I gasped, jerking up as my eyes shot open. My hand was clenched in Dav's shirt, and I was still in his arms. Dav's hand rested on my cheek, easing the slight sting from where he'd been hitting me. I vaguely recalled him calling my name.
I looked around and brought one hand up to my mouth to soothe the burning pain. I pulled my fingers away and stared at the red stain. It hadn't been a nightmare. The smell was awful, and I could barely stand the taste in my mouth.
"I'm sorry, I know you’re hurt too, but we need you. Bob is close to dying."
My head turned automatically toward the bathroom. I was shocked he wasn’t already dead. Several of the males were moving bodies, but his wasn't on the floor by the door anymore.
"He's on the couch."
Velaku crouched down next to Dav, crouching over us. I flinched away from him; would he be angry that I killed Mishtar? He'd claimed that right and I'd taken it from him.
"I'm sorry to ask this of you; I know you don't owe the clans anything. But Bob is the Alpha of his clan, and all the Pacific water animal clans look to his leadership. Not all of them support our pact with the humans; they feel the loss of clean waters and beaches keenly. We need him to keep them in line."
I took a shaky breath and nodded, glad that Velaku didn’t seem angry with me at all. I may not owe the clans anything but there had been enough death here. I couldn't let anyone suffer, even if all I wanted was for Dav to take me out of there. "I'll try."
My stomach burned like fire when they helped me up. I panted, trembling as they supported my weight. I look down and noticed that I had a bandage across my stomach. I'd passed out when Dav tightened a pressure bandage on my arm. I reached up and felt my neck, touching a bandage across my shoulder where Elalera had sliced me open.
"I'm so sorry Ellis; you were supposed to be safe," Velaku said. His wings were folded behind him, but drooped low. "My mother did that, didn't she?"
I looked him in the eyes, seeing his anger and pain. I wouldn't add to it. "You didn't make Mishtar act the way he did, and you don't need to apologize. I don't blame her. I just wish I could have saved her; if I'd known I had fangs and venom sooner . . . ."
I shuddered, swallowing hard.
Dav's hand tightened on my arm, and he looked at me with fear in his eyes. "Ellis--"
"He's not breathing!"
I ripped my good arm free of Dav's hold and stumbled over to the couch, ignoring the pain in my body. The group of men surrounding it parted for me. The large whale Carthera barely fit on the sofa, his feet hanging over one end. I put two fingers on his throat, feeling for a pulse. Unbelievably, he still had one. It was going super slow, though, and the blood was barely oozing out of the wide tears in his stomach.
But he still wasn't breathing.
Tilting his head back, I covered his nose and breathed in his mouth twice. I waited, then gave him another breath. Between them, I tried to assess his condition. A hand landed on my shoulder.
"Ellis, stop. He’s too injured, too hurt. "
"No!" The fingers tightened, but I shrugged the hand off, giving Bob another breath.
"I can help him. He's healing, look!" I pointed at the marks on his stomach. I'd never seen a Carthera take that much damage and survive, but he was already healing. There was pink flesh and the raw edges of the wounds were smoothing. I just had to keep his heart and lungs going so that he could.
I heard shuffling around behind me, and when I looked up, Dav was no longer behind me. I could feel his fear through our mate bond, but I focused past it. I couldn't let Bob die, not when he'd been trying to protect us. I filled my lungs, pressing the air into Bob's mouth yet again, and then I looked up.
The males of his clan surrounding Bob had pulled in close. They ringed the couch, their bodies pressed tight together in a wall of flesh. They all reached out in some way, touching Bob someplace on his body. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was some sort of death ritual as my stare skipped from grim face to grim face.
Then they began humming; each had a different note that rose and fell and yet fit into one cohesive wave of sound. The sound swelled and dipped, reminding me of ocean.
The chant filled the room and drowned out the other sounds. I remained on my knees and kept breathing for Bob, focusing on him to the exclusion of everything else until I felt the bodies next to me shift. There was a tingle that danced across my skin as the legs of the whales on either side of me touched my body, closing the circle. I shuddered as the energy began to build in the room. I’d felt it a few times before when Carthera came to the clinic to be healed but never like this. Never this strong.
It swept through me, making me shake. I barely controlled my body, feeling like something was inside me and I had to do something, had to let it out. The next time I sent my breath into Bob's lungs it felt as if this tingling electricity poured from my mouth and into him. I was frozen over him for what felt like forever before the energy finally broke, and I sat up with a gasp. Unable to believe my eyes, I pulled back and stared in shock as his wounds began to seal, the flesh knitting together visibly as we watched. The humming sound grew louder and the tension in the room rose.
The next moment the silence was so profound, it was like it was a sound itself pressing against my ears. I tentatively reached out, touching Bob’s chest with the flat of my palm. A hard jolt shook me.
Bob gasped, his back bowing upward into a hard arch.
His eyes opened as he fell back against the cough and his breath settled into harsh gasps. I looked at his wounds, but only faint pink marks remained. His head turned to me.
"You healed me," he said.
My whole body still tingled. I stumbled back, my eyes wide. "No way, I couldn’t . . .." My voice stuttered to a halt.
I sought my mate in confusion; it was too much, the fangs, the poison, this . . . whatever just had happened. Dav pushed into the group of whale Carthera that had surrounded me, pulling me into his arms. "Ellis. Shhh . . .."
I mumbled against his chest, “That was impossible! Magic isn’t real, not really real."
Cavel stood near the group of whales that were all watching me, his bloody mate in his arms. "I thought so too, until I met Bashta. I have met our god, been touched by him. The magic of the clans exists, for those who haven't lost the way of how to use it."
I just shuddered in Dav’s arms, my mind still unable to really understand. But . . . there was more to life than understanding everything. It was enough that Bob would live.
As Bob sat up, his movement broke the tension and it felt things started up again, people moving and speaking quietly instead of staring at me. I couldn't help but watch Bob as one of his men helped him up. They stayed close to him, touching frequently and making a variety of sounds that were remarkably like whale noises I'd heard on a nature program.
“Thank you,” Velaku said to me. I nodded at him, not really needing his thanks but understanding his appreciation.
"All the magic in our pod would have done nothing if there was no one to breathe it into me," said Bob, “and none of my men have the shaman's power." He stared in my eyes. "It would be my honor to offer my clan to you, as a pod brother."
I looked up at Dav, his face impassive even though I could feel his shock through our bond. I looked back at Bob. "I'm sorry; I don't know what that means."
"If you wish it, you can claim kinship to my clan and to my pod. If you or your mate ever need anything, call on me."
I nodded gravely, understanding the honor being shared with me at least. "Thank you." I took a deep breath and my knees began to sag. I grabbed at Dav with both arms. It wasn’t until just then realizing that my arm with the puncture wounds no longer hurt. Neither did my stomach or my shoulder.
Dav's arms came around me. "I need to get you out of here; all this can't be good for you. The last thing you need is a migraine from all the stress."
I pulled the bandages off my bare stomach. "It's gone." My fingers traced across the pale white line, all that was left from the furrow the bullet had ripped in my skin. My pulled off the other bandages, my fingertips touching smooth skin unmarred any wound. "Amazing."
Dav's hands followed mine. I looked up in his eyes, seeing something there. I felt for our bond, trying to decipher the feeling. I shivered a little as his slender fingers traced the skin of my shoulder and neck.
I blinked, and then yawned. Velaku chuckled a little.
"Power always comes at a cost," Bob said. "You need to go rest."
Dav lifted me into his arms, and I let him. "My bar has a safe room that we are going to use, and Velaku has the addresses of several more in the area. In the kitchen drawer of each one you will find new phone, if you need it."
"Isiah? Ahsran?" I asked.
I looked around; just then remembering my brother was in the fight too. I felt like things were escaping me, as something else that I'd forgotten to think about hit me every few minutes. "I can’t believe I forgot about them."
Isiah pushed away from the wall.
Dav turned me to face him, murmuring quietly, "That is the exhaustion and shock. You'll be just fine."
"We're okay, Ellis." Isiah moved toward us. "You go with your mate; you don't need to see this."
There he was, trying to protect me. That was my job, though this wasn't a mess I could clean up. He was bruised and I could see some tears in his shirt, but he looked okay. I didn't see Ahsran, but I knew Isiah wouldn't be standing there talking to me if his mate was hurt. I cranked my head around, searching anyway. I needed to know, to see with my own two eyes that my family was all there and relatively intact.
I think the surprise of seeing him with his arms wrapped around Natham was what did me in. I just sort of fuzzed out after that.
Waking up happened in a gradual process. I stretched on the soft surface I was laying on, feeling a warm arm close around me and pull me closer.
"I wondered how long you were going to sleep." Dav nuzzled the side of my neck.
"Mmm." I blinked slowly, frowning at the gray walls. I rolled on to my back. "Where are we?"
"Safe room under the club." It took a second, but I finally remembered him telling the others that we were coming here.
"Are we still in danger?" I'd thought that with Mishtar . . . dead . . . this would all be over. “Why do we still need to be in a safe room?”
"I’m not willing to risk it." Dav's hand rested on my bare chest. His fingers traced small patterns over my chest. "Velaku had Ahsran and Isiah contact their bosses. They are coordinating with local authorities and with the Falcons Velaku trusts to be loyal to track down anyone not yet killed or captured in Mishtar's Carthera supremacist group."
I nodded as I ran my tongue over my teeth; my mouth was really dry."How long have I been asleep?"
Dav rolled over, grabbing a bottle of water. He unscrewed the cap and then handed it to me. I took it, sitting up slowly to take a drink. The bed was small, just mattresses on a frame in the corner. I leaned against the brick wall, my back protesting.
"Sip it slowly. You've been sleeping for a full day and night."
I choked a little on the water. "I've what?"
"It is normal, Bob says. He came by to check on you before heading back to his clans. He did leave you something though, he said you’d need it if the power came back." It was a small carving, threaded onto a leather string. I looked at it, but didn’t take it from Dav. I wasn’t sure I wanted it, but the idea of some power coming back and taking over like it did last time scared me too. I’d have to think about it.
I shook my head. "When does this sort of thing end?" I took another drink of water, then screwed the cap back on. I fiddled with the label, biting my lip.
"This sort of thing?" He was just turning back from setting the charm out of sight.
I looked up, warned by Dav's careful tone and the feelings flowing through our bond.
"That's not what I meant. I didn’t mean a Carthera type thing, I just mean the constant drama." I sighed, rolling over to put the bottle of water on the floor. I groaned a little, my muscles stiff. Dav's hands came down on my shoulders and began squeezing.
I moaned, sinking to the mattress. One arm hung off as Dav's strong hands dug into my muscles, moving and rolling them. I enjoyed it for a few minutes, the bliss of the knots loosening all I could focus on.
Long minutes passed as I soaked in his touch. Dav was rubbing my lower back, the sheet pushed down. His hand brushed the top of my ass, and I felt a wash of heat through the bond. I rolled over, ending up tight against Dav's stomach as we lay on our sides facing each other. The sheet was trapped between us, trailing over my hip.
"Thank you. Between my migraines, and the attacks, and injuries I've had it seems like you are always taking care of me."
Dav's hand came up to my face. "That's my job and besides," he stroked my cheek, "we're mates. I love doing it, taking care of you."
"But I'd like to not have to need it. We've been mates for about three weeks, and I feel like I barely know you. I want some time to get to know you better without all this craziness."
Dav's yellow eyes looked a little apprehensive. "Ellis, my life is never really quiet. I'm not just the owner of my club; I do dangerous things for Velaku. It is who I am." He took a deep breath and let it out. "I'll tell Velaku I can't do it anymore, though, if you don't want me to. I want to be a male you respect."
I smiled at him. "I know what you do is dangerous, and sometimes you have to do things you don’t like, but I also know that you are really good at it."
"At killing." His voice was bitter and he wouldn’t meet my eyes.
I sighed. "Yes, but that’s just a part of it, Davis. You aren’t a killer, even if you sometimes have to kill monsters. That’s what they are, but you’re not a monster. You also saved a little girl from smugglers and gave her a chance at a life with her uncle. Yesterday, without your safe houses and your preparations Mishtar probably would have taken everyone by surprise and then he would have taken over, killing people I care about. Sometimes you have to use violence to stop violence.
"I just don't think I'm really equipped to be a part of all that, fangs or not." I ran my tongue over the slender points that I could barely feel folded up in the roof of my mouth.
“I don’t care about that; I just want you safe. I want you how you are, safe and well. Though, we need to get you to the doctor soon," Dav said. "I'm worried about how much you're changing."
I shrugged. "I feel okay. In fact," I arched my back, the front of my body brushing against his in a silken glide of bare skin on bare skin, "I feel really good now that you massaged away my stiff muscles."
"Oh? That's interesting because it seems like I didn’t get all of them." The sibilant hiss in Dav's voice sent a shudder up my spine. One hand trailed up my back, tracing the scaled pattern of my mating mark. I arched again, squirming.
"Please." I looked at him with half lidded eyes.
"No venom," Dav said. "Not until after we see the doctors."
I rocked my hips forward. "Good thing we don't need it." Our erections met and ground together. I hissed when the flared head of my cock pressed into his ridged abdomen and our shafts rubbed together.
Dav's hand gripped my hip, keeping me from thrusting again. I twisted, rolling on to my back. I used my feet to push down the sheet, shivering as it brushed against my skin. I watched my mate lean over me and I brought my hands up, gliding them up his arms and enjoying the smooth skin over lean muscle. I toyed with the hair at the back of his head, pulling him down.
I leaned up, pressing my lips to his. I licked at his mouth, moaning at the unique flavor of my mate. My lips parted as I moaned and he took advantage, taking control and thrusting his tongue into my mouth.
My cock jerked as he let his tongue split and caress each side of mine. Using the thin and limber muscle, he tickled and teased me. There was something about the way he touched me, so unlike anything I had ever felt before, that made a simple kiss so much more. I shuddered, my hands falling to his shoulders to hold on. My arousal shot higher. The air felt hot as I gasped and arched, trying to get closer to him.
Dav's sharp fangs were down, and he nipped at my lip. I knew he had said no venom, and I was enjoying being able to touch and hold him as he began stroking my chest, but the slight sting and the taste of the drop of venom on my lips had my tongue tingling and my need for him flew even higher. He swung one leg over my hips, carefully avoiding touching my weeping erection. He leaned back, staring down at me.
I stroked his thighs, letting my fingers trail lightly up and down the defined muscles. Lean and beautiful, Dav's body was breathtaking as he hovered over me. I cried out, shouting his name when he unexpectedly tweaked both of my nipples, twisting them just hard enough to send a bolt of pleasurable pain to my groin.
It was not as intense as it was when Dav had pumped me full of his venom, the poison racing through my body, putting me at his mercy as every nerve ending came alight. But there were other advantages.
I lifted my hips, twisting as I caught Dav around his upper arms. My move toppled him over and let me climb over him. I grinned, enjoying the stunned expression on Dav's face as I looked down at him.
"Usually I can't even move when you take me." I had landed on top of him, straddling his stomach as I held his arms down above his head. I leaned down and kissed him, my tongue licking at his lips until he parted them. I toyed with him, dipping my tongue into his mouth in shallow thrusts, just barely tasting him until I felt him lift his head to get closer.
I thrust my tongue in deep then, pressing him down, my enjoyment immense as he groaned.
“I love when you take me.” I let go of his arms, sitting back up. "But this time," I inched backward, "this time, I think I want something different."
"Ellis, I . . .." Dav's hands clenched into fists. Catching his apprehension through our bond, I hushed him.
"Don't worry, you'll like this too." I put two fingers on his mouth. "Suck them." Dav's eyes flared wide and I sent him a bolt of heat to drown the slight tinge of fear. His tongue caressed my fingers as he drew them in, getting them slick for me.
I knelt over him, pushing up on my knees. I pulled my fingers out of his mouth with a wet pop as Dav fought to keep them in. I stared into his eyes as I reached back.
"Gods," he whispered. I knew he was worried that I wanted to take him, but that had faded as his arousal grew. His eyes flared wide when he realized what I really wanted.
My head fell back and I moaned as I breached myself with my slick fingers, scissoring them back and forth. I wasn’t going to let lack of lube stop me. I kept one hand on Dav's chest, the other stretching my body so I could take him.
"Shit, that's hot." Dav's voice was a soft hiss. "Need to be inside you soon before I cum."
"Not even," I grunted and shivered as I brushed my prostate, "started yet."
Dav licked his lips. "You better get started soon or I won't last." His hands caressed the inside of my thighs. "I want you."
I felt a blast of lust from him so strong I nearly lost it myself. I pulled my fingers out and then balanced myself over him. Unwilling to wait, I pushed back and sank down, not stopping until I was resting against his hips.
My breath left me in a sharp hiss, the pain of the deep thrust was the only thing that kept my orgasm at bay when the head of his cock stroked along my prostate. I froze, panting. His hands dug into my hips, leaving marks sure to be bruises later as we stared into each other's eyes and fought for control.
I started with slight movements of my hips, just rocking forward and back. Dav's body began to move against mine as I slowly began lifting up and sliding back down. My muscles eased, and I moaned at the first full thrust, pressing down hard as Dav lifted his hips to meet me.
"Fuck!" Dav flicked out his forked tongue. The sight of it sent a shudder down my body and I let go, my hips moving freely as I took my pleasure and gave it back to him. My own fangs dropped and I felt the roof of my mouth ache.
I wanted to bite him. I leaned forward, resting my hands just below his shoulders. I ran my fangs along Dav's shoulder up to the vulnerable spot next to his neck where the skin was soft and smelled so good, my teeth marking the skin and leaving red streaks behind.
"No biting, Ellis." His voice was strained, ragged.
"I want it, I want to mark you." I hissed, my hands shaking as I held on to him. "I need to." I knew he could feel it through our bond. It filled me, just as he did, a fiery passion that I couldn't control. I rocked back hard, slamming on to him. "Need to mark you as mine so everyone can see.” My fangs dimpled his skin, as I barely held back. “Please,” I begged.
"Yes," Dav groaned. His willingness to be vulnerable, to trust me with his body and his heart floored me. Our bond was already strong; but in that moment he showed me just how strong it was. His head turned to the side, exposing the clean lines of his strong neck. That small motion sent instincts I didn't know I possessed into overdrive. I bit down, sending my fangs deep into Dav, the thin hollow teeth sinking in effortlessly as I felt the muscles in my mouth flex and send a shot of venom into him.
He arched against me and I put my hands on his chest, pressing my teeth in even deeper but not sending any more venom into him. My marks would be unmistakable to everyone who saw them, but I wasn't sure how much venom would be too much.
I pulled back, licking at the wounds. My venom slowed the bleeding, only a thin trickle coming out. I sat up, my arms still braced on the soft skin of Dav's chest, and I watched as his thin slit pupils widened, turning nearly oval.
He was so fucking hot, his perfect hair messed up, his eyes never leaving mine as he gave me his body, and his trust.
"Mine,” I growled. The bliss through our bond swamped me.
I kept my hips still; I knew what he was feeling, the poison racing through his veins, turning his body so sensitive it was like one open nerve. I started with slow strokes across his pecs, then scraped my fingernails over his nipples. His throat was completely exposed as his head kicked back. His arms fell from my hips, and I knew he was feeling the full effect of my bite.
I began moving, rocking in the small movements, my need for him growing again now that the urge to claim him had been sated. I let it build as I began inching up and then down, watching his body shudder as he gasped, unable to move as I took him. I drove him, as he had driven me, sending him to the very heights of pleasure again and again.
I could see his need, feel it fill me as sweat dripped down my body, but I didn’t want it to end. I wanted it to last forever, this closeness. If I could somehow join our bodies forever, I would. I needed Davis Retic, needed him like I needed air.
When I was gasping, my heart racing, unable to bear another second, I twined one of my hands with his. I used them to stroke myself, then squeezed the head of my cock. That sensation sent me over the edge. I slammed down onto my mate, my muscles rippling as I screamed from the first mind shattering pulse.
His cry echoed mine, and I felt his release fill me as I shot all over his chest. I jerked, unable to remain still, my head thrown back as I shuddered over and over as the waves of pleasure bounced from him to me through our bond. It was intense and overwhelming. Something about taking control and claiming my mate fulfilled a need I hadn't known was inside of me. I barely recognized the sounds that were coming out of our mouths as almost a full minute passed as we came together.
Finally, just when I was about to scream in earnest from the overwhelming sensation, it calmed.
I groaned as I fell against his chest, not even caring about the mess I'd made between us. Hot and sweaty, his scent filled me, a richy, spicy flavor. I flicked my tongue out and tasted his chest, making him groan.
“Not fair.” He cleared his throat; the screaming earlier had given him a sexy rasp. Dav's arms slowly lifted and wrapped around me.
I snuggled into him. I didn’t care about the rest of the world at that moment, just him. All I wanted, all I needed, was to feel his body against mine and the contentment we both shared filling the room.
"You're mine too," he said.
I nodded, unable to speak. I didn't need to; the bond between us was stronger than ever. I knew in my soul how much I meant to him, just as he knew how much he meant to me.
I can't excuse the extraordinarly long delay in this story, other than to a serious writing block on it, but I hope I've moved past that with this chapter. Please enjoy!