I’d gone to bed before any of Chloe’s family made it home, and by the time they did, I pretended to be asleep, snoring and all, just so no questions would be asked.
I hadn’t slept the entire night. Even Chloe drifted off, inside my mind, being as unusually quiet as the rest of the evening before. But I had too much in my own head to be able to relax completely and sleep. So I just stayed awake, stared at the ceiling, and forced myself to think about nothing.
Only when dawn came, I was finally able to fall asleep, but unfortunately it didn’t last. After what felt like minutes I’d been woken up by Caitlyn. She had a peculiar look on her pretty face when she said, “Get dressed. You have a visitor.” She took off without elaborating.
It’s probably the Beta, Chloe murmured in my mind. You don’t want to make him wait.
I sighed. If I was the swearing type, I would’ve turned the air blue with my curses.
No doubt about that, Chloe remarked dryly, but unfortunately, you don’t swear, so why won’t I do the job for you?
Sure, go ahead, I said, and while I gave her the green light and she started swearing, I dragged my ass to the closet and debated what to wear. Then I wanted to smack myself over the head. It really didn’t matter what I wore, because no matter what he said, Zachary is not my mate. He’s probably Chloe’s. I was just a parasite human human after all.
Dumping some jeans and turtleneck shirt on myself, I pulled my golden curls into a ponytail and gave myself a mental lecture. You can do this. You’re a strong, independent woman. You’re awesome. Go kick some wolfish ass.
That’s my girl, Chloe said with fierceness I hadn’t heard in her voice since, well, forever. Smiling with the knowledge that I had Chloe with me for backup, I squared my shoulders and marched out of the room.
The living room view was one of a kind, I decided when I stepped into the room. Candace and her mate, Barry, were sitting together, watching their parents, Norma and Jefferson, who were scrutinizing the guest with both fascination and curiosity. Caitlyn was sitting not too far away from the guest, and when she saw me entering the room, she gave me a jealous look.
Ignore her, Chloe told me and I listened to her, instead fastening my gaze on the guest.
Zachary Greyson looked up at me, a cup of black coffee in his hand. He put it on the coffee table and, in the silence, rose to his full heigh. He looked as hot as he did yesterday, only today he wore simple jeans, black buttoned shirt and dark leather jacket. His hair had a slight kink to it, as though he hadn’t bothered arranging it this morning, and his green eyes were hardened into emerald granite with undiluted determination.
Those eyes were currently capturing mine in an unbreakable hold, and something clenched in the pit of my stomach while my breasts suddenly felt a little heavier in my chest.
Claire, meet arousal, Chloe sneered. At that, I flushed and would’ve looked away had he not spoken.
“Good morning, Miss Danes,” he said, making me tense, “may I speak with you privately?”
Why is he so formal? Chloe wondered. It’s a little creepy.
He’s being a gentleman, I told her. “Sure,” I said aloud, and glanced at Chloe’s family. Candace and Barry were giving me the thumbs-up while Norma’s eyes glistened with unshed tears of absolute relief. What the hell did Zachary Greyson tell these people to make them react like this?
A big, warm hand seared me through my shirt when the Beta of the Millennium put it on the lower of my back. I didn’t remember being so extremely attuned to him the night before, but for some reason I was now aware of him being close, ushering me to the backyard balcony silently.
When we were alone, Zachary pulled away from me and went to lean against the balcony’s banister. Not knowing what to do with myself, I sat on a wooden chair and crossed my legs. His eyes flashed to them for a flickering moment, and then trailed all over my body until they returned to my face.
For some reason, with just this one scorching look, I felt like I was on fire.
“Miss Danes,” he said, and I snapped my attention to him, folding my arms as I did so. “I’ve talked with you family regarding your being my mate.”
That made me freeze, the heat I’d just begun to feel evaporating. “You’ve done what now?” I inquired, incredulous. My eyes found his watching me intently.
He shrugged. “I’m not beating around the bushes. I like to think of myself as an honest guy. That’s why I sought your family’s blessing before I began with my pursue at courting you.”
My mind was a jumble by now, and Chloe didn’t help at all, with her falling silent again. Thank a lot, I chided her bitterly. “Blessing? Courting?” I was astonished, my voice arch with disbelief. “And you didn’t think you might want to ask me first if I wanted to be courted by you?” The assumption I would simply be willing made my skin crawl.
Zachary’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “We’re mates, no matter that your smell is strange. It doesn’t matter if you want me or I want you. Fact is, we’re destined for each other.” His looked turned steely. “That’s why I wanted your family’s blessing before I started anything. Since I have this tackle out of the way, it’s time for the next phase.”
Bristling with the sheer incredulousness of the situation, I couldn’t even speak when he said, “And the next phase is, of course, the courting part. I’ll take you on dates, we’ll get to know each other, and then we’d be together. End of story.”
Something flickered in my mind, and then I burst out laughing. “Oh. My. God.” I said, almost chortling, “you cannot be serious.”
Claire, Chloe hissed suddenly, her voice scolding, don’t forget our place. He’s the Beta of the Millennium, one of the One True Alpha’s crew. Despite either of us being his mate, mocking him would no be tolerated.
Chloe was actually being sensible, and frankly she was right. But I was beyond listening right now. Because what this man had just said, as though I was a default choice on his part and getting me was just another task after shopping for groceries or something...
I rose from my chair, still laughing and then looked him straight in the eye. His were warning, telling me that I was dancing closely to the limit. I couldn’t care less, however, which wasn’t like me. I guess that’s how I got when my ego was being stomped on. Since no one had done so before – mostly because I believed I had no ego – my reaction was unpredictable even to myself.
Stepping closer so only a few inches separated us, I rinsed my chin and gave him an intimidating look of my own. “Listen to me well, Mr. Greyson,” I said softly, yet with a hard voice so my point would cross. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but I know what I think. And that is, I would never agree to even date someone who took me for granted, no matter the reason.”
He moved before I could blink; his arm was around my waist, twisting me suddenly so my back was the banister he’d just leaned against, his other hand grabbed my chine, his knee was cuddled comfortably between my thighs, and his face was so close, the tip of his nose brushed mine. Then there was his minty breath on mine when he spoke.
“You’re mine, Chloe,” he said, on the verge of snarling. I stifled a gasp when his knee suddenly brushed against the most intimate part of me, making me blush furiously at the contact. He grinned wildly in triumph, his eyes no longer green but rather silver, like that of a wolf. “Your body knows that it’s mine, too. It doesn’t matter that we’ve just met yesterday. It doesn’t matter that we know shit not about each other. Our most primitive instincts call for one another, and nothing you could say would make me turn tail and walk away. Because what’s mine, is mine.” His grip on my chin tightened, making me wince, and his voice was a guttural growl. “And no matter how far you run, I’ll catch you. And I’ll claim you.”
Then, just because I was in a compromising position, the bastard lowered his mouth to the soft spot between my neck and shoulder. My heart pounded with alarm and Chloe was suddenly screaming inside my head, Run! Claire, fuck it, run! He’s going to –
He words were swallowed under an avalanche of feelings. His lips were touching my skin, and then I felt the tips of his teeth. Using his hold on my chin, he tilted my head to give him more access and tore the fabric of my shirt before sinking the teeth into my visible flesh, biting me.
Heat flared everywhere in my body. My nippled hardened, my panties dampened, every part of my skin was aflush, and I was trembling, unable to sort one emotion from the other. It didn’t matter, though. Nothing mattered at the moment, except the exquisite feeling of his teeth on my skin.
Then those teeth were out and his tongue was licking at the bruise. A canine, predatory grin spread wide on his face when he raised his fact. “You have no choice now,” he said, his voice almost a purr. “I marked you. You’re mine. And you’re going to let me take you out on a proper date tonight.”
Dazed, I raised a shaky hand to the mark and flinched when I felt the bump in my skin. Chloe was aghast inside my mind. He marked you. I can’t believe he marked you. The nerve! Goddamn dominant werewolves!
What do it mean? I asked her, hazily watching as Zachary lowered his head and licked the mark he’d planted on my skin again. What does any of it mean?
It means, Chloe said with barely contained irritation, that the bastard made sure his scent was on you, embedded through you mark, and that every male who comes into your vicinity would get a very definitive “hands-off” sensation off you. Which means, she growled now, that he made you exclusively his before the other unmated males, and that until the marks fades, usually in a month’s time, your body would be so high-strung on sexual frustration, you would beg for him to fuck you, to mate with you.
I couldn’t concentrate on the importance of her words just yet, because Zachary suddenly took a few steps away from me and grinned. “Be ready tonight at eight,” he said, voice filled with proprietary that made my figurative hackles rise. “Wear a dress. I’m taking you somewhere really nice.”
Then, still slumped against the banister, my hand on my mark, I watched as the Beta of the Millennium gave me one last triumphant leer before taking his exit.