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She shook her head, eyes glinting with panic. “No, don’t stop. God, don’t stop.”

Fuck. He kept on powering into her, branding her with every possessive stroke, driven by the need to claim and his wolf’s determination to take and own. “You looked so fucking good with my cock in your mouth. You’ll take it again. But next time, I’ll come down your throat.” Her pussy squeezed and fluttered around him.

As he stared down at her—taking in the gorgeous tattoos, the hot little piercing, the way her tits jiggled with each thrust, and the way her eyes glazed over—he felt his own release closing in on him.

He leaned over her. “Bite me,” he growled. “Mark me, Frankie.” He knew that the moment he sank his own teeth into her skin, the moment he finally claimed what belonged to him, his cock would fucking detonate. He didn’t want to be midorgasm and half out of his mind when she claimed him; he wanted to feel every second of it. “Do it,” he growled.

Needing it as badly as he did, Frankie reared up and bit down hard on the crook of his neck, drawing blood—she sucked and licked, branding him, just as her wolf demanded.

“Fuck, baby.” He sucked her pulse into his mouth, felt it beating there hard and fast, and he sank his teeth down hard enough to break the skin. His release slammed into him, and he roughly rammed his cock deep as he exploded. Her pussy contracted around him as a scream tore from her throat and she came. All the while, he sucked and licked to leave that definite mark that would never fade, that would declare to the world that she belonged to him.

He collapsed over her, shuddering and gasping for breath. “Baby—” White-hot pain stabbed his head and pierced his chest. His breath seemed to stutter, and his vision dimmed. Beneath him, her back briefly arched, and then a gasp of wonder flew out of her. He knew why—because the pain quickly smoothed away as the mating bond now pulsed between them.

Satisfaction. Relief. Awe. Each emotion ballooned inside him. He’d known that the bond would make him feel utterly complete—she was the other half of his soul. But nothing could have prepared him for just how powerful the bond truly was. It soothed and anchored him. Gave him a sense of home that even his pack had never given him.

Trick cupped her face, stroking his thumb along her cheekbone and enjoying the soul-deep knowledge that this creature was and would always be his. No one would ever take her from him. No one. Never again. “You okay?”

“Uh-huh.” Frankie didn’t need to ask how he was feeling; masculine satisfaction and contentment buzzed down the bond, touching her mind as clearly as the pads of his fingers touched her face.

She hadn’t expected to be able to feel the bond so strongly, but it was as much a part of her as her limbs. She felt Trick everywhere, as if she now wore him as a second skin—it was hard to explain. She felt . . . centered. Balanced. Whole. Knew this bond would settle and steady her in a way that nothing else ever could have. Equally happy and tranquil, her wolf stretched out, lazy with utter contentment.

As his cock slipped out of her, Trick lifted her in his arms and carried her inside the room. Gently he lay her on the bed, keeping her close. “Now you’re irrevocably mine.”

He sounded so smug about it, but she was way too relaxed to care. She snuggled into him and doodled on his chest with her fingers. “I didn’t intend to leave you, bond or no bond.”

Trick almost snorted. He wouldn’t have let her leave him. He kissed her gently, sipping from her mouth. He liked her this way, muscles loose and limp, eyes heavy lidded and languid. “What brought that on? What made you reach for the bond?” he asked.

“It was a couple of things.”

Realizing she was tracing her name on his skin with her finger, he smiled. “Such as?”

“Well, I was sitting there, thinking of everything you told me, and I had to face that you were right. I wouldn’t find a way to make everyone happy. I had to do what was right for me and my wolf. I knew she was testing you to see if you were worthy, but I didn’t really understand it. Not until I realized she was ready to be claimed.”

“She was ready?”

“Not until today. You see, growing up, I didn’t have other shifters in my life. My maternal family didn’t fully accept me, and they sure as hell didn’t accept my wolf. She and I only really had each other. I was her protector, and she was mine. I guess she wasn’t prepared to give up that job unless it was to someone she felt could and would truly protect me. You did it when my grandfather came to my house. You did it at the funeral, when people were crowding me and I needed to get away. And you did it again today, when you scared Drake away and stayed with me. The whole staying-with-me part seemed to mean more to her.”

“It was important to her that you were my priority,” said Trick, understanding. “She needed to know that I’d put you first—including before my own anger and my own thirst for vengeance.” Because no one had put Frankie first in a very long time. He appreciated that her wolf was so protective of her, and it humbled him that the animal trusted him with Frankie.

“Although all those things you did meant something to me too, I was still holding on to the hope that I could make each side of my family accept the other. But then you told me what Brad did, and I realized that I was going to have to choose.” She rubbed her thumb over the brand she’d left on his neck, but she kept her eyes locked with his. “I chose you and whatever comes with you.”

Curving his hand around her nape, Trick kissed her. Consumed her. Relished the knowledge that she’d chosen him. He rested his forehead against hers. “I’m going to be hell to live with until the mating bond snaps fully into place. Even more ridiculously possessive and hyperprotective than I was before. I won’t like other males getting too close to you, especially if they’re unmated. My wolf will be just as intense about all this. Be patient with us.”

“I can’t promise that.” Frankie wasn’t known for her patience. “When will the bond fully snap into place?”

“When you let go of whatever’s blocking it.”

She frowned. “I’m not holding back from you.”

“No, but you’re holding back slightly from the bond.”

Frankie’s frown deepened as she thought on it. “I’m not doing it on purpose.” She tried to undo it, tried to figure why it was happening, but she couldn’t. “Seriously, Trick, I don’t mean to hold back. I don’t know how to fix it.”

“Shh, don’t panic.” Trick kissed her. “Give it time. We’ll work out what it is, and we’ll take care of it. But this isn’t something that can be rushed.” He lapped at his mark. There was a world of difference between knowing she was his and having that assurance that she was irreversibly his. That assurance both steadied and energized him. It was better than any drug. “I say we go outside and let our wolves run together.”

Frankie smiled. “She likes that idea.” As his hand slid from her nape to the back of her head where the wound had been, Frankie said, “It’s gone.”

“I know.” But Trick would never let it go. “I’ll make him pay,” he promised her.

“Okay. But can you fuck me again first?”

He smiled. “I don’t see why not.” He rolled on top of her, hiked her leg up, and smoothly drove inside his mate.

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