Authors: T. S. Joyce
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fantasy, #Werewolves & Shifters
Unable to hold his gaze,
she dropped her forehead to the mattress as he drove into her, over and over, faster and faster until she shattered and screamed his name, clenched the bed sheets in an unrelenting grip. He spilled into her, bucking forward with a moan. Breath ragged, he trailed kisses down her neck and shoulder blades, and bit into her shoulder with one final pulse. Sliding out of her, he pulled her against his chest on the bed and heaved a sigh. “You fight dirty.”
Mmm,” she said noncommittally. Maybe she did, but she couldn’t find it in her to care at the moment. How did Riker manage to make every position they tried enjoyable? Yes, the man had much more experience in bed than she did, but she was pretty sure her college boyfriend would’ve sucked at doggy style. She giggled.
” he murmured, plucking her earlobe with his lips.
She rolled and faced him, s
tifling a smile as she rested her hands on the hard planes of his chest. “Would we call that doggy style, or bear style?”
A deep, rumbling chuckle bubbled from
him and hummed against her palms. He hugged her closer. “Call it what you want. I’ll be thinking about that very intriguing view you presented for days, you temptress.”
“You tried to resist me.”
“No, I just wanted our first time after the attack to be slower. I know sex means something to you, Hannah. You make it impossible to be a gentle man.”
She stroked his cheek with the light brush of her fingertip and frowned. “You aren’t a gentle man, Riker. Don’t be something you’re not for me. I want you the way you are.”
His gaze dipped to her lips and he leaned into her, his mouth soft against hers as his hand dragged her waist against him. When he eased back, a smile ghosted his lips. “I love you, woman.”
As tempting as it was to grab a dozen tourist flyers from the concierge downstairs and show Riker the entire city, their hours were numbered. Their flight was scheduled to leave at noon and Hannah had loose ends to tie up from her old life. Most important being
to visit Robert Bromell to collect the few things she hadn’t sold after Stone kicked her life expectancy in the nads. She’d been in hiding for a year, and preoccupied, so she couldn’t remember exactly what all she’d asked her across-the-hall neighbor to store for her, but she at least wanted her family pictures back.
She hustled double time to the elevator, careful not to spill the steaming cups of coffee in her hands. When it came to poking the up button, she glared at her fingers, currently tied in the art of balancing four honey buns around the coffee cups. She debated turning and bumping the button, but her ass wasn’t bony enough by half. And just as she was figuring out the logistics of poking the pointiest part of her flip flop against the button, a man in a suit rushed to her side and pushed it for her.
“What floor?” he asked.
He pushed eight and ten and she settled into the corner farthest away from him.
“Do you need help?” he asked, gesturing to her full hands. He was young, in his early thirties with dark hair and a bright smile. Couldn’t trust anyone though.
“Oh, no. I’m fine.” Really, even if she tried to unload her wares onto a kind meaning stranger, there was a high probability she’d spill it all, and she really needed coffee after yesterday. Near torture apparently kept even the heaviest sleepers awake all night.
The electronic number on the wall dinged two and she bit her bottom lip. Elevator rides were so awkward.
“You visiting from out of town?” the man asked.
Suspicion made her take a second look at the man. Blue eyes, infuse
d with an honest expression probably got him a lot of what he wanted from women. Dane was dead, but Stone was still alive. And that man had the uncanny ability to show up just when everything was going well. She narrowed her eyes and backed her hips against the cold metal railing. “Why do you ask?”
Hands shoved in his pockets, the man
looked away first. “Just being friendly.”
The elevator doors opened and Hannah rushed out. When they closed again, she pressed her back against the wall. The air felt thick and made it hard to breath, hard to swallow. He was just a man asking a simple question. It didn’t mean anything. She had to get a grip. Riker had fixed everything and there was no need to be scared anymore.
Breathing steadied, she walked crisply to the end of the hall and kicked at the door. Riker opened it within moments. “What’s wrong?” He stuck his head outside and searched the hallway as she ducked around him.
“Nothing. Some guy was actually being nice and struck up a conversation in the elevator and I just about peed my pants.” The coffee cups made clunking sounds as she lowered them to the table. “I’
ve turned into a wuss.”
“No,” he said, closing the door behind him. “You’ve
just honed your instincts. You’ll relax over time, I promise.”
His hair was mussed and damp from a shower and the w
orry slowly left his gray eyes to be replaced by relief. She understood it. She’d only been away from him for twenty minutes and she’d felt like a piece of her had been missing until she laid eyes on him again.
“Is it like this because of our bond?” she asked, unable to drag her gaze from his.
“It’s like this because we’re important to each other. Not because of any supernatural pull that tells us to obsess. The bond is what we make it.”
Satisfied, she sat in the chair Riker pulled out for
her and took a long pull of the cooling coffee. He lowered himself in the seat across the small table and drew her legs into his lap, then ate in companionable silence amid secret smiles and soft, affectionate brushes of her ankles. After breakfast, Riker shouldered the small traveling bag holding their menial amount of clothes and checked them out of the hotel.
The subway was an experiment in animal patience. On three
separate occasions, she thought Riker would rip a man’s head off who sat too close and bumped his shoulder at every stop. He also talked loudly into his speakerphone to a hard of hearing family member and smelled like grilled onions. Riker kept clenching and unclenching his fists, but the fourth stop was theirs, and the man survived them.
“I should warn you,” she said, looking up at the
heavily windowed apartment building she used to call home. “Robert and I almost dated.”
“Oh,” he said,
seemingly distracted by the mass of bodies moving around them on the sidewalk. “You cared about him?”
“I think I would have,” she said honestly. “He asked me out
several times. I thought it was just because we lived across the hall from each other and he wanted casual sex, so I told him no for months. But right when I had decided maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to go out on a date and forget the hell of the trial, Stone sent a man to my apartment to kill me. Jeremy picked me up the next day and took me to my first safe house. I only had time to beg Robert to store my valuables in case I ever made it back here again. Jimmy made sure everything else was sold and gave me the money. There wasn’t room in my new life for my stuff, much less a man I almost went out with once.”
and jumped when she saw Riker standing directly behind her. Leaning forward, he rumbled against her ear, “He missed out. If I ever see Stone, I’ll be sure to thank him before I break his neck.”
God, but Riker was sexy when he was murderous on her behalf.
Three flights of stairs later and she was huffing and puffing. Riker’s breath came steady, the irritating man. His eyes betrayed him, however, and glowed like a demon’s.
“You want to stay out here?” She stopped
at the door marked 415, her knuckles hovering over the warped wood, waiting. Purposefully, she didn’t look at the old door behind her. Ugly memories had been made in that place.
“Probably best,” he murmured.
“I’ll be out here when you finish.”
Three knocks and she waited. If Robert still worked the same schedule, today should be his day off, and if not, it was the crack of dawn and he
probably hadn’t left for his job yet.
Riker leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. She shrugged and knocked again.
“Coming, I’m coming,” Robert called.
“That’s what you said last night,” Riker said low.
A burning blush heated her cheeks by the time Robert opened the door. Damn Riker, he’d done that on purpose.
“H-hi,” she stammered.
Robert stood in
the doorway clad in only a pair of sweat pants. His chiseled stomach and chest heaved as he rubbed his eyes and studied her face again. “Hannah?”
“I know it’s early, but I
was wondering if I could pick up my—”
“Is it really you?” he asked. Before she could respond, he pulled her into a rib crushing hug.
Moving her feet, she pushed them both into his apartment and slammed the door closed, lest Riker’s bear get the idea to eat her former neighbor.
“Whoa, okay. Come in.” He pulled back and ran a hand over his short dark hair. He hadn’t changed much. Perhaps he’d lost a little weight and it had done him good, but his eyes still held humor and concern, and his smile was still slow and shy. “The place is messy. I didn’t expect visitors today.”
“It’s okay, really. I just dropped by to pick up the things I left here last year. Do you still have them?”
“Uuh,” he drawled, frowning at something out the window. “I hid them. Give me a minute to track them down.”
“Hid them. Why?”
Obviously ruffled, he scratched his bottom lip with his thumbnail and disappeared into the back bedroom. Hannah followed and tried again. “Robert, why did you hide them?”
“Some guy keeps coming by
and asking about you. He drops in every few weeks. He’s a cop and I didn’t want to get in trouble for having your stuff. I was afraid he’d think I wasn’t telling him everything I knew or something.”
“A cop comes by? But I’ve been
in witness protection. Nobody is supposed to know where I am, so why is he…oh.” The rat. Jeremy had come back to New York to flush out a rat in his department who’d sold out every safe house she’d ever been in to Stone and his hit men.
A bike and two boxes
with thick permanent marker came flying out of Robert’s bedroom closet. She ducked as a tennis racket followed. Finally he re-emerged and blew a healthy layer of dust from the ratty cardboard box she’d given him a year ago.
He set it in her
hands and it nearly took her arms out of their sockets. Apparently she’d been cool with hoarding garden rocks in her old life.
“Here, let me,” Robert offered, pulling it from her
“Robert, what does the cop look like?”
“The one who’s
been looking for me.”
“Medium height, medium build. Short hair, brown eyes.”
All right, he could’ve just described himself or about half the population of New York. She needed more than that vague description. “Anything identifiable about him,” she asked, following him into the living room.
Riker stood in the doorway, his eyes passable as human once again.
“Can I help you?” Robert asked.
“I’m with her,” Riker said. He took the box from Robert’s arms and made it look like it was full of toilet paper rolls.
Hannah was in the middle of trying to count exactly how many months it had been since she’d last been to a gym when Robert offered his hand for a shake.
Riker balanced the box and grasped his hand. It looked painful. “Benson.”
Feeling rude for no
t introducing them, Hannah tried to explain. “He’s my…” She wanted to say mate. Everyone used the word often enough in Bear Valley but it wasn’t exactly a popular term in common English. She’d thought Riker ran a cult when she’d first met his bears, but for some reason she couldn’t explain, she wanted Robert to accept Riker on her behalf. Old life meets new life and everyone gets along. She opened her mouth to say boyfriend, but Riker beat her to it.
m her bodyguard,” he said, a slight frown pinching the corners of his eyes. Robert wouldn’t be able to tell he was upset, but she knew her mate.
identifiable about him?” she pressed on.
“Not that I can think of. Wait. One of his front teeth overlaps the other one. I can’t stop staring at it when he talks.” He rested his hands on his hips and looked back and forth between Riker and Hannah. “That’s all I got.”
Riker’s gaze said he knew exactly who they were talking about. Maybe he’d heard their conversation with his super bear hearing. “Listen, I don’t think you should let that guy in here.”
“Why? He’s a cop. I don’t think I really
have a choice about the matter.” Robert’s frown deepened. “What’s going on?”
“If that cop
doesn’t have a warrant, you do have a choice,” Hannah explained. “He’s dangerous.”
He looked to Riker and then to her. “Funny. He sai
d the same thing about you. Said you even killed people.”
Shock anchored her in place. T
rue, she’d cursed anyone who came close to her in the first year of witness protection and they had died for their loyalty at the hands of Stone’s men. Even bigger than bad luck, she’d pulled the trigger on a man. But how did the rat know?
“Did he tell you his name? A badge number? Anything?” Her voice trembled like a flame on a wick.
“So, it’s true? You killed people?”
“In self-defense. I was shot too.” Her newly healed injuries burned just to mention them.
He stared at her for a long time, as if his emotions had been toyed with and he didn’t know whom to trust anymore. She hadn’t done that though. That was all thanks to the dirty cop who had spilled her secrets in his game of manipulation. “He gave me his card once. Said his name is Lieutenant Murphy.”
“With NYPD?” Riker asked.
“That’s what the card said.”
Riker adjusted the box and swung his gaze to her. “Do you know him?”
“There were so many people at the trial. I don’t remember him from the description but maybe he was behind the scenes, I don’t know. When was the last time he visited?”
“Day before yesterday,” Robert said, void of hesitation.
The blood drained from her face and limbs, leaving cold tingles in its wake. Two days ago. He was still after her. Jeremy and Riker had gambled wrong. Dane wasn’t the only one she had to worry about. This Murphy guy was still working for Stone too.
Tears blurred her vision and she swayed. Dammit! She’d thought she was safe. Had an entire night knowing that she didn’t have to run anymore.