Snippet from Going the Distance by Mandy M. Roth
“You staying late?” Crosby asked as he held his bag over one shoulder. He was going through a painful separation from his long-time girlfriend and spent as much time as he could lending a hand at the gym.
Quinn glanced at his cousin, not really understanding the whole long-term relationship thing. When he found a woman he liked, he fucked her. That was all there was to it. He didn’t ask for more and he didn’t want more. Crosby was altogether different. He wanted to settle down and have the American Dream. The idea made Quinn shudder. Who in the hell wanted a picket fence and two point two children? Not him. “Yeah.”
“Want me to stick around? I could help you train?” The hopeful look in his cousin’s eyes was enough to make Quinn smile. As the Extreme Fighting Champion, Quinn was considered the shit around the gyms. Crosby got a kick out of the fact he chose to train in a gym in the area, rather than a big fancy one. The guy didn’t have room to talk. He still owned a rundown hotel in the neighborhood and also owned a big swanky one in the city.
“Nah, you go on home. I have it on good authority your mother made a big dinner and is expecting you.” One untimed hit by Quinn and Crosby would be dead. Didn’t matter that the guy also carried the blood of the wolf in him, that he was a wolf breed, and had the ability to shift forms like Quinn. He didn’t have the strength and the years of experience behind him. He wasn’t an alpha like Quinn. Not yet anyway. In a few years, maybe. For the time being, it would be too easy to accidently hurt him and that wasn’t something Quinn wanted to do.
Crosby groaned, kicking a foot out a little. “She called here lookin’ for me, didn’t she?”
“Maybe,” Quinn said with a slight smirk. “It’s a good thing. Means she cares and worries about you.” He refrained from commenting on how much he’d give to have his mother alive and worrying about him. He motioned to the back of the gym. “Hit the lights for me back there on your way out. I’m gonna stay here, do some reps and then shower.”
“Sure thing, man.” Crosby did as instructed and hurried off.
Quinn ran through two sets of free weights and then moved on to jumping rope. It helped his speed and agility, plus he tended to get lost in thought while doing it. A faint noise cut through the silence of the gym.
“What the hell?” Quinn stopped his training, set the jump rope aside and listened with his ultra-sensitive hearing. Assuming he’d imagined the sound, he moved to the next step in his nightly routine. He stood before the heavy bag, his hands bare and ready to strike. His knuckles were long since scarred over, no longer requiring tape or attention. He struck the bag and at the same moment, the noise returned.
His body cramped. Never had he responded to a sound in that way before. It was crippling, seeming to center in his groin. Catching his breath, his entire body strained as he listened for more. He heard it again and this time it was unmistakable.
A woman’s screams.
Not just any woman. One who was able to call upon his primitive side. The wolf that was as much a part of him as the very air he breathed raised its hackles, wanting to be freed. It was a side of himself he wasn’t embarrassed by, but one he didn’t let out often. When he did, bad things happened. In human form, Quinn wasn’t a man to be messed with. In wolf form, he was downright deadly.
He couldn’t deny going towards the woman in need. Her draw was unlike anything he’d ever experienced before and resistance was futile. She needed help and he needed her. It was basic but true.
Quinn had friends who had suffered through something similar—the inability to reject a certain pull or call to a female. In the end, it was because they were a destined pair. Mates. If it held true, that meant his mate really did exist and that she was in dire need of him.
“It’s my fucking imagination.”
He rolled his shoulders, doing his utmost to disregard what seemed painfully obvious. The odds were too high. There was no way he had a mate and that she’d be close enough for him to hear. The woman screaming was probably someone fooling around, having a laugh. The theatre district wasn’t far from the gym and more than once the actors had left the buildings late at night, carrying on so loudly one would think Armageddon was nearing. In the end, there was nothing really wrong with any of them. Didn’t stop Quinn from being fooled into checking on them. Not this time. No. This time he’d ignore their ruckus. He was sick of falling for their crap.
He placed his attention upon the heavy bag, doing all he could to clear his head. The screams came again, taking with them his ability to turn a deaf ear. Something was wrong. The terror in the female’s voice was too real, too full of emotion to be staged.
He snarled, the beast moving to the forefront and challenging him internally. It wanted him to respond to the cries, to save the woman, his mate.
“Stop thinking of mates.” He grunted. “All that leads to is a heap of bullshit.”
As was often the case, the wolf in him tended to see past the bullshit and cut right to the point. When all else failed him, his beast saw the world with a clear head and it said go to her.
Thrusting open the door of the gym, Quinn bolted, running full force in the direction of the disturbance. It was late and this section of the city wasn’t one to frequent after-hours. Various gangs had laid claim to it some ten years prior but that hadn’t prevented Quinn from training at the gym where he had started his career. A creature of habit, Quinn had always been one to follow through with the norm, to stay the course. The old neighborhood was no exception. It didn’t matter how well he’d done for himself or how many vacation homes he owned. The old gym was a part of him.
The woman’s scream echoed off the buildings around him, drowning out the sounds of the city at night. Gone were the sirens and the seemingly endless sound of traffic. Even the dogs that spent their nights barking, keeping up anyone unfortunate enough to reside in the area, were silent. All that remained was her plea for help.
Still caught off-guard by the intensity of his beast’s reaction to the sound, Quinn stumbled before catching himself with one hand. His knuckles scraped the brick of the building nearest him. The flesh ripped and blood pooled.
Sweat beaded on his brow, dripping down his face. His temples throbbed as his pulse sped. Her feelings beset him.
So much fear. So much pain.
The agony felt as if it were his own. Lifting his head, his eyes, now an icy blue because of the wolf within him, he stared out into the night. He was closer to the woman who called to him from blocks away. The one whose very cry had ripped him from his training, hardened his muscles and prepared his beast to strike. The hairs on his body rose as his senses heightened. She needed him.
The city’s current heat wave meant the breeze carried hot air with it. Humidity clung to the air as did her scent, reminding him that he had to find her. The option to refuse the call was no longer presented to him. It was internal and primitive. Something he could never turn down.
The call of my mate.
Burning need filled him and he surged forward, partially shifted. He leapt over an abandoned car and then a dumpster. Upon landing, he found himself standing in the center of a group of young, human males. They looked wired, their eyes bloodshot and their movements jerky, twitchy. They circled a bloody mass on the ground. He knew without being able to see that the mass was the female in need. His woman.
A low growl started deep in him. His jaw was tight, his mouth burning with the need to change. He was eager for a fight, hungry for the kill.
“Get the bitch!” one of the young men yelled, scratching at his arm. It was apparent he did so often from the scabs there.
Quinn had seen similar scars on junkies. Not just any junkies, but tweakers who were hopped up on the latest drug craze that was sweeping the streets. He wasn’t a hundred percent sure what the drug was but he knew it had something to do with supernaturals. He also knew the shit was potent and highly addictive to humans.
Another punk nodded, his face gaunt. “She has to know where her boyfriend keeps it stashed.”
“I need it, man,” the other replied, still picking at his arm while shaking his leg uncontrollably. “I can’t wait.”
Unconcerned with what they needed, Quinn roared, catching their attention for the first time. Shocked expressions covered their faces. They shared a look before taking a fool’s approach and attempting to come at him. One pulled a knife, bandying it about as if he really thought he might get somewhere in the using it department. It was almost laughable.
Unimpressed, Quinn blocked the strike with one blow, knocking the would-be attacker far from him. Another guy made a similar move only to find himself sprawled on his back, his upper arm bleeding. Quinn continued, granting no mercy. Even if he wanted to, his beast would not permit it. They were the cause of the woman’s distress. They were who had inflicted the pain upon her and they were who would answer for the crime. He could smell her blood and her fear upon them. It was like they’d been painted as targets for his beast to dispense with.
Two of the thugs were smarter than the rest and ran in the other direction. Giving chase was an option but Quinn had to see to the woman. Whoever she was, she needed medical attention. Bending, he reached with the intent to move her long brown hair back from her face and to check the extent of her injuries.
He turned her onto her back. Her eyes opened partially. Dark brown, almost black greeted him. She blinked and her brow furrowed before a sense of peace seemed to settle over her.
He nodded, hoping to come across as the bringer of peace rather than of death and destruction. “You got a name, beautiful?”
“C-Carri,” she whispered before her eyes fluttered closed once more. Her wrist was sliced wide open, the cut jagged. A broken bottle lay near her with blood coating its edges. The loss of blood was great. A supernatural would even have difficulty healing after losing that much blood. She lacked the scent of a fellow paranormal. All he could smell on her was her humanity, her mortality and her pending death.
Unable to let her pass, Quinn lifted her wrist to his mouth and allowed himself a partial change. The healing agents in his saliva would aid in controlling the bleeding and closing the wound. He licked her wrist, the sweet taste of her blood coated his tongue. His body responded with mind-numbing buzzing. It centered in his groin, his cock growing thick and long. He did his best to ignore the pulsing need, making his organ take heed of his better sense.
Energy seemed to pass from him to her and back again. For a moment, it felt as if he’d slipped his skin, left his body, his essence traveling into her, merging with her own. He shook the feeling but not before it had fully consumed him. There was no denying the signs. The wolf, as well as the man, was coming to an understanding—she was his mate.
He finished licking her wrist, the wound clotting nicely. Setting her hand down gently, Quinn checked her for any more injuries. Blood from his scraped-open knuckles mixed with hers. A niggle tickled the back of his mind bringing with it the knowledge that not everyone could come into contact with nonhuman blood and live to tell the tale.
Megan Hart:Read in bed!
Mandy M Roth