Damn, the guy was ripped. “Do you have a shortage of shirts?”
He arched a brow. “I’m hot.”
“I’ll say,” Cora muttered.
Grayson smirked and took the seat opposite me. “Feeling better after your…shower?”
Oh, no, he was not doing a Mal on me. “You mean, after my orgasm? Thanks for that. I needed it.”
Dean spat coffee everywhere.
Grayson blinked in surprise, and it was my turn to smirk. If he thought I was going to be shy about what had happened between us, he had another thing coming.
Grayson tipped his head to the side. “Mate with me,” he said softly.
The breath rushed out of my lungs at the sincerity in his tone and the longing in his eyes.
“I don’t even know you.”
“Then we’ll get to know each other. You know we’d fit. You can feel it. I know you can.”
I could, but that didn’t matter if it meant giving up my life as a Dominus. I mean, I didn’t know if the scythe could be taken from me, but there was no way I was risking that.
“I’m a Dominus reaper. I can’t be the mate you want. I can’t be here.”
He ran a hand over his face.
“Grayson…” Dean said softly. “What’s more important?”
“I can’t let you fight in the culling,” he said. “I can’t risk your life. Mate with me, and you won’t need to fight. Mate with me, and you can come and go as you please as long as you spend a week out of each month with us to provide the benefit of the miasma, to strengthen our pack and our bond.”
I stared at him. Why was he changing his mind? Why now?
“Fee.” Cora nudged me. “Do it. Babe, I can’t bear the idea of you having to fight all those wolves. This way, you can be free.”
But I wouldn’t be free. I’d be tying myself to this world forever. I’d be mating with him out of desperation, not because I was sure it was what I wanted.
“Thank you.” I covered his hand with mine. “But if and when I mate with you, it’ll be because we both want it. Not because you want to save my life, or I want to avoid losing it. If I mate with you now, we’ll never know what could have been.”
He tucked in his chin. “If you die, then we’ll never know what could have been.”
He had a point. But the idea of mating with him scared me more than fighting in the culling.
“I’m sorry, Grayson. I have to do this. I have to claim my freedom. I need to know that the decisions I make are mine.”
Grayson heaved a sigh. “In that case, we begin your training tomorrow. News that your charges have been dropped has spread. I received a call from the OPS an hour ago, and the first challenge half an hour after that and the second as I was coming down to see you. The Rising Pack has eyes and ears everywhere. Hunter knows you’re an alpha. The culling has been fixed for three days’ time. There are two other wolves fighting for their freedom. One female from the Crimson Pack and a male from the Rising Pack, a beta if my information is correct.”
“Is it a fight to the death?” Cora asked.
“Death or submission,” Dean said. “They’ll be fighting in wolf form, but as you’re an alpha, you can choose which form to fight in, or switch between the two as you see fit.”
I waited for the panic and fear, but it didn’t come. Instead, in its place was a deathly calm and the conviction that I could do this. That I needed to do this.
Grayson was watching me, waiting for my final word.
I smiled at him. “We can start training at dawn.”
Cora was silent as we got ready for bed, but her disconcertion was a palpable force in the room with us.
“Spit it out, babe.”
“You’re being stubborn, and you’re taking a huge risk,” she said. “I swear, Fee, if you get yourself killed, I’m going to make sure you’re stuck on this earthly plane with me for eternity.”
She was glaring at me, hands on hips, and for some reason that, coupled with what she’d just said, had the giggles rising in my throat. I snort-laughed and clapped a hand over my mouth.
“You think that’s funny?” Her voice rose.
I shook my head, hand still over my mouth.
She yanked back the covers, got into bed, and lay down with her back to me. “Fuck you, Fee.”
My humor died. “Babe, I’m sorry.” I lay down behind her and threw an arm over her. “I love you.”
“And I love you, too, you twit. That’s why you should mate with the hot alpha and fuck your pride.”
“I can do this, Cor. I can’t explain it, but I know I can. I didn’t get a choice about being a Dominus. The scythe chose me, and that was it. I was swept away into the demon world, but I made my peace with it. I accepted it because I had no choice, and luckily, it’s a good fit for me. This time…with the Loup aspect, I want it to be completely my choice.”
“Is that what your beast is saying? She’s confident you can win?”
“She’s no longer speaking to me. She is me now.”
Cora turned to face me. “What? When did this happen?”
“I think after I shifted voluntarily in the woods with Grayson. He told me to give in to the beast, and I did.”
Cora propped herself up on an elbow. “You’re confident?”
I nodded. “I am. I’m strong, Cor. I can take whatever they throw at me.”
She lay back down with a sigh. “Fine, let’s get some sleep. We’ve got a long day ahead tomorrow.”
I’m running. Moist earth beneath my paws, fragrant air, and all the sounds of the night around me. Creatures to hunt, to feast on. But then another scent calls to me. I want it inside me. I need it to be mine. I run toward it.
There it is, a flash of darkness streaking away from me. I give chase into a clearing.
Where is it? Where is the thing that is mine?
Something leaps at me, hits me, and takes me down. I growl and yip, and then the scent is all over me.
A muzzle on my neck, teeth nipping me.
Golden eyes stare down at me, and heat rises within me.
This is the missing piece.
He is mine.
I take him.
I woke with a start, heart galloping, lady bits throbbing.
What. The. Fuck?
“So, you had a sexy wolfy dream,” Cora said. “So what? You’re a Loup. A silver wolf. Man, I have to see you in wolf form.”
I’d have to get naked and shift. I’d made sure to wear joggers, a T-shirt, and decent cotton underwear today. The set I’d been wearing when we’d arrived, all washed and clean. I ran a brush through the tangles in my hair. This is the shit that happened when you didn’t plait before bed.
Cora took the brush off me. “Here, let me.” She started to tease out the knot. “So, was this wolf hot?”
“What? I don’t know. He was a wolf. It was a dream.”
But Cora had gone still. She parted my hair and touched the nape of my neck lightly. “Um…Fee, how did you get this mark?” She prodded. “Does it hurt.”
“Does what hurt?”
You have three lines across the back of your neck. Like…claw marks. They’re healing, though.”
I rubbed the back of my neck and felt the scabs. “Weird. It doesn’t hurt.”
“Do you think you hurt yourself when you were running in wolf form?”
Had I? Possibly when I’d been rolling around in the bracken. I shook my hair out so it swung against the small of my back. “Yeah, I must have.”
“I can’t wait to see you in wolf form,” Cora said again.
“I need to check on the guys first.”
“No, you need to train first. The guys are still sleeping. I checked in on them fifteen minutes ago while you were messaging Dayna to tell her to hold the fort at Deadside.”
“I have to go for a visit later. I need to connect with the Voralex and see Aunt Lara.”
“Ooh, yes, that will boost your power.”
“It’s not just about my power, it’s about Deadside, too. The connection keeps the wards working. Nox is picking me up after lunch. He’ll meet me in the lot. I don’t think the Loup will be able to handle another demon on the premises.”
There was a knock at the door, and Dean’s voice filtered through the wood. “Grayson’s waiting in the training room at the back of the house.”
I puffed out my cheeks. “Okay, let’s do this.”
Cora and Dean sat on a bench against the wall while Grayson stood in the center of the room. He looked rugged and manly in loose gray joggers, bare feet, and a black vest top that showcased his powerful shoulders and arms. His hair was pulled back from his face and secured in a half pony, and his eyes looked brighter, paler, ringed in indigo as they latched onto me. Fuck, was it bad that I wanted to run my hands and tongue all over him right now?
I tore my gaze away as I joined him in the middle of the room.
“You’ve trained in human form with Azazel,” Grayson said.
I glanced across at Cora, the blabber.
She smiled sweetly.
“Yeah. Hand-to-hand, dagger, scythe, and Parkour.”
He nodded. “We’ll focus on fighting as a wolf.” He began to shuck off his clothes.
I waited for the embarrassment to hit, but nothing happened. I studied his naked body with open interest: the taut pecs, the defined abs, and the sexy V leading down to a dick that had to have mythical properties. His thighs were powerful. I could ride one of those thighs and come all over it. I tore my gaze up to his face to find him watching me with a smile that told me he knew exactly what I was thinking.
“Your turn,” he said in his chest-penetrating rumble of a voice.
I pulled my tee over my head and then kicked my joggers off. My underwear went next. If Cora and Dean hadn’t been in the room, I’d have done it slowly, teasingly, giving into the naughty beast inside. But I was very aware of the two extra pairs of eyes on me. Finally, I was standing in front of him, naked. My body grew warm, not with embarrassment or self-consciousness, but because he was staring at me as if he wanted to fuck me, and I was damned because I wanted him to.