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Just One Taste Part 23

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"That's not very nice. You've got to come up with a much better thank-you line." She smiled up at him. "Now you're worried about your refractory period, aren't you."

"Huh?"

"Don't you teach sex education as a health teacher, Mr. Cooper? You're worried you'll not be able to respond to further stimulation for a while so you can give me equal pleasure. But you will."

She stood up. "You've never mated as a shifter with a shifter before. Look down."

Ben saw that not only was he as hard as a rock again but he seemed to have grown significantly.



"Shit."

"Really. Your vocabulary is so limited. I'll have to wash your mouth out with soap. Now, we've completed step one of the process. I have honored you as my master. You must now reciprocate with a loving gesture."

"I want to make love to you," Ben said hoarsely.

"Not so fast. We will consummate in our cat forms, and the power of it will rival anything you've ever dreamed of. Let's take a walk in my night garden. No one should be there."

She led him around the house toward the barn, where a large rectangular garden lay behind a locked metal gate to protect against the deer who thought Lyra had planted them a buffet. She picked up a white-painted rock and held up the key. Ben took it and unlocked the gate, his hand trembling ever so slightly.

Steady boy. The flowers within glowed in the moonlight. Ben didn't consider himself to be at all fanciful, but Lyra had created a magical place. They walked the grass path to the center, which was empty, edged, a perfect circle.

"A loving gesture," he said, smiling. "Lie down, Lyra."

He parted her legs and her baby-smooth folds with his tapered fingers and covered her core with a kiss. He suckled, tugged, teased until she cried out on the grass. Ben's teeth sharpened in near fever as he tasted her honey. He gently nipped and she came apart.

He moved up and covered her with his bare flesh, feeling the drumming of her heart, feeling his own expand and judder.

"A loving gesture," she whispered. "Thank you, master."

And here she had doubted him.

Ben grinned down at her. His teeth felt wicked, his eyes saw every blade of grass. "What's next?"

"I think you know. We lie heart to heart, just as we are now. You have been boning up, haven't you? We say the words, we shift, you make me yours."

He eased away. "I don't want to hurt you."

"You can't hurt me. Not really. I'm not human. I was made for you."

Ben held her face between his hands. Their breaths mingled. His lips touched hers.

"So sweet. How will we communicate when we-when we can't talk?"

"With nothing but our bodies. I'll know what you want."

"Will I know what you want?"

She laughed. "Ben, you don't get it. It doesn't matter what I want. If it makes you feel better, you just gave me what I dreamed of all winter. Once we shift, it's strictly domination time. You can't hold back. No matter what that small human part of your brain tells you, you've got to let out the animal. I'll expect it." She lowered her voice. "I'll want it. I'll need it."

She put her hands on his, kissed him long and slow, giving him her trust. Ben felt like a beautiful man under her lips. He hoped he'd be a beautiful panther. His ebony fur, her tawny gold. Soon they'd be engaged in the fight of their lives which she was apparently looking forward to losing.

He drew back. Her eyes had already changed some. He supposed his must have, too. Everything was sharper in the dark, the scent of the garden, the scent of her skin.

"We'll say it together on the count of three. One, two, three...

"Felis silvestris."

Funny, when he'd first learned the Latin term for wild cat, all he could think of was Sylvester and Tweety. Or Felix the Cat. Those cartoonists were on to something. But these thoughts were pushed aside as his body elongated, muscles rippling under sleek black fur.

When he had changed before, it had been more frightening than enjoyable, but his body had never been cushioned on a soft bed of golden cougar before. He growled in appreciation as Lyra stretched and scrambled under him, trying to escape. He cuffed her without a thought and bit deep into the skin of her throat. Her cry made him all the more determined to have her. She was his.

He tasted her blood on his rough tongue. His ears flattened and he held her down with one huge paw, licking the wound. She whimpered beneath him, her golden eyes wide with fright.

He'd promised not to hurt her. But that seemed long ago. He flipped her over roughly. He watched the muscles in her back undulate. She raised her haunches in subjugation and twitched her black-tipped tail.

Careful to retract his claws, he held her shoulders, entered her in one brute stroke and howled in triumph. There had never been anything like this. There had never been anything like her. The stars exploded all around him in the clear night sky as he filled her. As he finally fulfilled his destiny.

Chapter 4.

Ben lay sprawled on his back in her bed, the shadow of delicious black stubble tempting her to rub her hand against it. The claw marks were already fading on both of them, although she'd have to wear a scarf if she went into town. The gossips at the general store would have a field day with Ben's love bite on her neck. He'd gotten a little carried away, but it was his first time, poor lamb.

When they had shifted back before dawn, he had carried her up to her bed and fucked her all over again. She just hoped everyone else was still wiped out from their night in the Maine woods, because she didn't see how she could get up and even walk downstairs to help with breakfast any time soon. But she'd better try.

It was 6:14. The clock radio was set for six-thirty. She turned off the buzzer and tiptoed out of bed. In the early morning light, she could see the hatch marks of scars on Ben's shoulder where all the surgery in the world couldn't fix his pitching arm. He'd certainly felt pretty strong to her last night. She wondered if it bothered him that his boyhood dream was dead.

At least she had given him his true self. And it turned out he didn't need three whole nights of instruction, though she wasn't going to tell him that and cut him loose anytime soon.

Maybe she could make up new rituals, she thought to herself with a smile. Look up new Latin words to chant while he screwed her sideways. As panther or plain Ben, it didn't matter. She had never felt so alive as when she was under him. Or on top of him this morning.

The steam on the bathroom window told her Flynn was already up and downstairs. Lyra wondered how his night went with Rachel. But they had discovered it was kind of icky talking about their sex lives with one another, so she wouldn't ask.

The water was as hot as she could stand it as she washed all traces of Ben from her body. She knew she was still marked as his, however, in all the ways that mattered. She was in the middle of shampooing her hair when Ben pulled the clear vinyl shower curtain open. He was naked. Hard. Hers.

"Let me help you with that."

Lyra leaned back against him as he massaged her head. His hands were heaven.

"You're good enough to be a shampoo girl at some chi-chi salon."

"I aim to please." He thrust his cock against her buttocks.

"Stop that."

She didn't mean it.

"Not a chance. Rinse and I'll show you what else I can do."

"I need to condition first."

He spun her around and kissed her under the stream of water, beads in catching his long black lashes. His eyes were icy-green, feral. He wasn't in panther form, but he might as well have been.

"A minute," she whispered. Blindly she grabbed at the conditioner on the shower caddy.

"Now."

There was no arguing. He lifted her against the bathroom wall, the vinyl slippery against her back. For once she wished she had a modern fiberglass shower stall instead of the oval rod that held the curtain around her vintage tub. She wrapped her legs around him as he held her effortlessly, finding her wet and welcoming. He eased in slowly, locking tightly into her as though she had been designed specifically for his dimensions. Which were currently enormous and getting bigger every time they mated. When he slipped one hand between them, she contracted in short, sharp bursts. She had no idea how he was still standing. But if he dropped her she wouldn't care as long as they remained connected.

He bent and suckled a nipple, and she shattered again. And again when she felt him unleash his essence within her.

They were both gasping and greedy, as though they hadn't spent the whole night in each other's thrall. But Lyra had to get to work.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

She poked a weak finger into his chest. "You can sleep the day away. I, on the other hand, need to get downstairs."

Reluctantly he pulled out and set her down in the tub. "Let me wash you."

"Oh no. I'm not falling for that."

Ben grinned. "I'm a guest. You said we could have anything we wanted. At the prices you charge, I should be able to have you 24/7."

"I'm not part of the package, you wretched man. Let me go." But she let him kiss her again, sweet and soft. If she didn't come to her senses soon, she'd be down on her knees, washing him.

"Please. I don't want to, but I really have to go help Flynn."

He kissed the tip of her nose. "Okay, but at least let me condition your hair. We would want you to be snarled and tangly...at least until tonight," he winked.

Half an hour later, Lyra was downstairs in tan capris, sneakers and a pink Perch sweatshirt, setting up the breakfast buffet on the porch. Maine mornings and evenings in June were still nippy. For that very reason she had designed and would be delighted to sell her high-quality sweatshirts as a practical souvenir to her guests. The entryway closet was full of them in seven colors and five sizes, as well as coffee mugs, baseball caps, and T-shirts.

Flynn had balked at wearing the T-shirts to cook, complaining that he felt like a damned walking advertisement, but Lyra had just looked at him and said, "Exactly." She hadn't quite figured out what she would do if non-shifters spotted the clothing and turned up wanting reservations.

So far she had billed the inn to the islanders as a private club with membership subscriptions, kind of like a timeshare, and they had discouraged the curious daytrippers from inquiring about rooms. She wondered if one day the club concept that might be true, although she'd probably get bored seeing the same old cats year after year. They'd all wind up mated with cubs, and she'd have to install a shuffle board court and a jungle gym or something.

Young shifters deserved a place where they could let loose, and right now the Perch was one of the few places in the world that catered to cats. It was hard work, but Lyra felt almost as if she were performing a public service...in a very private way.

Last night had been absolutely incredible. For a novice shifter, Ben had outshone every one of Lyra's previous lovers, not that she'd had so many she needed to take off both her shoes to count.

Flynn had seemed pretty happy, too, whistling in the kitchen as he'd folded frozen wild blueberries into muffin batter. This morning's breakfast was a sausage, cheese and egg breakfast casserole, fruit and the muffins. Granola and cereal were available too if anyone was foolish enough to deny themselves Flynn's creamy concoction. Lunch would be a build-your-own-sandwich, so it could be packed and taken on any exploratory trips, and dinner was roast turkey, kind of like a June Thanksgiving. Lyra was grateful that her shifter's metabolism made it easy to eat like a glutton and never gain and ounce. Her college roommates had hated her.

The day ahead looked perfect, with bright blue skies and white puffy clouds hovering above the bay. The house was still preternaturally quiet, a sure sign of last night's success. Breakfast was technically served from seven to nine-thirty, lunch was usually set for one except for arrival days, and dinner was at eight.

As she walked through the hallway with the last of the Perch mugs, she stopped at the heavy gilt mirror and examined herself. No one could tell she'd had a satisfactorily sleepless night. Another perk of being a shifter was the ability to appear fresh and healthy despite real-life strains and stresses. Most shifters were smart enough to avoid drugs and alcohol to excess. Sex was their addiction, and there was nothing like about twenty orgasms to put a glow on a girl's face.

By eight-thirty, a few people were downstairs and on the porch. Lyra had sold two sweatshirts already to Alys and Adrienne, who were not twins but might as well have been. They planned to go kayaking and asked Lyra if Flynn could box up their lunches early. Cassie had discovered that boyish Brian had latent talents and was actually sitting on his lap as they shared a cup of coffee, which Lyra thought was a bit much. Anna and Steve had eaten quickly and disappeared on bikes. Rachel was breakfasting in the kitchen so she could watch Flynn work. Absurdly pleased, he tossed a few knives as he sliced cheese just to impress her. There was no sign of Tom or David.

Or Ben.

Lyra slipped upstairs to straighten beds and replace towels. She noted that her guests had paid attention to her "Do Not Disturb/Make Up Room" sign lecture yesterday, which made her job so much easier. There was no sign on Ben's door though, so she knocked and poked her head in. The bed was just as it was yesterday, only slightly rumpled as if someone had sat on it, so he still must be in her room on the other side of the house. She replaced his brown towels for sage green ones and went across to the linen room to check on the laundry.

She didn't hear him enter over the swish of the washers, but she felt his warm breath at her neck.

"Umm, what's for breakfast?" he asked, wrapping her up in his arms.

He smelled clean, like her shampoo and soap. "Not me. Where have you been? Breakfast is almost over." She wiggled from his arms and added some fabric softener to the rinse cycle.

"I grabbed a muffin when you weren't looking and took a walk. God, this place is beautiful."

"It's even pretty in the winter. A little lonely though."

"How do you heat this monster?"

Lyra laughed. "Not easily. We close up most of the house and pretty much live in the kitchen and our suite upstairs. Flynn lights the fireplace in the media room so he can watch football, but he has to wear gloves and his L.L. Bean parka to keep the frostbite at bay."

"You don't watch TV?"

"Not really. I'm more of a reader."

"Let me guess." He looked down and studied her, his green eyes dancing with mischief. "Paranormal romances."

"As if. Completely unrealistic. Have you read that crap?"

"Yes, I admit to that pleasure. But tell me I'm wrong about the romance part."

Lyra blushed. "No fair. You saw them in my room."

"Yep. You must have hundreds of paperbacks up there. Is that how you picked up your technique, Lady Lyra?"

"I'll have you know I was born with my technique. I don't need no stinkin' books."

Ben's mouth twisted into a semblance of a smile. "That's all I had."

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About Just One Taste Part 23 novel

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