Yeah, as crazy as it sounded, he’d fallen and fallen hard in the few days they’d been together. He’d even managed to get around the fact that she spent part of her time as a cheetah. Yep, he’d lost his mind. Or more accurately, his heart.
He rubbed tiredly at his neck and briefly contemplated hitting the sack early, but going to the empty bed that awaited him in his bedroom wasn’t remotely appealing.
A light scratching noise interrupted his self-absorbed malaise. He cocked his head, thinking maybe he’d imagined it, but then he heard it again. Coming from his front door.
With a frown, he got up and walked cautiously to the door, his hand reaching for his sidearm that he hadn’t yet taken off.
There it was again. Definitely something outside his door and getting louder and more persistent.
He cracked open the door but before he could even look out to assess the potential danger, he was flattened by a flying fur ball.
He fell back as a cheetah pounced on him. His back hit the floor with a resounding thump as a golden-eyed cat licked him and nuzzled his face.
His surprise turned to complete and utter joy. Relief.
And then suddenly he found himself holding a gorgeous, naked woman in his arms.
“You’ve really got to stop doing that shit,” he grumbled. “It’s disconcerting, and it looks painful.”
“Aren’t you glad to see me?” she asked as her lips met his.
“Oh, honey,” he groaned. “If you only had any idea how much I’ve missed you.”
He stretched his leg out to kick the door shut then wrapped his arms around his woman and proceeded to kiss her senseless. Her lips were cold against his, and she’d never tasted sweeter.
Her hair fell over his face, and her breasts pressed against his shirt. He smoothed his hands over her body, wanting to touch her, absorb her, make sure he wasn’t in the midst of a dream. One he’d had many times since she’d left.
And then it hit him. She was here. And she shouldn’t be here. She should be safe in Alaska. With her parents. Not here where she risked discovery.
“What are you doing here?” he asked even as he stroked her skin, touched her face, twined his fingers through her hair and stole another kiss. “You shouldn’t be here, honey. It’s dangerous.”
“I love you,” she said simply, and his heart nearly stopped. He actually felt light-headed, which he was sure made him even more of a pussy than all the mooning he’d done.
And yet she said it as though it answered the mysteries of the universe, as if those three simple words held the answer to all things and by virtue, her appearance made total sense.
“As much as I love lying here on the floor on my back, on the hard floor on my back with my arms full of a gorgeous…” He stopped to kiss her again. He simply couldn’t help himself. “Could we move this conversation to the couch?”
She grinned and crawled off of him then extended her hand down to help him up. As soon as he was standing, he pulled her into his arms and held her tightly even as he maneuvered toward the couch.
He sat down, pulling her down on his lap so he could hold her. God, he just couldn’t stop touching her. And of course he was going to have to open his mouth and say something stupid. Something he didn’t want to say but needed saying nonetheless.
“You shouldn’t be here. It’s dangerous. Aliyah, what if you’re discovered? How do your parents feel about this? They must be freaking out.”
She put a finger over her lips then nuzzled closer to him and kissed him, long and hot. Her tongue swept over his lips and then inside, rippling over his, teasing, taunting. And he promptly forgot what he’d been trying to tell her.
When she pulled away, her eyes sparkled with laughter, with happiness.
He put his hand to her shoulder as it suddenly occurred to him that she might not yet be fully healed.
“I’m fine,” she said huskily. “See?” She turned her arm so he could see that not a single mark marred her sun-kissed skin.
He kissed the area where he’d last seen the angry, bloody wound. “You scared me,” he admitted. “I was afraid I’d lost you. I did lose you. You shouldn’t be here.”
She laughed. “You aren’t going to lose me any more than I’m going to lose you. You’re mine, Duncan. And I keep what’s mine. I’m very possessive that way.”
“Do you love me?” she asked, her gaze earnestly searching his face.
“No buts. Do you love me? Do you want me?”
He crushed her to him. “God yes, I love you. I want you so damn much. I don’t want you to ever leave. I want you here with me always. I love you. I love you so damn much it hurts.”
Her arms crept around his neck, and he could feel her tremble against him. Her soft lips kissed the pulse at his neck and then she pulled away.
“Then that’s all that matters.”
“It matters if I can’t keep you safe,” he said.
She smiled, her eyes shining bright with such faith that it humbled him. “You’ll keep me safe, Duncan. And I’ll be careful. We’ll be careful. It will take sacrifice. I know that I won’t be able to shift when I want and where I want. I know that there will always be a risk if we’re together, but I can’t live without you. I don’t want to be without you. I?
?m willing to risk anything to be with you. Always.”
When she put it that way, how could he argue? She was willing to risk everything. She was willing to sacrifice her freedom to be with him. He didn’t feel worthy of her, but damn if he was going to let that get in the way.
“I love you,” he said hoarsely. “I don’t want you to go. Stay. With me. We’ll make it work. I’ll protect you with my life.”
She cupped his face in her hands. Tears shone in her eyes, making the gold liquid and glistening. “I love you too,” she whispered. “I’ll stay. Always.”