Love's Prisoner (Page 12)

"I—thought I was dreaming."

"You were hungry," he said simply. "So you sleep-walked down here to feed the baby."

"I ate—I ate all that raw hamburger?" She touched her mouth, revolted. "I can still taste it."

"You were hungry," he said again. "And I think the taste in your mouth is good to you. It's just the idea of it that tastes bad. Jeannie . . . can you see me? Do you know where we are?"

"We're in a kitchen. Yes, I can see you." She added, with a snap of her old fire that heartened him, "Ask another stupid question."

"It's pitch dark, Jeannie. A month ago, in equal darkness, you couldn't see anything."

A long, strained silence, broken by her whisper. "What's happening to me?"

"You're pregnant with a shapeshifter," he said simply. "You share a blood stream with the baby. You'll eat raw meat and see in the dark and probably get stronger before you birth the baby. It's natural."

"It is not natural. None of this is." She rubbed her face. "Oh, Jesus, I'm catching your delusion, you've all got me turning as crazy as you are . . ."

"That's not true," he said, reaching up and stroking her shoulder, lightly, a butterfly's touch. "And I think you're coming to know it."

"It has to be true," she said, almost moaned. "What's the alternative? That everything you said was right? That everything you—everything you did to me was understandable? Okay, even? That's not acceptable, I won't tolerate it!"

"Jeannie . . ."

She broke away from him and ran out of the kitchen, navigating her way past boxes and stools without hesitation, though most people would have been effectively blind in such utter darkness.


He came to her room the next morning to find her huddled in the window seat, looking out at the near-full moon with a dazed, almost hypnotized expression.

"Jeannie," he began, and then trailed off helplessly. His fingers itched to touch the smooth skin of her back; luckily, his hands were full. His lack of physical control had gotten her into this mess. Christ, he was like a pup around her, only thinking about physical pleasure, about the sounds she made when she . . . "I'm glad you ate your breakfast."

"Starving myself doesn't work," she said hopelessly, not turning around. "It just makes me sleepwalk and search out raw meatloaf, for God's sake. Better to have my scrambled eggs, please go away."

He decided it would not be prudent to mention her cravings would get worse, not better, before she gave birth.

"I brought you something."

She didn't answer.

He set the suitcases down, bent, unsnapped all four catches. At the sounds, she snuck a glance over her shoulder, then came off the window seat in astonishment. "My clothes!"

"Some of them," he confirmed, while she elbowed him out of the way and took a closer look. "I went to get them last night. I can't have you running around naked for the next eight months, can I?"

She grinned at him, so wide and natural he actually felt his heart catch: ka-THUD! "Thanks!" She made an aborted movement with her arms; for a moment of pure astonished happiness, he thought she was going to hug him. Then the moment passed and she was wriggling into panties, shorts, and a sweatshirt.

Well, what did you expect, fool? he asked himself bitterly. That she'd kiss you and say, 'Hey, PsychoBoy, I forgive you for the whole raping thing—twice—and love you and want to stay with you forever, thanks for the clothes.'

He turned to leave.

"Michael," she said tentatively.

He turned around, hope jumping in his chest like a rabbit. A continuously lusty rabbit hopelessly infatuated with someone who hated him. "Yes, my—my dear?" He'd almost called her 'my own mate', a common werewolf endearment he was positive she would not appreciate.

"Michael . . . can I ask a favor?"

He waited. She looked out the window at the moon, nearly full, the moon which would ripen tonight and call to his blood. Her eyes were wide with distress, dilated with fear. "Can I please stay somewhere else tonight? I promise I won't try to get away. I'll—I'll do whatever you want, if you don't make me stay in the house with—with all of you tonight."

"It's not safe for you anywhere else," he said, as gently as he could. "And I'm still planning to leave. You don't have to worry about a repeat of what happened last month." She didn't have to worry no matter where he was, he thought but did not say, because she certainly wasn't ovulating this time. What he would likely want to do in wolf-form is hunt food for her, then stay close. Following her from room to room, drinking in her scent, worshipping her with his eyes. She'd be terrified . . . or hate it—him . . . or both.

He closed his eyes against the pain that thought brought, then opened them as she did something he never thought she would do . . . never thought she was capable of.

"Please!" she begged. "I don't feel safe here! It's beautiful here, but I don't feel safe in your home." Every word was a knife in his heart, but she didn't notice, just rushed on in her agitation. "Every minute that goes by, I feel like something terrible will happen, something I'm in the middle of! Please, please let me stay somewhere else. I'll do anything, Michael, anything you want."

"Don't beg," he said thickly, "I can't bear it," but she wasn't hearing him. She crossed the room in an instant and flung herself into his arms; he hugged her to him automatically, stepping backward with the force of her assault. "Jeannie, listen. It's not—"

He quit talking because her frantic mouth was on his, her hands were pounding on his chest and then scratching the fabric of his shirt, her scent—orchard ripe, succulent peaches—overwhelmed him. The force of his return kiss bent her backward. "Anything," she hissed into his mouth. "Anything."

The man in him managed, 'Wait! She's giving herself to you for a favor, she thinks if you take her, she can leave tonight. Stop, idiot!' before the wolf took over, yanked her sweatshirt over her head, divested her of her shorts, tore her panties in his haste, tossed her on the bed. He was on her, her limbs were entwined with his and everywhere was her scent and he couldn't get enough, could never get enough of her. He buried his face in the sweet slope of her throat, cupped her breasts with their impudent velvet nipples, kissed her so hard they were both panting when he pulled his mouth from her.

Part of him thought, even as he put his hands on her, his mouth on her, that she must be frightened indeed to give herself to him, a woman who had starved herself and gone without clothes to show her contempt for him. He made a last, heroic effort. "You can't leave," he growled, then bit her earlobe, and wondered how he could make himself leave her with his cock on fire and her musk in his nostrils. "It's not safe."

She bowed her head, resting her forehead against his shoulder. "I know. I knew you wouldn't let me, but I was desperate. I've been watching that damned moon and getting upset and now I'm . . . oh, God, I'm so ashamed."

He kissed the slope of her breast. "Don't say that."

"I am, though." She seemed content to let him nuzzle her breast; one hand was in his hair, almost absently. He gloried in her touch, in her temporary acquiescence, even as he craved more.

"Because you used your body to try and get what you want?"

She didn't answer, but he felt her swallow hard.

"It doesn't make you bad. It makes you formidable." He chuckled. "The remorse, now, that makes you human." He licked the underside of her breast, then nipped the sensitive skin. She jumped and he heard her swallow a gasp.

"I think," she said carefully, trying to ease herself from beneath him, and, because he wasn't cooperating, having no luck at all, "that since you won't let me leave, there's no reason for us to finish this."

"You're not going to send me away, are you?" He probably looked as horrified as he felt, because she got a downright devilish look in her eyes.

"Yes," she said, "I am. You promised you wouldn't force me unless it was to punish me. I haven't done anything wrong—"

"Today," he interrupted dryly.

"—so you have to go," she finished triumphantly. He could tell she was loving it, loving the power she had over him, and was curious to see if he really would leave her, when they could both feel the throbbing below his belt.

"Jeannie, I am begging you."

"No," she said, pouting, but she was watching him, watching, and he caught the sharp scent of her wariness. He groaned theatrically and stumbled from the bed, adjusting his jeans to ease the stiffness between his legs.

"About that promise . . ."


The last thing he saw before leaving was the delighted, surprised look on her face.

Chapter Nine

Jeannie spoke around a mouthful of chocolate. "What do you mean you're all leaving?"

Moira had made the bed, over Jeannie's protests that she 'didn't need a maid, dammit'. Now she was clearing her mistress's lunch plates, and looked up. "Only the females, my lady."


"Because you want us to," she said simply.

"But I never said—besides, Michael's the boss of you guys, not me."

"The alpha female has expressed distress to her mate at the thought of being around us this evening. Thus, we depart." Moira shrugged. "Simple."

"But I'm not the—" At Moira's look, Jeannie reversed herself. "Okay, say I am. I never told you guys to go. I only told Michael."

"Werewolf hearing," Moira said with a smile, "is very acute. Besides, we can smell your torment. We don't want to add to it."

"You're really leaving your home tonight? For me? Even though I didn't ask?"