Authors: Gabrielle Evans
Aslan looked pale, and he didn’t even twitch as Torren held him to his chest and rocked him back and forth.
This was bad. This was oh so very bad. If the spirits were able to physically control Aslan, then they didn’t have much time. Before he could help his mate close the gateway, though, he had to find out what was causing Aslan’s defenses to deteriorate.
Just then, as he rocked the smaller man and stroked his spine, none of it really mattered. All Torren cared about was seeing Aslan’s eyes open again. Natalie, Phillip, Becker, The Council, the witches, or impending war—none of it even registered on his radar just then.
They could all go fuck themselves as far as he was concerned.
Aslan needed him. While he hadn’t been a very good mate up to this point, that was all about to change. It was obvious that he was only doing more damage than good—to both of them—by keeping his distance. The fact that he hadn’t even known what Aslan was until the previous night was no excuse.
He’d been afraid. It wasn’t an emotion he was used to feeling. So he’d dealt with it the only way he knew how—kicking its ass, pushing it to the back of his mind, and pretending like it didn’t exist. As long as he stayed away from Aslan, there was nothing to fear. If he didn’t acknowledge their status as a bonded pair, then he didn’t have to worry about becoming weak or vulnerable. If no one knew they were fated for each other, then no one could use Aslan against him.
Aslan needed him, though. Torren was the only one who could help him now. Finally submitting to what he’d known all along, he also realized that he didn’t want the man to depend on anyone but him. That same protective instinct that had welled up inside of him upon their first meeting resurfaced, dragging with it a healthy dose of possessiveness.
A soft, pain-filled groan reached his ears as Aslan’s eyelids began to flutter, and his head rolled back and forth against Torren’s shoulder. “Open your eyes, baby.”
Please be okay.
“Hurts,” Aslan moaned, but his eyes finally opened, and he tilted his head back on his shoulders to look up at Torren. “What happened?”
“You fell and hit your head.” It wasn’t technically a lie, though not exactly the truth, either. Torren didn’t want his little man getting all worked up and hurting himself again, though. “Do you feel nauseous? Is your vision blurry?” Torren held up two fingers close to Aslan’s nose. “How many fingers do you see?” The giggle he received in return warmed his heart and made him feel like a king. “I’m fine. My neck is a little stiff, and my head is really sore. Other than that, I’m pretty sure I’m going to survive.”
“Smart-ass.” Torren pressed his lips against Aslan’s forehead, relief flooding him that his mate was well enough to poke fun at his concern. “What can I do to make you feel better?” That was his job now—the most important job. Whatever Aslan wanted or needed, Torren would provide it. He still had his responsibilities as elder, but the moment he’d stopped fighting the pull he felt to be with his mate, Aslan had become his priority.
“My scarf is ruined.” Aslan pouted, his bottom lip protruding as he examined the stained material.
“I’ll buy you a new one.”
Aslan peered up at him for a minute before his eyes lit up and his soft, pink lips parted in a grin. His arms shot out to lock around Torren’s neck, squeezing him tightly as he molded their mouths together. “Thank you,” he breathed long moments later when they finally pulled apart.
Hell, if it got him another kiss like that, Torren would buy his little man a whole truckload of scarves in every color he could find.
He hadn’t wanted this. It was too dangerous for them to be together, but every time he looked into those deep brown eyes, he found himself helpless against their magnetism.
He’d never felt anything with such extremity and swiftness as the emotions that crashed over him like a tidal wave when Aslan said his name. He blamed it on the magic that flowed between them, pulling them closer and closer to the vortex until they’d finally be sucked in together and remolded as one.
It was the only thing that made sense. The only reason he could think of why he’d only just met the man yet he knew he would do, say, and be whatever Aslan needed. The bond between two fated witches was powerful, encompassing, intense, and consuming.
“You’re looking at me funny. Why do you always look at me funny?”
“Do you always just blurt out what you’re thinking?” Aslan dropped his head to the side and lifted it in a jerky motion that was like shrugging but with his head. “Well, how else are you supposed to know if I don’t tell you?” Torren chuckled in spite of himself. The man had a point. “You are something else.” He kissed the tip of Aslan’s nose and patted the man’s hip to get him to stand. “How are you feeling now?”
“Better. Just a little sore right here.” He rubbed at the back of his head, grimacing when his hand came away bloody. “Can I take a shower and change before we leave?”
Though a bit shocked that Aslan was still willing to travel back to Casper with him, Torren kept his face impassive as he nodded once.
“That’s probably a good idea. Would you like me to pack your things while you shower?”
Sidling up to him and rubbing against his chest like a cat in heat, Aslan even purred. “I’d like it better if you took a shower with me.” Torren swallowed hard as his cock jerked inside his khakis. Oh, sweet mercy, he was in so much trouble. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Rolling his eyes, Aslan palmed Torren’s growing erection through the fabric of his pants and squeezed. “This says otherwise.” Oh, his cock was all for the idea of getting Aslan naked and slippery. His brain was the part of his anatomy rebelling. The pull to claim his other half and bind them was too strong, though, and he couldn’t—would not—do that without his mate’s approval. He had doubts that Aslan even knew he was a witch, and that meant the guy wouldn’t understand the enormity of what encompassed their bonding.
“We need to talk.” He never knew that four little words could be so painful to speak. His cock throbbed angrily inside his boxers, begging that he shut the fuck up and just take what was so willingly offered.
“Talk later,” Aslan mumbled, slipping his hands beneath the hem of Torren’s sweater and caressing the taut skin covering his abs.
Torren couldn’t stop the quiet moan that escaped him as those small hands roamed his stomach, mapping out each clenching muscle with his fingertips before moving up to pinch and tug at his nipples.
There was something important that he’d been about to say. He was sure of it. Aslan’s hands on him short-circuited his brain, though, and any thought not related to having his mate naked and writhing on his cock was forgotten.
This wasn’t right. He was bigger, stronger, older—definitely the alpha of the relationship. He should be the aggressor, the dominant seducer. Never in all of his years had he ever been as bold and straightforward in his pursuit of someone as the man pawing at him.
Aslan knew what he wanted and wasn’t shy about demanding he get it.
“You’re supposed to want me. Jory said you would want me.”
“Oh, make no mistake, little one. I definitely want you.” He was going out of his mind with wanting his mate. Grabbing Aslan around the wrists to stop his wandering hands, he gently eased the man away from him and took a deep, calming breath. “We need to talk.” Aslan hung his head, his arms going limp in Torren’s grasp. “I’m sorry if I did it wrong.”
That did it. Torren’s heart shattered right there in his chest. “Come here, baby.” He turned them so that he could sit on the side of the bed and urged Aslan into his lap. The man complied, but there was no eagerness about him any longer. It was though he was simply doing what he thought was expected of him. “Now, I want you to look at me.”
Again, Aslan did as he was told. “I’m sorry,” he repeated in a whisper.
“Stop. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Crap, he wasn’t good at explaining things. He could fire off commands without a second thought, but he would be screwed if anyone ever asked him to explain the reasoning behind his orders.
“Then why don’t you want me to touch you? I thought you liked it.”
“I did like it.” He shifted uncomfortably as Aslan’s ass pressed against his aching cock. “Aslan, do you understand what it means to be mates?”
Aslan nodded at once. “I asked everyone who would talk to me.
They said that we’re supposed to be there for each other, take care of each other…” He trailed off and pressed his hand to his mouth to muffle his giggle. Gods, that was cute. “They also said that we’d want to fuck like bunnies.”
His cock jerked again, registering nothing of that sentence besides “fuck.”
“There is that, but there’s also a little more to it. Did anyone tell you about claiming a mate?”
“Yes,” Aslan answered proudly. “Galen was really scared at first because he didn’t want to die, but he loves Bannon so I guess he’s okay now.” His eyebrows drew together, and he wrinkled his nose. “It means that we’ll always be together no matter what. You have to love me if you claim me.” He nodded firmly as though since he’d declared it that meant it was now written in stone.
“And what if I don’t love you?” It would be very easy to love Aslan. He barely knew the guy, though. Besides, Torren wasn’t sure he was capable as such a deep emotion. He cared about his brothers, but wasn’t sure he’d exactly call it love. Hell, he could barely stand himself.
Aslan looked confused. “But you have to love me if you claim me.”
“That’s why I asked you to stop.” He didn’t want to hurt his mate.
He felt very protective of Aslan. He wanted to keep him safe and make him happy, but he couldn’t make himself love the man. “When I’m close to you, I want to claim you. That doesn’t mean I love you, though.”
“But you have to!” Aslan yelled, frantically scrambling to get out Torren’s lap. “That’s the rule. That’s how it works! I’m your mate.
You are the one person in the world that has to love me even if I’m crazy and stupid!”
“Aslan, stop it.” Torren reached for him, but the little man jerked away and wrapped his arms around his torso. “You are not crazy or stupid. How do you expect me to love you when I hardly even know you? Do you love me?”
“Yes,” Aslan said firmly. “We’re mates.” With a heavy sigh, Torren closed his eyes and scrubbed at his face. Aslan’s overwhelming need for acceptance wasn’t something he’d anticipated. He highly doubted the man loved him. There was no telling what his friends had told him, but he’d somehow twisted it in his head to mean that once he found his mate it would be love at first sight and singing birds in the background.
Torren didn’t know what rules Aslan was talking about, but it was obvious that he was confused, and it was making him highly agitated.
Aslan kept one arm wrapped around his waist, rocking back and forth as he rapped at the side of his head with the other.
“Shut up!” he screamed. “I’m not useless!” Frozen in place by shock, Torren watched as Aslan continued to scream and curse while he alternated between knocking his knuckles against his temple and pulling violently at his earlobe.
“Get out!” he exploded. “All of you shut the fuck up and get out of my head!”
Before Torren could make a move to stop his mate’s self-harming behavior, the bedroom door burst open, and Raven, Demos, and to his complete surprise and bewilderment, Raith came charging into the room.
They all rushed to Aslan, surrounding him and trying to calm him.
Torren’s nostrils flared and a red haze settled over his vision when Raith lifted Aslan into his arms and pressed his lips to the man’s ear.
Aslan stilled instantly, sagging in Raith’s arms, obviously asleep.
“I’ve got this,” he told the vampire Enforcers before jerking his head at Torren. “You deal with that.”
Both men turned on him, advancing menacingly toward Torren.
“Leave,” Demos snarled, his tone low and dangerous.
“I’m not leaving my mate,” Torren argued. Were they out of their fucking minds?
“You have done nothing but hurt him,” Raith said quietly as he lowered Torren’s mate to the mattress and tucked the blankets up around his shoulders. “You need to leave, Tor. You’re only making things worse for him.”
As if all the air had been sucked out of his lungs, Torren found he couldn’t breathe. “He needs me.”
“No.” Demos pointed toward the door. “Get out.” Torren stood, but he had no intentions of going anywhere. “None of you understand what’s going on. I’m the only one who can help him now. He needs me!” Why weren’t they listening to him? It wasn’t as if he’d caused Aslan’s breakdown.
“He was screaming so loud that I could hear him from down the hall.” Raven spoke calmly, but there was murder in his dark eyes. “I come in here to find him practically beating his own head in while you sat there and did
to stop it. You don’t deserve him.” It wasn’t like that at all. He’d just been so stunned by Aslan’s behavior that he hadn’t been able to move. The outburst had barely even started when the men had exploded into the room. Right? “I—”
“Get out!” Raven roared, grabbing him by the shirt collar and propelling him toward the open door. He kept shoving until Torren was out in the hall. Then he gave him one last withering glare and slammed the door in his face.
“I knew I didn’t like you.”
Spinning around, still wondering what the hell had just happened, Torren found himself face to face with Kieran Delany—his pups’ uncle for all intents and purposes. Could this night get any worse?
“Well, the feeling is mutual. Now fuck off.”
“No.” Kieran pushed away from the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s time we get some shit straight. You’re not getting in that room to Aslan, but there is someone else here that you need to meet.”
He spun on his heels and started marching down the long corridor.
Resigned to probably getting his ass kicked before the sun rose, Torren huffed and took off after the werewolf.
“Ah, shit,” Aslan groaned, as he clutched at his temples with both hands.
“Easy.” A stranger sat beside him on the bed—a stranger that looked very much like his mate.