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Dark Moon (Chapter Twenty Five)

"Elise?"

"Mmm?" I murmured, overcome by memories I'd tried so long to suppress.

"I never heard about a murder on campus."

"Edward can cover up anything. That's what he does."

And speaking of Edward –

I brushed past Nic to get to the phone in the hall. This time when I dialed Edward, he answered.

"Where are you?" I demanded.

"Taking care of business."

"Have someone else shoot them. I need my research."

"I am taking care of actual business, Elise. We have no command center. J��ger-Suchers from all over the world have been frantically calling my cell phone since you are no longer answering at headquarters.

They are quite panicked."

"Nice to be loved."

"I do not think it is your absence that has upset them, but rather the loss of what is familiar."

Trust Edward to burst any bubble I might have blown.

I was somewhat concerned to realize that I'd completely forgotten my job. I wasn't a field agent. I was a lab geek. The organization queen.

I collected the reports, kept track of the agents, their assignments, while I tried to find a cure. All it had taken to forget my responsibilities was a little explosion and some great sex – or had that been a little sex and a great big explosion?

I glanced at Nic as he came into the hall. His hair was still mussed, his chest bare, he was getting a five o'clock shadow. I wanted to feel the scrape of his whiskers on the inside of my thighs.

Gritting my teeth, I turned away from temptation. Why didn't the man put on some clothes!

"When are you coming back to Fairhaven?" I demanded of Edward.

"You are still there?"

I'd forgotten; he didn't know, so I filled him in.

"Ghost wolves," Edward mused. "So many years and yet I have not heard everything."

"Amazing, isn't it?"

My sarcasm was lost on him.

"7a. Why on earth would you go to the junkyard? I would never leave something so important to be easily found."

"Ever heard of hiding in plain sight?"

"That would not be hiding."

I sighed. Why did I even bother?

"You will have to deal with things as best you can. Everyone else is busy. Has the FBI left?"

"Not hardly. He's on the case."

Nic snorted from behind me. I didn't turn around.

"You have told him all of your secrets?" he demanded.

"Some."

"Have you no brains?"

" You're the one who started it, sir."

Edward went silent. He did that a lot when I was right.

"I cannot return to Fairhaven just yet," he continued. "There is someone after me."

"Again?"

Most of the monsters who'd met Edward face-to-face were ashes, but word still got around. They'd been sending assassins after him almost as long as he'd been sending J��ger-Suchers after them.

I wasn't sure if Edward lived a charmed life, or if he was as good at killing and evading as he claimed. I kind of thought it was both.

"I need that research."

"Would you like me to send everything in a Federal Express packet?"

"No!" I shouted.

Anyone could grab it then.

"That is what I thought." Edward sounded smug.

"You have everything with you?"

"Your formulas and serums could not be safer."

Unless whoever was chasing him this time actually caught him. Then I might as well eat a silver bullet, before I started eating my way through the citizens.

"I will be back before the full moon."

"You swear?"

"Have I ever broken a promise, Elise?"

As far as I knew, he'd never made one.

Before I could point this out, he hung up. I couldn't recall the man ever uttering the word good-bye, or hello for that matter.

Nic was no longer in the hall. I followed the sound of tapping into the kitchen and discovered him hunched over a laptop. He still wore only his underwear. Was he trying to kill me?

"Where'd you get that?" My voice was more shrill than I would have liked.

Nic didn't seem to notice. He didn't even look up when he answered. "I think it's Jessie's. I doubt Will's capable of leaving a computer behind. I've started an Internet search on ghost wolves."

Why hadn't I thought of that?

My gaze dipped to the flat, brown circle of his nipples surrounded by soft, curling dark hair.

Why did I continue to ask such stupid questions?

I listened to Nic tap on the keys, as I shifted my eyes to the wall and my mind off his body. A few moments later he grunted. "There's an Ojibwe legend about ghost wolves. They're called 'witchie wolves.'"

"Ojibwe," I murmured. "Not much of a shock."

"No," Nic agreed, before he continued to read. "Witchie wolves are said to protect an ancient burial ground on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. I wonder if they can exist anywhere else."

He typed in a few more commands, then squinted at the screen. "Huh."

"Let me guess. They can?"

"According to this, witchie wolves can be raised to protect the resting place of any ancient warrior against those who desecrate it."

He lifted his gaze. Together we muttered, "Grave desecrations."

"Let's see if there's an ancient warrior buried in Fairhaven," Nic murmured. "Although I kind of think that there is."

I moved closer, leaning over him as he tried the computer again. I caught the scent of his hair, my arm bumped the bare skin of his back. He jumped, but he didn't jerk away, so I stayed where I was, pretending to watch the computer screen when all I could see was him.

The machine whirred. "I'm not getting anything," he said.

"With Indian records that doesn't mean much. A lot of their history is oral."

He shot me a quick glance, and I swallowed a sudden burning in my throat. That had sounded a bit suggestive. I straightened so I was no longer pressed against his back, and coughed.

"We need to talk to a townsperson, an elder. Probably Lydia."

Nic looked at the clock. "Two in the morning. I don't think we'll have much luck right now."

"The doctor never got back to us about the second murder."

I didn't like that at all.

"Never heard from Basil, either," I continued.

"I'm starting to think he's avoiding us."

"I guess we can ask about stray Ojibwe warrior graves in the morning. Not like they're going to move or anything."

"True."

Silence settled over the room, broken only by the waiting hum of the laptop.

"Uh, anything else?" I flicked a finger at the computer.

"Huh?"

Nic's eyes were on my chest. I'm sure my nipples were hard and thrusting against the thin material of my shirt, as usual. I really needed to buy a bra.

"More info?" I waved in front of his face.

"Oh." Nic cracked his knuckles. "Let's see."

Clatter-tap-tap.

He sat back and waited. "I cross-referenced witchie wolves and werewolves."

I lifted my brows. "You're really good at this."

"Among other things."

He surprised a laugh out of me. I was even more surprised when he grinned in return. But his smile faded quickly as the computer beeped. He peered at the words. "You aren't going to believe this."

"Wanna bet?"

"Witchie wolves are considered werewolves because they were human once."

"Looks like the sheriff called in the right people after all."

"Human in life, they're cursed to run as wolves in death, a transformation of sorts."

"Why are they cursed?"

"Doesn't say, but – "

He tilted his head. I could see an idea flickering to life in the same way answers spilled from the Internet and onto the computer screen.

"Wanna share?" I asked.

His gaze lifted to mine. "We've got dead people and ghost wolves."

"Two dead people."

"And a lot of missing ones who've left blood behind. Considering the sheriff's disappearing act… You do the math."

"You think our disappearing bodies are becoming witchie wolves?"

"Yeah," Nic said. "I do."

I did, too. But I wasn't sure what we were going to do about it.

"I'll call Lydia in the morning," Nic continued. "Ask if Cora had a book on witchie wolves."

"That would be a good place to start."

Silence fell between us. Nic and I glanced at each other, then away. Now what? A whole night stretched in front of us with nothing much to do.

"I'll see you then." He stood and practically ran out of the room.

At loose ends, I sat in front of the computer. I accessed my credit card account, requested a replacement, and wrote down my number. Then I amused myself for an hour surfing the Net and ordering new clothes. Jessie had left most of hers, and they'd hold me over, but I'd lost everything in the compound explosion. Sooner or later I'd have to buy new. Why not now, if it kept me from going after Nic and begging him to touch me?

When that was done, I wandered the cabin. No television. What kind of place was this?

Vacation home. Still, what was more relaxing than TV?

I glanced longingly down the hall toward Nic's room. I could think of a few things.

Eventually the boredom dragged on me and I yawned. If I could fall asleep, morning would come so much quicker. I stripped, then checked my wound, which was already nothing more than a small scab.

I'd just reached for Jessie's sleep T-shirt when my door opened. Nic stood on the threshold. I couldn't fathom the expression in his eyes. Desire warred with fear, lust pushed at the boundaries of sadness. He wanted me, though he shouldn't. He longed for the past, yet feared the future. And below everything I detected a smidgen of guilt, which was exactly what I hadn't wanted him to feel. None of this was his fault.

"If you could have known what would happen to you," he murmured, "you never would have spoken to me that first day."

I tilted my head. The library at Stanford. He'd dropped his book on my foot, then apologized so profusely, so sweetly, I'd let him carry mine home. We'd spent the night talking, the dawn kissing, and from that moment on we'd been together.

"I would have talked to you even if I'd known," I said quietly. "I couldn't have stopped myself from loving you even if I'd tried."

I still couldn't.

"Having the memories of you kept me sane, Nic."

When I'd been in that cage and after, when I'd lived in a stone compound with no one for company but guards and the likes of Billy, I'd taken out the memories, and I'd found a little bit of peace.

He stepped into the room, still wearing nothing more than his boxers. I clutched Jessie's T-shirt to my breasts.

He flicked off the light and darkness descended. Nevertheless, I could see him inching closer, and the scent of desire, of danger, wafted over me.

"You make me insane, Elise. I should hate you, but I can't. You should disgust me, but you don't."

He stopped so close his erection brushed my belly. I dropped the T-shirt, and when it draped over his penis instead of falling to the floor, he tossed the garment aside with a growl.

I took one step backward before he grabbed me, yanking me onto my toes. "I swore to myself I'd never touch you this way again, but all I do is think about it."

"Me, too," I whispered.

"I've rationalized everything. The horse is out of the barn. No more virginity and you didn't go all demon on me. Can't get pregnant, no STDs. Perfect world." He shook his head. "Or as perfect as it's going to get now that I know all that lives in it."

"Nic – "

"Shut up."

His hands tightened. I shut up.

He was angry. What else was new? Though there were times I missed the boy from Stanford, I had to admit, this man excited me more.

He inched back, and his eyes glittered in the small amount of light from the hallway. "Just sex, right? No strings. When we're through in Fairhaven, we're through."

Though a part of me died at his words, I knew it had to be that way.

"Right."

His mouth met mine with both fury and passion. The clench of his fingers on my arms would have caused a bruise in a normal woman. One of these days I was really going to have to make him stop treating me like this.

But not today.

He captured my tongue with his teeth and tasted the end. Pleasure and pain at war, I clutched his shoulders and surrendered.

My fingers drifted across his bare chest. His heart pounded first against my hand, then against my mouth.

I trailed my lips down to his belly until I encountered the waistband of his boxers, let my tongue slide beneath the material and tease just a bit before I yanked them away with a violence to match his own as my knees met the floor.

Edging forward, I pressed a kiss to the inside of one leg. His penis leaped against my cheek, and I turned, capturing the length of him in my mouth.

The heat, the strength, the taste drove me wild. He wrapped my hair around his wrist and showed me the rhythm. A little rough, I didn't mind. Knowing he couldn't hurt me only excited me more.

My teeth scored the tip; he hissed, then moaned, not pulling away, instead urging me closer. Pleasure, pain, so close, so different and yet the same. I laved the tiny hurt with my tongue and got back to business.

I felt him growing, coming, and he pulled away, lifting me to my feet and melding his lips to mine.

He was frantic. So was I. Our tongues tangled, our hands fluttered here and there, stroking, teasing, testing.

The curling strands of his chest hair seemed to scrape my sensitive nipples, but I rubbed myself against him anyway. I had to have him inside of me or die of it.

"Now," I murmured.

He must have agreed that now was best, and the bed too far away, because he lifted me onto the dresser, stepped between my legs and drove home.

The chill of the wood at the base of my spine was a welcome contrast to the heat wherever we touched.

His palms at my hips, he pulled me closer. His thumbs stroked my thighs, urging my knees wider, so he could travel deeper with every thrust.

The drawers rattled, the mirror thumped against the wall; I found the sounds almost as arousing as the slide of his body into mine.

I was almost there. I only needed a little something extra to shove me over the edge into orgasm. He nuzzled my breasts, licked my nipple just once, then blew on the moist imprint left by his mouth.

My shudder of reaction caused me to tighten around him, the gentle yet intense movement inciting his release and fueling my own. Grasping his shoulders, I held on as together we came apart.

Both energized and relaxed, I lost track of how long we stayed there, all tangled together on top of the furniture. I felt so glorious. How had I ever survived celibacy?

Of course, I hadn't known what I was missing.

Glancing down at his dark head against my pale skin, I touched the shorter length of his hair. The shearing of the soft strands, combined with the specks of gray, reminded me that years had passed, wars had been fought – both in his world and my own – changing everything.

This was just sex, not love. Could never be love, and I had to remember that. Nic was going to leave, if I didn't leave first, and there was always the possibility one of us would die.

How was that for a cheery after-orgasm thought to ruin the mood?

Nic straightened. The loss of his heat, the moist memory of his mouth, caused a shiver. He moved away, his body leaving mine. I suddenly felt exposed, naked, a little slutty.

The chill had returned to his eyes. How could he look at me like that after what we'd just shared?

Except this hadn't been sharing but sex. I'd thought I could handle that, but maybe I'd spoken too soon. I loved him, so our being together meant something to me, even though it meant nothing, I meant nothing, to him.

I glanced at the bed, enjoyed a vision of cuddling close to Nic's side, my head on his shoulder, the sheets and bedspread creating a warm cocoon all around us.

But we had no dreams to share, no future to speak of. Getting in that bed would lead to one thing – several times.

I didn't think I could do it anymore.

I mean, I could, but I didn't want to.

Wait – I wanted to, but I shouldn't.

Every time we had sex, I remembered the love, the hope, the dreams, and I ached for what we'd lost. I might be a werewolf and a murderer, but I had feelings, too.

Really.

I turned to tell Nic we could never do this again, but he was gone. His door closed and silence settled over the house.

I guess he'd already decided the same thing.

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