Installment No. 42
Sofia had imagined several different settings for the Compound German kept referring to, but not in a million years would she have come up with this. Okay. Eventually she might have, if she’d been trying to tease him, if she’d wanted to rib him about being the only son of an Alpha, the sole heir to a head cheese. Because what she had to practically crack her neck in half to look up to was a frigging monstrosity. The antithesis of wolf den. The opposite of wild, the antonym to freedom.
“Christ.” The oath, using up a full two syllables, fell out of her mouth, and pretty much summed up her stunned impression. The Compound was a goddamned castle, a medieval church, a gothic nightmare. “You grew up here?” She’d been picturing low-built homes sprawled across a wooded landscape, nestled in close proximity to one another. Something clannish. Something pack-ish, for the love of Pete. Not a looming megalith structure.
“Home sweet home,” he said, but the words had an edge, like they had teeth which wanted nothing more than to shred the truth of what loomed before them. Pride in one’s heritage hadn’t hid its sorry ass under the SUV they’d just arrived in, it had ditched the wolf-man ages ago. Bitterness cozied itself to those words instead, like the two things—home and resentment—had married each other long ago. No wonder whenever German referred to going to the Compound he never said going home. German and this place fit together like work boots on a ballerina, like a ball and chain handcuffed to an eagle.
Like a floor and a tiger pelt rug. Wrong. On the worst of levels.
Her hand flapped at her wrist until it found its anchor: her mate’s warm, calloused hand. Fingers squeezed hers as German pressed his body to her back, curled a strong arm around her waist and snugged her against him.
“German, the place is…” She didn’t want to insult him even if he didn’t seem to hold fond memories of this fortress. It was still the place he’d grown up in, no matter how incongruous that seemed. Bizarre because her wolf-man had rough edges, a wildness in his demeanor. She hadn’t realized how wild until he’d dropped his guard around her and no longer hid that he wasn’t human. His wolf always paced just beneath his skin, like it was hunting and hyper aware of its surroundings.
Like he was hyper aware of his surroundings. German and his wolf were the same male, with not much separating them. So how the hell did something like him come out of someplace like that? Or.
Ooh. A delicious thought tingled up her spine and she shimmied her butt against his groin. He was like Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights. Loyal. Dark. Dangerous. A girl could have some serious fantasies in a place with twenty bedrooms and a host of closets. Maybe there were even secret passages. Places where they could disappear at a moment’s notice. Sofia was suddenly thinking the two of them might have some outrageous fun in a “house” this size.
“Awful,” German bit out, pulling Sofia back to the current moment, not the one where she and her wolf were doing the nasty in a hidden, narrow corridor. She pulled his arms tighter around her so she was practically plastered to him. Which he didn’t seem to mind in the least. If anything, his muscles relaxed a smidgen as he molded himself to her.
“Yeah. But it’s got potential.”
“Seriously. Think of all the places we can play chase.” Oh, God, what games! She bet the kitchen alone could provide them with hours of fun. Hours.
German grunted again. “It’s got some possibilities, I guess.” She felt him shrug. Felt his smile as he nuzzled his face into her nape. She also felt her heart spread out, grow heavy and thick as it squeezed tight against her chest. She loved him. Somewhere in those thousand miles of traveling to this spot she’d fallen bat-shit crazy in love with her wolf-man.
Maybe it was when she realized she’d fight for him, fight for them. Or maybe it was when she realized he’d quit resisting what was happening to them. That he’d thrown away his glower and replaced it with a hopeful…okay, smile might be too strong a word. But he certainly wasn’t grinding his teeth anymore, either. Nor did he seem resigned. There was something else altogether, like maybe he’d finally accepted their lot.
Which did nothing to allay her earlier suspicions. And now that she was gawking up at some medieval castle, maybe she wasn’t too far off the mark about a possible punishment awaiting him. Gads, there was probably a dungeon beneath this thing, where the screams of torture victims were swallowed up by tons upon tons of stone.
A shiver scurried up her back, a cold front pushing away her earlier, warmer thoughts of clandestine romping in various bedchambers. Or broom closets. As if he sensed her shift in mood, German took her hand to lead her up the sprawling, granite steps. “Come on. It’s very beautiful inside. And after we make our introductions, I’ll show you around.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “Show you a couple of secret passages.”
He made her giggle even as she instantly responded with a delicious squirm low in her belly. Squeezing his fingers, she lifted her chin to accept a kiss. Neither one closed their eyes, their faith too raw to pull their attention from each other. In German’s verdant gaze she saw the sharp hunger of hope. Hope for what, she’d have to wait and see. The shine said it was for them, but she couldn’t shed her earlier doubts.
Rather than shake her confidence, her misgivings made her feel forewarned, like maybe her instincts were kicking in, acting like they had her back: like the good friend they’d always been to her. She was ready. No matter what happened to them once they crossed that threshold, she’d fight anything, anyone, to keep her mate safe. She didn’t care if this is where the family he’d promised her lived or not. She didn’t need them so long as her green eyed wolf-man remained strong at her side.
~Installment No. 43 coming Tuesday, April 8, 2014.