And she wanted him to.

Caia gasped against his mouth as his hand slid up her waist and grazed her breast. She was rewarded with a guttural moan from him that reverberated throughout her entire body. So involved was she in his heated kiss, so desperate to forget all the pain of the last few weeks and find that sense of the peace she had felt with the pack before learning the truth, Caia was surprised to find herself on her back and Lucien braced above her. The shock of it lasted all of two seconds, his lips burning everything from her mind as they trailed tingling kisses down her neck and chest. She shivered as his work-roughened hand slid up her thigh and onto the bare skin of her stomach. Then both his hands were there, pulling her camisole up and over her head.

She lay panting underneath him, her eyes wide on his as he gazed back at her with such tenderness and lust she thought she would shatter. And then his gaze travelled lower and she remembered she wasn’t wearing a bra. She should feel embarrassed shouldn’t she? Instead she just shivered under his hot look, a whimper escaping her lips, a whimper he seemed to understand more than she did.

Smiling softly, his lips caught hers again and she clasped him to her, pressing his chest against her. He growled from the back of his throat and Caia erupted into flames. She could barely breathe her skin felt so hot, so tight.

“Caia,” he whispered into her ear before he bit her lobe, “Caia.”

He repeated her name like a mantra and it seemed so full of... love? she questioned distantly. And then she forgot the thought and anything else as he cupped her breast. She gasped again and arched into his touch and they were both lost.

“Are you sure?” he was whispering hoarsely and she knew what he was asking. For a moment she froze at the importance of what was about to happen. Could she be with him? Could she lose her virginity to Lucien? And if they did this, what did it mean for them? For the pack?


His hand slid down to her hips and pressed her against him.

Oh my.


What had she been thinking again?

Did she care?

He did it again, his breath heavy and faltering.

Insistent flames licked across her skin.

She nodded, incapable of forming actual words.

Lucien was shrugging out of his jeans and pulling her pj bottoms off in almost the same motion. And when he returned to her he held her gently as she wrapped her slim legs around his waist in instinct. He kissed her deeply, intoxicatingly. He kissed her everywhere. Everywhere. Her eyes rolled back in her head a couple of times as her fists tightened around her bedsheets. Finally, after a forever of kisses, Lucien braced himself above her, pushing inside of her. A moment of pain dissipated into a blaze of heat that built and built, their gasps filling the night as she held onto him for dear life, unaware of the scores she made across his skin with her nails… marking him.

Eventually the sweet tension he created inside of her shattered into a million brilliant pieces.

He shuddered above her and collapsed on top of her, a heavy weight pressing her into the bed, his hot breath against her neck. After a moment, when she felt she might have to ask him to get up because she couldn’t breathe, he kissed her throat and rolled off of her, only to pull her across his chest, his hand grasping hers tightly.

“Caia,” he mumbled, sounding incredibly satisfied. She smiled almost smugly and his eyes cracked open in time to catch the look. He chuckled and his grip on her hand tightened. “I’m sorry. I should have taken this a little more slowly but...” Lucien laughed softly as if disbelieving. “But I can honestly say I have no control over this.”

Caia was about to smile in understanding because it was exactly how she felt, but the smile was halted by a strange tingling sensation crawling up the hand he held. They both tensed.

“What the-” she tried to scramble away but he stilled her, his eyes wide on hers before returning to their hands. A moon-colored glow was spreading with slow intensity through their hands and up their arms. It settled through their entire bodies like a peaceful warmth, before melting into nothingness.

Caia had seen it before.

She ripped her hand out of Lucien’s and gathered her quilt to cover her naked body.

How was that even possible?

Had they just been mated?

About to form the words and ask Lucien what was happening to them, Caia stilled at the panic in his eyes.

“Caia,” it sounded like a plea, “I’m so sorry, Caia. I was going to tell you.”

She stiffened. “Tell me what?” she croaked.

Lucien tried to reach for her but she flinched back, making him growl in irritation. He glared at her and sat up, pushing at his hair - his hair which she had mussed up when they had... ahem... lost control. She fumbled trying to distance herself from the look in his eye. It was now a fierce mixture of pleading and possessiveness.

“Tell me what?” she repeated.

Not taking his eyes off her, and apparently unabashed by his nakedness, Lucien stood up quite casually and pulled on his jeans. “That we’re mated.”

It felt like a bomb had gone off in the room and with it the bulb in her bedside lamp shattered, throwing the room into near darkness, the only available source of light cast from the bright moon outside her window. She saw Lucien frown at the lamp and then back at her, his eyebrow raised in questioning.

Yes she had broken the lamp! It really was the least of their problems at the moment, however.

“Mated?” she asked, her voice an octave higher than normal.

He sat down on the bed and she couldn’t help but pull back again. Jeez, she wished she wasn’t naked for this.

“Our parents asked Artemis to betroth us when we were kids. You were just a baby, a few months old, I was only seven.”

“How is that possible?” Caia managed to whisper, a lump forming in her throat as she tried to process this news.

He shrugged. “Back then we weren’t sure why She agreed but now we think perhaps it was because of Gaia. If you are the child from the prophecy then it stands to reason She wanted you protected. My father offered me to your father as an assurance that the pack would always protect you.”

She understood now. “Because only a Pack Leader had that authority.”


“It’s why you ran away,” she mumbled, everything making so much sense now, “When you were fourteen.”

“Yes,” he whispered, “But I’ve accepted my responsibilities since then.” Responsibilities? She jerked as if he had hit her and he noticed. “No, Caia I didn’t mean-”

“Stop.” She was suddenly desperate to be away from him, scrambling from the bed, tugging at the sheets to hide her body from him. “Don’t.”

“Caia, please let me explain-”

“Did you know? Did you know that sleeping with me would close the deal?”

He groaned edging around the bed. “Caia, no I didn’t think-”

“I swear to Artemis Lucien Líder if you come any closer to me I will kill you.”

Perhaps it was the quiet stillness in her voice that stopped him in his steps. It was more cutting than any shrieking female.

“Caia,” she heard the trembling anger in his voice and she looked up to meet his furious gaze. The silver in his eyes shone against the moonlight and she knew she was about to commence a miniature war with the Pack Leader. “It doesn’t matter now. You’re my mate. End of.”

She scoffed and flashed daggers at him. “I don’t think so. Once again you lied to me, and there isn’t even an excuse for it. Does the rest of the pack know about this?”

He shook his head. “Only the Elders, Ryder, and now Sebastian.”

“Sebastian?” And then she chuckled, a hysterical little laugh. “That’s what you were telling him today.”

Lucien nodded. “I had to. He thinks he’s in love with you.”

“And what, you think this apparent mating between you and I means that he’s not allowed to be?”

Well that was the button. Lucien moved so fast she barely saw him until he had her caught up in his hands, his hand cupping her neck, holding her head back as if she were an offering. “Let’s get this straight,” he snarled. “I don’t care how angry you are with me, you are mine, Caia, and I will kill anyone who takes what’s mine.”

She shivered but not from the cold. “I belong to no one,” she said bravely. “And I definitely don’t belong to you. How could I be with someone who doesn’t trust me? Who I can’t trust?”

He pushed her away as if he was disgusted and stepped back from her. “You’ve had a shock, you’re not thinking clearly. We’ll discuss this in the morning.”

Caia didn’t say anything. She didn’t think she could, she was on the precipice of launching herself at him, claws unleashed. Her breath fell rapidly, waiting as he silently left the room, and then she collapsed onto her bed.

How could this be? She shook her head and winced at the spot of blood on her bedclothes. Her blood.

Blinking back sudden exhaustion, Caia looked away. Tonight, he was supposed to have been her comfort, her safe place, and that’s why she had given herself to him without thought, without hesitation. And the way he had looked at her, as if she were the only thing worthwhile in this world.

Lucien may have come to terms with their parents taking away their choice when they were children. He may even want her for real now. But he wanted her on his terms, and the more and more he kept things from her, important things that concerned not only the pack but this entire war, the more and more he made her feel like a pawn. And she wasn’t a pawn.

With that she tore away from the bed and clambered out of her bedroom window. The change burned out her exhaustion and soothed her jangling nerves as she rushed into the woods with renewed energy. She found the clearing where she and Lucien had first played together, and stood strong gazing up at the moon, the scents of the night fluttering up her snout and spreading through her body like rightness. She knew Lucien would hear her howl but she didn’t care. She trusted at least that he would leave her in peace for the moment. After howling her heart out, Caia sighed inwardly and padded around in a circle, back and forth, around and around, her mind whirling. What she needed to do was be in on finding Jaeden. She couldn’t just let others do what they could while she stayed back home twiddling her thumbs like the little Mrs. Ha! She snorted at that, and bared her canines instinctively. Bastard, she whined.

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