I worked with Ryker every day, and every day he was getting better. His movements became more fluid, his attacks more powerful. I trained him the Spartan way- swords, knives, and spears. No guns.
Today we were working on hand to hand combat. His arm was wrapped around shoulders tightly and I was struggling to get loose. Ryker was larger and stronger than me- he knew he had the advantage here. I phased my claws out and raked them across the tanned flesh of his forearm.
Ryker let me go with a cry of pain. “What the hell? That’s cheating!”
I chuckled and flashed my claws at him tauntingly. “Fair fighting is for the nobility. Think like a Spartan.” He watched me carefully, analyzing my movements like I taught him.
I rushed him, dodging his fist, but catching a kick in the ribs. I stumbled to the side; the breath knocked out of me. With a defiant growl, I launched myself onto his back, wrapping my legs around his midsection and my arm around his neck, squeezing tight. Ryker pried my grip away from his neck- damn he was stronger than me. In the blink of an eye, he flipped me over his head, and I slammed down onto the mat. I moved to recover my footing, but Ryker was already there, pinning me down with my arms above my head held in place by one of his large hands, his other holding claws poised above my throat.
“Yield.” He ordered with a smug look of satisfaction.
His dark eyes stared into mine, and my heaving chest was rising to meet his with every breath. I struggled against him, but he had me secured. My limbs couldn’t get enough momentum behind them to be effective.
I groaned and glared up at him. “Fine. I yield.”
He smiled and looked at me as if he just noticed the position our bodies were in. Ryker’s hips were situated between my legs and I was suddenly hyper aware of every movement he made. Our breathing was still heavy, but I didn’t think it was because of the sparring match anymore. His claws receded back into his fingers and he ran them lightly against my cheek. My breath hitched in my chest at the touch. It was electrifying- like little prickles of lightning where our skin connected. The last two weeks we had kept getting into these predicaments, and I kept fighting my instincts to give in, and each time it was harder. Now, I was wanting him to keep going. I didn’t want it to stop.
He caressed the side of my head, running his fingers through my messy hair. My leg moved against his and I could feel his body tense. I had never been kissed before, but now I found myself desperately wanting this man to lean down and press his lips to mine. All the conflict within me had taken a back seat to my desire for Ryker- my desire for my mate.
A door slammed shut at the top of the staircase and we scrambled to stand up and appear normal. I brushed the flyaway hairs away from my face as Bryce and Soren walked in.
“Figured we’d find you two here!” Bryce called with his customary wide smile. “Don’t you guys ever take a break?”
“Well, Bryce, some of us don’t mind learning some new tricks.” Ryker smirked.
Soren had been looking noticeably more light-hearted since he had found his mate. I guess that kind of happiness had an effect people. “You know Bryce, Ry. If there isn’t booze involved, he’s not interested.”
“Hey!” Bryce exclaimed, feigning hurt feelings, then he just shrugged. “Eh, yeah you’re right.”
We all laughed, but I couldn’t help but notice how strange Ryker had been acting with me while Bryce was around. He avoided looking at me, wouldn’t stand near me, wouldn’t even go out of his way to talk to me. Was he embarrassed that we were working together? Was he worried what people would think? Worst of all, was he embarrassed that we were destined to be mates?
“You guys are going to have to put all this boot camp stuff aside for an evening.” Bryce declared as he rubbed his hands together like he had some maniacal plan.
Soren nodded in agreement. “Bad Wolves is playing in the human city and we’re all going.”
“No ifs, ands or buts.” Bryce finished.
“Um… Bad Wolves?” I asked in confusion, looking between the three of them.
“It’s one of Bryce’s favorite bands.” Ryker answered.
Bryce looked wounded. “You can’t be so nonchalant about this, guys! Ugh, come on Soren, let’s go get ready.”
“Asenna, Samantha and Lia are going to meet you in your room. Something about girls getting ready together?” Soren said with a clueless expression. I liked Soren’s mate. She was sweet and always treated me with kindness.
“We’ll meet up in the courtyard!” Bryce called over his shoulder. Ryker shot me a small smile before moving to follow them.
“Stay still!” Samantha ordered as her and Lia were tugging on different sections of my hair.
They had already worked their magic on my face, rimming my eyes in purple and grey and slathering on a sickening coat of lip gloss. They had dressed me in tight black pants and a silver halter top, but I had put my foot down when they offered me a pair of dangerous looking heels. Instead they begrudgingly gave me a pair of black combat boots with silver accents.
“Finally.” Lia sighed as she set the curling iron down.
My pale, silver hair fell in loose curls around me, making me feel like a pampered city girl. Was that what I was becoming?
I stood from the chair in front of the vanity and let the girls do their final preparation. I felt like a burden on them for not knowing how to do all this girly stuff. They swore they didn’t mind, that they loved dolling me up, but I still felt needy. And I hated needy.
Samantha’s phone beeped on the bed and she groaned. “That’ll be Soren. They’re probably waiting for us.”
“I’m ready if you ladies are.” Lia chirped. She looked like a super model with her long legs, flowing brunette hair and delicate features.
And so, here we were, me following two giddy, giggly women out of the manor and into the city courtyard. There stood the guys gathered around the bubbling fountain with their backs to us. Lia ran up to Soren, her heels clicking against the stone pathway, and jumped playfully on his back with a squeal. He turned and I saw the biggest smile I had ever seen on his face. Soren was really happy, and I could tell he let loose of that tight-lipped maturity he had when I first met him. Bryce and Ryker turned to us and I could feel both sets of eyes boring down on me.
“Wow.” Bryce said, coming up to me and planting a peck on my cheek. “You look amazing.”
“Thank you.” My voice was small. I fidgeted with my fingers and looked at Ryker.
His jaw was set in a hard line and I could tell that his muscles were tensed under his black t-shirt. The vein on the side of his neck protruded slightly and I could tell he was fighting to contain his rage. Neither of us had mentioned that we had been mated to anyone, hell we never even mentioned it to each other. He clearly didn’t care about making that knowledge public-neither did I, really- so why was he so upset?
“Can we go now?” Samantha groaned with annoyance. She was hanging out of a large black van, waving for us to hurry up.
We all piled in, Bryce in the driver’s seat next to Samantha, Lia and Soren in the middle row, and Ryker and me in the back. Bryce tore out of Varcolac driving what I assumed was well over the speed limit. It had been years since I had been in a car, and this experience was making me never want to step foot in one again. The road curved, but Bryce didn’t slow the van. We all slid and leaned to the side, the force pushing me up against Ryker’s body.
“Bryce, slow the hell down man!” Soren shouted, hitting the back of the driver’s seat.
“We’re going to be late!” Bryce argued, but he slowed down regardless as the road straightened out before us.
The force that pushed us together disappeared, but we didn’t pull away immediately. I had grown more comfortable with Ryker since we had started training together. He had asked me about my pack, my family, he took an interest in learning my way of life. I wish I could say I still loathed him entirely, but there was something else stirring. I was warming up to him. When I felt his touch, I felt these weird, pleasant feelings that I couldn’t describe. I kept the seat right next to him, our legs and arms touching. We rode side by side in silence as the rest of our group was laughing and preparing for our crazy evening.
When we pulled up to the large venue, I froze at the sight of all the activity. This city was nothing like Varcolac. There were bright, flashing lights, car horns blaring, voices coming from every direction and people absolutely everywhere. My eyes darted from the face of the building to all the different people, to the bright signs and spotlights. There was so much going on.
Our group meandered through the throngs of people to the entry of the venue. I could hear the music coming from the inside and felt my heart rate quicken. As we entered, my senses were shot to hell. I was assaulted by strobing lights, pounding sound waves, and deafening voices. There were so many people packed into the building that the different scents were overpowering and nauseating. I was overwhelmed and no amount of warning would have prepared me for this.
Lia and Soren took off to a back corner, their hands already exploring each other’s bodies. Samantha and Bryce were pushing their way through people to the bar which left Ryker and me to get absorbed into the crowd. The air reverberated with the sounds of rough, heavy music led by a gritty, alluring voice.
We were swept into the crowd, being pushed and shoved as people moved with the music. As the bad wrapped up one song, the crowd screamed as they started a new one. I clasped my hands over my ears, my eardrums feeling like they were being stabbed with ice picks. The notes from the guitar pierced the air, causing me to wince.
I felt hands on me, and I spun around, ready to fight whoever had come up behind me. My fist unclenched as my eyes focused on Ryker through the strobing red and white lights. He placed his hands on my cheeks and held my face softly, leaning his forehead against mine.
Relax your senses. I heard him say through the mind link. Surrender to the sounds, the smells, the sights… Let it carry you.
I closed my eyes, feeling the thumping of the bass in my chest, I could still see the erratic slashing of light through my eyelids. I could smell the cacophony of scents from the people around me, the smell of beer and smoke, but above all I smelled the spicy, woodsy scent of Ryker.
I did as he said, I stopped trying the control my senses. I let the sounds of the room flood my ears, blocking out everything else. I let the vibrations and pulsations from the music shake my body. It felt like I was being swept through waves of intensity and floating on clouds of euphoria. Ryker’s hands trailed down my neck, my arms, until they came to my waist. He started moving me in time with the music, our bodies pressed together, feeling the fire between us. I opened my eyes and looked up to his face, the red and white light dancing across his skin. I slid my hands up his arms, feeling like I was in a hazy dream-state. The music wrapped around us, enveloping us in a cocoon of intimacy despite the swarms of people around us.
The pacing slowed, the music becoming more melodic and sensual. My eyes closed and I basked in the feeling of Ryker’s hands on me. He slid his hand up and down my back, over my waist, up my sides. My hand wrapped around the back of his neck and I felt the heat rising in him. The sensations of this environment made me feel more like a sexual being, less like a hardened warrior. I felt the music picking back up, the drums and bass pulsing through our bodies. This was it. I wanted it more than I could bear. He was leaning down, and before I was able to talk myself out of it, I was leaning up.
Our lips met and it was a symphony of fire and electricity, thunderstorms and earthquakes. The world stood still, and it was just us and the blood pounding music as our soundtrack. His arms tightened around me, holding me close as his lips moved perfectly against mine. He groaned into the kiss, and I could feel how much he had been wanting this- wanting me. My heart was warm, my soul ignited, and I felt like I was a drowning woman who had just come up for life saving breath. All the denial, all the fighting, and I had been missing this.
It was a perfect, fantasy of a moment, and it ended far too soon. Ryker pulled away roughly and my eyes shot open in shock, confused and worried that I had done something wrong. That was when I saw Bryce with the front of Ryker’s shirt in one hand right before he sent his large, meaty fist flying into Ryker’s jaw.