“Can you please be serious?” If he gave her a play-by-play of what he’d done to her body earlier she’d go up in flames. And something about the glint in his eyes told her he planned to do just that. The humor left his face and his jaw clenched, but finally he spoke. “I kept tabs on you while you were overseas.” Her eyebrows rose at his admission. “How…why?” “I have a lot of government contacts around the world so I called in a few favors and…I needed to know you were safe. It was the only way I could live with any sort of peace knowing you were over there without any pack protection. My protection.” His statement was so raw it tugged at her heartstrings. As a shifter she would have lived through almost any kind of explosion or attack from gunfire but the fact that he’d watched out for her and remembered the small details from their correspondence touched her on a deep level. She remembered all their letters too. The stories he’d told her about his brothers and their life growing up together had made her smile and had given her an insight into his personality. She’d read and reread those letters so many times it was embarrassing—and to know he also remembered what they’d talked about made her knees go weak. If her legs weren’t still wrapped around his waist, she wasn’t sure they’d have held her up. She wondered if she was all kinds of stupid for what she was about to do, but the insecure voice in her head that she usually listened to was silenced by the sincere, heated look on Alaric’s face. Felicia was so tired of not being able to trust anyone. Before she could question her decision she leaned forward, letting her lips mesh with his. His tongue was hot and exploratory as he pushed them away from the wall. She was vaguely aware of him carrying her into the bedroom then just as quickly she was flat on her back and he was on top of her. Splaying her hands across his chest, she allowed herself the freedom to explore everything she wanted. Digging her fingers into his muscular pecs, she savored the feel of him tensing under her touch. When he growled into her mouth she fought a smile. She loved that she could bring out such a primal reaction from him. One of his hands cupped her cheek and the other trailed down to her waist until he held her hip in a firm grasp. His hold felt as if he was afraid she’d try to leave. Part of her wondered if she should but she knew deep down that she wasn’t going anywhere. Not now. She was tired of running away from things and tired of not feeling good enough to take what she wanted in life. Arching her back, she couldn’t hold back a moan as her chest fully met his. The only problem was she had on too many clothes. As if he could read her mind, Alaric grasped the bottom of her sweater and practically tore it off. Then it was skin on skin. A shudder flooded through her at the intimate contact. Her nipples were rock hard and pressing against his chest only sensitized them even more. Feeling that strength against her own softness was nearly too much to handle. She felt as if she could literally combust at the hot sensations racing through her. Every single nerve ending tingled as she fantasized about what would happen next. With the same quickness that he’d discarded her top, her pants seemed to disappear from her body with lightning speed. Then Alaric was kneeling in front of her naked, splayed body and he was looking at her as if she were an offering for him and all his desires. Desires she had no problem fulfilling. The dark look in his eyes stunned her. He stared at her with something that almost bordered on reverence. Like she was special and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to kiss or devour her. She couldn’t fully accept the way he looked at her because she wasn’t sure if it was her imagination or if he really needed her that much. Slowly, his eyes trailed from her face down to her breasts. Her already hard nipples tightened to almost painful points as his gaze lingered there. They were still tingling as he continued a searing path down her stomach until he stopped at the juncture between her spread legs. No one had ever touched her so intimately until him and even though the thought might have horrified her at one time, she wanted him to kiss her everywhere. When he moistened his lips almost absently she knew she was going to get her wish. Wordlessly, he pressed his large, callused palms to her inner thighs and spread them farther apart. A low rumble came up from somewhere deep inside of him as he bent his head and gently nipped her lower abdomen. Still too high up her body to give her exactly what she wanted. But just enough to drive her crazy. She had no doubt he knew he was torturing her. Somehow she made herself relax as he began pressing kisses along the top of her mound. When he expertly moved to her inner thighs she couldn’t fight the shudders that racked her. His lips were so close to where she craved them but he was still teasing. Though she was thankful for the foreplay, a primal part of her wanted him to just take her hard and uninhibited. Even if it was going to be her first time, her most primitive side needed to be able to let the animal inside her free. And he was intent on taking his sweet time. Shifting her hips slightly, she tried to force him to give her what she wanted. His chuckle against the sensitive skin of her thigh sent another shiver through her. “I’ll give you what you want, sweetheart.” His words were whisper soft. Slowly—so slowly—he dragged his tongue along the length of her wet slit. Unable to control herself, she jerked against his mouth. Her inner walls clenched with the need to be filled by him. “You’re so wet,” he growled. “So do something about it.” She wasn’t sure where those words came from but the rough sound he made let her know he was close to losing control. His hands slightly shook against her thighs as he increased the pressure. Before she could suck in a deep breath and try to ground herself, he began a delicious teasing assault. As he parted her folds with his tongue, he slowly inserted one finger inside her. The feel of his intrusion made her inner walls clench tight around him. When he began moving in and out in a slow, rhythmic pattern that matched the tempo of his tongue, she clutched the sheets beneath them. It didn’t do much to ground her but she was afraid to hold on to his head too tightly for fear her claws would extend. She definitely wanted what he was giving her but she needed some semblance of control. Unfortunately it was quickly slipping out of her grasp. Her back arched off the bed as he narrowed in on her pulsing clit. He flicked and teased her most sensitive area with no reprieve. With each stroke of his tongue, his finger also slid in and out of her. He played her body so expertly she wasn’t surprised when her climax hit fast and hard. She felt as if she’d been tossed out of a plane with no parachute as the free fall of her orgasm swelled through her entire body to all her nerve endings. It was all she could do to catch her breath as her fingers and toes tingled with the aftershocks. When she finally managed to open her eyes she found Alaric propped up over her, caging her body in with both his hands and simply staring at her face. His dark eyes had a possessive glint that made her reach out and cup his cheek. He instantly turned his face in to her hold and gently kissed her palm. The action was sweet and unexpected. Something told her this wolf was about to break all her expectations in the best way. For the first time in as long as she could remember she felt free of her insecurities and free to be herself. All because of him. As he began a trail of kisses down her exposed wrist and inner arm she hooked her legs behind his back and pulled him tight against her. He tore his mouth from her arm and bent to cover her mouth again. She went straight for the top of his jeans. The moment she grasped the button, he froze and pulled back. His dark eyes were no longer filled with lust or…anything. The tender and attentive lover had all but disappeared behind a blank wall. Chapter Five “What is it?” That familiar insecurity rose inside Felicia’s throat like bile. Before she could speak or think about moving he was off her and the bed. “I can sense a shifter—maybe two—nearby. Stay in this room and lock the door until I come back.” Then he was gone. A second later she heard the sound of breaking glass downstairs. Ignoring his order—because really, a locked door wouldn’t keep a shifter out—she quickly dressed and then rushed to the other bedroom. She found his backpack lying on the end of the bed. She pulled out a black-and-silver handgun. Growing up, she’d learned to use all kinds of weapons and overseas she’d gotten in a lot of practice time with handguns. There hadn’t been much else to do in her off time. Now she hoped that might pay off. She quickly checked the chamber. It was loaded and by the extra weight she guessed it contained silver-injected bullets. Or she really hoped it did. They weren’t visibly coated with the poisonous metal so she couldn’t know for sure. But if shifters or even vampires were attacking, she wouldn’t hesitate to use the gun. She hurried back down the hallway, then descended the stairs. Listening carefully, she peeked around the corner when she reached the bottom. To the left, the front entryway was clear. To her right through the kitchen, she could see glass scattered by the open backdoor. Had someone lured Alaric outside? The house was eerily quiet and she fought the rising panic inside her. The thought of anything happening to him made her see red. Her heart pounded in her ears and she had to wipe one of her sweaty palms on her pants so she could grip the weapon. Crouching low, she headed down the hallway and through the kitchen. Careful to avoid the glass pieces, she peered outside. Her heart caught in her throat at what she saw. Two hulking wolves faced off with each other in the backyard. One of them was Alaric. She’d recognize his dark gray coat anywhere. His lips were pulled back, revealing razor-sharp fangs but he wasn’t attacking. Not yet. The other wolf also bared his teeth as he darted back and forth, trying to find an opening to strike. Despite their similar size, Alaric looked more lethal because of his deliberate stillness. He wasn’t hopping around. He slowly circled the other animal, taking his time. Looking for the perfect moment to attack.