Shadow wasn’t sure where Khaos had been taken, but now that he suspected his baby brother was still alive, he would move heaven and earth to find him.
Taking a deep breath, Shadow crept out the back window and ducked into the woods. If Ekbon or one of his followers saw Shadow leaving, he would be sentenced to death.
The cold wind snapped around him, robbing Shadow of his warmth as he trekked through the woods to the main road. He’d seen the truck turn left, so Shadow did the same.
He was determined, but he was also afraid. He’d never left his village before, and stepping out into the modern world was downright frightening, but for Khaos, he would do it.
Shadow made it about a mile before a car approached, then began to slow. It pulled up ahead and stopped. Shadow became wary, unsure if he should pass it.
A lumbering man got out, dressed in dark blue clothing. “You broke down somewhere?” he asked as he strode toward Shadow. “I can give you a lift to town.”
Shadow clutched his handkerchief of food to his chest, taking a step back. His scent had wafted toward Shadow, and it wasn’t a smell he was familiar with. The guy wasn’t human, demon, vampire, or a wolf shifter. Shadow had run across all those types of beings.
“Hey now.” The stranger’s gray eyes sparkled. “I ain’t gonna hurt you, fella.” He tapped his chest. “See that badge? I’m a deputy. I’m sworn to protect.”
“You protect people?” That gave Shadow hope, but he was still wary of the guy. He’d heard horror stories about the outside world, though he didn’t believe half of what he’d heard. Still, he erred on the side of caution, keeping his distance as he ogled the handsome man.
And he really was quite dashing. Not only did he have the prettiest gray eyes Shadow had ever seen, but he had thick, black lashes that accentuated those dazzling beauties. He wore a close cut beard, and he looked the epitome of manliness.
Even his voice was husky, and Shadow just bet that if he was hugged up in the man’s arms, he would feel his voice vibrating in his chest.
“I do.” The deputy said as if proud. “And I also help people. Now why are you walking down this long stretch of road in the bitter cold?”
Shadow’s nose twitched as he took a step closer, inhaling deep drafts of the man’s earthy scent. “What are you?”
His laugh was deep, smoky, and had Shadow’s heart fluttering. “First, my name is Deputy Axel Rothenberg.”
“Are you a deputy, or is your first name Deputy?”
The guy’s laughter was booming as he leaned a hand on the back of his car. “Thanks, I needed that laugh. I’m hoping you’re joking, but it’s okay if you’re not. My first name is Axel.”
Shadow liked his smile. The whiteness of his teeth was in contrast with his dark hair, making his features starker. “And what are you?”
“You gotta give me your name first, sweetheart.” His teasing had Shadow feeling a little less scared. He found himself smiling, too—even if it was just a timid smile.
“No last name?”
He shook his head.
“And I take it you’re an elf?” Axel nodded toward Shadow. “The points of your ears are a dead giveaway.”
Shadow tucked his knitted cap farther down his head. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
Axel moved closer, making Shadow take a step back. He might be one of the good guys, but his sheer size was intimidating. “No need to run, hon.”
“You scare me,” Shadow admitted.
“Ah, sugar, I would never hurt you.” Axel stopped right in front of Shadow. “I’m a jaguar, and we’re very tactile creatures. I’d sooner make love to you than harm you.”
Shadow’s brows shot up. “You don’t hold back, do you?”
“Nope.” Axel winked at him. “I believe in telling it like it is, and sugar, you are one fine-ass looking man.”
Shadow felt his face heat to nuclear levels. If he blushed any harder, he’d melt the fallen snow. His nose twitched again. Axel might be a cat shifter, but there was an underlying scent that Shadow couldn’t quite put his finger on, and it had nothing to do with his species.
Axel’s gray eyes became heavy lidded. He reached for Shadow, pulling him close. “You smell like a breezy summer morning.” He dipped his head and breathed Shadow in. “I feel a deep connection to you, too.” He leaned his head back. “My mate.”
Shadow squeaked as he pulled back, shoving at Axel’s broad and solid chest. He continued to clutch his handkerchief against him as he panted, staring wide-eyed at the deputy.
“I’m not a virgin.” Shadow tried to sound indignant, but failed miserably as his voice shook, and his hands, too. He pulled his pants off, setting them aside, taking his time. When he tried to take his shirt off, his arms got tangled, and he yanked his hair. “Ow!”
Axel helped him out of his shirt, a smile on his gorgeous face, but he didn’t make fun of Shadow. Instead, Axel laid him on the couch, curling up next to him. Shadow thought his mate would get right down to business, but he simply lay there, skimming his beefy hand over Shadow’s chest, side, hip, and leg. His mate’s touch made goose bumps break out all over him.
“Now that’s the kind of response I like to see,” Axel whispered into his ear. “I could lay here and pet you all night.”
God, Shadow hoped not. As much as he was enjoying what Axel was doing, Shadow wanted sex, naughty, tantalizing, explosive sex.
He felt the pull of mates, felt the bone-deep connection to Axel, and Shadow wanted to be claimed by the jaguar, to be owned by him.
Not just because he had nowhere to go, and not because he needed a safe place to raise Khaos. Because he wanted an even deeper connection to Axel. His father had told him how special a mate was, how he’d felt Shadow’s mother deep in his soul.
He quickly slammed a lid on those thoughts. No way would he cry when he was trying to get his groove on.
His heart thumped against his ribs when Axel picked the tube up. The word “Lubricant” was on the side. Shadow had dreamed of finding his mate after his dad had explained what a mate was. He’d looked forward to this moment.
But now that it was here, he was shaking like crazy, and cursed his shattered nerves. Axel didn’t seem to notice, or he had and didn’t comment. He simply tossed the tube aside and slid his hand between Shadow’s cheeks, circling his fingers around his puckered hole.
Shadow bit his lip when one of Axel’s thick fingers breached him. His mate kissed along his neck, making that sensual purring sound, helping Shadow to concentrate on something other than the burning pain.
Axel coaxed Shadow onto his chest. Shadow went willingly, his knees on either side of Axel’s hips. He ground his cock into Axel’s waist, moaning as the burn turned to pleasure.
If this was what sex felt like, Shadow was hooked. Axel pulled Shadow down to him, capturing his lips as he inserted another finger, making the burn return. He wiggled his butt, trying to adjust to the added girth as Axel swept the interior of Shadow’s mouth with his tongue.
When he slid a third finger inside, Shadow bit Axel’s bottom lip, panting into the kiss.
Okay, maybe he wasn’t so hooked on sex as he’d just thought, because damn, Axel’s fingers hurt. They stretched Shadow too wide, and if his fingers felt that way, Shadow wasn’t so sure he wanted to find out what it would feel like with his mate’s cock buried inside of him.
“Your fingers are too big,” Shadow whined against Axel’s mouth.
“Just breathe, handsome,” Axel said. “I promise, it gets better.”
Shadow didn’t take much comfort in Axel’s promise. From where he stood, the pain was too real. He kept wiggling, trying his best to adjust, but no matter how much he moved, those fingers hurt.
Then they were gone, and Shadow felt the blunt head of Axel’s cock pressing against his stinging hole. He sucked in a breath right before his mate drove deep inside of him.
“Damn it!” Shadow dug his nails into Axel’s chest. But his mate didn’t lay still. He started to move, and Shadow’s pain morphed into pleasure beyond anything he’d ever experienced before.
It took him to great heights as Axel grabbed his hips, thrusting upward, chasing Shadow’s lips with his own.
Good God. He’d seriously died and gone to heaven as Axel’s cock grazed over a part of Shadow’s ass that made him want to drool. It was like being jacked-off from the inside as Axel pounded his cock deep into Shadow’s hole.
And his hands were everywhere, touching Shadow’s back, his shoulders, his thighs, and everywhere in between as he kept purring, staring deep into Shadow’s eyes.
“My mate.” Axel’s gray eyes were dark with hunger. “I can’t believe I actually found you.”
Shadow felt their bond deepening as he kissed along Axel’s firm jaw. Then his mate jackknifed, placing Shadow on his back, cock still deep inside of him.
Axel gave a low, rumbling yowl as he hooked Shadow’s legs over his arms, spreading him wider as he thrust harder. “Let me know if I’m hurting you.”
“God no.” Shadow thrashed his head back and forth, clawing at Axel’s biceps, jerking his lower body upwards to meet his mate’s strokes. “You feel so good inside me.”
His mate kissed him on his eyelids, then on his forehead.
Shadow scowled. “I’m not your brother. You can kiss me on my lips.”
Axel chuckled. “Trust me, if we were related, we definitely wouldn’t be doing this.”
Shadow cried out as his mate’s cock grazed over that spot again. His balls felt heavy, and were drawn close to his body as fingers of pleasure wrapped around his spine.
“I want to feel your ass clamping hard around my dick,” Axel growled into his ear before sniffing along his shoulder. Shadow shuddered as his mate licked his skin, teasingly nipping him.
His orgasm approached, and Shadow was ready to tumble over the edge, but Axel stopped moving.
“Not yet.” He shook his head. Was the man a sadist? Why was he purposely torturing Shadow? But Shadow didn’t say a word as he lay there panting, his legs wrapped around Axel’s waist. He felt his mate’s cock hard and welcoming deep inside of him as Axel inhaled his scent.
“Mine,” Axel said before he sank his canines into Shadow’s shoulder.