Make Me Howl, page 16
“This will be fine.” Bella picked up her fork and steak knife and cut into the meat. Spearing a bite, she put it into her mouth then closed her eyes in order to enjoy the flavors from the blend of spices and mesquite smoke.
Now that was good.
No one spoke while they tore into their steaks, forgetting all about the French fries and lettuce.
Bella was the first to set her knife and fork aside and lean back in her chair. Next time, maybe she would order just a rib-eye. In just a few moments, Jazzy had finished off her steak, and was quickly followed by Chase and, finally, by Spencer.
Chase put his arm along the back of Jazzy’s chair and whispered something to her. At her nod, he looked at Bella. “Would you mind giving Spencer a ride home? Jazzy and I…”
He didn’t finish the sentence, but Bella fully understood. They wanted to be together. And alone.
“But I don’t have my car,” Bella gently teased.
“You can drive mine.” Jazzy reached into her purse then tossed her keys across the table to Bella. “Thanks.”
The words were barely out of her mouth when Chase stood, grabbed the check with one hand and Jazzy with the other and headed for the exit. “I’ll take care of this.”
At least Spencer looked a little embarrassed when they had gone. “If you don’t want to drive all the way to my house, I can call a cab.”
Her heart sped up. “I don’t mind driving you, but you’ll have to give me directions. I have no idea where you live.”
“Does the term BFE mean anything to you?” he asked, his tone dry.
“Yes, but I can’t imagine a dazzling urbanite like you living there.”
“You’ll find dazzling urbanites in every chink and pothole in Texas.” He lowered one eyebrow then stopped her heart with the world’s sexiest smile.
She took a moment to remember how to breathe. “Well, if you’re ready.”
He stood and held her chair as she got up. When they reached the exit, he opened the door for her and when they reached Jazzy’s car, he took her keys and unlocked it then opened the door for her again.
She watched him as he circled to get into the passenger’s seat, amazed at what she’d discovered. He was the rarest of men. Good looking with impeccable manners.
And sexy as they come.
Starting the car, she slowly drove to the edge of the parking lot then shot him a glance. “Which way?”
In the small confines of the Z, it shouldn’t have surprised her when he caught and held her gaze. But it did. For some reason, men were often intimidated by a woman in her position. After a long moment, he tipped his head to the right without breaking their connection. “East.”
The ride took forever—and was over much too soon. Once they were away from the city lights, the quarter moon’s glow drenched the landscape. Too bad they couldn’t go on, riding forever with the radio playing softly in the background.
When they finally reached his home, so close to his other family members’ homes, she knew herself for a traitor. No matter what this man had said about her sister, she couldn’t hate him. She pulled to a stop in his driveway.
“Would you like to come in for a nightcap?”
Tell him you’ve got to get home, her mind instructed. “I’d love to.”
His nod and slight wink kept her in her seat as he got out.
What am I doing? I’m vulnerable enough as it is. If I go into his house, I could really fall under his spell. I’ll tell him I’m leaving as soon as he opens my door.
But when the door opened, he took her hand and every thought and protest evaporated. He helped her out and led her up the brick sidewalk to his door, made of leaded glass.
She waited while he unlocked, then held it for her. The small entryway had oaken floors, a rug of dusty earth tones and a bench that looked as if it were made from smoothed, varnished branches from a tree. Southwestern art, quilts and hand-carved wooden bowls with inlays of turquoise filled the living room. With just the flick of a switch, a fire blazed in his fireplace.
“Well, that saves you from having to carry out ashes.”
“Big brother said it was cheating to have a fire without having to do the work. But I figure living in Texas, I should take a little extra advantage of the nearby gas wells.” His chuckle came from low in his chest. “And it leaves time for more enjoyable things.”
He disappeared into the kitchen, and in just a moment, returned with two glasses of wine. “I hope you like Burgundy.”
Surprised, she nodded. “I do, but how did you know? Most women I know prefer white zin.”
He responded with a roll of his eyes. “Please. Might as well drink RC Soda.”
She took the glass he held out to her then glanced at the curved sofa.
“Let’s sit by the fire.” He tossed a pair of cushions from a built-in wood box to the floor then pulled her down so she sat in front of him, her back to his chest.
The fire was warm, but the real heat in the room came from him. His breath stirred the hair at her nape, tickling ever so slightly. She wanted to let herself go. Lean into him. But she knew if she did, if she relaxed even a bit, she’d belong to him, whether he realized it or not.
Remembering the Burgundy, she lifted the glass and took a long sip. From the corner of her eye, she saw he drank, too. When he set his glass on the floor, he leaned into her.
She glanced over her shoulder. His bottom lip was moist, and without stopping to think, she licked it with the tip of her tongue.
His gaze kindled. As if he could no longer be restrained, he pulled her into the circle of his arms, covering her mouth with his. His tongue stroked hers, and without breaking the kiss, he captured her glass and set it down.
Her heart thrilled in her chest, beating double time and causing her head to swim. As he deepened the kiss, she pulled him with her to the floor, where she could at last wrap both arms around him. Press her chest into his. Feel the weight of him as he cocked his knee across her thighs.
Lifting his head, he breathed an obscenity. Admiring the way the fire gilded a small scar that ran down his cheek, she traced it with her index finger. “I like it here, by the fire.” She dropped her hand to his chest, where she unbuttoned the top button on his shirt, then the next. She ran a finger down the exposed skin. “Where would you like to go?”
Humor sparked in his eyes when he realized what she’d done. “To my bedroom.”
She unbuttoned the next pair of buttons then lifted her head to kiss his neck, just below his ear. “Is there a fireplace in your bedroom?” She pulled his shirttail from his jeans then reached for the buttons closing his fly.
His “uh-huh” sounded a lot like a groan, but sent an electric charge through her.
She slid her hands inside his jeans. “And can you make it burn as easily as you did this one?”
He gasped as she touched him then kissed her again. With gentle fingers, he pulled her sweater over her head and off her arms. Just a flick of his fingers, and he unlatched her bra and pushed it aside, exposing her breasts. He held her gaze as he bent low over her, then closing his eyes, covered her nipple, gently sucking it into his mouth.
Pleasure pulsed through her, making her short of breath and ready to beg for more. She slid her fingers into his hair, hoping to hold him there.
But rather than obey her silent request, he raised his head and gazed at her, his eyes at half mast. Slowly he lowered the zipper on her jeans then pushed them, along with her panties, down her thighs. His touch had a fiery gentleness she’d never before known.
She tried to think, tried to remember something, anything, before she lost herself completely. What had they been talking about? The bedroom? The fire? There was something…
With a swift move, he tossed her jeans away and moved over her, fitting himself to her. She wrapped her legs around his and lifted her hips to meet him. As he entered her, she gasped a long, slow breath.
They moved togethe
This man, whom she’d hated so fiercely, morphed in her heart.
He moved against her, as if trying to put himself so far inside she could never remove him from her soul. If she could speak, if she could think, she’d tell him he was already there. She’d never, no matter what, be able to erase him from her heart. Or her mind.
He came with a final thrust, and lifting his head he arched his back and voiced a cry that wrenched her heart and sounded very nearly like a howl.
Following immediately behind him, she did the same.
I readjusted my seat atop one of the stools Doc had in his lab, but I couldn’t get comfortable with my butt on that cold metal disc. Why were aluminum seats ever invented? And why would anyone with a living, feeling backside allow one of the cold monsters in a place where they might have to sit?
So unwanted visitors wouldn’t hang around? Or so when a coworker took a break, they’d remember to go back to work when the “in pain” signals hit the brain?
Doc flicked on a light, not unlike ones I’d seen used in old black and whites for interrogating bad guys. Then he reached in his pocket, pulled out a small bag, which he unzipped and removed two vials of blood.
“Ew.” I wrinkled my nose. “Did you have that in your pocket at dinner?”
“Of course not. Something might have happened to it in my pocket.” He shook his head then warmed me with a quick glance. “I might have gotten attacked by a woman gone wild.”
“Right.” I watched for a few moments while he tinkered with his machines, then I heard something mewling in the distance. “What’s that?”
“Day old wolf pups. Lost their mother, so we’re hand raising them. Sounds like they’re hungry.”
Butt aching on the now warm stool, I asked, “What happened to their mother?”
“Werewolf attack.” He gazed at me for a moment, blanking my mind for all intents and purposes then he refocused on his work. “Funny thing is, he broke her neck, but it was as if he realized she was about to whelp and didn’t tear her apart like he did the other animals. We delivered them right after she died.”
“Oh, the poor babies.” I used a soft tone, just short of wheedling. “Would it be okay if I helped with their feeding?”
“Since we didn’t have another mother who could feed them, they’re being raised by humans.” He gave me one of his delicious half smiles. “I think you’ll qualify.”
“At least most of the time,” I murmured as I slid off the stool. “Which way do I go?”
“Just let me get this started and I’ll show you.”
After a few agonizingly boring moments, he finally started one of his toys humming, clipped a timer on his pocket then turned to me. “Ready?”
Can a wolf bite? I wanted to snap, but decided against it. “Yeah.”
I followed him to the nursery, where four baby wolves huddled together in a bed of straw. He filled a bottle with warmed milk, handed it and one of the pups to me.
I held the baby close. “Were they all in the same litter?”
“Yeah. This was her first pregnancy, but I think she would have been a great mother.”
Guilt rose in my throat. “Poor babies.” I shoved the nipple in the baby’s mouth, and was glad to find feeding a wolf cub was a lot like feeding a dog pup. Exactly, in fact.
I moved to a nearby rocker and sat down. “You keep rockers around for puppies?”
“It’s really for the surrogate parent. We found that our volunteers—men and women—were rocking the animals, even if we gave them metal folding chairs. Even when we took out all the chairs. No matter if they had to stand or sit on the floor, they still swayed.” He shrugged as he filled bottle and picked up another pup. “The humans raising the animals have a need to rock. And now some of our animals do, too.”
When the pup he held slowed his nursing, he put it back in the straw and picked up the other crying baby. The last one was dead to the world. When the one I held wouldn’t allow the nipple in his mouth anymore, I set him down. “Should we wake up that last one so he can eat?”
Doc laughed at the puppy in his arms who seemed to be trying to get the entire bottle in his mouth, then sobered at my words. “It’s a female. You can wake her and try to feed her, but we’re not having much luck with that one. I don’t think she’s interested in living.”
“And she’s the runt of the litter.” I ran one finger down her head to her nape. I picked her up and she curled against me, snuggling as if she were cold. But it wasn’t the least chilly in their nursery.
I took a fresh bottle, settled back in my chair and bumped the nipple against her lips. When she didn’t respond, I gave her a gentle shake. “Wake up, darlin’. It’s time to eat.”
Doc checked the chart, lying close by. “She didn’t take a measurable amount at the last feeding, either.”
Grim determination hardened to a knot in my belly. I couldn’t let this baby die. Pulling my feet onto the rocker’s seat, I balanced the pup on my knees then tapped her on the head. After a thump or two, she lifted her muzzle and whined. “Good. You’re awake.”
Doc’s timer beeped. “Okay, I’ve got to get back to the lab. If you need anything, come find me. I don’t think anyone else is around.”
I nodded as he walked away. I put the nipple to the baby’s muzzle, but while she sniffed as if trying to see what wet her nose, she wouldn’t open her mouth.
Poor thing. It wasn’t her fault that a rogue werewolf killed her mother. She shouldn’t have to die just because she hadn’t been quite ready to be born.
Too bad they couldn’t get one of the other wolves in the zoo to feed her. But unless she accepted the babies right away, another nursing mother would quite likely kill a strange baby.
If they could even get one of the older females to lie with her while they fed her, just so the scent would be right, it might help the baby eat. But no matter how old the female, she could easily kill a strange baby.
That’s when it hit me. I was a female wolf. Well, werewolf. Why couldn’t I morph and get her to eat?
Without weighing the pros and cons, I decided to try it. Taking the cub to an out of the way corner, I made her a nest of straw and propped the bottle beside her. Then holding all my anger at the unfairness of the baby losing its mother because one werewolf who needed to die, I slipped out of my clothes and morphed. I went quickly to the baby and sniffed around her face. When she caught my scent, she immediately whined her hunger.
Without an opposable thumb, however, it’s not an easy task to get a bottle into a pup’s mouth, no matter how wide she’s holding it. But there’s no halfway point. I’m either a werewolf or I’m not. I had to find a way.
After spinning three times, I curled around the baby. Then with my snout, I pushed the bottle her way. It took some time to get her to accept it, but finally, she latched on and suckled until her tummy was full.
When she’d finished, she had milk running out of the corner of her mouth and a fat belly. I quickly turned human again, redressed and took her back to sleep with the other pups.
I walked back into the lab, where Doc stood, staring at nothing. I’d never before seen him look as if he’d lost his best friend. “Are you all right?”
A bleak look on his face, he shook his head. “I was right. He’s got the Lycan infection.”
“Well, that’s something Texas doesn’t need. Two wild werewolves, tearing up the place.”
“Tell me about it.” His tone was grim. “I’m going to have to try the injection, and just hope it works.”
“Take me home.”
Chase turned at her whispered words. The look in her eyes—vulnerable strength—drew him. Unable to resist, he raised his hand to cup her cheek. Her tone held a promise that blasted the “this-has-all-been-for-nothing” feeling ramping in his brain. Sliding
She sucked his finger into her mouth and tugged hard on it.
Visions of her naked in his arms flashed through his mind. He lifted her to a stool and kissed her, letting his hands drift down her arms. With little effort, he nudged her knees apart, edged as close to her as he could get and still remain dressed.
He throbbed against her, wanting to be inside her more than he wanted oxygen. But he couldn’t make love to her in a sterile laboratory. The odors alone would probably be enough to kill the desire she had for him.
He lifted his head. “Let’s go home.”
Eyes glistening, she caught her breath and slowly nodded. He helped her from the stool and, keeping her close to his side, took her to his truck.
After tucking her inside, he circled the truck, yanked open the other door and climbed in with her. Without a word, he started the engine and dropped the gearshift into drive. Halfway down the zoo’s entry, he buckled his seatbelt.
Trying to look casual, as if he drove with the safety of his seatbelt all the time, he stretched the strap across his shoulder and snapped it into place.
“I wondered if you were going to.” Her voice was cloudy. Thick.
Why pretend? Why act as if he had anything on his mind besides getting her home. And naked. As the vision of her again took possession of his mind, he pushed harder on the gas pedal. Clearing his throat, he hoped his voice wouldn’t break like a young teen’s. “I had something on my mind.”
He could feel the heat as her gaze kindled. “Where are we going?”
“Home.” He fought the urge to clear the gravel gathering again in his throat.
Her chuckle came from somewhere deep in her chest. “Yours or mine?”
Calculating quickly, he counted the miles to her house, then to his. “Mine. It’s closer.”
“You all live together, don’t you? Won’t your family be there?”
He couldn’t help teasing her a little. “Why? Are you worried about what Mom will say?”