"You've been drinking."
"It's my birthday."
"Your eighteenth birthday, Arlin. Not legal drinking age."
"For non-weres, maybe. But when did you turn into a member of the Temperance League? Ohh. I get it, cousin. You're jealous. After all, I am one day older than you. I always will be."
"Shut up. And I'm not your cousin. In fact, I'm really glad I'm not your cousin."
"Cousin? We're almost twins, babe. Is it the longest day of your life? You've been like this for every birthday since I can remember. You'd think you'd outgrow it."
"And button up your fly, Arlin. You've been out sexing too. What type of bar did you go to?"
He smiled, his patented lazy smile, and took his time about obeying the order. He deliberately left the top button open.
"A sex bar, of course. C'mon, Tala. You're so jealous you're just about crawling out of your skin. It's okay for me to have sex, you know. I'm not a minor now. Of course, you can't have it even when you do turn eighteen. You've been sold off to the highest bidder. I bet he wants a virgin bride. How quaint."
"If you'd been born female, it would have been you on the auction block. It's at least one good reason to be male." Tala stood up and began to pace. "I suppose he'll summon me as soon as I hit the right age. I don't even know if he'll do that. Everything is up to him. It's disgusting. It's archaic."
"Jealous and scared as hell." Arlin grabbed her by the shoulders, halting her in midstep. "I didn't think anything scared you, Tala. Not our little Miss Smartass."
"Nothing does." She looked him in the eye when she lied. "Nothing will."
Arlin's expression softened and his grip on her changed to a soft slide down her shoulders. "Can I help?"
Help? Arlin was male and the presumptive Alpha of his pack. And she--almost cousin, almost twin, almost part of Arlin and his family--wasn't. No. There was no help for it.
"You're so predictable. You and your so-called help." She leaned forward to nip his chin.
He tweaked one of her nipples and she sucked in a breath. "You don't like it? I can stop."
"Shut up, Arlin."
Mouth fastened on mouth, like--well, two starving wolves. Tala flexed her fingers, let her nails scrape against Arlin's bare chest. Such a nice chest, with light fur barely covering warm skin and hard muscle.
"Harder, baby." Arlin growled the command against her neck and she swiped down a little harder, leaving a red mark on the skin. He twitched against her, hips against hips. Hard against soft. Against wet. Ache meeting need.
He pulled on her clothing, tearing it off.
She bent and bit one of his nipples. He reached, hand holding her ass cheeks and pulled her up, tighter against him. She wound her legs around his waist and clung.
His teeth dug into the skin near her neck as she tilted her head back, close to her pulse. It was classic submission and dominance, but she wasn't interested in submission. Not quite yet. Not for either of them.
She rocked against Arlin and, without words or preliminaries, he shoved a finger inside her.
"Yessss. More." They kissed again, fiercely, and he inserted two more fingers. She wiggled against him as he backed her against the wall.
"What do I get, Tala?" He gave her one blinding shock of pleasure as he touched her clit and she almost forgot words.
"What ... do you want?"
Another touch and she jolted against him, the space between her ass cheeks rubbing tight against his erection.
"What you want."
Good healthy, familiar lust swirled up inside of her. What he wanted was what she wanted. Of course. They'd known each other since they were born. Never known a world without Tala-and-Arlin in it. They knew what made each other laugh, cry, and everything in between.
The alarm on her watch buzzed shrilly and stopped. But it was enough to remind her. She'd set the time herself, earlier today.
At midnight, about five minutes from now, give or take, Tala was going to be someone else. Was already promised to someone else. She'd been promised even before they were born.
She shuddered again at the warmth that brushed against her skin with the word. She was primed, ready to go and--
Arlin's fingers pushed up hard and she cried out, unable to do anything except respond to the pleasure he brought. Jolts of hard, angry pleasure. They rode out her excitement together, pressed close, gasping.
Then she was back. The watch had shrilled somewhere in the middle of the orgasm buzz in her head. She was pretty sure. It could have just been the buzzing in her ears.
It didn't matter. She shook her head as if to get it started again.
Tala. She was Tala again, not Tala-and-Arlin.
He let her back down on the floor, his shoulders pressed against hers, his forehead resting against hers, as she tried standing on her shaky legs.
"The answer is nothing. I want nothing."