Marked By the Wolf #3

Book Cover: Marked By the Wolf #3

Danica “Danny” Lewis’ life has taken more twists than taffy at a taffy factory, but things complicate further when her mate and she are forced into rescuing her old friend from the clutches of their werewolf nemesis who would rather kill them all then release the human. Her mate hits upon a plan to use an old friend of the family to help, but she has her doubts when she learns that the old friend is more dead than alive.

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With my transformation complete that was one complication down, one more big headache to deal with in the form of Morgan. Well, two headaches, but one of them wasn’t Morgan. The other one was the heavy lump atop me when I woke up. I opened my eyes and saw that Mark still lay on me. He was warm and soft, but very heavy, even for my new and improved body.
I tapped him on the shoulder, but he only snuggled closer to me. His head lay against mine and he buried his nose into the crux of my neck. “Mark?” The only response was a bit of grumbling. “Mark? Mark!”
His eyes snapped open and he raised his head to whip it to and fro. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Not a morning person, are you?” I wondered.
He glanced down at me and sheepishly shrugged. “Not really. I’m more of a night owl,” he admitted.
“You mean a wolf,” I quipped.

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He smirked and partially slid off me to lay on his side beside me, but kept me pinned to the bed. I shivered at the loss of his warmth and wrapped my arms around myself. “The same applies to you now,” he reminded me.
I stretched and winced when my back popped. “All I feel like is an eighty year old grandmother after a wild night of bingo.” There was that chill again. I pulled the blanket closer to myself.
Mark leaned down and softly kissed me on the lips. “Do you want me to remind you what we did last night?” he teased.
“No, I want you to get off me so I can breath. It’s been a couple of hours since my last gasp of air,” I replied. I pushed at his chest, and he laughed and rolled off.
“I can see why I liked your scent. It smells of spunk,” he commented.
“Well, all I smell is-” I sniffed the air and blinked. I smelled a lot of things, some of them pleasant and others not so much. The sheer number of smells left me feeling dizzy. It was like being placed in a room full of bright colored dots that grew brighter the longer you looked at them, but then another color intruded wanting your attention. All those demands nearly overloaded my schnoz and I pinched my nose shut.
Mark sat up and pulled my dazed self against his chest. His warmth was a nice change from that stubborn chill in my bones. “You’ll get used to the smells and sounds, but don’t let the world overwhelm you at first,” he advised.
I glanced up at him with a teasing smile. “And I shouldn’t let handsome strangers take advantage of me,” I quipped.
He raised an eyebrow. “Are we strangers after last night?” he wondered.
I rolled my eyes, twisted partially around and pressed my hands against his chest. “I did just meet you a few days ago,” I reminded him.
Mark leaned down and nuzzled my neck with his nose. His voice was low and sultry. “But I know your body intimately,” he teased.
I only meant to push him away from me, but I forgot I was a werewolf now. My push was more like a shove by a three-hundred pound muscled man named Steve. Mark flew from the bed and landed on the rug in front of the dead fire. He also took the top sheet with him, leaving me naked and cold. I yelped and grabbed an extra sheet to cover myself while he sat up and playfully glared at me.
“You’re a werewolf now. You need to mind your strength,” he scolded me.
“And you need to mind your hands, or I’ll tell your mom you’ve been playing paddy-cake in my bedroom,” I warned him.
He stood and wrapped the blanket around his waist. “I doubt she entirely missed our mating session last night. You were quite exuberant in your howling,” he pointed out.
I glared at him and wrapped the blanket tight around my shivering body. “Like I could help it. That was my first time doing it as a werewolf, and you weren’t helping,” he argued.
He chuckled and picked up his torn clothes off the floor. “I was doing exactly what I intended to do,” he replied.
“Well, now that the whole Night of the Furry is over, what do I do now?” I asked him.
Mark paused and his lips pursed together. “Now I am not sure. Morgan has your friend captive and evidently isn’t pleased at my creating you.”
“I did get the feeling there wasn’t any love lost between you two. Something about glaring at each other hoping you were going to melt the other’s face off,” I commented.
“Morgan is jealous of my family’s influence. He would do anything to weaken ours and strengthen his,” Mark explained.
“And he thinks he’s found his ‘kill-two-birds-with-one-me’?” I guessed.
“Yes. He can accuse you, one of my pack, of endangering the Foundation by your mere existence outside our rules and have you destroyed. He wouldn’t show any mercy toward your friend, and my family would be humiliated because of my hasty decision to turn you,” he replied.
My face twisted with disbelief and I tilted my head to one side. “What is with this Foundation? You act as if it’s some sort of a cult or government.”
“To us it’s both,” he told me. He strode over to me and seated himself on the end of the bed. “The Foundation has been around for a very long time, nearly as long as this city. It was founded by a few new immigrant werewolves who banded together to keep ronin werewolves from the area.”
“And to have a Feast of Humans every few years?” I mused.
Mark frowned. “That came later after the first leader of the Foundation stepped down. By then the Foundation had a few dozen members and more were coming. The new leader, Morgan’s predecessor, feared the members would slip if they weren’t allowed a moment of feral excitement every few years.”
“Have they tried sex?” I suggested.
He chuckled. “The feral hunter in us,” he corrected himself. “That’s when the party began. Attendance was mandatory so all the werewolves could be counted including any new children or any deaths. Unless the werewolf has moved from the city, the punishment for missing the party is death.”
“I thought the Census rules were tough,” I muttered.
“And Morgan has only made matters worse. The Foundation used to not involve itself in the daily lives of the werewolves, but since his assumption as leader fifteen years ago there is no escaping its influence. He seeks to monitor our every move, our every financial transaction. Anything that might affect our position in the Foundation and in the human world.”
“So he’s playing dictator and nobody’s stopped him?” I guessed.
“I’m afraid so, and my family is guilty of letting him do what he pleases. We need to stop him, and your creation has given me a personal fight in the matter,” he told me.
My head spun with all these intrigues and personal vendettas. It was as though I was back in Political History class, but without the bell to save me. “All right, so everything is really complicated and Johnny and I might not make it out of this alive. How do we make it so my life as a werewolf doesn’t turn out to be shorter than a mini skirt?”
“We’ll consult the rule book and see if we can’t fight Morgan with his own tactics,” Mark suggested.
“Rule book? What kind of rule book?” I asked him. I shivered and my teeth chattered. “Did somebody turn the thermostat to iceberg?” I wondered.
“You feel a chill because you don’t have your fur coat over your body,” he explained.
My face drooped. “You’re telling me I’m going to feel cold from now on without being a wolf?”
“Yep.”
“This wasn’t in the contract, or any of the movies,” I pointed out.
“No, but I’m afraid it’s reality. We’re constantly cold without our fur,” he repeated.
I sighed. “I guess that explains why all the heaters are on around you guys,” I commented.
“Yes, it’s an annoyance, but nothing that can’t be handled by a heater,” he assured me. “Now let’s get dressed and go to for a late-” he glanced at the clock on the nightstand and frowned. The lock read one in the afternoon. “-lunch. Then we can find the rule book in the library and see what we can use.”
I shivered and shrunk into the blanket. “How about lunch in bed?” I suggested.
He chuckled. “Not a bad idea, but you must get dressed some time,” he pointed out.
“When it’s summer,” I replied.
“Let’s see if we can’t find anything in the dresser here to suit you,” he suggested. He walked over to said piece of furniture, opened the top drawer, and pulled out a shirt like the one I’d worn the night of the party. It was so new the tag still hung on the sleeve, and giving it a look over I could see it was my exact measurements. “What do you think?” he asked me.
“I think you looked a little too long at me that night,” I commented.
“Perhaps, but hopefully it will fit you. Mother tried her best to find the right size,” he told me.
I blinked at him. “Why was your mom shopping for clothes for me?”
He coughed and draped the shirt over himself so he could tie the blanket around his waist. “I informed her of my biting you and she anticipated your coming here,” he admitted.
“So this was a family affair getting me here?” I teased.
“No, it was my sole doing. My mother merely wished to make your stay here more comfortable,” he explained to me.
“So she knows she has a stubborn son who wouldn’t let a little kidnapping get in the way of getting his mate here?” I guessed.
He smiled and brought me a set of clothes that he tossed across the foot of the bed. “I’m afraid I am very stubborn,” he informed me.
“I would say single-minded, conceited, difficult, and various other adjectives, but I guess stubborn will work,” I returned.
“And you are the most difficult woman I have ever encountered,” he shot back.
I clucked my tongue and shook my head. “That was a bad comeback. You have to hit me with something worse than that.”
“Perhaps when I’m wearing more than a sheet I can think of a better one, but right now I’m hungry, your naked body is distracting me, and we have work to do,” he reminded me.
I lifted the thin shirt and my eyes flitted to him. “Is there anything thicker in that drawer?” I requested.
“No, but I will remedy that while you dress,” he promised, and left me to my dressing. The last I saw of him was a trail of sheet disappearing behind the closing door.

COLLAPSE

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