HEAT

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Chapter 5: Destiny

Hycinth

The feeling of being in his arms overwhelmed me, shocked my senses, rattled my brain and made a funny flicker of excitement run up and down my spine, right into my core.

I hated it. I hated what he did to me, what the bond did to me. Because I hated him.

And the feeling of his obvious desire, stiff and hard and shockingly bigger than I wanted to consider, pressing against my belly, was enough to make my Wolf wantonly moan. Her thoughts were clear. Want him. Want our mate. She was ready to go belly up or ass-up or whatever position he might want us in. All of them were good to her.

She’d been slowly dying, suffocating, without the love and family of a pack. She needed no coaxing. She was happy to let him lead. She flourished and came alive under his dominance.

I, on the other hand, hated him.

I tried to remind her that it was his fault we had no family and pack. He’d destroyed our mother and father...with his bare hands. And he’d demolished everything else until there was nothing left to call a pack.

But she wasn’t listening. The call of the bond was too strong.

It didn’t matter because I was in control. And there would be no molding us into whatever position he liked best, no matter how much she wanted it.

Leander gazed down at me, his violet eyes pooling with cerulean, deep, dark. They drew me in, seductive and intense. I quickly realized I could get lost in his eyes. I could so easily lose myself forever in the heat of his stare—and be happy about it for the rest of my days.

I shook my head, chasing away the cruel illusion the bond created. It was only a dream of blissful contentment. It wasn’t real. It never could be, not with him.

Still, being in his arms was breaking me. My breaths came shallow and low. He whispered softly, soothingly, “Shh, little mouse...no need to fight or run. Let’s start again. Can we do that?”

My mouth fell open in shock, not expecting gentleness. I knew how to deal with him when he was an ass. It was much more difficult when he presented the illusion he cared. But I didn’t buy it. Not for one minute. However, he seemed open to renegotiating our terms for me to see Luca. I would take it.

I nodded without speaking.

His thumb brushed smoothly along the crest of my cheek. “Good girl. Will you sit down so we can talk?”

Another silent nod from me.

He carefully let go and stepped away. I slid down into the nearest leather office chair.

From my peripheral vision, I noticed that asshole, Dagger, step closer and then slide behind me where I couldn’t see him anymore.

Instantly, my hackles raised. I clenched the sides of the chair, knuckles turning white with exertion. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be able to sit without knowing where he was and protecting myself from him. I turned my head to glare and flashed my canines in warning.

His mouth curled into a toothy smile of his own, canines on display, eyes flashing wicked intent. He was biding his time.

Fear pushed through me, remembering his violating touch. My breathing picked up.

He knew he made me uncomfortable. He liked it. His grin grew wider. I shifted toward the edge of the seat, hands still gripping the arms of the chair, ready to propel myself out of it. My eyes searched for the exits. Which one was closest?

“Clear the room!” Leander’s abrupt voice growled.

My attention snapped back to him, to find him angrily staring at the group of wolves behind me, including Dagger.

“Everybody out!” Leander repeated. “Except for Ever and Cyril.”

Cyril?!

Oh shit, the older man was Alpha Cyril!

Of course, Leander had said two Alphas. He’d meant his father. Alpha Cyril was legendary. Or maybe notorious was a better word. He and my father battled for many years.

“Are you sure about that?” Dagger’s questioned.

Leander’s expression darkened. It was crystal clear he didn’t appreciate his orders being questioned. He gave no response except a low, menacing growl that caused goosebumps to flare on my arms.

Without another word, every Wolf but three exited the room. I breathed a slight sigh of relief and slid further back into the chair. I would listen to what the Alpha had to say. It was necessary information. Any extra detail might help me find a way to escape. But his first question thoroughly stumped me.

“Why did you run three years ago?”

I sat in confused silence, not sure if I’d heard him correctly. Or maybe, I’d had a momentary lapse of attention and missed something vital that would make sense of his words.

He just returned to his position, standing in front of his desk and casually leaned against it, patiently waiting for my reply.

Okay, so I didn’t miss something. He was serious.

It was a succinct question, so I gave him the short answer, “Because it was you I was running from.”

His lips thinned. “And you never considered finding out more about who the Moon destined you to be with? You never once considered the possibility?”

“No,” I replied flatly.

He nodded his head as though he understood, but his frown became more pronounced, set deeper into the edges of his flawless jaw. He changed the subject. “What have you been doing during the last three years?”

“What is this? A job interview?” I snapped.

His lips twitched, some of the humor returning to his molten eyes. “You could say that.”

I didn’t appreciate his cryptic reply. “You found me, so obviously you already know the answer. How did you find me, by the way?”

His lips curled up, satisfaction, back on his face. He walked around his desk and opened the top drawer. When he pulled out a small leather bound book, I inhaled sharply—it was my diary! My journal where I wrote all of my nonsense, little girl thoughts and where I drew picture after picture, all things I found beautiful. He must have salvaged it from the fire.

He held it up in his big paw. My stomach twisted. It was such an intimate insight into my very being. I felt violated by the intrusion—that he would dare rest his eyes on something so personal.

“Your art,” he explained and admitted, “along with a little luck. While visiting the Alpha in Vegas, I was shocked to find a painting on his wall. It was a stunning portrait of a beautiful Wolf. But it wasn’t the subject of the painting that surprised me so much. It was the familiarity with which it was drawn. So very similar to the ones in your book. And when I looked closer, I knew for certain it was yours. The signature was not your name, but the initials were—HD. The letters weren’t obvious at first. They seamlessly blended in the swirls of the background forest, but they were there, and they matched the exact way you wrote them in your book. From there, it was simple to backtrack to your location.”

I ground my teeth together, hating that he discovered me as a result of my own foolishness. Never, should I have allowed my artwork in a gallery. And I certainly shouldn’t have included my real initials—how dumb could I be?”

I held out my hand. “It’s mine. I want it back.”

“In time...” he replied noncommittally, closing the journal back into his desk drawer.

“Why am I here?” It was my turn to ask a question.

Maybe it was a foolish inquiry, and the answer should be obvious, but his question regarding why I ran was equally silly, so there it was. I waited for his response.

Multiple emotions flickered across his face before he replied tightly, “To be my Luna.”

“I don’t want to be your Luna. Give the job to someone else. I’m sure there are plenty of shewolves falling all over themselves to have you.” I said the words and I meant them, except I wasn’t at all prepared for and hated the jealousy that reared up in my mind, suffocating and painful, at the thought of him touching another shewolf.

Damn bond.

Leander tilted his head, his oddly knowing gaze boring into my eyes.

Did he sense my jealousy?

The growing smirk on his face suggested precisely that.

I cringed and glared at him.

He placed his hands on the edge of the desk, as he rested back against it casually. “Unfortunately, little mouse, for the Claiming Ceremony to be effective, you know my only option is you.”

Woah, slow down!

Claiming Ceremony? What was I supposed to know?

Of course, I knew wolves mated but wasn’t even sure exactly what that entailed. I stared at Leander in confusion. “What do you mean Claiming Ceremony?”

His eyebrows rose in surprise. “Didn’t anyone in your pack teach you?”

Anger rose in my chest for what he had stolen. I narrowed my eyes. Bitter sarcasm dripped from my tongue, “My mother was killed when I was young, and I haven’t exactly had any female Wolf influence since then.”

Without warning, Alpha Cyril was on his feet and hurled a glass of some unknown brown alcohol across the room. It shattered upon impacting the bookshelf, hundreds of splintering shards falling to the floor. The raging Alpha’s gaze landed back on me. Furious growls percussed from his chest, a cruel look of intent in his cold eyes.

Instantly, the Beta was also on his feet, positioning his body between the menacing out-of-control Alpha and me. The Beta urged quietly, “Alpha Cyril...now isn’t the time.”

Now isn’t the time? The time for what? And when would be the appropriate time for whatever volatile plan he had in mind for me? My heart thundered in my chest. I blinked. Why was he so mad suddenly?

Fear ran through me, leaving me cold and shaking. I shrank further back into my chair, trying to make myself the smallest target possible.

The elder Alpha had looked large while sitting down, but standing, he was absolutely massive, broad chest puffing up and down, his rage fully revealed.

I couldn’t hold his gaze and dropped my eyes. My Wolf cowered and whined, vividly aware of this dangerous Alpha who wanted to hurt her. I inclined my neck toward him. I couldn’t help it. He was radiating out power, and it felt like it would crush me like a bug.

“Stop!” Leander commanded loudly.

His hands were no longer casually holding on to the edge of his desk. Now they were clenched into fists by his side. His nostrils flared, body coiled and ready to spring.

His authoritative voice echoed in the large office. He wasn’t holding back any of his Alpha vibes either. The volatile force of him crashed over me like a wave. I was stunned to realize his power equaled—and exceeded—his father’s!

My Wolf wasn’t sure she wanted any part of it, but she reveled in his dominance, purring out her approval. Our mate is strong.

Our mate is insane; I snapped back at her, still squirming in my chair.

Apparently, Leander’s reproach was enough to get the burly Alpha back under control. He snorted like a wild beast and then returned to his seat.

I tried to calm down, but my heart still raced in my chest. I held tight to the chair to keep my fingers from revealing the trembling inside my body. I desperately wanted to know what caused his sudden break in composure but didn’t dare ask. I had no desire to risk a recurrence of his hatred for me.

Leander snarled, “Are you under control now? Can we get back to the matter at hand?”

Another unintelligible snort.

The Beta returned to his chair and sat down uneasily, his posture angling forward, in case he had to spring back into action.

Leander waited several moments for the tension to ease from the air. And then his voice went back to the epitome of calm and under control. Not that it made his next question any easier.

“Do you know how Wolves mate?”

I flushed pink, embarrassment of my ignorance, flowing hard through me.

Why hadn’t I ever asked Luca something so important and relevant to my future?

It would have felt awkward having that conversation with my brother, but it would have been a hell of a lot easier than this. I really didn’t want to have this conversation. I refused to reply, keeping my mouth locked shut.

Leander must have interpreted my body language correctly because his eyes widened in understanding at how very little I knew. He drew in a slow deep breath and let it out as he walked to sit in the chair next to me.

It was a little easier not having him tower over me, but I was certain the change in his position wasn’t going to make me any happier about the conversation.

Spreading his legs comfortably, he leaned forward slightly, angling his body toward me. Amethyst and cerulean orbs softened, to match his soothing tone. “Mating between two normal wolves entails sex and the exchange of marks, preferably at the point of orgasm. Additionally, our fur sides will engage in intercourse and repeat the process of marking.”

I blinked. Well shit, now he was just casually tossing around words like sex, intercourse, and orgasm. And I had no idea what to reply to all of that. The room suddenly felt twenty degrees warmer. A bead of sweat trickled down the back of my neck. Leander’s lips curled into a wicked grin. He knew the effect he was having on me.

Damn that bastard! And damn the Moon for this damn bond! Dammit!

None of this would be happening if fate hadn’t somehow decided this Alpha with violent tendencies and a short fuse, was supposed to be my mate. I wouldn’t be feeling so hot under the collar right about now. And images of writhing naked beneath his perfect and sculpted body, while he thrust again and again, wouldn’t be saturating my mind. I shivered.

Leander licked his lips like he planned to make a meal out of me when we were done chatting, and continued, “However, a Claiming Ceremony between an Alpha and his rightful Luna is different.”

My sweating increased. How much more graphic was he going to get? To my utter horror, the answer to that question was a shitload more. And he was so lovely and considerate to describe the events in first-person. Of course, he couldn’t recount the details as though speaking about any old Alpha and Luna. Oh, no, the Alpha who positively oozed sexuality in front of me, had to keep using words like you, me and we, which made it all the more salacious and obscene to my sensitive virgin mentality. I forced myself not to hyperventilate while he spoke.

“A Claiming Ceremony is a three-day celebration that involves the pack and us,” Leander began.

My mouth dropped open. I just couldn’t help it. I waited for him to explain how in the world the pack was going to celebrate this momentous occasion with us.

“When you go into heat, we’ll go to a small cottage built especially for this event. All of the mated pairs will join us. They’ll surround the cottage, listening. And when they hear you orgasm, their celebration of feasting and dancing will begin.”

What?!

No. No way. There was no way he could be serious.

But, while clearly enjoying the conversation, there was no hint of sarcasm or intended humor in his demeanor.

Oh fuck. He was serious.

Just how many people made up the number of mated pairs? And all of them were going to surround the building, just waiting to hear me squeal like the true bitch in heat I’d be—like I was some sexual titillation dinner bell, letting them know when it was time to eat?!

I sucked in a deep breath, trying unsuccessfully to regulate my air. In. Out. In. Out. Maybe he had a brown paper sack tucked in his desk somewhere into which I could breathe.

“During our lovemaking, not only will I come inside of you, creating an heir, but we’ll also prepare our bodies for the mated pairs.” He stopped and waited, staring at me intently.

Maybe his pause was due to my cherry red cheeks, or possibly, eyes wide enough to rival any doe hanging out in traffic. I blinked several times. This entire conversation had to be a bad dream, a nightmare. Any minute now, I’d wake up.

Several more blinks.

Nope. Definitely already awake.

My voice was hoarse, “What do you mean ‘prepare our bodies for the mated pairs’?”

Violet eyes held steady on mine. “Our combined cum has special properties during the Claiming. We’ll rub it in all over our bodies.”

Oh, sweet mother, he did not just say that!

The pressure in my skull increased. Much more and my eyeballs would pop right out.

Okay. I narrowed down that I wasn’t asleep.

But that didn’t mean I was lucid.

Because this shit just couldn’t be real.

Even in my worst nightmares, I never conjured images of having this conversation with the monster.

If Lucky spiked my food with cannabis again, I was going to kill him. Although, nothing so mediocre as weed could bring on this surrealistic mumbo-jumbo of nonsense in my head.

Welp, I was already on the ride. Might as well see where it takes me. I waited, wondering if a pretty pink pony with a glittery horn was going to walk through the door next.

I loved unicorns.

My creative little illusion kept talking, “When we emerge, the mated pairs will rub against our skin. Don’t worry. It’s only the same-sex. Females to you and males to me.”

Of course, it’s only the same sex. That’s logical, I maniacally agreed, and asked casually, “And why would the mated pairs want to rub the cum off our bodies?”

Leander’s eyebrows rose in surprise, probably due to the change in my tone and demeanor. But since none of this was real, there was no cause for me to be embarrassed and I was curious to see just how crazy my imagination was.

He waited for a beat, still studying me oddly and then continued, “Because it holds power. Once the mated pairs have it on their skin, they will copulate and be able to conceive pups—even without the females being in heat.”

“Oh that’s nice,” I murmured under my breath.

The Alpha’s brows rose even higher. Any more, and they’d get lost in his hairline. He gently took my hand in his. “So you’re okay with this?”

Tingles shot through my body at his touch, startling me into perfect awareness again.

Oh shit, I wasn’t hallucinating!

This was real.

Everything he said was real.

I jerked my hand out of his grip like he had some communicable disease. His mouth formed a thin hard line, but he pulled away and didn’t reach for me again.

“No...” I mumbled, shaking my head firmly. “No...I won’t do that with you.”

A muscle in his jaw twitched, his response hard, “You don’t have a choice. I didn’t pick you. The Moon did. So there are no options here for either of us.”

I hissed sarcastically, “It’s heartwarming when you remind me just how much you don’t want me, whilst in the middle of trying to convince me to, let’s see: have sex with you, rub your cum all over my body, and then share it with everybody who would like some.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he replied, flustered for the first time in our conversation. “I simply meant to illustrate that I was in the same position you are. We’re in this together, like it or not.”

Fury rolled over my countenance. “So that’s it then? You’re just going to force me so that you can have an heir and everyone else can get pregnant? That’s the sum value of my worth? The future pup in my womb, and the pups made by this disgusting ceremony?!”

Leander’s eyes widened. “Of course, I’m not going to force you.” He sounded insulted. “I’ve never had to force a female into my bed, and I’m not starting with you!”

Again, that unwelcome jealousy splashed over me hard and sharp. I rejected the image of him naked with another woman, shoving it from my mind.

Abruptly, Ever interrupted our conversation, spitting derisively, “Not everyone is as lucky to be able to conceive as a Luna. It wouldn’t kill you to think about someone other than yourself for once.”

“You think I’m selfish?" I asked incredulously, my voice raising.

His arms crossed over his chest, the muscles in his neck corded. He just stared at me as if he’d made his point.

He hadn’t.

“Okay. Since you think I’m abhorrently selfish, let me ask you this. Would it be okay if I was a female you actually gave a shit about?” My voice rose even higher, fury vibrating through my chest as I spat, “What if it was your mate in my position? Would you so easily send her to be violated against her will and used for who knows how many people? Would you be perfectly okay, knowing it would tear her apart inside and leave her empty and broken? Is that the kind of male you are?!”

His voice lowered into a deadly threat, “Do not talk to me about my mate being in pain and suffering. You know nothing of true heartache and loss. You haven’t seen her wailing to the Moon. You haven’t seen her Wolf howling songs of agony, begging to know why she’d been forsaken. Pleading to know what she’s done wrong. And when no answer comes—because it never does—the process starts all over again on the next cycle. Raging guilt that causes her to claw the flesh off of her belly. Begging for my forgiveness because she somehow believes it’s her fault.”

He swallowed, his Adam’s apple working in his throat. His expression twisted into a personal hell I would never know. ”How...how could she believe any of it was her fault?” he whispered under his ragged breath. I didn’t think he was talking to me anymore, voice raw with emotion, revealing months, maybe years, of trying to convince his mate otherwise.

I sat frozen, listening to his heartache, hating it, wanting to do something to fix it—but not that. I just couldn’t.

Leander interrupted the tense moment, catching my attention again by gathering both of my hands in his much larger ones. He leaned toward me and spoke with a gentleness I never expected him to be capable of, “I know this is hard for you. But a pack is a family. We make sacrifices for family.”

That was just the problem.

I shook my head again and replied evenly without emotion, “I’m not going to be your sacrificial little lamb. I’m not a part of your family or your pack...and I never will be.” I turned my attention to the elder Alpha, and this time, I held his gaze as I said coldly, “I think you’ve made that perfectly clear.”

His face remained expressionless, revealing nothing.

Leander pulled my attention back to him. “I know you don’t feel that way right now...and that’s our fault.” Surprisingly, sending his own angry glare at his father before refocusing on me and continuing softly, “However, why don’t we just spend some time getting to know each other? It will make it easier if we’re at least comfortable with one another?”

I’m sure it would make it easier for you, I thought bitterly. The disgusting enforcer had been clear when pinning me beneath him. The almighty Alpha was determined to get everything he wanted out of me first. Apparently, his a list of desires included not just my body, but my pup and pups for the mated pairs as well. He was using me and not even trying to deny it. And when he had everything on his checklist, I would be passed on to the next one.

No! Over my dead body.

Not happening.

And now I knew how I could end this nightmare. All I had to do was convince the Alpha I was serious, make him understand that there was no way I would ever give in.

I pulled my hands back and said flatly, “No amount of time together will change how I feel about you. You are the last Wolf I would ever want to touch. The thought of it disgusts me. I will never want to be with you.”

His spine went rigid. Seething anger replaced his gentle calm. It took him a moment before he spoke, “I had hoped we could at least find a way to work together toward this goal. I can see now that’s not happening. Still, I’ll give you some time to change your mind. But I won’t wait forever.”

There was a distinct warning his words. I just didn’t know what it was.

“What do you mean you ‘won’t wait forever’?”

“Unlike you, I take the responsibility that the Moon set at my feet very seriously. Which means that, yes, even though you are also the very last shewolf I could ever picture by my side, I will give whatever my wolves need from me. If that is my body, my heart or even my soul, so be it.”

His words scared me.

“I’m never going to change my mind. You’re working toward a useless cause,” I whispered.

“I’ll give you some time. But if you truly cannot change your mind, then I will take matters into my own hands and mark you.”

“You’re going to force me,” my voice wavered.

He shook his head. “No, I already told you I wouldn’t do that. But when I mark you, your heat will begin four weeks later. And you and I will be alone in that cottage when it happens. And I will let nature run its true course. You’ll have the option of refusing me even then.”

I inhaled sharply. There was no way I would be able to deny him while in heat! Hell, I’d probably chain him to the bed so I could have my savage, sexy way with him.

He continued coolly, ”Your destiny was determined by the Moon. Not by me.”

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