Unexpected pleasure warmed her blood.
Opening the door, she was rendered speechless for a moment. In Armani, Max Westin had been devastating. Now, dressed in low-slung jeans and a fitted t-shirt, his feet bared in leather sandals, he was . . . He was . . .
She purred, the soft vibration filling the air between them with lush promise.
Sneaky bastard. He knew her natural instinct at the sight of his bare feet would be to alter form and rub against them, circling his legs in a blatant display of her willingness. Fighting her very nature, Victoria lifted her arm and leaned against the door jam. Her shirt spread with the pose, revealing her tummy and the under curve of her breast. He shot a brief assessing glance at her display, and then brushed her aside, entering her home like he had every right to do so.
As he crossed to the kitchen with a paper grocery bag in his arms, the candles she had spread around the room flared to life in his wake. The stereo came on, releasing a cacophony of garbled reception before coming to a halt on a classical station. The rich sounds of stringed instruments flooded the room, swelling upward through the exposed ductwork ceiling of her contemporary apartment, setting the stage for what she knew would be a memorable night.
She followed him to the kitchen, where he set the bag on the counter and began to withdraw its contents. Behind him, a pan was magically freed from the overhanging pot rack and settled on the stove.
“The warlock reveals himself,” she said softly.
Max smiled. “I am exactly who I said I was.”
“An insurance fraud investigator. I checked you out.”
“I’ve recovered on every case.”
“So I learned,” she said drily. “You’re determined to save the world from evildoers, both magical and otherwise.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” he challenged softly. “Once, you did the same.”
He pulled out a pint of organic cream, and she licked her lips. Perceptive, as all Hunters were, he beckoned a bowl from the cupboard with a flick of his wrist and poured her a ration. Victoria freed the last button on her shirt. A moment later, it and her drawstring pants were pooled on the marble kitchen floor. She waited a second longer, giving him a quick glimpse of what he’d get his fill of later, and then altered shape. With a fluid spring of her feline legs, she made the high leap to the butcher-block counter and crouched over the bowl.
Max ran his hand over her soft black fur. “You’re beautiful, kitten,” he rumbled in his delicious voice.
She purred in reply.
As she lapped up the cream, Victoria curled her tail around his wrist. His large hand dwarfed her, but she felt safe with him, unusual for an uncollared Familiar around a warlock who lacked a guide.
Hunters were the most powerful of magicians and didn’t need the augmentation Familiars provided. They kept the magical world clean, tracking down and dealing with any deviants who fought the command of the High Council.
Others like her.
The blunt tips of his fingers found the spots behind her ears and rubbed. She melted into the countertop.
“Let me finish dinner,” he murmured. “And then we’ll play.”
Max turned away to tend the stove, and she fought the urge to go to him. She lay on the countertop, her chin on her paws watching the muscles of his upper back flex as he chopped vegetables and seared fish. Studying him, she noted the ebony hair that shined with vitality and the firm, proud curve of his ass. She sighed.
She missed having a steady man in her life. Lately the loneliness seemed worse than ever, and she blamed the Council for that. They should have waited until a second witch or warlock/Familiar pairing could have joined them against the Triumvirate, but They failed to temper their eagerness. Unwilling to fail in so important a task, Darius had lost his life in order to succeed. And she had lost her soul mate.
With her heart weighing heavily, Victoria jumped to the floor and circled Max’s feet, purring and preening to win his attention. He was, astonishingly, too busy taking care of her to have meaningless sex with her. Too busy cooking for her, and soothing her with music and candlelight.
Her weary soul soaked up the attention greedily.
Moving through eternity without a partner was taking its toll. She couldn’t date humans, and she was exiled from her community. There was no one to wait for her or worry about her.
Her work was fulfilling and her success a source of deep pride, but often she wished she could curl up on the couch with a man who cared about her. Loved her. Max was not that man, but he was the first of all the warlocks sent after her who took the time to woo her. Part of her appreciated his efforts. The other part of her understood that he had ulterior motives.
So she wooed him right back, rubbing against his powerful calves with soft, tantalizing purrs.
The road to failure began thusly with all her Hunters. She promised them delight with every brush against their legs, her pheromones scenting the air until they were mad to have her. Due to Darius’s gift, she was able to alter her scent from one of submission to one of carnal demand, a primitive challenge to a Hunter’s need to be dominant. In effect, a waving red cape to a raging bull.
“It’s not so bad,” Max soothed in a tone that made her spine arch in pleasure. “There is joy in submission.”
Piqued that he remained so casually unaffected, Victoria sauntered away, her tail held high and her head lifted proudly.
Submission. She wasn’t suited to it. She was far too strong-willed, far too independent to bow to a man’s demands. Darius had known this. He had accepted it, and made exceptions for her so they could live in harmony.
Victoria altered form, and sprawled on the couch naked. From his position in the kitchen, Max had only to turn around and he could see her. His self-control disturbed her, as did the quiet air of command and the steely determination in those gray eyes. He was not a man to be led around by his dick.
She sighed, and waited for him to come to her. No man or warlock could long resist a naked, prone, and willing woman.
Leaning heavily into the counter, Max stared down at the cutting board and exhaled his frustration. At this moment, he wanted nothing more than to show the beautifully bared woman on the couch all the things he could do to her. For her. It took far more restraint than he was used to exerting to prevent tossing the knife into the sink and doing exactly that. A hard, heavy f**king would help her forget, for a while, the sorrow he felt in her.
His eyes closed as he focused on that faint hint of sadness. The bond between Familiar and warlock always began with this tiny thread of awareness. It was early, too early, for the connection to be there, but it was. There was not enough of it yet to discern the cause of her unhappiness, but Max knew it was not a new distress. She’d carried it for some time.