After being shown the LIA headquarters, he still couldn’t remember his identity as Commander Steele. Yet, everyone treated him with great respect. After Rylee, he had the highest rank, and being the king’s brother gave him additional status. Did that mean next in line to the lycan throne? I wouldn’t know what the hell to do. He regarded the head of security, Trevor. So familiar. Had he gone fishing with Trevor? The memory was fleeting. Odd, he remembered him and not Rylee. Interesting, he felt comfortable with the computer stations and the workings of their special unit. He understood all military protocol. Selective memory.
They entered the lycan hospital adjoining the research center.
Lev smiled with great pride. “My mate, Rachel, is a doctor here.”
He paused. “Odd, I feel like I knew that.”
Rylee lifted her brow. “This way. We have a room ready for you.”
His pulse quickened. “What?” Research facility room meant trouble. Torture.
“Don’t worry. We have a comfortable place for you to undergo wolf hypnotherapy.”
“Steele, you are important to us. We need you back as soon as possible.”
“Very well.” He’d go along for now. Being compliant would make it easier for him and Gaby to sneak off. He followed them into a hospital room that looked more like a hotel suite. Illuminated in blue light, calming the beast inside.
A woman stood in the shadows as they came in. The wolf shaman.
Rylee turned to him. “You may remember Lunara.”
The woman with the black hair and silver streaks bowed to her and then to him. “A pleasure, Prince Steele.” She bowed. “I was pleased to learn you had not crossed the veil.”
He sniffed. She smelled of herbs, especially, mugwort. Part of him wanted to snarl at her for ratting Gaby’s secret out, but how could he? The beta had warm amber eyes and a genuine smile. I keep my emotions in control. “We met in my dreams, but I have a feeling we’ve met in person before.”
“I apologize for invading your privacy. Rylee never believed you died. She convinced me to dream walk. It was the only way to find out if you were still part of the living.”
“Does my brother, King Conan, know I’m alive?”
Rylee nodded. “Lunara called him yesterday to tell him, but she explained you suffer from temporary amnesia. Once you regain your memory, he wants to see you.” She sighed. “Furthermore, as soon as you recover your memory, your brother demands you sever ties with Team Greywolf.”
He cocked his head. “To live in his castle?” Not if it meant without Gaby.
Lunara nodded. “Yes, as viceroy.”
“As viceroy, you would represent the king throughout North America and on visits to the European packs,” explained Lunara. “Royal duties.”
“Whether you stay on the team or serve the king is your decision,” said Rylee adamantly. Obviously, from her demeanor, she wanted him to stay.
Steele understood his brother would never accept his human wife or mate, but if Rylee did, he’d stay with Team Greywolf. He narrowed his gaze at Lunara. “What did you tell him about Gaby?”
Lunara looked at Rylee who nodded. “I only told him you are alive. Nothing more.”
Rylee turned to Lunara. “Good, I prefer you don’t say anything to anyone, especially the king, about Gaby’s special talent.”
Lunara cocked her head. “What about the lycan council?”
“No one. Not until I have Jesper analyze our old edicts.”
“I shall comply,” said Lunara.
“No disrespect, Lunara, but how can we trust you?”
Lunara flinched as if insulted. “My duty is to the council, yes, but I would not say anything that caused a woman’s death.”
He wanted to snap, Gaby’s death meant her death, but held back. “Most generous, but why?”
“I was raised by a human shaman who found me as a pup. My brother allowed it, since our parents were killed. When an adult wolf, he returned and bit me to initiate the change. My human mother helped me survive the change.” She blinked back tears. “My love for humans is equally as strong as my love for my pack brethren.”
He relaxed. Maybe Rylee would protect Gaby from the so-called law, yet, he had to ask. “I’m happy you are willing to keep her talent a secret, but why?”
Rylee smiled. “Gaby will be valuable in providing us with useful intelligence about the black projects. She may even help find Project Sabertooth’s new whereabouts.”
His heart drummed. What the hell did that mean? Gaby wished to lead a normal life. “I won’t allow her to risk her life.”
Rylee retorted, “Trust me, if she ventured out of our headquarters, our team would protect her.”
A lycan walked in. “Prince Steele.” He bowed low and then slowly straightened. “Do you remember me?”
“You smell familiar, but no, I don’t.”
“I’m Doctor Mark. I’ll monitor your vitals during your session.”
He suppressed a growl. “I’m not going under.”
“You are not. However, the drug you took, which I recommended against, might physiologically stress you. You might suffer phase trauma and wake up as a wolf with no memory of being human.”
Wolf lobotomy. “And if that happens?”
“I have something to counter the effect.”
“As long as I can walk in your dreams, I promise you will not lose your human or wolf,” reassured Lunara.
Because of the wolf shaman’s confession about being raised by a human, she earned his trust.
Rylee pointed to the large ottoman. “Lev will compel you to remember. Just understand it might cause confusion and not immediately return your entire memory.”
Steele smirked at Lev. “So your powers are not that great after all, eh?” He lay on the sofa.
“I’m good, but the drug you took makes it more challenging.” He chuckled. “If I fail, I’ll let you have my best bottle of vodka.”
“I’ll remember that.”
Lunara sat next to Lev. “Lev will put you in a dream state and awaken your most recent memories. Once you’re ready, I’ll guide you on a dream walk.” She smiled. “Think of it as a two hour movie.”
“Funny, you didn’t do that while I was on the run.”
“To protect Gaby, you fought talking to me.”
Steele turned to Rylee. “I’m concerned about my wife.”
“Gaby agreed to sign the non-disclosure contract. I assure you she won’t be harmed.”
“What if others outside your pack find out she’s a wolf-segen?”
“I’ll make sure our ancient law is amended.”
He sighed. “All that matters is my mate’s safety.”
Rylee shot him a cold stare. “Steele, you have forgotten our culture and status protocols concerning mating.”
He scowled. “Understood.” He didn’t want to push his right to choose his mate, regardless of whether or not she was human. Not after she promised to keep Gaby safe. If the only way to keep her at his side was as a pet, so be it. Until they could get the hell out of here.
Lunara smiled. “Once Lev snaps you out of the mind wipe, I’ll guide your spirit from your birth onward.”
“Okay, Lev, begin,” said Rylee.
He narrowed his eyes at the big Russian. “If you compel me to forget Gaby, I’ll fight it for sure.”
“Not to worry,” said Lev. “I cannot do so, at least, not permanently. First, we will regress to days before your mission.”
“Let’s do it.”
“Look into my eyes,” said Lev.
He met Lev’s glowing blue eyes. Mesmerizing.
“Close your eyes. Prince Steele, see yourself before your last mission.”
He shut his eyes. “My home. I packed and went to see…my brother…the king.”
“Go back to before you packed, what or who do you see?”
He walked to the research facility with the head of security and his friend. “Trevor patted me on the back. Then I came here to Dr. Becker’s office.”
Steele slipped back in time.
Dressed in Team Greywolf’s uniform, Steele entered Dr. Becker’s office. “I decided to take the potion with me.”
The human doctor with graying hair gestured him to sit. “Are you sure? The drug has only been tested a few times.”
“Yes, I know. Dr. Mark warned me, I may never return to my old self.”
“Do you really want to risk remaining a wolf forever?”
“If I’m captured, I don’t want to reveal our kind’s existence.” If the enemy kept him locked up for more than three or four days, he’d shift, exposing the world to his secret.
“Yes, sir.” Becker took out a small box, opened it and retrieved a fake tooth. “It is contained inside the molar. You press back with your thumb to trigger the release then bite down. It can only release while in human form. You have ten minutes or less to hide and go wolf.”
“Trust me, it won’t come to that. I’ll only use it if there is no other option.”
“In the event you use the drug, it might take up as much as three months to return from wolf to human. Worse, you will have no memory of your human life while a wolf.” He sighed. “Humans are more likely to kill a wolf than a human.”
“If the king learns you might take the experimental drug, he’d have not only my head but Rylee’s as well.”
“Better than betraying my kind the way my father did. I’m sure Conan would be dethroned.”
“Just return in one piece and, hopefully, without resorting to the drug.” Dr. Becker smiled. “I heard you chose a mate.”
Steele rolled his eyes. “You mean Princess Kiara?”
“She must be spreading rumors everywhere.”
Becker frowned. “You mean it’s not true?”
“I only agreed to date her and that was only to please my brother. Nothing more.” He frowned. “Who told you?”
“Dr. Mark mentioned it was a done deal. He is her physician and she met with him recently for a physical.”
I bet she did. Probably wanted to know the estimated time of her wolf heat. “The princess is haughty and unkind.” Bitch wasn’t necessarily a bad term in their society, but if she were human it described her.
“Sorry for jumping to the wrong conclusion.”
“No worries. Kiara wishes to land a royal prince and who better than the king’s brother?”
“I feel for you with all the pressure to take a mate. Although, I can’t really be Selene’s accepted mate, we love each other and, to be honest, don’t give a crap what others think.”
“I admire that, but don’t take this the wrong way. Humans can never be our mates.” The one belief he and his brother, the king, shared.
Becker reddened. “Lev, my son in-law, didn’t care when Rachel was human, but at least now that she’s lycan, it makes their life less complicated.”
“I’m sorry, I must seem rude. What I meant is when it comes to mating I’m conservative.”
“I just want to love my mate rather than take the vow for political reasons.”
Becker nodded. “We have that in common.”
Steele left to see his brother before departing on his mission. No doubt, he’d press him again about how wonderful it would be for their family to marry the proper and rich royal, Kiara. After that, he’d continue on his mission.
His head ached and he moaned. What did I do? “I remember.”
Lev’s low voice remained calm. “Tell me, who are you?”
A snapshot of boarding a black helicopter dressed as a Navy Seal flashed before him. “I’m Commander Steele, second alpha commander of Team Greywolf. Royal prince of the realm.”
“And what of the man named Kane?”
His face heated. “She named me.”
“Gaby, the woman who helped me escape.”
Mine. Steele rubbed a hand through his hair. “I broke lycan law and took a human as a mate. Yet, I’m so…confused.” He meant to say he loved Gaby, but his older memories of despising lycans who took humans as lovers filtered through his new memories of loving Gaby. He desired her since first seeing her. Her sweet alluring scent. Their lovemaking. Their vows. Their dreams. He had two inner wolves, each ready to battle. One to keep her; the other to turn his back on her.
Lev snorted. “You were angry at me for taking a human as a mate, but changed your tune when I accidently made her a werewolf.”
Steele growled. “Humans are inferior.”
Rylee’s voice cut in. “Those are the king’s words, not yours.”
Steele groaned. “No.” They are my words…were my words.
Dr. Mark leaned in. “How do you feel?”
“My head hurts.” Or rather my heart.
“Are you well enough to allow Lunara to dream walk with you?”
He drew in a long breath and the pain lightened. What would be the point of postponing his regression? Might as well get it over with. “Yes.”
Lev nodded. “You will go into a deep sleep.”
“Gaby…what have I…”
“Don’t worry, comrade, she is safe. Close your eyes and breathe slowly with me.”
Before he finished, he drifted into a deep sleep. In the forest, alone, with Lunara. Back to his den. As a pup. To the beginning.
Gaby held her breath as Cricket opened the apartment door. She had hoped it was Steele, but Rylee, two other men, and Rachel walked in.
Rylee nodded at Cricket. “We are ready. Check on her in the morning.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She gave Gaby a thumbs up and left.
Gaby’s pulse raced. She glanced at the clock, exactly nine p.m. Time for signing the non-disclosure in front of the witnesses and the blood marking or rather, maiming.
Rylee took Gaby by the arm. “Relax, it’s not as bad as you think.” She furrowed her brow. “Unless you changed your mind?”
“No. I just thought…Steele would be here…as a witness.” At least Cricket had hinted.
“I’m sorry. I thought he’d be here as well. With his memory back, he’s a bit confused.”
You mean conflicted. Gaby swallowed. “Confused? About me or about his old identity?”
“There will be an adjustment period. He might need time to sort out his new memories and see how they coincide with his old ones.”
Did he regret marrying her? Cricket explained the entire human and werewolf relationship taboo. Likely, the only way they could continue their relationship was if she remained his pet. One that didn’t involve marriage or the mating bond. Maybe, he remembered another beloved. Not necessarily the princess. “Is it too late to compel me to forget instead?”
“Lev could compel you to forget.” Rylee frowned and turned to Rachel. “What do you think, Doc? Should I call Lev?”
“If you don’t mind, ma’am, I’d like to talk to Gaby privately.”
“Very well. Go in the bedroom, we’ll wait,” said Rylee.
“Thank you. We’ll be back shortly.”
Gaby followed Rachel into the bedroom and closed the door. “Won’t be private since they can hear us,” she scoffed.
“True enough, but with all eyes on you, they can be intimidating.” Rachel smiled. “However, let’s make this conversation really private.” She picked up a remote and pressed a button. “Okay, now they can’t hear us.”
“What did you do?”
“Latest lycan tech. This device emits a sound frequency that acts as a wall to prevent them from eavesdropping.”
“So what do you want to tell me?”
“I know our mating no longer makes a difference, since I’m full werewolf now, but Lev never gave a damn if I remained human. We loved each other despite our species differences. I believe you still have and will always have Steele’s heart.”
“You’re telling me not to forget him.”
“I appreciate your advice, but Lev is not a prince, and certainly not the king’s brother.”
“Point taken. However, once a wolf claims you there is no turning back.”
“The best I can hope for is to be his personal pet with little to no rights.”
“Not necessarily true. My father technically belongs to Selene, but you would never know it.”
“You think I should risk my heart?”
“Humans still risk their hearts during break ups and divorce. Worst case scenario, once you vow to keep our society a secret, you can leave if things don’t work out.”
“I suppose.” But where? And could she hide from Tomlin?
“Do you really want to forget you love Steele?”
Maybe she should give him the benefit of the doubt. Just because he recalled his identity didn’t mean he forgot his new memories with her. No matter how small the odds of being together were, she’d risk her heart. Tears welled. “No. I would hate to forget him.” She wiped away a tear. “I’ll take the vow.”
Rachel hugged her. “Come.”
They returned and Rylee gestured her to sit next to her. “I understand Cricket reviewed this contract with you earlier?”
“Yes. Trust me. I don’t have family or friends to blab about your society. I kept the facility I worked for a secret so I’m well aware of the consequences of being a whistleblower.”
“Good, let’s begin.” Rylee handed her a pen. “Initial all the spots with the post-its and we will sign when you finish.”
Gaby went through the massive contract, page by page. Immediate execution after each breach of contract statement sent chills up her spine. She flicked her wrist to take out the kinks. “Boy nothing is left out.”
Rylee smiled. “We leave nothing to chance.”
Finally, the last page, which required her full signature and those of the witnesses. As she signed it, someone pounded on the door.
Rylee stood and opened it. “Prince Steele.”
“I wish to act as Gaby’s witness and her blood protector.”
Gaby gaped. What the heck was a blood protector? As long as it’s him, who cared?
Rylee chuckled. “Thought you might show up.” She turned to Trevor. “You may go.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Trevor left.
Steele didn’t make eye contact with Gaby. He kept his head bowed toward Rylee. His demeanor had changed. He no longer had the twinkling eyes and amused look on his face. Or was he doing his best to follow strict status protocol?
Gaby braved a smile. “I’m happy you came.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “Have you signed the contract?”
“I just have one more signature.”
She did as instructed and then passed the contract around for the witnesses to sign. Rylee gave it to Steele. He leafed through it, making sure everything was in order and then added his signature. Rylee picked up the binder and addressed Gaby. “Are you ready to be marked, forever bound to our sacred lycan society?”
Gaby swallowed. “Yes.”
Rylee turned to Rachel. “Prep her for marking.”
Rachel smiled at Gaby. “Come. I’ll sanitize your arm.”
She followed the doctor to the bar of the kitchen and allowed her to clean her arm with some sort of light yellow solution.
“Gaby is ready.”
They surrounded her. Her pulse quickened. She’d fallen deep into the rabbit hole. Not that she’d led a normal life prior to Steele, but now a sense of being trapped engulfed her soul.
“Humans have a choice on their personal pack leader. You may belong to me or to Prince Steele. Who do you choose?”
I’m not going to be anybody’s pet, but better I choose correctly until they figure things out. She cocked her head toward her husband. “Prince Steele, but only if he wishes to keep me.”
Steele’s voice softened. “Of course, I do.”
She quirked an eyebrow and smiled. That’s all she needed. He remembered he still loved her.
Steele took her arm and extended it over a towel. “Close your eyes and take deep breaths.”
She squeezed her eyes shut and as she breathed out, the first claw slashed her arm. She screamed. The next one followed and then the last. Just as the blinding pain nearly knocked her out, Steele took her into his arms and gently bit her neck. Time slowed. Euphoria took over.