Feral Heat-- Excerpt 7
Feral Heat by Jennifer Ashley
Their mouths met in a frenzy. Deni clung to Jace, her breath hot on his lips, her kisses wild, hungry.
Jace wrapped his arms around her. This woman, this delicious female, was awakening something he’d never felt before—need, primal and intense, which all Shifters possessed, but which Jace had only experienced dimly before this. Even the hormonal craziness of his Transition to adulthood hadn’t spiked the intense desire through him that kissing Deni did.
As her strong hands pulled him down to her, Jace realized she needed him in return. Needed him, Jace the man, not Jace the Shifter leader’s son—she hadn’t known who he was when they’d met. Nothing in her behavior, her scent, her voice had told him she cared where he was in the food chain.
She rose on tiptoes, running fingers through his short hair, kissing him as though she couldn’t get enough. Jace felt his frenzy reply—need, mate, don’t let go.
Deni pushed away from him with a suddenness that robbed him of breath. Cold air filled in where she’d been, and Jace felt suddenly empty.
Deni was staring up at him, her chest rising with her agitation. “Sorry. I can’t control—”
Jace’s returning breath hurt him. “It’s not control I’m looking for.”
Because of her accident, she meant, her fear it was making her go feral. “I get that,” Jace said. He clasped her elbows. “But that’s over, Deni. You survived. I won’t let you lose it when you’re with me—I promise.”
She shuddered. “I just wish—”
“Wish what?” Jace drew her closer again, running his hands up her arms to cup her shoulders. “Tell me what you want.”
“To be normal again. A year ago, I would have snatched up someone like you, taken you somewhere private, and not come out until we were done enjoying ourselves.”
Jace grinned down at her. “Me too. With you, I mean.”
“But now.” Deni shuddered but she didn’t pull away. “I’m afraid to let myself go.”
“Yeah,” Jace said, his voice quieter. “Me too.” That’s why they’d sent Jace to Austin to liaise and test the Collar control problem. Jace was trustworthy, dependable. Could keep a secret. Could take pain and not go crazy from it. He didn’t need anyone to hold his hand, never had.
He liked to stay in control, be strong. But tonight . . .
“Come on,” Deni said. She laced her hand through his, tugging him along with her. “Best I get home.”
Jace’s heart still thrummed from the kiss—Deni’s taste, her scent, the warmth of her body imprinted on his. The feral being deep inside him growled in frustration, wanting out.
Keep it together. He was supposed to be helping Deni stay calm. But as Jace walked behind her, watching her hips sway while her hand was hot in his, he wondered which of them would prove to be the stronger.
Will and Jackson, Deni’s sons, were home. Deni’s heart lightened when she saw their pickup in the driveway and the lights glowing in the house. Home. Safety.
Jace’s scent like wild sage wrapped around her as she led him up onto the porch. Her idea that he could go sleep at Liam’s or Spike’s didn’t seem as good now. Deni didn’t like the thought of him saying good-bye and walking away.
“Sweet ride,” Jace said, gesturing at the motorcycle parked next to the pickup. “Yours?”
Deni nodded, her heart squeezing. “Ellison bought it for me after mine was totaled.” She glanced at it and turned resolutely away.
“And you haven’t ridden it,” Jace said. “Shame.”
“Isn’t it?” Deni jerked open the door to the house. She was not going to let Jace talk her into getting on the motorcycle tonight. She’d done well riding Liam’s bike home, but she still shook from it. Too much too soon.
Jace followed her inside without further word. Deni entered her haven, filled with the scents of her sons, her brother, and his mate. Soon her brother and mate would have their first cub, and more laughter would fill the house.
Will, her youngest, already twenty-four, came to Deni as she entered the kitchen and wrapped his arms around her. She hugged him back, her beloved son. After a long time, Will lifted his head, looked her up and down, and asked, “What the hell happened to you?”
“Fight,” Deni said. “But I’m okay. I rode, Will. Liam’s bike—all the way from the fight club.”
Will’s eyes widened, but Jackson, two years older than Will, said, “And you were at the fight club why?” He came forward, greeting Deni by giving her a hug from the side. Will hadn’t moved.
Neither son acknowledged Jace standing quietly near the door. Will and Jackson were still technically cubs, though they were in their twenties—adults in human terms. They hadn’t gone through their Transitions yet. They were clinging to Deni as instinctively as they had when they’d been tiny, waiting for her to either tell them the strange Shifter was a friend, or for them to join together to attack him.
Deni also knew they scented Jace on her, and her on him, and known what they’d done. Before the accident, they’d have started teasing her. Now they waited, uncertain.
“This is Jace Warden,” she said. “He’s staying with us tonight.”
“Oh yeah?” Jackson finally eyed Jace, though he didn’t go so far as to pin him with a defiant stare. “Why’s that?”
“Dylan invited him out here,” Deni said. “But Dylan’s been arrested.”
As she’d guessed, the announcement made the boys put aside their nervousness and barrage her with questions, starting with What? Are you serious?
Jace helped Deni fill them in on the story. Once Will and Jackson were more relaxed with Jace, Deni went to her room, washed up, changed her clothes, then returned to the kitchen and started putting together sandwiches. Big ones. She was hungry.
The boys and Jace devoured everything she set down on the table. Deni watched her sons relax even more as Jace talked. He really did have the knack of putting everyone at ease.
The sight of him hulking at the table, shoveling down roast beef, ham, and turkey on three different kinds of bread while Will and Jackson hung on his words made Deni’s heart ache again. This is what she should have had with her mate and cubs—a family, laughing, talking, eating, sharing. Deni’s mate had died of illness long ago, robbing Deni of the life she’d wanted. Being shoveled into a Shiftertown had been even more bewildering. But they’d made it, she, Ellison, Jackson, and Will.
Here they were, and now Jace seemed to complete the picture.
“Seriously, Mom,” Will said, his mouth full. “Why did you go to the fight club? You know what happens . . .”
Deni reached across the table for the butter and slapped some onto her slab of bread. “Because I was tired of sitting at home huddled up in a shawl. Ronan and Elizabeth offered to give me a lift out to the fight club, and I took them up on it. I thought it would do me good to get out and have fun.”
“You could have gone to the bar,” Jackson said, frowning. “Safer.”
“Not really. Too many human groupies looking for a Shifter to grope. Plus, all my friends were at the fights tonight. I wanted to go.” Deni gave Jackson a motherly glare, and he shrugged.
“Speaking of groping . . .” Jackson trailed off, deliberately not looking at Jace or Deni. Will snorted as he took another bite.
“None of your business,” Deni said.
Jace said nothing at all, only looked amused. He betrayed no shame, no regret for their quick encounter in the darkness.
The boys got their snickering in, but Deni could tell they were relieved. Had they thought their mom was washed-up? Out of life because she sometimes went out of her mind? That maybe no other Shifter would want her?
Jace remained silent, letting them laugh. At one point, he caught Deni’s gaze and winked, and Deni’s blood started to simmer. It really was dangerous to have him here.
Jackson and Will retreated to their room after the meal to watch videos and sleep. Jace came to Deni where she looked out the window across the street, wondering if Dylan would return tonight, and wrapped his arms around her from behind.
“They love you,” he said.
Deni leaned back into his warmth. “They’re my cubs.”
“It’s good to see.” Jace let out his breath, heat tickling her ear. “I never knew my mother. She died bringing me in.”
Deni heard the sorrow in his words. She pressed her hand over his. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s always made me a little touchy, you know?” Jace held her tighter. “Afraid to get too close to anyone. It can happen so fast, losing someone.”
So true. “You have your dad,” she said. “And the rest of your family.” Though she knew no one could ever take the place of a lost loved one.
“I do. And my dad has done some shit that’s scared me to death, trust me.” Jace gave a little chuckle. “But it’s made me careful.”
Careful. Deni had learned to be that as well.
His closeness made her nervous, and not because she didn’t like it. Deni broke his hold and turned around. “Hope the couch is comfortable. Linens are in the closet in the hall.”
His gaze sought hers. “I’m sure it will be.” He touched her throat above her Collar, fingertips caressing. His jade green eyes darkened, but he didn’t speak. Whatever his thoughts were, he kept them to himself.
“Good night, then.” Deni rose on her tiptoes and gently kissed his lips.
Jace slid one arm around her, turning the kiss into something deeper. His mouth was a point of heat in the darkness, their lips meeting in silence.
Jace eased away, taking his hands from Deni and balling them into fists, as though stopping himself from reaching for her again. “Good night,” he said.
Deni swallowed, but didn’t move. “Good night.”
Jace took a step back. “You’d better go.”
Good thinking. If Deni stayed, she’d grab him, and they’d go down right here in the living room. Another chance for them both to lose control.
“Sure,” she said. “If you need anything . . .”
Jace held up one hand, fingers stiff. “Don’t say that. Too dangerous. Good night,” he repeated, firmly.
Deni nodded and made herself turn around, walk down the small hallway, and enter her bedroom. She looked back before she closed the door, seeing Jace standing in the living room, rigid, large, solid.
Shutting the door on him was one of the hardest things she’d ever done.
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Stay tuned for more . . .
(Copyright 2014 by Jennifer Ashley)