Chapter 14

Lucy Roman was the perfect balas. She was soft, sweet, and scented of heaven, and as Sara cradled her in her arms and rocked her slow and steady, she wondered what her own little bundle would look like, sound like, smell like.

It would be only seven months until she knew, but that seemed like a lifetime away.

Especially when she hadn't had the guts to tell the baby's father yet.

"You look good with her. Natural."

Sara glanced up and smiled at Bronwyn as the dark-haired beauty came out of the bathroom, showered and looking as radiant as ever.

"I can take her if it's getting to be too much," Bronwyn said.

"No," Sara assured her. "I love it. She's sweet. You're so lucky."

Brushing out her wet hair, Bronwyn sat on the edge of the bed. "I know. Times have changed-and become wonderful." She shook her head. "Seems like yesterday I was going into labor, scared, totally alone."

"Not totally alone," Sara reminded her with a gentle smile.

A smile Bronwyn returned. "I didn't mean that. I was incredibly thankful you were there. I just mean without Lucian seeing..."

"I know. I get it." And she truly did.

"He'll be there for the next one though," Bronwyn said, placing her brush down on the bed.

Sara's eyes widened. "You're not..."

Bron laughed. "No! God, no. Not now. But someday, I hope. And he'll be there." Her eyes held a gentle melancholy. "I know it really bothers him that he wasn't there to see her enter the world."

Maybe it was the smell of the baby or the intimacy of the conversation; maybe it was the sad fact that after overhearing Gray and their mother earlier, Sara felt more alone and in need of a friend than she ever had before. Suddenly she found herself blurting out her secret. "I'm pregnant."

"What?" Bron stared at her; then a brilliant smile crossed her face. "Oh my goodness, Sara. Congratulations!"

"Thanks." God, it felt good to say it out loud, tell someone.

"Alexander must be over the moon."

And then again, maybe not. Sara's heart dipped. "I haven't told him."

"What? Why?"

She sighed, shook her head. "I want to tell him. I want to tell him so badly, but..."

Bronwyn leaned forward. "What's wrong?"

Yes, what was wrong? She struggled for the right words. "I think I'm afraid he won't be excited about it."

"Oh, Sara, that's impossible," Bronwyn assured her.

Her heart clenched. Her eyes lifted to meet her sister-in-law's. "He didn't want to be a father. With how he was brought up, he's afraid. He agreed to try, but...I don't know..." She stilled at Bronwyn's concerned gaze. "The thing is, I don't want him to feel like Luca and regret not seeing his balas enter the world."

Bronwyn smiled gently. "Look at the males we have chosen, my sister. Look where they've come from and what they've endured. It is little wonder they feel as they do and fear as they do."

The bedroom door shot open then, and decked out in fighting gear, looking fierce and deadly, his left eye black-and-blue from his practice bout with Alexander earlier, Lucian entered. First he went to his veana and planted a devilishly passionate kiss on her mouth; then he lifted his head and sniffed the air.

"Where is my little bloodsucker?" he snarled playfully.

"Lucian," Bronwyn chided, though her eyes were lit with overwhelming love. "You know I don't like when you call her that."

He growled and kissed her again. "She loves it, Veana. Laughs every bloody time." He turned toward Sara, spotted the wee babe in her arms, and grinned. "Damn fine specimen of a she-balas, isn't she, Doc?"

Sara grinned and repeated, "Damn fine."

Bronwyn rolled her eyes. "Don't encourage him, my sister."

"Not as beautiful as her mama, but close." Lucian scooped up the baby from Sara's arms and started for the door.

Bronwyn called after him, "Where are you taking her?"

"Helo believes he saw some moths by the light at the back door. I want to show her before we head out to hunt and decapitate that bastard Cruen."

Bronwyn shook her head as he left the room. "Lovely."

Sara laughed, and after a moment Bronwyn joined in.

"So you see," Bronwyn said, her eyes bright. "They may start out as pavens who believe themselves incapable of fatherhood. But they soon become the very ones who rush in to get their wee beloveds just to show them a creepy white bug in the lamplight."

When Dillon woke, she knew she was in her jaguar state, but she had no idea what cage she had ended up in this time. She lifted her head, narrowed her eyes at the stone surrounding her and at the condensation dripping down the boulder to her right. Then the ground moved beneath her, and she realized she was resting on someone's lap. Gray's lap.

She sat up, and after a moment of dizziness, took in the cave that sheltered them and the small curved doorway several feet away that opened to the black woods outside.

"What happened?" she asked, her head heavy.

"The bear," Gray said. "Do you remember?"

Her mind shuffled through thoughts and images. "A bear came out of the woods...attacked us..."

"Technically, you attacked it first."

She turned, narrowed her cat eyes on him. "You know how much I love it when you get technical."

One tawny eyebrow lifted. "Gets you hot?"

"It's like an oven inside here, baby," she growled back.

He smiled, but his gray eyes moved over her, every inch of her fur, her muzzle, as though he were looking for anything out of place. It was so strange to have a male, have anyone, look at her jaguar and see the veana inside. Know the veana inside.

"Are you all right?" he asked, the humor no longer apparent in his gaze. "That animal was pretty brutal."

"Which animal?" she asked, trying to bring it back. "Me or the bear?"

He laughed softly. And she felt better.

"Anything broken?" he asked. "Eyesight okay? Memories intact?"

She nodded. She was okay, nothing felt broken. Maybe just a little banged up. And the memories, well, they would always remain intact no matter what massive creature tried to shake them out of her.

"A good night's rest will help," he said. "We'll head out first thing in the morning."

She nodded, then noticed the drawn look on his face. "You didn't get any fish."

He shook his head. "I'm fine."

"No, you're not," she said with sudden determination. He had helped her, fought for her, taken care of her. "You're hungry and you'll have my blood." She closed her eyes and concentrated on shifting back to a veana.

"I don't think that's a good idea," he said.

"Why not?"

"I don't think we should get any more bonded than we already are."

Her eyes opened. Not because of what he'd said, but because of something she felt-or didn't feel. That easy shift she'd been enjoying lately was gone, access denied. Panic bubbled within her.

Gray's eyes narrowed on her. "What is it?"

She didn't answer; she couldn't. She closed her eyes and again attempted to shift. Her breathing ticked away the seconds. Why was this happening? Her shift had been fixed. And one good swipe from a bear and she was-what? Locked up tight again. Fucking bear. Her eyes shot open and she jumped to all fours, into fighting stance. She was going hunting right now. Vengeance and a good meal for her Impure male here, and if she was lucky the battle would set her shift to rights again.


Gray's harsh tone made her pause. She turned to look at him. And the moment she did, all the fight inside her dissolved.

He sat on his very fine ass before her, his handsome face a mask of sharp angles, his mouth parted and ready to speak. "You can't shift back, can you?" he said.

Dillon felt tears behind her cat's eyes, but there was no way she was allowing them to fall. She wouldn't give him that, give anyone that. She lifted her massive head and said plainly, "I need you."

His eyes darkened to near charcoal and the cords of muscle in his neck bulged. "With what?"

"I need your hands on my fur. Again."

Gray sat there for a moment, surrounded by the stillness of the rock cave; in the distance, the many sounds of the night seeped into their cozy space. She wondered if he was going to deny her, allow her to remain as an animal-use it to keep her by his side as he returned to New York City.

But then he put his hand on her back, and Dillon forgot everything and just sighed with relief. The heat his touch provided was instantaneous. Standing before him like a blue ribbon feline, she purred as he stroked her from head to nape, shoulders to tail. Again and again, back and forth, down each leg until she felt herself shifting.

Her mind spun with questions and she tried to block them out, but it was impossible. What did this mean? she wondered as delicious shivers broke out on each square inch of skin his hands came in contact with. Was she forever stuck in this cycle? Jaguar to veana, veana to jaguar? And would she always need this male to use his damaged and utterly wonderful hands to bring her back to vampire life?

No answers came, only more questions. And she didn't have time for them. The fur was gone and she was all feeling. Veana once again, naked and on all fours in front of this hungry-eyed male.

"You're no longer a Beast," he said, his hand stilling on her lower back.

She arched and purred. "Yes, I am."

His curse echoed throughout the cave. "Oh, my impossible, irresistible kitty cat," he whispered, his tone heady with lust. "There is nothing I enjoy more than stroking you. Inside and out. If that's what you want."

His words made her skin tighten, made her breasts tingle, made her insides quake. Yes, she wanted him to touch her. Yes, she wanted him inside of her. But she was afraid of how badly she wanted it-the big, bad, biting jaguar was really just a helpless kitten crying out for affection and warmth.

"Tell me," he said, moving his hand from her lower back down the curve of her buttocks.

"Tell you what?"

"If this is what you want."

She hissed. "Why? Why do I have to say anything?"

"Because it's good for you." He gave her backside a gentle slap. "You need to learn that both taking and giving are important in a relationship."

Dillon let her head drop. "We don't have a relationship." Her cunt was on fire, leaking moisture. "We have sex."

"Bullshit." Gray gave her another slap on the ass. "You won't remain quiet on this subject, not when you have so much to say." Again, he spanked her-harder this time. "Your body is speaking for you, D. Christ, my palm is nearly soaked."

He gave her two hard slaps, and she cried out in ecstasy, her clit aching with sharp swirls of heat. Don't stop, she wanted to scream at him. Keep at it-keep at it until I burst. Because I will. Someday I won't be able to keep it all locked inside.

But the words would not release from her throat. What was wrong with her? Why couldn't she breathe, speak, beg? It didn't make her weak, goddamn it. It didn't make him all-powerful either...

She shook her head because everything inside her warned her that giving in to him and to the pleasure of his touch would make him just that.

A power over her.

His other hand tunneled beneath her belly and moved up until he cupped her breast. "Still nothing to say to me, D?" he whispered as he began to play with her nipple. Light, teasing strokes as his other hand held firm, his fingers splayed on her tender buttocks.

She released a breath, nearly whimpered. "What do you want?"

"I want to hear you cry out, say what you want from me and where you want my hands to go. You're going to be a part of this or it's not going happen." He moved his hand down her ass, one finger slipping between her cheeks and sliding down the damp pathway to the opening of her body. "I want to hear you say that this cunt I'm playing with is mine. That the hand tunneling through your slick and delectably hot lips, the hand hovering at the swollen and so-goddamn-pink entrance to your body bares the mark of your jaguar."

She couldn't think, couldn't reason. Her mind swarmed with warning, but her body refused to listen. His fingers played with her nipple, tugging, making her skin tight around her muscles while his hand circled the opening to her pussy.

"I'm waiting, D," he said, his voice sounding strained. "And it's not an easy thing to do. Not when I want to watch my fingers disappear inside that pretty pink cunt of yours."

Dillon pressed herself back against his hand.

"That's right," he said hungrily. "Arch your back, but you're going to have to tell me where you want to be scratched."

"There." It was one word, but she'd managed it.

"More," he commanded, sliding his fingers through her wet lips to the hot, tight bud of her clit.

The sublime heat, the aching need, the willingness to beg, and inevitability of surrender all slammed into her at once.

"Christ, I don't want to beg, but I will-I fucking will!" she cried out, utterly lost to her desire, nearly in tears she was so desperate. "Put your hands inside me and fuck me, Gray. Fuck me until I scream." She moaned, hissed, pressed back against his hand. Oh God...His hand. "That's my jaguar. It belongs inside me."

She heard his sharp intake of breath, felt his hand still. "Inside you, outside you, beneath you." His fingers eased back. "You want this," he whispered, circling his finger at the wet entrance to her cunt.

"Yes," she uttered, the anticipation driving her insane.

"Just one?" He slid one finger inside of her, stretching her.

She gasped.

"How about two?"

"Yes!" she cried breathlessly, hungrily. "God, yes. Please, Gray."

He slipped a second finger inside her.

Her hips jerked and she moaned. This was madness. Delicious, intense, overwrought, wondrous madness. And she didn't want it to stop. Ever. Because if it did, her mind would take over-that part of it that refused to allow lust, real lust in-the kind that came with feeling and connection.

"The other fingers are getting lonely, D," he groaned, his voice rabid and raw. "They want to be together. They want to fuck you too. They want inside your silky wet pussy so badly. Can they all come to the party, baby?"

"Yes," she gasped, arching her back even further, giving him the access he needed to enter her good and hard and deep. "Yes, goddamn it. Yes!"

When all five of his fingers entered her, Gray cursed. "The way your cunt took me in, inch by inch of drenched heat. Fuck, and the way it's suckling my fingers."

"More," Dillon begged, pumping against him, sending his fingers as deep as they could go. "I want more; you want more."


The warning in his voice nearly made her come. "I know your cock is screaming to get out and inside me-feel what your fingers are feeling."

He growled like a Beast and drove his fingers up hard within her slick channel.

Dillon sucked in air. "Get behind me, Gray! Take me. Ride me so fucking hard, we both black out." She bucked against his hand, the burning sensation rioting within her. "Now, please. I need you. Only you."

He cursed again, then again-but kept thrusting his fingers inside of her, so deep, playing with the sensitive flesh of her clit. "Goddamn it, D."

The cave scented of her heat and echoed with the sounds of her pleading cries. "Why is that wrong?"

She heard him unzipping, then felt his hand slip from her cunt. "Mounting you like a fucking animal-"

"I am an animal!" she cried out, feeling him behind her. "And you love it. Don't pretend you don't."

He gripped her hips, spread her wide. "Look at you. Even in this dim light, I can see how your pussy glistens for me."

She could feel the head of his cock against the wet entrance to her body. "Gray, please," she begged.

He entered her slowly, one inch at a time. "God, baby, you're so beautiful. So wet, so tight. The way your pussy sucks me in." He cursed, moaned. "Oh, shit. I knew you would feel like this. The perfect fit, your candy walls fisting around me."

Shards of white-hot pleasure assaulted her as he pushed all the way home. She didn't want to think. No, it was a bad idea. And yet she couldn't stop herself from agreeing. Yes, it was the perfect fit. She'd never experienced anything like it. And maybe she never should again if she wanted to a live a moderately happy existence on the run, without him.

She canted her hips, trying to draw him in deeper. But he withdrew, and for a moment she wondered if he was going to leave her in misery. But he only gripped her hips tighter and slammed his way home. She gasped at the delicious brutality and cried out for more, her muscles convulsing.

Sensing what she wanted, what she needed, Gray withdrew again, then thrust back inside of her. Dillon's clit ached with the pain of wanting release. She wanted it so desperately, and yet as Gray moved inside her, hitting the very spot that throbbed and pulsed, she prayed she could hold out. Never had she felt such pleasure or such pain in the empty wasteland where her heart should be.

The sudden need to connect with him made her sit up, made her press her back to his chest. Oh God, yes. The angle of his thrust hit a new and wondrous spot inside of her and she wrapped her arms around his neck and looked over her shoulder.

Her entire body clenched with desire at the sight of him.

Gray Donohue was a fierce and hungry beast. His hair was wild, his eyes narrowed, his face contorted into a mask of diabolical intensity. And then that face descended on hers and his mouth claimed her in a ravenous kiss.

As his cock worked in and out of her pussy, as his tongue fucked the inside of her mouth, Dillon knew this was something beyond what she was capable of, beyond what her tiny scrap of an unbeating heart could ever hold on to.

This was her true mate, her perfect fit. And yet there was nothing perfect about either one of them or this up-and-down, push-and-pull thing that was going on between them.

Dillon felt the rising heat of imminent orgasm and she allowed her thoughts to flee. Her thighs trembled, her nipples were hard and aching, her belly clenched, and then Gray's hand-the one that was marked by her jaguar-moved over her pelvis and claimed her cunt. She was soaking wet, her lips, her inner thighs, and Gray groaned into her mouth as he slipped his fingers between her folds and found her clit.

The feeling of his fingers on her sensitive flesh had Dillon crying out and dropping back down to her hands. Gray pounded into her so hard she was afraid he would rip her in two. And yet she arched her back and pressed against him for more. She felt like her mind was unhinged, that her body was working on its own. Her hips jerked and shook as he rubbed her clit. The heat building inside her was about to spill over. She wasn't ready. She couldn't hold on and yet she was afraid to climax. Afraid to look at him. Goddamn it, she was just fucking afraid period.

"Oh, yes," he uttered hoarsely, savagely. "There it is. The walls of your pussy...Shit, it's like an earthquake. Come for me, baby."

His breathing went rabid, and she felt his cock swell. Or, God, maybe that was her, but she was gone, done for. His fingers played her clit in a heavy burst of movement and she screamed into the cold air of the cave as she came. Light, heat, rocking waves of unbearable beauty coursed through her as she shook, shuddered.

Behind her, Gray groaned and slammed into her with five possessive thrusts. She felt his hot seed pour into her body, lapped up by the convulsing walls of her pussy, and she wanted to die. This was how it was supposed to be. This was how it was supposed to feel when someone cared about you, connected with you, wanted to give you everything and then some. This was how it felt when someone wanted more than just a mindless fuck from a faceless cunt.

Tears blurred her vision and she let them fall because he couldn't see her in the dim light of the cave.

Now she knew. Now she would know the truth and have to live every day without it because she was too afraid to give herself over to it.

To him.

To a life with her true mate.

Blinking away her tears, she lay back against him, shaking, his cock still inside her, his arms wrapped around her.

"Gray?" she whispered, forcing back the weight of emotions running through her and down her cheeks.


She didn't know what made her ask it or what made it come to her mind, but as she asked, she put her hand over his hand-over the mark. "What happened to the bear? After it knocked me out?"

There was a pause, and for a moment she heard only the sound of his breathing. "I chased it away."

Her insides clenched. Not from sexual heat, but from something far more worrisome. "How?"

"It was afraid of me," he said, his mouth close to her neck, her ear. "How I sounded, how I acted."

She shivered. "And how was that?"

He tightened his hold on her. "Vicious, uncompromising, ready to take death, ready to face it."

She felt something on her neck-sharp, blades. No. Fangs. And then he whispered, "Like a male who was protecting his true mate."

Dillon stilled. She waited for the feeling of apprehension, of trepidation to come over her at his words. But it wasn't there, never came. In that brief instant, all she felt was safe.

"You can deny this all you want," he said softly, gently. "But you and your pussy belong to me."

Heat spread within her, and for a moment she thought that Gray was going to press her forward, back onto her hands and knees and take her again. But instead he cursed and gripped her possessively, protectively.

"Hey." Concern pulsed within her. "What is it? What's going on?"

"I can hear them."

"Who?" She lifted her head so she could see his face, his eyes. Both were strained, confused. "Gray, what's happening?"

"The Impure warriors," he uttered, shaking his head. "I can hear them in my head. It's not possible. How I can hear them from so far away?"

The cave felt suddenly colder, and Dillon pressed herself even closer to him. "I don't know. What are they saying?"

He didn't answer her immediately. His gaze seemed unfocused, as though he was listening. Then his gunmetal eyes flickered down and pinned her with their intensity. "They've found the way into the Order's frequency, their mainframe." A low curse bled from his throat. "And it seems as though the Order has found its way to them."

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