“There wasn’t a whole fucking lot left of my pack,” he said, throwing a hard glare over his shoulder. The sunlight caught the savaged edge of his ear. “But I didn’t come back just for the pack.”

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No, he’d come back for vengeance. She knew the story, thanks to Rafe. “You came back and killed Kaber.” Kaber Gentry, the lone wolf who’d come into the pack—and killed Lucas’s father. Then attacked a ten-year-old boy. She knew exactly how Lucas had gotten that torn ear. Kaber had bit off part of Lucas’s ear when the two fought. Kaber hadn’t exactly believed in showing mercy to a child.

To anyone.

Lucas growled, “The fucking bastard deserved everything he got.”

And Kaber had gotten a lot of pain. The final battle between Kaber and Lucas had lasted for hours and ended with Kaber missing more than just half an ear. Lucas had taken his head.

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“You went after him because he killed your father.” She sucked in a quick breath. “That’s why Rafe is coming after you.”

His expression didn’t change. Not by so much as a flicker of his eyelashes. “Kaber Gentry had no sons. No daughters. He was Lone, a wolf that had been kicked out of his pack because he was fucking psychotic.”

She was aware of the door opening behind her. Sarah looked back and found Piers gazing at them with a shuttered stare. She remembered the touch of his mind. The chaos inside. Psychotic. She cleared her throat. “Lone or not, he took the pack from your father.”

“He destroyed the damn pack!” Lucas came back to her, fast. “He turned ’em into killers. They hunted humans, attacked at will, made a bloodbath—”

“He mated with a human, and they had a son. Kaber didn’t think the boy could shift, so he left them behind.” His mistake. His hybrid son could definitely shift into the form of a wolf.

“What the fuck are you saying? That Rafe is coming after me—”

“Because he wants your land, and your pack, just like his father did.” She lifted her chin. “But more than that, he wants revenge, and he’s not going to stop until he gets his pound of flesh from you.”

His broad shoulders seemed to block the light. “I’m not giving his family any more flesh.”

She didn’t let her gaze drift to his ear. She never had. “If you give him the chance, he’ll take it. He’s going after everything you care about. Everyone.”

He caught her arms and yanked her against his chest. “The whole time, you knew it was personal.” His breath feathered over her face. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It’s always personal,” she said sadly. “Don’t you know that?” No kill in the Other world was ever just business.

“Is there anything you don’t know about me?” he muttered, gaze hard on her face.

She knew the big details . . .

The battle when he’d been a child.

The fight to take his pack back.

The hunt for the vampires.

But there was still so much she didn’t know. Sure, she knew the blood and gore parts. Nothing about the man. “A lot,” she managed to whisper, but she was trying to know everything, struggling to learn as much as she could.

“Lucas!” Caleb’s voice cut through the air.

They glanced back. He stood just behind Piers.

“Dane’s on the line.” He shook his head. “Sounds damn weak . . . and he said—he said he had to talk to you.”

Dane. Sarah’s shoulders sagged. If he was calling back to base, then he was safe.

They rushed back toward the house. Caleb tossed Lucas the cell phone.

“Dane, where the hell are—” Lucas began, but he broke off, eyes narrowing. “Who the fuck is this?”

Goosebumps rose on her arms and she knew even before Lucas snarled, “Rafe.”

Chapter 9

Low laughter filled Lucas’s ears. “I’ve got something you want.”

He almost shattered the cell phone. “Put Dane on the line.”

“Sorry, no can do. But your boy heard him—he knows I’ve got the lost wolf.”

Fuck.

“I’ve got something you want,” Rafe said again, his voice light, mocking, “but . . .” And now his voice changed. Grew harder. Angrier. “You’ve got something I fucking need.”

Lucas’s stare jumped to Sarah. She watched him with wide eyes, biting her lower lip.

“Pretty isn’t she?” Rafe murmured. “But be careful, her looks are deceiving.”

“You’re dead.” His promise.

More laughter. “No, but unless I get what I need, Dane will be.”

“I’m not making a trade with you.” Pale flesh scarred with clawmarks. “So fuck off.”

“I know how Dane got all those marks on his body.”

Lucas’s back teeth clenched so hard his jaw ached.

“I’ll be adding a few more,” Rafe told him. “You have an hour to make the trade.”

“How do I even know where you are?”

“Because I know you. You made the coyotes talk before you killed them.” A brief pause. “It’s what I would’ve done.”

Shit. Now the bastard thought Lucas was like him? “You’re not getting her.”

“Don’t be a dumbass.” Disdain now, no, disgust. “You don’t know her, and you’d be a fool to trust her.”

Sarah’s gaze still held his.

“What, Simone? You think you can fuck her?” Rafe’s breath rasped over the line. “You can’t. She wouldn’t let you touch her. Wouldn’t let anyone but me come close.” Absolute confidence.

Think again. But he bit back the words. They’d just piss off Rafe, and he didn’t want the bastard taking out his rage on Dane.

“One hour,” Rafe said again. “Bring her. Bring two men as backup. We switch, and you walk away clean.”

“While you kill her?”

Sarah’s body tensed.

“I won’t kill Sarah.” Surprise there. “Hasn’t she told you? I can’t.”

“But you can slash her, can’t you, asshole? Can dig those claws into her and—”

“How the fuck do you know?”

Because I saw her. Every damn inch. Touched and tasted.

Lucas didn’t say a word.

Sarah came closer, her footsteps silent. She touched his hand. “Make the trade,” she whispered.

His breath caught in his throat.

“Make it, or he dies.” Sarah’s voice was stronger, but fear showed in her eyes.

“Sarah.” Rafe’s low growl. Hungry, almost desperate. “See, she wants to come back to me.”

Like hell.

“Two men come with you,” Rafe said again. “You stay in human form, and you bring Sarah to me.”

The wind lifted her hair, tossing it lightly against her cheek.

“If I don’t get my mate back, then you’ll get your wolf in pieces. Very, very small pieces.”

The line died.

At first, Lucas didn’t move. Couldn’t. Rage pumped through his body. A fury that was all too familiar.

The fury he’d felt when his father died . . .

When Kaber had defeated him so easily and tossed his broken body into the dirt . . .

When the vamps took Jordan . . . When he’d tracked the scent of his brother’s blood to that hellhole in Vegas . . .

My mate.

Sarah licked her lips.

“Lucas?” Caleb asked. “What’s the plan?”

He didn’t look away from Sarah. He heard a crunch and realized he’d crushed the phone. “Get ready,” he said to Caleb. “You and Piers are coming with me.” Michael would stay and protect the house.

“Where are we go—”

“To get Dane back.”

Her gaze fell. Lucas caught her chin and forced her stare back to him. “You’ve been holding out on me.” He barely bit out the words. His claws wanted to burst from his skin. His teeth were burning, lengthening.

Caleb’s footsteps thundered away. Lucas took Sarah’s hand and pulled her around the side of the house. He pressed her against the rough brick walls.

“I-I know . . . there’s no choice . . . you have to—”

His mouth took hers in a hot, hard kiss, swallowing the words. She gasped against his lips, and he took her breath, too. Took everything.

The kiss wasn’t gentle. Wasn’t easy. He was way past that point. The blood pounded in his veins, and he heard the bastard’s voice echoing in his mind.

His mouth wrenched away from hers. “Why the hell . . .” He sucked in a breath, tasted her. Wanted more. Needed more. Just like that bastard Rafe seemed to need her. “Does that asshole think you’re his mate?”

Sarah flinched. “You know . . . you know we were lovers, I told you that.”

Yeah, and how the hell that had happened, he didn’t know. “What is it, babe? You got a thing for badasses?” First Rafe.

Now me.

She pressed back harder against the wall, as if she were trying to put space between them. “He wasn’t like . . . that at first.” The words came slowly. “He understood me, made me feel like I fit in. Finally, I fit someplace. I was wanted.”

Still was wanted. The guy was willing to kill in order to get her back—and Lucas was ready to kill to keep her. After only a few days . . .

Her lashes lowered. “I didn’t realize he was playing me until it was too late. I’d already slept with him.”

“How many times?”

Her lashes flew back up. “What?”

Don’t want to know. Don’t want to think about—“How many fucking times did you screw him?”

She shoved against him. “None of your damn business!”

Yeah, it is. His hands curled around her shoulders. “He thinks you’re his mate.”

Her mouth popped open in shock. “What? No, no, he just wants to kill me—”

“He called you his mate.” A wolf wouldn’t make a mistake like that.

“Then he was lying or jerking you around or—” She broke off, shaking her head. “I’m not his mate.”

“Shifters know their mates.” Not some predestined our-souls-are-meant-as-one bullshit. He didn’t buy that crap. But shifters could recognize those who were the best compatible genetic matches. Survival of the fucking fittest. Not everyone could produce a shifter’s offspring. It took a real special match, or else the world would have been exploding with shifters by now.

Some shifters recognized their mates by scent. An instinctive reaction. Some recognized them during the sex act—couldn’t get more instinctive than that.

“How many times?” he gritted again.

She shook her head. “I’m not telling you, okay? Like I said, that’s none of your business!”

“Babe, your ex-lover is gunning for my pack, he says he’s mated to you, that I can’t trust you—”

If he hadn’t been watching so closely, he might have missed that small widening of her eyes. But he had been watching her. Very closely.

Can’t trust you, can I?

“I don’t care what he thinks,” she said quietly. “I’m not his mate. I’m not planning to spend the rest of my life—however long or short that may be—with him. We’re done.”

“Damn straight you are.” His hand dove into the thickness of her hair. He caught the nape of her neck and pulled her closer.

“He’s trying to kill me,” she told him, voice husky. “Isn’t that proof enough that we’re not mated? Would a shifter kill his mate?”

It had happened before. Too many times. The animal was too close and jealousy was a primal emotion. An emotion that had roused his own beast.

“I’m not turning you over to him.” Their mouths were so close. He could already taste her.

And since they were so close, there was no missing the flash of sadness in her eyes. “Yes, you are.” She kissed him then. A light, open-mouthed kiss that just stirred the animal all the more. “Because there isn’t a choice.”

Screw that. His lips took hers. Hard. Wild. He thrust his tongue inside her mouth, tasted her deep and long because that was what he needed.

There was always a choice. He might not like the options but . . . there was always a choice.

His cock shoved against the front of his jeans. Rage and lust fired his blood. She was all he could feel. All he could smell. Everything he needed right then.

His left hand snaked between them. He found the soft curve of her breast. The nipple was hard, already pebbled against his fingers, and the scent of her arousal deepened around him.

Aroused, yes, but . . . afraid?

His head shot up. No way to do slow and easy now. They were outside. Time was against them, but . . .

Fucking need her.

Because death pressed close. He could feel the cold bastard all around him.

“If you don’t want me,” he said deliberately, “say it now.” Because five more seconds . . .

She blinked. He didn’t see the fear in her eyes then. Did she know that his canines were growing? She had to see the beast’s glow in his eyes.

But her hands went to the waist of his jeans. She jerked open the snap, slid down the zipper. Hell, yes.

Right then, right there. Death could wait. He was taking life then.

Her fingers curled around his cock. Cool, silken hands that tightened as they pumped and worked his flesh. Long, sensual strokes from root to tip. Strokes that had his body tensing as the need built and the lust just burned hotter.

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