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“Tit for tat,” Drake guessed, his voice flat, his eyes dull.

“That’s right. I’ll revisit every injury you gave her right on back to you—only each wound will be ten times worse.” And Trick would relish every fucking moment of it.

“If you hadn’t knocked me down at the meeting, Nash wouldn’t have sent me your way.”

“You came after me in the restroom to get even.”

“On Nash’s say-so. He told me I’d lose the respect of the pack if I didn’t retaliate. It wasn’t until later, after my failed attempt to follow his order to kidnap your girlfriend, that I realized he was playing us all.”

Trick lifted a brow. “You think he’s playing us?”

“I’m not the brightest lamp on the street, but even I can see he was using me. If I’d killed you, what would your Alpha have done?”

“Demanded that Morelli hand you over for execution.”

Drake gave a lazy nod. “That’s right. And then your Alpha would have owed Nash. What do you think Nash would have asked for? An alliance, right?”

“It’s a possibility. But it wouldn’t explain why you tried to kidnap my mate.”

“He wanted Trey to go to him for help. I told him it wouldn’t work. I told him that your pack’s tracker would be sent to find her. But Nash was sure that Trey would want his help, and then everyone could work together. Nash planned to call Trey to say he’d ‘found’ your girl. He said he wouldn’t demand an alliance for handing her over. Said he wouldn’t have to. He thinks you’d have felt like you owed him.” Drake let out a long breath. “I wasn’t convinced it would work out that way, but I followed orders.”

“And you think that you should therefore be spared?”

“No.” He released a dejected sigh. “I’ve done worse to others than what I’ve done to your girl. Karma comes for us all. But if I’m going down, Nash can sure as hell come down with me.” His eyes twinkled as he added, “Bet you haven’t been able to find out where he came from. On record, it’s like he just sprang out of nowhere, isn’t it?”

Dante came forward. “You know his real identity?”

“Well, that depends on how quick you intend to kill me.”

Sighing, Dante shook his head. “Why do people always try to bargain for a quick death?”

“It’s the only thing a captive has left to bargain with when they know they’re not getting out of the situation alive,” said Drake.

“That’s true enough.” Trick sliced out his claws, satisfied when their captive jerked. “Unfortunately for you, Drake, I really don’t care where he’s from.”

For the first time, Drake’s eyes flickered with panic. “You should care. Nash wants war.”

“We sensed that much,” said Dominic, sounding bored.

“But did you sense that he’s not working alone?” asked Drake. “Someone picked him, gave him a new ID, helped him become an Alpha, and then set him on a new path.”

“Who?” demanded Trey.

“I don’t know who it was. He never called them by their name. But he did say that they’re human. An extremist.” Drake made a sound of disgust. “Those guys are nuts. I got no damn idea why Nash would be willing to work with one of them. But I know that they want war as badly as he does. They’re planning to start it together.”

“What you’re saying is that Morelli and a human extremist are working together to then later destroy each other?” asked Trey, not bothering to hide his disbelief.

“No,” replied Drake. “The agreement is that Nash and his closest alliances won’t be attacked. But he’ll give up the locations of those who are hiding. Like you, Trey. If you’d agreed to that alliance, he’d have placed all the vulnerable shifters here, taken your best fighters with him, and left you to die at the hands of extremists.”

Trick twisted his mouth. “Well, that was a great story. Maybe there’s some truth in it—we’ll look into that. For now, my interest is purely in you. I really do hope you have a low pain threshold.” Trick balled up his fist and slammed it into Drake’s jaw.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

She was in bed when Trick walked into the room hours later. She looked young in her sleep, he thought. Especially with her hand tucked under her chin and the lines of her face smoothed into an expression of pure peace.

For a minute he stood near the bed, just watching her. Watching the slight rise and fall of her chest. He wanted to go to her. Touch her, wake her, slip inside her. But he couldn’t. Not yet. Not until he was calmer. Not until he’d washed off the blood and violence.

In the bathroom he shed his clothes and stepped into the shower stall. He tipped back his head and closed his eyes as the hot spray pounded down on him. Even though Drake was literally dead and buried, Trick felt no real satisfaction. Not now that he knew Drake had been just a puppet. Nothing short of Nash Morelli’s head on a pike would ease the lingering agitation that rode him.

His wolf wasn’t even close to calming. Not while a threat to his mate still existed. Not when she still hadn’t been fully avenged and—

There was a slight draft on his back as the shower door opened, and then soft hands slid around him. Trick let out a long breath. Fuck, he wanted her. Needed her. But he didn’t want her to have to deal with this side of him. “Baby—”

“Shh.” Frankie squirted some soap onto her hands and then lathered it into his shoulders. She didn’t rush. Didn’t talk. Just gave him the peace that she sensed he needed.

It hadn’t been the sound of the water running that woke her. It had been the feel of his agitation pulsing down their mating bond. She figured he’d probably prefer to be alone, but she could no more ignore the need to soothe him than she could ignore the need to eat.

She soaped down his shoulders and back, digging her fingers into his skin just enough for it to feel good and push away the tension. Little by little, his muscles lost their stiffness, and the frustration buzzing down their bond simmered down to a slight hum.

“Turn around for me,” she said. He did, and she washed his chest, abs, and arms. She’d meant to comfort him, not arouse him, but his cock was hard as steel and she could feel his need. It amplified her own, tightening her nipples and making her breasts ache. She ignored it as best she could—this here and now was about him.

Smoothing his hands down her back to palm her ass, Trick put his mouth to her ear. “I can smell how wet you are.” The sweet scent of her need filled the stall, making his head spin and his cock throb. Nuzzling her neck, he scraped his teeth over the claiming mark. “Mine.”

“Yours,” agreed Frankie. He brought his mouth down hard on hers. Gripping his shoulders, she moaned. The kiss was hot, wet, and hungry. He plundered and dominated and demanded her submission.

“Your throat,” he rumbled. “Give me your throat.”

Oh, now, that was asking for a lot more submission than she was comfortable giving. Frankie didn’t mind following his orders and letting him take the lead—it was often to her benefit, and she didn’t get a kick out of controlling others anyway. But offering him her throat? Yeah, that was asking a lot. “Trick—”

“Give me your throat.”

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