The Awakening Page 31

“I mean it, Maggie. I’ll try living in the city if you want me to. I want you to be happy.” His entire body seemed to be suspended. Waiting. Every nerve ending was alive. Screaming. Centered in one place.

Her arms slid to his waist, her body wedging closer as she shifted slightly. “I’m happy right here, Brandt. Incredibly happy.”

Her mouth closed around him as tight as a fist. Hot. Moist. Sucking hard, her tongue doing some kind of dance to drive him mad. His head fell back and his world narrowed. Time stood still while the mist came down and the prisms of color floated in the air behind his eyes, in his blood. His fists tightened, bunching in her hair, and he held her to him. A growl of pleasure escaped from the back of his throat. Leaves wavered in the breeze. The waterfall thundered into the pool.

Life gave gifts sometimes. He had been given one to treasure. Brandt tugged on her, not wanting to lose control, wanting to be inside of her, sharing the same skin. “Come here, baby.” He reached for her, hooking beneath her arms and pulling her straight up out of the water with his enormous strength.

Maggie was shocked by how casually he revealed his hidden strength. He lifted her as if she weighed no more than a feather. She stood with a foot on either side of his hips while he pressed his hand to her, his fingers testing her desire.

“I want you,” she assured him, her hands on his head to steady herself. He was making certain her body would accept his comfortably. She should have known he would. That was Brandt, seeing to her needs. Her wants. He thought himself so selfish, when he had given her life. Maggie allowed his hands to invade her body, her mind, to drug her bloodstream and fill her full of sheer pleasure.

She pulsed with it, rocked with it, pushing against his hand, her body drenched in liquid heat.

As she began to settle onto his lap, taking him into her body, inch by slow inch so that he filled her, stretched her. completed her, she leaned close to find his mouth with hers. No one could kiss like Brandt. No one could melt her the way he did. She was lost in the heat of his mouth, in the strength of his body, in the way he built the fire between them.

The rain started, a fine drizzle to add to the mist of the waterfall. Maggie began to ride, rocking her hips, sliding him in and out of her sheath like a sword, clenching her muscles, holding him tightly in her fiery center. His hands were at her breasts, his mouth devouring hers, then her throat. He bent her backward, his marauding mouth latching on to her breast, his hand urging her to ride harder, faster. The friction was all-consuming, robbing her of breath, of sanity.

The rain tried to find their rhythm, coming down faster and harder, but they became frenzied, wild, bucking together in a firestorm of passion. Drops fell on sensitized skin, creating the illusion of tongues sliding over their heated bodies. The passion grew, an inferno out of control. The release was shattering, a fire consuming them, an explosion of senses.

They clung to one another for the longest time, simply holding each other. Maggie’s head on Brandt’s shoulder. His hands stroked caresses down her hair, her back.

“I want you to be certain, Maggie, that I’m what you want. That this is the life you would choose no matter what.”

She pulled back to search his expression. Her fingertips traced the lines etched into his face. “I want to be with you here, right here, Brandt,” she assured him, kissing his strong jaw. “I’m choosing to be here with you.”

He pressed his mouth to hers, his heart still beating too fast, too hard. Something was wrong. It shouldn’t have been, but he was uneasy with her decision. Uneasy with the fact that she accepted him when she didn’t know what he really was. Who he really was. Maggie saw the man she wanted to see, the poet, the man who brought her flowers. She didn’t see the beast raging against the poachers, protecting what should be held intact for the world.

She managed to get unsteadily to her feet, her body throbbing and pulsing with aftershocks, singing with joy. He stood up, too, close to her, so that his body touched hers. Their fingers clung. Maggie leaned into him. “You still have that look. What can I do to make you more certain?”

Brandt swallowed hard. There was nothing she could do. Nothing she could say. He kissed her. Hard. Possessively. He put everything he felt for her into that kiss. Told her everything he couldn’t say in words. Poured his heart and soul into the kiss.

The wind shifted and Brandt abruptly lifted his head, scenting the air. At once his expression changed, his lip lifting in a silent snarl. He shoved Maggie away from him so that she stumbled backward and fell into the pool, the water closing over her head. He was already in motion, turning toward the thick bank of ferns, his form shimmering with fur as a leopard exploded out of the foliage and hit him at full speed. It was like getting hit with a battering ram, jarring his insides, bones and muscle and tissue. Losing his footing was not an option—the spotted leopard already had the advantage—so Brandt took the impact, absorbed it in his muscles and sinew, allowed it to rock him, but he leapt in the air, whirling to fight, raking claws laterally as he did so.

The spotted leopard’s momentum prevented him from avoiding the claw, and Brandt scored across the eyes and down the slavering muzzle. The cry was half-human, half-beast as James turned and drove in again.

Brandt understood this time he had no choice. James was determined to get rid of Brandt for good. It was kill or be killed, a very real way of life in the rain forest. He spared a thought for Maggie, how she would react, and then he was lost in the fierce battle.

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