Mine. No matter how many times the word went through her mind, Brianna had trouble believing it. Carlos was gorgeous, strong, compassionate—everything she’d ever wanted, and everything she wasn’t. He couldn’t be her mate.
She sat on the couch in Mikey and Trey’s apartment, staring at the TV she had turned on for company. With the only other person in the apartment sound asleep, the place was too quiet. Talking to Carlos about her past had felt good in a way. Like lancing a boil and letting out all the pus. The comparison disgusted her, but it was accurate. Once she’d punctured the surface of everything she kept inside, it had all poured out no matter how hard she’d tried to stop it.
Admittedly, she hadn’t tried very hard. Carlos had listened and had kept his promise not to judge. Suzannah and Tobias had been the same way when she’d talked to them, but she hadn’t dared to tell them everything. They knew about most of the abuse. They didn’t know about the men she’d chosen to be with.
She hadn’t wanted Carlos to know either. Women who enjoyed sex were sometimes looked at as sluts or worse. And if a woman had been raped and enjoyed sex afterward…She had heard the opinions of some of the Sunset Pack members. Not to mention the men who had used her between the time she’d left home and her change. They thought she was twisted at the least. Damaged. Warped.
She agreed with them. She had learned from an early age that women and girls weren’t supposed to like or want sex, and even though she knew better, she couldn’t help judging herself.
She had learned to compartmentalize. To put things into neat categories so she could try to move on and live her life after everything that had happened. In her mind, what her father and some of the other men had done to her hadn’t been sex. It had been rape, abuse. Of course she didn’t enjoy it. But with some of the men she’d chosen to be with, it had been sex, and she had liked it. She understood the difference. Others didn’t, and some assumed her enjoyment of consensual sex meant she’d enjoyed all of it.
People were idiots sometimes.
Carlos had seemed to understand, and he hadn’t minded any of the things she’d told him. The kiss they’d shared at her front door said more clearly than any words that he cared about her. Possibly he even loved her already, though she didn’t believe love happened so quickly. Nothing she’d told him had turned him away from her, just as he’d promised.
Their kiss had strengthened the connection between them, too, which worried her. Having a bond with him felt right, but it also felt wrong. As if she had betrayed someone.
The moment the thought crossed her mind, she knew. And she wanted to scream.
The rogue. She knew his name, of course. She just didn’t want to think it. He had said he was making her his. The bond she’d had with the Sunset Pack Alpha had been severed the first time the stranger had fucked her. He had formed his own bond with her somehow, by force, and it wouldn’t budge to allow the bonds she should have with Carlos and Tobias.
“I’m not yours.” She spoke softly so she wouldn’t wake Mikey, but she needed to hear the words aloud. “I am part of the Boston North Pack. I am the mate of Carlos Garza. And I belong to myself.”