Her own breathing wasn’t exactly steady either, but she licked her lips, tried to talk. “This isn’t a game.” It came out soft, husky.
But Drew was a wolf, his ears predator-sharp. Shifting, he rearranged her with possessive hands until she lay on her back, with him braced on one elbow above her. His damp hair was messy from her hands, tumbling over his forehead, making him appear even younger than he was.
Yet the firelight flickering over his eyes told a different story. There were shadows there, echoes of pain and sorrow, loss and hope. He’d lived, this wolf, fought and bled for the pack, and she had no right to devalue that simply because she had four years on him. “No games,” she said again, daring to raise her hand to stroke his hair off his forehead.
“Then what?” he asked, allowing the touch, continuing to pin her with one leg thrown over her own, but still so coolly distant, still not the Drew she knew.
She ran her fingers down his cheek, along his jaw, stroking the heated silk of his shoulder. Her thighs clenched in silent, sensual response as the muscles flexed under her touch. “I’m willing to try.”
“That’s not good enough.” Hard words, his jaw a brutal line.
Her wolf growled at the challenge. Drew stared back in unflinching demand. “I want to try,” she said when he refused to break the deadlock. “I want you. But I don’t know if my wolf will accept what it is you want from me.”
It remained uncertain about a male who simply did not fit into what it considered the acceptable parameters for the mate it would take as its own—no matter how much he called to both woman and wolf. “I don’t want to hurt you.” What she didn’t add was that she was terrified he’d hurt her, that he’d be unable to accept the truth of who she was. That would betray too big a vulnerability. But one thing she did have to say. “I don’t want to make promises I may not be able to keep.”
Lifting his hand, Drew took the one she had on his shoulder and pressed a kiss to her palm. Her heart twisted sharply inside her chest, and it might’ve made her panic if he hadn’t shifted his leg at that moment—the rough caress of denim across her thighs made her hiss out a breath. “Drew.”
No smile, but he released her hand and placed his own on her ribs just below the curve of her br**sts.
“You let me worry about myself,” he said into the charged silence. “But you have to be sure, Indigo.” She opened her mouth to reply, but he pressed a finger to her lips, silencing her. “I let you walk away with Riaz because I thought he made you happy.”
Oh, she thought, even as he continued with an unfamiliar ruthlessness in his tone, “I won’t have the nobility to walk away a second time if you decide you prefer another man. I’ll fight to the f**king bitter end and I won’t care about the consequences. I’ll take him, bloody him if I have to.”
Her wolf flexed its claws inside her mind. “If I decide against you,” she said, raising herself up on her elbows and tightening her stomach muscles against the impact of his thigh sliding between her legs, “I’ll fight my own battles.” She’d come to him because she’d f**ked up, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t who she’d always been. “I don’t need another man to do it for me.”
“Good.” He kissed her.
“Just so we understand each other.” A nip to her lower lip. Another to the curve of her neck and shoulder as he used his weight to press her down into the softness of the sleeping bag.
More than ready to dance with him, she wove her fingers through his hair. But he pulled away and was crouching on his feet several feet from her before she knew he’d gone. His eyes glinted night-glow in the darkness. “Run.”
Adrenaline pumped through her. Shifting into the same position opposite him, she angled her head. “Feeling frisky?”
His eyes, gone that beautiful, strange, wolf copper, followed her every minute stir. “Run.”
The tiny hairs on the back of her neck rose up, but it was a sign of anticipation, not fear. “You’ll never catch me.” It was a lazy taunt as she feigned right . . . then jumped over the fire in a leap no one but a changeling would ever make.
She heard him growl behind her, but she was already in the forest and doing everything she could to mess up her scent trail. She went through a shallow portion of the stream twice, doubled back, then retraced her steps before heading downwind. Cheeks pulsing with color, her heart thumping in her chest, she looked around.
Too much silence.
He was close and the forest knew it.
Grinning, she messed up the trail some more, then found herself a hiding place on the other side of the stream—behind a bush hung with tiny red winter berries that were so inedible, even the birds passed them by. Looking over the top, she tracked the other side of the river using the wolf’s night vision.
He flowed out of the dark, a wolf in human form. She saw him scent the area around the stream and disappear back the way he’d come. What was he doing? She knew he wouldn’t have fallen for that little trick—she wasn’t really trying to lose him. They were playing. The fun was in the chase.
And Drew was cunning.
Realizing what he’d done, she spun around just in time to see him streak out of the trees behind her. Her chest filling with laughter, she managed to get on the other side of the bush as he came to crouch opposite her and said, “I found you,” in a very wolfish tone.
She widened her eyes, looking beyond him. “Oh, no!”