Annabelle swallowed the mouthful of toast and placed her fork on the plate. She couldn’t tell him the truth, but she also knew that she couldn’t withhold everything, so she opted for a bit of both.
“My mother died about ten years ago, and after that, my father and I moved in with his cousins. We were left broke by my mother’s medical bills, and we didn’t really have a lot of options because my dad got laid off—again.”
“I’m sorry.” Zachary’s voice was gentle and filled with compassion. “How old were you when she died?”
“Twelve.” Annabelle’s eyes stung with tears at the memory, and she blinked them back, not wanting to weep in front of him yet again. She held up her wrist and smiled at him briefly before looking away. “She gave me this bracelet on my twelfth birthday, right before she died.”
“I had a feeling it was special to you.” He took a sip of his juice and pointed at her wrist. “You fiddle with it every time you’re nervous or uneasy.”
“Silly, huh?” Annabelle let out a short laugh and adjusted the sterling silver bracelet before leaning both elbows on the counter. It was a bit unsettling to have someone she just met see her so clearly. “Anyway, my cousins live on what could best be described as a commune in northern California. It was okay at first, but after a while it got…weird. I only stayed as long as I did because of my father, but a couple of weeks ago things changed.”
She took a deep breath and stopped herself from saying anything else, because she didn’t trust herself not to tell Zachary everything. She wanted to. Annabelle wanted to come clean and tell him exactly who she was, but she couldn’t. Even though she knew Zachary wouldn’t hurt her—the truth would hurt him, and that was unacceptable. He’d been nothing but kind, sweet, thoughtful, and charitable. How on earth could she tell him who she was? He would hate her.
“What changed?” Zachary’s jaw set and his lips pressed together in a tight line as a dark cloud passed over his face. “Did someone hurt you?”
“No,” Annabelle said quietly. “Although I was worried about what would happen to me if I stayed. To be honest, the place is what most people would consider a cult. I’d been wanting to leave for a while, and recently I finally got up the courage to run away.” She shrugged and looked away from him before taking a sip of her orange juice. It wasn’t a total lie…not really. “They don’t take kindly to deserters and would do almost anything to get me to come back. My cousins are kind of obsessed with their beliefs, and let’s just say I don’t agree with them.” She glanced at him briefly before smoothing the fabric of the dress he’d given her. “Not anymore,” she added quietly. Her fingers curled in her lap, and a tickle of awareness flickered up her spine while he studied her intently. “Not at all. In fact, they couldn’t be more wrong, and I’m never going back.”
“Okay, you don’t have to go back,” Zach said slowly. He wiped his mouth and tossed the napkin on his empty plate. Placing both hands on the counter, he leaned across it while holding her gaze. “So why come to Mexico? Why a whole other country?”
“I dreamt of it.” Annabelle’s voice was just above a whisper while she revealed more than she planned to. “The beach, here at the house, it’s the same one from the dreams I’d been having. I guess I thought that if I came here. then I’d get some clarity or something.”
“So much for that,” Zach said with a smile. He let out a curt laugh and pushed himself off the counter before taking the dishes and putting them in the sink. “All I did was give you more questions.”
“Perhaps.” Her voice was barely audible. “I also came here because I knew I’d be safe. It’s crazy, isn’t it? I don’t know how I knew that, but I did. I didn’t know what I would do when I got here or where I was going to stay, but deep in my gut…I had no doubt that I’d be safe. In fact, I’d never been so totally certain of anything else in my life.” Annabelle’s gaze wandered over his well-muscled back, and she ground her teeth against the sudden twinge of need that throbbed through her from the mere sight of him. She crossed her legs and stifled a moan as she watched him move. He was graceful and sleek, just like the lion she’d seen in the vision. Powerful. Dangerous. Protective. The man was all of those things rolled into one, and even though her head was telling her to run, her heart was whispering for her to stay. “I’m safe with you, aren’t I?”
“For now.” Keeping his back to her, he braced both hands on the sink, and the muscles in his shoulders bunched. Then Zachary turned around, leaned his hip against the edge of the sink, and captured her gaze. Holding her stare, he stalked slowly around the edge of the counter until he was only about a foot away from her. Hands at his sides, he let his eyes drift over her from head to toe in one long, languid pass. He studied her with the hungry look of a predator, and it made Annabelle’s heart skip a beat. “Can’t say for how long…but for now…you’re safe.”
“For now?” Her voice sounded far away and her body felt heavy with need. Annabelle gripped the sides of the stool, worried she’d lose her senses, jump Zachary’s bones, and fulfill every erotic thought she’d had about him. Her bare feet slipped on the rung of the stool, but she righted them quickly and held on for dear life. “What do you mean, I’m safe with you for now?”
“Well, you see, Annabelle…” Zachary inched closer so that her knees brushed the fabric of his shorts, which were doing little to conceal his growing erection. “Right now, I’m going to take a cold shower and get dressed. Then you and I are going to go into town so we can file that report. That sounds safe, doesn’t it?”
Annabelle nodded, unable to form a coherent sentence, worried she’d do nothing but moan like the horny creature she’d turned into. Zachary’s lips tilted at the corners, and then, with lightning-fast speed, he reached out and grabbed the sides of the stool, covering her hands with his far larger ones. His lips were just inches from hers and his distinct masculine scent filled her head, making her dizzy with desire. Breathing as though she had just run a marathon, she held his stare and didn’t dare move a muscle.
“Then when we get back…” His deep voice was filled with sinful promise. “You won’t be safe. Do you know why?” Annabelle shook her head almost imperceptibly. “Because I’m going to strip you naked and spend the rest of the night finding out how many different ways I can make you scream my name.”
Without another word, Zachary turned and disappeared into the bedroom. Annabelle, her body shaking with lust, adrenaline, and all-out carnal need, stared at the closed door. She had never wanted another man the way she wanted Zachary. He was forbidden, dangerous, sexy, protective, sweet, and masculine, all rolled into one.
The sound of the shower running captured her attention, and she imagined him in there. Naked. Wet. Soapy. She pictured herself there with him. Running her hands down the slick skin of his stomach until finally reaching the part of him that she so desperately wanted to see.
“Oh my God,” Annabelle groaned. She closed her eyes and let out a shuddering sigh. “What the hell is the matter with me?”
Nothing at all, baby. Zachary’s sexy voice surrounded her on a purr. But if you keep that up, I’m not gonna wait until we get back.
“Holy shit.” Annabelle’s face heated with embarrassment and her eyes flew open, expecting to see him standing in front of her. However, the room was empty and the bedroom door was still closed. Annabelle slid off the stool and stood on unsteady legs. “Zachary?” she said with a squeak.
Why don’t you join me? His voice swept along the edges of her mind like a caress, and she could practically feel his hands on her. There’s still plenty of hot water.
What’s happening? Annabelle shuddered as her mind touched his, and a smile of wonderment spread across her face. She moved closer to the bedroom door and her fingers curled around the doorknob. Eyes closed, she rested her forehead against the cool wood surface and reveled in the erotic sensations that fired through her body from the intimate mental connection. How is this possible?
Well, since you asked—the playful sound of his voice made her smile grow—it’s because you are my mate. All Amoveo can use telepathy, but it’s especially important for the mating process. Most humans can’t communicate telepathically. But you aren’t like most humans, are you, Annabelle?
No. I don’t suppose I am. Annabelle turned the doorknob and pushed the bedroom door open. She stood there for a moment, debating whether or not she should do what she wanted to do, what her body was begging her to do. The sound of the shower running urged her forward until she was standing right outside the bathroom door, which was open just a crack. Steam spilled out and wafted over her in damp waves. She pushed it open and stood for a moment in the doorway. Can you hear all of my thoughts?
Only what you want me to hear. Annabelle’s heart raced with anticipation and lust while she watched the blurred image of his tall, naked body through the tempered glass of the shower doors. But whatever we say to one another this way is protected, Annabelle. No one else can hear telepathic communication between mates—even if we aren’t actually mated yet.
Turn around. Annabelle’s voice, even in her mind, sounded as turned on and needy as her body felt. She watched as his form stilled before turning around and facing her. He ran one large hand over the glass, swiping away the fog, so she could see him more clearly. But it wasn’t enough. Now open the door and let me in.
The door to the marble-lined shower opened slowly, revealing Zachary in all his wet, soapy, naked glory. Just as she’d imagined. Only better. His hair was slicked back off his face, giving those glowing amber orbs center stage. He was handsome. She knew that already, but she hadn’t quite seen that intense look of desire before, evident in the sharp angles of his cheekbones and chin.
The water streamed over his body in rivulets, showing off every well-sculpted muscle. Her gaze wandered over him slowly until finally landing on the pronounced evidence of his desire. His cock, thick with need, jutted out from a neatly trimmed patch of hair. It was rigid and standing at attention, as though begging for her to touch it, to take it in her mouth so she could make him moan.
She’d been with men before. Well, maybe not men; they were more like boys. She’d had only two fumbling sexual experiences with two guys she’d met at her waitressing job, but both had left her unsatisfied, and neither turned her on even a fraction of the way Zachary did. Hell, she’d barely touched him, and every cell in her body lit up with electricity just from one look.
Annabelle sucked in a shuddering breath and took in the wickedly erotic sight of Zachary, while letting her gaze drift over him from head to toe and back again. Her body hummed with desire and every single inch of her skin tingled with anticipation, but for the life of her, she couldn’t get herself to move any closer.
“I did as you asked.” A sexy lopsided grin played at his lips. His hand curled around the base of his cock and started to stroke. “Now tell me what else you want, Annabelle.”
“You,” she whispered.
Annabelle took two steps toward the shower, standing just a few inches from the open door. Watching his hand slide up and down his swollen shaft was erotic and empowering. It turned her on to know she had that kind of effect on him. Water sprayed over her when it bounced off Zachary, and she could swear she heard it sizzle when it touched her heated skin. Her heart raced and threatened to pound right out of her chest while she continued to hold his predatory gaze.
“I shouldn’t want you. It doesn’t make any sense.” Her voice quivered with anticipation and she inched closer still. “And yet…here I am, unable to think about anything except having your mouth on me.”
On a growl, Zachary’s eyes widened and he whispered, “Verto.”
A cloud of static surrounded them, and a split second later, Annabelle’s dress vanished and she was nude before him. She gasped at the surprisingly erotic sensation of the fabric disappearing from her body. The static made her skin tingle, and her sensitive nipples tightened with the rush of electric air. If Zachary didn’t touch her soon, she’d lose what little dignity she had left and start begging.
As though reading her mind, one strong hand reached out, cradled her neck, and pulled her to him. Annabelle sighed with pleasure and relief when his lips covered hers, and she opened to him immediately. His tongue drove into her mouth, demanding and taking everything he wanted, and she met his challenge with equal fervor. Linking her arms around his neck, she stepped into the shower with him and moaned at the feel of her breasts pressing against his chest. Paying thorough attention to her mouth, Zachary closed the shower door with one hand and kept the other firmly wrapped around her waist. The hot water sprayed over them, and she shivered when the bare flesh of her back hit the cool marble of the shower wall.
“You want my mouth on you, isn’t that right, Annabelle?” Zachary murmured between the kisses he trailed down her throat. She nodded her agreement but couldn’t bring herself to speak amid the flood of sensations that swamped her body and mind. One hand cradled her head, while the other drifted over her breast and tweaked her nipple before cupping the mound in his greedy hand. “Do you remember what I promised you?”
Zachary lifted his head and captured her gaze with his as he trailed his fingers down her rib cage, along the dip of her waist and the curve of her hip. Her hands curled over his shoulders as she lifted one leg and wrapped it around his hip, opening herself to him. Annabelle let out a quivering breath when she felt his fingers brush over her belly. Tight with anticipation, she stifled a moan and her body jumped when his fingers slid between her folds and over her clit in a gentle pass, teasing her with what was to come. I said I would make you scream my name.
I remember. Her reply touched his mind while she held him to her, urging him closer, wanting him to delve deeper. She made a small sound of pleasure and rolled her hips when he slid two fingers inside her, making her pussy clench. Yes. Oh my God.
“That’s it. You’re so wet for me, baby.” Zachary slipped his fingers in and out of her, while his thumb rubbed her clit in small torturous circles. “Your pussy is so fuckin’ tight, but I have to taste you. I want to watch you come, Annabelle. I don’t want you to see or feel anything but pure pleasure.”
Before she could respond, Zachary dropped to his knees, trailing kisses over her breasts and belly as he went. Annabelle leaned against the wall and threaded her fingers through his wet hair, watching him kneel before her. He wrapped one hand around her waist, and the other slid down her thigh before lifting her leg and draping it over his shoulder.
“You’re so beautiful,” Zachary murmured. His eyes glowed up at her brightly, and Annabelle tightened her grip on his hair as he blew gently over the swollen, sensitive flesh. “Every fucking inch of you feels like it was made just for me.”
“Do it,” Annabelle practically begged, and her body thrummed with unsatisfied lust while she squirmed against the slick tile wall. “Eat me. Oh my God, please put your mouth on me.”
“That’s it.” He nipped the soft flesh of her inner thigh before laving the love bite with his tongue. “Tell me what you want. I fucking love hearing you say it.”
Annabelle whimpered and her hips pumped toward him, eager to have him fulfill the wickedly sinful promises. It didn’t matter who they were or where they came from. All that mattered was what was happening in this moment. Zachary’s hand clutched her knee to his shoulder, and the other rasped up the slick flesh of her thigh before brushing his thumb along the edge of her pussy.
Mate. The word scraped along her mind at the same instant his hot mouth covered her pussy. Annabelle screamed his name as his talented tongue flicked her clit in swift stokes and alternately slid between her folds. Her body sagged against the wall and she held his head to her while he continued his assault. Lust coiled deep inside her and the orgasm began to crest with excruciating pleasure. Everything came to a tight, torturous peak when Zachary dipped two fingers inside her hot channel and suckled the tiny bundle of nerves, taking her right over the edge. Annabelle’s back arched, and she cried out his name as a toe-curling climax ripped through her body from head to toe.
Eyes closed, she struggled to catch her breath and barely registered that the water was still beating over the two of them in a hot, steady stream. Her leg slid from Zachary’s shoulder and a dreamy smile covered her face as she felt him languidly kiss his way back up her exhausted body.
“I told you I’d make you scream,” he murmured. Zachary grinned and kissed the corner of her mouth. “I always keep my promises, and I’ll never lie to you.”
The smile fell from her face and her body stilled as his words hit her with unintended force. He’d never lie to her, but she sure as hell lied to him, didn’t she? Annabelle’s eyes fluttered open and immediately clapped onto Zachary’s. His brow knitted with concern and his entire demeanor changed when he recognized the shift in her.
“What’s wrong, Annabelle?” He cradled her face with both hands and brushed wet stands of hair off her forehead with his fingertips. His voice dropped to a concerned whisper, and he rested his forehead against hers, which only made it worse. “Are you alright? Did I hurt you?”
Annabelle fought the tears that threatened to flow and shook her head adamantly. Once again he had shown nothing but tenderness, and his only concern seemed to be for her and her comfort. Zachary still had a raging hard-on, but that obvious need was immediately pushed aside when he noticed she was upset. Annabelle covered his hands with hers and let out a slow breath while gathering the courage to tell him the truth.
Looking into his earnest hazel eyes, she knew she had to tell him who she was…but she just couldn’t do it. She knew she was being a coward. She wasn’t just afraid of what Zachary would think of her—she was afraid of hurting him too. What good would it do to tell him that she was Caedo? Did it really matter? She wouldn’t be staying with him or being his mate, because it would be too dangerous for both of them.
No. Annabelle resigned herself to maintaining her silence, if only to protect him.
“It’s okay.” Zachary pressed his lips to her forehead before reaching over and shutting off the water. He grabbed a fluffy green towel from the shelf just outside the shower and wrapped it around her quivering body with his trademark tenderness. Annabelle gave him a smile and opened her mouth to say something, but he held up his hand, preventing her from uttering a sound. “Listen. I get it. You don’t have to say anything. Things are moving really fast and I’m feeling kind of off my game too. I’ll leave you some clothes and a bathing suit on the bed, and after you get dressed, we’ll head into town and find out if anyone turned in your bag. Then we’ll find a phone so you can call whoever you need to call.”
Then without another word, Zachary grabbed a towel before leaving and closing the bathroom door tightly behind him. When the door clicked shut, she let out the breath she’d been holding and slid down the wall to sit on the cold, wet tile of the shower floor. Hugging her arms around her knees, Annabelle shivered from a combination of emotional overload and damp, cooling flesh while she struggled to get herself focused.
She’d wanted to stop him from leaving. To tell him everything and have him gather her back in his arms, but that would be selfish. Annabelle knew she had to let Zachary go, even though the mere idea of it broke her heart. She wasn’t a fool, and she hadn’t fallen in love with him overnight, but damn if she wasn’t on her way.