~~ Owen ~~
"Well, this is fucking original, Karl," I said.
There were Rogues in my territory, and here I was, on some shitty back street in Inverness, surrounded by closed-down shops and flickering streetlights, watching four drunken men trying to make up their minds about going into a damn strip club.
We stopped on the corner.
"That dump?" Robert looked at Karl, then back at the club's façade. "Are you serious?"
"Classy joint, this here." Karl protested.
The neon lights of "The Lollypop Stop" blazed at the end of the dark secluded street. I had heard of the strip club, but never personally been inside. I had never needed to. I had never needed to pay a woman to take her clothes off for me.
"You've had too much to fucking drink, laddie." I grunted as I looked down the deserted street.
"Don't tell me you're a prude?" Martin laughed, hooking his right arm around my shoulders.
"No, not Mr. MacLaren. Ladies' man and number one charmer." Luke tried to joke, but I didn't miss the hint of envy mixed with the playful tone of his voice.
Stag nights . . . I had been to three in total and all had been for fellow Pack brothers. Since our metabolisms were high, we burned alcohol off too damn quick—meaning we never got the full effect. Sadly, we have never been able to go out, get shit-faced, and have what you would call a typical guys' night out. So, this was my first proper stag night, as well as my first human one.
If my father . . . my Alpha hadn't demanded I take the night off and let one of the others patrol, I would have continued searching for the bastards who were fucking about in our territory. The night was going okay so far. Robert had become a decent friend since I'd started working at the school, and at least being out in the open meant I could keep a look-out for our Rogues.
"Am I fucking a prude? I just think it's cruel to dangle temptation in front of a nearly married man." I shrugged Martin's arm away.
"But that's exactly the reason we're here, man. Rob can never touch another woman, ever again. Never look at one, in case the missus is watching, and all those fine pieces of ass out there, say bye, bye, Rob." Karl wobbled over to Robert and clasped his shoulders. "You will be fucking the same woman for the rest of your damn life."
"Says the married man and father of three," I said.
Karl grimaced at me. "What the fuck do you know, MacLaren?"
"I know that if you find the right woman, then it doesn't matter if you don't get to fuck another woman for the rest of your life."
"Says the man who screws a different woman every month."
I grinned. "Aye, but I ain't found the right woman yet."
He mumbled a curse and looked back at Robert. "What d'ya say? One last look-see before you enter the last legal form of slavery?"
Unlike these three pricks, Robert was a decent man, but like most men, hearing marriage phrased in such a way seemed to set off some idiotic "last night of freedom" bell.
Robert's gaze slid to me.
I already knew what he wanted to do. It's a strip club, for fuck sake.
I shrugged. "Your stag night, man. Do what you want."
Robert nodded. "All right, strip club it is."
The lads cheered like rowdy high school boys and made their way down the street.
I liked women. Fucking loved them, but I still respected them, their bodies, and as hard as it was for these pricks to understand, I think that once you've found the one, going to a club just to get a hard-on from seeing a fair amount of tits and ass . . . it just didn't make any fucking sense.
Guess that makes me a traditionalist.
The bouncers moved aside and let us through the main doors. The smell of cheap liquor and perfume hit me in the face as I stepped into the stuffy entrance. Stains marked the wooden floor, and peeling posters of half-naked women covered almost all the red walls.
Yeah sure, real classy joint.
I watched as Karl and Martin staggered up to the pay booth, where a woman with fake blonde hair sat behind the thick plastic windowscreen and filed her nails.
"Fifteen pounds entry, gentlemen," she stated.
"Fifteen quid?" Karl grunted as he rummaged through his wallet. "Each?"
"For a brilliant show, sir, worth every penny." She smiled.
"For fifteen quid I should hope fu-uckin' so." Karl hiccupped.
"For fuck sake"—I grabbed a twenty from my wallet—"This was your idea, Karl."
I pushed between them and slid the note through the slot in the screen.
"Just through there, sir." She nodded to a set of red doors on my left and slid a fiver toward me.
"Thank you, darlin'." I gave her a smile and walked over to the entrance. "Better be quick, boys, you don't know what you'll miss."
I pushed the doors open and made my way down the dimly lit stairway. The steady thump of popular music grew louder as I went lower, the sound of male approval joining it. I heard the others shuffling after me as I pushed a second set of doors open and stepped into a large room.
Every light gave off a soft red glow, the red fitted bulbs clearly just another cheap attempt to make the establishment seem more seductive. The place was half-full and stunk of smoke and sweat, plus a lot of other things I didn't want to think about. The bar lined the wall to my right and the large, square main stage stuck out from the back wall. The beat in the current song pulsed along the concrete floor and rippled up my legs. My gaze settled on the two female strippers on either side of the stage. I watched as they slid up and down their brass poles; a fine sheen of sweat coated their skin as their bodies swayed under the hot spotlight.
"Fucking beautiful," Martin said as he stopped beside me.
"This is more like it." Karl nudged Robert. "How about I-I pay for a lap dance for you Rob?"
"I said I'd come in and watch the show, not let some woman paw me to death," Robert said.
"Michelle has really got your dick whipped, ain't she?" Martin laughed.
"Shut the fuck up Martin," I grunted, studying the room.
Small, black, circular tables filled the floor; men crowded around almost every one. And every male in the room had their stares fixed firmly on the two naked women before them.
So this is why I never step into a strip club? Because sad men come here, trying to get themselves some thrills? Fucking pathetic.
"Okay, lads, what will it be, the cage or the stage?" Martin clapped his hands eagerly.
I looked over to my left and saw a single, medium-sized cage sitting against the wall. A near-naked woman inside it danced slowly. The female's legs were long and lean as she rubbed against the black iron bars, allowing one of the males to slip a fiver into her g-string.
"Stage, stage, definitely the stage." Karl sang, pushing Robert to a free table.
"I'll get this round." I made my way across the floor. I wove between the pulled-out chairs, then stopped at the right end of the bar and caught the barman's attention. "Five beers." I pulled a twenty from my wallet.
The scent of lavender and feminine sweat suddenly tickled my nose. "Hey, handsome." A soft voice purred into my left ear. "Can I interest you in a dance?"
"I'm afraid I don't dance," I said, offering the female a smile.
"My name's Diane." She placed her hand on my left shoulder and pushed her breasts against my arm. "And don't worry, baby, you wouldn't have to move a muscle. I'd do all the work."
I turned my head and looked down into her almond-shaped, caramel eyes. Her thin red lips morphed into a sultry grin as her hand began playfully stroking my arm.
"How about it?" she said. Her red, curled hair rested over her right shoulder, giving me a perfect view of her voluptuous breasts, which sat so temptingly in her crimson dress.
"That's fifteen pounds, pal," the bartender said.
"Sounds deliciously tempting," I told her as I handed my money to the bartender. "But I'm afraid I will have to pass."
She pouted slightly. "Are you sure, honey? I would be real nice to you."
"Oh, I'm sure you would be, sugar, but the answer is still no." I grabbed the five bottles of beer, and gave her a smile. "I promise, if I change my mind, you'll be the first to know."
"I better be." She winked and walked over to one of the tables.
Karl had snatched a table situated slap-bang front, and center of the stage.
I walked over to the table and put down the beers.
"What about you, Owen?" Luke reached over and grabbed one of the bottles. "You want a lap dance?"
I turned the red, padded chair around and straddled it, leaning my chest against the back. "Sorry, Luke, you ain't my type." I grinned and picked up a beer.
"Ha. Ha. Funny. You're a dick, have I ever told you that?"
"Every damn day," I said, then took a mouthful of beer.
"And here I was thinking you liked blondes." Robert nudged my right arm.
"Aye, I like naturals. Luke ain't a natural."
Luke shot me the middle finger.
"Plus he has a temper."
Martin pushed a menu toward me. "Just in case you change your mind, MacLaren."
I picked it up and scanned the prices of private dances. "Fifty pounds upwards"—I snorted—"I doubt any of 'em dance that well." I tossed the menu in the middle of the table. "Luke?"
"How much do you charge?"
He grinned at me. "I'm way out of your fucking price range, mate."
I laughed, resting my elbows on the back of the chair, and turned my attention to the stage.
The music ended. The two women grabbed their clothes and headed backstage, hips swinging, as five and ten-pound notes hung out over the edge of their thongs.
"Give it up for Jenny and Jean, our tantalizing duo," said an invisible male, his voice gruff as it echoed throughout the club.
"Christ, they've got a voice-over." I laughed.
"Oh aye, this is a real classy joint." Luke knocked back his beer.
"Better than some places," Karl said.
"And now, gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to the newest Lollypop."
"Oh sweet Jesus." I stifled my amusement with another swig of beer.
"The feral goddess with the wildest moves. The one, and the only, She-Wolf."
"This should be interesting." Martin grinned; his right arm hung over the back of his chair as he made himself comfortable.
A familiar guitar riff began leaking through the speakers as the stage lights turned from hot white to dusky blue. The drum beat kicked in and I realized it was the intro to a song from my favorite band.
"Least she's got good taste in music." I murmured to no one in particular as I rolled the neck of my beer bottle between my hands.
The red velvet curtains pulled back and the verse started. A black iron chair slid along the stage, and then stopped, perfectly, in the middle. The female strolled out of the shadows, one long leg in front ofthe other, and casually smoked her cigarette. She was dressed in a large black hoodie, dark denim hot pants, and black leather knee-high boots.
An odd prickling sensation danced down my spine, and caused me to shiver.
"Weird fucking costume for a stripper," Martin said.
Her long black hair was tied in a high ponytail. Black and silver eye shadow framed her eyes, the blended shades bold against her smooth, pale skin.
Smoke began dancing along the floor as she stopped before the chair. At the sound of the singer's voice, she flicked her cigarette to the side and stretched both her arms above her head. She bent forward slowly until she pressed her hands flat on the stage.
"What is this shit? Fucking keep fit?" Martin grunted.
"Take your fucking clothes off," Karl shouted.
She pulled herself up slowly, and as the guitars kicked in, her body swayed to the right and she fell straight into a spin, which seemed to last forever.
"Looks like the stripper knows ballet," Robert said.
"Fuck the stripper." Luke laughed. "How d'ya know that's ballet she's doing?"
"My little sister has studied it for years," Robert said, his focus glued to the stage.
The stripper dropped into the splits. After a moment, she brought around her right leg from behind to join her left, and then fell backward. She pushed herself off the floor, then jumped up and landed on her feet. A wicked grin curled the corners of her mouth as she slowly pulled the zip of her hoodie down, and exposed creamy, pale flesh.
The familiar scent of wild flowers suddenly wrapped around me; my stomach automatically tensed.
The stripper's hips began to sway as she shrugged off the hoodie and let it fall. The curve of her waist, and the sight of her supple breasts in her black lace bra, made my mouth dry instantly. I knocked back the rest of my beer, hoping like hell it would help my sudden thirst.
The pale blue light caught the shimmer of her glitter-dusted skin as she brought up her right arm, then placed her hand behind her head.
"Great breasts," Luke said.
"That's what I'm fucking talking about." Karl leaned forward, and banged his fists on the table. He threw back his head and howled.
She made a slow turn as she loosened her ponytail and shook her head; her hair streamed down her back like a glossy black waterfall. She finished her spin. Her focus landed on me, and the air caught in my throat. My Wolf stirred.
Her body went rigid; her sultry gaze hardened as she stared at me.
Clare Walker. I'd know those moonlit eyes anywhere.
She ran and grabbed hold of the stage right pole.Her feet left the floor as she wrapped her legs around the brass and spun.
What in god's name is she doing working in a fucking strip club?
Her feet hit the floor, the pole between her perfect thighs. She pulled herself up, rubbing herself up and down the warm brass.
Every muscle in my body tensed.
She swung round and pressed her back against the pole. Her hands traveled down her breasts, then her stomach, then stopped at the waist of her hot pants.
My jeans suddenly felt too tight, and the sound of my heartbeat drowned out the loud music.
She slid her hot pants slowly down her thighs and. . . .
The neck of the beer bottle broke in my hands.
"You okay?" Robert looked at the bottle.
I let my gaze slip down to the broken glass and grunted. "Oops."
I put the shards on the table, and turned my attention back to Clare. She crouched before a group of men pushed up against the stage. Fire licked through my veins as I watched them slip notes into her cleavage and the band of her panties, their fingers purposely skimming across her milky flesh. The sight caused a low growl to break from my throat.
I felt my Wolf begin to pace; the urge to beat the shit out of them and protect her overwhelmed me. I didn't want any other man to touch her, let alone look at her, and the sudden realization scared the hell out of me.
I watched her carefully as she stood and danced away from them. Every move she made was graceful; each step seemed to have a meaning. Touched by the fake moonlight, her body shimmered with sweat and sparkling body dust. The need to run my fingers and tongue over every inch of her flesh hammered my loins. She looked exotic, feral. She was loup-garou. She was mine.
No. Not mine. She's not mine. It's fucking Clare, for Christsake!
I moved my hands under the table and pulled a small shard of glass from my right palm; I ignored the tingling feeling of my flesh pulling together, and closing the small wound.
It had been five years since I had last seen her. She had been nineteen and preparing to go to London to live with her mother while she studied dance at university. By the look of her body, she had studied hard.
My fingers sank into my thighs as she curled around the left brass pole.
Last time I had seen her, she was wearing dungarees she hardly filled out. Now her body was athletic, but she had more curves than a damn racetrack.
She turned her back to the audience. My focus slipped to the four tattooed paw prints climbing up her right hip. I couldn't stop the smile forming on my lips, nor stop the thought of tracing those four delicate tattoos with my tongue.
She stepped up on the chair and spun again.
"I think I've found my lap dancer." Karl's words were slurred.
I wanted to punch his head through the wall.
Clare dropped onto the chair she had brought out with her. Her knees spread wide, showing the audience the soft junction of her milky thighs. I felt my cock grow hard.
Applause roared throughout the room as she struck her final pose and the music ended. Tension wound through my entire body, and I had to fight to stay in my chair, as a string of crude comments left the mouths of the majority of men around me.
I could only watch as she grabbed her clothes and made her way off stage. The hypnotic sway of her hips, and the sight of her perky ass sitting comfortably in those lace panties, was painfully uncomfortable. The blood in my veins burned; the tension in my muscles pulsed.
She disappeared from view.
I suddenly found I was insanely ecstatic that she hadn't removed her underwear in front of these perverted bastards. If she had, I would have had to kill everyone.
Not good, Owen.
The sweet smell of her sweat had mixed with her natural aroma and now seemed to cling to my nostrils, teasing me. I wanted to find her so I could rip those panties off her with my teeth.
Not fucking good at all.
I took a deep breath. What I needed to do was calm the fuck down and then talk to her. And I really needed to talk to her.
The metal frame of the chair dented under the pressure of my fingertips, as the others continued to talk about Clare.
What the fuck is she doing here, taking her clothes off and dancing in a shitty strip joint?
She was supposed to be performing on cruise ships.
Her life is not my business. It's not my business. At least it wasn't, until now.
"So, Owen, you having a lap dance or-or not?" Karl burped, then knocked down the rest of his beer "Going to be a bit fuck-king boring sitting 'ere on your own. Maybe we can find you a nice blonde."
Fuck it! I needed to speak to her.
"You're right Karl," I said through clenched teeth. "I'm here, might as well get the full experience."
"Fuck yeah," Martin agreed.
"And here's my nights-s-s entertainment," Karl said.
I smelled her before he had even moved. A spicy perfume joined her familiar floral aroma. I looked over my shoulder and watched, as she made her way to the bar and sat on one of the stools. Her black hair was now braided and hung down her back. She wore a simple, shoulder-strapped black dress, which hugged her body like a second skin. She looked so grown-up; it was slightly strange, but damn, did she look good.
Karl shifted in his seat; his arousal hammered the air around me. I heard a whine, as my hands crushed the metal in my grasp.
"Now or never, lads." He pushed against the table so he could stand up.
I waited for him to walk past, then pulled my wallet out of my back pocket.
"You getting another round?" Luke asked.
"Nope." I took three twenties from my wallet and stuck them in my right pocket.
I stood up, pushing my wallet back where it belonged, and made my way over to Diane. She happily flirted with men at a table near the cage, trying her hardest to make a sale, but the pricks had more than an eyeful from her simply leaning over the table.
"Hey, darlin'." I grinned.
Her gaze lifted to meet mine, a smile on her lips. "Changed your mind, handsome?" She straightened, hands going to her hips.
"Aye, sugar, I think I have."
"Do you mind? We're having a conversation," one of the men mumbled.
"Not anymore." I held out my hand, which she took instantly, and walked around to my side.
"Hey." One of the guys stood up and grabbed my left shoulder.
I turned my head and met his glare. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
"Oh yeah? Well—"
I heard his breath catch as my eyes flooded silver, a clear indication my Wolf was close to the surface. "Touch me again and trust me, you'll fucking regret it."
He dropped his hand from my shoulder, his gaze leaving mine just as quickly. Humans might be dumb, but when faced with a Werewolf their genius gene kicks in, and they always back down. We're taught it's all due to the "larger predator vibe" we give off, but I personally think it's because most humans are big fucking pansies.
I escorted Diane to the back wall, then pushed her softly against it. Desire darkened her caramel eyes, and overpowered all the other scents clinging to her.
"I'll give you sixty"—I whispered into her ear—"if you give my friend a dance."
"I thought you said you would come to me if you wanted—"
"No, darlin', I said if I changed my mind about your offer, you'd know. I have, and I would like you to give my friend your full attention for a while."
She studied me for a moment.
"Pretty please?" I begged softly, rubbing the pad of my thumb over her collarbone. "I would be very grateful."
A shiver swam through her. "How grateful?" Her teeth caught her bottom lip.
I pulled the notes from my pocket, lifted her left hand to my lips, and pressed a light kiss into her skin. "Very," I said, slipping the notes into her right hand.
She sighed. "Baby, you have no idea how good I would have been to you."
"Maybe another time, sugar." I smiled and backed away from her.
"Yeah, maybe." She checked the notes before pushing them deep into her cleavage. "Which one's your friend?"
I turned my attention to the bar, then indicated to Karl, who sat unsteadily on a stool next to Clare. The fucking jerk didn't deserve a free lap dance, but it was the only way to get him away from Clare without ripping out his jugular.
Diane nodded, and made her way over to them.
I kept to the wall, watching Clare's spine getting straighter with each second. Watching her fight to keep the forced smile on her face, fight to hide her disgust at Karl's vulgarity.The sight amused the hell out of me.
Diane pushed in between them both and began her routine seduction.
"Excuse me, Diane." Clare gave the redhead a strained smile. "I was talking to the gentleman."
"Yeah, doll. We-e were tal-kin'," Karl slurred.
"I don't want to talk to you, baby, I want to─" She leaned close to his ear.
I walked around the tables, and headed slowly toward the bar, watching Clare's jaw tense as she heard everything Diane whispered.
"For free?" Karl sounded delighted.
Diane pulled away, a devious smile on her red lips. "Well, I like you a lot, baby, and I really want to show you how much."
Without a second glance at Clare, Karl stood up and wrapped his arms around Diane's waist. She helped walk him across the room and through the double doors next to the cage.
I watched Clare turn her attention to the bar, her body relaxing slightly, but it didn't stop her from mumbling soft curses after Diane. I left an empty stool between us and sat down. The tension in her body spiked at my presence, and her grip on the glass of cola before her tightened. My Wolf howled at the feel of her energy. Her surprisingly strong energy. Interesting.
"Come here often?"
"What the hell are you doing here, Owen?" She asked, keeping her focus fixed on her drink.
The bartender stopped in front of me. "Same as before, pal?"
"No, I will have a cola." I pulled my wallet out and placed it on the bar, trying not to inhale, as her scent wrapped around me. It was so strong, so sweet and familiar, canceling out the smell of smoke and sweat.
The barman placed a glass of cola in front of me. "Three pounds."
I opened my wallet, picked out the exact money, and handed it to him.
"Well?" she said, once the barman moved away.
"What are you doing in a strip joint?"
"I came for the show."
"Wow, you must be getting rustyin your old age if you have to start paying to see a woman naked."
"I see sarcasm is still your first language." I took a mouthful of cola.
"I see humor is still your only language."
Still Clare. Still the feisty girl I knew.
"I'm here for a work colleague's stag night." I told her after a moment of silence. "You?"
"Working. Obviously. What the hell does it look like I'm doing?"
"Does your father know you're back?"
"Of course he does."
"Funny, he never mentioned anything."
I inhaled slowly; she smelled like the meadows in spring . . . . Uh-oh, I'm in big trouble.
"He will have told Carter," she stated, taking a drink of her cola.
"If he had, Carter would have told me."
"Well, why don't you ask your father why he hasn't mentioned it then? Maybe he will announce it at the next meeting. My dad will have told him. He is fully aware of the rules, Owen."
Thomas was my father's best friend, and yeah, he would have told my father that Clare was back. I was just pissed my father hadn't told me.
"Does your father know that you're a stripper?"
A sharp laugh grazed her throat. "What the hell do you think?"
"I think I'm confused."
I was confused about a number of fucking things—the biggest being why I kept having the urge to touch her. I just wanted to rub against her, cover her in my scent, and remove the smell of this place and everyone else who had ever touched her. I was confused as to why I needed to explore and taste every inch of her body. Confused, because I couldn't understand why it was suddenly so important that I knew her in every way possible.
"Nothing new there then." She mumbled, turning around and leaning her back against the bar.
"Knock it off, Owen, this isn't Pack bonding time. I'm working."
"I couldn't give a shit. I'm still your—"
Her energy spiked. "Second. I know, I do remember." Irritation prickled in the space between us. "Great for you, but go have your power trips somewhere else."
I laughed. "Same old Clare." I turned and looked at her. "You always did have a problem with authority."
"If memory serves"—she turned and locked her moonlit gaze with mine—"so did you."
My Wolf relaxed at the sight of the challenge in her eyes, and I was filled with sudden satisfaction. I recognized her for what she now was—mature, dominant.
She turned her focus back to the crowded room. "So what is it you want?"
I looked at the soft sheen of her bottom lip, and found myself wondering what she tasted like. "What makes you think I want something?"
"What other reason could you have for bothering me when there are at least eight strippers here you could be playing with?"
"I'm not interested in them." I promised, before taking another mouthful of cola. "I just want to talk, to catch up."
"Wrong type of bar for that, Owen. You'll have to go somewhere else if—"
"Fine." I turned to face her. "How much for a dance then?"
She looked at me, her thin eyebrows raised in question. "What?"
"You heard me, how much for—"
Her eyes narrowed. "Two hundred."
Her head fell back, and she laughed. The motion caused her breasts to shake. The sight made my cock harden once more.
For fuck sake!
"Oh please, your pay isn't that good."
"You said two hundred." I forced the words up my throat.
The starting price is fifty, depending on what type of dance and how long—"
"I don't care."
"Rae?" An older man shouted from the other side of the bar, his dark eyes fixed on us through a cloud of cigarette smoke.
Clare's jaw tensed. "Give me a minute." She slid off the stool, then walked toward the man.
He was smartly dressed. His grey hair was combed back, his face clean-shaven, and his tanned skin was beginning to crease with age.
I shifted my focus to the room, leaned my back against the bar, and listened to their conversation.
"What the fuck are you doing, Rae?" It was Mister Voiceover, meaning he was most likely the manager of this charming establishment. "If a customer offers you two hundred for a dance, you take it."
"What the fuck is two hundred supposed to cover, Bill?"
"Two hours, max, and any style of dance he wants."
"I don't want to hear it, Rae. You're too fucking picky with the clients. If a client causes trouble, one of the guys will throw him out; you know that. Now don't fucking argue. Take the man's offer."
"But nothing. You're a good dancer Rae, but your talent ain't making me enough money at the moment. You need to work on your people skills. Now go, accept his offer, and sixty percent is mine."
I heard her growl as she walked away from him. Felt her irritation pulsing through my own limbs.
I smiled as she stopped in front of me. "Two hours and anything I want?"
"What the fuck are you playing at, Owen?"
"Nothing. I came here to enjoy myself, and now I get to catch up with an old friend—"
"Our fathers are friends," she stated. Her expression was hard as she stared at me. "We aren't. I'm just a kid you had to baby-sit, remember?" She grabbed her cola and knocked it back.
Guilt sliced through my chest at her remark.
Females born to a Werewolf were Loup-garou. For some reason, the Were-gene only passed fully to males. To get a female Werewolf, one of my kind would have to pass the gene through blood, but the chance of the female surviving her first change was very slim. Loups, on the other hand, were more common, and, unlike female Werewolves, they were able to conceive, which made them particularly special within our species.
A pureblooded Werewolf's first change was at the age of thirteen, and a Loup's was whenever the girl hit puberty. When the Loup's Wolf awakened, she intensified all of the girl's already uncontrollable feelings and urges. The maternal need to mate with an equal Wolf was crazy at first, until the female learned to control her Wolf, teach it patience.
I was the target for all of Clare's early urges.
At the time, I was thirty-one, and could gladly pass for a twenty-four-year-old; physically, she didn't see a problem. However, she was sixteen, a kid, and I was a man. And yeah, I loved women, but it would have been wrong on more levels than she could understand.
Her father was away on business, and she was staying at our house for the weekend. We'd been watching some action films and had begun play fighting, not unusual for our kind; fighting in any situation was defense practice. She pinned me—I had let her—and as I was about to move her off me, she had leaned down and kissed me. Now, my Wolf hadn't minded, but me . . . I fucking flipped.
"You're a kid."
"I'm a young woman."
"Young being the key word here Clare. For fuck sake, this is bad. I—"
"I don't understand. You said I was pretty—"
"I was just being nice! Jesus, I didn't mean it like that. You're just a kid. A kid I baby-sit every now and again. I'm fifteen years older than you, Clare. If your father—hell, if my father would have seen that, I'd be fucking replacing the bear rug."
"But I lov—"
"Don't you dare say that to me! You don't know what you're saying—"
"No, you don't, Clare! You're too young to know what you're doing. Too young to understand what that means! You're just a kid—"
"Fuck you, Owen!"
She'd been a pain in the ass after that moment. Different. Guarded. Especially toward me. I couldn't blame her. She was young, a kid, and I was a prick for losing my cool and not attempting to sit down and calmly explain how and why kissing me was bad.
"You coming or not?" She grunted as she began weaving between the tables.
But then again, she wasn't a kid anymore. In fact, twenty-four was a perfect age; the gap seemed so much narrower between that and my experienced thirty-nine. Not to mention the added bonus of her Wolf's strength. A strength I was all too aware of.
With a determined grin, I knocked back half my drink and followed her.
* * * * *
~~ Clare ~~
This had to be a nightmare. Any minute now, I would wake up and simply kick myself for dreaming about him again.
It would be a lie to say I never had. That I hadn't dreamt about him wanting me. Often. It was a pathetic girlish fantasy and one that I had had a lot, even though I hated myself for it. But it was only because he said no, and he was right to do so. I was a teenager back then, and he was a man, but those logical and simple facts didn't stop the rejection from hurting. Didn't stop me from feeling so humiliated.
I'd almost died at the sight of him, sitting there, watching me. Those hazel eyes pierced me, set my skin on fire. His blank expression caused my fists to clench. My Wolf knew him immediately, wanted him, and I hated her for it.
I opened the door to room five and walked inside.The walls in this particular box were draped with alternate black and gold voile, Bill's subtle attempt to tart up the room. I made my way past the leopard print love seat to the CD player set on a small pine table in the far corner. I heard the door click shut behind me, and my stomach clenched.
I flicked through the CDs, trying to find something half-decent, while I ignored his gentle footfalls. He walked to the opposite corner, no doubt to study the silver pole bolted to the floor.
How many times had I dreamt about us being alone?
Although in my dreams, I wasn't a stripper, and he wasn't my customer, and we weren't stuck in some shit-hole, in a small room that stank of sweat and cheap cologne.
So apart from the minor details, this was pretty much how it was supposed to go: I seduce him. I torture him until he wants me, until he begs me. And in the dream, he always begs, If only it were that easy.
Women always fell at his feet. He was the one in control. I doubt he even knew what "submissive" meant, and why would he? He was the Alpha's son. The Pack's second in charge. A dominant, and here I was, fantasizing about him wanting me, begging me.
"So, She-Wolf?" Amusement colored his words. "What made you pick that as a stage name?"
"Always been a fan of old horrors, remember? Wolfman in particular, and since Wolf-woman was too much of a mouthful"—I slipped the CD into the player—"She-Wolf just made sense." I turned to face him.
God, he looked good. I hadn't seen him in five years. Naturally, he hadn't changed much.
He still had beautiful sharp cheekbones, and a square jaw and forehead. Thick, pink, luscious lips to go with his broad nose. His skin was beginning to tan, and, apart from the stray lock that had fallen over his forehead, his dark, chocolate brown hair was slicked back.
I wanted to touch him.
"Nothing to do with the fact that you're—"
"What the hell do you think, Owen?" I placed my hands on my hips, and stared at him.
A grin played at the corners of his mouth. "And you changed your name to Rae?"
"All the girls have fake names. It's safer for us."
He cocked an eyebrow. "I see."
"So, two hours." I felt like I was chewing glass. "What do you want? Lap dance, striptease—"
His eyes glittered with amusement. "I think I will have one of everything, flower." He leaned a shoulder against the pole.
My stomach began to knot. This wasn't seriously happening, was it?
"Fine." I closed the lid on the CDplayer. "Sit down."
"Says the power mad Werewolf"
I could do this. It was simple. Just another job, another customer. It didn't matter that it was Owen sitting there, watching me.
I flexed my hands in a vain hope of stopping them from shaking.
I hadn't seen him in five years; five years, and he still made me nervous. Five years, and I still wanted to kiss him, touch him. . . .
I hit "play" and took a deep breath. I hoped that more oxygen would force any and all emotions to leave my body. Then, I turned to face him.
God, give me strength.
He sat casually in the middle of the small sofa, his arms folded across his firm chest. The confinement of his black shirt made his biceps bulge, and highlighted the perfect width of his chest, and strong shoulders. My gaze wandered to the delicious cords of muscles in his forearms, visible below his rolled up sleeves.
I can do this. I can do this. I can do this?
A smile fluttered across his lips. "Are you trying to get a tip, flower?"
I walked over to him. "Don't you like Nickelback?"
"You know I do. If I recall, I was the one who introduced you to their music."
"Well, it's the only decent music in the entire CD selection," I said, removing the bands from my braid. I stopped directly in front of him.
I didn't even know where to begin. Do I sit on his lap? Do I stay standing in front of him? What the hell do I do?
I wasn't shy, far from it, but this was Owen. Owen, who made my knees weak every time he smiled. Owen, who made my insides burn just by looking at me.
I ran my fingers through my hair, and shook it out.
"Tell me that's a wig." His focus stayed on my face.
"It's a wig." I tossed aside the bands. "Part of the act."
"Good. You look better as a blonde."
"Huh." My nerves steadied as sudden irritation swept through me. "Well, if I'd known you would be coming I might have made an effort to look nice."
"I didn't mean—" He sighed. "You look great now. You just look better as a—"
"Yeah, I get it." I folded my arms across my chest.
He shifted on the sofa. "I was only joking; I don't want you to dance for me." He rubbed his hands across his face. "I was just planning on seeing how far you would actually go."
"Too bad, I would have gone all the way," I stated, as calmly as I could.
His gaze met mine. "I suggest you don't say that to any of your customers. They may get the wrong impression."
I rolled my eyes. "What is it you want, Owen? Because I don't appreciate you wasting my—"
"I already told you, I want to talk."
"And I told you this isn't that type of club."
"Well, considering I am paying you, and your boss—Bill, was it?"
My jaw tensed.
He smiled, the familiar dimple appearing in his left cheek. "Bill said I can have anything I want. Since you refuse to talk to me, Owen, your dear Pack brother, I am paying you your requested price of two hundred pounds, just to talk. I think that is a damn good deal, don't you?"
I turned and walked back to the CD player. "Fine. Talk."
"Why are you a stripper?"
A harsh laugh hurt my throat, as I turned the music down. "No pleasantries first? No talk of weather? Or asking how my mother is?"
"We had our pleasantries in the bar."
Why is it that that sentence,coming from him, sounds so dirty?
"I trust your mother is well?" he asked.
"Very." I pressed my back against the wall, and folded my arms across my chest.
"Good. Now answer the question, Clare."
"Because this is how catching up goes." He waved one hand through the air. "I ask how you are. What you're doing. Why you're doing—?"
"No, that's called interrogation."
© Elizabeth Morgan
Author: Elizabeth Morgan
Publisher: Noble Romance publishing
Dealing with the Rogue werewolves terrorizing his Pack? Simple. Trying to convince his mate he does want to be with her? Bloody impossible.
Owen MacLaren is the Alpha's son and the Pack's second, and he has never been one to let anything get to him. So when a bunch of Rogues begin purposely dumping mutilated bodies around the Pack Keep, he is more than ready to deal with the Werewolves responsible. But one trip to a local strip joint for a colleague's stag night changes things, and Owen soon discovers he isn't immune to everything . . . .
After five years away, Clare Walker finds herself back home in Scotland, working in a strip club. The tips are decent, and she gets to dance, but it isn't a place she thought she would ever be, let alone Owen, her Pack second and the Werewolf who broke her heart.
Although Owen is determined to prove he wants to be with Clare, things can't go smoothly between them, not when they have past issues to sort out and a bunch of unusual 'Rogues' to deal with.