Guy threw a log on the fire. He couldn’t catch a clear thought, partly because he hadn’t slept all night and partly from the pack of beers he’d consumed. He’d felt trapped all day as pack ladies brought food and sympathy. Animal Control had taken his dad’s body. Guy had barely stopped himself from demanding his return. He had to trust that Will would get him back as soon as the bullet was removed for forensics. Guy had lost his mother years ago from an illness that even her wolf side couldn’t defeat. It had been hard to watch, but at least he’d had the chance to say good-bye. When was the last time he’d hugged his dad, said “I love you”? He couldn’t remember.
He’d visited his grandmother at first light, a little put off by the covered mirrors and metal surfaces, an old tradition to prevent seeing the ghost of a loved one. The idea of seeing his dad as a mere reflection in a mirror freaked him out more than a little. But his grandmother was a seer and an elder in the pack; she had lived through many deaths in her lifetime. She’d taken Guy’s hands and brought them to her lined cheeks for a caress. He’d wanted to be a man and not cry in front of the tall, proud woman, but her gentleness broke him. She brushed away his tears with her thumb and nodded in understanding, as she’d done when his mother had died years ago.
“Guyasuta, those you need for comfort are coming for you.”
Her lips had quirked up in a faint smile. “You will meet when the time is right.”
Guy rolled his eyes. She’d done this to him many times during his childhood, foretelling how his dates would go or when the ice-cream truck would arrive. She hadn’t told him when his mother would die. Had she foreseen his father’s death? “You won’t tell me more?”
“It is not clear yet.”
She’d patted his cheek. “Just remember that drowning in alcohol will not make the pain go away. You must live through it and accept it.”
Guy had scowled as he left. No way in hell would he accept this. Someone would die for this.
At home he paced the well-worn planks of his floor, as he had for the past hour. The fire crackled in the huge fireplace, which marked the back wall of the original cabin before he’d added on to it. The main room was now three times the original size, an open floor plan, with an updated kitchen to one side. The bar blocked the sink from view and was lined with a couple of bar stools for knocking back beers with Nootau. A root cellar remained under the pantry, gone out of use with the advent of refrigeration. Nearby was the trestle table with heavy planks the same color as the cabin walls, a rich, aged black.
He thought about turning on the TV, but that would just add noise to his discontent. He wished the chief had summoned him to meet with the elders. He knew they were discussing the murders and how to handle things. They could no longer remain aloof to the human crimes. They’d have to take action. And that was what Guy wanted: action.
He could feel the call of the moon through thick wood shingles and dense snow. Tomorrow it would be full, but that didn’t matter to his wolf. Tonight was close enough. God, he wanted to get out of here, but for now he stayed near the phone, waiting for more information from Nootau and Will. The chief had sent Nootau to town to learn more about the couple asking about his dad. Town gossip meant that they’d known about the strangers as soon as they’d arrived.
Guy normally loved his cabin, its solidity in the face of a changing world, but right now it felt like the walls were collapsing in on him.
When there was a soft tap on his door, Guy assumed it was another of the pack ladies with casseroles and wool socks and sweaters. Apparently grieving made you cold and hungry. Another tap. He swung open the door, and her scent caught him unprepared. Oh God, she smelled like...vanilla and snow and French fries. Her cheeks were bright pink from the frigid air. She hugged her arms around her as tight as a corset to supplement her thin jacket. He doubted that was helping much, but it was emphasizing the curves of her breasts. He wanted to slide that jacket down her arms and pull her to him. He flashed back to the last time he’d done that. The result: a kick of desire in his gut.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” Olivia asked, stomping the snow off her way-too-thin sneakers.
He opened the door wider and allowed her to pass before it occurred to him that this was a bad idea. He wasn’t exactly safe to be around at the moment. He could barely rein in the wolf’s energy, which set his skin afire and made him...hungry. For Olivia.
She kicked her wet sneakers onto the bristly mat to the right of the door. Her socks were as thin as paper, and her lips were pale from the cold. She shivered as she stood there, giving him an odd look. He wanted to engulf her in his arms, press her to him, and envelop her with his body heat. He remembered how she’d felt as a teenager. She had a lot more interesting curves now.
Needing to get as far away from her as possible, Guy backed up to the dining table and picked up a pair of socks. “Here.”
“I don’t need your socks.”
“They’re wool.” He gestured to the table. “As you can see, I have no shortage.”
“Good Lord. Did you clean out Walmart or something?”
The hard lava of his cheeks cracked as a smile fought through. “No, my aunts have been busy.”
“Ah.” She snatched the socks from his hands, and the graze of her fingers told him her hands were frozen as well. She walked over to the leather ottoman by the fire and slipped off her coat.
“Don’t you own any decent winter clothes?” He stayed near the table, several feet away, but her scent remained in his nostrils, and he could hear her breathing slow in response to the return of a comfortable temperature.
“Not anymore. I live in Florida now, remember?”
“Right.” It had said so on her business card. His skin felt stretched and itchy. He crossed the floor in a bound, causing Olivia to lean back on the ottoman. It was more than her scent; it was like arms reaching out to encircle him. He sat down next to her, his thigh touching hers, his hands on her knee. “Why did you come here?”
She gulped and turned toward him. “The...the body. The sheriff said there was a body...”
Grief seeped back into his skin, and he felt like he couldn’t breathe. He squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated on all the scents surrounding Olivia--smoke from the fire, dampness on her coat, minty breaths. Desire, invited or not, was better than desolation, though far more dangerous. He opened his eyes and examined the color of Olivia’s irises. Sky blue with flecks of navy. She returned his gaze and didn’t protest as he rubbed her arms, warming them. There was a flicker in her eyes, and her heart started to race; she was responding to him.
Dangerous, Guy. Too dangerous.
Olivia was off-limits for so many reasons.
“Um, the sheriff, he ransacked my hotel room and said Amy was ‘a person of interest,’ but he wouldn’t tell me who the body was or what it had to do with Amy.” She kept her voice level, but there was a touch of panic in its tone. For Amy? “Plus I got this postcard saying Amy was in danger.”
Guy looked down at her rosy lips and couldn’t look away. She bit the lower one, and it came back glossy and full. Her mouth was open just the tiniest bit, perfect to slip his tongue in and taste her.
He hopped to his feet and stalked to the cave of a window. It was a hole carved out of the logs, so deep that the leaded glass couldn’t be seen unless one stood right in front of it. The window revealed nothing, since the snow had piled on the log ledge, obliterating the view. But at least it was cooler here. He inhaled and tasted twilight. “It’s getting dark. You shouldn’t be here.”
“I’m not leaving until you answer some questions. You’re not toting a gun, so you can’t stonewall me the way the sheriff did.”
A gun? She was scared of a gun? She had no idea what he could do to her--rip her open like a deer, spill her red blood onto the snow. Prey. He shoved his hands in his pockets, anything to keep from moving closer and grabbing her. He unclenched his teeth enough to ask, “What questions?”
“Well, the obvious one: who’s the victim? What does he or she have to do with Amy?”
He pulled a hand out of his pocket and rubbed his chin. God, it was rough. He needed to shave. Tomorrow maybe. He turned toward her. “The face was badly beaten, but by the size, the clothes, and the fact that he’s missing, they’re pretty sure it’s Edward Corning.”
Olivia’s eyes filled with understanding and horror. Guy had heard the rumors in school, and Amy herself had hinted at it the couple of times they’d gone out casually. All he knew for sure was that “Uncle” Eddie had lived with the Harrises for about a year, and then, overnight, he was gone.
Olivia looked down at her twisting fingers. “After all these years, why would they think Amy had anything to do with him?”
Guy shook his head. “I’ve heard they had a rip-roaring fight on the church steps the other day.”
“I have no idea.”
“When did he come back?”
Guy risked breathing again and moved closer to the fire. This conversation would temper his raging lust. “He’s been back about a year, supposedly a changed man, going to church and all.” He grinned. “Mary Ellen said he and Amy had a stare-off the one day he’d risked coming into the Dairy. He hasn’t been in since, she said.” He sat down on his grandma’s oak rocker, a present when he’d taken over as caretaker, the wood worn like a glove in the seat. He sighed. “I think he’s in charge of one of the Sunday school classes.”
“God. You’d think the rumors and long memories here would keep him away from jobs with children. Pastor John must know what he did.”
“Like I said, ‘a changed man, God in his heart,’ and all that. And Pastor John retired. The new man of the cloth is much younger and from out of town. Show me the postcard.” She handed it to him. He examined the block lettering. Postmarked Devona. “Very strange.” He handed it back as he started to feel that moon itchiness again.
Olivia clapped her hands together. “So are you going to offer me coffee or a beer or something?”
Guy hopped up, but not to head to the kitchen. He pointed to the window. “Don’t you want to get back to town before this gets really bad?”
Olivia stood and, for a moment, thought he could be the murderer, but that made no sense. She knew Guy, or thought she did. He was a good man. “Jeez, not very hospitable, are you?”
“It’s just better if you leave.” His face had been hard when she’d arrived, like there was some unknown emotion scarring it, but it had loosened up as they talked. Now it had returned to granite.
Well, if she’d had any hope of a little fling with Guy while she was up here, that quelled the idea. Not that she’d had the idea. She’d been over her crush for years. She needed to find Amy, fix her problem, and catch the next plane south. No time for personal entanglements. It was just that since she’d seen Guy at the lumberyard, she couldn’t get him out of her mind. And her body...well, it seemed more alive than it had been in months. When she got back to Florida, she’d need to spend some time taking in the nightlife, put herself out there more so she could meet someone. It was her own fault that she spent so much time alone.
He’d opened the door and looked out, but now he was frowning. “Shit.”
“What?” She was still sock-footed, so he couldn’t push her out the door that fast. She followed his gaze and saw...gray, and she could only see that because of the powerful barn and house lights. “Shit.” It wasn’t that the snow had accumulated that much--probably an inch or two of fresh stuff--but the wind had picked up, blowing the devilish ice crystals everywhere.
“And you’re driving that low-to-the-ground rental car. Does it have winter tires on it, at least?” Normal New York conversation, but Guy’s eyes looked intense, like there was a more compelling reason for her to leave than the snow.
“Um, maybe?” she said to keep it light, but Guy’s knuckles were white from holding the door too tight, and his other hand shook as he brushed back his hair. A few stray flakes settled, then melted on his face, leaving tiny drops that Olivia wanted to lick off. Okay, where had that thought come from? She forced herself to look away. “Well, you’re right. I should head out. It’s not too deep yet, so I won’t have to worry about getting stuck in any drifts.”
Guy shut the heavy door against the cold and leaned back, shoving his hands in his pockets. His chest moved with his breath as if he’d just completed a long run. “I could drive you to town with the truck.” Not that he sounded happy with the idea.
Olivia shook her head. “No. Then I’ll be stuck without a car, and I want to keep looking for Amy.”
“I can pick you up in the morning to come get your car.”
“Once I get off your road, it won’t be that bad. Well plowed, I’m sure.” She reached for her still-damp sneakers and walked over to the half-log bench at the trestle table to put them on. She tried not to think about the deep ditches on either side of Guy’s unlit, narrow road.
“And you don’t even have boots.” His hand was out of his pocket and through his hair again, leaving odd little peaks that somehow made him look sexier.
“The car has a very nice heater.” She didn’t know why she was arguing with the truck idea. It was sensible. Maybe it was that he seemed so unwilling; she didn’t want to obligate him to come get her in the morning. Shoes on, she popped up, grabbed her coat, and walked to the door, which he still blocked with his large body. “Seriously, there’s not much on the ground if I leave now. No problem.”
He shook his head slowly, his jaw clamped, his eyes looking over her head instead of at her, his hands jammed in his pockets again. He certainly didn’t look like he was going to move.
Olivia took a step forward and reached for the door handle just below his elbow. She hoped ingrained manners would get him to move to the side. His hand flashed out and grabbed her forearm.
Jeez, maybe she should revisit the murderer idea.
“You have to leave.” His voice was like grinding stone.
She rolled her eyes as she looked down at his hand on her arm. “Then you have to move out of my way.”
“Leave, dammit.” But now he gripped her shoulders with both his hands to the point of pain, and something happened with his eyes.
Olivia blinked, and Guy’s eyes seemed normal again, but his thighs pressed against hers, making her stumble backward, toward the table. He didn’t loosen his grip, and Olivia abandoned her protest because of her sudden awareness of Guy’s muscular thighs, warm hands, and musky scent. Why was he saying one thing so passionately but doing the exact opposite, like his body was possessed? One minute his piercing gaze set her body on fire, the next he stared over her head as if he couldn’t look at her.
When her butt hit the edge of the table, she squeaked. “Um, if you want me to leave, you’re walking me in the wrong direction.” Her body didn’t want to leave, despite his alarming behavior. Her body wanted to strip naked and writhe underneath him.
Well, there was no doubt about his intent as he spread her thighs around his waist, pushed her down to the table, and overwhelmed her with his hard body--hard being the operative word. The memory of the party--the memory of her first orgasm--hit her full force, with all the sensory detail from his body back then, his kindness, his hot kisses. But this man was rough as he unsnapped and unzipped her jeans. He didn’t seem concerned with her state of arousal; he was ready to go. Thing was, that turned her on even more. She wanted to be taken; she wanted to receive the brunt of his uncontrollable desire.
But he hadn’t even kissed her yet.
She wanted to let him drag her jeans to her knees, rip away her panties, strip her just enough to fuck her. She wanted to give in to his intensity and get swept away in sensation alone, but there was no tenderness. No, that wasn’t it. She didn’t expect tenderness in a night of hot sex, but she did expect connection, and there was some sort of disconnect here. This was not the man she’d talked to at the lumberyard today, and he certainly wasn’t the college boy she’d known long ago. When he slipped one hand under her shirt and bra to play with her nipples, his eyes met hers and took her breath away. But a second later, he looked beyond her, and he tightened his grip on her breast and forced her against the table, the old wood too solid to break and his body too rigid to give way. He twisted her nipples to the point of pain, but she found that made her hotter.
Why didn’t he kiss her?
He slid a hand--she’d lost track of which hand was where--into her pants, under her panties, and with his calloused fingers, rubbed her clit unrelentingly until it was slick and humming. He slid his hand farther, until his palm skimmed her clit, and he shoved his finger into her hole. She closed her eyes and thought about the past, about humping his leg, not knowing what she was doing, just losing herself in pleasure. With his free hand, he started to yank down her jeans, and she so wanted to let him strip her naked, but she grabbed his wrist. This had gone far enough.
“Look, this is nice and all, but I think I better leave now.”
For a second, it seemed like he didn’t hear her, but then he froze. “I don’t know what I’m doing.” His breathing was so ragged he could barely get the words out. “Your smell...God, your smell...”
It sounded like an insult, but since he still had his fingers in her wet pussy, rubbing her G-spot, she didn’t think it was. “Just let me up now, okay?”
But then his eyes turned amber, and she felt a surge of energy that increased the sensitivity of every nerve in her body. His skin was on fire, as if a sun had exploded inside him. She rethought her protest. Her pants were gone, and his were following suit. She couldn’t walk away from this; her need was too great. Every one of his fingers was inside her, thrusting hard, the friction of his palm making her clit oversensitive. She wanted to tell him to stop, to remove his hand, but she wanted him to continue, to make her come, her juices soaking his skin, his fingers feeling the pulsing through her hole. She moaned.
“Kiss me,” she demanded breathlessly, hoping to connect with the real Guy, to feel like he was aware of who she was and not just someone to fuck.