On the night of the full moon, any male shifter can call the Trials to race against Talia Orion, alpha of the united wolf-eagle clans. Clan law requires Talia to marry the winner of the Trials, a grueling twenty-mile marathon through dangerous, rugged terrain. Talia, the product of an unhappy, political alliance masquerading as a marriage, trains obsessively to ensure she avoids her parents’ fate.
Her newest vampire trainer, Hayden Mitchell, makes her powerful even as he knocks down her defenses, and finds his way into her heart. Hayden has loved Talia since the first moment he saw her. As the destined ruler of the vampire clan, he also has another agenda—to politically unite Talia’s clans with his own. Will Talia be able to forgive him?
“I hate swimming.” Talia plopped on her back on the hard, packed dirt at the lake’s edge. Droplets of water glistened on still sun-bronzed skin, even as the world inched toward winter.
“I know how you feel,” Hayden said as he lay on his side next to her, his head held up by a bent arm. With his free hand, he pushed her wet locks behind her ear, letting his fingers glide along the soft silk of her cheek. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered, his gaze holding on to those mesmerizing eyes he could not get enough of.
“You don’t shrink from my eyes, my dominance.” She arched up, as if offering her firm, cream-puff breasts to him to worship. He bit his cheek to stop from leaning over and taking the gift he wanted with every fiber of his being.
“Why?” she continued.
He wanted to tell her the truth, to show her who he was and how good they could be together. But too much was riding on the plan. “I respect strength in any form.”
Her voice lowered, husky, seductive but also a little sad. “I like it. It makes me want things I thought I could do without.” She pushed the strap off her left shoulder exposing one creamy breast, the rose pink nipple bullet hard. “I can’t anymore.” She snaked one hand through his hair and led his mouth to her exposed peak. “I know you want this.”
The spicy scent of her arousal was an aphrodisiac, weaving through his senses, tensing his body until he thought he’d snap if he didn’t take her. Weakened by desire, he didn’t resist the treat teasing his lips. He lapped the peak with his tongue, then lashed and suckled it harder or softer, in response to Talia’s throaty moans. The salty sweet taste of her skin was a delicacy he’d been dreaming about sampling for so long.
Her hand stroked the skin on his back. Her thigh rubbed against his thickening erection, until he howled. “Pleasure me.” It was an order.
The authority in her voice hit him like a bucket of ice water. “Not now, not like this.” He moved away and pulled the strap back up her arm. She was so surprised she let him.
“You’re turning me down?” Anger punctuated her words, but the longing in her eyes told another story. “It’s been so long since someone touched me,” she murmured, as if she forgot his hearing picked up every whisper, exposing her vulnerability to him, a gift he would treasure and protect.
“No, not at all.” He gripped her chin in his hands. “I intend to make love to you. Hard and fast. Slow and easy. Over and over again.”
Her eyes widened, and she swallowed hard. “Why not now?”
The yearning in her voice almost broke him. Her longing for touch washed over him, called to him, but he wouldn’t settle for just a physical coupling. Her beasts would never accept a non-dominant mate.
“I say when,” he said fiercely against her throat before licking gently at the pulse throbbing in the carotid artery. “I say how, and for how long.”
His hands stroked gently down her arms, calming her anger, as he flamed his own passion. Reaching to the steel-hard discipline that allowed him to survive, he nipped her neck and pulled away.
“Still no kiss?” Talia arched up again, her face flushed with hunger.
He shook his head, stood up and pulled her up with him. “We head back.” He was playing a dangerous game. If he could not win her love by the next full moon, he’d earn her hatred forever.