Plus a steamy excerpt! Oh and soon to be an update soon to The Opeth Pack Home!
Nicholaus mused over how badly some people drove down Central Avenue late at night. Odd that some people were dumb enough to not show good driving skills, knowing the cops in Albuquerque were such fascists about the dumbest things like slightly overshooting a left turn. Even if the wind was blowing hard enough to make driving difficult, which it was tonight, the cops would still pull someone over if they even thought the driver was under the influence.
Thankfully, Nicholaus didn’t have to worry about that problem right now. It took wolves much longer to get drunk.
Watching passing cars drive down Central Avenue was amusing to him. Standing on the balcony of his loft, he puffed on a large cigar, sending clouds of smoke billowing towards the somewhat cloudy sky. Another deep draw sent more smoke off towards the Hyatt Hotels, blurring the red and green lights atop the multi-story towers.
Nicholaus pulled his leather jacket tighter around broad shoulders. He pulled his ponytail free of his collar. Running long fingers through thick hair, he readjusted his ponytail and let it sweep over his slender waist.
A few people walked by, couples sometimes, sometimes groups. Talking, holding hands, laughing or acting drunk, they were all the same to him.
Well, most of them. Occasionally he spotted a lone wolf walking down the street, heading towards the nearly hundred fifty bars located in downtown, most of which resided off Central.
In another hour, dancing would be starting at The Library with the girls and their lovely short plaid schoolgirl skirts. The Coliseum, kitty corner from his loft, had just turned on their lights announcing they were open for the younger, more urban crowd.
How he missed those days, chasing the young skirts, barely old enough to get into a club, let alone buy alcohol. He’d had his share of women hit on him. Alas, he’d turned most of them down, even the ones who practically threw themselves at him. Every once in a while, there had been another wolf who came along, scenting his arousal, hoping she would find a mate. It had been hard shooting down so many beautiful women, but somehow, he’d managed. He felt too old to be fucking everything that moved and had breasts.
Looking out his balcony, he swore he saw two familiar faces. He leaned his large body over the metal railing and long strands of dark hair fell over his face. He caught sight of a pretty redhead dressed in a white cloak. Her companion, slightly taller with darker red hair, wore form fitting jeans that made her ass look oh so delectable. The first woman wore boots and black jeans and had a young face. The other woman’s tight shirt hugged glorious round breasts snugly, showing some cleavage.
He swore he knew those two—wolves?
“Lukina?” He whispered the word silently.
His breath hitched in his throat. The other wolf…Katarina?
Puffing on his cigar, he blew two thick clouds of smoke down towards the street before stepping back from the edge of the balcony, hoping he hadn’t been seen or scented.
The last thing he wanted to do tonight was revisit an old wound.
He took another long drag from his cigar and set it down on the ash tray, exhaling another large cloud of smoke that circled above his head. Reaching behind him, he grabbed the glass of beer he’d poured and took a long sip, finishing the drink. It was time for bed anyway.
Hell, he wondered what the fuck Lukina and Katarina were doing in New Mexico anyway. Last he’d heard, Lukina and Ilona, the two main pack healers, had found the new pack Alpha.
The poor bastard in charge would soon regret his decision. His destiny apparently was to lead the pack to a heaven that didn’t exist.
Slowly he backed away from the balcony and walked into the warmth of his loft.
He shut the glass door, locked it, and went to the bedroom space. While he undressed and pulled back the sheets on his oversized bed his stomach started to sink. Something was up.
Stripping, Nicholaus crawled into bed and pulled the covers over his head. He didn’t want to deal with whatever was coming his way, even if she was full figured and had lips like velvet. And damnit, Lukina was with her too. That was never a good sign.
He remembered the last time he’d seen Katarina and closed his eyes with the memories. She was hugging Krystyna, their other lover, tightly. Tears were streaming down both their faces while they waved goodbye to him and begged him not to leave Hungary.
Sighing heavily, he recalled the day after he’d boarded the plane to America. Having to hear more prophetic bullshit from their current Alpha, who happened to be losing his mind; was enough to make anyone want to leave the pack.
The looks on others’ faces when he walked down the dirt streets filled him with trepidation he had no desire to deal with.
After killing Katarina’s brother and father and blacking out, he realized the graveness of his nature. Since then, he’d refused to kill again. Swore the awakening of his true nature was more dangerous to his loved ones and the world at large.
He hated himself for wishing they would forget him. He drove him mad to think he could forget his wolf nature but he despised himself as a wolf. At least the humans didn’t have the pull of murder.
Yeah, they killed. Sure, there were numerous hopeless cases out there but the majority of humans he’d come in contact with seemed decent.
Unable to stand how the only true love he’d ever received came from them. Even now, ten years later, it burned him to think of how he’d rejected their love by leaving Hungary and the pack.
“Oh well.” He sighed heavily and rolled over to one side. Fluffing his pillow, he rested his head on it and prayed for dreamless sleep.
* * * *
Jarred from sleep by a loud knocking sound at his door, Nicholaus shouted, “All right damnit! I’m coming!”
Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Nicholaus padded towards the door. He remembered who he’d seen earlier and his stomach sank. He did not need a visit from Lukina or Katarina.
Slipping his robe over his shoulders, he belted it and brushed long strands of his hair out of his face. A quick glance at the clock told him it was well after two a.m. Hell, he sniffed feminine scents and alcohol from the door. Shit. He didn’t have time to fully open the door before he was assaulted by a pair of tiny arms and a flurry of hair.
Caught off balance, he stumbled a few steps back; Lukina wrapped her arms around his frame before he could catch himself against the wall. “Lukina, what brings you and,” he glanced at Katarina and narrowed his eyes, “her here at this hour?”
Lukina pulled away and looked up at him with a smile. Her ruby red lips were kissable; the bastard who loved her was certainly blessed. “We thought we’d visit our favorite missing pack brother.”
“Bullshit, Lukina. Whenever you show up, something is always wrong. You always have bad news. What do you want?”
She let go and stepped back, raising her chin to meet his gaze. Deep ocean blue eyes held an angry stare. “I’m not fond of being the messenger, but it’s what I am apparently at the moment. Also, I don’t bring bad news. I bring—”
He cleared his throat. “Don’t say it. Prophecy, right?”
She nodded. “I am not fond of how the universe has chosen to send messages, but it’s the way things work. Like Józsi, and Marco before him, deal with it.”
Les’s words still rang true. He’d set shit in motion, apparently. She could be so grown up at times that it was almost irritating. “And Katarina?”
Moving strands of hair out of her face, she looked up. Her pout said it all, she was still angry with him. Her features had filled out nicely, he noted as she rubbed her arms together, covering taut nipples beneath her blouse. “I am not here of my own volition. I wouldn’t have come here if she hadn’t insisted.”
He nodded. “I understand.” His heart ached at the thought that she didn’t want to see him as much as he wanted to see her.
Lukina shoved her way past Nicholaus with a force that bumped him into the wall with oomph.
“What do you think you’re doing, little girl?” he straightened his shoulders and stalked after her.
She looked over her shoulder and glared. “Letting myself in, since you’re such a rude host.”
He put his hand to his forehead. “I wouldn’t be a rude host if I had known to expect company.”
“You did know. We smelled your cigars earlier.”
He swallowed hard. “Damnit,” he mumbled under his breath. “What do you want?”
“We need you to come home,” Lukina started to speak, but Katarina’s hand went over her mouth. “We have a situation.”
A shudder raced through him but he managed to keep his voice even. “What? Tell me what’s going on, Katarina.”
She met his stare with wide eyes. Standing before him reminded him how good she looked with her chest nearly busting out of her black top. Long red hair had been pulled back out of her face, but tears formed in the pools of her beautiful green eyes. She shivered and hugged herself.
When she wouldn’t respond, he grabbed his former mate by the elbow and tugged her inside, urging Lukina to follow. “Get in here, both of you.” He shut the door and watched Katarina’s expression.
She stopped, stared down the white walled corridor that banked off to the left, then back out the window in front of her. She wasn’t tracking, clearly.
The heater kicked on, a low rumble that startled Katarina. She looked up at the huge vents and aluminum piping overhead.
“Heater, drágám.” He pointed up at the large silver vent.
“Got anything to drink?” Lukina pushed past them and headed toward the living area.
Nicholaus shifted his gaze on Lukina. “You’re not old enough to drink, little girl. Not in this country, nor among the humans.”
Her boots stopped and echoed on the concrete floor. She looked over her shoulder, glared at him and then strode down the hall. “We don’t and have never abided by their laws, remember? Or have you lived among them too long and forgotten our ways?”
Ouch. He sighed heavily. “There’s an open bottle of port on the counter. Bring three glasses.”
Lukina sauntered around the corner toward the kitchen, leaving Nicholaus alone with Katarina in the long hallway.
Musk and earth wafted over his nose, along with the keen smell of wolf hovering just below the surface of her smooth, dark skin. How she managed to hide the extra magic she possessed amazed him. He wondered if she’d come into her full power yet. By the scent of her aura, he’d guessed she hadn’t.
He stared into her eyes, searched their depths and wanted to beg her forgiveness instantly. In a second, he shut the thought down and forced himself to refocus his energy and thoughts on why they were here.
In the twinkle of her eyes, he swore he saw tears forming. Yet she met his stare once again with an upturned chin, before turning around, glancing at the floor and walking away.
Nicholaus let out a harsh breath, pulled her into his arms and held her head against his chest.
Slowly, Katarina wrapped her arms around him and let her hands search out for comfort.
Fingers caressed his skin and sent a tremor through him. He looked down, kissed the top of her head gently. Her skin shouldn’t have been this cold, her inner wolf should have given her plenty of body heat. She hadn’t fed. “Hug me, szerető.”
Her grip around him tightened until she was flush with him. Her head nestled in the crook of his neck.
Slowly, Nicholaus caressed her hair, tugged at the braid of silken smoothness. Suddenly, his nose picked up the sweet, earthen scents of Hungary.
Warm tears fell on his shoulder.
“Drágám, what’s wrong?”
“Get me that drink and we’ll talk.” She spoke low into his shoulder, her words vibrating along his skin. Even in tears, her voice caressed his ears like a siren song.
“Igen.” He helped her around the corner, down the hallway, and sat her down on his leather couch against a wall with large windows that overlooked 6th Street.
She turned around, looking out through the wall of windows before her gaze returned to him. Katarina sniffled, wiped her nose with the back of her sleeve and set her hands down in her lap. “The mountains off in the distance are nice. This is some view you have.”
He nodded. “Indeed.”
Lukina joined them and handed them both glasses filled with port.
Nicholaus took his glass, sniffed it and inhaled the aromas of dark berry, raisin and tobacco. After only a sip, he set his glass down on the table beside the couch. “Will this help your nerves?”
Katarina looked at Lukina.
Lukina nodded and took a sip of port. “It’s safe here.”
Katarina nodded again, tentatively picked up her glass and looked at the dark red alcohol. Bringing the glass to her lips, she downed the entire contents in one shot. “Another, please.”
“Okay.” Lukina took her glass and refilled it. She looked up at Nicholaus, “We have business to discuss, Nicholaus.”
He moved closer to Katarina, aware of her free hand now in his and how tight she gripped him. “I gathered that. Is this going to be a really long night? It’s already after two AM.'”
“Well,” Lukina paused, took another sip and then set her glass on the glass coffee table. “It depends.”
He sighed, arched a brow in irritation. When Lukina showed up, he’d heard she’d become the new pack messenger. That usually meant terrible things were on the way. While he’d not maintained contact with anyone from the Opeth pack, he’d still been informed of goings on through the mental pathways where words traveled with less restriction. “On what?”
“On whether you decide to help us or not.” Lukina’s stare pierced through any hope he had for a short and simple resolution.
“Of course,” Nicholaus finished his glass and handed it to Lukina. “Refill it.” Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, he looked down at the hand in his, let his gaze travel up her arm and stopped at her face. Tears silently slid down her cheeks from dark green eyes, making him ache to kiss those tears away like he had so many times in the past.
He shook the thought off. This was a new land and he was not pack.
Lukina acknowledged him, refilled all three glasses then planted herself in the chair beside the couch. “You’ll want to sit for this.”
He shook his head, “I prefer to stand, thank you.” At least he did until he’d glanced at Katarina’s sad, desperate eyes. “Okay, I’ll have a seat beside Katarina.”
Nicholaus moved a pillow, plopped down beside Katarina. Reluctantly, he threw his arm around her. When she didn’t flinch at the contact, he pulled her closer. Found her body temperature warming slightly, probably from the alcohol.
As upset as he was for having been interrupted, he couldn’t help himself. Snuggling closer to Katarina seemed natural, save for the absence of Krystyna on his other side as the third in their supposedly undying bond. “What’s so important?”
Lukina crossed her legs, looked back toward the mountains in the distance. “I love what you’ve done with the place.” She reached for her port.
Gritting his teeth, Nicholaus leaned forward. “While I don’t mind the interruption of former pack mates, I do mind losing sleep. So you’d better start telling me why you’re both here.”
Katarina began sobbing into his shoulder.
Smoothing a hand down her back, he pulled her tighter to him, holding her and rocking her back and forth gently just like he used to do when they were younger.
Her tears pooled on his shoulder. He used the cloth of the robe to gently wipe away her tears, then pushed her back and looked into her large, round eyes. It hit him then. “Where is Krystyna?” Another pack healer, she shared in the triad that should have included Nicholaus and Katarina before he left.
Lukina lifted her head, “You know we have a new Alpha.”
“Józsi took over after he’d killed Kiba. The necessity of his ascending to the rank of Alpha is predicating Prophecy is coming true, despite some stubborn males,” she almost spat the last two words out, “desire to avoid responsibility.”
He lowered his gaze. “I could care less about prophecy. Where is Krystyna?”
“Prophecy has dictated that Józsi would rule our pack for a time until his rule has passed. In such time, we would have great enemies.”
He narrowed his focus to just Lukina, glaring sharp daggers at her. She clearly wanted to remind him of duties he shirked years ago and nothing more. The least she could do was answer his question. “Again,” his impatience ran thin by now, “You’re quoting bullshit nobody need bother me with. Where. Is. Krys?”
“She’s been kidnapped.” Katarina blurted the words out, then began to sob.
Nicholaus stiffened and felt his blood turn cold. “What? How the hell could that be? She’s a strong warrior and can fend off any attackers. Who did this and who let this happen?”
Katarina sobbed louder and fell forward into his lap.
“Son of a bitch…” Nicholaus shifted his weight on the couch so he lay against the arm. He pulled Katarina into his embrace, stroked her sides and arms in an attempt to calm her.
She rested her head against his stomach and wrapped both arms around him while his robe muted her cries.
Nicholaus ran his fingers through her long dark red hair. He massaged her scalp, tried to send calming energy into her but found himself unable, probably from exhaustion. Of course he hadn’t had to use much energy since he’d been in the States.
No need when you rarely went out other than to function as a human and occasionally as a wolf.
Of course his body couldn’t ignore the fact that her head was by his hardening groin. Of course he’d felt the throes of lust the second he’d spotted her earlier but he’d refused to acknowledge them, preferring to retire alone with his hand for the night.
Her nails dug into his bicep, bringing him back to the matter at hand.
“You did,” Lukina glared back at him, daggers in her gaze.
He stiffened. “Little girl—”
Lukina loomed forward, hard to do for such a little girl compared to Nicholaus, but she still could cut down a grown man with her sharp tongue. “No, you left, you bastard. You left your mates to die at the hands of a murderous Alpha just like my bastard mate did before we recovered him.” Lukian’s voice rose in pitch, indicative of her infamous temper.
Nicholaus’s jaw set. Yes, her seething expression put him off but he couldn’t be bothered with that. The first course of action was to figure out who kidnapped Katarina’s lover. “Skip the past bullshit, woman. Who took her?”
He tried again to ease Katarina’s sorrow but found himself lacking in the energy department. The heat in the room rose along with Lukina’s seething expression.
“The males of this pack are fucking stupid.” She cocked her hand back to toss the glass toward the island in his kitchen.
Before he clenched his fists, Katarina lifted her head.
In an instant, the air calmed, Lukina’s energy waned and things returned to normal.
Surely this was Katarina’s healing power.
“I’m sorry,” Lukina drew out a sigh. “I’m just so frustrated.” She closed her eyes, let her shoulders relax, then faced Nicholaus. “A rival pack is waging war against us, Nicholaus. They’re trying to throw the Hungarian wolves out of our lands. They’ve succeeded already by overtaking a few of the smaller packs on the outskirts of the country and have decided to move inward.”
“Do you know who is leading them?”
She shook her head. “No, not a clue. We know it’s a bunch of Turkish wolves and that the night I left to come back for Józsi and Ilona, they ransacked the village Krystyna was healing in. They kidnapped her and a few others who were loyal to Kiba.”
“Kiba’s dead now. It shouldn’t matter.” He rubbed his chin and breathed out a sigh.
“Right. But we’re a new pack now with Józsi coming into his true position.”
Nicholaus rubbed his chin, “So what now?”
“We need you to come back with us and assume your position beside Józsi.”
The blood in his veins turned to ice. He stiffened, jerked back against the couch and felt like he’d been punched in the gut. “I don’t understand. You can’t mean…”
No. Not again. That was not the fate he’d had in mind for himself. Quiet retirement among the humans suited him better than being the one responsible for more blood being spilled.
“You have a gift. You used it to protect your lovers once. You can—”
“I used it to protect them but I had to deal with the aftermath and fall out. Do you know what it’s like being an outcast? Because you did what supposedly came natural to you? We’re killers and aggressors, Lukina. That is our nature.”
“And we’re pack mates and a family. That is also our nature.”
Katarina’s words stunned him into silence.
“You don’t have to,” she sniffled, “If you don’t want to but…”
He didn’t want to hear this shit. Not after what Lukina was asking of him.
“You don’t have to come back and slaughter an entire hoard, that’s what I’m saying,” Lukina cut into his thoughts. “We need all the males we can get to help. Józsi as Alpha is doing the best he can but he’s only helping us build and rather resources while we still go out and find the lost members of this pack. Some of you didn’t leave by choice.”
“You say that as though my leaving was a bad thing.”
He looked away, turning his gaze on the mountains in the distance. At this hour, the urban hip hop club was shut down and their neon blue lights had been cut off. Street lights remained the only way humans could see. His wolf’s vision trumped humans and allowed him to see into the mountains. He sighed, unable to fathom the consequences of what Lukina asked of him.
“Has the pack not solidified under Józsi’s rule to become a force again?”
Lukina shook her head. “He’s having trouble adjusting, going through mood swings, addictions, time differences and relearning the cycle of what it means to be a wolf. Something some of us will never forget.”
He didn’t miss the bite of her words. Nicholaus narrowed his eyes. “Go on.”
“So yes, we have a new, non-crazy Alpha but he acts erratically sometimes. No, before you ask, he’s not sick. He’s not adjusting well.”
“Józsi never wanted the position of pack alpha.”
“No. But he can’t fight fate.” Katarina lifted her head again and met Nicholaus’s gaze. Her green eyes burned with desperation, pleading him to ask more questions.
“No,” he sighed heavily, rested a hand on the back of Katarina’s head, “I suppose no one can in the end, can they?”
She shook her head. “It’s all you have to do. Come home. No one is asking you to use your gift, just give us one more able body in search of Krystyna.”
The syrupy softness in her voice made his heart pound. Imagine that, after all this time.
Not like he’d ever forget.
She batted her eyelashes.
Air fled his lungs at the simple gesture. Yes, she would use her body to pull him, all the women of the pack did that with their true mates. Nicholaus fought the urge to swallow, lest he show fear and renege on his vow to avoid pack politics.
Her hand slithered up his chest, fingers spread.
Warmth flooded his chest, spread throughout each limb, including the one currently cradled beneath her belly and his pants. “This isn’t fair, Katarina.”
“Neither was letting us go, but you did it anyway.”