“Chappell,” Jaxon said, sitting up straight. “I got a vision from one of the men I eliminated tonight. He told a man in a lab coat he wasn’t being paid enough to deal with ‘Chappell’s freaky God complex,’ as he called it. The guy in the lab coat asked whether he’d rather be Chappell’s next subject, making it a threat. The man told the lab coat guy to stay out of it. He was nervous, scared his companion was going to squeal to Chappell, and he was worried about cops.”

Kira turned to stare at him. “What did the man in the lab coat look like?”

For a second, he was thrown. He’d expected her to question his vision, or laugh it off as ridiculous. That she seemed to take him at face value filled him with something very much like pride. It was one thing to be accepted by his Pack brothers. But from an outsider, this woman . . . For some reason that seemed significant. Special.

“Fortyish. Medium height and build, brown hair. I didn’t get the color of his eyes.”

“That could be Dr. Rhodes, but it’s hard to say. He fits that description, but so do a lot of men. NewLife is a big place.”

“Chappell is the CEO of NewLife.” Nick cocked his head, a funny look clouding his face. Sitting back in his chair, he fell silent, staring into space.

“That’s right.” When he didn’t respond to Kira, she turned to Jaxon, keeping her voice low. “Is he doing his woo-woo thing?”

He had to smile at her description. “Yeah. Unlike me, he doesn’t have to touch an object to receive a vision, though he can and that will sometimes make the vision clearer to him.”

“Will he be okay? Your vision really wiped you out,” she observed.

“He’ll be fine. He’s more powerful than any of us, in either form.”

Even so, Jaxon couldn’t help but worry two minutes later when his boss finally snapped out of his trance. His eyes seemed more shadowed, darker than usual, and for just a second, as his gaze bounced between them, Jaxon could’ve sworn he saw a flash of something like regret there.

“Nicky? You cool?”

The man shook himself and swiped a hand down his face. “I’m good. Where were we?”

“Orson Chappell.”

“Right.” He seemed to be having trouble shaking the haze.

“Did you see something important?”

“Just spaced out for a sec. Nothing too clear.”

He won’t look at me. He’s lying. A chill chased down his spine. But there was no time to press Nick on what was wrong, not that he’d tell Jaxon anyway.

The older man stood abruptly. “You know what? It’s damned late and we’re all tired. We’ll finish this tomorrow after we’ve all had a decent night’s sleep and some breakfast. I’ll see you both back here at eight.”

“Sure,” Jaxon said slowly. What the hell? He frowned, not bothering to mask his concern. “Kira, would you wait outside for a minute?”

“No problem.” Glancing between them, she rose and slipped out, shutting the door behind her.

“All right, fess up,” Jaxon said quietly. “What happened just now?”

“Nothing you need to be concerned about.”

“Bullshit. You look ready to pass out.”

“I’m fine. It’s you who’s ready to crash, not me. Now get the hell out and take care of our new addition before she wanders off.” He softened his words with a smile.

Stubborn bastard. “Fine. But I’m here to talk if you need me.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

No sense in beating his head against the wall. Once his stubborn boss made up his mind to keep his lips firmly shut, not even a crowbar could pry them open.

He found Kira waiting at the end of the hall a respectful distance from Nick’s office, and briefly gripped her shoulder before drawing away. Why he felt compelled to keep touching her was beyond him. He had to stop before—no. Not going there.

“Let’s get you to a room. I’ll give you the grand tour tomorrow.”

“Sounds good.” A wide yawn punctuated the statement.

His lips twitched, but he refrained from smiling. She was a thief at best, in trouble with some bad fuckers at worst. Figures she’d have to be so damned cute both the man and the wolf wanted to gobble her up. In the best way, that would leave them both drenched in sweat and cum.

Shit! Willing his cock to behave, he took her through the living area, past the dining room, and down another corridor toward the living quarters. He stopped in front of the second door from the end and flicked a hand at it.

“This is one of several empty units in this wing. They’re more like small apartments than hotel rooms, which makes living on-site more comfortable. A few of the women live on this end, including Dr. Mackenzie Grant, who’s next door to you. My room is just across the hall and a couple of doors down.” He pointed. “You need anything, don’t hesitate to knock.”

“Thanks.” She peered at the small panel on the wall near the knob. “Can we get in? Looks like we need a code.”

“This one’s not set up yet, but we’ll take care of that for you tomorrow. It locks from the inside, so you can feel secure.”

Opening the door, he ushered her inside and flipped on the light.

“Oh, my! This is much nicer than I expected.” A blush tinged her cheeks and she grinned ruefully. “That didn’t come out right. Sorry.”

He chuckled, liking the way the corners of her eyes turned up when she smiled. “I know what you meant. It’ll never make the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, but it’s not bad.”

She ran a palm over the back of the tasteful sofa. “This will do just fine. Thank you. For everything.”

A world of meaning weighted those words as her smile died. He understood what she couldn’t express—she’d be dead right now if he hadn’t intervened. It was hard to say thanks for something like that.

He should know.

“You’re more than welcome.” He cleared his throat, breaking the intense moment. “Anyway, let me run over and get you one of my T-shirts.”

“Oh, you don’t have to. Really.”

“It’s no bother. Hang on a minute.”

Jogging across the hall, he let himself in to his apartment and hurried to the bedroom. He spent a few seconds digging through his dresser, searching for a clean shirt that wasn’t too worn. Finding one, he jogged back to Kira’s door and knocked.

“It’s Jax.”

The door opened and she met his eyes. “I appreciate this, but you didn’t have to,” she said, taking the shirt. Their fingers brushed and he felt that current again. Electric, shooting south like lightning.

He shrugged. “You had to have something for bed.”

“No, I don’t.” Standing on her tiptoes, she planted a kiss on his cheek, and murmured, “I sleep naked, but I appreciate the gesture. Good night, Jax.”

With that, she closed the door and left him standing there panting like the wolf he was, sporting a hard-on that was attempting to drill through his zipper.

If he didn’t get relief, fast, he was going to explode in his jeans.

I sleep naked.

Time to take care of business. And then he was going for a long, long run. With any luck, he’d be too exhausted to dream about a pretty little blonde with sky blue eyes.


Pacing his office, Nick stared out the window at the night. The moon called him, beckoned him to raise his voice in song, pour out his sorrows. Wouldn’t be the first time, nor the last.

Sometimes he fucking hated his “gift” as a seer. Tonight was one of those times.

Two hearts were destined to be bound forever, find a love stronger than any they’d ever known, or would ever know again. Their road wouldn’t be easy, but their joy when they gave in would be boundless.

And oh, God, so brief.

Two souls would be torn apart. One heart left drowning in grief.

But Nick couldn’t interfere with the future, with free will. He’d made that mistake once, with tragic results.

There wasn’t anything he could do to change the horrible outcome.

Not one goddamned thing.

Outside, he stripped his clothes and shifted, hit the ground on four white paws, and ran. If he ran far enough, fast enough, maybe he could forget that real monsters existed. Just for a little while.

And just maybe, he could forget he was one of them.

Three

Instead of heading to his room, Jaxon kept walking. All the way to the end of the corridor to the double doors, where he pushed outside, breathing in the lush scents of the forest with profound relief.

Despite his earlier exhaustion and the ache in his bad leg, he’d gotten a second wind and had no hope of sleeping until he expended this strange energy. His body was a powder keg set to go off. He felt too big for his skin, ready to burst. His nerves hummed like live wires, crackling to his toes.

Because of Kira Locke.

No. He wouldn’t accept that. Because accepting she was responsible for the weird reactions he’d been experiencing ever since he’d first laid eyes on her, inhaled that alluring citrus and vanilla scent, meant acknowledging an implication he just wasn’t ready to face. Not now.

Maybe never.

Haven’t you learned your lesson? No woman can love a man who’s half beast. Not without Disney manufacturing the ending.

Making his way across the training course and shooting range, he picked up the pace. His wolf wanted out and he was ready to oblige. At the edge of the trees he shed his clothing, leaving it in a pile to retrieve later.

Tilting his face up, he closed his eyes, released his hold over the beast, and let the change overtake him. Muscle and bone reshaped, and he dropped to all fours as his thick coat emerged. The process wasn’t without some pain in his joints and in his injured leg, but was nothing like the agony they’d endured five years ago, when the animal within was new and they’d fought it with all their power. Resisting had made it worse and was a mistake each of them had quickly learned not to make.

Embracing their feral nature had brought heartache in spades, closed the door on their old lives forever. But it also included a few benefits, and this was one of the best—to run with the night, hunt and kill. To feast and then howl to the heavens, though whether in triumph or loneliness he wasn’t always sure. To simply be and leave human worries behind, if only for a while.

He ran, relishing the earth under his paws, the wind in his face. Thankfully, his injury was lessened, as usual, in wolf form, and he was able to enjoy his run. After a while he scented a rabbit and chased it from a cozy burrow near a fallen log, knowing it didn’t stand a chance. The need to taste fresh meat, savor the sweet juices, ruled his canine heart and mind.

Until he held the writhing creature down with massive paws and it shrieked in terror, long and loud. Many nights in the past he’d hunted and not been affected by the cries of his prey. The weak fed the strong, and that was the way of the entire world. One slice of his claws, one snap of jaws, and the struggle would be over, the larger beast sustained. Why should the rabbit’s valiant will to survive affect his human half tonight?

Slowly, he eased off the rabbit and it wriggled free, gave a leap, and shot into the underbrush. His wolf whined at his inexplicable actions, giving up a hard-won snack. Maybe he’d had enough killing for one night.

Spinning, he ran again, heading for a stream about a mile from the compound that he liked to visit. The spot was secluded, on Institute property, and relatively safe even at this distance from the main building. Even if the most die-hard camper or hunter ventured this far into the wilderness, they’d be brought up short by a highsecurity fence topped with razor wire. Should anyone be stupid enough to try to breach it, silent alarms would notify the team as to the location of the would-be intruder and he would be dealt with.

Reaching his destination, he padded to the bank’s edge, stuck his nose in the frigid water, and drank. When he’d had his fill, he raised his head, scented the air to make certain none of his team was nearby. Satisfied, he shifted and stood.

Damn, he’d hoped the run would not only clear his head, but rid him of the rampant arousal jutting from between his thighs. If anything, the freedom of his run had only made it worse. Scowling down at his current problem, he wondered at its stubborn insistence. He normally had complete control over his body, but ever since he’d scented her it was as though his libido had gone bonkers.

I sleep naked.

Right this minute, Kira was probably sprawled in crisp sheets, sleeping like a fair angel, long dusky lashes curled against porcelain cheeks. Toned limbs tangled with white cotton, sleek back dipping to the curve of a small, tight rear.

“Shit.”

Groaning in frustration, he found a soft, spongy spot a few feet from the stream’s edge and lowered himself to the ground. On his back, he cupped his balls, already high and tight. This wasn’t going to take long.

Grasping his cock, he swiped a thumb over the head, smearing the oozing precum around. Conjuring a delicious fantasy, he imagined Kira half on her stomach, peaceful in sleep. He’d move the sheet aside, exposing her gorgeous little ass—and he had no doubt she’d be beautiful all over—and spread her legs. He’d nuzzle her sex, lick and probe, waking her slowly. Half-awake, she’d moan and beg for more.

He’d give her what she asked for, making her writhe as his tongue explored the dewy folds, teased and sampled the tiny clit. Nearly driven out of her mind, she’d get on her hands and knees, begging to be taken. And he’d gladly oblige, putting the head of his cock to her entrance and pushing home. He’d slide deep, show her the pleasures of being mounted and taken by something more than human. Something primal.

“God, yes.”

Fisting his rod, he stroked, gripping hard for that extra bit of rough. He’d do her just like that, sliding deep, faster and faster until he was pounding hard. Her cries would blister his ears, bring his beast forth with wild joy. When he could hold back no more, he would drape himself over her, thrust one final time, pump his seed into her womb . . .

And sink his canines deep into her throat. Claim her.

Mine! My mate.

“Ahh, fuuuck!”

He shot hard, cum painting his belly and chest in creamy ropes. Again and again he spurted until his hand and torso were slick and he lay spent, out of breath. God, that was so good, fantasy or not. The real deal would likely kill him.

Gradually his scattered brain began to collect itself and a chill settled over him that had nothing to do with his nakedness and the cool night air. What had he called her?

My mate.

No. Uh-uh. No goddamned way was that ever going to happen. He liked his life the way it had been for the last several years—footloose and able to scratch his itch with a willing female whenever the need became too great to ignore. Alexa might not appeal anymore, and Vegas was a long commute anyway, but there was always Jacee, the sexy bartender at the Cross-eyed Grizzly. The cozy hangout was only a thirty-minute drive into Cody, the town nearest the Institute. Jacee didn’t mind being his occasional booty call.