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Hunter's Moon (Chapter 26)

We returned to my apartment about midday. The parking lot remained deserted. A good thing, too, since Jessie's shirt was a mess. Will and I looked like we'd bathed in red paint to our elbows.

The three of us hurried to my place. I dug out my first-aid kit. After washing myself, I cleaned and bandaged Jessie's "scratch" while Will called Cora Kopway.

"You should probably have stitches," I said.

"Slap a butterfly Band-Aid or two on there and shut up."

I followed her advice, though none too gently. She didn't flinch. What a woman.

Her shoulder would match mine. If her furrow had been thirteen inches instead of three.

"She'll see us at four," Will said.

I finished my lame attempt at medical assistance. "How far away is it?"

"About an hour."

Great. I could catch a nap. Sadly, the two of them didn't seem in any hurry to leave.

When Jessie said she was going to stick to me like glue, I hadn't thought she meant while I slept.

"Aren't you two going to go back to your place?"

"What for?" Jessie asked. "I like it here."

She settled into a chair, put her feet on the coffee table. She'd appear relaxed if she'd been wearing a shirt. The bra and khaki trousers just didn't say "laid back."

"You need to change," I pointed out.

"Don't you like me just the way I am?"

"Get out."

"I don't think I will."

My eyes narrowed. "Listen, McQuade, I was doing just fine before I met you."

"That was against your average, everyday werewolf."

"You can't move in with me."

"No?"

"I don't need a babysitter."

"Come on, Jess," Will murmured. "You could use a shower, new clothes, a little nap."

"See? You guys need a nap. So do I."

"I can imagine who you'll be sleeping with."

I hadn't even thought of that. I had truly planned on a nap, but maybe I needed to get tired first.

"Get lost." I threw her bloody shirt into her lap.

Her mouth tightened mulishly, and I hurried to reassure her. "I'll be fine. I promise. No walks in the woods. I'll go directly from my apartment to my car with my gun drawn."

"We'll pick you up," she said. "It's on the way."

I decided to let well enough alone.

Jessie stood. Her shirt was really disgusting.

"I'd loan you one of mine," I said, "but I think you'd burst the seams."

She tilted her head. "Was that you being nice? Because you weren't."

"Here." Cadotte drew his T-shirt over his head and tossed it in her face. "Wear mine."

I couldn't help but look. All that smooth, toned, tanned muscle should have made me drool. Instead I could only think of another man's chest – one that was just as smooth, equally toned, but marble pale.

Jessie glanced at me and sighed. "You'd better keep yourself covered, Cadotte. You might cause an accident on the road."

"No more than you will with a uniform shirt that looks like something out of Night of the Living Dead.

Put the thing on and let's go."

Will stalked out the door. Jessie shrugged and put on his shirt, which fit her pretty well. Smoothing her palms down the front, she rubbed her cheek against the neck, inhaling deeply. Her face went dreamy; then she saw me watching and stiffened. I smiled. They really were very sweet together.

"We'll be back in a few hours. Be here. And try to be in one piece, OK?"

"I'll do my best."

I waited until I heard the motor start; then I listened to the gravel crunch, the sound becoming softer and softer until it disappeared altogether. An instant later, I was out the door, gun drawn as I'd promised. I hurried downstairs and across the wide yard that separated the tavern from Damien's cabin.

The air was warm, the sky sunny – the kind of lazy day referred to as Indian summer; I'm not sure why.

I knocked. No one answered. Damn. So much for afternoon delight.

A glance at the tavern revealed a closed sign in the window. Maybe Damien was still asleep. Would he be mad if I let myself in?

He was a guy. He wouldn't care if I torched the place as long as I crawled in bed with him afterward.

I tried the door. Open. How convenient.

Stepping inside, I called his name. He didn't answer.

The room was dark. The bed tousled. I couldn't see if he was in it.

I crossed the short distance and laid my hand on the lump in the middle of the mattress. Nothing but pillows.

Slowly I turned in a complete circle. I didn't see him in the single living/dining/sleeping area. The door to the bathroom was open. I took a quick look-see inside. Empty.

I had just decided to creep back out when the thunder of footsteps erupted on the porch. The door burst open and Damien stumbled inside.

He was dressed as he'd been when I met him. Black pants, no shoes, no shirt. His chest was slick with sweat; his hair glistened. His skin was pale, and his eyes gleamed almost yellow. He appeared feverish.

He slammed the door and leaned his back against it. Despite the sweat and the signs of exertion, he wasn't even breathing hard.

I drew my gun and hurried to the window. "Where are they?"

"They?"

"Who's chasing you?"

He gave me an odd glance. "I was jogging."

"In your bare feet?"

"Yeah."

My eyes scanned the clearing, but no one, nothing, appeared. I set my gun on the table nearby.

"Paranoid, Leigh?"

"Actually, paranoid is my middle name."

His smile was weak, and that worried me even more than his pale, damp skin. I took one step toward him, and he crumpled to the floor.

"Damien!" I went to my knees next to him. "What is it?"

"I did too much. I'll be OK."

"How long were you jogging?"

He shook his head, didn't answer.

I put my palm to his forehead. He was cool to the touch. Nevertheless, I went into the bathroom and wet a cloth with cold water. Then I bathed his face, his neck, his chest. His heart pounded beneath his skin, far too fast for the ease of his breathing. He had me worried.

He started to shiver. I wasn't sure what to do, so I yanked the sheet off his bed and wrapped it around his shoulders; then I urged him forward, crawled behind him, and let him lean against me.

Wrapping my arms around his middle, I rocked him until the chills went away and his heart rate leveled off.

"Thanks," he whispered. "It was hotter than I thought. I went farther than I should."

Holding him in my arms, comforting him as I'd once comforted little children, changed things. I recalled all I'd ever wanted – husband, home, family. Suddenly I wanted Damien, forever.

My whole body tensed. I had to make this about sex again, so I ran my fingers through his damp, silky hair. His sigh was filled with pleasure. He turned his head and I gave him a kiss. He stiffened.

"Shh,"  I murmured against his mouth.

"I'm all sweaty, Leigh. I smell."

"I don't care." He should know what I'd been wading in an hour ago – or not. "We'll take a shower after."

"After?"

I scooted out from behind him, knelt between his legs. Then I ran my tongue over his chest. He tasted great – like a hot summer night, sand, surf, energy. My mouth moved lower.

The muscles of his stomach danced against my lips. I rubbed my face against the growing interest in his pants, then mouthed him through the black cotton.

"OK," he ground out. "Shower after."

"Glad you see things my way."

As I got to my feet I lost the boots, the knife. Walking to the bed, I lost the rest. By the time I was there, I was naked and so was he. I didn't realize until I lay on the crumpled sheets that I'd bared my back to him without a thought.

He stood next to the bed staring down at me. The expression in his eyes said he knew what that meant. I trusted him; I cared about him. I shouldn't, couldn't. But I did.

I shot up like a jack-in-the-box and took him in my mouth, drew my teeth down his length, made him forget everything but now. This was just sex. It had to be.

Once, oral sex had been more personal than intercourse. But nowadays it meant next to nothing. Thank you, Mr. President. Everyone did this, just about everywhere.

I sucked Damien hard, felt him at the back of my throat. He groaned and the sound inspired me. I grabbed his hips and pumped him back and forth, but he wouldn't let me make him come.

His hands on my shoulders held me away; then he pressed me onto the bed and covered my body with his. In the state I'd coaxed him into I expected fast and furious. What I got was a slow, gentle embrace.

He didn't plunge into me. He didn't enter me at all. Instead, he lay nestled between my legs as he ran his fingertips all over my face.

"Damien," I growled.

" Shh," he repeated. " Shh."

Then he kissed me, and he kept kissing me for a very, very long time.

There's an art to the kiss, one he'd studied well. I remembered necking in my boyfriend's car – junior year, at the park. We'd done nothing but kiss, and I'd been so turned on I could hardly sit still.

That's what I felt like when Damien kissed me. As if I'd have an orgasm just from the flicker of his tongue along the edge of mine.

I kissed him back, twined my fingers through his hair again, reveled in the taste of his mouth, the sensation of his skin, the scent of him and me together.

By the time he slipped inside, I was so wet I hardly felt him, until he flexed and I cried out, nearly orgasming at his first thrust.

"Look at me," he said. "I want to see your eyes when you come."

I didn't want to, but he stopped moving, and when I wiggled he pinned me to the mattress with his weight. My body screamed. I was on the edge of something wonderful, and all I had to do was open my eyes.

So I did.

What I saw in his made me go still. My heart thundered and my chest ached. He kissed me, long, lingering, and when he lifted his head a tear ran down my cheek.

"I didn't mean to make you cry," he whispered.

"Too late."

He licked away my tears as he had once before. I shuddered as my skin tingled from the contact. His breath brushed the wet trail, turning the tear track from hot to cold. He began to move, and as my body convulsed, so did his. We stared into each other's eyes and we knew.

This wasn't just sex anymore.

When it was over and the sweat on both our bodies had cooled, he rolled to the side, pulling me along with him. I started to get up, but he held on tight. I should leave, but having him near felt too good, too right.

He kissed my forehead and he didn't say a word.

My dreams were back – the good ones where I had five kids, a ranch house in Topeka, and a husband who came home at six. Pathetic, but that's what I'd always wanted. Since the day I'd received my first doll.

The dreams were laughable in the face of my present life. I was a werewolf hunter. I bathed in blood. I baptized by fire. I survived through the gun and the knife. But that didn't make my dreams any less real.

Damien wasn't the settling type – obviously. For reasons of his own he was a drifter and probably always would be.

But when I closed my eyes I saw little blond girls and dark-headed boys frolicking on a lawn circled by a white picket fence.

You see why I hadn't allowed myself to have sex since Jimmy had died?

For me sex was associated with love, commitment, a lifetime together. That's the way I'd been brought up. The only time I'd veered away from that path I'd brought nothing but death and destruction to everyone I loved.

Damien kissed my hair. I snuggled against his chest. What if I gave it all up and started over?

I blinked at the thought, one I'd never had before. Since Hector my life had been focused on one thing and one thing only: killing the monsters, then dying. But dying didn't hold much appeal anymore, and that had started when Damien walked into my world.

I'd have to kill Hector first, of course. I couldn't go back to a regular life when he was out there waiting for me. But once he was dead…

Anything was possible.

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