“Does that not hurt as much to shifters?” she growled between gritted teeth.

“It hurts,” he rasped. “We just know how to channel the pain better than humans.”

“That doesn’t seem fair,” she muttered, trying to wriggle out from his hold. Maybe she should feel bad about kneeing him, but after hours of his form of training, she was beyond guilt. The feel of his hard body on top of hers did things to her she’d rather ignore. Her entire body heated and the juncture between her thighs was embarrassingly damp. Feeling all that muscle and strength against her made her remember the many, many times they’d been in this very position before. With a lot fewer clothes involved.

“Fair . . .” Jayce’s gaze trailed to her mouth and instinctively she licked her lips.

The instant she did, she felt his erection, hard and unmistakable, pressing against her lower abdomen.

Before she could tell him to stop—or even mentally protest to herself—Jayce’s lips covered hers. His tongue delved into her mouth, searching, hungry and needy. As his grip on her hand loosened and moved to cup her cheek, she could feel herself falling.

Falling under the weight of his desire and his kisses. The scent of his lust combined with her own was damn near suffocating. She felt as if she were drowning in sensations as his tongue probed her mouth, not gently but expertly and wickedly. He knew exactly what he was doing. Exactly what she needed because he’d kissed her a thousand times.

And she’d let him.

But not now. No matter how much she enjoyed it. No matter how much she’d fantasized about being with him again, this would never, ever work between them. He hadn’t wanted her enough to turn her into a shifter when she’d been human. She couldn’t give in to what were purely physical desires now. Even if her new animalistic side wanted only that. She was still in control of her actions. Panic bubbled inside her as she shoved against his chest.

Thankfully he didn’t fight her, but he also didn’t move fully off her. Just kept his muscular body over hers, pinning her to the ground until finally she pushed him again.

“I thought training was supposed to be professional,” she said as she got to her feet. Without glancing at him, she grabbed her top from the ground and stalked out of the barn. Jayce didn’t follow and she was glad. Getting away from him was the most important thing for her sanity right now.

He might have kissed her, but she’d definitely kissed him back. She couldn’t afford to make that mistake again. She needed Jayce for his skills and training. Getting tangled up with him again . . . She shuddered. No, thank you. She might need him, but she wasn’t enough of a masochist to invite the kind of agony he would bring her in the end.

Chapter 3

How could I be so stupid? Kat hurried across the open yard toward December and Liam’s house. She shouldn’t have allowed herself to be vulnerable to Jayce like that.

Taking off her top probably hadn’t been the best idea, but damn it, she’d needed to get a punch in before her arm fell off. Being pinned underneath him with no shirt on . . . She shivered, and it had nothing to do with the icy chill in the air. The feel of all his muscle and strength and raw power was way too familiar. It would have been so easy to give in to that kiss, to wrap her legs around him and . . . Nope. Not going there. She gave her head a sharp shake as if that could somehow force away memories of their hot, sweaty bodies tangled up together.

When she reached December’s doorstep, she knocked once. Moments later the door opened and her redheaded best friend stood there with a slightly swelling belly. Petite and much shorter than Kat, December practically glowed. Pregnancy definitely agreed with her. Her blue eyes widened slightly. “Kat! Come in.”

Kat pushed down the guilt. Her friend shouldn’t be surprised to see her, but Kat had been keeping her distance since December and Liam moved back to the ranch recently. After the torture Kat had endured, both of her friends had lived with her for a little over a month, and for that she was grateful. She should have visited here more. “If you’re sure you’re not busy and I’m not interrupting anything—”

December rolled her eyes, grabbed Kat’s hand, and tugged her inside. “You can join me in the kitchen. I can’t seem to stop baking. Though of course I can’t eat any of it without puking it back up. But I like the smell. I think I’m driving Liam a little crazy.”

Kat snorted softly at she followed her friend into the country-style kitchen. “I don’t think that’s possible.” Her eyes widened when she saw the racks of cupcakes, cookies, and a couple of cakes. “Holy crap, you weren’t kidding.”

“I know.” A timer went off and December opened the oven, pulling out what looked like lemon squares, and Kat’s mouth watered.

“Is that what I think it is?”

“Yes, and you can take the whole thing once I’m finished.” December didn’t look up as she grabbed a metal tin from the pantry, so Kat took a seat in one of the chairs at the center island.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been around lately.”

December shook her head as she started to dust the contents of the pan with powdered sugar. “You don’t have anything to apologize for.”

But she did. December was just too forgiving. And an incredibly good friend. She’d never once pressured her to talk about what had happened to her in that barn. Well, December had tried to talk Kat into seeing a therapist, but she hadn’t been pushy. Considering that December had been turned into a shifter too—though she’d undergone the change because of her pregnancy and wouldn’t be able to shift forms until after the birth—she had her own issues to deal with, but she’d been the best friend Kat could ask for. “I just stopped by to see what you and Liam were up to. I’m surprised you’re not working today.” Especially since it was Saturday. One of the busiest days at her friend’s bookstore.

“Right now Erin’s watching the store, but I’m going in around lunchtime. I’m going to try selling some of these baked goods, see if there’s a market for them.”

Kat inhaled deeply, dying to dive into the lemon squares, especially after the workout she’d just had. “I can’t imagine any of this stuff lasts very long in your store.”

A small smile touched her face. “Or in this house. Liam’s like a garbage disposal.”

Kat grinned. “So, what’s your man up to today?” In addition to avoiding December she’d also been steering clear of the entire pack and Liam. She felt like a jerk for avoiding the two people who’d been so good to her when she’d needed it most. But she hadn’t wanted to bring them down with her issues. Not when they were newly mated and soaking up the bliss of their new relationship. Plus Kat had begun to feel like a third wheel around them.

“He’s with his brother.” December shrugged, but Kat didn’t miss the tart, almost bitter scent that emanated from her friend. It was subtle, but Kat was learning to read scents better.


December glanced up as she set her hand sifter down a little harder than necessary. Powdered sugar scattered across the counter. “Liam and Brianna seem to think it’s all fine and dandy for Brianna to infiltrate . . .” She cleared her throat as she trailed off, her eyes widening.

Kat brushed past the awkward pause. “The APL?”

December nodded. “Yeah.”

“And you don’t agree with your mate?”

“No. And neither does Connor. With all the stupid newscasts lately trying to paint a poor picture of shifters I think it’s smarter if we keep a low profile. We’re not doing anything wrong, and going after them will only invite trouble.” December growled low in her throat as she yanked another cookie sheet out from a cabinet, and Kat guessed she wasn’t even aware of it.

She also knew that the reason December was getting worked up was because of her brother, Parker. The local sheriff had recently taken some flak from the town news, insinuating that he was covering up shifter wrongdoing. Kat had to bite back a snort at that thought. As if. The sheriff was too good a man. Even though Kat didn’t agree with December, she didn’t voice her opinion. “So he and Connor are out hunting down APL members?”

December shook her head. “Not exactly. Liam, Connor, and Brianna are out scouting some of the addresses from that damn list.”


“Yeah. About six weeks ago Liam and Jayce found a flash drive at the house of that asshole who tried to kidnap me. It’s got names and addresses of a lot of local APL members or supporters and now Connor’s given Jayce, Liam, and Brianna a copy. I don’t know exactly what they’re doing today, but I think Brianna wants to see who will be her easiest target. Or at least that’s what Liam insinuated.”

They had a list of APL members who lived in the vicinity? Kat’s fingers ached to get hold of it. Her hands clenched in her lap. Even knowing it was out there made her palms damp and her heart rate increase. But she didn’t let her excitement show. It would only worry December if she knew Kat wanted the list. And if she knew Kat was interested, it would make it that much harder for Kat to get a copy for herself.

Hating herself at that moment, Kat stood. “Mind if I use your bathroom?”

“Of course not.” December didn’t glance up as she scooped out a cup of flour and poured it into a mixing bowl.

Kat fought the surge of guilt that forked through her, jagged and twisted, reaching all her nerve endings with a sharp warning note, telling her how wrong her plan was. But she ignored it as she bypassed the bathroom and hurried to Liam’s office. She needed this. Had to do something to find closure. Connor had made copies for his brother, Jayce, and Brianna, but of course he hadn’t given her one or even told her about it. She didn’t know much about pack dynamics, and it made sense that he hadn’t involved her, but she didn’t plan to ignore this bit of knowledge. She wasn’t even sure if Liam would have the list lying around, but before she checked Connor’s house, she had to eliminate the possibility that it was here. Searching her Alpha’s office wasn’t an idea she relished. Granted, searching her best friend’s house made her feel like shit too, but it had to be done.