The chase had been a test, a game put in motion by the wolf that lived within her, wary and hopeful and with the courage to roll the dice. She’d needed to know Riaz cared enough to be pissed off, enough to follow. Changeling males who’d claimed a female were touchy about the kind of challenge she’d handed down, never simply allowed one to pass. That he had made it clear that though he’d called her “his” woman, it was only the shallowest of commitme—
“I like what you’re wearing.”
She was hauled back against a hard male body, one of his hands splayed possessively on her navel, the other cupping her breast to pluck at her nipple before the import of that deep male voice registered. Her pulse turned into a hammer, her breath coming in soft gasps.
“Sorry I’m a little late,” he murmured in a way she knew meant trouble. “Pup emergency.”
Relief and exhilaration threatened to make her melt against him … but she was a dominant female wolf. Slicing out her claws, she went to break his hold, but he’d read her intent—she found herself being spun around, her wrists imprisoned behind her back. He was using only one hand, but his hold was unbreakable.
“That wasn’t nice.” He gripped her jaw hard enough that she couldn’t use her teeth against him, and bent to take a bite out of the side of her breast.
“That hurt!” She clenched her thighs, the delicate folds between her legs slick with a moisture that made lie of her attempt at a snarl. “Riaz.”
Hot, wet laps of his tongue. “You liked it.” He squeezed her jaw in warning when she growled low in her throat, eyes of wolf gold looking into her own. “Behave.”
She might not have been a lieutenant, but neither was she a submissive. Not telegraphing her actions in any way, she brought up her knee at the same time that she snapped forward her head.
Rearing away, Riaz blocked the groin strike, but the dual attack distracted him enough that she was able to free herself. Slashing out with her claws before he could regain his balance, she scored four perfect lines across his chest, shredding his tee. Red seeped into the edges of the white fabric, but the cuts weren’t deep. Only enough to remind him that he was playing with a strong, dangerous woman, not an untried girl.
Tugging off the torn T-shirt, he threw it aside. “Now,” he said, stalking her with slow, prowling steps and an unblinking stare, “I’ll have to do more than just bite you.”
Oh, God. Seeing his nostrils flare, the tang of her arousal thick in the air, she fought the primal urge to pin him to the earth skin to skin, and shot him a deliberately provocative smile. “I don’t see you anywhere near me.”
He laughed … right before he lunged at her. The solitary reason she got away was because she danced left and into the deep pool created by the convergence of two streams. Coming up a second later, she saw him crouched on the verge, watching her, his head angled in a very wolfish way. “I don’t want to get wet.”
“Good, I’ll stay in here then.”
Thick black lashes lowered to hood his eyes. “I just saw an eel swim past.”
She jerked. “No you didn’t.” Except what was that brushing her leg? Yelping, she jumped a fraction to the right, glared at him when he chuckled. “You’re making it up.”
A grin that was all teeth. “Come out and I’ll only bite you a little.”
She shuddered against the impact of him so playful and more than a tiny bit dangerous. That was it, she was a goner. Dead and buried. Don’t give in. It was a command from her wolf—who understood that the male stalking her was having fun. So was she.
Treading water, she shook her head. “Thanks for the offer, but I don’t think so.”
Shrugging, he dug his now-bare feet into the grass and settled in, watching her with that same unwavering and unquestionably predatory focus. “It’s right behind you,” he said a minute later, the tension between them a thrumming bowstring. “With a friend.”
She spun around, backed up. “Lia—”
“Gotcha.” He hauled her out of the water and pinned her to the soft grass in a single powerful move.
Nipples rubbing against the exquisite friction of his chest hair, she wrapped her legs around the possessive intrusion of his hips. “You just wanted me close enough to grab.” She scratched lightly at his shoulders with the very tips of her claws.
Arching into the caress, he said, “I’m a wolf. What did you expect?” He slid his hand between her thighs with a boldness that intoxicated. “Let’s play a different game now.” Thumb and forefinger slick with the creamy evidence of her welcome, he rubbed the taut bundle of nerves that was her clit.
Shuddering, she said, “Yes,” and tugged his head down for a kiss that ended with his tongue in her mouth and his fingers pushing inside her in hard male demand. “Let’s.”
AN hour later, Riaz’s hand trembled as he stroked it over the damp silk of Adria’s hair, her face peaceful in sleep. His beautiful, prickly, wounded Adria had fallen asleep in his arms after the playful dance of their loving. He understood what that meant, knew he’d reached a part of her most people didn’t even realize existed.
It was only fair.
Because she’d reached deep into his soul, too, to places he’d thought would remain forever barren. Quite simply, he was happy. Cautious eyes, claws and all, Adria made him happy. He’d worried his wolf would fight him, fight how hard he’d fallen for her, but the predator in him was delighted with the lover who had become a friend … and who now owned a great big chunk of his heart. It nuzzled against her as he indulged his bone-deep need for skin privileges by caressing the sweep of her back.