Wes returned with two mugs of steaming coffee. He smiled, accepting his, fingers brushing over Wes’s briefly. Wes drew back slowly, as if he could also feel the tingles of electricity that raced up Tony’s arm.
“Thank you, this is wonderful,” he said after one sip.
Wes cleared his throat. “What if I poisoned your cup out of spite?”
Wes, spiteful? Never.
“You’re too good for that. Besides, my nose would have picked it up,” he answered.
Wes shook his head. “You don’t even know what kind of person I am now.”
“I do. Men change, but certain parts of them, their core, never does. You always wore your heart on your sleeve. Any other guy would have turned me away and told me to fuck off after what I did.”
“Well, there’s a simple explanation for that. I have a habit of collecting stray cats.” Wes let out a nervous laugh. “I have three at home now. Wait. Why am I telling you this? You might think I’m the crazy guy with all the cats.”
Wes always did like to share secrets with him, and he loved the fact that aspect of Wes hadn’t changed.
“So, does that mean you want to collect me, too?” he couldn’t help but ask.
Wes turned red, all the way from his neck to his cheeks. “I don’t think you’d make for a good pet.”
He let out a soft growl that made Wes’s eyes widen. Coming from another man, his lion would have been pissed. A lion wasn’t just a predator, he was king of the jungle, but from Wes, it was all right, because his animal had already begun seeing this human as their mate.
The only kink Tony had to work on was coming up with a plan to convince Wes he rightfully belonged to Tony.
“A lion isn’t a domesticated cat, but I wouldn’t mind purring for you under the right setting,” he said.
Wes set his cup down and stared at him, looking dumbfounded. “Anthony John Golden, are you flirting with me?”
Shit. That was the second time today someone used his full name, but from Wes, well, Tony found it kind of sexy. His little human could scold him all day, if that meant getting an inch closer to Wes’s heart. Oh, Tony knew there’d be plenty of barriers between them, but cats were patient hunters.
“I’m rusty. Worse than that, my dating life hasn’t actually been…” he trailed off, then looked Wes in the eye. He knew Wes hadn’t been with anyone lately either, because he didn’t smell another man’s scent on him. That only made his cat all the more smug. “It’s always been you.”
Wes swore. “Tony, you can’t just blurt out things like that. What if I’m over you? What if this isn’t a good idea?”
Tony took Wes not shoving him out the door as a really good sign. Sooner or later, his little human would learn that lions could be particularly persistent and aggressive when it came to claiming their mate. Screw right and wrong.
The right thing was to let Wes go, because Wes deserved a better man, someone who wasn’t constantly haunted by old demons at night, but death had brushed Tony once. Lying in the pool of his own blood with his torn open chest, he realized the thing he regretted most was severing his ties with Wes all those years ago. A hasty and confused kid made that decision, but he was an adult now.
“We can test that theory,” he said, leaning over the cashier counter. He fisted Wes’s shirt, watching out for Wes’s reaction. Tony would never force himself on anyone, especially not Wes, but Wes stilled. It struck him that the longing in Wes’s blue eyes must be a reflection of his own.
“What are you waiting for?” Wes asked, and Tony no longer hesitated.
Tugging Wes close, he angled Wes’s jaw and slammed his lips over Wes’s. Tony might be out of practice, but instinct took over. His lion roared inside of him, saying one word over and over.
Mine. Mine. Mine.
The moment their lips touched, flames kindled inside of him from a hunger that had been gathering for years. It didn’t help that Wes responded, passionately and ravenously. Their teeth clashed and tongues tangled. He wanted more. Wes parted his lips, and he pushed his tongue down Wes’s throat, pleased Wes sucked on it hard.
Fuck. Wes tasted so sweet, so much better than he could have imagined.
Knowing he had to pull away, Tony did, because if he didn’t, need would crash over him. Sooner or later, his lion would insist on bending Wes over the counter and taking him right there and then. His gaze slid to the line of tempting creamy skin on Wes’s neck, the part where neck flowed to shoulder, the spot a dominant shifter would place his mating mark.
Not yet, he told his impatient lion.
Ours, his lion growled out, frustrated. His skin prickled. The shop suddenly seemed so small and so hot.
“Wes,” he managed to grit out. “Go out with me.”
Wes touched his kiss-swollen lips, as if he, too, couldn’t quite believe what just happened. Tony could guess what Wes might be thinking. That kiss was nothing like the fleeting one they shared years ago.
“I need an answer. My lion’s clawing its way out, and I don’t want to leave without knowing,” he said.
“Okay,” Wes whispered. “I thought I was over you, Tony, but it looks like I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I’m scared. When it comes to you, the rules of the dating world never applied.”
“Good. I’ll see you tomorrow, little human.” With his lion appeased for now, he exited the bakery.
“What’s wrong?” Wes asked, worried. “Don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind.”
“Not at all,” Tony said with a snarl. “But what’s underneath this shirt isn’t pretty. It’s better if I keep it on.”
How a gorgeous man like Tony could feel self-conscious was beyond him. Then it struck Wes. Tony had been caught in an explosion, and he heard from Alicia that his chest had sustained most of the damage, that Tony needed the help of the Rex and a talented healer to patch him up. Wes didn’t know the exact details, but he understood Tony could have died.
“Hey,” Wes began, leaning forward to give Tony a gentle kiss on the lips. “Nothing will scare me.”
Tony gently pried his hands and reached for Wes’s shirt. “Tonight is not about me. I want to make you purr for me, little human.”
He shuddered as Tony’s pupils turned fully to gold. Shifters changed eye color when intense emotions rode them, he remembered reading that somewhere. Wes wanted to convince Tony he didn’t care about his scars, that he was perfect in Wes’s eyes, but this was their first official date.
Besides, he recognized the stubborn look in Tony’s eyes. Tony didn’t want to talk about his scars, not tonight. The last thing Wes wanted was to ruin their evening, especially after such a good start. Tony made so many preparations, and while his proud lion didn’t show it, Tony had been as nervous as Wes about tonight.
Wes could give Tony time, until his lost lion prince was ready to show all of him to Wes.
“Purr for you? I’m not a cat,” he said, flirting back. Wes realized he liked this light banter between them.
Tony wore that mischievous look again, as if his earlier insecurities were already gone. Someday, Tony would no longer need to hide from him. “Challenge accepted.”
Wes let out a squeak as Tony gave him a gentle shove, until his ass hit the kitchen counter. Looking at the sexy male in front of him, Wes wondered if he’d bitten more than he could chew.
* * * *
“Where were we? Oh yes,” Tony said. The infuriating lion prince grabbed a fistful of his shirt. One yank and the fabric tore, falling at his feet.
“Hey,” Wes protested. His heart hammered painfully against his chest. Excitement coursed through his veins like a shot of adrenaline. This was exactly how he imagined their first time, with him being under Tony’s complete mercy.
“Don’t worry, little human, I’ll get you a new shirt, or you can borrow one of mine tomorrow.”
He pretended to look indignant, but really Wes enjoyed the game too much. He couldn’t let his cocky lion know that though. “And what kind of message will that send to your pride mates?”
“Hmm?” Tony ran his big callused hands down his body and just the simple contact made him groan. Wes wanted to rub himself against Tony’s muscled body, to feel Tony’s dick against his. “By the end of tonight, you’ll be carrying my scent. There’s no denying who you belong to.”
“W-what?” Wes had to admit, Tony’s words only turned him on, made his dick harden.
“Everyone knows, little human. You’re all mine.”
“There you go again, making statements like that out of the blue.”
Tony gave him a predator’s smile and hooked his fingers into Wes’s belt loops. He didn’t stop Tony from unbuttoning and unzipping him, even gave Tony a hand as he shoved his jeans and boxers down. Once they pooled at his ankles, he kicked them along with the tattered remains of his shirt and stood in front of Tony, completely nude.
A shudder crept down his spine at that single word. No one ever called him that, and only Tony would look at him like he was the most valuable treasure he’d like to own. Tony tugged him close, took his lips again, and managed to say, “Couch, that way. Don’t want to fuck you against a hard surface the first time.”
Did Tony mean the kitchen counter? The image suddenly sprung up in his head, unbidden. He blushed, wondered if they’d have the chance to make that particular position come to life someday. Soon, he thought, because it looked like neither of them would be parting ways anytime soon.
Tony led him past the kitchen and to the living room. One gentle shove to his chest and Wes lay on his back on the leather couch. Tony climbed on top of him, and he groaned, aroused by the fact Tony remained dressed while he was vulnerable and completely naked. He was about to reach out, but Tony pinned his hands above his head, then took his mouth again, turning his brain to jelly. Tony went lower, kissing the side of his neck. He stilled as Tony grazed a bit of fang on that spot, and he froze. Tony breathed hard, and he had a feeling Tony was warring with his inner beast.
Wes was about to call out to Tony, to tell him it was fine, but Tony quickly regained control and started his way down. Tony left nips and bites down the length of his body, took his left nipple into his mouth and sucked. Wes buckled, all too aware of Tony closing his fingers over his dick and beginning to stroke. He gasped from the combination of pain and pleasure.
Every muscle in his body tensed up, ready for what came next. Tony left another bite mark on his other nipple, while he trailed his fingers down Wes’s balls, his crease, and played with his puckered asshole.
“Not there,” he whispered.
“Why? This ass is mine,” Tony said, grinning.
What could Wes say to that? It was true. When Tony climbed on top of him, the lion prince soon had control of his body, and he loved that, liked submitting to Tony.
“Cocky lion,” was all he managed to say.