Untamed Delights Page 1

CHAPTER ONE

 

She could just see the headline now . . . WOMAN ARRESTED AFTER STABBING BROTHER TO DEATH WITH PITCHFORK.

Cursing under her breath, Mila Devereaux tossed her lip gloss on the dresser and sank into her seat. In the well-lit mirror of the chic greenroom backstage, she could see that her eyes were hard, her mouth had flattened, and her cheeks were flushed. It wasn’t the first time that Alex had put that sour look on her face.

Grip tightening on her cell phone, she asked, “How can nobody know where he is, Mom?”

Fond of roaming, Alex often dropped off the radar for months while he went traveling, so it was no big deal that he wasn’t answering his phone or checking his messages. But there was usually somebody who had, at the very least, a vague idea of where he could be. Not this time, which was bad because Mila had a couple of questions for him. Like why would a bunch of brutes wait for her outside her apartment building, convinced that Alex was her roommate, and demand to see him?

“I do not know,” replied Valentina in her thick Russian accent. “But I do not think he is on run. He would not have left if he thought humans would bring trouble to your door.”

Mila had to agree with that. Alex was as protective of her as she was of him, despite their trying to kill each other more than once as kids. And no, she wasn’t kidding.

“What exactly did those men say to you?”

“Not much. Just that Alex had pissed off someone who he never should have fucked with.” Mila rubbed at her forehead. “Why couldn’t you have given me a nice brother? One who doesn’t piss off thugs, gamble like it’s his job, or blab his sister’s secrets?” If you couldn’t trust your twin with a secret, who could you trust?

“Alex did not want to tell me about your plans to move to Russia,” said Valentina. “He fought the truth serum hard. You would have been proud.”

Mila pinched the bridge of her nose. “You know, Mom, I’m sure there’s a law somewhere against giving your children truth serum.”

“Bah,” Valentina scoffed. “My mother gave it to me and your uncles all the time when we were younger—it did us no harm. It is useful when dealing with wolverines. They lie with skill.”

The latter was true. Although Mila and Alex were twins, they weren’t the same breed of shifter. She was a pallas cat like their father; he was a wolverine like their mother. Pallas cats were vicious, unpredictable, and carried bags of attitude. But compared to wolverines, they were positively saintly.

Wolverines were adept thieves, natural-born liars, considered gambling a hobby, and would brawl with their own mother just because. Fearless and cunning, they were also well known for their berserk rages and win-or-die mentality. That meant they’d attack anything, never back down, and wouldn’t stop fighting until someone was dead. Hence the all-important rule for dealing with wolverines: don’t deal with wolverines.

“You should have told me about these plans yourself, Mila,” Valentina admonished. “I knew you and Alex were keeping something from me, but I had not imagined this. It hurts my heart to know you are in such pain that you would leave your home.”

Mila swallowed. “I dealt with my pain, but my cat can’t deal with hers.”

“Well, of course you dealt with it. You are not only a Devereaux, you have Ivanov blood—that makes you strong. Tough. But pallas cats do not forgive easily—your feline needs more time. Come to me tonight. I will cook. We will talk.”

“Can’t. I’m working at the club tonight.” Turning away from the mirror, Mila allowed her eyes to drift across the framed and hung portraits and posters of various artists and bands who’d performed at the shifter club in which she sat. Located underground, the Velvet Lounge looked more like a large train tunnel with its red brick walls. It belonged to the Mercury Pack, with which Mila’s Alpha had formed an alliance after fighting alongside them to defend a mutual friend. Madisyn Drake had been a lone pallas cat shifter until she mated a rather ruthless Mercury Pack enforcer.

Mila had been visiting her maternal family in Russia at the time, so she hadn’t been part of the battle. Which was a shame, really, because she did love a good fight.

Mila didn’t need to work at the club, considering she had a job at a barbershop. But she loved to perform, always had.

“Then come see me tomorrow,” Valentina urged. “I understand why you have not told Joel the truth, but he has right to know and decide for himself if—”

“No,” Mila clipped. “He’s happy. I won’t do anything to change that.” Joel was a great guy. Smart. Strong. Reliable.

He was also Mila’s true mate.

She’d known it the second she’d inhaled his scent when her cousin Adele first brought him to meet their pride a year ago. Every shifter dreamed of that moment when they found their true mate. Mila had envisioned several different scenarios, but never one in which he was partially imprinted on another female.

Every vision she’d ever had of her future with her true mate died right there on the spot. Just evaporated like smoke. Seeing him so devoted to Adele, something in Mila simply . . . went. And, God, she’d hated him.

He hadn’t sensed that they were mates—most likely because he’d been partially imprinted on Adele at the time. Thankfully, Adele had joined his Canadian pride, which meant that Mila hadn’t been forced to watch the couple grow closer and closer until, finally, their bond formed fully.

It had also given Mila the space to come to terms with the fact that she’d never have her true mate. It had been a lot like grieving. He wasn’t dead, but Mila had had to mourn what she’d never have. So there had been shock. Anger. Numbness. Depression. And, eventually, acceptance. The hate had fizzled away, because she couldn’t truly begrudge him happiness.

Her cat, however, still struggled to find peace. The way the feline saw it, their mate had chosen another female over them. It was the ultimate betrayal. He hadn’t sensed they were mates, true, but her cat—too elemental in her way of thinking—didn’t believe that excused any of his actions. And when he and Adele transferred to Mila’s pride a month ago, her cat lost her mind. The feline didn’t want this male who had betrayed her, but neither did she want to see him with another.

What made it harder was that Joel sought Mila out. Liked to talk to her. Liked to hear her thoughts on things.

Of course, he didn’t know why he was subconsciously driven to seek Mila out, and she had no intention of telling him and fucking with his head. Still, even though she’d made her peace with the situation, it wasn’t easy to see him committed to another female. And she knew she’d find it hard to watch him and Adele start a family—something the couple were eager to do.

“Choosing you over Adele would save him pain in long run,” said Valentina. “She is weak. You know how I despise weakness.”

Mila sighed. “Adele is sweet and kind.”

“Yes, weak.”

“Well, Joel loves her.” There would be no point in Mila trying to win him anyway. For one thing, her cat would never accept him. For another, Mila couldn’t take him as her mate. Not after seeing how crazy he was about Adele. Not after knowing he’d already formed a bond with someone else. If he were to leave Adele for her, Mila would feel second best, and the true-mate bond wouldn’t feel as special as it should.

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