The Next Morning
"Who are you?"
I came awake with a jerk, disoriented and aching all over. A heavy male body lay beside me---we were both naked except for the sheet covering our bodies.
Embarrassment stained my skin bright red. I searched my memories of the night before, trying to figure out how I had gotten here while attempting to wrap the sheet around my body. I stopped when I realized I'd leave my bed partner totally nude.
My skin felt too hot and too tight as I tried to work out how to get myself out of the situation.
I wasn't used to being around naked men even if I was a werewolf. We cared about propriety no matter what humans thought!
I remembered myself saying over and over, "I'm your mate!"
I eased myself off the bed to look for clothes. I tried to be as quiet as I could so I didn't wake up the stranger. I didn't take the sheet to spare his decency, instead sacrificing my own modesty: I'd rather be caught naked than have to face a naked man I'd evidently seduced with all the subtlety of a bitch in heat!
His scent was all over me, all over everything really. Rich and masculine, every time I breathed I felt as if I was being surrounded by the forest with hints of wood and a warm spice I couldn't name. I wanted to crawl back into bed beside him and never leave.
My wolf, Rayne, grumbled in my head, "We shouldn't leave! He is our mate!"
An open suitcase was on the dresser. I took a white button-down shirt out to cover myself. He was huge compared to me; his shirt was long enough on my body to cover me almost to my knees. I took a necktie to act as a belt around my waist.
"We have to get home to Ethan! He's only fourteen, Rayne! What if Patrick's debtors come for him?"
"Our mate matters more! Can't you tell? He smells so good! He's the strongest Alpha we've ever met."
Shock had me turning to look at the male asleep behind me.
He was an Alpha?
Rayne groused louder in my head, "Of course he's an Alpha! Take a deep breath! No one will dare hurt us with his scent marking us as his."
Was he Alpha to a whole pack?
I looked at the collection of personal belongings littering the top of the dress beside the suitcase. I left his wallet, keys, and money clip alone. I was no thief!
A gold card case had the initials "TW" on it; I found business cards inside all saying they belonged to Tyler Wright of Moonrise Entertainment.
House Wright was the Alpha House of Moonrise Pack.
They were the biggest werewolf pack in the USA in both members and resources. They could buy and sell any of the other packs without breaking their bank accounts.
Every wolf knew them; their Alpha was an older male, older than my father even.
I supposed this meant the man in the bed was related to them somehow, but he wasn't their leader which was a relief.
Knowing in part who he was helped shake off some of my fear though my hands wouldn't stay still, trembling from nerves as I prayed with all of my strength I would get away before he awoke.
Rayne continued to insist we stay with our mate. I took one of his cards so we could contact him later.
We had to get to our brother. Ethan was only a child!
I couldn't stop worrying over my fated mate being a real, fully grown Alpha. He might even be the Alpha of a sister pack to House Wright. I didn't know enough about Moonrise Pack to know their lower houses.
I knew I had to leave before he woke up though. An Alpha would stop me from leaving until we were properly marked as each other's mate. His wolf instincts would insist I stay with him no matter how worried I was about my baby brother.
Ethan was too young to fend for himself, period, and I knew our father wouldn't protect him. Patrick -I refused to call him 'Dad' after what he'd done to me- had proven he didn't care about his children when he sold his daughter to pay his gambling debt.
I couldn't find a phone in the room other than the man's personal cell phone which was locked.
I left the room after checking the hallway was clear; I took the elevator down to the lobby level where I saw the word 'LUST' on the wall. I blushed again as I realized I was in a place famous for pleasure.
As I got off the elevator, a woman in a skintight black dress came over to greet me, holding a tablet in her hands, "May I be of service?"
I steadfastly refused to consider what sort of 'services' she might offer.
"Yes. Can you please call me a ride?"
"Of course," she replied smoothly, pulling up a rideshare app on her screen, "What's the address?"
I started to give her my home address only to stop when I realized it probably wasn't smart to go there.
I gave my best friend Bella's address instead as I knew I'd be safe with her family. We had only met our freshman year in high school, but Bella was more like a sister to me than a friend.
On the ride to Bella, Rayne fussed, "I want to go back! We left our mate with neither of us marked. What if he thinks we're rejecting him? What if he thinks we aren't proud to belong to him?"
"What if he thinks the sun no longer rises in the East or sets in the West, Rayne? He'll get over it. Ethan is only a boy. He needs us to make sure he's safe because Patrick isn't going to protect him."
Rayne would get over leaving our mate this once.
We'd have the rest of our lives to be with our mate.
Ethan would only have a life at all if we took care of him.
Bella surprised me by giving me my cell phone as soon as I came through the door.
"I found it with your backpack outside school. I went to my parents, but we didn't know what to do except call Patrick. He told us---"
She stopped talking and looked away from me. The look on her face made it clear Patrick hadn't said anything nice to her family when they'd called worried about me.
"It doesn't matter. Thank you, Bella. Thank you so, so much."
I straightened my shoulders as I pulled up Ethan's name to call him. The phone only rang once before being answered.
"Ethan! Are you---"
"It's about time you called!"
Patrick's voice stunned me into silence.
"I hope you're happy! They took your brother after you ran off. If you had just stayed the night with them, shown 'em a good time, you'd be home by now and your brother wouldn't be missing."
"A good time?" I repeated.
My lips felt numb.
"They said you ran off to some Alpha. Figures you'd find the only single Alpha in the place. I knew you were a slut just like your mother. Did you have fun with him? I hope you had fun. They're going to kill your brother if you don't get the money they want."
"If I don't get the money? How am I supposed to get them any money?!"
Patrick snarled, "That's your problem! I did my part. I gave them you. The debt became yours the second you ran out of the room! It's five hundred grand. They get it or they kill Ethan."
I had never hated anyone as much as I hated Patrick in that moment; Rayne growled inside my head with the desire to tear out his throat. He was no father. He wasn't even a man.
"You---you don't even deserve to be called an omega! You deserve to die for refusing to help your own family!"
"Ask your new Alpha for help! What's his name anyway? Did you even bother to get it?"
"Tyler Wright," I snapped.
"Tyler Wright?" Patrick practically yelled, "You're lying! Whatever. Call Mr. Tyler Wright to help you get Ethan back. The Wrights can afford it."
"Ethan is your son!" I cried, refusing to even consider using my new mate for money.
"And I can have another one! I'll send you the details. Good fucking luck."
He hung up before I could say any more and my phone buzzed in my hand as messages began to come through.
Bella asked, "Are you sure they've taken Ethan?"
I opened the messages Patrick sent, reading them quickly as feelings of dread swept over me.
The last message was a video clip.
"It's a video."
I showed Bella the message; she took a deep breath before taking my phone to hold between us. Her hand was steadier than mine.
Ice started to race through my veins as I saw Ethan bound to a chair. My shaking hands froze as I took in his bloody face; my body was an ice sculpture by the time I noted his battered face and taped mouth.
A man in a mask explained Ethan was safe for a week---"Then we send you more of these little home movies. You'll get another seven days to get the money or he dies. You'll get a video of that, too. Two weeks, Pat. Or else."
The message cut off and left us staring at each other, both too frozen with fear to speak.
We were both crying when Bella's parents came home. They asked what was going on and it took everything in me to answer.
"I have to get half a million dollars or my brother Ethan dies!"
13 Days Later "I'm nowhere near close," I groaned, rubbing my forehead as I leaned away from Bella's laptop. Bella admitted, "I don't know where else we can look for money. We've mortgaged all the properties available to you, Patrick, anything we had records of from your mom's estate, and everything my parents can offer. Our house is already under mortgage. We only have two days left." Time was not on our side. "What about the banks? No. We've talked to every bank. What about other lenders?" I was panicking, nearly hyperventilating. The kidnappers had been sending video clips of Ethan being beaten every day. "Yes. We talked to all of them except---" "Nathan can't help. I can't even ask. House Lewis isn't involved in this. They don't need me dragging them down too. Besides. How would I explain this to him?" I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. I was capable. I had always been good at find
3 Years Later"Happy Third Mating Anniversary!"Tyler didn't reply to me as I mind-linked him. I knew he heard me all the same. As my mate, he couldn't block my messages even if he didn't choose to reply to them."Please come home right after work today. I'm preparing a special surprise to celebrate the occasion. You'll love it. I promise." I could feel a spark of interest from Tyler's side of the bond though he remained silent.Most females would have been at least a little concerned if their mate refused to respond to them, but I knew my situation wasn't ordinary.I was the offspring of an omega father from a lower pack who had blackmailed my alpha mate into accepting me by faking a pregnancy.The fact I hadn't known if I was pregnant or not at the time didn't matter. I had said I was pregnant; I wasn't. It was a lie. It was a lie I told for money.Money Tyler Wrigh
"I can't believe she's pregnant! I'm so, so sorry, Rachel!"I trembled from the force of my emotions. My tears washed away years' worth of stress and frustration and pain. I felt myself coming alive again as my sadness melted away to reveal hope for a different future for myself.No one had ever told me a mate could cause so much unhappiness to their supposed 'other half.'Bella led me to the sofa where I collapsed into a corner, kicking off my shoes so I wouldn't dirty her cushions. I drew my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around my legs. I thought maybe if I could make myself small enough, I could contain part of my feelings or at least shrink them down to a more manageable size."I thought The Model was just supposed to be a cover story for the events you 'couldn't' attend?"I rubbed my eyes with the heel of my hand as Bella's air quotes surprised a chuckle out of me as my tears dried.T
"What a filthy dog! I absolutely cannot get over Tyler blocking your calls! Does he think the mate bond will break on its own?"Focusing on keeping my hand steady, I traced the shape of my eyelid. Bella had given me free rein in her makeup drawer; she was always the bold one though she didn't really need cosmetics.I had spent the night alternating emotions. Bella and I ate too much junk food while complaining about men. We had decided I would be single forever sometime between the last of the potato chips and the first carton of ice cream."I don't know what he's thinking," I answered her honestly, "It isn't like I can hear his thoughts. I can barely feel him outside the headache he's given me."Was that what Tyler wanted to do? Make me miserable? Physically wear me down after all the years of mentally breaking me?I finished my eyes and put on a tinted lip gloss. I didn't want to go too heavy with my makeup when this j
Tyler's POV"What did she mean when she said 'you and your child'? Hhm? What was she talking about?"I missed the beginning, but I had heard enough to know Rachel thought Jenny was pregnant.Jenny blotted her face with a linen napkin the bartender offered her. She was looking everywhere but at me; I knew her well enough to know she was trying to find a way to get out of the situation sooner rather than later.Unlike with Rachel, I didn't take Jenny's arm. I only held my hand up to stop her from skirting me to scuttle off into the crowd."Don't even try it, Jenny. What did you do?"My wolf, Wynd, was unnaturally close to the front of my mind and I couldn't help the growl he pushed into my words.If Wynd had his way, we would turn right in the middle of Blue Diamond and tear the answers out of Jenny with our teeth."What did you say to my mate?" Wynd asked, forci
Rachel's POVMy head was pounding so hard I didn't notice my phone vibrating for a full minute despite it being right beside my hand."Hello?" I answered, confusion coloring my tone as I saw Tyler's housekeeper was calling me, "Magda, has something happened?"I had left instructions with the house staff to report directly to Master Tyler as I would no longer be in residence. They didn't need to know the particulars of why I was gone. All of them were well-trained as house servants who tended to ensure their discretion matched their ability to avoid asking questions not related to their work.Work hard and silently was Tyler Wright's preference."Madam Rachel, we have no hangover cure here.""I left the recipe with all the other house favorites. It's in the binder in the kitchen drawer beside the pantry.""No, no, I have never made it, Madam Rachel!"Magda was a sweet older woman. She reminded me o
Rachel's POV"Magda! Please meet me in the kitchen," I called as I entered the house.I was going to make sure the housekeeper knew how to make the hangover cure as well as I could so this never happened again. Tyler was not going to turn me into a maid because he couldn't force me to continue being his mate.I lined up all the fresh ingredients on the counter with my mortar and pestle. I would grind everything by hand. I would delay seeing Tyler as long as I could using the hangover tea as my excuse along the way.I'd been smart enough to stop by a fresh market on the way over in order to ensure I had all the fresh ingredients to hand. The last thing I needed was to get to the house only to have to turn around to run to the store.Magda asked questions quietly as I crushed the leaves and ground the fresh herbs. She handed me a strainer ball which I packed with the ingredients before closing tightly."Now we ne
Rachel's POV7 Days LaterFreedom suited me.I smiled all the time now and I took extra care with my appearance because I wanted to, not for any other reason. If someone complimented me, I thanked them and I knew they were being honest because for the first time in my life I was only myself.Before I had mated Tyler Wright, I had been Patrick Flores's daughter. People who complimented me in my youth either did it out of pity because they knew my father and his nasty habits or they knew my mother had died young leaving me to practically raise my younger brother alone.After I had mated Tyler Wright, I had been hidden away except to the closest of family. If any compliments came from those people, they were only in an attempt to gain favor with Tyler.Had I ever been free before rejecting my mate?I honestly didn't know.My life felt completely new. The whole world felt wide open to me.I spe