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Dark Moon (Chapter Twelve)

"I don't care if she is a scientist."

I heard Jessie's voice as if she were speaking in my ear and not whispering in the next room.

"She's also a freaking werewolf," she continued. "Who knows what might tempt her to the dark side?

Remember Zee?"

Jessie had once been betrayed by her closest friend. I couldn't expect her to have faith in me.

Still, it stung to realize I held no one's trust. Nobody wanted me here. Except maybe Damien, and he had just left.

I waited for Edward to tell Jessie, again, to leave me alone. He'd be doing so to protect his own interests, but that protection was the only nicety I got from him.

Instead, Will's voice drifted through the house. "Forget about Zee."

"I can't." Jessie's sigh was heavy with regret. "Killing your best friend, even when she is a wolf god, is something you don't put behind you in a few months."

"You can try."

Silence descended, broken only by moist, smacking sounds. They were making out. Which meant…

Edward wasn't even here.

I slammed out the front door and sprinted across the street. The antiques shop was locked, no shit. So I hurried to the alley, then around the back, where a wooden staircase led to the second floor.

Seconds later, I knocked. No one answered, though I could have sworn I heard a muffled sound from inside.

My hand tested the brass knob. Locked. Not much of a challenge for me. I turned it, hard, and something went crunch. I stepped into an empty apartment.

Edward's space consisted of a living area with a bed, kitchen table, and sink all in one room. Three doors were placed at intervals opposite the entrance. One led to a bathroom, the second held the furnace and an ironing board, the third held Nic.

All tied up and nowhere to go.

He scowled at me from behind a strip of gaff tape. Edward had bound his hands into the prayer position, making it impossible for Nic to open the door and escape the closet, even if he could walk with his feet anchored sole to sole.

"What did you say to him?" I demanded.

Must have been something really annoying to warrant this treatment.

Nic started talking, but with tape over his mouth, he was a little hard to understand. Leaning over, I ripped it free with a single yank.

"Hell. Shit. Damn! That hurt!"

"One quick yank always works best."

"How about we test that theory on your mouth?"

"No, thanks. Where's Edward?"

"He was going to call my boss. As if that'll change anything."

I crossed to the window and gazed at the still and silent street. Edward hadn't been at the cabin; he wasn't here; his car remained below.

A figure several buildings away caught my eye. Long and gaunt – that had to be him. He must have gone outside for better cell service. If I wanted to cut Nic loose, I'd better do it quickly.

I found a knife in a drawer next to the sink and sawed at the bindings on Nic's hands. The knife was dull; this could take more time than I had. If I distracted him, I could rip the tape with my bare hands.

"How did he convince you to step into the closet and let him tie you up?" I asked.

"Very funny. He said he wanted to talk to me, then rapped me on the head."

While Nic spoke, I severed the tape with one yank, then paused to peer into his eyes. Two injuries in such a short period couldn't be good. And if you added how I'd knocked him into a wall when I first saw him again –

"You sick to your stomach?" I demanded. "Dizzy?"

"Just finish. There's no telling what he's got planned for me next."

I wanted to argue, to say Edward wouldn't hurt him, but that wasn't true. Edward might do anything.

"Mandenauer's flipped his lid," he muttered.

"This is pretty much his usual lid." Glancing up,

I caught Nic's incredulous expression. "I warned you. He's not a man you want to screw with."

I tugged and the binding around Nic's feet came apart with a sharp split. Before I could get up, he grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a single, rough shake. "We have to leave right away."

I laughed.

"I'm not kidding, Elise. He's nuts. What's with all the guns and ammo? And the other agents – don't they strike you as a little over the top? I feel like I've stepped into a lost episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Little did he know how close to the truth he was.

"What were they shooting at when we got here?"

The lies came so damn easy, I didn't even have to think about them anymore before they fell out of my mouth.

"Remember the new strain of rabies I was telling you about?"

"Uh-huh."

"The virus needs to be eradicated before it spreads."

"So there were five agents with guns in the woods blasting infected wolves?"

I stared him straight in the eye. "Yes."

His fingers tightened on my shoulders. "I don't believe you."

I kissed him. Maybe he'd believe that, because it was the only real thing I could give. Not the truth about the J��ger-Suchers, Edward, the others, or even myself. But I could touch my lips to his, sweep my tongue inside, murmur, moan, and mean all of it.

He pulled me closer; I dropped the knife. I ended up in his lap, arms around his neck. So what if we were on the floor of an empty closet, in a rented room, in a town I'd never heard of before yesterday?

We were together again, and Nic was making me feel things I hadn't felt since the last time I'd touched him.

I tasted tape on his lips, mint on his tongue. My fingers brushed the back of his neck, missing the longer length of his hair. I'd always loved tangling my hands in the silky strands, but he'd shorn them off and only a dark, short thatch remained. The difference in his hair brought back the difference in me.

Ruthlessly I shoved aside the memory, my fears. I needed this, needed him, as much as I needed Nic to stop asking the questions that could get both of us killed.

He tried to pull away, but I nipped his lip and shifted in his lap, my rear end rolling over his erection.

Swallowing his gasp, both pain and arousal, I coaxed his tongue into my mouth and suckled.

His palm lay against my stomach, and when I drew on his tongue, his fingers flexed. The muscles beneath my skin fluttered, and he traced them with his thumb, lower and lower, until his entire hand crept under the waistband of my sweatpants.

I wore no underwear, no bra – neither one had been available for purchase at the gas station. He stroked the underside of my breasts, the swell of my rear, his thumb rode the curve of my hip. I had to get closer, so I swung my leg over his and scooted in.

His zipper bulged, and that couldn't be comfortable. He didn't seem to mind. I considered opening his pants and running my tongue along his length, but I gave up the idea when he arched and hard met soft so perfectly I couldn't put a stop to it even to have his heat in my mouth.

Years had passed since I'd been touched in any way but casual or violent. The only men I'd seen besides Edward were other J��ger-Suchers and guards, who'd been threatened with dire consequences should they look at me crosswise.

Oh, and the demonic entities who wanted to fuck me for no other reason than that I was there.

I shuddered at the memory of Billy, and Nic pulled me closer, murmuring nonsensical encouragement. He thought I was coming, and I was close.

His palms slid under my T-shirt, across my back, then up to cup my breasts. The firm, solid length of him ground against me, and I tightened my thighs around his hips.

In an effort to pull me nearer, he grabbed my waist, and his hand closed over the pocket that held the talisman. Trapped between me and him, the thing purred.

"Mmm," Nick answered against my lips.

I didn't have the heart to tell him the murmur of appreciation hadn't been mine.

His skin was warm; he smelled so alive. A vein pulsed and I captured his flesh between my teeth. Blood flowed beneath the surface, calling me.

His palm still covered the talisman, and when his fingers clenched, heat coursed between us like an electric current.

The moon erupted behind my closed eyelids – stark and potent, both agony and ecstasy. Cool silver in the midst of summer, warm and golden in the depths of winter. Power rushed through me. I believed I could do anything, save anyone, become…

Nic stiffened, pulsing as he whispered my name. The sound, the sensation brought me around. What the hell had happened?

I opened my eyes. Nic stared back, nothing but curiosity in his. I couldn't have done anything too weird, too wolfy, or he'd be wary.

My gaze was drawn to his pulse. I could still taste his skin, smell it, too. I wanted to bury my face in the curve of his neck and hold on to him forever.

"Did you feel anything move?"

I hadn't meant to voice the question, but when I did, Nic flexed his hips. "Oh, yeah. You were moving."

My face flushed. I dropped my hand to my pocket, but the plastic was just plastic again. No heat. Not a shimmy or a sound.

Had I imagined everything? No. Nic had heard the talisman purr, just as I had. However, I didn't know what that meant. I needed to show the icon to Will and soon.

I tried to stand; Nic tightened his hold. "I don't think so."

He covered my fingers with his and I tensed, but nothing leaped but my heart.

"You can attack me in a closet any day or night." Nic leaned forward and brushed his mouth against mine. "But I'm a big boy now. I'd rather do this naked, in a bed, anywhere but here."

His tongue flicked out. The sensation was a lightning strike, bringing back all we'd just shared, making me long for things we hadn't. I wanted Nic to use his no teeth on me, along with several other body parts.

Goose bumps raced over my skin and I murmured, "Okay."

Nic lifted his head. "Okay?"

I tried to remember what he'd asked, what I'd agreed to. "I meant… sorry."

"Sorry?"

"I can't."

Again, I tried to get off him. Again, he wouldn't let me.

"I think you can. You just don't want to."

Oh, I wanted to. More than I should. Which was what disturbed me. Certainly I was attracted to Nic, but I shouldn't have to fight the urge to tear off his clothes every time he touched me. Should I?

Only one way to find out.

"Nic," I breathed and hugged him.

Startled, distracted, still aroused, and, let's face it, a guy, he dropped the questions to hug me back. I tossed the talisman into the corner and kissed him.

He tasted the same, sticky plus mint. His hands roved under my shirt, over my skin. Pressing my body closer, I opened my mind.

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