Alex did call back.
Jacob would descend upon the town of dearest tomorrow. The mark on my neck tingled and I couldn’t quite gulp down a full breath. Looking in the mirror, I scratched the tape keeping the gauze on my neck, until the tape slacked and fell limp. Getting it over with, I finally just ripped the rest of it off.
The mark Jacob gave me competed with Jess’ mark. There was a clear difference. Jacob’s mark was jagged and still puckered and discolored. The outline of Jess’ teeth cut Jacob’s mark in two, destroying its original shape, its original control. I touched the scars, running my fingers up and down my warped skin. It didn’t hurt as bad to see the scars. A dull ache sat at the pit of my stomach, but I could continue. The memory didn’t cripple me.
Jacob however, he was going to be pissed when he saw that Jess ruined his mark. I shuddered, the blood draining from my face. The thought of Jacob in front of me, getting the chance to touch me again made my stomach acids curdle.
“What is it?” Jess asked, walking up behind me.
He put his hands on my waist and kissed over my fingers until he could reach my skin. He littered kisses up my neck, nibbling the spot just behind my ears. I melted inside his arms and ran my hand through his hair. This could be our last night together and I itched to pull back all his pieces and get one last look of the love of my life.
“I’m just nervous,” I admitted and stiffened from the look of worry in his eyes. “Like the healthy amount of nervous! Like the kind of nervous that I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and I wish we could just get it over with kind of nervous, but I’m not nervous that we’re going to fail- I’m just-”
Jess enveloped me, like the straitjacket I desperately needed and tried to squeeze the life out of me. “Jess!” I grunted as he hoisted me off the ground and shook me around. Jess dragged me out of the bathroom as I asked, my voice jostling as much as I did “Jess? What are you doing?”
“Everything is going to be alright,” Jess grunted and tossed me on the bed. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you. Jacob won’t even make it into town long enough to even find you. Cameron and Mark are going to trick him into chasing us through the forest…”
“But it won’t be us.” I nodded. It had been the millionth time we’ve gone over the plan, but I liked talking about it. I liked knowing what it was, inside and out. “It’ll be Dominic and another wolf.”
“His name is Zane,” Jess explained and crawled beside me on the bed. He straightened his arm out, looking down at me. “He was one of the wolves Cameron and I pulled out of the cabin, one of Ryan’s friends. We can trust him. They’ll lead Jacob right into an ambush, far away from us.” Jess slid his hand over my check, sliding around to my neck as the rough tip of his thumb ran down my lips, breaking them open. A little sigh escaped my mouth.
He touched the mark again and my face betrayed me as my eyebrows scrunched together. Jess peered at me with his ruby read eyes, examining my inane reaction to such a perfect and gentle touch. “What’s wrong?” He asked, tilting his head. “There’s some else.”
“It’s nothing,” I lied and grabbed his broad shoulders, pulling him down to my lips. I kissed his warm mouth open and slipped my tongue inside. My fingers combed through his hair and Jess chuckled, breaking my kiss to press his lips to my neck.
“You know, Drew. That’s not going to work on me every time,” Jess snickered.
He maneuvered over me, spreading my legs apart so he could sit between them. He ripped off his shirt and tossing it behind him to reveal his sculpted chest. He had a black happy trail and more hair around his pecks. I swallowed. The excitement burned the inside of my chest, this heat slid down the edges of my body towards my crotch. Impatiently, I shifted underneath him.
He pulled my sweater and undershirt over my head, wasting no time and effort. His hand slipped behind the small of my back and he brought his lips to my chest. He created a trail of kisses right up to my collarbone. Jess rested his chin on my chest and said, “I have ways of making you talk.”
His other hand slipped down the front of my pants and I jumped, a gasp ripping out of my throat. He teased the front, sliding his hand down only the fabric of my jeans. “Jess,” I whined, becoming warm gooey putty inside his hands. My hips pushed against his hands. I drooled for his touch, desperate for the direct contact. Jess only rubbed the fabric. He only brushed his thumb around my perked nipples.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” Jess practically sang, his baritone causing my bones to shake. He hummed against my neck, his lips barely brushing my skin. Goosebumps trailed the edges of my arms and down the valleys of my legs. I gripped his muscular arms, forgetting to breathe.
I regretted the jeans.
I regretted wearing clothes in Jess’ presence at all.
Next time, I planned to just rip all my clothes off the moment we walked through the bedroom door. That is, if we were going to have a next time, if we could be together like this again. For all I knew, this could’ve been our last night together. I flinched as Jess’ hand rubbed the tip of my crotch, creating shuddering waves through me. My hard on pushed the limits of my denim and the moist boxers inside.
“Jess,” I moaned, pressing my hands to my mouth. I bit down on the flesh of my fingers to keep from whining too loud. This passion, this electric ecstasy rattled my insides like a comet, bouncing off the walls and back.
“Just tell me,” Jess explained his conditions, pulling my hand away from my mouth. He grabbed my other hand and brought them over my head. “Then,” he smirked. “I can give you what you want.” He thrusted his hips forward, pressing himself against me and I shuddered, salivating at this point.
“It’s… it’s really not that big of a deal,” I whispered and with no where to hide, my blush trickled across my face and making me sweat. Everything was warm, this bed, my face, Jess’ touch and the fire growing between us. My sigh came out shuddering and light. “I was looking at my mark and…” the more I spoke, the hotter my blush became. “It made me think that… It reminded me that this could our last night together.”
Jess smiled his crooked smile that made my heart swell. He let my hands go free, helping relieve me of my pants. “Then I’m just going to have to give you more marks to look at. Every mark a new thought, like this…” He nibbled the middle of my neck, whispering against my skin, “This is here so you remember that I worship you.”
My eyes widened slightly, not sure if I should be afraid or incredibly aroused. My crotch twitched. Aroused it was, then. Jess striped me bare, down to only what I was born with. He licked his lips and he slipped his hand around my length and my back arched into his hand, my mouth gaping wider and wider. Jess kissed my nipple, before swirling his tongue around the hardened nub and slightly gnawed the sensitive flesh. His mouth moved to the side, sucking the skin around my pecks. His teeth gnawed little spots across my chest, creating a constellation of hickeys and bruises. He was a God, creating the map of his own universe across my body.
“With such fair skin, it’s almost too easy,” Jess teased, backing down the bed and finding a place to bite on my inner thigh that made me go insane. He nibbled around the softness of my thighs and I convulsed, whimpering against his touch. I could feel the smile that formed across Jess’ mouth. Jess jumped off the bed to shake off his pants. Looking down, I touched my chest. He really made a mess of me.
Jess appeared again, turning me over. He lorded over my back and I closed my eyes, enjoying the heat and the weight of his body on top of mine. He asked, his voice low, “Do you want me to mark you again? On the other side?”
I shook my head. “No.”
His fingers slipped inside and I closed my eyes, taking a deep fulfilling breath. “Another bite would lessen the first,” I said, gripping the bedsheets. “The night you gave me that bite was one of the happiest moments of my life.” As I spoke, Jess ravished my back with his love bites, adding the marks to his growing collection.
“Don’t think about that,” Jess begged me. A few wrinkles appeared in the middle of his forehead and I knew he said that more for himself than for me. He held me tight. He held me as if that alone could keep us from ever tearing apart. If only it could. I wished it would.
Straining my neck, I held Jess’ face and kissed him. I kissed him over and over, savoring his taste as if he was my last meal. I turned back around to reach him better, but our kissing turned sloppy as my mind went soft and sweet like cotton candy. My lips missed his mouth as Jess’ finger discovered the spot inside of me that flipped my world upside down and back.
With a gasp, I gripped Jess’ arms tighter. I threw my arm around him, dragging my fingers across the rolling hills of his back. Jess littered a flurry of kisses against my chest and sucked the crook of my neck. Every inch of my skin tingled, a feeling that tickled the back of my head and curled my toes.
Jess leaned back and held himself up with one hand beside my head as he adjusted himself in front of me, but I still held on tight. He wasn’t allowed to go farther than this from me.
I wouldn’t let go.
I couldn’t let go.
“I love you,” I whispered, flushing more from hearing the rasp of my own voice. Jess smiled and coated the walls of my body with honey so warm and so sweet, I was brought to tears. I hoped I’d never stop getting to see this look that reminded me that I was being cherished.
“I love you too,” he said, slowly sinking his burning hot hard on inside of me and my mouth gaped, the further he reached. I shuddered, grabbing his wrist. He waited as I shaped to his form, forming the perfect matching piece as my back arched.
“Come back to me,” I demanded, and Jess smirked again.
Jess leaned over me, so I could wrap my arms around his wide back. Holding him, I could feel his strength and the power in his muscles. Jess moved, scattering a flurry of ecstasy through me and I gasped, pulling him tighter and closer towards me. All my worries disappeared. The room disappeared, plank by plank, wall by wall and it’s just Jess and I alone in the universe we created.
Desperately, my heart pounding and my head going dizzy from the pleasure, I pulled Jess closer to me. I kissed Jess over and over, the taste of his mouth spilling down my throat like a warm whisky drink. Jess pounded into me, moving faster and I was rattled. My mouth missed him, so I latched onto his neck. I bit down and sucked the warm skin there, leaving a mark of my own. I clung to him, rattling to pieces. Jess had never reached deeper. It’s always felt good, but this time, maybe because it was the end, Jess made me feel so good, I was buzzing and couldn’t stop shivering.
We climaxed together, grabbing onto each other tighter until the waves subsided, and Jess stopped shuddering. I gasped, desperate for a little bit of cool air as I couldn’t find the exit to our heat. Jess kissed me once, twice and a third time before he tried to move. My legs locked him into place.
“Hold on,” I whispered into his sweaty shoulder. My voice came out raspy from all my yelling. I held him tighter. “Just lie down with me like this, just a little longer. Please?”
Jess paused. I could tell he wanted to ask me something, but he didn’t. He just wrapped me inside his safe arms and let me cry the lightest number of tears without judgement. He stroked my hair and whispered that he loved me. He promised me, “It’s going to be okay.”
I just held him tighter and prayed over his body that the Moon Goddess needed to take care of him. If she never did anything for me again, she had to take care of Jess for me. I would be her faithful servant forever if she kept him from leaving this world too early.
The snow didn’t fall on Dearest that day. The trees didn’t shake from the winter breeze. All the animals took safe shelter inside their homes. The whole town simultaneously held its breath. I stood inside the Inn’s kitchen, crossing my arms and holding all my anxiety inside that slammed the bars of my ribcage, heart set on escaping. An eject button sounded pretty good right now.
“We need to go,” Cameron told Mark, handing his mate a jacket. “I don’t want it to look like we came from here. Let’s meet Jacob from our apartment.”
“Good idea,” Mark actually admitted.
However, this wasn’t the time to relish in their reconciliation. It would have to wait. Maybe the incentive would be enough to bring them to the end of this nightmare.
I couldn’t ignore the heaviness, sitting on top of my chest like a single dumbbell. There was something still missing. I just couldn’t figure it out and it was driving me fucking crazy. Soon, I’d rip every hair follicle out of my dumb head.
“Hey!” I called out to Cameron and grabbed his arm. “Don’t fight him, okay? Just stick to the plan.”
“I know, Jess,” Cameron smiled, but I still couldn’t let it go.
“He’s an asshole and he’s gonna say some shit, but you have to keep a cool head.”
“I’ll keep him in check,” Mark said.
I rolled my eyes. “Like you’re not the King of mouthing off.”
Mark’s eyes squinted, examining every detail of my face. “What’s wrong, Jess?”
I asked myself the same question. I mean, what wasn’t wrong about this situation? We just invited the guy that destroyed my life for a home visit, asking for something horrible to happen. My mate was having a nervous breakdown and there wasn’t anything I could say to help him. It seemed to me that the only medicine was ripping Jacob’s head off his neck. However, it wasn’t going to be me to do it. My palms itched, desperate for action. Desperate to do something about my twisted dreams… but I sent another man to the slaughter. There was my answer.
“I just…” I took a steadying breath. “I just feel guilty. I don’t want to be the reason you get hurt, Cameron. I…” I turned to look at Drew. He could read the desperate look in my eyes.
Looking back at Cameron, I straightened my shoulders. “I’m coming with you.”
“That’s not part of the plan,” Grace said, her voice grave.
“Yeah, you need to stay at the Inn,” Dominic said, glancing at Ryan. He had someone here to protect too, but Dominic was going to be in the mountains, pretending to be me.
Clenching my fists, I closed my eyes and just got the words out. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to you. I have to be there to back you up, I need to be there. Not because something is going to go wrong.”
Just in case.
Drew’s hand closed around a handful of the back of my shirt. He leaned into my shoulder and I supported his weight. His disapproval rung louder in my ears than Grace’s actual berating. “No one wants you to be a hero, Jess. How are you even going to hide your smell? Jacob will know you’re there.”
“Grace, I’ll stay hidden.” I tried to reassure her with a smile, but she looked at me like I sprouted three heads. “I won’t fly off the handle.”
“But…” Grace’s brow stayed furrowed. I turned, kissing the top of Drew’s head so he’d release me. This was a whole new world, being a person that loved so many people that loved me back. I pulled Grace into a hug, but she didn’t relax. Not at first.
“I’ll stay at the Inn,” Liam offered. He put a hand on his wife’s back. “I like knowing Cameron will have someone else there.”
“I like knowing he’s there too,” Mark mumbled, talking for himself.
I chuckled and Drew punched my back again. He said, “I hate this because I don’t want you out of my sight but…”
He grabbed my arm and turned me around, not letting go. “But I’d hate for anything to happen to them and one of us wasn’t there.” He said it in a way, thankfully acknowledging that there was no way in hell I was letting him get anywhere near that town square, knowing Jacob would be there too.
Cameron reached over, putting his arm around Drew’s shoulders. “Hey, this whole thing goes both ways. I’m not gonna let anything happen to Jess either. I give you my word.”
Drew nodded and hugged both Cameron and Mark. “Be safe,” he told them.
No one moved at first. The door called to us, but no one wanted to make that call, get this thing started, but that was what Alphas were for. Cameron said, “Let’s not keep Jacob waiting. Dominic, you need to get into position too.”
“Okay,” Dominic nodded. He bit the inside of his cheek and glanced at Ryan, who sat quietly in the corner, rubbing his fingers raw. Something to say knocked at the front of his mouth, but he wasn’t answering. Ryan opened his mouth to say something too, but Dominic already went upstairs to put on my clothes.
Everyone filed out, but Liam didn’t let me go without shaking my hand. “I’ll take care of things here.”
I nodded. “Thanks, Liam. For everything.”
Drew walked me outside on the porch, into the brisk cold. The moment he stepped through the door, I embraced Drew, somehow able to fit the universe in my arms. I nuzzled his head, taking a long needy breath of his scent. It reminded me home. “I’ll come back to you,” I promised and held him tighter as if I could make an impression of his body on mine.
He nodded. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“What? Me?” I feigned insult and without letting him go, I shrugged. “I’d never.”
“Hmm.” He pulled back, peering at my lying face. However, his eyes quickly softened like ice-cream left out in the heat. I dragged my knuckles across his jaw. This wasn’t going to be the end. Not when I had to make up for all the time not being with Drew, not making a life together. I wasn’t done. Not nearly. Not even close.
I kissed Drew, peeking at his face for just a moment. Putting my arm around him, I kissed him as deep as I could so maybe these feelings could reach him. He shuddered inside my arms and I didn’t mean to walk around in a circle, making myself dizzy in this kiss. Drew slid back to solid footing, pressing our foreheads together. Drew patted my chest. He whispered, “I want another one of those when you get back.”
I smiled. “You got it.”
Taking that step back away from Drew was the hardest step I had ever taken. My hand couldn’t let Drew’s go. Our arms straightened out, our fingers clinging until it was impossible to hold on any longer. Then, my eyes lingered. I just wanted one more look. Catching back up to Cameron and the others, I glanced back. Drew was still there by the door with one little wave. Just one more look, again and again.
Taking a deep breath, I braced myself to see Jess disappear into the woods. I swallowed the swollen lump in my throat, closing my eyes and refusing to get sick over this goodbye. My heart still caused a racket in my chest as Jess’ touch and his kiss still lingered.
I went back inside, where Liam waited. He smiled, encouragingly but it didn’t quite do the trick. He patted the seat between him and Ryan. Ryan looked off, somewhere else as he let out a long sigh. He muttered, “Now we wait, huh?”
I dragged myself to the couch, dropping onto the cushion like a bag of potatoes.
“Is anyone hungry?” Liam asked.
“No,” Ryan and I said together.
Liam chuckled, but even that died off pretty fast. Quiet returned to the Dearest Inn in a thick haze that made it difficult to breathe. The slam of footsteps clattering down the stairs made me jump. Dominic appeared, dressed in all of Jess’ things, even down to his books and his skull cap. He wore a backpack, full of Jess’ stuff too. That familiar smell, that lingering scent of nutmeg and vintage furniture smell with just a hint of gasoline. Jess’ smell.
“Okay, I’m heading out,” Dominic said and typed something out on his phone. “Zane is on his way too. When this is all done you guys owe me the stiffest drink.” He eyed me and I held my tears back with a laugh and a nod. Dominic went for the door, making Ryan straighten up.
“Hey, Dominic,” Ryan spoke up, the tops of his ears like ambulance sirens. He struggled on his crutches only a few steps before Dominic closed the space. The distance between them shortened every new interaction. Ryan gnawed his bottom as he worked up the courage to form his thoughts into words. “Will you please um, please be careful...”
He swallowed and reached his slender fingers out to touch Dominic’s chest. Dominic’s dark eyes stared at Ryan like the rest of us just stopped existing as if Ryan put him under a spell. “I’m not done getting to know you yet and it would...” Ryan curled his hand into a fist and bumped the middle of Dominic’s chest. “It would suck if something happened to you.”
Dominic smiled. “You’re not gonna get rid of me that easily, Red….” He backed away, leaving Ryan with a wink and turned for the door. He almost left, but he couldn’t turn the knob. He looked back. Dropping his hand, he returned to Ryan and took a deep breath first. He exhaled second. Then, he asked, “Ryan, can I kiss you?”
Ryan’s brows raised. He barely got the answer out above a whisper, “Y-yes.”
Dominic’s eyes fluttered as if was surprised, but he didn’t waste any time. His lips swooped down and kissed Ryan. Ryan dropped his crutches and wrapped his arms around Dominic’s neck. He ripped off his hat and Ryan’s pale fingers combed through all of Dominic’s dark curls. Dominic wrapped one muscular arm around his human mate, slightly dipping him.
My face burning, I glanced at Liam who shook his head and looked at the ceiling. I covered my mouth to keep from laughing and interrupting them.
Dominic pulled away and his curls managed to hide most of his face. He dropped down to pick up his hat and Ryan’s crutches. He handed them back and whispered, “Thank you.” Then, Dominic couldn’t leave the Inn fast enough. He ran outside, leaving Ryan froze as a statue, a monument to the shock and awe of first kisses.
Glancing around, Ryan looked at us. He still blushed. Maybe he’d stay red for the rest of his life. He asked, “Did that just happen?”
“I’m in so much trouble,” he muttered.
We all were if this planned didn’t work. I leaned against Liam, not sure how to deal with the war going on inside of me. It was painful being apart from Jess, knowing how much danger he just put himself in. If things went bad, this emptiness would be the rest of my life. It had to work. It just had to work.