Authors: T. S. Joyce
Tags: #Paranormal, #Shifter, #Erotic, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Supernatural, #Suspense, #Romantic Suspense, #Danger, #Adult, #Forever Love, #Action, #Adventure, #Wolf, #Mate, #Dark Secrets, #Series, #Insanity, #McCall Madness, #Deceased Father, #McCall Pack, #Galena, #Alaska, #Wilderness Living, #Dangerous, #Saved Soul, #Retreat, #Fight, #Safety
Chills blasted up her arms, and she rubbed them to warm up. She didn’t give much thought to ghosts, but each word Link had spoken was punched with confidence, as if phantoms were a fact of life out here.
“Do you see ghosts?”
Link placed his hands behind his back and inhaled deeply. “My entire lineage has died early, and in violence.” He smiled sadly down at her. “All McCalls are haunted. How do you like your steak cooked?”
He turned, but she wrapped her hands around his waist from behind and stopped his escape. “You feel like mine, too.”
Link went rigid in her arms, then slowly relaxed, slid his hand over hers, and squeezed it gently. A soft growl rattled as he turned and faced her, so Nicole slid her hands up his taut stomach and rested her palms on his chest, right over the vibration. The noise tapered off to nothing, and she smiled up at his stunned expression.
“Wolf feels like mine, too,” she admitted quietly.
Link clutched her wrists, held her in place against him as his lips crashed down onto hers. He pushed his tongue past her lips and tasted her, over and over until she was writhing against him. This wasn’t the careful first kiss they’d shared at the diner. It was possessive and needy. It didn’t question if they were taking things too fast, and she didn’t want him to. She wanted this, right here. She wanted to lose herself completely with a man who really saw her. Who cared about her because of her personality and didn’t look at her face like she was repulsive. She wanted a connection with Link that would bind them. He was good, strong, and being around him made her feel more like herself than ever.
Nicole bit his bottom lip and ran her hands up under the hem of his sweater, across the mounds of flexed abs that nearly buckled her knees. Desperate to see them, she pushed his shirt over his head and nipped at his chest before she eased back. “Link,” she whispered, shocked that a man who looked like him, with his defined chest and washboard abs, the sexy crease of muscle over his hipbones, and wide, muscular shoulders, would want anything to do with a displaced, birth-marked city-girl who had lost her crown the day her stepdad had denounced her.
He had tiny silver scars in threes and fours, barely noticeable, and selfishly, she hoped she was the only woman who had ever laid eyes upon them. She kissed them one by one, finishing with the one on his ribcage. When she looked back up into his eyes, they’d gone white as snow, and his chest heaved with every ragged breath he took.
“You’re so fucking beautiful,” he said in a voice she didn’t recognize. It was too gravelly to be completely human, but she didn’t mind that his animal was here, too. She wanted them both, all of Link, because his animal side helped to shape who he was, and dammit, she adored everything about him.
Nicole straightened and pulled her hair back in a band she kept around her wrist. Feeling proud of the way she looked for the first time in her life, she lifted her chin and pulled her sweater over her head so he could see the full extent of the mark. Defiant to the niggling insecurity that crept in like morning fog, she gritted her teeth and resisted the urge to jump under his sheets and turn off the lights like with the other two men she’d slept with.
Self-consciousness didn’t belong here in this moment. Not with Link looking at her as though she’d bewildered him. Not with him brushing his finger reverently down the red color on her shoulder and the dotted half-necklace that curved under her neck. Not with him parting his lips just enough to whisper, “Perfect.”
And she was gone, falling. She knew what she wanted, and she didn’t care if it was too soon or too fast. If Link was really going mad, their timeline wouldn’t be like other couples. They would have to live every moment to the fullest and make every second together count. If he was going to be put down someday, she would have to make memories like this one and hope they kept her warm for always.
With shaking fingers, she unsnapped the button of her thick winter pants, but Link shook his head. It looked like it hurt, and he made a pained noise in his throat.
“I want a pup.” A feral snarl filled the room, and Link shook his head hard and backed away a couple of steps.
“Wolf wants to breed. You don’t want one of my pups in you, Nicole. Have to be safe. Safe. Can’t hurt you. No girl lives.” A soft whine filled the air. “No girl baby lives, and I won’t be here to help you get through it. Won’t be here to help you raise a McCall boy. Mad. Don’t want him going mad on you. Don’t want you hurt. Don’t want to break your heart. Break you.”
Nicole stood frozen over the admissions he had forced past his throat. Another layer of hurt Link bore as if it was no weight at all, another tragedy in his life. “Do you want a baby? A son? You, not Wolf.”
Link winced and dragged his gaze from the floor. He nodded once. “Doesn’t matter, though. Not if I won’t be here to hold him.”
“We won’t have a baby. I’m on birth control.”
Link’s look of blatant relief hurt in ways she couldn’t understand. Their future would be short and lacking. There would be no chance at more than this time they had right now. No chance at a family with the man she was falling hard for, but that had always been part of the dream. She’d wanted a man who really saw her, a good father to their children, and who would show them the attention and love that she had failed to garner growing up in a cold home. No man had ever tempted her like Link had been doing from the second she’d laid eyes on him, but he couldn’t give her what she wanted, and she was failing him in the same way.
“I wish I could save you,” she admitted through tightening vocal chords.
Link smiled sadly as he cupped her marked cheek. “You already have.”
Those three words gutted her. She hadn’t done anything to lengthen his life. She was only giving him happiness at the end. Squeezing her eyes tightly closed against the pain in her middle, she swallowed down a heartbroken sound as he pressed his lips to hers. She slid her hands over the warm, smooth skin of his shoulders and hugged him tightly. The desperate passion to bed each other and be done with it had gone, as if they were two comets whose tails had crossed and burned too brightly for a moment. Now, Link was loving her. Adoring her. Drawing every emotion from her as he cupped the back of her head and kissed her gently.
Her fingers weren’t shaking anymore as she unfastened his jeans and pushed them down his hips. And as she knelt down and removed his clothes completely, he smiled down at her. It was just the barest curve of his lips, but she was entranced by it. She draped them into a pile on top of her own sweater on the wooden floorboards and smiled up at him as she unfastened the thin gold necklace she wore around her throat.
“You’re cold,” Link said with a slight frown at the goosebumps on her arms. He pulled down the thick blankets of his bed and held out his hand to help her up. But before he tucked her under there with him, he murmured, “Want to feel your skin against mine.”
And she understood because she craved the same. The warmth of a blanket would be artificial and unsatisfying, but the warmth from the man she adored would break her heart open. For a moment, she hesitated, scared, because this was it. If she and Link did this, it would change things between them. There would be no more pretending they could go on without each other. He felt too big, too essential now after everything he’d shared.
But if all she had was a short time with him…if all she had was right now while he was still in control of his mind, then it would have to be enough because her instincts said this would be one of the biggest moments of her life if only she was brave enough.
Link’s hands on her waist settled her completely, and his lips on hers banished any lingering fears. Nothing had ever felt this right before. She wasn’t displaced in Link’s den. Here, she felt more at home in her own skin than she ever had before. Alaska had started that change in her, and Link was completing it with every touch, every kiss, every adoring look at her face as if he didn’t see her mark at all, but instead, saw her soul.
Link pushed the waist of her pants down with steady hands, then unsnapped her bra in the back and pulled it from her arms. Cupping her full breast, he let off a shuddering sigh and eased back enough to drag his hungry gaze down her body. His lips curved up at the corners into a sexy smile. He’d shaved this morning, so she could see every angle of his sharp jaw, every curve of his feral, masculine, striking face. It was his eyes that held her, though. The color there had scared her at first, but now they drew her gaze. They didn’t trap her anymore, but caressed her instead. They dared her to engage instead of looking down at her feet like she’d done most of her life. She could
as he searched her face. Beautiful Wolf to match his beautiful soul. His last name didn’t matter now. Maybe it would someday, when the word McCall would steal him from her, but here in the waning evening light that filtered through the window, he was just her Link. The link that had been missing from her disjointed life. Missing Link, not Weak Link as that awful man in town had called him.
Lifting up on tiptoes, she slid her arms around his neck and pressed her skin against his. And as he let off a long, relieved sigh, she rested her chin on his shoulder as he wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her inches off the ground. The growl in his chest wasn’t wild or accidental now. It was low and satisfied. More purr than threat. Link rested his cheek against hers and laid a peck on her neck, just below her ear. Crossing her ankles, she melted against him and allowed him to just hold her, to just be. Her chest felt funny. All fluttery and warmer than the rest of her body where it touched him.
His erection was hard against her belly, but that wasn’t the most important part of this intimacy. Not right now. Link was enjoying just touching her. He was allowing them a moment to savor this, and it was the sexiest foreplay she’d ever been a part of. With every second that passed, the heat in her middle grew hotter and deeper.
Link settled her onto the bed and climbed in over her, his eyes intent on hers. God, he was beautiful. Scarred, strong, his stomach and arms flexing as he lowered his body smoothly to hers. He pulled her knee up as he settled in the cradle of her thighs. Teasing her with the head of his cock, he slipped inside of her once before he slid farther down her body and brushed his lips against her throat. He smiled against her skin when she clutched the soft sheets and arched back against the mattress to be closer to him. His needy growl vibrated against her skin in response to her bowing against him. He drew the taut bud of her nipple into his mouth and sucked it gently until she was soaking between her legs. And then he gave the same attention to her other breast until her entire body tingled. Every touch of his fingertips sparked against her flesh like tiny electrical shocks, and every soft growl in his throat drove her wilder in her need for him to bury himself deeply inside of her. And when he clamped his teeth onto the soft skin near her belly button, just above her sex, she released the sheets and gripped his hair instead.
“Don’t want that. Not this time,” she panted out. “I want you.”
Link didn’t hesitate or ignore her request. Instead, he slid into her, his stomach flexing as he filled her.
“Nicole,” he growled out in a snarling voice, closing his eyes like the pleasure was too much.
“Link,” she whispered, gripping his neck. “Eyes on me this first time, and next time Wolf can have me.”
He angled his head, kissed her palm, then opened his eyes and held there as he moved within her. His powerful body flexed and tensed every time their hips met, and as he lowered his chest to hers and stroked the mark on her cheek, she fell completely for him. No fear, no trepidation, just jumping off the edge because Link wouldn’t hurt her. She could see his devotion in his beautiful, wild eyes.
As the pressure built in her middle, she threw her head back against the pillow and moaned with every stroke. His teeth brushed her throat, right over where her needy sounds came from, and he left them there. Maybe he liked her exposing her neck, or perhaps his animal got off on that. Whatever the reason, the second his teeth touched her there, Link began to buck into her faster and harder. He gripped the back of her neck to save her from ramming into the wall as his powerful body worked her closer to release. He was so big, so thick, swelling and stony hard as he rammed into her with a satisfying slick sound. He’d done that. Made her this wet.
Blinding, floating sensation… She closed her eyes to the world and cried out his name as an orgasm blasted through her on explosive pulses, gripping him as he rammed into her and clamped his teeth harder against her tripping pulse. He wouldn’t hurt her. He wouldn’t.
Warmth shot into her in throbbing bursts as a snarl filled Link’s throat. Over and over, he filled her until wetness trickled out between them. He released her neck and rested his forehead on hers as he slowed down and then pushed into her one last time.
The heat in her chest intensified, burning until it was uncomfortable. She gasped out when it became unbearable, and Link went rigid above her, hands too tight on her waist and the back of her neck.
“Fuck,” he ground out, closing his eyes as if he felt the pain, too.
And she saw it. Something luminescent radiated from her skin, lifting from her, pulsing with power as it poured into Link on a translucent stream. A moment and it was gone, as if she’d imagined it, but when she looked into Link’s eyes, she knew she wasn’t the only one who’d been affected. His eyes were wide, shocked, as though he’d never seen her before, and he slid out of her and scrambled backward, then crouched on the edge of the bed.