Once they'd captured Webb, they might've allowed her to die.
A gust of breath left him. Nix, you beautiful bitch.
He wanted to grab that Valkyrie and kiss her, then ask her why she couldn't have just texted him to be there.
No matter; he'd have gone through that torture a thousand times over to spare Chloe a fate like that.
"MacRieve, I appreciate all you've done for me. You saved my life."
And you saved mine. He couldn't wait to tear up his plane ticket. As he gazed down at her lovely face, he felt shamed to have bought it.
"But if I stay here, I could be bringing these Pravus creatures down on your head. What about the other people who live here?"
Worried for them? He couldn't believe he'd feared this girl would be like her father.
She deserved better than Will, someone not so jaded, someone who could make love to her. Someone . . . mortal. Fit for no one. He had the passing thought that he should let her go.
Yet who could protect her more fiercely than Will?
Not a damn soul. "Shh, Chloe. My clan is ready for anything. You're safe here. Now my wee mortal needs sleep to finish healing."
He tucked her in, about to howl from the rightness of seeing her in his bed. Hell no, I'll no' give her up. Finally, a relationship he could be proud of.
"Sleep, lass. Heal. We'll work all this out tomorrow." He leaned in to gently press his lips to hers, and she let him, even sighing.
His first kiss in centuries. In Gaelic, he told her, "Our last first kiss."
Her lids slid shut, and her breaths deepened. Just before she slipped into sleep, she murmured, "I could get used to you."
When Chloe woke, she found MacRieve seated in a chair beside the bed, elbows on his knees.
Staring at her.
"Been waiting for you to wake. You always sleep this much?" He flashed her that grin. He looked rested and was clean-shaven, dressed in another pair of jeans, a black long-sleeve T-shirt that hugged his chest muscles, and expensive-looking hiking boots.
In other words, he was even more gorgeous than he'd been last night.
She sat up, ran her fingers through her hair, discovered a tangled mess. "How long was I out?" With a start, she noticed how hard her nipples were beneath the white T-shirt, and raised the sheet to conceal them.
She'd been engulfed by those wicked dreams. Only now the man had a face-MacRieve's. In those scenes, she'd explored what might've happened if she'd let him take off that towel and bare her body. If she'd let him lick the water from her skin . . .
Think of something else, or he'll know!
"You were out all morning. Still as death."
"And you've just been sitting there, watching me? That's not creepy at all."
"What else would I do?" he asked in genuine puzzlement. "Of course, you had me pacing whenever your dreams changed." He stood and did so now. "It was everything I could do no' to fall upon you in that bed."
She swallowed. "How did you know what I was dreaming?"
"Your heart rate and breaths."
She raised her chin. "Could've been a nightmare."
He stopped to face her, his lids gone heavy. "And your scent."
Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. "I need to get dressed. Can I borrow some more clothes?"
"We canvassed the clan for some. I've put everything in that wardrobe." He pointed to an immense oak piece that she didn't remember seeing last night. "Just until I can buy you new, naturally."
Buy her new? "MacRieve, I appreciate your . . . hospitality, but I can't stay here any longer."
He gazed at her with a half grin, as if she were jesting.
"I'm dead serious. What if my dad shows up here? You'd kill him. I'm not going to sit here and act as bait."
"Is that your only objection?"
"I have things I need to do," she said. "A life of my own. And I don't want to endanger anyone else."
"You should get dressed, so I can show you something."
"The obstacles to you leaving."
At the side of the bed, she hesitated. He seemed to be waiting keenly for a view of her legs, eyes locked on that edge of the comforter.
He snapped his head up. "You want that?" At her exasperated look, he sighed. "Aye, then. Privacy. From me." He crossed to her and pressed a kiss to her head, inhaling the scent of her hair. "You're adorable, you ken that? Meet me in the kitchen for breakfast."
Once he was gone, the room seemed bigger. And more . . . boring.
If she wasn't careful, she could grow smitten with him. Which was a bad idea on so many levels. First, he and her father would kill each other on sight. Second, he was a Lorean. And third, she didn't know what she was.
She scuffed to the wardrobe, found expensive garments, many of them clearly never worn. There were several pairs of shoes and some toiletries as well.
Lacy underwear with the tags still on filled a silk-lined drawer. A far cry from her sports bras and Under Armour panties.
Wait. He had been the one to fill the wardrobe? The thought of him handling panties he intended for her made Chloe's face flush. With embarrassment? Or that weird awakening . . . ?
After showering again and brushing her teeth, she dragged on a pair of jeans that fitted a bit too tightly over her ass and a peasant blouse that showed more cleavage than she was accustomed to. Slip-on sandals rounded out the ensemble.
In front of the mirror, she ran her fingers through her wet hair-the closest she ever came to styling it-and appraised her appearance.
The outfit looked classy but much more feminine than her usual apparel. For most of the year, she wore cleats, soccer shorts, and workout tees.
An outfit like this seemed to demand makeup, which she couldn't be bothered with. In concession, she pinched her cheeks, testing a smile.
Though she deemed herself cute, just as MacRieve had called her last night, he was in the league of leggy supermodels who would live forever with him. Yet this male couldn't seem to take his eyes off Chloe, a.k.a. Baby T-Rex, a runtling soccer player with no feminine wiles.
She knew what his tie to her was: he was compelled by his instinct to want her. Was MacRieve's marked interest in her fueling Chloe's own infatuation?
When she descended the stairs and entered the kitchen, his face lit up, as if she were a beauty queen modeling an evening gown.
"What do you like to eat?"
Before her recent decline in appetite, she'd been a big eater. She opened her mouth to list all her favorite training foods, only to remember there might never be training again. If she didn't make it to Madrid in time . . . if her immortality was triggered . . .
MacRieve had pronounced her human the night before. The question was, how to stay that way? Was it possible to find her dad and learn what her trigger was before the Games?
"I'll just take a cup of coffee," she muttered, though she rarely drank caffeinated drinks. Her voice had wavered, so she jutted her chin.
"Hey, hey, lass. Come here. What troubles you?"
When he reached for her and she realized how very badly she wanted to be enfolded in those arms, she made herself back up a step.
At that moment, two younger guys entered the kitchen.
"This is Ronan and Benneit," MacRieve said. "They live here. Lads, this is Chloe."
Ben was even taller than MacRieve, duck-under-the-doorway tall. He was also handsome, with thick black hair that hung over one eye. His face heated as he gave her a wave, and she realized he was really shy.
The younger one, a cute rangy blond, had no such problem. "So what're we having for breakfast, sweetling?"
She hated it when people assumed she could cook just because she had a vagina. "Whatever your happy ass makes-for yourself."
Ben cracked a grin. Ronan cast her a measuring glance.
MacRieve laughed. "Ah, lass, you're going to do just fine here."
"What'd I miss?" asked another male from the doorway.
Chloe blinked. And again. "You didn't tell me you had an identical twin." An excruciatingly handsome one.
"I'm Munro, and I'm pleased to have you here, Chloe." He seemed like he was about to say more, only to stop himself.
"Thank you, Munro." She realized she was still staring, and blushed. "Wow, you really do look alike." When he stood next to MacRieve, she could tell they weren't quite identical. MacRieve looked a little more . . . worn, his hair longer. She also noticed that neither of them had laugh lines.
Ronan said, "Female Loreans call them Hot and Hotter. I doona see it."
I'll bet they do. A flare of jealousy took her by surprise. For most of her life, she hadn't been interested in men, much less jealous over them.
MacRieve quipped something in Gaelic, making his brother grin, then handed her a mug. "Come on, I've much to show you." When he squired her through a set of french doors, the afternoon sun illuminated his face.
His eyes were the color of a gold medal struck by sunlight. She told herself it was the zing of caffeine that caused her head to rush-not the sight of his brilliant gaze. He was jaw-droppingly fine, and apparently he got told that all the time. Having had fanboys, she'd sworn never to be a fangirl. She wouldn't start now.
She dragged her gaze away, making a study of the outside of his home. The lodge was constructed of brick, with exposed wood beams. The arched roof was covered in slate tiles. "It's beautiful." After growing up in a house that looked exactly like every other McMansion in the neighborhood, she'd always wanted to live in a home with character, something unique.
When MacRieve smiled, her skin grew flushed. She didn't like the effect he had on her or how quickly all this was moving. He kept her off balance, like she was running with a cleat on one foot and a climbing boot on the other.
She groped for something to talk about. "So if you and Munro are twins, how does the whole alpha thing work?"
"The wolf that created our line was an alpha, so most Lykae males have alpha tendencies, just waiting to come out. In my and Munro's case, his beast is cut from the same soul as mine, so we're definitely both alphas. Let's just put it this way-we brawl. A lot." He steered her onto another path.
"Where are we headed?"
"The main house of the compound."
She rolled her eyes. "Of course I'm at a compound. Great. If I see any fourteen-year-olds, should I congratulate them on their nuptials?"
"No' that kind of compound. You'll enjoy it here. It's like a big team. And this property is like a locker room."
"You expect me to sign on?"
"Our facilities are top-notch, and we're all starters."
"I need to get back to the team I've already joined. I have a life of my own." And questions that had to be answered. Not just about her father.
Now that she'd confirmed immortals existed, she kept wondering what species her mom could've been, and what her ultimate fate was. Dad had told Chloe that Mom had no relations. What if that statement was as false as the terminal cancer lie?
"What do you have to get back to?" MacRieve asked. "Your season's over with your team, is it no'? Your father is no longer there. Is this about the Olympics? They're no' out of reach, Chloe. I will move heaven and earth to get you there."
Part of her wanted so badly to confide in him about her symptoms. Again that sense of self-preservation held her tongue. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Ach, you should know that a Lykae's curiosity is a powerful thing." He said this like it was an understatement. Suddenly, his gaze narrowed. "Do you have a lover back there, then?" His tone was nonchalant, but his eyes were blazing blue. "Some bloke in Seattle?"
"I'm one hundred percent committed to sports." In the past, she'd tried to convince herself that she hadn't dated because of training demands. But other players had managed to balance a love life and a career. She'd heard the locker room talk. "I haven't had time for dating." Or for the dread that inevitably accompanied it.
Her answer appeared to delight him. She could perceive him relaxing.
In fact, she was very in tune with him, her senses seemingly heightened by him. She was abundantly aware of him at every second. Merely walking beside him, she could feel the heat radiating from his skin.
What if she did fall for a werewolf like MacRieve? Dad would hate her. He might already.
No, she refused to believe that.
"Here's the main house," MacRieve said, gesturing toward what looked like a millionaire's hunting lodge, decorated by a manly man. "We call it the den. It's well-loved, lots of claw marks. And a Valkyrie threw a car on the roof no' too long ago."
"They're that strong?" So cool! Maybe Fiore was a Valkyrie?
"Aye. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to a Lykae's strength." He opened a heavy wooden door for her, taking her hand to lead her inside.
His was hot and rough against her own, yet the contact was electric; Chloe shivered, and stared in puzzlement at the spot where their skin touched. He too seemed affected, his brows drawing together.
This was some kind of connection-the kind she'd read about in books, the kind she'd decided was just a stupid myth.
Apparently all myths were real.
With his brogue thicker than she'd ever heard it, he said, "Ah, Chloe, lass, I just need tae . . ." He leaned in, looking for all the world like he was about to kiss her.
She found herself captivated by the prospect. Awakening! She'd had far too few kisses in her life.
But then she heard the murmur of conversation from a nearby room. Would someone come upon her and MacRieve? "Y-you said something about obstacles?" Her voice was as breathy as a porn star's.
Looking suddenly troubled, he straightened. "Aye, then. This way to our security area." They headed into a dimmed room.
There was a giant computer screen, like a movie backdrop, with dozens of camera feeds stacked and labeled: WALL 1, WALL 2, WALL 3 . . . all the way to WALL 50.
One Lykae manned the desk.
"Here's Madadh, our Master of the Watch. Madadh, this is my mate, Chloe."