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Forged by Fate
A Bound by Hades Novel
By Reese Monroe, Karen Grove, Theresa Marie Cole
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Reese Monroe
All rights reserved.
"Just because you can't find a girl and have sex doesn't mean I have to live an abstinent life." Justin slid his shirt over his head.
Theo Bradford glanced at the woman in his brother's hotel bed, barely covered by a single white sheet, and sighed. "You use them like they're worthless. J-man, show a little respect." Theo stepped toward the sleeping woman and pulled the blanket over her. "You tranced her, didn't you?"
"Give me some credit. She heard you come in and was embarrassed. I had to let her finish, then cover up your interruption." He slapped Theo's shoulder. "What happened to knocking when the sock was on the door?"
"No sock, you jerk." Theo scrubbed his face. He'd walked in on his brother more than once over the centuries, and it was awkward each and every time. Justin had notched more bedposts than Theo cared to think about.
"Oops." Justin shrugged. "Sorry. So, what's the big deal?"
Theo patted the daggers hanging beneath his arm under his leather jacket to confirm they were there. It'd become a calming habit over the centuries. "I found her."
Justin froze, eyes wide. "Her? As in —"
"My Mate." Heat stampeded through Theo's stomach and up his chest. Finally. His Mate had received his Mark. "Hurry up. I've waited nine hundred and eleven years for this moment. I'm a little ... excited to get to her."
Justin hurried to the table beside the bed and grabbed his wallet and weapon. "Well no shit you're excited to see her, man," he said as Theo opened the door and waited. "Considering you chose to not play a little during your wait for your Mate, I bet you're about to burst outta your pants."
"Starting right now, clean it up. I don't want my Mate dealing with your crude tongue."
Justin chuckled as he strode past Theo and onto the sidewalk in front of their hotel room door. "Pansy."
"J, what about your woman?" Theo paused in the doorway.
"She's not my woman. Let's get that straight. Don't worry, I nudged her to leave when she wakes up." He grinned. "Gave her a nice little story about a happy, loving, tender night, you little romantic you." He backhanded Theo's chest.
Theo gently tugged the door shut. How Justin could be so uncaring was beyond him. Justin was younger by twelve minutes and must have gotten the reckless gene.
Theo couldn't picture himself bedding anyone but his fated female. He'd never wanted to. Hopefully she would understand his inexperience.
"Yo, Theophilus, are we going to get your woman or what?" Justin stood by his red Camaro, driver's side door open. "Busting pants, remember?"
"Asshole." He hated when his brother called him by his full given name and once again pointed out his inexperience with females. Maybe he should have tested the waters so he wouldn't be so naive when it was time to come together with his Mate.
No, he'd made the right choice. He stomped through the lot toward his bike, which was perched directly beside Justin's sleek sports car.
A snicker trailed into the night as Theo swung his leg over the Ninja. Justin might be reckless with women while passing the endless days of immortality, but Theo was into speed. Nothing beat the feel of the wind through his hair, the freedom of speeding down the road on two wheels.
Well, he figured once he'd made love to his female, that would overpower the highly rated rush of riding a bike, but until then, it was what worked.
Justin was right about one thing, though. Theo was ready to be with his beloved. Lord knew he'd waited long enough. But as the Keeper of the Gates, it was a sacrifice he was willing to make to ensure the great power promised him once he joined with his Mate.
And even though she didn't know it, Sadie Nowland was chosen to fulfill that promise.CHAPTER 2
The sting of a slap on her butt sent Sadie Nowland whirling around. Her hand grazed a glass sitting on the table beside her and it went flying. Glass shattering against the tiled floor sent a high-pitched vibration through her skull and down her spine.
No way should that have been so loud. Then again, everything had been louder to her lately. Smells more potent. Tastes more intense.
She glared at the old fart who'd slapped her butt.
"Hi, honey." The old man grinned a toothless smile, and Sadie almost spewed the contents of her stomach all over his unfinished breakfast-for-dinner order.
She sealed her hand over her mouth and raced to the bathroom. The red door flew open and bounced off the wall, but she couldn't care less. In about a second, if she didn't make it to the stall, the bathroom was going to be redecorated with a puke collage.
Sadie fell to her knees and lost her lunch. Wait, no, it was her breakfast. She hadn't eaten since then. Final exams always messed with her, but this time something was different.
"Girl, are you preggers?" Dasha's high-pitched voice echoed off the metal walls surrounding Sadie.
"Unless I'm the mother of the next Jesus, that'd be a big fat no." Sadie stood and flushed. She dragged the back of her hand over her moist forehead and spit one last time.
Had she been sleeping with someone, she'd think herself pregnant, too, but it wasn't possible. First, she needed a boyfriend — hell, a male any friend — to have that as a possibility.
And, she'd have to not be a virgin.
Dasha leaned in to the mirror, pressing her fingers to her lips. "True. I forget Saint Sadie could never be preggers."
Sadie joined her friend at the sink and leaned forward. She turned on the water and cupped some to her mouth. A warm hand smoothed down her spine. Dasha was tough on the outside and quick with the retorts, but Sadie couldn't ask for a better friend. Even though she couldn't explain to her BFF about what was really happening to her.
She couldn't tell anyone, mostly because she didn't know.
"It's your final exams rotting out your insides, isn't it?" Dasha whispered.
"Yeah." Probably. Had to be. Hopefully? But it didn't explain her wicked dreams. Dreams filled with ancient warriors. Dark creatures that kind of resembled vampires, but not.
And it didn't explain her heightened senses and irritable stomach or the fact that some random tattoo showed up on her left shoulder three nights ago.
"You sure? 'Cause you're really looking thin, tired, and ... well, like total crap."
"Sorry. I'm just worried for ya, girl."
Sadie was worried for herself, too. No, she was scared shitless. "I'm fine. Two more exams this week and I'm good."
"Well, I know you're stressed, but thanks for covering Julie's shift like this. You saved our butt tonight."
"Speaking of butts. Who was that old fart groping me?" She grabbed some paper towels and wiped her face while Dasha went back to primping.
Waves of auburn hair cascaded over Dasha's narrow shoulders. Brilliant jade eyes analyzed her appearance, searching out imperfections. Standing next to her, Sadie looked like a pauper in her faded jeans, white T-shirt, and black Skechers. Not to mention her dishwater-blond hair.
She turned around and leaned against the sink to avoid her dismal appearance. Sure, Sadie was smarter than the average girl, graduating from college in under two years and at the age of eighteen.
But she'd sacrificed everything to make that happen. To show the world that an orphan raised in the system could make something of herself.
"The Butt Grabber Grandpa." Dasha laughed. "He hasn't been in for a while. Thought maybe he'd croaked or something. He's harmless."
"That's so gross." She tugged on Dasha's hair. "Got any gum?"
"Sure." She pulled a piece from her back pocket. "And you're going to need it. Some major hotties walked in and planted their fine asses at one of your tables."
"Oh yeah?" Sadie stuffed a piece of cinnamon gum into her mouth. She hated barfing. It was totally gross, and she'd become intimately acquainted with the act over the last three days.
She didn't have a fever or any other symptoms, and had even stopped by the student medical center for a quick checkup. Nothing came of it, but she still couldn't hold down any food.
Dasha was right. She was looking thin. Gaunt almost.
She probably had cancer. That'd be Sadie's luck. Graduating from college in two days, on her eighteenth birthday no less, having a sweet job lined up, mastering black belt at age sixteen ... all for nothing as cancer ate away at her brain.
Or maybe she was schizophrenic.
"I could take the table if you're too tired." Dasha grinned.
"Looking for your next ex-boyfriend, I presume?" Sadie edged toward the door, her heart hammering suddenly, almost like she was going on stage to sing a solo despite the fact that she was tone-deaf.
What the hell was happening to her? Her shoulder stung, and she reached to scratch it.
"Hey, wait." Dasha pushed up Sadie's short sleeve. "You got a tat?"
"Um ..." Sadie stalled. She got tongue-tied at the most inopportune times.
"No way. I wanted to be there the first time you rebelled." She slapped Sadie's shoulder. "What is it?"
Sadie had no idea. She'd run a search on the strange symbol and found nothing. Well, except a vague reference to Hell, which freaked her out so much she quit searching.
"I can't believe you got a tat. I don't even have a tat."
Sadie pushed open the door and smoothed her sleeve down. "But you have four body piercings, so you make up for that."
Her best friend stuck out her pierced tongue and wiggled her pierced brow. "But I can take these out. You can't take that thing off. Now what is it?"
Damn, Sadie had hoped she'd distracted her friend. No such luck.
"It's nothing. Just thought it looked cool." Total lie. Sadie hurried to the counter to check her orders. Two were up and getting cold. She'd get complaints for sure.
She grabbed the lukewarm plates and whirled around, narrowly missing Dasha, who gave her a daggered stare. Probably pissed she'd gotten a tat without her. If only she knew it randomly appeared one night after a wicked hot dream with an even hotter dream guy.
One more hour left of her shift, then it was back to studying. She was not going to get her first B, in chemistry, of all things.
Sadie took the long way, skirting the booths to avoid the Groping Grandpa. She kept her focus on the table whose food she carried, but nodded toward the occupants Dasha had said came in during Sadie's barf-fest. "Be right with you," she said on her way by.
"I almost started eating my fork that took so long," the man in his midfifties said as Sadie set the plates before him.
At least he winked, indicating he was kidding. But he wouldn't be after he tried his cold food. She was just glad she'd handed off the mound of grease; it was bringing her gag reflex back to life.
Which totally sucked, considering burgers and fries had been her staple for the past two years.
"I'm sorry. I — well —"
"Relax. I saw you make a beeline for the bathroom. I'm not going to catch the plague eating this, am I?" He smiled and his dark mustache wiggled.
Yep. He was genuine. She could always tell by someone's smile. Or lack thereof. Even as a kid. Some of those group home kids were pretty naughty and mean, and that little talent came in handy.
"You'll be fine. I'm sorry, sir." She backed away. "Really."
He dipped his head and shifted his attention to his food. Sadie pivoted and hustled to take the order of the new table.
She dug into her back pocket and fished out her pen and paper. Hopefully the guys at the table knew what they wanted. She glanced at the old fart's table for a quick assessment. Damn, his coffee cup was empty. Crap.
Order first. She stopped and finally took in the occupants.
Her heart stopped. There were two men, one on each side, facing each other, but the only one she noticed in detail was the raven-haired beauty whose gaze locked onto hers. Not only did her heart stop, the breath left her in one fell swoop, leaving her knees jellied, belly steaming hot, and her mouth gaping.
His wide, hazel eyes slanted an intense look in her direction. What most caught her attention was his left eye. A section flamed orange, as if he stared at a campfire. It swirled around his expanding pupil.
Energy wafted off him, broadsiding her. Good thing, too, because it knocked her back to her senses, and she remembered how to breathe. After a cough to clear the lump lodged in her throat, she asked, "Are you ready to order?"
Hazel Eyes stared at her, saying nothing. The other one snickered, yet Sadie couldn't shift her focus. She knew she was making an ass out of herself, but no matter how firmly she ordered herself to break the gaze, she couldn't.
"We'll have a couple Cokes, and if you can get us menus we might order some food." The other guy's voice was strong, yet low, like a finely tuned bass.
It didn't matter. Sadie was much more intrigued by the one locked in a staring contest with her. She could get lost in those eyes.
Then it hit her. She'd dreamed of those beauties.
The night she received the mysterious tattoo.CHAPTER 3
"That's your Mate?" Justin's voice cracked on the first word. "I'm sorry, but ... wow. You got the raw end of that nine-century deal, brother."
Theo ripped his attention from Sadie and slammed a glare into his brother. "Do not talk about my Mate like that." His fists tightened, as did the muscles along his jaw. Fangs itched to extend in challenge. No, not in challenge, in defense.
It was built into his DNA to protect and defend his Ahavah, and Justin had just insulted her. Thunder rumbled deep within Theo's head, and a red hue tainted his vision.
"Be calm." Justin showed his palms and lowered his eyes. "Sorry. I was out of line."
Theo's heart slowed, and his boiling blood cooled. "Her name is Sadie. It means lady or princess. And she is exactly that." He sought out his female and found her across the room, interacting with another female. That one was taller and heavier, with red hair. She rubbed her hand up Sadie's arm.
Whispers of their conversation touched Theo's ears. Breathe, hon. It's okay. I'll take over.
No. No. He needed Sadie to come back. He only needed to touch her just once to bring forth the glyph he'd longed to wear for centuries.
"What's happening?" Justin asked. "Can you hear them?"
Justin smiled as he studied the two females. "I catch a whiff of desire, but fear is the predominant scent. Are you getting that?"
Theo nodded. The acrid scent of fear made him uneasy. Worried. Mates should not fear each other, yet she did. It should be instinctive to connect. To touch, confirming the uniting.
"How did you find her, Theo?"
"Our connection drew me to this part of town. I came in here to eat at noontime, and I saw her. More, her shoulder."
"Why didn't you go in and claim her right then? Instead, you interrupted my pleasure, and just now you froze. She was inches from you, yet you said nothing."
He couldn't explain it. After failing miserably to gather the strength to face her this afternoon, he'd come here tonight with every intention of talking to her and touching her to get his long-awaited Mark. Instead, her blue topaz eyes had captivated him. Despite wearing work clothes smudged with grease and smelling of it, she'd rendered him paralyzed with her stare. Over nine centuries of experience tracking demons and returning them to Hades, but one look from the tiny female and he'd choked. Not a single coherent word had formed in his muddled brain.
His Mate, with a coffepot in hand, made haste to an old man's table. A wide grin filled the geezer's face.
"Refill?" Her voice cracked.
"Yes, dear." The man eyed Sadie in the most peculiar way.
She leaned forward with the coffeepot poised to fill the cup, and the old man's hand landed on her behind.
Theo burst out of the booth, snarling. His fangs extended. A roar vibrated through his stomach and out of his mouth with so much violence he feared fire might have accompanied it.
Sadie jumped back and the coffeepot slipped from her hand, sending the steaming liquid over the table and splashing against her white shirt.
"Theo. Stand down." Justin grabbed him by the elbow, and amid distant voices and gasps, he steered Theo toward the door. The female Sadie had been talking with earlier met them at the exit, holding a tray with menus and two sodas.
Theo clamped his mouth shut to hide his fangs and focused on his breathing. In. Out. Justin's grip tightened around his arm, and for that, he was thankful. This was not the place to unleash his beast. Even though the gray-haired man deserved the wrath of the Gatekeeper for touching Sadie in such a manner.
No one disrespected Theo's Ahavah like that.
"So, you don't want your sodas or menus anymore?" the redheaded woman asked. Her voice was on the edge of Theo's awareness as his focus remained on Sadie, who now stood at the counter, patting her shirt with a towel. A young boy had appeared and began mopping the spilled coffee.
Sadie turned and hurried into the back room labeled Employees Only.
"I'm sorry. My brother isn't feeling well. We need to bolt," Justin said. "What's your name?"
"Mmm, Dasha. That tongue ring looks delicious." Justin tugged at Theo's arm, urging him toward the door as he dug into his pocket and retrieved a fifty. "Here. A tip for your trouble."
Excerpted from Forged by Fate by Reese Monroe, Karen Grove, Theresa Marie Cole. Copyright © 2013 Reese Monroe. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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