Because she could shape-shift to look like any living thing she had ever touched, the ability to escape had never been difficult for Aleaha. And yeah, she’d been captured a few times in her life. For theft, for assault and battery. A girl had to survive. So why was she having so many problems escaping Breean?
For the third freaking time that day, he carried her up the stairs, her newest form clutched under one of his arms, past the bedroom door, and into her prison. And by prison she meant a plush king-size bed with a velvet comforter, a real wood dresser and vanity, and a soft rug to soothe her feet. Bastard. Couldn’t he do anything right? Prisoners were supposed to be tortured, not pampered!
Scowling, he tossed her onto the bed. She bounced on the mattress and yelped before gaining her bearings and glaring up at him. She wondered how tough she really looked, though. At the moment, she was a freaking Chihuahua.
“Change back,” he commanded, crossing his arms over his massive chest.
“What?” she said. “You don’t like me like this?”
A muscle twitched beneath his eye, but he remained silent.
Had to be weird for him, watching and listening to a dog speak. But she didn’t care what he thought. This was a last resort.
The first time she attempted to escape him, she’d shifted into him. Tall, golden, gorgeous, and muscled. Oh, had she been muscled. She’d had to constantly remind herself not to touch herself. That had been hard . . . er . . . difficult.
She made it all the way to the house’s porch—where Breean was speaking with his men. She tried to sneak past, la-di-da, nothing going on here, pay no attention. Except, he grabbed her before she could take even a single step onto land. Maddening!
Next, she shifted into an eight-year-old boy. That got her to the end of the hall. Breean already warned his army to be on the lookout for anyone who did not belong, no matter their age, size, or race.
However, the army wasn't prepared for her next shift: an innocent dog, scratching and whining at the door for release. A sweet little Chihuahua, who could have wandered inside accidentally, whose presence was no cause for suspicion.
“How did you know it was me?” she asked, settling on her haunches.
Breean popped his jaw. “I can smell you.”
A growl rose from her chest. “I do not stink, even as a dog, you rotten piece of—”
“I never said you stink.”
Oh. Well. Okay, then. He was that aware of her? She didn't like that. She really didn't like that. Except that she liked it. A lot.
“Change back, Aleaha. Now.”
She raised her wet, brown nose, not allowing herself to scratch her side with a hind leg. Fur caused itching, and scratching was unattractive. Like you’re gorgeous now? And really, what did it matter if he found her attractive or not? It would be better for both of them if he didn’t.
“Change,” he insisted.
“Not until you leave.”
Duh. “I’ll be naked.” And if she was naked, they would kiss again. Which meant she would lose herself again. Because, when those lush golden lips pressed against her, when that warm, sugar-sweet tongue thrust deep into her mouth, when those big, callused hands roved over her, she forgot who she was—a captive—forgot who he was—an enemy—and begged for more. It was eEmbarrassing. And intolerable.
He arched a beautiful golden brow. “I don’t understand the problem with you being naked. Change.”
Of course he didn’t see a problem. He’d be getting exactly what he wanted. A full frontal view followed by sex. She scratched her side for good measure. “Do you promise to stay where you are?”
“Absolutely,” he offered easily, without hesitation. “As long as you change into your female form. Yours, no one else's.”
Did she trust him to keep that promise?
Did she have any other choice?
“Fine.” Aleaha closed her eyes and pictured the appearance she wanted to take. A short cap of blond hair, and big blue eyes. A button nose, and plump pink lips. Just like that, her bones realigned themselves, the fur vanished, and sun-kissed skin took its place.
Her eyelids cracked open, and rather than face Breean, she moved her gaze over her new form. She was perched on her knees. Her breasts were magnificent, if she did say so herself, with large brown areolas and already beaded nipples. Her stomach was soft, her legs were even softer, and the light brown thatch between them was trimmed into a landing strip.
“Nice,” Breean said, “but not what I wanted and you know it.”
Finally she dared to look up at him. Despite her fudging of his rules, he kept his word and remained in place. Pity, she thought, and wanted to slap herself. But oh, his expression left her reeling. It was blank. Blank! As if he felt nothing at seeing a naked woman waiting atop a bed. He should have shifted uncomfortably to hide his hard-on. He should have been sweating, hands fisted as he imagined touching her.
She bit the inside of her cheek. “What did you want, then? This is the face and body I've shown my world for years.”
Yes, she did. He wanted the real her. The long dark hair. The bright green eyes. The too-thin body. But how, how, how did he know what she truly looked like?
“Well, this is all you’re going to get,” she said, the words croaked. She didn’t know how to be herself anymore. Oh, she could morph into her image, of course, but she lost sight of Aleaha Love a long time ago. She’d been too many other people throughout the years.
“Change,” he barked.
Her fingers fisted on the sheets. “I changed. You saw me naked. You can go now.”
“No. I didn’t see you naked.”
Hate him...want him. “Fine,” she repeated. “But I hope you have noted that I don’t want to do this.”
“So noted. Now change.”
Once again Aleaha closed her eyes. She pictured what he desired, what he seemed to crave, and once again her body readjusted and her bones elongated.
When she finished, he sucked in a reverent breath. “Yes. Yes.”
She barely stopped herself from preening. Idiot.
“Why do you hide such beauty?”
Darling man. “Safer,” was all she could work past the sudden lump in her throat.
“Look at me. Please.”
The “please” did her in, and their gazes met in a heated clash. His pupils were now enlarged, his nostrils flared, and his lips were pulled tight over his teeth. He was turned on. Big time.
But why wasn’t he—never mind. Hello. There it was. The telltale honey fragrance that Breean emitted every time he experienced arousal suddenly thickened the air, flavoring it as it wafted to her, enveloped her, seeped into her skin and right through her body. Just as before, her mind fuzzed and sexual need slammed through her. Instant and intense.
She fell to her side, then stretched to her back, bracing her weight on her elbows. Her heart pounded out of control, and an ache bloomed between her legs.
What would another kiss hurt? she suddenly thought, licking her lips. A kiss could only make things better.
“You don't have to worry about Earth authorities hurting you,” he said, as if she wasn’t currently panting for all he had to give her.
“I’m only worried about one thing right now,” she said huskily. And that was not being kissed immediately.
He gulped. “As I was saying, I would die before I let them.”
He wanted to talk? Now? “Come here.” Because, if they were going to kiss, they might as well be lying on this bed, and he might as well be naked as she was. And they might as well rub against each other.
Wow. Best. Idea. Ever.
“No?” A question when he’d probably meant it as a statement. “I’ll stay here, thank you.”
“Breean,” she said, whisper-soft. “You’re so far away.”
He stepped toward her, caught himself, and retreated. He gulped again. “I said I would not approach you, and I won’t. But do not run from me again, Aleaha. I will finally finish what we started in the forest. I swear I will.”
Eyes wide, he turned on his heel and strode from the room, shutting and locking the door behind him.
“Wait,” she found herself calling. “Breean. Let’s talk about this.” While making out. “How long are you going to keep me in here?” Without touching me?
Stupid honey fragrance. It always reduced her to this.
“I’ll run away again, right now. What do you think of that? Then you’ll have to kiss me.”
He didn’t return or acknowledge her in any way.
Well, screw him,. He and his honey scent could both rot. After making out with me.
“Aargh!” she growled, and tossed a pillow at the door.
Breean leaned against the closed door, felt the thump of something slam into the wood, and breathed out a sigh. His body was on fire. He wanted that woman with a passion that baffled him. All that dark hair, fisted in his hands . . . those curves writhing under him…those legs wrapped around him.
He groaned. Not helping.
Go back in there. Talk to her . . .
Almost too beguiling a thought to resist. Almost? He uttered a fierce, humorless chuckle. He was going back in there. He had to. Otherwise, he would regret walking away for the rest of eternity.
He wouldn’t allow himself to touch her, he decided. That was far too dangerous when he’d promised to leave her alone. Besides, the only reason she wanted him now—“Breean, you’re so far away”—was because of his lust-scent. She was drunk on it, and that didn't settle well with him. He wanted her to want him for himself.
And she would. Want him for himself, that is. No matter what he had to do.
You’ve been without a woman for two years. Why this one wants you doesn’t matter.
His libido jumped all over that rationale. But convincing his mind of that was another matter entirely. Complete, willing capitulation was the only thing that would satisfy him.
Determined, he whipped around, unfastened the lock—with shaky hands, damn it—and made his way inside. Instantly, his blood burned through his veins. Aleaha was still on the bed, still splayed for his view. Touch, taste. Was his tongue wagging? All that creamy skin . . . that luscious little thatch of hair guarding the gates to paradise . . . his mouth watered.
Win her before you cave.
Oh yeah. What a foolish man he was.
She noticed him and sat up with an eager smile, dark hair falling around her like silken ribbons, hiding those hard, berry-pink nipples. No, not hiding. Peeking. Practically begging to be licked. He gulped.
“Here to finish what we started?” she asked huskily.
Yes. “No. I figured you were . . . bored. Yes, that’s it. Perhaps you would be interested in talking?”
“Uh, that would be a very emphatic no.”
They would see about that. Foolish man. “Playing a game, then?”
“Oh, yes.” She tucked her legs under her and clapped. “Take off your clothes and we’ll play How Does This Feel.”
“No,” he said, nearly choking with his shock. He hated himself just then. “I have another game in mind.” The drunkenness would leave her if he would just calm the hell down, for then the honey fragrance would stop being released from him. “My game is called Information.”
She was beautiful when she pouted.
Breean forced himself to claim the vanity chair; he dragged it to the edge of the bed. He sat, facing her, but remained out of reach. “Stay,” he barked when she tried to edge closer to him. “And please, drape the covers over yourself.”
She didn’t. She batted her long lashes at him and twirled a strand of hair around her finger. “Breean, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you suck as a captor. You’re supposed to ravish me.”
He had. In his dreams. May times he’d awoken sweaty and hard and barely able to breathe. “I promised you I would not,” he reminded her.
“Well, it’s okay to lie every once in a while,” she said with a sigh.
She was beautiful when she sighed.
“Cover yourself, and the game can begin. Perhaps I’ll start with something naughty.” She was right. It was okay to lie every once in a while.
“Oh, goodie.” She crawled to the top of the bed, gifting him with the sweetest vision of his life. Her weight braced on her hands and knees. Then she turned—hello, darling breasts—and burrowed under the covers, shielding all but her shoulders, arms, and head.
Something to mourn as well as to praise. “I shall start by telling you a little about who I used to be, for I was not always a warrior.” Before she could chastise him for not giving her those naughty details, he added, “Once, I was merely a fisherman who traveled Raka, diving under the water that covered most of the planet, and hunting the creatures there.” As he spoke, his body finally calmed, and the scent dissipated.
The lusty gaze in her eyes dissipated, as well. He expected her to demand that he leave, to hurtle accusations at him, yet she did not. She peered over at him, frowning, pensive. “You’re so . . . good at fighting. I would not have pegged you for anything but a lifelong soldier.”
An observation, which meant she was thinking about him as a man. Sweet progress. “No, I had never planned to lead an army. Or even be a part of one. War has a way of changing one’s mind, though.”
“Yes,” she said with a nod, and he could hear the understanding in her suddenly soft voice.
Had she, too, been forced into combat? She was an Alien Investigation and Removal agent, yet she was also, clearly, an otherworlder. She could not like hunting her own kind. Perhaps she did so to protect herself.
Common ground, he thought with satisfaction.
“Now, I don't think I could go back to being what I was. Too much has changed for me.” He’d seen too much bloodshed. He’d inflicted too much pain on his enemy. “When my family was killed, I was torn apart inside, and had to rebuild myself into something new.”
“Yes,” she said again. “You’re tougher now. Fiercer. Far less forgiving.”
Oh, yes. She did understand. What had changed her? Though he wanted to ask, desperately, he didn’t. Every time he’d asked her personal questions, she’d shut her mouth and increased her efforts to escape him. One day, though . . . she would trust him as much as she desired him.
He would make sure of it. “I am glad—”
A crash sounded below, on the first floor, where his men were seeing to the home’s defenses, and Breean stiffened. Had they been found? Ambushed? He pushed himself to his feet, hating that he had to leave Aleaha, now of all times, but safety had to come before her wooing.
“I will return,” he said.
She drew the covers up to her neck, her eyes now narrowed on him. “Don’t bother. Playtime is over.”
Back to that, were they? “Time will tell.” He stomped out of the room and slammed the door closed, locking it behind him.