Copyright © Sarah McCarty 2007
All rights reserved Berkley Heat.
He didn't claim her mouth immediately. He'd waited too long for this moment, this first kiss with his mate, to charge in. He savored the puff of astonishment that brought the moistness of her breath to his skin, the essence of her scent to his nostrils. He leaned in a bit further, teasing himself with the heat of her mouth, the whispered gasp of his name.
He tipped her head back and growled, "Yes, Donovan."
Her eyes flared open at the primitive sound. He didn't give her time to assimilate the strangeness, just fitted his mouth to hers, holding her still for the sweep of his tongue, savoring the addition of her taste to her scent. He cataloged it all, imprinting it on his soul. This was his mate. The woman created just for him.
She held still beneath him, not moving, not immediately returning his kiss. He took full advantage of her hesitation, learning the textures of her mouth, the sensitive areas, how the stroke of his tongue along the inner lining of her lower lip caused her to shiver and press closer. How the brush of his tongue along hers brought another type of stillness. A breathless anticipation.
Her fingers curled into his chest. Eight pressure points of heat. He flicked his tongue along the flat edge of her teeth before tempting her with another glide along her inner lip. Her mouth moved under his, the aphrodisiac in his saliva working into her system the way it would with any human, but doubly potent with his mate.
She moaned. He took the feminine husk of sound into his lungs on a slow breath, tilting her head back further, drawing her against him, resenting the thick barrier of the coats that kept the softness of her breasts from him. He wanted her naked in his arms, flesh to flesh, heartbeat to heartbeat, their bodies joined and desire burning brightly. He wanted privacy to explore all the ways he could bring pleasure to her eyes and soft, breathless moans to her lips.
Donovan dragged his mouth from Lisa's, struggling for control, his body aching with the need to possess her. She was here. Finally here. Snow crunched beneath a booted foot. Wyatt. His wolf reared within and bared its fangs, aggressively possessive of this miracle, not willing to tolerate any male near her. Not even his cousin and leader.
Donovan kissed Lisa's cheek, struggling against the violence of his instincts, rooting himself in the reality of his senses. Her skin was like cool satin, smooth like cream, sensitive at the corner of her mouth. He lingered there, relishing the tiny unveiling betrayed by her gasp, needing to know more. He had to know every curve, every secret sensitive spot, every private longing, every treasured dream. He had to know everything about her.
"Yes," he whispered as he kissed the hollow under her cheekbone, following the shallow path back toward her ear, stopping to nibble at the lobe, satisfaction blending with the pound of his pulse as she gave a little shiver and tilted her head back, offering him more. "Give yourself to me."
Her answer was an airy sigh and the stroke of her fingertips against his chest. The bones of her jaw were fragile, the cord of her neck providing an erotic lure to more sensitive places. He followed it down, nibbling along the soft flesh until he ran into the edge of her collar. Unbuttoning his coat, unzipping hers, he growled with frustration, even as she frowned a protest at the loss of sensation. There were too many barriers between them. He jerked the zipper down to her chest before continuing his journey to the seductive hollow where the taut line angled into her shoulder.
A touch of his tongue to the vulnerable spot. Another jerk in her respiration. She liked that. He tightened his grip, holding her in place for another kiss, another taste. He'd starved for her for so long, waited so long, he'd almost given up hope.
"Sweet," he whispered. "You taste very sweet." He slid his hand up her thigh, luxuriating in the soft, enticing curve that led to the pleasing fullness of her hips. His fingers sank into the firm flesh. "Do you taste this sweet everywhere?"
He had to know. His canines stretched and ached with the same demand that pounded in his cockto claim her, to mark her undeniably as his. He slid his arm around the small of her back, arching her chest into his, pressing his teeth into her skin, laving the sensitive flesh, sucking it into his mouth, connecting them in this small prelude. Every shiver she made as he prepared her to take his bite shook loose another growled "Yes" from his chest. This was the woman he'd waited for. His woman. His mate. He wanted to throw back his head and howl. He wanted to scoop her up in his arms and hide her away. He wanted…her.
The hand on his shoulder brought his head up. "Donovan."
He shook off Wyatt's touch, his gaze locked on Lisa's parted lips, her dazed expression, the slumberous passion in her eyes.
"Get the hell out of here, Wyatt."
"So you can claim her?"
Donovan focused on the pulse racing in Lisa's throat and the red mark a few inches to the right. If Wyatt hadn't stopped him when he had, that transitional bruise would have been replaced with the permanence of a mating mark. He touched the spot. She was receptive, prepared. "Yes."
Wyatt folded his arms across his chest, "I can't do that."
The snarl started in his toes. He turned slowly, letting Lisa's hands drop from his chest. His claws extended. His muscles contracted and expanded in preparation for the change. "Are you challenging me?"
"Hell, no, but neither am I going to allow you to commit suicide through mating lust."
Donovan blinked, bringing Wyatt's face into focus. His cousin waved his hand toward Lisa.
"Think man. She's human, damn it! You're a Protector. Think of what marking her will cost you both."
Behind him, Lisa groaned. Donovan turned back. Her hat was askew, dipping over one brow, awareness was replacing the dreamy expression in her blue eyes and embarrassment was sweeping a tide of red color into her cheeks. Hell. Hopefully she was still too far gone to process what Wyatt had said.
He pulled her face into the hollow of his throat, tucking her hips to his, her chest to his, listening to the rapid beat of her heart, breathing in the spice of her arousal, every cell in his body demanding he mark her, his conscience warning him of the unfairness of it if he did.
Her hands worked from between the lapel of his coat, slid up his hips to his waist, leaving a trail of fire in their wake and an almost impossible-to-manage anticipation as her nails dug into his side through his shirt. There was no shyness in the tug that notched his groin to hers, no regret in the moan of satisfaction as the hardness of his cock found the softness of her pussy, just pure feminine bliss. A bliss he had to ignore if he planned on living with himself. There were times when being a Protector was damn inconvenient. "Lisa."
She stiffened. He repeated her name, drawing her out of the haze into the present. Her grip lightened, slid around, pressed. Donovan let her put a few inches between them. His wolf snarled a protest at even that small separation.
She stared at him, shock and fear in her eyes. For a second he wondered if she'd heard the mental protest, but then her fingers came up to her lips, and he understood. It was her response to him that shocked her. He stared back, keeping his expression bland. She was going to have to get used to it. True matings were passionate affairs.
Another blink, a deep breath and Lisa glanced over at Wyatt, her fingers moving to the mark on her shoulder. She cleared her throat and shifted forward on the seat.
"I think I'll take you up on your offer of a lift."
The image of her in a car with another malecousin or notsnaked another low growl past Donovan's control.
The low rumble of noise vibrated against Lisa's hands, chasing the last of the cobwebs from her brain, and the lethargy from her muscles. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, the swell of desire racing through her system broke against the wild energy spilling off Donovan. Danger screamed through her mind, but rather than running in fear, everything in her demanded she move forward, back into his arms, back into the flames. She'd always had a soft spot for bad boys.
She placed her finger in the middle of his chest and pushed. "You, Donovan, should come with a warning label."
She was rather proud of how that came off. Sophisticated. Worldly. Unimpressed. And they'd said those years of grammar school plays were a waste of time.
Donovan stepped back, but his gaze never left her face. She had the impression he was cataloging every flicker of expression, every betrayal of emotion. "I could say the same about you."
She slid off the seat into the small space she'd created. The flakes were coming down harder now, catching on her hat brim, blowing into her eyes. She blinked one of them off her lashes. "It was just a kiss."
"It was more than that."
She shook her head and licked her lips, tasting the coolness of the storm and the heat of his desire.
What are you doing?
Staking my claim.
The man certainly was intense. She took a step to the left, away from the door. He obligingly made room, those dark eyes searching hers. She shook her hair over her shoulder, grabbing the coat when it threatened to slip off. "No, it wasn't."
"I could tell you why."
The way Donovan was looking at her was different than the way any man had ever looked at her. Like, for him, she was the one who'd put the X in sex. Like he just needed two minutes and a bit of privacy to have heaven in his arms. How in heck was she supposed to resist a man who looked at her like that? In the next instant she knew. She bluffed. "Are you trying to creep me out?"
He didn't even blink, just kept watching her with that lazy manner that was seduction itself. "No."
She was suddenly glad the sheriff was standing only five feet away. It kept her from doing something stupid like asking him where he was staying. "Then I'd prefer you tell me you can fix my car."
"I can, but it's not going to do you any good tonight."
He brushed the accumulation of snow off her hat. "In this storm, all those bald tires will do is land you in a ditch."
She stepped back and started walking. He closed the door behind her.
"Bessie would never betray me that way."
He came up beside her, seemingly impervious to the cold. Out of the corner of her eye, she studied him, taking in the flatness of his stomach, the power in his thighs and finally the shadowed image of the erection stretching across his groin. The man was definitely blessed. Her gaze lingered. His cock jerked beneath the denim. She licked her lips as her womb clenched with the same want.
"Bessie?" he asked.
She cleared her throat and patted the hood of the truck. "Bessie."
She didn't have to look at his face to see his smile. It was clear as day in his voice. "You named your truck?"
He didn't have to make it sound so illogical. "I'm sure you've named a thing or two yourself."
Donovan looked at her as if he had no idea what she was talking about when everyone knew the first thing a man did was name was his penis.
"No I haven't."
She stepped around him. "Just my luck. A great kisser with no imagination."
"I've got imagination," Wyatt offered.
Behind her, Donovan made that noise again. She ignored him. Her heart wasn't in the smile she flashed Wyatt. She was tired, depressed and she still had a lot of work ahead of her before she could go to sleep. Delaney's Bed and Breakfast's grand opening was only a month away. "Do us both a favor, and for the rest of the night, keep it to yourself."
"About done in?" Wyatt asked.
She nodded, glancing at the door to the bar. "I shouldn't have lost my temper."
"You had reason."
"Maybe." She hunched down inside the coats as they approached Wyatt's SUV. "But Buddy isn't going to forget tonight anytime soon."
Wyatt's lips flattened to a straight line. "He will if he knows what's good for him."
Buddy wasn't the type to see reason.
Wyatt changed the subject. "How's Robin doing, by the way?"
"I don't know. She just seems to be pretending that nothing happened."
"Pretending won't do her any good."
She didn't need to turn around to know who was talking. She'd recognize that smooth drawl anywhere.
"Aren't you supposed to be fixing my truck?" she asked Donovan.
"We've already covered that."
"You covered it. I didn't agree. It's my truck." She looked pointedly over her shoulder at him. "I win."
Her sense of victory didn't even get off the ground before she stepped on a patch of ice. Her right foot slipped out from under her. Inside the coat, her arms flailed as she tumbled backward. Donovan caught her as naturally as breathing, as if he'd expected her to slip. He didn't let go when she got her balance back, just kept her tucked into his side and guided her across the ground. As if she were something delicate and fragile. As if he hadn't just seen her march into a bar and deck a man with a pool stick.
As if she'd conjured her fear with the thought, the door to the bar opened and two men exited. Lisa snapped her head around. The men passed out of sight before she could see where they were going. They'd better not be planning on messing with Bessie
She twisted, trying to keep them in sight. Donovan's arm was in her way. She planted her feet. He kept walking. She stuck her foot between his. By rights they should have landed in a heap, but Donovan had the reflexes of a cat. He kept them both upright through a miracle of coordination that released a curl of heat inside her. Good grief, the man was a walking pheromone.
He held her by the arms with an easy strength. "What in hell are you doing?"
She resisted the urge to step forward and press her lips to the hollow of his throat, to touch the tan of his skin with her tongue, to taste his heat. "Getting your attention."
His hands dropped from her arms and folded across his chest, not seeming to notice how those broad shoulders of his blocked her view. "You've got it."
She motioned with her fingers. "You're in my way."
He glanced behind him, one eyebrow cocking as he noticed Buddy's friends crossing the lot. "You didn't have enough fun inside?"
She shoved her hands back in her pockets, remembering the violence that had overtaken her, its inevitable death that would have left her helpless except for the intervention of this man. She stepped to the side, tracking the two men's progress. "More than enough."
"Then why the interest in those men?"
"I don't want them to hurt Bessie."
"I think Bessie is past the hurting stage," Wyatt interjected.
Buddy's friends didn't appear to be interested in her truck. That was a relief. Without Bessie she and her sisters would never have everything done in time for the grand opening. "I'll have you know Bink Riddle swore to me she's got at least another fifty thousand in her."
Wyatt rolled his eyes. "Bink would throw his soul on the line if he thought it'd sell a car."
She shrugged. "Maybe, but not this time."
"What makes you so sure?" Donovan asked.
Try as she might should couldn't detect any skepticism in his voice or expression, just an easy confidence she'd love to bottle. "Instinct."
His eyebrows lifted. "And what do your instincts say about me?"
She didn't even have to think on the answer. It just came popping out, riding the frost of her breath and the heat in his gaze. "You're trouble. Pure, unadulterated trouble."
His slow smile spread across her feminine side with the smoothness of butter, coating it with a rich layer of desire. "I don't see you running away."
She blew a snowflake off the end of her nose. "That's because when it comes to trouble, I've got the brains of a goose."
"So what's the problem?"
"What about it?"
She spun on her heel, frustration driving her past Wyatt and his knowing smile. "It sucks."