NOCB 008 - Scions 02.5 - Patrice Michelle - Perception

Scions 02.5

Scions: Perception

by

Patrice Michelle

Abby had barely survived the treacherous drive to Kaitlyn’s house through an ice storm. Then, forced to break in when she couldn’t find the key, she was immediately grabbed by someone in the dark. She gave her assailant the fight of his life…until his accusation that she was a burglar told her a mistake had been made. Now, facing her opponent, she was overwhelmed by an electric attraction more intense than any she’d ever felt Gabriel was impressed by this fascinating spitfire. He also felt the most intense desire of his life–a relentless need so powerful it tore him apart. He understood immediately that Abby was the one–the female destined as his mate for life. But Abby wasn’t like the other females he’d been with. For one thing, she was human. Gabriel didn’t trust humans one bit. But the realization hit him–if he was to win Abby, he would have to win her trust…and Abby wasn’t going to make it easy.

Chapter One

“I can see the headlines now: Martial arts expert taken out by bald tires,” Abby mumbled, sighing in relief once her Jeep final y slid to a stop on the icy asphalt less than an inch from her friend Kaitlyn McKinney’s garage door. Cutting the engine, she rol ed her head from one shoulder to the other. Her nerves were frazzled from trying to keep her car on the sleet-covered roads between Manhattan and the suburbs. The weather had become steadily worse the farther she traveled from the city. Stil , even the “worst ice storm of the decade” wouldn’t make her go back to her apartment. Thanks to the fact that her roommate had hooked up with Abby’s ex-boyfriend, she’d never been more thankful for Kaitlyn’s offer of a place to stay while she looked for another apartment.

Abby wished Kaitlyn was home now, but appreciated her wanting to spend as much time as she could with her new partner. Kaitlyn had told her wear to find the spare key and let her neighbor, Mrs. Donohue, know she’d be coming so the older woman wouldn’t be concerned when she saw a strange car parked in the driveway overnight.

Pul ing her red jacket’s hood over her head and zipping the jersey material closed, Abby climbed out of the car. Frozen leaves and pine needles crunched under her shoes in the dense woods beside the house. Other than the sound of sleet pinging on the icy ground, the woods were eerily quiet as she made her way toward the circular seating area. Abby started to lift the knee-high garden gnome when something large blurred through the woods ahead of her. She gasped and let the statue fal back into place. Pushing her hood back, she tried to track the shadow that had now disappeared. Had she seen black fur?

“Who’s there?” she whispered into the woods. A cold shiver trickled down her spine as visions of grisly bears formed in her mind’s eye. Nothing but darkness greeted her from the thick forest.
Bears? In the suburbs?
Get a grip, Ab! You’re going on four hours of sleep. Your imagination is taking over.
Shaking off the sensation she was being watched, Abby focused on her task and lifted the gnome again. Only, the space where the key should’ve been was empty. Damn it!

Setting the statue back down, she considered cal ing Kaitlyn to ask if she’d changed the key’s hiding place. But it was after eleven, and she was freezing her ass off, getting wetter by the minute in her thin jacket. Plus, she did have another way to get into the house.

After spending a good ten minutes searching her car, her hand final y landed on the lock-picking kit tucked under her driver’s seat. Palming the kit, she grabbed her overnight bag and locked the car.

Thankful for the front porch’s overhang that keep the heavy sleet at bay, Abby slid the tools into the door’s lock and went to work. A few seconds later, she smiled when she felt the tumblers slip into place, unlocking the door. “Like riding a bike,”

she murmured and quickly put the tools and the case away in her overnight bag. But her confidence was short-lived. For the moment she entered the dark house, someone grabbed her arm and yanked her inside. Shutting the front door, the person cupped her throat and shoved her against the wood. “What the hel are you doing?” The man’s deadly snarl made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.

Heart thudding, Abby dropped her bag and instinctively grabbed the man’s wrist. Her attacker’s wide-shouldered silhouette towered over her, and for a split second, she thought she saw a bright green glow where his eyes should have been. She blinked to clear her vision. Nothing glowed in the darkness shrouding his face, but she sure as hel felt his dangerous vise hold around her neck. He wasn’t choking her, but he definitely had her pinned in place with a steel lock. His speed briefly stunned her, but this burglar had picked the wrong chick to try to intimidate. “I real y don’t want to deal with this tonight.” Abby spoke calmly, despite her racing pulse.

“Huh—” the guy started to say, when she twisted his wrist and yanked his fingers from her throat. His other hand came up in a blur so fast she would’ve missed it if she’d been watching for it, but Abby acted on instinct, blocking his grab for her shoulder. At the same time, she kicked him hard in the groin. He bent forward, grunting in pain, and she swept her leg around, hammering the back of his thigh and then his calf with her foot as she swept his legs out from under him. When he landed on his back on the wood floor, she gripped his hand in a painful lock and growled her answer to his question. “I was invited! If you move even one inch while I cal the police, I’l finish what I started and you won’t walk straight for a week. Got it?”

Abby didn’t expect an answer. He had to have lost his breath when he landed on his back. A low chuckle rumbled up from the floor a split second before the man pul ed from her hold, grabbing her wrist. The room suddenly spun and she found herself flat on her back on the hal rug, lying in the pool of dim light coming from somewhere upstairs.

His wel -muscled chest rested on top of hers, smel ing of soap and covered with water droplets, as if the man had just come from a shower. Jean-covered hips and hard legs locked hers in place underneath him, while he pul ed her arms above her head. He peered at her, the hal ’s darkness shrouding his face. “Considering the fact I used a key and you picked the lock, I think you’l understand my doubts that you were invited.”

“A key that you stole from its hiding spot!” she shot back, right before she jerked a hand free and brought her fist down toward the side of his neck. Anticipating that he’d shift his weight to avoid her hit, Abby jerked her hips free the moment he moved and then kneed him hard in his side.

The man grunted from the impact, and she thought she heard a rib crack, but she wasn’t giving up her advantage. This time she aimed for his jaw. His big hand encircled her fist in a crushing hold, and she cried out in pain when he slammed their hands to the floor and rol ed back over her.

“Damn, you’re a scrapper. Hold stil , little thief.”

Indignant heat crept across her cheeks. No one had so effectively beat her like this in years. “I’m not the thief here—” Her words died off when his face came into view. Most of his hair was pul ed back, but several ink-black pieces had fal en loose to brush against his angular jaw. A stainless-steel barbel boldly pierced through the inch-long scar along the outer edge of his dark eyebrow, adding a rebel ious edge to his mid-thirties appearance, intentional y drawing attention to the imperfection as if to say, “Hel yeah, I’ve got a scar. What of it?”

“She protests too much.” His eyebrows slashed downward and crystal-blue eyes skimmed her body.

Everywhere he looked, she burned. Why did his skin feel so much warmer than hers? Apparently her excursion in the woods had left her colder than she realized.

“How did you know where to find the key?”

“I was told, but even if I hadn’t been, I could’ve found it easily enough.” For a brief second, he closed his eyes and inhaled, before his penetrating gaze zeroed in on her face and narrowed slightly. “Oh, you
are
a thief, sweetness. Every last inch of you.”

The man had the sexiest drawl. It wasn’t Southern per se, but he spoke in a laidback speech pattern very different from most New Yorkers’ hyperspeak. Yet beyond the calm, stil -water-runs-deep persona he exuded, something else had set her libido into a tailspin. When he spoke, the dim light caught on another glint of metal. He had a tongue piercing, and she had a feeling the intense man holding her down knew exactly how to use it.

But who would’ve told him about the key? Obviously, someone trusted him.
Abby had never been more captivated by a person.

Chapter Two

“Release me and I’l show you just how
sweet
I can be.”

Her vixen’s smile was both assured and deadly. Gabriel stared at the woman, completely fascinated. Sheer determination radiated off her like a vibrant neon sign. The human packed a hel uva punch. His jaw smarted like a son of a bitch, and though his cracked rib might already be mending itself, he’d be sore for at least a half hour. Good thing his werewolf body healed quickly. He had her pinned for now, but he was pretty damned sure she was only resting up. The thought of going another round with her wound him up so tight, his gut knotted in anticipation. He’d never run across anyone with her gumption and strength of wil . A human worthy of his respect? Damn, that shocked him. Humans were tolerated and kept at a distance: a creed he’d lived by for two and a half decades. Chin-length, wavy black hair framed the woman’s round face, but he couldn’t stop staring at her plump, ful lips. He wanted to suck on the pouty bottom one, to nip at the round ful ness and discover what those luscious lips felt like against his. Black eyebrows were currently elevated over vivid green eyes and a slight I-can’t-wait-’tilyou-let-me up-from-here smirk tilted her lips. Oh, yeah…she wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.

In those heated few seconds, while her arousing scent, ful of adrenaline and seductive feminine notes, wrecked havoc on his wolf senses, two things slammed through his mind in rapid succession: He didn’t care if she did turn out to be a burglar. And he
wanted
her. The wanting didn’t surprise him. He’d always fol owed his primal instincts with the women in his Lupreda wolf pack. If the woman were wil ing he’d have a go in the sack, on the floor, in the woods. Wherever. He was always game. Sex was one way to relieve his natural aggression. But
this
wanting wasn’t based on scratching a lustful itch. The need tearing him up inside was relentless and powerful. This “must have her now” sensation—clawing at his chest and pushing the air from his lungs—felt deeper, harder and more intense than he’d ever experienced for another woman. It wasn’t just sexual. It was essential. Maybe his mind was playing tricks. It wasn’t freakin’ possible! A human? He inhaled her scent once more, but the unyielding fierceness scrabbling inside his chest grew painful y stronger. Then his canines began to tingle, pressing against his gums, preparing to descend. Ready to mark.

Gabriel couldn’t believe it. This surprising human had just stolen his confirmed bachelorhood. The woman lying under him could soothe the restlessness that had him leaving his pack and coming to the city more and more often, seeking as much work as he could handle. Ever since the Lupreda wolf pack’s alpha, Landon, had mated, Gabriel had felt out of sorts and more aggressive than usual. In the past, he never would’ve shifted to his werewolf form—his musk form—outside of the Shawangunks, but he couldn’t hold back tonight. Seeing Abby in the woods, in the middle of the ice storm, had surprised him. And now he was staring at his Lupreda mate and he didn’t even know her name.

But a human? “What’s your name?” he asked, a low growl rumbling along the edge of his words.

She raised her chin and narrowed her gaze. “You first.”

He managed a half smile through the emotional shock battering his body. There had to be some other explanation why a human would affect him this way. “Gabriel Hawthorne. Home security instal er at your service.”

“Instal er?” Confusion filtered across her expression. “Why didn’t Kaitlyn tel me you would be here?”

“Landon sent me. And you are?” He asked, rubbing his thumbs across the pulse points along her wrists. Her skin was so soft. The thrum of her blood racing faster under his touch only ramped his desire. Would this human woman accept him as her mate? Even though his mind stil wrestled with the idea of a human as his other half, the possibility she might reject him because of what he was sent a jolt of disconcerted alarm straight to his stomach. Gabriel didn’t like the alien sensation. He pressed harder on her pulse and her breath hitched. He smiled and his wolf basked in the sound of her heart thumping harder with each slow circle he made.

“I’m—I’m Abby Brooks.”

You’re such a tomcatter, Gabriel. I should introduce you to my friend Abby. That’s one girl
you won’t have lapping at your feet. You two would get along famously
, Kaitlyn, Landon’s mate, had said with a laugh a month ago when Gabriel had come in after an al nighter—satisfying two Lupreda women. So this was the infamous Abby. A kindred spirit of the flesh.
That,
he understood. Gabriel’s smile tilted higher and he leaned close. “It’s nice to meet you, Abby. Kaitlyn says you and I have a lot in common.”

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