Authors: Rose J. Allister
She threw him a scowl while she leaned close enough to snatch the sweater from him. “This will be fine, thanks.”
Her eyes flicked back and forth between the two men, wishing her bra wasn’t quite so see-through when wet. Did she dare turn her back on them? She sure wasn’t about to pull the sweater over her head face-on.
With a sigh she spun around, dropping the wet blouse at her feet and hurriedly tugging on Kyle’s sweater. It was still warm from his body, and as she dragged it over her head she inhaled a woodsy, male scent that shot a funny little jolt down her spine. She could feel their eyes on her even with her back turned while she dressed, and she honestly wasn’t sure which was heating her body more.
His sweater was huge on her, hanging below her wrists and almost to mid-thigh. The V-neck also plunged deeper on her, exposing cleavage. She pushed the sleeves up until her hands poked through the cuffs and turned around.
“Better?” Kyle asked.
She nodded. “Much. Thank you.”
“If you need my jacket, just let me know. I figure it could use some dryin’ off first, though.” He picked it up and brushed at the water running off of it. “The rain’s comin’ down fierce out there.”
She eyed both men. “Aren’t you two cold?”
“We don’t get cold easy,” Dillon said.
She lifted a brow. “Apparently not, since you’re naked and all. Which you never did explain.”
“Because you weren’t sure you wanted to ask.”
Dillon’s smile heated her blood, and she swallowed. “Maybe you’re right.”
Kyle grunted. “If you’re plannin’ on stayin’ here the night, you’re gonna find out whether you want to or not.”
She raised her chin. “Who says I’m planning to stay the night?”
“Don’t see as you have much choice.”
“You said I’m not your prisoner. You can’t keep me here.”
He shrugged. “I don’t have to. It’s nightfall durin’ a full moon. The storm will drop temperatures near to freezin’, and you’re miles from the nearest tourist parkin’ area.” He stepped closer to her, picking up her hand and rubbing it. His was warm and dry, while hers no doubt felt like a wet cod. “So unless you’re hidin’ a vehicle or some hefty survival equipment in those tight pants, I’d say you’re stuck livin’ through a night you won’t ever forget.”
She swallowed, wondering whether to lie her way out of this. Before she could answer, Kyle turned her hand over and stared at the back of it. “What’s this?” he asked, thumbing the diamond so it slid back and forth.
Aimee pulled her hand away and glanced at the gem. “It’s an engagement ring.”
“A what?” Dillon spoke this time, his voice echoing loudly through the space. She turned to him to find his eyes wide. “You ain’t engaged.”
She could swear there was an edge of jealousy in the remark, and a tiny spark of pleasure ignited at the thought of his possessiveness. She couldn’t help but poke at the theory a little. “Why else would I be wearing a half-carat diamond on my wedding finger?” She waggled it at him for effect, then took a breath and decided to dive in with the rest. “In fact, he’s here with me. No doubt he’s searching for me right now. I should probably go.”
“Kyle,” Dillon said. “Are you hearin’ this?”
The other man shrugged. “I guarantee ain’t nobody out searchin’ for you tonight. It’s too dark and too wet.” He nodded at her ring. “If your Prince Charmin’ fiancé is here with you, how is it you got separated and wound up with us?”
She frowned at the term. “I didn’t say he was Prince Charming.
my fiancé, to be honest. I got lost when I left him to use the bathroom and found a wolf intent on chasing me instead.”
Dillon chuckled. “If you were lookin’ for a bathroom out here, it’s no wonder you got lost.”
She snorted. “Not an actual bathroom. You know what I mean.”
“A wolf chased you?” Kyle’s hands were on his hips now.
“It was Caleb,” Dillon said. He winced and bent over a moment, as though he were in pain. “I smelled him on her. But he didn’t hurt her.”
Aimee frowned. “What is it with naming the wolves around here? Are you guys part of some wolf protection society or something?”
When she shot a look at Kyle, she saw that he, too, wore a pained grimace. “You ain’t completely wrong,” he said with some difficulty. “But I’m afraid we got bigger problems right now.”
“It’s comin’,” Dillon said. He was kneeling on all fours now. “I can feel it.”
Aimee blinked in confusion. “What’s coming?”
“Fight it,” Kyle said. “You don’t want to change now.”
The other man rolled his eyes. “Yeah, like that’ll help. Why didn’t I think of that?”
Dillon was shivering now, and Aimee stared down at him with a curious frown. “What’s wrong? Thought you said you don’t get cold.”
Kyle took her by the upper arms, and a tickle flickered in her stomach. “There ain’t time for proper explanations,” he said. “You’re just gonna have to believe that you were meant to be here, and we’re not gonna let anythin’ happen to you.”
“Shit.” Dillon was on the ground now, heaving in and out.
“Why are you telling me this?” Aimee pulled away from Kyle’s grasp and stepped back with a wary glance at Dillon. “What’s wrong with him?”
“She’s fuckin’ engaged, Kyle.” The gaze Dillon leveled on her glowed with yellow fire, and she gasped aloud.
“Easy, now,” Kyle said, dropping beside Dillon to sit cross-legged on the cave floor. “Breathe with me, partner. You can do this. It’s just the low moon.”
Dillon sat up but shook his head. “The
low moon. I can’t help it, Kyle. I keep thinkin’ about her marryin’ some jackass, and, damn it.”
She scowled at him. “Hey! David’s not a jackass.”
The mention of his name brought a throaty growl in response. Kyle launched into some weird New Age-style deep breathing with his palms facing up on his knees. “Just try,” he said.
Dillon shut his eyes and whooshed out some forceful breaths while he continued to quiver. Aimee gripped her elbows in her hands while she watched the bizarre display. What was the big deal about her engagement ring? Maybe he’d recently had a bad breakup and it brought back memories.
She stepped forward. “I didn’t agree to marry the guy yet.” The words surprised her as soon as they were out. Why should she feel a need to explain? She didn’t owe them anything.
“But you’re wearin’ his ring.” The hint of accusation in the tone was clear. “You let another man put his ring on your finger.”
A stab of anger shot through her. “So what?” Her volume dialed up enough for the words to bounce off the cave walls. “It’s my life, and I can do what I want with it. Just who the hell are
to comment on whether I get married or not?”
“Who am I?” Dillon rose up on his knees, his eyes gleaming with something feral that set her teeth on edge. “I am your mate.”
Her jaw fell open, but her shock at the bold claim was quickly overridden by the odd ripples forming along the surface of his skin.
Kyle began humming in a fast, chanting rhythm. “
Om Mani Padme Hum
. Do it, Dillon. Come on. Focus.
Om Mani Padme Hum
Instead, Dillon tilted his head back and let out a growl that sounded nothing like a Buddhist chant. In fact, it sounded less than human. Aimee shrank back and hugged her arms around herself.
Kyle stopped chanting and got to his feet. “Shit, it’s too late,” he said. He strode quickly over to her. “I’m sorry, darlin’, but don’t be afraid. I’m here with you.”
Dillon grabbed the chain secured to his neck and cried out. His body rippled as though aliens were crawling under his skin, and as she looked on in horror, he began to shrink closer to the ground while black needles shot right out through his pores.
“Jesus!” she said, jumping back. “What’s happening to him?”
Kyle folded her in his strong arms and gazed down at her. “He’s not in as much pain as it looks to be. He’s just tryin’ to fight it.”
He nodded toward Dillon. “That.”
She glanced over again and slapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a shriek. Dillon was gone. In his place sat a brown-and-gray wolf with blazing yellow eyes. It was chained around the neck and torso just as Dillon had been.
“My God,” she whispered. “Where’s Dillon?”
Dillon. He’s a shifter, Aimee.”
She glanced at Kyle. “What do you mean, ‘a shifter’? What the hell is a shifter?”
“Don’t you know? Where’ve you been during the big werewolf pop culture phenomenon?”
She gaped at the animal in shock. It stared right back, its tongue hanging out while its sides heaved in panting breaths. A dizzy sensation passed over her as she shook her head. “That’s not possible,” she went on. “This isn’t happening.”
“You just watched it happen,” Kyle said. “We do exist.”
“They can’t. And what do you mean, ‘we’ exist?” She glanced up at him and flinched back. The golden flecks in his eyes glittered in the lantern light. “Not you, too?”
“I won’t change, I swear it. Not now.”
She continued backing away. “Why is he chained up and you’re not?”
“He doesn’t have my control yet.”
“He’s a younger wolf, only six years turned. Plus the pack he came from was pretty wild before they disbanded a few months back. They were used to givin’ over completely to the power of the moon. It takes time to master not lettin’ nature take you whole.”
The wolf behind her let out a low, soft wail that stood her hair on end. “So the wolf that chased me earlier was really a man?”
Kyle nodded. “He’s from Dillon’s old pack.”
“A woman was trying to shoot it.”
The wolf’s wail sharpened into a bark. Kyle’s gaze narrowed. “Red hair, about your height?” he asked.
She nodded. “She was so intent on chasing the wolf that I could barely get her to stop when I needed help. She probably wouldn’t have slowed down at all if she hadn’t thought that the wolf might have bitten me.” Aimee sucked in a gasp as understanding dawned. “Is that why she and Dillon were afraid that it—I mean
—had bitten me? Is that how you become a werewolf?”
Kyle nodded. “If she thought you’d have been bitten by a member of the old pack, she likely as not would have shot you where you stood.” He stepped toward her with a sigh, his glittering eyes searching her face. “And we’d have had ourselves a whole other issue when you found us.”
“You’d have had to chain me up like him?”
“You could no longer be Dillon’s true mate.”
She narrowed her eyes. “I’m not Dillon’s mate.”
The wolf behind her growled, and she whirled on him. “That’s right, you heard me. Regardless of both of your wild claims that you somehow know me, I’ve never seen you before. And I’m not looking for any mate.”
“Not just any mate, no.” Kyle picked up her hand. “Do you want to tell me about this, then?”
She yanked the hand back. “No, I don’t want to tell you about this. I don’t even know what
is yet, myself.”
He pushed a lock of his straight hair back, giving her a better view of the scar. The deep slash ran all the way from his square jaw up to the temple, where it disappeared into his hairline. “Seems to me you’re wantin’ a mate more than you’re sayin’ if you accepted this ring.”