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ICYMI

Last month, in my very first newsletter, I included a free short story entitled One Snowy Midnight. It's a standalone short story about a meet cute. 

Nate never expecting dodging a matchmaking mama would thrust him straight into the arms of his actual mate. But then, sometimes luck favored the bold. 

Lanie didn't have time for a fundraiser, and she certainly didn't have time for whatever scheme her sister was cooking up. How then did she find herself stuck on a snowy mountain, burning up the sheets with a sexy jaguar who claimed she was his?




  One



Nate

Damn it.

He was at the party an entire twenty minutes before he was sent scurrying. It wasn’t as though he wanted to be there in the first place. He wanted to blame his second in command, but unfortunately, blaming the man for his mate going into labor was a dick move.He heard his name being called in the sickly sweet voice of Kiki Lincoln and Nate nearly slipped trying to turn his body away from the woman.

He gave the room a desperate scan, hoping for some type of divine intervention. He found it in the curious gaze of a beautiful woman, sipping champagne and watching him. Her dark eyes narrowed and she openly stared, a small smirk on her full red painted lips. He rushed to her, grabbing her into a hug. The woman gasped and reared back, her face a mask of surprise.

He grimaced, loosening his hold to allow her to step back. “Sorry, running from a woman.”

Two women, but he didn’t think the distinction would help his case.  She stared at him a moment and then snorted.

“If you’re lying, I’m going to taze you.”

He laughed. “I swear I’m not.”

He winced as Kiki once again called out his name.

“Nate, I presume?” The smirk hovered around the woman’s mouth.

“Help me, please?” He begged even knowing he had to look desperate.

She held up her left hand. “I’m married.”

He cursed and backed off her, but didn’t fully separate. With some luck, he could keep the ruse up long enough to dissuade his pursuers.

“I have a sister.” She teased,her eyes sparkling with humor.

“Is she here?” He tempered the desperation in his voice, opting for a more cajoling tone. “Is she as gorgeous as you?”

She snorted again. “You should’ve started with the charm, and not the grab-assing.”

He laughed again. He liked her,too bad she was taken. She looked behind him, her eyes widening.

“Oh God, you’re running from the Lincolns.” A genuine smile covered her face. “Poor baby.” She pat his cheek and spun him around by his arm. “Kiki, Vanessa, Hi.” She said cheerfully.

Oh God, he’d made a mistake.

“Lena, hi. Nate, did you hear us calling you?” Kiki pulled her daughter Vanessa closer. They dismissed Lena as though she wasn’t clutching his arm.

But then, if they knew each other, they knew Lena was married, and thus not a threat to their plans. Of all the rotten luck.

“Ms. Lincoln, I’m sorry, I saw Lena and wanted to greet her.”

Lena laughed at his side. “Tell the truth.”

His heart thudded and panic threatened to swamp him. She was going to sell him out.

“You just wanted to know when Lanie would get here.” Lena continued, patting his arm.

He let out the breath he was holding in a loud burst of sound. “You caught me.”

“You know how exciting a new relationship can be,” Lena confided in the women.

Both Lincolns frowned, their faces in confusion. “You told me you didn’t do relationships,” Vanessa accused.

Kiki clicked her tongue, “now dear, men never know what they want.” She gave him a pointed look. “How did you and Lanie meet?”

“Lena introduced us.” He said quickly.

“Hmmm,” the older woman eyed him up and down. “Well, we’ll just see how long that lasts. I know how busy you are, what with negotiating over our property.”

His temper sparked. Was this woman threatening him? He had business dealings with her husband, how much sway would she have over those negotiations?

“Come, Vanessa,” Kiki pulled her daughter away and the younger woman shot him a look.

He wrestled his temper under control and turned to Lena when they left. “Thank you so much.”

“She’s not going to give up you know, you’re fresh blood, so it could take a while.”

He sighed. “I’ve been ducking and dodging them for months now, so I know.”

She looked up, “oh, there’s Lanie, I’ll get her on board and then you guys can make the rounds tonight.Might convince the Lincoln’s to loosen their claws.”

He chuckled. Lena waved and a beautiful woman, who did favor her, walked towards them. Nate stood stunned,she looked nothing like the other women at the ball. There was no flashy dress,or diamonds adorning her throat and ears. A simple lavender gown for her from her neck down, displaying curves and yet hiding them at the same time. Her hair was in locs, pinned back from her face, and flowing down her back.

“Jesus,” he whispered. His panther agreed, stock-still and at attention in his body.

Lena chuckled at his side. “To answer your question, yes, she’d gorgeous.”

He cleared his throat as she joined them.

Lena grabbed her arm and pulled her sister to her side. “Lanie, this hulking handsome man is Nate. You guys are dating tonight.”

“What?!” Lanie shot her sister an incredulous look.

“Shh,” Lena hissed. “The Lincoln’shave him in their sights, and I’ve decided to rescue him.”

“By pimping me out?” She looked confused, her dark eyes flipping between him and her sister. “How pray tell do you get into these things, Lena? You’re a whole married woman, you play too much.”

Her voice was deeper than her petite body would suggest. The gravely sound rolled down his spine and he grabbed a champagne glass from a passing waiter, chugging the liquid.

“He begged so nicely though.”

Nate choked on his champagne.

Lanie eyed him, a twinkle of amusement in her eyes. “Nate, do you have a last name?”

He coughed and answered, “Martinez.”

“Oh...shit,” Lena said, “you’re Nate Martinez? MartinX industries?”

He nodded, wary, but neither of them got that greedy look in their eyes he was accustomed to.

“And millionaire Nate Martinez can’t find a date to distract a matchmaking mama.” Lanie said dryly.

He gave them a sheepish smile. “I wasn’t supposed to be here, my VP was, but his wife went into labor.”

“Oh my goodness. That’s exciting.”

“Everything is exciting to you,Lena.” Lanie rolled her eyes.

“A baby is always exciting.” She grabbed Nate’s arm. “You just moved your company here, yes, does your VP have family in the area?”

Nate shook his head. “He doesn’t.”

He wondered how much this woman knew about him. Erstwhile, Colorado wasn’t exactly a small city, though the paranormal community did tend to stick closer together.

“Oh, I should go visit.”

“You don’t know those people.” Lanie fussed.

Lena waved away her sister’swords. “Yes, but you of all people should know how lonely it feels to move to anew place.”

Lanie pursed lips and just like that, Nate could think of nothing more than leaning over and kissing those lips. How would they feel wrapped around his—

“Don’t look, but Vanessa is headed this way.” Lena cut into his thoughts and pushed on her sister’s back, throwing her into his arms.

Nate gripped her waist to steady her. His cat purred, his power amping.

“Lanie, hi, I didn’t know you came to these things.” Vanessa’s smile didn’t reach her eyes.

Lanie shrugged. “Well, the school sent me to represent them.”

“Oh, that’s right, the charity school you work at.”

Lanie stiffened at his side. It was obvious the two women knew each other and weren’t on the friendliest of terms. Vanessa eyed Lanie, derision turning down her mouth.

“It’s a public school, just because some unscrupulous family has helped divert money from public schools into their exclusive charter schools doesn’t make it a charity.” Lanie returned Vanessa’s phony smile.

Vanessa narrowed her eyes. “Parents want choices.”

“Yes, you keep telling yourself that.” Lanie turned to him and settled those dark sooty eyes on him. “Babe, I’ma little hungry, I came right over from class. Can we go see what hors d’oeuvres they have?”

She tiptoed in her heels, which just...he never thought of himself as a caveman, but her being that much smaller than him, set off primitive feral feelings. She touched his lips with her own, just a light touch, and yet his body went up in flames. He gripped the back of her head, wanting just a small taste and deepened their kiss. Vanessa made a disgusted sound and left.

He pulled back. “I’m sorry, I just...” words failed him. He wanted her, had to have her, just that fast. Had that ever happened to him before in his thirty-six years on the planet?

She touched her lips and stared him, heat and lust making her eyes luminous.

Lena fanned her face. “Well,then.” The woman tiptoed away without saying anything to her sister.

Tension filled what little space there was between him and Lanie’s bodies. He cleared his throat and backed away.

“I meant no disrespect,” he rushed to assure her.

He could apologize again, but it would be a lie. If he had it to do over again, he’d take that kiss, every single time.




Two


Lanie


Lanie stepped back, but kept her hand on his arm, unwilling to break the touch they had. Her chest moved with her heavy breaths, straining against the front of her dress. The tight garment wasn’t exactly built for deep breathing. It did keep every inch of her body snatched, though, and really, that was most important. What in the world had her sister gotten her into? Lena was the more impulsive of the two of them, and she certainly was the more compassionate of them, so she wasn’t necessarily surprised to find her sister in the midst of rescuing someone. What was a surprise was Lena dragging her into it. Her big sister knew Lanie had a low tolerance for foolishness. It explained Lena’s hasty exit, leaving the two of them alone together. Lena could run now, but it wouldn’t stop Lanie from telling her sister off later.

She studied her sister’s latest rescue attempt. Nate was not the kind of person one would think needed rescue.He was way over six feet tall, dwarfing her five-foot-seven frame. Even in the heels she barely reached his shoulders.  His caramel face was chiseled and liberally sprinkled with freckles. His mustache and beard were neatly trimmed, framing a face that was honestly the most handsome she’d ever seen. His dark brown eyes were topped by dark eyebrows that gave him a dangerous air. She sucked in a breath as those eyes swept her face.

Hadn’t her stones told her something in her life was about to change?

But Lady, she hadn’t been expecting this…towering hunk of a man.

“I wasn’t lying about being hungry,” she whispered in the tense silence.

He nodded and escorted her over to a table at the far end of the ballroom, he waved down a waiter and took a few hors d’oeuvres off the tray on a napkin for her. She studied him as she begged her body to calm.

He handed her the food. “I’m sorry to have dragged you into a lie.”

She smiled and waved away his apology. “I don’t like the Lincolns, so I’m down to thwart them in any way I can.”

She popped a shrimp into her mouth and closed her eyes. Food was one of the benefits of having to traverse these things. Charity balls. The elite we’re good at sucking away resources from the poor and then patting themselves on the back for deigning to give them a crumb of it back. But, she had to admit, they got the food right at these things. If not at the insistence of her sister, she would never attend the phony events. But her new brother in law has brought her sister into such a life, and Lena was determined to do the same for her sister. Lanie preferred being in her small cottage, watching t.v. to this.

She turned back to Nate. “So Nate, how did you get in the Lincolns’ cross hairs?”

He sighed and adjusted in his seat, sitting back. The navy blue tuxedo he wore fit his body to perfection,the black shirt underneath contrasted his skin color in a way that made her mouth water. His handsome face was pinched in irritation.

“Desmond has a piece of property outside of the city I want to acquire. I was invited to dinner at their home.”

“Yikes,” she murmured around another shrimp.

He pursed his lips before sighing.

“Did you at least get the property?”

He groaned, “Not yet.”

“I heard Lena say you’ve just moved here. What brought you to Erstwhile?”

“My mother’s pride needed an alpha, I needed a change of scenery, so here I am.”

A shifter? Oh...

Her heart thundered, and yeah,okay, her lady bits throbbed along to the beat. Shifters didn’t mingle much with other supernatural. Least not that she’d observed. But, most people avoided magic users, so what did she know? He was watching her now, with eyes that were hungry, yet curious. She took a sip of the juice in her glass.

“And you, Lena said you hadn't been here long either?”

Lanie adjusted in her chair and thought back to the time when she’d moved into her sister’s house. It was right after grad school. She hadn’t wanted to go back to their sleepy southern town,and Lena had beguiled her talking about magic users living freely and safely in the Colorado town.

“It’s been two years at least,”she finally answered. She cleared her throat. “How long have we been seeing each other Mr. Martinez?”

He gave her another sheepish smile. She was charmed by him.

“I’ve been in town for six months, so...three?”

She nodded. “Ok. Second question,are you sure you want it going around town that you’re dating a practical magic user?”

His expression didn’t waver, she gave him points for that.

“It makes no difference to me, my cat sure as shit doesn’t care.”

Okay...Woah...she sucked in a breath and choked on her food. He rushed over and pat her on the back.

“Easy,” he murmured, rubbing her back.

The heat from his palm sunk through her dress and into her skin. She leaned into his touch, just like before, reluctant to break contact. She closed her eyes as she realized what that meant. Once she caught her breath, he leaned down into the crook of her neck and breathed in her scent, stealing what little air she could manage. He laid a gentle kiss on her neck before backing away and resuming his seat.

“Fate is the damnedest thing,wouldn’t you say,” he mused.

She could only nod.

“I didn’t expect this,” he said with a thoughtful look on his face.

She nodded again.

Lena came over to their table, “there you are, it’s almost time for your speech, Lanie. Are you two kids getting along?”

Lanie saw the knowledge in her sister's eyes. “You knew?” She hissed.

Her sister shrugged and smiled.

“Can someone fill me in?” Nate asked.

“My sister is on the Central Magic council,”

He whistled. “Which is no small feat for a practical user. What does that have to do with me?”

“When you touched me, I knew you'd be a part of my family, which is why I went along with the ruse.”

His eyebrows winged high on his forehead.

“I mean, your cat probably sensed the connection to your mate through me. It wasn’t a coincidence that you chose me to help you out of all these people.” Lena patted his shoulder.

“Hey, wait, you were gonna taze me.”

“Ugh, yeah, you can’t go around grabbing on people.” She rolled her eyes. “Come on, Lanie, you’re about to go up.”

She gave Nate a droll look. “Wait for me?”

“Of course, Lanie.” He said in away that said to her, I’ll be waiting with my clothes off and boy...she swallowed down on the lust and followed her sister.

Taking the stage for her speech was a little more nerve-wracking than normal. After all, a man who claimed to be her mate was in the audience, and she could feel his gaze, even from across the room. Luckily the person she replaced had prepared a speech, all she had to do was read it. The whole thing took twenty minutes if that and like he'd promised, Nate was waiting for her at the table where she’d left him.

He was slouched in the chair, his legs stretched in front of him, his pose insolent. Animal magnetism surrounded him, his power a gravity that pulled her to him. He smiled as she walked up.

“Your speech was wonderful.”

She settled in the chair next to him. “I can’t take credit, it was written by our principal.”

He waved down one of the roaming waiters. “Do you want some water?”

“I do actually, thank you.”

She watched him as he ordered water for her, her fingers itched to get to her stones. She wanted to read him,see what he was about. He turned his heated gaze to her.

“So you’re a teacher? Tell me more about yourself.”

They spent the remainder of the night getting to know each other, the rest of the party melting into nonexistence around them.




Three


Nate


Nate’s body was buzzing with giddy excitement. He’d found his mate in a place he wasn’t even supposed to be.Fate truly had a funny way of working out. He stepped out into the cold, his hand on the small of Lanie’s back, guiding her over the icy sidewalk. She pulled the faux fur shawl tight around her as they walked up to the valet station. She handed the attendant her ticket and turned to face him.

He stepped closer to her. “Stay the night with me.”

She cupped his cheek, “It seems a little soon.”

He crowded her space, turning into her touch and kissing her palm. “Don’t tell me you have another man to break the news to.”

She shook her head and sighed,going pliant in his arms as he pulled her close. “No, nothing like that. I'm just not sure I’m ready to be a mate.”

“Do you have issues with shifters?”he whispered against the skin of her neck.

Her body shivered, and he hoped it was from his touch and not the cold air of the evening. He stepped back and took off his jacket anyway, helping her into it and draping her shawl over top.

She gave him a dazed smile. “No, I don’t, but, I just sort of moved out of my sister’s house, and haven’t lived on my own.”

“Ok.” He said stepping close to her again. “Does that mean I can’t...court you?”

She smiled at the term. “I would like that.”

His jaguar swiped at him, not quite understanding why they weren’t taking their mate home or at least upstairs to the room he’d rented for the night. It was less than ideal for the first time with her, but he would take what he could get.  He chided the animal to have patience. The valet brought her car around.

“How can I contact you?”

“Oh.” She took out her phone and held out her hand for his. She touched the two together but frowned when she didn't hear the familiar ping.

“Encrypted,” he answered her unspoken question and took the phone from her.

He pulled up his contacts and went through the passcode to accept her number. He pressed it against hers and he got hot at the bright smile she gave him when the ping sounded.

“Now you can call me,” she said breathlessly.

“And may I have a kiss goodnight,mate?”

Her heart rate was a rapid tattoo at her neck and his animal was already plotting the spot where he would bite and mark her. He took a shuddering breath to control the jaguar. She nodded after a tense moment of silence. Nate wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her into his hips. He leaned down and his world narrowed to the two of them. He kissed her, determined to make the kiss small, but then she moaned,and God, how was he supposed to resist the woman who was made for him. He used his tongue to coax her lips open, dipping into the warm cavern of her mouth. He took his time exploring, savoring their kiss since he was going up to his room alone tonight. She tiptoed and wrapped her arms around his neck. Her hands smoothing down the close cropped waves on top of his head.

The valet cleared his throat and Nate snarled, baring his fangs at the male daring to interrupt. The valet raised his hands.

“I’m sorry.”

Lanie tapped his chest. “Settle,”she whispered, and his animal obeyed her.

He searched her face with hungry eyes, fighting to remember that he told her he’d give her time.

“Good night,” she whispered,stepping back.

“Text me when you get home safe?”

She nodded. “I will.”

“Good night, then.”

His jaguar hissed, swiping at him, urging him to go after her. He watched her, his hands clenched at his side. The valet nodded at him and walked back to his station. Nate didn’t bother to apologize for his actions. It was a well-known fact that shifters were possessive and protective of their partners. The man should’ve never stepped near Lanie.

“Wow, from no relationship to public displays of affection.”

Nate sighed and swallowed his growl. Vanessa was not one it seemed for hearing the word no. Were it not for the fact that he needed that property her father owned, he would’ve been a lot harsher with his rejection. But, Desmond’s property was directly adjacent to his new pride’s, and he wanted it for them.

“The mating urge is hard to deny sometimes.”

Her eyes widened. “Mate?”

He nodded.

“Hmm, I would’ve thought your cat would be a little pickier about—”

He growled, cutting off her words.“You know nothing about my cat and its taste, I would also warn you that I don't take insults to my mate lightly.”

She took a shaky breath and stepped back. Nate left her standing with her mouth agape and walked back into the hotel. He was glad he’d rented a room. He hadn’t been looking forward to alate-night trip back down the snowy mountain. He worried about Lanie and hoped to hear from her soon. He didn’t like the thought of her driving alone.

Nate skipped the elevator, opting to take the stairs. He pulled out his phone and dialed his VP and second in command to check in on him and see if the babies had arrived yet.

Terrell answered, breathless. “They're here, alpha.” His voice was full of awe. “Two perfect little girls, I just...”

Nate chuckled at his speechless friend. “How is Antoinette?”

“She’s fine, doing wonderful,” he sighed. “I never want to go through that again.”

Nate laughed.

“No, seriously, no more cubs.”

Yeah right, Nate kept the skepticism to himself.

“How is the charity thingy? Did you see Desmond?”

Nate growled. “No, he sent his wife and daughter in his steed.”

“Yikes,” Terrell hissed. “Then you've already left.”

“Heading back up to my room now.”

“I’ll try and arrange another meeting with Desmond at his office. That should keep his wife’s meddling down.”

“I handled it.”

Terrell scoffed. “Do tell.”

“I met someone.”

“What has that got to do with Kiki Lincoln’s attempts at matchmaking?” Terrell muttered.

“Not just someone, Rell. The one.”

There was a pregnant pause before, “Oh really.”

“Go back to your mate, I’ll fill you in when I come by the hospital tomorrow. Congratulations.” Nate understood his VP’s disbelief. He’d been anti-marriage for as long as he and Terrell had known each other. And that was more years than Nate wanted to count back.

“Thanks, alpha. I look forward to hearing about this miracle woman.” Terrell hung up and Nate slipped his phone in his back pocket as he got to his suite door.

Stepping into the empty room seemed lonelier than when he’d first arrived at the hotel. Now that he knew what his life was missing, he felt the weight of the emptiness more. He took a lap around the suite, checking in the closets and bathrooms, swiping the curtains to make sure he was alone.  Not that he’d scented anyone, but magic-users and shifters were in a precarious truce, one built out of necessity to keep the humans from outnumbering them.That truce didn’t mean he’d be completely safe in a hotel full of them. After making sure his room was clear, he kicked off his shoes and ordered room service, anxious for a call from his mate to make sure she was safe.




Four


Lanie


Lanie drove down the hotel's driveway careful of the slick road, her mind going a million miles an hour.Snow was starting to come down which irritated her. She wanted to be home and out of this tight dress and heels. Brake lights flashed before her, a line of cars stopped. An officer walked down the line of cars, leaning in to talk to the drivers. She waited her turn, downing her window once the man tapped.

“Ma’am, there was an avalanche ahead, we can’t get anyone in to clear the road until the morning at least.”

She cursed.

“Hopefully they’ll have rooms at the hotel,” he continued trying to be helpful.

Not that a hotel room in that expensive resort would do her any good. She was on a teacher’s salary, she couldn't afford anything on this mountain. Her thoughts drifted back to Nate.If anything, he’d be behind her in the traffic, she wondered if he…

What was she thinking?

She’d just told him that she needed time. She was what, going to platonically sleep in his room. She snorted at her stupid idea and waited until she was waved to take her U-turn back to the hotel. She could call her sister. Lena hated driving at night and would more than likely have a room. She pulled up her phone contacts on the car's dash, but it wasn’t her sister she called. Nate’s deep voice sounded in her speakers and she shuddered in want.

“You can’t be home already,” his voice was a deep rumble.

“There was an avalanche and the road is closed, I can’t get home.”

“Are you headed back to the hotel?”

“I am.”

There was a weighted pause. “Are you coming back to me, my mate?” He practically purred.

Heat moved through her body making her sex throb.

“I can call my sister, I’m sure she has a room.”  She hedged.

“But you would have so much more fun in my room,” he cajoled.

She clutched the steering wheel tight, guiding her small car back up the hotel’s driveway. She was going to chicken out.

“I’ll behave,” he promised softly.

She exhaled and stopped at the valet. “Okay.”

“I’ll meet you downstairs.”

He hung up the phone and she was glad because otherwise, she may have changed her mind. It was cold as hell when she stepped out of the car. She pulled his jacket tighter around her, inhaling deep as his scent seemed to surround her. She entered the lobby and saw the line full of people getting last-minute rooms at the hotel. She stood off to the corner and looked up when she heard the elevator ding. Nate walked off,prowled really, warming her body from the inside. His face cleared the moment he spotted her, his pace speeding until he reached her.

He pulled her into his arms. “Are you okay?” His head dipped and he dropped a light kiss to her lips.

“I’m fine,” she whispered moving closer to his body heat.

“Come,” he kissed her forehead.

She entered his suite a few minutes later and looked around the spacious room. It was warm, and his scent permeated the space. The air was wet, as though he’d just taken a shower.

“I need to get out of this dress.”She said into the awkward silence.

His eyes lit, narrowing and raking her body. “I have a t-shirt you can wear to get comfortable.”

He kissed her neck and she shuddered. She nodded and wondered what was happening to her? She was never meek, but she was slightly overwhelmed with him.

“I’ve already taken a shower, so it’s yours to use.”

“Thanks,” she said softly.

He turned to her, “do you need help getting out of your dress?”

She smirked. “I’m sure I can manage.”

“I don’t mind,” he said, his voice deepening. “Let me take care of my mate.”

Her stomach tumbled at the reminder. His animal lit his eyes, the cat’s power flooding the room. He was for sure an alpha. She turned her back and moved her locs to the side. His growl was soft, hungry, filling the air between them. Her stomach clenched and her breath caught the moment his heated hand settled on her shoulder. He leaned down and nuzzled the back of her neck.

“You smell amazing,” he whispered against her skin.

He pulled down the zipper of her dress and she took a deep breath, finally freed of the tight fit of the garment. His hand slid against the skin of her waist and snaked around to her stomach. Pressing his palm against her belly, he pushed her into his stomach,the steel of his erection pressing against her lower back.

“You can’t imagine the things I want to do to you.” He kissed her shoulder open mouth, sucking the skin hard enough to leave a mark. But, he did nothing to remove her dress. Nate stepped back. “By the time you’re out of the shower, I should have some clothes for you.”

She nodded, dazed and found the bathroom, closing the door and leaning heavily against it.





Five


Nate


Nate stared at the closed door, the only thing at the moment between him and his mate. He promised to behave, and he planned to honor that…maybe. His jaguar was desperately fighting him on the promise. He’d never had a problem controlling the animal before, so he wasn’t too worried. He gathered a t-shirt from his suitcase along with a pair of gym shorts he’d planned to wear to the gym the next morning.

He knocked on the door. “Do you want me to leave these at the door or bring them in?”

She opened the door, her dress clutched to her chest. Her locs were down around her shoulders and her face was shy as she peeked around the door.

“I’ll take them,” she said softly. She licked her lips and he mirrored the action, wanting desperately to taste her again. She closed the door again and he was left staring at the wood.His phone vibrated across the table next to the bed and he rushed to pick it up.

“Nathan,” his mother said in a cheerful voice that belied the fact that it was well past one in the morning on the east coast.

Mother, what are you doing awake,what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I wanted to check on my firstborn is that a problem? I assumed I’d catch you better in the evening.”  

He rolled his eyes at her subtle jab. He’d missed a couple of her calls throughout the week. He moved to the window, careful to stay in the shadows of the curtains, not giving anyone an easy target of him.

“I never have a problem taking your calls mother.”

Her quiet snort of disbelief brought a smile to his face.

“How is it?”

He let out a rueful chuckle. “I thought we’ve talked about this. The new pride is accepting.”

“I still can’t believe dad sent for you. What made him think you wanted to run his pride and not the one your father established here?”

“It’s fine mother, I like it here,besides, you and dad have Brian. The land is beautiful, and…” he paused.

“And?” She prodded.

“I’ve found my mate.”

His mother let out an excited squeal. “I can’t wait to tell your sisters. Who is she, what does she look like? How is she?”

“Her name is Lanie, that’s all I know about her, except that she’s a practical magic user and her sister is on the Central Magic council.”

“Really? Are you worried?”

“About her being a magic-user?”

“I mean, some Practicals do some pretty radical things to get the power they amass.” She said worriedly. “Not like elementals who are born with magic.”

“I don’t get that vibe from Lanie. She’s a teacher.

“Oh, that’s so wonderful! I can’t wait to meet her.”

“She’s so beautiful, mother.”

Just thinking about it brought a smile to his face. She was beautiful, perfect really and his. He chuffed a laugh of disbelief. He’d found his mate. He heard the shower stop.

“Mom, I have to go. I’ll call you later this week.”

“Okay, I love you.”

“I love you too, mom.” He said quickly as the bathroom door opened.

Steam preceded Lanie out of the room. He clutched his phone tight as she stepped out, holding up his shorts,his shirt hanging from her shoulder. She gave him a shy smile and laid her dress out on the sofa.

“Are you hungry?” He asked. “I planned on calling room service.”

She stepped closer to him and pulled the curtain aside, staring down at the snow-covered landscape. Her face was bathed in the moonlight and his heart skipped.

“I ate enough downstairs.” She avoided his gaze. “It’s so beautiful here,” she said absently.

He couldn’t stop staring, his fingers itched to touch her skin. His cat unfurled within him, anxious to be close to her. She turned and caught him looking. She leaned her shoulder against the cold glass of the patio door.

“Did you mean it when you said you’d behave?”

Her face was devoid of makeup,her dark skin clear and supple. She gave him a mischievous smile, one that belied the worry in her eyes. He pulled her in closer.

“If that’s what you want.”

He kept his hands at her waist.She wrapped her arms around his neck. “I did a lot of debating while I was in the shower.”

Oh yeah?” He studied her eyes,seeing the moment the shyness changed to boldness.

“Yes,” she stood up on her toes,brushing a kiss across his chin.

“And what did you decide?”

“That I didn’t want you to behave,” she whispered, melding their mouths together.

Her lips were soft as they pressed against his. It was barely a second before her tongue swept across his lips, asking for entrance. He opened his mouth happily, their tongues dueling.She pulled back and lifted his shirt from her body, the pants coming next. She stood naked, proud, in front of him, her face daring him to make the next move.

“Against the wall, mate.” His voice was hoarse, his eyes glowing as him and his animal fought.

She backed into the wall and raised her hands above her head in a submissive gesture he wasn’t sure she even knew she was making. He closed the distance between them, his nails lengthening into claws.

“I want you to be sure this is what you want, Lanie. I have no problem waiting.” His claws traced along her skin before he got control of his body and they retreated. He bent his knees and nuzzled against the side of her breast, trailing kisses up her body. She shivered in need. Her breath hitched as his fingers separated the lips of her sex.

He pinched her clit and her hips lifted. “Answer me. Is this what you want?”

She sucked in a breath. He rolled her nipple between the fingers of his other hand. He brushed her clit again.

She moaned. “Yes, this is what I want.”

“Hmm,” he hummed, moving down her body laving wet kisses across her chest.

He pulled her nipple into his mouth, sucking on it. She arched into him, her hand coming to grip his head. He growled, released her nipple and inserted two fingers into her center. He wrestled with his cat, the need to dominate her a driving compulsion. Especially with Lanie standing before him, her legs open, her sex dewy and calling to him.Her eyes were feverish, her body scalding to the touch. He could feel the walls of her pussy fluttering against his fingers, tightening as he drove her close to orgasm only to pull back without letting her come. Her scent had completely filled the room, sending his jaguar rolling through his skin in satisfaction.

Nate grabbed his dick hard,praying he’d last more than ten seconds inside of his mate. He positioned it at the entrance of her sex with one hand using the other to pin her hands against the glass of the door. 

He pulled her ear into his mouth.“Legs wide, my love.” She hurriedly moved her legs. “Good girl,” he praised her.

Taking a deep breath to calm his body, he pushed into his mate, moaning at how her hungry pussy gripped the head of his erection. All his careful control flew out of the window. He slammed his erection home, her breath hitching. His strokes were measured, deep thrusts that tore growls from his chest. He grabbed her legs and wrapped them around his waist, opening her more. He brushed against her clit, and her back bowed and she pleaded with him. He brushed her hair off her sweating forehead.

“Come, baby,” he whispered in her ear.

Her body released, slick heat clenching around his dick. Her hips moved, riding out her orgasm.

Lanie wrapped her arms around Nate’s shoulders and buried her face in his neck, grazing her teeth against the skin.A nearly primal need had risen in her, the urge to bite him strong enough that she sucked at his skin, gripping it with her teeth. He growled in response, his grip tightening on her thighs. He pushed into her, deep thrusts that had her spiraling into another release. She threw back her head and screamed her pleasure. She canted her hips, driving him deeper, clenching around his dick,the pleasure sending electric shocks down her skin.

Nate walked them back to the bed and sat on the edge turning until she was under him, his hips still working.  She grabbed his head, bringing him up for a kiss. Lanie scored her nails down his back, his rough strokes hovering in that beautiful place between pain and pleasure. She came a third time, sending him over the edge. Nate growled, his hips jerking. She stroked the top of his head and he collapsed on top of her.

“Holy fucking shit,” she whispered, her clit still throbbing with pleasure as his weight pressed against it.

He chuckled, nuzzling into her neck. “I’ll move as soon as I’m able.”

The only sounds in the room were their harsh breaths. Lanie worked to slow down her thundering heartbeat. She rubbed her hands down his back slowly and closed her eyes.

“You didn’t bite me,” she realized.

“You asked me to court you.” He lifted and looked down into her eyes. “and I plan to honor that.”

She cupped his cheek. “Even after the sex?”

“The sex was amazing, but I’m not just looking for sex from my mate,” he whispered, leaning down to seal their mouths together.

Lanie clutched him tightly,kissing him back. He rolled over, their mouths still fused. Though he’d said he didn’t only want sex from her, nothing was stopping them from making the most the night. She rolled her hips and smiled when he growled, pulling on her locs.

“It would be a shame for this situation we find ourselves in to go to waste,” she whispered, clenching her sex.

“Never that,” he whispered,tugging her locs until her head went back. He lifted his hips, stroking into her.

Lanie laughed as he turned her again, his face a mask of concentration as he started slow steady strokes. She needed to send her boss a thank you basket when she got home. If not for her,Lanie would’ve never been at the fundraiser and would have never met Nate. She closed her eyes and threw her head back gasping as he hit a spot deep within her that sent full-body chills down her skin.

Should probably make that two baskets.




Epilogue


Eight months later

Lanie and Nate ended up stuck at the resort for two days as emergency services worked to get the roads cleared.Not that either of them complained. She thought she would’ve been tired of Nate by day two, but they talked and got along as though they’d known each other for years. When they were finally able to leave, he’d courted her as promised.Dinner and dates that charmed her and made it easy to fall in love with him.Not that it was hard to do. Especially as considerate as Nate was turning out to be. Besides the donation he’d made to her school, he’d volunteered there when he could.

Meeting his pride for the first time was nerve-wracking. Despite Nate’s lackadaisical attitude about magic-wielders, she couldn’t be sure the other shifters in his pride would feel the same. However, they welcomed her with open arms. Eight months into courting, Lanie decided to stop playing coy with her mate. Of course, she still needed to tell him that.

“Lanie, did you hear anything I said, love?” Nate came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.

They were standing on an open field, the land cleared and the beginning signs of construction scattered around. The sun was warm on them, though spring was still far off.

She leaned back against him. “I’m sorry. I was daydreaming.”

“About?” He nibbled along her skin, scraping his teeth down the length of her neck.

“The house you said you’d build us.” She turned in his arms, wrapped her arms around his neck. “Now that you have the property, we’ll be able to start construction?”

His feral smile turned her legs to jelly. “The house is for me and my mate,” he teased.

“And the woman who takes your bite will be your mate, right?”

His eyes darkened and a hungry growl rumbled his chest. “Are you saying you’re ready to take my bite?”

She slid her arms underneath his sweatshirt, dragging her nails down his back. “That’s what I’m saying.”

He lifted her and walked back towards his jeep. She tightened her legs on his waist to keep from falling. He settled her on the hood, kissing her deeply.

“Have I told you that I love you?” He whispered against her lips.

“I love you,” she whispered back,deepening their kiss.

If someone had told her how much going to a boring fundraiser would change her life, she would’ve called them a liar. Her sister, Lena, gloated to anyone who would listen how she helped orchestrate the meeting between them. With Nate’s arms around her, and her heart full to bursting with love, Lanie could hardly believe everything happening to her was because of one snowy midnight. 



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