Love's Prisoner (Page 8)

"Safety of mates and children first, above and before everything else. Michael has to keep you safe. Because he knows it's right, and because he must set an example. How could the rest of us follow someone who can't even protect his own mate?"

"I'm not his mate," she said sharply.

"Yes," Moira said simply, "you are."

Jeannie stewed over that one for the five minutes it took them to walk from the rose garden to the beach. "How does Gerald fit into all this?" she asked at last.

"He's our enemy. He went rogue five years ago. His mate was giving him nothing but female cubs and he wanted an heir, someone he could train to challenge the pack leader. He's too cowardly to try a challenge himself; he wanted a son to do the dirty work." Cute, delicate Moira spat in the sand to express her disgust.

"Whoa, whoa, watch those loogies." Jeannie took off her shoes and wiggled her toes in the surf, scanning the horizon and judging the wisdom of swimming to England to escape. Still, this was a fascinating delusion. "His mate was giving him daughters? Did the creep never crack a biology textbook? Sperm chooses gender."

"Gerald is . . . old-fashioned," Moira said reluctantly. "He represents the pack before the Wyndhams took over. Savage, undisciplined. Gerald killed his mate after the birth of his fourth daughter. Michael would have killed him, but for the intercession of Gerald's other daughters, who begged their leader to spare their father's life. Michael did, but banished him. Now Gerald's rogue, and the only way he can come to power is if he gets his hands on the pack leader's child."

"Thus, I be kidnapped," Jeannie said dryly.

"If you ever crossed Gerald's path, he would kill you to revenge himself on Michael—for what is worse than the loss of a mate? Or he would keep you until you whelped, take the child from you, and then kill you. And he would be well-revenged indeed, for he would be as father to the next pack-leader, and come to power quickly. And we would be back in the days of savagery and blood." Moira turned an unblinking, wide-eyed gaze to Jeannie. "It would be the end of all of us." Pause. "You can't leave while Gerald lives."

Despite herself, Jeannie felt a thrill of fear. Determinedly, she pushed it away. It was all part of their delusion, it was a way for Michael to justify kidnapping her. She wouldn't believe it.

There had to be a way out of here.


Exhausted—either from the wild events of the last few hours, or fatigue brought on by an early pregnancy—when Moira brought her back to the mansion, Jeannie went straight to her room and stretched out on the bed to nap. The bed was ridiculously comfortable, her room astonishingly beautiful, and if she wasn't being held here against her will she'd probably be having the time of her life.

Hell, she thought drowsily, watching the light play against the rich gold wallpaper, there hadn't been anyone in her life since college. Under different circumstances, she'd gobble Wyndham with a spoon. She'd rape him. Gorgeous, rich, intelligent, and a gentleman—when he wasn't raping and kidnapping. A real catch. And those eyes . . . those eyes . . .

Yes, she could definitely wish things had been different, that they had not met in such drastic fashion. But, as her mother used to say, done can't be undone. Her mission was not to play nice with the lunatics, it was to get the hell out of here.

With that unsettling thought, she drifted into sleep. And found herself in the elevator again—for the last month, she'd stumbled into that elevator two or three times a week. Only this time, Michael didn't save her. This time, he used her and left her, turned his back on her and left the elevator in one bound, leaving her in the car, in the dark, and there was a terrifying Snap! as the cables parted and then the sickening sensation of free fall, her feet left the floor and her head banged on the ceiling and her stomach climbed into her throat and she screamed all the way down, screamed for him to save her, and—

"Jeannie . . . hush, Jeannie, it's all right. You're safe here."

"Ha," she said weakly, opening her eyes. To her surprise, while she dreamed she had been pulled into his embrace. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, holding her in his lap like the world's biggest doll.

As she rested her head against his chest, she was absurdly comforted by the thud-thud of his heartbeat in her ears. "Do you dream about the elevator often?" he asked, his voice against her ear a deep rumble.

"No," she lied. In a moment she would have to pretend outrage and shove him away. In a moment. For now, it was too damn nice to be held with tenderness. Even if he was crazy. Even if he'd landed her in more trouble than she'd ever been in. "No, never."

"I do, too," he said softly, as if she'd told the truth. "Only, in my dreams, I can't save you. And down you go. And I wake up with a scream in my throat."

She shuddered against him, closing her eyes. He stroked her back and murmured to her; she caught no words but was comforted by tone. "In mine," she whispered, "you leave me. You use me and leave me and the elevator falls into the basement and they scrape what's left of me into a jelly jar."

He tightened his grip. "Never. I'd die myself before letting that happen to you."

"I know," she said and, to her surprise, she knew that as a fact, as she knew her own name. "You proved it, didn't you? But I can't help dreaming about it."

"Nor I," he agreed.

She noticed his right nipple, which was about two inches from her mouth, was stiff. Probably from her; every time she opened her mouth, breath puffed across it. She had the absurd urge to kiss it. To taste it. Run her tongue across it and test the texture. Her mouth had actually gone dry from her sudden, startling need to take part of him into part of her.

He was rubbing his cheek against the top of her head and she could feel that odd tension in his body, as she had felt it the night in the elevator. He wanted her, she realized with a bolt of excitement. But he was afraid to do anything, afraid she'd fight him, scream the house down, call him names. He wanted to preserve this temporary peace between them as long as he could. What would he do, she wondered with a strange, thundery joy, if I leaned over and kissed his nipple? And slid his shorts down to his ankles and took him into my mouth?

"I came to get you," he said, and she thought his voice sounded thick, "because the doctor is here."

In a flash, she remembered herself: she was pregnant, by him, against her will, in his house, against her will. She sat up and shoved him away. Christ, she mentally groaned, standing up and walking out the door, what was I thinking? I've got to get out of here before I forget I hate this creep.

The doctor, who introduced herself as Rose Madison, was waiting for them at the foot of the stairs. Jeannie greeted her with, "Nice to meet you, I'm Jeannie Lawrence, they're all crazy and they're holding me prisoner, mind getting me out of here?"

The doctor, a small brunette with whiskey-colored eyes, was all commiseration as she explained she, too, was a werewolf, and she was very honored to be tending to the pack leader's mate as well as her future pack leader, and would my lady mind peeing in this cup?

Jeannie snatched the plastic cup out of Dr. Madison's hand, shot a sizzling glare toward Michael, ignored Derik's smirk, said loudly, "I hate every one of you," and marched into a nearby bathroom.

Within half an hour, Dr. Madison had confirmed her pregnancy and handed her what looked like—yes, it was. An ice cream bucket full of pre-natal vitamins.

"What the hell?" she asked helplessly, hefting the bucket and astonished at its weight.

"You'll need at least four a day, due to your increased metabolism," Dr. Madison informed her.

"Sure I will," she said, humoring her. Dr. Madison let that pass, cautioned her about her diet, and told her she would see her again in two weeks.

Sure you will, Jeannie thought. She glanced around at Michael, Moira, and Derik. Now or never. If any of them came with, she was toast. "Dr. Madison, can I talk to you in private about—uh—a female thing?" she asked, feigning embarrassment.

"Of course," the doctor said quickly, even as the others did a respectful fade. "Come, walk with me to my car."

Once outside, Jeannie glanced around again, saw no one, and followed Dr. Madison to her car, a nifty little Ford Taurus. "Uh—the werewolf thing. Should it turn out to be true, will I have a litter? Will I have a puppy?"

Dr. Madison laughed kindly. "No, you won't have a litter. Two, at the most—and that is rare for our kind. And werewolves don't change until puberty. He or she will seem like a perfectly normal-looking child until, oh, about age thirteen or so." She grinned. "Then all hell is going to break loose. Don't worry about being human mother to a werewolf, though. Our leader will help you. We'll all help you."

"It takes a village to raise a werewolf," Jeannie said wryly, casually hefting the huge container of pre-natal vitamins. Who ever heard of taking four a day? The doctor had given her enough to last ten years.

"To raise the next pack leader, certainly." Dr. Madison turned to look at her with a serious gaze. "One thing, though. Your child will be highly prized. Not only because of his status in the pack, but because often the child of a human/werewolf mix is able to control their Change. To turn into a wolf at any time, not just during the full moon."

In spite of herself, Jeannie was fascinated by the complexity of the fantasy. "Is that why the others don't resent me? I'd think, if anything, a human would dilute the strain."

"Not in this case. Human mothers are prized. Smart, courageous ones even more so. Every time you snap at Michael or crack a joke, or make a determined effort to hide your fear, they like you more. He likes you more."

"Oh," Jeannie said, completely mystified.

"Well," Dr. Madison said reasonably, "who wants a dishrag for a consort?"

"Not me," she said, and swung the heavy container, hard sidearm, at Dr. Madison's head. The blow knocked the small woman into the car, where she bounced off and hit the gravel drive, hard. Jeannie prepared to step over Dr. Madison's unconscious body, and was astonished to see the woman was still clinging to consciousness.