Five dead leaders, their bodies arranged in a pentagram. Treason, lies, and backstabbing. A make-believe affair that turns into a real mating.
Timothy Sands is a PBI counselor, half-fey, half-elf, with a secret crush on Herman Weiss, PBI director. As a new chapter is added to the Leader Murders, it is Weiss’s responsibility to investigate what seems an impossible-to-solve case. The other problem? Weiss is suffering from rages, and his only salvation lies in Tim’s emotional-grid-balancing skills. They only have to pretend to be a couple for Tim to use his talents, and he owes Weiss a big favor. Piece of cake, right?
The fey might be involved in the Leader Murders. Someone on the Council might be their ally, and another prominent PBI figure looks more and more suspicious as they investigate. The stakes are upped when Timothy’s father, the Fey King, threatens to leave the Council destitute if they don’t hand Timothy over to him. Weiss’s brilliant solution? Mating Timothy and forcing the Council into protecting him.
There’s only one small hitch in that plan: instead of protecting one, the Council might decide to get rid of two.
No freaking way. “What?”
“You heard me,” he grumbled. “In case I get a rage, you have to be there to prevent me from lashing out. We both know you can, as fey.”
Of course he had to use the right word now that he was angling for something.
“And we both know I’m not allowed to,” I added, shaking my head. “The Fey Act prevents us from exercising our… special abilities on Council territory. Going against that would make me a criminal before the Council. I might like you alive, but I like me alive even more.”
Weiss stood to his full, impressive height and stepped close to me. I expected some sort of intimidation act. He was Weiss after all—that came to him naturally. His hulking shape loomed over me, his breathing becoming the only thing I could hear. I swallowed and fought the urge to run the hell out of there.
“Look up, Edelweiss,” he almost purred.
The tone was so incongruous with everything Weiss was that I did look up, wide-eyed. All the better, since him standing and me sitting gave me an almost cruel close-up with his crotch.
“There’s an exception from the Fey Act,” he said, grinning crookedly.
“What?” I screeched, shaking my head.
“Think about it, it would fit. You’d watch over my temper, make sure I won’t do anything I’d regret later. Buy me enough time to find out what’s going on,” he added, his gaze turning sad.
This was just too much. “Is this a prank?” I asked incredulously. “You can’t be asking me to hook up.”
He grabbed my arms and pulled me to my feet. “Listen, Edel. If you report me, they’ll put me down. You know they will—it’s the law. The Council can’t afford to do me—of all people—any favors, not after Amanda. They won’t invest the time to look into it. What they will do is write it off as terminal rages and cap me. I’m not asking you to hook up. Just pretend that we’re together for a while… until we figure out what’s going on with me. If we can’t find anything that can be solved in a couple of weeks, I’ll go to the Council and turn myself in. Please,” he whispered. “Do it for Alf at least, if not as a favor to me.”
I gulped. “That’s low, Weiss, bringing your seven-year-old into it.”
His gaze darkened. “If I get a rage when he’s around….” He trailed off and shook his head. “I’m asking you to prevent me from killing innocents. Begging isn’t my thing. But I am begging you to help me now. I’m that desperate.”
“Must be. Nobody ever comes through the door unless under dire circumstances,” I said flatly. “There are other fey around. You could hook up with one of them—for real. They’d level your emotional grid on instinct. Why do you need me?”
“Because I trust you,” he stated simply. “And so does the Council. Trusting someone new would be… difficult right now, for everyone.”
“I understand that, but if you got a fey to fall for you for real, then—”
“Then I’d make the same mistake I did with Amanda,” he said, looking down. “I may have been an idiot then, but I’d like to think I’ve learned some lessons from the whole fucking ordeal. You’re my only option, Sands.”
Weiss leaned in closer, too close. His scent invaded my lungs, the warmth of his body bringing sweat to my temples again. Blood pounded through my veins, the illusion I could somehow, by some miracle, get to touch his lips getting me high. I focused on my thoughts, ignoring my body. This was when it really mattered that I didn’t give myself away. This was when I had to stand my ground, not let my private desires get in the way of my ethics. Ethics were important for a therapist… but Weiss wrapped his arms around me slowly, as if giving me time to bolt. I didn’t try, I didn’t move… I didn’t even dare breathe, waiting to feel his arms close around me. I hated myself instantly for it, but after years of dreaming, and hoping, and stealing glances… the man of my hot, sweaty dreams was going to hold me.
“If I have to actually seduce you, then I will, Edel,” he whispered with a grin in his voice.
I flattened my lips. “Oh, because I’m that easy, you think?”
He chuckled in a self-deprecating way. “Because I’m that desperate.”
My heart broke a little. Of course he’d think seducing me was such a terrible task that he’d only resort to it out of sheer desperation. I tried to hide my hurt feelings, brush them under the carpet. I looked down, hoping my gaze wouldn’t give me away. “You’re not my type,” I stated coldly.
“You were Travis’s boyfriend for a while there, so I know you like the leader type.”
Shit, this was just what I needed. His mentioning Travis didn’t help at all with my conviction to not do this. I’d broken up with Travis because I’d realized I was actually pining away after Weiss the whole time Travis and I were together. Either Weiss knew, or his killer alpha instincts were pushing him in the right direction. If I balanced his emotions without us being a couple officially, the Council would find out. They had fey consultants to keep an eye out for anyone fiddling with emotional grids. They’d take me in, PBI counselor or not. And Weiss did have a point on the trust thing. He’d have to trust some stranger with a secret that would get him killed, were it to get out.
When alphas got terminal rages, it wasn’t treatable. Their hormones turned them into wild, senseless monsters—they had to be put down, for everyone’s sake. A raving mad Weiss would be even more dangerous than anyone. His family was known for their incredible genes and strength. The thought alone gave me the chills. If the Council got wind of this, they’d put him down—no doubt about it. I couldn’t, in good conscience, turn down his plan, not under these circumstances. Not when a seven-year-old kid—whose mom was going to be executed this week—depended on him.
Weiss was all Alf would have. I couldn’t allow the poor kid to become an orphan. Nobody would ever take in a Weiss alpha-to-be, and we all knew Alf had the alpha hormones. Weiss had gotten him tested. Only a matter of time before the kid reached adulthood and the hormones started flooding his system. I couldn’t just leave Weiss to his
fate, not when he’d saved my life five years ago. Not when the thought of a world without him strangled me.
I looked up. “Don’t try to pull that crap with me. I’ll help you because, despite this bastard move of yours, you’re a good guy. I’ll help because you have a seven-year-old son who’s about to lose his mother, and you’re all he’s got. I’ll do this because it’s scientifically interesting to explore the case. But don’t think you can sucker me into it with a grope or a fuck. I can help you right now because I’m half fey. That also means I know when you’re pretending…. I know what you feel as you’re feeling it. You can’t bullshit me, Weiss. And stop calling me Edel.”
He chuckled darkly and took two steps back, assessing me with more interest than he’d ever shown. “Well, go figure. Little Edel has some teeth of his own, and he knows how to bite.”
“I don’t think that pissing me off is what you should go for right now.”
“Maybe not. But it’s fun.”
“Get out of here, Weiss. Go home, think on this until tomorrow morning. If you’re set on going ahead with it, we’ll start this show then.”
He stuck his hands in his pockets and cocked his head to the side. “Oh, no. You’re coming home with me. Don’t look so stricken, we’ll just pretend to be a couple. But we won’t pretend the being together part. We are going to be together, all the time, from now until we figure this shit out. I can’t take the chance of a rage happening when I’m at home.”
I shivered. “You mean you want us to be nose to nose 24-7? Are you insane?”
He snorted. “I don’t think therapists are allowed to use the word. Not nose to nose literally, unless your magic trick requires it?”
“We don’t have to be too close, but in the same house for sure. I’m not strong enough to pull it off over long distances,” I begrudgingly admitted.
It wasn’t something to be proud of. The whole couple dispensation had been given in the Fey Act because being involved with someone made fey balance their lover’s emotional grid on reflex. We couldn’t really help doing it for our lovers—those we actually loved, to be precise. It didn’t matter where they were. But for a long-term singleton fey like me, it was a rusty skill to balance emotional grids. My balancing muscles were dusty and flappy from lack of use. The fact I had a crush on him did help, though I hoped he didn’t know about it. But it would still be hard work for me.
“There you go,” he said. “You’re coming home with me until we solve this shitty situation.”
“You mean you want us to actually live together while we’re pretending?”
“Starting tonight?” I asked in a faint voice.
He nodded again.
“It won’t look good. You’re still officially with Amanda, even if her execution is just around the corner.”
“You think anyone will be outraged because I’m betraying her? If anything, it will show my pack that I still have some sort of balls. They might start doubting that fact after what Amanda did. Besides, a mating is just like a human marriage. Putting an end to it officially is more of a technicality when it’s clear everything is over. It doesn’t keep some from moving on. It wouldn’t keep a werewolf alpha from moving on. It won’t.”
“You’re going to use a fling with me as proof of balls? Seriously?”
“Actually, I’ll be using it as my chance to keep breathing. But if my pack thinks I’m over Amanda, I certainly won’t mind it. Nobody will. And it won’t look like a fling at all.”
“Sweet flapping wings, what have I gotten myself into?” I muttered, shaking my head and looking at him.
“You’re saving my life, Sands. Shitting around aside, I’ll owe you big time. I’m sure it’ll come in handy to have the PBI director at your mercy,” he added.
I breathed out slowly. “Yeah… I can just picture you being at my mercy, totally in character for you.”
He laughed—loud, full, and rich. The sound made my heart jump in my throat, and I found myself shaking my head and smiling. I allowed warmth to spread through my heart for a moment. Looking on the bright side, I’d get to spend a lot of time with my crush. He was probably annoying, had smelly morning breath, and farted while he slept. After a week or two of that, I’d finally get over him. And I would earn a lot of favors from him in the long run, provided he didn’t end up dead during this experiment—and didn’t get me killed either. I knew just the thing his support would work wonders on. He wouldn’t like it, I was sure, but that was the funny part about favors: once you owed them, you had to deliver.
All I had to do was spend all of my time with a man I’d been fantasizing about for years, balance his emotional grid, and not give away my stupid crush. How hard could that be?