I tried to break free of Grayson, but he gripped me tighter. “Bastian will take care of her. He may come across as an arrogant male, but he has a soft spot for the omega females. He won’t hurt her.”
I relaxed against him. Trusting him.
The bell rang again, and Cora appeared to my left, literally biting her nails. “Dean’s up. My stomach’s in knots.”
Dean stepped into the ring naked, every muscle and sinew kissed by firelight. Cora made a strangled sound, part appreciation, part protest.
“He’ll be fine,” Grayson assured her. “Dean is a seasoned fighter.”
But I caught the doubt in his voice. If Cora did too, she chose to ignore it, focusing on the beta in the ring.
Another Loup joined Dean. A Loup who’d already shifted. It was the huge hyena porcupine monster. But now its quills looked even longer and sharper, fluffed out and ready to shred. Ulrich was a beast unlike any I’d ever seen.
Dean cracked his neck from side to side and then shifted into a massive shaggy black wolf. But as huge as he was, he was no match in size for the monstrous Ulrich, and now my stomach was in knots too.
There was no preamble. No circling. Both went in for the kill. My blood pounded hot and potent in my veins, a snarl rumbling at the back of my throat and curling my lip as the primal part of me reveled in the aggression, wanting out, wanting to be fighting alongside Dean. He was faster than Ulrich, running rings around the beast. The challenge was avoiding the needles. The challenge was getting to Ulrich’s lower flank or his head.
Grayson’s grip on me was almost punishing, and the hard ridge of his cock pressed to the small of my back told me he was just as excited as I was. The air was charged as Dean and Ulrich scrapped. Fur flew, blood sprayed, and growls and snarls filled the ring. Ulrich pinned Dean, but Dean bucked him off and snapped at him, missing his neck by mere inches. It was a close fight. Both wolves evenly matched. My body thrummed with the need for action, to leap and swing a punch, to claw and bite. Ulrich swiped at Dean’s head, connecting with a scrape of claws. Dean toppled onto his side and lay still.
Oh, God. Dean was down.
Silence reigned as Ulrich padded over to Dean, his lips pulled back in a simmering snarl. Ulrich nudged Dean’s flank with his nose, testing him, and Dean chose that moment to leap up, twist, and latch onto Ulrich’s neck.
The larger wolf howled, and then he was pinned on his side with Dean’s jaws around his neck. Long seconds passed as he attempted to break free, but Dean’s grip was solid. Finally, with a growl of rage, Ulrich lay still.
“He won.” I turned my head to the side to look up at Grayson.
“Of course he did,” Grayson said with a smile.
Dean was off Ulrich now and back in human form, covered in blood.
Cora let out a sob, and I could tell it was taking everything in her power not to rush into the ring and hug the beta.
Ulrich lay on the ground, still in spiky form. His needles clattered as his chest moved up and down rapidly, but Dean’s gaze was fixed on a figure across the ring. A tall, dark, bald wolf. The dark-skinned wolf walked into the ring and kneeled in front of Dean.
“Fuck,” Grayson said.
“Logan just submitted to Dean without a fight,” Grayson said.
“Can he do that?”
“I think that must have been his plan all along.”
“So, he joins us now?”
“Us?” Grayson looked down at me searchingly. “There’s an us now?”
There was no denying that this, being with him, being with the pack, felt more and more comfortable with each passing hour. No denying that the Loup inside me was beginning to view the Regency Pack as her home. But my demon heart craved my Dominus guys. It craved the thrill of a different hunt.
I licked my lips, and he tracked the movement. “Let’s get this out of the way and see where us goes.”
A bell tolled, and Grayson’s head jerked up. “Mitchum from the Crimson Pack and Bradley from Rising Pack are about to fight for the chance to challenge you.”
But instead of two Loup stepping into the ring, only one did. One with dark eyes and dark hair and a cruel mouth that promised pain. My pulse fluttered and then began to hammer. Hunter had stripped down to joggers; his lean, ripped torso and broad shoulders were highlighted by light thrown by the sconces. He looked like the angel of death, and his lethal attention was fixed on me.
“What the fuck?” Grayson said.
“The Crimson Pack has pulled out of the challenge,” an older wolf shouted out. “And the Rising Pack has exercised their right to substitute their champion.”
What did this mean? I wanted to look to Grayson, to ask him, but I couldn’t tear my eyes from Hunter.
Hunter raised a hand and made a come-here gesture, and my feet itched to obey. I dug my heels in, gasping for breath. What was this?
“This is bullshit.” Grayson released me and strode to the edge of the ring. “What the fuck are you playing at, Hunter?”
Hunter tilted his head to one side. “Claiming what’s mine,” he said.
“What?” Grayson asked.
Hunter’s eyes narrowed. “You haven’t seen it, have you?”
“Take off your jacket, woman. Show him the back of your neck,” Hunter said.
My blood turned to ice. I couldn’t move.
Grayson strode over to me and shoved my collar down. His fingers brushed my nape, and he sucked in a sharp breath.
“Fee, what did you do?”
I shook my head. “I didn’t do anything. I have no idea what’s going on right now.”
“It’s quite simple,” Hunter said to me. “We mated while you were in wolf form. I marked you, and you marked me.” He turned slightly to show me his shoulder where three neat claw marks slashed across his bronze flesh. “Your wolf chose me, and now I’ve come to finish what we started.”
Mated…as in shagged? Had I fucked him in wolf form? No, this couldn’t be happening. “I didn’t know. I didn’t have control.”
Grayson dropped his hands from my neck. “You went missing for a little while when we ran,” he said. “I didn’t realize…” He turned to Hunter. “You took advantage.”
“I claimed what’s mine. My female. My mate. She submitted to me in wolf form, and tonight, she’ll submit in human form to complete the mating.”
I backed away. “No. I won’t do it. I won’t fucking be your mate.”
Panic squeezed my lungs, and my limbs flooded with adrenaline. Fight or flight. There was no flight.
I stood tall and strode to the edge of the ring. “I’ll fight you, and if I win, you leave me the fuck alone.”
He smirked. “You want pain? I can give you that.”
“Fee, no.” Grayson grabbed my elbow. “You can’t beat him.”
“I’d listen to him, little wolf,” Hunter said. “No one bests me.”
“Is there another way?”
Grayson’s jaw ticked, and he closed his eyes as if in pain. “No. You either submit, or he makes you submit. He’ll hurt you, Fee.”
“I’m not going down without a fight.”
“I was hoping you’d say that,” Hunter said. “Now, come here.”
There was command in his tone, and my body reacted, jerking toward him.
Grayson bit back a curse, and Hunter gave him a smug smile. The bastard. He’d marked me. I was halfway to being his bitch, but halfway wasn’t all the way. There was still hope.
Fuck Loup life. There were no choices here. No freedom for a woman. I wanted out. I wanted Mal, Conah, and Azazel to turn up and whisk me away, but that wouldn’t be happening. I could have gone with them earlier. Run away. But then there would have been no coming back to Necro. Ever. No doing my Dominus job because the Loup would have hunted me.
Fighting was the only option. I shrugged off my jacket and stepped into the ring just as a slender Loup ran up to Hunter and whispered something in his ear. Hunter arched a brow and nodded.
The slender wolf ran off.
“Last chance, little wolf,” Hunter said. “Submit willingly or be a spectacle for my pack and our alpha.”
“Eldrick is here?” someone said.
But I was focused on Hunter. A strange calm settled over me. “I don’t submit. Especially not to psycho alpha-holes.”
He let out a bark of laughter and prowled closer. “You’ll be doing more than submitting by the time the night is through.”
I tensed, thighs bunching in preparation for his charge, and leaped, sailing over his head as he rushed me.
Fuck you, bitch. I have demon floaty skills. I landed easily and spun to face him.
He turned to me slowly. I expected to see anger on his face, but there was something else. A brightness to his dark eyes and an erratic tempo to his breathing. He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and released it slowly, and my treacherous body responded by tightening and aching. He raked me over as if he knew exactly what I was feeling.
“I do enjoy a chase,” he said. “It makes the fruits of labor so much sweeter.”
He came at me again. I dodged and broke into a sprint, but his arm snagged my waist before I could put enough distance between us. I elbowed him in the face, eliciting a mocking laugh. I stamped on his foot, and this time he released me.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” he said.
I backed away, chest heaving. Cornered. Trapped. He was fast. He was powerful. I was so fucked. He was playing with me. This was fun for him. Watching me run and inhaling my desperation and fear.
I took a deep breath and ran toward him. His eyes widened in surprise at the attack, and I took a moment to revel in the fact that I’d caught him off guard before launching myself over his head. I twisted my body mid-air to land facing his back. I grabbed him in a headlock from behind, kneeing the backs of his legs so he buckled and kneeled. I had him. I had him…Wait…Why was he laughing? Why wasn’t he clawing at my arm to be free?