Sand squished beneath Annabelle’s bare feet as the fog lifted, bringing the beach outside the rental house into focus. She was dreaming again. Just like the dream she’d had with the lion, but this time felt different somehow. Everything was brighter, sharper, and more clearly in focus. The sun was rising above the ocean, giving the entire area a golden hue, and it was absolutely beautiful. Letting out a relaxed sigh, she closed her eyes and allowed the sun to warm her skin.
It feels so real, she said out loud to the empty beach. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was awake. Standing at the water’s edge with her hands clasped behind her back, she tilted her face to the sky while the water rushed over her feet. Or it could be heaven. Maybe I’m dead?
Startled by the sound of the familiar voice, Annabelle spun around and found herself face-to-face with Zachary McKenna. He was as stunningly handsome in the dream as he was in real life. He stood about six feet tall, with a lean muscular build that was on full display. A dusting of dark blond hair covered a well-sculpted chest, and a slightly darker trail disappeared into his gym shorts. A smile curved her lips. Hell. If she was going to dream about her sexy rescuer, it was no surprise he was shirtless. His short, spiky blond hair was even blonder in the sunlight, and his hazel eyes emitted even more warmth than they had last night.
He was a deadly combination of sweet and sexy. Savior and sinner.
Hello, Zachary. Annabelle’s smile broadened as he strode toward her. Given her intense attraction to him, it was no wonder she was dreaming about him. After all, hooking up with an Amoveo shifter in real life wasn’t exactly a possibility—not for a Caedo, anyway. The Amoveo hated the Caedo family, and she couldn’t blame them. I guess my subconscious is working overtime.
How so? Zachary asked in a low, sexy tone she felt all the way down to her toes.
Damn. As soon as she’d figured out what he was, Annabelle should have gotten the hell out of there… But where would she have gone? Besides, she’d never been more attracted to another man in her entire life. It was as if he had a direct line to her libido. All he had to do was look at her and it made her wet.
Zachary moved closer until he was standing directly in front of her, with only a few inches separating them. She wanted him to touch her, to run his fingers along the bare flesh of her arms, but he didn’t. He did stand close enough for her to feel the warmth of his body ripple along hers.
What a tease.
Do you know where we are? Zachary’s lips tilted, and he reaching out and wound a strand of her hair around his finger while holding her stare. Have you ever walked in the dream realm before, Annabelle? From what my family tells me, it can be quite stimulating.
Annabelle froze. For a moment, she’d allowed herself to forget who and what Zachary was. Perhaps this sexy little dream wasn’t actually a dream at all. Apprehension flickered up her spine. She knew that the Amoveo were dream-walkers, but how and why could she be dreaming with him? Was he really here with her, or was this simply her subconscious working things out?
What do you mean, the dream realm? Her hand went to the chain around her wrist, her fingers immediately seeking out and finding the disk bearing her name. In the familiar soothing gesture, she worried it between her fingertips while studying him intently. This is a dream. I know I’m dreaming, which is weird, but I know it’s a dream.
Are you frightened? he asked, releasing the lock of hair and looking contrite, as though he’d said too much. I would never hurt you. Please give me a chance to explain everything. I thought that if I came to you tonight, in the dream realm, it would help you to understand. I tried before when I was in my Lion Clan form, but you didn’t or wouldn’t see me. A smile bloomed across that handsome face, revealing an adorable set of dimples. At least, not until tonight.
No. She shook her head furiously. I—I can’t stay here. If they find me, then they’ll find you. You’ve been so kind to me, and I’d never forgive myself if you were hurt because of me.
Who? Zachary tucked the strand of hair behind her ear before brushing her cheek with his thumb. Closing her eyes, she pressed his hand to her cheek, and an overwhelming feeling of safety filled her. This man, whoever or whatever he was, would never hurt her. She didn’t know how she knew that. She just did. Zachary would keep her safe…but at what cost? Who are you running from, Annabelle? You can trust me.
I can’t tell you. Shaking her head, she backed toward the water and pushed his hand away. They’ll kill you, Zachary.
I’m not that easy to kill. Undaunted, Zachary stalked toward her and winked. Annabelle stopped when her legs were submerged in water halfway up her calves. Before she could respond, Zachary linked his arm around her waist and tugged her body tight against his. A gasp laced with desire escaped her lips when his taut form pressed against her far softer one. Her hands instinctively settled on the bulging muscles of his biceps, and she let out a shuddering breath when he leaned down and nuzzled his lips against her ear. In between butterfly kisses, he whispered, I’m sure you’ll find out that I’m too damn stubborn to die.
You don’t understand. She dug her fingertips into the unyielding strength of his arms, and even though she wanted to protest, she couldn’t form a coherent thought. Lust fogged her brain and weakened her body. Annabelle’s head drifted back and she moaned while he trailed kisses down her throat. You’ll die if I stay with you, she whispered.
See, baby. That’s where you’ve got it all wrong. His gravelly voice, edged with need, surrounded her. Zachary lifted his head and tightened the arm around her waist before cradling her face with his other hand. I’ll die if you don’t.
Holding his stare, Annabelle let out a needy moan at the very moment his mouth slanted over hers. His tongue slid along the seam of her lips and she opened to him, greedily accepting all he had to offer. Linking her arms around his neck, she tilted her head, deepening the kiss and surrendering to the erotic feel of him. Kissing him deeply, she threaded her fingers in his hair and groaned when he slipped his leg between hers, putting pressure on exactly the right spot.
Breaking the kiss, Zachary’s hands drifted down her back before settling over her waist. Annabelle smiled, lost in the luxurious sensation of his body. Her eyes fluttered open, and she stilled when her gaze captured his. Zachary’s hazel eyes had turned into a pair of exotic, glowing, amber orbs. They were the same exact eyes as the lion’s from her other dreams—which was both fascinating and confusing.
That’s so cool. A smile cracked her face and she trailed her thumb along his lower lip, which he promptly flicked with his tongue. Why are your eyes glowing? They’re just like the lion’s I saw in the dream and the one I saw in the vision when I touched your shirt.
You get visions? Zachary’s brow furrowed and his voice dropped to just above a whisper. What did you see when you touched my shirt?
Lots of stuff. Annabelle gave him a shy smile and lifted one shoulder. Sometimes I get visions when I touch an object that was just touched by somebody, but it almost always happens when it’s something they’re actually wearing. I’m usually able to block the visions out unless I want to see them, but lately I’ve been pretty distracted.
Of course, Zachary murmured. You’re human, but you have psychic ability. You’d have to in order to be—
Hey. This is my dream. Annabelle tugged him against her playfully. You didn’t answer me. Why are your eyes glowing like that?
They are the eyes of my clan—the Lion Clan—and they only shift when I’m angry or really turned on. He waggled his eyebrows at her, which made her laugh out loud. Her hands settled on the small of his back, and her fingers drifted over the top of his ass. And that’s only the beginning, Annabelle. When you wake up, I’ll show you that—and more.
Yeah, right. Annabelle rolled her eyes. This is just a dream. How on earth are you going to know what I dreamt about?
Shit. His brow furrowed and he let out a sound of frustration as his eyes shifted back to their human hazel. Holding her close, he rested his forehead against hers and slid one hand over her butt. I’m not doing this right.
It’s my dream, so isn’t it really me who’s not doing something right? She popped up on her toes and nipped his lip playfully. This part feels pretty right to me.
Aha! Zachary pulled back and slipped out of her arms before looking frantically around the sandy beach. I know how to show you, well, at least begin to show you.
What are you doing? Annabelle gathered the skirt of her sundress in her hands to keep it from getting soaked. She watched him curiously as he scanned the sandy shore before finally finding what he wanted and scooping it up. Zachary?
Here. Moving closer to her, Zachary brushed the sand off the shell and held it up for her to see. The heart-shaped shell was an unusual shade of brown and pink with white streaks rippling through it.
It looks like a heart. Annabelle grinned at him and was about to take it from him when, to her surprise, he broke it in half before handing one piece to her.
Tomorrow morning, to prove this isn’t just a dream, I’ll give you my half. An adorable dimpled grin cracked his face. Then you’ll have my whole heart.
Your heart? She laughed and shook her head. Curling her fingers around the smooth shell, she looked at him curiously as he backed away. Why would you give me your heart, Zachary? You don’t even know me.
Because it belongs to you, Annabelle. The gray mists rolled onto the beach and curled around them. As Zachary was swallowed by the thick lavender fog, his voice surrounded her. It was yours from the moment you were born. You are my mate.
Annabelle woke up with a jolt, forgetting for a moment where she was. Pushing herself to a sitting position, she swung her legs over the side of the couch and rose carefully to her feet, her body still sore from yesterday. Looking around the room, everything came roaring back into focus and it took her a moment to realize she was holding something in her hand.
Her entire body stilled as the dream from last night came rushing back one piece at a time. Zachary had been in the dream with her and told her he was Amoveo…and that they were mates. But that was crazy. This entire experience made Annabelle feel like Alice in Wonderland, and with every minute, she was sliding farther down the rabbit hole, with no end in sight. Lifting her hand, she slowly uncurled her fingers. What she saw lying in her palm made her heart skip a beat.
It was the shell Zachary had given her in the dream.
Annabelle ran her fingertip over the smooth surface of the brown-and-white shell that did indeed look like half of a heart. She swallowed back the lump in her throat and curled her fingers around the tiny gift once again. Holding it against her chest, Annabelle felt her heart beating a mile a minute, and she squeezed her eyes shut as the world started spinning.
“How is this possible?” she whispered through trembling lips. A million different ideas swirled through her head at once. In the dream, Zachary said she was his mate. Didn’t he? She was human. How could she possibly be the mate of an Amoveo? It didn’t make any sense.
Not only was she human—she was Caedo.
“Annabelle?” Zachary’s voice interrupted the quiet, and Annabelle let out an undignified squeal before turning to face him.
Standing to her right, wearing only the same pair of gym shorts he’d had on in the dream, he looked dead sexy. His hair was adorably messy and reminded her of a little boy with bed head. He moved closer, stalking toward her with a predatory look in his eyes. She knew she should run. These shifters were dangerous, weren’t they? At least, that’s what she’d been told. The Amoveo killed humans. They were savage, vicious creatures that would sooner tear your heart out than look at you.
Zachary smirked, bringing out one of the dimples in his cheeks, and she almost laughed at the ludicrous notion. The Amoveo she’d heard about were nothing like this man. He was kind, sweet, sexy, and doting, and as she stared into those smiling hazel eyes, Annabelle didn’t want to be anywhere but here—with him.
Clutching the trinket to her chest, she looked at him through wide eyes, uncertain of what to do or say. With a dimpled smile, Zachary reached out and took her hand in his. The heat of his flesh against hers made her breath hitch in her throat, and memories of their kiss in the dream realm filled her mind. While holding her stare, he gently uncurled her fingers and placed something in the palm of her hand. He covered his hand with hers and whispered, “Verto.”
An odd tingling sensation rippled through Annabelle’s hand and up her arm. It wasn’t painful; it felt like static electricity surrounded her for a few seconds.
“There.” Zachary dropped his hands to his sides, but remained just inches away from her. “Now you have my whole heart.”
Annabelle flicked her gaze to the contents of her palm and let out a sound of wonder. The shell was no longer in two pieces but merged into one. Lying in her palm was a perfectly shaped heart, just like the one from her dream last night.
She was about to batter him with about a hundred different questions, but before she could, everything around her spun and a tidal wave of images filled her mind.
Annabelle and Zachary making love in a lagoon, with a waterfall behind them. Their naked bodies were intertwined, and she heard her own laugh when Zachary swept her into his arms and dunked her under the rushing water.
This wasn’t a vision of the past, as she’d always had—it was a vision of the future.
As the vision faded and the room came back into focus, Annabelle swayed on her feet and would have fallen over if Zachary hadn’t grabbed her. Everything was becoming more confusing by the second.
Her cheeks heated with embarrassment from the erotic images, and even as she tried to push them aside, her body continued to respond to him. Of course, being plastered against Zachary’s rock-hard torso wasn’t helping either. Her hands were pinned between their bodies, and the muscles of his chest rippled against her enticingly. Her nipples peaked into sharp points and heat pooled between her legs as she stifled a moan. Annabelle’s body felt totally and completely out of her control and all she could do was feel.
“You had a vision, didn’t you?” he asked quietly. Zachary’s fingers pressed into her upper arms as he held her against his body, which was hardening by the second. He swept his thumb along the curve of her bicep and kept his voice just above a whisper. “What did you see?”
Annabelle blinked. “How did you know about my visions?”
“Last night.” Zachary tightened his hold on her as his gaze skittered over her face. “You told me about it in the dream realm. Remember?”
Annabelle’s body quivered from a combination of fear, lust, and confusion. Holy shit. It had been real. The dream. She had told him about her visions last night in the dream that wasn’t exactly a dream. She squeezed the shell she held in her hand and returned his heated stare.
Thank God she hadn’t revealed her true name or that she knew about the Amoveo. The cold hand of fear trailed up her spine, and she swallowed hard as she stared into his face. He was looking down at her with a concerned expression.
What would he do when he found out who she really was?
“I—I’m not sure what’s going on.” Her tongue flicked over her lower lip, and she struggled with how much she should tell him. “Last night…the dream…that was all real? You know about my visions and…?”
“Yes.” Zachary nodded and rested his forehead against hers. His hands loosened their grip on her arms before drifting over her shoulders and trailing down her back. “And I told you that I’m an Amoveo from the Lion Clan…and that we are mates.”
“This is crazy,” she whispered in a quavering voice. Annabelle shook her head and pushed him away, effectively extricating herself from his grasp. “I can’t be your mate, Zachary.”
“Oh really?” He narrowed his eyes and folded his arms over his chest, giving her a lopsided grin. “So it’s totally okay that you are a psychic human who dream-walked with a shapeshifter last night, but it’s not acceptable that we are mates?”
“No…I mean…yes.” Annabelle let out a growl of frustration and backed farther away from him. “I don’t know what I mean. Everything’s all mixed up and I don’t know which end is up.”
“That’s okay…I do.” Zachary’s grin broadened just before he whispered, “Verto.”
Annabelle’s hand flew to her mouth as she watched Zachary shimmer, as if he were underwater. Static filled the air, and in the blink of an eye, he vanished into thin air. She’d heard about this particular Amoveo ability but didn’t really believe it was real…but, boy, oh boy, was it ever real.
A split second later, his strong arms linked around her waist and his hard body pressed against hers as he materialized behind her. She let out a squeak as he nuzzled her neck and murmured, “There’s still so much to show you.”
Her hands settled over his, which were resting on her lower belly, and her head lolled back as he sprinkled kisses along her neck. Annabelle’s eyes fluttered closed and she let herself sink into the intoxicating mix of sensations. The warm, wet feel of his lips on her throat was as enthralling as the hot length of his rigid cock pressing against her lower back.
Soft met hard. Steel met satin, and her head spun.
This was crazy. Everything she’d ever been told about the Amoveo was terrifying, and yet everything she felt for Zachary was exhilarating. He was Amoveo. She was Caedo. They were sworn enemies with nothing in common—except for the way they made each other feel.
Annabelle knew she couldn’t stay and that there was no future with him. All she had was the here and now. And the here and now felt pretty freaking great.
She spun in his embrace and linked her arms around his neck before pulling his face to hers. He groaned, his tongue seeking entrance into her mouth, and she opened to him willingly. He tasted like sin, seduction, and sex, and Annabelle couldn’t get enough.
One hand cradled the back of her head and his fingers tangled in her hair as he angled her head, taking control of the kiss. He licked and suckled, taking all she had to give and more. Annabelle whimpered as little zings of pleasure whipped over her and the delicious flare of lust tightened between her legs.
Clinging to him, Annabelle arched back, giving him clear access to the sensitive flesh of her neck. She wrapped her leg around his, seeking some relief from the throbbing pressure that only he could satisfy. While he licked and nibbled his way down her neck, one hand settled under her knee and hoisted her leg higher. Annabelle gasped as her clit rubbed against him and sent ripples of pleasure through her body.
He brushed his lips over hers as he tangled his fingers in her hair, scraping them along her scalp in a slow, seductive stroke. Zachary urged her to look him in the eye while he continued to rock her against him with one undulating pass after another.
With her body on fire, her mind raced with a hundred different reasons why she shouldn’t be doing this. Here she was dry-humping a man she’d known for less than twelve hours…and not just any man. An Amoveo shifter who would probably kill her if he knew who she was. But all of that, every shred of doubt, each shaming whisper, was drowned out by the tsunami of sensations her body was experiencing beneath Zachary’s touch.
However, every thought was driven from her when she found herself staring into a pair of glowing amber eyes. The eyes of the lion.
“This is who I am, Annabelle.” Zachary’s voice was tight with desire. His hand curled around the crook of her knee, he lifted her leg and rocked his hips against her while his other hand pressed against her back, holding her to him. Annabelle’s body quivered with lust, need, and anticipation, making her feel like a rubber band that was pulled too tight. One wrong move and she would snap. He placed a kiss at the corner of her mouth and whispered, “Now tell me. Who are you running from?”
Annabelle froze in his embrace, and her body went from hot to cold in a split second as reality came crashing down around her. Shaking her head slowly, she pressed her hands against his chest and pushed him away from her as her leg slid down his. He didn’t try to stop her, but his eyes continued to blaze brightly at her with that predatory stare.
“I can’t do this. I can’t be with you,” she said in a surprisingly steady voice. Annabelle opened her hand, removed the shell, and held it out to him. “And this is not mine to take.”
Zachary took the shell from her but said nothing as she turned and ran out the sliding glass doors to the beach.