Snow whirled around me in a blast of cold wind. When it disappeared and a puff of heat hit me, I knew I had arrived back in Asia. I looked around my quiet apartment. All of Ian’s clothes were gone. His books, photos and other odds and ends were also gone. My stomach knotted tightly as the force of it really hit me. He had moved his things back to his place like I had asked. I sank slowly onto my sofa.
“I wondered when you would get in.” His deep voice startled me, causing me to jerk my attention back towards the front door.
“Are you alone?” I asked, not trying to hide my bitterness.
He was dressed in a heavy wool kilt, a long sleeve black t-shirt and was even now kicking off his boots. Wordlessly, he glided across the floor and sat down on the sofa beside me.
“Kat, I’m sorry for everything. I didn’t mean to hurt you or make you feel mislead.”
I held up my hand to stop him from continuing. “Ian, I want to understand. I love you. I realize I don’t say it much, but I do mean it.”
The words seemed to hit him like a ton of bricks, knocking the air out of him. He stared back at me with eyes full of pain. “Kat, please hear me out. I’ll tell you everything, if you just listen to me.”
With a deep breath he began to speak. “I met Meridith when I was very young. I was probably your age or even younger. It was a whirlwind of a romance and despite my father’s objection because we were so young, we decided to be bound together. We were happy for a very long time. She gave me two amazing sons that became amazing young men. As far as I knew, my life was perfect. Three years ago a large group of Vampires from House of Sanguinites moved through our region. We were caught off guard and suffered many losses. Among them were my mate Meridith and my sons Scott and Aaron.” He paused to consider the his words carefully.
“I mourned their loss every day for a year. I was an empty shell of a person. A year ago, my father sent me on a diplomatic mission to the Kingdom of the Elves in that first realm I took you to. The new princess Lily had these amazing and rambunctious brothers that reminded me so much of my sons. I had decided to leave my homeland and travel here to Asia. I thought the change of pace may be good to get me out of my shell and back into life again. Before I left, my father forced me to bond with a new mate. I am his only son and he wanted to know I would carry on the family legacy. He chose Briar. I din’t argue, I figured she was there to do a job. There have been plenty of political bindings and marriages over the centuries. I was doing my duty to my people. We mated a few times, she assured me she was pregnant and I left for Asia.” He sighed.
“You left your Baby’s Mama while she was all preggers? Not cool, man!” I hissed at him.
“It was a political union only. She had the best care in the world and she only came to see me if she was in heat.” He ran his hand through his hair roughly. “She didn’t return my calls or have anything to do with me other than mating.”
“Ok, so you have a baby with her then?” I asked.
“No, she lied about being pregnant so I would leave. She was no more thrilled about our union than I was. She then told my clan a few months after I was gone that it was all a misunderstanding. As you can imagine, my family didn’t take it well. They insisted that I come home or she come here. I refused, because at that point I had met you. We weren’t together yet but I had already formed an attachment to you. I knew her being here would complicate things for us. I told my family I had met someone who could potentially be a real mate to me. Someone I cared for and she cared for me too. They were so shocked, all talk of sending Briar was dropped.” He reached out and took my hand. I was more than a little dumbfounded and unable to resist.
“My family called after they heard about House of Sanguinites having baby Vamps in the area. I told them that we were all fine and that you had accepted a position seasonally at the North Pole. Cariss thought that since Briar was in heat again it would be the perfect time for us to get together and work on the family line. He packed her up and sent her here without telling me she was coming. She just showed up. For a Were, if our mate is in heat we cannot deny them mating. While it is a law, it’s also a physical reaction. She has full control of my desire and physically and mentally can bend me to her whims during that time.” He studied my eyes for a moment. All I could do was quirk a brow.
“No, I didn’t want to. Yes, I tried to resist it. No matter how much I begged her not to, she still did it.” I sat there, shocked.
“She raped you!?” I felt my blood boil.
“No, men can’t be raped… not like that. We’re bigger, stronger, and it can’t be done. The primal side of my brain just kicked in,” he asserted.
“Did you want to have sex with her?” I asked.
“Did you tell her ‘No’, ‘stop’, or that you didn’t want to have sex with her?”
“Of course, multiple times.”
I rolled my eyes. “Did you try to stop her?”
“Yes. I mean, I didn’t want to hurt her, but yes. I tried sending her away, I tried restraining her while I attempted to talk sense into her. All she did was stupify me, and it’s like all I could do was lay there.” He stroked his thumb over the back of my fingers.
“Did you ever willingly consent to having sex with her?” I asked as the final question.
“No, I told her I didn’t want to and when I tried to leave she put me in a sort of trance mates can use.” He was processing the information and the look on his face was slowly changing. He looked back at me, trying to form words.
“If you said no, continued to refuse, were then forced to have sex against your will, and worse, restrained, that is rape.” I captured his hand between both of mine and held it there. A storm of emotions crossed his face.
“She wouldn’t. It’s not like that. We’re a mated pair…” He paused and looked unconvinced.
“As you know, Hue and I share a mental link. What if he somehow used that in such a way that I couldn’t resist, then forced me to have sex with him? He wouldn’t do that,” I quickly added.
“I would kill him, that’s ra….” He froze. He stood up suddenly and started to head towards the door.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“She’s commanding me to come.”
I grabbed his arm and tugged on it. He slowed down and looked at me with pain and anguish in his eyes. “Don’t go!” I pleaded with him, but he continued out the door.
“Don’t let me go.” His voice was pleading and he sounded like he was almost at the point of tears.
I pulled with all my strength against his arm. “Where is she calling you to?”
“Home, she’s making me come home.” I dropped his hand. He looked hurt and betrayed when I turned back to my apartment door, closing it behind me.
I slid my feet into my sneakers and tied them. I pulled my hair up into a ponytail and paused a minute to look in the mirror. I stood looking out the window, trying to give Ian a bit of a head start. Then reaching up, I touched the portal bead at my neck. Closing my eyes I pictured Ian’s tiny apartment and felt the world shift around me. When everything came into focus Briar was sitting on the edge of the bed. She glared at me.
“You!” she said with such loathing it made my skin crawl.
“Yes, me!” I said walking towards her.
“If you come any closer I will attack you,” she threatened.
“Then stop calling Ian.”
She snarled a word or two at me that were anything but ladylike. “He’s my mate and he has a duty.”
“I understand that what you’re doing is wrong. I also understand that since I serve the local OAC I’m sure there is a way I can make you more than just miserable here.”
She growled low and began shifting forms before me. The door to the apartment closed. Ian stood there, horror on his face as he looked from the wolf form of Briar to me standing there rather unimpressed.
She lunged at me, knocking me to the ground. I didn’t fight back as her teeth bit down on the arm I had thrown over my throat to avoid her making contact. I cried out in pain, but didn’t fight back either. I just watched as Ian’s face grew more and more pained. Tears were running down his face.
She latched onto my shoulder, coming dangerously close to my neck, and it was then I felt the weight of her lifted away. She yelped loudly as she landed on the bed.
“Of all the STUPID, useless, crazy stunts to pull, this is the best you can come up with?” My eyes never left Ian’s as I was scooped up into Hue’s arms. His voice was rife with anger. He glared at Briar, who looked like she was getting ready to pounce. “Alizeyah may be fine with you mauling her, but I assure you there is no love loss between you and I. I will not hesitate to remove your head and turn your body to ash.”
Hue turned me in his grip so he could survey the damage. “You know that cold feeling you have right now? The disorientation?” I nodded. “That’s called shock and blood loss.”
“Who are you?” Briar bellowed.
“Lord Hudraer, her Dragon Lord. This has gone too far. You nearly killed her.” He turned to glare at Ian before looking back at her. “Cariss will hear about this. Ian is a friend of our clan, but even as his mate you have just committed an act of war against us.” Hue’s grip on me tightened and he leaned forward, kissing my forehead.
Ian was suddenly able to move and came to stand beside me. Everything was blurry, but I felt the world shift around us and then recognized the smell and cool air of the stone walls of the nest.
When I awoke the next morning it was to find both Hue and Ian stretched out beside me. We were on Hue’s massive bed and the room was dark. I started to sit up but felt both of them stir on either side of me. “You’re awake? Good.” Hue swept the hair our of my face and began poking at the bandages on my arm and shoulder.
Ian shifted to sit beside me. “Will she live?” he asked flatly.
Hue finished removing the last of the bandages. “Looks that way. Wounds are all closed and she has some wicked scarring that will take several weeks to fade.”
Ian nodded and slid off the bed. “I will leave you to lecture her on the finer points of suicidal behavior while I take the terms to my father.” I looked at him closely. Once again he resembled the Werewolf I knew and loved. Grumpy but normal.
Hue helped me sit up and I moaned as the muscles in my body screamed angrily. He sat there and stared at me with annoyance. “You’re lucky your mother is an amazing healer and you evidently heal quickly, even for a Dragon or an Elf.”
“Hue, she was hurting him. She was using some super secret mate power to rape him,” I explained.
“I know, you broadcast your thoughts loudly. When you left to go there I thought you were going to smack her around, not offer yourself up on a platter,” he snapped at me. He took a moment to calm himself and reached to take my hand. “I have sent a message to Cariss that Briar tried to attack you and kill you. That as a member of the clan, and specifically of your bloodline, it was an act of war. We recognize Ian as an ally, but Briar needs to go. We called for her removal as his mate or else we would pursue retribution.” I couldn’t keep the horror off my face.
“You would go to war… over me?”
“Yes. Your relationship with both he and I is a dangerous one, and you need to understand that. You could have died and I’m not sure I would have managed to go on if that happened.” His voice softened. “Our lives are tied together. I will always rescue you because I don’t think I could let my heart beat without you.”
I sighed. “Hue, I’m sorry. I hoped he would be able to push through the control if he…” He held up a hand to cut me off.
“Ian has a responsibility to his clan. He must produce an heir, and it must be with another wolf. If you’re going to be with him, you must accept it as a term and condition. Thousands of lives count on him. We have, however, decided that you will be responsible for finding his next mate. We both believe that if you have a part in it you are less likely to object. I would suggest that you focus on finding someone you can get along with and that he can care for. It would be nice, if things don’t work out between you two, he has someone he can be happy with.”
“What do you mean, if we don’t work out? Isn’t that a bit unrealistic?”
“On the contrary, I don’t believe that you are meant to be with him forever, but I do believe that he will hold a special place in your heart for the rest of your life. When the smoke clears from the fallout if would be nice if you could still be friends with them both.”
I wanted to argue with him but knew nothing I said would make a difference.
Saturday passed quietly as did Sunday, and soon Hue and I were packing up to head back to the North Pole. “Dani is going to be so pissed at me.”
“We were supposed to go shopping this weekend.”
“I’ll take you both shopping next weekend. You needed to heal.”
“Let’s just go back to work. You get to be on the conference call though, ok?”