“Sex. Seducing women.”

Shade drew a finger across the tops of her breasts. “It’s what I am.” Slowly, he slid his tail down her bare butt. “Spread your legs.”

She hesitated for a mere heartbeat before obeying. He slipped his tail between her thighs and feathered the tip over the pad of her sex. She made a sound, the tiny, feminine catch in her breath he loved to hear.

He trailed the fingers of both hands to her nipples, and he used his slightly elongated nails to pluck them gently as he tickled her sex with his tail. What a handy appendage. So maybe this s’genesis thing wasn’t all bad.

For a mated male, at least.

Dipping his head, he swiped his tongue along the seam of her mouth, demanding that she open for him. When she did, he slid inside her mouth, tasting the faint tang of toothpaste, and he wondered when she’d found the time—and energy—to brush her teeth this morning. Eager to taste more, to take more, he thrust his tongue against hers and started an easy, penetrating rhythm that had her clutching his shoulders and rolling her h*ps against him with the same carnal timing.

Before Runa, he’d never enjoyed kissing, had detested the intimacy of the act. But he loved how she put her soul into every kiss. She wasn’t practiced, but what she lacked in experience she made up for in emotion and effort.

One of her hands dropped between them, and her fingers skimmed over the head of his c**k to play in the slick moisture there. Groaning, he threw back his head and let her play, something she hadn’t done since this whole nightmare began. Runa had given him so much last night, and it was time to return the favor.

He dropped his mouth to her ear, nipped the lobe lightly. “You smell like me, Runa. Did you know that every time I come inside you, my essence permeates every part of you? Your blood, your hair, your cells.” She shuddered, but from his words or the fact that he’d worked his tail between her folds and was stroking slowly, he didn’t know. “And your skin, it tastes like me. I want to taste you everywhere.”

It was his turn to shudder as he remembered the other night when he’d captured her arousal with his finger and brought it to his mouth. She’d been decadent, smooth and rich with a bite like Irish cream.

His blood pounded through him in an erotic surge that had him dropping to his knees. He worshipped her flat abdomen, skimmed his tongue from her navel to the boundary marked by her soft, caramel curls. At her breathless gasp, he looked up at her. She watched him with wide eyes, and he realized that this was the first time his mouth had been close to this beautiful, feminine place. Even when they’d been dating he hadn’t taken the time to love her like this.

Idiot. So much time wasted.

“Spread your legs wider,” he commanded and, still watching him, she did.

Keeping his gaze on her, he pierced her slit with his tongue. Instantly, her eyes glazed over and her lips parted. The erotic sight would have brought him to his knees if he hadn’t already been on them. Desperate for more, he palmed her thighs to hold them apart as he spread her feminine lips with his thumbs.

He captured her hot flesh with his mouth, first licking at her and then sucking in long, gentle pulls. Her hands clutched his hair, holding him, but he wasn’t going anywhere. Not when the sweetest nectar on earth and Sheoul was pouring down his throat, lighting him up from the inside out.

“Shade, oh, yes …” She pumped her h*ps and cl**axed hard, her body jerking with such force that he had to hold her in place as he finished her off. When her muscles began to quiver as her orgasm tapered, he pushed to his feet, lightheaded, his body aching for her.

“Do you want me to change back?” he asked as he ran his hands up and down her arms, feeling the strong muscles beneath her silky skin.

“No,” she whispered. “This is part of who you are.”

Hell’s fires. The blast of emotion that came from her rattled his bones and melted his organs. This was dangerous, but he couldn’t stop himself. He needed to be inside her.

She wrapped her legs around his waist, and he entered her gently, his size stretching her as he seated himself to the root deep inside. “I’m hurting you,” he moaned. “I have to change back.”

She grasped his face in both hands and held him with her gaze. “Stay. Please.”

He had no choice. Compelled to do her bidding, he began to thrust, slowly. Her tight heat squeezed him with exquisite pressure, and he managed to go slow and easy for a few thrusts before instinct took over. He pumped into her like a demon possessed, which, he supposed, he was. She called out his name, over and over, and each time he heard his name fall from her perfect lips, he had to bite his cheek to keep from coming.

He gave up when she rocked her head forward and bit deeply into his shoulder. His orgasm shot up his spine with such force he felt it blow through his skull. Runa screamed with her own release, her tight clasp milking him through another orgasm, and another, until he lost count.

They collapsed against the wet stone. His legs were so shaky he could barely hold himself up, and he suddenly realized it was Runa’s strength that kept him from sliding to the ground into a mindless puddle. At some point he’d taken his true form again. Interesting that he hadn’t felt the transformation. Weakly, he checked himself out to make sure all parts were present and accounted for, but as he studied his hands, his heart stopped.

His fingers flickered from solid to transparent and back again. His chest began to cramp as his heart took on a random rhythm dictated by terror.

Damn … oh, damn.

Runa arched, bucked with such force his sex slid out of her wet depths. Though he trembled so hard he nearly slipped on the slick stone beneath his feet, he held her through it, and when she eased, he glanced at his hands one more time, and he knew.

The curse had activated.

Chapter 13

“That was amazing,” Runa murmured against Shade’s shoulder. Drops of water beaded on his skin, and she lapped at them, savoring the cool splash of wetness on her dry tongue. She tasted jungle heat, fresh earth, and powerful male.

He moaned, still leaning on her and pinning her against the wet stone. He held her tight, closer, it seemed, than he ever had. He’d been gentle, caring, his big body shuddering against her. He’d broken her heart a year ago, but she could feel it beginning to heal.

Naturally, Shade couldn’t allow the warm fuzzies to last. He pushed away from her, and without looking her in the eyes, he strode into the cave. And was it her imagination, or did he seem to be transparent in places? She’d seen him turn practically invisible in a shadow … but this seemed different. A side effect of his shift into another species of demon?

She stepped into the waterfall to rinse—how cool was it that he had a natural shower built into his dwelling? — and when she finished, she found him in the kitchen, his hair still wet but dressed in his usual black leather garb.

Including gloves.

His hands shook a little, and tension surrounded him like a blanket. Was he uncomfortable with the closeness they’d shared? Something was up, and he still wouldn’t meet her gaze.

“Are we going somewhere?”

Ignoring her question, he tossed her a bath towel and slid a plate across his dining room table. “Eat.”

Wrapping the towel tight around her, she stared at the ham and cheese sandwich, and though she was starving, the sudden awkwardness between them unsettled her stomach. “I’m not hungry.”

His gaze finally caught hers, and her breath hitched at the sight of the dark shadows in his eyes. “Yes, you are. I can sense it.”

Damn him and his senses. He bit into his own sandwich as though ravenous.

“How come I can’t sense your hunger?” she asked.

“Dunno. Eat.”

Sighing, she sat across from him and watched him chew, watched his throat ripple as he swallowed. That mouth had been on her, and she flushed at the image that was burned into her brain; him, between her legs, his jaw muscles rolling as he’d feasted on her.

“What are you staring at?” he asked. “Do I have something in my teeth, or what?”

She laughed. “No, of course not. I like looking at you. I can’t help it. Is that a crime in demonland?”

“I guess not.”

A cool draft blew through the cave, sending a chill across her wet scalp. She dragged a hand through her tangled hair. She must look like a drowned rat. “Listen, I know this isn’t the ideal situation for either of us, but if you’re right, and this bond is permanent—”

“It is.”

“Okay, then, it seems to me that we need to work some things out.”

He broke a Fresca off the six-pack he’d set on the table and pushed it toward her. “Like what?”

“Like the fact that I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life in this cave. The moon cycle is done. Can we go someplace else now?”

“No.”

“So you expect me to remain your prisoner for the rest of my life?”

Shade gripped his sandwich so hard mayo dripped from between the slices of bread. “Did you forget about Roag? You killed his female. He’ll want revenge.”

“How do you know? You said he’s insane.”

“His insanity only makes him more dangerous. And I know because it’s what I would do if someone killed y—” He threw his sandwich down on his plate, knocking the top off kilter. “I don’t want to talk about this.”

She stared at him. Part of her wanted to kiss him for what he’d said—or almost said—about what he’d do if someone killed her. But the other part wasn’t going to get sidetracked by his all too familiar avoidance.

“Well, too bad.” She tossed down her own sandwich. “I can’t live like this, and I won’t. Did it occur to you that I have a life? A job I’m good at? People who will miss me?”

“Actually, no. It didn’t occur to me.” He laughed bitterly. “Not once in all this time did I think about it. Gods, I’m such an asshole.”

“I won’t argue that,” she muttered.

Angry words fell from Shade’s lips, words in a guttural language she didn’t know, but she got the gist. He was cursing up a storm. Yet he took a break in the middle of it to fix the top slice of bread on his sandwich, lining it up perfectly with the bottom.

“Who were you talking to on the phone?” he asked abruptly.

Whoa. That made her heart skip a beat. “You remember?”

“I might have been half-crazed with the s’genesis, but yeah, it’s all coming back.”

She swallowed dryly and reached for her drink. “What … what did you hear?”

“Enough to know that whoever you were talking to knows about the hospital, and that Kynan is involved.”

She broke out in a cold sweat. She’d never been a good liar, and with the bond, Shade would sense her emotions, might know if she was lying about something big. Maybe she could dole out bits and pieces of truth …

“I was talking to Arik. I told you that he and Kynan know each other.”

“How?”

“What is this? An interrogation?”

“Answer the question.” When she said nothing, he leaned across the table. “The longer you stall, the more suspicious I get, and while I can’t torture you—unless you want to be tortured—I have no problem with stringing up Ky. Now spit it out.”

“Stop bossing me around.”

He swore, and this time she understood his raw curse all too well.

“We just did that, buddy. So maybe you could bust yourself out of this grumpy mood and remember that none of this is my fault. And while you’re at it, maybe you could wash your mouth out with soap.”

Both fists came down on the table with a slam loud enough to startle her, but after a moment, he said quietly, “You’re right.”

As far as apologies went, it was as much as she’d get, and she knew it. “From the Army.”

His dark eyes narrowed. “Is he spying on us?”

“No.”

He nodded as if suddenly everything was coming together. “The job you mentioned … you’re working for the military, aren’t you?”

Busted. “No … I …” The lie tangled her tongue, and Shade wasn’t buying it anyway, so she looked down and whispered, “Yes.”

“What does Kynan have to do with this?” When she said nothing, he sighed. “Help me out here.”

Unsure where to start, and afraid to spill more than what might be strictly necessary, she chose her words carefully. “He was a liaison between The Aegis and the Army. He fell off our radar about the time his wife died. We haven’t heard from him since. No one in The Aegis has been able to put us in touch with him. So I came to New York to find him.”

Obviously, Tayla had known where he was, but she’d kept it from everyone else in The Aegis. Runa had been sent to do more than just locate him. The Army wanted him. Badly. She didn’t know why, and it wasn’t her place to ask. When orders were issued, orders were followed.

He cut her a sharp look. “There’s more. Something you aren’t telling me.”

“No—”

“When you came to my place, it wasn’t because you were pissed at me, was it? You wanted information about Underworld General, didn’t you?”

Runa looked away, caught her reflection in the stainless steel refrigerator door. Guilt stared back at her. “Yes.”

“You hated me so much that you wanted to bring down me and the hospital.” The tone of his voice became gentler. “Not that I blame you.”

How could she deny the truth? “It wasn’t just that,” she muttered, out of some twisted need to make him feel better. “I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted to kill the warg who bit me, and that’s why I went to your apartment.”

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