Surprised, she raised herself up on her elbow and looked down. His face was drawn, lined with fatigue. Stupid man, she thought, he'd been staying up to watch over her. She'd felt him as she slept, knew he hadn't left her side. Even though the plascast on his leg and thigh told her he'd suffered an injury himself. The break had to be a bad one if Lara had cast him so solidly. He should've stayed in animal form for the healing, but it didn't surprise her that he hadn't. She wouldn't have, either, had their roles been reversed.
Kissing him on the jaw and petting his chest until his face relaxed, she groaned and got out of bed on wobbly feet. Riley's fingers immediately clenched on the sheet where she'd been. "Sleep," she said, holding on to the headboard as her muscles got used to being upright again. "I'm right here."
After a few more soothing words, he slipped back into a deeper rest.
It was, Mercy thought, standing there looking at him, inexpressibly wonderful to have a mate she loved with every breath in her. With no one around, she could be as sappy as she wanted. But of course, there were people around. However, they were giving her and Riley privacy and that's all that mattered.
Dragging herself to the bathroom, she did what needed to be done, then showered. From the putrid color of her bruises, she figured she'd been out for days. Her body was clean, which meant either one of the healers or Riley had taken care of it. She didn't feel any embarrassment at the thought - he was hers. Of course he'd care for her. As she'd do for him. In a heartbeat.
Feeling refreshed, she went back out to the bedroom encased in a fluffy white robe. Her bandages had some kind of plas coating so they'd survived unscathed. After grabbing a hairbrush, she sat down beside Riley and began to smooth the tangles. He instantly turned to wrap his arms around her waist, his face at her hip.
She smiled when one hand dropped down to nudge aside the robe until he found skin. Strong fingers closed over her thigh. He was still asleep. But even there, he was pushy. Exactly as she liked him.
Putting the hairbrush on the bedside table, she stroked his hair and shoulder for a long time. Perhaps an hour. It didn't matter. She was simply happy to be here, with him. Made lazy by the petting, she slipped out of the robe and into bed beside him. Half an hour after that, his hand moved on her thigh, his thumb making lazy arcs. Yawning into his chest though she wasn't sleepy, she pushed him down when he began to roll over on top of her.
"Watch your leg," she ordered, the leopard in her tone.
He tugged at her curls in revenge. And not the ones on her head.
"Riley Aedan Kincaid," she said. "I know you're awake."
He cupped her, bold and possessive.
She shuddered. "On your back, wolf."
He obeyed, removing his hand from between her legs. She'd have been disappointed if she hadn't had something so much better to look forward to. Sitting up in a careful motion, she looked down at his na**d body, checking to make sure he hadn't been harmed anywhere else. Only when she was satisfied did she give in to the need to be one with her mate, to anchor the bond with touch. "Yum, yum, all mine."
"You don't have the energy to do this. Do you know how many days you were out?"
"I need this," Mercy said, and it was the truth. "I need you."
Dark eyes didn't smile. His hands brushed over her bandages, and the darkness intensified. She couldn't allow that. If Riley put up his walls again, it would break her heart. "Grumpy." She nipped at his jaw. "If you brood, I won't go down on you."
He blinked. Then a tiny smile edged those full male lips.
"That's better." She pressed a kiss to each side of his lips, her heart so full, she didn't know how she bore it. "I know I was hurt, but so were you. It's life. It's who we are."
"You almost died."
"But you brought me back." She cupped his face in her hands. "I always knew you were there. Death didn't have a chance against the Wall."
A long silence.
"I reserve the right to go a little crazy," he said at last.
She spread herself over him, skin to skin across their top halves. "Ditto." Another kiss, his hands sliding across her, gentle over her bandages and bruises. She accepted his tenderness, his care, giving him back the same. "This feels so right," she whispered against his lips.
Wolf-amber eyes looked back at her. "Good."
"Arrogant." But she was smiling, because her Riley was back.
* * *
They emerged an hour later to find the cabin deserted. Mercy grinned. "We scared them off."
Riley's smile was pure wolf as he balanced himself on crutches. "Made them jealous, too."
Chuckling, she walked out to the porch . . . and felt her heart sigh in utter delight. "This is stunning." They weren't in the high Sierra, but neither were they down in DarkRiver territory. The firs were green, the air crisp but not cold, and the house - "Wow. Swiss chalet fused with mountain cabin." She'd glimpsed a stone fireplace inside, and now saw the outside was made out of logs that blended the home seamlessly into the forest. "Whose place is this?"
She stared at him. "What? Since when do you own this?"
"Five years ago." He shrugged. "I had it built for my mate."
"The cute little housewife?"
"I'm an idiot," he said, "but obviously, I'm an idiot who even then knew he was an idiot."
She folded her arms, staring daggers at him.
"Mercy, look around you. It's rugged as hell. Can you see some submissive little creature surviving out here?"
Blinking, she did take a good look around. "She'd pee her pants at the first strange noise." Arms lowered, she walked over and poked him in the chest. "Have you had other women here?"