Love Me, Still - Maya Banks Page 0,1

wolves stopped their howling and growled menacingly. They’d smelled her too. The traitor was returning to the pack.

* * *

“Hush now, little one,” Niko soothed as Heather whimpered in pain. “We’re but a hundred yards from the pack. You’re going to be fine now.”

His arms tightened around her as he gently set her down on the ground. Her feet hit the snow and she stumbled a bit as she sought to steady herself. Her right leg refused to support her weight and buckled beneath her.

“Where are you going?” she whispered. “Why aren’t you coming?”

He put a finger to her lips and tenderly brushed his other hand over her bruised cheek. “Your mates will care for you. That will be their top priority. I’m going after the hunters. Justice must be served for their crimes against our pack. I’ll return when I’ve done my task.”

“I don’t know if I can make it,” she said. Her strength was nearly gone. She was so weak.

“You are the strongest woman I know,” Niko said, his voice warm and full of admiration.

He bent to kiss her on the forehead and soothed his hands over her battered body. “Go now. Your mates await. Thank you, little human, for saving me and Magnus. You sacrificed far too much. I will never forget this.”

He transformed to wolf and bounded away, leaving her swaying in the snowdrift. She shivered as the snow crept up to her knees. Cael and Riyu would come for her. They would have smelled her by now.

Tears slid down her cheeks. Would they want her still? The hunters touch lay heavy on her skin. She felt used and dirty. Her flesh crawled as though their hands still pawed at her.

She lifted a trembling hand to her cheek, wincing when her fingers brushed across her swollen eye. She put one foot out, determined to meet her mates with dignity and pride.

She struggled through the snow. She could hear howling in the distance. A slow, mournful sound. Her blood froze in panic. Had Magnus not returned? Or were his injuries more severe than she and Niko had thought?

She quickened her pace, ignoring the pain rocketing through her body. She must reach her mates. They would care for her. Only them. They loved her. They would be furious at what had happened to her, but they’d never turn away from her.

Finally she broke into a clearing. The trees fell away and she stared across the snow-covered slope to see Cael and Riyu kneeling on the ground around their mother and a black wolf. Magnus.

Fear and grief swelled in her throat until she could barely breathe. She hurried forward, pushing herself even as her body screamed in protest. Her mates turned to look at her.

She stopped a few feet away, recoiling at the hatred and grief in their eyes. There was no welcome here. No rush to her aid, no caring in their expressions.

They stood, her two lovers, the men she loved more than life itself. She started forward again, but the cold look in Cael’s eyes stopped her once more.

“You have some nerve coming here,” he hissed. “Were you not satisfied until you saw the results of your betrayal?” He turned, sweeping a hand in the direction of the fallen wolf. “Take a good, hard look, Heather. See what you’ve done here.”

“But I didn’t…” she protested, throwing her hand out in a defensive gesture. The movement cost her. She swayed and sank to her knees, the cold moisture of the snow seeping into her torn clothing.

What did Cael mean? Why did he speak with such anger? Anger never before directed at her.

“You lie,” Riyu spat. “You are damned by our father’s own words and his sight. We saw and heard what you did.”

“You were our mate,” Cael said, agony creeping into his voice. “We loved you as no other. Put your needs above our own. Above our pack. And you betrayed us. How could you? Does it satisfy you to see one of the greatest wolfs in our bloodline lying on the ground lifeless? Does it make you feel good to know that our mother grieves for a mate she has run side by side with for a century?”

“Cael, no!” she burst out. “Please, you must listen to me. I love you. I would never betray you.” She glanced at Riyu who stood, shoulders heaving with anger and emotion. “I love you,” she said softly. “Why have you turned against me? Why do you believe I could do