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by Marisa Chenery
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Jaden notices the sexy hunk in her cashier's line. But she knows, with her plain looks and glasses, he'd never notice her. So when he returns to the grocery store the next day and kisses her senseless in front of everyone, she can only hope she'll see him again. Leif swears he will never be permanently mated, but when he feels his mate at a grocery store while buying pregnant Roxie ice cream, his world turns upside down. Drawn to his would-be mate, he finds fighting his mating urge is harder than he expects. If he can only hold out long enough to let nature run its course, he can get on with his life. But resisting her is impossible, and he needs to claim her as his.
eBook Publisher: Atlantic Bridge/Liquid Silver Books, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: December 2010
151 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [149 KB]
Reading time: 102-143 min.
"You want me to do what?" Leif asked Roxie with a scowl.
"You heard me. I want you to run to the store and get me some ice cream."
Roxie rolled her eyes. "Well, I'd go get it myself, but since you guys won't let me go anywhere by myself now that I'm showing, you're going to have to get it for me. I ate the last of what I had last night and now I'm craving ice cream, bad."
"Can't you get Jager or Daylen to get it instead?"
Leif hated going to the grocery store. He avoided it like the plague. The few times he had gone grocery shopping, he'd had the back of his heels run over by unobservant mortals with their carts, which was beyond annoying. Even worse were those who came to a sudden stop in the middle of an aisle, oblivious to those behind them.
"No, they can't," Roxie said. "They've gone a few times for me already. It's time you took your turn."
Leif made one last attempt to get out of it. "What about Beowulf? He's your mate. He should be the one getting it for you."
"He's not here, as you well know. It could be hours before he gets back from Wade and Taryn's."
Wade was Beowulf's younger brother. He and his mate, Taryn, owned a winery in Napa Valley. Taryn had inherited it from her uncle, so once Wade and she became mates, Wade had moved in with her.
Damn. It looked as if he wasn't going to be able to escape making the dreaded trip to the grocery store. Knowing Jager, he'd probably put Roxie up to it. As one of Roxie's Protectors, they had lived together for centuries. Jager had to have known Leif would balk at the idea. The big idiot was probably having a good chuckle over it too, knowing full well Roxie wouldn't back down. Jager may now be mated to Daylen, who used to be a police officer--before Roxie turned her into a werewolf, which made her now one of the Protectors--but that didn't mean Jager still didn't do or say whatever the hell he wanted.
Leif breathed a heavy sigh. "All right. I'll get you your ice cream this time, but don't expect me to do this too often."
Roxie smiled and put her hand on her distended belly. "Just think, in three more months, the baby will be here, and I won't have any more cravings. Then you won't have to worry about it."
Turning on his heel, Leif left Roxie's mansion and headed for his black Cadillac CTS. He got into the drivers' side and headed down the winding drive to the street. He was a warrior, having trained for centuries with the rest of the Protectors for the day when the foretold one would come. Roxie was the foretold one. It was his duty to protect her against other werewolves abducting her to use as a figurehead to rule the packs. Running to the grocery store to buy ice cream wasn't part of the job description.
Pulling into the parking lot of the store closest to Roxie's place, Leif found an empty space and parked. He got out, slammed the car door a little harder than necessary and headed inside. Forgoing a shopping cart, he walked through the large store, searching for the freezer aisle. When he finally found it, he stood in front of the glass freezer doors staring at all the different types of ice cream. Well, hell. He'd forgotten to ask Roxie what kind she wanted.
He reached inside the front pocket of his jeans for his cell phone, then remembered he'd left it at home. He'd forgotten to charge it during the night, and it now sat on his dresser in his room doing just that. Wasn't this just his day? Making an executive decision, he opened the freezer and grabbed cartons of vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch ripple. Roxie should at least like one of them. He juggled the ice cold containers in his arms and made his way to the checkout.
Moving to stand at the end of the express line, Leif looked up to the front of it and groaned. An older lady was paying for her purchase, counting out change one coin at a time. Hopefully, the other customers in front of him wouldn't take so long. The ice cream was damn cold. Already his fingers were starting to feel numb. He was rethinking his decision to not take a cart, but he wasn't going to leave the lineup just to get one now.
The line inched forward until he reached the conveyor belt. More than happy to put the ice cream down--which was more than likely already starting to melt--Leif shook out his frozen hands.
He bit back a curse when the cart behind him pushed into the back of his thighs. Leif turned to find a woman who looked to be in her forties staring at him. She quickly apologized. He smiled and had the satisfaction of watching her jaw drop. After telling her it was okay, he turned back around and smiled even more. He was used to the effect he had over mortal women. Standing at six-foot-five, with his body well padded with muscle and his werewolf good looks, Leif drew a lot of feminine stares. Not that he complained about it. He loved women, all women. Young, old, he flirted with them all. Most male werewolves longed to find their mates, the one woman their soul would join with, but not Leif. He never wanted to be that tied down.
Finally, at long last, it was his turn. Muttering to himself about pregnant women and their cravings, he took a deep breath when he moved to stand across from the cashier. As if he'd been sucker punched in the gut, Leif froze in place and struggled to draw another big breath of air into his lungs. His cock went instantly rock hard, and the unthinkable happened--his mating urge kicked into high gear.
Settling his gaze on the cashier, the woman who was to be his mate, Leif took in her mousy brown hair that she wore pulled back in a high ponytail. He couldn't see what color her eyes were behind her stylish glasses, because she was busy looking down as she rang in his purchases. Her face, he found cute in a plain sort of way. She wasn't ugly, but she was by no means a raving beauty. And she was not at all what he expected his mate to look like.
She might not be heart-stopping beautiful, but she appealed to all of Leif's senses, in a big way. Her scent stirred his body like no other. He wanted to jump across the counter, rip the glasses off her face, pull her hair loose and devour her lips with his. He wanted to hear her make little moaning noises as he ground his aching cock against her pussy. And his wolf wanted to claim her as his.
The sound of her voice brought him out of the haze of lust that had descended over him. He looked at her and asked, sounding like a complete idiot, "Wha...what?"
She lifted her gaze to his. Her eyes were brown. "I asked if you wanted paper or plastic," she said in a quiet voice that seemed to take hold of his cock and make it throb even more.
"Plastic is fine," he said.
His voice sounded gruff with need, even to his own ears. A spark of interest flashed in her eyes before she bagged the ice cream. Their fingers brushed when he handed her the money to pay. That simple touch caused his cock to jerk hard inside his jeans. Leif had to bite back a growl of need. If he wasn't careful, he'd be howling like the wolf he was, and his eyes would be glowing mutedly for all the mortals to see.
When she handed him back his change, he made sure their fingers didn't come in contact, and he found his gaze settling back on her face. The mating urge had well and truly dug its claws into him. Leif started to panic. Grabbing the bag of ice cream, he did the one thing his mating urge was not screaming at him to do--he hightailed it out of there.
Jaden turned her head to watch the guy she'd just run through beat a hasty retreat to the store's exit. She let out a breathy sigh and turned back to ring through the next customer in her cash register's line. She went through the motions of scanning each item, but her mind wasn't totally there. It was still focused on the exceptionally good-looking guy who'd bought the three containers of ice cream.
She'd noticed him as soon as he'd gotten in her line. She would have had to be blind not to. He stood about a foot taller than she, had a body that made her want to drool, and a face that reminded her of a male model's. His not-too-short auburn hair had just brushed the collar of his black, form-fitting t-shirt. The blue jeans he wore were faded and snug in all the right places. She'd had to fight not to let her gaze zero in on the front of them to check him out.
As he moved up in line, Jaden couldn't stop herself from stealing glances, knowing that looking at him was about all she'd be able to do. Men as good-looking as him rarely acknowledged that she existed. With her plain looks and glasses, she was pretty much overlooked half the time. She was used to it, therefore, she never had any high expectations when it came to good-looking men.
But when she'd asked him if he wanted paper or plastic and his gaze had latched onto hers, she'd had to blink a few times to make sure her eyes weren't playing tricks on her. He had stared at her as if he was ready to jump over to her side and devour her in one bite. Jaden shivered just thinking about it. Having his blue-eyed gaze greedily lock with hers had her wishing for things that she knew would never happen. Her body, though, thought otherwise. Her nipples had hardened beneath her shirt, and her pussy had clenched with the need to be filled.
Of course nothing went beyond that. Once he'd paid, even making sure she didn't touch him inadvertently when she handed him back his change, he'd practically run out of the store. He may have looked at her as if he wanted to devour her, but obviously that really hadn't meant anything. C'est la vie. That was the story of her life.
After she rang through the last customer in line, she put a sign up on the end of the conveyor belt directing customers to the next cash register. It was her break time, and she was ready for it. Working as a cashier for a large grocery store chain wasn't exactly her dream job, but it was better than not working at all. Her life was in a bit of a funk, and no matter what she tried, she couldn't change things around. One day seemed to bleed into another.
As she headed for the small coffee shop inside the store, Jaden had to admit that getting stared at by an exceptionally hot guy was a step away from the same old, same old. Who knew, if she was lucky, he'd come to the store again. It was kind of pathetic to think catching a glimpse of a good-looking guy, who she didn't have a chance in hell of ever really knowing, was the highlight of her day.
By the time Leif arrived back at Roxie's place, he still hadn't gotten himself totally under control. And the shock of actually finding his mate hadn't worn off yet. It was like a bad dream come true. He was also fighting a battle within himself. His wolf side, and the mating urge that rode him, had him yearning to go back to the store and claim his mate. But the part of him that liked being unmated and wanted to stay that way fought it tooth and nail.
Leif turned off the car and grasped the steering wheel with both hands as he smacked his forehead on it a few times. He had to get it together. He could resist. All he had to do was stop thinking about her and how much he wanted to strip her naked and taste every inch of her body before he sank his aching cock inside her pussy. He'd be so deep inside her she'd never want to let him go. Leif could almost feel her inner walls clutching at his shaft as he rode her.
He groaned and smacked his forehead on the steering wheel again. Grrr, he had to stop thinking that way. There was no way in hell he was going to sleep with her. If he did, their souls would join and he'd be tied to her forever. Once werewolves became mated, they couldn't stand to be away from their mates for long periods of time. In the beginning, a few hours apart felt like days. Their minds would play tricks on them, making them think something had happened to the other. Leif didn't want that kind of commitment with a woman. Just thinking he was close to that very thing scared the bejesus out of him.
Giving himself a good shake, Leif grabbed the bag of ice cream off the passenger seat and got out of the car. Before he went inside, he had to make sure he didn't show any outward sign of what had happened in the grocery store. If he did, Roxie would pick up on it and make his life a living hell. Like a dog, or a wolf, with a bone, she'd ride his ass until he eventually caved and went after his mate. He didn't need that kind of interference in his life, thank you very much.
He walked through the door and headed to the kitchen to put the ice cream in the freezer. Leif had just put the grocery bag on the counter next to the fridge when Roxie came into the room.
Leif kept his back to her and opened the freezer door. "You didn't tell me what flavor to get so I picked what I thought you'd like."
When Roxie moved to stand beside him and her shoulder brushed his arm, he couldn't stop himself from jerking away from the contact. He was still wound up as tight as a top.
"What's the matter with you?" Roxie asked. She ran her gaze over him. "You look a bit...tense. Did something happen while you were out?"
"No. Having to go to a grocery store tends to do that to me. So are the flavors I picked all right?"
Roxie gave him another onceover, then looked at the ice cream containers he was putting into the freezer. "They're good. Chocolate, I'm kind of meh on, but I like the other two. And if shopping gets you this strung out, I won't send you again."
"I'll take my turn just so long as you don't expect me to pick up more than a couple of items."
He slammed the freezer door hard enough to shake the fridge. Why had he said that? Did he now have run-away-mouth syndrome? He couldn't go back to that grocery store. Ever. If he did, he'd be only setting himself up for his own doom. Remember, dummy, you don't want a mate.
Turning to face Roxie, he found her staring at him with a strange look on her face. "What did my fridge ever do to you?" she asked.
"It slipped. All right?"
"Whatever you say."
Before Roxie could say anything more, he said, "I'm going to look for Jager."
"Why don't you do that? He's out in the backyard with Daylen giving her another sword fighting lesson. She may not be able to disarm him with a sword yet, but she used her karate skills and knocked him on his butt. I never get sick of seeing that."
"Neither do I," he said as he left the kitchen.
Leif made a short detour to his car to get his sword out of the trunk before he headed to the backyard. When he arrived, instead of sword practice, Jager and Daylen were locked in a passionate embrace, kissing like there was no tomorrow. Usually the sight of them--or one of the other two mated couples that lived in the Protectors' mansion--putting on such a display would leave Leif shaking his head. Now it just made him feel downright uncomfortable. It made him wish for things he didn't want or need.
Walking closer to the couple, he said what he normally said in such a situation. "Would the two of you go get a room? Is it really necessary for me to see you sucking each other's lips off? You do anything more, and I'm liable to go blind."
Jager broke the kiss and moved to stand at Daylen's side with her tucked under his arm. "What's the matter, Leif? Jealous?"
"Hardly," he scoffed. He then lifted his sword. "I came out here to see if you wanted some real competition."
"Hey," Daylen said. "I could take offense at that. I may not be as quick with a sword, but I can still kick both of your butts."
Jager kissed her temple. "Leif and I both know that, love. I, in particular, have learned that from firsthand experience, more than once."
When Jager and Daylen first met, she'd caught Jager sword fighting with another werewolf in an alley while she was on patrol. She'd even managed to get the drop on Jager, using a karate move her mate hadn't expected, and had almost ended up arresting him.
Daylen kissed Jager's cheek. "And don't you forget it. I guess I'll go inside and keep Roxie company while you two whack at each other." She then headed off across the lawn to the mansion.
Leif had just enough time to lift his sword to block Jager's when he swung it in his direction. Leif then pulled his sword back to make a strike of his own. Jager's next blow had Leif spinning away. He used the momentum, taking a slashing cut that would have sliced across Jager's ribs if he hadn't blocked it.
Letting the familiar rhythm of thrust and parry take over, Leif gave as good as he got. The stretch of his muscles and the need to concentrate on Jager's next move helped relieve some of the agitation the mating urge had caused. Leif had deliberately challenged Jager for that very reason. Jager was one of the best swordsmen of the Protectors. The man didn't go anywhere without his sword, and until recently, even slept with it in his bed. The only one of the Protectors who could get the better of him was Saskia, their leader.
After fifteen minutes of intense sword play, Jager backed up and lowered his sword. Leif lowered his so the tip rested on the grass as he bent over trying to catch his breath. "Give me a couple of minutes," he panted. "Then we can go again."
Jager was breathing just as hard. He used his hand to wipe sweat from his brow. "Is there something you want to tell me?"
"Well, for starters, you don't usually practice this hard. And for another, you're pounding on me as if you're trying to distract yourself from something."
Leif straightened. "You're the last person I thought would complain about a tough sword workout."
"Hey, I'm not complaining. The way you're acting just reminds me of how I was before Daylen and I become mates and I had to convince Daylen not to arrest my ass every time she saw me." Jager gave Leif a hard stare, then scratched his chin. "If I didn't know better, I would say your mating urge has you in its claws and you're trying to ignore it. You weren't like this when we first arrived here, so I'm guessing it happened when you went to the store for Roxie."
Hearing Jager accurately guess what was bothering him, Leif dropped his sword and jumped on the other warrior. Having caught Jager off guard, Leif knocked the larger man flat on his back and straddled his chest.
"What the fuck?" Jager snarled.
Leif kept him pinned and lowered his head until he was in Jager's face. "Not a word. Do you understand me? Don't tell anyone, especially Roxie."
The scowl on Jager's face disappeared as he started to roar with laughter. "You found your mate," he said through peals of laughter. "You should see your face. You look as if the hounds of hell are after you."
Putting his hand over Jager's mouth, he quietly snapped back, "Would you keep it down?"
With a hard shove, Jager pushed Leif off him and stood. His laughter had settled down to a chuckle. "So it's true?"
"Yes," Leif said with disgust.
"You're a stupid fuck if you think you can run away from the mating urge. Accept it. Being mated is not as bad as you think it is. It's actually the best thing that ever happened to me. I never knew what I had been missing in my life until I found Daylen."
Leif shook his head. "I will not accept it."
"So what do you plan to do? Just ignore it and hope it goes away?"
"That's exactly what I'm going to do."
Jager picked up his dropped sword and shook his head. "You're delusional if you think that. There is no ignoring the mating urge. What's the problem with her, besides you not wanting a mate? Is she a mortal?"
"Yes. There's nothing really wrong with her. She's just not what I expected."
"She's ugly? If that is the case, you could always put a bag over her head while you screw her."
Leif let out a wolfish growl and launched himself at Jager, not liking the insult to his mate. Jager easily sidestepped him then slowly started to back away toward the mansion. "See, you've got it bad, Leif. You say you don't want her, but you're quick to defend her. You're buggered, man."
After watching Jager go inside, Leif picked up his sword. Shit, Jager was right. Of course the asshole had had to prove it to him in the most direct of ways. Jager may have been right, but that didn't mean Leif was going to meekly accept his fate. He was going to stay strong. He wasn't going to let the mating urge get the best of him.