“Give of yourself both in body and soul, and in return take the very succor of existence: The knowledge of your absolution.’ The goddess bent and laid a kiss upon the brow of each du Fae, and they each shivered with the carnal knowledge of their undertaking.”
-Imohe duAnda, du Fae Book One.
Mick tried to jerk her hand from her mate’s but he would have none of that. Pulling her forcefully against his chest he bent and ravaged her mouth. His tongue sliding deep and pilfering her senses until her only thought was of her need of him. When he released her she almost stumbled but caught herself on the bed.
“What just happened, Mateo?”
He’d told her his full name the second day after she’d arrived. He was decedent of a long line of Spaniards, though he was as American as wonder bread.
Anger billowed inside her. He’d come into her life and taken over as if he had the right. Then he’d brought her to the last place in the world she wanted to be. Although no one seemed to want to admit it, her life was in jeopardy. If Mick couldn’t figure out a way to stop this ball from rolling she was on a one way slide down the mountain of freedom lost.
Mick’d had about enough of not knowing what was going on. She let the irritation fester in her, urged it into being, let it swirl her power around her. Her eyes bled to black and she turned from the bed to find Mat right in front of her. He was so close she could feel him breathing on her forehead.
His hands parted her angry power like diamond on glass. He gripped her shoulders and pulled her through the thick air, forcing his body against hers. She felt his power then, like a cooling breeze taking the edge from the angry haze that had taken her.
“Mick.” he said, so softly that she stilled for a second.
“Stop fighting me.”
Period, no arguments. Right.
“Mat…” She said sarcasm making the name sharper than she intended.
He pushed his nose to her neck in response, ignoring her hands that tried to push him away. He leaned into her enveloping her in his body and heat.
Her channels opened like a parachute in the wind. She felt the rush of power as a drug in her system, it blew her hair up a strong breeze, and she couldn’t help but feel just a little bit smug. She was small yes, but that didn’t make her weak. And it sure as hell didn’t make her helpless.
She heard the wind blowing in her ears, and the warmth of the sun on her face and gloried in the power that was her birthright. She bent it and gathered it to her, breathing it in. And then she felt teeth at her neck, and froze. Her power dissipated, her eyes browned out, and she was left in his arms short of breath.
Mat continued to nibble at her neck, just hard enough to get her attention, but not hard enough to break the skin. It shouldn’t have mattered, but somehow it did. His stroke was gentle, the moistness of his mouth and breath against just the right spot. Touching her, making her still as if it were a flesh bound warning. Her anger drained away sliding into the air around them taking her power with it.
His breath tingled down her skin as he slowly bit his way up her neck to her ear.
“We are mated. Did you think your powers could hurt me?”
He sounded self-satisfied, bringing her anger back to the surface. She gripped his shoulders, but he pulled her closer and rolled them onto the bed. He held her on top of him his hands against her bottom. It evident what he felt at her closeness. She fought off a tremble at the feeling of him hard and ready against her belly.
“ Please… calm down? I will explain everything to you.” He sighed in her ear and began to rub her back. His hands were warm and solid, soothing and comforting even as they aroused.
What? Did he have some kind of love potion?
His chest rumbled beneath her and she looked up to see the ghost of a smile cross his lips.
“It’s not funny!” She sounded all of twelve years old. “And stop reading my mind!”
He laughed out loud at that. She thumped him on the chest when she realized her bottom lip was poking out like some petulant minor.
“I’m not!” he said between chuckles. “You’re projecting your thoughts, you always do.”
His hand slipped to her nape and forced her down so he could kiss her.
His tongue distracted her for a minute while he continued to rub her back. Against her will she felt the last of her anger slide away.
“What did you do to me...?” She murmured when he broke the kiss to smile at her.
“I’m calming you.”
“Do you have to bite everyone you try to calm?”
“No. Just you. My mate.”
She tried to sit up but his arms wrapped around her anchoring her against him.
Instead of doing what she asked he nuzzled her neck and she felt his arms tighten around her.
He was a pretty good mimic. He sounded almost as irritated as she felt. Almost.
Well then. I guess that makes us even.
Releasing her he sat up, leaning his broad back against the dark headboard. She started to move back but he caught her at the waist and lifted until she was forced to straddle his hips. She felt his ever present erection against her pubis and tried to ignore it.
Giving him an exaggeratedly stern look she raised an eyebrow at him. Instead of the chuckle she had expected his expression stayed serious. He ran his hand up her arm and over her shoulder letting it rest at the back of her neck.
“You are my Mate.” He said it simply and she wondered who he was trying to convince. “I had to present you to the Fenrir, it is... pack tradition and Law.”
“I’m not pack. I...”
Before she could finish her denial he pulled her forward and rested his lips against her forehead.
“You are Nineve Michaela. Ssshhhh. Don’t deny.”
He cupped her face in both hands when she pulled back from him.
“My name is Mick.”
He moved as if to kiss her again but she pulled from his grasp. His hands gripped her hips not allowing her to leave the bed.
“You’re a werewolf. I don’t know what this is, but you can’t be my mate. I’m Sosyè. They can’t be…” her words ran out. It was like driving the autobahn and suddenly running out of gas.
“We are.” His voice brooked no argument. Warmth seeped through the bond, disquieting her for a moment. She’d forgotten for the moment that she could feel him now, and he her. Staring into his brilliant green eyes she wondered just what she had gotten herself into.
“I am the Angiras of the Nineve clan.”
His words splashed her with shock. She knew that name. Had read it somewhere. Her eyes searched his face, looking for some clue, some reassurance. Something to put a damper on the rampant wave of fear that had just washed over her.
“Modeen of Morden was an Angiras.” It was one of the old stories form the Imohe duAnda, the sacred book of the Sosyè. Modeen of Morden was the first of the werewolves. A Sosyè turned to evil so profound that the One God had cursed him with half the soul of a wolf.
He’d killed his own mate in his wrath, and prayed to Harthen to return her soul. But the Earth Daughter was deaf to his cries. In the end the One God had taken pity on his child, splitting his soul in two. He gave one half of the soul to Modeen’s mate. He filled the missing half with the soul of a monster equal to Modeen’s evil.
It was a story that Sosyian mothers told their children at night. To keep them in their beds. Modeen, the father of werewolves. But they weren’t his children in truth. Only half breeds. Bitten humans who had taken on the demon wolf. Being Sosyè couldn’t be passed through a bite. The alpha and all of the Nineve were regular weres. Her mate was something else entirely. And so was she.
“Now do you understand? You are my mate in truth.”
He looked at her, his expression calm and patient.
Mick shook her head.
“Let me go.”
He caught her wrists in his iron grip and forced her arms to circle him, making her lean against his chest. His arms came around her holding her in place.
“I’ll never let you go,” he whispered.
Her eyes closed, blocking out the sight of him. She’d held out hope. Believed that somehow she could exorcise the wolf and free herself from the curse. Prayed that her survival had been a fluke, an accident of nature. But there was no turning back. She had to admit that her life would never go back to the way it was. It was no longer hers.
Mick’s muscles gave out and she lay against him like a ragdoll. Squeezed her eyes against the tears. They fell in a storm wetting his shirt and bringing wracking sobs from her chest.
She cried for the denial in her heart, the constant confusion she’d felt, and the worry that had dogged her since they’d met. She let go the torrent of tears that she’d held back as she’d laid to rest the remains of the three hikers she’d found what felt like weeks before.
I’ll never be the same.
Mick woke with a start and realized she must have fallen asleep. She listened to the lulling heartbeat below her cheek and didn’t want to wake up. Didn’t want to face what her life had become in such a short time.
“Mat,” she paused. There was something she needed to know, but she was still afraid to ask. “What happened to Edan?”
The words felt heavy as if they would sink to the floor if they’d had substance. She waited for his answer with shallow breath, anxiety tensing her body and tying her stomach into knots.
She felt him sigh as he moved to slide down the headboard so they’d be flat on the bed. Once done he rolled to his side and forced her to face him. She lay on the pillow. Her eyes fixed on his and she waited.
“He was found a week after you were. He bit you didn’t he?”
She was silent for a moment in indecision. What would happen if she confirmed that Edan had bitten her? Would he be killed? Had he been?
“Who found me?” She asked instead of answering. She had woken up in a SAMO safe house, weak and disoriented. No one had been willing to tell her what had happened. Or at least that’s what she had thought. Maybe it had been that no one had known what had happened.
“I did.” His voice was low and gentle as if he would rather not admit it.
He moved to roll to his back but her hand on his cheek stopped his movement. She leaned close and rested her lips gently against his for a moment then pulled back to meet his eyes.
“He was…. Not himself when they found him. Your house was gone, but I had found you in the street in front. Edan was nowhere to be found. I took you to a hospital and you were admitted. An hour later you disappeared. They didn’t find Edan until a week later.”
Mick could imagine what had happened. Her superiors would have been immediately notified of her admission to a Hospital. The NSA would have had her removed immediately and placed in a SAMO treatment facility. She nodded to encourage Mat to continue. The knot in her stomach still hadn’t subsided. She was afraid this was still going to get worse.
“Edan is… was…”
He was interrupted by the door opening to let in the most god awful sound she had ever heard. Mick pressed her palms against her ears and sat up with a start, her eyes riveted to the doorway. What could it be?
The sound was a combination of bagpipes and grinding metal that seemed to be getting louder with each second. She glanced at Mat to see him moving to stand at the side of the bed. His expression was bland as if this was nothing out of the ordinary.
The noise continued for a full minute until it seemed to wind down to a low hum. The lower half of the doorway began to shimmer and she felt the cool touch of foreign magic against her cheeks. Scrambling to her feet Mick stood just in time for the small being to arrive in the doorway. It was a domovoi?
He was about a foot and a half tall, a perfectly proportioned little man. He held a staff in one hand that was a miniature version of a bamboo karate bo. There was an equally miniature sword strapped at his back. The domovoi stopped in front of Mat and looked up with an expectant expression.
“Yes Kaye?” Mat said.
“Angiras, you must come to the Mannlich now.”
Mat nodded and on the down stroke of the gesture the horrible noise started again as the domovoi shimmered back to wherever he’d come from.
“What the hell was that?”
She yelled. She was still half deaf and couldn’t quite control the volume of her voice. Mat grimaced and sat heavily on the bed.
“It was a domovoi love song, in honor of our mating. He was being… polite.”
Her incredulity must have shown on her face. Mat gave her a sheepish smile and shrugged as if to say ‘it is what it is’.
“What the heck is a domovoi doing living with a wolf pack?”
“He holds this land. The Nineve are in his keeping, we live here at his will alone. We’ve been allied since before I was born. He’s a friend.”
Mick felt strange. It took her a moment to recognize the feeling as awe. Domovoi were part of the vast hierarchy of dwarf types in the MagKaen. They were a distant relative of the Gray Dwarves, which wasn’t saying much. Mick was also a distant relative to dwarves and elves, and just about every creature in the MagKaen. The domovoi were really much more like an elf in appearance.
They were only a little bigger than your average brownie. But they could teleport, which meant they were packing a pretty good power wad. It took a lot of power to teleport. Werewolves were super strong, but most of them couldn’t teleport, neither could vampires for that matter. The domovoi were rare, they were the Loch Ness monster of the MagKaen.
“We have to go.”
Mick assumed he was referring to the Mannlich, whatever that was.
He cut her off with a kiss and in the same move he stood and lifted her to the floor.
No matter how much Mick tugged and complained he continued to drag her along. It occurred to her that she was now privy to what amounted to a well-kept secret. Her feet stopped moving. It was so abrupt that Mat turned back to look at her for an instant.
“What would you do if I left here?”
“I’d come for you. I’ll always come for you.”
She nodded, averting her eyes from his concentrated stare. This was the reason she hadn’t left again. He’d claimed her, and to a wolf, that was the end-all be-all of dating. She was his, and unless he let her go she’d never be free of him. It didn’t help that she kinda had a full blown crush working on her. She hadn’t even thought of escape since the first day. He was just so sweat.
“What’s your favorite color?” She said to fill the sudden emptiness in the moment.
Mick felt a chill course a slow path through her limbs and settle in her lower back. Her life continued to spiral out of control, and that scared her to death. But somehow, somewhere along the way this man had become the center of everything. It was a staggering realization.
Mat looked at her askance when he tugged at her hand and she still refused to budge. She didn’t know what to say, couldn’t make sense of the thoughts in her head. Then sighing as if resigned he simply took her choice away. She felt the iron hard muscles of his forearms below her knees as he lifted her.
“Brown, like creamy milk chocolate,” he said.
It took her a moment to figure out what he was talking about. “What?”
“Yeah,” he nodded his expression very serious.
He blinked at her easy answer and those severe lips curled up a little at the edges.
He grunted in response.
“Where are we going?”
His face changed at her question, his serious eyes becoming somehow more serious and colder all at once.
“And that is?”
Mateo looked at her then. She thought maybe this was his nervous look because his eyes seemed suddenly uncertain. The bond was silent. Was he blocking her?
“Well?” She prodded him with her elbow just to be obnoxious.
“The Mannlich is the meeting place of judgment for the Nineve.”
Oh no you don’t.
She put her palm against his lightly stubbled cheek and forced his face to turn to hers.
He picked up his pace in answer, and she considered directing a wind current to slow him up a bit. He gave her a sharp look as if he had read her mind. Raising her eyebrows in question she gave him her most innocent look. He wasn’t buying it. If at all possible he started to move even quicker. If Mick didn’t know better she’d think he was in a rush.
“Mat..?” She began again.
They arrived at the Mannlich.
“Earth Daughter,” she breathed.
Mick knew this place. Her skin iced immediately. She could smell it, so many wolves in one place, she could feel it too. She didn’t recognize it. How could she? She’d been blindfolded. But she knew. The knowledge swirled in her mind and without warning she was transported back 6 months.
She’d met with the Nineve before.
Mick felt the blows as if they had just happened. The pain of each connection and the vicious fervor of the crowd rushed into her. A whimper was forced to claw its way from the back of her constricted throat.
“Michaela!” There was the slow tug of magic at her mind and remembrance unfurled further.
She heard dimly but the word seemed to float on the air only to be swallowed by the darkness of memory.
Mick was a pulsing ball of pain, her breathing coming shallow and faltering. Then the beating had stopped. A reprieve. In the pause between her memories, her body shivered violently and she moaned in agony. No, no reprieve.
The stinging burn of the blade parting her flesh, and indescribable pain silenced her. Her eyes cloaked and the Wild moved under her skin. It crawled beneath her human form distorting her wherever it moved. Muscles and bones shifting in places and ways they weren’t meant to shift.
“No!” She screamed, choked on her own insides. Her world shrunk to just a few moments of time, indeterminable moments during which she was sure she would be severed from her body. Just as quickly, the vision began to recede. The darkness left her, and she became aware of her constricted lungs.
Mick felt the grass beneath her fingers, clenched her hands into fists, and realized somehow that she was on the ground. Then she felt him. Mat was there within her, just as his body surrounded her. Somehow that knowledge combined with the thought that he had been there the whole time, holding her, helped her to break free of the nightmare.
Her oxygen starved lungs pulled in a searing breath, and then another, and slowly her functions returned to normal. Muscles gave and she slumped into Mat’s arms, her breath becoming more even.
Mick leaned her head back needing to see her surroundings. Blinking a couple of times she tried hard to focus. There was a light breeze. Gentle air with a lightly verdant smell that caressed as it passed. A gasp escaped her and she brought a fist to her mouth at what she saw.
Just a few feet away, the trees were bent almost horizontal as they fought for purchase against the gale. Around them knelt the entire pack, hands hidden in the ground to keep from blowing away. They looked almost comic in their struggle. Her eyes found Mat above her, he looked in her direction and she was shocked at the change in him. His eyes had bled completely to black.
He looked at her and she felt a current pass between them and the gates opened, unleashing a torrent of the greatest rage she had ever experienced in her life. It was all consuming; a force on its own feeding the winds that blew the Nineve like tiny dolls in its great paws. She looked away in the face of it, fear and awe causing her to shy away from the alien power that was her mate’s. That would be hers.
“Mat,” she mumbled.
He was kneeling above her his eyes gone soulless, his gaze riveted on the wolves that were being battered by his will. Even as his attention was on them she could feel his presence inside her. He sat in her mind a gentle presence almost undetectable. She focused her energy and became aware of his heartbeat that matched the rhythm of hers, his breaths that blew in cadence to hers. It was as if they really were one soul, as the Nineve legends claimed.
His rage was white noise to the pain of knowledge that swirled in him. He knew what had happened to her, he’d somehow experienced her flashback, but more than that his emotions were iced with the acid sting of betrayal. She caught a flash of his memory, the Fenrir sending him across the U.S. on a wild goose chase, the gleam of knowledge a cold veil in his eyes.
The words were a metallic rasp in her mind. Now Mick understood. The Fenrir had known who she was, and what she would become. Somehow the werewolf alpha had known what she would be to Mat and had tried to prevent it. After they’d taken her and scared her nearly to death, he’d sent his wolf to watch her. Then he’d sent Mat away, to hunt a murderer that never existed. Mick had almost died.
She leaned up, coming to her knees in front of him and he wrapped her in his strong arms. Gripped her like a life raft in a sea of wrong. He pressed her chin with one hand and brought her head up, so close to his that a deep inhalation would make them touch. Her breath caught at the sight of him.
His eyes were black within black, as hers were sparking his were a lighting storm in an obsidian sky. Their gazes locked and she felt the force of his power rush through her like a cold wave. His eyes held hers, forcing understanding, and the hard edge of knowledge into her.
This was for her.
She turned to look at the struggling figures that surrounded them. She watched as some lost their grip and were flung into trees. Their bodies bent in a grotesque parody of flight. She watched their pain, felt it radiate through the field that protected them form the wind.
Mick looked at them and she didn’t mourn their suffering, didn’t feel an ounce of compassion for what they were made to feel. And she was terrified. She looked back at her mate in front of her, and called forth the furtü. It was the true essence of her being that she had been brought into existence to provide. The healing of the flesh. She took his face in her hands and forced his lips down to hers.
Gentling him as her mouth soothed his raw aches, she relieved some of the burden of his anger. She let her fingers feel his strength as they slid along the skin of his jaw to caress the downy hair at his nape. And she whispered to him with her very being.
“Sha-Fea nơ, min cuagh.”
The old language slid from her lips as light as air. He started, as if a shock wave rode the length of his body in that moment. Then she felt his power beginning to ease. “Thank you,” she said silently and the air stood still.
The harsh breathing of the Nineve echoed through what remained of the surrounding trees. She felt dazed at the extent of Mat’s power. The pack was humbled before it, and he’d done it with no more effort than it took to swat a fly. She shook her head.
A few of the wolves moaned in relief and Mick was almost bowled over by the wave of anguish that flooded her system. How long had it gone on? The Nineve were scattered about, some unconscious, some gone furry. She saw the foam covered figures that seemed to be in a coma like sleep. Their tortured sounds had broken their kiss but she still felt Mat’s eyes on her.
She turned back to him and saw that he was normal again. They both breathed for a minute and then he leaned down and rested his forehead on hers. They shared a moment and he pulled her to her feet, turning as a unit toward the Fenrir. Fagan was just now standing, removing his hands from the deep groves they’d burrowed in the earth.
The dark shadow of knowledge was in his clear brown eyes as he looked at Mat. They stood locked in contemplation for what seemed like hours, and then breaking the contact the Fenrir nodded. She felt the combined sigh of the entire clan at his action. They pulled their hands from the earth and stood on wobbly legs and paws.