Installment No. 45
“You’re…” Stunning. She took his breath. Even as she stood before him looking like she’d kill the designer of the dress, her reluctance obvious in the jut of her chin. For all that, she wore the garment like a queen’s raiment.
“The Hulk. Ridiculous. I know.” Sofia’s hands patted her belly, her thighs, pinning his attention to her body beneath the dress, the curve of her hip, the valley between her long thighs. When she looked up, her gray gaze was uncertain. But even that…
“Sofia.” Her name rode an escaped breath.
“You look magnificent.” She was gorgeous. A Venus of the woods. The silky green dress sheathed her like a sensual leaf, and her gray eyes were like twin beads of dew: they glistened. And her red hair? Dearest, dearest Luna. Control. He needed control. German swallowed as he let his gaze caress upward. Sofia had swept her mane up in a simple coil, but tendrils escaped and lapped her pale neck like intimate flames. German’s gut fell, the bottom of it dropping along with his jaw as a feral growl rumbled up his chest.
She’d lifted her hair to show off his mating marks. To bare for all to see the places he’d scraped his teeth, pinched his mouth. Claimed her. He felt his cock grow heavy, thick. His chest squeezed tight, and absently he dragged a hand across his heart. He’d never been so fucking proud in his life.
Her cheeks flushed as she dipped her chin, a delighted smile curling one corner of her mouth. She recovered from her sudden bout of shyness quickly, further proof of her mettle, that he’d mated well. “My dress matches your eyes.” The shy grin slid into one of full appreciation. “Your mother delivered these outfits, didn’t she?”
So she had. He’d caught touches of her scent when they’d emerged from the bathroom, on the clothes laid out for them. The fact she chose a dress for his mate that would match his eyes was a mystery to him, her attention to that particular detail tightening his skin, making him wary. It was as if his mother, one of the Alphas, approved of his bonding despite her earlier disdain. A silent sanction? An unnerving thought. Because he didn’t care for what it might mean. This humans’ game of politics was not something he wanted to get sucked into. He wasn’t ignorant, and wouldn’t be manipulated like a pawn on a chess board.
“Scary thought, but yeah, she did.” He held his arm out for her to take.
“Scary?” Sofia’s gray wolf eyes narrowed as she slid her hand through the crook of his elbow, allowing him to escort her to the dining room in spite of her suspicions. “As in dragons?” Quick. She was so damned quick. By the gods, he’d mated well.
He nodded as they descended the staircase. Beautifully tapered and delicate ankles reached for each stair. “You’re barefoot!”
Her answering laugh was wide open, rebellious. It tickled his skin, his latent fur ruffling in pleasure. “The shoes didn’t fit.” She was utterly unapologetic, and if his tail had been present it would have been whipping in blatant appreciation. Oh, she was trouble.
Quelling the sheer happiness Sofia set to blazing inside him, German concentrated on the upcoming dinner rather than the sway of his mate’s hip as it brushed his leg. Rebellion wouldn’t be tolerated. He was proof of that. His living a solitary existence away from the pack hadn’t been his idea alone. The Alphas, his mother included, had cast him off, giving him the task of rounding up rogues to keep him tied to the pack, but not a cherished member of it.
Hell, the Alphas didn’t seem to think anyone was a cherished member of this pack. Besides, how would a wolf know? Resorting to human ways chilled the exuberance right out of a body. Where was the wolf-peoples’ abandon? Their wildness? In the deepfreeze of compliance, that was where.
Aaaand…he’d bought stock in Maytag freezers right along with the rest of them.
His reason for doing so halted abruptly, her hand squeezing his elbow. He didn’t need to be a wolf to sense Sofia’s sudden trepidation. “Okay, German. I overlooked your change of subject when I asked about the dragons, but I need to know. How bad is this dinner going to be?”
German stifled the growl building in his chest. He did not like that look on his she-wolf’s face. She was nervous and well she should be. He’d dumped her right back into strained social situations—exactly where she’d fought her whole adult life not to be.
Yet, she wanted a family. And though this pack had serious issues, beneath the New Order friendships and fellowship still bloomed. Like stubborn dandelions in the cracks of concrete. If he didn’t believe that, he would have severed his ties years ago, and never would have brought the woman he loved anywhere near this place. “Be who you are. Just tone it down a hair and you’ll be fine.”
Unimpressed, she arched her brow. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
He kissed her hand, inhaling their bonded scent cupped in her warm palm. Coward. He was sucking up some fortitude to face his mate. “It means we’re wolves acting human. Most of the wolf-people haven’t mastered the skill of lying, but there will be some here tonight who have.”
She pulled her hand from his, stepping out of his reach. “You’re fucking kidding me.”
He wished to hell he was. The lowering of his head was answer enough.
“German?” Closing the distance between them, she nudged his chin with a fingertip. “Look at me.” He saw the determination in those beautiful gray eyes, the will. Concern for him was shining there, too.
His tongue caught a case of the loosies. “It’s your new family. The family you’ve always wanted,” he confessed, his spine sparking under her scrutiny. Because in spite of his resolve to subject himself for her happiness, he couldn’t hide his body’s aversion to it. Lying was not something he cared to master.
He held her gaze.
“No. No.” Sofia was shaking her head, her jaw setting. Like a bulldog, determined, she latched onto the implications of his return to this place. Did he mention she was quick? He’d include stubborn and protective on that long list of honorable qualities. Sofia was ramping up to serve both, Cajun style: spicy. “I haven’t known you long, German, but I know this. You do not bow your head. Not for anyone. Not for these people. And especially not for me.”
Her building heat radiated off her. The dress shimmered with the amber glow of the corridor’s sconces, as though Sofia’s anger was bringing the garment to life, like a glistening skin. A skin that would swallow him if he touched it. Accepting the dare, German tugged his she-wolf against him, their chests bumping, gushing the heated air between them upward to fan under their chins.
“Red,” he growled. Damn, but he felt like that was all he’d been doing since he stepped foot on this property. With his fingers knotted around Sofia’s, he angled her arm behind her back, forcing her even closer. Gray eyes widened, but they didn’t retreat. Or find the floor a most consuming subject, a cause for scrutiny. Oh, no. She flashed her own challenge, taunting him with her fearlessness.
Better. This was so much better. What was he going to say to her? Man, she was like a forest fire, scorching his brain cells to smoking cinders. He relished every spit and crackle.
A stupid grin perched on his lips. “What?”
Sofia pulled her head back, her righteous anger sputtering as the corner of her mouth twitched. “You said Red.”
“Did I?” Probably. He was going to cuss her out about something. Or kiss her. Maybe both. Those lips were asking for it, quirking like that. Amused. But trying oh, so hard to stay fierce.
“Dinner is that way.” He didn’t follow the arch of her pointing finger, and wanted to nod and shake his head at the same time. Yeah, dinner awaited them in the room behind his back, but a more delectable meal was right there in his arms.
“You’re crazy, you know that?”
This was an answer he could give with a firm nod. “I know. Crazy in love.” Her face bloomed bright, as if the sun itself focused every beam upon her and reflected off her cheeks, out of her silvery eyes. German lifted the hand he was clasping to his lips. “Come on, Red. Our future awaits.”
He had no idea he was a goddamned psychic.
~Installment No. 46 coming Saturday, April 19, 2014.