“Motherfucking douche nozzle!” Kate Caldwell cursed as she slammed her palm on her keyboard. She reached over to her side table, grabbed the half-empty can of POWERJOLTZ energy drink, and took a healthy swig. Swinging back to face the computer monitor, she took a deep breath and pressed “unmute” on her phone.
“Are you there, Miss Caldwell?”
“I’m here, Mr. Dennis.” You twatwaffle. She bit her lip so hard to stop herself from saying that out loud it nearly bled. “Now, tell me again what’s wrong with the buttons for your app this time?”
“Well, I think you need to move them more to the left,” Martin Dennis said.
“Uhm, you told me to move them to right the last time,” she reminded him.
He ignored her. “And also, the background is too blue.”
“But your last email said, and I quote, ‘make the background blue-er’.”
“Yes, but now it’s too blue.”
Kate pressed the mute button again and let out a scream. After two seconds, she unmuted the call. “So, a little less blue but not too blue.” This time, she couldn’t stop the sarcastic tone in her voice.
Dennis let out an unhappy grunt. “Is there a problem, Miss Caldwell? You know, I could go to another designer who can do this for us.”
“No, no problem at all.” Her fingers turned into claws and scratched down the leather arm rests of her chair. Damn wolf. “I’ll get to work.”
“Great, great!” he said. “Now, before you go, there are a couple of other things I need to talk about ….”
Kate gave a silent groan and glanced at the clock. She really needed to get out of here now. As if it wasn’t bad enough, the notifications on her personal phone were blowing up as Martin Dennis kept droning on and on about another project they were working on.
She wanted to tear her hair out. But Barkely Industries was one of her best anchor clients, and she needed the money. Sure, if she had taken a full-time job at Lennox Corp. she’d be raking in the dough, but Kate preferred the freedom of being a freelance software engineer and app designer. There was nothing like being her own boss and dictating her own hours, but it was times like this when she dreamt of having a corner office, putting her heels up on her desk, and ordering her minions around.
“… did you get that last thing, Miss Caldwell?” he asked.
“What? Uh, of course Mr. Dennis.” What the fuck had he been droning on about? “I really should get off the phone now, so I can make these changes for you.”
“Right. I’ll expect the changes by morning. Have a good day, Miss Caldwell.”
Ugh, she hated how he always called her that. No matter how many times she told him to call her Kate, he insisted on calling her ‘Miss Caldwell’ in that condescending sneer of his. “You too.” Thundercunt.
Kate had never been so happy to end a call. The line had barely dropped before she was on her feet, grabbing her phone, jacket, and keys and heading out the door.
Her inner wolf urged her on. It understood the urgency of the events happening in Blackstone.
“I know,” she said as she took the stairs two at a time, not bothering to wait for the elevator. With her shifter speed, she made the trip to the garage in less than five minutes. She couldn’t waste a single second. Blackstone was in danger, and they needed everyone’s hands on deck.
She dashed toward the bright yellow vintage Mustang parked at the end. It was her brother Nathan’s car, as was the loft she was currently staying in now. He had given it to her for safe keeping. “No, Kate, I’m not giving her to you,” Nathan had said when she asked if she could keep the car. “And you better take care of her!”
Hmmph. As if she couldn’t. While she may not have had Nathan or their father’s mechanical know-how, she knew how to respect a car, especially a classy piece like the ‘Stang. Her dad promised her they’d fix up a car for her too, once him and Ma were back from their retirement trip this year. She couldn’t wait as she had already began researching what she wanted. Maybe a Chevelle or a Charger. Electric blue, with a stripe down the middle. She could dye her hair to match, too. But that would have to wait since she needed to pony up the cash first. House sitting for Nathan and Violet helped cut her bills, but she had a long way to go.
For now at least, she could have the pleasure of driving this baby. As she turned the key in the ignition and pressed her foot on the gas, she could hear and feel the power of the engine. The vibrations sent a thrill through her. Even better than sex, she thought as she put the car in reverse and backed out of the parking spot.
Not that she’d had any earthshaking experiences lately. When was the last time …? She didn’t even want to think about it. Too long. Does your hooha close up when you don’t use it? Maybe save that one for a Google search later.
She floored it the entire drive, making it to the Lennox Corp. Headquarters in no time, waving at Jenkins the security guard who recognized her and opened the gates as she approached.
As soon as she parked, she whipped her phone out to text Sybil Lennox, her best friend, who was already at Lennox Corp. However, when she heard the flapping of wings and the loud thud as the ground shook, she put the phone away and got out of the car.
A large, twenty-foot dragon had landed in the parking lot, dropping off two figures she recognized as Luke Lennox and—Thank Jeebus—little Grayson Mills. From what she’d heard, the bad guys had kidnapped him and his mother. Luke and Sybil must have found him. But where was Georgina Mills? As the dragon flew off, the two dashed through the doors of the main building. Sybil would tell her.
Kate rushed in their direction but slowed down as she got closer to the entrance. As she predicted, seconds later, Sybil Lennox walked around from behind the Lennox Headquarters building, buttoning up her blouse.
“Where have you been?” Sybil admonished as her silvery gray eyes landed on Kate. “I’ve been texting and calling all morning!”
“I know, I know!” She put her hands up. “Mr. Douchenozzle McDickbag kept me on the phone.”
“Martin Dennis again?” Sybil asked as they entered the glass doors and walked to the elevators. “What was the matter this time?”
Kate rolled her eyes. “What isn’t the matter? I can’t seem to please the guy. I think it’s because he wants my contract to go to his son. Some programmer bro who just got out of college.” She huffed and watched as the numbers on the elevator display ascended. “Anyway, catch me up to speed.”
As they made their way to the fifteenth floor, Sybil explained what had happened after their friend Georgina and her bear cub, Grayson, were kidnapped. The boy was somehow able to escape their captors, and he found a way to get help and get in contact with them. Sybil and her brother Luke had just arrived from picking them up. Georgina, however, was still with the captors.
“Those sons of bitches!” Kate said.
“We’ll find her,” Sybil reassured her. “We have to.”
The elevator halted, signaling their arrival at the secret headquarters of the The Shifter Protection Agency or simply, The Agency. There was a flurry of activity everywhere, and one of the agents pointed them toward the glass office in the corner. When they walked in, Kate realized that everyone was already there. Like, everyone, including Mom, Pop, Nathan, and Violet, who had flown in from out of the country. Shit.
“Sorry we’re late!” Kate rushed in, not waiting for Sybil. “Motherfuckin’ client wouldn’t let me off the phone. Kept on and on about how he hated the GUI I made. I told him to stick it up his ass and—”
It was like she ran into an invisible solid brick wall, the force nearly knocking her back. But it wasn’t a wall. No, it was a pair of eyes the color of the sea that seemed to have had her pinned in place. They bore right into her. His handsome face remained passive, but his nostrils flared.
Mine, her wolf whined.
And his wolf. Oh wow. It roared back so wild and strong that it pushed at her like a wave.
“Petros?” Christina Lennox, head of the The Shifter Protection Agency in Blackstone, said. “You were saying?”
He broke his gaze, turning away from her. “Yes. I mean ….”
Everyone’s attention went back to him as he spoke. And why wouldn’t it? This was life and death after all. It was a good thing too, because then she could ogle him without anyone noticing. She couldn’t help it. He was so gorgeous, almost too gorgeous. His hair was dark as midnight, and his shoulders were broad and wide. The black shirt he wore clung to his well-developed muscles, and whorls of ink snaked out from under the sleeves. The fabric was so tight, she could see the outline of his abs. His olive skin was tanned, and she wondered if he was the same color all over—
“Kate!” Sybil hissed beside her, nudging her. “Are you listening?”
“Huh? Yeah!” Of course she was listening to him. How could she not? That damn accent was sexy, and the vibrations of his low voice sent heat straight to her core.
Her wolf said it so loudly this time, she feared he heard it. And it was like he did, because those blue-green eyes flicked back at her. Her own wolf whimpered and turned, raising its hind quarters to—
Stop it, bitch!
Oh no. This couldn’t be. This gorgeous, over six feet of hunky deliciousness with the bangin’ bod couldn’t be her mate.
No no no! There was some mistake. They hadn’t even been introduced. And she didn’t want a mate. Her life was fine just the way it was. She did what she wanted, whenever she wanted. Hell, she did who she wanted, though at this moment the thought of being with any other man made her mouth turn to dust.
No. Absolutely not.
They would have a serious discussion about this. Maybe he didn’t want a mate, either. He was hot; she bet all the girls threw themselves at him. Why would he want to tie himself down?
Mine, her wolf growled.
Yes, they would have a calm, adult discussion. Of course, not right now. Maybe later, when they saved Blackstone and her panties weren’t on fire just looking at him, they would both realize they couldn’t possibly be mates.
“So,” Christina began, “I’ll start assigning teams of two to lead volunteers—”
“I’m going with Vi!” Kate announced, stomping over to her brother’s mate.
The tiger shifter’s light blue eyes widened with surprise. “Me?”
“What?” Nathan groused. “She should be with me.”
“You’ve had her all to yourself for weeks,” Kate pointed out.
“Shush!” She looped her arm through Violet’s. “It’s settled.”
The moment Christina finished her briefing with everyone, Kate practically dragged Violet out of the office.
“So,” Violet began, “how is everything?”
“Good,” Kate said, glancing around them. “I mean, you know, aside from the whole ‘our enemies planted bombs all over the place to kill us all’ thing. And you? How are the orphans? Anything new?”
Violet gave her a knowing smile. “The girls are healthy and happy. And as for something new,” she lowered her voice, “I’m pregnant.”
“What?” Kate stopped in her tracks. “Oh my God! Who else knows?”
“Just your mother and father. They were planning to visit us next week with my parents, but we had to tell them as soon as we got here,” Violet said.
“Oh my God!” She wrapped Violet in a tight hug. “I’m so happy for you guys! I’m going to be an Auntie!”
“Yes, happy news, for sure.” Violet rubbed her stomach. “And well, maybe a cousin to follow soon for my little one?”
“Huh?” Kate feigned. “You know what? I think it doesn’t make sense for us to be partners—” She tried to turn and get away, but Violet’s grip on her arm was too strong, plus Kate would never push a pregnant broad.
“That wolf is your mate.”
The tiger shifter crossed her arms over her chest. “You know who. The big, surly-looking guy. I know the look that passed between you two.”
Damn. Violet was too smart for her own good. “It’s not what you think,” Kate said. “I don’t even know him. We might not be compatible.”
“Well, then, you’ll have to get to know him. Don’t tell Nathan I said so, but that Greek wolf is hot.”
“Yes, he’s from Lykos.”
“Oh.” So he came here with Ari Stavros all the way from Greece. Which meant he wouldn’t be staying too long. She convinced herself that was for the best.
“Speaking of which.” Violet nodded her head to the left.
Kate turned her gaze down the hall and swallowed a big lump in her throat. The Greek wolf was stalking toward them, his large body tense as he walked with slow, lumbering steps. She found herself paralyzed by his gaze again, and it was only when Violet kicked her shin that she was able to move her limbs. By this time, he was already inches away from her. He raised an arm toward her.
“Sorry, gotta go!” Kate said, ducking under his massive bicep. “I think I hear Sybil calling me!” She waved as she dashed down the hallway.
She turned the corner, listening for footsteps behind her, but it seemed he didn’t follow her. Placing a hand over her hammering heart, she calmed herself. Okay, she thought, all I have to do is avoid him until he leaves. Or, rather, first, save the town while avoiding him. Easy peasy. She was a master at avoiding responsibility all her life; she could escape one wolf for a few hours.
* * *
“Oh God,” Kate exclaimed as she watched Uncle Hank transform from a giant fire-breathing dragon into his human form. “We did it.”
Blackstone was saved. Thanks to the people who stayed behind to look for the bombs planted by The Organization, they were able to find all the explosives and disable their remote detonation devices. The Chief, their leader, tried to set them off manually, but Luke and Uncle Hank had stopped them.
Relief swept through her, and as the adrenaline left her body, her shoulders sagged. She had spent the last few hours combing every inch of her assigned quadrant for bombs with her partner, Kendra Johnson, a female officer from Blackstone P.D. They found two right behind Rosie’s Cafe and Bakeshop and had quickly called it in so they could be diffused. They were guarding the bombs, making sure none of the goons from The Organization could get to them, when they heard the sound of gunshots coming from Main Street.
Kate ran out and saw everything—how Uncle Hank had swooped down to protect Luke with his bulletproof body. When fire and lava spewed from his mouth, the heat was nearly unbearable, and Kate covered her face with her arm.
But now, it was over. And everything would be fine. Oh, and it looked like Luke and Georgina were reuniting. They were embracing and—
“You have been avoiding me.”
Slowly, she pivoted on her heel. “I wouldn’t call it avoiding as much as, uh, giving us some space.”
Ocean-colored eyes stared down at her. “I do not need any space from you, mate.”
“Wait!” She raised her hands as he approached her.
He stopped. “Yes?”
“Well, I—oh look over there! I think there’s a bomb!” She pointed behind him, and he turned his head. While he was distracted, she took her chance and made a mad dash for the opposite direction.
Ha! That stu—“Hey! What the fuck?”
The entire world turned upside down. Oh no, wait, it wasn’t the world. It was her. That cocky bastard had her over his shoulder and was now carrying her away to God knows where.
“Put me down, you—you—caveman!” she screamed at him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” She kicked her legs and beat her fists down his broad back, but he didn’t even flinch.
All her blood rushed to her head, and she lost all sense of thought. Yeah, that was probably why she was staring at his ass instead of trying to fight him off. And oh fucking hell, he smelled good. Hmmm … like the sea, clean and fresh with just a hint of sweat. Her wolf was going crazy, urging her to touch him.
She yelped when he finally put her upright. Where the hell were they? Glancing around, she saw they were in the empty parking lot behind the bookshop on Main Street. The blood draining out of her head made her dizzy, and she stepped back, bracing herself against the solid wall behind her.
“Are you all right?” he asked, his voice suddenly gentle.
“I’m fine!” she said. “No thanks to you. How could you do that? Carrying me off like some troglodyte?”
“You know. Caveman. Sticks and rocks. Fire. Cave paintings.”
He gave her a puzzled look. “English is not my first language, but I will take note and Google it later.”
“Yeah, you do that.” She tried to turn away from him, but he placed his arm across her, planting his palm on the wall to stop her.
“You are my mate,” he said. “You must have felt it. Heard our wolves call to each other. I’ve searched for so long … I thought I would never find you. You’re more exquisite than I could have imagined.”
His words sent a shiver through her, and her knees wobbled like jelly. He thought she was exquisite? She couldn’t remember any man ever saying that to her. Maybe hot. And sexy. And that they liked her small tits. But not exquisite, like she was something to be worshipped and cherished forever, not just for a couple hours of fun.
No! This wasn’t right! This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. This was too much. “Look, uh, what’s your name again?”
“Right. Petros.” She put a hand on his chest. Jeez, it was like a rock. “This isn’t how we do things in America.”
“I know, but you wouldn’t—”
“Look, I don’t believe in mates.”
“You do not?”
She shook her head. “I believe in choices. I’m a modern woman, you know? And I believe we should have a choice in who we spend the rest of our lives with, or if we even choose to do that at all.”
His jaw set. “I would never force myself on you.”
“What? Oh, I’m not talking about that.” Of course, her dirty, dirty mind immediately went to that, and she was pretty sure there wouldn’t be any need for force. “Look, I’m sure you’re a great guy, Petros. I’m just not looking for anyone right now, ya know? My life is fine the way it is.”
“But we are mates,” he said. “Fated to be together, me and you … uh …” His brows knitted together.
“Kate,” she supplied, rolling her eyes.
“Kate.” He gave a nod. “A beautiful name. Like you.”
He reached down and wrapped his large hands around her wrists, the touch sending a zing of electricity across her skin. “Kate-mine, you are a worthy mate,” he said. “And you will be a strong mother to our pups—”
“Just hold on a minute!” she cried, struggling to raise her hands. “Did you not understand a single word I said? About not looking for anyone right now?”
He nodded. “Of course you are not looking for anyone. I am already here.”
But she didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence as he pulled her to him and his lips landed on hers.
Holy. Mother. Of. God.
When she was sixteen, Kate once picked up one of those trashy romance novels Sybil used to read and was so bored by the descriptions that she threw it away. It sounded trite. Trumpets and angels singing in the background? Shivers down the spine? Feeling breathless? It sounded like a load of bull crap, and no boy she ever kissed before that and since then made her feel that way.
But this kiss? Oh fuck.
Petros’ lips were warm against hers, rough and demanding, coaxing her to respond. Kate realized he let go of her wrists, so she wound her arms around his neck to pull him down closer. His body slammed against hers, pushing her up against the wall and trapping her there. That fucking amazing tongue of his snaked inside her mouth, tangling with her own. He tasted like the sun and the ocean and the earth … she couldn’t describe it, but that was the closest thing she could think of. Inside her, her wolf howled in delight.
Hands moved down from her waist, over her ass, and under her knees. He lifted her up and wrapped her legs around his waist. Fucking hell, she could feel the significant bulge of his cock rubbing right against her. Right there. Her panties were soaked through in an instant. He was perfectly lined up against the seam of her pussy, like he knew just how to position his body to send tingles of pleasure all over her. Oh God, she was going to come, right out here in the open, riding Petros as he continued to rub himself on her.
They both froze, and while Kate’s arms fell down to her side, Petros didn’t move and kept her pinned against the wall.
“I hate to interrupt … whatever this is,” Jason Lennox said in a wry voice. “But we’ve still got work to do.”
Petros cleared his throat, unwound her legs from his waist, then set her down. He turned around. “Of course. Apologies. We were carried away.”
“From what I heard, you were the one doing the carrying away.” Jason looked at Kate. “Kate, are you … okay? Do you need me to—”
Petros stepped in front of her. “Of course she is okay. She is my mate.”
“Oh.” Jason sounded relieved. “Well, I guess I can tell Christina to give you five more minutes.”
“Wait!” Kate called, but Jason was already gone. She looked at Petros and then smacked him on the arm. Ouch, that hurt. “Why did you say that to him?”
“Because it is the truth.”
“But that’s not … you can’t … that’s not the point!” She let out a frustrated sound.
“What does it matter? Soon everyone will know,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Arggh!” She stamped her foot in irritation. “You stubborn wolf! Why won’t you listen to me?”
He placed a hand on her shoulder. “Kate-mine, I am listening to you. To your wolf. It wants me as much as you do.”
“Gah!” she choked in anger. She wanted to deny it, but for some reason she couldn’t make the words come out of her mouth. “I can’t do this! You … you stay away from me! Go back to Lykos!”
She waved a hand at him. “I swear to God, you come near me and you’ll regret it!”
Petros’ face turned stormy, but he nodded. “I will leave you be for now. Perhaps you need some time to come to your senses.” He turned those intense blue-green eyes back at her. “But know this: you cannot stop fate.”
She stared after him as he walked away. The wind whooshed right out of her lungs, and it was hard to breathe. His words rang in her head. They sounded like a promise. No, they were a threat.
Oh yeah? Well, she didn’t do well when she was threatened. I’ll show you, asshole. Oh no, she was not going to just bend over to fate. She would fight it kicking and screaming.