Maggie hesitated as the boardwalk underfoot blurred.
She nodded but grabbed another couple of pills from her backpack and chased them down with a few swallows of water. Her dizzy spells had grown more frequent. Was she really okay? Not yet, but the cure might be closer than before.
"You're seriously freaking me out. If I didn't know better I'd suspect you were popping something other than herbal remedies." Pam blocked her path and looked her over sternly. Finally seeming satisfied, her friend grabbed Maggie's gym bag off her shoulder. "Since you insist you need to soak instead of just hitting the sleeping bags, I'm going to be your Sherpa. You concentrate on walking. I don't want to have to figure out how to carry your sorry ass again."
Maggie chuckled faintly. "Hey, it only happened one time."
"Yeah, once was enough. You may look like a twig, but you're damn heavy." Pam winked, then offered her elbow. "Do you need an extra hand? I'm here for you."
"I'm fine. Really. I just need a couple hours floating. Liard Hot Springs is a little bit of heaven on earth."
They walked in companionable silence down the worn boards of the four-foot-wide path leading into the bush of northern British Columbia, summertime heat rising around them. Beautiful weather had followed them the entire trip from Vancouver. The bright green colours of new growth in the marsh grasses on either side of the boardwalk made a soul-refreshing break from the concrete that had filled Maggie's world for far too long. Towering spruce trees, the brilliant blue of the June sky, crisp clean air--all of it slipped into her blood like a tonic. A tightly locked knot in her core loosened, and for the first time in almost a decade she didn't resist.
Her wolf stirred.
Oh God, that felt amazing. Maggie stopped in midstride and closed her eyes to let the sensation roll over her. Surround her. Like an icy cold barrier had broken open a crack, shivers trickled through her limbs. Electric. Delightful.
"Shit, are you having a seizure or something?" Pam clutched her arm and shook her gently. Maggie fought to keep from baring her teeth. Because wouldn't that just freak the human out to learn there were some secrets even best friends didn't share.
They were close to the changing shelters, rustic wooden squares built of upright rough-cut timber. Splashing noises trickled to Maggie's ears as she fought down the longing in her limbs she refused to answer. "I'm just tired. Let me get into the water."
"Fuck that. You have...drown. Just...careful...hell." Pam's voice faded in and out of Maggie's range of hearing. It was the most confusing thing. Maggie saw her friend's lips continue to move, but the words disappeared. All that remained was this loud buzzing noise, like a swarm of horseflies. Maggie tried not to laugh at the funny expression on Pam's face as she waved her arms frantically and flapped her hands at someone racing around the corner of the decking surrounding the hot springs.
Someone? Maggie peered harder through the fog drifting in front of her eyes. That wasn't a person, it was a walking wall. Crap, the man was huge. Dripping wet from head to toe, gorgeous tattoos seemed to writhe on his torso as he reached for her.
Hmm...he smelt delicious.
Sensations of happiness and contentment stole through her chaotic thoughts. Her feet didn't seem to be touching the ground anymore, and the world bounced gently. She cracked open one eye to gaze around. Above her, the trees rotated, and a small cloud chased across the sky in a blur. Warmth surrounded her up to her neck and she let out a contented sign. Her head rested on something firm and soft and she nuzzled against it tighter. A steady banging echoed in her ear, somehow reassuring.
And that scent? Oh yeah. She drew a deep breath, filling her nostrils and enjoying the way her mouth watered. It was like sitting down to a well-cooked rib-eye steak, with all her favorite side dishes. The sweetest dessert, followed by a dozen shooters. Maggie took another leisurely inhalation before snuggling closer to the thumping noise.
Erik caught sight of the women as they strolled down the boardwalk, one of them swaying from side to side. He laughed quietly. He'd have a set of slightly tipsy females to keep an eye on while they soaked. The youth from his pack traveling with him played off to the left in the cold pool section of the natural hot springs. Splashing and hooting and the sounds of carrying-on filled the air.
Wolves--they were such children.
He waded through the water toward the deck. The woman on the right looked familiar. Petite, blonde, youthful features. If she'd been hugely pregnant he would have sworn it was Missy, the Omega for his pack, although she wasn't the kind to get falling-down drunk. It appeared he was about to meet his reason for driving south sooner than expected. It had to be Maggie weaving toward him.
He watched with growing concern as the women's forward motion slowed. It wasn't just a tipsy ramble anymore, something seemed wrong. Erik grabbed the edge of the railing, wondering if he should offer assistance.
"Oh shit, help, someone. Damn it. Help." The brunette waved her arms, the frantic motions drawing his attention to the other woman as she wavered on unsteady limbs. He leapt out of the water, droplets spraying from his body to soak the worn boards underfoot. Long strides carried him down the boardwalk just in time to be able to catch the blonde before she collapsed.
His world shifted three feet to the left.
Shocks--like small electrical connections--registered where their bodies touched. Trickles shot through his limbs and up his spine. Tingling. Snapping. Oh hello, it felt completely and wonderfully right.
"Thanks--she's been getting dizzy and I didn't want her to collapse and hurt herself." The dark-haired woman kept rambling, but the entire focus of Erik's attention centered on the beautiful female he held in his arms. He turned and walked back to the water, taking the steps while still cradling her close.
"What the hell are you doing? She's passed out. She needs to recover and--" The friend followed him down into the pool, tugging at his elbow.
"--stay warm. Don't worry, I've got her." Erik had no intention of letting her go. Ever. But that probably wasn't what this other woman wanted to hear. He settled on one of the submerged benches scattered through the natural pool and rearranged his mate in his arms, her head resting on his chest. The sensation of her cheek on his bare skin made his whole body react.
Incredible. After all these years of waiting and longing, she dropped into his arms out of the blue. For now, knowing she actually existed was enough to make him want to shout in delight. Except, he didn't do shouting.
A rather piercing voice broke through his intense concentration and he remembered the friend, now glaring at him with suspicion. He held out his free hand. "Erik Costanov, from Alaska."
The brunette ignored his hand. "Pam. I think you should let me take care of my friend now."
"I've got her."
"I noticed. I'd prefer it if you weren't holding her. Just take her over to the stairs and I'll help--"
"Relax. I won't hurt her." I'm going to care for her for the rest of my life. The thought sent shots of pleasure through his system. Finally. His mate.
"Really, I'm not comfortable--"
"She's comfortable." It was true. The small armful of blonde snuggled in tighter and Erik's heart swelled. Hmm. This was going to be wonderful. Except for the fainting bit. They'd have to figure out what was causing it and--
A splash of water struck him in the face. "Hey, buddy. Thanks for stopping Maggie from hitting the deck, but I'll take over now. Got it?" Pam tugged on his arm, causing small waves to splash everywhere.
Erik took a deep breath. Maggie. He'd been right. He laughed at the irony. All this time waiting and his mate was the sister of his Omega. Why hadn't he known?
"Look, mister, I don't know what the hell you think is so funny--"
A soft groan rose from Maggie. "Pam, can you stop the shouting for a sec? You're killing me here." Oh hell, even her voice made his body sing. She squirmed and he carefully cradled her against him, keeping her head above water.
Pam leaned over and looked her in the eye. "Maggie? Can you hear me?"
"Are you kidding? They heard you in Vancouver. Stop screaming, my head hurts enough already. If you want to be helpful, I'm thirsty."
"There's a bottle of water in my backpack. Pass her to me and go get it," Pam demanded, giving him the evil eye.
Bossy chick. Erik smiled. It was good to know his mate had a friend who wanted to protect her, although he would provide all the protection needed from here on out. Conveniently, the teens traveling with him had gathered close, curious to see what was happening.
"Cody, grab some water for our friends," he ordered. The boy nodded and raced for their cooler on the deck.
Maggie wiggled again and Erik savoured the weight of her on his lap. The brush of her skin against his increased his pleasure. The sweet smell of her natural perfume filled him with the dire need to taste her skin.
Cody handed over a bottle of water and she guzzled most of it down.
Pam watched him like an overeager chaperone, her gaze dancing around the pool area. She seemed concerned there were now four strange males crowding her and Maggie, and Erik motioned for the boys to step away.
"Did I pass out?" Maggie spoke soft and slow, her words barely audible.
"You weren't out cold, but neither were you were coherent. Do you need your pills?" Pam asked.
Maggie leaned back on his chest, her head turned slightly so the warmth of her breath brushed him. "No pills. This is heavenly. I haven't been this relaxed for months."
Erik smiled. She knew him too. Her body already sensed they were meant to be together.
The friend glared harder, her eyes narrowing in suspicion as if Erik were somehow making Maggie respond like a puppet. "Umm, Mags? If you're feeling up to it, you want to come sit over here with me?"
"Nope. Comfy here." Her words slurred.
He peered over the top of her head to see her eyes were closed. Long dark lashes rested on milky white skin. He admired the contrast against his darker colouring where her arm rested on his biceps. She draped herself over him without shame, accidentally grinding her hips against his groin and his cock woke. Oh yeah. Getting to the intimate part of their relationship would be fine as well.
She moved lazily, lifting her arms to stretch. Her fingers missed brushing his cheek by inches and he refrained from leaning closer to let her stroke him. Her wonderful scent lingered in the air and he inhaled deeply in appreciation. Hmm. All those days of watching his Alpha pair care for each other brought his anticipation for this moment to a fine peak. So this is what it felt like to find the missing part of your soul.
Maggie smacked her lips. "Is there a snack bar here?"
"Are you hungry?" Pam hovered closer.
"No. Just trying to figure out what that fabulous smell is. Why were you shouting?"
Pam pointed over Maggie's shoulder and sniffed. "He is being stubborn and I really wish you'd stop sitting on him."
The steady beat of his mate's heart sped up. She reached under the water and her fingers slipped over the bare skin of his thigh, sending another thrill along his nerves. Oh hell yeah, the connection rocked between them.
"Pam? Where am I?" Maggie twisted in slow motion to stare up at him, the deep blue of her eyes flashing with recognition for an instant before she opened her mouth.