“You’re really gonna sit there and tell me that’s all you wanted me for?” Shay asked, as Mara rolled off him and reached for her jeans.

“Yep,” she said sliding back into her clothes. She looked down at him, surprised to see his green eyes could possibly get any darker. “Most guys don’t mind a quick romp now and then. No commitment. No ‘call me in the morning’ bull shit to deal with.”

“What if I want the bullshit?” he asked reaching out to touch her hand. So soft, so warm. She jerked it away and sat back down to put her shoes on. He didn’t dare try to touch her again. “You’ve gotta give me something here. I’m not a love ‘em and leave ‘em kinda guy. I never would have done this if I knew it meant the end of everything.”

“Look Shay,” she said, her hand sliding across his firm thigh. God, touching him felt good. “I like the chase. Catching and using my prey is and will always be my goal. Nothing’s gonna change that.” She stood up and stretched, bowing her back until it popped. “I got mine, you got yours and now you get to go home and tell your friends all about it.”

“I wasn’t planning on telling a soul,” he told her angrily. Shay grabbed his jeans and pulled them on without even standing up. How could she think for a minute he’d want to brag, he thought to himself. He cared about their relationship too much to jeopardize it, especially now. “You know, I’ve told you before I’m not like everybody else in this town. When are you gonna figure that out?”

“Maybe you should be,” she said, anger flashing through her beautiful black eyes.

Mara wasn’t mad at him. She was mad at herself. Shay was the sweetest guy she’d ever met in her life. He liked talking to her. He always knew how to make her feel better when she’d had a bad day. Sleeping with him on a whim was the last thing she wanted to do, but when she felt the pull of the change come on she knew she had to do something. Nailing him where he stood, expending every ounce of energy she had kept the animal from rearing its ugly head.

She’d do anything to keep the wolf within from gaining control. The shift itself didn’t hurt. Though it felt far from natural, the pain was never more than a dull ache. The trouble was nights were unpredictable when the animal came out. Her mind blanked out. She never came out of a shift where she’d gone into one. More than once she’d returned to human form with blood smeared all over her body. Sex she’d found, stopped the change in its tracks.

Shay stood up beside her, brushing a stray clump of icy white hair behind her ear. He could see the mental struggle burning in her eyes. His fingers gently traced her jaw line. His thumb brushed her lip. He could feel her body relaxing into his.

Shivers ran down her spine. She tried to push away from him when she felt his hold tighten, but his arm held her waist firmly. He wasn’t going to make walking away easy.

“What are you running from?” he asked. “I’ve watched you for years. You never let anyone in, not even your mother. Why?”

“Do you blame me?!” she asked incredulously. A master alcoholic wasn’t someone she wanted to let in. “She’s not in her right mind half the time. The other half she’s just mean.”

“No. I’m just saying you need somebody to be there for you. I’m offering to be that somebody. All you have to do is trust me.” His eyes bore into hers as if he were trying to break down some invisible wall. “Talk to me. Tell me what’s going on.”

He didn’t know how bad she wanted to tell him about the nights she couldn’t control the beast inside her. How bad she wanted to tell him about the times she’d found herself miles away from home stark naked and drenched in blood. He didn’t know how much she wanted to tell him she thought she loved him…Had always loved him. Walking away now was the only way to protect them both.

“I told you, Shay,” she said flashing a fake smile. “It’s all about the chase for me.”

“I don’t believe you,” he told her. He’d learned how to read her smiles over the years and that one was forced. “If sex was all you wanted from me, you wouldn’t have let me get close to you.” She looked up at him, her eyes softening. “I’ve watched you with other guys. You may flirt, but you always have your guard up.”

“And you think you’re any different?”

“I know I am,” he said confidently. He loosened his hold on her waist. She didn’t move away. “See, you trust me.”

“No, I’m cold,” she told him quickly. “It is the middle of winter after all.”

“I still don’t believe you.”

She pushed him away from her and jerked her jacket off the ground. She wasn’t cold, but he didn’t have to know that. Once she steeled up her nerves and pushed her tears back as far as she could, she turned a pair of cold black eyes on him. The chill he felt coming from her was obvious. Goose bumps broke out all over his broad chest and arms.

“Listen, I’m not gonna stand here and say the sex wasn’t great. I’d even be interested in doing it again sometime. The thing you need to get through that thick skull of yours is ‘love’ isn’t me. No matter how sweet your words are or how softly you touch me I’m not gonna fall for you. Come tomorrow morning I’ll mean less to you than you do to me.”

“So I’m nothing to you now?” he asked, digging his fingers into his black hair. Hurt reverberated in his voice.

“No more than you were before,” she answered, shrugging as if the pain he felt wasn’t there. Deep down she was screaming. It hurt her to say those things to him, but it had to be done. She couldn’t risk him discovering her secret or worse, him getting hurt because of it. He took a step towards her. She backed up. Time to sever it, she thought to herself. “You’re no different than the other guys I’ve been with and believe me, there have been a lot. To me, y’all are just one long train. I’ll bang away as long as I can, as much as I can. When my time’s up, I’ll move on to the next.” His shoulders dropped in defeat, but she wasn’t done. She flashed a fabulous smile and twiddled her hair through her fingers. “Who knows, I may even get a chance to find out if your brother is as good as you are.”

That did it. Shay’s hands balled up into fists. His jaw twitched. He’s never wanted to hit a girl as bad as he wanted to hit her right now. He knew she could be cruel, but he didn’t think she’d ever turn it on him. They’ve been friends, good friends for four years now. He thought he knew her. He thought she cared. Clearly he was wrong.

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