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Chapter 1 – Taryn
I am powerful.
Whoa, holy shiznit, am I ever powerful. Yikes.
Like floating in the sky, magic all around, changing the world powerful. While it is tons of fun to think about casting a love spell, or making cake ingredients dance around the kitchen, ooh, or doing chores with a flick of the wrist, I don’t have any idea what I’m doing with this much unexplained mystical energy thrumming me through me.
I’m nothing more than the chubby lost and alone girl with amnesia, or I was when I first landed on this island. Mentally scanning my body, and yeah… no. Nothing has changed and I don’t feel like I’m anything special.
Except maybe I am? I’m gonna need some help to figure out what all this means. I’ve got butterflies or magic or magic butterflies in my stomach swirling around making me feel incredibly squirmy.
Or more likely that’s my too-sexy-for-their-fur wolf-shifter mates giving me the hot flashes.
Being surrounded by four super-hot naked men is not as much fun as you’d think. Especially when they’re all pissed off. Which, of course, somehow makes them each even hotter.
Lucky me. I’ve got them all trapped in beams of shiny magic flowing out of me. I don’t have a clue how I’m making it happen, how to control it, or if I can make it stop. Might as well take advantage of this moment of peace while they’re suspended in mid-air with me and looking high as kites. Pardon me while I drool over each and every one of them as I figure out what in the world is happening to us all.
Okay, let’s see. They were all fighting on the beach, I got bit on the throat, more fighting, and then boom. I went all supernova. Nope still not a clue. Perhaps my mate, August can clue me in?
August is looking all delicious with his naked mountain man thing he’s got going on. All he needs with that beard is a flannel shirt and an axe. No, no. No shirt. It would be a crying shame to cover up those eleventy-hundred pack abs.
Father Joachim could be a fricking movie star. Gasp. Amnesia block busted – I remember movies. This damn prison island could sure use a movie theater, and popcorn, and peanut butter M&Ms. Oh, yeah. And Father Joachim would definitely be the latest heart throb, untouchable and yet so, so touchable. Yum.
While both of them make my insides go all flippy floppy, these other two naked dudes who I accidentally poofed out of their wolf forms have all kinds of magic butterflies doing the merengue in my girly parts.
When this magic light poured from head, shoulder, knees, and toes, knees, and toes, I didn’t exactly pay attention to who was where. But I’m pretty damn sure that the hunka-hunka burning love floating dazed to my front and center is none other than cute AF wolf-dog Vasily.
That butthead. He full on let me think he wasn’t one of these wolf shifters. I let him curl up and sleep on me for goodness’ sake. I gave him scritches behind the ears. Now he’s about as big as horse…no a centaur…or, wait are those real? Anyway, he’s ginormous and uh… so is his junk. This guy is hu-ung. And hard. His cock is pointed directly at me like a compass.
I’d be his true north. Eyebrow waggle.
Then there’s Mr. Grumpy McAssFace. He looks like he’d eat my heart out and give me a squirty orgasm at the same time. I kind of want to let him try too. Those dark eyes are staring into my sloppy little soul and making me all fidgety.
I’m being absolutely ridiculous. This has to be the Dark Prince of Wolves and he literally just tried to bite my face off. Good thing he missed.
There’s heat at the spot on my neck where he bit me and something I can’t identify swirls around on my skin. The feeling is remarkably similar to when August marked me. That has to be what set off the surprise magic coming out of me like I’m Emperor Palpatine or Lord Voldemort. I can hear Hagrid now. “Yur a wizard, Taryn.”
Am I? Don’t wizards need magic wands? It’s not like I said a magic spell or anything. I just got so mad that everyone was fighting. Then the Dark Prince attacked me, and the blue light exploded from me, grabbing them all up and turning them into humans like me.
I just wanted them to stop fighting.
Now, I’m not totally convinced I’m simply human. Because, well, duh. Normal women don’t go around picking up packs of terrifying wolves with sparkly blue light coming out of… I glance down and yep… yep…I’ve got magic coming out my vagina.
That is not a sentence I ever thought I’d say in my life.
I’m not the only one staring at my magic vagina either. August, Father Joachim, and Vasily are all blissed out on whatever this superpower I have is. But that Dark Prince guy? He’s focused on me and fighting against my hold on him.
“I said I’d come for you, Princess.” The same voice I heard in my head, back at the village before I mated with August, rolls into my head like a storm. The kind of whirlwind that could send me spinning off to Kansas or North Korea, but only to end up crash landing directly on him.
I concentrate and try to send another wave of magic over the Dark Prince so he can’t look at me like that anymore. I can’t even think about what to do next with him staring at me and talking in my head. Why can’t he be zoned out like the others? Blue sparkles of power flicker out and I think I’m doing it.
The sparks of magic don’t go where I want them to at all. Instead, they slam into Vasily, and he snaps to attention like I just mainlined caffeine into him. Oops. Hope that doesn’t have any adverse side effects.
Neither of them can move more than some jerks of muscles and glares, but Vasily’s eyes find mine. “Anastasia, free me so I can destroy him.”
That pisses off the Dark Prince and he growls like thunder. I didn’t think he was supposed to be able to hear Vas talk in my head. The form of his big black wolf rippling out from within is like a ghost in the darkness. “No one can protect you.”
His mouth moves and he whispers some words in a language that’s so old I’ve forgotten it. Whatever it is he says, it makes my magic flow back toward me and the blue light holding him up in the air dims and fades.
Vasily is fighting against me too, but he’s drawing more magic to himself, taking what the Dark Prince is rejecting. His wolf also shimmers up, flashing across his face and chest until I can’t tell if he’s man or beast. His voice, darker and rumblier, grabs my mind. “Ana, let me free. Now.”
Ooh. Forceful Vasily is schmexy. Wait. What is wrong with me? I’m mid-magical battle with supernatural beings and all I can think about is how I want to rub myself up and down and around Vasily’s… gah… stop it weird horny lizard brain. I need to concentrate, or someone is going to get hurt, or killed, or pregnant.
The light binding me and the Dark Prince together, sloshes like a wave, but as the tide is going out. With each second, I’m losing my hold on him. Not that I know how I’ve got him in my grasp. If I don’t do something, he’s definitely going to attack me again.
He’s dropping closer to the ground, and I just know the second his enormous feet hit the rocks he’s going to shift and charge at me. If I can figure out how to float up higher, I could protect August, Father Joachim, Vasily, and myself from another attack. But I bet this guy can jump pretty fricking high.
The magic is clearly coming from inside of me, which must mean I’m a witch or something. I can control it then. I take a deep breath and close my eyes, trying to feel for where it’s coming from. Aside from having blue light bursting out my limbs, I don’t actually feel any different.
That’s good, I guess? Means that this is part of the real me I just don’t remember. I hope it doesn’t require me to remember any spells. No, it wouldn’t since I didn’t say anything to make it start up. So, it must run on intention.
Fine. I intend to float up to the top of the trees to keep my wolves safe.
Oh, oh, oh. Something is happening. The air is moving around me. I’m too afraid to open my eyes in case it breaks the magic momentum. Perhaps we’re floating up too high though, so I take one peek, cracking open my right eyelid.
Shoot, crap, abort, abort the mission. Houston, we have a problem. Instead of floating the four of us up into the sky, I’ve pulled August, Joachim, and Vasily directly in front of me like an impenetrable wall of muscle. August and Father Joachim are to my left and right with their fine, fine butts pretty much smack dab in front of my face.
Vasily is dead ahead, facing toward me. So much of him is… right where I could lick it if I wanted to. And I want to.
Inappropriate. Even if the idea of tasting him, giving him pleasure, has my libido on overdrive.
“Anastasia, let me defend you against our enemies.” His words are getting more demanding and gruffier in my head. Why does that turn me on so hard? This is not the time nor the place for sexy fantasies.
I really want to do what he’s telling me to do. I close my eyes and will the magic around him to dissipate. When I open them again, I’m not even a little bit surprised that nothing happened. Grr. This power is clearly not something new. I should be able to control it. “I don’t know how.”
It would probably help if I could look away from the giant peen in my face. Oh wait, something did happen and Vasily’s cock blocked it. The Dark Prince is the one who I’ve floated down to the ground and the magic barely has a hold on him. Great.
He growls at me and Vas snarls back. “Stay away from her, traitor.”
Traitor? That’s an interesting tidbit I’m filing away for later when I’m not about to be attacked by an naked angry, angry hot, did I mention hot and angry and naked, man.
Okay. This magic flowing out of me is some bullshit. I flail around in the air trying my best to swim with my arms toward the ground. That actually sort of works. Oops. No, it really works, too well. The wet rocky beach is coming toward my face at an alarming rate.
I wrap my arms around my head to bear the brunt instead of my skull and a moment later a wall of rock slams into me It isn’t the shoreline, but the Dark Prince. I freak out and push against him even as he tries to grab me. My actions send me flying through the air, head over ass until someone grabs me, tucking me against his chest, protecting me from the fall.
Even though I can’t see him, I know it’s Vasily. He smells of ice and forest and power. Not mine, but something of his own. I want to lick it.
We tumble across the stones and not a one touches my skin. “I’ve got you, prinsessa.”
I’d believe that if I didn’t hear the snarl of a giant, cranky wolf nearby. I peek an eye open and yep, the Dark Prince of Wolves has shifted back into his beast form. It’s my fault that August, Father Joachim, and Vasily are human right now and I sure as shit hope I haven’t broken them. Humans are fragile, especially against snapping wolf jaws.
In the tumble, the other two men have fallen to the ground as well and my magic powers have subsided. The guys don’t appear to be conscious, and I don’t want Dark Princey Poo to get any ideas about attacking them when they can’t fight back.
The three of them have done everything they could to protect me since I landed here in prison-island-palooza, and I’ve gone and screwed that up. Now we’re all gonna die.
I scoot and flop about to get out of Vasily’s grasp so I can try to call my magic up again, but before I get anywhere the sound of cracking bones freezes me. Vas’s skin splits right in front of me and fur bursts out. Before I can even gasp, I’m underneath his enormous wolf.
I want to reach up and snuggle into his fur. He’s sexy as hell in his human form, but ever since I was thrown into this stupid prison, Vasily the wolf has made me feel safe. The least I could do is return the favor.
In one badass ninja move, which probably looked more like a dying fish trying to flop away, I roll out from beneath him. August and Joachim are less than a foot away, sitting where they dropped and looking like they’ve been hit by a steamroller or a Mack truck. Maybe I should beep when I back up.
No time. The Dark Wolf Prince is charging toward us, jaw open wide as if he’s going to try and eat me up in one bite. Not again.
There is a part of my that wants to try and talk, to ask him why he’s so angry and find out who he truly is to me. I can feel our connection, but I can’t believe he’s a mate to me like August is. The angry wolf running straight for me doesn’t appear to be in the mood for a deep talk or even chit chat.
“Ana, no dammit, look out,” Vas yells straight into my head. His warning should have me stop-drop-and-rolling, but it gives me the strength instead to stop the attack of the Dark Prince. I’m going to do everything in my power to save these men who have stolen my heart.
I throw my hands out and the blue beams of magic pour from me once again. “Stop. I am not your enemy.”
The sound of my voice reverberates like we’re in a cave and the magic hits the Dark Prince head on. He’s pushed back for a second and then he lowers his head, and claws his way forward, blue shining eyes lasered in on me. This has just become a power of wills between the two of us and if I’m going to win, I need to throw him off his game.
If only I knew how to do that. My mind is blank, swiss cheese, filled with nothing but fluff. The Dark Prince is getting closer, and my magic is flickering like a bad connection. We are totally going to die if I don’t come up with something fast.
But I don’t know how to fight. I don’t understand where his anger came from, and I certainly don’t want to hurt him.
One really dumb idea that probably wouldn’t work, pops into my head. It definitely won’t be what he expects. “Hey, what do you call a wolf who uses foul language?”
The Dark Prince growls and inches closer.
For just a moment I see the flicker of something other than pure anger flash through his eyes. That is my chance. I turn all my power on him. Instead of pushing him away it opens one of those freaky portals and he’s sucked into it snarling and growling and howling the whole way
Then poof. The portal is gone, the Dark Prince is gone, and so is all my magic. I collapse onto the rocks, breathing hard. Magic is some serious cardio. If I didn’t lose five pounds today, I’ll be surprised.
In less than a second, I’m surrounded by August, Vasily, and Father Joachim. They’re pulling me up and patting me down at the same time. “I’m okay, I’m okay. No need to get handsy.”
August does in fact get handsy. He grabs me around the waist and pulls me in for a hot and hard kiss. I love melting into his love for me and I kiss him right back. I know he needs to make sure we’re both still alive and safe. I won’t mind if we reaffirm our lives together in the bedroom later either. Especially if Father Joachim and Vasily are watching… or participating.
But that’s wishful thinking.
Or I believed it to be until Vasily grabs me out of August’s arms and shoves his fingers into my hair, tugging the strands into his fist. I’m both in awe and a little scared of him at the same time. My fight or flight response is on over drive already and it’s telling me Vasily is a predator.
He growls and narrows his eyes like he’s angry, but then he lays a toe-tingling kiss on me that has me seeing stars and moons. I’m mid-swoon when he breaks his lips from mine way before I’m ready. He whispers against my mouth, “I’m never losing you again.”
Again? When was the last time he lost me?
Chapter 2 – Vasily
My Anastasia is so much more powerful in this life than in the last, or even the ten lives we lived together before that. She is magnificent and I will murder anyone who tries to dim her light.
It is hard for me to be in this human form again. I’ve let the beast rule me and all my most base instincts surround my mind like an aura.
I can’t help myself. I grab her from August and without her permission, I claim her mouth. Jealousy rears its head and wants that final thrum of her power to sing through my soul once more. In any other life she would slap me for the indiscretion, but I don’t give fuck about impropriety anymore. I need to feel her body pressed to mine, to know that she is unharmed.
Not this time. Not now. I will take what is mine so I can protect her.
She responds to my kiss with a passion of her own, one that I have sorely missed. She gives and takes, her lips and tongue mashing and dueling with mine as if she is the one who can’t get enough of me. I may not have sought her consent, but she is giving it to me now with her fervor. She kisses me with as much lust as when she was a beautiful young Romanov princess, and we were sneaking kisses in the golden bejeweled rooms of the palace.
I push those sweet memories away. They have no place in this time and place. Fire Island is a cruel prison shithole, and I will not let it or anyone in it take her away from me.
I want her even more than I did a hundred years ago. Her insistent kisses now are nothing like the soft, tentative first brush of my lips over hers that last Russian spring before everything went wrong.
I can’t keep a groan in, my human body thrums with lust and my wolf’s need to mark her and claim her rule my every move. It’s been so hard to keep myself away from her. Even allowing my wolf to curl up on her that first night was almost more than I could take, and I was grateful when she tried to slip away into the night.
Not like I’d let her. She is mine to protect. Forever. I’ve just done such a shitty job at it in the past. I was too soft, too weak. I can’t let anything happen to her this time. That includes not letting Grigori ever touch her again.
“Vasily,” she whimpers my name so deliciously between breaths and I want to eat her words. She so soft and compliant in my arms that I ignore her warning signs. She struggles and pulls away, then slaps me across the cheek. Thwack.
Her hand probably stings more than my skin, but the brunt of her anger bites regardless. “Why did you hide yourself from me?”
I deserved that. I linger over the taste of her lips a brief moment more, grasping for what to say.
There is hurt in her eyes and the rock of guilt I’ve been carrying around in my gut since I first saw her here on this very beach, aches in a way I didn’t expect. My pain doesn’t matter, but hers does. The only words I want to say will make her mad or sad. I know because I’ve said them before.
I don’t react to the slap across my face. She only did it to get some of her adrenaline out. Because I haven’t been human for so long, and I’m not sure how to respond. I risk a quick glance at August and Joachim for help. I find none. Shit, they’re angry with me too.
My skin itches to shift. At least in wolf form I know what to do to keep her safe, to keep August company in his rough-hewn cabin, to stand guard over Joachim as he tortures himself with prayer to a long-lost god. My hands and feet and words can’t keep help me anymore than they can my brethren. “I thought I would better serve you as a guardian than a confidant.”
Her anger fades, the scent of it moving from burnt leaves to the gentle perfume of the moon flower. She touches my cheek, caressing the same spot she hit me with the lightest of brushes. Even though she doesn’t know the extent of my sins, she forgives me. “You were, you are a great defender. I owe you my life several times over. But we both know you are more to me than either of those things.”
That dense guilt in my gut pulsates, growing inside, making me wish I could tell her everything and ask for her whole forgiveness. I lean into her touch, trusting August and Joachim enough to close my eyes for a brief moment and revel in my princess.
In the warmth of her love, so easily given, I can be anything she wants me to be, do what she needs done, fight her fights. I would bare my soul for her.
Joachim clears his throat, and damn if that bastard doesn’t always know what I’m thinking. I’m not ready to give her the truth I’ve hidden away in the soul of my beast yet anyway. I place my hand over hers and draw it away. “I don’t like us being out here and exposed.”
The Dark Prince of Wolves isn’t our princess’s only enemies.
She gives me a look that promises we aren’t done with this conversation, but she is still rattled from the battle. The scent of her worry and fear rising back up permeate my pores and I want only to grab her up and carry her away to safety. I will not. She is stronger than my inner beast gives her credit for.
There is so many thoughts unsaid in her eyes, but she placates me with a nod and turns her attention to the others. “Uh, are you three gonna walk around butt naked?”
Her gaze flashes down to my cock and her pupils dilate, making her eyes go dark with pleasure. My wolf preens inside, loving her lusty looks. The beast wants me to throw her over my shoulder and drag her off to the woods where I can mark her and claim her, and make her mine once again, in private, just her and me.
That is not our way.
August laughs and I wish I had his easy relationship with her. “You’ve warmed our island quite a bit, love. My cock and balls are enjoying a bit of summer and fresh air.”
While this is no summer, the ice surrounding the island has cracked, and glistens with a layer of melted water atop it. The trees have new growth, and then there are the moon flowers.
She tips her head to the side, thinking in that adorable way that she does, her eyes flicking back and forth. “I warmed it up? Is that what my magic does?”
Is she testing us? She’s gotten a huge chunk of her powers back, but does she have her memories as well? We’ve all learned the lesson more than once that if she doesn’t discover her powers on her own, the whole incarnation goes to shit. None of us want a repeat of the Kamchatka earthquake and tsunami, or worse, the catastrophic eruption of the legendary mountain volcano Hara Berezalti.
My wolf whines inside. Is a natural disaster any worse than the death and destruction I’d wreak on this island and its people if I lose her again?
Perhaps all three of us feel the same. None of us reply to her question. Joachim is the one to break the silence. “We can shift, my lady, if you are uncomfortable.”
She smirks at him and gives his erect cock the eyebrow raise of disdain she’s so very good at. I’m not coming to his rescue on this one. We all know he’s the one who can’t handle being naked around her. Dumb fucker.
Not that I am one to talk. I don’t trust myself near her either. One whole minute back in human form and I’ve already stolen a kiss and got a slap for it. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Even now I inch closer to her just to feel her warmth.
It isn’t enough. I want her under me, crying my name, coming on my cock, ascending to her rightful power and position.
This human form has too many feelings, an overwhelming amount of emotions. I need to shift back to my wolf before I lose my mind.
“This isn’t about comfort. Our wolves are best way to guard you from any further attacks.” I wave my arm toward the forest, in the direction we’ll travel to take her back to the safety of the political prisoners of the Volkovs. Back to those that already worship her and don’t even know why.
My feisty prinsessa isn’t having any of our bullshit. “Don’t you think we should talk about what happened a minute ago? Or did you all not notice that I have a magic vagina?”
August sidles up to her and presses his lips to his mark on her throat. “I can personally attest to the magic of your lush cunt, tzaritsa.”
She rolls her eyes at me and Joachim, but there is a smile too. Once again, I envy the way August can flirt with her and put her at ease even as he moves to protect her. Which is of course what he’s done.
More than that I’m envious of his mark she carries on her skin. Mine should be on her throat too.
“Don’t tzaritsa me. The three of you know a whole lot more than you’re telling me and that ends right now. I’m a fricking witch or something, you all are werewolves, and I just shoved a dude through a black hole. I want to know what’s going on here.”
Joachim holds up his hand to halt our protests before August and I can even spit them out. “I’ll explain everything when we get you back to the derevnya and we’re sure you’re safe.”
He will? Joachim’s the one who first learned how dire the outcome of our lives were when we revealed her true nature, before she discovered it for herself. He’s sworn us all to secrecy in every life we’ve lived with him.
He shifts and sends a warning through our connection. Don’t say a word.
I see. He has no intention of telling her anything but is willing the bear the brunt of her anger when she finds that out. He has a skill with her that I do not wish for. Lying.
August hates it as well, but we will do what it takes to make her safe. This time we must succeed where we have failed before. But I don’t know how. We have no plan, no alpha to guide our path. Only lies and secrets.
The same as always. That hasn’t worked in the past and I’m tired of failing her. I don’t shift as Joachim intends. This time I will not retreat to the safety of my beast. Instead, I take her hand in mine and bring her wrist to my lips even though I know it will test my willpower. “Anastasia–”
“Someday I hope you’ll tell me all about when I was your Anastasia. In fact, I’m hoping I remember. But I am not her. I am Taryn. I don’t have much besides my name, but I’d like you to call me by it.” Her words and meaning are firm, but her voice is gentle, and quiet enough that it’s meant only for me.
Her tenderness makes me feel fragile and I can’t not be. The wolf inside pushes me to be harsh and hard. My words come out in a snarl. “You have more than that, Taryn.”
Her name feels awkward on my tongue. I’m always the worst at adjusting to the changes of each new life. I would be perfectly happy going back to calling her my Goddess.
She doesn’t flinch away from the angry wolf lingering at my surface. She bites right back. “Like what?”
Me. I want to say it. I won’t, not yet. Not until she wants me like I want her. Not just physically, that part is always the easiest. I want her love. Fuck. I want her everything. “Us.”
August joins with his easy truths. “The devotion of the people in the derevnya, and your newfound powers. That is more than most who are stuck here in this prison.”
She glances up at me and pulls her arm as if to take it from my grasp. I don’t let her. It’s too late for me to let her go. We settle for twined fingers.
“I need more than that.”
Joachim growls at the three of us and Taryn growls right back. It surprises her and she covers her mouth and glances back and forth between August and I, all wide-eyed. She doesn’t understand what’s happening to her, and I can’t stand by and watch her struggle alone.
“You have more power in you than any of us even know. I will help you find it, use it, and then you won’t need guards any longer. You’ll be able to protect yourself, better than any of us ever could.” This promise breaks no vows and yet allows me to stop lying to her.
August sighs and Joachim bares his teeth at me. I don’t care if I’ve made him mad. His way wasn’t working.
“What kind of powers? Where do they come from?” Her frustration physically hurts me, and I want to make it better for her. I want to destroy those who’ve hidden and quashed her soul away. I will kill them, so she doesn’t have to.
“How do I use them, and can they get us off this god-forsaken island?” She stomps her foot against the unforgiving stones.
Her stream of questions doesn’t bother me because I know that means she wants to fight for herself. Fighting is something I’m good at. “Only you can uncover your true power. I will be there as you do.”
August slaps me on the shoulder. “If I’d known all it took to get you to be so damn talkative and helpful was to make you shift, I’d have found my own alpha voice and made you shift a long damn time ago.”
I shake my head and give my smile to Taryn. “Yours is the only voice I care to hear.”
Taryn grins up at me, and I forget for just a moment to be hurt and angry. She’s not only bringing sunshine back to the island, but back into my life. I shouldn’t have avoided her and her love for so long. August gives me a good-natured punch in the arm, but Joachim is still pouting. This isn’t the first promise to him I’ve broken. He’ll forgive me once he has some time to think about it. Nowhere did we say we couldn’t help her figure out who and what she is, we simply can’t tell her. He’ll understand this way is better for us all.
Especially now that the Dark Prince of Wolves knows she’s here. My number one priority has to be keeping her safe from him and the best way to do that is for her to learn how to defend herself. We clearly cannot keep her alive on our own.
“I’m going to get you to tell me what you know, you three. I don’t like secrets.” She wags her finger at us.
I don’t suppose she does. Even if she didn’t know, her whole life is a lie. Every family the Volkovs steal her from, every faux mother and father they give her to, and even we, her guards, lie and keep secrets from her. I hate it and am going to do everything in my power to make sure this time, it ends.
I’m done standing around. “The quicker we get you to safety, the sooner we can start searching for your powers.”
Chapter 3 – Taryn
It seems silly, but I’m hurt that Vasily didn’t reveal himself to me like August and Father Joachim did. I’m chastising myself for feeling that way because I also know that he has something broken deep inside of him and that is what kept him from letting me in.
I’m sure it has to do with our last life together. I’ve got the tiniest snippets of memory. I’m a princess. He’s a guard. We’re in love even though the idea of us even talking to one another is forbidden.
Sounds like the beginning of a great book. Oooh. I wonder if any of the women on the island have romance novels. I’d kill for a hot cup of tea, a warm and fuzzy blanket… or a wolf, wrapped around me, and a dirty romance to keep me warm.
Vasily is practically vibrating with his need. I’m just not sure if it’s to go back to his lone wolf ways, or if that need rolling off him is for me.
Oh, wait. That’s me. I think the adrenaline from the battle is taking a nose-dive because I’m suddenly shivering and so is the rest of the world around me.
“Crap, I’m so cold. I wish I could shift into a hairy beast like you guys.” It looks way warmer, and I can’t blame Father Joachim for staying that way. Except I know he’s avoiding letting me see something about himself too.
The three of them share a look between them that either means they’re talking in each other’s heads or more likely, they’ve got another secret they’re keeping from me.
Secrets. I frigging hate secrets.
I’m going to find a way to make them all tell me everything. I want to know about them, their past lives too, and most importantly who I am and who we are to each other. That includes that damn Dark Prince of Wolves.
“Come here, tzaritsa. I’ll carry you to back to my cabin, and then I can warm you right up in the bed we haven’t taken advantage of yet.” August waggles his eyebrows at me and I’m amazed at how he can go from warrior to lover so fast.
Vas steps in the way of August’s attempt to grab me up. “We need to get her back to the derevnya so she can start her training.”
I have a feeling Vasily is going to be a task master, and that it’s going to be super sexy. His promise to help me figure out my powers fills that scared empty place inside of me.
August will help too, because while his mind is in the gutter right now, at his core, he is my fervent protector. The sooner we can get to work the better. I shudder and look down at my toes. I’m surprised they aren’t blue. Why is it I never seem to have proper clothes whenever I’m on this beach?
A howl sounds from the tree line and I whip my head around to see some of the other wolves from the village racing toward us. They’re led by my new friends and girl gang, Alida, Killisi, Bridget, and Jeanette. They have satchels strapped to their bodies. Leave it to the women to come up with a smart idea like that. If I was in charge, I’d declare that everyone has some kind of emergency shifting kit for when they all burst out of their clothes all the time.
Whose idea was it for them to ruin everything they wear. Why couldn’t they just have magic clothes? Not that I mind my guys having to shift back all naked and delicious.
A big roar greets them, and Will comes barreling down the beach, back to us. Funny that my magic didn’t grab him up too. Not far behind him is Maggie in human form. I was sort of hoping I’d get to see what she shifts into as well. Nope.
She’s carrying an armful of the robes the men like to wear. Probably because they can shed those faster than pants and t-shirts. I’m getting it now. Shifter life is weird. I’ll keep my warm wooly dress, thank you very much. I hope Maggie brought it and some shoes. The mostly see-through shift I wore for the mating ritual doesn’t do a thing to keep the cold away.
My friends shift and slip on the dresses they’ve brought in their packs and each of them check in quickly with their mates. I’m glad they got to reaffirm their bonds at my ceremony with August. But something strikes me like a metaphorical snowball to the face giving me an instant shiver and worrisome chill.
Vasily looks from the women and then back at me. He squeezed my hand and frowns. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I’m just cold is all.” He knows I’m lying. Of course he does. I’m not ready to say anything. I need to figure out what I think first. Because here’s my problem.
The women of the derevnya are all mated. To one man. Not three, not four, but one.
There do seem to be a lot more men than women on the island, so why don’t they all have multiple mates like I know that I do. I hadn’t even questioned it until just now. Are my feelings abnormal? It certainly doesn’t feel wrong.
August is mine. If the two of us having sex in front of everyone doesn’t establish that, then I don’t know what would.
Down to my soul, I know, that as much as he’s holding himself back from a relationship with me, Father Joachim is mine too. He belongs to me and I to him. And now that I know Vasily isn’t just a pet, but a hot-blooded, virile man, my heart has a claim on him.
I’m going to have to ask someone about this. I wonder if girls’ night out is a thing here.
Maggie comes over to me, with my dress and some shoes in her arms as if my thoughts conjured them. More likely she’s done all this battling bad guys business a hundred times before and knew what the rest of us would need. “You’re all right now, aren’t ya, love? I could feel the power of the Tuath Dé coming from ya like a beam from the sun or the moon.”
Moonlight. That’s exactly what the blue light of my magic reminded me of. Had I called it down? Psh. That’s the weirdest thing I’ve come up with so far. I shake my head at myself as I pull the warm wool dress on over my head. “I’m…, huh, I don’t know what I am. I meant to say I was fine, but something has changed, and I don’t entirely understand it.”
“No, I suppose you don’t. But it will come to ya. We all are a bit messy in the head when we get thrown in here through the shadow, but your memories are coming back faster than most. I suspect that has something to do with them.” She nods toward August and Vasily who have accepted clothes from my smarty-pants well-prepared girl gang.
“Oh, is that Vas? He’s a fine bit o’ man, isn’t he?” Maggie fans her face and I think I see Will scowl at her. “You’ll have to be careful with that one.”
I slip into the boots and sigh in relief. “Maybe we could talk about them, my situation, geez, my whole love life, later when we aren’t in after battle crisis mode?”
Maggie tilts her head, and I can practically see the wheels turning in her head. “Now that we’ve defeated Lev and his pack, we know you’re safe, and no one seems to be badly injured, I think we could all use a good gathering around the campfire tonight.”
“Another party?” That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. We should hole up in the village and build a big wall around it. I already feel horrible that it was the shindig they threw to celebrate my mating that opened us up to the attack. “That’s what got us into this mess in the first place.”
Maggie laughs. “Naw, that’d be you drawing in the trouble. But don’t you worry none. We’ve been waiting on you a long while. We’re ready.”
Before I can say anything, Maggie’s already turned lie she didn’t just accuse me of being a weapon of mass destruction and is gathering our cavalry to head back. August reaches over and closes my wide-open gaping mouth with a knuckle. I swallow hard and glance up at him to see if he agrees with her. I don’t want to cause these good people to fight horrible criminals like Lev and his pack.
Vasily pushes a stray hair away from my face and tucks it behind my ear. “There’s not a one of us who wouldn’t die for you.”
No. No one is dying for me. I want… I… my chest is thrumming like I’ve got a ticking time bomb behind my heart. I want them to live for me. “But I don’t want anyone to be hurt or worse because of me.”
Joachim, who has been stand-offish since he shifted, trots over to me. The distress of your mind is like bitter lemons in my nose, boginya. It is my duty to be your advisor in all matters. Let me help.
Even in wolf form, his calm demeanor permeates my unease and makes me believe everything will turn out okay. And that isn’t enough. I need so much more from him. “Is that all you are to me, Father? My advisor?”
Wow. Something else has changed inside of me besides finding out I have magic powers. The world has become clearer to me. No, not the world, but myself in it. My wants, my needs, and my feelings have become more important. If that makes me selfish, so be it. Because in that selfishness lies the happiness I’m sure is there for us all to have. We just need to take it.
I have to convince Father Joachim to give up his vows.
Shit. What am I saying? I can’t believe I even thought that. Yeah, now that is wrong. Doesn’t matter that we both want this. There is something bigger and more important out there than wants and needs.
“It’s fine, I’m fine. Let’s get back to the village. I’m cold.” Cold-hearted, that is.
The wolf eyes me, but he doesn’t say anything more into my head. I’m grateful he’s giving me some space for the moment.
It doesn’t take long for everyone to organize into a clumpy line to make the trek back. I’m the weak link and stuck in the middle so everyone else can keep me surrounded and safe. I’m more determined now to learn how to use my power for all these good people.
Vasily and August are never more than a foot or two from me on the walk through the trees, but neither of them push me to say anything. They’re probably all up in their heads just as much as I am. Or their being smart and making sure there aren’t any monsters in the trees.
I should know better by now to keep more aware of my surroundings. If I had the senses of my wolfy friends maybe I wouldn’t get into so many scrapes. I could have avoided the whole thing with Lev and his pack wanting to claim me, and I certainly would like to have skipped being kidnapped by Peter. That rat.
But once again, a threat appears right in friggin front of me and I’m unprepared.
We walk into the village and a pack of disheveled and shabby looking wolves are waiting for us. My friends surround me in a circle and prepare for another battle. Great. Just great. What did I say? I’m trouble with a capital T.
I grab Vasily’s arm, knowing he is ready to shift and protect me. “Wait, please. I don’t want more bloodshed.”
He nods, but steps in front of me anyway. He snarls in a way that makes me think he knows the intruders. I don’t get to August in time. He drops his robes and shifts so fast, I hardly see the transformation take place.
Hackles are raised all around, and I just want it all to stop. No more fighting over or for me. No. More. I raise my hands in the air and search for the feeling I had inside of me when I spurted out all that magic at the beach. Power crackles in my palms, and… crap, between my legs too.
If it takes a magic vagina to stop the fighting, fine. I’ll use the gifts I have at my disposal. I take a deep breath and open my eyes again to see what kind of havoc I’ve wreaked. No one is floating, they’re not all caught up in my magic moon beams, but they are all staring at me, and with glowing eyes.
Two of the interlopers shift, a man, and a woman. They look at me, then to each other and the woman smacks the guy. “She is Goddess touched. I told you.”
She approaches me, but August growls and stands in her way. The woman tilts her head to the side and down, exposing her neck, looking away and at the ground. To my surprise, August quiets and lets her pass.
Vasily is not so lenient. “Showing your throat won’t save you if you harm even a hair on her head.”
I had no idea the sweet wolf I though was a pet was going to be such a dangerous man. It’s a little overwhelming to have him being a protector. I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve such fierce loyalty from him, but I’ll take it. I work on being worthy of it a little later.
To both Vasily’s and my surprise, the woman goes down on one knee and bows her head. “We’ve come to pledge our fealty to your, my lady.”
The man approaches and when Vas snarls at him, he too gets down on his knees in front of us. “Clearly the Goddess has sent you to save us from this hell.”
He’s got one of those pretty white flowers in his hand and I swear it’s glowing the same color as my magic. “I don’t even know who your Goddess is.”
Maggie comes over and gives the two people a nudge to get up. “That’s something we ought to remedy. Don’t you think, boys?”
August snorts and tries to cover it with a cough. “Yes, we should.”
I give him a what-is-wrong-with-you look. Apparently, this goddess of theirs is just another secret they’ve been keeping from me. I wonder how much of this I knew about before I got my brain cells zapped in the Nothing. When I find out whoever did this to me, I’m going to give them a concussion and see how they like it. Or, I’ll have Vasily do it for me. I think he’d enjoy that.
There’s chatter among the villagers and the group of new people.
Will joins us and gives a big old roar, silencing everyone else. Then he shifts and raises his voice so everyone gathered can hear. “I know there’s more of ya hiding out there in the forest. Come on out and bring some firewood. My mate insists on bonfire to celebrate our patch of good weather.”
We all wait in silence for at least a count of ten and then a face, and other, and another pops out from various spots nearby. Slowly a dozen more come forward each with twigs and fallen logs in their arms a commanded. One by one they drop their firewood where Maggie directs them and soon, we’ve got enough for a fire that will last all night.
No one says much, but they all stare at me, which has Vasily bristling. I get the feeling that hospitality isn’t something very common outside the derevnya. I like that our community could bring other people together who’ve been imprisoned here. So far it seems it’s about fifty-fifty on whether people are good and decent or bad guys. I’d sure like to know who it is that’s thrown us all in here.
“I don’t like having all these people around you. I could keep track of them all when they were hiding in the trees like scared animals.” Vasily grabs my wrist and pulls me closer to him. August closes in beside me, forming a barricade between me and the lookie-loos.
“You knew they were there?” I didn’t see anyone and that gives me the heebie-jeebies.
He rounds on me and there’s a wildness in his eyes, that same blue glow as when he’s a wolf. “I will teach you to open your senses. You need to be more aware so you can protect yourself.”
“I doubt I’ll need the skill. I have the feeling you, August, and Father Joachim aren’t going to let me out of your sight.” I look around for the Father and don’t spot him. Not even in wolf form.
August turns toward me too and runs his thumb across the mark he’s given me on my neck. It sends a billion tingles across my skin that flow like a wave to my breasts and between my legs. “Your growing powers will attract more attention. That puts you in danger.”
Vasily’s eyes are glued to where August is touching me, and he clenches his fists. The one holding my wrist squeezes tight around my skin and bones, almost to the point of pain. “We can only guard you against so many.”
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