Welcome back to Tuesday Tales! What we have here is the first chapter of a yet untitled work in progress – paranormal romance, of course. This one involves shape shifters and some interesting politics. Enjoy!
Oh, and as usual, for more fabulous writing by some very talented authors, check out the Tuesday Tales Blog.
Typical wolf, she thought with a smile.
He was a bit of a romantic at heart, but in execution he somehow managed to fall short. He was trying, so she had to give him an “A” for effort, at least. He was getting better, though, she had to admit. Markus had obviously been taking notes on her repeated lectures – the soft glow of pillar candles scattered through the apartment was inviting, and the smell of warm cinnamon floating on the air, her favorite. Slipknot blasting from the stereo?
Not so much.
Sadie sighed as she dropped her courier bag into the over-stuffed armchair and looked around at her living room. It had to be his day off, because he had let himself in and cleaned everything, top to bottom. The heavy, wooden furniture still held the faint scent of lemon oil, and every metal accent sparkled in the gentle candlelight. A crystal plate stacked high with fresh sticky buns – her absolute favorite guilty pleasure – sat in the middle of the coffee table, surrounded by two crystal goblets and a bottle of Pinot Noir chilling in an ice bucket. The curtains on her plate windows had been drawn back, showcasing the full moon high above the city, framed by purple-black snow clouds. Below, the late-evening lights of Boston twinkled in the first snow of the season.
Markus definitely needed days off more often if this was how he was going to spend them.
A crash in the kitchen sounded over the drum solo, and she felt his mood turn black. Frustrated, angry emotions battered the back of her mind, coming from the kitchen, and while she didn’t worry about him – because if he was that mad, he was fine – Sadie wondered what he’d just broken. The sound was part metallic and part glass, and she just hoped it wasn’t her good crystal that the big oaf had smashed.
In no hurry to find out, she took off her coat, hating that the snow gathered on her shoulders had fallen to the freshly-waxed hardwood floors and left little puddles. He had done such a fine job of cleaning, and in a matter of seconds, she’d marred that perfection.
Oh, well. She’d clean it up later. Next, she kicked off her shoes – three-inch black stilettos – and with a sigh of relief and a wiggle of her toes, padded barefoot toward the kitchen. She hated shoes. Just as she reached the swinging door, the music died and a string of creative curses in multiple languages took its place.
Gods, even pissed, the large German man in her kitchen was sexy as hell. Nearly seven feet tall, he was a wall of a man. With broad shoulders, cold, blue eyes, and a shock of black hair shorn close to his head, Markus was one of the most intimidating creatures she had ever seen. And one of the most beautiful. He was out of uniform, but his side-arm was still strapped across his chest, as always. He wore a pair of tight-fitting blue jeans and a heavy sweater the same stormy, blue color as his eyes. Even without the traditional police garb, he was still quite a sight to behold and enough to scare most people into behaving. Unfortunately, he elicited an entirely different reaction from her.
Too bad shifter law prevented a sponsor from having any sort of carnal relations with a ward. She, herself, had seen to that when the council was first formed, and for very good reason.
Sadie had found him in a dumpster on a dark night two months ago, broken and bloody, and nearly dead from silver poisoning. His uniform was little more than scraps hanging in a swath of dirty, matted timber wolf fur. His badge and weapons were gone, along with his boots, belt, and hat, and he was barely clinging to life. She initially thought he was dead, but then she heard his weak whimper and that single, gut-wrenching sound made her decision for her. She helped him first without hesitation, and would ask the Council’s forgiveness later. He needed her, right then, or he would have died in her arms, whining and sobbing.
She’d used her own teeth to slit her wrist and let her ancient blood drip into his wounds, over the protruding bones, and finally, into his mouth. The bond created between them was instant and powerful, more so than any bond she had yet experienced. As soon as the first drop went down his throat, the agony of his situation slammed against her mind, nearly knocking her over with its power. But the more he drank, the faster the pain receded until it was only a dull ache encompassing her whole body. And the more aware of him she became.
It hurt both of them when she jerked his lupine limbs straight to reset the already mending bones. Her own bones felt like they were breaking under the weight of her jerking hands, but after that initial shock, the physical wounds had healed quickly. She’d taken the wolf home with her and put him in a palette on the floor in her living room, and before dawn he was able to shift back to human form. She hadn’t expected anything close to what he became, and wondered how such a large and imposing man and animal could end up nearly dead in a dumpster.
The wounds healed, but the silver poisoning still crippled him for quite awhile. Even now, she could feel the remnants of it warring with the strength of her blood. Some days he moved slower, and slept longer. Those days she felt his weakened consciousness pinging her senses like a beacon, even though there was nothing she could do to help him.
Allowing Markus to drink from her had saved his life, but it had also opened a door in her head and heart to something deeper. The mingling of their blood had given her a new awareness of him. His pain became her pain, and every emotion that filtered through his brain when she was close enough to sense him came to her as well. It should have faded after a few days, but it hadn’t. If anything, the blood bond had grown stronger over the last two months.
Which was exactly why the Council nearly had her stoned for her bloodletting.
It was frowned upon in any situation, but hers was particularly unique. She was entirely too old and too strong to be giving that power away so freely, and the events of her life had already shown her what such a bond could do to a person. It was a wonder she was alive at all after her last foray into bloodletting and bonding.
And it was also the reason the “no fornication” law had been set in place so many centuries ago. The only thing that kept her alive and out of trouble was the fact that this time she had saved the life of a Warden.
The ridicule of the Council had been worth it just to see the light return to his eyes. Because of her, he’d healed fast enough to return to work after a week, and come out on the other side of the ordeal stronger than he’d been before. Then, the surprising capture of the criminal – a hunter, in truth, though the humans need not know that – had garnered a promotion from officer to detective.
Hence his ability to take days off at will and spend them cleaning her apartment. Who cared if it was all a brazen attempt to get into her pants? It was free labor.
Markus stood over her butcher-block island, blood dripping down his fingers. From the woozy look on his face, Sadie suspected it was his. After the beating he’d sustained, the sight of his own blood still made him swoon a little. And on top of that, he was cranky now.
“If you intend to keep standing there, at least hand me a towel.” His thick, East German accent rumbled across the space between them, vibrating through her body and making her shiver. Hearing that rough, sexy voice was just one more perk that came with saving his ass. Too bad said ass was strictly off-limits.
Yep, his blood alright. She could smell him in it. Sadie gave him the towel – one of her old ones, of course, because there was no way she was letting him ruin a good one. Growling, he snatched it from her outstretched fingers and shoved it against the wound, grimacing in pain when the rough fabric made contact. A knife lay on the floor behind him, and scattered on the counter and floor were shards of glass from what looked like one of her coffee mugs. She didn’t care about the mug… she just didn’t want to have to clean up the glass.
“What did you do?” Sadie asked, batting his good hand away and taking control. She dabbed at the jagged cut that bisected his palm. It was a wonder he hadn’t cut his fingers off.
“I cut myself,” he said, glaring down at her as if she’d just asked the stupidest question ever.
“Really?” she deadpanned, “I hadn’t noticed.” She rolled her eyes. “How did you do it, genius?”
“Mit einem Messer.”
“Obviously it was with a knife, smart ass,” she snorted, and ground the towel into the cut a little harder than necessary. He hissed, sucking a shrill breath in between clenched teeth, and she smiled at the small victory. “What were you doing when you cut yourself?” He opened his mouth to answer, but she held up her hand. “In English, please. And so help me if you give me another smart response, I’ll cut more than just your hand, pup.”
Anger flashed across his face – he hated it when she called him that – which was why she did it so often. She had to do something to needle him. After all, he’d made it his goal to bed her after hearing that he wasn’t allowed, and he was persistent. And good… Oh Gods, he was good at seduction. But she was older, stronger, and could always sense when he was about to try. Boy, did she ever want to give in…
“I was attempting to cook dinner,” he said through gritted teeth and hooked his good thumb over his shoulder toward the sink where a beautiful rack of perfectly-dressed lamb chops lay abandoned. “I opened the cabinet to get a plate, and the glass fell out. I tried to catch it, but the knife slipped and I dropped both.” He even had sense enough to look remorseful about breaking the glass. Sadie’s attitude immediately softened – he’d cooked for her plenty of times, but never at her place, never her favorite food, and never, ever without advance warning.
“And why are you doing it in my house?” she prodded, and tightened the ruined towel around the wound to curb the blood “At nearly midnight, no less.” A sheepish smile replaced the grimace on his face, smoothing his features into flat angles and softly highlighted recesses. His big, blue eyes sparkled wickedly, and the thrill that accompanied his more sultry thoughts slipped through her mind.
Uh oh. Here it comes.
“I thought we could celebrate.” He pulled his hand – already half-healed – from hers, stripped off the makeshift bandage, and flexed his fingers experimentally. No blood dripped, and the wound didn’t reopen itself. When he looked back at her, his eyes smoldered. Sadie’s mouth simultaneously went dry and began to water. “Today is our two-month anniversary.” He took a determined step toward her.
“You want to celebrate the night you almost died? That’s sort of morbid,” she quipped, going for humor and falling short as she ducked out of his reach. Markus chuckled anyway and continued his advance. Sadie retreated to the other side of the island, but he still came at her.
“No, you ridiculous woman. I want to celebrate the night I met my savior.”
He was laying it on thick tonight. Markus raised his nearly-healed hand and tucked a wayward strand of her dark hair back. She shivered as his fingertips just barely brushed the cuff of her ear, then trailed down her throat.
Helpless and caught in his orbit, Sadie watched with a mixture of terror and exhilaration as he stepped closer and dipped his head to brush his lips across hers. Wow… He’d never been bold enough to kiss her before. Sparks ignited as he did it again, then she went up in flames when he forced her mouth open and tangled his tongue around hers. Sadie’s pulse raced. Her heart leapt into her throat, and her belly jumped in anticipation. The man knew what he was doing.
In all her centuries of life, she could never once remember being kissed like this, but despite the hungry slide of his tongue against hers and the possessive, demanding way his hands moved over her body, the single sliver of rationality left in her mind allowed her to plant her hands on his chest – his hard, well-sculpted chest – and push him back.
“Markus, no…” He ignored her protest and retreat, smiling against her lips and moving with her.
“Do not tell me you do not want this,” he rasped, using his considerable size to keep her close. “It feels like you do.”
“Which is why you have to stop.” She slipped out of his arms and quickly put the island between them. “I am your sponsor, for pity’s sake!”
Markus blew out a long breath, rolled his head around his shoulders, and planted his elbows on the butcher-block countertop. He was sex personified, and gods, did she want to get to know that person. Every muscle in his body was pulled taught, strung up tight and ready to snap if given the command. The way he watched her as she fought to regain her breath reminded her of a hunter stalking its prey.
“Only until tomorrow,” he reminded her. The Council was scheduled to meet the following morning to review Markus’ case and decide if he was ready to be released from sponsorship. Normally that would release him to resume his personal life as he pleased, but Sadie feared that his case would be different. After all, it wasn’t every day that a 2,500 year old shifter offered up her blood in formal sponsorship then created a bond that seemed destined to never fade… especially the one that had created the stupid rule to begin with.
“Don’t get excited yet,” she chided, but whether it was herself or Markus she was admonishing, she didn’t really know. It didn’t work.
“Already there, Liebschen.” He closed in on her again, his gazed fixed on her mouth. Her wild gaze flickered to the clock on the counter – 11:58. Two minutes.
Sadie giggled. She couldn’t help it. “A little old-fashioned, are we?”
Markus only smirked. “After six hundred years, maybe a bit,” he replied, and stepped into her personal space again. “Is that a problem?”
“Not at all.”
“So what are we waiting for?”
“Markus…” she sighed. Gods, it was so hard to think of why she should stop when she was nose to nose with him. When she knew exactly how wonderful it was to kiss him.
“What the Council does not know will not hurt anyone.” He reached for her. If he didn’t stop soon – if Sadie couldn’t derail him somehow – she would almost certainly end up breaking the rules, both the Council’s and her own. But Gods…she wanted him to the point of pain. Those large hands of his looked more than capable of giving her everything she wanted, and his mouth…
The things he could do with that mouth should be illegal. Probably were, in some countries.
“Markus…” she growled again, inserting as much authority and warning into her voice as she could muster and started to back away. He only smirked. He was sexy and cocky and completely insufferable and his huge hands were curling around her waist, drawing her in and snatching her up.
“Watch the glass,” he warned, and bent to kiss her again. The top of her head barely came to his shoulder, but he found her mouth without trouble and proceeded to wipe every single coherent thought from her mind with that oh-so-talented tongue.
Before she really understood that she’d been lifted, Sadie found herself deposited on the counter and heard the distinct crunch of glass under his boots. Those big, calloused palms of his shaped smoothed over her hips, sliding her to the edge of the island. The feel of him all around her was too much; too overwhelming. The smell of his skin coated in a thin layer of baking spices shot straight to her core, intensifying the unyielding need that flared to life every time she looked at him. He was hard as a rock from top to bottom, every part of him pressed firmly against her. His broad chest flattened her considerable breasts against its unmoving mass. His arms held her captive while he continued to ravish her mouth.
Her cell phone beeped.
Perfect timing…but whether she appreciated it or hated it remained to be seen. Markus didn’t want to let her go, but with a determined shove Sadie scooted back and slipped off the back side of the island. Silently cursing whoever had just interrupted one of the best moments of her life, she snatched the phone from her pocket and unlocked the screen. 12:00. Midnight exactly… it was likely a good thing her phone had interrupted them, otherwise they’d have been in huge trouble.
But that trouble was quickly forgotten. Reading the message from Thanatos, the Council Elder, every ounce of strength drained from her body.
Location compromised. Six dead. RUN.
“Sadie, what is it?” Markus’ arms went around her, and just in time, because she had no idea what happened next.