Wicked Games 2 5 After the Kiss

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After the Kiss Michele Hauf image

Contents Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight

Chapter One One hour ago I, Belladonna Reynolds, married a werewolf. I said “I do” to a man I had fallen head over heels in love with months earlier as the fall leaves were gently covered with snow. I said “I do” to a man who shifts shape into wolf form. And I said “I do” to a man who, during the full moon, is half-man, half-beast, and can frighten me as much as he seduces me. His name is Stephan Severo. He’s close to a hundred years old. I kissed him to seal our vows. Severo’s kisses are like this: tender whispers of flesh upon flesh; lashes of tongue capable of buckling my knees; deep, delving dances with my soul; an intense, sensual connection I wished not to cease. He was staring at me now. Eyes like shadowed whiskey owned me. We stood upon the threshold before Severo’s mansion, a home we’ve shared since October. It was April, but I was not cold. I was shivering because I was nervous. Tonight we were to consummate our vows. It wouldn’t be the first time we’d made love, but I intended to make it feel like it. Would he give me the one thing I needed more than air tonight? Swept up into his arms, the long red skirt of my wedding gown schushed across the stiff white dress shirt I’d made him wear to the courthouse. Severo was most happy in casual jeans and sweaters. He’d cleaned up nicely. So much so, I couldn’t figure out what was different about him tonight. But something was.

Severo carried me through the open front door. He kicked the door shut. The muscles in his arms tensed against my back. So powerful, my husband. I feel safe with him, and honored that he chose me to be his mate. I was the one woman he intended to spend the rest of his life with. “Lover,” I said on a sigh and nudged my head against the stubble on his neck. “I do.” “As do I, my Bella.” His full beard was soft beneath my exploring fingers. He keeps it trimmed short and the fine hairs swept his neck to the thick lustrous hair on his chest. I could sometimes get lost in the sensuous reverie of stroking it. He’s mine. Almost. There’s a piece still missing. Part of Severo does not yet belong to me. I want it. I must have it. The craving for it doubles me up in bed alongside him some nights while he sleeps. I want to lean over and take it from him—without permission. He denies me. He’s denied me for months. I understand his reluctance. His staunch need to keep a dark part of his history from surfacing. Memory torments him. He has suffered so much. Understanding something doesn’t make it easier to accept. I cannot accept it. “Hungry?” he asked as he walked through the dark kitchen; I was still cradled in his strong arms. “You know I’m not.” I would never be hungry for food. “You?” “Only for you, sweet.” I kissed him under the jaw and touched the tip of my tongue to the stubble. Severo tilted his head like a cat encouraging its master’s touch. But he was no tame feline; this man was of a wild breed that defied taming. I snuck up and kissed him on the mouth. He answered with a wanting, openmouthed kiss. All the way to my toes, I felt the connection. His kisses rendered me boneless. Navigating the house in the darkness, he’d stridden this path many a time and with me in his arms. The bedroom was just down the hall. My heart beat a little faster. Anticipation. Only truth within the quiet sanctuary where we bared ourselves to one another flesh and soul. We entered the masculine room lined with blue fabric walls. The long navy draperies, drawn shut, made the room even darker. I caught my fingers beneath the lamp and Severo dipped to allow me to flick it on. A soft glow glinted across his shoulder-length brown hair, but I couldn’t see his eyes as he dove to nuzzle between my breasts. His tongue slipped beneath my dress and lashed my nipple. Hot and wet, it claimed me, melted me. I arched my back, pushing my flesh deeper into his mouth. “That feels so good,” I whispered. “Take all of me.”

Yet would he let me take all of him? We landed on the bed with chuckles as the awkward landing tangled my fingers in his hair and Severo lost his footing and crushed my torso with his powerful build. “I want to tear this from your skin and eat every part of you,” he whispered. Fabric was cleaved from the stitches at my shoulder. “I’ll buy you a new one, Bella, promise.” “It’s my wedding dress,” I protested, tugging the fabric from his grasp. I didn’t care about the dress. I wanted to be naked and under him. Wrapped within his regard. Swimming in his presence, his masterful kisses, his slick tongue and exploring fingers. “The zipper is down the side. You might like to see me in this again some time.” “If you insist.” He obliged and the dress went flying. Air caressed my bare skin, followed by Severo’s hands, gliding, finding their way along territory he’d explored many times, yet each journey felt new to me. It might take him a lifetime to master my nuances. I looked forward to his studies. He paused only to unbutton and discard his shirt and pants. Boxer briefs were tugged down and tossed. I’ve found clothing on the curtain rods and behind chairs in the morning following previous encounters. “Mm, you purr sweetly when I lick you, Bella. Spread your legs. So hot and wet for me.” This man has taught me that dirty talk turns me on. I used to be reserved and say all the polite things. Names for sexual parts were a no-no. I’m still shy with some of it. “Put your fingers inside me.” But I have learned to ask for what I want. “You belong to me now,” he said in a growly tone that made my nipples rock hard. “That paper we signed says so.” “I’ve always been yours. I don’t need a stupid piece of paper. Ohh…” On the verge of coming, I tensed my body to heighten the sensation. He stroked his bearded chin across my nipples. My muscles flexed tightly with the simmering urge to release. I clutched the sheets. Aclimax teased at me. Maybe now or maybe not. I told myself to relax.. Soon, Bella. So close. I cried out and he entered me with his hard shaft to experience the pulsing grip of my ecstasy. Severo came immediately after I did. We two have learned it was best to surrender right away and save the rest of the night for long and lingering lovemaking. Poised above me, this man, this creature from another realm, his muscles taut and like steel—he was mine. All mine. Almost. Greedy desire shimmered through my system in the wake of orgasm. It warmed my mouth, and the now familiar tingle in my canines did not alert so much as stir my hunger. If there was ever a time for this—what I most desired—it was now. On the night we’d said “I do.” The night I had given my promise to love, honor and cherish. Surfing Severo’s hard bicep with my tongue, I tasted salty flesh slicked with perspiration. Sliding my leg along his thigh prompted

him to roll to his back at my unspoken command. Still breathing heavily from the climax, he was lost in a mindless afterglow. God, he smelled delicious. All man, sex and strength. I needed that smell all over my body. I wanted all of him inside me. More than his erection. More than his kisses and masterful fingers. I needed— “Bella!” On hands and knees, I crouched over him, the huntress startled from the hunt for sustenance—for the ultimate bond. “What, lover?” “No.” He moved from under me, sliding his legs over the side of the bed. Bare back to me, he sat and flexed his shoulders. “Not your bite. Not…I need time yet. Please.” Crash. My teeth slid up in their sockets. I winced at the abrupt retreat from passion. Did I mention? A few months after little ol’ mortal me met Severo, his enemy—some vampire bitch with an Elvira complex— decided the best way to get back at him would be to change me into the one thing he hated most in this world. A vampire. And while he’s learned to accept what he cannot change, and I know he does genuinely love me, he still refused to let me bite him. It is what I needed to finally fuse the connection between us. I want Severo’s blood inside me, coursing through my system, claiming me. Binding the two of us. We two would become one as our heartbeats synched. “Sorry.” He stood and wandered toward the bathroom. Muscles tensed across his delts. I loved his sexy, bow-legged walk. He limped, favoring his left leg after being caught in a wolf trap decades ago. My handsome, wounded lover. Husband. Who still rejects you. I rolled to my back, stretching my arms out across the sheets and stared at the ceiling. My fingers strayed to a warm area on Severo’s side, but the warmth faded so quickly it might have been imagination. Always he said, “Give me time.” How much time did he require? I needed him body and blood. Would he ever relent, and in doing so, relent willingly? Could this marriage between a werewolf and a vampire last? “What have I done?”

Chapter Two I didn’t need a reminder to tell me tonight the moon would be full, but I noted the date on the small fridge calendar, anyway. The design featured pastel faeries with small wings and huge eyes, much like those Margaret Keane paintings I remembered from the sixties. Such was Bella’s humor. It surprised me the butler hadn’t removed the thing. Crowel was a house brownie and took pride in his work, be it cooking,

cleaning or detailing the cars. Brownies do not brook teasing lightly. Perhaps Crowel hadn’t yet noticed the travesty. Bella certainly did leave her mark everywhere in the house. We’ve been together half a year now. We’ve been through a lot. The first night I met Bella—rather, captured her—she had been human. Four nasty vampires had been pursuing her. I’ve always hated vampires with a passion that runs deep to my core. That is, until one of my enemies changed Bella. Though initially reluctant to accept that transformation, after the werewolf within me had approved, I easily followed. Mostly. I could accept Bella. But that didn’t mean I now had to throw down the welcome mat to every other longtooth. “The vampire and the werewolf,” I muttered, and padded barefoot into the office. “What a pair.” Hell, we were an amazing pair. Perhaps even more in love, for our differences kept the relationship new and interesting. Still didn’t mean I had to take her bite. The thought of Bella sinking her teeth into my neck made me squirm. It wasn’t a disgust kind of squirm, more uncomfortable and if you will, ominous. A werewolf marked by a vampire would be shunned by his kind. I was no longer a pack member, but to be ostracized by my breed held no appeal to me. Landing in the leather office chair, I spun about and punched in the combination on the safe under the desk. Before the imminent midnight shift I always stored my wallet inside. Tonight I put my new gold wedding band in the safe, as well. Taking it off didn’t feel right. This ring was one mark I did want, to show the world how much I loved my wife. But it would be broken and lost when I shifted. Glancing out the window, I gauged the time. Must be nearly ten in the evening. Bella had run into town for groceries and shopping. I suspected she was buying another new dress and shoes. She did love expensive shoes. I love taking them off her and licking her high arches and kissing each of her toes. One of her erogenous zones stretches from the base of her smallest toe along the side of her foot. How I enjoy making her squirm in delight. I hoped she would hurry home. We could fit in a quickie. But the full moon waits for no man—or werewolf.

I missed the midnight deadline. Severo was already gone by the time I strode in and deposited my shopping bags inside the foyer. Crowel would bring them to my room. “Just as well. I’m in no mood.” I didn’t want to pretend last night hadn’t happened. Sure, I’d shopped up a storm. A little retail therapy had improved my frame of mind minutely. And didn’t this tight little violet number look perfect on my figure? The shoes were Christian Louboutin, five-inch spike heels that made me feel like sex on a stick (make that two stilettos). But seriously? The moment I recalled Severo’s refusal last night I lost all desire to seduce my husband. Shopping had not dulled the simmering anger. I felt the need to kick something. No one liked to be refused. And by their new husband? Heels clicking sharply, I spied the open arsenal door. Odd. Severo would never leave it open. My conscience argued that I had expected too much last night. I hadn’t asked Severo beforehand if it could be “the night.” Why is it we—whether mortal, immortal or otherwise—never truly talk to those we love? We don’t reveal our thoughts unless they are

pried from us. We think that to ask for what we want is being pushy. Assumptions come so easily. Severo and I communicated very well. But we did tend to dance around the issue. The arsenal was dark, and I didn’t flip on the light as I strode inside. It was a complete weapons room, always fully stocked should vampires ever attack. Bit of a conflict of interest now that the werewolf had married a vampire. I ran my fingers along the weapons lining the wall. I see quite well in the darkness. It’s a skill that initially shocked me after becoming vampire. Hell, everything shocked me. The ability to survive without food. The increased strength. The whole instantaneous healing bit. It all rocked. “Even the blood drinking.” I licked my lips. I’d had to stop and take a donor before returning home. I was hungry. Sue me. The vampire who transformed me explained I’d need to drink frequently during my early years. I could live with that. Severo has watched me take blood a few times. It turns him on, yet he’d never admit that out loud or near any of his breed. The man does have his pride. But so do I. Leaning over a stainless-steel counter, I planted the heels of my hands against the cool surface and surveyed the equipment. Wooden bullets designed to slow a vampire down in preparation for the big-boy stake that would puncture its heart and make it ash. Holy water in thin glass vials would reduce any baptized vampire to ash. Silver crosses would leave a nasty burn that would never heal and eventually eat the vampire alive. I shuddered. “Why doesn’t he get rid of this stuff?” Vampire intruders were always a risk. I didn’t fault him for wanting to be armed and ready. But really. Did he have to keep this stuff? What if I tripped and knocked over a vial of holy water and it soaked into my skin? I’ve been baptized. Hell, I had to throw out my gold cross necklace, a gift from my grandmother, after being transformed. “How would he like it if I stocked the shelves with liquid-silver bullets and silver-braided whips?” I turned and caught my breath. A towering beast stood in the open doorway. Talons clawed the wood door frame, leaving raw gouges in their wake. Dark fur covered the beast’s legs, arms and torso. The body was all man, the limbs extended and bulked with furred, hard muscle. The head was all wolf, flaunting a toothy snarl and perked ears. The fur was dark brown, nearly black, like Severo’s hair. It stalked toward me. I crossed my arms and stood firmly, tapping a Louboutin toe. “I don’t think so.” The werewolf slapped both paws onto the steel counter at either side of my hips, pinning me in. Severo growled. “Are you serious?” I said. Of course he was. The werewolf showed once or twice during the full moon. The only reason it came up to the house was for sex. Having sex with his mate was the ultimate bonding for the werewolf. I’d had sex with this gorgeous beast. I loved Severo that

much. Give me time. Those words, uttered so frequently, set me on the defensive. I wasn’t in the mood for this tonight. Not unless he was willing to give as good as I gave. “Get out of here,” I said firmly. “You don’t want my bite? Then I don’t want the werewolf.” The fur on his muzzle skimmed my cheek. Ivory canines gnashed and his growl put a tremor in my heartbeats. I had to be careful. His human brain was only half-present when he was in werewolf form. Yet the man within wrangled the beast well. “I mean it, Severo. Leave!” Put off by the tone of my voice, the werewolf stepped back toward the door. He slapped the wall with a paw. Talons ripped through drywall and metal door frame. Yes, our repairs budget is a monster. With a show of teeth and a yipping howl, he loped off. I caught my forehead in a palm. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I love you,” came out in a whisper. “But I need more.”

Chapter Three I was aware Revin Parker had snuck up behind me in the alleyway. I trusted the vampire and so ignored him. Current donor’s hot blood was running down my throat like some kind of hundred-year-old wine that hadn’t seen light or crumbling cork. It was sublime. I shoved the donor’s shoulders against the brick wall, but he no longer struggled, nor did he cry out in pleasure. The young college guy was out cold. Yet I shoved him roughly to the ground as if he’d not satisfied my craving. He had. Lately my aggressiveness surprised me. “Hey, Bella.” Revin leaned against the wall about a foot from where the donor had stood. His short dark hair was tousled. That sexy white smile always improved my mood. “Smells like a good vintage.” I licked my lips. “He was.” “So what’s with the strong-arming?” “Oh?” I stepped back from the donor, disentangling my red pump from his legs. “Didn’t notice any rough stuff.” “You ask me, it looked like you were working out some frustrations.” “No, it’s…” definitely frustration “…hunger. Just been a few days, you know?” He didn’t buy it. But he didn’t press. I’d met Revin a month earlier in a nightclub that catered to us paranormal sorts. He’s from tribe Nava, the oldest and most revered vampire tribe around. Vampires run in tribes, though not all vamps align themselves with them. It’s not a requirement. Actually the tribes can be very selective. I have no desire to join one. I am a member of a two-person pack, and I like that just fine. I am not stupid. The minute word got out that there was a new vampire female in the vicinity, the male vampires of America

pursued me—until they learned my mate was a werewolf. I know how to dodge a slippery Dick, Roger or Harry. I am not completely incapable. But Revin intrigues me. He’d never tried to come on to me, which I appreciate. It is because I smell like wolf. He told me that. “There’s a get-together tonight at Crimson Cellars,” he offered now. “Couple dozen vamps and some mortals.” He leaned forward, closing the distance between us. “Come on, Bella, we’ll let you join in our vampire games.” I smirked at his playful invitation. Most vamps would rather I didn’t join their fun. I am tainted, don’t you know. “Come on, Bella, you need to get out and have a little fun. Your dog is too protective.” “For good reason.” Severo feared a vampire might retaliate toward me for siding with a werewolf—hell, for becoming a werewolf’s mate. The wolves and vampires had always maintained a tenuous relationship. They weren’t centuries-old enemies as the witches and vampires had once been. But they had committed plenty of vicious crimes against one another to keep them on opposite sides, fangs gnashing and talons threatening. Rev toed the donor’s leg. The guy smiled and coiled up as if drifting into a peaceful sleep. I’d used persuasion to take memory of our encounter from his brain, but I always left them with a reverie of our sensual embrace. “Why doesn’t he do this for you?” Rev asked. “If you’re so all about staying home with sugar daddy, he should be providing your sustenance.” “Can a vampire survive on one person’s blood alone?” I wondered. Curiosity had stripped my caution. “Yes, an exclusive donor would make you stronger,” he answered, then bowed his head. He was a great guy. But always searching, I felt, for something to fulfill him. “Your wolf take your bite?” I turned a shoulder and nodded in a roundabout way, not really a yes, not really a no. “If he loves you, he will,” Revin said softly. “Just promise me, Bella, if you ever do become his mate completely—in body and blood—you won’t forget we’re out here. Your kind. At least, I’m here for you. I like being your friend.” “I need your support.” I leaned in to kiss his cheek. He blushed. Yeah, vamps blush. This one did. Reminded me of a good friend I’d lost six months earlier. I missed his companionship. “And your friendship. Thanks, Rev.”

I was late. The analysis meeting took longer than I’d expected. The containment team would be able to rescue not one, but two natural wolves this weekend. That put me over the moon. It made up for Bella’s cold refusal last night. I’d avoided asking her what it was about this morning before leaving for the Wolf Sanctuary. She must be PMSing. No problem. My werewolf could handle the occasional sexless moon. I had done so for decades before meeting Bella. Yet a night without my mate at my side, in my arms and under my body, makes me feel cold. Unwanted. I shook my head to dislodge the disturbing thought. I was overthinking this. It meant nothing. She hadn’t been in the mood; that was all. I’d passed a florist on the way home and had in mind to apologize to Bella for being late, and for whatever it was I’d done to deserve her ill treatment.

The little things still mean so much to her—as if with the ritual accompanying a small gesture she can still grasp the piece of humanity she had to sacrifice when she became a vampire. The last time I felt a part of the human race…well, perhaps I never had. It matters little. I am a part of the world. I function and exist alongside mortals, yet I know to keep my truths secret from them. Bella’s love is all that matters to me. Swinging around to the back of the Jeep, I opened the trunk and drew out the bouquet of white roses the florist had dethorned and tied in a tight bouquet with a long red ribbon. The ribbon against the white petals resembled a stream of blood dripping from Bella’s mouth. I had to smirk at the thought. No longer put off by Bella’s need to take blood to survive, I actually got turned on when she invited me along to watch her take a donor. The sensuality of the act always made me hard. Which led to me pushing Bella against the wall and taking her right there, while the bitten human slumped, in bliss, nearby. So long as it’s the other guy and not me. Sniffing the roses, I decided they did not smell nearly as delicious as Bella. Striding down the marble foyer, I followed her innate scent. Cloves sprinkled upon warm skin and tickled with the salty kiss of woman. She stood with her back to me before the patio door looking out at the setting sun. Golden light shone on her as if she was a star upon a stage. My spotting the black bow at the back of her neck quickened my steps toward her. I swung the rose bouquet, unmindful each swing released petals. What was she wearing? “My gorgeous lover,” I breathed. Red and black silk clung to her hips and derriere, and slithered down the backs of her legs to end in a bouquet of ruffles. It was one of the flamenco dresses she wore when dancing. Bella is a dancer, but she has yet to dance for me alone. Her back was completely bare, save the black ribbon trailing down her spine. She turned around and a few tendrils of her upswept hair tickled the fine column of her neck. “You like?” she asked. The front view was better than the back. The red fabric hugged her breasts, revealing tight peaks of nipples. The skirt front was cut higher than the back, and as she slid forward one leg, it parted all the way up to—“Wow.” “A man of few words.” She smiled and lifted her arms in the sensual curves of the flamenco dance. I wanted to seize her by the neck and press a bruising kiss to her mouth, but I could only admire. Admonished last night, I wasn’t sure what to feel, how to receive her sudden seduction. Was I now to be rewarded after the reprimand? Deep in her green eyes she smiled wickedly. That smile, so innately Bella, surged through me and stiffened my cock. Perhaps this was her way of apologizing to me for being so brusque last night. I traced a finger along the low neckline. Her breasts were high and perfumed with clove. So lickable. Drawing her hands high at my chest, I dove in to kiss—yet stopped before touching her expectant mouth. I growled pleasantly, gripping a thick clutch of ruched fabric at her thigh. “Can I play with your ruffles?”

She tugged a little, but did not escape my clasp. “Do with me as you wish.” Mm, but I loved her. “On one condition,” she said, and drew away. As she did, the ruffles spilled from my grasp. Losing her. Not completely yours yet. Something yet cleaving you two apart. Bella smiled to reveal fangs. I knew the condition she would apply to this night’s seduction. I’d forgotten about the roses. Now I brought them to my nose, then clasped the thick white heads and crushed them.

Chapter Four He was not going to meet the unspoken condition I had tossed into the ether. My husband stood before me, a bouquet of tattered white roses dangling near his leg. I asked too much of him. To accept a vampire’s bite. In the werewolf community, to wear the bite from a vampire is a stigma worthy of expulsion from the pack. Severo doesn’t run with a pack; he’s a lone wolf, and happy for it. So the stigma wouldn’t be as condemning for him. Yet with my bite would also come the need to take human blood. Werewolves do not drink blood from humans. They need the human race for little beyond companionship. Should I bite him, my husband would develop a desire completely unnatural to his breed. Was it any different than my being turned vampire against my will? Don’t think like that, Bella. I ran a palm up my arm and tilted my head at his approach. I could feel his touch before it happened. Severo invaded me with warmth, presence and desire. His actual touch made me shiver. “Forget it,” I said. “I ask too much. I should be happy you’ve accepted a vampire into your life. I am happy.” I fought back tears. I felt like a child denied entrance to all the rides at a theme park after my wish to visit had been granted. He tossed the bouquet to the chaise beside us. White petals scattered on the deep blue fabric. What woman didn’t desire a bed of roses? To be laid down and made love to upon silken petals? “Bella,” he whispered in the voice that conquered me with each throaty syllable. “I want to give you…all I can.” Difficult for him to speak. He was thinking each word through. Forcing them. “If you wish…bite me, Bella. You must have that connection.” Sniffing a tear, I pushed from his embrace, regretting it and yet unable to stand in his false sympathy. “You don’t mean that.” He shrugged. Bastard. “I won’t bite you. You don’t want it. You cannot move beyond your past. It binds you. I understand your aversion to vampires.”

“Bella—” “Or is it guilt?” I dodged his grasp and plucked a single rose head, then clasped it to my breast. “A means to atone for you not being there when I was attacked by those vampires and forever changed to something I would never have asked for.” He angled his head down and looked up at me. I hated that look. Jaw tense and eyes fierce, he fought aggression. The man did not take well to being put in his place, to being challenged. Not without equal challenge. But he did not negate my words. Instead, Severo turned and paced to the patio door. Finally he said, “You’re right.” No! I don’t want to be right. I want you, all of you, because you want to be a part of me, not out of guilt. “I shouldn’t have said that.” He flinched when I put a hand on his shoulder. What was I doing? Would I beg forgiveness for speaking my mind? “But it’s how I feel.” Turning my back to him, I crossed my arms over my stomach. Our first marital spat? It felt dangerously devastating. Soulwounding. This was no simple tiff over credit cards or leaving the toilet seat up. “I cherish you, Bella.” He did not turn to face me. His voice cracked with pain. “Perhaps I have held you too close. Become overprotective. And in doing so you see what I have done? My enemies have punished me for coveting something. From the moment we met, I have been relentless in winning you.” “I did not follow against my will.” I kept the words “because I love you” inside. It was hard enough to keep back the tears. “I like your possessiveness. To a degree.” “Exactly.” “But this has nothing to do with your inability to accept—” He spun me around and kissed me. Stole my attack. He could take anything he wished from me; I would relent, always. Drawing up my knee, I pressed my body the length of his, wanting to enter him, insinuate myself within him. Could I swim his bloodstream and know his thoughts, his pain, his dreams and desires? I know his desires and dreams. The man has dreams of rescuing all the natural wolves in the countryside from destruction. As for his pain? It is all too obvious every time he limps into the room. “You should go away,” he said at the end of the kiss. That was not what I’d expected to hear. I tried to pull from his embrace, but he held me firmly. A heartbeat strong and proud battered my own frantic pulse. He nuzzled into my hair and kissed the lobe of my ear. Tenderly, as if he’d not just announced he wished me to leave. To go away from him. “Bella, I’ve coddled you. When you go out to take a donor, I often go along. You’ve not had opportunity to be the vampire you have become. Maybe what you need is a week or two on your own? Time to immerse yourself in—” “I go out alone. I even have vampire friends.” “Because I trust Revin Parker.” I had always suspected Severo followed me and checked up on my vampire friends—okay, friend. I couldn’t fault him. It was his protective instinct.

“You want me to leave our home? Severo, I don’t understand.” Panic made me jittery. “I won’t ask again to bite you, I promise. Just don’t ask me to leave.” “I don’t want you to…” He stroked the hair from my cheek. His whiskey eyes glittered with unshed tears. I had never seen him this way, as panicked as I felt. “I want to do what is right,” he said. “Perhaps I need some time to face my demons. To get beyond whatever it is that keeps me from completely surrendering to you.” “I don’t want your surrender.” And yet I did. I expected it. After all, I’d surrendered to his werewolf. “You deserve it.” He kissed my cheek, my forehead. “You will have it.” Time away from my husband? We had married only two nights ago. This was crazy. I would not let it happen. “Then I think I know something you can do for me.” I headed for the office. Severo followed. I used the computer in his office because I still had a few clients for whom I designed websites. Anything that was his was mine, he’d once said. And so I’m a snoop. I walked to his desk and drew open the bottom drawer. Inside lay an old letter sent by Olivia Chase to Severo in the 1970s. I set the letter on the desk and looked into my husband’s worried eyes. “You need to go see her.”

Chapter Five I’d be lying to myself if I do not admit I am desperately in love with Bella. So desperate I took her crazy suggestion to heart. Visit Olivia Chase? I don’t know the werewolf personally, but she made herself known to me decades earlier. She lives at the hunting camp five hours north of the Twin Cities, and the place holds so many vicious memories for me that to even touch her letter sent a shiver up my spine. And yet I’ve kept the simple missive that invited me to visit. I have never abandoned hope—it abandoned me. A man cannot exist in this world consumed by hatred. While my breed has very good reason to despise the vampires, I do not wish to perpetuate the pain. I had to make this trip. Not merely for Bella and my future, but for my own sanity. I shifted the Jeep into third and took a gravel road softened from last night’s rain. Bella sat silently on the passenger seat. The last thing she’d said as we’d buckled up and begun the trip was, “I love you.” My heart stopped for the moment it took to roll those words about in my brain. How can she love a man who is not willing to sacrifice completely for her? She only wanted to bite me. It would not hurt. It’s supposed to feel incredible. Like orgasm, the blood swoon was always good to its victims. That was the thing. My family had been victims to the vampires. I could not get past that, had not been able to for decades. Nor could I willingly offer my throat to become yet another victim. What an idiot! I was arguing points that had happened decades ago. I had moved beyond that time—at least on the surface. But hatred and fear run deep.

I had found my mate. A woman I intended to love for the rest of my life. A life centuries shorter than hers, for werewolves live about three or four centuries, while vampires had immortality. I have a good two and a half centuries yet with my wife. Did I want to spend it refusing one simple request? Hell no. There was one thing to do. I did not look forward to it. Olivia Chase’s land was fifteen minutes ahead by car.

“She’s gorgeous,” Bella said as an older woman stepped out from the log cabin to greet us. Tall and slender, she moved like a marsh reed, graceful yet wiry. Long gray hair swept to where faded blue jeans snugged her hips. Model perfect, save for a few lines and wrinkles. I judged her about three centuries old. I put the Jeep in park and got out, clasping Bella’s hand as we approached Olivia. She went in for the hug, and I accepted it willingly. She was my breed, and a rarity simply because she was female. “This is my wife, Belladonna. In fact, we just married a few days ago.” Olivia extended a hand and Bella shook it. The female werewolf tilted her head curiously and clamped her other palm over their clasped hands. We can read people by scent and presence. “You’re a vampire.” Bella nodded. “I heard you had taken a vampire lover,” Olivia said to me. “So your visit does not surprise me. Come inside, will you? I’ll answer any questions you may have.” Olivia Chase purchased this land in the 1960s, seven years after vampires had owned it. Vampires who had hunted werewolves, killing off three entire packs and crippling dozens more by slaughtering their females so the packs were unable to procreate. I had witnessed the horrors that had occurred on this very sight. So much blood and agony. Senseless violence. Play at violence, really. The vampires had used my breed in a wicked game. Standing upon the gravel road I knew curved around behind the main cabin and into the forest to a hunting shed put up my hackles. “Severo?” Bella waited for me to follow Olivia inside. “What is it?” It was, in fact, the ghosts of my murdered brethren who prodded at my skin with an icy elbow. At once I wanted to rush to the Jeep and flee. And then I wanted to howl in outrage at the travesties that had bloodied the grounds and strangled the futures of my breed. “Give him time,” I heard Olivia say. “We’ll be inside, Severo. Walk the grounds if you wish.” I walked forward, disregarding the fact I was leaving my wife alone with an unfamiliar werewolf. Bella could handle herself. I could not resist the call to enter the forest. It clasped about my shoulders and pulled me into the depths. Spring softened the ground with moisture. All things smelled new and fresh. Yet beneath the green sprouts and budding leaves festered rot and mildew, dead things fruiting as they returned to the earth. The souls of my parents had treaded this ground. I could not know if they had gone to heaven or if we—as a race—were destined to hell. I believed in the former with all my heart.

So why did I willingly tread hell now? My strides raced me across the forest floor by the time I reached the hunting shed. I stopped abruptly. Sight of the rotting woodslat shed pushed the breath from my lungs. Wicked visions surfaced. I had been young, perhaps twenty-two. My parents had disappeared from our land twenty miles to the east. They’d been captured by the vampires who had been trapping in the area. In the 1950s humans had put a bounty on natural wolf pelts. (Mortals had no clue about werewolves.) The vampires had taken it upon themselves to hunt werewolves. Just for sport. It’s not as though we werewolves haven’t committed heinous crimes against the vampires. Don’t ask me about the blood sport. Kidnapping vampires, starving them and inflicting them with UV sickness—and forcing them to fight one another to the death. It is abominable and I have never participated. As I stalked to the cabin porch, a low whine scratched my throat. Much like the whine I remember emitting that night I’d loped out from the woods and spied my parents’ bodies strung up by their heels and hooked along the side of this very cabin. When a werewolf dies in its wolf or man-beast form, it will eventually shift back to its were, or man shape. It can happen immediately or take a few hours. My parents were in wolf shape when murdered. They remained so until I came upon them. I watched them shift. Dead. They hung by their heels as their fur shed and became flesh. Naked. Bloodied. Taken from me for vicious sport. I’d howled and shifted into wolf shape. Too late. My howls of agony had brought the hunters out and I was chained at neck and all four legs. A quick death was not to be mine. I lived in a cage for months, in full view of this horrid cabin. Images of that daily view—my kin strung up dead by their heels—pierced my conscious with wicked stabs. Now I charged the cabin and punched a fist into the rotting wood wall. It groaned and the wood exploded. Termites made it an easy target. Over and over I beat out my rage. I howled. I growled. I stomped and kicked in the porch boards. Finally I could do what I had been incapable of so many decades earlier. There were no vampires to destroy, but this annihilation of memory worked me to an exhausted sweat. I continued punching and beating at the wrongness of it, the utter vicious entitlement the longtooths flaunted as if it was their birthright. And when I could no longer see clearly for the sawdust in my eyes, I collapsed on the grass before the dread house of torture. ♥ Uploaded by Coral ♥

Chapter Six I heard his mournful howl. Over and over. Olivia squeezed my arm and gave me a knowing nod. “He’s suffered.” “I know he has. What the vampires did to the werewolves was unspeakable.” I skimmed a palm up my arm to chase off the shiver. “I’m not like them, you know.” “Of course you’re not, dear.” I believed she trusted me. We’d chatted for an hour, and I now admired Olivia for her determination to reclaim the land that had once been the site of the near elimination of her breed. She’s a renegade with a heart. “I should go to him.” She nodded. A woman of few words.

Twilight sparkled with stars I never saw when in the city. But I didn’t linger over the magical sight. If I had drunk Severo’s blood I’d be able to track him anywhere merely by tuning into the synch of our heartbeats. He could track me. He was like a bloodhound, and my scent drew him like a dog to a bone. Bad analogy; suffice to say that the hubby could find me anywhere, anytime. And you know? I loved that he could do so. I followed the overgrown trail to a tattered shed wedged between tall, white paper birch trees and canopied by a broken pine bow. Severo sat on the ground before the structure, his head bowed. He didn’t look up when I approached, only held out his hand, entreating. I hastened to his side and kissed his palm, tucking myself beside him. A sheen of sweat slickened his arms and neck. He smelled as he did immediately after a shift from wolf shape, feral and still clinging to the wild. And if his rapid breaths didn’t tell me he was upset, the hard clasp on my hand did. “This was the place,” I said. He had told me about witnessing his parents’ deaths. No person, mortal, immortal or otherwise, should ever have to experience something so terrible. “It’s quiet here.” He pressed my lips to his knuckles. “Can you…sense their souls?” “No. They’re long gone.” He swiped the hair from his eyes and exhaled heavily. Coming down from a rage. My presence tended to ground him. “Yet it’s all so vivid to me again. The cruelty. My own imprisonment.” Evie, the vampiress who had seen to my change, had been young and infatuated with the imprisoned werewolf back in the fifties when she had requested Severo as a sort of pet. She’d saved him from being strung up like his parents. Forcing himself to play the role of seducer, Severo had managed escape before she’d been able to bite him. “Thank you for suggesting we come here,” he said, nuzzling into my hair. His breathing grew slower, his clasp on my hand more gentle. “It’s helped.” “It has?” “I believe so.” He spread his hands before him as if to test the weight of the air. “There are no ghosts. No angry spirits. What happened happened. I cannot change the past.” “You don’t have to accept it, either.” “Exactly. But carrying it with me does nothing to improve my future. I have to move on, Bella. I cannot believe I have lived so long with this weight about my neck. I want to be free.” “You are, Severo. You remember your parents here.” I pressed my hand over his heart. He sucked in a breath and clasped his palm over my fingers. “Keep them with you always.” “Why are you so good to me? You understand me in ways even I can’t fathom.” “It’s easy. You are good to me. You touch my need for attention, for appreciation, for desire and even for challenge. You are wise and smart. Heck, your werewolf is pretty sexy, too. How could I not love you?” His chuckle stilled my worry; he’d returned to me. “I am ever surprised you admire me in werewolf shape.” “Yeah, well, the back hair is a bit much.” We laughed together, and he kissed my hand and hugged me. “Is Olivia upset I didn’t come in right away?”

“Not at all. She understands. I like her. I invited her to visit when she comes to the city to stock up on supplies.” “You realize you have more werewolf friends than vampire?” he said. “I don’t think about it much. They are friends, and that’s all that matters.” He chuckled again. “You have this incredible ability to see beyond race and breed. I love that about you, Bella.” I wanted to climb onto his lap and dive into his kiss. There I would drown in his soul. But I held back. It didn’t feel right sitting here on the porch where he had lost his family. He drew me onto his lap and I snuggled my head beside his neck. We spent a lot of time snuggling on the big easy chair in the living room. This was a favorite position. Quiet, listening to one another’s heart beat. Breathing in the subtle scents of shampoo, perfume and flesh and blood. Knowing. “Tell me what it’s like,” he asked, “drinking blood.” I met his eyes. Shadowed yet yearning. Eager for information. He’d never asked about my transformation, only tolerated it. “It’s very natural. It doesn’t taste bad. It keeps me alive.” The stroke of his finger across my lower lip aroused me. I clasped my fingers about his to stop the growing desire. I had to say what was on my mind. “It’s intimate, though. It’s the oddest thing that I have to get so close to strangers, mostly men, and bite into their flesh. It disturbs me sometimes. The only one I wish to be so intimate with is my husband.” I closed my eyes as his strokes journeyed over my cheek and along the arch of my brow. The pad of his finger moved gently across my lashes. If any had seen him as the werewolf, they might never imagine he could be so gentle. That secret was mine, and I cherished it. “I wish the same,” he said. “I’m jealous of all those men you’ve bitten.” “I know that.” He couldn’t hide his jealousy in the posturing and snarls. It was a gift to feel so wanted. “Do you think it strange I get a little turned on when I watch?” “Not at all. I love when you watch. And afterward, when you take me roughly.” He nodded and smirked. “Could you survive on my blood alone?” What he suggested was beyond my comprehension. Because that would mean he’d allow me to bite him, not because I wasn’t sure if I could survive. In fact, having a constant and same source of blood would only make me stronger, as Revin had explained. I hugged him and listened to his heart pulse against the side of my face. “I could, but I won’t ask you to sacrifice that much. I’m happy, Severo.” “You make me something beyond happy.” “Take me home.”

At the cabin Olivia refused my offer to pay for damages. She scoffed and waved a hand. “Nonsense, Severo, that’s why I kept the thing standing. You know how many wolves have taken out their anger on the place before you?”

I smiled. Many, surely. And that this woman kept it, knowing it held so much pain—and yet it could prove so cathartic—meant the world to me. “Bella said you’d stop in and visit next time you’re to town?” “Won’t be able to keep me away. Your wife says you’ve a swimming pool. I’ll bring my suit.” “You’re welcome anytime, Olivia.” She clasped my hand and I pulled her in for a hug. “I love Bella.” “You’re a lucky one,” she said. “Not many wolves find a mate. Females are still so scarce. You shouldn’t worry she’s not our breed. Bella is a fine woman. She’ll do you proud.” Then Olivia stroked my neck, right over the vein. It pulsed under the odd touch. “Don’t be afraid of her.” She winked and stepped back. Taking that as my sendoff, I nodded and returned to the Jeep. I’m not afraid of Bella. Nor do I feel the intense pain of my past since leaving behind the hunting shed. I think this trip helped. I know it did.

Chapter Seven We didn’t arrive home until well after midnight. We made love sweetly, slowly, barely speaking, save for knowing touches and wanting moans. Today I ran through seven hours of meetings with clients. My pet project, so to speak, is a rescue shelter for natural wolves—not werewolves—in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The packs are few and thin at best. Over the decades I’ve been buying land and building preservation shelters and educational buildings. It’s a small step, but one that fulfills both my need to give back and my need for family. Natural wolves can never be family, but we understand one another and I like that just fine. I heard the flamenco music before I opened the garage door into the house. When Bella practiced she did so in the vast marble foyer. It gave the nails pounded into her dance shoes the loudest volume. I had yet to catch her dancing, had only heard the strains while I’d been tucked in the office chained to the phone. I opened the door quietly. A swish of red spun above the white marble floor. Body arced backward and arms held high, her wrists twisting gracefully, Bella embodied sensuality. You might think a dance focused on rapid footwork that literally pounded the crap out of the floor couldn’t be so graceful or sexy. Bella spied me and turned. Hips rocking and shoes clicking the floor, she moved in a slow, sexy stride toward me. The dress was what she’d called a bata de cola, the long ruffled train dusting the floor and revealing her feet in front. There were no sleeves, yet at her wrists, long red ribbons flowed, moving in half curves and waves as she decorated the dance with her body. Her long brown hair was queued into a ponytail down the back of the low-dipping dress. Her back muscles flexed and the sinuous, tanned flesh tempted me to reach out. She noted my movement, smirked and spun away. One arm twisted, sneaking the come-to-me gesture with her forefinger. She danced about, moving behind me to press a shoulder against my back. Cloves. Her scent owned me. A spin put her in front of me, palms pressed to my chest.

Looking down her body, I followed the wave of red at her wrists. Snatching the ribbons, I wrangled her with a twist of my fist. I pulled her wrists high to kiss her palms. She in ribbons bound, and I able to control my wife as I desired. We had teased at trying bondage at times. “You’re mine,” I said. “These ribbons? I’ve always thought you’d look pretty tied up.” Silent in her wicked seduction, she tugged at the hold I had on the ribbons. I didn’t relent, because she didn’t want me to. Releasing but one ribbon allowed her to turn and swing out. I captured the other ribbon, her back to me now, and drew my hands up her forearms to the elbows. Kissing the back of her neck summoned a delicious moan from her. “Yes, moan for me, my vampire wife.” I wrapped one ribbon around both her wrists. “May I?” “Please.” Such power a man feels when he senses his woman’s trust and is in love. To know I can do as I wish with this beautiful soul, and she will relent. I would never push her beyond her comfort zone. That would be cruel. But this play with the ribbons suited both my need to control and my libido. The heavy ribbons slithered as I wound each alternately up her forearms until I’d bound her to the elbows. Spine straight and shoulders back, the position forced her breasts high and her posture erect. I tied a bow at her elbows and went around to kiss her. Drinking Bella’s sigh intoxicated me. I went in for the kiss, but forced myself to stop before our lips touched. Sharing breath, we teased one another with the promise of contact. Her green eyes dazzled as she sought safety in mine. I sensed her discomfort, but not enough to raise her pulse or produce a fear scent. “Do you trust me?” “Always,” she breathed. Her surrender stilled my heart. The moment was too precious to not regard. Something had changed as we’d sat on the ramshackle porch in the woods. Bella had seen my horror, had accepted my faults as she had not been able to previously. I knew she understood completely now. I trusted her. I had always believed I trusted Bella, but now, I knew it innately. Drawing my hands over her shoulders, I verified she could not struggle free from the loosely bound ribbons. I unzipped the dress and let the shoulders fall to her elbows. Moving around to stand before her, I nudged the soft fabric over the tips of her hard nipples. “So exposed to me. Bella, you quicken me.” My fingers lingered near her breasts, but I didn’t touch. Couldn’t. I wanted to savor the exquisite tension that was not so much threatening as teasing. “Tell me what you want, sweet.” She moaned, wanting, desperate. “Lick me. Please.” I moved in, her nipple brushing my mouth, then relented. “How?” “Oh…slowly. Then faster, like you do. Then slow again…ahhh.” She knew my tricks, and I knew she liked them. Tasting her completely and drawing my mark about her breast, I then flicked my tongue about the hard flesh, which drew deliriously aching moans from my wife. A man could come listening to Bella’s pleasure. She never held back, and I’ve come to understand her moans, whimpers and

sighs as a sort of Morse code for sexual direction. Shallow rapid breaths meant she would climax soon. “I want to touch you,” she cried in melting anguish. Our little play at domination had ended. I hadn’t wanted it to become a struggle of wills. Pressing my body against hers, I ground my erection against her undulating hips. She was so close to releasing to me. I reached around and fumbled with the ribbons, kissing her open mouth as I did so. Her nipples tormented the need to rip off my own clothing. When the ribbons spilled like blood across the floor, I lifted Bella into my arms and raced to the bedroom.

Chapter Eight Since we’d returned from Olivia’s home, I had developed a new appreciation for Severo’s aversion to vampires. While the bite would satisfy some deep inner longing in myself, there was no way I’d insist upon it now. I loved the man. Love does not require sacrifice so great. He’d already given me his heart. Why did I need more? It was raining tonight. I did not want to go out, but I wrapped myself in a plastic raincoat, anyway. I was hungry. Had to fulfill the call for blood before lying next to my husband in bed. I collected the red ribbons strewn on the floor as I scurried through the living room. Touching one to my lips, I recalled Severo’s soft insistence to possess but never control. Tears came to my eyes at my fortune in finding such a man. I intended to keep him. He was in the office going over paperwork for the sanctuary. He’d never miss me. “Bella?” Or maybe he wasn’t in the office. I spun to find him leaning in the arsenal doorway, a platinum SIG Sauer pistol in one hand and a cleaning cloth in the other. The smell of mineral oil flared my nostrils. “I was going to…” I pointed toward the garage, feeling strangely caught out. He knew what I was up to when I left around midnight. “You cleaning guns?” Duh. “It’s raining. You shouldn’t go out. You’ll get all wet.” “I thought you liked me wet.” The werewolf’s suggestive waggle of brow stirred me. I walked up to him and he kissed the curve of my jaw. The tickle of his beard sent wanting shivers through me. The hard gun barrel skimmed my elbow. I didn’t like weapons—though I had once fired at attacking vampires—and killed them. I stepped back from him. “Are you teasing or promising?” he asked with a glint to his dark eyes. “Promise. As soon as I get back.” He tugged me against his brawn and overwhelming strength. Clinging to him, I always felt safe and yet teasingly vulnerable.

“Stay,” he whispered. A kiss to my mouth stole my breath. He could have it. All of me. Whenever he desired. “Take from me. Please?” I couldn’t have heard him right. Pressing my palms to his chest, I sought his eyes. Always the truth there, and his most vulnerable secrets. I saw nothing beyond the calm entreaty to love him, cherish him. I shook my head. “I won’t ask it of you anymore. I’ve had a change of heart—” “So have I. There is no one I trust more than you. I want to be a part of you, Bella. I want to live inside you, to be marked by you.” His gaze was steady, focused. “I ask it of you willingly.” “What changed your mind?” “You know.” The trip to Olivia’s. “Sitting out in the forest with you,” he said. “Just…being. Confirming the ghosts of my past do not exist on this earthly plane. They have moved on. And so should I.” “Still, it’s a lot to ask.” “Stop refusing me.” He tightened his grip across my back. When Severo wants something, he takes it. And usually that means I am going to love giving it to him. “Get out of this silly plastic slicker and into my bed, sweet. I’m going to put this weapon away.” To refuse again would be arguing well beyond the point. I’d won. But it didn’t feel like a win, it felt like a precious gift.

I am very cool with my wife biting me. I am. Seriously. It wasn’t nerves that had me pacing the floor before the bed, waiting for Bella to get out of the shower. It was anticipation. I wanted to rush into the bathroom, step in the shower and lick the water from her body. I could drown in her. The slightest apprehension was stopping me from doing so. I was once the Northern pack’s principal. For four decades I led the pack, monitored them, protected them and kept them family. Eventually I tired of pack politics, of its members’ need to move closer to the cities. Twenty-first-century werewolves were becoming domesticated prisoners of the modern world. Nothing wrong with that. I simply prefer the country wildness, the freedom of being a lone wolf. I answer to no one and willingly stand alone. And I abhor the blood sport the packs participate in nowadays. I have secluded myself from most of the population, save my gorgeous wife. She is all I need. I am ready to be all she needs. There is a sure promise I will develop a hunger for blood such as my wife has. If Bella can do it, I can, too.

The water stopped. I tugged off my shirt and unbuttoned the loose jeans but didn’t ease them down my hips. Already my erection demanded its place inside Bella. She strode out of the bathroom, steam from the shower misting off her bare skin. She was long and lithe, and her muscles were concentrated in arms and torso from dancing. High breasts dripped water droplets. I went to her and bent to suckle at a hard, wet nipple. “You know what you like,” she purred, running her fingers through my hair. “You like it, too. You always moan so sweetly for me when I lick you. Here.” Full and hot, her breast served as a treat. I bent and fell to my knees, licking her wet stomach to the peak of her mons where she shaved a landing strip because that’s the way I preferred her to be. “And here.” I tasted her deeply. There were various ways to make Bella come. I had become a master of most, though I looked forward to endless discovery of all the many keys to unlocking her pleasure. “On the bed,” she gasped. “I can’t stand upright when you kiss me there. Makes me weak.” The soft bamboo sheets caught our bodies. Clasping one of Bella’s hands, I brought it down to her hip and kissed it quickly before resuming my attentions at the apex of her thighs. Her body tensed and I knew she would come soon. It is as pleasurable to give as to receive when the two of us make love. I could honestly pleasure Bella all day without demanding any return. Bella cried out, her voice hoarse with climax. She shivered and preened like a satisfied cat for a while afterward. Holding her sent matching shivers through my muscles and focused my cock. I moved alongside her and kissed each breast. “I love you,” were the easiest words to say to her. Her fingers curled about my cock. I didn’t need her to get me off, but I am a man; I wouldn’t argue the point. “You know how to touch me, sweet.” Kisses to my chest, my throat and jaw felt like faery footsteps. A squeeze to my cock was all Bella. She stroked me slowly, knowing the rhythmic pressure was just the thing for me. “Do you think we’ll ever tire of one another? I mean, we’ve centuries before us.” “I won’t,” she whispered. “But will you tire of me?” “Never.” Eyes closed, she moved her lips across mine, touching lightly, tasting but not committing. “Do you know I can hear the blood rush through your veins? It was the weirdest thing the first few weeks after I became vampire, but now I realize it’s like a person’s fingerprints. Unique.” I wasn’t the slightest disturbed by such talk. “And what does my blood say to you?” “Taste me. Take me. I am yours. I believe you want this.” “I do.” I cradled the back of her head as she bent to lick my neck. The tip of her firm tongue traced the vein. Her hand increased its strokes. “Now,” I said, “make me yours.” “I will, just as you come,” she said. “I want to know I can give you immense pleasure, and maybe distraction.” “I don’t need to be…” Words failed me. I was too close to getting off, closer yet with each stroke of Bella’s expert hand. “Maybe—” The intrusion of Bella’s fangs into my flesh matched the exact moment my body tensed with orgasm. The pain, exquisite and bold, branded me. Gripping her shoulders, I arched my back as she sank more deeply in.

The mind-twisting joy of release as my hips bucked and I came at her direction blended with a new and exotic trill of sensation at my neck. In my veins. Moving through my entire system. Aware of her breasts dusting my chest, a leg snaking along my torso and rubbing my erection, I growled lowly at the rightness of this moment. Her fingers clutched at my hair and scalp while the other hand continued to stroke my aching cock. I could come again if she wanted me to. All the while she sucked at my vein. I could not juxtapose the rhythm of her hand on my erection to the sweet sensation of her mouth at my neck. It was both deliriously invigorating and strangely numbing. I thought she might take too much, and then it didn’t matter. Take it all. I belong to you now. We are one. Orgasm again attacked me with amazing vigor. My body was racked with shudders and she clung tighter, riding my pleasure with wicked intent. Never have I reached such heights. Falling into an oblivion rarely visited, I closed my eyes and sighed. A kiss at my neck. Another kiss to my mouth. She tasted like blood, not offensive, just different. Bella moved on top of me and took me inside her. She rocked upon me slowly, taking what she wanted and feeding the surrender that held me firmly in her grasp. I had been marked by a vampire. The wound would not heal as my other wounds had. Yes, the wound bearing memories of my tragic past had begun to heal. Yet Bella’s bite would scar and proclaim to the world I had succumbed. I am a happy werewolf for it.

Night had fallen and the air was warm with the promise of sunny days. I stood upon the rise of hill that looks over a valley behind our home. Spring smelled sweet. Adjusting the long leather duster coat I’d held over my left arm, I smiled at the oncoming dark shape. He loped happily across the field. Already I felt the pace of his rapid heartbeats in my veins. Synched, and bonded. Gorgeous dark brown-and-black fur shimmered on the wolf’s body from the half moonlight. As he closed the distance between us, his gait changed to to a scamper. He stopped before me and dropped the rabbit at my feet. A good-size male that must have just come out from its cozy winter warren. “I see Crowel will be making rabbit stew tonight,” I said. The wolf yipped and rolled onto its back, allowing its body to succumb to the gyrations of shape-shifting. I gazed across the horizon because I’d seen the change and it still made me wonder how painful it must be—though I’d been promised it was not. After a minute I felt him standing next to me, his shoulders jerking a few times to adjust to the final changes. Strong male arms embraced me from the side and Severo kissed the corner of my mouth as he navigated for his coat. He slipped his arms into it and then pulled me to his bare, naked chest. My fingers slid over his chest and down his tight abs. I pulled his hips to mine. Nuzzling my head against his shoulder in the darkness, I stroked a finger along his neck, noting the raised scars from two small punctures. “Any regrets?”

“Not at all. I like being claimed by you. Now everyone will know how madly in love I am with a vampire, my wife, my lover.”

Read more about Belladonna and Severo in MOON KISSED by Michele Hauf, available now from Silhouette Nocturne. image

If you liked this story, check out more of Michele Hauf’s books always available in eBook format from www.ebooks.eharlequin and wherever eBooks are sold:

Silhouette Nocturne:

Moon Kissed (the prequel to After the Kiss) The Highwayman The Devil to Pay Winter Kissed His Forgotten Forever Kiss Me Deadly From the Dark

Silhouette Nocturne Bites:

Racing the Moon Midnight Cravings (anthology containing Racing the Moon)

Silhouette Bombshell:

Flawless Once a Thief Getaway Girl

Luna Books:

Seraphim Gossamyr Rhiana

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Interested in writing for Nocturne Bites? Send your submission to [email protected] ISBN: 978-1-4268-3986-3 After the Kiss Copyright © 2009 by Michele Hauf All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text September be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of publisher. All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention. This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. ® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Trade Marks Office and in other countries. www.eHarlequin.com