Shade collapsed, slid bonelessly to the floor, taking Runa with him so they were on their sides, spooning.
Hell’s freakin’ rings. Was that the kind of mind-blowing sex that happened between mates? If so, he now understood why E got that stars-in-his-eyes look whenever he talked about Tayla.
The conversation with his brothers regarding Runa’s fate came roaring back, along with scenarios that put a damper on the postorgasmic bliss. He could picture Tayla attacking Runa with silver-tipped weapons, beating her into a pulp before delivering the death blow.
Then there was Wraith, who could be brutally efficient or play with his prey like a cat with a mouse. He might take Runa down quickly, but would he feed on her? The image of his brother at Runa’s throat, getting turned on and draining her of the last of her life as she lay limp in his arms, made Shade tense up and pull Runa closer. No f**king way was Wraith going to touch her.
Eidolon could do it with compassion, could inject a killing sedative while pretending to be taking blood or something … but no, if Runa had to die, Shade would drum up the courage to do it himself. She deserved that, at least.
She stirred, and he ran his hand up and down her arm. Her smooth skin, still curiously devoid of his dermoire, prickled with gooseflesh beneath his palm. Why hadn’t the mate-markings appeared? Was it possible that he was bonded to her … but that she wasn’t bonded to him? If so, he was looking at an eyeful of disaster. He required sex like humans required water. To live. Sex for a bonded male could come only from his mate. If the bond wasn’t reciprocated, she could take off, have sex with whomever she wanted. If he couldn’t get to her, he’d die.
He’d have to attempt her part of the bonding ritual again. He couldn’t afford for her to be a free agent while he was tied to her.
He nuzzled her hair, inhaled her natural, earthy fragrance. “Come on. Let’s clean up.”
She didn’t answer or move, so he unlocked the morphestus manacles with a command and carried her into the shower. Gently, he set her down. She smiled at him in a slightly dazed way, swaying on legs so shaky he worried she’d drop. Without thinking, he folded her into his arms and held her upright. When the spray from the double heads jutting from opposite rock walls hit her, she moaned, threw back her head, and damn she was beautiful.
Keeping one arm around her, he poured a stream of liquid soap over her shoulders, covered her in the pearly syrup until it dripped down her arched back and between her breasts. Carefully, tenderly, he washed her, all the while thinking what a moron he was for letting himself enjoy this.
She made an erotic sound, something between a gasp and a moan, and he pulled her closer, used his body as a buffer against her orgasmic spasms. Her noises, the feel of her slick, wet skin against his … it was enough to get him hard again. Not that it ever took much, but after the sex they’d just had, he should be sated for hours.
Hell’s gates, he was in trouble.
He should never have brought her into the shower, should have cleaned himself up after the sex and left her to fend for herself. And she could. Of that he had no doubt.
Appreciation for her strength swelled in him, made him smile as he combed his hand through her hair. This new Runa threatened his world as no female ever had. Even if he couldn’t sense her physical and emotional needs and moods, he’d find himself attracted to her. Sure, she was gorgeous, more so now that she had an edge about her, but it was more than that. Beneath the stronger, more aggressive personality she’d developed over the last year was the soft femininity and nurturing disposition he’d been raised to appreciate. He’d always told himself that he’d taken care of his sisters and mother, but truly, it had been the other way around.
Gods, why couldn’t Roag have bonded him to anyone else? No other female tugged at his heart like Runa. No other female drew out his protective instincts the way she did.
No other female stood a chance of making him fall in love.
She was still only half-responsive as he rinsed and dried her, but as he tucked her into bed, she managed a yawn and a mumbled, “Food?”
“Yeah, I brought food. It’s cold now, but I’ve never met a cold burger I didn’t like.” He fetched the bag he’d tossed to the floor earlier. She sat up, her gaze both groggy and dreamy as she dug into the fries and quarter-pounders.
“Thank you,” she said between bites. “I’m starving.”
“I can see that.” He smiled when she stopped shoveling food into her mouth to glare at him, but it was a mock glare, because she chomped down on a fry and gave him a playful grin. Overtaken by a sudden urge to caress her pouty bottom lip with his thumb, he reached for her. With a curse, he checked himself at the last second and thrust a napkin at her to cover his actions. “You have ketchup on your mouth,” he lied. “And ah, sorry about last night. I kinda got tied up at the hospital.” He stretched out on top of the covers next to her. “That was a pun.”
She froze midchew. Swallowed. “Tied up? Seriously?”
She looked so cute that this time when the urge to touch her made him itch, he gave in to it, trailing a finger along her exposed hip. “Funny thing. Seems that when you bit me in Roag’s dungeon, you transmitted your lycanthropy to me. So last night when I stepped out of the Harrowgate into the hospital, I grew fur and fangs, and then tried to eat half the staff.”
“But …” The color drained from Runa’s face. “You said you’re immune to it.”
“Under normal circumstances, yeah. Eidolon thinks whatever allows you to shift at will affected your disease, and therefore—”
“Your resistance to it.” She closed her eyes and fell back against the studded-leather headboard. “I’m sorry, Shade. I’m so sorry.”
Emotion clogged his throat, a knotted mix of pleasure that she cared enough to be sorry, guilt that he’d gotten her turned into a werewolf, and anger that he’d let himself feel anything for her at all.
“Don’t be,” he said roughly. “If you hadn’t bitten me, I could have died from the pain I was in.”
“Don’t,” he barked. “Eat your food and get some rest. We’re heading to the hospital in a couple of hours.”
“Okay, Mr. Grumpy. Will we be coming back here?”
“We’ll have to.” He measured her response as he leaned in, some sick perversion wanting to get a rise out of her as he said, “We need to chain ourselves up.”
And wouldn’t that be interesting. They’d either tear each other apart or screw each other to death.
“Together?” The French fry in her hand began to tremble. “So we can touch?”
Touch, taste … Shade’s body hardened as his mind filled with images of what it would be like to spend a night with both of them in beast form and nothing but pure animal instinct to guide them. Even now, his instinct was to put her flat on her back and drill her into the mattress.
“I felt your desire from New York,” he gritted out. “I promise we won’t spend another night apart as long as we both live. Last night I was heavily sedated, but tonight I won’t be, and nothing will keep me from you.” He rolled over so he wouldn’t have to look at her and be tempted to take her again. “Finish eating and get some sleep. You’ll need your strength.”
Gem had just showered, stepped into a fresh pair of scrub pants, and fastened her bra when the unisex locker room door opened.
“Ah, sorry …”
“Kynan.” She’d been trying to get him alone all day, but the man was a master of evasion, so she wasn’t going to waste this opportunity. “Hey. Look, we need to talk about the other day …”
He held up his hands and made a point of not looking at her boobs. He looked everywhere but there. “It’s fine. We’re cool.”
He turned away, but she grabbed his wrist. “No. Wait. Please.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.” His already low voice dropped even lower, scraping gravel. “Let go. I don’t like to be touched.”
“I don’t believe you,” she said softly. “Tay told me how you and Lori couldn’t keep your hands off each other.”
Kynan went taut, but the pulse in his wrist bounded against her fingers. “Don’t go there.”
“I can see your scars, Ky. It’s what I am. I can exploit them, reopen them, make them worse.” She bit her lip, wondering if she’d just done more damage. “Or I can help you heal them.”
“There’s nothing here to heal, doctor.”
“What happened to the Kynan I used to know? The one who laughed, the one who was gentle and caring and laid-back?”
He laughed then, but it was a bitter, cold sound. “He’s dead, Gem. He died right alongside Lori.”
His wife, whom he’d discovered in the arms of two different males in one night—one a trusted Guardian, and the other a demon with no moral compass.
Wraith. Who denied sleeping with Lori, but who had fed from her right in front of Kynan and who might have done far more had Eidolon not interrupted.
“He’s not dead. He’s just hiding—”
Suddenly, she found herself pinned against the lockers, one of the handles biting into her spine and Kynan’s big hands on her shoulders. “He’s gone,” he growled. “Does this feel like someone who is gentle and caring?” He shoved a little harder for emphasis and then released her. “You’re wasting your time with me, Gem. Find someone else to nurse back to health.”
He stalked away, leaving her, heart pounding and chest heaving, in the middle of the locker room.
The bed was comfortable, more so than Runa would have expected in a cave full of BDSM equipment. But Shade surprised her at every turn, and she wondered if she would ever truly know him. Then again, it appeared that they had a lifetime to get to know each other—not only as lovers, but as werewolves.
God, she hadn’t seen that coming.
She remembered how pissed she’d been when she learned about her own infection, how she’d been terrified, lost, and alone, even though Arik had been there to help her through it. She hadn’t understood the physical and behavioral changes that had taken place almost immediately. She’d been afraid for her future, for the innocent people she might hurt, and she’d been angry at how her life had been yanked out from under her so she no longer had any control over anything.
Shade had an advantage over her in that he’d been born in this strange world, was already familiar with werewolves. But, she thought, as she absently trailed a finger around a leather cuff dangling from the bedpost, this was a male used to being in control, both in and out of the bedroom. Having to give that up three nights a month couldn’t be sitting well with him.
Yawning, she glanced at the bedside clock. She and Shade and had been sleeping for six hours. Careful to not wake him, she rolled over. He was facing her, his expression one of peace. The strange ring around his neck flexed as he breathed, the design’s dark color the same as that of the dermoire running the length of his right arm.
She brushed his glossy hair away from his neck, where his personal symbol, the unseeing eye, seemed to, well, see her. With each breath, each swallow, it undulated, followed her no matter which way she moved.
Unsettled, she trailed her finger down his arm, followed the hills and valleys of his ropey muscles until she reached his hand. The dermoire went all the way to his long fingers, the ones that had stroked her, penetrated her, brought her to decadent orgasms more times than she could count.
Heat began to simmer in her veins at the thought. Geez, she was a hormonal mess. The werewolf thing had ramped up her libido, and the full moon made it worse … but being near Shade was like throwing gas on a fire.
A few minutes under cool water sounded good right about now.
She rolled to the side of the bed, kicked her feet over the edge—and in an instant found herself tugged back onto the mattress and tucked beneath Shade.
“Not so fast.” His voice was sleepy and wonderfully rough, and his half-opened, slumberous eyes burned gold. His erection lay heavily in the juncture of her sex.
“I was just going to take a shower. Would you like to join me?”
“After.” He nuzzled her throat, nipped the sensitive skin there. “After I’m finished with you.”
“Did you feel my, ah, arousal?”
His fingers delved between her legs to test her slick need. “Yep, I can feel it.”
“You know what I mean.”
He laved the area he’d bitten with his tongue. “It woke me up. Why?”
“Because,” she moaned, tilting her head to the side to give him better access, “earlier you said you felt my desire from New York. I was just wondering if you will always feel it.”
He lifted his head to look at her. No longer sleepy, his eyes burned with intensity. “We’re bonded. I’m aware of everything you feel.” He arched and slid inside her. “When you want sex, I’m compelled to give it to you.”
“Even if we’re in different states? Different countries?”
“Yes, but that won’t happen again.” He pinned her wrists above her head and began a slow, steady rhythm. “No mate of mine—” He broke off with a curse.
“You don’t like that word, do you?” Just once, she wanted to be able to run her hands over his shoulders as they bunched with each of his powerful strokes, to dig her fingers into his back as she came, but his grip on her wrists tightened.