Cassie’s not having a good week. She’s tired of dealing with the mixed signals from her boyfriend and she’s attacked by a large dog. Then it gets worse. Said boyfriend is keeping secrets and possibly using her for his own ends and the dog that attacked her? Yeah, that was a werewolf and now she’s going to be howling at the next full moon.
Not only does she have to deal with a deranged werewolf, intent on killing her but she’s got her boyfriend’s father pushing them to mate. Did she mention her boyfriend was a werewolf too? It’s going to take all she’s got to handle these alpha men and get what she wants too. Things can only get better. Right?
If you missed Chapter Six, you can find it here.
Alex was gone the next morning when she woke up. A weight lifted off her chest, and she breathed for the first time in days, even though she was alone. Or because she was alone. As much as she hated that Alex had used her, she still found him attractive, the chemistry between them as explosive as ever. The back and forth between her head and her heart had her stomach tied in knots. If this continued, she’d have an ulcer before long.
After a leisurely shower, Cassie headed down to rummage for breakfast. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, the doorbell rang. Her heart pounded and she tensed to run until a sudden thought sprang forward. Indecision warred inside her. Should she answer? Alex swore there were guards watching over her so it should be someone friendly. Would the guy trying to kill her really ring the doorbell? Still….
A couple of hard knocks on the heavy door startled her. “Cassidy March? I’m Megan, Alex’s sister.”
Relief at hearing a friendly voice flooded through her. She eased the door open and found an attractive woman standing on the porch. Megan resembled her brother with long dark brown hair the same shade as Alex’s, but lighter colored eyes.
A man walked up behind Alex’s sister. Fear skittered through her and she backed away from the door. Was this the man that had hurt her? Megan turned to look behind her.
“Mace, don’t sneak up like that. You know what Cassidy’s been through.”
The chagrined man stopped in his tracks and offered up an apologetic smile. “Sorry, ladies.”
The improbability of the situation, a pint-size woman reprimanding a man twice her size, struck Cassie funny and a nervous laugh escaped. Both Mace and Megan turned their attention to her. The confusion on the big man’s face just made her laugh louder. Alex’s sister must have realized the joke and joined in with her own chuckles. The shared laughter broke the ice between them better than anything else could have.
Obviously deciding they were both crazy, Mace cocked his head. “Do either of you need anything?”
Still giggling, they both shook their heads. Cassie opened the door wider and Megan stepped through. The burly guard shook his head as he headed back to his post.
“Sorry to drop in on you. I thought you might like some company since Alex is gone today.”
A new kind of warmth washed over her, collecting in her chest, touched that someone who didn’t even know her would take the time to make sure she was okay. “Thank you for thinking of me. Have you had breakfast yet?”
“Breakfast sounds great. Shall I help?” Megan moved through the hall toward the kitchen.
“Nope, but I’d love to pick your brain. This werewolf stuff is pretty new to me.”
“Yeah, I know. Another reason I came over. There are just some questions that a woman wants to ask another woman.”
The warm, fuzzy feeling in her tummy was back. Before she could stop herself, she gave Megan a quick hug. Then embarrassment at her forwardness sent a new shaft of fire to her cheeks and she stiffened, pulled away.
Megan snatched up Cass’ hand before she could put distance between them. “You’re not alone anymore. You’re part of a pack and that means you have an instant family, including the good and bad.”
Tears welled in her eyes and a ball of emotion stuck in her throat. “Thanks.”
Pulling away and wiping her eyes, Cassie moved over to the refrigerator. “Let’s see what we can find to eat.”
During a quick but filling breakfast, Cassie peppered Megan with questions. Most of the information was general stuff, things that Alex had already told her. She yearned to ask the question that burned inside her heart.
As though she had a direct line to her brain, Megan looked into her eyes. “Go ahead. There’s something you want to know. Ask.”
With a gulp, Cassie plunged ahead. “Can I still have children?”
“Of course you can. Alex and I are both born wolves. Your children will be shifters, but that’s to be expected between two full wolf shifters.”
Elation at the news that her dream was not dead sprang up inside her. Then, the other woman’s words registered. Who did Megan think the father would be? “How do you know that the father will be a full werewolf? Is there a rule that says I can only be with a werewolf?”
Confusion wrinkled Megan’s forehead. “Uh…no…but wolf shifters only have children with their true mates.”
“So how do you know who my true mate will be?” Why was Alex’s sister acting so strange?
“Cassie, you and Alex are true mates.”
A lump of what felt like stone dropped into Cassie’s stomach and feeling light-headed, she laid her head down on the table. How could Alex be her true mate? Why was her only chance of having children dependent on a man who didn’t love her? A surreal feeling hovered around her as if this were a dream. Maybe she’d wake up in the hospital and find out everything was a coma-induced fantasy.
“Are you all right?” Megan squeezed her arm, infusing some warmth back into her cold extremities.
Cassie raised her head. “How do you know Alex and I are true mates?”
Arching her brow, Megan watched Cassie, concern radiating from her warm gaze. “All wolves know their true mate – by smell and by the strong physical chemistry.”
“So it’s a biological thing?”
“At first. Love always comes from a true mate pairing. I think because of the soul-joining.”
The what? Soul-joining? Alex had left out a lot during their discussion. She ignored the whisper in the back of her mind telling her that he wanted to tell her everything and she’d refused to listen.
“I’m sorry. I thought Alex had explained all this.” Megan’s face was now a mask of worry.
Tamping down her thoughts and emotions, Cassie took a deep breath. She needed to remain calm so she could make sense of all this new information.
“No, not yet. Please. Tell me about this soul-joining.”
Indecision lined Megan’s face. Cassie reached out and grasped the other woman’s hand.
With a squeeze, Megan nodded. “It’s believed that each werewolf is born with half a soul. Their true mate has the other half, so when they find each other, they go through a mating ritual. This joins the soul halves together, which binds the couple forever. Until a wolf finds his true mate and they perform the binding ceremony, they don’t reach their full strength.”
“Is that why your father pushed at Alex to have this ceremony with me?”
“Yes. Dad is the current Alpha and Alex is his successor, but he can’t take over until he’s mated. Until he has his full strength, a lesser wolf that is mated could challenge him and win.”
“You’re saying that Alex can’t be Alpha unless he’s mated and because we’re supposedly true mates, it has to be with me?” A numbness invaded her limbs, her heart, her head. How did she handle this? If Alex needed her specifically to be the Alpha, then he had no intention of ever backing down. Yesterday had been about him placating her, biding his time until he could convince her to do this ceremony thing. She didn’t know whether to be thrilled or angry. Her emotions swung from one extreme to the other.
“Cassidy, are you okay?” Megan’s worried voice broke through the deep freeze overrunning her.
She rubbed her temples as a headache started behind her eyes. “I appreciate you stopping by and explaining this stuff, but could I be alone for awhile? I think I need some time to process everything.”
Instantly solicitous, Megan jumped up. “Of course. I’m sorry for laying all of this on you. I thought Alex had already explained about your mating.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s just a lot to take in.” Cassie forced a smile to reassure Megan.
When she’d finally shut the door behind the friendly woman, Cassie staggered to the couch. The numbness had worn off and anger built steadily as she went over the conversation in her head.
The exchange she’d overheard between Alex and his father the first day now took on greater significance. Somehow, she and Alex were true mates and only by binding with her, could he take his place as the pack leader. He’d never felt anything for her outside the biological clues that told him she was the one that could help him.
A sharp pain pierced her chest. She’d thought he couldn’t hurt her any more than he already had, but she’d been wrong. Distance. That’s what she needed. She knew once Alex returned, he’d start his charade again to seduce her. Another kiss like the one they’d shared last night would likely make her forget her conviction and condemn her to a loveless life.
Decision in place, she ran for the stairs. It was still early in the day. She’d take a backpack of essentials and get some space for a while. With her new senses, she could figure out where the guards were and look out for the rogue herself. As long as she was vigilant, she should be fine.
The full moon was only a week away. She’d come back for her first shift, because God knew it scared her silly. A week with no outward influence would help her think clearly enough to decide what to do.
Today had been a lesson in frustration. Alex released a heavy sigh and ran a hand through his hair as he walked up the drive to his house. If luck was with him tonight, he’d make more headway with Cassie.
His mind wandered to the kiss last night as it’d done all day. He’d heard the chemistry between true mates was off-the-charts hot, but since he’d been cautious during their courtship, he hadn’t experienced it. Until last night.
Cassie had run. Again. Because she was scared of the feelings between them? He needed to explain true mates to her. How would she take it? Not well, he’d venture. His wolf strained inside him to take her, but the man knew she had a lot to contend with and that patience was a better plan. What he’d give to be able to go home and lose himself in his mate.
At his front door, he detected his sister’s scent and smiled. He’d hoped that Meg would stop by and spend some time with Cassie. Leaving her alone when there was still a huge threat went against everything in him, but if he could find the rogue and neutralize him, it would be worth it.
Cassie’s scent overlaid Meg’s, but both were faint. He frowned. If Cassie were inside, her scent should be stronger. Fear shot through him, and he slammed through the door.
Silence greeted him. He tore through the house, but found it empty. Ending at the kitchen, he saw a white rectangle on the table that he’d missed on his first frantic pass through. He opened the paper. The words blurred and he had to take a deep breath to calm the shaking in his hand enough to read the note.
I know I said I’d stay until the rogue was caught, but after talking with your sister today, I need something I can’t get at your place. Space. I’ll be careful while I’m gone and I’ll be back next week for the full moon. Please don’t try to follow me.
He crumpled the paper into a tight ball. What the hell had his sister told her? Crossing the room to the phone, he punched in the number. As soon as it lifted on the other end, he exploded.
“What the hell did you tell her, Meg? She’s gone.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I came home to an empty house and a note saying she needed space after your conversation. What. Did. You. Tell. Her?”
“Oh, no. I’m sorry, Alex. I thought she already knew. When I realized she didn’t, it was too late.”
“What?” Adrenaline spiked inside him, urging him to go find her now, but he needed to know why she ran. He needed to know what was so bad that she felt the need to run away after being attacked twice already.
“I told her about true mates and the binding ritual.”
Alex closed his eyes and dropped his head back. An ache settled in his chest. He should have been the one to tell her. It was his fault that she’d found out this way. As much as he wanted to give her the space she’d requested, he couldn’t do it. She wasn’t safe with the rogue still running wild, and whether she accepted him or not, she was his mate and he would protect her.
Meg’s voice cut through his thoughts. “I’ll be right over to help look for her. We’ll find her.”
The confidence in his sister’s voice replayed in his head while he called the guards to report. He had to think the best. If anything happened to her…he couldn’t even think that way. In the short time since he’d found her, she’d burrowed her way into his heart. He couldn’t live without her now and he’d do whatever it took so he wouldn’t have to.
Please return on October 19th for Chapter 8 of Power Play.
If you missed any of our previous posts and would like to catch up, you can purchase the Digital Digest Volume I Issue I, Digital Digest Volume I Issue II and Digital Digest Volume I Issue III anthologies as ebooks for only $.99!
Copyright © 2011 Riley Quinn
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.