Authors: Karilyn Bentley
Now he had to face Vonda and how embarrassing was that. Maybe he could sneak up the back stairs.
“Daddy!” Elizabeth ran around the corner, smack into him, her skinny arms surrounding his waist with a squeeze.
Or maybe he couldn’t sneak anywhere.
“Is that you, Tom?” Vonda called.
Yep, not sneaking anywhere. Time to face her. He was a big boy, really. Yep, yep.
“Come on, Daddy. Margie’s been telling us about the pack.” Elizabeth tugged his hand, drawing him into the kitchen.
Within a few hours, Margie had gone from Elizabeth’s worst enemy to her best friend. And wasn’t that a good thing. Made things easier on him too.
Margie and Vonda sat at the kitchen table, tea cups in front of them. An extra cup sat in front of an empty chair. Elizabeth slid into the empty and took a sip out of her cup.
“Want some tea, Dad?”
“No, sweetie, I’m good. Just going to change out of these clothes, then I’ll come back and fix dinner, okay?” He rubbed his hand over her head, chuckling as she ducked and squeaked, “Daddy!”
He walked out of the room toward his bedroom, feeling Vonda’s eyes on him.
Way to continue to avoid her, Tom.
He had to face her eventually, no getting around it. She would be living here now. Taking Anita’s place. Tom grabbed onto the dresser, steadying himself. Not only did he have to deal with his little failure in the bedroom last night, but now he realized he needed to come to grips with Vonda, for all intents and purposes, being his wife.
Anita looked out at him from the photo taken the day of their wedding, her eyes glistening with love. Some of the last coherent words she’d spoken to him asked him to find someone else, someone to keep him warm at night. She was gone, had been gone for four years, her death releasing him from his wedding vows, so why did he feel like being with Vonda was cheating?
It wasn’t. Definitely wasn’t cheating.
Layla walked into the room, her nails tapping a rhythm on the wood floor as she made her way to the rug under the bed. She huffed as she plopped down on the rug, her expression one of extreme exasperation.
Tom took a breath and shut the door. “What’s the matter, old girl? You think I need to move on?”
As usual she remained silent. Like a dog can talk. Wolves on the other hand...
He ran his hand through his hair. In the last twenty-four hours he’d had his daughter kidnapped and returned, been given a mate who turned furry once a month and discovered he was half werewolf. If he had any more revelations, he’d need to change his name to John the Baptist.
Tonight he needed to talk to Vonda. He would, once Elizabeth went to bed, which gave him even more time to avoid the unavoidable. Yee-haw.
Tom dropped his shirt and pants into the clothes hamper and shrugged on a t-shirt and jeans. Layla remained curled on the rug by the bed, waiting for him to dress. Tom looked from his dog to the bed, the bed where he spent many a fine night with Anita, the bed where he would spend many more nights with Vonda.
All day he’d thought about Vonda, what he would say, more importantly, what he would do to her body. He felt his erection grow at the thought of Vonda, her brown wavy hair, her amber eyes, her small hand as it grasped his dick, drawing out his pleasure.
Damn. He couldn’t go out to the kitchen looking like he’d stuffed a potato down his pants. Think, think. Yeah, fixing fences, nothing sexy about that one. Or he could look at the picture of his wife on their wedding day. Yep, that one did the trick.
Tom ran his hand through his hair.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he whispered to the picture. “I mean, you asked me to find someone and I did. More like she found me, but whatever, I’m going to take her tonight. Elizabeth will have the mother she needs and I, well, I like her too. I hope that doesn’t bother you.”
Was it his imagination or did the picture shake its head? He definitely needed some water; he must have been out in the sun too long.
“I love you, Anita, I’ll always love you. But Vonda’s here with me now and I need her. I hope you understand and that you aren’t mad. What the hell am I saying? You’re not even here. I’m talking to ghosts again.”
The picture frame felt cold in his hand. With a last look at the picture, he placed it in the dresser drawer. She was dead. Four years now. Time he got on with his life.
The woman he wanted now sat at his kitchen table and there was no room for ghosts.
Vonda watched as Tom walked back into the kitchen and started to pull things out of the freezer. Pots and pans flopped on the stove in a rush of movement. Nothing more sexy than a man who can cook. Especially a man who rocked a pair of faded Levi’s.
She took a sip of the now-cool tea and openly ogled Tom’s butt. Damn, but the man was hot. She needed to stop ogling especially since Elizabeth sat next to her. Needed to set a good example, since she was going to be the girl’s step-mom.
The tea went down the wrong way. Margie slapped Vonda on the back as Vonda wheezed and hacked.
“You okay?” Tom stopped chopping vegetables and looked at Vonda.
She nodded, whacking herself on the chest. Apparently drinking while thinking of impending motherhood, even if it was motherhood by step instead of birth, should be avoided. At least Elizabeth seemed to like her and the feeling was returned. Of course she doubted Elizabeth realized Vonda was the new mother figure in her life.
“Well, I should run. Things to do on the full moon. Will you be running with us tonight, Vonda?” Margie stood and hung her purse over her shoulder.
Vonda coughed one more time. “I’ll probably just stick around here, but will look for ya’ll.”
“Well, if we don’t see you this time, there’s always next month.”
“True. Hope you have a good run.”
“Same to you. Bye, Elizabeth. Bye, Tom.”
“Bye.” Tom raised a hand and went back to seasoning meat.
Margie showed herself to the door, while Vonda picked up the used tea cups and placed them in the dishwasher.
“What did you do today, Elizabeth?” Tom asked.
Elizabeth leaned on the counter, watching Tom work.
“Vonda took me to her place to grab some clothes because she said she’s crashing here for awhile. Then we went to eat at the deli. Margie was here when we got back and she talked to us for the rest of the afternoon. What did you do?”
Vonda listened to them talk as she set the table. It was not her imagination Tom ignored her. On another day that would bother her, but today she didn’t mind. Margie had explained some things, some very interesting things, when Elizabeth offered to play the piano for them. Once she heard what Margie had to say about the matter, she could hardly wait to see if the alpha was correct.
And to do that, she needed to convince Tom to sleep with her before the sun went down.
Time was running out and she still hadn’t discovered how to get Elizabeth to leave them alone. But she’d think of something. She needed Tom and if Margie was correct, he needed her as his lover more than he knew. And as the moon would rise in a couple of hours, she didn’t have long to convince him of it.
Good thing she liked challenges.
“Elizabeth, why don’t you go practice the piano? Vonda and I have some things to discuss and we don’t need an interruption, okay?” Tom looked at Elizabeth as they cleaned up the kitchen after dinner.
“But I practiced this afternoon for Margie.”
“Is there something you could do in your room?”
“So like, you’re kicking me out of the first floor?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “Adults. You guys are just weird. Fine, I’ll go read a book, okay?”
Tom patted her back. “Thanks honey.”
“And I’m going now. You can finish up the kitchen.”
“You asked for that one,” Vonda said as Elizabeth huffed up the stairs. “Not like I’m complaining. You just solved my big dilemma of the day.”
She leaned against the counter, hand outstretched for a plate to put in the dishwasher.
“Glad to be of service.” He handed her a plate to put in the rack. “Now if I could just solve one of mine. Something’s been eating my herd each month. Only one or two head, but...”
Vonda looked at the ceiling. That corner might need a broom. Looked like a cobweb hung there. She glanced back at Tom. That white-knuckled grip he had on the dishrag was bound to hurt.
“You? You’ve been eating my herd?”
She shrugged. “They were there.”
“So are deer. And they need thinning.”
“But they aren’t steak tartare. I love steak tartare.”
“That herd’s my living!” He threw the dishrag into the sink.
“It was only one.”
“Yeah, one a month.”
Vonda looked at his feet. Being busted was so not her idea of fun. “I didn’t mean to take all of them from you. I’m new to the area and wanted to eat. I thought it was from different ranchers.”
Tom sighed and picked up the dishrag, which he shook at her, wet sprinkles emphasizing his words. “Promise me you won’t do it again.”
“Okay, I’ll try. But I can’t a hundred percent promise. You have no idea how good they taste off the bone.”
“Try. Please. Go eat deer. I’ll buy you steak tartare in a nice restaurant. Please.” His green eyes beseeched her.
Who could resist those peepers? “I’ll try really hard.”
Tom stared at Vonda. Unbelievable.
caused the thinning of his herd. Even so, even though he should still be pissed at her, he found her attractive. Her amber eyes gleamed with mischief and desire. Despite his failure last night, she wanted him. And he wanted her. More than he wanted his herd to live, he wanted this woman. What was it about Vonda that turned him on, that made him forget his anger?
“It’s my sexy good looks.” She smiled at him, wiggling her eyebrows.
“Are you reading my mind again?”
“You’re broadcasting again. It’s hard not to know what you’re thinking.”
Tom took a breath, wondering if she’d know the answer to one question that plagued him all day. Or plagued him in those small moments when he wasn’t contemplating what to do to Vonda’s body.
“Did Margie say why, if I’m a genetically defective werewolf, I have telepathic abilities? Among other things.”
“What other things?” Vonda stuck another plate in the rack.
“Did she or didn’t she?”
“Maybe. What other things?”
“Are you always this stubborn?”
Vonda grinned. “On occasion.”
Tom snorted. “Uh-huh. I’ll go first. Sometimes I know what’s going to happen before it happens. Now it’s your turn.”
“She might have mentioned something.”
“Hey, no fair. I told you, the least you can do is return the favor.”
“I will. But there are other things that have been on my mind all day concerning you and talking isn’t it.” Vonda raised her eyes to his, her amber irises glowing.
Ditto for him. So far this conversation was better than he thought it would be. “Yeah? Like what?” He couldn’t help the grin that curled his lips.
She lightly slapped him on the upper arm. “Like what?”
Tom caught her wrist and pulled her toward him. “I can do better than last night if you’d like to try it.”
Her hands slid up his chest, winding around the nape of his neck. “You have really good ideas tonight, mister.”
“Glad you like them.”
Warm lips touched his and the same spark he felt yesterday when he shook her hand shot through him. Heat circulated through his body, his heart thumping a frantic beat. Muscles tightened as if he prepared for a race instead of a horizontal bed session. The scent of Vonda’s skin pushed his desire to a new level, thickening his erection. If the damn thing got any bigger, it would unzip his pants on its own. Not like he was complaining, at least all parts were a go.
Vonda’s body pressed against his as he deepened the kiss, stroking his tongue against hers. With one foot, he closed the dishwasher door.
“Why don’t we go in the bedroom?” Tom whispered in Vonda’s ear.
She shivered. “What’s wrong with the kitchen?”
“Elizabeth might not stay put.”
“Oh, yeah. Bedroom it is.”
She started walking in the direction of the bedroom, but Tom reached for her hand, turning her to face him. Lowering his head, he kissed her, not wanting to lose contact with her body even for the short distance to the bedroom. Vonda let out a little squeak when he wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her off her feet.
Despite what studies showed about men, he could do two things at once, kissing and walking while holding Vonda. And with his erection straining against his zipper after four years of inactivity, he was so the man.
Despite his poor performance last night and the fact Vonda would be the only woman since his wife died who he slept with, he felt an amazing lack of nerves. Being with Vonda felt right, as if his entire life happened to lead him to her.
The bedroom door shut with a resounding click when he nudged it with his foot, closing him in with his fate.
Vonda moaned as Tom’s tongue swept against hers. His kisses made her legs weak. Thank goodness his arms remained around her waist, keeping her from falling. She tilted her head back as he kissed down her neck, nipping gently at her shoulder. The fire that shot through her veins burned hotter than anything she felt before. Something about being around Tom made the mating heat stronger, and yet his touch calmed her. As if curling up next to him would make everything in her life okay.
His mouth burned a trail of kisses from her shoulder across her skin to where her tank top began. When his arms loosened around her waist, she clutched at his shirt to remain on her feet. Tom slid his hands under her tank top, pulled it over her head and dropped it on the floor in one movement. He traced a finger around the lace cups of her bra.
“Sexy.” He winked at her and sprang the back clasp free.
Before he could remove it, Vonda locked gazes with Tom and slowly lowered the straps down her arms, teasing him with small glimpses of her nipples, while she held the bra cups in place with one hand. His gaze left hers, fixating on her chest. Slowly, ever so slowly, she lowered the cups, the lace rasping against her sensitive nubs.