The wind howled off the sea and rattled the window. Wrists shackled to the belt padlocked around her waist, Cassie had spent the week shivering and hungry. Apart from her jailer, she’d seen no one. Given that the vampires kept her naked, she saw that as a good thing.
By day, she looked out over the gray North Sea. By night, she huddled beneath a thin blanket on the bed, unable to get comfortable or warm. Her only contact was with a sadistic vampire female who brought her food. Cassie hated her the most.
Each day, Vampirella—as Cassie had named her—brought her one sparse meal. She always put the food tray on the floor as if feeding a dog. Cassie had to get down on all fours and eat from a bowl. She prayed her human genes would make her future babies kinder than her heartless jailer.
The last time she delivered a meal, Vampirella had smirked, “You’re to be the star lot in tomorrow’s vampire-only auction.”
Cassie had tried not to react, but her appetite had fled. Not that her fully human family could afford to buy her back, but she’d hoped they’d try. Thanks to life on a remote smallholding, she’d led a comfortable but isolated life.
Whenever their solar cells, water filters, or wind turbines broke, Cassie helped fix them. Thanks to her father’s lessons, she’d become an excellent mechanical engineer. The vampires didn’t give a damn about that, though. To them, she was a walking womb—a potential breeder in an infertile world.
The door opened, and two ancient crones shuffled in. Their complexions were chalky, their faces as wrinkled as leather that had been in the sun too long. Heads down, shoulders slumped, they looked worn down and weary.
A platoon of anemic-looking maids followed. One carried a tin bath and the others had buckets of warm water. Once the bath was half full, the maids left. Cassie thought the vampires had sucked their life out of them. She hated how the undead used humans as cattle.
One crone tested the water and nodded. “In you get.”
Tonight, representatives from the vampire clans would ogle her naked body. They’d bid for her virginity and the right to impregnate her. The shame of it crucified her inside.
Thank goodness they hadn’t taken her sisters as well as her. One breeder was worth a fortune. Three would have drawn every vampire in England to Scarborough Castle.
She sat in the tepid water and let her aged attendants bathe her. One poured lukewarm water over her shoulders. “Let’s hope a decent clan buys you. The Keeper’s doubled his normal ale delivery from the werewolves. He must be expecting a high price to splurge like that.”
The second woman put her hand to her neck, aware the world’s new ruling class would feed from her later. Her voice dropped so low Cassie could barely hear. “Over thirty clans have sent representatives. At least it’s a vampire-only auction, no werewolves allowed.”
Thanks to the plagues, the paranormal species hidden among humankind had emerged from the shadows. It seemed unfair that they survived the diseases that had wiped out most of humanity. With their recuperative powers, vampires, Lycans, and demons had become the dominant species. Their males had come through the plagues unscathed, but most females, whatever their origins, were infertile now.
The crones helped her out of the bath before drying and perfuming her body. One gave her arm a comforting squeeze. “You’re a beauty, love.”
The other rubbed a towel through her mop of blonde hair. Next, she neatened the edges of Cassie’s home-done pixie cut. While she worked, the second crone collected a short iron bar with cuffs welded on each end.
They swapped Cassie’s wet leather restraints for the cold metal ones. The bar ran behind her back, pulling her arms into an unnatural position. A dull ache started in her deltoid muscles and she rolled her shoulders.
Thoughts of facing the mob in the Great Hall made Cassie bug-eyed with terror. “Once a clan buys me, things will get better, won’t they?”
The crones looked away, unable to give the reassurance she craved. Eyes down, voice low, one finally answered, “Don’t bank on it, child. You’re a walking incubator to creatures like them.”
A little reassurance would have gone a long way. She’d lost her home, her family, and her freedom. Next, she’d lose her dignity then her babies.
One of her attendants fastened a collar around her neck. “Best empty your bladder. Goodness knows when you’ll get the chance again.”
In public? No way. Cassie shook her head. The crones took pity on her and waited in the corridor. When they returned, one of them wiped a flannel between her legs. “Can’t have you soiled before the auction.”
The second woman clipped two leads to the collar and they led her downstairs. “Best not speak now, love, or they’ll silence you with a gag.”
Shaking with fear, Cassie let them lead her to the Great Hall. Before the apocalypse, she’d visited Scarborough Castle with her family. She’d loved the history and the ruins. She’d never expected the local vampire hierarchy to rebuild the place. That childhood visit seemed like a century ago.
Tapestries hung on the walls, and candles lit the room. Cassie could have rigged a wind turbine or solar panel to give them electric light. As a woman who loved to feel the sun on her face, she couldn’t understand why vampires loved murky corners.
The crones clipped the leashes to a metal frame on a small dais at the front of the Great Hall. It felt like every male in the room touched her breasts or sniffed her cunny.
A hulking vampire with muscles like a bodybuilder squeezed her breasts. When she gave a pained squeal, he laughed and whacked her arse. The force of it left a handprint on pale flesh. Cassie almost choked as the blow pushed her forward and her collar yanked her back.
“Silence her,” the Keeper commanded.
The crones rushed forward and fastened a metal gag like a horse bit in her mouth. Cassie’s control crumbled. Tears ran down her cheeks and her shoulders shook in misery. She prayed her sisters never faced a night like this.
More prospective buyers crammed into the room. “What sort of gathering runs out of ale?” a voice at the back demanded.
The Keeper beckoned one of the crones to his side. “Tell the brewers I’ll buy every barrel of ale on their sailing barge, but we need it now.”
Eyes closed, Cassie thought of her small room in her parents’ remote smallholding. She’d give anything to be back there now. When the door opened again, she thought yet more vampires had come to grope her. Instead, the best-looking man she’d ever seen swaggered into the room, a barrel of ale perched on his shoulder.
Tall, with dirty blond hair that kissed his shoulders, he was all rippling muscles and golden skin. His eyes glowed with amber lights and his broad lips begged her to run her tongue around them. Thoughts of kissing him like crazy ran through her head, keeping her sane.
That barrel must weigh more than her, but he manhandled it with ease. Looking at him, she felt as though a firework exploded between her legs. Tingles spread from her cunny to her womb as she concentrated on his movements. She’d never seen anything so sexy as his inbuilt swagger, but he wasn’t human either.
His easy grin showed the points of his fangs. Werewolf! He was a cold-hearted killer with the face of an angel. He paused and sniffed the air, then set the barrel down. “I’ll run back to the barge and bring more.”
Turning away, he elbowed his way to the door. Pausing, he stared at Cassie as if memorizing her face. When he left the room, Cassie felt bereft.
Eli Silverback’s nose twitched. Whatever the vampires were serving, it smelled amazing. Maybe they should kidnap the cook as well as the breeder. He inhaled deeply as he carried a fresh barrel of ale inside. Then he saw her.
Naked, leashed, and gagged, tears ran down her cheeks. Her scent filled his lungs, tantalizing and enthralling. His inner wolf howled inside him, possessive and hungry, eager to claim its mate. He felt her distress in his bones.
Beneath her tearstains and terror, a beautiful blonde pixie lurked. Her breasts were the perfect size for a man’s hands. The way her hips flared from her hand-span waist was the stuff of his dreams. Her soft curves made him want to drape her over silk sheets and screw her senseless.
He’d not expected this tiny blonde breeder to trigger his wolf’s primal need to protect and provide. His balls tightened and his chest ached. He’d get her out of this vampire hellhole, bathe her, and pamper her—right after he’d fucked her.
The Keeper crooked a bony finger in his direction. Obeying his command gave Eli a chance to move closer to the breeder. Her clear blue eyes made him think of bluebells carpeting the forest floor. He hated that they sported red rims and were awash with despairing tears.
His wolf snarled inside him, demanding he free her. No woman should endure what the breeder was going through—especially one who called to him on a cellular level.
Fingers tapping on the arm of his makeshift throne, the Keeper glared at Eli. “Bring another two barrels of ale. Things won’t go well for you if we run out again.”
Eli bristled at the autocratic tone, but he kept his head down as he elbowed his way back through the crowd. He hated leaving anyone at the mercy of the blood-drinkers, let alone the forlorn beauty on the dais. The need to comfort and love her burned like a wildfire in his soul, but he needed to get her out of there first.
He and his littermate, Dane had come to claim the breeder, but the Keeper’s new rules made it a vampire-only auction. Not that his pack—the Dark Moon Prowlers—believed in slavery. They’d buy her, free her, and persuade her to have werewolf babies. Since they couldn’t bid for her, Dane and Eli had planned to acquire her once her new owner took her from the castle.
Eli’s hackles rose, and his monstrous wolf clawed at his chest, lost in its urgent need to claim her. Failing that, it wanted to rip the vampire heads from vampire bodies. Trample them. Claw them. Kill them and claim her. It was time to rethink their plans.
Sprinting over the drawbridge, he freed the monstrous wolf that shared his soul. His limbs stretched and thickened. His face stretched into animalistic lines. As his torso widened and his muscles quadrupled and continued to grow, his clothes ripped like the Incredible Hulk’s. The transformation was over in seconds.
Racing down the steep cliff, he headed to the eighteenth-century harbor. Dane met him on the quayside. “You’re supposed to be keeping the blood-drinking bastards sweet. Did you check out the breeder?”
Eli’s bones popped back to human size, and his fangs receded. Fully human and unashamedly naked, he grinned at his littermate. As always, guilt festered inside him when he looked at the scars etched in Dane’s right cheek. “The poor breeder’s misery makes my soul ache. They have her leashed, bound, and gagged while prospective buyers grope her tits. We need to get her out of there before any undead freak does more than touch her. And the bloody Keeper wants more ale.”
Dane shook his head. “If you were a cartoon, your eyes would pop out on stalks and your heart would beat outside your chest. I wish I had a firkin of ale for every woman you thought was the one.”
Glaring at his brother, Eli growled, “We get her out of there tonight, or we die trying.”
Cassie’s gag muffled the sobs racking her body. Bound and leashed, she felt exposed and vulnerable. Terrified too. Her thighs turned to jelly and she prayed she didn’t throw up.
As the vampires quaffed the werewolf-brewed ale, the Great Hall grew rowdy. Perhaps the Keeper thought the crowd would bid more if they overindulged. Either way, Cassie hated the ribald comments.
“I’ll screw you until you walk bowlegged.”
“We’ll pass her around the clan until she’s begging for it.”
“I can’t wait to screw her then watch every male in the clan do the same.”
Somehow, she’d become a commodity they could buy and sell. She hated that. Hated the vampires with a soul-deep loathing, too. Shaking, and resigned to becoming some vampire clan’s sex toy, she prayed none of those three bought her, not that the other clans would treat her any better.
Travelers had told her family of fierce interspecies battles. The demons were fewer in number, but they possessed weapons the others didn’t. They’d forced through a treaty to end the interspecies war. Now the vampires ruled the north of England while werewolves controlled the south. Some demons clustered around the derelict nuclear power stations. Rumor said most prowled the Scottish Highlands.
Knowing a werewolf walked the castle should have terrified Cassie. Instead, she wanted to run her hands through his hair or stroke his chest. Her needs fueled a new hunger inside her. She craved his hands on her body or his legs tangled with hers.
Shocked by her attraction to a monster, she craved another glimpse of him. Her newly developed Lycan fixation appalled her, but he was the one good thing in her nightmare week. Fresh waves of despair swamped her as he walked away.
The vampires crammed into the Great Hall used humans as cattle to feed from or to bed when bored. They should treasure every fertile woman they found. Instead, they tormented and tortured them until their bodies broke from the strain.
The room fell silent when the Keeper took the stage. “Welcome, gentlemen. You’ve already examined the merchandise. To recap, she’s young, fertile, and she’s never been screwed. How much am I bid for this virgin breeder?”
Cassie closed her eyes, trying to block out the sea of bodies packing the hall. Their red eyes, cold skin, and sadistic natures would terrify any surviving humans. They sure as hell put the fear of god into her.
Every vampire here planned to buy her for their clan to impregnate and abuse. Her stomach sank, and sour bile burned her throat. Lightheaded and dizzy, she struggled to stay conscious. If she fainted, her collar would choke her.
Vampires all possessed skin so pale it seemed translucent, or so she thought. Before this week, she’d hardly seen any. Now she stood naked and tethered in a room full of them.
The Keeper was too greedy to care about having children, and he didn’t give a damn about her welfare. He wanted the money her fertile womb would bring. “So, gentlemen, what am I bid?”
The one who’d complained at the lack of beer bid first. The next bid came from the brute who’d squeezed her breasts and whacked her arse. Soon vampires throughout the room were shouting out numbers.
The poorer clans dropped out within minutes. That left booze boy and the butt whacker going head to head to possess her. Cassie whimpered behind her gag, already loathing the pair of them.
When the bidding reached five-hundred gold, booze boy dropped out. The bottom-whacker grinned so wide his fangs gleamed in the candlelight. With that last bid, Cassie was his.
The Keeper rose to his feet and applauded. “Sold to Marco for five-hundred gold. Good luck and good fucking, my friend.”
With a sardonic smile, Dane stared at his unscarred twin and shrugged. “You and pretty women are never a good mix. Remember when we visited the Black Cardinal pack? Kissing Nyssa on the eve of her betrothal was never going to end well.”
Eli shrugged. “This is different. The breeder’s hair shines like moonlight on the ocean, and her eyes are bluer than the sea on the sunniest day. For a tiny little thing, she has curves you won’t believe. I’ve never seen anyone like her. Warn the crew to be ready to sail as soon as we liberate her while I grab some clothes and hire a cart to haul more ale. Meanwhile, I’ll figure out how to get her out of there.”
Dane’s sigh said his brother was a sucker for damsels in distress. “I’ll tag along when you deliver the ale. That way I can stop you doing something stupid.”
Eli rushed into the cabin of their seagoing barge and grabbed fresh clothes. Dane collected four barrels of ale. When his brother joined him, both Lycans hoisted a barrel on each shoulder. Deciding to forgo the bullock cart, they strode up the almost vertical cliff to the castle as easily as they strolled the harbor wall.
Dane growled. “We steal her after the auction when her new owner is taking her to his clan. That’s the plan, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s set in stone.”
“Flexibility is the key.” Eli grinned.
Inside, the vampires were still examining the breeder. Jeers, taunts, and salacious comments echoed toward them. Both Lycans winced at misery in the breeder’s muffled wails. Dane sniffed the air. “What smells so good?”
Eli shrugged. “My new perfume. Seriously, do I care? I’ll freaking kill those monsters for putting her through this. Can’t we just grab her and run?”
A growl rumbled around Dane’s chest as a delicious scent curled around him. Addictive. Compelling. Arousing. Overpowering him and making him dizzy with need.
He wanted to soothe her and comfort her, to carry her burdens for her. His monstrous wolf howled at the sorrow emanating from her. She looked tiny and vulnerable, but he sensed her inner fire. He’d bathe in it, burn in it, just to be near her. For once, he understood why Eli had fallen for a female.
Dane rubbed his chest, surprised by his heart’s hard-rock rhythm. It hurt that his scars made him imperfect and stern. Females preferred Eli’s unblemished cheeks and easygoing ways. Dane wanted to charge like the seventh cavalry, carry the breeder away, and make her his. His monstrous wolf clawed at his chest, wanting out. Breathing in her cotton-candy essence made every part of him growl, Mine.
A hint of muscle lurked beneath her curves. With her white-blonde hair and her eyes like rain-drenched forget-me-nots, she took his breath away. His monstrous wolf prowled inside him, demanding he toss her over his shoulder and run. Even his detached human side needed to get his elf-sized beauty out of there. “I’ll kill any red-eyed freak who tries to screw her.”
Dane’s emotions swamped him, tearing through his self-built walls and leaving him vulnerable. Because of her. When the two nearest vampires turned their red eyes in their direction, they ducked out the hall.
Eli turned to his brother. “If that bloodsucker touches her again, I’ll pull his fucking arm from his socket and stuff it up his arse.”
Fangs bared, Dane growled. “Get in line. If that bastard comes near me, he’s dead.”
Eli grinned. “Vampire, remember? He’s been dead since he turned immortal in his mid-twenties. Besides, shouldn’t you be telling me to rein it in? You’re the stern, sensible one while I’m the heartbreaker who reminds the pack how to have fun.”
Dane stared around the castle, assessing the defenses. The Great Hall opened into this courtyard. Sturdy stone walls ran around the clifftop. No attackers could climb the sheer cliff and scale them. A thick portcullis and guard tower protected the entrance. Breaking in was impossible. Breaking out was a different matter.
Eli grinned at his brother. “So, Mr. Inflexibility, what’s the new plan?”
Cassie’s chest constricted, and she struggled to breathe. The vampires had sold her to the heavy-handed vampire—Marco—and he planned to brutalize her. Her stomach felt like she’d swallowed a tumble drier. Not that such things worked now the power stations had gone offline. The last thing she wanted was to throw up. Thanks to the gag, she’d choke in her own vomit.
Her new owner—owner, for goodness’ sake—pushed his way to the dais and cupped each of her breasts. Eyes glowing, he squeezed them so hard her legs almost gave way.
Satisfied he’d stamped his authority on her, Marco beckoned the crones over. “Take her back to her cell. Tonight, I’ll wallow in gallons of ale. Tomorrow, I’ll screw her cunt and her arse. If anyone wants to watch me fuck her, it’s one gold a ticket.”
Cassie’s breathing turned fast and shallow. Panic fogged her thoughts. This monster planned to rape her and turn it into a spectator sport. If she’d had a pitchfork, she’d have run him through with it. That or beaned him with her heaviest monkey wrench.
Escape had been impossible, so far. Everything would change once her new owner unfastened her wrists. Given even half a chance, she’d be off and running. Meanwhile, she drowned in degradation and fear.
Even the crones looked shell-shocked as they led her back to her cell. Cassie’s feet dragged, and her head pounded. The auction had shamed and humiliated her—just as the Keeper had intended.
Cassie had never been so glad to see her bare cell. Relief that the auction was over left her shaky and tearful. Only tomorrow would bring fresh horrors. Now the vampires had sold her like a sack of wheat, she thought the crones might loosen her bonds. Even if they didn’t, she’d escape eventually.
Knowing she’d bought her family time to pack up and flee would get her through this—she hoped. Few travelers stumbled on the family’s isolated smallholding. Those who did spoke of a human settlement on the Orkneys. Once she broke out of here, that’s where she was heading. Not that anywhere was safe anymore.
In her heart, she worried she’d never see her family again. She missed the daily laughter and teasing. Losing a limb would be easier than losing her family. Her only consolation was that she hadn’t been taken by werewolves.
Lycans were worse than vampires. Better looking, if the one she’d spotted earlier was anything to go by, but fiercer and deadlier. They terrified every surviving human they met. Travelers claimed werewolves slit a breeder’s throat once she’d given them three babies. It was their radical way to prevent future inbreeding
The crones stood in the doorway, watching their feet rather than Cassie. One finally mumbled, “We can’t release you. The Keeper will have us whipped if we do. I’m sorry, but we don’t even dare remove that gag. Marco’s a monster, but his clan’s rich and well-respected. Your children will have a good future with them.”
Cassie didn’t want Marco anywhere near her or her future children, let alone fathering them.
The second crone wiped Cassie’s tears. “Try to get some sleep. You’ll need your strength to get through the next couple of days.”
Cassie curled up on the bed, her thoughts spinning. Her shoulders ached, and her stomach still churned like a whirlpool. Cold numbed her fingers and toes. Her bottom throbbed where her new owner had walloped it.
Upset by her distress, the crones patted her cheeks and skittered away. Cassie couldn’t blame them for their allegiance to the vampires. The world had changed, and the crones did what they needed to survive.
Before the radios went dead, her family had listened in horror as the world fell apart. Staying alive had become a daily challenge. Thanks to her dad’s engineering skills and the remoteness of their smallholding, her family had fared better than most. And now she could never go home again.
The prevailing wind acted like a shot of ice for the cells in the castle’s rebuilt curtain wall. It rattled the window and froze her bones. The wall hugged the edge of the headland, and the drop to the harbor seemed endless. Shivering, Cassie stared out at gray sky and an even grayer sea. Her view matched her desolate mood.
A few small boats returned to the port before the tide went out too far for them to reach the harbor. The vampires fed their catch to the castle’s humans. It kept them strong enough to feed their vampire masters. It reminded Cassie of the way her family fed their pigs prior to the autumn slaughter.
Wolf senses on full alert, Dane guarded Eli’s back as they moved around the inner courtyard walls. Earlier, when Eli had delivered the first ale barrels, he’d dumped a rope behind the horse trough. Now he retrieved it and slung it over one shoulder.
Dane had thought his brother’s hormones had gone into hyperdrive—again. Just like they did around any attractive female. This sudden attraction to the breeder fit Eli’s love ‘em and leave ‘em pattern. On their last trip, there’d been a contretemps with the daughter of the Black Cardinal pack’s alpha. Hence their hasty exit from foreign territory.
Their father, alpha of the Dark Moon Prowlers had sent a diplomatic mission to soothe things over. Eli had shrugged his shoulders and taken Sable, his sister’s best friend for dinner. Now he mooned over the breeder.
Rubbing his scarred cheek, Dane sighed. Eli needed the pack’s approval. If the she-wolves melted when Eli flirted with them, so much the better. Eli had been that way since he fucked up when they were serving with the Special Forces team in Afghanistan.
Young and stupid, barely into their immortality, they’d thought they were invincible and enlisted. When a team member triggered an IED, Dane had covered his brother’s body with his own. If Eli had taken a step closer, he’d have been wiped off the planet. Instead, the explosive device left Dane peppered with nails and his right cheek ripped apart by shrapnel.
Sometimes—usually—Dane felt imperfect and flawed. Eli blamed himself of course, but Dane never had. He’d become the sensible one, the pack’s enforcer as well as their troubleshooter. Having seen the breeder, Dane understood Eli’s need to free her. Hell, getting her out of there unmolested mattered more than breathing.
Women always fell for Eli’s easy charm and killer smile, but they took one look at Dane’s scars and turned away. With his damaged face, he’d need to move with a wolf’s tricky cunning to win the breeder’s heart. Living without her wouldn’t be living at all.
They waited until the vampires fell on the fresh ale, all intent on drinking themselves into a stupor. Dane checked out the courtyard and nodded to his brother. As Lycan troubleshooters in a vampire stronghold, they needed to tread carefully.
Even in human form, they were both six-feet-seven inches of bulging muscle. Despite their size, they moved without a whisper of sound as they tracked the breeder. Her sweet scent pervaded the twisting corridors, guiding them to her cell.
When they reached the easternmost point of the curtain wall, they grinned. It overlooked the sea, but it sat atop a one-hundred-foot-high cliff. Eli nodded toward the breeder’s cell. “She’ll be glad to see the back of this place. Since we’re at the easterly point of the clifftop, getting her out should be a breeze.”
Ready to rush to the breeder’s rescue, all guns blazing, Eli stood back, ready to shoulder charge the door. Dane grabbed his arm and hauled him into an alcove. “Someone’s coming.”
A female vampire strode toward them, a tray in her hands. She unlocked Cassie’s door and set it on the floor. “There, human, I’ve done my bit by bringing it. Of course, the Keeper ordered you gagged, so good luck with your dinner.”
Laughing, she closed the door and stalked back down the corridor.
Eyes dark and predatory, Dane’s monstrous wolf snarled and demanded her blood.
Eli’s eyes narrowed into dark gold beads. “Stay back while I kick in the door.”
Dane grabbed him again. “I collected a lock-pick while I organized the second ale delivery. Keep watch while I get to work.”
Eli paced back and forth as he kept a silent guard. “Work faster. You saw how scared she was. We need to get her out of here.”
Finally, Dane stood back. “Got it.”
Like an overeager schoolboy, Eli pushed past him and into the room. Dane followed, pulling the door shut behind them and relocking it from the inside.
The breeder’s eyes widened, and her heartbeat skyrocketed. Behind her gag, she made a muffled, distressed sound.
Cassie tensed when the door opened. The good-looking guy—make that werewolf—she’d spotted earlier charged into her cell. Smiling, he made a beeline for her. Another man followed on his heels, all stern lips, stiff spine, and pitted cheek. The way he stood—fingers spread over his scars as he watched her—meant the scars bothered him. Considering his Lycan origins, his disfigured cheek was the least of her worries.
Both men shared the same athletic build and piercing amber eyes. The one with scars sported a military buzz cut; otherwise, they could have been identical twins. Make that identical Lycan twins.
When the swaggering, sexy one moved toward her, the other nodded and stood back. The pair of them exuded power and confidence.
She’d never seen such stunning males, but she’d heard stories about werewolves—none of them good. Now she was bound and helpless, locked in a room with them. Thanks to the gag, she couldn’t scream for help.
The long-haired one with the hot smile reached out to her. “I’m Eli, princess, and that’s my brother Dane. We’re here to rescue you.”
She shuffled up the bed and curled her legs beneath her. As much as she hated vampires, werewolves made her innards quake.
The short-haired one, Dane, pulled his brother back. “She’s terrified, you fool.”
Eli brushed Dane’s hand from his arm and slowed his movements. “Don’t worry, princess, we’ll get you out of here. Come here and let me unbuckle that gag.”
He took a step toward her, but she cowered away. Puzzled, he glanced across at his brother. Dane gave the breeder a stare designed to cow her into obedience. “Something tells me she doesn’t want rescuing. Is that right, little human?”
Cassie flattened her spine against the bedhead. Even if she could explain, they wouldn’t understand. Worse, they might hunt down her sisters. Not knowing what to do, she whimpered and dropped her gaze.
Werewolves were all fangs and claws—natural born killers—and this pair homed in on her. Any moment now, they’d shift into crazed monsters that lived to hurt and maim. Heart beating overtime, she closed her eyes and waited for them to strike.
The men exchanged puzzled glances, then Eli shrugged. “We came to collect the breeder and that’s what we’ll do. Sorry, princess, but you’ll have to keep the gag a while longer.”
As he uncoiled the rope he’d hung over his shoulder, Dane tied a slipknot at one end, making a noose. Eyes hard, face set in determined lines, he stalked toward her. “We won’t hurt you, but don’t fight us. I’d hate for my knots to give way when we lower you down the castle’s curtain wall.”
Stomach churning, Cassie whimpered again, but she let Eli help her to feet. He held her for a second too long and breathed deeply. “It’s your perfume. It’s driving me crazy.”
She kicked his shins and ran across the room. Dane blocked her way, tossed the loop of rope over her head then pulled it beneath her bound arms. When he tightened the loop around her chest, she felt like an animal selected for slaughter.
Cassie was sick of crying, sick of the terror eating at her soul. Determined to stay strong, she tried to wriggle free. Her efforts only tightened the noose beneath her armpits. She wanted out of this rebuilt castle so badly she could taste it, but not with werewolves. Never with creatures like them.
Arms bound, gagged and helpless, she couldn’t shout, slap, or punch. Even if she evaded these two Lycans, the scarred one—Dane—had locked the door behind them. All she could do was submit.
She hated that the vampires had left her so vulnerable. Hell, she hated everything about the sadistic bloodsuckers who’d brought her here. They belonged in films or books but after the plagues, they’d emerged from the shadows, cruel overlords who farmed humans for blood.
The first chance Cassie got, she’d be out of here so fast her feet left scorch marks on the flagstones. She’d had a gut feeling that she’d escape the vampires. The werewolves though… Their possessive gaze sent shockwaves of desire shooting through her. Escaping them would be impossible.
Her eyes widened as the werewolves shed their clothes. She should look away, but their movements—and their bare chests—fascinated her the way a snake does a rabbit. Their bodies rippled with golden muscle as if they walked around naked all summer. They were beautiful and deadly, werewolf warriors who feared nothing. By comparison, she was a scaredy-cat mess.
The last few days had seemed like a nightmare. Now, on top of everything, werewolves invaded her cell. Naked ones with twin erections that waved at her. Whatever this pair planned, she didn’t think those twin cocks would fit inside her. Even the brutish vampire who’d won the auction would be better than them.
Eli—the one with the killer smile—shoved their clothes into his rucksack. When she heard their bones pop, Cassie curled in the corner, trying to make herself less of a target. Their limbs thickened and lengthened. Their teeth elongated into fangs and their fingernails grew into six-inch claws. Their faces grew longer, like killer Alsatian dogs on steroids.
They towered over her, standing well over eight feet tall. Like Popeye after he downed a tin of spinach, their muscles rippled and grew. The few travelers she’d met had called werewolves vicious and savage. And this pair fixated on her.
Eli tossed the rucksack from the window, then tilted his head as if considering the frame. He snapped the bars the way he would pencils then yanked the ends out of the wall. Putting two giant hands—or were they paws—on the wood, he pushed hard. The frame crashed onto the cliff below. The sound of splintering wood and shattering glass echoed toward them.
Nodding in satisfaction, he squeezed his bulk through the hole in the wall and jumped. No one could survive a one-hundred-foot drop. Unable to believe what he’d done, Cassie ran to the window and stared after him. He landed with catlike grace, thrust his arms in the air, and gave Dane a clawed thumbs up.
Dane growled and wrapped the free end of the rope around his waist. Before she could protest, he lifted her onto the window sill. She bucked and fought, terrified of the drop, but bound and gagged, her protests were useless.
Spine stiff and unyielding, Dane cupped her cheek in his hand. His voice came out deeper, more animalistic. Ridiculously masculine, it rumbled around his chest. “You’ve made this hard for yourself, but we won’t hurt you.”
She whimpered again, barely able to think for the terror fogging her thoughts. Ignoring her muffled protests, he pushed her feet over the edge. Sat on the edge of a one-hundred-foot drop, legs dangling, she stiffened and shook her head. Her heart raced so fast she thought it would burst from her chest. His stern body language called her a fool for resisting her rescue, but it felt more like a kidnapping.
The intensity in his gaze told her she was going over the edge come what may. She widened her eyes, silently pleading for him not to do this. He reached out, gave her shoulder a squeeze, and pushed her bottom off the sill.