Chapter 16 sneak preview of my current work-in-progress:
Luca – Book 1 of the Demon Born Series (paranormal romance).
Pre-edit version. May change before publication.
Wow, what a busy two weeks!
After a lot of jiggling chapters around and general tidying up, I’m finally back on schedule again. So, yay! Feeling good about that.
Luca’s story is building pace now, and this week’s chapter was actually the trickiest to write so far. It always feels that way for me whenever I start reaching the heart of the story. We’re now about a third of the way through, and the writers among you will know that what looms next is the dreaded soggy middle.
And in Luca’s story, things can get scarily soggy if I’m not careful. There’s secrets and feelings flying about all over the place, and everything needs to be kept straight. One slip of my pen and the butler could end up head-first down a well, and a werewolf could have eloped with the scary spook.
Definitely not the story line I’m going for.
Ah, pressure, pressure. I’ll have to write my way through the upcoming middle and hope it doesn’t turn all swampy on me.
But the challenge is part of the fun, and I’d like to thank you all for joining me on this particular writing journey. Crafting stories is a lonely business, but your comments and emails along the way have made Luca’s story especially joyful for me to write.
So here’s this week’s chapter, and I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Her teeny dress may have been perfect for a spot of seduction in the warm dining room, but out here on the balcony with her shoulders and legs bared to the cold night, Belle was too busy shivering to think of turning Luca’s heart to jelly.
“Cold?” Luca’s laughing voice ruffled her hair from behind. He’d closed the French doors, and now they stood alone on the high balcony several floors above the dark gardens.
“If I speak too much, you’ll hear my teeth clacking,” Belle muttered through clenched teeth.
“Then let me help m’lady.” And moving closer, he pulled her into his embrace from behind.
His bigger body warmed her back, and more warmth flowed into her from where his arms circled her waist. It flowed down to her toes in her peep-toe heels and all the way up to the roots of her hair. Magic. With a sigh, Belle leaned back against him.
“Better?” he murmured in her ear.
“Mm-hm.” For a moment she couldn’t remember why she was fighting him. Here in the circle of his arms all she felt was comfort and protection. Even Aunt Dee seemed like a distant dream. But then a thread of doubt showed itself, and Belle struggled against the woolly cosiness. This was just their mate bond kicking in, and she was falling headlong into its clutches like a penny thrown down a well.
But Luca’s arms tightened around her, and losing the battle, she subsided back against him.
“What do you see?” his voice was gentle.
Her gaze swept the night-covered land. “Forest. Everywhere.” She glanced to her right. “What are those lights? Is it the town? It’s so pretty.”
Luca chuckled. “It’s the town, with more forest beyond. The forest surrounds us.”
“Don’t you feel… cut off… from the rest of the world?”
“I’ve always preferred that. This house, the town, the entire forest is Fairfall. My home. The pack is my family. And until now, I haven’t needed more.”
Until now… Until she’d entered his life and activated a mate bond that gave neither of them any choice. If he could have chosen, would he have chosen her? For some reason, she didn’t want to know the answer to that question. “I don’t know much about werewolf packs,” she said instead. “But I’m guessing you must be close. Like a real family.”
“The pack bond is stronger than blood, stronger than a human family. Usually only death breaks it.” He paused. “What happens to me will affect my pack. And my ultimate responsibility is to keep them safe.”
Just like he was keeping her safe in this moment even if it was only from the cold. Belle snuggled further into the warmth of his embrace, adoring his strength and protectiveness. “You keep them safe, but they’re there for you too, aren’t they?” she asked, remembering Hero’s words.
She felt the smile in his voice. It had been just her and Aunt Dee alone for so long that it was hard to imagine what it felt like to be part of such a large and strange family.
“Listen,” Luca said. He straightened behind her, tipped his head back to the moon, and gave a long deep howl that shattered the silent night.
The sound vibrated through her entire being, and Belle glanced back at him, watching wide-eyed as his powerful throat muscles worked the unearthly call. Then the howl died away, and he looked at her with a boyish grin.
Suddenly from the town and the forest, answering howls rose. So many of them, here, there, everywhere, surrounding them. The sudden sense of not being alone overwhelmed her, and she laughed. So this was the Fairfall family. “They’re even in the forest,” she said.
“They’re wolves. They won’t stay inside on a good night.”
“But you are.”
“I’m here with you.” And his smile set her heart fluttering.
She shot him a shy glance over her shoulder. “Your howl… I’ve never heard anything like it. It was… exciting.”
“Exciting.” He considered the word. “Then there’s hope for me after all.” He dipped his head, and his lips found her ear. “I was beginning to think you didn’t want me,” he said softly.
“You know it isn’t—” A ghostly white glow in the corner of the garden caught her eye. The light pulsed in and out like a signal. It hadn’t been there before. “What’s that?”
Luca stiffened behind her. “It’s nothing.” But his embrace tightened. “There are things about Fairfall that I can’t explain right now, but while you’re here, keep away from the west part of the garden.”
Belle frowned. Was he keeping Aunt Dee locked away there? But his rigid stance and controlled tone pointed to something much darker. If something could bother Luca this much… “What’s wrong with Fairfall house?” she asked. “The town is so beautiful, but this house is like a ghost mansion on the outside.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he murmured. “It isn’t for long. Only until Samhain.”
Samhain again. So maybe the troubles with the house had something to do with their mate bond. She turned in his hold and placed her hands on his chest. “I know I can help you,” she said sadly. “You’re lycan, and because of our mate bond, you need me to carry on your lineage…” her cheeks heated, “…to have your sons. Your worry about Fairfall has to do with that, doesn’t it? And that’s why you’re forcing me to stay here.”
“I won’t deny I need you to accept me willingly as your mate,” he said quietly.
So she’d guessed right. But it couldn’t happen. Not like this. “I can’t. Things aren’t right.”
“You asked about my magic. It isn’t completely blocked. It blows up sometimes, and I have no control over it. The mate bond will only make it worse.”
“But maybe it won’t.” He caught hold of her hand. “Maybe mating with me will calm your magic.”
She shook her head. “It’s too risky.”
“Trust me, Belle.” He raised her hand to his lips, and Belle shuddered at the soft kiss. “I won’t let anything bad happen with your magic,” he murmured.
She so wanted to believe that. And maybe he was powerful enough to tame her magic. She wouldn’t know unless she tried. But… “How can I trust you when you’re holding my aunt prisoner?”
A smile touched his lips. “If she’s a prisoner, then she’s a well-cared-for one. But I have my reasons for keeping her from you until Samhain. Believe me though, she’s safe.”
“Does she know I’m here?”
That changed things. Because now it meant that Aunt Dee herself was keeping a distance, most likely hoping that Belle would accept the mate bond. Belle considered this. Maybe she should accept the mate bond. It would be so easy, and God knows her body hungered for Luca. She gazed up into his blue eyes. All she had to do was say ‘yes’.
“What else holds you back?” he asked, sensing her hesitation.
“Love,” she whispered.
“Love?” His frown made it look like the word was foreign to him.
How on earth did she explain? Her body hungered, but her heart was still a prude. “There has to be something more between us than just sex,” she said. “Some feeling at least. We can’t just hop into bed and…”
“Are you saying you feel nothing for me?” His sexy grin held a challenge.
“I… I do.”
“Good. Because if you’d said you didn’t, I’d have had to prove you wrong. Especially when I can scent your desire very clearly, my sweet Belle.”
Her face flamed with embarrassment. He could scent her? She’d been trying to play it low-key, but apparently her body was busy giving off signals she’d had no clue about.
Luca pressed his nose to her neck and inhaled. And Belle all but melted against him. His hands slid over the curves of her hips and then down to find the bare skin of her thighs below the hem of her short dress.
“Luca.” Her faint voice shook.
“Tell me you’re not wet for me,” he breathed against her skin. His hands inched up her thighs. “Tell me that if I touch you there, I won’t find you ready for me.”
His fingers grazed her cream thong, and she squeezed her eyes shut tight. “Oh, please…” What she was begging for, she didn’t know, but it was something only he could give her.
And with a rough growl, he crushed her mouth beneath his.
Belle opened to him without hesitation, and the relief of finally giving in was intense. This was where she belonged—in his arms. The touch of his tongue, the taste of him, the play of his fingers closer and closer to her throbbing sex were driving her to oblivion. He stroked a finger over her soaked underwear, and she dragged her mouth from his. “Oh God! Luca,” she gasped.
He pressed a hard kiss to her trembling lips. “Let me give you a taste of what I feel every time you’re near me,” he grated. And he slipped his fingers past the edge of her thong. She all but jumped in his tight hold as shards of delight burst in her core. His finger slid over her wet sex and dipped into her waiting channel. “Hell,” he muttered and pulled her in for another hot, demanding kiss.
Belle wrapped her arms around his neck and on instinct spread her legs. His searching fingers found her sensitive nub. It was electrifying. She moaned, and curling her short nails into his back, clung to him for dear life as he feathered kisses across her cheek. Every movement of his fingers pushed her further into ecstasy, and she could barely breathe. Her core throbbed and coiled, tighter and tighter. So tight she feared she would burst.
Then with a growl, Luca nipped her sensitive neck, and pain and pleasure melted together. And she burst. Bolts of pleasure wracked her body, leaving her shuddering and gasping in his arms, and for a moment everything blanked. The next thing she knew he was kissing her back to earth, his soothing murmurs slowly piecing her back together again.
Belle clung to him, needing to feel these feelings were real and that his kisses were willingly given. But they weren’t. Not really. The best orgasm of her life had come off the back of a mate bond neither of them could escape. “I can’t do this.” Her voice trembled with unshed tears, and she pushed out of his arms. With a questioning frown, Luca released her. “It has to mean something,” she said. “I need… love.” And brushing past him, she raced back to the lonely sanctuary of her room.
Luca watched her go. The beast in him wanted to grab her, make her feel again, and bring them both to the glorious high he’d been raging to reach since she’d first walked into his life. But the man in him held back.
Love. His lips twisted at the word. What the hell was love? This mess of feelings swirling in him for her? No, that was need… want… belonging? He frowned. Yes, belonging. Belle belonged to him.
He turned and gripped the cold iron railings of the balcony. The rose still glowed white in the distance, having not once dimmed since his howl had set it off. And with a mixture of hate and helplessness, he regarded the pulsing light.
Love was for fools. What he felt for Belle was the call of the mate bond, nothing more. And he had to use it, bend it and her to his needs.
But the traitorous question lingered: did he belong to Belle too?
Luca growled against the thought, but nothing could scrub from his mind the memory of her touch, her sweet scent, her soft lips, her laughter.
Hell, this was going to be a battle—one he wasn’t sure he’d win.
To be continued next week…