“But dammit, Astrid. I’m tired of pretending that I don’t care about you. That I haven’t wanted you for years.”
A solid lump grew in my throat, and I swallowed around it. I reached out and ran my fingertips down the side of his neck and down his shoulder. I wanted to tell him that I was half in love with him, and had been since that first kiss. “So do something about it,” I said, instead.
Mason stopped moving, going as still as a statue in front of me. Then his eyes met mine, as hard and fervent as I’d ever seen them. My breath quickened, and I suddenly knew what a deer must feel like when it was stared down by a hungry wolf.
Then thinking disappeared, overrun by feeling. He was on me. Lips on mine, then sliding down my neck. He nipped at my collarbone and I clung to his shoulders. He plucked me up from the ground like I weighed nothing and carried me—toward the bedroom, I thought, but we only made it as far as the living room. As far as a plush rug made from a some sort of very soft animal fur that lay—quite stereotypically—in front of his fireplace.
I sank into the rug with Mason on top of me. His hands and mouth seemed to be everywhere, touching and tasting. I ran my hands over the muscles of his chest and shoulders, and through his soft hair. My mind whirred. Mason held me in his arms. Mason kissed me and wanted me. Mason cared about me.
I tugged at his shirt and he pulled it off, revealing a chiseled and perfect chest, not to mention the hard abs I’d teased him about earlier. Definitely no potbelly there. He tugged my scoop-neck shirt down until he reached my bra. Pushing my clothing down beneath my breast, he took a quick breath then pulled my nipple into his mouth. Sucking and nibbling and massaging, he made me cry out.
As if by magic, the rest of our clothes seemed to melt away under Mason’s skillful hands. Hot chest moving against my sensitive breasts, he kissed me again. I felt myself writhing beneath him. I had to have him. Now.
I slid my hands down his hard back to grip his butt. Mason growled, and I moaned when I felt him press against my heat.
With one quick motion of his hips, we were joined. The air rushed out of me as he filled me to the brink, too hot against me and inside me to be a normal man. And around me, my other sense could feel his lycan energy crawling over me, filling my lungs with his scent, surrounding me. Uniting us. I cried out his name, and he called something that might have been mine.
He started moving, and the effort of going slowly so I could get used to the sensation was written all over his face.
But slow wasn’t enough. I was so close. I gripped his ass hard and met his thrusts. I nipped at his shoulder.
“Fuck,” he gasped. Then as if he could no longer contain himself, he moved, hard and fast. Deeper than before. And I cried out his name again as my vision was flooded with sparks and my body overcome by sensation. Mason called out, and I felt him jerk in my arms, pushing into me faster, harder, until I almost couldn’t bear the sensation anymore. Then with a guttural moan, he stiffened above me, and then stilled.
Charlie stretched and rolled over to peer at me upside down from where he’d made a nest of Mason’s pillow. I blinked at him dumbly for a few seconds as I got my bearings. Mason’s house. Mason’s room. Mason’s bed.
I pushed up from the plush king-sized bed and glanced around the room, clutching the sheet to my chest. Decorated in large, masculine furniture, the room felt homey, if a bit bachelorish. It fell suddenly silent, and I realized that the shower had been running and filling the air with background noise. Before I could react to that, the bathroom door opened.
Mason stepped out and my breath caught. A man should not be allowed to look like that. Skin and hair damp from the shower, with a towel wrapped lazily around his waist, he looked like sin incarnate. And when his eyes met mine, I melted.
“Morning,” he said, voice rough.
“Good morning.” I couldn’t help the heat rising up my neck to encompass my face, so I glanced down at my hands.
I sensed movement, and when I looked up, Mason stood less than a foot in front of me. He leaned down and gave me a soft kiss on the lips, and suddenly the awkwardness lifted. I touched his face softly. He stepped back and smiled at me, and I grinned.
His gaze shifted. “Is your cat on my pillow?”
I gave Charlie a sidelong glance. “He’s just…making himself comfortable?”
Mason gave Charlie a disgusted glare. A look the cat returned with more haughtiness than the lycan could compete with. “Want some breakfast?”
Remembering the fabulous omelet he’d made before, I answered without thinking. “Absolutely.”
He disappeared back into the bathroom and I trotted off to the spare bath where I’d already placed my essentials. A quick shower later, I dressed. Then I almost ran down the stairs when the smell hit me. Only my weak ankle and the tiny bit of self-control I was able to muster slowed my descent.
A small banquet greeted me. Eggs and coffee and bacon. Even pancakes. An embarrassing noise rumbled from my abdomen at the sight, and Mason grinned and handed me a plate.
“This isn’t breakfast. It’s a feast!”
He chuckled. “Well you took a while getting ready so I had some time to fill. It was either that or chase your cat.”
I managed to not stick my tongue out at him. I’d gotten ready in record time. Not that I was high maintenance or anything, but I did have a hard time getting out of a nice, hot shower. Especially with my injuries from escaping the vampire at my townhouse, and the new, more pleasant aches I’d acquired with Mason the night before.
And what a night it had been. After our passionate coupling in front of his fireplace, we had retreated to his room. We’d spent most of the night alternatively making love and talking. We didn’t touch on the subject that seemed to be a sensitive one for both of us—family—but we talked about everything else. From our shared love of Lou Malnati’s pizza, to our shared obsession with old, cheesy horror flicks.
Mason handed me a cup of coffee and I glanced at it suspiciously. “I think we should go talk to the widow again today,” I said.
Mason nodded. “Okay. But I’m coming in this time.” He waved at the cup. “Try it. If you’re not too scared, that is.”
As if. But when I took a sip, I made sure to take only a small bit into my mouth. The blend of sugar and cream swirled around the bite of the coffee. Perfect. I gave him a small smile, but kept the conversation on business.
“Okay, but no flexing until I try a nicer approach first.” Maybe he could convince her to be more helpful.
He puffed his chest out. “I don’t flex, except when absolutely necessary.”
“You keep the gun show under wraps, mister.” I snickered and he gave me a quick preview of the show.
We finished our breakfast in good spirits and headed to Mary Stone’s home. She opened the door after the third time I hit the doorbell and knocked. She wore a pissed off expression on her face.
“I don’t know anything else,” she said, hazel eyes flashing.
I shouldered past her with Mason at my back. She allowed us through and shut the door behind us. She turned to face us with her hands on her hips, and a frown cutting into her lovely face.
“It’s obvious there’s something you’re holding back. Something important. Maybe something that implicates Nicolas Chevalier.”
She glared at me, so I continued. “We will protect you, but we need to know everything that you do.”
“I told you—”
“If you don’t want to do it for your husband, then do it for the next one. The next widow. Save her from your fate.”
Her expression faltered, then hardened again. “I don’t care about some other widow. You need to get out of my house.”
I opened my mouth but Mason beat me to the punch. “Vampires like that don’t leave loose ends, sweetheart. You don’t cooperate with us then you’re as good as dead. It might not happen this week, or even this month. But it will happen. And you’ll be as dead as the husband you just buried.”
“I’ll be just fine as long as I don’t say anything to you people!”
“Is that what they told you?” Mason stepped closer to her, moving into her space. She took a step back, real fear crossing her features. “Because they lied. Let me guess. A phone call? A few hushed sentences telling you to keep your mouth shut? They won’t let you live, Mary. They’ll fucking kill you, and you know that.”
She seemed to struggle to breathe for a brief moment. Then her face crumpled into utter misery, and tears leaked down her tense cheeks. Mason had been right about the phone calls. I made a mental note to check up on that, but we were dealing with professionals. The phones would be throwaways, untraceable. And it was hardly likely that Nicolas Chevalier had made the calls himself.
“God, you’re right,” she cried. “I’m so fucking dead.”
“Not if you tell us the truth,” I said, voice as gentle as I could manage under the circumstances. Her husband was probably dead because she’d had an affair, and the only thing that prompted her to cooperate at all was the threat against her own life. I wanted to kick her, but instead I grasped her shoulder. A quick show of support before she turned and grabbed a hold of Mason, crying and blubbering into his chest.
I ground my teeth together as Mason did his best to calm her down. An unexpected spike of jealousy ran through me at the sight of the curvy succubus tucked against him. He peered at me from over her head, a look of panic on his face, and the jealousy dissipated.
Once the succubus had calmed enough to speak, Mason sat her on the couch. She took the glass of water I offered with a nod of thanks and drank half of it in one long gulp.
“Tell us what happened,” Mason said. His voice was soft, but the order was unmistakable.
“A woman came and took Jake that night. He didn’t leave on his own, like I said.”
“Did you catch her name? What did she look like?” I asked.
“I don’t know her name. She was Asian. Pretty. She doesn’t look like much, but I’d seen her before, hanging around Nicolas. He doesn’t spend time with weak vampires unless they have something he wants, so I knew she was probably pretty strong. Or…one of his girls. But she didn’t seem the type, you know? All dressed in leather and never smiling.”