“Why are you standing out here by yourself?” A familiar voice brushed his ear.

Lucien felt like rolling his eyes. Alexa. Instead, he turned and threw her a patient smile. She was standing too close to him, trying to impress him with her low cut dress that fit her like a second skin. Now, he wasn’t immune, and the girl was gorgeous, but her machinations were so obvious. She wanted him because he was the Pack Leader and nothing more. She was just her like brother. And that hadn’t ended well.

“This is a happy occasion, Lucien. You should act like it.” She ran her hand seductively up his arm. “I could make it happier,” the provocative comment was followed with a wink.

Lucien shrugged her off, wondering how long his patience was actually going to last. He hadn’t been bothered by her showing up with his lunch every Saturday because... well, he was usually hungry by the time she did and... she was fun to look at. But the past week her visits had become daily, and her flirtations more dangerously obvious. Ah, he sighed inwardly, wincing at the hope in her dark exotic eyes. She would find out soon enough that even if he might have been interested, there was no way he could make her his mate.

“I’m going to get another beer.” He walked away from her, pretending he hadn’t seen the petulant twist in her expression. Wandering towards the kitchen, he frowned, realizing Caia and the others had left. Where was she? He strode in, dumping his empty beer bottle in the trash in time to hear her familiar laughter. Following that sound he stopped in the kitchen doorway and watched as Sebastian pulled her along to the end of the right side of the back porch.

“Sebastian, what is going on?” Caia laughed again as the young male pulled her up short and pressed her into the back of the house. Lucien frowned, keeping hidden, but close. He’d had his suspicious about Sebastian’s feelings for Caia, the way his eyes followed her when she was in the room, his constant protectiveness of her. But Caia seemed oblivious. Even now, when Sebastian had her positioned against the back wall and leaning into her, she was smiling up at him without a clue that the boy was about to make a move. Lucien groaned. Sebastian was a good kid... he did not want to have deal with him.

“I thought we should talk.” Sebastian’s grin was loopy, his eyes dazed.

Lucien rolled his eyes. The kid was drunk, too? Goddess it took a lot to get a lykan drunk... how much had he consumed?


“You and me.” He leaned in even closer.


Lucien watched as Caia straightened, her eyes narrowing, “Sebastian, how much have you had to drink?”

The boy shrugged. “Enough. That’s not the point, though. I need to tell you something.”

“Well, tell me so we can get back to the party.”

“Caia,” he groaned, and leaned his head against his arms. His bright eyes opened, looking down at her. “Caia.”

“Sebastian?” She was laughing, amused. “Goddess, spit it out. I’ve never seen you like this before.”

Lucien smirked, I’ll bet she hasn’t.

“OK.” Sebastian straightened, rolling his neck on his shoulders as if preparing for a fight. “Caia. I want you to know... I want you to know I don’t care that you’re different.”

Lucien frowned. Uh oh, where is this going?

Caia stiffened, glowering at Sebastian. “Different?”

Oh yeah she’s pissed.

He nodded, continuing on foolishly, “I want to be here for you, Caia, when things get rough... and they’re going to. I think we should mate, Caia, before your po-”

“Hey!” Lucien boomed, cutting the boy off before he said something they’d all regret. “What are you guys doing out here? You should be inside enjoying the party.” He smiled for Caia’s sake, but inside he was burning mad. He was going to kill this kid. His step faltered in front of Sebastian and he glared down at him. The boy at least had the good sense to look nervous. “Sebastian, I think you’ve had enough to drink. Why don’t you go inside and start chugging back some water. That’s not a suggestion.”

He nodded blearily, glancing quickly at Caia, before rushing off the porch and inside. Lucien watched him go and then turned back to her.

Her light eyes were wide with confusion. “Did you hear any of that?” she asked.

He nodded and took a breath. He just needed to be calm and smooth, and he would have her thinking nothing of it. “Drink. That’s why there’s an age limit.”

She narrowed her eyes on Lucien, her mind still whirring with Sebastian’s proposal for them to mate. She hoped Lucien was right and it was just the drink talking, but she hadn’t even realized Sebastian had been thinking that way about her. And what the hell had he meant about protecting her when things got rough?

“What was he talking about?”

Lucien shrugged at her and grinned. “Oh, it was just the ramblings of an inexperienced, underage drinker. You guys were supposed to be sticking to soda.”

Caia was unconvinced. His reprimand sounded like a tactic to throw her off the scent. “This whole ‘different’ thing keeps coming up in conversation,” she persisted.

He threw her a look as if to say she was crazy. “I don’t know what you’re talking about?”

She sighed, so sick of games. “I’m talking about secrets. There are secrets here.”

“What kind of secrets?”

“I...” she heaved a sigh, throwing her hands up. “I don’t know.”


“No.” She shook her head at him, annoyed. “Don’t use that patient tone with me like I’m a child, Lucien.”

The man had the audacity to smirk at her. “Stop acting like one.”

She fixed him with one of her finest glowers. “I am not.”

“Are too.” He grinned.

She felt her stomach twist at his smile. Dammit, did he have to be so hot and so... so. Caia sighed, trying not to smile back at him. The only way to not fall for his charm was to keep at him about the secrets. “For instance,” she placed her hands on her hips, straightening to her full height, not that it did any good standing next to a live action He-Man, “Why don’t you want me asking about the war? I mean really, not the phony answer you gave me when I first asked? Why does no one speak about the war?”

Lucien groaned, running his hand through his hair. “Caia, this is a party, why can’t you just enjoy it?”

“Because I’m asking you a question, oh chosen one.”

“Caia,” he said softly and started towards her. Taken aback, she stepped away from him and tripped on her heel, falling against the wall of the house. “Caia, there is no big secret,” he said as he reached out to steady her. His gaze moved from her face to sweep the backyard and the woods. “The war is such a part of our daily existence that we just don’t talk about it. It’s like breathing. You do it. It’s there. But you don’t talk about it.”

“Unless you’re an asthmatic,” she countered.

He turned back to her with a comically baffled look on his face. “What?”

“If you’re an asthmatic you talk about breathing because it doesn’t come so easy. Well I’m an asthmatic.”

“No you’re not.”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s a metaphor, Lucien. I’m asthmatic because I’ve been a part of the war. I was a target and may still be. Which means the pack could still get targeted. I’m just saying, maybe it’s something we should talk about.”

He nodded at her, understanding. “I get it. I really do. But the Daylight Coven do all they can to find out the targets of the Midnights. We have an extra close relationship with them through Marion so … I think we’re good.”

“If you say so.”

Irritation flickered across his face. He took another step towards her, close enough that she had to crane her neck again to look up at him.

“Caia,” his tone was a warning.

She shrugged, pretending to be un-intimidated. “I guess it’s just easier to worry about the war when you were once the target of it.”

He looked incredibly uncomfortable as he swallowed and shook his head, his eyes darting away from her. “You weren’t a target of the war.”

“No. But I was the target of a war. Makes you nervous.”

“Caia,” Lucien growled softly, “I will protect you. You have nothing to fear. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Caia stilled, trying not to make more out of his promise. He was the Pack Leader; it was his duty, nothing more. They were silent together a moment, and then she raised her eyes to look into his. They were filled with sincerity and determination. He really meant what he was telling her. The silence seemed to stretch thin between them, and suddenly the air around them changed. It became electric, crackling and sparking. After a long moment, embarrassed and awkward, she moved to go. She hadn’t taken more than two steps when she was abruptly crushed against him, his warm lips pressing against her own. Shocked at first, her mind taking its time to catch up on the fact that he, Lucien, was kissing her, she stood immobilized. Having never been kissed before, she didn’t know what to do with her lips, and she strained a little as if to pull away. Lucien held tight and kissed her harder, and all thoughts of pulling away just dribbled out of her brain. Her legs began to tremble as if her nerves had snapped, leaving every part of her body shaking. Lucien made a soothing noise in the back of his throat, and left her lips to brush soft kisses across her cheek. He then moved his lips to her ear, his warm breath sending shivers running throughout her as he whispered for her to open her mouth. Her final thought was obliterated and she obediently complied. At the feel of his tongue against hers, another wave of rippling shivers cascaded over her. She stood dazed until instinct took over, and she was kissing him back, in love with the feel of his mouth fused against hers. Lucien’s strong arms tightened in response as she slid her hands up over his arms and entwined her own around his neck. Forever, they seemed to be locked in that kiss, each moment building something new in Caia. It was like a spring tightening, all these feelings she didn’t know what to do with. Her skin grew hotter and hotter, her body losing her usual tight control one burning step at a time.

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