There were many times in my life I considered some men as potential mates. Sure, I hadn’t recognized them like mates should, obviously, but I couldn’t help but think “what if?” For example, Gabe would’ve made a horrible mate to me. He would’ve tried to wrap me in cotton wool, treat me as an invalid, and constantly think that since I was a healer, it meant I was a fragile little snowflake.
Zavier, at one time when I was seventeen and horny, was also an option, but he was too much like his brother, Zack, for me to like. Zack was a broody adorable bastard, and Zavier was the same, just slightly older. The last thing I needed was someone whose emotions were on haywire, ready to blow at a moment’s notice.
Before Eve was in the picture, I even tried imagining Raphael as a mate, and decided the notion was too scary to even consider. The same thing would’ve probably been the same if I’d considered Shade as a mate, but since I usually regarded Shade as one of those aloof, untouchable male wolves, like most women regarded him, that thought never even crossed my mind.
Yet there I was, sitting on him, looking into his beautiful eyes, and struck speechless with the knowledge that he was my mate. And just when I was all but ready to bolt – like seriously, Shade was both a dream and a nightmare wrapped into one gorgeous, sexy package that should’ve remained unattainable for me – my body gave up on trying to sit up straight and my mind blinked out, exhausted.
I’d just passed out while sitting on the Gamma of the Millennium in the middle of a battle, naked. Mortifying wasn’t good enough a word to cover it.
I woke up to blissful silence. I was in my designated room back at the Pack House, dressed in my favorite jammies, showered and cleaned and fully recharged. It’d been long since the last time I needed to recharge, and the feeling, the rush of knowing I had enough healing magic to cure an army – as long as they weren’t nearly dead – was satisfactory.
Shoving the blanket off my body, I was about to sit up when a growl echoed in the room. I froze, and, almost reluctantly, turned my head to the left side of the room, where a wolf was hidden from the moonlight streaming through the window, standing on all four, and watching me with eyes turned wolf-emerald. Swallowing hard, my heart jumped up to my throat.
My mate was here, standing guard. My mate was here.
My mate was also Shade.
Gulping again, I sat up slowly, ignoring his growling. When I was fully upright, the wolf’s growl grew louder. That made me scowl. “Do not growl at me like that, Shade.”
The wolf didn’t stop growling. He also didn’t step out of the shadows, so all I could make out were his eyes and his deliciously male scent wrapping itself around me. Why was he still in wolf form and not shifting now that I was awake? And why the hell was he still hiding in the dark corner?
There was a knock on the door and I jumped, before scenting the air and relaxing. It was just Gabe. The door cracked open and just before Gabe could go inside, the wolf pounced. It happened so fast, I couldn’t do anything but sit there on the bed, stupefied.
In a fleeting moment Shade was in human form, butthead naked, and had the door opened, the entrance blocked by his muscular, tall body, his hands braced on the door’s frame, as he peered down at Gabe, who was only an inch or so shorter. “Get out of here,” Shade snarled in a barely recognizable voice. What the hell was going on?
“Shade – “ Gabe said, and even though I couldn’t see him, I could just imagine him gritting his teeth in pure alpha anger.
"Get. Out.” His voice was curt, his words beyond tensed. I shivered, wrapping my arms instinctively around myself. My gaze was suddenly locked on Shade’s back, however, and I found myself looking at those scars I felt earlier, back at the battlefield. The scars were deep, probably made with a special alloy that couldn’t be healed right, no matter what.
I could heal them, though, if Shade had let me. I had enough power for that. Why didn’t he get anyone to look at them and even try to heal them? Because I could see the scars weren’t touched by anyone else. I doubted Shade would’ve let anyone touch them, after he reacted when I tried to heal them.
When Gabe growled, I snapped my attention back to what was going on. “Stop being stupid, Shade,” the alpha snarled, “you still have a fucking bullet lodged inside you, and from the scent of it, Daisy’s already up and fully recharged, so stop acting like a fucking ass – “
Muscles coiled in Shade’s body as he growled, his sound much more intimidating. Even I cringed, and that said something about it. Usually the only men who managed to make me submit were Rafe and Gabe, when the latter was being an infuriating idiot. But Shade, while reeking of danger and oozing mystery, had never made me feel like that. Not that I knew much about him, sure, but something about the fact that he was overwhelming to me felt wrong to me.
Mates shouldn’t be overwhelmed from each other. That wasn’t right.
“Fine,” Gabe spat, “do whatever you like, idiot.”
Shade didn’t wait for the other man to walk away; he simply slammed the door shut in his face. Then he turned to me, face distorted. I’d said that Shade was considered by the female population, me included, as the most beautiful man alive, right? Well, I took that back. When he seemed as furious as he was right now, there was nothing beautiful about him.
He was dangerous. Really, really dangerous. Masculine, hot, sexily dangerous. My nipples tightened and heat pooled in my abdomen before the thought ended.
Stalking slowly toward me, I found myself frozen in place, eyes wide on him. Then he got on the bed and raised himself on his knees just before me. His proximity was close, I felt myself shuddering with the sudden hypersensitivity of my skin. My wolf growled lowly inside of me, hissing mate in her own voice.
Everything was a mess, but everything was also gone when Shade’s hand was suddenly cupping my cheek, his eyes a wild jungle of green, his mouth pinched, his expression almost murderous. “Why did it have to be you?” he suddenly asked, causing me to jerk as though he slapped me.
It did feel like that, though, and the verbal slap burned. “The same question goes to you,” I found myself replying, my voice shaking. My emotions were all over the place, uncertain, disconcerted. What the hell was he implying?
He looked down at me, both literally and figuratively, as his hand moved from my cheek to hold my chin in a steely grip, coking my head back so I could meet his eyes. “I don’t want a mate,” he growled, the wildness thickening in his magnificent irises, “I’ve never wanted a mate. This shouldn’t have happened.”
“Are you daft?” I snarled back, can’t believe what I was hearing. I wasn’t hurt just yet; instead, I was pissed off. “You don’t choose when to meet your mate! It’s not a fucking choice! You think if I could simply select my mate I would’ve chosen you?” I baked out an incredulous laughter, because it was either that or crying. And I didn’t want to cry. Crying was a weakness. I was not weak, despite what everyone thought about healers.
Something not entirely on the side of angels passed in his luminous eyes gone wolf. His chest quaked with his growing wolf, and he was more in my face than before, his nose touching mine, his entire front plastered to my own. He was still growling as his eyes turned even more feral, and when he became so rigid, as though locking his muscles tight so he wouldn’t spring or something, I realized he was fighting himself, his instincts, his mating instincts.
What I’d just said had been a pure provocation for him to demonstrate just how right he was for me as my mate. He was probably about to act on it, and then... he put his body under lockdown. I’d never heard of a wolf who could do such a thing; mating instincts were supposed to be all-encompassing, leaving no room for discussion but to actions. That he somehow managed to block them from affecting him... It was troubling. Not just troubling for me as his supposed mate, but troubling in the fact that no healthy werewolf in his prime should’ve been able to control himself like that while in front of their mate
No healthy werewolf...
His scars. My gut told me it all came back to his scars. But whether I was right or not, I didn’t get the chance to ask; Shade suddenly let out a different kind of growl, a growl of pure tension, but he jumped off the bed and away from me. When he looked at me, his eyes were no longer wild. He just seemed furious. “Stay away from me, Luxford,” he snarled, eyes flashing at me.
My heart was deafening and all blood rushed down from my face. I had a feeling where this was going and I didn’t like it. Not one bit. “Shade,” I said, forcing my voice to be calm and rational, “let’s talk about it like adults. You don’t have to – “
“There’s nothing to talk about,” he cut me off, his voice low and brutal, and this time I did wince, and my chest did hurt, and my hand did inch to smack him. “Thank you for healing me. I’ll get your sister to get the bullet out now.”
Those last words did. I jumped off the bed in the same manner as he’d done and strode over to him, mad. “I healed you, so I will get the fucking bullet out. You have no fucking say in this.”
His body turned rigid again as I stopped right before him, my hands curled into fists, my lips trembling in pure anger. “You’re not an alpha, Luxford. You cannot give me any orders – “
I gave him my saccharine smile. “In this case, I’m pulling rank,” only a head healer could pull rank in a pack, and that was only in a moment that head healer believed the werewolf involved was on the verge of death. But a head healer could also deem a situation like this, with the bullet still lodged inside Shade, to be life threatening, too.
Shade’s eyes turned once again wolf-green. “I’m not part of your pack. This little stunt can’t work on me.”
Technically, he was right, since he was part of the Millennium Wolves, freed of every pack, protecting the balance along with the Alpha of the Millennium. But I’d already prepared for this question. “You’re in my territory,” I gave him another sickly sweet smile. “Daphne’s not here so she can’t pull rank. I do it instead. So you’d better go lying on the bed before the bullet infect your blood.”
He looked ready to rip my head off again, but I gave him another smile and stepped back, gesturing over to the bed. “By my guest, Shade,” I said, giving him a triumphant look. I won and he knew.
He gave me searing gaze before he strode in annoyance to the bed and lay on his back. Now his body was fully on display, and while I’d done my best not to look anywhere but at his face, that was no possible anymore. His chest, gleaming in the moonlight, was like chiseled marble, and his waist... then his most intimate part of him...
He was hard. Really, really hard. And when I found myself staring at it, my insides clenched and I felt myself wetting my panties. Heat flared in my gut, propelling me forward, wanting me to touch the tick, long stick, to lick it, touch it, ride it –
“If you touch me there, I’ll kill you.”
I snapped my eyes back to Shade’s and shivered, arousal dissipating at once. He looked serious. He sounded serious. He seemed like he would do just that, mate or not. Swallowing, I gave him the best haughty look I could afford right now and flicked my hair back. “Don’t worry,” I said, coming closer and preparing my healing magic for the extraction of the bullet, “you’re not that attractive that I wouldn’t be able to control myself.” That was, obviously a lie. Even if he looked like dirt – which he didn’t, but that was beside the point – I would still want him with undiluted lust. Because he was my mate, and that’s how mates rolled.
Shade’s eyes told me that he knew I was sputtering bullshit. I didn’t care as long as it got him to shut his mouth. My chest was still in pain over the verbal abuse, and I wasn’t ready for more now. Besides, he still had a bullet inside him. I needed to take care of that before I beat him to a pulp and make him see reason.
Touching my hands to where his bullet wound used to be, I closed my eyes and lunged with my magic. It complied eagerly, entering his skin, then his blood, looking for the bullet in my command. It found it floating a few inches from where it’d last been, and I began wrapping the bullet in my magic, nudging it to go upward, back to the surface. The bullet caved little by little. It was a slow process, and I didn’t want to hurry it. I wanted the bullet to come out of his body as cleanly as possible.
My eyes were closed and I was so focused on cajoling the bullet that I only distantly heard voice. Did someone enter the room as I was working on Shade? I had no idea, and it was moot to even think about it. I needed to stay focused.
After what seemed like hours, the bullet was finally brushing against Shade’s skin. Now came the truly hardest part; getting the bullet completely out of the body without it punctuating the skin again, renewing the injury.
Healing magic, in this aspect, was almost telekinetic. I’d willed my magic to wrap itself around the bullet even more thickly and then moved through the skin, making it unharmed. It was magic akin to moving through solid walls, only I had made my magic pour some of itself into the bullet to make it one with the magic, and only then I could activate this specific, rare form of my ability. I’d always refrained from doing that, not only because it sucked a lot of energy, but because healing ability wasn’t supposed to be able to do it. That I did, well... I had a feeling it was something to do with a certain Webb Montgomery.
Opening my eyes slowly thanks to my heavy lidded, I took the bullet, which was laying on Shade’s bare, unharmed skin, and put it in my pants. It could be proven useful, I figured, since I basically inserted some magic into the bullet, transforming the magic into mana, probably. That was something to ponder later.
Wiping the sweat off my forehead, I looked around me to see, for my shock, Raphael and Eve standing there. They were accompanied by seemingly healthy Zack, Claire, and Gabe. I glanced down at Shade and found his eyes locked on Gabe, inscrutable. Gabe was trying his hardest not to look back, judging by the rigidness of his jaw. I couldn’t help but scowl at that. Acting all mature now when Rafe is near, you’re so full of it, Gabe.
Eve’s eyes draw mine when I felt them resting on me. “Thank you for healing Shade,” she said, nodding in what seemed like respect. Did any of them see me using my juju in that weird way? Looking around, I deduced that by the time they had arrived, the bullet was already out. Which was a relief.
I shrugged. “No problem.”
Shade sat up and looked at Raphael. “What are you doing here?” he asked, voice returned to normal. That made me grit my teeth in anger. What the hell was he playing at?
“Got a favor from a Deity to teleport us here,” the One True Alpha replied, and his face seemed to darken. “We’ve heard about the Hunters back in Shanghai. I made sure we came back as fast as possible.”
Gabe nodded along. “Now that the battle is over, we can – “
“It’s over?” I asked, suddenly realizing I’d been passed out in the midst of it all. “What happened? Did we win?”
Gabe glanced to Shade before looking back at me. “Shade tore through the remaining Hunters. There weren’t a lot left standing, and since he was fully healed, he was able to finish the rest of them.”
Then I’d done right by using my entire healing magic on him. “I see,” I said, relief spreading through me.
But then Gabe decided to ruin the nice moment by scowling and giving me his alpha stare. “You’ll get your punishment, however,” he said, voice not up for negotiation. “You’ve disobeyed a direct order from me, Daisy. You used Raphael’s room to sneak out and you put yourself in danger. That’s beyond acceptable and you know it.”
I curled my hands into fists. He wanted to do this right here, before of all those people? Fine. “You were, and still are, being irrational,” I told him in a chilling voice that made his eyes narrow. “I’ve talked with Jocelyn White, you know. The head healer of East Coast Pack? Her alpha lets her go to a danger zone in order to save packmates’ life. That’s what we head healers are here for. That’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s part of our freaking role as the strongest, most reliable healer in the pack. You can’t command me to stay back while your soldiers are falling and there’s no one there to help. You can’t do this, because it will break me.” My voice cracked, and I realized I was crying. I wiped the tears away angrily. “So please, if Aiden Norwood manages to allow Jocelyn to use her healing capabilities to the fullest without clipping her wings, you can’t be so different. You must not be so different.”
Gabe’s eyes were furious. All he said was, “The two situations are different. Aiden doesn’t love Jocelyn.”
And that, I knew, was the root of all these problems.