Authors: Madeline Pryce
Dumbstruck, unable to move, she’d stood there and tried to
push away the instant lust that slammed into her. Heat bloomed in her stomach
and moved up, to her neck. Her skin felt tight with the first wisps of energy
wrapping around her.
“You should see the other guy,” he’d said, the first real
words he’d ever spoken to her despite her lifelong friendship with his brother.
His voice had been deep and sexy, and had only amplified her
desire. He’d slouched farther into his chair, and the half grin he shot her had
been pure sin. Kicking his feet up, he’d lounged back and studied the way she
played with her necklace. It had been as if he were commanding her magic.
The bottle in her hand had slipped, moist against her palm,
before it had crashed to the floor. She’d gasped. Energy had flowed through her
fingers and chilled her deep to the bone. Although twenty tables separated
them, she’d beckoned his animal to her and the velvet touch of fur had tickled
She’d gotten a crisp image of his jaguar. Its fierce blue
eyes looked luminescent against the black fur. Freckling gray rosettes lined
its back and wrapped down muscular legs. The graze of teeth had drawn against
her throat. As she’d breathed through the sensation, the magic, the feel of him
had faded. His cat had retreated and taken a piece of her with it. Then
everything had gone to shit.
After she’d cornered him in his bedroom later that night,
her naked and vulnerable, him fully dressed and drunk, he’d grabbed her wrists
and pinned them above her head. The hostility in his voice, the way his jaw had
clenched and his narrowed eyes hardened, had almost been more intimidating than
his callously spoken words.
“You couldn’t handle me, little girl.” His voice had rumbled
low with rage even though his cock had been hard against her tummy. “Go home
and play with your dolls.”The final insult, the fear, had driven her
away in tears. If he’d wanted her, why be an ass about it?
Damn him for making her remember. As the years
had ticked by and she’d searched for a different familiar, her thoughts always
strayed back to Trent and the heated looks he gave her when he thought she
wasn’t looking. She hadn’t approached him again though. He’d gone back to
mostly ignoring her, policing the county and notching up his bedpost while she
watched from afar, wanting what she couldn’t have.
This was the night she had to try again. One more time
because apparently she was a masochist. No more stalling. In two days, the
stars would align, the Samhain festivities would begin and she’d have
everything she needed to inherit the magic of her ancestors. Assuming, that
was, Trent didn’t hammer the final nail in her coffin. God, would she survive
it if he told her no again?
Trenton Gregory stared across the crowded, smoky bar and
glared at the woman he’d vowed never to touch. Witches—rumor had it—stole your
independence with some crazy voodoo shit that left you neutered. As a man, he
valued his freedom almost as much as he did his balls. Too bad she was the same
woman he craved with an intensity that bordered on obsession. He’d known Sam
her entire life. From birth, to childhood, through her awkward teen years and
then later in life, when she’d become the woman half the men and all the boys
in town jacked off to—including him.
Even though she’d be twenty-one in a few days—more than
legal—he wasn’t about to risk his alpha status for a rough and tumble bout of
sex—no matter how badly he wanted to feel her beneath him. Sam moved gracefully
behind the bar and he couldn’t look away from her. She’d pulled her long brown
hair up, leaving her bared neck vulnerable. The bruising imprint of his teeth
would look good against her pale skin.
Beads of sweat dampened the fine hairs at her nape and he
had more than a passing urge to lick her dry. Dark lashes framed her sultry
green eyes, casting shadows over her brow. The tight black tank she wore
accentuated her creamy, smooth-as-silk skin. Her tits were small, perky and
made his mouth water. Her lips—full, berry-red and made for sin—were what
signed his death warrant.
He traced her every move as she worked to fill drinks, flash
smiles and pause every so often to laugh at one of the men she’d charmed. As if
she’d somehow felt the heat of his gaze over the sweltering, humid air that
hung heavy in the bar, she turned and looked at him. His cock swelled
uncomfortably in his jeans. She flashed a sexy grin that had a single dimple
denting her right cheek. His heart kicked up a notch at the mere thought of her
lips and how they’d feel wrapped around his dick.
Fuck. He wasn’t going there.
Why was Sam working anyway? She shouldn’t have been there,
not on a Sunday. To make room for his rock-hard erection, he adjusted his legs
and misjudged how much clearance he had. His knee slammed into the corner of
the table and sent starbursts of prickling pain down to his toes.
“Fuck me,” he growled.
The table rocked, teetering on uneven legs. Beer sloshed
from his frosted mug and landed on the scuffed wood surface. Gravity took over.
The spilled brew raced to the edge of the table, its intended target, his
crotch. Shit. Dulled reflexes kicked in and he shot back as if his ass were on
fire. The drops intended for his jeans splattered to the ground, kicking up to
speckle the thick black soles of his boots. The continuous splat, splat, splat
of dripping beer sounded like BBs bouncing off a tin roof.
He rubbed his sore knee and drew in a deep breath to help
rein in his temper.
Sam’s birthday was in three days, November first. Five years
ago, around this time of year, he’d stumbled home drunk as a fucking skunk
after his fiancée had dumped him for his best friend to find Sam—the sexy
little witch who’d been about two years too young—naked in his bedroom. He
closed his eyes and chugged the rest of his thick, frothy beer, trying to
banish the sight of her breasts, the flare of her hips, the dark thatch of her
curls covering her pussy. Her smell—sweet, innocent and mixed with honey—had
affected him as no other woman’s had. But she’d been a girl, a virgin and most
importantly, a damn witch, something his dad had made sure to warn him about.
They look pretty, smell nice, but unless you want to wind
up owned and castrated, find another pussy to dip your dick into. You’ve got a
duty, son. You want to keep that Monroe girl safe, do it from afar. Let ’Miah
Trent slammed his empty glass back to the table and the
lingering liquid on the surface splattered his face, waking him up some.
Yeah. He was going to need something stronger tonight.
Though the sun had set hours ago, the heat of the day was
only starting to submit to the darkness. Even the fan above didn’t stop the
trickle of sweat trailing along his spine. The trapped air inside the tavern
was humid and stale—almost like a coffin. He wished someone would open the damn
It seemed as if every shifter in town was celebrating the
pain-in-the-ass, soon-to-be holiday, Samhain for some, Halloween for others, at
the Watering Hole. This time of year brought out the crazies and made his job
ten times harder than it needed to be. His ears ached from the drunken hum of
conversation. With each empty glass returned to the various tables, the overall
volume rose. The jukebox had long ago spun to life and cranked out a drift of
country rock that made everything more jumbled. Being a shape shifter was good
for many things. Crowded, enclosed spaces weren’t one of them.
Trying to adopt an indifferent pose, he lounged back in his
seat and tuned out the sounds around him. One elbow lay on the back of his
chair while the other rested on the table, fingering the handle of his empty
mug. He stretched his long legs out in front of him, this time to the side. He
glanced around the bar, forcing his gaze not to stray to the counter or the
woman behind it.
Beside him, he sized up a raucous group of bikers at the
adjacent table. His cop senses told him they were nothing but trouble. They
were dressed in studded leather, their jackets sporting wolf insignias
silhouetted in a full moon. The crackling energy of their beasts stirred his
jaguar to life. He listened in disgust as they bragged about their latest conquest.
Laughter rang out, followed by a chorus of cheers and a toast that forced
liquid from their glasses and doused the table.
Despite the faded signs hanging all over the walls that read
“No Shifting on the Premises”, he was ready to say fuck it. He had the law on
his side. Even though the full moon was days away, he wouldn’t have a problem
changing forms. It took someone with a lot of power to shift outside of the
full moon. The strength inside him surged, and he flexed his fingers in an
attempt to control himself. The more they boasted, the more annoyed he became.
Did it really matter which one of them had fucked the Tallahassee pack master’s
daughter? Whoever in the hell that was. This was Missouri, his domain, and they
were all assholes. Though he’d be outnumbered six to one, the fight he was
spoiling for would almost have been worth it. Almost.
Pushing the feline back inside hurt more than he would have
liked to admit. His eyes burned from the combination of smoke, lack of sleep
and one too many beers. He tried to blink the pain away. It didn’t help. Sweet,
feminine laughter penetrated over the noise of the room and moved straight
through him. As if someone twisted his intestines, his stomach tightened in a
knot. He lost the battle with his self-control and looked to the bar positioned
at the back of the long, rectangular room packed to capacity with too-full
tables taking up every available inch of space.
Jeremiah had his elbows resting on the bar and his back
slouched so his shoulders stuck up in the air. Even when he was sitting, his
younger brother towered over everyone else. ’Miah had inherited thin, long legs
and golden-brown hair that mopped across his forehead from their mother. His
hair matched the shade of his eyes almost perfectly.
Him? He’d gotten an unruly flock of dark curls. It wasn’t
his hair or height that made him and his brother so different. It was the
traits his father passed to him—blue eyes, a stubborn streak two miles wide and
a territory of bloodthirsty animals to keep in line. It was a crappy job, but
someone had to do it. Humans, while tolerant of the two-natured, had no
business policing them.
His brother flashed an innocent, boyish grin at Sam,
something he’d been doing since the asshole could smile. He said something—God
only knew what—that made Sam still the rag in her hand on the cup she was
drying. Her eyes brightened and the corners of her lips curved. An ache moved
through Trent’s chest, down his stomach and grabbed hold of his balls. His palm
sweated against the table. When she smiled like she was right then, it did
wicked-fierce things to his libido.
A flickering orange light flashed in his peripheral view.
Curling smoke added to the haze. He had no problem seeing through the fog. Sam
bit her lower lip. The action might have stifled her laughter but it didn’t
stop the sparkle of repressed humor in her eyes. It was all he could do to keep
distance between them.
Fucking hell she was sexy. Apparently, his brother—who swore
he and Sam were just friends—thought so too. Jeremiah drew his elbows across
the counter and leaned close to whisper something in her ear. He used one long
finger to push a strand of hair behind her ear, tickling her skin as he went.
Trent leaned forward, as if getting closer would help him
eavesdrop. Jeremiah’s lips moved, but the room was too loud, even with enhanced
hearing, for him to know what his brother whispered.
Sam narrowed her eyes and a crease appeared along her
forehead. She shook her head twice in quick succession. The hand she’d been
using to bring the chain of her silver necklace back and forth across her neck
stilled. She dropped the round, quarter-sized pentagram and the medallion
settled between her breasts. Now that her hands were free, she pressed against
Jeremiah’s shoulder and pushed him across the bar and back into his chair.
Through the myriad sounds of the room, the beat of her
tapping her foot rang clear, a sign he was entirely too in tune with her. A
sharp crack of magic whipped through the room with her irritation. He looked
around, waiting for the crowd’s reaction. No one stopped to look. Some days he
thought he was the only one who could feel what made her so damn special. The
room’s sounds muffled, muted by her magic, and her next words reached him as if
she’d spoken directly to him.
“You tell him, ’Miah,” she growled, “and I swear to God I’ll
find some way to kill you myself. I don’t care what you shift into.”
In tandem, Sam and Jeremiah turned to look in his direction.
What in the hell were they up to? Thick as thieves, those two had been friends
since diapers. The thought, good or bad, made his jaw tight. Eyes still focused
on the pair, he brought the mug to his lips and tilted it up. Nothing happened.
He pulled the glass away with a frown and looked into the thin ring of foam
lining the bottom of the cup. Empty. Damn, he needed a refill.
Halfheartedly, he peered through the throngs of tables in
search of Brenda. Tall, with bright red hair and gigantic tits, the waitress
normally wasn’t too hard to find. Tonight she’d donned a pussy cat
costume—ironic as hell. When he didn’t spot her, he glanced back to the bar.
Watching Jeremiah flirt was painful—when he did it with Sam, it was torture.
The bastard knew Trent had a thing for her. His brother also knew he had no
intention of doing anything about it. Being Area Enforcer—a suped-up cop—wasn’t
a crappy job, it was a death sentence.
Sam cupped the edge of the bar and leaned into it with her
shoulders. She pushed her back out in a languid stretch. Light danced off the
delicate tanned curve of her shoulder and the graceful line of her neck. She
meant nothing provocative by it, but his swelling cock disagreed. She looked up
and met his eyes. The heat of her gaze sent another trickle of sweat down the
line of his spine.
Soft and caressing, the magic deeply rooted in her veins
moved along his cheek. It felt as if her fingers were rasping through the
stubble covering his jaw. It was cool, seductive and a little bit frightening.
Sam’s eyes softened, crinkling ever so slightly at the
corners when they met his. On anyone else, that look would have said, “It’s
nice to see you”. On her, it translated to, “Where the hell have you been?”
He’d been avoiding her altogether ever since he’d watched
her suck face with a loser—the same dickhead who’d slapped her—she’d called her
boyfriend. Trent had broken the guy’s jaw before carting him off and throwing
him in a jail cell. Whoops. Luckily for him, there was no such thing as
excessive force when it came to other shifters. He had two rules, if they were
in human form they got cuffed and detained. In shifter form, well, there were
Today was Sam’s day off, coming here was supposed to be
safe. It was the only reason he’d let his brother drag him away from their
house cluttered with empty takeout boxes and beer bottles. By the grace of God,
he’d managed twenty-three days without seeing her, hearing her voice echoing in
his head or feeling her magic gyrate against him.
It was too hard to sit in a bar, watching the woman he was
in lust with flirt with every asshole who took a seat in her domain. As fast as
his metabolism was, the buzz he worked so hard at drowning himself in faded too
fast for him to pretend lust was the only thing he felt for her. His intent to
keep his balls intact was fading fast.
The crackling, soul-splitting energy the other shifters gave
off didn’t fade as easily. Drunk or sober, the energy buzzed around his head
like a hive of bees. This close to the full moon his cat paced restlessly
inside him, desperate to show its dominance, anxious to break free from the
cage he kept it locked in.
Through the haze of alcohol and shifters, the press of Sam’s
magic was as unmistakable as the pentagram she always wore. He didn’t think she
realized she was projecting. If he ever let himself get close enough, he’d ask
her. A glass shattered against the floor, drawing him out of his thoughts and
he looked around. It wasn’t often the full moon corresponded with Halloween,
every nineteen years to be exact, and all the wackos were out. The bar was
definitely fuller than usual, a sign he should probably stop drinking in case
trouble broke out—that was what the police department paid him for.
Passed down through her family, Sam’s bar was what he called
a neutral zone—a place where different packs and species could intermingle.
Humans who weren’t sensitive to the supernatural didn’t understand shifters,
nor did they want to. Some shifters got off on the buzz he was feeling. Trent
wished it would go away. He wished Sam and his sappy-as-hell feelings would go