Feral Heat: Shifters Unbound Novella (13 page)

BOOK: Feral Heat: Shifters Unbound Novella
2.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Jace licked her again.
I’m glad, my heart. You are healing.

“Ride back with me. That will be even better.”

Nope. Not going back.

“Jace.” Deni stroked his head, and Jace wanted to purr. “I don’t speak Feline very well. Change and talk to me.”

Jace didn’t want to change. He’d stay cat, she’d stay wolf, and they’d make a den somewhere. They were smart enough to hunt and evade hunters, and to teach their cubs to do the same. He loved her scent, which was stirring his mating frenzy.

“What’s wrong?” Deni asked him, stroking him again. “I let go of my biggest fear just now—losing control of myself—to let my wolf take over so I could find you. And you know what? I’m fine. Look.” She spread her arms. “I didn’t go feral. I found you, and I didn’t lose myself. I don’t have to be afraid anymore.” She held Jace again, his mate strong and warm. “The crash must have been horrible. But don’t lose yourself, Jace. Please. Come back to me.”

There was nothing wrong with Jace. He was free, and Collarless. But it was dark and Deni hadn’t touched his neck. She didn’t understand yet.

“Please, Jace. I need you.”

Tears trickled from her eyes again, tugging Jace out of his animal focus. He shifted, not as smoothly as he usually did, but jerking and groaning with the pain of it. His cat did
not
want to let go.

“It came off,” Jace said, the words bearing a Feline growl. “Look. The Collar. Gone.”

He took Deni’s hand and put it to his neck.

Deni’s eyes widened. She brushed Jace’s bare neck, which didn’t hurt at all, skimming her fingers around to his throat. “What happened?”

“Don’t know. Was out of the wreck before I realized. Maybe the fire. Maybe it takes intense heat to melt them off.”

Jace touched Deni’s face, his need for her kicking him hard. Deni moved to his touch, then she grabbed his hand and stared at it. “What is
that?

Jace glanced at his palm. It still hurt, and now he saw why. His palm was burned but crossed by a gold streak, which he realized was Deni’s bracelet. The slender gold band had been fused into his skin.

Chapter Thirteen

“Hurts,” Jace said. And
itched
too.

Deni kissed his palm, her lips cool. “I can see that. What happened?”

“It must have heated and melted,” Jace said. “Sorry, Den. I promised I’d bring it back to you.”

“You did.” Deni touched his face and gave him a smile that tightened the bond around his heart. “Let’s go home.”

“We are home.” Deni was under him, her body soft, her scent and warmth making him forget pain. “Stay here with me.”

She looked worried again. “We need to go back. You have friends and family who love you, and they’re afraid for you.”

Jace nuzzled her. “But I’m free of everything. I’m done with being used, hurt, experimented on. I’m finished being easygoing Jace, in the background. I have my mate, my life. I have
you.

Deni’s expression softened. “Yes.”

The mating frenzy was kicking in with her too; Jace saw it in her eyes. Her fingers were hot as she brushed his face, finding his hurts.

The touch of the mate healed. Jace closed his eyes and knew his wounds were closing, his burns easing, his Shifter metabolism helped by the gentle caress of his true mate.

“Jace, stay with me.”

Jace opened his eyes, realizing he’d started to revert to his leopard. He forced himself into human shape again. He needed to stay human right now, because he wanted to have her.

He growled low in his throat. Deni recognized the sound, her eyes becoming darker, filled with need. She ran her hands up his back and to his neck.

Jace knew that once he started kissing her, he’d not be able to stop, and he didn’t care. He slanted his mouth over hers, tasting her heat, her frenzy. It built and grew, calling to his own frenzy, which answered.

The kisses turned fierce. Jace bit down on Deni’s lower lip, eliciting a gasp from her but also laughter. She arched against him while she laughed, her body moving in wonderful ways.

Jace held her down with a strong hand and entered her. As he slid inside, his world changed.

The selfish wildness that had infused him when he’d realized he’d lost the Collar whirled into one tight focus.
Deni.
She alone mattered. He wanted to be with her—forever—and nowhere else. Even if he had to return to Shiftertown with her, to still be a captive, it didn’t matter anymore. Jace would find a way to be with her, he vowed this. And with Deni, he’d always be free.

He fit into her as though she’d been made for him. Jace kissed her lips, her face, her lips again as he drew back then stroked inside her even deeper.

Deni sucked in her breath and then she smiled, her eyes darkening in pleasure. She touched his cheek as she liked to, her fingertips a soft counterpart to the crazed need inside him.

Jace rocked into her, her body squeezing down on him and turning him wild. Raw need flooded him, relieved only by the wonderful feeling of thrusting into her. Stroke after stroke, loving her, cradling her body with one arm so the hard dirt wouldn’t cut into her.

“My mate,” he whispered. “I saw you, and never wanted to be without you.”

Deni shook her head, fingers threading through his hair. “Jace.”

“Be mine,” Jace said. “Say it. Always mine.”

Deni smiled.
“Mine.”

He returned the smile, his fierce. “Forever.”

“Yes.”

The word turned into a groan. Deni’s grip bit into his shoulders, and she held him while she shuddered and cried his name, her thrusts meeting his. Jace bent his head and nipped her neck, tasting the metallic tang of her Collar.

He’d have it off her—he’d figure out how. And she’d be free, with him. The pain would be gone, and Deni would heal. He’d be with her, next to her, helping her all the way.

“Jace.”

Deni’s groan filled him with frenzy. His thrusts grew faster, his growls deeper. He’d go to ground with her, and they’d do this all day long and into the night. She’d smile at him, beautiful and sensual, and wrap her arms around him, wanting to do it again.

“Deni.
Goddess.
” Jace lost his seed into her, pumping his hips while she laughed to the stars.

Jace raised his head, his body slick with sweat, and kissed her lips, her mouth hot with afterglow. “I love you,” he said, his heart in every word.

“I love you too, Jace. Always my mate.”

Jace was still hard, pulsing with need for her. He gave her a feral smile as he thrust into her again, beginning the rhythm once more.

Deni gave him a startled look, and then she laughed. The laughter soon turned to groans, and they gave themselves over to the frenzy, their cries ringing against the millions of bright stars.

* * *

Ellison found Jace and Deni where they lay together in the warm Texas night. Of course he did—Deni knew they’d given him plenty of time to find their scent, and they must have been throwing off pheromones like crazy, providing an easy trail to follow.

Ellison came trotting up as his wolf, then shifted to human and groaned. “Not
again
. I swear, I can’t come near you two without finding you tangled together.” His voice held relief though, even rejoicing.

Jace helped Deni to her feet and put her behind his warm body, but when he faced Ellison, he wasn’t defensive and angry—he showed his open hands, a posture of peace.

“Congratulate us, Ellison,” Jace rumbled. “I’m mate-claiming your sister, Deni Rowe, under the light of the moon, the Goddess, and in front of a witness—you. I plan to ask Liam or my dad to perform the mating rituals as soon as they can.”

Ellison stopped, moonlight gleaming on his light hair and wolf-gray eyes. He was Deni’s alpha, the leader of her small pack, but answering the mate-claim was Deni’s choice. “You good with that, Den?” Ellison asked, his voice going soft.

“Yeah.” Deni slid her arms around Jace from behind, loving the tall solidness of his body, his warm scent, the feel of his skin as she kissed his shoulder. “I’m good with that. I accept the mate-claim. Jace?” She heard the shaking in her voice. “You ready to go home? To my home I mean—it’s closer right now. We can call your dad from there. I be he’s worried sick.”

Deni held her breath, waiting for Jace to want to return to the leopard, to insist Deni come with him into the wild, or leave on his own if she wouldn’t. He wore no Collar now—there was nothing to stop him.

Even so, life in the wild was dangerous. Jace could be found, hunted, killed. And he could still go feral—Shifters who lived on their own, letting their beasts take over, often did go feral. The Shifters Ellison’s mate, Maria, had been rescued from had refused to take Collars, hidden out, and become feral and cruel. Collars, for their pain, and the Shifter laws, for their restrictions, at least worked to help keep Shifters sane.

Jace turned in Deni’s arms and looked down at her, his face in shadow. Ellison waited behind him, tense, uncertain.

Deni’s heart ached, both with the bond and with worry. Jace looked better, his burns pale streaks in the moonlight. He looked stronger too, and more at ease, any uncertainty he might have felt for his place in the world gone.

Then he smiled. Every bit of love was in the smile, every bit of tenderness. He brushed back a lock of Deni’s hair, his fingers warm.

“We’ll want to tell your cubs you accepted my mate-claim,” Jace said. “So yeah. Let’s go home.”

* * *

A Shifter meeting was called in Liam’s house the next day, after Jace and Deni had rested from the long drive back to Austin—well, Deni remembered with a blush—they’d done more than just rest. The meeting included Eric Warden, Jace’s father.

Deni’s heart squeezed as Eric strode across the house to meet Jace when he came in, father enfolding son in a long, hard embrace. Eric’s mate, Iona, who was heavy with Eric’s child, also hugged Jace, wiping away her tears when she released him.

Jace reached for Deni, who’d hung back from the family greeting, and pulled her forward. “You remember Deni Rowe, Ellison’s sister.”

Eric understood their connection as soon as he looked at Deni, and Iona caught on a second later. Eric gazed at Deni with eyes the same color as his son’s, then he put his big arms around Deni and pulled her into an embrace equally as tight as the one he’d shared with Jace.

“Thank you, child,” Eric said, his voice rumbling into her ear. “Welcome to the family.”

He stood Deni back and studied her, a satisfied look in his eyes. Iona slid past Eric and hugged Deni herself.

“Congratulations, you two.” Iona winked at Deni as she stepped away from her. “Jace is a sweetheart. A keeper.”

Deni smiled her agreement. “I think so.”

“And now Collar-free,” Eric said. “Thank the Goddess.”

Deni understood Eric was thanking the Goddess for more than Jace’s Collar being off. A shudder went through Eric, which Deni recognized as a father’s relief that his cub was safe and whole.

“Jace has a theory about that,” Liam said from where he lounged on a window seat in the living room. He held his black-haired daughter in the curve of his arm, little Katriona watching the adults with interest. “Carry on, lad.”

Jace held up his hand, which bore a red streak. Last night, when they’d returned to the Austin Shiftertown and after Sean and Dylan had gotten Marlo to a hospital—the resilient man was on the mend—Sean and Jace had painfully dug the remnants of the gold chain from Jace’s hand. Andrea had quickly done a healing on him, then Deni had completed the healing in the privacy of the Rowe family’s secret basement.

“Fionn saw the bracelet last night when he was visiting Andrea,” Jace said. “Andrea told me this morning that Fionn told her that this bracelet is made of Fae gold. Passed down through the female line of many generations of Deni’s mother’s family. Shifters used to live in Faerie—why couldn’t one of them have had access to Fae gold?” Jace slid his arm around Deni. “I was holding the bracelet, which Deni gave me as a keepsake, when the plane went down. I went through hell, nearly burned alive. The heat must have melted it into me, where it entered my nervous system or bloodstream, or skin cells, or something. I haven’t figured that part out. But somehow, my Collar loosened and fell away, without hurting me. Though maybe I didn’t notice the pain while my fur was being fried off.”

“The third element,” Sean said. He dangled a Collar from his hand, Jace’s Collar, which Sean had found in the wreckage. “Silver and human technology, fused together by Fae gold. Whether the gold is already in the Collar or only put into it when the Collar goes on the Shifter’s neck, we don’t know yet.”

“Or how to use that knowledge to get the Collars off,” Jace said.

Sean studied Jace’s Collar, which looked remarkably intact for its time in the crucible the plane had become. “Maybe a syringe of the liquid gold carefully injected into the Shifter will loosen it? Or simply rubbed on the skin? Will be tricky, this, since Fae gold’s pretty hard to find, according to Fionn. Fionn says he’ll help us, but even he says it’s very rare.”

“He claims he has it in the walls in his house,” Jace said. “Tell him to dig it out for us.”

“He explained that to me,” Sean said, without smiling. “He said when it was all chipped away it would only be an ounce or so. But we’ll work on finding a source. And start trying out techniques. It might still be very painful.”

Jace touched the fake Collar around his neck, put there courtesy of Liam and Dylan this morning. “Well, you can try it on someone not me. I’m done messing with Collars.”

Sean nodded in understanding. “You’ve got it, lad. Volunteers only. But I’m thinking some will put up with a little hot gold on their skin to be free of these bloody devices.”

“Me,” Deni said. “You can try it first on me. Use whatever is left in the bracelet. I’m sure my mother would be fine with me using it to free myself and my mate.”

Jace’s hold on her tightened. “No. Not until they know what they’re doing.”

“Sean will figure it out.” Deni leaned into Jace, feeling warm and protected. “I want this damned Collar off. I want to heal all the way. With you, and without the Collar.”

Jace growled, but she saw sympathy in his eyes. “All right, but I’m with you every step of the way. Every second. And if Sean hurts you more than necessary, he answers to me.”

“Oh, good,” Sean said. “No pressure. Don’t worry, lass. I’ll be trying these ideas on meself as well. I have a mate who can make us all better if I screw up.”

“I
hope
I can,” Andrea said. She held her son close, his gray eyes so much like his mother’s.

“I’m just feeling better about this all the time,” Sean said.

“We can do volunteers from our Shiftertown too,” Eric said. “Those who would most benefit. If there proves to be so little Fae gold, the weaker Shifters should be released first, those whose Collars hurt them the most. Those of us who can control the Collars’ effects—we’ll suck it up for a while.”

“Speaking of your Shiftertown,” Deni said, and Eric focused on her.

“Don’t worry—I’ll make sure Jace can move here officially,” Eric said. “And have leave to visit me and bring you with him as often as possible.” Eric swallowed, the light in his eyes dimming. “I’ll miss him, but I know what a mate bond is like.” His hand drifted to Iona’s, and his mate rose on tiptoe and kissed his cheek.

Another thing Jace was doing for her, Deni reflected. Traditionally, Shifter women moved into the homes of their mates, leaving their own families behind. But it would be difficult to obtain permission to move Deni
and
her two cubs to the Las Vegas Shiftertown, and it would also mean leaving Ellison. To prevent Deni having to leave her sons behind, Jace had volunteered to move here instead. A break with tradition, but a kind one.

“Well,” Liam said, pushing himself from the window seat and handing Katriona to Kim. “I’m looking forward to conducting yet another mating ceremony. Unless Eric fights me for the honor. But we have other business at hand. Tiger.”

Tiger unfolded his big arms and moved to the basement door—the door to the true basement, not the Morrisseys’ secret space. The Shifters at this meeting were Liam and family and Liam’s trackers, plus Eric and Iona. Liam had asked for Eric’s advice on the sticky problem Deni had uncovered at the Shifter bar.

BOOK: Feral Heat: Shifters Unbound Novella
2.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell
Four Below by Peter Helton
Island of Dragons by Lindsey Owens
a Touch of Ice by L. j. Charles
Another Chance by Cuppett, Sandra
Unstoppable by Tim Green
WarlordsBounty by Cynthia Sax