the similarities in their features. The curve of his cheekbones and the hard cliffs of his jaw. They were brothers.
Hunter returned his gaze to me. “It’s only a matter of time before your woman realizes that she needs a real alpha.” He didn’t wait for a reply before walking away.
The breath exploded from my lungs. Grayson turned me to face him. His pale eyes were blazing with fervor, and I could almost taste the adrenaline in the air. He scanned my face for a long beat.
“Grayson?” Vi said.
“Pay my respects to the other covens,” Grayson said. “We have to leave.”
“Okay,” Vi said. “I’ll get my coat.”
“No,” Grayson said. “Not you.”
She looked as if he’d slapped her.
He sighed. “I have to run, Vi.” His tone was softer now. “And I’m taking Fee with me. I’ll meet you back at the house in a couple of hours, okay?”
Her frown melted, and she nodded. “Of course.”
I glanced over my shoulder as Grayson steered me toward the exit, and my gaze locked with Hunter’s. His smile was gone, and in its place was cold, steely determination.
We’d hailed a taxi, and Grayson had been tight-lipped the whole way. If the driver thought it was strange that a couple dressed for a soiree wanted to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere, he didn’t show it. He’d driven off quickly, leaving us to walk across a field toward the woods.
I’d slipped the pumps off ages ago and walked barefoot to the edge of the forest. We stood under a canopy of shadows now.
“Hunter’s your brother?”
“Not now,” Grayson said. “After.” His chest moved in shallow, controlled breaths.
The woods were dark, the earth smelled divine, and my skin itched for something.
Grayson shucked off his jacket and his pants. “Take off your clothes.”
“You need to be naked.”
“I’m not taking off my—”
The command in his voice spoke to the Loup inside me. I slipped the dress off my body, standing in my lacy underwear. Bloody Mal.
Grayson paused in his undressing to stare at me. My skin pebbled following the path of his scrutiny.
“You have a good body.” He sounded huskier.
Shit, he was turned on.
You could tell by the huge tent in his boxers.
Then he hooked a thumb in the waistband and slid them off.
Fuck! I turned my back on him, but not before I caught a glimpse of his crotch monster. And to think all this time they’d been searching the loch.
“Underwear too, Fee.” His voice was thick. “Your nakedness is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Easy for you to say, Mr. third leg. “Don’t look.”
Bra and knickers off, I turned to find him staring right at me. “Seriously?” I crossed an arm over my breasts and covered my hoo-hah with one hand. “What part of don’t look don’t you understand?”
He stared at me, unabashed.
Do not look down at his—Oh, God, too late.
“It’s natural,” he said. “Let her out.”
My turn. Mine.
My skin itched, and my body ached. “It’ll hurt, won’t it.” Shit, I’d forgotten to get the herbs from Petra. “Fuck, the herbs…”
“It’s fine. You can do this without them. If you let me hold you, it’ll make it easier.”
“If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were being Pervy McPervison right now, but I—” Pain ripped through my abdomen. “What? I can’t control her.”
“It’s two days till the full moon, Fee. She’s strongest in the lead-up to a full moon, and she knows you’re ready.”
More pain ripped through me, tearing, burning pain as if my limbs wanted to be free of their sockets.
Oh, fuck. Oh, shit. “Hold me.” I gasped out the words, and he was on me, wrapped around me, skin to skin, his nose digging into my neck.
“Let go,” he said. “Let her out, stop fighting her.”
He was holding me, and we were naked, and the human part of my mind was very aware of that, but the other part, the beast, didn’t give a shit. She wanted out, and she was willing to tear through muscle and sinew to get it.
“Stop fighting,” Grayson ordered.
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. My scream tore through the night, morphing and deepening into a growl. My vision sharpened and grew bright, and my insides caught fire.
My turn to think.
Darkness swallowed the pain.
The moist soil underfoot, the smells. All the smells. I want to hunt. To run. To be free. The wind feels good on my flank. What’s that? That smell? It burrows through me to my core. I need it. I need that smell inside me. I must find it. I must have it.