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Excerpt for Damien: The Guardian by , available in its entirety at Smashwords






Damien:

The Guardian





Damien:

The Guardian







Ginger Elinburg







Copyright© 2015 Ginger Elinburg





All rights reserved as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the Author. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the publisher.









This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, are coincidental.



Acknowledgments

For the many people who helped me when I asked questions, thank you.

Thank you, Chris R. for giving me feedback and ideas for the cover.

As ever, for my girls, Amber, Tiffani and Paige.



Other Works by Ginger Elinburg


Wicked

Wicked Welcome (Book 1)

Beyond Wicked (Book 2)

Wicked: Family Ties (Book 3)

Pantar (Book 4)

Damien: The Guardian (Book 5)

Dimitri: Deadly Obsession (Book 6)

Donovan: Unleashed (Book 7)



Standalone

Hunted by Death

Always Girl

Sharp Edges

Whispered Deceit

Killian's Pass

Draçon

Hunted by Death II

~1~

Rolling over with a groan, Damien threw his arm over his eyes and waited for his alarm to go off. He could hear his maman and papa in the kitchen downstairs and he wondered if they had even been to bed. Flinging the covers off, he stood up and walked across the room to turn his alarm off. Getting a pair of jeans from the closet, he snagged a pair of boxers from the dresser on his way to the shower. For two years now, they’d been following the same routine. Get up, get dressed, eat and then meet up with Dia and Caleb to continue searching for Camille. And every day they came back home empty handed. They were able to follow her scent a far as the river the day she was taken, after that they relied on Celesta and Chloé to guide them until their connection was finally broken.

Damien was pulling on a black tee shirt when someone knocked on his bedroom door. “Yeah?”

“Damien, you about ready to eat?” His maman’s voice sounded tired and weak.

Rushing to open the door, he caught her as she fell inside. Brushing the hair from her face, he lifted one eyelid and sighed in relief. Standing, with her in his arms, he carried her down the hall to her own bedroom and lay her on the bed. “Sleep, maman, we’ll be back later.” Kissing her forehead, he pulled the covers over her before walking from the room, closing the door behind him.

Walking into the kitchen, he rolled his eyes as he poured a cup of coffee. “Could you two maybe, just maybe, shut the hell up? Y’all do this shit every morning and I’m really sick of listening to it.”

“Don’t tell us to shut up. We have just as much right to talk as your smart ass does.” Donovan picked up his coffee cup and walked over to refill it, glaring at Damien.

Sipping from his cup, Damien leaned against the counter and crossed his legs at the ankles. “Where’s papa? I heard him earlier when I woke up.”

Dimitri pointed over his shoulder. “I think he fell asleep on the couch. They went back out last night looking for Camille. I tell ya, man, I think that hybrid took her far away from here and we may never find her.”

The kitchen was silent as they absorbed Dimitri’s words. Lifting the cup to his lips again, Damien swallowed the last of his coffee before speaking. “I think you’re right but we need to find out where he had her so that we can, hopefully, find out where he took her.”

Turning to put his cup in the sink, Damien’s knees grew weak and the cup slipped from his hand, shattering on the tile floor.

“What’s going on?! What happened?!” Tréan’s eyes were wide and wild as he looked around the room at his sons. “Is everyone okay? What was that noise?”

Running a shaking hand through his hair, Damien knelt down to pick up the broken pieces of glass. “Sorry papa, I just dropped my cup, that’s all.”

“No, that’s not all. I think it’s time you tell him, bro.” Donovan took the broken shards from Damien and dropped them in the trashcan.

“Shut up, damn it.”

Tréan walked fully into the kitchen and leaned against the counter. “Tell me what?”

“It’s nothing, really.”

“Bullshit! If you don’t tell him, we will.” Dimitri returned the glare that Damien was giving him.

“Tell me what?” Tréan hadn’t linked minds with his sons, without their permission, since the day they turned eighteen and he wondered if that had been a mistake.

Sighing, Damien pulled out a bar stool and sat down heavily. “I keep scenting my life mate. I’ve tried to ignore the pull of her soul but, it’s getting harder to ignore.”

“Do you want to go to her?” Tréan hated to lose any of their search party but he knew how hard it could be to ignore his beast’s desire to claim his life mate.

Damien shook his head. “I can’t leave y’all yet. We need to find Camille before it’s too late.”

“It’s already too late.” Chloé appeared before them, tears streaming down her face.

Rushing to her side, Tréan pulled her into his arms. “What do you mean? Why is it too late?”

“He’s taken her… as… as his life mate.” Her shoulders shook as she cried harder. “How do I te… tell daddy tha…. that one of his little girls ha…. has mated with a hybrid?”

“Are you sure, Chloé?” When she nodded, Dimitri slammed his fist into the table so hard the wood splintered. “He forced her to mate with him?! I’ll kill him! When I find them, he will die by my hands!”

Donovan stood at the sink, staring out the window. “How can he force her to become his life mate?”

“He can’t.” Damien’s voice was rough as his beast fought for release. Lifting his head, he caught her eye. “Something is off here. She can marry him or even have sex with him without being mated but she can only become life mates with her true life mate.”

Chloé bit down on her knuckles as she nodded in agreement. “I know who he is.” Looking up at Tréan, she wiped her face and tried to stop crying. “He’s…he’s Pa…Pantar.”

Tréan’s head snapped back as if he were slapped and he stepped away from her, his brow wrinkled in anger. “No…no that’s not possible. My clan would never allow a hybrid to live. They can be unpredictable and dangerous to our kind.”

“Chloé, are you sure she’s mated to this creature? Is there any way you’re mistaken? Maybe you had a nightmare or something.”

She took a minute to get her emotions under control before finally answering. “It’s true Donovan, I wish it weren’t but it is.”

“We have to get maman, she’ll know what to do.” Donovan was walking toward the door when Tréan caught his arm.

“Just hold on a minute.” His eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Where’s Eli?”

“He’s home with the twins. I didn’t think they should be here right now.” As he continued to look at her with doubt, Chloé felt her cheeks start to burn with anger. “Look, I’m not asking you to believe me. I don’t give a damned if you do or not, to be quite honest with you. I just thought you needed to know that someone from your family is responsible for hurting our family.”

Morgan walked into the room, eyes heavy from lack of sleep. “What the hell is going on here?” Turning toward Chloé, she rubbed her eyes to clear her vision. “Why are you here and why the fuck are you yelling at my husband?”

“She says Camille has mated with the hybrid and that he’s Pantar.” Damien poured a second cup of coffee and handed it to his maman.

Rubbing her temple, Morgan closed her eyes and took a sip of her coffee. Opening one eye, she squinted at Chloé. “How do you know this?”

“She…. she showed me.” Chloé nervously bite her bottom lip as she looked around the room.

“Why would she wait so long to contact you? Doesn’t it strike you as a little odd that she’s telling you this now?” When Chloé looked at the floor, Morgan sank down onto the nearest bar stool, her breathe rushing from her lungs. “Dia is going to shit bricks.”

Tréan looked from one woman to the next, his eyes swirling red from anger. “What? What are you talking about? Damn it, will one of you answer me!”

“They have a baby and he’s taking her further away.” Morgan’s mind was racing with thoughts on how to get Camille back when Chloé spoke.

“She doesn’t want us coming after them.”

“Bullshit! That creature is a dead man; he just doesn’t know it yet!” Dimitri’s body shook from his anger and he could feel his beast rising toward the surface.

“Don’t be an idiot! If you kill him, you kill her too. Once mated they share one life, remember?” Chloé glared a warning at Dimitri when he took a step toward her. “Don’t do something stupid.”

“She’s right. There’s nothing we can do now except wait for her to come to us.” Morgan propped her elbows on the kitchen island and buried her face in her hands. “Anyone want to take my place in telling Dia and Caleb about this?” When the room remained silent, she laughed into her hands before standing up. “Guess I should get a shower and get dressed then.”

Damien groaned and doubled over, holding on to his stomach. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he gritted his teeth, willing the pain to recede. Feeling hands on his head, he looked up and met Morgan’s concerned eyes. “It’s okay maman, it’ll pass in a minute.”

“Go find her. You can’t keep fighting the pull of your mate without getting sick.” Wiping the sweat from his brow, she kissed him between the eyes. “There’s no reason to stay here any longer. You go find your girl and bring her home.”

Damien sucked air through his clenched teeth and shook his head. “I can’t leave you yet. What if this creature is the one making her tell Chloé that she’s mated? This could all be a lie to get us to drop our guard.”

Morgan brushed his black hair from his eyes. “You have no idea how much I wish that were true, Damien.” Kissing his forehead again, she patted his cheek and stepped back, a look of sadness entering her eyes. “I’m going to miss you, my son. Promise to check in every night so that I know you’re safe.”

“But maman…”

“You have to do this, Damien. Promise me…”

As the pain eased from his stomach, Damien stood and looked around the room. “I hate leaving y’all alone when I’m uncertain.”

Tréan walked over to him and slung an arm over his shoulders. “If we need you, I’ll come for you. Now promise your maman that you’ll check in every night and go find your mate.”

Damien nodded. “I promise and if you need me, I will come back without hesitation.”

Morgan’s heart swelled with pride and she wrapped her arms around his waist, hugging him tight. “I know you will, now, go get your girl.”

As Damien walked from the room, Morgan swallowed repeatedly to hold her tears at bay. She hated that she had to let him go off on his own but she knew he needed to find his mate. “Will you stay linked with him?”

“He’ll never be alone, femme.”

Morgan looked up into Tréan’s eyes and nodded before pulling away. “I’ve got to get ready to go myself. Boys, put the dishes in the sink and I’ll get them when I return.”

Walking from the room, she smiled when she heard the sound of water filling the sink as one of her sons prepared to wash their breakfast dishes.

~2~

Makena crouched in the brush and watched the hunter cooking over an open fire. It had been days since her last meal and her stomach cramped up as the smell of roasted meat reached her nose. Clenching her teeth to keep from whimpering, she buried her nose in her paws to block out the smell. She had been following the hunter for over a month, waiting for him to reveal his main camp, where he held her momma and sisters. She shook her head as memories of the day he entered their camp tried fill her head. She couldn’t risk getting distracted by memories. Her legs ached from being crouched in one position for so long but shifting her feet even a little could give away her presence.

Her body tensed when the hunter lifted his head and looked out across the open valley. Slowly tilting her head, she looked in the direction he was looking. Her eyes narrowed and she fought back a roar of fury. Standing at the edge of the jungle was the same man who scared the hunter off a few days ago. She lifted her nose from her paws to catch his scent and her lips pulled back in a silent growl of frustration. Just as before, he smelled like nothing. She couldn’t tell if he was human or shifter, friend or foe.

Hearing the hunter grunt, she swung her head back in his direction and froze when he lifted his gun, taking aim at the stranger.

“Say your prayers, fucker.” His words were no more than a whisper, raising his hand to the bolt of his rifle, he chambered a round, and looked through his scope.

Her attention shifted back to the stranger and her eyes widened when he ducked back into the jungle a split second before the hunter pulled the trigger.

“You mother fucker.” Slinging his rifle over his shoulder, the hunter awkwardly ran toward where the man had been standing and, after searching the ground for prints, entered the jungle after him.

Makena stood to give chase but her mouth filled with saliva when she caught the smell of roasting meat once again. Looking to make sure the hunter couldn’t see her, she shifted to her human form and quickly ran to the fire. Lifting the entire spit, she pulled two sodas from his cooler before running back to her hiding spot and settling down to eat.

Damien lounged on a thick branch above his mate’s head and watched as she ate the hunter’s food. He marveled at her beauty and tried to will her to look in his direction. Her skin was the color of rich caramel and he wondered if it felt a soft as it looked. He’d been following her scent for the past three days and he had to stop himself from running to her when he finally caught sight of her. He’d masked his scent to keep her from detecting him as he followed her through the jungle. He knew about her family by listening to the hunter’s thoughts, he also knew the hunter was looking for her now. His claws dug into the tree limb and he looked up when the hunter walked back into his makeshift camp.

“What the… that bitch!” Lifting his hands to his mouth, he threw back his head and yelled. “I’ll find you, you filthy beast, and when I do, I’m going to literally skin you alive.”

Damien’s teeth flashed in the moonlight when he smiled as Makena lifted her middle finger and continued eating.

“Do you hear me, bitch? I’m going to butcher you and use your hide in my bathroom.” The hunter turned in a circle, squinting into the night, searching for any sign of the female cat. Limping over to his tent, he unbuckled his belt and pushed his pants down his legs, wincing in pain when he came to the bandage covering the infected wound where the panther had bitten him before escaping. Gently lifting the tape, he gagged and turned his head as the rotten smell of infection wafted from the open wound. He had cleaned and doctored the bite the day it happened but the infection seemed to grow over night and continued to spread down his leg.

Damien’s nose wrinkled in disgust but he laughed to himself at the damage him mate had managed to inflict on the hunter before making her escape.

“Filthy animal. I don’t know why Jonas is so fascinated with them but this is the last fucking time I catch them for him.” Opening his medical kit, he pulled out a bottle of alcohol and poured it over the wound, screaming into the night before passing out from the pain.

Damien looked back toward his mate as she relaxed and stretched out on the ground. The pain in his stomach finally faded and he realized he had been feeling her hunger this entire time. He was angry with himself for not coming to her sooner and he blamed himself for the pain and starvation she had to endure while he sat at home eating a hot meal three times a day.

“I vow to you; you’ll never suffer from hunger again.”

He stiffened when Makena sat up and looked around, her body tense and shaking. Damien held himself still as she lifted her head and looked directly at him. He hoped he had remembered to use the cloaking spell his maman had taught him and he breathed a sigh of relief when Makena hesitantly lay back down and drifted off to sleep.

He sent his thoughts out to his family. “Maman, I have found her.”

“Damien! I was getting worried. Does this mean you’ll be home soon?”

“I’m afraid not, her family has been taken by a hunter and she’s been following him in hopes of finding them. She doesn’t know I’m here yet.”

“Do you need us, brother?”

Damien shifted to his human form and rolled over onto his back to stare at the stars peeking through the tree top. “Thank you, Dimi, but I’ve got it handled at the moment.”

“What’s troubling you, son?”

Damien was still amazed that his papa could sense when they were troubled. “She was starving… my pains were because she wasn’t eating and I chose to ignore them.”

“You didn’t know; you can’t blame yourself for something you didn’t know about.”

“But I should have known! Why else would I have been in so much pain?”

“Has she eaten? Did you see to it that she was fed?”

“Yes, maman. As soon as I could, I made sure she got something to eat.”

“Then that’s all that matters. Your job of protecting her begins now. Stop worrying about what you should have done and concentrate on what needs to be done now. Don’t get distracted by the ‘what if’s’ of the past.”

His muscles relaxed and his eyes drifted closed as his maman started humming a tune from his childhood. “Thank you, maman, I love you and I’ll contact you again tomorrow night.”

Breaking the link with them, he rolled over once more to stare down at his sleeping mate. His heart slammed into his ribs when his eyes collided with hers.

“Who are you?” Though her words were little more than a husky whisper, they caused a shiver of desire to ripple over his naked back.

“Don’t you know yet?” His voice rumbled through the dark and he lifted his eyes toward the hunter when he grunted before scratching his crotch and rolling onto his side.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking. Are you here to try to hurt me too?”

Damien was mesmerized by the soft lilt in her voice and his hair fell over his shoulder when he shook his head. “I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to help you.” He wondered why she didn’t know who he was and his face flushed with heat when he remembered the cloaking spell he was using to mask his scent.

He knew the exact moment she caught his scent. Her eyes widened and she slammed her legs closed before she curled into herself. “I’m not ready for a mate.”

Damien’s nostrils flared and his eyes changed colors as he looked down at her, his sudden need throbbing between his legs. “Your scent tells me that you’re lying. But you don’t have to fear that I will take you against your will. My maman would kill me if I acted on the hunger of my beast.”

Pushing herself up on her elbow, Makena looked up at the man who was to be her life mate. “What’s your name? How long have you been following me?”

Damien sat up and pushed away from the tree limb, landing in a silent crouch beside her. “My name is Damien.” He breathed deep and closed his eyes as the full impact of her animalistic scent assaulted his nostrils. Beneath the smell of her unwashed body, her beast put out her mating scent and he growled low in his throat with need. “You smell like jasmine, orange and sandalwood.”

She edged back as he leaned forward to sniff her hair. Lifting her hand, she placed it against his chest to push him away and paused when the heat of his body beneath her palm seemed to warm her. Her hand shook as she ran her fingers through the soft black hair covering his chest. “You feel so…”

Pushing his chest against her hand, he cupped her chin and lifted her head so he could stare into her red flecked black eyes. “So beautiful, just like your name… Makena.”

Her eyes drifted closed as he leaned in and pressed his lips against hers. Jealously reared its ugly head as he deepened the kiss and she wondered what bitch he’d been with before her. Pulling back, she wiped her mouth and glared up at him. “How many women have you been with?”

Damien blinked at the harshness in her voice. “Ummm…. what?”

“You heard me.” Pushing against his chest, she put a few inches of distance between them and crossed her arms over her chest. “How many women have you been with?”

Sitting back, Damien propped his arms on one raised leg and stared at her, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “I’ve never been with a woman; I’ve never felt the desire to bed a woman who wasn’t my mate.”

“Then why do you kiss like that?”

“Why do you?” He arched an eyebrow as he watched her stammer for an explanation.

“It was instinctive.” When he dipped his head in a nod, her face grew hot. “The same reason you kissed me the way you did. I’m sorry, I had no right to accuse you when I don’t even know you.”

Damien looked toward the hunter as he shifted again. Holding a finger to his lips, to keep her quiet, he motioned for her to follow him deeper into the jungle.

Shaking her head, she pointed in the hunter’s direction. “I’m not letting him out of my sight again. What if he wakes up and leaves?”

Damien mumbled under his breath and Makena watched in wonder as the hunter crawled into his tent, zipped it shut and began snoring a few seconds later.

“He’ll sleep until I break the spell. Now, would you mind following me? Please?” Standing up, he held out his hand and smiled in satisfaction when she placed her tiny delicate hand in his.

Careful to leave no footprints behind, he guided her to a waterfall that he had found only yesterday. Releasing her hand, he removed his jeans with a single thought and walked into the water. Turning to face her, he crooked a finger and motioned her to join him.

“No, I don’t think so.” Makena gasped and covered her naked breast when his eyes lowered. “Stop that! You said you wouldn’t force me.”

“And I’m going to keep that promise but if you go much longer without taking a bath, neither of us will be able to mask your scent from the hunter.” Damien knew he was hitting below the belt but she really did need a bath. Nodding his head to her left, he brought her attention to a basket of soaps and other bath products. “I’ll turn my back so I won’t see your nakedness, if that’s what you want.”

“Why? You’ve already seen every inch of me.”

Turning his back to her, he sank beneath the water and wrapped his hand around himself and squeezed. He could feel her emotions as she walked over to the basket and he knew she was throbbing with need. Gritting his teeth, he let go and pushed his head above the water, drawing air into his lungs.

“You can turn around now.” She swam closer to him and tread water as she studied his features. “You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.” When he tried to close the distance between them, she used her arms to propel herself backwards. “I stink, remember?”

His smile fell as he noticed the hurt in her eyes. “I…I didn’t mean to hurt you. Only to make you aware.” Her eyes were shadowed but he didn’t miss the glint of a tear as it rolled down her cheek. Snaking his hand out, he caught her wrist and pulled her into his embrace. “I’d never knowingly say anything to hurt your feelings. Please believe me.”

Nodding, she lay her head against his chest and listened to the beat of his heart. “I’m so tired. I haven’t really slept in weeks.”

Turning her in his arms, he cupped his hands and scooped up water to pour over her hair. “After we bathe, you can sleep for as long as you need.” When she started to shake her head, he pushed on her hips until she lay floating on her back. “I told you, he’ll sleep until I wake him up, you can sleep with no worries tonight. And tomorrow… tomorrow he will lead us to your family.”

Hope flared in her eyes and she locked gazes with him. “You can make him do that?”

His smile made her heartbeat quicken. “I can make him do whatever I want.”

Her eyes narrowed in doubt. “How is it possible that you’re that powerful?”

Kissing her lips lightly, he raised her up and lathered her long hair with shampoo. “I’ll explain it to you once this is all over. Right now, you need to get some sleep.” Handing her a soapy sponge, he kissed her once more before swimming over to stand beneath the waterfall.

Makena absently washed the dirt from her body as she watched her intended mate run his hands through his long black hair. Her hand drifted to the juncture of her thighs and her breathing grew ragged as he turned to face her. His eyes were clouded with lust and when they fell to where her hand was hidden beneath the water, he bit his bottom lip and lifted his smoldering gaze back up to her eyes. “Be careful, mate, I already want to taste you.”

Biting down on her lip, she moaned at the desire she was feeling. She didn’t want a mate until she was sure her family was safe, but seeing him standing beneath the falling water she wanted nothing more than to wrap her legs around his waist and impale herself on the hard length of him. Jerking her hand back above the water, she finished bathing and swam toward the shore. She was looking around for a towel when she felt him step up behind her. His hands were hot like fire as he cupped her naked breast and pulled her back against him.

He felt her heartbeat speed up and she shivered when he bit the side of her neck. “Don’t be afraid, I only want to taste you.”

Heat flooded her lower stomach and she spread her legs, arching against his hand as he pushed his fingers through her curls. His fingers were rough but gentle and she lifted herself onto her tiptoes, urging him to go lower.

Damien kissed his way down her back, nipping her hip and causing her to whimper in anticipation. Her skin was hot beneath his lips as he breathed in her powerful scent of desire. Placing his hand on the small of her back, he pushed her forward as he pulled her hips toward him. “Spread your legs for me.”

“Please….” She didn’t know what she was begging for and instead of obeying his command, she turned to face him and buried her hands in his hair, pulling his face forward toward her aching flesh. “Please…”

Running his hands down her legs, he gripped her behind her knees and eased her legs wider before leaning forward to get his first taste of her.

A scream of pain tore through the jungle and Damien scrambled to his feet, stepping in front of Makena protectively. She looked down at herself and stared in shock at the short shorts that covered her body. “Oh you’ve got to be shitting me. I’m not wearing these.”

Damien turned and laid a hand over her mouth as he lifted his nose to the wind. Pulling her with him, he walked back toward the waterfall and stepped into the small cave hidden behind it. “I don’t think we’ll be following the hunter anymore.”

“What? But we have to follow him, he’ll lead me to my family.” Makena tried to jerk free of Damien’s grip. As the wind shifted, she stopped struggling when the scent of fresh blood reached her. “He… he’s dead? But… how will I find my family now?”

Wrapping his arms around her, he held her trembling body. “We’ll find them. I promise you, I’ll do my best to find them.”

“Why are we hiding in this cave? Why aren’t we out there ripping apart the man who killed the hunter?”

“Because the creature that killed the hunter isn’t a man and I’m not willing to put you in danger and risk your life.”

“You mean it was a shifter that killed him? I can take on a panther, I’m not a weak pussy you know.” Her anger caused her words to be harsh and he was shocked at her usage of the word pussy.

“I’m not saying you’re weak but, I don’t think the killer is a panther, I don’t know what it is. I can’t catch its scent.” As she continued to struggle against his hold he watched the woods and he sent his thoughts out to Morgan. “Maman, can you bring me home?” his eyes widened as the beast stepped into view.

In answer to his question, he suddenly found himself and Makena standing under towering magnolia trees, surrounded by his family.

“Wow, she’s hot.”

“Shut up, she can hear you, jackass.”

“She can hear the both of you, idiot.” Releasing Makena’s hand, he stepped forward and gave Morgan a hug. “Thank you, maman.”

Makena looked around the group of people with a dazed look on her face. “Damien, why did you bring me here? You promised you’d find my family.”

Morgan could hear the hysteria that Makena was trying to hold back. Stepping forward, she took the young woman’s hand in her own and squeezed it reassuringly. “We will get your family back but I’m going to need your help.”

Makena’s mouth dropped open as it dawned on her who the woman was. Dropping to her knees she bowed her head, cursing herself for making direct eye contact with the woman. “My Queen, forgive me for my rudeness.”

“Please get up. This part always embarrasses me when people realize who I am.” Morgan tugged on Makena’s hand until she stood before her once more.

Makena threw an accusatory glance in Damien’s direction but refused to meet Morgan’s eyes.

Morgan suppressed a laugh. “I take it he didn’t tell you everything.”

“He failed to mention that he was a prince.” Her teeth were clenched and her jaw flexed with anger.

Damien scoffed. “I am hardly a prince, Makena. Maman is the queen but I’m just her son.”

Donovan and Dimitri rolled their eyes at his haughty tone.

“For someone who doesn’t claim his royalty, you sure as hell act the part.”

Damien turned and smiled at Sasha as she followed Blaze around the side of the house. “Makena, I’d like you to meet my sister, Sasha, and her life mate, Blaze.”

Makena looked at Sasha before quickly looking away.

Giving Morgan a confused look, Sasha walked over to stand in front of Makena. “Is there a reason you can’t look at me?”

Makena shook her head but kept her eyes lowered to the ground.

“Then look at me.”

Again Makena shook her head. “I can’t, I’m sorry, it’s nothing bad but I… I can’t.”

“She probably thinks you’re hideous.”

Makena’s head snapped up, her eyes wide with horror as she stared at Donovan. “No, that’s not it at all.” Shaking her head, she looked up at Blaze. “I don’t think any such thing, she’s beautiful…you’re all… very beautiful.”

They grew silent and all eyes turned to stare at Damien.

Shrugging, he cleared his throat to break the tension. “So, we need help in finding Makena’s family. The hunter that she was following was killed by….”

“By who?”

“Not who, but what. I think he was killed by that… thing that attacked poppy in Hawaii.”

Morgan gasped and brought her hand to her throat. “Why do you think it was him?”

“I never smelled him and I caught a glimpse of him right before you brought us here. It was the same height and build as the thing that had us cornered in the cave.”

“But you can’t be sure? Is it possible it’s something else?”

Damien nodded. “It’s possible, yeah.”

“Why do you keep saying ‘thing’?” Blaze rubbed Sasha’s shoulders and stared at Damien.

“We don’t know what it is and that’s the only way to describe it. When we first became aware of it, it had lured us all into a cave in Hawaii and masked his scent so we were never able to determine what it was.” Walking over to the outdoor fridge, Damien pulled out a bottled water and passed it to Makena before getting one for himself.

Morgan chewed the edge of her thumb and looked at Makena with worried eyes. “Do you know who took your family?”

Makena bit the inside of her jaw, to keep from saying what she was really thinking, and shook her head. “My father went missing and for months my mother was using their bond to find him. She finally narrowed his location down to the Brazilian jungle and we went there to bring him home. I remember that we were running through the jungle. because mom had captured his scent, and suddenly we were covered in a net. The hunter used a tranquilizer gun on us but, for some reason, the dart didn’t penetrate through my hide and I escaped when he lifted the net.”

“Not to sound doubtful but why didn’t he shoot you again before you could escape?”

Makena’s mouth twisted in a smirk as she looked up at Blaze. “Because I attacked him and just about ripped his leg off. I would have stayed to kill him but I could hear someone running in our direction and I figured it was someone working with him so I ran.” Her head fell forward and she breathed in a sob. “I ran like a scared little bitch and now my family is missing and the one man who could lead me to them is dead.”

Damien wrapped his arms around her and held her as she cried. “Hey, remember that promise I made? I won’t rest until we find them, okay?” When she didn’t answer, he pulled away and lifted her head until she met his eyes. “Okay?”

She stared at him through her tears and wondered, if he were really her life mate, how she got so lucky to be paired up with the queen’s son. Nodding, she lay her head back on his chest and listened to the sound of his steady heartbeat.


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