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Dark Assassin

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Dark Assassin

Dena Christy

Copyright © 2015 by Dena Christy

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Contents

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18

19. Chapter 19

20. Chapter 20

21. Chapter 21

22. Chapter 22

Dark Curse Preview

23. Chapter 1

Also by Dena Christy

Acknowledgments

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h1=. Chapter 1

Kingston, Ontario

Sometimes monsters hide under the bed, crouch in the closet or stalk through nightmares. Kids everywhere know this, but adults forget this one truth when they leave childhood behind. The monster she hunted lurked in none of those places. He sat at the end of the bar.

Samara had to play this carefully; he couldn’t suspect what was going to happen or he’d bolt. Men around her stared, but not the one whose attention she wanted to draw. She could see his loss of control unfolding in front of her. Sweat beaded his brow as a trembling hand raised his beer to his lips. He needed another woman.

A satisfied smile curled on the edges of Samara’s mouth. He’s ready, she thought, running her tongue over her bottom lip. Cherry lip gloss tasted sweet on her tongue as thoughts of killing him ran through her mind. Now she needed to get him somewhere private.

She walked with an exaggerated swing of her hips, fighting the urge to curl her lips in a satisfied snarl when his eyes met hers. He froze. His body quivered like a predator poised to strike.

The dancers in her way parted like diverted water, opening a path straight to him. His eyes welded to hers, and electricity zipped through her. Lust, a wonderful human emotion, surrounded her, surged through her. The burn of her power infused her with strength. She knew what he thought, read it in his face — Easy prey.

The attack on the woman in the park had given him a taste for blood, but he hadn’t been able to make the kill. It’d get easier for him, once the madness took full control. The first kill is always the hardest. It haunted the mind for days, and sometimes months after the act. The screams of the victim echoed in a killer’s head long after the body went cold. Samara had popped that particular cherry a long time ago. She intended to make sure he didn’t find out what she already knew, that taking a life got easier with repetition. Her orders were simple: Find him, get him somewhere with no witnesses, and end him.

She stopped in front of him, and took the beer bottle from his lax grip. She raised the bottle to her lips, and room temperature liquid flooded her mouth. She swallowed, her eyes glued to his as she forced it down without grimacing. She put the bottle down on the bar with a thunk.

“You drank my beer,” he said with little inflection as his feverish eyes roved over her face and body, from the top of her head to the tip of her high-heeled black boots. She took a step toward him.

“It went flat, you wouldn’t have wanted the rest of it anyway.” Reaching out to touch him, the lust and rage inside him pumped into her body like toxic fire as soon as she made contact. She looked down, veiling her eyes from him so he wouldn’t see them turn blood red as she devoured his violent emotions. Closing her eyes for a moment, she clamped down on her self-control, so his emotions would not in turn become hers. Opening her eyes, she spotted the erection bulging behind his fly, indicating her effect on him. Too bad for him, since he wouldn’t be using it tonight.

“I think you’re done. Let’s get out of here, Rowan. I can think of something much more fun for us to do.” She pressed her body close, knowing her lush female scent would intoxicate him beyond the point of control.

Submit.

The message went from her brain, though her hand and straight into his head. Docile and quiet now, he stood and followed her without saying a word. And he never asked how she knew his name.

&Fort McMurray,& Alberta

***

&Eric Johnson looked& around the bar as took a swig of his beer. He’d just got off a fourteen-day shift on a rig in the oil fields, and he was ready to burn off some steam. Restlessness plagued him all day, and he couldn’t quite figure out why. The guys on the rig said he was rock steady, because nothing appeared to rattle him, so the cause of his unease was difficult to pinpoint.

He figured he needed a woman and a run, in that order, which was why he was here at the bar. He wasn’t fussy, a pretty face would do. As long as she didn’t talk a lot, and didn’t want anything more than what he was willing to offer, which entailed tonight only. The guys on the rig had nicknamed him Lone Wolf, because he kept to himself and didn’t bother getting to know anyone. He did his work, collected his pay and took his time off alone. Of course, while the nickname wasn’t original, it was accurate, but not for the reasons they supposed.

He took another sip of his beer when a pretty brunette walked in and sat a few seats away from him along the bar. He glanced over at her, tipped his beer in salute. She smiled and looked away, before looking over at him again. And he knew he had her. A little too easy, but since he wasn’t looking for more than a one night stand, he didn’t want to put in the effort of chasing anybody.

“So are you from here? I haven’t seen you in here before.” The woman had moved and now stood beside him. He glanced over at her, her eagerness putting him off a little. The restlessness he was feeling still needed expending, so he told himself to get over it. He forced his features soften as he looked her up and down.

“I work on one of the rigs north of here, and I’m just in town to take some time off and relax,” he said as he took another sip of his beer. “You from here?”

He felt stiff and stilted as he talked to her. He didn’t know what to say and didn’t care what she had to say in return. She didn’t appear to notice, as she kept up her side of the conversation for a several minutes while she drank her drink. He could see her cheeks flushing, and could also smell her attraction to him. He figured it was just about time to get her out of there, and move on to the part of the evening he was most interested in.

“Do you want to get out of here?” he asked, and for a moment she seemed startled. She threw back the last of her drink, shifted off the barstool and slung her purse over her shoulder.

“Why not?” she said as she turned toward the door. Eric finished the rest of his beer, thankful she didn’t feed him some bullshit story about how she never did this sort of thing. He would take her back to his motel room, show her a good time, show her the door and that would be the end of it. And it would put a stop to his restlessness and the uneasy feeling in his gut.

&Samara led& Rowan out of the bar, pretending to stumble a little in her high-heeled boots. It wouldn’t hurt for him to think she was vulnerable, and an easy mark for him to take.

“Where we goin’?” he asked, his words coming out in a rush as he buried his nose in her neck. “You smell good. Good enough to eat.”

“Easy, Tiger,” she said, pushing him away just as his teeth grazed her neck. It wouldn’t do for him to pierce her jugular with his sharper-than-normal teeth, so she kept him at arm’s length. “I want to be alone with you, then you can do whatever you want.”

“You’re wrong, you know,” he said, his eyes feverish as he moved his face closer to hers. “I’m not a tiger. I’m the big bad wolf.”

She couldn’t tell if it was the beers he’d had at the bar or the fever rising within him that made his tongue so loose. If she had been the human he thought she was, she would think he was joking about the big bad wolf thing. Of course, she wasn’t human, and neither was he. He was the wolf he spoke of, a werewolf, and a mad one at that.

“Well come with me, Mister Wolf,” she said as she tried to pull him down the street toward City Park. The park would be a nice secluded spot. There was something a little poetic about ending his life in the same spot where he’d attacked that woman just the night before.

“Don’t want to go that way,” he said, even as he walked along with her. With her hand still on his arm, she could control him and make him go where she wanted. He stumbled over a raised part of the sidewalk, and his arm slipped from her grasp. As soon as her hand slipped free, she could see his madness slam into him full force and he grabbed her by both arms and dragged her into the alley.

Her heart pounded in her chest as he slammed her against the wall of the alley and pushed his lips onto hers. She could feel all his lust and killer rage as she clamped her lips shut and put both her hands on the side of his face. Struggling to absorb all this emotion, she could not move for a moment. Finally, she moved her hands down to his arms as his grip on her loosened. She turned him so that he was against the alley wall.

“Your eyes, they’re red. Why are your eyes red?” he asked, and then realization dawned and she could see clarity in his eyes where madness had been before.

“You know why, and you know why I’m here, don’t you Rowan?” she asked, careful not to let him go. Her influence on his mind was the only thing keeping him from succumbing to the bloodlust stirring inside him.

“You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” she said, her voice soft, seeing no point in pretending anymore. He didn’t seem inclined to put up a struggle so the truth would do no harm.

“How? I don’t see any weapons.”

“I’m going to put my mouth on yours and I’m going to suck out your soul. I can’t promise that it won’t hurt, but it will be quick.”

He seemed to relax, and for a moment she wondered if it was some sort of trick. Relaxation was not the typical response she got when she was executing someone. The bloodlust ebbed away, replaced by remorse and a self-loathing so deep it almost sent her to her knees.

“Do it, please. I want it to end.”

A lone tear ran down his cheek and Samara hesitated for a moment. This wasn’t right, he shouldn’t be acting like this. Still, orders are orders, she thought as the nails on her right hand elongated into spikes.

“As you wish,” she said as she sank her claws into the side of his neck and placed her lips against his.

&Eric bolted upright in bed,& a searing, stabbing pain piercing the side of his neck.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” the woman from the bar asked from her place beside him on the bed, and put her hand on his arm. He shrugged her off, and her hand fell back on the bed.

“It’s nothing, Jenny,” he said as he turned his body so his feet came to rest on the floor beside the bed.

“It’s Janine,” she said as she pulled the sheet around herself and sat up. “My name is Janine.”

He rolled his eyes, although she couldn’t see him. It didn’t matter to him what her name was, because in the grand scheme of things this would be the last time he would see her. He reached for his jeans and pulled them on.

“Yeah, sorry about that. Listen, I just remembered something I gotta do, so…” He paused as he considered how exactly to tell her to leave. He looked at her face, and by the closed and deflated look, he guessed she got what he was saying. Good, he hadn’t want to be cruel, but he didn’t want her getting any ideas either.

She got out of bed and dressed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some money.

“Here is some cab fare,” he said has he held the bills out to her. She turned away and walked out the door, closing it harder than necessary. Eric shrugged and put the money back in his pocket.

The pain in his neck came again, and he had a hard time catching his breath. His knees buckled and he came down on the bed. He lay panting for a moment as the pain seeped away. He lay like that for several minutes, until he felt he could stand without collapsing. Staggering towards the bathroom he looked in the mirror, but could see nothing wrong. He rubbed the skin on the side of his neck, and there was no soreness or tender spots.

Going back to the bedroom, he paced while he tried to figure out what was going on with him. First the restlessness, which having sex hadn’t cured, and now he was getting phantom pains? A sour feeling churned in the pit of his stomach, and it dawned on him what might be going on. These feelings might have nothing to do with him, and everything to do with Rowan.

He clenched his teeth when he thought about his estranged twin brother. He hadn’t seen or spoken to him in six long years, and it’d suited him just fine up until now. As much as he told himself he didn’t care, he still found himself reaching for his cell phone. He looked at his short contact list, with Rowan and his other brother Nick’s number being the only ones not work-related. He selected Rowan’s number and hit the dial button. The phone on the other end rang until it went to voicemail, and Eric ended the call.

He set his phone aside on the nightstand, shucked his jeans off and got back into bed. His brother was fine, he tried to tell himself as he snapped off the bedside light.

&Eric bolted& upright in bed for the second time in the span of a few hours. It wasn’t pain that had him sitting up, it was the shrill ringtone of his phone.

He picked it up off the bedside table, and a feeling of dread settled over him when he saw it was his brother Nick. Debating for a moment, he finally pressed the talk button, and put the phone to his ear.

“It’s Rowan. He’s missing and you need to come home.”

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h1=. Chapter 2

As the throbbing music vibrated his stool and hurt his ears, Eric wanted to be anywhere else but here. Why the hell had Nick sent him here? He said Rowan came here the night he disappeared, but for the life of him Eric couldn’t figure out why. His brother must have changed a lot in the last six years. Alcohol, perfume and unfulfilled sexual desire battered his nose. At least his headache pounded in time with the pulsing music. A cautious sniff around the place had assured him there were no other werewolves present. No wonder. No wolf in their right mind would subject their senses to this painful assault.

Pinching the bridge of his nose did nothing to relieve the pain thumping behind his left eye. If he stayed her for much longer, maybe he could develop a nice twitch to go with it. That would give everyone here something to stare at, not that they weren’t staring already. He tried hard to erase the scowl on his face, but he doubted his success. None of the patrons, or the bar staff had remembered seeing Rowan when Eric showed them a picture.

As he took one last look around, his breath left his body with a soft whoosh. Another part of his anatomy came to immediate attention as he spotted the woman dancing a little off to the side. It usually took a little more work to get him to salute.

Her eyes were closed as her head rocked back, her hips snaking along to the music. Not much skin showing, and she wasn’t even within touching distance. Why then did he feel like she’d stopped halfway through giving him a lap dance? Christ, he’d just had a woman three days ago. He didn’t need the complication of another one right now.

Wincing as he stood, he found it difficult to pull his gaze from her. He moved to set his beer bottle on the bar, missed and closed his eyes for a second when it shattered on the floor. Perfect, he thought. Now he looked like an idiot.

She stopped dancing, tilting her head back down to look at him. If asked, he was sure he wouldn’t be able to describe her face. Her sweater, he could have told a police sketch artist about it, down to the one silvery strand of platinum hair clinging to her sleeve. The garment caressed her full, round breasts and ended two inches above her navel. A smooth expanse of stomach stretched above the waistband of her low-slung jeans, which embraced her flaring hips. It wouldn’t take much to pull them off. Not much room for panties under them either, which opened a whole realm of possibilities he didn’t want to explore. He looked at her face and met her eyes.

The music, the lights and the other people in the room faded into the background, leaving her. Just her. An invisible thread drew him closer. The pull encompassed his whole body, like she’d thrown a rope around him and reeled him in. His booted footfalls matched the heavy thud of his heart as he walked toward her.

A man bumped into her, breaking the eye contact between them. The room grew brighter, the music louder, like someone had turned on the lights and cranked the volume. Sweaty bodies pressed in on him, their tangy scent burning in his nostrils. The men looked at her, their lust not disguised by the flashing lights on the dance floor. His hands itched to grab her and shield her from their eyes.

When the man who’d jostled her reached his hand out to touch her, a hand she avoided, a low growl rumbled in Eric’s ears. It came from him as he took one more step forward.

Mine.

The sound of his grinding teeth echoed in his head. His muscles stiffened as he tried to keep from ripping the guy’s arm off for wanting to touch her.

What the hell? His feet stilled on their forward path. He had a brother to find, and who touched her should make no difference to him. So what if all he wanted to do when he looked at her was slake his lust on her and hide her away? Keep her for himself? Rowan needed him to stay focused. He had to think about his brother, and not about what her lush female body would feel like under his.

Don’t think about her, about those breasts or about those legs. Don’t go there. Think about Rowan. He turned around and walked toward the exit.

He was passing the coat-check area when a hand grabbed his arm. Turning, determined to see who dared to touch him, he was shocked to see the woman standing there, her hand resting on his upper arm. Heat rushed through his blood, the need to take her burning in his gut. He curled his hand into a fist to keep from reaching out, grabbing her and dragging her away from here. He tried his damnedest to ignore the voice reverberating in his head.

Mine.

Mine.

Mine.

Shaking himself like a dog doused with water, he pulled his arm out of her grip. The voice in his head fell silent, the need to have her muted. The fine hairs on the back of his neck rose. Something wasn’t right here. Inhaling, he could smell her humanity. He shouldn’t be reacting to her this way. If she was another wolf, in heat, then yeah, he’d be mad to have her. But human women usually didn’t make him crazy with lust. He slept with them, but lust never overwhelmed him when he was with one. There was something different about this one, something that sent a small frisson of alarm racing down his spine.

“What can I do for you?” he asked as he took a step away from her. Not out of fear, he told himself, just caution.

“Why are you leaving so soon? Don’t you want to buy me a drink?” Her voice slithered over his body, unfurling and pulling him toward her. Her scent flooded him, sweet and earthy. Without thinking he stepped toward her. He stood before her, almost touching her, his breath harsh in his ears.

Alarm bells clanged in his head. He needed to get away from her.

“I don’t think so.” He turned on his heel. She moved in front of him, faster than he expected.

She dragged one long index finger down his chest until she reached the waistband of his jeans. “One drink can’t hurt.”

“You’re playing with fire. Get out of my way.” He tried to step around her, only to have her block his way.

“Maybe I like fire,” she said as she drew her tongue over her lower lip. A thousand hands stroked his body, and his breath shuddered in and out. His erection pressed against his zipper, and he shifted from one foot to the other. She reached out to touch him again. An image of a fly wriggling in a spider’s web flashed in his mind.

“Go play somewhere else.”

He stepped around and walked toward the exit. His limbs dragged like he was walking through water, the urge to go back to her so strong it made him want to run in the opposite direction. He resisted. A werewolf didn’t run, didn’t show fear. Especially not to a human.

“Don’t tell me the big bad man is afraid of someone like me?” she taunted behind him. He stopped, his muscles stiffening. She did not just go there.

The soft sound of her clucking like a chicken reached him.

Yep, she went there.

He turned back to her, his upper lip pulling back in a snarl.

She faced him without a trace of fear, standing her ground as he stalked back to her. Grown wolves backed down from him when he was like this, but not her. Jesus, she made him hot. He grabbed her hand. He had to take her away somewhere. Rowan would still be missing tomorrow. He’d look for his brother later. He wanted her tonight.

“You win. Let’s go.”

Dragging her from the club, his long-legged strides ate the ground as he took her to Rowan’s SUV. Pulling her around to face him, he pressed her back against the truck. He wanted to kiss her, more than he’d wanted anything in a long time. He hadn’t kissed a woman in six years. Had sex with plenty of them, but no kissing. What made her different? With her he wanted to drown in her embrace, to burrow himself under her skin.

Leaning toward her, inch by inch, he saw anticipation light her eyes. Swallowing hard, he licked his lips, his body hardening when she mirrored his actions. He drew her to him, burying his hands in her silken hair, its platinum strands cascading over his wrist. And he kissed her.

Fire burned in his belly, rushing through his veins as his lips possessed hers. He held her tighter against the side of the truck as her hips cradled his pelvis. She felt so good, so perfect. Her tongue slid into his mouth, and he couldn’t hold back the growl rumbling low in his throat. Kissing her was like being on a speeding train with no way to stop his hurried flight down the tracks. He was going to crash, and he didn’t care. She snaked her arms around his body. Her hand clenched against his ass, digging her fingers into his flesh as she dragged him in tighter. He had to have her right now. In the parking lot, against the truck, not caring who was around to see.

Eric pulled back, the hard soughing of his breath the only sound he heard. He had to get himself under control. He didn’t want a quick coupling with her in a dim parking lot. He took a step away from her, trying to calm down. There would be plenty of time to take her when he got her somewhere private. He looked down at her. Big mistake.

She leaned against the truck, her eyes heavy and lips moist. His shirt tightened across his back when she grabbed a handful of the cotton fabric, pulling him to her. She bit his lips, hard enough to cause a flash of pain. Looming over her, he pushed her back against the vehicle. He ground his mouth against hers, beyond caring if he had her here or somewhere else. He wanted to feel her female flesh, surrounding him as he pumped into her. He wanted to mark her, brand her as his, so any other man looking at her would know she belonged to him.

She pushed him away with surprising strength. What was she doing? He didn’t want to let her go. Didn’t want stop now.

“Let’s go somewhere a little more secluded,” she purred, before she turned on her heel and walked around to the passenger side of the truck.

He got in the truck, rolling down the window so the night air might cool his fevered skin. Breathe. This has to be good for her. Closing his eyes tight, trying not to wallow in her scent, he concentrated on breathing. In and out, harsh at first, then slowing enough to get his pulse and his body to calm. He couldn’t tell whether she sensed his struggle, but she remained seated beside him, not saying a word as she waited. He opened his eyes, reaching out to turn the key in the ignition. The engine rumbled to life, its power held in check.

“Where do you want to go?”

“Your place. But you better hurry because I don’t know how much longer I can wait to have you.” She ran her index finger down his bicep as she spoke.

Eric slammed the truck into first and peeled out of the parking lot. If there were any cops around, they were turning a blind eye to his speeding. He wanted her, she wanted him and nothing was going to stop him from taking what she offered.

&Eric pulled& up in front of Rowan’s house, his hands gripping the steering wheel.

“If you don’t want to go through with this, tell me and I’ll take you home,” he said, his voice soft.

Where the hell had that come from? And more shocking to him was that he meant it. He thought he’d buried his sense of honor six years ago, but it must be lurking in there somewhere. If this wasn’t what she wanted, he would have to find a way to let her go. Somehow.

“I want to be with you, whatever that entails.” She looked over at him, desire evident in her eyes. Her skin carried a flush across her cheeks, and her pupils dilated. The air in the interior of the car thickened with his mounting tension. Seeing her look at him like that had pride and lust pumping through his veins. Her hand rested on his arm, driving him to a fever pitch of lust. He didn’t know if he was going to make it into the house, but he had to try.

He tried to rationalize away his rampant arousal, but could find no logical explanation. He’d just had a woman not three days ago, but all he wanted to do with this woman was slake himself over and over on her until he’d had his fill. Once he glutted himself with her, he’d walk away. Get back to looking for his brother. Thank God he had a box of condoms buried in his duffle bag. He’d need them.

He got out of the truck at the same time she did. They didn’t speak. She came around the side of the vehicle and walked beside him on the way to the front door. Tugging his hand, she pulled him close to her. Her other hand moved to the back of his neck, pulling his mouth down to hers. Eric did his best to steer her toward the entrance while she kissed him. Pressing her against the front door, he tried to unlock it, with no success.

“Hold that thought.” Eric looked down at the deadbolt while ignoring the soft hand stroking his spine. He shivered as he fitted the key into the lock, twisting it and opening the door.

He didn’t bother with the lights. Getting her to their destination was all that mattered. Down the hall, straight to his bedroom. The glow of the moon, his constant mistress, shone through the window of his room and he drew the woman inside. He wanted to see every part of her when he took her. Letting go, he snapped on one of the bedside lamps.

“Come here.” He turned to her and held out his hand. The warmth of her palm slipped over his, and he closed his fingers around hers, pulling her to him. Looking down at her, he marveled at the perfection of her face. The soft glow of the lamplight caressed her skin, revealing no flaws. Her eyes were as clear the green glass bottles he collected as a kid. “You’re beautiful.”

Closing his mouth before he gushed more romantic crap all over her, he ran a finger down her cheek. She frowned right after he spoke. Had he said something wrong? He thought women liked hearing that kind of shit.

“It’s only surface details.” Pressing against him, she pulled her hand out of his as she reached up to thread her fingers through his hair. The tips stroked over his scalp as she arched up to meet his lips, pulling his head down. Tightening his arms around her, Eric savored the sensation of holding her in his arms. Her curves molded against the hard planes of his body, filling gaps almost as if they were made to fit each other.

Gentleness replaced the urgency to take her, the need to enjoy her taking precedent over the need to rush. He wanted to explore every inch of her body, to take his time with her. Fast and furious wouldn’t do with her. She would be wild for him by the time he finished with her.

Her body shivered against him as he moved his lips over her cheek, down her throat. He buried his nose in the crook of her neck, breathing in deep the fruity scent of her skin. He nuzzled against her, flicking his tongue on her skin. She tasted like strawberries and sunshine, like ripe, luscious woman. Her breath left her body in a soft sigh, stirring hair where it fell just above his ear. He tried to hide the satisfied smile curling his lips against the skin of her throat. She responded to his touch, her every movement, every sound, told him what pleased her.

His hands moved down over to her hips as he guided her across the room to the bed. Lowering her onto the mattress, he followed her down, resting lightly on top of her. She reached up to caress his face as he lay looking at her. This close, he could see how beautiful she was. Her skin, with the texture of porcelain, stretched over the delicate bones of her face. The flush highlighting her cheek bones journeyed down her neck and across her throat to disappear in her sweater.

She wanted him, as much as he wanted her. As he ran his thumb along her full bottom lip, her skin slid like silk against it. She drew it into her mouth, biting on the tip. He withdrew his hand and replaced it with his mouth. She sucked on his bottom lip, and he ground his pelvis against her. She felt so good, better than any other woman had before. He shut his eyes to keep them from rolling.

He needed to slow down, otherwise he’d take her like a rutting animal. Rolling onto his side, he studied her as he leaned up on one elbow. She turned smoldering eyes on his, her greedy hands reaching out to touch him. A laugh rasped out of his throat as he grabbed her wrists and held them above her head on the mattress.

“I’m going to take all night with you.” He took her earlobe between his teeth and exerted gentle pressure. His hand tightened on her wrist as she bucked beneath him, a small moan escaping her lips. How had he thought he could walk away from her tonight? He must not have realized how good this thing between them would be. Now he knew. He guided her hands to the metal bars of his headboard, wrapping her fingers around them.

“Leave them there.”

His hands skimmed down her arms, over the swell of her breasts. His hands molded them in his palm, his grin tugging at his mouth again when he saw the excitement light her eyes. Her nipple peaked against his palm through the fabric of her sweater. Sliding his hand down he grasped the soft material of the garment, easing it up over her head as she let go of the headboard. A soft groan escaped him as he discarded the sweater. No bra.

She offered lush breasts up to his hands as she arched her body. He stroked her, his lean tanned hands contrasting with her soft, pale skin. Leaning forward he brought his mouth down on her sumptuous flesh. Closing his eyes for a moment, he savored the feel of her in his mouth.

Opening his eyes again, wanting to watch her as he caressed her, something dark teased him from his peripheral vision. He turned his head, and her flesh slipped out of his mouth, forgotten when he saw it. A tattoo on her shoulder.

His heart stuttered for a moment, his blood moving like ice water through his veins. A black tribal-style circle with four curved spokes radiating from the center.

A mark of the Order of Odin.

He jerked back, removing himself from her as if burned.

“What the hell are you?”

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h1=. Chapter 3

She wasn’t human if she carried that tattoo. No matter what she smelled like, tasted like, there could be no doubt in his mind that she wasn’t what she seemed. The mark made a lie out of what his senses told him.

“Please, Eric. I can explain,” she said as she put a hand on his arm, and her hypnotic voice flowed over him like sweet water.

“How do you know my name?” Jumping off the bed, he yanked his arm away from her, rubbing it as if to erase her touch from his skin. They hadn’t exchanged names at the club, but she knew it anyway. He ignored the shocked look on her face. “What the hell are you doing here?”

She eased off the bed. He stalked toward her, hoping she’d see the deadly intent he felt burning through him. She stepped away until her naked back pressed against the wall.

“Answer me,” he growled as he stood in front of her, his hands slamming against the wall, bracketing her on either side of her head.

She straightened, the steel returning to her spine.

“My name is Samara, and I’m a succubus. As you’ve already guessed I work for the Order. Now back off.” She pushed against his chest. He let her move him back. This time. “Why don’t you let me get my sweater back on and we’ll go to another room. We need to talk.”

Eric scooped up her sweater where it lay on the bed and threw it at her. She caught it and pulled it over her head.

“Are you going to stand there all night staring at me or are you going to talk?” she said with a curl of her lips.

Eric’s own lips tightened. Knowing what she was didn’t make an impact on her beauty, and he wanted her still. Pathetic. He turned on his heel and strode from the room. He heard her soft footsteps behind him.

“What’s this all about?” He snapped on the lamp beside the sofa. “Our meeting at the club wasn’t an accident, was it?”

Way to state the obvious, stupid. Of course there was still a chance she was just a succubus on the prowl, looking for a piece of tail. He could hope for that much. The alternative meant the Order was looking for him, never a good sign.

“I knew who you were when I saw you. I’m here to recruit you for a mission with the Order.” She turned and faced him as Eric blinked in surprise. Well, he hadn’t expected that. Hunt him down, screw him, kill him, he’d believe it if that came out of her mouth, but go on a mission? Not in a million years.

“Well I’m afraid I have to decline your offer of employment. Thanks for stopping by.” Don’t come back. Ever. Eric stood and walked toward the door. He turned back to her, positive she’d be right behind him. She hadn’t moved. She looked surprised, too. “Why so shocked, honey? Aren’t you used to hearing no?”

“No, I’m not. I only deal with two types of people: those who agree with me and those who die.”

He couldn’t help but laugh. Her earnest expression was adorable when she threatened him. He decided to play along with her for the moment.

“Well since I’m not agreeing with you, does that mean you’re going to kill me? I can promise you I won’t be easy to kill. Others have tried and I’m still here.” He took a menacing step toward her. She unfolded herself off the couch and stood before him, tall and proud with a bland expression on her face. He stared at her, refusing to back down. After a moment she relaxed her stance and sat on the sofa again, tucking one leg under her. Yeah, she looked downright terrified.

“I’ve no orders to kill you. Yet. I’m to propose a partnership with you. The Order needs to exploit your relationship with James Horn. We have a member of the Order undercover in his compound. We’ve been unsuccessful penetrating his inner circle. We need someone Horn won’t be suspicious of and who is not associated with us.”

“To what purpose?” Eric joined her on the couch. What was this all about? He wouldn’t do what she wanted, he didn’t doubt that at all. She had managed to pique his curiosity, though, so what would it hurt to listen to what she had to say?

“We believe Horn has created a formula to genetically enhance werewolves. His goal is to make them stronger, faster and more able to produce viable young with human females.”

“Horn’s been talking about that for years. Don’t tell me he’s got the Order all stirred up about it. It’s nothing but talk.”

“We’ve been watching him, and I can assure you his work ceased to be just talk some time ago. We’ve discovered he’s done experiments on live subjects. His formula has a flaw, and it’s turning the wolves he’s experimented on feral.”

Eric’s distracted gaze followed her hand as it tucked a strand of her long hair behind her ear. He blinked. What were they talking about? He shook his head to try to clear it. Get your head in the game, buddy. “How do you know it’s Horn’s formula? Wolves do go feral sometimes.”

“Yes they do, at a rate of one or two wolves every fifty years. So far in the past two months, ten wolves have gone feral.”

That wasn’t good. Feral wolves running amok among the human population would definitely ring a few alarms with the Order. Eric focused his attention on her as she continued to speak.

“All the feral wolves have had a relationship with Horn either in the past or the present. The situation has gotten serious. Seven human females are dead and a dozen more have disappeared and are presumed dead. All the women were last seen in the company of known werewolves. Destroying his formula is our only option to stop this.”

“Horn isn’t going to let me into his compound. I turned my back on the pack six years ago. He won’t welcome me with open arms.”

“He will if he believes you want to try his formula.”

Eric jumped up off the couch and paced in front of it. She was out of her mind. She had to be if she thought he was going to get himself injected with something that would turn him feral.

“You’re crazy.” He walked over to the door and held it open. “Don’t let it hit you in the ass on your way out, sweetheart.”

&Samara resisted& the urge to kick her own ass as she refused to budge from the sofa. She sucked at talking to people, preferring either to use mind control or beat the crap out of them until they agreed with her. Negotiations were for weaklings who couldn’t get what they wanted any other way. Still, she couldn’t control Eric’s mind and her being able to beat him into submission looked debatable. Ruthlessness radiated off him, which went beyond the normal wolf persona. His body oozed strength, his face compelling in its fierceness. She suppressed a shudder of longing as she continued to stare at him. Why hadn’t she remembered to mask her tattoo? She could have had him by now.

That she wanted him didn’t rate thinking about. It smacked too much of a loss of control, and she was nothing if not in control of herself at all times. She ignored his pointed look as his eyes bored into hers, indicating she should go. Just pretend he’s still listening.

“I didn’t say you would take the injection. I meant you would fake interest in taking part in his experiments. You will be travelling to the compound with a woman and Horn will think you’ve taken her as your mate. The problem is she’s human and you need his formula to increase your chances of having your young live.” She squeezed her lips together to keep the smile from showing on her face when he slammed the door. He must have realized she wasn’t going to walk out the door without giving her best shot to convince him.

“And who’s the lucky woman?” Eric asked as he folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the door.

“Me.” She watched him with satisfaction as he straightened, his scowl deepening.

“No way.” Shaking his head, he came back to the couch to tower over her. She had to crane her head up to look at him. If she wasn’t enjoying his reaction so much, she would almost feel insulted by it.

“It’s the only way. You’ve burned every bridge you had six years ago when you left your pack. We need to get you into the compound. This is how we’re going to do it. It won’t be hard. I think it’s obvious you’re attracted to me. It won’t be difficult for you to pretend to be in love with me.”

“Attraction doesn’t equal love, sweetheart.”

“That’s why I said ”pretend,“ dumb ass. Of course I completely understand your reluctance, since your acting skills may not be up to par…” Samara let her voice trail off as she looked at him as if she found him lacking. His upper lip quivered as he curled it back.

“Speaking of acting skills,” he said, every word sharp. “How are you going to convince Horn you’re human? I’m smelling you right now and it’s obvious you aren’t.”

“You thought I was human in the bar, didn’t you? I can mask my scent to make you think I’m anything I want. I could even convince you that I’m a female werewolf in heat.”

She proceeded to prove it to him, but was unprepared for his reaction. He lunged at her, his mouth pressing against hers as he kissed her. Hard. His hand reached out to undo the snap on her jeans. She slipped her hand between them to push against his chest and stopped producing the female wolf scent. He drew back, his breathing harsh, his gunmetal gray eyes flinty and almost black.

“Don’t ever do that again.” He ran an agitated hand through his ink-dark hair. He moved away from her, going to the opposite end of the sofa, staring at a point over her shoulder. His chest rose and fell, rapidly at first, until it finally slowed and the flush across his cheeks disappeared.

“I was just trying to prove a point.” She straightened her clothes, disturbed by her reaction to what just happened. Sex was second nature to her species, and was something she used to manipulate others. She didn’t care one way or the other how she went about getting what she wanted. For a few seconds, while he’d kissed her, she wanted to let him continue. Until the thought that she wanted him to want her for herself and not due to any manipulation on her part stopped her cold.

“You’re going to have to find another way to get into Horn’s compound.”

“Like I said, our agent at the compound can’t penetrate the inner circle. This is the only way, and I need you to agree.”

She could tell she wasn’t making much headway when he folded his arms across his chest and his scowl deepened.

“Are you going to kill me if I don’t agree?” he said, his eyebrows drawing together. She didn’t think it was possible for someone to glower on top of a scowl, but he managed it. Obviously his mother had never told him that his face would freeze that way.

“I told you, I have no orders to kill you. I’m to present the scheme to you, nothing more.” Her orders were to seduce him and use mind control, but she didn’t think telling him that would go over well at all. “I’m an assassin, but I don’t kill for the pleasure of it. It’s my job and I do it when told. That’s all.”

“Then there’s nothing to compel me to do this?” Eric asked as he stood and retraced his steps toward the door. “If you’re ready I’ll take you home.”

Samara followed him, touching his arm so he would look at her. He turned, meeting her eyes for the first time since she’d used the wolf scent on him.

“Please Eric, you have to do this.” She hated begging, but that might be the only thing to convince him at this point. She did not want to go back to Cadric having failed, again, so beg she did.

“Sweetheart, I don’t have to do anything,” he said as he fished in his pocket for his truck keys and pulled open the front door.

“If you don’t, you are condemning countless women to death.”

“That’s not my problem. Do you know what my problem is? I have a missing brother I need to find, and standing here having this pointless discussion is not going to get him found. I’ve said no and that’s the end of it.” His lips tightened in a grim line as he spoke. He swept his arm out, indicating that she should precede him out the door. She refused to budge, knowing she had one more weapon in her arsenal to get him to do this, although she loathed to use it.

“Your brother is the reason you need to do this, Eric. Horn is the key to everything.”

“What are you talking about?” He took a step closer to her, looming over her, and she knew she was close to hooking him. She resisted the urged to step back. She had to be cool to pull this off.

“Didn’t I mention that your brother was one of the first wolves injected with the formula? Horn’s dirty fingerprints are all over this, and if you want to find your brother, this mission is the only way you’re going to be able to do it. So think about that, and let me know what you want to do. You have three days to decide.” Samara marched out the door and walked to the truck. Let him stew over that tidbit for a few days. She bit the inside of her mouth to keep from smiling as he stormed out of the house. Checkmate, buddy, she thought as she let herself in the passenger side of the truck.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 4

Eric jolted when his coffee mug slipped out of his hand and shattered on his brother’s ceramic-tile floor. He’d been distracted and clumsy all morning. The house stood silent, empty, leaving him too much time to think. He hated it here. Why he had agreed to Nick’s request to stay in this house? Everywhere he looked he remembered Rowan, and the last time he saw him, when they’d almost killed each other.

All over a woman, Chelsea. Wasn’t it always a woman who could make two grown men come to blows? She’d been his woman first, until she’d met his twin. Rage had fired his blood upon seeing her in bed with his brother. He went after Rowan, who refused to fight him, which only enraged him further. Chelsea tried to pull him back, and he’d accidentally struck her with his elbow. His brother fought back at that point. Nick came in and separated them. Preventing them from killing each other.

Closing himself off from those thoughts, Eric fetched the broom and swept the broken bits of crockery from the floor, scooping them into the dust pan before disposing of them in the garbage bin. Paper towels took care of the coffee all over the floor. The busy-work did little to silence his thoughts.

He couldn’t get Samara out of his head, no matter how he tried to distract himself. He needed to find his brother, despite all that had come between them. Six years was a long time to let the old wounds fester, and the rot left behind colored everything he said and did. He missed his pack, missed his family, but he’d cut himself off from them and hadn’t quite known how to make his way back home. He still didn’t. Not even the death of Chelsea and his brother’s stillborn baby had compelled him to come home. He feared that seeing his brother would rip all those wounds open, and Eric’s bitter poison was the last thing his brother needed at that time.

Now he didn’t know if he would ever see his twin again. Considering the little piece of information Samara had imparted last night, finding his brother wouldn’t be easy at this point. Could the Order have had something to do with his disappearance? If that was the case, his brother would never be found.

“Enough,” he said out loud as he grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. He needed to get out of this house before the walls closed in on him. He yanked open the door and jerked back when he saw his brother Nick, hand poised to knock. Eric’s stomach tightened as he looked at his older brother for the first time in six years. Nick had weathered the intervening years well.

“Come in,” Eric said quietly as he took a step back. His brother charged through the door and pulled Eric to him, enveloping him into a hug. Eric could feel the distance of six years ebbing away as his brother’s arms tightened around him. He didn’t know if he was ready for all this, so he awkwardly clapped Nick on the back before taking a step back. He saw the muscle in his brother’s jaw jump for a moment, but Nick remained silent as he walked further into the house.

“How did you know I was at the door?” he said as he walked into the living room.

“I didn’t. I was just on my way out,” Eric said, trailing after him. Eric stuffed his hands in his pocket and clenched them into fists. He took a deep breath and blew it out silently and slowly. He hadn’t thought seeing his brother after six year would hurt this much. He realized now just how much he’d missed him.

“Have you got a lead on Rowan, then?” Nick stopped in the middle of the room with a look on his face that Eric couldn’t interpret.

“I don’t know if I have a lead on Rowan or not. Something strange and rather alarming happened last night, and I’m not sure what to think.”

“What happened?” Nick used his big-brother voice. It’d been a long time since Eric had heard it, and a smile involuntarily quirked the side of his mouth.

“I met someone at the club you sent me to last night, and brought her here.” Eric thought about how much he should tell his brother about what had followed meeting Samara at the bar, but was distracted when his brother folded his arms across his chest and scowled at him.

“How does you getting laid in any way, shape or form help you find Rowan?” Nick cocked one of his eyebrows at him, and Eric rolled his eyes.

“I didn’t get laid. She turned out to be working for the Order. I think she may know what happened to Rowan.”

“Did she say as much?”

“Not in so many words, but she did give me some information about him. Apparently all the years of talking and experimenting have finally paid off for James Horn. He’s created a formula that makes wolves stronger and faster. Not that we need it. It’s also supposed to help us with producing viable young, but there’s something wrong with it and the wolves injected with it are turning feral. The wolves have been preying on human females, killing some while others are disappearing. Rowan was one of the wolves injected with the formula.”

“I’m guessing she was more than just some random chick you picked up at a bar?”

“Turns out she’s a succubus with the Order.” Eric watched as his brother’s eyebrow climbed up his forehead and he let out a low whistle. “Yeah, I know. What the fuck has Rowan gotten himself mixed up in that he has tripped the Order’s radar? Whatever it is it can’t be good.”

“Okay, so what does the Order want with you?” Nick asked as he shifted to put his hand on his hips.

“They want me to help get her in to Horn’s compound so his research and formula can be destroyed. She’s given me three days to decide.”

Nick was silent for several minutes, and Eric could almost see the wheels turning in his brother’s head. He knew Nick well enough to know that he would talk when he was ready.

“I think you should do it. Horn has to be stopped if he’s turning wolves feral. If humans are being killed, the Order will have a hell of a time keeping it secret for long. Then who the fuck knows what kind of disaster that would cause? And Horn needs to pay for what he did to Rowan. Going to the compound may be the only way you’ll find out what happened to him.”

“If Horn is responsible for Rowan’s disappearance then he’s a dead man. Even if he’s not, he needs to be stopped.” Eric’s jaw tightened as he thought about the man who once belonged to his pack.

“Do what you have to, just keep me in the loop,” Nick said as he walked out of the living room and toward the front door. He turned once he got there. “I don’t want another brother to disappear.”

“I’ll keep you informed.”

Nick looked at him for several minutes without saying anything “It’s good to have you back. I just wish it was because you want to be here.” Nick left the house and walked to his car.

Eric closed the front door. “I wish the same thing.”

&“So how did& it go last night? When do the two of you leave for the compound?”

Samara looked over at Hadria, the woman who was her mother in every sense except the biological. When her real mother had abandoned her at the age of ten, she hadn’t been equipped to survive on her own. Her body may have been fully matured, but her mind had been like her human father’s, weak and closer to her biological age.

Hadria, a Valkyrie working for the Order, found her starving in an alley next to a brothel. Samara had gone willingly with her, and Hadria had taken her under her wing. The members of the Order taught Samara how to harness her power, and were a family to her when she had none. She survived her childhood, and for that Hadria and the Order had her undying loyalty. And knowing Hadria as well as she did, she knew that the other woman was going to freak the fuck out when she told her how well last night had not gone.

“I don’t know if he’ll do it.” Samara took a deep breath and braced herself for the inquisition she knew was coming.

“Why? Didn’t he let you touch him?” A tiny frown knotted Hadria’s forehead as she cocked her head slightly to the side.

Samara paced the length of her living room. Great, now she’d have to admit she’d touched him and it hadn’t made any difference. She couldn’t control him. Hadria was definitely going to freak.

“What aren’t you telling me?” Hadria stepped in front of Samara, halting her progress around the room.

“I can’t control him. I touched his arm at the club and it should have been enough. He got pretty hot there for a while, but he managed to resist me. He has a very strong mind. I practically had to goad him into leaving with me. I went back to his place and he saw my tattoo, so I had to tell him what I wanted.”

“He saw your tattoo? How could he have seen it if you masked it?”

Hadria always knew just which questions to ask, usually the ones Samara didn’t want to answer. “I forgot to mask it.”

“You forgot?”

“I wanted him. There I was with my shirt off, breasts bare, and I forgot to hide my tattoo. Needless to say the mood shattered. I had to tell him why I’d sought him out.”

“You told him everything?” Hadria asked, alarm clearly written on her face. Samara blew out her breath. Did Hadria think she was that stupid?

“Of course I didn’t tell him everything. I told him who I was, and why I was there. I didn’t tell him the whole story. Only about Horn’s formula and its effect on wolves injected with it.”

“Is that all?” Hadria crossed her arms over her chest and gave Samara her best probing glare. How did she know whenever she wasn’t getting the whole story? Mindreading wasn’t one of her skills, yet she always knew when Samara was withholding information. That particular ability had been a real pain in the ass during her teenage years. Samara knew the other woman wouldn’t quit until she heard everything.

“I may have mentioned that his brother Rowan was one of the wolves infected. It’ll be fine. I gave him three days to decide. I’m sure he’ll go along with it.” She tried to downplay what she’d revealed to Eric the night before. If she continued to think positive, maybe she’d even convince herself to believe what she was saying. She hoped that at least Hadria believed it.

“And what if he finds out about your involvement with Rowan?”

“He won’t find out. There’s no way he could. We covered our tracks well.”

“You’d better hope he doesn’t. If you don’t have control of him there’s no telling what he’ll do if he finds out. Do you know why your powers have no effect on him?”

Samara remained silent as she walked over to sit on one of her dining room chairs. She had a feeling she knew why it was impossible to get inside Eric’s head, but she didn’t want to admit it. Not to Hadria. Not to herself. At least not out loud.

“You know why, don’t you?”

Samara buried her face in her hands. Hadria wouldn’t give up until she knew it all. “I’m attracted to him.” There, she’d said it, knowing that statement would say it all. The only way for her to harness her powers was for her to keep tight control over her emotions.

The human feelings she inherited from her father interfered with her concentration, since she needed a clear head to tap into her demon side. She’d learned over the years to divorce herself from her emotions whenever she went out on a mission. Last night had been a complete failure. She wanted him in a way she hadn’t wanted anyone before, which spelled disaster if she couldn’t get a grip on herself.

“You’re attracted to him?”

Why was Hadria repeating everything? Saying it again wasn’t going to make it go away. Samara lifted her head to look directly at the other woman. She couldn’t say it out loud again, so she nodded her head before turning her face away. She sat there waiting, knowing Hadria would have something to say once she gave up the parrot imitation. She didn’t wait long.

“Under any other circumstances I’d be so happy for you. I’d be overjoyed that you’ve finally found someone who intrigues the woman inside you. But this couldn’t be a worse time for that. Too much is riding on this for you to go to Horn’s compound without being in control of Eric. I’m going to go to Cadric and tell him that you can’t do this.”

“No you aren’t.” Samara stood and her chair scraped against the floor. Hadria must not go to the head of their cell. If Cadric thought her incapable of doing her job, he would pull her back immediately. “You can’t spend all your time protecting me. I’m over a century old. I think I can take care of myself. Cadric assigned this mission to me, and I can’t fail him.”

“Samara, this situation is too dangerous for you not to be in complete control of yourself. You know that. We have to tell Cadric your powers aren’t working on Eric.”

“Don’t you dare tell him anything. I’ll never forgive you if you do. It may be a moot point if Eric doesn’t agree, but I need to do this. I know you mean well, but you need to let go. I’m not your responsibility anymore. I haven’t been for a long time. I can handle myself.”

Hadria was opening her mouth to say something more when Samara’s cell phone rang. Her lips tightened as she glared at the offending instrument. “You’d better answer that,” she said before turning on her heel and going into the kitchen. Samara reached for her phone and was surprised to hear Nick’s voice on the other end.

“I just talked to my brother. He’s going to do it. What I want to know is why he even needed to think about it. Once you made contact with him, he shouldn’t have needed further persuasion.”

“I can’t control your brother. He’s immune to my touch so I had to fill him in on the situation.” There was a long silence on the other end of the phone, and she waited for the lecture she knew was coming. Another one; just what she needed.

“This isn’t good, Samara. Eric is very volatile. If he finds out what happened to Rowan, and our involvement, he’s going to go ballistic. This could blow up in our faces. We need you at Horn’s compound to destroy that formula.” Nick’s voice got stronger and louder with every word he said. “Jesus Christ, you need to get you head in the game. I don’t know what’s going on with you, but Eric’s no fool and you have to be able to handle him. If he goes offside on James and finds out he had nothing to do with Rowan’s disappearance, he’s going to be gunning for you.”

“I know. I’ll be careful. I know what I’m dealing with now, so don’t worry. I can handle it.” Samara turned her head when she heard Hadria come back from the kitchen.

“Is that Nick? Let me talk to him.” She pulled the phone out of Samara’s hand. “Is she going to be safe with your brother?”

Hadria fell silent as she listened to Nick, and Samara rolled her eyes at the pair of them. They were like a couple of nursemaids in charge of a wayward child. The creatures she’d stalked over the years, the ones who wet their pants at the thought of her catching them, would surely be laughing their asses off if they were still alive to witness this. She didn’t know how to prove to Hadria and Nick her capability of taking care of herself. Hadria treated her like her teenage daughter, and Nick treated her like the little sister he never had.

“No, we aren’t going to tell Cadric. If he finds out he’ll pull her immediately.”

That’s all she needed to hear. She stopped listening to the one-sided conversation and it wasn’t long before Hadria hung up the phone.

“I have a bad feeling about this.” Hadria turned towards her.

“You have bad feeling about every mission I go on. I don’t know why you wanted me to join the Order in the first place, since you freak out every time I have an assignment. I can handle myself. This mission is no different from any other I’ve been on.”

“This mission is completely different. You’ve always been in total control before. I can’t help it if I worry about you.” Hadria’s eyes roamed over Samara’s face, as if this was the last time she would see her.

“I know and I appreciate your concern, even if it’s totally unnecessary.” Samara hugged the woman to whom she owed her very life. She may bitch and moan about Hadria treating her like a child, but deep down she liked the fact that someone cared about her enough to worry about her.

“Do you want me to send Alex with you?” Hadria pulled back, letting her go. Alex, Hadria’s lover, was a werewolf who also worked for the Order. She didn’t think the other woman would really send him with her. There was a strict no interference rule within the Order, and Hadria would not break it, even for her. She figured she should say something in the event that this was the one time Hadria decided to bend the rules.

“I don’t need a babysitter. It would be too hard to explain why I’m going to the compound with two wolves in tow. Besides, if Cadric found out you sent Alex with me, he’d lose his mind and have kittens. Don’t worry, I can handle this.”

“Just make sure you stay in touch with me, okay? I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Nothing’s going to happen,” Samara assured her friend as she hugged her for the second time. “Now get out of here so I can start packing.”

As she watched Hadria leave the apartment, Samara took a deep breath. She would prove to Hadria, Nick and Cadric that she could do this. She wanted missions with more meat to them than the ones she was usually given. Being the Order’s number one assassin wasn’t enough for her anymore. She wanted to do more work in the field, something beyond tracking and executing those on the Order’s hit list.

After her last mission, she’d begged Cadric to give her a chance to prove she could do more than just kill. Cadric had been skeptical considering how badly things had gone, but had agreed to give her this chance. She wouldn’t blow it. She’d find a way to get past her attraction to Eric and do the job entrusted to her. Failure wasn’t an acceptable outcome. Potentially hundreds of human and werewolf lives depended on her destroying the research and formula. No matter what it took, she was going to succeed in this mission. Not even her attraction to a werewolf was going to stand in her way.

&Alex Tremblay looked& up from his newspaper as his lover Hadria walked into their apartment. He smoothed out his face when she leaned over and kissed him. He tolerated her sitting on his lap, since she was a means to an end.

“What’s going on?” he asked as she looped her arms around his neck. He resisted the urge to push her away; he’d grown tired of her in the past few months. She was pretty hot but not nearly as hot as Samara, the one he really wanted. He’d thought getting to Samara through Hadria was the way to go, but now it looked like that had been a mistake on his part. Still, screwing the old Valkyrie wasn’t that much of a hardship, so he’d continue with that until it suited him not to anymore.

“Just went over to see Samara. Cadric’s sending her off to do something a little different than what he usually sends her for and I’m…” She hesitated, and Alex almost rolled his eyes at how tiresome and predictable she’d become. Still, he had to play the role, so he tightened his arms around her.

“You’re worried,” he finished for her. “I’m sure Samara can take care of herself. What’s Cadric got her doing?”

“She’s going to James Horn’s compound to destroy his formula, you know, the one that’s making all the wolves injected with it feral.”

Alex tried not to shift too much in his chair. No use alerting her to the fact that he knew a lot more about Horn’s formula than she should.

“That is different from her usual mission. How does Cadric think she’s going to get in there?” Alex tried to keep his voice casual as he delicately pumped her for information. Perhaps getting close to Hadria had been the right move after all.

She seemed to hesitate for a moment, and Alex leaned forward and kissed the side of her neck, exactly in the spot that she liked. She shivered slightly and it seemed to be enough to prompt her further.

“She’s not going alone. Nick’s brother Eric is going with her, apparently he and Horn have a bit of a history. I was worried about him, but Nick assures me that things should be fine,” she said as she slid her hand over the muscles on his chest.

He let her touch him, although he lips tightened in disgust at the mention of Nick’s name. That candy-ass wolf had been sniffing around Hadria for years, and it had given Alex no small amount of satisfaction to steal her from him. Perhaps Nick should have grown a pair, and approached Hadria like a man.

Alex kissed Hadria full on the mouth and reached up her T-shirt to caress her full breasts. He needed to make a call but in order to do that he needed to get rid of her.

He stood up with her legs wrapped around his waist, kissing her for the entire walk to the bedroom they shared. She hit the bed with a bounce, and looked mildly surprised that he seemed to want to take her without his usual finesse. Hadria was on her way out as far as he was concerned, but he didn’t want her to know that yet, so he gentled his touch and took her in the way she’d become accustomed to.

After, as they lay together for what seemed like forever, he shifted away from her.

“Where are you going?” she asked, her voice sleepy. He looked down at her, trying hard not to curl his lips in distaste. Hopefully he would be done with her soon.

“I just need to make a phone call, baby. Go to sleep. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Alex walked out to the living room, not bothering to pull on any clothes, and picked his cell phone up off the coffee table. He selected the number he wanted in his contact list.

“Gordon, I’ve got a job for you.”

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 5

Eric stood outside the security door of Samara’s apartment building and took a deep breath. Once he rang the buzzer he would be committed to doing this. He hoped a few days away from her had cooled his reaction to her. He needed a clear head to get her into Horn’s compound. Raising his hand, he pressed the button next to her name.

Her voice came over the speaker. His gut clenched. How could he have forgotten what her voice did to him? Three days hadn’t been enough time away from her. His body didn’t want to forget it wanted her, no matter what his brain said.

“It’s me. Let me up,” he growled into the speaker. He tried not to let his impatience to see her again leach into his voice. Her kind was adept at reading emotions. He didn’t want to make it easy for her and spell out how much he still wanted her. To do so would give her too much power over him, and she had more than enough of that already.

“I’m on the top floor.”

The security door buzzed. He yanked it open and proceeded into the lobby. There wasn’t anyone around, but it was still early in the morning, just after dawn. The doors of the elevator slid open and Eric stepped inside.

The ride up to the top didn’t take long. There was only one door. He knocked and it opened immediately.

At the sight of her standing in front of him he had to fight the urge to tell her he wasn’t going through with the mission before turning on his heel and running like hell. That course of action smacked of cowardice, and he was not a coward, so he welded his feet to the floor. He clenched his hands to keep from touching her.

She’d obviously just gotten out of bed. A disheveled braid hung over her right shoulder, and she wore a yellow satin tank top with a pair of matching low-slung pajama bottoms. What would she do if he picked her up right now and carried her back to bed? Probably encourage him. He fixed his gaze on the tattoo on her shoulder, to remind himself of what she was and why he needed to fight his attraction to her.

“You gonna let me in?” he asked when she made no move to step aside. She stepped out of his way and swept her arm out to indicate he should enter.

“Have you come to a decision?” she asked from behind him.

“I’ve decided to go with you, but I want to lay down a few ground rules first.”

“And they are?” She stood in front of him. Her sweet fragrance drifted into his nose. He closed his eyes, willing his clamoring blood to get under control. He’d been with her for less than five minutes and he couldn’t get anywhere near her without wanting to rip the clothes from her body. Not a good sign.

“First, the only way I’m going to agree to do this is if we do things my way. I don’t trust you, and I know I haven’t gotten the whole story. The only reason I’m doing this is to find out what happened to my brother, and to make sure those responsible pay. My word is law, and you’ll do as I say when I say it.”

Eric could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t appreciate his tone or his words. He didn’t really care. He needed to establish himself as the alpha in this little duo, otherwise she’d stomp all over him.

“I’m not one of your werewolf bitches you can order around. I’m the one with the experience in this type of thing and we should follow my lead.” She took an aggressive step toward him.

Christ, he wanted to throw her to the floor and take her right there. No other woman had ever had the guts to stand up to him, and it was a major turn-on. He fought to keep his face impassive so she wouldn’t know what he was thinking. No point in giving her the upper hand this early in their working relationship.

“If you can’t agree to do things my way, I’ll walk.” Standing his ground, he took one look at the stubbornness on her face and turned to go back toward the door.

“Fine, have it your way.” She raised her voice to halt his progress out of the apartment. “We’ll do things the way you want, but if it gets too dangerous I’m reserving the right to take over and do what I’m trained to do.”

“Fine.” He turned back to her, trying to suppress the grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. It wouldn’t do for her to know he was happy she hadn’t called his bluff.

“What are the other rules?” she asked, her tone resigned.

“Don’t look like that, sweetheart. I only have two more conditions before we go. I don’t want you using your succubus, voodoo mind control on me. I won’t be manipulated.”

“Whatever,” she said, rolling her eyes. “What’s the last rule?”

She folded her arms across her chest. He tried his best to ignore how the action pushed her breasts together against the neckline of her low cut top, but it was difficult. What he wouldn’t give for just five minutes with those beauties in the palm of his hand, though. Hell, he’d settle for two. He ripped his eyes away from those two tempting morsels, and looked back up to her face. He could tell by her smug smile that she knew exactly what he’d been thinking. Damn her.

“No sex,” he practically shouted at her, almost as if he needed to tell himself more than her what his final rule was. Based on his reaction from just looking at her in her pajamas, he considered having it tattooed on his forehead as a constant reminder.

“Pardon?” She looked at him as if he’d sprouted another head. Like he needed one more. The one below his waist was giving him enough trouble without the burden of another one.

“You and I aren’t going to have sex. I realize there is an attraction between us, but we aren’t going to act on it. We are going to need our wits about us. We cannot be physically intimate with each other, it’s too much of a distraction.”

“I agree.”

“You do?” He’d wanted her agreement, but she didn’t need to say it quite so quickly. She could have at least acted with a little more reluctance, pouted maybe.

“Don’t worry, Casanova, I think I can resist you.” Well, now that just made it worse. Heat crawled up his face when she dismissed him with a look. “This mission is too important to get muddled by sex between us. When did you want to go?”

It took him a minute to answer. He was still blinking over the Casanova remark. “I think we should leave now. It takes thirty-seven hours to get to Swift Current by car. We’d be crazy to try to drive straight through so we’ll need a couple of days just to get out of Ontario. I figure we can make Sudbury by tonight.”

“Why are we going by car? It would be faster to fly.”

“I don’t like flying. Besides if we are going to convince Horn we’re mated we need to spend some time together. We have to be comfortable with each other if our charade is to be believable.”

“That makes sense,” she said with a nod. So glad you agree, Princess. Still smarting that she apparently wasn’t pining for his body, Eric watched her walk across the room. She turned back to him once more. “Give me five minutes to shower and get dressed.”

Eric wandered around her living room for several minutes, not knowing what to do with his hands. He didn’t want to touch anything, so he paced the room with his hands stuffed in his pockets. He felt like a wolf confined to a chicken coop. A girly chicken cook, with lot of breakable knickknacks.

At least ten minutes passed with him wearing a hole in the carpet, and she had yet to appear. What’s taking her so long? He thought he’d better check her progress and tell her to get a move on.

The door to her bedroom was ajar, and when he stepped over the threshold he forgot how to breathe. Her back faced him, and she was in the process of pulling on a pair of jeans. His mouth went dry as he watched the denim slide up her long, smooth legs and over her full bottom, which was covered by a thong so minuscule it hardly qualified as underwear. He heard a faint whimper and was pretty sure it came from him.

“You can have it anytime you want, honey. I won’t even make you beg for it,” she said, her back still to him. There was a teasing note in her voice so he knew not to take her seriously.

“No thanks. I don’t want it,” he lied. The sandpaper croak coming out of his mouth hinted at it. If she turned around she’d see the unmistakable evidence confirming it. He so wanted her right now.

“Give me a break.” She pulled a shirt over her head and turned toward him. “The sexual vibes coming off you are enough to charge my powers for weeks.”

She winked at him as she fastened a thin gold chain around her waist. It was the sexiest thing he’d ever seen, that simple piece of jewelry clasped around her middle. It took him a several seconds to realize she was teasing him again.

He looked up at her, and saw the impish smile on her face. She knew exactly what she was doing to him, and having a good time with it.

“Are you making fun of me?” He couldn’t quite believe she would attempt such a thing. No one teased him, and no one ever laughed at him. She had guts, he’d say that much for her.

She came over to him and put her hand on his arm. “Eric, you need to lighten up. This trip is going to take a lot longer if you’re going to brood your way through it.”

“Brooding is what I do best.” He hid his grin as he reached down for her bag. Although he didn’t know how he could tease her when it was distinctly uncomfortable standing there in front of her. Must be the lack of blood in his brain.

“Was that a joke from the big bad wolf?” she asked, her tone filled with mock amazement.

“Don’t get used to it.” He grabbed her bag and left the room, not even turning to see if she followed.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she said from behind him, and he realized he’d just learned something about her. She had to have the last word. This time he let her have it.

&“I thought& we talked about this whole brooding thing you’ve got going? I know you think it’s sexy and makes all the women around you hot for your body, but trust me it gets boring fast. Especially on a long car ride.”

“We aren’t exactly going on a pleasure trip, you know.” Eric reached out with one hand to remove her bare feet from the dashboard of the SUV. For the past hour she’d fidgeted and he could see her restlessness increasing by the minute. Her body wasn’t the only thing that wouldn’t stop; for the past hour she’d been flapping her lips, trying to get a rise out of him. He seriously doubted the wisdom of traveling with her in a car for three days. Suffering through a few hours on a plane started to seem worth it. She’d be lucky if she didn’t arrive at the compound gagged in the back of the truck. He knew he’d have to stop soon, just so she could get rid of some of her nervous energy, and maybe give her jaw a rest. “Are you always this restless?”

“No, not usually. I get restless when I’ve been exposed to too much lust and attraction,” she said as she turned her head and wiggled her eyebrows at him. “After a while I’m like a little kid on a sugar high. Can we stop soon? It would help if I could get out of the truck and stretch my legs.”

“We’ll be stopping for something to eat shortly. You do eat, don’t you?”

“Yes, I eat.” Her tone implied that she couldn’t believe he’d asked her something like that.

“How am I supposed to know? I’ve never met a succubus before. I thought your kind took emotions from people’s dreams to survive.”

“We do feed off emotions to charge our powers, although they don’t necessarily have to come from dreams. That myth came about when men in medieval times thought we were out to steal their man juice while they were sleeping. Technically I’m only half succubus since my father was human, so I do need food to fuel my body.”

Eric could hear the bitterness in her tone and wondered if being half human bothered her. He didn’t ask her about it. He didn’t want to get drawn any further into her life than he had to.

The silence filled the car for several moments. Eric relaxed back in his seat, enjoying it. This was the first time she’d shut her mouth for the past hour and he was going to savor it. It didn’t last.

“Can I ask you a question?” She plopped her feet back on the dashboard, and this time Eric didn’t bother moving them. She didn’t seem to get the point that he didn’t want them up there so he gave up.

“What do you want to know?” He glanced at her from the corner of his eye. He wasn’t sure what she wanted from him, but it’d been a long time since he’d talked this much to anyone. If he wasn’t careful he might get used to it and do something stupid. Like confide in her.

“Why did you leave your pack?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” He should’ve known that’s what she wanted to talk about. It didn’t matter what species a female was, they wanted to talk about feelings and crap like that. They couldn’t talk about hockey or cars. No, she wanted him to spill his guts about his painful past. Not going to happen.

“I feel a lot of anger coming off you. Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?”

“I’m angry because you won’t let the subject drop and respect my privacy. Don’t think because we are on a long trip together that we’re going to become BFFs and I’m going to start crying on your shoulder like I have lady parts. Why don’t we get something to eat and forget about turning this road trip into a chick flick?”

“Fine.” Samara folded her arms in front of her chest and turned toward the window.

Silence. Finally. She probably thought she was punishing him by not talking. She gave him the silent treatment right up until he turned off the highway and into the parking lot of a diner, which looked to have seen better days.

“We aren’t eating here, are we?” Samara asked, her nose crinkling. “I wouldn’t kill anyone in that place, let alone eat there.”

“If you see anywhere else we can eat, we can go there.”

“There’s nothing else around here. Can’t we keep driving until we find someplace a little more respectable?”

“I’m hungry now, but you are more than welcome to wait in the car if this place doesn’t suit you, Princess.” Eric got out of the truck. He wasn’t surprised to see her do the same. He knew she would. The option of sitting in the car wouldn’t appeal to her, because then she couldn’t nag him for hours on end, which was why he’d suggested it. She wasn’t the only one who could manipulate a situation.

They made their way to the diner, and Eric held open the door so she could precede him. He looked around, relieved to see that although the place looked like a dump on the outside, it was clean and well cared for on the inside. The aroma of French fries hit him and his stomach rumbled.

He led her over to a booth, and they sat across from each other as they perused the laminated menu card propped up against the sugar dispenser. The waitress came by after a few minutes and when she left with their order, Eric looked around the diner and noticed every man in the room was watching Samara. He clenched his teeth and tried to resist the urge to hustle her out the door. He must have been glaring at her because she looked up at him with a puzzled expression on her face.

“What is it now?” she asked, heaving a sigh.

“You can turn off the succubus charm any time now.” The muscles in his jaw turned to iron as he ground his back teeth together. He didn’t like other men looking at her, and couldn’t explain why, at least not to his satisfaction. She didn’t belong to him, but the thought of other men interested in her was intolerable. He didn’t want to want her, but didn’t want anyone else to either. How screwed up was that?

“What are you talking about?”

“Every man in here is staring at you, and I don’t really want to have to fight my way out of here, thanks. Knock it off.” Yeah, that’s it. You don’t want to fight anyone. He stoutly ignored the voice in his head, the one telling him that it had never bothered him to get in a fight before, just for the hell of it.

“Oh that. It happens all the time. I don’t do anything to get this reaction. It’s all part of being a succubus. Don’t worry about it, there won’t be a fight. Half of them will think I’m out of their league, and the other half will think I’m with you. And with the way you’re looking right now, all broody and scowling, they won’t want to mess with you.”

“I’m not scowling,” Eric muttered, trying to ease the tension in his face. Could he help it if his natural expression might be construed as a scowl?

“Face it, Eric. You scowl. But don’t worry about it. It makes me hot.” She gave him a look of smoldering sexuality. Eric heard the indrawn breath of several men in their vicinity, even as his own body temperature went up several notches.

“Enough. Let’s concentrate on getting through our meal without giving our audience a show.” Eric shifted in his seat. Damn jeans had gotten a lot tighter in the crotch.

“Fine, I’ll be good. I was only teasing anyway. You should lighten up.” She dropped the sex pot act and smiled at the waitress when she set the food in front of them.

Eric attacked his burger and fries with gusto. He couldn’t tell if it was because he was so hungry or this was the best burger he’d ever eaten. It was massive and so loaded with condiments, onions and tomatoes that he had to hold it over his plate as he ate to catch the drips coming out of the bottom.

They were halfway through their meal when Eric sat up straight in his seat, the hair rising on the back of his neck as he felt the wolf walk into the diner through the door behind him. He watched Samara slowly put her burger down. Her eyes darted to a point over Eric’s right shoulder, her expression hardening before she looked at Eric. He glanced around, and saw the wolf sitting at the counter, ordering a coffee from the waitress while reaching for the newspaper sitting on the counter beside him. The waitress poured his coffee and he sat there, drinking and reading the paper. Eric turned back to Samara and noticed her eyes had not left the wolf’s turned back.

“Well, I know I don’t know him. Is he a friend of yours?” Eric’s voice came out in a rough growl.

“In a manner of speaking. His name is Gordon Lahey and we have a bit of a history.” She picked up her burger and took another bite. She didn’t appear to be very concerned over the fact that a wolf she had history with had just waltzed into the place they were eating.

“Was he a lover?” He fought to retain his calm at the thought of the other wolf touching her body. Jealousy burned hot in his gut and he pushed his burger aside, unable to eat another bite.

“Hardly,” Samara said after she swallowed her food. “I executed his brother and he hasn’t gotten over it. Vowed to kill me.”

Samara shoved a fry in her mouth, acting as if they were discussing the weather and not the fact that a wolf who wanted to kill her sat no more than three feet away.

“You don’t seem alarmed,” Eric replied, taken aback that she could calmly eat while talking about a threat to her safety. What kind of life did she lead that she could treat a death threat so cavalierly?

“If I had hysterics every time someone threatened to kill me, I’d never leave my apartment. His brother was a useless waste of skin who preyed on young children. His death sentence was deserved, trust me. Gordon needs to get a life.”

“Let’s get out of here.” Eric stood, reaching into his pocket to withdraw enough bills to cover their meal and a hefty tip.

“I’m not done eating.” She made no move to follow his lead, as she sat munching on her french fries.

“I am.” He grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the seat, hustling her toward the door. She yanked her arm out of his grip and glared at him, before stomping out the door and walking over to the truck.

“I think you are being paranoid. Gordon would have done something by now if he were out to get me. Besides, I don’t think his balls are big enough to want to take on both of us.” She got into the truck at the same time he did.

Eric started the engine and put the vehicle into first gear. His eyes were on the rear-view mirror where he could see Gordon exiting the diner and making his way to a blue Lincoln Continental. “Still think I’m paranoid?”

He pulled onto the highway as Samara hastily put on her seat belt. The SUV took off, with the Lincoln not far behind.

“You’d think he wouldn’t want us to know he’s following us,” Samara said as she hung onto the “oh shit” strap hanging above her door. Eric took a sharp right turn off the highway and onto a side road.

“Actually he does. Wolves love the thrill of the chase, and part of the rush is for your prey to feel fear. The only way to do that is to let them see you.” He heard the squeal of tires. His eyes darted to the rear-view mirror again to see the Lincoln turn down the same road, nearly causing an accident as he cut off the car behind him. “Well he certainly is persistent. Let’s see if we can take him on a little tour. Hang on.”

The SUV flew down the road, and Eric made a sharp left turn, causing Samara to slam against her door.

“I’d like to get through this with as few bruises as possible, if you don’t mind,” she said as she rubbed her shoulder.

“Would you rather be bruised or dead? I don’t think this guy is after us because he’s had a change of heart and wants to be your friend.”

“Good point. Although if it wasn’t daylight, and there weren’t so many potential innocent bystanders, I think we could take him.” She gave a quick glance out the back of the SUV. “He’s still with us.”

“I know. It may take a while to lose him, but once we get further into the country we’ll have the advantage of four-wheel drive.”

He proved himself correct once they reached roads made of gravel and dirt. The SUV had better maneuverability than the Lincoln. They soon left their stalker behind, and it was dark when Eric backed down a private drive and killed the engine and lights of the truck.

He waited for several minutes until he finally saw the Lincoln drive by, and waited for several more before he restarted the truck and pulled out onto the road. Eric headed back in the direction they had come.

“I think we’ve gotten rid of him. I’m sure he’ll drive further down the road before he realizes he’s lost us. It should buy us enough time to put some distance between us.”

They traveled for several hours through the early evening. Eric’s eyes never strayed far from the rear-view mirror, but as far as he could tell they’d left Gordon far behind.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 6

Eric blinked against the sore, gritty feeling in his eyes. He’d driven for several hours on the highway, until he felt convinced that Gordon had been left far behind. Samara slept beside him, and he resisted the temptation to look at her. The last thing they needed was to crash. He fought to keep his eyes on the road and off her. Against the advice of his brain, his eyes shifted to the side. The soft shadows in the truck caressed the curves and valleys of her face. She looked peaceful in sleep and he had a hard time reconciling that image with the acid-tongued witch who tormented him when awake.

They needed to find somewhere to spend the night. Exhaustion sucked the energy from his body, and the adrenaline generated from the car chase had ebbed a while ago, leaving him listless. All he wanted to do was find a bed and fall into it.

A motel appeared in the distance, its vacancy sign glowing like a beacon. He pulled into the parking lot and killed the engine. Reaching over, he gently shook Samara awake.

“Where are we?” Her voice, husky with sleep, sent a charge through him.

“Just outside of Sudbury, at the elegantly named Maple Ridge Motel. Looks a bit dicey but as long as they have hot water and beds, I don’t care. Go into the office and get us a couple of rooms while I check things out here to make sure it’s safe.”

She unfastened her seatbelt and got out of the truck at the same time he did. He stood to the side and watched her walk to the office door. Tense and ready, he stood alert, prepared to spring into action if someone made a grab for her.

Once she was inside the office, he checked the perimeter of the motel. Nothing seemed out of order, and he could sense no other wolves around. Assured they were safe for the time being, he returned to the truck and got their luggage out of the back. He waited for her to join him. She came out through the office door, clutching a single room key in her hand.

“We got the last room. There is some sort of convention in town, so everything is booked solid. It must be some convention if people are desperate enough to want to stay here. Looks like we’ll be bunking together.”

“I’m sure the room will have twin beds. Places like this usually do.” Eric walked beside her to the door of their room.

“You mean you don’t want to share a bed with me? I’m hurt.” She pushed out her bottom lip, and he rolled his eyes as he took hold of her arm.

“Come on.” As they walked the rest of the way to their room, he scanned their surroundings, taking note of the easiest way to get back to the truck in a hurry. At the room door he put the luggage down and took the key from her. After unlocking it, he used his sense of smell to check the room. It smelled clean at least, and thankfully it was empty. There didn’t appear to be any danger, and he let her walk into the room. Light flooded the space as he picked up the luggage and followed her.

“Wow, Eric, looks like we’re back in the seventies,” Samara said, laughing as she walked over and sat on the edge of the queen-size bed that stood in the middle of the room. He dropped the bags with a heavy thump when he saw the delighted look on her face.

“Looks like it isn’t your lucky day. Guess we’ll be sharing a bed after all.” She smirked at him. He grabbed a pair of jogging pants out of his bag and made a beeline for the bathroom. The door closed firmly behind him.

The thought of her alone with him, in a room, with only one bed, jacked his body up to the point where sweat beaded on his forehead. If he didn’t go insane with lust before the night was over he’d be very lucky.

He turned on the shower, got in and turned the water to cold. Icy needles blasted his skin and he stood under the spray until he got under control enough to be able to stay in the same room with her. He turned the water back to a more moderate temperature, and washed the events of the day from his body. Shutting off the water, he stepped out and dried himself, the towel abrading his skin with his brisk motions.

Looking in the chipped mirror above the avocado-green sink, he could see the rough stubble bristling his chin, but he was too tired to do anything about it. He pulled on his pants and walked back into the room where she was bouncing on the bed.

“Just testing it.” She grinned at him, and he closed his eyes to keep from looking at her jiggling breasts.

“Well, when you’re finished let me know. The shower’s all yours if you want to wash up.” He peeked at her with one eye, and to his relief she stood up and went to her case to grab some clothes and a bag of toiletries. He sat down on the bed and watched her walk into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Lying down on the bed, he got under the covers. He turned off the light, closed his eyes and prayed for sleep to come quickly. It didn’t.

Tonight was going to be the longest night of his life. He could hear Samara turn on the shower. The sound of water running conjured images in his mind designed to torture him. As he lay there listening, he imagined what she looked like, standing naked in the shower with water and tiny soap bubbles skimming her flesh.

In this particular fantasy, she still wore the gold chain around her waist. And he was in the shower with her, washing her. He could feel his soapy hands gliding over her skin, exploring every curve and hollow. Perhaps while his hands soaped the round globes of her ass, he would put his lips on her breast. The thought of her nipples tightening in his mouth, and the sounds she would make while he sucked her, had him whimpering out loud. The noise jolted him. He shifted on the bed, disgusted. He was acting like a horny teenager alone with his first woman, for shit’s sake.

“Grow up,” he growled as he rolled over and punched his pillow, trying to get the image of her perfect female form out of his head. He was not going to be able to share a bed with her if he didn’t get a grip. The cold shower had certainly been wasted, considering the state he’d worked himself into.

He breathed a sigh of relief when he heard the water shut off and his mind got out of the shower. After a few moments the bathroom door opened, and a warm cloud of Samara-scented air filled the room. He ground his teeth. The rustling of clothing sounded in the silent room, and he was thankful that at least she was dressed. If she’d climbed into bed naked, he’d have taken her. Right after he had a heart attack. Bad enough that she was in the bed beside him, smelling of shampoo, clean skin and warm woman, without her being naked too.

“Don’t tell me I’m going to have the whole bed to myself?” Samara’s cheerful, tormenting tones broke through his contemplation of her naked body.

“What are you talking about?” Jesus, don’t encourage her. Now she’ll never quiet down and go to sleep.

“You’re hovering at the edge as timid as a virgin at a prison rodeo. You can move over if you want. I promise your virtue is safe with me.”

The muscles in his jaw tightened, and for a moment he thought the bone lying underneath his muscles and skin would snap. He kept his mouth shut. It was not necessary to justify her remark with a rebuttal. Besides, rising to the bait would only compel her to keep jabbing him with the verbal stick.

“Go ahead and stay over there then.” He heard her turning over so her back was to him, and he silently mouth the words thank you. “If you fall out of bed in the middle of the night, don’t blame me.”

Now it was going to bug him if he stayed where he was. He tried to move over subtly, making his way closer to the middle of the bed, until he felt the roundness of her butt against his lower back. He eased away so he wasn’t touching her and lay there for several minutes, trying to sleep. His awareness of the body beside him kept him from relaxing.

“Can you think about baseball or something?”

He jumped at the suddenness of her voice.

“Oh for Christ’s sake, what are you on about now?” He turned on his back and glared at the ceiling.

“The sexual energy coming off you is making it impossible for me to sleep. Unless you want us to burn it off together, I would appreciate it if you could think of something unsexy so I can get some rest.”

“You wouldn’t have so much trouble sleeping if you’d give your mouth a rest.” He wished she wasn’t so in tune with emotions. She could practically tell what he was thinking and was mentally feeling his raging hard-on.

Taking a deep breath, he took her advice and thought about the antithesis of sex. He thought about his high school math teacher, a rather ugly woman with large, low-hanging breasts. She was a gravelly-voiced creature who preferred to go by the name of Norman outside of school. Speculation had been rife among his friends about what gender she actually was, but they were all too leery of getting too close to her to find out.

Thinking of the enchanting Norman seemed to do the trick, because after a few moments he heard Samara’s deep, steady breathing. Finally. Now if only it were as easy for him to sleep with the warm female body in bed next to him. Sleep eventually claimed him and he dreamed about a scantily clad Samara who told him, as she stripped, to call her Norman.

&Samara stirred& in bed the following morning, reluctant to open her eyes. The curtains, opened a small sliver, allowed a thin shaft of early morning light to penetrate the room. She was truly a creature of the night, and the thought of getting up early for the second day in a row didn’t exactly inspire her. A warm, heavy weight lay over her waist, and at first she couldn’t figure out what it was. Reaching her hand down, she discovered a warm male arm, Eric’s arm, and she smiled to herself. Looked like Eric had gotten over his fear of touching her at some point during the night.

She snuggled back against him, enjoying the feel of his firm, muscular body pressed against her back. His legs had curled into hers, cradling her while her bottom rested against the juncture of his thighs. And from the feel of it, something was definitely stirring there.

The comfort she drew from his presence in the bed beside her surprised her. This was a new experience for her, having never actually woken with a man in her bed before. She’d never wanted any of her partners to spend the night with her. Once the sex was over and she’d got what she needed, she only wanted to be alone so she could sprawl out and sleep. She could see what she’d been missing. Of course, she had no way of knowing if this reaction was for Eric alone, or if any man would do. She wanted him, but considering his reluctance last night to share a bed with her, she didn’t think she would be getting any, at least not from him, any time soon.

His arm tightened as she shifted against him, drawing her closer. His breath, warm and moist against the back of her neck, raised goosebumps on her skin. Lips pressed against the skin of her shoulder. Did he know what he was doing? She didn’t want to ask, only wanted to ride with it and see where it took her. His stubble was rough against the tender skin where her shoulder joined her neck. She bit her lip to prevent any sound from escaping. Slowly drawing away, she turned to face him. He captured her lips, and she was lost. Desire flowed through her veins like a drug, giving her a high she only ever experienced in his arms.

He turned her onto her back, and she clung to him, not wanting this moment to end. It would once he realized what he was doing. Then he’d be back to brooding Eric, but at least she was going to get a taste of him again before that happened. His tongue explored the recesses of her mouth. She tunneled her fingers through his hair, the short, silky length of it sliding against her fingers, caressing her. His mouth left hers to trail along her cheek and down her throat. She bit her lip as a shiver went through her. Jesus, he felt so good. He couldn’t stop what he was doing. A simple touch and caress had never felt so wonderful, and they hadn’t even gotten to the really good part yet.

His hand slipped under her top, easing it up over her breasts. She held her breath as his mouth hovered above her nipple, so close that his breath skated over her skin. Not close enough. She arched up, brushing her hardened nipple against his bottom lip. A growl sounded low in his throat, a wild sound that had moisture pooling between her legs. She held still. Nothing could break the spell, not when he was so close to doing what she needed him to do. He sucked her nipple into the warm recesses of his mouth.

She arched up higher, wanting him to take more of her flesh in his mouth. She longed to be devoured by him until they were both mindless with need. He sucked harder, and she managed to swallow the sound of satisfaction building inside her. Nothing must interrupt him now that he lay fully on top of her. His cock was hard against the juncture of her thighs, and she opened her legs wider so she could cradle him. Oh, to be able to rip the clothes from his body and hers! She didn’t dare for fear he would realize what he was doing and stop.

He rubbed against her and found her sweet spot. Unable to hold back a groan, she slid her pelvis up and down the length of his clothed erection. He ripped his mouth away from her breast, his breath hissing in through his teeth as he ground against her. He drew back, looking at her, his face tight, feral. He bared his teeth as he continued to rub against her. Was it possible for any other man to turn her on as much as he did?

“That’s it.” The sound of her voice seemed to jolt him. She held her breath as she continued to move. Please don’t stop. He couldn’t stop now. She was so close.

“Fuck,” he growled, his movements growing harder and jerky as her arousal spiraled higher. She grabbed his face, bringing her mouth crashing into his as raw power surged through her when she came. He thrust against her a few more times before shuddering. He pulled his mouth away and rested his head against her forehead while their labored breathing filled the room.

He drew back to look at her, and Samara’s hands fell away when she saw the cold mask he always wore descend over his face. Well, that certainly didn’t take long.

His erection had hardly subsided before he threw up his wall. He rolled off her and sat on the edge of the bed, his back to her. She inched away from him, feeling for the first time in her life dirty and ashamed of engaging in a sex act. Why couldn’t he say something, anything, to take away the chill that had intruded into the room?

“This can’t happen again.” He raked his fingers through his hair. And he still refused to look at her.

She shook her head, the corners of her mouth turned down as her eyes bored into his back. “Yes, I know. Rule number three.” Disappointment bit into her, coming out in her voice. What did he want her to say? He didn’t have to make her feel like she’d forced him. He turned his head sharply at her, and she couldn’t stop the disgust she was feeling from curling her lips. “I didn’t start this, so if you want to get pissed at anyone, get pissed at yourself. You started the whole thing. Maybe you should man up and take some responsibility for yourself instead of making me feel like I raped you.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, she wanted to call them back. Just because he wanted to be an insensitive prick didn’t mean she had to stoop to his level. She was a succubus, a creature who was supposed to be happy to take any kind of sex she could get. She shouldn’t be showing him how much his attitude hurt her.

His face hardened further as he turned away. Obviously that hadn’t been the right thing to say, and regret chased away the disappointment churning inside her. She didn’t want to spend the next two days in the car with this between them, especially not since they had to look like a loving couple when they got to Horn’s compound.

“Eric.” She reached out to touch him. “I didn’t mean that, we are both responsible for what happened. I could have stopped you, but the fact is I didn’t want to.”

“Forget it.” He shook off her hand as he stood, his cold mask still firmly in place. “I’m going to shower, change and see about getting something for breakfast before we head out.”

He walked to the bathroom and slammed the door behind him. There was no mistaking how he felt about the whole encounter. She blew out her breath, shifting with a grimace when she felt her damp pajama bottoms clinging to her. She sat up, pulling the fabric away from her skin and thought about what had just happened. No matter what he said, this would be happening again. The attraction between them burned too hot for this to be the end of it. It would only whet their appetite. If he wanted to delude himself into thinking they could just ignore it and it would go away, then that was his problem, not hers.

She decided to call Hadria while he finished in the bathroom. She dialed her friend’s number using the motel phone. Alex answered it on the second ring.

“Is Hadria there?”

“No, she’s gone out for a while. Can I give her a message?”

Samara hesitated for a moment, knowing she wasn’t really supposed to be making contact with anyone while she was on mission. She’d only wanted to vent to Hadria about what a prick Eric was and now she realized that she was bending the rules a little by calling her.

“I just wanted to check in with her and let her know that everything is fine so far,” she said in a tone that didn’t invite Alex to linger for a chat.

“Where are you?”

Samara hesitated for a moment, and Alex’s laugh rumbled over the line. “You know she’s going to ask me.”

Samara chuckled, knowing that he was right. Hadria would only pester him for an answer, and Samara decided to take pity on Alex and not make him go through one of Hadria’s interrogation. “I’m at the Maple Ridge Motel, just outside of Sudbury. Eric and I are going to head out shortly. Let her know I’ll check in with her tomorrow.”

“Will do. Take care of yourself, Samara.” She heard the click on the other end as he disengaged the call, and she returned the receiver to its cradle. Sighing, she tried to block out the sound of Eric in the shower. Things were going to be awkward between them for a while, until he got over his loss of control. The ride in the car today was going to be fun.

“Shit,” she said as she shoved the phone away.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 7

It was late afternoon and Samara was fidgeting again. Eric looked over at her in what seemed to be her favorite position: bare feet on the dashboard and a lock of hair in her hand, which she would braid, unravel and braid again. The tension in the truck when they had started off this morning had been almost unbearable, but as the day wore on it dissipated. It helped that Eric stopped more frequently today so she could get out and move around, since he knew how hard it was for her to be cooped up in the car all day. She seemed to appreciate it and his consideration of her had gone a long way to smoothing things over between them, for which he was grateful. He realized that he had handled things this morning in the worst possible way. His lust for her had caught him off guard, and once he saw where things were heading, it had been way too late for him to stop. She’d been in his head, and the only thing he could think to do to get her out was to lash out at her. He’d felt like a royal prick after, but didn’t know what to do or say to make it right. Perhaps there wasn’t a way, and at least if she thought he was an asshole, she would keep her distance. That would be best for both of them.

He watched her continue with the methodical braiding of her hair, and an image of her doing the same thing when she was a kid struck him. Although he couldn’t see a family of succubae going on a road trip, but stranger things have happened.

“Did you never go on long car trips when you were a kid?” he asked out of genuine curiosity, which surprised him. He hadn’t been interested in anyone else’s life for a long time, but he wanted to know her. Deep down there was a part of him that longed to know everything about her, about what made her the woman she was.

“Long car trips hadn’t been invented when I was a kid,” she said as she ran her fingers through her hair before she started braiding again. “Even if they were, my mother was definitely not the happy family type.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, trying hard not to be enchanted by her habit of playing with her hair when she was bored.

“I may look young but trust me, I’m not. I was born almost a hundred and fifty years ago. Most succubae live extraordinarily long lives, usually about six or seven hundred years. ”

“So your family must still be around, then. What does your mother think of what you do?” For the life of him, he could not understand what was prompting him to keep the conversation going, but he couldn’t seem to make himself stop talking.

“The Order is my only family. I haven’t seen my mother since she abandoned me when I was ten.” Samara’s tone was matter-of-fact as she relayed the information, but her posture immediately changed. Eric looked over at her as she removed her feet from the dashboard to hug her knees to her chest, her braided hair forgotten. Eric knew all too well the pain of familial betrayal, so he decided not to press her any further. Some things were too hard to talk about.

There was silence in the car for several minutes before Samara broke it, her voice soft as she spoke. “It was the best thing she could have done for me.”

It seemed she did want to talk about it, and Eric had to admit that he was curious. How could her mother abandoning her be a good thing?

“Why do you say that?”

“If she hadn’t left me, I would never have met Hadria and I would not have been inducted into the Order. If I’d stayed with her, I would eventually have spent my life alone, going from one man to another, trying to fill the empty space inside me with sex. In other words, I would have ended up living my mother’s life in a world where I didn’t really fit in.”

“How can you not fit in with your own kind?” Eric asked, puzzled. With the problems he’d had with his pack, fitting in certainly hadn’t been one of them. He supposed that even with all he had been through, he still clung to the werewolf mentality that you stuck with your own kind, where you knew you belonged. Although he had left his pack and turned his back on his family, he knew should he return there would be a place for him.

“I’m not a full-blooded demon. Most succubae have offspring with other demons, so their children can inherit their father’s particular strength. It is possible for one to bear offspring with a human father, but most don’t as the children born from such a union are usually weaker. I still have the powers of a succubus, and need to draw energy from emotions to charge them, but I have human traits that make me different. I needed things from my mother that she couldn’t give me because of her nature. Succubae aren’t the most maternal of creatures, they only have children because they are driven to perpetuate the species. They only keep their children with them for about ten years. When my mother left me, she didn’t do it out of any cruel intentions, she was just doing what her kind does.”

“You mean all succubae abandon their children when they are so young?” Eric asked in disbelief, as this was a completely foreign concept to him. Wolves protected their cubs until they were fully grown, until they could become integral members of the pack. Children who made it past infancy were somewhat rare among his kind, so the ones who did were fiercely protected. His own mother had given birth to eleven children, but only he, Nick and Rowan had survived into adulthood.

“A succubus who is a full-blooded demon reaches her full maturity around the age of ten. By then they have all they need to take care of themselves. So my mother was only doing what came naturally to her. She could not have considered that I would be so ill-equipped to take care of myself. Physically I looked much like I do now, but mentally and emotionally I was like a ten-year-old human child. Had Hadria not found me, I would most likely not have survived.”

“And how did Hadria find you?” Eric asked, surprised to find himself wrapped up in her story. He was beginning to realize during this trip with her just how much he had isolated himself for the past six years, caring about no one and nothing but himself. Now there was someone who actually interested him, and more than just in a sexual way.

“It was about six months after my mother left me, and I was living in an alley next to a brothel. The lust pouring out of that place was enough to sustain my powers, and I managed to eat enough to keep myself alive, but it was a pretty miserable existence. Hadria was on a mission in the area, and she was checking out the alley I live in and found me. She immediately knew I wasn’t your garden variety succubus, and she took me in. She cared for me and raised me with a compassion and affection that I was sorely lacking from my experience with my own mother. She introduced me to other members of the Order and they became the family that I’d never known. I finally found a place where I fit in. It was only natural that I would want to join the Order once I fully matured.”

Eric noticed a funny thing once she finished her story. She was now totally relaxed, her feet back on the dashboard and a look of peace upon her face. For a brief moment he considered discussing his own past with her, wondering if it would bring him the same feeling of peace. He quickly dismissed the idea. He couldn’t bear the thought of her knowing of his humiliation at the hands of his brother. He didn’t want her to know that he always suspected there was something lacking in him, that he couldn’t keep his woman satisfied enough, that she had to turn to another man to get something he couldn’t give her. He’d kept the bitterness inside him for so long, he didn’t want the poison to spill out and taint her perception of him. Confiding in someone wasn’t something he did and he wasn’t about to start now.

&Dusk was settling& around them when they finally decided to stop for the night. Samara offered a few times to take over driving, but Eric politely refused. She didn’t think it was because he didn’t trust her driving, and had a feeling it was because he had control issues and preferred to handle that aspect of the trip himself.

He pulled into the parking lot of yet another nondescript motel that dotted the stretch of highway they were on. Undoing his seatbelt, he turned to look at her as he spoke.

“Stay in the car while I check things out around here and get us a couple of rooms.”

She stayed where she was and watched him scout out the perimeter of the motel before going into the office. It would have been pointless to tell him that he didn’t have to do it, that she could take care of herself. This was his way of making sure where they had chosen to sleep was safe and secure and it was something he needed to do. It was his most endearing trait, his need to make sure she was safe.

He returned a short while later with two keys in his hand. It looked like there would be no room sharing tonight, Samara thought, and disappointment settled in the pit of her stomach. She completely understood why he didn’t want a repeat of this morning, since he was fighting the attraction he so clearly felt of her. Still, it was too bad that there was more than one room available at this motel. She liked sleeping in the bed with him, and would like to have done so again.

Getting out of the vehicle, she took her bag and reached for her room key, which he placed in her hand. Their rooms were side by side, so they walked together to their respective doors.

“We haven’t eaten yet, do you want to go and get something? We could find a nice place to actually sit down and eat a meal. No fast food for a change.”

Samara looked at him, wondering for a moment if he was feeling okay. She would have thought he would want to dive into his room, effectively putting some distance between them, but she was not going to pass up the opportunity to spend more time with him.

“I’d like that,” she said as she put her bag inside her room. She waited for him to do the same, and they walked back to the truck. It felt strange sitting beside him, like they were going on a date or something. Of course it was a silly way of thinking. They’d eaten every meal together for the past two days, but somehow this one had a different feel to it.

The town they were in didn’t have much to offer in the way of fine dining, but they did manage to find a roadhouse that looked clean and not too rowdy. Samara told herself to relax and enjoy the evening.

There was a long bar on one side of the room, with booths and tables set up in one half of the remaining space. The other half had some tables around the perimeter, a DJ booth and a dance floor.

Once they were seated, they ordered a couple of beers while they decided what to have for dinner. The evening took on a relaxed tone, and she and Eric ended up chatting through their meal. Nothing earth-shattering was revealed by either of them, as if by tacit agreement they decided to leave the heavy conversation for another time. They simply enjoyed this time with each other and didn’t talk about where they were going and what they needed to do when they got there.

When they finished their meal and were lingering over their coffee, Samara had to admit she like the more relaxed side of Eric, and thought it was a shame he didn’t let it out more often. The coldness left his eyes, and his face showed none of its usual tension. She was having such a good time with him that she didn’t want to leave and go back to her motel room by herself. A song came on, one she had always loved, and she closed her eyes, swaying slowly in her seat.

“Do you want to dance?”

She opened her eyes in surprise and looked at Eric. He was standing beside her, his hand held out in invitation. She took it and he led her to the dance floor.

His arms enfolded her and she pressed her body close to him, resting her head against his shoulder as they swayed together to the music. His firm, muscular body moved against hers, and she felt her desire for him stir inside. Her eyes drifted closed as she enjoyed the way it felt to dance with him like this. She could smell the subtle scent of his aftershave, along with that of his skin. The world seemed to fade from her presence, leaving only him. It was like she’d known the feel of his arms forever, and yet all too soon the spell was broken when the song ended and other came on. The beat was faster and they drew apart. Samara realized reality had intruded once again by the closed look upon Eric’s face, and she felt disappointment settle around her like a leaden mantle.

“We should be going,” he said as he walked back to their table, with Samara following behind him. He paid their bill and led her from the restaurant. It didn’t take long to arrive back at their motel and they walked back to their rooms. Samara’s steps felt heavy as she drew up to her door. She didn’t want to spend the night alone in her room, but she couldn’t say as much to him, sensing he needed time to himself. She turned to him with a smile that made her cheeks ache.

“Good night Eric, and thanks for dinner. I enjoyed it.”

Her smile faded when he didn’t say anything, just looked at her. His hand came up to caress her cheek, and he leaned forward to press his lips gently to hers. The kiss lasted only a moment. Samara’s gaze drifted up to look into the stormy depths of his eyes.

“Good night, Samara,” he said, his voice rough before he turned away, unlocked his door and went into his room. His door closed quietly behind him.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 8

That’s it? Samara stared at his closed door. Their night was over? One kiss, and nothing else?

She couldn’t face a solitary night in her room. Restless energy stirred inside her, and her longing for Eric caused her power to surge. Sleep would not come easy to her tonight, not with this raw energy bouncing around in her body, trying to rid her of the excess lust surging through her. A walk would do her good, helping her ease her frustration and perhaps tiring her enough so she could rest.

She tucked the key to her room in her pocket and turned away, heading down the street. The events of the day ran through her head as she walked. From the encounter this morning to dinner tonight it was no wonder she had energy to burn. For a moment, standing outside the motel door with him, she had wished she could reach out and make him do what she wanted. The thought had gone as quickly as it came. She was glad she could not sway him with her powers. As least she knew the attraction was mutual and not the result of mind control on her part. It never mattered to her before if any of her partners wanted her for herself or if it was because of the lure of her nature and her powers. Sex was just sex to her, a way to recharge when she was really low. With Eric it was different, not just a physical act. She felt an emotional connection to him. She wanted to be as close to him as she could get, but it remained to be seen if she would be able to do anything about it. He certainly resisted more than anybody ever had before.

This morning she’d been positive that he wouldn’t be able to stick to the no sex rule. Now she wasn’t so sure. Perhaps she’d underestimated Eric’s willpower. She hoped he couldn’t last too much longer. The dance tonight had only cemented her attraction to him and she wanted a repeat of this morning. Without clothing, their naked bodies pressed together, with Eric buried deep inside her.

The sound of claws scraping against pavement jolted her out of her thoughts, as a prickling feeling shot up the back of her neck. She had the distinct impression that something or someone was watching her. Turning quickly to look behind, she frowned when she saw the empty street behind her, with only a small scrap of paper stirring in the wind. Adrenaline pumped through her veins as her pulse kicked up its pace. There was something behind her, even if she couldn’t see it. The scent of wolf carried itself on the wind and she knew it was not Eric. She moved further along the street, her skin itching as she sensed her stalker coming closer to her. His scent grew stronger and she could sense his emotions. His rage and ruthless satisfaction blasted through her, almost bringing her to her knees with its dark force, causing her to stumble.

Her mind raced as she tried to devise a strategy to deal with him. If he was in human form, it would be no problem for her to overtake him. All she had to do was get close enough to touch him, and his mind would be hers to control and she could immobilize him. If he had taken wolf form, she was in trouble since the animal side of him would be more dominant in that form, and he would therefore be immune to her touch. All her opponents thus far had been in human form, but she steeled herself to do it. There was no way he was going to take her down without a fight. The bastard would have to work for it if he was going to kill her.

The street ended in an alley. Dark, deserted and eerily quiet. The only sound she could hear was the thudding of her heart and her own footfalls. Deciding to confront her stalker, she turned, her mouth going dry when she saw he was indeed in wolf form. He approached her with in a stiff-legged walk, his hackles raised. His trembling lips curled back, baring his teeth as a growl rumbled deep in his chest. She swallowed down her panic, not wanting to give him the advantage of feeding off the fear he would surely be able to smell. Taking a deep calming breath, she found her center and divorced herself from her emotions. Taking a step back, confidence surging through her as she felt the hum of her powers under her skin, her foot brushed against something, causing a clinking sound. A bottle. Bending quickly, she scooped it up. She smashed it against the brick wall beside her, and razor-sharp shards jutted out from the bottle’s neck. She tossed her makeshift weapon back and forth between her hands as she stared at him.

The wolf’s muscles quivered and bunched underneath his fur, his skin appearing to undulate as he prepared to attack. His target would be her jugular, and she steeled her spine in order to stand her ground.

He leapt at her, his jaws wide open as he let out a deep-throated roar. His actions appeared to be happening in slow motion, and she threw her left arm across her throat to protect herself.

His teeth sank into her flesh. A scream ripped out of her as and the momentum from his attack knocked them both to the ground. The impact of the fall knocked the bottle from Samara’s hand.

He had her pinned to the ground, jerking his head back with his teeth clamped around her arm, trying to rip her arm away from her throat. Stiffening her muscles, trying desperately to protect her throat as pain shot through her body, Samara groped beside her for her makeshift weapon. Her fingers flexed, the tips brushing against the neck of the bottle. Shifting a fraction, her hand closed around it. She brought her right arm up between them and drove the broken bottle into his soft underbelly.

The wolf howled in pain, and her arm fell out of the grip of his jaws. She pulled the bottle out and drove it back in further as blood gushed hotly over her hand. The air was sharp with the metallic tang of his blood mingled with hers. Pulling the bottle out, she threw it aside, then lifted her legs up so her feet rested against his belly. She used all her strength to shove him to the side.

She was on her feet, running with her injured arm cradled against her chest. At the mouth of the alley she turned back to check behind her, and saw the wolf struggling to his feet. She turned away the second time he failed to pick himself off the pavement.

Get back to Eric, get back to the room. The words pounded themselves in her head, strong and insistent. Her feet pounded on the pavement as she ran down the street. The rhythm of her steps grew increasingly unsteady, and she tried to draw strength from her powers, but it was useless. The fight and loss of blood had weakened her, and she had depleted whatever adrenaline had been holding her up by this point. The motel loomed in the distance. Fiery pain burned through the tattered flesh of her arm, and she could feel her blood running through her fingers, despite the pressure she held it with. Her flesh felt slick and ragged beneath her palm, and the street lights around her shimmered and sparkled. Not yet, she screamed in her head, as she fought to remain upright.

She could see Eric’s door through the haze of her vision, about a hundred yards away. In one final burst of strength she dragged herself across the parking lot. She tried to call upon her powers to get her into his door, but there was nothing left inside to draw from. The motel blurred in front of her. Reaching out to open his door, her hand grasped nothing but air as the world tilted beneath her. She sank to her knees, before slumping to the ground outside Eric’s door.

&Eric spent& the evening in his room finding absolutely nothing to watch on TV. He tried to read the newspaper sitting beside the bed, but it didn’t hold his interest. Excruciating boredom reduced him to flipping quarters into a glass from across the room. He was truly pathetic, he told himself, but it still was not enough to make him do what he really wanted. The compulsion to go to Samara’s room almost overwhelmed him, but he stayed where he was. His dick wasn’t in charge and that was all there was to it. Trying to block out the images of her body pressed against him as it had been this morning, he growled and flung his remaining quarter. The force of its trajectory knocked the glass off the dresser and it hit the floor with a dull thunk.

Standing up, he ripped the shirt from his body, preparing to go to bed. How he would be able to sleep he didn’t know, but he had to do something to keep himself away from her. He didn’t need the complication she would surely be. Once this mission was over, he could go back to the life he’d lived before. Back to the isolation of the rigs, where he only had to focus on the fruits of his own sweat, and the occasional woman when he had time off in town. The thought was not as comforting to him as it should have been.

He stiffened when he heard a noise outside his door. Cautiously he made his way to the door, scenting the air. He reeled back when his brain finished analyzing what it was he was smelling. Blood, wolf and Samara. He ripped open the door with such force that it crashed into the wall, denting the drywall behind it.

Ice flooded his body when he took in the sight of her crumpled body in front of him. He bent down, turning her over, praying she was still alive. The moan she let out once she was on her back assured him that she lived. She was covered in so much blood it seemed a miracle she was still breathing, and he picked her up as carefully as he could. Her eyes opened weakly, and Eric cringed at the pain he saw burning in them.

“Who did this to you, baby?” he asked, although as soon as she was in his arms he knew the answer. Gordon’s scent was all over her and Eric ground his teeth. Walking into his room, he kicked the door shut behind him. He put her gently upon the bed, and forced everything from his mind except the need to care for her.

Her breath came out in a sob, and Eric closed his eyes at how the sound tortured him with guilt and fuelled his anger. He should have been with her, should have done a better job of protecting her.

“It’s okay, baby. I’m here. Nothing is going to happen to you. You’re safe.” He spoke to her in soothing tones as he unfolded her arm from its tight clasp against her chest.

Pain had etched itself into tense lines in her face, and he would have done anything in his power to take it away from her. He unbuttoned her shirt so he could see the damage inflicted upon her. The knot of dread in his stomach loosened a little when he could see no visible wounds on her chest or stomach. The blood must have come from somewhere else.

Gently he tried to pull the sleeve off her arm. Her scream of protest stopped him cold, and he placed her arm back on the bed. Going to the closet, he pulled out the first aid kit he’d seen there earlier before grabbing hand towels from the bathroom as well. Coming back to her, he rooted through the first aid kit until he found a pair of scissors. He used them to cut away her sleeve, bile rising in his throat when he looked at her arm. It had been savaged, and even through the blood he could see the ragged edges of the gaping wound. It looked like the wolf had tried to rip the flesh from her arm, and Eric didn’t think he would fix this with the contents of the first aid kit. The only good thing was it looked like the bleeding was slowing.

“Baby, this is bad. I need to get you to a hospital,” Eric said, his voice rough as he pressed the towel against her arm, trying to staunch the remaining blood-flow.

“No hospitals,” she said with a shake of her head. “I’ll be completely healed in a few days, and if you take me to a hospital they’ll ask too many questions. I just need you to help me get my arm cleaned and bandaged.”

Eric went to the bathroom, wanting to argue with her, but couldn’t fight with her now in her weak and wounded state. He wanted to take care of her, to do anything in his power to heal her. It didn’t matter how many questions they asked at the hospital as long as they helped her. He would do what he could for her but if he thought she needed it, he’d take her to the hospital no matter how much she protested. He flicked on the tap and ran a washcloth under the water before wringing it out and grabbing another clean hand towel.

Returning to her side, concerned bit at him when he saw how she looked. Her skin was so pale, it was almost transparent. He washed the blood from her arm, trying to be gentle, but he knew by the way her eyes were clenched shut that he was causing her pain.

“I know it hurts, baby, but it has to be done. It’ll be over soon.”

She nodded, although she didn’t open her eyes.

“Don’t suppress your emotions, please,” she said, her voice coming out in a weak whisper. “My powers need to be recharged in order for me to regain my strength, and to do that I need you to let everything out.”

Eric released the floodgates on every emotion churning inside him while he applied disinfectant to her wound. The concern, guilt and rage at what had happened to her poured out of him, and he could see some of the color returning to her cheeks. He placed a sterile gauze pad over her wound before wrapping it in a gauze bandage. She placed her right hand onto his cheek, and he looked down at her as he pressed his face against her palm.

“It isn’t your fault, what happened. There is no reason to feel guilty,” she said, her voice soft as her pain-glazed eyes met his. His lips tightened as he read on her face the comfort she offered him, a comfort he didn’t deserve considering how he’d completely failed her.

“I didn’t protect you,” Eric said as he withdrew, having done the best for her he could with the limited supplies he had. “Can you tell me what happened?”

Anger burned hot inside him as she described being stalked and attacked by Gordon in his wolf form. There was also fear mixed in with the anger, as his imagination painted a vivid picture of Samara lying dead in the alley, had she not been strong enough to defend herself. How could he have not sensed the wolf in the area when he’d checked the perimeter of the motel?

“Are you hurt anywhere else?” he asked, hoping the wound on her arm was the worst of her injuries.

“Other than a few bruises, I’m fine,” she said with a weak smile at him. “I’ll be healed in no time. My body is getting stronger and I just need to have a little rest.”

He could sense she was trying to minimize what had happened to her for his sake, but he knew better than to believe it. It was his fault she’d been out there alone and vulnerable, no matter what she said to assuage his guilt. He would set it right.

“Do you think you killed him?” he asked, his voice lethally soft.

“I’m not sure. He was struggling to get up, but I didn’t stick around to check. All I was worried about was running and getting back here.”

Eric knew what he had to do, although he was loath to leave her alone. Rage burned inside him, and he had to find the wolf. If he was dead, so much the better, but if he wasn’t, he would be once Eric found him.

“Where is your room key?”

“It’s in my pocket,” she said as she shifted, wincing at the movement. Eric reached into her pocket and got it out before she had to do it herself. “You’re going after him, aren’t you?”

“Yes. I have to make sure he can’t hurt you again.” He tried to keep the anger out of his voice, but he knew she could feel it. He made his way to the door.

“Eric,” she said softly behind him. He turned immediately to see what was wrong. “Be careful.”

“I will,” he said as he turned and walked out the door.

He went over to Samara’s room and unlocked the door before bending down to leave the key under the mat. It would be easier to track the wolf who attacked her if he shifted, but he couldn’t do it out in the open. Rage churned in his gut as images of her bloodied body lying across his doorway flashed through his mind. He stepped into her room, stripping off his clothes before closing his eyes. Letting all thoughts leave his head, he concentrated on the shift. He braced himself for the pain he knew would come, and dropped down on all fours.

His bones popped and snapped as his limbs shortened, the pain of it almost blinding in intensity, but he had shifted enough to know to relax and let it come. With a violent snap, his neck tilted back until his face was pointed toward the ceiling. It morphed into his elongated lupine face. The twitching in his gums was like having a hundred insects crawling around in his mouth as his human teeth were replaced by his canine ones. Black fur sprouted from every inch of his skin, causing it to itch before settling. After what felt like an eternity of compression and squeezing that in reality only took moments, he finally collapsed on the floor, his transformation complete.

He padded toward the door and edged it open with his nose. His body vibrated with the need to go tearing into the night at a dead run, but he held himself back as he put his nose to the ground and sniffed.

Once he got an indication of the direction Samara had come from, he took off across the motel parking lot in an easy lope. It felt good to run down the sidewalk, his animal instincts rejoicing at the chance to hunt. He approached the alley where the scents of Samara, the wolf and blood were the strongest. This was where she’d been attacked. He went further into the alley to investigate. Catching a faint scent that raised the hackles on this neck, he lifted his head to look around. There was another wolf out there, whose scent was different from the one who’d attacked Samara. The wolf was watching in the distance, his scent only a faint whisper on the wind.

A noise behind him caused Eric to spin around quickly. A grey wolf stood behind him, his belly covered with blood. Gordon crouched low, protecting his injured stomach and baring his teeth.

Kill. The thought reverberated in Eric’s head as he approached his adversary, legs stiff and lips curled back from his teeth, a rumble starting deep in his chest to emerge into a full-throated growl.

They slowly circled, each looking for a weakness in the other. Gordon lunged at Eric, his jaws snapping. Eric sidestepped and went on the offensive. They came together, up on their hind legs, fighting for dominance. Eric used his superior strength and body weight to flip his enemy onto his back, his jaws closing around his throat. The scraping of his foe’s paws against his face didn’t deter him as he squeezed his teeth together, cutting through his opponent’s vulnerable flesh. Gordon went limp with a final gurgling sound, and Eric dragged him further into the alley, hiding him from view.

Glancing at the other wolf one more time, satisfied that he was dead, Eric made his way back to the motel. Senses on high alert, he could detect no other presence behind him, and knew he wasn’t being followed.

Once outside the door to Samara’s room, he hid in the shadows. The change back to human form was just as painful as the change to wolf. When it was complete he retrieved the key from under the mat. He went into the room and closed the door. Blood covered his face and chest, and he went to the bathroom to wash. As he rinsed the evidence of the fight from his body, he debated about what he should tell Samara. He didn’t want to give her any more burdens to carry, and didn’t want her to have cause to be afraid. He decided not to tell her about the other wolf he’d sensed out here tonight.

&Alex watched& Eric lope back to the motel in his wolf form, rage simmering in his veins. The wind stirred his hair, and when Eric paused he knew his scent had been carried to him. Alex didn’t care. He and the other wolf had never met, and he didn’t intend for them to, at least not yet.

Once he saw Eric go into the motel room he shared with Samara, Alex made his way to the alley—where he was sure he would find Gordon’s dead body—with an old army blanket tucked firmly under his arm. His lips pressed together when he thought of how Gordon had failed him. He’d seen Samara fleeing the alley, covered in blood, and had known that Gordon had been unable to see past his notion of revenge. Sometimes it didn’t pay to involve others in his important work, but what choice did he have when he was known to Samara? He wasn’t yet ready to reveal his plans to her.

He stopped in front of the eviscerated body of what anyone would suspect was a very large wolf, but what he knew to be that of his late associate, Gordon Lahey. If he had his druthers he’d leave him to rot, but a wolf of this size would definitely cause comment in a small city like this, and who knows, it might even get back to the Order. The last thing he needed was any sort of investigation, so it was now up to him to carry Gordon to his final resting place.

Alex unfurled the blanket with a snap and spread it over Gordon, intending to wrap it around the werewolf’s body so he could carry it back to the trunk of his rental car. After that he supposed that he would have to dump Gordon somewhere, and really, it didn’t matter that much. The clueless idiot didn’t even deserve a burial, and Alex intended to get rid of him in the first secluded place he could find. Then he’d see if he could get better help. If not he’d be reduced to fulfilling his plans himself, and he was not ready to reveal Samara’s fate to her quite yet.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 9

Samara lay on the bed where Eric left her, her mind refusing to quiet. The fight in the alley replayed in her head over and over, like a nightmare she couldn’t wake from. She could see why Cadric had expressed his concern that she wasn’t ready for this kind of mission. She relied too much on her powers, and when they were ineffective, as they had been tonight, she’d almost lost her life.

Sweat coated her skin and her heart raced in her chest even though she lay completely still. She couldn’t get the smell of her blood and the wolf out of her head. She rolled onto her side and got to her feet, her legs shaking as she staggered to the bathroom. Her mouth filled with saliva and she immediately lost the contents of her stomach. She gripped the back of the toilet, her legs quivering as they struggled to support her weight. Once she felt the trembling subside, she stood and turned to the sink, twisting on the tap. The water from her cupped hand filled her mouth, its cool sweetness taking the hot, sour taste away.

Looking in the mirror at the ghost of the woman reflected there, Samara could hardly recognize the fear she saw in her eyes. Failure, the eyes of the woman staring back from the mirror seemed to accuse. The predatory odor of the wolf who had attacked her burned in her nostrils, and the trembling started again, crawling up her body until the muscles in her arm and hand vibrated with the fear taking over her body. Her eyes turned blood red in the mirror, and she turned away, unable to look at herself for another second. Sharp shards of terror reverberated through her head, boiling under her skin, and she had to get it off. The fear had a scent, and it was identical to the mingled smell of wolf and her own blood.

The skin on her trembling hands turned a mottled silver color as her demonic side sought to escape and protect her. She swallowed hard, trying to push it down, trying to gain control of the panic creeping through her blood. She tore at her clothes; she had to get rid of the smell. Her clothes landed in a discarded heap on the floor and she shoved them aside with her feet.

She turned on the shower as hot as she could get it and stepped in, barely remembering to close the shower curtain. Ignoring the pain as the water burned her skin, she watched the silver color of her flesh change to an angry red. She scrubbed and scoured her skin, but the smell wouldn’t go away and the images wouldn’t leave her mind.

The curtain drew back and hand reached out to touch her. She fought against it, struggled against the arms coming around to encircle her. Cries of fear escaped her before the soft voice penetrated her fear. Eric’s voice.

“Shh. It’s okay, baby. It’s me,” he said, his arms drawing tighter around her, and she collapsed against him. “What’s wrong? Are you in pain?”

“I can’t get it off me. The fear, his smell… my blood…” Her voice came out in gulping sobs.

She buried her face in his neck, hating that he was seeing her at her weakest. He kept one arm firmly around her, but the other left her and the water hitting her body changed, grew cooler until the boiling hot temperature melted into a cooler one. She huddled against him, not lifting her head nor looking at him. The warm glide of his soapy hands slowly eased the fear, washing it away from her body. It ran out of her limbs like inky black sludge and disappeared down the drain, leaving her empty. She reached up, encircling his neck with her arms, and registered for the first time his solid, naked body against her. He anchored her, keeping her from drowning in the panic that had consumed her earlier. Her desire for him filled her body, giving her strength.

The water shut off and he drew her from the shower. Tenderly he dried her, and she couldn’t make herself move, could only stand there while he ministered to her. He left her for a moment to quickly dry himself, and wrap a towel around his waist, and the hollow feeling returned. She needed him, in a way she had not needed anyone before. He came back to her, and she felt weightless as he lifted her and carried her to the bedroom. The cool cotton sheets on the bed received her body, cradling her tenderly while she watched him move around the room. Lean strength rippled under his skin as his muscles expanded and contracted with his movements.

He came back over to her, the first aid kit in his hand. He replaced her sodden bandage with a fresh one. Samara could no longer keep silent.

“Eric, could you please hold me?” she asked, her voice sounding small.

He set the first aid kit aside and got into bed beside her, holding her against him. She absorbed the warm, clean scent of his flesh, soaking in the masculine texture of his skin. The press of his erection nudged against her hip and she knew he wanted her. He pulled back, putting a small distance between them. She made a small sound of protest, not wanting to lose the comfort he was offering.

“It’s okay, baby. No one can hurt you,” he whispered as he stroked a hand down her hair, holding her gently against his chest.

“Is he dead?” she asked, needing to know, to stop the nightmares that would surely come if he wasn’t.

“Yes,” he said, his voice assuring. He pulled back to look at her, his hand smoothing her wet hair away from her face.

“Make love to me, Eric,” she said as she pressed her lips against his neck, tasting his warm skin with her mouth. She felt the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed and his penis jumped against her hip. His hands were firm when he eased her away.

“We can’t do this. You’ve been through too much tonight, and you’re hurt.”

“I want you, Eric. I’ve wanted you the night we met, and I wanted you this morning. I don’t want to fight it anymore,” she whispered as she looked into his eyes. She could see the heat burning in their gray depths, could feel how much he wanted her when his desire caused a spike in her blood.

“Baby, I want you too, more than I’ve ever wanted any other woman. But you’re vulnerable right now, and I can’t take advantage of that. I don’t want you to regret this in the morning.”

“I won’t regret this. Please give me something good out of this horrible night. I need this. I need you to take the pain away, to help heal me and make me stronger,” she said, her eyes pleading with him as she stroked her hand down his face. He caught her wrist, pressing the palm of her hand against his mouth. The muscle in his jaw jumped as he eased her hand away, and she could see he still struggled to give in to what they both needed.

“This isn’t a good idea. I can’t protect you.”

“You can’t get me pregnant, Eric. I’m infertile with anyone who isn’t a demon or fully human. I’m also immune to disease, so it’s safe for us to be together.”

“Are you sure about this?” he asked, his hand running up and down the arm he still held. She eased back to pull off the towel she was still wrapped in. Her hands slid up over the firm muscles of his shoulders, around his neck to tunnel her fingers through his damp hair.

“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. Make love to me, Eric.”

His forehead came down to rest on hers, and Samara’s eyes slid closed. His warm breath fanned against her face, coming closer to her mouth. When she thought she couldn’t handle the anticipation of his touch any longer, she felt the sweep of his tongue along her bottom lip. Samara’s breath shuddered in and out of her body, mingling with his before he pressed his mouth fully to hers and kissed her.

Her fingers tightened in his hair, the warm scent that was uniquely him enveloping her as his mouth moved on hers. Her focus narrowed to center on his mouth. Her fears, her panic, her doubts about herself faded under the intensity of his kiss. His tongue swept inside her mouth, sliding erotically against hers as his hand traversed the side of her face. He rolled her fully onto her back, partially pressing her body into the mattress. The world retreated, and he was the only inhabitant in her life at this moment, the only one who mattered.

She didn’t know what magic he possessed to make her desire him more than any other. From the moment she’d met him, there was something about him which called to her, made her lose control. She could feel the iron grip she always held over herself slipping away and she didn’t care. Tonight she’d faced her own death, and now she wanted to celebrate life with him. Only him. No other man existed before him, and none would exist for her after.

Her hands went to his chest and around his back as she clasped him to her. He nibbled on her lower lip, and her tongue darted out to stroke over his lips. He growled at her, and she laughed at the shiver the sound gave her.

His lips left hers to trail down her throat. She trembled when his mouth reached where her shoulder joined her neck and he took a gentle bite of her flesh. She cried out at the small dart of pleasure that went through her all the way down to her feet and made her toes curl inward. His mouth eased down her skin, moving inch by slow delicious inch. She had a feeling he was going to take his time and make it last, and she didn’t know if she could handle it with her sanity intact.

His tongue swirled over her skin, getting closer to her breast. As if from a distance she heard her breath hiss through her teeth, her focus solely on his mouth as it descended the slope of her breast. She swallowed hard when her nipple crinkled into a hard peak, begging for his mouth. His tongue stroked her, moving closer, but not quite taking her in his mouth. She was dying for him to suck her.

“Please, Eric…” she begged as she arched closer to him. She tilted her head down to look at him, seeing a small grin playing about his lips as his tongue swiped against her nipple.

“Please what? What do you want?” he asked, his breath skating across her breast, cooling her flesh. She shuddered as her nipple grew impossibly tight.

“You know what I want. Stop teasing me and take my nipple in your mouth…” Her voice deserted her when he did as she instructed. Her agony temporarily relieved, she arched up to offer herself fully to him. His hand caressed her other breast, and her head fell back, a long moan escaping her.

As a succubus she had thought she knew all there was to know about sex, knew every emotion and impulse that went along with it, how to exploit it to her advantage. But desire on this level had never entered into the equation in the past; what he was making her feel was completely foreign to her. She wanted him, craved him like a junkie, and couldn’t get enough. She wanted to be as intimate with him as possible, wanted nothing to separate them. Not the mission, not the coldness he cloaked himself in, nor the secrets she hid from him. She wanted to crawl inside his body, to be one with him. Her hips shifted on the bed as her body tried to tell him what she wanted.

“It’s too soon for that. I’m going to enjoy you for hours,” he said as he pulled away from her breast. He eased back onto his knees and pulled away the towel that hung halfway off his hips, throwing it carelessly to the floor. She lifted her head and looked at him, trying to communicate with her eyes the desire building inside her.

Her eyes ran greedily over his body. He was so firmly muscled, and she knew he was capable of great strength. That he touched her with gentleness when he could easily crush her was what moved her, made her want to be with him.

She reached up to caress his chest, the soft downy hair covering him tickling her palm. She sat up, leaning forward to trace the outline of his nipple with her tongue. He tasted salty, and she could feel his hands threading through her hair as he cradled her to him. She bit his nipple and flicked it with her tongue. The hissing sound of his breath made her look up and she could see the muscles in his face pulled tight with the depth of his arousal. She unconsciously licked her lips, savoring the taste of him on her skin as his eyes followed her movement, his expression growing fierce.

Her hand moved over the chiseled muscles of his abdomen as she lay back on the bed. A low moan escaped him and his body quivered when she circled his navel with her thumb.

The desire radiating from him brought hers to a fever pitch. She watched him lower his head to kiss the flesh of her belly. The light beside the bed glowed a little brighter and she trembled when his tongue circled her belly button. Her senses were heightened, her skin so sensitive that each touch was an agony she didn’t want to stop. She was glad she couldn’t use her powers to enthrall him. What he felt for her was real.

His hands skimmed the inside of her thighs as he eased her legs apart. His mouth moved over her tummy to her hip bone, his tongue circling the skin on her leg as he made his way to the inside of her thigh. He nibbled on the tender skin he found there, and he appeared in no hurry to kiss her more intimately.

Samara thought she would combust with frustrated desire if he didn’t take her with his mouth soon. Then he was there, where she wanted and needed him most, and she felt like a bolt of lightning was shooting through her body.

She cried out his name as she cradled his head in her hands, unaware of anything but the feel of his mouth on her body. The motel could have collapsed around her and she wouldn’t have cared.

The tension built, coiling inside her as his tongue stroked her delicate flesh. She was vaguely aware of the light by the bed getting brighter. The force of her desire was such that for a moment she wanted to escape it. It was too intense and unlike anything she’d ever known. He held her gently as he continued to torture her.

Her climax caused such a surge of power through her that the light by the bed exploded. She lay there, trembling with the force of her orgasm as wave after wave of it flooded her body.

Her senses slowly returned when she felt Eric sliding up her body until his face was level with hers.

“What’s with the light?” he asked, his voice rumbling deep in his chest as he settled fully on top of her.

“Power surge,” she said, trying to catch her breath. She moaned when he slid inside her, filling her.

“I’m not hurting you, am I?” he asked through gritted teeth.

“God no. You feel so good,” she whispered as she slid her legs up his, rocking her hips, encouraging him to move.

He braced himself above her on his arms as he pulled almost all the way out and slid back inside. She rolled her hips beneath him and they created delicious friction together.

Their movements were slow at first, increasing in speed to keep pace with the desire burning within them. They loved each other for long minutes, lost in a world of their own making, until neither could hold back their passion for each other. Samara climaxed once more, and Eric followed swiftly after, crying out her name. He collapsed on top of her, and she slid her arms and legs around him. She cradled him against her body as their hearts pounded in unison together.

After several long moments, Eric eased himself out of her body and rolled onto his side to lie beside her, holding her against him. His hand smoothed her hair and he cradled her head against his chest, making her feel cherished.

“I didn’t hurt your arm, did I?”

“No, it was wonderful. You were wonderful,” she said, feeling boneless lying next to him. Making love with Eric made her feel complete in a way she’d never expected. He’d been so tender, so concerned for her pleasure. Her eyes drifted closed as she luxuriated in the warmth of his embrace.

Eric pulled the covers over them both. He turned her on her side away from him and pulled her back against his body, cocooning her. She felt safe and warm and it wasn’t long before she fell asleep.

&Eric opened& his eyes the next morning and looked at the woman curled up on the bed beside him. His mind raced over the events of last night. Making love to Samara had been a revelation. He hadn’t experienced anything quite like it before. He could see clearly now that the sexual encounters he’d experienced in the past has been soulless couplings, a satisfying of a physical need. With Samara he felt a connection as she shared her beautiful body with him. He’d been terrified of hurting her, causing him to be much more tender than he’d ever been in the past. He considered himself a hard man, uncaring of the feelings of other, but with her he wanted to be a better man.

When he’d come back from killing Gordon last night, he’d felt a momentary panic when he saw she wasn’t on the bed. Fear raced through him when for a moment he thought someone had taken her. The sound of the shower sent relief clamoring through him and he’d gone to the bathroom to join her. The sight of her fear, the sound of her crying against his chest when he held her, had torn him apart. He’d wanted for a moment for Gordon to be alive, so he could torture him, rip his limbs from his body, to punish him for what he’d done to his woman.

His woman. Eric savored the thought, for that was what she felt like to him. His woman, and for however long this thing between them lasted he would hold her to him, protect her, keep her safe from all who tried to harm her. Holding her against him last night had felt completely foreign to him, but right at the same time. He wasn’t one for cuddling, he wasn’t built to want to indulge in tender feelings. He’d never seen the point in ruining a perfectly good fuck with the lovey-dovey shit afterward. Even with Chelsea he’d barely tolerated holding her afterward, and only did it because she seemed to want it. When he’d eased out of Samara last night, intent on moving away from her, he’d found he couldn’t. His arms craved to hold her, the warmth of her body against him easing something deep inside him.

Not wanting to analyze what that meant, he stroked her hair back from her face as she slept beside him. He wanted to reach for her, to take her again, to lose himself inside her, but decided to leave her alone. She’d been through a tremendous ordeal last night, and it would take her a while to recover her strength. He rolled out of bed and went to the bathroom.

Trying to be as quiet as possible after showering and brushing his teeth so as not to wake her, he dressed quickly. As he headed out the door he decided to see if he could get some coffee at the motel office.

The moment he opened the door he caught the scent of the wolf who’d been watching him last night. It wasn’t particularly strong, so Eric knew he’d been there at some point during the night, but it was around their motel room door. He quickly backed up into the room and closed the door. A low growl escaped his throat before he could hold it back. Was this prick someone associated with Gordon? And why didn’t he confront them directly, instead of watching from a distance? He almost seemed to be taunting Eric with his presence by refusing to reveal himself.

They had to leave quickly, for the sake of Samara’s safety while she was still weak from her attack. It went against everything inside him to run from an enemy, for he’d faced those who sought to harm him in the past with strength and an unshakable will. He’d never backed down from a fight before in his life and it was galling to have to start now. If he’d been alone he would have gone on the attack and tracked the wolf down until he found him. But he had Samara to think about, she couldn’t stand the stress of a hunt after all she’d been through last night.

He went over to the bed and gently shook her shoulder to wake her. His hand drew back sharply when he felt how hot she was. Her skin was burning with fever.

“Oh Christ, baby, don’t do this,” he said as he went to her bag to get her some clothes. He threw the garments on the bed and tried again to shake her awake, being careful not to jostle her wound. She slowly opened her eyes; they were glassy and he could see she had trouble focusing on him.

“We have to get out of here. I’m going to help you to the bathroom so you can get ready. I can stay in there with you if you don’t think you can manage the shower.” Eric helped her into a sitting position and had to hold her limp body steady until she could support herself unassisted. Anxiety tied his stomach into a tight knot.

“I’m really hot. Why am I so hot?” she asked, her voice sounding heartbreakingly weak.

“I think you’ve developed a fever. We don’t have time to get into it right now. I need you to be strong and get ready to go. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” she said as she got out of bed. When she swayed on her feet Eric quickly reached out to steady her. She yanked her arm out of his grasp and scowled at him. Her movements were unsteady as she made her way to the bathroom with her clothes tucked under her arm. The bathroom door slammed shut behind her.

Eric added the grumpiness to the list of symptoms he had going around in his head. He had a feeling he knew what was wrong with her, but he dismissed the thought as soon as it came into his head. He told himself he didn’t have time to speculate about something that most likely wasn’t true.

He went out to the car and grabbed the map Rowan kept in the glove box. He returned to the room and spread the map on the bed; it took only moments to find the route he was looking for. They were going to make a detour, and delay their arrival at the compound. At this point getting Samara well was paramount to him. He needed to get somewhere safe, where they could lie low. It was a good idea considering how sick she was, not to mention they had to get away from the wolf who was watching them.

His father had an isolated cabin about five hours north of where they were. It would be the best place to hole up while Samara recovered from her injury.

Eric folded up the map, becoming aware that the shower had shut off, but Samara failed to appear. Stuffing the map in his pocket, he walked to the bathroom and opened the door. Samara sat on the closed lid of the toilet, a towel haphazardly wrapped around her. She was rubbing her injured arm as she turned her head to look up weakly at him.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, dread unfurling in his stomach, fearing he already knew the answer. It was another symptom of a disease that had no cure and he prayed she was not plagued with it.

“My arm is burning. I don’t understand. I should have healed more than this overnight, but the wound is still the same.”

“I need to ask you something,” Eric said as he drew her to her feet. He dried her skin and helped her get dressed as he spoke. “Are you certain your father was human?”

“I’m positive. My mother spent most of my short time with her lamenting the fact that she’d produced a mixed breed child with a human. What does that have to do with anything?”

“We need to go,” he said as he took her to the other room and sat her down on the bed. He could see what little energy she had drain away from her. Grabbing the bags, he instructed her to stay where she was while he sprinted out the door to stow their luggage in the truck. He came back to her, scooping her up in his arms. He hoped it was is over-active imagination that made her feel so fragile in his arms. “We’ll talk in the car. We need to get out of here first.”

Eric carried her to the SUV and gently settled her in the passenger seat, making sure her seatbelt was secured around her. He closed the door and locked it before turning to go to the motel office to pay the bill. He charged over to the desk, tersely giving his information and paid the bill, impatient with the clerk’s impersonal chatter. He growled his thanks as he took his receipt and ran out the door.

Settling in the driver side of the truck, Eric glanced at Samara. She was leaning with her head against the window, the lashes of her closed eyes resting against the purple shadows under them. He started the engine, unable to wrap his head around what he knew in his heart was happening to her.

When a human survived an attack by a werewolf, they went through a change where they became werewolves themselves. The odds of surviving such an attack varied greatly. Last night when he discovered she’d been bitten, it hadn’t occurred to him that she would be vulnerable. He thought her demon half would protect her and she would be immune to the bite. He now realized her human side was changing and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

As he pulled out of the motel parking lot he hoped they would get to the cabin before the worst of the change was upon her. He needed to get her there before the agony she was going to go through took hold. He knew the next three days were going to be hell on her, and he hated the feeling of powerlessness he felt inside. As he looked at her he tried to block from his mind what else he knew about the change.

The survival rate for females was very low.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 10

Eric drove for most of the day to reach the cabin. He didn’t want to make many stops and only did so to get gas and stock up on supplies for when they reached the cabin. He purchased several bottles of water for Samara. She was floating in and out of consciousness, and when she was awake she complained of a tremendous thirst. After downing bottle after bottle, it still didn’t seem enough to quench it.

They were three quarters of an hour away from the cabin when Samara finally woke after being asleep for about three hours. Eric glanced at her before quickly turning his eye back to the road. They had left the highway behind a short time ago, and now Eric was trying to navigate a narrow gravel road that led to the cabin.

“Eric, what’s wrong with me?”

Eric winced when he heard her voice the question he’d dreaded since he realized what was happening to her. He wanted to spare her the truth, not wanting to frighten her. Longing to tell her she was fighting an infection as a result of her wound, he debated for a moment and found he could not lie to her. She deserved to know what she would be facing.

“A change is taking place inside you as a result of the bite you suffered last night. When a werewolf bites a human, they go through a process where they become a werewolf themselves.”

“I know what happens when werewolves bite people, but I’m not fully human. How can this be happening to me?” Samara’s brow knotted together, and she turned her head weakly toward him.

“I don’t think it matters that you aren’t a full-blooded human. James Horn once explained to me why a wolf’s bite causes a human to turn. There is a chemical compound in the wolf saliva, and when it infects human blood, it causes werewolf DNA to attach itself to human DNA. Over a period of days, the human’s genetic material is take over by the wolf’s.”

“And the werewolf DNA is attaching itself to the portion of my genetic makeup that is human?”

“That is exactly what I think is happening.”

Silence enveloped the car as Eric once again concentrated on the road. He didn’t know how much Samara knew about what would happen to her. He wasn’t sure what to tell her, since he was hardly ready for it himself, and he sure as hell didn’t know how to prepare her for it.

“I saw it happen once,” she said quietly. “Last year one of our agents brought in a girl who survived a wolf attack. She was with us for three days, and the agony she went through was unbearable to witness. I can still remember the screams as clearly as if I’d heard them only yesterday, and I haven’t seen anything that bad before or since, and I’ve seen a lot of shit. She ended up dying at the end of it.” Samara was silent for a moment and Eric heard her draw in a deep breath. “I’m going to die, aren’t I, Eric?”

Eric looked over at her. He didn’t like her saying what he was thinking and he didn’t want her to go into this with the thought of her death already firmly planted in her mind. She needed to give herself a fighting chance, and if she deemed her death to be a forgone conclusion, that chance would be lost.

“You aren’t going to think like that,” he told her, his voice harsher than he meant it to be. His heart hammered in his chest at the thought of her dying, and he knew she was in for a fight for her life. “I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that this won’t be the most excruciating experience of your life. But you have to fight, you have to believe you are going to survive this.”

“When they brought the girl in, I was told females rarely survived the change. How can you be so sure I will?”

Eric pulled the car over to the side of the road and turned off the engine. He needed to focus all his attention on her to convince her she was strong enough to fight this. Turning to face her, he clasped her hand in his.

“I’m sure because I have no intention of letting you give up on yourself before you’ve given yourself a chance to prove the statistics wrong. It’s true that a lot of human females die from this, but you aren’t fully human. You’re half demon and we have to believe that this part of you will be what saves you. You are the strongest woman I’ve ever met, and you can get through this. I will be with you through every step.”

Eric watched Samara swallow and nod, her eyes so full of hope and trust that it felt like a knife blade piercing his heart. The thought of her dying filled him with unbearable pain. She had to live, because if she didn’t he would be left with a void bigger than the one he’d had when he left his pack. He didn’t think it would ever be filled.

He slid his hand up her arm until he was cupping the back of her neck. Drawing her close, he fused his lips to hers. The kiss lasted only a few moments before he pulled away and looked deeply into her eyes.

“We’ll get through this together,” he said before he turned away and restarted the car.

The remainder of the journey passed in silence. Eric drove the car until he ran out of road and all that remained was a narrow path they would have to traverse on foot. Knee-high grass waved with the wind on either side of the path, with the three-quarter moon lighting their way. He looked over at Samara, wondering if she had the strength to go to the cabin under her own steam or if he should carry her.

“We’re going to have to walk for about fifteen minutes. Do you think you can make it?”

She seemed to steel herself before she nodded. She got out of the car, swaying slightly before coming to stand straight. Eric looked at her for a moment to make sure she was going to be fine, before he went to the trunk for their bags. He would get Samara settled in the cabin before he came back for the supplies.

They set off down the path, and it took longer than Eric’s estimated fifteen minutes to get to the cabin. They had to stop several times when Samara complained of dizziness and had to rest against Eric until she gained enough strength to go on. He offered to carry her, but she declined and he could see that for her this was the first test of her strength. If she was going to fight this war she had to prove to herself that she could do it. If she allowed him to carry her she would be giving in to defeat.

The last part of the trip was uphill, and Eric could see her flagging. At one point he had to drop the bags to catch her when she stumbled. He felt like kicking himself for not insisting she let him carry her.

They finally came to the cabin and he knew the walk had taken a lot out of Samara when she sagged against the porch railing. He quickly found where his father hid the key to the cabin, and opened the door to usher her inside.

He led her over to the sofa in the living room and helped her sit down. After flicking on one of the lamps, he pulled a blanket from the back of one of the chairs and draped it over her body, easing her down to lay fully on the couch.

“I have to get the supplies from the car, but I’ll be as quick as I can. Will you be okay here alone for a while?”

“I’ll be fine, go get the stuff,” she said as she pulled the blanket tightly around her and closed her eyes.

Eric turned and walked to the door, making certain his cell phone was in the pocket of his jacket. He only hoped the reception out here was good enough to make the call he needed to make.

When he reached his car, he punched in Nick’s cell number and waited impatiently for his brother to answer.

“Nick, it’s Eric. I need your help.”

“What’s wrong? Where are you?” Nick’s voice had taken on a firm edge of worry and Eric wished he could reassure his brother that everything was fine, but he couldn’t.

“I’m at Dad’s cabin. A wolf attacked Samara. She’s going through the change and I don’t know what to do to help her. It turns out she’s half human. I need to know how to get her through this alive.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Eric. I haven’t personally heard of a female surviving. It’s been known to happen but it’s very rare. I don’t think there is anything you can do to stop what is happening to her.”

“Is that all you can tell me?” Eric asked, his frustration and despair spilling into his voice. His brother was a doctor and if Nick didn’t think Samara had a chance, then how the hell was he going to help her through this? “Jesus Nick, there must be something I can do. I can’t just sit and watch her die. Please tell me there is something I can do.” Eric’s voice cracked at this last statement, and he had to take a deep breath to pull himself together. Coming apart at this stage would be of no help to Samara.

“If you want to give her a fighting chance, you can’t leave her alone. I’ve heard of victims of the change throwing themselves out open windows because the pain is so bad, so you have make sure she doesn’t harm herself. You may have to restrain her. Keep giving her plenty of water. I don’t think you will be able to get her to eat anything, but you can try. The fever will get bad, so you will have to do whatever it takes to keep her cool.”

“Is there anything I can do for her pain?”

“No amount of painkillers in the world will dull what she is going to go through. When was she bitten?”

“Last night. Her symptoms started this morning. She’s feverish, grumpy and in and out of consciousness. She says her wound is burning. She’s also very thirsty and has been drinking a lot of water.”

“It’s good that she’s keeping up her fluid intake. It will take three days to go through the full change. Count today as day one. You have two days of hell left, and if she makes it through she will survive.”

“Thanks Nick.”

“I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.”

Eric disconnected the call and grabbed the supplies out of the SUV before heading back to the cabin. Nick might not be too optimistic about her chances, but Eric had to hope she would be different from the other females who’d been through the change. She wasn’t fully human, and as he’d told Samara in the car, they had to believe it would be her demon side that would save her.

&It didn’t take long& for Eric to get back to the cabin. He had just walked in the door and put the box of food on the table, slipping the eggs into the fridge, when the screaming started. He ran to the living room and discovered Samara lying on the sofa, curled up into a ball. Her injured arm was pressed against her chest, her face tight with the excruciating pain she was in. He wanted to draw the pain from her, to take it into his own body and experience it for her. He reached out his hand to touch her.

“Stay away from me. Don’t touch me, it makes it worse when you touch me,” she cried as she cringed away from him, and he slowly drew his hand back. He swallowed past the lump that formed in his throat at seeing her shrinking away from him.

Keep it together man, he thought, then crouched down so he was level with her face.

“I only want to help you. Please Samara, just let me help you.” He kept his voice soft as he tried to get her to understand, but still she drew away from him. She needed to be in a more comfortable position than her current one on the sofa. He had to get her to the bedroom where he had more room to work to get her fever down.

“Samara,” he began, keeping his voice as gentle and as soothing as possible. “I’m going to carry you to the bedroom. I know it’s going to hurt but we need to do this. You’ll be more comfortable on the bed. Please baby, you have to let me help you.”

He looked at her tight, white face and felt relief when she nodded. After pulling the blanket from her and tossing it aside, Eric eased one arm under her back and the other under her knees. He closed his ears to her whimpers of pain, knowing he had to hurt her to get her to the other room. His jaw clenched when she cried softly in his arms, the sound of it and the feel of tears dampening his shirt piercing his soul. Trying to walk without jostling her too much, he carried her to the bedroom and slowly eased her onto the bed. As soon as he let her go, she curled into a tight ball, her body rocking back and forth on the bed. Remembering what his brother said about making sure she drank lots of water, he went to the kitchen for a jug and a glass.

“Drink this,” he said once he returned to the room, handing her the glass as he sat beside her on the bed. He helped her sit up and she drank the water greedily. She lay back down, and Eric could feel the heat radiating off her body. He had to keep her cool, so he returned to the kitchen to fill a basin with cold water, stopping in the bathroom to retrieve a cloth on his way back to the bedroom.

“Baby, I have to cool you off. The fever is too high, so I’m going to undress you.”

Eric eased her clothes off, trying to spare her as much pain as he could. He felt every pain-filled noise she made like the lash of a whip against his skin. When she was bare before him, he dipped the cloth in the water and ran it over her heated skin. He repeated the process until her skin felt cool to the touch and she shivered. He helped her get under the covers, and he knew the pain of his ministrations had been too much for her when she lost consciousness.

Eric dumped the basin out in the bathroom sink, setting it aside knowing he would need it later. He didn’t fool himself into believing that this would be as bad as it got. Things were going to get a lot worse, and he only hoped he had enough strength for both of them to get her through his. He returned to the bedroom, easing under the covers next to Samara, holding her trembling body against him. He closed his eyes, willing himself to rest.

&Eric woke a short time later,& disoriented for a moment, unsure of where he was or what was going on. It came back to him in a rush. Samara’s attack, their hurried flight to the cabin, the wolf stalking them and her going through the change. He ran a tired hand over his face and stiffened when he heard a low growl beside him. He looked over at Samara and saw her eyes narrowed to glowing red slits, her teeth bared. Her skin flashed a mottled silver before returning to its normal color. He eased away from her.

He knew what was coming and he was able to catch a hold of her when she lunged for his throat. She snapped and clawed at him, and as much as he didn’t want to hurt her, he had to restrain her before she did any damage to herself or him.

He managed to pin her arms above her head as he straddled her, pressing his body weight against her. Bucking and thrashing beneath him, she tried to dislodge him, but he held her fast.

“I’ll kill you!” she screamed at him and he knew she was out of her mind with the changes going through her body.

“Samara, calm down. It’s going to be alright. No one is going to hurt you,” he said quietly, trying to speak as softly to her as possible, but it didn’t make any impression on her. She continued to struggle against him, and he had to exert considerable force, trying desperately to get her to remain still.

One of her arms escaped his hold, and her sharp nails raked across his cheek, leaving a burning trail. He watched, as if in slow motion, as a drop of his blood dripped off his face and splashed onto her lower lip. Her tongue darted out, sweeping it into her mouth.

A low rumble started in her chest as she tasted his blood, and he knew it was fuelling a bloodlust within her that would only increase her strength. She bucked and twisted, throwing him off her. He landed in a heap on the floor before springing quickly to his feet. Shoving him aside, she darted past him out of the room. Eric took off after her, wanting above all not to let her leave the cabin in the state she was in. He tackled her to the floor and held onto her as she screamed and struggled against him. His hold was firm, even as she raked her nails down his arm.

Ignoring her howls of anger, Eric held her for what felt like hours. Finally she stopped struggling, her body finally exhausted. She was limp in his arms when he scooped her up and carried her back to the bed. She looked up at him, her chest rising and falling with her labored breaths, her face a study of heart-breaking confusion. Reaching up to trace her hand over the bloodied furrows on his face, she let out a strangled sob.

“I hurt you, didn’t I? Why did I hurt you? I saw myself do it, but why? I’m so sorry,” she said, her breath shuddering. Eric pulled her to him, smoothing his hand down her naked back. Her skin was covered in sweat and he hoped her exertions hadn’t elevated her temperature.

“It’s okay, I’m fine. It wasn’t you, it was this change that is going on inside you,” he said, trying his best to calm her, to make her see she could not give in to despair.

“The thoughts in my head, they’re telling me to do awful things, to fight, to get away…” She pulled away from him, cradling her head in her hands, her body curled into a ball. “Why am I doing this, Eric? Please make it stop. Make the hurting stop.”

She sobbed quietly and Eric reached to hold her, sick to his stomach that this was all he could do for her. He’d never felt so useless in his life. She was his woman and he could not protect her from this, could not take her pain away, could not make the fever in her blood and brain stop. His blood ran cold when he heard her speak again.

“Kill me, Eric. Please. I can’t take this anymore, kill me…”

“Samara, that’s just the pain talking. You’ll get through this. Don’t give up on me. I need you to be strong, to hold on for me. I can’t lose you, not now when I’ve only just found you.”

“I don’t think I can be strong anymore,” she whispered, her voice so weak that he wanted to shake her, to infuse her with the force of his own strength.

“Then take all the strength you need from me.”

She was silent after that, but eventually her trembling stopped and she shifted closer to him. Putting her hand on his chest, she looked up at him with a silent plea. He knew what she wanted, what would give her the strength to fight this, so he bent his head down and kissed her with all the passion he possessed for her. Once he felt she’d taken all that she could, he broke off the kiss and gently eased them down on the bed, holding her loosely against him.

Soon he heard her even breathing and knew she was asleep. He wished this was the end of her suffering, but knew there was more to come, and it killed him to think of it.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 11

The convulsions began shortly after dawn on the third and final day of Samara’s transformation. Humans who went through this part of the change usually died at this point, their brains going into seizure.

Eric was on the bed beside her and he reached out to roll her onto her side away from him, holding on to her tightly, trying to absorb her tremors with his body.

After a few minutes her body stilled. The calm lasted for about half an hour before she went into seizure again. Eric continued to hold her as each movement of her body jackhammered against his.

They went through the cycle for most of the morning, until finally Samara was still for longer than an hour. As he held her, not daring to move should it trigger another episode, Eric finally decided that she must be through the worst of it. He eased away and looking down at her, relief pouring through him as at seeing her chest rising and falling. She was still breathing.

He had to get up and stretch for a few minutes. He walked around the bedroom, rubbing a hand over his face. They’d done it. She’d made it through the worst of it. When he looked over at Samara he froze, his muscles stiffening as he took in the sight of her lying lifeless, frozen in stillness upon the bed. He rushed to her side and put two fingers on the side of her neck, but could feel no pulse.

“No baby, no. You’ve come this far, don’t die on me now.” He put his head to her chest and heard the very weak beating of her heart. He racked his brain for what he could do for her. Smoothing his hand down her arm, his mind racing, he tried to think of something, anything that could help her. He remembered the night she was attacked, when she told him not to suppress his emotions so she could draw strength from him. It struck him that her human side made her vulnerable and perhaps it would be her succubus side that would make her stronger. He lay down beside her on the bed, hoping his theory would prove correct.

He stroked her hair, thinking about the night he’d met her, about the feelings of sexual attraction he had inside him when he’d seen her on the dance floor. He thought about all he felt for her now, the passion, desire, and although he didn’t want to admit it to himself, the love he was starting to feel for her. Those emotions poured out of him, and he prayed that she absorbed them and grew stronger.

“I can’t lose you,” he whispered as he leaned forward to press his lips against her face. Elation surged through him when he felt the warmth of her skin beneath his lips. Drawing back, he could see her color improving and the pulse beating in the curve of her throat.

He stayed where he was, memories of making love to her flicking through his mind, of what he felt when he held her, touched her and caressed her. He’d lost himself inside her that night, had given her a piece of himself he had given to no other.

After about an hour, Samara stirred beside him and opened her eyes. Eric looked down at her, glad to see her eyes were clear. The ravages of fever gone from her, and pain no longer etched lines in her face.

“Could I have a glass of water?” her voice rasped out and Eric went to the kitchen to get her a drink. He was glad to be away from her for a moment so he could pull himself together. His throat felt tight, his chest tense now that the crisis was over.

Holding the full glass of water, he was surprised when the contents sloshed over the rim. He couldn’t keep his hand from shaking. As he put the glass down, his breath shuddered out of him and he braced his hands against the counter. She’d survived the impossible, and he could hardly wrap his mind around it. She was going to be okay. He wanted to shout with happiness, but he could hardly manage to stand upright. Drawing in several more shaking breaths, his legs finally able to stand on their own without the counter’s support, he refilled the glass. His hand trembled for a moment before becoming steady.

He went back into the bedroom and handed her the glass. She drank down the whole thing before setting the empty glass on the stand beside the bed.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?” he asked as he lay down beside her, clasping her hand in his.

“Yes, you can keep thinking those sexy thoughts,” she said with a wink at him, and then snuggled down in his arms.

Eric chuckled, relief blooming through him as he held her tightly. This was his Samara and he was glad to have her back.

&Samara lay quietly beside Eric,& watching him sleep. Lines of exhaustion were apparent on his face, and she knew he’d remained awake through most of her ordeal. Once he was sure she’d fully recovered, he’d fallen asleep with his arms clasped tightly around her.

She couldn’t remember much of what she had gone through, although she could recall the excruciating pain. Looking at Eric’s face, she could see scratches raked down his cheek and she had a feeling she’d done that to him. Guilt knifed through her when she realized she’d hurt him when that was the last thing she ever wanted to do. Wanting to shower and feel normal again, to rid herself of three days’ worth of pain and fever, she eased away from him. Her legs were weak and shaky when she got out of bed, but she was determined to do this on her own.

She stood under the spray of hot water for a long time. As she washed she looked down at the wound on her arm, and it was finally managing to heal. She was sure some scarring would remain, but she would take the imperfections if it meant she would live.

When she finally finished she dried herself with a towel and returned to the bedroom to change her clothes. She looked over at Eric and was found she was loath to disturb him while he slept so peacefully. Making her way to the kitchen, she filled a glass with water before walking out the door and standing on the porch. It was so peaceful out here, and the cabin was located on top of a hill so she could see for miles.

A movement caught her eye, at the edge of the woods to the south, near where she and Eric had walked to reach the cabin.

She could see a lone wolf standing in the distance, watching her. For a moment she thought perhaps it was just an ordinary wolf, nothing more, but she could see even from this distance that it was larger than a normal wolf. Definitely a werewolf. She tensed for a few moments as she waited to see what it would do. The wolf turned and loped away back into the woods. Watching for several more minutes to make certain he was gone, she eventually relaxed.

It would be best to wait to tell Eric about their visitor. He’d had enough to deal with in the past few days and she didn’t want to burden him further. Besides, there was nothing he could do about it at the moment and she would much rather let him get his rest. She stayed outside for a while longer before going back inside and setting her glass on the table. She didn’t want to worry about the other werewolf when there was one in the bedroom who commanded all her attention. He’d saved her life, and she knew how she wanted to celebrate.

When she walked into the bedroom she saw Eric immediately. He was wearing a pair of jeans, zipped up with the button undone. He was rubbing his hair with a towel, and he’d scraped three days’ worth of beard from his face. His muscles were hard, and she could smell his smooth, warm skin. The power of her desire for him surged through her, and she wanted to show him how much she wanted him. Walking over to him, a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth, she pulled his head down to meet hers and pressed her mouth to his. She kissed him deeply before pulling back.

“I take it you’re feeling better?” he said as he leaned back to study her. His eyes devoured her, and she was very glad at that moment that she’d been created to be the ultimate in desirable female, if only so he could enjoy looking at her. She slowly shed her clothes, reveling in the heat of his gaze before going over and kneeling on the bed.

“I’m feeling much better, baby,” she said, her voice going husky as she watched him reach for the zipper of his jeans. He undid it slowly, his movements unhurried as he eased the denim down his lean hips and muscular thighs. She felt ready to pounce on him by the time he finished, but she held herself back and waited for him to join her.

He came to kneel in front of her on the bed, and their bodies pressed together, breast to chest, belly to belly, as he reached around to put his hands on her round bottom, pulling her tight against his erection. Twining her arms around his neck, she pulled her head down, lowering his mouth to hers. She kissed him with all the passion that had grown inside her from the moment she met him. He felt so good against her, the sensation of his skin pressed to hers so arousing she could feel her passion for him surging through her blood.

He eased them down on the bed, their mouths still fused. He rolled on to his back, pulling her on top of him. His hands glided up and down her back, and she purred like a cat being stroked. Breaking the kiss, she sat up and looked down at him. His skin was stretched taut over his flushed cheekbones, and she could feel how urgent his desire was for her. The connection between them was strong and she was completely tapped into his emotions. She swallowed hard, because she knew he was restraining himself, giving control over to her and allowing her to do with him what she would. The feeling of power was heady and it meant so much to her, since she knew what a dominant personality he had. Yet he was willing to let her take the lead.

Samara gave him her wickedest smile as she thought about all she wanted to do to him, to test the control he had over himself. She leaned down to kiss him again, slipping her tongue inside his mouth to twine with his. His hands reached up to bury themselves in her hair, and she slid her hands up his arms to grab hold of his wrists. Drawing his hands away from her, she pressed them into the pillow on either side of his head. She remembered him doing this to her the night they met, and smiled against his mouth, thinking that payback could certainly be a bitch.

Her mouth left his to travel to the other side of his cheek and she made her way to his ear. Taking the lobe into her mouth, she sucked on it before gently biting. Eric growled low in his throat, his arousal spiking, enhancing Samara’s satisfaction in drawing the reaction from him.

She worked her way down his throat, taking small bites of his skin as she made her way to his chest. His body trembled, and she felt absolute power at her ability to reduce such a strong man to shaking with his desire for her. Reaching his nipple, she took it into her mouth, sucking and flicking it with her tongue. His growls grew louder, and she gloried in her femininity. She had exercised her whiles in the past by using her gifts to enthrall men, but this time it meant so much more to her, because she knew Eric was reacting to her, not to some false feeling caused by her talents as a succubus.

She came to the hard, taut skin of his stomach, and traced it with her tongue, his muscles flexing and contracting under her attentions. She smoothed her hands down his side, down his hips and over his thighs. Stroking the hair-roughened skin of his legs, her hands teased, coming close to where she knew he wanted her to touch, but not giving him what he wanted. She could hear his breath rasping in and out, and she looked up to see the sweat beading on his forehead. He raised his head off the pillow, meeting her eyes and giving her a look of such intense arousal that she felt her own passion surging through her.

“Touch me, please, Samara,” he gritted out before dropping his head back on the pillow. She knew he was as close to begging as he was going to get, so she reached out to stroke up the length of his shaft. His groan, which sounded like it was somewhere between pleasure and agony, made her want to torment him further. Leaning down, she took him into her mouth, enjoying the hard, smooth feel of him. She tortured him with her lips and tongue, until she knew he was at his breaking point. He grasped her under her arms, lifting her away from him, and then he sat up and took one of her nipples in his mouth.

Her head dropped back as a low moan came from her throat, her hands clutching his thick hair. He licked and sucked on her breasts, building the fire of her arousal until it threatened to consume her.

Pushing his head away, she forced him back. She grasped his erection and slowly eased him inside her. Taking him in inch by agonizing inch, she dragged this moment out as long as possible. As she looked at him, she was certain her overwhelming desire for him was written all over her face and she wanted him to see it. When she’d taken all of him inside her, she slowly undulated her hips, moving above him as he lifted his hips to meet hers. Her rhythm picked up speed as his fingers found her clitoris. He stroked her until her thighs trembled and her movements were no longer smooth but quick and jerky as she climaxed. She cried out his name, as pulse after pulse of ecstasy coursed through her. Paralyzed by the force of her orgasm, she could not prevent him from rolling her onto her back. He wrapped her legs around his waist, driving himself into her over and over as he too found his satisfaction.

Samara could not move, her body boneless, and she loved the feel of his heavy body on top of hers. She didn’t think she ever wanted to move from this place, so right did it feel to be with him like this. He felt like the home she’d spent her entire life searching for.

“I must be getting heavy,” he murmured as he kissed her and rolled onto his side, bringing her body flush with his. She reached up to caress the side of his face that still bore her scratch marks.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, regretting that she’d marked him like that.

“I’m not. I’d gladly bear any mark, cut or scar if it meant you could be well,” he said as he gently kissed her lips. Samara didn’t think she could speak right then; her throat prickled at his words. He pulled back, his hand caressing the side of her face and all she could do was look at him, memorizing his face. Eventually her eyes became heavy and she rested her head on his shoulder. As her eyes drifted closed she remembered she hadn’t told Eric about the wolf who’d been watching them. She decided to tell him in the morning, not wanting anything to spoil this moment between them.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 12

Late the next morning, Eric stretched out in bed, reaching to touch Samara. Nothing but bare mattress met his hand and he bolted upright. The scent of freshly brewed coffee filled his nostrils and he leaned back with a grin when he saw her standing in the doorway. Her hair was still wet from her shower and she was wearing one of his shirts. At that moment, it was quite honestly one of the sexiest outfits he’d ever seen. Seeing her shrouded in the fabric of his shirt, the soft cotton embracing her body, emphasized for him that this was his woman. Possessiveness surged through him, and he had to hold himself back to keep from pulling her to him. He watched as she walked over to him and handed him a cup of coffee.

“Don’t get used to this. This is about as domestic as I get,” she said with a smile.

“I’ll take what I can get then,” he said before he sipped the coffee. “We should head out today and make for the compound. We’ve lost some time and I want to get this over with.”

“I agree. I should tell you that I saw a wolf yesterday over in the field, watching the cabin.”

“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?” Eric asked, his head jerking up and a scowl-line forming between his eyebrows. Samara reached out to smooth the line with her thumb before she spoke.

“I got distracted by another wolf,” she said as she straddled his lap. Eric set his coffee aside and looped his arms loosely around her. He let her kiss him for a few moments before gently pushing her away.

“As much as I’d like to get distracted again, I think we should get ready to go. There was a wolf prowling around the motel on the night you were attacked. If it’s the same one he’s managed to follow us out here.”

“Why don’t you take a shower while I get our stuff packed up?” she said as she gave him one more brief kiss. Eric finished his coffee before heading to the shower. He didn’t linger, wanting to get Samara out of there as quickly as possible if there was another wolf out there watching them. She’d gone through so much in the past few days to survive, he had to do everything in his power to protect her.

Once he was cleaned up he made a quick breakfast of eggs and toast, and looked at Samara in surprise when she ate hers quickly. She looked up at him and blushed.

“For some reason, I’m starving. Must be my wolf side coming out,” she joked.

“That would certainly explain it,” Eric said as he finished his breakfast.

“What other traits do you think I’ll have? Will I be able to transform into a wolf, do you think?”

“I don’t know. You aren’t a full werewolf, you are now a hybrid of wolf and demon. I think if you do end up transforming, it will most likely be a combination of the two. Although if your demon side is dominant, perhaps no wolf characteristics will show in you at all,” Eric said as he took the dishes over to the sink.

It didn’t take long for them to tidy up the cabin, leaving it exactly as they found it. They took their bags out to the porch and Eric locked the door before putting the key back in its place. The walk to the SUV was much quicker than their journey to the cabin had been four days ago. They arrived at the truck and Eric could detect the faint scent of wolf, a different one from the one he’d scented outside the motel room. He quickly stowed the luggage in the back as Samara got in the passenger side. He wanted to put as much distance between them and the wolf stalking them. He got in the car and they set off down the road leading them away from the cabin.

The ride to the highway passed in comfortable silence. Once they got back to the blacktop, Eric needed to focus on the road, as this part of the highway was full of steep hills and winding curves and turns.

He came to the top of a rather steep hill with several twists in it, and he pressed down on the brake lightly to slow their descent. His foot went all the way to the floor, and the truck remained traveling at the same speed. Alarm raced through him when he realized what that meant.

“Eric, I think you should slow down. The truck is going a little too fast,” Samara said, reaching for the strap hanging above the door.

“I’m afraid I can’t slow down. I don’t want you to panic, but it appears we don’t have any breaks.”

“What are we going to do?” Samara asked, and Eric was pleased to hear her keep the fear out of her voice. It was good that she was doing her best to stay calm, since hysteria at this point wouldn’t help the situation.

“Hopefully by downshifting, the transmission will drag down the truck enough to slow us,” Eric said as he engaged the clutch and downshifted to a lower gear. The truck slowed as he navigated the first curve of the hill. The vehicle managed to stay on the road, but it felt to Eric like they had flown around the turn. Even with downshifting they were gaining momentum and they hadn’t gotten through the worst of the curves in the road yet.

Eric shifted to a higher gear to keep up with their speed. They approached the next curve and it was on a hill. He downshifted from fourth to second, and could hear the whine of the transmission as it tried to drag down the speed of the heavy truck. The SUV went around the turn, still going too fast, and for a moment Eric felt himself lose control. The truck veered too close to the edge of the road, the scraping of the door frame of Samara’s side rubbing against the guard rails setting Eric’s teeth on edge. He struggled with the heavy piece of machinery, managing to get them back on the highway. He was grateful there were no other cars around, since it would make it a million times harder for him to keep the truck on the road and avoid other cars as well.

The truck finally made it down the hill, and Eric managed to get it to coast to a stop; he pulled off to the side of the road. He put on the emergency brake, and sat staring straight ahead. His knuckles ached and he tried to get his hands to relax their grip on the steering wheel.

“Well that was interesting,” Samara said as she undid her seatbelt and got out of the SUV. Eric watched her lean against the truck to keep from falling over, and he imagined her legs were as rubbery as his. He reached into the glove box, pawing through the junk in there until he came up with Rowan’s auto club information. He made the call before getting out of the truck.

“A tow truck will be here shortly. Thankfully Rowan keeps a subscription to CAA. You look like you’re about to fall down,” Eric said as he came to where Samara was standing against the truck.

“I feel like it,” she said, before letting out a yelp of surprise when he lifted her onto the hood of the truck so she could sit. He put his arms around her waist and felt her body melt into his. He nuzzled the top of her head with his cheek as her arms squeezed tight around him. After holding her for a few minutes he stepped back, his arms still held loosely around her waist.

“Feel better?” he asked as he looked into her eyes.

“Much better,” she said, smiling before drawing his head down to kiss him. Eric allowed himself to drown in her embrace for a few moments before he pulled back to come up for air.

“It’s too bad there’s no privacy out here. I’d show you what happens to little girls who tangle with the big bad wolf,” Eric said as he wiggled his eyebrows at her. Warmth expanded in his chest when he made her laugh.

“Once we get back to civilization I’m going to hold you to that.”

“It would be my pleasure. Hopefully it won’t take long for the tow truck to get here.”

Eric stood there with her, his arms never leaving her waist, and she looked at him with a question in her eyes. The coldness he had carried with him for the past six years slowly melted as he stood there with her at the side of the road.

“Why did you leave your pack?” she asked as she reached up to caress his cheek. He captured her hand and held it against his skin. He could feel the old tension creep into his muscles, and he made a concerted effort to relax.

“I left because of a woman,” he said, unable to keep the bitterness that lingered inside him out of his voice. He ground his back teeth as he sought to release what had been bottled up inside him for six long years.

“Talk to me, Eric,” Samara said as she looked into his eyes. He traced a finger down her cheek, wanting her to know everything about him. He didn’t want to keep anything back from her; there should be no secrets between them. With that in mind, he spoke.

“Six years ago I found a woman who I thought was my moon mate,” he said. “I brought her back to meet my pack. We stayed there for a while, to let her get used to the life she was in for. She was a human and hadn’t had much exposure to wolves. I told her I loved her and the next night I discovered her in bed with Rowan.

“My pack knew about the affair between Rowan and Chelsea. They encouraged it, because they could see what I could not: She was not my moon mate, and she didn’t love me. If she had she would not have fallen so easily into my brother’s arms. That’s what made it so much worse. If it had been anyone else but him, I would not have been so enraged. I would have challenged him, and either he would have killed me or I him. I couldn’t do it because he was my brother, my twin. I did get in a fight with him, but my other brother Nick broke it up before we could inflict too much physical damage on each other. I think if Nick had not broken it up, and let us fight it out, perhaps I could have burned out some of the rage I carried inside. I was angry at Rowan, at Chelsea, at my pack. I was humiliated that everyone in the pack knew what was going on, and I turned my back on them. I left the pack and haven’t returned.”

“What happened to her?” Samara asked quietly, running her hand down his arm. Her touch was like a soothing balm against his skin, taking with it the festering bitterness he’d harbored for so long. He felt freer than he had for a long time, like a burden had been lifted from him. He knew he had her to thank for it. He had to tell her the rest, to release it into the air where it wouldn’t haunt him anymore.

“She died giving birth to Rowan’s baby. After I left, he stuck with her. I’d heard from Nick that she died, and her baby, a little girl, was stillborn after a long labor. I couldn’t make myself go, not matter how much pain I knew Rowan was in. I couldn’t bring myself to forget what he’d done. I think it’s partly my fault that he got tangled up with Horn. If I’d come home, maybe I could have stopped him from getting that injection,” he said, his head bowed, surprised when the words came out of his mouth. He hadn’t realized until now that not only was he carrying around a lot of anger inside, but that guilt was in there alongside it. If he could have made peace with his brother, perhaps he could have saved him before it was too late. He felt Samara grasp his face between her hands, forcing his head up.

“Eric, look at me. It’s not your fault that Rowan took part in Horn’s experiment. You don’t know what he was thinking or what he was feeling at the time. He was a grown man, fully capable of making his own decisions. You have to let go of the guilt before it rots you from the inside out.” Samara put her arms around him and held him close.

He tensed for a few moments, then relaxed in her embrace. He allowed her to hold him, leaning on her as he had never leaned on anyone else before.

Eric stiffened when he heard the rumble of a truck’s engine coming their way. He lifted her off the hood, and stood beside her, his arm hooked around her waist.

The tow truck driver greeted them in a friendly manner, his eyes lingering on Samara for a moment too long for Eric’s liking. His arm tightened possessively around her, making sure the driver knew that she was his woman. The other man got the message and he gave Eric a subtle nod before going to work hooking up the SUV to the tow truck. Eric watched him closely, until he assured himself that the driver was no threat to Samara, and then he allowed himself to relax against her.

It took about forty minutes to arrive at a small town called Bonneville. The place boasted one traffic light, a handful of quaint stores along the main drag, and thankfully a car repair shop. The tow truck took them to the garage, and they got out of the vehicle.

“Why don’t you find us a place to stay, and I’ll catch up with you once I find out what’s happening with the truck,” Eric said as he reached out to clasp her hand loosely. He gave her a light squeeze, which she returned.

“Why don’t we meet at the restaurant we passed up the street?”

“Sure,” Eric said as he pulled her close for a quick kiss. “Be careful. There’s wolves out there.”

&Samara walked around town,& looking for a place to stay. She noticed a bed-and-breakfast that had its vacancy sign out, and she approached to knock on the door.

A plump, older woman who had an aura of kindness and laughter around her answered the door. She ushered Samara into the house. There was one remaining vacant room and Samara fell in love with it as soon as she saw it.

The bedroom contained an antique four-post bed, which was topped with a handmade quilt. Opposite the bed was a fireplace, in front of which Samara could imagine making love with Eric. What sold her on the room was her peek into the en-suite bathroom. It was actually two rooms; one contained a standalone glassed-in shower, a vanity and sink, but what drew Samara’s attention was the two-person Jacuzzi tub. There was a small doorway off to the side of the room, which contained a toilet and pedestal sink. She could hardly wait to get Eric into the room, and into the tub.

She registered and paid a deposit on the room, then walked out the house and down the sidewalk. She was so lost in thought that she walked into someone; it felt like running into a brick wall. For a moment she thought it was Eric, but when she stepped back to look at him, she gasped.

“What are you doing here?” she said. Blinking her eyes, she couldn’t believe she was looking at Alex. There were strict rules within the Order that applied to those on a mission. There was to be no physical contact with members, unless backup was needed. “Did Hadria send you out here to spy on me? When is she going to realize I can handle myself?”

“You know Hadria, she always worries about you,” Alex answered. He walked down the street with her, and Samara glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He was almost as big as Eric, and considering all the things that had happened to them thus far on the mission she was glad to have someone watching their backs. She had no intention of telling Cadric about Alex’s visit, because she knew Hadria well enough to know that she couldn’t help herself, and she didn’t want her to be punished for it.

“I’m supposed to meet Eric at a restaurant not far from here. Come with me and you can meet him,” she said as she made her way down the street. She noticed Alex’s hesitation, and stopped to look at him, her eyebrow raised in question.

“Nothing,” he said as he shook his head briefly. They walked down the street together and went to the restaurant to wait for Eric.

&Eric couldn’t believe& it was going to take two days for the SUV to be fixed. The break-lines had been severed and the whole of it needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, in a small town like this there was only one mechanic, and he told Eric apologetically that there were a few jobs he had to do before he could get to the truck.

Eric walked down the street, intent on getting to where he and Samara agreed to meet. He didn’t want to leave her on her own for too long. Knowing she could take care of herself didn’t put him at ease, and he wanted her in his sights so he could protect her.

He walked into the restaurant where they agreed to meet and spotted her immediately. The smile on his face died a quick death when he saw she was not alone. She was laughing at something her companion said, and Eric approached them, jealousy and anger burning in his belly. He caught the scent of her companion and realized that not only was he a wolf, he was also the one who’d watched Eric kill Samara’s attacker. His scent had been all around the entrance of their motel room.

Eric didn’t know what he wanted here, but he knew he had to get her away from him.

“Samara, can you come here a minute?” Eric said, trying to keep his anger out of his voice. He didn’t want to alarm Samara or tip off her companion that he knew who he was.”

Samara looked up at him and smiled, but when she saw his expression a look of concern settled on her features. When she came to stand beside him, he led her away from the table.

“We have to get out of here,” he said, his tone low as he tried to take her to the door of the restaurant.

“Why? What happened?” she asked, and Eric saw the concern on her face give way to hardened determination.

“The wolf at your table is the one who has been stalking us. I caught his scent outside the motel the morning after you were attacked. We have to get out of here. I’d try to take him out, but there are too many people in this town to witness it and it’s daylight.”

A look of relief came over Samara’s face and Eric pulled back from her, his eyebrows drawing together.

“I know him, Eric. He’s Hadria’s lover and he works for the Order. He’s safe. I suspect Hadria sent him here to check up on me. She still treats me like I’m helpless sometimes, and she hasn’t heard from me for a while so I suspect she’s worried.”

“He was watching when I killed the wolf who hurt you. I don’t like this, Samara. If he was watching me when I killed the wolf, he could have been watching when the wolf attacked you. Why didn’t he help you?”

“I don’t think he was watching, because Alex would never let anything happen to me.” Samara reached out and smoothed a hand down his cheek. “I’m sure when he was watching you he knew you had everything under control. I’m sure he didn’t want us to know he was looking out for us. He’s breaking a major Order rule by doing so.”

Samara took his hand. Reluctantly Eric followed her back to the table where she performed a brief introduction. Eric sized up the other wolf before he held out his hand.

They had lunch together, and Samara explained to Alex about their brakes failing. Eric remained silent through most of the meal. He didn’t like the other wolf, although he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. It could have been his casual familiarity with Samara that raised Eric’s hackles, or it could be the knowledge that he’d watched them for days and hadn’t revealed himself.

Eric didn’t trust him. Not by a long shot.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 13

Samara walked over to the garage with Eric to collect their luggage. He brooded as he walked beside her. It was obvious he didn’t trust Alex. Not that he’d said anything at lunch, he just stared at Alex with a cool look in his eyes.

“You’ll like the room I got for us,” she said, trying to lighten the mood. He didn’t reply. He continued walking with long-legged strides, a dark scowl etched on his features. She tried to talk to him, to assure him that she wasn’t worried about Alex.

“Eric, I know you don’t believe this, but Alex would never hurt us. He is part of the Order, and he would never betray another member. Not only have we sworn to protect humans, we’ve sworn to protect each other.”

“I don’t like his appearance here. He’s been watching us for days and he’s done nothing to help us. You can stop trying to convince me, I don’t trust him and I’m not going to.”

Samara walked beside him, a little tired of his distrustful nature. His intensity was sexy, but it also made him a pain in the ass at times.

They collected their luggage and Samara led the way back to the bed-and-breakfast. She walked in the front door, leading him to their room after introducing him to their landlady.

She glanced over at Eric after they entered the room and he looked impressed.

“Just wait till you see the bathroom,” she said as she took his hand and led him to the room in question. She watched his face when he looked at the tub, and a sexy grin bloomed on his face. The tub appeared to have inspired the same thoughts in him as it had in her.

“I need to go out for a while,” he said, turning to leave the room. “Stay here, I won’t be long.”

Puzzled by his sudden urge to leave, Samara went back into the bedroom to unpack their things while she waited for him. By the look on his face, he had something wicked cooked up in his sexy wolf brain.

&Eric scanned& his surroundings for any sign of Alex. He had plans for Samara when he got back to her, and he needed to assure himself that the other wolf wouldn’t be a problem.

He caught Alex’s scent, and felt a hand come down on his shoulder. Tensing, he turned to the other wolf.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, unable to keep the snarl out of his voice.

“I think I found the wolf who tampered with your brakes, but I need you to scent him to know for sure.”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it.”

Eric watched Alex roll his eyes with a sigh, and his lips tightened. “I’m here because my woman asked me to be. I haven’t made my presence known before now because I’m bending Order rules and I don’t want Hadria to catch hell. Now, do you want to verify that the wolf who tampered with your brakes is here, or not?”

With reluctance, Eric followed Alex down the street to a run-down rooming house. A new Buick Lasabre was parked out front, looking out of place next to the ramshackle building. As soon as Eric was beside the vehicle, he could smell the same wolf scent that had been all over the SUV this morning.

“That’s him. What are we going to do about it?” Eric asked as he looked over at Alex, still not trusting him despite the appearance that he was helping them.

“Why don’t you let me take care of it? I’ll keep an eye on him, and keep him from trying anything else. You go back to Samara, and guard her. How long is it going to take to get your truck fixed?”

“A few days, why?”

“Because if he’s here, there may be more to follow. We’ll need to get out of town. I can take you to the complex in my car, and you can pick up your truck once you and Samara finish the mission.”

This was the last thing Eric had expected him to say. He’d been half expecting Alex to suggest they go after the wolf right now, turning this little meeting into some kind of trap. He hadn’t figured on Alex wanting to take them to the compound, but what he said made sense. If there were more wolves out there, he needed to get Samara out of town tomorrow. Eric was not the type to run from his enemies, but he had more than himself to consider now.

“Call me if you have any trouble,” Eric said as he gave Alex his cell number.

He turned and walked down the street toward where he and Samara were staying. He didn’t want to worry about wolves right now. His woman needed seducing, and he was going to relish every moment of it.

&Alex stood in the shadows,& the glowing tip of his cigarette illuminating his face as he waited for his prey to leave the boarding house. His lackey had been careless, and he’d brought his fate upon himself. Like Gordon Lahey before him, he needed to die.

Alex watched as the man came out of the house, then flicked his cigarette away. His quarry turned, and a look of relief came over his face.

“Oh, it’s you, Alex. For a minute I thought it was the other wolf here in town.”

“Take a walk with me,” Alex said as he made his way down the street. His companion trusted him, and he followed, and Alex knew he had him. Trust no one was a rule he lived by and it had held him in good stead. Eventually they reached the field on the outskirts of town, and Alex knew it was time to strike.

“I’m going for a run. Keep an eye on things here for me, make sure no one sees me?” Alex asked as he stripped off his shirt.

“Sure, no problem.”

Alex stripped out of the rest of his clothes and shifted into his wolf form. Before his prey had time to blink, Alex leaped at him and ripped out his jugular. As his victim bled out on the grass, Alex bit him in several other places to make it look like an animal had savaged him.

He turned back to his human form and frowned as he used his shirt to wipe the blood from his face and chest. Killing had been worth the bloodied shirt, he decided. This idiot had almost killed something precious to his plans and he could not have allowed him to live. He had disobeyed orders to watch Eric and Samara only when he had tampered with the brakes on their vehicle.

Fortunately for all of them, the demoness had not died. Now that she had turned, she was valuable to their cause. She would be prime breeding stock for their new army. The time of the wolf was rising, and soon they would be unstoppable.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 14

Samara sighed as she floated in the realm between dreams and waking. She could feel a finger trailing down her nose, and tried to bat it away, wanting just five more minutes of sleep.

“Come on, beautiful. It’s time to get up,” a gravelly voice said beside her and she smiled against her pillow. She would never tire of waking up next to him, of his voice being the first thing she heard in the morning.

She rolled over onto her back and looked up at him. The scruff from a day’s beard growth gave him an untamed appearance, which would never stop causing her heart to beat faster. How could she have gotten so lucky to have this man come into her life?

“What are you thinking about?” he asked as he leaned down to kiss her lips, his touch soft.

“You,” she said, pulling his head down to deepen the kiss. He drew back and smiled at her.

“Baby, I’d love for this to go further, but we have to get ready to go. The wolf who tampered with our breaks is in town, and we have to get out of here. Alex has offered to take us to the compound in his car.”

She nodded, a little disappointed that they couldn’t make love again. It didn’t seem to matter how many times she’d been intimate with him, she wanted more. Even after all the loving he’d given her last night.

It didn’t take long for them to get ready to go. After they’d packed their things, they enjoyed a full breakfast prepared by their hostess.

Samara watched Eric phone Alex to let him know they were ready to go. His face was set in tense lines as he talked. Eric had trust issues, which wasn’t surprising considering his past. She hoped he had grown to trust her at least.

“He’ll be here in a few minutes,” he said as he slipped his cell phone in the pocket of his jacket. He came to stand beside her on the porch.

Samara’s breath caught at the sight of him standing there in the early morning sun. He hadn’t shaved this morning, and the light glinted off his stubbled cheeks. He squinted against the brightness of the light as he stared up the road, his eyes crinkling at the corners. She couldn’t stop herself from looking at him, from drinking in the sight of him. It was almost as if she was trying to capture the hard planes of his face, to store it away in her memories of their time together. She didn’t think he noticed her gaze, but when he reached out and took her hand she knew he had.

“You look worried,” she said when he turned to face her.

“I am. I would rather wait to use our truck, so we can go to the compound on our own. I don’t like involving him.”

“Eric, Alex is part of the Order. It’s better to have someone else watching our backs since we don’t know what we are going to face when we get to the compound. We can trust him. I’ve known him for years.”

“I knew my brother my entire life, and it still didn’t stop him from betraying me.”

Samara was silent, not knowing what to say to him. There was no denying the truth of what he said. She didn’t know how to convince him that Alex was one of the good guys. He was a member of the Order, and the consequences for betraying the Order were steep. Once you accepted the mark of the Order, if you betrayed your blood oath, death awaited you.

Eric sighed, and she felt him squeeze her hand. “Just promise me you’ll be careful.”

“We’ll both be careful,” she replied, lifting his hand to place a kiss on the back of it.

Alex pulled up in his car, and the two of them got in, with Eric choosing to sit in the back. She could feel the tension radiating off him in waves.

They drove in silence for several hours. Samara’s restlessness grew as the tension between the two men became almost unbearable. She was grateful when Alex stopped at a service station to get gas. She decided to go to the bathroom to get away from them, and hoped they didn’t kill each other before she got back.

&“I don’t& like going into this situation any more than you do,” Alex said as he pumped gas into the tank. Eric looked over at him, careful to keep his expression neutral. At least it was neutral; his lips were set in a firm line, sure, but it was a far sight better than pulled back and snarling, which is what he longed to do.. He’d noticed the way Alex watched Samara, his eyes just a little too hungry for Eric’s liking.

“And why is that?”

“This isn’t the type of mission Samara is usually sent on. Her skills are much more specialized. She’s the one you send in when you want someone killed.”

“She already told me she’s an assassin,” Eric said. The warm woman he held in his arms and made love to at night didn’t seem like a cold-blooded assassin. “She doesn’t look like a killer.”

“I know, that’s what makes her so good. They never see it coming. She gets her target in her thrall, and there is nothing that can save him from her. She’s an expert at what she does.”

Eric didn’t say anything else. Samara come back from the bathroom and try as he might, he could not see a vicious killer in the woman coming toward him.

“I’m sure she can handle herself when we get to the compound. She’s had dealings with the wolves injected with Horn’s formula. She had to kill one recently so I’m sure she will be fine,” Alex said as he removed the nozzle from the gas tank and put it back into the pump.

Eric felt coldness creep into his stomach at Alex’s words. He didn’t know why the other wolf felt it necessary to tell him about Samara killing one of Horn’s men. He tried to dismiss the words from his mind, wondering if Alex was trying to drive a wedge between them. That had to be it.

&They stopped& at a motel for the night, in a little town three hours away from the compound. Alex made a good point that they wanted to have a good night’s rest before they had to face Horn at the compound. Eric and Samara would rent a car and go to the compound separately from Alex, so as not to arouse suspicion. Alex had revealed that he was the member of the Order assigned to observe Horn at his complex.

Eric and Samara walked into their room together and put their bags down.

“I’ll be so glad when this is over, if only so I can sleep in my own bed and not in another motel room. Won’t you be glad to get back home?” Samara asked as she turned to Eric.

“I don’t have a home, so I’m used to this. The house we went to that night belongs to my brother Rowan. I haven’t had a home of my own in six years.”

“What do you mean? Where have you lived?”

“I go where the work is, and I go to different oil rigs out west. The companies either have camps we live in or they rent us hotel rooms. It never made sense to get a house.”

“It must have gotten lonely for you, though?”

“You get used to it,” he said, shrugging as he made his way to the bathroom.

Samara frowned at the closed bathroom door. Eric seemed much cooler and more distant tonight than he had this morning. She wondered what could have wrought such a change in him. Perhaps it was going to the compound and facing Horn tomorrow that was making him revert to his old self.

She got dressed for bed while she waited for Eric to finish in the bathroom. When he came out she went in and cleaned up. When she was done in the bathroom, the lights were out and Eric was already in bed.

She eased into the bed beside him and moved over close to him. He pulled away and moved over, closer to the edge. It was almost like that first night they’d shared a bed in their motel room.

“Eric, what’s wrong?” she asked, at a loss to explain his attitude.

“I’m just tired, and we have to have our wits about us tomorrow so we need a good night’s sleep.”

“Are you sure that’s all?” Samara had a feeling he wasn’t being honest with her, but all she could do was hope he would tell her the truth.

“That’s all. Good night, Samara,” Eric said as he rolled over to face away from her.

“Good night, Eric,” she said, turning her back to him. She lay like that for a long time, wondering what they would face tomorrow. Whatever the outcome, at least this mission would soon finish. She hoped she and Eric could move past it once it was all over.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 15

Ryan Connelly sat in the guard booth at the gate of the Horn compound. There wasn’t much going on tonight, just as it’d been quiet almost every night since he’d come here. When Cadric had assigned him to go under cover at the complex he’d expected things to be much more exciting. Thus far nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

He was about to start reading a book when he saw headlights approaching up the road. He’d been expecting a member of the Order for several days and he wondered if it was her. He’d never met her, but he’d seen her picture. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, which stood to reason since she was a succubus.

When the car stopped at the guard booth, the window rolled down to reveal a lone man. A werewolf, in fact, who didn’t look familiar to Ryan.

“I’m here to see James Horn, he’s expecting me. My name’s Alex Tremblay.”

Ryan phoned up to the house and it did appear that the wolf was expected. Something about his name rang a bell with Ryan but he could not place it. As he pushed the button to open the gate, his gut was telling him that something was amiss. Where had he heard that name before?

He thought about it for several minutes, about to pick up his book, when it came to him and adrenaline spiked through his body. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Cadric’s office number. Since his boss was a workaholic, chances were good that he was in the office.

“Sir, did you send Alex Tremblay to Horn’s compound?”

“No. He’s supposed to be on leave of absence to take care of a family emergency.”

“That’s funny, because I saw him drive in here not five minutes ago.”

Ryan heard Cadric curse before he spoke again. “Has Samara arrived yet?”

“No sir. I’ve checked the logs for the past few days, and there has been no sign of her or the wolf she’s traveling with.”

“I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I intend to find out.”

“What do I do about Tremblay?”

“Nothing. Let’s see how this plays out.”

Ryan heard the click in his ear as Cadric disconnected the call. He had a feeling that things were about to get exciting around here.

&The following morning& Samara and Eric made their way to their rental car. It seemed Eric had gotten over whatever was bothering him the night before. While he wasn’t as easy with her as he had been, he was at least looking at her and speaking to her in more than monosyllables.

“Are you nervous?” he asked as he started the car.

“A little. I don’t like not knowing what we are getting into. And since someone doesn’t want us to go to the compound at all, I’d be a fool not to go in with a healthy sense of caution.”

“Do you think Horn is responsible for the attack on you and tampering with our brakes?”

“He seems like the most likely choice. I don’t know how he knew we were coming. Few people in the Order know about this mission.”

“If your organization was able to get someone into his compound, couldn’t he get someone inside yours?”

“It would have been almost impossible for him to do that. Members of the Order are hand-picked by the heads of the cells. Cadric is head of our cell. You can’t just volunteer to be part of it. Once you commit to the Order, you have to take a blood oath. If someone came into the order whose loyalty was not with us, then once they took the oath their mark would not appear.”

“Could he have gotten someone already on the inside?”

“Anything is possible. It would be quite easy to find out who it is.”

“How?”

“When someone who has taken a blood oath betrays the Order they become marked for death. It’s impossible to hide such a mark, because it usually appears on the face. It’s a broken circle in red. Once Cadric learns of their betrayal, and he would find out, they will have the mark.”

“So if Alex had betrayed us, then we would know?”

“If Cadric knows, then we would know. If you are concerned about Alex, then I can call Hadria when we get to the compound and see if she sent Alex to check up on me.”

“Why wouldn’t you call Cadric? Wouldn’t that be the quickest way to find out?”

Samara sighed, looking over at Eric with a frown on her face.

“What is it?” Eric asked, glancing at her before turning his eyes back to the road.

“I can’t call Cadric. If Hadria did send him, then I don’t want her disciplined for this. And she would be, since it’s forbidden for anyone to interfere with a mission until ordered to do so.”

“So if it turns out that Alex is legit, then we might have someone else at the compound who is out to get us. Are you sure we should go through with this?”

“I have to. I can’t fail. This is a test for me, and too much is riding on this mission for me to quit now. You are under no obligation to come with me. You aren’t a part of the Order, and there is no reason for you to be risking your life. If you want to back out, I won’t blame you.”

“As far as I’m concerned, I became involved when Horn injected my brother with his formula. Besides, I can’t let you do this on your own.”

Samara was silent as he looked over at her, with a fierce light in her eyes.

“Thank you,” she said with a smile.

“No problem,” he said, returning her smile before he moved his gaze back to the road. He reached over and rested his hand on top of her thigh, and she placed her hand on top of his. He turned it over and gave her a gentle squeeze. Their hands remained linked as they made their way to the compound.

&Hadria sat& outside Cadric’s office and waited for Nick to show up. She had no idea what was going on, but whatever it was it couldn’t be good. Cadric had sounded pissed when he left the message on her phone last night. She looked up when Nick walked through the door and took a seat beside her.

“What’s going on? I’m surprised Cadric wants to see both of us this morning. Do you think it could involve Samara and Eric?” Nick asked with a glance over at her.

“I don’t know. I hope she’s alright,” Hadria replied, drawing her bottom lip between her teeth.

“I’m sure she is. I told you that Eric called me after she pulled through the change. She’s fine.”

Hadria looked up in surprise when Nick reached out and clasped her hand. She almost pulled away from him, knowing she should, but she needed the comfort he was offering.

Cadric came out of his office, and Hadria could tell by the look on his face that pissed didn’t even begin to describe his mood. He inclined his head toward his office, and Hadria dropped Nick’s hand, stood up and walked into the office. Her stomach tightened as she took one of the seats in front of Cadric’s desk, with Nick taking the seat beside her. She flinched when Cadric banged the door shut behind him.

“I want to know if you sent Alex after Samara to keep an eye on her,” Cadric asked without preamble, sitting down at his desk. Shock raced through Hadria at his question.

“Of course not. I wouldn’t violate the rules for interference, no matter how concerned I am about her. What the hell is going on, Cadric?”

“I’ll tell you what’s going on,” Cadric said, his Norse accent thickening, showing just how angry he was. “I got a phone call last night from our agent at Horn’s compound, who said Alex arrived. What I want to know is why. I’m going to ask you again, did you send him after Samara?”

“No I didn’t. I have no idea what he’s doing there. The last thing I knew he was going out of town to attend to a family emergency.”

Cadric sighed, and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again there was an intense light there.

“I was afraid this would be the case. We have a situation on our hands, and we have to be careful how we handle it. I won’t have this mission jeopardized. Both of you know how much is riding on this. Have you heard from Eric at all?” Cadric shifted his gaze to Nick.

“The last time I heard from him, it was after the werewolf attack on Samara and when she went through the change. He did phone to tell me that she had survived it, but I haven’t heard from him since.”

“Okay. They may not know what Alex is up to. I need the two of you to take a team to the compound, and make sure they are safe. I think we can all agree that Alex has no legitimate reason to be at that compound. He has betrayed us. I’ll make arrangements for the jet to leave Norman Roger’s airport in about two hours. The team will be waiting for you there. Do whatever is necessary to see that this mission does not fail.”

Hadria stood and walked out of Cadric’s office feeling sick. She continued down the hall, fighting for control over her emotions. She wanted to scream in anger and weep at Alex’s betrayal. Her curse had struck again. She had hoped Alex would be different, but it turned out he wasn’t.

She looked up, startled when Nick placed his hand on her arm and pulled her to a halt.

“Are you okay?” he asked, concern evident in his eyes, but she had to resist the urge to turn away from him, lest he betray her too.

“I’m doing great, Nick,” she said, her voice overflowing with sarcasm. “My lover has betrayed us all, and my adopted child’s life is in danger and could be forfeit if we don’t get there in time.”

“If you need to take you frustration out on me, that’s fine. Just remember we are on the same team and that I have a brother there who’s in just as much danger as Samara is.”

Hadria closed her eyes at Nick’s quiet words, remorse filling her. She wasn’t being fair to him.

“It’s my fault Alex has betrayed us,” she said, needing to share with him why she had to keep him at a distance. “Centuries ago, I refused a werewolf’s entry into Valhalla. One of Loki’s tests, to see if I would accept a child of Fenrir the Wolf. I failed, and Loki cursed me. He said I would fall in love with the children of Fenrir, and they would betray me. So you see, that’s why Alex has betrayed the Order. It’s because of my curse.”

“As far as I’m concerned, Alex is capable of making his own decisions, and he has decided to go against the Order. It has nothing to do with you and some centuries-old curse. Now let’s go save your daughter and my brother,” he said as he strode down the hall.

Hadria followed behind, trying to take comfort from his words, but she knew that they weren’t true. She was cursed and if she stayed around Nick too long it would only be a matter of time before he betrayed her too.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 16

Samara and Eric arrived at the compound at about three in the afternoon, and drove up to the guard booth. Eric pulled to a stop and rolled down the window.

“Are you expected?” the guard said with a glance at both of them.

“No. I’m here to see James Horn. Tell him it’s Eric Johnson.”

Eric watched the guard pick up a phone and speak to someone on the other end. Both he and Samara knew how important it was for them to get inside. Although it wasn’t said out loud, they both wondered if Horn would refuse them admittance.

The guard put the phone down, and the gate attached to the fence enclosing the compound swung open.

“You may proceed. Someone will meet you at the house.”

Eric drove the car through the gate and made his way up the long drive leading to the main house. There were several smaller buildings dotting the compound.

“Well that’s the first test passed,” Samara said, the tension still evident in her voice.

Eric looked at all the buildings as they approached the biggest, which he knew to be Horn’s residence.

“I wonder where he keeps the formula and his research,” Samara said as she looked out the window. “If we have to search all these building it’s going to take forever.”

“We won’t have to search them. Horn will keep his research close to him, so we’ll find it in the house.”

Eric pulled into a small parking lot beside the house. He and Samara got out of the car, and he went to the back to retrieve their luggage. They made their way to the house, where a tall blond man was waiting for them. Surprised, Eric saw it was James Horn himself.

“Eric, how are you?” he said as he strode forward to shake Eric’s hand. Eric forced himself to relax as he looked at the man he believed responsible for what happened to Rowan. He wanted to rip him apart, but he couldn’t’ do that until they’d gotten what they came for.

“I’m doing well,” he said, glad his voice came out sounding normal. “I’d like to you to meet my mate, Samara. Samara, this is James Horn.”

“I’m delighted to meet you, Mr. Horn,” Samara said as she reached her hand out toward James. He took it with an eager smile upon his face. Eric had to suppress his urge to snatch her hand away from the other wolf.

“Please, call me James,” he said as he dropped Samara’s hand. “Let’s get you two settled into a room.”

Eric and Samara followed behind their host and looked around the house. It looked quite ordinary, albeit large. Eric could see no evidence of a laboratory. He suspected James would not put it where all could see it upon entering the house.

James led them up the stairs and down a long corridor until they reached the third door on the left.

“We always keep rooms ready for visitors,” James said as he unlocked the door and motioned for them to precede him into the room. Eric placed their luggage on the floor inside the door.

“We’ll talk later, once you’ve had a chance to settle in and relax,” James said before he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him. Eric waited a few minutes to make sure he was gone before reaching out to twist the lock on the door.

The guest room could have rivalled that of a five-star hotel. A king-size bed sat in the middle of the room. The room was large enough not only for the bed, but for a love seat and chairs as well. Glass French doors led to a balcony and sunlight poured into the room.

Eric watched Samara cross the room over to the doors, pulling back the curtain to look outside. The afternoon sun shone on her, its light bouncing off the smooth sheen of her hair. She turned to look at him, the light kissing her pale skin and making her green eyes luminous. Eric hesitated for a moment before taking a step toward her. She looked like an angel standing there in the light, and he was afraid for a moment that if he reached out she would disappear.

He stroked one finger down her cheek as he drank in the sheer perfection of her beauty. Desire swirled around them as he touched the petal softness of her skin.

“You’ve ensnared me with your beauty. Is what I feel for you real or is it a succubus trick?” he asked as he trailed his finger down her throat.

“It’s real, Eric. I haven’t been able to use my powers against you. This is no trick,” she said, reaching up to place her hand against the side of his face. “The night we met, I tried to get you to go with me, that’s why I kept touching you. You resisted me, and I finally ended up goading you.”

“I’m glad this is real,” he said as he leaned down to brush his lips against hers. Before their passion could take hold, he pulled back. “We shouldn’t do this. We have to come up with a plan.”

“I think it best to wait until tonight, after everyone is asleep, before we explore the house. There will be less chance of getting caught then. The question is, what are we going to do in the meantime?” she said. She looked up at him, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

“Oh, I can think of something,” he said as he drew her down to the bed and kissed her with all the pent-up passion he was feeling at that moment.

&Hadria winced& as she looked down at her ragged fingernail, and stuck it in her mouth. She’d bitten it down to the quick without realizing it. They were on their way to the compound, and it wasn’t fast enough. A sick feeling settled in the pit of her stomach at the thought of Samara in danger. Hadria could not have loved her more if she’d given birth to her. The thought of her in danger because Alex had betrayed them was almost more than she could take. It was her fault, her curse had caused this. If something happened to Samara she did not think she could live with herself.

She jumped when a large, masculine hand came to rest on her arm. Nick was sitting beside her on the plane, and had been silent for the duration of the trip.

“We’ll get there in time. She’ll be fine,” he said quietly. Hadria eased her finger out of her mouth and looked over at him.

“Can you read minds? How did you know what I was thinking?” she asked.

“I can’t read minds, but I can read you. A line appears between your eyebrows when you’re worried,” he said, reaching up to smooth the line with his fingers. “You also bite your nails when you’re stressed.”

Hadria pulled back and felt a small twinge of regret at the disappointed look on his face. His hand fell to his side. It was always this way with her. One wolf betrays her and she’s ready to move on to the next one. It was a cycle she had lived through for over a thousand years. It couldn’t happen again, so she put up a mental wall to keep Nick out.

“How much longer do you think it will take to get there?” she asked, saying the first thing she could think of to distract him.

“It should only be a few more hours. We’ll have to wait until nightfall, when we can let the vamps out.”

Hadria glanced over her shoulder toward the back of the private jet. A special compartment housed the five vampire members of their team. It didn’t allow any sunlight to penetrate and touch the sleeping vampires loaded in hours ago. They’d gone to the airport from the Order’s headquarters in a custom-built van that kept out the sun. Hadria knew Cadric had selected the team, and that the vamps were good at what they did. She wished they didn’t have to wait until dark to get into the compound. She wanted to go as soon as they arrived and get Samara and Eric out. The longer they waited, the more risk to Samara’s and Eric’s lives.

“If Alex needs to be taken out, will you be able to do it?” Nick asked beside her, and Hadria felt a quick flash of anger at his question.

“Are you suggesting that I can’t do my job?” she asked, her eyes narrowing in a glare.

“No, I’m not suggesting that. You are good at what you do. I’m just wondering if you still have feelings for him that could get in the way. Be honest with me, Hadria. I don’t want any surprises when we get there.”

“Alex betrayed me and put Samara in danger. I will kill him if I get my hands on him. Does that answer your question?” she asked before turning her head away and closing her eyes. She felt him put his hand on her arm, but she jerked it away.

She managed to maintain her anger for several hours. It was what she needed to keep him at a distance.

&“Explain& to me again why we have allowed them into the compound. Their presence here could compromise everything. I won’t have my research sacrificed.”

Alex looked over at James Horn, and could not believe he had to put up with such a weak man. It was hard to believe that he was a werewolf, for he acted like a pathetic human most of the time. All he cared about was his lab and his precious research.

“They are here because she is now half wolf. She will be invaluable as breeding stock. Just think of the sons she will produce. She was strong enough to go through the change and I’m positive that strength will pass on to her children, to my children.”

“Oh, so you have plans to use her yourself? Her beauty is spectacular, I’ve not see anyone like her. I’m sure you will have to fight to keep her for your mate.”

“Don’t worry about that. I will kill anyone who tries to take her from me. My sons will be part of a superior breed of wolf. They won’t be the pathetic whelps that wolves have produced with humans,” Alex said, his disdain evident as he spoke. As far as he was concerned, wolves that came from human mothers didn’t even deserve to be called wolves. Half of them didn’t survive their first turning. His sons would be different. Samara would produce children who would surpass anything that had ever come before. Then he wouldn’t need the useless wolf in front of him. He would be able to produce strong enhanced wolves all on his own.

“You’re forgetting one thing. What do we do with him?”

“We kill him,” Alex said, his tone suggesting that he was speaking to an idiot.

“And you think Eric is going to go like a lamb to the slaughter, then?”

“I’m sure they will separate to look for the lab. When they do, I’ll come to him and convince him that she is in danger, that he needs to come with me. I’ll lure him away from the compound and then I’ll kill him.”

“You seem rather sure of yourself. How can you be certain he trusts you?”

“He doesn’t have to trust me. She is his weakness, and he will come if he thinks there is even a possibility of her being in danger.”

Alex sat back in his chair, a feeling of satisfaction coming over him. Everything was coming together and finally Samara would be his. He had coveted her for years, becoming involved with Hadria to be closer to her. She had looked on him as a friend and nothing more. Once he got her away from Eric and Hadria, she would come to see him as that man for her. It would be pure pleasure breeding strong sons on her.

He rubbed his cheek, feeling a slight itching on his skin. He looked over at Horn and at that very moment a look of horror came over the other wolf’s face.

“What is your problem?” Alex asked, wondering why the hell Horn was looking at him like that.

“Your cheek. Something is happening to your face,” Horn said, the terror in his voice matching the look on his face. Alex got up and walked over the mirror. He could see the skin on his cheek changing color, until a broken circle appeared to burn itself bright red into his skin.

“Fuck,” he ground out, spinning away from the mirror in agitation. “It appears Cadric has discovered my betrayal. Our plans have changed. It appears we don’t have the leisure of time anymore.”

“How do you know?” Horn asked, his voice mirroring the puzzlement on his face.

“Do you see this mark?” Alex said as he indicated his damaged cheek. “Once Samara sees this, we won’t be able to lure her or Eric anywhere. We have to act now and we have to act fast. Cadric must already have a team on the way here.”

Alex looked out the window to see dusk was arriving. He needed to deal with Eric and Samara now, because if Cadric sent a team with vamps they would mobilize by full dark.

“What are we going to do?” Horn asked, his voice still holding a frightened edge. If it hadn’t been for Horn’s brilliant mind when it came to genetic research, Alex would have killed him long ago. Alex couldn’t stand weakness of any kind, and Horn marinated in it. Once he’d used James for all he could, he would get rid of him with pleasure.

“Get some of your guards together. We’re going to have to do something about Eric and Samara before the Order gets here. Then I want you to go to the lab and make sure your research cannot be found. I want all of the formula destroyed except for one vial. Put that into a syringe.”

“What are you going to do with it?” Horn asked as he rushed to the phone on the other side of the room. Alex waited for him to finish barking orders into the handset before answering his question.

“I’m going to kill Eric and I’m going to use the Order to do it. Once he’s injected with the formula they will be unable to stop his madness and will have to kill him.”

“Why can’t we just get out of here before they come?” Horn asked as he wiped the sweat from his brow, before running his hand down the leg of his khaki pants. Disgust burned in Alex’s gut, and he gritted his teeth.

“I don’t like leaving loose ends. I want the woman for myself and as long as Eric is alive he will be one step behind me.”

“I don’t like this, Alex. I could lose everything I’ve worked for.”

“You can set up another lab anywhere, and as long as you have your research you lose nothing. If you don’t do something now, you could lose your life because I will end it for you.” Alex smiled in satisfaction when James swallowed, and he knew the other wolf would no longer balk at anything he said. Being intimidating had its uses, especially with a wolf as frightened as James.

Six guards arrived and stepped into the room. They oozed strength, and Alex intended to use that strength to bring Eric down and subdue Samara.

“We’re going to take care of the couple who arrived here earlier today. Under no circumstances do I want the woman harmed,” Alex ordered as he looked at the wolves assembled before him.

“What do you want us to do with her?” asked one of the guards.

“Restrain her while we take care of her lover. Once I deal with him, I’ll take care of her. You must be careful to touch her as little as possible. Under no circumstance are you to allow her to touch you. She is a succubus and if she manages to get her hands on you, you will be powerless to resist her. Wear gloves when you restrain her,” Alex said. He hated the change of plans. He hated making a move before he had thought out every angle, but there was no time left for him to think. He needed to act now.

“Let’s go,” he growled as he led the way out of the room.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 17

Samara looked over at Eric from her prone position on the bed. He was in the act of pulling on a pair of jeans, and she thought it was a shame he was covering his beautiful behind. He looked over at her and grinned, as if he could read her thoughts.

“It’s time to get going, sweetheart,” he said, his voice taking on a tender tone.

Before Samara could reply the door to their bedroom and the door leading from the bathroom both flew open and crashed against the wall. Samara stared in disbelief as Alex charged in and pointed a Taser at Eric. The prongs connected with the skin on her lover’s chest and his body jerked violently before he dropped to the floor, arching and shaking.

“Eric!” she screamed as gloved hands reached out to hold her hands above her head. She writhed against her captor, attempting to kick him and trying to pull her arms free. Another wolf slapped a handcuff on her right wrist before threading the other cuff through the bars on the bed. He attached the manacle to her other wrist and they released her. Her eyes narrowed when Alex approached her and sat down on the bed. She saw the mark on his cheek and hissed at him.

“You’re a dead man, do you realize that? Cadric knows what you’ve done and he will send his people in here to kill you,” she said, pulling against her restraints.

“Why don’t you be a good girl and wait for me to take care of your lover? I’ll be back to deal with you later,” Alex said as his eyes ran over her naked body. She fought against the shiver of revulsion at the lust present in his eyes. She had a feeling that killing her wasn’t the first thing on Alex’s list when he came back.

“I’m not even going to bother waiting for the other members of the Order. I’m going to kill you myself,” she said through gritted teeth.

“You’re welcome to try. I always like a woman with a little bit of fight in her.”

Two of the guards picked Eric’s prone body up off the floor and carried him out of the room. The other guards followed them, leaving Alex behind.

He raised his Taser, and the two prongs shot out and embedded themselves in her shoulder. The puncture wounds felt like nothing when compared to the electricity coursing through her body. Then she felt nothing and everything went black.

&Samara opened& her eyes and blinked in confusion. The memory of what had happened came back to her when she felt the cold press of the handcuffs against her wrists. She had no idea how much time had passed since Alex had rendered her unconscious with the Taser. The room was dark now, and she hoped she could get herself free in time to save Eric. The chains on the handcuffs clinked against the brass of the bed frame as she pulled it taut. She pulled her arms outward, the muscles of her shoulders straining as she used all her strength against the chain. Grimacing at the pain where the cuffs cut into her wrists, ignoring the blood running down her forearm, she pulled harder. Her arms flew apart when the chain snapped in two.

She rolled over and stood beside the bed. Her legs felt like jelly. Bracing her hand against the headboard, she stood still until she found her equilibrium. Once she was steady she made her way to her bag and pulled on her jeans. She pulled out an old black T-shirt, and stared at it for a fleeting moment, thinking it was especially appropriate to put on a shirt for Godsmack’s song “Release the Demons” on the front.

As soon as she’d finished dressing, she closed her eyes and concentrated on her demon form. For a moment she worried it wouldn’t come, now that she was half wolf, but soon enough she felt the familiar ache between her shoulder blades as her wings sprouted from her back and ripped through her shirt. Strength flooded every cell in her body. Her hands transformed, her fingernails changing to three-inch razor-sharp talons. Her skin turned silver, and she knew her eyes would be glowing red above sharpened cheekbones more prominent than normal. She ran her tongue along her teeth, satisfied that she now possessed fangs that could rip through flesh. Cadric had forbidden her to take her demon form, because it rendered her less in control of herself. Bloodlust pounded through her veins, and a voice roared in her head to get to Eric and kill whoever thought to harm him.

She turned to the door just as it eased open. Her night vision was sharp, and she watched the guard who had chained her to the bed push open the door.

She let out a sharp hiss as she lunged at him, intending to rip him to pieces. He moved out of the way at the last second and she fetched up against the wall. This served only to piss her off and she turned back to him.

“Samara, it’s okay. I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to help you.”

“You lie.” The voice coming out of her mouth would not have been recognizable by anyone who knew her. It had taken a dark, thick quality, giving her already husky voice a dangerous edge.

“I’m with the Order. My name is Ryan,” he said as he opened his shirt and revealed the mark on his chest.

“Where have they taken Eric?” she asked, deciding to let him live for the moment.

“He’s in Horn’s lab. I’ll show you the way there. We have to hurry, before they do God knows what to him.”

Samara followed him out. A cold smile twisted her lips when she thought about what she was going to do to Alex once she found him.

&Eric opened his eyes,& and for a moment the room was hazy and blurry before him. As the room came into focus, he realized he was sitting in a chair. The metal back was warm against the skin of his back, so he knew he’d been in this position for a while. His arms were behind him, and when he tried to move them he felt resistance and heard the clank of a chain against the back of the chair. The burning in his wrists told him they were using silver cuffs to restrain him. He would not be able to break it, nor would he be able to turn into a wolf to escape.

He looked around the room, surprised to see he was alone. The only furniture was the chair he was sitting in. A large mirror loomed on the other side of the room, and he knew someone was observing him from the other side.

“Are you such cowards that you have to restrain me?” he said, his upper lip curling into a sneer as he looked into the mirror. It didn’t take long for the door to the room to open. James Horn walked in, carrying a large syringe in his hand.

“I wish I didn’t have to do this, Eric,” he said, and Eric could detect genuine regret in his voice.

“Then why are you doing it?” he asked, growling as he strained against his bonds. It was no use, he couldn’t get free from the silver cuffs biting into the flesh of his wrists.

“I have no choice now. Things have gone too far to turn back. All I wanted was to perfect my research, but I went to the wrong kind of people for funding. I realized too late that they’d given me flawed material.”

“What’s wrong with the formula?” Eric asked, trying to buy time to try to think of a way to get out of here. He had to escape; he didn’t know where Samara was and Alex had yet to appear. He could be anywhere, doing anything to her.

“Some of the genetic material they provided me with was infected with rabies. It wasn’t until the wolves we were testing with it started going feral that I realized something was wrong.”

“Why didn’t you just destroy the formula?” Eric asked as he flinched at the cold, alcohol-covered cotton ball Horn was rubbing on the skin of his shoulder. Eric knew he was going to inject him with the formula. He had to keep Horn talking, to distract him enough to keep him from doing it.

“I tried Eric, believe me, I tried. They threatened to kill my mother if I did. These people are capable of killing the innocent if it furthers their goals.”

“Is that why they had Rowan killed?”

“Rowan? We didn’t kill Rowan. When he got back to Kingston the Order sent an assassin after him. We had nothing to do with his death.”

Eric fell silent. If the Order was responsible for Rowan’s death, there could only be one assassin who would have carried out the death warrant.

Samara.

“So how does it feel to know you’ve been fucking your brother’s murderer?” a voice asked from the door.

Eric looked up to see Alex standing in the doorframe, a smug look of satisfaction on his face. The broken circle on his face burned livid red, and Eric knew he’d been right not to trust him. Too bad this realization came too late. He felt a painful pinch in his arm and jerked his head over to see Horn emptying the syringe into the flesh of his shoulder.

“And now you will have to meet the same fate as you brother,” Alex said, coming into the room and locking the door behind him. “But don’t worry. Samara won’t be the one to kill you. She won’t be returning to the Order. I have loftier plans for her. I’m going to enjoy filling her with my seed, and producing a super wolf with her.”

“You prick!” Eric yelled, straining against his chains. His chair scraped on the floor as he lunged at Alex. “You’re a dead man if you do.”

“And who’s going to kill me? You? Can it be you still have feelings for her after all she’s done to you?”

“How do I know you’re telling the truth about what happened to Rowan?” Eric asked, desperate to assure himself that Samara could not have killed his brother.

“Why would I lie about this? You’ll be dead in no time, and Samara will be mine.”

The mirror at the far end of the room exploded, spraying shards of glass as a creature flew through it and landed on its feet.

“I don’t fucking think so,” it said to Alex, and cold horror flooded Eric’s body when he realized the creature was Samara. The words she had spoken, and her long platinum hair were his only clue.

She had transformed into something both hideous and beautiful. Her skin was silver, her hands twisted claws with three-inch talons that looked like daggers coming out of the ends of her fingers.

It was her face, however, that disturbed him most. Her eyes glowed blood red, and her features had twisted and sharpened, erasing her angelic beauty.

She stepped further into the room, her movements imbued with fluid grace. Eric watched, helpless to aid her, as Horn pulled a Taser out of his pocket and rushed at her. He stood in front of her, pointing the weapon at her. It trembled in his hand.

Her blood red lips peeled back, revealing fangs and sharp, pointed teeth. Before Horn could act, one of her wings swooped out from behind her, its razor-sharp edge slicing through the flesh of Horn’s neck. His head fell to the floor and rolled like a bloody ball, before coming to rest close to where Eric was sitting. Eric had to turn away from the look of horror frozen on Horn’s face. Horn’s body made a dull thud as it hit the floor.

“Samara,” Alex said, his hands coming up in a pleading gesture. “You don’t want to do this. I’m a part of the Order. We’re part of the same team.”

“The mark on your face suggests otherwise,” she said as she approached him.

“Hadria will never forgive you if you kill me. She loves me,” Alex said as he pressed his back against the door.

“Hadria will understand why you need to die,” Samara said, reaching out to touch his arm.

Eric watched as Alex froze, a strained look on his face. Her clawed hand reached for his neck, her talons piercing his skin. Eric watched with horror as the blood ran down Alex’s neck. He remembered feeling a sharp pain in his neck the day before Nick had informed him of Rowan’s disappearance. He felt his heart shattering in his chest when he realized the woman he had grown to love and trust had killed his brother.

Unable to turn his face away, he watched Samara jerk Alex to her to place her mouth on his. Alex’s body jerked and his eyes bulged in their sockets. After what seem like forever, but what could only have been a few minutes, she released his body and Alex fell to the side. His sightless eyes stared at Eric.

“Are you here to kill me now?” Eric rasped out, barely able to look at the twisted creature she’d become. He saw a look of surprise come over her face.

“Why would I kill you? I’m here to save you,” she said as she came toward him.

“You cannot save me. Horn injected me with the formula. It will only be a matter of time before the Order instructs you to kill me.”

She hesitated for a second before coming around behind him and ripping the cuffs off his wrists. His arms screamed in protest when he moved them from behind the chair. He stood and immediately his legs gave way. The room spun as her arms came around him, and the look of concern on her demonic face was the last thing Eric saw as the world around him faded.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 18

Samara cradled Eric’s limp body against her as she moved back to the corner of the room. She could not risk taking him out of here. She would not be able to fight and protect him at the same time. When she settled in the corner, her wings moved around to enclose him in a protective shield. She felt him stir against her, and she looked down at the face of the man she had grown to love.

“Is it true?” he asked, his voice coming out in a whisper, and she could see he was struggling to stay awake.

“Is what true?”

“Were you ordered to kill my brother?” he asked through gritted teeth.

“Yes. But there is something you must understand.”

“I don’t need to understand anything.” The weakness in his voice belied the harshness of his words. “You lied to me from the beginning. I’m sorry I ever trusted you.”

Samara felt a knifing pain in her chest that she could not suppress. She needed to make him understand what had happened with his brother.

“Eric, please listen to me—” she began.

“I don’t want to listen to any more of your lies. When this is over I never want to see you again.” His eyes closed and his body sagged against her. She could feel the sting of tears burning her eyes.

She tensed and hissed when a compound guard came racing into the room. He had a gun in his hand, pointed at her as he looked around the room. His eyes widened when he saw his boss’ body, minus his head, lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

The gun roared in the silence of the room, the bullet deflecting off a bone in one of Samara’s wings. She stood, her wings peeling back so her arm could lash out at the guard with her clawed hand.

She lay Eric on the floor as blood ran down the guard’s face where her claws had laid open his skin. She stepped over Eric’s body, putting herself between him and those who sought to harm him. Two more guards came into the room, and while she was distracted the guard who first attacked tried to go around her to get to Eric.

Something in her mind snapped. Howling her fury, her wing swooped out and down. It sliced through the guard from the top of his right shoulder to underneath his left armpit. Horror registered on the other guards’ faces when they saw the two pieces of his body flop to the floor.

“If you want me, come for me,” Samara said. Nothing of the woman inside the demon remained. She looked at the guards through the red haze of rage. They turned and tried to run from the room, but Samara was faster and made certain they didn’t reach the hall alive.

&Hadria looked around her,& seeing the scene of the fight they had gone through to get into the compound. Many of Horn’s guards lay dead, and the metallic scent of blood was pungent inside the complex. When it came to a fight, members of the Order were efficient, especially the vampire members.

One of the vampires was running up the hall toward where Nick and Hadria were standing.

“What’s the problem?” Nick asked, and Hadria felt him tense beside her.

“We need Hadria to come with us. We’ve found Samara but she won’t let us approach her. She is in her demon form and keeps slashing her wings at anyone who comes near. We are trying to see how the wolf she’s holding is faring, but she won’t let him go.”

Hadria sprinted down the hall, her heart pounding in her throat. She could hear Nick and the vampire’s footfalls behind her as she raced down the corridor. She didn’t need directions to the room Samara was in. Three members of the Order were standing on the threshold with the door wide open.

“Let me through,” she said, but they barred her way.

“You don’t want to go in there. She’s already injured one of our members,” a tall vampire said. He pointed to another team member who was cradling his bloody arm to his chest. “We’re in contact with Cadric to see if he wants us to take her out. She’s a danger to the wolf in there and to the other members of the team.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Hadria said through gritted teeth. She shoved him aside and walked into the room, with Nick close behind her.

Shock stopped her in her tracks at the sight before her. Bodies littered the floor of the room, and the place was covered in blood. Samara sat in one corner with Eric’s head resting against her shoulder. Hadria couldn’t believe Samara’s transformation. Her demon form was more extreme than Hadria had ever seen. The beautiful woman she had raised from a young child was nowhere in evidence. In her place was a twisted, silver creature baring her sharp teeth as she hissed.

“Samara, honey, we are here to get you out of here. You need to let go of Eric so we can check to make sure he’s okay,” Hadria said as she took a tentative step forward. Nick pulled her back when Samara growled at her, her red eyes narrowing.

“Stay away,” she said. “They’ll kill him if I let him go.”

“No one is going to kill Eric. Please Samara, you have to let us help you.”

Hadria watched Samara, hoping her words would penetrate the fog the girl was in. She saw Eric stir in Samara’s arms, and he reached up a shaky hand to touch Samara’s cheek.

“Everything will be fine now, Samara,” he said, his voice quiet. “Please let them help us.”

The tension leached out of Samara’s body, and Hadria could see his words had made an impression on her. Her wings receded, the silver color of her skin faded and her eyes turned back to their normal green color. In a matters of moments, the woman Hadria had always known was sitting before them.

“What happened, Eric?” Nick asked as he approached.

“Horn injected me with his formula. Samara came and killed both Horn and Alex,” Eric said as he tried to sit up.

“We have to get you back to Kingston so we can see if we can figure out what the contaminant in the formula is.”

“I know what it is,” Eric said, drawing away from Samara, and Hadria noticed that he would not meet the other woman’s gaze. “Horn said the genetic material he used is infected with rabies.”

“If it’s rabies, then we can cure you,” Nick said. He looked relieved for the first time since they’d departed from the Order’s headquarters. He helped Eric to his feet while Hadria went over to Samara.

“What happened, honey?” Hadria asked once the men were out of earshot. Members of the team had come into the room as soon as it was safe and were making preparations to clear away the bodies. Hadria avoided looking at Alex’s body, the pain of his betrayal still too fresh.

“They chained me to the bed, and I broke free. All I could think of was saving Eric. I transformed, and when they came to kill him I lost it. I’m sorry about Alex,” Samara said as she looked up at Hadria, sympathy burning in her eyes.

“Alex chose his path. There is nothing to be sorry for.”

“Alex told Eric I was sent to kill Rowan.”

“Did you tell him what happened?”

“I tried, but he won’t listen to me, He’s assuming the worst, and who can blame him after seeing what I am?”

“Let’s get back to headquarters, and then you can deal with the mess with Eric. Once we’re back there I’m sure he will be willing to listen to you, and you can tell him that you did not kill his brother.”

“I hope you’re right,” Samara said, and Hadria helped her to her feet.

As they walked to the door, Hadria was finally able to look down at Alex’s prone body. The death mark on his face was fading, but still evident enough for her to see. It was all she needed to confirm that her curse was alive and well. She looked over at Samara, and only hoped she had more luck with her wolf.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 19

“How did you get involved in all this?” Eric asked, trying to get out of the bed he lay in. They were on their way back to Kingston, and Eric was in a small infirmary housed on the plane. Nick pushed Eric back down on the bed.

“Will you lie still so I can examine you?” Nick said, exasperated.

“Not until you tell me why you’re here,” Eric said, suspicious of his brother’s avoidance of the subject. He looked down when his brother placed a blood pressure cuff around his bicep, and when his gaze fell where the edge of Nicks t-shirt pulled back from his arm, he noticed something dark peeking out from under the shirt. He pushed back his brother’s sleeve and saw the mark of the Order.

“Did you join the Order just to come out here to get me? Nick, you shouldn’t have given your life away for me.”

Eric heard his brother sigh before he slid his sleeve back down to cover his mark. Nick removed the blood pressure cuff and set it aside. He pulled up a chair and looked at Eric.

“I’ve been a member of the Order for the past four years,” he said, his eyes serious.

Eric sat in stunned disbelief. Nick had been a member of the Order for four years and he’d never known of it? Then it dawned on Eric what all that meant.

“You knew when you called me exactly what had happened to Rowan, didn’t you?” Eric demanded. He felt his temper rise inside him. It would seem that everyone knew what happened to Rowan.

“Yes, I know what happened to him,” Nick said. “It’s not what you think. Yes, Cadric sent Samara to kill him. She couldn’t finish it. He’s at headquarters right now, in a coma.”

“You knew he wasn’t dead, and didn’t tell me? You let me think Samara killed him?” Disbelief raced through Eric as he stared at his brother.

“I didn’t let you think anything, you jumped to that conclusion all on your own. The only thing I led you to believe was that he was missing.”

“And why is that, exactly?” Eric growled, glaring at Nick.

“The Order needed you for this mission, and I was asked to contact you.” Nick’s voice was quiet, and he avoided Eric’s eyes for a moment.

“You knew Samara was going to be at the club that night, didn’t you? That’s why you sent me there.” Eric’s words fired out of his mouth like bullets, as he realized just how deeply his brother had betrayed him.

“Yes, that’s true too. We needed you to go to the compound with her. I volunteered to go with her, but Cadric didn’t think it was a good idea. We had no way of knowing if Horn knew I was part of the Order. We needed someone from outside the Order to go, one who was also known to Horn. You were the obvious choice.”

“Did you send Rowan into Samara’s arms too?” Eric watched with a small amount of satisfaction how the blood drained out of his brother’s face and his eyes narrowed. He knew his insult hit its mark.

“I’m loyal to the Order, but you and Rowan come first. I had no idea about the death sentence on Rowan. I didn’t know it had happened until Samara brought him to me half dead. You and Rowan are my family, and nothing and no one is more important to me.”

“You have a funny way of showing it. You sent me off to the compound without as much as a word to me about who you worked for. That tells me the Order is more important to you than family.”

“Don’t talk to me about the importance of family.” Nick’s voice rose by several decibels. “You’re the one who turned his back on his family. Do you think Rowan would have gone to Horn if his twin had been around to help him through the death of his wife and child? I was there for Rowan, but where the fuck were you, Eric? Would you have even come home if I told you the truth, that Rowan was in a coma? Would you have torn yourself away from your own selfish life if I’d done anything other than what I did? I somehow doubt it.”

Eric clenched his jaw and turned away from Nick. His brother’s words cut him deep, echoing something that had lodged in Eric’s head since he’d learned Rowan had taken part in Horn’s experiments. He refused to look at his brother. Nick’s chair creaked and Eric felt a hand on his arm.

“Eric…”

Eric jerked away from Nick and turned to glare at him.

“Get out of my face,” he snarled before turning away from his brother again. Eric lay down on the cot and closed his eyes until he heard his brother leave the room.

He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. As he lay there, his anger festered deep inside him.

Samara had lied to him. His own brother, too, and Nick even thought it was his fault that Rowan was in a coma. Maybe it was.

Eric took several deep breaths to try to ease the tightness in his chest. He realized now that it was better not to let anyone close, better not to trust. He should never have gone to Kingston in search of his brother, he told himself before he closed his eyes.

&Samara looked& up when Nick came to join them. She had been waiting for him, to see how Eric was faring.

“How is he, Nick?” she asked, her voice soft. Nick sat down beside her before answering.

“He’s fine so far. There is no evidence of rabies yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the symptoms show. When he gets to Headquarters he will have a course of rabies shots. Hopefully it will be enough to stop the madness from consuming him.”

Samara looked at Nick and wondered what it was he was not saying.

“Is he still angry with me?”

“It’s safe to say at this point Eric is pissed with the world. He saw my mark, and I told him about my involvement with the Order. He didn’t take the news well.”

“I need to go talk to him,” Samara said as she levered herself out of her seat. She looked down at Nick when he caught her arm.

“I don’t think that is a good idea,” he said. “Eric isn’t in the best of moods right now, and who knows when he is going to start showing signs the madness caused by the formula.”

“I’ll take my chances, Nick,” Samara she said, removing her arm from his grasp. “I need to see him.”

Samara made her way back to the infirmary. She opened the door, and it pained her to see Eric lying on the bed with his eyes closed. He was such a strong and vital man that seeing him like this and knowing what was coursing through his veins was hard to witness.

He jerked his head toward her when she entered the room. The coldness in his eyes was such that Samara almost turned and walked out again, but she knew she had to talk to him.

“What do you want?” he growled, turning his head so he wasn’t looking at her.

“How are you doing?” she asked for want of something better to say.

“How do you think I’m doing? I’ve been lied to by you and my brother, and I’ve been injected with a formula that is going to do God knows what to me.” Eric turned back to her with a scowl on his face. “I’m doing great, Samara, thanks for asking.”

She winced at his cutting tone, but she supposed she deserved his anger. In Eric’s mind she had betrayed him in the most brutal way. She had to convince him that he could still trust her.

“Eric, if you will let me explain—” she began, only to step back when he vaulted out of the bed.

“I don’t need you to explain anything,” he said, stalking her as she moved back toward the door. “I cannot believe anything you tell me at this point.”

“Eric, you have to understand what happened with Rowan,” she tried again, her back pressed against the door.

“I don’t want to hear it, thanks. My mind has painted a pretty picture on its own. Did the lights explode when you were with Rowan too?”

Samara gasped when she realized what he thought had happened.

“I was never intimate with your brother,” she sputtered. She could feel the blood draining from her face.

“And I suppose you’ll tell me now that what happened between us was special, and that you’ve never experienced it before.”

“Yes Eric, it was.” Samara’s voice was soft.

“Stop lying. I don’t believe you anymore.”

“What have I lied about? Everything I told you was true.” Samara reached out to touch his arm. He jerked away from her touch and turned his back on her.

“You hid things from me, important things. Do you know what it did to me to see you kill Alex, and to think that you had done the same thing to my brother? To see the woman that I…”

“That woman that you what? Eric, please, talk to me,” she begged. That wall he’d left behind for the past few weeks was coming back up.

“I think it’s best for both of us if you leave,” he said, and made his way back to the bed.

“Eric, I…” Her voice cracked on the lump forming in her throat when he still would not look at her. His coldness was killing her inside, and she didn’t know what she could do to get him to listen to her.

“Just go.”

Samara stood there looking at his back. She opened her mouth to speak to him again, but thought better of it. Eric was still too angry over everything that had happened to listen to her. She turned away and left the room, closing the door with a soft click behind her.

&Eric jolted& awake when he felt someone trying to strap him to the bed he was lying on. He grasped the arm moving over him in an iron grip, only to realize it was Nick. His shoulders sagged—with relief he told himself—when he saw it wasn’t Samara. Seeing her had made him feel like someone ripped his heart out.

“Relax, Eric,” his brother said as he yanked his hand out of his grasp. “I have to strap you in. We are going to begin our descent at Norman Roger’s Airport in a minute.”

Eric tried to relax on the bed, but it was difficult. He always hated landing; this was the time his mind decided to paint pictures of the plane flipping down the tarmac in a fiery ball. It was why he tried to avoid flying whenever he could.

“Just relax,” Nick said, patting him on the shoulder before he left the room.

Eric’s jaw clenched and he shut his eyes tight when he heard the plane begin its decent. It didn’t take long before he heard and felt the wheels hitting the runway.

Once the plane taxied to a stop he reached down to undo the belts strapping him in. When he stood his legs felt weak and shaky, and he had to stand still for a moment before he felt like he wasn’t going to fall down.

Nick came back for him and they exited the plane. To Eric’s surprise it was still dark outside. It felt like so much time had passed since he and Samara were at the complex, that he felt it should be lighter.

Samara came to stand beside him, but he refused to look at her. He wasn’t ready to deal with the emotions, both good and bad, that she stirred in him, so he avoided her altogether. She reached out to touch his arm, but he pulled away from her and walked over to Nick’s car. He waited for a few minutes, while Hadria and Nick conferred with their team, then he got in the front seat of the car. Samara looked over at him one last time before getting into what he assumed was Hadria’s car.

“Where are you taking me?” he asked his brother once they left the airport.

“We have to take you to our headquarters. There is a hospital on one of the floors, and you need to go there for treatment. It’s Cadric’s orders,” he added, as if that would mean anything to him. He was only going with them because he knew he needed help fighting off Horn’s formula, and that was the sole reason. If it wasn’t for that he would have taken off on his own somewhere far away from them all. No matter what fucking Cadric said.

Nick pulled the car down the road that led to the Beachgrove Complex and the Kingston Psychiatric Hospital.

“Why are we going down here?”

“This is where our headquarters are. Our order bought the Penrose building years ago from the provincial government.”

“The Penrose building? I’ve never heard of it.”

“But I’m sure you have heard of the old Rockwood Lunatic Asylum.”

That he had heard of. Almost all the people who lived in the city knew what that building was. The Rockwood Lunatic Asylum was built in the mid-eighteen-hundreds, and housed Kingston’s mentally ill for over a century before the new psychiatric hospital was built. It was an eerie gray stone building that loomed in front of Lake Ontario on the grounds of one of the most scenic and beautiful locations in the city.

“I thought the building was abandoned.”

“That’s what we want people to think. What better place to set up headquarters for a secret organization than at a building that looks abandoned and is rumored to be haunted?”

“Yes, but don’t people see you coming in and out of there?” Eric asked, for once forgetting to be angry at Nick as he grew fascinated with where they were going.

“There is a fence around the building, and the doors are chained shut. We don’t go in the building through the front door. We access it through the Tower House, and then take the tunnels that run underneath to the basement of the building. It makes it easier for us to come and go undetected by the general population.”

“Why did you join the Order?” Eric asked, a question that had been burning inside him since he discovered that Nick had joined.

“Cadric approached me about a position as head physician for the Order. They needed someone who had experience with treating human ailments, but was also someone who wasn’t human. I saw it as a good opportunity for me, and it has been. I haven’t regretted it.”

“Why did you never tell me?”

His brother look over at him, his eyebrow raised. “You haven’t exactly been in contact for the past six years. I tried to give you the space you needed to get your head together, but I guess that hasn’t worked.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Eric demanded as his brother pulled to a stop in front of a stone building.

“You know what, forget I said anything. Let’s just get you inside so we can start your treatment.”

Eric decided not to push his brother for an explanation. He had been through hell tonight, and he didn’t feel up to dredging up the past.

The two men got out of the car and Nick pulled out a key to unlock the door to the stone building. They descended a flight of stairs and went down a long corridor. They came to another door, and Nick produced another key. They entered a long windowless corridor that was lit with electric lights.

“Are these the tunnels?” Eric asked, not willing to admit to the shiver that insisted on crawling down his spine.

“Yes. They run under the property and go to the old hospital. They used to transport bodies out of here.”

Eric almost wished he hadn’t asked, since it didn’t make the funny feeling he had dissipate at all. After walking for several minutes, they finally came to another door.

“This door leads to the basement of the asylum. It’s original to the building, and hasn’t changed since the nineteenth century.”

As Eric followed his brother inside he felt a great sympathy for those who’d suffered from mental illness in the past. The chains were still on the walls where those unfortunate souls were once shackled.

Eric breathed a sigh once they were out of the basement and onto the first floor. This part of the building was modern and looked like any other office building.

“The infirmary is on the second floor. We’ll get you settled into a room and then we’ll start your round of shots.” Eric followed Nick to the stairs that led to the second floor.

“My shots?”

“If what Horn said about the formula is true, then I think the best approach to prevent you from going feral is to put you through a course of rabies shots. You’ll have to stay here for a few days for observation to see if the treatment is going to work. If it does, you’ll have to stay in town until you’ve finished your full course of shots, which will take twenty-eight days.”

“And what if the treatment doesn’t work?” Eric asked as he stopped and put his hand on his brother’s arm.

“Let’s not borrow trouble. If the treatment doesn’t work, we’ll think of something.”

Nick tried to continue down the hall but Eric held him back. He needed to get a promise from his brother, and now was the time to do it.

“If I have to be put down, can you do it and make sure it’s quick and painless?” Eric looked his brother in the eyes for the first time since getting to Kingston. He had seen what happened to those who had gone against the Order, and he didn’t want to go through that. He also didn’t want Samara to be the one who had to put him down if it became necessary. As much hurt and resentment as he felt toward her right now, he still wanted to protect her from that.

Nick sighed. “It will kill me to do it, but if the treatment doesn’t work, and if you do go feral, then yes, I’ll see it done. It will be quick.”

Eric followed his brother down the hall, hoping that the treatment did work. He wasn’t ready to die just yet.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 20

“Can you just take me home?” Samara asked Hadria as they drove away from the airport. All she wanted to do was go home and lick her emotional wounds. She had been through hell tonight, and she just wanted to be alone.

“I can’t take you home, honey. Cadric wants to see you as soon as we get into town.”

“What does he want?” she asked as she closed her eyes and leaned her head against the car window. Fighting for control of her demon had knocked her on her ass now that the adrenaline was gone.

“I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s good. This mission has been a disaster from the start and I think he wants to hear your take on it. Do you want me to go with you to his office?”

“No, I can do this on my own. Besides, Cadric wouldn’t tolerate it even if I did want you there.”

The rest of the short drive passed in silence. When they pulled up in front of the Tower House, Samara could see Nick’s car, but no sign of either Nick or Eric. Just the thought of Eric and what he would be going through sent a stabbing pain through her. He was so angry with her that he wouldn’t even look at her. She had to find a way to get through to him.

She and Hadria entered the Tower House and made their way to the tunnels beneath the property. Samara tensed as they walked down the long corridor. Even though it had been a long time since anyone other than them had used the tunnels or basement, she could still feel the lingering anger and despair embedded in the walls. She always had to brace herself when she walked through here. Tonight the negative feelings chipped away at her, further draining her.

They made their way up to the first floor and Cadric’s office. When Samara saw his closed door, her stomach rolled. She was rarely hauled into Cadric’s office for a private meeting, but when she was she usually had good reason to be nervous. It meant that Cadric was pissed. Not that he would yell, or be abusive. You could gauge the level of his anger by how long he sat with his eyes closed, taking deep breaths after you explained whatever happened.

“I’ll see you later,” Hadria said before turning and walking back down the hall.

Samara took a deep breath and reached up to knock on Cadric’s door. At least she had changed her clothes while she was on the plane, and wouldn’t have to meet her boss in the ragged, bloody clothes she’d worn at the compound. She heard Cadric’s voice rumble for her to enter, and she wiped her palms down the sides of her jeans before reaching for the doorknob.

Samara entered the office, and her mouth dropped open with shock when she took in the sight of her boss sitting behind his desk. She could see just how much shit she was going to be in by how disheveled he looked.

His short blond hair stood up on end as if he had run his fingers through it a thousand times. He hadn’t shaved, and he was wearing a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt that had seen better days. Samara swallowed hard when his deep blue eyes pinned her to the spot.

“Close the door, sit down and tell me what the fuck happened.”

“Alex betrayed us,” Samara began as she closed the door and slouched down in a chair. If his swearing was any sign, this debriefing was not going to go well, so she tried to make herself as small in her chair as possible.

“I realize that. What I want to know is why you didn’t inform me immediately when you got to the compound that Alex was there. You should have known his being there was suspicious. You are familiar, as everyone is, with the rule about contact between members during a mission.”

Samara licked her lips, wondering how best to approach this. If she lied, she would still be in shit, since Cadric could sense when you were lying. The truth would make things a lot worse for her. Samara watched Cadric raise one of his eyebrows and drum his fingers on the top of his desk.

“I didn’t call you because I wasn’t suspicious of Alex at first,” Samara said, opting to tell as much of the truth as she could.

“Why wouldn’t you be suspicious of him when he showed up at the compound?” A lethal softness took hold of Cadric’s voice, and Samara knotted her hands in her lap as she looked up at him.

“I knew he was going there. Eric and I met up with him before we got to the compound.”

Samara’s mouth went dry when Cadric closed his eyes and she heard him slowly inhale through his nose.

“And why didn’t you call me when he met up with you? Surely your suspicions would have been aroused by his appearance.”

“I thought Hadria had sent him to check on me, and he alluded to the same thing so as to avoid my suspicions.”

“Why would Hadria send him to check up on you? You had better tell me what the hell went on. I have reports that Alex betrayed the Order, and you had contact with him before you went to Horn’s compound. I also have other reports that you lost control while at the compound, changed to your demon form and hurt a member of the team. And now you tell me that Hadria had reasons for concern about you? You’d better start talking.”

“Hadria is always concerned about me.” Samara could see that her weak attempt at levity didn’t go over well. “When I met Eric I couldn’t control him. My mind control doesn’t work on him. I have been unable to control my emotions as well as I should have, and when they attacked him at the compound, I lost it. It won’t happen again.”

“You’re right, it won’t happen again,” Cadric said as he looked at her, a dull red color staining his cheeks. “I’m afraid I have no choice but to suspend you. Until you are able to get yourself under control, you are a liability to us.”

“Cadric, please. Don’t do this to me. The Order is all I have. Please don’t take it away from me.” Her voice cracked with the effort of suppressing the lump forming on her throat. This could not be happening. He could not be taking away the only family she had ever known.

“Samara,” Cadric began, and she could read the compassion in his eyes. “I have to. Your loss of control endangered the team sent to help you. Until you get your shit together, I have no choice but to suspend you. I’m sorry.”

Samara sat there looking at him, a tear rolling down her cheek. Eric wouldn’t acknowledge that she existed anymore and now her place in the Order was taken away from her. She stood and swiped a hand across her cheek, then took a deep breath and nodded before she turned to the door.

“Before you go, I want you to go to the infirmary to have some blood work done. I know about the wolf attack, and I want to make sure that you will suffer no ill effects from it.”

Samara paused on her way out the door and nodded again. She left Cadric’s office and made her way to the infirmary, hoping she could hold it together until she got home. The last thing she needed was for other members see the Order’s number one assassin bawling her eyes out. Once she was in her apartment she would have the luxury of falling apart.

&Eric walked& in the front door of his brother Rowan’s house, feeling like years had passed, instead of days, since he left. The house no longer held taunting images of Chelsea and his brother. As he stood in the front hall, the only image crowding his head was that of Samara. He looked at the spot where he had given her pleasure on the night they first met. Closing his eyes with a growl, he grabbed his bag and headed for the guest room.

When he entered the room he threw his bag on the bed and sat down beside it, his head buried in his hands. No matter how hard he tried to forget her, she was there in his mind, taunting him. The sight of her when she killed Alex was an image captured in his nightmares, only it was Rowan he saw her killing, not Alex. How close had she come to doing it?

Sighing with frustration, he took his bag and put it on top of the dresser. He yanked open the dresser and stuffed his clothes in one of the drawers, not caring they ended up in a balled heap. He looked inside the bag, and blinked when he thought he saw something glittering in the bottom. He reached in and pulled out a slender gold chain, and immediately recognized it as the one Samara wore around her waist. It must have gotten mixed up with his things while they were traveling.

Wrapping the chain around his fist, he stared down at it. It was just another potent reminder of her, when he didn’t need any more. And yet, for some reason he could not bring himself to destroy it. He unfurled it from his hand and tucked it into his pocket. It sat there like a talisman, calling him to her. He had to ignore it. He could not risk opening himself up to her again. He knew there was only one way to get her out of his mind, so he reached for his cell phone and called Nick.

When his brother answered the phone, Eric didn’t even bother with preamble.

“Do I have to stay in Kingston to finish my rounds of shots, or can I get them done anywhere?”

“You can get them done anywhere, I suppose. Why, you planning on leaving town soon?”

“Yeah, it’s time to move on. My reason for being here is gone. Rowan isn’t missing, and we’ve destroyed Horn’s research, so there is no reason to stick around.”

For a few moments Nick was silent on the other end, and Eric wondered if he had hung up. His brother’s next words came out with startling intensity.

“I always knew you were an asshole, I didn’t figure you were a coward too,” his brother said, the anger clear in his voice.

“What the hell are you talking about? I’ve never backed away from a fight in my life. It’s time to leave, that’s all.”

“Bullshit. Your leaving isn’t about Rowan, and it isn’t about Horn’s formula. Hell, it isn’t even about my lying about what happened to Rowan. It’s about Samara. For six years you’ve been keeping everyone at bay, but she broke through your wall, and it scares the shit out of you.”

“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. She has nothing to do with this,” Eric yelled, then took a deep breath to calm down. “Look Nick, I don’t belong here. It’s time for me to move on.”

“I know what Rowan and Chelsea did fucked you up, but don’t you think it’s time to let go of the past and trust someone again?”

“Well you see what trust has gotten me so far, so I think I’ll pass,” Eric said, his tone bitter.

“I’m not going to try to convince you to stay and work things out with her. I will tell you this: some day you are going to regret letting her slip out of your life, and I hope for your sake that it won’t be too late. Goodbye, Eric.” The call disconnected.

Eric looked at his phone, a frown creasing his brow. He walked back to the guest room, blocking out Nick’s words. His brother was just grasping at straws, trying to get him to stay, he told himself as he threw his phone into his bag. Everything he’d just put in the dresser drawer went right back into his duffle and he zipped it shut.

He hoisted his bag over his shoulder and walked to the kitchen. He called a cab to take him to the bus station, and left the house to wait outside. It didn’t take long for the cab to arrive, and as Eric settled in the back seat, he took one last look at Rowan’s house. A sick feeling settled in the pit of his stomach, and he wondered if leaving was a mistake. Dismissing the thought, he turned around to face forward, telling himself to go and not look back.

&Samara sat on her sofa,& staring at her T.V. She shoved another spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey into her mouth. It settled in her stomach, sitting there like a rock along with the bag of M&Ms, the chips and the bottle of Pepsi she’d downed earlier. At least she had showered today and managed to get out of bed, unlike every other day for the past five days she had been home since her suspension.

She didn’t know what to do with herself, except eat crap and watch crap on television.

Her buzzer rang, and she threw her ice cream container aside. She walked to the door, a part of her hoping it was Eric on the other side.

“Yes,” she said as she depressed the talk button.

“Samara, its Nick. Can I come up?”

Samara swallowed her disappointment and pressed the unlock button. Of course Eric wouldn’t be here to see her. A brief feeling of panic flared inside her when she thought about why Nick would come here to see her.

When he knocked she flung open the door, took one look at the seriousness of his face, and blurted out what she was thinking.

“Eric hasn’t gotten worse, has he?”

“Yes, and no. Let me come in and I’ll explain,” Nick said as he stepped around her. She followed behind him, and felt her cheeks heat up when he stared at the junk food littering her coffee table.

“That stuff’s not good for you, especially now.”

“What are you talking about?” Samara asked as she walked around to face him.

“I’ll get to that in a minute. Let me assure you first that Eric is fine. The rabies shots are working, and there have been no changes to him mentally or physically.”

“Thank God,” Samara breathed before she noticed that Nick’s expression hadn’t changed. He should be looking happier than he was if his brother was out of danger. “What aren’t you telling me, Nick?”

“He’s leaving town. I’m going to take you over to Rowan’s house so we can catch him before he leaves.”

Samara turned away from him, a pain more excruciating than anything she’d ever felt stabbing her in her heart. Eric’s leaving felt ten times worse than when her mother abandoned her as child. At least with her mother she could rationalize it. With Eric there was no rationalizing his defection.

“Let him go, I’m not going to beg any man to stay with me,” Samara said, her tone laced with so much bitterness she could almost taste it on her tongue. She heard Nick’s heavy sigh before he reached out to touch her arm.

“You have to go after him, there is more to this than just you and him.”

“I don’t have to do anything, Nick. Besides, even if I convince him to stay this time, which is doubtful since he won’t talk to me, what’s to stop him from leaving next time?”

“Your child is what will stop him from leaving,” Nick said with a scowl.

Samara felt her heart stop at his words.

“What did you say?” A breathless panic rose inside her.

“When we analyzed your blood, we discovered that you are in the early stages of pregnancy.”

“That’s impossible. I can’t be pregnant. I can only have babies with a human or a full-blooded demon,” Samara said firmly.

“That was true when you were half human, but you are no longer that, now are you? You’re half wolf now, and I can assure you that you’re pregnant. Are you going to deny your child access to its father, like you were? Or are you going to give Eric a chance to stop being such an ass?”

Samara walked over to the sofa and sank down upon it. She rubbed her hand across her stomach, finding it hard to believe that a life was growing beneath its flat surface.

“Are you sure he’ll want to be involved?” she asked, her voice small. She didn’t want Eric to be with her for the sake of a child, but it appeared that she had little choice about that now.

“He’ll want to know his child. He’ll also want you in his life, I’m positive. He just needs to realize how much you’ve come to mean to him.”

“I’ll never know that now, Nick. The child complicates matters between us, and I’ll never know if he’s with me for the sake of the child or because he wants to be with me.”

“Why don’t we go over to Rowan’s house and you can talk to him? You don’t have to tell him about the child right away, just feel him out and see how he feels about you.”

Samara nodded before she stood and reached for her jacket. “Let’s go,” she said as she headed for the door.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 21

Samara and Nick pulled up at Rowan’s house. She bit her lip as she looked over at Nick.

“It’ll be okay. Just go in there and talk to him.”

“Why are you doing this, Nick?” Samara asked, puzzled that he would care whether she was with Eric or not.

“I miss my brother. I haven’t seen him for six years, and I don’t want him to leave again. Besides, I think you two would be good for each other. Now go in there.”

Taking a deep breath, Samara opened the car door and walked up to the house. She rang the doorbell and waited. Nothing happened, and there was no sign of movement in the house. She tried knocking and still nothing happened. She felt like a fool standing there waiting. She turned to go back to the car, and found Nick standing behind her.

“I have a key. Let’s go in and see if he just stepped out for a while.”

Samara clenched her trembling hands together in front of her as she watched Nick open Rowan’s front door. When they walked into the house, she knew immediately that Eric had not stepped out for a few minutes. He was gone. She swallowed several times, trying to dissipate the lump forming in her throat.

Nick looked over at her, and she could see the compassion in his eyes. That pitying look was enough to force back the lump in her throat as she glared at him.

“God damn you, Nick. Why couldn’t you leave well enough alone?”

“I’m sorry, Samara, I didn’t know he had left already. I’ll try to get a hold of him on his cell phone. I’ll tell him to come back and talk to you.”

“Forget it. He’s abandoned me once. I won’t let him do it again,” Samara out as she strode through the door. Her anger carried her to the car and she sat stewing in it as Nick got in the other side. She didn’t speak as he drove her back to her home.

“Will you be okay?” Nick asked, reaching out to touch her arm. Samara jerked away from his touch.

“I’ll be fine. Just leave me alone,” she said as she got out of the car and slammed the door behind her. She walked to her building without looking back.

Once she got inside her apartment, she looked around at her familiar surroundings as if seeing them for the first time. Her breath sounded harsh to her ears, and she told herself she needed to shut down, to turn off her emotions. They were too strong, and it hurt so much she didn’t think she would be able to stand it. She flipped on the TV and paced around her apartment, trying to find the calm within herself.

She could feel her lower lip trembling, and her body shook with the force of the pain churning inside her. Her back was against the wall of her living room and her knees slowly gave way beneath her. The space inside her where she kept her emotions caged burst open as she rested her head against her raised knees. The volume on the TV grew and drowned out the first keening sob escaping from her, and then the television exploded in a shower of glass as the last of her emotional resistance came apart. She wept against the wall for something she knew she would never have again.

&Hadria stood& outside Samara’s door, a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Nick had called her out of concern, telling her what had happened with Eric.

She inserted her key into the lock and opened the door to Samara’s apartment. She stopped in shock at the scene in front of her. Samara’s living room looked like it had been ransacked. Glass from the TV had sprayed all over the room, and junk food containers littered the place. Her heart pounding, she walked into the apartment, her eyes searching for Samara. She found her, sitting against the wall with her face buried in her knees.

“Samara? Are you okay?” Hadria asked with a tentative step forward. She watched Samara raise her head, her face dull and emotionless. Her adopted daughter stared blankly at her and Hadria was disturbed by what she saw. Samara’s eyes, swollen from crying, were no longer green but a bloody red.

“Get out,” Samara hissed, revealing razor-sharp teeth. Hadria edged forward, aware of the dangerous state her friend was in.

“Honey, you need to get control of yourself,” Hadria said as she reached out to touch her friend. Samara’s hand, complete with razor sharp claws, swiped out to knock Hadria’s away. The claws left bloody furrows across Hadria’s skin.

“I am in control,” Samara growled as she continued to stare at Hadria. “I’m finally what I’m meant to be. I feel nothing now.”

Hadria knew she had to do something to get her friend to come back to her. If Cadric found out that Samara had gone over the edge, he would have no choice but to have her eliminated. She was too dangerous in this state.

Hadria continued to back away, never letting her eyes stray from Samara for a second. As she reached for the phone Samara put her head back on her knees. She dialed Nick’s cell phone number, hoping he could come and help her with Samara. Relief coursed through her when Nick answered the phone.

“I’m in trouble, Nick. I’m at Samara’s apartment and you need to come here.”

“What is it? Are you hurt?”

Hadria closed her eyes at the concern in Nick’s voice. She didn’t want to alarm him, but she needed to impress upon him the urgency of this situation.

“Samara’s changed. Something about Eric’s leaving has triggered her demon side. I can’t get close enough to get her to listen to me. If I can’t get her to get control of herself, I’m afraid of what is going to happen to her.”

“Okay sweetheart, calm down. Don’t go near her, just watch her and whatever you do, don’t let her leave the apartment. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Hadria hung up the phone as she continued to watch Samara. She hoped that between her and Nick they could get Samara back.

&Eric sat& in the bus terminal, waiting for the bus that would take him out of town and out of Samara’s life. He looked down at his hand, at the gold chain resting in his palm. He’d thought it would be easy to leave her, to forget he’d ever met her. But, like the chain in his hand, the bond forged between them was surprisingly strong for its apparent thinness and fragility. His soul cried out for her, and as much as he tried to ignore it, he knew he could not. Sometime during the past few days, he had fallen in love with her.

An announcement over the loudspeaker signaled the arrival of his bus, and Eric stood and gathered his bag. He made his way to the door, and stood in line with the other passengers waiting to board. When the driver reached for his pack to put it with the others in the luggage compartment, Eric found he could not hand it over.

“Can I take your bag, sir?” the driver asked, his hand out and a puzzled look on his face. Eric jolted as if wakening from a dream and asked himself what the hell he was doing.

“I’m sorry, I’ve changed my mind,” he said as he turned on his heel and made his way back inside the terminal and out the front door. He got into one of the cabs waiting at the taxi stand and gave the driver Samara’s address. On the ride over there he thought about what he would say to her. What happened between Rowan and Samara happened before Eric knew her. In the end she’d shown his brother mercy when she didn’t need to. It had been Rowan’s choice to participate in Horn’s experiments, and he alone was responsible for what had happened to him. Facing the possibility of infection himself, Eric knew why the Order had wanted him put down.

His anger over Nick and Samara’s deception served no useful purpose, and it would not change anything. It only separated him from the woman he had grown to love, and from his family. He hoped she could forgive him for how he had treated her when they left the compound.

The taxi dropped him off in front of Samara’s building and he strode toward the door. He jerked around at the sound of tires squealing behind him. Shock coursed through him when he saw it was Nick’s car flying into the parking lot. His heart pounding in his throat, he sprinted toward the car as Nick pulled into a parking space.

He reached the car by the time Nick got out. His brother took one look at him, a snarl etched on his face, then pulled his fist back and landed a solid punch on Eric’s jaw. Pain blossomed in Eric’s face.

“What is your problem?” Eric said as he jerked himself back from his brother and straightened the front of his coat.

“You deserve to have your ass kicked, and if anything happens to Samara, I swear to God I’m going to be the one to do it.”

“What are you talking about? What’s wrong with Samara?” Eric asked, his heart racing at the thought that something had happened to her.

“She knows you left, and I just got a frantic call from Hadria asking me to come here to help her. Samara is out of control, the demon inside her is rising, and if we can’t get her back, the Order will kill her.” Nick turned away and hurried toward the door of Samara’s building.

“What can I do to help?” Eric asked as he came to stand beside his brother.

“So now you want to be with her? This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t left in the first place.”

Eric closed his eyes at Nick’s angry words, and he had no retort.

“I came back and I’m here now. I’ll do whatever it takes to help her through this.”

“I hope you mean that, Eric, I truly do.” Nick pressed the intercom button beside the security door. The door buzzed and Nick yanked it open. Both men rushed into the lobby, startling several people. They made their way to the elevator and reached the penthouse floor in a matter of moments.

The door to Samara’s apartment was unlocked. They walked in and Eric saw a pale-looking Hadria, cradling her arm, which was covered in bloody scratches.

What held Eric arrested for a moment in time was the sight of his beautiful Samara sitting with her back against the wall. He could not see her face, but he could tell she was hurting, and guilt stabbed at him. His stupidity had caused this to happen to such a warm, giving woman and only he could set it right.

“Can you give us some time alone?” Eric asked as he turned to look at Nick and Hadria.

“Sure, Hadria and I will go and get her arm taken care of. Call me on your cell phone if you need us. Good luck,” his brother said as he took Hadria by the arm and led her from the apartment. Hadria stopped and glared at Eric.

“If you hurt her again, I’ll kill you,” she hissed in a low tone.

“I’m not here to hurt her, I’m here to help her. And if I do end up hurting her again you have my permission to do you worst. I’ll deserve it,” Eric assured her.

Hadria nodded before following Nick out the door, closing it behind her.

Eric turned back to Samara and approached her slowly. He could see the mottled silver creeping up the skin of her arms. He hoped he wasn’t too late to save her. If anything happened to her, his heart would die with her.

“Samara,” he said, sinking down in front of her. Her head jerked up and her eyes widened when she saw him. They glowed red as they fixed him.

“Why am I seeing you? You’re gone.” Her voice had a husky tone to it, and Eric could see her teeth had changed, lengthened and appeared to be razor sharp.

“I came back. I couldn’t leave knowing how I feel about you.” He reached out to touch her, but she drew back with a hiss. She stood up and moved away from him, then started pacing the living room in agitation.

“Why have you come back, Eric? You’ve already hurt me enough. Wasn’t abandoning me once enough for you? Do you have to rub salt in the wound before you leave me again?”

Eric walked over to her and grasped her by the shoulders. “I’m not here to hurt you. I left, yes, but I came back. I couldn’t stay away. I don’t care anymore about what happened with Rowan. I hate what my brother did to himself, but I don’t blame you for anything that happened as a result. I can’t hate you for anything. I love you.”

Samara’s eyes were on him for a long time, and Eric despaired that his love was not enough to bring her back. But as he looked at her, the red in her eyes faded to green, her teeth returned to normal and the mottling on her skin disappeared.

“You came back because you love me?” she asked, her voice quiet as if she didn’t quite dare to believe him.

“You are my moon mate and I love you,” he said, drawing her into his arms. Her arms went around him as he cradled her close.

“Oh Eric, I didn’t want to believe that you could leave me when I loved you so much,” she whispered against his shirt.

“I’ll never put you through anything like that again, and I’m sorry I hurt you.”

“We have so much to talk about, I have so much to say to you,” she said as she drew back to look at him.

“We’ll have plenty of time to talk later.” He lifted her up into his arms.

“What are you suggesting we do then?”

“Something I wanted to do the first time I set foot in here,” Eric said, and he carried her down the hall to her bedroom.

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 22

Samara lay in Eric’s arms and stroked her hand down his bicep. She felt mellow after their passionate lovemaking, and she looked at him, knowing her love for him shone in her eyes. Before her happiness could be complete she had to talk to him about the baby.

“What has you looking so serious? Obviously I didn’t love you thoroughly enough if you can look like that,” Eric said as he pulled her close to him and fused his lips with hers. Samara enjoyed his kiss for several moments before she drew back.

“We need to talk Eric.” She reached up to caress his face.

“We love each other, what else is there to talk about?” he asked, his brows drawing together into a frown. She used her thumb to smooth the line between his brows.

“I have something to tell you,” she said, trying to ignore how his body tensed. “I had some blood work done when we came back from the compound.”

“You’re okay, aren’t you?” he asked, concern lacing his tone as he pulled her against him.

“I’m fine. I’m also pregnant.” She watched his face, trying to gauge his reaction.

“But I thought I couldn’t make you pregnant?”

“My being bitten by the wolf changed everything. I’m going to have a child Eric. Our child. Please be happy about this.”

His hand smoothed down her belly, where it rested as he looked at her. “You’ve given me so much, I can’t believe you are giving me a child too.”

“Then this pleases you?” she asked, and when he smiled at her, joy bloomed inside her to know that he wanted this child as much as she did.

“I could howl my joy to the moon, sweetheart.” He put his arms around her and cradled her close. They lay like that for several minutes before she spoke again.

“I have to tell you something else. It’s about Rowan.”

“Samara, I meant it when I told you that what happened with Rowan doesn’t matter to me anymore. I know you were only doing your job.”

Samara came up on her elbow to look down at him. There was sadness in his eyes, which she knew she could take away with her next words.

“I know, but don’t want there to be any more doubt or secrets between us. I was set to kill him, I even had my talons buried in his neck and started sucking out his soul. He wanted me to kill him. But I found that I couldn’t bring myself to end his life. I know evil, and I’ve had to kill truly evil creatures, and that’s not your brother. Even through all the madness I could detect the shame and guilt, and I wanted to give him a chance.

“I rendered him unconscious that night, and took him to Nick to see if we could save him. He’s been in a drug-induced coma, and we hoped once we found out what was wrong with the formula we would find a way to cure him.”

“You humble me,” Eric said, grasping her hands and placing a kiss on her knuckles. “I misjudged you. First I assumed you killed Rowan, and even when you said you hadn’t, I still judged you harshly. Can you forgive me?”

“Eric, I forgave you when you came back. There is nothing to forgive now. Just don’t leave me again,” she said with a mock fierceness.

Eric came up beside her, a serious look on his face. “You’re never going to be rid of me,” he said before his lips covered hers. She reached up and tunneled her fingers through his hair as his body pressed against her. She didn’t think she would ever get tired of the feeling of his skin against hers. Eric had just drawn her body beneath his when the phone at Samara’s bedside rang, startling her.

“Don’t answer it,” Eric growled as he kissed the skin on her neck.

“It could be important,” Samara said with a shiver of pleasure, reaching for the phone.

“What could be more important than this?” Eric asked as he raised a single eyebrow at her. Samara laughed and picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”

“I’m assuming since you are laughing that everything is fine over there?” Nick asked, sounding relieved.

“Everything is fine. Eric knows everything now.”

“Good. I have some news that should make both of you happy. We’ve done testing on Rowan and it appears that the virus has completely run its course. By putting him in the coma, his body was able to fight off the virus itself. And our tests have concluded that he hasn’t suffered any brain damage.”

“Oh Nick, that’s wonderful.” Samara looked over at Eric and smiled. “When will he come out of the coma?”

“He’s out now. He’s still weak, and it will take some time for him to build his strength back, but he’s awake and talking.”

“Can we come and see him?”

“Funny you should ask. He’s been asking to see you.”

Samara ended the call so she could tell Eric the news. He was looking at her expectantly when she hung up the phone.

“Rowan’s out of the coma, and Nick says we can come and see him,” Samara said as she squeezed Eric’s hand. She saw Eric hesitate for a moment. “What’s wrong?”

“I haven’t seen Rowan for over six years. We didn’t exactly part on the best of terms. I don’t know if he would even want to see me after all he’s been through.”

“Eric, he’s your brother, of course he would want to see you. Besides, your six-year estrangement has been long enough, don’t you think?”

“I suppose you’re right,” he said, his voice quiet.

“Come on, let’s get dressed and go. I think it’s time you and Rowan made peace with each other.” Samara got out of bed and started to dress. Eric needed to talk to his brother. She knew Eric would never be fully happy until he settled things with his twin.

&It didn’t take long& for them to arrive at Headquarters. They went up to the infirmary and found themselves outside Rowan’s room. Samara looked over at Eric, who stood staring at the door to his brother’s room.

“Do you want me to go in there first and talk to him?” she asked as she reached out to take his hand.

“I think that might be best. I need a few minutes alone, and someone should prepare him for my presence here.”

“Okay, I’ll come get you when he’s ready to see you.” She gave his hand a squeeze before letting it go to open the door.

Samara opened the door to Rowan’s room and walked in. He was standing at the window, looking much thinner than when she had seen him the last time. He looked so much like Eric, yet there was a marked difference between them. There was an air of sadness and remorse about Rowan, and he looked like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“Rowan,” she said, closing the door. He turned around, his eyes widening when he saw her. “How are you feeling?”

“Weak and more than a little confused. I can’t remember much of what happened,” he said as he walked toward her.

“That’s understandable, since you’ve been in a coma.”

“No, what I meant is that I can’t remember much of what happened before the coma. The only thing I remember with clarity is Horn injecting me with the formula, and the night you came to me. Everything else isn’t in here,” he said with a tap on the side of his head.

“Perhaps it’s best that you do forget all that happened. You’ll heal much faster if you aren’t tormented with bad memories.”

“Why did you do it? Why did you save me? Nick told me the only reason I’m here right now is because you went against your orders and didn’t kill me.”

Samara was quiet for a moment to think of an answer to his question.

“When I saw you that night, there was something different about you. You weren’t like all the other targets I’ve eliminated. I could see you fighting the madness inside, and there seemed to be a genuine remorse for what you had done. It called to me, and made me feel that I could do nothing less than show you mercy and see if you could be saved.”

Rowan walked over to her and took her hand. There was such sadness in his eyes—eyes that looked so much like Eric’s—that it hurt her to see it. She realized now that while she had shown Rowan mercy, he was unable to be merciful with himself.

“Thank you. I know I didn’t deserve the compassion that you showed me, but thank you,” he said, letting her hand drop.

“There is someone who wants to see you if you are up for another visitor.”

Rowan looked at her in surprise. “Who is it?” he asked, a frown knotting his forehead.

“Eric.” She tried to gauge his reaction to her news. Rowan looked at her in utter disbelief, before a faint glimmer of hope shone on his face. “Do you want to see him?”

“Yes,” he said, looking nervous and pleased at the same time.

Samara went over to the door and opened it. Eric was pacing the hall, and he stopped when he saw her in the doorway. He had the same nervous look on his face that Rowan did. She motioned for him to come in and he stepped toward the door, a slight hesitation in his step. When he walked into the room, Samara could feel the hope and love in both men, and she knew that everything was going to be fine.

“I’ll leave you two to talk,” she said. She kissed Eric on the cheek and left the room.

&Eric looked& at his brother and couldn’t say a word. There was so much he wanted to say to him, but looking at his brother’s painfully thin frame he couldn’t find the words to say what he needed to say. His brother had suffered so much, and now Eric felt childish and selfish for the distance he had put between them, especially at a time when he brother needed him most. Still, he felt he had to say something.

“I’m sorry about Chelsea and the baby.”

Rowan nodded, his eyes still on Eric. “She was not the woman for you, Eric. I knew that at the time. I don’t regret being with her, but I do regret the rift it caused between us. I should have been honest with you, told you how I felt about her.”

“You loved her?” Eric said, surprised. It had never occurred to him that Rowan might love Chelsea. He had always thought his brother had done what he had done to show Eric that she wasn’t the right woman for him. It had never occurred to him that Rowan might have had feelings for her.

“Of course I loved her. Do you think I would have hurt you so much, would have caused the rift between us, if I didn’t love her?” Rowan turned away and raked his fingers through his hair.

“I’ve come to realize that I didn’t love her. You were right, the pack was right, I was just too blind and stubborn to see it.”

Rowan turned back to him. “You’re with Samara, aren’t you?”

“Yes. I love her more than my life.”

“I’m happy for you, Eric. Does this mean you’re home to stay?”

“Yes, I’m here to stay.”

“Where are you going to live?” Rowan asked, his face serious.

“I guess we’ll live in Samara’s apartment until we can find a house. Why?”

“Do you want to live in my house? Nick says it’s going to be a while before I can get out of here.”

“Where are you going to go?”

“I think I’m going to head out to Dad’s cabin for a while, and give myself some time to get my head together. After that, I don’t know. You and Samara are more than welcome to stay at my place.”

“You will be coming back though, won’t you?”

“At this point I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve done some things, Eric, things I’m struggling to remember. My head’s really fucked up right now, and I need time away to sort it out.”

“Just make sure you do come back. I want my baby to know you.”

“Your baby?” Rowan asked, confusion written all over his face. Eric took a step toward him and put his hands on his shoulders.

“Yes, my baby. Samara is expecting and I want you involved in our baby’s life, so don’t you go disappearing on me.”

Rowan nodded, and Eric put his arms around his brother and hugged him.

“It’s great to have you home,” his brother said.

“I know. It’s great to finally be home.”

&Eric found& Samara sitting in the lunchroom talking to Hadria. As he looked at her, he couldn’t help the feeling of love swelling inside him. This woman had given him so much. She’d given him back his brother, given him back his life, and in a matter of months she would be giving him a child. Eric didn’t know what he had done to deserve her, but he promised himself he would spend every day grateful that she was a part of his life.

He walked over to the table and put his hand on her shoulder. She placed her hand on top of his before looking up at him. He couldn’t speak, could only look at the love for him shining in her eyes. He felt humbled by it.

“Well, I can see you two need some time alone,” Hadria said as she smiled at them and left the table. Eric pulled Samara up to her feet and pulled her into his arms.

“Thank you,” he said against her hair.

“Thank you for what?” she asked, puzzled.

“Thank you for giving my brother back to me,” he said before pulling her close to press his lips against hers. Fire ignited between them, and Eric wished they were somewhere much more private.

Samara drew back with a laugh. “I think it’s time we went home,” she said, putting her arm around his waist and walking with him to the door.

Home. Eric savored the sound of that word as much as he enjoyed the feel of her body by his side. Home was wherever she was, and Eric knew he would never leave it again.

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h1=. Dark Curse Preview

p(((((())))))=.
h1=. Chapter 1

Hadria approached the darkened compound, her eyes probing the shadows that clung to the main building. The Order cleaned out the inhabitants here when they had raided the place a few weeks ago. She’d been part of the team used to extract her adopted daughter, Samara. The fine hairs stood alert on the back of her neck as the silence enveloped her. Not even crickets chirped, and stillness surrounded the main building looming over her.

“Watch your step, and be careful,” she said to her partner Jaclyn. She’d partnered with the vampire before and they worked well together. Hadria had hoped she and Samara could work together, but since her daughter was expecting a baby, dangerous missions were out of the question for her.

“I’m not sensing anyone around.” With her heightened vampire senses, Jaclyn would sense if they weren’t alone.

“Caution doesn’t hurt,” Hadria said, her voice low as she cocked her head, listening. Nothing moved, the building remained the same but Hadria’s pulse beat in her ears as a small bead of sweat trickled down her back. Five hundred years with the Order had ingrained vigilance in her. At least that’s what she told herself as she inched closer to the building.

She used to love the rush of adrenaline and the excitement of hunting down the Order’s enemies. Now tiredness plagued her. Still, it was better than the life she left behind in Asgard.

Valhalla had grown boring once Christianity tamed the Vikings. The belief in the old Gods had waned, there was no one left for Hadria to collect on the battlefield. Joining the Order –being part of something good–had filled a place in her she hadn’t realized was empty. It had distracted her from her curse. But now the years weighed on her, and the job didn’t fulfill her as it once had.

Gravel crunched under their feet and the door to the building was no more than five strides ahead. The inky darkness outside swallowed everything around them, and Hadria let Jaclyn take the lead. The vampire had perfect night vision. Hadria forced her jaw to relax. A hundred years ago, she would’ve been in front, but not now. Now she couldn’t see well enough at night unless a threat was in front of her.

Who was she kidding? There were some dangers she never saw coming. A thousand years under a curse, and she still couldn’t tell when one of her lovers would betray her. Alex had been a perfect example, in a long line of lessons she failed to learn from. Each time she hoped for a different outcome, and each subsequent betrayal ate at her soul.

She shook her head to clear her mind, and she forced herself to focus on her mission. She and Jaclyn were there to see if they could find anything missed during the previous search of the compound. The compound’s owner–the late James Horn–had used this facility to create a formula to genetically alter wolves. He strove to make them faster, stronger, and better able to produce viable young with human females.

The formula had a huge flaw. Rabies contaminated the genetic material used to create it. The wolves injected with it turned feral and attacked a number of human females. A short time after the raid, the wolves injected with the formula had disappeared. Cadric wanted to know where they were and have them contained so they wouldn’t harm anyone else.

“Do you know what we’re supposed to be looking for?” Jaclyn turned to Hadria when she reached the front door.

“I don’t know. There must be something the other team missed during their final sweep. Keep your eyes open for anything out of the ordinary.”

“Got it.”

Hadria reached into her pocket for the keys to the compound. Sorting through the others on the chain, she found the one she needed to unlock the padlock on the door. The lock fell free, and she shoved it in her pocket along with the keys.

Her military-style boots made little sound on the tile floor as she walked inside. Jaclyn came in behind her and shut the door. Hadria’s eyes strained to see around her.

“Do you need some light?” Jaclyn asked.

Hadria bit her lip as she turned her head in Jaclyn’s direction. “Yes,” she said.

She hated showing weakness in front of the younger member of the Order, but perhaps the vampire would assume night vision wasn’t one of her gifts.

A light switch clicked behind her, and the florescent lights above her flickered for a moment. The lights emitted a quiet buzzing sound as they stabilized and flooded the foyer with the light. Hadria blinked rapidly as pain lanced through her eyes for a moment.

“We should head for the lab. It would be the most likely place to find something.” Hadria turned toward the lab. She sensed Jaclyn’s hesitation behind her and turned to glance at her partner.

“Didn’t the team already search it?” Jaclyn asked.

“Yes, but Cadric sent us here to search it again.”

“Okay.”

Hadria heard the doubt in Jaclyn’s voice, and she spun around on her heel.

“Are you questioning my authority?” Hadria asked, her voice low. Jaclyn stepped back, holding her hands up.

“No, if you want us to check the lab, then that’s fine by me.”

Hadria turned away, blowing out a slow breath. Lately she’d heard talk around headquarters that she’d become a liability to some of the members of the Order. Except for Nick, the werewolf members treated her like she had the plague…not that she blamed them.

Her former lover Alex, had betrayed the entire Order and his species with his involvement with James Horn. The wolf members didn’t want to get too close to her, lest her curse taint them too. She may not have seen Loki in a thousand years, but the curse he placed on her still had the power to turn any wolf she became involved with against her. She’d arrogantly refused to allow a werewolf–known back then as the children of Fenrir–into Valhalla. Loki punished her for daring to judge the fitness of one of his son’s children.

Focus.

Letting her thoughts go, she walked down the hall until the corridor branched off into two directions. Hadria went to the right and Jaclyn followed, her boots squeaking softly.

The lab door required a pass code to open it. Hadria punched in the code and pulled the door handle. The muscles in her shoulder strained when the door resisted. The lights above the panel remained red. She tried again, with the same results. Suspicion tickled at the edges of her brain.

“Someone’s changed the code.”

“Are you sure you put it in right?” Jaclyn asked, with the same thread of doubt in her voice.

“Of course I put the goddamn code in right. Is there something you want to say to me? Do you want to try it?” Hadria turned around to face the woman behind her, her lips flattening as her eyes narrowed. Her nails cut into the palms of her hands as she invaded Jaclyn’s space. The vampire pulled back.

“I didn’t mean to make it sound like you don’t know what you’re doing. Anyone can make a mistake, especially in a tense situation. If you say you put in the correct code, then I believe you. I just wanted to make sure.”

Hadria turned to the door, drawing in a slow and steady breath. She didn’t want to be sensitive to every word and comment. Jaclyn’s hand came down on her shoulder, and she stiffened. It’s not Jaclyn’s fault you doubt yourself. Get over it.

“I know you’re aware of the talk around headquarters,” Jaclyn said as Hadria stared at the door. “About you and Alex. I just wanted you to know that I don’t think you’re a liability to the Order. You’re one of the strongest members we have and I’m glad to be on your team.”

Hadria nodded as she typed in the code one more time. The door remained locked.

“What do we do now?” Jaclyn asked as her hand dropped off Hadria’s shoulder.

“I have one more trick I can try.” Hadria put her hand on the code panel. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes as electricity built in the muscles of her arm, traveled through the palm of her hand and into the panel. Her nose crinkled as the sweet, pungent aroma of ozone invaded her nostrils. She heard the soft click of the lock disengaging, and she twisted the handle and opened the door.

“That was so cool. How did you do that?” Jaclyn followed Hadria into the lab, awe lacing her voice. A grin kicked at the corner of Hadria’s mouth before she straightened her lips into a smooth line. At least something still worked.

“I used a bolt of electricity and overrode the circuit.”

“Can all Valkyrie do that?”

“No. That ability was a parting gift from Thor when I left Asgard. Let’s search this place and see if we can find anything.”

There wasn’t much left to hunt through, since the team who’d gone ahead of them had done a thorough job of cleaning out the lab. They went through every available spot to hide something, but came up with nothing.

“This is hopeless. The team took out anything that would have been of value. Maybe we should search somewhere else.”

Hadria’s gaze swept the room one final time. Her eyes drifted up, and directly above her a single ceiling tile canted a fraction to the side. She climbed up on the table underneath it, and reached up to shove it aside.

“What did you find?”

“I’m not sure.” Hadria reached into the hole in the ceiling, and her fingers brushed against something cool and smooth. “I think it’s a laptop.”

Hadria grabbed hold of it, and pulled it out of its hiding spot. It was a laptop. She climbed down from the table and set it on top before turning to Jaclyn. Jaclyn straightened and jerked her head toward the door.

“Get down,” Hadria shouted as she shoved Jaclyn out of the way. The lab door burst open, and the sharp crack of gunfire echoed in the room. Fiery darts of pain hit her torso as she grabbed the laptop and threw herself over the table and down onto the floor on the other side.

She reached for her weapon and her hand encountered the empty leather of her holster. Shit. In her minds eye, Hadria could see her gun sitting on the console of their vehicle right where she’d left it. A sloppy mistake, one she would not have made even a year ago. Her stomach and injured leg burned. She pressed her hand against the flesh on her torso. Hot and sticky fabric met her palm and when she pulled her hand away blood coated the surface.

She struggled to her feet. Agony knifed through her right leg, and black spots danced in her line of vision. She collapsed on the floor. Jaclyn let out a screech like a raptor engaging its prey. Her partner could handle the two intruders. Werewolves by the look of them. One good thing about her curse, she could recognize that species from a mile away. Too bad she hadn’t connected them with her unease outside.

The sound of running, booted feet grew fainter. Her head swam, and her limbs trembled as she pressed one hand against her side, and the other against the wound in her leg. Hadria blinked hard as she focused on breathing in and out. A rapid burst of gunfire sounded, and then silence. Hadria slid sideways, her energy draining from her body as she continued to bleed. She’d always been careful when injured not to lose too much blood. The key to her ability to heal required that she have sufficient blood circulating in her system.

Rapid steps approached the table and Hadria tensed her muscles. She raised herself up into a crouch, turning her wounded side away from the threat as she tucked her elbows into her sides and raised her fists. The footfalls came around the side of the table, and relief poured through her. Jaclyn, thank God.

“Don’t let me bleed out.” Hadria whispered. Jaclyn’s image wavered in front of her, and her lips were moving but Hadria couldn’t make out what she was saying. The room around her receded and everything turned black.

&Nick Johnson& knocked on his brother Rowan’s front door with a bouquet of flowers clutched in his hand. Eric and Samara had taken up residence there until they could find a place that suited them, and Nick hadn’t been over since they moved in. The flowers were for her, something to brighten up the place. Rowan lived there too, but spent most of his time in his room since getting out of the Order’s hospital. Rowan had been injected with the Dark Wolf formula. His body had recovered nicely from the coma he’d been in, but his mind still had a long way to go to get back to normal.

The front door opened, and Samara stood on the other side smiling. Nick smiled back and handed over the flowers.

“Nick, how nice.” She scooped up the bouquet and held them up to her nose. “Come on in.”

She turned and Nick followed her into the house. She took the flowers into the kitchen, and he walked into the living room where his brother Eric watched hockey on the big screen TV.

“Sucking up to my woman? Nice flowers Nick. Did you pick them out yourself?” Eric took his eyes away from the game to grin at his brother. A few months ago Eric wouldn’t have been able to joke about another man, even his brother, bringing his woman flowers. He’d come a long way to relaxing in his relationship. They’d gone through some rough times together when they first met, most of it due to Eric’s trust issues. They’d weathered the early turbulence and now had a baby on the way.

“I’m not sucking up to her. I’m just showing her what a considerate man can give her. You should try it once in a while.” Nick set down beside his brother as warmth settled in his belly. Eric’s relationship with Samara wasn’t the only one showing signs of improvement. After six years, he and Eric were finally acting like brother’s again.

“I give her something better than flowers.” Eric wiggled his eyebrows. Nick rolled his eyes and gave his brother a light shove.

“Yeah, and I’m sure she loves getting a piece of your hairy ass.”

“Well she hasn’t complained about my ass so far, hairy or otherwise. You’re just jealous that I’m getting some.”

Nick stuck up his middle finger and rubbed his nose with it.

His brother laughed and turned back to the hockey game. “Why don’t you make your move on Hadria? Pining isn’t your style,” Eric said with his eyes glued to the TV.

“Why do you insist on sticking your nose into my love-life? Matchmaking isn’t your style.” Nick focused his attention on the game. He didn’t want to talk about Hadria, who he’d been in love with for years. She’d been in a relationship for most of that time, so he kept quite about his fondness for her. Then Alex had betrayed her, betrayed them all and still he kept quiet about his growing affection for her. She insisted on maintaining the status quo. So he’d wait till things between them changed enough to enable him to tell her how he felt.

“Don’t give him a hard time about Hadria, baby. He’ll let her know how he feels when he’s ready.” Samara came into the living room and sat down on Eric’s lap. Eric pulled her close against him, his hand resting on the curve of her stomach, which did not yet show evidence of their child.

“I’m not giving him a hard time. I just think he should get in the game before someone else does.”

The idea of Hadria with someone else sent a growl rumbling through Nick’s chest as his hands curled into fists. His jaw ached as he clenched his teeth. His knuckles showed white, and he forced himself to uncurl his fingers.

“Calm down, Nick. Hadria isn’t interested in someone else. She’s closer to you then she has ever been to anyone.” Samara touched his arm, and he concentrated on breathing as he counted to ten silently in his head. “Just give it a little more time. Alex’s betrayal did a number on her. And considering she believes she is under a curse, it will take some time for her to get over it”.

“I doubt she will ever get over it. Face it, if she thinks every wolf she has a relationship with will betray her, then I don’t have a chance.” Nick’s shoulders slumped and he let out a heavy sigh. Samara shook his arm and he looked over at her.

“You have to try,” she said as she squeezed his arm, hard. “Would you be happy with anyone else? Or would you regret, for the rest of your life, not telling her what’s in your heart?”

Nick was silent for a moment. He tried dating other women, but nothing had panned out. He spent most of his time talking about Hadria, and his dates found it a big turn off. He didn’t give many second dates. Hadria consumed him, and while he wasn’t ready to profess his love, he knew he would have to sooner rather than later.

“How’s Rowan doing?”

Nick looked at Eric, and his brother smirked at him. Eric mouthed the word “loser” and Samara saw it and gave him a light smack on the back of the head. Eric straightened up, and his grin faded.

“He doesn’t come out of his room much. Eric’s been trying to engage him, to get him out doing things, but so far it hasn’t worked. He paces around in there at night.”

A pained look came over Eric and he scrubbed his hand over his face.

Nick knew he blamed himself for not being able to pull Rowan out of his funk. Nick shared the blame. Eric hadn’t even been around for the aftermath of the death of Rowan’s wife and baby. Nick had. He’d ignored the signs of his brother’s downward spiral until it was too late. By the time he woke up to his brother’s state, Rowan had been injected with Dark Wolf. He attacked a woman and had fallen under the Order’s radar. They sent Samara in to assassinate him, but she’d seen something in Rowan deserving of mercy and had spared his life.

“I’ll go see him,” Nick said as he prepared to stand.

“He’s not here.” Eric held up his hand and Nick settled back onto the couch. “When he goes out, he goes to McDonald Park and just sits there for hours.”

“How do you know?”

“I followed him once when he first came home, and I doubt his habits have changed at all.”

McDonald Park. Nick closed his eyes for a moment as his stomach tightened.

“The park,” Samara said softly as she looked at Nick. She knew as well as he did the significance of the park.

“What’s going on?” Eric couldn’t have failed to notice the look that passed between them. They hadn’t told him why the Order targeted Rowan, only about Rowan being injected with the formula. “You both know I don’t like you keeping secrets from me.”

“Rowan attacked a woman in McDonald Park.” Samara turned to Eric and pressed her lips to his forehead when he swore under his breath.

“He didn’t kill her, did he?” Eric asked as his face paled. He shook his head as if to answer his own question. “Of course he didn’t, the Order wouldn’t have let him live if he had.”

“She’s disappeared. The Order is trying to find all the women who’ve been attacked, but so far we haven’t had any luck.”

“That can’t be good for him. Going back there and reliving it all the time,” Eric said.

“He hasn’t said how much of it he remembers. Maybe he doesn’t know why he goes to the park, and some instinct is compelling him.”

The phone rang and Samara eased off Eric’s lap to go answer it.

“Is there anything we can do to help him get through this?”

“I don’t know. This may be something he has to work out for himself. Until he’s ready to talk about it, I don’t think there is much we can do.”

Samara came back into the room, her face bone white. Nick sat up straighter, a shiver running down his spine when he saw tears swimming in her eyes. His body moved as if through molasses as he eased to the edge of his seat.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” Eric stood and walked over to her, putting his arm around her shoulder.

“It’s Hadria.” Her voice came out in a shocked whisper.

Nick exploded off the couch. Bile rose up in his throat as he took one step toward her “What about Hadria? What’s happened to her?” His words came out in rapid, machine gun like fire. He stood in front of her, his hand coming up to grab her arms. He had to know what happened to Hadria, and he had to know now. Eric put his large body between them, getting his face so close to Nick’s that their noses came close to touching. His brother’s brows were drawn into a scowl, and Nick clenched his jaw as Eric forced him back a step.

“She doesn’t need you crowding her. She’ll tell us what’s going on, so back off.” Eric gave him a shove. Nick growled and took a step closer to Eric.

“You two, just stop it,” Samara yelled, and Nick could hear every note of anguish in her voice. It was like a bucket of water on both him and his brother. Nick moved back and held up his hands. Eric moved to Samara’s side, and she rested her head on his chest when his arms came around her.

“She was on a mission. She’s been shot and has lost a lot of blood. They just brought her into the hospital and they’re not sure if she will make it.” Samara turned her head, and sobbed quietly into his brother’s chest.

Nick didn’t need to hear any more. His heart slammed in his chest as he took off out of the house at a dead run. As soon as he jumped into his truck, he took off on squealing, smoking tires. He didn’t check to see if his brother and Samara followed. He needed to get to headquarters. Hadria needed him.

The trip took less time than normal, and Nick raced through the tunnels running beneath the old building. The Order’s headquarters was in the old Rockwood Asylum, an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Kingston. The only way into the building was by tunnel, which started at the Tower House and led into the old hospital. It took longer to get in than if he’d been able to use the front door. For a moment Nick cursed the fact that they had to keep their presence in the building a secret.

Nick shot up to the infirmary on the second floor. He saw their leader Cadric in the waiting room, and he tried to blow past him to go scrub up.

“Where are you going Nick?” Cadric reached out to halt him, and Nick shook off his arm.

“I don’t have time for this Cadric. I have to get scrubbed up so I can help her.” Nick’s words came out in a frantic rush as he tried to step around Cadric. His boss stepped in his way and refused to budge.

“You’re staying here. Lee is with her, and they’re prepping her for surgery. Lee will take care of her, and he’ll do a better job than you will.”

Nick ran his hands through his hair and his mouth opened and closed. How can Cadric think Lee can do a better job than me?Cadric steered Nick over to the chairs lining one wall of the waiting room, and Nick put up no resistance as his boss shoved him down in to one.

“I realize you want to help her,” he said. “But you may end up doing more harm than good. Lee is the better choice. You and objectivity, as far as Hadria is concerned, parted company a long time ago. Look at your hands. Are they steady enough to operate on her?”

Nick looked down at his trembling hands. His hands vibrated so much that he would not even be able to hold a scalpel. He lowered his face into them and concentrated on breathing. Nothing could happen to her. Lee will fix her and she’ll be fine. He concentrated on breathing in and out slowly as he forced the pounding of his heart to slow into a steady rhythm.

A small female hand slipped into his and squeezed. Nick lifted his heavy head and turned to Samara, who sat in the chair next to his. Eric stood beside her with his hand stroking her hair. Nick clung to her as he swallowed back the lump forming in his throat as the backs of his eyes prickled. He blew his breath out hard. He needed to get his act together. Samara needed both him and Eric to be strong to get her through this. If the thought of Hadria fighting for her life has me tied in knots, it must be killing her.

“What happened?” Nick turned to Cadric, keeping his hand tightly held to Samara’s.

“Her and Jaclyn were ambushed at Horn’s compound. Hadria took the brunt of it. Jaclyn said just seconds before the gunmen burst in, Hadria pushed her out of the way.”

“How bad is she hurt?” Nick kept his voice steady, despite the fear churning in his gut.

“She’s been shot five times. Three times in the torso and twice in her right leg. She’d lost a lot of blood, and they gave her a transfusion on the plane.”

“Christ.” Nick closed his eyes as he released Samara’s hand and ran his palms over his face. He heard Samara whimper and turned to see his brother sit in the chair beside her and scoop her onto his lap. Nick reached out with a shaking hand and put it on her shoulder, offering his support. Hadria had lived an extraordinary long life, but she was not immortal. None of them were. She healed faster than a human, but that wouldn’t happen if she bled to death.

All they could do for Hadria now was wait to hear the outcome of her surgery. Lee was an excellent doctor, and she was in good hands. His mind turned over all the possible things that could go wrong, and he squeezed his eyes shut tight.

Don’t think about it. Lee’s a good doctor. She’s going to be fine. Eventually he could drown out even the loud ticking of the clock on the other side of the room. He made a vow to himself, that if she survived this, he would tell her how he felt. Anything might happen to either of them, at any moment, especially considering the work they did. He didn’t want to waste any more time.

here

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h1=. Also by Dena Christy

Paranormal Romance Series

Dark Assassin, Dark Wolf Series Book 1

Dark Curse, Dark Wolf Series Book 2

Dark Wolf, Dark Wolf Series Book 3

Dark Vengeance, Dark Wolf Series Book 4

Dark Gods, Dark Wolf Series Book 5

***

Andor, The Dragon’s Mate Series Book 1

Iszak, The Dragon’s Mate Book 2

Standalone Paranormal Romance

Going Under

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h1=. Acknowledgments

As with any project, this book would not be possible without the contribution of a few people.  The cover design was created by Kim Killion at The Killion Group Inc, and editing of the manuscript was performed by E J Clarke at Silver Jay Media.

I’d also like to say thank you to Rebecca Wager and Lisa Wilson for acting as beta readers. 


Dark Assassin

Samara Damalas is an assassin with the Order of Odin, and uses her skills as a succubus to enthrall and kill her targets. One touch and any man is hers to control. Until she tries to recruit a werewolf for a mission to stop the production of a deadly virus which turns werewolves into feral killing machines. Her hand on his skin does nothing but ignite a passion in her that tests the limits of her control. Eric Johnson has spent six long years cutting himself off from anyone who could touch his heart. He is forced to leave his solitary life behind when his twin brother goes missing. And he suspects that the beautiful and deadly Samara knows more about that than she is letting on. He agrees to the mission so he can learn more about what happened to his brother, but vows to resist the attraction she stirs within him. Now Eric and Samara must out run those who seek to stop their mission and end their lives, while protecting their hearts from the love threatening to consume them both.

  • Author: Dena Christy
  • Published: 2017-07-18 18:35:23
  • Words: 68268
Dark Assassin Dark Assassin