March 2010 – Fort Bragg Army Base, North Carolina
“What do you mean I can’t pick up my weapon?”
Gage Ivanov was in no mood to be fucked with by the woman looking blankly back at him from the other side of the desk that separated them. One would think he’d be in a better mood. He’d finally caught up on some desperately needed sleep after being awake forty-eight hours for a mission. Sleep usually meant he felt refreshed. This was not the case. If anything, he felt as if he was approximately three point two seconds from flipping his shit, which would involve tearing the door off the Fort Bragg Military Police’s inner sanctum, stalking past the annoying female with a tantalizing scent that was starting to drive him insane and then collecting his Heckler & Koch MK 23 his damn self from the evidence room. Screw the harpy for saying he couldn’t have his issued side arm back.
Taking a deep breath to try to battle his building anger, he blew it out slowly and decided to give the feeble human another chance before he did something drastic, like pin her to a wall and kiss the ever living shit out of her.
Gage rubbed his forehead and wondered where the hell that crazy thought had come from. That idea was flat out ridiculous. He must be loopy still from lack of sleep. He’d probably meant he’d pin her to the wall and scare the shit out of her, not kiss her. Yeah, that sounded better.
Shaking his head to clear the crazy thoughts, he looked back to the female. Through his frustration he had to admit she was unconventionally pretty. Most humans were short to his six-foot-five frame, but she seemed tall for her race. When she’d led him past the front counter, shielded by bulletproof glass, to her desk to question him, he’d sized her up to be somewhere around five-feet-nine. She would be close to the perfect fit to rest his chin on the top of her head if he was holding her. However she looked a bit on the thin side, and he usually liked women with ample curves. Some body parts should jiggle, dammit. At least she wasn’t anorexic skinny; more athletically built. Next to his broad, brawny build she’d look downright tiny in size. She was dressed in her fatigues with her brown hair, which was so dark it almost looked black, pulled back in a tight bun on the back of her head. Between the dark hair, the slightly olive-tinged complexion and her narrow, almost aquiline nose, she more than likely had a Mediterranean background. Perhaps Italian or Greek.
He quickly noted she had quite possibly the prettiest blue-green eyes he’d seen in all of his two hundred sixty-two years. Amazing eyes or no, nothing would stop him from giving her a dressing down that could go down in this Army’s history books if she didn’t hurry the hell up and give him back his weapon. He had better things to do with his time right then, like sleep some more, or make the short drive home so he could hunt down a deer on his property. Shifting into his tiger and using his claws and teeth to eat dinner sounded kind of perfect to assuage his bad mood.
The last time he’d been this mad at another soldier had been during the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813. Back then, he’d damn near torn apart a Commanding Officer of the Infantry with his claws for a tactical error that could have cost them the battle and too many men to count. Usually Tigers were either too lazy or just didn’t care enough to get involved or get mad about something, but this female, with her clenched jaw and stubborn lines set around that mouth he couldn’t seem to stop looking at, was testing him.
He looked down to her name tag stitched onto the front of her uniform to see who the hell he was dealing with.
The three stripes on her uniform also gave him her rank.
“Look, Sergeant Demos, I’m sure it was a simple mistake. My team just came in from a mission, we were all dog tired, and I probably left it on the Black Hawk, right? Although, I don’t remember taking it out of my holster. I know it’s not acceptable to leave one’s weapon lying around, but let’s see how well you function after not catching some shut eye for two days. Let’s say I’ve learned my lesson. It’ll never happen again. Now, give me whatever paperwork I need to sign saying you’re relinquishing the weapon back into my possession and then hand it over.”
He flicked his fingers, palm side up and open in a hand-it-over gesture as he stared across the desk, trying to look as if he was patiently waiting. If he had been hunting for his dinner, then patiently waiting would be fine. Otherwise, it was something he didn’t care to bother with. Why wait patiently for something when you could flash a little fang and scare your opponent into giving you whatever it was you wanted? Except he couldn’t flash his canines here, and that only pissed him off more.
When the female continued to sit stiff-backed in her chair and stare at him as though he was a moron, he felt his claws prick the insides of his skin, begging to be released to do something that would relieve his agitation. He had to hurry up and get the hell out of here.
Snarling a little, he snapped at her, “If that simple task is in some way, shape or form too complicated for you to perform, Sergeant, then perhaps your CO should send you back to your AIT school to re-take your training courses. Maybe, while you’re there, you can learn how to do something more complicated than annoying the shit out of your superiors.”
The scent of extreme anger rolled off the brunette. He really could care less that he’d made her mad. No, what was really starting to bother him was that the smell of her pissed off was even more appealing to him than the way she’d smelled before. Since he was currently battling the overwhelming urge to either go furry or sex her up as if he was hopped up on Viagra, it irked him this little human could do anything that would make him want her more than he already did.
The sound of her teeth grinding drew his attention back to those plump lips that were currently flattened into a thin line of irritation.
“Sir, I cannot return your pistol to you because it has been formally confiscated pending an investigation. Your issued Heckler & Koch MK 23 was found in Major General Fetherman’s daughter’s bedroom.” The irritated woman held three fingers up and practically shoved them into his face. “Which means one of three possibilities. Either Ms. Fetherman managed to get into a secure area so she could have access to the Black Hawk and found your gun there. Number two, you didn’t head straight to your premises for that shut eye you claimed to have been so desperate for. Instead, you met Ms. Fetherman somewhere and she took your weapon from you while you were otherwise pre-occupied since you don’t remember taking it out of your holster. One can only imagine what the two of you were doing that you would be too distracted for her to be able to procure your weapon without you having noticed.” She cocked an eyebrow at him in disgust. “Or, the third possibility is that perhaps you went to Major General Fetherman’s residence to meet with his daughter in her room where you accidentally left your weapon. Would you care to clarify which of these three scenarios is correct?” That dainty eyebrow came back down so she could shoot him a condescending look before she grudgingly added “Sir” onto the end of her rant. It was clear as day she’d loathed giving him even that little bit of respect and had done it only to keep her ass out of trouble.
Never mind how good she looked, or that she smelled like sex on a stick, he was going to bend this arrogant young woman over his lap and paddle her ass for talking to a higher ranking soldier like that. For talking to him like that. His tiger was going nuts underneath his skin. The need to exert his dominance over her, to show her who the fuck was in charge here, was riding him hard—harder than ever before—which bothered him. Combine that with the insane urge to show her who the bigger predator was and it caused a niggling suspicion there was more going on here than good, old fashioned annoyance or the need to lose himself in a warm, willing body.
Sucking on his teeth in extreme agitation, he opted for denial. There was absolutely no way this woman could be a possible mate. Surely fate wouldn’t be so cruel as to try and pair him off with a fragile human that could be easily killed. He wasn’t entirely sure, but the signs of compatibility were there—the natural pheromones to attract one mate to the other. His Tiger was going wild inside of him.
He was going to choose to think those pesky coincidences didn’t mean shit. Even better, he was going to ignore those signals in the name of self-preservation. He’d never wanted a human for a mate in the past, and that wasn’t changing over an intoxicating scent, a pair of unusually pretty eyes, and the need to fuck a better attitude into her. Nope, he’d rather be mate-less, or settle for a mate that both his human and beast’s side didn’t crave with a dangerous intensity. He would rather find a mate they could grow to care for, and who would be something much sturdier than this very breakable human.
Since he wasn’t paying attention to her at the moment, he only distantly heard her say, “Helllllloo… Master Sergeant Ivanov? Are you sure you want to stick to that story about getting some sleep because you don’t seem to be all there upstairs to me?” Delicate fingers snapped in front of his face a couple of times, bringing his attention back to the object of his thoughts.
As he looked at her impatient face he made a silent vow to himself; whether there was a possibility or not of her being his mate, if the disagreeable woman didn’t stop antagonizing him, he was going to break every unspoken rule in the supernatural Other community and unleash his claws on her backside.
As his eyes zeroed in on the unconscious, nervous movement of the tip of her pink tongue swiping over her bottom lip, Gage thought, Claws and a good pop on the ass ought to scare some respect into her.
* * *
Was this what a gazelle felt like when it knew it was being watched by the lion?
Master Sergeant Ivanov had insanely gorgeous green eyes with an inner ring of gold around the pupil. They were in equal parts entrancing and frightening, and Elena could make that statement with absolute certainty because those eyes were focused on her. The eerie intensity from his gaze damn near had her looking for a different desk to hide under. Normally, she wouldn’t even think about backing down from a confrontation. In her line of work as an Army MP, you had to have giant, brass balls to boss around men who were twice your body mass with the trained ability to kill someone with their bare hands. Additionally—according to everyone in her unit, her sisters, and even her mother—Elena had some of the biggest, shiniest brass balls known to mankind.
Although he wasn’t technically that much taller than her, only half a foot or so, his breadth and intensity were overwhelming. Frankly, he looked like a linebacker on steroids. Knowing he worked for one of the Special Forces Teams also meant that he could kill her with scarier things than his bare hands. He could probably kill her with a Kleenex, which was wrong and a tad scary; maybe a little cool, too. She didn’t have a choice here, though. She had to stand firm with him. It wasn’t her fault he was displaying his suicidal tendencies by messing around with the Major General’s daughter. If he was dumb enough to leave his duty weapon in her room after getting him some, then he should deal with the consequences.
Right then, as he sat on the other side of the desk, watching her much like she imagined Ted Bundy had watched his future victims, she decided to display her own suicidal tendencies and push him a little bit further.
Leaning towards him a bit to give him a false sense of intimacy and confidentiality, she lowered her voice so no one else might hear what she was saying. “Look, I get it. I’ve seen Major General Fetherman’s daughter. She’s a hot, little thing. Bottle blonde hair; teeny, tiny, bikini body with fake breasts big enough to make a porn star jealous. I heard she has a reputation for entertaining a few soldiers, too. Just admit it. You came off your mission and needed to release some of that adrenaline you Spec Ops guys seem to carry in mass quantities. After you were done with her, you accidentally forgot your duty weapon. No big deal.”
Sliding a blank piece of paper and pen across the desk towards him, she ignored the way his focus on her seemed to intensify and whispered, “Write all that down for me and this can be over with. I’ll give you back your duty weapon and you can get the hell out of here. I’m sure you’d rather be planning your next rendezvous with her than sitting here with me.”
Ivanov sat there, staring at her as if he was imaging all the ways he could hide her body when he was done torturing her. She didn’t flinch under his gaze, or shrink back like some wilting violet. Elena held her ground and waited him out. Soon, he would grow tired of all of this circumstance and give her what she wanted. Of course, she had to wonder if he was really dumb enough to believe her when she said that, if he confessed, all of this would go away. Oh, no. If he confessed, he’d be busted down in rank and pay, stationed in some shithole as far away from the woman in question as possible, like Antarctica, and he’d be lucky if he ever saw the light of day at a civilized base again.
After watching Ivanov sit there and stare at her for what felt like a century, he finally moved. Slowly leaning in towards her, their faces were only inches apart. So close she could feel his short, rapid breathing through his nose as it brushed her face. For the first time since the man walked into her building, all of the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.
That scary focus of his amazing, green-gold eyes lasered right in on her own eyes, when his voice rumbled, “You’ve got it all wrong.”
“I do?” Elena murmured, suddenly shaky. Her inner alarms were blaring. Danger. Danger. Danger. It took everything she had not to slowly slide her hand back and put it on the butt of her own weapon that was holstered on her hip.
“Yes, you do. You see, I’d much rather be here with you.”
Did he just purr that?
“And why would you rather be here with me?”
A louder rumble seemed to come from the vicinity of his chest. What the hell was that noise?
“I’d rather be here with you because I don’t do spoiled, whiny, superficial, bleached-out teenagers. What I do like are mature brunettes who think they know it all. And I like them,” he paused for a second and another loud rumble sounded, “because after I break them in with a well-deserved spanking, make them see they’re not as big and bad as they think they are, they end up knowing they’ll never meet anyone like me ever again. Because unlike all the men they may have had before me, I do—in fact—know what to do with a woman’s body. And anyone they have after me will pale in comparison to what I gave them. I like knowing I took a woman who isn’t a naive, little virgin to bed and debauched her to such a ridiculous degree that she’ll know she’s now just a bit dirty, but in such a delicious way. I like to ruin grown women, you see. They’re more of a challenge. Would you like a demonstration?”
Elena was damn near panting now. Man, that voice of his was practically a purr that seemed to resonate all the way through her body until it was buzzing through her girly parts. It was such an amazing feeling that she was considering giving him a new nickname. The Talking Vibrator.
Her own breath was coming in small, rapid pants, and suddenly, she realized she’d not been this turned on for a long, long time.
What in the hell was it about this man that was pushing all her buttons? WAIT. It didn’t matter what it was about him that sent her libido into a frenzy. She couldn’t have him. He was forbidden fruit for a couple of different reasons.
First of all, she was investigating him on behalf of the Major General. Second of all… well, the first reason was all she needed.
As Elena was about to open her mouth and tell him no, she didn’t want a demonstration, she wanted a confession, he did something that shocked the shit out of her.
He took in a long, exaggerated inhale, nostrils flaring much like that lion she likened him to earlier, and then his tongue came out to lick his lips as if he was savoring something extravagantly tasty.
“Damn you smell good all pissed off and turned on.”
That. Fried. Her. Brain.
Dozens of images of him using his tongue to actually taste her overloaded her mind. If she’d thought she’d been turned on before, after that she was practically on the edge of an orgasm from just looking, listening and daydreaming about the man. Her mouth went dry, making speech next to impossible. She had to get her act together, though. There was no way she could let this pushy, arrogan—
Her inner rant ended as Ivanov closed the distance between the two of them. Leaning over the desk with his hands braced on either side of hers on the desk top, he placed his nose at the base of her neck. She felt him inhale again as he ran his nose up the length of her neck until she felt a rough, wet swipe of his tongue on the spot below her ear.
Holy shit. Her willpower took a hike along with her common sense.
He pulled back from her and settled back into his chair on his side of the desk with what seemed to be forced constraint. His knuckles were actually white from the force he was using to dig his fingertips into the desk top in front of him. There were small lines around his mouth and eyes as if he were actually strained somehow.
Working up the nerve to tell the sexiest man she’d ever met that she wanted him to use his tongue on every inch of her body, she nervously licked her dry bottom lip. She saw the moment his eyes zeroed in on the tip of her tongue, watching it rapturously as she swiped it slowly over her lip, and then his head shot back up to look in her eyes before he lunged. He didn’t moved in smoothly or suavely; he freakin’ lunged at her.
Expecting his lips to crash into hers any second, Elena closed her eyes, anticipating what would hopefully be a kiss that rocked her entire world. If she was going to give in to temptation and risk getting herself in trouble fraternizing with another soldier above her rank, this had better be the best kiss of her entire life. She waited.
She waited some more. She kept her lips slightly pursed while her entire body was tingling in anticipation of his touch. Where the hell was the touch of those lips anyways?
Opening her eyes back up, she found Master Sergeant Ivanov across the room, at least ten feet from the desk and her, being held back by a man she’d never seen before.
The stranger was largely built, showcased by his olive green, Army t-shirt, which was stretched tight across his broad shoulders, however he was still smaller than Ivanov. It was a miracle the unknown soldier was able to hold back the struggling Master Sergeant at all. With sandy blond hair that was so thick and lush—falling almost to his shoulders—it could be described as a manly mane, and unnerving chocolate brown eyes that seemed out of place in context to the rest of his appearance.
He was both beauty and a beast. Beautiful because Elena had never seen anything like him with his golden tan skin, matching hair, and a body that was clearly built better than any body builder she’d ever seen except for, perhaps, Ivanov’s. Beast because of the four ghastly scars, which looked like claw marks, that went from the top of his forehead down to his jaw on the left side of his face.
The man was hissing something in tones too low for Elena to hear at the man he was restraining, trying to settle him down. Her lust fizzled out as she watched the strange show in front of her and curiosity surged instead. She’d almost be willing to hand Ivanov’s duty weapon over to him if she could find out whatever it was the stranger said to him that seconds later put a weird look on his face as he still stood staring at her.
What the fuck was going on here?
* * *
“Get your shit together before you expose yourself! Do you want a death sentence for letting the woman see you can be orange, fluffy and cute like a kitten?”
Like a bucket of ice cold water had been dumped over his head, he stopped struggling with his friend and fellow teammate and reason started to return for Gage.
Jesus. Tyson was right. He’d almost flipped his shit in front of Demos and taken her. Granted, she had seemed to be willing, but he’d been so out of it there was no telling what he would have done to the woman. Kissed her? Hell, yes. Flipped her onto her stomach, pulled her up on her knees with her shoulders pinned to the floor, slipped her pants over her ass and shoved inside of her till she could feel him in her tonsils? More than likely, which was bad because who knew if anyone was back there with them in one of those offices with the doors shut. What made it all worse was Gage couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t have really fucked it all up and let some of his beast out in some way. His claws or canines could have made an appearance, and his eyes changed color with strong emotions, like what he was feeling right then. Mind boggling lust. If he’d given into that desire to take her like the animal he really was and someone had seen something, he’d be a dead man walking. Fuck.
Gage leaned his head back against the wall, closed his eyes so he was no longer looking at the woman he wanted to screw seven ways from Sunday and took a deep breath to calm himself.
“You cool now, dipshit?” Tyson asked.
Clearing the lump from his throat, Gage rasped one word, “Yeah.”
“This is my fault, so I’ll take care of it. You stay right against this wall behind me and don’t move until it’s time for us to leave.”
Gage wanted to ask his friend why he thought the fact he’d officially flipped his shit was somehow his fault, yet he couldn’t manage more than deep, slow breaths in and out. The sooner he got out of this building, off base and on his way home, the better. He’d met a potential mate or two over his lifetime, but no one had caused this kind of reaction. This was ludicrous.
He heard Tyson talking in low tones to Demos, however he was still a little too out of it to understand what was being said. His sensitive hearing picked up the dial tone of a phone before the beeps of buttons being pushed to dial a number resonated as well. He didn’t bother to open his eyes and see what was going on, though. Tyson would take care of the situation as he’d said he would. The man had never failed to have his back in the hundred plus years that he’d known him; Gage didn’t really expect him to let him down at this moment, either.
With the surge of adrenaline running through his body as well as battling his tiger, who was still fighting to break free of its human shell, Gage damn near felt buzzed in the head. He wasn’t sure how much time was passing as he stood there, getting his shit together, but eventually the sound of Demos’s raised voice cut through and penetrated his brain.
“Do you have any idea how much trouble you could have gotten him into? You Special Forces guys think you’re all special and above everybody else, but I swear to God if you ever pull some shit like this on my base again, I’ll throw you in the brig so fast your head will spin, right after I kick you in the nuts for all the trouble you’ve caused me. Here’s Ivanov’s gun. Take it and go. I don’t ever want to see your faces again.”
Gage finally opened his eyes to look at the pretty brunette as she glared at the bigger man in front of her like she wished she could take a frying pan to his head. It would have been hysterical to him if her last words hadn’t pissed him off for what should be no reason at all.
She didn’t want to see him ever again?
Good, because he didn’t need to take a chance with the disaster she could become to him if he ever got her alone. He didn’t need to sink balls deep inside some human he couldn’t claim as his own without the fear of breaking her in the process. He was better off waiting for the next potential mate that came along.