Ready to head back to the ranch, Conn took one last deep breath of fresh air and froze. Some small difference traveled in the slight breeze.
Surveying the buildings around him, Conn searched for anything off. His gaze swept up and down the street. Across the paved road, a couple of people walking on the sidewalk gained his attention. He dismissed them after scenting nothing unusual.
There had been times in the past when other shifters had come through town looking for trouble. Conn nipped those unacceptable ideas in the bud. Most of the shifters left on their own, or if they forced Conn to take action, they were buried.
Scanning the shadows and finding nothing, Conn again looked up the street and studied the only intersection in town with stoplights. A young man emerged out of the darkness and passed under the corner streetlight. He crossed the street and came toward Conn.
The man kept his head down, not bothering to look where he was going. He weaved wildly, covering twice as much sidewalk as he would have walking in a straight line. If Conn’s keen eyesight hadn’t spotted the blood staining the guy’s ripped shirt and jeans, he would have thought the man was drunk off his ass.
Conn studied the stranger, using his heightened senses. A husky voice reached Conn’s sensitive ears. Whether natural or created from the man’s injuries, the tenor-over-gravel quality became a melody entwining a vine of intoxicating notes around Conn’s heart.
“Keep going, Aisley. You can do this. One step at a time. You’ve outrun them for a month now. Yes, you’re tired, but soon you’ll find a place to hide and rest for the night.”
Conn’s eyes widened when a latch of understanding opened in his brain and he saw a pure white aura surrounding the man.
Mate, screamed through Conn’s mind.
In the middle of the sidewalk, the man stopped, lifted his curly dark head, and looked at Conn. He swayed, caught himself, and stood trembling. Rage coursed through Conn’s veins at the sight of the bloody, crescent-shaped gash on his mate’s left cheek. Blood crusted in the corner of the man’s battered lips and he peered through swollen, bruised, eyes. Conn’s blood pressure rose several levels at the hint of bruising along the line of the man’s jaw and around the flushed skin of his throat.
Conn’s mate appeared to be dirty, beat-to-hell, way too skinny, and yet never had a more beautiful man stood before him. His mate’s nostrils flared, telling Conn the universe had gifted him a shifter whose sense of smell dominated.
“Holy hell, he’s big. I think he’s some sort of cat. I’ve only smelled the pack before, so how am I supposed to know what he is? It doesn’t matter. I can’t put him in danger. But it sure would be nice to slide up close and get naked next to him.”
Conn smiled at his mate’s musings. Seeing his smile, the man stiffened, and his eyes widened the best they could. His body tensed, and Conn could see the idea of taking off form.
“Running won’t help, little wolf,” Conn called out. The man’s body jerked, and Conn knew he’d guessed his mate’s animal. “We exchanged essences when you smelled me and I heard you. Our bodies are already changing, and tiny strings of the mate bond have already formed.”
“Shit. What am I going to do? I’m in no shape to outrun him.”
“You couldn’t outrun me on any day. Now come to me. Everything will be okay.” Conn tried to keep his tone soothing. He hadn’t had a lot of practice using soft, gentle words in his long life, but he would try for his mate.
“I was talking out loud, wasn’t I?” the man asked, clearly not wanting the answer Conn was going to give him.
“Yeah.” Conn would never be anything but honest with his mate.
Conn waited. He wouldn’t go after his mate unless no other option became available. Wolves didn’t react well to be chased or trapped, and patience was second nature to his tiger. Hell, he had bided his time for almost one hundred years, waiting for Tay to realize he sucked at ranching. This should be a piece of cake.
“Walk away and forgot about me.” Misery covered his mate’s face.
“Not happening,” Conn responded.
“I have trouble following me. I’m considered rogue. I need to keep moving.”
“You are my mate, not rogue. Together, we will handle any trouble. Your running days are over.” Satisfaction filled Conn when the small man stepped toward him.
“I would love to believe you.” A shaky hand lifted before dropping back to his side.
“You will love me forever and a day,” Conn responded.
“You sure are confident.”
“That’s because I know,” Conn said.
“Why is everything starting to hurt even more than it did before?” The man rubbed his forehead. “I’m so confused.”
“It’s the bond,” Conn replied. His own skin burned, and his tiger growled in agitation. “What is your name?”
“Okay, tell me the plan.” Aisley’s lips brushed Conn’s throat.
“During sex, we will need to come at the same time while we’re kissing,” Conn explained. “The most important thing we need to remember is that we have to stay locked together, not letting any of my cum escape from your body. If even one drop does, we both die.”
Aisley sat straight up. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Wolves bite each other and have sex. That’s it, you’re mated. You cats are fucked up.”
In one motion Aisley rolled off Conn and the bed. He paced from one end of the room to the other, murmuring under his breath. All the while, that pieced-together T-shirt gave Conn tantalizing peeks at the sweet curves of Aisley’s ass and the head of his dick. Conn sighed, not able to enjoy the show with Aisley being so upset.
Stopping in mid-step, Aisley looked at Conn and demanded, “Is there anything else?”
“We’ll need to bite each other, and at the end, we need to kiss,” Conn admitted and watched Aisley resume his pacing.
“That is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. This is getting too weird. What the hell did the cats think they were doing playing with all this magic? Aisley, I think it’s time to get out while the getting is good.”
A soul-jarring roar filled the room. Conn, in his majestic tiger form, leaped from the bed and knocked Aisley flat on his back. The tiger’s furry face moved in close and yellow eyes looked into Aisley’s. Conn roared again, letting his mate know his displeasure.
Aisley’s eyelids slammed shut, and a tear slid down the side of his face. Conn turned back into his human form. Not saying a word, he lifted Aisley up, turned to the bed, and swept the covers to the side. Crawling in, he lay down and pulled his mate close, before dragging the covers back over them both. Conn would take all the time they needed, and held his mate against him, calming them both and letting their souls comfort each other through their bond.
“What are we going to do, Conn?” Aisley whispered against his throat.
“We’re going to have sex,” Conn answered.
Aisley leaned back, and troubled dark eyes looked up at Conn. “It broke my heart to have to let my brother go out into the world without me. I knew my father would never accept his sexual preferences and try to kill him,” Aisley explained. “I foolishly threw my own gayness in my father’s face hoping that somehow my brother would get away. I didn’t go through all that, especially the part where the enforcers and my father almost tortured me to death, only to die from sex.”
“The only dying you are going to do is what the French call the little death,” Conn stated. “And if I have my way, you will be doing that many times.”
Through their bond, Aisley’s ire and determination sparked.
“Prove it, cat,” he challenged.
Conn’s tiger chuffed in happiness, the almost purr echoing throughout the room. Grabbing his mate tight, Conn rolled until he was lying on his back. Above him Aisley sat up, bare balls and ass pressed against Conn’s stomach. In one motion, to Conn’s elation, Aisley finally pulled that T-shirt off and threw it on the floor.
Studying his little wolf, Conn saw Aisley was lean to the point of skinny. Yes, the man had been sick, but the thinness seemed to be part of Aisley. He suspected it wasn’t easy being the alpha’s son.
There was no doubt in Conn’s mind that the big cats, by getting caught up in magic, went about the whole mating situation in the wrong way. Yet, their obsession to have children, and how much every child was cherished, beat the wolves any day. Hell, even the orphans like Ty were taken in and cared for with lots of love and attention. Conn could still change a diaper with ease.
Deciding a few decent meals would set things to right, Conn admired his mate’s strong shoulders and torso, which tapered down to a slim waist. Reaching around, Conn couldn’t resist grabbing Aisley’s ass with both hands, fondling and squeezing the luscious globes.
Fingers brushed against Conn’s nipples, coaxing them to tighten into little beads of flesh. A twisting pinch sent excitement streaking down to his already hard cock. A wad of glistening pre-cum to spill out.
Separating Aisley’s buttocks, Conn pressed his cock into the crease of Aisley’s ass. Holding the flesh tight around his dick, Conn started thrusting into the valley of snug skin, the friction exquisite.
A warm, wet mouth sucked in Conn’s nipple. Teeth bit down, making the hairs on his neck stand up, and his desire reach new levels.
Bracing his foot on the bed, Conn rolled them over until he settled between his mate’s legs. Taking Aisley’s face between his hands, Conn looked deep into his beautiful mate’s dark eyes.
“Open your mouth and ass to me,” he demanded.
Slim legs brushed against Conn’s hips before hugging the sides of his waist. The sparkles of excitement in his mate’s eyes grew brighter with each demand he made. And Conn wasn’t through yet.