"I don't want to emit chemicals. There has to be a way for me to control it. If you would just let me speak to one of my own kind! We could find those two who were outside the wall-"
"Never. This is my decision. You'll abide by it."
So arrogant! She longed to put him to the ground, to slide-tackle him till he ate turf. "I thought I couldn't leave the compound. That the Pravus would find me through burning handprints or whatever."
"We're acquiring a talisman. Remember the mystical means I talked about?"
He was offering a . . . talisman? Holy shit! This would be her chance to escape! She knew he could detect any changes in her voice, could hear her heart speeding up. Calm yo tits, Chlo. "Oh? Is that so?" she said in a bored tone. "Wow, you're going to spend that much money on me-and you plan to do business with my kidnappers. I hate your world."
"And it hates you."
"Your clan likes me well enough."
With utter confidence, he said, "Because they doona know you."
Bite your tongue. "I don't have my passport with me."
"We'll travel through private Lore airports."
All she heard was private escape-ports. "So when do I get this alleged camouflage doo-thingy?"
He narrowed his gaze. "Ah, look at the wee succubus making plans to flee. Your heart races. You truly think you can get away from me? Lykae hunt. It would no' even be sporting."
"I have nothing to lose by trying." She gave him a long look. "Except for werewolf dead weight."
"I should just let you walk out of here with your little hobo stick filled with men's clothing."
"Yes. You should."
"You've been told that the Pravus males will gang rape you, and still you seek to leave. Mayhap you crave it from them?" He turned and strode away.
"Prick!" She lined up two balls. Taking aim, she reared back and kicked the first as hard as she could. The second followed in quick succession.
As planned, the first took him in the back of the head. When he spun around, the second nailed him in the testicles.
"What . . . the . . . fuck?" He gritted his teeth, but remained standing.
As others tried to hide their laughter, she shrugged. "Penalty."
He bared his fangs at her, stalking off to the sound of Ronan singing the soccer anthem, "Oleeee, ole, ole, oleeee. . . ."
With every mile of forest and dirt track closer to Conall, the isolation weighed on Will. He drummed his fingers on the wheel of his new truck.
With each mile closer, his future became clearer. There would be no other for Chloe. It was down to him. And he was alternately disgusted and aroused by the idea of claiming her. Never had he felt such conflict within him.
She was oblivious to his turmoil, currently fast asleep in the passenger seat. Unless seriously weakened, most immortals needed only a few hours a day. The food she'd been trying to keep down might temporarily douse her arousal, but it did nothing to sustain her energy or heal her injuries.
He tried to concentrate on the road, on the scenery. Despite visiting Kinevane, he hadn't been this close to Conall in centuries. He'd had no reason to return, making his home in Nova Scotia. He'd nearly forgotten the beauty of this region. Cloud shadows roamed over bronze mountains and mirror-smooth lochs like giant phantoms. Breathtaking.
He frowned at Chloe. She was missing everything. But then, did he care?
Mayhap? Should he wake her up? He decided against it. Their daylong journey had only fatigued her more. . . .
After giving Chloe a simple silver talisman bracelet, Munro had driven them to the Loreport, where a jet awaited. They'd hired a demon pilot who already had a mate, just in case Chloe began strewing at forty thousand feet.
Munro had taken each of them aside in turn for a few private words. "Have a care with my deirfiur," he'd told Will. "And I suggest you inform her what else her talisman does."
Chloe had been standing at a little distance, clearly weighing her chances of escaping. She'd fiddled with her new bracelet, having no idea it had a second critical function.
Munro's parting words to Will: "Even now, your mate suffers because you deny her. You were ill-used in the past, but if you take it out on her, then you become the slaoightear." The villain.
Whatever Munro had told Chloe had left her equally shaken.
On the plane, she'd scuffed to the back cabin and fallen atop the bed, sleeping for most of the trip. He'd crept into the cabin, stretching his body out beside hers. Again he'd thought, I'm looking down at my mate. So lovely. Deceptively delicate. -Yours.-
Part of him still hated her for becoming a succubus, for pulling him from the brink only to shove him right back. But now it was too late. He knew it as well as he knew his reflection.
My soul's been branded. Which was yet another way of saying, I have no choice.
-Claim her. Protect. Provide.-
He'd been tempted to provide right there on the plane. When he'd scented her renewed arousal and spied her stiffened nipples, he'd trailed his hand down her body to cup her between her legs, fondling her over her jeans. She'd woken with a gasp.
Her thighs had spread so obediently, and she'd rocked her sex into his palm as a good mate would. Acquiescing already?
Then she'd seemed to rouse fully. Her knees had slammed shut. "Get away from me, asshole."
With a blistering curse, he'd obliged, pacing the plane for hours. Restless, miserable.
Even if he wanted to claim her-even if he could-she wouldn't receive him. As she'd put it, she was repulsed to see his beast.
Sequestered at Conall, she wouldn't have a lot of choices. She'd start strewing, and his beast would be helpless not to take her, whether she wanted it or not. If he had to hate-fuck his mate to keep her fed, then so be it.
They'd landed on a private strip in the Highlands, with a three-hour drive to Conall still ahead of them. When Will had picked up his new SUV, she'd frowned. "I don't know about you driving. What if your beast comes out? I don't think he's got a driver's permit." In a weird voice, she said, " 'He don't even have his license, Lisa.' "
She'd blinked at him. "Weird Science? Never mind, crypt keeper. I'll shoot you a YouTube sometime, through this thing we youngsters like to call 'electronic mail.' "
Now they crossed a bridge over the river that marked the eastern edge of Conall property. I'm on my family's land. At the thought, his uneasiness increased.
He was returning to the place of his origins with his mate in tow. A mate who was sound asleep from exhaustion, favoring one leg, sporting a bruised face, and suffering the effects of malnutrition. She'd brought one of Ronan's old gym bags, and all the belongings she had in the world hadn't filled it.
His brother had given her the one piece of jewelry she owned.
The back of Will's neck heated. He shouldn't give a damn. He reminded himself that she was lucky to be with him, fortunate that he'd been prepared to make sacrifices for her.
He was about to bring one of her kind within those hallowed walls of Conall, defiling his home. He was about to feed her, healing her.
But those were his limits. His gaze fell on her bracelet. As per his orders, that talisman would keep her hidden-and keep her from conceiving. Just the idea of Ubus spawn was ballock-shriveling for him. If he and Chloe had incubi sons and succubae daughters, he would have to withdraw his offspring from the clan, could never let his line prey on others.
Again he drummed impatiently at the wheel, every mile cranking up the tension within him. And the more anxious he became, the more his Instinct told him to take comfort in his mate.
Just when his hand was reaching for her of its own volition, she woke, blinking at her surroundings. Now that he'd slowed their speed on a dirt road, she rolled down her window, laying her head on the door.
The scents of the Highlands swept him up, easing some of his tension. He gazed over at her. The late-afternoon sun flickered through trees, reflecting off the silver cuff on her wrist and bathing the smooth skin of her unmarred cheek. Over the course of their journey, her hair had grown out to nearly shoulder-length, shiny waves streaming in the wind.
She's so bluidy bonny.
As he took in her heavy-lidded eyes and drowsy smile, the urge to stroke her face was nigh undeniable.
He needed to tell her that he found her beautiful, that he would give her anything she desired. Gods, he felt as if he'd die if he didn't kiss her-
As the keep came into view, it was not a moment too soon.
Because Chloe was beginning her first strew.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous meets Medieval Times," Chloe said casually as she stepped out of the SUV, making an effort to mask her amazement at the sight before her. She wouldn't give MacRieve the satisfaction, not when he'd just grated, "Out now."
Conall Keep was jaw-dropping, like it belonged on a postcard. The main part of the building was a squared-off, three-story structure built of cream-colored stone. Wings sprawled on either side, each framed with towering trees. Smoke plumes curled up from two chimneys, promising warmth, a welcome sight as dusk neared and a chill set in.
A real-life babbling brook coursed nearby, with its own water wheel and everything. The front yard consisted of miles of green hills dotted with fluffy white sheep. Beyond them lay a distant forest.
When MacRieve slammed out of the truck, she wondered what had crawled up his ass. Ever since they'd closed in on this place, he'd grown even more surly-yet on the plane, the bastard had made a move on her.
She'd woken to find his rough palm covering her crotch completely, the heat of his skin seeping through her jeans. She'd barely rebuffed him, almost calling him back. Then she'd discovered the snacks on the plane, choking down peanuts and a Coke.
Yes, food could dull her arousal, but it provided zero energy. Though she'd been excited about being in Scotland for the first time and eager to escape, her body hadn't cooperated. She'd dozed off on the way here.
Way to pay attention so you can flee, Chlo. And more? She would kill for a nap right now. She planned to shower, sleep, force herself to eat whatever was available-then plot her exit strategy.
As she and MacRieve approached the wide front doors, it fully sank in that she was alone with a man in a remote location. She'd never even been on a date before MacRieve, so this all felt momentous. She tried to fill the silence. "I, um, dig your place."
He paused with his key in the front door, narrowing his eyes at her. Sweat dotted his upper lip. His voice was strained as he said, "This is my ancestral home. I doona give a damn if a succubus digs it."
Before she'd left Glenrial, Munro had explained that Conall was where they'd grown up, and that MacRieve held it sacred. The fact that he was bringing her there was important.
Maybe, but he was blatantly unhappy about it.
"How's this place still standing?"
In a put-out tone, MacRieve answered, "The bricks were made with the ashes of those who came before us. They ward away time-and any who would do us harm."
"Your cremated ancestors are part of the bricks? I hate the Lore," she said, even as her gaze was drawn down to her new silver bracelet, imbued with Lorean camouflage mojo.
When he pushed open one of the front doors for her, she gamely trudged inside.
The foyer was stately, with a grand curving stairway that looked like it'd been carved from the keep itself. The tiled floor gleamed. The air smelled faintly of beeswax.
In an adjoining library, book-filled shelves covered walls from floor to ceiling. The antique furnishings were finely crafted. Oil paintings and tapestries accented the decor. Yet as she passed a second room, a lushly arranged sitting area, she noted that there was no hint that children had once lived here, no hint that this place had belonged to a family.
But then, it wasn't like there'd be grade-school pictures to hang-because her travel companion was really freaking old. Like he'd call rock-n-roll that infernal racket old. Like when-dinosaurs-ruled-the-earth old. God, this was so messed up.
She turned when she realized he wasn't behind her. He stood at the threshold, hesitating to enter, his big frame silhouetted in the doorway.
An ancient immortal had returned to his boyhood home. So why this hesitation?
Something was seriously wrong here. His brows were drawn tight, his muscles tensed.
Even after everything, she had the impulse to soothe whatever was hurting him, to smooth away his lost expression.
She found her feet taking her back toward this man. . . .
Will had made it through the first wave of her strew without whipping out his dick and falling on her. Good on you, man.
His self-congratulations were short-lived when faced with Conall. Every detail of this place made memories erupt in Will's mind, keeping him on edge.
Though Munro had brought in plumbing and electricity, the furniture and tapestries had remained largely the same. Like a time capsule.
When Chloe turned back with a quizzical look on her face, he brusquely pushed past her, that slight contact making him ache for her.
But he remained in control. Mayhap her strew was weak since she was only a cambion. Perhaps it would grow stronger, building with use, like a muscle. If so, he was screwed. Just as she would be.
She silently followed as he strode through the great room, past the hearth. The caretaker had lit a fire there.
So many memories . . .
He hastened toward the kitchen, finding it well-stocked with food-and liquor. For the second time in less than a week, Will thought, Bless you, brother.
Though tempted to chug from a bottle of whiskey, he found a highball glass and poured several fingers.
She retrieved a glass of her own, holding it up for him to fill.
Once he grudgingly did, she sipped. "Where am I supposed to sleep? I need a catnap."
She'd slept for most of the trip and craved more? How many hours out of twenty-four could she possibly sleep? What if she drifted off and never woke up?
The thought sent a jolt of panic through him, and he gulped down his drink. The bottle clinked against his glass as he refilled. -Protect. Provide.-
Crossing the great room, he said, "Your room's on the second floor." With leaden feet, he climbed the stone stairs.