Marguerite sighed heavily as she walked alone in the zoo, watching the animals play together or rest. Three days had gone by without a single word from Wren. Worse, her father had called two hours ago to yell at her about Blaine's arrest and pending trial. Apparently neither Blaine nor his father had bothered to inform him just who Wren really was-Blaine most likely refused to believe it. After all, whose family could ever be more important than his own? And how could anyone with Wren's kind of money ever do anything other than bask in his own greatness?

It was enough to make her sick, and even now she could hear her father's angry voice in her head.

"He will have a permanent mark on his record and for what? A worthless vagrant you decided to befriend? Really, Marguerite, what is wrong with you? Blaine's father has helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars at a time for my campaign, and my daughter had his only son arrested? Are you trying to kill me? Do you want me to drop dead from cardiac arrest so that you can have your inheritance early? Just take a gun out and shoot me then. Get it over with..."

And then he'd pulled out the one zinger that never failed to tear straight through her.

"This is what I get for marrying a Cajun against my family's wishes. I should never have had children. They're a liability no politician can afford."

She hadn't even been able to get a word in edgewise during his entire forty-five-minute rant. After a while, she hadn't even tried. She'd set the phone down on the counter, munched chips, and flipped through a magazine while he railed. Once he'd finished, she'd simply apologized and hung up.

Her father had never been the kind of man to listen to reason. Of course, she could have ended the whole thing by telling him who Wren was and why Blaine hadn't been able to bribe his way out of trouble, but she took sadistic pleasure out of not telling him. Let her father go on with his delusions.

Knowing her dad, he'd do a full turnaround as soon as he learned about Wren's wealth.

But she didn't want her father to like Wren because Wren was wealthy. She wanted him to see the man, not the money.

Shaking her head, she walked down the wooden pathway between the cages in the zoo as she tried to put the whole thing out of her mind. But it was impossible. She didn't want to fight with her father.

All she wanted was to have her father be proud of her. To accept her. And yet he was so unreasonable. She'd never known anyone who could make up their mind so fast with so little information and then argue into infinity that they were right while everyone else was wrong.

"One day I'm going to stand up to you, Dad," she whispered. At least she hoped she could, but it was hard. No matter what, she loved him. He was her father and he had profound moments of tenderness...

At least sometimes.

He just had higher expectations for her. He wanted her to be like Whitney or Elise, a perfect debutante. A stunning beauty who could be some rich man's consort. One who threw strategic parties to help her husband climb the ladder of success in whatever venue he chose.

But that wasn't her. She was plain and far from skinny or petite. As for parties... she'd rather be alone in a corner somewhere reading. She hated being nice to people she didn't like because her tamer wanted their contributions. She hated being fake. All she wanted was to be herself.

She wanted to make her own mark on the world like her mother had done before her marriage, not be the helpmate for someone else. That kind of life had destroyed her mother, and she knew intrinsically that it would kill her, too.

"I just want to breathe." She didn't care what she did so long as it was a job or career she chose. She wouldn't be locked in a cage like the animals here. No matter how much she loved her father, she refused to let him treat her the way he'd done her mother. Sooner or later, she was going to force him to see her for herself.

Marguerite stopped her walk in front of the white tiger exhibit. Since she was a little girl, she'd always loved to come to the zoo. It had been her mother's favorite place on earth.

Her mother had grown up here. It'd been Marguerite's maternal grandfather who'd led the crusade to save the zoo in the seventies and early eighties. He had been a visionary who had taken the zoo out of the dark ages and turned it into one of the leading zoos in the country.

Everywhere she looked, she saw her mother's side of the family here.

For that matter, she saw her mother.

When her mother had been a college student at Tulane, she'd worked here as a docent. She had planned on being a veterinarian or zookeeper after college, but her marriage had stopped all of her dreams.

The only time Marguerite could remember her mother smiling and laughing was when she'd brought her here and told her stories about the different animals and how they lived and hunted. It was here that Marguerite found peace.

Here that she could again feel her mother's presence.

Marguerite's father hated this place. To him was gauche, common, and filthy. But to Marguerite it was beautiful.

"I miss you, Mom," she whispered as she watched the two tigers play in a small facsimile of their wilderness home.

She'd only been twelve when her mother, sick of being a politician's wife, had overdosed on antidepressants. Of course Marguerite's father had covered it up so that everyone thought it'd been an accident, but she knew the truth. Her father had refused to divorce her mother or even live apart. It would have been bad for his career.

Unable to stand the prospect of being castigated for her friends, her wardrobe, and her taste in everything for the rest of her life, her mother had taken matters into her own hands. She'd left a final note telling Marguerite to be stronger than she had been.

Follow your heart, Marguerite. Don't let anyone tell you how to live your life. It's the only one you have, mon ange. Live it for both of us.

Marguerite's lips quivered as grief swept through her. Her mother had been a truly beautiful and gentle soul.

For the longest time, Marguerite had hated her father after her mother's death. And in truth, she'd hated God for leaving her alone with him. But as she grew older, she'd begun to understand him a bit.

Like Blaine and Todd, he was at the mercy of his own family's ambitions for his future. Her grandfather had run her father's entire life from birth. Her grandfather still did in many ways. Even as a powerful senator, her father always deferred to his father for advice. If Grandpa was upset, Dad was upset and contrite.

The only time her father had ever stood up to her grandfather had been by marrying her mother.

Marguerite wasn't even sure that her father ever really loved her mother. Her mother had been one of those absolutely stunning women. The kind of beauty who turned everyone's head. Any man would have wanted her.

No doubt her father had been attracted to her for her exceptional looks. Not to mention, as a former Miss Louisiana and a Cajun whose father had saved their beloved Audubon Zoo, she was a major benefit to a man with political ambitions. With her mother by his side, her father had been able to claim that he understood the needs of all members of Louisiana-both rich and poor.

Well, he might understand their needs, but he'd never understood his daughter's and he never would.

"Hi, Maggie."

Marguerite froze as she recognized that deep, hypnotic voice. She looked over her shoulder to see Wren standing back from her. Wearing a loose denim shirt and jeans, he was the best thing she'd seen in days. His blond hair was a bit shaggy, and the blue of his shirt made his eyes practically glow. He completely took her breath away.

Before she could think better of it, she literally threw herself into his arms and held him close, needing to feel warmth from someone.

His timing couldn't have been better.

Wren was shocked by her reaction. He wrapped his arms around her as she clutched him to her. No one had ever been so happy to see him before. He swallowed as unfamiliar emotions tore through him.

"I'm so glad you're here," she whispered.

"I noticed."

She pulled back with a grimace and he sensed her instant dismay. Wren offered her a smile as his heart pounded with a foreign ache. "It was a joke, Maggie."

Her expression softened back into one of joy. "How did you know I was here?"

He hesitated as he tried to think of a plausible lie. "You weren't home."

"Yeah, but I could have been anywhere in New Orleans."

Wren rubbed his neck nervously. He had to distract her away from this line of questioning before he let something slip.

"I like coming here." That was a complete lie. He actually hated zoos. He couldn't stand to see the animals who were caged. As one of them, he could hear their thoughts and sense their discomfort. Not that all of them were unhappy with their situation. There were a number of animals who liked the attention and who were grateful to have a safe environment.

But others...

They were like him. Predators. And they despised cages of any sort.

When he was a child, his mother had always threatened to sell him to the zoo.

"It's a freak. They'd pay good money to have something like it on display. Just imagine how much money we could make." His father had been the only thing that had kept Wren out of such a place as this.

Wren ground his teeth as he looked away from the white tigers. They were the number one attraction at the zoo here. His mother hadn't been wrong.

He hated her for that.

Pushing those thoughts away, he turned back toward Maggie. "Why are you here?"

She gave him a winsome smile. "I told you I have a thing for tigers." She looked past him, into the pit where the white tigers were playing. "I think Rex and Zulu are the most beautiful creatures I've ever seen and I love to come over and watch them."

Her words amused him. "You like white tigers, huh?"

She nodded. "I would give anything to pet one."

He smiled at the irony of that. Little did she know, she'd already done it. "They're not so hard to tame."

She laughed. "Yeah, right. They'd probably eat anyone dumb enough to go near them."

Maybe, but not when the hand stroking them was one as gentle and delicate as hers. Any tiger would lie down at her feet...

At least he would.

Wren took those beautiful hands into his. Her skin was like warm velvet against his, and it reminded him of just how soft the rest of her body was. He could sense a deep sadness inside her, and it made his own heart ache for her. "Why aren't you studying?"

She sighed as if the weight of the entire universe was on her shoulders. "I couldn't concentrate. I had a crappy call with my father a little while ago and I was trying to zen myself into some semblance of a happy place."

His stomach shrank at her words. He hadn't meant to disturb her. "You want me to leave you alone?"

She shook her head. "No. I found my happy place the minute I saw you."

His heart stopped beating as he heard words he'd never thought to hear from anyone. This was such an impossible relationship. Were-Hunters didn't choose their mates; the Fates did that without any input from them.

Whenever a Were-Hunter was to be mated, a mating mark would appear on their hands. It almost always appeared after sex, which was one of the reasons why un-mated Were-Hunters were promiscuous. The more they slept around, the more likely they were to find their mate. But there was no visible mark to show him that Maggie was his.

The only mark was the one in his heart that craved her.

He didn't speak as she bicycled their hands with her fingers laced with his. The smile on her face warmed every part of him.

Her hair was pulled back, with a single strand of it loose to fall down the side of her face to her neck. He longed to brush his lips against that spot so that he could inhale her precious scent.

Her eyes were full of passion and caring. She was without a doubt the most beautiful creature he had ever seen in his life.

A group of schoolkids ran past them, laughing and shouting as they saw the two male tigers.

Wren barely noticed the kids. "What are your plans today?"

She shrugged. "I'm open. What about you?"

"It's my day off."


He nodded, then gave her a devilish grin. "Want to go get naked?"

Marguerite squeaked at his offer as she felt heat scald her face. But the truth was, she wanted nothing more. "Is that all I am to you?" she asked in a teasing tone.

"No," he said with sincerity burning deep in his eyes. "You're much more to me than that."

She swallowed at the deepness of his voice. At the needful look on his face. She was completely captivated by him. He let go of her hands to cup her face and tilt it up toward his. Marguerite closed her eyes in expectation of his kiss.

His lips brushed hers.

Until a scream rent the air.

"Help! Oh God, someone call the zookeepers! Hurry!"

Wren pulled away from Marguerite as the children started screaming and people began running all around them,

"What happened?" she asked.

A lady was shrieking a few feet away. "Oh my God, that kid is in the cage with the tigers!"

"They're going to eat him!"

Marguerite couldn't breathe as she turned to see a boy around the age of eight in the cage. His face bloody and clothes torn from his fall, he was crying and screaming as he tried to climb back up to the fence, but the concrete wall kept him from it. He splashed around in the water, drawing even more attention from the tigers.

Worse, the tigers were growling and hissing as they stalked down their landing toward the water that separated them from him.

She was sure the kid was dead, as was everyone else in the crowd.

Suddenly, Wren bolted past her, toward the wooden railing that kept the visitors from the fence. She watched in horror as he vaulted over the fence and barbed wire into the cage, to land in a crouch not far from the boy on one of the concrete pads that formed small islands in the water. With his head bent down in that familiar feral pose, Wren rose slowly to his feet and turned toward the child, who was screaming and crying.

She covered her mouth with her hand as she expected the tigers to kill them both.

Wren moved carefully toward the child, who obviously had been hurt from his fall.

"It's okay, kid," Wren said in a calm, even tone as he waded through the water to reach the boy. "What's your name?"


Wren reached up to pull him from the concrete pad, but the boy wouldn't let go.

"Trust me, Johnny. They're not going to hurt you. I won't let them."

Johnny was crying as he reluctantly let go of the concrete. Wren cradled him to his chest as he looked around for a way to get the boy to safety. With Wren's animal strength, he could easily jump back up to the spectator area above their heads, but that would most likely clue in the people watching them that he wasn't quite human.

Not that they wouldn't have some suspicions anyway, since he was going to get out of this cage without either him or Johnny being bitten or mauled. Wren ground his teeth as he realized a number of people were taking pictures.


Turning his face away, he glanced around. The best way to get them out of this would be through a gate in the back that the zookeepers probably used to feed the tigers. Wren moved toward it.

Rex and Zulu came closer, roaring and prancing in warning to him. Wren turned around and glared at them. They wanted to attack him, he could sense it, and yet they were confused by his human state and tigard smell.

He hissed at them.

They backed up.

Johnny screamed.

"Sh," Wren said calmly. "Don't be afraid. They can smell it, and it's that scent that makes them want to attack you. Pretend they're nothing more than pet kittens."

"But they're tigers."

"I know. Pretend you're a tiger, too. Pretend that they can't see us at all."

The boy's tears slowed. "Here, kitty, kitty."

Wren nodded. "That's it, Johnny. Be brave."

The tigers came closer but stayed back long enough for Wren to reach the gate. A group of zookeepers were already there to unlock it. As soon as Wren handed Johnny to the female keeper, one of the tigers ran for him.

"Run!" the keeper screamed.

Wren didn't move as the tiger leapt at him. He caught the tiger and rolled to the ground with him. Rex only wanted to play with Wren. He lay on the ground with the tiger on his chest as Rex nipped teasingly at Wren's skin. He patted Rex's head playfully.

"You better let me up, Rex," he said quietly. "Otherwise they might trank you."

The tiger licked his face before he bounded away. Wren got up and went back to the fence.

"What the hell was that?" the keeper asked.

"I grew up around tigers," Wren said. "They're just big cats."

"Yeah," the keeper said in a disbelieving tone. "Right. You're lucky you weren't lunch."

Wren stepped out of the cage.

As the keeper locked the gate behind him while another keeper tended to the boy, Maggie came running up to Wren. "Are you okay?"

He nodded.

She held him at arm's length to examine him as if she couldn't believe he was completely intact. "I thought you were dead when that one tiger ran at you."

"He just wanted a playmate."

"Yeah, and hell is just a sauna. You could have been eaten alive."

He smiled at her concerned tone. "Eaten alive's not so bad, depending on who it is doing the biting."

A rich blush covered her face. "How can you make light of this? What you did was incredible."

People were starting to come up to them, asking questions that Wren had no intention of answering.

"C'mon," he said to Maggie. "Let's get out of here."

She nodded before she took his hand and led him toward the exit. They had to dodge a lot of people wanting answers before they could safely make it to her car.

As soon as they were in it, Marguerite drove him back toward her house. "Were you really raised around big cats?" she asked.


"In New York?"

By her tone he could tell she didn't quite buy it "You don't believe me?"

"Well, New York isn't exactly known for its wilderness areas."

Wren gave her a wry grin. "Okay. The truth is I'm like Doctor Dolittle. I can speak to all animals. I know what they're thinking at all times. I jumped into the cage and told the tigers to back off. They obeyed me because I'm one of them."

Marguerite rolled her eyes. "Now you're being ridiculous."

Wren let out an exasperated sigh. He couldn't win for losing. Even when he told her the truth, she refused to believe it. "Then you tell me, Maggie. Why didn't the tigers kill me?"

"Were you ever around lion tamers?"

He laughed at that. "I'm around you. I could easily classify you as a tiger tamer."

"Oh, forget it. I can't get a straight answer out of you, can I?"

Ironically, she'd been getting them, she just didn't want to hear them. Not that he could blame her. In her world, people were people, they weren't animals in disguise. Her kind didn't belong in his world. Very few humans could even begin to understand, let alone survive in it.

"I've missed you, Maggie," he said in a hushed tone. "You're all I've been thinking about for days. I lie in bed and all I can think about is being with you, touching you."

She pulled into her driveway and turned the engine off. He sensed irritation and unrest from her.

"I don't get you, Wren," she said as she faced him. "You're one of the richest men in the country and yet you live like you're penniless and work as a busboy in a biker bar of all places. You tell me you don't want to see me anymore at the same time you tell me all you want to do is get naked with me. That you've missed me even though I haven't had one word from you in days. What is the truth of you? Are you just playing with me? Because if you are..."

"I don't understand me, either. Okay? I never have. Until the night you came into Sanctuary, everything was basic. I got up, I ate, I worked, and I went to bed. Now... I don't know what I want."

That wasn't the truth. He knew exactly what he wanted. He just couldn't have it.

"I know I'm bad for you, Maggie. If I had a brain in my head, I would walk away and leave you alone, but God help me, I can't. I just want to be with you even though I know it's wrong."

"Wrong bow?"

He ground his teeth in anger, wishing he could tell her the truth and have her believe it. But he couldn't. Telling her would most likely get her killed. "I don't belong in your world."

"I don't belong in my world."

He scowled at her. Now she was the one being ridiculous. "Of course you do."

"No, Wren, I don't. I might wear the clothes and drive the car, but my heart isn't in my life. I hate that I let my father make me feel like I'm somehow unworthy of what I have. I hate that I'm living here in the house Daddy picked out because he was afraid that if I lived in a dorm-which is what I wanted to do-I'd be hanging out with the wrong kind of people. There have been so many times in my life when I prayed that I'd have the courage to run away from all this. And yet here I am, still in Daddy's house, still taking classes I hate, and all because I don't know what else I should be doing with my life."

Her sadness reached out to Wren in a way nothing ever had before.

"If you could be free of your father, what would you do?"

She let out a slow breath. "I don't know. Travel maybe. I've always wanted to see all the different cultures of the world, but my father won't allow it. He says it's too dangerous and he's afraid I might get caught in some scandal that could backlash onto him or his career. I can't imagine being you and having no one to answer to. What's it like to have that kind of freedom?"

Wren laughed bitterly. "It's lonely. No one cares what happens to me. Had I been shot dead the night we met, they would have buried me without a tear and that would have been the end of it. And I'm not as free as you think I am. There are a lot of people who would have rejoiced had the bullet hit me a little further to the left and pierced my heart People who would love to see me dead."


Bitterness swelled inside him. "Money motivates, and there are several people who would be a lot richer if I were no longer here."

"Well, there's one person I know of who would be a lot poorer if you vanished."

Wren's heart clenched at her words. He leaned forward to capture her lips with his. She tasted of woman and sweetness. Of pure decadence. But most of all, she tasted of heaven.

She wrapped her arms around him as they embraced in the tight confines of her car.

His cock hardened with a primal need that only she could fulfill. It wasn't just sexual. She touched something else inside him. Something both human and animal.

Breathless, Wren pulled back to stare at her. He could use his powers to take them from the car to the bed, but that would be really stupid.

The last thing she wanted to know was that she was sleeping with an animal.

Wanting her more than he'd ever wanted anything, he reached across her and opened her car door.

Marguerite practically fell out of her car. Wren crawled over to come out of the car behind her on her side. Before she could even catch her breath, he scooped her up in his arms and virtually ran with her toward her house.

"Impatient much?"

He laughed at her question. "Get that key ready or I might kick the door in."

The tone of his voice told her he wasn't joking. Marguerite was laughing as she tried to get the key into the lock. Wren growled before he tossed her onto one shoulder and took the key away from her. He had the door opened a heartbeat later.

He entered the house, slammed the door shut, then set her down in front of it.

Marguerite was still laughing as she faced him. His eyes scorched her with heat as he pulled his shirt over his head. Her humor died at the sight of his bared tawny chest. The scar on his shoulder was a harsh reminder of what he'd sacrificed for her. He seized her for a scorching kiss that stole her breath.

She wrapped her arms around him and groaned at the wicked taste of him, at the sensation of his hot skin under her hands. She could feel his heart pounding against her breasts as he deepened his kiss.

He moved from her mouth to her neck, where his breath scorched her. Chills spread all over her as he gently suckled the tender skin there. She had missed him so... Much more than she would have thought possible. It didn't make sense, but then, feelings almost never did.

"I love the way you smell," he said in a ragged breath beside her ear.

"I love the way you feel."

Most of all, she loved the way his whiskered cheeks prickled her skin. His body was so hard compared to hers. So incredibly masculine.

Wren couldn't think with her in his arms. All he wanted was to be inside her again. It was a desire so potent that it overrode all reason. She trailed her lips along his jaw as he lifted her skirt so that he could cup her and press her closer to his swollen cock.

Part of him wanted to take his time savoring her, but the other was beyond that. He would play with her later. Right now the beast in him needed her.

His breathing ragged, he slid her panties down her legs.

Marguerite shivered at the sight of Wren kneeling between her feet. She lifted her feet up one by one so that he could strip her underwear from her. He looked up at her, and the heated intensity of those pale blue eyes scorched her.

He rose slowly, lifting her skirt again as he did so, his gaze never wavering from hers. Marguerite moaned deep in her throat as he brushed his hand through the small triangle of hair. His touch was incredibly tender as he slowly separated the folds of her body to touch her. It was all she could do to remain standing as he pleasured her, and when he slid his finger inside her she moaned in ecstasy.

Wren watched her closely as she slowly rode his fingers. There was nothing more beautiful than this woman taking her pleasure from him. Unable to stand it, he pulled away long enough to unfasten his pants and free himself. The beast within growled as it came to the forefront and possessed him. He could feel his teeth growing inside his mouth as he fought to remain in human form with her.

But it was hard.

Burying his head against her neck, he lifted her leg enough so that he could enter her. She cried out in pleasure as he buried himself all the way to his hilt.

Marguerite couldn't think straight as he filled her completely and they made love furiously. She wasn't sure how he could hold her up and still thrust, but he managed and it was incredible. She'd never had a man so desperate to be with her.

He licked and nuzzled her neck as she leaned her head back against the door while he plunged himself in and out of her.

"Oh, Wren," she breathed as she buried her hand in his soft golden hair.

She could hear his own ragged breathing as he held her against the door. "Come for me, Maggie," he whispered. "I want to see the pleasure on your face."

She arched her back against the wood as he continued to slam himself into her. She wrapped both of her legs around his waist so that she could draw him even deeper into her body.

The rhythm of his thrusts... it was more than she could stand. Two seconds later, her orgasm claimed her as she cried out his name.

Wren smiled as he watched the ecstasy on her face. He could feel her body clutching his. He moved faster until he joined her in that one perfect moment of complete physical bliss.

Throwing his head back, he roared with the pleasure that coursed through him as he finally felt the beast inside him cry out in triumph.

Marguerite smiled at the sight of Wren coming in her arms. It wasn't until he started to pull out that a horrible thought occurred to her.

"We didn't use protection."

He frowned at her. "What?"

"I just realized that I could be pregnant! I could-"

"Maggie," he said firmly. "Don't worry."

"That's easy for you to say," she said, angry at the typical male response. "You're not the one-"

"Maggie, listen to me," he said in a calm, rational tone. "I can't make you pregnant. I can't."

She frowned. "What do you mean?"

His face was sad as he brushed the hair back from her forehead and kissed it. "I'm sterile, okay? I know this for a fact. There's no way I could ever make you, or any other woman, pregnant."

She let out a relieved breath. "You're sure?"


She felt better until a new thought struck her. "But what about diseases?"

He scoffed at her. "I've only been with you. I told you that."

Was he telling her the truth? Honestly, she had a hard time believing it. "Are you sure about that? You don't make love like a novice."

He made a small X on his bare chest, over his heart. "Cross my heart. You are the only woman I've ever wanted to be this intimate with. I swear it."

Those words touched her deeply. She smiled up at him. "I'm so sorry you're sterile."

He gave a short, bitter laugh. "Don't be. Believe me, it's for the best."

But how could that be? A man like him should have a house full of kids. He was protective and gentle. Patient.

She reached out to touch his cheek. Closing his eyes, he kissed her palm as he unbuttoned her blouse.

Marguerite shivered as he ran his hands over her right breast and caressed her through her bra. She could see he was already growing hard again. "How do you do that?"

"I don't know. I only do it around you."

She shook her head. "You keep saying all the right things, and I just might have to keep you."

He peeled her blouse off of her before he reached around and unhooked her bra, then he slowly removed her skirt. Marguerite swallowed as she found herself naked in her living room. Wren kicked his shoes off, then removed his pants completely.

The look on his face scorched her as he reached for her and kissed her. She ran her hand down the colorful tattoo on his forearm. It was such a beautiful work of art that featured a hiding tiger that was peeking out through jungle grass.

Wren pulled back with a devilish grin. "You know what I want to do with you?"

"I think you already did that."

He laughed, then pulled her toward the sliding glass door that led to the small courtyard in the back.

Marguerite balked the instant he moved her curtain aside. "What are you doing?"

"I want to make love in your pool."

She made a noise of complete disagreement. "Are you insane? It's broad daylight. Someone could see us."

"No one will see us."

"Bull! You don't know that."

He dipped his head to lightly lave her breast. Marguerite groaned at the sensation of his hot tongue on her skin.

"No one will see us, Maggie. I promise." He straightened up. "Trust me?"

This was so not something she should do. "For all we know there could be reporters out there with cameras."

"If there are, I'll kill them before they can turn the film in."

"Yeah, right."

"I swear, there's no one out there, Maggie. C'mon, be adventurous with me."

Marguerite bit her lip as she considered it. Her father would die...

But this wasn't her father's life. It was hers. She'd never done anything like this before. It was strangely exciting... invigorating.


"Okay, but if we get caught..."

"I'll let you geld me."

She gave him a faux angry stare. "I will."

"I know."

She bit her lip in trepidation as he opened the door and pulled her out onto the patio. This was absolutely horrifying and yet it was strangely titillating to be outside in the sunlight, completely naked.

She looked about nervously, half-expecting to find someone spying on them, but to her relief it was just the two of them. Always paranoid about privacy, her father had hired gardeners to plant high shrubs all around her yard. There really wasn't any way for anyone to spy on them.

Wren released her to dive into her pool. He broke the surface of the water to find her still standing on the cement, covering herself as best she could with her hands. She was absolutely beautiful with the sunlight kissing her skin.

"Join me, Maggie."

Her smile was shy an instant before she waded into the pool with him. Like all tigers, Wren loved to play in water. He could hold his breath under the surface for a lot longer than a human.

He dove under and propelled himself toward his prey. He nipped her thigh under the water before he broke the surface.

Marguerite shivered as she felt Wren's naked body up against hers in the water. He nudged her thighs apart to place his hips between her legs. She moaned at the sensation of the water lapping against the tenderest part of her body as the tip of his swollen cock pressed against her core.

She stared up at Wren. He was gorgeous with his hair slicked back from his face. His features really were perfect. But it wasn't until then that she realized he no longer hid his eyes from her. In public, he still kept his gaze down and his hair over his eyes.

But around her he didn't. If she brushed the hair out of his eyes, he left it that way.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" he asked.

"I was just thinking of how different you are from the night we met."

She closed her eyes as he slid himself inside her again.

How could any man be ready to have sex again so soon?

"I'm not different, Maggie. I'm still the same."

But not around her he wasn't. He was much more open and trusting. He spoke to her, while he didn't normally speak to others. It made her extremely tender toward him.

Hissing, she lowered herself onto his shaft, taking him all the way into her body, before she pushed him away. She swam away from him.

"Maggie?" he called. "Did I do something wrong?"

She treaded water. "No. But if you want me, you have to catch me."

He smiled before he dove under the water and headed for her. Marguerite squeaked before she raced him toward the cement steps that led out of the pool.

Wren caught up to her just as she reached the steps. To his shock, she actually flipped him over in the water and pinned him against the steps. Of course he wasn't really pinned, he could easily overpower her. But he was curious as to what she had planned for him.

She kissed his lips before she cupped him in her hand. Pleasure blinded him as she gently stroked his cock from tip to hilt.

She moved herself so that she was between his legs. Wren sank down to the steps, then moved up them so that she could get on top of him if she wanted to.

Instead, she cupped his butt in her hands and lifted his hips until he was out of the water. He started to ask her what she was doing, but before he could speak she took him into her mouth. Stunned by the unexpected pleasure, he let his hand slip and ended up with his head under the water.

Wren came out of the water, sputtering to see Maggie's brown eyes teasing him. "I didn't mean to drown you."

He couldn't speak as he continued to cough.

She nudged him closer to the edge so that he could lean his head on the dry concrete while she returned to teasing him with her mouth.

Wren's head reeled in ecstasy as he watched her pleasure him. He cupped her face in his hand as her tongue swirled around his cock. The sight of her there... it was more than he could stand. He'd never known anything more blissful or sweet.

He came in a fierce, blinding wave of pleasure. But still she didn't pull away. She continued to tease him until she had wrung the last bit of pleasure from his body.

Wren was completely stunned by her actions, by the strange tenderness inside him.

He looked at his hand, expecting the mating mark. Surely no woman could make him feel like this without being his mate, But still there was no burning on his flesh, no magic sign that they were destined mates.

Grinding his teeth in frustration, he wanted to curse in disappointment. He pulled her body flush to his and held her in his arms.

"Thank you, Maggie," he said before kissing her cheek.

Marguerite sighed in complete bliss as she held him close. If she could, she would stay lost in this perfect moment for the rest of her life.

She never wanted to leave the pool.

"Wren?" she asked, lifting her head up from his chest to stare at him. "I don't want to be a downer or anything, but I need to know that you're not going to walk out on me again. I've never felt like this before and I don't want you to think that I just jump all over any guy who comes into my house."

He teased her cheek with his fingers as he offered her a timid smile. "I would like to keep seeing you, Maggie. Let's just take it one day at a time and see what happens. Okay?"

She nodded, then leaned her head back on his chest.

Wren closed his eyes and held her while his thoughts churned inside him. Katagaria and humans didn't mix. Not to mention there were a lot of Katagaria and humans who wanted him dead. He didn't even know if he had a future at all.

All he knew was that if he did have one, he wanted her in it.

But that wasn't up to him, either. He better than anyone else knew the cruelty of the Fates. One moment they blessed you and the next they cursed you.

And he'd been cursed enough to know better than to expect something better. No, something was going to happen. He could feel it deep inside. His time with Maggie was limited. He only hoped that when the trouble he sensed came, it fell solely to his shoulders. The last thing he wanted was for Maggie to be hurt because of him.

But one thing was sure. He would gladly lay down his life to protect the woman in his arms, and he would kill anyone who ever threatened her.