Authors: Courtney Lyn Batten
“Son,” John said thickly. “You are a Hunter. Not this.”
He put an arm around his son’s shoulders and they began to walk silently further into the city.
Luke and Emily looked at each other with identical bewildered expressions. Her trepidation danced like cold icy fingers along his skin. Without thinking, he leaned down and his lips touched hers with light pressure. Like delicate silk. Achingly tender.
Despite the impending danger and
her fear and feeling like she was suspended in a fairytale book or some Lord of the Rings fantasy type tale. The stirrings of something intense and electrifying gathered in her chest.
Whatever else, she could see it, feel it. He wanted her.
A knot formed in Luke’s
gut, thick and hard with a mixture of guilt and want, longing and confusion. The sweet expression on Emily’s face, her eyes closed, lashes brushing her cheeks and a small smile lifting the corner of her mouth made it loosen just enough for him to take in a shallow breath. He was surprised by how easy and natural it felt to kiss her. Surprised and terrified.
followed Curtis and John, as they led Luke, Emily, Jenny and Carson through a small courtyard adorned with marble statues and white chrysanthemums. A small fountain, bubbling with clear, clean smelling water stood in the center. A sliver of pale moonlight was visible through the thick trees that surrounded them and glimmered on the surface of the water.
A large white house with a green sloping roof stood at the far corner of the courtyard. Jenny took a deep breath as the sights and smells
. The feeling of home welcomed her.
Randall and John left the others and led them into the house.
The atmosphere of the house once they crossed the threshold was warm and comforting. Vanilla and lavender scented the air around them. A beautiful woman with extremely blonde hair tied into a complicated knot, shimmering golden skin and bright emerald green eyes rushed into the foyer to meet them.
“Jennifer,” she said breathlessly. She looked like she wanted to hug her, but she stood back, restlessly moving her hands. Jenny swallowed thickly. She had missed her mom, despite their argument and the resulting distance she’d kept.
Carson released his arm from around Jenny’s waist. She closed the distance, slumping into her mother’s embrace. Jenny had left three years ago when she found out shortly after the King’s death her mother had had an affair and Jenny’s real father, a Hunter, had been killed.
After a few moments, Jenny pulled away, and wiped the fallen tears from her cheeks. Queen Aine looked at the group standing just inside her doorway and gestured for them to follow her.
They entered into a large sitting room. All the furniture was light colors. A minty green sofa, two creamy colored chairs and a matching chaise lounge.
And flowers. There were brightly painted ceramic pots and clear crystal vases full of white lilies, white roses with the tips of their petals tinted red and orange and purple, and other flowers Emily didn’t have names for but were beautiful
ly vibrant and smelled intoxicatingly sweet.
Queen Aine sat in one of the white chairs, clasping her hands together, and
commanded, “Tell me what has happened.”
Jenny and Carson quickly launched forward, telling her about the visit from Vanessa, then Emily’s abduction. Curtis filled them in on what Vanessa had told him, he saw his father suck in a sharp breath when her name was mentioned, and he then explained what Samuel had told him.
Queen Aine was silent for a long moment. She looked around the room, until her eyes fell on a small wreath, made of several small star-shaped flowers, they were a peculiar shade of fuchsia, and the center of each petal darkened as it receded to the center. They hugged a tall white candle. She stood and retrieved the small wreath, then placed it gently on Emily’s head.
Corollaria,” the Queen said simply, a small smile on her kind face. Then she turned to Carson. “So you have not heard from your father then?”
He shook his head slowly, sadly.
A smaller woman, with a small nose and pinned back light hair appeared in the doorway. The Queen once again turned to Luke and Emily, “Stephanie will show you to your rooms. You will be safe here.”
Luke laced his fingers with Emily’s and followed the petite woman up the stairs and down a long hallway. She gestured silently to Emily at a yellow door on her right and then across the small hallway to another yellow painted door on her left, looking at Luke. They both nodded and told her thank you.
“If you need anything,” she said in a small bird-like voice, “Just pick up the phone. I or Anthony will be happy to help. There should already be fresh linens and extra clothes in your rooms.”
“Thank you,” Emily replied.
Stephanie smiled, nodded and disappeared down the stairs. Emily hesitated at her door.
She wanted him to stay with her. She wanted to ask him, to just feel his warm arms wrapped around her. She wanted him to kiss her again.
Luke took her hand and squeezed her fingers. He smiled, leaned forward and kissed her just to the side of her mouth.
softly in her ear as he pulled away, “Night, Em."
right warm sunlight spilled into the small courtyard, highlighting the stone walkways and glinting off the clear sweet smelling water that bubbled from the fountain. Emily traced her fingers along the star-shaped purple flowers of the wreath Queen Aine had given her the night before, as she thought about her mother and grandmother. And Luke.
She closed her eyes and took a deep sighing breath. This was all just so much to take in. And then, despite the severity and grave nature of everything that was happening around her, along with finding out the truth about her family, all she could seem to think about was Luke.
Luke and his soft kiss.
Luke and his rough hands.
Luke’s stormy gray eyes.
ly buried her face in her hands. The emotions inside her were almost suffocating, consuming in their sheer force and size. She raked her fingers through her blonde curls. She gasped when she looked up, her blue eyes, almost as dark as the sky at twilight, locked with gray ones.
Luke stood there a moment, just staring. He was drowning in her eyes, swept away by the strong pull he felt to her. His fingers twitched with the need to bury them in her hair, to touch her skin, to learn her curves. Carson’s words repeated in his mind.
This is your destiny. She is your destiny.
Emily felt her skin prickle, the soft hairs stood on end, and goose bumps dotted her flesh. She could feel Luke’s angst, could almost see his tension, the want and desire, the confusion all as if it shimmered in the air around
him. His breathing was shallow and ragged. His heartbeat rapid. She closed her eyes, trying to understand why he was looking at her this way. But the only thought she could focus on, the only two words she could seem to grasp at the moment, kept repeating in her mind, beating in rhythm with her heart.
My wolf. My wolf. My wolf.
In the next instant, Luke was kneeling in front of her, his rough hands, calloused but tender, were on her face and tangling in the soft
ribbons of her hair. He leaned his forehead against hers and expelled a long calming breath. His voice was soft, strained, and a little hoarse.
“Emily,” he managed to whisper. H
is breath was warm against her face. Her lips tingled. Her whole body hummed with a fierce energy just from his nearness. “Em, honey, I don’t—”
She cut him off, and pressed her lips to his.
Emily felt the fire inside her belly ignite. Her fingertips trembled as they came up to trace his strong jaw, dusted with days old stubble. Somewhere deep inside her chest— her soul, her blood— instantly recognized it’s other half. Even though she could feel his anxiousness and doubt tickle her skin and in the initial hesitancy of his kiss, she couldn’t deny the overwhelming, uncontrollable need she had for him, for her destiny. For
Luke groaned when Emily’s lips parted, and she pulled his bottom lip between hers. He could
n’t resist her even if he tried. Even if he wanted to. And he definitely didn’t want to right now. Even if that was the right thing to do.
Words like destiny and love and her wolf, swirled in his mind as he felt the energy between them crackle and explode. Her hands were on his face
and then slipping down to his shoulders, and smoothing over his arms and clutching his biceps.
Finally, only one word remained. Only one resonated deep inside him. Only one he could focus on and feel both himself and the wolf simultaneously agree on.
A throat clearing interrupted them. Emily pulled back, seeing L
uke’s gray eyes hooded and dark. His hands still held her face. He just stared into her eyes, like he couldn’t even think about anything but her. Her heart soared.
Emily broke the connectio
n and looked over his shoulders. Her eyes fell on Jenny’s wide smirk and blood red hair, the sunlight catching her golden skin as it glittered and shined.
Hey guys, I think my mom has a big dinner planned for us, so...” Jenny trailed off when Luke turned to glare at her. She rolled her eyes and added, “Well, I was just telling you to come on.”
Jenny chuckled as she retreated back inside.
Luke turned back to Emily, and opened his mouth to speak. He wanted to tell her how he was feeling. He wanted to explain to her everything, to just have a few moments with her in the sun to talk. But no words came.
Emily placed her hand on his cheek and smiled, stroking her thumb over his scruffy cheek. She took a deep breath before she spoke, “My wolf.”
Still conflicted but feeling a surge of rightness, he kissed her again softly before they walked inside, twining his fingers with hers.
Inside, Carson leaned back in a chair in the brightly painted library of Queen Aine’s house. His posture was somewhat relaxed, but the muscles in his jaw were still tense, his shoulders full of stress. He kept thinking about his dad and what would happen now that they were here.
. The word banged inside the recesses of his mind making him feel anxious, guilty and, honestly, a little terrified.
He always knew his role was to be Alpha someday. Even if he hadn’t wanted to accept it. It was who he was. Who his family was. And even now he could feel the duty, the responsibility, and the power flowing in his veins.
He sighed heavily and leaned forward in the plush cream colored chair. He rubbed his palms over his face. A moment later, he felt her. Jenny’s slender arms, warm and inviting, wrapped around his neck as she pressed her face into the crook of his neck.
“Hey,” he breathed, turning his head and offering her a small smile. She smiled back and then softly kissed his lips. Carson’s hands clasped around her arms.
“You okay in here, Almighty Alpha?” Jenny teased, trying to sound light, but Carson groaned in response, releasing her and running a hand through his disheveled hair. Jenny knelt in front of him and took his hand in hers. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said it like that.”
“No, it’s not that, Jen. It’s just,” he sighed and pulled her into
his arms holding her to him. He buried his face in her neck, inhaling her, the sweet spicy scent of her skin and kissing her gently.
“Just what?” s
he prodded softly. She combed her slender fingers through his hair and gently scraped her nails along his scalp.
“I’m just, I don’t know, worried, scared,” he paused to pull back and meet her gold eyes. “Especially about Luke and Emily and my parents.”
“Luke and Emily are fine. They’ll figure this all out. And we will find out what happened, where they are. Don’t give up on your parents yet, okay?”
Carson took a deep breath and nodded
, pulling her impossibly closer. He just needed to feel her against him.
“I think Randall and the other Hunters wanted to meet with you,” Jenny said softly. Carson t
ensed at the mention of Randall. The Hunter had unabashedly looked at his Jenny with unmasked affection, maybe even a little longing and remorse.
Jenny felt his muscles tense. She pulled back and frowne
d at the expression on his face. The jealousy she could see in his dark eyes stung her skin.
Carson looked away and then back, sighing heavily. “I don’t like the way he looks at you.”
His fingers unconsciously pressed possessively into her skin. Jenny shook her head, clearly annoyed.
“Carson,” she leaned forward, her lips brushed along his jaw. “I’m yours. Don’t worry about it.”
He huffed. He hugged her to his chest and kissed her neck, burying his face in her scent once more. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Luke and Emily passing by the large open doorway of the library.
Luke saw him too, and suddenly he felt the need to talk with his older brother. Maybe he could help him make
some sense of all these new emotions. He let go of Emily’s hand and whispered in her ear that he’d just be a few minutes. He kissed her on the cheek before darting into the library.