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Cassie pressed herself to Troy’s back, stroking his face. “I’m here,” she whispered. “Tell me how to help you.”

He tried to move away from her. She grabbed him, turning him over and climbing on top, straddling him.

He shackled her arms, his eyes glowing that silvery yellow again and his face beginning to change. “I need… blood,” he huffed, breathing heavily. “Have to stop… shift.” He tossed her off of him and she scrambled to get back to him, but suddenly, he was convulsing, the sound of cloth tearing and bones snapping telling her he was out of time, and so was she.

There was no hesitation in Cassie. With quick, decisive actions, she shoved Troy to his back, then snatched the blade she’d seen him shove inside his boot. His body jerked and cracked, driving her urgency. Cassie straddled him again, and sliced her wrist with a grimace at the acid burn of the silver on her flesh. Blood poured from the wound and she held it over his mouth the best she could with him moving around. She’d only have a short window to feed him before she’d have to shift to heal her wounds before she bled to death. The instant blood touched his lips, the vampire in him responded instantly, and somehow, that vampire’s existence comforted Cassie.

With a low moan escaping his lips, he grabbed her arm and held it to his mouth, drawing deeply on her arm. Only then, with him drinking, holding her with a vice grip, did Cassie let herself think of the consequences of her actions, that she might not be able to make him stop. The more he drank, the more she thought of shifting, but if she did that too soon, he might shift, too. And if he did, if he was a Red Wolf, she feared they would end up fighting, perhaps to the death. She cared about Troy, more than she’d let herself admit until this moment for all kinds of reasons. Beyond personal, and there was plenty of those, she couldn’t - wouldn’t - risk a battle with him, that might leave one of them dead, and ensure a war between their races.

No. She was going to have to trust in Troy, who she knew to be strong enough to battle any mon

ster, even his own. She’d seen him battle the hurt of betrayal and never falter, never make a mistake that might have cost lives. She trusted him. She was still telling herself that when she started seeing spots, even moments before everything went black.

***

Troy came back to himself in a rush of awareness the instant Cassie collapsed on top of him, and fear for her slammed into him head on. The wolf, the monster inside him, was silent while his vampire senses were not. He could barely hear Cassie’s weak heartbeat and he reacted instantly.

He rolled her to her back, taking in the paleness of her face, the certainty he’d taken too much of her blood. He had only seconds to consider his options or she would die. If he gave her his blood, he could heal her, but he might infect her with the virus that had made him whatever he’d become. The time he’d lose to make the call, even to Marcus, could be too long. He wasn’t willing to risk Cassie’s life. She had to have known she was risking hers by giving him her blood while he was in the state he’d been in. It mattered to him. She mattered to him.

Tormented by the potential of infecting her, Troy bit his wrist and held it to Cassie’s mouth, holding open her lips and forcing the blood down her throat. Praying his blood was still able to heal, despite the wolf he’d become.

After only a few drops, she licked her lips and relief flooded him at the response. He forced his arm more fully against her mouth, knowing she could swallow now, knowing his blood was working, that she was healing. Her hand went to his arm and she drank hungrily, and he grabbed her wrist and confirmed the wound there was all but gone.

When he was sure she’d had enough, he pried her mouth from his arm. “Enough,” he said softly, easing her mouth from his wrist with gentle insistence. He felt the wound on his wrist heal the instant she let him go and more relief flooded him. Every time he felt the qualities of a vampire alive within him, he was comforted with the hope that he wasn’t too far gone to be saved from the virus.

Cassie blinked him into focus. “Troy?”

Anger and relief collided, products of his fear for her. “What were you thinking?” He pressed his hands to the side of her face, fighting the desire to hold her to him and reassure himself he hadn’t really hurt her. “What if I hadn’t stopped drinking in time? What if I had drained you and killed you?”

“You didn’t.”

“I almost did.”

“But you didn’t.”

“Damn it, Cass, I don’t even know what the hell I am. I don’t trust me. You shouldn’t either.”

“And still you chained yourself to me?”

“I had to make sure you came with me.”

She studied him a long moment. “And yet, we both know I would have. I trust you, even if you don’t trust me.”

Blood - his blood - stained her lips, and heat surged through his limbs, but this time, the vampire, not the wolf, had control. And it was her blood, he realized, that of a wolf, that had calmed the beast in him, that could have so easily driven him over the edge to take too much. He could have killed her. He almost had.

He stared down at her. He wanted to kiss her. He wanted to fuck her. He wanted to trust her. He wanted so many things with this woman, this wolf, he couldn’t have. He kissed her anyway.

Chapter Six

She was the one thing that wolf, vampire, and man agreed on, wanted, needed. Burned for. The taste of Cassie’s blood, her passion, the forbidden fruit of everything she was, and might not be, swept through Troy with the brush of her tongue against his. She moaned, a soft, sexy, primal sound that ripped through him, and set him on fire, clouding his mind. Troy told himself to pull back, to stop, that he was headed to a deep, dark place where he’d lose control, where he’d forget how dangerous she was. And forget he did, and willingly, when she arched into him and twined her fingers in his hair, pressing her body against his. Troy groaned with the pleasure of her next to him, of her heat burning him alive.

Hungering for more of her, he deepened the kiss, drawing in more of her sweet, wild flavor. It wasn’t enough. He wasn’t sure it would ever be enough with her. He slid between her legs, shoving her skirt as high as he could, and she opened for him like a flower spreading in a new morning sun. He settled into the sweet V of her body, his cock thickening with the promise of finally being inside, finally feeling the wet tight heat of her surrounding him. He could smell her desire, almost taste it in the air, and it was clouding his logic, tearing down the wall he’d used to keep her at a distance.

“Do you have any idea how long I’ve wanted to do this?” he murmured against her lips, his voice rough, his confession falling from his lips into hers before he could stop it. Before he gave her the power of knowing how much he’d wanted her.

“Do you have any idea how much I hated your willpower?” she asked, nipping his lip and then licking it, before her tongue slid back into his mouth.

He didn’t even try to resist kissing her again, there was no point. Troy was her captive, she wasn’t his as intended, and he silently declared Cassie a drug far more potent than blood, more lethal than bloodlust. He couldn’t escape his desire for her, and right now he wasn’t sure why he’d even wanted to. It was why he’d never gone here with her, why he’d battled his need for her, for all those months working together. He could feel the rise of hunger growing in him, wild and unwilling to compromise, unwilling to let this end without satisfaction.

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