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“Faith and Hope have not advanced this far in the change,” she whispered as she stood to her feet and picked up the bag that contained her samples. “I don’t know what to do, Aiden.Or how to help her.”

He shook his head wearily. “There is no cure,” he said softly. “She thinks this can be fixed. You think it can be fixed…”

“Aiden, I know it can’t be fixed. And I think Charity knows as well. You hear her words, but I saw her fears.” She walked over to him, sitting down beside him on the steps of the porch. “When she was in the Labs, the few times I was able to talk to her, she asked about you. Were you doing well? Had you found someone to care for you? Did you ever ask of her? These questions came out in many different ways, but they were always there. And the emotions behind them terrify her.”

“It is a mating…”

“No, Aiden. Not like you try to convince yourself. Charity loved you before you ever shot that semen down her throat. She talked of you, wrote about you, and worried herself to the point of tears that you would manage to get yourself killed before the rescue could be pulled off. This isn’t a mating for her, it’s a loving. And it’s that part of it that she denies.”

Aiden shook his head. He had known that, somewhere deep inside himself. But whatever love may have existed for Charity must have died long ago. And whatever ability he may have had to live had slowly withered away in his fight for survival. He was too hard, too dominating.

“What of her body?” he finally asked. “I can touch her, love her for hours and never cause her pain. What happened in there?”

She stared into the night as he glanced at her. In repose, her expression was frowning, thoughtful. “It’s similar to the Feline Breeds,” she finally said. “To a small extent, Hope and Faith have experienced it, though not to such an extreme. Why, I’m not certain, but I intend to find out.”

She stood to her feet, stepping down to the ground before turning back to face him.

“She thinks there’s a cure, Aiden,” she told him simply. “You and I both know better. Be careful how you deal with her, or she may run from you as well. If she does, we may never find her again.”

His eyes narrowed. “What are you not telling me, Armani?”

Her lips quirked secretively.“Things that only Charity has the right to reveal to you.Watch your step, my friend, or you be may lose more than you ever dreamed of holding.”

And with those words she turned and disappeared into the night. Aiden sighed wearily and walked back into the house, returning to his mate where she slept.

The sedative she had demanded halfway through the exam had made it a little easier on her. The fact that she had continued to demand the completion of it terrified him. She was desperate, certain there was a cure to the chemical reaction that bound their bodies to each other. Instinct warned Aiden there was no cure. No breaking the bonds nature hadlaid in place. He had accepted it; refused to fight it any longer. He had fed his hatred of her for years, but once he saw her again, once he touched her, he had begun accepting that he would never be free of her. What had

happened in those Labs six years before didn’t matter. She had done no more than he would have. She had saved her mate the only way she knew how. And now he would do the same. No more exams. He paced into the bedroom, undressing,staring at her as she slept restlessly. Until whatever changes her body was going through completed, no one else must be allowed to touch her, to weaken her. The progress she had made in the past two days had been destroyed within hours. She was pale once more, weak and in distress.

He moved into the bed beside her, pulling her into his arms. Her whimper caused his chest to tighten, his throat to close as she burrowed into his body. She was cold. Despite the blankets that had covered her, the fire burning across the room, she felt chilled to the bone. Finally, after agonizing seconds of body rubbing and burrowing, she found a spot that seemed to fit her. She sighed deeply and settled down to rest once again. Unfortunately, his cock was engorged now, throbbing, demanding the lithe body that had rubbed against it so sensually. He sighed tiredly. This mate business was getting more complicated by the day.

Chapter Eighteen

“I thought you might enjoy that ride into town today, since we didn’t get to go before.”

Aiden cleared the table of breakfast dishes the next morning before pulling his chair close to hers and lifting her feet to his lap. She was too quiet, too thoughtful. Too damned aroused. The scent of it was killing him. But first, he wanted her to relax, wanted her away from the compound, Armani, and a bed. She glanced up at him in surprise. “I was wondering about that. Why do you want to do that?A drive-through?”

He grinned up at her. “To see what I can see.”

He watched the play of emotions across her face; foremost was the frustration at his vague answer. Her expressive face had always tantalized and amazed him. Others rarely noticed what he did.A shift of a brow, a certain glitter in her brown eyes, the slight twitch at her lip or the taut line of her nose, which could change at any given moment.

The subtle changes in the muscles of her face would have been undetectable, but for some reason, always drew his eye. It had been the same at the Lab.A careful shift of her body to draw attention to her breasts, which covered the movement of her hands. Or a bright agreeing smile, though the muscles at her eyes tightened, as he had noticed in each confrontation they had. The differences were varied, nearly undetectable, and most he found endearing. Especially the way her gaze seemed to still, watching him, waiting, her expression neutral, a clear indication she was becoming irritated.His lips quirked at the thought.

“If anyone were going to attack us, they would use the town as a stopping point to gain the information they needed to do so. ‘Find your enemies weakness’ is always first priority. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” she answered slowly. The tip of her nose flexed, like a little twitch. Entranced at the small shifts, he continued.

“You and I will drive through town, perhaps stop at a fast food restaurant for a snack,just enjoy the day a bit before returning.As we do, there will be others watching, checking for oddities, or any undue attention being given us. Then we’ll return here as the others wait around, listen to what is said, who is asking questions and what happens.”

Her nose twitched again.Curiosity?

“You’re using the tactics the Council soldiers taught you to catch their assassins,” she finally said slowly.

“Basically.”He nodded.

“And they are aware of that.” She tilted her head, her eyelids tightening as though she would have narrowed them. “You are underestimating your enemy now, Aiden.”

He leaned back in his chair as amusement swelled within him. “Tactics weren’t your specialty, Charity,”

he pointed out. “I believe yours was blood work.”

She was offended now. The muscles at her cheekbones tightened, the sunlight from the window could have made her eyes appear to flash with a darker color, but he doubted it. Anger, he believed, was the culprit.

“And yours was arrogance,” she sniffed, not bothering to hide the irritation in her voice. “Sure, Aiden, a ride into town would be nice. It’s been a while since I’ve had a hamburger. I could handle one. And my feet are fine.”

She pulled them back from his lap now, setting them carefully on the floor. Aiden stilled his grin, aware that it would take very little to ruin the pleasant mood she was trying to maintain. He wanted her fiery, wanted the blood pumping through her veins, sensitizing her body. He didn’t want her angry, though. It would even be nice, he thought,if he could see her smile.A real smile. One filled with pleasure.

“If we could, I would like to stop and buy a few things I need. Some clothes, shoes and so forth. I can repay the expense…”

“The Council canceled all your accounts, Charity,” he began.

“I have private accounts,” she snapped. “I never used the Council money.”

“Charity.”He gentled his voice, knowing the blow to come would hurt. “Your personal accounts are intact, but empty. The funds were withdrawn six months before.”

She lowered her head, pushing her fingers wearily through her hair. “I had hoped they wouldn’t find them,” she sighed. “I should have known better, I guess.”

“When you’re stronger, you will work within the compound here. You don’t have to worry about money.”

Her cheeks flushed. “I don’t need your pity, Aiden. I have other resources. It will just take a while to get to them. I would still appreciate the loan. I will pay it back.”

“The loan isn’t a problem.” He stood to his feet, determined to smooth her way, however he must.

“We’ll stop at a few stores, get you what you need, but I won’t allow you to tire yourself any more than you are already. So don’t think you can sweet talk me into letting you.”

Her mouth almost dropped open. “I have never tried to sweet talk you into anything, Aiden, other than saving your worthless hide.”

“Always get your way don’t you, honey,” he griped. “Just tie the boy up and play on his weaknesses. How the hell did you know you could make my cock that hard, anyway?”

She rolled her eyes at the question. “You were so obvious, Aiden. Even limp your cock would throb when the drugs were in your system.”

“You watched?” He tried to sound scandalized as he snickered in open amusement. She drew in a deep, patient, sustaining breath.

“You’re insane,” she grumped. “What about that drive you promised me.”

He chuckled then, amazed that he could. The helpless irritation on her face, the flash of forced patience in her eyes, should have angered him. Instead it gave him hope. Hope for what, he wasn’t certain yet.

Chapter Nineteen

The early Colorado fall nights were crisp and cool. Perfect for a small fire and the warm coziness of the cabin Aiden had built. The day hadn’t been easy. The demands her body was making were even more difficult to contend with. The pain was gone, but the arousal was more strongly present than ever before. Controlling it wasn’t as hard as she had thought it would be. The friendly camaraderie she and Aiden had shared on the drive into town had helped. The bit of shopping she had done had been fun. The new clothes rather than Lab uniforms was nice. But now, as she fought to relax, to prepare for bed, her needs were making themselves strongly known.

After stacking her dishes from a light dinner into the dishwasher, she walked to the living room and the cheery fire that crackled in the fireplace between the living room and the bedroom. She pulled the extra large beanbag that sat against one wall to the front of the fire, and collapsed into it gratefully.

It cushioned her body, allowing her to relax as she extended her legs, pointing her feet to the warmth reflecting from the burning logs. The light gown she had donned after her shower rode to her thighs, allowing the warmth to flicker over the flesh there.

Closing her eyes she reveled in the peace, the sense of safety that permeated the Breed compound. Despite the high fences, the Enforcers and well-trained wolves, there was nothing here to remind her of the Labs and the imprisonment she had found there. But there was much here to remind her of Aiden. Each inhalation of air she breathed in was scented with him. The earthly male hint of sexuality and lust was nearly overpowering at times.Like now. When her body ached, when she wanted nothing more than to feel him against her, feel him touch her, despite her awareness of what was coming. Her breasts were swollen, the nipples hard and distended against the cotton gown she wore. Almost lazily her hands lifted. She was alone, relaxed, and she ached. Her hand went to the covered mounds, her teeth clamping on her lower lip as she fought a moan of purely sexual need. Her breasts were sensitive beneath her own fingers, her nipples rising harder to meet the touch of her fingers. She loosened the buttons that ran down the front of the garment until she could pull the edges back to expose the firm curves to the warmth of her hands. She needed Aiden’s hands there. She gripped one nipple between two fingers, breathing in sharply at the sharp sting of pleasure that pulled a gasp from her lips. Aiden’s hands were more calloused, larger than hers, but the fantasy worked at the edges of her mind. Aiden touching her, relieving the growing need building just beneath her flesh. He wasn’t due back to the cabin for hours. She was safe, she thought as she breathed harshly in growing need. She needed relief, no matter how minor.


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