...if you haven't read parts one and two yet, please read them first. This is the final installment of the Wingspan preview!
Mark Williams watches the unusual female pull away up the hill. Between gear changes he puts the window up halfway and pushes his hair behind his ears before getting his sunglasses back on. It’s early enough the morning sun shines straight in glaring off the dash and warming his skin.
That she’s interested in him he doesn’t doubt. Her nervousness is obvious and he suspects her age is partly to blame.
Yeah, but you’re still a kid, he laughs at himself. Not even a hundred.
The fact that she’s on her own could also explain her caution. Females rarely travel alone away from their eyrie and though she returned his advances he suspects she’s in a hurry to catch up to her father or brother; the only males who should be with her.
A nervous glance at the empty sky reassures Mark that a rough encounter with them isn’t in his very near future at least. With his training he’s sure he could beat them both to pieces but honour requires he take his licks if they don’t like him. As he pushes the heavily laden rig through another gear he realizes she’s been away from her eyrie for a while if she’s learned to ride a motorcycle.
It could be she’s a true rogue, abandoning the eyrie for the human world like he had years before. Many find satisfaction in service to the Sire and Dame, the hereditary royalty, but not Mark. As Talon, the gryphon male in his spirit, he’d trained for decades to be ranger. A proud place in the elite royal guard was the only service he felt worthy of him but seeing bigger less talented males be selected time and time again put him off.
Instead he indulged in a female who appreciated him and his fighter spirit. A larger western gryphon herself she was nearly his height but she was flighty and prone to wandering for months at a time with his own sister who preferred the wind under her wings to the stone Jasper cavern they’d all come to call home. Not that he minded. He’d done the same.
Talon had managed to abandon courtship as well, never offering Swift his bite though there seemed no shortage to the tears she would offer, shedding them his way every time things seemed serious. Commitment issues Swift had accused but in his heart he needed someone who saw him as more than an intimidating male to show off to her friends or escort her through some human shopping mall while she picked out something shiny for herself.
But this little female is different. A demanding vulnerability in her scent commands him to win her; a line he’d never even wanted to cross with another. Her size could be driving him to be protective. Gryphons from this side of the continent are decidedly larger than those further east where he was reared but she’s truly tiny, her scent so exotic he can’t begin to guess where she’s from.
He never thought he’d find vulnerability sexy but in his little female it’s searing hot. Maybe he’ll find her motorcycle ahead, her scent and clothing leading him through the forest as he undresses and takes wing, becoming Talon and knowing she’s high above stalking him already. Their magic protecting them from human eyes as he finds a clearing and enough space to spread his wings and take off.
Talon’s strength and size would overpower her and he’d revel in her submission before letting her go anticipating his own terror as her speed and agility let her get her claws to his exposed throat…
He hasn’t hunted like that with a female in years. The chance she’ll show up is slim; that she’ll stay interested in him long enough to hunt are even slimmer. In spite of the weak prospects he’s excited with the possibility.
You’re in way over your head with this one, Talon, his human voice tries to warn the unfamiliar gryphon need for a mate. One shot. You screw this up you won’t get another chance with her.
As he enters
her scent grows strong and he leans
toward the window, inhaling deeply. Mark groans with need, sweeter than when
they first spoke. Light brown eyes, he recalls, and her long hair tied back. As
he remembers the shape of her ass straddling the seat her scent disappears and
he casts his eyes wildly about for any hint of her. Nanaimo
“Damn it,” he mutters nearly tearing the wheel free in frustration.
It’s past one-thirty when Mark finally reaches the short strip mall and gas station he’d sent her to. Even though he has half a mind to press on to
to wait for his next load he’s still hopeful she’s waiting for him. Victoria
That’s just your arrogant gryphon pride talking, Talon, he grumbles to himself though his human half hasn’t given up either. If she’s here it’s all about her and how she wants it and you know it.
As he pulls in he catches the smallest hint of her on the air. If she was here she’s probably gone but it gets a little stronger as he reaches the end near the pumps. Just past them he spots the front end of her motorcycle backed in on the other side of an SUV. His pulse shoots up as he looks skyward hoping for a glimpse of her.
Instead she’s curled up on the grass behind her motorcycle. The helmet is perched on the handlebars and her jacket is balled up under her head.
She’s even more exquisite with the gear off.
A small strip of ivory skin fills the gap between the rise of her denim covered hip and the hem of her white tank top. As he pulls in and kills the engine his eyes partially shift, improving his vision and picking out a slim line of blue over her shoulder where the top has slid toward her neck. Then there’s the thick brown hair still wavy from her braid and piled loose behind her.
Mark quickly checks the contents of the grocery bag at his feet. Condoms and jerky; canned fish. The bottled water is already in the small fridge behind the passenger seat.
It’s clear she wants a human encounter and he’s glad he thought to run to the pharmacy for the condoms. He’ll be surprised if she’s not likewise prepared but he’s expected to show courtesy and bring some too.
The conception of a child in human form would be catastrophic for both of them. If by some miracle she survived and carried it to term the child would be human and by tradition abandoned. A devastating loss for her, its dame, though these days it was the human adoption system which took responsibility and not the elements and scavengers waiting as far as the father, its sire, could fly from the eyrie. Not to mention an unbearable task and one Mark hopes he never has to face.
He turns the engine off and pops the door, stepping down the first two steps and jumping the last, his worn cowboy boots striking the pavement at the same time.
Easy, he warns himself. Females are sensitive to moods even in their human form and if he charges in ready for sex she’s sure to change her mind. One step at a time and let her lead was the only advice he’d ever received from older males and he prays it’s worth the dozens of rounds he’d bought to get it.
She sits quickly, a sudden inhalation tells Mark he’s startled her, but she doesn’t turn his way just yet. Come to think of it all those older males were unmated. Damn, it was the only advice he had.
“Hey,” she calls; the tiniest tremor in her voice.
“Hey yourself,” he answers as he steps onto the grass only a half dozen paces away. The young woman reaches down modestly tugging at the bottom of her top before pressing her hands onto the ground so she can turn to face him. Her mouth opens again and gets stuck before she pulls it shut.
“Sorry I’m late,” Mark continues gently trying to take her all in without clawing her up with his eyes. She’s perfectly proportioned, breasts slightly high and arms toned and a face he’d never tire of looking at. In spite of his efforts not to stare he catches her looking him over and tries not to smile as her cheeks turn pink.
Silently he takes a seat behind her hoping to be less intimidating. He knows what he looks like, six foot two and nearly all muscle. There’s grass in her hair and he starts taking the little bits out one at a time. This close her gentle musk is intoxicating as it mingles with the smell of summer from her hair. After a minute Mark trails his fingers down her back and she cautiously reaches behind and slides a hand under his knee. As he leans forward to taste her skin she moves her head to the side, not quite the symbolic submission of exposing her neck he expects but enough to invite him in.
“Shadow?” a man calls from the parking lot in front of them. Mark is too focused on his dark haired beauty and curses himself for not keeping an eye out for competition, gryphon or in this case not. “Damn, Shadow. I thought it was you!”
Shadow looks up, her hand grips Mark’s leg and seems to tug him closer. She’s uncomfortable as hell with the little man and pulls her knees together, arching her back into Mark in the process. He reaches around her, hand over her womb in a display of possession usually reserved for mated pairs but Mark is dead set on making his claim public even though the interloper is human.
“Hi, Nuke,” she says and he waves with two fingertips as he palms his pop. His other hand is jammed down the side of his female companion’s shorts. Mark stifles a snort. Nuke’s woman is six inches taller and a hundred and eighty degrees prettier. Judging by the big diamond on her left hand the reason for her attraction to him is clear. It doesn’t keep Nuke’s eyes from wandering.
“You keeping busy?” Shadow asks.
Nuke shrugs and Shadow pulls her hand off Mark to cross her arms as Nuke’s eyes drop and linger. He appears to hear Mark’s low warning growl and remembers his manners.
“My uncle got me a good logging gig up island,” Nuke says. “This is Bunny. We got ourselves set up with a nice apartment.”
Nuke makes eye contact with Mark expecting an introduction.
“Talon,” Mark says before Shadow is caught not knowing his name. He can’t decide which one of them is the predator. Nuke thinks he is, judging by how he’s looking at Shadow but Bunny with the prey name has her attention on a nearby Lexus that smells of the two of them.
Shadow drops her eyes with what Mark first takes to be submission to the little shit then he scents deep pain her, somehow associated with the man. He must be meant for Shadow if simply being near attunes him to her moods. He was always fucking things up with Swift when he guessed wrong but he’s already clear about Shadow. The old rogues never mentioned that and it explains why they were drinking alone in a
bar. A small layer of golden brown feathers bristles beneath his shirt and he
quickly squashes the idea of squashing Nuke, letting them fade. Taking wing
with his shirt on is something a child would do. Calgary
“Well…ah,” Nuke says with a sideways look at Bunny. She appears bored; rolling her eyes under thick fake lashes and tugs him to leave. “Good to see you doing better—
“Yeah, bye Nuke,” she cuts him off. Mark wonders better than what? She’s far more distraught inside than she lets on and he rubs her shoulder with his free hand to try and calm her down. As Nuke and Bunny walk away Shadow deflates into Mark with relief.
“Hi, Talon,” she says as the mismatched human pair drives off.
“Hello, Shadow,” he answers. He knows her gryphon name: subtle and secretive. Calming. A very appropriate name for this female who appeared out of nowhere and into his life.
His female. Talon is going to make sure of it. No man like Nuke is ever going to upset her again. He’s surprised with himself. He’d always thought taking a mate was about genes and temperament. A male wanted a healthy mate who would be a compassionate and patient dame to his children but right now children are the last thing on his mind.
Compassion for Shadow is all he wants. Not to posses or have an excuse to feel territorial but to be proud that she chose him.
As she straightens up he takes his hand from her stomach.
“There’s no, um, story to Nuke,” Shadow says flatly like she knows the idea of the two of them together made Talon’s skin crawl. “Nothing.”
When she turns to him she tucks her feet in and holds her head high before flashing him a brilliant smile. Damn, she takes his breath away. The top is cut low and the sight of her skin and exposed neck makes him want her even more. Whatever the story with Nuke is, it’s not sexual and she wants him to know it.
Then her hands are on his legs and she’s only a dozen inches away, studying him like he’s a puzzle. Below her furrowed brows her eyes watch as she feels the muscle in his arms. Delicately, persistent, Shadow works her way up over his shoulder.
“You’re big,” she winces. “Sorry, that sounded stupid.”
But he doesn’t let her pull away, firmly taking her wrist and putting her hand right back where it was.
“Where I call home, I’m not considered all that big.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
Talon turns his head to the side softly blocking access to his neck. As bad as he wants her he’s not going there just yet. When he turns she’s even closer and he lets her touch his cheek as her mouth opens. Expecting a kiss, the mere wisp of her lips over his is torment and he tears up a handful of grass she can’t see.
Before he can come up with any plan to figure out how he’s blown it her lips seal over his and he gives in as her fingers slide down over his throat, tracing over his carotid. The vibration of her nails on his half-days stubble rams straight into his groin.
I’m yours, Talon shamelessly surrenders as her tongue tries his lips and he opens to her, meeting her hot prying challenge with his own.
Shadow gets a knee between his, the other to his side straddling his thigh and he takes her hips in his hands to pull her in but her hand tightens on his throat as she takes control remaining in the dominant position above. Talon stops pulling and instead slips a hand under her snug tank, palm over her flat bare stomach to tell her the distance between them is his choice, not hers.
She seals the kiss around his tongue and yelps at the sound of metal crashing to the pavement behind her. In what seems like an eternity he’s pinned her protectively to the grass already having taken in that it was an aluminum boat falling from the top of a camper and not her sire come to kick his ass.
Arms between them, her hands fist his shirt and she has to be aware of his erection and every other part of his body holding her down. Shadow’s pounding heart and wide eyes say she was completely in to him when the boat fell.
Then she laughs as Talon lets his head fall to hers, close to the warmth of fading fright on her cheeks.
“I planned that,” he jokes. “To get you in my arms.”
“You didn’t have to,” Shadow says.