Merinus stared at him from the depths of the tub, breathing heavily, her body reacting to the fiery glitter in his slumberous eyes.

“I won’t take you again, yet,” he promised her softly. “But soon. Do you need help now getting out of the bath? I can fix you lunch before you are forced to endure Doc’s testing.”

Merinus’ eyes narrowed on him. He was commanding, forceful. She hated that in a man.

“I’m a grown woman, I think I’m capable of bathing myself,” she told him sweetly, patiently. She felt everything but patient inside.

“Merinus, while your body is demanding my touch, it is not a good idea to push me with your female stubbornness,” he warned her, male aggression stamped on his features. “I am not fully in control of myself right now. I could not promise you I would be gentle if you pushed me.”

Merinus’ lips thinned. How typically male. She opened her mouth to speak, but stayed silent as his hand rose, demanding.

“Hear me well,” he gritted out. “Finish your bath. Then come eat. Your clothes are on the bed. I have tried to tell you, I am not whatever fairy tale you have worked up in your head. At this moment I am more instinct than I am control. I am more the animal I was created with right now, Merinus. Do not push the animal, because even I cannot predict its response.”

The heavy grief in his voice silenced her anger. His eyes were filled with bleak memories, emotions she couldn’t define. But she saw the pain there. Pain and a terrible loneliness.

“I’m very independent,” she whispered. “I can’t change that. Orders don’t sit well with me.”

He shook his head. “I don’t have the patience to tamp down the beast that demands submission. For now, perhaps it would be best to control your independence in the face of something neither of us can predict. Now, once again. Do you need my help?”


“No. I think I can manage.” She couldn’t help her anger. She saw no reason for him to lose control over something as simple as allowing her choices. And she wouldn’t tolerate it for very long. Only as long as it took her to get the hell out of there.

“You’re angry.” He tilted his head, watching her with narrowed eyes. “I can smell it, Merinus. It mixes well with your lust.” He breathed in deeply as though savoring the scent.

“Why don’t you go away and let me finish my bath,” she bit out. “I didn’t ask you to come in here.”

She watched him grit his teeth.

“I would suggest wearing loose clothing, perhaps one of my shirts that I laid on the bed for you. Your skin is still sensitive, and clothing will irritate it—”

“I know how sensitive my skin is, Callan,” she informed him, fighting to keep her voice calm. “I know what my body is doing, and why. I don’t need any other explanations, all I need is privacy.”

His golden brows snapped to a frown. A rumbling growl emanated from his throat.

“And don’t do that growling thing at me.” She was tired, horny and irritated. She didn’t need any more male aggression. “Go away and leave me alone. When I’m done, I’ll find you.”

“You, Merinus Tyler, are an irksome woman,” he accused her.

“Just go ahead and say ‘bitch’, my brothers do it all the time,” she snapped back. “Now, go play Lion-O someplace else. I don’t have time for it.”

“Lion-O?” he questioned her, clearly offended at her reference to the cartoon character.

“Lion King?” she asked sweetly. “I’m not here to pamper your ego. Now leave me alone.”

She watched his fists clench. His eyes narrowed further, giving him a predatory, dangerous appearance. He opened his mouth to speak, then seemed to change his mind. He turned and stalked from the room, jerking the door open then slamming it with a bang. Merinus flinched, then clenched her thighs together. Damn it.

“I heard you were in town asking questions about Maria the other day,” Callan said as he set a cup of coffee beside her sandwich plate when she sat down at the table. “Why?”

He seemed less than pleased by the information. He sat across from her, cradling a steaming cup of coffee himself, his amber eyes watching her unblinkingly.

“She was murdered.” Merinus refused to apologize or back down. “She was special to my father, Callan. I could tell by the way he talked about her. I want to know who killed her and why.”

He was silent for long moments. Long enough for Merinus to pick up a half of the roast beef and tomato sandwich and bite into it.

“It’s none of your father’s business, nor yours,” he berated her softly as she ate. “You are once again involving yourself in a place where you shouldn’t.”

Merinus watched him carefully, gauging the tension in his body, the growl of warning in his voice.

“Did you kill the person responsible, Callan?” Merinus forced the words from her mouth, needing to know the truth. She wouldn’t blame him if he had, but she had to know. The realization of how little she knew him weighed upon her. She had spent the night in his bed, his body connected to hers, driving her to heights of pleasure she never imagined existed. She knew he had been bred to kill, but had no idea if he had crossed that line between his humanity and animal instinct.

“I don’t know who killed her, Merinus.” He shook his head wearily. “I wish I did, then I wouldn’t have to wonder anymore. And I could repay him then, in kind.”

The implication that he would kill was heavy in his voice. Merinus finished her sandwich, but her enjoyment for it had dulled somewhat.

But you suspect someone?” she asked him.

“Hell, I suspect everyone,” he bit out. “It could have been anyone. The Council is good at getting nice, ordinary folks to do their dirty work. I know, I’ve seen it done before. My list of suspects is as long as four different counties and just as wide.”

“Do you know what they were looking for? Surely Maria said something before she died?” Merinus probed cautiously, aware of the tension in his body, and the buried anger in his heart.

“What she said didn’t matter,” he finally sighed. “She didn’t name her killer, she asked for your father. I begged her to tell me who did it and she refused. She protected them, and I swear I haven’t been able to figure out yet who she was protecting.”

“Who would she have protected? Who was that close to the two of you, Callan?” she asked, fighting to keep her voice even, the suspicions concerning the killer’s identity to herself.

“We trusted no one, and those close to us couldn’t have done it. They wouldn’t have done it.” He shrugged. “Whoever it was will show themselves eventually, and when they do, I’ll be waiting.”

The finality of his voice sent a shiver down Merinus’ back. It was cold and hard and filled with menace.


“Enough questions about Maria. I’ll solve that when the times comes. How are you feeling now?

Merinus sighed roughly.

“Callan, you have to do something soon,” she whispered. “You can’t keep hiding.”

The bright, golden brown depths were filled with sadness, arousal, and regret as he watched her. His lean, tanned face was striking in its sheer maleness. His eyes, despite the dark emotions, were so beautiful they made her heart clench.

“When I can hide no more, then I’ll leave here, Merinus. It’s all I can do.” He shook his head at the futility of her argument.

“We could help you, Callan.” She tried to stem the tears, but they only fell harder as she felt her heart breaking not just for him, but for Sherra and for herself as well.

“No, Beauty.” He grinned at her, though there was no humor in his smile. “No one can save me and we both have to accept that. I’ll ensure your safety, and that of the others, but they know about me. There is no safety for me.”

“But Callan—” He stood from the table, halting her words.

“If you’re finished eating, then I promised Sherra I would bring you to her. They need those samples and I need you soon before I die.”

He pulled her from her chair, his lips going to hers, his tongue swirling into her mouth. Merinus groaned. The kiss was hot, so tempting, his taste alone enough to nearly make her peak.

“I wanted you for lunch,” he whispered as he nibbled her lips. “Right across the table, Merinus, with my head buried between your thighs. Your taste is enough to make me drunk.” His teeth scraped her neck, his hand roaming beneath the dark blue, soft shirt he had loaned her. His hands clenched on her buttocks, parting the flesh, his fingers tucking into the crevice as he pulled her closer. Merinus gripped his shoulders, moaning low and deep as his mouth whispered over her skin, moist and hot. Then he was kissing her again, drawing her tongue into his mouth, possessing her, making the heat in her body rise, the need between her thighs pulsate.

“Callan.” Sherra spoke behind him, her voice firm. “We’re waiting on her.”

He raised his head, staring down at Merinus while she shivered in his arms.

“Hurry, Sherra,” he warned the other woman as he let Merinus go slowly, reluctantly. “I’ll wait up here for her.”

“Come on, Merinus. It shouldn’t take us long,” Sherra promised, casting Callan an impatient look. Merinus sighed. “Damn it. Sex wasn’t supposed to be this complicated.” But she followed the other woman anyway, determined to hurry and get it over with, and get back to Callan’s arms.


By the time the tests were completed, Merinus was nearly in pain, the arousal was hitting her so hard again. She could feel the moisture glazing her inner thighs, the heat and need building in her cunt like a volcano preparing to erupt. The pressure was tremendous. But on top of that was another problem. As hours ticked by, Sherra and the doctor both began to wear steadily on her nerves. Or more to the point, the touch of their hands, even protected by the latex gloves, did. It made her literally sick to her stomach, made her skin crawl, made her want to shrink from them as they came near her. She couldn’t fully explain the sensation, even to herself. She knew though, if she had to tolerate one more minute of it, she was going to be sick. And she needed Callan. She was desperate to touch him, to feel the incredible warmth of his skin, his hands stroking over her. She was cold, aching, frightened.

“No more tests,” she informed them as she dressed, buttoning Callan’s shirt with shaking fingers over the throbbing mounds of her breasts. “I can’t stand it anymore.”

“The tests are necessary, Merinus,” Sherra told her with a sigh.

“Look, I cannot fucking tolerate being touched anymore,” she snapped, almost in tears, her skin still crawling from the sensation of someone’s hands, other than Callan’s on her. “Do you understand me?”

Shock crossed Sherra’s expression, bemusement filled the doctor’s.

“How do you mean, Merinus?” Sherra’s voice stayed soothing, but Merinus heard the confusion in her voice.

“Just what I said.” Merinus fought her tears. “Where’s Callan? He was supposed to come for me.”

She had to find him. Her body was going crazy, rioting. Tiny fingers of sensation were washing over her skin, leaving her shuddering, shaking.

“Callan’s upstairs, just as he promised he would be.” Sherra reached out to touch her, but Merinus jumped back, flinching away from the contact. “Merinus, something else is evidently happening. You have to let us help you.”

“Get away from me.” Merinus shook her head.

“Sherra, get Callan down here,” Doctor Martin had watched the byplay silently, but his voice now became commanding. “Get him down here quickly.”

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