I might not be able to be with anyone. You know that happens. Even to your mate. She might want a mate with everything in her, but if he appeared, and he was the strong, take-no-shit partner she knew she needed, she might refuse to acknowledge him on the level necessary for a true mating bond. It was a special kind of torture reserved for those female leopards who got strangled up at the mere idea of giving a male any kind of control over them. Pretty please?
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But it can also save. The Psy know this better than any other race on the planet. With the imposition of Silence, the protocol that wiped their emotions even as it saved their minds, this race of telepaths and telekinetics, foreseers and healers, a race both gifted and cursed, clawed its way back from the edge of the abyss.
As they stood looking down into the horror they had escaped, they shivered and turned away. Years passed. The only decision. What did any of that matter when the flip side was murderous rage, blood-soaked anarchy? And change is pulling the Psy back into the abyss. Into emotion and chaos. It was sickening how much her best friend was in love with his mate. In fact, all the other sentinels were starting to make her gag.
How dare they still be so crazy for each other after all these years! She decided to go for a run instead. Damn, she was so crazy-happy for them it hurt. But she was jealous, too.
Everyone was paired up now. Except her. Female alphas were as common as male ones. But being a dominant female in a leopard pack where none of the dominant males pushed her buttons, that was bad.
And being a dominant female in a state controlled by leopards and wolves—where only the wrong one pushed her buttons—that was extra cherry-on-top bad. That it would, was certain. I might not be able to be with anyone. You know that happens. Even to your mate. She might want a mate with everything in her, but if he appeared, and he was the strong, take-no-shit partner she knew she needed, she might refuse to acknowledge him on the level necessary for a true mating bond.
Oh, the mating urge would probably overpower her into taking him for a lover, perhaps more. It was a special kind of torture reserved for those female leopards who got strangled up at the mere idea of giving a male any kind of control over them. Pretty please? Everyone thought Riley was quiet, practical, grounded. Only she knew he had a mean streak that delighted in annoying her as much as possible. Because if Riley knew she was in heat—like a freaking wild cat!
Come on. But goddamn Riley had a way of lighting her fuse. He actually laughed. She hissed at him. She was a sentinel. Feeling more than a little feral, she pounced. Riley was ready for her. He took the kick on the thigh without flinching, but stopped her punch with a single hand. She was already shifting, sliding into the next position, ready to take advantage of any vulnerability. He blocked every one of her moves, but made none of his own. She needed a good, sweaty workout—it would take some of the edge off the gut-wrenching fury of her need.
Her booted foot connected with his ribs. She heard a grunt and grinned. But Riley had asked for it. Oh, man, had he asked for it. The bastard was heavy, pure muscle over solid bone. He bit her. In the soft, sensitive place between neck and shoulder. She felt her entire body shiver from the inside out at the blatant show of dominance.
He took his mouth from her. And the heat between her thighs was turning into a pulsing drumbeat. Her stomach twisted in a vicious wave of need. God she was hungry, so sensually hungry.
And Riley had taken her, his hold unbreakable. It just cared that he was strong, sexy, and aroused. She found herself raising her body against him without realizing it, her bottom rubbing, enticing, inviting. It was all she could do not to moan out loud. He raised himself up on his arms, looking down with eyes gone wolf—the black pupils circled by a ring of amber that echoed through the rich brown of the irises to turn his gaze night-glow.
And she wanted to do the same to him. Fisting a hand in that thick, silky hair she itched to feel against her breasts, she pulled down his head and kissed him, snarling in the back of her throat. He gripped that throat with one hand, squeezing lightly. Her tee was in shreds before she could blink, her bra gone the instant after that. His hand squeezed the rounded curves of her bared flesh, and when he tore his lips from hers to move down, she knew she was going to feel teeth.
Her back arched up off the forest floor and she gripped the slick heat of his shoulders. Where had his own shirt gone? All she knew was that she had gorgeous male flesh under her hands and oh it felt good. Ignoring his growl, she tugged up his head from her breast and bit at his lip again. For a wolf, Riley had a beautiful mouth. So she did. Then she slid her lips along his jaw and over the cords of his neck.
Salt and man and wolf. Her cat snarled again. But the snarl was buried in pure heat. He tasted good. It was as wild as the first, wet and deep and coated with the promise of raw sexual pleasure, no holds barred.
She felt the kiss of claws against the insides of her thighs and knew it had been on purpose. No pain, not even a real touch. Just a hint. Just enough to remind her cat that he could take her. More than enough to shove her arousal into the stratosphere. Spreading her thighs with strong, callused hands, he put his mouth on her.
She screamed. Riley was apparently in no mood to go slow and easy. He licked at her in hard, firm strokes, sucked then nipped. The orgasm tore through her so ferociously that she knew her muscles would protest tomorrow. He continued using that mouth, those teeth on her until she could feel her body tightening again after a ridiculously short interval. But she wanted more than another burst of pleasure.
Say my name. And she wanted him in her. She clawed his back again. This time, the wolf growled at her and the next few minutes passed in a fury of torn clothing and ravaging kisses, cries of pleasure intermingled with moans. And suddenly he was naked above her. Strong, hot, beautiful. She rose up against him, feeling her eyes go leopard as he put one hand on her thigh to hold her down and nudged at her with the aroused length of him.
She went to reach down, but he growled at her. So she wrapped her other leg around him and thrust her hands into his hair, rocking her body upward. She sucked in a breath.
The man was hard as rock and thick enough to make her muscles stretch to the edge of pain.
Branded By Fire
Nalini Singh. Engaging characters which readers can connect with. Beautiful world building. What I like about this book is the cat and dog dilemma, chemistry and fight for dominance dynamics! And the wonderful ending, ofcourse! Her coutnerpoint on their side is Riley, a steadfast lieutenant who seems to only loose his cool around her. When the Human Alliance rise up to disrupt order in the fragile NetMind - a psychic plane of connect Psy minds - it is up to Mercy and Riley to stop them but can they cooperate long enough without one trying to assert dominance over the other?
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