The moment Lola asked Mason and I to come save her brother Sean, my heart dropped. An image of my mate–Giovanni popped into my mind. His soft curly hair, his deep and intoxicating eyes. The musky yet sweet scent that swirled around him, clinging to my nose and calling to my soul.
The mate-bond didn’t care what species we were, hell-bent on bringing the two of us together. My mind resisted the idea, but my body longed for him.
My wolf felt the same, equal parts desire and reluctance. I was constantly pulled in each direction, and yet I couldn’t shake that small shred of hope.
I had not seen him since we saved Lola and chased them off. Yet for some reason I continued going to my Aunt’s house every weekend.
I knew Giovanni would not come, as his reluctance surpassed my own. I went to my Aunt’s house for another reason, one laced with sadness and longing. I would go to my Aunt’s house and pretend Giovanni was there waiting for me.
If I closed my eyes, I could see him standing in the threshold, his dark eyes conflicted and torn as he stared down at me. After an hour spent in my Aunt’s sturdy yet dilapidated house, I’d return home swimming with a guilt I couldn’t shake. Escaping to my Aunt’s house felt like a breath of fresh air, while everything else felt smothering.
I couldn’t understand how Mason did it–how he continued breathing and smiling when he couldn’t be with his other half. Mason made it look easy, managing to cover the flash of sorrow and longing that appeared in his eyes at least once a day.
Mason and I had this silent understanding where neither one of us asked questions. We often saw the look in each other’s eyes, and knew where it had come from. It was the look formed by the loss of your mate, your other half. That constant pain followed you, seeping through your pores and thickening the air.
I wanted to tell Lola, to have someone to confide in but guilt consumed me. While at times I swore I could see a flash of longing in Giovanni’s eyes, he would never turn his back on his kind. And how could I blame him, when I refused to do the same?
Everyone in the SUV heard Mason’s confession of his last time in Atlanta. I knew we had both come for the same reason, each of us hanging onto that small shred of hope.
I fought with myself relentlessly, that small shred of hope had quite a loud voice. What would I do if Giovanni was there? Throw myself into his arms and plead for him to stay with me? While I couldn’t seem to give up, I couldn’t see a future with Giovanni. I wanted a future where I could be with my mate and my pack, a selfish future.
The club would’ve been awesome, had it not been crawling with Vampire’s. While I couldn’t trace their scent, my instincts told me the truth.
Every other pair of cold eyes that danced across my skin were those of Vampire’s. Some sneered as they sensed a wolf in their midst, other’s glanced briefly but looked away.
Once Lola and Alpha Asher headed to the VIP area, I stayed at the bar on the far end of the club. The warehouse setting made the club enormous, making me unable to see the other end of the room through the winding bodies.
People of all species were dancing, bodies grazing against one another as the thin scent of sweat filled the air.
The red and white lights danced across bare skin, scattering different hues throughout the club. People of all species danced in thin little dresses, the rough hands of men caressing their hips. Two women leaned against the wall; their lips tangled in a fight to the death.
I felt like an exposed nerve, every last thing I saw brushed against my sensitive endings. I had spent days ignoring the growing hole in my chest, but every sight and smell at the club brought it to my full attention. Lust-filled looks were thrown across the club, wandering hands and lips caressing against skin. All it did was bring Giovanni to the front of my mind.
“What can I get for you, gorgeous?” A voice pulled me from my thoughts. The inevitable rush of disappointment ran through me, as the voice did not belong to Giovanni.
Without even realizing, I had been leaning against the onyx-colored bar. One of the stools grazed against my hip, my front facing the crowd of dancing partygoers.
The bartender was cute, a guy I would have no doubt swooned over but things had changed. The bartender’s blonde hair was a tousled mess on his head, the hint of muscles straining through his dark shirt. His eyes were dark with mystery, something the old me would have loved.
Men lacked their usual appeal since I had met Giovanni. I was no longer giving flirty glances or sly touches; guilt became a constant companion.
I knew I shouldn’t have felt guilty, but Giovanni had not rejected me. That had to count for something, right? I had begged him, yelled at him and yet he didn’t reject me. It seems I wasn’t the only one dealing with an inward battle.
“Rum and coke.” I sighed straining my voice to raise it above the music. The bartender flashed me a dazzling smile, one that would have had me snagged from the beginning.
Yet, I felt nothing for the hot bartender. My stomach was absent of butterflies, the hole in my chest growing bigger with each guilty thought.
“You don’t seem to be enjoying your night, gorgeous. The drinks on me.” The hot bartender flashed me a sly smirk, those mysterious eyes flashing as they ran over my skin.
I felt nothing from his prying gaze, no heat, no warmth, just the unmoving hole in my heart. I wanted to pretend, to gain some semblance of my old life back but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I wouldn’t give the bartender my empty meaningless words, string him along as I pretended to be who I once was.
“Thanks.” I murmured, taking the glass from his outstretched hand. The alcohol burned as it ran down my throat, bringing some warmth to my cold body. I wanted to laugh spitefully.
Heartbroken humans could easily forget their sorrows, simply able to drink them away. Werewolves’ could do no such thing. Drugs and alcohol refused to affect us, leaving us little outlet for our inner demons. Perhaps, that was why werewolves were so violent.
“What’s your name?” Another dazzling smile, one personal and intimate. Deep moss-colored eyes fanned my face, but my body held no reaction.
I couldn’t help it when irritation flooded me. I wanted to be left alone, suffering in silence as I was triggered by practically everything. I could feel him hovering over my shoulder, waiting for an answer.
“Breyona.” I spared no effort to raise my voice above the music, my eyes darting over my surroundings. There was no sight of Mason, Carter or Wade but the makeshift warehouse club was huge.
“Breyona. I’m Noah.” My name left his mouth like a seductive song, carried to my ears by the thundering music. His voice was raspy, nothing like Giovanni’s. Giovanni’s voice was rough, but held a certain silkiness that made your toes curl.
For just a split second I noticed the nametag pinned to his shirt. Big blue letters spelled the name, ‘Noah’. I had seen it as I walked to the bar, but had not cared what his name was.
Even now, I couldn’t bring myself to care. I wasn’t normally this way, a heartless bitch with eyes for no one else. I had changed the moment this festering hole was placed inside my chest.
“Did you–” Noah’s mouth opened, full lips I would have once trailed my eyes over.
“He knows you guys are here.” Another voice, a heart stopping familiar voice. Rough but smooth like silk, sweet like honey with that murderous edge bathed in mystery.
He had looked the same, dark curly hair brushing the cusp of his eyebrow. Long lashes framed dark eyes, eyes that burned with every intense emotion.
My eyes left the open-mouthed bartender, the one who had tried and failed to make a lasting impression. That bitter part of me wanted to chuckle, what would another man have over Giovanni? With the looks of an earthbound God and the body of a warrior, Giovanni stood behind me.
“Gorgeous–” My eyes were no longer on the bartender, his name already forgotten from my memory.
“Scatter, human.” Giovanni’s voice hardened, still sweet and silky as it held a murderous edge. Dark eyes flashed with anger and irritation, evoking more conflicting emotions from my battered heart.
Out of instinct and my guild ridden feelings for Giovanni, I blocked the mind-link between the six of us. It was almost like pressing the mute button on a phone, keeping my conversation and surroundings from their minds.
He didn’t reject us. There is hope, he didn’t reject us.
Those damning thoughts danced gleefully in my mind.
I heard the bartender pause, no doubt looking over Giovanni warily. If the bartender was smart, he would leave. My disinterest in him was clear, as my eyes were now glued to Giovanni.
For the first time in what felt like forever, my face flushed. I was hyper aware of the outfit I had chosen for tonight, specifically picked on the slim chance I would see Giovanni. Scarlet in color, the soft fabric hugged my slim body and brought attention to my long legs. The back of my dress was open, revealing creamy skin.
The mate-bond had strengthened each time we met face-to-face. I could feel Giovanni’s self-control as if it were a tangible substance. It rolled around him in waves, forcing him to keep his eyes locked on my face. Each time I had to remind myself that I didn’t truly know Giovanni.
I knew he was interested in betting and odds, but that was it. Did he have a family? Did he already have a woman in his life?
Even though I hardly knew the man, my soul knew his own.
“He knows you guys are here.” Full lips parted to repeat the words he had said before, capturing my attention once again.
‘Get a grip. Remember why we’re here.’ My wolf chanted in my mind, a stable ledge for me to perch myself upon to avoid the churning ocean content on swallowing me whole.
“Tristan?” A name that tasted sour on my lips, one that sent irritation and anger bubbling in my veins. “What are the two of you doing here?”
I sounded like a nagging, concerned girlfriend but I couldn’t bring myself to care. My soul had connected with Giovanni’s, and I was too weak to force myself to say the words that would set us free.
Reject him, don’t reject him. Two options that fought against each other in my mind, a constant war that left me with a lingering headache.
“Many place bets on the fights, little she-wolf.” Giovanni’s light accent was deliciously tempting, the hole in my chest aching beyond belief. His dark eyebrow raised; the movement sent a fluttering into my stomach. “I oversee the money and ensure everything is done—safely.”
From the sound of Lola’s inner turmoil and surroundings, the fights were anything but safe. I could feel Lola’s disgust as she watched two people fight, could taste her anger on my tongue like scorching hot sauce.
“Then he knows why we’re here?” My lips turned down, as they had done quite often this week. My own selfish worry flooded my veins. I would have to warn them and then be forced to explain how I came by this information. “He knows what we came for?”
“He chose this location specifically.” Giovanni nodded, his eyes dark and his voice hard.
“Why can’t he just leave her alone?” My own voice was tinged with anger, anger directed at both Tristan and myself. “What is with his stupid obsession over her?”
My frustration bubbled and ebbed, directed at myself. I wanted to shout to the night sky, to drag the Moon Goddess from her heavens and demand why she had done this to me.
I wanted to know why she had paired me with a man I could never be with. I needed to know why she had left me with this horrible choice yet refused to give me the strength to be done with it. And yet here I stood, frustrated and hurt without a single helpful answer.
As if he could sense my turmoil, the raging storm that boiled in my blood, Giovanni lifted his hand. It hung in the space between us, a choice begging to be made. Acid burned my stomach, my heart dropping as his hand once again remained at his side.
“Tristan–believes he is Lola’s mate.” Giovanni’s words were calculated, measuring how much information he was willing to give me. I could feel the unspoken words floating in his mind, information he would not give me.
“I’m sure he has other motives.” I scoffed, my damned emotions bleeding through my eyes. Everything Giovanni said or did was weighted, as though he had a glimpse at the potential outcomes.
For a second, panic filled my veins. I could see Lola and Alpha Asher’s surroundings through the mind-link. A dark-haired Vampire had approached the two of them, had known who they were. He was talking to Lola, telling her they could come to an agreement in exchange for her brother’s life.
‘An agreement?’ I asked through the mind-link, worry and distaste filling my tone.
‘Sounds kind of sketchy.’ Carter chimed in, followed by Mason and Wade’s approval.
‘There will be no agreement.’ Alpha Asher snapped, his tone hard and unyielding. ‘We will bide our time and wait until they bring out Sean. Once I call for a distraction, we will grab Sean and fight our way out.’
‘We may have to leave out the side door. If we do, we’ll circle around the front and meet you there.’ Lola chimed in, followed by Alpha Asher’s begrudging approval.
Some of my nervousness ebbed away at Alpha Asher’s voice. It was clear he had no intentions on letting Lola take the reins. I knew without a doubt how far she would go for her family.
She hadn’t shown much grief with her Mom, but Lola was always one to deflect things. The two of us were alike in that way, content on finding distractions to avoid facing the pain.
An image of Tristan approaching Lola and Alpha Asher flashed into my mind, raising my irritation until my skin felt itchy and singed. I drowned out the words Tristan was speaking to them, placing my focus on Giovanni.
“An agreement?” I scoffed, my eyes burning as I looked at my Goddess given mate. His dark eyes conveyed no emotion, his irritating mask was firmly in place. My voice held hurt and anger, but didn’t come out as murderous as I wanted.
“He wants her in return for her brother’s life? This is all just a pathetic ploy to get Lola on your side, to use her powers yourselves.”
“Ploy or not—Lola’s position is coveted. Tristan is but one of many. However, he does not give up easily.” This was more information than Giovanni had ever given me, useless and yet I was hanging onto his every word.
I could feel the mate-bond between us, a glistening rope of pure gold that spanned the short distance we stood from one another.
“Lola will never betray her pack; you have to know that.” I placed all of my attention on him, on staring into those emotionless eyes. My stomach contracted, as if I were trying to crack his mask with my own free will.
“Tristan is willing to bet otherwise.” Giovanni’s eyes were hard, but held something deep and painful within their depths.
My heart shuddered in my chest as he turned away from me. Clammy, on edge and unbearably alone, that’s how I felt the second his eyes left my own.
“You wouldn’t reject me—Why?” I found myself asking, the words spewing from my throat without any self-control. I needed to know, to understand why he couldn’t say the words. He knew why I couldn’t, because I was weak and hopeful. But why couldn’t he?
A long pause, those dark eyes burning into me once more. “I do not know.”
‘Breyona, we could use that distraction now.’ Alpha Asher’s voice was angry as it filtered into my mind. I wanted to curse, wishing I had more time with Giovanni.
I would’ve stayed in this club forever if it meant we didn’t have to deal with the outside world, deal with our species hatred for one another.
“Wait–” I called out, my body lurching forward as I began to lose all control. I was acting on impulse, taking a page from Lola’s book.
Thinking before speaking had gotten me nowhere with Giovanni, instead I let the overwhelming emotions of the mate-bond take control.
Giovanni had stopped abruptly, turning around as my torso collided into his. His hands found my waist, steadying me. From the brief look of surprise on his face, control had slipped through his tight grasp.
His hands singed my skin, burning through the dress I was wearing. Overwhelming emotions scattered along my skin like waves of electricity, bouncing from Giovanni to myself.
‘Alright, give me a minute.’ I huffed through the mind-link, ‘Stall him or something.’
“You have to know this is wrong. He’s her brother, she’s going to do everything in her power to save him.” I breathed, letting my own control slide like thick oil through my fingers.
I let the emotions I had contained tightly flow through my words, staining them with the longing and turmoil I felt. “I’m not asking you to kill Tristan or anyone else but—help us, help me.”
The mask that clouded his features, the one he had focused so hard on keeping intact, slipped from his face. Emotion lit up his eyes like fireworks, his thoughts practically wrapping themselves around his mind. He felt the pull of the mate-bond as well as I did.
He too was swept under the current, drowning in the emotions as he stared down at his mate. Two species eternally at war, but also destined to mix, to expand.
“I–” His lips opened, seconds away from refusing my plea. I wasn’t sure what I would do if he refused. I was laying my entire heart on the line, the empty hole in my chest throbbing at the risk.
“Please, Giovanni.” I breathed; his name tasted sweet on my tongue. I could feel his breath as it rolled past his lips, its creamy cinnamon scent caressed my face.
“She’s asked for none of this. I have to cause a distraction, but I’m begging you to help me. Help us get Sean out of here, you—you can do what you choose afterwards.”
Time seemed to slow as the beating of my frantic heart increased. Its dull thuds pulsed in my ears, the music around turning silent. The pulse from the base continued scattering across the floor, making it feel as though we were vibrating.
My desperate hands clung to his shirt, rippling muscles dancing along my fingertips. His hands never once strayed from my hips. We were both drowning in the current, our gazes locked on one another.
“Sean will find his way to Lola, little she-wolf. I will make sure of it, but that is all I am able to do.” His words were like a salve, smoothing the jagged edges of the hole in my heart.
The knot in my stomach erupted into a clu*ter of butterflies, my eyes incredulously roaming Giovanni’s.
Turmoil, frustration, contempt, and yet his eyes still held that buried glimmer of longing.