Blame the Wolf
Dagen sat on an outdoor metal chair in his suit minus the jacket. He pushed a multi-colored amber and cream drink toward me, leaning his elbows on his legs, looking me over for an unusually long time.
“Out with it,” I demanded, seizing the icy glass.
“Your car was sent away, and I spoke with Henry. He is staying with his parents tonight. I explained you need to meet the Clan leaders sending troops to the White tomorrow night. Funny, he didn’t have a clue how bad off you are.
“How ridiculous you mean.”
“No, I explained you need to prepare. I overheard you and Meyer. My weekly sparring partner is a vampire, an old friend, incredibly fast—always keeps me working to beat him.”
I thought of Emma. “But the PICC lines. How do you avoid hitting it?”
“I don’t aim for it. In return, he doesn’t smash my nose into my brain.” Dagen pulled on his nose, letting his watch dangle back into place on his wide wrist.
I nodded in agreement. “We all have weaknesses to consider.”
“If you saw how they used to get access to a vein, you wouldn’t cringe at the PICC lines. Demons’ blood is the only thing that penetrates their skin. Blood tipped wooden needles were pounded into the artery. Once the skin is scarred, you keep moving closer to the heart. It’s an art, too deep, and you damage the structure. Too shallow, and you just pour blood under the skin.”
“Ick, is that what started the practice of staking the hearts of the recently dead to keep them from rising from the grave?”
“Oh hell, I’m not sure. Myth replaced any real education. People were buried alive back in the old days. A comma was a death sentence.”
I shook my head to dislodge the upsetting image of waking up and realizing you were buried alive.
“I would be happy to teach you. The whole boxing experience will help clear your mind.”
“Pfft, no way. I can see how much you dislike me there in those snarled brown eyes of yours. Never give your enemies permission to beat on you.” I took a curious sip of the drink Dagen brought me.
“You think I harbor ill will toward you?” Dagen leaned in, grabbing my chair, pulling himself closer to my face.
“Ill will? I laughed. “Can’t imagine why you wouldn’t. This drink is yummy.” I held the glass to the light to watch the liquids mix before taking another long sip. “I’ve been a real pest. I just pulled you away from your fancy party with my drama. Several of those women inside looked crushed when you left the room.”
“We need to talk privately because you have the wrong idea. Nothing couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“You think that’s a good idea—for you, I mean. I’m ridding myself of this never-ending problem soon. You can postpone the date, send away all my cars—tell Henry whatever story you like. I’m not walking away from my next fight. It’s called the Slaughter for a reason. You must recognize a lost cause when you see one by now.”
“I disagree with your assessment completely. Even if you fall, I can get the bulk of the army out. Plus, I’m going in with you. I’m leading a small army of our wolves to the Grove. There are three clan leaders upstairs who want to meet you. They might give us more troops if you charm them half as much as you have me.”
A sick slab of hope squirmed in my chest, warming me from the inside out.
“Do you swear you can keep them all from dying?’’ I demanded.
“I’ve led several successful runs through the Yolk, and…”
“No,” I interrupted, “do you swear this to me, Bissett?” Moving from my chair to his, I crawled into his lap.
Kneeling on his thighs, I put my hand on his heart. Looking into his eyes, a flood of images poured into my mind. Dagen’s hands paused on the back of my legs, keeping me from falling backward.
I reached out for the image of a binding oath and witnessed a much younger Dagen profess his loyalty to a group of men with a knife and a few plunges to the chest. Knowing how fast I heal, I felt empowered to replicate the ritual.
I slid off his chair, grabbed a heavy steak knife from the table and wiped the blade clean on a napkin. I held the blade out to him between my open palms.
“Swear it to me. You will save those who follow me inside the White even if that means letting me die. In return, I will invite you and your army inside the Yolk and make every effort to live through the encounter.”
Dagen picked up the knife from my hand and sliced deep across the lifeline on his palm, releasing a gush of blood. “I swear to you I will lead all I can to the safety of the Grove even if it means sacrificing you to the Yolk.”
I recreated what I witnessed in his memory, dropping one strap from my thin summer dress, revealing my heart and a good deal of breast skin. Taking the knife from his hand, I plunged the tip of the dagger into my chest, releasing a gushing pulse of blood.
“I swear I will invite your army into the White do everything in my power to live through the Slaughter.”
Dagen took his bloodied palm and smashed it into my wound. I braced myself for the impact—never taking my eyes off him. The magic in his blood forced its way into my chest, sealing the injury shut.
All at once, the sensation of freezing rolled under my skin, leaving me icy cold. I exhaled a cloud of icy breath into the warm air. The ancient ritual was set in blood.
The bright red color on my chest sucked into the knife wound leaving behind no trace of my injury.
Dagen held up his hand, allowing everyone in eyesight to watch as the same process cleaned the blood from his palm. He pulled the shoulder of my dress back into place. His hand moved to the middle of my shoulders as he pulled me close to his face.
The light dancing in his eyes stripped my resolve to keep my distance. In a soft brush of his skin against mine, he kissed my lips. I still didn’t fully trust him, but I slid my hand behind his neck, combed my fingers through his wavy hair, and kissed him back with more passion than I meant to.
His mouth tasted spicy and felt uncommonly hot. My cold tongue found the heat in his, and for a moment, the empty expanse of my mind let me believe there was no one else besides us in the entire world.
Dagen pulled away from me with a look of surprise in his eyes.
“Did you feel that?” He kissed me quickly on the neck and pulled away, catching his breath. “That was our wolves.” Dagen pushed his arms into his shirt and started buttoning it up.
I traced my finger across my bottom lip. “Does that feeling always happen between purebloods?” A bolt of cold energy raced through my bruised heart muscle.
“Only once before in my existence has my wolf claimed another. Never instantly,” he panted.
“Is it a good or a bad thing?” Dagen pushed closer to me, wrapped his warm arm around my lower back, and pulled my ear to his mouth.
A low growl murmured from his lips, “I’ll show you how good it is once we send everyone home.” The carnal promise in his deep, reverberating voice raced straight to my clit. The first tinges of orgasm fluttered and pulled at my skin, dying off only when he released me to breathe the warm night air free of his scent.
Dagen took my hand and led me to the back deck and into the dining room. A private chef was busy cleaning up the well-appointed kitchen and packing up his tower of knives and pans.
Silver trays of elegant appetizers sat, waiting for guests to nibble from. The evening was winding down but felt far from over. I was introduced to several Clan leaders. We discussed my plan to enter the White in the coming days.
One leader, an older female, didn’t want to release my hand after I shook hers. She held my fingers between hers as she spoke. It seemed whatever intense experience I was caught up in touched her too. Dagen eventually removed my hand from her grip and led me away from the party guests.
Several of the women in the room shot daggers at me as Dagen moved me around the room with his vigilant hand on my hip. I could tell they were human women by their slow heartbeats and the vacant smell of perfume and chemicals.
Dagen stopped for a quick conversation with his old friend, Bruce, before wandering away from the crowd, still clutching my hand.
We reached a doorway. Dagen unlocked the door leading into a dark hallway. I startled and jumped when I heard him lock the door behind us.
“Is your bedroom down this hallway?” I asked, breaking the silence and swallowing the fear I found in my throat.
Dagen answered with a deliberate nod, stopping just in front of the last door at the end of the hall. The distance from the party was far enough that it felt like we were totally alone.
“If you want to leave, let me know now.” Dagen slid his hand across my cheek and tilted my head to the side, revealing my neck to the moonlight.
The heat of his lips on my skin left me unable to speak. It was beyond my ability to turn back. A chemical reaction began firing in my blood, separating my body from any sensible thoughts left in my disconnected brain.
A brief thought of Henry and the betrayal I was contemplating floated through my mind, but this was a wolf thing, and every muscle in my body was working hard to quiet my opposition.
I was thankful to be in a private room. The euphoria reached a point where I wouldn’t have noticed an audience watching me undress.
The far wall of the deep room was mirrored. Light from a small fireplace cast shadows, making it appear our eyes were glowing orange and yellow flames.
Three distinct areas split the long suite into a sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom. The long bathroom was appointed with a round hot tub.
I couldn’t tell how hot the water was or whose hands were smoothing water over my skin. My mind struggled to process the residual waves of pleasure, escaping from my wolf.
Dagen was next to me, behind me, in front of me all at the same time. The life force living in my chest that usually remains quiet and sleeping took over every nerve ending under my skin.
I could see only darkness and then the occasional dancing light from the fire. Each swipe of his firm hands across my skin brought on a new wave of over-stimulated arousal.
“Breathe, Baby. We still need to breathe for them.” Dagen’s voice registered a few seconds after the words floated in the air between us. “Le do thoil leanbh.”
“Leprechaun,” I giggled. It was the only word I could find with the limited access to my human brain.
His voice lingered on my neck as his mouth found mine. Each wave of his spiced tongue heated my skin, leaving my muscles rigid and my core tense anticipating more. Moving my hands over his chest, filled my skin with electricity.