Damn. I thought Hycinth and I had a complicated relationship, but I wasn’t sure what to call the exchange between Luca and Sydney I’d just witnessed.
Pulling out of my embrace, Hycinth strode to Luca. Her voice was low but still clear for me to hear. “What the hell was that, Lucky?”
Jaw clenched, he replied, “Nothing.”
“Bullshit!” Hycinth hissed. “That wasn’t ‘nothing.’ You deserved a beat-down for those below the belt comments. Is this about me? Because if it is, I’m not a little girl anymore. I don’t need you to fight my battles.”
“No,” Lucky snapped, a vein in his neck pulling taut. “She just…gets under my skin.”
Hycinth’s hands found her hips. “And so you harass her? You do realize that’s pubescent werewolf behavior, right?—I like her, so I’m going to annoy her to death.”
“I don’t like her,” he growled.
“Really?” Hycinth’s brows shot up. “So, shoving your tongue down her throat, was what? Punishment? The literal enactment of a ‘tongue-lashing’? ”
Luca raked a hand through his hair and looked toward the exit before returning his attention to Hycinth. “Look, don’t worry about it, Cinn. It has nothing to do with you.”
Hycinth released her tense stance, her voice softening, “Lucky, is there something you’re not telling me?” and then her eyes widened as she continued, “Is Sydney your…mate?”
Hycinth’s question startled me. Surely, if Sydney were Luca’s mate, one of them would have said something before now. And they definitely shouldn’t be at each other’s throats every other minute.
“No. She isn’t my mate,” Luca replied, voice hard. Turning, he walked toward the door, calling over his shoulder, “Just leave it alone.”
Hycinth stared at his back as he left. When he was gone, she returned to me, lake blue eyes clouded in confusion and worry. “Do you know what’s going on?”
I shook my head. “No idea. But don’t worry about it. Sydney can take care of herself.”
Hycinth bit her lip. “It’s not her I’m worried about.”
The fourth and final day of the competition arrived. After today, only three days remained before Hycinth went into heat. Heat. Anticipation ricocheted through my body, electrifying my cells and heightening my awareness of Hycinth. My Wolf was just as tuned in. We felt everything about our little mouse down to the simplest things…
Every intake of breath
…all curled through our consciousness.
Hycinth squeezed my hand. “What are you thinking about?”
I decided to ignore her question, asking instead, “How are you feeling?”
She raised an eyebrow, but let it go. “I’m…nervous.”
I pulled her into my embrace and pressed my lips against the top of her head, whispering fervently, “You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you...everything you want…everything you need.”
I pulled back to look at her face. A light blush stained her cheeks.
“Fuck!” a grunted curse from one of the remaining competitors interrupted our intimate moment.
Hycinth’s head swiveled around.
The bouts were over, the rankings decided, except for two—first and second place.
No surprise, it had come down to Ever and Gwen versus Willow and Asher.
Both Ever and Asher were pups born from the ceremony of my father and mother. Neither had clairvoyant or additional skills beyond physical, but they were unmatched when it came to hand to hand combat, and had carried more than their fair share of action during our pack wars.
Now, they were literally fighting over their futures—a pup of their own.
When Hycinth and I emerged on the third day of her heat, only ten mated pairs would be present. Among them, the highest ranked pair would be given first-touch, first access to our bodies.
I hadn’t discussed either Ever’s or Asher’s strategy regarding what part of our bodies they planned to focus on should they come in first because that really wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have with my Beta or Enforcer. But I was pretty sure I could guess.
Nothing was off-limits…
…and given their desperation, there would be no holding back.
It’s what I would do in their shoes.
The only rule was gender restrictive. Hycinth and I would stand, facing each other, but the females could not touch me nor would the males be allowed access to her.
It was a damn good thing too because there was zero way my Wolf or I would permit ten ridiculously horny male wolves, mated or not, to fondle and stroke our female.
Nor had Hycinth and I conversed in depth about what to expect. She understood the basics, but I didn’t want to scare her off by itemizing the likely potential of extreme intimacy.
Focusing again on the match in front of us, I found all four wolves heavily beaten and bleeding.
…but all refused to give up.
Amidst the sound of cheering wolves, Asher surged forward, landing a right kick to Ever’s left side. Ever grunted. They broke apart for just an instant, only to charge right back.
Ever ducked Asher’s strike, repositioning the pair side by side. Without turning around, Ever leaped into the air, striking a high kick over his shoulder, his foot impacting the back of Asher’s neck as he passed. Asher stumbled forward off balance and turned to face Ever again, but Ever was already in motion. Spinning his body, he landed another hard strike with his foot to Asher’s chest.
“Fuck!” Asher cursed, the blow knocking him off his feet. He hit the ground hard on his back.
Ever came at him again, hoping to do more damage will he was down, but Asher thrust both feet into Ever’s chest, shoving him back, giving Asher enough time to get back on his feet.
Again, they furiously charged at each other. Asher struck a right punch to Ever’s chest causing Ever folded in on himself. Asher grabbed him around the back of his waist and flipped him over his shoulder. Ever landed on his back, grunting as the wind got knocked out of him. Ever didn’t get up right away, trying to catch his breath, vulnerable.
Asher moved in, aiming a kick to the side of his Ever’s head.
But Gwen broke free from Willow and spun horizontally in the air, shooting her legs out, tripping Asher before he could complete the kick.
Gwen’s maneuver gave Ever enough time to regain his footing, but Willow was quick to capitalize on Gwen distraction, landing a solid kick to Gwen’s chest. Gwen stumbled back several feet, swearing, “Ah…shit!”
Wolves whooped and hollered and stomped the ground, the sound almost deafening in the enclosed space.
But I frowned. Dropping my voice, I let out an Alpha command, “Break!”
Both mated pairs broke apart, heads turning to find me, their expressions questioning.
The audience of wolves went silent.
I stepped into the middle of the sparring ring.
Breathing heavily, Ever, Asher, Gwen, and Willow repositioned themselves to stand in front of me. Ever spit blood from his mouth while Willow hunched forward, an arm wrapped around her middle protectively. Asher and Gwen didn’t look better, both battered and bruised.
My voice lowered, “I understand why neither wants to concede, but your body’s need to be healed and in top condition when the ceremony arrives.” I left the sentence hanging in the air, waiting for their response.
Understanding lit their expressions. Asher turned to Willow while Ever pulled Gwen close. They were silent as they stared at their mates but it was clear from the intense look in their eyes, they were discussing what I said.
After a moment of unspoken communication, a muscle twitched in Ever’s jaw. He looked back at me. “Is that an Alpha order?”
“No.” I sighed heavily. “You can keep going if that’s your choice until one pair concedes or physically can’t continue. I’m just asking you to consider if the benefit outweighs the risk.”
More silent communication between each mated pair…
Not a word was spoken around us as everyone respected the gravity of the moment.
After a long minute, Ever tucked Gwen under his arm and turned to Asher. “A tie?”
Willow squeezed Asher’s hand. He held Willow tightly, her back to his chest, his chin resting on the top of her head. Eyes on Ever, he confirmed? “Share first-touch?”
“Yeah,” Ever nodded and then dipped his head toward me. “And given the square space on his body, there should be plenty to go around.”
“It’s not his entire body I’m concerned with,” Asher replied with a smirk.
Ever snorted, his lips curling up into a wolfish grin. “Ten inches should do just fine.”
Asher met him back with an equally wicked smile.
“Fuck,” I groaned.
I was right.
They had no intention of holding back. There would be zero regard for my personal space.
Apparently, karma really was a bitch. Considering the number of cocks I’d held in my hand over the years when doling out punishment, maybe I deserved whatever manhandling they intended to dish out.