Welcome to another installment of On The Prowl. Maz and I had a lot of fun working on this post (well I did, so I'm imposing my happiness on her. Heh.). I made my contributions while on the road. Very interesting typing from a car and a hotel. We hope you enjoy it!
Brian prowled the gym’s lobby waiting on classes to end. Three days ago, he made the worst mistake of his life by leaving the city, and his mate, without making an effort to explain his actions and apologize for them. Three days spent in the company of the perpetually horny bear shifter and his enthusiastic mate. Three days listening to their cries of pleasure, Killian’s increasingly asinine schemes to woo Nulli, and Melody’s more sensible advice. Three days.
He flopped into a chair and buried his face in his hands. He found no peace in the Lancashire home. Their happiness battered at his heart. Their lustful abandon only served to remind him of what he might have lost forever. Even though he ran until his paws were raw and bloody, still his dreams were filled with her eyes, her laugh, her scent, her taste. He returned to her city tired, gaunt, and sore, but determined to do all he could to reclaim his mate.
If he could find her.
Students from the last class trickled out of one of the rooms, their voices an unintelligible murmur of exhaustion and pique. They didn’t care for the new instructor. He wasn’t fun. He didn’t encourage them like Nulli did. He didn’t dance. His music was crap. It went on and on but the main thing that penetrated his desperate mind was... new instructor. Where the hell was his mate?
“You have a lot of nerve showing up here, cat.” The low growl, along with the distinct scent of wolf, identified the unknown and irate female as a shifter. She cornered him away from the flow of traffic, hands on her hips and revealing the tips of her deadly fangs. “Haven’t you done enough damage already?”
“Who are you and what do you know about it?”
“I’m the one she called after your ran off to God knows where. I’m the one who answered her questions when she was damn near in hysterics after your little stunt.” She poked him in the chest, the tip of her claw piercing his skin and creating a pinprick wound. “And I’m the one who had to console her after you fled with your tail between your legs, leaving nothing but that damned letter.”
“By feeding her a rash of half-truths sprinkled with lies?” He hissed, closing his hands into fists to hide his claws. If he poked the woman back, he would not be as restrained as she. “I take it you’re the ‘Elaina’ who planted that garbage in her head? Good God, woman, she thought a single bite would turn her against her will. One bite! Why the fuck would you tell her something like that?”
“To protect her! There are a lot of shady shifters out there who are eager to hook up with a knowledgeable human. It’s easier for them since they don’t have to be as careful, but it can be dangerous for humans if they go into it blind. It was better for her to be overly cautious. At least I talked to her about it before I tried to mark her.”
“Yeah, and you did such a great job with that.”
“Whatever. I’m not apologizing for looking out for her.” She crossed her arms over her chest, her golden eyes fixed on his. “It still doesn’t explain why you are here.”
“Not that it’s any of your business, dog, but I’m here to speak with Ms. Nulli.”
“Speak with her? You do have a pair the size the Texas on you, cat. She doesn’t want to speak with you. You marked her against her will, ran out on her, dumped her the next day with a crappy fucking letter, and then fled town!”
“I didn’t dump her!” Brian growled and threaded his fingers through his hair, throwing it into wild disarray. “I did what I thought she wanted; what she said she wanted. You didn’t see her face. The horror at the thought that I had bitten her. The utter disgust at being turned into a shifter. And then to know that she believes me capable of turning random humans? I may be nothing more than a stray, but that hurt. So, I gave her the only thing I felt she’d accept from me. I left.”
“And now you’re here.” The wolf crossed her arms over her chest. The growl wasn’t as prominent in her voice, but her fangs still gleamed in the harsh fluorescents. “If you thought she wanted you gone so badly, why come back?”
“I need her. She’s my mate. I have to try one more time.”
The wolf stared at him, raising her nose to sniff the air. He held her gaze and let her see his pain, his hope, and his aching need for the spirited woman he feared he had lost. As the silence stretched, he felt his hope fading. If he couldn’t convince a shifter of his sincerity, one who could sniff out a lie with ease, what hope did he have of convincing his beautiful mate?
“Very well, but if you hurt her again, stray, I swear I’ll set the pack on you.” Brian nodded. If he managed to fuck this up a second time, he would let her. The shifter scribbled an address on the back of one of the gym’s flyers and passed it to him. “She’s gone hiking for a few days to clear her head. Left right after you did. I’ll warn you now, she’s pissed and won’t make it easy for you.”
“I understand. Thank you.” Clutching the note, he fled the gym. He needed to reach the cabin before she decided to return to town.
The drive up the winding road shredded his patience and his nerves. He cycled through what he wanted to say, and even contemplated a few of Killian’s crazy schemes before dismissing them with a growl. He didn’t think Nulli would appreciate most of them, and he had no idea what the bear’s plans were for a bag of marbles, a pot of honey, and a feather. Sometimes he wondered if his friend was entirely sane.
He missed the turn the first time. Damn the wolf, she said he would. With a growl of frustration, he backed up his rental and left the narrow highway. The recent rain had pitted the road with more furrows than a freshly plowed field, but he persevered. Thankfully, he had the foresight to rent a sturdy truck instead of the subcompact the company had offered at first. The large vehicle conquered the uneven terrain with ease. He wished he could conquer his racing heart as easily.
He parked beside her car and stared at the cabin. This was it. His chance to make things right, to apologize, to grovel if need be. He took a deep, steadying breath and eased from the truck. No tricks. No games. No crazy schemes from even crazier bears. Just him, Brian Arcady, a lonely stray seeking his mate.
As he approached the front door, the pulsing bass and rhythmic melody of a familiar song grabbed his attention. It reminded him of Nulli’s classes. Creeping around the house, he caught her scent before he saw her. Her warm, earthy aroma with that hint of sweet flowers belonged in the forest. The faint tapping of keys reached his ears, and he smiled. His mate wove tapestries of love and desire with her words. He prayed she would include his thread into her personal tapestry and intertwine their lives together so tight no mortal blades could never rip them asunder.
But first, he had to apologize.
Nulli lay in a hammock suspended between a pair of massive trees. He drank in the sight of her tank top hugging her firm breasts, her slim legs bare beneath a pair of shorts that should be declared indecent, and her lovely face framed by her glorious curls. The buds in her ears muffled his approach, so he enjoyed this unguarded moment as long as he could. She was beautiful. She looked tired.
Releasing his breath in a nervous sigh, he stepped into her line of sight and reached out to stop her gentle swaying. The hurt and anger in her eyes would have robbed him of his nerve had he not seen the flash of joy as well. Brian offered her a shaky smile.
“Hello, Ms. Nulli.” His smile faded when she didn’t respond in kind. He ran his fingers along the smooth rope of the hammock, imagining it was her warmth that he felt. “I wanted--needed to apologize, and ask if you would let me explain?”
She pulled out the ear buds and raised one eyebrow, but her face was expressionless. "I think your letter and your leaving we're pretty self explanatory.”
“If you mean they showed what an utter fool I am, then yeah, I guess they were. I never wanted to leave.” He gripped the rope of the hammock, wanting to look away but needing her to see his sincerity. “I wanted to stay, to explain, but you were so angry, so I did what I thought you wanted. I did what you accused me of doing again. I gave you no choice. I just left. I’m sorry.”
Once he got started, the words tumbled out. “I shouldn’t have bit you. I know that now. I should have asked, but I thought-hoped that you wanted what I did, that you understood what I meant by it. I didn’t mean to scare you, or make you think you would turn against your will, or take away your choice in the matter. I just wanted you to know how I felt, how I still feel.
You won’t turn. I swear it. One bite will not turn even the most susceptible human, so there is no risk of that. I don’t know what I can say to convince you of that. I could let you talk to Killian, I suppose. He’s a friend of mine, a bear shifter. He’s a bit sex-crazed, will probably say something about how flexible you are, but he’ll answer your questions. I promise.”
"How does this Killian know how flexible I am?" She pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes.
“Oh, that.” Brian felt the heat climb up his neck into his cheeks. “Um, I showed him and his mate a picture of you on my phone. That crazy bear swiped through my pictures until he found one of you stretching after class. You looked so graceful in the pose, held it so effortlessly, that I had to grab a shot. I didn’t intend for him to find it, but he’s a nosy bastard.”
"Go back a step. What are you saying? You didn't mean to bite me?"
“Yes. Wait, no!” He sighed and ran his hand through his mussed hair. “I’m saying I should have asked you first. I’m saying I want more than just a casual encounter. I’m saying... I’m asking you, if you would ever consider taking a stray to mate?” Brian tasted blood as he chewed the inside of his lip. He’d laid his heart on the line and it was all up to her now.
"Mate? I'm your mate?"
“Yes, ma’am,” he whispered. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “Um, yes. That is, if you want to be.”
"You knew I was your mate. But you left. Then you came back. I don't understand, Brian. Are you even sure?"
“I’m more sure of this than I have ever been of, well, anything. I mean, I knew you had the potential to be my mate. You smelled good, tasted good, felt utterly perfect, seemed to know just how to make me purr... but I haven’t been around a lot of other shifters. I didn’t know what to expect. Or how it would feel. How I would feel. Leaving you was the hardest, and dumbest thing I have ever done. I ran because I thought you hated me. I ran because I was scared of how badly I wanted that to be wrong.”
She stared at him as if she was looking into him, exposing him, searching him. She didn't speak, didn't even blink. Nulli placed her laptop on the ground, stood, and walked away. She didn't look back.
Each step was like a knife in his heart. Had he really failed? Was there something else he could have said? Was he doomed to live without his mate after finding her?
She reached the edge of a grassy meadow before she stopped, took off her shoes, and did something he didn't expect.
Brian blinked. A smile teased the edges of his lips as a low purr started in his throat. He kicked off his shoes at the familiar scene. They still had much to talk about, but he could not resist the challenge, the fun of the hunt. She knew how much cats loved to play chase. He tore off his clothes, then shifted into his bobcat. Releasing a roar, he sped in pursuit of his mate.
His paws kicked up grass and dirt as he closed the distance between them. Her scent floated on the breeze, fueling his need to stalk and catch the beauty before him. When he got close, he circled around to the front to herd her towards a patch of wildflowers. He could imagine her laying amongst them, beneath him. The thought made him crazy.
As they neared the flowers, he leaped towards her and shifted so that he landed on his back with her on top of him. Weaving his fingers into her bounty of curls, he pulled her lips to his and drowned in her exquisite taste.
She bit his bottom lip, and grinned. "I thought I told you not to stray too far."
“Never again.” He rolled them so he could have his vision brought to life, and it was better than he imagined. She put the flowers to shame. He stole another kiss, caressing her tongue with his and purring softly. “I’m an idiot, huh?”
"You're a bad kitty." She kissed him softly before pulling back and pinching his ear. "But you're my kitty."
“Hell yeah.” Brian brushed her hair from her face, and hissed at the slight pain. “I am sorry, Nulli. I won’t say I won’t screw up again, but I will try.” He reached for her hands, kissed each one, then pinned them above her head. “There is one thing, though, my sweet mate. Never run from a cat unless you’re prepared to get caught.”
She rolled her eyes and sighed. "I missed you."
He claimed her lips with a purring groan. He peppered her cheek with teasing nips and scorching kisses until he captured the lobe of her ear between his teeth. “I have run miles trying to escape the pain my leaving caused. I have worn my paws bloody running from the truth. I will never escape you, and I never want to.”
He gave the bruised skin of her neck a gentle lick, nuzzling the tender area of his mark before dipping lower. Brian’s kisses trailed along the edge of her shirt. He lapped and nipped along the neckline with a constant purr.
"God, Brian, the purring is killing me!"
“Really? I don’t think you can die from a bit of purring, mate.” Nudging at her stretchy top, he captured her nipple between his lips. As he sucked and licked the peak through her bra, he ramped up his purring. Damn, he loved the way she responded to him. “In fact, I’d say you were enjoying it.”
She wiggled under him, and tried to lift her hands. "That's so not fair!" Soft moans tempted him while her small shivers sent the scent of her arousal straight to his sensitive nose.
“What’s not fair?” He pushed the lace of her bra aside with his nose and lapped at her exposed nipple. It crinkled in the breeze, and he kissed it with tender reverence. “This?” Capturing it with his teeth, he sucked on the tight nub until it was red and throbbing. “Or this?” He lapped the stiff peak then curled his tongue around it and purred.
She tensed before twisting her top wrist, freeing a hand. A hand that she moved down his body and gripped his cock with. "This is fair, yes?" She held him firmly, and pumped a slow, sensuous rhythm.
“My God, woman, you’re trying to kill me!” He buried his face between her warm breasts and struggled to hold on to rational thought. He couldn’t stop from pumping his hips into her hand. “I can’t promise I won’t bite you if we continue. I want you so bad, and you are just so damn perfect. I’ll try not to, but as long as you don’t draw my blood, you will not turn. I swear.”
"Shh." She continued stroking him, spreading his precome down the shaft. When he lifted his head, she leaned forward. He attempted to move in for another kiss. She bypassed his mouth and latched onto his ear, holding the shell in his teeth. "You can bite me, Brian. I'm your mate, right?" She bit down a little more before pumping harder.
“I hope you don’t like these clothes,” he growled. Extending his claws, he sliced the material and bared her to his greedy eyes. She was exquisite, from the glorious swells of her breasts to her warm mocha skin to her toned and taut stomach. Just perfect. His purrs grew as he kissed from one delightful nipple to the other, then down her abs to nuzzle into her soft curls. “So beautiful. So delicious. You think you like my purrs now, mate.”
Brian spread her thighs, amazed anew at her flexibility. Catching her eyes, he grinned, winked, then dragged his scratchy tongue along her outer lips. Holy shit, she tasted better than a medium-rare steak! He licked every drop of her succulent nectar from her satiny skin before teasing her sensitive clit. He licked, nibbled and sucked the bundle of nerves. He pressed his tongue against it and purred, encouraged by her whimpers and moans.
He released one of her thighs to tease her further, lightly pinching and stroking her clit while he rested her legs on his shoulders. With a growl, he plunged his tongue deep inside her and savored his first true taste of his mate. He purred with every thrust into her warm pussy, and he drank of her desire.
When she cried out her release, he lowered her hips and sank into her quivering body with a roar. He dug his hands into the soft earth by her head to protect her from his claws as he fought not to embarrass himself. “Nulli.” Brian rested his forehead against hers, taking long draws of breath to stave off his orgasm. “Damn, kitten.”
He withdrew slowly. Her slick walls gripped at his cock, luring him to return to her warmth, and he did, with a savage thrust and a growling purr. He withdrew again, only to return with equal force. Capturing her lips, he set the broken rhythm of slow, then fast. His purrs shook his body, from the lips that ravaged hers to his thrusting cock.
She rose up to meet him, matching his rhythm before drawing one leg up his side. She extended it further, until she gripped it by the ankle and pulled herself into a split, tightening around him all the while.
“Fuck!” Brian sat back on his heels, watching the slide of their bodies. He stroked her clit as his fangs pressed against his lip. He was close, so very close, but he wanted to watch her this time. He wanted to see the beauty of her face in orgasm. The impossible flexibility of his mate was not helping.
She reached out to him with her other hand, sitting up a little and tucking the extended leg behind her shoulder. She placed a palm on his chest, and then gripped his nipple tight while she moaned.
“Dear God, do that again!” Brian cupped the back of her neck with his hand, rubbing the bruised join with his thumb. He increased the speed and force of his thrusts as well as his purrs, lost in the pleasure of his mate. When she added a twist, he laid her on the soft flowers, sank his teeth into her skin, and plunged his aching cock into her willing flesh with preternatural speed.
When she shuddered beneath him a second time, he roared his release to the sky.
She lowered her leg, and they remained locked together until their breaths calmed. Nulli ran her fingers through his hair, and smiled. "I'm sorry I didn't give you a chance to explain before." She dragged a finger to his ear and gave it a tickle. "Since we're talking again, and seeing how we're naked in a field, should we discuss another big topic?"
“We can do whatever keeps that smile on your face.” He ghosted a kiss over her lips. “What did you want to talk about, kitten?”
“First, holy hell, you’re like a living vibrator!” She chuckled, the sound rumbling through her and into him. “Second, since we’ve pretty much sealed the deal here, and I don’t think either of us were prepared. What are your thoughts about children?”