Jude jerked her up, rising on his knees. She stared into his blazing eyes and wondered if her own glowed as bright.
The coil of release began deep within her.
Her mouth opened on a scream.
Flesh so close. Taste. Take.
The thing inside would have her way.
His throat was so close. She bit down on him, muffling her scream and tasting his flesh as pleasure ripped through her.
He stiffened against her, his hold grew even harder, and then he erupted inside her, shaking with his own release.
A drumbeat echoed in her ears.
Aftershocks rippled over her body.
Slowly, so slowly, her head lifted and she swiped her tongue over her lips.
And she tasted blood.
Horrified, Erin shoved against him. “Oh, hell, Jude, I didn’t mean—”
He kissed her. Kept his cock buried deep inside and kissed her.
When his head rose, she stared up at him, hoping, scared, and so confused. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
That half smile made her melt. “You didn’t. You couldn’t.” His index finger trailed down her chest. “I could fucking eat you alive, sweetheart.”
Not running away. Not freaking out because she’d gotten a little…overzealous there at the end.
His gaze dropped to her chest. “Such sweet breasts with their pretty pink nipples.” He frowned, his head lowering. “What the hell?”
How had she forgotten? Shit, shit! How had she forgotten that?
She should have turned off the light.
Shifters can see in the dark. She knew that!
His fingers rubbed lightly over the raised flesh just below her left breast.
A claw mark.
Jude withdrew from her, a long, slow glide, and Erin had to bite back the plea for him to stay, to thrust deep again.
The passion was gone, at least for him. He was looking at her now with intense eyes and a hard face.
Looking at her like she was a victim, dammit.
Not a woman.
Before, she’d been a woman with him.
Erin spun away from him. She ripped what was left of the sheet loose as she moved, using it to cover her body.
How could I have forgotten? I see the thing every day.
“Who marked you?” Fury there, boiling beneath the surface of his voice.
She rose from the bed, careful not to move too fast. Didn’t want it to look like she was running.
Even if she was.
Erin clenched her thighs, feeling a quiver in her sex.
So good. But good things didn’t last long in her life.
At least Jude hadn’t gone running from her, even when she’d used her claws and teeth.
“Who fucking marked you?”
She turned back to face him.
Jude jumped from the bed, naked and damn sexy still, and grabbed her arms.
The sheet slipped to the floor.
“That bastard did it, didn’t he? You said you’d never seen him, you said he hadn’t got close to you!”
Time for some truth. “I lied.”
At first, the wound had bled like a bitch. She’d left a trail of her blood on the street when she’d fled. But, lucky for her, she could heal without shifting. So her skin had mended, well, as close to mending as it could, and though her bleeding had stopped by the time she’d reached safety, she’d been left with his mark on her flesh. The wound had been too deep and long to heal perfectly.
From wild sex back to business. Not the way she would have liked to spend the afterglow moments. Erin swallowed. “Not tonight, Jude, okay? I don’t want to talk about this now.” Not while her body still vibrated with the pleasure he’d given her. Not while she could still taste him.
Not while she could almost feel him inside.
She didn’t want to go back to that other night right then.
He stared down at her, a muscle flexing along his jaw.
“Not tonight,” she repeated.
Silence. Then, when her heart was squeezing because she didn’t want to go back there, he gave a grim nod. “But we will talk about it, Erin. I’m working this case for you. I need to know everything that’s happened.”
She licked her lips. “Tomorrow, okay? Tomorrow.”
His hands dropped. She bent and scooped up the sheet. He’d go back to his room downstairs now, she’d go back to bed and try to sleep, try.
Erin brushed by him. “In the morning, we’ll talk.” A dismissal. Not sexy. Not subtle.
She’d never really been the subtle sort.
She climbed into the bed. Eased onto the mattress and tried not to notice the way his scent surrounded her.
“Scoot over, sweetheart.”
Her breath caught. “You’re not going downstairs?”
Jude shook his head. “Not the way things work. Not for me.”
He eased in beside her and wrapped his arms around her body.
“Relax. I’m just going to hold you. Hold you and sleep.”
Sounded good to her.
His right hand curved around her stomach. The fingers drifted lightly over her scar.
“Something you should know.” His voice was soft.
“When I find him, I’m gonna kill him.”
If only the bastard out there were easy to kill. If he’d been easy prey, she would have killed him herself, long ago.
It took a while for Erin’s breathing to ease into the slow, natural rhythm of sleep.
Jude held her, keeping his hold nice and easy, and he waited.
And he choked back his rage.
The bastard marked her.
Close enough to mark. Close enough to kill.
Why the hell had Erin kept the truth from him?
She stirred in her sleep, moving lightly, and her nose rubbed against his neck.
In sleep, she was soft and beautiful. Delicate. A woman who needed protection.
In passion, she’d been something else. Oh, still beautiful. With her shining eyes and hungry lips, Erin had been the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
But not delicate. Her hold on him had been too strong, too fierce. And her hunger had been as wild as his own.
The beast in him had been very, very hungry.
His cock was still erect, still ready—because he wanted more. But when the ghost of fear had appeared in her eyes, he’d known the passion was over. For now.
He’d had her once. He’d have her again. And he’d make sure that fear never showed again.
Jude would stop the asshole out there. No doubt.
The beast inside couldn’t wait to taste the blood.
The rain was falling again. Dripping through the broken glass.
The scent of gasoline was in the air. Thick, cloying gasoline, and the coppery stench of blood.
Erin stared at the mound of twisted metal. Her feet
crunched glass on the ground beneath her, but she didn’t feel any pain. “Hello?”
She wet her lips and inched forward. The broken car looked like hell. The roof had been smashed. The front four feet of the car had been crumbled to pretty much nothing by the tree.
The scent of blood grew stronger.
Shadows filled the interior of the car, but she knew someone was inside.
Living or dead?
Her hand reached out and touched the icy door handle. She yanked, but the thing wouldn’t open.
Someone was inside.
Another hard pull, this time, with both hands.
Her palms were wet, from the rain, from her own sweat.
She should get help.
Yeah, yeah, that was a good idea, she’d go, get help.
Erin stepped back, almost falling in the slick mud.
She’d find help, then she’d come back as fast as she could.
Turning, she ran for the—
The voice stopped her cold.
Erin woke, breath heaving.
The voice echoed in her head, and, dammit, it was a voice she knew.
“Erin?” Jude’s growl. Sleep-roughened and deep. “Sweetheart, you must’ve had a bad dream.”
Never that simple for her.
Death dreams. The only thing, other than her black hair, that she’d gotten from her father.
She’d had her first one when she was twelve years old. Her mother had told her it was just a nightmare, nothing to worry about.
Then the body had been found.
The damn dreams. Sometimes they came to her right before a death, teasing her and making her believe that there was something she could do. Some way to change fate.
Other times, to torment her, they came too late. Minutes, hours after the death.
Too late to do anything but mourn the dead.
Too late. No, she still had to try.
Erin leapt out of bed. She ran for her closet and snagged the first pair of sweats she saw.
Shimmying, she jerked them up. Then shoved her hands through the sleeves of a T-shirt.
“Little early for a jog.”
Erin spun around. “I have to leave.”
He blinked. The man looked sleep tousled. Blond hair mussed, eyes heavy-lidded, faint stubble lining his jaw.
She swallowed. Don’t mind waking up to that.
His gaze sharpened. “Where.” Demand, not question.
How to explain this? The long version? The one with all the twisted shit in her past and the roots of her father’s vision gifts—courtesy of her great-grandfather, a Choctaw shaman.
Screw it. Better to just cut to the chase. “I’m psychic, okay? Just like my dad.” Not exactly. “Look, if I don’t get to Old Dobbin’s Bend soon, a man’s going to die.” Could already be dead.
Old Dobbin’s Bend. When she’d turned away from the wrecked car, she’d known that road. She’d been on that winding track once, just last week. She’d ridden with a uniform out to question a witness. No mistaking that long, curving bend.
Jude stared at her for about five seconds, then gave a nod. “Right, then let’s get the hell to Dobbin’s Bend.”
Her jaw dropped. That was it? No questions, just go? “You believe me?”
He swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “Woman, you’re talking to a man who can shift into a tiger. Hell, yeah, I believe you.” He jerked on his pants. When had he brought those upstairs? “Now let’s get our asses over to Dobbin’s Bend.”
Hold on, Lee. The whisper slipped through her mind. The voice in her dream had belonged to Lee Givens, the attorney who usually pissed her off. But now, she was just scared for him.
Sure, Lee could be a real jerkoff, but he didn’t deserve to die alone.
No one did.
Jude’s hands clenched around the steering wheel. “You sure this is the right place?”
His voice was cool, calm, but Erin’s shoulders tensed. “It’s the right place.”
She’d seen this exact road in her dream. Those trees. The broken pine.
This was the place.
“How long you been having dreams like this?”
Erin wet her lips. “Close to seventeen years now, but I don’t—I don’t have them that often.” If she had them every night, she’d go crazy. No question. “I only have them when…when I know someone—” Didn’t have to be an intimate knowledge, but it had to be someone she’d connected with in some way. The dreams were only about people who’d stirred her emotions, good or bad.
When her emotions were stirred, then the link, or whatever the hell it was inside of her, just clicked on. When it was time for someone she’d connected with to die, the death dreams came.
Her dad told her it was a gift. One passed through generations of his blood by the gods.
Gift? More like curse.
Her dreams sure hadn’t been enough to save him.
“So if you know somebody and—”
“They have to be close to death.” For the dreams to come calling, they had to hear death’s sweet whisper.
Her brows pulled together. She didn’t know quite what that sound meant. Told him I was flawed. This death dream madness is just the tip of the iceberg.
She felt the glance he gave her. Questioning. Weighing.
She couldn’t worry about that now, not when—“Stop!”
He slammed on the brakes.
Erin shoved open her door and jumped out of the truck. This was the spot from her vision, she knew it. Her body hummed with energy. Here.
“Erin, wait!” The grind of the tires crunched as he pulled off the road behind her. A door slammed.
Her gaze raked the road. The rain had fallen so hard during the night, it would have washed away any signs—
Jude saw the markings first. Figured, his senses were better than hers.
Ten feet up the road, then right over the edge…
They ran together, then they went over that edge.
The mud sucked at her tennis shoes, making gulping sounds like it wanted to eat her, but Erin powered on through the falling mist. The broken car was in her sights now.
How can he be alive?
The car had been smashed, crumbled as if by giant hands, then thrown away.
In the distance, the shriek of a siren sounded. Help was coming. The ambulance she’d called before she left her house was getting closer, fast.
Jude reached the car door first. The window was broken, shattered, and inside, Erin could see Lee’s bloody form.