The Pride of Savage Valley, Colorado 3

Hidden Pride
After her boss’s sexual advances finally become too much, Anya
Copely quits her job as an assistant skating coach. She runs to her
father’s hometown of Savage Valley, Colorado, and takes a job at
her aunt and uncle’s singles resort, the Woodland Den.

When Anya stops at the Ninth Time, the town’s secondhand shop,
owner and mountain lion-shifter Clayton Abbott instantly realizes
that she is his mate. Despite being thirteen years her elder, he
sets out to woo Anya, and his enigmatic younger brother Jack falls
for her as well.

However, nothing goes as planned in Savage Valley. Corporate
giant Ulysses Norman deploys a scheme to seize the Ninth Time’s
prime real estate by sending his mistress to seduce Clayton and
Jack, but when she recognizes Anya, his mistress goes rogue. Can
Jack and Clayton claim their mate before a shadow from Anya’s
past takes her away from them forever?

Genre: Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Paranormal, Shape-shifter
Length: 49,708 words


The Pride of Savage Valley, Colorado 3

Helena Ray


Siren Publishing, Inc.

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in whole or in part. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. Inc.A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK IMPRINT: Ménage Everlasting HIDDEN PRIDE Copyright © 2012 by Helena Ray E-book ISBN: 1-61926-144-8 First E-book Publication: January 2012 Cover design by Les Byerley All art and logo copyright © 2012 by Siren . without express written permission. PUBLISHER Siren Publishing. Inc. All characters and events in this book are fictitious. including electronic or photographic reproduction. www. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means.

thank you for not sharing your copy of this book. or any kind of rights to sell or to give away a copy of this book. sharing www. Letter to Readers Dear or its official distributors. auction rights. Also. Regarding E-book Piracy This book is copyrighted intellectual property. Amanda Hilton. This is Helena Ray’s livelihood. No other individual or group has resale . It’s fair and simple. thank you. Ray’s right to earn a living from her work. Publisher www. The author and the publisher work very hard to bring our paying readers high-quality reading entertainment.BookStrand. Please respect Ms.SirenPublishing. membership rights. If you have purchased this copy of Hidden Pride by Helena Ray from BookStrand.

They don’t make words to express how much you mean to me. and understood me like no one else. . And to Justin.m. for. For a decade. well. DEDICATION To AM. the only man I’d let wake me up at 3 a. you have inspired me. anything. entertained me.

Through all the drama and breaking up with Paul. only intensifying the din of the American crowd’s cheers. “The landing on the quad toe was perfect!” Kenny returned her hug and kissed her on both cheeks. Kenneth Whipple!” the announcer called. Colorado 3 HELENA RAY Copyright © 2012 Prologue The skater on the ice hit the final pose of his long program. The man’s fingers wrapped around her upper arm. “I couldn’t have done it without you. You’re not getting any grade of execution points for that. HIDDEN PRIDE The Pride of Savage Valley. “And .” Anya gave him a final kiss on the cheek before releasing him. As soon as he reached the boards. “Whatever. and Anya Copely erupted into applause along with the rest of the audience. Those were hours and hours on the ice paying off. clapping her hands. Anya jumped up and down. Kenny looked around. “Kenny! That was incredible. you’ve been my rock. “Representing the United States of America. embracing him even before he could put on his skate guards. squeezing so hard she winced in pain. Anya.” The harsh voice behind Anya made every muscle in her body tense up. dumbfounded as a sea of roses and stuffed bears fell around him.” she exclaimed as she wrapped her arms around his neck.” “The choreographed step sequence was sloppy.

Hidden Pride 9

what was that little display from you?” he said in a harsh whisper
against the side of her face, his putrid breath invading her nostrils.
“He’s not your boyfriend. This is being filmed for international
television, remember? If you jump all over him like that, people are
going to think I employ some sort of cheap slut.”
The words were on the tip of Anya’s tongue to remind him that
Kenny was most certainly not interested in anything female, but his
hand squeezed tighter, nearly drawing tears from her eyes. A camera
then turned in their direction, and he released her, smiling and patting
Kenny on the back as their image was displayed on the arena’s
JumboTron with the caption Coach: Christopher Birkhead.
He waved to the camera, feigning an entirely believable look of
humility as he ushered Kenny to the kiss-and-cry area. As soon as an
image of the judging panel flashed on the screen, Christopher
stomped off the carpeted platform and back to Anya. He clenched his
fist around her upper arm again and lowered his face to hers. A cold
droplet of moisture rolled off his nose and onto her face as darkness
flashed in his eyes.
“You’re mine. Whether or not you like it, you belong to me.”
Anya tried to escape from his grasp, but he only put his hand on her
back and forced her closer to him. “If I ever, ever, see you touching
another man like that—”
“The scores for Kenneth Whipple, please.” Christopher released
her the instant the announcer’s voice echoed through the arena. He sat
next to Kenny on the bench in the kiss-and-cry and rubbed the
skater’s shoulders as if he actually cared anything at all about his
student. Kenny leaned forward so that he could see around his coach
and mouthed, “I’m sorry.” Anya shrugged her shoulders, once more
feeling utterly powerless.
With an Olympic figure skater turned choreographer for a mother
and a professional hockey player for a father, Anya had grown up on
and around the ice. Her long limbs made her too much of a klutz for
skating, though, and her pacifist nature took her out of the running for

10 Helena Ray

hockey. Instead, she had accompanied her mother to the rink,
watching every skater and learning what separated the average
competitors from the Olympians. By the time she graduated high
school, she had become a valuable coach’s assistant. When her
parents ceased their jet-setting lifestyle and moved to Colorado
Springs in order to be closer to her father’s home in rural
northwestern Colorado, Anya landed the coveted position of assistant
to Christopher Birkhead, coach of six national champions, two world
champions, and an Olympic medalist. Her new job was the
culmination of everything she had worked for.
What she didn’t anticipate, though, was that working for
Christopher would be a nightmare. Day in and day out, Anya watched
him put his students through brutal training regimens that inevitably
caused stress injuries in almost all of them. And then came his
advances. He pursued her sexually with a single-mindedness that
frightened Anya. She tried complaining to the rink staff and to the
skating club, but no one dared cross him. When he groped her openly
at the national championships, she had lodged a formal complaint
with the sport’s national governing body. Even they only gave him a
slap on the wrist, a nominal fine that showed exactly how much
influence he had in the world of American skating.
It had improved after the national championships two years
earlier, but things had been getting progressively worse, especially
when Anya’s best friend and Christopher’s prize pupil Kenny began
garnering serious international attention. Fantasies of leaving
Christopher played through her mind on a regular basis, but he had
threatened to ruin her reputation amongst the skating community.
What else could she do? She had foregone college in order to pursue a
coaching career. There was always the possibility of joining her
parents in Russia, where they had moved to start a training camp in
her mother’s native Saint Petersburg. Although Anya spoke fluent
Russian, she had never felt at home in that culture.

Hidden Pride 11

All this ran through her head in the moment of silence before
Kenny’s scores were announced. The numbers then flashed on the
screen, and for a few beats, the crowd remained silent as the numbers
sank in. A deafening cry echoed through the arena as the caption
underneath a crying Kenny read Free skating score – 182.37, flashed
again, and then read Overall placement – 1st. He dropped his head to
his hands, obviously overcome with emotion at receiving the highest
score of his skating career.
Anya desperately wished she could be happy for him, but an
overwhelming feeling of helplessness flooded over her. There was no
way out, and Christopher’s forceful advances would only progress
along with Kenny’s career. Twenty-three was far too young to be this
miserable. She took a sharp intake of breath as an idea broke through
the numbness that had taken hold of her mind.
True, she had only been formally employed in the skating world,
but she remembered a time before her reality had become more like a
Lifetime original movie. Her summers as a young teenager had been
spent working at her aunt and uncle’s guest lodge in Savage Valley,
Colorado. She had been so happy, even at age thirteen, helping with
guest bookings and guest activities, and even preparing the rooms. It
had been ten years since she spent more than a day or two in Savage
Valley, but she still missed the small town and its eclectic population.
Maybe she could go back.
“Coach Birkhead! Kenny!”
Cameramen ran past her, trying to get an interview with her
employer and best friend. God, she’d miss Kenny and everyone at the
rink, but she needed to get away from that monster. She needed to
remember what it felt like not to live every day in fear. She needed a
Christopher shoved a cameraman to the side as he made a beeline
for Anya. Before he could reach her though, she began shaking her

12 Helena Ray “What are you doing? Why aren’t you handling the media? Kenny needs to get back to the ice to start preparing for his next event. that wasn’t what happened. and what she needed wasn’t here. .” The truth of those words stung. No. “You can’t quit. but I. “Yes. Still. and I’m quitting right now.” Anya couldn’t believe she’d spoken the words.” With a deep breath. she regretfully pulled off the Team USA jacket she wore and handed it to him.” She turned and walked toward the skaters’ exit. a weight began lifting from her heart. she thought to herself. Quit. “You’ll be ruined without me. It was in Savage Valley.” “You’ll never work in skating again. I can quit. but as soon as she had.” “I quit. and tears accumulated at the corners of her eyes.” he bit out through a forced smile to one of the cameras behind her. What did I do? I just threw away everything I’ve worked for. “I know. She was finally putting her needs in front of everyone else’s.

the godlike perspective justified withstanding the cold and the resulting partial shift. But from where he stood at the highest point in the Mukua range of the Rocky Mountains at the western edge of Savage Valley. He couldn’t help the sensation of omnipotence that rippled through him as he surveyed the land from the crumbling stillhouse in the northwestern corner. Almost time for him to shift back into lion form. He looked over the town and saw the outline of tiny figures spilling from the strip of buildings on Main Street that held his own shop. . It was only early November.m. to Brown Trout Lake in the far southeastern corner. Being programmed to shift in below-freezing temperatures had its drawbacks.Hidden Pride 13 Chapter 1 Two weeks later… “Damn it! Not again. he grasped the wooden railing of the outlook and climbed on top of it. With a start. promising a long and frigid winter. He glanced at his cheap watch. clearing the coast for Jack to take his position behind the counter at the shop again. However. The diner’s lunch rush would be dying down. across the small Shoshone reservation and the town center. Balancing in the wind with his arms widespread. Jack could see the whole town sprawled out in front of him. the Ninth Time. 1:30 p. and already the rooftops were dusted with a thin layer of snow. shredding the fabric of yet another coat. along with the Savage Herald and Savage Hunger.” Jack Abbott’s claws protruded as he hugged his coat tighter around him as he took in the view from Adam’s Point.

he lay down on the branch. and opened his mind. A deep breath told him the coast was clear. Jack treaded silently to the edge of the outlook. catching the wind that seemed to intensify in that moment. Reprieves from the telepathic chatter of the pride were few and far between. landing on all four paws at once. His skin tingled beneath his fur as each hair stood on end. each of his four paws soundless as he started down the mountain. turning into a tightening and burning that engulfed his entire awareness. He cocked his head and nosed a branch out of the way. He closed his eyes. he leapt onto the low-hanging branch of a Douglas fir. Possession. Instead. his hearing superhuman. Never had he wanted anything so badly as to find the owner of that heavenly scent. and soon only a pile of clothes testified to the fact that any human man had balanced on the thin railing. his vision flawless. Everything was in sharper focus in his lion form. listening for his brother to join him in shifted form. The cold sting of snow beneath his paws centered Jack.14 Helena Ray he reveled in the utter solitude. He jumped to a lower branch. pulling his consciousness toward that of the animal. Tired from his run up to Adam’s Point. dangling one paw off the side. the creature that held his attention in the palm of its hand. an agreement he’d struck in exchange for letting the staff of the Woodland Den have first dibs on new items at the Ninth Time. Cora would be up soon to collect his clothing and leave the crumpled garments in the designated tree stump near the top of the mountain. and he could feel his coat bunching at the back of his neck. His senses opened in preparation for the sign. . He allowed his basest instinct to take over and crawled through the woods to avoid anyone that may have wandered through on their way to Adam’s Point or the Woodland Den. and with one smooth motion. one of the few moments of peace Jack ever got. The sweet aroma filled his nostrils. the signal it was time for Jack to man the store. closer to the ground and the source of that aroma. and his sense of smell— Each muscle in his body tensed up.

she turned to him. What held his leonine attention was the long. allowing him to skulk closer to her and— “Go’ainoo-doyadukubichi’. Her skin was milky white. With slow movements. flushed from the cold and utterly exquisite in her beauty. away from the paragon of flush.Hidden Pride 15 What he saw electrified his awareness even further. He could almost feel the skin of her neck underneath his teeth. graceful neck that he could glimpse through the curtain of dark hair and from underneath the deep-red scarf she wore. All parts of him. with his cock. But his admiration of those features was only an echo of his human mind. human and lion. even in his retreat. the color of the snow tinged with a pink glow. Her hips flared out from a trim waist and led up to what Jack could tell even through her coat were supple. feel how it would tighten before giving way to his canines. or with his teeth. All the tension in Jack released at that moment. The power of the image took hold of him. **** . shapely leg extended as her feet crunched the thin layer of snow. ample breasts. He dipped his head lower. Each long. and more blood rushed to her face. Walking down the path toward the town center. feminine beauty that still gazed at him. were drawn to the dumbfounded creature watching him.” At the signal of his brother Clay’s telepathic voice. He wanted to stay there forever. back to his homestead and back to his brother. drawing a low grumble from his throat and tightening his skin even further. whether with his fingers. was a young human woman. but he wanted to stay with her. wondering what it would feel like to sink into her soft skin. which freed his muscles. only a short distance in front of him. reveling in the aroma and her beauty. The ancient Shoshone magic pulled him away. marking her as his forever. rouging her full lips temptingly. Jack’s body crept backward against his will. and their eyes met.

Ten seconds passed. his short-sleeved shirt riding up and revealing the base of one of his tattoos. Attempting a casual walk. She studied him as he leaned over the front counter. . exactly. They ranged from sensible outfits Anya wouldn’t mind owning to outrageous displays of neon that could only have been from the eighties. Cautiously. A few steps sounded. Coast is clear. but how she’d noticed him. Finally. She fingered through the rack. She ran a quick calculation in her head and determined he must have been thirty-six years old. He had been the object of her affection since age twelve. His bicep flexed as he raked a hand through his hair. and Anya hurriedly jumped out of sight. When the door didn’t close again. revealing his sculpted high cheekbones. although Anya was sure he had never noticed her. waiting for the secondhand store’s owner to come out and man the register. someone would emerge from door behind the counter that was barely visible through the collection of ancient electronics haphazardly displayed on the wall. Clayton Abbott. she peered out from behind the rack. this one taller and filled with dresses. the door creaked open. wondering when. Oh. satisfied that she was hidden behind a mess of taffeta that even a figure skater wouldn’t touch. She held her breath. Anya ventured to peer out from behind the purple taffeta sleeve of the dilapidated prom dress. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the man behind the profanity. thirty. appearing to examine the jewelry contained therein. twenty. A bell rang when she pushed open the glass door. and she quickly dodged behind a circular rack of men’s shirts topped with a pile of women’s shoes at least three feet high. Age had only improved Clay’s unconventionally good looks. she crossed to another circular rack further inside the store.16 Helena Ray Anya Copely tried to be nonchalant as she opened the door to the Ninth Time. followed by several curses muttered in a low grumble. He pushed his shaggy blond hair behind his ear.

toward the entrance of the store. “Well?” Anya turned her attention back to Clay. the way the dirty-blond stubble played along his chin. She couldn’t believe the scene before her. Anya grabbed hold of the dress and used it to anchor herself as she leaned further toward the shop owner. He deftly pulled her to her feet. Before Anya could stop it. the flimsy strap of the dress slid from the paper-covered hanger. though. “Have a nice trip?” Her head whipped to the right. convinced that Clay hadn’t noticed her fall. her skin burned underneath his touch. She listened for a moment. Clay knelt beside her. . but she couldn’t see any way Clay could have gotten to this side of her and still escaped her notice. his spicy. No footsteps. she could spend hours admiring Clayton Abbott’s magnetic masculinity. the heat emanating from his chest. the beautiful Clay Abbott with all his attention focused on her. Before taking his hand. This time. God. the dress had different plans. woody scent that seemed to wrap around her. his hand outstretched and a look of bemusement on his face. savoring the feel of his warm skin against her cold hands. depriving Anya of her grip and sending her tumbling to the floor. However. It took a moment for her to register what had happened.Hidden Pride 17 Mustering her courage. Anya looked around the store. yes. Delicately. taking a moment to study everything about this position. Even through her coat. she began to sit up. Maybe I hit my head a little harder than I realized. but flames of embarrassment ignited in her chest when she realized she was sprawled across the floor of Savage Valley’s cluttered secondhand store with Clay Abbott as her witness. Maybe Clay didn’t hear the incident? After waiting another moment. she placed her hand in his. It was packed to the rafters. Clay’s hand shot to her waist to steady her. and she tripped again. She looked up into his ice-blue eyes.

“So. I guess I got tripped up in the sea of polyester over there.” she stammered. curling up her nose in mock disgust. Anya figured she might as well have some fun. he released her. “I think I’ll keep on browsing.18 Helena Ray All too soon for Anya’s taste.” He let out one brief chuckle as he looked past her to the dress rack. “You’re carrying a Woodland Den bag. or would you like to keep looking?” He didn’t remember her. and a very flat chest.” “Well. considering her state when she had last spent much time around Savage Valley.” Clay turned from her then and started toward the counter. “Didn’t realize they had hired anyone for the holiday season. but thankfully put one hand on her shoulder to steady her. confirming Anya’s suspicion. “Sorry about that. “You okay there?” “Y–Yeah.” . “Do you wanna take it off my hands. you visiting the Valley?” Clayton asked as he busied himself at the register. but he quickly schooled his countenance. I’m not just anyone. “Wise choice. Would this be his moment of recognition? “Are you working at the Den?” “Maybe. They only give those out to guests and…” He looked up and narrowed his eyes at her. Her chest constricted a little when he headed back to the counter. “What makes you say that?” Having waited so many years for this much attention from Clay. He really didn’t remember her! Anya thought that might be a good thing.” she said. complete with acne. She had been an awkward teenager. but his brief moment of attention could suffice for the evening’s vibrator-time fodder.” A smile broke over his stoic features for just a moment. braces.” He shook his head and turned his attention back to Anya. “I keep telling Jack that he needs to get rid of that purple number.

the mere mention of her former employer resulting in a bodily reaction.” She forced her smile wider. you can say that again. She forced herself to grin. “How are you in…But I thought…You’re not…” “I haven’t been around for a while. “God.” Clayton leaned against the counter. After a few beats. “H–How’s your dad?” His voice came out shakier than she ever remembered hearing it. “I’m working at the Woodland in the meantime. Anya started to feel awkward. heating her cheeks. “Anya? Anya Copely? Is that you?” He stared at her as if she were in costume and walked around the counter.Hidden Pride 19 He narrowed his eyes at her once more. and your grandmother brags on you to everyone at Savage Hunger. My parents have just started up a training camp at a rink in Saint Petersburg—” . I decided to take…a hiatus from the skating world. his appreciative gesture speeding up her heart rate. and finally they widened in recognition.” She didn’t miss the way his gaze traveled up and down her body. at least for a season or two. Aren’t you supposed to be travelin’ around with some big- time figure skating coach?” Anya flinched. “So how’ve you been? Frank and Cora talk about some of your exploits when they come in. slightly disappointed that she’d have to recite this story once more but still more than elated to be talking to Clayton. “He enjoying his retirement from the NHL?” “I think so.” Clay shook his head and continued to examine her. determined not to let Christopher’s actions taint her time with Clay. Just when the tension became so unbearable Anya thought she’d have to leave. “Although he’s been working with the US national team until recently. “Guess my aunt and uncle haven’t been in recently. Clay broke the silence. the silence between them electrified with what she hoped was mutual attraction.” Anya said. crossing his arms as he cocked his head and studied her.

” “Yeah. his heart pounding. silly. **** Clay had to struggle not to slam the door to the front of the store. Right. didn’t you?” Anya felt her jaw drop. He had .” she said. and Anya let out a breath she had held through their entire interaction. “I think I’ll leave it for some other lucky girl to find. but how are you taking it? You guys started moving around a lot. he rested his back against it and tried to catch his breath. Anya couldn’t help the silly grin she knew she was wearing. He was hyperventilating. “Are you sure you’re not interested in that taffeta-polyester mess over there?” Anya laughed. As soon as it was closed. and I think my dad is finally learning Russian.20 Helena Ray “Florida or Russia?” “Russia.” A look of concern flashed across Clay’s face.” Clayton disappeared into the back of the store. “Well. “It’s been interesting.” He raised his eyebrows. I’ll be damned. “It’s been…” Images of that fateful competition flashed through her head. I gotta do a bit of work. unable to stifle a giggle. Clayton Abbott remembered all those details about her family? Did he really care that much? Then the sobering thought occurred to her that her father was a bit of a town celebrity. but feel free to look around all you want. it’s going really well for them. He snapped out his scrutiny and started to move to the other side of the counter. but it vanished quickly. thankful for the injection of humor. Did all of that really just happen? Or was it some sort of trauma- induced dream? Either way.” He shook his head at her once more. The last five years had been anything but easy. That was why Clay cared. “Anya Copely.” “You do that. “Anyway.

dark hair flowing around her shoulders haunting him. Clay’s heart rate slowed. making for uneventful hunts. nothing like that creature that spilled onto the floor of the Ninth Time. He turned toward his desk. He dismissed the notion. and therefore years since he’d broken out any sort of man fragrance. she was an awkward prepubescent teenager. Clay. As he picked up his brush. hoping some paperwork would serve to wilt his hard-on.Hidden Pride 21 called on his deepest stores of energy to stay calm in front of Anya. beautiful even in her clumsiness. It was a bizarre smell. the sight of her long. He wondered briefly if Jack was getting laid and not telling him about it. or . but there was no relief in sight for his cock. hoping to distract himself from his encounter with Anya. Nothing on the last hunt. sweet but still quite gangly. and now he couldn’t ignore the raging hard-on begging for his attention. a cross between body odor and cologne. With the cold weather forcing the Rocky Mountain mule deer population into an early mating season. He squeezed his eyes tighter and tried to recall either his own experiences from the last few hunts or the experiences of the collective pride consciousness that formed when they all shifted together. instead passing his desk and continuing to his easel in the corner. food was plentiful. lean body out of his mind. Had he really just seen little Anya Copely? Rita’s granddaughter? He searched his memories for any recollection of the girl. but he doubted his little brother would either spend money on something so trivial or be poking around his studio. He couldn’t get the image of her long. but a whiff of something caught his attention. Only particularly powerful images from his shifted form stuck around once his human brain took over. It had been years since he’d had a date. After a great effort. Think. he closed his eyes and tried to recall the arresting visual stimuli experienced by his leonine consciousness. Think. He had never known her particularly well. but Clayton always tried to conjure up the scant memories for use in his work. Last he remembered.

the Abbotts mated her only two days later. The story of when they first found their mother was legendary in the Abbott family. . Remembering his late parents knotted Clay’s stomach. their favorite destination for parts to fix up the ever-revolving stable of ancient cars that filtered through the Abbott household. and he tried to tamp down the immediacy of their memory. His reaction to her was like none he had ever experienced. Suddenly. They had felt an overwhelming bodily yearning. had scented their mate on the hunt. Oliver and Roarke Cash. He had felt all those same sensations—the yearning. sending the rest of a pride into a frenzy. and legend had it. and now he knew he would never feel that for another woman. gesticulating wildly and shouting something about a car stalled on Highway 131. Only a few short weeks ago. or…Wait. Only a few hunts before that. certainly the arousal—the instant he heard Anya’s soft footfalls as she entered the store. The three had been at Savage Convenience and Auto Plus. Their lust had consumed them in an extreme arousal that— Holy fucking shit. one of the pride families. Clay knew the source of his overpowering reaction to Anya. It turned out that the clunker only needed a new serpentine belt. the intensity. What Clay knew he needed to dwell on was the fact that his fathers had known from the very first time that they saw his mother that she was their mate.22 Helena Ray the one before that. the intensity of their focus unheard of. the pride alpha and beta respectively. A young woman covered in ink stains had run into the store. his fathers’ words echoed in his mind. had experienced the same heightened awareness when they scented their mate. or the one before that. the Popes. Just as his heart surged with a happiness and relief he hadn’t thought possible. but the Abbott brothers would have built her a new engine right there in the middle of the store. They had fallen in love instantly with the bushy- haired beauty driving from art school in Boulder to her home in San Francisco.

bespectacled preteen. and even though he hadn’t known her very well. already. one thing was clear. even the sound of her voice had him sweating with his desire. ringing voice from within the shop.m. mountain lion and all. okay?” “O–Okay. find out exactly how long those luscious legs were. he certainly didn’t have the same reaction to the skinny. and he longed for his brother to take over the front of the shop so that he could finally relieve the pressure that had been building since Anya walked into the store. It was 1:45 p. just before Anya came in. He needed to get back to her.Hidden Pride 23 and the Cashes and Popes had experienced the same phenomenon. but today’s felt even longer than usual. What the fuck was taking him so long? The lunch hours without Jack usually dragged on forever. An image of her walked into his mind. Bye. **** “Grandma?” . signaling the alluring woman had finally left the store. Clayton!” He heard the door close. Clay glanced at the clock. he had lost his chance. and he longed to remove that jacket and the skinny jeans she wore. He had seen Anya before. He needed to regain some semblance of calm so he could once more allow the intoxicating presence of his mate—his mate—to wash over him. He may have felt his entire body constrict in lust the instant Anya walked into the store. “I’m gonna go!” Clay’s dick hardened as he heard the clear.” His voice sounded strangled. He needed her with every iota of his being. God. but he had to chalk it up to something else. He had shifted and called for his brother to shift at one thirty. Clay’s cock pressed hard against his zipper. “Come by again. “It was nice seeing you. even to his own ears. Damn it. Mate or not.

consolatory or not. I could just wring that man’s neck. She’d already heard it several times . too. Grandma. Anya listened to her grandmother’s tirade on Christopher’s behavior.” Anya laughed against her grandmother’s shoulder at the use of the pet named she’d given Anya as a baby. “What do you call your other grandmother? The Russian one?” “Babulya?” She paused for a moment before shaking her head and laughing. “You come on in. relieved at the burst of warm air that came from within. breathing in her distinctive smell of hand lotion and coffee. everyone needs a pedicure. She appeared to think for a moment. and we’ll get you a pedicure.” Grandma Rita waved off her comment.” Her Grandma Rita hopped from one of the chairs in the waiting area and pulled her granddaughter into the salon.” “Everything’s fine. I think ‘grandma’ actually suits me just fine. Christopher soaked into Anya’s life. That’ll make everything better. removed her shoes. “Oh. “Oh. And what happened to you is a big deal. and eased her feet into the blue jets of water and relaxed. “No.24 Helena Ray Anya cracked open the door to the Haven Salon. honey! You’ll make people think I’m old.” Anya hugged her grandmother again. still wearing the black dress from her Savage Hunger uniform. you. and she worked to push him out of her mind. tapping a newly manicured finger against her chin. a mixture only acquired by frequenting a beauty parlor and working at a diner.” “I’m so happy to see you. “Don’t you dare call me that.” Once more. How could she dwell on the past when her dreams had nearly come true? As she sat down. She closed her eyes and called up the recent memory of Clay’s spicy. angel bunny. masculine scent. “What do you want me to call you then?” Anya asked as she hugged her grandmother. I don’t need a consolatory pedicure.

hon. but inwardly she harbored a small hope. “Details. Clayton Abbott was fair game. “You’re right. angel bunny.” Anya tried to be nonchalant. but I love the sport so much.Hidden Pride 25 before. you stopped by the Ninth Time. “So. I know. he’s single?” Her grandmother opened her mouth to respond then snapped it shut. but she wanted to think about anything else.” Anya teased. “I know. Her grandmother waved her hand in the air. I shouldn’t have stayed. and Anya thought she knew where this was going. His family has been through so much. as if acknowledging that had been her purpose. Why. “Stop being so salacious. Grandma Rita inferred Clay’s singledom.” “He never would have pulled that if your parents had been in the country.” “I can’t help it. I still say I ought to report him to—” “Can we move on?” Anya hated to sound ungrateful.” “He’s blond. and they’re such good people. when she called to tell her grandmother she was moving to Savage Valley then each time she had seen her since. He can’t be dark and mysterious. .” Anya said when Grandma Rita finally took a deep breath of air.” “Grandma!” Anya grinned at her grandmother and stuck out her tongue. I hope that boy finds a good woman. I don’t know what I would do without it in my life. you know that. But were you seeing that Abbott boy? He’s always been so dark and mysterious. I’ll tell you what. “So. I hear?” “Is nothing private in this town?” “Only the things that matter. “Sure thing. “Uh-uh! You’re not gonna trick me into being the town gossip.” Grandma Rita gave her a wink.” She shrugged. Well.

That guy hasn’t got a chance in hell anyway. trying to drown out all the voices. I need to get over the bank and consult with the Carsons about the town’s financial state if we pass the anti- NormCorp ordinance.26 Helena Ray Chapter 2 When Jack came to. I don’t want to get back to the Mitchell case.” “Let’s see. and Roarke Cash. but he could remember every detail of the instant he saw her. He normally remembered relatively little from the shift. what he saw on his shift was still in his mind. Ira Sullivan. The woman. He squeezed his eyes shut. the utterly exquisite woman. I wish I could just finish this fucking payroll and get back to Marta. “Let’s see…it looks like Dave swapped shifts on Thursday. he was lying naked against the back door of the Ninth Time.” “Damn it. but Jack didn’t know exactly what. He cursed to himself as he pulled a bundle of clothing out from underneath an overturned box. “God. flawless form was emblazoned in his mind. I wonder who—” “Goddamn.” The thoughts descended upon Jack all at once. Something was different about today. why did he have to get into that car drunk? My life would be far easier if—” “And Marta’s tips would go to—” “The statutory rights for DUI convicts—” . in the snow with her slender. all still at Savage Hunger. shattering his memory from the woods and filling his minds with the trivial thoughts of Sam Pope. Strangely.

I just–I can’t—” Jack stammered. the bell on the door to the shop rang. Jack stumbled into the back room of the Ninth Time. “Go out there. today of all days”—his brother managed to silence his inner monologue. but Clay’s attention stayed locked on his canvas. “Customer. The chatter impaired his ability to concentrate.” Clay grunted. Yeah. Jack studied the easel for a moment. focusing all his effort on pushing away Sam and Ira’s thoughts.” Clay didn’t turn away from his easel. and he collided with his brother. “Jack? You there?” an older woman’s voice called to him. Luckily. turning back to his easel.Hidden Pride 27 Thankfully Roarke had drifted far enough away from Jack that he couldn’t hear his voice anymore. man. Reminded of his duty. but Sam and Ira both mentally talked to themselves constantly. what happened today?” Jack could distinctly sense his brother’s unease among the emotions that floated through the other members of the mountain lion-shifting pride. “Wait. bringing Jack back to his own thoughts. making their voices a regular presence in Jack’s mind. “Why haven’t you been in here to see me in at least a week?” . trying to drown out the chatter. When Clay painted. “You’re back. After pulling on his clothes. rubbing his temples. “Agnes Bird!” he exclaimed as he burst through the door. “Thanks for that. no one could draw his attention.” Jack only nodded. After a fleeting thought—“Thank god I didn’t have to call him again. It’ll make you feel better. even though he knew it would go unnoticed by his brother. Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath. blowing out his breath and opening his eyes in preparation for what was about to come next. a study in white and red perched upon it this time. nearly knocking over one of his brother’s easels on the way. He gingerly placed his hand on the doorknob.

” “Oh.” “Well. If that little asshat hadn’t—” Jack gasped as Ira Sullivan’s stream of profanity broke through the shield of his bravado. Jack Abbott. that’s why!” The older woman smiled as she hauled a cardboard box filled to the top with paperback books onto the counter then adjusted her long braid of silver hair. “Where do you even get all these. raising his eyebrows. patting the box she had deposited on the counter. Agnes?” She shrugged.” Agnes said. “It all has to do with the ladies in the salon. Coming from a good-looking young man like you.28 Helena Ray “I didn’t have anything for you. you. “does that mean you’d be willing to give a beautiful woman a good price on these books?” Jack gave an exaggerated sigh then looked over to the box. He stumbled. some with quite racy covers. do you?” “Old? Hell.” Agnes looked concerned. and I have to clean out my supply every once in a while. then. you don’t need an excuse to see me. “Oh. “Oh. He picked up a few titles. hush. really?” Jack said. You don’t want an old woman like me coming in here.” he started again shakily. but quickly regained his balance. flashing Agnes his best smile in order to hide his slipup. “You can tell me that all you want. do you?” She batted a hand in his direction. “H–Hell. Damn it all to hell. I—” “Shit! Motherfucker! That little rat didn’t finish his community service hours for his last arrest. it’s quite the compliment. come now. all of them romances. You don’t read any of these?” . This must be why the judge has been crawling up my ass all week. “I don’t think you’re old at all. “I’m just a sucker for a beautiful woman. but continued their exchange.” “What can I say?” He twisted his mouth into a grin. “The ladies that come into the Haven are always leaving books.

all sound dropped away. looping like a silent film reel played over and over. leaving him only with her memory. and turned it so that Agnes could see the cover. Agnes. “You’d be surprised. crossing her arms.” Agnes said. needing something concrete to anchor him to the present. “Thanks for the suggestion. He patted the box. Is that the price you give to a beautiful woman?” Jack shrugged. “Tell you what? I’ll give you fifteen dollars for the whole box. but I hardly think I’m the happily-ever-after type. “So are you gonna buy them or not?” . “You don’t have to look like you just saw a ghost.” An image popped into Jack’s mind.” Jack picked up another one of the books. “Well. We’ve gotta hire a new employee soon.Hidden Pride 29 “So what if I do?” Agnes challenged with a wink. pale skin and chocolate-brown hair causing his heart to beat faster even now. You oughta try one. panting a little from the force of the memory.” She cocked her head and studied him for a moment. the contrast of her creamy.” Agnes put her hand over her heart and gasped. “They’re just romance novels. Even more arresting than the woman.” Jack picked up a book and turned it over in his hand. an enigmatic grin growing across her face. “Really? You want me to believe that a box of these is worth twenty?” “At least. “Times are tough. of the woman in the snow.” Agnes’s voice sounded far away as Jack began drifting back to reality. her mouth dropping in awe. I believe your fathers said much the same thing. I’ll be. The sight of her turning toward him.” Jack forced a laugh. unbidden.” “Twenty? I know you can manage that. looked at the cover. feigning shock at the price. flickered in his mind. the moment the image took hold of his thoughts. They won’t kill ya. “Some of them are pretty good.

Jack focused on Agnes again. “For a gorgeous lady such as yourself. handsome. He’d heard enough over the years that Jack felt he’d vicariously earned Phil’s culinary arts certificate.” “Okay. We figure we can hedge our bets by keeping some flawless books. he heard the dull chatter in his head change from Sam and Ira. Is there anything you can do?” Jack leaned on his elbows on the counter.” “Maybe if I add a pinch of cayenne pepper—” Jack squeezed his eyes shut to block out Phil’s thoughts. I don’t know if the laws for us apply to him.30 Helena Ray Jack put the book down and sighed. Ulysses Norman is breathing down our necks about buying the place. enjoying the reprieve this banter gave him. fine. “That’s some sort of crime. Clay’s kept our books since our dads passed. but you’re right. mustering his best smile for the older woman.” Agnes said as Jack recorded her details. “is everything going okay? You look like you’re not feeling so hot.” “You’re killing me. but since he’s the head of one of the largest development and investment firms in the country. Things have been awful rough lately.” . and that’s my final offer. sweet pea.” Jack relented.” “You’ve got yourself a deal. “Jack? Sweetie?” With great effort.” “He can’t do that. “Seventeen?” “Eighteen?” “Seventeen fifty. sweetie. eighteen. Abbott. to Sam and Phil Pope.” Agnes gasped and shook her head.” “Oh. “The best thing we can do is make sure we’re in perfect order. to Phil and Roarke. and apparently he’s threatened to pull some strings with the IRS if we won’t give in. isn’t it?” “Maybe. but he’s looking into hiring a bookkeeper.” As Jack proceeded to write her up. “I’m so sorry. “Hey.

“Pride business?” Agnes asked from above him. Something deep inside Jack. She laid her head on the desk and stared into the ashy void of the large stone fireplace on the opposite . Once more. all his senses fell away. Exhaling deeply.” he barely whispered.” Even through the chatter in his mind. you let me know. As soon as the door to the Ninth Time drifted closed. sweetie. leaving every other memory lost to the cutting room floor except the woman in the snow. Jack straightened and shrugged his shoulders in surrender. and I will. the change in pace had rattled her a good deal. Agnes knew of the existence of the pride. He needed to find her. “It’s all I can talk about. but sympathetic. She slumped against the reception desk and took in the empty lobby. Jack’s knees buckled and he sank to the floor behind the counter. “I guess you could say that. Jack didn’t try to block out the voice. Much as Jack appreciated her friendship. I gotta get back to the salon. Sam. and Mel Pope’s mother. but if you need anything. Jack felt his own affection for the woman bloom in his chest. Phil. **** Anya hung up the phone and finished writing down the details of the latest booking at the Woodland Den. okay?” “I appreciate it. allowing his blond hair to sweep over his eyes. and he needed to find her soon. screamed to him that she would complete him. but they had all worked tirelessly to keep the details under wraps.” As a lifelong resident of Savage Valley and the closest friend of Susan Pope.Hidden Pride 31 “Is that all?” Agnes rubbed a hand over his back as Jack dropped his head. While she was certainly grateful to be away from the hectic autumn skating season. “Well. And for once. something he didn’t quite understand. his telepathy would have to stay a secret. Agnes looked uneasy.

a move originally intended to bring them closer to the Valley.” Anya glanced down at the reservation book—why Cora refused to switch to a computerized booking system. thank god. she’d never know—and sighed at the red pencil scrawled over half the bookings for the next two weeks.” “Oh. When both hockey season and skating season were in full swing. and her Uncle Frank and Aunt Cora would allow her to hang around the Woodland while her grandmother worked her shifts at the diner. When she was older. “Anya. Grandma Rita would take Anya under her wing. “It was another couple booking a room for the Marina Andrews concert. It was how she’d spent her happiest winters as a child.” Anya turned and sat on the edge of the reception desk. . you’ll find someone to take their place. but it seemed that fate didn’t have that in the cards for her. she began helping them. She thought of sitting with her knees curled up against her chest. and I’d just be torn apart if we had to cancel because everyone—” “Aunt Cora.” her aunt called from behind her.” Cora placed a hand over her chest and sighed in obvious relief. honey. filing bookings and sorting materials for the guest bags. She would have loved to keep working at the Woodland throughout her teen years. I mean.32 Helena Ray side of the lobby. “I’ve been so worried about the concert. They’d yet to fire it up since the Woodland’s remodel. building the amphitheater along with the remodels from the fire was such a risk. luckily it wasn’t. “That wasn’t another group canceling their reservation. was it?” “No. whiling away the afternoons by sketching skating costumes while her grandmother worked. but Anya couldn’t wait to sit in front of its warm blaze. it’s going to be just fine. But once her father took a steady job on the coaching staff for the US national hockey team. a pencil and pad in hand. she remembered. their new life in Colorado Springs engrossed them and her trips to the Valley had become far less frequent. Marina Andrews is such a big star that even if everyone cancels.

honey. so am I. and one more thing. she assumed the familiar role of consoling someone overly anxious about an event. but she only nodded and said.” “Honestly. burst through the lobby doors then stopped abruptly.” he called out. “Anya. “You know they’re just saying that so everyone will run out and buy batteries.” . logs. “It’ll probably be the last one before the big snow. how her life kept up the same patterns. the wonders of the wild—” He paused. guests. “Come.” Cora’s hand on Anya’s back stopped her. “where is everyone?” She heaved a deep sigh and headed toward the guest rooms. and a bottle of whiskey. “If I don’t see you before tomorrow. and she turned back to her aunt. I’m not taking any risks. “Nearly time for the singles nature walk. It’s supposed to hit tomorrow night. Even away from the ice. naturalist and leader of the Woodland’s nature walk.” “Why are you believing the weather whiners again?” Anya shook her head at her aunt’s anxiety.” Before Anya could respond.Hidden Pride 33 laughing to herself about her aunt’s nervous behavior. “I’m getting ’em.” “Well. could you make sure to take the old linens down to the Ninth Time before the storm hits? We’re gonna need that storage space for the new generator.” Jeremiah Greenwood. “Oh. Shouldn’t you be herding the guests right now?” She sighed and looked out one of the windows overlooking the snow-dusted trees surrounding the Woodland. “I’m still amazed we got Nashville’s latest starlet to come play for the opening of the theater. and Anya could see him looking around the deserted lobby. Funny. How did that end up working out?” An enigmatic smile played at the corners of Cora’s lips. “That’s a story for another time.” she called back. she glanced at the clock on the desk.

“What exactly did he say?” she asked. the expression causing little lines to crinkle around his black eyes in mirth. Instead he winked. Cora didn’t know that Anya only had eyes for one man.” she said as she turned to face him. I got some new socks at the Ninth Time today. “Going!” . flirt with the guests! They’re paying for it!” “I’m not—” She considered arguing with her aunt but decided against it. “Ended up talking to Clay a little bit.” Anya’s heart began racing. choosing her words carefully. and he told me to say hi. she had to admit— and crossed the lobby in a daze.” Jeremiah’s voice stopped her in her tracks. but the niggling voice at the back of her mind reminded her that Clayton’s reputation had always been for his grumpiness. hell yes. but said nothing. “Don’t you have guests to…what did Cora call it…herd?” “Yeah. “If you want to flirt. He was hardly the type of person to be sending greetings along with the outgoing Jeremiah Greenwood. He thought of me? He wanted to say hi to me? She wanted to believe it. “So. but you’re telling me this because?” He grinned. “Really? He said to say hi?” “Well. but—” “Anya!” Cora’s voice boomed from the reception desk. Jeremiah opened his mouth to speak. the scar on his left cheek lifting with the corner of his lips. not in so many words.” She grabbed a clipboard with the names of everyone who signed up for the singles nature walk—a small number.34 Helena Ray “Since when are you getting a new—” Wait. “No disrespect. “Yeah. her mind now filled with thoughts of the next time she would encounter Clayton Abbott.” Now that piqued Anya’s curiosity. Did she just ask me to go the Ninth Time? Oh. “Okay. but that was the gist of it. I’ll be sure and make it down there.

assessing the half-naked woman as unworthy of his advances. Mr. It was the memory of the mountain lion she had seen while walking up to the Woodland. Ulysses shook his head in frustration. Norm—” A rustling noise cut off her voice followed by a click. her mind was preoccupied. Anya collapsed on the couch before printing the menus for tonight’s dinner at the Woodland Kitchen. Her heart pounded as she stared into the dark void of the fireplace. echoed by memories of Jeremiah’s cryptic remarks. As she idly prepared the night’s menu. the two images flashed back and forth in her head. Why they were linked. **** “Mr.Hidden Pride 35 She passed through the corridor to the left of the staircase and to the newly remodeled guest rooms. Inexplicably. and something she couldn’t name came over her as she stared into those azure orbs. As worked her way through the hallways. Its eyes were bright blue. she still didn’t know. “Send him in. Fischer is here to see you. “And turn off your mic.” Ulysses idly clicked on another ad. If he hadn’t invested several thousand . some of them already eyeing others suggestively. She had never been a particularly outdoorsy person—much to her father’s chagrin—but the animal had captured her attention like nothing else before. Heaving a sigh of frustration. Norman. pinning her to the spot and causing her heartbeat to race like never before. As the guests set off on their walk. Barbee. Mr. he reached over and clicked on the speaker.” “Oh! Sorry. Images of Clayton Abbott danced across her brain.” “You can go in. another memory tangled with the images of her encounter with Clayton.” he heard the secretary say over the intercom.

” “Ulysses?” Skyler said quietly. we haven’t been able to negotiate a deal with the owners of Savage Hunger—” “Don’t remind me. I think I have an idea that may work. “Well. he would have fired her months ago.” . very true. yes.” The pursuit of profit was the only thing that could pull his attention away from the task at hand. in her favor. pushing his wire-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I’m so glad you can come in today.” He leaned back in his chair and held his steepled fingers in front of his face. um. take a seat. “About Savage Valley? Yes?” “Oh. thin man cracked open the door and peeked in.” “True. “It appears that they’re going to fight us on the purchase of Adam’s Point—” “And neither Savage Convenience nor Savage Hunger will budge. I wanted to ask you about…” He trailed off as a particularly promising ad caught his attention. “It’s time to find another weak spot. “Skyler. Although.” Skyler’s ideas were usually impractical. “Ulysses. Ulysses’s pursuit of Savage Valley had become an obsession. and often involved elaborate scheming. He cleared his throat before continuing. she did suck a mean cock. he mused.” The tall.” Ulysses waved to one of the leather wingback chairs facing his desk. and he was willing to do anything at this point to secure ownership and domination of the small town. Luvs 2 eat cock – w4m – 21. “If you don’t mind. hi. Perfect.36 Helena Ray dollars in buying her that nice set of tits. However.

“I–I know we’ve tried to talk with the owners of the Ninth Time. “Why would I be interested in doing anything of benefit for the Abbotts?” A coy smile played on Skyler’s face. but those owners are flat-out lunatics. he often found him entirely tedious on a personal level. could benefit from the situation. and that benefit they perceive needn’t be financial.” .” Skyler hesitated. perhaps they could convince the Abbotts that they. the idea is entirely implausible.Hidden Pride 37 “—but we may be able to get a foothold with another of the businesses in Savage Valley. too.” he said slowly.” Did Skyler really think he hadn’t considered the possibility? “While I respect your initiative. a repulsive sign of his weakness. As a result. and Ulysses noted his cheeks reddening.” “Spit it out. our connections in the IRS have been putting pressure on the Ninth Time and threatening an audit. gnawing on his bottom lip in a show of weakness that infuriated Ulysses. Skyler. What’s the plan?” “Well. there has been talk of a bookkeeping position open at the Ninth Time. and the staff at the Savage Herald are impossible to deal with. presumably to avoid risking trouble with the government. The Carsons won’t budge on Savage Valley Bank. “I didn’t say it would benefit them.” Skyler hesitated. “If we could send in someone for the bookkeeping position who understood how advantageous the sale of the Ninth Time would be for NormCorp. but Ulysses liked where this was going. While he respected the man’s business acumen. We tried buying out the salon and that dreadful secondhand shop for the real estate value. but certain…events have transpired that lead me to believe we could get in…clandestinely.” “Benefit?” Ulysses hated to think of any of those bigamists in Savage Valley reaping any reward from his seizure of their town. “Continue.

we could win the Abbotts over to our side. we could not only get a handle on the Ninth Time financially. the color in his cheeks intensifying. “If we could send in a tempting candidate for the bookkeeping position.” “Now I want to hear more. Skyler.” “Oh?” “Clayton makes all of the decisions.” Skyler rose and began pacing back and forth as he spoke. Although. she was probably a professional. if he was to have no boundaries concerning personal space. and he turned his attention to the e-mail that had just arrived in his inbox. but he could do little to acknowledge it.” “From what I learned during my stay. then what on earth could it be?” Skyler cleared his throat. “Pardon me if I don’t understand your meaning.” Another e-mail arrived in Ulysses’s inbox. “Sexual. Skyler. . His dick hardened as he examined the attachment showing a scantily clad and busty girl. The flames from the fireplace in the vast cavern of Ulysses’s office silhouetted the man with a dancing orange glow. Not that Ulysses minded.” Ulysses began uncomfortably—his prick still pulsed from the e-mail he’d received—“but if the benefit isn’t financial. Ulysses guessed it was fortunate he had good taste. “Jack is known for being rather outgoing and flirtatious with customers in the shop. neither Clayton nor Jack Abbott has had a consistent partner at any point in the recent past. Luckily.38 Helena Ray Skyler hesitated.” Skyler continued. “Here’s what I was thinking. Judging by the quality of the picture. a soft ping sounded from Ulysses’s computer.” Skyler walked forward and placed both his hands on the table. but from what I understand. of course. and then his blue eyes met Ulysses’s. leaning uncomfortably close to the point where Ulysses could smell the man’s expensive cologne. He’d have Barbee take out some cash funds after…Right. he’s not the one who runs the business.” “We just have to send the right seductress.

“Jocelyn will do it. “Shall I make the arrangements then.” Ulysses said. When she began as an intern at NormCorp. the prized thoroughbred in his stable. yes. no one will suspect a thing. the supposed desperation of Clayton Abbott. “Ivy League MBAs are hardly in abundance in rural Colorado. and the convenient trust small-town hicks give newcomers. “I was thinking perhaps one of the women in the secretarial pool might be of service here. she a sterling trophy and complement to his wit. Between Jocelyn’s good looks. “Do you still have the keys to the apartment in Savage Valley?” “Yes. Ulysses had immediately recognized her potential. giving him the repulsive appearance of a robotic singing fish. Skyler cleared his throat as he returned to his seat in the leather wingback.Hidden Pride 39 Too many thoughts filled his mind as he began to envision how the whole thing would unfold. “That’s but a minor detail. “I–I mean she’s obviously quite qualified—” “Quite qualified? She has an MBA from Harvard. but—” .” “But won’t they suspect something?” Skyler countered. He knew firsthand that no financially minded woman could wrap a man around her little finger like his Jocelyn.” Skyler’s mouth flopped open. “Jocelyn? Jocelyn Smythe?” Skyler choked out. There’s not a more qualified candidate for the position in the state. Finally. We could easily have credentials made up for—” “Nonsense.” Ah. Ever since. Smythe. but Ulysses refused to be deterred. relishing the moment he could feel her toned ass beneath his hands. far more enjoyable a companion than the dreadful bitch he’d had to marry. he shut the damn thing and nodded. sir?” “Let me handle Ms.” Ulysses had just the seductress in mind for the job.” The man did have a point there. they had traveled the world together.

he’d have to learn to live with them. Mr. but I still have—” Ulysses’s hard look silenced Skyler. “Book a room at that dreadfully cheesy singles resort. and his reservations about her qualification—or rather overqualification—were wearing on Ulysses’s nerves.” Ulysses gave the man his hardest glare.” He leaned over and spoke into the intercom. He had no intention on delaying the sexual reward Jocelyn would undoubtedly bestow upon him.40 Helena Ray “Good. hoping it would silence any objections. Luckily.” “Good. Right away. Norman. he would regret not pursuing his latest Internet-acquired exploits. It turns off the microphone. though. “Barbee? Have Jocelyn come up right away. another show of weakness that began to wilt Ulysses’s cock.” “That’s all good and well. I’ll have the keys for you tomorrow. Whatever issues the sycophant had. one of his monkeys had managed finally managed a line of . “It’s for the good of the company. “You will need to stick around to keep up appearances.” “Yes. You do care about the good of the company. Clear it of your possessions and hand the keys over to Barbee when you come in tomorrow.” “Oh! Tha—” God.” “What. But really. “The middle button. What is it? The Woody Hall?” “The Woodland Den. Norman?” “The middle button. although a fleeting thought of Jocelyn chased the flaccidity away. what idiots surrounded Ulysses at all times. “All right. The man had always disliked Jocelyn. It will look more convincing if Jocelyn has a real place to live. Although he couldn’t wait to tangle his fingers in Jocelyn’s long. Barbee. it’s quite—” “Skyler. won’t you?” Ulysses sighed and glanced at his inbox. don’t you?” He heaved a deep sigh. blonde hair as she sucked his cock.” The intercom continued its obnoxious crinkling. Mr.

the plan afforded him an opportunity to screw over those lecherous bigamists that made him curse his hometown. He couldn’t wait to launch Skyler’s plan into action and finally get a foothold in Savage Valley’s commercial real estate. More importantly. .Hidden Pride 41 Shakespeare.

but his dark eyes still sparkled with mischief. and a croaking voice shouted. a light flicked on in the house. Finally. “And I’m afraid I have some pressing business. black hair. the one he’d occupied in some capacity every few months for his entire life. But do you realize it’s nearly midnight?” “It’s eleven. and the door opened. all right already! Geez. but he couldn’t sleep. The low light accentuated the wrinkles on his face.” The porch light flickered to life. the deadbolt snapped. don’t get me wrong. Bo returned from the kitchen carrying two bottles. why didn’t the Shoshone shaman have a fucking doorbell? After thirty seconds without an answer. He bounded up the steps to the brown. come in. he knocked again. “Clay. rolling down his back. couldn’t even think until he had an answer to the question that had eclipsed all other rational thought. couldn’t eat.” Bo said with a yawn. “All right.” “Come in. I’m always happy to see you. and shouted Bo’s name. Clay thanked him as .42 Helena Ray Chapter 3 Clay pulled his beat-up Volvo station wagon into the wide dirt expanse in front of Bo’s house. He knew it was eleven o’clock at night. “You want a beer or something?” Clay nodded as he walked into the small foyer and then left to the living room. Damn it. wooden house and banged on the door. He sat on the long. revealing Bo in a robe and slippers. this time harder. streaked with silver. dilapidated couch.” Clay grunted. his long.

why couldn’t he be better with words? “I haven’t talked to Jack yet. how Clay knew. “you really need to think about him in the mating. man. He’s gonna have a lot easier a time once he gets that burst of strength from his mate. man. remember?” “Yeah. He was having trouble keeping out the thoughts even when he was with the customers. his mind couldn’t concentrate on anything besides Anya for more than a few minutes. only the Sullivan boys prodding them into fights. “That boy sure has it hard. He’s been shifted since around dinnertime. “It’s about…” How could he put this so that Bo would understand? “It’s a…mate…thing. I…” Damn it. are you?” Clay laughed and shook his head.” “I know. “You boys aren’t having trouble with the bears again.” God.” While Clay would have loved to spend the evening listing Ira Sullivan’s many flaws.Hidden Pride 43 he popped open the bottle with his teeth and took a long swig of the beer. there hasn’t been any of that since our generation took over the pack.” “It was a bad day today. the legends had echoed through his mind. “So tell me what’s so pressing.” Bo said as he lowered himself into his La-Z-Boy. Since his brother’s problem escalated when their generation became dominant.” “You know. He had to know. and he had to know now.” Bo said slowly. I imagine having to listen to Roarke Cash talk to himself all day must be real tough. “No.” Bo’s eyes lit up at this.” Bo shook his head and made a clucking time. and the Popes only mated a few weeks ago!” “Well. “You boys found your mate? Oh. and he kicked down the footstool so he could lean closer. . always admonishing that only mating would give Jack the power to control his gift.

and Clay nodded slowly. but they were not in human form. They were the sights and smells and primal pulls of his lion form. I really did. all caught up in her drawings at the diner and…” Bo’s jaw dropped open. Clay realized he was panting and his sweaty grip had tightened around his beer. I guess you’re right about your body reacting to Anya as your mate. “Anya! Oh.” Clay closed his eyes. Bo. “Or someone working at the Woodland. “But I don’t know if she is your mate. “S–Sorry. And I’m guessing that you boys have felt it from the Cashes and the Popes on the hunt. “You think she’s your mate. but his daughter…” Bo’s eyes lit as Anya animated even the aging shaman.” “Not every day you get the daughter of one of the best damn coaches the American hockey team’s ever seen mating into your pride. “Now let’s see.” His eyes met with Bo’s. and he took a deep breath before continuing.” . You’ve heard the mating legend from me. Geez. Beautiful. “Do you remember Rita’s granddaughter? Gerard Copely’s girl?” “Gerard Copely’s girl? No shit?” “No shit.” Bo’s words sliced through his leonine image. so far from the awkward child he had known before. The sensations overtook him. all right. precious Anya with her porcelain skin and her chocolate hair. she was always the cutest little awkward teenager.” he said as he pushed a few damp strands of hair from his forehead. Did Anya really affect him that much? “It’s okay.” Bo set the beer down beside his chair and closed his hands in his lap. and all of it rushed back. who’s come to town recently? Was it one of the other mates’ friends? Or maybe someone staying at the Woodland?” Clay felt himself trembling as he finally strung together the words to tell Bo why he had made his late-night visit. I know you have.44 Helena Ray “So you found your mate? It’s cause for celebration!” Bo took a drag of his beer. “All right.” “I felt it. Anya. no need to get all sweaty there. his brow furrowed in thought.

poured into his mind along with a wave of sadness.” “I promise you. Bo sat next to Clay on the couch and set the box on the coffee table. but you’ve seen her before. “All this is why I’m skeptical about whether or not Anya is your mate. “Just a second. to bring new blood and new strength to the Valley. Her worldview and her experiences were a big part of what gave them that strength. yellowing documents. and her family’s from the Valley. I didn’t feel the same way about her then that I do now.” “That she was. After a few low curses and some commotion.” “I wouldn’t expect you to. “For as long as the Savage Valley pride has existed. your fathers became so much stronger because they mated her. Yes. Carefully.” Memories of sitting on his mother’s lap. revealing a pile of old. he pulled out a rectangular. But that’s the part that’s got me…” Bo trailed off. “What are those?” . “My mother was an amazing woman.” He rose and reached up to one of the top shelves of the bookshelf.” Bo laughed. son. It’s why your mother”—he nodded at Clay— “was so important to the Valley back in the seventies and eighties. their mates have come from all over the world. their edges worn from years of use. and his attention went to the bookshelf to the right of the enormous TV in his living room. clearly lost in a memory.Hidden Pride 45 “That’s how I knew.” Bo opened his mouth to speak.” He cleared his throat and continued. Not only did she give so much love and joy to the town. but that’s not what you’re here to talk about. “Everyone in this town could go on about your mother for hours. he peeled back the lid to the box. It was designed this way. That she was. flat. He appeared to consider his words and then proceeded slowly. cardboard box. but said nothing. you reacted to her the way a mountain lion reacts to his mate. watching her paint yet another mountain landscape.

born in 1887. all the pride families hung around together. “I had forgotten about that. someone’s gotta keep track of your famil—Aha!” Bo pulled one of the crumbling papers from the stack and carefully unfolded it on the table. Clay’s eyes came to rest on the calligraphic script at the top of the page. I had always thought that worked because she was a daughter of one of the pride families. “I had forgotten about that until you told me about Anya.” Clay read and then looked up at Bo.” Bo muttered as he continued fingering through the pages. Never before had he felt this tension. “Amelia Sullivan. He needed to know. “With the caveat in the curse about all the pride brothers taking the same woman and with the females born to lion-shifters not shifting. this all-consuming anxiety mixed with arousal. and after a moment. like you boys. when she had reached full sexual maturity. a small hope kindling in his chest. But I remember the old legend that my father told me about when his father was the shaman. legend has it that bang!”—Bo spread his arms and eyes wide—“the Pope boys were head over heels for her and following her around pantin’ like cats in heat. . and Clay leaned forward to decipher the faded script.” Bo said with a chuckle. Back at the turn of the century.” “Literally.” Clay’s heart raced. “Then on her eighteenth birthday. he made out the name “Pope” through the swooping text.” Bo laughed and shook his head. but maybe that was just one of the strange tricks of the universe. “Sullivan? The Sullivans and the Popes are related?” “Indeed they are. “Here. but I guess it can happen.” Bo pointed to a date nearer the top of the page. It was a complex spiderweb of names and dates in everything from nearly faded light-brown ink to what was obviously ballpoint pen.46 Helena Ray “Family trees. died in 1928. The Popes had known Amelia all their lives—they were all only a few years older— but they had never felt anything but friendly feelings.

but just call me next time.Hidden Pride 47 “So Anya. “But if.” Bo picked up his beer and leaned against the wall. If you and Jack both feel this way about her—” “I don’t know that yet. chilling Clay to the bone. “She’s our mate?” “Maybe. studying Clay. it can happen again I don’t see why Anya couldn’t be your mate. Clay stood on the front porch for a moment.” Bo opened the door. A strong wind blew. okay? I don’t need everyone seeing me in my skimpies.” Clay confessed. and they said their good-byes. in fact. “It’s been great seeing you. a repeat of the Pope boys?” Clay laughed. remembering how Sam. he braced himself against the wintry air. Mates are a random thing. and I thought it would never happen again that someone with such a close connection would be a pride mate. “Nothing like that. No near-irreparable splits between Jack and me. Bo. signaling it was time for Clay to leave. Joy and apprehension warred within him at the thought of Anya. and Mel Pope nearly didn’t mate because of a family disagreement. “You don’t even know whether or not your brother will mate her and you’re already over here? What is this.” he said as Bo placed the family tree back in the box and returned it to the shelf. You just didn’t answer. **** .” “I did call. “But I also don’t know if Jack’s ever met her. taking in the outline of the fir trees in the cloudy night. Something was blowing into Savage Valley and into Clay’s life. He was still in school when she used to spend her days around Savage Hunger. When Bo shut the front door. Phil.” “Yeah.” Bo motioned for Clay to leave. As he walked to his car. technicalities. yeah. each emotion overtaking the next as he imagined their mating. The sky looked as tumultuous as Clay felt inside.” Bo gave an exaggerated sigh and started to the door. and she’s only been back in town a few days.

48 Helena Ray The bell on the door to the Ninth Time sounded. dark features of the woman from the woods. “I understand you’re looking for a bookkeeper?” Jack took the résumé from her hand and set it on the counter. “Lemme get Clay. but overpowering emotions still flowed into Jack’s consciousness. . She obviously wanted some sort of attention from him. thin woman with comically large and obviously fake breasts and bleach-blonde hair. A black stiletto stepped out from behind the rack. but Jack preferred the exotic. ma’am?” She batted her eyelashes at him and held out a piece of paper.” Jack called out. Sam and Phil Pope were both away from Savage Hunger today. followed by a tall. and he could find that exquisite creature once more. Since they were young. He handles the hiring. “Clay. it would be lunch. Clay had learned to shield his thoughts around Jack. “Can I help you. but Jack could tell from the way she sashayed toward him that she was the type that usually wore skimpier attire. but Jack could smell his frustration and excitement hanging in the air. painting in a raggedy flannel shirt. If only the next few minutes would pass quickly. “Hello?” a female voice sounded from behind one of the circular racks. giving Jack a blissful reprieve from their lengthy inner monologues and an opportunity to catch up on some reading. and Ira Sullivan was in court. “Is anyone here?” “In the back. he felt it at a fever pitch. She was dressed modestly in slacks and a V-neck sweater. His brother was in the corner. and Jack looked up from the copy of Classic Motorsports he had spread on the counter. And whatever Clay felt now. he needed to shift back and see her. giving her a forced smile.” Jack muttered as he turned toward the door the back room. there’s someone here for the—” Jack slammed into Clay’s emotions like a brick wall. God.

” Clay whispered back. my parents just moved to a retirement home in Craig. You remember that. He closed his eyes and tried to sense if his brother had any sort of reaction to her physical presence. . “You’re my brother. “someone’s here for the bookkeeping gig. yeah.” the woman yakked after introducing herself.” With that cryptic statement. big way. was it?” “Yes. but of course. that’s exactly it?” Did she just bat her eyelashes? “Can I just see your résumé?” Ah. right? “Yeah. Jack maneuvered into the office and left the door open a crack. the intensity of his feelings lessening when he looked away from the canvas. aware of the woman still lingering by the counter. I nearly crumbled under the weight of your feelings.” Jack kept his voice lowered. he pushed past Jack to the counter. but found nothing. “Shit’s about to change.Hidden Pride 49 “C–Clay.” he managed to choke out. Jack. Always the charmer. a pained look on his face telling of the emotions he was now shielding. Jack grabbed his brother’s elbow just as he reached the door. I can feel you as well as hear you. “You see. greeting the prospective employee with his trademark cloudy demeanor. Clay. “Oh.” Jack saw the woman slide the document forward across the counter. Sensing that this would not be an interaction to miss. and I was so worried about not being able to find a—” “Jocelyn. revealing her expensive cleavage at the same time. He headed toward the door. I’ll tell you later. “I was just so delighted to see the job opening on the Denver Craigslist.” Clay slowly withdrew his attention from the painting. if only to watch his brother fend off the plastic woman’s flirtations. In a big. “What’s going on? When you were painting.

I talked to Bo last night. Clay? I’ve gotta know. “Relax. One hardly needed telepathic powers to tell that something wasn’t right here. but he just doesn’t have faith that our modern pride can overcome our prejudices to embrace our fellow shifters in Savage Valley. and I want to take that ad down so idiots stop calling my store. I think it’s just awful that anyone would want to destroy the environment in order to make some tacky ski resort. I still have a chance to check her references. And after what you were feeling…what was that. “you look plenty qualified.” Clay pushed the door to the office open then slammed it shut behind him. and his emotions calmed once more to a level that Jack could not feel. “I see you interned at NormCorp. You know they’re not too liked around here. Harvard. “Listen.” “I don’t know.” Clay only grunted in response. don’t you?” “Oh. Is Marta . she may have had a degree from Harvard. “What are you doing?” Jack said in a sharp whisper. I’ve got a funny feeling about this. I’ve got to meet with Bryce for lunch. frankly. “Well. It is so damn wonderful to see the Kinmans so excited about helping out with this. I was planning on consulting you about it. Oliver said they wouldn’t. and Jack held his breath. I read a story about the ordinance the city tried to pass a few months ago. He vowed to say something before Clay handed her the position. yes. What was his brother doing? Couldn’t he see what a proudly silicone phony this woman was? Yes.” “Bo? What on earth does Bo have to do with—” “Let’s see.” he began slowly.” Clay’s emotions spiked for just a moment.50 Helena Ray “Huh. and then it’s back to the police station. and he watched as she thanked his brother profusely and made her way back toward the entrance to the shop. but something about her struck Jack the wrong way. How about I check on a few of these references and we’ll say you’ve conditionally got the job?” Anger heated Jack’s awareness.

” Even through the attack on his mind. frigid air. At home. and new diner manager. “You can tell me about it—” “I can’t believe Roarke actually wants me to help out with protecting against NormCorp. He needed his lion form. and he had shifted before he hit the pavement. turning and looking at him . pouring him out into the crisp.” He rubbed his temples. There’s Roarke!” Once Bryce Sullivan’s inner monologue joined Roarke’s. Tonight then. and I’m one of the pride elders. He needed some sort of quiet. It’ll be dinner before I get back. Isn’t that contradictory? But whatever. and the back door flew open. he could hear the pity in Clay’s voice. If he could shift. looking for any signs of the Popes’ mate. Jack.Hidden Pride 51 here today? Chelsea said that she needed to talk to her today. He didn’t know how much longer he could go on with this level of pain eating at his mind day in and day out. You need it. Some sort of wedding business…” Jack doubled over as Roarke’s thoughts assaulted his mind. drawing him away from the situation at hand and to Savage Hunger. he could run far into the woods. Jack knew he could only stand a few more moments in his human form. fighting the numbing pain caused by too many voices talking at once. He needed out. Jack watched through Roarke’s eyes as he scanned the diner.” Jack’s voice came out strangled as he backed toward the exit. “Lunchtime. “Go. “Fuck. It’s so awesome that I can—Oh. All he saw was the girl from the woods. away from the voices and back to what waited for him there. Jack swore this was the worst it had ever been. This is so cool! I’m the youngest one in the pride. “Can you tell me about it when you get back?” “Pride elders meeting this afternoon. Marta. he didn’t sense any of the world around him.” He leaned against the bar. In his lion mind. especially with so few shifters.

. Over and over and over again.52 Helena Ray through the snowy branches. Silently it played.

It had pulled at her heart. considering that the paper should have been going to press in the next few hours. her afternoon had been spent holed up in her room. Kenny had been recruited as a last-minute replacement for a major international competition. As she turned. She found it odd. But this time. attached to her laptop. the lights on the wooden sign advertising the Savage Herald flicked off. just enough time for her to deliver the box of linens she had stashed in the back of her car. Luckily. Through her aunt and uncle’s fuzzy Internet connection. she’d watched as he’d easily skated through his long program.. and Anya wanted to support her friend enough to put off her much-anticipated trip to the Ninth Time. But Anya saw the real Christopher Birkhead. The clock on her cell phone said it was 5:50 p. memories of her old life still crawled into every moment. his quadruple toe loop had only been a triple. the mouthed curses as they stepped up to the kiss-and-cry. Shrugging it off as another example of the bizarre .m. When Kenny stepped off the ice. The crisp smell of snow brought her back to the present. but seeing her best friend had given her a warm feeling inside. Even though she adored being back in Savage Valley. most of the world saw Christopher as a consoling coach. the warm orange glow from the shop still illuminated the slick sidewalk outside. the hard glint in his eyes even when Kenny took the silver medal. Even though she’d repeatedly told her aunt that she would take the linens to the secondhand store that day. patting his back and telling him he was still proud.Hidden Pride 53 Chapter 4 The sky was darkening rapidly as Anya ran up to the door to the Ninth Time. and Anya noticed the day grow sharply darker.

blowing a loose strand of hair against her cheek and calling her attention upward. but erased entirely. a vision of magnetic masculinity. what she saw had her blood rushing through her veins and heating her from the very core of her being. When she heard no response.54 Helena Ray doings of the Valley’s wacky townsfolk. he came striding to the front of the store. The dark. toned abs between the waistband and the hem of his shirt. dark clouds. rolling clouds let her know the blizzard was impending. She tried again. Tattoos covered his upper arms. It was locked. “Anya. she didn’t need to be rescued from the cold. those were only ever a problem for— Right. revealing a narrow strip of flat. He padded barefoot to the door and quickly unlocked it. Once Clay Abbott caught sight of her. Anya heard a rustling inside the store. No. They were a problem for people in rural areas. but with the same results. she knocked on the door to the Ninth Time. what the hell are you doing here?” . She looked up at the sky and saw the flat. Like Savage Valley. she began pounding in earnest. Suddenly. desperately hoping she wasn’t about to be stranded in the middle of a wintry attack. clearly chiseled from hard work and not from hours in the gym. His jeans were slung low over his hips. What was going on? There were still ten minutes until the store closed! It occurred to her that the town may have been battening down the hatches for the storm the local weather channel had announced. She had attributed the declining light to the autumnal sun. but in Anya’s experience. After what seemed like forever. and Anya recognized the work of a few famous Surrealists in the ink laced over his skin. but was probably only a few minutes. Suddenly frantic. Anya pulled at the door to the Ninth Time. He wore a white wifebeater that clung to the muscles of his chest. The dry air whipped against her face. but now it felt not as if the sun had been blocked out.

revealing more of his stomach as he did so. It was only then that Anya noticed the streaks of paint through his hair. “I was just about to put the storm windows up. “You have tire chains.” Clay shook his head as he crossed to the area behind the window display to the left of the entrance. one staining his cheek.” “It’s about to storm like crazy out there. shoving his messy blond hair out of his face. “Can I go out the back to get to my car?” Clay started to nod and move to the door to the back. his tone softening. right?” Oh.” Anya suddenly felt even more awkward. with the storm coming.” “Really? It’s only November. nodding toward the back of the store. and clicked the lock to the store. Maybe she really had misconstrued what transpired between them.” “Oh. I decided to close up earlier and work a little on the piece I’m doing right now.Hidden Pride 55 His brusque reaction to her presence hurt a little in its contrast to their interaction the day before. reached around her. “I guess I’ll just try and get back to the Woodland then. shit. having interrupted a moment of artistic inspiration. Anya felt a distinct tingling in her pussy when she saw his shirt lift to show hard lines near the bottom of his torso. He reached up to pull the storm windows down. Those lines mimicked the shape of another part of Clay that fanned the flames growing inside her cunt.” she said tentatively. “I was just bringing some linens from the Woodland. My car’s around back if you want to get them. “Yeah. “You were painting?” she asked as he headed back toward the counter. but stilled as he put his hand on the doorknob. she had neglected many normal preparations for relocating to rural Colorado. He finished securing the storm windows and turned back to her. . He turned back to Anya. In her rush to flee her life in Colorado Springs.” he said. He took a step toward her.

“I can get you home. I want. She didn’t care if a relationship with him was completely improbable. wooden desk topped by a Macintosh computer that looked like it belonged in a museum of ancient technologies. If it’s okay by you. Traveling around the world as a .” “Nonsense. Even though they stood several feet apart. only increasing Anya’s uneasiness. He opened the door to the back room then turned and motioned to Anya.” she squeaked as she followed him into the room. The idea of being in such a small. “Sure.” She looked up to see Clay’s ice-blue eyes pinned to hers. if you want. she swore she could feel the heat rolling in waves from him. The fantasy of Clayton Abbott had stuck with her for so long that she would never pass an opportunity to see it fulfilled even in the tiniest way. Past the desk was an easel with a canvas on it covered in an abstract painting of reds and oranges. well. darlin’. Um. they stood distinct from one another.” He sighed and shook his head. “You can come take a look. To the left of the entrance was a large. confined place as a car with Clay sent lightning bolts of electricity rushing to her pussy.” Oh.56 Helena Ray “Those aren’t totally necessary. no problem. Instead.” Anya couldn’t hear her own voice over the pounding of her heart. can I just finish something on my painting real quick?” “That’s okay. but the colors didn’t bleed into each other as they would in an Impressionist painting. I guess I’ll see if I can call anyone to come and get me then. are they? I mean. The back of the Ninth Time was a cross between a studio and a drab office. the tires on my car should provide enough traction. shouldn’t they?” “Not for driving up to the Woodland. like the constituent hues of a flame separated from one another and turned into a puzzle of geometric forms. “Oh.

” she gasped as she stepped closer to it. She didn’t know if interrupting an artist in the midst of his work was a good idea or not. “What’s that?” she asked before she could stop herself.” She turned.” Anya glanced back at the painting. Their entire approach to art was based on finding different ways of seeing and representing those new visions in art. “I got a flash of something when we were out of the shop. “I try to find ways to represent the way I see the world in my art. isn’t it?” “Indeed it is. “It’s beautiful. “Done well.” he began carefully. He .” he said.” He didn’t look up as the intricate figures filled the page completely. and the grunt that escaped from Clay made her think it was the latter. “On your right arm. she turned to see him engaged with a piece of charcoal and a sketch pad. “Sometimes. and his eyes captured Anya’s. “The way you see the world is certainly compelling. I see you’re quite devoted the Surrealists. That’s Miró. She looked up to see his head cocked at the painting. seeming to struggle to find the right words to say. and she could easily see that Clay was exceptionally talented. his gravelly voice deeper than usual. revealing new facets to the painting as she neared it. Suddenly. a series of tiny prisms quickly filling the blank page. are you?” he asked as he came to stand next to her. “I’ve always felt an affinity with the Surrealists. He studied her for a moment then turned his attention back to the page and continued his sketching. and he met her eyes.” “Fan of cubism.” When he didn’t speak for a moment after that. and I had to get it down on paper. “It’s for the painting.” He crossed behind her and sat on the edge of the desk. I…” Clay trailed off. his attention back on the painting.” “Glad to hear you think so. “I see a lot of early Picasso and Braque in it.Hidden Pride 57 coach had given her a taste for art. The still- wet paint glimmered in the glow of the single lamp directed toward the easel. his head snapped to the side. a smile playing at the corner of his lips. yes.

” Clay finally said. “Looks like it’ll be a while before we can get you back to the Woodland. “I’m off today.” His hand left her shoulder. scorching her skin even through her coat. “Well. breaking the silence. because there’s no way we’re getting out of here tonight. very good in a former life to receive this gift. “That’s okay.58 Helena Ray repeated the motion several times. She must have done something very. Incapable of speech.” Once Anya was deprived of sight. His laugh vibrated from his hand. all the other sensual elements of Clay Abbott came pouring onto her full force. and the sound of his ragged breathing filled her ears. grabbing the green army jacket that had been slung over the back of the desk chair. Holy motherfucking shit! I’m really locked with Clayton Abbott in the middle of a blizzard. Finally. After a long moment.” she gasped. signaling that the storm had turned vicious. cutting off Clay’s words abruptly. she nodded before she realized that he couldn’t see her in the pitch-black office. and straight to her pussy. he sat up and dropped the charcoal. as if he were sketching her. to her shoulder. but when she looked at the page. woody scent as if someone had sprayed cologne the instant the power died. a breathy voice all she could manage. the screeching howl of the wind broke through the quiet. shit. She smelled his spicy. how about we get on the road and—” Darkness fell suddenly. “Now. overwhelmed by everything that was happening. Everything around them was silent. A beam of light . and she swayed back and forth.” It took every ounce of willpower Anya had ever possessed not to jump up and down in celebration at that moment. “That better be real late. His hand landed on her shoulder. no buzz of the fluorescent lights or choking of the old heater. so I can get back as late as you want. the series of sharp corners looked like no human face she’d ever seen.

hold this. “What’s a blackout without a good pinot noir?” “My favorite. She sat in the office chair with her legs crossed.” she said as Clay set the bottle and the lantern on the floor and pulled a package of Styrofoam coffee cups from the cabinet. a bottle of wine. It swooped around. and Clay held the flashlight underneath his face.” He turned the beam of light so that it shone at Anya. much to Anya’s delight. Finally.Hidden Pride 59 shone from across the room.” Fearful of tripping even in full light. he eventually pulled out a gas-powered lantern and. casting deep shadows over his handsome features.” she said as he laid the blankets on the ground. he withdrew a bundle of blankets and handed them up to Anya. and he lowered the flashlight. “Luckily. creating a makeshift place for Anya to stretch out on.” He stood. as she batted her hands toward him. “Believe it or not. “this is far from the first time I’ve gotten stuck in here.” He placed the flashlight in her hands then got down on his knees behind the counter. He grabbed a gas heater after that. shining the flashlight on Clay and admiring the way the stark contrast of the shadows played on his muscular arms and chest. “Here. and she followed his movements with the beam as he crossed to the locked cabinet to the left of the store entrance. if you’re going to get stuck in a storm somewhere. a secondhand shop’s just about the best place to do it. “This isn’t even the best part. blinding Anya temporarily. “Too much light!” she said. and they returned to the back of the store. laughing. .” Clay said as he opened the door to the darkened store. The low rumble of his laugh felt oddly comforting as she felt her way toward the door to the room. blinding her temporarily. After fumbling with the padlock. Anya carefully treaded behind him into the shop. “You certainly are prepared.

uh. We’re too far from Denver for the big stations. we hope that they’re having a good time during their blackout. slightly tentative.” “Oh.” He settled on the floor and lit the lantern. I’m…not Noah Strong—” “And I’m…not Bryce Sullivan—” “And you’re listening to Savage Valley’s very own pirate radio.” “Oh.” Clay replied with obvious pride in his voice.” Clay said as he set the radio on the floor and adjusted the wire. lions. “So how do you entertain yourself during these blackouts?” “Usually. well.” “And considering the recent arrival of their. and the Mukuas block out anything from Steamboat Springs. the radio whined in high-pitched squeals interrupted by moments of static until finally. immediately casting a soft glow throughout the space. “Ah. if you need to paint don’t worry about—” “Don’t worry.60 Helena Ray “Sorry about the cups. but since you’re here.” As he turned the knob back and forth. two discernible voices broke through the noise. and bears—” “Oh my!” “Well. yes. ladies. new friends. very good time.” “Hello.” Clay said as he reached behind himself and grabbed a faded turquoise plastic box with silver-chrome detailing and a wire dangling from it.” Anya turned off the flashlight and joined Clay on the floor. “Restored it myself. “Savage Valley’s finest.” . “Now that’s better. “Is that a transistor radio?” Anya said. we’re sure they’re going to have a very. incredulous. I might see if my other favorite diversion is available. so we have to make do on our own. all the time.” “All illegal. “Now the only issue is if I can get a signal from it. we hope you’re having a lovely blackout. ladies and gentlemen—” “Or should we say. Hard times call for hard measures. and if Mayor Cash or Sheriff Kinman are listening. I paint.

Hidden Pride 61

“Bryce? What are you suggesting?”
“Nothing, Noah, nothing at all. Well, maybe just that the
blackout’s a little more fun if you’re with someone.”
“Aw, well, Bryce, I didn’t know you felt that way. I’m honored,
but I don’t—”
“That’s not what I meant, Strong.”
“Well, while Bryce and I discuss this little revelation of his
feelings, how about you folks enjoy a little bit of Wanda Jack—”
“Oh, no, you don’t. It’s my turn to pick the song.”
“What do you mean?”
Anya’s eyes met Clay’s to see they were full of amusement as the
radio broadcast a scuffle between the two hosts.
“Now folks, here’s Eagle-Eye Cherry with the nineties hit, ‘Save
“Hey, it’s my—”
The radio switched to music, and Clay turned down the volume on
the transistor radio. Then he took out the bottle of wine and filled two
of the Styrofoam cups, handing one to Anya with a nod and a softly
spoken, “Cheers.”
“Well, those two are quite a pair.”
“Did you ever meet Noah and Bryce when you were here before?”
Clay asked after taking a sip of the wine.
“I don’t think so. I really only knew the people that hung around
Savage Hunger and the Woodland.”
Clay cocked his head and watched Anya as she took off her coat.
She felt flames rush to her cheeks and to her crotch as his eyes ran up
and down her form, disorienting her completely.
“Tell me more.”
“About what?” Anya asked as she set her coat behind her.

62 Helena Ray

Chapter 5

“And so–and so,” Anya said, gasping between convulsions of
laughter, “the guy lands on his butt and goes sliding all the way across
the ice, and my dad is chasing after him waving a hockey stick. Oh
my god, it was so priceless.”
Clay shook his head, and the waves of blond hair falling over his
face hypnotized Anya. She was lying on the blankets on the floor,
looking up at him as he relaxed with his back against one of the legs
of the desk.
“I can’t believe your dad chased Wayne Gretzky with a hockey
“Well, it was only that one time, and ice time is taken very
seriously in Olympic hockey games.”
“I would hope so,” Clay said in a tone laden with sarcasm. “Only
appropriate for the gravity of the Olympic games.”
Anya couldn’t stop the fit of giggles that took hold of her. The
wine had lowered her inhibitions, allowing her to bask in the glow of
spending time with Clay without all the anxiety about it being perfect
and magical. What amazed her most was how much they seemed to
get along. Not only did they share a common interest in art, there was
just a certain something between the two of them that Anya couldn’t
put her finger on. Part of her wanted to blame it on the wine, but she
knew it was more than that, knew it was part of the same thing that
kept him on her mind all these years.
“That was Patsy Cline with ‘Sweet Dreams (Of You),’ one of
country’s most romantic songs…if all you lovers out there get my

Hidden Pride 63

“And that means it’s my turn to give you the late-nineties alt-rock
“Come on, Bryce. You know we have differing opinions on that.”
“Yeah, but I’m the one who gets to choose the nineties hits on the
“If you don’t play them soon, I got some Dolly Parton that—”
“‘Iris’ by the Goo Goo Dolls, ladies and gents.”
The opening notes of the song quickly replaced the men’s voices,
and the tension in the room took center stage. The crackling radio
sounded louder than ever as Anya watched the rise and fall of Clay’s
chest, totally aware of every movement. His long eyelashes lowered
as he looked down at her, heating her from the inside out. Anya didn’t
have much experience with things like this. Her few relationships had
been with hockey players her father coached, brutish men out to take
their own pleasure and leave her cold. Looking up into the face of a
man who was not only devastatingly attractive but still had all his
teeth, she didn’t know where to go from here.
Luckily, Clay appeared to know exactly what to do. His foot,
which had been resting on the floor in front of her, moved slowly
forward, tickling her stomach. Clay wore a smile, but as his eyes met
her, she could feel the gravity in the flirtatious gesture. Whatever this
was, whatever had bound her to the memory of Clayton Abbott all
these years, was finally rising to the surface, and Anya would be
damned if she didn’t make the most of it she possibly could.
“I like this song,” he said quietly, his voice mixing with the
acoustic guitar. “It’s romantic.”
“It really is.” Anya watched as Clay slid lower down the side of
the table, so that he nearly lay beside her and his foot now rested
firmly against her hip.
“I like the idea that there’s one person in the world, one person
you’re always supposed to be with. One person that haunts you your
entire life.” Clay rotated so that he lay on the blankets across from
her, his head on the other pillow, their faces only inches apart.

every ray of light that played through the translucent halo of dark-blond hair as their faces touched. but the humorous gesture was short lived. Anya.64 Helena Ray “I like the idea that love. the simple touch that had invaded her dreams for so long. She sucked in a breath of air as the hot warmth of his tongue grazed against her lip. his voice only slightly slurred by the wine. and Anya gave a single. Only when their noses brushed did he close his eyes. something so big and deep it becomes a part of who you are. His look was questioning.” Clay said. sending shivers . His lips grazed hers. His gaze pinned her to the spot. this time closing around her bottom lip. reveling in the warmth and weight of his hand against the thin fabric of her shirt. “you’re as much of a romantic as I am. moving to the small of her back.” “Why. A whimper escaped from her throat. nor did Clay’s eyes leave hers. “What can I say? I grew up watching pairs skaters on the ice. is something the rest of the world won’t understand. She sighed. She pressed herself closer to him.” She shrugged. his clear eyes speaking his intent. she felt his hand rest against her waist. Clay’s hand slid backward. and they were softer than anything she’d ever felt. hoping he would take it as permission to do anything he wanted in this moment. her whole body seeking more contact. and he used it to pull her toward him. Anya didn’t breathe as her body melded against his. His eyes became serious.” Clay rolled his eyes. As the song came to a close. and his lips finally made contact with hers again. unable to contain the giggle that passed through her lips. but he drew his face back just a breath. but Anya was hesitant to follow suit. true love. She wanted to remember everything about this moment. every tiny sensation. as he lowered his face toward hers. slow nod. and as the ice-blue orbs held her gaze. bleeding into a slow country tune. playing out stories of love and sacrifice.

pushing Anya onto her back. even through the fabric of her shirt and bra. and the sensation of his reciprocal attraction sent an electric bolt of arousal to her pussy. As his lips fluttered back up her neck and under her chin. and this time.Hidden Pride 65 running downward and tightening her nipples to a point that teetered on the edge of pain. finally giving her a chance to gulp in a breath of air. finally wrapping around her breast. “And most certainly not your pussy. he used his other arm to hook underneath her thigh and wrap her leg around his back. she didn’t have long to rest during his sensual assault. “I haven’t been able to get any part of you out of my mind. and came to rest beside her hip bone. using her grip as an anchor as she pushed their bodies closer together. However. He tilted his head to the side. The outline of his cock against her stomach felt large. His lips stole to her jaw.” he whispered against her lips before kissing her again. and she gasped into his mouth as it covered one of her ass cheeks and pushed her toward his already growing erection. His hand retreated from her ass. his tongue slid in between her lips. . following his words. and Clay rolled forward. brazenly stroking into her mouth. one of his hands traveled up her torso. finally giving her some of the friction she desperately needed against her clit. Not your neck. leaving a trail of soft kisses.” he said as his lips brushed over the sensitive skin. “Not your hips. He squeezed her breast and brushed a thumb over her nipple.” She felt the effect of the illicit. causing it to tighten more. His hand on the small of her back pushed lower. She opened her mouth to accept the invasion and tangled one of her hands in his soft hair.” His hand traveled downward. and his kisses continued down her neck. Without warning. hardening her clit and dampening her underwear. “I haven’t been able to get these tits out of my mind. He pushed against her. dangerous words deep in her cunt as a fresh wave of cream wet her panties.

“Every inch of you.” Clay breathed over her skin then ran his tongue underneath her belly button. Without warning.” “It’s time to make up for time lost. his hands left her breasts. for penetration. As his lips grazed over her belly button.66 Helena Ray “I’ve dreamt of this so long. It’s all so perfect. exposing one inch of skin at a time.” Clay’s hands tugged at the bottom of her shirt. the most concentrated echoes between her legs.” she moaned.” she panted. He unclasped the button on her jeans. The fabric of her shirt tangled with her bra as she tried to wiggle out of the garments and feel the warm air of the heater blow over her tight nipples. eliciting a near-violent shiver.” . Anya hissed a sharp intake of breath as she felt Clay’s ministrations vibrate throughout her body. he quickly moved his body lower. When he finally gathered the shirt around her breasts. “I’ve wanted you for so long. yes. and he used his hand to caress the other. that the air from the heater never met the hard nubs or the dark skin surrounding them. His mouth covered one of her breasts. Clay appeared only more than willing to oblige her body’s demands. Clay began another trail of kisses. licking and nipping at the sensitive flesh of her stomach. meeting Clay’s gaze head-on. using her leg to press her pussy against Clay’s hard stomach as he gracefully alternated his ministrations between her breasts. and the warm air blowing over her wet nipples only served to drive Anya’s arousal higher and higher. her hips rolled toward him. moving of their own volition in a frenzied search for friction. darlin’. this one starting at the valley between her breasts and slowly winding downward across her torso. and his fingertips danced over the flesh just above the waistband. “God. for completion. and he dragged it upward at an excruciatingly slow pace. “Every inch of you. Her hips shot upward as he finally pulled off her shirt and his hand snaked underneath her to undo the clasp on her bra. sucking the nipple into his mouth. Clay made certain. though. Anya.

the other rubbed against her mons. She rolled her hips. but holding on for dear life as he plunged lower. Clay. and two fingers plunged into her without warning. and every tiny movement of his mouth combined to drive her closer and closer to the brink. Anya. His mouth retreated for just a moment. had her nearly naked. and Anya met his hand’s every thrust. so close. “Fuck. every square inch of flesh felt the soft caress of his mouth. passionate moan.Hidden Pride 67 He then hooked his thumbs underneath the waistband of her jeans and panties and. a few more seconds of overwhelming erotic stimulation. and any words she may have said turned into one low. Her hands tangled in Clayton’s hair. gathering moisture there. “So close. Clay began a furious pace of finger-fucking.” he groaned as he slowly began moving his finger in and out of her clenching pussy. His finger teased at the entrance. She closed her eyes and let her head fall backward. then plunged into her. completely lost in the sea of sensations that came over her. and his fingertips brushed against her G-spot. The power of speech left her. and Anya dared to anticipate his actions. sending a shower of sparks hurling outward over her body. her nerves becoming a tangled network or pleasure. god. not pushing his head downward. his hot breath dangerously close to her mound as his fingers withdrew from her. the tip of his tongue teasing the hard bud of her clit. brushing infuriatingly briefly against her clit. While he used one hand to work her skinny jeans off of her ankles. When Clay’s tongue laved at her clit. “You’re so wet”—he inserted another finger. A sharp squeal escaped her throat as he pushed one finger through her folds. and . He traced up and down her slit. His mouth opened then and pressed over her pussy.” No more words were spoken as Anya’s hands followed Clay’s head downward. His lips followed his hands. with one smooth motion.” Anya gasped. Only a few more thrusts. igniting the spot against the front wall of her cunt that she knew would set her entire being aflame. drawing a yelp from Anya—“and so fucking tight.

Slowly. a Cheshire Cat smile plastered across his face. extend the realized fantasy of being at Clayton Abbott’s sexual mercy. “You’re telling me. could ever come close to replicating. propelling her into a stratosphere of erotic fulfillment that nothing. and her clit throbbed in response. Even though heat still flared in her pussy. She rested her palm over one firm pectoral and looked into his eyes. and she panted as she lifted her head to stare down at Clay. and she reached up to brush her fingertips against his cheek. not the steamiest corners of her imagination. He pressed his face into her palm.68 Helena Ray she knew she would be a goner. She could smell the strangely erotic aroma of her own juices on his lips. though. She tried to breathe deeply and extend the experience. darlin’. Something within Anya snapped.” Clay leaned forward. Throughout. kept her from leaving the ecstatic state of orgasm. she couldn’t stifle a yawn. A smile pulled at his handsome features. “But what about you?” she asked as she dragged her hand down his neck then over his collarbone.” Anya managed between pants. and his shaggy hair tickled the side of Anya’s face and his lips brushed the tip of her nose. “That was…Wow. he rose from between her still-quivering thighs. the intimate gesture so similar to the fantasies she’d harbored for years. but all Anya cared about was the man crawling up her naked body.” She could feel her face flush at his comment. The day had been long. After what seemed like whole minutes of pure carnal bliss. The wind howled outside them. Anya’s senses returned to normal. when Clay’s tongue returned to her clit and flicked it as he brushed against her G-spot once more. and his tongue stole out to lick her juices from off of his lips. Her efforts were shattered. Clay pulled himself to lie beside Anya and traced his hand up and down her heaving chest. and the . Clay’s fingers kept working at her. “You taste delicious.

he admired the snow swirling around him and lying unbroken. and down to her neck.” He pressed a trail of kisses from the corner of her lips. “I promise. He blinked open his eyes and saw the muted moon reflected off the hard surface of each snowflake. frozen swords.” “You worry about taking a nap right now. and we can play later. “But I want…” she began to say. toppling face-first into the frigid powder.” “Promise?” Anya said as she closed her eyes and snuggled against Clayton’s still fully clothed body. and he was human again. desperate for the cold to sting the least possible skin. and I’m planning on tasting you again. but another yawn interrupted her. **** Jack saw the snow before he felt it. “Motherfucker!” The snow stung his skin and formed an icy glove around his prick. driving into his skin like another thousand tiny. as his fur retreated into his skin. he stumbled as his feet sank into the snow when he landed. but sleepiness finally tugged her into its warm grip. “Don’t you worry about me. encompassing her entire body and easing her toward sleep.” She started to reply. casting the world in an eerie white. He shot to his feet. but even with his feline grace. Then. the sharp edge of those crystals turned on him. to her jawline. “But I want to worry about you. Warm contentment spread from where his lips grazed her skin.Hidden Pride 69 aerobic activity of her orgasm combined with the wine to drag her toward exhaustion. brushing his lips over hers. shimmering like a thousand tiny crystals. sending jolts of very unpleasant sensation spiraling . “We’ve got all night. I can tell you’re exhausted.” he said. For a moment.

. but as usual. “Clay! Open up. Curled against his body was what appeared to be a naked woman. making room for it to open. He leaned over and scooped the snow back from the door. are you in there?” Jack pounded on the back door to the Ninth Time. He needed heat.70 Helena Ray to his groin. Another blast of wind caused Jack’s skin to pebble into gooseflesh and his groin to contract again in pain. He pulled it again. they followed the thin beam of light from the crack in the door across the paint-splattered carpet to where his brother lay strewn on a pile of blankets on the floor. the door groaned open. and a welcome blast of warm air smoothed over Jack’s skin. a better way to weather the storm anyway. The light from a gas lamp blotted out Jack’s vision briefly. Frozen to the bone. buried under the thick layer of snow insulating the earth. at least a foot and a half deep. “Clay! Clay. He kicked his legs. inwardly cursing his brother for not installing a keypad entry system like they had at Savage Hunger. Totally naked. but Jack was in no mood to question his luck. trying to squelch the growing pain long enough to find his…Shit. and much to his dismay. Much to his chagrin. His clothes were stashed beside the Dumpster. But his human rationality had broken into his leonine mind when all the lights in the town had flicked out. In downtown Savage Valley. when he pulled. Clay didn’t normally leave the back door unlocked. man!” He pulled on the door. it rose up to his shins. unfortunately covered by a tattered quilt. but when his eyes finally focused. his highly irrational lion brain had failed to take into account what Jack would do without his fur. this time pushing the snow back a bit more and opening the door further. His hands shot to his crotch as he stood. finally getting a foothold in the snow. He’d shifted. it only opened a tiny crack. When he didn’t hear Clay’s call. and he needed it now. Jack had stayed in shifted form all night. Her ample chest rose and fell in the slow rhythm of sleep. This time.

graceful movements. but it was supplanted by an even more intimate vision. Jack eased the door closed behind him. the one that had captured his mountain lion’s attention and seeped through his human thoughts. he stopped. slept on the floor of the Ninth Time office. and to those perfect full lips. made more beautiful for the contrast between the pale. at least had to smell her. He studied the woman closer.Hidden Pride 71 Her head rolled back suddenly. Neither moved. Why couldn’t he? Some part of his mind knew it was wrong. to taste. The animal and human blended together. rosy skin and the dark hair. His gaze moved up her long neck. the long strokes up and down his shaft powered by the erotic visions that took hold of his mind. noting that the quilt fell to the side. and that was when Jack recognized her noble features. his… . As he studied the substantial swell of her chest. With the same smooth. When it softly clicked into place. creamy legs that he desperately wanted to run his hands over. tossing a mane of dark hair away from her face. and Jack felt a distinct stirring in his cock as he was finally rid of the cold air. creating one variegated will that called for him to touch. sucking his seed from him as he tangled his hands in that dark hair. holding his breath as he awaited any movement from his brother or the angel pressed to his side. revealing long. driving the need within him higher. his cock lengthened. The beauty from the woods. he took his cock in hand. but he had to taste her lips. He imagined that mouth wrapped around him. He could almost feel the skin of her neck underneath his lips as he kissed up. and her chocolate hair. Moving with a silence only possible due to his two-sided nature. He looked down and saw a droplet of pre-cum had already gathered on the tip of his dick from the sheer power of his attraction to her. her alabaster skin. ready for action even after its recent cold shock. to her full pink lips. over her jaw. He tightened his grip on his cock as his fist bumped against the swollen purple head.

too. just as Sam. Jack. but a look of horror overtook her face and her eyes shot downward. her shoulder knocking Jack on the forehead and sending him reeling backward. “What are you doing here?” “Come back to bed. “You’re naked!” “Oh. “Look. Jack’s hand stilled.” Clay mumbled as he rolled onto his side.72 Helena Ray His mate. shit. Her wide brown eyes flew open. and Mel Pope had. Phil. Jack recognized the certainty from the minds of the lions that had already found their mates. about to sup from the sweet berries. It was why the flickering images of the woman in the woods flashed through his mind and why he felt so pulled to her then. he leaned his body toward her and anticipated the sweet taste of her pink lips. just as Oliver and Roarke had. and knelt in front of the precious creature. um. He reached a hand up toward where she held the quilt to her chest in a white-knuckled death grip. Jack scrambled to his knees and tried to hold out his hands in a conciliatory gesture. Trying not to wake her. when her long eyelashes twitched. And Jack knew. and a bloodcurdling scream sounded through the office—and Jack guessed through the rest of Savage Valley. It was a full- body knowledge that permeated all the human and leonine senses. I’m Jack. Seeing her wedged next to his brother only confirmed this notion. still in the throes of sleep. but could you get out of here?” . He was within a hair’s breadth of her lips.” Jack’s hands shot to his crotch as he tried to crawl closer to her and assure her that his intentions were far from harming her. and some part of Jack had been anticipating this moment since he first found the recollection in the pride alpha Oliver’s mind of scenting his mate Chelsea. Jack padded across the floor. and I—” “Nice to meet you. but she swatted it away. stepping over his brother without a sound. “Who are you?” she shrieked as she bolted upright.

.” Anya.Hidden Pride 73 Clay finally stirred from his soporific state and blinked open his eyes. slamming into the desk as she did so. He took a few steps back. Jack knew he had heard the name before. Jack darted forward. But with her mouth dangling open as that quilt barely covered her succulent form. the woman shrugged Clay’s arm off her shoulders. hold on. saving her from an unpleasant landing on the floor. “Anya. carefully covering his crotch with one hand as he held the other up in a gesture of surrender. Jack knew he wouldn’t be able to hide his erection long at all. he looked between Jack and the woman then wrapped an arm around her shoulder. The flesh of her upper arms was soft underneath his hands. but his brain couldn’t connect his scattered thoughts. then scrambled to her feet and backed up. Before he had any time to contemplate the matter. Without thinking. After a moment of disorientation. and she began sliding to the side. darlin’. Her ass landed on a pile of papers. and only the fear of another earsplitting scream could motivate him to release her.

and here she was. “Take this. A pang of guilt coursed through her.” . at your service. He means well. “who is that?” “Jack Abbott. sated body to flare back to life. “My brother has a tendency to be a little…overly peppy in stressful situations. A long. after ten long years. Forgive him. Clay threw his arm around Anya’s shoulder just as she noticed Jack’s erection tenting the thin fabric. despite her frustration. lusting after his brother. then where can you?” Anya cut her gaze to Clay. causing her sleepy. At least. If you can’t show up naked at your own business in the middle of a blizzard. letting it hang casually from his hips like a beach towel on a summer day.74 Helena Ray Chapter 6 “C–Clay. she was quite glad that he did. returned her affections and driven her to the most satisfying climax of her life. and co-owners of the Ninth Time. and the other man wrapped it around his waist. What was she doing? The man of her dreams had finally. “Jack Abbott? So you two are brothers?” “We are indeed. inadvertently revealing himself at the same time. and she shied from Clayton’s embrace. she assumed he was his brother. Although Anya had to admit.” Anya stuttered as she regained her footing.” The handsome blond stranger extended his right hand to her.” Clay mumbled as he clambered to his feet next to Anya. He handed Jack a blanket from the pile they had fallen asleep on. thick erection sprang from the bottom of his sculpted torso. and he sighed and shrugged his shoulders.

All thoughts about anyone but Clay . She spotted her clothing in a pile by Clay’s feet and began wrapping her quilt tighter around her torso. Anya was a goner. Anya couldn’t help but note the similarities between him and his brother. She used one hand to hold the quilt closed behind her as she crossed between the two hard. appropriately?” “Well. “Uh. masculine bodies to retrieve her clothing.” Jack winked at her then nodded at his brother. God. she needed to get her clothes on as soon as possible or her libido would certainly lead her to do something she’d regret. but it didn’t come. and instantly likable smile. if you boys don’t mind. expecting his answer. and her pussy clenched at the idea. Anya began to pull away. Admiring the smooth planes of flesh that led to where the blanket draped from his temptingly toned hips. considering that two out of the three of us are only sporting a blanket. I’d say you’re dressed very appropriately. Clay? Is there somewhere I can change?” Anya turned her face up. piercing blue eyes. she suddenly noticed her nakedness. his lips captured hers in a chaste kiss. chiseled chest thrown in. “Looks like Clay here’s the one that’s overdressed. Anya felt her nipples pebble against the scratchy fabric of her quilt. Instead. Jack could easily have been the star of a teen soap opera with his messy blond hair. “can we delay the formal introductions until I’m dressed a little more…uh.Hidden Pride 75 Jack punctuated the words with a blindingly white smile. proving Clay’s point. but the soft flick of his tongue against her lips made her stay for a few more moments of his kiss. What do you say he grabs himself a blanket and suits up like the rest of us?” Anya tried unsuccessfully to stifle a giggle at Jack’s request for Clay to strip. With her arousal climbing again. With a hard. “Um. causing moisture to gather between her legs.” she started as she inched out of Clay’s grasp toward her clothing. dear. While Clayton had rugged. unconventional good looks.

woodsy scent that rolled off of Clay combined with the sight of two ungodly attractive Abbotts made rational thought impossible. Shit. and she looked up into his flushed face. holding the quilt in place. she secured the blanket around her body. and she placed the other over Clay’s chest.” he choked out and. her sudden arousal manifest. I need to change. motioned toward a door on the wall to the left of the entrance to the store. Her clothing fell to the side as she lowered her forehead on her knees and tried to figure out what exactly was happening out there. Clay continued to kiss her for a moment then stopped. She rested her back against the door and slid down to the linoleum.” Her voice sounded breathy. but Anya mustered the willpower to lean over and retrieve her clothing. The spicy. “I’ll work on talking Clay into getting out of all those clothes. After all. That went on a little longer than intended. Her bodily instincts would have to take a backseat. without breaking eye contact. she couldn’t resist one more look at Clay and Jack. and Anya stilled. Her thighs tightened from the tingling inside her pussy when she remembered the feel of Clay’s tongue between her legs.76 Helena Ray dropped away as his arms wrapped around her. As she placed her hand on the doorknob to the bathroom. at least for the moment. Deep breaths. though. His ice-blue eyes made it difficult to turn away. and she rapidly opened the door to the bathroom and slammed it behind her.” The idea of the hard muscles she’d felt beneath the thin material of Clay’s wifebeater on full display sent another electric pulse to her clit. she reminded herself as she curled her knees to her chest and tried to dispel the excitement that held her in its grip. his silky . everyone knows the quilt-toga look is what’s in for fall. With one hand. “Don’t you worry. “The bathroom. apparently sensing her sudden reluctance. Jack cleared his throat.” Jack’s eyes sparkled with amusement. “Clay. longing to dig her fingers into the hard muscles.

Even as a teenager. and after she recovered from the shock of a naked man interrupting her long winter’s nap. her grandmother had stuttered uncomfortably. she wasn’t doing a very good job of calming down. Anya racked her brain. **** . Sometimes. the sight of his erect cock had just added to her arousal. It would take an Abbott—or two. she specified. traditionally shared their women. she coaxed herself into standing and splashing some cold water on her face. Her grandmother had said that the men in the Yeats family. Ménage relationships were not love triangles. the idea had fascinated her. With a few deep breaths. and when she later realized the sexual ramifications of the situation—that two hard cocks would fill a woman at once—ménages had haunted her dreams. When Anya explained that she had seen Gone with the Wind enough times to know all about love triangles. Aunt Cora’s family. Grandma Rita had corrected her. Shakily reaching for her clothes. trying to remember if she had ever mentioned anything about the Abbotts. Yes. no less? Anya remembered when her grandmother awkwardly explained ménage relationships to her when she asked about her Aunt Cora’s two fathers. she realized it would take much more than cold water to cool the flames inside of her. but it would be understood from the first moment that both men would love the woman together. as did a few other families in the Valley. but came up empty. But then she had seen his brother. Would they want that with her? Damn it. How could she be so attracted to two men? Brothers. the woman would get something different from her relationship with each man. two men would fall in love with one woman.Hidden Pride 77 blond hair between her fingers as she rode his face straight to an earth-shattering orgasm. but one relationship that developed organically between three or more people.

no offense. “What happened? I mean. Rita’s granddaughter.” A worried expression fell over Jack’s features.” he said under his breath. You know I’ve never spent all that much time at Savage Hunger. Clay. “And it’s been all I can think about. “I saw her while I was in lion form.” . his brother without any of the bravado or extraversion he used to mask the constant chatter inside his mind.78 Helena Ray Clay watched the door to the bathroom close before turning his attention to his brother. “What do you think you’re doing?” “I saw the lights go out while I was shifted. Clay now saw a rare sight. She was in the Valley all the time when she was a teenager. bro. How was I to know that you’d be in here with our mate naked on the floor?” “Our—” Taking a deep breath. “You really think she’s our mate?” he sent telepathically.” Jack’s expression was devoid of its usual tension. just like it did for Oliver. Did you forget her name already?” “Pardon me.” “I would remember her. flicking his eyes toward the bathroom door.” “Do you really not recognize her? It’s Anya.” “Wait until you see all of her. Clay closed his mind and tried to dissolve the mental barrier he kept up to shield his thoughts from his brother. even an awkward kid version of her. The sight of her keeps looping in my brain. “What the fuck. Jack?” he hissed under his breath. who was dressing himself in a pair of boxer shorts and a T-shirt kept in the office desk. Gerard Copely’s daughter. “Of course I do. practically lived in Savage Hunger. but how did you get her back here? Snagging the ladies has never really been your thing. and it was enough to get me to call me back into human form. I saw his memory of seeing Chelsea. It’s still too hard for me with the Popes there all the time. but I was too caught up gazing at the top of those breasts. She’s fucking gorgeous. and it looked just like my first sight of…” “Anya.

Damn. Not that I mind. feminine curves pressing into him.” Her pulse quickened.” Clay brushed her hair back and grazed his lips over her earlobe.” “You know.” she said. “What can I say? I was just a poor damsel in distress and he rescued me from getting stuck in the snowstorm.” Jack replied sarcastically. sinking between her legs had been so fucking good. and both Clay and his brother turned to see her dressed again. feeling the rise and fall of her ribcage as she spoke. Instinctively.” “Oh. “Sorry for waking you. “And naked nonetheless. and his cock pressed against the zipper of his jeans. “But I guess I’ll forgive you. She cooed and burrowed closer to him. “Indeed. I can see. Nothing had ever felt so right as having her soft.Hidden Pride 79 “What’s too hard?” Anya emerged from the bathroom at that moment. “I think Clay would be the one to explain that. “Great personal cost.” Anya put on an expression of exaggerated distress. although her tousled hair and the flush of her pale skin attested to their earlier play. he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and held her to him.” Jack leaned back against the wall and crossed his legs. appearing as calm as ever. Without thinking.” Jack’s voice drew both Clay’s and Anya’s attention. at great personal cost to him. She walked with purpose across the small office. “It was quite a start. you never did explain what you were doing in my store. and hearing her gasping his name right before she came…Well. and her sweet .” The flush in Anya’s cheeks intensified. and Clay felt her silent giggle against his chest. he leaned over and brushed a kiss against her forehead. and Clay’s breath hitched when she molded her body against his side. doe eyes. that was a pleasure he’d never imagined. and Clay ran his hand down her back.

illuminated only by the soft glow of the lamplight.” “You should listen to him. why exactly were you doing that?” Anya asked then looked back at Clay. until a flush rose from beneath her T-shirt to color her pale skin. “Is this a regular occurrence?” “Why don’t you let Jack explain. Only ten feet away would be ten feet too far. revealing new aspects of their luminescence. not to scare her away. “I can be quite dangerous. calling Clay’s lion to the surface. “Thanks for understanding. Never had he wanted anything with such a visceral force. Jack be damned. that would do the trick. “Is it okay if I work on my painting for a bit. He needed a moment without her tempting heartbeat against his skin. He could return to his work and try to dampen the inferno inside of him. Withdrawing from her took such effort. each glance more assessing than the one before. although he knew his cock would stay hard as long as Anya was within a hundred-foot radius. “Painting.” she said finally. I have a reputation for running around naked in snowstorms. The colors morphed in the low light.” Jack said.” he choked out breathily. The brunette beauty in question turned her wide eyes up to him. Yes. and Clay released Anya and took a step away from her.” “Yeah. .” Clay turned and looked at his canvas. his gaze locked on Anya’s. “Sounds good.80 Helena Ray aroma became more potent. because he was damn close to mating her right then. After all. “I don’t want to interrupt a masterpiece. darlin’? I’ll just be over in the corner if you’re too uncomfortable with my crazy brother. a sure sign that his inner lion was clawing to the surface. The rational part of Clay’s mind screamed at him not to overwhelm her. and it was the only thing that kept him from stripping her and fucking her right then and there.” Anya looked back and forth between the two men several times.” he said as he brushed a kiss on the top of her head. His fingernails began tingling.

Hidden Pride 81 **** Now that the idea of a ménage between herself and the Abbott brothers had wormed its way into her brain. His smile stunned her once more along with the amusement that sparkled in his blue eyes. Across the small office on the opposite wall. it colored everything she saw.” Oh no. but I don’t want to lie to you. Anya blurted her question to Jack. so that he sat just on the edge of the . His answer unsettled her stomach and reminded her far too much of the phone calls Christopher would make to his wife when he had a tryst with a random groupie. Jack did the same. and she needed to move on. “I know this is going to sound evasive. Jack rolled onto his knees and crawled closer to Anya. why did thoughts of that man keep seeping into her life in Savage Valley? That part of her life was closed. would he? Exhaustion quieted the questions echoing in her brain as she sank to the floor. though. He wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t had cause to believe that Clay would approve of their flirtation. and a look of bemusement overtook his countenance. “Then don’t lie to me. Loosened from the wine and the cunnilingus.” With one fluid motion. Clay had left her to spend time with Jack after he had spent the evening driving her crazy. “So why were you naked?” It appeared as though a dark cloud flashed over Jack’s features. Damn it.” “I won’t. He appeared to fight the darkness. That had to mean something. casting a shadow over the ever-present sunlight in his expression. resting her back against the desk. right? Did he want her and Jack to develop a bond? And Jack was overtly flirtatious even after Clay had kissed her senseless.

” After hesitating.” “Someday soon. Finally.” Anya smirked at him. “Let me get this straight. gorgeous. Anya nodded slowly. “I was worried you’d never speak to me again. but that’s tame. but Anya noticed the brief tensing in Jack’s muscles before he answered.” “Anything.” To Anya’s surprise. I’ll let you off the hook.” “Tell me about your family. “I would tell you now.” Jack pretended to wipe his forehead with the back of his hand. “It sounds like you’re planning on telling this story to me someday.” Jack’s words caught in her chest. “But I want to be sure you don’t have any wine in your system to muddle the details. “I’m curious.” Anya said with a hint of teasing. Hopefully. Clay stumbled backward then turned back to face them. For now. gorgeous.” Neither said anything else. and even through her doubts. “Okay. . “Anya wants to know about our family. “Clay. “Well. and he amended.82 Helena Ray makeshift bed.” “But you have to tell me something else. the amusement of earlier gone. but it’s a very long story. one I want to be certain you hear in its entirety. Jack turned to face his brother.” The older Abbott continued at his canvas until Jack cleared his throat loudly. he would tell her exactly what she wanted to hear. Jack turned back to Anya. hope blossomed there. but an entire conversation seemed to pass between them in only a few seconds.” Jack replied with a smile. and you want me to tell you about my family? No offense.” “Phew. nearly anything.” “Don’t be evasive. As if a spell were broken.” The question was innocuous enough. I’ll tell you anything.

they’re gone. at least. There used to be a used auto part of the business. that she may have been hearing things. she never came back.” The mirth had trickled back into Jack’s eyes. “It’s just a little hard to remember sometimes. and his stunning smile widened. Your family’s from around here if I’ve understood Clay correctly. “But about your…”—Anya hesitated to say it out loud for fear that her uttering the words would make them untrue—“y–your dads?” “Well.” he said reverently. Jack studied her. They’ve always owned the Ninth Time. but we’re not upset about it. Plural. And when our mom went after our dads. what hap—” Anya hated to sound insensitive. right?” “Well.” “Oh god. Hell.Hidden Pride 83 “Well.” “Oh my god. I said dads. She told herself to calm down. brothers in the Abbott family have always shared their women. If you don’t want to answer—” “I don’t mind talking about it. at least.” .” Anya said apologetically. “You see.” “Shit. “Yes. “I didn’t mean to pry. our family’s been hocking other people’s shit for as long as anyone can remember. for the last hundred and fifty years or so. “Yes. I had no idea. my dad is. They brought old cars back to life before reality TV made it cool.” “Did something happen?” Jack hesitated for a moment. There was a…hunting accident. I really didn’t. Meaning multiple fathers. but what she had just heard had her world tilting on its axis. appearing to consider how best to phrase his response.” Anya watched Clay’s face illuminate as he told her the endearing story of how his fathers—the word still sounded bizarre to Anya— met his mother. for the most part. Meaning they had one wife. I can’t believe you’re Gerard Copely’s daughter. there were three of them. out back where the Savage Hunger parking is now. brothers. Dads.

She waited a moment more. “With that in mind.” he began as he reached out and stroked his thumb over her chin. and his face was inches from hers. Finally. she fought. Jack’s abdomen was pressed against her calves. He didn’t move.” Any response Anya could formulate stopped in her mind when Jack rose to his knees and closed the short distance between them. her breath wouldn’t cooperate. holding her still for the languid assault of his lips. leaving her mouth dangling open in awe. but as Jack brushed her hair behind her ear. When Anya opened her mouth to speak. completely engrossed in Jack’s tale. but he controlled the kiss as he slid his hand across her jawline. but that something was drowned out by the sincerity that sparkled in his wide blue eyes.” Frustration began to tug at the edge of her mind. wanting the burning arousal that electrified her nerve endings when Clay had touched her. she remembered that this wasn’t Clay. and Anya realized she would have to make the first move. “So you and Clay…” The idea was too incredible to voice.84 Helena Ray “How do you know it’s been going on that long?” Anya asked. her diaphragm allowed her to inhale a deep breath. Jack . that men could not be trusted. “I’d like to get to know you. “Remember how I couldn’t tell you why I was naked?” “How could I forget?” “Same reason. wondering if Clay would react. especially since you seem to be getting along with Clay so well.” A shiver ran down Anya’s spine at Jack’s nearness. With one smooth stride. but the implications of what Jack said pushed it away. she surged forward. staring at her as if awaiting her reaction to his words. At first. Something in the back of her mind told her she should be afraid. Anya. “Yes. allowing her lips to crash against Jack’s. Clay and I fully intend to share a wife. When the only sounds she heard were the wind roaring against the back door to the Ninth Time. No.

couldn’t say anything. and Clay knelt down in front of her. she noticed that she panted in time with him. It traveled through her veins. erotic sensation burned from within her womb. Jack’s soft lips withdrew.Hidden Pride 85 was his own man. “Yes. and Anya followed them.” she said between yawns. As she extended her legs and let Jack press his body harder against her. tightening her lower abdomen and her thighs as it warmed over her. both onto her panties and throughout her body. she could see the bulge tenting his jeans. trying to think of a way both to withdraw and to stay near her men. and she needed a moment alone. and her body would respond to him differently. The suddenness of all that had happened began to weigh on her. feigning sleepiness. “I–I don’t know if I can stay awake much longer. The vibrations of his kiss still echoed through her lips. .” Clay said. Only one solution came to her. a slow. Anya still couldn’t move. hoping for only a fraction of a second more of his kiss. her body still intoxicated by him. he sat back on his heels and dragged his hand to her upper arm. She dragged her eyes upward. From where Anya still leaned against the desk. taking in the hard chest that his tight shirt hinted at until she met his eyes. “We wasted so much time. Instead of the hot tingling of excitement that rushed through her body at Clay’s touch. Instead. I think I’ll enjoy getting to know you. The two brothers shared a knowing look. although she found it slightly pathetic. As she watched the rise and fall of his chest. Her brain moved quickly. The unmistakable lust that burned there both excited her and overwhelmed her. approaching them. twisting and turning down her limbs as if someone had injected her with warm liquid sugar.” Jack said as he clambered to his feet. the pleasure wept from within her cunt.

and her pretend sleepiness suddenly turned very real. “Especially if you’re caught in it naked. Anya tried to contemplate this enigma surrounding the Abbotts. The feeling crept down her spine. and giver herself a much-needed opportunity to process what had happened. “Same reason my idiot brother was naked in a blizzard. The desk. “We’ve got nothing but time now. **** Soft conversation woke Anya.” he said as he flipped through a paperback book.” She laughed.” He leaned forward and brushed a fluttering kiss against her cheekbone. “Morning. “But how are you going to see to paint?” she asked as she curled against the pillow. which meant… Anya blinked open her eyes and saw Jack sitting across from her with his back resting against the far wall of the office. and when she stretched. but sleep caused her to lose her mind’s grasp on the question.” Jack added as he squatted next to his brother. he lowered her to the blankets. “Welcome back to the world of the living. Slowly. “Kill the light. darlin’. her arm hit something hard and wooden. She was still on the floor of the Ninth Time. gorgeous. thankful they weren’t particularly bothered.” he whispered with a soft laugh. Clay brushed a kiss against her hair and covered her in a soft quilt.” Clay wrapped his arms around Anya and pulled her to his chest.” .” “Surviving a blizzard takes it out of you. and you’ll need your strength. followed by an instant pang of stiffness in her neck. wondering how much longer she could lie awake listening to Clay’s breathing.86 Helena Ray “Don’t worry about staying awake for us. Right. She focused entirely on the warm pillow between them and the pile of blankets she slept on earlier.

the storm.” Clay said. but his desire to take care of her comforted . crinkling her nose.” Jack added from where he had situated himself above Anya’s head. that meant her memories of Jack were all real. sucking her bottom lip into his mouth briefly and running his teeth over the sensitive flesh.” he answered. Oh god. it’s nice to have you back. If all that had happened. “Although. He smiled. too. and he had driven her to heights she had previously believed unreachable. “Well. she sincerely doubted her sanity. the expression casting light on his face.” Some part of Anya’s brain told her she should be offended at his invasion of her privacy.” “Small price to pay. and the image of Clay’s hard-on after her kiss with Jack burned in her mind. “The storm looks to be over. Images of the night before came rushing into her mind. strolling toward where Anya still lay on the blankets.” “Speaking of which. Clay had answered the door to the Ninth Time.” she whispered as Clay laid his head on the pillow beside her.Hidden Pride 87 “What time is it?” Anya mumbled as she snuggled into the warm blanket that cocooned her.” The grin Clay wore grew as he leaned forward and kissed her. and lowered himself to the floor. His hand brushed over her waist as he extended his body beside her. “I know it will be such a burden for you. your Uncle Frank called your phone earlier. “Almost eleven. It had really all happened. and for a moment. and Anya had to refrain from pinching herself to see if she was awake.” she said. “You’ll just have to come back.” Right. “I had a good night. but I gave him a call back and let him know he could come get you. “you never did give me an opportunity to drop off those linens. they had shared wine and conversation. She looked up as he tangled one of his hands in her now quite messy hair. I hope you don’t mind. too. She could almost feel his lips brushing against hers. well.

“We won’t mind having you around. showing just how much he wouldn’t mind. Clay’s hand smoothed down her back and came to rest on the swell of her ass.” She looked up at Jack and grinned. and his lips landed on her neck. desperate to give in to her arousal. .” Clay leaned forward. She pushed her chest against him. and with a few muttered curses. These men certainly did a number on her mind and her body. a knock echoed from within the shop. But just as his fingers began to dig into the flesh.88 Helena Ray her more than anything. Clay rose and stormed out of the office. “But you can stick around as long as you’d like.

Did no one in this dreadful excuse for a small town know how to shovel snow? She straightened herself. He was a despicable human being. Ulysses needed to plan something big for her in return for this favor. anyway. and she fully intended to fuck her way to the position of NormCorp CFO.Hidden Pride 89 Chapter 7 “Damn it!” Jocelyn cursed to herself as her stiletto heel sank into a pile of snow. even if it meant allowing Ulysses C. She’d fucked her way through college and business school. another woman would. If she didn’t do it. missing her weekly manicure appointment. Did Ulysses have any concept of how difficult it was to get an hour with Melissa? A shudder ran through her body at the thought of the man she’d been sleeping with for the past five years. Men were putty in her hands. It had only taken a blow job behind the tree at the company Christmas party to wrap Ulysses around her finger. after all. self-important and bigoted. desperate to get out of the cold and get this over with. She rapped her leopard-print-covered knuckles against the glass door again. It would be a quick interaction. Ever since then. balancing her top-heavy figure on four-inch heels before knocking on the cold glass door to the shabby secondhand shop. That was the only way she knew how to operate. Norman to spasm on top of her for a few painful minutes then flop onto her like a dead fish. Jocelyn had carefully maneuvered up the . but he had been her ticket to business success. Jocelyn knew it would take only a few appointments with the owners of this shithole before she would convince them it was best to sell out to NormCorp. Today alone she’d had to reschedule her trip to Denver in order to make it to this shithole shop.

leaving Jocelyn standing like an idiot by the entrance. God. being certain to squeeze her breasts together and deepen her cleavage and catch Clayton Abbott’s attention. “Coming!” Finally. foreign dignitaries. broad-shouldered Neanderthal came to the door. At least he was better than his all-American little shit of a brother. if he only knew how she had acquired it. “Well. Her conquests included not only corporate giants. that sluggish. Oh. she thought to herself. Cave Man had been blinded by the word “Harvard” on her resume. careful to “accidentally” rub her breasts over his arm. “Thank you so much. It’s so cold out there!” The man only grunted in response and ran his fingers through his messy dishwater hair. you could try sticking to the opening hours on your door. He’s going to be difficult. Jocelyn hurried in. and god knew what else. isn’t he? Flipping her hair behind her shoulder. After he grumbled and unlocked it. Ugh. It’s eleven. Why would anyone want to spend their hard-earned money on this shit? Did they not realize that they could buy new things? Probably not out here in Bumfuck. financing everything from her rent to her Jimmy Choos with an artfully delivered blow job. Every man she met fell to his knees before her. she carefully wound her way through the jumble of overly used clothing. She removed her coat as she approached the counter. if you needed more money. and even a few major sports figures.90 Helena Ray ranks at NormCorp. for one.” . but thankfully Mr. Fat fucking chance. but aging rock stars. She’d overheard him voice concerns when she left the shop after her interview. all the time playing the good mistress to Ulysses Norman himself. and you still look pretty closed up. that hypocritical megalomaniac actually thought he was the only man in Jocelyn’s life. and she used her carefully scheduled sexual favors to her advantage. He walked to the counter. books.

didn’t they? She pushed her breast together harder and added a good dose of breathiness to her voice. stomping to a door that she assumed led to a back room. Jesus. and she wondered if there was something wrong with the man. Perhaps he would be the weak link in the chain. plastering a smile on her face. “I can call you Clay. “Oh.” She leaned closer to him and found the odor emanating from the man unbearable. The research Skyler had provided told her that he had quite the weakness for the opposite sex.Hidden Pride 91 Another grunt escaped from behind the counter as Clayton leaned over to dig something out from beneath the counter. or haven’t you noticed?” “Um. the obnoxious din of giggling flooded into the store. we can get right through these. Can you handle that?” “Quicken 98? They haven’t made that since…” Jocelyn took a deep breath as she entered the dank office but quickly regretted it.” He straightened and placed a box of receipts on the counter.” he said gruffly.” “Only happened a few minutes ago. It was probably the younger Abbott. Fags always stuck together. I hate to point out the obvious. “Business expenses. Clay.” Jocelyn said. “I would so like to get to know you.” Clayton grunted as she used one French- manicured fingernail to flick through the receipts. Did this man even know how to speak? “There was a power outage. No wonder they needed an accountant. It would take Jocelyn a day’s work just to go through these.” He remained stoic as she batted her eyelashes. When he opened it. “This way. I started entering all the numbers into Quicken 98 last year. can’t I?” “I’d prefer if you didn’t. “And we can take that time”—she dropped her voice—“getting to know each other a little better. Jack. “Whole town’s shut down. but your lights are on. Jocelyn’s way in to take down the Ninth Time. She hated the woodsy stench of the outdoors.” He turned away from her. proving her wrong. Skyler would have mentioned if he were gay. The .

Jocelyn knew all about Anya fucking Copely. can I e-mail you these files?” Clay’s voice drew her back into the moment. Jack was canoodling with some brunette. “Now. “You can e-mail me anything you want. Jack’s arm was wrapped around her waist. tickling her of all juvenile things. Remembering she had a role to play. gasoline. On their weekends on Saint Kitts. “You’re going to be that obvious. indeed. though. She would have recognized her anywhere. Christopher told her all about how Anya pursued him relentlessly then reported him to the governing body of American figure skating for sexually harassing her. Jocelyn put both her hands on the desk and leaned flirtatiously toward where Clay sat in front of the flickering screen of the ancient machine. although she still watched Anya from the corner of her eye. Yes. That little bitch. she pranced about like the princess of winter sports. revealing her face. the primary financier behind her Caribbean vacations for the last five years. Jocelyn was a woman. and that cloying. She gave the woman an assessing look. and Jocelyn’s stomach sank.” Clearly these people weren’t the technology types. pine-scented musk. deeming her to be merely average compared to Jocelyn’s own surgically enhanced figure.” .92 Helena Ray gray-walled chamber smelled like a mixture of turpentine. and she knew that any woman would be crazy to turn away the advances of a sports mogul like Christopher. Jocelyn had to fight the sneer that came to her lips when she saw exactly who Jack Abbott was mauling. The woman threw her hair back. More giggling drew her attention to the corner where. The daughter of Gerard and Misha Domnina Copely. Christopher was Jocelyn’s cash cow.” “Really?” The other man’s voice came from behind Jocelyn. “Never mind. That disgraceful excuse for a woman had pursued Christopher Birkhead for years and even groped him on national television.

allowing her breasts to brush along his arm at frequent intervals. but it was possible Anya had spied her hanging outside the arena during practice. Oh.” She extended her right hand. didn’t they? Since they really couldn’t earn her any financial gain. Apparently.” she said. Jocelyn knew who the bitch was. “We met briefly when I came in before. Ulysses will pay for this.” Anya’s noncommittal reaction worried Jocelyn for a moment. . “Jack. “Have we met before?” “I don’t think so. but the other woman smiled and extended her hand. His explanation was highly unnecessary.Hidden Pride 93 Fuck. Jocelyn leaned closer to Clay.” Jocelyn tried to flash her brightest smile and turned to the bastard blond. “I’m Jocelyn. as he explained the intricacies of Quicken to her. suppressing a wince when she noted the chip on her manicured pinky finger.” Hesitantly. “I really love your eyebrows. Had Anya seen her before? Jocelyn made a point to avoid the fag parade of figure skating competitions. still focusing her attention on Clay. She forced herself to exchange pleasantries until the older.” Goddamn it.” Then Jocelyn turned her attention to the lowest creature taking up air space in the room. this brother wasn’t her in. Jack took her hand and shook it. “I was just saying that he can e-mail me any sort of file.” she said innocently. highly nonverbal brother finally fired up his computer and called her over. Jocelyn hadn’t made much of an effort to befriend any members of her own sex. “I’m Anya. fuck. but I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Jocelyn grinned to hide her assessing glance at Anya. a look of wariness in his eyes. No way in hell would her Christopher prefer her European features to Jocelyn’s pinup-girl figure. Women liked compliments like that. right. but Jocelyn appreciated the opportunity to formulate her plan of attack. “Uh…thanks. “And you are?” She met her eyes and studied her.” “Yeah.

Finally. but she did know that her facade required surgical maintenance. He stood from the computer. She was young. “Oh. Not only would she take down the Ninth Time and finally get Ulysses the foothold in Savage Valley he’d lusted after for years. his tone suddenly formal. She had years of seduction ahead of her. Jocelyn didn’t know how many more years she could get away with the whole “twenty-nine” act. she would take down Anya Copely in the process. someone with a mind as warped as Anya’s would engage in it freely. and it would lend credence to her sudden move to Savage Valley. but of course. It appeared she at least enjoyed Jack’s company. She halted and curled her fingers around where his hand touched her. as her face was flushed and she giggled like an idiot schoolgirl. that dark-haired little rat had seduced her way into the pants of men Jocelyn considered her own.” he said. Christopher would be so delighted with her plan. that might prove quite difficult. Jocelyn had never seen any sizable benefit in cuddling and thus found the act detestable. The plan began to bloom in Jocelyn’s mind. Twice now. giving his hand the most intimate stroke she could manage. “No offense. and Jocelyn moved to sit in the chair. which would only make her demise that much more pleasurable. ma’am. but I’d really like to get to know the store better. And without Christopher or Ulysses. what with the outage and all. judging by her skin. and the taste of sweet revenge heated her blood. “If you have the software. suddenly relishing her assignment.” .94 Helena Ray She frequently sneaked glances behind Clay to where Anya— fucking Anya Copely—sat in the corner. twenty- four at the oldest. Clay finished his tedious explanation. would you be able to work on this at home?” Clay stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. “but we have a good deal of catching up to do. It would so help me with—” Clay shocked her by pulling back his hand from her grasp. positively cuddling with Jack.

and Jocelyn stood face-to-face with the enemy. It all looks so…fascinating. Both Ulysses and Christopher would shower her with gifts once they found out about her plan.” she lied. too. their cocks pushing into her and shoving her over the edge into… “Great meeting you. The men really did share their women. Clay merely grunted once more and started to the door that led back into the shop. but her eyes hurled daggers at Jocelyn.” Jocelyn grinned to push the thought of a ménage a trois to the far reaches of her mind. “That way we don’t have to be apart. and Jocelyn finally excused herself from the shop with one last flirtatious glance at Clayton. He held the door open and gestured for her to exit. though.” She stood right in front of him.” Anya’s words were friendly. . but we need the computer for other things. too. She saw some movement behind Anya and noticed that Clay was affectionately running his fingers through her hair. “It’s okay. me. She couldn’t believe that she’d hit the jackpot. Before she could take a step forward to rub her breasts against his admittedly tempting hard chest.” Anya said nothing more.” “Oh. Just the thought that two men would claim one woman. So the rumors about Savage Valley were true. I can’t wait to hang around the shop some more.” “I’ll bring my laptop next time. “I hate to kick you out. “I hope we get to know each other better. “It was great meeting you.Hidden Pride 95 Jocelyn tried to widen her eyes then bat her lashes at the man. Anya shot between the two of them. and she had the chance to exact personal revenge on Anya Copely and to land a blow on one of those bigamist pervert families.” Jocelyn said as she sauntered toward Clay. aiming for a kicked-puppy look. close enough to smell the nauseating woodsy fragrance that rolled off of him in waves.

” **** Anya barely acknowledged her Aunt Cora as she stumbled toward the staff quarters at the Woodland Den. Jack’s farewell had been more tame. “Christopher? You’ll never guess who I met today. “Shit!” she cursed to herself and pulled out her cell phone. but the stiletto heel on her Manolo Blahnik snapped. Her body still tingled from the passionate good-bye Clayton had given her right before Uncle Frank showed up on the snowcat to take her back up the mountain to the Woodland. she had felt physically bereft.96 Helena Ray The cold assaulted her as soon as she spilled onto the snow- covered pavement. She scurried toward the dreadful little company car. Jack leaning over her butt-naked. Jack’s soft lips. but the flames of hatred rushing through her veins had sweat spilling from her forehead. Her shoulder grazed the corner as her thoughts distracted her. She turned the corner down the hallway that led past the guest rooms and to the small corridor where Anya stayed. leaving her limping in the snow. a Chrysler that felt like a boat compared to the Porsche Ulysses bought her. She tapped a name on her speed dial and waited for him to pick up. she’d spent so many years lusting after him that the first hit of his sexual . Concentrating on where she was going was difficult when scenes of the previous night and that morning kept running through her head—spending time with Clay and seeing his art. After all. but just as exciting. Clay had kissed her thoroughly then run his lips over her neck. It made sense to her that she would feel physical withdrawal from Clayton. When the back door opened and Anya staggered out into the snow. leaving small bites that stung her skin with excitement. Not that big a deal. He had brushed the softest kiss across her lips while ghosting his fingertips over her waist. She’d have another pair before the day was out once one of her cash cows heard about the little plot she’d devised.

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attention would have propelled her to highs she had previously never
imagined and left her hungover the next day. But then there was Jack.
Anya certainly hadn’t expected to meet Clay’s little brother, let alone
find him as goddamned attractive as she did. It would be one thing if
the attraction were purely physical, but so much more drew her to
Anya could contemplate her thoughts no longer, though, as she
collided with another human being with a loud smack.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry. I’m such a klutz.” She righted herself and
tried to see if the other person had sustained any bodily harm. When
he straightened himself stiffly and adjusted his fashionably thin tie
and his wire-rimmed glasses, Anya assumed he was okay.
“Not a problem,” he said as he pulled his suit jacket back into
place. “I just arrived the other day, and I’m afraid I’m horribly lost
around here. It’s like a maze.”
“You’re quite lost indeed,” Anya said as she leaned against the
wall. “You’ve found your way to the staff quarters.”
“Oh no, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude on anything.” The
man looked from side to side, as if genuinely concerned about the fact
that he had muddled his way into this wing.
“Don’t worry. Just go back, take two lefts, a right, and you’ll be
smack dab in the middle of the lobby.”
The look on his face clearly demonstrated his appreciation for her
directions. “Thank you so much,” he said as he turned around. Anya
started back toward her room when his voice stopped her again.
“Excuse me, but you look very familiar.”
She turned and squinted at him, but didn’t recognize the man and
shrugged in response.
“You’ve probably caught glimpses of me wandering the building.
I don’t believe I saw you when you—”
The man’s eyes widened, the whites nearly extending past the
rims of his narrow glasses.
“You’re Christopher Birkhead’s assistant, aren’t you?”

98 Helena Ray

Oh god. Memories of Christopher were the last thing Anya
needed right now, but she was intrigued by the fact that one of her
guests could identify her so readily.
“Well, I was Christopher’s assistant. I’m working here now, as
you can see. Are you a skater?”
He looked around himself sheepishly then stepped closer to Anya,
lowering his voice as he spoke. “I’m actually a skating fan.” His eyes
darted as if scanning to see if anyone would overhear them. “A big
skating fan.”
A laugh escaped from her at his whispered admission. “Well, I’m
glad to have a fan staying here then. Let me know if ever want to
swap stories.”
“Oh, I don’t have any stories,” he said with an inexplicable blush.
“I did meet Kenneth Whipple at a club in Denver one time, though.”
“Kenny’s my best friend!” Anya exclaimed, clapping her hands
together. “I’m so glad to find someone who knows who he is.”
“You know Kenny Whipple?”
She found his incredulity endearing and smiled as she leaned
against the wall.
“Sure do. We’ve been friends since he could barely manage back
crossovers,” she said, although she was interrupted by a yawn. “I had
a late night and could use a nap, but I’m Anya, and you find me later
and I’ll tell you all of Kenny’s most embarrassing secrets, okay?”
He nodded enthusiastically and started back down the hallway.
“Hey, what was your name?” Anya called to his retreating figure.
“Skyler. Skyler Fischer.”


“Jack, where are you? I can tell you’re there, but I can’t get a
read on where exactly.”
Jack watched as his closest friend, Perry Sullivan, shifted from his
lion to human form and dressed in the clothing he’d gathered from

Hidden Pride 99

what appeared to be an old metal garbage can beside the abandoned
“I’m inside the stillhouse,” he lied, knowing Perry would be
better able to pick up on his thoughts if he hid the truth.
Instantly, he turned to where Jack lay crouched beneath a patch of
brush on the side of the mountain. His eyes met Jack’s, glowing even
in the darkness of midnight. Perry moved with leonine swiftness to
where Jack hid and easily maneuvered himself to sit beside him.
“Are you sure this is far enough away?” Perry said aloud, no
longer communicating his thoughts to Jack telepathically.
“I saw Roarke go in a few minutes ago, and I couldn’t hear a word
from him.”
Perry gave a single chuckle at his remark. “Well, if you couldn’t
hear Roarke, then you won’t hear a peep from anyone else.”
Jack smiled at his friend, once more glad there was at least one
other person in Savage Valley who could understand his burden.
While Perry did not have telepathic ability identical to Jack’s, he
could hear the thoughts of all others within close range, especially
when they were being deceptive.
“What’s with all the tension?” he asked, accurately ascertaining
Jack’s emotional state. “Why aren’t you being up front with me?”
“It’s just…” As Jack let down his mental block, the images
flooded his mind. Anya splayed naked beside Clay, the deep berry tint
of her lips when he pulled back from kissing her…
“Fuck, man, you gotta stop with that. I’m getting a contact hard-
on just from your thoughts.” Perry looked up and searched Jack’s
face. “She’s your mate, isn’t she? That’s why you can’t get her out of
your mind.”
Jack nodded in response and almost felt her soft flesh beneath his
hands as he helped her right herself after slipping off the desk.
“She’s even fallen for Clay?” Perry’s gift was certainly

“Ready. but I can’t keep my head on straight for half a second. Almost as much as he longed for Anya. if only for the possibility of shifting and watching his mate for as long as Clay would watch the Ninth Time tomorrow.” Perry was silent for a long moment. Truly. Phil. the chatter in my head has gotten worse. and each of the pride member’s inner thoughts rang clearer and louder than ever in Jack’s mind. and Jack and Perry waited for them to shift. yes.” Jack moved a few steps closer.” “Believe me. I swear. and the range has extended. the babbling broke of chatter now an unstoppable squall. but he would grit his teeth and bear tonight. It’s not just a few feet anymore.” Jack said honestly. And while some others of the pack may have wanted their supernatural gifts enhanced. Oliver Cash. Jack was never ready for the assault to his senses that took place whenever the pride gathered as a whole.” “Then what’s holding you back? Mate her already. clothe themselves. man?” Perry asked as they stood and prepared to join the pride for the hunt. “I hope we finish the new batch of the white lightnin’ before—” . “There’s nothing I want more. approached the stillhouse in lion form. and Jack worried his ability to hear the others would only grow the longer he was around Anya. but it had taken a nosedive that day. ever since I saw her. but he heard them as far away as Ira Sullivan’s law office on Treaty Lane. and Mel Pope and Cleve and Ezra Yeats. He couldn’t stop touching her. along with Sam. and enter the dilapidated building before they emerged from their hiding place. and Jack appreciated his friend’s ability to quiet his thoughts. Jack longed for peace and quiet. Not only did he hear the lions as they filtered in and out of Savage Hunger.100 Helena Ray “Looks like it. And I’ve never seen him flip his shit like that for a woman before. The noise had gotten worse since he saw Anya. I want to. Legend had it that pride members strengthened when they met their mates. “Ready as I’ll ever be.

” Jack took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Damn it. Jack’s mind moved away from verbal thought and back into the warm pool of sounds and colors of his leonine mind. Perry’s brothers. “Try to block it.” Thankfully. and Clay all walked in. One after the other. Only one human word echoed through his thoughts. and Ira and Bryce Sullivan. “Deegai-doyadukubichi’. too. they layered on top of each other and thwarted all Jack’s attempts to call up a mental block again. boys. “Eleven fifty-nine. they were all stripped to their boxers. I have work to do. The door to the stillhouse flew open again. “See if meeting your mate made that stronger. concentrating his mental energy on creating a shield around his mind.” Perry sent to him through the silence. and Oliver moved to the middle of the circle. For a moment. “Anya.” . shattering any block he may have created.Hidden Pride 101 “The governing bylaws concerning the relationship between the Savage Valley Town Council and the Bannock Shoshone—” “I sure hope the storm doesn’t affect my almond delivery. It’d be a shame if the muffins—” Perry hauled open the rusting metal sliding door to the space. and the voices died down. and both the mental and voiced chatter from the pride ceased for a moment as Jack and Perry stepped into the space. mukua. Jack’s world stayed silent. Jack joined the other members of the pride as they formed a circle in the middle of the empty space and each slowly rid himself of his clothing.” Oliver spoke aloud. He sank to his knees and ran his fingers through his hair as the pride members’ inner voices swelled. “Let’s go. There’s a pile of briefs waiting for me at—” Ira’s thoughts rang clear in Jack’s mind.” With total mental and spoken silence. Soon.

” . Damn it. and the text messages she’d received from them had been her only salvation. Over the past two days. thankful to finally be off duty. After cursing to herself briefly. tripping over her laptop cable as she did so. All she wanted was to hear from Clay or Jack again. Their messages over the last few days had certainly been flirtatious. The Woodland had been a mess with cancelled reservations and guests staying longer because of the storm. “I’m gonna have a long night processing all these new reservations.” Aunt Cora shook her head as she examined the reservation book.” “See? I told you the storm wouldn’t cause any trouble. she gave a disgruntled.” she said as she took her hair down. Knocking roused Anya from her stupor. but her heart still pounded with her anxiety whenever she thought of them. she hauled herself onto her feet and started toward the door. room fourteen is clean.” “You were right about this Marina Andrews concert. sweetie. okay?” Anya had hoped she would have other plans for that night. As whoever stood on the other side of the door continued their knocking. “I guess.102 Helena Ray Chapter 8 “Okay. so I’ll need you that night. “Coming. “Is that everything for today?” “I think so.” Anya said with an exhausted sigh as she walked behind the desk. Looks like we’re gonna be beyond booked. She took her phone out of her pocket and saw she had not received any texts. memories of Clay and Jack had haunted her every moment.

all her languor fell away. This time. With one hand. leaving Anya panting. When she saw who waited for her. indented muscles of his hips. . but Clay said you needed some time and—” Anya did not allow him to finish. closer to the soft surface of the bed where she had already imagined Jack taking her. pulling herself to him. never breaking their kiss as he climbed atop her.” Jack said. “I’ve wanted to contact you so badly. No. and crashing her lips against his. The backs of her knees bumped against the bed. his kiss was possessive. and Jack lowered her onto the bed. though. Jack’s tongue pushed into her mouth again in time with a sharp thrust of his hips that pressed the hard outline of his cock against her. Jack responded in kind. not bothering to check who it was first. apparently knowing instinctually the direction of Anya’s bed.Hidden Pride 103 She lazily opened the door. and he broke the kiss. dominating. his kiss did not have the tender exploration that he had shown earlier. She moaned into his mouth as she pushed her hips upward in imitation of the act she so desperately needed in that moment. across the hard. Anya had no wine in her system. This time. and to the waist of his jeans. and Jack began moving forward. Anya heard the door slam behind him. and she would not be deterred. She wrapped one leg around his thigh. Jack’s fingers encircled her wrist. After a moment of hesitance. When her fingers fumbled over his zipper. “I’m so sorry. she began unbuttoning his jeans. instead satisfying her own body’s urges and throwing her arms around his neck. One of his hands snaked between them and wrapped around her breast and massaged the sensitive mound. full of probing tongue and stinging teeth. worry creasing his perfect features. His hands held her steady as she rose to tiptoes as she moved backward. rubbing her pussy against him as she maneuvered the opposite arm downward. over the toned muscles of his ass she hoped to explore later.

Every cell in her body cried out for Jack. Soon. Jack. This was what would complete her. and when his hips retreated. replaced by the same purpose that had radiated outward from her cunt when Clayton pleasured her on the floor of the Ninth Time. “You’re sure. She craned her neck just a bit. Jack stopped her by breaking their kiss. brushing her lips against Jack’s as she unzipped his pants then wiggled her hand beneath the waistband of his boxer shorts. Gone were her insecurities about intimacy. but she couldn’t deny it. As she began to caress his cockhead with her fingertips. He hissed into her mouth when her fingers encircled his substantial erection. she pushed her hands beneath the fabric of his shirt. This was what she wanted. While his mouth explored her neck. Anya didn’t think Jack should have all the fun.104 Helena Ray “Are you sure about this?” he asked. Something about you…I need you. only barely connecting around his impressive girth.” He needed no more coaxing as he used his grip on Anya’s wrist to push her hand against his cock. she cried out as bolts of electricity flew to her clit at the sensation. “You don’t really know me. He thrust forward. Even through her haze of pleasure.” She could see the barely restrained lust burning in his blue orbs.” “That doesn’t matter.” The truth behind the words shocked Anya. and the droplet of fluid there drew matching wetness from deep within Anya’s cunt. his blue eyes penetrating hers with the gravity she had only seen momentarily there before. and she gladly massaged the bulge there. her fingers brushed over the sensitive flesh of the head. and pulling it upward over her head. “I’ve never been more certain. he had her out of her shirt and her bra—after only a moment’s fumbling with the hooks— and moaning as she writhed beneath his expert mouth and hands. When his knuckles brushed over the sensitive buds of her nipples. shoving his hands beneath her shirt. running them upward and along .

full lips exploring the sensitive flesh of her neck. she hooked her fingers over the waistbands of his jeans and boxers and dragged them downward.” He caressed one of her calves and then dragged his hand upward to her thigh. Jack hurriedly shucked his pants after that. gorgeous. though. For a brief moment. It curved up along his abdomen.Hidden Pride 105 the rippling muscles of his chest. and its head flared from the shaft with sculptural grace. and after looking up to see Jack’s tanned skin flushed with arousal. He cut Anya’s scrutiny short.” He plunged two fingers into her without warning. She fumbled for his cock and was gratified by the slick . she worried that some of the guests might overhear her activities. but that thought flew from her mind as his thumb brushed against her clit. long and thick. pushing it to the side and allowing himself better access to her soaked pussy. and he said. and she knew if she didn’t do something—anything—to distract herself soon. but upon further examination. His fingers thrust faster into her. His muscles were long and lean. when he responded in kind. His hungry gaze focused there. and she got her first thorough view of the heavy cock that stood hard and ready against his abdomen. It had been impressive when she only glimpsed it quickly at the Ninth Time. tearing a strangled cry from Anya’s throat. she’d come in only a few seconds. harder. what she saw when he sat up and pulled his shirt over his head more than made up for her loss. she noted that Jack was truly well endowed. Although she missed the feel of his soft. “This is what I’m interested in. “Aren’t you going to admire my underwear?” she teased as he pulled her jeans from around her ankles. unbuttoning and unzipping her jeans then pulling them down along with the black lace thong she wore. She felt her tongue steal out to lick her lips when her gaze fell to where his cockhead peeked from beneath the waistband of his boxers. his pectorals leading down to a smooth abdomen with an indention where a drop of sweat trailed even lower. “I’m not interested in your underwear.

106 Helena Ray

pre-cum she felt there. However, Jack had apparently gotten wise to
her game, as he leaned forward and wrapped his lips around one of
her nipples. He sucked, sending mind-blowing spirals of pleasured
pain to her pussy, then nipped at the tight bud.
That did it. Anya heard her scream, almost as if another had
voiced it, as her climax overtook her senses. Her hips bucked a
violent rhythm, clenching around Jack’s fingers as he rubbed
relentless circles over her clit to extend her orgasm. When the
shudders of release finally ceased rocking her body, Jack gave her no
time to relax. He withdrew his hand from her pussy and trailed it over
her hip and around her back. He lowered himself so that his chest
pressed against hers, and she widened her legs to allow him to slip
between them.
“I like it when you come for me,” he whispered into her ear, and
his hot breath caused vibrations to begin anew inside her cunt.
Already? “I want to see you do that again.”
“I want to do that again.” Her voice was breathy and high pitched
as she returned his words. “As many times as you want.”
“Oh, I want.” Jack moved his hips, and the head of his cock
pressed against her slick folds. She felt another wave of feminine
wetness flow from within her just from his nearness. Anya had never
particularly thought of herself as a sexual person, but it appeared that
the Abbott brothers brought out a side of her as yet unexplored.
He thrust forward, and the thick head of his cock pushed past her
labia and hovered at the entrance to her cunt. He landed soft kisses on
her neck, entirely inconsistent with the erotically brutal furor of his
earlier ministrations, then over her jawline to her lips. His nose
brushed against hers as he pulled his face back only enough to capture
her attention with the forcefulness of his stark blue gaze.
“I want to fuck you. I hope you know that.” Her pussy convulsed
at his words, and all she could manage was a small nod in response.
“But I also hope you know that I want so much more than that. You
drive me crazy, Anya. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you

Hidden Pride 107

for a second since I first saw you. But it’s more than that.” He ghosted
another kiss over his lips at the same moment he pushed his hips
forward only a fraction of an inch so that the tip of his hard erection
was now inside of Anya’s ready pussy. “I want to know you, I want to
be with you, and I want to fall in love with you.”
Love? Wasn’t it a little soon to be batting around that sort of
word? The rational part of Anya’s brain listed all the reasons she
should scream for help, but it was the irrational part that won out in
the end. Somewhere deep within her soul, she knew that she wanted
the same things that Jack did, and she wanted the sort of relationship
Jack and Clay would offer her. No, it didn’t make any sense, but what
about Anya’s life did make sense at the moment?
“Me, too, Jack.” Her voice wavered as she said the words. “I feel
like this is happening so fast, but god, I want everything with you and
with Clay.”
He pushed forward, sending tiny waves of pained pleasure out
from her damp pussy as his head fully penetrated her.
“So you want me to fuck you.”
Instead of responding verbally, Anya wrapped one leg around his
back and used it to press forward. His cock sank fully into her, and
she felt his ballsac brush against her forbidden entrance as she
sheathed him. He began slowly, only pulling out an inch before
pushing back into her, his eyes searching hers. While she appreciated
his consideration, her libido couldn’t take the slow fucking, not now,
not when she’d spent every waking second of the past forty-eight
hours dreaming of having his cock inside of her.
She clenched her inner muscles around him, and he increased his
pace, pulling his cock all the way out then pushing back in with a
tantalizingly punishing rhythm. Over and over, he slammed into her,
driving her need higher with each thrust, pushing her closer and closer
to the brink of orgasm. Right when she hovered at the precipice of
another release, he slowed his pace, pulling out of her and pushing
only his head in and out.

108 Helena Ray

He moved one hand underneath her ass cheek and squeezed his
fingertips into the flesh there. She felt his nails dig into her, and the
quick, sharp pain melted into molten pleasure that oozed straight into
her cunt. Suddenly, one of his fingers strayed closer and closer to her
back entrance, to the puckered, virgin hole that no man had ever
caressed. When he raked his finger over her anus, her hips shot
forward involuntarily. She had never imagined how amazing that
would feel, never even knew that the nerve endings there were
capable of such sharp electric shocks straight to her clit.
“Do you like that?” Jack whispered as he moved his finger over
her again. This time she thrust back into the sensation, reveling in the
erotic glory of his fingers.
“God, yes,” she moaned as his finger pushed forward, penetrating
her only slightly.
“That’s good,” he said, picking up the pace of his fucking,
“because I fully plan on putting my cock inside this tight little ass.”
Before Anya could respond or let him know exactly how
appealing that sounded to her, Jack resumed his relentless thrusting.
His lips moved back to her nipple at the same time his fingertip
slipped just a little further into her. Anya felt the telltale contractions
in her lower abdomen, felt her clit tighten and retreat into its hood just
before her moment of climactic joy.
Her pussy grasped Jack’s cock into its vise, and she felt his cock
slam against her inner walls as his release sprayed inside her.
Combined with his echoing shouts of pleasure, Jack’s orgasm set off
her own, and she milked the rest of his hot seed from him. Moans
ripped from her chest as the fireworks of release mixed with the blood
flowing in her veins. It was too much, too good, too perfect. After
what felt like the longest and most intense moment of pleasure in
Anya’s life, her body returned to its normal state, although slightly
sweatier than before.
Jack’s lips pressed a line of kisses along her throat then over her
lips as she wrapped her legs around his waist, unwilling to let him

” He pulled back just an inch and looked into her eyes. When she looked up at him. “I can’t believe I found you. It was very obvious that he had just been fucked. “So much.” He kissed her once more. “You were looking for me?” “I didn’t know I was. tender kiss he had first given her at the Ninth Time.” “Me. “Thank you. but her body screamed at her to stay connected to this man. the deliberate.” he said as he looked up at the ceiling. She didn’t know why. that didn’t include long blizzard-filled nights with gas lamps and the Abbott brothers.” That spark of anxiety lit in her chest at his words. and pulled his spent cock from her body. “I want to explore everything with you. “For what?” “For that. too. like he had found the one. she couldn’t help a schoolgirl’s giggle. inviting Anya to cuddle against his chest.” he said as he ran his hand over her upper arm. for his hair stood at an . For you. And while that frightened Anya. too. He spoke like a man committed. but now that I’ve found you.” Jack said against her lips. to trust him to care for her. “Me. She whimpered a little as her womb cried out at the loss.Hidden Pride 109 withdraw from her body just yet. What did she have to be afraid of? “Then I’m glad I was here for you to find. I know that I’ve been searching my entire life. For trusting me to take you there. gorgeous. Jack fell to her side and held out one arm.” Anya said quietly. her mind couldn’t conjure a future that didn’t include these warm caresses.” “So do I.” **** Jack’s fingers tickled Anya’s palms as they entwined with hers.

Anya broke the kiss and turned. hurrying its descent to her ass. shouldn’t you be helping down at the Ninth Time?” Aunt Cora asked pointedly.” Jack said just as the blast of warmth hit Anya from the fireplace. “Jack and I are good friends. “I didn’t know you two knew each other. “I guess you could say that. keeping her gaze lowered to the ground as she felt the heat of color rush to her cheeks. to feel his chest pressed against hers as he fingered her asshole once more. uh—” “Oh. Jack gave her a look that Anya . His hand slid down her back. He maneuvered her around his front and lowered his lips to hers.” she said as she approached the couple. and she stood on her tiptoes. One of his hands was busy trying to smooth his hair and shirt and appear as though he hadn’t just gotten laid—a futile effort. “Come here. weren’t you?” Anya’s face set aflame as visions of Aunt Cora’s family. And who have a mutually beneficial professional relationship. aren’t we. That have known each other a long time. and his full lips were an even deeper red than usual. a departure from his normally suave demeanor. “Very good friends. Jack?” “Yes. ma’am. the Yeatses. “You always were close with Clay. yeah.” Jack responded with a nod. “Um. Aunt Cora’s voice stilled both of them. We met at the Ninth Time when I.110 Helena Ray odd angle. and she had to tamp down her arousal as she and Jack entered the lobby area.” Before his hand could caress her. Her inner thighs zinged with excitement at the thought.” Anya dug her toe in the ground then looked back up at Jack. I should have known. and therefore she probably had an idea of what was transpiring between Anya and the Abbotts. flooded into her mind. “Speaking of which.” Anya couldn’t help but grin at how flustered Jack was. She wanted to run her fingers through that hair again. They had always been ménageamous.

He mouthed a “good-bye” to Anya as he made his way down the path toward town. After looking around and making certain the lobby was free of guests. Jack ran one hand down Anya’s back and kissed her hair. won’t I. I hadn’t thought you would go that direction. Anya joined her. and the intimate gesture sent a chill through Anya. thing?” Her aunt chuckled at her stammering comment. Mrs.” Anya clarified. Copely?” “You bet your sweet ass you will. I can see how it would really work for you. “What aren’t you telling me?” “Come sit a spell. “The Abbotts. “So have they told you yet?” What was it with Aunt Cora and Anya’s sex life today? “With. “I was just on my way.” She cocked her head and studied Anya with twisted grin. “They told you about ménageamy then. and you probably do need more than one man to keep up with you. You’re quite the woman. what was that all about?” Her aunt merely grinned and crossed her arms as she made her way to one of the armchairs situated to the right of the entrance. you know.” “Nothing’s been decided or anything yet. Even though the . hoping Aunt Cora wouldn’t jump to any wild conclusions.” Cora said as Jack opened the door. and she made a mental note to ask her aunt about this situation later. but now that you have. um. letting in a burst of cold air.” Aunt Cora said. gorgeous?” “Unfortunately. wasn’t I.Hidden Pride 111 couldn’t interpret. “Honestly. Anya turned to her Aunt Cora.” he whispered to her before kissing her cheek and heading toward the exit. That’s good. and with tentative movements. patting the seat of the chair beside her. honey. huh?” Anya eyed her warily. person. “Okay.” “Clay and I will call you a little later. “I’ll be seeing you down at the Ninth Time soon. the…uh…more than one…um.

he’s a total flirt. “I’ve been around the Abbotts since they were babies. I know a thing or two about an afterglow. incredulous that her aunt would say such a thing. too. but I’ve never seen him crazy about a woman. I bet your mother does. I don’t need to hear this. okay.” “I find that hard to believe. neither she nor they had committed to a relationship. There are certain…things that make it difficult for him to get close to other people. and Anya crinkled her nose in mock disgust. You’ve been hanging around the Ninth Time and making eyes at him since you were a kid. “You do have feelings for Clayton. so seeing the two of you right after you fucked was quite a shock. Jack’s never had goo-goo eyes for a woman in his life. and I will tell you. wasn’t it? Let me tell you. Their fathers did with their mother. But let me tell you. “Come on.” “He puts on that image.” Aunt Cora said in a nurturing voice. we’re all adults here. right?” “Um. “Honey. um…” Anya trailed off. “That’s what I thought. It was always just a matter of time before he figured out you were a woman now and went for it. and it looks like this generation is doing the same with you.112 Helena Ray fantasy of forever with the Abbotts ran through her mind.” “It was that obvious?” .” “Come on. those Abbotts will start like they mean to go on. with your uncle. I.” She winked.” Anya gave her aunt a hard glare. yes. too. “Okay. the memory of Clay’s tongue buried inside her pussy inconveniently jumping to mind.” “Aunt Cora!” she exclaimed.” She stopped suddenly and narrowed her eyes at Anya.” “Oh my god. enough about that. “What? It’s what the two of you were doing. I’ve seen both of them grow up.

I’ll still love you.” she interrupted and squeezed Anya’s hand tighter. but they kept alluding to this secret they couldn’t tell me. But so help me. at least not yet. as if deep in thought. even back then. and I love you. but you have to trust them. then clucked her tongue. after all they’ve been through. Hell. “I would have remembered him.” The intensity of the moment shocked Anya. she had never particularly hidden her admiration for the man. Yes. Now her normally sane aunt had a crazy glint in her eye and sounded like a soothsayer from some medieval tale. No red-blooded thirteen-year-old girl wants to sit around listening to some guy talking about restoring old electronics unless she has a soul-crushing love for him. It’s gonna sound more bizarre than anything you’ve ever heard. when she thought about it.Hidden Pride 113 “Honey. just like I love your father and your mother as if they were my own brother and sister. the past month of her life had changed everything. “Had you even met Jack then?” her aunt asked suddenly. Anya thought for a moment. “You’re my niece. There was nothing else. “There was something.” She nodded. “They’re gonna tell you something you won’t believe at first. you’re scaring me a—” “Just hear me out.” Her aunt leaned forward and grasped her hand. Nothing particularly odd or perhaps unbelievable that they told you. just watching Clay restore an old weather radio. but I’ll find it real hard to be around you.” A grin spread across her face at the memory of lurking in the Ninth Time for nearly an hour when she was thirteen. and she felt dizzy from everything that had happened over the past few hours. They never explained it to me.” “Aunt Cora. her expression gravely serious. honey. “They only told you about the ménageamy thing. . if you break those Abbott boys’ hearts.” “I don’t think—” She stopped midsentence and remembered Jack’s evasive answers about his inexplicable nudity.

sweetie. and you look like you got quite a cardiovascular workout with Jack. Aunt Cora disappeared.” She finally released Anya from her grip.” She winked.” Aunt Cora started back toward the reception desk. I just wanted to give you some fair warning. and Anya dropped her head to her hands. “Thank you.” Aunt Cora continued. “Everything will unfold like it’s supposed to. for everything.” “Anytime. “I think your family’s about to grow in a very big way.” She took a few more steps then turned and winked at Anya. “I know I just dumped a lot on you. leaving Anya to her thoughts. Anya had never thought herself particularly intuitive.” “I’ll make sure you don’t get any more unexpected guests.” Before Anya could ask what she meant.114 Helena Ray “Get some sleep. but today. and they would change for the better. . With my parents out of the country. she knew—knew with every bit of her mind and heart—that things were about to change. I don’t have a lot of family around here. eliciting an exaggerated shudder from Anya. She looked up gratefully and gave the best smile was capable of. Aunt Cora. I wouldn’t have survived the past month without you and Uncle Frank being there for me. “Sleep does sound like the best option.

“How could you go without me?” “Easy. I went to Bo as soon as I saw Anya and my dick got hard. brother. but he hadn’t really been working.” Clay stood to go to the kitchen. I showed up at his house. See. sweet scent coming from…his brother? . Amelia Sullivan. disrupting Clay’s work. “Ira thinks about it all the time. but then he smelled an intoxicating. “Already did. He gets terribly disappointed when he runs into one of them at the courthouse and doesn’t get an insta-woody.” “You gotta get out of people’s heads. not having taken any time to eat all day. Visions of a certain buxom brunette danced through his mind. “I’ve been trying to tell you for days. Wonders if some of the girls he went to elementary school with were actually his mate. but you keep disappearing in your lion.Hidden Pride 115 Chapter 9 “We gotta go to Bo. stealing every conscious moment.” Jack was out of breath as he opened the door to the Abbotts’ cabin in north central Savage Valley.” Jack shot his brother an exasperated look. hunched over his latest sketch.” Clay was sitting at the large drafting desk in the center of the cabin. “What do you mean you already did?” Clay looked up as his brother stormed across the room to stand beside him.” Did everyone know about this but him? “How did you know about her?” Jack shrugged. and Clay grinned in response then turned on his chair to face Jack. I thought that lions could only recognize their mates the first time—” “Not true.

” Clay said. he had spent thirty-six years alone. but Clay couldn’t let this rest until tomorrow.” Clay said. it’s a little late for driving out to the Shoshone reservation. You know how it goes. He was fed up with the loneliness.” Clay glanced at the clock and saw that it was already ten thirty at night. I do.” Jack finished for his brother. One more second than was necessary was fucking long in his book.” The grin widened. and you know that according to legend. “You fucking went out and fucked our mate. echoing Jack’s earlier words. so…” “It’s time to go to Bohagande. grabbing his tattered green army jacket from his bed. Bo wouldn’t appreciate another late-night interruption. So we’ve both musked her. “You slept with her. and he had found the one woman made to spend the rest of her life with him. the grin that looked stupid even when compared to Jack’s other sloppy grins. Bo has the potion that allows us to do that. “If she felt that drawn to you after just meeting you…” Something occurred to Clay then. but mostly he was overjoyed.” Clay couldn’t deny the jealousy that rose within his chest. and apparently she’s attracted to us both. “You know we can’t shift in front of humans unless our lives or our territory are in danger. isn’t it?” . No. “Did you musk her?” “As soon as I touched that soft skin of hers.116 Helena Ray It was then that Clay took in his brother’s appearance—the matted hair. don’t you?” Clay’s mind went back to when he helped Anya up after she fell in the Ninth Time and to the oddly satisfying feeling of the musk slipping from his pores as his arousal grew. “Let’s go. and six years with his brother as his only family. “Yeah. the flushed skin. “Clay. “Got a problem with that?” “We gotta go to Bo. we gotta shift before we mate her. I couldn’t help it.

but it seemed that most of those had dissolved. an expression Jack hadn’t seen on his brother in a very long time. “Fair enough. leaving the door open. So many precariously balanced factors could have fallen apart and made the mating impossible. He and Clay had fallen for the same woman.” Bo stared at Clay then turned and walked deeper into the house. Let’s go. “Seriously?” He opened the door and looked back and forth between Jack and Clay.” Jack said nothing for a moment.” Clay smiled. “Fuck yes we do. man. Before they even walked through the foyer.Hidden Pride 117 “You just got to be inside our mate. I didn’t get the privilege.” **** Jack watched his brother bang on the door to Bo’s house and wished he could be in his lion form. “I’m assuming you wanna shift in front of her. “Might as well go in. then I would see him any hour of the day or night. His worn woolen peacoat— pilfered from the shop when his parents were still alive—did nothing against the unseasonably harsh late-autumn winds. Finally.” Clay sent telepathically. and then his silly just-been- fucked grin grew once more.” Bo called out. “It can’t wait. but it’s our mate. “Didn’t we talk about how waking me up in the middle of the night ain’t the way to earn my favor?” “Yeah. . and he let himself get excited for the first time since he met Anya.” Jack said. light shone from within Bo’s windows. they heard the clattering of pots and pans from the kitchen in the back of the house. and if waking up Bo means there’s one less second I have to wait before sinking into that sweet cunt. and that woman sounded pretty damn ready to settle down with both of them. and Jack heard loud footsteps as the Shoshone shaman approached the door. Amazingly enough the same woman had fallen for both of them.

it appeared that Bo enjoyed his and Clay’s pain a bit too much. he could create a nearly impenetrable shield around his mind to silence the others. Jack grabbed the beverage and downed it in three painful gulps. the increased clarity only frustrated Jack more. They both sat on the couch. and without the power to block out the thoughts.” Bo said as he placed a tray holding two glasses of a murky brown substance on the coffee table across from his couch. boys. something he had never before accomplished. But his shielding abilities were still unpredictable. Jack knew that when Oliver and Roarke had found their mate.118 Helena Ray Only one factor still worried Jack. When he heard the other pride member’s voices. and Jack could remember each and every word they said. His telepathic skills had been out of control recently. “Take a seat and have a cocktail. “Is this toxic?” Clay asked.” “Lucky you boys ain’t all human. poking one finger against the side of the glass. But when he could muster the energy. But he had already decided before he went to see Anya that she was worth the effort. Feeling her pussy milk the seed from his cock only solidified his decision. most endearingly clumsy woman he had ever met. and the acrid odor from the beverage filtered into his nostrils. huh?” Although Jack could understand Bo’s pique at being awakened late at night. Some mental discomfort outweighed the possibility that he could have a forever with the most beautiful. Both had thought about how disgusting it was for weeks on end. they had to drink the same substance. they came through as clearly as if they were speaking directly to him. Knowing it was better to get it over with.” From their thoughts. but both had thought it was totally worth it. most alluring. “Anything that smells like that can’t be good for humans. It burned down his . “Okay.

” he said while Bo worked putting up vials of unidentifiable fluids back into his cabinets. not your ancestors and not the corporate fuckers trying to get it now. and he turned from where he sat to look up at Bo. man. but Jack stayed behind for a moment.” “Hey. “You’re not making this too appealing. “Let me guess. though. man. Blame your ancestors for going and messing with the land. sniffed the liquid. causing him to sputter and cough as he placed his glass back on the tray. “Yeah. “Before I go. and crinkled his face in genuine disgust. you know…” “Your weird telepathy thing?” The shaman didn’t mince his words. You know that I’m always here for you boys. “You’re a cruel man. His sickness lasted only a second.” “Shoot. Clay emptied his glass with one admirable swallow. though. isn’t it?” he thought so that only Jack could hear. With a deep breath. my weird telepathy thing. don’t blame me.” “I know.” Jack said aloud. It’s just my…well. He appeared to turn slightly green right before coughing violently. It’s gotten…well. it’s worth it. even when I give you shit.” Clay picked up the glass.” “Totally worth it. “Sinking into her and knowing that she’s the one.Hidden Pride 119 esophageal tract. “It’s worth it.” Clay gave his typical grunted response and rose. it’s gotten better and worse at the same time ever since I saw Anya. that we’re gonna make kittens and grow old with her.” . We don’t take no shit from anyone. You’re having an easier time hearing but a harder time blocking. “I wanted to ask you something. saying good-bye to Bo before heading out the door to where his old station wagon awaited them.” Bo closed a cabinet then crossed to stand across from where Jack leaned on the breakfast bar.

but it struck a chord within him. Hadn’t his life already gotten better just since he met Anya? He did have stress from his increased . it doesn’t work. for Clay. you’re not the first shifter to worry about this. “And being in love…being in love makes everything better. Remember. man.” Jack didn’t know how to react to the sudden display of emotion. Some of the shifters couldn’t handle the stress of what you boys have to go through. That may mean that it gets easier to block. She’s gonna help though.120 Helena Ray “Sort of. hell. ain’t it? Stronger?” “Exactly. it strengthens him. When a mountain lion-shifter takes a mate. but the three of you are tough enough. It’s vital when there’s an attack on the pride while you’re in human form. and Bryce—the curse chose you. The woman was built to love you. “But your powers. Whatever happens to your powers. I’m not gonna lie. I don’t know when—or if—she’s gonna fall in love. it’s not tedious anymore.” Anxiety twisted Jack’s stomach. when you’re with the one person meant for you. but I don’t know. but we just met her and this is all gonna scare the living shit out of her. she’s gonna fall for you. you boys with the special powers—you. Perry.” “Don’t be stupid. your Anya. a far cry from the no-bullshit shaman they had come to know and love. having a woman who loves you by your side is going to make everything better. doing your taxes. and just like the rest. they’re just gonna get more intense. “You know. I can feel it happening for me. this shit came about before texting. and then…it’s…” “It’s better.” He sighed and shook his head. Going to buy groceries. Something in the universe marked her as the one for you and brought her right to your doorstep. Your gift is necessary for the pride’s survival. just washing the dishes. “I don’t know about the whole ‘love’ thing. It’s a joy. Trust me. and your ability is part of who you are. You see.” Bo appeared thoughtful for a moment. when I try to block. Except when it does.

but the sensation didn’t pain him this time. As he turned to where the station wagon idled. the cold wind whipped across his face once more. putting one hand on Jack’s shoulder to guide him. . And fuck it. He was in love. and I can’t wait to meet her. “You boys should be set to mate her now.” “It’s a treat.” Bo shook a little and started to the door.” Jack smiled and shook the man’s extended hand. No. but never seen the real thing. but hadn’t he grinned at himself in the mirror this morning while he brushed his teeth? “Anyway.Hidden Pride 121 abilities. he was going to say it. it reminded him that he was alive. I heard legends about her.

The noise increased in volume until she could no longer ignore it. what she had seen stopped the beating of her heart. a memory of another dream stopped her in her tracks. had been two massive mountain lions. and remembering the dreams had her pussy tingling already. she had studied their outlines and the eyes that glowed in their dark faces. . When she ripped open her curtains. Despite the fact that Anya usually didn’t get turned on in the morning. she heard no howling wind. and as she listened closer. but it didn’t come. She had waited for fear to hold her in its icy grip. she had risen from bed and gone straight to her windows. It hadn’t felt as much like a dream as like a supernatural interruption to her sleep. rousing her from a deep sleep. She didn’t know how long she’d been out. balancing on the tree limb outside her window. Before she could stroke her clit and give it some of the relief she so desperately needed. she didn’t know. But it continued. but the creatures roused only curiosity within her. their faces only inches from the glass. In the dark. There. She had heard scratches against her window and at first had thought it the scraping of the trees in the wind. she felt wetness gathering between her thighs. but she did know that dreams had haunted her sleep. With sleep robbing her of her normal cautiousness. Dreams of Clay and Jack and all the things they could do together played out in her head. and she reached down and pushed her fingers through her already soaking lips.122 Helena Ray Chapter 10 Light filtered in through the small gap in the curtains on the window beside Anya’s bed. Due to sleepiness or to impetuousness.

intending to grab a cup of coffee and maybe a muffin from the staff kitchen before marching down the mountain to confront the men. sparkling gaze. signaling to Anya that she had most certainly dreamt the encounter. And then. The lions had tilted their heads as they studied her. Grabbing her leggings. “Don’t you have a shop to open?” . but she attributed that to the adrenaline rush associated with the memories. And after she got answers. a yawn at the end of the words. she’d like that itch eating away at her pussy scratched. she wanted to be ready for Clay and Jack. Her resolve gave her movements emphatic power as she strode toward the door and tore it open. and her faded Team USA hoodie. she saw Jack and Clay in their stares. Instead. male lumps blocked the path between her and the hallway leading to the office and staff kitchen. As much as she longed to stroke herself to completion. a pair of gym shorts.” Clay said. “Do we need a reason to come see you?” “You need a reason to be asleep in front of my door at eight in the morning. the two of them meant to make her their lover.” She narrowed her eyes at the two of them and put her hands on her hips. “Good morning. she would go down to the Ninth Time that day. But two large. Her arousal climbed as Anya remembered the visions.” “What are you doing here?” Anya said on a gasp. Jack roused from his sleep beside Clay then. shimmering almost as if it were daytime. If Aunt Cora’s predictions were correct. She forced her feet into her slippers. and Anya wanted answers first. “You’re awake. his long limbs slamming against the walls of the corridor as he stretched. and she would confront them about this mysterious secret they harbored. she dressed quickly and threw her hair in a messy ponytail. They hadn’t been the usual golden eyes of the feline predator. these eyes were a bright blue.Hidden Pride 123 Then Anya remembered their eyes. and she swore that one had Clay’s intense glare and the other Jack’s playful. darlin’. because good sense be damned.

Finally. before…What was it? What was she going to ask them about again? . Anya almost cried out in protest.” Shit. um…” She shook her head. He slowly dragged his hand forward. Anya remembered the purpose in flinging the door to her room open. The two men who set her aflame couldn’t. and her inner muscles clenched at its nearness to her throbbing pussy. “Don’t mind if we do.124 Helena Ray “It’s Sunday. If she wasn’t careful. eager to convey that she was quite ready for another round with him. and she felt Clay’s hair brush against her shoulder as he landed kisses there. He pulled back against her. over her hip then to her stomach. trying to get back some of the resolve the sight of Clay and Jack asleep on the floor had scared out of her. she would come right then and there. We don’t even open today. shocking her with the forcefulness of his kiss. darlin’. “Oh. though. One of his hands cupped her ass. Now what was— “Ooh. Wait. He squeezed. The arousal she had felt earlier returned tenfold as she felt his erection press against her stomach. and she couldn’t help the moan that echoed from her chest as she rested her head back on his shoulder. Wasn’t there something I needed to know? Through the haze of her arousal. A warm body nestled against her from behind. She was going to ask them something. rational thought struggled to be heard. Was it Sunday already? The mixture of her work. the storm. She moved her hips against him. He took two steps and pulled Anya into his embrace. beneath the waistband of her gym shorts. and the hours of her life devoted to fantasizing about the Abbotts had thrown off her sense of time. over her mound. “Do you two want to come in?” Coffee could wait. and Jack released her easily.” One of Clay’s fingers pushed past her outer lips and brushed against her clit. but Clay’s hand ventured lower. and finally came to rest on top of her cunt.” Jack said as he clambered to his feet.

Hidden Pride 125 “Wait. We’re both completely crazy about you. who hand now put his arm around her shoulders. It took all her strength not to tell him to ignore her protests and continue his stroking. as her heart began its descent into her stomach.” . whose arms encircled her waist. his back leaning against the carved headboard.” Jack had settled himself at the head of her unmade bed. And she’d heard them from her previous boyfriends.” She looked between Clay. Then. “We haven’t been entirely honest with you. But what did Anya owe them? “Just tell me if there’s someone else. Anya had heard those words too many times before—from Christopher on the phone to one of his flock of temporary fuck buddies. landing several kisses on her neck as he did so. and they looked nothing but stoic. there’s no way at all that there could be anyone else. His embrace closed around her. and Jack. Her aunt had been concerned with Anya hurting them. she walked slowly into his arms. Oh no. sense won out. and after a tentative glance backward and a nod from Clay.” she croaked.” He held his arms open to her. “Gorgeous.” Clay said as he climbed onto the bed next to her. “I need to ask you something. not the other way around. “Come here and let us explain. and he pulled her onto the bed beside him. but in the end. suppressing the sting of tears that pricked at the corners of her eyes. and Anya watched as a smile bloomed across Jack’s face. she remembered her conversation with Aunt Cora.” she said.” “And we need to tell you something. “Rip off the Band-Aid. They made eye contact. and his infectious laugh rang through the room. her dad’s students who had vowed they were single before using Anya as a sperm receptacle while they were away from their “real” girlfriends at training camp. and Clay stilled his ministrations.

and looked between the two of them. There’s a life waiting for the three of us out there. but the combination of frustration and arousal pushed the words out with unintended force.” Her voice cracked at the end of the words. you were the only man I’d .” Clay chuckled.126 Helena Ray His words hit her like a ton of bricks.” Anya shrugged their arms off of her. “We connect. making it so work is damn near impossible. You’re haunting my dreams. We don’t want to force a future on you if you don’t want it.” “But before you do. and not just physically. and I didn’t know it was possible. Cora warned you about what was coming?” Jack asked then looked up at his brother.” Jack didn’t give her a chance to respond. “Do you really like me?” Clay used his hand behind her neck to tangle in the hair at the base of her ponytail.” His arresting gaze held her still. the dry. but we would hate for you to break our hearts. “I mean. “Yes. “Is it true?” she asked. as you put it. I highly doubt there’s anything you could tell me that would change the way I feel for you. and her voice became softer as she confessed her true emotions.” “So tell me. She told me I couldn’t break your hearts or I’d be out of a job.” “Tell me already!” Anya hadn’t meant to shout. sat up straight. “I’m going crazy thinking about you twenty-four-seven. turning to Clay. “Look. There’s nothing that will change how we feel about you.” “She does. and then Aunt Cora said you were going to tell me something I wouldn’t—” “Wait. “I’m sure she wouldn’t fire you. Clay. All you have to do is say the word. “What we’re going to tell you may change your mind. hear us out. I like you. “Shit. I want to get to know you more. but you fit with Jack and me. and she felt dizzy as her heart jumped to her throat. Anya. you’ve been hinting about this thing. she really does care about us. but this is up to you. deep sound made sexier by its rarity.

our story goes all the way back to the pioneer days when our family left their home in Illinois in 1845 to travel on what became known as the Oregon Trail.” After a moment of silence. In fact. “along with the Cashes. I’ve never felt anything for anyone so quickly. Jack. then you probably know all of them. Along with four other families who are still in Savage Valley today.” Clay said as he opened his arms to Anya. “Who are they?” “Well. His arms locked around her stomach.” Although Anya was eager to bypass the history lesson and get to this closely guarded secret of the Abbott family.” Jack said. and she tentatively shifted her weight so that she lay against his chest.” She turned to look at Jack. and she nodded in response. cocking his head at Anya.Hidden Pride 127 ever really been interested in. the love for gossip fostered in her by a life spent in the skating world got the better of her. it was us. want to know why I was naked?” “Are we finally getting to the big secret?” “Yes. “if you’ve been lurkin’ round Savage Hunger as much as Clay’s told me. “Until I met you. darlin’. they packed everything they’d ever owned into a covered wagon and headed west to find their promised land. Jack said. And to have the two of you together is more than I’d ever hoped for. and the Sullivans. generating a mixture of security and excitement she had never before known.” All the names rang bells in her mind.” Clay said from behind her. it’s just been right. and she quickly connected the dots. “So Mayor Cash. “Remember when I told you about our family history?” Jack turned to face Anya and Clay. the Yeatses. but being with you…from the second I met you. the guys that own the diner. the creepy dudes who work at the newspaper. “Well. and the weird kid on the radio who loves nineties rock?” . The reason I’ve never had any real relationships is because I never wanted anyone but you. the Popes. “Speaking of when we met.

and soon enough.” Anya said dutifully. I want to know. Sullivan. So they went on clearing and killing.” She needed to calm down or she’d soak through the crotch of her gym shorts before Jack got to the point of this story. something the Shoshone lacked at that time. “Now do you want to know why I was down to my skimpies in the snow or not?” Jack asked. dysentery claimed another victim in Mrs. Morale was low. and once more. they were clearing the land and dreaming up a city on the scale of Cincinnati or Philadelphia. You know the bank?” “I do. with rivers to be forded and bandits taking their supplies in the night. “Cameahwait. But they weren’t the only occupants here in the Valley. came to speak to Gideon Cash. Cameahwait showed up at the Cashes’ cabin—behind where the town hall is now—and told him this was his . the local shaman. calling it just scare tactics. “So the five families were on the trail. After a few more days of travelling. but yes. and it was a rough life.128 Helena Ray “You got it. “That was the center of it all. using her knowledge of pioneer time gleaned from the Oregon Trail computer game to fill in the gaps in Jack’s tale. the last surviving woman. the leader of the town in those days. He warned them to stop their cutting trees and killing animals or there would be some serious consequences. They moved in. When they found five abandoned cabins all within a mile or two of the outpost. they came to an abandoned fur-trading outpost. the settlers had rifles. and they decided they had expanded about as westward as they cared to. After all.” Clay said with a laugh. When they reached what’s now Wyoming. “Honestly”—Anya waggled her eyebrows—“I’d like you in your skimpies right now. I think—were none too happy about their home being destroyed by a bunch of careless settlers. drawing her attention back to him. Gideon and the rest of the settlers laughed at him. they figured that God Himself had called them to that spot. and the native Shoshone tribe—the Bannock.

Anya said nothing.” They were almost there! Why had he stopped just then? “What is it? Come on. Up by where Treaty Lane and Kwitakusix Cove meet now.” Both brothers hesitated and looked between each other before Jack spoke slowly and carefully. Then one night. “but I don’t see how some tall tale from the Wild West has anything to do with this big secret you’ve been hiding. Being the self-assured type he was. I wanna be in on the secret. “When another week or so passed and no one heard a thing from Cameahwait or his tribe. all the men were drawn to a clearing at the base of the Mukuas. and…I don’t know to say this so you’ll believe me. Each man shed his clothes.” For a long moment. “They turned into mountain lions. “That’s all good and well.” “The men…they…Clay?” Jack looked at his brother with a pleading expression. “Well. Jack. we’re not telling you a tall tale. right at midnight. everyone assumed their superior weapons had scared the natives away. now completely engrossed in Jack’s tale. each one of them inexplicably dropped whatever it was they were doing or woke from their slumber and met in the clearing. Clay flattened one of his hands on her stomach and used the other to turn her so she faced him.” she started. We’re telling you our family’s history. They all thought it was the hand of Saint Peter. and she struggled to make a connection to the mysterious reason behind the Abbotts’ odd behavior.Hidden Pride 129 last warning.” . calling them to his gates of heaven before the rapture would come and a demon would rise from a lake of fire and consume the world. closed his eyes. But none such thing happened. The words trickled into her brain. “Anya. when the moon was just a shimmering sliver. You know it?” Anya nodded. he laughed in the shaman’s face and instructed the rest of the men to continue their work.

the memory mingled with the bizarre imagery from her dream. along with all the other families in Savage Valley then. the two of us. turn into mountain lions. What did they expect? News like this took a moment to process. At the waning and waxing gibbous moons each lunar cycle. We have documented evidence of this. “I’m still listening. “I’m processing it. Her mother would come down and find her and assure her that all was fine.” . “Lots of families have weird shit in the legends that get passed down. You’ve just thrown a lot at me. halfway between reality and superstition. it had felt more like when she would wake frightened in the night as a child and run downstairs to open the refrigerator and bask in the glow of its light. Anya was silent. and she realized it had been minutes since she spoke to them.” Once more. but that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe you. “Anya?” Jack asked. but then she remembered the two mountain lions from her dream. taking a deep breath. and when Anya awoke. They were joking. Give me a moment to get it all through my mind. “I didn’t say that.” “Darlin’”—Clay’s chest rumbled behind her—“I don’t think you’re understanding. She would tuck her back into bed.” Sadness creased his handsome features. transforming it to a different dimension of nighttime existence. “I just said that I don’t not believe you.” “You believe us?” The animating spark returned to Jack’s body. The darkness cast an eerie shadow over the entire house.130 Helena Ray “Right.” She shrugged and said. I’m sure there’s probably tales of my ancestors slaying some magical bird in Russia. It hadn’t felt like a dream. right? They couldn’t be some sort of sexy feline werewolves that haunted northwestern Colorado. and I’m trying to sort through it all. and we live it out twice a month. No.” she said. and she reached out and touched his arm. giving him movie-star good looks once again.” she said carefully. “Yeah.

and when he bestowed the gift of double nature on the settlers. they hadn’t misled her yet. and her aunt and her grandmother both trusted their family. “It’s not just a twice-a-month thing. Jack leaned forward and placed a small kiss at the corner of Anya’s lips. The area around each of the cabins became the sector for each family. but we need to shift. “In addition to giving us the ability and forcing us to change into mountain lion. Jack visibly relaxed. The mountain lion is a sacred animal to the Shoshone.” Anya said. It keeps us grounded and reminds us of our purpose.” She was compelled to believe the two of them. Cameahwait also tasked the pride—what we call the group of lion- shifters—and all their offspring to protect Savage Valley. it appeared they were giving her the gospel truth.Hidden Pride 131 It was Jack’s turn to nod solemnly. But everything she knew about the two of them told her they weren’t lying. the curse influences a lot of different parts of our lives. “you had just…” She couldn’t believe what she was about to say.” Clay continued.” “The lion is part of who we are. not to let anyone harm the environment any more than is completely necessary. And that includes us. They deserved some sort of credit for their effort. and Anya looked up at him. either.” Hesitantly.” “Wait. “Not only does the curse compel us to shift. and they work not to let anyone invade their territory. “under the . “So when you showed up naked. Is that because of the curse?” When she asked the question. Even if they were spouting bullshit to get into her pants.” Jack said. connecting the disparate pieces of their story. “You had just shifted back from being a mountain lion? That’s why you weren’t wearing anything?” “I knew you were smart. “Yes.” Anya held up a hand and remembered her Aunt Cora’s family. and as unbelievable as their tale may seem. and she could feel the tension leaving Clay’s muscles. As far she knew. Hadn’t her maiden name been Yeats? And wasn’t that one of the names they dropped? “The fact that you…you know…share. this was some impressively elaborate bullshit.

She had thought the Abbotts felt the same way.” He used one hand underneath her chin to turn her head and tilt it up to meet his eyes. we would still both want you.132 Helena Ray curse. and we would want to be with you at the same time. She saw it in each encounter she’d had with Clay and Jack. Over the past week. “It’s not a pretty sight. “But that’s not a bad thing. “Anya. sealing his words. all brothers in a generation of lion-shifters must mate the same woman. Yes. and the Shoshone knew how easily the added stress could split a family. Apparently. “The curse opened the settlers’ eyes to the advantages of ménage relationships. Any offspring that results from a relationship that does not involve all the brothers in a given generation of a given family will die before they reach their third birthday.” . “But what happens if both brothers don’t…mate the same woman?” Jack sighed and leaned his forehead against the headboard. It was a rough time back then. Compelling the brothers to mate the same woman ensured that the family would stay together and that their family line would continue. the curse brought us together. and the excitement about their impending relationship had become the reason she got out of bed every morning. even if we could escape this curse.” Disappointment swelled in her chest. an emotion that shocked her. she was wrong. and how much stronger their ties to both their ancestral family and the new family they created were when they took the same woman as their brothers. He released her chin and pulled her closer to him. and that was why they both wanted to be with her. They saw how two men could give a woman so much more satisfaction than one.” Clay said from behind her. but why should that make our relationship any lesser?” Clay leaned down and kissed her gently. she had begun to see exactly why so many in the town of Savage Valley insisted ménage relationships could work so well. possibly even better than traditional one-man-one-woman pairings.

she found herself believing them a little more. We’re born with the ability to shift. at least not yet.Hidden Pride 133 “And it’s happened. and with each detail Anya committed to memory.” “When the pride alpha—in our generation. there may be shifters that don’t agree with the curse and will run from Savage Valley and leave their families behind. Although the idea of staying in Savage Valley sounded totally foreign to her after a living out of a suitcase for so many years. Oliver Cash—” “So that’s why he’s mayor. Somewhere she could return each and every night with someone—or two someones—to hold her and to accompany her in building a life. and because those damn Shoshone were so worried about keeping families together. too. but there’s something you need to know about us. and they’re the ones who have to worry about protecting Savage Valley. meaning every thirty years or so. “The Shoshone also understood that over the generations.” Jack said solemnly. that generation becomes the dominant pride.” “We can’t leave Savage Valley. one of the pride will stray.” Clay finished. and it causes a tragedy throughout the town. the dominant pride shifts every two weeks to go on a ritual hunt.” Clay added. “Anyway. If she were to make up magical powers for herself.” Jack leaned forward and took Anya’s hand in his. Because of this. though. . “Every other generation or so. there are a bunch of toddlers running naked in the Mukuas who shift into mountain lion kittens like popcorn in a hot skillet.” “That’s not the only thing the curse changes about our lives. we’re physically unable to leave Savage Valley. it certainly wouldn’t involve dying children and being stuck in rural Colorado. “I know how much you’ve traveled in your life and that half your family lives abroad.” The news spun through her head. “—turns thirty. although we can’t usually control it until we’re three or four. “None of the shifters in our generation can.” Anya chimed in. she loved the possibility of having a home.

What does that mean for me? For…us?” Clay’s grip tightened around her stomach. too. Anya. We’ve both known it from the instant we saw you. “Jack got to be inside of you. I want to feel your pussy tighten around my cock. grazing her clit before it dove downward to tease at her entrance. Her breath hitched at the sudden. “God. I want to—Oh my god!” Jack pulled her gym shorts down over her hips.” In one swift motion. landing kisses along her neck. eliciting a soft moan from Anya. His tongue licked along the seam of her outer lips then pushed into her. “I want to fuck that sweet little cunt. Jack pushed aside the sopping-wet crotch of her gym shorts and inserted one long finger inside of her. and he pulled her upward. Clay.” he whispered as he switched hands and lavished attention on her other nipple. and from what you’ve said. Clay cupped the bottom of one of her breasts and rolled her nipple between his thumb and forefinger. you know. but she couldn’t focus on that for too long. “You’re our mate. and I want to hear you scream my name again as you come all over me. coming dangerously close to her inner thighs where desire had already coiled. We know you need time to make this decision. buried his face in her pussy.” “In the meanwhile”—one of Clay’s hands slipped beneath her hoodie and traced upward—“you can’t blame us for trying a few things to help you make your decision.134 Helena Ray “Okay. but stopped only an inch from her pussy. very welcome invasion. “It means that we would live together and we would start a family. too. pulling up the hem of her shorts.” Her words came out slowly. “Let’s say I believe you. though.” He pulled her backward against him. and before even easing them off her legs.” His hand dragged upward. . running his hand up and down Anya’s leg. “We won’t force you. and she could feel from the rock-hard erection against her ass that he meant every word.” “Here?” “Where else?” Jack moved closer to them.

he reached up and grabbed her wrist. of making you do that. She shifted in his arms.” Even in the afterglow of her orgasm. and she could feel the liquid rushing from within her cunt and into Jack’s ready mouth. He licked again at her clit. but she finally freed Clay’s chest from the confines of his shirt. turning so that she faced him. He moved away suddenly. He rolled onto his back. He had hard six-pack abs.” Clay whispered in her ear. “I will never get tired of seeing you do that. but without a hitch in his ministrations. Jack’s hands curled around the hem of her hoodie and drew it over her head. She smoothed her hands over his pectorals as she pushed his shirt to the side. the little rivulets of air driving her need higher. and his tongue plunged into her mouth as his hands ran down her back to cup her ass. and Anya thought to protest. “Goddamn. twisting them into hard nubs. Clay was pure muscle. clearly defined by a . His hands wrapped around her chest and squeezed her tits. She used her free hand to tangle in his soft. “Just sit back and let us make you come. and she knew her release was close. that was sexy. and just when she had snapped the last enclosure to free his skin. She cried out as her universe exploded into tiny points of light. Jack sucked her clit into his mouth at the same instant he added a second digit to his finger-fucking. When Clay twisted her nipple and bit at the back of her neck at the same moment. and his cock bumping against her ass told her that he had shucked his clothes as well. She moaned her assent as Jack pushed his finger back into her and Clay pinched her nipples. He readily obliged. Clay’s words ignited her desire. Anya busied her hands with undoing the buttons of his shirt.” he breathed against her pussy. While Jack was all long and lean. stopping her. blond locks and angle his head just right.Hidden Pride 135 Her hips moved of their own accord as she tried to maneuver his face so that his tongue fucked into her. forcing her to straddle him. and craned her neck upward for a kiss. everything inside of Anya snapped. Her breath hitched at the sight.

He pressed one hot kiss against her lips then sat up to shuck his jeans and boxers. she couldn’t hold on another second. “Are you ready?” he asked. and she wanted it soon. and I don’t want you to be sore. but it was thicker. What he revealed was truly an impressive specimen. Slowly. and he adjusted the angle of his cock then thrust hard into her. She remembered Jack’s promise. wider than any she had ever seen. but the sensation drove her crazier than anything before. all other thoughts flew out the window. She burst into her second orgasm of the day. “She is goddamn sexy when she comes. but Clay leaned forward so she was flat on her back. When Clay snaked a hand between them and brushed her clit as he pounded into her. Between his cock filling her. She worried suddenly about whether or not she’d be able to take such an impressive dick inside of her.” “I don’t care about being sore. and the knowledge that Clayton fucking Abbott himself was making love to her. jets of his hot cum spurted into her. . but her efforts were halted when Clay rolled again. His cock wasn’t as long as Jack’s.” Anya wrapped her arm around his back and pulled herself upward so her tits bumped against his hard chest. rubbing his cock up and down along the seam of her pussy. He must have taken this as a signal to move. his fingers against her back entrance. He pulled out and thrust back in again. “I know you just came.” she managed before Clay placed another kiss on her lips. The girth of his cock stretched her. slamming her hips upward against Clay’s as his speed increased.136 Helena Ray hard line running down the center. and the fullness of his cock buried inside her had her racing to the brink once again. and the feel of that cock bumping against her wet entrance made it impossible for her to think about anything else. and knew she wanted that. he withdrew from her. this time placing her body under his.” she heard Jack say over the noise of her and Clay’s combined panting. his fingers rubbing her. and this time. and an instant later. Anya leaned over to run her tongue along that ridge. “You’re not so bad yourself.

for a week even. she knew she wouldn’t feel that way for long. I want you both again. five days.” “Because I’m gonna have to text you every dirty I thought I have. still panting. and she had an idea. but don’t think you won’t hear from us.” Clay began gathering his clothing and dressing then joined Jack where he stood dangerously close to the door. “God.” Jack said. “We’d love to.” “You need some time to process this. I want to be inside of you again. and we want you to be our mate. leaned over. “And that’s perfect. “We want you. No. darlin’. “But not yet. right?” .” Dates rushed through Anya’s head.” she said with an added emphasis on the S. I can get you extra tickets.” Clay answered. “I want you. and both Abbotts would be inside of her. And soon. It’ll be tough.” “Why five days?” “The Marina Andrews concert.” Jack grinned as he walked back to the bed.Hidden Pride 137 when she felt the emptiness from the loss of her cock. if you’d like to go”—she looked between them—“as my dates. He stood from the bed and began adjusting his hair back to its carefully mussed state. “No. she had made up her mind. and placed a kiss on Anya’s hair. but you need to think it over. “Five days. but we’ll stay away.” “We don’t want to rush you into this.” “Why not?” she breathed. “That’s not too long. Take some time.” she said as much to herself as them.

138 Helena Ray Chapter 11 Jack was in a haze. “They’re on the counter. Jocelyn waggled into the store. But Jack had had enough of her bullshit. “Oh.” he said as he walked out to meet her in the middle of the store. and when he concentrated. both Clay and Jack were otherwise occupied. flaunting her assets for all to see. but until he held her body in her arms and heard her accept his mating. Jack would get to see the object of his affection. he could stop the thoughts from flowing into his mind entirely. It had been five long days since he last saw her in the flesh. but of course. but luckily the night of the Marina Andrews concert had finally come. he could push thoughts away with relative ease. Ever since he and Clay had told Anya about their true nature. he was relatively sure that she would accept their offer and become their mate. Clay had happily handed over the reins to the Ninth Time. his ability to block out the thoughts of others had grown substantially. with a clear mind. There was only one spot marring his otherwise pristine outlook. and now Jack was behind the counter full-time. she had tried desperately to win their attentions. . could you get me your last year’s tax returns? I can’t believe I left them here again!” And there was the spot. All he wanted to do was to check his phone every thirty seconds to see whether or not Anya had tried to get in touch. he intended to let her know exactly how he felt. Jack. he wouldn’t be satisfied. however. to hold her. Now. From the nature of her texts. Ever since they hired her. As a result. and now.

” Jack whispered. and he saw that this was no mask at all. “What do you mean? I’m not throwing myself at you. as if trying to conjure up tears.” “Get out of my shop. The moment ended.” . I just want to get to know both of you so much better. the mask was firmly back in place. but Clay and I aren’t interested. We’ll make sure you’re fairly compensated for all the work that you’ve done. though. what would I do without you?” Jack gently wrapped his hand around her wrists and lowered her hands. He sighed. and she resumed her innocent. I’m going to have to ask you to leave. As soon as his back was turned. unmistakable anger passed over her face. and I’m sorry. “You’d manage just fine. his voice stern. wide-eyed expression. twisting her pretty features into an unbearable mask of ire.” Jack released her hands and took a step back. and walked back to the counter. “I don’t know what your problem is. This time. “What did you just call her?” “A skank. Look.” “Please. and she placed both her hands on his chest. We’ve found someone.” She said nothing but blinked rapidly. but as the front-of-store manager. Jackie.” For a brief moment. “Oh. she said. Any girl who would willingly fuck two men at the same time is nothing but a cheap. “It’s that skank. stop. but Jocelyn just folded her arms over her comically large chest. “From what I understand. He was finally seeing Jocelyn’s true nature. isn’t it? The one who was hanging all over you when I first came in here.Hidden Pride 139 A look of childish delight stole over her face as he stopped in front of her. but you need to stop throwing yourself at us quite so violently. You heard me.” he said. “Get out. two-bit whore.” Jack stopped in his tracks and turned. to face her. whatever you’re doing for Clay is nearly finished. tired of her overdramatic antics. slowly.

would make that official. a flurry of activity had consumed the Woodland as the snow from the blizzard melted away and they hit capacity with guests in for the Marina Andrews concert. Anya worked fourteen-hour days with only a few scant hours for sleep. His mate. He wondered for a moment if he should put any stock in Jocelyn’s threats. and had chocolatey hair. **** The lobby of the Woodland Den buzzed with activity. hopefully. and trading dirty text messages with both Clay and Jack. lost soul that some man had hurt very badly. and I will take you down. “There’s more going on than you or your stupid Neanderthal of a brother will ever know about. but everything she could find to do would require far more than two minutes. The . but decided they were most likely empty. but all of Anya’s attention focused on the small hand of the clock and its excruciatingly slow journey to six o’clock. I have it out for you. The minute hand on the clock over the reception desk inched closer to six. hoping his brother would return soon so they could make their way up to the Woodland Den and their mate. and Jack worried she was just a poor. and she was most certainly unwilling to spend a second longer than necessary at work.140 Helena Ray “Oh. The woman he wanted was soft. she reminded herself—kept her up. Nothing she said made sense.” She closed the distance with two steps and shoved her face into Jack’s. and stormed out of the Ninth Time. turned on one metallic stiletto heel. As Jocelyn crossed back by the Ninth Time. she flipped him off through the glass window. Classy.” With that she huffed. Anya looked around to find something to busy herself. aroused. luscious. For the past five days. you can kick me out of this shop. Jack Abbott. Only two more minutes now. but visions of her two men—her mates. but don’t think you can get rid of me. Tonight. Jack shook his head and checked his phone once more.

After years spent lusting after Clay. “Anya. and Anya quickly flung open the reservation book and began scribbling with pencil over some unfortunate family’s reservation. Her aunt studied her for a long moment.Hidden Pride 141 instant she was freed from her duties. Clay and Jack had given her time to think about whether or not she wanted to be with them. along with the majority of Savage Valley’s population. feigning innocence. Five fifty-nine. “Because you’ve just about obliterated their reservation for December. honey. Go ahead and take some time to—” “Thanks! Bye. Much as she enjoyed Marina Andrews. Then afterward… Aunt Cora walked through the lobby. Nashville’s latest country starlet. You’ve been working ’round the clock. Tonight was the night. but her answer came to her before they had even asked. did I?” she said. In record time.” Anya cut off her words as she simultaneously kissed her aunt on the cheek and unclipped her nametag. what are you—” Once more. throwing open the door to the small closet and digging through her clothing. Aunt Cora’s words faded away as Anya disappeared through the lobby to the staff quarters. “Honey.” “Oh. she would steal to her room to get ready for the concert. do you have a problem with the Joneses?” Aunt Cora asked as she walked behind the reception desk and studied her furious scribbling. Aunt Cora. Jack and Clay would be up at the Woodland as soon as they could after the Ninth Time closed at six. and they would all attend the concert together. she finally got the opportunity to lie wrapped in his arms. she was really looking forward to what would happen after the concert. she made it to her room. and . “You’re looking a little stressed out. She just needed to keep this going for another minute and she would be free.

A certain word started buzzing around the back of her mind.142 Helena Ray that opportunity came with another man for whom she’d already started falling. she was expecting visitors .” he said as they went to sit on her carefully made bed. Did you really think I’d miss an opportunity to see my favorite country singer and my favorite assistant coach ever?” Assistant coach. racking her brain over the grave decision of what to wear that evening. the idea of being tied to Savage Valley forever didn’t even scare her. As she studied her wardrobe once more. she wanted to hear it again every single day. Everything that had happened had changed her. After all. “Come on in. you crazy. wonderful man?” “You know how crazy I am about Marina Andrews. his words dented the high she had been riding after making her plans for the weekend. she flung the door open with gusto and leapt into his arms. Right. a word that had escaped Jack’s lips once. When she saw who it was. could it? She looked at the clock next to her bed. She wasn’t the woman she had been even a few weeks earlier. and when she was completely honest with herself. wouldn’t it? She carefully walked over to her door and peered through the peephole. The decision to be with them would change her life for good. In fact.” she said.” “And I want to hear everything. a knock sounded on her door. It couldn’t be Jack and Clay yet. it thrilled her. even with the ramifications. I just got back into the States today and saw all the missed calls from you. “I have so much to tell you. It would be impossible for even the two of them working together to close the shop and get up to the Woodland that fast. and suddenly. but every fiber of her being knew it was what she wanted. Hard. As thrilled as she was to see her best friend. smiling brighter than she felt. “Kenny! What on earth are you doing here. 6:01.

“Yes. I swear. and Christopher’s been better. he’s not even chasing the skate rental girls anymore. I don’t think I’m coming back at all. all of us do. but I really think my future is here. haven’t you?” She could feel the blush rising to her cheeks and pulled her hands back to cover her face. A person that doesn’t fear Christopher or skating officials or what anyone will think if I don’t go into a coaching career.” Kenny grabbed her elbow.” Kenny gasped. I’m sort of. too. muffled by her palms. well. actually. “When are you going to come back to work? I miss you so much.” Kenny pressed. grasping both her hands. Everything that’s happened since I last saw you. That’s what my parents wanted. “and if you keep at it. but—” “You’re a great coach.” Anya took a deep breath and steadied herself as she prepared to voice her plans aloud for the first time.” Kenny opened his mouth to say something but stopped suddenly.” “Get out.Hidden Pride 143 later that night. You see. they’re brothers. Ken. “But.” “It’s not my world. right?” “Yes.” “I miss you.” “Why not?” he asked.” she said. um. They are brothers. “You’ve met someone. and it’s something I’ve loved doing. Clay and Jack Abbott. “Why. admitting her feelings to herself for the first time as she told . well…” She took a deep breath. It’s never been my world.” “Yup. it’s made me a different person. I’m not splitting them apart. He narrowed his eyes and squeezed Anya’s hands tighter. “You’re my best friend. “Kenny. “Two someones.” she said as she watched her hands twist in her lap. An. pulling one of her hands from her face. “Not just someone. too. aren’t you a homewrecker? Splitting apart brothers like that. and I miss you so much it hurts. you could be on top of your game in a few years. Anya Copely.” “No.

rugged men running around.” “And I’ll miss you so much. Anya’s heart beat faster.” “Kenny!” Anya squealed as she rose to her feet. “But seriously. “I’m gonna miss you so much. I love having an excuse to visit this town. Anya. It’s obvious for anyone to see. I think I’m in love with them. “I’m so happy for you. and I’m not just saying that because you’re my best friend. and she was shocked at the smile that spread across his face.” he said as he pulled her into a hug.” “It’s just…it’s a commitment. You never told me there were all these gorgeous.” he said as he stood and headed toward the door. And.” he said through a laugh.144 Helena Ray Kenny. he leaned against the doorframe. I’ve never seen you glow like right now. “I’m so happy for you. “It’s not gonna be the same without you. I understand.” The smile that split across her friend’s face warmed her heart. are you?” When she shook her head. “Now are you gonna pull some strings to introduce me to Marina Andrews or not?” “Let me get dressed and I’ll come find you. He simply winked in response then gestured to the door. “You realize you’re going to have to tell me about the sex. You really could be a great coach. right? I’m fascinated to hear about how it feels to do two guys at once. And it’s scary. it wouldn’t be real. “And you’ll get to meet Clay and Jack tonight. I really am.” “If you weren’t scared. Kenny. “You’re in love. “You’re not coming back to Colorado Springs. In all the years I’ve known you. joining him at her door. “I’m in a relationship with both of them.” That word.” “Kenny!” she squealed and batted a hand in his direction. Miss Winter Sports Princess. but I gotta say. Kenny. but skating’s not your passion.” .” she said. but she pushed the emotion to the back of her mind for a moment.” He smiled and tilted his head as he studied Anya.

Any two men who could keep a beautiful woman like you interested must be quite a catch. she’d show him. and she waited for that bitch Anya to walk in with her two idiot boyfriends. She’d get Anya alone—an easy thing to do in a wooded. and she knew it was a stroke of genius.Hidden Pride 145 He raised his eyebrows. “Now that I want to see. She dipped her hand into her Hermès bag on her shoulder and wrapped her hand around that detached metal stiletto heel. He had been so busy handling the press from that bitch’s assault that he’d canceled his weekend with Jocelyn. mountainous small town—and she’d scare her straight. Well. Her phone call with Ulysses that afternoon had been a disaster. Concert-goers were beginning to trickle in. After Jocelyn was through with her. meaning she still had a Manolo with a snapped heel that needed replacing. and the sounds of sucking had poured from the receiver. The bastard was getting a blow job while he was on the phone with her. Oh. the men would have fallen at her feet. she would never set foot near one . that if she had just tried a little harder or dressed a little sexier. as no heterosexual man could resist her advances. that she might have luck with the older one. And even when Jocelyn had tried to convince Ulysses to give her a little more time.” **** What idiots planned an outdoor concert in Colorado in November? Jocelyn paced back and forth at the edge of the woods along the path leading from the parking area to the amphitheater. He had insinuated this was Jocelyn’s fault. She’d take out the bitch responsible for her failed assignment and for the tarnished reputation of Christopher Birkhead. The plan had formed in her mind that afternoon. he had only groaned. This afternoon at the Ninth Time proved they were either crazy or gay. but wouldn’t that snapped heel come in handy.

Finally. her libido would have destroyed her by the week’s end. and they’d never find the murder weapon. but not enough to kill her. she could put her plan into action. Now. Somehow. enough to scare Anya. . If not for her vibrator and Jack and Clay’s knack for dirty text messages. or someone was going to get it. the guest who had so enthusiastically declared his love for skating. Then Jocelyn realized she carried the perfect weapon. In a small town like this? Not happening. And that someone was Anya Copely. Jocelyn would have her reputation back as an utterly irresistible seductress. And if Jocelyn slipped and took Anya’s life. All the guests who had booked for the Marina Andrews concert were up and about. they’d have to perform some sort of Cinderella search for women missing a Manolo heel. her body tingled with the knowledge their hands would soon be on her. **** The Woodland Den lobby was packed. searching for her best friend. she knew it would be enough to scare her into silence. she innately knew that Clay and Jack hadn’t arrived yet. who would know? No one knew she was still in Savage Valley. ugly. if only she could isolate Anya from the rest of the crowd. and she saw him seated by the fireplace across from Skyler. old receptionists poked at her shoes and croaked. Anya squinted through the crowd. How many times had irritable. but after she sharpened the heel with her nail file that afternoon. her eyes zeroed in on Kenny’s curly blond hair. Whenever they were near. After all.146 Helena Ray of her men again. “you could kill someone with one of those things?” Jocelyn doubted she could kill Anya with it. getting ready for the big event. and she would make damn sure that the Abbotts sold out to NormCorp. The absence of that feeling over the past five days had driven her nearly crazy.

Her pussy flared to life. and she suddenly worried the evidence of her excitement would drip down her leg. it was. Jack and Clay were close. against her better judgment.Hidden Pride 147 “I’m glad the two of you found each other. she just knew.” she said. Only one thing could cause such sudden arousal.” Kenny answered.” “Well. Anya and I were working on my landing technique for…” She didn’t hear the rest of his words as something stirred within her. and she could swear she saw the man blush. got something to take care of.” Kenny said with a wink. you see.” “Well.” “Oh. “How about I meet you guys at the amphitheater in about half an hour? I’ve. yes. Anya sighed dramatically and made her way back out of the crowded lobby. turning her attention back to Kenny and Skyler. we did meet that once before. her heartbeat accelerated and her palms began to sweat. “I’ve gotta excuse myself. and she didn’t care if her stockings were ruined. The throbbing intensified with every stride she took. not to mention the dampness accumulating on the bare skin between her legs.” “No. he was definitely blushing. Skyler. She burst through the door and. “but I doubt you remember. Clay and Jack would probably make certain of that anyway. “I can’t believe that you threw a quad in an exhibition program. um. and she could feel her clit pulsing against the lace thong she wore.” Yup. “Was it after the Champs Camp exhibition? Last year?” “Yes. “I had just wondered if you were still here.” she said as she weaved her way through the crowd. She had opted for fleece-lined thigh-high tights and a garter belt that evening. shucked her high heels and took off on a run toward the newly built parking area for the amphitheater. . As she reached the exit. I’ll bet you do. at the time. They were there.” Skyler said softly. I think I do remember.

and French-manicured fingers stuffed a sock in her mouth. A hand tangled in her hair and pulled her head upward. it had to be her.148 Helena Ray Her pulse rushed in her ears. Yes. Jocelyn. and she veered to the left. bitch. . and that woman seemed to harbor a bizarre vendetta against Anya she’d never taken the time to understand. I will have you. Yes! Almost there! Without warning. she fell. be with the ones she wanted. “Don’t you dare try to run. pinning her to the spot and taking away her ability to breathe. She wanted them forever. She approached the tree line and could see the distant outline of Clay’s station wagon. smacking her chin on the cold ground.” Anya knew of only one woman with a cold voice and a proclivity for French manicures. taking a shortcut through the woods. Only a few more yards and she’d see them. Something sharp ground into her back.

unnecessarily. “We certainly are here. It was a portrait of her.” Clay said. The painting he was working on was in the back of the car. and memories of her filtered through his every moment. Clay. but a vision of his desire all the same.” Jack turned serious for a moment. All he wanted was to bury his cock inside her again and push in and out. and after being with Anya. imprinting her soul upon his as he did so. closing the car door and leaning on the roof. but goddamn. “It’s all really starting. Jack’s enthusiasm was contagious. The heaven he found inside her cunt was like nothing he had ever before experienced. I didn’t know if it would happen. and he felt a sloppy grin spread across his face. he tried to visually represent the overwhelming sensory input he received as a lion. Since he had plunged inside her. isn’t it? The rest of our lives. she’s more than I ever imagined. and he longed to give it to Anya. breaking the silence of their drive into the Mukuas to the Woodland Den. abstracted. I . this came so much easier to him. the leonine part of his brain was much more readily accessible. evincing his unbridled excitement about the evening. his lion and his manhood knew that tonight he would claim his mate. He couldn’t stop thinking about her. Inside. mark her for him and his brother forever. Our mate. Jack grinned over the top of station wagon as they both exited the car.” Even though Clay tried to portray himself as the stoic eldest member of the pack. “We’re here. In his art. We’re here to claim our mate.Hidden Pride 149 Chapter 12 Clay spent the entire day uncomfortably hard. “Honestly. yes.

so I guess she’s meeting us at the amphitheater entrance. . The amphitheater with its dense seating provided the only source of warmth Clay could think of. as long as he had his own personal body warmer melded against him while they played. but his life started the day Anya strolled back into the Ninth Time. Warmth. “I still haven’t heard anything else from her.” Clay felt his chest seizing at his brother’s words. as long as I get to see her damn soon. Her disappearance didn’t sit right with him. but it’s Anya.” “I couldn’t give a shit where we meet her. especially given its quick construction.150 Helena Ray thought it started when we became the dominant generation. always showed up when she said she would or earlier. Clay couldn’t give a shit. and was impressive in its scale. he grew impatient. Warm. Wet. All these milestones had passed.” Clay said under his breath as they joined the throng of people making their way toward the stage. and uneasiness settled in Clay’s stomach. Jack looked down at his phone once more and nodded in Clay’s direction. and although it had warmed in the past week. He and Jack watched as the crowd slowed. He was right. It had been carved into the base of Adam’s Point. Savage Valley was still far too cold for an outdoor event such as this. most of the concert-goers now seated and waiting for the headliner. The final few latecomers trickled in. he could only nod at Jack as he walked away from the car and toward the amphitheater. In the time he’d known her. and he was well into his mid thirties. This wasn’t like Anya. the highest peak in the Mukuas. His thoughts strayed to Anya once again. The wind picked up. and despite his best efforts. she always eagerly returned calls and texts. honestly. She’s the one that’s done it. Overcome with emotion.

too. both peeled their clothes from their bodies. and with a nod to Jack.” Clay couldn’t stay in human form a second longer.” Clay whispered. and when he did. her screams split through his own ears. “If you’re in lion form. not when he could shift and he could save his mate. “I feel it. they both started at a dead run across the parking area to the trees.” Jack looked up at Clay as he spoke. His paws pounded across the earth in rhythm with his brother’s. While Clay watched. Through the telepathic link he shared with Jack in shifted form. He had to end the pain. too. Anya was in trouble. ready to find his mate. and the shifting process began. not through Ezra’s thoughts from the other side . Had to find her. and soon. The primal possession took hold. He had to make sure that his mate would live and bear his kittens. They had to track her. “We have to shift. but already. and he’s hearing her. something deep within him told him he was right.Hidden Pride 151 “Me. “She’s screaming. Clay’s fingertips tingled as his claws burst from beneath his nails. the sounds of Anya’s screams resonated in Clay’s mind now. and he brought his hand to his head as he doubled over. neither. clearly still haunted by whatever he heard and saw in the other shifter’s mind. In an instant.” Jack turned to him. he was fully in lion form.” The words were strangled. and shivers ran over his skin as it grew long. we can both find her. apparently mining Clay’s thoughts. Finally. Clay could feel his lion tearing at his control. His lion was drawn to the source of that shrieking. He had to stop it. too. “Ezra…he’s at the top of Adam’s Point. “It’s been too long. her smell filtered through the crisp air. the one true counterpoint to his leonine soul. Jack’s face twisted in horror.” “Something’s wrong. tan fur. and he needed to help her.” Jack said. She would have at least shot a text to us if she was going to keep us waiting. Once they had secured the cover of darkness.” he gasped as he continued to shake his head. and he could see the worry in his brother’s eyes.

a rare verbal command issued in lion form. He turned his attention back to the scene unfolding. or from Jack’s.” she barked. pointy stick. as they reached the apex of Adam’s Point. only give him the satisfaction he needs. Ulysses just wants to buy out the town. and she meant to hurt his mate. Weapon. She meant to hurt the man. You’re just another bitch like the rest of them in line to suck his cock. Look. like you know what Ulysses would want. “Where are your loyalties?” she shouted. “I’m here on a personal mission from Ulysses. but I don’t think he’d stake his reputation on you murdering an innocent woman over the secondhand shop. my ass. The woman. his precious mate lay with her wrists and ankles bound. along with the sounds of a man and a woman shouting at each other. then back at the woman with the twisted face and sharp stick. “Stay. metallic stick with its end sharpened. and I can only accomplish it.” The skinny man grabbed the woman’s wrist. and a tall. Clay lingered as she pointed the shiny stick underneath the skinny man’s chin. He had to save her now.” The skinny man looked at his mate. perfect mate.” “Oh.” The warning came from Jack. he’s willing to do whatever that takes.152 Helena Ray of the mountain. Jack sent him a signal to slow. to approach carefully. skinny man with curly brown hair cowered beside her. “What exactly are you implying?” . Some note of recognition rang in his human mind along with a sharp disgust that drew a low growl from his throat. “That’s not true. Clay’s beautiful. effectively pushing away the shiny. if I make sure this bitch”—she kicked his mate. sending a flow of pulsing blood to her wrists and ankles in its struggle to reach her extremities. on the outlook. There. She held what looked like a pointy. “Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer. Jack gave him a look that even in lion form he recognized as a warning. and yes. and Clay felt the blow echo against his own side—“does exactly what I say.

She knew he would take care of her as long as he could. Feeling the relief that his mate would not be attacked. the beautiful brown pools of his mate’s eyes flashed. what is it. and he knew that she had seen him. and as soon as Clay freed Anya. Although why anyone would want anything to do with that scumbag is beyond me. “God. provide for her. and she turned around. running at top speed away from the hill. closing in on her as they would their prey.” Clay noticed the man cut his eyes to Anya. she dropped her weapon in shock and followed the other man. and her screaming ceased for a moment then started louder again. fearful noise sounded from her. and when Clay raised one paw in preparation to swipe at his assailant. Love her. and then you get in the way of my relationship with motherfucking Ulysses C. The woman began panting. “Are you okay?” he whispered over and over as he undid the bonds on her wrists and ankles. She knew he would rescue her. hunt for her. only to find Jack on her opposite side. Skyler. They heard the man take off. and growled low in his throat. Jack soon joined him. and as she stormed toward Anya.” The woman wrenched her hand free. . A high-pitched. “You’re never going to mess with Jocelyn Smythe again. only shivered in the cold night air. come off it. She did not say anything in response. waving her arms and screaming. Jack pulled her into his arms. Norman. you little—” Clay sprung. Everyone knows you’re in love with Ulysses. flying over Anya and landing easily on all four paws in front of the woman. his fur and claws receding as he crawled a few feet to his Anya.Hidden Pride 153 “Oh. They began circling. Clay and Jack both made their way slowly in opposite directions along the edge of the clearing. Clay shifted. bitch? First you try to take away one of my biggest cash cows. After a moment.

she spoke.” She easily curled her legs around him pressing her barely clothed pussy to his naked chest. Even though she’d only spent such a brief period of time with them. They weren’t like the men she’d known before. She pulled back a fraction of an inch and ran her hand over his shoulder to rest in the center of his naked chest.154 Helena Ray “We thought we might lose you. they had become a part of her. He wrapped both his arms around her waist and pulled her into his lap. still felt the pain of Jocelyn’s stiletto in her back as she yanked Anya’s arms and legs behind her to hogtie her then drag her up the mountain. I love you so much. reaching out to tangle his fingers in her soft brown hair before pulling her face to his for a kiss. Love. too. and they were honest.” He placed kisses on her cheeks and forehead.” **** The words came out naturally. And she still felt the cold fear that ran through her veins when Jocelyn scraped her metal pick along Skyler’s collarbone. well. the only thing to say in the situation. only being with them forever would satisfy that desire. “I love you. she knew she loved Clay and Jack. No. they were good. the all-consuming need. and more importantly. but the two of them were worth it. She still felt shock. and finally. But now one feeling overwhelmed all the others. drawing his blood. wrapping one arm around Jack’s neck and holding out the other for Clay. The whole lion-shifter thing would take some getting used to. He moved quickly to where his mate sat in his brother’s arms. .” Clay whispered against her lips then pressed another kiss to them. Kenny was right. and Anya finally came back to life. And she still felt the relief when she heard Skyler’s voice shouting Jocelyn’s name. “I love you. And the pull she felt to them. “God.

and then he set her on the cold. crawling toward her. this was the widest.” “And I love you. That’s all that matters. hogtied. and she smiled back at him. I’ve been crazy about you for as long as I can remember. and the words came out in a rush.” Of all Jack’s intoxicating smiles.” Neither Clay nor Jack said a word.” “You do?” Jack said. Clay.” “We’ve waited long enough. He quickly came beside her and pressed a kiss on her knuckles. “I love you. and her inner muscles contracted in response. kissing her thoroughly and proving his words. His hard cock bumped against her tattered dress.” He squeezed her ass. “could you put me on the ground?” His muscles tensed for a moment. “I want you to mate me. I’m so in love with you. wrapping one arm underneath her and lowering her to the ground so that he lay on top of her. and he quickly had it and her shredded stockings and thong removed. how quickly can we get back to your room?” “Now. If being kidnapped. reminding her of the purpose of that evening.” she said solemnly. revealing their true feelings.” One of Clay’s hands slid down her back to cup one of her ass cheeks.” “We’re together now. “Now. “God. darlin’. “You. too. “And I’m not known for being particularly patient. it’s that I want the two of you. packed earth in front of him. and nearly shanked has shown me anything.Hidden Pride 155 “And Jack.” she said as she reached one arm behind her. “Anya. She steadied herself. both of them sported impressive hard-ons. “Clay.” Clay said as he surged forward. . but Anya noticed that even in the cold air. He grabbed the back of her head and pulled her face to his. She ran a hand down his chest and curled her fist around the base of his cock.” She looked between them. the most illuminating she had ever seen.

a warm pleasure oozed out from the punctures. She accepted Clay with her mind. Clay’s hands landed on her shoulders. I accept your mating. And together. tightening her nipples. Do you accept my mating?” “Yes. rushing first along her collarbone. and his deep. but with her heightened awareness. the featherlight touch sent fiery-hot bolts of excitement flying throughout her body. she could nearly see the truth of them written in the atmosphere. dizzy from the sudden shift. each of his fine blond strands of hair.” he began. every tiny indentation of his skin.156 Helena Ray “I want to feel you inside me again. then over her chest. “Anastasia Copely. “I have chosen you as my mate. but she felt no pain. Yet when they floated through the electrified air between them. her whole world came into sharp focus. and he nodded.” she said. When they did. almost like nails breaking the skin. Clay removed his hands from her shoulders. She swayed. her body. Then unexpectedly. and they flew from her lips with only the slightest bit of will. she felt little pinpricks of sensation on her shoulders. and immediately. and even though they sat on the cold. His features were in sharp focus—every graceful line. She sat up. the vacuum that had held them dissolving into the atmosphere. but . She looked to Jack questioningly. and her heart. “Just a moment. I will protect you with my entire being. Clay spoke. As such. and then finally down to the pool of liquid between her legs. husky voice vibrated through his hands. and Anya could swear she felt his words splash against her skin. lion and human both. darlin’. and the air around them broke. her soul. Instead. Without warning. He closed the space between them and brushed the softest of kisses over her lips. Anya’s universe contained only her and Clay.” He sat up and indicated for Anya to do the same. we shall protect the earth on which we live and the beings with which we share it. trying to direct his cock to her pussy. windy outlook.” The words surfaced in Anya’s mind as if they’d always been there.

he slid the rigid organ inside her. bobbing right before her eyes. “I accept your mating.” she said again with only the whisper of a will. As such. Anya leaned forward and sucked the head into her mouth. His lips were on her neck as his cock bumped against her pussy. Clay continued his thrusts. Jack’s hand entangled in her hair. and Anya was more aware than ever of Jack’s classically handsome features and roguish smile. And together. “Anastasia Copely. I have chosen you as my mate. and once more Anya reeled at the abrupt change. Do you accept my mating?” “Yes. driving her . There. He smoothed his hands up her arms and around her shoulders. I will protect you with my entire being.” Jack kissed her purposefully. we shall protect the earth on which we live and the beings with which we share it. with a perfect jewel of pre-cum gleaming at the tip. Every nerve ending in her lips lit up as his tongue pressed against them. and he used his grip to turn her head to face him. and she fell back to the ground. He pulled back. lion and human both. Anya had little time to dwell on this feeling. and it felt even more pleasurable when she expected the warm feeling to soak through her. and with little warning. With no more direction from Jack. It was a fast- pace number Anya recognized from the radio. and the wet combination of his hot mouth and the cold air sent zinging sensations straight to her pussy. and the force of her arousal nearly knocked her out. and she and Clay synced their thrusts with its rhythm. And once again. and he hissed at the sensation. The electrified atmosphere snapped back into place. She cried out just as the music began from below. Jack moved with swift grace to capture her upper arms in his hands.Hidden Pride 157 luckily. was his hard cock. As they found their steady rhythm. hitting her G-spot instantaneously. and Anya gasped as his nails broke her skin. She looked into the sparkling eyes that had captured her heart from the moment she saw them and prepared for him to begin. Clay lunged at her.

” “I love you.” she whispered as Clay pressed a kiss over where he had sunk his teeth into her neck and slowly withdrew.” Jack said. she sucked Jack into her mouth. “You’re perfect for us. Anya released Jack’s cock and split in half with a cry of release. humming around the head as she used one hand to stroke the shaft. Damn.” she said. “Oh my god. “My turn. these two . and she quickly found herself hovering dangerously close to the point of no return. Anya.” He dipped his head and took one nipple in his mouth. his eyes aglow. he and Clay traded places. though. she felt no pain. turning her face to the ground and offering up her neck to Clay. “I love you. Clay moved one hand between them and rubbed the hard bud of her clit. he held her within his bright-blue gaze and said. and I love you. too. it only heightened the pleasure of Clay exploding inside of her and pouring his scorching cum into her awaiting pussy. Between his thrusts and the warm pressure there. and that’s what matters. then added sheepishly. but goddamn it.” Jack said. and like when he had pierced her shoulders before. As he lifted his face.158 Helena Ray need higher. No. I never thought it would happen so quickly.” “Never say that. “we think you’re perfect in every way possible. the sharp sensation reigniting the fire within Anya.” “Not to mention. Quickly. “but I’m not perfect.” Clay said through gritted teeth. she didn’t want to spare him any pleasure at the moment. and Jack pulled Anya’s hair. He leaned over her and lowered his head to drink from her lips. Mustering all her strength to hold back her orgasm. After leaving Jack high and dry—or rather. His teeth sank into the base of her neck.” She looked up to see Clay staring down at her with the same intensity. you’re perfect. and his hard cock lined up with Anya’s entrance. bursting open with a rush of pleasure that she could feel soaking Clay and running down her own thighs. “Now. hard and dry—last time. At that moment.

are you?” she asked as Jack fell beside her and Clay stretched out on the opposite side. too. Jack pushed into her slowly. she hoped that was part of the mating ritual. She turned to look up at Clay. still glistening with her juices. and Anya laved at Clay’s cock with the same rhythm.” Clay traced his hand up and down her stomach and studied her face. she saw a smug smile cross Clay’s face from the corner of her eye. was once more fully erect and ready to go. “The two of you aren’t going to give me any rest. Every square inch of her skin tingled. “How do you feel? Any different yet?” Anya closed her eyes. Confused but more than willing to oblige.” he said. darlin’. Jack began an unforgiving pace. And I get to spend the rest of my life with them. then withdrew and forced all of his length inside her. the warmth from within assured she was more than comfortable. “No plans to. Secretly. . and she suddenly thought of the dangerous fullness they had hinted at before. Jack’s teeth sank into her skin at the exact moment his seed shot into her pussy. and she could see he was on the verge. As she stared in disbelief. “C–Clay. inch by inch. bathing her cunt in his essence. His rhythm became uneven. His cock. and even though she could feel the cold wind whipping over her skin. and she darted her eyes up to see his glazed over with pleasure.Hidden Pride 159 knew how to get her excited. pressing both himself and her closer to release. and what she saw shocked her. Clay brushed the hair off Anya’s neck and turned her head to the side.” Like Jack had before. she guided Clay’s cock to her lips and wrapped her lips around the head. The fullness sparked excitement within her. “now. Jack twisted one of her nipples between her fingers. sucking hard and running her tongue over the tip. his thrusts harder.

sending a few more sparks flying toward her clit.” Jack pressed against her.” Jack answered. she knew would propel her into a heaven like she’d never known before. “We’re going to take you at the same time.” Clay landed a kiss on her collarbone. “There’s still one final thing.” she said. “Wait. “When are you boys gonna be ready for that?” “Right now.” Jack answered. “You bet your ass. “Not like we’ve ever done this before. a note of danger in his voice. “Fun fact.” she said in a lascivious tone.” At her side. and I think. Excited. that’s for normal men. Warm.” “But the mating’s not over yet.” she said. “We’re bred to be ready all the time. hoping for the one thing. “How on earth are you two hard again? I mean. and her breath hitched as her inner muscles contracted in anticipation.” Clay growled as he rolled onto his side and thrust against Anya.160 Helena Ray “Tingly.” Clay brushed her hair to the side and laved at her collarbone. articulating each word.” Jack said as he rubbed his dick against her hip.” .” Clay said.” He ran his hand over her hip. we’re definitely not normal. “Is that how I’m supposed to feel?” “We don’t know. “Mountain lions can copulate nine times in one hour. “The Ninth Time? Like the store? Is that what that’s referring to?” “Our forefathers’ idea of a little joke. “Clay’s going to fuck your pussy while I’m inside this sweet little ass. gorgeous?” “It sounds pretty damn good.” Wait a minute. needing answers. “How does that sound to you. you’re going to like it. she crossed her fingers. don’t you need a little bit of downtime?” “Darlin’. and Anya was stunned to find he was already hard as a rock. the one sexual act. In case you forgot. from what I’ve seen and felt around my cock.

In one sudden motion. inch by excruciating inch. and Jack helped Anya to climb on top of him so that her pussy hovered near his erect cock. Jack must have taken her comment as permission because he pulled out then pushed back in as Clay used his hands to lift her off his cock a little. “Lean over. Jack pushed his cock all the way into Anya’s pussy. After a few uneven thrusts. and the flared tip of his head pushed against her tight ring of muscle. she felt a delightful sensation of fullness. then pulled out. this news fully reigniting her excitement. “I need a little lube. Slowly. As she sank onto the cock she had already come to love. he guided her pussy to hover over him then lowered her. That sensation grew when Jack spread her ass cheeks before placing his cockhead at her puckered hole. but Clay rolled onto his back. .” She moaned as she lowered her chest and Clay drew one of her nipples between his lips.” She mumbled her assent. tightening her pussy around Clay’s dick as a new brand of flame consumed her body. they found their steady in-and-out.” “More than okay. shouldn’t we?” Neither verbally responded. “Because there’s nothing I want to do more right now than push my cock into you. darlin’?” Clay ground out. He only thrust three times. After a moment of discomfort. and Clay’s hands landed on her hips. until he was buried to the hilt. though.” she whispered. “we should take advantage of this. a warm pleasure spread outward. Jack pushed. hitting her sensitive inner walls as he did so. barely audible over the music still coming from the amphitheater. “Are you okay. “This is gonna hurt a little.Hidden Pride 161 “Well.” she breathed.” Jack whispered into her ear from behind her. It burned as he stretched it further. so just let us know if you feel uncomfortable. the only response she was capable of in her aroused state. back-and-forth rhythm.

bringing the rest of the outside world with it.” She did as he asked. and on Adam’s Point. Anya spoke. Its summit came closer and closer. she began to climb the peak of excitement. how decadently full. her orgasm ended. Both her men slowly withdrew from her. As yet another song began.” he said slowly. and she realized she had truly become their mate.” Jack ground out as he thrust into her. with both of her mates’ cocks buried inside of her. Jack erupted in her ass. and his teeth once more pierced her skin. She cried out. a scream of base pleasure. Another of Marina Andrews’s radio hits filtered into Anya’s consciousness. as her inner muscles contracted around the hard cocks filling her. and an entirely new sort of pleasure overcame her. Anya reached an entirely different sort of mountaintop. Clay reached a hand up and twisted one of her nipples. Jack pushed her hair aside and attached his lips to the other side of her neck then raked his teeth over her skin. and the hard thrusts from Clay and Jack told her they were right there with her. “Oliver’s just been called by Sheriff Kinman. obviously concentrating on something neither she nor Clay could see. Finally.” Jack closed his eyes. Her orgasm extended onward. A second later. and the three of them rolled to the side. “One last thing before we’re mated. and Clay sat up a little and moved his lips over the side of her neck. . Just as she felt her juices spill onto Clay. “Lean over again. breaking the companionable quiet between the three of them. filling her pussy with his seed as he buried his teeth in her neck once more. as if a vision were unraveling inside his mind. Skyler—that’s the guy who helped us to save you. “Oliver. Clay followed suit. and their panting nearly drowned out the music from below. “What’s going to happen to Jocelyn you think?” “Just a second. As the two Abbott brothers fucked in and out of both her holes. Colors burst in front of her eyes as she felt her soul meld with those of the two men inside her.162 Helena Ray Anya couldn’t believe how hot she felt.

“Skyler apparently knew Jocelyn from Denver. “Oliver says he believes it. they had enough for them to arrest her.” . relief already washing over her. You’re the one and only love of our lives. “Jack. and we want to be with you forever.” Jack took a deep breath.” causing both Anya’s heart and her pussy to throb.Hidden Pride 163 right?” Anya nodded in response. so he followed her into the woods. “He seemed to appear out of nothing.” Anya felt a pang of guilt over what had happened to Jocelyn.’ He was worried. “I should have known. beautiful. honey.” He took a deep breath before rolling onto his side and looking down at Anya. “Skyler’s given the Sheriff the lowdown. the details of the event clarifying in her memory. though. Everything in this town seems to boil down to Norman lately. She’s on her way to the county jail right now. and saw her sneaking around. “She could never have seduced us. “Remind me to tell him I’m forever in his debt. “It’s over. “So it’s over?” she asked.” “Fat fucking chance. and between that and the fact that she’s running around with makeshift dagger. and his eyelids fluttered as he opened his mind again.” Clay muttered.” Jack rolled to his side and kissed Anya’s forehead quickly before continuing. Apparently she was going to seduce us into handing over our property to that bastard Ulysses Norman. We were made for you. “Skyler claims she was sent by…by NormCorp?” Jack sounded surprised as he squeezed his eyes tighter. can your magic mind-reading abilities tell us why the hell Jocelyn had it in for our mate?” He nearly purred the words “our mate.” Clay answered.” “Why was Skyler even there?” Anya asked. and that’s when he saw you and helped us to take her down. Apparently she didn’t look like normal and had something he keeps calling ‘crazy eyes. but once she remembered her life had been threatened only minutes earlier. the feeling dissipated rapidly.

“I’d gladly start a nudist colony if it meant I get to see you without any clothes.” “I could live with that.” Jack said. “Just takes some practice. “But just know that we’ll make sure your name is Anya Abbott pretty soon.” “I love you so much. thrilled but attempting to sound nonchalant. at some point we’re going to want to make it legal.” “Oh. though.” Clay assured her.” “We’re not saying it has to be right away. “Forever.” She said the words aloud for the first time. are you okay with your nakedness?” Jack sat up and looked down at her. “Enough that I’m willing to lie naked on the top of Adam’s Point in the cold. huh?” she asked.” Jack pressed a kiss to the back of her neck.164 Helena Ray The pounding of her heart drowned out the drumbeat emanating from the amphitheater. “Doesn’t matter. “I like that. “Because we’re going to want you naked…well.” She turned back to Clay.” “Speaking of which.” THE END TWITTER. “The three of us…this is a real. and she noticed his eyes rake over her body with an appreciative assessment.” Anya tried to force her mind to think of anything besides her two mates. you’ll learn to.COM/HELENARAYWRITER .” she said. darlin’.” “Anya Abbott. darlin’. basically all the time. right?” “Of course it is. “You’ll just have to learn to give me a break. forever thing. but it was a futile effort. “And you know. I’m not sure if I can make love nine times in an hour every single day.” “I don’t think we have any hikers staying right now. and he kissed her briefly.” Clay said.

Colorado 1: Mountain Pride Ménage Everlasting: The Pride of Savage Valley. She loves to travel. Also by Helena Ray Ménage Everlasting: The Pride of Savage Valley. his two . These included her evil twin in Mexico. She hopes that readers have as much fun occupying her imaginary worlds as she has creating them. and raucous nights in Dublin. Colorado 2: Taste of Pride For all other titles. Currently. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Helena Ray has always maintained that the world inside her head is much more exciting than the real world. Born the daughter of a newspaperman and a lawyer. please visit www. her love affair with the written word turned torrid.bookstrand. and her most recent adventures have included several trips to Paris. Growing up as an only child. and she couldn’t stop herself from following in her parents’ footsteps. and her also quite handsome dog. She has traveled all over the United Kingdom and has lived in London and northern they can find her on Twitter under the name HelenaRayWriter or e-mail her at HelenaRayAuthor@gmail. and many a talking dog. Helena has given words a vital role in her life. Over the years. she spent many happy afternoons dreaming up companions. Should any of her readers care to contact her. leisurely weekends on Lake Constance in Germany. puppets that would pop up out of the ground. Helena lives in Texas with her very handsome boyfriend.

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