Finding Chrissten: Legacy, Book 5 (6 page)

BOOK: Finding Chrissten: Legacy, Book 5
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Grateful, she tilted her head slightly and drank. She was parched and soaked up the slightly warm liquid. Some of it spilled down her chin, but he was right there, wiping it away.

“Easy.” He pulled the glass away. “Give yourself a minute. You don’t want to drink too much too fast. Might make you sick.”

She nodded and took a minute to really look at him. Hank. She liked his name. It was strong, like him. Up until now she’d been so focused on his scent she’d paid little attention to his appearance.

He sank down onto the bed beside her, making the mattress dip with his weight. Chrissten studied his face. His eyes were the palest blue she’d ever seen and were fringed with thick eyelashes. His brows were straight and dark in contrast to his hair. It was short and blond. Real short. Almost military short. His nose was large and straight. His lips firm and full. His chin square.

This was one tough male.

His shoulders were so wide he blocked out the rest of the room from her line of sight. His biceps swelled beneath the cotton of his long-sleeved shirt, hinting at his strength.

Her heart skipped a beat and picked up its pace. She wanted to curl her body around him, using his heat to warm her.

Which was totally nuts. She’d just met him. Hadn’t she?

She licked her lips again, thankful they weren’t as dry as they’d been. “You were there, weren’t you?” Even as she asked, she knew the answer to her question. He’d been there.

“Yeah. I was part of the team that extracted you.”

“Team?” It sounded like a military operation, but she knew it wasn’t. Her brothers had both been there.

“The pack.” Hank placed his hand on her upper arm. She flinched and he immediately removed it. He started to stand, but she didn’t want him to leave her.

“Stay.”

“You sure?” His laser gaze studied her. She knew if she asked him to leave he would. That released some of the irrational fear surrounding her. She owed him some sort of explanation.

She nodded. “It’s just when you touched me…” She couldn’t continue. She didn’t want to remember how Brian had touched her whenever he wanted. She started rubbing her arms, frantic to remove Brian’s touch. The covers fell to her waist.

She could still smell him under her skin. She’d never be free of him.

Strong hands captured hers and her eyes flew upward. Not Brian. Hank. This was Hank. Panic slowly began to recede.

“I’m sorry.” God, she was a basket case.

“Don’t be sorry. You have nothing to apologize for.” His tone was fierce but gentle. “I just don’t want you to hurt yourself. You still have a long way to go before you’re fully healed.”

She looked down at her arms, seeing them for the first time. Mottled bruises in various shades of blue, black, brown and purple ranged up and down her skin. Now that she was looking at them they began to throb. She pulled her hands from his and tugged the covers over her, ashamed for them to show.

Hank got up from the bed and walked to a closet. He withdrew a long-sleeved denim shirt and came back to the bed, driving home the fact she was in his room, in his bed, resting on his pillow. It felt very intimate, but not frightening.

“Here. You can wear this.” He knew. He knew how much the bruises bothered her. She peered deep into his eyes and saw no pity, only understanding. Slowly, she released her death grip on the blankets and let them fall to her waist.

Chrissten raised her left arm and flinched. She was sore and stiffer than she’d thought.

“Let me.” Hank didn’t give her time to turn down his offer. Swiftly and with no wasted movements, he put the shirt on her. The sleeves were too long, even for her. She was a tall woman, almost six feet, and wasn’t used to having clothing too big on her. He rolled up the cuffs on both sleeves several times. When he was satisfied, he sat back. “Better?”

It was better. Not only was the shirt warm, but it smelled like him too. And it covered her bruises. She nodded. “Thanks.”

“My pleasure.” The corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled, making him appear even more handsome.

Her line of thinking startled her. She was in no position to find any man handsome. Her life was a mess and it wasn’t going to get any better for a long time, if ever.

“I’m going to kill him.” There was no denying the menace in that threat, but strangely she didn’t feel the least bit intimidated. She should be screaming for her brother, not wanting to snuggle with the guy.

“Who?” Deep in her heart she knew who he meant, but she wanted to hear him say it.

“Brian.” The word came out more as a growl and she could barely understand him.

Shame washed over her. They all knew. Brian was her biological mate. She pulled the edges of the shirt around her, knowing the sense of safety and comfort was false but needing it anyway.

Hank touched his fingers against the edge of her jaw. “Hey. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m in awe of your bravery. You stayed alive. You managed to help Bethany escape.” He took a deep breath, his broad chest widening to immense proportions. “God, you have no idea just how amazing you are.”

Chrissten stared at Hank, taking his words in, wanting to believe them. He’d been a stranger to her only moments before. No, that wasn’t quite true. She might not have seen his face before, but his scent had been imprinted on her heart and mind. She felt close to him. Closer than she’d felt to anyone outside her family.

“I should have found a way to escape. I should have—” Anger bubbled up inside her. “I should have fought him harder. Should have killed him.” Shame washed over her like a tsunami. There should have been something she could have done to prevent what had happened to her.

“How?” Again, there was no sense of judgment from Hank, just a simple question. “He’s a pureblooded male and you were a female in heat. Even if you did fight him, you couldn’t hold out forever. He would have used his strength against you.”

The memories of that first time made her flinch. “I hit him and scratched him, but he was so big. So strong.” She willed Hank to understand. She couldn’t bear to see pity, or worse, contempt, on his face.

Hank nodded and turned his hand so it was cupping her cheek. “There was nothing you could have done differently.”

She gulped for air, feeling as though she’d run a mile at top speed. “Everything was so out of control. My body was on fire. But I didn’t give in.”

Her heart was racing so fast she feared she might pass out. But she had to finish this, had to make him understand. Why that was so important to her, she didn’t know. All she knew was it was imperative he believe her. “But then I couldn’t fight any longer and he was there, over me, inside me.”

A tear trickled down her face. Hank caught it on his thumb and rubbed it into her skin. “It’s not your fault. You might want to talk to Meredith about this. She’s alpha female of his pack. Her first mating wasn’t exactly her choice either.”

She didn’t want to talk about this anymore. The memories hurt worse than her physical injuries. The bruises would heal with time. Those memories would always be with her, lurking in the dark corners of her mind.

It might be cowardly, but Chrissten didn’t care. She closed her eyes, but it didn’t help. She could still see Brian in her mind’s eye, touching her. Taking her against her will.

Something touched her bottom lip. Her eyes flew open and she stared dumbfounded at Hank as he rubbed his thumb over the plump, pink skin again. “Your lips are so soft.”

“What? What are you doing?” Chrissten was yanked away from the dark past and into the present. She should pull away. She should be upset that he was touching her. Shouldn’t she?

Only she wasn’t. His touch was healing and she wanted more of it.

“If you want me to stop I will.” He continued to slowly move the pad of his thumb back and forth. “But I’m hoping you won’t ask me to.”

“I don’t understand.” She was lightheaded and not all of it was due to her injuries and hunger.

“I don’t fully understand either,” Hank confessed. “All I know is I want to take away the bad memories. Replace his touch with something good. Will you let me?”

Where she’d been cold only minutes before, now she was hot. Perspiration was making her nightgown stick to her skin. “What are you asking me?” He couldn’t be asking her to have sex with him. She couldn’t. Not now. Maybe not ever. But oh how she was tempted. If anyone could remove the taint of Brian’s touch from her skin she knew with a bone-deep certainty it was this man.

There was something about Hank that tugged at her, made her want to get closer to him.

“A kiss. Just a kiss. Nothing more.” He brushed a lock of her hair away from her face. “I want to taste your lips to see if they’re as sweet as they look.”

Her mind went to mush. Impossible. Yet she leaned forward, silently giving him permission.

Hank kept his eyes open and she stared at them, lost in the heat of them. His pupils dilated, swallowing some of the icy blue of his irises. His nostrils flared. His breath was warm on her skin. And then his lips were touching hers.

It was so slight she could barely feel him, and it made her lean even closer. He increased the pressure but still kept the caress gentle. He moved his lips back and forth, back and forth, until she was mesmerized, lost in his soft kiss and the tenderness in his eyes.

He pulled back until only a breath separated them. “Again?”

She nodded and parted her lips.

He groaned and kissed her. The mattress squeaked as he shifted closer. He held her face in his hands, his grip loose, not confining. It occurred to her that Hank had a great deal of discipline. Every muscle in his body was tense but his kiss remained totally light and undemanding.

He eased back again and she stared at him and blinked. She brought her fingers to her lips. “He never kissed me.” What a thing to blurt out. Chrissten was immediately appalled.

The tension in the room ratcheted up a notch but Hank merely shook his head. “He’s not only in need of killing, he’s an idiot too.”

The casual way he spoke of killing Brian shook her. It wasn’t his fight. Wasn’t his problem. “I…” What did she say to a statement like that? What could she say?

“It’s all right, Chrissten. I’m going to handle Brian.”

She shook her head vehemently. The motion made her head ache and her stomach roil. She didn’t want Hank anywhere near Brian. “No, Brian is my problem.”

Hank stood and she could see a bulge in the front of his jeans. He was totally aroused. Yet he wasn’t forcing himself on her, wasn’t demanding she take him.

Shaken, Chrissten curled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them.

“Hey.” Hank captured her hand and brought it to his lips. He touched his mouth to her skin, sending shivers skating down her spine. But it wasn’t fear she was feeling. It was something totally different, something she didn’t want to examine or face.

“I’m sorry,” he continued. “I didn’t mean to pressure you or upset you. I just wanted to reassure you that you don’t have to worry about Brian. You’re safe here. There are three pureblood male werewolves and four of us half-breeds who are all sworn to protect you.”

So he was a half-breed like her. In a strange way it made her feel safer with him. He was like her, like Quinn.

And speaking of her brother

“Where is Quinn?”

Hank released her hand and tucked it under the cover. “He’s been in here every half hour since we managed to boot him out of your room so he could rest. That’s, of course, when he wasn’t issuing orders on your care.”

That sounded like Quinn. Stubborn and dictatorial. It made her smile. She’d missed him.

“You’re beautiful when you smile.”

The smile slipped from her face. This man was totally unexpected. He said the strangest things and she didn’t know how to respond.

He sighed and straightened, towering over the bed. “You don’t ever have to be afraid I’ll do anything to harm you. I only want to protect you.”

Now she felt bad, like she’d insulted him. Her emotions, her thoughts were all over the place.

“Hey.” He put his hands on his hips, which made his shoulders appear even wider. She should have been afraid, or at the very least intimidated. But the feelings just weren’t there. Chrissten’s wolf chuffed and rubbed against the inside of her skin as if she wanted to get out so Hank could touch her. Her wolf trusted this man and so did she. There was no logical explanation for it.

“You don’t need to worry about me or anyone else. All you need to worry about is getting better.”

Hanks nostrils flared and he took a step back from the bed, putting some distance between them. Chrissten fought the totally illogical sense of abandonment that speared through her.

As if he’d caught a glimpse of her thoughts, he pinned her with a fierce glare. “I’ll keep you safe.”

She caught the sound of footsteps in the distance and cocked her head to one side to hear them better. There were two people coming. Chrissten sniffed and her heart began to race. Her brothers. She suddenly wanted to see them, to hug them, to assure herself once again they were real.

The door opened and Quinn stalked inside then stopped so suddenly that Craig nearly plowed into him.

BOOK: Finding Chrissten: Legacy, Book 5
10.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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