Can fated love triumph over the threat of war?
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Aislinn Cavett lives a sheltered life, raised in a human supremacist compound and kept separate from the wild variety of non-humans teeming outside the compound’s fence.
North American Pack Alpha Darius Bishop believes peace with the Humans First group is the only way to protect his wolves from ongoing, senseless violence.
When Darius arrives at the Humans First compound for peace negotiations, he finds something he didn’t expect—his mate. Fate couldn’t have chosen a more inconvenient mate for him in the General’s daughter, but Darius doesn’t care. Aislinn is perfect.
War could be the result of their mating. When her father advances and his own wolves turn against him, Darius has to make an impossible choice—his love and his sanity, or the lives of his pack.
The SUVs had stopped on a large paved area that she quickly identified as a runway. A hangar lay behind them and not far away sat a small white plane, glinting in the sunlight.
As soon as they were away from the SUVs, Darius pulled her in front of him and pushed her along with his hands on her shoulders. That didn’t seem smart, considering her legs were shorter than his. “I’m going to trip you,” she protested.
“You’re safer in front of me.” As they walked-almost jogged-toward the airplane, his gaze darted from one spot to the next, all around them. She’d seen that alertness in the men around her. He was looking for danger.
Then they reached the steps. He practically lifted her up to the top before she’d even had a chance to do it herself. Then he crowded in behind her, ducking his head to avoid hitting it on the doorframe. He rested his hands on her shoulders again. “Take a seat.”
Any seat? She spotted a free aisle seat near the back but hadn’t taken more than two steps toward it before he pulled her back toward him.
“Here.” He propelled her toward an empty row and stood at the end while she sat by the window. “Everyone ready?”
The door made a sucking noise as it closed. Darius took one last look up and down the plane then sat down beside her and put on his seatbelt. “Got your seatbelt on?” She hadn’t even had a chance to answer before he reached across her and stuck his hand down the side of the seat, brushing against her hip and the side of her thigh in the process.
She pulled back but there wasn’t anywhere to go. “What are you doing?”
“Getting your seatbelt.” He pulled one end of it out of the side of the seat.
She was sitting on the other half. She knew she was-it was Murphy’s Law. Because he was bound and determined to get that seatbelt on her and that meant he’d stick his hand under her butt to find it.
And damned if she wouldn’t enjoy it.
Aislinn grabbed the belt out of his hand and shooed him away. “I can put on my own seatbelt.”
“Then do it.” He didn’t move back, not even an inch.
Ignoring the grasshoppers jumping in her stomach, she maneuvered the other half of the seatbelt out from under her then clicked them into place. “Done.”
He still didn’t move back. She finally looked up to see him gazing at her mouth. “You feel it too.”
“The pull. The need. Tell me you feel it too.” After a full second, he thrust himself backward into his seat. “What am I saying? You’re human. You don’t feel it.”
She did feel it. But if she had any hope of going home, she’d better not tell him that. He’d already told her he would never let her go. How much more determined would he be if he knew how he made her blood pressure rise?
After a couple of minutes of silence, he said, “We have a few hours of flying ahead of us. Tell me about yourself.”
Talking about herself was the last thing she wanted to do. Heck, she didn’t like talking about herself with people she knew well. She certainly wouldn’t do it with this stranger. “How about you tell me what’s going on instead? What do you mean when say I’m your mate?”
He shifted in his seat so he could more easily face her. “Fine, we can start there. How much do you know about werewolves?”
How to kill them. Yeah…that wouldn’t be a good thing to say. “A little, but not much.”
His voice dropped, becoming a sexy rumble. “We’re each gifted with one mate in our lifetimes. We don’t get to choose who it is; instead, we feel it when we meet them. They smell…amazing.” He lifted his hand and ran it down her hair. “There’s no mistaking it. When we meet our mates, we know. And you’re mine.”
At least he thought she smelled amazing; that was something. “But what if they can’t be together? I mean-your brother was right. There’s no way you and I can stay together, even if we want to.”
His expression turned fierce. “We do want to. And there’s nothing we can’t do if we set our minds to it.”
How quickly he’d slipped into saying ‘we’…as though they were a pair. She met his gaze but didn’t say anything.
“Mates don’t part,” he said. “And we aren’t going to, either.”
“You can’t keep me against my will.”
A smile danced around his mouth, a mischievousness lighting up his eyes. “Maybe not, but I can make you change your mind about what you want.” His hand rested on her knee. “Just wait until we get alone.”
A shiver went through her. She tried to suppress it, but based on the look he gave her, she wasn’t successful. Why was it that this man who had kidnapped her, who she should be fighting against, made her melt, made her feel alive in a way she’d never felt before, made her wish they didn’t have all of this baggage and nastiness between them and could actually be together?
But they couldn’t.
“What else?” she said. “This mating-it’s like marriage?”
He squeezed her knee. “More than that. And it’s different. We do have a formal ceremony, kind of like a wedding, but the real joining is private. We make love…” His hand slid a little higher on her leg. “And I make you mine by giving you my mark.”
Well, that was clear as mud. She put her hand over his to stop its upward progression, but he turned the tables on her by flipping his hand over and capturing hers.
She had to get control of this situation. “So, what does that mean? What’s a mark?”
He swallowed, his eyes settling on the crook between her shoulder and neck. “I’ll bite you, and even after the bite heals, the magic of it will let other males know you’re mine.”
This time she suppressed the shiver that threatened to run through her, but just barely. Why on earth the thought of him sinking his teeth into her flesh turned her on, she didn’t know. But it did.
“And then what?”
He paused. “What do you mean?”
“And then we’re just joined together forever?”
“Well-yes. We move in together, build a home, have some pups.”
She tried to pull her hand out of his but he wouldn’t let go. “Pups?”
“Wolves breed true. We almost always mate outsiders; we assume that has to do with keeping the gene pool viable. But the children are always wolves.”
Oh, her father would love that. Little werewolf grandchildren running around.
But what was she thinking? She couldn’t become this man’s mate, even if just the sound of his voice turned her bones to jelly. “We can’t do this,” she said gently. “Even if you can get over what my father’s done, my father won’t get over us being together. If you don’t let me go, there’ll be war.”
“He loves you that much?”
She barked a laugh then wished she could take it back. “He doesn’t love me that much. He loves his pride. He could never handle the idea that something or someone of his was taken by the wolves. He’d have to get me back. And he wouldn’t care how many people had to die so he could have his victory.”
Darius gazed at her, saying nothing. After several moments, she had to look away. It felt like he was looking inside her soul, peeling back every shield she’d put in place to keep herself safe. She tried again to pull her hand away, and again he wouldn’t let her.
“It must have been hard to grow up with a father like that.” His voice was so soft she almost couldn’t hear him. “No wonder you wear such heavy armor.” He ran his hand down her hair again, but stopped at her shoulder, letting his thumb rub against her cheek. “You can take it off now. I’ll never let anything hurt you, ever again.”
Fear scrambled up her throat, and inside, she retreated. She couldn’t stand for anyone to look so closely at her, to see her so well. If they looked too closely they’d see the truth-she was worthless. Just a pawn, and not a good one at that.