HEAT

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Chapter 4: Willing to Die Trying

Leander

Text: We got her. ETA 4hrs.

When the text came in almost fours hours ago, I’d stared down at my phone in disbelief. Three long years of searching had gone by, and I was beginning to think I’d never find her. My little mouse had been clever in hiding herself, indeed.

But not clever enough.

Now she was mine.

My brain spun, anticipation lighting up every cell in my body. She would be there any minute. Finally!

I wondered what she looked like now. I’d only had one fleeting glimpse of her as she hid behind her father in the middle of the chaos, fire, and hatred burning in equal measures. Heart shaped face and pert nose, strawberry blonde hair whipping about, caught up in the rushing wind of the flames. And those eyes—deep blue with iridescent flecks like a mountain lake whispering the reflection of the moon.

That one glance had been seared into my brain.

So innocent.

So young.

But she wasn’t a juvenile anymore. By now, she’d shifted, and was a fully matured shewolf.

No longer young. But was she still innocent?

The thought of another male touching her caused my Wolf to snarl angrily.

I tried to calm him down. She was well past consensual age. It was unrealistic to expect she was still pure as the driven snow. Irritation flowed through me.

If I’d only caught her sooner.

I could have avoided any other males pawing what belonged to me. A low growl slipped my throat without my permission.

Three years.

Three fucking long years I’d gone without the touch of a woman. Not since I first laid eyes on her. Not that I hadn’t tried to force myself. If only to take my mind off of her for a while and relieve my testosterone-fueled body, but dammit, every time I got close, her lake blue orbs filled my consciousness and fucked with my head. I didn’t want anyone but her. Neither did my Wolf. He would whine and cry, forlorn, missing his mate. And that would be the end of it.

Shit. I was in trouble.

I shook my head. None of that mattered. All of those thoughts and emotions were just a byproduct of the bond. I would never forget who she was, where she came from, whose DNA flowed deep and irreversible in her body.

“Do you have a plan?” Everard interrupted my internal conflict.

I glanced up at him from my desk. He sat in one of the leather chairs, his posture stiff. His dark brown eyes reflected concern and tension of his own.

“What exactly for?” I had a lot of plans for her. He was going to have to narrow it down.

“I think he means keeping her here,” my father interjected from his seat on the nearby couch, his ever constant glass with dark amber liquid swirling in the bottom of it, in his hand.

“Cyril’s right,” Ever agreed. “Now that you have her, how are you going to keep her?”

I ground my teeth together. I had contemplated a few options. It was going to take more manpower than I preferred to assign to the task, but I wasn’t going to take any chances on her slipping through my fingers again. “It will depend on how she reacts when she gets here. If I have to, I’ll collar her until she learns to behave. In the meantime, I want you to personally be responsible for making sure she doesn’t escape.”

Ever’s eyebrows pulled together. His mouth twisted. “What did I do to make you hate me so much?”

I leaned forward and held his gaze. “I can’t trust her with anyone less qualified than you. Besides, you have a vested interest in making sure we get to the Claiming Ceremony.”

His shoulders fell in resignation. He couldn’t argue the truth of the matter. He and his mate had been unable to conceive after five long years of trying. They were one of the mated pairs who were desperate for me and my Luna to fulfill our responsibilities. If we didn’t, they were unlikely to ever have any pup of their own. Both struggled with the loss every time her heat came and went, but it hit his female extra hard. Once the week after her heat expired and revealed she was not pregnant—again—she would run and cry and wail beneath the moon, inconsolable.

He just nodded in agreement.

My father raised his bourbon to his lips, taking a slow sip, eyes glazed over, lost in his own thoughts again. I wasn’t sure how he was going to handle having my new little mate here either. The last thing I needed was for him to have a lapse in control and try to kill her. All of it was going to be damn complicated, I growled in frustration.

However, I wasn’t able to think any longer on it because suddenly her scent hit my nose—exotic, orchid, jasmine and cinnamon.

She was here!

Right after my brain acknowledged her presence, her angry words rang out as she yelled at whoever was dragging her through the front part of the house, “Take your hands off me, you cock-sucking motherfucker of an ugly ass wolf!”

“Colorful,” I mused. Ever’s lips twitched. So she wasn’t shy and demure, that was for sure. Her voice was smooth with just a little bit of seductive rasp, like maple syrup or honey. Unconsciously, I licked my lips. I stood to my feet and walked around the front of the desk, leaning back slightly on it while I waited for her to make an appearance.

A minute later, Dagger pushed her through the door with a grip on both of her biceps. She tried to wrench away from him, but he held her tighter to keep her constrained.

As soon as she saw us, she glanced at Ever, and my father and then her glare landed on me. Her nostrils flared. Her entire body vibrated in a fury, but also something else—fear.

My Wolf didn’t like the scent of her fear. He also didn’t like how the male was restraining her. Dagger had both of her arms jerked back, causing her chest to be pushed out. My irritation matched my Wolf’s. So much so, that I was stunned to realize I was ready to remove his hands from his body for it. A loud growl reverberated from my chest as I commanded, “Let her go!”

I didn’t have time to analyze the force of my reaction, but it shocked Dagger as well. He hadn’t expected the severity of my response either. His eyes went wide and instantly he released her.

Without even a second delay, the little firecracker spun and punched him straight in the side of the face. Hard enough to hear a sharp crack as something broke, causing his head to whiplash the other direction.

“Shit!” breathed Ever.

“Motherfucking bitch!” The eyes of his Dagger’s Wolf glowed black, menacing. He raised his hand to smack her.

“Do it and lose the arm!” I snarled fiercely, my body now vibrating with fury.

How dare he raise a hand to her?

I wasn’t playing. If he hit her, I had no doubt I would remove his limb from his body. As it was, it took everything in me to hold my Wolf back from shifting and ripping out his throat.

Again, Dagger’s shocked expression met my feral one. He put his hand down, but the fury didn’t leave his features.

The little mouse bounced lightly on her toes like a boxer, eyes darting all around, calculating her next move. Even my father sat forward in surprise as he watched her.

I wasn’t sure what to say to calm her down, so I focused on Dagger again, looking at the claw marks on his face and blood on his shirt. His nose also looked a bit distorted. “What the fuck happened to you?”

Tension rolled through his large frame. His jaw twitched as he spoke through clenched teeth, “Your. Little. Mate.” He spoke each syllable as if it were a curse word.

“I see,” I replied slowly. I had assumed the damage had been caused by the male she’d fled with. Very few wolves got the jump on Dagger, but it appeared he hadn’t been prepared for her. My father snorted, the noise sounding suspiciously like amusement.

No one spoke as she faced Dagger, her hackles raised, ready to fight. He didn’t move, just glared at her. After a moment, she seemed confident Dagger wasn’t going to attack her from behind and spun back to face me. “Where’s my brother, you sick son of a bitch!”

“Language, my dear,” I reprimanded softly. I took a minute to look at her...really look at her. She had indeed grown. Her hair was a shocking shade of dark red, clearly not an effort to look natural, more of an in-your-face ‘fuck you’ to anyone who might care. Her face was as beautiful as I remembered, but thinner, more defined jaw and high crested cheekbones. None of the roundness and baby fat associated with a juvenile wolf remained. She was all female curves and fiery woman now. My gaze traveled down her body before taking my time back up again.

She interrupted my visual inspection, snapping, “If you’re done looking at my tits, answer the damn question!”

I couldn’t help the smirk that curled my lips. I had often wondered what her personality would be like. If she would be shy and submissive or temperamental and outgoing.

Temperamental and outgoing it was, then.

And I was having a hard time keeping my dick from reacting to her boldness and strength. It had been too long since I’d been with a shewolf, and the one I wanted was standing right in front of me. Of course, she would also just as likely take my head off if given the opportunity, so ravishing her on my desk as my cock really wanted to do, was probably out of the question.

I forced myself to refocus and gestured toward the chair. “Why don’t you sit down?”

“I’m not sitting or talking until you tell me where my brother is!”

Okay, maybe if I gave her something, she would give me something in return. “He’s here. He’s alive. I have him detained for the time being.”

She placed her arms on her hips, her feet wide. “I want to see him.”

“If you agree to answer some questions, we can discuss your visitation with him,” I allowed carefully.

Her eyes narrowed, her lips pressed into a thin line. “That’s not good enough. You didn’t commit to a damn thing! You want me to follow through on your request; however, all you’re giving me in return is a conversation about what I want, which is worth nothing. Try again.”

Ever coughed, trying to cover up his laughter.

She glared at him.

I grinned. “Okay, little mouse, you win. Let me be clearer. Answer five of my questions, and in return, I will take you to see your brother.”

“Two,” she countered.

This was getting better and better. I could play this game all day long. She didn’t have control here, and it was time she understood it. I snapped, ”Six.”

Her dark blue orbs raged. Her claws came out, eyes darting around the room again, calculating the exits.

Without a doubt, she was going to strike.

What was she thinking? There was no way she could get free. Not past all of us. And I didn’t want her hurting herself trying. Before she could make a move, I crossed the space between us in a blink and forced her arms behind her, gripping her wrists in one hand, and moved my other hand to the nape of her neck. My fingers curled into her hair. I jerked her body tight to mine and used my grip in her hair to force her head up to look at me.

The effect of the bond was instant the moment our skin touched. Tingles coursed up my arms, through my chest and pooled in my groin. It stood stiff and ready for her attention, pressing against the confines of my pants and poking into her belly.

“Oh!” she gasped, frozen by both my unexpected attack and the shock of the bond.

I leaned down into her neck, my canines aching with the painful urge to mark her, but held back. Instead, I whispered throatily, “Do you really think you can possibly fight your way out of here?”

The momentary freeze caused by the bond was gone.

Her rage was back. She spat, “You don’t know what I’m capable of.”

“Maybe not, but I do know trying to fight your way past two Alphas, a Beta and several enforcers is a foolish endeavor.”

Her expression turned feral, eyes wild, tone low and deadly, “Not when I’m willing to die trying.”

Her words chilled me to the bone.

She meant them.

Fuck. And now that meant I had no choice.

I was going to have to collar her!

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