Wren reached up to pull him from the concrete pad, but the boy wouldn’t let go.
"Trust me, Johnny. They’re not going to hurt you. I won’t let them."
Johnny was crying as he reluctantly let go of the concrete. Wren cradled him to his chest as he looked around for a way to get the boy to safety. With Wren’s animal strength, he could easily jump back up to the spectator area above their heads, but that would most likely clue in the people watching them that he wasn’t quite human.
Not that they wouldn’t have some suspicions anyway, since he was going to get out of this cage without either him or Johnny being bitten or mauled. Wren ground his teeth as he realized a number of people were taking pictures.
Turning his face away, he glanced around. The best way to get them out of this would be through a gate in the back that the zookeepers probably used to feed the tigers. Wren moved toward it.
Rex and Zulu came closer, roaring and prancing in warning to him. Wren turned around and glared at them. They wanted to attack him, he could sense it, and yet they were confused by his human state and tigard smell.
He hissed at them.
They backed up.
"Sh," Wren said calmly. "Don’t be afraid. They can smell it, and it’s that scent that makes them want to attack you. Pretend they’re nothing more than pet kittens."
"But they’re tigers."
"I know. Pretend you’re a tiger, too. Pretend that they can’t see us at all."
The boy’s tears slowed. "Here, kitty, kitty."
Wren nodded. "That’s it, Johnny. Be brave."
The tigers came closer but stayed back long enough for Wren to reach the gate. A group of zookeepers were already there to unlock it. As soon as Wren handed Johnny to the female keeper, one of the tigers ran for him.
"Run!" the keeper screamed.
Wren didn’t move as the tiger leapt at him. He caught the tiger and rolled to the ground with him. Rex only wanted to play with Wren. He lay on the ground with the tiger on his chest as Rex nipped teasingly at Wren’s skin. He patted Rex’s head playfully.
"You better let me up, Rex," he said quietly. "Otherwise they might trank you."
The tiger licked his face before he bounded away. Wren got up and went back to the fence.
"What the hell was that?" the keeper asked.
"I grew up around tigers," Wren said. "They’re just big cats."
"Yeah," the keeper said in a disbelieving tone. "Right. You’re lucky you weren’t lunch."
Wren stepped out of the cage.
As the keeper locked the gate behind him while another keeper tended to the boy, Maggie came running up to Wren. "Are you okay?"
She held him at arm’s length to examine him as if she couldn’t believe he was completely intact. "I thought you were dead when that one tiger ran at you."
"He just wanted a playmate."
"Yeah, and hell is just a sauna. You could have been eaten alive."
He smiled at her concerned tone. "Eaten alive’s not so bad, depending on who it is doing the biting."
A rich blush covered her face. "How can you make light of this? What you did was incredible."
People were starting to come up to them, asking questions that Wren had no intention of answering.
"C’mon," he said to Maggie. "Let’s get out of here."
She nodded before she took his hand and led him toward the exit. They had to dodge a lot of people wanting answers before they could safely make it to her car.
As soon as they were in it, Marguerite drove him back toward her house. "Were you really raised around big cats?" she asked.
"In New York?"
By her tone he could tell she didn’t quite buy it "You don’t believe me?"
"Well, New York isn’t exactly known for its wilderness areas."
Wren gave her a wry grin. "Okay. The truth is I’m like Doctor Dolittle. I can speak to all animals. I know what they’re thinking at all times. I jumped into the cage and told the tigers to back off. They obeyed me because I’m one of them."
Marguerite rolled her eyes. "Now you’re being ridiculous."
Wren let out an exasperated sigh. He couldn’t win for losing. Even when he told her the truth, she refused to believe it. "Then you tell me, Maggie. Why didn’t the tigers kill me?"
"Were you ever around lion tamers?"
He laughed at that. "I’m around you. I could easily classify you as a tiger tamer."
"Oh, forget it. I can’t get a straight answer out of you, can I?"
Ironically, she’d been getting them, she just didn’t want to hear them. Not that he could blame her. In her world, people were people, they weren’t animals in disguise. Her kind didn’t belong in his world. Very few humans could even begin to understand, let alone survive in it.
"I’ve missed you, Maggie," he said in a hushed tone. "You’re all I’ve been thinking about for days. I lie in bed and all I can think about is being with you, touching you."
She pulled into her driveway and turned the engine off. He sensed irritation and unrest from her.
"I don’t get you, Wren," she said as she faced him. "You’re one of the richest men in the country and yet you live like you’re penniless and work as a busboy in a biker bar of all places. You tell me you don’t want to see me anymore at the same time you tell me all you want to do is get nak*d with me. That you’ve missed me even though I haven’t had one word from you in days. What is the truth of you? Are you just playing with me? Because if you are…"
"I don’t understand me, either. Okay? I never have. Until the night you came into Sanctuary, everything was basic. I got up, I ate, I worked, and I went to bed. Now… I don’t know what I want."
That wasn’t the truth. He knew exactly what he wanted. He just couldn’t have it.
"I know I’m bad for you, Maggie. If I had a brain in my head, I would walk away and leave you alone, but God help me, I can’t. I just want to be with you even though I know it’s wrong."
He ground his teeth in anger, wishing he could tell her the truth and have her believe it. But he couldn’t. Telling her would most likely get her killed. "I don’t belong in your world."
"I don’t belong in my world."
He scowled at her. Now she was the one being ridiculous. "Of course you do."
"No, Wren, I don’t. I might wear the clothes and drive the car, but my heart isn’t in my life. I hate that I let my father make me feel like I’m somehow unworthy of what I have. I hate that I’m living here in the house Daddy picked out because he was afraid that if I lived in a dorm-which is what I wanted to do-I’d be hanging out with the wrong kind of people. There have been so many times in my life when I prayed that I’d have the courage to run away from all this. And yet here I am, still in Daddy’s house, still taking classes I hate, and all because I don’t know what else I should be doing with my life."
Her sadness reached out to Wren in a way nothing ever had before.
"If you could be free of your father, what would you do?"
She let out a slow breath. "I don’t know. Travel maybe. I’ve always wanted to see all the different cultures of the world, but my father won’t allow it. He says it’s too dangerous and he’s afraid I might get caught in some scandal that could backlash onto him or his career. I can’t imagine being you and having no one to answer to. What’s it like to have that kind of freedom?"
Wren laughed bitterly. "It’s lonely. No one cares what happens to me. Had I been shot dead the night we met, they would have buried me without a tear and that would have been the end of it. And I’m not as free as you think I am. There are a lot of people who would have rejoiced had the bullet hit me a little further to the left and pierced my heart People who would love to see me dead."
Bitterness swelled inside him. "Money motivates, and there are several people who would be a lot richer if I were no longer here."
"Well, there’s one person I know of who would be a lot poorer if you vanished."
Wren’s heart clenched at her words. He leaned forward to capture her lips with his. She tasted of woman and sweetness. Of pure decadence. But most of all, she tasted of heaven.
She wrapped her arms around him as they embraced in the tight confines of her car.
His c**k hardened with a primal need that only she could fulfill. It wasn’t just sexual. She touched something else inside him. Something both human and animal.
Breathless, Wren pulled back to stare at her. He could use his powers to take them from the car to the bed, but that would be really stupid.
The last thing she wanted to know was that she was sleeping with an animal.
Wanting her more than he’d ever wanted anything, he reached across her and opened her car door.
Marguerite practically fell out of her car. Wren crawled over to come out of the car behind her on her side. Before she could even catch her breath, he scooped her up in his arms and virtually ran with her toward her house.
He laughed at her question. "Get that key ready or I might kick the door in."
The tone of his voice told her he wasn’t joking. Marguerite was laughing as she tried to get the key into the lock. Wren growled before he tossed her onto one shoulder and took the key away from her. He had the door opened a heartbeat later.
He entered the house, slammed the door shut, then set her down in front of it.
Marguerite was still laughing as she faced him. His eyes scorched her with heat as he pulled his shirt over his head. Her humor died at the sight of his bared tawny chest. The scar on his shoulder was a harsh reminder of what he’d sacrificed for her. He seized her for a scorching kiss that stole her breath.
She wrapped her arms around him and groaned at the wicked taste of him, at the sensation of his hot skin under her hands. She could feel his heart pounding against her br**sts as he deepened his kiss.
He moved from her mouth to her neck, where his breath scorched her. Chills spread all over her as he gently suckled the tender skin there. She had missed him so… Much more than she would have thought possible. It didn’t make sense, but then, feelings almost never did.
"I love the way you smell," he said in a ragged breath beside her ear.
"I love the way you feel."
Most of all, she loved the way his whiskered cheeks prickled her skin. His body was so hard compared to hers. So incredibly masculine.
Wren couldn’t think with her in his arms. All he wanted was to be inside her again. It was a desire so potent that it overrode all reason. She trailed her lips along his jaw as he lifted her skirt so that he could cup her and press her closer to his swollen cock.
Part of him wanted to take his time savoring her, but the other was beyond that. He would play with her later. Right now the beast in him needed her.
His breathing ragged, he slid her panties down her legs.
Marguerite shivered at the sight of Wren kneeling between her feet. She lifted her feet up one by one so that he could strip her underwear from her. He looked up at her, and the heated intensity of those pale blue eyes scorched her.
He rose slowly, lifting her skirt again as he did so, his gaze never wavering from hers. Marguerite moaned deep in her throat as he brushed his hand through the small triangle of hair. His touch was incredibly tender as he slowly separated the folds of her body to touch her. It was all she could do to remain standing as he pleasured her, and when he slid his finger inside her she moaned in ecstasy.
Wren watched her closely as she slowly rode his fingers. There was nothing more beautiful than this woman taking her pleasure from him. Unable to stand it, he pulled away long enough to unfasten his pants and free himself. The beast within growled as it came to the forefront and possessed him. He could feel his teeth growing inside his mouth as he fought to remain in human form with her.
But it was hard.
Burying his head against her neck, he lifted her leg enough so that he could enter her. She cried out in pleasure as he buried himself all the way to his hilt.
Marguerite couldn’t think straight as he filled her completely and they made love furiously. She wasn’t sure how he could hold her up and still thrust, but he managed and it was incredible. She’d never had a man so desperate to be with her.
He licked and nuzzled her neck as she leaned her head back against the door while he plunged himself in and out of her.
"Oh, Wren," she breathed as she buried her hand in his soft golden hair.
She could hear his own ragged breathing as he held her against the door. "Come for me, Maggie," he whispered. "I want to see the pleasure on your face."
She arched her back against the wood as he continued to slam himself into her. She wrapped both of her legs around his waist so that she could draw him even deeper into her body.
The rhythm of his thrusts… it was more than she could stand. Two seconds later, her orgasm claimed her as she cried out his name.
Wren smiled as he watched the ecstasy on her face. He could feel her body clutching his. He moved faster until he joined her in that one perfect moment of complete physical bliss.
Throwing his head back, he roared with the pleasure that coursed through him as he finally felt the beast inside him cry out in triumph.