Heartglow

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Chapter 15

Valaria woke to sharp tapping on her door. She groaned and rolled over to see the clock…ten a.m….good grief, she couldn’t remember nodding off but figured it was after three in the morning.

The knocking stopped and then started again. Vee pulled her pillow over her head but the rapping continued to find its way to her ears. She sighed and wiped her eyes as she called out, “I’m coming!” and then adding under her breath, “Geez, can’t a girl be left alone for even one day?”

She got up and threw on a housecoat as she dragged her feet to the door. The knocking had started again as she reached for the lock.

“I said I was up!” she pulled it open to reveal the cat king, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and it annoyed her, “What do you want, Kaden? I’m not cooking breakfast for you again this morning, I am not running a diner, you know.” She turned away to let him come in.

“No, that’s not why I’m here,” he looked around her livingroom, “I wanted to take you out for breakfast this morning.”

Vee had grabbed a glass and got a drink of water, “Did you have to come over so early?”

Kaden looked at his watch, “I thought you would be up by now, you left early last night,” he referenced the dinner from last night.

Vee was wide awake now, “And what was that peep show you were putting on last night?”

Kaden grinned unapologetically, “Did you like it? I just wanted to show you how I felt being so close to you.”

She wanted to wipe the smirk off his face, “Yeah, you and Riordan both.”

That did it…

Vee laughed to herself as she strode towards the bedroom, “Give me ten minutes and I’ll be good to go.” After all, she had to ask him about the threats on Cassidy’s life and if it was truly over.

~*~

Fifteen minutes later she came out to find him still standing, his smile still missing.

She smiled sweetly, “What’s the matter? Didn’t you enjoy the pie last night?”

She was rewarded with a growl coming from his throat. She laughed as they headed out the door and walked down the sidewalk to a charming diner. He was still silent as he held the door for her to precede him, but he followed as she chose a booth at the back.

She grabbed the menu and began to peruse the morning specials, finding she actually was feeling quite hungry. She glanced over the top to see Kaden still sitting with his dark brooding looks while his menu lay untouched.

“What’s the matter? I assumed you would be eating too,” not that she really cared right at the moment, “unless you have suddenly lost your appetite,” she added sweetly.

Kaden glanced down at the folded cardstock, “I don’t need to look, I already know what I want,” he stared directly at her.

Vee looked down, deliberately ignoring his insinuation, “Well, I’m starved. I think I’m going to get the full meal deal.” She glanced up as a waitress came over and flipped over her cup and poured a steaming cup of coffee. A handful of cream and sugar packets followed, materializing out of thin air it seemed.

“Ready to order?” the pleasant young woman asked both of them.

Vee smiled back, “Yeah, I’ll have your Sunny Day Platter with a couple of pieces of toast.”

“Whole wheat or white?”

“Whole wheat would be great, thank you,” Vee answered.

The girl turned to Kaden, “And what would you like Mr. O’Connor?”

Mr. O’Connor? Hmmm…a regular…Valaria mused as Kaden spoke.

“I’ll have the same,” he flipped his cup over and the waitress filled it too.

“Okay, it won’t be long,” she smiled, gathered up the menus, and strode off to the kitchen.

Vee felt her cat stretch languidly inside, before beginning to purr.

Closer…we want to smell him…

Vee’s smile disappeared at the suggestion. She did not want to get any closer, having the table between them was just fine. After what she read last night, the last thing she wanted was to encourage any sort of contact. The article she read about mating was a real eye-opener. It was true their kind had to be exposed to both wolf and cat shifters, which would have been easy within the double shifter clans, but when their animals decided on who would be the best mate, regardless of the person’s choice, then they were mated.

She remembered it was called the glowing because their skin would literally start to shine. Cassie had written her own notes for what she went through when it happened. Her two animals battled it out until one was the victor, which in her case was the man she wanted all along. But it could have gone the other way and she would have been mated to the man sitting across from her right now.

Vee looked up from the coffee clutched in her hands and saw Kaden looking out the window at something. It gave her a chance to study him. She still found it hard to believe that he was cat royalty, an actual king…and she had made love with him…She shook her head mentally…no, they had sex, nothing more…and it couldn’t be anything more…

Kaden turned as if sensing her silent perusal. His eyebrows sank as he watched her watching him before he spoke, “What’s on your mind mo bhanrion?”

Vee didn’t want to share so she questioned, “What did you just call me?”

Kaden smiled, “I will tell you later. I would like to walk with you after breakfast. I have a favor to ask.”

Favor? What could she do for him?

“I’m not sleeping with you,” she wanted him to know she was now off-limits and she didn’t owe him anything.

He chuckled at her words before staring intently at her lower lip, “If we spend the night together, we wouldn’t be sleeping, little one.”

Vee felt her chest tighten at his words, her breath catching in her throat until she felt she couldn’t breathe. Why did he affect her so much?

We want to run with him…

Run with him or get into bed with him again? She questioned herself.

Heat suddenly flushed her system, she felt her skin tighten like a coil, waiting to burst free. Vee clamped down inside, worried her cat was about to spring free right there. Maybe a walk after their breakfast would be a good idea…or better yet, a run with her sister…it was much safer.

Their plates of hot food arrived then with a plate piled high with toast. The waitress then brought little squares of butter, jam, and peanut butter. She refilled their coffee cups and left them alone to enjoy the fare.

Vee was relieved that it gave her time to think about his invitation. She still needed to find a way to ask him about any lingering threats to her sister and consequently, herself. She watched him dig into the delicious food as she filled the silence with her own chewing.

So what would be the best way to tackle the question? Just come out and ask? Somehow she knew even if there was still a threat, he would let on that everything was fine. These men always thought they could protect everyone in their circle…well they already proved that they were wrong since it almost cost her sister’s life. A sister that she would never have known…

She felt that familiar ache again in her chest at that thought…maybe with the birth of her animals, it triggered the need to be closer to her own kind…wolves lived in packs…was this why she was experiencing all these strange feelings? What would it mean for her future?

“You’re deep in thought,” Kaden interrupted her questioning mind.

Vee sought his eyes, “Are we in danger, Kaden?” The question came out before she realized she had said anything.

Kaden hesitated before looking down at his plate, “What makes you think that?”

Damn! Vee had hoped he would just come out and reassure her that there was nothing to fear, mainly for her sister’s sake…and for her new nephew…

“When were you planning on telling me?” she couldn’t believe he wasn’t going to say anything, “Does Slayde know?”

Kaden looked up at her, “Why do you think you are in danger?”

Vee shook her head, “Classic liars answer a question with another question. It’s a stall tactic until they can come up with a plausible answer.”

Kaden dropped his fork and swore under his breath. And he knew there was no way in hell she would drop the subject unless he answered her questions…and the last thing he needed was for her to tell Cassidy, who would, in turn, confront Slayde, and then they all would be up shit creek without a paddle.

“So, are you going to tell me or should I just go ask my sister what she knows. I’m sure her loving husband has told her everything.” Vee didn’t want to pull that card, but Cassidy and her couldn’t arm themselves if they didn’t know a threat was coming.

Kaden motioned to her meal, “Finish up and we will go for that walk.”

Vee smiled inwardly, pleased that he didn’t try to cast her suspicions off. Nothing would piss her off more than to be treated like a helpless female. She quickly ate through what she could and finished her coffee as he sat there, his appetite seemingly gone.

When she was through, he got up and went to the cash register to pay the bill and they both left. Valaria walked beside him, letting him lead them wherever he wanted. She assumed he wanted to keep things just between them.

When they approached a gravel walkway leading to a bench and the forest beyond, he stopped, gesturing to the seat, “Shall we sit?”

Vee didn’t want to sit in public with him. She already felt like eyes were drilling into her back, even though she glanced around and saw no one giving them any sort of attention. It didn’t take long before paranoia had set in after his unspoken admission.

She shook her head, “No, let’s keep walking,” she gestured towards the woods.

Kaden nodded and they both walked side by side into the dark gloom. Vee found she did feel more protected with the large man next to her.

“First, you must promise not to tell anyone what I’m going to tell you, and especially not Cassidy,” Kaden started.

Vee pursed her lips, “I don’t think it’s wise to let her think her world is safe if there could be a threat to her or her son’s life.”

“Slayde is protecting her,” Kaden replied, feeling this was going to be one long fight. He had to convince her to do what he said.

“Oh, yeah, like he protected her before?” Valaria couldn’t stop the words that flew from her mouth.

She felt the wave of anger and frustration that emanated from Kaden. She knew it was probably a low blow, but it was her sister’s life! There was no room for error or next time she might not be so lucky.

“That was different,” Kaden spit out, “Everything was new. We were trying to tear open a mystery that everyone forgot. No one could anticipate that there was a traitor still alive to try to kill her. It had been so long since the last double shifter had been wiped out, and who knew how deep the roots of that treachery was? And Rebecca was someone Cassie trusted and we didn’t suspect her since she arrived with Omega Jackson’s entourage.”

“But something has happened to make you think it’s not over,” Vee stated.

Kaden looked at her, “You have to promise, Valaria, Slayde would be pissed if Cassidy found out.”

Now Vee was getting a little on the pissed side, “But it’s her life, Kaden…”

Kaden broke in, “If you don’t promise, Valaria, I am not discussing anything with you. So, which shall it be?”

Vee knew he wasn’t budging and she knew it was better if she was included on any threats against their lives, “Fine, have it your way…again,” she griped out the last word and then threw in for good measure, “Your Majesty.”

She heard him sigh as if still contemplating whether he should share what had happened to the female shifter. But he admitted it might make it easier to obtain blood samples…

“We had the body of a female shifter delivered here yesterday. Her throat had been cut,” he started but then hesitated.

Valaria looked over at him as she saw him struggle with his next words.

“She was discovered not far from the bar you frequent, where we first met,” Kaden let that sink in.

Vee was confused, what had a dead shifter to do with her? Cassidy had told her that shifters existed everywhere.

“She looked like you,” Kaden finished.

Valaria stopped and looked up at him, “So why do you think that has anything to do with me or Cassie? I mean, I didn’t even know what I was until a couple of days ago. Maybe this was just someone in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she shrugged her shoulders, “Bad stuff happens to good people all the time.”

Kaden looked away and then back again, “We don’t know for sure, but it was such a coincidence that someone that looked like you turned up dead in your city.”

“But you said she was a wolf shifter,” Vee replied.

Kaden shook his head, “No, I said she was a shifter. We assume she was wolf from the blood samples, but we cannot rule out the chance that she was another lost double shifter.”

“Well, can’t you just get a sample from Cassidy to compare to?” Vee reasoned.

“We could, but it would raise suspicion and we don’t know if it would work since this girl was obviously a pre-shift,” Kaden answered.

The favor…Vee remembered his words, “So, you actually want me to give you a sample of my blood.”

Kaden gave her a look that would melt the hardest of hearts, “Yes, it would give us something to start with. We are hoping by isolating the wolf characteristics that we can see what is left over that might be your cat. I am giving a sample of my own and we have samples of a wolf-shifter pre-shift too.”

“But wouldn’t you just compare hers to the wolf pre-shifter and see if they match?” Valaria reasoned.

“We can and will, but your species starts with your wolf side until your cat is released. That’s why we need fresh samples from you,” he explained.

Valaria looked down, “What you really need is some blood from a double-shifter pre-shift.”

“Ideally, that would be great, but I don’t think that is something that is going to happen anytime soon or ever for that matter,” Kaden sighed.

Vee looked up at him, the darkness playing over his face, throwing it in shadow, “Not necessarily.”

Kaden tilted his head in askance, “What do you mean?”

Vee bit her lip before replying, “I cut myself a couple of weeks ago and it bled like a bastard. I used an old facecloth to stop the bleeding and it probably has quite a bit of blood still on it, although it’s pretty dry.”

Kaden’s eyes sparkled at her words, “Really? It’s back at your place?”

Vee nodded, “I don’t know if it would help, but I could get Ronnie to get it and mail it here.”

Kaden couldn’t believe their luck, “That would be fantastic. I’m sure they could get enough DNA from it. This could be the break we needed and we might be able to I.D. future double-shifters with the information.”

It was like she offered him the world on a silver platter, his happiness was so evident. But he still hadn’t given her the whole story.

“So, what’s the next step? You know, I could go back and make some inquiries…”

“Absolutely not!” the smile on his face vanished, “You are staying here with me so I can make sure you don’t end up like that dead shifter.”

Wait a sec…?

Vee glared into his eyes, “Are you saying I’m a prisoner here? That I can’t leave?” No way in hell was she going to be dictated to…she wasn’t her sister, blissfully ignorant and happy to go along with whatever these men said.

Kaden saw another argument coming, but it was unavoidable, “I am saying that for your own protection, until we find out what is going on, you can enjoy your visit with your sister.”

Vee couldn’t believe she fell for his promise of two weeks! He had no intention of honoring their agreement! It was all lies!

“Valaria…” Kaden sighed her name as he watched her eyes turn to daggers.

“You lied to me,” she fumed, “You had no intention of letting me leave after two weeks, did you?”

He put his hand over his heart, “I swear, when we made that agreement, I had no idea about the shifter. But it changes everything, you are going to have to accept that your existence isn’t just about what you want. You will be a part of the resurrection of your species, as is your sister.”

Valaria didn’t want to hear his words. She had come here to meet a sister she didn’t know she had. There was no way she was letting someone else demand anything else from her. The revival of her species? On her shoulders?

She shook her head, “No, I don’t owe anything to anyone…not to you, not to my sister…nobody. And I can’t believe my sister will go along with this either…”

“Your sister will do as she’s told by her husband and Alpha,” Kaden broke in, “She will not aid you in any way.”

Vee shook her head, “You are wrong cat man. Cassidy wouldn’t force me to stay. Especially when I tell her about what is going on. She will help me if I ask.”

Kaden stared down at her, seeing a new panic in her eyes. He remembered her sister’s first few weeks learning about who and what she was. She had wanted to run too, but her love and eventual mating with Slayde had firmly grown roots. Now she was happy and accepted her life. But her sister was definitely a different story. And he felt the only thing that would keep her here was if her animals picked a mate…

Kaden reached for her, his hand winding around the back of her neck as he pulled her against his warm body. She gasped at his sudden movements, but she didn’t pull away. He took that as encouragement and lowered his head to capture her lips with his own. He slit his eyes to see her own had closed and he smiled to himself as he crushed her mouth to his. Her lips remained parted to allow his tongue to dip and taste the sweetness that was all her.

She moaned as her body melted against him and he could feel his cat reach for hers. A low gruff growl slid from his throat to hers. Kaden was thrilled when it was reciprocated from Valaria’s own cat. His free hand caressed from her back, down over her tight ass to pull her tighter against him.

She purred…

Kaden’s nostrils flared as he drank in her scent. He could smell the weeping between her legs as she anticipated his lovemaking. Although nothing would make him happier than to spread her naked body on the forest floor, his cat was demanding his time with hers. He wanted to mate her and mark her with his own sleek body.

Kaden could feel her cat close to the surface and knew it wouldn’t take much encouragement to release her. Valaria hadn’t the time to practice keeping her animals under control, so her cat could easily take over.

He wouldn’t deny his own…

~*~

One minute Valeria was spitting angry and the next she was under the sweetest assault. When Kaden first wrapped his large hand around her, she wasn’t sure if he was going to snap her neck or use his strength to control her…it was neither…he didn’t need any strength when his hypnotic lips and tongue brought her to calmness. She found her eyes closing of their own will as his head descended and her mouth surrendered to his.

She forgot every argument, every angry word as her mouth was plundered and her lungs were pillaged of air, a slave to the man holding her. She was vaguely aware of her cat pawing inside her body, her growls and panting reaching beyond her and she heard the answering deep-throated rumbles.

Vee’s heart pounded loudly as she found her back pressed up against a tree and her front crushed to thick male flesh. Her own hands were clenched around strong muscular arms as she felt her body lifted and her legs pulled up to wrap around the rest of the thickness pressed into her.

Out…out…out…

She knew her cat was demanding release and she tried to push her back down, knowing it wouldn’t be a good thing to change when she was very firmly clothed…

Her shirt split, buttons flying haphazardly as Kaden’s hands pulled the material apart. Thank goodness her bra snapped in the front or it would be useless too as he twisted the clasp and freed her breasts. Then her mouth was released and she moaned as her nipple was sucked deep and tongued until it was as hard as stone. She cried out as her other breast was worshipped until it was aching for more.

Vee felt her body burning up as her hips ground against his. It didn’t matter how angry he made her, when he touched her, she belonged to him. She burned for him. Her only thought was having him deep inside her, riding her until she came apart.

She needed to taste him.

She pulled his head up and instead of placing her mouth over his, she pulled him forward until her lips wrapped into the skin of his neck, sucking the taste of salt, nipping the firm muscle as she hummed her arousal…

“Kaden!!!”

Both of them stopped as they heard Riordan call out. Vee pulled away, trying to fill her lungs to slow her breathing.

“FUCK!!” Kaden cursed under his breath before easing away from Valaria, letting her slide easily to her feet. He grasped her hand, “Come on, I know a place…”

Vee pulled back, with his contact gone she was gaining some of her sanity back, “No,” she saw that her challenge was accepted and he was more than willing to heat her up again, “it might be important, Kaden.”

Kaden’s visage was dark thunder as he debated whether to just throw her over his shoulder and take her anyway. But the last thing he needed was her yelling for help, even though she was a little she-cat in heat mere moments before.

He swore again as he heard his nemesis getting closer, “This better be good or I’m going to kill him.”

Vee slapped his arm as she refastened her bra and then took the ends of her torn shirt and tied them country style halfway up her torso, leaving a generous helping of skin. Kaden saw her and growled, “Get behind me, he doesn’t need to see you.”

Valaria felt her old anger resurface, “Fuck you, cat man, I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“Oh hey, there you are,” Riordan announced as he joined them, “Listen…” he stopped as Valaria made an appearance from behind the cat king.

Vee held her head high but remained silent. She couldn’t care less what he thought either. These men would have to learn, she was not one of them and they couldn’t control her…she winced…well, as long as there was no exchange of tongue…Gawd, she really was a hussy…

“I’m not interrupting anything?” Riordan asked as his eyes drank in Vee in her sexy little top.

“As a matter of fact, you are,” Kaden ground out, “Now what do you want and it had better be important.”

Rory’s gaze met Kaden’s showing no sign of fear or remorse at interrupting anything, “You have a message from Thomas. He needs you to call him right away. He tried your cell phone but you weren’t picking up.”

Kaden growled, “And you felt the need to come and find me?”

Riordan smiled at the obviously pissed off cat, “Like I said, he said it was important.”

Kaden grabbed Valaria’s hand and turned away, “If he calls again, tell him I’ll get back to him later.”

Valaria didn’t want to be left alone with Kaden again. She did not doubt that she would find herself flat on her back and the anger screwed out of her.

She pulled her hand away, “No, you should go back and find out what this Thomas wanted. It sounds like it might be really important.”

Kaden hesitated, what the hell could be so important…? Unless it was something about the discovery of the double shifters…he had told Thomas, his second in command, to keep an eye out on chatter, especially from the clans in the States to see what they knew and if there was a red flag at all, contact him right away…DAMN!!

Kaden breathed deep as he turned to Vee, “Fine, I’ll take you home first, and then I’ll find out what’s so damn important.”

Valaria shook her head, “No, you go ahead, Riordan will take me home,” she turned to the Beta, “won’t you? I really wanted to explore some more and maybe let my wolf loose for a while.”

Kaden grit his teeth but remembered Slayde’s words. Valaria was free to choose as she wanted to.

He didn’t have to like it.

He nodded reluctantly, “I’ll stop by later and see if your cat wants to get out for a little run too.” It wasn’t a question.

Vee nodded, “Yeah, okay,” although she had no intention of setting her cat free with him. She didn’t need any kind of bonding going on….she glanced at Riordan…with either of them.

Kaden turned to Riordan, “Make sure she gets home safe.”

Rory nodded, “She’s in good hands, I’ll look after her,” and he smiled, knowing it would irk the other large man.

Kaden growled low and with one last glance at Vee, he strode away, his gait agitated and purposeful.

When they were alone, Vee declared, “Ok, thanks, but I don’t need a babysitter, so you can go too.”

Riordan smiled wickedly at her, “Now what kind of gentleman would I be if I didn’t see you home safe and sound?”

Vee pursed her lips, “An annoying one?”

Rory laughed, “I thought you wanted to let your wolf out for a while? I know the lay of the land, I can show her some really nice spots.”

Vee thought about Kaden proclaiming that she wasn’t allowed to leave. Did Riordan think the same way? Did Slayde demand that someone had to be with her at all times, ensuring she would not take off in the middle of the night?

“So, have you both signed up to guard me 24/7? Was it Slayde’s idea? Does my sister know?” she pummeled him with questions.

Riordan wasn’t one to beat around the bush, “Yes, yes and no. I am assuming Kaden has let you know about what has been happening?”

Vee threw up her chin, “Yeah, he told me about the shifter and he asked me for a blood sample. Then I offered to get him a sample of my blood before I turned.”

Rory’s eyes lit up the same as Kaden’s at her news, “Wow, that would make our job a hell of a lot easier.”

“But now I’m not so sure,” Vee hedged, “I have basically been told I’m a prisoner here and don’t even think of asking my sister for help because she is under her husband’s thumb.”

Riordan’s smiled faded, “Your sister is not under anyone’s thumb. She does what she knows is best for her pack and she understands her husband is the head of her pack. She will not go against him.”

Vee looked away, feeling anger rise at another man’s attitude of they know better than fragile women. Did her sister really sign up for this?

“Would you like to let your wolf out now?” Riordan asked nonchalantly.

Vee stared hard at him, “Any excuse to see me naked, huh?”

Rory grinned sheepishly and Valaria found herself smirking right along with him. He was so easygoing it immediately calmed Vee down. He could come across as an overbearing asshole when he wanted but he was so quick to smile that she couldn’t stay angry at him.

“Well, how about we just walk awhile,” she grinned, “then we’ll see about the other.”

Riordan looked down at her with a smile that said butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth…then again, he was so hot, it most probably would.

Valaria felt herself flush at her thoughts and began to walk deeper into the gloomy forest as she spoke, “So who is this Thomas guy that was so eager to get a hold of Kaden?”

~*~

Kaden dialed the familiar line back home and was rewarded with the designated voice right away, “Your majesty, I’m so glad you called. I had been trying…”

Kaden had no patience right now with his second. Right now his potential queen was being led around the forest with his competition and the longer they were together alone…

“Did someone die?” Kaden asked brusquely.

There was a hesitation before the answer, “Well, no…”

“Did you hear anything about the double shifters?” Kaden shot back.

“Ummm, no…”

Kaden was frustrated. He was hauled away from some important bonding time because…”Didn’t I tell you to handle things while I am gone? And only contact me if someone died or if you heard any chatter about the double shifters?”

“Uhhh, yes, you did tell me that…but I thought…”

“Listen, Thomas, I appointed you because I assumed you were the cat for the job, was I mistaken?” he didn’t have time for this…even now, Riordan could be running his wolf with Valaria and her wolf might be enjoying herself immensely…

“No, Sir, I am capable of handling all your affairs while you are gone, but I just…”

“Well, since no one has died and there is no news about the double shifters, then I will assume you can handle any situation that arises until I come back,” Kaden growled, desperate to get back to the forest.

“But it’s about Sonja,” Thomas broke in, “She’s…”

“I don’t care about Sonja right now. I gave you a job to do, so handle it,” Kaden finished, not believing he got called for this, “So, I will repeat, unless someone dies or you have info about the double shifters to share, I will not expect another phone call, right?”

“But…”

Kaden hung up. His patience was wearing thin and the last thing he wanted was to hear about anything to do with Sonja, one of the Alpha females that had been sniffing around his court. He had already chosen his queen, now he just had to prove it to her cat.

~*~

“I still can’t believe he’s an actual King,” Valaria voiced her thoughts to her companion. When Riordan wasn’t being an ass, he was actually quite a nice guy.

“Does that impress you?” Rory asked, not sure he wanted to know the answer.

Vee looked over at him, “No, not really. I mean, it was surprising at first, but it did explain his my way or my way attitude,” and she chuckled.

Rory laughed gently beside her, “I guess we are all guilty of that once in a while.”

Valaria quirked her eyebrow, “Once in a while?”

“Okay, we like things our way most of the time…but to be fair, it’s for the protection of our packs,” Rory admitted.

Vee couldn’t stop herself from asking, “So, am I a part of your pack now too?” She looked over to see him staring at her.

His eyes darkened as he answered, “Yes, you are now under our protection. We will guard you with our lives.”

Valaria found his answer disconcerting. She had the feeling that he meant his words very literally. That thought made her edgy.

“Your people were wiped out, Valaria, an entire species decimated, or so we thought until your sister arrived,” he stopped and turned to her, “And now we have you…I hope you understand why we take your safety so seriously.”

“A cage is still a cage even it’s made of gold,” Vee replied.

Riordan hesitated before asking, “Do you see yourself in a cage here?”

Vee looked off into the forest, “Can I leave here? Right now, if I asked you to take me back home, would you?”

Rory looked down at her and truly wished things were different, “No, you are too important.”

Vee turned to him again, the glistening of unshed tears in her eyes, “So I was led here to meet my sister but you people had no intention of letting me go, did you?” God, she was so stupid! She should have listened to her first thought and never come…but would they have just brought her here anyway?...Yeah, Kaden would have, he had made a promise to her sister…well he had made a promise to her too…and in less than two weeks, she was going to put his so-called promise to the test. But she couldn’t let Riordan know that…

“How about that run you promised me?” she turned back to the Beta and saw his eyes light up. Then Vee considered that you get more bees with honey than vinegar, maybe her way out of here was to start spreading more honey.

“Sure, my wolf can hardly wait.”

He really did have a great smile…maybe in a different lifetime…

“So, what is your wolf’s name?” Valaria called out from behind a bunch of bushes as she stripped. Her wolf was going crazy inside, eager to be let loose.

Rory couldn’t stop smiling as he waited for her, “Beast!”

Vee hesitated as she stood in just her panties…Beast…wow…

“What is your wolf’s name?” she heard him call out.

“Her name is Lysana!” Vee returned as she took off her underwear and then let her wolf loose. She had found it a little unnerving looking out of her wolf’s eyes. Smells from the dark forest hit her nose and she was eager to discover them all.

Her wolf glanced at the now naked male and started away into the forest. Valaria on the other hand had been very impressed by the tall muscular Beta. Although he was slightly less built than Kaden, he was still impressive. She heard the movement behind her and stopped her wolf to look behind her. Beast was truly a beast. He was huge with shoulders that could barrel through the toughest of trails.

Her wolf sniffed the air as the big gray came closer. Vee felt the flutterings of desire deep inside. She urged Lysana to go but was unsuccessful as she stood and awaited the male so they could both acquaint themselves with each other, which involved a whole lot of sniffing every inch of fur and other places.

The idea of allowing their wolves to run together may not have been a great idea now as Valaria stood still and allowed the big male to rub himself all along her fur before nipping her flank and running ahead as he looked back to ensure she was following…which her wolf had no problems with.

She sent her wolf a clear message, they could run together but there would be no bonding or mating with the large gray. She was surprised as her wolf clearly dismissed her words. Then Vee sought to put her in her place by returning to her human form, but then she realized Lysana had more control over her than she thought. DAMN!

As Vee continued to make threats she couldn’t back up, Lysana followed the large male in front of her as they crisscrossed through the dark forest, going through small trails and jumping over rotten logs until they arrived at a large drinking hole. She stood beside the male and drank deeply as he did.

He is strong…

Valaria fumed inside, “I don’t care how strong he is, he is not for us.” She feared her wolf would start the so-called glowing that she had read about, so she toned down her threats, “Listen, we will get to know him first to make sure he is worthy of us.”

Her wolf seemed satisfied with her answer and reached over to lick the male next to her. The male immediately began to nip at her, showing her who was boss. Valaria laughed inside as her wolf narrowed her eyes and then looked away. As she moved away from the male, he immediately blocked her path. Vee was glad her wolf had at least some of her aversion to authority.

The male then moved to her back end and began to sniff her tail. Vee used her own reflexes to move her wolf away. The male followed.

Hell No! Valaria thought and used her will to push her wolf down as she climbed to the surface and took her human form. The male wolf immediately shed its coat and became a very naked Riordan.

She spit at him, “What the hell was that?”

Riordan smiled as his eyes drank her in. He stepped closer, “What was what? Beast likes your female. He finds her worthy.”

Valaria forgot her own birthday suit as her eyes started to drink in the strong, muscular chest just out of reach, “I don’t care what he wants. She’s not interested.” She found her female howling her denial.

Riordan stepped into her space, bringing his chest within touching, “She was interested,” he grinned, “And so are you.”

Vee opened her mouth to disagree but suddenly found herself pulled into those strong arms and against the chest that she had been ogling and when she looked up, her mouth was covered and plundered. Her breasts were crushed against smooth skin while her ass had been covered with a large hand to pull her sex closer to the very aroused male.

And he was right, she was interested, or at least her body was. Her mind was telling her to stop, that this wasn’t right, but her body was screaming honey…and bees…

Vee couldn’t stop her nipples from hardening or her sex from weeping, this man had lips that knew exactly what he was doing. When his mouth finally broke from hers, she was back against another tree and she watched as his blond head inched down her body, his tongue leaving a fiery trail until it found her dewy curls. She gasped when he growled and placed his hands on her thighs and lifted her until her legs were thrown over his shoulders as he knelt between them.

She closed her eyes and moaned as she waited for that first touch. She felt the soft warm air as he blew gently just before his tongue drilled deeply within her folds to find her swollen bud. She couldn’t stop the cry wrenched from her lips as he began to lick and suck until her legs trembled with her needed release. And when she crested over, she felt him slide his long tongue inside her to taste her cream as she cried out above him.

Vee tried to will herself to stop him, that this wasn’t right, but her body bucked against him as her legs held him tighter. Then he was nipping her clit gently as he waited for her body to stop shaking before he glanced up and whispered, “I could eat you all day,” and then his mouth grasped her again and began to stroke her, moaning into her as he buried his face and sucked hard.

Vee couldn’t have stopped him, her body was on fire as it was pushed to the brink of another orgasm. Her legs tightened as his magical tongue and lips ground into her, teasing her until she fell over the precipice and as she came, she felt his fingers plunge deep into her. Vee screamed out, losing her breath as she felt the contractions deep inside. Wave after wave of pleasure swept through her as he continued to feast on her until her mind finally came back to her body.

Nothing could be this good…

SNAP!

Vee heard the sound of a branch breaking somewhere close by and immediately struggled to be put down, “Riordan, we aren’t alone, let me down.”

Reluctantly he set her back on her unsteady feet, “We aren’t doing anything wrong, Valaria.”

Vee looked around them as she replied, “I still don’t want anyone watching us.”

She watched him stand and sniff the air in the direction of the sound. He hadn’t cared that anyone could see him laying claim to her.

He looked down and pronounced, “Cat.”

Vee panicked, did Kaden see what they had been doing? What would he think?

“I have to get out of here,” she looked up at him, “I shouldn’t…”

Riordan put his fingers against her lips and then she watched mesmerized as he stuck those same fingers into his mouth and slid them out slowly, licking them clean, “There is nothing wrong with receiving pleasure, Valaria. We are both unmated,” and he leaned in, “and you were delicious.”

Vee felt her legs grow weak at his words. How could she do this, share something so intimate with another man? She was no different than the whores who plied their bodies on the street corners, except she didn’t demand money…she gave it away for free…

She couldn’t keep doing this. Both of these men pushed the right buttons when it came to sex. If she continued with this path, one of them was going to trigger the glowing and she would find herself sated and mated.

Vee shook her head, “I’ve got to go,” and she dodged to her right, reaching for her cat, hoping that Sia would not be tolerant of Riordan’s wolf on her ass all the way home.

Her cat couldn’t wait to leap forward, her black fur rippling as she changed mid-air. Vee let her have her way as she galloped through the woods. She didn’t care where she went, as long as she put Riordan behind her.

~*~

Kaden arrived back at the spot where he had left Valaria and Riordan. He had slight hopes that they would still be in the vicinity. He sniffed the area and found their human scents and he began to follow them.

He strolled for a couple of miles before their odors had changed into wolves. He had hoped she had turned him down and that’s why they had still been in their human form, but now he could see their path had taken them deep into the woods.

DAMN!

Damn Thomas and his untimely phone call! Right now he could be making love deep in the forest, buried tight inside his future Queen. He grew hard just thinking about her. He also grew agitated as his thoughts turned to what they were both doing right now. Was he laying her down on the forest floor, burying himself over and over inside her? Or was his wolf laying claim to hers?

Kaden’s cat paced restlessly and growled as those vivid pictures floated through his brain. He had thought she felt something for him as he was her first, but Riordan would also be her first…her first wolf-shifter…

FUCK! He had to stop thinking about them together and just find them. If he could convince her to take her cat out with him, surely Leo could convince her feline that he was the best choice for her…unless Riordan’s wolf had already sent her into her glowing…

Kaden swore again as he stripped and let his cat out. He quickly found their scent and followed, not knowing if he really wanted to find them or not. What would he do if he found them together? Mating? Or just having explosive sex?

He had thought he had wanted Cassidy to be his when they had met and his cat was more than willing to bond with hers…but it was nothing compared to the feelings consuming him right now. He needed her…

~*~

Valaria ran, or rather her cat loped, through the forest. She was aware that she hadn’t shaken the wolf on her tail and her cat just felt like he was a nuisance, not anything that required her to warn him off. She wanted Sia to lose him somewhere, anywhere, but her cat was ignoring her as much as her wolf did.

This is why she was told they had to get out regularly or she wouldn’t be able to control either one of them. Now her cat just wanted to go deeper into the gloom, stopping occasionally to glance back at the wolf pursuing her.

She had lost hope of gaining her freedom when her cat suddenly looked up into the trees before scaling up into its tall branches.

Great, now she was going to loll about and look at the scenery…

Within minutes she was high up in the greenery, blending into the darkness. Vee made her glance down and she could see Riordan’s wolf sit down and watch her. As his eyes darted from one side of the tree to the other, Valaria realized he had lost her in the branches.

Way to go Sia!

Her cat purred as she glanced around at the other trees whose branches were tightly intertwined with the one she was in. Then she carefully picked one and silently made her way into the next tree. Valaria watched as her cat surveyed each tree before picking another one to sidle over into until they were several trees over and when she glanced down through the branches, Riordan was nowhere to be seen.

She felt like celebrating! There, that would teach him! No more babysitters for her! She could outfox anyone!

After a half-hour, Valaria wasn’t sure how far they were away from town or Riordan and she really didn’t care. Her cat was enjoying the exercise, clawing from one branch to another while keeping her movements stealthy. Vee smiled to herself, she would never underestimate her animals again.

As the sun sank further in the sky, the shadows in the branches lengthened and soon everything was as black as her coat. Her cat had finally stopped and laid down on a particularly large bough and stared deep into the forest. Vee looked through her eyes and marveled again at all that she saw that would have been camouflaged by darkness had she still been in her human form.

She watched an owl sitting, watching her intently as it hooted. Below them, she saw a couple of deer slowly picking their way, unaware of the danger high above them. This was the life, no one knowing they were even there. It made her long for her life back in the city.

Her cat did not agree with her and chuffed loudly at her thoughts, she liked the forest, the sounds, the smells…the cat…

Vee saw the other black panther winding through the same branches she had just traversed and Valaria knew it could only be Kaden. And he saw exactly where she was…

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