Because sex wasn't simply about pleasure for a cat like her - it was about affection, about trust, about everything good. "Though right this second, I'd take plain old hot sex."
That was when Riley walked out of the shadows. "Got an itch, kitty?"
Snapping to her feet, she narrowed her eyes, knowing he had to have deliberately stayed downwind in order to sneak up on her. "Spying?"
"When you're talking loud enough to wake the dead?"
She swore she could feel steam coming out her ears. Everyone thought Riley was quiet, practical, grounded. Only she knew he had a mean streak that delighted in annoying her as much as possible. "What do you want?" It was a growl from the heart of the leopard and woman both.
"I was invited to Dorian's mating ceremony." A slow smile that taunted her to retaliate. "Pretty hard to miss you burning up the place. And I'm not talking about your hair." His eyes lingered on the long red strands stroking over her br**sts.
Mercy didn't get embarrassed easily, but her cheeks flamed now. Because if Riley knew she was in heat - like a freaking wild cat! - then so did the rest of her own pack. "So what, you followed me hoping I'd lower my standards and sleep with a wolf?" She intentionally made "wolf" sound about as appetizing as "reptile."
Riley's jaw tightened under a shadow of stubble a shade darker than the deep chestnut of his hair. "You want to claw at me, kitty-cat? Come on."
Her hands clenched. She really wasn't this much of a bitch. But goddamn Riley had a way of lighting her fuse. "Sorry, I don't beat defenseless puppies."
He laughed. He actually laughed. She hissed at him. "What's so funny?"
"We both know who's the dominant here . . . and you're not it."
That did it. She was a sentinel. So what if he'd been a lieutenant longer? That didn't change the fact that she occupied the same place in DarkRiver that he did in SnowDancer. The wolf had crossed a very defined line - and since she couldn't have sex, she'd settle for violence.
Feeling more than a little feral, she pounced.
Riley was ready for her. He took the kick on the thigh without flinching, but stopped her punch with a single hand. She was already shifting, sliding into the next position, ready to take advantage of any vulnerability. He blocked every one of her moves, but made none of his own. "Fight!" she yelled. She needed a good, sweaty workout - it would take some of the edge off the gut-wrenching fury of her need. Her booted foot connected with his ribs.
She heard a grunt and grinned. "Not so fast are we, wolfie?"
"I was trying," he said, blocking her next set of blows with his arms, "not to hurt you."
"I'm not a frickin' princess," she muttered, aiming for the most vulnerable part of a man's body - yeah, yeah, it wasn't fair. But Riley had asked for it. Oh, man, had he asked for it. " 'Kitty' this, Kincaid."
"Damn it, Mercy!" He grabbed the foot that had been about to connect with his crotch and flipped her. Effortlessly. Gasping as she realized exactly how much he'd been holding back, she twisted in midair and came to an easy landing on her feet.
"I'll give you one thing," he said, crouching opposite her as they circled each other. "You know how to move . . . kitty."
Adrenaline shot through her, a hot, liquid fire. "Better than a jumped-up sheepdog anyway." She kept her tone even, but she was sweating under the slinky black tee she'd changed into for the dancing, her heart beating at a rapid pace. "Claws out," she said and that was the only warning she gave as she went for him.
She didn't even see it coming. One moment she was about to slash his face - okay, so she would've just scratched him, it wasn't like this was a fight to the death - and the next, she was flat on her back with her wrists slammed to the earth, gripped in one strong fist. "Ooomph." All the air rushed out of her as Riley's lower body crushed hers to the ground. The bastard was heavy, pure muscle over solid bone.
"Yield." His nose was almost touching hers.
"You wish." She smirked into chocolate-dark eyes. "Come closer."
"So you can bite me?" A flash of teeth. "First you yield. Then I'll come closer."
"Not on your life." If she yielded, she'd be acknowledging his dominance, at least for tonight.
"Then I guess I've have to make you."
"Try it." Smiling, she went for his throat and almost had him, when - using a move that was all sorts of illegal - he flipped her again so her front pressed into the leaf-laden ground, her wrists still locked in his iron grip and pinned above her head. "Cheater."
"So says the woman who tried to kick my balls into my throat," he pointed out, even as he licked the salt off the skin of her neck in a lazy and highly provocative move.
"I'm going to kill you." It was more hiss than sound.
He bit her.
In the soft, sensitive place between neck and shoulder.
She felt her entire body shiver from the inside out at the blatant show of dominance. "Stop it." It came out husky, nothing like the rejection she wanted it to be.
He took his mouth from her. "I've pinned you."
"That's wolf shit. I'm a cat."
"You're still trapped under me." He nuzzled at her throat. "And you smell all hot and wet and ready." His voice was dropping, going wolf on her.
And the heat between her thighs was turning into a pulsing drumbeat. Her stomach twisted in a vicious wave of need. God she was hungry, so sensually hungry. And Riley had taken her, his hold unbreakable. At that moment, the leopard didn't care that he wasn't a cat. It just cared that he was strong, sexy, and aroused.