The Awakening Page 30

She arched an eyebrow at him, her smile teasing. “Poor baby. And you were feeling all mean and bad, too. I’m soothing you. You should thank me.”

“Mean and bad?” he echoed, every muscle in his body taut with need.

“Snarly. You were snarling. You know, curling your lip and exposing your teeth.” She went up on her toes, pressed her breasts against his chest to nibble at his lip. “You have wonderful teeth, by the way.” Her tongue slid tantalizingly over his lips. She pushed away from him when he reached for her.

Laughing, Maggie wiggled out of her jeans. Instead of turning back to him, she jumped straight into the water.

Chapter 9

The water was cool, bringing instant relief to Maggie’s body. It was a perfect temperature in the sultry heat of the morning. She ducked beneath the surface, wanting to feel clean, wanting the thick mass of her hair wet and cool for a change. Most of all, she wanted Brandt to play with her. The hard edge to his mouth, the glittering menace in his eyes were intimidating. She had made a monumental decision, her entire life changing in the blink of an eye, and she needed comfort. They both did.

Brandt watched Maggie’s body move through the water, cutting cleanly, a flash of her smooth, inviting buttocks, a kick of her feet. Her head came up out of the water, long hair shaking off droplets of water in every direction. She looked like a water nymph, ethereal, desirable. A mermaid with blazing hair and inviting skin.

She was life itself, family—she was worth all the long hours, all the danger and tedium of his job. She was why he did it, why he wanted the environment saved, why wildlife was so important. One woman with more courage than good sense, willing to take him on instinct. Willing to forgive the trap he set for her, to look beyond it to a life with him.

Brandt sighed and slipped into the water to rinse the sweat from his skin. She had another life. One in a city, one she had lived for years before he had come along. He swam swiftly, furiously across the pool to the other side, coming up behind the waterfall and off to the side of it. He heaved his weight onto the small shelf he knew was there, fitting his hips onto the smooth rock, his legs dangling down. Water lapped at his thighs and groin, soothing waves when his mind was roaring a protest.

“Maggie.” He waited until she stood up in the shallows, the water lovingly ringing her hips, droplets running off her breasts and down her beautiful belly to her navel. “This isn’t right. What I’ve done isn’t right. It’s been all about me, what I need, what I want, not about you and what you want or need.”

Her green gaze slid over him speculatively, heightening his awareness. Maggie had a sensual, sultry quality that left him hard and hungry and so edgy he sometimes wanted to leap upon her and devour her on the spot. She tilted her head to one side, twisted the length of her hair as she looked at him. “Is that what you think, Brandt?”

Where had she gotten such confidence, this self-assured woman who was looking at him with amusement when he was trying to be noble? She was in the middle of the rain forest, had just gone through the Han Vol Dan alone. She had committed her life to her mate, accepted her heritage, embraced it even. Where did she get such courage? Brandt could only stare at her, the beautiful, sensual picture she made standing hip deep in the clear pool.

“I think you haven’t heard everything, Maggie,” he said quietly. “Our people don’t always choose to live here. We’re a small band, very small, older couples mainly and Drake, Conner, Joshua, and James. One female, young Shilo, not quite old enough and without a mate. No others. Most of our kind are long gone or living and working in the cities. They rarely, if ever, shift shape, and some do not have their mates.”

She flung her hair back over her shoulder and slowly lowered her body beneath the surface of the water until her breasts floated, a temptation of lush, creamy flesh. She swam closer to him. “I had the impression there weren’t many of you left.”

He blinked, tore his fascinated gaze away from the perfection of her feminine body. “Us. Many of us left,” he corrected. “The point is, you had a life somewhere else. You can still have that life.”

Maggie stopped swimming, stilled there in the pool with the water cascading behind her and mist falling softly across the surface. “What are you saying?” Her voice was tight, the joy fading from her face, from her eyes.

“I’m saying, if you prefer to live in the city, we can go there. I expected you to give up your life for me and that was wrong. I love the rain forest and everything in it. But I watched what you did for the bear. You worked so fast, with no hesitation. You’re so skilled, Maggie. You have no idea, you take it for granted, but you were amazing.”

The tension drained from her body and she swam through deeper water to him, nudging his thighs open so she could hook her arms over his legs to stay afloat. Her hair fanned out around her head like silk on the surface of the water. She rested her chin up high on his thigh, deliberately close to the junction of his legs so that her hair teased at the insides of his legs. So that her mouth was tantalizingly close. So that when she breathed, he held his breath.

“So much the better for my work here,” she answered, and nuzzled his leg. Her teeth teased his skin while her gaze grew hot watching the effect on his body. He thickened, hardened, reaching for her with male ardor. “I love it here, Brandt. And I trained with the idea of working in the wilds.” Her tongue collected drops of water from the crease of his legs. She smiled when he shivered, when his hands came down to fist in her hair. Her tongue went on a little foray, exploring, teasing, testing her power over him.

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