Authors: Milly Taiden
Tags: #Paranormal Erotic Romance
“Sophia, don’t move from that spot, OK sweetheart? They will have to come through me to get to you.”
“How many are there?”
She worried her lower lip watching the entrance, scared for his safety.
“I heard two but smelled four. Why? What’s wrong?”
She wished she could do something to help him.
“Chase, what if I shift—”
He growled so loud she winced. Well, crap!
“But why not? I mean I can help you—”
Frustration and anger built inside her. He seemed to have sensed it because he sighed and then continued at a lower tone.
“You cannot shift, Sophia.”
“I can try,”
She urged, hoping he would change his mind.
“I mean I know I haven’t ever done it before, but I can give it a shot. I mean how hard can it be, right? And maybe help you in the process.”
She could sense the tension he was feeling at her words.
“It’s not safe for you to shift.”
His voice was soft but serious.
Her question was drowned by a loud piercing laugh. A large hyena dove through the air and went straight for Chase. The animal was big with black and brown coarse fur. The thing looked like a cross between a sick lion and a dog on steroids, so ugly she was sure it had to be some kind of science experiment gone wrong.
Chase immediately crouched and leaped, catching the assailant in mid-flight. His wide-open jaws clamped and locked on its front leg and then swung his prey back out the door.
The hyena’s body slapped against the white wall with a loud whine, creating a long bloody mark when it slid down to the floor. Another set of the ugly animals attempted to attack Chase, but he swiped his deadly claws, slicing through the enemies with ease.
He bit into the neck of one and crushed the bones, leaving the hyena in a messy pool of blood on the floor. The other assailant came back with the first aggressor and both attacked, clawing at Chase at the same time. They proved to be enough of a distraction to allow a fourth to break in through one of the lab windows.
Shocked into immobility, Sophia watched the man that stood across the room from her. This was a shifter in his human form. He was shorter than Chase but still a great deal bigger than her, with short black hair and dark brown skin.
The guy was not hard on the eyes either. He looked vaguely familiar. He walked forward, and she wondered again if she should try to shift.
“Don’t do it, Sophia. It’s too dangerous with two animals inside you. Your first shift should not be during a stressful situation like this one. If something goes wrong it’d be a problem we don’t need at this moment,”
Chase stated matter-of-factly in her head and continued to fight.
She bristled, hating how much sense he made. Her cat hissed, and her wolf growled.
He made a valid case for waiting. Still, maybe she could find a way to defend herself; she did have claws, and this guy didn’t know that she was now a shifter also. There was enough blood being spilled that she knew he hadn’t picked up her scent, and from what she could tell hyenas weren’t as sensitive as wolves and cats. She stood patiently waiting. The intruder came closer.
“Dr. Sophia Reese, why don’t you make this easy on the wolf and come with me now. We’ll let him go, and he won’t come to any harm.” The man had a loud voice with a whiny pitch to it.
“Really? What will you do with me?”
She watched the man and knew he was assessing her, so she hunched her shoulders and tried to look scared.
“You won’t come to any harm if you give us the experiment you’ve been working on.” He seemed to relax which made her want to pounce on his dumb ass.
“I don’t know what you mean, but I do know one thing. Chase is going to rip you all limb from limb.” She gave him a happy smile.
She prayed one of the animals inside her body were willing to come to her aid. She envisioned her fingers shifting. The man made a grab for her arm. Long razor-sharp claws stretched out of where her nails would normally be.
Not wasting a second, she turned her body into the man’s, catching him unaware because of her sudden proximity and speed that, she had to admit, had impressed even her. Without a second thought, she buried her claws straight in his jugular, ripping his throat wide open when she yanked roughly on the soft flesh.
Blood sputtered and splattered all over her face. His shocked, wide eyes stared at her while his claws squeezed painfully into her arm. Fear that he might still hurt her engulfed her for a moment until she saw his large body slump to the floor by her feet.
Nausea rolled up her throat. She watched the man bleed to death.
“Sophia.” Chase’s growl snapped her out of her trance.
She jumped and turned horror-filled eyes to gawk at Chase’s human body. Since he shifted, she was able to see the multiple cuts and bites that covered him.
She tried to swallow down the bile threatening to come out, but her stomach recoiled. For her, it was one thing to say she would kill someone, and quite another to actually do it. She darted past the bloody scene, her sneakers squeaking, and slid over a pool of blood and almost fell on her ass.
Sophia made it to the attached bathroom in the lab just in time to lose all the contents of her stomach in the toilet. Her body heaved until all she could do was gag when nothing else came out.
Chase walked in a moment later in his jeans. After she rinsed her mouth, he helped her clean her face. He used wet paper towels to get rid of the spots of blood that had splashed her when she tore the hyena’s throat out.
“Are you OK?” He spoke softly and caressed her cheek with a warm hand while his eyes took in her probably still green face.
“Yes, I…I’ve never done anything like that before. It was too much. All that blood, and something inside of me wanted to keeping going, to shred the man apart.” She was filled with alarm at the thought.
He pulled her into his arms and held her for a moment. His warmth helped alleviate some of the panic inside her. He bent down and kissed her lightly.
“Come on. We need to get out of here before any others show up.” He pulled her down the hallway and back to his car.
“Where are we going?” She leaned back on the headrest and closed her eyes, tuning out what had taken place a few moments before. She was too tired to dissect anything else for the night.
“To my house. It’s a little farther down from River and Julia, but they’ll be coming over in the morning to catch up.”
She felt like she’d run a marathon and needed a week’s worth of sleep.
She drifted, and the motion of the vehicle lulled her to sleep. Her stomach was burning and she was starving, but she refused to leave the soothing bliss she found in her dreamlike state. Soon she was lifted, and she curled into the heat of the man holding her.
Strong hands undressed and lowered her into a warm pool of water, washing her and almost pulling her awake, but it was too hard to open her eyes. Afterward, she was placed on a big soft bed. She snuggled into the pillow and blanket, and Chase’s scent surrounded her. She sighed in contentment and allowed sleep to take over.
* * *
“Sophia.” Chase’s voice was low but firm.
“Hmm?” She sounded more asleep than awake.
“Wake up, love. You need to eat.” He kissed her ear, licking the shell, and she moaned.
She blinked her eyes open, and he smiled at her sleepy look.
“What? What’s wrong?” She sat up and peered around the room.
“You need to eat. Here, munch on this and I’ll bring you some other stuff after.” He helped fix pillows behind her back and set a tray on her lap. He brought her steak, chicken, and a bunch of side dishes. She gave him a sleepy look as she assessed the amount of food on her plate.
“I’ll bring more in a moment, but you need to eat that first.” He knew she’d eat that and more.
“Are you crazy? I couldn’t possibly eat all this. I’ll turn into a cow,” she grumbled but grabbed the fork and knife and cut into the steak.
She chewed through the entire trayful of food, and when he brought a second tray with fruit, chocolate cake, and warm bread she dove through that as well.
After he took the tray away from her, he sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her with critical eyes. “How are you feeling?” He could see she had a hard time keeping her eyes open once her stomach was full.
“Sleepy…so tired.” She yawned and leaned back, closing her eyes once again.
Chase watched as Sophia slept. He needed to figure out how to help her cope with her new situation. At least she’d eaten enough to not have to bother her for a while.
He stepped into his kitchen and glanced from Julia to River, who both looked troubled.
“So? Do we know why she’s so tired?” River asked.
“Chase, she’s been sleeping for over twelve hours. This can’t be normal. Even I don’t sleep that long and I’m pregnant.” She toyed with her teacup as she spoke.
Chase didn’t want to divulge his mate’s business to anyone but saw the need to add some insight into Sophia’s situation. He’d already called in the pack doctor and asked enough questions to have a clear understanding of what was happening to her. She’d told him to call her if necessary, but he’d put that off unless things changed for the worse.
“Sophia has been through a lot. I think her body is finally shutting down and taking the rest it needs to handle the stress she’s been through.”
“Did she get hurt yesterday?” Julia’s eyes flashed.
“Not physically. I think she was shocked at how bloodthirsty the animals she has can be. It will take her time to come to terms with it.” He sat on a chair and ran a hand through his hair.
“I’m going to talk to our guys to find out who in that lab has hyena connections.” Chase turned to look at Julia. “I’m going to ask you to stay here and watch her until we come back. I don’t want her to go more than a few hours without eating.”
“Of course, go and don’t worry about her. I’ll take care of sleeping beauty.” She turned to her husband, gave him a stern look, and then glanced back to Chase. “Be careful, both of you. I don’t want to have to explain to my sister why someone got hurt and make her feel like it’s her fault. So bring your asses back here in one piece.”
* * *
Sitting off to one corner at The Back Door with a couple of beers in front of them, Chase and River watched two of their pack members come toward their booth.
Riel and Seff slid into the booth across from River and Chase. Both were enforcers, but Seff tended to be a bit more strict and military, while Riel was a fun-loving guy who always got his job done.
Seff glanced from River to Chase and leaned forward on the table. “You needed to see us?”
“Yes, I need you both to get some information for me. I want to know who’s in charge of the research facility, in front and behind the scenes. Shifter, human, witch, demon, everyone. I need this yesterday.”
Riel’s brows lifted at the request, while Seff looked like he had been expecting it.
“Any particular reason?” The younger wolf queried.
River jumped in to answer. “Yes, my sister-in-law is the head researcher and top geneticist. Way too smart for her own good since she figured out how to suppress the shifting gene in our DNA.”
Seff had a look of stunned disbelief.
“Why the hell would she do that? Is she crazy?” Riel burst out unthinking.
“My mate,” Chase stated, “was trying to do something nice by giving Julia the choice of changing back.”
Seff stared at his leader unwavering. “There’s something else though, isn’t there?”
“Yes. In the process of separating the DNA strands she…had an accident. Sophia is now a dual shifter. She has two different female animals inside.”
With their collective indrawn breaths he knew they were taken aback.
Seff seemed to recover first from his shock. “Two different breeds? And are they both alphas?”
“Yes. Apparently the pure cat and wolf strands bonded with her DNA so seamlessly it’s like she was born a pure blood shifter. Both animals seem to be getting along. I’m not sure how long that’s going to last though.”
His fear was that the stress on her body by her new physiology would kill her. The animals inside her were powerful and drained a lot of energy.
“So you’ve mated this woman?” Seff asked.
“Yes, her name is Dr. Sophia Reese. You’ll both get an e-mail with her file so you can acquaint yourselves with her information.” He ran a hand over the back of his neck and thought of Sophia’s exhausted form. She was pale and had already lost weight.
“Don’t worry Chase, we’ll find out what’s going on at the lab right away.” Seff grasped his forearm.
“There’s another thing. Four hyenas attacked us inside the lab when I took her to retrieve her research. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to grab it, since her system was resetting after they tried to tamper with it. It meant we would have had to wait around, and I didn’t want to take the chance with her there in case any others showed up.”
“Can we try to get the stuff ourselves?” Riel asked.
“No. She’s got multiple backup security measures that go into play when someone tries to tamper with her vault.”
“Vault? I had no idea she was so paranoid about her work,” River said.
“It looked like a bank vault, but she said it was cold storage and files. Apparently she’d had it specially made when she joined the facility.” Chase picked up the beer that was sitting in front of him and took a sip. It had lost the cold crisp taste. He put it down. “Anyway, that’s all we have for now. I’m sure someone in that lab knows something and I want to know what’s going on.” He growled and fisted his hands on the table.
All three men nodded their heads.
River cleared his throat and caught their attention. “Sophia is presently with Julia at Chase’s. Chase and I will be taking turns with the women, while we dig around to find out more about these hyenas and hopefully find out who’s behind them. Call either of us as soon as you know anything.”
Chase’s cell phone went off. He saw Julia’s name and accepted the call immediately. “Julia?”
“She’s awake. She’s saying she’s feeling better, but she looks pale, Chase. I fed her again. It seems that hunger is the only thing that wakes her. She’s fighting off sleep until she sees you.” Julia’s panic came through the phone line.
“I’m on my way.” Chase shut the call off and dropped the phone in his shirt pocket. He looked at the guys, wished them luck on their search, and reminded them this was their priority.
* * *
“Where is Chase?” Sophia frowned, trying to clear her mind from the wave of exhaustion calling her back to sleep. She wondered what the hell was wrong with her body.
“He went to see what he could find out about the research lab and try to figure out who could be behind the attempt on your work. He’ll be back really soon, baby girl. Are you still hungry?” Julia sat by the bed holding her hand.
Sophia smiled at her sister’s use of the childhood pet name for her and shook her head at the question. “I need a shower. I need to get rid of this sleep before it overwhelms me again. Give me a few minutes, and then we can have some coffee or something.” She felt marginally better standing. She stretched tired muscles and headed to the shower for a nice, cool soak.
After the shower she was less sleepy and finally felt she could function without dropping into an exhausted heap. She dressed in shorts and a tank top that she found lying on the bed, along with new underwear.
She made her way to the kitchen and finally took in the house that belonged to her mate.
Glancing around, she realized the house fit with him, and it really was Chase’s space. It was clean, open, and uncluttered. The furniture was for comfort, not show. She fell in love with it.
Julia was in the kitchen and handed her a mug of coffee when she walked in.
They were discussing what happened at the lab when Chase and River arrived. Her heart beat wildly at the sight of him. His hair was tied at the nape of his neck with a strip of leather. He wore a white T-shirt with a denim-blue overshirt, and dark wash jeans hugged his powerful thighs and legs.
Her blood heated and electric hunger sparked, dragging her from her seat to stand before him.
Her fingers threaded through his hair, and she yanked his face down for a hungry kiss. He put his arms around her waist and held her lovingly to him while his lips greedily locked on hers. Their kiss was short and sweet.