“She’s the one, right, Ryan?”
Dane heard Micah’s question, but it didn’t slow him down. Covering the short distance between them, he had his arm back then blazing forward as Ryan turned to answer Micah. His fist connected to his friend’s jaw, catching him off guard. Ryan went down, landing on his back.
Again, Dane paid little attention to Micah as his friend launched his body off the horse and ran toward him. He planted his feet apart, waiting as Ryan scrambled upright. Micah took hold of his arms just as Ryan came up swinging. The punch to his jaw was perfect retaliation. Dane jerked backward and fell against Micah. Pain seared into his jaw, but it didn’t stop him. He pushed away, getting back on his feet as fast as he could. He ducked just in time, avoiding the second punch.
Stunned by the blow, Micah staggered back. “Why the hell did you hit me, man?”
“Stay out of the fucking way,” demanded Ryan.
Micah and Ryan came at each other, hands fisted, the shift sweeping over them.
The last thing they needed was to have two dragons shifting in full daylight out in the open. Dane, his initial burst of anger easing, did the only thing he could think to do. Growling, he threw his body between his friends, blocking both of them from landing another blow.
“Knock it off!” He turned his dragon loose just enough for his eyes to change to red. Flickers of flame and smoke drifted out from between his razor-like fangs.
Micah and Ryan stepped back, surprised to find Dane ready to change. Their own transformations reversed, bringing them back to full human. Micah staggered away, rubbing his jaw.
Still, he couldn’t let Ryan get away with the shit he’d pulled. “Why the hell did you yell at her like that?”
“I didn’t yell at her.” Ryan wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth. “Besides, she jumped on my ass first.”
“So what? You’re the one who’s supposed to be taking care of her.”
Dane eased back, doing his best to stay in control. He’d learned from experience that, once they got over the initial flare of anger, they’d begin talking and come to terms. If they didn’t, things could end up the same way their last fight had. Ryan had wound up with a broken nose, and Micah had suffered a burn on his lower back.
“I’m doing my best. But I can’t do anything unless her friend wants to press charges. Or if we catch Scruggs trying to hurt her.”
“Scruggs? Who the hell is Scruggs?”
“Scruggs is Brenna’s husband. He’s the one who tried to haul her away from the women’s shelter. Julie stopped him.”
The three of them stared at each other, trying to come to grips with what they’d learned.
“What’d Julie’s ex do to her?”
“He abused her.” Dane added the rest before Micah could. “She didn’t get into details, but it doesn’t take a detective to figure out that he treated her like shit. Bad enough that I’ll bet he put that scar on her arm. Bad enough to put his ass in prison.”
“Fuckin’ A. I’d like to wring his neck and roast him over my fire.”
Dane understood Ryan’s feeling. “Yeah. I’d let him cook nice and slow. While he was still alive.”
The tension that had flared to life so suddenly was over. Yet Dane couldn’t relax. Not until he knew what Ryan did.
“So it’s her friend, one of the women from the shelter, who’s in trouble?” At least it wasn’t Julie who was in danger. She didn’t appear as though she’d been beaten recently, but then again, clothing hid a lot of marks. Still, he had a feeling the real damage was hiding on the inside.
“Yeah. Shit. I feel like a real asshole now.” Ryan dragged his hand along his jaw. “I wouldn’t have come down on her if I’d known what she’d gone through.”
“Why aren’t you watching her friend?” Dane backed off at Ryan’s hard glare.
“The captain didn’t think we had enough to warrant any officers spending time sitting outside her place. I got one of the rookies to watch over her when I can’t. At least last night and today. I was planning on going back there tonight.”
“So that’s where you went instead of the art show.” It made sense. Ryan was a good detective but an even better man. “You missed it. She wore this tight black dress, and, damn, the girl filled it out. Oh, yeah. And her artwork is good, too.”
“You look like hell, man.” Micah grinned at Ryan then stuck out his hand. “No hard feelings, right?”
“Are there ever?”
Now that the fight was definitely over, Dane strode over to his horse. “I’ll take the first watch tonight.”
“The hell you will. You’re not a trained officer.” Ryan crossed his arms, a challenge in his tense posture.
“I’m not one, either, but I’ll take the second watch. You can have the two to seven a.m. watch.” Micah grabbed the saddle horn and pulled himself into the saddle.
“And then go straight into work?” Ryan hadn’t moved.
“Guess so. But you’re a big boy. You can handle losing a little sleep. Still, you’d better get some shuteye. And set your alarm. I’m not dragging your ass out of bed.” Dane chuckled, loving the scowl on Ryan’s face.
“I’ll take the first watch.”
“Nope. I already called it.” Dane pulled his horse to a stop.
“What are you? Five?” Ryan heeled around and started for his pickup. “You get the third shift. I’m doing the first. I’ve got some apologizing to do.”
Dane was about to protest when Micah shot him a look. “Fine. Just don’t go riling her up any more than you already have.”
“Are you sure, baby?” He gritted his teeth then stood up and shoved his jeans to the floor, kicking off his boots as he did. “Fuck that. This is happening.”
He fell on top of her. She grabbed hold of his shirt and shoved it higher, skimming her hands along the ripped abdomen then over the mountainous pecs. His mouth met hers again, sending a growl-like sound into her throat.
Wrapping her legs around his waist, she kissed him back as hard as she could, ready to finally, after so long, feel a cock inside her.
Yet it wasn’t just any man’s cock. It was Ryan’s.
She gasped into the kiss as he thrust inside her. His cock stretched her vagina, causing a friction that burned hard and fast. When she clutched at his hair and yanked his mouth from hers, she was sure she saw more red in his eyes. He was lost in passion, a strange look in his eyes that both frightened and thrilled her.
Harder, he slammed into her. Heat flared around them, turning the air around them into the thick moisture of a sauna.
He didn’t need to say more. She understood all the meaning behind just saying her name. Clinging to him, she pushed her hips up, meeting his thrusts with her own.
They’d been at odds since meeting, and yet, somehow she’d known they’d wind up together, locked in an embrace, their bodies joining. He tortured her breasts, moving from one to the other. He was rough, demanding, moving so fast that at one point, she would’ve sworn she saw smoke sifting out from between their bodies. She would’ve laughed at the ridiculousness of the idea if she’d been able. They gave themselves to each other, losing the ability to speak, saving all their strength for their lovemaking. Her climax hit her, driving up and out from her core with a power that stunned her. She tensed and dug her fingernails into his back.
His gaze, silver-red, met hers, and then he ducked his head as he sat up, bringing her on top of him. They clung to each other as their releases stormed through them, shuddering and unhinging every nerve in their bodies.
She cried out, loudly, too loudly with neighbors surrounding her, but she didn’t care who heard her. Ryan’s groan turned into a monstrous shout that would’ve shaken her if she’d had any energy left. As his cum filled her, she vaguely worried about the lack of protection, but it was too late now.
Strangely, part of her rejoiced to have his seed filling her.
They stayed together, holding on to each other as though turning the other free would somehow break them into pieces. When at last their breathing had returned to normal, he gently laid her on her back.
“Are you all right?”
She smiled, thinking the question silly, and yet not. “I was hoping I was better than all right.”
He cupped her breast tenderly, lovingly. “Hell, yeah, you were. You were fuckin’ amazing.”
His expectant expression did bring a giggle to her. Obviously, he wanted a review of his sexual prowess. “You know how good you are. You have to know. I’ll bet you have a hundred women who would tell you the same thing.”
A slice of jealousy hit her. How many women has he had?
“A hundred? Not hardly. And even if a thousand women told me I was the stud of all studs, none of that would mean anything compared to what you think.”
He means it. “Damn. Who’d have ever thought Detective Ryan Draper would ever say anything that nice to me?”
“Yeah, well, don’t get used to it.” He grinned then gathered her clothes for her. “Unless you want to go again?”
“Damn. Give you one compliment and it makes you a sex monster.”
“Some would say I was already a monster.”
He turned his face away from her and picked up his own clothes. Yet it was the tone of his voice, all of a sudden somber, that had her wondering. She was about to ask him what he meant when her cell phone rang.
She tugged on her clothes and grabbed it. Her breath hitched in her throat when she saw the caller ID.
“What’s wrong, Julie?”
She waved off Ryan’s question. “Hello?”
Please, God. Let him tell me what I need to hear.
“Yes, Mr. Leyhe?” Her attorney never called her unless it was important. “What did they decide?”
“I’m sorry, Julie.”
Oh, shit. This is bad. So very bad.
“The board granted his parole. In fact, they’re going to release him in a few days.”
“No.” Every ounce of strength inside her vanished. She sat down, her hand gripping the phone until her knuckles turned white.
Ryan put his arm around her. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
She couldn’t tell him. If she spoke the words out loud, it would make it real. Instead, she shook her head and handed him the phone. She slumped against the arm of the couch as the darkness flowed over her.
He’d be coming to get her. No matter what he’d promised, he’d come. How could she have allowed herself to hope otherwise?
“This is Detective Draper with the S.A.P.D. Who is this, and what’s going on?”
She couldn’t listen, couldn’t force her mind to settle on anything other than the fear curling its way into her.
Oh, God, he’s free.