Battle Scarred 3: You Belong to Me

Megan Slayer

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The world can crumble around us, but we’ve always got each other. Always.  Ava Grant learned the hard way not to trust anyone. Trust equaled opening up to another person and allowing herself to be hurt. She’s done with pain...
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The world can crumble around us, but we’ve always got each other. Always. 

Ava Grant learned the hard way not to trust anyone. Trust equaled opening up to another person and allowing herself to be hurt. She’s done with pain—until she’s summoned by the Sources. Her world is thrown into upheaval. Two men can help her, if she’s willing to let them in. Will she able to open her heart to both a vampire and a wolf shifter?

  
Joachim Stokes and Padraig O’Malley are the best of friends. The attraction between them is palpable, but there’s something missing. When they are tasked with protecting Ava, they realize they’ve found what they’ve been missing—her. A bond forms between the three, but some bonds are meant to be broken. With the war heating up, her past won’t stay hidden forever. 


Will their blossoming love wither before they get a chance to stoke the flames, or will they learn to belong to each other?

  • Note:You Belong to Me was previously released by another company, but has been revised and reedited in this version.
Excerpt
Ava opened her eyes. She expected the rough earth under her backside. The scent of perfume wrapped around her. Old perfume. Where was she now? She looked at the room. The bedroom at the Laing mansion. She was home—or at least the closest thing she had to a home.

She rubbed her bare arms. The T-shirt she’d been wearing wasn’t keeping her warm, even with the heat in the room. A shiver raced up her spine. She felt the raised lines on her skin, despite the cotton beneath her palm. The wounds might have healed over and left scars, but the pain hadn’t gone away.

She’d only been out of Maslow’s grip and at the Laing mansion for a couple of hours. She looked down at the hem of the shirt. Forgetting the past seemed like a good thing to do and the first step to moving forward was new clothes. At least something she hadn’t smuggled out when she left. She glanced over at her bag. Nothing in the shoulder bag would work. She’d never cover her body with the garbage Maslow bought her.

Ava left the bed and crossed the room. She kicked the duffle bag out of the way. No more thinking about the past. According to Lexa, the girlfriend of the owner of the Laing mansion, there were clothes in most all the closets. Maybe there would be something to fit her. She opened the closet doors and gasped. Everything on the hangers had to be close to sixty years old. Vintage had always been her style before the abduction. Looking at the tight-waisted dresses and pencil skirts, she grinned.

The door creaked. When Ava shifted her focus from the clothes, she noticed Joachim. She liked the wolf shifter from the first moment she’d met him. Quiet and shy, he didn’t command attention like some men, but he grabbed hers.

“Hey, you.” He sat on her bed. “What’s happening? Clothes shopping?”

“Something like that.” She browsed the different dresses and then picked a red-and-white-checked pattern. “Close your eyes.”

“Ava. I won’t do anything.” He shrugged. “I’ve been a gentleman so far.”

She had to give him that—he barely knew her and treated her well. Ava hesitated. This was a big moment for her. She didn’t undress in front of anyone unless he was willing to pay, or was Maslow with a gun to her head. She didn’t want Joachim to see the scars.

“Please?”

The shifter grinned and did as she’d asked. He folded his legs up under his powerful body. The muscles in his arms bulged. Her belly tightened and her nipples ached. She liked strong men and wondered what it would be like to wrap herself in his embrace. Of course he’d have to be attracted to her. She doubted he liked girls. He hardly gawked at her in the same ways other men did. She wriggled out of the T-shirt and shoved her tattered jeans to the floor. A part of her wanted to run across the room and jump into his arms. She had to be losing her mind after what she’d been through. She unzipped the garment and slipped the soft cotton over her frame. She wasn’t as busty as the original wearer, but she liked the way the dress snugged her ribs and waist.

“Okay, you can look.” She strolled up to him. “I need you to zip me.” She turned her back on him. “Thank you.”

“This fits you well.” He tugged the pull, closing the back of the dress. “I like it.”

“Do you?” She let go of her hair and faced him. “This is part of me being brave.”

“How?”

She nodded to the duffle bag. “My past is in there.” She sat beside him and patted his thigh. Dear Lord, the man had nice legs. She shook her head. “I mean, everything in that bag reminds me of my time with Maslow. He expected his girls to dress like…you know.”

“I do.” He draped his arm around her shoulders. “Sometimes you’ve got to leave the past in the past and never dredge it up again. I’m proud of you.”

“He pimped me out,” she blurted. She hadn’t told anyone about what Maslow had done, and getting some of the truth out comforted her.

“Ava, honey, I’m sorry.” He hugged her tightly, pressing her to his chest. The scent of his cologne wrapped around her.

“Don’t be. You had nothing to do with my situation.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “When Officer King rescued me, I had to grab something to wear. Maslow destroyed my stuff, so I got stuck with that crap.”

“I thought you had a vampire with you?”

Her heart clenched and her eyes burned with unshed tears. She should’ve been worrying about Hagan.

“Can we leave here?” she said and wiped tears from her face. “Like go on a shopping trip or something?” Anything to get her mind off her friend and the past.

“I suppose.” Joachim disengaged from her and stood. “I’ll see if Paddy wants to go.”

“Why?” Because you’re attracted to him, she wanted to say, but didn’t. “Because…”

The tips of Joachim’s ears turned red and he shrugged. “We go everywhere together.”

“Okay. Ask him.” She’d wanted alone time with Joachim, but if having the vampire along made things better, then fine. Being with both men wasn’t bad at all.

“What? He’s good protection. I can’t shift until the full moon, and since it’s dark, he’s faster. Plus, he’s scary quiet when he moves.”

“And you like him.” She rested her hands on her hips. “Don’t you?”

“What?” He froze. A lock of his silvery-black hair slipped in front of his blue eyes.

“You’ve got a deer in the headlights look on your face.” She smoothed her hand over his stubbly cheek. “Don’t be embarrassed. You have to admit what you want or you’ll never be happy.” Plus she enjoyed getting around people’s emotional barriers. People deserved joy in their life. “You want him along so you can be around him. It makes sense. He’s cute and I’d hit that, so yeah, I’m all for you two getting together. I’ll be the fifth wheel.”

Joachim’s eyes widened, and his mouth opened, but no sound came out. Instead, his face drained of all color.

“You don’t have to be the extra.” Padraig strolled up beside Joachim. “We can all have a good time.”

“Shit.” Joachim’s cheeks darkened.

Ava chuckled. Of the two men, she guessed Padraig was closer to thirty years old. He acted much more mature. Joachim struck her as much younger and nearer to her age. His experience with men probably wasn’t much, based on his reactions. She sat on the edge of the bed and watched the two interact. Joachim fidgeted and stared at the floor. Padraig paid full attention to his friend and stood tall.

“Okay.” She crossed her legs and smoothed out her skirt. “You like each other. Good. Someone needs to get laid around here. I’m glad it’s going to be you two.”

“Ava.” Joachim closed his eyes and groaned.

“Sounds to me like we need a confab.” Padraig leaned on the bedpost. “Someone enlighten me.”

“I’m good.” Joachim scrubbed the back of his hand across his forehead. “I’m…ah…needed by Kynan. Let me know when you want to go to the store. See ya.” He hurried out of the room, leaving Paddy and Ava alone.

Good Lord, the man excelled at hiding his feelings—or he was used to getting shot down.

She understood his fear. She’d been ignored plenty of times until Maslow captured her.

“Are you buying what he’s selling?” Paddy folded his arms. “I’m not.”

Ava snorted. She didn’t expect Padraig to be so frank. She tipped her head to the side. She could see why Joachim was attracted to the vampire. Darn natural vampire magnetism…few were immune, especially not her.

Padraig towered over her. She longed to run her hands over his lanky frame. Even after the shit she’d been through, she noticed his sexiness. Paddy sighed. “I meant what I said. We need to have a discussion. Kynan has given Joachim and me the task of protecting you. When we go into public, he and I can’t be seen unless we run into more supers or rogues. I understand Joachim is freaked out, but we have to focus. Maslow wants to hurt you, and Joachim and I need to know why.”

“Maslow knows what I look like, and I can tell you what he did to me. I know his plot. He wants to kill everyone with super in their blood—plain and simple. Kill them all and rid the world of anything he doesn’t approve of.” Ava breathed a sigh of relief. The weight on her shoulders lifted a bit. Someone else could finally know her secrets. “Yeah, I’ve seen his face.”

“Oh? Have you told Kynan?”

“No. I haven’t talked to anyone yet. I’ve only been here for a couple of hours.” She picked at the buttons sewn onto the front of her dress. “When I got here, it didn’t occur to me to say anything.”

“You should.” Paddy drummed his fingers on his thighs. “Why don’t you talk to Kynan while I deal with Joachim? Then we can figure out what he thinks we should do.”

“You’re trying to get rid of me already. Nice.” She hadn’t meant to sound so curt, but she excelled at keeping people at arm’s length.

“Not at all.” Padraig stood and then bridged the gap between them. “If Joachim is having an issue because I’m bisexual, then we need to find common ground.”

“I doubt that.” She fluttered her hand, nudging Paddy away.

“You doubt what?”

“That he’s freaked. Not by a long shot. You two like each other. It’s pretty obvious.” She stopped and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her bluntness would be the death of her. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. Never mind.”

Padraig shook his head. He stood beside her. Was he upset? Amused? She wasn’t sure.

He didn’t say anything before he strolled out of the room, but he was right. She needed to talk to Kynan. Dread washed over her. She wanted to start over in a safe place.

The words of the sources came to mind.

“You’re granted two mates. Both are more than capable of protecting you on their own, but only as three will you be able to reach your full power.”

Did they really think she needed two mates? Joachim and Padraig were interesting choices, but once they found out about her past in full detail, they’d leave her. She couldn’t handle being rejected—not again. She headed across the house to what Kynan called command central and stood outside his door.

“Here’s to the start of my new life by shedding the old one,” she murmured and grabbed the door handle. “Let’s hope it doesn’t suck.”

Copyright © Megan Slayer

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