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Locked safely away in Shepherd’s nest, Claire is unaware of what stirs above ground. Her time is occupied fighting a war of another kind. Due to her mate’s relentless exploitation of their pair-bond, the nature of their link has grown consuming to the point that Claire has difficulty differentiating where her feelings begin and his end.
Under its influence, she’s forced to sense the man behind the monster. She can feel the truth of his terrible history. Claire can see the source of madness that drives Shepherd to do such terrible things: Svana.
His mate is desperate to open his eyes, but no matter Claire’s progress, Svana is not yet done with him.
Thólos is coming apart at the seams, and Shepherd’s men can do nothing to stop it. Real war is coming, and unless the Alpha tyrant is willing to pay the ultimate price, everything he has sacrificed will have been for nothing.
Reborn, the final installment in Addison Cain’s bestselling Alpha’s Claim trilogy, is a dark Omegaverse tale with explicit sexual themes and complete power exchange. This is not your typical romance with an HEA. If such material offends you, please do not purchase.
Collar of his coat flipped up to protect his neck from the growing cold of the halls, Shepherd returned at last from being called away by his soldiers. He found his mate nervous, the acrid scent of Omega fear spoiling the air. But, mostly she was expectant and blissfully unaware of just what was going on above ground.
And he would never tell her.
Shepherd made no move to approach the panicky woman, he simply stood as Claire looked him over from boots to skull. The Omega searched out any hint of what had called him from her, looking for blood splatter, or the swelling of his knuckles, relieved when she found nothing out of the ordinary.
His Claire was angry, but far more reassured that he’d returned seeming normal.
When the Omega stepped forward to touch him, to initiate what had to be done to seal their bargain, Shepherd spoke. “You are hungry, little one. We will eat first.”
We will eat first?
Shepherd did not go to the door to fetch food. Instead, he went to where he stored his clothing and began pulling off his coat, armor, and boots. Bunched muscles flexed, he pulled his shirt over his head, handing it to her. Unthinkingly, Claire took it and put it, as he expected, in her nest.
Distracted by the task, the Omega chewed her lip, taking time to arrange the scented fabric and remove something old to be washed.
A knock sounded, Shepherd barked for the visitor to enter.
Jules came in with their food, set it down and left in seconds—the trivial familiarity he shared with Claire completely concealed by his indifference. She found it minorly amusing, especially the way Shepherd shifted to put his body between her and the Beta.
When the door closed, Claire found it very difficult to suppress a snort.
“What is funny?” the male growled, narrowing his eyes.
“You are funny, Shepherd.” Claire arranged herself at the table. “That man has brought me meals dozens of times when you are not here—so you must trust him. Yet there you are, glaring at him as if he were not your friend. You have serious issues...”
Shepherd only grunted in answer. Dressed only in trousers, he came to the table. “It is a natural reaction for an Alpha to guard his Omega from dangerous men.”
But not dangerous women...
Glancing at the food, Claire felt wholly disillusioned. She began to comprehend what was going on, what he had arranged for himself. This, the meal, was a show—a show where she was not spectator, but entertainer. She was expected to perform for the man lowering himself into the seat across from her. Reminding herself their agreement only required she initiate sex, nothing more, she picked up her fork and chose not to argue. Instead, Claire focused on the beautiful dinner, the male mirroring her movements and tasting the food.
It seemed awkward, the silence, and out of habit and good manners, Claire found herself wanting to make small talk, knowing it would be both pointless and something Shepherd would not respond to.
Except, he began it. “I have been told this is one of your chef’s most famous dishes.”
Cocking a brow, Claire looked up from the steamed fish and nodded, momentarily confused. “My chef? You do not eat his cooking?”
“Her cooking, and no.”
That seemed strange. “What do you normally eat?”
“What my men eat. Communal food amongst those who’ve endured the Undercroft bears an importance I do not expect you to understand or submit to.”
There were a great many things about the man she didn’t understand.
Seeing that the woman was puzzled and still tense, Shepherd offered a modicum of explanation. “After years subsisting off mold, our digestive tracts have altered. Followers’ diets must be bland, and the required nutritional additives have an unpleasant taste and smell. The bulk of my meal was consumed before I returned to you. This is… supplementary.”
Was that why he never ate in her presence? She looked at the beautifully arranged plate. “Well, considering all your other physical attributes, I think it’s only fair you have one restriction.”
The male smirked, gratified. “Physical attributes?”
“You are very tall,” Claire quipped flatly, taking another bite, not at all interested in padding the Alpha’s ego.
His foot bumped hers under the table. “List another attribute.”
Dodging Alpha pride was something Claire had years of experience with. “You are bald. It must save time not combing your hair.”
Narrowed eyes matched his agitated reply. “I shave my head.”
Claire sneered, pleased her slight had pricked him, and took another bite of dinner.
“You are playing with me, little one,” he added, intrigued, once he saw her mischievous expression.
Gesturing with her fork, Claire explained. “You’re arrogant enough. I am not going to feed that beast.”
Shepherd countered, his own evil smirk appearing. “You will later. When I move inside you tonight, you will hum about my prowess and strength… You will want to say all those things and more.”
The self-satisfied expression, the fact she knew what was coming—worse still, the fact he could inspire such a declaration—made Claire’s cheeks flame. She would cry out for him, admire him physically with her hands and tongue, but she would keep her words to herself. “We shall see.”
The grin that spread his scarred lips, the absolute hunger in his expression, only added to the Alpha’s excitement. “A challenge from the coy, little Omega...”
For a second, Claire believed he might reach across the table and devour her. Even the way Shepherd breathed as he watched her eat implied his exercise of control warred with his impulse to mount her.
“You seem like you are in an awfully good mood.” Claire thought back to how he had left her earlier, lingering anxiety matching the disapproval in her voice. “What did you do today?”
“Nothing of importance, aside from wondering what would be waiting for me in this room when I returned,” Shepherd purred, charmed by her attempted interrogation. “I think of you often when we are parted.”
Gods, even his scent was dripping sex.
The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent. -Sun Tzu
Sucking her lower lip into her mouth, Claire tried to figure out if he was trying to distract her, or mislead her. Looking at him, at the exposed musculature of his chest and arms, she found Shepherd sat with arrogance and authority, as if her regard were his due. Claire cocked her head, she tested. “If you were so eager for the remainder of our bargain, then why are we eating together?”
“Out of respect for my mate. I had fine food prepared and we are engaging in conversation, as you stated you desired... and as Dome culture dictates.”
Claire understood at once, this was not just a shared meal. It was Shepherd’s attempt at another courtship custom—like the foam flowers in her coffee. Pushing her hair behind her ear, her nervous blush deepened.
He exercised the softer expression he saved for the kill. Claire saw it, and knew at once her assessment was correct. Shepherd was, in his way, trying to woo her.
Unsure, Claire murmured, “This is to relax me.”
“So I perform better for you?”
He gave her a long look that said yes, no, and a thousand other things. Unsmiling, his head just a tick to the side, Shepherd grunted. “You do not appreciate the effort?”
There was definitely a wrong answer, and that was the only one she wanted to blurt out. Biting her tongue, she looked at the shirtless man and said, “You are courting me.”
“According to your customs, yes.”
She was not sure what made her curious, but Claire had to ask, “Wouldn’t they also be your courtship customs?”
The man seemed momentarily at a loss for an easy answer. “There was no concept of courtship in the Undercroft. Men just took what they wanted. Violently.”
All too familiar anger bubbled under her skin, Claire aware that was exactly what he had done to her. “So that is the culture you choose to identify with?”
It seemed like such a simple question, but Shepherd took his time measuring his reply, as if tailoring it in his head first. “I choose to identify with military culture.”
The corner of her lips curled, Claire took another bite, wondering how on earth the crazy man across the table existed.
Shepherd disliked her reaction. “You find my answer unsatisfactory.”
Waving her fork, she stated blandly, “I find it unique. Very Shepherd-like.”
Claire leaned forward and met his eyes with a harsh look in her own. “You have strong opinions on my culture, have made several claims of our failings and vices... but you do not have a culture of your own. Considering the aspersions you cast, it seems your personal experience with real society is negligible.”
The male straightened in his chair. “I have extensively studied Dome life for many years. I lived above ground and below. I watched, learned, followed, and remembered.”
The man was completely missing her point, or he was redirecting her on purpose. “Have you participated in my society before you tried to ruin it? Only watching doesn’t count. Your military culture, the ethos you created for your Followers, is just Undercroft society tailored to conveniently meet your manifesto.”
Shepherd warned, “We have our own traditions and an honorable philosophy, little one.”
“That’s right, a whole army of honorable monsters who probably roast humans on a spit for fun.”
The man answered with a very droll, “We only do that on high holidays.”
Claire almost choked when Shepherd actually made a joke. Coughing into her hand, chuckling despite herself, she found the male very pleased with himself for rousing her amusement.
She could feel the wheels in his mind turning, understood he had tried to banter in the same manner he’d witnessed between her and Maryanne. It was very strange to witness the way Shepherd’s mind processed and adapted; he was like a sponge that absorbed interaction but didn’t quite know how to apply it. So he practiced, usually falling short. Except that time... that time had been perfect.
Taking another bite so she could hide her smirk, Claire asked, “Enlighten me, Shepherd. Where do Omegas fit into military culture?”
Shepherd began to consider. It seemed like such a human gesture, the way he sucked his plump lower lip into his mouth, so totally normal, Claire could not look away. A moment later, Shepherd offered, “Napoleon was an Omega.”
Claire blinked, cocked her head, and argued. “No he wasn’t.”
Shepherd grinned, he leaned closer. “It is a well-documented fact, little one. A fact pointedly removed from the Dome’s retained version of history. Unlike you, I am not afraid to read forbidden books.”
If such a thing were true, then why was it considered dangerous to know?
Claire did not believe him. “Are you telling me an Omega pillaged through Europe’s monarchies and created an empire?”
Self-righteous to the core, Shepherd nodded. “That is exactly what I am telling you.”
The idea he might be right, made Claire doubt herself. “Why would that knowledge be forbidden?”
“Because it did not fall into line with the Callas family’s crafted society all those living under the Dome are slave to.”
“Or maybe it was because that man was a megalomaniac and a monster. Napoleon was insane and not the best role model for Omegas.” Even as Claire disagreed, she didn’t support her own bad argument. It was obvious in her uncertain tone and disappointed expression.
“Napoleon’s rule, even his ultimate defeat, led to enlightenment, art, and the emancipation of the slaves in Britain. Napoleon changed the world through his violent actions and commitment. He was a very clever tactician devoted to his cause.” Shepherd offered what he perceived as a compliment. “Would such an outcome not please you, little Napoleon?”
Her soft breath conveyed trepidation. “Is this where you try to convince me he was a good man despite all the terrible things he did? That you are a good man?”
Claire ran a hand through her hair, a nervous habit, and offered, “You could be a good man, Shepherd.”
He leaned towards her, expression soft and voice natural. “We are not so different in the absoluteness of our dedication to change the world for the better. You gave up your very sense of self to the mob, reprimanding the city with your flyer—exposing who you were, trying to inspire. I do what must be done, because I am strong enough to do it, and I understand truly evil men in a way I pray you will never know. So you must grasp that I cannot be, in my duty, what you define as good—just as you could never safely live amongst Thólos society as Claire O’Donnell ever again. We both sacrificed our lives for the greater good.”
She didn’t know why she felt compelled to ask, but the question came before she could stop herself. “What was your reaction to my flyer?”
His entire expression darkened. “I was afraid for you, little one.”
A cold chill, a creeping icy thing, scratched down Claire’s spine. She was wise enough to grasp that for the Alpha, fear was something long ago conquered and not at all welcome. To know she’d inspired it was unnerving.
His grim honesty continued. “I desired very intensely to alleviate the pain displayed in your photograph. I was even impressed with how unfailingly brave you were to do such a thing, though I abhorred it.”
Claire’s attention went to her plate; she felt like weeping and didn’t know why.
Her lack of words did not alter the undeniable tone in the thread. The connection was normalizing, vibrating, and creeping deeper. Before there might be anymore courtship rituals, before there might be a greater consequence, Claire stacked their cleared plates, ready to get her duty over with.
“Did you enjoy our meal?”
She nodded, even thanked him politely, hearing his instant purr when Shepherd’s eyes flashed at her praise. The feel of his hand on her arm, the long stroke of light fingers, stopped her movement. She watched, stunned, as the man lifted her hand to his lips and tenderly kissed it.
Slightly hoarse, Claire admitted, “I am not entirely sure where I should begin.”
He held her gaze, lightly flicked his tongue against her sensitive palm. “You could touch me.”
The worst calamities that befall an army arise from hesitation. -Sun Tzu
Her entire strategy centered on action, on pushing boundaries between them, on growing stronger as she sought out his weaknesses. There could be no room for hesitation if she wanted to gain ground.
Resting a hip on the table, Claire did as he suggested. He wanted to be touched, so that’s what she did. She traced his jaw and nose, ran her fingertips over his lips as he had done so often to her. Next, she stroked down the back of his neck, kneading the flesh he’d once claimed caused him pain.
Shepherd turned his head up to her, his mercurial eyes watching with such intensity Claire found her gaze rested far more comfortably on the Alpha’s broad shoulders.
Keeping her mind separate from how familiar his body had become, Claire tried to approach it clinically, unsure if she was doing well. When a large hand came to rest on her hip, she took his touch as encouragement to continue. Her palms flowed over his arms from shoulder to wrist and back again, forming to the contours of honed muscle and absolute strength. She reached around his back to lightly scratch her nails over the broad expanse of flesh.
He liked that. His breath hitched, and Shepherd made little grunts and groans as she traced his spine.
When his purr grew husky, she rose from her perch and took his hand so he could stand from the chair and she could continue. With his great height, there was a shift in power, Shepherd suddenly so much taller.
Her uncertainty returned.
Timid, Claire’s hands went to his belt.
Shepherd took her lowered chin, brought her face up so she might see the contented expression on his. “You are doing well.”
His voice was gently encouraging, those expressive silver eyes liquid. Claire assumed he wanted her to continue, and licked her lips, trying to seek out the fastening of his pants. Fumbling, she pulled down his zipper and eased the fabric from his hips. Shepherd stepped out of his remaining clothes and stood naked under her touch.
When the Alpha made no move, Claire understood she was expected to continue.
Her hands found a path from his thighs, near his groin, and across the hard planes of his stomach. She nosed his chest, and pulled in his scent exactly as she once imagined she would do with the husband she’d hoped for all her life. Holding on to the comfort of that fantasy, she put the conjured image in Shepherd’s place, and pressed closer, breathing in the smell of his excitement.
The fabricated man in her mind loved her, he honored her; he believed she was more than just an Omega.
It was so much easier to stroke and hum as her imagination unraveled, Claire didn’t even hesitate to tease. Pretending he was hers, the mate she had dreamed of, she let it all go. Biting his chest, she playfully scratched near enough his groin that his cock twitched in expectation of attention—attention she denied, to instead reach around and caress his buttocks, relishing his groan of pleasured frustration.
By the time she closed her fist around his cock, touching it for the first time only to please him, Shepherd was already dripping, pulsing in her hand, and arching into her grip.
He wanted more, hands settling on her shoulders, he began to press her to her knees.
Claire knew he wanted her to take him in her mouth, a thing she’d only ever done in the heat of estrous. At first she resisted, a hiccup in her uncertain seduction. Eyes closed tight, hesitant, Claire counted to five before she could make herself obey.
Drawing in a deep breath, she acquiesced, kneeling to suck Shepherd’s swollen crown between her lips.
The Alpha answered with a deep, rumbling groan.
Claire’s hooded eyes dilated further at one taste, a dreamy hum expressing pleasure when more moisture dripped onto her tongue. Tangling his hands in her hair, gathering it from her face so he might watch, Shepherd relished her hollowed cheeks and the beauty of her pursed lips stretched beautifully around his cock.
Directing her movements, guiding her skull, with each bob of Claire’s head, the male knew bliss.
She seemed so absolutely willing that he grew exceedingly excited, thrusting deeper between her lips, pulling her hair when that wicked little tongue swirled. Almost as soon as it began, he was on the brink of spilling into her pretty mouth.
His thrusts growing forceful, Claire gagged when he pressed too far, but did not fight back... she let him use her. When the Alpha reached down to cup his tightening sack, when he roared, Claire obediently swallowed around his girth and sucked harder for her prize.
Watching her little hands wrap around the forming knot to squeeze so it might feel like he was inside her, Shepherd spurt the first gush of semen down her throat, the male careful not to choke her on the copious fluid.
Claire gulped as much as she could, one stunned Alpha watching her effort, mesmerized by a stream of his seed oozing from the corners of her mouth.
Lost in the mating high, in her fantasy, Claire licked him clean, nuzzling into the broad palm settled on her cheek.
Shepherd’s great thumb wiped up the spilled trickle running down her chin and pressed it back between her lips, the man groaning in approval when she eagerly lapped every last drop. “Look at me.”
Claire, eyes black, hardly a trace of green surrounding the pupils, obeyed. She was so far gone, never had he seen her give in so completely. Seizing the opportunity, he pulled her to a stand, Shepherd taking her lips, kissing her and tasting himself in her mouth.
Even consumed as she was, Claire did not return the pressure.
Growling in frustration, he kissed her harder... but was penalized by the loss of her touch on his body.
Panting, aroused by the challenge and annoyed she continued to deny him her kiss, Shepherd changed tactics. The straps of her dress were flicked from her shoulders and the fabric tugged down. Breathing in her sweetness, biting and licking the valley between her breasts, Shepherd growled and offered in a voice rich with need, “Will you spread your legs for my mouth?”
Lost on another plane, Claire breathed, “Yes.”
The Alpha reared and stalked forward, backing the little Omega towards the bed. “Do you desire my tongue?”
He lightly shoved her down and fell upon his prey, his mouth everywhere but where she was wet and eager. Claire arched and writhed, exasperated to receive, but no touch came to ease the growing throb between her legs. Shepherd made her wait until he had marked her in featherlike bites, tasted every inch, until she was dripping slick from her enjoyment of his lips—the Alpha never having growled to call forth such a sweet scent.
Lifting her flushed body in the exact position to perfectly display her cunt, he pinned her. Her pussy was pink and throbbing, her hips wriggling against his hold, all the while her little hole twitching like a tiny sucking mouth.
Slick trickled out to tempt him, Shepherd flicking his tongue in the river of fluid, lost at only one taste. While he lapped up every drop, Claire moaned like a whore, rolling her hips to each flick of his tongue, grinding against his face when he burrowed that writhing muscle deep in her pussy.
With her mind still in that place she’d always imagined for herself, with her body in the hands of an expert Alpha she pretended might be the husband she once longed for, the feeling of a powerful climax swelled—something mindlessly perfect almost in her grasp.
Then Shepherd stopped, he stopped at the pivotal moment, and held her spread to watch her pink little pussy flutter as she tried to buck up to the mouth hovering warm above her. When she whined, his tongue stretched out and gave the lightest of licks, taunting her.
Fighting to move, to find relief from the coil of need he engorged with each darted swipe of his tongue, Claire’s agitation turned to anger.
She had given him pleasure, and now her mate was contorting the vision, denying her the perfection of the dream by toying with her. Looking down between her spread thighs to glare at her tormentor, Claire aggressively growled.
The mass of muscle, the thing that was supposed to be fucking her with his tongue, prowled possessively over her body, negating her hips’ movement each time Claire tried to rub against him for relief.
Brushing his wet lips over hers, Shepherd purred deeply. “Kiss me, little one, and I will give you great pleasure in any and every way you wish.”
Wound up tight, instant wrath drove away all reason. Eager to punish for his attempt to claim something that was not his, to discipline for destroying the perfection of her dream, Claire pulled her lips back from her teeth. Nails scraped the hardness of sinew, her mouth attacking the bulging muscles between his shoulder and neck. In a rush, she pressed her teeth to his flesh and bit down with all the strength of her jaw, heard him catch his breath in surprise, and sunk her bite even deeper.
She wounded Shepherd with all the power of her indignation, all of the rage building up since she’d first looked at the behemoth, and the unfulfilled lust he had taught her body to crave and thought to use against her.
She didn’t even want to fuck anymore; she just wanted him to bleed.
When the head of his cock skimmed between her folds, she dug in her claws and refused to let go. Shepherd penetrated her anyway, his warm lips at her ear where she could hear every gasped groan as he invaded her sopping cunt in erratic, desperate thrusts of his hips.
Shepherd began to speak, she refused to listen. He moaned out his name for her, she only growled like a rabid animal. He hit the place where her nerves were raw and need was everything, and that horribly powerful internal itch grew again, blossomed and divided her—blasting her into a sideways place where she had no name or purpose but to fuck and be fucked by her mate.
It was all there inside her, the raging storm that took away reason, it crashed and tore, and finally blissful expansion arrived.
Her teeth left the flesh she had deeply punctured, she swallowed the pooling blood in her mouth, and came as wildly as she’d grown feral. One more hard thrust, and the size of Shepherd’s building knot grew impressive. It elongated her climax and tied the twitching thing to him where he could keep her still while his cock pumped her full of spurting streams, bathing her womb with soothing liquid heat.
The taste of blood was thick in her mouth, the red stuff under her fingernails, all ignored as her mind flew away in the intensity of her orgasm. Time seemed irrelevant, an endless field of grey... until a face distorted her vision. The beast whose heartbeat hammered against her red stained breasts asserted himself. Iron shaded eyes full of history and greatness, the silver of deceit and lust... those gunmetal disks looked at her with the devil’s version of tenderness.
Full lips panted words, a rich musical voice undistorted by the rasp his scarred lips imposed, distracting her between kisses over her cheeks. “Little one, that was very pleasing. I am very, very pleased.”
His mouth brushed her blood smeared lips, Shepherd looked deeply into hers, as if waiting for some act the female was supposed to offer. Claire lay there with his blood pooling on her chest and vague realization began to dawn. In horror, she grasped the consequences of her self-indulgent lack of control.
The depth of the bite... the placement...
In her fervor she had ripped claiming marks deeply into Shepherd’s flesh, almost as savagely as he’d marked her.
The purring brute’s forefinger traced over the blood on her lips, the trail that had leaked from the corner of her mouth, sniffing and panting and still deeply knotted. The warm heat of his tongue began to lick her clean of the red, bathing her mouth and neck, tending to a thing half in shock. The second his knot began to abate the smooth plunge of his cock began again, Shepherd knowing to fuck her immediately before her pupils contracted and his unexpected victory became her sorrow.
Making love to her until the Omega’s exhaustion pulled her past consciousness, Shepherd did not allow her a moment of regret—not when everything was so perfect. Not when she was finally responding as the Gods intended.