HEAT

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Chapter 15: Heart of the Storm

Hycinth

The words left my mouth, and the atmosphere changed. It darkened. The temperature dropped. The air thinned and crackled with electricity, churning and chaotic, silently screaming a warning for anyone wise enough to listen—it was coming.

No, it was already there.

The thing of nightmares and dark fairytales had been unknowingly unleashed. It was free.

I waited for the flash of lightning and boom of thunder. It was inevitable. I was going to be struck down by it. There was no way for me to avoid it. No way for me to come out unscathed because I was the heart of the storm.

Leander stood unblinking, his face wiped clean. No trace of emotion as if struggling with the impossibility of the words that had just come out of my mouth.

And then he blinked.

His expression darkened, the eyes of his Wolf front and center, no longer a brilliant violet blue. Now, they glowed flat black. The timbre of his voice dropped, gruff through his vocal cords, “He touched you?”

My Wolf and I stood frozen, the hair along the ridge of her spine straight up, ears flat, hind legs stiff. Adrenaline rushed through my body. My instincts heightened by the overwhelming sense of danger swirling around me. My fury was long gone. Concentrating on my anger was simply a luxury I didn’t have. Every one of my senses were required for the task at hand if I hoped to survive whatever was going to happen next.

I breathed, “Yes.”

A low sustained growl echoed through his chest, the veins in his arms and neck making an appearance under the pressure of straining muscles begging for release. His tone reverberated with feral intensity, “Tell me exactly what happened...from the beginning. Do not leave anything out.”

Goosebumps raised on my arms. I nodded my agreement and forced my brain to concentrate on that day, on those moments that I had previously tried to forget. “They found me at the tattoo parlor. They came in and Dagger said something about, uh, I’d been naughty, and...he was there to punish me. So I turned and ran. I dove through the plate glass window in the back.”

His eyes widened in surprise. “You dove through a window?”

“Uh huh.”

His jaw clenched. “Continue.”

“I ran, but he caught me in the woods, knocking me down from behind. I got free...kicking him in the face, and landed a punch to his gut and a kick to his kneecap. But he used his weight advantage to force me to the ground...with uh, him on top of me.”

Leander hissed furiously. I shivered and waited, tense for his next move. I didn’t know what to expect from him now. But he didn’t say anything, so after a moment, I continued, “Um, I tried to buck him off...and then scratched his face.”

“The claw marks,” Leander gritted out.

“Yes,” I confirmed. “I drew blood. Dagger’s canines came out. He said he’d rip out my throat, so I stopped fighting. He called me something. A wildcat, I think. And then, for some reason his expression changed…from anger to lust. He confirmed it when he reached under my shirt and bra to grab my nipp—.”

The storm broke loose.

Suddenly, violently, Leander was in motion. His claws came out. A fierce growl ripped from his chest as he picked up the dresser and hurled it across the room. The impact was thunderous, echoing loudly in the enclosed space. Wood splintered, broken apart with the force of his devastation. Clothing littered the wreckage of the dresser, now lying broken in pieces against the unforgiving wall.

I stood, shaking, and silent. I didn’t dare speak. I waited for some calm to conquer the raging beast. His chest heaved. His nostrils flared as he panted. He turned back to me and snarled, ”What happened next?”

I tried unsuccessfully to control the tremor in my voice, “I, I begged him...to stop. I even threatened him that...that you would kill him for touching me.”

Leander’s eyebrows shot up.

“I just assumed...that any Alpha would,” I explained. “But he laughed...and told me of your plans to make me into your little whore.”

Leander cringed, and his expression changed—guilt.

“So it’s true, then?” I whispered, my heart contracting in pain. “That was your plan for me? If we hadn’t made this deal, after the Claiming Ceremony, I’d have just been a whore to you?” Tears pricked my eyes.

“No!” he said quickly, coming to stand right in front of me and continued fervently, “I’m so fucking sorry for ever saying that! Those words were the ravings of an angry man during the first three months you were missing. I calmed down after that. I reassessed what was important. Looking back, and knowing what I do now about the bond, I was a fool ever to think I could have treated you that way, even if I’d have caught you the next day.”

I didn’t like that he’d told his men he’d make me into his whore, but I understood the irrationality that came along with anger. I understood people said stupid things when they were mad, things they didn’t mean. Or in his case, things he was too stupid to realize weren’t even possible—the bond would never have allowed it. I whispered, “Okay.”

His expression softened with relief. He murmured, “Please continue. What happened next?”

I pulled out those images in my head again, trying to determine where I’d left off and flinched at the memory. “He told me that y-you had no problems sharing your women. I was no different. Then he undid my pants. And shoved his hand between my legs—.”

Chaos exploded around me.

Thunder and lightning, raging wind—a blur of devastation.

The curtains and bedspread torn, shredded into bits by his claws, more furniture flying across the room. A loud resounding crack when his fists compromised the bed frame. Fierce growls echoed, one on top of the other, the first one not even finished before the next one began. He was partially shifting, his shape vibrating, fur springing out on his arms and then back down again, his jaw elongating before he could regain control.

Abruptly, the door was almost jerked off of its hinges from someone on the outside and Ever sprang into the room. His body vibrated as well, eyes wild, darting around, taking in the devastation, zeroing in on the out-of-control Alpha, before they turned to extreme worry when he saw me quaking in the middle of the room. But I remained untouched, unharmed, by the cyclone whirling around me.

“Fucking hell, Leander. What the fuck are you doing?!”

I wasn’t sure if Leander even knew Ever was standing there, let alone registered the fact he’d asked him a question. Leander came to a halt again, facing me, breathing ragged, his voice gravelly and deep, “Did he penetrate you?”

Ever’s eyes snapped wide, fury darkening his expression as he exhaled sharply, ”Fuck.”

“No,” I whispered. ”He didn’t have time. Another Wolf stopped him, demanding to know what he was doing. Dagger told him he was just sampling the goods. The other Wolf said you’d kill him for touching me before you had everything you wanted from me first, so he needed to stop.”

“Everything I wanted first?” Leander repeated flatly, his brows furrowed. And then understanding lit his expression. “And this...this is what you thought the entire time? That I was going to use you and then pass you around?”

“Yes,” I whispered, fighting back tears again.

“Motherfucker,” he swore under his breath. Instantly, he was right in front of me, one hand on my hip, the other cupped my cheek. His onyx eyes bore into mine. “You saw how I reacted with Luca. Never would I have allowed any of my wolves to touch you! And as far as what happened yesterday, I’ll admit I thought about sleeping with Sydney. I was drunk. You’d made it clear where you stood, so when she offered, I followed her to her room. I sat on the edge of the bed. She pushed me back and climbed on top of me.”

Pain crashed over me as the images play through my mind. It was too much to take. I didn’t want to hear all of the nitty-gritty details of their sexual escapade. I tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let me. He just held tighter and said urgently, “I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t touch her to save my life. I haven’t been able to touch anyone like that. Not since I first laid eyes on you three years ago.”

Shock reverberated through me.

“What are you saying?” My heart pounded in my chest. The possibility seemed absurd, but yet...“Are you saying you haven’t been with a female in all of this time?”

“Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.” Sincerity resounded in his transparent expression.

I had no idea what to say. My throat tightened, my mouth dry. I blinked. I didn’t have time to contemplate any farther because Leander placed a quick kiss on my forehead and pulled me into his chest tightly for a moment and then released me. He took my hand and gently pulled me into motion as we headed toward the door.

Ever followed along with us as Leander ground out orders, “I want that bastard in my dungeon in the next sixty seconds. Get the healer. Tell her to be prepared. I want a muzzle and duct tape as well.”

“Fuck,” Ever swore under his breath and then louder, “Got it!” before he jogged off, pulling his phone from his pocket on the way.

When we reached the ground floor level, Cyril came in the front door. He took in Leander’s fearsome expression and asked evenly, “What is it, son?”

Leander didn’t even slow down. He just continued toward the dungeon, but snarled, “I need to teach a Wolf what happens when he touches what belongs to me.”

Cyril’s intent gaze shifted to me. I had no idea what he found in my expression, probably wild-eyed shock. Leander continued, “Join me if you like...it makes no difference to me.”

Cyril fell into motion with us, silently.

..........

In less than a minute after we arrived in the dungeon, Leander tucked me over to the side near a wall, about five feet away from him. Dagger was dragged in by four other wolves. Dagger’s eyes were wide with fear as he took in Leander’s expression. “Leander, just talk to me. What the hell is going on?”

Leander laughed, the sound coming out feral and threatening. “You really have to ask me that question? Did you think I would never find out you touched my mate?”

Dagger’s eyes went wide with the implication of Leander’s words. He was quick to defend himself. “You’ve shared all of your shewolves in the past! I didn’t think she was any different. You said it yourself. She was nothing more than your little whore!”

Leander didn’t cringe this time. Instead, he snapped, “Yes. I said she was my little whore. Mine! And you haven’t heard me refer to her as a whore in over two and a half years!”

Dagger looked stricken and insisted, “But you shared all of your women!”

“I wasn’t sharing them, you dumbfuck! I just didn’t give a shit when they moved on after me, to my men. It was their prerogative.”

Abruptly, the healer entered the room, and another Wolf came in carrying a muzzle. Daggers eyes darted to them, opening wide in shock and horror and then back to Leander. He began to beg, “No, please! Please don’t do this. Please give me a quick death. I’ve been loyal to you!”

Leander laughed, the sound echoing wickedly off of the concrete walls. “Tell you what, if you can beat me, I’ll give you your freedom.”

Instantly, the now room full of wolves pressed back, giving them more space. Cyril motioned with his head for me to move with them. I was quick to comply. I certainly didn’t want to get in the middle of a fistfight. Not with Leander as one of the combatants.

The fight began. Leander even let Dagger get in the first hit. I’d never seen Leander in hand-to-hand combat before, but I knew enough to tell he was playing with Dagger. Dagger came at him with full force. Leander responded, making contact with his fists to various parts of Dagger’s body, but he was restrained. He was holding back. After several minutes, Dagger was breathing hard. Leander must have had enough because it was as if his body coiled tight and then exploded into a shocking fury of strength. It only took two punches, and Dagger was down. Shit.

Leander barked, “Shackle him!”

Two wolves hauled Dagger to his feet. He stood panting, unsteady. They forced his arms over his head and locked his wrists into silver shackles attached to the wall.

“Strip him!”

Again the wolves were in motion. They didn’t bother undoing any buttons or removing his clothing the usual way. Instead, their claws came out, and they slashed down his body, shredding through the fabric like butter and drawing bloody long streaks into his skin.

Dagger shuddered and panted.

Leander was in his face again. His lips curled up in cruel anticipation as he chuckled, “You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?”

Actual tears fell from Daggers eyes. “Please...just kill me.”

Leander ignored him and walked over to a nearby wall, mounted with various weapons, and selected a ten-inch blade. He twirled the knife casually between his fingers as he made his way back to Dagger. Without another word, Leander grabbed Dagger’s cock with his free hand and held tight. Dagger jolted and pressed his naked butt as far into the wall as he could, trying to wriggle out of the grasp Leander had on his manhood.

Oh shit!

Flashbacks swam behind my eyelids. Leander’s animalistic expression as he threatened Luca. I’d believed then that he was capable of it. Now, I was almost certain I knew what was going to happen.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Because it was so much worse.

Never in my wildest nightmares, had I ever imagined what Leander was about to do.

Leander’s mouth curled into a wicked smirk. “Do you have a preference? Would you prefer if I yank it off or would you rather I sliced it clean?” Leander continued to play with the knife, waiting for his response.

Dagger just kept whimpering, “No, no...please no...”

“Oh come now, you’ve seen me do it to other wolves. Any opinion on what’s less painful?” Leander taunted, enjoying his prey. He tightened his fist.

Dagger yelped and then blubbered, “The kn-knife...”

“Indeed,” Leander purred, and with that, he gave his wrist a sharp twist—wrenching Dagger’s cock from his body with his bare hand!

Dagger howled in pain.

My heart thundered in my chest.

The blood was like nothing I’d ever seen. The healer immediately stepped forward and applied a patch between Dagger’s legs. Shockingly, the blood flow stopped. I swayed on my feet, nausea rolling through my belly, and reached a hand out to steady myself against the cold wall next to me.

Leander purred, “Tell me what happens to wolves who fuck with me?”

“Please don’t!” Dagger panted. “Please, please. I’m begging you. I can’t do that. I can’t!” Sweat poured off of him, his entire body trembling uncontrollably.

“You should’ve thought about that when you had your hand in her pants, grabbing her between her legs!” Leander snapped.

There were gasps of shock from the wolves, which turned into growls. Even Cyril growled furiously.

“See, you misused this little appendage right here, getting a hard-on for my mate, and touching where you had no right to touch. And you’re lucky. It’s much smaller than I would have anticipated, ” he commented as he waved it in front of Daggers face.

Dagger pressed his lips together in a thin hard line, almost turning white, shaking his head no. With his free hand, Leander gripped Dagger’s jaw in his fist and squeezed, forcing his mouth open. Dagger shook his head violently, but it wasn’t enough to stop Leander from shoving Dagger’s cock into his mouth!

I was going to faint.

Just pass out. Fall over right there.

Abruptly, Cyril grabbed my bicep, steadying me, keeping me on my feet.

“Tape!” Leander barked.

Ever tore a piece of duct tape off with his teeth and handed it to Leander, who applied it over Dagger’s mouth, sealing it shut. “Chew,” Leander ordered. “Get it all down...and try not to throw up. I’ve heard it’s gross having to swallow it all back down again. And you’re not coming out of the shackles until you eat every bit of it.”

Dagger chewed and gagged at the same time, his Adam’s apple quivering as he tried to swallow. Tears streamed down his face.

“Muzzle!” Leander barked out another order.

Quickly, one was placed in his hands, and he strapped it around the back of Dagger’s head. I wasn’t sure what effect the muzzle was supposed to have since Dagger was not in Wolf form. I understood a moment later when he started to shift. I was shocked. He should never have been able to change, not shackled with silver. The trauma Leander was inflicting was so significant, Dagger didn’t have control. But as quickly as the shift started, it stopped, and he reverted to skin again.

Leander turned to the wolves who were all looking almost as green as I was.

“Let this be a lesson! I do not share...not when it comes to her! Am I making myself clear?” Abruptly, Alpha dominance radiated out of him in shock waves—the force of it was immense and painful.

Cyril and I were the only wolves to remain standing. Every other Wolf in the room, huge enforcers, Army toughed beasts and even Ever dropped to their knees, necks inclined in submission toward Leander. A few were whining.

After a long moment, Leander pulled back his power, gathering it back into his massive frame. Several wolves gasped in relief, their chests heaving from the strain.

Leander refocused on Dagger who was no longer chewing. “All gone? Ready for me to check?”

Tears streamed from Daggers eyes. He nodded. Leander removed the muzzle and jerked the tape away. “Open. Let me see if you’ve been a good boy.”

Dagger opened his mouth to reveal blood-stained teeth. I turned my head away. My knees gave out. Cyril wrapped an arm around my back and held my other elbow, supporting my weight.

Suddenly, Leander turned to me. “Which hand?”

But I was beyond speech at this point and stared at him dumbly.

He repeated gently, “Which hand did he touch you with?”

Oh, I understood the question now but was still having trouble making my brain come up with the answer. Leander waited patiently. I coughed, trying to clear my thick throat and finally whispered, “His right hand.”

Without another word from Leander, one of the wolves released Dagger’s right hand from the shackle and held it out in the air. Daggers entire body was shaking now.

Leander’s canines fully extended, all Wolf, flashing a brilliant white, before he bit two fingers off of Dagger’s hand.

Dagger screamed again.

Leander spat and wiped blood from his mouth with his shirt sleeve. “Get him down.”

The wolves released his other hand. Dagger fell to the ground. Leander looked down in disgust. “You only have your life because of the many years serving me. It’s a fucking shame you were so stupid to do something like this. Get the fuck out of my sight and my pack!”

Dagger shook as he tried to get to his feet, and then made his way up the stairs, out of the pack house.

He’s setting him free?

I didn’t realize I’d voiced my question out loud until Cyril answered quietly in my ear, “His choices are to live as a maimed, disgraced Wolf or kill himself. Almost always, they kill themselves.”

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