It felt surreal, dancing with Zachary Greyson of all wolves. After I told him my name, he asked me for a dance, and since I was no fool, I decided to take him up on his offer.
When he slid his arms around my waist, a chill ran through my spine. A good chill. I had to keep my face from flushing, which was difficult, as I hesitantly put my hands on his strong shoulders and let him lead me away into the dancing floor, moving slowly with me among the crowd of dancers.
“I’m sorry if it’s straightforward,” Zachary’s voice penetrated my amazement, “but you’re very lovely.”
Aww, Chloe remarked dryly, isn’t he a charmer?
Ignoring her, I dared looking up into his green eyes and ventured a small smile. “Thank you,” I said, and braved it up even more and added, “You’re not so bad yourself.”
He chuckled, and was it me or his arms tightened slightly around my waist? “I’m glad you find me to your taste,” he said, eyes sparkling with an emotion I didn’t understand, “otherwise it would’ve been really difficult.”
I blinked, trying to make sense of what he’d just said. “I don’t think I follow.”
His head leaned closer, forehead almost touching mine. “Come on, Miss Danes,” he said softly, so only I would hear and none of the curious, surrounding dancers wouldn’t, “I felt you watching me during my speak. I looked at you, too. Our eyes caught.”
What the hell is that supposed to mean? I mentally asked Chloe just as my body froze, no longer moving with his.
Shockingly, Chloe said nothing. And that made more worried than anything else.
Letting out a nervous laugh, I fought the urge to twirl a strand of my hair around my finger like a bubble-head idiot. “I honestly have no idea what you’re trying to get to.”
He stared at me for a long moment, as though trying to search something in my eyes, and when whatever he found finally computed, he seemed stricken. And that made me pause. What the hell was going on?
Clearing my throat, I tried for politeness. “Mr Greyson? Is everything alright?”
“I don’t like lies,” he said, his voice smoothing into a calm that sounded both serious and lethal, like a predator on the hunt. My muscles locked in alarm. “I also don’t believe in anything but honesty, so I’m going to be completely forward with you.”
I had no idea what to say, so I blurted, “I’d appreciate if you followed your own statement.”
He didn’t waste any time to cut to the chase. “You’re my mate. But you smell wrong.”
‘You’re my mate, but you smell wrong.’
Chloe, I hissed in my mind, Chloe we have an emergency. Please, please talk to me. Please tell me he didn’t say what I heard him say.
Chloe was silent. This was not good.
In my old life, I went to great lengths to make sure nobody pushed me into a corner. I’d been agreeable, so much so that no one ever thought I could produce my own thoughts and opinions, and therefore never tried to get an answer out of me. I’d preferred being considered as a dumb stick, and the time I’d spent in the void hadn’t changed that.
But living in Chloe’s body for the past few months, bantering with her, kind of broke that agreeable wall I put around me like a citadel. And now, that I finally found my freedom out of that unnerving place, I realized that this new place of mine was just as bad.
My thoughts a one big jumble in my head and Chloe’s silence pushed me farther into that corner Zachary had begun shoving me into. And I had only one way to get out.
“You’re wrong,” I told the Beta of the Millennium quietly, lowly, “You got the wrong girl.”
His eyes sparked, this time with anger at my response, but I couldn’t deal with it. Living with Chloe and her wolf in the same body for the past five months was one thing. Being told I was the mate of one of the most lethal werewolves in the world and that I “smelled” wrong was another.
I broke out of his arms and fled.
• • •
I couldn’t go back home. The parade I’d put up, the new Chloe Danes and all that crap, was too much for me to handle right now. Besides, they were all still in the wedding, and I didn’t want to answer any question regarding my hasty escape.
Instead, I ran to the closest pub and sat down at a stool. I wasn’t a drinker, but desperate times called for desperate measures. I hailed the bartender and asked for a beer. He complied by handing a glass full of the gross, bitter liquid. Good.
As I drank my beer and tried not to squirm under the gazes of the many males in the room, I reached out for Chloe. I need you help, I begged her. Please stop this stupid silence. You never bother to shut up, so don’t start now. I want you to explain what the hell had gone on there.
Chloe was still unresponsive. I tried a different technique. Chloe, if you don’t answer me now, I won’t ever talk to you. Ever. I need you. You’re my only friend. And that was the problem. My only friend was my body’s true owner. My life was so screwed up. And here they said afterlife was awesome. I’d been in the void, and it was terrible. And now I was stuck in someone else’s story.
I didn’t do morbid and pessimism, but right now I was bordering on brooding.
Finally, I got an answer. It’s pretty obvious what happened, Claire, Chloe said, her mental voice dry and numb. He smelled his mate on you – on us – and since there are actually two women in here, the smell is wrong. Not to mention the state my wolf is in.
So what now? I asked, anxious to hear the answer. What are we going to do? Which of us is his mate?
Chloe’s humorless laughter filled my mind. If I knew the answer, we wouldn’t have to discuss it so elaborately.
I sipped the beer. It was awful. Good. Chloe, what should I do? If he truly thinks one of us is his mate, he won’t let us go. My research told me that while werewolves did find mate occasionally, it wasn’t very common, and they mated for life. A werewolf would never give up his chance at mating his One True Mate, and that meant if Zachary truly believed Chloe or me were his mate, he would hunt us down and haul us away.
After I went out of my way to accommodate myself into Chloe’s life, after all the trouble I’d gone through to make sure everything would feel at least more normal than before, it was not going to go to hell. Because Zachary Greyson declared me his mate. And that was more than depressing. It was downright upsetting.
I don’t know what to tell you, Chloe’s voice was strained. Yes, sure, this wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. There’s no way around it. We’ll have to leave with him or he’ll make a fuss and maybe even drag the Alpha of the Millennium into this. The last thing we need is the One True Alpha sniffing around our business.
One of the rare common traits of Chloe and me was our privacy. Each of us was a private person on her own, and combined together we took secretiveness into a whole other level. We didn’t want our little dirty secret to be found, because we both didn’t want to deal with it. We were okay for now. We were going to get the answers ourselves in the future. We didn’t need other people to meddle in our business.
If Zachary took us away, there would be nothing we could do about it. I would have to tell him, and then God knew what would happen to us. Because I didn’t want to part with Chloe, and I didn’t want any of us to return back to the darkness. And sooner or later, whoever was his mate, Chloe or I, would have to let the other go.
And that was not acceptable.
We should run away, I thought ruefully. We should run as far away as we can, maybe even seek sanctuary in the East Coast Pack or something. If we stay, the Beta will take us.
I know, Chloe sighed. I know.
None of us said anything after that. I was glued to my bar stool, and Chloe had no way of manipulating the body. I was in charge. She left the decision up to me, because while she wasn’t exactly the submissive, she had no choice but to follow my lead.
I would never survive in the wilderness, especially with Chloe’s wolf huddling in some mental corner and refusing to take charge. Both Chloe and I were city girls, and even if I had ways to switch places with her, we wouldn’t survive still. We had money, thanks to Chloe’s wealthy heritage, but we were both lousy at being independent. The only reason I used to be on my own in my old life was because I had no choice. But in truth, I had no idea how to deal with it.
My shoulders slumped. We’ll have to go with him. There was no other choice and we both knew it.
Fuck, Chloe’s growl filled my mind.
The decision was made. It was either that or... nothing really. This past five months had been great, Chloe. If something happens, know that I love you.
Oh, for fuck’s sake! Chloe snapped. Get your wits together, Claire. Don’t be a wimp. Nothing will happen to either of us if we’re strong enough. So push your ‘I love you’ to the throat and let’s go kick some ass. Zachary fucking Greyson will not win!
I chuckled. I think this is the first time you were the positive one in this relationship.
Fuck you, she growled, but I was smiling now. Chloe was right. I shouldn’t give up hope yet. We could do this, and we could keep our secret intact.
Decision made with more finality now, I paid for the beer and paced my way home.