Growing more impatient by the moment, Chase rolled down the window of the limo, raised his nose to the air, and sniffed. The rich, sweet aroma of breed mingled with the faint musky smell of his mark, wafted to him, telling him they were drawing closer to Andrea.
His hands balled into fists, almost crushing the exotic flowers resting in his lap. The satiny smooth petals--not half as smooth as Andrea's young skin--trembled as his cock rose beneath the bouquet, straining at the zipper of his formal slacks.
Gods, he hadn't smelled her essence for so long. His balls ached and burned. Chase shifted his legs to relieve and readjust the steely erection jutting between his thighs.
"Eyes, Alpha," Taylor warned, the blandness of his voice belying the worried expression in his flat ebony gaze.
Sighing, Chase reached into a small compartment and took out a pair of Ray-Bans, and slipped them on, concealing his glowing eyes from any unwary human gaze. His cock throbbed, twitched fully erect as his nostrils flared, dragging in more of his mate's addictive scent. "She's so close I can scent her, Taylor. Are the men--"
"Sexed up," the bodyguard assured him. "Plus, I made sure only mated males accompanied us. You're too unstable where that bitch is concerned. No need courting trouble."
Chase stiffened, growled. "Watch your tone when you speak of her."
Taylor bowed his head, averted his gaze. "I hear you, Alpha."
Chase knew his friend and bodyguard held ambivalent feelings about Andrea. They had a history. The teenager had bested several of his men, Taylor included. His head guard--touted the best among all the American Packs' strong-arms--hadn't gotten over the humiliation.
Too fucking bad, Chase thought, lips going thin in rising agitation, because he'll give her total respect or I'll pound his ass.
The limousine slid to a gliding stop in front of the Crown Marriott, and Taylor opened his door to come around and let his boss out.
Chase couldn't wait, driven by a rising urgency to get closer, to be within touching distance of his mate. Not just his cock responded to her allure. Everything, his blood, his muscles--his entire body, yearned and ached and died daily without her. He flung open the door, grabbed the flowers and the present he'd brought, and stepped out the vehicle.
She didn't know ... he didn't want her ever to know the pain separation from her caused him. She felt hurt over his aloofness, complained he didn't call her or consider her a person in her own right, rarely thought about her...
Fuck that! Chase took the broad, shallow steps two at a time. If I thought of her any more, I'd combust.
"Shall we circle? Or would you like us to park somewhere?"
Taylor's question had him turning on the last step of the first tier. "Wait here for me." Chase ground his teeth. The muscles in his clenched jaw jumped. "I'm going to give her one dance, pose for pictures, and then bring her back to the limo. It'll probably kill me, but I'm going to sit and listen ... hold a fucking conversation with my mate so she can see I'm interested in more than her pussy."
"I feel your pain."
Taylor's grimace and low-growled commiseration sneaked a laugh out of him. "Hah! I truly doubt that, Taylor. I really do." With another rueful chuckle, he turned and sprinted up the rest of the stairs.
At the entry of the hotel, the concierge, a tall black man dressed in a tan quasi-military uniform complete with white gloves, intercepted him at the wide double doors. "May I be of service, sir?"
"Daly High School prom--where is it happening?" His demeanor screamed privileged rich mogul. Chase wasn't a bit surprised when the man bowed and scraped before him.
"The prom is taking place in the grand atrium ballroom on the mezzanine, sir. It's on this main floor, but on the farthest side of the lobby. Would you like me to escort you?"
Just then, another whiff of the sweetest lust-enticing fragrance ever inhaled wafted across his nostrils. Like a damned pointer spaniel, Chase's cock came back to attention, arrowing in the direction he needed to go. Straining at the bit, he slid a crisply folded hundred in the man's discreetly proffered hand. "Thanks, but I'll just follow my ... uh ... nose."
An endless measure of time later, after wading through a flood of sequins, miles of lace and black tuxedos, he stood in shocked disbelief, watching his Andrea and some tall, thin boy mesh like connecting puzzle pieces.
She was all over him. He was all over her. Chase's flinty gaze locked on the sight, his eyes going incandescent gold. His jaw dropped, making room for his fangs as every single muscle in his body clenched in rage. Fur rippled under his clothes, and his body grew until the cloth of his tuxedo strained against the bulking flesh.
The roar caused instant panic, and in the ensuing pandemonium, Andrea and the boy wrapped around her turned toward the source of the commotion. Her eyes widened in astonishment and alarm, she quickly disengaged from the illicit embrace. Grim anger tightening his muscles, Chase watched her gaze drop, saw her take in the flowers and gift he'd thrown down when he'd sighted her. Saw her tremble. She was right to be afraid.
Not a shred of control remaining, Chase started toward Andrea with one thought in his mind. He wanted his mate away from the encroaching male and out of here. His fangs flashed, harbingers of death, as he approached the male who dared touch what was his.
"Step away from me, Josh!" Andrea hissed to her date, the frame of night black hair about her pixieish face highlighting her pale, wan complexion. Anger flared hot and bright. How dare she try to protect that male? How dare she?
"Yes, Josh," he growled low and menacingly, "step away so your blood doesn't spray on her dress."
The boy made an abortive attempt at moving, but Chase picked him up by the neck and held him at arm's length as he ripped off his sunglasses. He wanted the impudent cub to see his death telegraphed by the molten heat in his angry gaze.
"Great God, 'Drea, what is this guy? He's not human!"
The shrill hysteria in the boy's voice irritated Chase. Shaking the boy like a limp rag, he snarled, displaying his long fangs and snapping them within inches of the boy's throat. "Mine!" He shouted his claim at the top of his gruff voice.
The teen's eyes rolled up. His body went slack.
"Chase, stop scaring Josh! You're overreacting. This is ... I can explain--"
Chase turned his head, focused his eyes on her, and her voice dried up. Her chin wobbled. His voice, forced from a throat formed for growls and snarls, came out as a hoarse whisper. "Mother Moon, you fear now, when it's too late." His fingers tightened around Josh's neck, and he shook him again. "You've gotten this boy killed."
Andrea shrieked, throwing herself down at his feet. "Oh God, don't hurt him. Please, Chase, I'm begging you! Please don't hurt him!"
Chase opened his hand, releasing the unconscious boy. He couldn't bear seeing her on her knees ... not this way. Her hurt was an open wound, throbbing in their mental link--a link he kept shut down tight to keep from burdening her. That he was the cause of her pain struck him as somehow obscene. Her actions, his own reactions leaving a nasty taste in his mouth, he took three deep breaths, grabbed control with both hands, and held on tight. His heart throbbed like a shredded lump of meat in his chest, as if her blunt-nailed fingers had ripped it to tatters. "Damn it to hell, Andrea, get the fuck up. You dare to go down on your knees in defense of another male?"
Still on her knees, she looked up at him, small face flushed red in anger. She broke off her pleas to glare at him, cinnamon brown eyes narrowing with rage. "You're spoiling my night! This juvenile event is important to me, and you're ruining it!"
Andrea's hands fumbled on the floor before her. She lifted his thrown shades and offered them to him. Voice low and quivering, she whispered furiously, "People can see your eyes."
"I don't give a rat's ass." Giving her a long, furious glare to be sure she knew how royally pissed he was, Chase snatched the glasses from her and slid them in place. Anger still roiling so strongly his hands trembled, he roughly toed the lump of shaking human flesh puddled at his feet. "You're not out of it any longer, human. Get your ass up off the floor."
The boy, jostled from his faked faint, stirred and got shakily to his feet. He huddled close to Andrea, as if shielding his body in the thin shadow of hers. Chase felt new anger rising. Head lowered, voice ragged, he suggested to her, "Your date might live longer if he left this vicinity."
Andrea turned to her reviving friend, pushing him away. "Josh, go!"
"Don't touch him!" He still wanted to kill that randy-assed teenager. If he had to endure seeing his mate place her small hands on the boy, he just might.
The boy proved he had a couple of brave bones in his body. "No. What if he tries to hurt you?"
Chase wished Josh had chosen another time to gain some balls. Incensed at the inference he would harm his chosen, he waited to see what his mate would say. How Andrea answered would influence how he dealt with her betrayal.
"Chase won't hurt me, Josh." She turned and met his gaze. Returning her attention to the boy nursing the bruises around his neck, she said, "We're bound."
Her automatic defense of him helped, but not enough. "Bound, yet I find you here, with this interloper, allowing intimacies belonging only to me!"
"It was nothing like that. I was only helping him get Shelley's attention."
Chase's brows came together. How dare her eyes flame with anger when he was the one sinned against? He marveled that she had the guts to defy him. He snarled again, baring his fangs. "His hands were on your ass!"
"Andrea, come home with me," the boy warbled.
Chase tensed, went after the boy again. Only Andrea's hand, coming to rest on his arm to hold him back, kept Chase from throttling the persistent gnat again, this time with more permanent results.
"Josh, I told you to go. You're just making the situation worse." She glanced about, noticed the room had gone silent, and all eyes were locked on their little tableau.
"Look, Shelley's over there eyeing us like she wants to get a piece of you, and not in a nice way." She pushed him toward a tall, well-fleshed black beauty in a floor-length blue satin sheath, staring with opened mouth at the scene unfolding before her. Hands on her hips, her glare was evident from across the room.
Andrea shooed the cub off. "Go play macho man with her and leave us alone."
Chase watched the boy stumble away after a last frightened look back. He growled to hurry him along.
"Stop that!" With a sigh, Andrea gazed up at her fiancé. "Why are you here, Chase? I thought you were too busy to come." Her voice shook, but her sharp chin jutted pugnaciously, and the hands that smoothed her wide skirts were steady. "Don't you have better things to do than squire me around at juvenile parties?"
"Don't you dare question me, Andrea Montalvo-McCallum, and don't throw my words back in my face. I'm struggling against surrendering to the temptation to put you across my knee, throw those petticoats over your head, and give these gawkers something real spectacular to look at by pounding your pert ass. Just take my arm and walk out of here, now. We'll converse in the limo."
He crooked his arm with old-world charm, arrogantly ignoring the chaos he'd created. When she ignored his outstretched elbow, he murmured out the side of his mouth, "Unless you want me to fuck you right here on the ballroom floor."
She gasped, mouth rounding as she slanted another wide-eyed glance up at his face. He had to hand it to her. She recovered quickly from the shocking impact of his words.
"Are you threatening me?"
"No, making you a promise. I mean every word."
"Yeah, I thought so."
Head held high, Andrea stepped over to him, deliberately placing just the tip of one finger on the cloth at his elbow. "Like that's really gonna make me wanna talk to you; you meaner than a junkyard dog."
The low, murmured words were for his ears alone. Her calm expression belied her caustic comments, and Chase bit back a fierce grin. He stood still, refusing to move until, with another put-upon huff, she laid her dainty hand firmly in the bend of his elbow, curling her fingers over his bicep to press into the bunched muscle. He resisted the urge to flex, to show off his brawn for her approval, knowing she was too angry to appreciate what belonged to her.
He looked down on her proudly held head, his own anger lessening. Damn, he was proud of her. Facing an angry wulf that outweighed her by close to two hundred pounds took a lot of courage. He'd had grown wulves quailing before him and big, hulking human males pissing their pants at his frown, yet his future mate, young as she was, had never backed down. Bravery was bred in her bones, part of her character. His mouth firmed. She'd pushed him too far. Tonight she was going to need all that courage and more.