Awakening [The Wolves of Pray 2]
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by Christine Bell
Category: Romance/Dark Fantasy
Description: Sean Mulaney's beloved mate Sara is dead and her killer's trail has grown cold. Eaten up by grief and guilt, it's an effort just to get through the day. Now, after a year in mourning, his animal instincts have reawakened. As Sean struggles to control the need clawing at him, along comes Chandra and she wants more than just passion. But if she refuses, she might blow her once chance to convince him that she can rock his world and fill the empty space in his heart. Will Sean let love in, only to risk having it taken away again?
eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: March 2011
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [74 KB]
Reading time: 44-61 min.
Pray, Montana, March 10, 2010
Chandra woke to the sound of footsteps stumbling up the stairs, then down the hallway past her bedroom door. She peered at the clock next to her bed and groaned. 3:00 a.m. It was time to ask Liam to move her quarters to the next wing over. She'd still be close enough if little Ryan needed to stop by at night to talk but far enough away that she could avoid having to hear the grand, late-night entrances his father, Sean, had gotten into the habit of making this past month. It was too painful being this close, watching him come apart at the seams a little more each day.
A feminine peal of laughter interrupted her thoughts. She closed her eyes as her heart squeezed painfully in her chest. Oh, no way. Sean had been lucky so far that Ryan had slept through his drunken entrances over the past weeks, but there was no way he could sleep through that. How could he do this to them? To Ryan, she amended quickly.
The laugh, nasal and high-pitched, sounded again, and Chandra rolled off her bed and onto her feet. The sympathy she'd felt moments before evaporated instantly under the white heat of fury.
Clearly, the two lovebirds were so entranced with one another they were entirely unconcerned about the feelings of the sweet little boy sleeping a few doors down. If they were making this much noise before they even made it to the bedroom, Chandra cringed to think of the kind of racket they would make once inside.
She was halfway out the door to give them a piece of her mind before she realized she was buck naked. Stalking quickly to her dresser, she grabbed a nightgown, jamming it over her head and adjusting it as she headed to Sean's bedroom.
She reached his door, growling as she gave it two sharp raps. Giggles erupted from the room, and the voices within modulated to the overly exaggerated whispers only drunkards can manage. Stumbling footsteps reached the door, then paused. It swung open to reveal a disheveled Sean. His honey curls were tousled, his shirt opened to the waist revealing his flat, hard stomach and bare chest. The verbal lashing she had mentally rehearsed on the way down the hall died at the sight of him. Blood roared in her ears as desire hit her hard, momentarily eclipsing her anger.
"See anything you like?" he asked in that drunken whisper as he weaved in place, leaning heavily on the door jamb.
Chandra tore her gaze away from his body and met his bleary eyes, mentally cursing herself for being distracted by his physique when she was so mad at him she could scream.
She rallied quickly, working up a fair imitation of an incredulous snort. "Uh, yeah, if I'm ever in the market for a drunken dumb-ass I will definitely look you up. But for now, I'm all set. I wanted to come by and tell you that you and your obnoxious friend are loud enough to wake the dead and, unless you want your son to come and witness what a pathetic mess you've become, you might want to shut it down for the night, Champ."
A petite but buxom blonde with improbably large breasts encased in an impossibly small shirt stumbled up behind him, wrapping her arms around his midsection possessively. The cloying scent of liberally applied Opium perfume was so overwhelming to Chandra's sensitive nose, she almost gagged.
Still, as angry as she was, relief coursed through her as it finally registered that the blonde woman was exactly that: a woman. She wasn't a werewolf like herself and Sean, so there was no way the relationship was heading anywhere serious.
Blondie pouted over Sean's shoulder and whined, "Seany, who is this lady? And why is she talking about me that way?"
"That's a great question. Who do you think you are, Chandra?" His eyes seemed to have cleared a bit, and his tone was challenging.
Not willing to back down, Chandra met his gaze with a cool glare. "Listen, Seany. Do the right thing here. Give Blondie some cab fare and send her on her way. And next time, have a little respect for your son and go to her place. The boy has been through enough without you confusing him by traipsing some woman he doesn't even know through here."
Sean's eyes grew icy. He shrugged the blonde off his shoulders and said softly, "Amber, why don't you go ahead and make us a drink. I'll be back in one minute." He grasped Chandra's wrists and pulled her down the hallway back into her own room, then shut the door behind them.
"Let me go," she bit out, wrenching her wrists from his grasp.
"You've overstepped your bounds, Chandra. I know you've been a sort of mother figure for Ryan these past few months. I appreciate all of your help with him, and I value our friendship. But no one knows or understands what my son is going through more than me. Apparently you forgot that he's having a sleep over at Niles' place tonight with his son, Spencer. He. Is. Not. Here. And I would never, ever bring home some one-night stand if he were. I resent that you would even think it of me."
Chandra's stomach lurched as she realized what Sean said was true. Ryan had told her about it earlier in the week. He was even excited about it, in his own subdued way. How had she forgotten? As she thought about it, she realized she hadn't seen him in the family room after dinner, but she figured he was out with Sean. It had totally slipped her mind.
Embarrassment refueled her anger. "Well, maybe I would have thought of that if you hadn't woken me up with your cavorting at three in the morning. Even if it wasn't for the woman, this has got to stop. You're acting like a jerk."
"And you are acting like a jealous mate."
The words hung heavy between them for a moment then Chandra's pale cheeks bloomed with furious color. He couldn't say why, but nothing in his current life gave him greater satisfaction than riling her up. With her unruly main of auburn curls and her green eyes flashing fire, she looked like an avenging angel. If he wasn't so pissed off, he would have grinned at her, just to rile her up even more. But he was pissed. Who was she to judge him? She couldn't possibly understand what it had been like for him to lose Sara.
His stomach clenched painfully at the thought of his mate. He tried to picture her lovely face. It took a while these days, longer than it should have, and he hated himself for it. It was like a cruel joke.
For the first few months, he'd wanted to forget her, the way she'd smelled, her soft laugh and forgiving nature. He tried to forget, because thinking of her hurt too much. But she was part of everything around him. When he dressed in the morning, he would find her pink fluffy socks mixed in with his. Outside his bedroom window, her rose garden had continued to bloom. Christ, when he went to the bathroom, her fucking soap was on the side of the tub. He couldn't turn around without her presence right there, slamming him in the gut. And now? Nine months later, he wanted--needed--to remember her, or else it was going to be as if she'd never been there. What could Chandra know of that loss? And, almost as bad as losing her, was the knowledge that he had failed her.
With sudden clarity he realized that he was failing his son as well.
Chandra had recovered from her initial shock at his comment and let loose on him. "Jealous mate? Jealous mate? I wouldn't be your mate if you and Scooby Doo were the last two canines on the planet."
He didn't respond, caught up in his own painful revelation. The fire in her eyes died as she looked at him, the anger seeming to drain out of her.
"Damn it, Sean, how about caring friend? That's what I'm trying to be here."
He turned away and covered his face with his hand as he slumped down in the chair at the foot of her bed.
"You're right," he muttered. "I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I do the best I can with Ryan. I try to help him through this. But it hurts so much. It's almost like when my pain and his combine, I can't take it.
"The first few months after Sara died, I was in shock. I didn't even really think about tomorrow or the fact that I would never see her face or hear her voice again, you know? But then watching Liam and Amalie together. And Thanksgiving. And Christmas. Now, a new year has begun. It's moving so fast. Lately I've been going out after he goes to sleep, and having some drinks to take the edge off. Because it's real now. The world just keeps on turning, and she's never coming back."
She walked to him, arms open, and cradled his head to her stomach, rocking slowly, murmuring words meant to comfort. He wrapped his arms around her hips and held on tight as she swayed, letting her warmth soothe his battered soul.
They stayed that way until a shrill voice from down the hall called out, "Seany, where are yoo-oo? Come out, come out wherever you are! I hafta use the ladies room, and I'm gonna get lost in this house."
Sean stiffened and pulled his head back. How to handle his would-be paramour's grating entreaties when he wanted nothing more than to stay here and let Chandra hold him for a little longer?
"Holy mother of God, is that a seal barking?" he deadpanned, hoping to lighten things a bit.
Chandra let out a guffaw and covered her mouth to stifle it. "Now, now, Seany, that's a terrible thing to say about your new girlfriend. You'd better get back in there before she wakes up the whole house with that honking."
Sean knew there was little chance of that. The house was huge and he, Ryan, and Chandra were the only ones with rooms in the east wing, but she was right. He had to figure out what to do with Amber now that he realized he didn't want her after all.
"Yeah, I guess." He stood and shifted from one foot to the other, trying to figure out what to say next. "Listen, thanks for caring. I really do appreciate everything you've done for me and Ryan these past few months. You've been a great friend." He hugged her tight against his chest.
As he squeezed her close, he realized with a start that she was wearing only a thin nightgown that barely covered her. And had she always smelled so good? Like clean sheets and sunshine. He fought the urge to bury his face in her hair and gave her one last squeeze before he let her go.
She turned and started for the door to let him out. Sean followed a short distance behind. He tried not to stare, but damn if the cheeks of her behind weren't peeking out from the bottom of her too-short nightgown. It took all of his strength not to reach out and palm one of those cheeks to see if it felt as silky and plump as it looked. Something primal he thought had died with Sara stirred within him. Desire. Not your standard biological function variety that manifested itself in morning wood, wet dreams, or the ability to bump uglies with some stranger. No, this had nothing to do with basic biology. This was raw, uncut chemistry.
Sex had been the last thing on his mind for the better part of a year. But he was an animal, a wolf at heart, and werewolves had hungers that humans couldn't understand. Over the past few months, it had been a struggle. The instinct to mate, especially for a powerful, virile male, was strong. It was an internal, grinding need that had to be addressed. In the absence of it, he'd become irritable. The iron control he'd been exercising to this point was starting to slip, and he sometimes found himself having to focus just to stay in one form or another. When he got stressed, his body temperature rose, urging him to change. He had to get that under wraps, or it could be dangerous for both him and his pack. If he changed at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and humans found out monsters really do exist? Disaster. There's nothing more monstrous than a group of fearful humans. Just ask the "witches" of Salem.
He'd started going out to the bars a few nights a week back in January, at first hoping he could get drunk enough to dull the ache gnawing at him and get some sleep. He quickly realized that wasn't going to work, and over the past week or so had come to terms with the fact that he needed to find a fuck buddy. Good sex, no strings.
Then, in walked Amber. She wasn't really his type, but she'd been persistent. And that was good. He didn't want to burn for her anyway. He would take her out, show her a good time and, if all went well, have mutually satisfying sex. They had gone out two other times, but until tonight he hadn't been able to bring himself to seal the deal. With Ryan out and his libido at a critical point, he was going to bite the bullet and get it done come hell or high water. Until Chandra had banged on his door.
And as she walked in front of him, hips swaying, the riotous, unfocused need that had been clawing at him for the past few months narrowed to a pinprick of pulsing energy with a clear target: Chandra.
As Chandra walked Sean to the door, she blinked back tears, calling herself all kinds of a fool for thinking that something had shifted between them when she was holding him. He had been quick to remind her she was a great friend, a buddy. That was all, and she better get used to the fact that there were going to be women for him. If not Amber, then someone else. He wasn't a eunuch, for crying out loud. He had the right to a private life and had the right to move on. She knew from her own experience how hard it was to be without a partner, especially for a were. As long as Ryan wasn't home, she should have no beef with his decision. She took a deep breath and turned to face him.
"Listen, I'm sorry I got in the way. You go ahead, have fun. We can talk more in the morning." She looked up and his warm, chocolate eyes burned into hers.
He leaned in close, his warm breath tickling her mouth. Her stomach did a flip but at the last moment he veered and kissed her cheek lightly. He pulled back a scant inch and whispered, "Good idea. See you in the morning." And with that, he turned, opened the door, and walked out, closing the door behind him.
Chandra stomped over to her bed, pulled back the sheet, and stripped off her nightgown before getting back into her bed. What the hell was that? It was like he was teasing her. She was used to his teasing, but this time it was different. He had looked...intense. She shivered as she thought of his hot gaze.
Her reverie was cut short as she heard a shrill voice down the hall exclaim, "There you are, Seany. I was looking everywhere for you!"
Chandra groaned and covered her head with the blanket.