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“I think I should travel to our estate and—”

My eldest brother spun around with his dark, piercing gaze. “You have asked this before and I said no. Why mention this again, Petro?”

“I simply think it important,” I murmured, glancing down at my feet. With Boris it was better to never be confrontational and take any other route to get the desired outcome. “You dismissed me before but you trust me to handle the security of our family’s home but then do not acknowledge me or my warnings about what is needed.”

There was a pause and part of me was dying to look at him. “I am sorry, Petro. I did not mean to seem so ungrateful. There has been much going on since the first Lundberg arrived. I assumed that was why you wanted to leave, thinking more of them would be coming.”

I glanced up at him, letting him see the truth in my eyes. “It is not mutually exclusive, nor the reason. We have been lax on our home’s security and now that everyone is here safe, a trip is needed to tighten down certain areas of the house and close it up. Moscow is not always the safest place.”

“You will take one of the angels with you,” he ordered after a moment. Boris didn’t really ask ever.

“Of course.” I fell into step with him as we left the kitchen so I could walk with him to his shift guarding the gate.

“You will be safe.”

That one made me smile. “Am I not always?”

“You will not stay away for good. You know you cannot run from the Lundbergs forever if they are all coming.”

I can try. “No, but I also do not need to be here as the welcoming party for him. The fact there hasn’t been a huge uproar between our families is a miracle.”

“Geirfinn and I were almost civil the other day. It helps that we know their mates.

“It won’t with Malfinn,” I whispered as I pushed open the front door. “He’s—” I didn’t get to finish that sentence because my face ran into a fist. The punch was so forceful that it knocked me into the door, I bounced off it, and landed to the porch in a groaning heap.

“He’s what?” a deep voice snarled. I blinked up and saw two Malfinn Lundbergs as my vision swam. I whimpered and scooted away, shaking with the need to shift and run.

“Mal! What the fuck is wrong with you?” Dagfinn bellowed as he grabbed his brother. “I never understood this shit you have with the Markovas but they’ve been nothing but nice to us since we’ve arrived so just cut it out.”

“Oh, you mean besides his obsession with our baby brother?” Boris roared, lunging for Malfinn, but luckily Castillo and Gabriel were there to grab him. “Your brother is the original stalker. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve had to chase him off over the past couple hundred years.”

My gaze snapped to Boris. He’d never told me that. Of course, you never told him Malfinn was your mate, but if they found that out, they would kill him for being abusive to me. I whimpered again as I watched the two angels slowly turn to stare at me, knowing they’d heard me.

“Are you sure?” Castillo whispered, his eyes filling with tears.

“Yes,” I admitted, knowing there was no more keeping the lid on this secret now that Boris had admitted Malfinn had stalked me and we needed the Lundbergs. “That was why I kept asking Boris to return to Moscow and hoped an angel might accompany me.”

“Yes, one with nice big tits,” Malfinn snarled, pulling against his brothers who seemed shocked at his outburst. “Keep denying who you are, you bastard!”

“What is wrong with you?” Boris bitched, yanking his arms away from the angels but not going for the other hound. “Petro is not a fake man. He has always been bisexual not that it is any of your business.”

That got Malfinn’s attention and he stopped struggling against his brothers. “So you’ll be with other men but not me?” I shook my head, not to say no but just because I could not deal with this… Unfortunately he took it as no. “I should have hit you harder.”

There were several gasps and I slowly got my shaky legs under me. “No, that is why I will not ever be with you.”

“You denied me!” he roared. “Do not turn this around and make me the bastard in all of this.”

“Show me,” Gabriel demanded as he held up a hand to silence everyone. Then he reached out his other hand to me which I took. All I had to do was think back to the night I’d met Malfinn Lundberg over two hundred years ago and he would see the rest.

“No, you are biased,” Malfinn bitched, and I knew there was history with their family but I had a feeling Malfinn had issues with everyone.

“Ariel?” I asked, hoping she would come since she did not seem to have history with their family and everyone truly liked her. There was the loud thump announcing her arrival and then she appeared.

“Yes, my dear Petro?” she greeted, but then frowned when she looked around. “Oh dear, lots of male hormones and anger.” She shared a look with Gabriel and nodded. “I do not understand all this past funny business with my brothers and the Lundberg family. You all need to grow up, but yes, I will see who was the asshat between Petro and Malfinn.”

She took my hand and I saw Castillo bite back a smile at her slang. I would have too if I did not know what she was about to see. It took only moments before she met my eyes, her own watery. “So now you know.”

“I do, my friend. I am sorry God did not give you a better match,” she whispered. And then she turned around and cracked Malfinn in the face. My jaw fell open and I doubted I was the only one as Malfinn fell against his brothers and they all landed in a pile on the ground. “He did not deny you. He was asking. You were over eight hundred years old and had seen much. Young Petro with his five older brothers had seen next to nothing and had never heard of two hounds mating.”

“What?” Malfinn gasped and I heard some shuffling but I couldn’t look at him.

“He’s your mate?” Boris roared, glancing between us. “How could you not tell me this, Petro?”

“I was not sure if it was true,” I admitted, begging my brother to understand with my eyes. “I felt a pull to him when I heard his voice and he said we were but I had never wanted a man before and I had not heard of hounds mating hounds, only humans. I asked if we could even mate, and he became enraged, hitting me, so I ran. I was only twenty. I knew no better. I saw him once years later with you there but I had no idea you had seen him since.”

“He comes around every so often, watches you and us while we were on missions. I was surprised he did not find us here,” Boris muttered and then shocked me by turning and spitting at Malfinn. “You are a disgrace to your family’s name. Petro was just a boy then and you abused your mate and have done no better since then. Stay away from him or we will kill you.”

“Look, this has got to be a misunderstanding,” Dag defended, glancing at me. “Malfinn’s not a bad guy.”

“Then you mate him, because I never will,” I whispered as I met his tear-filled, ice-blue eyes. Then I shifted, finally giving in and not caring that I ripped my clothes, and ran off.

“Why did you hit him the other times?” Geirfinn demanded. “I can get maybe if he denied you and you were a putz, but the rest?”

“He was making out with a woman when I went back to talk to him a few years later, on a date for fuck’s sake,” I heard Malfinn defend. “I thought he was denying he was gay and that was it.”

“You’re an asshole. And today?” Dag groaned.

“Shock. I don’t know. I got pissed when I heard his voice and him acting like I was the jerk and hearing he had to leave because of it.”

“You are the jerk and he was trying to leave because he figured you were coming,” Boris growled. “Stay away from Petro.”

“He’s my mate.”

“That man will never mate you now, brother,” Dag murmured. And that was the last I heard of their conversation before I was out of range. I kept running, sticking to the fence line as if I was checking the perimeter or something adult, houndish, instead of the whimpering fool who let his big brother handle everything for him that I was.

About half an hour into my run, I realized I wasn’t the only hound around, and I slowed down, assuming it was Boris coming to check on me.

My mistake.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw a massive blond hound, feeling the power and age coming from it like headlights in the rearview mirror almost. I picked up the pace, knowing I could never outrun him… And I knew who the him was. It was Malfinn. I could sense that too now that he was within twenty yards.

Sharp teeth nipped at my flanks, warning me to stop this, but I kept going, not willing to yield to him, even if he was older and the stronger hound. That could send the wrong message. There was no use though. He tackled me and we went rolling until he had me pinned under him. He snarled at me, snapping in my face, telling me to shift back, so I did, shaking. I wasn’t a small man by any means, though the smallest of my litter at six-four. It was the power coming off him.

Okay, fine, and the fact that I was not an Alpha hound. Someone in the litter had to be more submissive for a team to work and as we went down in age, the aggressiveness level tended to go down with it.

He shifted back to a man—a gorgeous, naked, hard man who was on top of me—and tried to kiss me. I turned my head away at the last minute almost shocked when he simply kissed my neck and didn’t punch me.

“I’m sorry, Petro. I’m so sorry,” he moaned, rubbing himself against me.

“Stop. Get off me,” I rasped, pushing at him.

“God, if only I had known you were asking if we could be mates instead of rejecting me, we could have been together this whole time.” His hands moved down my body as his leg tried to push mine apart.

“No!” I growled, but he didn’t seem to hear me, manically rambling the same thing on and on. Finally I gave up, slumping to the ground as tears burned my eyes, resigning me to the fact that my mate was going to rape me.

Mostly because I had a feeling he was on the cusp of going feral. Could I have called out to the angels? Yes, but what hell would that have started and a war between our families that we could never have come back from, dividing the hounds overall and the school… And we needed to be united more than ever.

“Where are you?” he snarled, shaking me. “I’m trying to make love to you for the first time and you’re a million miles away! Are you dreaming of tits?”

I slowly turned my head back to his and burst out laughing, unable to help it. “Breasts are the farthest thing from my mind as my mate—who I want no part of or even to speak with—is about to rape me.”

“I am not!” he bellowed, instantly letting me go. He scrambled off me, his eyes wide, and glanced at my groin. “You were hard.”

I shrugged as I covered my flaccid cock. “The change always excites me even if it is a forced change and you are hot, but when I realized you weren’t just going to steal a kiss but more, once again not listening, yeah, not interested.”

“You didn’t say anything.”

“Yeah, I did,” I rasped, shaking my head. “I said stop, get off me, and no, Malfinn. You did not hear me.”

He stumbled back a few more steps and clenched his chest. “They were right. You won’t ever forgive me, will you? I didn’t hear you, I swear.”

I glanced up then and studied him, his wild eyes, shaking hands, on-edge look. “Why are you going feral and I am not?” He opened his mouth but I held up my hand, waving him off. “Never mind. I don’t know that I would believe your answer anyways. You are an abusive bully, Malfinn, you always have been.”

“I am not!” he roared, and I shrank away from him. Him seeing that reaction was more enlightening to him than any amount of talk could ever have managed. “I am not. I would never abuse my mate.”

“You’ve hit me three times,” I whispered as tears filled my eyes. “That is three times too many.” I shifted and took off again, racing straight back to the house this time.

“I punched a man that insulted me,” he called after me. “You rejected us being mates. It’s not the same!”

“Petro, we must talk,” Boris demanded when I reached the back door, all of my brothers waiting for me. I snapped at him, almost wanting to laugh at the five sets of wide eyes that reaction caused. I was never so aggressive. “Petro, you should have told us.”

“Some things are private. You should have told me I was being stalked. He is going feral, Boris. That might have changed what happened between us if I had known!” I screamed in our mental link, too upset to care I was taking out a horrible situation on someone who didn’t deserve it.

“We might have told you if we’d known he was your mate,” Georgi snapped, causing me to stumble as I headed up the stairs to my room. “We didn’t want to scare our baby brother that an ancient hound was obsessed with you.”

“Both were my business and I was an adult, seconds younger than each of you so stuff it and don’t put this back on me.” Then I cut the connection, using all my years of training and focus to block them out and instead of hearing what they were trying to say to me in our joint mental link, it coming in as jumbled, indiscernible mutters.

I slid to a halt as I reached my room, shocked by who I found there.

“Can we talk?” Dagfinn hedged as he glanced at Geirfinn. I started taking steps back and he held up his hands in surrender. “Wait, please, Petro, don’t go.”

“Please don’t go,” Geirfinn begged. “We can call Gabriel or your friend Ariel? We just want to talk.” I shook my head and took a few steps further away from them. “Okay, so not now. That’s fair. Can we talk at lunch? Eat privately?”

I growled and felt my fur stand up. Why was this being put on me? I snapped in both their directions before shifting back. “No! No, I’m not talking to you, or my brothers, or your brother who almost raped me on the far corner of the property because he’s so out of his mind, acting like it’s just all a big misunderstanding and we can forget it all and move on.”

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Geirfinn hissed, grabbing handfuls of his hair and pulling. “Just shit!”

“Look, we know it’s not your fault or on you, of course not, Petro,” Dag cooed as he stepped aside and let me in my room, following after me, but then I blocked him. He looked as if he wanted to push past me and he easily could have but that wouldn’t have helped his cause any. “Mal’s going feral. That’s the only way he would have acted like that. There’s a lot about our brother you don’t know. He’s a good guy.”

“He was a good guy,” Geirfinn corrected.

“Yeah, he was,” Dag sighed.

“I wish I had known him then,” I whispered, wiping my eyes. “Now please leave me alone. I am going, okay? I am going back to the Markova estate so you guys can do your super-secret, important, God-given tasks. I’ll be out of the way soon so just leave me alone!” I slammed the door in their faces, slumping against it in a heap when it was closed.

Seconds later I was dressed—not by my own hand—and Ariel was hugging me, pulling me against her. I cried all over her, letting out for real what I had been holding inside for so long. When I was done, I was so out of it, I didn’t know if Geirfinn, Dagfinn, my brothers, or the whole household was outside the door. Instead, I crawled into bed, grateful for the liquids Ariel made appear so I could rehydrate, and fell asleep.

When I woke up, Ariel was gone, and I realized it was well after dinner by glancing out the window. Fine by me. That meant the kitchen would be blissfully empty and no one would be jumping all over me… Hopefully at least.

I glanced at the kitchen clock when I heard plates clanking together and saw it was after midnight. Recognizing Rafe’s blond head bending over the dishwasher, I decided to help.

“I slept most of the day. What is your excuse for being awake?” I greeted quietly, not wanting to startle him.

I still did, a soft gasp echoing off the walls. He cleared his throat and shot me a weak smile. “I’m not welcome in my bed currently. I was mad at Stryker but apparently he wasn’t the only one in the wrong. So it’s awkward and hostile and—and I can’t believe I’m seriously whining about this to you after the shit you had dropped on you today. I heard about what happened. I’m sorry, Petro.”

“Thank you, my friend.” I sighed and put away the glasses he had lined up on the counter, the dishwasher being too far from the cabinet but if they were put on the counter then someone could reach the cabinet without walking two over at a time. I’d seen his system many times and knew how to help. “Dagfinn and Geirfinn are upset with me for not talking with them. My brothers are all upset I did not tell them sooner but there was much they did not tell me. Malfinn is abusive and crazy.”

“Yeah, I heard they think he’s going feral. I’m sorry.”

“That does not explain his abusive and crazy from many years ago,” I whispered, shaking my head.

“No, it doesn’t,” he agreed. “I’m definitely not taking his side, but I heard him talking to his brothers and he was crushed at the idea he was taking liberties with you when you didn’t want them. I don’t know what happened over by the fence but it must have been really bad, because he was acting as if he ran over boxes of kittens and puppies.”

“No, nothing like that,” I hedged, studying Rafe. “He was truly that upset? You are not defending him?”

Rafe frowned at me. “I’m on your side, Petro. We’re friends. I wouldn’t ever defend him unless I saw the whole thing. You know that.”

“Yes, of course I do. It’s just, that is an odd reaction to the least of his crimes. I am much more upset that he struck me again.” I shook my head as I finished with the glasses. “He is so odd to me. He chased me down and ordered me to shift back, excited from the chase, which is expected of a dominant, powerful hound. But he was manic, kissing my neck and touching me. He was not listening that I did not want him. He thought I was thinking of breasts and stopped, finally hearing me. But nothing went far.

“When he heard me say no, he immediately ceased his unwanted attentions. I was upset that he thought we could simply forget what happened and move forward. How can I let all of this go and get naked with him? That is an unreal expectation.”

“Which is what his brothers said,” Rafe agreed. “Malfinn wasn’t hearing them though, saying it was going to be okay once he convinces you that he would be a good mate now that you aren’t rejecting him because you could admit you liked men now.”

I set down the plates in my hands and stumbled back, quickly finding a stool to sit on. “My mate is insane. Everyone else gets a mate they can love and I am fated to be with a lunatic.”

“So it was never about you not being into men?” Rafe asked, taking the stool next to mine.

“No, I never knew of hounds that mated until Jared and Rhyce. I did not think it possible, but I was twenty and ignorant. I merely asked him if we could, as in able, because we were hounds, and he exploded, hitting me in the face, screaming at me that no one dare reject him, especially not some Russian trash of a boy and—” I shook my head, unable to speak anymore about the worst moments of my life.

“I’m so sorry, Petro,” he whispered, patting my knee. “What are you going to do?”

“Go to the Markova estate. He is needed here for whatever plan God brought him here for with the visions and—”

“He’s too out of it,” Rafe interrupted gently. I met his gaze and saw pity in his eyes. “Castillo was talking with his siblings and they were saying that given Malfinn’s condition and how far he’s progressed there’s no way he’ll be able to play the role God meant for him to. I mean, would you trust him around kids or anyone at the school?”

“I do not know. I assumed his manic bouts were only in relation to me.”

“And we can know that for sure how? We can’t take that chance.”

“What are you saying, Rafe? What were they discussing doing with Malfinn? How are they going to help him?” I whispered, my heart sinking into my stomach.

“They can’t. Everyone was saying that once a hound goes feral there’s no turning back without their mate grounding them. He will become more and more volatile and erratic and given how old and powerful he is, the eldest of the most ancient line of hounds, that’s a lot of havoc he could cause.”

“Are you telling me they are considering putting down Malfinn because I did not accept him two hundred years ago or since?” I whispered, lights flashing behind my eyes when Rafe nodded.

The last thing I remembered was Rafe calling out my name. I did not even feel it when I hit the floor.