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But it was hard to feel the dread of that fact right now. Hard to feel anything but pure masculine satisfaction as he held her sweat-sheened, naked beauty against him and reveled in the pleasure she was taking from him.

He kissed her as the last of her orgasm ebbed, caressed her pretty face as her bliss-drugged gaze lifted up to meet his amber eyes. When he spoke, it was with a gravelly depth that sounded more animal than man, even to his own ears. "I knew we'd end up like this, naked together in my bed."

He wasn't proud of it. But he sure as hell couldn't muster much regret.

Part of the reason he'd held out so long with her in the first place, before his life took the detour he was currently on, was that he knew giving in to his desire for Mira - consummating it - would only make him crave her that much more. Loving her like this only made him want to taste her. To bind her to him. Things he had no right to want anymore.

Years ago he'd resisted his temptation for her with a rigid will he could hardly fathom now. What a fool he'd been to hold her at a distance, to push her away. Now all he wanted was to keep her close. He couldn't keep her close enough.

He gave a slow thrust of his hips, groaning at the delicious, wet friction of their bodies. He caressed her face, brushed a damp lock of hair from her forehead. "I knew when the call came in from my crew at Ackmeyer's place, and I made the decision to bring you here . . . I knew if I saw you again, I would not be able to resist touching you, kissing you." He pressed his lips to her brow, tracing his thumb over the outline of the Breedmate mark that rode at the hairline of her left temple. "And I knew that if I let that happen, if I touched you, kissed you, there'd be no stopping me from eventually getting inside you again too."

Mira's fingers were twined in his hair, cupping the back of his skull. "I don't want you to stop." She pulled him down for a fevered kiss that made his whole body go taut and electric. She moved beneath him, rocking into him with ungentle demand. Her kiss ended with a nip of her teeth on his lower lip. Her breath was hot against his mouth, hungry. "Don't stop, Kellan."

Ah, Christ.

He couldn't have stopped now if his life depended on it.

He took her mouth in a hard claiming, at the same time driving his cock deep and slow, filling her with all of him, seating his thick shaft to the hilt. Her gasp spurred him on, her soft mewls making his arousal knot ever tighter, each thrust a possessive, hungered thing.

He swept his hand down the length of one smooth thigh, bending her at the knee and bringing her leg up onto his shoulder. He rolled his pelvis against her in another deep push, his tempo rising, racing to match the fierce beat of his pulse.

"I can't get deep enough inside you," he snarled against her mouth. "I want all of you."

"Yes," she whispered, holding on to him as he drove harder, lost to everything but the feel of her sheath wrapped around him like a glove, her delicate muscles clenching him with sweet ripples of pressure.

He touched her cheek, wanting to see her face in the moment he exploded inside her. It was roaring up on him quickly, a coil of heat at the base of his spine.

Mira turned her head within the cradle of his palm and pressed a kiss there. The tip of her pink tongue darted out, moist and hot against his skin. He pumped harder, about to lose all control. And then she turned her head and took his thumb into her mouth. She sucked him deep, the pad of her tongue cushioning him, cleaving to him, just as her tight channel clutched and suckled the rigid length of his cock.

Kellan thrust with frenzied abandon, the knot of pain and pleasure building, ratcheting up with each heavy throb of his pulse. Mira didn't let go of his thumb. She swirled her tongue around him, her eyes locked on his as he slid in and out of her mouth, shuddering deep in his bones at the feel of her blunt little incisors grazing his skin. Then she closed her teeth, clamping onto him in a bite that triggered every sensory switch in his body.

Kellan roared as his orgasm erupted.

He couldn't hold back, feeling the wild rush of his seed shooting through him, filling her. He came hard and fast and frenzied. The force of his release staggered him, left him shaking as he spilled himself deep inside Mira's hot, wet sheath.

As he came, he knew a sudden sense of relief that regardless of how wrong it was to be taking his pleasure with her, at least he wouldn't be planting a child in Mira. No, that would take more than the pure, reckless impulse that put him between her thighs today. It would also take the fertile time of a crescent moon phase and the simultaneous exchange of blood between a male of his kind and a woman bearing the Breedmate birthmark.

Thoughts of blood and bonding were dangerous things. Especially now, when Kellan's fevered gaze was already drawn to the artery ticking like a caged butterfly in the side of Mira's delicate throat. Beneath the intoxicating scent of Mira's skin, dewy with clean sweat and the musky perfume of sex, Kellan's Breed senses caught the faint lily sweetness of her blood.

His hunger to drink from her - to pierce his fangs into the smooth white column of her neck and bind her to him as his mate for life - returned with the force of a gale storm, almost too much to bear.

"Shit," he muttered, closing his eyes and turning his head away from the temptation.

Mira's gentle hands brought him back, her palms framing his face. But her eyes held a note of sadness. Confusion in her softly murmured words. "You never wanted to take that last step with me. You never wanted to bond with me."

"Do you really believe that?" He searched her gaze, hoping that behind the purple lenses that shielded her eyes' true color - lenses that muted her seer's gift - Mira knew she was the only one he'd ever imagined would stand at his side as his blood-bonded mate.

But even that hope was a cruelty on his part, because whether he wanted her for his own or not, fate, apparently, had other ideas.

Kellan had seen it for himself, on another morning like this, when he'd held Mira naked in his arms, their bodies intimately joined, pleasured and exhausted, just as they were now.

He leaned down and placed a tender kiss on each of her eyelids, apology or absolution, he wasn't quite sure. "It would've been you, Mira. If I could believe we have some kind of future together - any kind of future that won't end with me hurting you deeply - then it would be you. But I can't give in to something irrevocable, something that would be eternal and binding, when I know there's no good to come from it."

The sadness and confusion that had been in her gaze a moment ago turned a little flinty now. She blew out a scoff, her mouth twisting into a look he'd seen often enough when they were growing up together. "Part of me wants to call you a first-class asshole for saying that while you're still inside me. But that wouldn't be fair, would it? Because I wanted to fuck you as much as you evidently wanted it too. Not that any good will come of this either."

Kellan winced. "This wasn't just a fuck, for crissake."

"What was it, then?"

He gave a shake of his head, his mind filled with a thousand adjectives that wouldn't even come close to describing what he was feeling, lying there with Mira, growing hard within her all over again.

He gave a slow thrust of his hips, moaned when she met him with an arch of her spine that took him even deeper. "God, I wish you didn't feel so good. I wish you didn't feel so right. I'm not ready to leave you yet." He lowered his head and kissed her, a long, passionate joining of their mouths. When he finally broke away from her lips, his breath was sawing out of his lungs, rasping through his elongated fangs. "Ah, fuck . . . this was a mistake. Now that I have you under me, I'm not sure how I'm going to let you out of my bed."

Mira braced her hands on his bare chest and pushed him onto his back. She went with him, keeping him nestled inside her as she came up astride him. "Now you're under me, and maybe I'll have something to say about whether or not we get out of this bed."

She rolled her pelvis, seating him as deep as he could go. Then she began to ride him slowly, drawing out each stroke to agonizing lengths. She closed her eyes as she moved atop him, her lithe warrior's body arching and flexing with a dancer's grace as she held him inside her, rocked him toward a swiftly building climax. Her small breasts bobbed as she found her tempo, and it was all Kellan could do not to come in a rush as he watched his thick cock disappear into her cleft with each bouncing stride.

God, she was sexy. The hottest thing he'd ever known. Tough and stubborn and courageous, tenacious in everything she'd ever taken on in life, including him.

No male - Breed or human alike - could ever hope for a better woman to call his mate. And for one crazy moment, Kellan let himself imagine that she was, in fact, his. That everything was different, and he didn't have to let her go.

That he hadn't looked into her naked eyes eight years ago and glimpsed a future that would tear them apart. One that would brand him a traitor to everyone he'd ever loved.

The vision came back to him in ruthless detail.

Kellan arrested by Lucan and the Order, accused of conspiracy and murder, high treason. All of the charges indefensible. All of his crimes carrying capital punishments.

And Mira, standing before Lucan and the Global Nations Council in a cavernous meeting chamber, begging them for mercy.

Dissolving in grief a moment later, when the judgment was handed down.


Kellan didn't realize he'd gone still beneath her until Mira's hands stroked his face. "Are you all right? Where did you go just now?"

He shook his head, tried to purge the vision and the heavy regret that had become lodged in the pit of his stomach. "I'm right here," he said, reaching up to caress the worry from the downward twist of her mouth. "I'm good. Right now, everything is good."

She smiled, turning a kiss into his palm. She started moving on top of him again, sighing as she found her rhythm once more and rode him with beautiful abandon.

When she was moaning with arousal, arcing above him in the throes of another orgasm, Kellan tumbled her down beneath him and took her pleasure higher. He wanted to give her nothing but joy in that moment, enough to last.

Enough to last them both.

Chapter Twelve

MIRA WOKE UP SOMETIME LATER THAT MORNING, NESTLED into the crook of Kellan's strong arm. His warmth surrounded her, a cocoon of peace and contentment she hadn't known for a very long time.

Not since the morning eight years before, when she'd awakened in a similar pose, in a similar state of blissful exhaustion.

That day had ended in a nightmare of fire and ash and tears. Today she felt renewed. Hopeful. She felt happy, and that scared her more than anything. Especially when her happiness had come in the arms of Kellan Archer. Not the teenage boy she'd adored as a child. Not even the young Breed warrior who'd trained alongside her with the Order and had become her dearest, most trusted friend and confidant.

No, her happiness had been delivered by the leader of an outlaw band of rebels, who'd not only abducted an innocent civilian but defied Lucan Thorne and the entire Order by disrupting an operation and taking one of its members hostage.

A hostage who had very willingly tumbled into bed to sleep with the enemy.

Among other things.

Wicked, wonderful things.

Mira couldn't resist kissing the bulky biceps that caged her against Kellan's big body. She tongued the arcing lines of the glyphs on his arm, delighting in the flood of dark color left in the wake of her teasing kiss.

He stirred. With a low moan, he flexed his arm and tucked her farther into his embrace. His chest was a wall of solid heat against her nipples, his ridged abdomen like sun-warmed granite against her belly. And lower still, his arousal was quite obviously apparent, nudging into her hip, stiff and hot. Much too tempting for her roaming hands.

Mira carefully traced her fingers along the smoothness of his chest and abs, past his navel, to the bristly thatch of crisp hair and the jutting girth of his sex. She stroked him once, marveling at the softness that encased so much rigid steel. And the fat plum that crowned his shaft, already weeping with a bead of moisture as she ran her fingertips over the head of his penis.

She flicked her gaze up to see if she'd woken him.

Ember-bright eyes stared back at her, blazing with wide-awake desire.

"Pleasant dreams?" she asked him, attempting innocence.

He wasn't buying it. His dark goatee stretched wickedly around his mouth, lips peeled back in a smile that was purely carnal. "Who needs dreams when reality is fondling me so sweetly?"

He rolled her beneath him, moving with a speed that startled her, even though she was well aware of the power and agility that was always at his command. Mira spread her thighs to accommodate him, ready for him again. Her heart knocking like a hammer in her breast.

Kellan bent to take her earlobe between his lips and teeth, murmuring blush-worthy plans for all the ways he intended to enjoy her in those next moments.

Mira's pulse was clamoring so urgently, her body so ripe for his taking, it took her a second to realize he'd gone suddenly still and tense above her. He lifted his head, stock-still now.

"What the fuck - "

Someone was in the corridor outside, banging on the door. The rapping came again, fast and hard. Panicked.

"Bowman! Are you in there?" A female voice, pitched high with worry. Not Candice, but the other woman of the rebel base. "Bowman, come quick!"

"It's Nina," Kellan murmured, already rolling off Mira and throwing on his pants. He sent her a sober look. Mira scrambled out of the bed and hurried into his T-shirt and sweatpants. He glanced to make sure she was clothed, then flipped the lock with his mind and opened the door on Nina's ashen face.

"Oh, my God," the human woman gasped. "It's Vince. He - oh, my God!"


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