Parker didn’t think Amara had caught his slip of the tongue. She was so exhausted she’d barely noticed him tucking her in or his slide between the sheets. He’d joined her soon after, slipping easily into sleep.
Too bad nightmares followed him. Terri chased him through his daytime slumber, sometimes trying to cajole him into making love to her, sometimes doing horrible things to Amara while forcing him to watch. It was a mishmashed jumble of images and words that left him with no doubt her brain was as moldy as the rest of her.
Parker scented the air. If Ash was in the room again eyeing Parker’s naked
Amara, wide-awake and alarmingly innocent, stared down at him, her green eyes bright, her red curls tousled. “You snore.”
His lips twitched. “I do not.”
“Do—I’m a vampire, love. I do
“Aha!” She reared back and pointed. “You
Parker tried to cover his ass. He didn’t know exactly how Amara felt and had no desire to frighten her off.
“Liar, liar, plants for hire.”
Parker bit his lip. Goddess, his woman was crazy in a good way. “That’s pants on fire.”
“So you say, but you haven’t proved it to me this morning,” she muttered, blushing furiously. “Did I say that out loud?”
The grin Parker had been trying to hold back burst through. She was his personal ray of sunshine, and he’d gladly burn for her. “Yes, you did.” He used his telepathy to grab hold of her ankle, light enough that she wouldn’t feel it until she tried to move. He’d strengthen his hold only if she struggled. Somehow he doubted she would.
“Crap.” She tried to slide out of bed “Parker.”
“Hmm?” Parker had no intention of letting her out of that bed anytime soon, not until they’d both satisfied their early-evening itch. “Is there a problem?”
“Let me go, Parker.”
He rolled over and settled between her legs. “I’m hungry.”
“Are you?” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Did you know the diner makes a mean Belgian waffle?”
“I’m not really in the mood to up my carbs.” Parker nibbled at her chin. “I have something much tastier in mind.”
Parker licked her neck, right where he’d left his mark. “I could live with that.”
Amara set her feet flat on the bed, her knees bent around his waist. “What are you waiting for, then? Get a move on. I’m hungry too.”
Parker pretended to glare, but he was barely holding back a laugh. “Did you just tell me to come so you can go?”
“Maybe.” She arched her hips, brushing the soft curls at the juncture of her thighs against his cock. “Are you complaining?”
“Hell yes.” He took one of her nipples into his mouth and teased it until it was hard, her breath coming in short pants. “I like to take my time, savor my meal.”
“Savoring is good.” Amara shifted slightly and lifted her other breast to his mouth. “Savor this.”
Parker bit down gently, careful not to break the skin. She’d be too sore for round two if he did that. “Mmm.”
Amara had amazingly sensitive nipples. He toyed with them until she was squirming beneath him, begging him to take her. But he wasn’t ready yet. She needed to be closer to the edge before he’d sink inside her in more ways than one. “Did I ever tell you I wanted to lick every inch of your body?”
Amara shook her head. “Fuck me, Parker.”
He smiled. Her eyes were wide, the bright green darkened with passion. “Soon, sweet. Soon.” He sat up and helped her roll onto her stomach. “First things first.” He scooted down her body until he was even with her feet. He lifted one delicate foot and sucked her toes slowly into his mouth. They curled as he loved them with his tongue, tasting the unique flavor that was his
She’d scream when he finally sank into her.
He did the same thing to the opposite foot, loving on it until her hips jerked against the sheets. He ran his tongue up the backs of her calves and toyed with the backs of her knees, finding places that made her squirm and that made her squeal.
He moved up her thighs and bit into her ass, drawing blood with his fangs. He sipped at the sweet nectar, careful to move with her when she threw her head back with a moan and came, making the flavor that much richer. When he lifted his mouth, he smiled. “How do you feel about matching marks?”
Nope. He wasn’t. His fangs sank into her other cheek, drawing her essence inside him. The orgasm his bite had drawn forth roared back stronger than before. She shuddered, the orgasm rolling through her with the force of a tsunami. Amara didn’t want to hold it back, didn’t want these incredible sensations to end. He could feed off her forever, and she wouldn’t complain.
“Parker. Please.” She needed him inside her, needed to feel that hot, hard length sliding and fucking and making her scream.
“Not yet. I need more.”
His tongue was so hot, so wet as it slid up her back. She hid her shivers as best she could, but knew it was no use. He felt every move, every twitch. His hands, those strong, clawed hands, scraped up her sides, and she couldn’t help herself. She arched into his touch, eager for more of his skin against hers. When he reached the back of her neck, she could feel his cock pressing into the crease of her ass, and she wanted him there, wanted him inside her. “Fuck my ass.”
Amara hid her smile and pressed her ass up against his rock-hard erection. “Please. I need it.”
With a savage snarl he moved off her and reached into the bedside drawer to pull out a brand-new bottle of lube. “I love a woman who thinks ahead.”
“C’mon. Give it to me.” She wiggled her ass and drew her knees up, exposing her wet pussy to his gaze.
“Shit.” The lube hit the comforter. Before Amara could complain, Parker’s tongue was inside her, fucking her pussy with long, smooth strokes.
Amara gasped and went to her hands and knees, spreading her legs wide so Parker could reach whatever he wanted. “Oh Goddess. Don’t stop.”
In answer Parker reached between her legs and stroked her clit in time with his thrusts. Amara bucked back into him, the sensations building and building in her core. Soon she was quivering with need. “Parker,
His tongue left her body only long enough to make room for his cock. He slammed into her pussy and fucked her with all his strength, driving her forward. Her head and shoulders mashed into the pillow beneath her. Her pussy clenched around him as the orgasm roared through her, robbing her of breath, of movement, of anything but the feel of him.
When she could catch her breath again, she realized Parker hadn’t come yet. He was still inside her, hot and hard. His movements slowed as she came down from her high. “I’m not done with you yet.”
She couldn’t even find the will to protest. She was enjoying the hell out of this. She’d never had a lover like Parker, and she never would again. “You going to fuck my ass now?”
He slapped her ass, right on one of the bite marks he’d left behind. Incredibly her pussy said,
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
She nodded. Before he could react, she had him on his back. From the look on his face, she’d surprised him. “Yup. I do. Know what else I’d like?”
“What?” He tweaked her nipples, sending more ripples of pleasure down her spine.
“I’d like to ride you until you go blind.”
Parker blinked, his expression turning feral. His eyes burned into hers, bright bloodred. His cock twitched beneath her. “Oh
She giggled and reached for the lube. “First things first.” She slicked him up, taking her time. She loved the way he moved under her palm, eager and oh so ready for her.
“Let me slick you up.” He reached for the lube, but she backed away.
“Uh-uh.” She shook her finger. “Wouldn’t you rather watch?”
He swallowed hard. “Sure,” he croaked. He buried his fingers in the comforter.
Amara winked at him and turned around, straddling his thighs. She slicked up her fingers and reached behind her, bending forward slightly. She slipped a finger into her ass and moved it around, spreading the lube and preparing the way for Parker’s cock.
When she was ready, she added a second finger and fucked herself with it. It was starting to feel really good. She scissored her fingers, stretching herself farther.
Parker moaned. “So pretty. Make yourself ready for me, love.”
She added a third finger, gasping at the slight sting, her hips hunching forward. “Feels so good, Parker.”
He touched the area where her fingers entered her ass. “Bet I know something that would feel even better, love.”
She stroked into her ass faster, the dark pleasure beginning to build inside her. “What could be better than this?”
Parker was up on his knees so quickly she didn’t have time to blink. He curled his hand around the back of her neck, drew her fingers free of her ass and slowly pulled her back. His cock was at the small of her back, and a vision of what he wanted danced inside her head.
“Try this.” Parker grabbed her hips and lifted her, placing her slick ass right over his cock. She took him in one inch at a time, the burn warring with the pleasure; soon, only the pleasure was left. Far too soon her ass rested on his thighs, and his cock was so deep it throbbed in her belly. “Now. Fuck me, Amara. Take me. Make me yours.”
Amara rose on her knees until only the head was inside her, then lowered herself. She loved the slow, wet slide of him, so thick, so hard.
He tilted her head until her neck was bared. “Play with yourself, love. Come on my cock. I want to feel you coming around me.”
Amara reached between her legs and stroked her clit. The sensation as she rode him was so intense, so very
“Mmm. Pretty. Now dance for me.” It took Amara a moment to figure out what he wanted, but when she swiveled her hips and danced on his cock, he almost lost it. “Yes. Just like that. Take me, sweet.”
He licked her neck, prepping her for his bite. He tugged on her nipples, bringing them to stinging life. The added pleasure-pain caused her to move faster. She abandoned the dance and rode his cock hard, eager to bring them both to climax.
He stroked his fangs across her skin, and she knew he was close, knew he’d bite into her before they came. She clenched her muscles, needing the feel of his fangs within her, the knowledge she was feeding her mate. “Going to fuck you under my tree, Parker. Make you a part of her, a part of
His thrusts became erratic. She felt a sharp sting as one of his teeth accidentally drew blood.
“You’d like that, Parker? Like to hold me up against that rough bark, the wind caressing our bodies? My hands pressing into my tree while you fuck me from behind and take my blood?”
She was baiting the beast, but she was close, so damn close. He had to take her, had to bite her.
“Do it, Parker. Bite me. Make me yours.”
Sharp pain and then pleasure, so much pleasure she drowned in it. She screamed soundlessly as she came; her body arched into his, her ass throbbing around his cock.
She was bent forward onto her hands and knees, his body thrusting inside hers, his fangs embedded in her neck. He fucked her like a wild thing, taking what he wanted from her. He ignored her gasps as the orgasm rolled into another one, this one almost as intense, almost as good as the last.
When he finally came, she was wrung out, sweaty and tired and oh so thoroughly fucked she couldn’t do much more than purr her pleasure. She felt the gentle swipe of his tongue as he closed the wounds.
“I gather you liked that idea.”
His entire body wrapped around hers. “You think?”
She snuggled in and allowed him to warm her cooling flesh. “We’ll have to see when we can arrange that.”
“Soon,” he mumbled against her shoulder.
“Soon,” she agreed. Sooner than soon if she had her way.
She stifled her grin.
Parker picked up the broken shards of the ornate pot he’d used to plant some of the hardier orchids and sighed. It was going to take forever to get The Greenhouse back up and running.
Luckily he had an in with the owners. “Greer?”
“Yeah?” The blond poked his head out from behind some ferns he was manhandling onto a table. The ferns were beat up, but with loving care, they’d survive what had happened. “It’s going to take a lot longer than we thought to get this place back open.”
Greer shrugged and hefted the second pot. It had to weigh almost as much as he did. “I know. Ash knows. Mina is ticked, but she knows too. It is what it is, man.” The dryad leaned over and whispered to the ferns. Parker swore the plants quivered in green ecstasy.
“Terri is alive.” Parker’s jaw clenched. It had been three days since the attack on the town, and he’d neither seen nor scented his nemesis. He’d hunted for her high and low, in and out of the forest, but he’d found no sign other than a blackened patch of ground where Dragos had ripped off her head. Mina had been livid.
She’d circled the area, chanting so softly Parker couldn’t pick up the words. When she was done, not a leaf would drop into that spot. It was isolated from the rest of the wood by the forest queen’s will and would remain that way until she was satisfied the poison had been completely leached from the soil. Earth elementals monitored the site, trying to repair the damage. From their hollow looks, it wasn’t going well.
Amara had watched Mina’s ritual with wide, glowing eyes, and he’d understood instantly how much being included had meant to her. The knowledge that the local dryads not only accepted her presence but wanted it had lifted his dryad’s spirit. Last he heard, the town’s female dryads had organized some sort of shopping trip. He’d told her to come home with plenty of lacy underthings or not at all.
He rubbed the top of his head where she’d smacked him with a cooking spoon. Sometimes his wife had no sense of humor.
“Don’t worry. We’re keeping our eyes open for her. Mina would love to have a chat with her.” Greer whispered to an orchid, and the flower bloomed for him.
“I hope she doesn’t come back here. What happened hurt Mollie quite a bit. She loves this place. Did you see the scorch marks?”
Greer’s jaw clenched, but he didn’t look up from the plant he was repotting.
“Mollie mentioned a joint program with the learning center where kids who visit one can get half-price tickets to the other. What do you think?”
Huh. This was the quietest he’d ever heard Greer.
“She might even start doing weekend work at the center.”
Greer grunted and set the pot back on the ground.
“I think she’d do a wonderful job teaching the children about the plants in their natural habitat. What do you think?”
“Whatever. Hand me the potting soil.”
Parker gave him the twenty-five-pound bag, and Greer set it on the stainless-steel worktable. “Speaking of the forest, what if Terri’s in the heart of it, hiding like some kind of poisonous vine, waiting for a chance to strike again?”
Greer crumpled the edge of the table like paper with his bare hands. “We kill her.”
“Fascinating.” Parker shook his head. “Why is Amara considered the guardian of your species if you can all do that?”
Greer looked down at his hands. Shock raced across his features before it was quickly wiped away. “No reason.” He pointed toward the office door. “Fergie in yet?”
“She needs to get more rest. If her emotions aren’t under control, she runs the risk of setting fires she doesn’t want to.”
“Really? I thought elementals were taught to control their powers from the cradle.”
Greer hefted another massive pot onto the table, careful of the crumpled edge, and whispered to it, packing potting soil around the exposed roots. “Fergie’s a halfer.”
Greer chuckled. “Halfer. Her father was human, her mother a fire elemental. With halfers, you never know if you’re going to get a supernatural, a human with psychic powers or an ordinary human. Fergie got her mom’s abilities, but they didn’t hit until puberty. No one’s quite sure why, except maybe Selena, and she’s not talking.”
Puberty, eh? “When did you meet Mollie?”
Greer put the pot back on the ground and hefted the next one. “When we were young, maybe eleven or twelve. Why?”
“And she suddenly had powers. Think about it.”
Greer shook his head, the orange highlights looking like…well, flickering fire. “No way. Fergie’s gay.”
Parker burst out laughing. “Gay?”
“Yes, gay. What’s so funny about that?”
Parker laughed harder. “Parker. That’s not funny. We accept everyone here—gay, straight, werewolf, cursed vampire. You name it. Making fun of someone because—”
Parker held up his hand, cutting Greer off. “She’s not gay.”
“Yes, she is. Several people have told me so.”
“And you believed them?” Parker wiped tears of laughter from his eyes. “Trust me, she’s not gay.”
Greer, a stubborn expression on his face, crossed his arms over his chest. “How would you know?”
“Because she checked out my ass.”
Greer chuckled. “Yeah, right. That flat old thing?”
“Jealous much?” He smirked at Greer’s snarl. “I know when a woman checks out my ass, and her eyes were all over it.” Of course, that was weeks ago, but Greer didn’t need to know that. And once Mollie realized he was her new employee, all checking out of body parts had stopped.
“Which one? The one behind you or the one on your shoulders?”
“Ha-ha. Funny man. You mark my words. Mollie is very much into men.”
Greer relaxed with a grin. “Prove it.”
“You heard me. Put your money where your mouth is, pretty boy. Prove Fergie isn’t gay.”
“First off, if I lay a hand on her, Amara will go bonkers, and we all know how that would turn out. Second—Hell. I
Carter was strangely alert. Perhaps he was on the night shift. “Evening, Carter.”
“Hey, Parker.” Carter seemed remarkably happy to hear from him. Perhaps he was ready to pay his debt. “What can I do for you?”
Parker put it on speakerphone. “Remember that debt you owe me?”
Carter didn’t hesitate. “Mine or the pack’s?”
“Yours. I need a favor.”
“I need to prove to someone that Mollie Ferguson is not a lesbian. Think you can help me?”
“Mollie? A lesbian?” Carter laughed so hard Parker had to turn down the volume. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“Nope. I’m at The Greenhouse with Greer Berkeley, and he’s insisting Mollie is gay.”
Carter snorted. “Yeah, right. That’s why she paid twice to come to my kissing booth at the county fair last summer. Girl has some serious lips on her.” Carter’s voice had gone dreamy yet hungry, and Parker knew he’d relished the chance to kiss the woman.
“So you’ll do it? Prove Mollie isn’t gay?”
“Man, twist my arm. Hell, I need to owe you debts more often.”
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
“You can take that as a
Greer’s jaw went slack. “Oh hell
The table Greer was working at snapped in half. Parker looked over at the startled, angry dryad. “Hmm.”
“I think Greer doesn’t like you wanting to date Mollie.”
Carter snorted again. “He had his chance and blew it. Now it’s my turn.”
Greer threw his hands up in the air. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Mollie asked you to prom, remember? And you turned her down. Some say you turned her down so hard she completely bottled herself up and that’s why we rarely see the old Mollie. But you watch. I have every intention of bringing that Mollie back. All that fire and passion. Think about it, Greer. That’s a hell of a fire a man can warm himself at.”
“She was a child, Carter.”
“So you knew she had a crush on you?”
Parker was fascinated. He hadn’t intended to open a can of worms, but apparently he had.
“No!” Greer’s hair moved on its own like leaves in a breeze. “She had a crush on Mina, not me!”
Carter erupted once more into laughter. “Dude. You
Greer’s eyes were wide and unfocused. “She wanted Mina, not me.”
“And that’s why you turned her down, because you thought she wanted your queen?”
Greer shuddered. The sound of leaves rustling was painfully loud in the quiet greenhouse. “Partially.”
“And are you going to let our resident fireman win the lady?”
If looks could kill, Parker would have been digging himself out of his grave again. “What do you think?”
“I think he’s two kisses up on you.”
“Are you trying to get one of my wolves into trouble, Mr. Hollis?”
The deep, gravelly voice sent Parker’s beast into a frenzy. He prepared himself for battle with the man who’d hunted Amara through the woods like an animal. “Noah Wulfenbach, I presume?” He turned to face the huge wolf standing in the doorway.
Noah Wulfenbach had to be at least six-four, with dark hair and eyes black as night. An aura of power surrounded him that had been missing from the other wolves Parker had met.
This man was dangerous; he knew it, and he was damn
Except he’d hunted
“I believe you wanted to speak to me.”
Parker grinned viciously, not that he cared. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t drain you dry.”
Noah shrugged. “We were protecting our people.”
“You would have killed her.”
Again the wolf nodded, showing no remorse.
“What would you do if it had been your mate?”
“I have no mate, so I don’t know.”
Greer jumped lightly onto the end of the broken table, and Parker knew where some of Tolkien’s light-footed elves had gotten their abilities. The dryad stood on the tilted edge with all the ease Parker showed on the level concrete floor. “Knock it off, Noah. You were wrong, and you know it. Unless you make reparation to both Amara and her blood mate, you’ll have trouble no matter what forest you enter.”
Noah crossed his arms over his chest and glowered at Greer. “Can you tell us where Terri is?”
“I wish. She’s hidden so well not even the tree roots can find her.” Greer jumped off the table edge. He landed gracefully, barely making a sound. “But maybe I can check with the others. We’ve never searched for anything like her before, and we’re not entirely certain we
“You’re the Dr. Doolittle of plants. If you can’t get something out of the forest, I’d be shocked.” Noah took a step forward and extended his hand. “Tell me about hamadryads, Parker.”
He eyed the alpha wolf with disdain. “Why?”
“So our cubs don’t make the same mistake we did.”
Greer rolled his eyes and returned to his plants. “That’s his idea of an apology, by the way.”
“The only way to stop the mistakes of the past from repeating themselves in the future is if we learn from them. What are the signs of the hamadryad? How will we know one when we see one? What can we do to assist him or her, and can a hamadryad go bad?”
“Not that yours did.”
It was a concession, of sorts.
Noah had asked Parker the question, but it was Greer who answered. “The hamadryad is the truest guardian of the forest you’ll ever meet.” Greer kept his attention on the plant on the table. “You really fucked up going after Amara the way you did. If you’d been alone, she could have killed you with a thought.”
Noah’s left eyelid flinched, the only indication he gave that he understood exactly how merciful Amara had been.
“You saw her other form?”
Noah nodded. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“And you never will again.” Parker watched Greer, happy, fun-loving Greer, go cold. The dryad’s gaze bored into the alpha to drive his point home. “The hamadryad can be human or—” his gaze darted over to Parker, his lips twitching, “—weretree.”
Noah coughed. “Weretree?”
Parker rolled his eyes. “Shut up.”
“They can command any plant life within a certain radius to do their bidding, but it tires them, and their first instinct is to
Noah was silent.
Parker stared at him and knew what he wanted him to do. “I want an apology from you.”
Noah scowled. Someone less sure of himself might have growled.
“Not to me. To Amara. Your pack has tormented her for years, tried to kill her. If it were up to me, those trees you wound up in would have pulled off your furry nuts.”
Noah couldn’t quite hide his wince.
“But my mate didn’t do that. She left you safe and sound in your woodsy cocoons and came home to protect
Noah met his eyes, and for a moment there was the distinct possibility the wolf would attack him.
Noah took a deep breath and bowed. “Of course.” The man straightened, looking like he’d rather be anywhere but here. “When and where?”
He was willing to do it in public? Parker jumped on that. “Two nights from now, at Mayor Ibanescu’s Founders’ Day party.” Dragos had considered canceling the celebration, but Amara had pointed out that now more than ever his people needed to relax and remember why Maggie’s Grove had been established in the first place. They needed to be reminded that this was home—for
But if they didn’t catch Terri before Dragos’s party, they’d be one giant target. Dragos planned to have a security detail with strict instructions on how to spot Terri and her peculiar brand of magic. Someone would figure out where she was and alert the mayor, who would fetch Parker, Amara and anyone who’d agreed to help them which, from what Dragos had said, would be the entire freaking town. Terri wouldn’t survive very long if she went after the partygoers. Rumor had it the witches had something especially vile planned for the rogue witch.
Noah sighed. “Of course.” His expression hardened. “But after this our debt is paid and our safe passage through the woods once more secured.”
Parker nodded. “Done.”
The wolf held out his hand, and Parker took it. “Done.”
Greer’s hand landed on top of theirs, making it official. “Done.”
A public apology from a man who apparently never gave them would go a long way toward repairing Amara’s image. Added to the fact that she’d fought tirelessly for them during Terri’s attack, and soon his mate would be able to walk down the street surrounded by friendly faces.
It would do.
“My pack wants to assist in hunting down your
Parker’s brows rose. “That’s a term for witch I haven’t heard in a while.”
Noah smiled. “Would you prefer vomitous mass?”
“It’s about as accurate. Let’s see. Dragos ripped her head off, but the bitch managed to escape.”
Noah shuddered. “Neat trick.”
“She’s fast, she’s got the weeds on her side, she survived being decapitated and the only way we’ll be able to take her out is to chop her up into tiny pieces and burn her to ashes.” He eyed the wolf. “Still want to help me?”
In answer, Noah cracked his knuckles. Six-inch claws slipped from his fingertips, and his eyes shone with feral light.
“All righty, then.” Parker grinned. “Have your boys sniff around the areas where rotten vegetation would grow.”
“Compost heaps would make a great hiding place for someone like Terri,” Greer added cheerfully.
Noah grunted. “Wonderful.”