HEAT

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Chapter 11: Everthing I Want

Hycinth

The water pounded onto my skull, hot and burning. Steam billowed in the space around me, clouding the air and fogging up the transparent glass walls, making it impossible to see through them. Not that I could see anyway. My eyes were red and puffy, swollen from my tears. I listened to the sound the water made coming out of the shower head. It echoed in my ears, resounding with its own heartbeat in my head. I was desperate for it to drown out all of my other senses—to make me numb. I wanted to forget what I’d just seen...what I’d just heard. The tortured wails of a shewolf, unfathomable, heart-wrenching cries of pain ripping from her throat. Her mate, on his knees, crying for her pain and also his own. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I’ve never heard anything like it before.

I understood everything now.

I understood why Leander was so desperate for this claiming ceremony to happen. Gwen wasn’t the only she-wolf struggling in the Pack. Over the last four weeks, I found myself talking with many of the mated pairs, listening to their stories and not just about their inability to conceive a pup, but they seemed to be genuinely interested to hear about me—what I liked and enjoyed. I’d made the mistake of bringing up my family a few times, only to find their expressions radically change into something dark and angry. I realized then that talking about my family was never going to be a good thing in this Pack. But for the most part, it felt right to be a part of a Pack before and even collared. My Wolf was so much happier with the interaction.

And Leander had kept his word in regards to Lucky. More than I ever anticipated. My visits were always supervised, however as the weeks went by, Leander allowed more and more visitation to the point where now, I saw Lucky almost every day. And they’d transferred him to the cell that had a tiny enclosed bathroom in the back, giving him privacy. It wasn’t freedom, but it was a step in the right direction.

It took about twenty minutes, but I finally stopped crying enough to wash my hair and body and get out of the shower. I slipped into a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt I kept in one of the bathroom cabinets, just for emergencies. I tended to be forgetful and jump into the shower without bringing a change of clothing. And I sure as heck wasn’t going to walk out naked with Leander out there. The sexual tension between us was already at an all-time high. It frequently took my breath away.

I had come to a decision, something I hoped Leander would agree to—it would be win-win for both of us. I straightened my shoulders and opened the door, stepping out. Instantly, Leander set up from his reclined position on the bed, his eyes finding mine. “Are you okay?”

I nodded and tried to explain what I’d felt, “Even though Ever described their pain to me...I could never have imagined...the depth of despair they felt.” He was silent, his eyes following me as I crossed the room and climbed up onto the bed, sitting cross-legged. My heartbeat started to race at the thought of what I was going to say next. From the way his eyebrows rose, I suspected he heard my increased heart. He stared at me with concern.

I began hesitantly, “For the claiming to work, would I need to...mark you in return?”

He stared at me in confusion but answered my question, “The female normally marks the male during the ceremony, but it’s not absolutely necessary. The ceremony works when the Alpha claims his Luna, not the other way around. Why are you asking?”

Relief flowed through me. That was good. It would be so much harder if I had to mark Leander in return. I tried to think of a convincing way of approaching my idea, several potential sentences running through my head, none of which helped ease the nervousness I felt, so I finally just blurted it out, “I’m willing to do the claiming ceremony...in exchange for my freedom.”

More emotions than I knew he even had, rolled through his countenance. And they were not good. Shit, he was not happy about my suggestion. But why? He got what he wanted out of it, and I got what I wanted. His voice was hard as steel as he ground out, “What did you say?”

“It makes sense. It gives you what you want and me what I want. And the physical side of it will work. Although I have a few conditions.”

“Which are?” he growled.

“There’s no reason for you and me to have a pup together, so you can’t come inside of me. That leaves more for the outside,” I tried to make a joke because his face had turned three shades of red. He wasn’t laughing.

A muscle in his jaw twitched. “Anything else?”

“Yes... I wouldn’t mark you.”

The darkness in his expression was getting dangerous.

I hurried to explain, “I know you have to mark me, but if I don’t return the mark, the bond will be easier to break. In no time at all, you’ll be able to pick any female you like, create a bond and have a pup.” You’ll finally have everything you want. An appropriate Luna and an heir.”

I left out the significant benefit to me of no longer being at risk of him passing me around once I completed the ceremony and spat out his heir. And then there was that little nonsense of Sydney. The mated pairs would get what they needed. I would get my freedom. And realistically, having mad, passionate sex with him for three days wouldn’t be all bad.

“Everything I want,” he repeated flatly, still staring at me like I had three heads.

“Yes, you get everything you want, the mated pairs get what they need, and I get my freedom.”

Abruptly, he got off the bed and prowled across the room, facing the far wall. He clenched and unclenched his fists, the muscles in his back and arms stretching and contracting. He spun around and asked with a lethal calm, “So that’s it...you could never go through it for real?”

My belly contracted painfully. It wasn’t about what I wanted. It was about what I was capable of, and I wasn’t capable of anything real with him. My Wolf was howling her disagreement in my head. She didn’t like the way this conversation is going. I swallowed past the lump in my throat and whispered, “You killed my parents—this is as real as I can get.”

He made a sound of frustration in his throat and spat, “Maybe they weren’t as innocent as you presume!”

“I’m not saying they were saints,” I replied defensively. “I’m sure they had their rough edges and had to make hard decisions that not everybody liked. Every Alpha does, you should know that, but they were good people, good wolves.”

He shook his head derisively. His shape quivered as he fought his Wolf wanting to break through, and snarled, “I am nothing like your father.”

The seething hatred in his tone shook me. I stared at him with wide eyes, brought back to three years ago, standing in a burning hallway and seeing the madness in his eyes. He kept it contained since I’d been here, but it was there once again, front and center. The hairs on my arms stood on end, and I felt the prick of the fear down my spine.

He wrinkled his nose, scenting my fear and sneered, ”Really? Now you’re going to be afraid of me?” He spun back around and paced angrily from one wall to the next, throwing his hands up in the air and hissing to himself, “This is fucking useless! Why did I even bother trying?”

I didn’t understand what he was talking about. I thought I was giving him everything he wanted in this deal. My bottom lip quivered. We had come along so well considering the circumstances. I didn’t like that he was angry at me, and I didn’t understand it.

He returned to the bed with a newfound intensity and held my hands. His cerulean blue eyes bore into mine as he said, “What if I want more? What if I want the real thing...a real mate. I know this began as a result of the necessity for the claiming ceremony, but why can’t it be real between us?”

I stared at him in shock. What was he saying? That he’d all of the sudden changed his mind and didn’t intend to throw me away when he was done? Could I even trust his words? A very large part of me was desperate to trust him. I wasn’t foolish enough to deny the feelings I knew I had. I wanted that unachievable dream. I enjoyed being with him, even after what he’d done. But it was just those reasons that made it impossible. I would be betraying the memory of my mother and father if I chose to love their killer, bond or no bond, I just couldn’t do it. My voice cracked as I whispered, “I’m sorry...I am never going to be capable of loving you.”

It was as if I’d poured acid onto him and punched him at the same time. He reared back, pulling his hands away from mine. I’d never seen that much pain in his eyes before. And then it was all gone, wiped clean, no expression at all. He stood back to his feet and strode toward the door, not bothering to look back at me as he said coldly, “I’ll let you know my answer when I return.”

And then he was gone, the door rattling on its hinges from where he slammed it.

I sat shaking, not sure what to think.

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