You are on page 1of 132

This Halloween, love bites back… hard.

Chastity Adofo knows a monster when she sees one. As soon as


Luke Anthony wanders into her family’s coffee shop, she
recognises the evil lurking beneath his charming smile and
fantastic arse. The handsome werewolf is determined to have
her—but she’s determined to cut out his heart.

Little does she know, Luke’s plans for her are far more
pleasurable than murder. And when the full moon rises, all bets
are off…

Warning: Mating the Huntress is 30,000+ words of red-hot,


Halloween-themed romance. This novella contains one
flirtatious, cursed creature of the night, one badass, knife-happy
heroine, and forbidden lust at first sight. Please read
responsibly!
MATING THE HUNTRESS

A HALLOWEEN ROMANCE
TALIA HIBBERT

NIXON HOUSE
MATING THE HUNTRESS: Talia Hibbert
Copyright (c) 2018 by Nixon House

Credits: Cover by Cosmic Letterz.


All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the
product of the author’s imagination, or within the public domain. Any resemblance to
actual events or actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
No portion of this book may be reprinted, including by any electronic or mechanical
means, or in information storage and retrieval systems, without express written
permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a review.
Created with Vellum
For the matriarchs.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thank you to my boyfriend, who, instead of confiscating my


laptop when I broke my own rules to write this book, said,
“Sounds pretty cool, actually,” and proceeded to mind his own
business.
Thank you to Em Ali and Zahra Butt for editing my thinly-veiled
Buffy fanfic (JK, pls don’t sue me) into something useful.
Thank you to Ellen Baier, Adina Taylor, Rosa Giles and Jhenelle
Jacas for supporting a messy little musher of words like me.
Thank you.
CONTENTS

Content Note
Prologue
1. October
2. Creation
3. The Change
4. Monster of Mine
5. Rabid
6. Judgement
7. Full Moon Rising
8. The Beast Within
Thank You
Become a V.I.P.
Author’s Note
About the Author
Also by Talia Hibbert
CONTENT NOTE

Please be aware: this book contains casual violence and reference


to rapists, which some readers may find uncomfortable. Rapists
are mentioned specifically in Chapter 5, Rabid.
PROLOGUE
SEPTEMBER

T he Adofo women had been separated, and now Victory


would die.
She knew it, too—but dying on her knees wasn’t part of the
plan, and it certainly wasn’t the Adofo way. So the young woman
sprinted through the frigid forest, her muscles screaming and
every breath tasting like blood in her mouth. The full moon’s icy
glow wasn’t strong enough to illuminate each treacherous
branch and root, so she let her instincts guide her. Victory
ducked and leapt and weaved just in time, every time, because
she was a huntress.
A huntress who had just become the hunted.
Slaughtering Werewolves had been Victory’s duty for years now,
but she’d never experienced anything like tonight’s events.
Weres might walk in human skin sometimes, but at their hearts,
they were monsters. Slathering beasts. Easy enough for a team
of women to put down, once they’d been identified and trapped.
Yet the creature they hunted tonight… It was different. Smarter
than it should be, cunning, almost human in its behaviour. It
had played them, rounded them up and herded them away from
each other. It had disarmed them one by one with an intelligence
that had raw terror grinding through her bones. Now, Victory
was alone, armed only with a silver dagger that would be useless
until she was in range of the Were’s teeth and claws. She held it
tighter, so tight that the hilt began to cut into her palm.
Her little sister, Chastity, could turn and hurl this blade into the
beast’s eye from 50 paces, hard enough to hit its brain. But
Chastity wasn’t here, despite her skill. Chastity would never be
here, never find herself running senselessly from death, and
Victory had never been so fucking happy about that as she was
right then.
Perhaps it was the thought of her sister’s ruthlessness, or
perhaps it was the pain of her own grip on the dagger, but
Victory’s fear began to fade. Soon, only the pride of an Adofo
woman remained, as sharp and bright as the silver in her fist.
After a moment’s grim consideration, she finally stopped
running, because a second’s rational thought had revealed a dark
truth: The thing could’ve caught her ages ago. It had been
playing with her. Trying to break her, perhaps. Whatever its
twisted reasoning, she wouldn’t play its game.
With a stretch of lips that could never be called a smile, Victory
faced death.
The creature stood a few metres away, watching her with
curiosity. It was a shock to realise that she could identify any
emotion on that cruelly distorted face, but she could. Regardless,
the thing in front of her was undeniably a monster. Standing at
eight or nine feet, the beast was all terrifying muscle and ragged
fur that gleamed gunmetal grey in the moonlight. Its limbs were
too long, its hind legs powerful and unnaturally formed. It
seemed to have arms and hands, but those hands ended in claws
as sharp as Victory’s dagger. It stared at her with eyes of
glowing, poisonous green, sitting above a snarling muzzle that
displayed vicious fangs. Those fangs, Victory knew, would eat
her alive.
She stepped closer. This, she told herself, was the best option.
Once the beast had slaughtered her, moon madness wouldn’t
allow it to turn away from her corpse. It would eat her. And the
endeavour would take long enough that the rest of her family,
separated and confused, would escape the forest’s haunting
embrace and head to their meeting point to regroup. Eventually,
they’d realise that she was missing—but by that point, the Were
would likely have dragged her cadaver to its lair, so they would
be safe from attack.
Her death would have a purpose. At this point, that was all she
could ask for.
She tossed her dagger to the ground and spat, “Come the fuck
on, then.” Her voice didn’t shake because she was a huntress,
but she did tug the sleeves of her hoodie over her fingers in a
nervous habit left over from childhood. The action had always
comforted a once-shy Victory, and it comforted her now, too;
especially because she’d borrowed this red zip-up hoodie from
Chastity that evening. Chas had bitched and moaned about the
fact that she wasn’t permitted to hunt, and Victory had laughed.
She’d snapped her teeth at her little sister and joked, “You
should be grateful. Who wants to play with the big, bad wolf?”
Perhaps she was a little bit clairvoyant.
And perhaps not. Because what happened next, Victory could
never have seen coming.
The Were overcame its hesitation all at once, lunging for her
with the disturbing grace that all Werewolves seemed to possess.
It landed on top of her, knocking her to the ground, its weight so
vast that her lungs seized. Victory’s world shrank in an instant,
until all she could focus on was the burning-hot breath bathing
her skin, the scalding drool dripping from seven-inch fangs, and
the venomous green eyes pinned to hers.
The creature opened its jaws, and she saw hell.
But instead of biting her goddamn face off, it made a sound. A
low, ragged, snarling sound that almost seemed like… a word? A
series of words, in fact, since it produced a few more strange
noises. Then, when Victory’s only response was to gape in
astonishment, the Werewolf…
The Werewolf repeated itself.
“Err—if—mm—eye?” came its halting growl.
She squinted. “I beg your pardon?” (Imminent death, her
mother would remind her, was no reason to abandon good
manners.)
“Err if meye?” the Were roared, sounding rather impatient. Then
it clamped its fangs shut, shook its head for a moment, bent
spine-chillingly closer… and sniffed her. She felt its wet nose
against her neck like a particularly huge and terrifying dog’s.
Victory held perfectly still, her blood rushing like lava in her
veins, terror pulsing against her skull like the very worst
migraine. Every muscle in her body tensed as she waited for her
life to end in a storm of pain and suffering.
Then she felt a tug, heard a rip, and suddenly the weight pinning
her to the ground was gone.
Was she… dead? Had she just heard her own vital organs being
torn apart like paper? Victory opened eyes she barely
remembered closing and decided that she must still be alive.
Ghosts, as every sensible person knew, generally floated above
their own corpses after death. They didn’t continue to lie in the
cold dirt, feeling every bruise and ache and sprain in their body,
while staring up at the Werewolf who’d just ripped off a part of
their hoodie. And, since that’s exactly what Victory was doing,
she clearly was not a ghost.
The Were blinked down at her for a second, the glow of its
unnatural eyes illuminating the scrap of red fabric hanging
between its teeth. Then, as if its inspection had been completed,
it turned and darted away.
Victory sat up, ignoring the sharp stab of pain in her skull and
the rather concerning agony of her ribs. This didn’t make any
sense. Why was the Were leaving? It shouldn’t be able to leave. It
should be a slathering, frenzied beast caught in the grip of the
moon, driven only by the promise of blood and gore and death. It
shouldn’t be rational enough to walk away from a kill! And why
on earth had it taken part of her hoodie?
Wait. No. Not Victory’s hoodie.
Chastity’s.
1

OCTOBER

L uke Anthony was a simple beast, curse of the moon aside.


He asked for very little: creatures to devour, excellent Wi-
Fi, and a complete lack of human company, to be specific. Cup
o’Go did very well on the Wi-Fi front, and it also sold food—dead
meat only, unfortunately—but it was entirely too populous for
his liking.
And yet, Luke kept turning up. Day after day. To see her.
The café’s door swung shut behind him, its little bell tinkling
over the chatter of other patrons. He couldn’t see her at the
counter, but he knew immediately that she was here somewhere.
He could smell her, stronger than the fresh-baked pastries and
Kenyan coffee beans, even stronger than the taste of the next
full moon in the air. She was an intoxicating mix of autumn
leaves, red velvet cake and chilled iron that had his cock
hardening instantly—which was bloody inconvenient, to be
honest. Public erections were, by all accounts, considered
impolite. Luckily for Luke, self-restraint was his strongest
survival skill. So, with great effort, he willed his body to behave.
A second later, she appeared, popping out from the backroom
with her hairnet on and her apron neatly in place. He watched as
she took over from the boy at the till with a smile and a few short
words. She’d been doing that since the first day he’d hunted her
down to this little store; making herself available whenever he
was around. Putting herself in his path. She was only human, but
she must feel the connection between them too. They were
fated, after all. They were written in the stars. And once he
figured out how to ask a human woman on a date, Luke would
mate her and fuck her and live happily ever after as her devoted
swain. Chastity Adofo would be his.
But he was getting ahead of himself. He should probably say
hello first.
He reached the counter and stood for a moment, staring at her in
silence like a dickhead. He couldn’t help it. She was his mate—
not yet, technically, but still—and she was so beautiful, with her
dark curls battling the hairnet and her round, midnight eyes that
looked everywhere but him. She had full lips that she always
chewed on nervously, skin like brown velvet, a little scar on her
right elbow, and—
The love of Luke Anthony’s life cleared her throat and said,
“Good morning, Sir. What can I get you?”
And, just like every other morning for the past few weeks, he
said gruffly, “Usual. And call me Luke.”
She flashed him a tiny smile and turned to the coffee machine.
This, you see, was the problem: Luke wasn’t so good with people.
Or talking. Or talking to people. He didn’t usually care if he came
off as threatening, or feral, or whatever—but this was Chastity.
She was special, and shy, while he was an apex predator with a
burning desire to sink his teeth into her arse. How was he
supposed to convey all of that in a way that wouldn’t scare her
shitless? He had no idea. Just the other day, he’d Googled How to
ask a woman out without making her fear for her life—but the
results hadn’t been particularly helpful.
While he ruminated, she finished sorting out his coffee and got
to work on his six ham and cheese croissants. Not as filling as
he’d prefer, for breakfast, but he didn’t want to freak her out by
ordering twenty. Since heating up the snacks brought her to face
him again, Luke decided to test his conversational skills.
“Cold outside,” he said.
Chastity smiled and nodded, her corkscrew curls trembling, her
gaze flitting shyly away from his. She was just so… delicate.
Everything, from the curve of her forearms to the lush shape of
her figure, screamed Soft. He had no fucking clue how to care for
a woman like that without breaking her—but he would, he
reminded himself. He would figure it out. She was his mate.
They were made for each other.
He slid a hand into his pocket and grasped the scrap of bright-
red fabric in there, the fabric that had led him to her.
Sometimes, that fabric confused him, since he’d torn it from the
body of a huntress—but right now, it gave him courage. Chastity
was his, and he was hers. Nothing could get in the way of that.
His eyes settled on the Halloween-themed treats on display, and
he decided to try again. “Biscuits look good.”
To his absolute shock, she actually replied. She spoke to him,
using words that weren’t related to his order. He almost dropped
down dead. Her gaze still lowered, she murmured, “Those are
scones.”
He blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“That’s okay.”
Not what he’d meant, but he was too busy rolling around in the
sound of her voice to care. She was much firmer than he’d expect
from someone so shy, her tone steely and smooth. His wolf liked
that. And, apparently, biscuits were the topic that would tease a
conversation out of her—which made sense, all things
considered. Trying not to sound too eager, he asked, “Do you
bake?”
She hesitated for a moment before answering. “Allegedly. Does
it count if you eat your own bakes before anyone else can see
them?”
He felt a huge grin spread over his face. Sounding exactly as
besotted as he felt, Luke said, “You’re funny.”
She pursed her lips. “Hm.”
That was it. Just a short, flat sound. Maybe she was feeling shy
again. After a beat, he tried once more. “So. It’s Halloween next
week.”
“Quite,” she said, and slapped his six croissants on a tray.
He sighed, paid, picked up his tray and left her alone. According
to his research, human women didn’t like being harassed 24/7.
He still wasn’t 100% clear on how not to do that, but he was
trying his best.
What he really needed was to get her away from this shop. Once
she was off the clock he’d feel better about shoving his
conversation down her throat. Luke bit into his first croissant
and chewed thoughtfully. Maybe it was time to ask her out. After
all, she’d just talked to him. Voluntarily. In complete sentences.
About something other than coffee! That was a great sign, right?
Right. It was past time to claim her, really. He’d been cautious
for her sake, but his beast was getting rage-y—which didn’t
bode well for anything with a pulse—and he was sick of these
never-ending erections. He’d never had one in his life until the
first time he’d scented her, and he had a feeling that she was the
only one who could deal with them effectively. So, it was settled.
Today, Luke vowed, he wasn’t leaving this fucking café until he’d
finally asked out his mate.
“Y OU ’ RE FUNNY .” Pah. Did he think she was so easy to beguile?
Chastity Adofo leaned against the café’s counter and watched
the Werewolf eat his croissants. He had decent table manners,
for a murderous beast. He had decent everything, in fact, but it
was all a predatory front. The confident grace with which he
moved was a distraction from his dangerously powerful build.
The sweetness of his smile hid those unusually sharp canines.
The honeyed shade of his skin and the ebony of his hair almost
made those vivid green eyes seem normal, but they most
assuredly were not. Chastity may be the only Adofo woman who
wasn’t allowed to hunt, but she’d been trained alongside her
sisters.
She knew a monster when she saw one.
This particular monster was doubtless the one who’d torn her
hoodie off of Victory last month. She’d been told of that
incident, warned that the Were might come for her on the next
full moon.
She hadn’t admitted to any of her sisters—and definitely not to
her mother—that it had come hunting much sooner than that,
in painfully handsome skin. The lie that was its gorgeous face
tugged at something deep inside her, something strange and
uncomfortable and forbidden. She presumed those feelings were
the famous Adofo huntress instincts, finally at work within her.
Judging by the way his presence drove up her pulse, heated her
blood and set her on edge, killing him might just be her destiny.
And once she did, her mother would finally see that Chastity
should be permitted to hunt.
“You got a crush, Chas?”
She turned her thoughts away from sweet, sweet murder and her
eyes away from her intended target. Her little brother had
appeared by her side with a shit-eating grin, drying a little plate
with a threadbare tea towel.
She rolled her eyes. “Get in the back, Val.”
Running the family business with her dad and brothers was
generally rewarding, but at times like this it just felt so… galling.
She was an Adofo woman. She should be a huntress.
But twenty-five years ago, on the day of Chastity’s birth, some
batty old oracle had rocked up to the delivery room and told her
parents—in typically dramatic fashion—that if Chastity ever
became a huntress, her first kill would rip out her own heart.
Sounded like a steaming pile of bullshit to Chas, but her parents
had taken it very seriously. So, here she was, a quarter century
later, plotting to slaughter a paying customer just to gain access
to her birthright. Her gaze slid over to the Werewolf in the
corner again. He appeared to have finished his croissants. He
was watching her with an intensity that sent shivers down her
spine. She looked away.
Her brother chuckled, oblivious to the presence of a monster in
their midst. “Relax, snippy. I was just coming to check on you. I
know you get awfully flustered when that guy’s around.” His
grin grew impossibly larger as he jerked his head not-so-subtly
towards Luke. Even if he had been subtle, it wouldn’t matter; Ma
had a theory that Werewolves maintained excellent hearing
while in human form. In fact, Chastity realised, if that were the
case, it was something she could use to her advantage…
Trying her best to sound bashful, she mumbled, “Valour, please.
Just be cool, okay?”
Her brother, the youngest of them all at nineteen, lit up at the
opportunity to roast a sibling. “Oh, for real? You like him.”
God, no. But if the beast thought she liked him, he’d hurry up
and ask her out already. Then, when they were somewhere nice
and private, she could decapitate him. Bearing that—and her
false shyness—in mind, she whispered awkwardly, “Would you
be quiet?”
“You should ask him out, sis.” Valour winked as he wandered
away. “He likes you too.”
Chastity barely resisted the urge to snort. That thing wasn’t
capable of ‘liking’ anyone. It liked the idea of barbecuing her, for
sure. Rolling her eyes at her little brother’s nonsense, she turned
back to the counter—
And let out a rather mortifying shriek when she found the
Werewolf standing right in front of her.
She blinked. Stared over at his abandoned seat by the window.
Then at him. Then at the seat.
How fast was he? He’d been sitting there seconds ago. A second
ago. Less than that! And she hadn’t heard him move, either,
despite the fact that she was aware of her surroundings at all
times. Just how may abilities did the Weres maintain in human
form, anyway? Maybe she shouldn’t kill him just yet. Maybe she
should stretch this faux-flirtation out, keep monitoring him, add
to their family’s sadly spotty knowledge of Were powers…
“Chastity,” he said, yanking her back to reality. His voice
sounded almost like a growl, which was appropriate. For a
moment, she was alarmed by the fact that he knew her name—
but then she remembered the tag embroidered on her apron, not
to mention his apparent super-hearing, and the fact that he’d
been coming here for weeks. Duh. Honestly, sometimes she felt
like her brain moved slower when he was around—which was
probably down to some primal fear instinct that her sisters, with
their superior experience, had overcome long ago.
Never mind the academic possibilities, she decided. She was
going to kill this fucker and claim her spot on the squad ASAP.
“Hi,” she said, hiding her murderous intentions behind a sweet
smile. Her reasoning was that many men—especially twisted,
dangerous men with fangs and claws and a species-wide
tendency towards mass murder—liked feminine attention. This
particular Werewolf was evidently one of those men, because he
put his hands flat against the counter and leaned towards her, an
answering smile on his face. It was a very handsome smile,
making faint lines crinkle around those unnatural eyes of his. If
she hadn’t known any better, she’d say he looked almost
adoring.
“Hi,” he replied, and there was a shimmering edge to his low,
gruff voice, one that suggested… excitement?
She knew these creatures liked the hunt.
“How are you?” he asked, which was a question he asked often.
Far more than most human customers. But that, no doubt, was
all part of his strange grooming process. Still, since she was
trying to speed this whole thing up, she decided to answer with
something other than a tremulous smile.
“I’m fine, thank you, Luke.”
He jolted as if she’d electrocuted him. It was the first time she’d
ever said his name, and he was clearly aware of the fact. He’d be
even more surprised, no doubt, if she revealed that she knew his
full name, his birthday, his address, and his little problem with
the moon. But she’d save those surprises until later.
Later, when he was chained up in her silver.
His face seemed to light up, those goddamn eyes glinting like
old-fashioned glass bottles in the sunlight. Freakish things.
Still, his smile was kind of cute, if you ignored the canines.
“Ah,” he said, running one massive hand through his hair.
“Great. So… do you like Halloween?”
If she were being herself right now, she’d arch a mildly scathing
brow. Did she like Halloween, the cursed beast asked. Was he
trying to be ironic? Maybe this was sick Werewolf humour.
Regardless, she could only dimple sweetly and say, “Yes.”
He didn’t seem bothered by the simplicity of her responses.
“Cool. Well, I wouldn’t usually do this—since you’re working—
but…” He huffed out a little laugh that might be charming if she
weren’t aware of his hunger for human flesh. “This is kind of a
special circumstance.” The special circumstance, she presumed,
was his desire to swallow her whole. “So, I don’t suppose you’re
free on Saturday night? Because if you are, maybe we could do
something Halloween-related.”
Halloween was Monday, but most people would be partying
Saturday. Of course, Chastity didn’t want to party. Killing him
would be awkward with so many witnesses. So she gave a smile
of genuine excitement—because she was genuinely excited to
carve out his heart and show it to Ma—and said, “I would love
that. How about a film night?”
He blinked. “Film night?”
“Yeah! We could watch old horror films and stuff, in honour of
Halloween. I love them.”
A slow smile spread over his face, different to the one he usually
gave her; less sweetly hesitant or quietly considering, and more
satisfied. It was the kind of smile a dangerous man gave a
vulnerable woman—or perhaps the kind a predator gave his
prey. The thought of seeing that smile before he ate her up sent
an odd thrill over Chastity’s skin, until every fine hair stood on
end.
“I love those too,” he said. “Didn’t think you’d be the type.”
Oops. It probably didn’t fit her gentle and demure façade, but
she liked to stick close to the truth when she lied. “I suppose I’m
full of surprises,” she said, which was also entirely honest. He
would definitely be surprised when she put him down.
Of course, Saturday wasn’t quite full moon night—Monday was
—so she wouldn’t actually be slaughtering a rabid beast, she
realised.
She’d be killing… him. Luke. A man.
No. He’s never a man. Not even when he looks like one.
“Okay,” he was saying. “Film night sounds great. Your place?”
“No,” she said quickly—maybe too quickly, judging by his blink
of surprise. Or perhaps he was just confused that a single
woman, who wasn’t visibly threatening, would voluntarily go to
a strange man’s home. “Yours, I think.” She pulled a pen and
notepad out from beside the till and handed it to him.
With a look somewhere between bafflement and wonder, he
wrote down his address.
She wondered how he’d look at her when she stabbed him in the
throat.
2

CREATION

T he night would have been pitch-black if it weren’t for the


light of the waxing moon, close to full and pure as pearl.
Beneath the haunting gloom lay a forest soaked in secrets, and at
its shadowed maw, a little cabin. Inside that cabin lurked death.
He, also known as Luke, was trying not to fidget.
Everything should be just fine; he knew that. He’d spent long
enough preparing, after all. Instinct demanded that he show his
mate he could provide for her, so he’d done his best to make his
spartan home seem inviting. There was a soft blanket on the
sofa, because humans got cold so easily, and a fire burning in the
grate for that same purpose. He couldn’t cook for shit, and he
didn’t think Chastity would react well if he presented her with a
rabbit carcass, so he’d run around town all day collecting
takeaway menus. Oh, and he’d bought cupcakes. He’d stalked
Chastity long enough to know that she liked cupcakes.
Now, everything in place, Luke waited with his hand shoved into
his pocket, toying with that scrap of scarlet fabric. Maybe
tonight, he’d find out how Chas knew the huntress he’d torn this
fabric from. They must be close, if they shared clothes. His
Chastity clearly wasn’t like him; she had friends, people she
bonded with. Luke was a solitary creature by nature, loyal to the
loving parents who’d raised him, but with no desire to forge
connections elsewhere.
Until he’d found her. Now, for the first time, he knew loneliness.
Felt the gap of her absence. Felt true hunger.
He forced his thoughts back to the huntress, the one Chastity
must know. Really, he owed the vicious woman his thanks. He
and his mate had apparently lived in the same city for years, but
he’d been so busy—mostly learning to manage his more violent
urges—that he’d never come across her scent until that night.
Of course, he’d have to give the huntress a stern talking to
before he thanked her. It was very rude to invade a man’s forest
and try to murder him. He understood the impulse—he was,
after all, a slathering beast of the darkness and denizen of evil—
but he couldn’t condone the random slaughtering of any species,
as a matter of principal.
He was still wondering how to get that point across without
upsetting his new mate’s friend/cousin/whatever when a knock
came at the front door.
He tried not to run.
Judging by her startled blink when he opened the door, though,
he’d still moved a little faster than was normal. Ah, well. He felt
himself smile without conscious thought, just at the sight of her
—and the scent of her, the usual mix of sweets and shadows,
plus an edge of wild arousal that only grew the longer he stared.
Luke tensed as he caught that hint of desire, locking down every
muscle in his body to stop himself from reacting. Don’t scare
her. Just because her body’s responding to you, doesn’t mean
shit.
He held his breath and focused on his sight instead, but that
wasn’t much better: Chastity looked as delicious as she smelled.
Her cheeks and the tip of her nose seemed shinier than usual,
doubtless because of the brisk October wind. That same wind
blew at her hair until it rose up around her head like a dark halo,
and whipped at the knee-length, black skirt he could see
beneath her coat. She held that skirt down with nervous hands
and gave him a tiny smile. She might as well have thrown her
arms around him, the way his heart reacted.
“Chastity,” he said. “Come in.”
But she hesitated in the doorway, her gaze on something
outside. “Where’d you get the pumpkins?” she asked.
“Someone was selling them at a market on the edge of town,” he
said slowly, poking his head out of the door to follow her gaze.
“Do you want some? The market’s every other Saturday. Of
course, we’d miss Halloween, but… you can eat pumpkins,
right?” He didn’t have the greatest knowledge of digestible
plants, but he’d definitely heard of humans eating pumpkins.
She pursed her lips, shook her head. “I meant—who did the
carvings?”
“Oh.” He looked down at the winding, floral pattern he’d carved
into one pumpkin, the full moon and forest landscape he’d
sliced into another. “I did.”
She blinked up at him in blatant disbelief.
His cheeks heated. “I’m good with my hands. Come on, you’ll
get cold.”
There was the slightest pause before she finally stepped over his
threshold, and then he had her. She was there, with him, in his
territory—well, she’d been in his territory the second she
stepped into the yard, but this was different. This was her
choosing to enter his home. Even though she didn’t know it yet,
and he had no idea how he’d get them to their happy ending,
this felt like a turning point. Like the moment when his
shadowy, solitary life began to brighten.
Luke ignored his pounding heart and willed his aching cock to
behave itself, just for tonight. Tonight, nothing could go wrong.
“Can I take your coat?” he asked, because apparently that was
the polite thing to do.
She unzipped the warm-looking jacket but held it close around
her. “Um, no thank you.”
Ah, fuck. “Is it too cold in here? I can build up the fire, if you
want.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” she said quickly. “I just, ah…”
He frowned when she trailed into silence, then looked down at
the place where her hands clutched the fabric. Her knuckles
were pale, she was holding on so tight. He realised all at once
that she must be nervous.
His dad got anxious sometimes, and when he did, he had little
habits that helped. So, maybe Chastity clinging to her coat was
like that. Maybe she was being brave right now. The thought
turned something inside him soft and warm, but at the same
time… well, at the same time, he was eager for the day when she
wouldn’t feel shy around him.
“Okay,” he said, hoping he sounded appropriately soothing.
“You keep it.”
She looked up at him sharply, seeming almost suspicious. Then
she confused him completely by asking, “Who told you what to
do with the pumpkins?”
She was really into those pumpkins. “I learned to carve when I
was a kid. My dad taught me.”
“No, I mean—the pictures. Someone showed them to you, right?
And you copied?”
Well, damn. Luke knew from his experience with humans that
he gave off more of a thug-slash-serial killer vibe than an
artistic one, but surely it wasn’t that unbelievable. “I didn’t copy
anything. Look.” There was a little shelf right by the door where
he kept his latest carvings—not of pumpkins, but of wood—so
he didn’t have to reach far to grab one at random. He held up a
tiny, half-finished acorn for her and said, “I make things. I made
this.”
She snatched the carving from his grasp, so fast he barely saw
her coming and so neatly that her fingers didn’t even brush his.
But for a heartbeat, he felt the ghost of the cold she’d dragged in
from outside, emanating from her skin. Suddenly he wanted to
wrap her poor little hands in his and rub them until she warmed
right up.
She seemed more concerned with peering at his work. “You’re
serious,” she said slowly. “You made this.”
“I’m an artist. Pays the bills.” He shrugged, as if his art weren’t
everything to him. “I… I had temper issues, when I was young.
My mum kicked me out and told me to find my own peace. And I
did. Eventually.” He nodded at the acorn.
Her eyes widened for a moment before she asked, “Can I have
this?”
“Uh… it’s not finished.”
“I know.”
He thought for a moment before shrugging. “If you want. I can
make you something better, though.”
She gave him one of those little smiles, like a waning moon, and
shook her head. “This is wonderful.” She slipped the acorn into
her pocket while Luke fought down giddy satisfaction. If she
liked the carvings he made to pass the time, she’d love a real
piece. He would make her something. He’d find out what she
loved, and he’d make it just for her.
He’d do whatever it took to keep his mate smiling that rare,
half-moon smile.
L UKE COULD BE … creative?
Chastity wasn’t exactly an expert, but she was quite sure
Werewolves shouldn’t be capable of that. For one thing, it was a
solid indication of possessing a soul. She fingered the little
wooden carving in her pocket and decided to show Constance at
some point. Her eldest sister would know what it meant. In the
meantime, she might have to put off her murderous plans. Just
for a little while, for the sake of research.
Damn it.
She’d barely been here twenty minutes and she was already
uncertain. Uncertainty made her irritable. It was, of course, the
Werewolf’s fault. He was confusing her, with his nice little cabin,
his friendly hospitality and his amazing bloody pumpkins.
And had he always smelled this fucking good? Chastity wasn’t
sure. The café’s aroma had a way of drowning out everything
else, so maybe he’d always had this incredible scent, this heady
mixture of power, fresh pine and midnight heat, and she’d never
noticed. Or maybe it was his strange little house in the shadows
of the forest, rather than him, that smelled so great. It didn’t
really matter, in the end, now did it? Because when she was
through with him, he’d end up dead regardless.
That thought pounded through her blood like a drumbeat as he
fussed around her, as he told her to sit down, as he showed her a
small mountain of takeout menus and asked what she wanted to
eat. By the time he went to order, she barely remembered her
own decisions. She was too busy breathing through her mouth,
trying to avoid that goddamn scent. It was fogging her brain,
somehow, relaxing muscles that needed to stay tense, melting
her murderous intent until she found herself questioning the
ethical implications of killing a Were in human form, and of
killing a Were who could… create.
“Pepperoni, right?”
His voice, rough and rich as brown sugar, yanked Chastity out of
her own head. She dragged her gaze from the flames dancing in
Luke’s old-fashioned fireplace to his face, then wished she
hadn’t. He really was so handsome. It just wasn’t right. She tried
to remember her sisters’ descriptions of vile, slathering Weres,
tried to superimpose that image over his strong jaw and smiling
mouth and the cute bump in the bridge of his nose, and failed.
He raised his brows a little and her cheeks warmed. God, he’d
asked her a question and she’d responded by drooling over his
pretty face. What was with her?
“Yeah,” she said, and he nodded and spoke into the phone.
Chastity settled deeper into the sofa while she waited, snuggling
into the blanket before she could stop herself. It was a really
comfy sofa, okay? She definitely wasn’t letting her guard down.
She had a pistol in her underarm holster—silver bullets—and a
silver dagger strapped to her thigh beneath this ridiculous skirt,
which she’d borrowed from her flighty sister, Prudence. The
minute he went for her, she’d be ready. She didn’t foresee any
problems; after all, she had the element of surprise, and beneath
his predatory charm, he was just a rabid animal.
One hand slid into her pocket without permission, feeling for
that acorn again. A nagging little voice in her head reminded her
that humans were animals too.
“Pizza should be here in thirty minutes,” the Werewolf
announced, running a hand through his always-messy hair.
“Want a cupcake?”
Chastity stared.
“I know,” he said. “Cupcakes should be dessert. But it’s
Halloween.” He flashed her a smile that was seven kinds of
sinful and excruciatingly sexy, his eyes darkening to a shade that
reminded her of a midnight forest. “Red velvet’s your favourite,
right?”
“Yes,” she said slowly, feeling almost dizzy with the force of that
tempting smile, that knowing voice. This must be some kind of
ploy. Since when did men who weren’t her brothers notice her
favourite things? Especially men she barely even spoke to?
“Great.” He sauntered off to the kitchenette. Most of this cabin
seemed to be open plan, though his bed was nowhere to be seen.
Chas found herself peering around at the few doors in her view,
wondering which of them led to his room. Her pulse ratcheted
up a notch as she thought about being dragged into his lair,
about those unnatural eyes appearing above her in the dark right
before he—
“Here we go,” Luke called from the kitchenette, showing her a
fat cupcake crowned in creamy icing. “I got them today. Oh, wait
—you probably want a plate. And a fork? I’m not good with…”
She almost said, Human stuff? But caught herself at the last
second. “Don’t worry about all that,” she assured him, because
really, who bothered with social niceties when there was cake to
be eaten?
He grinned, grabbed a cupcake of his own, and wandered over,
popping one into her hand. The cake’s sugar-sweet scent was
delicious, almost as delicious as him. And where the hell had
that thought come from? No more thinking about Luke’s
bedroom, she decided as he sat down beside her.
She was concentrating on tamping down the fight-or-flight
response elicited by sitting an arm’s-length away from a
Werewolf when she noticed that Luke was licking his cream
cheese icing.
Oh, fuck.
His broad tongue swept over the thick, pale swirls, scooping up
the little red flakes of sugar that acted as decoration. He
managed to decimate half the icing in one long lick, his lids
lowered in shameless pleasure, his blissed-out expression
making her oddly… uncomfortable. Fidgety. Unable to look
away. Which was why, when he opened his eyes a second later,
he found her staring at him.
His lips twitched, but there was something disarmingly erotic in
his eyes. “I have terrible manners, I know.”
“I lick the icing off, too,” she blurted out. She had no idea what
was going on with her runaway mouth. Why on earth would she
tell a Werewolf something like that?
His smile widened into a grin she found disturbingly attractive.
“Tut, tut, Chastity. What else do you lick?”
The odd, electrical tingling in her belly that occurred whenever
he was near—presumably some kind of instinctive Werewolf-
alarm—kicked up a notch. Her mouth felt suddenly dry, her
mind disturbingly blank.
After a heartbeat, he added, “When you bake, I mean. You do
bake, don’t you?”
They’d already covered this at the café. She was fairly certain
that wasn’t what he’d meant at all. Especially because his smile
had turned a little rueful, as if he couldn’t quite believe his own
cheek. Well, neither could she. The bloody nerve of this… this
monster, to flirt with her! She flashed him a smile that was more
a baring of teeth and said, “My main problem is biting, actually.”
He choked on a mouthful of cupcake.
“I just can’t stop eating everything I make,” she went on
smoothly. “And if I don’t manage, my siblings do. Perils of a big
family.” She rolled her eyes heavenward.
He nodded along while wheezing. At this rate, he might well
suffocate. Death by cupcake, courtesy of Chastity’s smart mouth.
Really, she was a natural huntress. If her parents hadn’t allowed
themselves to be influenced by nonsense from strange witches,
she might have the highest kill streak of the family, instead of
Mercy. Chastity was about to take a smug lick of her own icing
when a thought hit her: witches. Spells. Poison.
She put the cupcake on the coffee table.
Beside her, Luke—who had unfortunately survived the choking
incident—frowned. “You don’t like it?”
She scrambled for a believable excuse, since, based on smell
alone, those cupcakes were clearly gorgeous. “I, um…
sometimes, eating other people’s work makes me feel bad about
my own.”
His brows flew up, but he didn’t laugh in her face, despite the
absolute bullshit she’d just come out with. In fact, he seemed to
accept her nonsense immediately.
“Ah,” he nodded, holding up his now-naked cupcake with a
disgusted expression. “This is crap, anyway.”
“…Is it? You licked off all the icing pretty happily.”
“Worst icing I’ve ever tasted.” He actually threw the cupcake
over his shoulder. She whipped her head around to watch it hit
the far wall and land on the floor with a sad little thwack. Then
she looked at him again, just in time to see his lips twitching and
humour dancing through his unnatural gaze.
And goddamn her, Chastity felt herself smile in response,
unwelcome laughter bubbling up in her throat. She even allowed
herself a giggle or two, for the sake of flirtation—but her
amusement was painfully real. He was actually kind of… sweet.
Never think it. He probably licks out people’s brains the same
way he licked off that icing.
And yet, when she tried to visualise it, all she could see was that
tongue working somewhere else. The forbidden image, sudden
and shocking, was so intense that Chastity found herself
squeezing her knees together. She sucked in an involuntary
breath at the hot, decadent sensation rolling through her body.
Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.
She kept her expression carefully neutral, even as she grappled
with the disturbing realisation that she apparently had the hots
for a fucking Werewolf.
The Were in question was watching her far too closely, as if he
could read her filthy thoughts. His too-sharp canines sank into
his lower lip in a way that should remind her he was a dangerous
predator, but didn’t. Instead, she found herself imagining the
graze of his teeth over her nipples, the rasp of those talented
hands over her bare skin. Then his fine nostrils flared, and he
leaned ever so slightly towards her…
Fuck. She looked away and said, her voice fast and high, “We
should start the film now!”
There was only the slightest pause before he said, his voice calm
and friendly, “Alright.”
She stared at the floor and battled to regain control of her
breathing while he faffed around with the TV. She was so freaked
out, her pulse loud and frantic in her ears, her skin hotter than it
should be even under this damn coat, that she almost missed the
fact he was using a VCR. But even her deep inner turmoil wasn’t
enough to distract her from that freakishness.
Her confusion with her wayward body forgotten, Chastity
frowned over at his stack of videos and laughed, “Are you serious
right now?”
He looked at her over his shoulder. His broad, broad shoulder.
Stop that! Concentrate. “Serious about what?”
“You still have tapes?”
“Oh.” He chuckled, looking down at the copy of The Exorcist in
his hand. “Yeah. I suppose I never got around to the whole DVD
thing. I don’t watch much TV.”
She decided not to point out that society had largely moved past
‘the whole DVD thing’ and onto digital. Instead, while he sorted
out the film, she wondered if Werewolves were immortal—since
clinging to outdated technology seemed a logical symptom of the
condition. Surely, if they were, her family would know?
But then, they didn’t exactly have a Big Book of Lore lying
around. Their traditions were spoken, of course, which would
have been fine if her great-grandparents hadn’t died
unexpectedly before they’d finished passing everything on to
their young. Since then, the Adofos had been scrabbling for more
knowledge and relying strongly on a huntress’s natural
instincts.
See, this was why she’d strapped these silver chains around her
upper thighs. If she could tie him up and torture him into
spilling info, she’d be doing the whole family a service—along
with society in general, since more knowledge meant faster kills
and fewer Werewolf victims.
Tape inserted, Luke sat down beside her again, the TV remote in
his hand. He’d been careful, before, not to sit too close—which
she’d noticed, been surprised by, and tried not to think about.
Now he sat a little nearer than before, and his thigh brushed her
knee as he moved. It felt as if she’d been struck by lightning. It
felt as if she’d been swept out to sea. It was just the barest touch,
not even skin on skin, and she couldn’t fucking breathe.
The air grew slow and heavy. She looked up and found him
staring. Chastity was relatively tall and solidly built, but
something about him in that moment—the way every muscle in
his big body seemed primed and ready to spring, the intensity of
his sheer focus—made him seem huge and her feel small.
The worst part was, she liked it. She felt as if he were magnetic
and she were just a helpless pin. She felt as if he were a man and
she weren’t an Adofo, as if this were a date and it was going very,
very well. She felt as if her heartbeat had relocated between her
thighs, as if her skin were on fire and her head in the clouds.
This would not do.
Her meek and mild routine had been wearing thin anyway—she
wasn’t the best actress—but she abandoned it completely in her
desperation to snap this powerful, invisible cord between them.
In her panic, it was either that, or snap his bloody neck.
“What?!” she demanded, as if she didn’t know. As if she didn’t
feel the surge of attraction between them, just like he did.
At her question, Luke froze, then shook his head slightly as if
he’d been dragged out of a trance. Maybe it was the coming full
moon, amping up his bloodlust. Maybe, while her pussy grew
wetter with every breath, he’d been slowly succumbing to the
urge to rip out her throat. And why the hell was she still horny
even after that thought?
“Nothing,” he said, his voice hoarse. But he was still staring at
her as if she were a meal. “It’s just… you smell really fucking
good.”
“Thank you?” she squeaked. She was not usually a squeaker, but
she couldn’t seem to find her typically firm tones.
Luke frowned, his eyes sliding shut, his solid chest rising as he
took a deep breath. Then he said, his voice so rough it was
almost a growl, “I mean, really good. Chas, I know you’re kind
of… shy—”
She tried not to snort.
“—but you don’t need to be shy with me.” He opened his eyes
and watched her with an urgency that almost, almost swept her
away. “If you want something—anything—you should just tell
me. I’ll give it to you.”
She stared, her mind a maelstrom of conflicting emotions. When
he leaned closer, the sheer heat of him practically melted her,
his proximity setting her nerves alight even though they weren’t
actually touching. But they could be touching, her mind
whispered. The voice of reason argued that he was a literal
monster, but Chastity’s sex was slick and desperate now, her
breathing rapid, a current of pure lust drowning all rational
thought.
“I mean it,” he whispered, the words stroking over her skin.
“Look at me. I mean it.”
She did look at him, as if hypnotised. For the first time she
forgot about the slight glow of his eyes and what it meant,
ignored the fact that they shouldn’t be so vivid. Maybe it was
unnatural, but so was creme brûlée, technically, and she loved
creme brûlée. The deep green of his irises, the copper-gold that
fractured the emerald—she could get lost in them. And in
everything she saw there: his hunger, his need, his strange,
unbelievable softness.
His lust.
Lust. The thought smacked her so hard, she got whiplash: if
Weres, as Ma always taught, could scent fear…
Was this motherfucker smelling her goddamn arousal?
Chastity stiffened, her mind lurching out of desire-induced
languor and kicking into high gear. He wasn’t coming on to her;
he was taking advantage of her weakness. Beguiling her. After
all, that made far more sense than a genuine attraction between
them—and she’d almost fallen for it. Jesus, she was ridiculous.
Did Weres even have sex?
Her gaze dropped without permission to Luke’s lap, where it
became breathtakingly apparent that regardless of what other
Werewolves did, this one had sex. Or wanted to, at least. With
her. Right now.
Okay, maybe he wasn’t entrapping her. But she, Chas suddenly
realised, could entrap him. She could fuck him, lure him into the
ultimate sense of security, then tie him up and stick a silver
bullet up his arse. Fantastic.
It wasn’t the kind of thing she’d usually do—the probability of
success was too low—but she felt strangely compelled to. Her
sisters were always talking about the huntress’s powerful
instincts. Well, she was officially on the hunt, which made her a
huntress. And her instincts were telling her to rip this sexy
fucker’s clothes off, sit on his dick, and then carve out his heart.
Or something. She was hazy on the details.
“Chastity?” he murmured, as if checking up on her. His gaze
searched her face, and she wondered why he was being so…
careful. He was a monster, and he clearly wanted her, but he
seemed to be waiting for an actual Yes. Which was surprising, to
say the least.
He must have a long-term plan that requires you to think he’s
an okay guy. He’s playing with you. Somehow.
Well, let him. Chastity Adofo played to win.
3

THE CHANGE

I t had been hard, trying to set Chastity at ease while his lungs
were flooded with sex-edged oxygen, the scent of her wet
cunt drowning him. Harder still as the night went on, as her gaze
caught his every so often and her breath hitched, as the scent of
her arousal flared while that prim and proper expression
remained on her face. At this point, Luke was clinging to control
by a claw, nothing but raw determination keeping his wildest
instinct at bay.
So, when Chas reached out and caught both his hands in hers, he
almost lost it.
Restraint. Restraint. Restraint.
Her palms were velvety, with callouses whose texture teased his
own. Working hands. His beast was a fan. And he was a fan of
the hot, hard look in her eyes, and of the way she pinned his
hands to the back of the sofa, her grip firm and unyielding.
“Keep these to yourself,” she said, in a tone that stiffened his
spine and his cock. She was his fucking woman, alright. So
controlled and so controlling that he just had to push.
“Why?” he asked, though he had no intention of disobeying.
“Are you about to do something that’ll make me want to touch
you?”
“You already want to touch me,” she said, a smile playing about
her lips. It was one he’d never seen before, sharp and confident.
“True,” he admitted. “But if this is where you want me,
sweetheart, this is where I’ll stay. For now.”
“For now,” she smiled. And then, without warning—he really
could’ve done with a warning—she moved to straddle his thighs.
Luke’s heart almost gave out. Sheer arousal ripped a true growl
from his chest before he got himself under control. He froze,
studying her face, hoping he hadn’t scared her—but she showed
no concern, or even surprise, at the inhuman sound he’d just
produced. Judging by the heavy, drugging scent of her wetness,
she might be too turned-on to notice. He could understand that;
he felt a little slow himself, right now.
As she moved, her fancy skirt lifted an inch or two, and for a
second he caught a glimpse of something shiny on her thigh—
but he didn’t stop to think about it. Why would he, when he’d
just caught sight of soft, dimpled flesh and secret, dark spaces,
of skin, skin and more fucking skin? Luke’s head fell back
against the sofa as he arched up, into her, his aching cock in
desperate need of pressure. What he didn’t expect was for her to
meet him, to rock against him, to cradle his denim-covered
erection between her lush thighs.
“Chastity,” he rasped out, his eyes searching hers. “Are you—?”
She cut him off with a kiss.
Ah, fuck. His brain burned out in the blink of an eye, coherent
thought suddenly impossible. Stars exploded against the
darkness of his mind, flames of need and pleasure and
uncontrollable hunger ripping through his body until he was
nothing but sensation. The feel of her, moving boldly against
him; the scent of her, hotter and wetter by the second; the harsh
little sounds she made as she rubbed herself on his cock, like she
was too desperate to control herself; every part undid him. But
most of all, he was destroyed by the taste of her. Addicted.
She swept her tongue into his mouth, slow and easy, and
pleasure shimmered over his skin. She was rich and real and
right, and he remembered some long-forgotten fragment of
knowledge, something he’d heard: that human mates felt the
bond more intensely once bodily fluids had been exchanged.
He’d never learned if that was true. He really fucking hoped it
was. Because for him to want her, to need her this badly, while
she was still able to walk away from him? That would be hell.
She pulled his lower lip into her mouth and sucked, each slow,
wet tug sending arrows of desire through his body. His hips
jerked in time to that languid rhythm, until she fucked him up
completely by sinking her teeth into his flesh. He growled into
her mouth and she laughed, actually laughed, the wild sound
feeding his hunger. Something about it snapped the tenuous
bonds of his restraint, and for the first time, he kissed her back.
He took her mouth the way he’d always wanted to, since the first
morning he’d walked into that café with her scent hidden in his
pocket and laid eyes on her and known. His tongue teased at
hers, tasted the sensitive seams of her mouth, drank down every
gasp and moan. The kiss grew desperate, forceful, both of them
straining together, but he didn’t move his hands, even though
her hold had slackened.
Then she released him completely, her fingers sliding over his
shoulders. A second later they knotted in the fabric of his T-
shirt; in the next breath, they were sinking into his hair. It was
as if she didn’t know where to touch first.
When she slipped her hands under his shirt to stroke bare skin,
to touch him with blatant fascination, he thought, Fuck it. He
put a hand, just one, on her shoulder, over the coat she still
wore. She didn’t seem to mind; in fact, she deepened the kiss,
rocking harder against him.
So he slid his palm down her back, and a moan spilled from her
lips into his. That sound, sweet and soft and ravenous, scattered
whatever scraps of control he’d maintained. He grasped her hips
with needy hands and groaned at the feel of her, at the softness
and the strength. When her roaming fingers found his nipples,
her nails grazing the sensitive flesh, he was thrust into a truly
mindless lust. He hiked up her skirt and put his hand on her
thigh—
And hissed as shock and pain carved through his need. Feral
instinct had him shoving her away, but she was his mate, so he
dropped her onto the sofa instead of throwing her across the
room. His palm burning, his mind fuzzy with confusion and
enduring lust, Luke felt his beast push through. Felt his fangs
extend, his bones beginning to crunch and twist and shift.
Restraint. But his control was shot. Voice a ragged mess, he
snarled, “What the fuck is that?”
Chastity looked up at him through the curls that had fallen over
her eyes. He knew that he looked terrifying right now, halfway to
the monstrous form that made him Were, but alarm only
flickered across her features for a second before it was replaced
by… triumph?
And then she said, “Silver,” and launched herself at him.
He was stronger than her, but he was also absolutely fucking
astonished, so when she thudded into his chest, he fell. They
landed on the coffee table—or rather, smashed right through it,
their weight destroying the wood. She didn’t appear to notice the
carnage, though; instead, she straddled his chest with powerful
thighs and produced a dagger from God only knew where, a
dagger that glinted silver in the light. He caught her wrist in a
punishing grip just as she swung it towards his throat. Whip-
fast, she tossed the blade to her other hand and aimed for his
heart with enough force to carve through a man’s breastbone.
She managed to sink the dagger an inch or two into his chest,
which hurt like a motherfucker—goddamn bloody silver—but
wasn’t nearly enough to hit his heart. The shock of pain had his
beast snarling and his scrambled thoughts regrouping, cold
agony piecing together his lost discipline. Grabbing her other
wrist, Luke arched a brow and asked, “You done?”
“Nope,” she clipped out, and head-butted him. In the nose. For
fuck’s sake, that hurt.
He let her go, mostly because he was worried she’d just
concussed herself on his face. “Chastity. Are you okay?”
She blinked rapidly, scowled, “Shut up,” then jumped to her feet
in a rather impressive display of athleticism. Between the way
she’d kissed him and the silver currently embedded in his chest,
he was beginning to think that Chastity’s shyness wasn’t as
straightforward as he’d assumed. Regardless, she was still
funny, hot as hell, and great at making coffee. Altogether, he
was pleased with fate’s choice of mate for him.
He was admiring her calves and considering her excellent
takedown technique when she demanded, “Is your dick still hard
right now? Seriously?!”
Since the answer was quite obvious, he didn’t bother to confirm.
Instead, asked, “Are you trying to kill me?”
She responded by stamping on his head.
He coughed, grimaced, regrouped. “I’ll take that as a yes. Are
you a huntress?”
“Why the fuck won’t you die?” She gave an adorable little growl
of frustration, lifted her skirt—more of that, please—fiddled
around in the shadows for a moment, then threw something at
him. A fine chain of silver landed right over his throat, which
dragged a ragged howl of pain from him. And then, without
warning, he shifted, completely and involuntarily.
As a Werewolf, he didn’t turn into an actual wolf or anything so
fanciful as that. He turned into what he was: a monstrous
bipedal beast. His vocal chords were mostly useless now, so he’d
have to question her later, but on the plus-side, the
transformation made him even stronger. Strong enough to drag
the silver off of his throat with one mammoth claw, burning off
a strip of his own skin as he did so.
Above him, Chastity wrinkled her nose. “Gross.”
Charming. Absolutely charming. She covered him in silver, then
complained at the smell of a little burning flesh. Even now, she
was pulling more of those damn chains off her body, which was
an… interesting sight, since she appeared to have it stashed up
her skirt. He caught a flash of thigh one moment, the glimpse of
a dark and enticing V the next. His cock was harder than a
fucking hammer, and he couldn’t even do anything about it.
She threw more silver over him, and Luke remembered that he
was supposed to be fighting for his life, or whatever. But she was
just one tiny little huntress. He had time to ogle her for a bit.
And tease her. Perhaps he could make her smile? He did love
making her smile.
Then she whipped out a pistol, and it occurred to him that she
probably had silver bullets. Sigh. Time to concentrate.
Gritting his teeth against the pain of all that silver, forcing his
sluggish, slowly-poisoned body to move, he kicked her feet out
from under her—gently. She landed well, which was a relief, and
dropped her pistol, which was also a relief. Luke shook off the
rest of the chains and threw himself on top of her.
She looked up into the fanged depths of his gaping jaws and
smiled. “I,” she purred, “am going to enjoy killing you.” Then
she smacked the hilt of the dagger embedded in his chest,
shoving it an inch closer to her target.
Christ, she wasn’t shy at all, was she? The hesitation, the
demure smiles and lowered lashes—it had all been a trap. She
wasn’t sweet or gentle or biddable. She was a bloodthirsty
fucking murderer.
His heart sang.

W ERES SHOULD BE EASIER to kill.


Chastity had heard enough debriefings between her sisters and
Ma to realise that. Werewolves should be senseless creatures
driven out of their minds by bloodlust, not apparently sentient
beings who were able to make blatantly calculated decisions.
This. Was. Not. Right.
The beast above her gave an odd, drawn-out snarl that almost
sounded like a word. Then it repeated itself, again and again, and
she realised that the snarl was a word. It sounded kind of like…
Well. Kind of like, “Why?”
She almost laughed. Who’d have thought a Werewolf would want
to chat? They seemed more like the ‘rip out throats now, ask
questions later’ type.
Like you?
She shoved that suddenly uncomfortable thought away and
decided to answer the monster. “It’s my duty to humanity,” she
said, honestly enough. “Plus, I want to give your heart to my
mother.”
The Were gave an odd snort that almost sounded sarcastic. But
Werewolves didn’t have a sense of humour—or sense, full stop
—so she must be imagining things.
Luke has a sense of humour.
Her thoughts were out of control tonight. She needed to
meditate more. Now wasn’t exactly the time, though, so she
settled on violence as a distraction instead. Forcing lax muscles
into action in a split second, she bucked and caught the creature
by surprise. For a moment, her strength threatened to tip the
balance; she almost dragged her wrists free of its clawed grip
while her body dislodged its weight. But then the Were shifted,
almost lazily, and secured her in its hold once more. Well, shit.
Chastity tried not to panic as she took quiet stock of her
situation, but it was pretty fucking difficult, all things
considered. For one thing, she was quite sure that she had a mild
concussion and bruised ribs, despite her sneaking suspicion that
Luke—no, not Luke, the monster—was going easy on her.
And that was another problem. Why the fuck would he—it!—be
going easy on her? She didn’t know. A game, maybe? It was
weird, but not as weird as the shit going on inside her head right
now. She was suffocating beneath this overwhelming sense of
wrongness, every bone in her body screeching at her so loud, it
was all she could do not to wince. It was as if something deep in
her chest, something beyond reason and logical thought, was
demanding that she not do this.
But that didn’t make any fucking sense, and the strangeness of it
all was starting to piss her off, and she really couldn’t think
straight right now. Not while she was prone beneath a monster
so huge, its weight almost took her breath away.
Its humanoid hands with their dangerous claws sent a chill down
her spine. Its fangs were inches from her face, razor-sharp and
longer than the dagger in its chest. Above the horror of its
twisted muzzle were two familiar, grass-green eyes. Except they
didn’t remind her of grass anymore. Right now, they were more
like venom.
She was really up shit’s creek here, wasn’t she? Without a
fucking paddle.
Desperate, she arched into its sleekly muscled, fur-covered
chest, trying to shove the dagger deeper with her own body. It
twisted out of the way with a snarl, then shifted their positions
with a disturbing economy of movement. All of a sudden, she
was on her side and the creature was behind her, her hands held
above her head, her legs caught between what would, on a man,
be powerful thighs. She wasn’t entirely sure what to call that
part of a Werewolf’s anatomy, though, because it didn’t look like
a human or a wolf.
Just a monster.
And yet, every time her mind searched for ways to kill it, even
now, her instincts screamed out in protest. Why?
The question was swept away by the shock of the beast
transforming behind her. Watching Luke become a monster, bit
by bit, had been fascinating. Now, she presumed she was feeling
the opposite process; she heard the crunch, crack and sickening
slide of body parts rearranging, felt him change in a way that
should have been impossible.
For some reason, she wasn’t appropriately horrified so much as
intrigued. Chastity found herself wondering what the reverse
transformation looked like, what it all felt like, how a Werewolf
form worked—and by the time it occurred to her fuzzy brain that
she should use the vulnerable period of the shift to attack, he
was done. The body caging hers was all man, and, as far as she
could tell, mostly naked.
His clothes, apparently, weren’t equipped to deal with changes
of mass and shape that should be impossible. Made sense. She
could feel scraps of denim and fabric pressed against her, but
mostly it was all bare skin, crisp body hair, and hard muscle.
Could you stop taking inventory of the thing’s body and start
figuring out how to survive this? Thanks, Management.
“Sweetheart,” he growled into her ear, his breath against her
skin making her shiver. “You need to get this knife out of my
chest.”
She didn’t hide her derisive snort. “I don’t fucking think so.”
“You don’t want to kill me, Chastity. Trust me on that. It’ll send
your life rapidly downhill.”
He was talking utter shit. For some reason, his words reminded
her of the goddamn witch whose prophecy had stolen her
birthright away. It was rubbish. It was all rubbish. Except…
Adofo women were trained to trust their instincts, and
Chastity’s instincts were telling her quite clearly that she must
not slaughter this particular beast.
Dammit.
“Chastity,” he said, “I’m serious. Silver this close to my heart—
it’s poisoning me.” And his voice really did sound fainter, less
vital. His weight against her was less a restraining force, more a
dead cage. As if he were simply lying on her rather than holding
her down. He was weaker—and he was telling her so.
She kept her mouth shut while she grappled with the
implications of that fact. At least, until he shifted against her
and something thick and rigid and horribly inappropriate
brushed against her lower back.
“Do you still have an erection right now?” she snapped.
“Not the best use of my energy,” he muttered, “I agree.”
“Then why the hell are you hard?”
“Same reason you’re still wet. Don’t throw stones, love.”
Chastity stiffened, considered denying the charge, then decided
not to waste her breath on an obvious lie. She had no idea what
was going on with her body right now, or why she’d lost her
mind in his arms twenty minutes ago. Sure, she liked a good
shag, but the act didn’t usually spring to mind during life or
death situations.
Then again, she realised, he didn’t seem that big on killing her.
He’d had her pinned for a while now, after all. He could’ve
ripped her throat out with those damned claws. Why hadn’t he?
“Take it out, Chas,” he wheezed, his voice interrupting her
thoughts. “I can’t do it myself.” Because the dagger’s handle
was silver too.
Something in her crumbled. Sure, in theory, she’d love to be a
cold-hearted murderess, but in reality he was a man who’d only
ever been nice to her and he was fucking dying on his own living
room floor. Maybe tomorrow night he’d turn again and run
around the city merrily decapitating innocents, but right now he
was just Luke, and she couldn’t lie there and listen to his life
end.
She was undoubtedly weak. She decided not to tell her sisters
about this.
With a sigh, Chastity shoved his body away, wincing as he landed
fully on the floor with a thud. Then she sat up and looked at him.
He was pale, his features drawn, those unnatural eyes almost
dull—but, she noticed irritably, she hadn’t managed to break his
nose. Hadn’t even bruised it. He had a slight black eye, a gash
where she’d stamped on him, and burns everywhere the silver
had hit. No other injuries.
Well; except for the big fucking knife in his chest.
For some reason, the sight of him even slightly injured made her
feel… odd. His pallor, the laborious sound of his breathing,
squeezed something tender in her chest. She actually felt tears,
hot and completely unwanted, pricking at her eyelids. Ugh. The
urge to sob out loud was suddenly, inexplicably overwhelming,
so she grabbed the hilt of the dagger, gritted her teeth, and
yanked it out of his chest as fast as possible. As soon as the silver
left his flesh, that nagging desire to break down faded slightly.
But not enough. Not enough.
Luke coughed horribly for a moment, then relaxed, his eyes
closed.
Biting her lip, she said, “Hey.” He didn’t reply. Panic, senseless
but no less potent for it, flared to life inside her. “Hey. Luke!”
He cracked open one gently glowing eye and said, rather
grumpily, “What?”
She almost pissed herself through sheer relief. But she managed
to keep her face straight and her voice flat as she asked, “You
gonna die or what?”
“Not if you let me sleep,” he said gruffly, and closed his eyes
again.
So, he was okay. Fantastic. She could leave now and think about
the little wooden acorn in her pocket, the strange feelings that
hummed deep in her bones, and what it meant that he hadn’t
hurt her, not even a little bit. She could run all the way home.
Except she didn’t. Not for hours. Not until his colour returned,
his breathing grew slow and even, and the hole she’d carved into
his chest, stopped bleeding.
Not until she’d placed a glass of water and one of those red
velvet cupcakes close enough for him to reach when he woke.
4

MONSTER OF MINE

“D id you decorate the shortbread today, Chas? It’s


cute.” Valour bit into the pumpkin-piped biscuit
with a smile.
“Thanks,” Chastity mumbled, and tried not to think of the
beautiful pumpkins she’d seen last night.
Or the man who’d carved them so skilfully.
But Valour ruined her efforts when he frowned at the clock and
said, “Your guy hasn’t turned up all morning. Think something’s
wrong?”
“Don’t care,” Chastity said, heaving a fresh bag of beans into the
coffee grinder. For a long moment, the sound of tiny beans
clattering against plastic and metal cut off all conversation. But
then the bag was empty and the moment passed and Val was still
fucking talking.
“He’s been coming in everyday for, what, a month? And always
at the same time. I don’t know, Chas, I’m kind of worried.”
She bit her lip, hard, to stop herself from snapping. Valour, like
all of the men in the Adofo family, was painfully kindhearted. He
was a natural protector, even of strange, enormous men with
strange eyes and dark secrets. Chastity knew full well that caring
was painful, so she couldn’t just dismiss her brother’s worry.
She also couldn’t tell him that the repeat customer who flirted
with her valiantly was actually a Werewolf, because that would
involve confessing that she’d gone against family protocol to
hunt alone, and against Ma’s wishes to hunt at all, in the hopes
that she could prove herself. And then she’d have to admit that
she was starting to have second thoughts about hunting this
creature. That, aside from her mortifying attraction to him, she
simply didn’t think he should die. That Valour wasn’t the only
one worrying about him. That she was worried too.
But she couldn’t tell her brother any of that, because he’d freak
the fuck out.
Instead, she took a deep breath and said, “I’ll check on him.”
Val’s face lit up, not just with relief but razor-sharp interest.
“And how will you do that?” he asked, a smug smile on his face.
“I have his number,” she lied. Luke hadn’t actually given her his
phone number, but she’d also never seen him with a phone.
“I knew it!”
“Valour. Shut up or I won’t bother.”
“Shutting up.” Val’s grinned and wandered off to run stock
checks. The minute his back was turned, Chastity shoved the
breath she’d been holding out of her lungs and willed her tense
muscles to relax.
It didn’t work.
It had been over twelve hours since she’d crept out of Luke’s
cabin, and for some reason, she couldn’t stop thinking about
him. It felt as if her heart was thudding hard against her ribs,
burning up her chest in its urgent need to go to him.
She’d lied to her brother about checking on Luke, but as her shift
drew to a close, Chastity realised she was actually going to do it.
She had to. Because something inside her had been restless since
the moment she’d left him behind, until she felt as if she were
too nervous to settle inside her own skin, and it was only getting
worse. If she didn’t see him with her own eyes—hear that low,
laughing voice, sense his abnormal heat—she might never feel
human again.
Then there was the fact that he felt human to her—and she
didn’t mean the breathtaking feel of his chest under her palms,
all warm skin, hard muscle and crisp hair. She had seen Luke
every day for weeks, had listened to his hilarious attempts to
crack her faux-shy shell, had slowly realised that he was actually
rather sweet—in a twisted, predatory way. And then he had
bought her red velvet cupcakes because he knew they were her
favourite.
He was not a monster, despite his monstrous form. But what did
that mean for the Adofos?
She dismissed her worries for now, focusing on the familiar
rhythms and routines of the shop. When Val was joined by
Justice, she breathed a sigh of relief. Her silent, unsmiling older
brother was the perfect barrier between Chastity and the rest of
the world. As long as Justice was there, running the show with an
iron fist and cutting off Valour’s chit chat with quelling looks,
she could freak out in peace. She could turn into a barista-bot,
hands always busy and smile always pinned in place. She tried,
too, tried really hard—and yet her mind continued to return to
last night.
She couldn’t believe she’d kissed Luke. Why had the taste of him
been ambrosia? Why had his arms felt like the safest place to
drown? Why was she, even now, fighting off hot and breathless
memories of his hands, his mouth, his hard cock pressing
between her thighs?
Chastity dropped a mug. It shattered on the floor with a crash
that quieted the shop.
After a heartbeat, the customers absorbed the sudden sound and
went back to their conversations. Val gave her a reassuring wink
and went to fetch a sweeping brush. But Justice…
When she bent to pick up the bigger shards of ceramic, Justice
joined her. She felt the weight of his gaze, his curiosity, his
knowing, even as she kept her eyes pinned to the floor. A second
later, he took away her ability to ignore him.
“Something’s wrong with you.” He spoke firmly and in full
sentences, which meant he wasn’t speaking as her brother. He
was the family healer now.
Chastity looked up sharply. “Menstrual.”
He cocked his head. Which was Justice-speak for, Try again.
She bit back a sigh. This was the trouble with emotionally
intelligent family members; they always wanted to check on your
well-being, and other such inconveniences. “I’m worried about a
friend,” she admitted, the words bittersweet. She didn’t want
them to be true, but they were, and it felt right.
“What’s wrong with your friend?” Justice frowned, doctorly
concern written all over his face. Because he knew Chastity well
enough to realise that she’d only be driven to emote by grave
situations.
“He’s been hurt.”
By me. “Last I saw, he was in bad shape, and I don’t know if he’s
better yet.”
“You can’t call him?”
“No.”
“But you can see him.”
“Yes,” she said slowly, wondering where her brother was going
with this.
“You should go, then.”
She blinked. “What? But—no, there’s still two hours left until
closing. And then, you know, there’s actual closing—”
“I’ll close.”
“Justice,” she sighed. “I’m the manager.”
Her stony-faced brother actually rolled his eyes. “Honestly.
Women. I’ve worked here all my life, Chas. If I could manage a
PhD I can manage closing without your supervision. I’m not
completely useless.”
Her cheeks heated as she rushed to say, “Of course you’re not
useless, J! I didn’t mean—”
“I know you didn’t.” The corner of his mouth tilted slightly in
his version of a smile. “Get out of here. Check on your friend.”
She swallowed the urge to claim that ‘friend’ might not, in fact,
be the most accurate description. That things between them
were… what? Romantic? What a ridiculous thought.
One fake-date arranged with the intention of murder, a single
short but excellent make-out session, and a rather passionate
fight to the death did not a relationship make. Luke might not be
a monster emotionally, but he was still a literal creature of the
night, and she should not be attracted to him, never mind
attached. Had she totally missed his hideous fangs and deadly
claws yesterday?
No. They were actually kind of hot.
It was official. Chastity was losing her grip. She should probably
leave before anyone noticed.
“Thanks, Justice,” she said, leaping to her feet and ripping off
her apron as she strode into the back. She passed a clearly
baffled Valour with his sweeping brush and hurried to the
cloakroom, grabbing her jacket. And then, before she could think
better of this whole thing, or really question the twisted
impulses driving her clearly malfunctioning heart, she left.
It was the day before Halloween, and autumn was in full,
majestic effect. The air was crisp and cool, biting at her cheeks
and lifting her dense curls. Chastity’s boots echoed against the
concrete of the empty staff carpark as she huddled deeper into
her jacket and started the walk to Luke’s.
If she were in her right mind, she’d go home and get a scarf and
gloves first. Then again, if she were in her right mind, she
wouldn’t be doing this at all. She wouldn’t be desperate to see
him right now, wouldn’t be resisting the urge to bite her thumb
nail and worry about the wound in his chest…
Wouldn’t imagine she could smell his wild, midnight heat on the
harsh wind, or that she could feel the weight of his gaze on her
back.
She stopped walking. Peered into the shadows between Cup o’Go
and the next unit, some bougie wine seller. And then, feeling like
an absolute ninny, her breath coming fast and her hopes
inexplicably raised, she called, “Luke?”
When he sauntered out of the shadows she almost shit herself.
He leant back against the shop’s brick wall, hands in his pockets,
and watched her with those goddamn eyes. “Hey, huntress,” he
said.
Her response was automatic, maybe a touch defensive. “Not a
huntress.”
“No? Well, you did a very good imitation of one last night.”
She ignored the little stab of hurt brought by the word imitation.
This was a sensitive topic for her, and she knew it. So, instead of
wallowing, she studied him from head to toe and decided that he
looked… good. Great, in fact.
His skin was back to its usual amber shade, his movements as
easy and powerful as ever. He looked strong—and more
attractive than he should—in jeans and a leather jacket. So
attractive that she felt her traitorous body responding again, just
like it had last night. She should be terrified, or tense, at least,
poised to defend herself from his near-certain thirst for
revenge.
But she wasn’t scared at all. In fact, her brain seemed to be
focusing heavily on the sharp bow of his upper lip, and how
much she’d like to trace it with her finger. Or her tongue.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded, folding her arms
across her chest.
He shrugged, and it was all she could do not to salivate over the
breadth of his shoulders. “Obviously,” he said, “I’m stalking
you.”
God, did he have to sound so matter-of-fact about it?
“Why?” she gritted out, horrified to find herself fighting a smile.
She was not amused. She was irritated. No, she was worse than
irritated; she was disgusted, horrified, and gripped by murderous
rage. That’s what Chastity told herself, anyway. Maybe if she
thought about those feelings hard enough, they’d replace the
disturbing softness that had taken up residence in her chest.
“Why’d you leave work early?” he threw back.
She was glad he’d said that, because it gave her an excuse to
stomp towards him combatively—which was a convenient way
to obey her body’s need to be close to him. But as she stormed
over with her hands fisted and her expression fierce, a cocky
little smile tilted his lips, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that
he knew.
He knew something was wrong with her. He knew she couldn’t
stop thinking about him, couldn’t stop caring about him. Maybe
he even knew why. Perhaps he had spelled her—not with last
night’s cupcakes, since she hadn’t eaten one, but with that scent
that seemed to follow him around. The one that was so fucking
sweet, that made her hunger and thirst and want and need so
badly…
“Hi,” he said softly, and Chastity realised that she was standing
right in front of him. Too close. Not close enough.
“Hi,” she replied, then winced.
“What?” he asked immediately.
“I’ve never said anything so inane in my life.”
He arched one tawny brow. “Now greetings are inane? Being an
Adofo doesn’t sound like much fun.”
“Don’t speak my name, monster,” she snapped, the words
automatic. She regretted them a moment later.
But he only smiled wider. “Are you trying to piss me off? Because
I should tell you, all that does is get me hard.”
“You’re depraved.” And yet, she liked it, her core tightening and
her pussy growing slick at his coarse words. At his slight smile.
At the sight of him.
“What I am,” he said slowly, “is yours.”
Those words sounded disturbingly like the truth, as if he’d just
slotted some vital puzzle piece into place. So she ignored them.
“You should leave,” she murmured. “My sisters come here all
the time, you know.”
“So?”
“So, they’ll kill you on sight.”
He smirked. “Worried about me?”
“Hardly. But I have questions for you, monster of mine. Can’t let
them put you down just yet.” At least, that was what she’d tell
the family, if they ever found out she was fraternising with a
Were.
He cocked his head. “You wanted to put me down. But you’re not
a huntress. And yet your sisters are. Why is that?”
She clamped her jaw shut against familiar discomfort. This was
always a sensitive subject for her, but no-one knew that—no-
one had the slightest idea about her insecurities—because she
would rather die than let on. Only, right then, in front of him, all
she wanted to do was burst into tears and confess everything.
Ick.
“Something wrong, sweetness?” he asked.
This was the part where she turned on her heel and walked away,
or maybe where she stabbed him in the eye—except she didn’t
have her dagger on her. Couldn’t bring herself to touch it, for
some reason, after seeing it buried in his chest. She didn’t really
want to hurt him. She wanted to learn him.
For research, of course. This odd fascination was down to her
niggling suspicion that he might have a soul and therefore
should not be brutally murdered. Nothing more.
“Let’s not talk about me,” she said finally. “Like I said, I have
questions for you. Can we go back to your place?”
He gave her a considering look, mischief dancing over the sharp
lines of his face. “Maybe I don’t want to be alone with you
anymore. You did try to kill me, you know.”
“I know,” she said. “I’m starting to think that I may have been
out of order, there.”
“Oh, shit, really? You know what? Me too.”
She rolled her eyes in the face of his sarcasm. “Get over it.”
“I can’t. It haunts me. I might be scarred for life. In fact, I don’t
believe I can think straight around you. The fear is just too
strong.”
“Fuck off, then,” she huffed, defensive even though she knew
he was teasing. Knowing didn’t stop her from drowning in guilt.
Call her naïve, but she really hadn’t expected hunting to be so
emotionally fraught.
“Woah, woah,” he said, straightening up and taking her hand as
she turned away. The sudden contact sent a shock of rightness
through her veins, forced a little gasp from her lips and turned
her blood molten. Suddenly, desire was dancing across her skin,
whispering in her ear, all from the rasp of his palm over hers.
Ridiculous, she told herself.
Inevitable, insisted a strange voice in her mind.
“Don’t hurry off, now,” he murmured. “I think we can work
something out.” He tugged her closer, and for some reason, she
allowed it. Clearly, something about this beast was melting her
brain. It was the only explanation. Because no sensible woman
would let a Werewolf lead them into a darkened alley.
But that’s exactly what Chastity did.

W HEN L UKE HAD WOKEN up that afternoon with a fucker of a


headache and a trashed living room, his first thought hadn’t
been to find and flirt with his mate. He’d intended to find and
spank his mate for fucking up a perfectly good coffee table with
her WWE shenanigans, and also to have a serious conversation
with her about how loving couples shouldn’t stab each other.
But then he’d seen her—he could see her even now, as the
alleyway they walked into sucked up the last of the evening light
—and God, she was so beautiful. Her jaw was hard, her eyes were
narrowed and suspicious, and her cheeks were soft and round
enough to bite. Gently. So here he was, plotting seduction
instead of communication. Ah, well. He was a horny
motherfucker and he’d never claimed otherwise.
The shadows clung to them as they moved. The alley became a
secret little world, distanced from the city’s evening traffic and
rough winds, its darkness mirroring the midnight of his
monster’s soul. He pushed her against one frigid brick wall and
trapped her there with his own body, his arms resting above her
head and his booted feet planted either side of hers.
When she bit her lip instead of kneeing him in the balls, he knew
he had her.
This was going to be fun. Especially now that he could be his true
self. His violent little sweetheart had more than proven she
could cope.
“Do you feel guilty, Chas?” he asked, knowing that she did.
Which was sweet, if unnecessary. She may have tried to kill him,
but he was still alive, so he forgave her.
Despite the concern swirling in her dark eyes, she cocked her
head at him and studied him as if he were a cockroach. Then,
after a beat, she said, “Nope.”
He adored her.
“I enjoyed that cupcake you left me,” he said. “But I’m sure
yours are better.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’ll never find out.”
“Of course I will. You’re going to make me some, as part of your
heartfelt apology for stabbing me in the chest.”
She huffed. She puffed. But, to his everlasting shock, she finally
muttered, “Fine.”
His brows flew up. “Fine? Really? So, she does have a heart.”
“Don’t push it,” his irritable mate ordered. “It wasn’t all me.
I’m pretty sure you bruised my tailbone, you know.”
“I’ll kiss it better for you.”
She rolled her eyes, but he caught the slight twitch of her lips.
Even as he delighted in the fact that they were having this
teasing conversation, that she was relatively open and so whip-
sharp and wonderful, he berated himself for hurting her. Maybe
she could take it—in fact, she could definitely take it—but he
didn’t want to do it. Even by accident. So, reaching through the
dark to catch one of her curls between his fingers, he murmured,
“No more fighting, Chas. Okay?”
She shrugged. “As long as you behave yourself, I won’t try to kill
you.”
“Behave myself? Be specific, sweetheart. I think we might have
different standards of behaviour.”
She huffed out a world-weary sigh. “I’d be happy to give you a
bullet-pointed list, but first, I need to…” Her pause wasn’t like
the feigned hesitations she’d used in the past; it was weighty,
considering, so full of thought he could almost hear her mind
moving. Finally, she finished, “I need to understand what you
are. How good you’re capable of being.”
Ah. It had occurred to him, while he was fighting for his life last
night, that unless Chastity had a questionable moral compass—
which he wouldn’t necessarily mind—she must be a little…
confused. Because Luke was 99.9% sure that he hadn’t done
anything to justify being hunted, at least not in the past five
years or so. Hopefully they’d clear everything up within the
hour, go home soon after, and be physically incapable of
achieving anymore orgasms by the time the sun rose tomorrow
morning.
“I think we can strike a deal,” he said, his voice a little rougher
than it should be in this form. But tomorrow was the full moon
and the scent of his mate’s arousal surrounded him, so self-
control might be too high an expectation. “You have questions
for me?”
“I do,” she murmured, her steely voice a little more yielding
than usual, her breath coming faster. He was trying not to react
to that goddamn scent, trying to ignore the knowledge that she
was wet right now, because he knew the unfulfilled bond
between them was causing it. But then she ran her tongue over
her lower lip, so… fucking… slowly. And he couldn’t resist. He
bent his head and flicked his own tongue over the fluttering
pulse at her throat, tasting warmth and excitement and her.
She hissed out a low, shaking breath, and the scent of her
arousal flared like a well-fed flame burning brighter. “What are
you going to do?” she asked, only half-teasing. “Rip my throat
out?”
“I could no more rip out your throat,” he said honestly, “than rip
out my own heart.”
To his surprise, she froze. Completely. For several, long seconds.
“Chastity?” he nudged softly.
She shook her head as if dislodging unwanted thoughts and said,
“You want to strike a deal? State your terms.”
Always to the point, his delicate beloved. “I’ll answer a
question,” he said, “for a kiss.”
“How very nefarious,” she muttered dryly.
“I’m a monster, aren’t I?”
“Yep.”
“You should slap me and run off into the light.”
“Oh, piss off. Slap you and break my bloody wrist, more like.”
“I can’t help it if my bones are particularly sturdy.”
“Why are they so sturdy, again?”
He grinned at her innocent tone. “A kiss, love.”
“Fine.” Before he could grasp what was happening, she darted
up on her toes and pressed her lips to the corner of his mouth.
Every fibre in his body seemed to shatter, to explode on impact,
as if the slight, chaste brush of skin against skin were the most
erotic thing he’d ever felt.
And then she was gone, pressing herself back against the wall as
if she could sink into it, her lashes lowered. “There. Now answer
the question.”
It took him a moment to find the wherewithal to speak, but he
tried to sound unaffected. Luke had a feeling that with Chastity,
the slightest slip of control might be taken as permission to ride
roughshod.
Not that he’d mind her taking advantage of him, once in a while.
“That wasn’t a real kiss,” he said. “You missed my mouth.”
“It’s dark,” she scowled. “Except for those bloody eyes of
yours.”
“Thanks to these eyes,” he said patiently, “I can see you just
fine. So, we’ll do it again, and I’ll kiss you.”
“Nope. My kiss counts. You never said it had to be on the
mouth.”
He smiled slowly, glad that the shadows hid his satisfaction. Ah,
she had no idea what she’d just walked into. “Alright. Fair
enough.” He enjoyed the expression on her face for a moment,
adorably pleased, as if she’d just won a prize. “Like all healthy,
cursed beasts beholden to the moon, I am physically stronger,
faster and sturdier than the average human. Higher bone
density, more powerful muscles, magic, blah blah blah. And I
believe I have a stronger immune system.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I’ve never been sick,” he said. “Ever. And that was another
question, Chastity. You owe me a kiss.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’re a pervert.”
“You know,” he said reasonably, “you could always reject my
bargain. Or at least, you could if you weren’t determined to prove
yourself useful to a family who has, for some reason, rejected
your skills as a huntress. But since you are determined to do so,
and since you also secretly want to kiss me, why don’t you be a
good girl and let me take what I’m owed?”
She gaped at him like a particularly pissed-off fish. Then,
finally, she spluttered, “Don’t psychoanalyse me, you prick.”
“How am I supposed to support you in overcoming your
insecurities—”
“Call me insecure again and I will scoop out your eyeballs with a
silver spoon.”
“—if I don’t put effort into understanding you? And Chas, we
both know you’re never going to attack me again. I’d be open to
play fighting, though. You’re very sexy when you’re trying to
remove my vital organs.”
“What on earth are you blathering on about?” she demanded.
But she didn’t sound as brashly confident as usual, or as
disgusted and dismissive. She sounded, beneath the iron of her
tone… unsure.
He didn’t like that, because he knew she must be uncomfortable.
Chastity appreciated certainty, which meant that he appreciated
certainty for her. That was what drove him to say, his words
painfully blunt, “I want to mate you.”
There was a heavy pause. Then, finally, she said, “I wish I didn’t
know what you meant by that, but…”
“Context clues?” he guessed helpfully.
“Context clues,” she agreed.
“How do you feel about it?”
“Horrified, obviously. I don’t believe you should be slaughtered
—”
“So magnanimous,” he murmured.
“—but you’re still a Were and I’m still… almost a huntress. I
don’t think I need to tell you that, whatever mating me entails,
it’s never going to happen. Unless you force me.”
He ground his teeth together and breathed through his nose for
a moment, her scent ironically comforting as he fought down
nausea and fury in equal measure. Then, with his temper and his
roiling stomach under control, he gritted out in his best
imitation of calm, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.”
“Um… Are you okay?”
“Do you care?” he snarled, the ragged thread of his control
finally snapping.
“Yes,” she clipped out, her voice equally harsh. And then they
both faltered, blinking at that unexpected response. There was a
heavy pause as she swallowed, the sound loud in the silence.
Distantly, he recognised the rumble of passing cars on the
nearby street, the open-and-shut of a door somewhere close, a
faint conversation across the block. But the evidence of a world
beyond the secret space between them wasn’t enough to drag
Luke out of this moment, this precious breath of time when her
eyes met his without a shield of aggression, when her pretty lips
parted not to attack him, but to drag down air.
When she was just as affected as he was, and unable to hide it.
His heart pounding, his beast growling hungrily for more, he
leaned closer. “Chastity.”
“Mm?” she hummed, the sound unsteady.
“May I have my kiss, now?”
She took a deep breath, then gave a jerky nod.
“Say it,” he murmured.
Her voice was whisper-fine. “Yes.”
Luke paused for a moment, drinking down the heady aroma of
her arousal. Once he was truly intoxicated by it, and by the scent
beneath that was pure her and utterly divine, he moved. He bent
slowly, oh so slowly, to her lips, until there was nothing but a
gasp between them. Until, if he closed his eyes and concentrated
hard enough, he might just feel the ghost of her mouth brushing
his, though no real contact had been made.
A memory of last night returned; of the way she’d been, with her
kiss hot and hard and her hands everywhere. He released a sigh
of sheer satisfaction, even though he was far from satisfied, far
from sated. His cock throbbed painfully in his jeans, every
muscle in his body was taut and trembling, and his heart
pounded out her name insistently.
Only when he couldn’t bear it any longer did he bring his lips
gently, so gently, to her cheekbone. And when he finally touched
her there, she sighed too. Hers was one of longing, so rich and
thick he could taste it. He drowned in it as he dragged his mouth
down, down, down, gently over her jaw, over her throat, to the
fluttering pulse that was as vital as Chastity herself. And once he
was there, he kissed harder, almost sucking at her throat but not
quite.
She tipped her head back, arching into him, and the movement
almost tore him apart. This was how it should be. He revelled in
her whimpers of pleasure, and fought back a howl of triumph
when her hands grasped at his shoulders, and knew white-hot,
impossible bliss.
Maybe he shouldn’t have slid a questing hand down her body,
over her ribs, her waist, the curve of her hip. But when he did,
she moaned his name. His mate, finally, moaned his goddamn
name. So, really, he couldn’t be blamed for losing his head, for
unbuttoning her jeans so roughly that he might have ripped the
denim a little bit. He hesitated, everything in him frozen on the
precipice of pure heaven, until she wrapped a leg around him—
opened for him—and pushed him over the edge.
It was pure instinct that drove him to thrust his hand past her
waistband and under her knickers, cupping her bare pussy. For a
moment all he could do was touch her and force himself to
breathe, dragging down oxygen while razor-sharp lust tore
through him. She was so soft and hot against his palm, her
plump folds slightly parted for him, her wetness teasing the tip
of his middle finger. Her sex was all lush and swollen, but that
delicious slickness was a tiny, liquid secret.
Then, carefully, he pushed his finger inside her, every part of
him alert to her reactions. It felt like sinking into molten desire,
her slippery channel dragging him deeper while she panted
quietly. “Fuck,” he muttered against her throat. “God, Chas, say
you want me. Say it.”
She didn’t, of course. But she did release a sweet, needy little
sound that was almost as good. When she rocked into him, he
realised the heel of his hand was firm against her clit.
The fact that she was chasing her pleasure made him smile, even
in the middle of the most all-consuming lust he’d ever felt.
Thank fuck she knew what she was doing, at least, and what she
wanted. He followed her lead, angling his hand so that she’d
have a little more pressure, and she moaned and rolled her hips.
When his finger stroked the trembling softness inside her at the
same time, she choked out, “Don’t stop. Please. Oh my God,
please don’t stop.”
“I won’t. I can’t.” As if he could ever pull himself away from
this. From her. His tongue lapped at the skin over her racing
pulse as gave her what she needed. And, bit by bit, this iron-
hard woman melted for him. When he felt her body tensing
around him, he looked up just in time to watch her shatter. She
was beautiful as she came, her brows drawn together, her lips
parted as she gasped for breath. The sight of her was so fucking
perfect, it actually shook him. For a moment, he was lost.
Then her arousal flooded against his palm, the sensation
dragging him back to the real world. He spread the wetness over
her folds, learning the feel of her, rubbing her swollen clit
curiously.
Her eyes flying open, she grabbed his wrist and breathed, “Too
much.”
Never enough. But he let her be, even though all he could think
about was pulling out his cock and shoving into her heat while
his fangs thrust into her flesh. About claiming her and marking
her and giving her his soul.
Luke thanked the moon that he’d spent his youth struggling
against his own temper. The steely restraint it had resulted in
was serving him so very well.
Eventually, her breaths slowed, and the sated, languid quality of
her body against his gave way to self-conscious stiffness. He
decided to let go before she pushed him away. When he
retreated, doing up her jeans again—he was nothing if not a
gentleman—her hands actually clung to his shoulders for a
moment.
Possessive joy sang through his blood at the tiny sign of
indecision—but then she let go, her eyes shut and her brow
furrowed. He watched as she raised a shaking hand to her throat,
as her fingers traced the path his mouth had taken. Then,
finally, she opened her eyes. Her voice was low and throaty and
grave when she said, “That was not a kiss.”
“It wasn’t?” He ran a hand through his hair, told himself it was
part of the innocent act—but in reality he just needed something
to do with his hands that didn’t involve putting them all over
her. Or licking them clean. If he tasted her right now, his cock
might actually explode.
“You know it wasn’t,” she said. “It was…” She cleared her
throat, and if he didn’t know any better, he’d have sworn she
was embarrassed. But then she said, her voice sharp, “It was on
my neck, for one thing.”
“Well, like you said, we never specified that it had to be on the
mouth.”
He shouldn’t have been so smugly satisfied at her look of
consternation, but he really couldn’t help himself. Of course, she
slapped the satisfaction right out of him with her next words.
“Whatever it is you want from me, I can’t give it to you.” She
sounded so cold, so hollow, and so damn certain. A second ago
she’d been his. She had—she fucking had. But now she was
miles away.
“Of course you can,” he said immediately, his voice firm. “All I
want is you.”
Her gaze met his, indecision raging in the earthy depths. If she’d
been born like him, she wouldn’t fight this. She’d know
instinctively that they were right together, that this was a rare
reward in a cursed life.
But she wasn’t like him. Her life wasn’t cursed at all. “I need
your sunshine,” he admitted, his voice soft. “You don’t need my
darkness. I know that. But I’ll give it to you anyway. I’ll give you
everything I have.”
She dragged her teeth over her lower lip, a frown creasing her
brow. And then she said, so low a human might not have heard,
“The dark is just as lovely as the light.”
For a moment, a fine, diamond thread of feeling shimmered
between them. For a moment, everything Luke wanted seemed
within reach.
Then the moment passed, and Chas stiffened, seemed to shrink
away from him. “This isn’t right,” she choked out, the words
directed at the ground rather than him. “You’re a monster.”
“So?”
She looked up, gaping at him as if he were the most
unreasonable person in the world. Then she spluttered, “Luke,
you eat people.”
He snorted. “I resent that accusation, considering how hard I try
not to eat people.”
“Are you telling me you’ve never eaten anyone?” she demanded.
“I’m telling you I’ve never eaten anyone who wasn’t asking for
it.”
Her response was a strangled sort of shriek. He much preferred
the soft little moans—but really, who was he kidding? He loved
every sound she made.
“Relax,” he sighed, brushing off her wide-eyed alarm. “I’m a
Werewolf. It’s not like it’s cannibalism.”
After a few soundless, and rather entertaining, flaps of her jaw,
she let out a strangled noise that was wonderfully close to a
snarl. Her frown was fierce, her lips pursed in clear disapproval,
and yet he couldn’t forget what had hovered between them.
Couldn’t forget the taste of her and the feel of her under his
hands.
God, she was so sweet. Ferocious and sarcastic and beautifully
stubborn, and he could only pray that one day she’d be as
fascinated by him as he was by her.
“Forget about my wild youth,” he said, and took a moment to
enjoy her squeak of frustration. “You asked another question,
Chas. I want another kiss.”
“No,” she said quickly. “Not like that.”
“You didn’t like it?” His voice was light, but nervous tension had
his hands curling into fists against the wall behind her, his claws
piercing his skin. The pain was a welcome distraction from the
aching swell of his cock.
“I…” Chastity pressed her lips together, hesitated, and she
shocked the shit out of him. “Obviously, I did. It would be
cowardly to pretend that you don’t… do something to me.”
The words dragged a smile onto his face, the animal inside him
howling in triumph. “I do something to you? And what, exactly
would that be?”
She glared. “You know what. For some reason, we appear to be
attracted to each other.”
He put a hand to her face, cradled the precious curves and strong
bones the way his instincts commanded. And she didn’t pull
away. “Attraction,” he murmured, “is a very pale description of
the thing I feel for you.”
She bit her lip. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t understand this, and I
don’t understand you, so I don’t want to do it anymore.”
He smiled at the defiance in her tone, the low warning that said,
and you can’t make me. As if he ever would. “Alright, love. No
more kisses. Not until you ask me nicely, anyway.” He enjoyed
her sarcastic little snort, wrapped himself up in it like a warm
blanket. “Let’s go home, okay? And I’ll answer all your
questions, Chastity. Now and forever. I’m yours.” His thumb
grazed the lush swell of her lower lip. He felt her shiver and
allowed himself a grin.
“Trying to convince me that you’re not a monster?” she asked
darkly.
“No,” he murmured. “I would never lie to you, my love. But I am
trying to convince you that a monster is just what you need.”
5

RABID

L uke wasn’t sure how it happened, but during the walk


home, he found himself led towards a shop. A shop that
sold food. When he had a perfectly good forest full of rabbits in
his backyard. It was an outrage.
“You claimed you wanted cupcakes.” They stood in front of a
Sainsbury’s with paper bats strung up in the windows, arguing
like an old mated couple. “Didn’t you mean it?” Chastity
demanded.
“Yes,” he sighed, “I meant it. I just didn’t think you’d want to go
shopping.”
She rolled her eyes. “Where do you think food comes from? The
sky?”
“Well, I usually—”
“Never mind,” she said quickly. “You weren’t just humouring
me, were you, when you asked? I mean, because you know I like
to bake?”
“Would I do such a thing?”
“Maybe. You are evil,” she muttered. But he didn’t miss the hint
of a question in her voice, the way her brow arched on that last
word. Evil.
“I might be,” he allowed, “but so’s the Prime Minister.”
She pursed her lips, dropping all pretence now. “I meant that
you hurt people.”
“Again, the Prime—”
“Luke! Be serious! Because eventually one of my many siblings is
going to notice that you’re a Werewolf, and when they do, I need
a solid argument as to why they shouldn’t slaughter you.”
He feigned exasperation, even as his heart swelled. She’d
admitted her attraction; she’d hinted at feeling more; and now,
his bloodthirsty little murderess was openly reluctant to end his
existence. Progress!
“Who do I hurt?” he asked patiently.
She looked around as if searching for a line of victims. “I don’t
know. Didn’t you mention eating someone, before?”
A trio of teenagers, dressed up as colourful characters he didn’t
recognise—and who certainly didn’t seem scary—stared over in
alarm. Luke bared his teeth at them and they jerked into
movement, hurrying away.
“No-one who didn’t need to be eaten,” he said calmly, slinging
an arm over Chastity’s shoulders. “Let’s go and buy… cupcake…
stuff.”
She stiffened, refusing to move—and he certainly wasn’t going
to drag her. “Who,” she gritted out, “did you eat?”
He sighed. “A few rapists. It was a long time ago. We all make
mistakes, etcetera, etcetera. Okay?”
“Why did you have to eat them?” she demanded, though she
didn’t exactly look horrified. And she wasn’t pushing him away,
either.
“I didn’t eat them so much as enthusiastically kill them with my
mouth. Subtle distinction. Can we talk about this later?”
To his everlasting shock, she muttered, “Fine.” She didn’t slide
her arm around his waist, the way he wanted her to—but she did
lean into him, almost imperceptibly. Then, with an eye roll that
some might even call fond, she said, “I must have lost my
marbles.”
“Why, sweetheart?” He pulled her into the store.
“Because I’m really going to take your word for it. For now.”
“I appreciate that. Trust is very important in a relationship.”
“We’re not in a relationship. You have an oven, right?”
“Trust is very important in a friendship, then. And yes, I do.”
She looked up at him sharply, suspicion all over her face.
“Friendship.”
“Friends make friends cupcakes. We’re friends.”
She nodded slowly. “Alright.”
“Friends who want to be in each other’s pants forever and—”
“Okay, you lost me.” But she gave him a real smile, one that lit
up his heart, and actually laughed. The sound was so beautiful,
he almost passed out. Then she said, as if nothing had happened
—as if the world hadn’t just shifted on its axis—“Oh, I bet you
don’t have a muffin tray.”
“We’ll buy one,” he murmured, slightly dazed. “We’ll buy
whatever you want.”

A N HOUR LATER , Luke found himself stirring a huge bowl of


chocolate mush that smelled almost as good as his mate. The
lady in question was sitting on his kitchen counter, popping
little paper cases into one of the multiple muffin trays he’d been
persuaded to buy. He was beginning to think that glittering
laugh of hers had been part of a nefarious plot.
“So,” she said, “you mentioned that you’re an artist.” She’d
been asking a lot of questions this evening, none of them related
to his apparent evilness. He’d rather enjoyed it.
“That’s right. The carvings, some sculptures, whatever.” He
stirred harder. Apparently, his mate wanted minimum lumps in
this batter. Therefore, he would eliminate all lumps.
“How’d that start?” The bright interest in her voice capturing
his attention. He looked up to find her watching him with
something close to fascination. Then she shoved a hand into her
pocket and produced the acorn he’d given her yesterday, rolling
it through her fingers.
He tried not to grin from ear to ear, but it was difficult to resist
the urge when she’d been carrying that thing around all day. She
must have taken the time to move it from last night’s jacket to
today’s jeans. “Long story,” he said, finally.
She nodded slowly, staring at the acorn as if it held the secrets to
the universe. Then she said, “I was so surprised when I saw
those pumpkins. I thought… I mean… Luke, you have a soul,
right?”
“I hope so. My mother would be pissed if I lost it.”
She huffed out a little laugh, but her expression was still
pensive.
He took pity on her, and on his own curiosity. It had been fun,
being with her—playing with her—and ignoring the questions
between them. But they still needed to deal with this, not least
because it would be far easier to mate her if she understood the
basics of his existence. “Sweetheart, you and your family… You
do know the difference between a Were and a rabid, don’t you?”
The look on her face was answer enough. A second later she
confirmed her ignorance with a shake of the head and a hoarse,
“What?”
Ah. “Well, that explains a lot.”
She scowled. “Oh, don’t be smug. We… A couple of generations
back, we lost track of some knowledge, I suppose. It happens.”
“It does,” he agreed, even though he’d never heard of such a
thing. Then again, Weres were solitary creatures, mates and
limited offspring aside. A big family like hers wasn’t something
he had experience with.
“So, what’s the difference?” she asked. “And keep stirring.”
“Fine.” He gave a put-upon sigh to hide the fact that he didn’t
mind stirring at all, especially since she stared at his forearms
while he did it. He liked his mate’s eyes on him, and, apparently,
she liked arms.
Weird, but he’d go with it.
“Okay, so, Werewolves: cursed by the gods, or some shit—but
really, who remembers? Forced to change during the full moon,
although I can technically change whenever I want. Extremely
vulnerable to silver.” He grimaced. “Please don’t ever poison me
again, by the way. I threw up so much this morning. Now, where
was I? Oh. Murderous urges, predatory instincts, enhanced
senses, strength, speed—I think we covered that before. Also...”
He speared her with a look. “We’re very good at finding the
people who were made for us. And when we find them, we mate
for life.”
She rolled her eyes and muttered, “Wow, Romeo,” but he saw
her fighting a smile.
“So, that’s me. And then there are rabids. Being a Were is
generally okay, except for the aforementioned murderous urges.
Makes it difficult to hold on to your soul. That’s actually why I…
Well, I think I mentioned struggling with my temper. And, you
know, there were those guys I killed.”
“Yes,” she murmured wryly. “I recall.”
“Well, when I was in my early twenties, I went through a difficult
phase. Had a lot of violent energy. Started challenging my
mother—she’s more dominant than my dad, you see. It was like
I couldn’t help myself. So she threw me out and told me to fix it,
which I did—by hunting the city for unrepentant scum and
dragging them home to play with. Helped for a while. Until it
didn’t.”
He winced at the memory of his own disordered mind, his
fractured control, his spiralling bloodlust. “I’m lucky I figured
out a way to calm myself. My art, the creativity and the effort, it
reminds me who I am. But if I hadn’t worked so hard, cultivated
restraint… Well. When a Were gives into those urges, goes too
far, loses their humanity—they go rabid. That’s the curse. And
once you’re rabid, you start to degrade, from brain tissue to body
to soul.”
She nodded slowly, and he searched her face for the inevitable
horror—or, at the very least, judgement. But he found none. Her
gaze was sharp as ever, and yet when she spoke, it was to ask,
“You okay now?”
Something about her voice, how it seemed more worried than
suspicious, lit up his heart. “I’m just fine, sweetheart. I dealt
with my issues a decade ago.”
The ghost of a smile flashed over her face, so fast he almost
missed it. Then, like a student recapping a lesson, she said, “So,
what you’re telling me is… There are two kinds of Werewolves,
and you’re currently the not-so-evil kind. Which is why you
aren’t sociopathic in human form and completely unable to
control yourself otherwise, and led by bloodlust and addicted to
human flesh and—”
“Yes,” he cut in.
“Well.” She glared at him as if he’d just ripped off his skin to
reveal that he’d been a micropig all along. “You could’ve said
something.”
“Chastity… You stabbed me. In the chest.”
“Which would’ve been the perfect time to say something.”
“Forgive me for being somewhat distracted,” he snorted. “I
think this is done, by the way.”
She ignored him, didn’t even look at the smooth chocolate mush
he presented her with. Instead, she sank a hand into her mass of
curls and frowned down at the kitchen floor. “This is… a lot.”
The slight tremor in her voice and the slump of her shoulders
twisted his heart. “I know,” he said, walking over to stand in
front of her. He put the bowl on the counter and found himself
sliding between her thighs without a second thought—without
even a dirty thought, he was so focused on easing her sudden
hopelessness. “Just give it time. Let yourself adjust.”
She looked up, her dark eyes glittering like diamonds. “Luke. I
tried to kill you.”
“I know. I was there.”
She shot him a glare that suited her face far better than sadness.
But then the glare faded, and she was lost again. “I tried to kill
you,” she repeated, “and you’re a person.”
“Yep.”
She winced. “I’m a murderer.”
“No, sweetheart. You’re an attempted murderer.”
She ignored him. “And what about all the Weres my family’s
been killing? What if they’ve been slaughtering people like you,
and they didn’t even know it?”
“If it’s any consolation,” he said, “99% of Werewolves are raging
arseholes anyway.”
“That is not a consolation,” she gritted out.
“Sorry. I’m not good with morals.”
“Apparently, neither are we,” she muttered, and covered her
face with both hands.
He sighed, reaching for one of her wrists. He should’ve been
used to it now, the sudden shock of his world sliding perfectly
into place whenever they touched, but it still stole his breath for
a moment. Hers too, if the way her pulse raced under his fingers
was any indication.
“It’s unlikely that your family has ever killed someone like me.
We don’t garner attention because we don’t run around eating
people. Much. I’ve been living in this town for years and you
guys only figured out my existence a month ago.”
She nodded slowly, meeting his eyes, finally looking a little more
like his Chastity. “Right. Okay.”
“Come here.” He wrapped his arms around her and she actually
allowed it, her head falling onto his shoulder, her hands settling
hesitantly at his waist. He ran a slow, easy hand over her back,
feeling her breathing calm and her body relax. It was interesting
to discover that his vicious mate also cared about the lives of
almost-innocents—but that instinct, he supposed, was probably
what made her and her people hunters rather than serial killers.
When she was completely calm, he spoke again. “The important
thing is that you know now, and you can tell your family, and be
sure that it’ll never happen. Okay?”
“Okay,” she repeated, her voice back to normal now, strong and
shining bright.
“Plus,” he added, “your mother might like me more if you tell
her what a useful source of information I am.”
She pulled away from him with a snort, and though the loss felt
physically painful, it was worth it to see the smile in her eyes.
“You,” she said sternly, “are never meeting my mother.”
“Sure, I am. And you’ll meet mine.”
“Do I want to?” she muttered wryly.
“Oh, she doesn’t bite. She’s really mellowed in her old age.”
Luke bit back a smile at the thought of his Mum’s flinty gaze
meeting Chastity’s dark glare. Both women were formidable, to
say the least. He had a feeling they’d get along wonderfully, after
they got over their initial suspicion of each other.
Dad, of course, would adore Chastity. Like Luke, he enjoyed
violently straight-forward women.
“Your mother is a Were,” Chas said, “isn’t she?”
“Oh, yeah. So’s my Dad. It’s why I’m terrible with human
socialisation.”
She made a cute little noise that might actually be a laugh.
“Whatever. Maybe I’ll meet your parents—for research purposes
only.” His beast howled in triumph at the curiosity beneath her
iron-hard tone. His mate wanted to meet his family, whether
she admitted it or not. Good. Family was important to them
both, he thought, but they were both solitary creatures in spite
of those bonds.
Now they would be solitary together.
Then she ruined his little high by adding, “But you’re still not
getting within fifty feet of Ma.”
Luke rolled his eyes. “You know, I’m pretty sure I already met
her last month when she tried to kill me. That was her, right?
And all your sisters?”
Chas gave a noncommittal grunt.
“Don’t worry. I officially issue blanket forgiveness towards every
Adofo woman who’s ever plotted to end my life. Which I’m quite
sure is all of you. That’s okay. I don’t judge.”
Luke was getting used to his mate’s unpredictability, so he
wasn’t sure if she’d laugh at that or kick him in the balls. She did
neither. Instead, with a sharp little smile on her face, her
movements impressively fast, she grabbed the bowl of cake
batter beside her and poured it over his head.

H ER W ERE COULD BE RATHER INFURIATING , but Chas would give him


this: he looked damn good covered in chocolate.
She pushed away the residual sparkle of sensation dancing
across her skin, leftover from the feel of his hands on her. She
ignored the fact that every time they touched, she came alive;
ignored the fact that he comforted her more easily and more
completely than anyone ever had; ignored the fact that her trust
in him was a living, breathing part of her, one that had grown far
too quickly.
She ignored everything that was unsettling, confusing, and
softening her, and laughed her arse off at the look on his face
instead.
Luke’s astonishment lasted a bare few seconds before he looked
down at himself with a slow grin of disbelief. There was cake
batter plastered in his hair, dribbling slowly down his face,
staining his white T-shirt. He rubbed a hand over his cheek,
stared at the stripe of chocolate goo on his palm, then licked it.
Oh, fuck. The man should be banned from licking things in front
of her. She was so distracted by the leisurely stripe of his tongue,
so busy hoping he wouldn’t notice the flare of her arousal, that
she almost missed the gleam in his eyes. With preternatural
speed, he snatched the mixing bowl from her hands and held it
up—
“Not the hair!” she shrieked, throwing up her hands. The last
thing she expected was for him to actually listen. He changed
course at the last second and threw the rest of the batter directly
at her chest.
Chas gave a strangled cry at the sudden influx of cold wetness,
some landing on bare skin, some soaking through the fabric of
her clothes. She slapped her hands over herself protectively—if
a little too late—then realised that she’d essentially just grabbed
her own tits.
“Stop laughing!” she demanded, her cheeks burning.
Luke, of course, ignored her. In fact, he laughed harder, until she
worried he might actually fall over—and then she was laughing
too, her stomach cramping and her breath coming in desperate,
joy-tinged gasps. She clutched at his shoulders and he wrapped
an arm around her, and somehow their foreheads bumped
together as they finally calmed down.
Then, all at once, they were just Chas and Luke, eye to eye, far
closer than she’d ever intended. It was like the alleyway all over
again, but different, because every second she spent with him
seemed to change something inside her, seemed to build her
need for him higher. He slid a hand beneath her hair to cup the
back of her neck, as if he were afraid she might pull away.
She wouldn’t. She couldn’t.
She could feel the cake batter on his forehead smearing onto
hers. She could also feel his every breath, light and cool, against
her lips. If she moved forward an inch or two, they’d be kissing.
Not that she wanted to kiss him.
Oh, for Christ’s sake, of course she wanted to kiss him. So much
that pretending otherwise, especially to herself, was just
ridiculous.
But she still couldn’t bring herself to move. Not with those
glowing green eyes, ones that seemed so warm and enchanting
now, holding her hostage. So, it was a blessing, really, when he
kissed her instead.
His mouth was whisper-soft over hers, a teasing glide that made
her desire swell, that filled her with desperate longing. She
tensed every muscle in her body just to stop herself from crying
out, from moving forward to deepen the kiss. She wanted heat,
immediacy, the kind of frantic passion that made her truly
mindless—but he gave her a slow sensuality that made her feel
unavoidably present.
His fingers slid into her hair and tightened, holding her still. His
other hand settled heavily at her waist, dared her to ask for
more, to demand the grasping, greedy touches she wanted, to
push him towards her aching breasts or her wet and swollen sex.
She refused to do either, no matter how much her body wept for
it. She refused to give in.
His lips eased hers open like the sun eases open a bloom, slow
and easy and right. When his tongue finally slid over the seam of
her lower lip, she was shaking. He licked at her mouth as if she
were the sweetest thing he’d ever tasted, and Chastity’s hands
slid under his shirt without permission from her brain. The feel
of his hot skin and hard body only made the wanting worse,
because it was him. It was undeniably him. And he, she realised,
was everything she wanted.
He was still standing between her legs, so it wasn’t hard to pull
him closer, to slot him into the apex of her thighs like a puzzle
piece. He moved with a hungry growl, his grip on her waist
tightening, their bodies pressed together until she could almost
feel his heartbeat in her bones. And still it wasn’t close enough,
even with her hands roaming the planes of his back and his
fingers making little indents in the softness of her middle. Even
with his tongue gliding intimately over hers and his low growls
of pleasure rolling right down her throat.
It was instinct that drove her to take more, to demand more. And
an Adofo woman always listened to her instincts. Chastity broke
the kiss, pulled back just enough to drag his T-shirt over his
head. As soon as he understood her silent, jerking movements,
Luke tore the fabric off himself, and then he grabbed her T-shirt
and got rid of that too.
There was a look on his face, as he stripped them both above the
waist, a look she’d never seen before—not when he’d been
uncertain, trying to befriend her at the café, and not when he’d
been cocky and comfortable and eternally teasing. Now, his jaw
was a hard line, his mouth firm, his eyes narrowed. He looked
fierce in his concentration, in his determination. Or at least, he
did until he unhooked her bra, pulled it away, and laid eyes on
her chest.
Then he looked utterly undone.
“Chas,” he murmured, his voice raw gravel. “You…”
His slack expression, not to mention the hardness nudging
between her thighs, brought a smile of satisfaction to her face.
“I…?”
He took a deep, shaking breath, closed his eyes, opened them
again. His usual teasing smile appeared, with a lustful edge that
made her shiver. But she didn’t miss the echoes of that awed
reverence in his eyes, even as he said mockingly, “You’re
covered in chocolate.”
She arched a brow. “And whose fault is that?”
“Don’t worry.” He swiped a finger over the swell of one breast
without warning, collecting cake batter that was almost the
same shade as her skin. Then, holding her gaze, he licked the
finger. “I’ll clean it up.”
She bit her lip to stop herself from whimpering, the skin he’d
touched so lightly already tingling as if she’d been shocked. Her
nipples were so stiff and sensitive that his gaze alone felt like a
touch—but he didn’t actually touch them. Not like she wanted
him to. Not yet. Instead, he grabbed her thighs and hauled her
off the counter, holding her against his body. She wrapped her
legs around his waist and her arms around his neck, and he
carried her through the cabin.
“Where are we going?” she asked, her slight breathlessness
betraying the tornado of desire sweeping through her body.
“Bed,” he grunted, his gaze pinned to her breasts. She supposed
there was a lot to look at. She had an inconveniently-sized pair
of tits that could not be pushed into perkiness by any bra on
earth—at least, not any bra she was willing to pay for—but the
way Luke was staring at them right now made them seem less
like an annoyance and more like a promise of pleasure. She
didn’t doubt that he could deliver.
He kicked open a door just off the living area and carried her into
what must be his bedroom, since the only object in it was a bed.
An enormous bed, too, piled high with a mess of blankets and
pillows that made it look more like a nest. It almost filled the
modest space entirely, illuminated by the street-light-tinted
glow coming through the single, wide window. Luke didn’t do
anything to change that; he just threw her onto the bed and
followed, covering her body with his own.
“We’ll get chocolate all over the sheets,” she gasped.
“Don’t care.” And then his big hands were grabbing the soft
mounds of her breasts, pushing them up and together for his
enjoyment. He lowered his head without fanfare and licked a
long, wet stripe over her skin, making her gasp and arch up
beneath him. Chas found herself spreading her thighs wider,
opening up beneath him—and then she felt the bulge of his rigid
shaft against her pussy, pressing hard on her clit, making her
moan.
He looked up with something wicked in his eyes, his tongue
circling one rigid nipple. Slowly, deliberately, he rocked his hips
forward, pushing firmly between her legs. She released a
shuddering sigh and arched into him again, chasing that spark of
pleasure, letting it kindle into a white-hot flame.
Luke released her breasts and rose up on his knees, his hands
moving to her jeans. She didn’t protest as he undid the buttons,
tugged at the zipper, dragged the stiff fabric down her thighs.
His movements were almost frantic, his breaths more like a
series of low, rapid growls.
He didn’t pull her plain and comfortable underwear aside;
instead, he ripped it off so easily that she thought he must’ve
used his claws. Maybe that should’ve alarmed her, should’ve
pulled her out of this haze of lust—but she didn’t care. She knew
what he was, and she didn’t care. She remembered what he’d
said earlier that day: “I could no more rip out your throat than
rip out my own heart.”
She believed him. Mostly because she was starting to feel the
same way.
And then he was pushing her legs up and out of his way, his
fingers digging into her thighs, his face pressed against her cunt.
Her whole body jolted as shock and pleasure twisted their way
through her veins, white-hot and electric. She felt him inhale,
breathing her in, nuzzling her labia in a way that made her clit
throb and her wetness grow. She could feel fine rivulets of her
own arousal trailing from her slick entrance, down the curve of
her arse. He kept going, making a sound deep in his chest that
sent a thrill up her spine. The rasp of his facial hair was almost
too much against her sensitive folds, but not quite.
Chastity kneaded her own breast with one hand, slid the other
into his thick hair, and ordered through gritted teeth, “More.”
He laughed, low and dangerous. She felt his mouth move against
her as he spoke, the most decadent tease of all. “Does that mean
I’m doing okay?”
“Luke,” she warned.
He looked up, delight written over his face. “Did you just growl
at me?”
“No!”
“Yes,” he said smugly. Then he lowered his head and licked her
from cunt to clit, his broad tongue spreading her folds. Chas
released a jagged cry that sounded far too breathless, way too
desperate, to have come from her lips—except it matched the
gnawing hunger inside her, the helpless need growing in her
chest and the uncontrollable desire swelling between her legs.
When he parted her with his thumbs, when he held her open and
lapped at her entrance with a low moan, she made the sound
again, her body writhing without permission. It was as if her
nerves were no longer taking orders from her mind, but from her
swollen, sensitive clit—and when he licked her there, when he
closed his lips around her and sucked, her vision actually
blurred.
She felt as if she were burning alive, choking on pleasure,
exploding with need. His tongue swirled over her aching flesh
and she screamed out his name. His fingers pushed into her
tightening pussy and she actually sobbed. His thumb replaced
his tongue on her clit, rubbing hard—and then she felt his teeth
sink into her thigh, and she came.
The lust was dizzying, suffocating. By the time she returned to
her senses, he was lying over her again, his face above hers when
she opened her eyes. She pulled him closer and kissed him hard
and wanted, wanted, wanted. He kissed her just as fiercely, his
hands roaming over her eager body one moment, then yanking
at his own jeans the next. When his were shoved down to his
knees, just like hers, he grasped her hip firmly and whispered
against her lips, “Now?”
“Now,” she said, or tried to—but the end of the word was
swallowed by a gasp when the head of his cock brushed over her
hypersensitive folds.
He moaned and let his head fall forward to rest against hers.
“Holy fuck, that felt good.”
All she could manage was a choked, “Please.” She widened her
thighs as much as she could, jeans considered, and sank her
nails into the curve of his arse, urging him forward. And he
moved, the first inch of that hot, thick cock spreading her open,
pushing into her swollen cunt, setting her nerves alight.
“Jesus, Chas,” he panted. “I want to mate you. Now. Let’s do it
now.”
At those words, everything in her froze. Her pounding heart
went from a sign of anticipation to a ragged drumbeat of panic.
Blood that had zipped through her veins like starlight suddenly
cooled and congealed. A second ago, she would’ve said nothing
could break through this heavy, drugging pleasure. Clearly, she’d
been wrong.
6

JUDGEMENT

L uke could barely hear over the rushing of blood in his


ears, could barely see through the cloud of pleasure
surrounding him, could barely think when he was finally
pushing into Chastity’s burning, silken heat. But he could feel
her, all of her, enough to notice even through his lust that she’d
become still and tense beneath him. He blinked hard, shook his
head until the sound of his rapid pulse gave way to the sound of
her voice.
“No,” she said.
He froze. “You want to stop?”
In answer, she pushed at his chest. Which was quite clear. He
gritted his teeth, pulled out, and rose up on his knees. His eyes
ran over her body, but he ignored the lushness of her breasts,
the soft plumpness of her curves, and focused on her skin. She
was littered with random scars—some pale, some dark, some big
and some small—but he searched for more recent marks or
bruises as he asked, “Are you okay? I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
She snorted and sat up, shuffling away from him. “Brought me
to my senses, more like.”
Well. That wasn’t exactly what he’d wanted to hear, but he
decided not to jump to conclusions. Even though she was
currently standing and pulling up her jeans. “Chastity, are we
—”
“You’re a Werewolf,” she said, spinning round to face him. “Yes,
you’re still you, and I still…” She bit back whatever she’d been
about to say, shaking her head as she struggled with her zipper.
“Whatever. I need to go home and talk to my family. I can’t just
mate you,” she spat, as if the word were distasteful. “Didn’t you
say that shit’s for life?” She didn’t wait for an answer, stomping
out of the room.
Luke followed, shoving off his jeans completely instead of
pulling them up, purely because it was faster. He found her in
the kitchenette, throwing on her chocolate-stained T-shirt. The
look on her face, one of bloody-minded determination, told him
that he wasn’t about to get what he wanted here—not even
close. But he still tried. “You don’t need to leave, Chas. Just hold
on a second. Talk to me.”
She shoved past him without meeting his eyes, grabbing her
jacket by the door. “There’s really nothing to talk about. I’ve
known you all of five minutes. This isn’t normal.”
“Who gives a fuck about normal? The fact that I’m a Werewolf
isn’t normal,” he said, even as he fought against the pull of his
beast.
“I do!” she snapped.
He closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. The full
moon was tomorrow, and he could still taste her on his tongue.
The fact that she was hesitating frustrated the monster inside
him in a way that had claws pricking his fingertips and fangs
trying to force their way through his gums.
He gritted his teeth and held it all in and talked fast. “Everything
about both our lives is strange, Chastity, but that doesn’t make it
any less real. You know what this is. You can feel it. And I
shouldn’t have—I shouldn’t have lost my head and moved too
fast, but you shouldn’t run, either.”
She whipped around to face him, her hands curled into fists, her
gaze hard and narrowed. “You think I’m running? You think I’m
a coward?” She looked him up and down, slow and scathing, as if
he were a cockroach at her feet. His beast snarled in response,
but he swallowed the sound, because he had a feeling she’d take
any excuse to fight right then. And he would never hurt her.
But she hurt him. “I’m not running, Luke. I’m just leaving.
Because I got what I came here for.”
She got what she came here for.
And now she was leaving. Leaving him. When he needed her
around just to think, to breathe, to live. When her absence was
his definition of loneliness.
She let herself out into the cold, slamming the door shut behind
her, and he allowed it. He maintained iron-hard control,
exercised his hard-won restraint, reminded himself that he
ruled his own mind and his actions, that nothing and no-one
could affect him. Those lies steadied his shuddering heart for a
good few minutes, each second a burning eternity.
But eventually, the truth won out. He was not an island
anymore. She’d come, she’d changed him, and she’d had the
fucking audacity to brush it off and walk away.
He threw back his head and howled.

A BINA A DOFO HAD HAD a busy month.


She’d been home far less than usual, leaving her husband to
hold down the fort. Travelling from John O’Grotes to Land’s End
in search of answers to a question no-one dared ask in the
daylight had taken a hell of a lot of time. And even now, though
she’d covered every inch of land in England and Scotland, Abina
had only shards of disjointed information to show for it. She still
couldn’t fully explain why, last month, a monster had left one of
her daughters alive—and stolen the clothing of another.
She didn’t like that. If there was one thing Abina craved and
continued to lack, it was knowledge. Knowledge, more than the
survival skills, battle tactics and weaponry she’d taught her girls,
was power. But theirs was a world of shadows and whispers, and
answers were smoke in the wind.
She parked her car in the drive and smiled at the sight of the
neighbours’ imaginatively-carved pumpkins, glowing bright in
the darkness. It was well past midnight, but as she approached
her own front door, she saw the lights were on in the living
room. Her husband, Solomon, must be waiting up. She’d told
him not to, of course, but the man was stubborn as a bloody goat.
And secretly, she was rather pleased about it.
She entered the house with a smile on her face, setting down the
largest of her weapons before she went in search of her husband.
She found him in his favourite chair, his expression unusually
grave, his hands folded in his lap in a way that meant business.
And beside him, to her surprise, stood their youngest daughter.
Abina’s heart raced for a moment as she swept her gaze over
Chastity, wondering if something had happened, if her time had
run out, if the Were had come hunting. Chas was theoretically
capable of defending herself, but she must never. She could not.
The oracle had been quite clear.
“Everything is fine,” Solomon said, his soothing baritone setting
her at ease. Of course, he’d know her worry and immediately
assuage it. She flashed him a grateful smile before looking to
their daughter.
“Ma,” Chastity said. “I think you’ll want to sit down for this.”
R EPEATING everything she’d learned from Luke was the easy part
—well, except for the fact that echoing his words, remembering
his voice, made Chastity’s throat burn and her eyes prickle. But
she used the icy panic that had filled her when he’d spoken
about mating, embraced the cold until her volatile emotions
froze over. She was a soldier, and she was making a report. That
was all.
Until her mother looked up from the notes she’d been making
for the past hour and asked the question Chastity had been
dreading, the one that had made her flinch at every interruption
so far. “Where did you learn all of this, Smudge?”
Fourteen Adofo children, and each one had a nickname—one
that only their parents used, that made absolutely no sense and
had no discernible origin story. Some weren’t even real words.
But to Chastity, the sound of her ridiculous pet name was like a
steadying hand.
She cleared her throat and said, “A Werewolf told me.”
Silence. Ma blinked rapidly. Dad took off his glasses, cleaned
them carefully on his shirt, and put them back on. Then he said,
“Pardon?”
“Almost four weeks ago,” Chastity said, trying her best to sound
Extremely Mature and Professional, “a Were in human form
came into the café. Despite clear signs as to his nature, I doubted
my suspicions at first because his behaviour was… anomalous.
But after a while, I decided that he must be the creature Victory
had that incident with.” She paused, then said very quickly, “I
decided to hunt him alone.”
Her parents, in unison, bellowed, “You did what?!”
She didn’t think that was a genuine invitation to repeat herself,
so she ploughed on. “He seemed to be attempting to flirt with
me, so I allowed the situation to continue for a few weeks. He
came in every day and spoke to me, until I eventually encouraged
him to take things further. At the end of the week, I went to his
home—”
“You went to a Were’s lair? What were you—no, never mind. It’s
done. Where is it? Where was he hiding?”
“He wasn’t hiding, Ma. He lives in a house.”
Her mother made a strangled sort of choking noise. Dad patted
her back soothingly.
“I went to his house,” Chastity continued, “and attempted to kill
him. During our fight, although he shifted, he remained rational
and tried not to hurt me.”
Her mother’s jaw dropped. It actually dropped. She could’ve
caught flies. The sight distracted Chas for a moment with its
sheer unexpectedness, but she collected herself and continued.
She had to. Because if she stopped talking about Luke in this
clinical way, she might start thinking about Luke in a visceral
way.
There was this uncomfortable roiling guilt inside her because of
the things she’d said, the things she’d allowed him to believe so
she could push him away. The idea of some mystical Werewolf
connection tying her to him—to the very thing she’d once
believed she was made to destroy—turned her blood to frost in
her veins. And yet, beneath that knee-jerk anxiety was a
rightness that scared her, and a burning desire to be his, to make
him hers.
He could explain it all he liked, but she wasn’t ready to
understand. And knowing that didn’t make the dissonance any
easier.
“He also displayed clear indications of humanity,” Chastity went
on, her voice wooden, “such as this.” She produced the acorn
from her pocket, held it up to the light. “He makes his living as
an artist. He is kind and funny and frequently exhibits admirable
self-control. It was obvious to me that he was… different, in
some way, to the creatures you’ve taught me about. So, I let him
live. The next day, he found me.” She swallowed hard as she
remembered, as she realised that it had happened less than 24
hours ago.
As she recalled the heat of his hand between her legs, the
gentleness in his eyes, and the things he’d said. “All I want is
you. I need your sunshine.”
“What did he do?” Ma demanded when Chas hesitated too long.
“Nothing! Nothing. I mean…” she cleared her throat. “We
talked. He offered to answer my questions and gave me the
information I’ve already relayed to you.”
For a long, long moment, Ma was silent. Then she held out a
shaking hand and said, “Give me that.”
The acorn, of course. Except Chas didn’t want to hand it over.
She did, though, forcing her stiff fingers to release the half-
finished carving.
Her mother peered at it, then handed it over to Dad. He studied
it and murmured, “Extraordinary.”
“It’s a copy,” Ma said. “True to life.”
“But the fact that he felt moved to make it at all—”
“He creates,” Chas interjected. “I’ve seen it. He makes art.”
After a pause, Ma levelled a hard look at her. “You believe in
everything he’s told you.”
“Yes.” Unreservedly. “I know I’m not a huntress, but—”
“Just because you’ve never been cleared for active duty, doesn’t
mean you’re not a huntress. Knowledge is at the root of
everything we do, Chastity. A hand can’t act without a mind to
guide it. Your discoveries might just restore this family to the
force it was always meant to be.”
Every word seemed to sink into Chastity’s skin and warm her
from the inside out, her chest swelling with tentative hope.
“You… You’re pleased.”
“I’m proud.” The precious moment lasted as long as Ma’s hard-
won, quicksilver smile. Then, in the next breath, she asked,
“Why did the Werewolf look for you, specifically?”
Ah. She didn’t really want to go into that—not least because it
suggested an ulterior motive on Luke’s part, a reason for
misleading her. But she couldn’t lie to her parents, so she said
flatly, “He claims that I’m his mate.”
Her mother arched a brow. Chastity waited for the inevitable
explosion of disgust.
Then Solomon Adofo said, “Makes sense.”
Chastity was so shocked, she almost swallowed her own tongue.
“Makes… sense?”
“Oh, yes,” Dad said, nodding thoughtfully. “Of course. You
remember,” he said, turning to look at Ma. “‘Her first kill will
rip out her own heart’.”
Well, fuck. That did make sense. In the most twisted way
possible. Chastity stared blankly at the wall as her parents talked
further, as they compared notes and decided how early was too
early to call a family meeting. She was still staring at the wall,
her mind moving rapidly and yet uselessly, her thoughts
incoherent but frantic, when Ma tapped her on the shoulder.
She looked up, and saw the little wooden acorn trapped between
her mother’s fingers. “You want this, Smudge?”
“No.” She squeezed her eyes shut as her deepest, most primal
instincts rebelled. “Yes,” she admitted, and held out a hand.
Ma passed it over and gave her a considering look. “You know
seventy ways to maim a man, so I’ve never been overly
concerned for your safety. At least, not before. Are you
concerned for your safety?”
She understood, with a jolt, that her mother was asking about
Luke. About whether his was a dangerous sort of desire. “No,”
she said, because it was the only possible answer.
“Do you have any reason to believe that your judgement may be
impaired?”
The logical response was, undoubtedly, Yes. Her behaviour over
the last couple of days had been erratic, to say the least. Over the
last few weeks, in fact—because Chastity was slowly coming to
accept that her reaction to Luke had been odd from the very
beginning.
She’d identified a Werewolf and had decided to just… let him be?
To observe him every morning at the café, plotting his eventual
demise, even when she’d believed him actively dangerous? To
keep something from her family, something so huge? She’d even
started altering rotas to make sure Dad was never around in the
mornings, since he was the only man in the family likely to know
a Were in human form. And yes, she’d done it all with the aim of
killing Luke—but had she ever truly wanted to do that?
Suddenly, she wasn’t certain. She’d wanted to kill a Were, that
was for sure. But a secret part of her soul might have wished that
the Were in question didn’t have to be Luke.
His smile made her dizzy, his scent made her weak, his touch
took her to heaven, and she adored him. He was a monster and
she was a huntress, and she adored him.
Maybe there was something to this mate thing after all.
“My judgement is not impaired,” she told her mother. “Not in
the slightest.”
7

FULL MOON RISING

I t had been a long damn day.


Ma had called a family meeting at the arsecrack of dawn, so
Chas had barely slept at all before reciting her unbelievable story
in front of every sibling and a couple of nearby cousins. She’d
handled the usual probing questions, then stuffed herself into a
ridiculously floofy, scarlet Halloween costume and stomped off
to work.
At Cup O’Go, holidays like Halloween were always busy—but
today had been frantic. The constant influx of customers
should’ve made time pass quickly, but instead, things dragged.
Because no matter what Chas was doing, who she was smiling
for, or how many pumps of pumpkin spice she put into a latte,
her mind was stuck on Luke.
She’d hurt him. She’d hurt him and she desperately wanted to
fix it. The need was so urgent, every beat of her heart felt like an
echo of his name. The hopelessness in his eyes, the gentleness
of his voice as he tried his best to fix things, it all played on a
torturous loop in her head until she realised that the thing
weighing her down and fucking her up was pure, unadulterated
guilt. The worst she’d ever felt.
And on top of all that, she missed him. After five bloody minutes
apart, she missed him.
But no matter what she wanted to do, no matter how much she’d
like to go to him, the fact remained that tonight was the full
moon. Not only would he be pissed with her, he would also be,
you know, a Werewolf. And while she’d seen that side of him
before, she had reason to believe that the full moon changed
things. It would be reckless to go to him now, unsure of the
welcome she’d receive. She couldn’t do it. And that fact made
her absolutely furious.
When she and Valour finally locked up at 6 p.m., Chastity was
ready to go home and scream uselessly into her pillow.
So, of course, when she let herself into her shitty little flat, it
was to find that one of her many sisters had taken up residence.
Someone’s boots were by the door—but they all swapped and
copied each other so much, it was hard to discern whose. She
could rule out Honour and Liberty, because they had massive
feet, and these combat boots were on the smaller side. So, she
thought as she took off her coat and followed the sound of
frying, spitting butter to the kitchen, it was either Mercy,
Constance, or…
“Vicky,” she sighed, as her favourite—and most aggravating—
sister came into view. Victory was standing in front of the
narrow kitchen’s old-fashioned hob, her muscled body and vital
beauty a contrast to the tired and chipped appliances. “What are
you doing here?”
The taller woman spared Chastity the barest of glances before
turning her attention back to her frying pan. “Evenin’, baby sis.
Nice costume.”
Chas snorted. “Go fuck yourself.”
“I mean it.” She flipped a pancake with irritating height and
precision. “Little Red, right?”
“I’m a red velvet cupcake,” Chas gritted out, fiddling self-
consciously with her poofy skirt. “I took off the icing headband.”
Victory cracked up. “Icing headband?”
“You know Dad buys the costumes. He thinks he’s funny.”
“Which is funny in itself. Really, though, it’s a shame you’re not
Little Ms. Hood today. Would’ve been ironic. You know, since
you’re screwing a Werewolf and all.”
Chastity’s hand shot out to grip the doorframe, her knuckle
joints screaming as she squeezed the wood a little too hard.
“Wh-what? How did you—I mean, we’re not—”
Victory flicked her pancake onto a plate already piled high with
them, put down the frying pan, and turned to face a panicked
Chastity with a smile. “You’re cute when you’re confused.
Lemon and sugar, or—?”
“Better get the syrup.” Closing her eyes for a second, Chas
leaned against the doorframe and took a deep, soothing breath.
A centring breath, one designed to bring her back to herself.
Which might be impossible, since she felt like half of herself was
absent—and presumably running around in another skin, eating
small forest creatures.
But she managed to yank the swirling pieces of her mind back
into place, cobbling together an approximation of a Totally Okay
Chastity just in time to follow her sister and those pancakes out
of the room.
They sat on Chasity’s second-hand sofa, crossed-legged and
facing each other, the stack of pancakes wobbling precariously
between them. Victory wolfed one down first, her scarred hands
moving efficiently as she ripped and swallowed. Then she said,
“Me and Valour have been spying on you all month.”
“Valour?!”
“Sure. Your problem is, you still think of him as a little kid when
he’s probably the smartest of us all. He spotted the Were
straight away, Chas. And he knew you had too.”
This was probably going to be an uncomfortable conversation.
Chastity debated the pros and cons of shoving a whole pancake
into her mouth at once.
“When you didn’t do anything, he decided to tell me. He thought
telling Ma might get you in trouble. So, between us, we figured
out that you were planning to hunt the thing alone. To prove
yourself, right?”
“Right,” Chastity mumbled, but the word was muffled. She’d
decided to eat the whole pancake. It tasted like syrupy sawdust.
“Well, we thought it was a good idea. But I wanted to keep an eye
on you, just in case that old witch was right and you died or
whatever. So, Val watched you at work and reported back, and
the longer you took to make a move, the weirder things got. He
started telling me the Were was nice to you. He said you probably
didn’t want to kill it. And I have to admit, I was suspicious of
that thing to begin with. The night it ripped your hoodie, it…”
Victory stared distantly over Chastity’s shoulder, like she was
seeing those wild, moonlit woods again. “It wasn’t like other
Weres. Of course, after everything you told us in the meeting
this morning, that makes sense. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
“You eventually made a move, so I stalked you just the teeniest,
tiniest bit. When you were in that thing’s house—”
“Luke,” Chastity corrected, unable to keep quiet once she’d
finally swallowed the pancake. “His name is Luke.”
Victory executed the sort of smug, older-sister look that said
she’d been waiting to hear that. “Sorry,” she murmured, clearly
fighting a smile. “Luke. When you were in his house, I had a lock
on him through the window—or at least, I did until you guys
started making out. Gross, by the way.”
“Oh, fuck off.” Victory was a sniper. A very good sniper. So she
must’ve had a great view down her scope that night. Chas’s
cheeks heated.
“Heh. Anyways, eventually you got appropriately stabby—you
did well, by the way—but I was ready to shoot that motherfucker
until I realised that he wasn’t trying to kill you. Then you took
the knife out of his chest and sat around looking like a war
widow, etcetera etcetera, you know the rest. Next day, Val saw
you leaving the carpark with, um, Luke, so I waited near his
house again. By that point, we were 99% sure you were pulling
some Romeo and Juliet shit, but I just wanted to be absolutely
positive that you weren’t going to get eaten.” Victory’s lips
twitched. “Well, maybe you did get eaten—”
“Oh, shut up.”
“—but all I saw was you guys having some weird argument.
Looked very dramatic.”
“You can stop talking now.” Chastity bit into another pancake
and chewed until the urge to break down and ask her sister for
advice finally passed. She didn’t think Victory had much
experience in soothing the hurt feelings of a preternatural
creature. “You and Val are a pair of weirdos,” she muttered
eventually. “But… thanks. For making sure I didn’t die.”
“Well, as far as I can tell, you were never in any danger.” Victory
eyed her thoughtfully. “You’re really into that Were, hm?”
“I suppose,” Chas sighed. It was all so inconvenient, having
people who cared about you when all you really wanted was to
bottle up your feelings and never, ever speak of them.
“How come you’re grumpy, then? He’s cute, and he looked like a
good kisser.”
“Would you stop?” she snorted, no heat in the words.
“Relax. I’m not going to steal your monster. Although, if he is
telling the truth and there are others like him…”
“You can’t just decide to date a Werewolf, Vicky.”
“Yes, I can. It would be nice to sleep with a guy without worrying
my thighs are gonna accidentally snap his neck.”
Chastity laughed despite herself. “I’m sure. But I don’t know
how they… I mean, they have this whole ‘mate for life’ thing,
and I don’t know if they really date outside of that.” She
wrinkled her nose, thoughtful. They must, right? The ones who
were into romance at all, that is. But then, knowing you’d
eventually find your mate could make other relationships seem
less important.
“Wait,” Victory said, narrowing her eyes. “Mate for life? Is that
what Luke’s trying to do with you?”
Oops. After a moment’s hesitation, Chas mumbled, “Maybe.”
There was a stunned pause, Victory’s usually expressive face
going completely blank. And then, out of nowhere, she burst
into laughter.
“What?” Chastity scowled. “What’s so funny?!”
Her sister tried to reply, but couldn’t manage in between
hysterical whoops.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. You’re the most irritating person on planet
earth, I swear to God.”
Victory slapped her own thigh and bent over double.
“I’m eating all of these pancakes. Screw you.” With a sniff of
annoyance, Chastity attacked the rest of the food.
She’d almost finished the stack by the time Victory calmed
enough to speak, wiping actual tears from the corners of her
eyes. Finally, the chuckling huntress said, “For life. That’s
adorable.”
“Whatever,” Chas glared, a strange sort of indignation flaring in
her chest. Something inside her wanted to take offence at her
sister’s flippancy, but she refused to do that. Instead, she asked,
“Aren’t you going to tell me I should run a mile? Keep an eye out
for some nice, human man instead?”
“Why would I do that?” Victory snorted. “Chastity, we’re from a
family of Werewolf hunters. You’re basically dating a monster. A
fucking fortune-telling witch attended your birth. Everything
about our lives is ridiculous and impossible and arguably ill-
advised. Do whatever the hell you want. We’re warriors. You’ll
be fine no matter what.” Her tone hardened slightly, her eyes
narrowing as she added, “We’ll make sure of it.”
Aw. Implied threats of violence against her future spouse.
Chastity’s heart swelled. “You’re very annoying, but also one of
my top six favourite sisters.”
Victory rolled her eyes. “Cute.” Then, with a wink, “I love you
too. So, you and the Were made up yet?”
Chastity bit down on the inside of her cheek, forcing a
nonchalant shrug. “No.”
Her sister waited for more, then arched a brow when none was
forthcoming. “You fucked up, right?”
“Seriously? How do you know he didn’t fuck up?”
“I mean, maybe he did. But you must’ve too, because you’ve got
your whole ‘guilty and resentful’ thing going on.” Victory waved
a finger at Chastity’s face. “This is how you look when you want
to apologise but don’t have the guts. Kind of like you’re
constipated.”
“I have the guts,” Chas snapped, trying to smooth out her
expression. “But Christ, Vicky, it’s the full moon. He’s probably
out there pissing up a tree trunk or something.”
“Sounds like fun.”
Chastity grunted.
“Fine. You can apologise when he’s not furry. But, you know… I
met the guy on a full moon. He was rather scary. He was also,”
Victory said slowly, “quite human.”
The pair fell silent, staring at the empty plate between them.
And then Chastity made a terrible decision.

E ITHER THIS MATING thing really was fated, unavoidable instinct, or


Chastity was losing it. Possibly—probably—both. She huffed out
a laugh, her breath a curl of ghostly smoke in the darkness. It
was late, but not so late that there weren’t any trick or treaters
to witness her weirdness.
The kids she passed, all kitted out in costumes and toting bags
for the treats they’d collect that night, gave her sideways looks
as she chuckled to herself. But she kept walking until the neat
streets of the suburbs disappeared and the city devolved into
abandoned, burned out factories being eaten alive by foliage as
nature reclaimed its space.
As Luke’s forest finally came into view, she sped up, her heels
clipping sharply against the pavement. Yes, her heels; she was
still wearing this bloody costume, hadn’t had time to change
before the soul-deep tug towards her missing half dragged her
out of the house. At least she was wearing thick, red tights
beneath the skirt, and a hoodie and jacket over the flouncy, red-
and-white bodice.
She rubbed her gloved hands together and crossed the street
towards the edge of the forest, not bothering to head to Luke’s
cabin. He wouldn’t be there, would he? Not with the moon a fat,
gleaming pearl right above them, veiled in silvery shadow but
still gleaming bright and whole. He’d be here. In the darkness.
Where he belonged.
The forest was separated from the pavement by a rickety fence,
the kind anyone could easily cross—but no-one ever did. In fact,
before last month, she couldn’t remember ever giving the
ominous mass of trees and undergrowth a second thought. Even
now, something about it seemed subtly repulsive, as if earthy
tendrils were curling over her skin, whispering warnings against
her chilled flesh.
But she refused to be afraid. She was an Adofo. And she just
might be a Werewolf’s mate. She was so desperate to see him
that, for a second, she thought she caught a glimpse of his
unnatural eyes, flashing within the depths of the forest. Then, a
moment later, she heard the familiar rumble of a growl that
vibrated through her body, from the soles of her feet to the tips
of her curls. She should’ve been terrified.
Instead, she was… eager.
Moving closer, bracing her hands against the wooden fence, she
peered into the darkness. “Luke?”
No answer. But she was gripped by a near-compulsive need to
give chase, to follow her screaming instincts until she’d reached
her goal. And so, moving as if in a trance, Chastity jumped the
fence. The dagger strapped to her thigh dug in a little as she
raised one leg awkwardly, and her heels sank into the earth as
she landed. Then her ridiculous tutu-like skirt caught and
tugged on a jagged edge of wood.
“Bloody costume,” she gritted out, pulling at the gauze until it
ripped. Once she was free, she moved deeper into the dense
undergrowth, pushing aside whip-sharp branches and stepping
over rotting logs until true darkness blanketed her like
suffocating velvet.
And then, in the midst of nothing, she saw those eyes.
“Luke,” she breathed. “I—I want to talk to you.” Of course, he
might not be able to talk back. It was full moon night, after all.
But he was still himself in this form, wasn’t he? She’d seen that.
So she stepped closer, towards him, her heart pounding its way
out of her chest.
He growled, low and raw, a thrill rolling over her until the fine
hairs on her skin stood to attention. She tensed, unsure for a
moment. But then she shook off that uncertainty and did what
she’d come to do.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “About yesterday. I mean, I’m not sorry
for freaking out—I think that’s fair—but I tried to push you
away, and I know I hurt you.”
The growl rose, rich and undeniably threatening. A primitive
part of her brain screamed that she was about to get herself
killed. And yet… he was right there, in front of her, his form
massive but vague in the shadows, his eyes so familiar, his as
control fierce as ever. He wasn’t moving a muscle, she could tell.
And she knew, to her very bones, that Luke would never harm
her.
“I’m sorry,” she said again. “That’s all. I want to be with you. I
want us to be okay. Are we okay?” She winced as she awaited
some kind of answer. God, she was ridiculous. He was a bloody
Werewolf, for Christ’s sake. What was she expecting in
response, a reassuring snarl? A friendly dismemberment, if he
was feeling particularly demonstrative?
While she waited and wondered and berated herself, the wind
shifted, whipping at her skirt and her hair. The subtle whisper of
air through bare branches and evergreen leaves emphasised the
density of the forest’s silence, its only percussion the growing
rumble of Luke’s growl. And then, all at once, the clouds
covering the moon drifted away, and the forest was cast in an
icy, blue-tinted glow. It barely counted as light at all—and yet, it
was just enough for Chastity to see him.
To see her Werewolf.
He crouched on strange legs, the two-jointed kind that looked as
though his knees were in reverse. Her gaze travelled from
bulging, furred thighs to a broad, leathery body that bore
random patches of matted fur. His arms seemed too long for that
body, ending in hairy, monstrous imitations of the human hand,
his fingers a series of jagged, yellowed claws. Maybe she’d seen
him like this before, but in the heat of battle she hadn’t truly
noticed the twisted nature of his form. And still, she stared, her
gaze finally landing on that snarling muzzle, those drooling
fangs, and his narrowed, watchful eyes.
Eyes that, despite all the rest, made her heart flutter in her
chest.
Fucking weird.
When the creature approached her, she remained still. Her pulse
pounded at her throat, so violent it was almost uncomfortable,
and nervous sweat prickled over her skin—but she couldn’t turn
away. She couldn’t run, either. What if it hurt his feelings?
What if Luke isn’t in there at all, and the chase triggers
something in his beast?
But no, that wouldn’t happen. She squeezed her eyes shut for a
moment and spoke to herself sternly. Luke wasn’t like the Weres
her family had described to her. She knew that. Just because he
looked the way he did right now, and just because the moon
hung over him like a symbol of inhumanity, didn’t mean she had
anything to fear.
Even though she knew all of that, however, she almost screamed
when she felt his hot breath against her cheek. Chastity’s eyes
flew open, and she came face to face with the beast.
For one heart-stopping moment, they were trapped in a private
eternity, brown eyes clashing with emerald. The world around
them sank into nothingness, and reality itself seemed to hold its
breath. Then, with the power of a wave crashing against the
shore, time restarted. The Werewolf leant forward and…
Nudged Chastity’s forehead with its jaw.
She flinched instinctively, then realised that nothing else had
happened. Just a nudge. She looked up to meet the creature’s
eyes again and, somehow, saw wry amusement dancing in those
green depths.
“Oh, bugger off,” she muttered. “You look quite disturbing right
now, you know.”
There was a puff of hot air against her cheek, a strange chuffing
sound edged in a growl. He was laughing. He was laughing at
her.
She rolled her eyes, a reluctant smile spreading over her face.
“Don’t make me stab you again.”
One massive paw came up to shove at her shoulder. She fell on
her arse.
Luke made a low whining noise and bent over her, nudging her
head again, even gentler than before.
“I’m fine,” she sighed, swatting him away. “Honestly. Don’t
start treating me like china. Get off. Get off!”
With another strange huff, he moved back, giving her space to
stand again. She folded her arms and walked around him,
squinting at him in the low light, studying the strangeness of his
form. Something deep inside her still thrilled with terror at the
sight of him, at every new and inhuman thing she noticed, but it
didn’t really matter. Because on top of his general weirdness, he
was also kind of cute.
She bent down to examine his creepy legs and decided never to
admit that thought aloud.
Standing, she instead lied through her teeth. “You don’t look so
big and bad to me, Were.”
He gave a growl that managed to sound sarcastic. Trust him.
“I think I could take you.”
Luke snorted. It was an out and out snort. The cheek of it!
“Alright,” she said, “that’s it.” Swinging around, she hit him
with a roundhouse kick to the huge, shaggy thing that appeared
to be his head. She knew from experience that it wouldn’t really
hurt him, but hopefully it would confuse him a little bit.
Grabbing the dagger at her thigh—not silver, but still rather
sharp—she ran into the forest.
The challenge was unspoken. Catch me if you can.

L UKE RAISED his muzzle to the round, bone-white moon and


howled. Chastity raced through the trees ahead of him—away
from him—smelling fucking delicious as ever. More than
delicious. She smelled like his.
She would be his.
He ran. His bloodlust rose like a sea of scarlet, richly indulgent,
as if he were drowning in some poor fucker’s internal organs.
Only this had a slightly different edge, viciously possessive but
not exactly violent, electrifying but not necessarily murderous.
He was hunting, the beast realised, as he prowled after the
sprinting woman, but this was a new kind of prey. The kind he
could never harm. The kind who’d run with him beneath the
moon and feel the same joy he felt in the unrepentant wildness
of this night.
The beast moved faster.
He came closer, that divine scent choking the smells of the
forest around him, sinking its claws into his lungs and his heart.
The need to have her beneath him, to possess her even for a
moment, was so strong that he forgot to draw this out. He forgot
to play. Instead, he caught her almost instantly, knocking her to
the soft earth and butting at her head again. Her curls tickled at
the sensitive insides of his nostrils, and it felt as if he were a dog
having his belly rubbed.
Not that he was anything like a dog. Obviously. God, he had it
bad.
“Again,” Chastity said, that steely voice tugging at him just as
hard as it always had. Harder, even, because she was that much
closer to being his. Because she’d come back, and tonight, of all
nights. Because she wanted to be with him. Because he could
tell, in a thousand tiny ways, that she might not mind being his.
Thank God, since he was already undeniably hers.
He moved back, let her rise, even gave her a little head start as
she streaked off into the darkness. But again, and again, as the
night wore on, he caught her. And yet… It took a little longer
every time.
This was his forest, and he had been cursed to rule the night, but
the more she learned of the terrain and of him, the harder it
became to hunt her down. Every time she tricked him, evaded
him, attacked him and darted away, his wild heart sang, his
pleasure swelling until it filled the night. He barely noticed as
the moon swept her course across the sky. In fact, he didn’t
notice at all—until the glowing orb sank below the horizon, and
the chokehold of the curse eased its grip.
He’d been chasing Chastity, about to catch her, when his bones
shattered and shifted mid-stride. Perhaps he made a sound,
because she turned to look at him—but then his perception of
the world was swallowed whole by pain. It wasn’t always like
this. His beast was a part of him, and pain didn’t often bother
him, so changing didn’t have to be trauma. But when the moon
came and went…
Well. This was supposed to be a punishment, after all—and
never mind the fact that every Were had forgotten who was
punishing them, and what for.
He came to naked and aching in the dirt, with Chastity beside
him. The agony he’d just experienced was swept away almost
entirely at the sight of her, barely illuminated by the rising sun
but crystal-clear to his eyes.
She was grinning down at him, mud smudged over one cheek, a
fine scratch across her forehead that might’ve come from a
branch. For the first time, he noticed the silky, red-and-white
dress beneath her usual plain jacket. Then he looked down and
realised that her feet were filthy and slightly bloody, clad only in
torn-up tights.
His heart squeezed, and he sat up so fast that his head pounded
out a protest.
He ignored it, grabbing one foot, and examining the damage.
“Where the bloody hell are your shoes?”
“Good morning to you too,” she murmured. “Next month I’ll
wear boots.”
He looked up sharply, his eyes flying to hers, his worry washed
away by a flood of desperate, near-painful love. He loved her.
And she might possibly be open to one day, perhaps, loving him.
He hoped.
“You’d better,” he said. “If you do this again, I’ll spank you.”
“You can try.” She yawned suddenly, raising her arms in a
spine-cracking stretch. He enjoyed the swell of her cleavage
against the bodice of that strange dress for a moment before
giving in to his protective instincts.
“Alright,” he said, standing up. “Bedtime.”
“It’s morning,” she protested as he swept her up into his arms.
“Oh, for God’s sake, what are you carrying me for?”
“You’re not walking on those feet. Do you have work today?”
“No.”
“Then you’re coming home with me.”
She tutted, but her arms settled around his neck and she rested
her head on his shoulder. Jesus, she must be tired. “Don’t we
need to have a long and meaningful discussion about the truth of
your cursed nature, and so on?”
“I think we’ve already had plenty of those. How about we go
home, wash your feet, and go to bed?”
She made a humming noise as she considered. “Do you have any
disinfectant?”
“I have an extensive collection of spirits.”
She shrugged. “Close enough.”
And so, Luke dragged his human mate off to his lair, made her
scream to the heavens—by washing her feet with gin—then fell
asleep with her in his arms.
She was still wearing the dress.
8

THE BEAST WITHIN

C hastity woke up to rich, golden sunlight streaming


through the windows and a huge, naked man playing with
her hair.
Oh, fuck, her hair. She raised a hand to the knotty, dried-out
mess, winced, and decided to call in at least three of her siblings
when she eventually got around to detangling it. She’d need
help. And entertainment. And snacks.
“Hey,” Luke murmured, his fingers still toying with a curl just
above her ear. Considering the fact that most of her recent
memories involved his eyes peering out of a monster’s face, the
sight of his sharp but human features was a little jarring. But
only for a second. Then she was distracted from that minor
shock by the realisation that his expression was… grave. He
didn’t look unhappy, or anything—just excruciatingly,
uncomfortably serious.
“Hey yourself,” she replied, wondering if this was about to be
the most awkward morning after of morning afters. So, our
semi-violent frolicking in the woods was fun and all, but…
Then he reached down and plucked at the cheap, satiny material
of her costume. “You dressed up for Halloween?”
“It was for the café,” she explained. “I had these silly little
shoes, too, but I lost them somewhere.” They both looked down
towards her feet, which he’d bandaged with torn-up strips of
cotton. The sight relaxed her slightly. He’d ripped one of his
spare sheets to pieces for her; clearly, they were cool. She had no
reason to be nervous right now.
But she’d never seen him look so solemn before. Not ever.
“I was a cupcake,” she blurted, because something overly warm
and uncertain in her suggested that she keep speaking. “Red
velvet. You know, because they’re my favourite? I mean, I didn’t
choose it—my dad… Oh, you should know, I spoke to my family.
I passed on everything you told me. And stuff.”
‘And stuff?’ Wow, Chas. Many articulate. Much verbose.
Then Luke stroked a gentle fingertip over her cheek, the touch
driving all coherent thought from her mind and snatching the
rambling words from her tongue. She was silent and strangely
peaceful, lying there beside him, staring into those hypnotic
eyes and feeling the glide of his skin over hers.
“You left me,” he said softly.
She swallowed, hard. “I—yes. Um… I’m sorry—”
“I know. I know. But, Chas… You’re human,” he said.
“Well, yes,” she managed. “And you’re a Werewolf. Both
conditions have their downsides, in my opinion.”
He smiled, slow as the sunset that seemed to be taking place
outside. Those full lips widened just for her, colour darkening his
high cheekbones as fine lines fanned out at the corners of his
eyes—and something deep inside her relaxed.
“Do you mind?” he murmured. “That I need you, I mean? And in
a way you probably can’t understand, not until we’re mated, at
least.”
She didn’t correct the implied certainty in his wording. “I know
what you are. I know how you feel. I know that your emotions
aren’t quite like mine, that you aren’t quite like me. I’m here
anyway.”
“You really are.” The finger dancing over her cheek became the
warmth of his palm cupping her face. He kissed her forehead,
then her nose, then slid his lips so very softly over her mouth.
“Last night—it never occurred to me that the curse could
become a blessing. But with you there, it felt like one. You stayed
with me. You played with me. You’re human, but you’re here
with me, and you are not afraid.”
She licked her lips, trying and failing to ignore the emotion
shimmering deep beneath the surface of his words. She could
hear his entire heart in his low, rumbling voice, hear the depths
of his feelings towards her in a way she never had before, not
from anyone. And her own heart sang back in response, offering
love she couldn’t yet bring herself to voice, but wanted to.
Impossibly, desperately, wanted to.
Releasing a slow breath, Chas admitted, “I’m tired of fighting
the way I need you. I’m tired of denying what you mean to me.
After last night, I think I can officially stop worrying about what
is and isn’t normal.”
“No,” he murmured. “You don’t need to forget. If you can run
with a Werewolf, I think I can give normality a try.” He wrinkled
his nose. “Up to a point.”
She laughed, giving into the urge to touch him. Her hand sank
into the soft midnight of his hair, his body heat cradling her like
a blanket.
“If you want to… date,” he said, “and do whatever else humans
do, then we will. If you want to wait, we will. If you need time,
tell me how much. We’ll do it your way.”
Chastity arched a brow. “Seriously? Because you seem pretty hot
on this ‘mating’ thing.”
“Yes,” he said, his voice almost a growl. He cleared his throat
and began again. “It’s… a need, for me. But that doesn’t matter.
You’re mine, and you always will be, whether I’ve marked you or
not.”
“Marked me? Is that what you have to do?”
He shrugged. “Mark you, exchange blood, yeah.”
“Is that a mystical Were way of saying you want to bite the fuck
out of me?”
“Didn’t you already know that?” He flashed her that teasing,
infuriating, sexy smile, then bent his head and bit her earlobe
gently.
She sighed, the action sending an unexpected flare of pleasure
through her, sensation unfurling low in her belly. The hand
she’d buried in his hair moved lower, almost of its own volition,
over his neck and down his spine.
“You have to bite me too,” he whispered in her ear, the glide of
his lips against her sensitive skin sending a shiver over her body.
“I don’t know if you noticed,” she said, battling to keep her voice
steady, “but you’re far more blessed in the canine department
than I am. And much harder to damage.”
“Trust me,” he murmured. “When the time comes, it’ll work.”
There was a compelling promise hidden beneath those velvet
words that made Chastity’s heart beat faster.
“Alright,” she said, sounding a little more breathless than she’d
like.
“Good.” His mouth left her earlobe, slid down to her throat. In
one smooth move, Luke shifted his body over hers, and she
remembered all at once that he was very, very naked. They’d
taken off her tights when he tended to her feet, so his powerful
thighs slid against her bare legs, the crisp hairs tickling sensitive
skin. He ran his tongue over her rapid pulse, then sucked, slow
and firm, at the curve of her neck.
“Ohhh, fuck,” she moaned, arching into his satisfying weight.
“Luke?”
“Yes, sweetheart?”
“Can you, um… can you smell when I’m turned on?”
He laughed, his voice so deep she felt it in her bones. “Oh, yeah.
Like right now. I already know that when I rip this cute skirt off
you, your underwear will be soaked through. I know that you’ll
rub your juices all over my face when I lick your sweet little cunt.
And I know you’ll be hot and soft and wet when I sink into you.”
Well. Well. “Ah,” she squeaked.
He rose up on his knees and pulled her up too, so she was sitting
in front of him. His smile was kind of devious, completely
provoking. “Let’s get started on that, shall we?” Then he kissed
her, and his mouth against hers felt like coming home. His lips
were soft and yet so demanding, coaxing out her brimming
passion with patience even as his hands pulled roughly at her
clothes. She revelled in the feel of him, from the slow dance of
his tongue against hers, to the hard planes of his body. And then
she was just as naked as he was, and he was lifting her, turning
her, moving her around the bed like it was nothing.
She found herself kneeling opposite the mammoth bed’s
headboard, Luke’s legs bracketing hers, his warm chest pressed
against her back, his thick cock sliding against the cleft of her
arse. Something about that particular pressure, all soft skin and
hard flesh and sensitive places, made her moan. Her head fell
back against his shoulder, and he took the opportunity to suck
and lick at her throat again, using tongue and subtle teeth to
reduce her to a shivering, whimpering mess. Arousal was a
silken prison holding her body hostage, forcing her to reach for
him mindlessly just for the pleasure of touch, to rock back
against him just because it made his breathing hitch.
Luke ran big, rough hands over her body without pause,
unapologetic as he fondled her thighs, squeezed her hips,
stroked the curve of her belly, cupped the weight of her breasts.
She could feel what she did to him: the way his cock twitched
against the small of her back when she moaned; the way his
breath stuttered when she said his name.
Then he reached down to cup her mound, his middle finger
easing through her slippery folds, and her mind melted
completely. All she could focus on now was her desperate,
swollen clit, and the way her pussy ached for him, and the
memory of that thick cock opening her up.
“Just fuck me,” she demanded, reaching back to fist his shaft.
When her fingers closed around him, tightened on that satin
steel, he choked out her name and grabbed her wrist.
“Human women,” he growled, “require foreplay.”
“Human women,” she said, “require you to do whatever the fuck
they ask.” Then, after a moment’s thought: “Have you never
slept with a human before?”
“I’ve never slept with anyone before,” he said, as if that was a
completely unremarkable statement. Then he pushed her
forward onto the bed and covered her body with his own, one
heavy forearm sliding under her cheek like a pillow. With his
free hand, he grabbed her arse cheek and squeezed, spreading
her open. She whimpered helplessly at the feel of him above her,
at his rigid cock nudging her entrance, at the way her folds
parted as he kneaded flesh and muscle greedily.
Then, through it all, she managed to say, “You’re a virgin?!”
“Nope. Fucked you yesterday.”
She laughed, but it was high and breathy and clearly the laugh of
a woman about to be impaled on an enormous virgin Werewolf
cock. In her opinion, anyway. “That barely counted.”
“I disagree, but if that’s how you feel, we’d better make it count
now.” He kissed her cheek, then her neck, then her ear. And
then he whispered, “Say you want me, Chas.”
She remembered the last time he’d asked for that, and how
she’d been too confused to give it to him. She wasn’t confused
anymore. Turning her head to meet his gaze, she said, “I want
you.”
He kissed her, slow and hot and heavy. As his tongue invaded
her mouth, his cock thrust deep inside her, and she saw stars.

“Y OU ,” Luke choked out helplessly, “are heaven.”


Chastity laughed, even as she arched beneath him. He hadn’t
been joking. She was heaven: strong, soft, sweet, and his. He
pumped into her gorgeous, gritting his teeth against the dizzying
pleasure, recalling everything he’d ever learned about pleasing
his mate—both through research and their recent, practical
application. He released her arse to slide a hand beneath her
body, his fingers searching out the swollen nub of her clit. When
he rubbed gently as he rocked into her, she moaned, her cunt
tightening around him.
Well, fuck. That was the last thing he needed. He was on the
edge already, the base of his spine tingling and his balls aching
and his heart pounding desperately against his ribs. He was
determined to cling to this impossible pleasure, at least long
enough to make Chas scream. But God, she felt good. Every time
he retreated, her cunt drew him back, her slick heat setting his
every nerve ending alight. When he thrust deep and felt her
open for him, all soft and wet, it stole his breath.
He buried his face against her throat as he fucked her,
something primal inside him rising to the fore, something even
more raw and animalistic than the beast she’d teased last night.
He thrust faster, deeper, branding her the way she did him, his
need for her a frenzy that heated his blood.
The harder he rutted against her, the more she moaned, until
finally she gasped out, “Luke!” in a way that spoke to his soul.
Then he felt the walls of her pussy fluttering around him,
massaging his cock so beautifully, he almost came on the spot.
And then she bit him, and he did come.
Her teeth sank into his forearm in a way that should’ve been
impossible, or would’ve been, if it weren’t for the intent behind
the action. The sensation, combined with the feel of her beneath
him, tore away his control, tore away everything.
He came with a roar, releasing deep inside his mate, the pleasure
overwhelming. But not so overwhelming that he could resist the
compulsion to mark her in turn, to sink his teeth into the
smooth curve of her shoulder and lap up the crimson rivulets
that spilled out from the punctures he’d made. She shuddered
beneath the bite, heat no doubt zipping through her as it had
him.
And then it was over, and had just begun.
After what could’ve been a moment or a sizeable slice of forever,
Luke dragged open his heavy lids and looked down at his mate.
His mate. His overworked heart broke into a song and dance
routine. A grin spread over his face, echoed by the tiny, satisfied
smile on hers.
He liked that smile.
Luke shifted a little, so his weight wasn’t crushing her, but he
gave up barely an inch of skin-to-skin contact. He couldn’t. He
needed it. He needed Chas.
Nuzzling her cheek gently, breathing in her addictive scent, he
closed his eyes and sank into sleep. But, just before peace
swallowed him whole, he heard her murmur.
“I can’t hunt because a witch attended my birth and predicted
that my first kill would rip out my heart.”
That shocked his eyes open for a moment, despite the post-
mating exhaustion dragging him into unconsciousness. He
studied her face, which was impossibly peaceful—except for the
smear of his blood on her lower lip.
Suited his bloodthirsty sweetheart. Still, he licked it softly away.
“Everyone thought she meant that literally,” Chas went on, her
eyes still closed, every part of her practically glowing with
contentment. Which was exactly how he intended to keep her,
always. “But I’m starting to suspect that she was being all
romantic and metaphorical and shit. Because if I were like my
sisters, I’d have been there last month. And—”
“And if I’d come face to face with my mate in that situation,” he
said slowly, “I’d have been shocked. Might’ve tipped the
balance. You might’ve killed me.”
“And you are my heart, so I would’ve harmed myself too.”
Luke smiled, his beast painfully smug In all fairness, the man
was smug too. “See. Mates are fated. And… I’m your heart,
huh?”
“Surprise,” she whispered.
He nipped playfully at her ear, his finger tracing the mark his
teeth had left in her shoulder. It had already stopped bleeding, as
it should, but he felt the crescent-shape of tiny wounds and
looked forward to seeing them every day of his life.
“Here’s another surprise,” he whispered back. “I love you.”
She snorted softly, clearly trying to hide a smile. “That’s not
surprising at all. You’re a Were and I’m your mate.”
“It’s not just that.” He snuggled closer, nuzzling her throat, his
beast melting before her in a puddle of adoration that he’d find
pathetic if he didn’t feel exactly the same way. “You’re not only
my mate. You’re my huntress. And you caught me, body and
soul.”
She blinked up at him, her gaze suspiciously bright. Then, a
smile on her face and a tremor in her voice, she whispered,
“Want to know my deepest, darkest secret?”
Hope bloomed in his chest. “Of course.”
“I love you, too.”

THE END
Thank you for reading Mating the Huntress. It would mean the
world to me if you could share your thoughts about it on Amazon
or Goodreads. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend.
Love,
Talia x
BECOME A V.I.P.

Don’t want to miss my next release? Join my V.I.P. list and grab
two steamy romances for free!

B ECOME A V.I.P.
AUTHOR’S NOTE

I wrote a Christmas novella in 2017 and it was so much fun. It


gave my mind the refresh it needed and brightened up the
gloomy English winter. So this year, when I found myself
particularly excited for Halloween, I thought—why not recreate
that magic? Why not try another holiday novella, this time for
spooky season? And here is the result.
This is my first published PNR, and it was so ridiculously fun. Yet
again, it reset my authorial brain just when I was at the edge of
burnout. As someone who grew up obsessed with Buffy and
Xena, I’m slightly obsessed with righteously violent women. And
who doesn’t love a sexy monster? (Lots of people, I’m sure, but
lets gloss over that.)
Mating the Huntress will always have a special place in my weird
little heart. I truly hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I
enjoyed writing it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Talia Hibbert is a writer and educator from the U.K., by way of both the West Indies
and West Africa. She wrote her first romance aged 12, and was promptly scolded by a
teacher because her story of love in the jungle wasn't 'proper'.

Since then, Talia's stories have improved in quality and hugely increased in heat. She
now writes steamy, diverse, contemporary romance set in the U.K. Her work still isn’t
proper, but it is a lot of fun.
Her interests include beauty, junk food, and devouring all forms of media. She lives in
a small English town that doesn’t even get Deliveroo, and kisses her high school
sweetheart every day. Y’know; for luck.

And, as Talia would say... that's all, folks. Love and biscuits!

https://www.taliahibbert.com
ALSO BY TALIA HIBBERT

A GIRL LIKE HER


Everyone has secrets. He wants all of hers.
Meet the man next door.

THE PRINCESS TRAP


He’s reckless, dominant, and deliciously dirty. This prince is no fairytale.

BAD FOR THE BOSS


Nobody tells him no. Until her.

OPERATION ATONEMENT
Redemption ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Download this novella free!

MERRY INKMAS
Can this tattooed beast win over his geeky beauty?

Related Interests