"Then why are you always watching her?"
"Because she's dangerous, a ticking time bomb. Even if I canna get anyone to believe that, I know it." Though no one in the clan knew quite what to do about this situation, it was clear they all liked her. Of course, they had no idea what she was truly capable of.
No' like I do.
Munro said, "Chloe's still trying to eat food. Mayhap she can continue."
"If no', have the witches returned your calls?" He'd gotten Munro to ask for a potion to make them immune to strew.
Turning to the witches? Obviously Will was desperate. But this was one of his last hopes. His other was that Chloe could continue to eat normally, that her human half could rule her in this.
Will had also asked if the witches could scry for Webb using Chloe's blood.
Munro said, "I just heard back from Mariketa the Awaited."
If Will could ever bring himself to trust a witch, he supposed it'd be that one.
"She does no' have high hopes for an immunity potion. She said she'd try when she got back to town-but at the verra least, she needs a sample to base it on."
"A sample? By then it'll be too late." There went that hope.
"The witches had already used Chloe's blood to scry for Webb," Munro continued. "They've said their results were 'puzzling.' In short, they canna locate him. The Lore's back to square one with that."
Why could nothing work out for Will? What had he done to deserve his fate? Daughter of Webb and a succubus. Who the hell had Will pissed off?
Munro gazed out at the field, scrutinizing another scoring drive. "I doona want to say Chloe's unladylike, but she does no' remind me of Lady Ruelle at all."
"They're more alike than you know," Will insisted, though he couldn't quite come up with an instance. "Just trust me on this."
At that moment, Ronan accidentally elbowed Chloe in the face, then looked horrified to have walloped a girl. "Chloe, I'm sorry!"
Ruelle would've cried prettily, milking sympathy for all she was worth.
Chloe just shrugged, though her lip was now bleeding. "We're in the middle of a game, Ronan." As she signaled for the ball with one hand, she absently spat blood, then evaded Madadh with a clever spin move. She took it the length of the field and scored.
Ronan jogged up to her. "Your lip and cheek really look bad."
She rolled her eyes. "Ronan, I'm fine. Now, why don't you shove in a manpon and tug up your manties and PLAY SOCCER."
"Oh, aye," Munro began in a mocking tone. "She's just like Ruelle. They could be sisters."
"Chloe's fierce, a fighter who does no' give a damn about her looks," Munro persisted.
Ruelle had been weak, cowardly, obsessed with her own beauty. Never a hair out of place, not even when she was feeding.
Chloe's attitude toward her own appearance could best be described as See me, love me, motherfucker. Even now her hair looked like she'd hacked it off with a knife. And it still bluidy looks good.
You'd never know the heavenly arse on that female because it was always hidden by loose men's shorts, and he could swear she wore more than one bra, just to conceal the size of her perfect breasts.
No, the two succubae were not alike. But if Will ever allowed himself to believe that Chloe wouldn't transform into a facsimile of Ruelle, and then she did . . .
I would no' recover.
Munro continued, "No' to mention that Chloe's no child molester."
Will gazed around wildly. "Doona ever say that again!" he sputtered, though that was precisely what Ruelle had been.
She'd poisoned him to make him do things his young mind couldn't understand-and his body hadn't been ready for-as if he'd been a puppet. It'd been terrifying to him. He remembered how she'd rise over him, her green eyes alight, smothering him with perfumed white flesh.
Even when his beast had risen, Ruelle-a fully grown immortal-had still been able to overpower him, a child.
"I'm tired of this, brathair." Munro scrubbed his hand over his chin. "We've tiptoed around the subject for centuries. We need to talk about this if we're ever going to get past it."
A flash memory of Nix arose. You need to rebreak that bone. It didn't set right. Was this all a part of her plan? Was she trying to get Will right with himself?
The more he'd thought about how he'd come to possess Chloe, the more he detected Nix's interference. He'd realized the soothsayer had gotten him to the auction; now he suspected she'd gotten Chloe there as well.
After twenty-four years, two factions had found Daughter of Webb on the same night? Dropped a dime to the witches about her existence, did you, soothsayer?
Munro said, "I keep thinking back to that night, Will. There were two females in Ruelle's cottage, and Chloe is more like Mam than she'll ever be like that succubus."
"Doona dare compare her to our mother!"
They fell silent, both gazing at Chloe. The sun flashed through clouds, prisms of light cascading over her. Her skin was beginning to bruise from the corner of her busted lip past her cheekbone. Looking pale, she abruptly ran for the woods. Will tensed, uneasy when she left his sight. Then he heard her throwing up.
She returned moments later, paler, heading straight for the cooler. She swished beer into her mouth, then spat it out.
Munro exhaled. "She's lost her breakfast, then."
"Aye. There went my second hope."
By the end of the game, her bruise had blackened her eye as well. And she'd hurt her ankle. When she put weight on it, she winced, then cast Munro a questioning glance.
He gave her a grave one in response.
Turned to Munro instead of me. My mate. Mine!
Munro said, "She's stopped healing. She'll need to feed soon."
"What do you expect me to do about it?" Chloe's black eye was as glaring as an accusation; he might as well have given it to her. "I'm no' eager to take on her venomous bond. To be tied to her forever." To discover that I canna satisfy her either. He'd never been able to feed Ruelle enough. And if she'd come during sex, he had no memory of it. No wonder she'd taken a vampire lover in addition to Will.
Munro gaped at him. "You could heal your eternal mate with one tup. Do you want me to be ashamed of you? Your choices are verra simple. Either you bed her or you allow another to feed her."
"I'll kill any who touch her!"
Munro raised his brows at Will's outburst. "Then you either bed her or watch her die."
Or I die. As soon as the thought occurred, he knew that path was closed to him. His newly returned Instinct would never allow him to harm himself, not while he had a mate who'd be left alone in the world, unprotected.
Munro pulled a stalk of grass, twirling it in his fingers. "When you were manhandling Chloe to the wall, you repeated the last words Mam said to you. What do you think she and Da would react to most: the fact that your mate is one among a hated species? Or that you're no' protecting or providing for her? Fate made a decision, and now you're to abide by it. They raised us to believe in fate as our faith, Will. They raised us better than this."
Will stabbed his fingers through his hair, then admitted a shaming truth. "I doona know if I could tup her. Physically. Even if I wanted to." Sex with a succubus was different from sex with other females; even after her partner had come, emptying himself, a succubus could pull a last mind-numbing spasm.
When he was young, he'd always thought that last pull would kill him. Would Chloe be as greedy?
Merely imagining it made his breaths shallow. "She would likely have to use her strew on me."
"And if she does, how will the others here resist it? How long do we have before she begins to?"
Were the lads following Chloe with their gazes? They'd ended the game and were setting up drills. Ben was helping her, placing cones, positioning balls, being overly solicitous.
Will's Instinct had been cautioning him for days. -Other males, near your unmarked mate.-
Ben could barely control his beast in the best of conditions. Add a succubus's chemicals to the mix . . .
Munro pressed on. "We have to think of the lads, of the entire pack. Your beast will kill any who try to bed her. You must take her from the compound. Especially with the full moon to rise in three nights."
At length, Will said, "Verra well. I'll ready to leave. Go back to the witches. Ask for a talisman to hide her."
"Easy enough, with the right funds. They spoke of a simple bracelet that would do the trick. But where will you go? It must be hidden from the Lore."
At his brother's considering look, Will said, "Oh, no, no! I will no' take her there."
"She's still target number one," Munro said. "If we have to borrow a place, others will know of it. Information like that spreads like wildfire. Yet no one knows of Conall any longer. The Woods were cleared. It's a forgotten land."
Will hadn't been back there since the late Middle Ages, but he knew the impervious keep was still standing strong, would forever. The ashes of their ancestors had been baked into the bricks, warding off time-as well as any enemies.
"The Woods were no' completely cleared." Though Will, Munro, and their men had burned all other structures-the Cerunno nests, the centaur halls-Will had ordered Ruelle's cottage untouched. He still recalled Munro's questioning glance and his own explanation: he needed it to remember.
Munro had asked, "Could you ever truly forget?"
Apparently so. Because Will was considering feeding one of Ruelle's kind.
Munro said, "I had the keep modernized a few years ago. Brought in sheep again."
"Why did I no' know about that?"
He shrugged. "It's no' exactly your favorite subject. There's a caretaker looking after it. I'll have him ready everything for you."
"If I take Chloe there, I'd be consigning myself to bedding her. She'd be consigned to accepting me." Traveling to Scotland would be like a gallows march across the world.
Munro gave him a bemused look. "Brother, you are already consigned."
Consigned. Which was another way of saying, I have no choice. So this was a done deal, then? He was to claim Chloe.
Some traitorous part of him quickened at the idea. Words left his lips: "I'll do it."
"I'll take care of the bracelet and transportation directly. Give me an hour. You'd best let Chloe know she's soon to leave. No' that she'll need much time packing her things."
A subtle jab at Will-who hadn't provided her with jewels, luxuries, or even additional clothes, as a mate should.
Will stood. "I've one last thing to ask from the witches. A second hex for that bracelet."
When Will told him, Munro cast him a look that was disappointed-but not at all surprised.
MacRieve strode directly through Chloe's obstacle course, ignoring Ronan's drill. "Pack your men's clothes, succubus," he told her. "We're leaving."
Chloe waved the kid on. "You need to clear that in under a minute."
Ronan nodded, giving MacRieve a glare, then continued his practice.
"Leaving? Let me guess, a prison transfer?" She wasn't going anywhere with Head Case. "I'm going to have to say no to that plan, crypt keeper. What else you got?"
He scowled at her new nickname for him.
She could make fun of his age all she wanted, but that wouldn't change how physically attractive he was. Even if she hated him, she could admire his looks. He stood so tall, still drool-worthy. Still obviously a douche.
After a figurative ass-kicking, Chloe was usually pretty good at picking herself up and dusting off her pants. But then, she'd never been quite as crushed as with him-so why did she still feel that connection to him?
Though he smelled like whiskey, she could detect that addictive masculine scent of his. With her stomach now empty, she was feeling a completely different kind of hunger. Her claws sprouted. She hid them behind her back. Sweat beaded her forehead. She needed to get away from him and nosh another round of food.
"We depart in an hour for Scotland."
One of the few European countries she'd never played in. As much as she'd wanted to leave before, now she was suspicious. "No can do, MacRieve. You see, I'm currently employed as the clan AD-"
"Athletic director. Some of us actually have a job to do. Besides, why would I ever go anywhere with you?"
"Because your shortsighted plan to eat like a normal person dinna work out. I know you threw up."
She swiped her arm over her forehead. "I've just been running too hard. That's nothing definitive. I'm about to go eat again."
He flicked his gaze over her face and eye, then scowled. Ronan had told her it was bruising. And more, her bad ankle was killing her. So much for immortality.
"You will no' regenerate like this."
She gazed away, then back. "I'll continue to get worse?" Until what? She died?
A curt nod. "You need to feed. Resign yourself to this fact."
Every time he used the word feed, her mind was cast back to their last encounter-when her claws had sunk into his lean hips as she'd swallowed him down. The most delectable taste she'd ever imagined.
Her claws were now aching to pierce his skin. Her nipples hardened under her shirt, until even two sports bras couldn't conceal the taut points.
"Gods, woman, I can scent your arousal," he said, voice gone hoarse. "Others will soon enough."
How embarrassing! Her gaze darted to the lodge. Need an apple. And a shower. And perhaps an orgasm of her own, to release some pressure. "I can handle this. Eating food tamps that down."
He shook his head. "It's only a matter of time before you start strewing. And if I doona take you somewhere isolated, every unmated male around will fight to mate you."
"If I say no to them-"
"Then they'll fight to rape you."
"Every male?" She shielded her eyes against the sun, watching Ronan dribbling around cones. Ben was practicing punting. Presently he could kick the ball about two miles. With her help, he could achieve three.
MacRieve followed her gaze. "Ben would be first in line." His harsh voice drew her attention. She noted his fists were clenched. "Probably after killing his little brother for the pleasure."