“What’s a true mate?” Maddie focused all her attention on Kane’s dark eyes to distract herself from the bullet holes in her legs. He’d cared for the wounds earlier, and the low growl rumbling in his chest the whole time had made her glad she was now stretched out beside him, cozy in his big bed. And that she wasn’t the hunter assassin locked in their basement. They’d have to deal with that one later.
“I am yours.”
The resonance of his warm voice—as strong and tender as his touch on her skin—made her shiver in pleasure, a welcome contrast to the stinging scrapes and one numb piercing through her calf muscle. Those anti-werewolf bullets sure packed a punch. And she wasn’t even a werewolf.
She cupped her hand under Kane’s chin, feeling the scar on his cheekbone rough under her fingertips. He tilted his head into her caress.
“And I’m yours,” she said. “But what does it mean?”
“Just that.” He smiled at her, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “I am yours. You are mine. We are the light and shadow chasing across the moon, always constant, always changing, always together. True mates.”
He’d carried her into the Villalobos chalet—den of the Mesa Diablo pack—under the glowing wolf petroglyph that signaled the ascension of the mating moon. Once a year in spring, werewolves sought out their mates. Because of the inherent dangers of the change and the paramilitary hunters who’d sworn to kill all shapeshifters, female werewolves were rare, so lone males often had to seek human women who would be likely candidates.
Maddie was more than likely. She loved him. She’d fallen for Kane back in high school when he’d been only a sexy wish fulfillment. She’d fallen even further when she moved back to town and found him still single, still sexy, still everything she wished for.
“So…” To her surprise, her face heated and she couldn’t hold his gaze. It was one thing to be her curvy, naked self with him, something else entirely to be a big, hairy wolf with him. “How do we…do this?”
“We do it.”
She snapped her eyes back to him, narrowing at his wicked grin. “Are you being all Zen again?”
“Never.” He turned his head to nip her palm. “We just—you know—do it.”
She laughed but the sound caught in her throat when a hungry glint turned his dark eyes to smoldering embers, ready to catch fire. “We already did that a few times, and I didn’t turn into a werewolf.”
“I wore a condom before,” he reminded her. “This time, there’ll be no protection from the wolf spirit.”
Such ominous wording should worry her. Instead, the thought of him sliding hot and hard into her wet and ready core made her pulse race even if her legs weren’t quite up to the task. He smiled slowly, and she knew he heard the hammering of her heart.
“And I smell your arousal,” he murmured.
He’d helped her bathe before treating her wounds, and they hadn’t bothered getting dressed afterward. How convenient. She reached up to twine one arm behind his neck. “I won’t be able to keep any secrets from you, will I?”
The shaggy locks of his dark hair tickled her wrist when he shook his head. “Why would you want to?”
“Oh, when I’m shopping for your birthday present, or drinking your last beer. Or taking another lover…”
He pounced, rolling her onto her back in a tangle of sheets. Crouched over her, he stared down. “All I want is you. All I have is yours. And I will make sure I am all you ever need.”
She arched up to brush her breasts against his chest. The stiff points of her nipples drove the breath from him in a huff. “Do you remember the first time we made love—well, not the first time in high school, but the first time since we came back to Angels Rest—I bit your lip. I tasted your blood.”
“I should’ve known then you were my true mate.”
She traced her fingers up his flexed biceps, following the sinuous black lines of the tattoos that marked him as one of the Four Corners wolves. “And will I be all you ever need?”
“You always were.”
He centered his lips over hers, the simmering desert-bred heat of him teasing her a split second before he kissed her. He delved deep, and their teeth clicked together as he drew the breath from her in a needy gasp. He plunged his hands into her hair and held her fast while he plundered her mouth.
She tasted his blood again, just a tang from their furious kiss. A different damp heat bloomed between her legs, and the blunt head of his cock nudged at her folds. She spread her thighs wide in welcome, then wider still as he slowly plunged into her depths. As if he would touch her heart.
Breaking the kiss to tilt her head back in a moan of delight, she anchored her heels behind his ass and rocked into him. The wet velvet texture of his engorged sex caressed her from within.
“I like this sex-in-a-bed idea,” she gasped.
“Don’t get used to it,” he said, his voice equally hoarse. “Next time it’s the hot springs.”
The thought of fucking him under the full moon made her body tighten in delicious anticipation, and his cock swelled, stretching her to the knife-edge of pain and release.
“Mad girl,” he groaned.
He reached down between their bodies to find the center of her pleasure. The not so secret bud pouted for his touch. As he stroked her in an ever-tightening spiral, each revolution seemed to ignite another irresistible sensation, like a trail of erotic breadcrumbs leading her magnificently astray. She was intimately, achingly aware of every straining muscle, every juicy sound, every sparking nerve. She’d never felt so alive, so in tune with the sensual music of her own body and his.
She strained upward, trying to rush him, but he only loosed a low, dark laugh. His thrusts turned shallow, teasing, and when she growled, he bent her upward into an arched bow and tongued her nipple until the peak blushed dusky with her raging blood. The sweet, fierce suction sent a backwash of fire into her core.
Threading her fingers into his hair, she yanked his head up to face her. Lightning, scarlet and gold, flashed through his eyes: his wolf, calling to her.
That was the music she heard.
“I want you,” she said, “all of you, in me. Give me the wolf. Make me your mate.”
A shudder raked down his spine. He plunged his hips toward her, the sweat-slicked weight of him part attack, part offering. She took both deep within.
He let out a low roar, his body tensing over hers, a powerful animal in both his shapes. The hot spurt of his release unleashed something in her, and the orgasm ripped through her, stronger than any she’d ever experienced.
She clutched at his broad shoulders. The petroglyph tattoos gracing his skin seemed to swirl behind her closed eyelids, an ancient mystery she was called to unravel.
Like she was unraveling. Her body trembled with the aftermath, and her pulse fluttered erratically.
“Shh.” Kane smoothed her hair back. “Let it come.”
She opened her eyes to meet his gaze, desperate to hold onto his steadfast strength.
He smiled. “I see her,” he murmured. “She’s beautiful, just like you.”
“How long?” Her breath caught in her throat when he leaned down to brush his lips softly against her forehead.
“It’s different for everyone. Some are afraid and hold off the change. Some never quite find their way. But you… I think you were already halfway there, Mad girl.”
He pulled up the sheets to cover them, fussing with the folds until they nestled just right around her, then lay down with a sigh to cuddle her. The shifting moonlight found its way between the pines trees outside to beam through the big windows and fall across the bed. Finally, her shivers eased, and he slipped away from her body. She whined under her breath at the loss of the connection, but he didn’t go far. He just rolled toward the edge of the bed, fumbling for something in the clothes he’d shed earlier.
He rolled back and propped himself up on one elbow to hold out his closed fist. When she tapped his knuckles curiously, he twisted his hand palm up to display a delicate band of opalescent stone. As he tilted his hand, the blue-white ring seemed to glow with pale, translucent rainbows.
Maddie bit her lip, tasting just the faintest remnants of his blood. “It’s stunning.”
“Adularia moonstone,” Kane said. “There’s a guy out in the canyons who works the gems that are mined right around here. They’re very rare in this clarity and have their own special qualities.” He closed his eyes for a moment, then met her gaze. The glimmer in his dark eyes wasn’t lightning this time, but something softer that melted her heart. “Will you give me your hand?”
“I’ve already given you all of me.” She lifted her left hand.
He slid the pale band over her ring finger. The cool stone slid down her knuckles as if made just for her.
Her own eyes prickled. “Oh, Kane…”
“I had it with me when I found you at the garage,” he said. “It was in my jeans pocket the whole time.”
She grinned, blinking away the mist. “As I recall, your jeans were around your ankles.”
He raised her hand to his lips, as if for a kiss. And nipped her thumb instead. “You distracted me. I had no idea what I was doing.”
“Just as well you waited.” She flicked his lower lip lightly. “My hands would’ve been all greasy anyway. And I wouldn’t have known then what to say.”
“The adularia would’ve liked your hands just fine. Those special qualities I mentioned…” He angled her hand into the moonlight, and the ring disappeared.
She gasped, staring at the white tattoo banded around her finger where it had been. When she tilted her hand out of the moonlight, the ring reappeared. “What…?”
“Being a shapeshifter is rough on jewelry. But the moonstone knows what we are. It will always be there for you.” He leaned forward to kiss the tip of her nose. “I’ll have to give you a moonstone nose stud too.”
She angled her lips under his to sneak a kiss. “You’ve given me everything: a home, a pack, a wolf…”
As if he would take all of her, he kissed her back. His mouth claimed hers in a slow, consuming dance of tongues and breath. Only when she was hanging onto him for dear life did he lift his head with a smug smile.
“You don’t know what you would have said then. Well, what do you say now?”
She wound her fingers through a loose lock of his hair while the moonstone shimmered between gem and white shadow. “That I love you.”
They fell asleep tangled in the sheets, her hand still wrapped in his hair. When she woke, the room was almost pitch black except for the glimmer of opal fire around her finger and the last touch of silver on the ponderosas outside.
Kane was watching her, eyes gleaming darkly. “Ready to go for a run?”
“I feel as though I’ve been running for my whole life. Running to you.”
“You caught me.”
Under her fingers, his shaggy hair roughened to fur, black brindled with gold and silver. The gorgeous male had become a glorious wolf. All the hair on her own body prickled in yearning as he stretched beside her then leapt to the floor. He padded silently beside her when she pushed wide the door to the back patio. Beyond the flagstones and the trees, the mesa spread away, calling to them with its silent splendor.
Kane gave her an impatient whine, circling behind her legs to urge her outside.
“Hey, still naked here.”
He let out a wolf version of a wolf whistle, not quite a howl.
“Shh! I don’t want your cousins to see me.” She flapped one hand at him when he growled. “You have fur.”
Tentatively, she stepped out onto the flagstones. The rock was smooth under her toes, and the wind whispered on her bare skin. The night opened to her even as she closed her eyes.
Were there magic words or something? One deep breath brought her the mingled perfume of juniper, dust, and the wolf’s wild musk. And on the exhale she changed.
She let out a cry of joy echoed by the brindled wolf.
The moon setting across the mesa beckoned between the trees’ long shadows—come this way—and they ran side by side toward its light.