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The bastard was brazen, he'd give him that, Dante Belue thought angrily as he shadowed the alpha of the rogue pack that had been encroaching on his territory for months. They'd been more subtle to begin with, slipping in and out again before any of his pack mates could lay one of them by the heels and, so far, they'd managed to elude every attempt to track them back to their lair. They didn't try to hide the fact that they'd encroached. They made damned sure they left a calling card when they came. They'd simply been playing at cat and mouse, more of an annoyance to begin with than anything else.
The incursions had been steadily escalating, however, both in frequency and violence until there was no longer any doubt in his mind that the pack alpha wanted a territorial war or, more accurately, he supposed, the son-of-a-bitch was after his ranking in the pack.
He was prime alpha over the entire territory. There were more than a dozen other packs beneath his own that were under his jurisdiction. If the rogue had wanted nothing more than to move into the territory, he would have sought him out and requested acceptance and then he could have challenged anyone for pack ranking.
He'd been thumbing his nose at Dante, however, by breaking pack protocol. He was well within his rights to attack without any further provocation, without warning, without any challenge at all, and dispose of the rogue in whatever manner he saw fit, up to and including killing him outright. He wasn't even required to consider it a bona fide challenge and meet the man honorably. He could send any one of his pack brothers out, or the whole lot of them, and simplyslaughter the rogue pack.
He would have the full support of his pack and the other packs within his territory if he chose to do so. He would have the full support of the head council, for that matter.
On a personal level, though, it went against the grain. He had absolute faith in his own abilities and blindsiding the rogue, whatever the provocation, just smacked of cowardice and underhandedness in his book. He didn't need to play that way, and he had no intention of doing so, although the bastard was really starting to piss him off. For his own comfort, he'd decided he was either going to have to catch him in the act--in which case all bets were off--or he was going to have to figure out a way to force the rogue to meet him in a fair fight.
Waiting for the rogue to make his move wasn't getting him anywhere fast. He'd been expecting the son-of-a-bitch to come forward and challenge him for weeks. If he was going to, though, he figured the rogue would've by now.
So, he was either waiting for something, or he just didn't have the balls to actually face Dante without a prod in that direction.
He wasn't sure what the hell the bastard might be waiting for--but he was waiting for something. Dante was sure of that.
What confused the hell out of him about the little game of espionage they were currently playing was why the alpha had broken his pack up and sent everyone off in different directions. It weakened them--his pack, too--because he'd had to break his own pack up and send them to tail the members of the rogue pack. If it was a battle strategy, it was the worst one he'd ever run across.
Unless he thought he could whittle Dante's pack down one-on-one? Divide and conquer?
That wasn't as stupid as he'd first thought. Not that it had a chance in hell of working, but it would've had merit if they hadn't been up against his pack. The rogue pack was smaller than his. From what they'd been able to determine, they also had a number of members that were young and looked to be relatively inexperienced--which, of course, also meant they weren't dependable in a pitched battle.
Dante paused behind the broad trunk of a live oak as he saw the lycan he'd been tailing stop and lift his head, sniffing the air.
Dante's dark brows descended. He was down wind. He hadn't been so preoccupied with his thoughts, he knew, that he'd let the bastard catch his scent. Unconsciously, he lifted his own head to test the air, sorting the scents that came to him and trying to determine what had had the effect of making the other lycan slink into the shadows.
Not surprisingly, he detected a hodgepodge bouquet of human scents. It was a park, after all, the largest in the city and frequented by tourists and locals alike. He caught the scent of the lycan, as well, since he was downwind of him.
What he didn't catch was a scent to explain the behavior of the alpha male in front of him--nothing of threat to any lycan.
The light breeze was still wafting in his direction, however, and after a moment, he decided to move a little closer to see if he could see what it was the rogue was studying with so much fascination that he'd abandoned his caution about being followed.
Sloppy, he thought derisively, very sloppy.
A tantalizing scent drifted to him as he reached the copse of trees he'd targeted as his goal. It distracted him. If the rogue hadn't been so focused on the source of that enticing scent himself, he might have realized he'd been discovered. Dante was too distracted even to realize he'd blown his surveillance. The hairs on the base his skull prickled as the delectable scent coiled inside of him. His beast stirred, shifting his instincts to the forefront.
And his instincts were in total riot.
The scent was female--human--and something else completely outside his experience, and whatever that something else was it shot his concentration to hell. Desire stirred within him, so potent he felt dizzy with it.
Belatedly, he slunk into the shadows, but his focus was no longer on the rogue. His entire being was straining for another taste of that luscious scent. He sniffed the air until he was more dizzy still from the rapid intake of air. The smell faded in and out, drifting on the currents of air, driving him crazy because it teased his senses and he couldn't quite get as firm a grip on it was he wanted to.
His quarry was moving, he finally realized--the female--coming closer.
As his predator instincts took over, his focus switched back to the rogue.
Dimly, he realized the rogue had come here, to this place, with the female as his goal all along. He had moved with purpose, steadily, in this direction even though he'd taken a cautiously circuitous route to reach it. This was where he had planned to come all along.
Because of the female. Abruptly, Dante was absolutely certain the entire ruse, as strange as it had seemed to him, was all about this woman.
A sense of fierce possessiveness moved through him that he hardly recognized.
He tried to shake it off, tried to force his man's mind to the forefront to examine the situation with cool headed logic so that he could understand it. This was no lycan female giving off the pheromones indicating she was in heat, or about to go into heat. In any case, this was his territory. He knew all of the females--and all of them were well guarded during their mating cycles.
Control was essential when they had so few females. The females, once in heat, had no discrimination. Their need to be bred overrode reason. It was up to him to ensure that the strongest of the males got first breeding opportunity to insure healthy off-spring for the whole pack.
Ordinarily, that would have included the prime alpha's pack, would have put them at the top of the list. Unfortunately, none the females available had met his standards--meaning none of them were females he was willing to tie himself to, or any of his lieutenants for that matter, because they were still members of the prime alpha's pack and could assert their rights above the others if they'd wanted to. Not that there was anything wrong with their females. They were all pretty and intelligent--good stock--mostly likeable, just not lovable in a mating sense as far he was concerned.
He didn't actually have to bind to one to mate, he knew. He could have asserted his rights and taken which ever one took his fancy. He had, in point of fact, bedded most of them at one time or another--he was a healthy, red-blooded male after all. He'd just been careful to do it when there was no chance of actually breeding them. The breeding created a bond that he didn't want--however lose a bond it might be. If and when he got around to breeding a female, it was going to be one that he wanted to be bound to, permanently, or one he was at least willing to form a parental bond with.
He had, in point of fact, begun to wonder if was at all likely that he was ever going to run across a female that appealed so strongly to his breeding instincts that logical decision didn't enter into the equation--because it was for damned sure he wasn't going to take the leap unless he did.
It disturbed him to discover those particular thoughts circulating in his mind under the current circumstances--which sure as hell had nothing to do with a breedable female.
If his cock hadn't been as hard as a rock, he would've thought the rogue had gone completely off the deep end to be stalking a human female at all.
Lust, though, that was a different matter. If she could do this to him when she hadn't come within sight of him yet, he could completely understand the rogue's determination to have her. But why risk his entire pack for one female? And a human female, at that? Why risk all on the turn of one card?
Maybe the rogue was insane and he was trying to attribute rational behavior to someone who wasn't rational?
He didn't believe that, he decided. Everything the bastard had done so far had been carefully calculated and carefully executed. He also didn't believe that this was just a jaunt to snatch a particularly appealing piece of ass because he didn't believe for a moment that the rogue was content to merely eek out an existence on the outskirts of his territory. He intended to take over Dante's territory. If he had wanted to merge his pack with Dante's, he would have approached him in the accepted manner. His behavior was a clear indication that he intended to go straight for the top--him--and try to wrest the position from Dante.
Somehow, the woman had to figure into his plans, regardless of how unlikely it seemed to him at the moment.
He shook those distracting thoughts off as his ears detected a breath of sound. Running footsteps--No, jogging. There was no scent of fear, only a faint whiff of uneasiness. He lifted his head, breathing in the scent, identifying that elusive 'something' that made the blood boil in his veins, but this time anger joined the lust.
The fool of a woman was out exercising in the park at dusk?
A tourist, he wondered? She hadn't heard about the attacks? Or was she just one of those fools who believed nothing could actually touch her?