"This is so not a good idea." Kara Shepherd leaned back against Lindsey's dusty red Toyota and stared down at the gravel parking lot. A cool evening Oregon breeze, typical for May, blew the dust around between the cars. "Why did I let you two talk me into this?" Kara scraped the toe of her new Durango boots through the rocks and nearly laughed out loud as her gaze roamed up her body to take in the entire package. Her roommates, Lindsey and Jessica, both bombshells, had hauled her scrawny ass into Cavender's this afternoon for the new country-western wear she was now outfitted in--low-rise boot-cut jeans, a short white blouse tied in a knot just below her breasts, and the stiff awkward boots that would take weeks of wear to break in. Her feet, unaccustomed to shoes of any kind, were already begging to be let loose from their confines.
"Come on." Lindsey pinned her gaze on Kara. "It's already almost nine o'clock."
Lindsey looked at home in her own newly purchased duds. Every curve molded to get the best effect from her tight blue jeans and skimpy tank top. There was nothing wrong with Kara's look, but at five feet she was six to seven inches shorter than her friends and looked much younger than her age.
From out of nowhere, Lindsey and Jessica flanked Kara on both sides; each grabbed an arm and practically dragged her toward the entrance to the country bar. Kara released a squeal in protest that blended with the twangy music leaking through the walls of the joint all the way out into the parking lot.
"I don't know how to two-step or line dance, don't drink or smoke and have listened to country music less than a handful of times in my life. Why are we here?" she whined. A knot in the pit of her stomach twisted at the thought of entering the crowded, smoke-filled and loud, God-awful dance hall.
Jess's cheerful laughter filled the night air. "That's the whole point, Kara. You need to get out more. Four years we've been going to Oregon State and you've spent the entire time like a robot going from class to the gym to the apartment, and back to class and then to the gym and back to the apartment--"
"I get the idea," Kara mumbled.
"We're about to graduate." Jess showed a mouth full of perfect, white teeth. In fact, everything about the tall, slender woman was perfect. "It's time to live a little. Maybe even ... gasp ... meet a man."
"Oh, no." Kara planted her feet into the loose gravel, struggling to break her friends' hold. "Is that what this is all about?" Their grips on her arms tightened. "Don't tell me you have someone all lined up in there. I'll kill you both. I'm just fine, thank you very much. And far too busy for dating." Her friends were not going to let her get away.
"No, Kara..." Lindsey began, "...we didn't arrange a blind date or anything, although I do wish we had thought of it. Next time..." Lindsey glanced over at Kara and laughed. "You should see your horrified expression."
Her cheeks were burning hot and beads of perspiration were threatening to burst out above her brows.
"Look, we're just going to go inside," Jess quickly chimed in, "get a table and have a good time. Okay?" She pulled again on Kara's arm. Kara looked down at her friend's grasp. If she didn't relinquish control soon, she would end up with bruises on both sides of her body. How would she explain that to her coach Monday morning?
Oh, yeah, those bruises? Well, Coach, my girlfriends were dragging me out to a bar and...
"Fine. But I don't want to stay long. I have to study tomorrow, early." Kara took a deep breath, shook herself free of her captors, and let her shoulders fall into a more relaxed stance. She inhaled another breath of courage. "Let's get this over with," she mumbled as she made her way to the entrance, reaching into her pocket for her ID. At twenty-one, Kara's small stature and youthful looks always made her age extremely questionable. Not that she had had many occasions in the past to demonstrate her drinking age.
Lindsey pasted on a huge smile. "Now that's what I'm talking about." She pulled the door open and flourishing a low bow, allowed her friends to proceed inside.
The bar was wall-to-wall people, an ocean of Stetsons of every color. Even the dance floor was jammed. Loud sad tones of some slow country song filled the air, vibrating the floor beneath Kara's feet. Kara had had no idea this place even existed just outside Corvallis. She followed behind Jess toward a tall round bar table meant purely as a place to set your drink while dancing. The tables were spaced all around the dance floor, but none of them had stools to sit on. Hell, there wasn't even room to sit down in this establishment. It was going to be a long night.
Justin Masters paused, his beer midway to his lips. "Fuck. Fuck, fuck and damn. I don't believe this." He slammed the nearly full beer down on the table, foam frothing up and running over the sides of the bottle like a waterfall to cover the hand white-knuckling the glass.
Ryan, his closest brother in age, was startled at the line of expletives. "What? Dude? What's gotten into you?"
Justin raised his head, closed his eyes and took a long, slow, inhale of air into his lungs. "Mother fucker." His skin crawled, his cock jumped to attention, and his clothes suddenly felt way too tight for his body. He struggled to control the impulse to change.
When Justin finally opened his eyes, he found himself staring straight into Ryan's grinning face. "She's here, isn't she?"
Of course his brother would know exactly what was going on. They knew each other like the back of their own hands. The only other person in the world who would have also been on the same page as Justin, was Trevor. And Trevor would not be happy when he found out about tonight.
At twenty-eight years old, Trevor Shields and Justin had been sharing women for nearly half their lives. In a race against time, each had been hoping to make it into their thirties before finding their mates. This new development shot that idea to hell.
Justin shook his head at Ryan. "I'm not ready. I wanted more time. I--"
"Dude. It doesn't work that way and you know it." Ryan was laughing outright now. His wavy brown hair, identical to Justin's, fell across his eyes, covering some of the mirth. He scanned the jam-packed room. "Where is she? Do you see her yet? Is she hot?"
Justin lowered his gaze to the table. "I don't know." His sticky, beer-covered hand shook. He let go of the bottle to flick his fingers by his side and shake off the foam. "I'm afraid to look."
The chuckling beside him continued. "Bro, you can't stop fate. You're going to have to face the music... Come on. Let's go find her." Ryan picked up his beer and motioned with his head for Justin to follow him.
Taking another deep breath to steady himself, Justin grudgingly grabbed his bottle and downed the entire contents while Ryan waited with a wide smirk Justin had half a mind to physically erase.
"Feel better?" Ryan was obviously loving this.
"No, smart ass. I do not feel better." Why now? Why tonight?
Exasperated, Justin stared at Ryan, who raised his eyebrows under his dark locks of hair as if to say, "Well? What are you waiting for?"
"Okay, okay." Justin led the way through the crowded throng of line dancers in the direction of the powerful scent of his mate which stood out above all other smells of perfume, sweat, deodorant and aftershave permeating the confined area of the bar. His wolf hovered just beneath the surface, demanding to find his mate. It was a process as old as time. There was no avoiding it. "Not now" was not an answer.
Meandering through the crowd was slow work. Surely the place was above the legal occupancy quota tonight, or was it that his skin was crawling each time he brushed by another person? Justin had never seen so many people at Boot Scooters before, and he came here a lot. He and Trevor usually had no problem finding a woman willing to engage in the kind of sex play they enjoyed.
As if choreographed, the crowd parted, and there she stood. Justin came to a dead stop, causing Ryan to slam into the back of him.
"I'm guessing you found her?" Laughter still filled Ryan's voice.
Dammit. This is not a joke.
Whatever trepidation Justin had felt just moments ago evaporated into thin air. Standing with her back to him, just a few yards away, was the sexiest woman he had ever laid eyes on, assuming of course, her ass was no false advertisement for her face. Then again, you could tell a lot about a woman by just looking at her ass, and this one was a beauty. Justin sucked in a breath and held it as he beheld the tiny sprite who had no idea her world was about to change completely and irrevocably.
Barely five feet tall, she had long blond curls reaching way down her back. Justin ached to tangle his hands in those glorious locks. Jeans hung low on her slender hips to hug her sexy firm ass to perfection. Her slight waist was bare between her short blouse and formfitting jeans. Justin shivered at the thought of wrapping his huge hands around her warm middle. He could probably touch the tips of his fingers on each side. He and Trevor would completely swallow her up.
Shit, Trevor. The thought of sharing this sexy mate of his did not sit well with Justin. Where is this possessiveness coming from? Plus, she did not look like the kind of girl who liked to be shared. Her stance was shy between her girlfriends, but her backbone was tense, screaming she did not want to be here. Nothing like the usual women Justin liked to spend the evening with. Women who held their heads high, thrust their breasts out and all but begged to be taken. Hell, he'd never seen his mate out anywhere before, and he knew for a fact she had never been any place he frequented. He would have caught her scent hanging in the air.
This close to her, Justin could almost taste her sweet essence on the tip of his tongue. He stood there rigid. He would never forget this moment.
Ryan whispered close to Justin's ear, "Are you just going to stand there and stare at her all night? Ask her to dance."
"I'm ... observing her. Patience, man. She's a human. She's ... not expecting this," Justin muttered under his breath, his lips barely moving, as if she would somehow hear him over the constant bass beat surrounding them.
"Others have mated with humans. They got over it. This woman will, too." Were those words supposed to make Justin feel better? He was about to rock the world off its axis for this sexy vixen. He took a long slow breath deep into his lungs. She smelled so ... innocent. It had certainly been a while since she'd been with a man. There was no trace of another mixed with her scent. She deserved a little ... respect. Right, keep telling yourself that, asshole. She doesn't even know about your sorry ass yet. You are just plain chickenshit.
Justin made a quick about face and headed to the bar, Ryan hot on his heels. "What are you doing, man?"
"What does it look like I'm doing? Getting a drink, okay? Do I need your permission to get a drink?" Cut me some slack.
Ryan resumed chuckling. "You're scared... Ha... You are." This was way too funny for Ryan and it was beginning to wear on Justin's nerves.
"Look, let me handle this. My way. Back off. Go ... go find someone to dance with or something." Justin glared over his shoulder at Ryan. Apparently his look was sufficiently harsh, because Ryan held up both hands in surrender and slowly backed away toward the dance floor. His low laugh did not, however, disappear for several seconds.
"Give me a shot of Jack and a Budweiser," Justin nearly shouted at the bartender. I can't even hear myself think in this room. He tugged at the collar of his western shirt. Was it not stiflingly hot in here?
He didn't have to turn around to know the gorgeous little fairy behind him had not moved an inch. His nose would keep him updated on her whereabouts. When the bartender returned, Justin slapped a ten on the bar, chugged the whisky and turned to lean his back against the rail, tipping his beer back with one hand to chase the burning liquor down his throat.
Hopefully the drink would help control both his raging hard on as well as his shaking anxiety. It didn't work. When he brought his vision back to center, he paused dead in his tracks. When had she gotten closer? There she was, staring straight at him.
"Excuse me? Could you um..." She was pointing at the bar behind him.
Justin was still as a statue, holding his breath. What a fox. My God. Thank you, Lord. Her face turned up toward him and she sucked in a breath. Her brows shot upward and then settled back into place. Her dainty finger pointed to his right, but he couldn't take his gaze off her angelic face. Her full mouth curved at a questioning angle. Wide, bright blue eyes like the ocean. Staring into them would surely make him seasick. Her blond curls fell over her shoulders in a cascade of silk. He had to hold himself in check to keep from reaching out to take a lock in his hand and bury his face in it.
Shit. Move, man. Say something. You look like a fool. Justin exhaled. "Sorry. Sorry."
Maybe she wants to order a drink? Right, of course. This is a bar after all. People walk up to the counter and they order beverages. You're blocking the front line. "Can I ... um ... get you something?" He looked at her expression of apprehension and decided to take a different angle. "I mean ... it's hard to get the bartender's attention in all this confusion. I'd be happy to wave him down and order for you... If you'd like?" Please say yes.
Justin automatically reached for her slender arm, pulling her away from the line of drunk bastards about to stumble into her. Too late. They managed to slam her forward anyway and she squished gloriously flat against him, awakening every nerve ending in his body. Sparks lit up his system.
"Oh." She gasped in shock and jumped back a step as though he had just poked her with a hot iron.
Justin still had a hold of her amazingly firm biceps, unwilling to release her. "Are you okay? I was trying to pull you out of the way in time, but I guess I failed." He tried to flash her a playful smile, but doubted the intent would be obvious.
"I'm fine. No... I mean yes... I'm fine... Thanks." She looked down at the floor a moment before once again raising her sky blue gaze back to his. She had to tip her head way back to stare up at his face. He was more than a foot taller than her.
Everything lines up in bed... With Trevor at her back and... Shit. He needed to lose that line of thinking fast. Matings between three people were almost unheard of, and a threesome was surely the furthest thing from her mind.
She was aroused though, and shocked by it, if the look on her face was anything to go by. He could smell it on her. She surely knew nothing about bonding with wolves or matings; but, he realized, she would not be able to avoid the pull of her body to his. In a matter of days, she would be unable to deny him. Her body would crave the bonding, even without understanding. It was fated. They would be together.
"What can I get you?" Justin leaned in closer to her and breathed in the most glorious fragrance of floral shampoo and her personal essence--honeysuckle with a faint edge of ... chalk? Is she a teacher? Did they even use chalkboards anymore?
"Huh?" She seemed momentarily disoriented. That was a good sign. Hopefully she was focused so much on her attraction to him, she couldn't even remember what she'd come over here for in the first place. "Oh, right. A drink. Can you order me a mineral water please?" She smiled.
A mineral water? "Um, sure..." Justin relaxed the grip he still had on her arm just a fraction, with no intention of letting go altogether. Keeping one eye trained on her, he angled his head toward the bar and waited a beat to get the man's attention.
"Can you get me a ... mineral water?"
Without a glance in his direction, the waiter placed a green bottle in front of Justin. "It's on the house."
Justin reached behind himself with his free hand and grasped the cold drink, sweat dripping off the label to coat his heated palm.
Sparks once again tingled up Justin's arm when their fingers met to pass off the beverage. He didn't want to stop touching her. In fact, he wanted to pull her closer again. Flatten her against his chest. Tuck her head against him and run his hands through her golden hair...
"Thanks." She pulled away from him. Before he could even form a sentence, she had retreated toward her friends, her back to him, her fantastic ass swaying enticingly.
Justin smiled from his perch at the bar. Thank God the sturdy edge was there to hold him up. The sweet scent of her arousal stirred his senses. He grinned. She was just as turned on as he. His skin heated. He would need to run miles in the woods tonight to work off the sexual tension building in his body. There was no way in hell he was going to be able to take her tonight. No. It would take some gentle courting to steer her in the right direction. His earlier stress had faded however. His fate was sealed. She was his.