He grinned, opened the driver’s side door and put Jerry in the back. The traitor settled in happily, waving his tail as Adrian petted him. Then Adrian got in behind the wheel and started the car.

 

“Where are we going?”

 

She could hear the smile in his voice. “My place.”

 

“No.”

 

“No what?”

 

“No, I’m not going to your place.”

 

“Oh. Sorry.”

 

“Good. Take me back.”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Then what are you sorry for?”

 

“For disappointing you. You are going to my place.”

 

“Dr. Giordano,” she started to say.

 

He put his hand over her mouth. “My name is Adrian.”

 

“Mph rr hmph.”

 

“What?” Adrian took his hand off her mouth.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Uh, you’re welcome?”

 

“Now take me back to the store.” She folded her arms across her chest again and glared at him, trying desperately not to shiver with cold. He noticed it anyway and put the heater on.

 

“No.”

 

“Now.”

 

“No.”

 

“I mean it!”

 

“No.”

 

She growled. She freaking growled at him. “Adrian.”

 

“Sorry, mate, not happening, stop asking.” They pulled into a driveway. Just as he hit the garage door remote she opened her car door and got out, intent on walking back to Wallflowers. She’d only gotten about ten steps before he picked her up and slung her over his shoulder.

 

He patted her butt soothingly as she growled at him.

 

“Oh, no you don’t. I have your dog, remember?” The laughter in his voice merely caused her to snarl. She could feel her eyes turning red with aggravation.

 

“Good morning, Dr. Giordano.”

 

“Good morning, Mrs. Anderson.” She felt him lift a hand off her butt to wave at someone.

 

“Isn’t that the newest Pride member?” the elderly lady asked in a scandalized whisper.

 

“Yes, and she’s my mate,” Adrian whispered back with wicked humor.

 

Sheri snarled again.

 

“Oh, good for you! Welcome to the neighborhood, young lady!”

 

“I’m being kidnapped against my will,” she called out calmly. One of them needed to remain sane.

 

“That’s nice, dear. Have a good day.”

 

She could feel him chuckling under her stomach and punched his ass as hard as she could. Double dork.

 

“Ow.” The slap he landed on her butt stung like hell. “Stop that.”

“Put me down!”

“Just let me get the dog…there you go,” he said as Jerry got out of his car and fell into step beside him. He slammed the car door shut with his foot and carried her into the garage.

 

She glared at her dog and considered making him cat chow. “I want to go back.”

 

“Sorry, darlin’. No can do. Welcome home,” he purred as the garage door shut.

 

“Your car is still outside,” she pointed out, her teeth chattering a little in the cold air.

 

“But my mate is inside.” He ran his hand over her bottom. “Hmm, a thong? I love thongs.” He sighed happily.

 

“Pig,” she muttered, amused despite herself.

 

“Where you’re concerned? Oink oink.”

 

She choked back an outraged laugh as he carried her into the house. He didn’t put her down until they reached the living room. She could see dark brown hardwood floors, the burnt sienna walls and the beige furniture with chocolate and burnt sienna patterned cushions on it. The coffee table was a carved piece of dark wood, but she couldn’t bring the carvings into focus. It looked so rich she longed to run her fingers over it and examine it more closely. She’d be able to see it if she got close enough, but she didn’t want him to know she was interested in anything in his house. His furniture was modern and comfortable. She found out how comfortable when he unceremoniously dumped her on the sofa. The fabric had the soft feel of velvet under her fingertips, which meant it was probably microfiber. She damn near purred as her hand stroked over it once, then twice before she remembered she was pissed. She decided to go on the attack.

“You’re not my mate.”

 

“Yes I am. Soda or juice?”

 

She opened her mouth to reply juice, then shook her head in disgust. “I’m leaving now.”

 

“Take one step towards that front door and you won’t sit down for a week,” he called back in the same cheerful tone of voice he’d used to ask her drink preferences.

 

“I’ll call the cops and claim you kidnapped me!”

 

“Go ahead. The sheriff is one of us and Mrs. Anderson’s grandson to boot.”

 

“Ugh!”

 

“Yes, dear.” He handed her the juice with a grin, and she stifled the urge to throw it in his smug face.

 

She tried a different tack. “You don’t want a mate. You told me so.”

 

“True, I told you that.”

 

“I don’t want one either,” she growled.

 

“Too bad, so sad. You’re stuck with me.”

 

She bared her teeth at him as he sat down next to her, can of soda cradled in one big hand. “Not if I kill you first.”

 

He reached out and took her juice out of her hand. “You know,” he said, putting his can down next her juice, “I haven’t marked you yet.”

 

She jumped up just as he leaned in. “Don’t even think about it!”

 

He sighed, lounging back against the cushions. “You’re my mate. I’m your mate. I’ll bite you, you’ll probably bite me-”

 

“But not where you’d want me to.”

 

He glared at her, finally losing some of that cheer. “Is this because I said I didn’t want a mate?”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Dork.”

 

“Because if you say it’s to protect me from Parker I’m really going to paddle your ass.”

 

She shook her finger at him. “You’ve had as much touchy-feely on my butt as you’re going to get. Eep!” He’d pounced up from the sofa and grabbed her, both hands landing on her ass and pulling her tightly into his body. He ground his hips against hers, letting her feel the erection under his slacks. “Oh, my,” she gasped.

 

He took her sunglasses off, his dark eyes flaring gold as they caught the bright red of hers. “You are so fucking beautiful, you know that?”

 

“I’m not,” she muttered.

 

His smile was slow and sensuous. He looked at her like she was a bowl of cream and he wanted to lap her up. “Oh yes, you are.” One hand continued to hold her against him; the other dropped her glasses on the sofa and lifted to caress her hair. “Do you know what I thought when I first saw you?”

 

“Crap?”

 

He huffed a laugh. “No. I thought you looked like a snow princess.”

 

“Snow princess. How original,” she sneered, trying not to let his nearness (and his erection) distract her. It would have worked if her voice hadn’t been trembling.

 

“I wanted to throw you down on the floor and fuck you until we both passed out.”

 

Her knees wobbled.

 

“Then I wanted to mark you and hide you away so no one would ever see you again, want you again. Do you know why?”

 

“Pheromones?” she replied weakly. Her nipples were beading beneath her bra, her breath coming in shallow gasps.

 

His hand began to caress her ass again. “Because you’re mine.”

 

She frowned. If it wasn’t for his damn scent she’d be kicking him in the nuts for that one. “I belong to no one.”

 

“It’s okay. Because I’m yours,” he whispered before he took her mouth in a kiss that nearly dropped her to the floor. This was no gentle persuasion, no first-date kiss. This was a warrior staking a claim to his woman, invading her mouth roughly, no quarter given, forcing her lips and teeth to part for him with all the finesse of a raging, hormonal bull. And she loved it. His hand on her ass tightened to the point of pain, and the one in her hair clenched and pulled until her mouth was exactly where he wanted it.

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Dana Marie Bell.

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