To Have and To Hold
By Michaela Bray
Date: November 20, 2020
Ch. 88

Casey watched the large man warily as he crossed the room in long strides after depositing her gently on the couch. His every move spoke of power and authority. He had the look of someone who would not take no for an answer and yet, she had refused him on two counts tonight and he had only been either incredibly persuasive or respectful of her wishes.

She had sent Megan a brief text right after the entire scuffle in the alleyway that she was back in the hotel with a friend and that she had not been feeling well so she might spend a little more time in his care. Her cousin had responded just as succinctly to take care of herself and not get too excited. There was a little more work to be done so she might not be back until well over midnight.

She doubted Megan would like to know she was in the rooms of a large and darkly attractive man who was also a mythical creature of some sort. She had no doubt he would be able to keep her against her will if he so wished but she was banking on the strange voice in her head that told her he would not. After all, he had been nothing but gentle towards her.

You don’t exactly have a good compass where men are involved, she reminded herself. I should at least just watch out for any odd behavior and dial Megan’s number the moment something is up.

“Cassandra, please talk to me,” he spoke softly, taking a seat opposite. “Or at the very least, you can look at me. I am not going to hurt you, I promise.”

He took her cold hands in his larger, incredibly warmer ones. It was incredible how he seemed a little warmer than the usual. It was almost like he was running a slight fever but she figured that it might have something to do with his being able to transform into a large, lupine creature at will.

He bowed his head over her hands and spoke again. “I am a werewolf, Cassandra. It is not something I am either ashamed or proud of. It is simply just who I am.”

She felt him take a deep breath as he continued, “What I am about to tell you about our kind is something not very many humans know. There are many others like me and most of us desire nothing more than to live our lives peacefully with other people. We mostly live in packs and keep our existence a secret from the rest of the human race but we are mostly just like humans. We work for a living, we raise our families the best way we could… We help each other to grow. Yet, I cannot deny that there are others like the ones we came across tonight.”

“What were those wolves we just saw?”

“Rogues, sweetheart,” he explained gently. “They are not affiliated with any pack and are not bound to pack laws nor do they swear loyalty to an alpha. They are free agents and their uninhibited natures means that they are mostly troublemakers or persons living on the edge of the law.”

She gulped. “Are they criminals?”

“Some of them are. They are not unlike some of the more destructive humans, except that their increased strength and speed make for more successful heists.”

“Well, that’s comforting,” she snorted weakly.

He laughed a little, slightly relieved that she was getting her sarcasm back. “There is another thing about werewolves that most humans are unaware of.”

“And what is that?” She met his eyes and found herself lost in their depths.

“We mate for life.” His voice took on a depth that had her quivering from the inside. He curved his hand against her smooth cheek and inhaled deeply. “There is but one person for a wolf. He or she could be another werewolf, a vampire, maybe even human. Once we find that one person, we dedicate our whole lives to his or her happiness, even at the cost of our own. There is nothing that werewolf would not do for his mate.”

She gulped a little as his eyes darkened in intensity. She was almost afraid of what he was going to say but strangely craved to hear him say it.

“You are my mate, Cassandra.”

She shook her head. “That is impossible. Maybe you felt it wrong.”

“I have known for a very long time,” he reassured her, pushing back a lock of hair that had fallen over her face. “For twelve years, in fact. I told you, I have been waiting for you for a very long time.”

“I thought you first saw me in Glasgow.”

He smirked. “Would you have believed me if I told you that I was that wounded wolf you fed with a beef sandwich twelve years ago?”

She shook her head again and laughed weakly. “Why can’t I just have a normal life? I mean, I’ve been good all this time, never broke any rules. Instead, I got an ex-boyfriend who sleeps around and a werewolf who claims I am his destined soul mate.”

“While I am severely tempted to maim that bastard who gave you such a low evaluation of yourself,” he growled in reply, “I can assure you that there is nothing I would like more than to make up for every heartache, every hurt he has ever flung your way. You will be nothing but cherished and loved for the rest of your life if you will only give me the chance.”

“The rest of my life…” she looked up at him. “That could be a very long time.”

“Cassandra,” he smiled widely. “Do you have any idea how painful it is for a wolf to be apart from his mate from the moment he sees her? I have already waited long enough. The rest of forever with you would not even cut it.”

“Forever is even longer.” She took the wineglass he had offered her before and finished the contents quickly. She needed the fortification alcohol had to offer. She had seen her boyfriend do the horizontal tango with an officemate in her bed, been subjected to the persuasive charms of an indecently attractive man — no, werewolf — witnessed a werewolf fight right after she received a highly unexpected marriage proposal, and then proclaimed to be the mate of the said werewolf himself.

It was too much to take in one day. She grabbed his glass and drank his wine, too. To hell with manners. She should have stayed in her room, eating ice cream and watching sappy old movies. That was the normal way to deal with a breakup, not throw herself into the arms of the next available prospect.

Well, maybe it was acceptable, too, but not in her books and definitely not in the books of her two, overprotective, older brothers. Goodness knew they were only too eager to castrate Dave when they found out about him. She was quite certain they would not cut a sweet-talking werewolf some slack. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye.

Nope. Not even a sweet-talking, darkly attractive werewolf oozing with sex appeal.

“I will spend my life doing everything in my power to make you happy,” he coaxed, his lips a mere inch away from hers. “You will be loved and cherished. Among my people, you will be respected and honored. You will not feel a moment of the humiliation and heartache your boyfriend has inflicted upon you, Cassandra. I swear this.”

She shook her head to clear it. The alcohol had gone straight from her gut, to her bloodstream, to her brain.

“Dave promised me a lot of things, too.”

“Dave was an asshole but I am not.”

She looked into his eyes and saw that he was serious about what he was saying. His heart and soul were in his tender gaze as he regarded her. His very touch inspired so many things in her, including the butterflies taking flight in her belly and in her heart. He was offering her what every woman wanted — love, security, and all the fancy trimmings of a truly happy life.

“I don’t have a dress,” she countered weakly.

He smiled against her lips. “That is the least of your worries.”

All thoughts of the perfect wedding she had envisioned flew out the window the moment his lips settled on hers. His other hand gently held her head close to him as his other hand cradled her face possessively. Her mind whirled and buzzed from the alcohol and the wonderful sensations his tender ministrations evoked.

“We should stop,” she told him when they surfaced for air.

“We should go get dressed,” he smiled.

She shook her head. “I haven’t agreed to anything of the sort.”

“Cassandra,” he said in a warning tone, “you have already agreed. However, I am only too willing to kiss the words out of your mouth if you so much as disagree.”

She opened her mouth to protest and found herself kissed profoundly once more. She gaped at him in astonishment and he grinned back at her. “Never let it be said I’m not a man of my word,” he warned her.

“I’ll go get my cousin.”

“I’ll have them prepare your dress.”

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