Samantha awoke the next morning to small kisses on the back of her neck—their naked bodies spooned together, skin to skin. The early sun streamed in through the large bay windows, casting golden beams of light around them. She smiled with contentment as his arm tightened around her. She placed a small kiss on his fingers as he nuzzled. Memories of last night flooded back to her in full color. They had made love several times, and she was gloriously exhausted, but she could be convinced to go another round. He was the only man to make her feel completely and utterly cherished. Not to mention the mind-blowing sex.
“It was rather mind-blowing, wasn’t it,” he whispered in her ear.
She jabbed him in the ribs. “Hey. I thought I was saying that to myself. I guess I’m not as good at guarding my thoughts as I’d hoped.”
Malcolm chuckled softly and kissed her earlobe. “Now that we are mated, you have to intentionally shut your mind from me entirely if you don’t want me to hear you. It’s even more than just guarding your thoughts. I hope, however, that you’ll never do that.”
Sam turned over so she lay face-to-face with him in the soft, warm bed. “What do you mean, now that we are mated?” Wary, her brows knitted together.
“Last night, I said the ancient words of our mating ritual. We are bound, now and forever.” He brushed her cheek gently.
She remembered exactly what he was talking about and what happened after he said those words. She sat straight up in bed, holding the covers to her naked breasts. “What do you mean bound? I mean, come on, we had sex. I know it was pretty amazing, and rest assured, I don’t run around doing that with just anybody…but…what…” Her voice rose to something that resembled panic.
Malcolm propped himself up on his elbow and looked at her with a puzzled smile. “Samantha, you knew that we were destined. All we did last night was confirm that. I don’t see what you’re so upset about.”
“So what…that’s it?” she sputtered. “We’re married?”
“Well no. We do have a formal celebration ceremony that is done by Prince Richard.”
Sam let out a sigh of relief. “Well, thank God.”
“But really, that’s just a formality. For all intents and purposes, we are mated. You will feel what I feel and share my thoughts as I share yours.” He brushed her tousled hair off her shoulder and trailed his fingertips down her back.
A delicious shiver went throughout her body. Desire flared deep inside of her. Sam jumped out of bed, taking the comforter with her as a makeshift wrap, leaving him with just the sheet. “Stop that.” She pointed at him from the bedside. “I can’t think straight when you do that.”
Malcolm said nothing. He simply smiled that sexy smile and kept his eyes locked on hers. She looked absolutely gorgeous. Her golden hair in complete disarray and that determined look on her face made him want to eat her up. He sent wicked images to her.
“Ooohhh. Stop that too.” She clapped one hand over her eyes. “That’s not fair. I mean it.”
Malcolm chuckled and raised his hands in defeat. “Okay. I’m sorry. I’ll stop.” He lay back in the bed, both hands behind his head. Only the thin white sheet covered him from the waist down.
She looked away, afraid she’d actually start to drool. Sam paced back and forth trying to wrap her brain around what he was telling her. “So…last night…after you said…wait…what did you say exactly?” She stopped pacing for a moment.
“Nos es unus. Materia pro totus vicis. Ago intertwined. Forever.”
“Isn’t that Latin? I got the last word, but what does the rest mean?”
“Loosely translated it means: We are one. Mates for all time. Lives intertwined. Forever. And yes, it’s Latin. That is the language of our people.”
She wanted to strangle him. She stood there with her arms crossed, scowling. “Right, so now you’ll be able to hear everything I think?”
“Well, brace yourself, buddy. You probably won’t like everything you hear.”
“I don’t doubt it.” He then heard some colorful language going off in her mind in rapid succession. “It’s the most intimate form of communication, Samantha.” He smiled suggestively.
“Uh-huh. Well, I’m sure that’s another reason you people don’t want just anyone hearing what’s rattling around in your brains. It would certainly air everyone’s dirty laundry.”
“Actually, all communication between mates is protected. Think of it as encoded. Like a private telephone line.”
“Okay,” she said slowly. “And you said we’ll also feel what the other feels?”
“Yes.” He nodded. “Last night…” He trailed off hoping she’d be able to finish the thought.
“Last night…after you said those words…I actually saw and felt everything that you did as well as what I…oh boy.” Realization moved across her face. Her eyes grew wide, and she blushed at the memory of their shared experience. “Well, that would probably be considered one of the perks.”
Malcolm sat up and took her hand, pulling her to him. “I know that you’ve had many things to accept over the past couple of days, and I will do my best for the rest of our lives to help you through all of it.”
Sam looked down at her hand, which had never seemed small to her, and saw it was completely engulfed by Malcolm’s. Is this it? Am I going to lose myself completely and simply be absorbed by him?
Malcolm heard her but said nothing. He pulled her next to him on the bed and rearranged the covers over both of them. “I promise you, Samantha, everything will be all right.” He placed a kiss on top of her head. Samantha felt and heard his reassurances but still remained uneasy. She wondered if she would have a normal life ever again.
“We do live normal lives, Samantha, with a few small exceptions.”
“Turning into an animal is hardly a small exception.” She laid her head on his chest.
“Now that we are mated—”
“Do me a favor.” She put her hand up in an effort to silence him. “Stop saying that. You’re stressing me out.”
Malcolm sighed and continued. “At any rate, after last night, both of our abilities are heightened. We have not only our own strength, but each other’s as well. It’s a benefit on many levels.” His mind wandered to the Caedo.
Sam lifted her head and looked at him through narrowed eyes. “What’s that about the Caedo?”
He looked away from her and got out of bed.
She watched him and couldn’t help but notice that he looked as good going as he did coming.
He stepped into jeans that had been cast aside quickly last night.
“Guess that whole connected thing works both ways, doesn’t it, big guy?” She smiled with satisfaction. “So why are you worried about the Caedo? And don’t bother trying to lie to me because, as you know, I now have an inside track to what’s going on in your head. So spill it.”
Malcolm stood there, his hands on his hips. The muscles in his chest flexed with tension, and he cursed under his breath. “I didn’t want to worry you or upset you.”
“Uh-huh…well, too late.”
“A Caedo hunter has been tracking you. I had hoped to eliminate him before you even had to find out about it, but he’s been elusive to say the least.”
“What?” She clutched the sheets to her chest. “I thought you said they haven’t done anything for years.”
“They haven’t. That’s true.”
“Well, why me? I’m not even a full Amoveo.”
“We are sure they’ve watched you all of your life to see if you showed any of our people’s traits. We are quite certain they know that you and I have found each other. As far as the Caedo are concerned, you are Amoveo and now fair game.”
“How long have you known about this, Malcolm? What about Nonie? Is she in danger? Or Kerry? Jesus, Malcolm, are you telling me some psycho out there wants to kill me?” Her voice was slightly hysterical.
“He was at Paddy’s the other night, and no, I don’t think they are in any danger.”
“That was why you dragged me outside. Well who is this guy? Jesus. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“He’s definitely Caedo, but I had never seen him before. He was able to block his thoughts from me.” He felt somewhat ashamed. Unable to face her, he turned to look out the window. “With everything else you’ve had to accept, I didn’t want to add to it.”
“Wait a minute. Aren’t the Caedo human? How could he do that? I mean, block you?”
“Yes, they are human, but as you know…” He looked back over his shoulder. “There are humans with psychic ability. Obviously, this fellow has some.”
“That’s why you were worried about me running on the beach.” The pieces came together.
“Yes. You have been protected all along. I enlisted the help of three Amoveo warriors to aid in our defense. They were here to ensure we were undisturbed last night.”
Sam’s eyes grew wide. “Here?”
“Yes. Dante, Steven, and William watched over the perimeter of my home. They are three of our fiercest warriors. Dante has a private security firm. Steven is a very gifted healer.”
“You mean like a doctor?” Sam asked curiously.
“More than that. He can use visualization to heal most wounds,” Malcolm said quietly.
“So…are they here now?” She prayed the answer would be no.
“Yes,” Malcolm said. “In fact they are outside right now.”
“This whole thing just keeps getting weirder. So what’s the bottom line? Some guy is out there and wants to kill me?”
“Us, actually.” He faced her.
“Right.” She jumped from a knock at the bedroom door, which was immediately followed by Davis’s muffled voice.
“Holy crap,” she whispered. “I do not want to get caught in your bed.” She dove under the covers, hoping the giant fluffy comforter would hide her presence. Malcolm smiled and, shaking his head, opened the door.
“Morning, sir.” Davis walked in and placed the large silver tray on the dresser.
“Thank you, Davis.” Malcolm retrieved his coffee.
“Your uncle Brendan is downstairs, sir. He said he needs to speak with you right away.”
“Really,” Malcolm said with concern. “Please tell him I’ll be right down.”
“Yes, sir.” With a small smile, Davis added, “I brought tea for you, Ms. Samantha. It’s on the tray.”
Samantha cringed under her ineffective hiding place and uttered a muffled, “Thank you.” She heard the door shut, came out from under the covers, and shot Malcolm a withering look. “You might’ve mentioned that he comes in here with your coffee every morning. And what’s this about your uncle being downstairs?” She got out of bed and began to dress.
Smiling, he leaned one hip against the dresser and sipped his coffee.
That only served to piss Samantha off even more. “I don’t think it’s funny.” She buttoned her sundress in a panic. “Jeez, how about your mom and dad? Maybe they can pop in and catch me in your bed too.” The very idea of it made her blush right down to her toenails.
Malcolm walked over and tried to pull her into his arms.
She pushed him away. She brushed past him without saying a word, went into the bathroom, and slammed the door. He went over and knocked gently. “Samantha,” he said softly.
He was met with the sound of the water running in the sink as she continued to ignore him.
Please don’t be angry, mia piccola lupa.
His voice slid easily into her mind, like ribbons of silk along her soul.
Samantha remembered what he’d said and slammed her mind shut to him. It was a lot like the way she slammed the door. Gratefully, she was met with silence. She finished washing the sleep from her eyes, but was unable to rid herself of the now familiar frustration.
Although she had closed her mind to him, she could still feel him there, waiting. She hated to admit it, but she felt like a part of her was missing. Not having that mental connection left her with an unsettling emptiness. After ten minutes or so, she finally opened the door. She knew he was standing on the other side waiting.
When Sam had blocked him from her thoughts, Malcolm was left with a black void where their connection normally was, and it terrified him. He’d never been dependent on another person until now. When she finally opened the door, Malcolm let out the breath he didn’t even realize he’d been holding. She stood there in the doorway for a few moments without saying anything. His eyes searched hers for something, anything.
Finally, she went to the dresser and poured the tea, grateful that Davis had left it for her.
“I’m sorry that you were upset this morning,” he said quietly as she sipped her tea.
Sam looked at Malcolm over the edge of her teacup. She saw that he was pained by her unhappiness and that he felt everything that she did. It made her feel better that she wasn’t the only one trying to figure this all out.
“Apology accepted.” She placed her teacup back on the tray. “Now, shall we go downstairs so I can meet your uncle?” He pulled her to him, and this time she let him.
He held her tightly against his chest and placed a gentle kiss on her hair.
“I just hope he doesn’t think I’m some kind of tramp,” she mumbled against his chest.
“You are my mate, and he will treat you as such. If he treated you as anything less, uncle or not, it would not be tolerated.” His eyes shifted into two yellow slashes.
Sam smiled at his protective bluster as he took her hand and led her toward her future.
Samantha and Malcolm walked hand in hand into the living room. She was relieved to see evidence of their activities from the last night was gone. Her wrap and her sandals were neatly waiting for her by the deck doors. She was, however, stunned by the man who stood waiting for them by the fireplace. He could’ve passed for Malcolm’s brother. His uncle Brendan was the same towering height as Malcolm. He was dressed in an impeccable black suit with a bright pink shirt and matching handkerchief in his breast pocket. They had similar builds and hair color, but his eyes were almost jet black.
This is your uncle? He looks more like your brother. Only he’s a snappier dresser, she teased to Malcolm.
We don’t age the same way humans do, remember? I assure you he’s much older than me. Anyway,I thought you liked me better without clothes, he thought wickedly.
Brendan turned to greet them, and his gaze instantly landed on Samantha.
She felt like a bug under a microscope.
“Good morning, Nephew.” The two men shook hands. “I hope I haven’t disturbed you too early.” His eyes went back to Sam’s face, which had visibly reddened.
“You must be Samantha.” He took her hand and gave it a chivalrous kiss. “You are even more beautiful than Malcolm let on.”
“Don’t go flirting with my mate, you devil.” Malcolm took her hand back and held it gently in his. “Careful, Sam, my uncle had quite a reputation with the ladies, until he connected with his mate of course,” he said with good-natured teasing.
“It’s very nice to meet you. Are you of the Eagle Clan as well?” She hoped she didn’t sound like a big idiot, because at the moment that’s exactly how she felt.
“No. I am of the Bear Clan, like my sister.” His eyes glittered like two black diamonds.
“I see.” She tried not to squirm under his continued inspection.
“Malcolm tells me you are involved in finding other humans. Special ones like my mother,” she said with a wave to her painting.
“Yes. If there was one, well, then there are more to be sure. Humans who are able to mate and breed with us would certainly have a major impact on our race.” He smiled.
I don’t know what to say to him, she thought with palpable nervousness. I feel like I’m on display or failing some test I didn’t know I was taking.
Don’t be silly. He’s family. Malcolm gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
Right, family that can turn into a mammoth bear.
“So what does bring you here this early, Uncle,” Malcolm said as he and Sam sat on the large leather sofa.
“I have excellent news, and I wanted to deliver it to you in person.” Brendan settled himself regally into the chair by the fireplace.
“It seems they’ve captured the Caedo hunter that has been tracking you and Samantha.”
“Late last night. We have him at a safe house, and he’s being interrogated by some of our warriors as we speak.”
“This is outstanding.” Malcolm smiled. “Does Richard know?”
“Yes of course. He’s asked that we not disturb his interrogation of the suspect. I think he was thrilled to get the first crack at him.”
“Well, I’d like to have a crack at him myself. I should come to the safe house.” Malcolm rose swiftly.
“Not yet.” Brendan held up his hand. “All in good time, my boy. He is being guarded by some of our fiercest men. Not to worry, you’ll get your chance.” He smiled wickedly.
“This is wonderful news. Thank you.” Malcolm gave Brendan a hearty handshake.
“You’re more than welcome. This should give you and your mate ample time to…get acquainted.” He smiled knowingly with a wink to Sam.
Her face reddened, and she looked at Malcolm for backup.
“We’ve already completed the mating rite,” Malcolm said with pride.
Sam’s mouth fell open in utter mortification. She wanted to crawl under the table or do that disappearing act that Malcolm could do. Not Malcolm. He stood there proud as a peacock. She could swear she saw feathers sprout right out of him. Sam snapped her mouth shut and managed a weak smile at Brendan.
“Really,” Brendan said with surprise. “Well, that’s good news indeed.” He looked at his watch. “I’d better be going. I don’t want to miss too much of the interrogation back at the safe house. By the way, I took the liberty of releasing Dante, William, and Steven from their duties this morning.”
“I see,” Malcolm said with raised eyebrows. “Well, I suppose that we don’t really need their protection anymore, do we?” He cast a glance to Samantha. It was meant to comfort her, but his energy waves rippled with his lingering concern.
“I’ll be in touch.” He turned to Samantha. “It was lovely to meet you, my dear. I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again.” Then he uttered the ancient language and vanished into the air.
Malcolm said nothing after Brendan left and went out to the deck.
“I am never gonna get used to that disappearing act,” Sam mumbled as she followed Malcolm outside.
The rumbling energy waves that rolled off him made her a bit dizzy. Breathing deeply, she wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head against the warm expanse of his back. She hoped she could comfort him as easily as he did her. “What is it, Malcolm? I can feel how worried you are. I would think you’d be relieved by this news.”
“I know.” He scanned the beach below and placed one strong hand over hers as it rested on his lower belly. “I’m sure I’ll feel better once I see this fellow for myself. I’m sure Brendan and the others will handle things properly. They’re good friends.”
“Friends? Oh shit! Oh my God, what time is it?” Sam grabbed Malcolm’s wrist to look at his watch. “Jeez. It’s almost ten o’clock. I’ve got to go. I’m going shopping with Kerry in town today.” She frantically ran back inside, grabbing her shoes and wrap. She dashed over and gave Malcolm a quick kiss on the cheek.
Before she could escape, he hooked his arm around her waist, pulled her to him, and captured her mouth with his. She loved the way he kissed her. It spread delicious warmth through her entire body. He didn’t just kiss her…he devoured her. She wrapped her arms around his narrow waist and responded with equal fervor. Finally, he released her, leaving them both breathless.
“Now, that is how mates say good-bye,” he whispered wickedly against her lips.
“Right.” She tried to catch her breath.
“Come back tonight,” he said between little kisses at the corners of her mouth. “You still have to learn to shift…and other things.” He gave her that knee-weakening smile. “Besides, as my mate, this is your home as well.”
Sam looked up at him with skepticism. “I’m not moving in here.”
“Well, not today, but eventually.”
Sam patted him on the chest and took a step back. “Let’s just take it one step at a time. Okay, let’s recap, shall we? Today I’m going shopping with my best friend, you know, something normal. Then tonight, say around seven, I’ll come here and learn how to turn into a wolf. Not normal.”
“It’s normal for you.”
“No, Malcolm. No, it’s not normal for me.” Her frustration rose. “That’s what you don’t seem to get. Until a few days ago, my biggest problem was getting my art to sell. Now I find out that I’m only half human. I’ve got to learn how to turn into a wolf and avoid crazy psycho killers. Oh…and let’s not forget that apparently last night, I got married or whatever, to a guy who’s actually a bird.”
“Do you feel better?” Malcolm stood, his arms crossed, leaning against the deck railing.
Sam puffed the hair out of her face. With her nose pointed slightly in the air, she responded. “Yes actually.”
“Good.” His smile was self-satisfied. “So I’ll see you this evening at seven?”
“Fine. I’ll see you at seven.” Sam got about halfway down the steps and turned around. “By the way…you’re not going to spy on me again today. Right? Remember that whole giving me space thing?”
Malcolm raised his hands in defeat. “You have my word. Since it seems that they’ve captured our Caedo hunter, I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“Good.” She nodded and continued down the wooden steps.
“Besides,” he yelled after her. “Now that we’re mated, I would know right away if you needed me.”
Samantha rolled her eyes and waved without turning around. “Oookay. Bye,” she called ever so sweetly. A smile spread slowly across her face as his voice rippled like a whisper of satin inside of her.