Excerpt “The blonde woman betrays you.”
The tall, thin man crouched until he was eye level with the woman on the floor and narrowed his eyes. “How?”
Gwen Anderson refused to answer. How could she? The future was always uncertain. Even if a vision was clear, something small could happen in the present and forever alter it.
Eric grasped her chin and pulled her face within inches of his. “Tell me!”
She jerked away from his bony fingers and closed her eyes. Tired, so tired. How long had she been kept in this makeshift cell underneath the casino? Hours had turned into days, then weeks. For all she knew, she could’ve been down here for years.
The sting from Eric’s slap exploded across her cheek. “What did you see? I have to know. Does my sister betray us?”
Us. There was no us. Not now, not ever. At one time Gwen thought that maybe she could be part of an “us,” but not anymore. After she was kicked out of her own werewolf pack and rejected by all the others, the hope of having a family, a home, was nothing more than fantasy. Now there was only loneliness and pain, interrupted occasionally by Eric’s frantic questioning.
“I know you saw something important. Amos said you were mumbling in your sleep.”
Gwen looked up into her captor’s face. Eric Wright, leader of the Wright pack and in charge of all the werewolves who lived in the Northeast. Eric Wright, the one she had turned to when she had nowhere to live and was out of options. At first he dismissed her, but once werewolf leader learned about her “gift” for seeing into the future, he kept her caged down here like some animal.
At least he didn’t lie to her. The abuse she could take. It was the false kindness of the Kyron pack, the pack who’d abandoned her, that hurt the most. She still remembered the look of pity in the leader’s eyes as he shut the door in her face --
“Useless twit.” Eric straightened and brushed his long blond hair over his shoulder. His eyes looked bloodshot, as if he hadn’t been sleeping. Good. He had brought her nothing but pain and disillusionment. The thought that he might be suffering pleased her. Maybe now he’d treat her better, more like a human than an animal.
“Let me try, boss. I can get the information out of her.”
Gwen’s gaze flew to the brute in the doorway. He smiled at her, a slow, evil smile that turned her blood to ice. She lifted her chin and tried to hide her fear.
“Ah, a weak spot.” Eric smiled, showing most of his perfectly white teeth. “Come here, Amos.”
Gwen scrambled closer to the wall. The last time Eric gave Amos free rein, she hadn’t had enough strength to use her magic to heal herself. It had taken her days to recover. Eric would never allow him to -- not when he still needed information from her… Would he?
Amos slapped the handle of a long, thin whip against his hand and approached them, his gaze never leaving Gwen’s half-naked body.
As he got close, she pulled her torn shirt over her breasts and spit at his feet. “When I get out of here, I’ll make sure you’re both punished. What you’re doing is immoral and against the werewolf code.”
Eric laughed. “Nobody will enforce the code for a freak like you.” He grabbed her shoulders and shook her until her brain rattled in her head. “You want to be treated better? Then tell me how my sister, Lydia, betrays me.” His beady blue gaze pierced her skin as he spoke. He was getting angry. She couldn’t deal with this right now. Her bruises still hadn’t healed from her last beating, and she was malnourished. If she could just buy herself a little more time, she could figure out a way to get out of here.
Her chains rattled as she lowered her hands and straightened her spine. “The vision was fuzzy. She hasn’t made up her mind yet. I only saw a possibility --”
Gwen glanced at Amos, and a shiver raced down her spine. She didn’t want to give the bastards any more information, but she didn’t want to get beaten again either. “The Kyron pack leader persuades Lydia to betray you.” She had seen more but held her tongue. Eric didn’t have to know about the other part of her vision. It didn’t have to do with his sister anyway. It had to do with her future, or at least what was left of it.
“Bitch.” He slapped the other side of her face.
She refused to react to his outburst. She knew through experience that it would only encourage him. “If you don’t like the truth, then don’t ask me. Let me go, and I’ll --”
“And you’ll what? Go to the other packs? My dear, no one would believe an outcast like you.” He straightened and began to pace. “Josh Kyron is proving to be a thorn in my side. First he harms what’s mine; then he denies it.” He stopped in front of her and rubbed his chin. “The selfish whelp thinks he’s above were-law. My own people grow weak while his pack grows fat and lazy. Now he wants to take my sister out from under my nose. If Lydia turns her back on me for that arrogant wolf --”
The basement door flew open and slammed against the wall. Cool air rushed in from the hall, creating goose bumps over Gwen’s pale skin. The fresh breeze brought life and hope -- a welcome change from the stuffy, stagnant atmosphere in her cell. Eric and Amos whirled around. Gwen stared at the door.
Two large men marched into the room, carrying a third man between them. “We caught him snooping around.”
Gwen silently thanked the gods for the reprieve from her interrogation. She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. If she could make herself invisible, then maybe they’d forget about her and an opportunity for escape would present itself. She huddled against the wall and tried to blend in with the background.
Eric approached the prisoner. “Who are you?”
Silence. The man was large, over six feet, with thick hair the color of night. Muscles rippled as he growled like an animal and tugged against his captors. She tried to get a look at his face, but he kept his head low to the ground.
“Look at me.” Eric grabbed a fistful of ebony hair and pulled the prisoner’s head up for all to see.
“Fuck you, Eric,” the prisoner spat.
Gwen flinched as the were leader pulled harder. It must have been so painful, but the prisoner didn’t cry out. Instead he hissed and flashed his sharp teeth.
“Werewolf.” Eric let go in disgust. “But not of my pack. Where did you find him?”
The guards glanced at each other. “Up in the casino.”
“What was he doing?”
“He was dressed as staff and flirting with one of the cocktail waitresses. He asked her where the casino records were held.”
Dressed as staff. Gwen squinted at the tears in the maroon pants and white polo shirt the man wore. The thin cotton clothes clung to every muscle of his body like a static-filled sock, outlining his broad shoulders and narrow hips. The air around him was charged with energy. Awareness tingled over her skin. Gwen shivered as a sliver of heat raced up her center. This was the man from her vision; she was sure of it. There was no denying the savage power that radiated off his body or the sexual energy that filled the room. If her vision was accurate, this man would bring hope and life to her world.
And she would bring death to his.
Fuck. Her vision was becoming reality. It would have been so much better if he were never caught, if they had never met. She never wanted to hurt anyone. All Gwen ever wanted was to be accepted and loved. How did everything end up such a mess?
The prisoner raised his head and snarled at Eric. “That waitress would have given me all the information I wanted if you hadn’t interrupted us. Your pack isn’t as loyal as you think.” His deep baritone vibrated through Gwen like a caress. The prisoner frightened her, yet something about him excited her too.
“Whose pack do you belong to?” Amos asked.
The captive pressed his lips together and stared at Eric.
“Kyron,” Eric announced. “He carries the same arrogance as his leader. I should have known Josh would try to retaliate.”
“You’re the one who’s arrogant,” the stranger said. “You let the members of your pack live like savages while you obsess over something that never happened.”
“Shut up, you Kyron whelp.” Eric grabbed his hair and yanked his head up to meet his gaze. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Josh never did anything to your mate.”
“I said shut up!” A loud crack echoed through the room as Eric slapped him across the mouth. “You weren’t there. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The prisoner’s chest heaved as he caught his breath. Gwen’s heart skipped a beat. Eric was so volatile; there was no telling what he was capable of. One false move and both she and the stranger could be beaten within an inch of their lives.
The prisoner looked up and noticed her for the first time. His expression changed, first softening, then becoming more intense. Power and confidence fell off him in waves. Her body responded. Lust wove her stomach in knots and dampened her thighs. Need rose in her chest and stole her breath. She had been alone in this world for so long and had gone without sex for even longer. Gwen longed for someone to hold her, to want her. For just a little while, she wanted to remember what it was like to lie in a man’s arms and feel loved.
She saw something flicker in his eyes. The air became electrified as his deep amber gaze pierced through her skin and heated every inch of her body. His features shifted and became darker, more possessive.
Sexual hunger swept over her skin and set every nerve ending on fire. Her gaze flicked down to his tented pants, and she knew the same sensations ran through his body too. Her womb tightened at the thought of pulling down his zipper and exploring what lay beneath. Gwen eased her hand down her waist and hips, outlining her curves. She longed to go to him but knew her chains would never reach. The gentle throbbing intensified, and her hand slipped between her thighs to relieve her frustrations.
No. Gwen jerked her hand away and shrank back against the wall. A quick glance around the room told her that no one had noticed her momentary lapse of common sense, at least not yet. She hadn’t seen this attraction in her vision, but then again, her powers were fickle, showing her only pieces of a puzzle.
The prisoner held her gaze, immobilizing her with their dark depths. His face was thin and angular, his jaw hard, but there was a spark in his eyes, something savage. Gwen moistened her lips as lust dripped slowly through her middle, hardening her nipples and pooling between her thighs. She shifted her legs and caught a scent of her arousal. If she could smell it, the rest of the wolves in the room could smell it too. Yet she didn’t care. Her passion overwhelmed every other emotion and focused her thoughts on the man before her. All she cared about was kissing each of his wounds, licking his bruises while she rubbed her hips against his…
The prisoner pulled against the guards, trying to reach her. Shouting erupted, and one of the guards slammed something against his back. The noise broke the spell, and Gwen blinked as she huddled closer to the wall.
What was she thinking? Acting this way would only draw Eric’s attention.
She schooled her features into a blank mask and tried to appear disinterested in the prisoner. It was hard. Never before had she felt anything so strong. The man awakened a craving in her she had thought was dead. And so intense! There was only one reason why a wolf could become so aroused, so emotional.
Oh God, it can’t be possible…
Eric rubbed his chin. “Looks like our old friend Josh Kyron is up to his tricks again.” He nodded at the prisoner. “Was he alone?”
“No, there was another.”
Eric waited, but no one spoke. Crossing his arms over his chest, the were leader narrowed his eyes at one of the guards. “Well? Where is he?”
Silence blanketed the room.
“Amos,” Eric said. “Make these two talk.”
“Gladly.” He cracked his whip in the air as he approached.
One of the guards adjusted his stance and jerked his head from Eric to Amos. His eyes widened with fear. “He got away. We didn’t mean to --”
“Got away?” Eric let his arms fall to his sides and curled his fingers into fists. “Of all the --”
“It was his fault.” The other guard kicked the prisoner in the shin. The captive grimaced but said nothing.
Eric droned on about the lack of good help, and Gwen shifted her gaze back to the prisoner. The man’s hungry stare consumed her. It brought with it warm heat, chasing away the chill in her bones.
Shifting her legs, she became aware once again of the dampness between them. Her need grew stronger every second, yet she had to resist. If she could deny her libido, then maybe she could save the prisoner the pain of her vision. She had to try -- for his sake.
Gwen broke eye contact and pulled her knees closer to her chest. She had heard of such strong sexual cravings happening in the werewolf community. First came a desire so great it was impossible to ignore. Then, after sex, an instant connection would form. With each coupling the connection would deepen, and the moon-rage that threatened every one of her kind would dissipate.
Such was the way of mates.
But it couldn’t happen to her. She was different. Her psychic magic made her a freak of nature. Unlovable. Despised. Alone.
She glanced back at the prisoner. He held her gaze and nodded, as if he understood her despair and loneliness.
Understood? No one understood. The stale air in this basement must have affected her brain. How long had it been since she had been outside on the boardwalk, breathing in the fresh sea air? Too long. She couldn’t even remember what the sea smelled like anymore.
The glow vanished from the prisoner’s eyes as he glanced at Eric. “Only a bastard would keep a woman locked up down here.”
Eric pointed at Gwen. “Her? She’s nothing but an animal.”
And you’re nothing but a bully. Gwen tightened her jaw to bite back her retort.
Eric crouched down to her level and smiled. It was a slow smile of someone who was in on a secret. “You’re a feisty, savage animal who will save my clan. Isn’t that right, sweetheart?”
“Go to hell.”
His smile faded, and his eyes narrowed. “You’ll pay for that later, I promise.” He straightened and turned to the guards. “Leave the prisoner in here. He’ll make a good test.”
Test? Test for what? Not… “The full moon,” she whispered as realization washed through her.
Eric fixed his gaze on her. “Yes, my dear. The full moon.”
Gwen tried to school her features as horror knifed through her chest. The full moon brought the moon-rage. Most werewolves were able to control the madness with sex, but not her. Thanks to her freakish abilities, she had no defense against her rage. Once the full moon hit, she destroyed everything and everyone around her.
Eric marched to the door. “Send Eamon and Karl to my office, and notify the rest to widen the search for the escaped Kyron wolf.”
Amos moved in front of the door. “Leave him here? With the girl?”
Eric glared at the brutish guard until he moved out of the way. “Yes.”
“Shouldn’t we chain him?”
Eric turned back toward Gwen. The gleam in his eyes was like icicles piercing her body. “No need. He isn’t going anywhere as long as the girl’s here.”
The guards looked at him in confusion.
“Can’t you sense it? They’re mates. The air is rife with their hormones.” He barked out a laugh. “A hell of a lot of good it will do them.”
Gwen turned to the prisoner. If Eric could sense it, what she was feeling must be real. A mate. Not that it mattered. Having a mate changed nothing. The full moon would still come. She would still change. Then the handsome man before her would have to die.
One of the guards dropped the prisoner. “But won’t they --”
“Let them have sex. It’ll just make it that much more painful when the full moon hits.” Eric turned his back on the room in dismissal. “Come on. We’ve got work to do.”
The second guard kicked the prisoner in the gut and then dropped him. A growl sprang up from Gwen’s throat, but she bit it back. She knew from experience that voicing complaints only brought more pain. Amos and the other guards laughed and shut the door behind them.
The captive clutched his gut and tried to stand. Gwen wanted to go to him, but the chain and collar around her neck prevented her.
Staggering to his feet, he made a fist and shook it at the door. “Come back here, you cowards.” He took a step forward, then stumbled to his knees. “Get your lazy asses back here and fight like real wolves.”
She decided to let him yell. It wouldn’t do any good, since they were essentially in a soundproof room, but she sensed that yelling and cursing would make him feel better.
After he had shouted his vocal cords hoarse, he slumped against the wall. Silence poured over them as he shifted into his wolf form, presumably to heal whatever Eric’s guards had damaged. His human form was handsome, but the wolf was exquisite -- a large, magnificent animal with soft gray fur that begged to be touched. It howled, a long, awful note of one in pain, then collapsed on the floor. Gwen reached for him, but the chain held her back. After a few agonizing moments, the creature stood and shook its head. It paced in a large circle, then paused and stared straight at her. Once more Gwen held out her hand. The wolf turned and snarled at the door.
“They won’t hear you,” she said. “Or they don’t care. Either way, we’re stuck here.”
The wolf snorted and returned to his position along the far wall. There he sat and watched her with curious eyes.
“It’s hopeless.” Gwen sighed and drew her arms around her knees. “For months I’ve tried to find a way to escape. If it was possible, I’d have found it by now.”
The wolf shimmered and changed back into his fully clothed human form. When the last of the magic faded, he raked his hands through his short, layered hair and swore. Gwen swallowed the lump in her throat and remained silent. What was he thinking?
After a few moments, he looked up at her. A black lock of hair fell across his forehead as he winked at her. “Don’t worry; the wounds they gave were human made, not were. I’m regaining strength by the second.” He motioned toward the door. “My brother’s still out there. He’ll call our leader and get reinforcements to help us. The Kyron pack never forgets their own.”
Ha. Gwen knew for a fact the Kyron pack leader would never come to her aid. She wrapped her arms tighter around her legs and rested her chin on her knees. “If you say so.”
Without a word, the man stood up and ran toward the door on the other side of the room.
“Don’t.” She started to stand.
He threw his weight against the metal slab. Hissing, he jerked back and collapsed on the floor. “Silver,” he gasped.
His heated glance caused a stirring in her lower abdomen. She itched to ease her fingers between her thighs and relieve the torment -- or wrap them around his cock and ease his -- but now wasn’t the time. With effort, she forced back her craving.
What were they talking about? Oh yes. “The door -- it’s silver plated. You can touch the knob, but the rest will make your skin burn.” She shrugged. “Eric had it installed. He would have made the knob silver too, but then he wouldn’t be able to enter the room.” She smiled. “As it is, sometimes he forgets and gets a nasty burn.”
The prisoner scrambled back to the door. “I’ll loosen the knob, then.”
“You can’t. I’ve tried.”
He wasn’t listening. Gwen settled back down on the floor and put her head between her knees. There was a time when they hadn’t chained her. She’d tried everything to escape this prison. Nothing worked. This space was werewolf proof. Even during her moon-rage, she couldn’t escape. The only reason why they chained her now was because the full moon was close, and Eric liked to visit when she was in one of her moon-rages. He thought that if he could control her during her rage, he’d have the ultimate weapon against the Kyron pack. So far he had been unsuccessful, but with each month, Gwen feared he was getting closer to achieving his goal.
Gwen looked up and saw the man had begun to pace. Her lust ebbed and flowed through her body as he moved from one end of the room to the other. Her heartbeat quickened, and awareness rippled over her skin. Would he touch her? Did he want her? When he passed by unseeing, emptiness and disappointment seeped into her body and left her weak. God, this is crazy. Women like her didn’t deserve mates. She was broken, used. A misfit even among the weres.
After a while, the pacing stopped. Shivers of awareness trickled down her spine as he moved to sit next to her. A warm arm wrapped around her shoulders. “Everything will be all right. My brother, Nico, will save us.”
She lifted her head to look at him. “Your brother will be caught, like us.”
“Impossible. He’s too quick.” A smooth smile lit his features. “You’ll see.”
The smile heated her cold body. Before she realized what she was doing, she leaned closer and settled her head in the crook of his arm. He felt so warm, so right. It had been a long time since she had felt this good. Gwen decided to enjoy the moment. She’d pretend she never had that second vision, the one she kept from Eric. The future was in a constant state of flux anyway. She didn’t know for certain that Nico would be caught or that Amos would torture them one by one. What good would do to tell her companion she’d seen herself crying over his lifeless body? Nothing would change, and he probably wouldn’t believe her anyway.
“Name’s Tony, by the way.” His kindness touched her. How long had it been since someone talked to her? Really talked, not try to get information.
She snuggled closer. “I’m Gwen.”
“Gwen,” he repeated, testing the word on his lips. “Beautiful name.”
She pressed her cheek against his chest and closed her eyes. His scent -- a mixture of coffee, spice, and something distinctly male -- filled her nose.
He slid his fingers through her hair. She shivered as he ran them along her skin and slipped them through her locks. With each stroke, her tension eased. With each touch, her pain and loneliness drifted away. Gwen pressed closer and basked in his spicy male scent and warm body heat. Heaven. She wished she could stay like this forever. Kindness was rare in her world, and she found herself hungry for more of it.
She glanced up and saw his faraway look and stiff jaw. He was thinking, probably trying to figure a way out of this hellhole. She closed her eyes and let her thoughts drift. If she concentrated enough, maybe she could pretend that her captivity was just a bad dream.
As she relaxed, she became more aware of his close proximity. Desire sprang up from his touch and echoed through the dark cavern of her soul. Ribbons of heat wrapped around her and urged her closer to his strength. The temptation to touch him was strong, and Gwen could no longer resist. She slipped her hand up and brushed his chest. It hardened under the smooth cotton of his shirt. Gwen held her hand still. Did he notice? Would he mind?
When he didn’t respond, she slid her hand sideways. Her fingers brushed over his nipple. He tensed and stilled his fingers in her hair. She waited for him to push her away, but he didn’t. Encouraged, she repeated her movements. He hissed out a breath and placed his fingers over hers. Slowly, he lowered their joined hands to her lap. She couldn’t stop the flicker of disappointment in her chest.
“I suppose you heard what Eric said.”
“He says a lot of things. Most of it’s garbage.” She lifted her chin and met his gaze.
“About us being mates,” he clarified.
Sadness filled her as she turned back to their joined hands. “It can’t be possible.” She ran her fingers along the inside of his wrist. More than anything, I wish it could be true.
I’m broken. She didn’t answer.
He cupped his fingers under her chin and raised her head. “Why not?”
Tears stung at the edge of her vision. She opened her mouth, but the words stuck in her throat.
He slipped his free hand from around her shoulders and brushed her hair from her temple. “Don’t you feel it? The heat between mates only happens once in a lifetime.” He closed his eyes and inhaled. “I don’t sense that you’re already mated.”
He opened his eyes. “Then it’s possible.”