Book 5 Preview

Preview for Taming the Beast

Book 5 of the True Mates Series

The Bachelorette Party, one week ago…

“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Jade said with a frown. She was not happy. The dress she was wearing was too tight, the thong panties were riding up her behind, and the heels were too high. Oh, why did she let Meredith do this to her?

Meredith rolled her eyes. “You’re here. Get over it.” She gave Lycan a once over. “And you look hot.”

“Meredith! Jade?” Lara said as she came up behind them. “Uhm, wow!”

“I know, right?” Meredith gushed. “You’re welcome.” The blonde gave an exaggerated bow.

“It’s just that…I’ve been asking you for months to let me give you a makeover!” Lara pouted. “And now I miss it!”

“Well, you were a little busy,” Jade retorted. “How is Liam?”

The witch blushed. “You know I had to…spend some time convincing him to let me have this bachelorette party.”

“Don’t be jealous, Lara,” Meredith said. “I had to twist her arm to let me put her in that dress and put some makeup on her. Et voila! My masterpiece.”

The Lycan scientist was wearing peach lace bustier dress that pushed up her breasts without being vulgar. While the lace went below her knees, the underskirt stopped about halfway, giving a teasing view of her thighs, while the sky-high heels not only added height to her petite frame but also elongated her legs. She wore minimal makeup, just enough to emphasize her thick brows and pouty lips, while her hair was styled in sexy waves down her back.

Lara looked like she still couldn’t believe her eyes. “Jade, you look gorgeous. You’ve been hiding this all this time?”

The scientist gave her outfit another pained look. “Yeah, well, don’t expect me to wear this every day now. I only did it because it was a special occasion.”

“How did you convince her, exactly?” Lara asked Meredith.

“I promised her I would stop singing that song that doesn’t end if she’d let me give her a makeover,” Meredith explained.

“And then how did you get out of Fenrir?”

“Oh Lara, don’t you know? They let me out now if I’m good!” Meredith had broken into Fenrir Corporation’s offices when she was caught and detained by the New York Lycans. They gave her a choice: be shipped off to the Lycan Siberian prison or stay in New York and serve the clan. As a Lone Wolf, Meredith had no clan to call her own anyway. So, instead of living out the next ten years in the wastelands of Siberia, she decided that servitude to the New York clan was a better option. Currently, she was helping protect Jade, who had been the target of a kidnapping attempt by their enemies.

“But you’re still wearing your ankle monitor, right?”

The blonde Lycan stuck a foot out. The ankle monitor was there, but tonight, it was decorated with sparkly Disney Princess-themed stickers. “Yeah, I can’t do anything about that. And I can only go out if Jade needs protection and no one else can take her. So, I decided she needed protection on the way to this boutique on 5th Avenue and the makeup store.”

“I don’t know why I let you do this,” Jade grumbled. As she attempted to walk, she nearly stumbled and had to grab onto Meredith. “It’s impossible to walk in these things!”

“Oh shush, you’re a woman, you’ll figure it out.”

“Ladies,” Frankie Anderson came up to them, dressed in a cute, vintage-style blue dress and matching heels. As she looked Jade over, her mismatched blue-and-green eyes sparkled. “Oh wow, Dr. Cross? You look great!”

“Thank you, Lupa,” she replied, using the traditional honorific for the wives of Lycan Alphas. Frankie was married to New York’s Alpha, Grant Anderson, but she was also an Alpha in her own right to the New Jersey clan.

“Yes, well, Alynna and I are already at our table,” she said warmly. “Let’s go.”

Frankie led them to a VIP table cordoned off in the corner, where her sister-in-law, Alynna Westbrooke, was already waiting for them.

“There’s the beautiful bride!” Alynna waved happily at Lara, and immediately put a tiara on the other woman’s head and draped a sash that said “Bachelorette” across one shoulder. “Let’s get this party started!”

“I think someone’s already started the party,” Meredith said, making a drinking motion with her hands.

“Hey! I’m a new mom, and this is my first time out in months!” She took a swig of red wine. “Woohoo!”

“How many have you had?” Lara asked, shaking her head.

“Two!”

“Two glasses?”

“Two bottles!” She grinned. “Lycan metabolism, you know! I need just that much to get me happy. But I’ll burn it off in an hour or two when I have to go back to the ol’ ball and chain!”

The rest of women settled down, and a handsome Lycan waiter brought them more drinks (including non-alcoholic ones for Frankie and Lara) and snacks. It was early yet, so Blood Moon wasn’t very crowded.

“Here you go, ladies!” Alynna moved over to the other couch and sat between Jade and Meredith. She passed them both shot glasses filled with a clear gold liquid. “I’m afraid with these two knocked up,” she motioned to Lara and Frankie, “it’s up to us to try and bankrupt Blood Moon tonight. Don’t worry, though, I hear the owner’s loaded!” The club was a well-known hotspot, at least for Lycans.

Jade gave the glass a delicate sniff. “What is it?”

“Oh my God, this is top shelf tequila!” Meredith exclaimed. “Oh, we’re gonna get smashed tonight!”

“Put those metabolisms to good use ladies!” Alynna raised her glass in the air.

“I don’t think-”

“Oh, come on, Jade,” Meredith placed the glass to the other Lycan’s lips. “Live a little.”

“This smells vile,” Jade wrinkled her nose.

“You’ve never had tequila before?” Meredith asked incredulously.

The brunette shook her head.

“Oh, you’re in for a treat.” She gave Alynna a wink. “Ok, here’s what you do. First, put some salt on the back of your hand, grab one of those lime wedges…”

Jade’s nose wrinkled as she followed Meredith’s instructions.

“…And then you lick, shoot, and suck!” Meredith demonstrated with a flair, spitting the lime wedge over the couch.

“Eww!” Lara gagged.

“C’mon, you try, Jade!” Meredith urged her on and refilled her own shot glass. “Let’s do it all together now.” She nodded at Alynna. “Ok now…lick…shoot…suck!”

Jade did as she was told and winced as the liquid burned a path down her throat. She nearly threw up, but suddenly, the warmth pooling in her belly felt good. The sourness of the lime was a good way to end the shot, too.

“All right!” Meredith cheered her on. “How was that?”

“That was actually…pleasant,” Jade remarked.

“Let’s do another one!” Alynna raised the bottle.

They did two more shots, and Jade simply shook her head when Alynna tried to pour her another one. “I think…I’m gonna pace myself.” The warm, pleasant feeling in her stomach felt nice, but something told her she should probably slow down. Surely, people didn’t do more than three shots of tequila in a row, right?

“Well, hello, ladies.” A tall, handsome man with broad shoulders and chocolate brown eyes approached their table. “Have room for one more?”

“Get lost, loser,” Meredith snapped. “This is a private party.”

“Aww,” the man looked at Frankie. “I don’t get points for being related to the owner’s wife?”

“She’s right, Enzo,” Frankie smirked. “This is a private party. And you are a loser.”

Enzo put his hands over his heart. “Ouch, such words from my own sister!”

“Wait!” Meredith exclaimed. “You’re her brother? But you’re a…”

“Handsome young man?” Enzo finished. “Such charming and smooth guy?”

“I was gonna say jackass,” Meredith retorted. “And human.”

“I like her,” Enzo said to Frankie, who shook her head and laughed.

“Meredith, this is my half-brother, Enzo Moretti,” Frankie introduced. “Don’t worry about being nice to him. I can confirm, he is a jackass.”

“Nice to meet you, Meredith,” Enzo flashed her his best smile.

She gave him a raised brow. “Same here.”

Enzo turned his attention to the rest of the party. “Hey, Alynna, Lara…who’s this…Dr. Cross!” Another smile spread across his face. “Is that you? You clean up nice!”

The look he gave her made Jade blush from head to toe, and Meredith gave him a slap on the head.

“Ow! Are we in that stage of our relationship already?’ Enzo said, rubbing his head. “‘Cuz I was hoping you’d take me out to dinner first before we started the spanking.”

“Enzo, what are you doing here?” Frankie asked.

“It’s Tuesday night, sis, my night off, so thought I’d check out this place,” he said. “I’m also meeting up with some buddies, so I’ll see you ladies later.” With a smile and a wink, he walked off towards the bar.

“I think it’s time we’re headed out too,” Frankie declared as she stood up.

“Awww, Frankie,” Alynna protested as she took a shot of tequila. “Noooo….”

“C’mon, now.” Her sister-in-law took her by the arm. “We’ve got husbands and you have a kid waiting for you at home. No more drinking. I don’t want to bring you home stinking like a sailor!”

“Fine,” she pouted. “Enjoy the rest of the night ladies. Just order whatever you want, on us!” She grabbed her purse and followed Frankie towards the exit. “And don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” With a final wave, both women left the club.

“Now that our chaperones are gone,” Meredith began. “Let’s talk about where we’re going next. I know this great strip club-”

“No strippers!” Lara protested.

“Why not?” Meredith asked. “Aren’t pregnant women supposed to be horny all the time? I bet some hot, gyrating male bodies and six-pack abs are what your hormones need right now! Don’t you have urges?”

“I don’t need strippers,” Lara said smugly. “I get my urges satisfied plenty. Four times before I came here.”

Meredith groaned. “Fuck me. No, I mean it,” she put her hands on her face. “It’s been way too long since I’ve had sex.” She turned to Jade. “How about you, Jade? When was the last time you…” She looked meaningfully at Jade’s crotch. “Got your grass mowed?”

“Meredith,” Lara warned.

“What?” The blonde Lycan looked at her, then turned back to Jade. “C’mon, Jade, spill!” She took another shot of tequila.

Jade blushed a bright red. “That’s none of your business!”

“Don’t evade my question!” Meredith slurred. “Has it been that long? I promise not to laugh. Your dry spell can’t possibly be longer than mine.”

“I don’t think so,” Jade said, looking at her shoes.

“Try me, Jade.”

“Well, uhm, twenty-four years.”

“That’s not—HOLY CRAP!” Meredith’s eyes widened. “You’re a vir-”

Jade slapped a hand over the other woman’s mouth. “Shush!”

Meredith looked from Jade to Lara, who also seemed shocked at the revelation.

“Jade,” Lara began. “I didn’t know. I mean, you never talked about it, but…”

It seemed impossible, but Jade turned even redder. “I’m just…it’s not…you see…” She dropped her hands to her lap. “I’m not a weirdo who’s saving herself for marriage or anything,” she said defensively. “I’ve just…never had a chance! And I gave it the good ol’ college try.”

“Wait, weren’t you like, fifteen when you went to college?” Lara asked.

“Fourteen, and it was an academy for gifted youngsters,” she corrected. “And I let Jeremy Goldsmith get to second base…er, maybe one point five base? What’s under the shirt, over the bra?”

Meredith rolled her eyes and Lara clamped her hand over the other woman’s mouth so she wouldn’t hurt Jade’s feelings.

Jade sighed. “Look, it’s not like I want to stay a virgin. I’ve put some thought into it and I’m ready. I even started birth control, just in case. I just need to…find the right person.”

“What have you been doing?” Meredith asked. “Tinder? Online dating? Going to bars?”

The scientist looked at her with wide eyes and shrugged.

“Oh my God! Nothing? How are you supposed to meet guys?”

“I haven’t figured that part out yet,” Jade retorted.

“What are you looking for in a boyfriend, then?” Lara asked.

“Other than a penis, I haven’t really thought about it yet.”

Jade’s bluntness sent both Lara and Meredith sputtering their drinks.

“Holy crap! Jade, you whore!” Meredith said as she cleaned up the tequila she spit out all over the table. “I knew you had it in you!”

“Jade, honey.” Lara put her hand on top of the other woman’s. “You can’t mean that! I mean, you don’t want to just…lose it to some random guy, do you?”

“I’ve decided that I’m just not cut out for a boyfriend or relationships,” Jade declared. “I’m too busy with my work. I don’t want distractions.”

“Then why did you say you’re ready?” Lara inquired.

“I just want to give sex a try, and get it over with and see what the fuss is all about. Like an experiment.”

Meredith looked at Jade with a raised brow. “Well, that escalated quickly.”

“C’mon now, Jade,” Lara said. “Is that really what you want?”

“Why would I want a boyfriend anyway?” Jade said in an exasperated voice. “Emotions and feelings are way too messy. I don’t like it. I prefer real things, like facts and hard evidence.”

“You said hard,” Meredith snorted.

Jade shot her a warning look and continued. “Tell me, how am I supposed to act when I don’t know what to expect?”

“Honey, that’s not what life and love are about. It’s not science.”

“Have another shot, Jade,” Meredith handed her a glass. “Maybe you’ll start making more sense.”

Jade threw back the golden liquid. “Besides, you never know who you’ll meet on these dates! I mean, what if we meet for dinner and he chews with his mouth open or breathes too loudly? Or what if he’s the type of person who licks the cream off the cookie, then puts it back in the package?”

“You’re right Jade.” Lara rolled her eyes. “Anyone who does has got to be a monster.”

“I’m being serious!”

“What do you care, though?” Meredith pushed another shot at her. “As long as he licks your cream?”

Jade took the shot glass, contemplating the amber liquid. “I want to know what I’m getting into before I get into it! Is that too much to ask?” She knocked the shot back. The burning was actually starting to feel good now. “Argh. Never mind, I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

“Aww Jade, I’m sorry for making fun of you.” Meredith rubbed the other Lycan’s arm. “Maybe we can help you find someone to pop your cherry! Let’s start with the guys you know.”

Jade sighed, grabbed the bottle from Meredith, and then poured herself another shot. How many was that now? Her thoughts were getting fuzzy.

“No one?” Meredith asked incredulously. Her eyes drifted over to Enzo Moretti, who was at the bar, talking with Sean the bartender and a bunch of other guys. “There’s one! Enzo Moretti.”

“Ew, no,” Jade took the shot. “He’s a man whore. Who knows what he’s carrying.”

“Jade, you’re a Lycan, you can’t get STDs,” Meredith pointed out.

“Jade likes his twin more!” Lara giggled.

“I do not!” Jade protested loudly.

“He has a twin?” Meredith’s eyes grew wider.

“Yup,” Lara said, popping the p. “He’s the total opposite of Enzo, though. Smart. Likes to read. Works with computers.”

“Oh, so he’s a male version of you!” Meredith said to Jade. “Boring!”

“What?” Jade asked. “He’s not boring!”

“Yes, he is. You were yawning while you two were dancing at the Alpha’s wedding,” Lara pointed out.

“Oh, hell no,” Meredith shook her head. “You want someone who’s exciting. And experienced.”

“What about Gabriel from Marketing?” Lara suggested. “He’s cute and French, plus he’s been flirting with you in the cafeteria for weeks!”

“Ooh, sounds promising!”

“We both work here and I don’t want it to get awkward,” Jade countered. “Besides, I like the lemon curd muffins at the cafeteria. I’d have to stop going there if things went south with him.”

Meredith shook her head. “Really? Lemon curd muffins are more important than your lady muffin?”

“I’ll buy you some next time, and then tell me what you think is more important.” She pouted. “I should probably face facts here. Who would want to have sex with me?”

“Jade!” Lara admonished.

“Oh shut up, biatch,” Meredith said.

“No, you shut up,” she said. “That’s easy for you guys to say.” She motioned to Meredith. “Look. At. You. You’re tall, blonde, and gorgeous, plus you’ve got legs ‘till Connecticut! ” Then she shot a look at Lara. “And don’t you even start with me! You’re marrying that sex-on-on-a-stick Alpha who gets all growly and protective whenever he’s around you.”

Meredith sighed. “You are so completely fuckable, Jade, trust me. You’ll find someone. Let’s keep going down your list.”

“What list?” Enzo said as he popped up behind Meredith.

“Jesus Christ on a cracker! Are you sure you’re not Lycan?” Meredith exclaimed. “No one gets the drop on me!”

He flashed her a smile and then a wink. “Pretty sure, babe. But I heard I’m built like one where it counts.”

Jade giggled.

“Hey, pretty doctor.” Enzo slid into the booth next to her. “How are you? You look real nice.”

“Where’s Matt?” she asked.

“Ouch. Really? You want hanger steak when you can have filet mignon?”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Jade slurred. “You’re twins. You have exactly the same DNA. Don’t you know that monozygotic twins develop from the same fertilized egg and—”

“Have another one, Jade,” Meredith shoved a shot glass at her.

“Whoah, there,” Enzo frowned at Jade, his voice turning serious. “Jade, are you ok? What’s wrong? This doesn’t seem like you.”

Meredith opened her mouth, but Jade shot her a warning look. “I’m fiiiiiiiinnnne, Enzo, really I am.” She drank the shot. “I promise, this is my last shot of tequila!” She shook her head. “Wow, I feel…great!”

“Sounds like the tequila talking,” Meredith stage-whispered to Lara.

Jade sighed. “I just wanna have some fun!”

Enzo took the shot glass away from her. “If you want to have real fun, Jade, you don’t need alcohol.” He stood up and took her hand. “I’ll show you how.”

***

Sebastian Creed slunk back into the booth, taking a slow sip of his bourbon. As the gorgeous waitress stopped by for the umpteenth time, he waved her away before she could ask him if he wanted anything again.

Oh, he knew what exactly what she was offering, and part of him was tempted. The young, blonde waitress was leggy, tall, and had a mouth that looked like she could suck the chrome off a bumper. He could probably have her quitting her shift early for an evening romp with him at the hotel across the street. But, the other part of him was just not cooperating. Not anymore. Not since her.

He narrowed his eyes, looking around him. Blood Moon. Not the strangest name for a club, but still, not the type of place she would frequent. And yes, he knew her habits. Where she went to get her coffee, the supermarket where she shopped, even the Chinese takeout place she stopped at on Wednesdays. Once, he had already been waiting inside the small, greasy little takeout place, standing in the corner, his hoodie covering his head. She entered, gave her name the old man who worked the cash register, and got her bag of food before walking out without a care in the world. All the while, he had been standing there, waiting for a glimpse of her pretty little face and a whiff of her perfume that reminded him of cherries and vanilla. She never even left the 10-mile radius from her apartment to her workplace.

Jade Cross. Dr. Jade Cross, as he’d learned. Dr. Cross worked in the R and D department at one of Fenrir’s food subsidiaries. That was about as far as his soft background check on her went. Her records had a big gap, but he realized that was probably because she had moved to England when she was twelve years old. She came back to America after she finished her two PhDs at the age of twenty, and then went to work for Fenrir right away.

Fucking hell, what’s wrong with me? His hand gripped the glass so tight, he thought it would break. This wasn’t him. Never in his life had he actually stalked a woman. He felt like a fucking creeper. Yes, it definitely wasn’t him doing this. It was the—

“Are you sure I can’t get you anything else?” Tall, blonde, and leggy asked as she stopped at his booth again. She leaned down so far he could see the edge of a nipple over her low-cut blouse.

“I have all I need here.” He gestured to the bottle of bourbon. “But,” he said as he slipped two, one-hundred dollar bills into her palm. “That’s for you. Now, come back here when I call for the bill, and not earlier than that, OK? There’ll be more where that came from.”

The waitress’ eyes grew wide at the generous tip. “Uhm, yes…sure sir, whatever you say!” She hopped away, a giddy look on her face.

Sebastian took another drink. Where the heck was she? Just a second ago, she was sitting in the booth with her girlfriends. Now, the booth was empty, except for one of the women, whom he recognized from the night of the rescue. The redhead was not what he’d expect from a member of Fenrir’s security team, but he knew better than to judge a book by its cover.

His fingers curled tight into his palms. Just before she disappeared, he saw that young, arrogant prick slide into the booth next to her, putting his arm over the back of the booth. Imagining that kid’s hands all over Jade was driving him insane, especially since Sebastian had yet to touch her since that night.

Christ Almighty, he had gone crazy. Crazy for some chick. And they hadn’t even spoken to each other.

He pushed the glass away from him, his keen eyes sweeping over the crowd, looking for her. A few minutes passed and he still couldn’t find her, and something in him was itching. Scratching.

Calm down. She didn’t leave yet.

“How do you know?” he muttered under his breath. Really? He was talking to it now? He shook his head.

A loud whoop caught his attention and he saw the tall, blonde one – another one of Fenrir’s security team, though he could tell that this one actually had some combat training – on top of the bar. She reached down and pulled something up.

Jade.

Sebastian recognized the slinky peach dress, watching with envy at the way it touched her body. Jade usually dressed conservatively, always in long-sleeved shirts and pants or long skirts. Tonight, though, when she walked into Blood Moon, he almost didn’t recognize her. Gone were the glasses that were usually perched on her tiny, pert nose. She didn’t really need any makeup on her perfect, peaches-and-cream skin, but she wore just enough to enhance her already gorgeous features. Her long hair hung around her shoulders in waves, covering her back. He wondered what it would be like to thrust his fingers through the soft locks and wrap it around her hands while he—

Oh fuck, now she was dancing on top of the bar. He saw Grant’s sister order a bottle of tequila, along with the wine she had already drunk. They were probably celebrating, a bachelorette party, based on the tiara and sash on the redhead. As Jade danced to the beat of the music, his eyes trailed up from her delicate ankles, up slim legs, over the delectable swell of her hips that nipped into a tiny waist, and to the curves of her breasts. Her soft tits weren’t overly large, just right, and he imagined his hands could cover them entirely. Fucking hell, his dick was so hard, his zipper was practically imprinting on it. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t turn away, and his gaze continued up the path to her neck and to her face.

That goddamn pretty face that got him into this mess in the first place. She was even more beautiful than in that picture Liam Henney had shown him. And when he saw her lying on the dirty floor of that warehouse, rage burned through him and he wanted to kill something. Jade had looked so fragile and beautiful, despite the healing bruise on her jaw.

Finally, the song ended, and Jade hopped off the bar with her friend. The strobe lights in the dim room blinded him for a moment, and he lost her again. Tamping down the urge to look for her, he poured himself some more bourbon, watching as the golden brown liquid spill out of the bottle and into his glass.

Maybe he should call the waitress over. She was just his type, not that he had one, exactly. If he did, it certainly wasn’t brainy little geniuses with juicy, blowjob lips. It had been weeks since he had his dick stroked, and the waitress would be a much easier catch than the women at Luxe. She’d appreciate the attention from a man like him, and she probably wouldn’t be too clingy. But the thought of sleeping with any other women left a bad taste in his mouth.

The mental clock in his head ticked the minutes away. His head shot up and he scanned the room again. Jade wasn’t anywhere in the room and it had been too long since he saw her last. Looking towards their table, he saw the redhead, the blonde, and that cocky kid, but not Jade. The redhead stood up, waving her hands and looking around them.

A bad feeling in his gut hit him instantly. Jade was gone, he could feel it. He shot to his feet, slapped a couple of bills on the table, and quickly slid out of the booth. He remained calm, years of training teaching him that in emergency situations, he had to keep his head on straight or risk losing it. His heartbeat slowed, and his breathing evened. Think.

Sebastian wasn’t sure where it was leading him, but he followed that feeling in his gut. He slipped towards the back exit, which led to the dimly-lit alleyway behind Blood Moon. Opening the door slowly, he sharpened his ears, listening for any strange sounds as he quietly slipped out.

“You’re so beautiful, baby,” a voice said. “And so sexy.”

There was a soft groan. “No, don’t…I’m not feeling well…can we go back to my friends, please?”

He had never heard her voice, but something told him that was her.

“C’mon, baby, don’t be like that,” the male voice replied. “Just one kiss…”

White hot fury filled his veins and Sebastian stalked towards where the voices were coming from. His vision sharpened as he approached them.

The man had one hand braced against the wall, his body leaning forward. He was blocking Sebastian’s view, but he didn’t need to see her to know she was there. The scent of her perfume was unmistakeable.

“What’s going on here?” he asked, trying to keep his voice even.

“Nothing, buddy,” the man said, turning his head to face him, the features on his face obscured by shadows. “The lady and me were just looking for some privacy. Move along, now.”

“Are you sure she wants to be alone with you, buddy?” He shot back. “I don’t think she’s sober enough to be making decisions like that.”

The other man turned around, leaving Jade behind him. He swayed slightly as he stretched up to full height, though he was still at least half a foot shorter than Sebastian’s 6’5’ frame. “Look,” the man said. “Why don’t you just be a bro, and leave us alone.” He fished his wallet clumsily from his pocket, opening it to take out some bills. “Now, how much will it take to-”

“I suggest you choose your next words carefully,” Sebastian warned, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Aw, c’mon—”

“Hey! What’s going on here!” a voice from behind shouted.

“Jade!” a female voice cried out, followed by the clacking of heels across the concrete.

While he was distracted by the newcomers, Sebastian took the man’s wallet out of his hand. Of course, the man was so drunk and probably high, he could hardly protest.

“What’s going on here?” It was the cocky bastard that was cozying up to Jade earlier. The young man was almost as tall as him, but built on the slim side. Deep brown eyes narrowed at Sebastian. “Who are you?”

“The name’s Sebastian Creed,” he said, then took out a plastic card from the other man’s wallet. “And this is…Mr. David Ronson. 235 West 75th Street, Apartment 4B.” He gave the other man a feral smile. “Mr. Ronson was taking your friend out for some fresh air and I think he got a little carried away.”

David’s face paled and he slunk back. “Hey, it was all a bit of fun. And she wanted it—”

“Remember what I told you about choosing your words carefully, David?”

“Y-y-yes,” he choked out. “I mean…shit…fuck this shit! She’s not worth the trouble anyway,” David shook his head, and looked over toward’s Jade’s direction.

“Don’t look at her,” Sebastian said, his voice scarily even. “Don’t think about her, don’t even dream about her. Got that?” Sebastian flashed him an angry look.

“Jesus!” David jumped back, his face twisting in fear. “What’s wrong with your…never mind! I knew that new stuff I got from my dealer was shit! It’s making me see things!” He rubbed at his eyes and blinked several times.

“Go,” Sebastian commanded. “And never show your face here again.”

David backed away slowly, and then turned around, picking up his pace as he disappeared down the alley.

Sebastian watched him leave, calmed himself, and then turned around. The redhead and the young man were helping Jade up, as she had slunk down to the ground. Her eyes were half closed, and she was tripping over the ridiculously high heels.

“I’m fine,” she muttered. “Just fine.” She blinked several times.

“Jade, you’re not fine!” The redhead shook her head, pulling at her friend’s arms. “If it wasn’t for…” She swung her gaze over to Sebastian. Green eyes widened in recognition. “Mr. Creed! What are you doing here?”

“I, uh,” he cleared his throat. “I was inside the club and I saw your friend go outside with that man,” he quickly explained.

“You guys know this man, Lara?” the tall guy said.

“Yeah, he’s…uh…” Lara stammered.

“I’m a contractor with Fenrir,” Sebastian said. “I’ve worked alongside Miss…”

“Chatraine,” the redhead said. “Lara Chatraine.”

“Yes, sorry, we weren’t introduced formally.”

“Yes it was an…interesting time,” Lara said.

“I’m Enzo. Enzo Moretti,” the younger man held out his hand. “Thanks, man. If you hadn’t thought to come out here, who knows what would have happened.”

“She and that guy were dancing and then they just disappeared,” Lara explained as she wrapped one of Jade’s arms over shoulders. “Sorry, she’s never been drunk.”

“I’m not drunk!” Jade slurred, her head popping up. She blinked a few times at Sebastian. “Hey…” Luminous light green eyes peered at him.“Who are you?” she asked, disentangling herself from Lara. Jade slowly lumbered towards him. “Do I know you?”

Her voice was sexy and low, with a slight English accent that he found irresistible. It sent blood straight to his cock, and Sebastian was glad the alley was dim. “We haven’t been formally introduced yet, darlin’” he drawled.

“Too bad. Because you are…hot,” she said, poking her finger at his chest. “Like, ridiculously hot. And you make me feel all tingly. And you smell good, too. Say,” she said, tracing her fingers along his left forearm. “How far do those tattoos go?” Her touch sent tingles over his skin. He didn’t think his dick could possibly get harder, but he was proven wrong.

“Uhm, Jade,” Lara warned.

“And you are hot too!” She turned to Enzo, who was standing behind her.

Enzo gave an amused smile. “Oh yeah?”

Sebastian’s eyes narrowed at the younger man, his fists tightening.

“And you’re always flirting with me,” Jade giggled. “You do it on purpose, to make me blush. But, I think your twin brother is hotter if that makes sense. But you,” she swung back to Sebastian. “You are one sexy son of a biscuit and I want to–”

“Jade!” Lara grabbed her friend and slapped a palm over her mouth. “I think it’s time you went home. Before you say anything you’ll regret in the morning.”

“I’ll take her home,” Sebastian offered.

“Are you crazy? I’m not letting my friend go home with a stranger!”

“I meant I would take her to home, of course,” Sebastian said. “And I’m hardly stranger.”

“But you don’t know where she lives.”

Sebastian bit his tongue before he could answer, Yes, I do.

“And you won’t know how to take care of her, either.” Lara let out a long sigh. “I’m going to call my fiancé and have him pick us up. We’ll stay with her tonight. Enzo, take care of her for a minute. And where is Meredith? If we lost her, Grant will have—” She stopped short as her eyes flickered towards Sebastian. “Uhm, I’m gonna make that call now,” she said, taking her phone out of her purse and turning around as she spoke softly into the receiver.

“C’mon, Jade,” Enzo said, putting an arm around the petite woman, and guiding her towards the same.

“Enzooooo…” she blinked at him and then giggled. “Filet mignon. Your DNA is the same as filet mignon,” she hiccuped.

Enzo rolled his eyes. “No more tequila for you, young lady.”

“But it’s sooooo good. That’s why I finished the bottle!”

“She finished the whole bottle?” Sebastian roared at the other man. “How is she not dead?”

“Uhm, good genetics?” Enzo offered. “C’mon, Jade, let’s go back inside and find Meredith. Maybe get you some water.”

Sebastian frowned as he watched the other man take Jade away. Enzo was way too close to her, and it sent an unfamiliar, tight feeling into his chest, like a fist squeezing around his heart.

“Mr. Creed,” Lara caught his attention. “Thank you again for your help.”

“Nothing to it, I was just at the right place, at the right time.”

“Yes, lucky us, then,” she narrowed her eyes at him. “Well, I guess I’ll see you around.” She turned to walk away.

“Will she be ok?”

Lara gave a small laugh. “She’ll sleep it off. My fiancé’s on the way, and I’ll stay with her tonight so she’s not alone,”

“She’s got good friends,” Sebastian remarked. “Especially considering what happened to her.”

“Indeed,” Lara shrugged and walked away. He detected a hint of hesitation in her voice. Or was she hiding something else?

“Wait,” he called and Lara stopped in her tracks. “I know something’s going on here.” There was the gut feeling again, and he was listening to it this time.

A gust of wind blew through the alley, ruffling Lara’s hair. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Since this began…all of this…it’s been fishy. And I’m going to get to the bottom of it. I always find the truth.”

Lara huffed and turned around. “Really, now, Mr. Creed?” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Tell me, do you like your life now? The way it is? The reality you live in?”

He shrugged.

“Because, if you do, I’m warning you now: Stay away from Jade. Stop trying to look what’s beneath the surface.” There was a chill in her voice and another gust of wind blew his way. “If you knew the truth, then your world will never be the same.”