Queen of the Burning Fields

Book Three of the Danny Lee series

Mara Lee

 

Prologue

“You fight like a girl! I can’t believe I’ve even bothered to come out today. Deplorable, ridiculous, embarrassing, this is a ludicrous display.”

Ridiculous, she’d show him ridiculous! Quick as lightning, Danny twisted sideways and tossed her dagger. It hit its mark dead center.

Achilles let out a great sigh and looked down at his chest. There was a sharp dagger sticking out of it.

“Ridiculous, huh?” Danny sneered at him. “I’m not the one who looks like a pincushion.”

“This?” Achilles yanked the dagger out of his chest. “You didn’t even hit the heart.”

“I could have,” Danny muttered, “if I wanted to.”

“You couldn’t hit a target if it were plastered to your forehead,” Achilles snapped. “You’re slow, lazy and out of shape. This demonstration has only proven my point all too well.”

“I hate you.”

Achilles laughed bitterly. “Join the club, little girl.”

God, nothing worked on him. He was as cruel, annoying and obstinate as Danny remembered him to be.

Achilles had been one of Danny’s Rashas—teachers—when she was a pup. He had been one of many instructors chosen by the Grand Dame, Roberta Wick. She had chosen him for his expertise … and for his dominant will. Danny had always thought she had given her to his keeping out of torment. It was a punishment. However, now she knew the Grand Dame had a greater purpose. She had known (always) that Danny’s will would and could crush all others. She was too powerful and keenly intelligent (even as a child) to be contained. So instead of crushing her or containing her, she gave her a conduit, an outlet for her power and strength. She used Achilles and the others to train Danny and to magnify her already natural talents. The knowledge of Grand Dame Roberta’s strategy did not make accepting any easier. Then again, acceptance was not part of Danny’s nature, never had been, and probably never would be.

“Even the true Achilles had a weakness,” Danny crooned, having regained her bearings and evened out her turbulent emotions.

Achilles snorted. “One has yet to find mine.”

It gave Danny something to work toward. She’d find his weakness yet. And then … well, then there were all sorts of delicious, wicked and painful options open to her. And she looked forward to administering each and every one of them upon his merciless soul.

“FOCUS!” he shouted, slapping Danny soundly across her face.

She growled and snapped at his hand. He promptly grabbed her by her throat, holding her firmly in place.

“Mmmmfffff.” Danny tried to wriggle free, and gasped when Achilles applied more pressure to his hold.

“Now, you will remain obedient and respectful. You will listen and learn and know your place. If you do not obey, and show any form of defiance…” he tightened his hold even further, “I will be forced to take drastic measures. Do not,” his eyes deepened and his voice thickened, “make me take drastic measures to keep you in line, little girl.”

She was going to kill him. No, she was going to make him suffer first, and then, then she would fucking kill him.

Danny’s vision was getting spotty and she felt a slow well of panic building. And then, then she felt it … the pulse of power and the heat of flame. It became stronger and stronger until it began to seep out of her pores.

“What…” Achilles released his hold on her and jumped back. “Little girl … rein yourself in.”

Danny barely heard him. His voice was muted and low and sounded as if it were coming from the bottom of a deep well. The fire was burning brighter now and the flames were licking at her already tormented body.

You will take them all out with this temper of yours. You must learn to control the flame, or it will own you.

Now here was a voice she recognized. It was pulsing in her head. Control, how did she control it? How did she control something she didn’t even understand? Her entire life had been about control and now … now she was completely losing it.

Know yourself … know yourself and be free of the bindings. You need only know that you control the power, not the other way around and all will be right. Breathe deeply and sense the calm, you are the calm; you are the peace which strengthens all.

“Shut the fuck up!” Danny roared. She dropped to all fours as a wave of power rolled over her. Peace, calm? How could she be calm? How in the world could she feel any sense of peace in this insanity? The fire was building and the power wanted to explode out of her. Could she just let it?

We are going to have to deal with this problem. Unfortunately I did not foresee this lack of control. Do not worry, my dear one … I will take care of this.

Another pulse of power hit her high and hard and sent Danny sprawling. She lay immobile on her back, staring at the ceiling, panting hard and trying to get her heart beat back to normal.

“Interesting, there were flames in your eyes, child,” Achilles face appeared above her. “A new talent?” He sneered at her then. “Although I do not know how much use it shall be to you unless you are planning a barbeque.”

Oh, she was planning a barbeque all right … and first on the menu, fried Achilles.

Chapter One

She stumbled into her room, sweaty and bloodstained and ready to do battle. Fighting Achilles hadn’t taken the edge off. In fact, it had just raised her bloodlust. She wanted to sink her teeth into his neck and rip his throat out.

“You smell like blood… I like it.”

Danny whipped around and found herself face-to-face with a very unwanted visitor.

Damn it.

“What are you doing here?” Maybe it was time she tried some of her new talent out on birdie boy.

Capshaw cocked his head to one side. He didn’t seem intimidated by her aggressive stance or her cold words.

“I asked you a question,” she said, voice cold.

“I heard you. I was just deciding whether or not to answer you, since the question was presented in such a rude fashion.”

“Listen here you…”

“Oh fine,” Capshaw interrupted her. “I am here on my master’s orders. He seems to believe that you need some instruction. And as he is unable to attend to you at this moment, he has sent me in his stead.”

“And the reason you can withstand Earth and he cannot, is?”

Capshaw seemed to ponder her question for a moment before answering. “He is my master. I draw my powers from him. His strength is my strength. He cannot be at his full power, nor can he draw upon the Burning Fields if he is away from the source for too long. I, however, can be sustained by his magic.”

She was beginning to understand. If Asmodai ventured away from Hell he would be weakened considerably. However, as long as he remained in his world he could invigorate his servants and lend them his power. It made sense. Of course she would much rather it be Asmodai standing before her now than his annoying bird servant. Then again … her demon prince had bestowed upon her a really awesome power, a power that was exceedingly difficult to control and beginning to become taxing—as she kept burning people alive. Yeah, the entire burning people alive bit was going to have to stop. The smell of charred flesh was making her nauseated.

“You seem deep in thought, human.”

“Danny.”

“Yes?” Capshaw stared at her with blank, unblinking eyes.

“No, my name is Danny, use it.”

“Oh, I see, you were perturbed by me calling you human.”

“Perceptive, aren’t you? Yeah, I have a name, you can use it.”

“Of course, if you desire so.”

“Why are you being so … amiable?”

“Am I? I am merely trying to abide by your wishes and fill your needs.”

Something strange was going on. “All right, spill it.”

“Spill what?”

“Exactly, what is going on here? Why are you being so agreeable? And what the hell is your motivation?”

“It is exactly as I have said. My master has sent me forth. He has felt your distress and he has sent me to ease you.”

“And how do you plan on doing that?”

“By teaching you control.”

She was plenty controlled. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Capshaw began to hop from foot to foot. “You seem to believe you have a choice here, you don’t.”

Danny felt the familiar heat of anger and resentment boil up within her. “I always have a choice, shit for brains.” She saw his blank look and knew she had wasted a perfectly good insult on him. “You don’t seem to understand! You can’t just walk in here and dictate my life.”

“Then you wish to continue burning your companions alive and sending them down to the pits?”

The heat was replaced by cold. She had only been defending herself. She would have been killed if she had not done something. Of course, frying someone alive and leaving nothing but ash was disconcerting and let’s face it, gross.

“They weren’t my companions,” she bit out coolly.

“Semantics. You have no control over your fire. You wield it clumsily and are stumbling in the dark.”

“Well I wouldn’t have this fucking problem if someone hadn’t gone and dumped it on me,” she shot back, pissed off.

“But now you have the fire, you must learn to control it. I can help, viese, I am bade to help you.”

She didn’t want any help. She especially didn’t want any help from some strange giant crow. Yet … the smell of burning flesh and the memory of fire washing over her was not a pleasant one. She had been infused with a magic she was unfamiliar with. As elemental as she was (inherently so, due to her wolf nature) fire was not her element. Yet here she was drowning under flames that had been thrust upon her.

“You see the wisdom of my words.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“I can see the knowledge on your face.”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine, fine, I’ll admit I’m having a bit of difficultly handling the fire. Only a bit, mind you.”

Capshaw’s eyes seemed to twinkle with merriment. “I believe that is as close to acceptance as I will get from you.”

“Smart deduction, birdie boy.” Danny wrinkled her nose. “And how do you plan on helping me control the fire.”

“You must first understand the nature of your fire, before you can begin to wield it properly.”

Understand her fire? Yeah, she certainly didn’t understand her fire. Hell, she was a wolf … what the fuck did a wolf know of fire? As a magi she was infused with elemental power … and still the fire was elusive.

“The kiss was a gift, human … but you abuse it sorely.”

“A gift?” Danny felt a familiar anger burn in her stomach. “You call frying people alive a gift? You are fucking insane.” She focused her thoughts. If you can hear me, Asmodai, the same goes for you. You’re a fucking lunatic! There was nothing, a complete stillness met her words and she sighed. Had she really expected an answer?

“Yes, a gift!” Capshaw was practically shrieking now. “How many humans do you know who are given the ability to share in powers such as the master has? His power is not given, nor is it shared,” Capshaw hopped forward, “but he shared with you. He bestowed upon you a kiss, and his kiss breathed power into your puny human body.”

“If you call me puny one more time…” Danny’s hands knotted tightly together. She was shaking in her attempt to keep from slugging Asmodai’s ambassador.

“I tell you the truth and you feel anger.” Capshaw seemed genuinely bewildered.

“Do you really not get it?” Danny scowled at him. “Telling someone they’re a puny human is not exactly a compliment, asshole.”

Capshaw seemed to raise a brow. It seemed like a decidedly odd facial expression on a crow. “Is asshole a compliment?”

“Excuse me?”

“I asked you if asshole was a compliment.”

“No,” Danny scoffed, “asshole isn’t a compliment.”

“Then, you are telling me not to insult you, yes? But you insult me in turn?”

Okay, she hated twisted logic. She especially hated twisted logic when it made sense. “Listen here, birdie boy.”

“Again … somehow I doubt birdie boy is a compliment.”

“Enough,” Danny shouted. She could hear the frustration in her voice and knew she was a second away from slugging him.

“Fine.” Capshaw sniffed and fluffed his feathers. “I will attempt not to insult you if you will promise me the same.”

Danny thought on this a moment and finally nodded. It was fair, sort of. “I can promise to attempt not to insult you. I can’t promise that I won’t insult you.” Danny shrugged. “It’s about the best I can do.”

“Fine.”

“Great.” Danny pulled off her sweaty, bloodstained shirt and smiled bitterly. “Now … before we get started I need to know a couple of things…” Danny shook out her hair and turned to face a stone-still Capshaw. “Hello … I was speaking to you. Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Danny planted her hands upon her hips and cocked her hip to one side. “I didn’t know crows could get a hard-on.”

Capshaw seemed to shake himself out of it. “I am still alive am I not? I can still feel.”

“Can you?” It wasn’t as if she wanted to begin to contemplate what he actually was. He was a talking crow from Hell. What did that really make him? Was he really alive, or was he just reanimated? Or was he something entirely different? Perhaps he was only made alive by the magic of his master. “If you are going to stand there all stupid-eyed then you may as well just leave. I need to get out of these practice clothes and then I need to take a hot shower. If you can’t handle some nudity, some very human nudity, then I suggest you make your exit now.”

“I somehow doubt my master would approve of my presence during your bath … so I shall take my leave, for now.”

“Great, the door’s over there.” Danny pointed to the exit and walked into the bathroom without a second glance back at him. “Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any weirder…” She stripped off her pants and tossed her underwear aside. Her clothes were stained with blood and so was her body.

Danny turned on the shower and stepped under the delightful spray of warm water. Her body temperature had begun to get back to normal, and she no longer felt as if she were burning alive every day. She didn’t know if she had Asmodai to thank for it, but if she did, she wouldn’t thank him anyway. It was his fault she was in this predicament in the first place. No, she wasn’t about to thank the stupid sonofabitch.

I am aggrieved to hear the rancor in your voice.

She growled, but continued on her business, rubbing the soap over her body. “Mmm, you’re aggrieved by the rancor you hear in my voice, but me calling you a stupid sonofabitch doesn’t register? Good to know.” Silence met her words. Either he was so pissed he couldn’t speak, or he had no idea what she was getting at.

I am reaching out to you, amour.

“Maybe I don’t want you reaching, did you ever think about that?” The problem was she did want him. She wanted him so much she could feel it physically. But she would be damned if she told him. Danny was pleased she had locked her shields tightly, and that she couldn’t feel him probing her mind. Some things had to be kept secret, very secret. She had much too much to deal with right now, and thinking about her love-hate relationship with Asmodai was already giving her a massive migraine. “I can’t talk to you right now, Asmodai … I have really big matters to deal with.”

Like what?

“Did you hear me? I just told you I don’t have time to talk to you. I have exactly five minutes to take my shower, get dressed and get downstairs, so piss off.”

Shower…

She knew what was going on in that mind of his, and that thought alone brought a scowl to her face. She was going to have to tune him out entirely. Even this small interlude was too much.

“All right … the touching moment is over. Goodbye, Asmodai.” Danny abruptly cut him off. She severed the tie she felt with him, and although she knew he was there lurking right there beneath the surface she was so secure within her fields he was unable to penetrate even a bit. It was a small victory, but she reveled in it nonetheless. Her mind control was becoming stronger and she was nearly flawless in her ability to switch her shields on and off.

Danny finished rinsing out her hair and stepped out of her shower. She dried off and took a moment to study her reflection. Her reflection stopped her short. Oh, it wasn’t anything new, not really. She still looked like herself. Same dark hair, same almond shaped eyes and smooth skin … and yet … there was something more, something stronger lingering there.

“Danny, Danny, Danny, is that really you?” she murmured, eyeing herself critically. Smoothing a hand over her hair she turned side to side, taking her face in from every angle.

“Are you finished yet?”

“Damn it.” She had almost forgotten about birdie boy standing outside of her door.

“There is work to do and you laze about the bathroom.”

A familiar burn of anger shot through her body. The hell she was lazy. Danny quickly worked her hair up into a bun and stuck her trusty silver sticks through the dense mass to keep it up. She walked out of the bathroom and scanned the bedroom, mentally taking note of where the clean clothes were and how long it would be until she would have to do laundry. She hated doing laundry with a passion. Frankly, she would almost be tempted to stay in wolf form if it would keep her from having to do laundry.

Danny pulled on a faded black T-shirt which had seen better days and a very beat up pair of jeans. She knew Alex wasn’t going to be pleased with her very casual attire (he’d become a real stuffed shirt about clothing and proper attire since taking over the dual Alpha role) but really she didn’t give a shit. If he wanted her to play “dress up” then he would have to do her laundry for her. Otherwise she was going to live in her jeans and T-shirts for the rest of her stay.

When she exited her room, Capshaw was waiting for her, hopping from foot to foot impatiently. She held up her hand to ward off anything he might have said and gave him a look, the look.

“I have to get to the hall to meet with Alex, and you are not invited.”

“We have work to do.”

“Which we will have to get to once I’m finished with my meeting with Alex. You did drop by unexpectedly. You can’t just think I’m going to drop everything when you pop up.”

“My master…”

“Will have to wait.” Bastard, she’d make him wait forever if she could. Too bad she’d probably end up barbequeing more people if she didn’t accept his ambassador.

“I do not like this.”

“Great, you don’t have to, birdie boy.” Danny reached the door to the great hall and pointed to the large overstuffed chair. “You can wait here. Oh, and I wouldn’t suggest talking to any of the wolves,” she knew her eyes were glimmering, “they may try to make a meal out of you.” She laughed when she saw the shot of fear that flashed through his eyes. Yeah, he’d better be afraid.

* * * *

Alex was waiting for her. Sitting in the Alpha’s chair he was wearing his perpetual scowl. Danny knew this scowl well … it was almost always reserved for her.

“Dennison, you’re late.” Alex looked her over, his scowl deepening by the moment.

“Yeah, well something,” someone, “…unexpectedly took up my time, sorry.”

“We have meeting times for a reason. Am I to take your tardiness as a shirking of your duties?”

Lord give her patience. Alex, since taking over the dual Alpha position had become almost unbearable. He was riding her unmercifully, putting her through practice and classes and leaving her almost no time to rest. She was fairly certain this meanness was due to her continued resistance to his advances.

“I would never shirk my duties to you, to my Pack,” Danny spoke coolly, doing her best to mask the anger she felt.

Alex slashed his hand in the air. “Well, this display does not back up your words, Dennison.”

“Well, your display backs up my opinion that you’re a fucking arrogant, overbearing, asshole.” The words were out before she could take them back. She stiffened. The insult was grave and she felt absolutely no remorse. He was an asshole. She watched as his eyes widened, his mouth tightened into a taut unyielding line and he leaned forward in his chair. She was fairly certain he was about to strike.

“How dare you!”

Danny straightened her shoulders, if he was going to attack her, he already would have. She was impressed by his ability to hold back.

“You are my Clannahd and you stand there and insult me. Do you think because of our history I will overlook your impertinence?”

Did she think he would overlook her impertinence? Well, in a word, yes, she did. “I apologize for my impertinence, my Alpha.” Okay, that was acceptable. And certainly came out better than, you’re a fucking asshole. “I was impertinent, and you are gracious to a fault.”

Alex leaned back, his expression unchanged. “Not for a minute do I believe you mean the words you now speak,” he snorted, “however, I know how difficult it was for you to utter them.” Alex brushed one hand through his hair. “I did call you here for a reason, Dennison.”

“The reason would be?” Her words came out bitingly and she wondered why it was she could never just shut up, or at least censor herself.

“Don’t push me,” Alex snarled. “My patience is not endless, not even where you’re concerned, Dennison. We have a convoy entering our territory. I’ve called you here because we must prepare. The Pack will have needs of your particular talents.”

“Convoy? What convoy?”

“The Fae have approached us.”

Asmodai’s words came hurtling back at her, “The Fae will play a part of what is to come.” Danny clenched her hands into tight fists and took a calming breath.

“I see by the look on your face t you know more than you have let on.”

“No.” The response was immediate. Alex narrowed his eyes and crooked his finger at her. “Alex, I…”

“Come here, Dennison.”

Danny sighed. She walked calmly and coolly toward Alex. She kept her breathing even and made sure her steps were light and unhurried. When she was standing in front of him she bowed her head. In part because she knew it was polite, but mostly because she didn’t want to see the censure present in his eyes.

“Dennison.” This time Alex said her name quietly, but it was filled with heat and something stronger, something much more dangerous.

When she lifted her gaze to meet his, she swallowed. His eyes had changed and the expression on his face was positively feral. She didn’t even have a second before he was upon her.

Alex’s body pressed down squarely upon hers. His grip had the strength of iron, and he was presently holding her down completely. She felt his breath, hot, against her neck, and she forced back the moan that was bubbling up within her throat. She wanted to feel more of his heat. Then she felt it … the insistent caress that took her breath away. He was working his way up her leg, kneading her skin and raising goose bumps. God, it felt good. Her beast basked in the sensations assaulting her body and made it clear it appreciated Alex’s every touch. She needed it … she really needed it. Just this once, it wouldn’t matter, couldn’t matter, if she slipped up just this once. She could allow her beast this one moment, couldn’t she?

NO. No she could not let herself go. And she could not fall into this trap, not with Alex, never with Alex. It would never be just one moment. If she allowed her beast the satisfaction of Alex’s touch, she would find herself chained and shackled to him forever. He could say otherwise, but Danny saw the truth which lay ever present within those large, expressive eyes of his. His Kyra, Alex would have her as his Kyra—his mate. And if she allowed him any liberties (even the ones normal to her kind) he would take that as acceptance, and would begin the process of caging her.

Danny began to struggle. She kicked her legs and screamed in frustration when Alex merely wrapped his leg around the back of her knee to keep her in place. There was no doubt he was physically stronger than she, but if he wanted to play dirty, fine, she was up to the challenge. She took a couple steadying breaths and smiled slyly.

“What are you…” That was all Alex got out before he let out a howl of pain and jumped back. “Do not assume your physical strength will have me, Alex. Brute force alone will not be enough to make me yield.” Danny drew her power back. She had just given him quite an electric shock and she knew it had hurt.

Alex’s jaw worked back and forth in obvious anger, but he inclined his head, acknowledging her words. “I would never force you, Dennison.”

“Oh, Alex,” she got to her feet and shook her head, “don’t you see? You will never understand. Do we need to have his argument every time we are together? Your very nature demands obedience and total submission. I can give you neither.”

“Dennison…”

“No, Alex, listen, really listen to me. You are my Alpha, and sometimes,” she cleared her throat and forced the words past her dry tongue, “my friend. I give you my fighting arm, the powers inherent within me, and loyalty, you will have my loyalty. The Pack will have my loyalty, but…” Her words dropped off.

“You will never give me what I want the most.” Alex spoke and his voice was cold.

She knew what he spoke of. “No, Alex, you will never have it.” He could never really have her. She was not a commodity that could be bought, sold and bartered. She was her own person, Dennison Lee, and she would create her own story, and live out her own life … by her own rules. She watched to see if her words would resonate, maybe they could finish this here, and now, but all she saw was grim determination fill his face. It was as if her continued rejection of his advances spurred him on. Lord have mercy on her. Or, perhaps she should say, Lord have mercy on Alex, because if he continued this way she was going to seriously rearrange his face, or worse.

“This is not the end of things, Dennison.”

God, didn’t she know it. “Tell me about the Fae, Alex.” Perhaps she could change the subject, or get back on track. They had somehow managed to unhinge a bit from their original topic of conversation.

“I still believe you should tell me what you know of the Fae.” Alex’s eyes impaled her.

“There is little for me to tell. I’ve already disclosed everything. I told you what occurred when I rescued Daniel. The Fae have entered our plane and they seem intent on shacking up here.”

“Why did you pale and stiffen when I mentioned the convoy?”

“I was merely a bit surprised.”

“You lie,” Alex said simply.

“I resent that.”

“Resent away, Dennison. I can scent the lie upon your tongue. There is no mistaking it.”

Stubborn man, stubborn wolf. “Fine, I was told the Fae would be making an appearance.”

Alex cocked his head to one side and regarded her intently. “Who told you this?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

“Dennison.”

“No, Alex, I won’t back down on this. I will not divulge the source of my information.” That was not something she wanted to delve into now … maybe never. She was still dealing with her feelings and her anger toward Asmodai, and she certainly did not want to start in with Alex about it. “There were few words exchanged on the matter, Alex. I was told they were to play a part in my life, and they were not to be trusted.”

“Is your source a seer?”

A seer? More like a thorn in her fucking side. “No. Just a knowledgeable person.”

“I see.”

Did he? Did he really see? Somehow she doubted it. Hell. She hardly had a handle on what was happening in her life, how could she expect that Alex would get it.

“I will need you by my side.”

Danny nodded. Of course, as Alex’s magi wolf it would stand to reason she would be in the delegation that would meet the convoy. She would be able to sense any errant magic, hell, she’d just be able to sense magic period.

“When are they expected?”

“Two days hence.”

Shit. “Uh, two days from now, two days from now would be a Saturday?”

Alex nodded. “So glad you know the days of the week, my dear.”

“Ha, ha, very funny.” She prepared for the storm that was surely going to meet her words. “I can’t manage Saturday.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said, I can’t manage to meet the convoy on Saturday … uh, think you can manage to get them here on Friday, or maybe Sunday if they’re too busy?” Danny saw by the look in Alex’s eyes her idea wasn’t flying. “Mmmmm … think that won’t work?”

“And the reason you cannot manage Saturday would be?”

Damn it all. Danny took a deep breath, and here she went into the fucking fire. “I have a prior engagement.”

“Stop dodging my question, Dennison.”

“Not dodging.” Not really, Danny thought. She rolled her eyes. Fine, he was going to find out eventually. “I have to make a visit to…”

Blood Noir!” Alex shouted, cutting her off.

“Well, if you already knew the answer, why ask?” she said sarcastically.

“Absolutely not!” Alex roared, going off as if he hadn’t heard her. Or perhaps he had, but decided to overlook her impertinence due to his raging anger. Danny really hoped it was the prior rather than the latter.

And here came the migraine. “This has nothing to do with you.”

“It has everything to do with me. As my Kyra candidate, you cannot be seen with that monster.”

Oh God! “First off, I am not, let me repeat that, not your anything. Secondly, it is my life, mine. You have no say over whom I decide to see, or date.”

“You are…”

“A free person!” Danny continued. She sneered. “However, due to the nature of this meeting on Saturday, I am willing to admit I may have to rearrange my plans.” God, and now Savior was going to give her shit. Oh well, the lesser of two evils it was. Although in the case of this race, both Alex and Savior were coming up neck to neck. “I’ll call Blood Noir and see if other arrangements can be made, okay?”

“No, it is not okay. You are not allowed to go anywhere near him.”

Danny went on as if she hadn’t heard a word he had said. “Then we can have our meeting with the Fae, and hopefully I won’t incinerate any of them, or maybe I can incinerate one of two of them and play it off as an accident. Wouldn’t that be cool? Do you think they’d fall for it? I bet they would. It’s not like they know about my power. One mean little Fae medium well, or do you like your Fae well done?” Danny had to laugh at the expression now present on Alex’s face, it was clearly disbelieving.

“Did you hear me, Dennison?” Alex asked finally.

Danny blinked several times and shot him a broad smile. “I’m sorry, what? Were you saying something?” She was absolutely with him, and had heard every annoying, domineering, arrogant word he had said to her. But to watch the bewilderment wash over his face was worth playing dumb. It was totally classic. “So, if I can rearrange my meeting, then we’ll be all set for Saturday.” Danny smiled, turned on her heel and began to walk away from him. “Terrific, great, this has been super fun. Let’s do it again sometime, okay?”

“HALT!” Alex roared.

Danny sighed deeply, but stopped.

“You are not dismissed.”

Stupid, obnoxious rule. She turned and glared at him. “Okay, what do you want? What other pearls of wisdom do you have for me?” At this point she didn’t really care to be polite. Alex walked toward her. His eyes held hers and his gaze seemed to devour her whole. She really hoped he wasn’t going to jump her again. She’d had enough of a workout for one day. God, it was pathetic. How out of shape was she that she couldn’t manage a sparring session in the morning and an attack from her Alpha in the afternoon?

“I’ve voiced my intent to the Grand Dame, Dennison. You should know this. It will determine much of what is to come.”

Cold seeped through her veins and she felt as if suddenly time stilled completely. “Alex…”

“No, this must be said. It has been put off for much too long. Your duties to this Pack extend far beyond your capacity as a magi. You are a wolf, Dennison, and you wolf nature will not be denied.”

“I’m not trying to deny my wolf.”

“Are you not? It is not in the nature of the wolf to be alone. You live a solitary life, it is unnatural.”

“I live the way I must.” And it was true. She had learned (through very hard and brutal lessons) it was safer(much) for all around if she lived alone.

“You will never feel truly whole without us.”

Sadly that was also true. As Alex said, the nature of the wolf was to roam and to live within packs. The part of her that was magi could easily live as she had done these many years, but the wolf in her demanded the closeness and comfort of her own, of her fellow wolves. She had beaten down the cries of her wolf, but in doing so she had stifled a very crucial part of her soul.

“My words ring true.”

Danny remained silent, knowing her silence was answer enough.

“The Grand Dame has accepted my intent and it will be addressed.”

“Alex, don’t do this.” The cold was back, and it was accompanied by a slow burn, a familiar slow burn.

“It has to be done. You have resisted me at every turn.”

“So your solution is to go to the Grand Dame?” What? It was like he was five years old and going to the teacher to tattle on a fellow student. Alex reached out and grabbed her by her shoulders and shook her—hard. “Get your hands off me.”

“You are infuriating!” he shouted at her. “I have tried everything; asking, cajoling, playing to your intelligence and even your ego, I’ve tried force and even a bit of pleading, nothing works. You deny me at every turn. Why?”

Danny was taken aback by the true desperation she now heard in Alex’s voice. “Alex…”

He let go of her and began to rub his temples. “Why?” he asked again. “I know you feel something for me. I know that once … once I saw in your eyes what I have longed to see these many years.”

Of all the many talks, arguments, heated debates and downright battles, Danny had never heard the desperation and true confusion she now heard in Alex’s voice. He was always demanding and yelling and ordering, and usually all of it was directed toward her. He never just asked her, or seemed to be genuinely interested in her needs, wants and desires. One truth deserved another.

“I did once see you in another light, Alex.” How did she tell him this? God, she just had to do it. Why was she hesitating? She never hesitated in running off her mouth, and yeah, it usually got her in trouble—big trouble. “When I was a young, impressionable pup I thought of you differently. I even thought of,” she took a deep breath, “I thought about us. But that was a very, very, long time ago, Alex. I’m not the same pup. I will never be a pup again.”

“Your feelings have changed that much?”

Was he kidding? Danny snorted. “Yeah.” Oh hell, yeah! “Time changes everything, Alex. Are you trying to tell me you’re the same wolf I knew when I was a youngling?”

“I have not changed much, Dennison.”

Well dang it all. Perhaps that had been a really bad example. He was right. He hadn’t changed much. He was still a domineering, arrogant, ass. He was an Alpha, what the heck did she expect? “Well, I have changed. I don’t have stars in my eyes anymore. Those stars were shattered long ago.”

“Are you trying to tell me I shattered those stars?”

“Not just you, life, Alex, life shattered a lot.” Danny saw small grooves between Alex’s eyes appear as he mulled over her words.

“I had not realized how cynical and hard you are.”

“Seriously?”

“I assumed you were merely being a bitch.”

“I am a bitch,” Danny replied, a small smile forming on her face.

Alex gave her an answering smile. “I assumed you were being obstinate merely to … to … aggravate me.”

“Believe me, I wouldn’t go to all that trouble just for you.” And it was true.

“I cannot give up on this, Dennison. I cannot give up on you. I won’t lose you.”

Danny said a prayer for patience and fortitude. She gave him a level look and spoke from the heart. “You can’t lose something you never had, Alex.”

 

 

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