Come Out and Play
Hot water rained down on me in the shower as I pressed my forehead against the cold tile wall. I let out a low groan. Why the hell had I thought drinking until I was arse over tit had been such a good idea? It, sure as fuck, didn’t feel that way now.
Just breath, I coached myself, letting the air fill my lungs and release slowly. Deep breaths.
I could do this…
I could stand long enough to take care of a rudimentary task such as cleaning myself.
Finally, I pulled myself together enough to stop nuzzling the wall.
Squeezing some shampoo into my hands, I began the mundane task of washing my hair and let my thoughts drift. The competition began today. I hadn’t looked at the time before stumbling into the shower, but more than likely, I’d already missed the morning session. That was okay. Sydney and Luca had managed to work together without killing each other, just barely. Both were still alive and kicking, and I was confident they had everything under control.
I look forward to seeing how the mated pairs had progressed in their training. The stakes were high. Not just on a personal level, but pups conceived during the Claiming Ceremony would determine the future of our pack.
Twenty minutes later, I finished showering. Slower than normal. But I was thrilled to be functioning at all after the amount of alcohol I poured down my throat last night.
Fuck. It had been a long time since I drank like that.
Carefully, I exited the shower, dried off and made my way over to the sink. Toothbrush in hand, I exchanged the taste of day-old alcohol for minty fresh breath. I sighed with satisfaction. After finally getting my body clean, and now, my teeth, I felt like a new man.
Making my way out of the bathroom and into the closet, I found a pair of jeans to throw on and didn’t bother with a shirt. Tugging on military-style boots, I realized I felt noticeably better than just thirty minutes ago. The difference had been so slight, I hadn’t recognized the change as the minutes ticked by, but my hangover symptoms were improving. My head no longer felt like it was buried in a wood chipper, and a semblance of strength had returned to my appendages.
My thoughts turned to Hycinth. What was my little mouse doing now? More than likely, she was observing the competition.
Eagerness motivated me to quicken my pace on the way to the kitchen. Mimi looked up when I walked in. She raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment on my lateness. It was well into the afternoon, definitely later than my usual early morning arrival.
Mimi prepared a plate of food for me without asking what I wanted. I didn’t mind. She knew what I liked, and I wasn’t picky.
“Do you have any painkillers?” I asked as I ate.
“Of course,” Mimi tutted. Opening a nearby cabinet, she returned with a little bottle in hand.
“Thank you,” I breathed, throwing two pills into my mouth and washing them down with a cold bottle of water.
As soon as my hunger was sated, I made my way across the compound to our training facility.
Walking through the door, I blinked a few times, letting my pupils adjust to the decrease in light. Without even seeing her, Hycinth’s sweet scent confirmed she was there. I turned my head in the direction of the delicious smell to find lake blue eyes watching me intently.
I crossed the vast interior and gathered Hycinth into my arms, placing a brief kiss on her cheek.
When I pulled back, her eyes hadn’t lost their intensity. “Well, look who finally rose from the dead. Did you enjoy your night out?” Her words for teasing, but there was a note of tension in her voice. There was also a question in her tone. She wanted to know why I’d gotten so blasted.
I had no intention of bringing up that topic right now, so just squeezed her tight and ignored the curiosity in her eyes. “How are the competitors doing?”
Hycinth looked back over the crowd. “Good, I think. Luca and Sydney are keeping score during each round, and calming wolves when aggression gets to be too much.”
To my right, I found Sydney about ten feet away, clipboard in hand. Lucky stood next to her, but she studiously ignored him. That is until he leaned down and whispered something in her ear.
Instantly, she bristled, causing Lucky’s smug grin to widen. He’d spoken so softly, I couldn’t hear their conversation, but I chuckled at his antics. He certainly did like to poke the bear.
And Sydney enjoyed verbally putting him in his place, but I had a feeling she was just itching with anticipation until her collar was removed to physically demonstrate just how much she was not to be trifled with.
Utterly unconcerned with subtlety or the wolves around them who tried to appear as though they weren’t listening, Sydney retorted, “Just because you have a dick, doesn’t mean you need to act like one.”
Several wolves snickered.
Apparently, referencing his manhood only added gasoline to the fire because Lucky’s eyes blazed with intent. His posture changed minutely, lowered, a predator with prey in his sights. He licked his lips and didn’t bother to keep his response quiet now either. “You know, that’s the second time you’ve mentioned my cock. Have a little, unfulfilled fantasy, sweetheart?”
Second time? I didn’t even want to ask when was the first.
Sydney rolled her eyes. “You’re sniffing in the wrong direction, Wolf. The only way you’ll ever get laid is if you crawl up a chicken’s ass and wait.”
At this, the wolves full-out laughed, enjoying the show.
Undeterred, Luca continued, “You’re deflecting. I recognize a frustrated shewolf when I see one. How long has it been? A month? A year? More? Still waiting for the prize you’ll never have?”
Shit. That hit was way below the belt.
Hycinth hissed, “Luca Torin Diamonte!”
Hmm, Hycinth admonished him using his full name—he was in trouble now.
Sydney’s stare shot daggers at Lucky. If looks could kill, he’d be dead twice over. And then her attention flickered to me, realizing for the first time I was listening to the conversation.
She held my gaze. We weren’t together, but that didn’t mean I didn’t know Sydney extremely well. In that one glance, she communicated what she needed from me. And I felt it was only fair.
I disentangled Hycinth from my side. Hycinth’s head shot up to stare at me, a question in her doe-eyes. But I didn’t respond to her. Instead, I walked to Sydney’s side. Sydney automatically turned her back on me and lifted her hair. Without a word, I removed the collar from her neck and stepped away.
When she turned back around, her fiery gaze locked on Lucky. A fine shudder went down her spine. Her Wolf was ready to come out and play.