Authors: Marisa Chenery
Finally feeling as if he’d gotten himself under control, Torger walked to the end of the block, crossed the street, then headed to the coffee shop where his family waited. There would be, of course, questions since he’d up and left without any explanation. And his sister, Kaisa, his twin, would sense something in him. They had that twin awareness thing going on.
Torger stepped into the coffee shop, and sure enough, Kaisa met his gaze with a questioning look lurking in her eyes. There was no point in avoiding it. He crossed to the booth next to the large front window where his sister sat. He slid onto the bench on the opposite side of her. Cameron, a lone wolf and a friend they considered part of their pack, sat next to Kaisa.
“We saw you helping that woman moving boxes,” Kaisa said. “What was that all about?”
He decided being blunt and up front was the best way to answer. Get it all out there. “That was Rikki. She’s my mate. To both my vampire and werewolf sides.”
His sister didn’t even blink, only nodded. Cameron’s eyes widened as an expression of shock crossed his face for a few seconds.
“A mate?” Cameron asked. “Now when your asshole vampire relatives could show up at any time and possibly make a mess of things?”
Vampires, who were part of his mother’s family, had killed his parents and buried his older brother alive two thousand years ago. To a vampire, one of their kind mating with a werewolf, and bearing a child from that union, was considered an abomination. His parents had fled their homeland, Finland, five thousand years before and had come to this part of the world so they could live in peace. They’d been found in the end. His father had been beheaded while his mother burned. She’d been pregnant at the time with Torger and Kaisa. Being hybrids and true immortals, they’d survived and had been raised by a couple who’d been part of the local native tribe at time.
Now the vampires had returned, hoping to finish them off. They’d recently killed one who’d attacked and captured Waverly, Brolach’s mate, but the others would come. It was only a matter of time.
“It’s not as if I went out looking for my mate,” Torger said. “Believe me, I’m just as shocked as you.”
Kaisa reached across the table and squeezed his hand. “Well, we have to make sure we watch over Rikki. And it might be best if you can hold off claiming her, especially doing any blood exchanges. That way if one of our vampire relatives happen to come across her, he won’t scent you on her. As your mate, she’d be in much greater danger.”
That was good advice, but Torger seriously didn’t think he’d be able to have that much restraint. At least with his werewolf side he wouldn’t. To claim her as his mate, he needed to make love to Rikki quite a few times, and once the bond happened, there would be no going back. Unlike a vampire mate bond, which only needed two blood exchanges to form, he’d have no control over the werewolf one. That side of him would ride him to have sex with her. It’d be a hunger that would be very hard to ignore.
He blew out a breath. “I know it would be, but now that I’ve found Rikki, staying away isn’t going to be an option, nor will it be that easy to hold off claiming her.”
“Tell me about it,” Cameron said. “Once a mating urge hits a male werewolf, he can only think about claiming his mate. Torger being a hybrid, it might temper it some, but it isn’t something he can go around acting as if it isn’t there.”
“Let’s take it as it comes,” Torger said. “Rikki’s gone to return the trailer she rented, then I’m going back to her apartment with Chinese take-out. I promised I’d put together a new computer desk for her.”
“Who’s Rikki?” Waverly asked as she came to their booth.
“I wondered that myself,” Brolach added as he arrived to stand at his mate’s side.
Torger turned his gaze on his older brother and his mate. Brolach had the same eye and hair color as Torger and Kaisa, and he was just as tall as Torger. The only difference between them was the fact Brolach could at times act the ancient he was. Being buried for two thousand years hadn’t made him a modern man. Though with Waverly at his side, his brother was improving.
“Rikki is my mate,” Torger said. “She just moved into the apartment above the hardware store across the street.”
Waverly smiled. “I’m happy for you, Torger, but having a human mate comes with risks.”
And Waverly would know that from firsthand experience. The vampire who’d captured her had torn into her neck, just about draining her dry. Only Brolach doing the second blood exchange had saved her. Not only did it take two to form a mate bond it also was enough to turn a human. The only difference between a vampire and a hybrid doing the turning was a human became a day walker when the hybrid did it. Other than that, Waverly was now a vampire with the need to drink blood and had fangs. She also was immortal, but not a true one.
“We were discussing that,” Cameron said.
“What’s going on? Did I miss something?” Devin, Waverly’s brother, asked as he slid onto the bench seat next to Kaisa and put her arm around her shoulders.
Kaisa slid out from Devin’s embrace, causing Cameron to move farther into the corner. “Torger found his mate.”
Devin smiled at Kaisa. “You two being twins, maybe that means you’ll find yours soon too. I have an idea who it could be.” He winked at her.
Torger bit back a smile. Ever since Devin had met them, he’d been trying to get Kaisa to go out with him. He knew what they were, but that didn’t put him off in the least. Kaisa, on the other hand, so far, wasn’t going for it. Torger could understand why, though. When they’d been young, only in their twenties, his sister had fallen for a native hunter in the tribe they’d grown up in. Even though they’d loved each other, he hadn’t been a mate for her werewolf side, and he’d refused to allow her to turn him. Kaisa had had only a few years with her hunter before losing him during a buffalo hunt that had gone wrong. She’d sworn from that day on she’d never give her heart to a human male unless he was truly her mate.
Kaisa rolled her eyes at Devin. “I’m sure you do. Are you ever going to give up?”
“Not a chance.” He grinned and winked again.
Even though Kaisa tried to keep Devin at arm’s length, Torger had a feeling she liked Waverly’s brother more than she wanted to admit.
“Now that everyone knows about Rikki, I’m heading out before I’m late meeting her,” Torger said as he slid off the bench to stand next to Brolach.
His brother clapped him on the shoulder. “Bring Rikki around soon so we can meet her.”
After saying goodbye to everyone, Torger headed out of the coffee shop. Once outside, he decided to walk to the town’s only Chinese restaurant since it was on the main street as well.
Finding the best way to protect Rikki from his vampire relatives while she had no clue what he was would be a challenge. Then there would be the struggle to decide how much time he spent with her, along with how far he’d go on the road to claiming her as his mate. On one hand, doing it as fast as he could held merit. He could keep her at his side all the time. On the other, as Kaisa and Cameron had pointed out, it’d put Rikki at greater risk. He was torn. Holding off went against his nature and the instincts that had kicked in as soon as he’d realized she was his female.
As he arrived at the Chinese restaurant, Torger pushed all thoughts of claiming Rikki aside. For now, he’d enjoy his evening with her and use it to get to know her better.
Rikki turned in the trailer with no problem, then returned to her apartment. She parked her car behind the building in the spot that was reserved for her. There was no back entrance to her place, so she walked around to the front and went inside by that door. It wasn’t secured, but she didn’t mind. Lemmon was a small town, after all.
At the top of the stairs, she unlocked her apartment door and stepped inside. Seeing all the boxes in the living room made her groan. She hated unpacking as much as she hated packing. Rikki looked at the clock that hung on the wall. She’d finished with the trailer faster than she’d expected. There was still another forty minutes before Torger would return.
Since she had time to kill, she decided she might as well put a dent in the unpacking. Rikki moved the bookshelf she’d brought with her in place against an open space along one of the walls in the living room. She took a step back to make sure it was where she wanted it. Once she placed all her books on it, there would be no moving it without taking them off.
She lugged one of the boxes of books over to the bookshelf, then set to work. Rikki once more thought she was being silly for keeping all of them. It wasn’t as if she’d ever read them again. Even if she really enjoyed a book, she never reread any of them. Maybe one day she’d get rid of them, but today wasn’t it. Especially not after packing and moving them.
Rikki became so involved in what she was doing she didn’t pay attention to the time. A knock on her apartment door caused her to jump. She glanced at the clock to find the forty minutes had flown by. She stood from where she kneeled on the floor in front of the bookshelf, then went to let Torger in, who she presumed had knocked.
She opened the door, then stepped back and waved Torger inside. “I smell Chinese food.”
He walked into the entranceway and lifted the large bag he carried. “I hope you like it.”
Rikki closed the door behind Torger. “I always say you can’t go wrong with Chinese. It’s one of my favorites.”
“Good. Should I put it on the kitchen table?”
“Sure. Go ahead. I haven’t unpacked any of my dishes yet so we’re going to have to eat out of the containers.”
“That’s fine. I had them put some chopsticks in with the food. Can you use them?”
“Yes.” Rikki followed Torger into the kitchen. He placed the bag onto the table, then took out container after container of food. Once he was finished it looked as if there was enough to feed four people. She looked at him. “I hope you don’t expect me to eat half of that.”
Torger chuckled. “No. I figured I’d buy enough so there’d be leftovers. That way you’ll have something to eat for lunch tomorrow and won’t have to hurry out to the grocery store.”
“Thanks. That was thoughtful of you.”
They sat at her small table. Rikki took one set of chopsticks, removed them from the paper wrapping and then broke them apart. She reached for one take-out container before she pulled it toward her. She took a deep breath, savoring the smell of the curried thin fried rice noodle dish. She took a mouthful and moaned.
Torger chuckled. “Is it good?”
Rikki chewed, then swallowed. “The best. Now I know of one great restaurant to order out to.”
“Well, it’s the only Chinese restaurant in town, so I guess it’s a good thing you like the food there.”
She laughed. “Yeah, I would guess so.”
They ate in silence. Rikki hadn’t realized how hungry she’d been until she’d started eating. Now that she thought about it, the last time she’d had a meal was breakfast, and that had only been a cereal bar. It’d been a three-hour drive from Rapid City to Lemmon, and she hadn’t stopped to eat again on the road.
Having taken the edge off her hunger, Rikki said, “You know what I do for a living, but I don’t know what you do.”
Torger swallowed a mouthful of food before he answered. “Well, at present, nothing. My sister, Kaisa, who is also my twin, and I moved to Lemmon a few months ago. Around the same time we found our older brother, Brolach.”
“Yeah. We were separated when Kaisa and I were born. Our parents had died. We knew about him growing up, but we didn’t know where he was until recently.”
“Oh wow. It’s too bad they couldn’t have kept the three of you together when you were kids. I know what it’s like being in the system.”
“Yeah, you know, being in foster homes. I grew up in them. My mom had a drug addiction problem, and I was taken from her when I was six months old. I have no idea who my father is, and I’m not sure if my mother did since she never put his name on my birth certificate. She apparently died of an overdose a year after she lost me so I couldn’t ask her even if I wanted to find her.”
“Kaisa and I were lucky. A couple took us in as if we were their own and raised us. What about you?”
“I wasn’t quite that lucky. I was bounced from foster home to foster home. My foster families didn’t mistreat me or anything, but I always knew I wasn’t their kid. After I finished high school, I managed to get a college scholarship so I could get my BA in English. I’ve been on my own ever since.”
Torger met her gaze. “What about a boyfriend?”
Rikki smiled. “I don’t have one of those. When I get one, he usually doesn’t hang around very long. I’ve been told I’m a bore since I apparently am only interested in books.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that. There was a time when anyone who could read were considered privileged and well-educated while the rest of the masses weren’t.”
“Very true, but in this day and age, not so much.”
“Well, I don’t think you’re a bore if you like books.”
Torger’s gaze heated and made Rikki’s heart beat a little faster. There was definite interest, and desire, in his eyes. A throbbing ache deep inside her pussy took up residence, demanding she do something about it. She wondered what
do if she went under the table and got up close and personal to what he had hidden inside his jeans. It was so tempting, she figured she’d better do something before she acted out her little fantasy.
Rikki pushed back her chair and then stood. “Are you finished eating? I am. Maybe we should get started on putting that computer desk together.”
She rambled, and more than likely came across as sounding on the rude side. It was something she couldn’t stop herself from doing when she became nervous. Not bothering to wait for Torger’s answer, Rikki closed the take-out containers and then put them into the fridge.
“I guess I’m done,” Torger said with laugher in his voice. “Let’s go work on that desk of yours.”
Rikki led the way into the living room. She told herself to get a grip and not act like such an idiot as she walked over to the box with the desk in it. With Torger helping, she managed to get it open and all the pieces taken out. There seemed to be an awful lot for the size of the desk.