Disclaimer: I am not super comfortable with the smexy scenes. However, I was bribed with action figures by Diana G. I did my best to convey the Beast Lord’s thoughts and feelings but we men are simple creatures, not much goes through our head in these situations beyond “Boobies,” and “I got Snu snu” to quote Futurama. The scene where the guys are in pelvic casts, high-fiving each other is pretty spot on. With that said, please take it for what it is, warts and all.
Ilona’s Disclaimer: The following snippet contains sexual themes and adult interactions. Read at your own risk. PS. Do not be mean to my husband or else.
Curran Hot Tub POV
My back hurt like hell. I’d freed myself from Kate’s cage and followed her to the Games. As usual she’d made a complete fucking mess of things and I was one who was going to clean it up.
I had to admit I was impressed. She had somehow convinced some of my best people to break my first law. Even Doolittle fell for it. So it was kill everyone involved or join them in the pit and try to keep them alive. Really, it was no choice at all. Knowing all of this did not make the slowly closing holes in my back feel any better.
Our first fight had been easy, snakewoman, swordsman, and werebison. Dali cursed, Kate head-butted her opponent unconscious, and the bison, big and dumb, tripped over my foot and broke his neck. The second fight hadn’t gone as well. Dali had outdone herself. The tiger girl had taken out an ancient vamp. I’m sure later, in private, Jim would express his admiration. I took apart a troll, then Kate was taking her time with the golem and I had to save her from it.
It was a silver golem.
She was bleeding from a wound in her side and looked like she needed some help. When I grabbed him from behind, he filled me with silver spikes, like I was a big grey pincushion. While I held him, she stuck him in the eye with her sword. It was a pretty good thrust.
She hadn’t exactly thanked me, but she had cut the silver out of me. It hurt like hell and took a long time. Kate was pissed. And why did I jump on the golem, and she had it under control, and look at the holes in my back. When she was done, she ran off without saying much else. I waited until I knew she was out of earshot and then alternated between snarling and cursing for a good five minutes. I had probably been hurt worse but I couldn’t remember when.
Now I was feeling better. It was time to find her and have a little chat. There were things we needed to discuss. Important things.
I started at the team room. Jim and Dali were gone – their bunks stood empty. Andrea and Raphael were in the other room. I heard their muffled voices.
Derek lay on his back in his bunk, his face hidden by an old paperback depicting a man with some serious tattoos. Doolittle sat in a chair, reading Casino Royal.
They both looked at me. Derek started to get up.
“Don’t bother. What the hell are you reading?”
“Big Jake the Snake and the Viper Commando Squad.”
What the hell…
“I tried to get him to read something decent,” Doolittle said. “But he’s got this trash instead.”
“You’re reading a novel about an effeminate British snob,” Derek said.
I looked at him for a while. He needed to take his tone down a notch.
He ducked his head. “I apologize.”
“It’s a classic,” Doolittle said.
I left them to it and stepped into the hallways, sorting through the mess of scents. Sweat, blood, more sweat… Kate. The smell was sweet. I inhaled it deeper, making sure I had a good hold on it. Time to go hunting.
The scent floated through the hallway. I followed it. It led me through the doors of the gym, flaring stronger, then getting muddled. She must’ve stretched here some time ago, but since then morons had walked over it, leaving their own imprints in the air. I crouched for a long second. Ahh. There it is.
The trail cut through the gym, down the hallway, to a door with a man in Red Guard getup by it. There was a small window in the door. I looked through it.
A hot tub. And long dark hair. Found you.
She might still be fuming about me getting hurt, so I went into the rec room, found a couple of beers, and snuck in with them.
“Peace offering.” Umm, yummy beer, you know you want it.
Kate reached out and took the Corona. She took the beer from my hand. So far, so good.
I had to warn her out of courtesy before I slipped out of my towel and into the hot tub. I did not want her to faint and drown. Of course, if she did go under I would be honor bound to pull her out and revive her. That she appeared to not be wearing a bra did enter my mind. I would only peek a little. I was a gentleman, not a saint.
“I’m about to take the towel off and hop in,” I said. “Fair warning.”
“I’ve seen you naked.”
“Didn’t want you to run away screaming or anything.”
“You flatter yourself.”
I took the towel off and got in. She remained conscious and upright. Too bad. I was all set for the rescue.
“How’s your back?” she asked.
“It’s fine,” I lied. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“Does your side hurt?” I knew it must, just as she knew the silver had burned like fire in my chest and back.
She would no more admit weakness than I would.
“Are you going to sack Jim,” she asked suddenly, after taking a huge pull on her beer.
I gave the question some thought. Why did she care? Would she fight me on it?
“No,” I answered finally. She was listening. I liked sitting close to her like this, without us brawling. For once she wasn’t kicking me or waving her sword in my face. And if I kept talking, she would stay just like this, relaxed, in the hot tub. Topless under the water. “I concede that if I was paying attention, I would have nipped this in the bud. It should have never gotten to this point.”
“Jim took over security eight months before the Red Stalker appeared. The upir was his first big test. He blew it. We all did. Then there was Bran. Bran stole the surveys three times, waltzed in and out of the Keep, attacked you while you were in our custody, and took out a survey crew, Jim included. Jim considers it a personal failure.”
The worst thing about Bran was that Kate seemed to like him. He’d had a wink-and-smile bullshit-your-way-out charm. It’s easy to be like that when you don’t have fifteen hundred shapeshifters and your day isn’t scheduled down to a minute. It isn’t enough to always be ready to back up your authority with violence. You have to consider what degree of violence, how much violence is too much violence, when to use it and when to exercise patience. Despite how I was sometimes viewed, I never wanted to be a tyrant, and making sure I didn’t turn into one took up most of my time.
Bran was like a kid. The man had three lifetimes of acting like spoiled teenager, bedding pretty girls, getting into fights, and getting away with it consequence free. If he fucked up, he could’ve ran away back to his goddess and his fun camp, or whatever the hell he had there in the mist. Everything I did had consequences and running away wasn’t an option.
If Kate wanted someone like him, it would never work. Even if I wanted to be that guy, and there were rare moments when I did, I never could. It wasn’t who I was.
I looked at her. She shrugged in the water, raising her shoulders. Definitely no bra.
“The guy teleported. How the hell are you supposed to guard against someone who pops in and out of existence?”
I sank a little deeper into the warm water, the tension easing out of my shoulders.
“Had I known how hard Jim took it, I would have pointed it out to him. You remember when he tried to use you as bait?”
She scowled, “I remember wanting to punch him in the mouth.”
“It was the first sign of trouble. His priorities had shifted to ‘win at any cost.’ I thought it odd at the time, but crazy shit kept happening and I let it slide. He became paranoid. All security chiefs are paranoid, but Jim took it further than most. He began to obsess with preventing future threats, and when Derek screwed up and got his face bashed in, it pushed Jim over the edge. He couldn’t handle being responsible for Derek’s death and for my having to kill the kid. He had to fix it at any cost. Basically, there was a problem and I missed it. And he sure as hell didn’t bring it up.”
I’d known Jim a long time and he was too proud to admit he was afraid of anything, but if the kid had turned loup, it would have broken him. One of us, probably me, would have had to put him down. I wondered if that happened would Kate understand or be able to forgive me.
“I can’t keep up with everyone all the time and Jim’s the one who never went nuts on me. It was his time, I guess. So to answer your question fully, there’s no reason to demote him. He has a talent for his job and he’s doing reasonably well considering what he’s up against. If I have to sack him, I’ll have to replace him with someone who has less experience and will screw up more. This is a lesson. Three months dragging giant rocks around will help him get the stress out of his system.” What I did not say, did not need to, was that Jim was my best friend and I trusted him like a brother.
She listened while I explained all this and I realized how nice it was when we just talked. We sat quietly together, enjoying each other’s company. Her face lost its edge. I understood the edge – she needed it. If you look like you’re ready to fight, you can win most battles without throwing a single punch. But now, with her hair down, and her features relaxed, she looked beautiful. I wondered if she knew. No, probably not.
“I didn’t want you to have to kill Derek,” she said, her eyes still closed.
Wait, what? “And if he had gone loup?”
“I would take care of it.”
She said it like an alpha, no bluster, just matter of fact.
“How exactly were you planning on pushing Jim aside? He was the highest alpha. The duty was his.”
More like horrible responsibility, one that was ours to carry. Would she really have done it, I wondered. We all knew she cared a great deal about Derek and it would have hurt her badly to have to kill him, probably as much as it would’ve hurt me.
Hmm, she would take care of it. Maybe she cared enough to want to spare me that pain. Of all the women I’d been with over the years, how many would have done that?
“I pulled rank,” she continued. “I declared that since you accepted the Order’s assistance, I outranked everybody.”
“And they believed you?” It slowly dawned on me. They had obeyed her. Huh.
“Yep. I also glared menacingly for added effect.”
She gave them her alpha stare. I tried not to laugh. It was kind of cute. I would’ve liked to have seen that.
When I was angry, my eyes glowed. I could also do it really whenever I wanted. And when I stared at someone, they felt it and they wanted very badly for me to stare at someone else. Her hard stare was good, but mine was major league. It was a good tool.
She looked so comfortable leaning like that. I started moving toward her through the water.
“Unfortunately, I can’t make my eyes glow the way you do,” she said.
“Like this?” I asked. My mouth only a few inches from her ear, my arms on either side of her. She was so close, warm and wet.
Her eyes popped open and I could read the surprise and something else. Could it be an invitation?
“Don’t make me break this bottle over your head,” she threatened, her voice soft.
“You won’t. You don’t want to see me hurt.”
I searched her face. Yes or no. Come on, Kate, give me something to work with.
She moved toward me and I grabbed her. Finally. She wrapped her arms around me. I slid my hands over her body, feeling the strong, smooth muscle. She didn’t lay back and waited for me take the lead. She pressed against me, strong, supple. It was exciting. She wanted me. This wasn’t passive acceptance, this was active involvement.
I kissed her. I was already hard and this was fuel to the fire. God, I wanted her, more maybe then I’d wanted anything. But I had to be sure. You just never know. I didn’t want her to regret it. I wanted her to want me.
“Only if you want me to, say no and I’ll stop.”
“No,” she said softly.
Argh. Breathe out, take control, step back. Let her go. I pulled away slowly.
We stared at each other.
“Ok,” I told her.
She put her hand on my chest. When she touched me, her fingers warm, something passed between us, like a spark of static. My pulse went up. I took her hand gently and brought it to my lips. Easy boy, take it slow.
She pulled her hand free and moved closer. Her lips played upon my throat. She was driving me crazy. I had to have her.
“What are you doing?” I growled, wondering if she was just teasing or if she wanted me to.
“Pulling on Death’s whiskers,” she breathed out softly.
She kissed me again. I had to let her take the lead. Don’t push her, don’t scare her off. If we were going further with this, she would have to make the next step.
Her hands moved over my body, chest and shoulders down to biceps. I flexed a little and tried to remember to breathe. Oh, yeah, this was totally happening.
“Is that a yes or no?” I asked.
She slid against me and lightly nipped at my lower lip. Oh yeah! It’s yes. It’s definitely a yes.
I grabbed her and pulled her on top of me. Bare skin. She wasn’t wearing anything. I kissed her again, my tongue probing her mouth. She put her arms around my neck. Her breasts pressed against my chest. Mmmm. I brushed her hair off her neck with one hand and kissed the delicate curve of her throat, cupped her tight little butt, and pulled her against my body. I was almost painfully aware that she was sitting astride my erection.
From beyond the door Derek’s new voice, more of a growl, demanded “Let me in.”
No fucking way, not now. If they don’t send him away I might just kill him myself.
My hand was still on Kate’s breast, gently rubbing her nipple. I kissed her again. Don’t listen to the voices at the door, Kate.
Somebody said something and Derek snarled back about being a member of the team. Not for long if you barge in here.
“Curran,” Kate whispered. “Curran!”
No. I was naked, she was naked, she was sitting on me, we were doing this.
The door started open. Don’t you fucking do it. Don’t you walk in here, or I will fucking strangle you. Turn around, keep walking. You don’t need to talk to me right now.
Kate hit me with something on the back of the head and I dove under the water.
Five God damned minutes. They wouldn’t let me have five God damned minutes to myself.
I counted to ten and emerged on the other side of the sauna. Kate was sitting on her side, looking like nothing had happened. Derek was telling her something about a hand in a box. It was a dead hand. Why the hell did he have to bring it to me right this second? Was it going anywhere?
Kate closed her eyes. She looked exasperated.
“Give the hand to the Red Guard,” I told him, “there is nothing for us to do about it until tomorrow.”
He looked like he wanted to say something. I looked at him. Derek turned and left without another word. Smart kid.
I stared at her from across the hot tub. Where were we?
She stared back, looking defiant. Soft, sweet Kate was gone.
“You missed your chance. I’m not coming anywhere near you,” she promised.
Baby, you don’t have to come to me. I’ll come to you.
I moved toward her.
She stayed completely still. “No.”
I stopped. Damn it.
“You wanted me,” I said. We both knew it.
“Yes, I did,” she admitted.
See, now was that so hard?
She crossed her arms. It was not happening, not tonight anyway.
“What happened.” I deserved an explanation, at least.
“I remembered who I am and what you are.”
Ok, well that was how it was.
“Who am I?” I demanded, though really the question was, who did she think I was. ” Enlighten me.”
“You’re the man who likes to play games and hates losing. And I’m the idiot who keeps forgetting that.”
No, I’m the idiot sitting here with a raging hard-on.
“Turn around so I can get out, please.”
No. I sat back and relaxed against the wall of the hot tub. She got to see me naked, fair is fair. If she wanted to rush off in a huff, I could at least enjoy the view.
She glared at me.
Kate exhaled and stood up. She was perfect. Strong but feminine.
Oh the things I could’ve done with that body. She had no idea. I realized I groaned and shut up.
“Fine,” she said.
Yes, it could have been. It can still be fine, if you get back into the water.
She wrapped a towel around her bare body. It would be so easy to just grab it off her and pull her back into the tub. I could, but I wouldn’t. She walked out, with her dignity and her towel intact.
I needed very badly at that point to find someone and hurt them. I stayed in the hot tub until that urge and others died slowly.
We were not finished yet, not even close. I could still smell her. I remembered what she felt like. What she tasted like. This wasn’t a casual sexual thing. This was a mating. I would have Kate as my mate. Whatever it took, no matter how long, she would be with me.