Authors: Anne Marsh
“Imagination,” she chided herself. Waving a farewell to Mama Jolie, she got in the truck and hit the road.
He watched her climb into the truck, fighting an unexpected sense of loss. If she had been a wolf, their mating would have been fast and hard. A raw exercise in skin on skin. A wolf would have pranced playfully in front of him, turning her body towards his with a flirtatious sideways flick of her head. Rubbing against him as she put her chin on his back and breathed him in.
She would have been aroused, in heat. Presenting. First her back and shoulders, then her ass. And lower. Teasing his lupine senses with her sweet, wet heat.
And he would have mounted her, pushed her down on all fours until he had her pinned, her legs spread to accommodate him as he eased himself inside. Covered her and drew his cock through her feminine slickness in a primal rhythm. His balls slapping against her ass, his fingers curling into her hips, and his arms wrapped around her ribs. One final thrust, locking deep inside her, his penis swelling and engorging with blood.
Tomorrow night. The truck’s motor coughed to life, and she disappeared down the road. He wanted to pace her, track her. She was
He wasn’t all wolf. He was still part man. He was Rafer Breaux for at least a little longer. He held on to that knowledge desperately.
The bayou camp was a ramshackle collection of houseboats and tin-roofed cabins perched precariously on stilts above the black waters. None of Rafer’s brothers needed much space—one room each and a covered deck was more than enough. The bayou’s storms and heat had weathered the cypress wood to silvers and greys until the cabins almost disappeared into the thick sheets of Spanish moss hanging from the surrounding trees. This deep in the bayou, there were no accidental visitors, and a man could always see the enemy coming.
Given what liked to come hunting for the Breauxs, that isolation was a damned good thing.
“Blue moon’s comin’.” Landry tossed the observation out like the Breaux brothers weren’t all painfully aware of the moon’s cycles. He stretched out his booted feet, tipping his head back to stare up at the sky.
Rafer figured they both knew he’d spent the morning reconning the market. The waiting was never easy. “Tomorrow night.”
Landry’s smile was slow and knowing. “I’m ready for a run. You think that moon will find one of us a bride?”
“Or all of us.” Dre’s wicked suggestion wasn’t impossible. Was, in fact, the best possible outcome for tomorrow’s hunt. The entire Pack hunted for the blue-moon bride, but what happened when the chase ended was up to the woman. Some mates preferred to stick one-on-one with their chosen wolves, but others…others welcomed a little adventure, and those women might choose more than one. If the woman at the market turned out to be the bride, Rafer had no idea how she would feel about loving an entire wolf Pack. Hell, just one of them would be a handful.
“A man can hope,” Landry drawled. “We got any idea who she might be?”
Only the moon would tell them for certain, but she had to be close. “I got some idea,” Rafer admitted.
“Pretty?” Dre asked.
“Better she be real sweet,” Landry argued. “Seein’ as how she’s goin’ to be putting up with a bunch of wolves. Sweet would be good.”
“Yeah, but a woman needs more than sugar if she’s goin’ up against the skin hunters.” Dre reached for the pile of netting mounded up by the side of the houseboat.
“She’s not fightin’ anyone.” Rafer bared his teeth, battling the urge to shift.
Hell, no, she wouldn’t fight. The vamps were hitting harder and more often, and Rafer had heard rumblings that there were no Packs left in Europe now. The vamps had slaughtered every one of the remaining wolves there.
The last wolf he’d encountered who’d been attacked by vamps had still been alive. The vampires had peeled off his skin and left him. Dying didn’t get much uglier than that. Being Pack meant being near immortal, but if the wolf couldn’t shift, the wolf couldn’t heal the injuries. The wolf had died soon after they’d found him.
“You wan’ to bring her to the camp?” Dre didn’t look up from the shrimping net he’d stretched over his legs, fingers flashing in and out of the green nylon. Later this week, after the hunt was over, he’d take his fishing boat downriver trawling for shrimp with his twin, Landry. The twins did everything together.
“What’s wrong with here? She’d be safe.” Rafer eyed the deck of his houseboat, but damned if the place didn’t look the same as always. Hell, he’d even kept the tin roof because, yeah, he was a three-hundred-year-old werewolf who liked the drumming of the rain on the sheet metal, and the cabins were more outside than in anyhow. The boat rolled softly now as the bayou waters stirred beneath the cypress planking. He’d made her by hand fifty years ago. She was good and strong, got him where he needed to go and gave him a roof over his head at night. Sure wasn’t like any Pottery Barn catalog, but he’d seen worse.
“You got to ask, you got a problem,” Landry drawled. “Our bride, she’s a female, right? So maybe she takes one look at this fine place of ours and runs the other way, yeah?”
“She runs, we’ll catch her again.” Satisfaction filled Dre’s voice, and Rafer agreed. Chasing was good. As long as the bride was on board with that plan. There was nothing good about chasing a woman who didn’t want to be chased.
“And then she’ll run and you’ll be all rinse and repeat.” Landry shot a mischievous glance towards Luc. “You ask Luc here. He’s still lookin’ for the female he misplaced.”
Luc never talked about that other night. The night ten years ago that the blue moon had come up and he’d run alone, come back alone. All he’d said was that he’d found his mate—and lost her.
“Crazy,” Luc growled, looking up from the boat engine he was working on. “You’re all crazy. Damned moon.”
“This is a good place.” Rafer bared his teeth. “We built it. We hold it. You wan’ to bring tomorrow's blue-moon bride somewhere else?”
Landry picked up his end of the net, patiently pulling the strings taut. “Nowhere else to take her. I’m just sayin’ she’s not gettin’ the Ritz Carlton here. Or the honeymoon suite. Some women, they have a vision for this night. They wan’ things to be a certain way.”
. Rafer’s fingers tightened on the blade he was sharpening. “We’ll give her everythin’ we’ve got.”
“What if it’s not enough?” Landry closed a hole in the net.
“It will be.” It had to be. Everything depended on tomorrow’s hunt. Dag and Jackson were still in wolf form, sprawled on the outer edges of their camp on that edge between home and the swamp. Jackson was the baby and he’d shift back when he damn well felt like it. Rafer wasn’t so sure about Dag.
“Who do you think it is?” There was no way to know for certain before the blue moon rose and drew a path to her, but the wolves had always been able to guess. Their bride would have strong ties to the bayou. She’d belong here—and with them.
“Lark Andrews.” Luc’s gaze met his. “You know who she is. You watched her long enough today.”
The need came back hard, twisting through him. Christ, he hoped it was her.
“Miss Dixie’s granddaughter.” Dre volunteered the information, his eyes watching Dag. He was concerned too. “That whole family was voudou way back. Maybe this one’s the same way.”
“You think she knows about the blue moon and the hunt?” Rafer didn’t know what to hope for. If she knew and she ran, the hunt would be fine. If she knew and didn’t run, his hopes for the Pack were over before they’d even begun. If she refused to run, he’d lose his opportunity to convince her to take a chance on them.
Christ, he wanted that chance.
Dre smiled. “If she don’, she will now. She’s been talkin’ to Mama Jolie.”
That old woman was a voudou priestess and old, old bayou. She knew secrets about his kind, about the
. Hell, she knew
of the bayou, good and bad. If she wanted, Mama Jolie could make their bride run fast and hard, far enough from the bayou that they’d never find her. And that wasn’t happening on Rafer’s watch. They needed this bride, needed the chance she represented.
“Mama Jolie talks her ear off, this hunt doesn’t happen.” Dre was definitely in a mood to cause trouble.
“She has to know,” Rafer repeated stubbornly. Lark Andrews had a bright, laughing face. She was a happy woman and nice. Too damned nice. He’d seen her put aside those flowers for Mama Jolie. What would it be like to have her here, laughing with him?
“We’re not goin’ to hurt her,” Luc promised.
The blue-moon hunt was a darkly erotic game. The Pack had always played with women who knew the score—and that meant Rafer wouldn’t chase Lark Andrews until he heard her agree. She had to know what the rules of the game were. Once she knew, he’d be happy to chase her until he caught her. He shoved to his feet, setting the knife aside.
Dre frowned. “Where are you going?”
“Shoppin’.” He tossed the words over his shoulder, striding down the dock to his boat. “Don’ you think our bride deserves flowers?”
The man tying up at Lark’s dock was gorgeous. Broad-shouldered, Cajun and dark, he was a giant of a man. God, that was a Breaux for you. There was no missing the impressive erection he sported, either. Apparently she had the same effect on him he had on her. Wet heat blossomed between her legs. His eyes were fierce, an ice grey that melted as he examined her face. For a fleeting moment, he’d looked like a cold-blooded killer and a predator. Now he just looked hungry.
He wore a pair of faded jeans, but otherwise he was barefoot and bare-chested. He made absolutely no pretense at being civilized, and yet she couldn’t help herself. She breathed in the clean, male scent of him and wanted him on sight. He stood motionless at the end of her dock, where he had tied up his boat, frozen in an almost predatory stillness. As if he wouldn't move until she gave some unspoken signal.
As if he believed she might be afraid of him.
The only thing she feared for right now was her virtue.
His bare chest had her heating right up, and when she dropped her gaze to the denim-covered thighs, she almost went up in flames. Dear God. They grew them hot in the bayou. The sweet flush of arousal sweeping through her was better than any date she’d had with her vibrator.
A slow, masculine smile tugged at his lips, and he strolled towards her, six-plus feet of rugged Cajun man. Her mind promptly took a detour into fantasy land.
And yet he seemed more familiar than her few long-distance glimpses of his family warranted. “Have we met?” she asked.
“Not yet.” That honeyed accent made listening to him pure pleasure.
“Lark Andrew,” she said, holding out a hand. He wrapped her fingers in his, turning her palm up and stroking the lines there with his thumb.
“Rafer Breaux.” His fingers tightened briefly on hers.
“You come in from the bayou?” Sidetracked by her libido, her brain produced an inanity to help the conversation along. He didn’t look like he minded much, though.
“Sure did.” His caramel drawl was sinful. “Do a little fishin’. A little huntin’.” He watched her, clearly waiting for her to say something.
“What can I do for you today?” She took a step backward. Heat blasted off him. She turned and headed back up the dock, knowing instinctively that he’d follow. Sure enough, he was close on her heels.
“I wan’—” His voice was hoarse, deep. Sexy as hell. Like he didn’t speak often and made it count when he did. “Flowers,” he finished, and for a moment she wondered if he’d intended to substitute another word. Another desire.
And damned if that didn’t make her wetter.
The walk to the greenhouse was too short. Her thighs clenched with need, her pussy drenched because he was right behind her. She had the strangest sensation of being stalked by a wild animal, but she didn’t feel threatened. The warm flush of desire was so unlike her. She wanted to wrestle him to the ground, mark him and claim him as hers.
He didn’t speak again until they reached the first greenhouse. “You alone here?”
She waved a hand at the other people working in the yard and fields. “Does it look like I’m alone?”
“Family.” His hand shot out over her head, pushing open the door for her. She had to duck under that hard arm. “I’d heard Miss Dixie passed on.”
The pain was still there, a softer stab now rather than a bright, hard hurt. She missed her grandmother. “You really don’t get out of the bayou much, do you?”
He followed her down the greenhouse’s narrow aisle, and she should have been nervous, but wasn’t. He was large and too close, a predator on her heels. And that was ridiculous. He was just a man. An almost-neighbor who simply lived deeper inside the bayou than she did.
“No,” he said quietly. “I don’ leave the bayou much anymore.”
And yet he’d come to her for flowers. She stopped by a wooden table loaded with fragrant sweet pea. “What’s the occasion?”
He looked at her but didn’t answer. Maybe it was one of those bayou things. She probably didn’t need to know, but, damn it, he intrigued her. She wanted to learn more about her bayou man.
“What do you need the flowers for?” she asked again, finding the dark flush of color on his face strangely endearing. “An evening out?”
“Somethin’ like that,” he agreed.
He struck her as a man who knew precisely what he wanted, but maybe flowers weren’t his thing. Choosing for him wouldn’t be a problem. She reached for the scissors.
“You’re going to get grower’s choice.”
That slow smile was back in his eyes. “You can always choose for me,
.” He propped a hip against her worktable and watched her cut, his eyes following her hands.
She cut slowly, selecting her favorites. “This one has a pretty scent,” she suggested, handing him a slim spray of flowers. He took the stem from her, his fingers touching hers. Deliberately. The soft-rough brush of his calloused skin against hers kicked the heat in her belly—and lower—up a notch. She’d have to change her panties after he left. His eyes flared as if he knew. Which was impossible.
“This one’s sweet,” he agreed, leaning forward and tucking the stem into the bouquet she was building. The sexy look of concentration on his face as he maneuvered the flower into place, big fingers stroking down the petals, almost overruled her sensible side. She didn’t know him. If Rafer Breaux rarely left the bayou, well, she never went