Love's Prisoner (Page 11)

He stopped. She looked at him in the near dark.

"Go ahead," he urged softly, hoarsely. "Take me inside you. Or not. This time, it's your decision."

Still she didn't move, wary, wondering what he was up to, wondering if he was going to punish her again, the black-hearted (he's never hurt you) bastard, oh, how she hated (you were no match for that crooked cop) him, wished him dead, hated him for humiliating her (if the cavalry hadn't shown up, you'd have been toast) and then bringing her pleasure. He was contemptible, and she was trapped (you don't really think they're all crazy, do you?).

She shut out the despicable voice and abruptly, hatefully, let her weight drop on him, slamming him all the way inside her, until she could feel his tip touching her womb. Then she lifted . . . and dropped again. And again. Beneath her, Michael gasped, a ragged sound. "Jeannie—"

Lift. Drop. Again.

"Stop, Jeannie, you're not—this is all for me, you're not getting any—"


"—please, stop it, stop it, let me help you come again, don't do this—"


"—don't do this, don't, don't—"

Again. She kept it up, riding him with savage intent, ignoring his pleas that she slow down, that she allow herself pleasure. She used him as he had used her, and from the look on his face, her expression was every bit as mean and ugly as she felt. After an eternity, he threw his head back, his protests ending in a ragged groan. She felt him pulse within her, felt her muscles grab at him greedily, milking him, and hated herself almost as she hated him.

Without a word, she climbed off him and curled up on her side, away from him.

I'm trapped, she thought with dull despair. They're all nutty, the whole town's infected, they're all in on it, they'll help him keep me. I can't get away, and if I try again, there's more of . . . of this.

I can't get away.

I can't stay.

She wept again, silently, ignoring Michael's soft entreaties that she look at him, that she forgive him, that she try to understand.

"You're pregnant with a child who will grow up to safeguard and lead some 300,000 werewolves across the globe. That's bigger than your pride, Jeannie. Your safety has to come before everything. I'm—"

"Don't say you're sorry again," she said coldly, and he shut up.

Chapter Eight

"You've broken her!"

The accusation brought Michael wide awake. After leaving Jeannie, he'd paced his room for hours, wondering what, if anything, he could have done differently. Werewolf discipline had been a mistake—or had it? If it kept her from fleeing to Gerald, it was worth the tears and hatred. He'd rather she hated him forever than love him and die tomorrow.

It all came down to their natures, to the fact that he had different rules than she was used to, but she couldn't accept this because she couldn't accept them. She thought they were all deranged. Perhaps Jon's suggestion had been correct. If she saw them Change, even one of them Change, she could look at her situation in an entirely new light.

But oh, she would be terrified, would expect to be forced again. Could he put her through that, even though he knew he was right?

Was he right?

Finally, he'd dozed off at dawn, only to be brought awake by his door slamming open and Derik shouting at him.

"What?" he asked fuzzily, blinking sleep out of his eyes. He looked out the window . . . and was startled to see it was mid-afternoon. "What's the matter?"

His boyhood friend slammed the door so hard, a splinter the length of his forearm jumped off the frame and landed on the floor. "You've broken your mate, that's what's the matter. She's been curled up in the window seat all damn day, won't speak a word to anybody, won't eat a thing—naked, for God's sake, she won't get dressed, won't talk, won't eat—"

"You're repeating yourself," he said sharply, quelling the dart of worry that made an instant appearance at Derik's words. "Is she hurt? Has anyone seen to her?"

"She's not hurt," Derik said, aggravated, "I keep telling you, she's broken. You smashed her spirit. And we think that rots." He paused, coughed. "Sir."

"We?" he asked, sliding from the bed. "My loyal staff and pack members, you mean?"

"I can smell her all over you," his friend said quietly. "You took her again, didn't you?"

"When I heard about Gerald—that he'd actually had his hands on her—"

Derik groaned and collapsed on the bed. "Not mate-punishment, tell me, tell me you didn't take a human for punishment?"


Derik sat up and glared at his pack leader. "Jesus, Michael, she's delicate! She's human. You shouldn't have done that, no matter how badly she scared you. You can't treat her like a werewolf, even if she is your mate."

A low growl got Derik's attention, and he dropped his eyes at once. "Okay, hell, I'm upset. I shouldn't tell you how to handle your female." He paused, then burst out angrily, still keeping his eyes respectfully downcast, "But you'd better get up there and fix it, O mighty king of all werewolves, because your mate is in a sorry state and it's all your fault. She's got to eat. And it would be nice if she got dressed, too."

"I can't go near her," he said, pacing the same stretch of carpet he'd walked so many hours last night. "I'm part of the problem. She doesn't understand our rules, doesn't understand—"

Derik looked up. "Then make her understand," he said, clearly exasperated.

"I'm trying!" Michael managed to restrain himself from kicking a hole in the dresser. "I'm trying, but how do you teach a blind person how to look at things? How do you tell a deaf person what a symphony sounds like? You can't make them. You can only hope they get it . . . even though your worst fear is that they never will. You know she's my mate, and I know . . . and we both know she's alpha female, and a valued member of the pack. But she doesn't understand any of that. It's too soon. A month ago, she'd never met me. A month ago, I had no idea I'd—I'd—"

"Fall in love?" Derik asked quietly.

Michael groaned. "How could everything turn to shit so quickly? She hates me, Derik, and I can't blame her for that. I've been a disaster for her since I stepped on that elevator. The worst thing is, even if she saw me Change, if she knew we weren't crazy, she'd be terrified."

"But what's the alternative?"

The pack leader had no answer.


"Please, ma'am, please . . . Jeannie . . . try some of the bread. Dara saw how much of it you ate yesterday, she made a whole loaf just for you, won't you please try just a piece?"

Moira's entreaty became a soft drone as Jeannie looked out her window, out to sea. The ocean looked exactly like she felt: grey and stormy. The weather matched her mood; it was a perfect day to stay inside and brood. Even the sand looked cold and forbidding, like dirty snow. She'd give anything to be a weredolphin, a weregrouper, a wereminnow, anything that could swim the sea and never never come back to this crazy place. Her stomach, which had been gnawing and rumbling most of the morning, had finally quit and was now a still stone in her abdomen. Vanquished. Defeated.

The way she'd like to defeat Michael Wyndham.

They'd tried to get her dressed. Moira and another woman, one she didn't know, had come in and gently pulled her from her window seat, and dressed her in clothes that weren't hers, clothes Michael had bought for her when he was dreaming about stealing her. She tore them off her, not as spectacularly as Michael had torn hers, but enough to get her point across and then, naked, she had gone back to the window seat, resting her forehead against the panes and wishing she were a wereguppy.

Moira whispered that she understood, she could smell Michael all over her and understood completely, but why punish the baby for the sins of the father, and wouldn't she please try some of this soup?

Somehow, the day passed. Jeannie was thinking harder than she had in her life (ha) but couldn't see a way out of the trap (except to quit letting your pride call the shots).

Night came, and she dozed off in the window seat, ignoring the cramping in her legs. And there came a point in the dark when she was gently lifted, carried, and placed in bed. She roused herself enough to catch Michael's scent and tried to fight all the way back to wakefulness, to get back to the window and look out at the sea and freedom, to get his hands off her, his wonderfully comforting hands . . .

"Go back to sleep, Jeannie. The window will be there tomorrow."

Reasonable advice, she thought muzzily, and sank back to sleep.


Michael, keeping uneasy watch out Jeannie's window, turned when she sat up. He saw at once she wasn't really awake; her dreaming, wide-open eyes looked right past him.

She got out of bed. Having a good idea of her destination, he followed her out the door, steadying her on the stairs when her sleeping feet stumbled. Jon, back from a late-night hunt, passed them in the dark, his eyes widening appreciatively at Jeannie's nudity. Then he saw she was asleep, saw Michael behind her, and passed on after a polite nod to his pack leader.

She wandered aimlessly on the lower level, until he gently steered her toward the kitchen. Once there, he opened the fridge for her and saw the small plastic container with her name on it. He popped the lid and caught the rich, savory scent of raw ground beef mixed with raw eggs, onion, and lots of salt and pepper.

He handed the container to Jeannie, who did not hesitate to grab a fistful and eat it. She ate until the container was empty, and while he shut the fridge and put the container in the sink, she delicately licked the raw meat from her fingers. He watched her without words.

Then she woke up.

He saw it at once; her dreaming gaze became clouded, then utterly astonished. She looked down at herself, then looked around, saw him, saw where they were.