Bound in death, p.16
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       Bound In Death, p.16

         Part #5 of Bound series by Lauren DeStefano
 
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Page 16

 

  Because Alerac had made a choice. Track Liam or follow Jane’s scent. He’d followed Jane.

  More murmurs and whispers swept through the group.

  Did they doubt what he was telling them?

  Yes.

  Fuck, yes, they did.

  Finn stepped forward. “We don’t like having vampires in our midst!”

  There were nods. Growls of agreement. They growled, even when in the form of men and women.

  Suspicious stares were cast toward Jane and Ryan.

  “Maybe Ben and Saul were the ones attacked,” Finn added. “Maybe your vamp was the one to—”

  Alerac had him by the throat before he could say anything more. “You question my word? The word of your alpha?”

  Finn couldn’t speak to respond, mostly because Alerac was crushing the guy’s windpipe.

  But Finn did manage to shake his head—no.

  “No one threatens Jane and lives. ” Simple. His word—his pack law. He released Finn. The guy sucked in a deep breath.

  Suspicion churned within Alerac. He’d been blind to Liam’s betrayal. Was he still being blind now? “If there are others helping Liam, siding with him, I will learn the truth. ”

  There weren’t any murmurs then. Just considering glances. No, those were suspicious glances. The wolves seemed to weigh each other.

  “I brought you here,” Alerac said, voice strong and cold. “I created this pack. If any of you think to turn on me—then challenge me, now. Come at me. See if you have what it takes to be alpha. ” Because he was sure ready to kick the shit out of someone.

  Only none of the wolves approached him.

  Their heads lowered in submission.

  He’d found these wolves over the years. They’d been alone, lost. He’d brought them together.

  No, not just me. Liam was at my side. Would the wolves feel they owed their allegiance to him?

  Or to Liam?

  His gaze swept the group once more. Stopped on a pair of angry brown eyes.

  Zoe. She and Finn were the two newest members of the pack. Finn had seemed to fit in with the others instantly, but Zoe had remained aloof.

  Zoe wasn’t like the others. She was a werewolf who couldn’t shift. The beast within her had never been able to push its way out, not completely.

  Zoe’s dark hair was still wet from the storm. The rain had stopped just minutes ago. “You called her your mate!” A faint southern accent whispered beneath Zoe’s words. “Is that what she is?”

  To Alerac, Jane had been his mate for centuries. But he glanced back at Jane.

  She was staring at him in confusion.

  “Vampires make us nervous,” another werewolf called out. “We follow your orders, but, alpha, we need to know just who you are bringing into our pack. ”

  He should have known that it would come to this. Fear could live in the heart of any man. Or beast.

  “Is she your mate?” Zoe pressed. “Because I don’t remember a claiming. ”

  “Maybe that’s why Liam went after her. ” The words came from another werewolf. Denton. “Maybe he wanted a claim. I can smell him on her. ”

  Claws burst from Alerac’s hands. In an instant, he’d slashed that jerk. Denton had always been a mouthy SOB. “The only scent on her is mine. Just because Liam attacked her, it doesn’t give him a claim. ”

  “Alerac…” Jane’s voice was soft, worried.

  But it was Zoe’s hand that reached out to Alerac. She touched his shoulder. That light touch stopped him from killing Denton. “Maybe you should make a claim them,” she told him quietly. Her eyes were worried. “A claim would reassure…” Zoe swallowed, and said, “all of us. ” Her eyes sent him the message that he needed to heed her words. “A public claiming is the way of the pack. ”

  It was.

  But he couldn’t claim an unwilling bride.

  “Oh, the hell, no,” Ryan snarled, leaping toward them. “This dog isn’t mating with my—”

  Four werewolves closed in on him.

  Alerac lifted his hand. “Stop. ”

  They stopped.

  Dammit. He should have seen this problem before. Zoe was trying to help him. He got that. To reassure his pack—the pack that remained in the middle of this freakin’ mutiny—he needed to claim his vampire. Then the others wouldn’t be so worried that she was going to turn on them.

  Or…um, feed on them.

  She only drinks from me.

  “Jane. ” He hadn’t meant to shout her name but this wasn’t exactly the time for endearments and soft promises.

  He wasn’t the type for those promises anyway.

  Jane didn’t step toward him. She just stared back at him. Hell, if she rejected him in front of his pack, what would he do then?

  He turned his back on the wolves. Then hesitated. “Don’t kill the male vampire. Not yet. ”

  “Don’t worry. ” Zoe pushed through the crowd that had surrounded Ryan. “I’ll keep him alive. ” She positioned herself in front of a frowning Ryan.

  “I don’t need your protection,” Ryan muttered.

  “Right, Drac. Whatever you say. ”

  Satisfied that Ryan would keep living—for the moment—Alerac eliminated the distance between him and Jane.

  “What’s going on?” Jane asked him. Her neck had healed, but Zoe was right. Liam’s scent was on her.

  Bastard. You will suffer for this.

  Liam had gone right after the one thing that Alerac valued most. Why?

  “I called you my mate in front of the pack. ” He wasn’t even sure that had been an accident. Maybe he’d realized, deep down, exactly what he was doing. “The wolves are nervous about having a vampire here. ”

  “Two vampires,” she said, voice soft.

  He nodded. “And with three of their own dead, they need reassurance. ”

  Her lashes lowered, concealing her gaze.

  “If you accept my claim, then you’re part of the pack. You’re part of me. ”

  “And if I don’t?”

  He’d look like a fool. He’d also have to fight all of the werewolves who wanted to go for her throat and for Ryan’s. “Then I’ll make sure you get a safe escort to wherever you want to go. ” There was no need for her to know the rest.

  Her lashes lifted. “What is a werewolf claiming? Does it mean we’re—we’re dating?”

  No. “It’s like marriage. ” Only there was no divorce for them. No out clause. The claiming was forever. Beyond life and death.

  “You’re asking me to marry you?” He could see himself reflected in her eyes. A scary sight. Why the hell would she want to be saddled with him?

  She was already afraid of him, and she didn’t even know half of the things that he’d done in his life.

  “I’m asking you to trust me. ” His voice was low, but he knew the others would still be able to overhear him. “I’ve protected you so far. I want to keep you safe. ”

  But then she made the breath leave his lungs. Made his heart damn near burst from his chest.

  She shook her head. “I want more than safety. ”

  Hell. “What do you want?” He would try to give it to her. He would try—

  “I want my life back. ”

  Ice encased his skin.

  The werewolves began to whisper behind him. He prepared for battle. The first wolf that attacked her would lose a limb.

  He straightened his shoulders. He’d been the one to take her life away. He’d be the one to make sure she got it back. That she got everything back. “Just stay behind me,” he told her. “It’s about to get bloody. ”

  He turned away.

  She touched him. Wrapped her fingers around his arm, just as Zoe had done. Only when Zoe touched him, his blood hadn’t heated. His body hadn’t tensed. Need hadn’t pounded through him as his beast clamored for escape.

  For her
.

  “You’re about to fight them all?”

  Silence from the wolves. They had to be tensing for battle, too.

  “But…” Now Jane sounded confused. “They’re your family. They didn’t all attack me. It was just the ones in the woods. ”

  Maybe. But if he didn’t claim her, they’d grow more suspicious of her. Vampires and werewolves had a very long blood feud going.

  One that wasn’t ending overnight. His claim would protect her.

  Without it, he’d make sure that his claws and teeth did the job.

  Her hold tightened on him. “Don’t do this. ”

  She’d taken his choice away.

  Alerac pulled from her. Kept his spine straight and his chin up as he met the stares of his pack. His claim had just been publicly refused. That should have been humiliating.

  It wasn’t.

  He just…his chest hurt.

  Alerac lifted his claws. “Who’s going to be first?” He was alpha for a reason. He’d prove that fact again this night. Before the sun rose, their blood would be on the ground. Jane would be safe.

  He did a “come here” motion with his claws. “Let’s get started. ”

  “No!” Jane’s yell.

  And then Jane was there. In front of him. Grabbing his wrists. Pushing her body against his. “You’re not doing this for me!”

  Yes, he was. He wasn’t going to let her be threatened.

  Jane shook her head. “No, not for me. ” Her pulse raced. He could smell the fear that drifted from her.

  He didn’t like the scent of fear on Jane.

  He preferred the sweet scent of her desire.

  “I accept your claim. ”

  He liked it when—

  What?

  “Did you hear me?” Her eyes searched his. “There’s no need to fight. No need to turn on your own. I accept your claim. ”

  “Fuck,” Ryan muttered.

  Her fingers were stroking the inside of his wrists. She was trying to soothe him. He wasn’t in the mood to be soothed.

  She’d just accepted his claim. That changed everything.

  “What happens now?” Her voice was a breathless whisper.

  “Now…” Alerac turned her in his arms, positioning her so that all would see just what was coming. “I take you. I make you mine. ”

  Chapter Eight

  She was a creature straight from some kid’s nightmare. A blood-drinker. An immortal power.

  And her knees were shaking.

  Alerac’s hard body pressed behind her. She could feel the strong muscles of his chest. The ripple of his cut abs. He hadn’t bothered with a shirt, so it was all too easy to feel the strength of his bare muscles against her.

  He’d jerked on a pair of jeans. And his cock was, ah, definitely getting bigger and harder behind her.

  Everyone was staring at her.

  “Uh, Alerac…” She wasn’t sure just how the werewolves did things, but putting on a show for the pack wasn’t her idea of a good time.

  “Do you accept my claim?” His voice seemed to thunder behind her.

  Jane nodded.

  Then she jumped when she felt his breath whisper against her ear. “You have to say the words, a rúnsearc. ”

  Oh. Okay. “I accept your claim. ”

  The werewolves started shouting then. She wasn’t sure if those were celebrating shouts or we-want-to-kill-her shouts.

  It was too hard to tell the difference.

  That whisper of his breath slid away from her ear as his mouth moved down to her neck.

  Jane couldn’t help it. She tensed even more. The memory of Liam holding her down and tearing into her throat was far too fresh in her mind.

  “Trust me. ”

  She wanted to trust Alerac.

  “It will only hurt for an instant. ”

  “Wait—” Jane began.

  But it was too late. His teeth sank into her. Not her throat, but right at the curve of her shoulder. It did hurt, but, like he’d said, the pain only lasted an instant. A white- hot pulse that charged through her body.

  After that pain, pleasure. She gasped because she’d only been prepared for pain. Not for this.

  More pules of pleasure shot through her, starting right there, where his mouth was on her skin, and they surged down…straight down to her sex.

  He was licking her. Kissing her skin.

  And she was about to climax just from his mouth on her.

  Horrified—they’re watching—Jane spun in his arms.

  Those arms closed tightly around her.

  “It’s done. ” His voice carried easily over the shouts. “She’s mine. ”

  That hadn’t been so bad. She looked up at him. “And you’re…mine. ”

  “Keira!”

  Her head jerked at Ryan’s bellow. The werewolves were holding him back. Had the guy tried to lunge forward and stop the claiming?

  Yes.

  Zoe still stood in front of him. She was frowning up at Ryan. “Dumb, Drac, dumb. ”

  “Don’t do this!” Ryan yelled at Jane. “Don’t trade your life again. Don’t do it for me!”

  She hadn’t. Jane shook her head. “I did this for me. ”

  Then she was being lifted up in Alerac’s arms. He carried her into the main house. Before he crossed that threshold, he glanced back. “Zoe, keep the male vampire alive. ”

  Zoe nodded.

  Alerac glanced over at the rest of his pack. “Liam is banished. If you see him, take the bastard down. He will not hurt this pack again. Search the woods. Protect the borders. Do not turn your back on him. ”

  Their faces were grim. Jane realized that they were all going to be hunting Liam now. He’d been a brother to them one moment, then a traitor the next.

  Why? Alerac had trusted him. She was pretty sure Alerac had loved him.
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