Vaughn Christian is pissed. His alpha has sent him on a serious mission along with another shifter who keeps trying to play the mate card. Vaughn is determined to keep things strictly business between them. He’s lost one mate and doesn’t think he can survive losing another. But his heart and body aren’t listening…
Finley Palmer knows Vaughn’s his mate. All this cougar shifter wants is to ride off into the sunset with the man of his dreams. But Vaughn’s making that almost impossible. What does he have to do to get through to the stubborn coyote shifter?
Finley is determined to fight for his love, but it won’t matter if he and Vaughn don’t survive this mission. At this rate, stress will either make them or break them.
“Shouldn’t we talk about the elephant in the room?” Finley asked.
“The only animal I have the desire to discuss is the cougar who came into my bedroom without my invitation. In the middle of the night.”
Finley threw his arms up and let out a loud sigh of anguish. Talking with his mate felt like pulling teeth. Surprising Vaughn while the guy was asleep hadn’t been the best idea, Finley had to admit. But he was desperate. “We’re scheduled to leave on a mission in the morning.” Despite Vaughn’s protest, Beta Alan had put his foot down and decided Finley would accompany Vaughn to scout a secret laboratory where a crazy doctor experimented on humans. Fin wasn’t sure yet if he was happy with Alan’s meddling or not.
“Don’t you think carrying around unresolved issues puts us both at risk?” Finley suppressed the urge to adjust himself and crossed his arms over his chest instead. Mostly because he didn’t want to give Vaughn the satisfaction.
The coyote shifter already knew how he effected Finley. At the sight of a naked Vaughn sitting in his bed—the planes of his muscled body softly illuminated by the light from the lamp, a sheet pooled around his waist—Finley’s cat purred in deep appreciation.
Vaughn merely raised a dark red eyebrow.
God, what Finley wouldn’t give to be able to lick over the equally red morning stubble covering Vaughn’s cheeks.
“Unresolved problems? Do you mean the fact you forced your way onto my mission? Or the way you keep following me around, trying to be friends, although you know I’m not interested?” Vaughn grabbed his pillow and fluffed it. “Well, in my opinion the only problem is you’re keeping me from getting some much-needed sleep. That, in fact, is dangerous because I don’t think we’ll get much rest during this mission.”
Finley pressed his lips together and took a couple of deep breaths. Yeah, he wanted to smother his mate with his own damn pillow. And maybe punch him in the face for being deliberately obtuse. “Stop being a prick. Tell me why you’re acting as though you don’t know what I am to you.”
“A nuisance?” Vaughn asked with a straight face.
Finley winced. Okay, that hurt. “No, my mate.” Finley put emphasis on the last word. He took a couple of steps toward Vaughn and stopped beside the bed. “Why are you denying me? Am I so hideous?”
Vaughn laughed, but it wasn’t a happy sound. A muscle in his jaw twitched. His cold gaze never left Finley’s. “Don’t be stupid. Just because you have a nice ass—and I admit I wouldn’t mind giving it a good drilling—doesn’t mean there’s more between us than lust.”
“So you admit to being attracted to me?” That was something, at least. Finley could build on that.
Vaughn shrugged his shoulders. He was fit for being in his early forties, but not overly bulky like Malcolm or Bailey. The light set fire to the crinkly copper-colored hair on his chest. The skin under that hair was creamy pale. “Who wouldn’t be? I haven’t had sex in a while, and you’re constantly throwing yourself at me. I’d be dead not to get a boner around you. Is that why you’re in my room? You want a cock up your ass?”
“No.” Finley squinted. Maybe.
“You want to fuck me?”
Finley growled. “No.” Well…yes.
“Pity. Maybe a good hard fuck would get rid of the tension between us.” Vaughn threw his pillow back onto the mattress. “In that case, could you please leave me alone? It’s fucking two in the morning.”
Scrubbing a hand through his short hair, Finley briefly closed his eyes. What he had to say wasn’t easy. “Look, I think I know why you’re behaving the way you do. Losing your first mate must’ve been horrible. I get it. But—” He interrupted himself when Vaughn snarled.
“You get it? You most certainly don’t!” Vaughn flung back the comforter and rose, quickly closing the distance between them until their chests bumped together. Vaughn lowered his voice to a cold whisper. “You have no idea what I’ve been through.”
A shudder surged through Finley’s body. He guessed it was the combination of Vaughn’s fury, the dominance in his deep voice, and the heat of Vaughn’s naked chest Finley felt seeping through his shirt that caused his body to react in all kinds of interesting ways. He was turned on, for one. But another emotion, one he hadn’t felt since being a soldier, pushed to the forefront. Fear. Finley squared his shoulders and raised his chin.
Vaughn lifted his lips at one corner, revealing longer than normal teeth. “You have no idea what losing the other half of your soul does to a shifter.” A growl rumbled in his chest. What looked like pride simmered in the depths of his green eyes. “You’re stronger than I thought, I’ll give you that. But a good soldier knows when he’s lost a battle. Whatever you’ve cooked up in that head of yours, if it involves you and me, you better forget it.”
Finley shook his head. His mate wanted to speak in analogies? Fine. “Doesn’t mean I’ll lose the war as well. I won’t give up on you. On us.” Because if Vaughn didn’t pull his head out of his ass, Finley had no doubt he would find out what losing a mate felt like, and pretty soon at that.
All emotion drained from Vaughn’s face in a creepy display of absolute control. He moved closer and positioned his lips near Finley’s ear. Vaughn’s warm breath raised goose bumps on his skin. “You’re playing with fire. You should stop before one of us gets burned.”