Author note: Though part of the Moon Shifter series, this book can be read as a stand-alone.
He slid an arm around her waist and even though she wished she was with another male, Niko’s presence was a comfort as they turned into what was a very huge ballroom. Ivory, gold and marble swathed the lavish space. Half a dozen marble caryatid statues were visible and she wondered how old they were, given the clear wealth of this place. The bit of the marquetry inlay she saw on the floor as they walked was breathtaking.
The room was filled with shifters, vampires, and even some humans, all elegantly dressed, most of the women wearing glittering jewelry and the men in various style of dress. Some in tuxedos, some in…cargo pants and T-shirts with weapons strapped to their thighs or across their backs. She shouldn’t be surprised, not since this was a supernatural party. Shifters sometimes just didn’t give a fuck about a dress code.
The crowd was too thick to see if Kat and Jayce were here and she wasn’t supposed to look for them anyway. She and Niko were just supposed to blend into the crowd and record. Right now the coven throwing this party and the shifter pack in attendance were on the cusp of finally signing a peace treaty and putting centuries of animosity behind them.
Unfortunately one of Elian Clifton’s most trusted, senior vampires was missing. Not everyone knew it, but if he was gone much longer there would be trouble.
And no treaty.
While it didn’t technically affect Natalia’s own pack, if the Kinley pack and Clifton coven went to an all-out war, it would eventually draw the attention of humans and be very, very bad for other shifter packs and vampire covens. They were no longer able to live as insularly as they once had. Now that they were ‘out’ to humans, the actions of one pack or coven could affect the way humans viewed all of them. It was a delicate balance of survival they played.
Niko leaned closer to her, pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. That was one of their signs, that she needed to be ready for something.
Almost as if on cue, an attractive vampire couple approached them. “Niko, you naughty boy,” the female murmured, kissing him on the cheek before turning to Natalia, her smile welcoming and…a little flirty. “He hasn’t been to a party with us in ages,” she continued, her accent delicately French.
Her skin was a pale cream where her partner’s was dark, almost ebony. He gave her a more polite smile, but there was still clear interest in his gaze as it swept over her, as if he was imagining her naked.
“Natalia, this is Arlette and Henri.” Niko’s voice was low but she heard it well enough over the din of voices and music.
“We have a room here if you two are interested,” Arlette said, her smile pleasant.
Wow, they really didn’t waste any time. Both Jayce and Niko had warned her to be ready to be propositioned but she’d assumed it would happen after some conversation. Or something. Natalia could tell that Arlette was the alpha in this relationship. The male seemed almost passive, but her wolf sense, more than anything, told her that this female was in charge.
Before she could respond, Niko let out a low growl that didn’t exactly make her hackles rise, but she felt the power thrumming from him. “You two know better.” His tone was almost admonishing. He tightened his grip around Natalia, sliding his hand around her waist and cupping her ribs right under her breast.
She appreciated that he didn’t go any higher. She’d known they’d have to act as lovers tonight but that didn’t mean he’d get liberties she wasn’t willing to give. Something she’d made clear with him earlier. He’d given her a look that said he hadn’t planned to do anything anyway. Which made her like the male even more. Not in a sexual way, not even close. But…he really was just a nice male.
Arlette laughed, surprising Natalia. “I had to try. One of these days we will get you into bed with us.” Her blue eyes twinkled mischievously.
In response Niko bent down, gently raked his teeth against Natalia’s neck. The act was intimate but one she’d been prepared for. He was telling everyone here that she was his. At least for the moment. “Not tonight,” he said, in what Natalia thought was an indulgent tone as he raised his head and looked at Arlette.
A low growl to her left made everything inside Natalia go still. This was supposed to be a peaceful party, but her animal instinct told her danger was near. Too many scents surrounded her to be able to sift through all of them.
Swiveling, she lost her breath.
Aldric stood ten feet away from them, his grayish-green eyes pure wolf. She felt as if she’d been sucker punched as she drank in the sight of him. She felt greedy, as if she couldn’t get enough of seeing him in the flesh. A little over six feet tall, the male was broad and muscular, with so much strength humming through him it was almost a palpable thing. His dark hair was still military short, a soft buzz she’d fantasized about running her hands over more than once. Even though he was a shifter and healed quickly, scars still nicked all over his body. Savagely handsome with a wicked edge to him, he was the type of male it was hard to look away from.
Right now, he was staring at Niko with a look that promised death on the near horizon.