She lurched off the bed as her orgasm took her, and he joined her.
Then it was over, and her face telegraphed equal parts shame and fear. Greta turned away, staring at the wallpaper as if trying to imprint the pattern on her memory.
Dayne untied her and she wrapped herself in the bedspread.
“God, what you must think,” she finally said. She’d been making an effort to keep her crying quiet, but it flowed out of her voice when she spoke.
“I’m thinking, for a quickie, that was fucking amazing. And that I’m probably done with my own species. To hell with playing it safe.”
He smiled at her when she turned back to him and kissed the dampness from her face.
“It’s worse than a vampire’s need for blood,” she said.
Another odd quirk. Most Weres reveled in their sexual power and slept with anything they could get their hands on. It was the one reason he’d trusted Jaden. When she’d come to his bed when she wasn’t in heat, he’d believed her feeling for him was genuine.
Now he knew what it had really been about. Control.
Her face was tense, no doubt waiting for him to say something cruel.
“Are you okay now?” He sat on the bed beside her, for his part unconcerned with his nudity, as he stroked her back through the bedspread.
“Yes. I’m sorry about that.”
“Believe me, there is nothing for you to be sorry about. I’m evil remember? Your petty heat cycle doesn’t intimidate me.” She laughed a little. “It won’t happen again if you can get my pills.” Greta frowned then, lines appearing in the middle of her forehead. “I’m sure my apartment is being watched.”
“I can get in undetected. Will you be okay if I leave you?”
The fridge door stood open as Greta debated the benefits of left-over spaghetti versus peanut butter and jelly. She finally decided on chicken nuggets from the freezer.
Over the past few days she’d slowly come to trust she was safe here. The longer she was exposed to Dayne’s magical signature, the more she knew the world was shown a very different Dayne Wickham than the reality. Now her unease and fear were back.
“Stupid, Greta,” she said aloud. After the display in the kitchen, she should have known the heat cycle was close. It had been too long since she’d let it go that far without the drugs that suppressed it.
Dayne returned as she finished the nuggets, carrying her pills and something else.
“You are perverse,” he said.
It was only her paranoia that made Greta think he was referencing their previous joining.
He pointed at the cat. “I spent fifteen minutes trying to talk to her and get her to shift, because I was convinced a therian wouldn’t have a pet of the same species they changed into. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Then I realized I didn’t feel any magic coming off her, just the residue in your apartment, so I brought her along.” Mink was rubbing her cheek against Greta’s hand and purring.
“I forgot all about her because of everything,” Greta said. “She could have starved.”
“Not likely. She chewed her way through the cat food bag. She could have lived off it for a month. Here.” He handed Greta the prescription bottle.
“Thank you.” She popped the pill, washing it down with milk, and sank back into the chair.
Dayne sat across from her, his eyes serious. “I want us to talk.” Chapter Six
think we should talk about the ritual.”
“IGreta let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
She’d expected condemnation, perhaps a scarlet letter magically emblazoned across her body.
Fortunately, Dayne wasn’t the Puritan she seemed to be. He’d handled the heat fiasco with a surprising amount of grace and now he just wanted to get back to the business at hand. She straightened in her chair.
She hadn’t asked for details about the ritual. Dayne could be planning to destroy the world and she’d probably let him use her blood if it would save her hide. Maybe she was a coward, but she wanted to live. She preferred not to know the gory details in case it presented her with a moral dilemma.
“What about it?” She ran a finger through the remaining honey mustard sauce on the plate and licked it from her finger. His eyes darkened with lust and she put her hands in her lap.
What was wrong with her? She’d just taken a pill. Could she not do anything without making it look like an invitation? She bit her lip, as her eyes roved over his body. Dayne was fully clothed, wearing jeans and a T-shirt featuring an obscure grunge band from the nineties.
No matter what he was wearing, she couldn’t stop seeing the sharply defined muscles she knew were hidden underneath. The memory of their earlier coupling ran wild through her mind, becoming clearer each time she replayed it. And she’d replayed it about fifteen times now. Her cheeks flushed, and she looked away.
“Why do you think they want you? Why does it have to be you and not someone else?”
“Oh, that ritual. It’s because I was born a kitten. But I didn’t know it until the other day when I overheard plans for the sacrifice.
I mean, how would I know? Not like I’d remember.”
“Therians are born in human form and die in animal form.
Legends got that backward, or at least about the dying part. We don’t go back to human form when we die. We go into animal form trying to survive. It’s the way we heal.
“It’s rare to be able to shift before age five or six. Even then, it’s more normal to start shifting around eight. For centuries, my people have believed our powers come from the gods. So when the gods bless someone as a proper sacrifice, meaning they allow them to be born in their fur, they must be sacrificed on the first full moon of their twenty-eighth year when their power is strongest. But I always thought it was a myth.”
Greta tried to keep the hurt off her face that he wasn’t outraged on her behalf, or sweeping her up into his arms. The heat was screwing with her emotions. “Is that all you needed to know?”
Greta got up and rinsed her plate in the sink. “I’m going to bed then.”
The sex hadn’t meant anything. It was the stupid heat. She couldn’t expect him to be in love with her, and it wasn’t like she was in love with him either. She needed to get a grip.
It was after midnight and Dayne was propped against the headboard of his bed making notations for the ritual. It made sense now why the drawings and photographs had been in human form.
They sought a full reversal of the natural order. It was poetic in its way, if not morbid in its poetry. If she’d been born in cat form, her blood was more potent than most.
The kind of power released from blood like that on such a ritually significant date . . . He could see why therians believed it caused the gods to bless them. That much overflow with the right ritual, her essence was bound to be absorbed. Whether they were aware of it or not, they weren’t so much keeping in the good graces of the gods as they were stealing her power. If he’d wanted to live up to his reputation, he should be bottling her blood and selling it on the black market.
From a practical standpoint, it meant he’d need less blood than he would from a normal therian on just any full moon. Without that crucial knowledge, he could have had a magical boo-boo of pyrotechnic proportions.
His personal grimoire was propped open on his lap. He was penciling in the amount of blood he’d need, when he heard an unearthly howl. Moments later, a bundle of black fur shot across his floor and into the bed. She’d burrowed halfway under the covers before he could get to her.
“Greta, calm down.”
Her fur stood on end, and she was digging her claws into his 800 thread count sheets, digging clear into the mattress. She looked past him, seeing something that wasn’t there. Then a pitiful crying meow tore through her throat. His chest tightened, and a rush of compassion overwhelmed him for the frightened animal.
“Greta, look at me. You had a nightmare. There’s nothing here.” The part of her that could understand human speech had obviously receded, drawn back into the cat-shaped shell. Dayne gently stroked down her back, speaking soothing nonsense.
Gradually, the tiny talons receded back into her paws and her fur laid flat. His fingers smoothed over her until a rumbling purr started and this time he watched as she transformed back to her human form.
Their eyes met as he continued his ministrations over her silken skin. She rolled over onto her back, stretching her arms over her head as his fingers played over her breasts. He watched her reaction, half expecting her to pull away or recover her earlier modesty.
She let out a soft sigh; her eyes glazed over. He replaced his hand with his mouth, licking and teasing over the nipple of one breast as his hand moved farther south to pet her sex.
“Dayne,” she panted.
He released her breast to give her his full attention. “Yes?”
“I don’t know if we should.”
A finger dipped inside her, and she bucked off the bed. A purr emanated from her chest as she whimpered and pushed against his hand, urging his finger deeper. He withdrew it.
“Well, if you don’t think we should.”