Bears of Blackrock, book 4
A demon owns his soul.
Bear shifter and youngest son of the Blackrock Clan Alpha, Ryan Black, refuses to tie another to the demon who marked him. A demon who claims to be his mate. And now, staying away from the curvy beauty, Kaylee Martin, tears at his heart.
Her secret could kill her.
Kaylee has loved Ryan from the moment she met him at his sister’s café a few years ago. His boyish good looks and playful charm are only two of the reasons she’s drawn to him. But admitting her feelings for the bear would expose a secret she’s spent a lifetime protecting.
A demon with heart.
Adair doesn’t fit into the demons’ world and marking his mate, Ryan, was the only way to protect him and his family. Kidnapping Ryan’s sister to gain the bear’s attention and trick him into the mating was the biggest mistake of Adair’s life. When he sees Kaylee for the first time, he’s confused. Two mates? However, Kaylee isn’t what she pretends to be.
When demons threaten Kaylee’s life, Ryan faces tough choices. He must learn to listen to the truth and forgive Adair, because working with the demon to protect their mate sparks a desire too strong to ignore.
The females were plotting against him, or for him, which would be the same thing in his case. However, their plot wouldn’t work.
No one could free him from his mark. That was a destiny he’d have to face on his own. Like a ready-or-not kind of thing. The demon that tried to pull his strings wasn’t going to let go without a fight.
Lifting his gaze from his tablet, he watched the curvy beauty, Kaylee, smile at customers as she took the orders behind the counter of Beary Sweets Cafe. She had dimples in her cheeks and big blue eyes that appeared haunted on too many occasions. Her long brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail. A couple of strands escaped to hang on either side of her face.
Ryan fought off a groan and the need to go over and tuck the strands of hair behind her ears. And kiss her…
“Demons like to make deals. We’d have to trick him into taking one that releases Ryan from the bond.” Connie, one of his new sister-in-laws, stated across the booth from him.
Why had he agreed to go to lunch with the females? Because Nicole was pregnant and her mate wouldn’t let her out of the den unless she had a guard. And Ryan wasn’t doing anything. Little did he know it was all part of their plan.
“Forget it. None of my family or clan will go anywhere near the demon. I volunteered for the mark.” I’ll deal with the consequences. He ground his molars as the mark behind his left ear burned. Another call from Adair. The male had been summoning him off and on for months. However, that morning the bastard had called every hour at first. In the last hour, the mark had become a constant burn.
Ryan hated to be called like a slave but if he didn’t answer soon Adair would just show up.
“Because of me,” Tiffany whispered beside him.
Ryan sighed and covered her hand. His heart broke because she blamed herself for the demon mark. “You’re my baby sister. I’d do it a hundred times over to know you’re safe and now happily mated.” He released a breath and laid the tablet on the table and sat back, giving up on trying to ignore everyone around him. “Promise me, all of you, to let me handle it.”
The mark burned hotter, more intense than it ever had before. Ryan rubbed the spot and growled. Time was up. He’d avoided the demon for too long. “Look. Just promise me not to go after me or the demon.”
Tiffany let out a sigh that sounded like a soft sob. The next moment, Kaylee stopped at the table. “Another round of lattes?”
Ryan glanced up and their gazes locked for several moments. Recognition registered deep within. His bear pawed at him to reach out and touch her, taste her, claim her.
A yearning he could never act on stirred. Damn, you demon. He screamed the thought, hoping Adair would hear him.
Rising, Ryan picked up his tablet and walked to the door.
The tremble in his sister’s tone broke his heart. But what’s done was done. He sealed his fate that day he offered to take Tiffany’s place as the demon’s mate. Nothing was going to change that not even the fact Kaylee was his destined mate.
When he exited the café, Adair was leaning against his truck, waiting. Ryan let out a growl, not liking the demon so close to his family. Yet, Ryan couldn’t deny him anything. He’d like to blame it on the mark, the pact he made to keep Tiffany safe. He was in denial though. Adair was…dark, easy on the eyes, and another one of Ryan’s potential mates.
Another growl rumbled from Ryan’s chest as he stalked toward the tall, lean yet muscular male watching him with eyes the color of midnight. His hair fell over his shoulder in waves of black silk. Adair was definitely easy on the eyes and built for pleasing his lover.
Ryan didn’t like to be forced into a loveless mating.
A few feet from Adair, Ryan sensed Kaylee behind him. Turning, he locked gazes with the female as she stood outside the café door. Beside him Adair moved toward her but Ryan gripped his arm. “Leave her alone.”
Adair raised a dark brow, and one corner of his mouth curled up. “She is our mate. Do you not see it?”
Damn it. Yes, he saw it, smelled it, and felt it with every fiber of his soul. Dragging Kaylee through a mating with a demon would be selfish. She deserved better than a life in hell. “She doesn’t belong in your world.”
“Have you let her make that choice?”
In a flash, Adair teleported to Kaylee’s side. The demon locked gazes with Ryan. Fear made his heart pound like a jackhammer. No. Don’t fucking do it. Not again. The demon gripped Kaylee by the arm and with a crooked grin the bastard dematerialized. Fuck. Ryan roared, rattling the windows of the café and the surrounding shops. His bear clawed at him from within, wanting out to kick the demon’s ass.
Tiffany rushed outside, her eyes widened and face paled as she stared at the spot where Kaylee and Adair vanished. Tears filled her eyes as she turned her gaze to Ryan. His chest tightened and heart ached. Seeing his sister’s terrified features broke him. It also fueled the need to set things straight with Adair. He took Kaylee to get his attention. Like he did with Tiffany.
Rushing to his sister, Ryan framed her face in his hands. “I’ll get her back. He won’t hurt her.”
She shook her head, her eyes filled with tears. “How do you know that?”
Ryan closed his eyes briefly. He kept too many secrets from his family, yet he couldn’t share any of them until he figured out what was really going on. “Trust me, please.” When she nodded he kissed her forehead then handed her the keys to his truck. “Take the others to the den. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
He didn’t give her a chance to argue before he teleported to Adair’s home in the Ever After. Materializing in the living room, Ryan met Adair’s smug look. He growled and scanned the room. “Where’s Kaylee?”
Ryan fisted his hands and stepped closer to the demon. “I told you to leave her alone.”
“What is yours is mine.”
“That is not part of the deal.” Fury rose up. His bear roared in his head. It was hard to keep the beast inside.
Adair waved a hand in the air as if to dismiss Ryan, then turned toward the kitchen. “Things have changed.”
Bastard. The demon was insane if he thought Ryan would freely give him humans to do what he wished with. “No. You don’t get to change things. I said my family is off limits. Kaylee is on the leave the fuck alone list.”
Kaylee appeared in the opening of the hallway, arms wrapped around her stomach and her face as pale as white paint. “Ryan? I don’t feel well.”
His heart dropped to his feet as fear raced through him like a wildfire. He crossed the room with the inhuman speed he got from his bear and the connection to the demon. “What did you do to her?”
“She is sick from the teleportation.”
“And from being here.” Ryan took Kaylee by the hand and led her to the sofa.
Here was neither Earth nor Hell, but a space in between. Adair called it the Ever After, but his sister-in-law, Connie—who was a witch—called it the astral plane.
“This will ease the nausea.” Adair offered Kaylee a mug with some kind of thick liquid in it.
Ryan jumped to his feet and slapped the mug from the demon’s hand. The ceramic cup shattered on the floor, the contents spilling out. “She will not drink anything from you. I’m taking her home.”
“I wouldn’t poison our mate.”
With a growl, Ryan faced Kaylee. When he reached out to her, pain exploded in his head and his mark burned like it never had before. Falling to his knees, he held his head and tried to will away the searing fire on his neck.
Squeezing his eyes shut, he pushed the pain through the link that connected him to Adair. The mark flared again and that time it was as if someone set his whole body on fire. Fuck. Me.
Opening his eyes, he glanced to Kaylee. Her brows were drawn and angry creases formed in her forehead. She jumped up as she yelled, “Stop! You’re hurting him.”
Breathing throw the pain, Ryan pushed to his feet. He focused on Kaylee as she knelt beside him. With a cool touch of her hand on his forehead, the throbbing in Ryan’s skull eased a little.
A sigh sounded from Adair, who had sat on the sofa sipping his tea or whatever the hell he drank. “I’ve tried to get you to listen to me. Explain things.”
Another growl rumbled from Ryan. He didn’t care what Adair had to say. It wouldn’t change the fact that he kidnapped Tiffany just to gain his attention. At least that was what the demon claimed.
“Nothing you say will change how I feel about you.” Ryan edged closer to Kaylee, then wrapped his arms around her waist and teleported them out of there.
They took form in Kaylee’s living room. It was the first thing he thought of. Kaylee dug her nails into his arm. “Oh, god I’m going to be sick.”
He framed her face so she would focus on him. “Deep breaths. In one, two…out, three, four. That’s it.” He pressed his forehead to hers. “I’m so sorry. I never meant for you to get involved.”
“Don’t apologize.” Her big blue eyes sparked with a knowing he hadn’t noticed before.
With his extra senses, he picked up on something dark. Like a veil dropping away, her body vibrated with power. He stepped back, confused. “You’re part demon?”
“Half demon. The only one who knows, besides you, is Connie. She told me to never tell Tiffany. I didn’t understand why until your family talked about your mark.” She averted her gaze.
“Why do you hide it? I mean, you’ve been friends with Tiffany for years. You even mask your power.” Frowning, Ryan opened his senses, while careful to keep Adair out of his mind. Impossible to do with the bond of the mark.
His beautiful, curvy mate turned her back. A hint of fear mixed with anxiety flowed from her. He was about to demand her to explain but stopped when she spoke softly. “I can’t let anyone know who and what I am. The demons have a price on my head.”
Suspicion crawled up his spine. “Why?”
She glanced to him, her eyes shiny and the corners of her lips dipped. “I’m not supposed to exist. I’m half angel as well as half demon.”
“Does Adair know? Is that why he took you?”
She shook her and gave her back to him. He cursed, feeling like an ass. Opening his mouth to tell her he didn’t mean to offend her. That he was just trying to understand what the hell was going on.
The words never got a chance to leave his mouth. Kaylee sighed. Or was that a sob? “I don’t think so. He might have picked up on my power even though I shield it. Maybe he didn’t sense it. I don’t know.” She turned. Tears flowed down her cheeks and she started to shake. “The demons can’t know about me. They will use me…kill me for my powers.”
Unable to stand the fear in her eyes any longer, he crossed the small distance between them and pulled her into his arms. “We’ll figure this out.”
She nodded her head against his chest. They fell silent. After a long few moments, she asked, “What does Adair want with you?”
Should he tell her? Would she judge him for going along with it? Did any of it even matter anymore? After all she did just reveal her secret to him. “Adair believes I’m his mate.”
“And you don’t?”
The slight stutter in her tone drew his attention back to her face. “No. I mean…I could be attracted to him. But the way he’s gone about getting my attention was a deal breaker. He used Tiffany to get to me, because he knew I would take her place.”
Ryan sank down on the sofa and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. The mark on his neck burned again, telling him Adair was closing in. And he wasn’t happy.
Yeah, Ryan sensed the demon’s anger the moment he flashed them to her place. Damn why did he choose there of all places? He stood and grabbed her hand, “We have to go.”
When she stared at him wide-eyed and nodded like she too sensed Adair close by, he flashed them to the one place he was sure Adair couldn’t reach them—an old church he bought after being marked.
Taking form in front of the small, steepled building, he sensed Kaylee tense up beside him. She shook her head. “Why are we here?”
“I’m hoping to buy some time. Try to figure out what to do next.” Ryan linked his fingers with Kaylee’s and paced toward the entrance of the sanctuary.
A cool, gentle hand touched his arm. When he stopped and faced her, Kaylee cupped his cheek and rose on her toes. “I don’t need a protector. At least not one that wants to hide me.”
His muscles tensed and he opened his mouth to argue with her and remind her he was a bear-shifter. It was his job to protect his mate…only she couldn’t be his. Ever.
Before he got the words out, she pressed her lips to his. A fierce, primal need unraveled from deep within. He wrapped his arms around her, meshing her curves to him. Damn, she fit perfectly like his missing puzzle piece. And she tasted sweeter than his imagined. Honey and cinnamon. Holding her close, he slipped his tongue between her lips. A soft groan escaped her.
Much too soon, she broke the kiss. “I’ve wanted to do that since the first time I saw you.”
“What made you so sure I’d kiss you back?” He couldn’t help but tease her. The blush in her dimpled cheeks was his reward.
“I’ve known you for about seven years now. I’ve had some time to gather my courage.”
A chuckle rumbled out. Gazing into her dark blue eyes, he caressed her cheek with his knuckles. “He’s not going to let me out of the mating. Besides, right now he’s pretty pissed.”
Her sensual lips lifted. “He now has his sights on mating both of us.”
Ryan drew back slightly. “You know?”
“I think it has to do with the demon blood in my veins, but I know. I know you are mine. As is Adair.” Kaylee sighed and pressed a finger to his lips when he opened his mouth. “Don’t argue.”
The demand in her tone made him hard. He wondered if she’d be just as demanding in bed. Opening his lips, he drew her finger inside. She gasped and pulled it away, which made him chuckle. “Here I thought you were timid.”
She narrowed her eyes. “I don’t have a timid bone in my body.”
“I don’t want you anywhere near Adair.” A growl tore from his chest.
She pursed her lips and stared at him for several long moments. “And you don’t get to make that choice for me. I’m part demon. Yes, Adair needs to work on his people skills and we will work on those. But I do know one thing that Adair might not.”
The shy smile returned before she answered. “Demons become more human when they fall in love.”
Confusion made Ryan draw back and study her features. “So mating for a demon isn’t out of love?”
“No. It’s more for status. However, for some reason Adair wants you, which will do nothing but get him kicked out of hell.” She scanned the room then fixed her attention on the door. “You do know that most demons can still enter a church?”
They can? “Adair can’t.”
She lifted her gaze and locked it with his. “You sure?”
Ryan shrugged, took her hand, and tugged her close. “He doesn’t go inside when he tracks me here. He stands outside and yells at me. Then uses the mark to make me come out.”
Kaylee pursed her lips. “Control thing. He’s playing with you. Demons are turned on by power plays. That will need to stop. We need to confront him and find out what he gains from mating us.”
Ryan didn’t like that she put herself in the mating but something told him not to argue. Frowning at her, he asked, “How do we do that?”
“We set the rules. If he truly believes we are his mates, then he’ll abide by them.”
Ryan wasn’t so sure he liked where this was going. He crossed his arms. “What if he doesn’t?”
Kaylee smiled. “Then he is lying and is fucking with you for personal gain. If that is the case we’ll find a way to kill him.”
His female was hot when she set a plan in place. But still. “How are you so sure?”
She rolled her eyes. “My dad is a demon. He told me when a demon falls in love he becomes more human. Just as he did when he met my mom. They now live here in the human world.”
Shaking his head, he still didn’t like her around Adair or plotting against him. It was too dangerous, too risky. Yet, the determination in her eyes hit him in the chest. He couldn’t tell her no. Only support her decision and protect her.
After several moments she tugged his arms, unfolding them so she could link her fingers with his. “I’m not letting you go no more than you want to let me go.”
His lips twitched. God, she was beautiful. “What kind of rules do we set for a demon?