By the time I woke up a second time, the sun was setting; I’d slept the whole day. Dizzy raised her head from where she was lying on my chest to look at me.
“Good morning,” I said, smiling as I scratched her ears.
Dizzy bounced up, barking excitedly as she jumped off the couch and danced around the living room. I recognized the dance as her potty dance and quickly opened the door for her.
I was happy to note that all the soreness in my body was a thing of the past. The house seemed empty and I wondered where Tera and Epenie had gone. Eager to start my training with Tera, I hoped they returned soon.
Once Dizzy came in, I decided that a shower was long overdue. I sighed with pleasure as the hot water cascaded across my torso and washed away the last vestiges of tension from the events of the previous day.
Wrapping a towel around myself sarong style, I left the bathroom to find some workout clothes.
Dressed and complete with ponytail, I headed toward the main house to find Tera. It was important that we start working as soon as possible.
Upon entering the house, I followed the sound of voices into the den. The room was filled to capacity with werewolves and I was surprised to see Sebrina in a corner of the room with several people I’d never met. I assumed they were vampires like her, based on the unusual pallor of their skin.
The minute I sauntered into the room, conversation came to a standstill. Frowning, I scanned the room until my eyes met Connor’s from where he stood behind the bar. Crossing my arms over my chest, I raised a brow meaningfully in his direction.
Connor stifled a small smile. “Alexandria, I’ve been bringing everyone up to speed about the attack yesterday and discussing our next step in eliminating our problem for good.”
“Good, you should have woken me,” I chided gently.
He nodded but I could tell the effort cost him; it was also obvious he didn’t want me here but I chose to ignore the signs and walked across the room to sit with Tera on the floor at the edge of the hearth.
It was amusing to see the nervousness that seemed to spread throughout the room. I’d never seen so many fidgety werewolves. The vampires, with the exception of Sebrina, just looked bored.
I could see Epenie curled into a corner of the room just behind Tuck, taking everything in with wide eyes. When she saw me she started to rise, but Tuck placed a firm hand on her thigh and held her where she was with a shake of his head. Epenie frowned up at him but stayed put.
“Alexandria, I’m sure you’re hungry; there is a feast laid out in the kitchen that I’m sure you would enjoy.” Connor’s dismissal could have been a lot smoother in my opinion.
“I’m fine,” I said with a sweet smile.
Connor cleared his throat before trying again. “I think you’d find it more comfortable in the other room.”
Enough was enough. I fixed him with the sternest expression I could manage. “I won’t be sent off like a child while the big people talk. This involves me as much as anyone else in this room, perhaps more.”
“You’ve been through enough because of Sid and his pack of rogue wolves. I won’t have you exposed to any more violence.” Connor sliced his hand through the air decisively to emphasis his point.
“I’m a werewolf, not a daisy; unless I’m mistaken, violence is now part of my nature.”
The tall vampire standing next to Sebrina chuckled as he stood. “Connor, she is priceless. I do believe you have chosen a little Amazon for your mate.”
Connor glared as the vampire made his way across the room toward me. He was a handsome man; short auburn hair framed his thin, almost aristocratic features and it was easy to see how his sparkling green eyes could tempt any woman into being a very willing blood donor.
Once he was standing in front of me, he gave a courtly bow. “Allow me to introduce myself, Alexandria. I am Ethan Saunders, and as the leader of the vampire community I welcome you to our war council, but you should take your proper place.”
I took the hand he offered without hesitation and allowed him to lead me to stand on the right side of Connor. Beside me I could feel the anger practically radiating from Connor at the vampire’s actions. In one fell swoop the vampire had completely undermined Connor’s attempt to exclude me from the meeting. While I was happy to have my problem solved, the increased level of tension in the room was palpable and it was also hard to miss the implications of standing next to Connor.
Laying my hand across Connor’s where it was placed on the bar in a conciliatory gesture, I leaned over to whisper to him, “I don’t want to defy you but I have to be a part of this. I refuse to be Sid’s victim anymore.”
The tension leaked out of Connor’s shoulders all at once and he nodded before addressing the room at large. “For once Ethan is right. Alexandria’s proper place in the room is beside me.”
I decided it was not the best time to bring up my misgivings about being anyone’s mate and waited to see how the room would react to Connor’s statement.
Everyone in the room inclined their head toward me to express their respect and the meeting resumed.
We discussed training to prepare for battle, tightening security while we prepared to meet Sid on our own terms. Connor requested that none of the wolves go into town alone for the next few weeks and the human family members and children not leave the compound at all.
It seemed that the vampires were present to commit their support to eradicating the threat Sid and his erstwhile pack represented to the entire supernatural community. They would fight alongside our wolf pack.
One wolf stayed near the vampires and I learned that was Zack, the werewolf ambassador to the vampires. He’d gotten to know his hosts very well and seemed very comfortable with them, possibly more comfortable than even Sebrina.
Her entire demeanor had changed. Gone was the bubbling enthusiasm; she seemed subdued by the presence of her nest. I decided then and there that no matter what happened with Ryan, Sebrina could never leave our pack and return to the nest. We were her family now.
The council concluded that everyone would lay low for now and await Sid’s next move, while making sure that our loved ones were safe.
In the interim everyone would train so that we were in peak fighting condition when the time came to take care of the intruders on our territory. Thus decided, the meeting adjourned.
When I would have followed everyone else out, Connor stopped me. “You defied me again publically.”
“I deserved to be at this meeting,” I stated vehemently. “Sid attacked me.”
“Sid used you to attack me,” he said firmly. “I don’t want you anywhere near a battle of any kind. I want you safe, protected from any further violence. I let you stay at the meeting grudgingly; it still goes against everything in me to allow your involvement, but you will obey me, Alexandria.”
I crossed my arms over my chest and glared up at him, then started when he began rolling his shirtsleeves up. “What are you doing?”
“I believe I told you what would happen if you ever defied me in front of the pack again. Did I not?” he asked almost conversationally.
“But… but… I was right…” I sputtered rather lamely.
“Did you publically defy me?” Connor asked with a raised brow, his hand paused in the act of rolling up his right sleeve.
“Then we’re agreed,” he said with a nod, fixing his sleeve in place and catching me by one arm and pulling me with him to the couch.
“No… wait, Connor… you can’t!” I cried as I felt myself pulled face down over his lap as he sat down on the couch.
“I assure you I can,” he said as he pulled both my sweat pants and panties down to my knees in one motion.
His hand fell hard and fast, making me realize he’d been right when he warned me after my first spanking that the next one would make the first seem like a child’s punishment. He was spanking much harder, each slap making me yelp and writhe over his knee.
“Ooooh… ouch… Connor… stop!” I cried.
“I will stop when I feel the lesson is sufficiently learned and not a moment before,” Connor said sternly.
I wailed loudly then bit my lip as I realized my entire pack could probably hear my spanking. His hand continued to fall with no discernible pattern, leaving not an inch of my bottom without throbbing heat.
He paused and I took a deep relieved breath, only to cry out in dismay when he tilted me further over his lap in order to pay closer attention to the tender under curve of my backside. “No, Connor! Not there!”
“Yes, there, mate.” His hand fell hard five times in a row on my left sit spot till I was yowling, no longer concerned about my pack mates hearing my punishment. Then he moved and gave the right side the exact same treatment. My horror was complete when I felt him part my tender bottom cheeks and press the tip of one finger against my anus.
“Now you will get a taste of how I will deal with defiance once we are well and truly mated.”
“Noooooo!” I cried, desperately clenching against his intrusion when he pulled his finger away to deliver another series of sharp slaps that left me gasping for air and then the finger was back pushing deep inside while I moaned in embarrassed protest.
“Defiant mates get their bottoms punished inside and out,” Connor told me matter-of-factly as his finger took up a quick in-and-out rhythm.
Soon the feel of his finger gliding in and out of my most private area had me panting with need; my clit was throbbing in time to my sore bottom and a flood of wetness seeped from between my thighs. I was mortified by my body’s response.
“That’s it… good girl,” Connor said as his finger began moving faster and his other hand reached beneath me to flick a finger across my aching clit. I felt everything inside me draw up tight and then explode with a snap as I came screaming across his knee, his finger planted deeply in my ass as I clenched around it.
I was shivering when he stood me back on my feet in front of him and hugged me while he righted my clothing.
I was a little muddle-headed so he pulled me with him to the bathroom where he washed his hands and then lifted me to sit on the backroom counter in front of him.
I hissed when my bottom made contact with the hard counter but it was quickly forgotten when he tilted my face up to his tender gaze. “Lesson learned?”
I blinked back tears as I looked up at him. He was so stern yet tender at the same time; everything in me responded to him on every level but I just couldn’t go there yet. I was as confused by my body’s response to his discipline as I was by my growing need for him. These were thoughts for another day though. I gave a deep shuddering sigh before replying softly, “Lesson learned.”
He nodded, kissed me on the forehead, then lifted me from the counter and sent me on my way with a gentle pat to my bottom.
I nervously entered the kitchen to find it empty of everyone but Tera and she pretended she hadn’t heard anything out of the ordinary.
“Hungry?” she asked with a grin.
I grinned back. “Starved.” I was surprised to find I really was hungry.
After a quick bite to eat at the buffet table, Tera and I headed outside to practice. I’d decided to ignore the lingering sting in my backside and practice as planned
Ethan followed us, much to Tera’s consternation. “Ladies, perhaps I could be of assistance in your training.”
Tera started to protest but then stopped and eyed the vampire thoughtfully. “Actually that’s a good idea, Ethan. Your speed will help to increase Xandie’s reflexes and reaction time.”
He bowed at the waist before stripping his shirt and hanging it on a nearby fence post. I couldn’t help but be impressed by the marbled perfection of his torso, clearly defined pecs dusted with a smattering of red hair that trailed down across washboard abs. As vampires go, this one was absolutely yummy.
Granted, I didn’t feel the heat that was between Connor and me, but a woman would have to be dead not to feel some attraction to such flawless male beauty.
Ethan and I faced off in the center of the lawn, but I was unprepared for the speed in which he attacked. One minute I was looking at him standing across the yard from me and the next I was flat on my back with one of his hands wrapped tightly around my throat.
He grinned down at me, showing a great deal of fang. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, my little Amazon, if you are planning to fight with the wolves.”
In almost the same instant he’d released me and lifted me to my feet for another go. This time I at least managed to throw a punch before he tossed me on my butt.
“Xandie, you’ve got to anticipate his moves and use your weapons against him. Put some claw into your punches; a good rake will at least get his attention,” Tera yelled from where she perched on the edge of the wooden fence that bordered the yard.
I decided to follow my instincts instead of watching to see which way he would go. This time I dropped as Ethan rushed me and managed to catch him with the edge of my claws as he went over me.
Ethan tucked his head as he landed and used the momentum to roll agilely to his feet in one graceful movement. Turning to me, he bowed at the waist, grinning as he rose to his full height. “Well done, we’ll make a warrior out of you yet.”
I gasped, shocked by the sight of blood on the front of his chest. Knowing I’d used my claws hadn’t prepared me for the reality of what that would mean.
He laughed at my horror. “Those piddly little scratches have already healed.” As if to prove his point, Ethan walked up to me and grabbed my hand, gently rubbing it across the cool flesh of his abdomen.
Beneath the smears of blood there were no injuries to be found. I couldn’t stop myself stroking my hand across him as I marveled at his remarkable abilities to heal. It had been almost instantaneous.
A growl from directly behind us ceased my explorations in the vampire’s healing abilities.
I sprang away from Ethan almost guiltily until I remembered I hadn’t done anything wrong and turned to glare at Connor.
Ethan grinned at Connor in amusement. “Your little Amazon has an amazingly gentle touch.”
Another growl was Connor’s only response to Ethan before glowering at me. “Stay away from the vampire.”
“Don’t be silly. Ethan was just sparring with Tera and me. You are seriously overreacting, so you can stop giving me that caveman look,” I said, using a less than gentle touch to push against Connor’s chest, which was of course like trying to shove a hunk of granite back.
Connor caught my hand where it pressed against his body and held it there. “You were touching him.”
Rolling my eyes, I tried unsuccessfully to jerk my hand back. “I caught him with my claws and there was blood but no injury. I thought we healed fast but their healing ability is astounding. I wanted a closer look out of curiosity. Let me go.”
He closed his eyes and then released my hand with a sigh. “I would rather you not touch him unless you’re inflicting pain.”
Ethan snorted with amusement. I frowned at both of them. Honestly, there was no way to have any privacy when surrounded by supernatural beings; they could all hear a pin drop from a mile away.
Spinning, I pointed a finger up at Ethan. “You behave yourself!” Then I turned back to where Connor stood smirking at Ethan. “If you could control yourself, he wouldn’t find it nearly as much fun to provoke you.”
Finished with men for the moment, I turned my back on both of them and called Tera as I stalked away.
I really wished my hearing weren’t so acute because I could have done without hearing Ethan whisper to Connor that he envied him before flying away, or whatever vampires do.
Tera wisely kept her own council and just walked silently alongside me.
Sebrina looked up at our approach from where she knelt in the flowerbed running along the west side of her cottage with a small shovel and smiled at us. “Tired of sparring already?”
“Interrupted by a jealous caveman,” I spat in irritation.
She looked at me seriously. “Don’t knock a little jealousy; at least you know where you stand with him.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Not really; jealousy over a possession doesn’t necessarily imply affection or love.”
“You are not just a possession to Connor,” Tera defended her leader hotly.
Crossing my arms with a frown, I looked at her. “I’m not exactly a person either. Before he can lay claim to any sort of intense feelings at all, he is going to have to take the time to get to know me.”
“When you find a mate, the caring is almost instinctive. The love is there and if you weren’t so stubborn you would realize that you love him too,” Tera insisted.
“Easy for someone without a mate to say, Miss Footloose and Fancy Free.”
“Not as free as you would think,” Tera said softly.
“Ladies, how about we agree to disagree?” Sebrina stepped in like the diplomat she was. “All of us are in different situations and therefore have very different perspectives, but that doesn’t invalidate the way we each feel individually.” Giving each of us an affectionate squeeze, she stepped away and asked us to follow her.
Tera and I shrugged at each other and followed her to the front garden; a carpet of large white blooms filling the entire yard with their rich fragrance surrounded the little birdbath.
“They remind me of soap,” Tera said as she sniffed the air appreciatively.
“They’re beautiful, Sebrina,” I said earnestly.
She beamed with pleasure. “They are the only flower I know of that blooms only at night. I love them.”
The trellis behind the little bench was also covered in smaller, more tubular versions of the white flowers, which Sebrina explained were moon flower vines. The white was such a bright shade, it reflected the light of the moon with an almost ethereal blue glow.
I sighed, grateful for the tranquility of Sebrina’s garden and the moment of peace it provided me as I sank down to sit on the bench surrounded by the fragrant moon flower blossoms.
After sitting with my eyes closed for a minute, I opened my eyes to look at Sebrina and Tera; they were both watching me curiously. “Thank you for sharing your garden with us, Sebrina. I needed to be reminded how much beauty there is still around me.”
A soft smile played about the edges of Sebrina’s mouth. “That’s why I grow them.”
Tera cocked her head at both of us and frowned. “I don’t understand, why do you both feel you need to be reminded of something so simple?”
“You were born into this world, Tera, we weren’t. It takes more than a little adjusting for those of us who come into the game a little late,” Sebrina said gently.
“I guess. It just seems like being human would be so mundane. I can’t imagine being anything but what I am,” Tera said simply.
Though I hadn’t been aware that Tera was born a werewolf, it definitely helped me understand her views a little better. “There are definitely a lot pluses to being a werewolf, but part of me misses being human. While in some ways life seems simpler now, it also comes with a host of new problems and things I don’t yet fully understand.”
“You’ll get the hang of it,” Tera assured me seriously.
I smiled. “Yes, I think I will. Sebrina, I think I will leave you to your gardening, I’m ready for dinner.”
“See you tomorrow night, babe.” Sebrina waved to me as I walked away from her cottage and toward my own. Tera trailed behind me at a slower pace. I wasn’t sure if she was giving me space or thinking about something entirely unrelated.
As I neared the door, I spotted my car again and remembered collecting my mail while I was at the apartment. I needed to go through it to make sure nothing needed my immediate attention.
It was still resting on the passenger seat of the car. I started thumbing through it as I picked it up and walked back to the house. Most of it appeared to be junk but one long business envelope captured my attention.
The return address read: Grady O’Shea, Attorney at Law. Frowning, I opened the letter and quickly scanned its contents.
“Crap! I’m being sued,” I said, sinking down onto the couch in shock.
“Sued? For what?” Tera asked, once again at my side.
I snorted. “For shoving my boss when he tried to molest me at the office. I resigned after the incident but he is now suing me for assault, and he wants damages. This is unbelievable.”
Tera picked up the phone. “I’m calling Connor.”
“Why?” I was a little irritated that she seemed to think Connor was the answer to all of my problems.
“You’ll need Ed; he’s the pack attorney and I don’t know how to reach him. Connor will take care of it,” she told me before turning her attention to the phone.
Connor must have answered because she went straight into explanations.
Once she’d told him the gist of the situation, Tera listened intently to whatever Connor had to say on the matter.
“Will do, boss,” she said smartly before hanging up and turning back to me. “The attorney will be here in the morning to consult with you about the case. Then you can decide how to proceed from there. I’m going to pop a frozen pizza in the oven. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure,” I said, distractedly chewing my lower lip as I worried about the prospect of being sued for assault. Would I be arrested? I was more than a little horrified by the thought of having a record.
Visions of myself behind bars and featured in one of those specials called Good Women Going Bad: Women in the Prison System made me shudder.
Then I remembered touring a prison once in high school and the tiny little metal toilet in the corner of the small cell. The total lack of privacy… I would never be able to go to the bathroom again if I went to jail.
Tera came back into the room and laughed at my serious expression. “You worry too much. Ed will handle everything, you’ll see.”
The front door opened and Epenie came in followed closely by a very irritated-looking Tuck. “You will not go to the vampire nest. I forbid it.”
E’s mouth opened and closed silently for a minute as she glared up at the intimidating man, then she found her voice. “Listen up, Sparky, there will be no forbidding here. If something bothers you and you wish to share your opinion, I promise to listen but that’s as far as it goes.”
She finished her little speech with several sharp pokes to the center of his massive chest, much to the surprise of Tuck.
“Woman, it is not safe,” he said sternly.
Epenie rolled her eyes. “They invited me. It will be fine.”
He growled in frustration. “I will go with you.”
“They invited you too?” she asked a little too sweetly.
“Where you are invited, I am invited also, it is understood.”
“Understood by whom?” Epenie asked loudly.
“By me and everyone else in this community,” Tuck replied as if the discussion were closed.
She glared up at him. “Don’t make me get my newspaper.”
He glared right back. “If you ever raise that newspaper to me again, I will use it on your bare backside.”
Epenie blinked up at him as if in shock. “I was joking. Trying to find some humor in this situation but now you’ve taken all the fun out of it.”
“One day we will tell the story of the newspaper to our grandchildren and we will both laugh,” Tuck said seriously.
“Really?” she asked softly.
“This I promise you, Epun-I,” he said, cupping her face gently in his hands and placing a soft kiss on her forehead before releasing her and going out the door.
I knew I should have left the room; to continue to watch as long as I had was serious voyeurism, but he’d used the Korean pronunciation of her name, which, E had told me before, translated simply to beautiful.
Epenie stood watching him out of the window silently before turning and going into her room without a word. I was sure she needed time to come to terms with everything that just happened.
“Wow, that was a hot moment,” Tera said with a grin.
I nodded my agreement. Tuck was obviously head over heels for E, and for such a quiet guy he didn’t seem to have any difficulty letting her know how deeply he felt for her.
“It almost makes me ready to accept my mate,” Tera said wistfully.
“I’m going to prison, so I guess I won’t have to worry about the whole mate thing,” I said morosely, the momentary fascination with E and Tuck’s battle forgotten as I remembered my woes.
“You are not going to prison,” Tera said with a laugh before going to get the pizza from the oven. “You have quite a flair for the dramatic.”
“We’ll see how much laughing there is when you have to visit me in Sing Sing,” I said as she handed me a plate piled high with pizza.
“Ed will handle everything, trust me,” Tera said as she bit into a piping hot piece of pepperoni pizza.
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