“I don’t want to talk about this. It’s none of your business. I’m being punished for my actions. My only wish is that the punishment could help my daughter. She’s innocent in all this.”
“Exactly. Chloë’s just that. A pawn in your chess game. But, I have a deal to make with you.”
Jessica shook her head. “No deals. I just want this over with. The sooner it is, the sooner my family can get back on track.” Her chin wobbled. “It might be too late for Chloë, and I will go to my grave hating myself for what I did to her, but I have other cubs, a life mate… I need to make this as painless as I can for them.”
“Well, my suggestion won’t prevent that. It has nothing to do with them. However, I might be able to help Chloë.”
“No one can help, Chloë. She’s beyond anyone’s help. If the clinic can’t help her, then she’s lost to this world.”
“Not necessarily. If you can help me.”
Jessica narrowed her eyes. “What are you talking about?”
“I read the transcriptions of your interviews with the Enforcers.” She’d picked them up yesterday. There was an advantage to being mated to a McKinnon and being on a task from an Elder. “You were an early member of the Puristas. That means you know the person who began it all.”
“That’s because I don’t know who the person is.”
“Bullshit. You’re far too smart for that, Jessica. Don’t diminish your intelligence or mine by trying to claim otherwise.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Julia sighed. “Don’t play dumb. For God’s sake, I might be able to cure your daughter.”
“Give me details on how you can cure Chloë, and then, I might think about what I do or don’t know.” Jessica went to fold her arms then. When the cuffs restrained her movements, she gritted her teeth. For a second, the air surged with her rage, her Lioness rattling against the cage it was trapped in, and then, with a deep exhalation, it went away. The charge zipping through the air went with it.
“Annoying, isn’t it?” Jessica took it as a slur because rage bubbled under the surface again, but Julia held up her hands. “I’ve been in a similar position. I can empathize.”
“I don’t want your empathy. I want answers.”
“Okay, I’ll give you them. You’re aware, I’m sure, how hard it is to communicate with magick-wielders?”
Jessica’s nod was stiff. “I often tried to contact one in an attempt to reverse the curse. When I saw Chloë’s behavior starting to derail, I knew what I had to do but I could never find one.”
Julia nodded. “They’re feared for a reason. Their powers are immense. But with that power comes terror. It’s a double-edged sword, I suppose. My family is connected to a clan of magick-wielders.” Gray had been standing by the outer door—she’d been able to feel him sulking about her revelation all the way across the room. But when Jessica’s anger had rumbled along the air like lightning charged through the sky, he’d stepped closer. His warmth heating her back. At her admission, the second shock of the day, she felt him tense. His hands came up to her shoulders and for the third time, he squeezed. This time, it was punishingly hard.
She moved her hand, rested it under his, and released her claws into the soft upper flesh of his palm. He hissed, but she ignored him to carry on. “I’m certain they can help your daughter retain some of her faculties.”
The hope in Jessica’s eyes was painful to see, but it was quickly dampened down. The flames of promise washed away with broken dreams and the harsh reality of her new life on the inside. “How do I know you’re not lying?”
“Why would I lie about something like this? You know any connection to magick-wielders can lead to your current predicament. Why would I make such an admission to you if I didn’t want your help and was willing to pay for it?”
“Your mother has a high rank in the Pride. Why does she have connections to a body of people that could destroy her reputation?”
Julia cocked a brow. “It’s a family thing. She doesn’t approve, but blood is thicker than water. Things can’t always be erased, even if we try hard enough to destroy all traces of our actions.”
“You’re getting at something, but if you want answers, you have to ask the right questions. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what you’re after, but at the same time, I need some sort of written assurance that you’ll stand by your word.”
“I can understand your hesitation, but I’ll make nothing other than verbal promises.”
“You’re asking me to betray friends.”
“Friends?” Julia scoffed. “Friends who are content to let you rot in here?”
Jessica winced. “Surely you can see it from my point of view. What leverage do I have to make sure you stand by my daughter? You said yourself you’re close with Lia Drummond, the female mated to Caden. A man my daughter has hounded for years!”
“I’ll stand by her because the sins of the fathers, or in this case, mothers, should never be reaped upon the child. I’ll do what I can, regardless. But if you don’t help me, I won’t go as far as I could. I might even have to travel back to Europe to speak to the right members of the clan.”
The older woman studied Julia for seconds that could have been hours. Julia felt her gimlet stare as Jessica tried to pierce her composure to see beneath the surface, to understand what was really going on.
Unfortunately, she was out of luck. Po-faced could define her at certain times. A handy trick when it came to making an angel look like a sinner.
Gray reached for her before she could head out of the kitchen. He tucked her tightly in his arms, pressed her hard against his chest, and then lowered his head to claim her mouth. She’d expected it, and knew what was about to happen, but rather than be annoyed, she welcomed it. Embraced what was on the cards.
Her first dominated fuck.
His lips moved over hers rapaciously, sucking and nipping, only to dart licks here and there before he thrust his tongue into her mouth and kissed her like she needed to be reminded she was his. As if.
His taste filled her senses and she moaned, the sound half-broken as he continued to take her, branding her with his essence. She quivered under his touch but couldn’t stop herself from fighting back. It wasn’t in her nature to submit, and while she understood his need and a part of her, her Lioness, craved his domination, she had to make him work for it.
Pulling away, she ignored his growl and bit down on his bottom lip. When she tasted blood, felt rather than heard the threatening rumble rattling through him, she knew she’d hit home. His hands fell to her ass, and he began to knead the cheeks, pulling them apart and working at them like they were dough. It wasn’t the most comfortable sensation but the second the tips of his claws dug into her butt, her head fell back with the sting. He took immediate advantage, lowering his head and kissing her throat, suckling a small area with enough force she knew she’d have a hickey later on. Not that she cared. It felt freakin’ incredible, and she cried out when he lifted his head to glower down at her.
She stared back at him, unafraid and uncaring of his ire, and the small smile on her lips was designed to drive him crazy. It worked. He spotted it, that gentle but subtle challenge, and within seconds, she was no longer facing him but facing the kitchen. He bent her over the counter before she even had a chance to say his name. Positioning her hands on the marble, he grunted, “Keep them there.”
Her nails scored thin lines into the top, not enough to mark, but enough to squeak. He grumbled at the sound but was intent on something else. She learned just what a second later. His hands fumbled at the waist of her jeans, but with each fumble, he turned more frenzied, angered by the minute distance between them. A huge rip pierced the air as the button popped off and the zip gave way to his strength.
A whimper escaped her at his power, and she hated herself for it and mourned for her feminist sisters who would probably disown her for just a thought, but holy Lea that was H. O. T. Her fingers longed to burrow themselves in his hair, to dig them into his shoulders and to score at his skin rather than the cool marble beneath her palms. Then the faint calluses on his own digits rubbed along the curve of her butt, and another rending sound exploded along the sound waves as denim caved in to brute force.
Suddenly, she felt the wet kiss of his cock against her butt. It shocked the hell out of her, because she hadn’t heard him undress in any way, and her eyes fluttered shut when he pressed the tip of his shaft between her cheeks and burrowed down between her pussy lips. A moan escaped her as he continued down, nudging her clit, repeatedly. Back and forth, back and forth until she arched up onto tiptoe, half evading and half loving the touch. She shivered when the glans slid through her folds once more before it finally hit home, and started the long, slow slide inside her.
He took his time at first. Even as his Lion was burning up with jealousy, he took care of her, and her own beast purred at that knowledge. Before everything, his attention to her was paramount. The feeling of security that gave her was so satisfying, it made her cunt tighten around his cock. But that was the trigger. He took that tiny caress as the message it was, and he slammed in deep.
Her cry tore through the air, and his growl rumbled alongside it. Her sensitive ears quivered at the sound, and she let her head hang low as he started to fuck her. Earnestly, deeply, madly. She was his, and he was making that known. Staking his claim, telling her she was his and no other’s.
She didn’t need the reminder, but she understood. To come face-to-face with one of his ex-lovers, or for him to have to come into close contact with one, would have stirred her own beast.
As quickly as he’d fucked into her, he stopped. She mewed, the tiny sound begging him to continue, to take her as he needed to take her…but he rearranged her. He pushed her legs closer together and slipped his hand down the front of her now ruined jeans and panties to play with the soft flesh there...