Azazel’s frown was concerned as he reached for Grayson to steady him but thought better of it.
No weakness, the beast said. He cannot show weakness in a room filled with Loup.
I wrapped my arms around his waist and buried my face in his T-shirt, so it looked like he was holding me up rather than the other way around.
He hugged me with one arm, allowing me to take some of his weight. I peeked across at Azazel, who gave me a slight nod.
Grayson’s body was tense against me, but his heartbeat was slow and steady. “Seraphina Dawn is under Regency Pack protection. Under my protection.” I followed his line of sight to find Hunter looking back at us, his face expressionless. “Any Loup who approaches her without my permission will face the wrath of my pack.”
The corner of Hunter’s mouth lifted in a cruel half-smile, and his dark eyes shifted to lock on me. There was promise in those eyes. Cool, assured promise, and even though Grayson’s body heat enveloped me, there was no denying the chill that skimmed across my skin.
“Miss Dawn.” The judge’s voice cut through my thoughts. “Do you accept the Regency Pack’s claw?”
I nodded against Grayson’s pectoral. “I do.”
“In that case, bail is set at fifty thousand ichons.” She banged her gavel. “Escort Miss Dawn, her pack sponsor, and her counsel to an interview room to complete the paperwork.”
Magiguards appeared around us, blocking us from Loup view, and then we were whisked out of the room, away from the hungry wolves.
Once the door closed on us, Grayson staggered against me, and I realized I’d been in no way holding him up. Azazel moved fast to help the Loup into a seat.
“Fuck.” Grayson touched his head. “Those fucking bastards.” He sat back, legs splayed, a wince on his handsome face. There was blood on the side of his head, his cheek, and some in his beard.
“What happened?” Azazel asked.
“Hunter’s goons ran me off the road on the way here. Car’s a write-off. Had to shift and run here.” He touched his wrist lightly, and I noticed the leather band housing a green gem for the first time. Was this what held the miasma their coven gave them? ‘Took the back routes,” he continued. He closed his eyes briefly. “I should have expected something like this. Someone leaked the hearing date, and now all the Loups know about you.”
There was a knock at the door, and a Magiguard brought in a first aid kit and handed it to Azazel.
Grayson chuffed. “No need. I’m almost healed. Just a headache now.”
But he was bloody. “Are there any wipes in that kit?”
Azazel clicked it open and handed me a packet of sterile wipes. “Clean him up. I’ll go file the paperwork.”
He gently gripped my nape, pulled me toward him, and pressed a kiss to my temple. My eyes fluttered closed as I reveled in the contact. Azazel was safety. He was surety. He was my protector, not Grayson. I wanted to leave with Azazel, to go back to the Underealm, back home, but instead, I’d be leaving with Grayson to his pack location.
My pulse quickened at the thought of being at the Regency Pack’s mercy. Grayson’s mercy. His presence didn’t make me feel safe. It knocked me off balance and confused me, and I wasn’t too sure he wouldn’t take what he wanted from me. The same things the beast inside me seemed to want from him.
“I’ll be right back,” Azazel said.
And then, Grayson and I were alone.
He was watching me with a speculative gleam in his eyes. “You and Azazel?”
I pulled a wipe from the packet and stepped between his legs. “He’s my soulmate.”
His brows flicked up. “Ah. Yes, I’ve heard about that phenomenon among the demons.”
Lick him. We need to lick him clean.
I gritted my teeth and ignored her. “Tilt your head back and close your eyes.”
Grayson did the first but ignored the second. His eyes remained fixed on my face, darting across it as if he was memorizing every inch. I set to work, wiping away the blood in even, gentle strokes. The wound beneath had already knitted and gone pink.
I grabbed a fresh wipe for his cheek and then started on his beard. His hands settled on my hips, and I froze for a fraction of a second as the heat from his fingers seeped through the fabric of my slacks and spiraled out across my skin. The Loup inside me surged to the surface with a sigh, reveling in his touch and commanding me to touch him back, to cup his jaw and press my lips to his.
Take him. Claim him.
His eyes flared, and his pupils dilated. His grip on my hips tightened, fingers digging in. “What does your wolf want?” His voice was soft but demanding. “What is your primal instinct?”
My breath grew shallow. There was no point denying it. He knew more about this shit than I did. He was a Loup alpha, and I was a new Loup with no idea what the fuck I was dealing with, but like hell was I telling him what she’d said.
“She told me to clean you up, that’s all.”
His eyes narrowed. “She told you?”
Soft laughter filled my head. Oh, this should be interesting.
“Fee, does your Loup speak to you?”
His expression told me what I needed to know.
“That’s not normal, is it?”
He frowned. “It’s not unheard of. But no. It’s not the usual process.” He canted his head. “Can I speak with her?”
Panic squeezed my chest. “No.” I pulled out of his grip. “Hell, no.”
His eyes narrowed. “It’s fine. It’s okay. I understand how strange this must be for you. We can talk more back at the pack residences.”
“I’m not letting her take over.”
Grayson stood so he towered over me. “You’re a Loup, Fee. The wolf is part of you, and now that she’s awake, you’ll have to learn to live with her, and just like the rest of us, that means having to shift once a month, minimum.”
My chest tightened. “Why? Why do I have to shift?”
“The wolf needs to be let out. It needs to run and be free, and if you don’t allow that to happen, eventually it will take over by force, and when it does, you’ll be feral. Stuck in wolf form and a danger to all around you.”
Was this why they needed miasma? Was this why they were forced to make pacts with covens? To stay sane. To stay in control of the wolf inside. I’d told the guys I’d accept my Loup side, and at the time, I’d meant it, but then Lucas had happened…the wolf had killed him… I’d lost control…We’d lost control.
I would never have hurt him if I’d been in control.
I exhaled heavily.
I’m no killer, not unless it’s to protect. I will kill to protect us. To protect those we love. I will never cower.
Her sincerity vibrated through me. Her conviction resonated with me.
I raised my eyes to lock with Grayson’s concerned ones. “You’ll teach me how to do this? How to be a Loup and be myself.”
He nodded. “It’s the only way for you to become one with your primal beast.”
Why was he looking at me like that, like he was trying to see through me, into me, like he was trying to find her?
Because he is. Because he can sense me. Because he wants me.
The clawing in my abdomen kicked up again. Her… It was her. It had always been her. And then the pulse between my thighs began to thud hungrily. Grayson’s nostrils flared, and his husky eyes brightened in what looked like triumph.
I took a hasty step away from him.
His chest rose and fell on an inhalation, and then he tucked in his chin. “I won’t hurt you, Fee.”
“I know. I just. Where is Azazel?” My voice sounded funny, higher-pitched and shaky.
I looked to the door, and as if on cue, Azazel entered the room.
He stopped and looked from me to Grayson. “Is everything all right?” He walked over to me.
Grayson arched a brow, leaving me to answer.
I smiled tightly. “I’m fine.” And I was now that Azazel was back. “What happens now?”
Azazel’s mouth turned down slightly. “Now, you leave with Grayson.”
Grayson reached into his pocket. “I’ll call a car.” He left the room, leaving Azazel and me alone.
I turned to my unofficial soulmate. “Isn’t there some way I can come back with you? I could check in with Grayson to learn about the Loup stuff.”
He looked pained. “You know you can’t. You’re on bail.”
Yeah, I knew that. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.” I puffed out my cheeks. “So, I guess our chat about…” I touched my chest where the mark was. “Will have to wait.” He cupped my shoulders and pressed his forehead to mine. “The bond not being made official doesn’t change the fact it exists. I’ll be checking in on you, and I promise you, I will find Lucas.”
“I can help look for him.”
“No,” he said. “You need to focus on mastering your Loup side. Let us work on proving your innocence.”
“And what then? Say you prove my innocence, what happens then?”
His throat bobbed, and my gut twisted. I pulled away so I could look at his face.
“You’re part of the Regency Pack now. You’re an outlier. You’re bound by their laws.”
No. I didn’t want this. “I’m a Dominus too. I’m part demon. I mean celestial intervention and all. I was destined to be a Dominus. I want to be a Dominus.”
He stepped closer. “I know, and we’ll figure something out.”
But we both knew the only way for me to be free was to fight and gain protected rogue status. And we both knew I wasn’t ready. Not yet. “I’ll do it. I’ll fight. I just. I need to get used to this thing inside me.”
Go away. “I want to come home.”
“Home…” His gaze softened. “You think of the Underealm as home.”