Here’s more about Craved by an Alpha, including an excerpt from this paranormal romance novel.
Eloise stood in an expansive pale-walled room in the presence of her alpha, fighting to stop herself from looking at him and drinking in the sight of him as she wanted to. She had thought that she would be ready to see Cavanaugh again when she had heard that he worked at this nightclub in the heart of London.
She had been wrong.
He was as handsome as she remembered, maybe even more so now. The angular strong line of his cut jaw framed a face with intense stormy eyes and sculpted cheekbones, and the most profane mouth she had ever seen on a male. His sensual lips curved wickedly beneath his straight nose. The sight of him had her heart pounding and her palms sweating, and she had to keep reminding herself that he was the alpha of their pride.
A male far above her now.
He had been her friend once. Her best friend.
He had been more than that too.
They had been close for her entire life, and nearly eighty years into that friendship, around a decade ago, they had become more than friends. He had started visiting more often and had started looking at her differently, with hungry eyes that had awakened the true depths of her feelings for him.
She had been deeply aware of him whenever he had been around her, every stolen glance and smile, every innocent brush of their bodies. He had been approaching one hundred, the time of sexual maturity for snow leopard shifters, and she had known it was affecting him, because being around him had affected her. It had lured her to him and she had been powerless to resist.
Like a moth drawn to a flame, it hadn’t ended well for her.
She wasn’t sure now that it had ended well for him either.
She had been angry when he had left, but she had understood his motivation for doing it. He had tired of the constant fight to hold on to the pride.
Stellan had returned three years into Cavanaugh’s reign as alpha and had constantly challenged him. They had come to blows several times but Cavanaugh had always won, and the battles had never been as drawn out and brutal as the night Stellan had driven Cavanaugh from the pride.
Cavanaugh hadn’t returned, and even though it had hurt her, she understood why he had remained away. He had thought the pride was in better hands, but he was wrong.
His gaze bore into her but she kept her eyes on her worn boots.
They were about to fall apart. She felt as if she might join them. She was weary, bone-deep tired. All she really wanted to do was curl up somewhere and sleep, to rest as he had offered. It would be nice to sleep somewhere safe for once, without having to try to rest with one part of her alert and ready for anything.
She couldn’t stop now though. She had been scouring the world for him for two years, driven by a need to find him and bring him back to the pride. Her promise had kept her going through every cold night when she had been too afraid to sleep and every day when she had been so hungry she had wanted to cry.
Her promise and the thought of seeing him again.
The moment she had set eyes on him, standing behind the bar of the nightclub, his white shirt and wild silver hair making him stand out beneath the coloured lights, all of her strength had disappeared.
She had found herself on the brink of collapse, suddenly aware of how tired, hungry and weak she was.
Suddenly, painfully, aware of everything she had been through since leaving the pride, and everything that she had endured before that, when she had been in the village.
She wanted to give in to him and collapse into his arms and let him be strong for her, ached with a need to feel them around her and breathe him in, to feel him against her and know that he was real. It really was Cavanaugh standing before her, looking at her with concern in his beautiful stormy eyes.
She needed him to hold her and hold her together at the same time until she had found her feet.
But she couldn’t.
She was weak right now and she wouldn’t be able to find the strength to place the necessary distance between them again.
She had to hold herself back and deny the deep needs running through her.
She wasn’t here for only her sake and she had to remember that. People were counting on her to bring Cavanaugh back to the pride. She had promised the others that she would. She had sworn that she knew him well enough that she could find him, and she had. They believed in her, were depending on her and on Cavanaugh, and she wouldn’t fail them, even though part of her didn’t want him to return to the role of alpha.
She had missed him.
She had been missing him for ten years.
She had thought about leaving the pride to find him before, but her mother had been there. Her friends too. Leaving had been a frightening prospect, until Stellan had begun abusing his rights and had announced his plans. Then, staying had become frightening and leaving had been her only hope of helping her kin, and saving herself.
Eloise risked a glance at Cavanaugh. He smiled at her and she realised that he was more handsome now. She hadn’t seen him smile like that, the warmth of it filling his dark grey eyes, for almost a decade. It made her feel awful. He had found his smile again in this place, far from their homeland and free from the pride and the struggles of being an alpha.
Here she was trying to force him to come back with her, when he was close to being free of his position.
His attempts to delay her had confirmed her suspicions.
Pride rules stated that if an alpha remained out of the boundaries of the village for five years, their role would pass to another. Stellan had challenged Cavanaugh, had defeated him, but had failed to kill him. Cavanaugh still held the status of pride alpha. Stellan could only call himself their alpha, and he had ensured no one would dare stand up to him by killing the first three males who had tried.
“Will you return with me?” she said, needing an answer, because she was wasting precious time.
After discovering where he was, she had checked the flights out of London in an internet café. There was a flight tomorrow to New Delhi that would connect with a flight to Paro International Airport in Bhutan.
They needed to be on those flights.
She hated what she was doing, but she didn’t want Cavanaugh to fight. She needed to convince him to come with her now and not allow him to delay her. The part of her that didn’t want to hurt him by forcing him to return to the pride before it passed to Stellan warred with the part that couldn’t bear the thought of seeing him fight again. If Stellan became the alpha, Cavanaugh would have to fight and kill Stellan to free the pride from his tyranny.
If she could convince Cavanaugh to return now, while he was still their alpha, Stellan would have to stand down because Cavanaugh would have the entire pride on his side.
“I will go back with you,” he said and relief beat through her, lasting only as long as it took for him to speak again. “I have a few things I have to tie up here, and I need to get leave to go. You can stay here while I take care of them and maybe I can show you around London? You’ve always wanted to see it.”
Her hope faded again and she frowned down at her boots, fighting the anger rising swiftly within her. He was stalling her. He meant to make her wait until the five years were up and then he would have to fight. Her gut clenched, churning as she thought about him locked in battle with Stellan, and her blood turned to ice but burned like an inferno at the same time. Every instinct she possessed, every feeling she had for him, demanded she keep pushing him until he agreed to go back with her.
“It’ll be like old times.” Those five words were a temptation that she found difficult to resist.
She wanted things to be like old times, but she couldn’t have it happen at the expense of the pride and everyone waiting for her.
She couldn’t have it happen at the expense of Cavanaugh’s safety.
The thought of him fighting turned her stomach over again and she fought the memories that bombarded her, a bloody replay of his last battle against Stellan.
She had to make him listen to her, and make him understand what was happening, and that meant she had to tell him something that she had hoped to avoid mentioning. She didn’t want to hurt him by telling him everything that had been happening, because she knew he would feel responsible, but she could no longer avoid it. Her only chance of convincing him to leave on the next available flight was to say things straight, no matter how much they hurt him.
“I’m going without you then.” She spoke to her boots at first, but the fire burning in her veins became too hot for her to deny and she lifted her head and looked him in the eye, because she needed to see her words striking their mark and know he would save the pride. “Cavanaugh… your pride needs you… if you don’t return… he has been making full use of the pride rules. When he ascends to the role of alpha, when you hand it to him, he intends to take every unmated female in the pride, whether they are willing or not.”
His dark stormy eyes slowly widened and then narrowed, his silver-white eyebrows dropping low above them.
“Including me.” She looked away from him when he snarled, baring sharp fangs, and the centres of his irises turned silver.
She closed her eyes.
“If you don’t help me… I’m not sure what will happen to me or the others.”
His hands clamped down on her shoulders, his grip firm and speaking of his strength, and she wanted to step into his arms and have him hold her again, as he used to, back before her entire world had crumbled around her.
“Eloise,” he husked and she refused to look at him.
She couldn’t when her mind was locked on the things that Stellan had in store for her and the other females, things that made her skin crawl and made her want to do something drastic.
Taking her own life would be favourable over having that vile male touching her and using her body against her will.
“Eloise?” Cavanaugh’s deep voice curled around her, the warmth of it chasing back her dark thoughts, and she tensed as he tried to draw her into his arms.
No matter how much she wanted to be in them.
He growled, released her and paced away. She opened her eyes and tracked him as he took swift strides across the concrete floor, scrubbing his hand over the soft spikes of his silver-white hair. Silver shone in his eyes as he muttered to himself, his agitation clear to her in his scent.
“Please, Cavanaugh… it has to be now.”
He stopped and looked across at her, a myriad of emotions playing out in his grey eyes, feelings that conflicted and collided with each other. She was tearing him apart with what she was asking, and she hated herself for it, but she couldn’t leave the other females and the pride to fend for itself. She never wanted to cause him pain, because it hurt her too, made her ache when she saw it in his eyes, but she couldn’t give up until he had agreed and they were heading for Bhutan.
“Wait here,” he said and strode back towards the door they had entered through.
Where was he going?
She debated it and then disobeyed him, bending his order a little to accommodate her curiosity. She would remain in the room, interpreting it as the here he had mentioned. He yanked the door open and she caught it before it closed and scanned the dark club for him. The music was obnoxiously loud and the colourful lights blinded her. She couldn’t understand how he could work in this place, but he did seem to like it here.
This place had become his home.
She spotted him directly to her left, talking to the sandy-haired male behind the bar. They were almost the same height, and wore the same white shirt with their trousers, but the other male seemed gloomy. He slid his golden eyes towards her and said something to Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh looked back at her over his wide shoulders and huffed.
She ducked back into the room where she was meant to be waiting. What was he doing? Gaining permission to leave? It seemed odd that he had to do such a thing. He was a pride alpha, but here he was nothing more than serving staff.
Was this the sort of life he had wanted for himself?
He had always seemed happiest during the years when his father had ruled and he’d had few responsibilities. He had been as happy with that simple life as she had been.
She could see the appeal of this place for him. Serving people drinks. Meeting people. Exchanging stories. He had little responsibility here. It was a world away from the pride village and his life there.
It took her back to those happier years they had shared, when all they had done was complete their tasks for the day before meeting up and hiking in the mountains, climbing, or just lazing by the fire and talking about the world beyond the village.
She had loved those days the most, when the snow swirled thickly outside the windows of his home and he had laid close to her on the furs in front of his fireplace, his back against the couch, his grey eyes filled with light and a sparkle as he recounted his tales of his travels. He had smiled constantly, but there had been times when he had looked into her eyes and it had faded, and she had been deeply aware of him.
As a male.
A beautiful and powerful man.
She closed her eyes and could almost smell the smoke of the fire. She could almost hear the rich timbre of his laughter whenever she had leaned closer to him, amusing him with her eagerness to hear more about the places he had been. She could almost feel the intensity of his gaze during those times when they would both fall silent and look into each other’s eyes, the world around them dropping away.
She could almost feel the soft whisper of his fingers across her cheek and the electric thrill of the first time his lips had brushed hers.
The door opened again, a brief blast of noise assaulting her just as she had grown used to the muted sounds of the club beyond the thick door. She turned on her heel to face Cavanaugh, a wave of heat scalding her cheeks and heart pounding from the sudden intrusion into her fantasy and the sight of him standing before her.
A dangerously alluring male.
One who made her want to forget all her pain and her sorrow, shed all of the bad memories and cling to the good ones, and step into his arms and surrender to him.
Eloise trembled on the brink, filled with a need to give in to temptation. His grey gaze narrowed on her, a curious but confused edge to it. She managed to drag her eyes away from him before he could figure her out and see through her to the conflict that raged inside her.
He huffed and shoved his fingers through his silver-white hair again.
“All set. Come on.” He grabbed her hand before she could protest, pulling her along behind him.
His hand was warm on hers. Big. It easily encompassed her one, making her feel small and a little weak, even though she was far from that. He had told her countless times that she was a strong female.
It had made her believe that she was one worthy of him.
She shoved that memory aside and followed him up a metal staircase to another floor. He pushed open the first dark wooden door in the long corridor and held it for her. She passed him, her gaze taking in the small blue bedroom.
He had somehow managed to squeeze a double bed into the space on her left, but it hadn’t left much room for his other furniture. Against the wall to her right stood a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and then another door. The gap between the furniture and the bed was so narrow that Cavanaugh had to shuffle sideways through it to reach the small space in front of that door.
He stopped there, began unbuttoning his white shirt and had pulled it off over his head before she could look away. Her mouth went dry as she stared at his back and his powerful arms. He had always had a fine physique but it was even more breathtaking now, muscular and defined, speaking to the most feminine part of her that purred in appreciation of his masculinity before she could get control over it.
He tossed the shirt into an overflowing basket in the corner of the room beside him, paused and suddenly frowned over his bare shoulder at her. She pinned her eyes on the dark blue covers of the bed and fought to stifle the blush that burned up her cheeks. What the hell was she doing? Besides setting herself up for another broken heart.
“Sit.” He jerked his chin towards the bed and she obeyed, perching on the edge of the mattress opposite the wardrobe. “I’ll grab some stuff and hit the shower, and you can use it after me.”
“There’s a flight tomorrow for New Delhi. It will get us there in time for the connecting flight.” Talking business seemed like the best way to get her mind off the fact that he was half-naked and tempting her all over again. She couldn’t give in. No matter how much she wanted to surrender to the desire for him that had never died.
He paused in the doorway to what she presumed was the bathroom and looked back at her, his cheeks a little paler than she remembered. “We’re flying into Paro?”
She nodded and almost smiled when he grabbed the doorframe to steady himself. She had forgotten how little he liked the only international airport in Bhutan. Apparently, landings and take-offs were often a rather hair-raising affair. The strip was short and surrounded by mountains on all sides. He had told her about it countless times, whenever he had returned from a trip outside of the country, but she had never seen it herself. She had used the roads to cross over into India when she had come looking for him.
He shuddered and disappeared into the bathroom.
Eloise stared at the door he had left open when the shower switched on, extremely aware of where she was—in his room, on his bed.
Alone with him.
Her heart pounded, her awareness of him increasing as she heard the rustle of his clothes hitting the floor. She idly stroked her hands over the bed covers, unable to stop herself as she listened to him. His scent was strong on them, encompassing her. Weakening her. It filled her senses, a touch of wood smoke, snow and spice. She had missed that smell. She drew a deep breath of it, pulling it over her teeth to savour it, and closed her eyes as she listened to him showering.
Each sudden splash of water had her imagining how it would sluice off his powerful body, cascading over his honed muscles, rippling down every peak and valley of his torso, and his back. She shivered and heated inside, losing herself in fantasising about him, the world around her fading away once more.
Only the feel of his gaze on her brought her crashing back to Earth.
Her eyes shot open, immediately leaping straight to him where he stood in the doorway, a white towel slung around his waist, riding low on his lean hips. Her gaze drank in the delicious sight of his naked torso and her cheeks heated as she swiftly directed it back to the floor.
He heaved a sigh and she screwed her eyes shut and tried not to picture him walking around the room, moving so close to her that they almost touched as he pulled items from his wardrobe. What was she doing? He had broken her heart once already.
No. He had broken it a thousand times.
It had broken every day that she’d had to watch him as the pride’s alpha, witnessing the way all the women of status fawned over him, and how he didn’t turn them away.
It had broken every time he hadn’t looked at her when she had found the courage to look at him.
It had shattered completely when he had disappeared into the night, leaving her afraid that he would die from his injuries somewhere or she would never see him again.
The journey to find him had been long and treacherous, but she had a feeling that the short journey back to the pride would feel a hundred times longer and a million times more dangerous.
Here, she felt as if she was in a different world. Was this how he felt? Did he feel that here the rules didn’t exist? Did he feel as free as they had been once, long ago?
It was already a struggle to remember that he was the pride alpha and she was a female without standing, one far beneath him.
She wasn’t sure how she was going to survive the next eight days with him, resisting the old feelings that were coming back to life inside her.
She had to do it though, even if it pained her.
Even though she knew that each step she took that brought them closer to the pride was a step further away from what she truly wanted.
It was a step further away from having him.