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    Chapter One

    Some bodies just wouldn’t stay buried–no matter how much dirt you shoved on top of them. Those bodies…they just kept digging out of their graves.

    And chasing a girl until she was so damn tired of running. So tired that she’d consider trading her own soul, just for a few moments of safety.

    Paige Sloan stared up at the high stone walls of the werewolf compound. It had been ten years since she’d last been inside of those thick walls. Only she hadn’t been looking for protection back then. She’d been looking for love.

    Will he even remember me?

    Paige stood there, trembling from the cold–she hated the bone-numbing cold of Alaska–and then she heard footsteps coming her way. Strong. Determined. She sucked in a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. Showtime. She just had to play this bit right and get past the guards. Paige lifted her arms into the air. “I’m not carrying a weapon!” Better to just go ahead and get that part out early.

    Werewolves could be too unpredictable. She didn’t want them attacking first, then trying to get answers from her cold, lifeless body later.

    The gate opened with a screech. Two men came rushing out. They weren’t carrying weapons. Then again, they didn’t need to carry extra firepower. If they wanted, she knew those two men could shift into powerful wolves in an instant.

    Most humans didn’t realize the truth about the world that surrounded them. Humans thought monsters were make-believe. Just stories to scare children in the darkness of the night.

    If only.

    Paige knew monsters were real. They were the nightmares that walked the earth.

    “Vampire…” One of the men snarled the accusation at her, and just that quickly, his claws burst from his fingertips.

    Under the moonlight, she saw his nostrils flare and knew the guy had caught the scent that revealed her for exactly what she was.

    A monster. A vampire.

    “You want to die, vamp?” The other guard demanded. He was the taller of the two, with close-cropped, dark hair, and huge, hulking shoulders. “Is that why you’re here?”

    Well, they weren’t trying to rip her open yet, so that was a good sign. Paige cleared her throat and kept her hands up. “Technically, I’ve already died.” That was how she’d become a vamp and–

    The smaller werewolf lunged at her. Smaller, but still wicked strong. He wrapped his claws around her neck and snapped, “You’re about to die again.” His dark eyes promised a world of pain.

    She could do without that promise. Been there, done that. Not really interested in that scene again, thanks.

    Paige didn’t fight his hold, not yet. If things got desperate, then she’d be the one delivering the pain. But first… “Drake …” She whispered the name that had haunted her memories and a small, icy cloud appeared before her mouth. She ignored the cold and focused on what mattered right then. She needed these wolves…and their new alpha. “Drake Wyler.”

    The werewolf holding her leaned in even closer. She could see that his blond hair was long, brushing his shoulders, and his face was all hard angles and lines. “What do you want with the alpha?”

    This was the part that would be tricky. Slowly, because she didn’t want to set the guys off, Paige lifted the long necklace that had fallen to rest between her breasts. She saw the blond werewolf’s eyes widen as he stared at the necklace. Stared at it–then hurriedly jumped the hell away from her.

    That was right. No other werewolves were supposed to touch her, not when… “I belong to him,” Paige said simply.

    And in an instant, those werewolves started tripping over themselves as they hurried to open the gate for her. Sure, they might hate her kind, but as long as she had their alpha’s protection, they couldn’t touch her.

    Well, not if they wanted to keep living.

    Paige stared into that wolf compound. Dark. Dangerous. But, hopefully, not as deadly as what waited behind her.

    And if she could just get the alpha to overlook that little matter of her vanishing for ten years…

    Then maybe she’d have a chance of surviving the coming days and nights.

    Maybe.

    Maybe not.

    The werewolves took her into the heart of the compound. Right inside the big, three story house with heavy stone walls that stood starkly against the night.

    They walked into the foyer, and the tap of her boots seemed to echo on the marble floor. Marble. The wolves were kicking things up a notch. Normally, the vamps were the ones who liked to throw around their money.

    She glanced down at her scuffed boots. Not that I ever had money to toss at anyone or anything.

    But it looked like Drake had plenty of money now. And one big, fancy house. This place wasn’t where she belonged, and soon enough, she’d be leaving. After she took care of a little business.

    “This way.” The werewolf on her right–the blond one who’d wrapped his claws around her neck moments before–was pointing to the stairs.

    She nodded quickly and followed him up those winding stairs. Then they hurried down a hallway. Turned around a corner. As they headed down that quiet hallway, Paige got a really, really bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Are you taking me to Drake’s office?”

    The werewolf beside her, the dark-haired one, just grunted.

    That bad feeling got worse. This looked like private quarters to her. Like they were taking her–

    A door jerked open to her left. And then, right there, bigger and even sexier than she remembered, with wide shoulders that brushed the edges of the doorframe, a muscled and bare chest, a wild curl of black hair, and eyes that blazed golden fire…right there stood the werewolf alpha, Drake Wyler.

    The man she’d loved and lost before.

    The man she needed now.

    But at that moment, he stared at her with so much fury she almost felt the heat of his glittering gaze burn her skin.

    “Paige.” Her name was a growl of rage. Okay, so coming here hadn’t been the best idea but–

    His nostrils flared.

    Hell. Her whole body tensed. With werewolves, their sense of smell was so strong that it only took one whiff to realize… “Vampire.” The word was a curse.

    She didn’t flinch. Well, perhaps she did. When he’d known her before, his voice had always been softened with need, with love.

    Not hardened with deadly rage.

    He grabbed her, not with his claws out, like the other werewolf had, but Drake wrapped his hands around her shoulders and pulled her over the threshold of the room–and into his arms.

    Then he kissed her. His lips pressed down on hers, and because she’d wanted him, for so long, Paige kissed him back. Her mouth opened beneath his. Her tongue met his, and the desire that only Drake seemed to be able to stir burned through her.

    Her heart raced. Her hips arched toward him even as her nipples tightened against his chest. One kiss…and she craved. It was the way it had always been with them. She’d never wanted anything more than she wanted him.

    And she’d never been meant to have anything less.

    His tongue slid over her lower lip. Stroked into her mouth. Her wolf had become an even better kisser over the years. Seducing, taking, and making her want so much more. Making her–

    Drake’s head lifted. He stared down at her–with that strong, chiseled face that often slipped into her dreams, a face that had a few more fine lines now, but the same square jaw, the same high cheekbones, and the same sensual but slightly cruel lips. His eyes blazed so brightly, and she could see the same raw lust she felt reflected in his stare.

    The years hadn’t changed the way he felt. He still needed, just as much as she did. He still–

    “Guess that means she is yours…” The blond werewolf behind them muttered. “A vampire…with a werewolf, how twisted is–”

    Drake pushed Paige away and grabbed the wolf in one fast, brutal move. “I saw your claw marks on her throat.”

    Paige lifted her hand and touched the skin. She felt the light wetness of her own blood. Huh. She hadn’t even noticed the sting. After all she’d experienced in the last ten years, what did few scratches matter?

    “You don’t ever touch her.” Drake tossed the guy down the hallway. The smaller werewolf’s head thudded into a wall. “You come at her with your claws again, Michael, and I’ll rip you open.”

    Ah, all right, so Drake thought that the scratches mattered. She hadn’t remembered him being quite so blood-thirsty.

    He swung back toward her. The lust and fury were still battling in his eyes. This wasn’t the man she’d fallen for all those years ago. The guy staring back at her–he was a primal wolf.

    “Make sure no one disturbs me,” Drake ordered and he stalked back toward her. She should speak. Say something. She hadn’t said a word to the guy yet. Maybe she should start with something like…Hi, there, long time, no see. You might wonder why I disappeared without a word. I’ve got a really good story to tell you.

    More like a nightmare tale. A nightmare that she’d just brought to his door.

    And the door closed behind him with a soft click. Her gaze flew around the room. She’d been right. This was definitely a bedroom. Complete with one huge, rumpled bed. But at least it looked like Drake had been sleeping alone. If there’d been a she-wolf in there with him, Paige might have just let her own claws out.

    When he touched her, she jumped. Paige wanted to hide her fear, but being a werewolf, he could probably smell the scent on her. Werewolves had such damn superior senses. Better than anyone or anything else in the world.

    His fingers brushed over the curve of her breasts. The guy had to slow down. This couldn’t happen. Not yet anyway. They had to talk first. “Drake, I–”

    He lifted the necklace. Stared at the heavy gold etched with the carving of a wolf’s head.

    She cleared her throat.

    “Why are you wearing this?” Drake asked her, his voice the rumbling mix of darkness and lust that had always been able to make her yearn.

    She was yearning already, but she pushed back the need and focused on what the guy was saying. Her necklace. He’d given it to her when she’d turned nineteen. The day he’d told her what he really was.

    Werewolf.

    That had been the day when her life had started to spiral out of control.

    Time to woman up and talk. She swiped her tongue over her lips, tasted him, and managed to say, “Y-you told me…you said a werewolf would never attack me if I wore it.” The necklace had been a sign of pack protection.

    His strong, tanned fingers closed around the necklace. Then he yanked and broke the gold chain in one vicious tug that seemed to claw across her heart. “I told you,” he said, voice even darker, “that this necklace meant you belonged to me.”

    Ah, right, that rage was burning so bright in him.

    “But then you left.” A muscle jerked in Drake’s jaw. “Disappeared.”

    Paige backed up a step. When a werewolf this big and angry was coming at you, a smart woman backed the hell up.

    “You vanished,” his fingers had whitened around the necklace, “when you were supposed to be mine.”

    Yes, a human named Paige Sloan had promised to love him, always. But then she’d stopped being a human, and she’d become the one thing that she knew he hated.

    Vampire.

    “You don’t taste like death,” Drake told her.

    She flinched at the cold and brutal words. Werewolves always were saying that vamps smelled and tasted like death–that was one of their many insults. So why hadn’t she expected that slam from him? Her chin lifted. “And right now, you don’t look particularly furry.” She’d never actually seen him shift. She didn’t want to, either. Paige squared her shoulders and held his gaze. “I guess we’re both full of surprises, huh?”

    “You can fucking say that again.”

    Her back teeth clenched together. She hadn’t expected the guy to run to her, wrap her in his arms, and immediately swear his undying love. She’d let that dream die a long time ago. But, jeez, did he want to rip her soul out or what? “Look, I know you aren’t exactly happy to see me–”

    He advanced. She backed up once more. The last thing she wanted was for him to put those big, warm hands of his on her again. When he touched her, her body went into sexual overdrive. She’d gone way too long without a lover.

    No one but him.

    Right. Too damn long.

    But lust had to wait. For now.

    “Do you know how long I looked for you?” Drake demanded. She could see the edge of his fangs. Probably not a good sign. What was that saying in the vamp world? When you saw a wolf’s fangs, you were about to see hell. He shook his head slowly and said, “You vanished.”

    It wasn’t like she’d wanted to leave him. But he’d been marked to be the next alpha of his pack and she’d been–

    Bitten.

    “I didn’t think you wanted a vampire turning up on your doorstep.” Some of her own anger–the anger she usually worked so hard to keep in check–broke through her fraying control. “Even if I was a vamp that you used to screw.”

    He pounced. She should have expected the move, but she’d been around humans too long, and werewolves, damn, they could move fast.

    In two seconds, he had her on his bed, sprawled amidst the covers, while he held her arms penned to the mattress. “You weren’t a vampire then.”

    His muscled body pressed against her. No, correction, his aroused body pressed against her. There was no mistaking the bulge of his cock.

    “You were human then,” he said, and his hold tightened around her. “Not vampire, not–”

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