Samantha stood in her bathrobe, staring at the contents of an uncooperative closet. She was in good shape overall. She’d managed to blow-dry her long hair in record time. She loved the summer because just a little sunglow meant less makeup was needed. Now all she had to do was find an outfit. She couldn’t very well go naked. Although, being naked with Malcolm had crossed her mind more than once. Considering she never found sex that interesting, she’d been thinking about it an awful lot recently. “Focus, Sam,” she muttered into the closet. From the doorway, she heard Nonie’s teasing.
“You know, that’s the trouble with those closets. You have to watch them every minute, or they sneak away.”
“It’s not funny, Nonie,” Sam said with more than a little frustration. “I don’t have anything to wear on this ridiculous date tonight. Ahh. Why did I agree to go?” Sam flopped back onto her bed.
Nonie sifted through the various items and pulled out the black eyelet sundress, pink cardigan, and black flats that Sam had taken out and put back ten times already. “You should always go with your instincts, my dear. They’re usually right.” Nonie laid the items on the bed next to Samantha.
“Hey! That’s the same outfit I kept going to. That’s so funny. How did you know?” Samantha was interrupted by the doorbell.
“Saved by the bell,” Nonie said under her breath.
“Oh my God! I’m not ready. Nonie, please don’t grill him about his family.”
“I’ll only ask for his social security number and a few references.” The doorbell rang again.
“Oh stop it! I’m just teasing you. I’ll go easy on him. Now hurry up and get dressed.” She left to greet Sam’s date.
Malcolm squirmed at the front door, feeling a bit foolish. He looked around, fearing one of his Amoveo kin would see him participating in this silly human ritual. He rang the doorbell a second time. Panic hit him, realizing he should’ve brought her something. Human men usually showed up with flowers, didn’t they? He quickly visualized a huge bouquet of assorted roses in vibrant reds, pinks, and yellows. Moments later, they were in his hand, just as the door opened.
Malcolm had to look down a bit to see a lovely older woman standing at the door, her silver hair swept up loosely around a dazzling face with twinkling blue eyes. Although in her seventies, one could see she’d been a beauty in her day, which obviously ran in their family. She smiled at him, but he sensed wariness behind it. She held out her hand and eyed the flowers.
“You must be Malcolm. Lovely to meet you. Please come in. Samantha will be down in a moment.” She shook his hand quickly and turned, leaving him no choice but to follow her into the kitchen.
“Thank you. You are Samantha’s grandmother,” he said awkwardly, wishing he’d conjured up two bouquets of flowers.
“Yes. I’m Helen Costigan. But you may call me Nonie.” She waved. “Everyone does.”
“Very nice to meet you, Nonie.” He smiled. “Davis has told me a bit about you.”
“Really? Well, he’s a nice old fellow, but I hope he hasn’t been telling tales out of school.” She winked.
Malcolm cocked his head with confusion. Just as he was about to ask what she meant, he heard Samantha behind him.
“Hi. I hope you haven’t been waiting too long.”
Sam’s voice floated over him like a warm breeze. For the first time in his life, Malcolm was speechless. She was dressed simply, but was absolutely stunning. Her blonde hair fell loosely around her face and cascaded over her shoulders. The gold in her hair complemented her large blue Amoveo eyes. She wore very little makeup, which he liked, a natural glow. The sight of her knocked the wind out of him. “I’m sorry. What? No.” Malcolm felt foolish, stumbling over his words like some ridiculous adolescent. “It gave me the opportunity to meet your grandmother, who I’ve heard so much about.”
Sam smiled, knowing she’d made an impression on him. Score one point for me.
Malcolm stilled when he heard her in his mind. Finally, for the first time, he heard his mate in the most intimate form of communication, telepathically. He gave her a big broad smile. This was the most encouraging sign for him yet. Their connection was growing stronger, and she was definitely opening up to him. “You look fabulous. Here, these are for you.” He stuck the flowers out awkwardly, like some pimply teenager.
He cringed at his fumbling attempts at courting.
“They’re gorgeous. Thank you.” Sam looked at him over the flowers while she breathed in the sweet fragrance. “Nonie, would you mind putting these in water for me.” She didn’t take her eyes off Malcolm.
“Of course dear, I’ll take care of it. Now you two run along and have fun.” Nonie escorted them to the door.
Nonie watched them walk out to the car with a growing sense of dread. She knew Samantha was excited about the date and clearly attracted to Malcolm, but she worried all the same. She had already lost her daughter. Samantha was all she had left. No one would take her away. No one.
They approached the black Mercedes waiting in the driveway, and Malcolm stole a sidelong look at Samantha. She was simply radiant. He glanced down at his slightly rumpled linen pants and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He always considered his style “classic casual,” but at the moment he felt like a bit of a slob. She looked too damned good for him. He opened the car door for her, and she slid easily in to the buttery beige leather seat just as her velvet thoughts slid into his mind.
Jesus, even his car his gorgeous. I’m a beat-up VW, and he’s a Mercedes. What the hell am I doing with this guy?
Malcolm heard her insecure thoughts loud and clear, but was completely perplexed by them. Did she really have no idea how attractive she was? If anything he thought he was the beat-up VW, and she was the slick Mercedes. He wondered how in the world it could be possible that she wasn’t confident of her own beauty. Did she not notice the way people turned to look at her? She was magnificent in true Amoveo tradition, both inside and out. “So where to, madam? I’m at your mercy.”
His smile turned her insides to jelly. “Well.” She played with the cross at her neck. “I thought I’d take you to a traditional Westerly summer haunt. Paddy’s. It’s a great little place on the beach, right down at the other end of Atlantic Avenue actually. Since its Saturday, there’s probably a good cover band playing later on tonight. They usually have an eighties band on the weekend. You know Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, the usual.” Sam cringed. He made her so nervous that she was running off at the mouth.
“Sure. I’m up for anything as long as you’ll show me the way.”
Sam gave Malcolm the simple directions to Paddy’s down the road. As they drove along Atlantic Avenue, the sun was beginning to set over the marsh. She looked out her window at an osprey swooping down to its nest. It was perched high, over water dotted with reeds. A few roosts had been placed in the marsh to encourage species growth in the area, and they were all occupied. This one had a large fish in its beak, feeding its young, who in a few weeks would be learning to fly and leaving the nest.
The whisper was soft. “They are exceptional birds, aren’t they,” she said.
“Absolutely.” Only he hadn’t been thinking about the birds. “Many people are intimidated by birds of prey, but I think they’re quite interesting, don’t you?”
“Mmmhmm,” Sam murmured.
“Have you ever seen one up close?” He pulled the car into the restaurant parking lot.
Sam looked at him through narrowed eyes. “Actually, just recently. Why do you ask?”
“Curious, I suppose. I was at the zoo once, the Bronx Zoo, and the birds of prey exhibit was my favorite.” He turned off the ignition.
Sam didn’t have time to let herself out because Malcolm beat her to the punch, opening her door for her again. Flowers, opening up doors—very nice.
Malcolm tried not to grin like an idiot at her approval, but he couldn’t help it. Things were going perfectly.
They were seated at a table outside overlooking the ocean. Paddy’s was a casual place with various types of patrons. Currently there were lots of families, some just coming in from the beach. Soon it would be pulsing with live music and several liquored-up guests. Sam liked it for the people watching. It was like stepping into a time warp. Everyone who came here for the evening entertainment looked as if they were plucked out of the eighties. The guys with mullets and girls with big hair, wearing lots of heavy metal T-shirts with cutoff jean shorts.
There were the preppy tourists, here and there, stopping in briefly from their family summer homes. Men sporting the shorts with little whales on them. The ladies who looked too perfect, their necks draped with pristine strands of pearls, and flawless bodies covered by Lilly Pulitzer dresses. That crowd ran for the hills before the music got started. Sam never really fit in with either group, but it sure was fun to watch them when their worlds collided.
She and Malcolm talked easily over dinner and well past dessert. The conversation and laughter flowed as easily as the wine. Samantha found herself telling this man, this stranger, her entire life story. She told him about her parents, Nonie and Pop, Kerry, her life in NYC that she walked away from—all of it. At various points, she touched the cross at the hollow of her throat, usually when she spoke about her grandparents.
Never in her life had she ever told anyone so much about herself all at once. She always talked too much when she got nervous, but he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he became quite the chatterbox himself. He told her how he’d grown up an only child, between Italy and New York. His international life explained his unusual accent. He laughed out loud when she told him of the rumor mill about his family. He assured her his parents were alive and well in Milan, enjoying their retirement. He regaled her with stories of Milan, the beauty of the architecture, and the people.
They sat comfortably for a moment in silence. Samantha sipped her wine and looked at him over the rim of her glass. She smiled ever so slightly. He smiled back, holding her gaze. The look in his eye sent warmth through her body. She looked away quickly and touched her little cross.
Malcolm leaned in to inspect the tiny treasure that she gave so much attention to. “This is lovely,” he said as he gently caressed the silver between his fingers. “Did your grandmother give it to you?”
“Mmmhmm,” Sam murmured. She tried not to think about her racing heart from having him this close. “It was my mother’s and her mother’s and so on. Nonie gave it to my mom for her First Communion. After I was born, my mother put it away for me to have.”
Malcolm leaned back and released it from his grasp but never took his eyes off hers. It was like a game of chicken, and Sam most definitely lost. She cleared her throat and fiddled with the cross again.
“It’s funny. Nonie said Mom used to wear it all the time, but just before she died, she put it away for me. I’m grateful she did. It’s all I have of her really.”
“I wouldn’t say that. She was quite beautiful, and so are you.” Malcolm’s gaze wandered over her body.
Her cheeks flushed, and her face burned. Her lashes fluttered nervously as she took another sip of her wine.
“This last fellow you dated was a fool to let you go Samantha, but I’m very glad that he did.”
Sam scoffed audibly and took a larger sip of her wine. Anger flashed hotly at the memory of just how much Roger hadn’t wanted to let her go. Sam knew it was Bad Dating 101 to talk about old boyfriends, but he may as well know now that she wasn’t interested in a controlling asshole—no matter how charismatic he was. Roger had been charming at first too.
“Roger didn’t have a choice.” She lifted her chin defiantly and latched her gaze to his. “I don’t make it a habit of being with controlling or abusive men.”
His eyes narrowed, and the expression on his face hardened. His left hand curled into a fist as he leaned back in his chair. If Sam didn’t know better, she’d swear the air around them thickened. It was as if a huge cloud of humidity landed right on top of their table. She shifted slightly in her chair as the silence hung between them.
“I would hope not,” he said without taking his eyes from hers. “This person should pray I never set eyes on him.”
Sam cocked her head and cast him a questioning glance. His intense reaction surprised her, and honestly, flattered her a bit too. Roger was back in New York with his tail between his legs. She was about to reassure Malcolm of this very fact when the music started. It was so loud, continuing any conversation was next to impossible. Malcolm settled the bill, and they went inside to check out the band.
The music thrummed loudly through the small bar and reverberated through her body. Although, having Malcolm standing so close to her might’ve been causing the throbbing too. She stole a glance up at him as they listened to the music. His profile, much like the rest of him, was perfect. His shaggy hair curled slightly over his collar, and she had to resist the urge to brush it back and rub the silky strands between her fingers. Sam’s blood hummed with awareness as their bodies were scant inches apart. Occasionally her arm brushed his, and even that minor contact sent little licks of fire up her spine.
Malcolm tried desperately to keep his desire in check. Her reaction to him was palpable. Small beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he struggled for control over the firestorm building inside of him. He swallowed hard and took a deep, shuddering breath. He had to touch her, claim her. The mere mention of the man she’d been with had just about pushed him over the edge. He was flooded by unfamiliar emotions. He’d never in his life been awkward or unsure around women, but Sam was no ordinary woman.
Just as he was about to take her hand in his, Malcolm was struck by a wave of violent energy. Someone or something evil lurked nearby. The hatred spilled over him in waves, and his desire was replaced by fury.
The ominous flow of hostile energy was directed straight at Samantha.
He quickly scanned the room, searching for the source. The crowd, filled with undulating bodies flailing to the music, writhed wildly around them. His sharp gaze flew around the room frantically.
He spotted a man staring at them from across the room. He stood completely still amid the sweaty, thrashing crowd. At first glance he was rather bland looking, the kind of man who could easily be overlooked and blend into the walls. He was of average height with blond hair and dark beady eyes set in a hard, unsmiling face. His gaze remained locked intensely on Samantha. Malcolm’s defenses went up immediately. He put his arm protectively around Samantha’s waist. Possessively, he pulled her to him.
Malcolm reached out with his mind to get a reading on this man. Samantha was exceptionally pretty, so he couldn’t really blame him for staring. Virtually all of the men in the restaurant had noticed her, although she was completely oblivious to it. This man, however, wasn’t just staring at her, he was clocking her every move.
He was tracking her.
Malcolm’s eyes narrowed, and he focused all of his energy on him. He reached out to the mind of this stranger and was stunned to hit a mental block. As soon as he touched the unexpected barrier, the man’s eyes flew to Malcolm’s.
Malcolm’s eyes widened in shock, and his gut tightened. This man, whoever he was, obviously had psychic abilities and noticed when Malcolm tried to touch his mind. He glanced at Samantha, but she seemed blissfully unaware of the danger that lurked in the crowd. When he looked back up, the man was gone. He cursed under his breath and pulled her closer to his side. Malcolm wanted to get her the hell out of there. If they hadn’t been surrounded by so many humans he would’ve used whatever strength he had left to materialize them back to the house.
Samantha almost stopped breathing when Malcolm wrapped his arm around her waist. He pulled her against him and took note of the way her body, soft and pliant, molded so easily against his.
“We have to go,” he whispered.
She put her hand on his shoulder to ask him what the problem was. Before she could say anything, he took her hand, navigated the crowd, and pulled her out through the patio to the beach. As they emerged from the loud, sweaty throng, Sam pulled back on his hand. “Whoa. Easy there killer. I’m gonna need that arm for later.” She removed her hand from Malcolm’s grip as he continued scanning the beach.
“I’m sorry. I just got a little overwhelmed by the mob and the noise.” He looked past her toward the restaurant. “It’s getting late,” he whispered. “I think perhaps I should take you home.”
“Right.” Sam tried to hide her disappointment. “Nonie’s probably waiting up.”
She turned to go back to the car, but Malcolm grabbed her arm and pulled her to him. His fear for her safety fueled his passion for her. He needed to keep her safe, to keep her with him. His mouth took possession of hers with a fiery intensity that took them both by surprise. The kiss was hard and hot, his tongue demanding entrance. She opened and welcomed him into the dark, velvety warmth of her mouth. He held her close, and his hands tangled in her long hair. He tilted her head back, deepening the kiss.
Samantha had heard about kisses like this from friends. She had seen it in the movies, but she had never experienced it, until now. She reached up and put her arms around his neck. Her body melted against him. She never wanted this kiss to end. She felt like a woman who’d finally gotten water after being stranded in the desert. He tasted like wine and lust, and she was drunk from it.
They stood there in the sand. Lips mating, tongues mingling, Samantha could feel his body responding to her, and it made her want him even more. She was drowning in desire. Desire that was going way too fast. She felt herself spiraling out of control. She pulled herself back, both of them breathing heavily, their mouths inches apart, her lips swollen from his kisses. She looked up and found herself looking into a familiar pair of glowing yellow eyes. She took an involuntary step backward and felt the cold hand of fear crawl up her spine. “Your eyes,” she stammered breathlessly.
Malcolm blinked quickly, returning them to normal. “I must admit, I’m surprised that’s the body part you’re preoccupied with.” His smile was sexy. He reached out to pull her back, trying to hold onto the moment they’d just shared.
Samantha stared at him through confused eyes. “I think you’re right.” She touched her lips, still tingling. “I think you should take me home now.” She began to walk quickly to the parking lot.
“As you wish.” His body was still pulsing from her touch. He followed her, reluctantly, and gave one last look around to be sure there was no sign of the stranger.
They rode back to the house in a heavy silence. Her bewilderment vibrated around them both and tripped up his spine. He scolded himself. He’d been so caught up in his passion for her, so terrified by the thought of losing her, that he completely forgot to keep his eyes from shifting. His eyes instinctively shifted to their animal form, a symptom of his desire.
She broke the silence as they pulled up the gravel driveway of her home. “Malcolm, who was that man you were talking to on the balcony this afternoon?”
“You mean Davis.” He hoped that may satisfy her curiosity, but knew it wouldn’t.
“No. You know exactly who I mean,” she said with steady resolve. “The tall guy with long dark hair. I saw you speaking with him today on your deck.”
The car came to a halt at the top of the driveway.
She looked at him, daring him to deny it.
He saw the determination in her face and looked away. He couldn’t lie to her, but he couldn’t exactly explain that he was the Prince of the Amoveo either. “That was an old friend of the family.” He got out of the car, hoping she’d be satisfied with that answer.
Sam was starting to get pissed. Her energy waves thumped into him faster and harder. She knew that there was something unusual about the man she’d seen on the deck. He suspected that she’d seen Richard vanish. Guilt seeped into his heart because her instincts were right. But she doubted herself. He wanted her to ask him if he’d vanished into thin air to put him on the spot. If she asked him a direct question, he would not lie. How could he possibly explain who Richard was or what she had seen? Not yet.
Her eyes narrowed, and her back stiffened in defiance as she glared at him from the passenger seat. He knew that the more she ran through it in her mind, the more certain she was that it happened, but she still hadn’t come right out and asked him, probably worried she’d seem crazy.
Malcolm opened the door and offered to help her from the car.
Hesitantly, she took his hand. He pulled her effortlessly from her seat. Her breasts gently brushed up against him, a featherlight touch that held a promise of pleasure to come. Their breath mingled on the cool summer evening. Their bodies hummed in unison with anticipation.
“I want you to trust me, Samantha,” he said in a low voice laced with desperation and desire.
He brought her delicate hand to his mouth and gently brushed his lips back and forth across her knuckles. He slowly ran his other hand up the graceful curve of her back and began to massage the soft skin at the nape of her lovely neck. Her breathing quickened, and with every breath, her breasts pressed tantalizingly against his chest.
“Please, give me a chance to win your trust,” he whispered against her trembling hand.
He brushed small kisses along her palm. Malcolm was on fire. Desire coiled inside of him, and the passion between them grew beyond control. He knew that her head told her to run, but every other fiber of her being begged for his touch. He sensed her resolve slipping away, inch by inch. Her energy wave shifted. The rapid drumming of fear had been replaced by heated pulses of desire.
He knew what he was doing was dangerous. He hid secrets from her that she may never truly believe. Yet despite all the doubts, she was still drawn to him beyond all reason. Her eyes searched his for answers. He wanted to tell her, but the right words escaped him.
“Malcolm.” His name came out in a desperate rush through her soft quivering mouth.
He leaned in and this time kissed her gently, slowly seducing her plump lips with his. He took her face delicately in his hands, as though she might break. She opened to him willingly and swept her tongue along his. The slow burn of desire crackled between them. She deepened the kiss and wrapped her warm arms around him. His large frame dwarfed her as she fit easily in his embrace. It was as though they’d been made for one another. His yearning for her clawed at him from the inside out; he needed to touch her everywhere.
He reached out to her mind with his and gently touched the most intimate part of her.
It was as if a bucket of cold water had been tossed over her. Sam’s eyes flew open, and she struggled to extricate herself from his embrace. She pushed her small hands against the hard planes of his chest and held him there at arm’s-length for a moment. He kept his eyes locked with hers. Her energy waves crashed into him violently. Her shoulders shuddered beneath his hands, and her breath came quickly. She trembled. Tears filled her eyes, unable to register what she just heard.
He held his craving in check and kept his eyes from shifting. He allowed her time to process what had just happened. Looking into her frightened eyes, he reached out and again whispered gently along the edges of her mind. Trust me.
Sam’s eyes widened further. She shook her head and backed away from him in disbelief. Blindly, she ran into the house, leaving Malcolm alone. One glimmer of hope remained.
He’d been looking into the ice blue eyes of a wolf.