Giovanni Goldclaw rolled out of bed when his phone rang. Pausing to check the time before he picked up, he had to suppress a curse. He’d had barely four hours of sleep. Usually he went to bed early and got up early, but last night, secure in the knowledge that he didn’t have to get up in the morning, he’d sat up to watch a late game and then indulged himself in a live football relay from Milan, which had meant he was very late to bed.
“What?” He barely kept his response civil, and his tiger came to the fore, grumpily complaining.
“Somebody left the stable door open.”
That woke him. Gio sat bolt upright, clutching the phone. “What’s happened?”
“Thunderthighs got out.”
“Fuck.” He was out of bed and grabbing his jeans before his breed partner had stopped talking. Thunderthighs was their name for the hope of their stable, but they could hardly call the mare Clytemnestra Delivers The Goods in everyday life.
Gio had given years of his life to her. They’d raised her from a foal, watching the coltish filly stage like proud parents, and guiding her willfulness into full bloom. Now ready to run her first major race in the new year, she was as edgy as they allowed her to get, and full of oats.
And she was out. Fuck knew what trouble she’d gotten into. His blood ran cold and he shivered as he grabbed a shirt and pulled it on. “I’m on my way.”
Changing his mind, he quickly stripped out of his clothes. He’d get there faster in his other shape. Leaving his clothes on the floor he raced from the room and out of the house, before letting his other form take charge. His tiger shimmered into life and he broke into a loping stride, taking the mile between his house and the stables faster than the speediest man on earth.
A group of hands gathered around the stables. One of them was his breed partner, Cody. He strode forward as Gio arrived, circled the group and came to a halt by the rack of clothes. Gio shimmered into human form and grabbed a pair of jeans. It didn’t bother him to be naked, but it unnerved some of the hands, so they kept a few garments for that purpose. “I have no idea who did it, but I’m thinking it was a guest,” Cody told him.
Still not fully settled into his human form, Gio growled low. “I’m more worried about the horse. Do you have her?” Turning, he headed for the stable.
Inside, everything was perfect. Cody and Gio insisted on it. Everything had to be in its place. The horses kept here were the cream, the best. Although they cost a fortune, they were an advertisement for the rest of the livestock and Goldclaw as a resort. Not that Gio cared for that. Only for the horses. They had one winner, currently shuffling in his stall. Gio spared him a glance as he passed, but the chestnut seemed unperturbed. Murmuring a greeting, he walked past. The horse’s nostrils flared, probably picking up the scent of the tiger, but she was used to it. Gio and Cody had ensured that, since they were responsible for training them.
Thunderthighs was back in her stall, but she wasn’t happy. Her eyes were stark, and her ears went back as soon as Gio’s shadow fell on the wall of her stall.
“Hey, steady, girl,” he murmured.
He didn’t leave until he’d run his hands over her and ensured for himself that she’d come to no harm. He owed the staff for getting her back in one piece and relatively unharmed.
As he left the stable his heart steadied to its usual beat. Ever since he’d heard the news he’d run harder and faster, adrenaline coursing through his body. Shit, he needed coffee. But he still had work to do.
“Who did it?”
Silently, Cody handed him an enamel mug brimming with the life-giving fluid. As an Italian, Gio needed coffee. As an adopted Texan, that need had only doubled. He took his first swallow.
Cody tipped back his battered Stetson with one finger. “We’re still looking. Guy and Chance have gone east and west. We need to track, so strip, buddy.”
Gio finished his drink in a couple of swallows, and nodded. He dumped the mug and for the second time that morning, undressed, shifting to tiger immediately. His paws hit the ground.
Can you smell anything? he asked telepathically. He lifted his great head and drew in a breath.
The scent of the morning, strongly flavored with horse, rewarded him. He concentrated, searching for something different, something that shouldn’t be there.
To the south, Cody said tersely. He loped away.
Gio paused, then caught something else. Sharper, tangier, and foreign. I’ve got something else. Northwest. I’ll keep in touch.
Gio raced off.
Fur changed to skin. Hard, male skin over firm muscle. A naked man lay over her.
Gio. She had little time to recognize him before his mouth was on hers. He forced open her lips and thrust his tongue inside. She should fight. She should protest. She should scream, but she did none of those things.
Instead, she kicked free of the robe and curled her legs around his thighs, straining up to press her body against his, arousal roaring through her like a living thing.
He ravaged her mouth, eating her as if he couldn’t get enough. She responded, thrusting her fingers into his hair, digging her fingertips into his scalp. Hunger overwhelmed her, for him, this man. He groaned into her mouth, then kissed her cheek, the underside of her chin, then her throat. Thrills coursed through her, addictive, unlike anything she’d experienced before. She wanted more of it, much more, as much as he could give her.
They hadn’t exchanged a word. Not one, since he’d pounced on her. She didn’t feel the need to, they both knew what they wanted. He sucked a nipple, and she arched her body up to him, needing this more than she needed her next breath. When he bit her breast, she cried out and held his head close to her, begging him for more without words. He kissed his way to her other breast, circling a nipple with his tongue, sensitizing her beyond bearing. She didn’t know how much of this she could stand.
But she couldn’t bear for him to stop.
Gio lifted his head. His eyes gleamed with an unearthly light. In other circumstances she might be scared, but he had taken her with him into the wild wind and she was as much a part of this as he was. If he didn’t fuck her, she just might die.
He went back to kissing his way down her body. His kisses had nothing tender about them, but took her into his world, nip by nip. She entered willingly, and when he reached her clit, he lavished it with kisses, making her whimper, the nearest she’d come to speaking since he entered the room. He sucked her cunt, claiming her juices for himself. Then she did speak, but only to cry out “Yes!”
With a growl of satisfaction, he prowled back up her body. His normally dark eyes glowed with an amber light, a sign that his tiger was still with him. She gloried in it, adored the indication that he was about to let go of his civilized side. She had done that to him, in a way she hadn’t thought possible.
With his upper body resting on one elbow, he grasped his cock and brought it to her pussy.
With a sigh of surrender, she opened her legs as wide as they would go, hugging his hips between her thighs.
“Fuck me,” she begged. “Don’t stop.” Not now.
“They’d have to kill me first,” he said, his voice close to a growl.
You’re mine. Do you want me?
She knew shape-shifters could speak telepathically, but she hadn’t been aware that she could talk back. She dismissed the fleeting surprise. She’d deal with that later. Now she just wanted the one thing, and it was about to happen.
His cockhead touched her and she went wild, arching her back so that only her shoulders and buttocks contacted the carpeted floor.
He drove into her, hard and deep, thrusting until he was fully embedded in her body.
Vicky froze, but this time with shock. Shock that was reflected in his eyes when he lifted his head and stared at her.
“What is it?” he asked.
She shook her head, her hair clinging to the carpet. “It doesn’t matter. It’s been a long time, that’s all.” Sliding her hands down to his backside, she held on. She would not willingly let him go. He didn’t need to know, it wasn’t important.
He watched her as he withdrew and thrust, contacting the most intimate parts of her body. A thrill went right up her spine to the top of her head and she gasped for breath.
He cupped her head in his hands and brought his mouth down to hers, pushing his tongue into her mouth in a counterpoint to the drive of his cock into her eager body. She’d never been so out of control before, and she loved it.