Alpha Unmasked: BBW Bear Shifter Romance (Greenwood Shifters Book 1) (7 page)

BOOK: Alpha Unmasked: BBW Bear Shifter Romance (Greenwood Shifters Book 1)
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“You’re hurt,” she gasped into his parted lips.

“I’m fine. Almost healed.” He kissed her again. All words disappeared from her mind as he lifted her and laid her against the bed.

He was right, of course. She’d watched the jagged claw marks stitch themselves together. Watched as each turn of his body in the depths of sleep shed flecks of dried blood. By morning, all evidence of the brawl with Cass would have disappeared.

Dirk snaked his hand to cradle her neck and rained kisses down on her. Her hands slid along his muscular back. Her caressing fingers stopped to slide against every thin scratch. He’d spent most of the night shirtless in one form or another, but Rachel couldn’t remember seeing any scars. Another reason not to trust her eyes.

His firm hands pushed the paper-thin T-shirt over her belly. His hot tongue replaced the flimsy fabric. She moaned at the contact, and he slid his finger into her mouth. Rachel caressed the probing finger with her tongue. His kisses moved down her soft belly as his free hand snaked into her bra to caress her full breasts.

Then suddenly he was gone. Her eyes flew open in confusion, only to see him staring down at her, one hand working at the button of her jeans.

“You can stop this now,” he whispered, his breath ragged, his hazel eyes, always so calm, now burned with his desire for her.

Rachel never thought of herself as ugly, but under his loving gaze, she felt beautiful. Powerful in a way that she never had before.

“I don’t want to stop you.” She pulled him closer.

He leaned down and claimed her lips once more. The button gave way and he slid his hand over her slick folds.

She gasped in pleasure, the motion granting him access to her mouth, and he caressed her tongue with his. He slid his body alongside hers, wrapping himself around her like a blanket and leaving a trail of kisses along her neck. Rachel writhed under his touch. She hadn’t been touched like this in longer than she could remember, and she didn’t know how long she could stand it.

Dirk’s lips kissed a path over her breasts, stopping to take one firm nipple into his mouth as his fingers slid into her. She closed her eyes and let the gentle throb of pleasure wash over her. Some part of her was aware when his free hand slid the stiff material of her jeans away, only for the exposed flesh to be covered in a flurry of kisses and caresses.

He moved between her thighs, tickling the sensitive flesh there with the stubble of his beard. Then she felt his rough, wet tongue brush against her. She gripped the threadbare sheets, as he tasted her, her hips rising to meet his soft tongue and probing fingers.

“Dirk,” she moaned as she threaded her fingers through his scruffy hair. She opened her eyes and looked down at him. His blazing hazel eyes were locked on her as he savored her taste. She writhed under his skilled fingers that found and caressed her most sensitive parts.

The sight of him, of them, sent her tumbling over the edge. The world went black in front of her eyes as she fell over the edge moaning and writhing. Her thighs clamped around him as she leaned back and let the waves of pleasure crash over her.

And then he was back beside her, stroking her side and pressing gentle kisses to her lips.

“No one’s going to hurt you, Rachel,” he whispered into her ear. “I won’t let them.”

Rachel pressed herself against his chest, listening to his heartbeat. She didn’t have to look in his eyes to know he meant it. He would protect her for as long as he could, even if it meant trading his life for hers.

Fate, destiny, whatever this was, it was more powerful than anything Rachel had ever felt.

8

D
irk listened
to the quiet sound of Rachel’s breathing as she slept curled on the cheap motel mattress. He wanted so badly to join her, to let her curves and warmth hug his body as she dreamed, but he didn’t dare. It was unlikely anyone followed their scent all the way down from the lake, but if they did Dirk had to be ready to fight them off.

While Rachel slept, he had organized the room as best he could. He’d moved the plastic bedside table in front of the door, and angled the armchair between the window and the bed. The hasty redecoration swallowed almost all of the walking space in the room, but it gave Rachel a bit more protection.

He gazed down at her, watching her chest rise and fall with each breath, feeling like he could stare at her all night. Dirk hadn’t realized how dull his senses had become in the year he couldn’t shift. Now, since his grizzly awakened, he knew what he’d been missing. He could see the soft folds in her plump lips that made them especially sweet to kiss. He could hear her heartbeat even from across the room.

It was the taste of her that captivated him. It clung to his tongue and mingled with her scent. It was like honey and jasmine, sweet, fragrant. He wanted to savor it again, to savor
her
again. But it would have to wait. When the sun rose, they’d need to put distance between them and the Greenwood compound.

His stomach churned at the thought. He didn’t regret killing Cass; the raging bear would never have let Rachel leave the woods alive. For Cass, it wasn’t about the rules. Humans weren’t supposed to know about shifters, but they didn’t kill humans who found out. They paid them, and those who couldn’t be silenced with money usually found themselves in a psychiatric hospital for their trouble.

It wasn’t about the rules. It was about Alexandra. She would have told anyone who would listen about the engagement, and news would spread fast that she’d been tossed aside for a mere human, with none of her money or gifts.

If Alexandra were a more forgiving woman, Dirk could settle most of the trouble by claiming Rachel. He only needed to make love to her once to cement the bond. But he couldn’t do that to her, not until she understood what it would mean to be with him. Thank God for the wounds Cass gave him. They made a convenient enough excuse for now.

He looked down at the curves of Rachel’s body beneath the thin sheet. There was no need to rush, he reminded himself. Once they were farther away from the compound, they could take things as slowly as Rachel needed. Though he prayed that wasn’t too slow. The taste of her was intoxicating, and he wanted more.

His ringing cell phone snapped him back to reality, and his heart dropped as he looked at the familiar number.

“I’m all right, Mama,” he said.

There were a few seconds of silence on the other end, and then Cyrus spoke. “Glad to hear it, now get your ass back to the house.”

Dirk jerked his head around the room in reflex, as if Cyrus had somehow materialized through the phone. But there was still only he and Rachel. He released a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “I can’t do that, sir.”

“Dirk, your mother won’t speak to me, Marlow Tenwick is demanding your official proposal to his daughter, and there’s reports of a rogue in the area. This is not the time for one of your tantrums!” With each word Cyrus raised the volume of his voice, so that by the end, Dirk had to pull the receiver away from his ear. If they’d been in the same room the weight of Cyrus’s dominance would have crushed Dirk, but it didn’t work as well over the phone.

“A rogue?” If a rogue shifter wandered into the area, Dirk had even less time. Unprotected, Dirk was a sure target. That meant Rachel was too, as long as she was with him.

“I sent a tracker up to the lake to find you. They found Cass Tenwick instead. A rogue must’ve gotten him. Ripped the poor bastard’s throat out.”

Dirk kept his breathing even, but the grizzly inside him growled in warning. “Probably figured he’d make a name for himself by taking out an Alpha’s son. Nothing new about that.”

“Nothing new at all. By the way, they brought your car home.”

Dirk sat down on the bed near the curve of Rachel’s legs. He’d known someone would find Cass’s body, but he’d counted on it being a random tracker or one of Tenwick’s boys. And he hadn’t counted on them finding his car. It was a stupid mistake, and too much leverage to give Cyrus. “What do you want?”

The polite pretense fell away from Cyrus’s voice. “I’m having dinner with Marlow Tenwick. What I tell him at dinner is up to you.”

“Another damned ultimatum?”

“You seem to need help making the right decisions. I want you home, by sunset,” he said. “And bring the caterer with you.”

“She’s got nothing to do with this.” Dirk looked at Rachel, still asleep and unaware that their time was almost up.

“Normally, I would agree with you, but there’s the picture she sent your mother. And you certainly didn’t walk to that motel. Bring her. When I’m satisfied she will follow the rules, she can go. And good riddance.

Dirk laughed, but there was no humor in it. “You must need that marriage to go through pretty bad.”

“I might not have before your stunt at the lake. You’re a Greenwood, and a Greenwood always faces the consequences of their actions, once they’ve decided the best consequences to take.”

Dirk looked at Rachel. If he ran, Cyrus might not follow. If he was lucky, Cyrus would let Marlow Tenwick believe that a rogue shifter killed his only son, and that Dirk had barely escaped. But Dirk had never been lucky, and if his luck ran out, it could mean more than his life. It could mean Rachel’s.

“By sunset.” He clenched his fist, ignoring the sting as his nails bit into the flesh of his palm. Dirk tossed the phone onto the bed and raked his fingers through his hair. He couldn’t run. He needed to fight, but he didn’t know how to fight his father’s schemes. He’d beaten one rage-blind shifter on familiar ground, the Alpha was different. Even if he wanted to challenge Cyrus, that right belonged to his brother. Wherever he was.

He reached over and stroked Rachel’s shoulder. She moaned in her sleep, but this time the sound was like a punch in his gut. “Rachel?”

She turned toward him and rubbed her eyes with her hands. He almost hated to spoil the adorable moment with his news. “Hm?”

“Cyrus called,” he said. “He gave me until sunset to go home. And he wants you to come too.”

She brushed her tousled dark hair away from her eyes and rubbed them again, as if the gesture could will the fatigue from her mind. “He knows?”

Dirk nodded. “His trackers found Cass half an hour ago.”

Rachel tossed the blanket aside and climbed to her feet. “How bad is it?” She tugged on her jeans.

Dirk stroked one of her cheeks with his thumb. “I promise you, everything will be okay.”

Somehow, he would make everything okay. And he only had until sunset to figure out how.

* * *

R
achel clicked
off the motel television and tossed the remote aside. Nothing was interesting enough to distract her from her racing thoughts. Cyrus’s call obliterated the timeline Rachel worked out for them. He must have called in another hunter as soon as she left the building. She’d known Cyrus wouldn’t hold up his end of the deal, but she’d underestimated how quickly he’d act. That was a mistake she couldn’t afford to repeat. Not now.

Dirk swore that she wasn’t in danger, but she couldn’t shake their earlier conversation. Humans weren’t meant to know about shifters. Now she was on the radar of a man with nothing to lose and too much leverage over her already. If she and Dirk didn’t play carefully, it could cost Rachel her life.

She heard the telltale whirl of a keycard in the lock and looked up as Dirk walked into the room, his arms full of fast-food bags.

“I hope you’re hungry. I’m starving,” he said as he set the bags on the small plastic table.

“Not really, but I’ll eat anyway,” she said. His lips curved that lopsided smile she loved as he walked to her. He leaned down and scooped her into his arms.

“Hey! It’s two feet. I can walk.” Rachel squirmed in his hands, but his grip on her was iron-tight.

“I’m not so sure about that. I haven’t forgotten the woods.” He grinned as he crossed the room in two steps and set her down in the armchair.

“It was dark. And you knew I was going in the wrong direction!” She rapped him on the chest with her knuckles, but the strong muscles there barely moved.

Dirk leaned down and brushed the curve of her neck with his lips. A shiver of pleasure ran through her. “That was mean, I admit it. Forgive me?”

She pretended to think about it for a few seconds before smiling and turning her head to catch his lips. “Forgiven.” She glanced up into his eyes. Twelve hours ago those eyes held nothing but suspicion. Now they gazed down at her as if she were the most beautiful woman in the world.

He stole another quick kiss, then sat in the metal desk chair. He reached into one of the bags and pulled out a plastic-topped tray and a carton of orange juice.

“You found breakfast in the middle of the afternoon?”

Dirk shrugged as he continued unpacking the food. “Wasn’t hard. Everybody wants breakfast all the time now. There’s nothing but fast food around here. I hope you like it,” he said as he set a box of juice and plastic platter of food in front of her.

“I bet you’re used to thick-cut bacon, fresh pancakes, and vegetable juice prepared by a personal chef,” she teased.


Pfft
. Pancakes, no. Bacon and juice, yes. Ana’s a genius at flavor combinations.” He tore open his carton of orange juice and drained the entire thing in one gulp. “This stuff is just sugar water.” He tossed the offending container into the trash.

“Are you serious? You actually have a chef?”

“Technically she’s the housekeeper. Mama cooks most of the meals. Ana just handles breakfast.”

“Must be nice.” Rachel speared a hunk of eggs with her fork and slid the mass into her mouth.

“Not really. Ana comes with the house. The house comes with my father.” He snatched a thin, limp piece of bacon between his fingers and shook it back and forth. “Then again this hardly qualifies as bacon.”

Rachel giggled. “Ah well, you could learn to cook and save yourself an eternity of soggy bacon.”

“I know how to cook.”

“I didn’t think Cyrus would approve. You know, his big, strong bear of a son knowing how to cook.”

“Hell, no. He hates it, but Mama insisted. She didn’t want her sons to rely on other people for a decent meal.” Dirk’s brow furrowed as he slid the floppy piece of bacon into his mouth. “I cook okay, but Maddock was always better at it. Flavors are intuitive, and my brother is all about intuition.”

He was quiet for a while. Rachel realized that he hadn’t mentioned his brother much at all, and only once by name. “Tell me about him.”

“Maddock? He’s a good man. Funny as hell. Arrogant, but a good man. Hates our father. Hated him even before Cyrus exiled him.” Dirk set his plastic fork onto the tray and tossed the entire thing into the nearby trashcan.

Rachel nodded. Cyrus Greenwood was easy to hate; she knew that well enough. “Do you hear from him?”

Dirk shook his head, his eyes on the far wall of the room and his hands balled into fists. “He deserved better than to be sent off to die alone.”

She swallowed hard. Until that moment, she’d let the death sentence hanging over their heads slip from her mind. She glanced at the clock. Six p.m. Time was slipping away, and they were no closer to a plan. She set her fork down on the table. Suddenly, she wasn’t hungry either.

“What about your family?” he asked. “Mother, father, two-point-five kids?”

Rachel shook her head, but did her best to smile. At least they could enjoy the time they had left. “Mom and Dad. I’m number two of three. Everybody’s still in Seattle. All bail bondsmen. Well, really my sister just keeps the office running.” She reached across the table and stroked Dirk’s hand.

“Ah, that explains the handcuffs. That was a dirty trick, by the way.” The lopsided smile returned to his face.

“You have long legs and you know the area. I’d do it again.”

“That’s my girl,” he said. The words gave Rachel a strange surge of pride. “Why didn’t you follow the others into the business?”

Rachel drained the last of her orange juice. Nobody outside of her family had ever asked her why. Why did she walk away from her family business? Why had she picked up and moved two states away? Of all the stories she had, that one she disliked the most. But she didn’t want to hide any part of herself from him.

“I started doing paperwork for my dad right after high school. My brother was already a bondsman by then. This woman came in one day to get a bond for her husband. She was beat up. Black eye. Swollen lip.”

“He sounds like a prince,” Dirk said.

“Yeah, he beat the hell out of her, and then she put up their house as collateral to get him out. She was actually freaking out because the state was going to press charges. I wrote up the paperwork. The police were back at that house before the month was out.”

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