If other Lykae were evil enough to be . . . exterminated, then she'd just found the exception in MacRieve. And for that matter, Chloe wasn't evil, yet her dad had shown her the book-had shown her handwritten words like foul plague and abomination.
Obviously the Order was flawed.
"You knew nothing of what your father was doing?"
"God, no! And if I had, I never would have stood for it!"
At her words, he exhaled a pent-up breath. "So you will no' hate us just because Webb does?"
"I can make up my own mind."
His expression lightened. "Dinna know if you would want my head on a platter just for what I am."
"And how are you handling the fact that I'm Daughter of Webb? Seems like you would want my head on a platter just for what I am."
"That might have been true once. No longer."
"Will you hurt me to get back at him?"
"Nay!" He gave her a look as if the very idea was ludicrous. "Never hurt you."
"Chloe, it's complicated." He stabbed his fingers through his thick hair. "Things have changed-I ken that-but I need to think on this for longer than hours. For now, let me enjoy being with you." He rose, then closed in on her. "Been waiting a long time for you."
She stood as well. She could feel the heat coming off his body, could luxuriate in his masculine scent.
"We'll figure out all of this in the morning." He eased closer still. "I've other things on my mind just now."
The Scottish god was flirting with her? She felt flustered for the first time in her life. Awakening!
Before, whenever she'd felt attracted to a guy and thought about acting on it, she'd been filled with dread. She'd never told another, had never been able to understand it, but just the idea of talking to a hot boy had terrified her-as if she were about to embark on a trip from which there was no return. Like there should be a neon sign blinking over each guy's head: HERE BE DRAGONS!
She'd never dated, giving in to her fear like a coward. But now she felt zero dread, more anticipation, like maybe those dreams of hers might come true. "Other things on your mind?"
"Like kissing you for the first time. Ah, Chloe, your heart speeds up when you look at my lips."
Her face flushed with embarrassment.
Right when she was about to make a smart-ass remark, he said, "My heart has no' slowed since I first saw you."
She found herself wetting her lips. But after so many celibate years and such wariness with men, this easy acceptance was as bewildering as the dread. "I-I need a shower," she blurted, scrambling away from him.
He raised his brows. "I'm in need of one myself. And we like to conserve water around here."
MacRieve dogged her heels as she strode toward the bathroom. After his comment, all she could think about was showering with him. Soaping his big body . . .
At the doorway, she faced him. "Can I get some privacy?"
He blinked at her, and she got the sense that she'd asked for something he considered odd.
"Out, MacRieve! Shoo."
He refused to budge. "You lost pints today. What if you grow dizzy and slip?" Then he flashed a look of realization. "That could actually kill you. Fuck me. You could die from a shower fall!"
Though she often cussed like it was going out of style-how else was she supposed to trash-talk opponents?-she was unused to men doing it around her.
"You must keep the door open, Chloe."
Did she dare risk it? The shower stall was as big as a room, with a screen at least six feet high. He wouldn't be able to see her. Her wound was itching like crazy, and her hair was dirty, with real particles of dirt. "Fine. As long as you don't come in."
"I will no'." He leaned his back against the doorjamb and crossed his arms over his massive chest.
Once she managed to stop staring at it, she turned toward the shower. In the stall she removed her T-shirt, underwear, and bandage, frowning to find a hard black shell over her side.
When she stepped under the water, she groaned with pleasure.
"Lass?" he called.
As steam filled the room, the itchy shell on her side loosened until she was able to peel it off like papier-mache. She gaped at what was revealed, sagging against the wall. "Oh, my God."
"What is it?" His voice was panicked-and it was coming from inside the bathroom.
He didn't come closer, but he wouldn't leave. "No' until you tell me."
"My wound-it's completely healed." With a nice new scar.
"Huh. Dinna think it would heal that quick. What about your other injuries?"
She rolled her shoulders. No pain. She surveyed for bruises, found none. "They're all better."
"Then I saw you well, just as I promised. So mayhap you can start trusting me a little?"
"It's not necessarily that I don't trust you. I just don't want you to look."
"My mate's a bashful one then?" His husky words accompanied a spray of water over her breasts.
Bashful? Hardly. But God, just the way he said my mate had her heart speeding up again. "Are you one hundred percent sure I'm . . . yours? I mean, when you scent me, don't you just smell a run-of-the-mill human?"
"Aye, you're mortal."
It followed that she would remain so, transforming only to a certain degree-right up until her trigger. "Is it normal for a Lykae to have a mortal mate? Or does that mean I have Lykae somewhere in my line?"
"You doona have to be a Lykae to be mated to one. My cousin wed a witch. Our queen is a vampire."
So Lykae mates ran the gamut? Maybe she was, in fact, his. Didn't mean he'd be hers. "Any Pravus mates? Or do you kill every one of them you come across?" she said lightly.
He didn't match her tone. "I endeavor to," he said in all seriousness.
"Oh." If she was turning into one of those, would he kill her too? Self-preservation, Chlo. Okay, she would not be asking him about her symptoms. "So how often do mortals and immortals hook up?"
"No' that often. But it's no' unheard of," he quickly added.
"I understand that you feel a connection to me, but if I'm not a Lykae . . . should I be expecting some kind of compulsion to like you too?" Though she didn't feel compelled, this sudden disappearance of her customary dread puzzled her.
"Nay. I'll be winning you with my own charms."
Of which there were so very many. Hey, hadn't she promised herself if she got close to the net, she'd score?
No, bad idea! What was she thinking? She hardly knew this guy. "Is that so?"
"Oh, aye, and I will be winning you, my Chloe. It's no' every day that a sexy Olympian falls into my lap."
Olympian. Tonight she'd all but accepted that she had some kind of immortal blood. Were the Games beyond her reach forever? The soap slipped from her limp hand when it dawned on her how much she'd lose.
Family, a potential medal, friends.
She'd had her future planned out. She'd been making six figures, with Olympic sponsorships on the horizon. Dad was supposed to be there cheering in the front row as her team seized gold.
She cringed, recalling all that punishing training she'd endured down in Florida. Header after header until her forehead swelled. Ice numbing her joints while burning her skin. Sweat stinging her eyes. Hiding her lack of appetite from a team of women, from eagle-eyed coaches and physicians.
All for nothing.
Rub some dirt on it. Though her situation seemed grim, there was an upside. She'd thought she was going to die earlier; now she was completely healed. In fact, aside from being sleepy, she felt great physically. She'd been so wretchedly lonely before; now a Scottish god of a man couldn't seem to get close enough to her.
He'd saved her life, had fought for her against monsters.
"I'm going to fetch you a T-shirt. Doona get yourself killed while I'm away, mortal."
She almost smiled. Was he being serious or teasing her? She sensed a playfulness inside him. She supposed she'd find out soon enough.
Two seconds later, he said, "How'd we do while I was gone?"
"A few close calls."
He chuckled. "I'm getting the feeling that you might be a smart-arse. But I like it."
The water sluiced over her. His voice poured over her. How could his mere voice call to mind those wicked dreams so readily? What if she stepped out, and he kissed her with his gorgeous lips?
Don't think about the faceless man . . . don't think . . .
Too late. Her lust surged. She placed her palms against the wall, her fingers curling. Maybe he was the faceless male who would do delicious things to her.
"Uh, Chloe, is everything all right?" he asked, his voice rumbling.
"Of c-course!" Oh, God, he might be able to smell her! She dumped half a bottle of shampoo over her head, letting it coat her all the way down.
When Will scented her arousal, his body shot tight with tension, his shaft readying for her.
She must be feeling better. And, lords, she must be a lusty one.
He inwardly groaned. But I canna do anything about it. Not without his beast rising. The harder he got, the more it would claw him inside, the two eternally linked. He scrubbed his palm over his face. By the time he was ready to rut, it'd be fully at the fore.
His beast was already stirring, roused by her scent. If Will lost control for a second, he could kill her.
Inhale, exhale. Rein it in, Will. Once he'd garnered a measure of control again, the peculiarity of this situation hit him. He was licking his chops over the daughter of a man he despised, one he longed to destroy. But without Webb, there would be no Chloe.
Will would never have received his mate.
Chloe had asked him earlier if he would hurt Webb. His eyes narrowed. If Will could take her, he would get revenge. Nothing could destroy Webb like the knowledge that his beloved daughter had been compromised by a detrus. Will hated to think in this vein, but there it was.
Turning off the water, Chloe reached through the steam for the towel. He lunged forward to hand it to her.
"MacRieve!" She'd already turned her back, yanking the towel to her body, quickly wrapping it around herself.
"Just being of assistance." And copping a look at my woman.
He'd only caught the merest glimpse of her arse: pert, generous, the kind of arse that would still be moving for a breathtaking split second after she'd stilled. Or after it'd been spanked.
He nearly groaned at the thought. Gods, soccer had done her right.
He'd seen just enough to render him mind-blown and hard as rock. Which meant his beast was now prowling within him.
No, Will hadn't been able to refashion himself after Ruelle. He gazed at his mate. But then, I've never had a real reason to before now. "Come, Chloe, are you always so shy?" She was still standing in the shower stall.
"No, I'm not. I'm the chick who walks around naked in the locker room."
A wolven chuff escaped his lips as he imagined that. If he hadn't been sprung before . . . In a strangled voice, he said, "Next you'll tell me you like to pillow-fight in the nude."
As if he hadn't spoken, she continued, "However, just because I'm not shy, that doesn't mean I'm going to streak in front of you."
"No' yet." His lips curled. "Are you going to stay in there all night?"
"Depends on what your plans are."
"Do you no' want a clean T-shirt?" He dangled it enticingly.
Lips thinned, wary as prey, she stepped out in her towel.
Aye, her color had returned. Her skin was tanned, with sexy little strap lines over her shoulders. He wanted to taste her skin. Just one fleeting taste of her. And then I'll be good.
A drop trickled down her neck; he followed it with his eyes. She noticed, shivering in reaction. So sensitive, his mate.
Before he could stop himself, he'd swooped in and pressed his opened lips to the drop, licking it up. At her ear, he said, "You doona need a towel, no' when you have me around. I'll tend to every inch of you."
When he drew back, she was panting shallow breaths, her pupils dilated. The honeyed scent of her arousal filled his senses.
She was about to go off, and he couldn't do a damned thing about it without risking disaster.
Then she seemed to wake up. Her vivid eyes flashed with embarrassment. The smooth skin of her cheeks blushed red.
She was so fucking adorable, it hurt him. He tilted his head at her. Might his Chloe be a virgin?
A delicate, mortal virgin? He backed up a step. "You tempt me, sweet. Gods, you tempt me. But you've been injured. You need to be abed."
"And if I hadn't been injured?"
"Then we would be abed right now," he lied, handing her the shirt. When she raised her brows, he turned around for her to change.
But even once she'd dressed and he'd led her to his bed, she still looked a bit dazed. As he pulled down the covers and clean sheets-bless you, brother-she asked, "How are you handling this, MacRieve?"
"What do you mean?"
She crawled under the covers, flashing toned thighs. Mercy.
"This must be a shock to you too. You were just minding your own business, and all of a sudden-wham!-you've got a mate."
She was worried about how he was taking this? "You're what we consider Other. And I think you might be the first Other female who's ever asked how a male Lykae was taking all this."
He recalled his cousins who had non-Lykae mates. Each of those females had panicked at the mere idea. Garreth's had even shot him. "I'm handling this just fine," he said, surprised to find that was the truth.
Because you're my lifeline. He could see it so clearly now. She was his lucky penny, found right when he'd needed her most.
Everything was falling into place. His Instinct had returned. There was hope.
But if Chloe was his cure, Nix was the cause. At the auction, he'd recognized what the Valkyrie had done for him. Now he realized what she'd done for Chloe.
If not for Nix, centaurs would be raping Chloe right now. And they would use their own healers on her so they could do it again and again. At the thought, bile rose in his throat.