Chapter 15

Samantha finally agreed to hold off speaking with Nonie. She also consented to see him at his home later that evening. He’d promised a wonderful meal and a lesson in shapeshifting. In exchange, he’d leave her alone for the rest of the day so she could work on her painting for Nonie. After the past twenty-four hours, all Sam wanted to do was immerse herself in something normal and tangible. Nothing kept her more rooted in reality than her art. She felt like her entire life was spinning out of her control, and that frightened her more than anything. The watercolor of The Bluffs kept her anchored; without it she might go spiraling into the void.

Sam spent the rest of the day in her studio, not even coming out for lunch. The music was set at a deafening level. It drowned out everything, except her thoughts. She had finished sketching the portrait earlier and had moved on to the actual watercolors. As she added various colors with her brush, she would lean back periodically to view her progress—the comfortable worn gray of each shingle, windows like eyes that gave the impression of smiling out from the canvas.

The dewy sea grass in varied hues of greens and browns wrapped up the little house in a hug from Mother Earth. The azure sea came into sight just behind the modest Cape, all of it capped with a cloudless blue sky. Sam stepped back to look at her nearly finished work. Her smile faded. The dark ocean behind the house held a sense of foreboding. It was as though a cold, sticky hand went right up the back of her spine. Sam jumped and brushed at her neck. It felt like she’d walked through cobwebs. “Ecch. Enough.” She started to clean up. “I need a shower and a very strong drink.”


Malcolm left Samantha to the privacy of her studio and went home to see his waiting guests. He was comfortable leaving Sam to work because he could still feel her. If she ran into trouble, he would know and could be by her side in a blink. He knew his friends were going to give him a hard time and braced for it before he even got inside. The moment he walked through the door of the deck, he heard the smattering of applause and the occasional bravo coming from Dante and Steven. Both men were seated in the living room on the sofa barely trying to hide the smiles on their faces.

Apparently, they saw how upset Samantha was with him and found it amusing. William, however, was seated stone still in the far corner of the room. He did not look pleased. All three men, in true Amoveo tradition, were tall and well built. Each of them possessed the typical large Amoveo eyes. Dante and Steven were dressed comfortably in jeans and polo shirts. William, however, was as buttoned up as always. He wore a dark suit, crisp white shirt, and blood red tie. His shoes shone with a mirror-like finish, and Malcolm could see his reflection in them from where he stood. His long white hair, streaked with brown, was slicked back and tied tightly at his nape. Those sharp dark eyes sliced through the room and didn’t move from Malcolm’s face.

“I don’t think there is anything to joke about,” William said in a cold, steely voice. He sat motionless in the large upholstered chair.

“I have to agree with you, William.” Malcolm shot a reprimanding look to his cousin, Dante, and his friend, Steven.

“Sorry.” Steven held up his hands in defeat. “It’s just that our boy, Malcolm here, has always had a reputation for being able to handle the ladies, and it seems this one has him all twisted up.” A big grin cracked his face, and he ran a hand through his long sandy blond hair.

“My apologies, Cousin,” said Dante. “But you have to admit it. You don’t know if you’re coming or going.” He chuckled. Looking at Malcolm’s unsmiling face, his amber eyes grew serious. He cleared his throat as he stood. “We are here to help you, Cousin, and we offer ourselves in protection of you and your mate.” He gave a small bow before he seated himself again next to Steven.

“Thank you, Dante. Thank you all for coming.” He nodded. “I take it that the Council filled you in about what we’re up against?” Malcolm seated himself in the chair next to the fireplace.

“Sounds like the usual.” Steven grabbed a handful of peanuts from the crystal dish on the coffee table in front of him. “A Caedo hunter wants to bump off a couple of our own. We’re here to stop him and hopefully get rid of him in the process.”

“There is nothing usual or normal about this situation, gentlemen. Malcolm’s pairing with Samantha is unorthodox to say the least, and it has caused ripples of uneasiness through our race,” William responded coldly.

“Uneasiness in our race? I don’t understand,” Dante said with confusion, gesturing to the three of them. “None of us have connected with our mates yet, and this could be the answer to our very survival. Think about it. It’s more than likely that our mates are more highly evolved humans like Sam’s mother,” Dante said with more passion than expected.

William, however, seemed unfazed by Dante’s response and continued. “Samantha’s existence and now her pairing with Malcolm has reignited the Caedo’s mission,” William said with steely reserve. “None of us have been hunted by them since Samantha’s parents were lost almost thirty years ago. Now that the peace has been disrupted…” He paused as though he was searching for the perfect words. “Well, it’s unsettling for all of our people.” William reached down to rub a miniscule scuff mark from his inky black shoes.

“I hadn’t seen that side of it,” Malcolm said with some embarrassment.

“Well, with a spitfire like that, I can see how you might be distracted.” Steven nodded toward Sam’s house.

“How much more time will you need before the mating ceremony can be performed? Once the two of you are officially mated, your strength will be greater than you’ve ever known,” Dante said with a brooding look.

Malcolm was somewhat taken back by Dante’s reaction. He watched him carefully. Dante seemed restless. He rose from the couch and looked out over the ocean.

“My hope is that after tonight, we will be able to perform the ceremony within a day or two. I know Richard has said he will come on a moment’s notice to officiate the public ceremony.”

“Very well.” William rose from his chair and straightened his jacket. He glanced to the painting above the fireplace and stilled. “That is hers.” He said it as a statement—not a question.

Malcolm smiled and rose from his chair. “Yes. I purchased all of her paintings from that gallery in the city.” He crossed over and adjusted the portrait slightly by the corner of the gilded frame. “I thought that it would make her feel more at ease to have her work here in my home.” His smile faded when he saw the stoic look on William’s face. Malcolm frowned slightly. “Is there a problem?”

William didn’t answer but kept his gaze fixed on the picture.

“William, I asked you a question,” he said in a low menacing tone.

William’s dark eyes flicked back to Malcolm. “Not for me.”

Steven and Dante exchanged a confused look over this unexpected confrontation. Both men moved cautiously toward them as the tension in the room increased by the second.

“What exactly does that mean?”

William sighed and brushed a piece of lint from his lapel. “I don’t envy your position. The last time a mixed couple was openly mated it didn’t end very well. Did it?”

Malcolm’s eyes shifted harshly and every fiber of his body tensed. “Is that a threat?”

“No,” he said with his eyes firmly locked on Malcolm’s. “It’s a fact. You are my friend, and I am concerned for your well-being. I would hate to see you and Samantha meet the same fate as her parents.” William rolled his eyes and let out a sound of exasperation. “Your mate is right. You are a bit overbearing.” He glanced at Dante and Steven. “She referred to him as bossy, didn’t she?” His voice lilted in a teasing tone.

Malcolm cracked a small smile and chuckled softly. Dante and Steven joined in, and the tension eased slowly from the room. William was nothing if not direct. Malcolm shook his head and ran his hand through his hair. He felt foolish for getting so defensive and overprotective. Damn, this woman may be the death of him…or his dignity. He was ready to beat the crap out of anyone who even implied anything negative about her.

“Samantha will be here with me this evening, and I would be eternally grateful if you men would watch the perimeter of my home so we can be together undisturbed. Samantha has much to learn and very little time to learn it.”

Malcolm stood and made eye contact with each of the men in his presence. He extended his right arm out, his palm facing down. All three of them approached and formed a circle. Each man placed his right hand into the center. They grasped hands, their eyes shifted, and they uttered the ancient language, “Iunctus.” Each proclaimed their unity against the enemy, willing to lay down their lives to ensure the future of their race.


At the end of the day, Samantha indulged in a nice long bubble bath. She broke out all the stops, including candles and music. She needed any opportunity to clear her head before the evening ahead of her with Malcolm. After her bath, she took her time getting ready. Just as she turned off the hair dryer, she heard a knock at the door.

Nonie came in and sat silently on the bed. She smoothed out the white covers nervously. “Where are you headed all dressed up?” Nonie gave a sidelong look at Samantha.

“I’m wearing a cotton sundress. That’s hardly gussied up, Nonie.” Sam avoided the question.

“Come on now. You know what I mean.” She stared directly at her, her hands folded in her lap. “You’re going out with Malcolm again.” She stated it as a fact, not a question.

Sam leaned against the weathered oak dresser, fiddling with the hairbrush in her hands. She wanted to tell Nonie what had been going on, but knew that it wasn’t the time. Not yet. “Yes.” Sam looked at her hands. “Is there a problem or some reason I shouldn’t be with him?” She looked back up at Nonie, searching her eyes for answers.

Nonie simply smiled as she stood and crossed over to Samantha. “Well now. The only person who knows whether or not you should be with him…is you.” She touched Sam’s necklace. “I see your necklace was returned to you.”

Sam smiled and took the small cross between her fingers and ran it back and forth along the chain. “Yes. Just like you said it would be.” Sam paused for a moment. “Malcolm found it and brought it to me.”

“Mmm hmm.” Nonie gently patted Sam on the shoulder and moved to the window.

She could tell that something was on Nonie’s mind, but knew she wasn’t in the mood for sharing it. “Nonie, how well did you know my father?” Sam saw her stiffen. She stood there silently, her hands gently splayed on the windowsill. They were interrupted by the shrill ringing of the telephone.

“I’ll get it,” Nonie said.

“Hello? Hi, Millie. What? Oh, sure I can. It’s no trouble at all. Fine, fine, see you later.” Nonie hung up and headed out of the room. “I’ve got to go dear. We’ve got another game tonight, and Millie said she wants to have it here. I have a feeling she’s going a little stir crazy with Billy’s family staying at the house.”

“I know. She was down at the beach this morning with Billy and the baby. The sun was hardly even up yet, and they looked like they’d been there awhile.” Sam smiled. She gave her hair a few last strokes. “Do you want me to help you get things ready?”

“No, no. Thank you, dear, but I’ll give Davis a ring and have him come over and help me.” She stopped at the doorway and turned back to Sam. “Samantha…”

“Yes Nonie?”

“Nothing, dear.” She smiled and waved.

She watched her grandmother leave the room and felt an ache in her heart. She could actually feel Nonie’s pain as though it were her own. It wasn’t just empathy. Sam could feel it in the air. It was a tangible and very unsettling sensation. She had to take a couple of deep breaths to calm the panic that began to bubble up.

What’s wrong, Samantha? Malcolm’s voice flowed in her mind like a soothing caress.

It instantly calmed her and made her at ease. How did you do that? How can hearing you in my mind instantly make me feel better? Is this part of the whole Amoveo mate thing?

Yes, this and more.

She could swear she actually felt his hands run down her back, sending delicious shivers through her. Get out of my head…you’re…distracting me. I’ll be there soon. She smiled. She heard him growl in response and knew she was in way over her head.

Sam came downstairs to find Nonie and Davis rearranging the kitchen table and chairs in preparation for their bridge game. They really did look adorable as they danced around one another. She saw how completely comfortable they were together. She gave them each a kiss on the cheek and grabbed the flashlight and her black wrap from the closet. She gave a quick, “Don’t wait up,” over her shoulder and headed out into the cool summer evening. Sam closed the door behind her, threw the wrap around her shoulders, and made her way toward the beach steps. Just like Kerry’s house, it was much quicker to get there via the beach.

She went down the steps, the flashlight beam bobbing along with her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement. She shone the beam over the grass and caught a glimpse of something furry. A dog maybe?

When she reached the bottom of the steps, she stopped to take off her strappy sandals. This time she heard something and froze. Sam had never been afraid on this beach in her life. Something inside of her made her move a little faster. She had the overwhelming feeling that she was being watched. She ran up the steps to Malcolm’s house, taking them two at a time. She got to the top and ran straight into Malcolm. Thankfully, he grabbed her before she could plummet down to the beach below. He pulled her close, his mouth inches from hers.

“We’re making a habit of meeting like this,” he purred, then placed a soft kiss on her slightly parted mouth.

Now she definitely couldn’t catch her breath. Her entire body came alive with that one touch. Malcolm’s lips were warm, and he tasted like the sea—salty and unpredictable. She kissed him back, and the intensity grew quickly.

She figured he’d meant to give her just a sweet kiss, a welcome only. No dice. The desire between them flared brightly and threatened to boil over. She stood on her tip toes, wrapped her arms around his neck, pulled him close, and deepened their kiss. She swept her tongue along the edges of his. His strong hands wandered down to her hips and held her close, his need for her hot, heavy, and pressed against her. The wind raged around them on the bluff, lips mating and tongues dancing. Their bodies pressed against one another, desperate to get closer.

Malcolm reluctantly broke their embrace and suckled her bottom lip. He held her head in his hands and rested his forehead against hers. “You’re making it very difficult for me to be a gentleman,” he said between ragged breaths. “I think we should go in the house before you make me completely lose all of my senses, and I take you right here on the railing.”

Sam smiled coyly, looking up at him beneath long eyelashes. She was in uncharted territory across the board. She’d never felt any kind of sexual power. She’d never felt sexy. However, she definitely liked the effect she had on him. It turned her on. “I have to admit.” She leaned into him as they walked. “You shapeshifter boys sure can kiss. Tell me something…are all Amoveo as good at this as you?”

“No. I am the best,” he said with complete seriousness. “At least, as far as you are concerned.”

“Really, well I don’t know.” The pitch of her voice rose to a teasing tone. “Maybe I should try dating a couple other Amoveos, you know, to make sure. Let’s see, what other animals are there? I’ve always liked cats.” She continued as they walked onto the deck.

Malcolm reached the door first and blocked her path. “That’s not an option.” He looked down at her. “You’ll find that I don’t share well.” His features grew dark, and his eyes shifted, creating two glowing yellow slashes in the night.

Sam laughed out loud. “Wow. Doesn’t take much to get you riled up, does it? Relax, Conan. One shapeshifting man in my head is about all I can handle.”

“Good.” With a curt nod, he opened the door for her. “I’d hate to kill one of my own people.”

Before she could respond he slipped behind her and covered her eyes with one of his strong hands. He smelled like the ocean. He wrapped his other hand around her upper arm and pulled her back against his firm, long body. Sam sucked in a shuddering breath and held it. He leaned down and nudged her hair away from her ear. His warm breath fanned deliciously down her throat. It was intensely erotic to be blind for that moment. Her body seemed even more in tune with every single spot his body touched. Her hands hung at her side. She reached back and placed them on his rock hard thighs, clothed beneath linen trousers. He placed a delicate kiss on the edge of her ear and whispered wickedly, “I have a few surprises for you.”

“I bet you do,” she breathed.

Eyes covered, he led her inside. The moment she stood inside the house a sense of familiarity washed over her. Any apprehension she’d had about being here melted away. She heard the door close behind them as he steered her along. Sam could tell they were maneuvering around some furniture on their way to the mystery destination. Sam laughed and kept her hands out in front like a blind old lady.

They stopped, and Malcolm once again pressed himself right up against her. She shivered as his left hand slid down her arm, and he tangled his fingers with hers. He nuzzled her ear again and murmured seductively in her ear, “Are you ready?”

Sam leaned her head back against his muscular chest and squeezed his thigh with her free hand. “If you keep this up I’m going to be ready for a lot more than dinner,” she said huskily.

“You’re making it next to impossible for me to behave myself,” he growled. Before she could respond he uncovered her eyes and pulled her long blonde hair over her shoulder.

Sam smiled and opened her eyes.

The sight in the dining room took her breath away. The enormous dining table had a spectacular place setting for two. There were two gleaming silver candelabras with unlit white tapered candles and two gorgeous china and crystal place settings. They both held fresh, colorful salads. Several other covered dishes adorned the table. A magnum of champagne, chilling in a silver cooler, was in the center of it all.

Sam walked slowly into the dining room, taking in every detail. It looked beautiful, smelled delicious, and she could practically hear the crackling of the champagne chilling. It was a veritable feast for her senses. Never in her life had anyone put together something like this for her. Tears pricked at the back of her eyes, stunned by the spread he had put together for her. She was brought out of her thoughts by the pop of the champagne cork.

Malcolm was filling their flutes with a satisfied smile on his face.

“You did all of this for me?” she asked in disbelief.

“You find it so shocking that I would make you dinner?” He handed her the ornate crystal glass.

“This is more than dinner. I feel like I’m on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous or more likely Punk’d. Is Ashton hiding under the table or something?” She looked around.

“I don’t know who that is, but I can assure you, no one is under the table.” He put the bottle back in its icy bath.

“You don’t know who Ashton Kutcher is?” She raised her eyebrows. “Do you live in this house or under a rock?”

“You deserve to have every meal this way, Samantha. Nothing is too good for you.” He raised his glass to her and stepped closer. “To you.”

“And to you,” she whispered. She sipped the champagne and eyed him over the edge of her glass. He looked at her with an intensity that forced her to look away. She was afraid she might lose herself completely and jump his bones right there on the table.

Malcolm smiled as he received the various images that had run through her mind. He knew she had to learn to protect her thoughts, especially around other Amoveo. Tonight he had put up a mental shield so their guards would not hear them. This was one of the skills he wanted to teach her. She would’ve learned this as a child if she’d she been raised in their world.

“Do you have a match so we can light the candles?”

“No.” His smile was cocky. With a wave of his hand, little flames danced before her eyes.

“Show off.” She smiled. “Okay…Now I have to admit that’s pretty cool.”

Malcolm pulled her chair out for her.

“Can all Amoveo do things like that?”

“Yes. We all have the power of visualization. Our abilities grow as we age, especially once we find our mate. The old ones are quite powerful.” He sat with her.

“How long do you live?”

“Well, Richard and his mate Salinda are over two hundred years. They are among the oldest.”

Sam almost choked on her champagne. “Two hundred? Holy shit! You mean that guy on your deck…Wow, you don’t age much do you?”

“No.” He smiled. “Not much. If we’ve found our mates.” He held her gaze for a moment, but she quickly looked away.

She placed the pure white linen napkin in her lap and sat quietly, surveying the sight before her. Eventually, her gaze landed on Malcolm, who had begun to enjoy his salad.

“Aren’t you going to eat?”

“So you’re telling me I can learn to do that candle thing?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Yes. Tonight after dinner, we’ll begin. You have a lot of catching up to do.” He gave her a devastating smile.

“Right.” She had to focus on her salad.

After the spectacular first course, they enjoyed mammoth steamed lobsters smothered in warm drawn butter. Their feast continued with sweet corn on the cob and soft Italian bread. It was topped off by a tower of fresh fruit with warm chocolate fondue. She was grateful that he liked a woman with an appetite and a little meat on her bones.

Conversation over dinner focused mostly on Amoveo history. He told her the legend that shaped the fate of their race. She listened intently as he told her about the star-crossed lovers from so long ago. Lucia of the Lion Clan had been pursued relentlessly by a young human named Victor Caedo. Unbeknownst to him, she was Amoveo and mated to Antonio of the Tiger Clan. However, Victor was obsessed. She spurned his advances repeatedly, but he would not relent. One night he saw the young lovers sneak into the woods. He followed them, planning to tell their parents of their secret tryst. Then, under the canopy of the moonlit forest, he saw them shift. Unable to understand what he’d seen, he allowed his fear to turn to hatred. Eventually, he hunted them down and killed them. Victor Caedo then made it his family’s legacy to wipe all of the Amoveo from the planet.

Malcolm didn’t want to spoil their evening by revealing the current danger so he turned the conversation to stories of her clan. He explained that her father had been the last of his line in the Wolf Clan and that she was now the last.

By the end of the meal, Sam was stuffed. Her belly was filled with food, and her brain was loaded with information. She sat back and looked at Malcolm draining the last bit of champagne from his glass.

“So obviously Amoveo from different clans can mate with each other. Right?”

“Yes. My father is of the Eagle Clan, and my mother is of the Bear Clan.”

“So why are you an eagle? Is it because your father was, and you’re a boy? I mean, if we had children, which clan would they take after? They wouldn’t be some kind of weird gryphon creature or something, would they? Because that could be a deal breaker on the whole baby thing.” Her brow knitted. She tried to act like the conversation was normal. “Not that I’m thinking about having babies…I just…well, would they…if we did, I mean?” She felt like a bit of an idiot.

“No.” He shook his head with a small chuckle. “It is unknown which clan a child will favor until adolescence. We don’t go through our first shift until we reach puberty. That is when we are able to walk in the dream realm. Our powers of visualization begin to appear then as well.”

“So let me get this all straight.” She stood from the table and went over to the window. “There are ten different shapeshifting animal clans. I am a wolf. Is that right?”


“You can only have children with your ‘soul mate.’” She made air quotes with her fingers.


“You find this mate, who is, by the way, prechosen for you by the universe, in dreams. How am I doing so far?” She faced Malcolm, still seated in his chair.

“Excellent.” He sensed her anxiety and subtly sent her waves of reassurance.

“But if you don’t find your mate, then you lose your powers and die a slow painful death.”


“Oh wait…I almost forgot the best part,” she said dramatically. “The crazy zealot Caedo family hunts you down as part of their family tradition.”

“They have in the past, but it’s been many years since we lost any of our people. Samantha, please.” He went to her, putting his hands on her shoulders. Let’s take it one step at a time, mia piccola lupa.

His voice once again soothed her as it floated into her mind. “How do you do that?” she asked, wide-eyed.

Do what? He looked at her with that knee-buckling smile.

“That.” She smacked his hard chest. “Physically put me at ease with your voice. Is it because I’m supposed to be your mate?”

“Yes and no.” He took her hands. “All Amoveo are very sensitive to human emotion. We feel it in the air. Similar to the way a bat can see with radio waves or how dolphins use sound. We can navigate human emotions. However, since you are my mate we are even more connected to each other than we would be with anyone else.”

Sam’s eyes widened with comprehension. “Tonight, in my room, I actually felt how upset Nonie was. I mean it wasn’t empathy…it was more than that…it was a physical reaction. I got kind of dizzy and a little nauseous. But then when you spoke to me in my mind, it made me feel better. Kind of like telepathic Tylenol.” She smiled.

Malcolm laughed at her clever analogy. “Yes, I suppose you could say that. You need to learn to tune out human emotion, filter it so that it won’t impact you like that. It’s going to happen more and more as your abilities continue to develop.”

“Jeez, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be in a crowded place like a mall if I couldn’t tune that stuff out.” She tried not to be distracted by the soft strokes of his thumb along her hand. She was mesmerized by the little trails of fire he left behind with each touch.

It set off a series of pornographic images in her mind, which Malcolm received loud and clear. You’re killing me, woman, he growled.

Sam’s head snapped up. She felt the color rise in her cheeks.

“First, you need to learn to guard those thoughts of yours. You might just drive me insane, sending me images like that. I would imagine you wouldn’t want anyone else to see them either?” He raised an eyebrow.

Sam was horrified at the idea that anyone but Malcolm would hear her thoughts. Especially the ones she had recently. “You mean any one of your people…your mother?”

Malcolm laughed and pulled her to him in a welcome and reassuring embrace. “Not to worry. Most of our people have very good manners and do their best not to intrude on the thoughts of other Amoveo, but if you’re shouting, how can they help but hear you?” He stroked the back of her head and rocked a bit as he held her.

Sam stayed there for a moment, allowing herself to sink into the warmth of his embrace. She loved the way his heart beat against her cheek and how his muscles rippled under her hands. He tenderly played with the ends of her long hair, and it was almost hypnotic. I could stay here forever. She sighed.

“So could I,” he said. “But we have work to do.”

Malcolm led Sam into the cavernous living room, and she whistled at the vast cool space. It was not what someone would expect in a beach house, more like something in an old English castle. The furniture was covered in heavy brocade or leather. The wood was dark mahogany with intricate carvings along the edges. The ivory walls had various portraits hung around the room. All of them were of different animals, mostly birds of prey. On the opposite side of the room and to the right were huge archways, which led to the front hall with a sweeping staircase and into the equally large dining room. At the center of the far wall was a massive fireplace framed by a Gothic marble mantle, and Sam just about fainted when she saw what hung above it.

It was her painting. Woman and the Wolf.