Mates Since Birth (Half-breed Shifter Series) (4 page)

BOOK: Mates Since Birth (Half-breed Shifter Series)
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He smiled softly, almost lovingly. “You have more animal in you than I do—or should I say animal
—why don’t you already know? I was so sure you’d figure it out years ago and come
to me

Ari gaped. “Why in God’s name would I search for
? I don’t even know you.”

“Because…” He shrugged nonchalantly. “You’re my mate.”


Chapter Two




Dane had to repress of groan of arousal when Ari laughed in his face with a sound that stirred his ears.

“Mate, my ass! Now I
you’re a fraud. I don’t have a mate, buddy. And I sure as hell wouldn’t forget him if I did.” She laughed again, letting him know how ridiculous she found their bizarre conversation.

Damn, she had such a delightful, feminine laugh. A woman’s laugh. Part of him mourned the loss of the cute, childlike giggles she could produce when she was five, but the sound she made now vibrated through him, filling him with urgent need. His jaguar strained against his inner leash, purring for her.

“You’ve been mine since birth, sweetheart,” he assured her. “I claimed you when you were but a few minutes old.” Swishing his tongue over his enlarged incisors, he reached around with his hand to brush the back of his own neck before adding, “Right here. Bet you can probably feel the tingle there now with me so close to you.”

She shivered, but otherwise clenched her teeth and fisted her hands down at her sides—probably commanding her fingers to keep from reaching for the very spot he spoke of, which no doubt tingled like crazy.

Shaking her head, she muttered, “Impossible. Bond with a mate at birth?” She snorted. “Shifters—
no one
—can do that.” But as soon as she spoke, her eyes crinkled with uncertainty and hesitation. “Can they?”

She was so adorable, Dane grinned. “Oh, it’s possible. Trust me. I didn’t fully comprehend what I was doing, but what’s done is done, and we are most definitely bonded.”

“Wait. Just…stop.” Waving her hands, she stepped away from him to begin pacing her yard. “This is absurd. Even if you did bite me when I was minutes old, I didn’t bite you back…” Then she faltered and glanced toward him, an uncertain look clouding her vision. “Right?”

“Right. You couldn’t have bitten me back. You didn’t even have teeth yet.” She’d actually bitten him when she was two—the terrible twos when biting and hair-pulling had been her thing—but he decided not to mention that fact as he sensed she wouldn’t take it too well, realizing how fully bonded they were.

“Right,” she muttered, resuming her pacing and stumbling once when her heel caught in a mole hole. “So, yeah. This bond—if there really is one—wouldn’t even be complete. I mean, both of us would’ve had to…” Her words faded off as she looked at him again.

Stopping, she
appeared entranced, staring at his body. His skin rippled under the touch of her heated gaze. When she lowered her eyes to his cock, he nearly came. His rod jerked and pulsed toward her, making her jump back with a gasp.

Growling, she flayed him with a glare. “Would you put your damn clothes back on already? Jesus. Anyone in the neighborhood could walk outside their front door right now and see you.”

Pre-cum dripped from the slit of his inflamed head and drool pooled in his mouth. He swallowed down his arousal, though he couldn’t help but realize how easy it would be to fall to his knees before her, hike up her skirt just enough, shove aside those useless red panties and dine on her wet, swollen pussy. His jaws grew physically sore from their desires to flex and move between her legs.

She’d let him too. Since more animal dwelled in her than did in him, her instinct to mate with him had to be stronger than his own, and Dane’s instincts to devour her were damn strong. He could have her under him with the slightest provocation. So quickly, so easily, so beautifully. His cock could already feel the squeeze of her pelvic muscles around him, and his hips gave an involuntary spasm.

She sucked in a breath and gulped audibly.

Enough temptation, he decided. If this mutual desire grew in the same vein it currently was, they’d be fucking in about two minutes, which would totally negate the entire reason he’d come here.

Grinding his molars, his incisors aching with the need to grow and repeat the bonding rite, he regretfully reached for his clothes and snapped up his pants. Ari simply watched, the expression on her face open and clear. He was surprised she didn’t lick her lips as she watched him tuck his dick into the lap of his trousers. He winced when he struggled to fasten his zipper.

Once he hid
his cock from view, she seemed to pull herself back together. Clearing her throat, she whirled away from him and paced some more, dodging the mole hole this time with a quick, elegant skip. “Okay, say
I believe you bit me when I was a baby, but I didn’t return the favor, ergo the bond wasn’t finished, and we’re not truly mates. So, ha!”

Oh, how wrong she was. “Sorry to disappoint you, but we’re still mates.” Casually, he picked up his shirt and shrugged it on. He didn’t bother to button it. “Like a car with a flat tire, the bond may not be finalized—” though it was—“but it’ll still limp down the road and get you to your destination. Completed or not, our link exists. I feel you inside me. And I’ve bet you’ve caught an echo of me every once in a while; you just didn’t know what it was.”

She tried to shake her head, but the movement was sluggish and in no way adamant. He watched her eyes dart over him. When she absently rubbed at the center of her chest, no doubt catching an echo of the crazy stir in his own heartbeat, he commanded himself to calm down.

“I can feel you, Ari,” he repeated, fisting his hand and pressing it to his own chest. “How do you think I found you? For years, I tried to use logic, common sense, the internet, a private investigator. They got me
. Finally, I gave in to my animal, letting it lead. And three months later, halfway across the country, here I am, standing in your front yard.”

Again, she waggled her head back and forth, but apprehension fluttered in her lashes. He knew that stubborn trait he remembered too clearly made her want to deny it. “I…I just can’t believe you. No. It isn’t true.”

He shrugged as if it made no difference what she believed, though in all honesty, it meant everything. His entire future. He might tell himself he didn’t give a shit if his own mate couldn’t even recognize him and didn’t want him. He wasn’t here to claim her anyway. But a part of him he couldn’t control shattered under her rejection.

“So ask your parents if it’s true,” he answered, sliding a glance over his shoulder toward a house located down the street from hers, the house where he’d smelled Knox’s mark blanketing the yard when he’d passed it. Without turning back to her, he snagged his suit jacket off the chair and slung it over his shoulder. Whiskers had found his tie and was using it as a new play toy, so he let it go and strolled away, sauntering toward the sidewalk away from Ari.

If she was anything like the girl he once knew, she wouldn’t be able to handle his brush off. In fact, he could probably count down to the very second she would stop him. Three, two…

She growled and stomped her foot. “Hey! Where do you think you’re going?”

God, he was good. With a healthy grin, he glanced back. Big mistake. She was so goddamn beautiful it took his breath. Holding his scent in his body grew more difficult. He just wanted to tackle her to the ground and fuck her senseless.

From the moment he’d started his search for her, he’d known resisting her after he found her would be hard—literally and figuratively—but it was the human in him aching just as much as his animal that made it so much more difficult to restrain himself. He’d missed her. Since her birth, Ari had been his world. He’d spent every possible second with her.

When she’d suddenly disappeared, he’d felt cut in half, emotionally dismembered. Nothing had made sense anymore. Lost in his own body, he merely drifted for a couple years. Then he’d turned into a rebel teen before he finally pulled his head from his ass and decided to take control of his own life again. After that, he swore no one would ever make him this weak or dependent again. He would give no one the tools to hurt him. Not even his own mate.

But looking at her now filled him with a crazy, uncontained joy. He wanted to hold her, smell her hair, kiss her senseless, laugh and cry in unison. He couldn’t believe he’d finally fucking found her after all this time.

Swallowing down the anticipation roaring through him, he glanced away.
Careful, Griffin
, he warned himself. This was a sensitive matter and if he didn’t play his cards right, he’d be doomed for the rest of his years. “You don’t believe me, so what else do you want me to do? I’m not going to get down on my knees and beg.”

Except he would.

If it came to begging, he’d beg. He’d grovel, he’d crawl on his hands and knees. He’d bribe. Anything to wipe away the constant, restless need frothing inside him.

He just hoped he begged for the right things.

She bought his bullshit talk, thank God, and set her hand on her hips, scowling. “Oh, you’re not going anywhere,

A smile flittered across his lips. So easy, it was like painting by numbers. “I’m not?” he murmured, managing to look slightly baffled. “Then what do you plan to do with me, oh lovely mate of mine?”

Her glower intensified. It took everything inside him not to laugh aloud. God, he missed riling her.

“I…I’m not going to
with you,” she mumbled, clearly peeved. “Just…you’re coming with me and we’re flushing the truth out of you. Right now.”

Eyes narrowing, she balled her hands into fists. Face set with determination, she strode toward the house three buildings down and across the street. Her parents’ home. When she passed him, she grabbed his arm and yanked him into step beside her.

He let out a husky laugh, but easily fell into the rhythm of her determined march. “I don’t need to figure anything out, you know. I’m already quite aware of the truth. You’re the one who’s forgotten.”

“We’ll just see about that.”

Thirty seconds later, she reached the front door, where she grasped hold of the handle and turned. Sweeping inside, Ari yanked him along behind her, and shut the door at her back. Dane shuttered to a halt, gaping around him.

Jaycee’s grandfather clock he remembered from twenty years ago sat against the wall, a picture his sister had drawn for her hung next to it. As his nanny’s smell enveloped him with nostalgia, he wanted to stand there and let the happy, precious memories soak into his skin. But Ari’s merciless hand on him tightened its grip as she started toward a doorway leading into a kitchen.

“Mom?” she called.

“In here, sweetheart,” Jaycee immediately called back, her voice filling Dane’s head with memories of her softly singing him to sleep when he was young. Then she appeared in the kitchen entrance, twenty years older than when he’d last seen her. Her hair had greyed and her body had aged with a
few graceful wrinkles, giving her a rather regal look.

Pausing when she saw him, she blinked a moment—not recognizing him—then transferred an uncertain smile to her daughter.

“Ari? What brings you by?” Again, she glanced curiously at Dane.

Ari had never been one to beat around the bush. Letting go of him, she turned partially so she could keep an eye on both of them as she crossed her arms over her chest. “Who’s Dane Griffin?”

With a gasp, her mother lifted both hands to cover her mouth. “Dane?” Squinting, she focused on him hard. “Oh, my God.
? Is that you?”

When he nodded, she flew toward him, her arms thrown open wide. Relieved beyond relief that her husband hadn’t managed to brainwash her against him, he yanked her close and buried his face in her hair, inhaling the nanny he so adoringly remembered.

“Hey, Jaycee,” he choked out, wanting to tell her how much he’d missed her, but unable to aptly utter the strength of his sentiment.

“Oh, Dane,” Jaycee sobbed, cradling his face between her hands when she pulled back to study him. “You’re alive. I can’t believe it’s you. And all grown up. Just look at you.” She stepped back even more to take in his entire form, barely pausing at the unbuttoned state of his silk shirt. Her eyes watered as she grinned, then laughed. “You’re so handsome.”

His smile was doting. “And you’re still as beautiful as I remember.” He rasped the hoarse words, hoping he didn’t look like he was going to start bawling too.

Ari’s mouth dropped open wide as she watched them. Jaycee merely blushed as she lifted her hand to hide the wrinkles creasing from the sides of her eyes. “I’ve gotten old.”

He shook his head and opened his mouth to tell her in his mind she’d always be the same age, but Ari had obviously had enough of their tearful reunion.

“Wait, wait, wait. What the hell, Mother? Do you honestly know this man?”

Blinking out a startled expression, Jaycee transferred her look to her daughter. “Don’t you remember Dane, sweetheart? You used to follow him around everywhere.”

BOOK: Mates Since Birth (Half-breed Shifter Series)
11.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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