* * *

Esperanze knocked on Antoine’s door, then tried his phone again when he didn’t answer.

“He might have hooked up with someone or decided to head back to his home.” Nikan stood watch in the hallway of the hotel like he actually was her bodyguard.

It was something she adored about him. No matter what, he was always alert, always ready for any danger, even if it was highly unlikely they’d be facing any. “I know, I just feel bad. He wanted to talk and . . .” She trailed off, not wanting to bring up what she and Nikan had done less than an hour ago.

Not because she regretted it, but because she wasn’t sure where things were headed with them. She didn’t have much experience with men and definitely not with alphas. Her lovers had all been betas. Just like her. Things had never been particularly wild or animalistic, just sweet and perfectly pleasurable. And she’d never in a million years thought she’d let someone bring her to orgasm in a public place. Sure, they’d been blocked by a curtain, but that wasn’t much of a barrier. Her lower abdomen clenched as she remembered the way Nikan had expertly brought her to release. It had been exquisite and made her entire body heat up just remembering it.

“Whatever you’re thinking about, don’t stop.” Nikan’s voice was low and enticing, bringing her out of her thoughts.

She had to remind herself to control her emotions around him. If she didn’t, he’d scent every little change. Now that she’d finally admitted to herself how much she was attracted to him, she kept forgetting to keep herself in check. The past few weeks it had been difficult to hide her desire, but she’d done it. Now he knew exactly how much she craved him and it was impossible to deny it. Sighing, she slid her phone back in her purse. “We can stop by in the morning. He doesn’t have a speaking engagement until tomorrow afternoon, but hopefully he’ll be back.”

Shoving her hands into the pockets of her coat, she started down the hallway with Nikan right next to her. But he didn’t give her any space and she wasn’t sure if she should be thankful or not. He wrapped an arm around her as they reached the elevator doors and kept that hold all the way out of Antoine’s hotel to the one they were staying in next door. Only when they reached their hotel room door did he loosen his grip, and that was only so he could open the door and do a quick search of their room. Since she didn’t scent anyone she didn’t wait for him to finish his cursory check before stepping inside and closing the door behind her.

Now that they were alone—actually alone with no outside distractions or clubgoers a stone’s throw away—panic settled over her skin, feather light. It wasn’t a bone deep kind of thing, more like jittery nerves that she couldn’t get a handle on.

Trying to ignore his very male presence, she went to her suitcase and pulled out a long-sleeved pajama set. As a shifter she preferred to sleep with a lot less clothing on, but since they were sharing a bed there was no way that was happening. Now she was glad she’d packed pajamas at the last minute. “I’m going to take a shower and get ready for bed,” she said as she turned to face him.

Nikan was standing by his own suitcase, which was next to the small breakfast table. For a moment it looked like he might say something, but he just nodded, those dark eyes tracking her every move.

Only once she was behind the closed bathroom door did she allow herself to breathe. Her hands actually shook as she shed her coat and ripped dress. She was thankful for the privacy the small room gave her. Once she was naked, however, she couldn’t help but imagining what it would be like to invite Nikan in to join her as she stepped into the shower. She’d seen him in wolf form but never without clothes on, and thoughts of what he’d look like had haunted her fantasies. After pulling her hair into a big clip so it wouldn’t get wet, she gritted her teeth and turned the shower knob so that cold water blasted over her. She needed to keep her thoughts tame and her mind off any sort of sex with him. Because thinking about what he would look like naked made all sensible thought fly right out the window.

After a very cold shower, she felt like she had a better grasp on her emotions and was better armed to face Nikan. They were two adults and would have no problem sharing a bed tonight. She could definitely keep her hands to herself. Once she was changed into her pajamas and had brushed her teeth, she scooped up her discarded clothes and opened the door. The room was already dark, but thanks to her extrasensory abilities, it took less than a second for her to adjust.

Before she’d taken two steps Nikan was there, pressing her up against the wall next to the bathroom. His hands cupped her face as his mouth slanted over hers.

She didn’t have time to think before his tongue was invading her mouth. He stroked against hers, taking and teasing and sending zings of pleasure to all her nerve endings. She was vaguely aware of her clothes dropping to the floor because she pressed her hands to his chest to steady herself.

That’s when it registered he wasn’t wearing a shirt. He’d moved so fast she hadn’t noticed before, but those were definitely rock hard muscles she was stroking. Allowing herself to roam over the taut planes of his body, she only stopped when he pulled back.

Breathing hard to stare down at her, he said, “I don’t care how long you want to wait to . . . get more physical, but you don’t get to pull away from me emotionally.”

His words were like ice water slapping her in the face because he read her perfectly. “I wasn’t—”

“Yes, you were and I won’t let you. After what we just shared, that’s not happening. You trusted me enough to let me stroke you to orgasm in a public place. I can’t deal with walls right now.” He let his hands fall as he took a step back.

When he did, her gaze automatically zeroed in on his chest. She fought to keep her mind from going blank at the gorgeous sight before her. He was completely right. She’d been trying to pull away from him, to put some distance between them for her own sanity. As her eyes drank in what her fingers had just traced, her wolf side tried to tell her human side to get over herself. All those flat planes and sharp striations just begged to be touched. Her hands balled into fists by her sides as she forced herself not to touch him. Sighing she looked back up at him. “Okay, no walls, but if we’re sharing a bed tonight, you’re wearing a shirt.”

He looked almost affronted for a moment before he realized what she meant. What? Had he actually thought she was repulsed by him? She almost snorted at the thought.

“My shirt is staying off,” he said as he followed her to the bed.

“No way.” She folded her ruined dress and shoved it in her suitcase before pulling the overpacked thing off the bed. Then she pointed to the other side. “You’re sleeping on that side and you’re wearing clothes.”

A smile played on his lips as he walked to the other side wearing dark slacks and no shoes. For some reason the sight of his bare feet turned her on too. What was wrong with her? Toes weren’t supposed to be sexy. Looking away she grabbed the top of the comforter and pulled down harder than necessary.

He did the same, though not as hard, and didn’t make a move to put on a shirt.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you forgetting something?”

“No, and if you push it, these are coming off too.” His fingers played with the top button of his pants. “And I’m not wearing any boxers.”

Her throat tightened at the last statement, but she found her voice. “Don’t even think about it.” She slid into the bed and pulled the covers up to her chest. A quick glance at the nightstand reassured her that her cell phone was where she’d placed it earlier. She’d preset her alarm to wake her up in the morning, but she wanted it nearby in case Antoine called.

Turning on her side, she faced Nikan as he slid into bed next to her. Elbow bent, he propped his head up on one hand as he stared at her. Her life would be so much easier if one of them was sleeping on the floor. But she wouldn’t ask him to do that and she knew he’d never let her, so it would be pointless to even bring it up. Sharing a bed might be torture, but that was just the way it was.

“I don’t think it’s fair that you’re fully dressed.” His voice had dropped a few octaves, taking on an incredibly sensual quality.

Behind Nikan, the curtain to their window was pulled back a few inches, letting some of the unnatural light of other hotels and the city spill into the room. It illuminated his long, lean form. Not that she had any problem seeing him. She almost wished she couldn’t see him so well. “Life isn’t fair,” she said quietly, holding back a grin at his soft growl. He scooted a few inches closer so she took one of the pillows and placed it in between them. “No way. You stay on your side.” If he touched her right now, it would short-circuit her ability to reason.

Completely ignoring her, he tossed the pillow to the floor then tugged her close to him. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her until her head was on his chest and she was practically draped around him. Esperanze thought about pulling away, but deep down, she didn’t want to.

He wasn’t being sexual, just holding her close. Even though she could feel his erection pressing against her abdomen thanks to their intertwined position, he was simply stroking down her back with his hand in a gentle rhythmic motion.

She sighed and relaxed more into him. “I’m glad you came with me to the conference. Alicia’s death hit me and my sisters pretty hard. Then to lose Carmen . . . I don’t know how Ana is keeping it together so well.” Ana was one of her older cousins, their Alpha’s bondmate, and she’d recently lost a sister too. They’d all lost packmates a couple months ago due to a rapid, vicious poisoning of their pack, but it had happened so fast and they’d all had one anoother to lean on. To lose two of their youngest, sweetest members so recently had been a brutal blow to the entire pack, reminding them they could still be targeted by blind, ignorant fools.

His grip around her tightened. “I would have come even without Connor’s approval.”