‘You kill one of ours. We take one of yours. Give us the woman.’
‘She’s not yours,’ Pike ground out.
‘She was on our land. She’s ours all right.’
‘This is neutral ground. If you wanted her, you should have taken her in the forest when you had the chance,’ Evans said calmly, a hint of steel in his tone.
‘Until after the fight, you’re not welcome here,’ Pike interjected, stepping forward.
Evans stayed his friend with a wave of his hand.
‘You killed one of ours.’
‘Who was here attacking our female,’ Riker of all people growled.
‘Your female,’ the man spat. ‘She’s been here two days.’
‘Yeah because you drove her here. As far as we’re concerned, she was a gift from Stone,’ Pike said, looking amused.
Rose stood behind them, her head swinging between the men as they talked. She didn’t say a word, not only because she was scared to death, but she also knew it wouldn’t be welcome in this pissing contest.
‘You weren’t meant to find her on the path,’ one of the other ones bellowed.
‘Well, we did and now she’s ours. We stake a claim to her.’ Her guys looked at each other, clearly in agreement.
‘Stone ain’t gonna like that,’ another one growled.
‘Soon it won’t matter what Stone doesn’t like,’ Evan’s said quietly, ‘Maybe you should be trying to get on my good side now while you can.’
‘You’re not gonna beat Stone,’ one of them laughed.
‘Guess we’ll see in a couple days.’ Pike said. ‘Until then, Get. The. Fuck. Out.’
‘Stones gonna hear about this. He’s gonna come for her himself with the rest of the pack. She ain’t yours until you stake a claim on her. The right way.’ The leader sniffed the air and sneezed. ‘Fucking pine,’ he choked out. ‘Anyway, we know you ain’t done it yet.’
The men backed out of the cabin and it shut behind them. They were alone.
Rose sat on the nearest bed. ‘I don’t understand,’ she said. ‘Why do they want me so bad?’
‘Can’t guess? Thought you were smart,’ Riker drawled from the other side of the room where he was standing in just a pair of boxers.
Rose looked away, her cheeks heating. ‘I understand why in general, but why me? Why does Stone seem to interested in me? I don’t even know the guy.’
The guys all looked at each other and she frowned. She was missing something. What?
‘What did you mean when you said I was yours? That you staked a claim on me. What is that?’
‘It means,’ Pike said before either of the others could speak, ‘for all intents and purposes, you’re safe, at least for now, but they’ll be back tomorrow. It’s wicked late. Let’s get some shuteye. We’re going to need it.’
Pike turned out the lights and gestured to his bed. ‘Take mine,’ he said. ‘Just make sure you sleep, sweetheart.’
Rose didn’t hesitate. She was exhausted. She got into the bed and watched as he went to lay on his back next to Evans. She was glad of the respite and yet disappointed at the same time. Her libido, which had never been a problem before, was going crazy. What the hell was going on in this cabin? Maybe it was the pine scent, she thought, almost laughing out loud.
What a crazy couple days. If she hadn’t left work so late that night, none of this would have happened. She’d be curled up in her house with Mitsy, unaware that all of this was taking place. She’d be getting ready to spend Christmas … alone. Her heart ached when she thought of that. Mitsy would be fine. She could come and go as she pleased and Rose was pretty sure she had another family that was feeding her.
She found herself sort of glad that she wasn’t in her house even though she was in all kinds of danger here. What did that say about her life? That she’d rather be with three wolves in a cabin in the middle of nowhere in the snow, threatened by a pack of other wolves than spend any time alone over Christmas? God she was so pathetic.
She closed her eyes, but, a few minutes later, she heard one of the guys shuffling around, a shadow loomed over her. It was Riker. She could tell by his outline.
‘What?’ she whispered, shifting to look up at him properly.
‘Nothing,’ he said. ‘Just making sure you’re ok over here by yourself.’
He trudged back to his bed, lying down again and she shook her head in confusion.
What was his problem? He had seemed pretty pissed off when he’d woken up to Evans and Pike touching her. What had Evans said, that Riker had been told not to? She shook her head. There were some weird dynamics between these dudes, that was for sure, and she didn’t understand the rules. That wasn’t strange, she rarely did even in everyday life, but they really would need to explain everything properly to her tomorrow.
With that thought she closed her eyes again, trying to drift off to sleep, and finally, succeeding.
The next morning brought no more snow flurries, thank God. But the sky was all white and heavy, so there would probably be more later. Rose guessed it didn’t matter. The damage had already been done. The snow was already too deep to leave, what was a few more inches– hell feet– now?
The guys were still asleep. Pike and Evans in the middle bed and Riker to the far right nearest the front door.
Rose got up quietly to pee, washing her face in the bathroom sink when she was done. The bruise on her cheek form yesterday had gone down quite a lot over the night. She frowned as she touched it. It felt a little tender, but nowhere near what it had been. That was strange. It had been really swollen and bruised yesterday and this morning she could hardly see it. Come to think of it, her leg wasn’t hurting either. She looked down at it. The swelling was gone. A sprain like that would have taken more than a couple days to heal, right?
‘Fuck,’ she muttered to herself. More weirdness. What had she got herself into?
She went back into the main room and found the other three guys up, getting dressed in what looked like tactical gear; black commando shit.
‘What are you guys doing,’ she asked.
‘Nothing you need to worry about,’ Pike said
‘Fuck that,’ she said, her tone making him look up in surprise. ‘It’s clear that those guys aren’t gonna take no for an answer and that doesn’t really fly with me, to be honest.’
‘We won’t let Stone have you,’ Evan’s said with that quiet tone he had that somehow made everyone stop to listen.
‘But what about the other stuff?’ she pressed, not about to let them cut her out of whatever was going on when it was her life on the line.
‘Just don’t worry about it, Sweetheart. We’ll talk about it later.’
‘No, now,’ she insisted.
‘Rose,’ Evans growled warningly, ‘just let us handle it.’
She threw her arms up in the air. ‘Handle what? Tell me what is going on because its obvious you know and you’re keeping me out of the loop. I’m not a fucking child.’
None of them said anything, staring at her in stony silence that was clearly meant to intimidate, but she was so far past giving a shit. What were they doing to do anyway, get a madman interested in her enough to make him plot to steal her to be part of his crazy, culty wolfpack? Oh no wait…
‘This is fucking ridiculous,’ she said aloud, half to herself. ‘I’m stuck in a cabin with three cavemen.’
She went to the kitchenette and rifled through the cabinets, finding some cinnamon raisin bagels. She asked the guys if they wanted anything even though t she was still pissed off with them because manners, then she hunted through the fridge, trying to find cream cheese, but having to settle for butter.
‘What kind of sadistic assholes buy bagels and no cream cheese anyway?’ she muttered under her breath.
‘Jesus, Rose, we aren’t going to let them have you, ok?’ Pike muttered from his bed.
‘Why? Why would you guys protect me?’ she asked, turning around to face them and forgetting about breakfast. ‘You’ve known me for two days. Why would you put yourself at risk for me?’
The guys all looked at her grimly.
‘They’re not getting their hands on you,’ Riker said, his voice low. ‘It doesn’t matter why.’
Rose scowled. Maybe they’d do it for any girl, she thought. Maybe she was making too big a deal about this. Yes, she realised, it wasn’t her. She wasn’t special. Idiot, she thought to herself. They’d do this for any girl in a predicament. They were decent guys. It had just been a long time since she’d met any.
‘Thank you,’ she said even though her mood was plummeting. ‘I can’t say it’s on my bucket list to get taken in by a pack of wolves and made to have babies. It’s not really up there with going to the Maldives, you know?’
She looked up to find the guys shaking their heads.
Riker looked the most amused. ‘You joke about some weird stuff, Princess.’
She shrugged, not replying. They already knew she was a little nuts.
‘So what are we doing all day today? she asked, giving up trying to get anything out of them for now. ‘Playing cards, watching movies, reading books about war?’
‘Actually, there’s something specific we do need to do, Sweetheart.’ Pike said, approaching her slowly. ‘Stone will show up at some point and there’s something you should know.’
‘What is it?’ she asked, sitting down at the table.
The tone of his voice seemed to imply that this was going to be that kind of a conversation.
‘Jesus, what now?’ she sighed.
The guys were watching her now, all of them a little closer than they had been.
‘What about him? God, is there worse stiff I need to know. Does he talk at the theatre too?’
‘It’s – uh.’ Pike faltered, looking at Evan’s with a helpless expression.
‘Rose, his first name is Hank.’
Rose’s stomach bottomed out. ‘What?’ She could hardly hear her own voice. ‘That – that doesn’t mean anything. That’s a pretty common name.’
‘Yeah, but not all of them were in the forces or are the right age or live around here. Maybe we’re wrong.’
‘We hope we are,’ Pike said, finding his voice again, ‘but in case we’re not … just be prepared to see him.’
‘See him?’ She swallowed hard. ‘I haven’t seen him since…’ She looked down at her hands, picking at one of her nails. ‘Do you think if it’s him… Do you think that he knows who I am? Do you think that he somehow orchestrated all of this? That he got me here so he could…’ She couldn’t finish the sentence, feeling sick all of a sudden and definitely not wanting her bagel.
Evans came closer and she looked up at him, trying to hide her fear.
‘It might not be him,’ he repeated.
‘But if you weren’t pretty sure, you wouldn’t have even mentioned it,’ she sniffled.
His silence was reply enough and her stomach plunged even further. How that was possible, she didn’t know. She curled her arms around her middle.
‘It could be worse,’ Riker said.
She rolled her eyes at him, pretending not to see him walking around in his boxers in her periphery.
‘How?’ she chuckled, but really her mind was all over the place.
She would never have thought two days ago that this would be happening. She tried to put Hank out of her mind even though there were parts of it where he’d basically set up residence. He was always there somewhere, worming his way through her memories, tainting her everyday life.
‘When will he come?’ she asked.
‘This afternoon or tonight. He’ll make us wait.’
‘But don’t understand,’ she said. ‘Why did they basically drive me to your door?’
‘They didn’t. We found you out on the path not far from their cabins when we were on recon, checking out their numbers.’
‘Your fights in a couple days?’ she asked Evans.
‘There’s something else you’re not telling me,’ she said, her eyes boring into them.
All three looked at each other again.
Yeah. ‘What is it? Please just tell me. Put me out of my misery.’
They all looked at each other again.
‘Stop doing that!’ she said. ‘Jesus Christ, I get that you’re all buddy wolves or whatever but every time you do that, I know there’s something going on. You aren’t that subtle! Tell me.’
‘Well, you see … the thing is, is that technically, if they came in here right now and stole you, they’d have the right and there wouldn’t be a damn thing we could do until the fight to get you back. This pack land and females on pack land are fair game.’
‘But that’s … this is … this is ridiculous! We’re in modern times!’ Rose exclaimed. ‘You can’t just …’
‘Yes, they can. Who’s going to stop them?’ Riker asked.
She gave him a look. ‘Well, call me crazy, but I thought you guys would. Just, you guys are the big beefy, army types. Not to go all damsel in distress on you, but I have no chance in Hell of saving myself. I’m weak as shit. I can’t even do a press-up. When I go to the gym, people laugh at me because I’m literally ridiculous.’
‘There is a way for us to get them to leave you alone,’ Pike started, not meeting her eyes.
‘What is it? Let’s just do that,’ she said, wondering why they were being so weird.
‘Look, Princess,’ Riker said, clearly sick of beating about the bush. ‘To save you from them we’d need to claim you.’
‘What does that mean?’ she asked, but the way he’d said it… Her hand fluttered up to her chest.
‘You already know,’ he said, his eyes glinting dangerously. ‘I can see it in your face.’
Rose was speechless for a minute. He couldn’t mean what she thought, could he? She stood up and then sat back down again, hard.
‘Those are the rules.’ Pike said.
‘Whose rules?’ she asked. ‘Because they suck.’ She took a deep breath. ‘With just one of you or…’
All,’ Riker said, clearly enjoying her discomfort on some level, the sadistic prick.
Evans cut him a hard look before turning back to her. ‘We follow the Council’s rules or we pay the price. They might be old-fashioned, but they aren’t the kind of laws you pick and choose to follow. There are harsh penalties for disobedience.’
‘What happens to me afterwards?’ She asked in a small voice.
You’ll be safe,’ Pike said.
‘Tell her the rest,’ Riker snarled. ‘You won’t be able to go home to your old life, Rose. You know too much. The Council will never let you live. And once we’ve claimed you as ours, well, that’s it. You’re stuck with us.
‘So let me get this straight. Stone is going to come here and if all three of you haven’t ‘claimed’ me,’ she used her fingers in quotations, ‘he can just come in here and take me.’
‘Yeah, pretty much,’ Pike sighed. ‘He’s got his whole pack behind him. We can’t take them all.’
‘B–but you don’t even….’ She shut her mouth, afraid she was just about to give way too much away.
‘We don’t want what?’ Pike asked.
Rose grimaced, but didn’t answer.
‘She thinks we don’t want her,’ Evans said quietly.
‘Is that true?’ Pike looked surprised.
She looked up and then back down again quickly. ‘Well, it’s just that … whatever … I don’t know,’ she said, chickening out.
She felt Pike looming over her. He took her by the chin, raising her head to look at him.
‘You’re wrong,’ he growled, the sound making her shiver and heat pool between her legs.
She saw his nostrils flare and her eyes widened.
‘I can smell what we do to you,’ he murmured. ‘We all can.’
‘What do you mean?’ she breathed.
He grinned as he pulled her gently to her feet, taking her by the waist and drawing her closer to him. Her heart skipped a beat as his other hand went to the back of her neck, keeping her still for him as his lips descended on hers. She let out a cry even though she knew it was coming. This couldn’t be happening.
When he finally lifted his head, her mouth dropped open in astonishment.
‘But I–but I’m…me.’ she said quietly, gasping as he pulled her closer and she could feel the evidence of his arousal against her abdomen.
Rose licked her lips and swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly ridiculously dry.
Pike let her go let her go with a grin. ‘Maybe this won’t be so bad, after all,’ he said, raising an eyebrow and turning away with a chuckle.
Rose turned away, trying to keep her breathing under control. She grabbed a bottle of water off the counter, glad for the sudden respite because she felt like her body and mind were all over the place. When she turned back around, the guys hadn’t moved, they were still just watching her.
Evan’s eyes moved over her slowly, making her heart quicken. ‘Are you ok?’
She nodded, biting her lip and starting when she heard one of them growl.
‘Ask us whatever you want to ask us,’ Pike said. ‘You’re right. You need to know what’s going on.’
‘Will you all do it together,’ she blurted and clapped a hand over her mouth. This was nuts. Did she really just ask them if they were going to spit-roast her or something? God. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to know. Things had felt really good last night with Pike and Evans though…
‘What would you like?’ Evans asked.
‘How many guys have you been with, Princess? Riker asked, with a stupid smirk on his face that made her want to smack it.
‘Two,’ she said, loathing the way her voice quavering.
‘Was that including…’
‘Yes. He was my first.’ She closed her eyes and looked away, hearing one of them swear under his breath.
‘Fuck, this just keeps getting worse,’ Pike muttered.
‘The second was a one night stand after my after Dad … you know. I thought it might make me feel better.’ She didn’t look at them. ‘But it didn’t.’
Evans stepped close enough for her to feel his warm breath on her neck. ‘We’re the only ones here, sweetheart, and we won’t hurt you. We’ll make it good for you,’ he whispered. ‘All three of us, I promise.’
Her belly fluttered at his words. She didn’t doubt that being with them would be very different. Maybe she’d finally understand what the hell everyone went on and on about when it came to sex because, if she was honest, she didn’t get it at all.
She thought about what it might be like, with all of their hands on her and her breathing stuttered.
In front of her, Evans let out a small sound. ‘You’re thinking about it, aren’t you,’ he growled. ‘Thinking about the things we’re going to do. I can smell how wet you are.’
She gasped, her eyes searching his, wishing she could think of something to say that wouldn’t sound fucking stupid, but coming up short.
‘If you want anything to stop,’ he said, ‘we will no matter what.’
Rose nodded as he led her to one of the beds.
He sat her down, gently easing her back so that she was laying on her back. He followed, kissing her lips gently and touching her in light caresses on her arms and face, letting her relax and get used to him.
This was crazy, her head was saying. She hardly knew these guys. This wasn’t her at all. But, Jesus Christ, there weren’t many girls in this world that ever got the chance to be with three hot guys like this at once that was for sure. Even if this was a one-time thing, she was pretty sure it would be one of those memories she’d look back on when she was an old woman and know she really lived just for a moment.
She glanced at the other two. She would never in a million years have thought that three guys like this would want her. She wanted to say it, cover herself just in case: No fucking way. This is like a joke or some shit and it’s not real. Right? Great job guys. But when she looked up at them, she knew down to her core that they weren’t fucking with her. Even Riker couldn’t take his eyes off Evan’s hands as they began to unbutton the shirt she was wearing.
Could she really do this?