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tightly they were bound.


It made sense now. Wolfe and Jacob hadn’t yet seen what Aiden now saw. The need to take their mates anally had nothing to do with the changes their bodies were making. It was due to the fact that during ovulation, their senses were so well-honed, so aware that their mates were evolving to perfect fertility that they went into overload. The need for sexual submission forged a desire that would otherwise not be so imperative. It was primal.Animalistic. And it offered no apologies. Sighing deeply, he dragged himself away from her, tucking the thick quilt around her body and pulling himself to his feet. Dawn was only hoursaway, and there was much to do. The information he learned here changed several plans he, Wolfe and Jacob had been trying to find time to implement. It also raised the question of the Breed Code and how far they were willing to go to enforce it. The woman who had betrayed them had signed her agreement to it and apparently, willingly betrayed them. The thought of killing a woman, especially one so young, was abhorrent to him. He dressedslowly, the reality of the Breeds’ lives a heavy burden on his soul. How would they ever fit into the world when their very DNA marked them as different, animalistic? They weren’t seen as completely human, even by those who aided them. He smelled their fear, their distrust. Such basic human responses always resulted in bloodshed, eventually.


He gazed down at Charity one last time, every muscle in his body protesting the need to leave her for even a short time. Then he shook his head, still a little confused at how easily she had wormed her way into his soul, as he strode quickly from the small cave.


The interconnecting tunnels and caves were the product of a gold mining venture from nearly a century past. Every drop of ore had been mined from the once rich veins that had run through the mountain, leaving in its place a system of caves and tunnels that the Coyotes had slowly marked as a home. The main tunnel was wider than the others and led back to the main cavern where Wolf and Coyote Breeds mingled in reluctant camaraderie. Their fight was now the same, but there were still questions to be answered.


The Coyote Breeds that inhabited the caves lacked the rancid smell of the Council mongrels that obeyed the whims of their creators. Aiden had often suspected that the evil of those men were what produced the smell of death that lay about them like an aura of shame. Del-Rey’s Coyotes, like all Breeds, had their own distinctive scent, wild, untamed, but without the scent of carnage. It was perplexing, the laws of nature that were beginning to apply within the different Breeds and the framework of the almost instinctive code of honor they held. Coyotes in nature, knew little honor, unlike the Wolf, and Felines that most Breeds were related to. Coyotes were known to have no soul. Yet in this instance, with the Coyote Breeds of this pack, it seemed the human spirit itself had made up for the lack.


“Aiden, Wolfe has the situation back at the compound under control. The woman is being watched and all relays from her station are being monitored. She slipped out a report several hours ago of Charity’s death,” Hawke reported, his voice dark and filled with menace. Aiden sighed in resignation. “Get ready to move out in one hour.” He turned to Del-Rey. Del-Rey was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest, watching Aiden through dark, emotionless eyes.


“You are welcome to return to the compound,” he told him. “The problem of the woman you’ve kidnapped could cause you problems, though. You may be forced to return her.”


Del-Rey smiled, though it was more a snarl. “I don’t think that will be happening, Aiden. I know now what I needed to know. We will stay here. Perhaps our Packs could work together, though. I believe such a union would benefit us all.”


Aiden nodded shortly. “We’ll see about getting you some equipment up here. I have several ideas I’ll discuss with Wolfe first. We need to move carefully, Del-Rey. World opinion could turn against the Breeds as easily as it has worked for us.”


The other man tilted his head in acknowledgement. Aiden had a feeling working with him could be more difficult than working with the government liaisons who drove the Breeds crazy.


“I’ll contact you soon then. Get a list together of supplies you need, equipment, whatever. Let’s see about helping each other instead of working against each other. Assign one of your men to the compound; I’ll leave one of mine here to coordinate as well. I have a feeling time is of the essence now.”


Del-Rey nodded as he straightened from his slouch position and moved to several of his men to begin getting things together.


“Hawke, contact Wolfe,” Aiden told him quietly. “I want that woman secured before I head in with Charity. We’ll deal with her on our return.”


Hawke’s eyes flashed, his expression hardening as though he would protest the order before he nodded abruptly and turned away. Whatever was on the other man’s mind would have to wait.


“Nikki.” The doctor sat at the table watching the meeting with curious, dark eyes. She rose to her feet and walked to him slowly. She watched his expression carefully, he noted, her own somber and intense.


“Charity?”His throat closed up. Son of a bitch, this overload of emotion was more than aggravation.


“She’s conceived,” she said a bit too loudly. “I figured it would happen soon.”


He watched her questioningly as her lips quirked somberly. “Too many changes in her body too quickly.” She shrugged. “Let’s hope conception eases her inability to be touched. We’ll have to watch this closely, Aiden.” He could see her fears, her worries. He nodded shortly, clenching his jaw against his own fears. “We’ll be leaving here soon. Find out what they need in the way of medical supplies so we can get those together. We may have more need of them than we could imagine right now. We have to keep her safe.” And there lay his greatest fear.


“Yes we do,” she sighed tiredly. “Her safety, Aiden, must become the Pack’s ultimate goal. I’ll be done quickly. I had already anticipated your order. I’ve found at times, you Breeds can be highly predictable.”


“And I’ve found they can be highly irritating.” Aiden turned in surprise at the sound of Charity’s voice. She stood in the entrance to the room, dressed and ready to fight. Her face was flushed, her eyes glittering with anger.


“When were you going to tell me?” she asked him with a tone of forced patience as the rest of the occupants turned to watch the confrontation.


He grinned. He could see the telltale emotion in her gaze, the love she thought she kept so carefully hidden from him. He shrugged negligently.


“When were you going to tell me ?” He tried to keep his voice stern. “Do you think I’m unaware of the fact that you suspected this before the attack that you were ovulating? Come, Charity, I may be male, but I’m hardly stupid.”


Her face flushed. “I wasn’t certain.”


“Of course you were,” Nikki jumped into the fray. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have been so reticent over the exam I wanted to perform. Really, Charity, all you had to do was say something.” Her voice was smoothly mocking.


Charity frowned at her friend fiercely as she crossed her arms over her chest.


“Perhaps I was waiting for more than a damned mating,” she bit out furiously, though he could hear the hurt behind her words as she speared him with another look. “I didn’t say I accepted that submission stuff either, Aiden,” she bit out. “You say I’m your mate. I don’t.”


He chuckled then. He paid little attention to the men who watched him or their interest in the confrontation as he moved quickly to her. He caught her around her waist, pulling her flush against his body, allowing her to feel the erection that had not yet truly eased.


“I say you are my heart,” he said clearly. “And if you remember correctly, I told you this before either of us suspected the change, Charity.”


She frowned. “Someone has to be, because it’s clear you don’t have one,” she sniped trying to pull away from him.


He shook his head, more than a little confused as he stared down at her.


“I love you, Charity, what more do you want?” He frowned as she suddenly stilled in his arms.


“You what?” she whispered faintly. “Say it again.”


He smiled down at her, amused, so filled with his love for her that at times he wondered how he could hold it all.


“I love you, mate,” he growled as he lowered his head until his nose touched hers. “See what is as plain as the nose on your face. You are my heart, Charity.My soul.My mate.”


As slow as the dawn, as gentle as a summer morning her smile washed across her face, though she tried to narrow her eyes in intimidation, nothing could still the joy he saw spreading through her.


“Fine.I guess I’ll let you be my mate then.” She went to push away from him.


“I don’t think so.” He pulled her back. “I expect a bit more than that after making medeclare myself in


front of Coyotes.” He was more than aware of snickers sounding behind him. She peeked over his shoulder, a smile tugging at her lips as she returned her gaze to him.


“Yeah, they are kind of amused,” she said softly. “But their day will come.”


“That wasn’t what I’m waiting for.” His hand slid to her rear as he patted it warningly. “Surely you have more to say?”


“Well,” she drawled. “I would tell you how much I love you, but right now that hand patting my ass is a little too arrogant. Rein it in.”


His brow arched. She filled him with joy, but he could tell it would be no small matter to keep the upper hand with her. His hand tightened on the tempting curve of her buttock as he lifted her closer. She gasped as his thigh pressed against the soft mound of her pussy. He could feel her heat, and then he could smell it.Natural, needy, a heady scent that went to his head faster than any drug.


“I love you,” she breathed out, suddenly serious, her eyes moist with emotion, velvet soft with feeling. “I always have, Aiden.”


His arms tightened her around her, his head lowering to catch her lips in a kiss that seared his soul. It was no more than his lips to her lips as his eyes stared into hers. No more than the meeting of souls. In that moment Aiden knew that the gift of her love, given so long before, was all that had driven him. Unknowingly, instinctively, he had known that only she could light the bleak dark corners ofwho and what he was. And she filled it, lighting it with such emotion and such need, it nearly drove him to his knees.


“We have an audience,” she whispered against his lips.


“Fuck ‘em,” he grunted as his hands smoothed up her back, his heart glorying in her, in the many gifts she had given him.


“No.” She laughed then, joy spreading through her face. “Fuck me instead.Later.Maybe on a beanbag again?”


“You liked the beanbag,” he murmured as his body tightened at the thought. Keeping his arm around her, he turned quickly to face the snickering group watching him. “Well, Rey, it’s been informative. But it’s time for us to go. Get your lists together, visit when you can.” He drew Charity to the tunnel as she laughed behind him. “Hawke, assign someone here and get your ass to the jeep or I’m leaving without you.”


It was time to go home. But damned if he knew where he was going to find another beanbag on such short notice. Maybe he could improvise, he thought. Surely there was something similar.


Epilogue


They had locked her into a room by herself. A steel enclosed room. No doors. No windows. There was no view out, but the large two-way mirror provided a view in. What Hawke saw bit at his soul. The woman was slender, compact, staring silently from the fold-down cot she lay on. Her big blue eyes glittered with moisture but no tears had fallen in the hours she had been confined there. Resignation and acceptance lay over her like a cloak of pain.

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