"We don't know that for sure," he said, kissing the top of her head. "It could've been a really vivid night terror brought on by what we went through earlier."
"Don't you dare patronize me," she warned.
"I'd never do that. I'm trying to look on the bright side, that's all. Tell me about the dream from start to finish, if you're feeling up to it."
Relaxing some, she nodded. Taking a deep breath, she recounted the brief, scary encounter with the man she never saw. When she finished, Kalen was holding her tightly, his heart pounding fast in her ear. Despite his outward calm, his rapid pulse, the increased pace of his breathing, evidenced his fear. Her question was quiet.
"You think this is something to be worried about, don't you?"
"I think it's possible."
"What are we going to do?"
"Right now? Wait here until we can reach the Pack on the phone, or they find us. Then we tell Nick every detail about tonight, including your nightmare."
They fell silent for a time, Kalen still holding her. Stroking her hair. Placing kisses on top of her head. "This is nice," he murmured.
"Yes, it is."
He paused, and she sensed he had more to say.
"This is good, isn't it? Me, holding you?"
He sounded so uncertain, and yet hopeful, her heart swelled. "It definitely is," she said, hugging him. "Why wouldn't it be?"
"This is new to me. Holding someone, being held." His voice held a note of wonder.
"Then you've missed out on a lot."
"I'm beginning to see that," he said softly.
A subtle shift was happening between them. Then, gradually . . . comfort became something more. They didn't have to be alone and afraid. They'd begun to bond tonight over a shared terror, and now that connection solidified as he held her against his heart. Tilted her face up to his.
And placed the sweetest of kisses on her lips. He started slowly, one nibble at a time. Paused in between, giving her the chance to put out the flame that had been kindled between them. But she wanted him every bit as much, wasn't about to say no.
Sitting up, he pulled her into his lap. They were both still dressed in their jeans, but situated like this, she had no trouble discerning the erection pressing against her bottom. She wiggled against the hardness, wanting more.
"You're trying to kill me."
"Far from it." Sitting up, she pulled his shirt over her head, baring herself to his gaze. From the sliver of light filtering through the part in the curtains, she could see his green eyes glittering with desire. With need. But also with uncertainty.
"I've never done this before."
"Had sex?" She found that difficult to believe.
"Made love," he whispered. "With someone I care about."
Sweet man. "It's fantastic. Like nothing else you'll ever feel."
"Tell me what you want." Reaching out, he caressed her cheek. "I have to hear it."
"Make love to me. Give me everything."
Capturing her lips again, he lowered her to the bed. Kissed her thoroughly for several long moments. He had the best mouth and he knew how to use it-as he proved by nibbling his way down her throat, teeth scraping. Long ones.
"Are you using your panther teeth?"
She gasped as one canine grazed a tender nipple. I'll take that as a yes.
His mouth latched onto the nub, suckling, and she moaned, burying her fingers in his long hair as she'd itched to do for weeks. The black mass was as silky as it looked, thick and just right to get a good grip. She enjoyed the feel of it as much as she loved him lavishing attention on her nipples.
He moved south, kissing her belly. When he moved lower, she had to relinquish her hold on his mane, and whimpered in protest.
"You don't want this?" he teased, setting between her thighs. "You said to give you everything."
"And I meant it. I just love my hands in your hair."
He looked pleased. "Well, you can have it back in a few minutes. Promise."
Unzipping her jeans, he worked them down and off, along with her panties. Pushing her knees apart, he lowered his head. Flicked out his tongue and lapped at her clit. With a sigh of pleasure, she spread for him as wide as possible. It had been much too long, and she wanted Kalen to have her. Like this, or any way he desired.
His mouth was every bit as talented in this area, too. He licked her folds, delved his tongue in between to fuck her channel slowly. Driving her mad. Then he'd withdraw and suckle the little clit, taking her to the edge. And withdraw again. Lick and suckle. Over and over until she was mindless, writhing.
"What do you want, honey?"
"Fuck me," she begged. "I need you."
He didn't require further encouragement, and shed his jeans quickly. Crawling over her, he settled between her legs, placed the head of his cock to her opening. Pushed inside.
There, in the darkness, they came together.
Rocking his hips, he began to move inside her. Deep, to the hilt, and out again. Slow and easy, stoking the fire once again, searing her to the depths of her soul. She buried her fingers in his hair again, watched his face as he made love to her. The pupils of his eyes had gone elliptical and smoldered with passion. The muscles of his shoulders bunched and his fangs protruded as he panted with each thrust, the disc of his pendant hanging from his neck, resting between her breasts.
"Harder," she urged. "Faster."
Increasing the tempo, he did as she asked, moaning. Driving them higher. She knew he was close when he gathered her to his chest, hips pumping furiously. She clung to his back, her own release building until-
She shattered with a cry, pulsing around his length. Her release triggered his and he came with a hoarse shout, sinking himself as deeply as possible. He stayed there, convulsing, holding her close, until at last they were spent. Then a bit longer as they came down from the high, kissing the curve of her neck.
"Thank you," he whispered.
"No, thank you." She hugged him. "You were wonderful."
Carefully he pulled out. Rolling to his back he gathered her to him and she laid her head on his shoulder, content. Suddenly something occurred to her.
"We never cleaned your cut," she said, feeling guilty.
"I did, after you went to sleep. It's nothing, just a scratch."
She thought it was more, especially in light of her nightmare, but didn't want to spoil the moment by bringing it up again. "If you insist."
"Fine. You're just as bad as those macho wolves I've worked with for the past few years."
"Are you saying I'm stubborn?"
"I'll take that as a compliment."
"Speaking of wolves . . ." She hesitated. "Would you do something for me?"
"Would you show me your panther?"
"That's right, you've never seen him," he said, as though just realizing it. "You really want to?"
The amazement in his tone puzzled her. Why wouldn't she be interested?
"Of course I do. He's a part of you."
The naked joy in his expression as he smiled was almost her undoing. Had nobody ever said such a thing to this wonderful man?
"Okay," he said, sitting up. "Here goes."
"Wait-you aren't going to eat me, are you?"
"Honey, only my human half would do that," he teased, heated gaze raking her body. "And we already know how much you love it."
Before she could form a retort, his form wavered. Began to reshape. Pale skin became sleek, black fur. His face reformed into a squared muzzle full of sharp teeth, his ears pointed. Black fingernails became claws. A long tail twitched where none had been before, and emerald eyes studied her intently.
Kalen was now a big, gorgeous black panther.
"You're beautiful," she said in awe, stroking his head.
He butted under her hand, his demand clear, and she laughed. She scratched his ears and he started purring loudly, flopping onto his side. Eventually he rolled to his back, presenting her with his belly, which got a good scratching as well.
"Don't think I'm going to spoil you like this all the time," she said with mock sternness. "You'll get lazy."
Without warning, he morphed into a human man once more and lay there studying her, lips forming a smile. But the sadness had returned to his eyes, making his expression appear wistful.
"No one has ever done that before," he said quietly.
"Asked me to change into my panther. Embraced him. Accepted me." He looked away. "Nobody has ever cared. My parents thought I was a freak when I was a kid and they learned I could do magic, but when they found out I'd learned to use my power to shift into a panther? They threw me out on my ass. I was fourteen."
Her heart clenched, aching for the lonely, hurt boy who'd grown into a lonely man. "I care. And you're not a freak."
"You're a special woman, Mackenzie. Most people aren't accepting, don't have a good soul like you."
The nightmare intruded again, the horrible stranger's accusation, and she found herself asking, "What about your soul? I believe it's good and kind."
He fell silent for so long, she thought he didn't want to talk anymore. Then his voice drifted in the darkness.
"I'll tell you a secret." He paused. "I don't like to be touched. Or I didn't before tonight."
She stilled. "Before me?"
"Why didn't you?" Please, dear Lord, don't let it be what I'm thinking.
"I don't have a good soul, honey. I sold myself to survive, to anyone who wanted me," he whispered. "I had no job skills, wasn't legal to work even if I had any, and I had to eat. So I did the only thing I knew how, and I did it well."
So it was what she'd been thinking. No, worse. The self-loathing in his voice scared her more than anything. Because a powerful enemy, like the man in her nightmare, could take that hatred and twist Kalen into his own image. Into a man who would do evil things.
She gripped his hand. "You were just a kid. You were tossed from your home as a minor, a crime in any state. You got caught in the same trap as any number of homeless teens, and didn't know where to turn. Who to trust. Your parents should've been thrown in jail. Give yourself a break."
"Really? Well, this Boy Scout fucked you without a condom," he said harshly. "Still think I'm good?"
Shit. The baldly stated fact hit her hard, scared her a little, but she squared her shoulders. "I'm a doctor and I let you. That doesn't exactly make me a Girl Scout."
"What if I'm not clean?"
"You are. I refuse to believe the man who made such sweet love to me would knowingly endanger my health. Besides, from our studies at the Institute, we've learned that shifters can't pass or catch human diseases, and the males can't impregnate those who aren't their Bondmates."
"You're gorgeous when you're fierce." Reaching out, he toyed with a curly lock of her hair.
"I'm being serious."
"So am I." He sighed, dropping his hand. "Mackenzie, you might know about the physiology of the wolves, but you know nothing about me."
"What do you mean?"
"Honey, I'm not like the others in the Pack," he explained patiently. "I wasn't turned like they were. I'm a Sorcerer first, and I learned to use that power to shift into my panther. I'm totally different from them."
She stared at him in comprehension. "You're right," she breathed. "I should've realized that."READ MORE >>