Layla stomped out to her car and drove away. She headed east and tried to think about everything that had happened. She’d worked so hard to advance at her job. It was difficult being taken seriously as a woman in her field. And she was young, another thing she’d had to overcome. A curvy red-haired woman who was young and attractive wasn’t something she complained about being in her day-to-day life, hell, it opened doors for her, she knew that. But it was hard to get past in the corporate world.
Three days before she’d been focused on her career and there had been nothing but clear pavement between her and another promotion. But with a mate she now had to navigate around how yet another person would react to her choices. It was hard enough dealing with her mother who never stopped complaining that she spent too much time on her career and not enough time on her family. Now she had to deal with a man. Not a man, the man.
And here she was with a big old wrench thrown into her plans by that man! As it was, all she could think about was Sid Rosario. She wondered if he was upset or hurt by her running off. She didn’t want this. She wanted her old life where she was free to stay late at work, free to work on a Sunday, free to get up and work in the middle of the night if she needed to.
She wasn’t some human who had no idea what she was in for. She was born a wolf, had seen wolves around her mate and watched their lives change in revolutionary ways. Was she ready for that? Did she even want to be? Was she ready for the level of dedication and involvement from her mate? Her DNA was now altered with his claiming of her. She was changed forever.
Frustrated and frightened, she slammed a palm against the steering wheel.
She needed to run. Running always calmed her, and she felt her wolf begin to agitate within her, needing release. Maybe she could think of a way around this mess if she could get a little bit of calm and stop obsessing about Sid for a few minutes.
Pulling her car onto a side road near where Cade’s new house in the woods was, she hid her things in the wheel well and went to the tree line to shed her clothing. The scent of the wild teased her senses, soothed her as she fell to her knees and let her wolf take over her body.
Her humanity slid away as her fur rose and the world was black and white and gray and yet sharp and vivid. The scent of her surroundings painted the air—the moss on the trees, the mushrooms in the dead tree trunk, the squirrels and the rabbits that scurried out of the way as they scented her.
Nose up, she drew in the universe through her senses and the world was suddenly right again. There, covered in a pelt coppery and fiery red and gold, things were simple again.
And she ran.
* * * * *
Sid hung up the phone, pissed off. He’d been trying to call Layla for the last day and a half and even had showed up at her place, and there was no sign of her. Her scent, now their scent, was cold enough that he could tell she hadn’t been around since early the day before.
He paced, his wolf agitated and worried. He never should have let her leave. A newly bonded female wolf needed the tri-bond, and each hour that passed without it happening put her in danger and made her less rational. She was already surprised and stressed out and that would only be exacerbated by the lack of the anchoring bond.
He picked up the phone and dialed Adam, who told him where Tia lived and that he’d meet his cousin there.
Not knowing what to expect, Sid was happy Tia seemed so happy and supportive of the bond. He was less happy to hear about Layla’s agitation and that it seemed so far out of her normal character.
It wasn’t just that he wanted to protect her—he needed to protect her. As a male werewolf, the mate bond was the ultimate commitment. Her needs were paramount. Knowing she was out there somewhere, upset and agitated, tore at him.
“Do you have any idea where she could be?”
“She always runs when she’s upset and Cade, my Alpha and her brother, has a big house on a lot of acreage. She may have headed up there.”
“Will you show me? Adam, will you go back to my hotel? I’ll need an anchor and I’d be honored if you were our tri-bond.”
“No! Look, part of what had Layla upset was the thought of having sex with someone I’ve…had sex with. Do you have any other cousins or family members who could help? Any other Pack members who outrank you?”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of it that way.” Sid looked at Tia and thought. “Adam, call Shane please. He’s on break from school visiting Aunt Jennifer down in Portland. I just talked to him a few days ago. Will you ask him for me? I need to go and get her.”
Adam agreed and said he’d arrange for their cousin Shane to meet them at Sid’s hotel room for the tri-bond.
They took Tia’s car and drove up to where she thought Layla may be, pointing out Cade’s new house.
“She won’t have gone up to the house. They’d scent her and know and make her deal. I’m going to take you down this back road here to see if her car is around. You’ll have to do the rest. There’re about forty acres of forest here.”
“I’ll scent her if she’s here.” He meant to bring her back and make her safe, one way or another.
Tia swore when she saw Layla’s car. “There’s her car right there. Do you want me to wait?”
“No. Because if she gets away from me, I’m going up to that house and enlisting her family to help me.”
Tia laughed. “You’re gonna be just fine, Sid. She’s a good person. Strong. Her family is important to her. Be gentle.”
“She’s my mate. Of course I’ll be gentle. And yeah, I can tell she’s a good person.
He got out of the car and quickly disrobed, getting to all fours and letting his wolf surface. Nose up in the breeze, he caught her scent, spicy and rich, and tore off into the trees to track his mate down and bring her back.
Layla lay next to a small stream, breathing in the deep loam of the forest floor. The calm she’d had when she first ran was leaving her. As she’d run she’d thought. A lot. Realized that all her reasons, well, most of them anyway, for resisting the mate bond were work-related. And she realized she didn’t want her life to be all about work any more than she wanted her life to be all about a man. There would be a way to find a middle ground. If anyone could, Layla knew she would do it.
Moreover, Tia was right. All of her whining and drama were not part of Layla’s normal behavior pattern. Her grasp on things became more tenuous the longer she went without the tri-bond. And she missed Sid.
But despite knowing she needed to get to Sid and take care of the tri-bond, worry that he’d be angry at her and not want her anymore ate at her. The weight of the fear held her in place.
She was so lost in her thoughts she didn’t even sense his approach until he pounced, teeth at her throat to hold her still.
Panic filled her and her back legs levered up to push off any male but hers, until he growled, a mixture of comfort and warning. She drew in a breath and scented him. Her mate. Hers. She relaxed and he let go and licked over the spot where he’d bitten her.
A soft whine brought her head around and her heart pounded at the sight of him there. So large and majestic. The most beautiful wolf she’d ever seen. Reaching in, she rubbed her face along his and growled softly. The sound was filled with desire and longing.
He took her there, quick and feral. Large body over her smaller one. His need to have her and mark her as a wolf as well as a man overwhelmed her. After, they lay side by side, her muzzle resting on his back as they let the forest calm them.
After some time she transformed, human eyes looking up at him.
Moving to her knees, she reached out and ran a hand over his ebony fur, thick and soft. Putting her arms around his neck, she hugged him tight and breathed him in. Loved the smell of him. “Such a gorgeous wolf. I’m sorry I ran.”
And only moments after she’d spoken, his skin was smooth and hard as he transformed back and held her with human arms. “It’s okay. Shhh, it’s okay. Let me take care of you, honey.”
He pulled her against him, into his lap, and kissed her mouth. He felt like he’d come home in her taste. The way her hands felt as they slid up his arms and into his hair, against his skull, burned into him.
“I want to be inside you again. But we don’t have a blanket so will you come back with me? To any place with a bed? We can talk afterward. We’ve got to get the tri-bond dealt with, and today. You understand that?”
She nodded, her eyes clear. “I was afraid you wouldn’t want me anymore. That you’d be so angry because I ran.”
Kissing her again quickly, he added, “Oh, honey. God, it’s so good to hold you. I’ve been crazy without you. I’m not angry. I was worried, yes. And I’d have brought you back kicking and screaming if I had to. But there’s no way on earth I wouldn’t want
you. You got scared and things got a bit over your head. It’s okay. I’m here and we’re going to get through this together. From now on, we’ll take turns freaking out so one of us will always be the strong one. You ready?”
And it was the most perfect thing he could have said. Sharing their burdens instead of shouldering them all himself—that last knot of concern in her gut eased from her softly.
“Yes. Oh yes.” She allowed him to help her up and they changed again to run back to where her car was parked.
A short trip to his hotel and they practically ran to his door.
Turning on the hot water in the shower, she let his lips capture hers once again as she discarded her clothes and tossed them aside. A sense of deep rightness followed when his ended up with hers in the same pile. So odd that something so simple would make her feel her connection to him so deeply but it did.
“Come shower with me, I’m all dirty.”
His lips slid into a naughty grin. “I like you dirty. It’s my favorite.”
Laughing, she pulled him into the stall with her, moving so he could share the hot water with her. His hands slapped hers out of the way as he took over the job of soaping her up from head to toe.
“My. I think I’ll be the cleanest wolf ever when you’re finished.” “As long as your insides stay dirty, I’m fine with that.”
“Yeah?” A soap-slicked hand wrapped around his cock and began to slowly ride up and down the shaft.
His eyes dropped closed as he lazily accepted her touch. She added a second hand. Each hand slid up from the root of him, over the crown and head, and as the other followed to make the same path the seeds of his orgasm were sown and sensation began to build. Her scent rose on the steam, tightening his body.
Her sole focus was on him and pride burst through his senses. This beautiful, vibrant woman gave herself to him, made his pleasure her goal, and he’d never felt more amazing.
“Honey, let’s get into the bedroom.” His need to be inside her ramped up and his control hung by a thread. Knowing he’d have to share her, even for something as natural and necessary as the tri-bond, drove his need to have her, mark her, before his cousin arrived.
She stepped out and toweled off as he picked her up. Wrapping her legs around his waist, she teased them both, sliding her pussy over his cock.
“Still naughty on the inside, I see.” Sid tossed her on the bed and she laughed as she bounced.
“With you, I seem to have a limitless supply.”
“Oh good. I’m glad to know I bring the goods into this relationship.”
She held her hand out to him. “Come on then. Do me before I start going crazy.”
Shaking his head, he fell to the mattress next to her. “Don’t joke! Damn it, Layla, I was so worried about you. Tia told me where you were. She’s worried too. My cousin will be here. No, not Adam. Shane. Shane is a good guy, probably my closest male relative other than my oldest brother. He spent many summers with us when I was growing up. My brothers are all much older than I am, Shane was one of my only other cousins who was near to my age. I trust him with my life, god knows he and I got into enough trouble as teenagers. His mom is human, his dad is a werewolf. He didn’t really grow up in a Pack so my parents were sort of in charge of his education as a werewolf. It’s a very long story but she—his mom—lives in Portland and he’s been visiting her on break from school. He goes to medical school at UCLA. Anyway, he’s on his way up from Portland. We’ve got some alone time for now.”
Pushing him back against the bed, Layla rolled atop him and rained kisses on his neck and over his chest. “Okay. I’m not happy about this. I know, I know it’s necessary
and all. I can feel myself losing my grip already. I’m more irrational than I normally am. But you know, I’d rather have a fun threesome, not some rigid, forced thing.”
“Layla, after this, there’ll be no more threesomes.” His voice was a growl and the ferocity of it sent shivers down her spine. “You’re mine. I don’t relish the idea of you being with anyone else either. But it’s our reality and what we need to do to keep you safe if something should happen to me. And so let’s just make the best of it. I’ll stay here if you don’t mind. I can’t bear the thought of it happening and not knowing.”
Shimmying down his torso, she let her hair trail over his skin as she kissed and licked over his stomach. She surrounded his cock with her breasts and he groaned.
His hands slid through her hair and cradled her skull. “You’re suddenly so important to me. Three days ago I didn’t even know you and now you’re everything.”
“Hmmm. A girl could get used to hearing stuff like that.” Moving down further, she licked the head of him, tasting the salty spice of his pre-cum.
“Oh yeah, well, a guy could get used to that too.”