Bracing my hands against the open bathroom door, I bucked against him. He ripped my shirt down the front, and my bra followed, fluttering to the floor in ruins. I rocked and rode against him, seeking the friction we both needed so much.
He managed to keep me pinned to the door, unzip his jeans, and roll on a condom without dropping my butt to the floor. He pushed gently inside me. I sighed as my body adjusted, stretching to accommodate him.
And just as I grasped his rhythm, he spun, carrying me across the room toward the bed. Loved. I’d never felt so loved and cared for and wanted in my whole life. I wanted this feeling to go on and on, until I was old and gray and no longer able to pull off this position. Wherever I was going, I wanted Caleb to come with me.
Caleb pushed my hair off my shoulder as he rained kisses down the length of my neck, down my spine, pressing his mouth to each individual star before making his way back to my shoulders. He nipped my earlobe as he pressed inside me, working our hips together as he slid his hand around my hip. I pushed back, bracing my arm against the headboard, until I was filled to the hilt. His hands were everywhere—between my legs, on my breasts, at my throat.
A delicious tension wound its way out from my belly, tightening from my breasts down to my toes. Caleb rubbed in small circles, increasing his thrusts as his breath came in short bursts. I threw my head back, yelling when one final thrust of his hips sent a climax rippling along my body. Caleb pulled me up until I was sitting in his lap, my overwrought nerves twitching and firing as he moved underneath me. We collapsed against the mattress, sweaty and sated.
“If you make a joke about me bringing out the beast in you, I will not be held accountable for my actions.”
Honestly, we intended to honor our reservation at the steakhouse just across the street. Caleb got dressed up in a white Oxford shirt and khakis. He was tugging uncomfortably at a navy tie when I stepped out of the bathroom. He looked so polished, with his dark hair carefully combed back and the darker caramel tones of his skin highlighted by the crisp white shirt.
“Look at you,” I breathed. “You’re so pretty.”
“Me?” He chuckled. “Do a little twirl for me.” I complied with the twirl request, the skirt of the fitted long-sleeved red dress I’d chosen from the lobby shop swishing against my legs. I’d put on weight since the last time I’d bought clothes, which I was choosing to see as a good thing.
We meant to walk out the door and go to the restaurant. We really did. But Caleb was just beaming at me, as if I’d personally hung the moon, and he really liked the way I was wearing that dress . . . and the next thing I knew, we were naked all over again.
Sometime just before the room-service kitchen was about to close, we managed to put on robes and order dinner. Knowing Caleb’s appetite, I ordered big—thick rare steaks, hand-cut fries, macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings, not to mention half of the dessert cart. It took three people to deliver our order to our room, plus the sommelier who carried the bottle of semidry red wine I’d ordered. When the sommelier offered Caleb the bottle to inspect, he grinned and motioned to me. I gave it a cursory glance and nodded, smiling warmly at the man.
“A lovely selection, miss,” he said, snapping his heels together before pouring us each a healthy portion. He left the bottle on the cart, accepted his tip from Caleb, and closed the door behind him. I took another sip of wine, enjoying the way it rolled over my tongue.
Caleb watched, his head tilted as he studied me. “You used to have this, didn’t you?”
“My own private sommelier? Well, not every day, just on the weekends,” I teased.
“No, the nice clothes, hotels with wine lists, waiters with accents, the whole thing. You used to have this.”
I shrugged. “Well, I lived on the nice side of comfortable, I’ll admit. And there are things I miss, like a dependably bug-free shower and knowing where I’m going to sleep every night, but I have to say, I was a lot more comfortable eating burgers at a saloon. With you.” I gave him a smacking kiss. “All this, it’s nice. But I can live without it.”
We ate, sitting on the floor in our robes, in front of the window, with the lights of Anchorage laid out before us. I was toying with an asparagus spear, considering the chocolate éclair left untouched on the dessert plate. It was lying there, all chocolaty and creamy and provocative. It was practically asking me to eat it.
“So, I was hoping you would come home with me,” Caleb said suddenly.
The hussy éclair forgotten, I grinned at Caleb and toyed with the belt of his robe. “Well, sailor, I don’t think that line works if we’re already home for the night, but if you want to do ‘strangers in a bar,’ I’m up for it.”
He laughed, prying my hands loose from his belt without much enthusiasm. “No, back to the valley, which is your home, too, so it sort of works out. I wanted to ask you before, but I was afraid you’d say no. I’m going to be heading back in a few weeks. You could stay with me, in my house. And we could have a life together. I know Maggie would rehire you as the pack doctor. It’s difficult to find doctors who can treat werewolves. I doubt she’s filled the position.”
“But what happens when spring comes and you need to go out on the road again?”
He shrugged. “You can come with me. I work twice as fast when you’re around anyway. Or hell, I could work from home. My cousin Cooper has been on me about joining his business, expanding it. I could do that, stay in one place.”
“I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
“You aren’t, I’m asking you. What do you want out of life?” he asked. “ ’Cause you can’t keep running like this. You can’t just keep moving on until you’re too old and tired to move on again.”
Well, that sucked all of the levity out of the conversation.
I knew what I wanted. I wanted to go back to the pack. I wanted to go back to the only real home I’d known since my parents died. And I wanted to stay with Caleb.
“I loved living in the valley. It was an incredible gift that your family gave me, allowing me to practice medicine. It was like regaining the use of a limb. And I belonged for the first time in years. I had a family. People who valued me, looked me in the eye. I was a person again.”
“I sense a ‘but’ coming,” he said.
“But it’s such a big decision,” I said weakly.
“Because you’re scared.”
I nodded. “That would be a massive understatement, yes.”
“By something I’ve done?” he asked, his expression faltering.
“It’s not you. Trust me, it has nothing to do with you. But I believe Glenn when he says he can find me. It’s only a matter of time, really. If I came home with you, I could be bringing all that trouble with me, right into your pack. And I couldn’t stand it if someone in your family got hurt because of me or if he caused trouble for the pack. It’s the reason I left in the first place.”
“What if he wasn’t part of the equation?”
“What do you mean?”
“I could kill him,” Caleb offered quietly, toying with the lapels of my robe. “I could track him down, snuff him out before he even saw me coming. I could make it look like an accident. It would never be traced back to you.”
I stared at him for a long, silent moment. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t considered it. And it would be so easy to let the word yes slip from my lips, to let Caleb give Glenn all of the pain he deserved and somehow keep my hands relatively clean. All I had to do was nod, and I would have the ultimate revenge on my bastard ex-husband.
But I couldn’t do that. I’d spent most of our time together griping at Caleb about his tendency to act without mercy. I couldn’t exactly turn around and ask him to kill for me.
Caleb protested, “But—”
“No. I love you too much to make you a killer.”
Caleb pouted. “Not even a thorough maiming?”
“OK, then, forget your ex. Forget everything but what you want to do right now, what you know in your heart is the right thing for you. Just for you. What do you want to do?”
I leaned my forehead against his and pressed my lips to his. “I want to go home with you.”
Red-burn was going to be so pissed at me when I told her I didn’t need that ID after all.
Whooping, Caleb dragged me down to the floor and kissed me. He nuzzled at the place on my neck where he’d bitten me all those months ago, and it tingled a bit. I pulled away, rubbing at my former hickey. Caleb noticed the gesture and pulled himself back up to a sitting position. “So you know how things work with us, right? The mating thing? The claiming bite?” I nodded. “Well, I hope that’s something you’re willing to consider.”
“Are you sure we know enough about each other to be mated?”
“I know that you’re strong, you’re adaptable, and you’re smart, all qualities that make for a fantastic mate.”
Somehow I was both touched and slightly insulted that he hadn’t mentioned me being at all pretty.
“But I won’t put the claiming bite on you until you’ve finished your business with Glenn. Divorced, separated by church and state, lock, stock, and barrel.”
My mouth dropped open. “But that could take years.”
He shrugged. “I’ll wait.”
“Is this some sort of bizarre stall tactic?”
“No, this is about you getting closure before we start something new. I think it’s important for you to finish this on your own terms. And frankly, I’d like to put your real legal name on our marriage certificate, not an alias. That means that you can’t be married to someone else when we file it. Werewolves don’t file a lot of legitimate government paperwork. We take the marriage licenses pretty seriously.”
“This is the worst proposal I’ve ever heard.”
“Not true. That honor belongs to my cousin Maggie, whose mating and proposal involved accidentally biting her mate on the ass.”
“You’re right,” I conceded, remembering the number of stitches required to sew up Nick’s butt cheek. “That was worse.”
“This is important,” he told me. “It’s something you need to do for yourself, not for me. I can be patient. You can take all the time you need.”
I sighed, peering up at him through my lashes. “You’re right. I thought the answer was to just keep moving around, but that hasn’t worked so far. I have to change tactics. And I would feel a lot better not lying to people every time I open my mouth.”
He fluttered his hand over his heart. “A nonromantic response to a nonromantic proposal.”
I laughed, whacking him with a pillow, wrestling with him until I pinned him to the floor and pressed a kiss against his throat. I was fairly certain he let me win. “I’ll start the paperwork just as soon as we get back to the valley,” I promised. “If nothing else, I have to come home with you so I can see the look on Maggie’s face when she realizes I might end up her in-law.”
Pandora Was a Total Idiot
We were leaving. I’d never looked forward to traveling like this. Usually, departures meant distress. Now I was going home.
We would be leaving for the valley in a few days. Caleb was working diligently to close up whichever of his pending cases he could close and to send progress reports to his clients on those still open. Since I was able to type more than five angrily pecked words per minute, I ended up sending out most of them while Caleb dictated.
“I don’t suppose you would give up typing for the day and get naked with me?”
“Do you want to leave town without any pesky paperwork hanging over your head?” I asked.
“Hmm, my desire for sex loses out to my hatred of paperwork. Well played, woman.” He sighed, hauling himself out of bed. “I need to get the tires checked for our trip and run to the grocery anyway. Surprise, surprise, we’re out of condoms again. And those little packs of raisins.”
“How about some juice boxes?” I suggested cheekily.
“Well, they might come in handy,” he said, considering.
“My big bad wolf.” I sighed, rolling my eyes. I kissed him again. “If people only knew.”
He swatted my butt good-naturedly. “You’re just happy you don’t have to buy the condoms.”
I pursed my lips, remembering exactly how hot my cheeks got when the clerk at the Ready-Mart gave me the I know what you’ve been doing look over my box of extra-large, ribbed-for-her-pleasure protection. “You’re not wrong.”
I worked steadily for an hour, doing a little dance when I finished the last report and hit “Send” on the e-mail program.
All I had left to do was pack. I was really looking forward to returning to the valley. I knew I would have to do quite a bit of groveling, but eventually, the pack would accept me again.
Now for the e-mail I’d put off for the last week. I opened the program to sign out of Caleb’s address and sign into the secure server I used to contact Red-burn. Just as I was about to click on “Log Out,” a new message alert popped into a folder labeled “Pack” with a ping. I frowned. I knew there were folders in Caleb’s account—heck, I’d arranged most of them—but I’d assumed they were for storage. I didn’t realize they could receive directed messages.
I opened the folder and had to search around a bit before I found a subfolder marked “Schuna,” bolded and blinking with an unread message. I opened it and saw that the messages were from a private investigator in Seattle named Robert Schuna, the same investigator who’d sent us after a guy named Calvin Dodd. In fact, the new message was from Schuna, with the subject line “Progress Report?”