Chloe Quick was being hunted.
She glanced over shoulder, but the dark street behind her appeared empty. Appearances can be deceiving. Unfortunately, Chloe knew that fact all too well. She could feel someone in that darkness, watching her.
Every instinct she possessed screamed for Chloe to get out of there. She needed to find a safe place—fast. Preferably a place with a ton of people and some really, really bright lights.
But the street is empty! She rounded the next corner. Her nostrils flared. She could almost catch that wild, woodsy scent in the air. The scent of a beast. I know you’re out there, but you won’t get me.
Music pounded from up ahead, and her breath caught in her throat. Yes, yes, music meant safety! Music meant people! Probably a bar, and from the sound of things, the place wasn’t too far away. She could go inside and vanish with the humans. Pretend to be human for just a little while—
“I’ve been looking for you…”
Then Chloe heard the unmistakable sound of claws sliding over bricks—a sound that rather unfortunately resembled that of nails sliding down a chalkboard. Bone-chilling, as chilling as that man’s deep voice, growling in the dark.
“You smell so sweet, little wolf…good enough to eat.”
She didn’t want to look over her shoulder. If she did, the street behind her wouldn’t be empty any longer. He’d be there. And he might not even be alone. After all…his kind tended to hunt in packs. Chloe knew that a man wasn’t hunting her in the darkness.
A werewolf was on her trail.
“Leave me alone,” Chloe shouted, hoping she sounded brave and confident. She kept walking. The tap of her shoes seemed too loud.
So did the faint thud of his footsteps. He wanted her to know that he was closing in on her. Fear burned in Chloe’s stomach. She’d thought she could escape.
She’d underestimated the number of monsters who waited in the night.
“You’re going to be mine…all mine.”
The hell with that. Chloe decided to stop acting brave—she ran. She ran fast and hard and she turned into the nearest alley, hoping to be able to dodge and dive between the city streets and lose the jerk who was hunting her. She needed to—
A hard hand grabbed Chloe. She was yanked into the darkness. Pulled against a strong, muscled male body.
“This is what happens,” Connor Marrok told her, his voice a low, lethal whisper in her ear, “when you run from me. I have to deal with stupid shit like that fool out there.”
Her breath heaved from her lungs as relief swept through her. Connor wasn’t there to kill her—he was the white knight. Well, a very, very tarnished knight.
“When I move my hand, don’t scream.”
Like she needed that warning. His hand slowly lowered, but Connor didn’t let her go. He kept Chloe trapped between the bricks and his body. In the dark, his golden eyes gleamed down at her. Chloe’s vision was sharp—unnaturally so—and she had no trouble discerning the hard lines of his face—his high cheekbones, his square jaw, that sharp blade of his nose, the oddly sexy cleft in his chin, his sensual lips, his—
“You just had to run from me, didn’t you?”
“I got tired of being a prisoner,” Chloe whispered. Her words were the truth. Sure, she’d been kept in a cabin, not a jail cell, but she’d still recognized the prison walls for what they were. And Connor—he was her jailer. A jailer in an unfortunately attractive package. Connor worked for the Seattle Para Unit and his job there—other than fighting the real-life monsters that most humans didn’t even realize were out there—well, his job was to protect her.
To cage her.
“Baby, you don’t even know the first thing about a real prison.”
Her chin jutted up. Seriously, he thought her life had been all sunshine and lollipops? Bull. She knew pain. She knew hell.
She could teach him plenty about both.
“There is something fucking wrong with your scent,” he told her, voice hard and rough. “You know that! I warned you days ago. I told you that if you went out, you’d attract every werewolf within a ten mile radius.”
But she hadn’t attracted Connor, and he was a werewolf. She knew it—she’d seen him change. His golden eyes had lit with the glow of his beast and he’d full-on shifted, right in front of her.
He can shift. I never could. No, she wasn’t like him. Wasn’t like any of the other werewolves that roamed the night.
“Get away from her!” That bellow came from the mouth of the alley. Her head turned and, sure enough, the hunter had found her.
“Hell.” Connor pushed her behind his rather broad back. His hands were loose at his sides as he faced-off against the guy who was rushing toward them. “Buddy, you’re going to want to stay back.”
“I. Want. Her!”
She didn’t even know who that fellow was! She inhaled, actually trying to smell herself and, yeah, okay, she could smell her strawberry body lotion, but that was it. She wasn’t emitting some kind of werewolf pheromone beacon thing, was she? Chloe sniffed again. Still nothing.
“Too bad,” Connor’s voice was little more than a growl. The beast he carried must be close. “Because she’s already taken.”
Chloe used that moment to inch back a bit. Connor’s focus stayed on the man before him.
“Never smelled a she-wolf like her!” The man advancing shouted, “Want!”
Uh, great, fabulous. “I’m not a she-wolf!” Chloe yelled, just to be clear. It was so sad that she had to actually yell things like that.
Chloe didn’t live in blissful ignorance like most of the humans out there. She didn’t just get to spend her days working and shopping and flirting with cute men. No, she had to know about the monsters out there—the werewolves and the vampires who often hid in plain sight. She knew far too much about them.
And had, since she’d been sixteen. Her life had changed in an instant when a werewolf pack had attacked her and her friend Olivia.
“I don’t really give a shit what you want,” Connor said to the other werewolf. Chloe was thinking of the other guy as the hunter. Because that was what he’d been doing…hunting her. “You’re not getting her,” Connor told him flatly.
The clouds parted and the light from the moon spilled down onto them. They were so lucky it wasn’t a full moon. If it had been, those two men wouldn’t have been talking at all. Their beasts would have taken over. There would have been teeth and claws and blood and death.
Werewolves had very little control when the moon was full.
Chloe peeked over Connor’s shoulder. The moonlight fell on the hunter’s blond hair. He was blond and fair, while Connor was dark, his thick hair a little too long as it brushed against his shoulders. Opposites in appearance, but both of these men were alike on the inside—they carried beasts, beasts that were ready to break loose.
“I don’t want to kill you,” the blond hunter told Connor. “But if you don’t give me the woman, I will.”
Connor just shrugged. Shrugged. “You can try to kill me,” he said, almost sounding bored, “but it’s not going to happen. This is the way things will go down. You’ll come at me. I’ll kick your ass without even having to go full shift. Then I’ll walk away…with her.” He took a step toward the blond. “Because I’m an alpha, asshole. And you just screwed with the wrong wolf.”
Chloe retreated a bit more. It was wrong, yes, she knew it, but as soon as those two attacked each other, she was going to race out of there. She actually had no doubt that Connor could kick the other werewolf’s ass, just as he’d said. After all, Connor was an alpha werewolf. They weren’t exactly thick on the ground. He’d win the battle, then he’d come looking for her.
By that time, Chloe hoped to be long gone.
“You should save yourself some pain,” Connor told the other guy. “Walk away now.”
He was really freaking her out with all that scent talk. Her foot slipped over a discarded bottle. Chloe almost landed on her ass, but she righted herself at the last moment and—
The snap and pop of bones filled the air. The blond was transforming, going full-on wolf right then and there. She wanted to put her hands over her ears because Chloe hated the terrible sounds that came from a shift. Bones weren’t meant to break and reshape that way. Nausea rolled in her belly even as the man hit the ground, landing not on his hands, but on his paws. Fur burst out from his skin and when he tilted back his head, a howl broke the night.
Good thing there aren’t a ton of humans running around here.
The shifted wolf was lunging toward Connor. And, sure enough, Connor hadn’t fully shifted. She’d already known that he didn’t shift a lot. Probably because of the crazy control issue she’d noticed about him. Connor always had to be in control. But she could see that his nails had turned into razor-sharp claws. He kept those claws at his side, his body loose, too relaxed.
The charging werewolf came closer and closer—
I should run now. Connor is focused fully on the other wolf. I should run. But she didn’t move because…
What if I’m wrong? What if Connor can’t take this guy down? A trickle of fear shot through her blood. She bent, grabbed the bottle she’d tripped on and when the shifted werewolf—a big, white beast—collided with Connor, she slammed that bottle into the nearest wall, breaking off the bottom and making a pretty damn good weapon.
Only…Connor didn’t need her and her make-shift weapon. As Chloe watched, he caught the werewolf—caught the guy mid-leap in the air. Connor’s fingers—his claws—wrapped around the wolf’s neck and Connor just held the beast as if he weighed nothing.
Then Connor threw the werewolf toward the nearest brick wall.
Right…he doesn’t need me. Chloe started backing up. She kept her weapon though because, well, when a woman was being hunted by werewolves, she needed any arsenal she could get.
Connor was advancing on the fallen beast.
So Chloe turned and fled.
He heard the frantic thud of Chloe’s retreating footsteps. Connor froze. Not again. His head turned, and he saw Chloe running fast, her black hair flying behind her. “Chloe,” he gritted out as he started to give chase.
Then the jerk who just couldn’t learn slammed into him. Connor’s body crashed to the ground, the dirty, stinking ground of the alley. The werewolf jumped on top of Connor, and the beast’s mouthful of sharp, dripping fangs went for Connor’s throat.
Connor’s hands flew up. His fingers locked around the wolf’s snout. He clamped that mouth shut and glared at the beast. “You don’t learn easily, do you?”
But then, the werewolf hadn’t realized that he wasn’t just dealing with another werewolf. He didn’t know about Connor’s enhancements. Mostly because few did.
“Listen to me, and listen well,” Connor ordered. “She’s not for you. If you come near her again, I’ll do more than just break your jaw, got it?”
The wolf heaved in his hold.
Connor’s hands twisted. The wolf howled, but this time, that cry was filled with pain because Connor had just broken the fool’s jaw. While the wolf kept howling, Connor tossed the beast aside.
“Shift so you can start healing,” Connor advised the wolf. A now cowering wolf. “And stay the hell away from what’s mine. I don’t care if she smells like strawberries and sex…don’t ever stalk her again. Don’t ever get close, got it? Because I’ve already claimed her.”
When dealing with wolves, sometimes, you had to use a language they understood.
Connor rose to his feet. He lifted his claws. The wolf was slowly shifting in front of him.
“I said…got it?” Connor snapped out the words.
The man—a man now, not a beast—glared at Connor. But he nodded. He rubbed his jaw, then he turned and ran away. His naked ass flashed in the night because the fellow had shredded his clothes during the shift.
“Damn straight you need to run,” Connor muttered after the guy because he was so not in the mood to be dealing with this shit.
He rolled back his shoulders and then stared at his claws. His beast was close to the surface, raised by the battle. It wouldn’t take much to push him over the edge. To let that beast out. Because his werewolf…yeah, he’d caught the delectable scent that Chloe carried, too. A scent that was close to making him insane with need.
I’m just as bad as the rest of them. I warned her, but did she listen? Hell, no.
Guarding Chloe Quick was a thankless job. And if Eric Pate—the man in charge of the Para Unit—didn’t control Connor’s freedom, well, hell, he sure never would have agreed to take the job.
He turned, his head tilting as he gazed out at the night. He could still hear the faint pad of her footsteps. It was a good thing his senses were so strong. Good for him, but not so much for Chloe. He exhaled. She hadn’t even stuck around to thank him.
His eyes narrowed. And he started hunting her again.
Connor ran fast, cutting right through the alley, following the thud of her footsteps and the faint scent that hung in the air. A scent that was pure Chloe. His heart beat faster—faster than it had when he’d been fighting that jerk—because the thrill of the hunt always excited his beast. Chloe knew that, she should have taken care. Her mistake.
He rounded the corner up ahead. The beat of music was getting louder. He could hear laughter. Voices. He saw that Chloe had nearly reached the bar. She probably thought that if she could just get inside, get to the humans, then he wouldn’t follow her.
She was dead wrong.
But then, he wasn’t going to give her the chance to reach them.
He could see her easily now. Just a few more feet, and she’d break free of the darkness that clung to the alleys and the nooks near the buildings. She’d be able to run out onto the street. Be right in front of the bar.
Not going to happen, baby.
He shot forward and grabbed her arm. But Chloe swung around, a broken bottle in her hand.
He knocked that bottle right out of her hand. I’m the one saving her ass…and she’s trying to attack me? Anger boiled within him. The bottle had crashed, splintered on the ground. He pushed Chloe up against the nearest wall. His hands wrapped around her wrists, and he penned them to the wall. “Is that really how you say thanks? By trying to cut me open?” He kept his voice low and he made sure to keep them in the shadows. The last thing he wanted was some do-gooder human coming around.
Her breath panted out as she heaved in his hold. He didn’t let her go.
“I…I didn’t realize it was you.”
Right. He could actually buy that. Seeing as how she kept having werewolves stalk her, she truly might have thought someone else was after her.
“It’s me,” he told her grimly. “You ran from me.”
He could see every beautiful detail of her face, even in the darkness. He had perfect vision—perfectly enhanced vision. There was no missing the fear in her expression. He didn’t like Chloe’s fear. Even when he was pissed at her, Connor didn’t want her to be afraid.
“You know I won’t hurt you,” he said, his voice a low rasp.
“Then let me go.”
If only things were that simple. “I can’t.”
Her lips trembled. Her lips were the first thing he’d noticed about her—they were full and red. The kind of lips that instantly made him think of sex. Then he’d gotten caught in her eyes. No one should have eyes that blue. Maybe it was because her hair was so dark, a perfect black, and, in contrast to that darkness, her eyes appeared to be such a bright, electric blue.
Her face was heart-shaped, her cheekbones almost ridiculously high. She had a small nose and a slightly pointed chin. Her skin was pale, probably because the Para Unit had been keeping her in various stages of isolation and she hadn’t exactly been free to roam in the outside world and soak up a bit of sunshine.
But that was what happened when you killed a man…and when you rose from the dead. You get monitored by the Para Unit.
Chloe Quick wasn’t supposed to be in front of him. She’d died a few weeks ago. Not some near-death BS, either. She’d been knifed in the heart. She’d died.
Then she’d come back, thanks to the dark wish of a djinn. Only now, the Para Unit didn’t exactly know what Chloe was.
“I warned you not to escape,” he told her. The other werewolf had been right. Her scent was damn near intoxicating, and if he’d just been a werewolf, he probably would have been nearly mindless in his desire to claim her.
But he wasn’t just a wolf, and that was why Eric Pate had given him guard duty with Chloe. Because I’m supposed to be able to control my baser impulses. But if that were truly the case, would he be holding her so carefully, his fingers sliding over her wrists, his body pushing ever closer to hers?
And would his cock be so heavy with arousal?
“I can disappear,” Chloe promised him, her voice breathless. “Just give me a head start. I’ll vanish and I promise, the Para Unit won’t ever have to worry about me again.”
Part of him wanted to let her go. It was her eyes…that gaze could make a man—or a paranormal—weak.
He didn’t know exactly what end game Eric had planned for Chloe, but if Connor let her vanish, then he’d be the one paying for it. His freedom hinged on his doing this mission, and no one—not even a woman as sexy as she was—would stop him.
Connor shook his head. “No head start. You don’t escape from me.”
Then he heard footsteps—people approaching. Dammit. His head turned and he saw three men stumbling toward him. Their scents marked them as human, and in another instant, they’d see him and Chloe.
He felt Chloe tense against him. He knew she wasn’t going to just let this opportunity pass by. She was going to scream and no doubt bring those drunken fools running. Then he’d just have to hurt them.
Before she could scream, before those fools could rush to her aid, he lowered his head, and he kissed her.
She bit his lip.
Deep inside, his wolf growled in pleasure.
Chloe, no, you know the beast likes things like that.
She strained against him. She opened her mouth, as if to scream even then—and his tongue swept inside.
He’d known for a while that he wanted her. Most men looked at Chloe Quick and wanted her. But until that moment, until he’d had his first taste of her, he hadn’t realized just how truly dangerous she could be to him.
Because something happened. To him. To her. He felt her body stiffen, felt shock rock through them both. Because the desire that came right then—as he kissed her, as his tongue slid into her mouth and she actually fucking kissed him back—was unlike anything he’d felt before. It was as if a match had been ignited, and that small flame turned into an explosion, consuming him.
He couldn’t get close enough to her. Couldn’t kiss her deeply enough. His hands let hers go so that he could touch more of her. He had to touch her. His fingers curled around her waist, and he lifted her up against him. Chloe was so small and delicate compared to him. Chloe curled her legs around him, arching toward him. Her nails sank into his shoulders, and she kissed him with a fierce desire that matched his own.
His cock shoved against his zipper. He needed his jeans out of the way. Needed her naked so that he could thrust deep and hard into her. Needed—
“Get a room!” The shout was followed by drunken laughter.
His body tensed. Arousal and fury battled within him. Need her. Want her…and they’re in my way. His thoughts were primal. Animalistic.
His head turned. He saw the three men, now just steps away.
“Fuck me,” one muttered. “Am I drunk…or are his eyes glowing?”
A warning snarl broke from Connor. The three men turned then, and they ran away, screaming.
“Let. Me. Go,” Chloe gritted out her order.
She wasn’t trying to desperately pull him close any longer. Now she was shoving against him. “Let me go,” she said again. “Then tell me what the hell is wrong with me. Why did I just do that? With you?”
Slowly, he lowered her back to her feet, but he caught her left wrist, his fingers winding tightly around her. “The why is easy.” His heart was racing and desire had him aching. “Because you want me and you’ve been fighting the urge to jump me from the moment we met.”
She gasped. “I have not! I do not—”
“Save it, baby.” He choked down his lust. For the moment. “We need to haul ass. Those drunk bozos will be back soon. Right now, they’re shouting to anyone who will listen about the monster they just saw in the alley.” He backed away from that wall, pulling her with him. “Now you either run with me, or I’ll carry you away. But we are getting out of this place.”
“You’re the one who went all glowing eyes on them,” she muttered, tugging against him. “I’m not—”
“Option two then,” he decided. “I’ll carry you.” He could make better time that way. She wasn’t equipped for super speed. Thanks to the Para Unit, he was.
She yelped when he hefted her over his shoulder, but then Connor was racing away, zipping through the maze of alleys and heading back for his motorcycle. The last thing he needed was to deal with a group of angry humans. Better to have an empty alley waiting when the three drunks returned with their reinforcements. Then everyone else would just think their story of a monster in the dark was total BS. The way everyone usually did when a monster story was being passed around.
In moments, he was back at his motorcycle. He lowered Chloe to her feet. Her glare seemed to singe. “I could have ran,” she muttered. “You didn’t have to turn me into a sack of potatoes!”
He hopped on the bike. Handed her the helmet. “Come on, baby. Time to haul ass.”
“Stop calling me baby.” She yanked the helmet away from him. “You don’t mean it when you say it, so just stop. I’m not your baby, not your sweetheart. I’m nothing to you, and we both know it.” Despite her angry words, she climbed on behind him. He noticed she was making an extra effort not to touch him. That wasn’t going to work.
“Hold tight,” Connor told her, his voice flat. “This will be one hell of a ride.” Because he needed to get out of there fast—fast enough that any other werewolves who might be in the area wouldn’t be able to follow them…or follow Chloe’s scent.
He revved the engine. Her hands fluttered around his waist.
“Chloe…” Her name was a warning.
She slid closer. Her thighs curled around him, and her arms slipped around his waist. Much, much better.
He shot away from the curb. He thought he heard Chloe yell, and she definitely tightened her grip on him then. In fact, she started holding onto him as if her very life depended on him.
It was time she realized that fact.
He’d been assigned her case because his job was to make sure that Chloe Quick stayed alive. While the Para Unit might want her to keep breathing, his boss believed there were others out there who had far more sinister plans for Chloe.
The motorcycle whipped through the streets.
And Chloe held tight to him.
He stepped into the shadows as the motorcycle roared away. Chloe Quick…his informant had been right. She was still in the Seattle area. Oh, that was certainly a huge mistake for the Para Unit. They should have taken her far away.
She might have been safe then.
Might have been.
Now, she was just easy prey. He pulled out his phone. His pack was stationed throughout the city. Eyes and ears everywhere. “They’re on a motorcycle, heading north.”
And the Para Agent called Connor was driving hell fast. No doubt, the alpha thought he could ditch any pursuers they might have.
But Connor was wrong. He hadn’t counted on the fact that a full pack was hunting for Chloe. He didn’t understand how important she was—but I do.
“Do not engage them,” he said softly. Connor’s motorcycle had already vanished in the distance. “Just follow them. When you find the safe house,” the spot the Para Unit had been using to hide Chloe, “take up a position nearby and contact me.” Because he had to plan his attack carefully. Chloe couldn’t escape him.
Not when the full moon was getting so close. He had plans for Chloe and that moon. He’d waited too long to claim her. When that moon rose, when his beast surged with power, he would be mating her.
He ended the call. He heard the hard rasp of breathing and the shuffle of footsteps. A blond male ran toward him. The guy was rubbing his jaw.
His eyes narrowed on the man—the werewolf.
“That was one tough bastard,” Wesley Green muttered. “Didn’t even shift to fight me.”
Interesting. Not surprising though, not given what he knew about Connor. “And he was still stronger, even in human form?”
He didn’t know if that information made Wesley especially pathetic or if it made Connor particularly dangerous.
“Never…never seen anything like him.” Wesley yanked on his jaw. Bones cracked. “I think…think he’s even stronger than you…”
Not possible. His eyes narrowed. “You were supposed to just follow Chloe. Didn’t I give you that order?”
“But her scent…it was so sweet…”
He knew all about Chloe’s scent, and that was one of the reasons he’d stayed back. Why he’d told the others not to engage. Chloe’s father had manipulated her biology, nearly turning her into a perfect weapon. Her scent drove werewolves wild, and anything that wrecked a werewolf’s control was very, very dangerous indeed.
“You’re in my pack,” he murmured. His…ever since the last alpha David Vincent, had been captured by Eric Pate and his Para Unit assholes. “So that means you follow my orders.”
He drove his claws into Wesley’s chest. “There is no ‘but’ in this,” he said. “Because of you, Chloe got away again. I’m the alpha of this pack…”
A gurgle slipped from Wesley’s throat.
“You follow my orders,” he said, and he twisted his claws, moving for maximum damage in the man’s chest, “or you die.”
His hand jerked back. Wesley fell to the ground. A big hole was where his heart had once been. But, just to make certain…
He pulled the gun from his waistband. Aimed right between Wesley’s eyes. Those eyes were wide and terrified.
He fired, and the silver bullet exploded from his gun.