Coming September 26th.
I’m the dying leader of the human resistance. He’s the Alpha of the D.C. pack. He’s as rough and cold as they come and destined to be my enemy. But he needs me for something only a human can achieve. If I can pull off his mission, he’s got something no human can give me: a chance at living beyond a few months.
When I agreed, I knew I might lose my life, but danger has never scared me. I didn’t know I might also lose my heart…
The sound of laughter drifted outside of the rambling mausoleum my sister now called home as she said goodnight to the last of her dinner guests. Ever since she’d married the current alpha werewolf of the district, Penelope had become D.C. royalty. I wasn’t sure if she enjoyed it, but she was damned good at the role.
I was always invited to the shindigs but preferred a cigarette in the shadows of the garage. I’d taken up smoking a few weeks ago, along with a list of other bad habits too long to recite. It was sort of ironic that my impending death had led to a fuller life.
Well, fuller might not be the best term. More exciting existence? That might not be quite right either. A life of depravity. I wasn’t quite there, but it was a good goalpost.
I took another swig from the bottle of bourbon I’d grabbed from my brother-in-law’s stash, letting the burn wash away all thoughts of the faraway future. Another several gulps and I wouldn’t care that there wouldn’t be a next year for me. I had today, tomorrow, maybe next month, and a long list of things I was going to accomplish before I left this world.
The back door to the house opened. Donovan scanned the lawn and headed over to where I lurked in the shadows.
“That’s not going to help matters,” he said, pointing to the cigarette hanging from my fingers.
I lifted it and took another drag, looking the other way. We didn’t discuss my sickness, and I had no plans on changing that now. He might have had a lapse in memory, but that didn’t mean I would.
“Are you going to tell her before we leave?” he asked, not taking the hint.
I’d never met someone as stubborn as myself until my sister found him. It was like she was trying to double down on the pains in the asses in her life.
“No, I’m not.” As much as I wanted to ignore the topic, this was something I couldn’t afford to leave murky.
“What if you’re not here when she gets back?” Donovan stepped closer, a hint of the menace this shifter was capable of right beneath the surface.
I didn’t even straighten off the wall as I continued to smoke. He’d take a bullet for my sister, and I’d realized soon enough that he’d take some shrapnel for me too, simply because I was an extension of her. There was no doubt his bite was lethal, but he was all bark at the moment.
“If you tell her, she’ll stay. Is that what you want? Because I don’t.” And he didn’t either.
He stood still, staring up at the night sky as if he could wrench some answers out of it if he tried hard enough. “We could delay our leaving. We’d still go, but—”
“Wait for me to die first? Make her sit here and watch me wither away when there’s nothing she can do? I’m not doing that to her, and you won’t either.”
There were very few things I was sure of in life, and the feelings Donovan had for my sister were among them. It helped me sleep at night that she wouldn’t be alone after I was gone. He’d have her back until the bitter end. I might be doomed to die before I hit my twenty-fifth birthday, but she’d have him. They had one of those love stories that you couldn’t help but envy, that only the luckiest of the luckiest would ever experience.
He took a step away, dropped his head, hands in his pockets as he still tried to search for a solution that would save my sister pain.
“The doctor might still be able to fix you. We don’t know if this is it.”
It was hard not to laugh. The “cure” that had bought me some time wasn’t working anymore. His personal doctor had been poking and prodding at me for over a year, and all it had done was slow the progress. But I was still dying.
“It’s time to get her out of here and start a new life. I need to know that she’s somewhere happy and safe, away from all this mess.” As the wife of an alpha, and one that bore him an alpha son, she was protected to a certain degree from the chaos that was this world.
But if you were human? This wasn’t the place to live. Ever since the vampires and werewolves had made a pact and taken over the U.S., humans had become nothing more than slave labor and a food source. She was lucky. Most humans couldn’t get out. She could, and she’d be doing it if I had my way, which I intended.
“Somewhere happy, safe, and expecting you to follow?” His voice was gruff as he glanced over at me.
“Yes, if that’s what it takes.”
“You should come.”
“Did you miss the part about me withering away? Her choices have been about me for far too long. I want her to have a fresh start with no bad memories attached. I’m not going to keep dragging her down, making her worry. She can have a great life with you, and I want her to start living it.”
He didn’t respond, and the tilt of his head didn’t give me any confidence that this would be the end of the discussion.
“You’ll keep my secret, right?” He hadn’t given me up yet, but that didn’t mean it was a guarantee. I hadn’t yet been able to wriggle the promise out of him. He’d been keeping my secret for a long time now, and for a man that was usually up front, it had to be a strain.
He dropped his gaze to the ground and kept it there.
“It’s better for her this way,” I said, knowing that trumped all in his world.
He reached over and slipped the cigarette from my fingers, taking a drag of it. “It’s your secret to tell.” He crushed it under his heel after he did. “By the way, these things will kill you.”
I laughed at his bad joke because we both knew the Sucking Sickness would kill me long before the cigarettes would.
As far as brothers-in-law went, I’d done pretty well with Donovan, even if he was technically the enemy. His unfortunate status as a werewolf I wrote off as an accident of birth.
“By the way, what happened to your wayward guest?” I asked.
Donovan laughed before he said, “Cole arrives when he wants.”
“You sure this is the guy that should be taking over the pack?” From the little I’d heard, the guy sounded like a total dick. I guess you needed to be a dick to step in as an alpha to a pack that didn’t know you.
“He might be the only one who can.”
“What about Huddy?” I asked, knowing it was already a done deal.
“He’s got the ability but zero desire. For what’s coming, only someone brutal will do anyway.”
For what’s coming…
No one knew for sure how long the pact with the vampires and werewolves would last, but the tensions with all the races had been running high. Most humans didn’t have work or a steady supply of food. The situation between the vampires and the werewolves was rumored to be developing cracks. All the creatures that had crawled out of the woodwork with them had a stake in this messed-up situation. You couldn’t walk down the street and not feel the tension in every breathing being, and there were many that had crawled out of the depths after the war and takeover.
“That’s why you need to get her out of here,” I said to Donovan.
“I will.” He gave me a last look, brimming with the things he wished he could do and regrets for the things that were coming.
Just when I thought I’d crack under the heaviness of the reality he was dishing out, he gave me a nod and retreated back to the house, as he would disappear from this hell.
I took a few more swigs from the bottle, trying to wash away the unpleasant thoughts he’d left. I’d drown them in alcohol along with the rest of the things I didn’t like to think about.
Donovan hadn’t been gone for more than ten minutes or so when something large leapt over the back wall a few hundred feet away. I jerked back into the shadows, my hand going for the knife tucked into my boot. My reflexes were only a split second slower than they were a few chugs of bourbon ago, but much slower than they were before the night started.
The man strolling across the lawn had too much confidence and brazenness to be an intruder. Looked like the wayward alpha, Donovan’s soon-to-be replacement, had finally decided to arrive. He’d been here for a week already but had barely been at the house. I’d yet to meet him, and I ducked farther into the shadows, along the path to the side door, hoping to prolong my winning streak.
“Hey, you.” Cole’s voice was deep, carrying easily across the sprawling lawn.
I kept walking. He might think he was going to be in charge of the D.C. district, but I wasn’t going to be one of his charges, no matter where I lived.
“Stop,” he said.
Stop? Not “Excuse me, miss?” or even “Hello.” Oh yes, this werewolf reeked of alpha, even more so than my brother-in-law.
“I told you to stop,” he said. There was a breeze of motion, and then he was blocking my way to the door. “Did you not hear me?”
His shoulders filled the side door I’d been about to enter, his body all hard, coiled muscles underneath his t-shirt, just ready to strike. Messy, dark locks, nearly black, contrasted with eyes so grey, as to nearly appear silver, and added a chill to his sun-warmed skin.
Donovan had said he needed someone tough, cold—raw, even—to step into the alpha position. He hadn’t been kidding. The man that stood in front of me sucked up all the air around him the way a bomb did right before it leveled a city. The glint in his steel eyes left no doubt he’d walk away from the destruction without a shred of regret as he stepped over the bodies on his way out.
The aroma of bourbon drifted off him. That I could smell it after what I’d put down didn’t bode well for his intake—or mine. I definitely needed to drink some more.
He ran his eyes over the length of me, taking in the ripped jeans and snug sweater with a snag on the hem. The rough quality of my clothing didn’t seem to deter his appreciation of my form.
“You off work for the night?” he asked, leaning a shoulder on the doorjamb as he gave me a lazy smile.
He thought I was a servant. Or maybe even a whore. He didn’t know my sister would’ve ripped Donovan apart if he touched another woman, but then, she was a human. Most shifters had the lowest opinions of us.
Part of me wanted to punch him in the face. A larger part of me wanted to take him up on the offer he was presenting.
He was dark, dangerous, and disposable. He was everything a dying girl needed to feel alive without remorse when I walked away after the fun was over. In other words, the perfect ending to my evening.
I edged in closer, leaning on the opposite side of the door.
“My evening might be free, depending.” My words might’ve been biting, but the smile made it clear I wasn’t opposed to his invitation.
His eyes ran the length of me, stopping on my breasts and then my hips before nodding. “If I’d known you were going to be here, I might’ve come sooner.”
He leaned closer, raising a finger to trail over my lower lip before moving his hand down to graze the skin of my neck.
Oh yes, he’d be perfect for the evening. My good nights were running in short supply. Everyone had a finite amount of time, but the urgency in grabbing all the joy out of life you could rose as that clock started ticking down. I was watching the final sands run out and needed to make the most of the time I had left. I was down to counting good nights, and I planned on having as many as possible.
Why not fuck him? What did I have left to hold on to? There would never be a mister right in my life.
There was only one little catch. Did I warn him now or let him find out at a later date? I didn’t particularly like surprises.
“Just an FYI, I’m Sassy, Penelope’s sister—Donovan’s sister-in-law.” Even if I did decide to fuck him, it was best to get that out of the way. Didn’t need any awkward shocks after the fact when I ran into him at the family dinner or something.
“Does that matter for some reason?” he asked, a smirk appearing because clearly he didn’t think it mattered.
“Not to me,” I said, arching slightly.
“Then we agree.” He reached around to the base of my skull, pulling me closer.
He pressed me into the door as his lips grazed mine, then he weaved his fingers into my thick platinum locks. If the way he kissed was any indication, and it usually was, this was going to be a good night.
This man would know exactly what he was doing and wouldn’t be shy in doing it. Why shouldn’t I spend the night with him?
He pulled back, his mouth hovering near mine. We stood there frozen for a moment as he breathed in my scent, examining my face as if he hadn’t quite seen me the first time. If I hadn’t been confident in my appeal, I might’ve pulled back first from the read I was getting off him.
The heat from his eyes cooled and they shuttered, becoming void of emotion. He dropped his fingers from my hair, taking a strand with them in his eagerness to untangle from me.
“Maybe another time,” he said, putting a few more steps in between us and giving me a smile like he’d just handed me a wilted bunch of flowers in a beauty pageant I’d taken second place in. “Donovan wouldn’t like me messing around with his little sister.”
I knew bullshit when I heard it. Not even seconds ago, it hadn’t mattered one bit. This man was an alpha to his core. They did as they pleased, always.
“I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
He turned, walking away, leaving me staring at his back, trying to piece the situation together.
My breath might’ve smelled of booze, but so did his. He could hardly fault me for that.
Stupid, stupid, Sassy. He was an alpha.
“It’s because I’m sick.”
He froze and then turned back toward me. His eyes flickered for a second with…pity? Remorse? I couldn’t tell; it had been too fleeting, only there long enough to add to the insult.
“Some things aren’t meant to be.” He shrugged and continued on.
My shoulder crashed into the wall as I leaned against it, feeling all of two inches tall. He smelled the Sucking Sickness on me. He didn’t want to fuck the sick girl.
I stayed glued to the wall for some time with only my bottle of bourbon to warm me.