Feral Attraction

Erik had known he was doomed from the first smell of her. The delicate perfume of jasmine crept inside him every time she neared. He was a guest at the local earl’s table and Björn’s only acknowledged daughter waited on him. Her constant proximity was maddening.

Bera reached to refill his tankard of mead and her hip pressed into his arm. Russet hair spilled over her shoulder when she turned to look at him. Eyes the color of a winter sky reflected the flickering lamplight and regarded him with a touch of humor at the corners. “Do you require anything else?” A cryptic smile curved her lips.

The wolf inside came alert, hungry for more than dinner. Yes, he most assuredly did require something else–a taste of her skin, to start. He nearly grabbed her outstretched hand to bring it to his mouth, but managed to quell the urge. That idea bordered on suicide. He sat at the dinner table not just with her father, but surrounded by a handful of her oldest brothers. Every one of them was larger than Erik and most of them more than a match for his level of power.

He met her eyes, savoring the brief connection between them. “More venison.”

“Right away.” She bumped his arm with her hip as she turned.

He followed her progress across the room to where what remained of a deer carcass turned on a spit. She sliced into the flank. The watering of his mouth had nothing to do with the aroma of roasting meat and everything to do with the curve of her hip undulating in counterbalance to her confident motions.

“Erik, how much longer are we to have the pleasure of your company?” Björn’s deep voice rumbled through the room.

Reminded that he shouldn’t be staring, he snapped his attention back to his host. Luckily Björn hadn’t looked up from his plate when he spoke. “Another week at most, I’ve almost concluded my business dealings.”

Björn chewed on the end of a deer leg, working the bone between his teeth. He shifted his gaze to Erik. “What is it you’re working on?”

Erik leaned back in his chair, interlacing his fingers over his stomach. “A timber contract for a construction company I’m starting in Colorado. It’s a new long-term investment.”

His host made a pensive sound and one red eyebrow lifted. “Are you thinking of moving your brood?”

“It’s too crowded on the coast now and this is a good opportunity to branch out.” He kept his face neutral and didn’t let on that he had his own reasons for moving. He couldn’t tolerate the brutality other broods encouraged and wanted distance from them.

Björn grunted. “No one informed me.”

Erik narrowed his eyes. “Why should you be told? Moving my brood won’t affect you at all.”

“I’m the eldest earl.” Björn’s tone crossed from curious to commanding in the space of a few words.

Anger tensed Erik’s gut, but he kept the emotion from spiraling out of control. He placed his hands flat on the table, concentrating on keeping his fingers from curling into fists. “And that means exactly nothing. Until Brand steps up or moves aside, none among us has standing above the others. That’s what we agreed upon.”

Björn scowled at him, red beard undulating as his jaw clenched. The room had gone silent. With another grunt, his host dismissed him and returned his attention to his meal. Conversation gradually resumed around them.

Bera returned and slid a plate of steaming venison in front of Erik. Her wrist rested on his hand. The beat of her pulse throbbed against his skin. A fiery sensation surged up his arm and sent his heart racing.

Fenrir’s teeth, she was mad. He pulled away from her and reached for his mead. After draining the tankard in three gulps, he passed her the empty container. She moved to refill the mug, giving him some much-needed time to regain his composure.

* * *

Erik rested with his head on Bera’s midsection, stroking the fingers of her right hand. He turned his head, admiring the pale skin that showed through her mostly unlaced shirt. “Come with me.”

She pulled her hand from his grip and slapped his shoulder. “You’re insane. He will hunt you down and kill you.” She moved to tie the laces of her shirt.

He caught her hand again, pulling it towards his mouth. “Leave it. I like the view,” he said before he kissed her knuckles. “Your sire never leaves his area. Everyone knows that.”

Bera played her fingers over his lips. “He has a dozen sons he could send after you.”

“Us.” He gave her index finger a nip. “I don’t believe he’ll send anyone after us once he knows you’re willing.”

“You’re entirely too naïve.” She caressed his cheek. “He doesn’t harbor any belief in romantic love.”

“I only mean that he’d be glad to see you well-matched and happy.”

“You’re an even bigger fool if you think he has any interest in my feelings. I’m an asset to be traded for the most leverage possible, nothing more.” She ran her fingers through his hair. “He intends to offer me to Ansvarr in exchange for an alliance.”

Rage seared him and before he could blink the wolf had taken over. His hand clamped around her arm, absent of his control. The wolf rotated his body, pressing her into the ground with his weight. “He will not have you.” The growled words rumbled from his lips, though he hadn’t spoken them.

Bera stared the wolf down. Somehow she still appeared in charge of the situation though she was pinned under him. “And you presume that you will?”

After a brief clash of wills, Erik regained control over the beast and locked it away once more. His lips drew back, baring his teeth in the cold night. “I already do.”

She watched him intently with a small smile lifting the corner of her mouth. “Do you?”

He tugged open her shirt. Tracing the curve of her breast, he enjoyed the softness under his fingers. Nuzzling her skin, he inhaled the sweet scent of her. “You’re mine.”

Bera arched her back, pressing into his face. “Prove it,” she purred. “Mark me.”

Indecision tore at him. He knew it was barbaric, yet the feral part of him longed to display his possession so none other would dare touch her. His hesitation lasted only until she writhed under him and whined provocatively. He stretched his mouth wide and sank his teeth into the inner curve of her left breast. She tensed and drew a shuddering breath, but didn’t struggle.

Her blood flooded his mouth with the flavor of jasmine blossoms opening to the night sky. The threads of her wolf’s power worked their way into him until she filled every corner of him. His lips tingled. He tightened his jaw and pushed energy through the bite to set his mark. When he finally released his hold on her, she gasped. He licked the perfect impression of his teeth that would heal quickly but never fade.

Erik nuzzled against her, murmuring into her skin, “I never want to be without you. Leave with me tonight. Right now.”

“Right now I have other plans for you.” Her lips curled into a wide, sultry smile. She pushed hard and twisted, flipping him onto his back so suddenly that he wasn’t sure what had happened until she pounced atop him. “When I’m finished with you we can discuss our departure.”

He wanted to argue that they should leave at once, but her smooth slide down his body stole the words and the breath from him. She knelt between his legs and reached to unfasten his trousers. He decided he would let her have her way, just this once.

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