Authors: Cynthia Eden
Tags: #werewolf, #cynthia eden, #Romance, #paranormal romance, #sexy romance, #werewolf romance, #Romantic Suspense, #short romance story
There was a beat of silence in the car. A beat that lasted too long. “Well,” she said finally, “you
turn into animals.”
Claws burst from his fingertips. Unlike other wolves, he could control the shift. Let just a bit of the beast out when he wanted to play. “And here I thought you liked my wild side.”
He heard the sharp inhalation of her breath. Wolf senses were damn enhanced. So enhanced that it was ridiculously easy for him to catch her muttered, “Jerk.”
If he hadn’t been so pissed, he would have smiled. “My pack is being set-up.”
“Three dead bodies.” Ava’s fingers tapped on the wheel as her gaze darted to the rear-view mirror. “Three bodies, and all the vics had their throats ripped open. All were found on your land.”
“It’s a set-up.”
Her fingers stopped tapping. “I know claw marks when I see them,” she said once again.
He thought of the raised scars that he’d kissed on her stomach. Yeah, Ava knew all about the marks that wolves could leave behind. “Then we’ve got a new wolf in town. Some asshole who’s trying to cause trouble for me and my pack. We didn’t do this.”
“You’d smell a new wolf the instant he stepped foot in Crossroads.”
Yeah, he would.
“The humans are panicking. It’s all I can do to keep them from launching after you.”
Like humans could hurt him.
The patrol car slid into a curve, nice and easy. Ava was taking her time. And her scent—sweet vanilla—was driving him crazy.
“I didn’t kill the guy,” he said again as he sucked in a deep breath and tasted her. He’d prove his innocence, one way or another, and then…
I’ll have her again.
“Now it’s my turn for questions.”
Her gaze darted to the rear-view mirror once more. Just for an instant of time. They cleared the curve. She accelerated, driving down the long, lonely stretch of road that led back to the human-occupied portion of Crossroads.
“What questions do you have?” Suspicion underscored her words.
He let his claws scrape over the cage. “Really just one question.” He inhaled more vanilla. “Why the hell did you just screw me and walk away?”
I wanted more. Not just a taste.
A black pick-up truck slammed into the side of the patrol car.
Her name was ripped from him as the car tumbled through the air. Metal screamed. Glass crunched.
The scent of blood—
—filled his nose.
The car trapped him. Twisted metal bit into his flesh and shards of glass covered Julian’s clothing.
The patrol car had stopped rolling. Finally. They’d made it all the way down the sloping hill that led to Myer’s Swamp. Now, if they didn’t get their asses out of there soon, they’d have to worry about the scent of blood drawing in the predators that waited in the swamp.
“Ava?” He shoved away the remains of the cage that had once separated them and kicked free of the metal. “Baby, answer me.”
But she wasn’t answering. He touched her shoulder, and her head sagged forward. Blood dripped from her forehead, and she barely seemed to breathe.
He yanked apart the cuffs in a heartbeat. Even Ava had never understood how strong he was. Then his hands ran quickly over her body. No broken bones, just that gash that was bleeding like a bitch. His fingers brushed over her cheek. “It’s gonna be okay,” he told her softly. “I’ll get you—”
A door slammed.
“Think she’s dead?” The voice came to him, an excited whisper, and Julian finally stopped focusing on the scent of her blood long enough to realize that he didn’t need to worry about the four-legged predators waiting in Myer’s Swamp.
Humans were closing in on them. He inhaled deeply, trying to catch their scents. Once he had their scents, he’d have
But there was no scent.
None at all. The bastards were using blockers—special chemicals Uncle Sam had made for hunting paranormals. Chemicals that damn well weren’t supposed to be in the hands of anyone but licensed government officials.
“If she ain’t,” another man said, his voice heavier with a rough drawl, “she will be by the time we’re done with her.”
Oh, the hell,
Julian glanced around quickly. The passenger side door had been all but ripped away. They could get out that way. Fast and—
“J-Julian?” Ava’s voice. Dazed. Lost. “What happened?”
He put his finger to her lips. “Trust me.”
She blinked, then nodded.
“Company’s coming,” Julian said as he kept his voice whisper quiet. He didn’t know what kind of weapons those bastards were packing, so he couldn’t take a chance on fighting them. Not now.
Not with Ava hurt.
He pulled her against him and eased from the car. She stumbled when he tried to guide her toward the thick, sloping trees near the edge of the swamp, so Julian just bent and lifted her into his arms.
They’d almost made it to the shelter of those trees—
when the first gunshot rang out.
The hard crack of thunder was followed immediately by the blast of pain in his shoulder.
Another shot. This one missed. Julian rushed forward and sank into the shelter of the trees. The instant he freed Ava, she scrambled away from him and drew her gun. “Shift!” She told him, voice tight.
He blinked. She was bloody, pale, and—
“Drop your weapons!” Ava screamed her words at the shooters. “I’m Sheriff—”
They fired again.
So did she. A fast succession of bullets erupted from her gun. She didn’t even spare him a glance as she ordered once more, “Shift, Julian! You know you have to heal, so
He didn’t normally shift around humans. They tended to freak at the transformation, but when a man had a bullet digging into his shoulder, there weren’t a lot of options open.
Julian dropped to the ground. The wolf within was clawing to get free. Furious, maddened, it wanted to attack. To kill.
To rip out the throats of the men who’d come after Ava.
Fur burst from his flesh. His claws dug into the earth as his bones stretched and his body reshaped. The shift shoved the bullet out of his body, and it fell to the ground. His heartbeat thundered in his ears. The smell of blood teased his nostrils.
The wolf broke free. The broken silver cuffs hit the dirt as they slipped fully from him.
A growl built in his throat.
“I think…they’re gone,” Ava managed.
They were. Even as he’d shifted, Julian had heard the bastards’ retreating footsteps, and the snarl of a truck’s engine.
She turned toward him. Julian saw her eyes widen. There was no fear in her green gaze. Ava had never been afraid of his wolf. As far as he knew, the woman had never been afraid of anything.
He stalked toward her. She swiped at her forehead, trying to wipe away the blood.
“Is this the part where I say…My, Julian, what very big teeth you have…?”
The fire of the shift swept over him once more. Faster now, because the transformation back to man was always easier. In mere seconds, he was a man again. Naked, he strode toward her.
The gun was still in her hand. He ignored it and trapped her against the tree. “They were here to kill you.”
No one else had eyes like hers. So deep. So green. So beautiful.
“Doubtful,” she told him, “it’s more likely they were after you. I told you before, the humans in Crossroads are—”
“They were coming to kill
Screw it. He’d had enough. Enough pretending. Enough playing by the rules that he hated.
Humans had just tried to kill her. Tried to actually take her away from him.
No one was ever gonna take Ava Dushaine from him.
His mouth crashed down onto hers. He should have been easier. Should have used some gentleness, but werewolves didn’t exactly know much about tenderness.
The only things he knew…she’d taught him.
Her lips were parted, and his tongue pushed inside her mouth. He tasted her, and her kiss was better than he remembered. No dream to haunt him, she was real now.
Her body pressed against his, her lush lips opened to his, and Julian realized how truly dangerous Ava was.
Not just a human. To him, she was so much more.
A woman he’d gladly kill to protect.
He held the kiss. Savored her. Didn’t let her go, not yet. He couldn’t. So he took and he tasted and he knew that, later, he’d have more of her.
Ava’s mistake had been letting him get close that first time, at old Billy’s bar on the edge of Crossroads. You couldn’t offer a wolf a taste of heaven and then just walk away and expect him to go back to living in hell.
Didn’t work that way.
Not even in Crossroads.
Slowly, Julian lifted his head. Ava’s breath sighed out softly as her thick lashes rose. He didn’t speak at first. Just stared at her.
Even bleeding, hurt, with her blond hair tangled around her, she was still the prettiest thing he’d ever seen.
Heart-shaped face, wide eyes, lips made for kissing.
“We’ve got fools trying to kill us,” she said, then cleared her throat. “Right now, we need to focus on—”
“I’m not going to lose you.” The words were pulled from him.
Her bottom lip trembled, a crack in the strong mask that she presented to the world, but, in the next second, she was lifting her chin. “Of course, you’re not. I’ll hunt these jerks after me, and I’ll—”
find them,” he said, voice flat, “they’re dead.”
Being prey hadn’t exactly been on Ava’s agenda for the week. But, since some jerkoffs had run her off the road and followed up their attack with blasts of gunfire, she knew that the game had changed for her.
And if she didn’t find the killers out there—and it was killers, two of them according to Julian—then hell would
be coming to Crossroads.
The darkness skated slowly across the sky as the sun set in a blaze of red. Chill bumps rose on Ava’s arms as she strode across the clearing and headed for the vampire stronghold.
With each step she took, Ava was aware of the hulking shadow beside her, a shadow that was literally her personal bodyguard.
Since the attack, Julian hadn’t left her side. If anyone came too close to her, the wolf started to growl.
Seeing as how she was supposed to be long arm of the law in the town—the
arm—having a big wolf as her guard dog was a bit…ah…
“They’re gonna smell your blood.” Julian reached for her hand and pulled her to a stop. “You shouldn’t have come out here. You don’t need to do—”