Authors: A. L. Kessler
Tags: #vampires, #werewolves, #shifters, #Magic, #demons, #dark fantasy
“Please, please, please don’t put the collar on me. I can hold her in for a couple hours. I promise.”
“I wasn’t planning on using the collar. I didn’t even bring it. But Jax might be there and I don’t want your cat going haywire over a male that’s not family.”
“If he’s there it means he’s doing his job.”
Garrett nodded. “Hopefully. If not, he forfeits his life.”
Kass passed the movie room on her way out and spotted Mae reclined in one of the chairs watching some silent film. “Hey, you got a second?”
“Sure,” Mae picked up the remote and paused the movie. “Long night?”
She nodded. “You have no idea, but I needed to ask you about something.” Mae motioned for Kass to continue. “When you discovered that I was still alive, did you share this information with anyone?”
“No, not even the officer that had called for my opinion. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of it. You were the only person they could trace it to and they never told me how.”
Kass sighed and slouched onto the couch. “My family somehow found out that I was alive.”
“And you think that I told someone?”
“It wasn’t the first thought I had. Just covering my bases.”
“Seems to me you need to worry more about what you are going to do than how they found you. From what I understand your family is no good.”
Understatement. Kass rubbed her eyes. “Any chance you’ve heard something going around the underground? Anything at all?”
“No I haven’t, but I also haven’t been in my normal dives. Not since I was turned. Lucius keeps a very tight leash on me.”
Kass snorted. “He does that to us all.”
“I’ll see what I can find out. There must be a reason they came after you.”
She swallowed. “I don’t want to think about that. I’ve got to go, I’ve got a free run tonight and I’ve been looking forward to it. Hell, my beast has been looking forward it.” She turned to leave.
“Kass?” Mae waited until the girl turned around and looked at her. “You need to be careful. Lucius has been more preoccupied with you lately. I’m worried about you.”
Kass frowned. “What do you mean?” Her heart sped a little, but she kept her face blank and eyes on Mae’s.
“He’s been talking about you, looking through documents, he gave you to the wolves. Doesn’t that strike you as strange?”
Kass shrugged. “Lucius does a lot of things that I can’t explain.”
“Just be careful. Remember what he did to Josh.”
Kass nodded and walked out. She knew Josh acted as a safety net against Lucius, but despite Josh’s death, Lucius seemed to ease off a little. Mae’s words echoed in Kass’ head as she continued out into the woods.
When she reached the edge of the woods she smiled up at the half formed moon and stripped. The sharp smell of pines hit her nose and caused her panther to stir in understanding. Tonight they would be a team for the first time in weeks. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting the cold wind wrap around her bare skin. The smells of the night called to her panther. Images of running through the woods, chasing after the deer, and drinking from the river ran through her mind and coaxed her panther to the surface.
Her bones gave no resistance, no scalding heat came as they shifted and the skin stretched. Fur flowed over her body as her face changed and her spine bowed. When Kass opened her eyes images sharpened and new sounds graced her ears. Her heart leapt at the noises of the river and the wind blowing through the trees. There, she wanted to go there. She ran, her paws silent against the ground as she moved towards the river. The damp ground molded against the pads on her feet as she made her way to the flowing water. The sounds of the night rushed past her. Scents graced her nose and she delighted in it until a familiar one could be smelled above them all. Freezing, she sniffed the air once more just to make sure.
Switching directions, she ran downstream until his scent became perfectly clear. Jaxon. She paused when she entered a clearing and saw him standing in the middle of it, also in panther form.
His fur was just a touch lighter than hers, but he towered over her, even in animal form. His muscles tensed as he crouched and flicked his tail at her in a playful manner. A growl trickled from him, daring her to come forward.
Kass wiggled her butt as she crouched, mirroring him, her tail twitching from side to side as she army crawled toward the other panther. Once she was close enough she pounced, pinning him to the ground on his back. Their yellow eyes met and something clicked. A strange feeling of warmth blossomed in Kass’ chest and she backed off. Her head tilted to the side. It was like she knew this cat from before, her beast knew him somehow. She felt comfortable with him, safe. Her panther wanted nothing more than to curl up against his side even if the human part of her resisted.
Jax flipped back to his feet and looked at her, mirroring her motions, but then turned and took off. Kass followed him and nipped at his tail when she caught up with him. He led her to the stream and bent down to take a drink before laying down, his massive head on his paws. Kass walked over and took a few drinks before curling up next to him. He nuzzled her head and then dragged his tongue from her nose to the top of her head. She shook her head, jumped up and ran into the woods again, with him close on her tail.
She looked up at the sunrise as she crested the top of the hill. She sat and waited for Jax. Once he came close, she shifted. Her human form swallowed the panther without resisting, leaving her naked and staring at the beautiful colors painted across the clouds. Jax shifted next to her and then pulled her into the curve of his body. “We should go back inside.”
“And miss this?” She motioned to the sun. “I don’t think so. I rarely get a night of freedom. I don’t care if I’m sitting naked. I’m warm from the run, and the sun will warm the air soon enough. Lucius is fast asleep and I don’t feel like hurrying back to captivity.”
Jaxon laid his head on hers and sighed. “All fair points. What did you do to earn tonight?”
She paused, having to think about it and then looked away. “I killed someone.”
“So he wasn’t exaggerating, you are his killer.”
She swallowed. “I’m not his only killer, but I’m the best. Because of the control he strips from me my human emotions don’t get in the panther’s way. It’s rare that he grants me a night like tonight where my panther and I work together.”
“Who are you killing?”
“I can’t answer that.” She pushed away from him, her good mood fading at the questions. “I really can’t. I shouldn’t be sitting here next to you.” She stood, but he pulled her back down to his lap.
He nuzzled and kissed her neck. “Okay, I’m sorry, I won’t push.”
She relaxed and let him hold her as the sun continued to rise. Once the sun was up and the clouds no longer held their glow they made their way back. Kass donned her clothes when they came across them and started to the back door of the mansion. She had expected that he would disappear, but he stayed behind her every step of the way. “You can’t come in.”
He grinned. “Oh yes I can, Lucius has granted me free passage for right now.”
“What? Why?” Her heart skipped a beat. “Truly?”
“Yep, don’t know why, but I want to take the chance and get to know you.” He laughed, but she thought she sensed hesitation in his voice. “Other than your family woes and the fact that you have a birthday coming.”
She unlocked the door, let him in and then slammed it closed. “Like what?”
“Your hobbies, your likes, your dislikes, what you like in movies, what you like for music, anything and everything.” He smiled at her. “But that all sounds cheesy. I’d ask for a date, but we’re not humans in a regular situation and panthers don’t date. So I’m really not exactly sure how to go about this.”
Kass laughed. “Come on, before someone sees your naked ass.” She grabbed his hand and led him to her room.
He looked around and frowned. “Nothing here to tell you anything about you.”
“Nothing here but a mattress, some claw marks and a bathroom.” She shrugged. “I don’t need any reminders of my past around, and I don’t really have any hobbies or interests to speak of.”
“And why is that?” Jax asked, batting his eyes at her.
She laughed and shoved him away with little force. “Because if I had spent time trying to enjoy my life, I’d be dead.”
“Because my family was trying to kill me.” She sat on the bed and looked up at him.
“Not the answer you were expecting?” She asked.
Jax blinked at her a couple times, and she held her breath, hoping that he wouldn’t run. “No.”
The look she gave him made him sigh. “I didn’t mean to ruin your good mood.” He squatted in front of her and brushed her cheek with his hand, smoothing his thumb over the crease between her eyes. “Hey, I’m sorry. I won’t push anymore.”
Kass gave him a small, fake smile and shrugged. “Don’t worry about. You just wanted to get to know me.” She paused and leaned back on her hands. “Something happened out in the woods.”
He paused, and she heard his heart skipping a beat. “Oh?”
“Something about my panther, it became apparent to me when we were playing.” She held on to a hope that he felt it too.
“It was a connection between our beasts, it means that we’re meant to be, they understand that.” His eyes widened and he smiled.
“Such ill fate.” She laughed and shook her head.
He sighed. “It’s not ill fate, we can be together, Kass. Neither of us belong to a clan, so we don’t need approval from the leaders.”
“We need approval from Lucius.” She grumbled and gazed down.
He crawled on to the thing she used as a bed so that they were nose to nose. “We’ll work on him. He’s already letting me stay here.” She thought she heard his heart stutter, but pushed it off as nerves.
“This is true.”
He captured her lips with his, pushing her back against the wall as he slid his tongue into her mouth. Her lips parted to allow him easy access. Leaning into him, she placed her hands on his shoulders for balance.
“Just give in.” He whispered against her cheek, “even if it’s one night together it’ll be worth it.”
She closed her eyes and leaned her head against his. Would it be worth it? A few moments of happiness for her and peace for her beast against risking Lucius’ anger? “You’re right.” She felt the beast in her leap with joy at those words.
He grinned and moved his hands down her sides. Curling his fingers under the edge of her shirt, he waited for her permission. She nodded and he pulled it off in one swift motion. With nimble fingers he unbuttoned and pulled the zipper down on her jeans. He tucked a finger into her waistband and gave a little tug. “Help a guy out?”
Kass lifted up her hips and he slid the pants off. After discarding them on the floor next to the shirt, he reached behind her and unhooked the lace bra. Her luscious breasts fell free and he dropped the bra on the ground. He trailed his soft hands over her back to her front. Cupping her breasts with his hands, he brushed his thumbs over her nipples. Kass gasped as they tightened and puckered under his caress.
He lowered his head to her chest, brushing his lips over her skin before capturing a nipple with his teeth and rolling it until it hardened for him. His hand slid down to cup her sex and stroked the already wet core. Moaning at his touch, her body arched and the pleasure started to rise in her as his fingers moved. Her beast paced and cried out in her as it enjoyed the well-deserved attention.
Kassity gasped as he entered her with one finger. He swirled it with an agonizingly slow pace only to withdraw it and put two in her. Finding a rhythm with his fingers, he kissed up her stomach and between her breasts. He pressed his lips to hers. “Roll over.” His words barely a breath against her lips, but she heard him.
She complied and wiggled her ass for him in a playful manner. Sloping her back, she held her weight on her elbows and looked over her shoulder. He grinned and put his hands on her hips. With a quick thrust he plunged himself into her. Her breath caught as the size of him stretched and filled her. She angled her back to adjust to the feeling of him inside her and let out a deep moan as the union became perfect.
Moaning, she pushed against him, forcing him deeper and letting his cock rub against her sweet spot. He pulled out and pounded in again. The biting of his fingernails in her skin only added to the moment. Pleasure built in her belly and ran through her body as he found a steady rhythm. She rocked her hips with him as his hands snaked around her body and palmed her breasts. His fingers teased at her nipples, sending a shock through her body with every touch. She craned her neck back to ensnare him in another kiss as their bodies moved together.
She could feel her body writhe as he continued his caresses. The muscles in her core clenched to coax him in deeper. The pleasure grew and her body jerked against Jax. Starbursts exploded in her vision when the pressure became too much. She felt his body tense against her with the last few thrusts and his seed spilled into her, leaving them both shaking. Her chest rose and fell with the heaving of her breath as she tried to clear her mind. Tingles ran through her limbs as her orgasm faded and took all logical thought with it.
Jax collapsed next to her, and traced the marks that his nails had left against her skin. “Hope that didn’t hurt.”
“Didn’t feel it.” She promised. Snuggling up against him, both she and her cat were content. A crash brought both her and Jax’s attention to the door where Lucius stood, arms crossed and eyes black.
Jax cursed as Kass shot up, her eyes wide as she scooted back, pressing against the wall, holding the blankets to her chest. Jax jumped up and got between the two, but Lucius shoved him out of the way. Grabbing her wrist, Lucius pulled her from the bed and to her feet as the blankets fell to the floor.
Kass shoved at him. “Back off.”
Lucius laughed and slammed her face first against the wall to his left. He skimmed his hands over her body as if looking for something and then flipped her around to repeat the motions.