Authors: Jennifer Ashley
Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fiction
“Are you full up here?” Dylan asked. “Or do you have a corner left where your old dad can sleep?”
Sean leaned against the breakfast bar to watch his father take a drink. “Sure we do. But I thought your move in with Glory was permanent.”
Dylan hard face cracked a smile. “Is anything with Glory permanent?”
“You tell me.”
Pain laced Dylan’s eyes, and he covered it by taking another sip of beer. “I loved your mother, Sean.”
Sean shrugged, as though they hadn’t had this discussion many times. Sean and Dylan, Dylan and Liam. “I know you did. But she of all people wouldn’t want to see you buried in grief after fifty years. She’d say, ‘What is wrong with you, man? You’d best be getting on with life.’ ”
The smile flitted across Dylan’s mouth again. “I can hear her saying that. Funny thing, I can hear Glory saying it too.”
Dylan retuned his attention to his beer. “It’s not an easy thing. It never will be.” He clicked the bottle to the counter. “I didn’t come to talk about my troubles, Sean; I came to talk about yours.”
“About Andrea, you mean.”
“About Andrea and you.” Dylan’s dark blue eyes were serious. “It was a good thing you did for her, claiming her so she could relocate. But she’d not an ordinary Shifter, son, and I’m not just talking about what she did for Ely today.”
“I take it you’re meaning more than her being half Fae?”
Dylan nodded. “I’ve met half Fae before, even half-Fae Shifters. Andrea is different from any Shifter, half Fae or otherwise I’ve ever known. She’s not dominant. Glory isn’t top of her pack, and Andrea is well beneath her in the hierarchy. But Andrea acts more like an alpha.”
“No, she doesn’t.” Alpha females were rare and had to fight hard for pack or pride dominance, with the males below her always ready to take her down. The few alpha females Sean had met were more ruthless than any alpha male and would rip the heart out of said male the instant he couldn’t make eye contact with her. With alpha females, a male had to be constantly on guard, or preferably, in another state.
“Not quite what I mean, no,” Dylan said. “Andrea isn’t an alpha. But at the same time, she doesn’t give a damn how alpha anyone else is. When Glory brought her home, Andrea walked right up to me and looked me in the eyes. No avoidance, no submissiveness. Her stare wasn’t bravado or defiance; she just didn’t care. Glory still has a hard time meeting my eyes, even after all these years, but not Andrea. I see Andrea do the same to you. It’s as though she has no interest in the hierarchy, like she’s somehow outside it.”
Sean had noticed that, and her lack of fear somehow spiked his libido. “Maybe she learned the trick because she grew up more or less at the mercy of her own pack. The Colorado Shiftertown is pretty insular, and they always treated her like an outsider. It couldn’t have been easy on her, poor lass.”
“Granted. But it’s something to watch.” Dylan came to Sean, put his strong hand on his son’s shoulder. “Be careful of her.”
“Don’t worry. I plan to watch Andrea very closely.” From an inch away, if Sean had his way. Better still, from even closer. “Are you staying here tonight then?”
Dylan let his gaze drift to the eastern window, through which they could see the line of Glory’s house. “No,” he said quietly. “No. I’ll be next door if you need me.”
Sean nodded, and then father and son stepped together and shared a long embrace. Sean and Dylan were the same height, Dylan’s hair as dark as Sean’s except for a bit of gray at the temples.
“You need her, Dad,” Sean said. “Shifters, we’re not meant to be alone.”
They released each other, and Dylan stepped back. He broke eye contact first, and that fact pulled at Sean’s heart.
“Good night, son.”
Dylan left. Sean watched with mixed emotions as Dylan crossed the yards between the houses and lightly ran up onto Glory’s back porch, entering the house without knocking.
need Glory, as interesting as that lady was. Dylan was slowly conceding his place in the pride to Sean and Liam, and he needed someone to both soothe him and distract him from the pain of that.
ndrea had the nightmare again. This time the threads that bound her were white, so bright they blinded her. She fought, screamed, kicked as they wound tighter and tighter, ivylike fingers slicing into her wrists and ankles.
It was a whisper, the silver threads of it tangling around the wires that already held her.
Andrea. Beautiful one.
Andrea screamed loud and long.
Andrea jumped awake and sat up straight. Sean Morrissey stood inside her open window, in his underwear, the glare from the harsh streetlight streaming in behind him.
ndrea yelped and yanked the covers up to her shoulders. “Sean, what the hell are you doing in here?”
“I heard you yelling,” Sean said, as calmly as though they stood in the middle of a park. “My window, it faces yours. And you left yours unlocked.” He turned and pulled down the sash, closing off the frigid air.
“I’m on the second floor. In the middle of a well-patrolled Shiftertown.”
“A second floor easy to reach by climbing onto the porch roof. Piece of cake to a cat.”
As he came closer to the bed, Andrea saw fully what he was wearing. Or not wearing. A T-shirt and underwear, easy to peel off for the shift, to slide back on once he made it to the roof.
“Briefs,” Andrea said. “I knew it.”
“Have you got a blanket I can wrap myself in, love? It’s bloody cold in here.”
“You’re the one who decided to turn into a cat and climb in through my window.”
“I did. Had to leave most of my clothes behind to do it too.”
He sounded so nonchalant, as though this were nothing unusual. And maybe it wasn’t to Sean. Not that Andrea could imagine any ladies locking the window to keep him out. He stood tall and tight, his hands on his hips, silhouetted against the light outside. His body made the wolf in her want to howl.
Hurried footsteps sounded in the hall, and the door of her bedroom swung open to reveal Glory, resplendent in silver pants, camisole, and gauzy robe. She was tense, poised to shift, but she relaxed when she saw Sean.
“Ah.” She gave a throaty laugh. “I guess it’s Felines for both of us tonight.”
“Sean and I are just chatting,” Andrea said before he could speak. “Everything’s under control.”
Glory’s smile spoke volumes. “Of course it is. Good night.” She turned, robe floating, and closed the door behind her.
“About the blanket,” Sean said. “It’s still bloody cold.”
“I thought you were a big, bad Feline Shifter.”
“I am. Now I’m a cold one.”
“I also thought you were leaving.”
“I never said that.” Sean sat on the edge of her bed. “You’re shaking like a leaf and you smell of fear. Tell me about these nightmares, love. After you lend me a blanket.”
He was right about the fear. Sean waking her abruptly had sent the nightmare fleeing, but Andrea couldn’t stop shivering, even though her skin was clammy with sweat. The dreams were incoherent but at the same time terrifying as hell.
Sean might say he was cold, but his body radiated warmth. So much warmth. She wanted it. Her libido noted every line of his strong, hard body; the curl of his hair at the base of his neck; the sensual mouth that had kissed her so masterfully today. Twice. But right now, she longed even more for his Shifter touch, his comfort.
She eased down a corner of the covers and moved over, inviting him in.
Sean’s eyes glittered as they flicked to her, his chest rising with a quick intake of breath. Just when Andrea thought he’d refuse, Sean took hold of the covers, lifted them, and slid into the bed with her.
Sean laid himself down next to Andrea, wondering if this weren’t the biggest mistake of his life. She had a double bed, so there was room for him, but the damn bed wasn’t
big. Not big enough that his legs didn’t touch hers, that when he put his head on the pillow, her face wasn’t inches away from his.
Her breath was warm on his cheek, her hair mussed and spilling over her pillow. She smelled of sleep, damp and sultry, and the bed was a fine place of heat, where a Shifter male could curl up and be touched by his sweetheart of a mate.
“You’re a dangerous one,” Sean said. He thought about what Dylan had said about Andrea not respecting the hierarchy, and sure enough, Andrea was gazing straight into his eyes. No evasion of the submissive, no awkwardness, no hesitancy.
“Me? Dangerous?” Andrea shrugged. “It’s cold, and if you want to talk, this is the warmest place. Anyway, there’s nothing dangerous about me.”
“You’re dangerous, because you can make the Shiftertown leader’s baby brother dance to your bidding.”
A smile touched her mouth. “Do you? Dance to my bidding?”
“I’m dancing a jig right now, love.”
Her red lips curved. “You’re the dangerous one, Sean Morrissey. Here you are climbing through my bedroom window.”
“Because I was worried about you.”
“That’s what makes
Her eyes were silver in the moonlight, her face a curve of marble. Her beauty did something to Sean’s soul, and her eyes looked deep into his heart. He was never going to survive her.
Sean smoothed a lock of hair from her cheek. “Tell me about the nightmares. Do you dream about Jared? The things he did? He can’t touch you by law, Andrea, you know that, now that you’ve been mate-claimed by me. Besides, I’ll kill him if he comes near you.”
“No.” Andrea’s mouth went tight, the pucker of the word remaining as she frowned. “The nightmares aren’t about Jared. They’re about—I think about what happened today.”
That surprised him. “What, you mean with Ely? The healing?”
“I think so. But ... I don’t know.”
“Why don’t you tell me, and I’ll be the judge.”
Andrea wet her lips, the moisture gleaming in the dim light. Sean remembered kissing those lips and the warmth and pressure of her mouth in return. Her breasts pushed at the neckline of her pajama top, and his legs told him she wore no pajama bottoms.
“I see threads,” she said. “No, that’s not right. They’re more like wires, tangling me up, trying to smother me. I can’t get away. But whenever I heal someone, I also see threads. I’m not sure if I really see them or I just picture them to help me focus. Today I saw them coming from your sword, and I used them to help heal your cousin.”
Interesting. “But the dreams, they’re nothing about healing?”
“No. I don’t know what they are.”
From the worry in her eyes, he feared she did know, and that it wasn’t good.
“Something to do with the Fae?” Sean asked.
“I don’t know,” she repeated, voice sharp. She smelled of fear, anger, distrust.
Sean stroked her hair, calming her with his touch. He didn’t mind doing that for her, running his fingers through her silky hair, finishing the stroke on her cheekbone.
“You can trust me, sweetheart,” he said.
“Can I really?”
“Yes. My dad is shagging your aunt, probably right now. That makes us almost family.”
A slight smile rewarded him. “If we’re related, you can’t claim me as mate.”
“I didn’t say blood relation. I said
. Mate is the best kind of family.”
A sigh. “I wouldn’t know. My stepfather loved my mother, but his people never took to her. They were relieved when she died.”
“All deaths are grief,” Sean said, running his fingertips across her lashes. “For all Shifters. We all grieve.”
“You do, maybe.”
Goddess, she was so brittle. That was Andrea, brittle and fragile at the same time. She’d been hurt, and Sean wanted to erase that hurt. He wanted to wipe out her nightmares and destroy everyone who had ever caused her pain.
“You can trust us, Andrea,” Sean said. “You can trust me. Whenever you think you’re alone, you won’t be.”
Her expression softened, and she grinned. “Fine words from a man who climbed in through my window and got into my bed.”
Sean propped himself on his elbow. “You invited me to do the last bit, love.”
He let his fingers trail down her cheek to her neck, around the neckline of her pajama top, which came to a V below her Collar. He touched the Collar’s Celtic knot that rested against the hollow of her throat. He wished he could have seen her before the Collar had been fused to her skin to keep her tamed for humans. He could have pressed kisses down her neck to her shoulders, nuzzling in under her hair. He still could, but he longed to taste her, not the metal bite of the Collar.
She watched him while he touched her, gray eyes big. Many Lupines had gray eyes, but they were light gray, like Glory’s. Andrea’s were the color of deep smoke, of leaden skies over an Irish sea. Her lashes were dark, thick, and full, which went with her lush black hair.
she’d be called where he came from. Dark hair and creamy skin, gray eyes that recalled the Sidhe, the Fae, the Fair Folk.
Fair bloody bastards. They’d created Shifters for their own pleasure, so Shifters could hunt for the Fae and entertain them. Animals that could turn human and back again,
Oh what fun we can have with them!
But they made Shifters too strong. Shifter had allied with Shifter, and they’d turned on their Fae masters and driven them back to Faerie. Good riddance.