Authors: A. L. Kessler
Tags: #vampires, #werewolves, #shifters, #Magic, #demons, #dark fantasy
“You aren’t allowed to be near him. I forbid it.” He crossed his arms, eyes narrowed and jaw clenched.
Her mouth turned up in a smirk. “Scared our beasts will mate?”
“Killers cannot have mates, it makes them weak. You are mine.” He snapped and tangled his hand in her hair using it to pull her up from the bed. Kass let out a snarl and tried to pull away only for him to yank her back against his chest. “Do you understand me, Kassity? You owe me your life and I can do what I want with you.”
Panic tried to crawl through her and her panther rushed up against the barrier. The physical pain in her chest caused a delay in her response. “Yes, sir. You’ve made that clear before.”
“Remember when Josh brought you here?” He unwound his hand from her hair and ran his fingers through it. “Remember how scared and beaten you were?”
Her mind flashed back to Josh carrying her through the woods while she clung to consciousness. How her body ached when she had out run the rest of her family and survived the game they played. Never having cared for a lycan before he did what he could to tend to her wounds, but still turned to Lucius for help.
“When will you learn that you belong to me? That your beast recognizes that debt that you must pay?” He moved her hair to the side, his fingers brushing over her pulse.
She shivered and her breath caught in her throat as she turned her back to him. “I was never good at being locked up and owned.”
“Your family aimed to kill you. Did you know that they still have others looking for you?” He whispered in her ear, his hand cupping her jaw from behind.
Her heartbeat sped up as she froze. “I thought faking my death took care of that.”
He rested his lips on the pulse point on her neck. She could feel her body already bending to his power, his will. “It threw them off, but do not worry kitty, I will protect you.”
She closed her eyes, trying to fight off the visions of struggling against her siblings for the means to eat and survive. Phantom pains of claws slicing her skin and teeth on the back of her neck flooded her senses. A growl escaped her lips as she tried to escape his powers.
“So tell me,” His breath was hot against her skin. “Is having a mate worth leaving the only protection that you have?”
She swallowed and shook her head; she could feel him smile against her neck.
“Good.” His teeth broke the skin over the pulse and her body went slack against him when a small moan escaped her lips. Power flooded through her veins, her sex tightening as the fire burned through her and pleasure took its place. She shivered against him and he wrapped an arm around her waist, steadying her.
He pulled away, leaving a cold spot on her neck. She touched it and then examined the blood that came away. There was no lingering pleasure or pain as she slouched against the wall, self hate causing her to hang her head.
“Next assignment will be coming soon. I need you to kill another political figure, one that the humans have put in place. He knows about the supernatural creatures, believes we should all be destroyed, and is willing to do what he can.” He squatted so she met his gaze.
His power still flowed in her, soothing any anger that rose at his words. “You think killing one human will do it? They will only put another in his place.”
“We have it set up so that one of our allies will be taking his place.” He cupped her cheek and smiled. “Do this without a fight and I will let you run free in the woods for a night.”
“No cage, no chains, no collar, a night of freedom and full control in the forest.”
Kass tried to control the excitement that ran through her and her cat. “We agree.”
“Good girl.” A smile snaked across his face allowing his fangs to peek out from behind thin lips. He played with the tips of her hair for a moment before letting it fall against her shoulder. “If I find you with Jaxon again, there will be punishment. For both of you.”
“Of course,” she nodded, her thoughts somewhere else. Exhaustion cramped her muscles, her mind fuzzy with the after affects of Lucius’ feeding and power. Even her inner cat curled up, providing a break from the constant battle. “When will I gain all my control back?”
He jumped up with a booming laugh. “When I decide that you and your cat agree that I am your master. Then, and only then, Kassity. Until then, I control you and your cat runs free inside you.”
She leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes, biting her tongue.
“Painful, wasn’t it? To lose all that control you had learned when you were at home with the other panthers.”
Her lips lifted in a snarl, a not so subtle warning that she wasn’t in the mood for mocking. She opened her eyes, keeping them narrowed. “You have no idea how painful it really is for a shifter to lose control.”
He spun on his heels and started out of the room. “You’re scheduled to work at the bar tonight.” He opened the door, hesitating a moment. “So get dressed and get over there.”
She rubbed her eyes as the door slammed behind him. The need to run and escape him went through her, but no solution came to mind. If she was to leave, the chances of her family finding her would increase and she knew she couldn’t go back.
The noise of the crowd beat against her, already testing her patience when she entered the bar. A hand squeezed her ass as she passed a group of males and a snarl escaped her lips. She never could understand the human need to paw at a female. Pushing the short door open to allow her access behind the bar, she nodded to Mae who stood with a customer at the other end. Kass fell into the rhythm of the bar, working with the beat of the music, serving drinks to those who made their way to the bar and flirting with those she deemed worthy. She paused as a scent crossed her nose. Her head shot up, eyes searching the crowd. Her panther tried to swim to the surface as the male’s scent surrounded them. She stumbled and the bottle of vodka in her hand shattered against the tiled floor.
“Fuck.” She hissed, trying to force the beast down, but it pushed against the barrier, pain coursing through her body.
Mae’s hand was on Kass’ back in an instant. “Kass?”
“Fine, I’m fine.” She groaned, trying to control her cat. “Panther.”
Mae ushered her to the back door, shoving their way through the crowd. “Outside, get some fresh air.” Gain control remained unsaid, but Kass knew what Mae was getting at.
She bobbed her head, doubling over as the painful pressure built in her, as if her panther was pushing her way out. Stumbling outside, the first gasp of cold air helped her panther start to settle. Kass leaned against the wall, closing her eyes and forcing her body to breathe. With each breath the panther receded.
Jaxon fought his way through the sea of people playing pool, trying to get to the bar where he knew Kass would be. The panther counter part pushed him forward, it wanted to be near her and acted as if something had happened to her. And he wasn’t one to argue with his beast. He approached just in time to see another female take Kass to the back door.
‘Does she work for Lucius as well, does she know about his wishes?’
He shook the thoughts from his head and kept weaving through the crowd, determined to get to Kass. Nodding to the other bartender, he made his way out the back door and tried not to make a scene.
He looked to his left and saw his gorgeous redhead doing some deep breathing routine. Kass’ breath hitched and she hunched over, grasping at her chest.
“You stupid cat,” she screamed, her eyes widening as she spotted Jax. “No, no you can’t be here, we can’t be seen together.” Her face was coated in a thin shimmer of sweat and when she tried to scoot away she doubled over in pain again.
Jax went to her. Laying a hand on her shoulder, he tried not to jerk as a shock went through him. His beast stirred, curious as to what was bothering the female. Jax took a breath and calmed, coaxing his beast into staying inside. “Your beast?”
“Can’t control it.” She scrubbed at her face as she calmed. “What did you do?”
“My touch calms you because our beasts call out to each other.”
She jerked away from him but doubled over again. “Not possible.”
Jax grabbed her arm and slammed her up against the wall, crushing his lips to hers. He forced her lips apart with his tongue and coaxed her to return the kiss. With a swirl of grace, Kass quit pushing against him and wrapped a hand around his neck, holding him to her.
When he pulled back she was trying to catch her breath. “What the hell, she liked that. She never likes being pushed.”
“She wants my beast.” He laughed and nuzzled her neck. “Lucius is going to have a hell of a time keeping us apart.” He felt her tense under him and her scent changed to fear. He cocked his head at her. “You fear him, but your panther respects him. There are two different emotions going on in you.”
“Welcome to the ongoing battle.” She whispered. “Until I admit that he is my master and I am his killer, I will be separate from the panther. Two different halves, one soul, two forms. It’s like being a new shifter all over again. I hate it.” She fisted her hands in his shirt.
He brushed a hand down her cheek, backing away so she wasn’t up against the wall. “How long?”
“Two years.” She closed her eyes. “I’m not happy about it either, but it’s better than-“ She shook her head. “I can’t tell you this. I have to go.” Kass let go of him and tried to move pass him, but he caught her with an arm around her waist.
“Kass, don’t fight this. You don’t need another battle in your life.” He whispered against her ear and rubbed his cheek against her. “Lucius isn’t your master.”
She took a deep breath to speak, but a female voice cut her off.
“Yes, he is, and he’s here for closing.” She crossed her arms over her slender stomach and raised a brow at the two. “Kassity, come on. I’m not cleaning up alone.”
Kass pulled away from Jax and started towards the door. “Thanks for the heads up, Mae.” She walked back into the bar, but Mae stayed in the doorway, her eyes on Jax.
“You need something, vampire?” He growled.
She shrugged. “No, just trying to protect her. I’ve seen what Lucius does to her, now I’m trying to imagine what the punishment is for disobeying him. You’re right, Kass doesn’t need any more battles in her life. So stay away, okay kitty? I’d hate to see her dead.”
“You think Lucius would kill her?”
The vampire’s eyes flashed black for a moment and she bared her fangs at him. “I know he will, I’ve seen it first hand.” She walked back into the bar, letting the door slam shut behind her.
Kass watched as Lucius locked up for the night and turned to her and Mae. “Finish cleaning, I have matters that need to be attended to. Back on the property by dawn.” He disappeared, leaving the women staring at the empty space.
“Ugh, demands, demand, demands. Do you ever get used to it?” Mae asked, grabbing the broom from against the wall.
Kass rolled her eyes. Before, Mae always operated on the outside, as a supernatural investigator for the government. “Eventually, after a few hundred years I suppose.” Kass wiped the bar down with easy circles of a wet rag.
“You seem to obey pretty well for being with him such a short time.” Mae swept the floor, moving chairs to the tops of tables as she went.
Kass snarled to herself. “Doesn’t mean I’m used to it. You forget, I spend most of my time in a nearly empty room or in a silver cage.” She shivered at the mere thought. “I also obeyed for Josh’s safety, but seeing as you got him killed I guess that doesn’t matter anymore.”
“It wasn’t completely my fault.”
“He went to you because you sought him out. You couldn’t leave it alone and now he’s dead.” Kass threw the rag down on the wood. “You couldn’t let anything lie, you had to come searching and screw everything up.”
Mae blinked at her. “Josh would have sought me out eventually, because of our history together.”
“No, he wouldn’t have. He was content with where he was, with what he was doing.” Kass clenched her fists, her body shaking. “He took care of me and now he is gone, leaving you in his place.”
Mae shook her head and continued to move around the floor. “You think I have it so easy? Lucius is infatuated with me, I’m his little-“
“Yeah, I know, fuck toy, we’ve all been there before.” Kass’ voice had softened a little. “Everyone except the one person that should be.”
Mae shook her head. “I hear his human has been with him plenty of times.”
“She hasn’t, she says she has because that is what is expected. I can tell when she’s lying. Though she controls it well, her heart rate changes just a bit, her breathing switches rhythms, and she plays with her dress.” Kass laughed. “So yeah, she’s the only person that hasn’t been. Lucky her.” Kass picked the rag back up and went back to work, thinking about Josh’s bargain that helped Kass go from toy to killer in a matter of days. She closed her eyes against the memory, wishing he was still here to protect her. Her panther stirred at that thought, and an image of Jax came to mind. Kass shook her head.
No girl, he’s off limits unless you want to be surrounded by silver again.
The beast protested against her, as if she didn’t care about the silver, the cages, or the collars.
Kass rubbed her chest as the pain and heat started to spread.
“You alright?” Mae’s voice broke Kass’ thoughts.
Kassity nodded. “Yeah, just the normal ongoing battle.”
“Promise not to shift? I don’t think I can fit your panther in your car.” There was a light tone to Mae’s voice.
“Don’t think my panther would like the car anyways.” Kass chuckled a little as she finished up with the bar and then went to help Mae with the chairs.
Mae swept around the tables that Kass had cleared of chairs. “It amazes me how you can be a panther and human, two completely different mindsets. It makes no sense.”
“And vampires do? You little blood sucker.” Kass chided. “Not a lot of things in the supernatural world make sense. Hell, there are different types of shifters, some like me are born into the life, others are infected and changed. There are some that even claim to be blessed by the gods.” She laughed. “You should hear the werewolves talk, they think they are so much better than other lycans. I find it strange you never set out to understand our world before you started killing our kind.”