The next few days passed with uncomfortable strain as Serra’s hatred and resentment settled on
Cassandra’s shoulders like a heavy blanket and Tieran hadn’t visited since Serra had arrived, which
only served to intensify her insecurity about having the woman in the house.
Cassandra rubbed her distended belly and muttered, “I’m living in a daytime soap opera.” In a normal
world, there’s no way in hell Cassandra would’ve been living under the same roof as Tieran’s former
love but then in a normal world she wouldn’t be carrying mystical twins who were growing like
extraterrestrial weeds soaked in Miracle-Grow either.
Her back twinged and she groaned as she rolled to her side to ease the pressure. Iona had rubbed
some kind of salve on her back that had helped but she couldn’t reach the spot on her back and Iona
was gone for the day. And she sure as hell wasn’t going to ask Tieran to rub it on her.
Though, she thought unhappily, she missed his touch so badly she was nearly shaking with need.
As if summoned by her unspoken thoughts, Tieran appeared in her doorway.
The sight of him always took her breath away — damn the man — but who wouldn’t be struck dumb by
a tall, muscular man who looked cut from marble with eyes that blazed with unrestrained hunger?
She took comfort in the fact that he was suffering from their sexual drought as much as she but the
moment she was tempted to simply forget all that crap between them and just open her arms to him,
she remembered they were not living in a fairytale and he was not Prince Charming.
More like Prince Not So Charming, she wanted to grumble.
“I’ve brought you breakfast,” Tieran said, walking in with a tray laden with lots of protein. Her nose
twitched at thick slabs of pepper bacon and she actually smiled a little. “Ah, the first sign of happiness
in days. I must remember to always bring bacon if I hope to coax a smile from your lips.”
“It would help,” she admitted with a small sniff. If only she wasn’t constantly ruled by the needs of her
First, it was the Phase, then the Breeding Time, and now…mystical pregnancy. Was she ever going to
catch a break? What was next? She shuddered to even speculate.
She accepted the tray and immediately tore into the bacon. He watched with open approval at her
ravenous appetite and she became self-conscious.
“Please don’t watch me eat. It’s weird,” she said, wiping her mouth and reaching for the orange juice.
“It’s not like I don’t feel like a science project already.”
He chuckled and the sound warmed her heart, even if she was still mad at him. Why did he have to be
so damn handsome?
Maybe if he looked like a three-humped beast she’d have an easier time forgetting about how badly
she wanted to hump his brains out.
“Would you like to share with me?” she asked grudgingly.
His gaze darkened and she wondered if she’d made some clan mistake by her offer but instead he sat
across from her and took a slice of bacon.
However, before biting into it, he said in a solemn tone, “In our culture, when a man and woman share
their meal, it is a symbol of their commitment to one another.”
“Oh.” She chewed and swallowed. “In my culture, it’s a way of not being rude. I’m not ready to pick out
towels or anything. I’m still pissed at you, remember?”
His look of disappointment pinched at her conscience. He was trying to be nice and she was throwing
his attempts right back at him with a little zing for good measure.
She drew a deep breath to apologize but he cut in brusquely before she could start.
“You would have me turn out a woman who has been a loyal clan member since the day she was born,
after she saved both our lives, simply because you are jealous of our past together?”
Cassandra frowned. “Well, when you put it that way, I sound like a royal bitch.”
“How else should I put it?” he countered stiffly. “Is there something I’m missing? Perhaps leaving out a
key piece of the puzzle?”
“She still loves you,” she blurted out, her eyes stinging. “And she’s bound and determined to get you
back. I won’t live in a house where I feel threatened. Nor will I subject my babies to the threat she
poses to their safety.”
He stood, his shoulders rigid. “Once again you imply that I cannot keep you safe. I would protect you
and our pups with my life. Is that not enough?”
Her heart squeezed at the realization that he made no distinction between either pup, even knowing
that one was not his, yet he claimed both.
She wanted to cry and she wanted to kiss him at the same time but judging by the thunderous
expression etched on the hard angles of his face…neither kisses nor tears were a good idea.
“She’s dangerous,” she finally murmured. “Iona agrees that it’s not a good idea for Serra to be here.”
“Iona has never liked Serra. Her advice in that regard is suspect.”
“Oh come on. She’s the Seer, for crying out loud. Your judgment is clouded when it comes to Serra and
that in of itself is a red flag. Why are you so ready to defend Serra, yet toss me under the bus?”
“I am not tossing you under any vehicle, let alone a bus.”
“Stop being so literal,” Cassandra said in irritation, grumbling. “Here’s where going to public school
might’ve done you a world of good. What I’m saying is, you need to start placing your faith in me,
instead of constantly giving it to a woman from your past. Unless, that is, you really want her and not
me. If that’s the case, I’m not going to stick around. Just give me the word and I’m gone. I can be a
single mom just fine as long as you’re willing to pay child support.”
She struggled to her feet in spite of his thunderous scowl.
“And you can stop giving me that look because it doesn’t scare me or make me bite my tongue. I’m
tired of everyone bossing me around or telling me how I should or shouldn’t feel, act or not act, be or
not be, simply because I was lucky enough to get caught up in this mystical mayhem that’s currently
tossing me around from one calamity to the next and really pissing me off!” she shouted at the finish,
too angry to notice that the persistent pain in her back hadn’t subsided until a sharp wrenching pain
zinged up her spine, nearly driving her to her knees with agony.
She fell forward but Tieran caught her before she went crashing to the floor. “That h-hurts,” she
managed to pant as Tieran hoisted her in his arms as if she weighed nothing when in fact, she could
probably accordion the spine of an elephant if she chanced to straddle one.
“Where does it hurt?” Tieran asked, laying her gently on the bed, worry replacing his former frown.
“My lower back,” she groaned, rolling to her side and gesturing wildly. “Iona left a cream…it’s on the
nightstand but I couldn’t reach the spot…”
Tieran wasted no time in grabbing the pot of cream and scooping a healthy dollop, then raised the hem
of her top and began spreading the cream across her lower back, rubbing the pain out with firm
The cream cooled, then began to warm, loosening the tension clenching her muscles. After five
minutes of solid rubbing, Cassandra began to relax as the pain receded bit by bit.
A relieved sigh rattled from her chest and she released the comforter she’d fisted in her hands as she’d
waited out the pain.
“Thank you,” she murmured with sincere gratitude. She was too wrung out from the pain to be angry
anymore. Besides, Tieran’s touch, even done with therapeutic intent, did funny things to her resolve.
“I miss you.” The rubbing motion stilled and she reluctantly glanced back at him, almost afraid of what
she’d see in his expression.
When he didn’t immediately respond she turned back and blinked away tears, grateful that her face
wasn’t visible. “I feel better now. You don’t have to keep rubbing.”
“How long have you suffered this pain?”
She sighed. “Not long. Only since the battle. I think the combination of multiple transformations and the
babies’ freakishly rapid growth have aggravated my sciatic nerve. Iona said it will pass as soon as I
She suppressed a shudder.
She wasn’t looking forward to that part, even if she was starting to look forward to meeting her babies.
“Tieran…do breeding females give birth in the normal way?”
“Yes. But you are the only female who has been able to transform as the males do. I cannot say if you
will be different in that aspect as well but I will ensure you have the best of care.”
She nodded and closed her eyes, saying, “I’m tired again,” so he wouldn’t see the tears threatening to
ooze down her cheeks. For every step forward they took together, they tumbled two back. She felt the
distance between them like a physical thing and not even their bond was enough to bridge the gap.
Before, even when he was determined to keep his distance, Tieran couldn’t help himself around her.
Now…he only touched her as a doctor would — efficient yet detached. She longed for the return of the
wild beast who would rip apart anyone who stood between them.
Maybe she wasn’t his True Mate. Maybe…she was just his baby mama.