Avengers heat, p.5
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       Avenger's Heat, p.5
 

         Part #4 of Moon Shifter series by Katie Reus

  “What do you want from me?” he asked on a soft growl.

  She looked at his lips. She couldn’t help it. When he talked, she just wanted to stare at his mouth. Well, she wanted to do more than stare. How many times had she imagined that mouth on hers? On her? Just as many times as she’d told herself what a stupid idea it was. After they’d kissed not too long ago, it had been harder and harder to quell those fantasies. They’d never gotten super intimate but now that she knew what he tasted like, it was almost impossible to not do what her body practically demanded.

  A man like Noah wouldn’t settle down with someone like her. He would want a mate and children. The whole package. Just like all shifters. Family was so damn important to her kind.

  But she wasn’t whole. Could never give him everything he deserved. One day he’d realize that. Still, being so close to him like this, sometimes it felt like they were the only two people in the world. She could pretend there weren’t monsters out there and that they could have a total cherry pie life.

  If only.

  Noah looked at her, his dark eyes searching for something. What, she didn’t know. His piney, earthy scent intensified and she could practically feel the heat coming off him. More than anything she wanted to feel that heat covering her, taking her, filling her with pleasure.

  Then his mouth was on hers, stroking and teasing and taking. One hand cupped her face and the other threaded through her damp hair. He gripped the back of her head as their tongues and bodies melded together.

  It was impossible to think straight when her body was on fire. She burned from the inside, wanting to strip their clothes off and just be with him. Damn the consequences and what would happen after her heart had been shattered. She knew without a doubt that it eventually would be once they crossed this line. Because what she felt for him was more than lust, even though the word also started with an “L”.

  Losing herself with him, giving him pleasure, taking it—she desperately wanted that. She tried to convince herself that it would just be a physical thing. Lord, it had been so long since she’d been with anyone. Her body ached for that connection. But it was more than physical with Noah. She knew it even if she wouldn’t admit it. And if Noah was eventually going to realize she wasn’t the woman for him, she’d take from him now.

  Barely thinking, just feeling, she reached between their bodies and grasped his jeans button. She could have him naked in seconds. Could be riding him and—

  It took a moment for it to register that he was holding her wrists in a firm grip and stopping her.

  Breathing hard, he took a step back from her. She saw a flash of his canines but he’d controlled his inner wolf by the time she’d blinked. “Why are you stopping?” Wasn’t this what he wanted? What he’d been after for over a year? Right now she wanted to chase away dark memories, make a few precious ones with Noah. More than anything, she wanted to have this with him. Have a piece of him to hold on to later.

  He shook his head, his jaw tightening. “I’m not doing this with you. Not like this.” The words came out a deep growl.

  “Like . . . what?” Didn’t he want her?

  “I’m not going to be just some physical outlet for you. Something you’ll regret in a few hours after you’ve gotten some sleep. If you want me, you’re going to give me everything.”

  Something about his voice changed when he said that word. It made her take a step back. There was a dark, primal note that shocked her to her core. It wasn’t the Noah she knew. Not exactly. The man in front of her looked hungry in a way she’d never seen. “Everything?” The question came out as a whisper.

  His eyes darkened until she saw both the wolf and man staring back at her. He looked as if he wanted to completely possess her. Finally he spoke and his order surprised her. “Go.”

  She blinked. “What?”

  “Go to your room. Now. If you stay, you’re giving me everything I want.” A soft order that sent a thrill up her spine even as it scared her.

  Knowing she was being a coward, she didn’t respond. She couldn’t. Hell, she could barely catch her breath.

  Backtracking, she left the way she’d come and let herself breathe only once she’d closed her door behind her. Sagging against it, she raked a shaky hand through her almost dry hair. What the hell had just happened?

  Staring at the closed door for a moment after she left, Noah stripped off his jeans. He’d seen such vulnerability in Erin’s eyes. She’d finally let her guard down with him, but not enough to give him what he wanted. What they deserved.

  He wanted to take Erin so damn bad right now, but the only outlet available was to let his wolf take over, to calm him down. As his bones broke, shifted, and realigned back into place, an immediate calming followed the sharp pain that was always part of the change to animal form. It somewhat eased the painful ache he always carried for her.

  He’d felt that heat from her and he’d wanted to take her right up against the door. Hell, it didn’t matter where.

  But he’d come to a decision earlier while running free on his father’s land. Erin was ready for him now, even if she didn’t realize it. Ready for a relationship. She hadn’t been a year ago and maybe not even months ago when they’d shared that first kiss. She was now.

  She’d come out of that broken state they’d found her in when she’d decided to pick up her blades and start fighting again. When she’d taken on some of their old neighbor Taggart’s wolves in her animal form, ripping them to shreds for attacking their land. More so when she’d agreed to train as an enforcer.

  Noah still had nightmares about finding her naked, bleeding, and bruised, dumped in the garbage. Her gorgeous red hair had been matted around her face and she’d been covered in purple bruises. He still didn’t understand how someone had been able to hurt her so bad. Not with her strength.

  Erin was young for a shifter at fifty years old, but she was faster and more lethal than some he’d seen twice her age. And that strength would only grow until she’d be on the same level as Jayce. Something that absolutely awed Noah. On his most primal level, he hated watching her fight, but another part of him loved seeing all that grace and agility. She was a beautiful sight to see in that mode.

  Right now, in this city, without their pack around them, he was going to change things between them. The dynamic of their relationship had shifted tonight and he was pretty sure she realized it. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have run back to her room. She wanted him, of that he had no doubt. So he was going to capitalize on it. He’d made the decision earlier tonight and he wasn’t going to stop until she was his. He felt that mating hunger to claim her and he wasn’t going to deny it anymore.

  He’d take a little, give a little, make her want him so bad she ached the way he constantly did. But he wouldn’t give her the release she wanted. Oh, he planned to pleasure her all right, but he wouldn’t give her everything he knew she needed. Not until she admitted what was really between them and told him completely about her past.

  It killed him that she didn’t trust him enough to tell him who’d hurt her. If he had names, they’d be dead. And he would make them suffer. Death was a part of life for shifters and he didn’t relish the idea of killing anyone. Sometimes it was necessary, but for whoever had hurt Erin, he’d take pleasure in killing them. With no guilt.

  Sighing, he jumped onto the bed and laid his head on his forepaws. Sleep in his wolf form was always the best. Right now he needed to be on his game. He was going to help Erin find the fuckers taking pregnant women and he was going to convince her they were meant to be together. As he let himself succumb, sleep quickly pulled him under.

  Erin cracked her eyes open and tried to move. Raw agony splintered through her body as she attempted to sit up. Where was she and why was she in so much pain? It was like tiny knives had burrowed their way under her skin everywhere. She tried to drag in a breath, but her lungs ached with the effort.

  Everything came flooding back as she remembered what had happened. H
ow she’d ended up . . . She rolled her head to the side and grimaced at the torture that followed from the slight movement. She could see an empty beer bottle tipped over on its side next to an open to-go food container. A rat had its face buried in the box and was chomping away.

  As if it sensed her watching, it lifted its head and made a squeaking sound before resuming eating.

  A new wave of pain flooded her as she became more aware of her surroundings. Which was good and bad. She needed to figure out where she was, but the aching was getting worse and making her woozy.

  Or maybe that was the stench surrounding her. Old, rotting food and . . . shit, she was behind a Dumpster. Her vision became more acute and she could make out the sharp edges of the big green metal container. Those fuckers had tried to kill her—likely thought they had—and left her as if she was actual garbage.

  Moving against the pavement, she tried to call on her wolf to comfort her, to change into her lupine form, but she didn’t have the strength. The concrete was rough against her naked back as she tried to push up. She couldn’t though. Crying out, she bit back the sound quickly as she realized her arm was broken. She had no clue if they were still nearby and she couldn’t risk anyone noticing her until she’d regained some of her strength.

  She could hear the sound of cars zooming by in the distance; then she heard a shuffling sound. Like feet. Then male voices.

  Oh God. Had they realized they’d made a mistake? That she wasn’t really dead? She was covered in so much blood and her heartbeat was so faint she could barely hear it herself. They’d already taken everything from her. Now they just wanted to finish the job.

  Though she hated the weakness, fear spiked inside her as she tried to scoot away, to find a place to hide. She was in no shape to fight and wasn’t stupid enough to think she could take anyone on right now. Erin just wanted to survive. She’d get her revenge later, but she couldn’t do that if she was dead.

  As her palms pressed against the concrete, she let out a whimpering sound when a broad-shouldered, hulking form appeared around the corner of the Dumpster.

  It wasn’t her attackers, but the male was a shifter. Jetblack hair touched his shoulders, or maybe it wasn’t actually that dark. She couldn’t tell the exact color because of the setting sun behind him and her vision was starting to fade again.

  He cursed and took a step toward her and she couldn’t help it. She whimpered again. God, she couldn’t take any more abuse.

  The big male froze, looked at her with sympathy, then stripped off his coat and gently covered her with it as he made soothing nonsensical sounds. Realization dawned that he was going to help her. She shouldn’t depend on a stranger. Doing so was beyond stupid, but she had no choice.

  And this stranger smelled so damn good. Like . . . safety. Even if he did look terrifying. Like an avenging angel. A really beautiful one. She wanted to bury her face against his chest and soak up all that strength, which just sounded stupid, even in her head. Holding on to the ludicrous thought, she finally succumbed to the darkness edging her vision. . . .

  Erin’s eyes flew open, her heart beating wildly as she took in her surroundings of the guest room in the New Orleans home where she was staying. She wasn’t near death behind a shitty Dumpster. Belatedly she realized she clutched her blade in her hand. Sighing, she slid it back under one of her pillows, then punched the other one in frustration.

  She needed sleep and her stupid dreams weren’t helping any. How the hell was she supposed to get anything done if she kept dwelling on the past? She hadn’t had a dream like that in months. Working on this case was already messing with her head.

  Sighing, she curled on her side and closed her eyes. She was stronger than her past. Maybe if she said it enough, she’d actually believe it.

  Noah wasn’t sure how much time passed until an annoying buzzing sound cut through the quiet room. His eyes instantly opened and his ears perked up. Looking at the nightstand, he saw his cell phone vibrating against it.

  Bracing himself for the pain, he shifted. The covers tangled underneath him as he returned to his human form. The antique clock on the wall above the nightstand said three. Two hours of sleep. Just great.

  Grabbing his phone he tensed at the sight of his father’s number. This was definitely not good. “Yeah?”

  “You remember the Colby house?” No preamble or hello.

  Yep, this was going to be bad. “Yeah.”

  “Meet me there with Erin as soon as you can. Someone found a body and called me. Her name’s Kaigen. Erin should have the file on her.”

  Noah started to respond but was talking to dead air. Figured. He and his father had gotten into an argument before he’d left the mansion a few hours ago. It was always the same. Time and space hadn’t done a damn thing to diminish the tension between them. Of course his mother had tried to defuse the situation and he hated that she felt she had to do that.

  Sighing, he pulled on a fresh pair of jeans, a black sweater, and black boots. After quickly brushing his teeth he headed across the common area to Erin’s room. He knocked and opened only when she mumbled, “Come in.”

  Curled up on her side with her laptop next to her and that damn corkboard in her line of sight—he hated that she was torturing herself with their faces—she gave him a bleary-eyed look. “What’s wrong?” she asked in a raspy voice he found sexy as hell.

  “Got a call from my father. They found another body.”

  Erin’s shoulders stiffened. “Does he know who?”

  He glanced at the corkboard, a vise tightening around his chest. Erin had the names of the missing women underneath each photo. Three of the women had Spanish roots, one was black, and the last white. He touched the photo of the woman named Kaigen. “It’s her.”

  “I was hoping Meli was wrong when she said the woman with her was dead,” Erin said quietly. “She has two kids.”

  Shit. He turned around to find Erin already out of bed, half-naked, dressed only in a sports bra and boyshort panties, crouched in front of her open suitcase. Under normal circumstances the sight of her would get him hot, but now he felt only a sense of sadness for the dead woman’s mate and family. “I’ll meet you out front. Gonna tell Angelo and Brianna what we’re doing.”

  “Okay.” She didn’t look up as she pulled out a pair of cargo pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt.

  The way the house was set up was a little weird. He figured it must have been two separate places at one time. Heading through the utility room with a brand-new–looking washer and dryer, he opened the door that connected to the front part of the house and stepped into another kitchen.

  A small light was on above the sink, illuminating the stainless steel. Though it was three in the morning he heard movement. By the time he made it to the hallway Angelo was already standing half-in, half-out of one of the bedrooms, looking only partially awake but ready to move into action if necessary.

  “What’s up?” Angelo asked, his voice gravelly with sleep.

  “Just wanted to let you know we found another body. Erin and I are headed out now. One of us will call you later with details.” Technically they didn’t owe a call to either of them, but Angelo was his packmate and Noah respected that. He knew Erin did too, even if she was here on assignment from the Council.

  Noah still wasn’t sure why Angelo was here at all. Brianna had helped out their pack very recently with information gathering and she’d killed one of the bastards who’d targeted and hurt his pack. When her leaders learned about what was going on here, they’d wanted her to check things out too. As a member of the Fianna, legendary fae warriors, Brianna might be slight and almost ethereal looking, but she could hold her own against anyone. He’d heard from Erin how she’d killed a member of the Antiparanormal League by harnessing some kind of lightninglike energy with her hands. Angelo had practically insisted to Connor that he be allowed to come with Brianna, which surprised Noah since the blond female didn’t seem to even like him.

  When her head p
opped out from behind the doorway Angelo was standing in, Noah’s eyebrows raised. Okay, maybe she did like him. She ducked under the arm Angelo had braced against the frame. “What body? Do you know who it is? How was she killed?”

  Noah shook his head. “I have no details right now other than a body was discovered.” Well, he knew the name of the deceased but it wasn’t his place to tell either of them.

  Angelo wrapped an arm around Brianna’s shoulders, pulling her close. He murmured something in her ear so low even Noah couldn’t hear with his extrasensory hearing.

  Brianna stiffened under his hold, seeming uncomfortable with it, and slightly nudged him with her elbow. Whispering, she said, “Just because you’re showing me what sexual pleasure is all about does not mean you control me.”

  Noah choked on air and tried to cover it with a cough, but Angelo glared at him. It was obvious Brianna had meant for her comment to be private, but she didn’t have the extrasensory abilities they had and she likely hadn’t realized just how loud a whisper was to him.

  Making a hasty exit, he hurried toward the front of the house, knowing Erin would be waiting for him. Sure enough her cherry red Challenger idled in the driveway. Instead of heading to the passenger side, he tapped on her window.

  Rolling it down, she raised an eyebrow at him. “You’re not driving.”

  “I know where we’re going. It’s in the swamp.” She might have excellent night vision, but driving in the swamp was a pain in the ass even in the daytime. Alligators didn’t care about roads and often took naps in the middle of them.

  She shrugged. “You can be my navigator.”

  “Erin—”

  “I’m driving. You drove practically the whole way here.”

  “Because you needed to do research.”

  “Exactly. I don’t need your help anymore. We’ll get a rental if you want to drive so bad, but you are not driving this.” She looked away from him now, her hands on the wheel at ten and two, ready to leave.

 
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