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Authors: Simone Bern

In a Dark Embrace

BOOK: In a Dark Embrace
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An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication

www.ellorascave.com

 

 

 

In a Dark Embrace

 

ISBN 9781419916717

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

In a Dark Embrace Copyright © 2008 Simone Bern

 

Edited by Ann Leveille.

Photography and cover art by Les Byerley.

 

Electronic book Publication May 2008

 

With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.

 

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
 
(http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/)

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

In a Dark Embrace

Simone Bern

Trademarks Acknowledgment

 

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:

 

Barbie: Mattel, Inc.

Coke: The Coca-Cola Company Corporation

Esso: Standard Oil Company

Gap: Gap (Apparel) Inc.

GORE-TEX: W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc.

Harley: Harley–Davidson Motor Company

SPCA: SPCA International, Inc.

Starbucks: Starbucks U.S. Brands

Tupperware: Dart Industries Inc.

Virago: Yamaha Hatsudoki Kabushiki Kaisha Corporation

Volvo: Volvo Personvagnar AB Corporation

 

Chapter One

 

Lee parked her motorcycle in the deserted parking lot and shut off the engine with a sigh that mingled relief with regret. She loved the openness of a motorcycle, the feel of the wind rushing by but she hated the noise—particularly in these isolated, rural areas at night. She wanted to fly down country roads wrapped in silence and absorb the muted whispers of sleeping farms and dark, patchwork forests. To enjoy the quiet she combined her night rides with walks in one of the middle-of-nowhere parks she’d found over the years. This bit of wilderness was close to the Canada–US border, less than an hour’s ride from her downtown Vancouver condo. Well, it was less than an hour at midnight on a Thursday without due regard for legal speed limits.

She pulled off her helmet and stuck it over the mirror of her motorcycle. Her hands ran through shoulder-length strands of auburn hair. The thick leather of her jacket creaked faintly. Lee stripped it off. It was a warm night and her t-shirt would be enough. Low-slung jeans and chunky black riding boots completed her outfit.

No speeding tickets tonight. Not that she worried about getting pulled over by the police. A mournful look was often enough to get her a warning instead of a ticket. A bit of flirting didn’t hurt either. She’d even managed to get a few dates that way. Dates. There had been far too few of those in her life lately. All the guys she seemed to meet these days were either gay, chemically inert or hooked up already. Maybe trashing the local speed zones could bring some fringe benefits. She grinned and planned for an even speedier trip home. A girl could always dream.

Lee struck out with a sure stride toward the start of the trail. The shadows of tall trees hid the path from the pale light of the full moon but she walked without hesitation. Her night vision was exceptionally sharp—just one of her little gifts. Her shoulders lost their remaining tension as she absorbed the soothing rustles and chirps of the woods. She needed these weekly escapes from the city. As much as the urban environment appealed to her, the pressure of that many people got to be too much. She loved people, spent her days entwined in other lives as part of her counseling job but by the end of the week she needed to bathe in solitude.

She reached out with her inner senses and allowed them to unfurl as far as they could reach in all directions. It was like being allowed to stand and stretch after being curled up in a tight box for days. She felt free and tingling down to her fingertips. A surge of intense joy sang through her as she unerringly stepped over bulging roots and around muddy holes. Lee laughed out loud and began to lope down the trail.

She stumbled to a stop, laughter dying on her lips. Someone was watching. Someone with a deep, animal hunger was moving through the forest toward her. She stared into the dark tangle of trees and brush. The hair on the back of her neck lifted.

Lee reached down and scrabbled for a rock. Lifting an angular piece of gravel up to her mouth, she spat on it and muttered, “By my body and will, you are the messenger of stone.”

Feeling calmer now that she had a defensive spell prepared, Lee considered her options. It was too late to turn around and try to get past the watcher. It would be easy to block her path on the narrow trail. She needed a better place for a confrontation. Lee searched her memories for an open spot where she might have the opportunity to throw her spelled rock. There was a clearing but it was still some distance down the trail. She felt unhappy about moving farther away from her bike but began to walk slowly forward. The other followed.

It. He. Definitely male. Her stalker broadcast virile strength and supreme self-confidence. She could feel the sharp edges of a biting intellect and the swirl of his curiosity as he focused his attention on her. He was assessing his prey but with flickers of amusement that seemed directed more at himself than at her. The bastard was having fun. She imagined him slipping between the trees behind her, grinning to himself. He sure thought he was something special. Lee wondered if he had the attributes to back up the attitude. If he was anywhere near as hot as he believed himself to be there was serious talent loose in the woods. Had curiosity and interest been the only things she sensed she wouldn’t have worried. The mere presence of a man, even on a dark, lonely trail, didn’t bother her.

It was the hunger that made her cautious, a hunger that only partly rested in his body. An edgy, restless need drove him to prowl these deserted woods. He was hunting her but why? Was spooking women who walked alone at night as far as it went? The interest he projected was predatory and yet the self-deprecating humor did not read like a killer or a rapist. She’d been in the minds of men like that. This guy was different. Dangerous but intriguing.

“Bloody bastard,” Lee grumbled under her breath. He was probably some whack job with delusions of grandeur.

The path opened up into a moonlit meadow. She reached the halfway point and turned toward where he hesitated in the dark shadows of the trees. Lee took a deep breath and willfully relaxed her taut nerves. Time to start playing this little game her way.

“Okay. I know you’re following me. Why don’t you come out now and show yourself?”

Surprise and consternation flared in him. He had not known she was aware of him. With that she realized she’d never actually heard him. No breaking twigs, no rustling leaves. He’d moved so silently it was only her inner senses which had detected him. Lee frowned. If he’d been so sure of remaining undetected it meant frightening her hadn’t been the intention. She suppressed a shudder of fear.

“Come on. Be a decent guy and introduce yourself.” She kept her voice light and coaxing. Expectations bred outcomes. Expect a guy to be dark and deviant and, if he had tendencies in that direction, you could tip him into nasty pretty quick. Treat him like a nice guy and he’d feel the pressure to live up to that expectation. It didn’t always work but she was willing to try any trick in her repertoire.

Something slipped out onto the trail. Lee blinked and took half a step backward. Her inner senses told her that a man stood there but her eyes said it was a dog. A very big dog with dark fur and eyes that gleamed silver in the moonlight. Lee was filled with the absolute conviction that they weren’t the eyes of an animal. A man. A wolf. A werewolf.

Her heart pounded. Messages of “danger” flashed through the primitive parts of her brain. But it was like the adrenaline surge she felt when she took a corner too fast on her bike. She wasn’t afraid so much as…thrilled.

He was sitting on his haunches with his massive head tilted to one side. The sense of being examined and weighed was very strong. He was puzzled by her. And very pleased about something.

“Well, big boy, whatcha going to do?” she asked softly. “I don’t think you’re going to eat me.”

His tongue lolled out in a wolfish grin.

She smiled and held out her left hand. “How about a kiss then?”

He stood and shook out his fur then walked slowly forward. Lee’s hand trembled slightly as she silently urged him on. If he gave her hand a lick, provided any physical contact at all, she could dive fully into his mind.

The black nose stretched toward her fingers. He took a cautious sniff then abruptly pulled back and disappeared into the bushes. Frustration flooded her. Damn, she’d almost had him.

Her head lifted with renewed interest when she felt him stop not too far away. She strained to pick up every nuance of his emotional state. He seemed nervous but excited. Like he was about to do something risky that gave him a big kick. She had an instant to worry about that before the pain hit. She doubled over, gasping. Her body was being torn apart. She clamped her mouth shut to hold in the scream as her skin was stretched to accommodate the contortions of limbs being reshaped. A whimper escaped her and then, between one breath and the next, the pain was gone. She straightened up and sighed with relief.

A man stepped into the moonlight. Clothed only in shadows, he was tall and whipcord lean. She had expected a werewolf to be hairy but his chest was smooth. The gentle swells and hollows of the muscles running down his rib cage were clearly visible. There was only the patch of dark hair between his legs. Lee forced her eyes up to his face. It was all angles—high cheekbones, a strong nose and broad brow. She could see the wolf in his features as well as the feral glint in his eyes. His hair was dark and cut very short. Damn, but he was beautiful.

“Hello.” He smiled—a faint, wistful tilt of his lips. “Now about that kiss…” His voice was a low, sensual rumble that seemed to vibrate in her belly.

Lee looked deliberately at the swollen moon behind his shoulders. “I didn’t know you could change back at will.”

“I always change at will. That stuff about being forced to change with the moon is pure fiction. I guess others of my kind also happen to prefer hunting under the light of a full moon.”

Her eyes narrowed. “What do you hunt?”

He hesitated then said clearly, “Anything that runs.”

There was menace in his tone but she didn’t read a real threat in him. He was testing her. Lee’s gaze stayed level.

“I didn’t run.”

“No. You didn’t.” He took a step closer. “I don’t smell fear on you. How…unusual.”

He took another step. Muscles shifted and contracted as he moved. Her eyes were glued to his body. Pure physical beauty combined with grace and power made for a compelling sight. Everything about him—his appearance, his voice, even the hunger that continued to radiate from him—attracted her. She wanted to touch him so badly her hands curled into fists. The rock still clenched in her right hand dug its sharp edges into her palm. Lee struggled to keep her expression cool and clinical.

He took a sniff, much like the wolf only moments before.

“No. Definitely not fear.” His grin was a slash of white in the moonlight.

She felt her cheeks flush. Unmasking another’s desire was usually her role. It was disconcerting to have him turn the tables on her.

Then he frowned. “Why aren’t you afraid? A young woman walking by herself at night. A woman who is talking to a werewolf.”

She shrugged. “You don’t mean to hurt me. And I can protect myself, if necessary.” It was her turn to hesitate, to offer a test of sorts. “I’m a witch.”

“A witch?” Heavy dark eyebrows lifted.

“Don’t you believe in witches?” Disappointment made her voice sharp. She’d expected to be able to be honest with him.

He looked at her thoughtfully but answered her question with one of his own. “How do you know that I’m not going to hurt you? Are you reading my mind?”

“Your emotions.”

“Ah.” He flashed that wicked grin again. “And what is it that I’m feeling, little witch?” Humor colored his words. His desire did not require her witch sense to discern, the erection was blatantly obvious. He had reacted to her scent like a dog to a bitch in heat. A perfect analogy, she had to admit.

“If you bite me, will I turn into a werewolf?” Lee asked. She could play this questioning game as well as he could.

“That part of the story is true. If you didn’t die from it you would become a werewolf.” His voice softened and gleaming eyes roved down over her body. “But I promise not to bite…too hard.”

Lee swallowed. She could almost feel his mouth on her neck. The lips soft…a wet tongue…nibbles moving down her throat. Oh hell, she wanted him in a bad way.

“About that kiss…” The words came out in a whisper that barely escaped her lips but he heard her.

His hand reached slowly for her face. Fingers brushed her cheek and Lee took advantage of that connection to invade his mind. Lust didn’t make her entirely stupid, she needed to know what she was dealing with. Underneath the emotional storm of hot desire and need was a tight coil of hope. He was like a child eying a treasured prize but convinced it would be snatched away at the last instant. He wanted her—bluntly sexual visions cascaded through his mind—but entangled with those images was a voice pleading with her to stay, to not run away. He was torn between a powerful urge to dominate and devour and a heartfelt yearning to connect with someone who did not cringe from him.

Lee withdrew from his mind, resisting the temptation to reach deeper. That quick scan told her what she needed to know. There was a dark thread of violence in him but he did not feed off a woman’s pain.

She whispered, “I release you.” And dropped the rock.

The hand that had been tracing the lines of her face stopped moving. “Release me?” he asked.

Lee smiled at his puzzled expression. “I just dropped a spell that would have turned you into stone.”

“You could turn me to stone?” His tone was amused, almost scornful. Long, powerful fingers wrapped themselves around her throat. “I could snap your neck in a second.”

It was another test. He could not resist pressing her, was driven to find her breaking point even while desperately hoping he would not reach it.

“We should both run away in terror, I suppose,” she said calmly.

He smiled. His head bent down and brushed her nose with his. The hand on her throat became a trailing caress. “But I would rather kiss you,” he whispered.

“Good,” she managed to say before his lips took hers.

There was no polite hesitation in the kiss. He forced her mouth open and entered her with his tongue. She threw arms around his neck and pulled herself up against him. A large hand cupped her ass and lifted her effortlessly up to his height. She wrapped legs around his hips and dug fingers into his hair. The heat of his bare skin radiated through her jeans and the hard lump of his erection pressed against her crotch. His free hand reached under her t-shirt and took possession of a breast. Sure, confident fingers brought her nipple to an erect point. Lee moaned as desire ran slick and hot through her core. She wanted him with the same ravaging hunger he was projecting.

Her hands reached down to tug off her shirt. He stopped her.

“Not here. Follow me, little witch.” He put her down and grasped her hand firmly. Then he led the way off the path and into the woods. She stumbled a little, finding it difficult to concentrate on her footing through the haze of frustrated desire he had aroused in her.

BOOK: In a Dark Embrace
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