Paige is a dedicated ballet dancer who neither wants nor needs any romantic entanglements. She put her sex drive in the deep freeze long ago to focus on her career. Yet the universe has a way of turning well-laid plans to dust. When Paige is pulled through a veil between worlds she finds herself in the arms of two male dire wolf shifters who thaw Paige’s libido with a mere look.
Kaiden has spent more time as a wolf than as a man and his brand of loving shows it. Yet Paige brings out tenderness in him he never thought he possessed. Jarek is a leader and, unlike Kaiden, is a man completely in control. But his desire for Paige shakes the foundations of his formidable power and brings this man to his knees.
Kaiden and Jarek profess to be Paige’s perfect mates and she can’t deny an instant attraction to them that isn’t just skin deep. But the war between the Lycaon and the Mages is heating up and it will test every fiber of their bond.
“When,” Kaiden gritted out. “When will she be ours?”
The woman brought to mind a slender tree as she moved, long limbs reaching, dappled in sunlight. Slender and graceful, she moved her body to the music like a birch tree in the wind. It was called ballet, Kaiden recalled from his study of her culture.
He fisted his hands, his fingers itching to stroke her pale, delicate skin and experience the silkiness of her dark hair. Her hair drove him more insane than anything else. Long and lush, he imagined it brushing across his bare skin while he pulled her beneath his body.
“It’s been a month of these peeks past the veil. It should be any day now. Any moment.” The way Jarek’s body tightened every time they were treated to a view of her made his torture clear. His voice faded into a low growl. “I hope it’s any moment. I don’t know how much longer I can wait.”
She pranced gracefully near them. Kaiden reached out as if to touch her and grabbed only air. On the stage before them, she danced away, long legs stretching, arms extended. She had no idea they were there, getting a glimpse of her through the veil of reality that separated them. She knew nothing of the Lycaon, the veil, or her mate bond with him and Jarek.
She danced. They watched…and wanted.
* * * * *
Paige came to a stop in the center of the floor, perspiration glistening on her warm skin. Despite her exertions, she shivered. There it was again, that sensation of being watched. It should have been creepy or alarming, but it wasn’t. A benevolent ghost, perhaps? Did such a thing exist?
Grabbing a towel from a nearby chair, she wiped off her face and neck. Her body ached from the dance she’d been doing, her part in the upcoming production of Giselle. It was a sweet ache, a good ache. The kind she strived for every day, just as she strived to be the best dancer she could be.
Glancing at the clock, she saw it was five thirty; her slot for the floor was over. She had just enough time to shower and get to her dinner appointment with her sister, Caroline. Nodding at the dancers who were warming up at the bar, she headed out to get ready.
As she changed her clothes, she fought a wave of melancholy. The same melancholy that always seeped into her on the nights she met Caroline for dinner.
She had another sister besides Caroline, or, at least, she’d had another sister. Kaitlyn had disappeared about a year ago. At first she and Caroline had assumed the worst, assumed foul play. Then, a short time after Kaitlyn had disappeared they’d received a mysterious letter from her, clearly and unmistakably in her hand. Wherever Kaitlyn had gone, apparently it had been her choice and she was happy. That made enduring her absence only slightly better.
Kaitlyn had left them both pendants, too, in the shape of three individuals intertwined with a ruby at the center of each. She and Caroline never took them off. Somewhere, she felt certain that Kaitlyn was also wearing hers.
The last year had been hard on both her and Caroline. They’d all been very close. With Kaitlyn gone, she spent more time than ever with Caroline. They went to dinner at least twice a week. Neither of them was married, although Caroline had a new boyfriend. Paige hadn’t been in a relationship in years. She’d rather dance. Every Wednesday she and Caroline met for dinner, but today was a more special Wednesday than usual.
Freshly showered and changed into her favorite dress, a short one with a multicolored pattern, and a pair of cream colored heels, she made her way down the street to Maxine’s, one of her favorite restaurants. Caroline was already there, waving through the large window. Paige slid into the chair opposite her and slipped her coat off. Her gaze landed on the wrapped present in the center of the table and the smile faded from her lips.
She swallowed down a sudden rush of emotion. “You got her a present?”
Caroline tucked a stray bit of her blond hair behind her ear. “Yes. Dumb, right?”
Paige tried for a smile and failed. “I wonder if somewhere, someone is spoiling her rotten today.”
“I think so.” Caroline smiled and it lit her delicate features. “I feel in my gut that someone is. Who knows, maybe she has a whole bevy of gorgeous men waiting on her hand and foot today.”
Paige laughed. “Kaitlyn would love that.”
She laughed again, but didn’t reply. She wouldn’t love it. Instead she raised her glass. “Happy birthday, Kaitlyn, wherever you are.”
Caroline raised her glass. “We love you, sis.”
The waitress arrived just in time. Paige was fighting tears. They each ordered one of their regular meals and stopped talking about Kaitlyn. Paige missed her sister, but she also couldn’t help but feel a little abandoned by her too. If Kaitlyn had left of her own free will to a happier life, one in which she knew true love, why hadn’t she at least said goodbye? Didn’t she and Caroline deserve that?
They spent the rest of the meal talking about their lives, Paige’s upcoming show and Caroline’s new guy, Eric. All the while, Kaitlyn’s gift sat on the table in an empty third place. When they said goodbye outside the restaurant, Caroline pulled her close and whispered in her ear, “I’m glad I still have you.” Then she pushed the gift into Paige’s hands.
With the gift in her hands, Paige watched Caroline drive away from the restaurant then started down the street toward her apartment. The air was cool on her bare legs as she watched the busy streets—lights of the shops still bright, cars numerous, and late night strollers dotting the sidewalks. A couple blocks down and the shops faded into a residential area. Her shoes clipped on the pavement as she walked. She enjoyed the dappling of the streetlights through the leaves of the gigantic trees lining the street. Her apartment wasn’t far from the dance company.
Again she had the strange sensation of being watched. It made all the hair along the back of her neck stand straight up, like she was being haunted. Over dinner, she’d almost told Caroline about these odd episodes she’d been having lately, but she didn’t want her sister to worry about her. They’d had more than enough drama in the last year. No need to add more.
Flipping the collar of her coat up, she glanced around. There was no one even remotely near her, no reason to feel observed. It was creepy, but didn’t feel threatening. It was like she had two people she trusted walking on either side of her. Like she could feel the heat of them, their strong presence. Maybe they really were ghosts. Had she somehow picked up a couple spirits somewhere?
A gust of wind came out of nowhere and blew her skirt straight up. She yelped and pushed it down, not really feeling inclined to show the world her underwear. The wind gusted again, harder this time, and stole her breath. She gazed into the sky. No clouds, no storm brewing, just a moon and a whole universe of bright stars.
The wind blew even harder. Now the gusts were gone, replaced by a steady gale. Suddenly she had the sensation she’d been caught up in a tiny, personal hurricane. The wind threatened to pull her purse from her shoulder, the gift from her hands. Her skirt now blew around wildly, but she couldn’t stop it. She inched her way over to the steady comfort of a massive tree trunk and huddled into it, searching the street for any passersby having the same experience to verify she wasn’t going insane. Unfortunately, it seemed she was alone in this strange weather event.
She closed her eyes, unable to move, to speak. Sinking down, she crouched at the base of the tree and endured it, the gift tucked against her stomach. Above her the branches creaked and groaned under the force of what had to be hurricane force winds. Her hair whipped crazily around her face, the wind pulling at her clothes.
Then, just as abruptly as the wind had begun, it stopped. Warm light touched her eyelids. She opened her eyes to day. She stood, the gift tumbling to the ground as she stumbled back. “What the—”
She turned at the sound of her sister’s voice to see Kaitlyn standing behind her. “Katie?” Dropped her purse, she launched herself into Kaitlyn’s arms. They hugged like they would never let go. Tears streamed down Paige’s face. This had to be a dream, but Kaitlyn felt so real.
“Happy birthday, Katie,” Paige whispered.
“This is the best present I could have ever wished for,” she answered in a tear-filled voice.
After a moment, they broke their embrace. Kaitlyn wiped her eyes and picked up the pendant she wore around her neck, gently clinking it against her own. “You kept it.”
“Of course I did. It was the last thing I had of you.”
The metal colliding made a real sound, as did the birds twittering in the trees. The warm sun beating down on her back was real, too. Paige looked around at the stand of trees not far away, the gently swaying tall grasses of the meadow. “Kaitlyn, what happened? Am I dead? Did that wind knock a branch down on me and—”
Kaitlyn took her by the shoulders. “I know exactly what you’re thinking right now. I know because I went through the same thing. You’re not dreaming and you’re not nuts.”
She wrinkled her brow. “Well, that only leaves reality and that can’t be possible.” She looked around her. “Where the hell am I?”
“You’re in a country called Selaryica.”
“It’s a land with several races, though there’s only one you need to be concerned with—the Lycaon.”
“Katie, what the hell are you talking about?”
“I have so much tell you.” She glanced around. “But this is not the time or place. You’re in another dimension, Paige.”
Paige hesitated a moment, then laughed. “Nice one, but a bad joke. That’s impossible.”
“It seems like it shouldn’t be possible. We’ve been taught our whole lives that alternate dimensions are only found in science fiction. Yet, here we are, standing in one of the many, many different realities layered on our own.”
Paige stared up into the blue sky. It was a sky and it was blue, but, somehow, it seemed different than the one she’d stared into every day of her life. She shifted her gaze to Kaitlyn’s. “So you’re saying I was sucked through a worm hole and am now in a different world?”
Kaitlyn nodded. “But it wasn’t a worm hole you went through. It was more like the force of two magnets drawing together, certain powerful energies finding alignment. Since you are one part of a three part energy system, you were the one who was pulled through the fabric of our reality and into this one.”
“Three part… Kaitlyn, I’m only barely following you. Speak English, please.”
“Okay, I’ll lay it out for you.” Her sister took a deep breath. “You have two soul mates and their energies called you over to be with them. The same thing happened to me about a year ago. That’s why I disappeared.”
Paige didn’t know what to say. She just stood staring at Kaitlyn, her mouth open. Her mind whirled. “Kaitlyn,” she said in a trembling voice, “this is crazy.”
“So, you’re saying—insanity of the story aside—that I’ve been yanked from my reality, from my dancing career, for a couple of people who think I’m their soul mate?”
“I know how it sounds.”
“I don’t want a soul mate, let alone two. All I want is my dancing, maybe my sister back, definitely my reality and my sanity—” Paige had begun to pace back and forth.
Kaitlyn took her by the arms, stopping her in place. “Just relax. Take a deep breath. You need more than what you just listed. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have been pulled over. Admit it, sis. You want love just as much as the rest of us.”
She hesitated. Of course she did. Of course there was a secret part of her that craved attention from someone who regarded her as his moon and stars. She missed hugs and she really missed kisses. Hell, she missed sex. A vibrator was great, but a man was better, and it had only been herself and her vibrator for years now.
“Okay, yes, I will admit that.” She grasped Kaitlyn’s shoulders. “But I don’t want to be trapped here against my will.”
“You’re not trapped here, at least, not yet.”
“What do you mean, not yet?”
“You have two weeks to decide if you want to stay and honor the mating bond. Kind of like a trial period. You’re locked here for that amount of time. At the end of it, a doorway will open. You decide if you want to step through it and return home.”
“Mating bond? Trial period? I don’t need two weeks. I want to leave right now.”
“You haven’t met Kaiden and Jarek yet.”
“Kaiden and Jarek? What the hell are those for names? Kaitlyn, no. I want to go home right—” realization swept over her. “Wait. You’re trapped here, aren’t you?”
Kaitlyn nodded. “I had my two weeks. When they were over, I’d fallen so totally in love with Lucas and Rafian that I gave up everything to stay here with them.”
She paused. “Even contact with my beloved sisters.”
Paige tried not to feel hurt. “Wow, these guys must be really great.”
“They are. So are Kaiden and Jarek. Give them a chance.”
Paige had no intention of giving these two guys with goofy names any chance at all, but she desperately wanted time with Kaitlyn. It appeared she didn’t have much of a choice anyway. She sighed, looking skyward. “I seriously feel like I’m going to pass out right now.”
“Deep breaths. It’s okay. I’m here with you. You’re lucky. I was all alone when I was pulled over.”
“Lucky, lucky. Sure.” She put a hand to her head. “I really do feel light-headed.”
Paige collapsed into darkness.
* * * * *
Jarek stared down at Paige who was sprawled on his sofa. He still couldn’t believe that she was actually here. Kaiden stood near the mantle, his gaze focused and intense on the unconscious woman. He had his fists clenched as though trying to stop himself from rushing over to her. That’s the last thing Paige needed, some hulking warrior leaning over her as she woke. She was frightened enough.
Her sister, Kaitlyn, had signalled to them after Paige had collapsed. They’d been hiding in the nearby trees, hoping to introduce themselves after Kaitlyn had explained the situation to her. Instead they’d ended up having to take dire wolf form to transport her home.
If the mostly human woman woke up and realized she’d just traveled five kilometers on the back of a two hundred and fifty pound wolf, she’d probably pass out again.
Kaitlyn had told them her sister was about as prepared for this as she’d been. That meant Paige was shocked beyond all belief. Kaitlyn also gently told them that Paige really had no interest in a relationship, let alone a relationship with two men. She was all about her dancing, Kaitlyn said, very dedicated. She wouldn’t want to give up her career.
From their time peeking through the veil, a soft spot in the barrier between their realities, Jarek had already gathered as much. If Paige wasn’t practicing dance, she was talking about it, or reading about it. Paige had a passion for ballet.
But he and Kaiden had passion for her. They had two weeks to convince Paige she could have everything she wanted…and the most important thing was a relationship with them.
He reached down and took a tendril of her silky hair between his fingers and rubbed it. So soft. Just how he’d imagined it. Kaiden knelt beside her and studied her face with a hungry expression. They had waited so long to have her and now they couldn’t believe she was here. Kaiden likely felt as he did—if they let her out of their sight, would she disappear like a dream?
She roused and Jarek caught his breath. Her eyes fluttered open, met his, and widened. “Who are you?”
“I’m Jarek.” He motioned at Kaiden. “And that’s Kaiden.”
Paige glanced at Kaiden, bolted up and scrambled off the other side of the couch. ““Where’s my sister?
“She went home.”
“Why didn’t she stay?”
“She thought we needed some time alone.” He paused. “You, with us.”
Paige stood warily, her gaze skirting between them. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s not polite to stare, especially when someone is sleeping? It’s creepy, just FYI.”
He wrinkled his brow. “FYI?”
She shook her head. “I really want to see my sister.”
“And you will, tomorrow. Tonight, you eat a good dinner, have good conversation with me and Kaiden, get good sleep.”
Her stomach growled at the mention of food, loud enough to hear across the room. She pressed a hand to her abdomen and wanted to turn down any meal they offered, but couldn’t. She glanced toward the kitchen.
“I can’t cook, but Kaiden makes the best vegetable stew I’ve ever tasted.”
Probably all vegetables she’d never eaten before. Alien vegetables from a different dimension. She swayed on her feet.
Jarek caught her before she went down. She stiffened at the feel of his arms around her and the alluring scent of his skin. He lowered her into a nearby chair. “No more fainting. If you do it again we’ll need to take you to a doctor.”
“You’d faint too if you’d just been pulled into another reality.” She paused, looking between them. “So you’re supposed to be my soul mates?”
Kaiden walked toward them, the expression on his face intense. “Not supposed. If there was any question you were not meant for us, you would not be here.”
Paige curled her pretty lip. “I’ll reserve judgment on that one, okay?”
Kaiden was hurt. No one but Jarek would have seen it because he’d known Kaiden since childhood, but it was there in his eyes. Kaiden was tough on the outside, six and a half feet of massive muscle, with a strong jaw and a stoic demeanor, yet the man had an emotional side too. Paige could have no idea how intensely they felt for her.
“I’ll make dinner,” said Kaiden, moving into the kitchen.
Paige watched him walk away and Jarek had the sense that maybe she did understand she’d hurt him after all. Breaking her contemplative stare at Kaiden’s back, she shivered and hugged herself. “So, if I didn’t suffer a psychotic break and am somewhere in a hospital hopped up on medications and all of this is actually real, I have two weeks until I can go home.”
“It’s called the bonding period. The hope is that you will see that our bond means more to you than anything you left behind at home.”
“I left my sister at home. I left my dancing.”
Jarek nodded, but his heart sank at the tone in her voice. It said you two could never equal their worth.
“And why can’t I just go back and forth? Why does it need to be all or nothing?”
“It’s not easy or without health consequences to pass through the energy field that separates our realities.”
“Great, now I’m going to get cancer.”
“Cancer.” He searched his mind for what that was. Both he and Kaiden had done much reading about her world. “We don’t have cancer here.”
“You don’t have— How is that even poss— Nevermind.” She shook her head.
He hesitated a moment, watching the pout of her lips. It was wrong how sexual his reaction was to her. He wished he could stop imagining those lips around his cock, or parted on a moan from the ecstasy he was giving her. He tried to think of other things, but it was impossible. He wanted her too much and had waited too long.
Of course, he was betting that she hadn’t had sex in a while either. Maybe that could work to their advantage. She was a young, healthy, physical woman who seemed to have put her libido in the closet for some reason. Maybe freeing it from its prison would heat her up and open her to the possibility of a life with them.
Maybe that would be the way to reach her heart.
“I’m going to gather some firewood.” He turned and went for the door. This strategy definitely bore consideration.