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“What does it look like?” Gabriela tried to wrench away but found it impossible to move.

“Running away again?” There was a dark edge to his voice.

Anger punched through her. She dropped her bag and shoved at his chest, though he barely acknowledged the blow. “Why should I stay when it’s obvious I’m not welcome? I don’t need your pity.”

“I don’t pity you. You almost died.” There was a note in his voice she didn’t recognize, but it jarred her bone deep.

She stared at him, surprised by the change in subject and unsure what to say. Owen stared right back and she felt herself drowning in those blue eyes. Damn him, why was he making this so difficult?

He pushed out a ragged breath. “I want you so bad I ache for it. For the past week I’ve kept my distance because I don’t trust myself not to take you the way my body demands. Rough and wild. I want to mark and claim you so that no one else ever looks at you again. As I sink my canines into you I want to feel yours piercing me. I want everything from you, Gabriela, and I don’t think you’re ready for me. That’s why I’ve been keeping my distance.” He was breathing hard now and his hands slowly slid down her arms, settling on her waist in a proprietary grip.

Oh, my. Her entire body tightened in anticipation of feeling him sink deep inside her. “So you want me as your mate?” He’d basically just told her that but she wanted it spelled out, to hear the words.

“Yes. I want you as my mate. I always have.” His expression was so open, raw and vulnerable at that moment and it pierced her with its intensity.

Warmth spread across her chest in a kind of joy she couldn’t put into words. She wanted to tell him the same thing but first she needed to show him how much she trusted him. “I put in my official notice at work earlier this week.” Heat flashed in those eyes and his hands flexed on her hips but he didn’t say anything so she continued. “A few government entities know about shifters and vampires, and we work with them in a clandestine manner. I work—worked for the CIA as a ‘retrieval expert’, which basically means I gathered information that no one else could get. In my jaguar form I used to sneak into various compounds in South and Central America and retrieve physical data or just do plain old information gathering by eavesdropping.”

She was already telling him too much by admitting she worked for the CIA and couldn’t go into more detail just yet. Maybe one day, though. But she had to tell him about what she’d been doing the last few years. Opening up this way was the only way to show him she trusted him. “I lost my team not too long ago. I thought I could cope but was having a hard time so I came back home. I never planned to stay and I never planned to see you, but I…love you, Owen. I can’t walk away from you again and I—”

He crushed his mouth over hers, stealing her breath and whatever train of thought she’d had. As his tongue invaded her mouth, his hands slid down to the hem of her top.

Warm, calloused fingers lifted her shirt and stroked her belly, but suddenly he paused, drawing his head back. “Am I hurting you?”

Frustration skittered through her as all her muscles drew tight. He was hurting her but not in the way he thought. She grabbed the back of his neck and pulled his face close to hers. “I’m healed and I don’t need easy right now.” Hungrily, she met his tongue stroke for stroke, savoring his sweet taste. She briefly wondered if he’d had something cinnamon earlier.

In a flurry of movement, he removed her top and pants and she plastered her body to his, wrapping her legs around his waist as he carried her to a pile of blankets and pillows in front of the dwindling fire. The blankets were soft against her back as he stretched out on top of her.

One of his hands cupped her breast possessively while he wrapped his other hand around her long hair, pulling her head back. The tug wasn’t exactly gentle and she couldn’t move as he stared down at her. “I love you, too.” The words seemed to be wrenched from his throat.

Her heart turned over. When he’d told her he wanted her as his mate she’d known, but hearing the words made something primitive inside her flare to life.

Rolling her hips against him, she groaned at the feel of his rough jeans rubbing her clit. She didn’t want anything physical between them right now. “I don’t think I’m in heat anymore,” she said quietly, a little unsure. He’d be able to scent if she was, but she didn’t feel like it.

“You’re not. Something to do with your injuries and healing process that cut it short. The doc told me.” He gently ran his teeth along the column of her neck.

“I don’t want any barriers when you’re inside me.” She lightly nipped his ear, tugging his earlobe between her teeth, loving the way he groaned as she did.

His hips jerked against her, the feel of his hard length unmistakable. Unable to wait, she reached between their bodies and unzipped his pants. She shoved them down his body until he kicked them off.

Nestled between her open thighs, he didn’t make a move to push inside her like she expected. Just continued kissing down her neck and across her collarbone, leaving a fiery path of heat in his wake. It was as if he branded her with each stroke of his lips.

As he continued that hot trail, she reached between them once again and wrapped her fingers around his hardness. He seemed to grow even bigger in her hand and when he groaned against her breast, the sound sent a pleasant vibration through her body.

Very slowly she began stroking him as he teased her with his tongue and teeth. It was obvious he was taking great pleasure in driving her crazy. He flicked his tongue over her hardened nipple, then gently blew on it before repeating the action on her other breast. The erotic action made her inner walls clench with the need to be filled.

Still holding on to him, she slid her legs down until her feet were digging into his upper thighs. Using his body as an anchor, she arched her back, pushing her breast farther into his mouth. As he moaned against her and tugged on the sensitized bud with his teeth, she guided his cock to her entrance and pushed down on him.

He stilled over her, laying his head between her breasts and shuddering. “I don’t think this will ever get old.” His voice was hoarse.

She clenched her inner walls, earning another shudder from him. “I hope not.”

He lifted his head to look at her, his expression filled with so much warmth and love it made her toes curl.

Even though she knew he’d want to be on top when he claimed her, she desperately wanted to ride him now. “Roll us over,” she whispered.

She could see the indecision in his eyes, knowing his dominant nature was fighting the urge to please her so she waited until he finally did as she’d said. In this position she felt powerful as he stared up at her with such raw heat in his gaze.

Slowly, she rolled her hips. Once, twice, she continued with a steady rhythm that had his eyes glazing over with pure lust. While he cupped her breasts, teasing and flicking them with his fingers, she slid a hand down her belly.

Continuously stroking her nipples, he still tracked the movement of her hand. When she began lightly rubbing her clit, he jerked, throwing off their perfect rhythm. Not that she minded. She wanted to see him lose control.

Holding back right now wasn’t in the equation for either of them. Matings between shifters went one of two ways. The male took the female from behind, marking her as she climaxed. Later, the female would mark the male, completing their bond forever. Or they could both mark each other as they climaxed. She knew what she wanted.

Leaning forward she placed her hands on his shoulders as she increased her speed. His hands fisted around her hips, holding her so tight she knew she’d bruise. In that moment, she didn’t care. The feel of his hardness filling her was perfection and when he reached between their bodies and began stroking her sensitive bundle of nerves the same way she’d been doing moments before, she tightened even harder around him.

Need hummed through her body and even though part of her wanted to lean down a little farther and kiss him, Gabriela loved the way he was looking at her. It was addicting, seeing that kind of devotion on his face. He looked at her as if she was the best birthday and Christmas present ever all rolled into one.

Her inner walls began to contract in faster successions and she knew she was close to climaxing. Could feel it in the way even her toes clenched.

Owen let out a low growl and taking her off guard, flipped her onto her back while remaining inside her. His strokes inside her were rough and uneven and exactly what she wanted. Gripping onto his shoulders, she met his mouth with her own.

She felt as if she could crawl right out of her skin, she was so tense. Her canines pulsed with the need to unleash but she held back. Wanted the timing to be perfect. Shifters were so damn superstitious and bonding had to be just right. That notion was probably outdated but she didn’t care. She’d only be bonding once.

When Owen not-quite-lightly pinched her nipple, she arched off the blankets and let out a shout. Throwing her head back, she didn’t even try to hold on to the pretense of control. Her orgasm was sharp and intense, punching through her entire body like a physical body blow—though a lot more erotic and pleasurable.

Her canines extended and without thinking, she opened her eyes and searched out the side of Owen’s neck. As she pierced his skin, he shouted out and slammed into her. He found his own release and with a growl, he buried his face against her neck. A sharp sting was followed by a sharp burst of pleasure pushing out to all her nerve endings.

She clenched around his cock even tighter as he continued to release himself inside her. After shouting out his name, she fell back, completely limp.

Unable to lift even her arms, she stared at him as he propped himself over her. A slight grin lifted his lips as he stared at her neck. “You’re mine now.”

“Right back at ya,” she said, her eyes trailing to the two punctures on his neck.

The marks on his neck had already started to fade and while they would heal, they wouldn’t completely disappear. They’d remain there faintly, almost like very faded bruises. As if Owen’s scent covering her wasn’t enough—and vice versa—now everyone in the supernatural community would know on sight and scent that they were both off-limits. Her inner feline flexed its claws, very happy about that. She wanted the whole world to know he was taken. Hers.