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 Twisted

Dark Protectors - 5.5

by

Rebecca Zanetti

Chapter One

The wolf ’s smile hinted at danger. Even in human form, Terrent Vilks was all male animal.

Maggie settled her shoulders and relaxed into the floral chair in the formal parlor. After living with stubborn-assed vampires for a decade, she at least knew how to look tough.

Though the butterflies dancing through her stomach mocked her. She blinked and sighed in what she hoped sounded like boredom.

“So, you’re finally where I want you.” Low and rough, Terrent’s voice bounced off the crackling stone fireplace.

“Well, I guess it’s your turn,” she said, her chin lifting.

Reminding him of the argument they’d had five years previous about whether she should live with vampires or with wolf-shifters probably wasn’t wise, especially since it had ended with him kissing her. But wise was for wussies. While she might not be as tough as Terrent Vilks, deadly soldier, she was still a woman who could shift into a dangerous wolf within two seconds. The man needed to understand that fact.

His dark eyes darkened further. Sprawled in a matching chair, he overwhelmed the fabric. In fact, he overwhelmed the small room. “Please understand I agreed to allow you to live in the pack’s guest mansion so long as you’re available when necessary.”

Allow? Oh, Maggie didn’t think so. “Available?”

“Yes. Available to our doctors, available to the Raze wolf pack, and available to . . . me.”

A slow shiver wandered down her spine and ended with a blast of heat. The double meaning should have ticked her off.

But . . . no. She met his gaze without flinching, taking a moment to study him. Thick, black hair swept back from a face that went beyond rugged to imposing. Sharp jaw, high forehead, piercing eyes. The fact that he walked among humans shocked her. No way could he be anything other than wolf.

He wore his customary ripped jeans and faded T-shirt, obviously not having made an effort for her. She cleared her throat. “I believe the King of the Realm requested autonomy for me if I visited wolf-shifter headquarters.”

The king, a vampire, led a coalition of shifters, vampires, and witches who had banded together to fight demons as well as the Kurjans, an evil vampire race. He’d provided protection for Maggie the last decade, and she owed him. So she’d agreed to visit wolf-shifter headquarters and do a little investigating for him.

Terrent’s eyebrow arched. “While the Raze pack and many other wolf-shifting packs are aligned with the Realm, the vampires don’t dictate how wolves live. If you had been living with wolves instead of vampires the last decade, you would know that.”

Not this old argument again. “You know why I wanted to stay with the vampires.”

“Because they rescued you.” Terrent exhaled slowly.

“Yes.” A decade ago, she’d been kidnapped by the Kurjans, experimented on, and then rescued by the vampires. Unfortunately, the experimental drugs injected into her system had resulted in total memory loss. She remembered nothing about her life before ten years ago. “I owe the king and his brothers my life.”

“I understand.” Terrent’s voice gentled. “Still, it’s nice you’re here among your own people. Finally.”

She’d met Terrent a few years past when he’d attempted, unsuccessfully, to retrieve her for the wolves. “I am looking forward to meeting other wolves.” Regardless of her true reason for being at wolf-shifter headquarters.

“Good.” Terrent steepled his fingers under his chin. “We have inoculations next week. Are you current?”

“Yes. Only one to go.” She hated needles and dreaded receiving the third and final inoculation. The Kurjans had created a terrible virus that turned male shifters into werewolves, mindless killers. The virus turned female shifters into humans. A cure had been created, and each shifter needed three inoculations within three years to be permanently immune. “Though, I heard that there might be problems with the serum.”

“Yes. Some of the vials have been sabotaged. Don’t worry, we’re on it.”

So was she. Somebody was messing with shifter inoculations, and she would ferret out the saboteur. But to do so, she needed autonomy. “You promised the king I’d have freedom if I visited the wolves.”

Terrent frowned. “The king sent Jase Kayrs with you to make sure of it.”

Maggie sighed. The king’s brother, Jase, was her friend, and she was thankful he’d accompanied her to Washington State. He’d wanted to get away from home for a while. “Jase won’t be here for long. He’s heading out on his own soon.”

“I know. He’s using my cabin up in Sacks Mountain. The area is totally isolated.”

Isolation for Jase might not be the best idea. She fought back another sigh. “You didn’t answer me about my ability to come and go as I choose here. So far, I’ve cooperated with you and I already let your doctors poke and prod me all morning.”

“I appreciate your cooperation. Our doctors understand wolf physiology better than the vampire doctors, so we should understand more about your memory loss tomorrow.”

The vampires had tried to figure out what the drugs had done to her brain for ten years now. She doubted wolf doctors would be any more successful. Maggie studied Terrent.

“What do you want from me?”

His silence thrummed with tension. With something that kick-started her body to life. “I want you to remember me from before you were kidnapped ten years ago.”

Her breath caught in her throat.

Tingles pricked her skin.

Focusing became a challenge.

Taking a deep breath, she mentally counted to ten. As she exhaled, her shoulders lowered. She had no memories of her life before the vampires rescued her from hell. “I knew you?”

“Yes.”

She frowned. “Um, how well?”

He lifted a shoulder. “Very well.”

She coughed. “You mean . . . we, ah . . .”

“Yes.” No expression crossed his face.

Irritation slid into temper. No wonder she felt such an odd connection to him. She exhaled. “Was I good, or what?”

His lip quirked. Amusement filled his eyes. “Yes, and you were a smart-ass, which apparently hasn’t changed.”

Covering her eyes with her hands wouldn’t help anything, but the idea was tempting. “So I’m a slut.”

He snorted. “No, you’re not a slut. We were a lot more than a one-night stand.”

Her heart clutched. “A lot more?”

“Yes.”

Why the hell was he just telling her this now? “So, we, ah, courted?”

He chuckled. “Not exactly. I followed you for months before finally catching up with you.”

Her instincts started to hum. “You were following me?”

“Yes—initially.”

“Why?”

“What do I do for a living, sweetheart?” he asked softly.

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