I think Maz and my ears were burning the moment the previous post went live. Put down those pitchforks, you ruthless mob! If you murder us, we can't finish the story. :)
Brian raced through the trees at a speed he didn't know his human body could generate. The sound of a woman's voice shot spikes of ice through his blood.
The woman’s cries and screams came out in hysterical shrieks. "I didn't even see her!"
Jesus! He pushed harder, emerging onto the street that ran along the eastern edge of the tree line. Two cars sat bent and locked together at their front ends. The car on the left was missing its windshield, but tiny fragments of glass clung to the edges.
The metallic odor of blood made his own still in his veins. He could smell Nulli, but he couldn't see her. What he could see was the source of the crazed voice. A woman stood on the opposite side of the vehicles, shaking, tears flowing, gaze fixed on the ground.
Brian jumped over the hoods of the wrecks and landed on the other side. "Nulli!" He stared down at the three people on the ground, one of whom was his mate. Blood covered her hands and tears streaked down her face as she sat on her knees, pressing her interlaced fingers and palm onto the chest of the teenage girl lying unconscious on the ground.The other person sat by in a daze watching Nulli’s movements.
His mate looked up at him, eyes full of fear. "I'm all right." She didn't stop her shallow thrusts, and she mouthed her count as she continued.
He wanted to scoop her into his arms and hold her close, but he would never stop her at a time like this. Instead, he knelt next to her, saying a silent prayer of thanks for her safety and for that of the girl she was working to save.
An ambulance arrived a few minutes later. The emergency personnel tried to take over, but Nulli wouldn't stop. He had to pull her away. It wasn't until the paramedics asked questions that he understood why.
Nulli stared at the young girl as if she was watching a ghost, and when she spoke, her voice cracked. "She's one of my neighbor's kids. Their oldest. Her name is Rachel. She's allergic to shellfish."
The man taking the information asked Nulli several questions, and she answered them all. Rachel was loaded into the ambulance, awake and tearful. The police had arrived and were in the process of taking the other driver's statement.
When Nulli was no longer needed, Brian slipped his hand into hers. She didn't pull away. She squeezed it. That was enough for him. He pulled her into a hug, crushing her body to his, more overcome with emotion than ever. "I thought... When I heard the crash and the scream--God, Nulli, I thought I'd lost you!"
"I'm okay, I promise."
"Can we go home, kitten? I just want to hold you for awhile."
At her nod, he scooped her into his arms and walked back to the house. She was shaking all over and so quiet it scared him. They didn’t talk on the way home. He was content to hold her for now. Talking could come later, after the shock of the accident wore off for them both.
Inside, he ran her a bath, helped her undress, then joined her in the tub. He spoke then, soothing words of love and nonsense to keep her mind off all that had happened that day. The steam and the water hid his tears as relief for his mate’s safety warred with sympathy for the injured young girl. The steaming water grew tepid before Nulli’s shivers stopped. He wrapped her in a towel and carried her to bed.
“The first time I saw you,” he murmured as he held her close, “you were in your gym gear, your hair pinned up, and more beautiful than anyone I’ve ever seen. When I got closer, your scent called to my cat and made him sit up and take notice. Then you smiled, you laughed, and I knew I was lost.” He pressed soft kisses into her hair as he traced soothing circles on her back. “I have a past, Nulli. I’ve done things that would shock you, possibly even disgust you, but that doesn’t mean I want to go back to that. Not now, not ever. You took me in, collared me, loved me, gave me a home, and a reason to be more than just another stray. I love you, mate. I won’t ever need more than that.”
Nulli stared at him, her eyes filling with new tears. “Do you know what I thought when I heard those tires?” The shaking was back, only this time, it was worse. “I thought someone hit my bobcat.” She buried her face in his chest and cried. “I thought you chased me and tried to cut through the street.”
He gathered her close as she wept. Each of her tears burned into his skin while his trekked down his cheeks. He recognized her fear. It had been his own. “I thought the same, kitten. I thought, God, please don’t do this. Don’t take her away. Then I smelled the blood and nearly lost my mind. I can’t lose you, Nulli. I just can’t.”
She pulled back and thumbed away one of his tears. “You won’t.”
He brushed her tears away with his fingers, then pressed his lips to hers. The kiss was gentle, with a hint of desperation. “I wanted to chase you so bad, but I was afraid. I wanted to run away, but I refused. You’ve got me tied in knots, mate, but I love it.”
“It was a lot to take in, Brian. How would you feel if five guys showed up, expecting to run a train on me for old time's sake?” Her voice remained calm, and thankfully free of accusation, but he couldn’t stop his instant reaction to her suggestion.
“I’d be pissed.” He tried to stop the growl from seeping into his voice, but failed. The thought of his mate, his Nulli, with anyone but him made him crazy. He knew she, too, had a past with boyfriends and partners, but to be confronted with that? Yeah, he wouldn’t have reacted well. “Killian and Melody are very open with their relationship. I have no desire to be like them.”
“There aren’t any more, are there? Will any other past partners show up at our door looking for a repeat?”
“I don’t think so. Even if they did, I’d be happy to show them the door. No one but you, my sweet mate.”
“And no more producers from your network wanting to get into my gym shorts?” She raised an eyebrow and shook her head. “That had to be the most uncomfortable I’ve been in awhile.”
“I’m sorry. I have no idea why Terry thought that was appropriate.” He shifted until he was on his back, her head cradled against his shoulder. His fingers played along her back, teasing the edge of the towel. “He’s normally a good guy - smart and practical. As much as I like him as a person, though, you do have a case of sexual harassment against him if you wanted to pursue the matter.”
After a long sigh, she closed her eyes. “You know what confuses me even more? He acted like he was the only human in the room. And if he’s so smart, why would he think all shifters act the same way?” She looked up at him, her brown eyes shining in the low light of the room. “I don’t know about filing formal charges. If I did that every time a guy got out of line, I’d have to quit my job and become a lawyer.”
“Terry only learned about shifters down in Alabama when he met Killian through Melody. I mean, sure, I was on the show, but I kept a low profile. There are some scary risks involved with a lot of humans knowing about shifters.” Threading his fingers with hers, he brought them to his lips for a light kiss. “He might be basing what he knows of us on that one extreme example. As for being the only human, I can only guess that he thought we had started or even completed our mating, that I had turned you.”
“Hmm. I guess that makes sense, but if I see him again and he looks anywhere but in my eyes, I will drop kick him.”
“If I see him again, I may kick his ass just on principle.” He listened to her heart beat, thrilled to have her back in his arms, but something scratched at the edge of his mind. Something she said. “Wait... what did you mean about becoming a lawyer? Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Because if you are, I’m going to have to really open up a can of whoop-ass on some folks.”
Nulli’s head fell back and she laughed until she had trouble breathing. He didn’t see the humor, but he enjoyed seeing her return to her old self. “Brian, I work at a gym. It’s a magnet for testosterone-crazed guys looking to get lucky. Some know how to take no for an answer, some don’t.” She pulled her hand free of his and held his ear between her fingers. “Stop frowning, kitty. I know how to take care of myself.”
“You shouldn’t have to. You’re not there to be their personal pin-up wank fodder.” Though he winced, she was deadly accurate with those pinches, he still growled at the image she portrayed.
“Didn’t you say something about risks involved with your work? I’ve had other jobs before. This thing you’re hating is part of the condition known as being a woman. Lots of guys are nice, some aren’t. There’s a reason why you can’t dodge my spin kick, punch combos.” She winked. “I don’t have to take it there often. There are a few guys working at the gym who are more than happy to check the inappropriate members out of the club, but on the off chance I might be alone, I can handle it.” She paused, and narrowed her eyes. “Stop growling, kitty. You can’t pee on me and scratch me up every day before I go to work to mark your territory.”
“You shouldn’t have to know that shit just to do something you love,” he grumbled. He dropped his growling, but the frown remained. “I mean, if you want to learn it, great. I love watching you in action and knowing you can kick my butt, but you shouldn’t have to ever use it for real.”
“And if I was some weak, frail, defenseless orchid, scared of her own shadow, you’d hate it.”
“I know! You’re right! That doesn’t mean I want you to have to fight off a horde of slavering Neanderthals drooling over your naughty bits because they were raised in the desert by skinks.”
She laughed again, and released his ear. “Your imagination is better than mine, and I’m the author here!” She smoothed her fingers down his cheek and leaned in. “There are no hordes.” A light kiss, and she smiled into the contact. “There’s no slavering.” Another kiss. “There are no gym members who were raised by skinks.”
“If you say so,” he rumbled, seeking her mouth for a slow, drugging kiss. “Still don’t like it, but I’ll let it go. I don’t want you kicking my ass for pissing on your gym clothes.” He chuckled with a hint of a purr.
“Cheater!” She moved as close as she could and deepened the kiss. “The purring... Fuck me, the purring!”
“It’s my secret weapon.” He peeled the towel from body and ran his hands over her naked skin. The purring increased along with his heart rate. Damn, she was beautiful. “I only unleash it on those I want entirely,” he kissed his way down her neck to nibble the light bruise from his bites, “completely,” cupping a breast, he brushed his thumb over her nipple, “absolutely under my spell.” Dipping his head lower, he wrapped his lips around her nipple, sucking and purring the hard peak.
His mate moaned. She swore. She wriggled under him and clutched his hair by the handful. In no time at all, her arousal filled his nose, and hung like an erotic curtain around him. She always responded so deeply to his vibrations.
He nipped the swell of her breast with a grin. “I love how you respond to me, kitten. I adore how you react to my purrs. It thrills me to see you squirming with need beneath me because of something I did.” He lapped and kissed his way to her other breast. His tongue, as scratchy and rough as a cat’s, laved her nipple into a hard point. He teased it with his teeth, nipping and tugging until she pressed his face against her breast with a curse. Chuckling, he gave in and purred around her throbbing nub.
His hands weren’t idle as he worshipped her breasts. They roamed her body from her beautiful face to the round swells of her hips. He mapped out her curves by touch, tickling and arousing her with his feather-light touch. He eased an arm beneath her shoulders and gripped one of her hips, rolling until she lay across his chest.
“I want to watch you, mate.” He brushed her hair from her face. “Use me for your pleasure.”
She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and rose up on her knees. “Then watch, kitty.” She hovered over him, her gaze locked on his as she slid down over his engorged head. She circled her hips without descending, teasing the tip and forcing his fangs to drop.
The vision in front of him nearly fried his synapses. Nulli moved her pelvis like a snake charmer, swirling, undulating, and staring at him as if she dared him to break eye contact. His entire body quaked as his skin warmed and his claws extended. All that and she’d only moved two inches down.
“So fucking beautiful.” His fangs pressed against his bottom lip as she did things he’d never even heard were possible. Her muscles gripped, caressed, and tortured him. He dug his claws into the bed to keep from taking over and pounding into her. “Where the hell did you learn to do that?”
She leaned down and whispered in his ear. “Belly dance classes. I’m improvising.” And then she was gone, returning to her slow dance on his highly sensitive cock. She lifted, and leaned onto her toes with her hands pressed into his chest. “Can you still see us, kitty?”
“Until you make me go blind, woman, yes! Do you know just how sexy as fuck you are right now, mate?”
She licked her lips and slid down, pressing against him for leverage and teasing her nails into his skin. She took up a slow pace, squeezing on the way down, and clenching even tighter on the way up while doing that damned hip roll.
He purred. He growled. He probably even whined. He was slowly spiraling into sex-induced insanity and loved every minute of it. His hips rose to meet hers of their own will. He couldn’t have stopped them if he tried. He needed to feel her, hated it when she rose so high he thought she was going to leave entirely. It was love and lust and need all rolled into one massive sensation.
The look on her face was as mesmerizing as the feel of her incredibly talented belly dancing moves all but destroyed his control. He adored the way her eyes lit up as she sank onto his cock, and her slight smile as she eased up and gripped him tight. His mate enjoyed tormenting him as much as he enjoyed her doing it. He would treasure this moment and strive to keep that glow of happiness on her forever.
Her body stilled as she descended one final time, and she whispered five words. “How long is a minute?”
“Uh... sixty seconds?”
“Start counting, kitty.” She pulled her hands from his chest, and lifted up, never breaking contact. Resting her hands on her knees, she came to a kind of squatted position, and used that sinful flexibility of hers to open her legs wide. There was no warning, no sign, no hint of what she was about to do. Nulli, his mate, his everything, proceeded to establish a pace that was both fast and powerful as she bounced up and down, never landing in his lap, and giving him full view of his dick disappearing into her depths.
“Holy shit!” His back arched as his eyes rolled towards the back of his head. Count to sixty? Hell, he couldn’t count to two with her doing such wonderful things to his body! The sheets shredded beneath his claws and his purrs echoed in the room. He actually saw stars for a moment as he fought not to come and end his mate’s erotic show.
With a roar, he pulled his claws from the ruined sheets and ran them along his mate’s spread thighs. The sharp tips left light scratches on her smooth skin. Not deep enough to bleed, but enough to leave faint trails along her legs. He kept one hand on her thigh, kneading the soft flesh in time with his purring and her thrusts, while the other brushed through her damp curls to tease her clit. He withdrew the claws of that hand, stroking and pinching the sensitive bundle of nerves as she rode him.
She gripped him tight, never relenting. A sheen of sweat covered her body, but she didn’t slow down. How much stamina does this woman have? A small tremor moved through her, and she sucked in a breath, but maintained that delicious pace.
And then the stars were back.
At some point she must have lowered a hand. Pressure and pain radiated from the skin behind his balls. He sat up, wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her down while he rocked up. They kissed, groaning into each other's lips, swearing back and forth, nipping, sucking, still rutting against each other.
Brian purred as he trailed hot kisses down her neck. He needed to mark her, reclaim her, let the world know that this fabulous, talented woman was his mate as he was hers. His skin flushed and pleasure radiated from his groin into every inch of his body. He was so close he was shaking with the effort not to come before her. Tangling his fingers in her hair, he pulled her head aside and lapped at the join. The skin grew red beneath his rough tongue as he prepared her for his bite.
“I love you, mate.” Grunting as his control slipped, he sank his teeth into her skin.
“Brian!” She held him tight while her leg muscles tensed. Her inner walls rippled with erratic contractions, and her breath stilled.
He shook with the strength of his orgasm and the taste of her on his tongue. Withdrawing his fangs, he roared. It was a cry of pleasure and a declaration of possessiveness.
She shook in his arms, and when she breathed again, she spoke. “I love you too.”
He lapped at the four puncture wounds on her shoulder with a gentle purr. “You should warn a shifter when you do things like that, mate. Gonna turn me feral.”
“I only do warnings in class, you know that.” She rested her forehead against his. “No more running. For either of us.”
“I like the sound of that, Nulli. It tore me apart to watch you walk away from me, but I understood.” He shuddered when she clenched around him and wrapped his arms tightly around her waist. “I should have explained better about Terry and that whole situation. You should not have heard about it from him.”
“It’s in the past now. Right now we’re in the present, and in the present, we’re in bed together, and we’re still mates.”
“Yes, ma’am!” He nuzzled her shoulder. “I’m still learning about all this relationship stuff, but damn if it’s not worth it!”
“And I’m still learning about all these shifter dynamics. At least there’s a bit of respect in that community. When shifters see my bite marks, they seem to react better. I get nods and smiles, sometimes the occasional compliment meant for you.”
“Really? I guess they realize what a lucky cat I am to have found such a smoking hot mate. Finding a mate who returns your feelings is always a thing to celebrate. They also recognize you as someone aware of us who also accepts us. There are those that know but think we’re little more than the animals we turn into. They’re the dangerous ones. They’re the ones who would turn us over to a zoo or a lab somewhere.”
“That’s not happening here. If I ever found out someone did that to you, I’d put my foot so far in their ass, they’d--they’d--” She pushed away from him and tried to get up, but he held her in place. “I won’t let some prejudiced bastard send you to a lab. I worked in a lab once. I know what they do in there. That’s why I quit.”
“Then I guess I’ll have to stay here so you can protect me.” He laid them down, pouting when he slid from her body. He caressed her side and hip with leisurely strokes of his fingers.
“Do I get a super heroine outfit to go with this gig?”
“Yes, please! I’d love to see you in some skin-tight, super slinky thing with thigh boots and a cape. Gotta have a cape. It’s in the superhero rulebook.”
“You are out of control!”
“Yeah, but you love it.” He tickled her stomach. “Hungry, mate? I can run to the kitchen and grab something for you? You never eat enough. It worries me.”
“Jesus, Brian, if you’re this bad now, what am I going to do with you if I get pregnant?”
“You will probably smother me in my sleep out of sheer annoyance.” He rolled out of bed and stretched. “Now, food?”
“God!” She pulled the covers around herself and rolled into a ball. “I liked it better when we were making up. Send nagging Brian away. Where’s my bad kitty?”
“He was eaten by the hungry kitty after you pounced and wiped out all my energy. I’ll grab a few things. If you want some, then that will make me very happy. If not, I promise not to nag.” He tugged the covers down and kissed her forehead. “Back in a second, my sweet, cranky mate.”
She sighed and sat up on her elbows. “Does it really worry you, or are you just trying to make me blow up so no more Neanderthals raised by desert skinks will bother me? If it's the latter, I've gotta tell ya, it will only change the type of Neanderthal doing the annoying."
“It worries me!” Brian called back from the kitchen, as he grabbed some leftovers for himself and some raw veggies for his mate. He placed everything on a tray with a pitcher of iced water and a pair of glasses. Sitting the tray by the bed, he crawled behind Nulli until she rested between his legs, plucked a carrot from the tray, and held it to her lips. “You burn so much at the gym but eat so little. I worry for your health, not your body size, sweetheart.”
She pulled the carrot from his finger with her teeth and ate it. “I’m not used to this, Brian.” She looked over her shoulder. “I’m used to being on my own too. Guess we both have things to work on.”
“Of course.” He took a bite of his muffaletta and purred. These things were heaven on earth. “It will take us both time to get used to having someone around and all up in our business.” He passed her a stick of celery. “Cream cheese?”
“No thanks. Did you just say all up in our business?”
“Will it get me hit if I say yes?” He grinned down at her and put the cream cheese back on the tray.
“Keep playing, kitty. You still owe me time with your leash over the sofa.” She got up and went into the bathroom. “Don’t think I forgot about that, mister.”
“Trust me, mate, that image is indelibly etched onto my retinas. I will see the grace and beauty of your fine ass until the end of my days.”
“Such a poet.” He couldn’t see her, but he knew from her tone she was rolling her eyes. “So what happens next, cat? Do we start hiding toys under the furniture together?”
“You know... that might be fun.” He chuckled, finishing off the large sandwich in record time. “Imagine if guests dropped their keys, though. Perhaps we could make a game of it - who do we shock today? As for what happens next, I know what I’d like.” He sat the tray aside and stalked silently towards the bathroom door.
“Do you now? Please enlighten me.” Water splashed in the sink, the unique aerated sound telling him exactly where she was in the room.
“Well, I’d like to stay here for a while until I’ve lulled you into a sense of complacency with my strange ways.” He eased the door open, drinking in the sight of her nude body. “Then, once I’ve fooled you into thinking I’m normal enough, I kinda hoped we’d get married one day. Settle down. Have a few kittens. Maybe even mate fully if that was your wish.”
She stood as still as if she’d been carved from stone. Her expression changed. Her eyes glazed, her lips parted, and she gripped the sides of the sink. “What did you say?”
“Um.” He licked his lips nervously. “I said, one day, maybe, if you wanted, I’d like to marry you. Or not. If you’d rather not. I mean, I know it’s rushing things to say it now. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“I think--” She closed her eyes. “I think I need to sit down.”
“Dammit. Stupid, stupid, stupid.” Brian muttered softly as he scooped her into his arms and carried her back to bed. “Don’t worry, kitten. I’m not asking for any kind of answer now. I swear. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“No.” She shook her head before pressing her fingers to her temple. “That’s not it.”
“Is something wrong?” He closed the blinds and dimmed the lights. “Are you okay, mate?”
“I think you were right about the eating thing.” Her hands trembled. “I’m not upset about what you said. I guess everything is catching up to me. Teaching five classes, almost kicking your friend in the nuts, running, the accident.” She paused and grinned. “All that action between us. I don’t remember...” She trailed off before frowning and closing her eyes tight. “You win, kitty.”
“There’s no scorecard, Nulli.” He helped her sit up then placed the tray over her lap. “Nibble on this for now. Is there something I can fix for you? Something fast and easy that even I can’t screw up? I make a mean salad.”
“Maybe a protein shake, and if you think it means what you want it to mean, it doesn’t.”
He grinned and kissed her hard. “I wouldn’t dream of saying something like that. Back in a sec!”
He rushed from the room and scoured the refrigerator for one of her shakes. He’d tried one once. They weren’t god-awful, but not high on his list of things to savor either. He slipped into bed beside her and handed her the drink. He teased her, stealing bites of her veggies just to hear her laugh. While she drank her shake and smacked his hands away from the tray, inside he rejoiced. She hadn’t rejected any of his dreams.
“So, this full mating. Would I still get to stay a vegetarian?”