Feral Heat--Excerpt 6
Feral Heat, by Jennifer Ashley
Chapter Three (continued)
Walking Deni home was delayed when Broderick came into the bar, followed by Shifters looking enough like him to be his brothers. Jace felt Deni’s rage and worry increase, her body vibrating under his hand.
“We don’t like outsiders,” one of Broderick’s brothers said, stepping in front of Jace. “Don’t like them coming in and taking our women.”
Deni was around Jace before he saw her move. “Suck on it,” Deni said. “I thought I was too crazy for you all, anyway.”
Broderick showed his teeth in a smile. “She’s got good reflexes, for a nutcase.”
Jace pulled Deni back behind him and moved to Broderick, the clear leader of this bunch. “Keep your shit to yourself and your brothers quiet,” he said, “or I’ll wipe the floor with your ass. Again.”
Broderick glanced around Jace to Deni, and his eyes widened as he realized what other Shifters had been all night—that Jace and Deni had gotten to know each other in the dark out at the fight club. Broderick lifted his hands. “Hey, if you’re that frenzied by her, you take her. You’ll be doing us all a favor. Hope you can keep her under control.”
Jace had Broderick by the throat before Broderick could blink. Jace surprised even himself with the move, and his speed. “What did I just tell you?”
Jace was aware of Shifters turning, watching, stilling. The music pumped on, a loud country song, but the Shifters stopped dancing, talking, and drinking to watch.
Broderick’s brother was right about one thing—Jace was an outsider. He was a dominant and sanctioned by Dylan and Liam, but that wouldn’t matter if the entire Shifter community didn’t want him. A pack, en masse, could kill an alpha and not care.
He felt Deni behind him—close behind him—pressed against his back, but she wasn’t trying to soothe him out of his rage or stop him. Jace sensed her excitement, her uncontrolled need to fight. If he followed up his threat on Broderick, Deni would be right beside him, battling it out with him. The thought made him warm, gave him strength.
Liam was still at the bar, watching. Doing nothing. He wanted to see how Jace would handle this.
Letting Broderick go would decrease Jace’s standing in this Shiftertown. Not letting him go might get him killed.
A very large hand landed on Jace’s shoulder, another on Broderick’s. Jace got a whiff of an annoyed Kodiak bear Shifter who hadn’t showered since his arena fight.
“Take it out of the bar, boys,” Ronan said. “Better idea—Broderick, you stay here and get rat-faced drunk like you do every night, and you . . .” He gave Jace the slightest shake. “You go and sleep it off. You’re supposed to be holing up at Dylan’s house, but he’s off trying to stay out of jail. Take Deni home, and crash on Ellison’s couch.”
Ronan, as bouncer, was breaking the impasse. Smart. Ronan’s intervention let Jace save face, and Broderick didn’t get his ass handed to him. Jace had no doubt that Liam had signaled Ronan somehow, but Liam still watched as though only mildly interested.
Jace eased the pressure of his fingers around Broderick’s throat. Broderick’s Collar sparked once, jumping electricity into Jace’s hand, but Jace didn’t jerk away. He opened his fingers slowly and lowered his arm. Broderick remained where he was, not stepping back or rubbing his neck, which was imprinted with Jace’s finger marks.
Jace deliberately turned away from him. “Good idea,” Jace said to Ronan. “By the way, you fought a good fight out there.”
Ronan gave him a brief nod of thanks, but he moved himself solidly between Jace and Broderick. If they decided to go for each other again, they’d have to do it around the wall of Ronan. Jace might outrank Ronan in dominance, but there was no disputing that Ronan was huge.
Jace took a step back, showing he wouldn’t push it, and held his hand out to Deni.
He sensed Deni’s relief as she took his hand, but also her disappointment that another fight with Broderick wouldn’t ensue. She said nothing to Jace, only gave Broderick a final glare, and then Jace led Deni to the door and out into the night.
Deni started walking swiftly once they left the bar, moving faster and faster, until she was nearly dragging Jace across the empty lot and toward the streets of Shiftertown. In the middle of the dusty, weed-choked field, Jace pulled her to a halt.
“Hold up,” he said. “Tell me something—what the hell was that?”
Deni’s gray eyes gleamed in the darkness. “What the hell was what?”
“You.” Jace pointed his finger at her face. “Egging me on in there. Not Be careful, Jace, you don’t want to get yourself into trouble. More like, Go on, Jace. Kick his ass! You wanted to see me get taken down by that whole bar, did you?”
“No.” Deni clenched her hands, as though resisting the urge to nibble the end of his finger. “Broderick just pisses me off. And you wouldn’t have been taken down by the whole bar. I saw you fight—they’d have backed off.”
“Were you this bloodthirsty before your accident?”
Deni hesitated, her chest rising with her breath. “I don’t know.”
Jace put his hands on her arms, which were cold. The night was cooling, and her flesh, bared by the sarong, rose in goose bumps. “You said fighting makes you want to fight,” he said. “But we weren’t fighting in there. Not yet.”
“But you wanted to.” Deni rested her fingers on Jace’s forearms. “I sensed that loud and clear. You were ready to rip out Broderick’s throat. I can take his crap, but you couldn’t. Are you always this bloodthirsty?”
Not until today. He made himself grin. “Everyone at home thinks I’m reasonable and a peacemaker.” Good old Jace. He’ll calm everyone down.
“Yeah? Not sure I’d want to meet your family, then.”
“You would. You’d like my dad, and his mate.” He rubbed her arms. “Too cold out here. Let’s get you home.”
Deni shivered, as though realizing how lightly dressed she was. “Fine. Though I’m not sure about you sleeping on the couch. Liam might have room at his house. Or Spike might.”
She started to turn away. Jace thought about finding space in a dark house that didn’t contain her, and something kicked him in the gut.
Jace dragged her back to him. Deni landed against his chest, her gray eyes going wide. He felt her heart beating rapidly as he scooped her to him, slid his hand to the back of her neck, and pulled her up for a hard kiss.
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Stay tuned for more . . .
(Copyright 2014 by Jennifer Ashley)