He smiled down at her and watched the angry spark flare in her eyes, then die away as she caught his grin and realized he didn’t intend to kick her out of his bed.

He chuckled and moved down her body to swipe his tongue over the flesh where his hand had been. She moaned and dug her hands into the sheets. He wondered if between her cat side and her human side if there would be any sheets left by the time he was finished with her.

Greta was in Dayne’s bed, wrapped in his arms for the second time that night. She wished she could stop the contented purring.

The pills had stalled the immediate need of the heat, but the adrenaline from her fear had caused her to weaken when his hands were on her.

His fingers stroked through her hair and trailed down her back as she arched into his touch. Like most cats, she was never able to get enough.

“Do you want to tell me about the nightmare?” Greta stiffened. She’d forgotten the dream. She hadn’t been human enough to retain the memories. Already in her cat form and in such a primal panic, all sense of humanity had left her. She wasn’t usually so disconnected from her human thoughts, even in her fur. If she’d remembered the details of what had gotten her so scared in the first place, she wouldn’t have run into Dayne’s room.

She shuddered as the dream came rushing back in its full Technicolor ugliness.

“I just dreamed about the sacrifice. They took me and were draining my blood out. I was dying. That’s all.” She couldn’t tell him she’d dreamed he’d stood there and let it happen, that he’d been in on it from the beginning.

She’d run to him thinking he would protect her, but the tribe had sent her to him to ensure she’d be at the ritual. In the dream, Dayne was the one who made the cuts down her skin and smiled as the blood ran out.

She hadn’t smelled any evil on him, not once she’d gotten past the persona he was trying to live up to. But then sorcerers could mask their scent with magic. Jaden had taught her that. She pulled out of his arms and reached for the shirt she’d dropped on the floor before their first coupling.

“I think I’m going back to my room,” she said, unable to make eye contact. She couldn’t let him see her fear.

“Are you sure? Maybe you should sleep here, in case you dream again.”

Greta was already edging toward the door when she looked up at him.

Dayne’s eyes narrowed. “You’re right; perhaps you should sleep in your own room. You’re only here a few more days.” It wasn’t as if she’d said she wanted a relationship. She hadn’t even implied it. The first time she’d been in heat, and the second he’d initiated. He had some ego. Or was his comment because he knew she’d be dead? Greta crossed back to her room and crawled in under the covers with Mink. This time she slept with her door locked.

Dayne sighed. It wasn’t necessary to overreact like that. Her wanting to sleep across the hall didn’t mean she was using him.

The truth spell he’d cast wasn’t for short-term use. He could have done that without her blood. He’d instead wanted something longer lasting, an insurance policy to protect his interests in the event that he got too soft-hearted toward her and started doing all his thinking with little Dayne.

Her aura had turned dark when he’d asked her about the dream. She was holding something back. He could make her tell him, but then he was back to being classed as a monster. He didn’t like the way it made him feel when he was the source of her fear.

He liked even less that he cared so much what this particular therian thought, period. It would be best if she slept in her own room. If he didn’t get attached, neither Greta nor Jaden could lure him into another trap.

Chapter Seven

RETA perched on a kitchen barstool with a plate of bacon Gand scrambled eggs covered in maple syrup. Her long tanned legs were crossed, flip-flops dangling off her feet. Mink stood on the counter eating off the side of her plate.

“That’s disgusting,” Dayne said. She wasn’t sure if he was referring to her habit of eating maple syrup on her eggs, or sharing food with the cat. Mink hopped off the counter and fled to the other side of the room.

Dayne poured a glass of juice and took a packet of instant muffin mix from the cabinet. Greta tensed as he brushed past her to retrieve a bowl, muffin tin, milk, and a measuring cup. He took a chocolate cookie out of the cookie jar and chomped on it as he worked. A stubborn crumb stayed on the corner of his mouth, and Greta wanted to lick it off.

She was slowly losing her mind. He was dangerous. Probably.

He was part of the ritual. Maybe. She wasn’t sure anymore. In the daylight it didn’t seem possible he’d do that to her. Two nights before she’d dreamed purple clowns were chasing her down an alley made of Swiss cheese. Some dreams were just dreams.

“Is something wrong?” Dayne preheated the oven and was engaged in pouring the batter into the muffin tin.

“Why are you doing that?”

“Doing what?”

She gestured to the batter. “Can’t you just zap them?”

“Only an amateur magic user uses a spell for such a petty thing.” He sounded like he was reciting from a textbook.

Greta spun on the bar stool, first one way, then the other. Something she hadn’t done since she was a kid at Simon’s house. She wanted blueberry muffins. It was getting close to the full moon and she was still hungry. But Dayne made her skin itch, and the kitchen was suddenly too hot and confining.

Her eyes cut to the doorway to see Mink slipping out of the room. In a minute, the cat would be back, whining to be let out.

Greta left her plate on the counter and, without a word, followed after her.

Dayne took the blueberry muffins from the oven and dropped the tray. Dammit. Was he developing some type of mental retardation? She’d deflected his question about what was wrong by asking why he didn’t use magic to make muffins. She had a point there.

And since when did he start eating instant blueberry muffins and chocolate cookies? Her poor eating habits were beginning to rub off on him. He never should have sprung for the cookie jar. All those simple carbs.

He was going to have to resort to magic to stay in shape if he kept eating like this. Only two more days, then she was on her own and he was back to the regimented diet. He plucked one of the muffins from the tray and ate it anyway, then went to look for her.

Whatever was causing her anxiety needed to be resolved, at least reduced. Otherwise, it could affect the ritual.

He found her in the garden.

“Greta . . . ”

She shrieked and covered herself with one of his bright fluffy beach towels. Dayne looked away, his hand over his eyes.

“Sorry,” he muttered.

“Give me a second. Okay. I’m decent.”

She hadn’t been kidding about a second. She could put clothing on as fast as most people could take it off. Dayne wondered if she was holding out on him about her magical abilities.

As to her decency, that was a matter of perspective. “You avoided my question earlier in the kitchen.”

“Oh?” She sat on the ground and picked a daisy, tearing the petals off one by one. Her eyes followed each petal as it fell onto her shorts, and the warm breeze carried it away.

“I asked you if something was wrong.”

She looked up at him, her eyes guileless. “Wrong? No. Why would something be wrong?”

Dayne felt his face darken at the same time Greta’s aura did.

“You’re lying.”

She shrugged and picked another daisy. He felt the tension roll over her as her eyes flashed to gold and then back to brown so fast it could have been a trick of the light.

He sat on the grass a few feet away and uprooted a daisy, starting on the same mindless ritual Greta was focused on. When she looked up at him, her shoulders relaxed.

He sighed. “What are you afraid of? You know they can’t get to you, not even in the garden. You’ve been safe here the entire time, and the clock is running out. You’re useless to them after tomorrow night.”

He reached out and settled a hand on her knee. “Are you afraid of me?”

Greta’s wide eyes rose to his. “No.”

“Is it because of the way I behaved when you first got here? Or anything we’ve done since then?”

“No. I’m not afraid of you.”

He watched as her eyes drifted to his hand, then away, then back again, but she didn’t ask him to remove it. He laid his other hand against her cheek.

“You really are safe with me.”

She rubbed her cheek against his palm and scooted to close the distance between them. Her mouth latched onto his. He returned the kiss; his hand settled on the back of her neck holding her firmly in place while his tongue explored.

In the next moment, she’d scrambled off him.

“Greta, what?” He touched a finger to his lips.

“I don’t need to be starting something up with someone who may or may not be evil.”

“Who said we were starting anything up?” Her face flushed. “I’m sorry, I forgot.”

“Forgot what?” He didn’t know what she was apologizing for until he saw the signs of the heat.

“I was supposed to take it after breakfast. And then you came in and distracted me.”

“It’s all right. I understand this. I don’t think badly of you. Let me help you.”

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