HEAT

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Chapter 19: Not Yet, Little Mouse

Hycinth

The day flew by quickly. After spending most of the morning dress shopping, Leander and I caught lunch at a local Italian restaurant and then headed back for the Announcement Ceremony. I suspected Leander had purposefully kept us away until the very last moment to avoid any more potential drama. When we arrived, Gwen met us at the door and quickly followed us into our temporary room. She waited in a comfy chair while Leander changed clothes in the walk-in closet and I went into the bathroom to get ready. I could hear them talking through the door.

Leander’s voice was curt, “Stay with her.”

“I will. Don’t worry. I’ve got this. I won’t let anything happen,” Gwen assured. “Now get going. We’ll meet you down there.”

I didn’t hear him give a response, just the door opening and closing again. It took several more minutes for me to sweep my hair up onto my head, leaving soft tendrils wisping around my face. I didn’t apply much makeup. The cut of the dress was so elegant and simple that I didn’t want to overdo my makeup, so I just evened out my skin tone with some powder, applied mascara and then a sheer pink lip gloss. I rubbed my lips together and then puckered them in the mirror. I was ready.

When I stepped out of the bathroom, her mouth fell open as she looked at me. She breathed, “Wow...that’s one hell of the dress!”

I giggled at her enthusiasm and blushed. “Yes...this one was Leander’s favorite.”

“I don’t doubt that,” she said cheekily. “Turn around. Let me see the back.”

I did as she asked, but as soon as I turned my back toward her, she gasped loudly. I spun back around. “What is it? What’s wrong?” I asked urgently.

“Uh...nothing, it’s just...your tattoo...” she stumbled over her words.

I smiled. “Do you like it?”

“Yes, it’s just that...when did you have that done?” I couldn’t quite interpret her expression. Her eyes were wide, almost as if she’d seen a ghost. Maybe, she hadn’t seen many tattoos on females, I pondered.

“A few years ago,” I answered.

“How did you know?” she whispered.

I stared at her in confusion. “How did I know what?”

She didn’t answer my question. Instead, she asked carefully, “Has Leander seen it?”

“Yes...why? What’s wrong?”

“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just really pretty,” Gwen replied quickly, her voice a little higher than normal. I studied her expression, trying to figure out why she was acting so weird. But she grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward the door. “Come on! Leander will kill me if you’re even a minute late.”

Butterflies welled up in my belly.

I followed her down the stairs and out of the pack house. I noticed the gathering area was set up similarly to how it had been the day before, but there were some changes. Primarily how the wolves were arranged. Yesterday, they had been all milling around. Today, they were lined up on two sides as though forming an aisle.

Gwen kept a hold of my hand, taking me toward the beginning of the aisle.

“What’s going on?” I hissed under my breath.

“You’ll see,” was her only reply if she continued navigating us forward.

Shit, I was already self-conscious, and now I was going to have to walk through the center of two lines of wolves! Brilliant. I didn’t have time to be more nervous because we reached the beginning and she just kept on going, walking right along with me. I held my head high and found most of the wolves beaming at me in excitement. I also noticed another reaction from them. As soon as I passed by, there were gasps of shock. I could only presume they were surprised by my Wolf tattoo which was on full display. Gwen had been equally shocked. Maybe none of their females had any tattoos because they seemed startled by mine.

What I didn’t notice was any judgment or ridicule in their expressions, only care, and concern. Their overt love washed over me, warming me to the core. But then I remembered the truth. They were showing love to their Luna—which I was not. A sharp pain stabbed in my heart. I brushed it away. I couldn’t focus on what would happen at the end...when I left. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to get through the next four weeks.

Instead, I focused on Leander.

When my eyes settled on him, I blinked in shock. Today, he wasn’t wearing dress pants and a button-down shirt. Oh no, he was dressed much more informally, in black jeans that hung low on his trim waist revealing very distinct V-shaped indentions at his hips, black boots and no shirt whatsoever!

I couldn’t take my eyes off of the masterpiece that was his chest. My heart raced as I looked at the familiar tattoos, sleek yet animalistic. I followed the pattern with my eyes, from his shoulders down to where it disappeared into his waistband. The image immediately conjured the memory of when I first saw them...when I first saw him...all of him.

Heat burst out of me bright and strong, leaving me breathless.

Leander’s nostrils flared, and a low sustained growl reverberated from his chest while I walked the remaining five feet. When I reached him, he tucked me into his side. His massive arms locked around me, and he pressed his nose against my neck, inhaling deeply. He growled against my skin, “You smell so fucking good.”

My hands pressed against the smooth marble of his chest and back. Tingles shot through my fingers into the very depths of my body. My Wolf and I were nearly panting. I felt my toes curl. All I could do was whimper, ”Leander...”

“I know...” he groaned, “I know.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what he knew, but I wished he would tell me. Anything to relieve the pressure I felt building in my core.

In the back of my mind, it occurred to me that every Wolf around us could scent my arousal. But I didn’t care. I couldn’t care. Not when all I wanted to do was wrap my legs around one of his meaty thighs and hump myself into oblivion. What the hell was I thinking? Clearly, there was no thought process going on in my head at all.

I stared up at him, blinking, lost in the depths of his swirling violet and cerulean gaze. Our mouths were just inches apart. I ran my tongue over my lips. Another groan came from his throat, “Not yet, little mouse...not here.”

Thankfully, Ever cleared his throat, loudly, yanking me out of my distraction. My head snapped in his direction, my eyes wide. He smirked, waiting for me to get my shit back under control. I stiffened and tried to extract myself from Leander’s tight grip, who wasn’t having it and refused to relax his hold in the least. After a moment, I gave up and stopped squirming.

Ever’s grin widened. “Are you ready now?”

“Yes,” I muttered, my cheeks warming with a blush.

Leander and I were standing off to the side, while Ever stood in the middle. Ever faced the wolves, voice deep and commanding, “Bring her forward!”

What? Bring who forward?

I struggled to understand what was happening and thought maybe I’d missed something in my lusty haze. And then my attention was riveted to the line of wolves. At the very end, where I had first entered, another female began the trek down the middle, completely naked—Sydney!

I sucked in a sharp breath and hissed softly to Leander, “What’s happening?”

He shrugged his shoulders and murmured in my ear, “If I had to guess, I’d say we’re about to witness her punishment...whatever that may be.”

I looked up at him in surprise, searching his expression to see if he was kidding. He wasn’t. “You don’t know what it is?”

He shook his head and replied under his breath so only I could hear him, “I gave them the go-ahead to make the decision. But from the looks of things, I have a feeling she might end up wishing I’d have killed her instead.”

I focused again on Sydney and realized that Alpha Cyril was walking right behind her, holding something that looked suspiciously like a paddle!

Oh shit, what was going on?!

Leander chuckled next to me, “Where the hell did he get that? I had no idea one of our wolves was into that BDSM shit. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.”

I was glad he found this funny. I was still in shock. Sydney continued her trek forward. She kept her head down, and her wrists were tied together with rope. It wasn’t uncommon to be seen naked in a werewolf pack. In fact, it happened on almost a daily basis. However, this scenario felt very different. Her shame and embarrassment were evident in the bright redness of her cheeks.

When she reached Ever, she stopped. I noticed her hands were trembling.

“Look at me!” he barked.

Her head snapped up.

All traces of fun-loving-relaxed Ever were gone. In its place was a feral Beta to Leander’s Alpha. A fearsome and cruel Beta Wolf I had never witnessed before.

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