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God, she really despised this asshole. She put her hand over his. “You know, I can only think that you asked a genie for a big cock but he turned you into one instead.” She unsheathed her claws, stabbing them into his hand, scraping bone.

His eyes bulged and he cried out in pain—her wolf sure did love that sound.

Frankie gave him a mocking smile. “Why did the black bear cross the road? Because the she-wolf wanted to jerk him off with a pencil sharpener.”

“You little bitch.”

“I like to think of myself as more of a hemorrhoid. I mean, look how gifted I am at irritating assholes—you’re practically steaming.” She sheathed her claws, releasing him.

He cradled his hand. “Are you out of your fucking mind?”

“Depends what day it is.”

He looked about to curse a blue streak, but then he froze as some of the Phoenix and Mercury Pack members appeared, including Derren and Zander. All of them radiated hostility as they glared at Rio. At the same time, Ally hurried down the bar to see what was happening.

“What did you say to her?” Marcus demanded.

Rio widened his eyes. “Me? She just stabbed my damn hand!”

“He just wanted me to be clear that Trick prefers guys to girls and it would be better for us both if I left Trick before we fully imprinted,” Frankie told them. “I did explain that we’re true mates and that Rio should just walk away, but he needed a little . . . convincing.”

Marcus went toe to toe with him. “You tried to get between Trick and his mate? You actually fucking tried that?”

Rio swallowed. “She needed to hear the truth. You know as well as I do that he’s g—”

“Mated,” Marcus finished. “He’s mated and happy. You saw that for yourself. That’s why you came over here. You resent that she can make him happy when it was something you could never do. I told you long ago that pursuing him was pointless. There was only one person he’d ever commit to, but you didn’t want to see that. Tonight, you did. And instead of being happy for the guy you’ve repeatedly claimed to care about, you’re trying to plant seeds of doubt in his mate’s head to spoil what they have.”

“You’re lucky all she did was stab your hand,” said Taryn. “If she’d had a hammer nearby, things would have worked out very differently.”

“Hammer?” echoed Ally.

“I’ll tell you about it later,” Taryn told her.

Derren clenched his fists, still glaring at Rio. “I’m thinking we should continue this conversation in the alley outside.” Translation: he thought they should take the bear outside and pound into him a little.

“That’s an idea I can get behind,” said Zander.

Marcus fisted Rio’s collar and began dragging him toward the rear of the club.

“Wait!” cried Rio, but they didn’t.

Zander lingered long enough to shoot a look of warning at his mate. “Stay here with the others. Don’t go off on your own.”

He started to follow the other males when Gwen called out, “Wait, before you go, is it all right if I just . . .” Trailing off, she shook her head. “It’s okay. Never mind.”

Zander’s eyes narrowed. “Gwen, spit it out.”

She waved a hand. “Really, it doesn’t matter.”

“Tell me what you were going to say.”

“But it doesn’t matter,” she insisted, eyes wide with innocence.

He swore. “Stop testing my sanity.”

“But it’s fun to watch you lose it a slice at a time.”

With another curse, he strode off.

Smiling, Gwen said, “His protectiveness knows no boundaries.”

Harley sighed. “I can relate. I’m pretty sure it’s a dominant male thing.”

“Yeah,” agreed Shaya. “I feel sorry for them in a lot of ways. They never seem to realize that they’re actually never going to get their own way all the time. They keep insisting on it. It’s like watching people purposely bang their heads against a brick wall. Weird or what?”

Jesse cleared his throat. “I’m right here.”

Shaya waved that away. “Ally, I’m still not drunk. Help me.”

“You got it,” said the Beta.

The hinges squealed as Trick pushed open the heavy wooden door. It scraped noisily against the plank floor. Unless there was a captive, no one set foot in the hut. They deliberately neglected it, wanting it to look as miserable and grubby as possible.

It stank of dirt, dust, and rot. It was bare apart from a hard chair, a torn mattress, and a red bucket. The windows were smudged with dirt, and there were stains on the floor thanks to the leaky roof. Dead flies dotted the windowsills, and there were some very elaborate spiderwebs in the corners of the ceiling. This far away from the cave dwelling, all that could be heard was the whine of mosquitoes and the tree branches scratching the outer walls.

Trick’s gaze immediately went to Drake, whose arms and legs were tightly bound to a chair by a thick rope. Rope was also looped around his chest.

In short, Drake wasn’t going anywhere. And he seemed very aware of it.

Rather than thrashing around, fighting his restraints, he sat very still. He wasn’t sweating or breathing hard. Though his heartbeat was a little fast, it wasn’t pounding with fear. Drake knew he wasn’t getting out of this alive, and he’d apparently decided to accept that.

Trick’s wolf wanted his fear. Wanted to see and smell it, just as he wanted to see and smell his blood.

The boards creaked with each step Trick took forward. Trey, Ryan, Dante, and Dominic fanned out behind him. Their captive didn’t look good at all. His hair was greasy and unkempt, and his clothes were wrinkled and scruffy. Wherever the guy had been hiding, he clearly hadn’t had access to clean clothes or a shower.

Drake glanced around Trick. “Your girlfriend isn’t with you? Shame. I like her.”

He seemed to genuinely mean it. “She broke your nose,” Trick reminded him.

“And almost bashed my head in with a hammer. She’s a fighter. I like that.”

“She’s not my girlfriend. She’s my mate.”

“Well, that explains a few things. Like why you had your pack mate run me down like a rabid dog.” He flicked a look at Ryan.

Trick folded his arms across his chest. “From the things your Alpha said, that’s pretty much what you are. He suspended you as Beta. And he claims to have cut you loose too.”

Drake scoffed. “Nash is no Alpha.”

“True. And you’re no Beta.”

“True,” allowed Drake, unoffended. “So how is this gonna go? Execution? Brawl? Torture? In your position, I’d go the torture route. I would have tortured your mate if I could have. Well, not until I’d fucked every orifice in her body.” He sighed when Trick didn’t allow himself to be goaded. “Not easy to rattle, are ya?”

“It’s hard to take that kind of stuff seriously when it’s streaming out of the mouth of a guy who got his ass kicked by a girl.”

“She didn’t kick my ass.”

“No, you did the kicking. Cracked a rib. You also bruised her jaw. Put a goose egg on her head. Fractured a bone in her leg. Pricked her neck with your claws. And almost dislocated her shoulder.” Anger thrumming through his system, Trick took another step forward. “So tell me, Drake, what do you think I’m going to do to you?”

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