In the deserted street outside Tempest’s workplace, a golden werewolf threw back his head and howled. The faint scent of his mate tickled his nostrils, sweet and floral with a hint of spice. Seth breathed deeply, drawing it into his lungs. He couldn’t stay here, since a mythological creature walking York’s streets would cause a panic. People would run from his eight-foot werewolf form. Some might have an adrenaline rush and attack him. The last thing he wanted was to embarrass Hades by injuring humans or ending up in the newspapers.
Seth shifted to human and pulled on the black jeans and leather jacket Hades had left him. As Hades had promised, he found the key to his hotel suite in his pocket. A little luxury wouldn’t go amiss after the endless bland days in the Elysian Fields. Being dead wasn’t all Seth expected it to be. He’d lacked purpose or goals. Having a mission made him feel truly alive, even if it had meant turning werewolf to accept it.
Back in the underworld, his cheeks had ached from the constant smiling, and he’d found the endless joy galling. His riding skills had been the pride of his human existence, but the horses in the Elysian Fields behaved more like oversized puppies than wild stallions. Bored, he’d meandered through the afterlife, grinning like a loon and hating every moment.
Finally, Hades had taken pity on him. Now Seth had a task to fulfill and a mate to claim. It wouldn’t take long to drag the traitor Elias back to his cell in Tartarus. The selfish bastard deserved every torment he suffered after almost plunging the ancient Macedonian kingdom into civil war.
Afterward, Seth would enjoy some serious loving with the woman who smelled of wildflowers and freedom. Before he set out, Hades had given him her name—Tempest—and sworn she wouldn’t be able to resist Seth’s charms. Their connection would seethe with intensity and need. Thinking about it left him aching inside. Once he found her, he’d woo her with expensive gifts and pretty words. Afterward, he’d strip her and screw her while he sank his fangs into her neck and claimed her as his. Although, maybe he’d spank her pretty ass first.
* * * *
Elias battled the dark hunger inside him. Tempest’s well-being mattered more than his unnatural thirst. While he wanted to claim her, he’d treat her with the respect she deserved.
An explosion echoed through his skull, so loud it almost deafened him. Boom.
It sounded again. Boom.
His muscles tensed, and he scanned the room for danger. Boom
. Realization dawned. Tempest made him whole and set his heart beating for the first time in centuries. Bride. She’s my bride. The Tuchulcha demons will hurt her to hurt me.
Werewolves had fated mates, but vampires had brides—the one woman who made their heart beat. Tempest was his, and he’d never willingly leave her side. The depth of his emotions scared him more than the Persian hordes, but humans married, not mated. What if she didn’t feel the same?
His heart pounded in a series of explosions. Heat flowed through him, warming his blood and delighting his soul. His pulse beat like a war drum in his wrist. The longer he stayed with her, the steadier his heart’s rhythm became. Each rise and fall of his chest, each bomb blast of his pulse rocked his world.
Warmth suffused his body. His thoughts seemed sharper, and his pain faded into insignificance beside his need to love and protect his bride. He’d heard legends of how vampires’ brides brought new life to their soul mates, but he’d never expected to find a bride of his own. The idea both terrified and delighted him.
After so many centuries of suffering, he barely remembered how it felt to be human, but his timing sucked. He’d never wanted a woman the way he did Tempest, but figuring out how to claim her… Well, he’d climb that mountain once he’d dealt with the demons he knew would come after him.
Her wildflower essence mingled with the soft swish of her blood, tempting him like nothing ever had before. The sweet sound of it pulsing through her veins had him running his tongue over his dry lips. The need to taste her hardened into an obsession. His mouth watered, and his retractable fangs dropped.
Unaware of her danger, she stormed out the room. “You don’t want a doctor? It’s your funeral, but I’m still going to wash all the blood and grime off your body.”
A funeral? Something else he’d never had. In Sparta, unless you died in battle or childbirth, nobody gave a damn. No funeral. No headstone. Just a lifeless body festering in a dank pit.
His Spartan wife—the woman who’d murdered him while he slept—would have slit his throat for the “or else”
he’d thrown at his angel earlier. Then again, Cynisca had done that anyway. Elias hadn’t loved her, but he hadn’t expected her to condemn him for being born Macedonian. Besides, after living in Sparta for twenty-five years, he remembered little about his birth land. Staying behind while his fellow warriors fought at Thermopylae had been humiliating.
“Guarding our homes and watching our backs,”
King Leonidas had called it.
Elias had known better. Considering the things he’d endured in the afterlife, it seemed unimportant now. He hadn’t expected to survive, let alone thrive under the Spartan regime. He’d been too damn angry to die for his family’s satisfaction. As the eldest son of the Macedonian king, he should have enjoyed a pampered upbringing. Instead, he’d endured the worst things Spartan culture could throw at him. No way would he stand aside and let one of his half-brothers take the Macedonian throne.
The demons had shown him his half-brothers laughing as they basked in their father’s love. They’d had everything while he’d suffered thirteen years of misery and Spartan abuse. Life in the agoge had been harsh and frightening for a seven-year-old, but after the torture he’d endured in the underworld, it seemed like a walk in the park.
Thanks to Tempest’s spell, he’d landed in this place of light and warmth. He didn’t know if her magic would wear off or if he could live free in her world. Either way, he’d enjoy every moment with his curvy bride.
“Okay, gorgeous,” she called as she came back into the room, “brace yourself. One antiseptic sponge bath coming up.”
He cursed himself for the “or else”
he’d threatened her with earlier. Seducing her until she begged him to bite her would have worked better. Even as he resigned himself to more pain, he pulled her sweet essence into his newly functioning lungs. It made him wish he’d kept his mouth shut.
She carried a bowl of steaming water. Any minute now, he expected her to scald him with it. Pain, he could endure, but the Tuchulcha demons would be coming for him soon. His muscles tensed. If he’d any strength left, he’d have tossed her over his shoulder and run. Once he’d found a safe haven, he’d have tied her to his bed, stripped her flimsy silk coverings from her body, and seduced her. He wanted nothing more than to show her how good a Spartan warrior could be between her legs. Instead, when she knelt beside him, he stroked his thumb over her nipple. “So beautiful.”
She batted his hand away and mimicked his threat. “Behave or else. I guess you’re not as badly hurt as I thought.”
Wringing out a cloth, she ran it over his battered body. Her gentle touch filled him with awe. No one had done something so kind for him since… Well, he didn’t remember his Macedonian life, so never. The way she cringed every time she revealed another festering burn or partly healed scar shattered his defenses.
Tears shone in her eyes. “I know it stings, but the antiseptic will stop infection from setting in.”
Elias shrugged. Even as a child, the older boys in the agoge would have punished him if he’d winced at such a minor discomfort. “Thank you for your kindness. May I know your name?”
Her smile evaporated when she saw the deep scars where the demons had peeled flesh and muscle from his hips. The wounds had scabbed over, but they still oozed blood despite his regenerative powers.
She rinsed her cloth again and cleaned the blood from his thighs. “Goddess knows how you’ve survived this. I’m Tempest Townsend. Look, there’s an outside chance I caused your injuries. I feel so damn guilty. Please, let me call an ambulance.”
His grip tightened into an iron band around her wrist. “Not your fault. Let me rest, and I’ll leave.”
The sympathy in her eyes almost unmanned him. A wildness grew inside him, making him crave more of her touch. Only, he needed to recover and run. If he stayed, he’d lead the Tuchulcha demons to her door. He couldn’t risk them discovering that he’d found his bride, not when they’d torture her to hurt him. He wanted to make her come long and hard. Hell, he’d sell his soul to taste her orgasm, but his need to protect her overwhelmed him. Nothing and no one would hurt his bride.
He just needed one drop of her blood to heal. “I’m Elias. I promise to care for you as best I’m able. I’ll never hurt you, despite the stupid things I said earlier. Your kindness has touched me deeply, but the Tuchulcha demons that did this to me will come after me soon. Once I’m strong enough, I’ll leave.”
He hated being defenseless and weak. At five years old, he’d wept when his father had sent him off to Sparta as a hostage to their fragile peace. Elias should have been an honored guest, but the Spartans had treated him like any other abandoned boy child. On his seventh birthday, he’d expected the Spartan elders to send him home. Instead, they’d dragged him to the agoge—aka the cruelest boy-training academy ever.
The way his family had thrown him away like an old bone had almost destroyed him. Thanks to them, he’d endured the sadism of the famed Spartan society. He’d been cold and hungry, but he’d learned how to fight and steal. He’d had to if he wanted to survive.
When Elias turned twelve, he’d fought his newest mentor the first time the bastard abused him, but an adolescent boy had no chance against a battle-hardened Spartan warrior. The days Elias had lain in the dark cellar without food or a blanket had been a foretaste of his future. If he ever regained his full strength, he’d eradicate the whole Tuchulcha demon tribe.
His gaze fastened on Tempest’s neck. Again, he battled his darkest cravings. His tongue flicked over his lips, but he wouldn’t abuse her trust by chomping down on her neck. If his abstinence slowed his recovery, so be it. As soon as he healed, he’d leave.
His eyelids drooped and weariness beset him, but sleeping in the presence of strangers was stupid. His Spartan wife had proven that.
Tempest wiped the back of her hand over her eyes, stared at his battered body, and shook her head. “You’re too big for me to lift, but if you can make it to your feet, I’ll help you into my bed.”
Her bed? Yes, please.
Even though his cock shot to attention, his muscles shook when he tried to stand. Besides, she’d sounded more concerned than sexy, so maybe it hadn’t been the invitation he hoped. He hadn’t been so nervous or uncertain since his father had sent his five-year-old self away to live with strangers—a hostage to his nation’s good behavior.
Tempest’s cheeks flamed when she noticed the effect she had on his dick. Apparently, his bride had a shy streak. Much as he liked that, he needed to leave before the demons arrived. Besides, his bride was temptation and warmth. If he stayed, he’d toss her to the floor, shove his cock into her pussy and his fangs into her neck. But as much as he longed to make her come, he wanted it to be her choice as well as his.
She knelt beside him, her cheeks as red as the glorious scarlet curls mixed among her tangle of black hair. In a better time and place, he’d have kissed her until she snuggled against him and begged for more. Not that she’d have to beg long. Whatever his needs, he’d put them aside to please her. He ached to kiss the concerned look from her face. “Please, don’t worry about me.”
She studied him for a moment, then nodded. “I can’t believe I haven’t called an ambulance. The thing is—I tried this spell, but my magic’s a bit wonky sometimes. It might have…”
“Not you,” he rasped. “The gods abandoned me when they left me to rot in a foreign hell.”
Hearing his bride’s voice sent ripples of sensual hunger through his soul. He ached for a taste of her flesh or a sip of her blood. His fangs elongated, and his mouth watered. Refusing to let his dark instincts rule him, he deliberately calmed his inner demon. He concentrated on his eyes, willing the red heat he felt there to recede. Hopefully, they lost the inhuman glow he’d sometimes seen reflected in the ice of his cell. The last thing he wanted was to terrify her.
As he concentrated on his half-forgotten humanity, his fangs retracted slightly. He tried to give her a reassuring smile, but despite his intentions, he bared his fangs in an animalistic snarl.
Tempest jumped back and spoke the word he dreaded above any other. “Vampire.”
* * * *
Seth prowled the luxury apartment Hades had provided. His inner wolf found the cream-and-cappuccino décor bland. After centuries in the Elysian Fields, he craved life and color, not the mindlessly cheerful existence the other ghosts enjoyed. His human side loved the new toys and gadgets. At first, computer games fascinated him, but when he played war games, the cavalry tactics were laughable.
At least the twenty-first-century air smelled of humans and life. Back in the Elysian Fields, even the air had smelled of roses, but after a few hundred years, the sweetness of it had clawed at the back of his throat. Hades had promised that Seth would meet his mate by the weekend. Excitement set him pacing the apartment. He’d scented her earlier, and he couldn’t wait to study her face. Blonde or brunette didn’t matter. To him, she’d be as beautiful as her wildflower essence, but he hoped she came with breasts that spilled out of his hands.
Hades had supplied Seth with a new identity, one with more money than he knew what to do with. He relished the chance to display his equestrian skills and happily stepped into the role of unbeatable medieval jouster—the star of any Medieval Fayre he entered. Not that it mattered if he didn’t find his mate. Hades had promised Seth would meet her when he rode at Goodwell Abbey’s annual Medieval Fayre.
With any luck, he could impress his mate with his riding skills, maybe even carry her favor. When he won—and he would—he’d dedicate his victory to her. Hades had supplied the horses, livery, and transport, along with a bank balance so big, Seth couldn’t get his head around the figures.
He looked in the mirror and stroked his hand through his shoulder-length curls. All corded muscle and odd-colored eyes, he’d been invincible on horseback in Ancient Greece. No modern horseman would come near his equestrian skills; he knew it in his bones.
The next two days would be a nightmare of impatience and frenzied desire. Scenting his mate had made his cock hard. He couldn’t wait to carry her off, strip her naked, and explore her body. He had no time for stick-thin women, and again he hoped she came with curves. Her sweet perfume had started a fire in his groin.
His dick threatened to burst out of his jeans, so he shucked his clothes and took a hot shower. Eyes closed, he fisted one hand around his cock and thrust his hips forward. Keeping up a steady rhythm, he tightened his grip until precum dripped from its head. His breath came faster. His pulse pounded. The fire in his balls flared higher.
Thoughts firmly set on claiming his mate, he squeezed harder and pumped faster. Fluid shot from his cock and splattered the wall. Glad to have eased the throbbing in his balls, he rinsed his cum off the tiles, cleaned himself up, and dried off. Waiting for the weekend to find his mate would be hell. At least it gave him a chance to capture his half-brother Elias and toss him back in his cell.