Heartglow

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CHAPTER 9

When Valaria went outside, Kaden was thankful for the opportunity to phone Slayde again to keep him updated on his progress.

He sat down on the bed with the phone to his ear while it rang.

“Kaden, I assume everything is okay?” Slayde came on the line.

Kaden nodded to himself as he spoke, “Yeah, her cat is okay. Everything is fine,” although until they had their little discussion about her future, he didn’t know how fine it actually was.

“Where is she now? Is she listening to you talk to me?”

Kaden shook his head, “No, she is using the shed outside, it’s okay for us to talk.”

There was a pause before Slayde spoke, “Are you sure she isn’t going to run away?”

Kaden smiled, “No, I kept her shoes. If she tries to run again with bare feet, I’ll catch her easily. She knows she can’t get away from me.”

“Smart man,” Slayde replied, “So, what is her cat? Is she another snow leopard like her sister?”

Kaden was still smiling as he answered, “Actually no…she is a panther…like me.” He wasn’t sure he wanted to reveal that part.

Another pause met his revelation before, “You can’t take her to Ireland, Kaden, I want her back here.”

Kaden felt his cat stiffen inside at the firm words of instruction. He felt the same way. Not for the first time did the idea of just taking her home with him run across his mind. If it wasn’t for promising Cassidy to bring her back, he might have followed his own thoughts.

“Kaden? Do you hear me?” the voice was becoming gruffer over the line, “She needs to come back here.”

Kaden quickly spoke up, “I know. I promised Cassidy I would find her sister and bring her back,” he hesitated, “I just didn’t expect she would be…like me…” he ended.

A heavy sigh sounded on the other end, “Listen, I know what you are feeling right now. I felt the same way when I brought Cassidy through her changes. It was an instant connection like she was my fated mate…she was mine.”

Kaden looked up at the ceiling as he spoke, “Now I know why you fought so hard for her. Even though we have clashed every minute we have been together…I want her…”

There was an awkward silence on both ends of the phone after his words before Slayde spoke again, “You realize that bringing her here will expose her to my wolf shifters which may or may not send her into the glowing.”

Kaden hung his head, “I know, I know. But it’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? If I keep her away, there is zero chance she will begin her glow and pick her mate, but if she is brought there, at least there is a chance that her animals will pick me.”

“There are no ifs, Kaden, she must come here and not just for Cassidy’s sake,” Slayde replied.

Kaden’s head came up, “What do you mean?” He didn’t like the reply from his friend.

Another sigh before, “We had been trying to keep Cassidy’s double shifter status under wraps but we think something got out. Apparently, there has been a movement of both wolf shifters and cat shifters going to her city.”

Kaden thought about the shifter that had been bent over Valaria as she lay on the street. He remembered the odd odor cloaking the shifters scent, almost like he was trying to stop anyone from identifying his clan.

He hadn’t paid any mind to him then, but now Slaydes words were beginning to create a puzzle that he didn’t want to put together before he got Valaria away from there.

“Kaden? Did you hear me?” the phone echoed in his ear.

He nodded, “Yeah, I heard you. The night before when I was tracking Valaria, before she shifted, she had collapsed on the street and there was a shifter bent over her when I found her.”

Pause, “Could you identify him again?”

Kaden shook his head, “No, he was cloaking his scent with something. I thought it was strange but he took off when I approached.”

There was another long pause, “You need to bring her here, Kaden. I don’t care if you have to feed her something to knock her out. I don’t know if the shifters that are going there are just interested in getting a double shifter of their own or if someone wants to…” hesitation.

Kaden hung his head again, “I know, don’t even say it. I won’t let anything happen to her. And if she cannot be persuaded to come with me, I’ll do whatever I have to to get her there.”

“Good, that’s great. Would it help if maybe I talked to her? Or maybe if she talked to Cassidy? Maybe it would give some credibility to your words,” Slayde offered.

Kaden paused, how much more credibility could he offer? You have a wolf inside you, check. I have to make love to you to bring out your cat, check. You have a sister that wants to meet you…check?

“Maybe talking to Cassidy would make it easier,” he conceded as he got up.

“Is she back yet? I’ll go get Cassidy,” Slayde replied.

Kaden opened the door of the cabin, “Not yet,” he walked around to the side of the cabin, “She’s probably sitting out there contemplating how to get rid of me,” he growled into the phone.

He stopped as he saw the door to the outhouse swinging in the wind…

“FUCK!” he yelled out loud.

The phone he was holding began to speak, “What is it? What happened?”

Kaden growled his answer, “She’s gone.”

~*~

Valaria couldn’t believe her luck when she reached the end of the long roadway and blessed pavement appeared before her. She wanted to drop and kiss the black tar. Instead, she allowed herself the luxury of looking behind her to see if there was anything or anyone following her. She was relieved to not see or hear anything coming from the woods.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the way of vehicles on the road either. So she would have to keep hoofing it, at least until she could pick up a lift. She debated which way to go. Left for parts unknown or right, back to the city. What would Kaden assume she did? That she would high-tail it back home? Or that she would try to trick him by going away from the city?

Vee looked down at her feet, knowing he would probably scent her wherever she went. So she decided to make a short path both ways, to try to confuse him and his cat. Then she stripped the toilet paper that was still hanging from her arms and sat down to wrap her feet again, hoping they would hold out for at least a few more minutes until she could flag someone down, and hopefully, they didn’t mind picking up a girl with no shoes, wrapped in toilet tissue…

She’d seen stranger things…

~*~

Kaden hung up on his friend and swore again as he approached the empty outhouse. Although he assumed she was gone, he peeked in anyways, hoping she was hiding inside assuming he would run off looking for her and she would then make her escape.

No such luck…nothing was easy when it came to his little shifter…

Kaden stood still and listened for any sounds coming from the woods, but nothing stood out on the breeze. He lifted his nose, hoping to catch something, but knew the woods were full of her scent now. The only thing he could do was try to differentiate between old scents and new scents. He figured his cat would be better equipped for that. He stripped and shifted and began to try to trace her smell. Unfortunately, she had three separate scents to follow, hers, her wolf, and her cat. This wasn’t going to be easy at all, but he gave Leopold his head and followed as he made his way into the deep woods, his nose to the air and ground.

A half-hour later, he forced his cat back to the starting point and shifted back into his human form. He was no further ahead with his search. His cat had moved as quickly as he could to catch up to her, but it all ended up no more than the area she had covered the night before. Which meant she was still within those boundaries…but where was she?

Kaden glanced at the outhouse again, noting nothing of interest including two empty tissue rolls. He looked away to peruse the woods again…maybe he should yell for her…?

Then he felt his cat pull his gaze back to the outhouse opening again, zeroing in on the two empty rolls …

“What are you trying to tell me, Leo?” he whispered aloud to his cat.

She was there…

“I know she was there, but she left,” he answered his cat.

No scent…

“She must have left a scent somewhere, big guy,” he responded again, “It’s not like she could cover herself…” he glanced inside the doorway…”No, she wouldn’t cover herself in that, not just to get away from me…”

His cat forced his gaze back to the empty rolls and suddenly Kaden smiled, “But she might try to cover herself in that!”

He chuckled to himself, “And if she put that on, she wouldn’t have gone into the woods.” He looked towards the opposite side of the cabin, “She would have had to take the road.”

Kaden walked over to the other side of the cabin and peered around the side. He immediately saw a couple of white squares snagged on a low bush. He mentally hit himself in the forehead. He had to stop underestimating her. She was a woman with a mission…to get away from him…a stranger who was determined to take her away from everything she knew.

She had survived all these years on her own. She needed no help, from him or anyone else. When she talked to him, her mind was always re-evaluating her circumstances. When her cat was up in that tree, he was sure now, she was scouting the layout of the land for her own escape.

Kaden moved swiftly to pack up their things and get back into the SUV they came in. He knew she had a big headstart on him, but she was on foot…he only hoped she stayed on the road itself and not decided to take a path into the woods. Even so, he kept a keen eye on each side of the roadway for any stray white pieces…

~*~

Valaria decided to go back to the city. She figured there would be more people trying to get there instead of getting out and she might catch a ride, which would be really good as the tissue on her feet had long since worn away. She was getting blisters on her blisters and any cars that passed all seemed to be going the other way…

As another roaring engine came from behind her, she turned, ready to stick out her thumb but she was greeted with another tractor-trailer with a full load. She knew they wouldn’t stop so she turned back and continued to walk.

She was vaguely surprised that Kaden hadn’t found her yet. Although she planned to give him the slip, for some strange reason, she didn’t think it would actually work.

Who would have thunk it?

Her stomach growled loudly and twisted in pain. She winced slightly and continued to walk. It wasn’t the first time in her life she went hungry and it probably wouldn’t be the last. She thought back to the meal she had yesterday morning in the hotel. She remembered every sweet bite as it filled her. Kaden said he never had the chance to eat any of it…

She mentally kicked herself for even thinking of the man. Whether he ever ate again was not her concern anymore. HE wasn’t a concern anymore…

She should be happy…she was free…yeah…

Turn around and go back…

She shot her cat a big fat, “NO!”

We want him back…

Her wolf wasn’t helping either…

“I said no, we are done, it’s just you and me and you,” she shook her head, why would her wolf even be interested in a cat shifter?

We… she heard them both begin to speak. Vee stopped in her tracks, “Listen you two, in case you haven’t noticed, he isn’t here anymore and, to tell you the truth, I think he got what he wanted, and now it’s splitsville.”

Vee felt her heart break a little at her own words. Although she wanted to be rid of him, it still hurt a little to know that he obviously gave up on her…which was what the rest of the world did..so how was he any different?

“I thought he was different,” she whispered to herself as she kept putting one foot in front of the other.

She never heard the purr of the motor behind her until she caught the vehicle slowing to her side. She did hear the window being rolled down.

“Valaria, get in,” the deep voice sounded strained.

Her heart beat strangely faster as her name floated through the air. She continued to walk. Even though she was peculiarly satisfied that he did indeed track her down, she still couldn’t go with him. She had a life to get back to, after all, he got what he wanted.

“Valaria, just get in, your feet must be bleeding by now,” his voice took on an angry note.

She stopped and turned to the open window. He stopped the vehicle as she leaned into the opening, “I’m not going anywhere with you, so buzz off.”

She turned and began walking again, biting her lip as she saw a sign announcing another 40 miles to the city…she was going to be walking on stumps soon…

“Valaria, please stop, you know you can’t get back home on bare feet,” he tried to cajole her, needing for her to stop hurting herself. It hurt him to know she would rather harm herself than get in with him again.

“Vee, please,” he used her nickname this time, trying to at least get her to engage with him.

She did.

She leaned in through his window again, her eyes flashing fire, “My friends call me Vee. You are not my friend.”

He felt piqued at her declaration so he shot back, “No, I’m not, I’m your lover, which is a hell of a lot closer than just a friend. You owe me a little more than wham, bam, thank you, Sam.”

Valaria felt her hackles rise and she wanted to let him know it, “For your information, you are not my lover. You were a one night stand,” She held up one finger, “And I owe you nothing. I think you got everything you wanted, so piss off.”

Vee felt herself fuming as she began to strut at a quickening pace down the side of the highway.

She sputtered under her breath, “Owe him something…hah! Life doesn’t owe you anything sunshine and neither do I…wham bam…son of a…”

She turned suddenly and walked back to the black SUV, feeling like she wanted to take another strip out of his sexy hide…

Sexy??...Did she say sexy??

She was momentarily taken aback when he put the car in park and got out, coming around to her side.

She forgot how tall he was…

He loomed over her, angry that she thought him a lowlife just out to score some cheap sex. Why was she treating him like this? He didn’t deserve her grinding him beneath her shoe…er…foot… He was a KING for God’s sake!

“You know, if you stopped acting like a child and thinking the world revolves around what you want, hating it for the miserable hand you were dealt, you might start realizing that life can be pretty fantastic when you let people in!” he growled out loud, not daring himself to touch her just yet.

She was on fire as she stabbed his chest, “How about you stop acting like some demented maniac carrying girls off to remote cabins so you can fuck them! Maybe if you started acting like a normal human being, women might actually listen to you…hell, they might even consider dating a loser like you!”

Kaden felt the heat of his rage begin to boil, “Are you sure you don’t have one more animal in you? Maybe a porcupine?”

“Do you want to fuck me to find out?” Vee shot back, not caring about the barbs she was throwing.

Kaden swore as he looked away, why was she acting like this? He knew she probably wouldn’t be happy when he tracked her down, but she was throwing verbal punches that would slay a lesser man…except…

His gaze returned to her heaving body, “I’m not human.”

Her eyes darkened slightly as she paused.

“But I am a man,” he stated as his palms opened in submission at his sides, “But you’re not human either, Valaria.”

Vee hesitated, he was right about all that. She wasn’t human, had never been human, she didn’t belong with any of them. She thought of her friend, Veronica…she was human…

She didn’t notice that he had come closer to her until she saw his one hand come up to wrap itself around her neck, pulling her closer as he bent his head.

“But you are definitely a woman,” the words wrapped her in a warm cocoon as his mouth covered hers.

Valaria couldn’t think as her eyes automatically closed while she sighed deeply. She opened her mouth wider as his tongue pushed gently inside. Her head started to feel light as the taste of him filled her. She began to suck on the invader, sliding her own tongue along his. She reached up and filled her hands with his soft black hair, kneading the silk gently through her fingers.

He moaned and ran his own large hands down her sides until they could cup her tight bottom and pull her up against his body.

She answered his moan with one of her own that had his cock going from zero to sixty in seconds.

Kaden felt the fire of his anger turn to molten sexual heat as he plundered her eager mouth. As he pushed deeper inside her wetness, he turned to lift her onto the hood of the SUV and spread her legs open so he could cover her body with his hard cock pushing between her thighs.

He groaned again as her legs wrapped tightly around his hips, trying to pull him closer. All he could think about was how good it felt to be buried deep inside her as she bucked beneath him.

A long loud honk of an air horn startled them both as a large semi tore by their parked car. Kaden pulled his head back, not taking his eyes off her beautiful face, heavy-lidded eyes promising long hot dark nights.

Kaden groaned again and leaned forward to bury his face in her neck, not wanting to stop, desire still raging uncontrollably.

“We probably should get up before someone calls the cops,” Vee whispered for only him.

Reluctantly Kaden nodded against her and was disappointed to feel her legs releasing him. His left hand cupped her thigh and slid down until it reached her foot…her wet foot…He heard her gasp as his hand caressed over the broken skin.

Kaden looked down and discovered the wetness was blood.

He cursed again as he pulled away, “Damnaigh sé Valaria!”

Vee sat up, pulling her foot out of his grasp determined to jump down and out of his tempting arms. Kaden held her fast to the hood, shaking his head.

“Stop, I will put you in the car. Your feet need to be washed and wrapped to prevent any infection,” he pulled her into his strong arms.

Valaria started to half-heartedly kick, not really relishing the idea of putting her sore feet back on terra firma, but she had to protest…right…?

Her efforts were wasted as Kaden held onto her with one hand while opening the passenger door with his other, “Stop, Valaria, it’s no joke if your feet get infected. For once, just please listen to some sense. I am tired of fighting with you,” although the making up was hot as hell…

Vee bit her lip as she was carefully slid onto the leather seat. She prided herself in knowing when to pick her battles and he was right about what would happen if she kept walking…and she had no insurance…and she definintely did not want to go to a hospital…

Kaden closed her door and went around to jump back into the driver’s seat. Then he swung the vehicle around in the middle of the highway away from the city again.

What the…??

She spoke up, “Umm, my home is the other way. You can just take me back and I’ll look after my own feet.”

The dark look he gave her caused her to question if she should have just taken her chances with the road.

She looked away to stare out the open window, “Okay, so I take it we are going back to the cabin?” Yeah, that was really sterile…

“No,” his tone was clipped as his eyes stayed focused on the road ahead.

Vee twisted her lips, “So, where are you taking me?”

She thought she heard his voice choke as he replied, “Home. I promised I would bring you home.”

“But my home…”

“Is with your sister in Terravane Valley,” Kaden bit out, knowing he made a promise but wanting to just wrap Valaria up and take her back to his mountains in Ireland, where he would show her what being a queen…his queen…would be like.

“Listen, I told you I don’t…”

“Yes, you do,” he cut in, and then looked over at her, “Why would I lie about something like that?”

Vee wondered the same thing. She glanced away again to stare out at the passing landscape. She heard his growl of frustration.

What if…?

She still didn’t look at him as she spoke, “Ok, we will run with that idea. What made you all think that I am this long lost sister? And why now after all these years?” Vee felt tears form at the back of her eyes. She so did not want to discuss the possibility of having an actual family who wanted to get to know her. Too many years had passed since she used to dream about the same thing happening to her.

“She didn’t know you existed until last year and…” he cursed again under his breath.

“And what?” Vee prompted him to continue.

She heard the intake of breath, “She didn’t even know who or what she was until then either.”

Valaria turned to him, “What do you mean?”

Suddenly her stomach roared back to life, clearly barking its state of emptiness.

Kaden’s eyes drifted to her belly as he spoke, “We need to get you fed, you must be starving.”

Vee looked away again as she spoke, “Yeah, well, it’s not the first time.”

“It will be your last,” his words were gruff, a statement of truth.

Vee closed her eyes and felt the stress of the last couple of days envelop her and pull her down into darkness…

~*~

Vee awakened as she was being lifted from her soft leather bed. Twilight was falling as she looked around to find they were parked at a roadside motel. Several cars dotted the parking lot and she found herself wondering if she could catch a ride with any of them. She didn’t even care which direction…

“Don’t even think about it, little one,” his voice was velvet deep, sending small shivers up and down her spine.

She didn’t even bother to deny it but relaxed as he used a key to unlock their door and carried her into the small but clean room. He deposited her gently on the one double bed and went back to the vehicle outside. She glanced over to the phone sitting on a small brown stand next to the bed and wondered how long he was going to be. She really needed to talk to Veronica again.

Kaden came back in, closing the door with his foot. He was carrying two large bags of fast food that still smelled warm and a tray with two large drinks. Vee’s stomach growled at the reminder of when she last ate.

Kaden smiled at the loud growl and laid his feast on the covers, “I know it’s not exactly a ten-course meal, but it was quick and I didn’t want you to have to walk anywhere until I get your feet looked after.”

Vee jumped on the bags, pulling out a larger burger and fries. Her sore feet were on the back burner as she quenched the emptiness in her stomach.

Kaden pulled up a chair and dug into his own quick meal. His stomach was doing its share of growling in the last few hours of travel. As he watched Valaria polish off a burger and fries, he quickly opened the second bag and pulled out another. He also pulled out a second helping for himself. He hadn’t felt this ravenous in a very long time.

Twenty minutes later, Kaden finished the last of his fries and went into the bathroom to draw hot water into the bathtub. He didn’t have any containers to soak Valaria’s feet so he would carry her in to sit on the side of the tub as he cleaned her poor feet.

“Are you taking a bath?” she peered through the doorway.

Kaden shook his head as he turned off the taps, “No, this is for your feet. Hop up here on the side and I’ll clean them for you.”

Valaria hesitated, there was something very intimate about letting him touch the soles of her sore appendages, “Ummm, I can do that, you can just go out and watch some t.v. or something.”

Kaden stared hard at her before shaking his head, “No, you may not clean everything out.”

Vee opened her mouth to protest, “But I can…”

Kaden straightened up to face her, “Valaria, we can do this my way or the hard way, which is it?”

Vee found her strength was returning after her meal, “What about my way? You know, you can’t have everything your way…ah!!” He moved so fast she didn’t even have time to run. He scooped her up in his arms and deposited her completely in the few inches of water, soaking her legs to the skin.

“Now, lean back and give me your left foot,” Kaden grabbed the nearest facecloth as he spoke.

Vee fumed at his high-handedness as she lay back and raised her right foot. She knew it was petty, but she was tired of him taking over her life.

She really needed to get out of there…

She saw him sigh as he gently cupped her heel and began to squeeze hot water down over her skin. His eyes were glued to her flesh as he wiped every inch, making sure to clean every bit of dirt from every cut. Kaden was mesmerized by the softness of every hill and valley between each of her little toes. His thumb was drawn to caress her delicate arch as the roughness of the road hadn’t scarred her there as much as the rest.

As his thumb stroked, he felt the resulting shivers run through her body. He wondered what she would do if he leaned forward and drew his tongue along that same arch…

As if reading his thoughts, she pulled her right foot away and held up her left one, “It’s clean.”

He smiled as he grasped her other foot and began to thoroughly clean it, “That wasn’t so hard now, was it?”

He saw her lips purse as she fought to keep her mouth closed. He chuckled as he put her foot back down into the water and leaned into her until he was staring into her eyes, “I can see the fire in your eyes, little one. Save it for the bedroom, okay?”

He laughed as he left her sitting in the bottom of the tub, closing the door behind him. Vee bit her lip in anger as she grabbed the wet facecloth he had been using and slung it at the closed door, “Save it for the bedroom…” she muttered to herself, “If I bring the fire, you are going to be toast cat man…”

She suddenly felt her cat purring its contentment deep inside and she was quick to douse any thoughts her cat might be thinking, “We are not going to be sleeping with him again, Sia, so don’t even think it.”

There is only one bed…

Vee jumped up out of the water and began to strip as her cat began its incessant noise. She turned on the shower and jumped in under the cold spray, “There, this aught to cool you off, you little hussie.”

It wasn’t the first time she had taken a cold shower and somehow she knew it wouldn’t be her last…

~*~

Kaden had called Slayde again to let him know that he caught Valaria again and they were on their way. He told him it was probably going to take a couple of days drive for them to get there.

“You aren’t planning to drive with no sleep, are you?” Slayde questioned his plan.

“No, of course not, I’m going to get my rest,” he assured the alpha wolf.

There was a pause, then, “So, she won’t try to run off again?”

Kaden grinned, “It will be pretty hard to run if she’s tied to the bed.”

Another pause… “Be careful, Kaden, even a fox will chew its own leg off to get out of a trap.”

The words brought back the picture of Valaria’s torn feet as he washed dirt and blood from the soles, what she suffered to get away from him.

“This isn’t a trap, Slayde, this is her chance for a new life…a better life,” Kaden reasoned.

“Yeah, well if she is still running then she either doesn’t see things as we do or she doesn’t want it. So, which is it?” Slayde asked with more than a touch of edginess to his voice.

Kaden sighed, how was he supposed to answer that without disappointing a waiting family?

A groan on the other end brought Kaden back to the conversation, “She doesn’t want to meet Cassidy, does she?”

Kaden shook his head, “She thinks Cassidy would be better off not knowing her at all.”

“Damn,” the soft curse echoed in the phone before Slayde continued, “If she doesn’t come back with you, Kaden, it will break Cassidy’s heart. She has been getting the small house next door ready for her sister since you left. And since you found her sister, she’s been talking of nothing else.”

Now it was Kaden’s turn to swear. He stared at the closed bathroom door, listening to the sound of the shower. He had to at least get Valaria back to meet her sister. Then he would leave it up to Cassidy to convince her to stay. He couldn’t bear to see Cassidy crushed because her sister had disconnected from life.

“Kaden? You still there?”

Kaden’s lips thinned in determination, “Yeah, don’t worry, I’ll get her there. After that…”

A sound of relief was audible, “Thanks, just get here, that’s all I ask. Then Cassidy can work her magic to convince her to stay.”

Kaden heard the water stop and ended the call, “Will do, I’ve gotta go. I will call you if anything changes,” and he hung up.

As Kaden waited for the door to open, he double-checked his bag for the rope he had carried with him in case he needed to physically restrain Valaria to force her to come with him. He hadn’t needed it up til now…and he certainly never wanted to use it, but he did have to sleep on the way and so far, she had proved she would run when given the chance…

The door opened and the object of his thoughts peeked out through the crack, “Ummm, you wouldn’t have an extra shirt or something, ummm, my clothes are a little on the wet side.”

Kaden turned to the bag on the floor and pulled a large white cotton nightgown from its depths. He approached the door, “I got this for you,” his arm thrust it towards the small gap, “If you don’t want it, I can get you a shirt…”

The gown disappeared before he finished the sentence. Less than a minute later, Vee opened the door and exited the bathroom, a cloud of steam fast on her heels, “Ok, thanks, you can have your shower now.”

Kaden’s eyes followed her as she began to spread her wet clothes over the furniture before turning up the heat in the small room.

Then she turned to him, “There should be plenty of hot water for you.”

Kaden glanced into the steam then back at her. He wanted a hot shower so bad, but what would he do with her? He couldn’t leave her alone…

“I won’t go anywhere if that’s what you’re thinking,” she read his eyes perfectly.

Kaden grinned, “You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t believe you. You have proven very resourceful when it comes to…wandering off,” he finished.

Vee’s face fell just a little as she realized he must have read her mind…

Kaden grabbed her loose hand as he spoke, “So since I can’t trust you to stay out here alone, you are going to have to come in with me.”

~*~

Valaria couldn’t have heard him right. He expected her to go in with him? While he showered…naked…

Her cat began to purr again as the place between her legs cramped hard. She couldn’t…

She began to shake her head, “No, no, ummm, you go in by yourself. I promise I’ll just wait out here until you’re done…”

Kaden shook his head right along with her, “No, that’s not going to happen,” he paused, “Now is it going to be my way or the hard way?”

Oh, no, not this again…

She pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes, “You are turning into quite the bully Kaden O’Connor.”

Kaden smiled widely, “And you are quite the escape artist, Valaria with no last name.” He held out his hand, waiting for her to capitulate.

What choice did she have? If she went in on her own, she could sit on the toilet and at least hide her face from the temptation of his naked wet body…if she didn’t accept, he was likely to pull her into the shower with him…

She grit her teeth and pushed past him into the little room, “Bully.”

She caught his deep chuckle as she put down the cover on the toilet and sat down with the air of a queen. He closed the door and turned the knob, locking them both in. Vee kept her face away from him as she heard him strip and then the water turn on. She heard the shower curtain being pulled but knew it was a transparent piece of plastic, not opaque, not frosted…completely clear…she would be able to see everything…if she looked…which she wasn’t going to…

Valaria hummed under her breath as she stared around the small room, deliberately avoiding the plastic sheet at her back. Her eyes took in the color of the tiles on the floor…white with little blue flowers in the center…hmmm…hook on the back of the door…towel rack on the wall…sink…mirror…

WTF?!!

Vee got to her feet and ran the couple of steps to the semi-fogged mirror, “Holy crap! What the hell happened to my eye?” She began to pull her lid this way and that as she stared at what was once a matching light green orb. Her left eye was now an ice blue. How did that happen???

“What’s wrong?” the words floated behind her.

Valaria continued to stare as she answered, “My eye, it’s not green anymore…it’s blue.”

“That’s normal, Cassidy’s eyes turned also, one color belongs to your wolf and the other belongs to your cat,” Kaden explained behind her.

Vee turned, forgetting her captor was very much in the nude, “But how…” She realized her mistake as she quickly covered her eyes with one hand while stretching the other one out towards the very naked male, “Oops, sorry, sorry, I forgot…”

She heard the chuckle and almost put both her hands down to declare she had nothing to be sorry about, he was the one who wanted her in there with him.

Then she found her outstretched wrist grabbed tightly, “What the hell did you do to your hand?”

Vee racked her brain, what was he talking about? Her hand was fine…

Suddenly bright light hit her eyes as her other wrist was pulled forward. Vee opened her eyes, not caring now if he was naked, “What are you doing?” She pulled on her wrists, knowing it was a waste of time, he was way too strong.

She watched as he pulled both her palms up to examine closely. His eyes darted to hers, “What did you do to them?”

Valaria still couldn’t fathom what he was talking about, “Nothing, I didn’t do anything, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

She saw a look of anger cover Kaden’s face as he spit out, “Your fingers, what did you do to them?”

Uh oh…

“Tell me what you did,” his voice had grown deadly soft.

It was none of his business, right??

Suddenly her wrists were pulled into the water stream and Vee started to struggle. It was a valiant effort but very ineffective. She found herself in the bathtub again for the third time that day, her white nightgown quickly turning as transparent as the shower curtain under the hot spray. Her wrists were still caught inside Kaden’s large mitts. Vee closed her hands as his gaze moved to her face.

He still wasn’t smiling…

She turned her head away, not wanting to see the quiet rage being directed at her, for something that didn’t concern him in any way.

“Do you enjoy hurting yourself?”

What?!

“No…”

The words bit out, “Then please explain why all of your fingertips are scarred?”

Valaria turned back to him, “Well, it’s probably not a good idea for a burglar to leave fingerprints.”

Kaden swore, “Have you ever heard of gloves?”

Vee pursed her lips, “Have you ever heard of its none of your business?” She always wanted to push him a little bit more.

“It is my business, YOU are my business,” Kaden ground out, “Now tell me, what did you do?”

What did it matter? Vee answered, hoping he would then let her go so she could get away from the raw maleness that stood too close for her liking, “Some guy on the street showed me how to burn them off. He showed me how to put them on a hot metal barrel and it would singe off the prints…hurt like hell, but it was worth it,” she ended quietly.

She watched the look of rage soften with her words. Then she was all too aware of large thumbs caressing the skin of both her wrists, in circles…soothing. Vee wanted to pull her hands back but it was as if the light touch had mesmerized her into stillness.

“Promise me, you will never do anything to harm yourself again,” his voice was soft, with far too much caring in his tone.

Her mind shouted at her to tell him where to go but her body was content to stay where she was, letting the warmth rain down on both of them, soaking their bodies in a clean cascade of water.

Vee stared up into Kaden’s green eyes and melted into the deep pools. She should be fighting him…she should be shouting at him…she should be…

Closing her eyes…

~*~

Kaden had been furious when he saw her small fingers scarred into smooth tips. His mind raced to find the reason, assuming some evil asshole had harmed her. He would kill him when he found him. Then he was surprised again when she told him she did it to herself…

Even a fox will chew off its own leg to get out of a trap…Slayde’s words echoed in his head.

Kaden needed to hear her promise she wouldn’t do anything to herself ever again. Now that he was in her life, she wouldn’t need to steal…she wouldn’t need to hide…she wouldn’t need to hurt…

He watched her slowly close her eyes, her lips beckoning like the tips of her breasts as they clung to the wet nightgown.

Kaden groaned, he was doomed…he realized she was the very air he breathed…as needed as the very blood that ran hot in his veins…how was he going to convince her that she wasn’t caught in any trap? She was…

Intoxicating…

Kaden groaned again as he pulled Valaria hard against him, cupping her face to meet his lips as the water continued to pour down on their warm bodies. He found paradise as her mouth opened beneath his, allowing him entrance into the kingdom that was Valaria. A kingdom that he wanted to be king of…to protect her forever…to slay her dragons…to be the father of her children…to be her eternal mate…

His cat growled deep in his throat, echoing his own thoughts. Kaden gently plied her warmth with his long tongue, sweeping deep inside, tasting every inch. His lips pulled each time he withdrew before thrusting deeply again. His body raged in molten fire as his hands slid down to grasp the neck of the now soaked cloth barrier and easily tore it open, pushing it from her shoulders to lie at their feet.

Then his hands slid around to cup her now naked buttocks and pulled her eagerly against his swollen cock, needing her to need him. He groaned again as her hands slowly dropped to his hips before reaching around to cup his own taut muscles to pull him closer.

Kaden moaned and turned Valaria to pin her against the wall, pushing his hardness against her, wanting nothing more than to be deep inside her warmth. When her foot lifted and began to caress his leg, his hands slid to her thighs, picking her up as he spread her legs to encourage her to wrap herself around his waist.

And when her legs encircled him to draw him closer, Kaden didn’t hesitate to lower himself just enough to thrust deep into her. She tore her mouth away to cry out at his sudden invasion. Kaden stilled, not knowing if his swift entry was too soon, but he was quickly reassured as her lips covered his, thrusting her wet pink tongue deep into his mouth as she pushed her hips towards him, encouraging him to participate.

With his hands bracing her thighs, Kaden began to thrust slow and hard into his little vixen, his tongue mating with hers as they both moaned their pleasure. Each pull of her deep muscles felt like being enfolded into dark wet velvet and Kaden found himself being brought to the brink of explosion too quickly.

He stilled again, trying to hold back his ejaculate, feeling like he was a young untried male with his first female…he wanted to make sure she didn’t get left behind when he finally came. With a small whine, he felt her hips trying to grind against him as her legs pulled him tighter. Kaden gritted his teeth with sinful pleasure as her muscles continued to try to milk him, to make him continue to pleasure her.

There was no way he could deny her.

He began to thrust hard into her again, grinding himself against her swollen clit. His mouth pulled away from hers to lick and suck his way down her exposed neck, needing to mark her in some way. He pulled her skin into his mouth, rolling his tongue as he sucked hard. His hips drove deep into her, filling her as her own liquid heat wept around his thickness.

He was rewarded with her low groans turning into quiet whimpers until unexpectedly she screamed and came. Her contractions deep inside drove him over his own edge and his cry of release filled the small bathroom as he thrust and emptied over and over until there was nothing left. Until the only sound was two sets of lungs trying to get enough air…

And the sound of water flowing onto the floor…

Kaden looked down to see the bathtub overflowing, a result of the nightgown he had stripped from Valaria plugging the drain.

Reluctantly he relinquished his grasp on his lover and let her slide down to her own two feet while he reached to turn off the taps and pull the wet nightgown from the bottom of the water. He held on to Valaria as he did, not wanting to let her go, not wanting her to pull away.

He hung the torn cloth over the edge, not caring if it was dripping more water on the floor. He only cared about what was happening between this woman and him. What they shared wasn’t something done with no choice…this time when she made love with him, she chose to share her body…he was elated…maybe this time he had actually found his true mate…

“That was a mistake,” her words were soft but adamant.

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