Chasing payne, p.9
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       Chasing Payne, p.9

           Chantel Seabrook
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  Turner's angry voice echoed across the line before Chase had the chance to speak. “Do you mind telling me what the fuck is going on?”

  Chase tensed. “Can you be more specific?”

  “I was just assaulted by Jenna Oliver outside of your apartment. For some reason she's got it in her head that you're the devil incarnate.” He exhaled a deep, frustrated breath. “Please tell me you didn't fuck Lora.”

  He grimaced at Jacob who watched him with interest. “Just keep an eye on the place and make sure she doesn't leave.”

  “Too late.”

  “What do you mean?” Chase growled, clenching his fists. “I told you to watch her.”

  “Cool it, big brother. I'm following the cab as we speak. Looks like she's going back to her apartment. Not sure why you've got two agents trailing her. If she's in some kind of danger, I want to know what we're dealing with.”

  Chase froze. “Two agents?” He pressed a code on his phone, transferring the call to Jacob's secure line, and motioned for Jacob to pick it up when it started to ring. “Who else is watching her?”

  “Austin McCaffrey.”

  His lion awoke with a dangerous, muted growl. It wanted out, and Chase had to fight the animal back. “Has he seen you?”

  There was a pause on the other end. “Not that I'm aware of. Why?”

  “Just keep an eye on him,” he said, jumping to his feet.

  “Would one of you please tell me what the hell is going on?” Turner demanded.

  “Go,” Jacob ordered, his lips curling in a snarl. “I'll deal with this. Just make sure Lora's safe.”

  Chase didn't hesitate. Rage and fear spurred him through the halls of the agency.

  He didn't know what Austin was up to, or why he was following Lora, but an alarming sense of panic tore through his chest.

  His animal prowled close to the surface, too close for Chase's liking. Urging him to find his mate, to protect her, and to make sure she knew that she belonged irrevocably to him.

  This was what he feared. Why he never wanted to find a mate. To allow another person that much control over you was suicide.

  * * *

  The door pushed open forcefully, bouncing against the wall.

  Lora jumped as Chase came crashing into her tiny apartment. “What are you doing here?”

  He slammed the door and stalked towards her. “I could ask you the same question.”

  She turned and made her way down the hall towards her bedroom. “It's my apartment.” How long had she been gone? Twenty, thirty minutes max. She swallowed tightly at the implications, stopped, then turned on him. “Did you have me followed?”

  He ignored her question, confirming her suspicion. He was such an asshole. She threw her hands in the air and rolled her eyes.

  He followed her into the bedroom. She could feel his breath on the back of her neck as she opened the double closet.

  “I told you not to go anywhere.”

  “So you've graduated from big brother to over protective father.” She looked over her shoulder and gave him an insincere smile. “Lucky me.”

  “I'm not your fucking father. I'm your mate, and when I tell you to do something, I expect you to obey.” He kept his gaze on her, boring into her, enforcing his command.

  “Obey?” She laughed, bitterly, turning fully to face him. “God, you're so arrogant.”

  “Maybe. But I'm not letting you walk away.”

  “I'm not walking away—” Even she could hear the lie in her voice. “I just need some time to think about what I need to do.”

  “There's nothing to think about.” He took a step towards her, wrapped an arm around her waist, and pulled her tight against him. “Whether it's today or tomorrow, you're moving in with me.”

  She shook her head against his chest and closed her eyes, resisting the urge to submit to his demands. “Can you hear yourself? Do you even care about what I want?”

  His hand slid beneath her hair and cupped the side of her neck. It wasn't only anger she saw in his eyes, it was hunger. Arousal. He lowered his head, caught her lower lip in his teeth and stroked it with his tongue. She shivered against his mouth.

  He pulled back slightly. “Tell me. What do you want?”

  She let out a rough breath. There was no point playing games. Either he was able to give her what she wanted or he wasn't. “I want you. All of you.”

  Something dark crossed his expression, a secret that tormented him. She could sense it. He blinked and it was gone, replaced with a look of frustration. “You have all of me. We're mated. What more can I give you?”

  Was he really that dense? She pushed on his chest. “I want more than a relationship based on a freaking hormone.”

  A deep nerve-shattering growl ripped from her throat, and she stumbled backwards in fear. The sound continued to resonate through her body. She could sense her control faltering.

  No, no, no.

  Pain wracked her body as the lioness fought for freedom. Fought for some semblance of control.

  “Lora.” Chase's arms were around her, trying to provide comfort, but his words only seemed to give the animal more strength.

  With adrenaline coursing through her veins, she was able to push him off. She ran to the bathroom and slammed the door. Chase's voice echoed behind her. She leaned against the door and closed her eyes.

  This was what Jenna had warned her would happen.

  She was losing control, and if she didn't get away from Chase now, she wasn't certain she would be able to contain her animal much longer.

  Chapter 16

  “Open the door, Lora.” Chase breathed in deeply, summoning the calm he needed to deal with his mate.

  “Go away.” Her voice was a muffled sob behind the locked door. “Please, Chase. Just leave me alone.”

  He slammed his palm against the wall. Like hell he was leaving her. He had sensed the animal breaking free, overriding her will. It was wild and untamed, and if she didn't satiate it soon—Dangerous. “Open the door before I break it down.”

  There was a long pause, and then the shuffle of feet. The lock clicked and she opened the door.

  When she pushed past him, she was in control again, but her face was chalk white and she was trembling violently. He tried to wrap his arms around her, but she jerked back.

  He went rigid, his animal snarling at her refusal to accept him. God, she was so stubborn. She needed him, and yet she continued to push him away.

  “Tell me what's going on.” He forced the words through clenched teeth.

  “I can't be around you. It's—” Her breath hitched, eyes glossy with unshed tears. “I'm not strong enough.” She shook her head and sat down heavily on the bed. Trembling, she pulled her knees to her chest. “I—I can't keep it contained.”

  “Because you're not supposed to.” He knelt in front of her and grasped her hands. He could sense the anguish slicing at her soul. “Not like this.”

  She blinked back tears, and looked down at their conjoined hands, her eyes haunted by some distant memory. “You don't understand.”

  “Then tell me.” He cupped her cheek in his palm, forcing her to meet his gaze. “Make me understand.”

  He saw the moment she gave in, caved under the weight of her burden. She let out a weak, shaky breath and her shoulders slumped forward. Her hand reached out, fingers gently tracing the outline of his jaw as she studied him. The simple gesture made his chest tighten.

  “Do you remember the time when Brody and Callan found the wasp nest down by the river?” she asked.

  Chase's jaw tightened at the memory. Her brothers had knocked the nest out of a tree. When the wasps started to swarm, they had taken off, leaving her behind. He'd heard her screams a mile away. At least that's what he'd claimed at the time. In retrospect, he knew there was no way he could have heard her from his backyard.

  “I found you in the woods. Huddled in a ball. Your face and arms were swollen with welts.” He had taken his shirt off, despite the wasps attac
king him, and wrapped it around her small body. She had stopped crying the instant he'd picked her up and cradled her to his chest. He carried her home, feeling an overwhelming sense of protectiveness—A feeling that had never gone away.

  “You saved me.” Her voice was thick with emotion. “That's the day—the day I knew you were my mate.”

  Chase frowned. “You couldn't have been more than nine or ten.”

  She blinked rapidly and bit her lip. “It didn't matter. I knew. I felt it deeper than anything I'd ever experienced. A primal instinct, that drew me to you.”

  His lion paced and he shook his head, aware of the significance of her words. People didn't fall in love at ten years old, and they definitely didn't find their mates. There was a reason why their animal nature stayed dormant until after puberty. If she had felt the awakening at such a young age, he wondered what affect it had on the bond between animal and woman.

  He stood and began pacing the room.

  All these years she'd kept this secret locked inside herself. She said she wasn't strong, but her actions proved otherwise.

  He could feel her gaze on him, sense her slipping back inside herself. He stopped and looked at her. God, she was beautiful; but there was so much more to the woman, a depth he had never fully realized, never taken the time to get to know. He wondered if she had ever truly let anyone in, past the brave face she showed to the world.

  In a single movement, he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her off the bed and against him.

  She shook her head against his chest and let out a long unsteady breath. “I'm sorry.”

  “You became an obsession,” she whispered bleakly, trembling against his body. “Jenna warned me that I was too young to feel what I was feeling.”

  Her sister was right. The hormonal changes associated with mating heat, combined with the ones released during puberty, could have proved to be a fatal combination.

  She rested her head on his chest for a moment before pulling away, shaking her head. “Even before the incident, I had moments when I couldn't get control.”

  His throat constricted at the pain that reflected in her voice. He inhaled slowly. “What incident?”

  “The night of my prom.” Her breath hitched as she fought a sob. “You were there with Jacob.”

  There was something in the tone of her voice that made him go cold from the inside out. He remembered that night. He'd ended up going home with Lora's music or art teacher. Fuck, he couldn't remember which one, but judging by Lora's expression, she remembered.

  “I thought that if I could kiss you—just once, you would see that I was your mate. I drank a little too much. It was stupid, but I didn't care. All I cared about was—you.”

  The aching emotion in her voice broke his heart. All he had ever wanted was to protect her. “I didn't know.”

  She smiled sadly. “Would it have made a difference?”

  He frowned, knowing that it probably wouldn't have. “What happened that night?”

  “When I saw you with your tongue down Miss. Harrison's throat, I lost it.” She broke off painfully, swallowing tightly before continuing. “I didn't even try to control myself.” He could feel hysteria building inside her mind. He tightened his hold on her, wishing he could erase the memories, the pain that he was responsible for. “I let the lion take over…Completely.”

  She pushed away, and he let his hands fall to his sides. Turning her back on him, she walked to the small window, staring out blankly at the traffic below.

  “Jenna followed me. She saw me shift and run out into the forest behind the school. It's where I always went when I felt overwhelmed.” He couldn't bear the stark torment resonating through her voice. “She followed me and I…attacked her.”

  Images of her nightmare flashed through his mind. Blood. Pain. A piercing wail that echoed above the trees.

  “I almost killed her. If Hunter hadn't shown up, I don't know what would have happened.”

  Hunter Syn. It was a name he hadn't heard in years. “But he did, and Jenna is fine.”

  “You don't understand.” Her voice was soft, throbbing with the pent-up emotion she was fighting. She turned, her haunted gaze locking on him. “She was pregnant.”

  A chill rushed down his back as the full impact of her guilt slammed into him.

  She wrapped her arms around her chest and shivered. “She went into shock. Lost too much blood…and she lost the baby.”

  He shoved his hands in his pocket and swallowed tightly. “Does Jacob know?”

  “No.” Her eyes widened. “And you can't tell him. Please. If not for my sake, then for Jenna.”

  “I don't understand how you kept this from your family.”

  “It was right after we lost my dad. Mom was still grieving. There was so much going on. Hunter took care of Jenna until she healed. I wanted to tell, but she couldn't bare anyone knowing that she had been pregnant.” Her voice was low, steady, but he could hear the pain that backed each word. In their grief, her family had failed to see that Lora was self-destructing from the inside out, but there was no blame in her words—she took it all on herself. “You see why this will never work.”

  He growled. “I understand now.”

  “Good.” There was no anger in her voice, just weary acceptance.

  “Let me finish. I understand why you've spent so many years subduing your animal, but it doesn't mean I'm going to let you continue to torture yourself.”

  “Chase, don't—”

  “We're going to fix this.”

  “You can't fix what I did,” she snapped.

  “No, you're right. But we can make sure it doesn't happen again.”

  She squared her shoulders and drew in a ragged breath. “That's what I'm trying to do.”

  “You really think walking away from me is going to keep your animal dormant?” He allowed the growl building in his chest to flow through his words.

  She shook her head. “I have to try.”

  “That's bullshit, and you know it.”

  Two long strides and he pulled her towards him, fisting his fingers in her hair. She struggled, but he knew in her heart she didn't want to be released. She wanted him. Needed him. Just as he needed her. Nevertheless, he could still sense her desire to run, and it sent a shockwave of panic through his body. He couldn't lose her. He'd seen what that loss could do to a man. It shredded the soul. If she left, it would destroy them both.

  “We're going to fix this. Whatever it takes. I won't leave you.”

  He could see the hopes and fears that filled her. “Chase—”

  He stopped her protest with a kiss. One hand cupped her neck as his tongue stroked her lips, parting them and allowing him to taste her. A soft whimper vibrated in her throat. She buried her hands in his hair, melting against his body.

  A fierce surge of protectiveness assailed him. He would do everything in his power to keep her safe, to heal the animal she refused to face. He needed her to believe that he wanted her not just because of the mating hormone, but because she was a woman deserving to be loved.

  She was his mate, and that wasn't going to change, no matter how much it scared him.

  Chapter 17

  She couldn't fight him. Not when his lips pressed against hers, his tongue forcing its way between them, and his hands roamed desperately over her body.

  “Chase.” His name came out as a plea, begging him to both stop and continue at the same time. She wanted to trust him. Wanted to believe he could help her, but how could she when she couldn't even trust herself?

  She fought to take in enough air to clear her head, to get herself under control. His hands slid down her back, every touch and sensation stealing her strength to walk away.

  He was like an inferno threatening to consume her, to push her over the edge. As long as she stayed away from him, she could survive it. But not when he was so close, when every nerve ending in her body screamed for his touch.

  “Let me help you.” His breath caressed her ne
ck as his head lowered, pushing her hair aside and raking his teeth over the mark he had given her. “Don't fight what we are. You're mine now. Nothing can change that.”

  But something could. Austin had told her there was a way. A way to break the bond, to give them both a fresh start. A way to make sure her animal remained dormant. The thought of even the possibility that she could harm Chase the way she had hurt Jenna sent a chill racing down her spine. “I don't want to hurt you.”

  “Then don't.” He cupped her face, and a sensual smile crossed his lips as he watched her through lowered lids. His blue eyes glittered with lust and emotion. “The only way you can hurt me is if you walk away.”

  She shook her head. He was wrong. But she was torn between what was truth and what she wanted to be truth. Her hands clenched at his waist, holding tightly as she struggled for breath. Fresh, unshed tears burned her eyes, and she blinked them back. She loved him so freaking much, and it was destroying her. She had to get away before she destroyed him too.

  As if sensing her ambivalence, he tightened his grip. One hand flattened on her back, the other knotted in her hair. His lips crashed down on hers, and his tongue swept into her mouth. His thick, hot erection pressed against her stomach. A tidal wave of pleasure rose inside her, sweeping through her fears.

  Without breaking contact, he pulled his shirt over his head, and dropped it carelessly on the floor. She let her fingers roam over the hard, bronzed skin. His muscles tightened in response to her touch.

  She should be fighting him, running, doing anything but let him weaken her more.

  “I need to touch you.” His voice was hard, raspy, almost guttural.

  He gripped the seams of her shirt, pulling it off in a swift, easy movement. His gaze roamed hungrily over her body, and a low rumble vibrated from his throat. He pulled her close. His hard, bare chest pressed against her breasts, making her nipples harden.

  She licked her lips. God, she wanted him. His scent drifted through the air. Spicy maleness mixed with the aroma of lust.

  Her animal stirred, giving a low warning growl that brought her back to reality. She pushed on his chest, panic prickling down her spine. “I can't do this,” she whimpered, but even to her own ears, her protest sounded weak.

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