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Chapter Thirteen

Maizie knew Annette was there before she opened her eyes. Her Opium perfume filled the room. It was hard for Maizie to breathe without coating her nose or the back of her throat with the scent.

She pushed up to one elbow, trying to clean the waxy perfume taste off the roof of her mouth with her tongue and blinked the sleep from her eyes. “Morning.”

Annette froze, a pair of jeans half folded in her hands. Her gaze flicked to Maizie from the foot of Gray’s bed. A genuine smile stretched her small face. “Good morning. Actually, it’s afternoon.”

Crap. Not again. Maizie noticed the empty pillow beside her. “How’d I get here?”

“Mr. Lupo carried you here last night. After you, uh, passed out.” Her little cheeks flushed. Chin down she glanced at Maizie from beneath long lashes then quickly returned her gaze to the clothes. She folded them onto the storage bench.

Maizie thought about that for a minute, pushing up to sit, sheet clutched to her naked chest. She remembered being with Gray at the quarry, his confessions, his admission of their strange, intimate connection.

He’d knelt beside her when she couldn’t get up and then…nothing. “He carried me the whole way? Wow.”

Annette’s thin brows rose above the big frames of her glasses, her nod quick and happy. “Mr. Lupo said you passed right out. I don’t think he minded. In fact I’d lay odds he quite enjoyed holding you so close. Certainly looked that way this morning.”

The small woman laughed, her toothy smile bright. She clasped her hands at her chest and for a second Maizie expected her to rub them together with an eager glee.

“This morning? So he was here earlier with me?” Maizie tried not to read too much into the fact she needed someone else to confirm her bed partners.

“Of course. He had a hard time letting you go, but he had a, ah, business meeting.”

A warm tingle filled Maizie’s belly. He’d held her all night. She remembered the warm feel of him now, the safety of his arms, the strength, the tenderness. Gawd, she liked the way he seemed to treasure her. She liked the way she treasured him. Things were good.

Maizie shoved the snarl of bed-hair back from her face and fought the goofy grin threatening to control her mouth. They were destined for each other, like a real-life fairy tale.

Annette chattered on. “He made sure I knew to get you fresh clothes and something to eat and whatever else you might need. The jeans, T-shirt and undergarments here are for you. I guessed your size, but I’m pretty good at it. There’s a peanut butter sandwich and glass of milk when you’re ready.” She gestured to the nightstand. “Mr. Lupo thought you’d like it, but if you’d rather-”

“No.” Maizie glanced at the silver tray and plate cover, smiling. “It’s, uhm, perfect. It’s absolutely perfect.”

Annette chuckled again, her shoulders high. “It is, isn’t it? He’s so romantic.”

Okay, now her giddiness over Maizie’s love life was starting to get weird. “Wow, you’re really close to your boss, huh?”

“Oh, yes. He’s just so, well, he’s just so wonderful.”

“Yeah. Exactly how close are the two of you?”

“He means the world to me.” She shrugged, wrinkling the clean line of her high-buttoned blouse for a moment. “I love him.”

“Really? I see.” So why was she so happy to find Maizie in his bed? Twisted.

Not that it really mattered. Annette was cute and tiny, early thirties, sweet with her mousy brown hair pulled to a bun, big glasses and tight-buttoned librarian look. She had pretty brown eyes and a decent B-cup figure, shapely legs in comfortable low-heeled shoes, and if she was really competition for Gray’s affection, she’d be the one naked in his bed. Still…

“So, uhm…” Maizie tried to think of a discreet way to word her question-and failed. “You two ever have sex?”

She was exhausted, her body felt like it’d been drawn and quartered, and her powerful bond with Gray had turned her brain to mush. She didn’t have the brain cells to spare beating around the bush, and going by the way the rest of the family behaved, it seemed a legitimate question.

Annette’s brow scrunched. “No. Of course not. I could never…blah…” A hard shudder shook her from head to toe. She looked as though she was going to be sick.

“Geez, don’t hold back. Tell me how you really feel.” Maizie’s offense at the woman’s repulsion was too messed-up to think about.

Annette’s gaze flicked to Maizie. “No. It’s not that. I love him. I do. Just not in that way.”

“Okay, I’m lost.”

Annette laughed. “Sorry. You see, I’ve known Gray, Mr. Lupo, nearly my whole life. It’d be like sleeping with my father.”

Maizie’s cheeks warmed. That certainly explained Annette’s shudder. Gray didn’t look old enough to be her father, unless you factored in the werewolf thing. Did he really age that slowly? “How’d you meet?”

Her hands laced together in front of her, very proper. Annette came around the end of the bed and leaned her hip against the edge of the mattress. “He rescued me.”

Of course he did.

“My father, my biological father, was an abusive man,” Annette said. “And things only got worse after my mother died of cancer. I was six when Gray found me. He’d just been walking past my house and heard my father attacking me-”

“Attacking?”

“The abuse was…sexual.”

“God, I’m sorry.” Maizie suddenly wanted to hug her.

Annette shrugged. “It was a long time ago and Gray got me out of there that same day. He just stormed into the house, walked right into the bedroom and threw my father off me, across the room. Told him he was taking me someplace safe and if he ever tried to contact either of us he’d kill him. I think he would’ve killed him right there if it weren’t for me watching.”

“That’s horrible, Annette. I’m glad Gray was there for you.”

She nodded, her fingers absently toying with a thread on the comforter. “We never heard from him again. He didn’t even file a police report. Just sort of…disappeared.”

That last statement made Maizie’s blood run cold. She ignored it. Too many potential skeletons in that closet. Besides, this wasn’t the movies. Being a werewolf didn’t automatically make you a killer. Even if the guy had it coming.

“Gray’s taken care of me ever since. He and Donna were like my parents. When their marriage started going bad, I was terrified, but I knew staying together was destroying them both.”

“You knew Donna?”

Annette nodded again and inched closer alongside the bed. “She was a really great lady. Beautiful sandy brown hair, green eyes and a warm smile. They loved each other, but they were never at ease together. Y’know what I mean? Like they didn’t quite…match.”

“Yeah.” She knew exactly what Annette meant by a match. Like the way she felt with Gray, as though they were two halves of the same puzzle. A perfect fit.

“That’s why I was so happy when he brought you home.” Annette inched closer toward Maizie. “He’s never brought anyone home before. And when I caught him smiling…I knew.”

Maizie’s belly fluttered. Gawd, she was in deep. She didn’t care. It was exactly where she wanted to be.

“He’s a good man. He deserves to be happy. And now he has you. You’re one of them, one of the family.” Annette repositioned herself for the last time, now directly beside Maizie. “I’d do anything to switch places with you.”

“I thought you said you didn’t think of Gray that way.”

“I don’t. He’s not my type. I meant switch places with you in the family, in the pack.”

Maizie’s heart skipped. “You know?”

“What?” Annette laughed. “That you’re all werewolves? Of course.”

“And you’re not creeped out? You’re not afraid?” Maizie remembered her struggle to believe, to come to terms with the truth.

“No. They’re like my family and you will be too, except…” Annette sulked, her shoulders drooped. “I’m not really one of them. I’m still full human.”

“And you want to be like them-I mean us?”

Annette caught her bottom lip between her teeth, her gaze downcast. She nodded.

“But Gray won’t turn you?” Maizie guessed.

“No. He says he won’t ever bite anyone to turn them. He was bitten, not born like his wife and the rest of them. But since they weren’t true life mates his experience has been…hard. He can’t imagine anyone would choose the life. It’s not that he doesn’t want me to be one of them, he just can’t bring himself to do it.”

“What about Lynn and Rick and the others?”

Annette kept her gaze fixed on Maizie’s outstretched legs, her hand finding Maizie’s knee through the cover. She squeezed, her thumb massaging the side. “They keep putting me off. But I was thinking, since you’ve adapted to the virus you could probably pass it along already. We could make it fun.”

A warm musky scent tickled Maizie’s nose and stirred her body. Annette was aroused…for her. Keener werewolf senses made the air seem ripe with the woman’s growing excitement. Annette’s idea of fun was becoming abundantly clear.

“Uhm, Annette.” A nervous laugh bubbled out of Maizie. She squirmed, feeling the familiar rush of heat to her sex. “I’m really flattered, but I don’t swing that way. Not that you’re not…I mean you are, you’re really…that is, I’ve just never…well, I’ve always…I like guys.”

Annette pulled her glasses from her face with one hand, the other still warm on Maizie’s knee. She tossed them to the nightstand so they clamored over the silver tray. Those pretty mousy brown eyes locked on Maizie, the mouse having turned to a lioness in heat. “How do you know if you’ve never tried?”

She reached up and pulled the pins from her hair, letting it tumble down silky smooth past her shoulders. She shook her head and Maizie’s breath caught, her sex muscles flexed. The woman was attractive. There was no arguing that.

Whoa! What was wrong with her? She’d turned into a sex maniac. Maizie pushed at the mattress with her free hand, tried to scoot away. “Listen, I’m not like this. I mean you’re really…but I can’t…”

“Don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with you. Werewolves have heightened senses, increased appetites. In all things.” She started to unbutton her blouse, exposing the sweet lacy bra underneath. “Besides, even though the virus is neutralized, your body is still adjusting. I did some research. You’ll be horny as hell for a few weeks. Like I said, Gray’s not my type, but we do share similar tastes.”

“Oh, please don’t bob your eyebrows like that,” Maizie said. “It’s disturbing on so many levels.”

She tilted her head to the side, her lashes seeming longer, thicker, as they shadowed her cheek. “Haven’t you ever wondered what it’s like to be with a woman? It’s not like touching yourself. Every woman’s different, but we’re enough alike I know what feels good for both of us.”

It was Maizie’s turn to shudder, but it wasn’t repulsion rippling down her back, pooling between her thighs. It was lust. Shoot. Her gaze dropped to that pretty lace bra, to the swells of flesh peeking over the edges. She licked her lips, her mouth suddenly dry.

“We can go slow. We’ll take turns.” Annette’s hand slid farther up Maizie’s leg, slipping to the side to trace the inside of her thigh.

Maizie’s breath caught and Annette stopped, but not before Maizie’s legs opened a half inch on reflex. “Turns?”

“Uh-huh.” Annette nodded, her gaze shifting from her hand, warm and heavy against Maizie’s inner thigh, to her face and back again. “You can go first. Whatever you do to me, I’ll do to you. That way nothing gets done to you that you don’t want.”

“But I don’t really want to-”

Annette’s expression stopped Maizie’s words in her throat. Hurt, disbelief, maybe a bit of both, either way she was right. Part of Maizie was curious and another part was just plain horny. The sudden flood of heat between her thighs was proof of it.

Maizie’s belly quivered, her heart racing, anticipation tingling along her skin. “I don’t know what to do.”

Annette’s massage began again, slow, firm, erotic. Maizie felt herself inch closer, so Annette’s fingers rubbed wickedly close to her pussy. “You’re a beautiful woman, Maizie, with a great body. Honestly, I’d love to touch you anywhere-everywhere. So wherever you want to touch me is perfect.”

Annette’s gaze dropped to Maizie’s hand clutching the sheet to her chest. “You do have amazing breasts. Mine aren’t as big, but my skin’s soft. You can touch them. See for yourself.”

Maizie swallowed hard, stared at the small mounds beneath white lace. She reached out and Annette arched toward her. Her fingers brushed along the strap, tracing down to the lace that made a waving line along one breast to the center. She barely touched Annette’s flesh, but goose bumps rose, blanketing her chest, and her breath caught.

Emboldened, Maizie opened her hand, pressed her palm to Annette’s chest, felt her heart racing beneath. Annette’s breaths were coming fast and shallow as Maizie cupped her hand, slid lower, took the whole of her breast into her palm. The weight, the warmth, the supple feel of her, she was woman, she was divine and Maizie’s body hummed to life.

She squeezed, gently, her thumb massaging over the hard pebble of flesh at the tip. She caught Annette’s nipple, pinched and rolled it between her thumb and finger. Annette moaned, her eyes closed, her back arching her firmer into Maizie’s grip.

Maizie’s own breasts ached for attention, her erect nipples rasping against the sheet. Her heart hammered in her chest, her pussy flexing, needy and ready. She slid her fingers under Annette’s bra strap, pushed it off her shoulder and slipped her hand underneath.

Like rose petals, Annette’s skin was satiny soft, even where she was hard, puckered and velvety. A zing of heat tingled over Maizie’s body, shooting straight to her sex, opening her legs to Annette’s persistent caress. Annette’s hand slipped to the apex of Maizie’s thighs, expertly stroking her pussy through the sheet. Her juices soaked through in seconds, molding the sheet to her so the details of her pussy were palpable.

The feel of a woman’s breast in her hand was sinfully erotic, so new, so soft, so sensitive to her touch, Maizie wanted more. She leaned in, cupping underneath, offering up the excited nipple to her mouth. Maizie flicked her tongue, tasting the powder-sweet flesh.

Annette gasped then thrust her breasts toward Maizie, her body begging for more. Maizie opened her lips and suckled Annette into her mouth. The addictive texture rippled over her tongue, hard and soft at once. Maizie’s gut clenched, tightening muscles low on her body.

Annette’s breast filled her mouth, molded to the squeeze of her hand, warm, supple. She caught the nipple with her teeth, gave a small nibble that made Annette gasp, then pulled back.

Annette licked her lips, her eyes fluttering open to meet Maizie’s. “God, that felt good. I want to do the same for you.”

She reached for the sheet still fisted at her neck. Maizie let go, allowing it to slip to her lap, exposing her naked breasts.

“You’re so beautiful, Maizie,” Annette said, her gaze fixed on the hard nipple of one breast. She didn’t hesitate, reaching out to her, smoothing her hand over the sloping contours.

Her small hand cupped underneath, held the weight of her. Maizie had never been with a man whose hands were as small and delicate as Annette’s. The difference was oddly exciting. Her soft palm, her slender fingers, the perfect mix of pressure and gentleness only a woman could know, Maizie found herself pressing into Annette’s touch.

Even as Annette’s hand kept a delicious rhythm on Maizie’s sex, she leaned in and took her breast into her mouth. Maizie gasped at the moist suction, tingles racing over her skin, heat flooding through her body. Her tongue toyed with Maizie’s hard straining nipple, flicking and swirling, drawing it in.

Maizie’s sex muscles flexed, aching to be filled. She braced her hands into the mattress on either side of her hips, unable to deny the pleasure Annette stroked through her. The overly sweet smell of her perfume, her long hair tickling her belly, her skin silky smooth, the sensations were maddening.

Maizie looked down for a moment and watched the sweet feminine face pressed to her breast. Her little ear with its silver hoop earring, her smooth skin and pouty lips. She watched Annette’s tongue toy with her nipple, noticed her long mascara-covered lashes shadowing her cheek. She was a woman. The sight was all wrong and all the more erotic.

Maizie’s brain spun with a heated mix of sensation and reason, but it wasn’t natural. Not for her.

Her body had a mind of its own, wanting anything, everything, recognizing satisfaction in any form. But Maizie’s brain couldn’t allow it, couldn’t let go of instinctive preferences.

“No.” Maizie’s voice was barely there, her breath hot and panting. “Stop. I can’t. Annette, stop.”

Annette drew back from her breast, her fingers still caressing Maizie’s pussy. She licked her lips, her eyes hooded. She drew close to Maizie’s lips. “But you like it.” Her voice was husky, her lips brushing Maizie’s. “I can tell you like it.”

“Yes. I like it, but not…not this way. This…this… No, no, this isn’t…me. Shit.” Annette kept stroking her, Maizie’s hips pressing toward her touch despite herself. She couldn’t think.

“Annette…” Maizie grabbed her wrist, pulled her hand from her sex. “Please. Stop.”

Annette straightened, blinked. Her brows creased, her bottom lip pouting, she avoided Maizie’s eyes. “Sorry. I thought you were liking it. I didn’t mean to force you.”

“You didn’t force me,” Maizie said, fighting to catch her breath, to calm the pound of her heart, the need storming through her body. “I should’ve stopped you sooner. Maybe it’s the virus. But I’m with Gray. Not even sure what that means, but I can feel it and this…this is wrong. Not just because you’re a woman, but…”

“Oh. I hadn’t thought about that. Shoot.” Annette’s eyes stretched wide and hopeful. “Will you at least bite me? We don’t have to have sex for you to turn me.”

Maizie couldn’t help the smile tugging at her mouth. What an odd world she’d fallen into. “I’m sorry, but I can’t. Not now. I’m not sure how I feel about being…what I am. I don’t feel right condemning you to the same fate until I do.”

Annette’s hopeful smile faltered, but after a deep breath she forced it brighter, though the expression still wasn’t convincing. “I understand. You and Gray are a lot alike, I kind of figured. Maybe in a few weeks or months you’ll change your mind.”

“Maybe.” Maizie smiled, hating the disappointment edging Annette’s tone.

“Thanks.” Annette’s smile flickered as though she fought to keep it on her lips. She stepped back, fixing her bra, slipping into her blouse. “I’d say I’m sorry about trying to seduce you, but I’m not. I love Gray, but I had to try. I know how you feel though, so you don’t have to worry about it happening again.”

Maizie’s cheeks warmed. She pulled the sheet to her neck and smiled. “Okay.”

Annette grabbed her glasses and twisted her hair into a bun as she left. “Gray won’t be back from his meeting with Mr. Cadwick for another hour or more. So if you need anything use the intercom. Some of us don’t have super-werewolf hearing,” she said, teasing as she closed the door behind her.

Ravenous, Maizie devoured the triple-decker peanut butter sandwich and downed the tall glass of milk before she even considered a shower. She took her time under the hot water, memories flashing through her mind. They were skewed through the eyes of her wolf-half, cloudy and ominous as though something about them was important. She couldn’t put her finger on it, though. She’d dried her hair and finished dressing before it hit her.

“Cadwick.” The memory crystallized in her mind the moment she said his name. Those papers, what were they? Maizie’s gut told her they were nothing good. Annette had said Gray was meeting with Cadwick now. If she could reach Gray maybe he could use his business connection to get the wolf of a man to leave Granny and her land alone.

Maizie raced to the phone on the opposite side of the bed. The intercom buzzed and buzzed, but no one picked up. She couldn’t wait. She had to find a way to contact Gray before his meeting was over, a cell phone or pager number-something.

She ran full-out down the long halls, her footfalls echoing off the high ceilings and paneled walls. She found the enormous staircase leading to the foyer and took the steps three at a time. Tall entry doors in front of her, archway to parlors and living rooms to the right, Maizie turned to the wide double wood doors at her left.

She’d seen Annette emerge from this room the first day Gray had brought her to the mansion. She’d glimpsed bookshelves and thick carpeting behind her through the open door and a large oak desk. Had to be his home office.

She knocked first. No answer. She knocked harder, pounded, still no answer. Maizie tried the door. It clicked open and she slipped inside.

The desk she’d seen through the open door was the smaller of the two. Stacks of papers, open file folders and sticky notes covered the top, chaotic organization. Maizie guessed the desk belonged to Annette. There was a large flat-screen monitor in one corner that matched the one in the corner of the other, larger desk.

Maizie glanced at the larger sleek wood desk, neat and tidy with its dark leather desk set. She could almost see Gray sitting behind it, scowling as he scribbled notes or sent out important emails to one of his high-powered connections.

Her belly quivered, a smile pinching her cheeks. She tore her thoughts from silvery hair and hard muscles with decided effort. She circled around Annette’s desk and searched for an address book or a speed-dial button on the phone. There had to be some quick easy way for Annette to contact Gray.

Maizie reached for the phone in the opposite corner from the computer monitor when something on the desk caught her eye. An open letter, paper clipped to its envelope, the golden letterhead glinting in a stream of sunlight. She recognized the name, Judge Charles Woodsmen, from Granny’s Green Acres phone bill. The nursing home tracked both incoming and outgoing calls for security reasons.

She hadn’t thought anything of it at the time, figuring the guy was humping for reelection votes or something. Was it just a coincidence he knew Gray? She scanned the letter.


Gray,

Enclosed are the papers and procedures we discussed for gaining guardianship of Ester Hood. I spoke with her over the phone and I don’t foresee a problem supporting an argument for mental incompetence, provided there are no family members to protest your filing. Should such a dispute arise, I will of course fully examine their argument. In the meantime, as you surmised, you will retain full control of the holdings. All sales and transfers undertaken during this time will not be easily overturned. I hope this information is of use to you.

I look forward to our game on Sunday. I’ve got a new seven-iron I’m dying to try out.

Sincerely,

Chuck

Judge Charles Woodsmen

District Judge

Pittsburgh County Courts


Maizie couldn’t breathe. She swallowed hard, her heart pounding in her ears. She’d been right all along. Gray was after Granny’s land.


“What’s this?” Anthony Cadwick took the stack of papers from Gray, glancing every few minutes back to the crowd of reporters milling around the spot of his soon-to-be riverside restaurant.

“A copy of an amendment from the township zoning board, stating that the sale of property will be kept to a two-acre maximum for residential, eight acres for commercial. Passed at last night’s meeting. Unanimously.”

Cadwick pinched his fat cigar between his fingers and yanked it from his mouth. His gaze slid to Gray, brows tight. “Ya don’t say. When’s this get filed?”

“Monday.” Gray loved the smell of defeat in the afternoon. “Goes into effect in sixty days.”

Cadwick grunted, scanning the papers. “That’s fast.”

“People want to keep a lid on growth. Keep the community quaint. Rural.” Of course they didn’t realize they wanted to control growth until Gray had pointed it out to them. Once he told them about Cadwick’s plans for superstores and parking lots, his battle had been won.

“Buncha tree huggers like you. No wonder you like it there.” He shoved the papers back at Gray, crumpling them into his chest.

Gray rolled the documents then held them in his hand at his side, the other hand slipped into the front pocket of his slacks. Cadwick’s sore-loser display only made the victory all the sweeter. “Glide’s a quiet town. Good people. I’ve made friends.” Several of them sitting on the zoning board. “Yeah, I like it there.”

Cadwick shoved his cigar back between his teeth and turned to stare at the reporters hammering his PR man with questions. “Look at ’em. Wettin’ their panties about my riverboat casino. Not one question about the restaurant or the twenty other businesses that’ll benefit from the boat docking here.”

Cadwick made his voice high, mocking. “How’s Mr. Cadwick gonna have a riverboat casino when the state won’t pass the gambling laws?” He snorted. “Idiots. Always two steps behind. Do I look like a man who doesn’t consider every contingency? Do they think I got to where I am-that I built my business-by being stupid?”

He turned to Gray, pinching the cigar out of his mouth again. His eyes narrowed, a telling grin pulling the corner of his mouth. “What about you, Lupo? Do you think I got to where I am without thinking ahead? Without planning for state laws, politicians and township zoning boards?”

Gray’s jaw tightened, his fist squeezing the worthless documents. He’d been afraid of this. Cadwick must’ve gotten Granny to sign. It’s the only way he could have beaten the system, had the sale grandfathered in. Damn it, when had he done it? Gray had checked on her yesterday.

Cadwick wouldn’t be able to resell the land, but that wouldn’t stop him from developing it himself. Even if Gray could close the loophole, it’d be too late. His beast roared inside his head, angry, frustrated. But he kept his face an empty mask. He wouldn’t give Cadwick the satisfaction.

Cadwick laughed, chewed on the end of his cigar. “Just like old times, huh, Lupo? You always took a little too long to figure things out. Hell, even Donna got tired of waiting around for you to realize you were losing her. Though, God knows why she was with you to begin with. You didn’t deserve her.”

His expression sobered, Cadwick gazed out over the river. “If she had belonged to me, she’d have never gotten away.”

Tension rippled along Gray’s back, pulled his muscles into a tight knot. His hands fisted so hard he knew there’d be half moons in his palms from his nails. Cadwick had guts talking to him about Donna. Even after all these years. Did he think Gray didn’t know?

A low growl rumbled in his chest. He couldn’t help it. When he spoke the deep resonance made his voice sound deadly. “My wife was never something to be possessed or kept. Maybe if we…if I had remembered that, she’d still be around. She wouldn’t have gone away.”


Chapter Twelve | Little Red and the Wolf | Chapter Fourteen