Authors: Sadie Hart
Tags: #paranormal romance, #shapeshifter, #fantasy romance, #hounds, #wild hunt, #love and longing, #hellhounds, #romance and fantasy, #immortals romance, #weredog, #haunted hearts
Her lips tingled at the memory of his first
kiss. It’d been months since they’d been allowed to be human and
when Herne had whistled for them to gather for another run, Malek
had caught her before she could Change. He’d spun her around and
like a flash, he’d brushed his lips against hers and then had gone
sprinting over to join the others. That night when they’d ran,
they’d run together. Darting in and out amongst the tree tops and
stars, play bowing and chasing one another.
She’d loved him then, she realized.
And he’d proven everything wrong. Freedom,
bliss, wild nights of running...were incredible. But people—which
is what their souls always were—were meant for loving.
someone to love
. It had sounded so easy the first time she’d
thought that. A few years after pining for what had been, she’d
given it a whirl. And Gabriel Truitt had filled that void, until
she realized he was going to die and she wasn’t.
Nalla rolled to a sit, her bare feet touching
the metal floor and she blew out a breath. No. None of these
memories were welcome. Screw sitting here whimpering like a kicked
dog. She raked a hand through her hair and shook out the knots,
before she padded back for the driver’s seat and the ratty old book
she had stuffed under the seat. It was just what she needed on
nights like this to forget.
She curved a hand around the chair and
started to lean down when a scream ripped out of her throat and she
leapt back, slamming into the passenger seat. Khost stared at her
through the window on the driver’s side. Bright gold eyes widened
and he winced, looking almost guilty as he hopped down from the
side of her truck, landing on the pavement below. She stood there,
hand on the rumpled, hunter green shirt that hung loose around her
waist. Between that and the plaid pajama bottoms were definitely a
statement of beauty and Nalla tried to remember to breathe.
How had he found her?
And now that he had, how was she going to
walk away again?
Khost cursed softly from the parking lot, the
night air cooling his sweat slick skin. He’d been down here for
days and sooner or later, Herne was going to notice him missing.
Back of the pack runner that he was, the god wasn’t oblivious. At
least not completely. Sooner or later, Herne would come searching,
but Khost wasn’t sure he cared anymore. He’d run like hell from her
that first night, but nothing could get him off the ground.
Every time he felt the magic start to pulse
through him, he’d stumbled at the memory of her face, wavy blonde
hair whipping around the soft curve of her chin. His body went hard
every time he remembered her shirt peeling away from her body and
it flitting through the wind on its way to the ground. His blood
pounded through his veins at the memory of her body bared to him
and the night sky.
And the horror in those brilliant eyes as
she’d bolted from him.
The semi door swung open and there she was,
sitting in the driver’s seat, legs dangling as she glared down at
him. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He didn’t have a clue, except... “Why’d you
Pain and longing blazed through her eyes, so
fast and hot there was no hiding it, no matter how hard she tried.
Finally Nalla jerked her head away and glanced out the windshield,
tilting her face so that her hair fell across her shoulder to hide
her eyes from him completely.
Khost took two quick steps towards the semi,
but stopped just short of touching her. “Why?”
The word came out a harsh, desperate breath.
He’d been happy until then. Perfectly
“What difference does it make? You didn’t do
anything bad enough that Herne would cut you down.” She turned,
swiping back her hair with a hasty jerk of her hand. She’d stuffed
all her emotions somewhere else, because they weren’t in her face
when she looked at him this time. “That is if you just
Khost reached up, caught her around the waist
and hauled her out of the truck. Her eyes widened, but he wrapped a
hand around the back of her neck, his fingers threading through the
silken strands of her hair. Like a shock, his whole body tensed.
Electrified by the startled wonder in her eyes, the sharp blast of
fear. All that longing came roaring back and Khost couldn’t help
it, he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. The moment his mouth
touched hers, she broke into shivers.
Nalla grabbed his shoulders and held on, as
one after the other, he ghosted the lightest touches of kisses
against her lips. It was unlike anything he’d ever experienced
before. A thrill, an unknown. Kissing her was like running blind
and it called to a different part of him. A part he hadn’t even
known existed, at least not when he’d made his vows to Herne.
No one or anything but the Hunt and your
. And Khost had nodded and sworn reverently to the
But he hadn’t known there could be this.
Nalla whimpered and shoved him back. “If you
do this, you will never go back.”
He opened his mouth to say something
flippant, like he didn’t care, but she laid a hand over his mouth
and shook her head. The movement wild. Her eyes were stretched so
wide he could see the tears shimmering in them perfectly.
“You can never go back. Don’t you
understand...that’s an eternity
. Where everyone else
dies. Where you can never stay anywhere for too long because
someone could realize that you’re not getting older. Where you can
never have friends and never have the bliss of the hunt.”
So she was a Hound. Khost stared at her,
stunned, then watched as a tear slipped down her cheek. She closed
her eyes and turned away.
Khost wiped it away, staring at the streak of
moisture on his thumb in awe. A soft breath left him. Sadness. It
was like an old memory unfolding inside him. Something his soul
knew, but this body had forgotten. He glanced up at her. “How do
you bear it?”
He leaned closer and laid the gentlest kiss
against her cheek, right where he’d wiped away her tear. Loneliness
clawed at his chest, yet another thing he’d forgotten, but somehow,
somewhere he’d known it. “Being here. Feeling all of this?”
Nalla took in a shuddering breath before she
turned back to him. “I don’t have a choice.”
“But why? How did you end up here?”
“I kissed a man.” She frowned and the depth
in the look of her eyes, all that emotion, he couldn’t even begin
to understand it all. “I loved another Hound.” Her smile hitched up
at one end, almost...
“I broke my vows.”
Nalla let her hands fall to his chest and she
shoved at him, trying to move him away but Khost didn’t budge. “And
now I’ve tried to break yours. Go.”
“I kissed you.”
Nalla shook her head. “No.
you. Ignore the rest and run back for the stars. Forget this
“I’m tired of forgetting.” His brows furrowed
and he glanced around, the rest stop dead quiet in the middle of
the night, and then he glanced back at her. Suddenly, going back to
a place where he knew no one else—not really at least—seemed so
lonely. He knew several of the other hounds by name, but he
couldn’t remember doing much with any of them. Just running. Then
Cissy had asked him to do something and it had made sense, so he
hadn’t seen why not?
But none of it had
None of it mattered.
This, right here, Nalla...it mattered. At
least to him.
“I want to remember.” Khost caught her head
in his hands and leaned forward and kissed her again. But this
time, it wasn’t with the faint brushes of a man not sure.
No, this time when his lips settled on hers,
it was with the confidence of a man who wanted more...and knew how
to take it.
Nalla rocked under his kiss, her hands
fisting in his shirt as she clung to him. He was firm, but
demanding. Determination and longing making up for inexperience,
raw need giving him confidence. This time she couldn’t shove him
away. Nalla kissed him back, nibbling at his lower lip until they
parted and she swept a tongue inside his mouth. Tasting him again,
everything that she’d once had and at times still longed for, she
could taste it all in his mouth. Like a promise ripe for the
He drew back on a ragged breath, his eyes
widening as he looked at her. Almost haunted. “But I still need to
know, why did you kiss me?”
He lazily rubbed a thumb over the edge of her
jaw. It was a good question. Not one she could answer easily.
She cringed a little. “At first? Because you
reminded me of the Hunt, of running...because I wanted Herne to
lose another Hound.”
And because I wanted you to fall
Nalla started to shake her head but he held
her still. “Nalla, and now?”
“Because I’m tired of being lonely.” She
squeezed her eyes shut to hold off the tears. “Why are you doing
Khost leaned in and kissed her again, his
lips a soft smile against hers. “At first?”
A heart-breaking chuckle slipped from her as
she waited for his answer.
“Because I didn’t have a clue and I’d never
felt anything like it before.”
She swallowed. “And now?”
Khost leaned his forehead against hers and
“Now? Because you make me feel things that
somewhere deep inside me, I know I’ve felt before, but I can’t
remember when. I can’t remember anything past a good run. I’m tired
of forgetting, Nalla, and you make me remember.”
His thumb skated over the edge of her lips.
“You make me
She looked at him then, unable to avoid it.
His bright gold eyes were vivid in the moonlight, wild, but not the
same endless expanse that she’d first seen. This time a man stared
back out at her,
stared back out at her. Wonder and
want so deep in that gaze it almost sucked her down. Sadness lurked
around the edges, a longing that made her heart twist in
His gaze slipped to her lips again and Nalla
wanted nothing more than for him to kiss her again. He made her
feel too, things she hadn’t felt in a long, long time. Warm,
. But there was no going back, not for him.
“Don’t,” she whispered. “If you cross that
line, you’ll be stuck here. Don’t you remember what I told
“But if I don’t cross that line, I
go back. To endless nothing. To something fake and
numb. Is it supposed to be like that? Where I don’t feel anything
at all except...sweet Herne I don’t even know what to call it. The
run. It’s amazing, but it’s like a high that fades into nothing
until the next ride. You just exist when you’re not running,
nothing more. There are never any dull moments. Never this longing,
never this sadness. My chest,” he paused and pressed a hand to it.
“So going back means you don’t have to feel
this pain! That’s not a bad thing.”
Khost smiled, the gold in his eyes
lightening. “But when I kiss you, I feel lighter. Breathless.
Almost as wild as I do on the Hunt. It makes the pain right here
and now worth it, and the pain? It makes the happy tightness in my
chest seem real.”
He nipped her bottom lip. “Feeling this—all
of this—it feels right. Or am I wrong, am I not supposed to feel a
Nalla couldn’t tell him that. She wouldn’t
take loving Malek or Gabriel back, even if it got her back in the
Hunt. She longed for that kind of love again, but she had love to
compare against Herne and the Wild Hunt. Khost had nothing, no
clue. Still... She couldn’t tell him that people weren’t meant to
feel...not when the opposite was true.
People were meant to
Her frown must have been all the answer he
“See, I didn’t think so.” Khost leaned in and
kissed her again, his body crowding close, his hips bumping hers.
“So I don’t want to go back.”
“That’s a choice you make for forever.”
He shrugged. “Then I’m making it. And maybe
it won’t be so bad because we’re not alone. Not saying we’re meant
for forever, but you won’t be the only one knowing what’s up there
and what’s right here. You won’t be the only one that’s left the
And she was so tired of being lonely. Nalla
hugged him tighter and drowned out whatever else he was going to
say on a kiss.
Khost groaned under the weight of her kiss,
the way her hands shook when she cupped his jaw and held him there.
Her fingers snagged in the edges of his hair, tugging as she drank
him down. He stepped into her until he heard the soft thud of her
body hitting the truck behind her, a low whimper sounding in her
throat. Khost broke the kiss and leaned his head against hers, just
breathing in the scent of her. Her shampoo left a citrus tang
against the back of his throat when he breathed her down deep.
“Getting second thoughts?”
She drummed her fingers against the side of
his neck, then skated her hand lower, over the ridge of his
shoulder, down the expanse of his back. She teased over his hip,
before pausing, hesitating. He shifted his hips until the swell of
his erection touched her hand, a shiver pulsing through him at her
Khost shook his head. “No. Just...”
He glanced around at the empty rest stop.
It’d been quiet, but for how long? “Not really sure we should do
this on the pavement.”
The toe of his shoe scuffed over asphalt
drawing a small laugh from her. She thunked her head back against
the truck and grinned. “It’s a tight fit in there, but I think we
could manage it.”
Her gaze skidded down the length of him,
wicked and Khost trembled as her hand stroked up the seam of his
jeans, pausing on his belt buckle. “Depending on how flexible you
are.” Nalla rose onto her tiptoes and brushed another kiss over his
mouth. “Or, we can make a run out into the woods and do it under
the moonlight. That just depends on how much you like sticks poking
you in the ribs.”