“Did you … have a chance?”
His hands flexed on the wheel. “She loves her husband. I just found her too late.” He regretted saying as much as he had as soon as he’d spoken, his wolf uncomfortable with the sudden, stark vulnerability. “Indigo knows the bare facts”—and he wished she didn’t—“but no one else does, so if you could—”
“I won’t say a word,” she promised in that slightly husky voice that was an unintended provocation. “You can talk to me about it, you know.” A hesitation. “It can’t be good for you to hold everything inside.”
Shifting the vehicle into hover mode, he took them over a rocky patch. “There’s not much to talk about.” He wasn’t being obdurate—what else was there to say? Lisette belonged to another man, and Riaz had to figure out a way to live with that.
“No, I suppose there isn’t.” Not speaking again till they stepped out of the vehicle in a relatively isolated section of den territory, she said, “Let’s stay in human form. It’ll be easier to talk.”
He nodded—a few sections would be tricky to navigate on two feet, but they could always reconsider shifting at that stage.
As they walked, he saw Adria take in everything with those stunning eyes of blue-violet. It was the first time he’d really looked at her, not blinded by the caustic mix of anger and desire that had colored their earlier interactions. There was a steely strength to her gaze—as if she’d been tempered in pain and come out of it harder, less breakable.
His fascination with her shifted a fraction, became more subtle, more complex … more disturbing, as he realized he wanted to know of the crucible that had honed her. “There’s something you should see here,” he said, caught between the competing needs of a fidelity that would destroy him, and a silken betrayal that might tear him apart.
“DO YOU SEE your parents often?” he asked almost two hours later, unable to resist the urge to solve the mystery of her.
A pregnant pause filled only with the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. “Not as much as I should.”
Reading the tension in the line of her spine, he knew she wanted him to drop it, but regardless of all else, he’d never been a man who took orders when he didn’t want to take them. “Odd for a wolf.”
No response as they walked through the spring green meadow. Just when he was beginning to believe she’d simply ignore the question, she said, “I was in a relationship. It made my parents unhappy.” Plain words that told him nothing.
“Did they make you choose?”
“No, but we ended up arguing about it every time I went to see Mom and Dad.” She blew out a breath. “Tarah, Indigo, neither of them approved, but they let me be for the most part.”
Riaz wondered what the hell had been wrong with the male Adria had chosen that her entire family hadn’t liked the guy. However, the shuttered expression on her face told him the discussion was over; he could push, but this time, he decided for patience. Dominant female wolves didn’t react well to pressure beyond a certain point.
As she walked ahead a few steps, his eyes lingered on the soft skin exposed at her nape, beneath the silken rope of her braid. The golden warmth of it glowed in the harsh mountain sunlight, and he wanted only to push that braid aside and run his fingers over the spot.
Adria jerked out and to the side, her hair brushing the back of his hand.
And he realized his fingers had done exactly as he’d imagined. “Shit, I’m sorry.”
Brilliant blue-violet eyes streaked with precious gold watched him with too much knowledge. “You need to do something about your hunger, Riaz.”
The idea of being with any woman but Lisette made his entire body revolt, but even then, the scent of Adria, the remembered feel of her, it was a drug, an addiction that gripped him in powerful teeth and shook. “Can you get back on your own?” The words were harsh, his wolf too close to the surface.
Adria gave a simple, “Yes,” before turning and walking away from him a second time, a tall, strong woman with hair as dark as onyx and a pride that he knew would never again allow her to invite him into her bed.
ADRIA bent over with a shudder, hands on her knees, after Riaz disappeared in the opposite direction. Her body felt as if it wanted to burst out of her skin, torn by a chaos of competing needs and desires. When Riaz had touched her, she’d almost melted into the rough heat of his fingers in spite of her every vow to the contrary, her body already conditioned to expect primal pleasure.
Inhaling another shaky breath, she took a detour on her way down to the den, following an overgrown path that, if memory served her right, led to a small hidden waterfall. She’d found it as a young girl, and it had become her secret place, where she came to think over important decisions, or to indulge in frustration and temper.
A smile tugged her lips. God, she’d been such a serious, temperamental child. As she’d grown, that wildness of emotion had matured into a quiet intensity of passion, restrained and tempered.
“You’re magnificent and I can’t wait to learn all of you.” Words Martin had spoken to her during their first year as a couple.
Her smile faded, into a sadness so deep, it lodged in her chest, a heavy lump. Even the sight of “her” waterfall, small and secretive and effervescent, didn’t lift her spirits. Her mind was with the woman she’d been, so very ready to start what she’d thought would be the next phase of her life, with a man she’d believed would walk beside her as they both changed and grew. And for the first time since she’d made the decision to end their broken relationship, her anger was washed away by grief.