Storm Wolf, страница 1
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To my dad, Ted, for always listening and encouraging. I grew up safe and strong because of you.
It was a beautiful night. The hotel grounds were perfectly lit so the undulating lawns and flower beds were highlighted to perfection. The scent of magnolia and jasmine mingled with the salty tang of the ocean. The distant thrum of party music and the ripple of fountains were the backdrop to her sighs, his harsh moans, and the sound of their bodies slamming together. As this man she didn’t know pounded himself into her, driving her to the edge of madness, Odessa couldn’t help the single thought that flashed through her mind.
I can’t believe I’m doing this!
Sex with a stranger on the night before the most important business presentation of her life? In a public place? There was only a thin line of shrubs between them and discovery by a whole hotel full of conference delegates. This was so far beyond her usual behavior it was as if someone had given her a personality transplant.
She couldn’t even blame alcohol. She had been at the function for precisely ten minutes and consumed less than half her glass of champagne when they began talking. If you could call it talking. He mentioned 3-D printing. Odessa responded with a comment about its use in fantasy gaming. Minutes later, they were out here in the garden and she hadn’t been able to step out of her underwear fast enough.
Even though he was consumed by arousal, he had slipped on a condom before he thrust into her. In the hot intensity of him stretching her and searing her, she remembered wondering if he knew who she was. What she was.
That had been her final opportunity for rational thought. Her hips arched away from the wall, her thigh muscles quivering with tension as the need to climax grew too strong, overwhelming everything else. She dug her fingers into his shoulders, feeling his powerful muscles through the crisp cotton of his shirt. Wanting to call out his name was such a nightmare when she didn’t know what it was.
“Please.” Her voice was a gasp. “I need—”
“I know what you need.” His teeth nipped a line of fire along her collarbone.
Moving his hand down between their bodies, his fingers found her clit. Alternately rubbing and flicking, he pushed her to the very edge of her limit. She whimpered as her knees nearly buckled. A breathy sound somewhere between a moan and a cry was torn from her. It was stripped away by the smooth thrust of his tongue as he kissed her. The pressure that had been building inside her reached its breaking point. Her whole body began to quake as lightning zipped through to her nerve endings. Radiating out from the point where his fingers were still working their magic, it pulsed wildly over her, making her blood sing and her heart race. The intensity of it left her hanging limp in her unknown lover’s arms. As her internal muscles clenched around him, she felt him arch his back as his own climax hit. His cock swelled and jerked and he groaned against the curve of her neck before shuddering to a halt.
Odessa breathed deeply. What were the protocols in this situation? When a man was still inside you with his cock gradually shrinking? Did you move slowly away? Wait for him to move? Was a thank-you required? Oh, dear God, how did I get here? And, more importantly, why am I still turned on?
He lifted his head, apparently sensing her indecision. Although they were in the darkest corner of the garden, there was still some light from the ornamental lanterns. His smile was stunning. He was stunning. There were so many things wrong with this, but his looks were not one of them.
“I don’t usually do this.” He bent his knees as he eased out of her. She heard the sound of latex stretching and felt his movements as he wrapped the condom in a Kleenex and fixed his clothing. The intimacy of the actions made her close her eyes in embarrassment. “So I don’t know whether it’s acceptable to say that was amazing.”
“I think it’s probably better than saying it was mediocre.” Her voice trembled on a nervous laugh.
He smoothed a strand of her long black hair off her cheek and tucked it behind her ear. After the intensity of the mind-blowing sex, the gesture was curiously tender.
“Are you okay with this?” She could feel his eyes probing her face in the dim light.
“It was wonderful.” She smiled up at him. Whatever she was feeling—And what the hell am I feeling, by the way?—it wasn’t about him, after all. This had been her idea as much as his. She had been the one with her hands down the front of his pants and her tongue in his mouth as soon as they got outside. The thought sent a fresh shot of heat zinging straight to her still throbbing clit. “Unexpected, but wonderful.”
He nodded. She sensed he wanted to say something more, but she could feel his hesitation. Maybe he did know who she was. Maybe the condom had been a reflex action rather than something he felt was necessary. Werewolves were only fertile in the mating season and were unlikely to carry any human diseases. Odessa was a werewolf and so was he. That was the problem. He was the wrong werewolf. He was so wrong it was untrue.
“Look, I have to . . .” He tilted a thumb over his shoulder toward the room where the party now seemed to be in full swing.
Odessa nodded. He wasn’t being a jerk. This wasn’t his version of fucking and running. He was telling her he knew what she was thinking. As fantastic as the sex had been, it should never have happened.
“Me, too. My friends will be wondering what happened to me.” Friends? Her employees would be having a great time without the boss breathing down their necks. Her friends—all two of them—were still upstairs preparing tomorrow’s presentation.
He leaned closer and pressed a feather-light kiss onto the corner of her mouth before turning and walking away. Odessa stayed where she was, leaning against the wall, watching him until he was out of sight. Watching how the broad width of his shoulders tapered to his narrow waist and slim hips. Those long, long legs and the way his pants fit perfectly to the tight muscles of his sculpted ass. His white-blond hair glinted silver in the garden lights and she remembered the amber lights in his golden eyes.
Even though she had allowed her feelings to overcome her, this man, whoever he was, was an Arctic. And Odessa was a Siberian. Not just any Siberian. Since the Arctic brotherhood had killed her father, Santin, twelve months ago, Odessa had been the Siberian leader. Arctic werewolves were her sworn enemies.
You knew he was an Arctic when you fucked him! Her anonymous lover’s coloring was the giveaway. As he had approached her at the party, she had sized him up, wanting to hate him. Savage, uncontrollable desire had seized her instead. Even though she knew what he was, she had been unable to resist him. The sex had been mind-blowing, but it was just as well it was a one-off. She could never betray her heritage by getting involved with a member of the pack who had killed her father. This wild impulse that had come over her must never be allowed to happen again.
* * *
Dan Lowell didn’t go back to the party. Skirting the hotel building, he made his way onto the beach and sat on a rock, gazing out at the darkened ocean with unseeing eyes. He sensed a storm brewing that had nothing to do w
What the fuck just happened?
He shook his head. You just succumbed to the craziest instinct of your life, that’s what. Lowell didn’t do crazy. Of all the members of the elite Arctic werewolf fighting force known as the Brotherhood of the Midnight Sun, he was the sensible one, the intellectual. Lowell was the one who could be counted on to do the right thing, urge caution, to say “Let’s think about this.” Having sex with a stranger—a Siberian stranger—could hardly be considered the right thing. This overwhelming urge he was experiencing to run back to the hotel, find her in the crowded room, drag her out and do it all again? That meant he’d probably lost his mind.
He had no idea who his mystery partner was, but, since she was a Siberian, he guessed she must be with the Santin Creative contingent. The CEO of the company, Odessa Santin, was scheduled to deliver a big presentation tomorrow afternoon and that was why Lowell was here. His lips thinned. He had no interest in the gaming industry. Santin Creative, one of the new, up-and-coming forces in the online gaming world, hadn’t figured on his radar until recently. Lowell’s passion was the protection of the Arctic environment, and Odessa Santin, following in her father’s footsteps, seemed to be hell-bent on screwing that fragile ecosystem all to hell. His attempts to contact her at her New York headquarters had proved futile, so he had followed her here to Florida.
The girl he had met in the party had been sitting at the bar alone, sipping champagne and gazing around her with wide, interested eyes. He couldn’t kid himself that he didn’t know she was a Siberian. It was obvious as soon as he set eyes on her. She had the classic coloring of the Siberian werewolf. Long, jet-black hair with an inch-wide streak of white in the center and those mesmerizing ice chip–blue eyes. She was petite. Tiny, yet with a coiled strength in her limbs and a softness to her curves that made his mouth water and his dick ache. And that was the problem. As soon as he saw her, his dick had taken over the thinking. With spectacular results.
Lowell’s rare sexual encounters had, until now, been with humans, which meant he used condoms. Instinctively, he had reached for one this time, even in the blaze of passion that had consumed him, even though he knew she was a fellow werewolf. And it meant they didn’t have to have that conversation there and then. About why what they were about to do was so wonderfully, magically wrong.
Lowell assumed there must have been instances in the past of instant attraction between an Arctic and a Siberian. Attraction? He almost laughed out loud. That had been less like attraction and more like pouring themselves into each other with such fury they would be forever branded into each other’s DNA. He shook the thought aside. If there were examples of inter-pack relationships, Lowell—one of the world’s leading experts on werewolf history—didn’t know of it. Arctics and Siberians were enemies. Always had been, always would be.
Florida, with its heat and humidity, would not have been Lowell’s chosen place for the coming confrontation with Odessa Santin. Having been here for two days, he was struck by the beauty of the scenery, but his longing for the cold of his Alaskan home was kicking in. He was an Arctic werewolf. The midnight sun called him the way the full moon called to other werewolves. The goddess Angrboda, Mother of All Wolves, had granted the members of the Brotherhood of the Midnight Sun a remarkable gift just over a year ago. She had given them the power to shift into their wolf form away from the midnight sun. With that new talent had come the ability to survive away from its unique light. That was how Lowell was able to cope in this environment. He might be coping, but he wasn’t enjoying it. Or he hadn’t been until tonight.
He knew nothing about the woman he had come to confront. He’d never met her, never seen her. He only knew that the CEO of Santin Creative was Santin’s daughter. Santin. Where did he start when it came to a story of such profound evil? Even now it was hard to believe Santin was dead and the centuries-old nightmare he had inflicted on the Arctics was finally over. The Siberian leader’s territorial ambitions had led him to commit appalling atrocities against innocent Arctic werewolves and his final act had almost led to the destruction of humankind. The brotherhood had destroyed Santin, but now, based on the evidence Lowell had seen, it seemed his daughter was determined to take over where he had left off.
Not if I have my way.
Odessa Santin might have ignored his calls and emails, but she wouldn’t be unable to ignore him in person when he confronted her at her presentation tomorrow afternoon.
* * *
Meeting the unknown Arctic had been one of those strange quirks of fate. Odessa had not intended to go to the party. Parties were really not her thing, and her plan for the last night of the conference had been to work alongside Alexei, her personal assistant, and Serena, Santin Creative’s art director, making sure the finishing touches were in place for the following day’s presentation.
At the last minute, she had made her way downstairs to the crowded ballroom to buy drinks for the Santin Creative staff who had worked so hard throughout the conference. They had determinedly manned the booths, distributed the pins, leaflets, and pen drives and demonstrated the games. Showing them how much she appreciated their hard work was the least she could do. She had taken a seat at the bar and explained to the bar tender that she wanted her staff to have free drinks for the remainder of the night. He had given her a complimentary glass of champagne . . . the rest was history.
Now, as she stood beside the hotel elevators, Odessa felt as though invisible hands were pulling her in different directions. She should get back to Alexei and Serena. She needed to go to her room, splash cold water on her face and take some time to reflect on what had just happened. But what she longed to do was go back into that heaving, thrumming ballroom, find her Arctic lover and kiss him until he begged her for mercy.
“Odessa?” Serena’s voice from behind her startled Odessa so much she jumped. “I’m sorry. It was just, you took so long, I thought I’d come and find you to see if everything was okay.”
Odessa released the breath that seemed to have become trapped in her throat. A blush heated her face. She didn’t do blushing, and Serena’s gaze told her the other woman had noticed that her demeanor was unusual. Serena’s usually cold blue eyes blazed with an emotion Odessa didn’t recognize. It might have been concern. Possibly it was something deeper and warmer. Over the years she had become close to Serena, maybe closer than she was to any other person—although that wasn’t saying much. Even so, she could hardly blurt out the truth. Oh, hey. Sorry about that. I got sidetracked and just had the most amazing sex with an Arctic werewolf out in the hotel gardens. Give me five minutes to freshen up and I’ll be right back with you.
Aware that the silence was lengthening and deepening to the point where it was becoming embarrassing, she gave a little laugh. An obviously fake one. “It took longer than I expected.”
“Can I speak with you?” Serena’s face and voice both expressed concern. Unlike Odessa, she disguised her Siberian heritage by dyeing her hair to hide the white streak in the center. It was short and spiky and coupled with her slender build and height, it gave her an edgy, androgynous appearance that was at odds with the sharp prettiness of her face.
“Oh, God. Has something gone wrong with the game?” Don’t tell me my life’s work was going to hell while I was busy screwing a stranger.
“Nothing like that.” Serena’s tight smile wasn’t exactly reassuring as they stepped into the empty elevator and rode in silence up to the tenth floor.
When they stepped out, Odessa led the way to her room. Once they were inside, she gestured for Serena to sit on one of the sofas near the window but the other woman shook her head. “You can tell me to mind my own business if you want to”—she took a deep breath—“but I saw you, Odessa. With that man.”
The strength left Odessa’s knees and she sat abruptly. “What did you see?” The words came out as a hoarse whisper.
Serena hung her head, clearly distressed. “I’m sorry. I don’t want this to sound
“What did you see?” Even though her teeth were gritted, the words came out stronger this time.
“When I couldn’t find you in the ballroom, I came outside. I saw him kiss you, then he walked away.” Odessa exhaled. It could have been so much worse. “Then I . . . uh, I saw you pick up your underwear.” Oh, dear God. “Odessa, I wouldn’t normally have mentioned this. What you do is your business, but”—Serena raised anguished eyes to hers—“he’s one of them.” In case the message hadn’t gotten through, she added, in horrified tones, “He’s an Arctic.”
A flare of anger ignited deep inside Odessa. So I fucked an Arctic. It might not have been the cleverest thing she’d ever done, but she didn’t deserve to have Serena standing there looking at her like she’d screwed the devil himself. Her mystery lover didn’t have horns, he only had one penis—although, to be fair, it had been a fairly amazing one—and she hadn’t seen any sign of a tail. She gave a sigh. Who was she kidding? Ask any Siberian and Lucifer would be infinitely preferable to an Arctic.
She swept her hair back from her face in a weary gesture. “Look . . .”
Serena held up her hands. They had never had the sort of relationship where they shared confidences. “Odessa, you don’t have to explain yourself to me.”
“I know I don’t. I wanted to say that I appreciate your honesty. You could have kept quiet about this and I’d never have known that you saw anything.” Odessa sighed. Would that have been better? Would turning the clock back an hour have been her preferred option? “I’m not going to make excuses for what happened or justify my choices to you, Serena. I know I can trust you to keep this in confidence between us.”
Could she trust Serena? How well did she really know her? She didn’t imagine the other woman would take this juicy piece of gossip and spread it around the Santin Creative offices, but would she be able to refrain from sharing it with Alexei? They were partners in their personal life as well as professionally. And while Serena might not judge Odessa, Alexei was different . . .