Freeing his Mate Copyright © 2017 by Nancy Corrigan All Rights Are Reserved.
Did you miss Chapter 1? Read it HERE.
With a white-knuckled grip, I fist the steering wheel of my prized possession, a ten-year-old minivan I bought with the money I won from a raffle at the Black Widow a few years back. I’m pretty sure the contest was rigged in my favor, but I never questioned it. I sent a little prayer to the goddesses for leading me to my human pack, the group of people who fill the roles my birth pack should’ve held if they’d lived.
Tonight, I can’t help repeating my prayer. After a crazy, busy night filled with nonstop customers, including a blue-eyed drunk who managed to arouse me, it’s now snowing. The temperature is dropping too. If I didn’t have this van, I’d be slipping and sliding my way home on foot. In my condition, I can’t risk a fall. Todd would beat the shit out of me if I lost these babies before we learn their sex.
Lips pressed in a thin line, I tap the breaks. The van skids. My heart races. Dammit! Getting into an accident isn’t an option either. My girls need me. The goddesses know my breeding partner doesn’t give a shit about them. They were born the wrong gender.
I blow out a slow breath and drop the transmission into a lower gear. The engine makes a groaning noise, but the van slows. I manage the turn into my apartment’s parking lot without hitting anything.
The crunching sound of coal ashes under my tires makes me smile. My landlords, a childless human couple who view me as their substitute daughter, likely scattered the cheap alternative to ice melt for my benefit. They knew I’d be working late tonight and cautioned me to be safe driving home.
I maneuver into the closest spot and get out. Snowflakes hit my exposed skin. I forgot my jacket. Again. Darn it. I know better. Humans expect certain behaviors. Wearing a coat when the temperature is below freezing is one of them. I can only use the “I was in a rush” excuse so many times.
Thankfully, this late at night, I shouldn’t run into anyone. That’s a good thing. I’m too edgy to talk. I can’t pinpoint why either. I just feel unsettled. Maybe a little sad. It happens sometimes, especially when I’m reminded that I’m not free to do what I want.
With a click, I lock the doors and circle the van, using the hood to steady myself, then inch my way across the lot. My wolf stirs, rising from the depths of my psyche where she normally hovers like a protective friend. Her low growl echoes within me, freezing me in place. Danger’s close. I don’t doubt my wolf’s assessment, but my gut tells me this threat is one I’ll never escape.
I scan the parking lot, looking for Todd’s old, rusted pickup. It’s nowhere in sight, but that doesn’t mean I’m safe. I live close enough to the woods that my breeding partner might’ve traveled here in his wolf form. If he did, he’s here for only one thing.
My stomach heaves. Bile burns my throat. I press my fisted hand to my mouth and fight the urge to throw up. It’s hard. I hate when he touches me. I feel dirty. Used.
I focus on my rage, channeling the emotion that’s kept me going for years. The nausea dims. My wolf pushes against my psyche, reminding me I’m not alone. If Todd tries to touch me, I can fight him. By breeding law, I’m only required to submit to him on the night of the full moon. If my neighbors hear me screaming, they’ll call the cops. They have before.
Feeling stronger, I drop my hand and make my way to the door. Todd steps from the shadows. A red flannel and ripped jeans cover the heavily muscled body I should appreciate, at least according to Todd. I don’t. Never did. He’s the one who chased me. Seduced me.
Turned me into his breeding partner against my will.
My wolf renews her efforts to get free at the reminder of the sleazy way he bound me to him, getting me so drunk I could barely stand, let alone resist him. I shove her back. I understand my wolf’s anger. I really do, but even if my life was threatened, I could never shift here. My neighbors don’t know what I am.
I stop walking and close my eyes, allowing my mind to fade into my wolf’s realm. Maybe not the smartest thing considering the circumstances, but for all Todd’s faults, he won’t kill me. Not until I bear him a son, anyway. After that? Yeah, I don’t want to think about my fate once I deliver a boy. Soothing my wolf in this instant is all that matters. I can’t deal with Todd while my wolf is trying to claw her way out of my body.
Humming softly, I run a metaphysical hand down her flank. She snaps at me, then exposes her fangs on a low, vicious growl. I ease my hand back. A disappointed sigh slips from my lips. While we share the same soul and body, we don’t always get along. Looks like this is one of those times. Not that I’m surprised. She’s made it very clear how she feels about our breeding partner.
My wolf lowers her head. Her body tenses. I sense her intent. If she attacks me, wounding me while I’m in her territory, she has a chance of taking over our shared body. As much as I want to give her freedom, I can’t. She’ll kill Todd. While a life without him would be heavenly, I’d go to jail. Then my kids would be alone. Not happening.
She leaps at me. I slam a wall between us, cutting her off.
Guilt chokes me. My wolf only wants to protect me. I’ll have to make it up to her somehow. Maybe go for a run in the woods. I’m long overdue for some alone time. The resolve calms me.
I meet Todd’s gray eyes. “Were you up visiting Peyton and Rey?”
Todd glances over his shoulder at my apartment building. He snorts. “I hadn’t thought of it.”
Of course he wouldn’t have. Honestly, I should be happy he didn’t. He curses around my daughters and calls them cruel names if they’re a little rambunctious. Peyton and Rey’s plea to skip preschool next week is still bothering me, however. Their class is making Christmas presents for their dads. Todd refuses to let them call him by that name. He’s Todd to them. That’s it. He won’t even let them take his surname. They have mine. Together, we’re a pack of three and pitied by all.
I hate that he’s such a jerk. I can’t do anything about it. This is our life. There’s no escaping it. Todd has mating law on his side. We’re his possessions. Literally. Even if he doesn’t want us and we don’t want him.
“Then why are you here?” I motion to the moon. The clouds hide it, but I can feel its pull. I’m connected to it. “The full moon is almost two weeks away.”
The full moon is the only time I have to submit to him, but if this pregnancy is anything like the last one, he won’t be around until I’m fertile again. He complains that sex with me isn’t fun. I just lie there and won’t even kiss him back. Makes me laugh every time he goes on a rant, because I do lie there, unmoving and counting the minutes until he orgasms. Heck, if he wanted a breeding partner who willingly desired his touch, he should’ve picked another girl.
Todd turns his attention to me, slowly sweeping his gaze down my body. A chill runs through me in the wake of his lewd inspection. Dammit, I don’t want to deal with this tonight. I just want to crawl into my bed. Alone. I have a double shift tomorrow.
“I came to make sure the mother of my children made it home safe. The roads were icy tonight.” Todd walks toward me. His gaze drifts to my chest. He licks his bottom lip. “I didn’t want you to get hurt or anything.”
The crackle and crunch of his footsteps on the coal ashes sounds ominous. I lock my knees and fight to keep my breath even. Without my wolf to protect me, I sense him. His lust slithers over me, along with his disgust. Todd hates me as much as he desires me.
I squeeze my eyelids closed and swallow against the bitter taste in my mouth. “Because I’m pregnant.”
Todd moves my hair away from my neck and presses his lips to my skin. “Oh, my ignorant little female, I thought we clarified this the last time I knocked you up. You’re a vessel. Only. Do not try to romanticize our relationship or make yourself feel important. My sons you’re carrying are all that matter. How their growth and development affects you means nothing to me.”
I clench my jaw, fighting the slew of curse words I want to hurl at this bastard. They won’t help. Nothing will. “You don’t know if the babies I’m carrying are boys or girls.”
Todd slips his hand around my waist and covers my belly. “You do, though. Don’t you, Mya?”
“Not yet. I’m barely six weeks.”
“Females can sense these things early on.” He steps closer to me, locking me to his chest. “You did the last time.”
And the moment he’d learned the truth, he kicked me off his pack’s lands. I was ecstatic to get away from him, until reality set in. Being penniless, pregnant, and homeless in a town where I knew only a handful of people—all humans—nearly broke me.
My anger flares, eroding the barrier I’d erected between me and my wolf. Her muted snarl reaches me. I blow out a breath and conjure my girls’ faces. Their smiles strengthen me. They’re happy, despite having a loser father. Heck, so am I. I have my job, my apartment, and my odd mix of humans and lone shifters who’ve stepped in to act as my family. I’m okay. Better than okay. People love me and my daughters. I don’t need Todd’s concern. He’s a sperm donor, nothing more.
“I was seven, almost eight weeks when I sensed their gender last time. I won’t know any earlier this time around.” I turn in his embrace and press my palms to Todd’s chest, keeping the slight distance between our bodies. “You know that. Now, tell me the real reason you’re here, or I’ll start screaming.”
Todd leans over me. His shoulder-length black hair falls forward, and his garlic and cigarette scented breath bathes my face. My stomach does another flip. I ignore my growing nausea made worse by my pregnancy hormones and shove hard against his chest, breaking his hold on me.
I stumble backward, but manage to keep my footing. “Enough with the dominance shit, Todd. You own me. I haven’t forgotten that. I also haven’t forgotten that I’m living on my own because you don’t want us to get in the way of your lifestyle.”
“Exactly. You should be grateful I care enough about your feelings that I don’t flaunt my lovers in front of you.”
“I should be grateful!” I laugh. “Bullshit. You’re the one who should be grateful that I’ve got a job that lets me support the children you forced me to conceive. Otherwise, we’d have to move into your home, whether you want us around or not. Once I show up at your pack’s circle with our daughters in tow, your new alpha won’t allow you to ignore us or let us starve. You’d have to support us instead of your whores or throw your money away on whatever it is you do in your free time.”
Todd bares his fangs at me. “That fucking cock-lover shouldn’t even be leading our pack!”
Nope. I’m not going to bother getting into an argument about Ethan Jager, or his mates, Hannah and Noah. They’re the rightful leaders of Todd’s pack. End of story. Their old alpha, Michael Tanner, recognized that. It’s why Michael handed over their pack’s spirit without a fight. Sure, there might’ve been extenuating circumstances, but it’s none of my business. Neither is Ethan’s sex life. At least he’s enjoying his.
“What do you want, Todd?” I keep my voice as calm as possible. I really don’t want this to spiral out of control. My neighbors already hate Todd and lecture me constantly about seeing him. Explaining that I have no choice isn’t an option. Shifter biology that limits fertility to bonded couples only and mating law that gives males complete control over their partners isn’t something I can share with my human friends. Only my shifter friends know my situation, and they pity me for it.
Todd walks around me. Without looking at me, he runs a hand over his head. “I need money.”
I glare at Todd’s back through narrowed eyes. “What makes you think I’d give you any? You’ve never given me a cent, even when I’ve begged you for money to buy diapers and food!”
Todd rushes forward and grabs my neck, squeezing tight enough to make my eyes water. I grasp his wrist, trying to pry him off, but I can’t break his grip. He’s too strong.
“Don’t you ever talk to me like that.” Todd shakes me. My nostrils flare on my quicker breaths. “I own you. Do not forget that.”
“How can I? You remind me constantly.” I force the words out even when breathing hurts.
“Then obviously I’m not being clear enough.” Todd leans closer to me. “Every penny you earn belongs to me. I’ve been kind enough to allow you to keep it. That can change at any time.”
“If you take my paycheck, how will I survive on my own?”
Todd’s stinky, hot breath heats my skin. “Not my problem.”
“But it is.” I lick my lips, trying to stay calm. I don’t know what’s going on that’s left Todd on edge, but it’s got to be bad. “If I can’t feed Peyton and Rey, I’ll have to move to your home, and you don’t want my ugly pale face anywhere near you.” I repeat one of the many cruel things he said to me as he ordered me away from his pack lands.
Todd eases his hand from around my neck. I drag in a deep breath and rub at my tender skin. No doubt it’s bruised. At least my strong shifter genetics will keep the ugly mark from lasting past the morning. I’m grateful for my quick healing abilities too. Otherwise, my neighbors would be calling the cops constantly. Smacking me around is one of Todd’s favorite pastimes. Of course, it’s my fault he loses his temper. At least that’s what he tells me.
“You’re right.” Todd looks at the windows of my apartment. “I also don’t want those little brats underfoot.”
“Then work another shift at the lumber mill or something if you need money.”
“The new boss won’t give me extra hours. Fucking prick says he has to give those to males with families to support.”
Because every shifter in a three-county area knows I’m on my own. I squeeze the bridge of my nose. “I don’t have any money. Even if I did, I need to save up for formula and diapers.”
“You can breastfeed and use cloth diapers. Those don’t cost much.”
Yeah, because I have so much time to pump and constantly wash dirty diapers. I shake my head. Why do I even bother? “Look Todd, I don’t want to argue with you, but I don’t have any money.”
Todd lays a hand on my shoulder, right over the spot where his bite mark is scarred into my skin. Two layers of clothing separate his hand from the raised edges of the bite, but the barrier doesn’t save me. Heat spreads through my body, settling in my breasts and lower belly. My clit tingles. So do my nipples.
Ugh, I hate how my body betrays me like this. I don’t want to be aroused by Todd, but our breeding bond guarantees it. Doesn’t mean I have to act on it. Or enjoy it. “If you’re trying to seduce me, don’t bother. That only worked once, and I learned my mistake when you decided to make me your incubator without asking my permission.”
Todd smiles instead of replying to my goading. The sight of his smirk sends a shiver through me. He’s usually quick to tell me he did me a favor. Or hit me.
He steps behind me and settles his hands on my hips. “I need three hundred dollars by this time tomorrow. Come up with the cash, or I’ll use you to get it.”
My breath catches. I exhale loudly. “What do you mean, use me?”
“Your body belongs to me.” He presses his lips to my ear. “As your breeding partner, I can do as I see fit with my possession, and nobody, not even my cock-loving alpha, can stop me.”
“Ethan won’t stand for you hurting me.” Even as the words are out of my mouth, I know they’re false. Unless Todd kills me, Ethan can’t do a darn thing to Todd. Nobody can.
“Oh, I don’t plan on hurting you. Not this time. I’m just going to make some money off you if you won’t give me the cash I need.”
“Make money off me…how?” Why won’t he just tell me?
“Wyatt introduced me to some males who are interested in buying a whore.” He slides his palms over my belly. “A pregnant whore. They offered me a lot of money for a night with you, Mya. A lot. Even more once you start showing.”
Oh goddesses. My blood turns cold. “You’re going to…to let other males have sex with me?”
“I don’t give a shit who fucks you. If I did, I wouldn’t have allowed you to leave my side, let alone work in a bar where horny males hit on you all the time.”
“But…but…” I don’t even know what to say.
Todd turns my head and brushes his lips over mine. I don’t open for him. I never do. Instead of forcing his tongue between my lips like he normally does, he laughs. “I told Wyatt I wasn’t interested ’cause he wants to have a go at you first. That can change, though.”
“If I don’t come up with the money you need, right?”
“Exactly.” Todd steps away from me. “Tomorrow night. I’ll be waiting for you. Otherwise, next full moon, you’ll be in my uncle’s bed. On the following full moon, a different male’s bed.”
I wait until he rounds the side of my apartment building before returning to my van for a scarf. With the bruises on my neck concealed, I head inside my building. With every step I take, Todd’s words are repeating in my head, haunting me.
He wants to pimp me out. To his uncle. To men I’ve never met.
My human friends would call me a whore. They’d lose all respect for me. Right now, they feel sorry for me because I keep going back to Todd. Say I show all the classic signs of an abused woman.
I stop at the door to my third-floor apartment and rub at my itchy, watery eyes. Dammit, they’re right. I am an abused woman, but for me, it’s different. I want to leave Todd. I can’t. He’s my breeding partner.
Until Todd dies, he has complete control over me.
My back arches like it does when Todd manages to destroy my self-esteem. I’ve been with him long enough to understand what it means. I hate my reaction. I hate him.
Todd ruined me! Stole my future before I ever had a chance to experience life. I wish I’d never agreed to go for a walk with him. Never even talked to him!
My wolf pushes at my psyche. No aggressive emotions surround her. She wants to comfort me. I tear down the wall between us. Her love slips through me, easing the regret. No matter what happens or how angry she gets with me, she loves me. Will always love me.
Tears I rarely give in to burn my eyes.
The door opens. I drop my hands and plaster a smile on my face. Sara, one of my babysitters and another waitress at the bar, is standing there with her winter jacket draped over her forearm. My two mini-mes are on either side of her, smiling as if seeing me is the highlight of their day.
I bend down and open my arms. They throw themselves against me, nearly knocking me on my bottom. Oh boy, I’m going to have to tell them soon about the babies so they know to be careful with me.
“Mommy!” they cry in unison and hug me tight.
“Whoa.” I smile and laugh as I push to my feet. “You two are fired up tonight. What’s the deal?” Though, I’m not complaining. Their happiness is contagious.
“Sara’s teaching us to cook,” Peyton announced.
“We made you brownies, and we’ve been waiting for you to get home so we can have some,” Rey added.
“On that note, I’m heading out.” Sara steps around me, ruffling the girls’ dark red hair. “See you beauties tomorrow night. Remember, we’re making pizzas for dinner.”
“Thank you, Sara. Be safe driving.” I hope my gratitude shows. I don’t know what I’d do without her.
With a smile on her face, Sara nods, then heads down the stairs. I turn to my girls. “That was so sweet of you, but you didn’t have to wait for me.”
Peyton rolls her eyes. “We made them for you, Mom. We can’t eat them.”
“Yeah!” Rey grabs my hand and tugs me toward the kitchen. “You’re going to be our customer. Come sit down.”
My cheeks ache from the huge smile on my face. I have the best girls in the world. In the next breath, my smile dims. I wouldn’t have them without Todd.
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