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by Riley Ashford
Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Romance
Description: In a culture where women are supposed to marry and breed, werewolf Anea Lombardi is a widow three times over, and worse, childless. That's why the Elders of her pack have appointed her to participate in the sacred Three Brothers ritual -- which means having sex with three partners in front of the entire pack. No big deal, right? Anea doesn't expect her humiliation to turn into immeasurable pleasure... or true love. Um, with all three men. Who says a girl can't have it all?
eBook Publisher: Changeling Press LLC, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010
90 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [48 KB]
Reading time: 25-36 min.
"I refuse." Anea Lombardi stood before the Elders, who were the ruling Council of the Pack, and stared at them with her back straight and head held high. In the cavern where legend proclaimed the first Pack members were born, with torchlight dancing on its craggy walls and incense smoke wafting through the dank air, she'd waited impatiently for these fools to pronounce her punishment.
But she had not expected to be the Pack's tribute.
No, its sacrifice.
Elder Jonathon Stiles, the Council's leader and the most supercilious of the five men passing judgment, smiled indulgently. "You are a widow three times over. Worse, you have no children to show for those matings. You are not fulfilling your duties to the Pack."
"Duties given to me for no other reason than I am female."
He rasped a chuckle. "If men had wombs, we would do the same. Alas, our contribution is far simpler than yours. But you get much in return, Anea."
Except freedom. She could not choose what she wanted for her own life because the Pack needed her to churn out pups. Her own mother had died giving birth to her fifth child -- to Anea. She had never known the softness of a mother; being raised by warriors had made her tough. She didn't cry; she handed you your ass. Her upbringing had also made her long for a life she could never have -- unless she wanted to give up the Pack's protection. She wasn't a wuss by any means. However, werewolves without a Pack were vulnerable to things, and to creatures, she didn't even want to contemplate. She chafed at the constraints of the Pack's expectations, but she wasn't an impulsive fool, either. Most of the time.
Her father had passed away last year. Her brothers were all married and their mates either pregnant or raising their young. Despite having shaped her from childhood with their own warrior ways and manly attitudes, they did not understand her refusal to act like every other insipid female that lived within their community.
She stared straight ahead. "I have married as Pack law demanded."
"And purposely avoided pregnancy." Elder Stiles shook his head. "You knew there would be punishment for this transgression."
"So honoring the Daughter of Man is punishment?"
Elder Stiles's face flushed red. The other Council members had the grace to look away. A couple cleared their throats, and some looked down as if studying the paperwork on the table. Bastards.
"Of course the representation of the... the female in our rites is a great honor. This is your opportunity to make up for your failures. You must show the Pack you are worthy of its protection."
"And if I get pregnant?"
"No female has ever gotten pregnant," he said, "but if you do, you know that it means great blessings upon the Pack."
Genetic mutations and species evolution offered better explanations for werewolves. But no, the Pack honored the arcane belief that three wolves, Rutilus, Atra, and Niveus, fucked a random human and managed to impregnate her at the same time. Six months later, she popped out three werewolves: red, black and blonde, which became the werewolf branches of the Pack. The ruling three of the entire Pack, who had more authority than even the Elders passing judgment on her now, insisted that the legend be re-enacted every twenty-five years. And this time, it was the duty of her clan, the descendants of Atra, to put on the show.
"You will, of course, be generously compensated."
Surprise fluttered through Anea. The Elders were switching tactics. This was no longer a punishment, but a favor? Uneasiness clamored through her.
"What would this generosity include?" she asked.
"The Alphas have authorized a... a stipend for your time and... er, effort."
"One hundred thousand dollars... so long as you fulfill the entire obligation of the festival rites."
Anea looked at the floor so she wouldn't give away her shock. "And how much of that will be tithed to the Pack?"
"None," said Elder Stiles. He sounded as though he were chewing on rocks. "The entire amount is yours to do with as you wish. In addition, you will be granted singulus licentia."
Her shock deepened. So, the Alphas were offering her money. And the Elders of Atra were offering her what she wanted most -- freedom. Under singulus licentia she would never have to marry or procreate, and she would retain the protection of the Pack. It was a rare designation, often given to females who became priestesses or healers.
All she had to do was prostitute herself for a week.
Well, how was that any different than allowing the Elders to arrange her marriages, none of which had lasted a year due to the untimely deaths of her mates?
Her first husband had been nice enough, but rarely took her to bed. He preferred men, and though the Pack didn't forbid gay relationships, he hadn't wanted it known. She'd kept the secret, even after he drowned trying to save the lover who'd gotten caught in a riptide. Her second husband had been an older man, who enjoyed fellatio more than intercourse. She wasn't opposed to blowjobs, but he did not like to reciprocate. It had been a very dissatisfying relationship. They'd only been married a couple of months when he died of a heart attack. Her third husband died mere days after their wedding night. He had a terrible temper and liked his drink. A bar brawl ended with him stabbed in the heart with a silver blade.
After three dead husbands and her apparent barrenness, no one wanted to mate with her -- and that suited Anea just fine. Too bad the Council found out about her birth control. Then they insisted on pairing her with Erick and Tarn, who were already mated to each other, but needed a female for breeding. Not even that duo wanted her, preferring to turn a human woman into a werewolf.
"Anea?" asked Elder Stiles.
She realized she'd been peering at the gleaming stone floor too long. Her sex life thus far had been unremarkable. She had dutifully married all the men the Elders deemed. She had never been in love, never hoped to find an equal partner. Maybe the sex would be good. Maybe her lovers would be kind. And she would be free -- and rich.
"I want it in writing," she said, lifting her gaze to the Elders. She looked each one in the eye. "If I agree to be the Pack's whore, I want your written promise I shall be free to live as I choose and will always have the protection of the Pack."
"You shall have it, Anea." He looked at the three other members of the Council. "As is dictated by the Alphas, you must spend one evening with each representation of our wolf fathers. In four days' time, on the night of the full moon, you will mate with the Three Brothers at the pinnacle of our festival."
She hadn't realized the festival rites would be enacted so quickly. Either they hadn't planned ahead, which was ridiculous, or she was a replacement for the previously approved Daughter of Man. Elder Stiles had tried to make her accept the role as punishment, then as reward. And she was probably standing here because she was the only female they had any sway over. Assholes. She stifled the urge to punch all the Elders in their fat, loathsome heads. Argh!
"Prepare what you need," said Elder Stiles. "You leave tonight."