“Yes.” A single rough word, but his hand, it closed over her own, warm and protective.
She spread her fingers, interlocked them with his own. “Do you want to end it?” The fact it hurt her deep inside to ask that question was an unmistakable sign she’d already started to fall for this man who could never give her what she needed.
“We should stop,” Riaz said, eyes of pale brown shot with amber in the morning sunlight, “before it costs us both.”
Yet neither one of them made the move to break their physical connection. Adria’s wolf stood in silence, uncertain … scared. It was hard to admit that, to accept that in spite of her every promise to herself, Riaz had come perilously close to breaching the core she’d vowed to protect. Part of her wanted to wrench her hand from his, turn away. It would be the safer choice, allowing her to walk out of this a little bruised but heart-whole. And still…
Riaz cupped the side of her face with his free hand. “I’m a bad risk, Adria.” Raw, his soul stripped bare. “A really bad one.”
Untangling their fingers, she pushed up into a kneeling position, the sheet held to her br**sts. “I’m worse.” The scars she carried were invisible, and marked her to the bone. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust a man with all of me ever again.” His honesty deserved her own. “I’m broken deep inside.”
Almost able to taste the intensity of her pain, Riaz curved his hand over her nape. “I swear to God, I will hunt Martin down and rip him limb from limb.” A dominant female’s pride, her self-belief was her armor, something no male worth his salt would ever attempt to strip from her.
Startled laughter coloring the air, Adria tugged him down until their foreheads touched. “There’s no need. It took me longer than it should have, but I saw him for what he was—and I saw the mistakes I’d made, too.”
But the damage done, he thought, was nothing that would easily fade, her scars as indelible as his own. As indelible as the feminine strength that had brought her out of the darkness. His wolf, its teeth still bared, took a single step toward her, halted. He felt as if he stood on the edge of a treacherous cliff. A single wrong move could send him tumbling down into a rocky gorge, shattering his bones, his mind, his soul itself.
He’d never expected to be here, facing this moment, with any woman.
A storm cloud deep within, the shadow of a past he was determined to lay to rest threatening to darken the morning, but as strong was the knowledge that he couldn’t live in limbo forever without going mad, and that the flickering flame between him and Adria was something important, something worth fighting for.
Maybe, just maybe, two broken people could manage to create something whole. “Yes,” he said and waited, his wolf’s body quivering with a tension that kicked him in the guts with exactly how important Adria had become to him. And, his eyes on the mark he’d sucked on her neck, he knew he wasn’t going to behave and walk away if she said no.
Her answer made his wolf lunge to the fore. He didn’t fight the shift, because this decision, it was as much the wolf’s as it was the man’s. A lovely woman with wide violet eyes and hair of tumbled silk was kneeling beside him when he completed the shift to pad around and take a seat on the sheets, his body pressing against her knees. An instant later, the air filled with iridescent sparks of color … to form into the shape of an elegant silver wolf with an unexpected white flash on her tail.
Shaking herself as if to settle her new skin, she lay down next to him, her muzzle on her front paws, her body half the size of his in this form. He shifted to crowd her against the headboard. Snarling, she pricked him with her claws when he pushed too much. He nipped at her ear.
Amber eyes turned to him in a warning that had his wolf nuzzling at her with wild affection that came from the heart of the predator. She wasn’t the one who had made its soul sing in recognition when they had been in this waterlogged city before, but she was his friend, his lover, carried his scent. The wolf trusted her at his back, with its secrets, had no intention of letting her go.
IT was late at night, well past a seven-and-a-half-year-old’s bedtime when Judd sat down next to William on a fallen log in the wooded area behind the home the boy’s family had bought on the borderline of DarkRiver and SnowDancer territory. There was no longer any need for Judd to hide his presence, his cover well and truly blown, but he made sure his visits to see William stayed covert nonetheless—the instant the vulnerable boy was associated with him, he’d become a target. There were those, Psy or not, who wouldn’t hesitate to take William, mold him into a tool of death.
Like Judd, the boy was a Tk-Cell. He could literally move cells within the body itself—which meant he could stop a heart and make it look like a natural death. Judd had had to teach William that ugly truth not only because the boy had already inadvertently killed a family pet, but also because William needed to realize and acknowledge every aspect of his ability so that he could gain control over it. However, they were taking the practical application of William’s Tk-Cell strength in a wholly new direction.
Now, reaching over, he ruffled the boy’s soft brown hair. “Bad haircut.” It was as if someone had put a bowl on top of his head and sheared around it. Crookedly.
William propped his elbows on his knees, cupping his face. “Mom.” Pure exasperation. “She says it’ll grow out, but I have to go to school!”