He bared his teeth at her. "Just because it's never been done before? Tonight, I'll do whatever it takes."

"You gamble with her life."

"First of all, it's our lives. If she dies, I'll follow her. Second of all, you've never seen a Lykae with more cause to be gentle with his mate." As he tenderly collected her in his arms, he appeared haunted with regret.

What had happened when she'd been out?

"Mother, you're not considering this?" Nieve's hand landed on . . . a sword hilt? "Your brothers will be furious." She moved to block the door.

"I believe your people owe me this," MacRieve said. "I'm taking my mate home. Now, get out of the bluidy way."

Undaunted, Nieve said, "Chloe needs to decide." In a flash of movement, she unsheathed her sword, pointing it at him. "This is her life, her decision."

"Aye. It is." He drew Chloe close to his warm, bare chest, pressing her against his heart. When he gazed down at her, it sped up. His eyes were gold and filled with an emotion she'd never seen in him. "It's no' my responsibility to feed you-it's my goddamned privilege. Let me do this."

"But my venom. You'll have to take it this time."

"Listen to me, mo chridhe. I crave any bond with you, will scour this earth for more. I want my body bound to yours, my soul chained to yours. Any tie I can find, I'll bind us even tighter. We'll have marriage, bairns, a new line between us!" In a hoarse voice, he said, "I can do this. For us, I can. I'm pleading with you, lass. Believe in me . . . ?"

Chapter Forty-Eight

Will charged past the incubi guards with his barely conscious mate secure in his arms. He leapt through the portal to hit the ground running in the Woods.

Chloe had trusted him, putting her life in his hands. If he weren't besieged by panic, he would howl to the world about such a female.

-SAVE HER!- Hundreds of years ago, his Instinct had commanded him thus. But he hadn't been able to save his mother. He gazed down at Chloe's limp body. "Just hold on, love!"

As he ran for Conall, the moon broke through the dispersing clouds, and its light began filtering through the treetops. If he was going to be the first Lykae to deny his beast on the night of a full moon, he needed to avoid its seductive light. He dodged beams if he could, each one like a sizzling ray of sensation.

Just get to the keep. Gisela had given him a potion for Chloe that would alleviate the worst of her pain, but only for a brief window. Get her to the keep, use the potion.

Then make love to her. Gently. Though he never had before.

When she moaned with pain, he doubted himself, his decision. I've done wrong. He'd known he was somehow to blame for this. His Instinct certainly had known. It had been guiding him to destroy Ruelle's memory, before Will destroyed his mate with his own poison.

Even now, he scented the lingering smoke from the cottage. The next rain would wash that stench away.

Right before he shot from the Woods, he thought he smelled another scent-the faintest hint of . . . the Old Ones, far in the distance. Not died out? They would hold no menace for Will or his mate-if she was claimed and marked with Will's bite.

Soon . . .

The keep was in sight. He'd have to cross the fields under the light. Could he prevent himself from turning and taking her in the grass?

Some benevolent fate smiled down on him, cloaking the moon with drifting clouds. "We're almost there, Chloe."

He bolted through the doorway, up the stairs with one great leap. In their room, he laid her on the bed, then dashed to the windows. Those bays were positioned to catch the moon's rise and set.

As he stretched out his arms to clasp the drapes, the moon emerged from the clouds; light blasted him like a spotlight.

He shuddered, his beast stirring. Will snatched the curtains closed, shaking his head hard. No, no' tonight! Stay in your goddamned cage!

Back to his mate. As gently as he could, he removed her clothes, slashing off his own, then grabbed the potion bottle.

Her shakes were growing worse, her teeth beginning to chatter. "MacRieve, it hurts so bad."

"I know, baby, I know exactly. Here." He opened the bottle. "You need tae get this down." He cupped the back of her head, raising her to drink. Some spilled down her lips. His chest twisted as he tenderly brushed the liquid away.

Now, waiting.

"What happened while I was out?" she asked in a hushed voice. "You're so . . . different."

He brushed her hair from her forehead. "I'll explain it all tomorrow. For now, just know that I meant what I said-I want everything from you."

Her eyes grew a touch brighter. "But how can you forget what I am? Once I feel better, surely I'll strew-"

He cut her off with a quick kiss. "You doona have that ability. A wee cambion like you has no control over me. You never did."

"What?"

"Imagine my shock, after I blamed everything on your strew. Ah, lass, I've so much tae make up for. Starting tonight." Just let me be her mate.

"Can you truly keep the beast caged?"

"I've avoided the moon as much as possible. I can do this for you, Chloe. For us."

"The pain's lessening. I feel a little stronger." The first move she made was to stroke his cheek. Heaven.

He'd fallen head over heels; he began to hope he could claim her heart as well.

If he could save her. Reminded of the clock, he began kissing her neck, trailing to her br**sts. "This first time must be quick, before the potion wears off." All he had to do was be quick, yet gentle, and keep his beast at bay.

What could possibly go wrong?

As he took a nipple between his lips and started to suck, he dipped his hand between her thighs to sink a finger inside her. Gods, her silken sheath was so hot as it clenched his finger. Even in his panic, his c*ck went rock-hard for that tightness, moisture welling atop the crown.

By the time he'd moved to her other breast and wedged a second finger inside, she was rocking her hips, riding his fingers. Responding so perfectly.

"Is this better, lass?"

She nodded. "I'm ready. I think."

He would've liked to prepare her more, to take her to the very edge. They had no time. He moved between her legs, fisting his cock, aiming it against her opening. With a shallow roll of his hips, he began inching his length inside her. "Am I hurting you?"

Her eyes widened. "No, but something's different. . . ." She bit her bottom lip. "I, uh, just got a hint of what's to come, so to speak."

His pr**um. "I imagine those hints are no' in short supply. Even now, you've got me crazed for you."

She moaned, wriggling on his rod to get him deeper. "It's pure energy-like adrenaline. Stronger than I've ever known."

Because it's no longer tainted. Pressing wet kisses to her swollen br**sts, he rocked between her taut thighs. When Chloe gripped his shoulders and met him, the beast gloried in her wellness and wanted its turn inside her. This was the first full moon with their mate; the night was the beast's by right.

And the beast wanted its due.

Will refused it. He skimmed his fingers down Chloe's side, then reached between them to stroke her clitoris. He groaned to find that little bud so firm and sensitive.

She moaned, undulating her h*ps for more touch, for more of his shaft.

"Ah, your eyes are glowing!"

She promptly closed them. "Y-you hate that color."

"No longer, because I can see them clearly now." He kissed one lid, then the other. "I find them so beautiful, Chloe. I need tae see them. If your eyes glow, I'll know you're getting better."

She peeked them open. Whatever she saw in his expression made her relax, the corners of her lips curling.

Aye, he needed to see her eyes-and he needed to feel her succubus pull. He knew what he felt for her, knew he would nourish her well. And the more she fed, the stronger she'd be. Only when he experienced that last pull from her would his worry ease.

He lay fully atop her, forehead to forehead, his hands snaking behind her to clamp her arse with splayed fingers. He held her in place beneath his body, so that her stiff n**ples raked along his sweating chest, so that the root of his erection ground her cl*t with his every thrust.

Though he scarcely knew how, he was controlling his beast. Yet the need to mark her neck lashed him. She was still too weak; he could defeat that urge.

For now-

A beam of light from the rising moon slipped through a crack in the curtains and shone directly into his face.

Light illuminated his ice-blue eyes. "MacRieve?" Though Chloe was already stronger-each time his shaft throbbed inside her, she got a hit of adrenaline-she wasn't ready for the beast's ferocity.

And the pain medicine had begun wearing off. "I-I need you to stay with me."

He pinned her wrists above her head, his face just above hers, his gaze boring into hers. "I'll give you whatever you need. I've wrested control of it, Chloe." With a stunned expression, he said, "I'm in control. Of it, of everything."

For the first time in his life.

"I'm goin' tae be right for you." He leaned down to take her lips.

Between kisses, she murmured, "You are . . . you are."

He continued surging his big body over hers, covering her completely. With each thrust, his h*ps stroked against her thighs. Beneath her calves, his muscled ass flexed to drive his c*ck deeper, penetrating her to the hilt. His chest rubbed over her br**sts, while the base of his unyielding shaft hit her sensitive clitoris.

She was about to come for this hot, lathered male. And the dizzying intensity of her building orgasm was . . . frightening.

With his voice rough and his accent pronounced, he said something in Gaelic.

"What did you say?"

"You've let me tend tae your fire, and tonight it's searing me clean. I can be what you need." At her ear, he rasped, "I'll feed you well, mate. Give you everything I have in me. Always." He circled his hips, grinding his thick shaft against her. "All for you."

"Oh, God, oh, God . . ." More thrusts, more grinding. More MacRieve. That dizzy intensity kept mounting until she was whimpering, bucking beneath him, two slick bodies roiling.

She was insensible, a slave to pleasure, to whatever this man wanted from her.

Rapture struck. "MacRieve!" Pounding waves seized her as she screamed, "More!" In a wet rush, her sheath contracted along his length, hungry for his heat to flood her.

"Chloe, ah, gods! You're milking me so hard. . . ."

She'd clenched him so tightly, he stopped thrusting-

His back bowed. "Woman! It's strong!" he bellowed in disbelief. "Take it from me!" he roared as streams of hot seed shot into her.

She was still writhing with her own orgasm as his sem*n filled her, pulse after scorching pulse.

At the last instant, his entire body jerked. "There's your pull, baby. That's it." Jaw slack, eyes rolling back in his head, he grated, "Take it deep for me. Take my seed so deep. . . ."

When Will's brain could register thought once more, one realization was foremost: I'm her mate.

Chloe had strengthened him. Indeed, his new power was so staggering, he feared hurting her. She lay still with her eyes closed. When he started hardening again, he forced himself to withdraw and roll his weight off her.

"Are you better, lass?" He thought he'd been gentle with her. Tonight, he'd leashed his beast so totally, he knew he could handle it as well as any Lykae. Better than! Still, he must have hurt her. "Chloe, did I-"

She suddenly arched her back, arms falling over her head. When her palms slapped the headboard, the solid wood cracked.

Will bit out a short, shocked: "Whoa."

She reared up, eyes alight. "You're my mate?"

"Oh, aye." He beat a fist over his chest. "I could stop a locomotive right now."

"Good. You're going to need all the strength you can muster."

"That so?" He rose to open the drapes. When he faced her, she was on her hands and knees crawling across the bed to him.

"I've got the moon on my back, my beast in submission, and the hottest piece of cambion arse feeding me power. I can take anything you can dish out. And your neck's about tae bear my bite."

When she visibly shivered, he said, "I'm back in the game with my bonny mate, no? I believe I just scored a hat trick."

"You're officially off the bench," she breathed, "cleared for play. With a fangirl who fell for you-"

He lunged for her; she leapt for him. He caught her in midair, twisting to pin her against the wall as he shoved his c*ck home. "Ahhh, Chloe!"

She took his mouth with her own so hard their teeth knocked together before they found each other's lips. Both their tongues thrust, both their h*ps rocked. Deep kisses, hard f**king.

She locked her legs around his waist, holding on for dear life because he was plowing her cunny like a piston. Bliss ratcheted to another record height.

When she sank her claws into his back, he howled with satisfaction-and did the same to hers. Though his beast remained dormant, Will's fangs lengthened to mark his mate.

He and Chloe bounced from one wall to the next, shaking the entire structure.

Between kisses, she said, "I hope your keep's sturdy!"

"It's our keep, our wolf's lair, and we're about tae find out." He took her mouth once more, and she licked his tongue, sucking it.

Mercy me.

But then she broke away with a breathy plea: "Mark me hard, MacRieve."

"You want my bite?"

"I love you. I belong to you, and I want everyone to know it."

Just stopping himself from roaring with triumph, he gripped her hair, tugging till her neck was bared to him. "Is leamsa so, Chloe MacRieve. And I'll be marking you as hard as I'm lovin' you." With a snarl, he sank his fangs into the tender skin of her neck, biting the ever-living hell out of her. . . .

Chapter Forty-Nine

On into the early morning, long after the moon had set, Will still hadn't gotten enough of Chloe, was stiffening inside her yet again.

But his lass's lids were heavy. After their exertions, his young mate had inevitably grown sleepy. Not from sickness-from a well-earned need for rest.

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