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Unfortunately he’d already made a mistake this morning by marking her in the shower with his teeth. His inner wolf liked it, and even though he didn’t want to admit it, so did he. He hadn’t planned to do it, but it had happened and he wasn’t sorry. It wasn’t permanent—only bonding would be—but he’d marked her so that any paranormal creature would know that she was taken. That she belonged to him. Was it selfish? Hell, yeah. He just couldn’t work up any remorse. If she found out what he’d done . . . He swallowed hard. For some reason he couldn’t think straight around her. Not that it was anyone’s fault but his. He should have asked her first. Better yet, he shouldn’t have done it at all. But he’d let his primal side take over and his most primal side wanted Kat forever.

Her husky voice cut into his thoughts. “Don’t give me that sad-sounding ‘oh.’ I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time later to . . . you know.”

“No, I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?” He wanted her to spell it out for him. She always blushed when she talked dirty and it turned him on like nothing else could. The way she turned red always reminded him of their first time together. He’d spent hours working her up until she was panting and ready for him, so he’d gone down on her for quite a while. At first she’d been embarrassed that he wanted to kiss her between her legs. Her entire face had flushed crimson, but after that first climax, embarrassment had been the last thing on her mind.

“Whatever.” She shook her head as she zipped up her boots. “I’ll let you grope me during training . . . Oh, maybe I will wear a bra,” she said absently and opened the top dresser drawer.

“No training today.” He would just switch his intended schedule around, handle everything this morning and take part of the afternoon off.

She whipped around, sports bra in hand. “Why not?”

He shrugged and had to resist walking over to her, pulling her into his arms, and heading right back to bed. “I’ve got some stuff to do, and most of it involves you naked.”

“You can’t just cancel everything. . . . Well, I guess you can,” she murmured and he noticed the way her nipples tightened under her sweater. When that classic rose scent of her lust intensified, rolling off her in a deep wave, he grinned and didn’t bother restraining himself. It was her natural scent, but when she was turned on it was much stronger. His legs quickly ate up the distance between them until he was grabbing her hips and pulling her tight against him.

It soothed him that she didn’t argue about taking the day off and that she hadn’t been acting different around him this morning. She’d gotten into the shower without him—when she’d thought he was sleeping—and he hadn’t been sure what kind of reception he’d get when he joined her. She’d been more than willing, though, so he couldn’t ask for more. Well, he could and he would, but in time.

He still wasn’t sure what the hell he could do with his feelings for her. Shoving them away again wasn’t an option. He’d walked away from her once and he didn’t know how he could do it again. Especially since he’d marked her. Fuck, what had he been thinking? He hadn’t. That was the problem. Around her, coherent thought took a vacation. His feelings were all fucked up. He’d never had trouble focusing on his job before, but now . . . Kat changed everything.

He hadn’t bothered with a shirt because he’d known it was unlikely they’d make it out of the bedroom before making love at least once more, and as she ran her hands up his bare chest, he covered her mouth with his.

Hungrily he teased her lips open, invading her mouth with his tongue. His hips jerked almost involuntarily against her, pressing his erection against her lower abdomen.

She made a low moaning sound that cut straight through him. Grasping the bottom of her T-shirt, he paused only when he heard the insistent buzz of his phone dancing across the nightstand. He wanted to ignore it. Should ignore it.

Kat pulled back first. “Go on. You don’t know who it could be and we need to head to the ranch.” There was something in her eyes that he didn’t want to acknowledge.

Not relief exactly, but damn close. His phone buzzed again. “Yeah,” he answered on a snarl.

“Don’t come to the ranch today.” Connor’s voice was quiet.

A burst alarm of jumped inside him. “Why?”

“Cops are here. There were three murders yesterday. First at a trailer park, a lone man in the middle of the day was ripped apart inside his home. Guess he didn’t check in with his parole officer or he wouldn’t have been found so quickly. The second attack happened last night—two males. APL members.”

“All of them killed by a shifter?” Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Kat straighten, but he didn’t turn toward her. She would be able to hear the entire conversation since her senses were more sharpened now.

“Yeah. Bodies were definitely ripped apart by a shifter, according to Parker. Same teeth imprints as the first attack.” Connor’s voice was grim.

Shifters had larger jaws and teeth than their regular animal counterparts. Not to mention that the first human had been attacked inside his house. And now it seemed as if yet another human had been attacked the same way. The likelihood of those attacks being from an animal was slim, so if the imprints were the same for the second attack, it seemed like a good assumption it was a shifter. “What’re the cops doing?”

“DNA tests. They’ve got a court order for everyone who lives here. I know you’re not a member of the pack and don’t live here, but . . .”

“I got it.” If he was there they might attempt to test him and that sure as hell wasn’t happening. Not without a fight and that would just get messy. “Did you learn anything?”

“Humans must forget we can overhear everything. They only said the first attack took place inside a trailer, but they didn’t mention a location or other specifics. The attack on the bikers took place behind that biker bar you and Erin busted up a month and a half ago.”

“I’m on it.”

“Call me the second you figure out anything. I know they’re going to be watching the ranch after this, so I’m keeping everyone under lockdown for the time being, but if need be we can get away for backup.”

“Good idea. I’ll be in contact.” He disconnected and turned to meet Kat’s worried gaze.

“Do you think anyone at the ranch was responsible for this?” There was uncertainty in her voice.

He shook his head. It didn’t make sense, though at this point he couldn’t rule anything out. “No, but at least we’ve got a lead.” For a moment his gaze dipped to the outline of her breasts. Some days he wondered what it would be like if he had a normal job—then he quickly dismissed that thought. He’d be bored out of his mind. “Get dressed. You’re coming with me.”

Her pale blue eyes lit up. “I am?”

There was no way Jayce was leaving her behind. She was his to protect. “I know you heard that conversation, so pack a gun. If you don’t have one, I’ve got extra. Or you can use one of my blades.” He’d never made that offer to anyone and never would again. Showing Kat how he felt about her by offering up something so important to him was the only way he knew how to communicate. Telling her what she meant to him wouldn’t do a damn thing anyway. Clearly. He’d told her he loved her and she hadn’t responded. Maybe she needed to see how serious he was.

Now her eyes widened. “You serious?”

He shrugged as he turned on his heel, heading for the door. “Be ready in two minutes. I want to get out of here in case the cops decide to come sniffing around December’s house.”

By the time Jayce made it downstairs Kat was already waiting for him, wearing a thick black jacket belted over her dark jeans along with knee-high boots. He saw the faint outline of a gun at her back before she turned to him. A very small gun, likely a.380. Or that’s what she’d had back when they’d been together—a gift from her father. The lightweight weapon had an easy grip and was made to be concealable. He’d seen her at the range and knew she had no problem wielding it. Her accuracy was beyond impressive.


Kat nodded, her arms crossed over her chest. It wasn’t overt, but he could almost sense her pulling away from him. In the subtle way she stood by the front door, there was almost an invisible wall between them. It was thin, but if he didn’t do something about it now she’d keep building layers.

He knew her too well. And he refused to let her do that to him. To them. Grabbing her hips, he tugged her close.

She let out a yelp of surprise, her fingers splaying against his chest to balance herself. She opened her mouth, but he didn’t let her speak. Just crushed his mouth over hers in a move that was purely meant to dominate.

Eventually he pulled back and she stared up at him, breathless and looking more than a little dazed. “What was that for?”

“You don’t get to walk away from me. Not after you let me back in your life. Don’t think that’s an option,” he growled.

She blinked once. “I wasn’t—”

“No walls between us. And no lies.”

Kat was silent for a long beat, and he could hear her racing heart. Her eyes narrowed slightly. “No lies?”

He nodded.

“So you won’t be telling me any more giant lies like the one about shifters and bonding?”

He shook his head. Of course she’d bring that up. She had every right, but he didn’t want to fight with her this morning and he didn’t want to explain why he’d lied to her. She would just argue with him, convinced that she was right. Maybe, deep down in a place he couldn’t even acknowledge, he knew he should have given her a choice and told her the truth. But letting her knowingly make herself a target? He shuddered at the thought. “No more lies,” he ground out.

“Good to know.” Jayce waited for her to continue, but she stepped out of his embrace and grasped the door handle. “We should get out of here.”