Authors: Vivi Andrews
Tags: #Canada;Yukon Territory;shifters;old flame;second chances
Doubt returned in a rush the second they walked through the door to Hugo’s bungalow. She hadn’t been in here in over a decade. Not since she’d first arrived at the pride, back when she’d stupidly thought they would be on a non-stop express to happily-ever-after. And here she was again. Battling hopes she had no sense entertaining.
Hugo’s warmth pressed against her back as he stepped into the room behind her, the sound of the door clicking shut unnaturally loud to her ears.
“Nothing has to happen tonight,” he murmured, clearly picking up on her sudden misgivings. “Or ever, if you don’t want it to. Maybe we should just be friends for a while—”
She could see that future. The sensible future. They would go back to their usual awkwardness with one another. Trying to ignore the attraction between them even as they tried to ignore their stupid, complicated past. Until all she could feel when she looked at him was the effort of trying
to feel everything he made her feel.
In some ways it would be so much easier. So much safer.
She didn’t want safe. She didn’t want another decade of pushing down emotions she didn’t want to feel.
She wanted this. She wanted now. She wanted risk and folly. She may not be a fighter, but she was brave. She was strong. And she wasn’t going to make the head choice at the expense of her heart anymore. Even if her heart was wrong and foolish and setting itself up for a vicious break.
. She wasn’t holding back anymore. She wanted to feel, even if it hurt.
Moira spun and cut off his words with a kiss. His beard was soft against her chin, her cheeks. His lips were smooth and instantly firmed against hers, taking control, drinking in her eagerness and giving her back need. She’d launched herself at him and the heavy weight of his arms closed around her ribs, holding her steady against the barrel of his chest, her feet dangling off the ground.
She shimmied, pressing the soft curves of her body tighter against the firm wall of his chest. Blood was rushing to her erogenous zones, sharpening sensation and making every curve feel luscious and feminine. She wanted his hands on her, shaping her, and then, as if he’d heard the request, they were. Big, strong hands roaming over her, even as he carried her over to the bed.
She expected to be tumbled to the mattress beneath him and her breath hitched in needy anticipation of his weight driving her down into that softness—but he collapsed onto his back, pulling her on top of him so she straddled his chest, her legs spread impossibly wide over the breadth of him. His hands coasted up her thighs, gliding beneath her skirt and gently squeezing the flesh there, his thumbs teasing the edges of her panties, so close to the searing heat at the apex of her thighs. She broke the kiss, pushing up on him and gasped out, “Touch me,” in breathy demand.
A low sound rumbled through his chest and she shivered even before he obliged, one thumb slipping beneath the edges of her panties and finding her slick and hot. “
He hummed out another rumbling growl as his thumb rotated in a slow, torturous circle
. She shuddered, biting her lip and fighting back the jerks of pleasure. God, if she came from just this, how desperate would she seem—
He reached up with his free hand, palming her breast, his fingers unerringly closing around her nipple with a pressure that streaked into her core and tipped her over into trembling release. His growl was pure satisfaction as he kept working her, milking her for a long, tripping slide from one shuddering orgasm into the next.
She gripped his wrist, begging him to still. “Too much.”
Sweat sheened on her brow and she was gasping and shaking from aftershocks when he withdrew his hands from her clothes and began systematically stripping her out of them. He slid her off him and she draped bonelessly on the mattress as he stood, methodically removing all his own clothing, unhurried, without taking his gaze from her for even a second.
His passion wasn’t the quick burning fuse of youth, but the smoldering, erotic intensity of a man who knew exactly what he wanted—and she was at the crosshairs of that delicious, focused desire.
He was still as strong as he’d been a decade ago, his chest still covered in a dusting of dark hair that narrowed to a trail across his stomach, leading to the promised land. His erection was as thick as her wrist and a ruddy dark rose, rising out of the thick thatch of brown hair—she hadn’t misremembered his size.
Moira licked her lip, eyeing that length, wondering if she accurately remembered the taste of him, salt and musk on her tongue. Her body woke from its dazed satiation and she started to reach for him, but he caught her hands, using them to pull her up until the length of her front pressed against his. He lowered his head, eating into her mouth.
He knelt on the bed, guiding her to straddle his thighs and then widening them to spread her open. His fingers slipped between them to test her readiness, one long digit spearing inside her and crooking to hit a spot that made her jerk in his grip before retracting and being replaced with two broad fingers, scissoring and stretching her. She reached down between them, wrapping both hands around the silky smooth hardness of his erection. She worked her hands together, drawing up to the sensitive head and rotating her wrists in a way that drew a grunted curse from her bear. He removed his hands from her and palmed her waist, lifting her, shifting her. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders as he positioned her above him and the blunt tip of him pressed for entrance.
Her head dropped forward to land against his forehead as the intense, stretching pressure worked inside her, inch by inch. No, she hadn’t misremembered his size.
Her hips started to cramp from the wide spread and she began to wonder if she was getting too old for this.
Note to self, take yoga.
“You okay?” he grunted, face ruddy and eyes gleaming near-black. Damn, the man was gorgeous when he was half-mad with lust.
She nodded, but he must have been able to see the strain in it because he lifted her off him. She gave a soft cry of protest at the loss—but her hips would have moaned with relief if they could. He was arranging her, on her side, one leg stretched out, the other crooked over his hip and then he was pressing into her again and
oh sweet stars
so much better
. Moira shuddered and gasped. He stretched her, but the pressure was sweet and dark, like berries and champagne on her tongue. The broad width of his chest loomed next to her and she ran her hands over it, stroking and massaging as he rocked deeper and deeper inside her in delicious little increments.
When he was fully seated, she felt as much as heard his rumble of satisfaction. The tempo he set was slow, decadent, drawing each sensation into a luscious exploration. She shook with need, hungry for a more punishing pace, but he kept her there, on the edge of release until she felt like she would cry or scream. Then he rolled them, somehow staying seated deep inside her until she was pinned beneath him. Her thighs bracketed his hips as he added a little stir of hips to the end of each stroke and Moira’s mind went liquid—her entire being focused on
that, right there, just a little more
“Look at me.”
The rumbled command startled her. Her eyes were open—had never closed—but he seemed to have known the second she stopped seeing him, stopped seeing anything. When she refocused, his eyes were black and bright above her. A knot formed in her throat.
. It was too much. She needed the physical, the rush and the need, but this…the rest of it… Her chest ached. “Hugo—I—”
He lowered his head, catching her mouth in a kiss that was no less seductive for being quick. Then he was above her again, gaze locked mercilessly on hers as he began to work her faster, harder, giving her that physical rush she needed but refusing to relinquish the hold he had on her gaze as he did.
,” she gasped again, but this time it was a different sort of plea. She teetered on the edge of perfection—and then she succumbed, her eyes closing, helpless to keep them open as sensation tightened and coiled into a sudden wrenching release that stroked through her senses.
. It was all she could think. He was too much. How could she keep her heart safe when he wouldn’t let her? How could she keep him at a distance when he knew exactly how to reach her? How could she resist this?
He couldn’t blame the alcohol this time. They hadn’t had that much of the pitcher before they’d left the Lion’s Den.
He hadn’t meant to sleep with Moira. But then he never meant things to go the way they went with her. He’d been so happy to see her in the Lion’s Den, so glad to have the chance to work things out with her after their confrontation in the infirmary. He hadn’t really thought beyond seeing her. If he had, he wouldn’t have thought of this.
Not that he regretted it. He wasn’t such an idiot to regret anything that exquisite. But he had no idea what to do or say to her now. What if she asked him what it meant? He didn’t know where they were, where they were going, what she expected from him. His body told him this was good and he should stick around. His mind was screaming that he’d just fucked up and should run like hell—even though he was in his own bed.
So he lay there, growing more rigid and uncomfortable as Moira’s breathing returned to normal at his side. The silence was beyond oppressive when she finally gave a soft huffing laugh. “Well, that was unexpected.”
He grunted. Let her interpret that as she would.
The bedsprings creaked as she sat up, shoving her curls into a somewhat less just-got-screwed-senseless hairstyle. From the floor, her phone chirped, saving him from whatever she’d been about to say next. She scrambled off the bed, dragging a sheet with her to cover all those curves. The sheet drew taut, snagged beneath his weight. He could easily have shifted, letting her have the cover, but he rolled instead, pinning the sheet more firmly and watching her half-covered limbs as she dug through the pile of her things on the floor in search of her phone.
She didn’t seem self-conscious about the sex—not hiding from him or timid, just naturally modest. Was he overthinking things? Weren’t the women the ones who were supposed to freak out about what sex
Moira came up with her phone, lifting it up with a little sound of triumph. She studied the display and a frown wrinkled her brow as her fingers flicked over the screen to scroll through the texts. “I have to go,” she said without looking up.
“I thought it was your night off.” He wasn’t sure why he was arguing. He felt like he could barely look at her for the confusion pureeing his brain, but he didn’t like the idea that she was fabricating reasons to get away from him.
“It is,” she said. “But one of my patients—it shouldn’t take long.” Then she looked at him and he saw his own confusion flicker across her face. “Should I…uh…do you want me to call you when I’m done?”
“Ah, yeah. If it’s not too late. Early meeting with Roman tomorrow.” Which was true, but it still felt like an excuse. Shit. He was forty-eight damn years old and she made him feel like a teenager fumbling through his first encounter with a girl.
“Right.” She dressed in a hurry and he came to a sitting position, watching her. She was efficient, confident, this woman who had come apart in his arms. What did she expect of him?
He’d told her that he wouldn’t be with Lucienne, but he still wasn’t sure his heart was free to love someone else.
Moira finished dressing and crossed to the bed, dropping a quick kiss on his mouth. “Thanks,” she said. “See you later.”
And then she was gone. Leaving him alone with his confusion.
He needed to talk to Lucienne.
It wasn’t that late, only ten, but it still took several minutes before the door to the former-Alpha’s new house opened after he knocked. Lucienne stood in the doorway, her blonde brow wrinkled in a frown. “Hugo. Greg is up at the main house with Roman.”
“Actually, I’m here to see you.”
The frown intensified. Not surprising. He and Lucienne had avoided any sort of private contact for the last twenty plus years. Looking back on it now, he wasn’t sure if that had made the elephant that was always in the room with them bigger or smaller.
“Greg said he spoke to you,” she murmured, without moving from her position blocking the door.
“I’m not here to change your mind,” he assured her. “I just wanted to talk.”
Her expression grew closed and wary, but she stepped back, opening the door farther to allow him to pass her into the living room. Unlike most of the houses on the pride, this one had multiple rooms—living rooms, bedrooms, offices—more in the style of the main house up on the hill than the little bungalows that dotted the pride lands.
“Can I get you anything to drink?” she asked, always the consummate hostess.
Hugo declined and trailed her deeper into the living room. Lucienne took a place at a high-backed chair that looked like it belonged in a man’s study and Hugo settled himself on the couch opposite her, bracing his hands on his knees. “You look well.”
She flushed and frowned. “Hugo…”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he protested. “I should be able to compliment you without the world falling apart, Luce.”
Her frown grew even more fierce. “Don’t call me that.”
He grimaced. “I didn’t come here to upset you.”
“Why did you come here?” she challenged, blue eyes bright with something that could have been anger.
“Did it ever occur to you that we’ve made it worse by refusing to acknowledge it?”
Her eyes narrowed. “No.”
He wasn’t sure which she was saying—that it had never occurred to her or that it didn’t make it worse. “It’s been a quarter century. If we can’t talk about it now—”
“You’re staying with Greg. You made your choice. What harm can it do?”
That softened the anger. “I’m sorry—”
“No. It was the right choice.”
She blinked, visibly startled. For a long moment he thought she wouldn’t reply, but then she grimaced and words began flowing out. “I tried to talk Lila out of marrying Santiago by telling her about you.”
Hugo caught his jaw before it could drop open. “You told her?”
“Oh, nothing specific and nothing scandalous. Not that there was anything scandalous to tell. We were always careful not to cross the line,” Lucienne mused, her eyes distant as she looked into the past. Then her gaze shifted to the present again. “I didn’t say it was you, but I think Lila figured it out.”
“Yes.” Lucienne’s smile was slight but full of pride. “And then she decided to marry him anyway. Love over duty. And it made me think, about us, about the choice I made.” She looked at him, met his eyes without flinching—Lucienne had never been the type to flinch. “I never regretted it. And I wondered, if I’d really loved you, the way I thought I did, if I
have regretted it. If it was as real as it felt, wouldn’t I have given up anything to be with you? But I never really even considered it. I’m not a romantic, you know that, but I have to wonder if it was my ego, not my heart, that needed you. I loved the idea of you. I loved knowing someone wanted me so much, because Greg always seemed sort of stuck with me, but I wouldn’t have left him for the world.”
“I think I knew that.”
“I don’t say that to hurt you,” Lucienne murmured.
“No, I understand. I wouldn’t have done anything differently either,” he replied. “I could have fought for you, I could have done more to convince you, but looking back, I wouldn’t do a thing differently than I did.” Except with Moira. He regretted hurting her those years ago.
Lucienne shook her head. “What idiots we were. We could have been friends all this time.”
“We have been.”
She smiled her small reserved smile. “Yes. I suppose we have.”
Moira gave Caitlin her undivided attention, but as soon as she had determined the contractions that sent the first time mommy rushing to the infirmary were indeed Braxton-Hicks, she had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from rushing the young lioness out the door. Caitlin was her patient, and more comfortable dealing with her than Dr. Brandt or Grace, but Moira couldn’t help the restless urge to get back to Hugo.
Things had been
with him when she left. The sex had been transcendent, but he’d gone all stiff and gruff afterward—as if she’d accidentally pledged her undying love during coitus, which she was damn certain she hadn’t done.
She needed to see him again tonight—if only to make sure he wasn’t making things more complicated than they needed to be. But when she texted him as soon as Caitlin and her mate were shooed back to their home, there was no response.
Probably asleep. It was after ten and he had said he had an early meeting. And last time he had dropped off like a log after sex.
Moira told herself it was fine, that things were fine between them. Whatever those things were. She wasn’t entirely sure where they stood, but she wasn’t going to make herself crazy about it. She’d made a choice; she would live with the consequences, whatever they were.
Hugo might be out cold, but Moira knew sleep wouldn’t be coming for her any time soon. She left the infirmary, walking along the winding paths of the pride complex, stretching her legs and letting her thoughts rattle around aimlessly.
It was a cold night, the pleasant coolness of autumn giving way to the bite of winter. The first snow would come soon. She loved to play in the snow, especially in her bear form. The air always felt so silky cool against her fur, even the scent of it cleaner somehow when snow was falling. Perhaps this year Hugo would join her. She’d rarely been around other bears since reaching her maturity and leaving her parents. She could see it now, playfully batting Hugo’s muzzle and loping away like she had when she was a cub.
A little niggle of doubt whispered not to get ahead of herself, but he’d chosen her. He’d told her he wasn’t going to be with Lucienne. This time things were different. Even if they didn’t fall in love and live happily ever after, surely she was able to play in the snow with her lover.
A laugh trailed out the window of a nearby bungalow and Moira looked up, becoming aware of her surroundings. She’d walked halfway around the perimeter of the main complex—almost to the doorstep of Greg and Lucienne’s new place. Perhaps her subconscious had been guiding her steps, taking her toward the home of her rival.
The door to the house Greg and Lucienne occupied popped open and Moira leapt off the lit path, hiding in the lee of a bungalow before she realized what she was doing. This was ridiculous. She could face Lucienne. Just because she was now sleeping with the man who had pledged his undying devotion to the former-Alpha’s mate—
Hugo stepped out of the house and Moira’s blood turned to ice.
He wasn’t supposed to be here. He was supposed to be home. Sleeping off his sexual stupor. He wasn’t supposed to be with
. He’d said he was done with her.
Lucienne stepped onto the front step with the bear and the shards of ice in Moira’s blood stabbed into her heart.
Not again. I can’t have been such a fool again.
Hugo rumbled something Moira was too far away to hear—but she heard the low answering laugh from Lucienne. The low
laugh. Moira’s stomach roiled.
Hugo bent his head toward Lucienne and Moira spun away. She couldn’t watch them kiss. She couldn’t do it. She pressed her hands to her cheeks, expecting to find them warm with anger but finding them wet instead, and chilled from the cold.
She’d let herself fall for him. Again. What kind of idiot made the same mistake with the same man eleven years apart? She could hate him, but blaming him was like repeatedly slamming into the same brick wall and blaming the wall. She should have known.
The laugh came again—that stomach-churning,
laugh—and Moira shoved away from the bungalow wall, rushing away from the scene as quickly as she could without stepping into the light and revealing her presence to the lovers.
No. She decided she
blame him. He’d told her he was celebrating the fact that Greg and Lucienne were staying together and then that same night he seduced the lioness away from her mate? How could he look himself in the mirror?
She hoped he’d come looking for her. She just hoped he dared.