Sedona Suspect by Lisa Kessler

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Helping Natasha escape is only the beginning of his problems. The moment Dex touches her, his loyalties are torn. This suspect is also his mate, but love might come at too high a price for him to bear…

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“How much do you know about werewolves?”

I shrugged. “Just the basics, I guess. You shift during the full moon, work and live in packs, and you have a keener sense of smell than I do, but I can find you in the dark. You’re also strong.” I looked over at his chiseled profile. “Am I missing anything?”

He nodded and his gaze locked on mine. “We have one true mate for life, just like wolves. They’re chosen by fate, and the wolf in our soul will recognize them when we touch skin to skin.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Are you trying to tell me you’re…married?”

“No.” He frowned shaking his head. “I’m trying to tell you when I grabbed your wrist in that jail, my wolf went berserk.”

“What?” I fought to focus. I must’ve misunderstood. “How can that be? I’m a jaguar shifter.”

He shrugged. “Vance is Kaya’s mate and he’s a jaguar.” He broke eye contact, his voice distant. “I just turned forty the other day and I lost hope I’d ever find my mate, but Deacon was sure she was out there. He said fate would bring us together once the time was right.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose, sucking in a shaky breath as he shook his head. “I fucking hate this. I should be sweeping you off your feet, but I just held my brother’s hand and watched him fade away. My best friend in the whole damned world is gone. Snuffed out. How can fate be this heartless?”

“Oh, fate and I go way back.” I squeezed his hand. “She can be a bitch.”

He chuckled softly. I caught myself wishing I could hear him really laugh. He glanced my way. “Thanks for not sprinting back to the house when I mentioned mates.”

“Just to be clear, I’m not sure where to go from here.” I focused on our joined hands. I didn’t know anything about this man who seemed to think fate had chosen me to be his mate. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a relationship. More that my way of life meant I couldn’t have one. “I don’t have that wolf instinct.”

“I’m well aware.” He met my eyes. “That’s why I should be working my ass off to sweep you off your feet.”

I chuckled with a slow nod. “I get it now. I could walk away but you…”

“Will never love another.”

“That might be romantic if we even knew each other.” I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “You don’t know me other than the fact I fought with Naomi when she was escaping from the Nero satellite facility.”

“True.” He nodded. “And you don’t even know my last name.”

“Stewart.” Before he could ask, I added, “I read it on your truck.”

He almost smiled. “So, now I know you’re beautiful, deadly, and literate.”

I shouldn’t like that he thought I was beautiful. Shouldn’t. But I did. I bumped him with my shoulder. “You’re funny even when your heart is broken.”

“That could be the only time I’m funny.” He shrugged, and behind all the pain in his eyes, I noticed a longing that I recognized. I’d seen it before when I looked in the mirror. That wish that someday I might matter to someone.

He raised a brow. “You don’t know anything about me either.”

“I guess not.” A gust of wind came up from the valley tugging hair free from my messy braid. Before I could comment on how bad I must look, he reached over to tuck my hair behind my ear and my breath caught in throat.

He released my hand and brought the other up to the other side of my face. My pulse raced. I knew he could hear it, because I had no trouble hearing his keeping time with mine. My lips parted as I lost myself in his eyes.

“I’m so broken right now,” he whispered. “I’ve dreamed of finding my mate for most of my life. Never thought when I found her that I’d have no heart left to give.”

I placed my hand on his chest, my voice wobbled. “You must hate me.”

Confusion lined his features. “Why would you think that?”

My mouth went dry. “If I hadn’t gotten arrested, your brother would still be alive.”
Tears shone in his eyes as he shook his head. “If you hadn’t gone to jail, we never would have touched. You’d be out of my life by now. Long gone.”

“You’d be better off if I was.” I choked out the bitter truth I wished I could bury. Lying came so easily to me…but not with him. “You’d have your brother.”

“Don’t,” he whispered, his thumb stroking my cheek. “My brother didn’t blame you. Not even for a second.”

His eyes dipped to my lips and back up. I should pull away and protect myself. I couldn’t stay here. I’d have to say goodbye.

But I didn’t move. He crushed his lips to mine, and I wrapped my arms around him, clinging to him like a lifeline in a storm as our tongues wrestled in an urgent, desperate passion. His hand slid into my hair, his fingers threading through my braid, tightening until I shivered against him. The fever in my veins surprised me. I’d been with many men for a variety of reasons through my life, but the emotion in this kiss was new.

I wanted to put his heart back together. I ached to take away his hurt. And I yearned to know all there was to know about him.

And that could get him killed.

I broke the kiss and stumbled back a couple steps.

There was a new fire in his eyes and his aura throbbed with the red and pink of desire. His nostrils flared as he sucked in a breath. “I’m not sorry.”

“I’d like to keep it that way.” My voice was breathless.

He tipped his head slightly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I wet my well-kissed lips. “The police are looking for me. I’m going to have to disappear. I can’t stay here without putting you and your pack in jeopardy.” I gestured to the red rocks. “We can’t hide here forever. I’m going to finish Judge Jones and then I have to start over somewhere else. Being with me will put a target on your back.”

“Being without you isn’t an option,” he growled.

“You’re being blinded by wolf instincts.” I hated saying those words out loud. This was the first person who had ever risked themselves for me. It would’ve been nice to believe it was because he cared about me, but it was instinctual. Nothing more. “You don’t know me, Dex. You’ve already lost too much. I won’t stay and destroy your whole pack. I won’t.”

The intensity in his gaze threatened to break my will. Would it be so bad to rush back into his arms and escape in the warmth of his kiss? Yes. Eventually he’d hate me. He’d lose everything he loved.

I steeled myself, turned around, and walked back to the house.

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