Sometime later, when the shaking stopped and the guys weren’t watching her, Rose heaved herself out of the tiny space she’d curled into and stretched. Her head was feeling a little better. Reason was starting to force its way back in and normal function was returning.
The guys were sitting at the table playing cards again. They’d left her to calm down and she was grateful they hadn’t tried to ‘help’ her. In that state she really would have lost it.
‘Are you ready to talk to us, sweetheart?’ Evans asked, not taking his eyes off his cards.
Yeah. She definitely had some questions because there was no way that all that stuff she’d seen was a delusion.
She sat in the fourth chair and faced them, feeling a little more like herself. ‘If Edward Cullen or fucking Jake Black shows up, I’m done.’
They all three looked at her in surprise. That dick Riker let out the start of a chuckle he immediately silenced, but she’d heard it all the same and it seemed to lighten everyone’s mood a little.
‘You’re taking this better than we thought.’
Rose grimaced. ‘No, I’m really not. This–,’ she gestured to all of herself. ‘This is every defense mechanism I have at my disposal. That’s the only reason I’m functioning right how.’ She turned to Evans. ‘So this is what I have so far. You’re a wolf. Those two assholes were wolves. You’re participating in some kind of fight and, if you lose, you all die and probably me too. But, you guys aren’t planning on killing me anymore … Yay! … Even though I’m not supposed to know about you being able to turn into a giant stuffy so that means I can’t leave.’
Evans regarded her with a closed expression, but she was pretty sure she saw his lip twitch just a tiny bit. ‘Pretty much sums it up.’
She glanced at Pike and that dick Riker. ‘Are you two wolves too?’
‘Are you gonna tell us what happened, sweetheart?’ Pike asked, his gaze probing.
Rose shifted in the seat at the question. ‘There’s not really much to tell,’ she said, putting her hands in her lap so they didn’t see that they were starting to shake again as she thought of those two assholes.
‘I woke up. You guys were gone. I decided to take a shower. When I was done, those guys – wolves I guess– showed up. They just came right in. I tried to run for the bathroom–‘
‘You ran?’ that dick Riker asked.
They all shared a look and her eyes narrowed at them.
‘You can’t run from a wolf, princess. They’ll always chase you,’ he said condescendingly, and it took a lot of effort not to reach across the table and slap him in his dumbass face.
Instead she nodded. ‘Right, right, of course. Will they also try to rape a girl too? You know, for running away? Fuck you, Riker! I didn’t even know about wolves until this morning. Fuck you for trying to make it my fault that that almost happened to me.’ Again.
She felt tears gathering and pressed her knuckles into her eyes, trying to get a handle on herself. Maybe it was her fault. Maybe Hank had been too. Maybe she had been tempting him somehow like he’d told her she had. Maybe she was just a stupid, teasing bitch like he’d said she was while he was on top of her, pushing her into the mattress of her childhood bed.
‘That’s not what I meant ….’ she heard him say sheepishly as she scrambled up and hobbled to the kitchen sink because she knew she’d never make it to the bathroom.
She got there just in time to spew, gagging and coughing as the dry cereal she’d had for breakfast came back up. She wiped her mouth and ran the water, washing her mouth out and trying to catch her breath. She found that dick Riker next to her, holding out some paper towels and she took them gratefully – but he was still a fucking dick.
‘Are you ok?’ he asked.
Fuck, he almost looked concerned.
‘Nope.’ She turned away from him and sat back in the chair. She looked down, finding she didn’t want to see their faces so she hurried along with the story instead.
‘They came in. One of them said that he’d thought Stone was joking when he said you had a girl here. He asked me my name, but I–I didn’t respond. They gave me a bad vibe. The other one got angry and told me to answer.’ She looked and stared right at Riker. ‘That’s when I ran, motherfucker.’ She looked back down at her hands, clasping them together like that would stop them shaking. ‘But they were too fast. One of them grabbed me and threw me on the bed. I hit him, bloodied his nose so he hit me back. Told his friend to hold me down.’ She saw it in her head and shuddered. She took a shallow breath. And then another. It wasn’t enough. She couldn’t get enough air!
‘Shit! Sweetheart?’ Pike sounded far away.
She gripped the table with one hand and made a fist with the other one, digging her nails into her palm hard, letting the feeling of the table and the pain ground her. She was ok. She was ok. She was ok.
‘You can stop–‘
‘No! I’m fine,’ she ground out. She took a long breath and breathed out slowly though her nose. ‘I’m fine’, she said more calmly.
‘His friend held me down. I kicked the other one and the asshole grabbed my bad ankle and squeezed it as hard as he could. Then you guys showed up.’
She put her hands back in her lap, crushing them together.
‘I’m sorry, Rose. We didn’t know they’d come here. This is neutral ground. They aren’t supposed to. We thought you’d be safe or we wouldn’t have left you alone. Rikers, get the peas for her face. It’s swelling.’
She heard Rikers in the freezer and he handed her a bag. She took it without looking at him.
‘Are you going to tell me what’s going on?’ she asked in a small voice that she hated. She hoped her bravado came back soon and stayed because she couldn’t go on feeling like this, so weak and pathetic.
‘We’re here on orders to take Stone’s pack from him. I’m the alpha they chose to take his place, but I need to fight him for it.’
‘A council. The Council. Stone’s been drawing unwanted attention, so the Council wants him gone.’
‘Right. So that’s why you guys are in this cabin and its being guarded by wolves. The wolves that herded me here. Why did they do that anyway?’
Pike shifted, looking like he didn’t want to tell her. ‘One of the reasons Stone has come to the Council’s attention is because a few people have gone missing out here lately.’
‘People?’ she asked.
‘Women,’ he clarified, ‘and I think we can guess why.’
She glanced between them in askance.
‘He’s trying to grow his pack. The best way to do that is to breed females.’
She felt sick again. ‘What?!’ she all but shrieked. ‘You mean they’ve been abducting women and forcing them to…’ she trailed off. She couldn’t even say it.
All three, even Rikers, looked uncomfortable.
‘That’s what it looks like.’
Rose put her head in her hands. ‘Jesus.’
‘There’s something else,’ Rikers said.
‘No, there’s not. Not right now.’ Evans’ tone brooked no opposition.
Rikers didn’t say anything more and Rose was too emotionally exhausted to even open anymore cans of worms so she said nothing, just held the bag of peas to her face.
‘So what’s with the pine scent?’
Pike rolled his eyes. ‘That’s Stone fucking with us. This is his pack’s cabin. For guests. Which is what we are until after the fight. We use our noses a lot. But he’s covered this whole damn cabin in pine-scented oil so we can’t use our senses properly. We can hardly smell anything in here unless it’s very strong.’
‘Oh. What a dick,’ she said faintly, thinking about the times since she got here that she was sure they could smell her whenever her libido got the better of her. Embarrassing.
She yawned suddenly. She felt exhausted but – she looked at the microwave – it was like 2pm. She had been through a lot today, but she drew the line at going to sleep I the middle of the afternoon. She looked down at the shirt she was wearing as a nasty thought occurred to her. She made a sound of horror and looked up at Evans. ‘I don’t smell like them, do I?’
He opened his mouth and shut it again. He didn’t need to say it.
‘Oh my God.’ She got up from the table. ‘I’m going to take another shower.’
She hopped up and practically ran– though that wasn’t fast because ankle– to the bathroom, stopping and turning around just before she got there.
She hesitated, hating herself for having to ask this but… ‘You guys aren’t leaving again, are you?’
Evan’s face remained carefully blank as he answered. ‘No, Rose, we’ll be here when you come out,’ he said softly.
Tears almost came to her eyes at his kind tone. She nodded once and shut the door with a bang, tearing off the shirt. She threw it in the corner as far as she could get it from her. Climbing in the shower, she turned the water on, not even giving it time to heat up before she started scrubbing herself raw. She realized she was muttering to herself and buttoned her lip. Didn’t want them thinking she was crazy!
After a few minutes, she emerged in just a towel to the guys eating a late lunch of sandwiches again. They turned to look and their gazes roaming over her. But for once she wasn’t scared.
‘I…uh…I didn’t want to put that shirt back on,’ she muttered, pulling the towel tighter.
Pike nodded and went to his bed, pulling it up to get another one for her from the storage underneath. Stone sounded like an asshole, but she had to hand it to him – these were some awesome beds. She’d definitely get one when – if – no, when! – she made it home. He gave her another shirt and she sat on a bed to put it on. Not hers. She couldn’t touch that bed, not where it had happened.
She wound the towel around her head and sat at the table again.
‘Better?’ she asked Evans.
‘Better,’ he leant towards her and made it obvious that he was smelling her. His pupils dilated slightly and she hastily looked away, feeling awkward.
She let out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding as a plate appeared in front of her with a sandwich in the middle. Cheese today, it looked like. She wasn’t hungry. Not even a little bit. But she picked it up and took a bite when Pike gave her a look.
She rolled her eyes at him, but secretly thought it was cute that he was a little bit protective. She hadn’t felt that since before dad had passed on. He’d basically stopped being the parent when she’d started caring for him practically full-time. No one had taken care of her in a long time and she kinda liked it.
She ate in silence and as the guys wandered around the cabin, seeming like they were doing things while not actually doing anything much at all. They were giving her space, she realized. When she was done, she washed her dishes and looked around for something to do.
‘We like keeping busy,’ a voice said from behind her shoulder and she jumped, whirling around to find Riker behind her, laughter in his eyes.
He’d tried to scare her on purpose. Her eyes narrowed. ‘I’ve noticed,’ she said coldly and his expression shuttered.
‘Hey, look, about last night…’ he muttered, probably so his friends didn’t hear.
‘You don’t have to say anything,’ she replied stiffly. ‘Heat of the moment. Boredom. Embarrassed about your buddies – pack? – finding out you were attracted to me for a second.’ She patted his obscenely bulky shoulder in a friendly manner even as she fought the urge to trace the contours of his hard, smooth skin that felt like it had been carved from marble…fuck… He was a dick, she tried to remind herself. What was she doing? She’d never been attracted to assholes before. Why now?
‘Don’t worry about it.’ She pulled her hand away suddenly as she realized she was still touching him, hoping there was no way he could tell how much she still wanted him. Jesus, this was mortifying. Way to go, Rose. You push those social boundaries, make sure they know you’re a freak.
He got a funny look on his face that she couldn’t really decipher. ‘Rose, I–’
Oh God, now he was going to try to apologize because she’d made him feel bad. She turned away quickly, grabbing the TV remote from the side and opening the cabinet where the DVDs were. ‘I said it’s fine.’ – and then louder – ‘Do you mind if I put something on?’
‘Go right ahead,’ Evans called over his shoulder from where it looked like he was refolding his already pristine clothes that lived under his bed.
‘Actually I think there’s something we need to ask you first, sweetheart.’ Pike gave Evans a pointed look, which Evans returned.
‘It’s not our business.’
‘I feel like it is.’
Rikers piped up, still behind her. ‘I’m with Pike. We’re all stuck here together for a few more days. If she’s having panic attacks like earlier, we need to know if we can do anything. If there are triggers, we need to know what they are. She can’t be showing weakness like that in front of Stone’s pack. Fertile or not, they’ll rip her apart.’
Fertile? Ew! Rip her apart? She shivered even as she gave tactless Riker a what-the-fuck look. In this instance ‘rip her apart’ probably meant literally. Oh god! Rose stared at the floor, willing it to suck her down into it. They were going to make her tell them…
Sweetheart,’ Pike began and she raised her eyes to look at him, hoping she didn’t look like a deer trapped in the headlights. ‘What happened this morning after… We’ve seen stuff like that before and it wasn’t just because of what they did, was it? It was something else too.’
She looked away. ‘I…don’t want to talk about it.’ She said simply, grabbing a DVD at random and putting it in the player.’
‘Let her be. She’s not ready to tell–‘ Evans started, but was swiftly outvoted again.
‘If you want to protect her, we need to have all the facts.’ Riker shot back.
‘She’s not read–‘
‘I got raped!’ She blurted, clapping her hands over her mouth. Had she just really shouted it out like that? Her eyes widened in humiliation. ‘There! Is that what you wanted to hear? I freaked out because I had a flashback. Ok?’
‘A few months ago,’ she said miserably, ‘before my dad….’
‘What happened?’ Evans asked. So much for not wanting to know.
She focused on Evans for a moment before looking down at the floor again. She couldn’t look at them while she told them.
‘His friend came to visit him when he was sick. His best friend. He’d known me all my life. But that day he looked at me differently. I didn’t like it.’ She swallowed hard. ‘He talked with my dad for awhile and then he came to find me. Told me my dad was asleep from the meds and then he cornered me in my room. Said I’d been asking for it, that I was a whore and a slut and a tease and that he knew I wanted it.’ A tear rolled down her cheek and she wiped it away quickly. ‘And then he pushed me down on my bed and did it. After, he pretended it hadn’t happened. He told me to clean myself up and when I came out of the bathroom he was gone. He didn’t visit again.’
‘He’s still out there?’
She nodded, not meeting their gazes. ‘I never told anyone. If my dad had ever known, it would have killed him. Hank was his best friend since they were kids. They were in the forces together and everything.’
At the mention of Hank’s name, she noticed them all looked at each other, but when she opened her mouth to ask, Pike beat her to it.
‘It wasn’t your fault, sweetheart.’
Anger suddenly reared. ‘How the fuck do you know,’ she asked fiercely. ‘Maybe it was like he said. Maybe I led him on. I’m really bad at stuff like that. Maybe I did and didn’t know it. Maybe I deserved what he did.’
She saw Pike run a hand through his dark hair and Evans, in a similar movement, pull on his short beard. But it was Rikers who spoke. ‘You didn’t deserve it, princess. Nobody deserves that shit, no matter what.
‘Personal experience?’ she snapped, wanting, for a second, to hurt him only for guilt to rise up immediately when she saw the stricken look in his eye.
He didn’t rise to her goading though. ‘I just know, princess.’
‘Look, it’s still early.’ Evans suddenly said. ‘How ‘bout a movie marathon. There’s LOTR in the cabinet or all the Star Wars. You pick, sweetheart. Anything you want. We can even make some popcorn. I saw some in the cabinet.’
He opened the cupboard and she peered at the rows of DVDs. ‘LOTR sounds good,’ she murmured. It would at least make her forget about the day’s events for a little while.
She sat on the bed furthest from that one and watched Rikers tear off the sheets. He flung them out the front door into the deep snow and rummaged in the storage underneath. He emerged with another set and made the bed quickly, turning to her with a small nod when it was done.
‘Thanks,’ she said. ‘But I can’t…’
‘It’s ok, sweetheart. You can have my bed. I can bunk with one of the guys.’
She frowned at Pike. ‘These beds aren’t big enough for two guys your size.’
‘It’s fine, really.’
The opening credits started and she lay back, Pike next to her, just for the movie, she assumed. They got to the second one, the part where Boromir was killed by the Uruk-hai; arguably the most heart-wrenching part of any movie ever; before her eyes began to close. She dozed, listening to the movie, and before long she heard the guys talking in hushed whispers.
‘We can’t keep her in the dark.’
‘It might not be him.’
‘It is. It has his M.O. all over it.’
‘Jesus. What are the odds?’
‘This can’t be a coincidence. There’s more going on here. He’s orchestrated this somehow.’
‘But why? It makes no sense.’
‘I can’t wait to kill that motherfucker.’
Her eyes opened and she found herself curled into Pike’s warm body, her head resting on his sizable chest. Her eyes widened. How had that happened?
‘Sorry,’ she gasped at his amused face.
He chuckled. ‘It’s ok, sweetheart. You can stay where you are if you want to.’
His arm drew her back down to him gently and she relaxed, breathing deep. He smelled like soap and gun oil, and, for lack of a better word, safety. Weird, but true. She actually felt safe with them. Her captors. They actually seemed like the good guys. One of Pike’s hands absently stroked her arm and she let out a long sigh, closing her eyes once more.
When she woke, it was dark out and the microwave said 23:17. One of them was next to her after all. She could feel – OMG was that his dick?! Yep it was definitely his dick. She looked back and could make out Evans’ profile. She’d thought this was Pike’s bed.
The man next to her didn’t open his eyes. ‘You slept through dinner. Are you hungry?’
He moved back with a curse and looked into her eyes. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said awkwardly.
‘For what?’ she whispered.
He gestured to below his waist. ‘Involuntary.’
Oh, so basically, ‘hey, sorry about my raging boner, but it’s not because of you’. Not what a girl wanted to hear, that was for sure. What was he saying that for? Making sure she didn’t get the wrong idea? She regarded him for a moment and then she suddenly realized. Duh! He thought she was afraid of them because of Hank.
She shook her head, suddenly finding it was very important to her that he understand. ‘It’s – I’m not afraid of guys because of what happened to me.’ Well, that wasn’t true. ‘I’m not afraid of you guys,’ she amended. ‘I don’t know why, maybe I should be. God knows those two assholes scared the shit out of me, but not you guys. Not at all.’
He gave her a small nod. ‘Good.’ was all he said before he got up and padded across the room, grabbing something from the fridge.
‘Pizza? How did I miss that?’
He chuckled. ‘It’s not homemade. There were some in the freezer.’
‘Homemade?’ Was that a thing?
‘Hell yeah. I have a pizza oven out back at my house. I make a mean Hawaiian.’
Ew. ‘Pineapple on a pizza?’ She wrinkled her nose at him. ‘I don’t think we can be friends, actually.’
He chuckled. ‘You’d change your mind if you tried mine, babe.’
‘No way.’ She snatched the cold pizza out of his hand and took a bite. It was just cheese, but it was good enough to slake the hunger that coiled in her belly
She ate quickly, trying to ignore the way Evans was observing her.
‘You’re an amazing woman, Rose.’
‘Don’t you mean weird?’ she scoffed.
An unreadable look crossed his face. ‘No, babe, I mean amazing.’
She felt her cheeks heat as she looked up at him, wondering if he was making fun of her, but when she saw his face, he actually seemed serious.
‘Thanks,’ she said quietly. And then he stepped closer and lightly caressed her face. Her breath hitched and she tried like hell to unhitch it, sure he’d notice. Until she knew what he was doing and why, she didn’t want to reveal anything so mortifying as being into him – and his friends…
His other hand moved into her hair and he gripped it gently to pull her head back. Her mouth opened on a gasp, but his semi-aggression wasn’t scaring her. Not at all. Heat pooled between her legs and he gave a small sound of contentment. His mouth was suddenly on hers, firm but not punishing in the slightest.
Then she felt a third hand caressing her back in slow circles and broke off the kiss with a gasp, finding Pike standing behind her. Evans let her go and Pike turned her to face him, his hands moving to her shoulders and down her arms as he bent his head to hers.
‘Is this ok?,’ he whispered and she blinked.
She nodded hesitantly. It felt right. She couldn’t ignore how she was feeling. These men, these wolves, brought out a side of her she hadn’t known existed before yesterday. And the fear she’d been harbouring for months was dissipating. They would protect her. She knew that down to her soul.
His mouth descended to hers slowly, giving her time to stop him. She made an impatient sound and grabbed the back of his neck, pulling him to her faster and he let out a low laugh. His lips took hers gently as his arms wrapped around her, drawing her flush against him. She could feel how hard he was. Was this because of her or was he thinking of someone else? She pushed the thought away. Doubt had no place here. She’d deal with emotional fallout later.
Pike’s lips left hers and one of them tugged her shirt up and over her head, baring her to their gazes. Evans began kissing her neck while Pike took one of her pebbled nipples into her mouth.
She gave a moan and bit her lip to keep herself quiet even as she heard a strangled sound from Riker’s bed. Her eyes opened and her gaze swung to him. He was staring at her and what his friends were doing. When his eyes found hers, they narrowed. He looked pissed.
‘You told me I wasn’t allowed to touch her and I wake up to this?’ he asked petulantly.
Evans lifted his head from her neck for a moment to reply. ‘Quiet , pup. I don’t care if you’re an alpha. Stop whining or all I’ll ever let you do is watch,’ he snarled quietly.
That was hot. Evans must have realised his words turned her on because he let out a growl and bent back down to her neck, grazing his teeth against her sensitive skin, his hand reaching around to cup her drenched pussy. She let out a whimper and–
Someone banged on the door and, she let out a snarl of her own. She didn’t care if that was the whole of the enemy pack coming to kill them, fuck them for interrupting!
Then reality set in and she let them push her behind them as the door was flung open and five massive guys trudged in.
‘You kill one of ours. We take one of yours. Give us the woman…’
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