Because he'd done it to her, she slapped his ass. He flashed her a smoldering look over his shoulder, his eyes saying, You're going to pay for that.
As he loped off to the field, he pulled his shirt over his head; he was on the skins team-hallelujah for that. His brother Munro was on the same team-double hallelujah.
Two muscular, manly specimens, exuding strength and vitality.
One of the females in the clan, a tall beauty named Cassandra, snapped her fingers in front of Chloe's starstruck eyes. With a smile, she said, "You've got a little something here"-she patted the back of her hand against her own mouth-"mayhap drool? Munro and MacRieve have that effect on females."
"They get that reaction all the time?" Hot and Hotter. She pictured MacRieve kissing some supernaturally beautiful Lorean, and her fists clenched.
"Oh, aye. They have since they were just boys." She bit her lip, as if she'd said something she shouldn't have.
"Why is MacRieve called by his last name?"
"He's the chieftain of the Nova Scotian Lykae, so it's a title. He's considered the MacRieve there. Plus, Sassenach have been slaughtering his given name for centuries." She spelled it for Chloe. "I suppose it got old. Only his twin calls him Will. For the rest of us, it's MacRieve."
Chloe herself had slaughtered his name. "Are you sure I can't help you clean up?"
Cassandra said, "You just enjoy the show."
The game started with a barn burner of a drive. Chloe had never really paid attention to rugby-if a particular sport had no women's league, then she wasn't much of a fan. Yet after a few plays, she noted similarities to both soccer and football.
All of the males were fast, but MacRieve's speed down the field was blistering. A good thing. Considering the way these men tackled, she would've been doing anything possible not to get caught with the ball.
His chest sheening with sweat, his eyes focused, he and Munro passed the ball back and forth, eluding defenders, seeming to know exactly where the other brother would be.
A twin thing? Or just lots of practice?
Oh, yeah, did MacRieve have moves on the field. And off it. Whenever she recalled what he'd done to her, her face would flush scarlet.
He was so domineering. And a dirty talker. Apparently, she liked both. A lot.
He'd said that she'd surrendered to him, and she supposed she had. But in her mind, sex was a new sport she'd never played, while he was a seasoned pro. Of course she was going to let him take the lead, submitting to what he wanted, because sex was his home turf.
Was it any wonder she'd promised to stay with him? Yet even though she'd been under duress, how could she have just blown off trying to leave this compound, to find her dad?
Granted, she had no idea where to begin searching-or how to get past a freaking siege. But she played offense. So what gives?
Was some dark part of her convinced she'd already forfeited the Games by having an immortal mother? Was some darker part of her relieved?
If she was triggered and became immortal, then this worry would be gone. She'd have more strength to defend herself from all the Loreans that wanted to abduct and torture her. She'd never get sick or die.
And she'd get to be with MacRieve.
The more she liked him, the more out of touch she felt. Her old existence was slipping away. Her dreams, her goals, her training-all gone. Yet when she was with him, she didn't feel the pang of loss.
Shouldn't she? Maybe she didn't because she'd suspected for weeks that her life as she'd known it was over?
You're not human.
Instead of devastation, at that moment, she experienced a sense of foreboding, like the other shoe was about to drop. It couldn't possibly be worse than the one that had already penalty-kicked the shit out of her life. Between the enemies at the gate and not knowing what was happening with her own body, how could she not feel foreboding?
Ronan slid into the seat next to hers, patting his belly. "Okay, lass, I've decided to forgive you for no' cooking breakfast. Just so long as it never happens again."
"Lucky me." Since she'd probably be this kid's roommate for the next week, she figured she should get to know him. He looked about fifteen, so she said, "You're nineteen, right?"
Shoulders back, he said, "Just turned fifteen. But I get that all the time."
She checked a grin. "So what grade are you in?"
"We doona have grades." He rolled his clear gray eyes. "Doona go to human school. We learn from parents, then we pick up everything we need."
"Lykae spot details others can't see, and then our curiosity drives us to investigate them. Our superior intellects mean we retain most of what we learn."
This kid had attitude. But then, Chloe had always liked attitude.
He popped a new beer for her-because she'd finished hers.
"Thanks. Why have I never discovered beer before?" Then she frowned to see a bottle in Ronan's underage paw. "They let you drink?"
"It's no' like I'm a lightweight human who canna handle my liquor."
"Ooh, burn." To be fair, she was already buzzed.
He chuckled, and she joined him-until a particularly high-pitched shriek sounded from over the wall.
"It doesn't freak you out that those things are out there?" she said.
"You've never seen a turned Lykae. There's a reason those creatures have no' braved an attack."
So she kept hearing. Which made her wonder how terrifying a turned Lykae truly was.
MacRieve scored just then, giving a mocking bow to his opponents. He ran his arm over his forehead, and all the sweat-slicked muscles in his torso contracted. His body was even larger from exertion, his corded thighs pressing against the legs of his jeans.
When unturned, MacRieve was hotter than flames. As if he sensed her eyes were glued to him, he turned to wink at her. She resisted the urge to fan her face. Casting about for a subject, she said to Ronan, "This must be a fun place to grow up." Underage drinking and no school.
"I guess. I'm new here. For the most part, Glenrial is the dreck dump."
"Our clan originates from Kinevane, Scotland. And then we have an official colony in Nova Scotia called Bheinnrose. The twins founded it, carving that place from scratch in the wilds up there. But here? This is where the fuckups come, the ones who doona fit in elsewhere."
"Our prince, Garreth-a.k.a. the Dark Prince-lived here before he met his mate. And see Cassandra over there?" He subtly pointed with his beer. "She's in love with our king, but Lachlain's happily mated, so she's taking a hiatus from Kinevane. And Madadh? They call him Mad Dog, 'cause once he loses his temper, he nigh goes insane."
Though she'd met Madadh in the security area, she gazed at the man anew. That scar on his face made him look not just dangerous, but thuggish, like he'd list his "hobbies" as hookers and blow.
Since he was a Lykae, that just meant he looked like a dangerous, hot thug. Still, she never, ever wanted to see him lose his temper.
She asked Ronan, "So why are you here then?"
"Ben and I are orphans. It's no' exactly common to lose immortal parents at our age, so no one knows what to do with us."
"Ghoul attack. Fuckers got two members of our family."
"I'm so sorry, Ronan."
Plainly uncomfortable, he nodded toward MacRieve. "The twins were orphaned too. They lost their folks at thirteen."
Oh, God, that must've been awful. "How did their parents die?"
"Their mother was killed by a vampire." No wonder MacRieve hated vampires so much. "Their da followed."
"Most Lykae males will no' live on without their mates. Let's put it to you this way: only our mother and sister died in the ghoul attack. Our da offed himself directly."
For a place full of immortality, the Lore seemed to be rife with loss.
What if Chloe was never triggered? Would MacRieve end himself when she finished her mortal life?
She'd agreed to his week, but now she vacillated. This situation was intense. "If this place is for those who don't fit in, then why are the twins here?" They were gorgeous and powerful. "Shouldn't they be in Nova Scotia?"
"They're drifting, hankering for a war. Legendary warriors, both of them. Plus, I heard they burned through all the nymphs up there. Came south for new trim."
Nymphs. Chloe remembered reading about that species. They were preternaturally stunning, with a driving need to give and receive sexual pleasure.
She saw red at the thought of MacRieve having sex with one of those creatures-no, not one. Evidently he'd gone through an entire Canuck population of them.
She gazed over at him. MacRieve was barefooted, shirtless, magnificent, laughing at something Munro had said.
No more nymphs for him. That's my man.
As soon as the thought arose, her breath left her. In the past, whenever she'd made a snap determination-that's my sport, my school, my team-she'd never wavered.
Was MacRieve hers as well? No, no, the intensity of the situation was getting to her. That was all. She downed her beer, muffling a burp.
Another bottle slid in front of her. She glanced at Ronan, who gave her an innocent look. "So you're really going to play in the Olympics?"
MacRieve kept bragging to everyone that she was an Olympian, crushing her a little inside. "I was chosen to represent the U.S.," she said, and took another chug of beer. Maybe with MacRieve's help, it would still be doable.
Could she reveal her transition to him? After the day she'd had, she was so tempted.
Tonight, she decided. She'd reveal everything she knew-
A chorus of yells on the field interrupted her thoughts. "Why aren't you playing?" she asked Ronan. Though she relished watching MacRieve, on the whole, spectating with no chance of playing blew goats. She felt like she'd been benched, riding the pine like second string.
"Canna play with adults. They'd steamroll me. No' until I'm an immortal and can regenerate."
"How does that work?"
"When I reach the age where I'm strongest, I'll freeze there and never grow older. Usually happens in our thirties."
"When did MacRieve do his freeze?"
"Nine centuries ago."
She choked on her beer. "Nine hundred years." How could a freaking crypt keeper look that hot?
"Roughly." His gazed darted. "Head Case dinna tell you? He'll whip my arse for this."
"I won't tell him. Well, not if you tell me why you call him Head Case."
He picked at the label on his beer. "Uh, he was no' doing so well after he got back from the prison."
"What happened to him there?"
Ronan leaned in, whispering, "The Order tortured him for weeks. He came home all kinds of wrong."
She gazed up to see MacRieve running the field, happily tackling another player. That proud male had been tortured by her father's henchmen. And somehow, somehow, he didn't hate her. Another deep draw of beer.
MacRieve caught her gaze just then, gave her a sexy lift of his chin, as if just checking on her. She raised her bottle toward him, and he grinned.
As soon as he turned away, she told Ronan, "Spill. Everything you know."
"Shite, Chloe, I canna."
"Start talking or I do. To MacRieve."
Churlish, Ronan said, "They vivisected him, okay? Took out his organs while he was forced to watch."
Nausea roiled. No wonder MacRieve couldn't talk about it. He'd been tortured in unimaginable ways. "When did they capture him?" She rattled off the date of her championship game, asking, "Does that sound right?"
"Aye, that's it exactly. I recall because it was the night I met this knockout witch, my soon-to-be girlfriend."
Chloe had heard MacRieve captured. She'd seen her father's smile. Feeling violently protective of MacRieve, she squeezed her bottle. How could her dad have signed off on this?
"The Order abducts Loreans my age, and younger too. Kids everywhere are scared. No' me, of course," Ronan said, his eyes darting again. "There are others who have nightmares. But no' me."
My father's the bogeyman to these people.
Dad must have a blinding hatred toward immortals. Enough to blind a father to his daughter? Conflict churned inside her. On the one hand, she remembered Dad patiently fetching soccer balls for her. On the other, she recalled his reaction to her that last night.
When he'd told her he loved her no matter what she was, he hadn't been able to meet her eyes.
Yet he'd memorized her face. The roulette wheel spins and spins. . . .
Look at you, brother!" Munro slapped Will on the back during a break. "Cracking a smile for the first time in ages. This is just what you need."
"Well, it does no' suck." Today had been the best day of Will's life. And Chloe didn't even know it. His Instinct had been strong, his beast had behaved, and the clan had welcomed her with open arms.
At the cooler, fifths of whiskey chilled for all the players: Lykae-ade. But Will took a beer instead. He planned a repeat of his earlier encounter with Chloe and needed to stay sharp.
Keeping her in sight, he and Munro meandered off from the others.
"I'm seeing things in you that I've no' seen in memory," Munro said.
"You're laughing," Munro answered. "You joked earlier."
"You say that like it's extraordinary."
"It is." Expression turning serious, Munro said, "When we were young, you were so fun-loving and jovial, always playing pranks and teasing. Then overnight, you seemed to grow up, into a sullen-eyed, closed-lipped lad. That's when I knew something was wrong."
Because Ruelle had cut Will's boyhood short. He remembered little of what it was like to be a child. He knew he must have played with Munro before meeting Ruelle, but couldn't recall an instance.
Strange, he could remember every precise detail of what had happened in that cottage. How she had repeatedly pinned him down and used him, ignoring his alpha tendencies while forcing him to release his beast.