“I’m sorry.” Caia winced.

Ella blanched, realizing her blunder. “Oh no, Cy, no. It’s not your fault. And anyway, now we know the two of them were truly meant to be mates. I’m so happy for her.”

“Me too.”

They were silent for a moment as Ella smiled softly to herself, and Caia pondered another question. Finally she felt brave enough to ask, “Ella?”


“Is it true that... that when a lykan mates... they mate for life?”

Her adoptive mother nodded, her eyes soft. “I keep forgetting there is so much about this life, the life that was always meant for you, that you don’t know,” she tsked and sighed. “Most lykans find their mate, but not all of us. I was lucky to meet mine, and Irini’s lucky to meet hers. What it means is that we literally can’t have children with anyone other than our mates.”

Caia’s eyes widened as she tried to take this in. “I remember Irini mentioning something, but I guess I didn’t really understand. You mean, we can have relationships with other people, but if we don’t find our mate … we can’t have children?”

“Well, it’s more that if Artemis doesn’t bless the union between the two of you, then you’re not mates, despite what your heart may be telling you … and you can’t have children.”

Caia blinked. “So, it’s entirely up to Artemis. But what if you don’t find your mate? Or, what if you really think someone is the one but Artemis disagrees?”


Ella’s eyes were saddened at the thought. “Then Artemis is right and that person isn’t your mate. No children. That’s why it’s imperative that our Pack Leaders find mates... otherwise Lunarmortes would be occurring all the time. The pack’s been lucky, however.”

“So Lucien...”

“Will have to find his mate if this family is to continue leading the pack.”

This left Caia reeling. Artemis had really done one over on her children with this one. “So you can never love anyone again?” She winced when she realized how blunt and insensitive that had sounded, but Ella shook her head, seeming not to mind.

“No honey. I can love, just not like I loved Albus.”

“It sounds like we got screwed in the relationship department.”

Ella laughed, but looked aghast. “Caia, that’s blasphemous.”

“Sorry. I just-”

“Cy, I’m not lonely,” she interrupted, her eyes softening as she said quietly, “I have Magnus.”

She thought her eyes were going to bulge out of her head. Magnus and Ella? Since when? “You...”

The Elder was obviously delighted to have shocked her. “We take comfort in one another. He lost his mate when she was very young, and after Albus... we love each other, Cy. Just … not the way we loved them.”

She smiled softly at Ella. She was glad actually. Ella and Magnus were two of her favorite lykans. That they had one another was a comforting thought.

“One day you’ll find your mate, Caia,” she said softly, her eyes warm and wise.

Caia snorted. “I don’t see that happening. I’m not really cut out for the whole marriage thing.”

Ella chuckled knowingly. “It’s not really up to you, one way or the other.”

Lucien needed to run tonight. His mother was driving him, and everyone else, crazy with this whole mating business. He was happy for his sister and Aidan, he really was, but did it have to be the topic of conversation at breakfast and dinner? His mother was even calling him at work to ask about icing colors and paper napkins. The ritual couldn’t come fast enough.

He sighed and ambled outside of the surprisingly quiet house, rolling his eyes as he passed the kitchen, which was covered in recipes, and cakes, and fabric swatches. The breeze was relaxing as it caressed his face.

“Heaven,” he breathed and began stripping down. He let the change happen, enjoying the burning pain and pressure of it, as always. Without thought, he took off into the dark woods, relishing the freedom and the feel of the wind on his pelt as he rushed through the trees. Despite the autonomy of the run his thoughts soon turned to that of his pack members and their problems. Yvana, whom he’d only begun to forgive for her rash treatment of Caia, had just asked permission to hire staff for the diner outside of the pack. He was wary of the decision, since many of the pack ate there, and often conversation wasn’t human friendly, but he also realized her need to keep her business going. She was running out of staffing choices within the pack itself. Then there was Morgan, who was worried that his son, Malek, was having too many casual, sexual relationships with human girls; he needed the authority of Lucien to put a stop to it. And then there was Cera, who was struggling financially with her three young children, since Michel had been killed. He knew her family, Dimitri and gang, were doing their best to help out, but it wasn’t enough. Lucien was going to have to find a way of giving her money that wouldn’t offend her pride...

So lost in these thoughts, he didn’t hear the sound of the other wolf before she was nearly upon him. He stopped and lifted his nose to the air. Caia. She suddenly came into view, sliding to a stop before him, her green eyes surprised and wide. His heart did a little unexpected thump. By the look in her eye she hadn’t been running after him; obviously she had just been running and had been surprised to hear another lykan. She must have followed my scent to find me, Lucien watched in amusement as she lowered her head and bowed to him. He admired the way the moonlight shone through the canopy of the forest and filtered across her blonde pelt. Even in wolf form, he thought ruefully, she looked more vulnerable than the others. That fierce feeling of protectiveness washed over him again, and he involuntarily took a pad towards her. When she raised her eyes back up to him they seemed to detect his still lingering amusement over her submission to his authority, because they narrowed warily. She huffed on her four legs pacing in front of him, clearly unsure of whether he wanted her there or not. He was glad she was as unsettled by whatever was between them as he was. Bowing back at her, a chuckle erupted hoarsely from the back of his throat, and he looked up in time to see her fur bristle at the sound of his laughter. Caia turned as if to leave and his heart stopped. She couldn’t leave. He threw himself into her side to stop her, and pulled her unwillingly (at first) into a tussle with him. Like their first run together she smacked him back and nipped playfully at him. And so began a teasing play of rough and tumble. He enjoyed this freedom with her, away from the eyes of the pack, but as their play continued a new feeling began to rush through him and he pulled back instantly. He couldn’t hurry things with her, it would only frighten her. Green eyes seemed to dance mockingly at him, as if she had won their little tug of war. He bowed to her in defeat and watched as she suddenly took off with a snort, running fast towards the house. She was incredibly swift, but he was just as, and they entered into the back yard at the same time. He watched her silently for a moment as she turned to gaze back at him, her tongue hanging out in a comically wolfy grin. He laughed, she had run harder than she had wanted him to realize in an effort to beat him. His hoarse laughter stilled as Caia padded over to him, and softly, almost caressingly, nudged her head against his own. He felt all his muscles strain in reaction to her touch. Finally, it registered that she was indicating for him to turn around so she could change. Lucien laughed again. He had already seen her naked at the pack run and he hadn’t been particularly gentlemanly about looking away then… but he acquiesced to her request because he didn’t want to upset her. By the time he turned around again Caia was already in human form and clothes, scaling the wall of the house, and climbing into her bedroom window. Lucien quickly changed and grabbed his clothes that were lying in the dirt near the door. Just as he pulled his t-shirt back on, he looked back up at her window to see her standing looking down at him. She wore a small smile, her eyes really soft on his for the first time. She gave a slight wave, and moved away from the window into the darkness of her room.

Something inside Lucien split open.

With a shock of awareness that set him back on his heels, Lucien realized that all he wanted in this life … was to melt into the darkness with her.

10 - Behind Enemy Lines

Lars looked over worriedly at his superior, who, in a matter of minutes, had obliterated the furniture in the room with a flick of his wrist and the point of his finger. His superior did not care a whit for the nervous fear oozing out of his assistant, who still hadn’t mastered the basic communication spell he had given him. Now, he realized that all warlock and witches had different levels of talent and ability, and Lars’s did not lie in the communication and transportation division, but surely to Gaia he could master a basic communication spell! He heaved a huge sigh, pulling his temper back in. He unfortunately couldn’t blame his rage on Lars. He was waiting on his damn, stupid agent to phone him so he could blast his rage down the telephone at her.

The phone thankfully rang then, making Lars jump high and yelp. With a withering look he flicked his wrist and encased his assistant in a glass cage so he couldn’t hear him and couldn’t be heard by him during this very important telephone call.

“Boy, are you in trouble,” he growled down the phone.

He heard the sharp intake of breath before she hurriedly went on, “My lord, please. I’m doing the best I can. Things are progressing well, I think.”

“No,” he snapped. “The information you have sent me tells me nothing. We have no ‘in’ yet, and we need an ‘in’!”

“I’ll get you an ‘in’,” she whispered.

“Oh, you will,” he demanded menacingly. “In fact, if you don’t get me the information I need to wage war with this despicable race of … of dogs within the next few months, I am going to have to go in all spells blazing. And if that happens, my dear little spy, you will be the first casualty.”

11 - Trade Off

The intimate run with Lucien had given him a permanent starring role in her dreams. Sometimes the dreams were so real she felt absolutely consumed by them, lost in them, finding it difficult to fight her way through the sleepy fog into reality. The fact that the dreams inevitably ended with Lucien kissing her, however, was the wakeup call that she needed. Kiss. Bam! She was awake, and Lucien-less. Caia was trying to control her fantasies, she really was. She lived with the guy. He was Pack Leader for goddess-sake. But it wasn’t like she could avoid him. When he wasn’t at work, he was usually hanging around the house with Ryder, so that people always knew where to find him. And Ryder and he were always so friendly, welcoming her into their company. They were her friends. It was during these little gatherings that her eyes would drift over Lucien’s face, with its fierce silver eyes and sultry mouth. And then lower, to his strong sinewy forearms and large capable hands. The tug in her lower belly would just get more insistent. She had no clue what was happening to her. She was even day-dreaming in class, and she was not the day-dreaming kind. Caia doubted he was day-dreaming back. She was just a kid to him, right? Ugh, she didn’t even want to think like that. Of course she was just his friend. Didn’t she get that feeling when they playing during their run together - he suddenly pulled back like he didn’t want to cross some line with her. She had been disappointed, but amused at his tentativeness at the time. But in truth it was kind of hard to get over her crush when he acted like such a gentleman.

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