Mating Brand Page 16

“What do you want to know?”

Her mind blanked. “I’m not sure.”

“I missed you. I dreamed about you almost every damn night. Did you miss me? Did I haunt your dreams?”


“Did you wish you were with me?”

“Every day,” she confessed.

“Enough said.”

It was that simple to him. She envied his certainty. “How can you forgive me? I know you probably felt betrayed. I worried that you’d grown to hate me.”

“I tried.” He took a step back and blew out a breath. “It just never happened. I just wanted you back. I refuse to let you go a second time. I refuse to spend another nine years missing you and being furious that you’re gone. We’re mating. That’s not up for debate.”

Why are you fighting this? He’s right here. He wants you and you’ve always wanted him. Life is never this simple but I want it to be. She made a decision. They might regret it later but she was willing to risk it.

Charma reached for the bottom of Brand’s sweater. “I’m yours now. Take me if you’re sure.”

His eyes closed and his fangs elongated when his lips parted. It turned her on, seeing his reaction. She shivered with anticipation of what would happen. They’d strip each other, make love, and he’d sink those teeth into the soft part of her shoulder. He’d bite down until he drew blood and she knew it would feel incredible with Brand. It wouldn’t hurt or make her scream from the pain of the brutality of it. She wouldn’t be trapped under a monster intent on staking his claim—one she didn’t want.

His eyes snapped open and he inhaled. “What’s wrong?”

She pushed away the horrible memories of her first mating. “Nothing.”

“I’m scaring you.”

“I’m not afraid of you.” She hesitated, wondering if she should admit why he’d picked up the scent of fear coming from her.

He studied her eyes closely. “Did he hurt you when he mated you? Is that it?”

The fact that he’d accurately guessed the reason for her hesitancy surprised and saddened her. “You don’t want to know.”

Rage twisted his features. “I do. I need to know. Do you love him?”

“No,” her voice deepened with emotion. “I’ve always hated him.”

He stepped forward, invading her space, and cupped her face in his big hands. “Tell me why you mated him then.”

Tears filled her eyes and she had to look away from his. She focused on his lips instead. Ones she’d missed kissing. “It wasn’t a love match. I was forced to mate him. I couldn’t stand him but he was the pride leader’s son. He chose me.”

“Then why did you agree to it? For college?” Brand’s hold remained gentle but he snarled the words, his anger clear. “I told you I’d pay off the money your pride leader shelled out for your education.”

“My parents were in a car accident. It was a rollover crash and the engine caught fire. My father’s leg was pinned in the wreckage but he found the strength to protect his mate when my mother’s clothes caught fire from flames shooting out of one of the air vents. He tore his leg free and used his hands to put out the flames and smashed through the back window of the car to drag her to safety.” She paused, getting her emotions under control. “Do you know what happens when a pride male is deemed useless? My father’s leg was nearly destroyed and he could no longer shift. His healing abilities saved the leg but he couldn’t put weight on it. It made him weak in the eyes of the pride. My mother suffered internal injuries and bad burn scars. She’s human. They had to take her uterus and she couldn’t have more children. There are four of us kids and I was the oldest. Three of us are girls.” Her gaze lifted to meet his gaze.

“I’m sorry about your parents.”

“The pride would have immediately killed my father if I hadn’t agreed to the pride leader’s terms. If my father died the only way for my mother to survive would be if another male wanted to mate her or if her children are mated so she’s considered family. A new mate’s protection would be extended to her children if they were too young to take a mate. Without that protection, she would have been killed and the pride leader would have killed my brother as well. No one would have taken him into their home to raise because he is half human. They couldn’t risk sending him to live with humans in case he had the ability to shift. It could have given us away for what we are. My sisters and I would have been handed off to other prides that pay for half-breeds who can’t shift. They would have used us as breeders. They—”

“I know what those bastards do. They took my cousin’s mate, hoping to force a litter from her.”

She nodded. “Breeanna was just nine years old and Megan was thirteen. I was eighteen and the only one old enough to take a mate to save our family. Adam, my brother, wasn’t even a year old at the time.” Her gaze held his. She needed for him to see the truth. “The pride leader would have killed my parents and baby brother and sold my sisters into hell if I had run off with you. That’s why I had to go back, Brand. My agreement to mate the pride leader’s son was all that protected my family.”

“Fuck.” He closed his eyes and his forehead pressed against hers. “You could have told me. I would have gotten them out.”

“And taken them where? Your pack and other prides would have killed them. If you’re not inside pride lands, you’re inside pack territory, or a lot worse. Either way, they would have been killed and my two sisters turned into breeders. It’s sick and wrong but just the thought of a bunch of males touching my sisters when they hit breeding age…” She took a deep breath. “Do you get that? They don’t wait until they are of mating age. Megan would have been sold to those monsters and she hadn’t even started high school yet. Hell, she never would gone because most prides think educating breeders beyond learning how to read is a waste of money and time. I also was afraid your pack would turn on you if you brought me home. We’re natural enemies.”

His eyes opened to stare at her. “You and I are not enemies.”

“I know that but does your pack?”

“They’ll accept you. Where is your family? I’ll bring them here and smooth it out somehow to make sure they are safe. I won’t allow anyone to hurt them, Charma. Your sisters won’t be touched by anyone.”

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