Slumped against the wall, separated from her mate, so did she. Fitfully.

* * *

Kalen was holding her. Stroking her hair. Placing kisses on top of her head. "This is nice," he murmured.

"Yes, it is."

He paused, and she sensed he had more to say.

"This is good, isn't it? Me, holding you?"

He sounded so uncertain, and yet hopeful; her heart swelled. "It definitely is," she said, hugging him. "Why wouldn't it be?"

"This is new to me. Holding someone, being held." His voice resonated a note of wonder.

"Then you've missed out on a lot."

"I'm beginning to see that," he said softly.

A subtle shift was happening between them. Then, gradually . . . comfort became something more. They didn't have to be alone and afraid. They'd begun to bond tonight over a shared terror, and now that connection solidified as he held her against his heart. Tilted her face up to his.

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And placed the sweetest of kisses on her lips. He started slowly, one nibble at a time. Paused in between, giving her the chance to put out the flame that had been kindled between them. But she wanted him every bit as much, wasn't about to say no.

Sitting up, he pulled her into his lap. They were both still dressed in their jeans, but situated like this, she had no trouble discerning the erection pressing against her bottom. She wiggled against the hardness, wanting more.

"You're trying to kill me."

"Far from it." Sitting up, she pulled her shirt over her head, baring herself to his gaze. From the sliver of light filtering through the part in the curtains, she could see his green eyes glittering with desire. With need. But also with uncertainty.

"I've never done this before."

"Had sex?" She found that difficult to believe.

"Made love," he whispered. "With someone I care about."

Sweet man. "It's fantastic. Like nothing else you'll ever feel."

"Tell me what you want." Reaching out, he caressed her cheek. "I have to hear it."

"Make love to me. Give me everything."

Capturing her lips again, he lowered her to the bed. Kissed her thoroughly for several long moments. He had the best mouth and he knew how to use it-as he proved by nibbling his way down her throat, teeth scraping. Long ones.

"Are you using your panther teeth?"

"Mmm."

She gasped as one canine grazed a tender nipple. "I'll take that as a yes."

His mouth latched on to the nub, suckling, and she moaned, burying her fingers in his long hair as she'd itched to do for weeks. The black mass was as silky as it looked, thick and just right to get a good grip. She enjoyed the feel of it as much as she loved him lavishing attention on her nipples.

He moved south, kissing her belly. When he moved lower, she had to relinquish her hold on his mane, and whimpered in protest.

"You don't want this?" he teased, settling between her thighs. "You said to give you everything."

"And I meant it. I just love my hands in your hair."

He looked pleased. "Well, you can have it back in a few minutes. Promise."

Unzipping her jeans, he worked them down and off, along with her panties. Pushing her knees apart, he lowered his head. Flicked out his tongue and lapped at her clit. With a sigh of pleasure, she spread for him as wide as possible. It had been much too long, and she wanted Kalen to have her. Like this, or any way he desired.

His mouth was every bit as talented in this area, too. He licked her folds, delved his tongue in between to fuck her channel slowly. Driving her mad. Then he'd withdraw and suckle the little clit, taking her to the edge. And withdraw again. Lick and suckle. Over and over until she was mindless, writhing.

"Oh, God!"

"What do you want, honey?"

"Fuck me," she begged. "I need you."

He didn't require further encouragement and shed his jeans quickly. Crawling over her, he settled between her legs, placed the head of his cock to her opening. Pushed inside.

There, in the darkness, they came together.

Rocking his hips, he began to move inside her. Deep, to the hilt, and out again. Slow and easy, stoking the fire once again, searing her to the depths of her soul. She buried her fingers in his hair again, watched his face as he made love to her. The pupils of his eyes had gone elliptical and smoldered with passion. The muscles of his shoulders bunched and his fangs protruded as he panted with each thrust, the disk of his pendant hanging from his neck, resting between her breasts.

"Harder," she urged. "Faster."

Increasing the tempo, he did as she asked, moaning. Driving them higher. She knew he was close when he gathered her to his chest, hips pumping furiously. She clung to his back, her own release building until-

She shattered with a cry, pulsing around his length. Her release triggered his and he came with a hoarse shout, sinking himself as deeply as possible. He stayed there, convulsing, holding her close, until at last they were spent. Then a bit longer as they came down from the high, kissing the curve of her neck.

"Thank you," he whispered.

* * *

Mac came awake slowly. It took her a moment to realize she was still lying on the floor in the corridor of Block R-and that someone had placed her on a cot and put a pillow under her head. She was grateful for the kindness.

It took her another moment to realize that her sex was wet and warm, and she squirmed in discomfort. Lord, she hoped she hadn't been dreaming out loud! Twisting, she saw A.J. sitting a few feet away, resting against the wall with his eyes closed, rifle propped beside him. He didn't know she was awake yet, so she settled again to let herself wake up.

She'd been dreaming of Kalen. Of their first time making love, in the Wall-Banger Motel, right after the Sluagh had attacked them outside the Cross-eyed Grizzly. That was when they'd made their child together, and no matter what happened, she could never regret it.

Tears pricked her eyes and she finally sat up, searching the inside of Kalen's cell. He was lying on the bare mattress, asleep, his chest rising and falling slowly. He looked alone and forlorn. It was so far from the beautiful memory of their first lovemaking, and all the times they'd been together since then, that it made her ache inside.

A.J.'s low voice broke through her sorrow. "You've both been out for a while."

"What time is it?"

"Two in the morning."

"I'm sorry," she said contritely. "I didn't mean to keep you here this late. I know you're ready to fall into your own bed."

He shrugged. "Got nobody in my bed to make it worthwhile, so I'm just as good staying here, guarding you and Kalen."

She was touched. "Thank you."

"No problem." They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, watching Kalen. "Melina and Noah brought you the cot and pillow. Said to tell you that Nix is gonna be fine. He's dehydrated and traumatized, but nowhere near as bad as the shape Micah was in when he was found. He was cracking lame jokes in the emergency room, trying to take the edge off the emotional situation."

She smiled in spite of everything. "That sounds like Nix. He reminds me a lot of Aric."

A.J. snorted. "God help us all, then."

"Not with the snark, necessarily. He's got a quick wit that's cutting like Aric's, but he's funny at the same time. He's got the most generous soul of anyone I've ever met, and that's saying a lot considering everyone in the Pack. And he's a notorious womanizer, too. As soon as he's healed, I'm sure he'll round up all the single guys and head to Vegas to party."

"I'll be sure not to miss that trip." He winked at her, and she laughed.

"So, no special lady for you? A.J.'s not going to be the next bachelor to fall?"

"Not on your life," he said with a cocky smile. "I've seen what true luuuv does to you guys, and you're all insane. I'll pass, thanks."

"Hmm. He doth protest too much."

"Say that with a mouthful of crackers."

She giggled. She hadn't really gotten to know A.J. before, and she found she liked him. He was good company, if a bit taciturn sometimes. Though he certainly wasn't being that way right now, with her.

A low growl caught their attention, and she looked through the bars to see Kalen glaring at A.J. Pushing from the bed, he stalked forward, a bit awkwardly with his hands bound behind his back. Wincing, she hoped his shoulders weren't too strained from sleeping like that.

He walked up to the bars, leaning his chest against them. His eyes never left the other male's. "Mine."

Mac's breath caught. If he was aware enough to reassert his claim on her to the other man, then there was hope she could reach him. "Yes, mate," she said softly. "I'm yours."

His green gaze went to hers, and she saw that his eyes were no longer the slitted ones of his cat. They were no longer feral, but sad. "My mate."

"Yours."

"Need you."

"I'm sorry, but you can't let him out," A.J. told her. "You can't trust him yet."

The knowledge scored her heart. "I need you too," she said, her voice catching. "But you have to stay there for now."

"Need you," he repeated plaintively.

But the battle in his soul still raged. Though there were no outward signs of anger, she could tell by his difficulty forming his thoughts into words that he was struggling. He still wasn't "all there" and she couldn't risk herself, their child, or the others.

"You'll have me soon. I'm here."

"Stay?"

"I will, promise."

"What's happening to me?" he whispered. "Why am I here?"

She bit her lip to keep from bawling. The good side of him had battled to the surface and couldn't understand. When he'd lost it at that research facility, the rush of darkness had been too much. It had damaged something inside him, and she prayed he could recover.

"You're not well, love. We're trying to help you, but you have to try hard, too. Do you understand?"

"No. I want out."

"I'm sorry."

Head hanging, he slid to the floor and rested his head against the bars. He didn't move again for a long time.

Mac sat on her cot and cried, hot, silent tears of misery.

* * *

The cold bars of the cell pressed into Kalen's forehead. He sat still and tried to understand what was going on. Struggled to remember.

Why was he locked away like an animal? What had he done?

Flashes of memory assaulted him, but they were from other times, long past. Bad nights when he sold his body for a few dollars or a crummy meal. That was awful, but nobody had been hurt. Well, nobody but himself.

That wasn't why he was here. And where was this?

The compound. Right. Block R, where Nick put the creatures who were almost beyond hope. Almost.

He scoured his brain. Where had he been tonight? Or last night? Something about a mission. A research facility . . .

You did well, my boy. I am very proud of your progress.

"What?" he rasped. "What did I do?"

You defeated my Sluagh, and while that is inconvenient for me, it is important training for you, son. You killed dozens of them and allowed the true predator in you to take over. The bloodlust became one with your soul, and you turned your rage on the one called Hunter.

"Ryon?" Sweet Jesus, no. "I killed him?"

If not for the untimely intervention of those meddling dogs, you would have. The war is near, and when the hour comes, you'll help me destroy them all.

"No. I won't do it."

You will, and you will revel in their blood. Remember the pleasure of bathing in it, boy? Of feasting on your kill? That can be yours, always. You and I will rule, father and son. No one will stand against us.