Chapter Seventeen

Please again. The warrior who’d leapt from moving motorcycle to truck to tear apart the men taking Myka and Jordan, looked at her in longing and said, Please.

Myka wound her fingers through his, studying their twined hands. “This mate bond. Ellison said it was an amazing thing. What is he talking about?”

Spike lifted their clasped hands to his chest. “It means I’m bound to you, no matter what. As long as you’re breathing, I’ll be with you, facing the world with you.” He drew her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. “If you don’t feel the bond, I’ll suck it up and live with it. But I’m not sorry I have it for you.”

Myka unlaced her hand from his and laid her palm against his chest. “What does it feel like?”

“Warm. Hurts.” Spike smiled, which pulled at his swollen face. “Feels good. Better than sex.”

Myka’s eyes widened. “No way. A male thinks something is better than sex?”

“So you know it’s good. ’Course, the mate bond’s even better when we’re having sex.”

“Of course,” Myka said, then she lost her smile. “I’m not Shifter. What if I can’t share this mate bond?”

Spike shrugged. “I didn’t think humans could before. But I’ve seen Liam with Kim, and Ronan with Elizabeth. It can happen.”

Myka traced the tattoos on Spike’s chest where the skin was still whole, the lines of a crouching jaguar. “Let me tell you what I feel. Whenever I see you coming, my heart lightens. I think, Oh, goody, I get to be with Spike. When I’m not with you, all I think about is you. When I see how much you care about Jordan, you make me want to cry. You’re nothing at all like my stepdad, and you never will be. He was selfish and self-centered, and you’re a protector. You protect everyone. Your grandmother wouldn’t love you so much if you weren’t so amazing. You even got your nickname doing something generous for her. And whenever I think about going back to my everyday life, without you in it, I find it hard to breathe.”

A grin stretched across Spike’s face as she went through this speech, so much hope in his eyes that it broke her heart. “Are you saying you like me a little?”

“I’m saying I love you.”

Spike’s smile died. He stilled one heartbeat, two, then he hauled Myka into his arms and against him. Jordan spilled from Myka’s lap to Spike’s, but he didn’t wake and didn’t seem to mind.

Spike kissed her lips, his strong, masterful. “Goddess, you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever found. I love you, Myka.”

Their mouths met again, Spike’s arms shaking. Myka caressed his face—gently, not wanting to hurt him.

Spike brushed her hair back from her face, his smile wider. “The touch of the mate. Heals a man.”

Myka looked him over, from his purple bruises to the red pockmarks on his chest to the bandages wrapped around his arms and stomach. “I’d say you had a long way to go.”

“Then you’d better keep touching me.”

Myka ran her fingers lightly up his chest. “I can do this all night.”

His arm tightened around her again. “That means you’re staying?”

“As long as you want.”

“As my mate?”

The answer was important to him. It was important to her.

Myka thought about her life of loneliness, of reaching out to Jillian and Sharon, looking for the mother she’d lost and the sister she’d never had. How losing Jillian had been losing a part of herself, how she’d been drifting, alone.

Then Spike had caught her in strong arms and drawn her into his world, his family, his community. He had a solid place in it, and now, so would Myka. With him.

“Damn right,” she said.

The next kiss took her breath away. Spike was definitely improving.

After a long, long time, Myka laid her head on Spike’s shoulder, happiness swamping her in sweet waves. “I am sorry about the stables, though,” she said. She sighed, not wanting to think of anything that might pull her from this heavenly bubble. “That place gave me life, and hope. I love training, and I love the horses. I don’t want to give that up.”

“Oh, yeah,” Spike said, as though remembering something. “You won’t have to. I’m buying the stables.”

Myka’s head popped up. “What?”

“You tell the owner you can give him the five-hundred grand. Or figure out how much your other trainers can come up with and I’ll put in the rest. I can’t hand over him myself, being a Shifter, but I’ll give it to you. You pretend you saved your pennies or inherited it, or something.”

“But how . . .” Myka looked wildly around the plain but homey room, the stone fireplace, the lack of ornaments, the old television and the VCR player that had run through all those TV shows. “But Shifters . . .”

“Don’t have anything. I know. Shifter secrets, Myka. But you’re my mate now. You want the stables, you got them.”

Myka stared at Spike a moment longer, then she collapsed against him again. “Wow. I’m going to have to think about all this later. When I can. For now . . .”

Spike drew her close. “What?”

“Keep kissing me. We need to get you well.”

“I can go for that.” Spike’s smile was wicked as he bent to her again.

A furry body squirmed between them, and Jordan woke up with a yowl of fear and confusion. Spike caught him up between his big hands. “It’s okay, little guy. I’m here. You’re home.”

Jordan flailed a little more, blinking sleepily. Then he came fully awake, growled again, and launched himself at Spike. He shifted as he did so, grabbing Spike around the neck and holding on.

Spike closed his eyes and held his son, the relief on his face beautiful.

Myka stoked Jordan’s unruly hair. “How you doing, kid?”

“I was scared!” Jordan looked at her with huge brown eyes. “But I’m okay now. My dad came for me.” Jordan gave Myka a loud, wet kiss on her cheek, gave the same to Spike, and then held on to Spike again. He turned his head on Spike’s broad shoulder and gave Myka a grin, a mirror of his father’s. “My dad’s awesome.”

* * *

Jordan’s naming ceremony happened the next night, and Spike decided to announce at the same time that Myka had accepted his mate-claim.

Spike, his heart swelling with pride, carried Jordan to the center of the double-circle of Shifters—clan and close friends forming the inside circle, the rest of Shiftertown on the outside. Myka was right next to him, where he could reach out and touch her whenever he wanted.

Spike lifted Jordan, in his wildcat form, to the light of the half moon, which was shining mightily through the trees.

“Mother Goddess, I give you Jordan Reyes, son of Eron and Jillian.”

The Shifters whooped and yelled. “Jordan Reyes!” Myka winced, the full power of Shifter voices overwhelming.

“Shift back,” Spike whispered to Jordan.

Jordan gave Spike a little growl—he loved being in wildcat form—and changed slowly to a four-year-old boy with brown, black, and golden hair.

Spike lifted him again. “Mother Goddess, I give you Jordan Reyes. Watch over this child. My son.”

The Shifters screamed again, and this time, Myka didn’t flinch. She was learning.

“Can I be a wildcat again?” Jordan asked.

Spike kissed the top of his head. “Yep.”

Jordan wriggled and shifted. Instead of struggling to get down and run, as he’d been doing all afternoon and evening, he climbed onto his father’s shoulders. His claws dug through Spike’s shirt into his still-healing wounds, but Spike wouldn’t pull him off for the world.

“Shifters!” Spike said, taking Myka’s hand and raising it high. “I give you Myka Thompson, mate of my heart.”

The Morrisseys and friends yelled in response, and the rest of Shiftertown took up the cheer. Ronan punched the air, and Olaf the polar bear cub, sitting on this shoulders, imitated him. The only family missing were Sean and Andrea, staying inside their house with their brand new little one—a male they’d decided to call Kenneth Terry Dylan Morrissey. There would be another naming ceremony in Shiftertown soon.

Liam came forward and took Myka’s and Spike’s hands, still twined. “We welcome Myka. We’ll get the mating ceremonies done as soon as there’s a full moon, and some sunshine.”

The Shifters erupted into more shouting, howling, cheering. Anything for a good party, and mating ceremonies led to fine sex—to celebrate fertility, of course.

Spike was all for celebrating fertility. Last night he’d been too sore and exhausted for any joyous activity, and he’d dropped off as soon as he’d stretched out on his bed. Waking up with Myka next to him had been wonderful, but then Jordan had bounced in almost immediately, and they’d had to get up and take care of the rest of life.

But there was another ritual Spike wanted to perform tonight before he went to bed with Myka, one more private.

Jillian’s mother Sharon had come for the naming ceremony. Now Myka, Spike, and Jordan, with Ella and Sharon following, walked back to Spike’s house.

In the backyard, Spike built a little fire in an old-fashioned round grill. Myka and Sharon had brought pictures of Jillian, and Myka had also brought a blue ribbon, one of many Jillian had won for cutting and barrel racing.

Spike closed his eyes, held his hands over the small fire, and asked the Father God and Mother Goddess to be with them. He took a photo of Jillian from Myka and fed it into the flames.

“The Goddess go with you, Jillian” he said softly.

Myka laid her photos and the ribbon on the fire. “Good-bye, my friend,” she whispered.

Sharon fed in her photos, tears running down her face, too choked to say anything. Myka put her arm around Sharon and let her cry.

Jordan raised his arms for Spike to lift him. He kissed the last photo of Jillian and dropped it into the flames. “Good night, Mama.”

The five of them stood gazing into the fire, safely delivering to the Summerland the young woman who’d been daughter, friend, mother. Jillian, whom Spike had barely known, had given him the most precious gift he’d ever received—his son.

“The Goddess go with you,” he repeated in a whisper.

The flames started to fade. Ella put one hand on Spike’s shoulder and one hand on Myka’s. “You two, inside. Sharon, how about we take Jordan and go back to the party? You look like you could use a cold one.”

Sharon pulled out a tissue and wiped her eyes. “Thought you’d never ask.” She opened her big purse again, took out an envelope, and thrust it into Myka’s hands. “I meant to give this to you at the funeral, but maybe this is a better time. Jillian wrote it to you.” She glanced from her to Spike. “Read it tomorrow. For tonight, you just be happy.”

Myka brushed her fingertips over the envelope. She could almost feel Jillian on the other side—she’d held this, written Myka’s name on the front.

Sharon kissed Myka on the cheek and took Jordan’s hand, then the two women walked away, Jordan between them. Jordan’s loud voice floated back. “Connor told me Dad and Aunt Myka are going to shag tonight. Great-grandma, what’s shag mean?”

Ella’s answer was lost in another roar from the distant Shifter party.

Spike slid his arm around Myka’s waist. “You all right?”

“Yeah.” Myka brushed her always-untamed hair out of her face. “Can we go inside?”

Spike led her into the house, his arm around her. They went upstairs and to his bedroom without speaking, and Spike shut the door. “You want to read that now?”

Myka looked at the letter again, written on the thick blue stationery Jillian had liked. She found email and texting too informal, and sent her friends and family cards and letters for special occasions.

“No.” Myka slid the letter into her purse. “Sharon’s right. Tonight . . . I need you.”

“I need you, Myka.” The low throb in Spike’s voice undid her. Myka opened her arms, and Spike came to her, enclosing her in his strength.

* * *

Myka gave herself to the wildness that was Spike. He pinned her on the bed with strong arms, showing her how much better he felt by driving inside her until her shouts and his mingled in the cool air.

Spike also showed her how gentle he could be, kissing her fingertips, her lips, her skin, the touches tender and light. He licked her after that, tasting her breasts, her belly, and the heat between her legs. Myka arched under his mouth, letting herself come again in a crazy storm of pleasure.

Spike was back inside her right after that, his face softening as he felt her, eyes staying dark, beautiful brown, mouth finding hers as he spilled his seed.

After that, silence. The quiet ticking of a clock, the final creak of the mattress, the warmth of Spike along her back. Myka tumbled into a hard, spirit-soothing, sleep.

When she opened her eyes again, the room was still dark.

Spike slept, relaxed, on his stomach, his face turned to her on the pillow. He’d slid one arm across Myka in his sleep, cradling her close. Moonlight trickled through the window, sharpening the lines of Spike’s tattoos at the same time it softened his face.

The moonlight also fell on Myka’s purse, and the blue of the envelope sticking out of it. Myka carefully slid out from under Spike’s arm, took the two steps across the room, fetched the letter, opened it, moved to the moonlight, and started to read.

Jillian’s voice came to her across the divide.

I hope that while you’re reading this, Myka, you’re with Spike.

Don’t jump in surprise—you have to know that I sent you off to find him because I wanted you to meet him. I could have called Spike myself, or sent my mom to pick him up, or hired a cab to bring him to me. But I wanted you to know him.

Why? Because when I first met Spike, he reminded me a lot of you—lonely and pretending not to be. When I realized I’d be leaving this life, I knew I had to let Spike find you, and you him.

Shifters are incredible beings, Myka. They have more humanity in them than humans, I think. I learned that when I hung out at Shifter bars, talking to them, getting to know them. Everyone called me a Shifter groupie, but I didn’t care. Shifters worry about the same things we do—how to raise their kids, how to put food on the table, how to keep the family together.

Stay with Spike. Please. I knew him only such a brief time, but I could see something in him that was remarkable.

Besides, what better people to raise my son than my best friend and the Shifter who helped convince me that Shifters were the most amazing creatures I’ve ever met?

If you’re wondering why I didn’t tell him about Jordan right away, it was because I was scared. I didn’t want to lose Jordan, and I didn’t want to become a Shifter mate. Or anyone’s mate, or wife. That wasn’t me.

A free spirit, Mom always called me. Selfish, maybe, but you knew me. Somehow I always sensed I didn’t have much time to live, and I wanted to grab as much of life as I could. Jordan was part of that life, the best part.

Now Jordan will be with his dad, which is where he belongs. And you should be with him and Spike too.

I love you, Myka. Kiss Jordan good night for me, and tell Spike thank you.

God bless.

Spike’s callused fingers took the letter from Myka’s hands. He read it, while Myka watched him, tears blurring her eyes.

Spike’s throat moved in a swallow as he finished. He set the letter aside and enfolded Myka into his arms. “I wish I’d known her better,” he said in his low voice. “The mother of my son.”

Myka rested her head on his chest, loving the thump of his heart. “I can tell you all about her.”

“I’d like that.”

Myka tried to smile. “She was a crafty woman. Matchmaking to the last.”

“I’m glad she was.” Spike put his thumbs under Myka’s chin. “I’m glad she brought you to me. Mate of my heart.”

Myka kissed his chest, right over the place where his heart lay. “Mate of my heart,” she echoed.

“I love you, Myka.” Spike kissed her mouth, his lips warm with afterglow.

“I love you, Eron.”

Spike’s arms tightened around her at the sound of his real name, his naked body hot against hers. The jaguar tattoos moved with his embrace, as he scooped her up to him to kiss her again, this kiss tinged with wildness.

The moonlight touched them with kind light, and under that light, Spike carried Myka to the bed one more time, coming into her and surrounding her with bliss.