Dirty, filthy Lycans…you deserve death and destruction…
The ominous words were written in blood on the wall of the two-story home in the Sunset District. Liam Henney shook his head and rubbed his face with his palms.
“Alpha,” Takeda Matsumoto, his Beta, called his attention from across the room.
“What is it, Takeda?” Liam turned to the other man, who was descending the stairs. The other man’s face was unmoving as stone, but Liam could smell and feel the anger and tension from his second-in-command.
“We’ve discovered three bodies in total in the bedroom. Two are confirmed to be one of us. Alfred and Maeve Williams.”
“And the third?”
“Possibly the murderer,” Takeda replied, his lips pursing into a thin line. “This is bad.”
“Tell me about it.” Liam looked up the bloody words again. “Let’s walk through this again before the SFPD get here.”
“Right.” Takeda cleared his throat. “Alfred and Maeve Williams, aged 30 and 28, respectively. Both Lycans from the Bay Area, married four years ago. They have one daughter, two years old. Jillian.”
Liam’s face was a grim mask, thinking of the loss. Although San Francisco was one of the largest Lycan clans in the United States, there were only about 150 Lycans in total in the Bay Area. “Where is the pup?”
“She’s safe, with Maeve’s stepsister.”
“And our suspect?”
The Beta shook his head. “We don’t know, Alpha. He’s not Lycan for sure. He stabbed both victims in the heart while they were asleep, then carved these strange symbols on their bodies. Then he used their blood to write that message on the wall, then killed himself with a stab wound to the stomach. Based on the writing, could he be a mage?”
For nearly a year, now, the magic-wielding mages had been a thorn in the Lycans’ side. Former witches who used blood magic, the mages had only one agenda: destroy all the Lycans. Their attacks had mostly been concentrated around the New York clan, but it seems they were now expanding to include their allies.
“Possibly.” Liam’s brows knitted. “But something’s not quite right. It’s all wrong.”
“You feel it, too?”
“Yes,” Liam nodded.
“I told you we should not have gotten involved with the New York clan’s-”
“Enough, Takeda,” Liam snapped. He and Takeda had butted heads over this for the last few months now. He sighed. “You know it was the right thing to do.”
The other man shook his head. “Still, we are not sure if we would have been a target if we did not join New York in the fight against the mages.”
“Perhaps not now, but eventually we would have,” Liam reasoned.
“But this…” Takeda shook his head. “This is unacceptable, Alpha.”
“I know,” Liam’s mouth was set in a tight line. “We will find out who did this. And they will pay.”
Takeda nodded in agreement. “I’ll have our men clean up the message and let Captain Wu know when his officers can come in.”
“Good.” Liam glanced at the bloody message one last time.
“If there’s anything else…”
“No, that will be all. I’ll head back to home and contact the High Council as soon as possible.” Liam nodded to Takeda and headed out of the house, where his driver was waiting for him.
“Let’s go back to Gracie,” Liam instructed the driver. Gracie Manor was his home in the Pacific Heights district, where the San Francisco Alphas had resided for generations.
“Yes, Mr. Henney,” the driver replied as he started the engine.
Liam leaned back into the plush leather seats of the Bentley, rubbing his temples as he tried to soothe away the headache starting to form there. The car pulled away from the street, and Liam absentmindedly watched the scenery pass outside the window. As they drove through Golden Gate Park to head north, he sat in silence, thinking about the events of the morning.
Maeve Williams’ stepsister Cara was dropping off her son at her sister’s for the day, when she discovered the writing on the wall, and unfortunately, the bodies in the bedroom. She rushed to check on the baby, relieved that Jillian was safe, sleeping in her crib. Knowing that it had to be Lycan-related, she called the Alpha’s office, and not 911.
Liam immediately rushed to the Williams’ house. He was Alpha of one of the most powerful Lycan clans in the U.S., after all, and he took his role seriously. The loss of Alfred and Maeve was grave, but he knew there was more to come. The mages had laid low for a while, but now it looked like they had gathered their forces. This was the first time they had struck against another clan aside from New York and New Jersey. Two dead, one precious pup orphaned. He would have to inform the Lycan High Council, and perhaps make another trip to New York sooner than expected.
The thought of New York brought memories flooding back into his brain of the last time he was there. Lara. The name had been on his mind for weeks, and if he was honest, thoughts of her consumed whatever free time he had.
It still seemed like a dream, what had happened between them in that elevator. He wasn’t sure what took over him, but in an instant it was like something in him snapped. Liam was normally reserved and polite, but in that moment, he wanted no one else but Lara. Her delicious scent – like strawberries and champagne – suddenly filled his senses and he couldn’t help it. He wanted to kiss those luscious lips and feel those curves pressed up against his. And so he did – grab her, kiss her, make her moan, in just that one moment. But then, the spell was suddenly broken.
God, he felt awful afterwards. He had practically assaulted her, even if she was a willing participant. He wanted to talk to her, explain (or try to), but she ran away like a scared animal.
Weeks later, he still couldn’t stop thinking about her, the taste of her mouth, and the softness of her body and curves. The whole encounter left him confused, and he wasn’t sure exactly how to get in contact with Lara. He couldn’t ask Alynna or Cady for her number, as that would make them suspicious. He had hoped he would bump into her at some point. But with his busy schedule, taking care of clan business, working for the family business, and building up his own startup company, he didn’t have time to make a trip to New York. Liam didn’t even make it to Grant’s wedding. But since that day, all he could think about was Lara Chatraine.
What would he do if he did see her again? He wasn’t quite sure.
Monday mornings were usually slow on the 33rd floor lab, at least for Lara. However, today was probably not one of those Mondays. It was about 8 a.m., and according to the log by the entrance, Jade Cross had arrived an hour earlier. Another employee, a lab assistant, clocked in thirty minutes after. Lara sighed, scanned her own ID card in, and scanned the room for her friend.
The pretty brunette scientist had her lab coat on, glasses perched on her nose, and was standing in front of a large screen, peering at a bunch of numbers and calculations Lara could not decipher. She paused to hand some files to one of their human assistants, Milly, and gave her some curt instructions. The young assistant, eager to please her boss, nodded excitedly and left.
As soon as the human was out of earshot, Lara spoke. “I wanted to ask you about something,” Lara began, shoving a very large cardboard cup in front of the other woman.
“Is that—” The Lycan scientist reached out, making grabby hands at her, the calculations momentarily forgotten.
“Triple shot, extra hot latte,” the witch declared.
“Thank God!” Jade grabbed the cup and took a sip, her eyes closing in pleasure. Properly caffeinated, she turned back to Lara. “Now, what did you want to ask me?”
“What about them?”
“So…what’s that about?”
Jade paused and took another sip of coffee. “What did you want to know?”
Lara chewed her lip. “Uhm, I was just curious. Like, is that a sure thing?”
“What do you mean sure thing?” Jade put the cup down and turned back to the screen, her light green eyes darting across the display.
Lara wasn’t offended by her friend’s flippancy. She knew Jade well enough that the scientist could multitask like the devil. The young Lycan was brilliant, a genius really, but sometimes she could be dense when it came to things that didn’t involve science. “I mean, let’s say you found your True Mate…” Lara continued.
“Me? Or you mean a hypothetical Lycan?”
“Yeah. I mean, OK, let’s say a hypothetical Lycan,” Lara sighed. “Like, are True Mates required to marry? Would there be consequences if they didn’t? Would they have seven years of bad luck or something if they or one of them decided not to be with the other?”
“Well, no, not really,” Jade began. “I mean, no one really knows the exact explanation for True Mates. Some may say it’s all magic and fate, and others theorize that it’s all science, a biological imperative that makes all living things seek out the best possible mate to produce offspring.” She paused and looked back at the screen, swiping back and forth.
“Which do you believe?”
“Well, evidence shows that True Mates don’t necessarily have to marry or be together. Take Grant’s parents, for example. Michael Anderson and Callista Mayfair weren’t True Mates, yet they had a perfectly healthy and normal Lycan child, the old fashioned way.” She wrinkled her nose delicately. “Of course, Michael met his True Mate, Amanda Chase, later on, while he was still married to Callista, and they had Alynna. So, who’s to say that it wasn’t fate?”
“But you don’t believe in fate, do you?” Lara asked hopefully.
Jade sighed. “I don’t have enough evidence to believe in fate one hundred percent. But I know I believe in what evidence we do have. True Mates have guaranteed Lycan offspring. Alynna’s DNA test proved she was 100% Lycan even if her mother was human. The biological system of True Mates guarantees offspring, a rare occurrence since ordinary Lycans have such a hard time reproducing. The first coupling between True Mates always produces a pup.”
Lara’s eyes grew wide. “Really?” That part she had only heard of but never confirmed.
“Yes, at least from all the evidence we have. Except for physical barriers, nothing can stop the conception.”
“Super Lycan sperm!” Lara giggled.
Jade gave a rare smile. “Yeah. You can say that the Super Lycan sperm always finds its way.”
“But, let’s say…if True Mates never, uhm, produced offspring, it wouldn’t be the worst thing, right? Like they wouldn’t be cursed or anything?”
“I don’t…think so,” Jade replied. “I mean, it really would be up to both parties, right? You can’t exactly force a mating between two people, if neither wanted it. But then, from the anecdotal evidence we do have, True Mates seem to be naturally drawn to each other anyway.”
“Right.” Lara chewed her lip. “Uh, thanks for the information.”
Jade shrugged and went back to her work.
For once, Lara was glad Jade was oblivious to other things aside from her work and wasn’t curious as to why she suddenly brought up True Mates. While Jade’s answers weren’t absolute, it gave her some hope. Of course, she wasn’t certain that Liam and she were True Mates. It could have been the True Mate Alpha pheromones that Grant Anderson and his wife had apparently released that day she and Liam had their crazy make out session in the elevator. She supposed the only way to confirm would be to have his baby, but that wasn’t happening. Uh, no. No sir. Never. Not even if he flashed her that handsome smile. Or touched her with his sexy hands. Or kissed her with those…
“Arghh!” She shook her head. Jade sent her strange look. “Uhm, sorry. I was thinking about…something bad.”
The scientist shrugged and went back to her data.
Dammit. What happened in the elevator shook her very core. Made her want to forget everything and find Liam Henney and jump his bones. But no. She couldn’t. Not when there was so much at stake. The pit in her stomach clenched. She would not cause the death of another man.