She had good eyesight, twenty-twenty according to the department doctor, and the faint glow of the diner’s lights illuminated the dark interior of the truck’s cab enough for her to see its occupants.
“Bingo.” Even the brief glance she’d gotten of them in the diner was enough for her to recognize the two men’s faces and their flannel shirts.
They pulled onto the highway and drove away from her. The road was empty of traffic, so Bligh got into her car and waited another minute before bumping and scraping out of her concealed parking spot and following them.
Their rear lights were small red beacons in the distance. She pulled her gun from her waistband and ejected the clip one-handed, checked it, and slid it back in place. A warm sensation spread through her, the one she always got when the hunt was nearing an end.
I’m going to stop you.
The men turned off at a narrow dirt track. There was a faded signpost stating the track led to The Wandering Bears Scout Hall. After parking in the trees near the turn-off, she continued on foot, sticking to the thick forest beside the track, until she arrived at clearing. Hunching her shoulders, she buried her face against her chest as the wind whipped up the fresh snow and drove tiny icy daggers into her exposed flesh.
The clearing was filled with over twenty trucks and cars parked haphazardly around the dilapidated scout hall. The building was barely standing. The walls were crumbling, and half the roof was missing. The light coming from the interior was flickering into the dark night sky, and the noise of cheers and laughter rang eerily through the still forest.
Moving as silently as she could, Bligh crouched and moved from truck to truck, drawing closer to the hall, while attempting to remain hidden.
“I tell you, I hear something.”
Bligh immediately squatted down by a pickup truck, her back against the tire, her hand tightening on her gun. She heard footsteps crunching on the snow as another cheer rang loudly through the night.
“We need to be there for the end of the fight, and it sounds as though Trent is building up to his big finale.”
“I can smell fear. Can’t you?”
“That’s probably coming from the stooge Trent is about to finish.”
Someone grunted, and another load cheer rang through the night. “I suppose you’re right.”
The sound of the footsteps grew softer, and she began to breathe again. She rubbed at her nose as a sharp metallic smell burned her nostrils. Smell fear? She might not know what the men were talking about, but she recognized the smell of blood in the air, a lot of blood.
The coppery stench was so strong it made her eyes water. She held her gun in two hands and rested her forehead on the cold metal. From the number of vehicles, there had to be at least twenty people inside, and that was assuming they all rode alone. She was hopelessly outnumbered.
Someone was being killed in there. Another victim that no one would miss. No family would mourn them, or probably care if they were dead. No one but her.
I’ve come this far. Her search had led her here, and the answers she’d been seeking were just a few feet away. She would discover who, or what, was killing these poor men so viciously. First, however, she had to try and save the helpless soul currently inside.
The aroma that had lingered faintly on the bodies of each of the victims was strong. The smell was nauseating in its intensity, especially combined with the scent of blood. Someone was being hurt, and if her nose hadn’t led her astray, someone could very well be killed if she didn’t do something. A quick glance over the truck’s hood showed her the men had, indeed, returned inside.
She stayed hunched over and continued toward the open doors. When only several yards of open space remained, she didn’t pause, didn’t hesitate. She stood up straight with her gun braced, ready to fire and walked into the melee.
She saw a wide circle of men, their broad backs to her as they pumped their fists and cheered. This close, she heard the thud of flesh being pounded against flesh and the grunts and moans that followed. The smell of blood was thick and heavy in the air, as was the faint scent that had clung to the bodies of the dead men. That scent pulled her forward, the tantalizing prospect of at last discovering the source eclipsing her sense of self-preservation.
The crowd parted as she moved forward, and the sight in the center of the ring was so incomprehensible that, for Bligh, time stopped and the world ceased turning. The creature standing over the bloodied man in torn clothes was born of a nightmare, because it couldn’t have been created by nature. It was a hideous being of distorted flesh, feathers, beak, and talons.
Her mind was struggling to place the form into a category it could accept, so it took her several seconds to notice that complete silence had fallen. She could feel the weight of the men’s stares, but was helpless to tear her gaze from the monster that had now released his broken victim and was slowly advancing on her.
“Fresh meat,” she heard murmured, and mumbled agreements broke the long silence.
“Two hundred says she lasts a minute.”
“She has the gun. I say she’ll last three if she gets a bullet in Trent.”
“Put your money where your mouth is, Walt. I’ll keep the book open for the next sixty seconds. Place your bets, gentlemen.”
“I didn’t want the three of you to be separated. I knew Dorian would never leave me, but I couldn’t bear the thought of tearing the three of you apart. So, I chose to leave, instead. It was the only decision I could live with, no matter what it cost me. My heart, mind, and soul had been opened to real friendship and to love. I’d belonged. Belonged to a pride and belonged to you. I’d been embraced as normal for the first time, and I walked away from it all because I already loved you.”
Parish approached her slowly, giving her the chance to ask him to wait, but she was finished. “Thank you for explaining why you left,” he said, his hands lightly cupping her face. “As I learn more about you, I just fall deeper in love. You’re amazing, Bligh. Say you’ll be my mate?”
“I already am.” Bligh didn’t think it was a choice. Even had she managed to walk away from them, she’d have been their mate until she died. She’d known no one else would ever touch her heart, or her body. “I was yours from the moment you first connected telepathically with my cat.”
Parish smiled, and her heart skipped a beat. He didn’t smile often enough. He should, though. “You are such a hottie when you smile.” His grin broadened. “You even have dimples.”
When his lips met hers, she reached for him, pulling his head closer as she lifted her leg and wrapped it around his thigh. She never wanted him to walk away again. She needed him closer, needed him naked, needed him inside her, or she knew she’d die.
His hand ran up her thigh, cupped her ass, and lifted her. She moaned as his rigid cock pressed against her clit. The contact lit her up on the inside, and she brazenly plunged her tongue between his lips, needing more of his taste, more of his heat, more of Parish.
Heat swept through her, making her burn for him. She pulled from his lips and snarled at him. “You’re wearing too many clothes.” She pulled at his shirt, buttons popping and fabric tearing. She’d seen his wide, muscled chest before, and now she got to touch it. Her palms tingled, and her body tightened with need as she caressed the hard planes and deep ridges of his sexy chest and abdomen. “Gorgeous.”
Monroe’s naked chest pressed to her back, his fingers tearing her borrowed shirt open down the back and then grazing lightly up her naked spine. “Before we reach the point of no return, you need to be sure.” His voice was a husky purr against her ear, and she pressed her aching clitoris against Parish’s cock. She’d never felt so aroused.
“If I don’t have one of you inside me soon, I—I’m…” Parish rocked against her, and she screamed, her back arching as her orgasm shook her with wave after wave of blissful release.
Monroe smoothed his hands down her back, as he planted delicate kisses and teasing nips up her neck. “Forget that. It’s already too late. You’re ours, Bligh. Ours forever.”
“Now we mate and claim you, Bligh,” Dorian said.
She shuddered as Parish turned and walked toward his bed, his cock rubbing against her sensitized clitoris with every step. Her mouth popped open when she saw Dorian standing there. He was a work of art. The glimpses she’d had of him naked were not enough to fully appreciate his thick muscles and his intricate tattoos.
“Mine,” she said, her hands clenching on Parish’s shoulders as she fought her cat’s impulse to leap at Dorian and devour him. His hand stroked up and back over his erection, and the tip glistened with pre-cum. She breathed deep, tasting their combined arousal as it washed over her tongue.
“He’s yours,” Parish said, his hands squeezing her ass once before clasping her waist and setting her on shaky legs before Dorian. “We’re all yours.”
Dorian pulled the torn shirt from her shoulders, and her breasts ached as he stared at them. “Take off your pants.” It wasn’t a request. His voice was deep, his expression brutally carnal. He wanted her as desperately as she wanted him.
Pushing down the too-large sweatpants, she let them pool at her ankles. This close, she could no longer resist the urge to touch him. He continued to stroke his cock as she ran her fingertips lightly over the swirling pattern of his tattoos. She traced the swirls and peaks of the twisted flames, up his arm to his chest and then down the right side of his abdomen to his hip. His muscles tensed in waves under her gentle exploration, and she marveled at the sheer magnificence of his male form.
“Can a man be beautiful?” Her words were a raspy whisper, her throat burning and dry.
“If I touch you, I will claim you, Bligh. You have this one chance to walk away. After that, you’re mine.”
Dorian shuddered as she lifted his hand from his cock and replaced it with her own. He hissed out a curse between clenched teeth as she stroked him, swirling her fingers through the moisture on the head of his penis.
“Touch me,” she said. It wasn’t a request.