When Worlds Collide Ch. 01

byJazCullen©

"Pleased to meet you, Rafe," she said quietly and he knew in that instant he was lost forever. She was his. His mate. His love. He wanted to howled his joy to the moon as he tumbled so completely and irrevocably in love with her.

"The pleasure is all mine, Lacey," he heard himself answering slightly breathlessly as he reached for her hand and placed at light kiss on her knuckles. God, her skin was so soft and tasted so delicious. He had to fight hard to stop himself from licking the back of her hand.

"Erm, can I have my hand back?" Lacey asked with a touch of concern in her tone. The man towering over her was looking at her as if he was ready to throw her down on the floor and ravish her in front of everyone. She felt a shiver run down her spine and a jolt of electricity spark deep inside her at his touch and she automatically panicked.

Richard's touch had once done this to her and she had surrendered to him. It had been the biggest mistake of her life. Now there was another man calling to her very soul and she wanted to run screaming from the club. Richard had almost destroyed her. Hell, he'd almost killed her. She couldn't allow another man to have that kind of power over her again. She shivered again but this time it was in fear. This man Rafe scared the living daylights out of her.

Rafe scented her fear and frowned. He dropped her hand and took a step back to give her a little room. Had he done something to make her fear him? He was pretty sure he hadn't. He glanced at his friend and saw an equally confused look on Aaron's face. He, too, must have scented Lacey's sudden fear.

"My apologies, Lacey," Rafe said with a gentle smile. "I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable."

She seemed to give herself a mental shake and managed a slight smile. "It's nothing personal, Rafe," she answered softly. "As I was telling Aaron a little earlier, I've just come out of a bad relationship. You kind of remind me a little of my ex."

Rafe's frowned deepened into a fully fledged scowl and his chest rumbled with a deep rage. Someone had hurt her? Some man had laid his hands on this beautiful, fragile woman and hurt her?

"Sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything," Lacey said hastily when the man before her suddenly tensed and gave an honest to God growl. He looked pretty frightening as he loomed over her and she could feel her breath start to come out in little pants as her fear escalated. She didn't know him so she didn't know how to try and talk him down.

"Rafe," Aaron said quietly, laying a hand on the big man's arm as he saw the increasingly wild look in Lacey's eyes. His touch seemed to shake his friend out of his sudden fury and he slowly relaxed.

"My apologies once more, Lacey," Rafe said quietly, his expression smoothing out. "My ill humour wasn't directed at you. I was angry at the thought that someone had hurt you."

Lacey stared up at him and blinked slowly as she tried to relax. For some reason she believed him. Maybe it was just because she wanted to. Maybe if she believed hard enough then he wouldn't hurt her like Richard had. She suddenly wanted to go home. Coming out had been such a bad idea. Tonight was clearly showing her that she wasn't ready to be back out among people. Her need to run and hide was so strong it was all she could do not to run out the club.

Feeling her flight instincts kick in, she suddenly turned her head and looked around the club. Was Richard here? She could sometimes tell when he was near. "I have to go," she said hopping down from the stool.

Rafe instinctively went to stop her, his hands reaching to block her path.She cried out and flinched away from him, her eyes widening in her face as her fear scent grew stronger. "Lacey, I'm not going to hurt you," he said softly.

She swallowed hard and searched his face intently before she slowly forced herself to relax. "I really have to go," she said a bit more forcefully.

Rafe was torn in two. One part of him wanted to keep her close and find out just who had hurt her so he could go and repay him in kind, while the other part could see how rattled she was by his presence. Something was scaring her badly and he wanted to protect her from whatever it was but the longer she stayed in his company the more agitated she became. His wolf demanded he protect her at all cost. Rafe forced his wolf down.

He sighed and dug a business card out of his back pocket and asked the bartender for a pen. He hastily scribbled his private cell number on the back of the card and held it out to her. "If you need someone to talk to, please call me," he said quietly. "My private number is on the back. I don't know who you're frightened of Lacey. I'd like to know so I can help you but I understand you don't know me and probably have trust issues right now. If he comes anywhere near you again, call me."

Lacey stared into his face for a long moment and then hesitantly took his card. He seemed genuine enough but then Richard had too at the start of their relationship. "Thanks," she managed to get out despite the dryness of her mouth. The taste of fear always made her mouth go dry. Sometimes she was unable to speak she became so frightened. She turned to leave.

"Lacey," Rafe called and she turned back to him. "What's your last name?"

She stared at him a moment and considered lying or just not answering. "Hollister," she finally answered and hurried away before he could stop her again.

"Follow her, Aaron," Rafe said quietly. "Make sure she gets home okay."

His friend stared at him in stunned silence for a moment and then shook his head. "You're going to trust me with your mate's safety?" he asked incredulously. There was no question in his mind that Lacey Hollister was Rafe's mate. It was written all over the big man's face.

Deep brown eyes met light blue ones. "I frighten her, Aaron," Rafe replied sadly. "She's more relaxed around you. Plus I know you won't do anything that would make me regret placing my trust in you. For now I need to keep my distance from Lacey until she feels less threatened by me. You're the only one I can trust to take care of her until she lets me in."

Aaron nodded and slid gracefully from his bar stool. "I'll keep her safe for you, Rafe," he promised and then turned and hurried after Lacey before she got too far ahead.

___

"Boss, I think we've got something."

Richard Graves' head shot up and he looked up from his desk to see one of his tech guys hovering at the door to his office. "Tell me," he barked his blue eyes cold and hard as he stared at the man.

Clive Hobbs shifted under the cold blue stare and was thankful he had good news to report for once. His boss didn't like failure and was quick to punish anyone who let him down. He swallowed nervously. "Someone just did an online search on Lacey Hollister. We couldn't get an exact location of the IP address but it's close, somewhere within a twenty mile radius."

Graves sat back with a thoughtful look on his face. "So, she did go running to her friend after all," he said thoughtfully. He'd had the cunt lawyer Jennifer's house staked out for weeks but there was no sign of Lacey there. He had only pulled the surveillance three days ago and the moment he did Lacey had surfaced enough to get someone curious about who she was.

"Get a detail back at the lawyer's house," he ordered. "She must have lain low there and only just ventured out thinking it was safe now. I don't want any action taken, just surveillance. Let me know as soon as there is a positive sighting of her."

He ignored Clive as he disappeared out the doorway. His cold stare dropped to the framed picture on his desk. Lacey was smiling up at him, her arms wrapped around his waist as he draped an arm over her shoulders. The photograph had been taken at the start of their relationship. They looked the perfect couple, him with his short dark hair and blue eyes, her with her long blonde hair and green eyes.

He had been so proud to have her by his side. His beautiful woman. Then she had turned into the bitch from hell. It was little things at first. She would balk when he asked her to wear a certain dress when they were going out to a function, she would contradict his choice of wine at a meal, she would refuse to eat the food ordered. It seemed the more he tried to educate her on the finer things in life, the more she argued with him, resisting his help.

Of course, he couldn't allow her defiance. He knew what was best for her and was only trying to help her. He remembered their first truly serious argument. Lacey had refused to get changed to go out. Angry words were exchanged and she'd called him a controlling prick. He had punished her for her disrespect. He hadn't liked doing so but she had to know her behaviour was unacceptable.

Naturally he had made sure any marks were not visible, only striking her on her body. He'd had to spend a bit of time on her punishment until she was truly sorry for her defiance but he had been patient in teaching her the error of her ways. Afterwards he had wiped away her tears and made love to her, letting her know he forgave her wilfulness. Tenderly he cleaned her up and helped her into the dress he had laid out for her.

It had been the start to her disobedience, a disobedience which had grown almost daily after her cunt lawyer friend had moved back to the city. She had challenged him many times after that and he had carefully and lovingly shown her that he was not a man to be trifled with. She belonged to him and she would behave in the manner he wanted her to. No one challenged Richard Graves. Especially not his woman.

He smiled slowly as he closed his eyes briefly and replayed the memories of his hands on her soft skin. He hardened instantly, reliving every shrill scream, every moan of pain, every breathless plea for mercy.

He opened his eyes and stared at the photograph for a long time, finally picking it up and running a finger down Lacey's face. "Soon we'll be back together, Lacey," he whispered softly. "Once I get rid of Jennifer everything will be just the way it was and you can come home to me." He kissed the glass tenderly and settled the picture frame back down on the desk with a wide smile on his face. ___

Lacey was sure she was being followed. The hairs were standing up on the back of her neck and she felt her sixth sense kicking into overload. She kept twisting her head around sharply but whenever she did the street behind her was empty. She was almost home. Two more streets and she could lock herself safely in Jen's apartment. She hoped her friend was home from work, Sshe always felt so much stronger when Jen was around. She hated feeling this weak, but despite everything Richard had done to her she was determined she would come out of it a stronger person. The only way to do that was to confront whoever was following her head on.

She twisted her head again and thought she saw the figure of a man duck behind a wall. Her heart thudded painfully in her chest and she felt her fear kick up a notch. "Who's there?" she demanded loudly, her voice shaking. "I know you're following me. I'll call the police!" She grabbed her cell phone from her bag and waved it in the air. Just as well whoever was following her didn't know her battery had died.

Aaron sighed loudly and stepped out from behind the wall. She was damned difficult to follow, almost catching him out numerous times which was kind of disconcerting considering he was usually so fast. Lacey seemed to have some kind of built-in radar or something. "It's only me, Lacey," he said soothingly. "Rafe wanted me to make sure you got home okay."

"Aaron?" she asked tentatively and then relaxed slightly as he stepped under a streetlight and she could see him more clearly. "You scared the shit out of me, you moron!"

He smiled ruefully. "Not my intention," he answered. "I didn't want you to think I was some weirdo following you around but ended up managing to do so anyway. You're pretty good by the way. No one's ever managed to spot me track them before." He grimaced the moment he said it and wasn't surprised to see her eyes narrow sharply.

"Do you make it a habit of 'tracking' women?" she asked suspiciously.

He laughed softly as he reached her side. "I don't normally have to track women," he grinned cheekily. "They usually follow me. Me and my friends tend to do a lot of hiking and stuff in the woods. We track each other in a competitive way. Only Rafe has ever beat me so the fact you caught me out so easily is kind of embarrassing. You won't mention it to Rafe the next time you see him?" He lied smoothly and knew he sounded genuine. The best lies always contained a little truth in them. She didn't need to know they competed in wolf form to hone their skills.

Those amazing green eyes seemed to look deep inside him as she tried to decide whether he was a friend or foe. She finally fully relaxed.

"I only stay two streets away," she said quietly. "You can walk me the rest of the way." She didn't know why she instinctively trusted the tall blond man but she did. Maybe it was because she just didn't want to walk the rest of the way on her own. She was really spooked tonight. She should have taken a taxi home instead of walking in the first place even though the club wasn't that far from Jen's place. It was almost suicidal for her to be alone on the streets. She should have had more sense.

They started walking again and she glanced curiously at Aaron. They were almost of an equal height with her in her three inch heels. She was used to being taller than most men. "So, do you always do what Rafe tells you to do?" she asked curiously.

Aaron seemed to consider it for a moment and then shot her a wide grin. "Pretty much so," he admitted. It was hard not to follow Rafe's orders. Despite being new to the pack and the most recent beta to be promoted, Rafe's latent Alpha tendencies seemed to elevate him above the other betas. That and his even newer status of being the Alpha's adopted brother. There had been no conscious shifting of power within the beta hierarchy it had just sort of happened and no one had contested it.

She was silent for a moment and then cocked her head to the side as she looked at him. "You seem sure I'm going to see Rafe again even though I haven't made up my mind if I'll go back to the club."

Aaron grinned. "He really likes you," he answered rather carefully, not wanting to scare her off with anything he said. "He might look like a moody bastard but he really is a great guy. I'm sure you'll like him too once you get to know him."

They were almost at Jen's flat so Lacey stopped and turned to look at Aaron with sharp eyes. Rafe made her uncomfortable for all the reasons she'd already examined in her frightened mind. "What are you, his pimp or something?" she asked slightly waspishly, her fear making her sound harsher than she meant to be.

Aaron threw back his head and laughed loudly. "Why do you want to know, Lacey? Are you looking to change yours?" he countered cheekily running his eyes up and down her body with a wicked glint in them.

She blinked at him for a moment and then she started to laugh. She couldn't remember the last time she'd laughed and meant it. She did know it was a very long time ago. "I think I like you, Aaron," she finally said once she got her laughter under control.

"Good," he smiled happily. "You should laugh more often, Lacey. It really suits you."

She sobered instantly and her expression turned guarded. "I haven't had a whole lot to laugh about recently," she admitted.

Aaron's eyes narrowed as he looked at her thoughtfully. Someone had hurt this beautiful woman pretty badly and he felt angry on her behalf. It wasn't his place to ask her about it but he couldn't help himself. "Who hurt you, Lacey? Give me a name and Rafe and I will go find him and teach him the error of his ways."

Aaron's innocent use of the phrase Richard always used when he was beating her brought a stab of fear deep inside Lacey and she automatically stepped back from the sudden tenseness and violence she felt coming from Aaron. It was instinctive and she saw the tall blond man's eyes narrow further as he noticed it.

Aaron forced himself to relax and smooth out his features into a more congenial expression. "You don't have to tell me," he said softly. "It would probably be better if you did so we knew what we were up against but I don't want you to feel uncomfortable. You don't have to go through this alone, Lacey. Rafe and I will protect you from whoever hurt you. All you have to do is let us."

She wanted to, she really did. Something in Aaron's eyes told her she could trust him and his friend but she was frightened. Richard Graves was psychotic. He was an incredibly rich psychopath who could make people disappear at the drop of a hat. She didn't think she could bear it if something happened to Aaron and Rafe because of her. She might only just have met them but she was already starting to like Aaron immensely and he seemed convinced that Rafe was a decent man too.

"Don't get involved, Aaron," she said quietly. "You'll only end up getting hurt and I don't want that on my conscience. I live just here so I'm going to head inside now. Thank you for walking me home."

He looked like he was going to protest for a moment and then his head turned slightly and he stiffened perceptively. "Lacey, is there anyway whoever you're running from could know you would be staying here?" he asked quietly.

She reacted to his sudden stillness, stiffening herself. "He might have sent someone to check out Jen's apartment but it's been months now," she whispered feeling more spooked now than she had earlier on. Her flight instincts were kicking in again and she had to work to keep her gaze on Aaron's and not to start looking around.

Aaron could sense eyes on them. He had sighted a large black SUV with blackened windows a few car lengths down the street and it was making his hackles rise sharply. He smiled reassuringly at Lacey, keeping her gaze locked to her. "Lacey, I want you to smile as if we're having a perfectly pleasant conversation and then I want you to go inside," he instructed quickly. "When you get inside I want you to call Rafe's private cell and give him your address. Tell him I said to bring some backup. He'll know what to do."

"What are you going to do?" she asked, her voice shaking with fear.

He grinned cockily at her. "I'm going to go have a little chat with some people not too far away. There's no need to be frightened, Lacey. I'm more than capable of taking care of myself until Rafe gets here. "

"Aaron, don't," she whispered pleadingly. "Come inside with me and wait until Rafe gets here. Don't stay out here alone."

He smiled gently and brushed a strand of hair back from her face. "Don't worry about me," he smiled. "Now go inside and do what I told you and I'll be just fine. Trust me, Lacey."

She nodded almost numbly as the fear inside reached fever pitch. She could see he wasn't going to be dissuaded by anything she said. She turned and hurried into the apartment.

Once inside she grabbed her cell and hunted for the card Rafe had handed her. It took three attempts before she could dial the number successfully, she was starting to shake so badly.

"Hanlon," a voice barked over the phone.

"Rafe?" she asked shakily.

"Lacey," he growled sounding really alert. "What's wrong? Is Aaron still with you?"

"You have to come quickly," she stammered. "He said to call you and tell you to bring backup. He said you'd know what he meant."

"Give me your address," he answered writing it down as she told him. "Has Aaron gone to investigate whatever set him off?"

"I told him not to," Lacey moaned. "I told him to wait for you but he wouldn't listen to me, Rafe. He just told me to go inside and call you."

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byJazCullen© 73 comments/ 203616 views/ 189 favorites

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