by Lisa Kessler
Rayne Lowry has always been a free spirit at heart, but never more free than today. After accepting her early retirement package from the FBI, she’s now on an extended vacation to plan the next chapter of her life, and what better place for self-reflection than Sedona, Arizona? Her plans did not include a chance encounter with a silver fox who is hiding something…
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“I’m trying to tell you that you’re…you’re my mate.” A crease formed in the center of her forehead, but she didn’t laugh or run away. I held my breath as she moved back. I lowered my arm, grateful she hadn’t taken her other hand out of mine.
“How is that possible? What does it even mean?”
“I don’t know how it works, but when we touch our mate skin to skin, the wolf inside recognizes her.” My mouth went dry. “If I hadn’t been sitting last night, I might’ve fallen over.”
“I remember your eyes dilated.” She looked down at our joined hands. “And what happens if you find her and she says no thanks?”
“Then I let her go.” My heart sank as I released her hand and leaned over, resting my forearms on my legs, hoping she couldn’t see the disappointment in my eyes. I shouldn’t be disappointed. I’d never expected to find her and I sure as hell hadn’t been looking.
I didn’t tell her all this to force her into anything, no matter how much my wolf protested. We barely knew each other, and she didn’t have the same instincts I did. I’d told her because I need her to help me with this mission. That’s all. But my heart still ached as if I’d put it in a meat grinder.
“Would you find someone else?”
“Not to love.” I shook my head. “Fate chooses our mate, the other half of our soul. And just as wolves only have one true mate, so do werewolves.” I sighed as I forced myself to meet her eyes. “I thought my mate would have already found a nice guy and be married with kids by now. I almost hoped she had. You deserve so much better than me.”
She raised a brow. “You have a pretty low opinion of yourself.”
I broke eye contact, clenching my jaw. “I’ve ruined a lot of lives, and if that research gets declassified, I’ll seal the fate for shifters all over the world. Those little boys you met at Asher’s tour company are werewolves, too. None of us asked for this. We were born this way. But once the world sees that video footage, none of it will matter. You shouldn’t be stuck with the man who brought on the extermination of werewolves.”
She ignored my judgments. “What if your instinct is wrong? You barely know me.”
I shook my head slowly. “I’ve seen werewolves and their mates all over the country, and so far, fate has never fucked it up.”
She raised a teasing brow. “I could be the first.”
I chuckled, amazed she could coax it out of me. “I can’t remember laughing as much as I have since I met you.” Already, I didn’t want to lose her, but how could I ask her to stay with me? Our world was getting more dangerous every day.
She tipped her head down, staring at her hands. “How about we stop this killer, make sure that research stays top secret, and then, if we’re still breathing, we can figure out where we stand with this mate thing?”
I straightened up and reached over to catch her chin. When her eyes met mine, my wolf clawed his way into my consciousness, his instincts blending with the emotions churning in my heart. “Whatever happens, I will never ever regret finding you.”
Her lips parted slightly, drawing my attention to her mouth. I lifted my gaze to hers, and I leaned in closer until her breath warmed my lips. She didn’t pull away, and I lost my grip on my self-control. Fireworks exploded behind my eyelids as our lips met.
A moan escaped her throat, and my tongue reached for hers. I wrapped her in my arms, and she tilted her head. I deepened the kiss, exploring her mouth. Blood rushed to my groin, making my pants way too damned tight.
We were in the middle of a park, but I wanted to pull her onto my lap. I wanted to be even closer.
I broke the kiss, resting my forehead on hers and whispered, “I’m so fucking glad you never found someone and got married.”