Molding her lips to his, she imitated his movements and inhaled the scent of his utter masculinity. This man might be part wolf, but he was all male, everything she could ever imagine wanting. Her recently discovered love blossomed and consumed her heart until it was a burning but beautiful ache in her chest.
She opened her mouth for his tongue, but he pulled his head back with a curse. "We have to stop."
"Why?" she asked in a dazed voice she barely recognized as her own. She did not want to stop. They had barely begun.
"I thought I could touch you… pleasure you, but my control is too shaky right now."
"I don't understand."
"The confrontation with my brother left emotion I need to burn away, but if I burn it the way I want to, I will break the promise I made to you."
"I don't care if you do," she admitted, her voice almost pleading.
He shuddered. "I would care," he said harshly.
She sat up, as far away from him as she could get while still sitting on his hard thighs. There was another hardness there, too, one that moved under his plaid, and she knew he was not stretching the truth when he said his control was precarious. But that did not make her feel better about his rejection.
"Because you would feel committed to me and you don't want to?" she asked painfully.
"Yes. You are a virgin."
"And if I offer you my virginity?"
"You offer it because I have enticed you to feel things you are not used to, because it is a full moon, because I am close to my… too close to you. I should not have started this tonight, but you make me lose my head."
"So you think we are both out of control?"
"But I do not have excess emotion I need to rid my body of." Unless they were talking about love and they weren't. "If I offer myself, I know what I am doing."
"You don't. There are things about tonight you do not understand. Things you don't know."
"And these things mean I do not know my own mind?"
"Why does it matter so much?"
"I will not break my word to you. I will not take advantage of my beast."
Now that she knew what she did, she understood he wasn't using beast as a euphemism for lust. He meant the wolf inside of him, she was sure of it, but she did not comprehend how his being a werewolf had anything to do with her offering herself. It did not matter though. Not really.
She wouldn't beg. She didn't need to understand his reasoning to realize that if he wanted her anything like she desired him, he would have accepted her offer. With alacrity. It might hurt to admit the truth, but it was obvious that while the feeling might be mutual, it wasn't mutually intense. But then how much of her desire was bound up in the love she felt for him? He liked touching her, but he did not love her.
There would be no comparison between the need generated by the two.
Blinking back tears and swallowing her hurt, she traced the blue pattern that circled his bicep. This was his Chrechte marking, or at least one of them. The other was on his back. She realized now the simplistic beast on his back was probably supposed to represent a wolf, but the tattoo band on his arm was different. None of the other warriors had it.
"Is this to mark you as clan chief?" she asked, wanting to distract herself from thoughts of love.
He gave a strange kind of shiver and gently pushed her hand away. "Yes."
"It's beautiful," she said as the blue markings blurred before her dampening eyes. He would not even allow her to touch him in this innocent way.
"God willing, my son will have the same marking one day."
She blinked furiously. "Your son?"
"I must have sons."
"I would welcome daughters, too."
Just not by her… because even if it were possible, however unlikely, there was still the risk their children would be born human rather than shape-changers. "Why haven't you married?"
"I was barely past my voice change when I took over leading the clan. Many pressed me to marry then, but I did not want to. I was too wild and there was too much to do to learn how to be a good clan chief. Now, it is a matter of taking the time to select a wife. My position consumes every waking hour."
"Not right now. Not this morning when you were teaching me to swim."
"You make me forget my duties."
Having gained control of her tears, she could meet his dark gaze without flinching. "Is that a good or a bad thing?"
He looked down at her for a long time, the golden circles around his dark irises almost swallowing the brown. They had never looked more like wolf's eyes to her.
He brushed a kiss across her still lips before pulling back again. "It is a precious thing."
Was she wrong? Did she mean something to him, even if they couldn't have a future? "What I feel with you is precious to me, too."
He stood up, dumping her off his lap. "It is only lust."
She swayed as if struck. "For you, maybe."
"Do not love me, English."
That was beyond anything. Bad enough that he thought he could dictate everything else. He could not dictate her feelings. "I will love you if I want to. If my heart ends up broken because of it, that is my own affair."
She wanted to rush off in anger, but at the last second she remembered her promise to Cait. Though she had almost no hope of her seduction plan being a success, she asked, "You will come for me tomorrow, to my room, before the swimming lesson?"
"Mayhap you should have Cait teach you to swim. You are right. I have neglected my duties too much already in favor of spending time with you."
She had not said that, but it was obviously what he believed. Precious? Not likely. She almost gave a snort worthy of Ulf, but stopped herself. The important thing was to keep him from the lake, she had to remember. Not for her to overcome her fear of the water.
"As you wish." She turned and started walking away.
"Damn it, Emily."
She ignored him and kept walking.
His hand heavy on her shoulder, he stopped her in the shadows between an archway and the wall. Neither said anything for several heartbeats.
Finally she asked, "Was there something you wanted?"
He turned her to face him, his expression an inscrutable mask in the darkness beyond the candlelight. "You did not request permission to leave me."
"I do not believe this." She fisted her hands and settled them on her hips in a way that Sybil deplored. "I am not one of your clan members. I am only a captive. I do not owe you that courtesy, or any other for that matter."
"First you speak of loving me and then declare I am not worthy of your respect. Which is it, English?" he asked in a mocking voice that infuriated her.
"I did not say I loved you, merely that I would if I wanted to. You cannot dictate everything, laird. It would take a very stupid woman to fall in love with a man who sees every moment spent in her company as a waste of his time."
"I did not say that."
He sighed, conceding defeat in the only way he knew how maybe… silence. After a protracted pause, he said, "I did not mean to hurt you."
"I did not say you hurt me and it is horribly conceited of you to assume you did."
"It is not conceit to note the way your lip quivers when you are trying not to cry or the fact that you cannot wait to be quit of my company because I have told you some unpalatable truths."
"Your truth, as you call it, is not anything I did not know before. You need not concern yourself and if my lip quivered, it is probably because I wanted to kiss you again. More the fool me. Apparently lust has no limits, even for an intelligent woman."
"Or an intelligent man," he muttered. "Since it is what we both crave, mayhap I should kiss you again."
"Do you think you can spare the time?"
His answer was a kiss so carnal that her body locked in shock. He forced his tongue past her only partially parted lips and took control of the interior of her mouth like the marauder he was. Where before it had all been about lazy pleasure, now he held nothing back. His hands were everywhere, touching her body in impossible intimacy through her clothes and she did not protest, but begged for more with little mewling noises, arching toward his roaming fingers.
This was what she wanted. This was what she craved.
She felt herself lifted and pressed against the cold stone wall, but she was not cold. She was so hot her skin burned with it. He pressed his big, hard body to hers, the bulge she had felt earlier rubbing against the apex of her thighs through her dress. She shuddered in pleasure and pushed back, seeking a relief from the agony of pleasure spearing through her.
He yanked her skirts up, baring her legs, and she wrapped them around his hips with an instinctual sensuality that she did not question. This time when she rubbed against his hardened flesh under his plaid, arrows of sweet pleasure pierced her with each tiny movement. He surged against her, increasing her enjoyment beyond what she thought her body could bear.
Then as suddenly as he had started, he stopped and yanked his mouth from hers.
"Lachlan?" she asked, her tone pleading and she did not care.
"We are no longer alone," he whispered right next to her ear before slowly unwinding her legs from his body and lowering her to the floor.
She stood, swaying before him. And it was several seconds before his words made sense to her. Eventually, the other noises in the hall besides her own labored breathing and fast heartbeat penetrated her consciousness. Though she could not see them, she could hear a group of soldiers that had gathered by the fireplace. From their comments it was obvious they were waiting for Lachlan to join them.
Tears of frustration welled and spilled over.
Lachlan said something she did not understand, grabbed her and kissed her again. His hand went down her body and rucked up her skirt and then he touched her sweet spot, once… twice and everything inside her exploded. Her body bowed against his and he kept his hand where it was, increasing the pleasure until she collapsed against him, her legs too weak to hold her.
He finally broke the kiss and then lifted her into his arms as if she were indeed a precious treasure. He said nothing as he carried her all the way up the spiral steps and to her room. He stopped outside the door and lowered her, helping her to lean against the wall for much-needed support.
"I do not want you to leave this chamber for the rest of the night."
"Are you going to lock me in?" she asked in a voice that sounded slurred as if by too much wine.
"Do I need to?"
"Promise me, no leaving for any reason."
"I promise." She turned and stumbled into the room, closing the door behind her.
She barely divested herself of her tunic and shift before climbing beneath the covers and sprawling in a boneless heap. The light of the full moon coming in through the windows high in the wall lit her chamber almost as brightly as daylight. Didn't werewolves change at the full moon?
Her thoughts were muzzy from the incredible experience Lachlan had given her, but questions peppered her mind until she was more awake than she wanted to be.
Was that why he had said his control was not as strong as he wanted? Did his animal instincts make it harder for him to control things like lust close to a full moon? She supposed they must. Was her werewolf even now in changed form and hunting, as Cait called it, under the full moon? Would he go to the lake?
Surely Talorc would have been smart enough to leave the island in that case. Or could werewolves tell if another wolf was a werewolf and not just a wild beast? She certainly hadn't been able to tell the difference between werewolves and humans in their human form.
She turned to her side and her body throbbed with remembered pleasure. What had Lachlan done to her? He had touched her and now that she was not drunken with the pleasure that he gave her, the memory of the way she'd responded shamed her. She had made noise. Even with his lips pressed firmly to hers, her moans had been audible.
Especially to werewolf ears, and she somehow thought those soldiers that had been in the great hall were probably exactly that. Had they come to join Lachlan for the hunt? There were so many things she wanted to know, so many questions she had for Cait. But regardless of why the men had been in the hall, they had been there and even knowing it, she had done nothing to stop Lachlan touching her so intimately. She had needed his caresses too badly.
But he had not found the same pleasure in her arms. Had he? In truth, she had no way of knowing, but he certainly hadn't gone limp like her. And that hardness that made his plaid protrude had still been there when he carried her up the stairs.
She chewed endlessly on her thoughts until finally, she was so tired, she could not keep her eyes open any longer. As she finally slipped into sleep, she heard the lonely howl of a wolf and something deep inside her insisted it was Lachlan in beast form under the cold light of the moon.
Lachlan could see the castle tower from his position near the loch. She was in the tower. His mate.
He shook his big wolf's head… the human inside him denying she could be any such thing, but his wolf cried out to her. He wanted to go to her, he wanted to see her through wolf's eyes, not just those of a human. He wanted to smell her, to rub his fur against her and mark her with his scent. Never in his life had his willpower been more sorely challenged than tonight. Leaving Emily outside her chamber had taken all of his strength. If he had gone in with her… he would have made love to her. Over and over again. His need for the change would have been supplanted by sexual fulfillment.
But he had not allowed himself that release. He and the rest of his pack had hunted tonight and he had eaten the kill, sharing with the other wolves in traditions as old as marriage vows and other human bondings. But the pack had long since dispersed. A couple of the bitches had tried to entice him into running with them, but he had snarled and snapped until they had all retreated with their tails between their legs. He was alone now.
He would have run with Drustan if the other werewolf were not back in his quarters… with his mate. He had come out for the hunt only. He would take part of the kill back to Cait for her to cook and eat as well. She would not be able to shift until the babe was born, but Drustan had not seemed to mind returning to the castle early. He knew his mate would welcome him home. Bloody hell, why had Lachlan waited so long to mate?
If he were married he would not have this unholy struggle between what he desired and what he knew to be best for the pack.
An image of Emily's beautiful pink and white body rose in his mind to taunt him. She would be the perfect mate if she were a femwolf. She was courageous and compassionate and fiercely loyal. But she was also human and he would not risk a human-wolf mating. He owed more than that to his pack.
Of its own volition, his head raised toward the moon and he let out a mournful howl that did not dispel the sense of desolation he felt at knowing he had no choice but to let Emily go. Just once he would look on her in wolf form.
He could not mark her with his scent as he longed to do, but he could look.
He loped back toward the castle, changing into human form just before he reached the drawbridge. When he reached Emily's room, the door swung silently open under his careful push.
She was curled on her side facing him. Her long gold and brown curls shimmered around her and the Balmoral plaid covered her. It was right.
Without thought, he changed and looked at her through the eyes of his wolf. She looked the same, but different. His vision was better in wolf form and he could see each individual lash sweeping her cheeks below closed eyelids. Her scent was different, too, both more feminine and more real. He could smell lilacs and remembered she had visited the women hanging the washing. She had endeared herself to them by helping them to gather in the clothes that had dried on the bushes.
He could also smell the scent that was hers alone. It was not a femwolf scent. It was softer, less spicy, less pungent but no less alluring to his wolf's senses. No female, human or wolf, had ever smelled so right to him. He padded closer as another scent made itself known to his senses. She had gone to sleep still aroused.
He had given her a climax, but it had not been enough. She needed the completion of intercourse as badly as he did, but he doubted she understood that. She was too innocent. Even after tonight… she was barely touched. His beast growled for the need to mark her as his, to declare that innocence his and his alone.
He could not resist the urge to kiss her cheek with a delicate lick. She wrinkled her nose and he bared his teeth in a wolf's grin that faded as quickly as it had come. Soon, things would have to be settled with the Sinclair. Emily would go back to the other holding.
Lachlan did not want to let her leave, but every day she stayed with him put his duty at risk. He had offered sanctuary, but he was glad she had turned him down. If she stayed, he would keep her. It was inevitable. And that would not be fair to his pack or to his clan. The need to join their bodies in total oneness, to plant his seed in her body (even if it would not grow) increased every moment he was in her company.
Right now he wanted to tug the blanket away with his teeth and cover her body with his beast, warm her and scent her and when she woke, change right on top of her so that he could mate her. He would share all his secrets with her and teach her the ways of the Chrechte. The desire was so strong, his wolf's body shook with the effort it took not to follow through on his thoughts.
Steeling himself to go, he licked her hand and she moaned in her sleep, then whispered his name.
Her dreams were about him. Were they sensual, or did she dream of their time in the lake, or perhaps of things that could never be?
He must leave now, or he would be here when she woke in the morning. He turned and padded toward the door.
"Lachlan?" she said sleepily as he reached it.
He stopped and turned back to face her.
She did not look afraid to find a giant wolf in her room. Her eyes blinked sleepily, but there was no terror in their violet depths. Perhaps she thought she was dreaming.
She sat up, the blankets falling to her waist and revealing the dusky rose of her nipples and perfect curve of her breasts. Physical desire swamped him until he felt like he was drowning.
Her eyes lit with wonder and a joy he did not understand. "It is you, isn't it? I'm not dreaming. You are a wolf and you are here."
He did not move. He barely breathed.
"Can I touch you?"
The words registered in his brain, but he could not make sense of them at first. She wanted to touch him? In his wolf form? She was human, not femwolf. He remembered the way his mother hid from his father's beast nature. She would not touch or talk to him when he was a wolf, pretending that he was no more than a man.
She had been relieved when Ulf did not go through the change. She had died of a fever the following year, after expressing the hope that neither of her sons would have a wolf's nature. Lachlan's change had come early… the first full moon after her death. Nothing had been the same since.
But his memories told him that human women did not embrace the beast in their werewolf mates.
"Please," Emily said softly, her hand outstretched.
He craved the feel of her fingers in his fur and he could not stop himself from going back to her, his beast letting out a low whine of need that he doubted she would understand. Had his father felt like this? How hard had it been for him to keep his two natures so separate?
Emily reached out and touched Lachlan's head. "You are beautiful." She trailed her fingers through the fur of his neck and down his back. "And your fur, it is soft. Oh, Lachlan… this is such a wondrous thing that you are."
A rumbling sound came from his chest. It was not a sound he'd ever made before. But then he had never known this pleasure. It was beyond physical mating… it was a happiness deep inside that his mate accepted and approved of all that he was. But she was not his mate. He had to remember.
The rumbling stopped, but the sense of pleasure did not.
He licked her, right between her breasts. He wanted to lick her all over, to taste her with his heightened wolf's senses and imprint all that she was on his memory forever.
She gasped, her hands stilling.
He buried his head in her lap lest he do it again and disgust her. Her feminine scent reached him through the blankets and tormented him with the desire to change and claim her for his own.
"Is it supposed to feel like that?" she asked in a quiet, shaken voice.
He raised his head to look into her eyes, willing her to explain because he could not speak and he could not risk making the change to ask what she meant.
"It felt like magic… I don't know how to explain it. Like heat, but it wasn't hot… like something fizzled along my skin. You know how the bubbly water from some springs shimmers in your mouth like moving droplets from a waterfall? Oh, I'm making a hash of this. But when you licked me, I felt something more than your tongue on my skin."
He did not know what she was talking about, but he understood one thing. She was not repelled by his action.
He nuzzled her with his head in gratitude.
"Is it all right that I liked it?"
He lifted his head and nodded, then did it again, to make sure she understood his approval.
This time she moaned and it was even harder to force his head into her lap a second time, but he could not allow himself to do what he so desperately wanted to. Besides, she might tolerate one lick, but could she accept more? She was human and he could not forget that important fact.
She scratched behind his ears, her silent approval an incredible gift. What human woman would not scream in fright from a wolf so close? But not Emily. She liked Lachlan's wolf. Had Talorc told her the secrets of the Chrechte? More likely it had been Cait. He would ask Drustan, but Emily was far too accepting for a human who knew nothing of their people. She was too accepting for a human woman at all. It made no sense, especially to his wolf's brain.
"If I lie down…" She stopped, her hesitation palpable.
What was she going to say? Did she want him to leave?
"Will you lie beside me and share your magic for just this night? Please, Lachlan. Just this once?"
His head jerked up. He could not believe what she had asked. It was what his wolf craved, he realized, even more than mating… the closeness of sharing. If only for just one night.
Her smile was bittersweet. "You are amazing. I will never again experience anything like what I feel with you now. I know that my time with your clan is limited and I will probably never see you in this form again after tonight. Will you stay with me until I sleep, so that in the morning I will believe it was a dream and not yearn for what I can never have?"
Even if he had been in human form, he would not have been able to speak. She said he was amazing, but it was she who was incredible.
He nodded slowly.
She smiled, her eyes shimmering with emotion. "Thank you."
Lying down, she pulled the plaid up to once again cover her modestly. Then, she scooted back toward the wall, making as much room on the small bed for his big wolf's body as she could. He jumped onto the bed and then lay down beside her, his muzzle resting on his forepaws.
She curled an arm over his neck and nuzzled into it with her face. He had never known such contentment, even with the unsatisfied lust making his blood run hotter than lava.
"You do not smell like a dog. I would have thought a wolf would smell like a canine," she said drowsily some minutes later. "But you smell like yourself. It is a fragrance I will never forget."
She fell asleep moments later.
Making no effort to sleep, Lachlan lay listening to her breathe and inhaling her sweet fragrance. Her arm stayed wrapped around him as if she wanted to hold her to him, even in her sleep. The temptation to stay was so strong, he almost gave in to it, but as the sun rose, he crept from the bed. He was careful not to wake her, knowing that if she asked for anything in that sweetly husky voice, he was likely to give it to her.
A few minutes later he had changed to his human form on the landing and then run to his room at full speed so as not to be seen. The bed that had been his own for more than ten years felt lonely for the first time as he fell on top of the furs that covered it.
But as tired as he was, he did not fall asleep immediately. The rocklike hardness of his erection would not allow it. Thinking of Emily's innocent face in repose did not help and when he finally did sleep, he dreamed of her… large with his child, smiling and laughing as she swam in the loch, no fear anywhere on her face.
He woke from the dream, an ache in the vicinity of his heart, a few hours later.
He dismissed that ache right along with the desire to see her. He had work to do, reports to hear, soldier training to oversee, and he needed to talk to Drustan. Prior to the evening meal the night before, one of the femwolves had reported that she had spotted a strange gray werewolf near the loch the day before. Lachlan was sure it was Talorc, or one of his well-trained elite guard.
Lachlan had smelled nothing when he had gone to the loch with Emily. Either the wolf had not been there, or he was very good at masking his scent. If it was Talorc, he was spying… but to what purpose? To check on the welfare of his sister, or to try to take her back? If he'd wanted to speak to Cait, he would have made himself known when she and Emily went to the loch. Unless he did not trust Emily with the knowledge of his presence.
Or had he? The night before, when Lachlan had asked Emily if she had seen a wild animal, she had said only if he counted a laird such a thing. Talorc was also a laird and Emily knew of their wolf nature. Had she been trying to avoid answering his question with a clever ploy, or had she not seen anything, as he had assumed?
Lachlan needed to speak to Drustan and then he would seek Emily out and discover the truth of the matter for himself.