Jared Ayers works outdoors, embracing a solitary life, hiding from his inner demons. But after so many of his Pack brothers have found their mates, he starts wondering if there might be a mate in his future too. His world turns upside down after he’s hired by the “Ice Queen of Lake Tahoe”. One touch is all it takes. One touch to send the wolf howling within…
She smiled, a bashful, real, breathtaking smile that warmed my entire body. I gripped the door tighter to keep from touching her and breaking the spell.
“Before you go…I need to ask. This is really awkward, and I’ll pay you for your time.” She cleared her throat. “It’s just for show, for my company.”
I raised a brow. “Sounds great so far.”
She rolled her eyes. “My firm sponsors the annual Masquerade Ball here in Tahoe every year, and this time I promised my new community relations manager I would go.”
She stared up at me like she expected me to say something. Problem was, I had no clue what she was talking about.
“And you need me to…build a stage or…?”
Color flushed her chest. I could almost feel the heat on my skin.
“No, I need you to be my date.” I struggled to keep my jaw off the floor while she backpedaled.
“Not like a real date. It’s just that tickets are sold per couple, so I can’t go alone, and I don’t want to involve Charlie. I wouldn’t ask, but you probably guessed I don’t really hang out with people. There’s no one else for me to ask. We wouldn’t have to stay long and you’ll be paid for the time…”
“Yes.” Without thinking, I placed my finger over her lips to quiet her and be sure she heard me. My heart stuttered the instant I touched her skin, and deep inside of me, my wolf howled. The lights brightened as my pupils dilated and contracted. I blinked hard and shook my head. What the hell… “Don’t pay me. I’ll go because I want to, not because it’ll help your business.”
I dropped my hand, half expecting her to slap me, but she didn’t move away. A fine line creased between her eyebrows. “Are you all right?”
That definitely depended on her definition.
From the depths of my soul, my wolf recognized her. Taryn was my mate. Mine. This cool, distant woman, with another wolf’s child. And yet, maybe I’d sensed it before. Maybe that was why I took this job up the goddamn Mt. Rose highway just as winter was coming in. Had I been drawn to her and her little boy?
I stared down into her eyes, my voice barely a whisper. “If I stay here any longer, I’m not going to be able to stop myself from kissing you.”
Her throat bobbed as she swallowed, but she didn’t back away. Her blue eyes searched mine. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You won’t.” I closed the distance between us, my lips claiming hers. Light burst behind my eyelids as I carefully slid my arms around her. Her body was warm right through my clothes, and while her kiss started out tentative, gradually she returned my caresses and her hands glided up over my chest, until I smoldered to have her even closer.
Suddenly, she pushed me away. I let her go, struggling to catch my breath. Her eyes welled with tears. Shit. Had I scared her somehow?
She shook her head. “This was a bad idea.”
“Nothing about that was bad.”
Her fingers trembled at her sides. Without my heightened sense of hearing, I never would have been able to make out her words. “Look at your shirt.”
I tipped my head down and frowned. There were two brown streaks on the front of my shirt, like I’d left an iron on it too long. The heat I’d imagined from her touch hadn’t been in my imagination.
“This is why you don’t like to be touched.”
She didn’t acknowledge me, just took another step away. “I’m sorry, Jared. I can’t explain, just…just go.”
I glanced down the hall. “That’s why you keep your distance with Charlie.”
“Walk away, Jared.”
I shook my head. “I’m not afraid.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You should be.”