As she turned to leave, a worried-looking Jax entered quietly. "I'll sit with him for a while, if you don't mind."

"Of course not." She touched his arm. "I'll be back later."

Aric was next, and true to form, he bitched the entire time she was cleaning and stitching his scrapes and slices. God bless Rowan for being around to tame the fiery wolf, because if he belonged to Mac, she'd end up smothering him in his sleep. She was more than glad to send him on his merry way.

Hammer was the complete opposite. The big, bald man was a huge teddy bear. A gentle giant among men to his friends, but a deadly fighter in the field. She'd known him for only a few months, since he'd joined the Pack with Nick, but she adored the guy. He took his doctoring without a cross word, unlike most of his buddies. When she was finished, he thanked her shyly and was gone.

That left a certain Sorcerer to see about. When she entered his exam room, she found him lying on his side facing the door, the table barely long enough or wide enough to accommodate him. His duster and shirt had been placed over a chair in the corner, and he wore only his dark jeans, which where stained even darker with blood.

He must've heard her come in, as his eyes fluttered open. "Hey, baby. Fancy meeting you here."

"Ha-ha, real funny. What am I going to do with you, stubborn Sorcerer?"

"Keep me?"

"I'll think about it." Her gaze found the ragged wounds on his side. "Those are some nasty souvenirs you've got there. Why don't I clean and dress those, then take you to my quarters to recover?"

He perked up considerably. "Best idea I've heard all day." He tried to sit up, but she moved over to him quickly.

"No. Stay like you are. It will be easier to get to the wounds this way."


Settling on his good side, he gave himself over to her care. After fetching the alcohol and some wipes, Mac began to clean the scored flesh. The tears were too uneven to stitch, but thankfully, they'd already started to heal. Next she retrieved some gauze, bandages, and tape, and helped him to sit up.

"Help me hold this," she said, placing several large gauze pads over the abused skin. He did, and she took the roll of bandages and began to wrap his torso. As she worked, she eyed the pendant dangling attractively on his smooth chest. "Thought that thing was supposed to protect you from evil."

"Yeah, but not so much from stupidity."

Mac couldn't help but laugh, and he joined her. Kalen didn't joke around much, and she loved how his eyes lit up on those rare occasions.

"I take it I'm going to live?"

"You are," she assured him. "Let me see who's going to monitor Zan tonight and then we'll get out of here, with any luck."

"Wait-what's wrong with Zan?" he asked in concern.

Quickly, she gave him the rundown on the Healer's condition, something she couldn't have done in the human world. But HIPAA didn't amount to shit when the compound and everyone in it didn't technically exist.

"Damn," he said, sobering. "I hope he's going to be okay."

"He should be, but another head trauma like that one could cause serious complications." She patted Kalen's bare shoulder. "Hold on, I'll be right back."

She went in search of Melina, who assured her that she and Noah would split the night into two shifts and check on Zan. Mac could "nurse" her man tonight and take duty tomorrow night if the Healer hadn't been released by then. Grateful, Mac returned to Kalen.

"I'm clear. Ready?"

"Just a sec." Reaching behind his neck, he unclasped the pendant and walked to Mac, fastening it around hers once more. "There. Now I'm ready."

Having possession of the blessed disk again brought back the horrid dream she'd had about Malik a short time ago-and Malik's equally horrible revelation. Guilt speared her anew at keeping it from Kalen, but he didn't need that stress on top of everything else he was facing. Later, she'd tell him of the nightmare.

On the way back to her apartment, they met up with Ryon. The blond waved at Kalen and they stopped.

"Hey, you all right?" the wolf asked Kalen.

"Yeah, I'll live." The Sorcerer looked uncomfortable. "Listen, I've been meaning to talk to you, but there hasn't been a good time."

"What about?" He eyed Kalen curiously.

"I have a confession to make. It's about what happened in the dining room."

Ryon frowned. "The dining room? Oh. You mean when that spirit attacked me. What about it?"

"I caused it," Kalen confessed, looking ashamed. "It was me."

"What?" Ryon glanced between Mac and Kalen. "How?"

"With my magic. I'm so sorry."

His jaw dropped. "Are you shitting me? Why would you do something like that?"

"I gave in to Malik's influence. He wanted me to practice honing my darkness. I'm so sorry."

"Christ, that's jacked up." Ryon ran a hand down his face.

"I know. Please, forgive me. I'm trying so hard to beat this thing, but it's not easy. For what it's worth, I'm trying and I really am sick about what I did to you."

Ryon fell silent for a minute, visibly struggling with accepting the apology. But then he sighed, relaxing some. "Accepted. I appreciate you telling me. But if it happens again, to me or anyone else, and I find out it was you, I'll kick your ass."

"Fair enough."

After shaking Kalen's hand, Ryon went on his way, strolling as though he didn't have a care. Mac stared after him for a moment, thinking he was a good guy. He deserved a fabulous woman. But then, all of the guys did.

She turned back to Kalen. "I know that wasn't easy. I'm proud of you."

"It wasn't, but it needed to be done."

They continued in companionable silence to her quarters, Kalen sans his shredded T-shirt, his leather duster slung over one arm. When she let them in to her comfy apartment, he laid the coat over a chair.

"Is there a story behind that thing?" she asked curiously. "You never go anywhere without it."

"Everything has a story," he replied with a small grin. "I won it in a poker game on my twenty-first birthday. Took it right off a rich dude's back after I laid down a royal flush. Only time in my life I ever wished I'd bet more."

"What would he have gotten if you had lost?"

"Me in his bed for the night." His smile turned sad. "I didn't have anything else to wager."

She wanted to cry for the lost young man he'd been. "But you're a Sorcerer. Why didn't you just use your magic to win? To get whatever you wanted or needed out of life?"

"Because I'm many things, plenty of them not good, but I'm not a cheater, baby. My grandma raised me better. Besides, if I had given in to that temptation every time I was in a tough spot, I'd be just as selfish and evil as Malik by now."

"I'm sorry," she said contritely.

"Don't be. It's a perfectly understandable question anyone would ask." Closing the distance between them, he pulled her flush against his hard body. "What matters is that I survived. I'm here now, and this ass belongs to you."

A delicious little thrill zinged through her, arousing her past the point of no return. She had zero willpower where her mate was concerned. "Is that so? You won't mind if I take advantage of an injured man?"

He took her lips in a passionate kiss that left her breathless. "If you don't take advantage of me and fast, the disappointment might set back my recovery."

"Well, we can't have that!"

Taking her mate's hand, she led him into her bedroom. Right where she wanted him. They stood looking at each other for several heartbeats. The desire building, the flames banking. His gaze was hot, full of need, making her feel like the most beautiful and desired woman in the world.

"I'm so sorry about how our last time together ended. I stormed out without trying to understand your side, letting you explain-"

"Shh. It's over, sweetheart. My mate. Let's move on, together."

"I can't think of anything I'd love more." She paused, took a breath. "I want you to claim me again. This time because we both want it."

"Oh, God, Mackenzie," he whispered. "Yes."

His hands shook a little as he reached out, began to unfasten her blouse. He unwrapped her as though she were a precious treasure, let the material drop to the floor, and removed her bra next. For several seconds he simply stared at her, such raw emotion etched on his face.

"Never have I had anyone of my own. Nobody who was just mine and mine alone to cherish . . . and to love."

"Kalen," she began, eyes stinging with tears of joy.

"Let me love you. And not just with my body-I mean let me love you. Please. I need you."

"You have me," she said, her voice breaking.

Scooping her up, he placed her on the bed and shed his jeans and underwear. The emotion between them was so intense, she could tell this time would be much different than the last. Before, the sex was hot, raw, carnal. She'd almost combusted.

This time her mate was going to make love to her, lavish on her all the love he'd been longing to give his entire life. And she would love him back, as he deserved.

Crawling over her body, he lowered himself onto her, careful not to squash her, and kissed her so gently, the tears finally spilled over. He licked them from the corners of her eyes, shushing her softly, whispering sweet words she didn't quite catch but grasped the meaning of anyway.

Then he moved lower, paying homage to every inch of her skin. He nibbled the sensitive spot behind her ear, her neck, and her collarbone. Next, he suckled her nipples, tightening them to rigid peaks. Played with them until she moaned, needing much more attention in other places, too.

He was happy to oblige, trailing his tongue down her abdomen, tickling her belly button and making her laugh. Laughter during sex, who'd have thought? But what was happening between them tonight transcended sex-this was a sharing of bodies, connecting souls. Why shouldn't it be an occasion of joy?

Then he crouched between her legs, spread her thighs wider, baring her sex to him. She'd never been ashamed of her body, but this openness, the ease she felt with him, was unlike any relationship before him. This man was hers.

Cupping his hands under her bottom, he raised her some and began to feast on her pussy. Every cell in her body came alive, singing at his attentions. This was her mate, pleasuring his woman as no one else had the right to do, ever again. His possession nearly tipped her too far over the edge. As though he sensed how near she was to release, he grinned and lowered her to the bed.

"Not so fast, baby. Gonna make you come on my cock."

"Yes, please!"

Moving over her again, he placed the head of his hard cock at her entrance and began to ease inside. He impaled her slowly, and it felt so damned good. He was the perfect fit, stretching and filling her so she was nearly incoherent with pleasure. Then he began to slide in and out, stroking her inner walls, and she clung to him. Let him sweep her away in glorious waves of delight that drove her higher.

"I love you, Mackenzie," he said softly, holding her close. Thrusting his cock slow and deep. "God, how I love you."

"I love you, too. Have since the minute I saw you."

"Baby . . ."

His thrusts increased in speed bit by bit. His breathing came harsher as he picked up the tempo. Then he gathered her in his arms, and not breaking their connection, pulled them into a sitting position with Mac on his lap.

"Ride me just like this, sweetheart," he breathed. "Fuck me like this."


She took the lead, clinging to his shoulders as she bounced on his lap. Fucked him with enthusiasm, spiraling them toward the inevitable climax.