“First thing first. I would have you know the real me.”

“Okay,” she was helped to her feet by his assistance, though her legs were so shaky from the roller coaster of desire he’d placed her on that it was evident to both of them. Her body felt like a pulsing force of endless need. Sally decided it was wiser to ignore his laughter over her weakness. “Just hurry this up, funny man.”

“I pray you continue to think that when we are done.”

Sally tried for sheer bravado to deal with the simmering cauldron of terror she had in her gut. Her imagination was providing her with one more nightmarish sequence after another. “Drake, the suspense here is killing me.”

“I pray your reaction does not kill me.” Drake pulled out a new thick pair of socks from his dresser to add to her body. It might be summer but the night was chilled. She would not suffer from this experience. He guided her to the bed to sit and knelt before her. Sally put her hand out to stop him, “Drake, what are you doing?”

“You need something for your feet.”

“I can put on my own socks.”

His eyes glowed neon orange as he gazed up at her. “Tending you is my honor and right, woman.” Sally leaned forward and brushed a kiss against his lips. He had to tense all his muscles to keep from leaping on top of her. His response was an out of control fire with a mere hint of a spark from her. This was another sign his patience was wise; she was beginning to initiate contact. Reach out to him. “Your feet will grow cold if we do not cover them.”

Sally let him continue, her toes wiggling in the thick wool of the socks as he secured them. “Where have you been all my life?”

“Looking for you,” his answer came so swift he could not keep it back.


Squirt shrugged, deeply uncomfortable, and wishing he’d just leave. She came here to heal. For privacy. To forget. He was making her … think. The bastard. “My name is an old family name, and it’s weird. I always knew I was weird enough, I didn’t need my name to drive the point home to everybody.”

“Ok, Squirt.” He smiled and that place inside her did the flip-floppy thing so she scowled at him. He reached a hand out to her and she flinched so badly, Mach froze. His eyes continued to move. Over her face, into her hands. She knew her hands were in tight fists, and she was vibrating with unease. She didn’t do touching. Not really. Or at least, Squirt started to swallow fast as the flip-floppy thing moved to her stomach, and she feared throwing up all over her nice clean garage. Mach slowly extended his hand, one finger brushing over her cheek as he moved some pieces of her long hair from her lips and behind her ear. He continued with the molasses thing as he withdrew his hand and returned it to his side. “I’ll learn your name when you’re ready. But …”


“I’m not getting inside you until I do.”

Squirt’s narrowed gaze watched him as he backed up, another of those flip-floppy causing smiles, turned, and left the garage.


Drake’s eyes were pinned on her face as he spoke to his friend and technical leader. “She knocked the cups out of my best friend’s and most hated enemies’ hands at the same time. Managing to get just the one word of warning out, before she was carried under, by the toxin meant for us.”

“Our brothers told me,” Luke assured him.

Drake folded in on himself as he buried his face in the pillow next to her trying to hide his tears. “Do you know she has no confidence in herself? Her family has made her feel like she is so much less than she is. It makes me want to cry every time she looks around in confusion when I compliment her.”

A hand grasped his shoulder and squeezed. “You have much in common.”

“She is meant to be my mate.”


Squirt squared off with the catsu who took the last bound to reach her. Sally could see the girl’s hands tighten into fists. She looked as insignificant as a fly on the side of an elephant. The best landed before her, opened its mouth and released a mighty roar. Sally imagined she could smell the stench of its breath even where she was, so far away. Squirt just stood there. Head tilted back, her form firm, she imagined the girl was just standing there staring death in the eye and feeling nothing.

Her fingers tightened against her stomach, until Drake’s hands covered hers and smoothed. Right. She wasn’t Squirt. She wasn’t alone. Her husband was here.

The catsu stopped, and seemed puzzled as to why the girl wasn’t screaming. Or running. Or doing anything in response.

Squirt rose onto her toes, opened her mouth, and roared back at him.