Chapter Two

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Owen looked from between his one-time commander and the shifter's mate. Earlier Breqlynn had claimed she didn't feel well, yet here she stood, bundled up as if going on an Antarctic expedition. The witch didn't look ill, just cold.

"Nikos," Wolfrick continued the introductions, "this is Owen Walker, an old comrade of mine from the war."

The oddities of the situation kept piling up as Owen shook the proffered hand. Another vehicle pulled up behind Wolf's. Immediately, he recognized his one-time love interest, Ife Jelani and her mate, Nassor. They were all smiles as they came nearer.

Feeling his stomach dip, Owen looked away from the lioness. Fifty years prior while on a mission in Kenya, he'd fallen in love with the feisty Ife. He'd thought she felt the same as she'd spent many hours alone with him in his foundry, an underground laboratory of sorts. It turned out she was using him for his knowledge and what he could teach her.

After all this time, the fact that Owen made a fool of himself over a shifter still stung.

It'd been shortly after the mission was completed that Owen saw the last of the Jelanis. Yet here they were. Their sudden appearance in his life meant his old commander was trying to throw him off-balance. Wolf and his mate were hiding something, and he was determined to find out what it was, and soon. Then, he'd leave their presence for good.

Although Owen didn't have the shifter nose to smell lies, he did have a charm that detected them. The wooden disc that he wore around his neck hadn't heated against his skin. But shifters were used to lying with truth-bending it in half to make you believe what you heard was what they meant.

When Owen looked from darkly beautiful Ife's smiling features, his eyes landed on the tall, lithe woman with Breqlynn. He hadn't paid her much heed until now. She was stunning, with long, white-blonde hair that curled loosely as it fell past her shoulders and down her back. Delicate pink lips stood out on her creamy complexion. Her pert nose ended with a slight up-tilt at its tip. Glossy, obsidian eyes stared back at him.

"It's been a long time, Doc." Nassor's greeting was spoken with false joy. The charm Owen wore didn't detect fake emotions or sarcasm, only outright lies. The booming words took his attention away from the blonde femme fatale.

Don't be a fool and fall for another pretty face, Owen warned himself. Out loud, he intoned, "Jelani," as he clasped the African First's hand. He'd been there when Nassor became the alpha of alphas on the continent. Wolf and the werelion had had a falling out over the incident. Apparently, they'd patched things up and made nice with each other.

"Owen," Ife drawled as she held out her arms. Unlike her mate's greeting, hers was genuinely warm.

As Owen was enfolded into a hug, his eyes found the blonde over the top of Ife's head. Those obsidian eyes flashed red when she looked at the werelioness. As Owen stepped back from the embrace, he couldn't help but wonder what game Wolf was playing. Why was he friendly with vampires?

Mentally shaking his head, Owen put more space between himself and Ife. Whatever the blonde was, she wasn't a vampire. The sun was still up, and as far as he knew, that race was still deathly allergic to the heavenly orb.

"I see you've patched things up with Wolf," Owen addressed Nassor. Although he wanted to make small talk, say how nice it was to see Ife and her mate again, he knew they'd scent the lie.

A short bark of laughter sounded in the African First's throat. "Yes, all's forgiven."

"Let's go inside," the shifter queen suggested impatiently. Her pallor was pale, sickly. Perhaps she really was suffering from her pregnancy. The wooden charm hadn't activated when she said she wasn't feeling well earlier.

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