Here's the final free chapter of my latest werewolf romance book / vampire romance book, Hunter's Moon. This is a novel in the Vampires Realm series, but you don't have to read the other books to understand what's happening in this one. The books in the Vampires Realm are connected by world rather than story arc. If you want to read chapters 1 to 3, just click on the "Hunter's Moon" tag on this post.
F E Heaton
Having witnessed vampires slaughtering his werewolf pack during their escape from the horror of the compound where they had been held captive, Nicolae’s hatred of the species burns deep in his veins. A century has passed since that night and the months in which he travelled to the Canadian wilderness to escape it, but the nightmarish visions and his failure as an alpha still haunt him, forcing him to live alone and keep his distance from other werewolves.
When a night hunt with the local timber wolf pack leads to a run-in with unfamiliar hunters, Nicolae tracks the scent of blood permeating the forest to an injured woman and races to save her, but has he made a terrible mistake in doing so? When she attacks him, revealing her true nature, he can’t believe his eyes or the fact that he can’t bring himself to kill her. She’s beautiful, and a vampire.
Tatyana is on a mission. Far from home and bearing a heart filled with grief, she’s intent on killing the hunters she’s tracking, but her plan didn’t include being shot with poisoned arrows. When she comes to in the presence of a glowering handsome male werewolf, she isn’t sure what to expect. His dark demeanour and cold tone warn her that he isn’t like the subservient werewolves she’s used to, and that she might not be out of danger yet, but she doesn’t let it discourage her. Working with him to discover why the hunters have come to Canada, she attempts to shatter his antiquated opinion of vampires, but the closer she gets to him, the harder it becomes to battle the forbidden hunger he stirs in her.
Will Nicolae be able to overcome the darkness in his heart and his memories, and embrace his desire for a vampire? Can Tatyana face her fear about the Law Keepers and risk her heart and her life for the sake of forbidden love? When they discover what the hunters are after, will they be able to stop them before it’s too late?
ebook price: $2.99
genre: paranormal werewolf romance
length: 65000 words
released: February 2011
Book 9 in the Vampires Realm series
My website: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/ebooks.php?title=Hunter's%20Moon
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004P5NQ0W/
Amazon Kindle UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004P5NQ0W/
Tatyana winced as she attempted to sit up on the bed in the corner of the cramped room. Her stomach ached and growled at the enticing scent of blood. She tried to move towards the smell but pain burned in waves radiating from her side, stealing what little strength she had, and she collapsed back onto the bed. Her insides twisted with hunger, mouth watering at the thought of feeding, and her fangs itched to descend. She could taste it on her tongue.
The man stared at her. Werewolf. She had bitten him. Her memories were hazy, but she couldn’t forget the way he tasted. Her gaze flickered to the right side of his chest. She had scratched him too.
The scent of fresh blood lingered on him.
Not his blood. Nothing as strong as that. It was a strange smell—subtle and buttery.
“Animal blood, I’m afraid.” He held his left hand up and she went to look at it but her gaze caught on the rifle over his right shoulder. She hadn’t noticed it before. The black strap melted into his thick shirt. His fingers grasped it tightly. Her gaze shifted to his face.
Black messy strands of hair caressed his forehead, brushing his jetty eyebrows and making him look like some sort of wild animal when combined with his bright honey brown eyes. There was hunger in them that she had seen before in the eyes of the werewolves at her bloodline’s mansion. It was as though he was looking at her with his wolf eyes, not his human ones. A predator.
That made her the prey.
She didn’t like that one bit.
There was an unmistakable Eastern European note to his accent. Not a local werewolf. Where had he come from? Was she in danger with him?
What had made her wonder such a thing?
The thought had bubbled up from nowhere, driven by instinct and the way her senses reacted to him, speaking of him as a threat. She tried to convince herself that it was only her injuries and current vulnerable state that was making her feel he was a danger to her but it plagued her, telling her to protect herself before it was too late. The man before her was strong, vicious by nature, and could easily overpower her. She had witnessed the savage brutality a male werewolf was capable of and she didn’t want to be on the receiving end of an attack by him.
Tatyana berated herself for thinking in such a backward way, presuming he would hurt her just because he was a werewolf. She knew better than to label him as a killer, one only interested in eradicating her kind. She knew werewolves. They were as violent as her kind, but they didn’t kill without cause and he had no reason to hurt her. Besides, he had given her a valid reason to trust him.
He had saved her and had bound her wounds.
Although, she had bitten him. Was that reason enough? Was that why he was looking at her with hard eyes and his lips compressed into a thin line? The dark feelings between vampires and werewolves were mutual. The two species had never been close, often warring with each other in a fight for dominance that had ended with the enslavement of hundreds of his kind by hers. But he had saved her. And as payment for his kindness, she had bitten and clawed him. If she told him that she hadn’t been in control of herself, that the need for blood and to survive had been so strong that it had forced her to react in order to save herself, would it soften the anger in his eyes?
The muscles in his jaw tensed.
“I made a deal with the timber wolf pack. A deer in exchange for you.” A flicker of disgust crossed his face and his tone hardened, any trace of warmth gone from it. “I thought you were human. I made a mistake. I think they got the better deal.”
That cut her, but she refused to let it show. He wasn’t like the werewolves at her bloodline’s home after all. They had been civil to her, and she had even built a tentative friendship with the ones she had known for most of her life. Or as close to a friendship as the law allowed.
Tatyana looked away when he placed the rifle down on the couch and toed his heavy boots off, leaving them on the rug. He crouched in front of the fire and her gaze crept back to him against her will. It was difficult to see him when she was lying down. She tried to move and pain blazed up her right side. She drew in a sharp wheezing breath and closed her eyes.
“I would keep still, if I were you,” he said, voice dead and cold. “I’m surprised you’re already awake.”
Why, because of the wounds and the poison? Tatyana looked down at the bandages wrapped tightly around her waist and left shoulder. As he stoked the fire, the room brightened and she realised that the dark marks on the white material weren’t blood. They were black.
She knew only one liquid that colour.
He had drugged her.
She sat up sharply, hissed as pain tore through her, and clutched her side. Panic pushed her on. She had to get away. He was going to kill her. He had come with a rifle and hadn’t expected her to be awake. He had intended to shoot her while she had been unconscious.
The werewolf sighed and came over to her. Tatyana stared up the full height of him as he towered over her, broad and imposing, his face half in shadow.
She growled and her fangs sharpened, her claws extending. Her senses locked on him. He was stronger than she was but she wasn’t going to give up easily. Deep aching waves of pain pulsed along her bones and nerves, stripping away the strength that had flooded her at the thought of being under threat, and she struggled to retain her true form. They were overwhelming, crushing what little energy she had and dulling her senses. Her vision wavered and fangs receded, and she barely clung to consciousness. Her eyes met his and she silently accepted her defeat. She wasn’t strong enough to fight him.
His light brown irises turned golden in the firelight. Had she been mistaken earlier and this was his wolf side showing through? His eyes were beautiful but they looked like death to her. She glanced at his neck where she had bitten him and her eyes widened when she saw the faint lines of scarring around his throat.
A compound werewolf?
A thousand tiny needles pricked down her spine.
He really was going to kill her.
Tatyana tried to back away, grimacing as every part of her burned, but there was no escape. He grabbed her ankle, yanked it so she landed flat on her back on the bed and pressed his bloodstained left hand down on her shoulder, pinning her to the mattress. The force of it kept her still but only because she could sense how strong he was now that he was touching her skin on skin. She was no match for him. She wouldn’t be even at full strength. He could butcher her if he wanted to.
She closed her eyes, not wanting to see her end when it came.
“Settle down. You’re only aggravating your wounds.” The weight of his hand disappeared from her shoulder.
Tatyana cracked an eye open. Maybe he wasn’t going to kill her after all. Her gaze tracked him back to the fire. He crouched again, balancing on his toes, his broad back curved and thighs tensed, pulling his jeans tight over their defined muscles. He was strong. She wouldn’t stand a chance if he turned on her. A werewolf had preternatural strength to rival a vampire, and aging affected them in the same way, increasing their power. How old was he? He looked around his late thirties but her senses pegged him at around five times older than that. He was almost as strong as her sire had been.
He prodded the fire distractedly with a long iron. “You want to tell me why you’re here?”
She wanted to ask him the same thing. Her memory was patchy. She recalled the hunters and the fight, and the poisoned arrows. She remembered passing out in the forest and waiting for her death to come. Then he was there.
She definitely remembered that.
He had been there in the woods. She had tried to defend herself but he had evaded her and she had passed out again before she could muster the strength to escape.
When she had come around, her vision had been failing. She distantly remembered biting him and then knocking herself out. She had been sensible enough to seek a quiet death. It hadn’t come. Instead, the werewolf had tried to make her drink something.
He had helped her.
Tatyana studied him where he crouched in front of the fire, the warm light playing on his face and highlighting the scruffy locks of his dark hair. The glow lit the strong line of his square stubbly jaw and accented his noble profile. His dark eyebrows knit tightly over eyes of bright gold focused intently on the flames, like a wolf eyeing prey. He turned his head towards her, his gaze meeting hers, and she again felt as though she was his quarry.
“Well?” The sharp edge to his voice snapped her out of her reverie.
“There are hunters after me.”
The corner of his sensual mouth bowed into a smile. “I know. I just had a delightful conversation with them a few feet from here.”
Tatyana backed into the corner again and stared over his head at the small window at the front of the cabin. There was only the werewolf on her senses but it was difficult to focus them. She breathed hard to steady her fear. Each breath sent throbs of pain through her that threatened to steal her consciousness but she held on, unwilling to succumb to sleep now. She was in danger. She had to protect herself.
“What did you tell them?” Her gaze shot to the werewolf, quickly meeting his, and then back to the window.
“Relax,” he said and stood, straightening to his full height. He towered over her, broad and imposing, making her feel small and defenceless. Vulnerable. “I’m not in the habit of turning wounded women over to men who are hunting them, even if they are a vampire.”
The venom with which he had spat out the name of her species didn’t surprise her. It was a reality check that she needed. Not all werewolves were like those at her bloodline. Many in the world lived in poor conditions, treated as slaves. Bad blood ran between their species and with good reason. She stared at his throat.
If he was a compound werewolf, she hadn’t done herself any favours by assaulting him. Would he have been acting differently towards her if she hadn’t bitten him? It was too late now to wonder such things. There was only one thing that she could do to make amends.
He swept the collar of his black shirt aside and touched the plaster. Her gaze shifted to his.
“I am sorry that I bit you.”
He stared at her, his eyes slowly widening and a sense of shock running through his blood.
She toyed with the end of the bandage around her waist. “I was not in control of myself.”
He huffed and his expression darkened again. “Don’t tell me... if you had been in control, you would have figured out I was a werewolf before you bit me and saved yourself from having to taste my wretched blood.”
He snatched the rifle from the couch. Tatyana panicked. She had done her best to be diplomatic but he was hardly making it easy for her. He was nothing like the werewolves that she was used to and she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do or say to make things better between them.
“I only meant that I was hungry... am hungry. I did not find your blood wretched.” She held her hand up, hoping to buy herself a stay of execution.
The werewolf stared at her again, his eyes narrowed this time and searching hers. He looked into them for a minute that felt like an hour, and then silently crossed the room and hung the rifle on the wall opposite the fireplace. Was that all he had been going to do? She had honestly thought he had intended to shoot her.
Tatyana relaxed enough that the sense of threat receded. She had to get a grip. She was all over the place inside, unsure of her feelings and everything that was happening, and no good would come of it. If she was going to survive, she needed to be calm and rational, but it was difficult when her instincts were pushing her to protect herself at all times. The werewolf wasn’t helping. His provocation only made her want to defend herself and that in turn triggered his instincts to do the same.
If she didn’t keep a level head, she could end up causing a fight that she wouldn’t survive.
There was a troubled edge to his eyes when he looked over his wide shoulders at her. Was it what she had said? She meant it. His blood didn’t taste foul. It had shocked her when she had bitten him and discovered that he was a werewolf, and that was why she had recoiled. If her instincts hadn’t said that he was going to kill her, she would have drained him dry. He had strong blood. Exactly what she needed right now.
She touched the bandage over her stomach. There was something beneath it, covering the wound. It smelt odd. She had never smelt anything like it before.
“You were poisoned.” The werewolf unbuttoned his thick black shirt and removed it, revealing a tight white t-shirt that hugged every muscle of his torso like a second skin.
He had felt strong enough without the visual confirmation. She didn’t remember his body being so honed and muscled when he had been nude before her. It was wrong of her to stare at a stranger, at a werewolf no less, so openly, but it was difficult to keep her eyes off him. Tatyana dragged her gaze back up to his face when he didn’t continue. He glared at her with flinty eyes and anger lacing his signature on her senses. Had she annoyed him by looking?
“I had heard there was a poison that had a nasty effect on your kind, but I had never witnessed it before. I wish I had known about it before I had left home. All I knew back then was how to knock you bastards out.”
He left the room, walking through a door in the wall beside her, towards what she presumed was the back of the cabin.
Tatyana stared straight ahead, reeling. There had been such venom in his words, such fierce darkness in his eyes, and even though she hadn’t expected him to be kind towards her, the intensity of his feelings hurt her. She hadn’t done anything that deserved such hatred. It felt as though he truly hated her, not just her kind but her as an individual.
Biting him couldn’t have provoked such vicious anger and loathing.
It was difficult to cope with it on top of everything else. The werewolves she knew were nice enough to her. Although, they were in the employment of her family. Perhaps they all despised her and her species, and were only tolerating her because of the money.
She had never thought of it that way before.
It made her feel hollow inside.
He walked back out of the room and stopped at the foot of the small single bed. His gaze pierced hers again.
“I didn’t know what type you like.” His snide tone cut the silence and he tossed two blood packs at her. “I got you O positive.”
They landed on her knees. Tatyana immediately reached for them, too hungry to care about the white-hot inferno in her side, and then slowed when something dawned on her. Her gaze tracked him across the room. He rounded the opposite end of the brown couch to reach the fire rather than passing between the bed and the couch.
He was avoiding getting too close to her.
He didn’t need to. She wasn’t going to make the mistake of biting him again.
She knew the law. All of her kind did. It was inescapable.
She had seen a vampire of her bloodline kiss a werewolf once, as a dare, to prove that Law Keepers weren’t omnipotent. It had only taken a few days for word to reach them, the seven elite vampires chosen to enforce the laws, one for each pure bloodline in Europe. The Law Keepers had come for him barely a week after the kiss had happened and had taken him away.
Rumour said that he hadn’t received the usual sentence of death and that they had incarcerated him at the Law Keeper compound instead, to be held forever for crimes against his species.
She couldn’t imagine being held captive for eternity.
Her gaze slid back to the werewolf. A compound. He had experienced torment far worse than that vampire had, and he had broken no law to receive such punishment.
His long fingers stroked a line across his throat and then he scratched his rough jaw. His eyes shifted from the fire to her.
“Not eating?” He sat down at an angle on the brown couch and leaned back into the corner, stretching his legs towards her. There wasn’t a trace of fear in him as he stared at her with unreadable eyes and his signature was growing stronger on her senses now that the pain in her side was subsiding.
Tatyana picked up the blood packs and distracted herself from the intensity of his focus on her by trying to place his accent. The clip to his words was familiar. Not Hungarian. He didn’t sound like the majority of men in her bloodline. Czech didn’t fit either.
She shifted the blood in the packs back and forth. “I have worked with werewolves before, but I never thought I would end up meeting one out here in the wilderness so far from Europe. Where are you from?”
His gaze left her and he stared into the flames. His face hardened into grim lines that echoed the anger she could sense returning to his blood. “If you mean by that... who owns me... then I’m going to have to disappoint you and say no one.”
“No.” Tatyana sat forwards, ignoring the pain in her side as she moved, hoping to get him to look at her. He didn’t and the way his jaw had set tight, exposing the muscle in it, said he wasn’t going to. “I only meant to ask what country you were from... I cannot place your accent.”
“Romania.” The bite in his voice was back.
Tatyana hesitated but she couldn’t stop herself from asking him. Her voice came out small and weak. “Were you free there?”
He stood sharply, crossed the room in two strides and turned so she could see the back of his neck. He pushed the waves of his messy dark hair out of the way.
“Does it look as though I was free?” he barked and she flinched at the volume and fury in his voice.
The intricate black mark on his neck, visible above the collar of his white t-shirt, was unmistakably a compound brand.
“Tenebrae,” she whispered, a tiny part of her relieved that it wasn’t her bloodline even when she knew that she had no right to feel that way. Her species had held him captive and forced him to work for them.
All of the bloodlines were responsible for the abuse of the werewolves. It was wrong of them to treat his kind as nothing more than slaves and hold them in pitiful conditions. That was why the Nocens no longer did such things. The werewolves that she worked with were free. Did he know that?
It hadn’t always been that way. When she had been young, her family had kept werewolves at a compound just like the other bloodlines, using them as guardians. She was glad they had moved past such atrocity, but had to remember that everyone else hadn’t. How long had he been a captive of the Tenebrae? The other six pure bloodlines of Europe called her family merciless and cruel, but their darkness could never rival that of the Tenebrae. Their hearts were as black as their eyes. How much suffering had he endured?
The coldness in his eyes when he looked down on her said that it had been a lot, enough to set his opinion of vampires in stone.
“You’re a Nocens.” The hard edge to his eyes softened, surprising her.
Perhaps she was also forming a wrong opinion. It was difficult to know what to think when his attitude kept changing abruptly. Maybe if she tried to get to know him, he would change his opinion of vampires and she could form a better one of him. Maybe. She wasn’t going to hold her breath.
“What are you doing in Canada?” He sat on the arm of the couch, leaned forwards so his elbows rested on his knees and his hands hung between his toned legs, and stared at her.
Waves of anger swirled around her, exposing the emotions he was hiding with his calm air and turning the atmosphere in the room dark and uncomfortable. She could understand his feelings and attitude towards her, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.
“When did you come to Canada?” she whispered, avoiding his question and his gaze. The blood was fascinating as it shifted in the plastic pack.
“Around a century ago. I needed to get away. I’m sure you can understand why,” he said bitterly and his fists clenched. “No, wait... you probably don’t understand. Those on the other side of the whip generally don—”
“My bloodline no longer keeps werewolves,” Tatyana interjected, her gaze darting to his and a frown marrying her eyebrows. She had heard enough.
Whatever had happened to him, whatever the Tenebrae had put him through, he had no right to pin the crime on her alone and treat her as though she was wholly responsible. She would take her share of the blame for how he had been treated, a portion of it, but she wouldn’t sit here and let him take it all out on her.
Her initial anger faded and she lowered her voice so it wouldn’t antagonise him. “Nocens are progressive. We work with the werewolves now. We pay them to guard us during the day and do not treat them as inferior. There are other bloodlines wanting to make amends too. The Validus—”
He laughed scornfully. “The Validus? You don’t honestly expect me to believe that they’ve changed their ways?”
“They are working with Dmitri now to improve relations between vampires and werewolves.”
Her words had the desired effect. He fell silent, staring at her, and she could see in his eyes that he knew who Dmitri was. She wasn’t lying to him. Dmitri, lord of the free werewolves, was indeed working with Lord Hyperion of the Validus, the oldest of the pure bloodlines, to come to a new agreement and bring about the dawn of a new age for vampires and werewolves.
“Times are changing.” Tatyana felt his initial shock begin to subside. It was as good a time as any to tell him why she was here. Perhaps now he would listen to her. “All of us face a threat far worse than each other now. The hunters are changing too. Those men who are after me are just that, men, but I have encountered other hunters who have been altered in some way.”
“Their bodies are enhanced, making them stronger and faster. They are trying to beat us at our own game and level the field so we no longer have the advantage. This is war.”
He stared at her a moment longer and then stood. His expression turned cold. “Not my war. I want no part in this. As soon as you’re healed, you’re on your own.”
Tatyana couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Had he been out here so long, shut away from the world, that he had lost his mind? Their species were at war with the hunters. It didn’t matter where he was. Eventually he would become involved in it, just as she was.
“You cannot be serious,” she said but he cut her down with a glare.
“It has nothing to do with me. Hunters never bother werewolves. They just want the vampires.”
She stared at him, her eyes narrowed, fury blazing through her veins. It was a struggle to stop herself from getting to her feet and striking him across the cheek. A good punch would knock some sense into him. If her whole body wasn’t aching so violently, she would go through with it, regardless of how much damage it would do to relations between them.
Something moved into the perimeter of her senses. Animals. The timber wolf pack that Nicolae had spoken of. It wasn’t dark yet but evening was fast approaching.
“The wolves have come.” Tatyana bit her tongue before she could say the scornful words that wanted to leave her lips. He should be out there with them, acting like an ignorant beast.
He walked around the back of the couch, crossed the small room to a door on the wall opposite the fireplace, and opened it. She spotted a battered white metal bathtub on the other side.
That made three rooms—the kitchen, this one, and the bathroom. Was that all there was to his cabin? It felt as small on her senses as it looked. How could he tolerate such cramped living conditions? There was no luxury here. Everything was threadbare and old, tattered. There weren’t even any pictures to brighten the room, or any furniture other than a small bookcase stuffed with paperbacks, the couch, the tiny single bed, and the side table. It was sparse and small, even when she compared it with her own room back at the Nocens mansion in Budapest.
The werewolf grabbed the hem of his white t-shirt and pulled it off over his head. Tatyana’s attention immediately leapt to his back, watching the way his muscles rippled beneath his golden skin as he tugged the garment off. Mesmerising. She tried to tear her gaze away, told herself not to look, but couldn’t help herself. She tilted her head to one side and raised a single eyebrow as her gaze followed the groove of his spine upwards from the twin dimples in his lower back.
Her eyes caught on something that reminded her that their lives had been very different.
Scars. Hundreds of them. Long pale lines that cut across his muscles.
Lashing was common in the compounds. No good deed went unpunished. Even the werewolves who completed their missions to a level close to perfection were treated roughly when they returned with their handlers.
The werewolf disappeared into the bathroom, leaving the door ajar, and water ran into the bathtub.
Tatyana looked around the cabin. It was small, but it was probably all that he needed, and more than he’d had in his homeland. This was luxury to him. A home of his own, away from vampire rule, free of the whip and the chains.
She stared at the crack in the door. The water shut off and she heard him step into the bath. She tried not to picture him reclining in bubble-topped bathwater, leaning against the beaten white metal, his eyes closed and dark hair slicked back. Some of her kind would even consider that a sin. She didn’t. Fantasy wasn’t a crime. Fantasy was what led to a crime when the dreamer forgot the law. She wouldn’t do such a thing. She had never broken a rule in her life, and she wasn’t going to start now.
No matter how attractive he was.
She brought one of the bags of blood to her lips, extended her fangs, and punctured the plastic. She sucked slowly on it, her eyes slipping shut as the first delicious drop touched her tongue. Bliss. Without thinking, she released a low moan of pleasure and sighed. Blood had never tasted so sweet.
Her eyes opened, the room bright and sharp now that they had changed to their true state. She focused on the werewolf, listening to his strong heart beating steadily against his chest, remembering the taste of his blood. Powerful. Intoxicating. She had never drunk werewolf blood before. She had never realised how good it would taste. The elders of her bloodline made it sound disgusting, and made it clear that desiring to drink it, to be close to a werewolf, was despicable and disloyal.
What did that make her?
Her head was full of him, her mind racing forwards to imagine that it was his neck her fangs had punctured, not a chilled plastic pack. It was his blood on her tongue, reviving her strength, not a month old donation.
And he tasted divine.
Tatyana started when she sensed the werewolf stand. How long had she been focused on him? Water ran down into the bath and she caught a flash of bare skin through the gap in the door. It was quiet in the cabin for a moment and then he walked into the room.
He evidently didn’t care whether people saw him nude. Either that or he was inviting her glances, which was ridiculous since he hated her. She was a vampire and he was clearly an older generation werewolf. There was no way he would want her looking at him. Unless he was playing with her.
Some of the male werewolves back at her bloodline’s mansion did such things. They waited until the shift change between werewolves and vampires, when she arrived with other female guards to prepare for the night ahead, and then showered openly in front of them and paraded around. They did it to embarrass the women and tempt them with forbidden fruit.
She had never bothered to look at them during her time as a guard. She had always abided by the rules and their bare bodies hadn’t interested her. When she had caught glimpses of them, unable to look away quickly enough, she had felt nothing and hadn’t looked twice at any them.
Yet she couldn’t stop looking at him.
Tatyana stared at her knees, ignoring his nudity as he crossed the room, rubbing his dark locks with a pale towel. Her attempt to avoid looking at him failed. She snuck a glance at him out of the corner of her eye and frowned at how good he looked. He was beautiful, sculpted to perfection, his lithe toned body speaking of the power that she could feel in him. The allure of him was more than physical. His scent, the raw strength that flowed through him with each step, and his physique all combined into a deadly mix that tempted her. He was intrinsically masculine. Enthralling. Everything about him awakened forbidden feelings in her. She denied them but couldn’t control her desire to look on him as easily. Her gaze steadily fell, taking in the defined muscles of his broad chest and then traversing the rolling peaks of his abdomen. They led her eye onwards to the ridge of muscle over his hip and she followed it downwards. She forced her attention back to her knees.
She was not going to stare at him there.
It was wrong of her to think such things about him or to look at him with any sense of desire.
He disappeared through the other door. When he returned, he was wearing loose grey sweatpants.
And nothing else.
Tatyana sucked furiously on the blood pack and stared at his neck. He rubbed it, a frown marring his handsome face, and a stab of guilt lanced her chest. He thought that she hated his blood. What would he do if she told him it was quite the opposite? Whenever she said something to upset his carefully constructed and antiquated opinion of her kind, he turned jittery. If she confessed that she was thinking about sucking on his neck as she drank from the cold pack, and that she couldn’t tear her eyes away from him, he would probably leave the room, or even the cabin.
It would be worth it just to see his reaction.
She wasn’t childish enough to go through with it though. Sense told her to behave herself. She needed him right now. She wasn’t strong enough to protect herself if he kicked her out for upsetting him and she didn’t need him as her enemy.
Tatyana lowered the empty blood pack and clawed back some control over herself. She wasn’t here to indulge in a fantasy that she could never allow to become reality, not even for a heartbeat of time. She had a mission to complete and needed to get her focus back on it. It was the reason she was here, had come so far from home, and she needed to remember that. The werewolf was right. The moment she was strong enough, she was going back out to have her revenge, and then she was going home victorious.
“How long was I unconscious?” She looked across at him.
He hunkered down in front of the fire. The light played gently on his face and highlighted the strong defined muscles of his arms and back. Beads of moisture from his bath glistened and shone on his skin. Water dripped from the glossy mess of black spikes at the side of his head, fell onto his shoulder and rolled down his chest. “Less than a day.”
Tatyana looked herself over and touched the black mark on the bandage. There was definitely something underneath it. She had been poisoned. Even if she’d had fresh blood to drink in order to cleanse the toxin from her veins, a day would still be a fast recovery. Without it, it was a miracle. She wasn’t old or strong enough to recover without assistance.
“What is this?”
He looked across at her and his golden gaze fell to her hand where it rested on her stomach. His pupils dilated and then his eyes darted back to the fire.
“Medicine.” Judging by his gruff tone, his bath hadn’t improved his mood.
Just the thought of sinking into a warm tub eased her tension. It wouldn’t do her any good right now though, no matter how much she wanted to get clean. Water would get into her wounds and aggravate them. When they were healing, she would ask whether she could use his bathroom.
“An antidote?” Her family would like to have it if he knew of one. Hunters were troublesome and often poisoned her kind to slow them down. It would be useful to have an antidote they could take to stave off the toxin before it took hold.
He shook his head. “Herbs. It was all I knew how to make...” His eyes slid to meet hers and narrowed, and his tone sharpened. “And then I stole blood from a local hospital that probably needs it more than you do.”
Tatyana dropped her gaze and fiddled with the remaining pack. There was no chance of getting him to acquire more for her then. The two packs wouldn’t be enough to restore her strength. She glanced at his neck again. If she told him that she liked the taste of his blood, and that she needed more than just these two small packs, would he let her bite him?
A laugh bubbled up into her mouth but she didn’t let it escape. Ridiculous. As if he would agree to such a thing.
His gaze shifted and bore into her stomach and hand. It was kind of him to help her and take her in even though she was a vampire, and he clearly despised her species. Requesting blood from him would be one step too far. He would probably report her actions to her family and the Law Keepers would be waiting to capture her the moment she set foot back in Europe.
“What’s your name?” he said and her eyes widened.
“Tatyana,” she whispered and looked across at him. His bright eyes held hers, clear and open. A warm silence descended over them and she drifted in it, surrounded by peace and feeling lost in his eyes. The world fell away, until it felt as though there was only this cabin and him. No bloodlines. No Law Keepers. No death sentence. Just her and him. Not a vampire and a werewolf. A woman and a man. “What is yours?”
She smiled but it faltered when her side ached, shattering the comfortable air that had fallen between them.
Tatyana drew in a slow experimental breath. It wheezed in her chest and her right lung burned. Even with the medicine and blood, it was going to take her days to heal the hole in her lung. She should have moved quicker and taken the hit on her arm. She touched the wound on her left shoulder. It had almost healed and no longer hurt. If the dart had hit her right arm rather than her side, she could have been out there tonight searching for the hunters, not lying in bed like an invalid.
“Nicolae?” She hesitated and looked away from him, unable to find her courage whilst he was staring into her eyes. “Thank you for helping me. I never expected that a werewolf would rescue me.”
He was silent for a long time. When he spoke, his tone was bitter and dark again.
“Keep your thanks. It’s misplaced. Half of me wanted to leave you there to die.”
Tatyana shut her eyes. He really did hate her kind. She fell quiet, hiding behind her closed eyes, not wanting to come out while he was looking at her. Did he want to see if his arrow had hit its target? If his intention was to hurt her, he was succeeding by acting friendly to disarm her and then turning vicious. She could have coped with it had his emotions been constant anger, but luring her into a false sense of safety and peace before verbally lashing out at her was too cruel. She was too tired and weak to cope with it on top of everything else. It wore her down, got to her quicker than it ever would have done if she had been at full strength.
She curled up into the corner, trying to shuffle into a position where she wasn’t facing him and therefore didn’t have to speak with him. Her side ached again, sharp pain dancing along her nerves, and she hissed out her breath.
“Are you uncomfortable?” Nicolae said.
Tatyana shook her head and held the remaining blood pack to her chest, turning away from him. She didn’t want to answer him. If she said that she wasn’t comfortable, he would probably mention that she was on his bed, and that he was going to spend the night in less comfort than she, a hideous vampire, would.
“Is something wrong?”
She considered turning the question on him.
A chill dashed through her and her senses screamed danger.
There was a snarl outside.
Tatyana rolled over, her pain forgotten in the face of a threat, and her gaze shot to the front door. Nicolae stood, his broad back shifting in the firelight, and clenched his fists. Claws scrabbled against the wood. Her senses reached out.
It wasn’t one of the local timber wolves.
There were other werewolves on the mountain? Had he told them about her? Would he turn her over to them if they demanded it? She wasn’t strong enough to fight yet.
She looked up at the back of Nicolae’s head, at the brand on his neck visible through the threads of his wet black hair. Fear clutched her heart and squeezed it so tightly that it hurt.
Would he let them take her?
Nicolae held his hand out behind him, his palm facing towards her.
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