Charming the Beast Page 1

Author: Cynthia Eden

Series: Purgatory #3

Genres: Romance

Chapter One

Chloe Quick was being hunted.

She glanced over shoulder, but the dark street behind her appeared empty. Appearances can be deceiving. Unfortunately, Chloe knew that fact all too well. She could feel someone in that darkness, watching her.

Every instinct she possessed screamed for Chloe to get out of there. She needed to find a safe place—fast. Preferably a place with a ton of people and some really, really bright lights.

But the street is empty! She rounded the next corner. Her nostrils flared. She could almost catch that wild, woodsy scent in the air. The scent of a beast. I know you’re out there, but you won’t get me.

Music pounded from up ahead, and her breath caught in her throat. Yes, yes, music meant safety! Music meant people! Probably a bar, and from the sound of things, the place wasn’t too far away. She could go inside and vanish with the humans. Pretend to be human for just a little while—

“I’ve been looking for you…”

She froze.

Then Chloe heard the unmistakable sound of claws sliding over bricks—a sound that rather unfortunately resembled that of nails sliding down a chalkboard. Bone-chilling, as chilling as that man’s deep voice, growling in the dark.

“You smell so sweet, little wolf…good enough to eat.”

She didn’t want to look over her shoulder. If she did, the street behind her wouldn’t be empty any longer. He’d be there. And he might not even be alone. After all…his kind tended to hunt in packs. Chloe knew that a man wasn’t hunting her in the darkness.

A werewolf was on her trail.

“Leave me alone,” Chloe shouted, hoping she sounded brave and confident. She kept walking. The tap of her shoes seemed too loud.

So did the faint thud of his footsteps. He wanted her to know that he was closing in on her. Fear burned in Chloe’s stomach. She’d thought she could escape.

She’d underestimated the number of monsters who waited in the night.

“You’re going to be mine…all mine.”

The hell with that. Chloe decided to stop acting brave—she ran. She ran fast and hard and she turned into the nearest alley, hoping to be able to dodge and dive between the city streets and lose the jerk who was hunting her. She needed to—

A hard hand grabbed Chloe. She was yanked into the darkness. Pulled against a strong, muscled male body.

“This is what happens,” Connor Marrok told her, his voice a low, lethal whisper in her ear, “when you run from me. I have to deal with stupid shit like that fool out there.”

Her breath heaved from her lungs as relief swept through her. Connor wasn’t there to kill her—he was the white knight. Well, a very, very tarnished knight.

“When I move my hand, don’t scream.”

Like she needed that warning. His hand slowly lowered, but Connor didn’t let her go. He kept Chloe trapped between the bricks and his body. In the dark, his golden eyes gleamed down at her. Chloe’s vision was sharp—unnaturally so—and she had no trouble discerning the hard lines of his face—his high cheekbones, his square jaw, that sharp blade of his nose, the oddly sexy cleft in his chin, his sensual lips, his—

“You just had to run from me, didn’t you?”

“I got tired of being a prisoner,” Chloe whispered. Her words were the truth. Sure, she’d been kept in a cabin, not a jail cell, but she’d still recognized the prison walls for what they were. And Connor—he was her jailer. A jailer in an unfortunately attractive package. Connor worked for the Seattle Para Unit and his job there—other than fighting the real-life monsters that most humans didn’t even realize were out there—well, his job was to protect her.

To cage her.

“Baby, you don’t even know the first thing about a real prison.”

Her chin jutted up. Seriously, he thought her life had been all sunshine and lollipops? Bull. She knew pain. She knew hell.

She could teach him plenty about both.

“There is something f**king wrong with your scent,” he told her, voice hard and rough. “You know that! I warned you days ago. I told you that if you went out, you’d attract every werewolf within a ten mile radius.”

But she hadn’t attracted Connor, and he was a werewolf. She knew it—she’d seen him change. His golden eyes had lit with the glow of his beast and he’d full-on shifted, right in front of her.

He can shift. I never could. No, she wasn’t like him. Wasn’t like any of the other werewolves that roamed the night.

“Get away from her!” That bellow came from the mouth of the alley. Her head turned and, sure enough, the hunter had found her.

“Hell.” Connor pushed her behind his rather broad back. His hands were loose at his sides as he faced-off against the guy who was rushing toward them. “Buddy, you’re going to want to stay back.”

“I. Want. Her!”

She didn’t even know who that fellow was! She inhaled, actually trying to smell herself and, yeah, okay, she could smell her strawberry body lotion, but that was it. She wasn’t emitting some kind of werewolf pheromone beacon thing, was she? Chloe sniffed again. Still nothing.

“Too bad,” Connor’s voice was little more than a growl. The beast he carried must be close. “Because she’s already taken.”

Chloe used that moment to inch back a bit. Connor’s focus stayed on the man before him.

“Never smelled a she-wolf like her!” The man advancing shouted, “Want!”

Uh, great, fabulous. “I’m not a she-wolf!” Chloe yelled, just to be clear. It was so sad that she had to actually yell things like that.

Chloe didn’t live in blissful ignorance like most of the humans out there. She didn’t just get to spend her days working and shopping and flirting with cute men. No, she had to know about the monsters out there—the werewolves and the vampires who often hid in plain sight. She knew far too much about them.

And had, since she’d been sixteen. Her life had changed in an instant when a werewolf pack had attacked her and her friend Olivia.

“I don’t really give a shit what you want,” Connor said to the other werewolf. Chloe was thinking of the other guy as the hunter. Because that was what he’d been doing…hunting her. “You’re not getting her,” Connor told him flatly.

The clouds parted and the light from the moon spilled down onto them. They were so lucky it wasn’t a full moon. If it had been, those two men wouldn’t have been talking at all. Their beasts would have taken over. There would have been teeth and claws and blood and death.

Werewolves had very little control when the moon was full.

Chloe peeked over Connor’s shoulder. The moonlight fell on the hunter’s blond hair. He was blond and fair, while Connor was dark, his thick hair a little too long as it brushed against his shoulders. Opposites in appearance, but both of these men were alike on the inside—they carried beasts, beasts that were ready to break loose.

“I don’t want to kill you,” the blond hunter told Connor. “But if you don’t give me the woman, I will.”

Connor just shrugged. Shrugged. “You can try to kill me,” he said, almost sounding bored, “but it’s not going to happen. This is the way things will go down. You’ll come at me. I’ll kick your ass without even having to go full shift. Then I’ll walk away…with her.” He took a step toward the blond. “Because I’m an alpha, ass**le. And you just screwed with the wrong wolf.”

Chloe retreated a bit more. It was wrong, yes, she knew it, but as soon as those two attacked each other, she was going to race out of there. She actually had no doubt that Connor could kick the other werewolf’s ass, just as he’d said. After all, Connor was an alpha werewolf. They weren’t exactly thick on the ground. He’d win the battle, then he’d come looking for her.

By that time, Chloe hoped to be long gone.

“You should save yourself some pain,” Connor told the other guy. “Walk away now.”

“Her scent…”

He was really freaking her out with all that scent talk. Her foot slipped over a discarded bottle. Chloe almost landed on her ass, but she righted herself at the last moment and—

The snap and pop of bones filled the air. The blond was transforming, going full-on wolf right then and there. She wanted to put her hands over her ears because Chloe hated the terrible sounds that came from a shift. Bones weren’t meant to break and reshape that way. Nausea rolled in her belly even as the man hit the ground, landing not on his hands, but on his paws. Fur burst out from his skin and when he tilted back his head, a howl broke the night.

Good thing there aren’t a ton of humans running around here.

The shifted wolf was lunging toward Connor. And, sure enough, Connor hadn’t fully shifted. She’d already known that he didn’t shift a lot. Probably because of the crazy control issue she’d noticed about him. Connor always had to be in control. But she could see that his nails had turned into razor-sharp claws. He kept those claws at his side, his body loose, too relaxed.

The charging werewolf came closer and closer—

I should run now. Connor is focused fully on the other wolf. I should run. But she didn’t move because…

What if I’m wrong? What if Connor can’t take this guy down? A trickle of fear shot through her blood. She bent, grabbed the bottle she’d tripped on and when the shifted werewolf—a big, white beast—collided with Connor, she slammed that bottle into the nearest wall, breaking off the bottom and making a pretty damn good weapon.

Only…Connor didn’t need her and her make-shift weapon. As Chloe watched, he caught the werewolf—caught the guy mid-leap in the air. Connor’s fingers—his claws—wrapped around the wolf’s neck and Connor just held the beast as if he weighed nothing.


Then Connor threw the werewolf toward the nearest brick wall.

Right…he doesn’t need me. Chloe started backing up. She kept her weapon though because, well, when a woman was being hunted by werewolves, she needed any arsenal she could get.

Connor was advancing on the fallen beast.

So Chloe turned and fled.


He heard the frantic thud of Chloe’s retreating footsteps. Connor froze. Not again. His head turned, and he saw Chloe running fast, her black hair flying behind her. “Chloe,” he gritted out as he started to give chase.

Then the jerk who just couldn’t learn slammed into him. Connor’s body crashed to the ground, the dirty, stinking ground of the alley. The werewolf jumped on top of Connor, and the beast’s mouthful of sharp, dripping fangs went for Connor’s throat.

Connor’s hands flew up. His fingers locked around the wolf’s snout. He clamped that mouth shut and glared at the beast. “You don’t learn easily, do you?”

But then, the werewolf hadn’t realized that he wasn’t just dealing with another werewolf. He didn’t know about Connor’s enhancements. Mostly because few did.

“Listen to me, and listen well,” Connor ordered. “She’s not for you. If you come near her again, I’ll do more than just break your jaw, got it?”

The wolf heaved in his hold.

Connor’s hands twisted. The wolf howled, but this time, that cry was filled with pain because Connor had just broken the fool’s jaw. While the wolf kept howling, Connor tossed the beast aside.

“Shift so you can start healing,” Connor advised the wolf. A now cowering wolf. “And stay the hell away from what’s mine. I don’t care if she smells like strawberries and sex…don’t ever stalk her again. Don’t ever get close, got it? Because I’ve already claimed her.”

When dealing with wolves, sometimes, you had to use a language they understood.

Connor rose to his feet. He lifted his claws. The wolf was slowly shifting in front of him.

“I said…got it?” Connor snapped out the words.

The man—a man now, not a beast—glared at Connor. But he nodded. He rubbed his jaw, then he turned and ran away. His na**d ass flashed in the night because the fellow had shredded his clothes during the shift.

“Damn straight you need to run,” Connor muttered after the guy because he was so not in the mood to be dealing with this shit.

He rolled back his shoulders and then stared at his claws. His beast was close to the surface, raised by the battle. It wouldn’t take much to push him over the edge. To let that beast out. Because his werewolf…yeah, he’d caught the delectable scent that Chloe carried, too. A scent that was close to making him insane with need.

I’m just as bad as the rest of them. I warned her, but did she listen? Hell, no.

Guarding Chloe Quick was a thankless job. And if Eric Pate—the man in charge of the Para Unit—didn’t control Connor’s freedom, well, hell, he sure never would have agreed to take the job.

He turned, his head tilting as he gazed out at the night. He could still hear the faint pad of her footsteps. It was a good thing his senses were so strong. Good for him, but not so much for Chloe. He exhaled. She hadn’t even stuck around to thank him.

His eyes narrowed. And he started hunting her again.

Connor ran fast, cutting right through the alley, following the thud of her footsteps and the faint scent that hung in the air. A scent that was pure Chloe. His heart beat faster—faster than it had when he’d been fighting that jerk—because the thrill of the hunt always excited his beast. Chloe knew that, she should have taken care. Her mistake.

He rounded the corner up ahead. The beat of music was getting louder. He could hear laughter. Voices. He saw that Chloe had nearly reached the bar. She probably thought that if she could just get inside, get to the humans, then he wouldn’t follow her.