For crying out loud! Nicole Acosta tugged the earpiece out and glared at it. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Emma, heck, most of the time she pretty much ignored her friend. Emma was just…bossy. Yeah, bossy. But tonight, that wasn’t the problem. She glared into the darkness. There better not be any mosquitoes or she’d go ballistic. Already her skin crawled with the thought of what could be in the area.
She shoved the ear piece back in.
“It’s only for a little while,” Jordan said. “We’ll be out of here in no time, Nic.”
Right. Not frickin’ likely. She bit her lip to swallow the yell she wanted to throw at her friends. There were bugs all over the place and she and bugs did not mix. She’d have to buy new trainers after this. There was no way in hell she’d wear those mud-covered ones again.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Emma whispered. “We all agreed to come and do this for Ellie. Just suck it up.”
Suck it up? Easy for her to say. Emma loved the outdoors and all that stuff. Outdoors to Nic meant the park. Or the pool. Now here she was, like a deranged teenager, spying on a scent ritual that was sacred to Ellie’s people. All for what? To catch a glimpse of Jake Wolfe. That philandering mutt.
She couldn’t help herself, she peeked over the ceremony site where Mrs. Wolfe or as she preferred to be called, Barbara, motioned the guys into the woods. Ellie said they’d be on watch. Something moved on Nic’s leg. Oh God. Was it a snake? She peered into the darkness and swatted away whatever crawled on her.
The things she did for her insatiable crush on Jake. It’d been that way from the first time she’d met him. And what a way to meet a man that had been. If first impressions were everything, Nic got the best first impression of Jake ever. She’d visited Ellie’s house for a weekend sleepover when they’d been in college. Their gazes met and she swore she’d been electrocuted. She’d been rooted to the spot like an idiot, staring at his hunkiness in all his wet and naked glory with stars in her eyes. Well, that’s what he loved to tell her.
From that moment on, Nic knew she couldn’t let Jake get to her. He was the world’s biggest flirt, used to women falling to his feet. And while she wasn’t familiar with the whole love thing, she knew all about lust. He’d smiled one time. That’s all it took. For him to show her that dimple she adored and her girly bits had readied for surrender. Not to mention her brain cells had gone AWOL. It was pathetic. It was also the reason why she’d let herself get talked into sitting on a picnic blanket, with her knees to her chest. She still couldn’t figure out what made the noise in the grass.
Maybe Ellie was wrong. What if there were snakes there? A firefly zoomed around her. She watched the tiny bug light up the dark with its yellow glow, zipping and buzzing back and forth in front of her. Some bugs weren’t so scary. From far away.
Her attention shot down to the blanket in the darkness. She’d swear it moved again. Her mind ran on overdrive and she knew the likelihood of her seeing shit that wasn’t even there was big. She took a deep breath and sighed. Her muscles ached from how tense she held herself. The night’s coolness did nothing to stop the heat from the earlier part of the day. Her tank top stuck to her back. She yanked on the front part and blew on her boobs. Thank goodness she was alone or she’d look so stupid doing that.
The others had gone silent. She wondered what they were up to. Where they as freaked out as her? Probably not. She’d bet Emma would live in the damn forest if she got a chance. Leaves crunched from a nearby bush. With an agility she knew she didn’t possess, she got on her knees on the blanket. The noise in the trees increased. Fear froze the blood in her veins. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears along with the sound of the harsh breaths that struggled in and out of her lungs. There was a wild animal near her.
“Oh, hell no!” There was no way she would sit around to find out what the heck was in the bush. She struggled to her feet. Her leg had gone numb so she had to put her weight, which was not just a couple of pounds, on her other leg. Screw the video, she’d return in the morning and remove the camera.
She bent and yanked her bag from the blanket. Something poked at her ass. She turned on her heel to run. Her knees hit a big lump of…fur? Her body did a full flip over the big furry body and she landed on her back with a thud, half on and half off the blanket.
Within seconds, a furry face she knew all too well came into view.
The big wolf lowered his head down to her face and licked her cheek. Figured. He was such a horndog. Even in his animal shape, he was still a flirt.
“Jake, I’m sure you have better things to do than scare me half to death.” Then, when she remembered where she lay, she scooted up to sit on the blanket. “I need to get out of here before something else crawls on my leg.”
Jake growled. She widened her eyes in disbelief. “Did you just growl at me you big mutt?”
The wolf prowled around her in a full circle. She couldn’t figure out what the hell Jake thought he was doing, but she had to get off that grass. There was shit in it and she couldn’t see it for the life of her. She lifted a hand to her ear. The others were much too quiet. Her hand touched a small diamond stud. She’d lost the ear piece.
Jake growled again.
“Shut it, mutt. If you’re not here to help me, then you better go,” she hissed, then tapped the massive wolf’s nose and turned. Now on all fours, she tried to peer into the darkness for the ear piece. “This is the shit I get into for minding other people’s business. If I’d have stayed home and bought shoes online, this wouldn’t have happened,” she mumbled, feeling along the blanket for the small piece of technology. “I could be having a nice Apple Martini or a Cosmo and watching my man Vin Diesel riding the streets in his latest flick. But no, I had to come here to see what all the fuss was about with mating between shifters.”
She didn’t care that she continued to ramble while Jake, in the form of a wolf, stood behind her. The idea of him as nothing more than a possible pet was easier to handle than his sexy human face. Or those big arms. Or those washboard abs. She gulped. Crap if she continued to think of him as a man, she’d end up all kinds of turned on.
If she started thinking of him naked she’d be in all kinds of trouble. That had been the worst way to meet a man. Although with his body, it was probably the best unexpected nudity she’d ever come across. Her first time in the Wolfe household and she’d opened the wrong door to see Jake. A very wet and naked Jake that had just showered. Her mouth had dropped open, ready to apologize, but then he’d smiled. She’d been a goner ever since.
So many years had passed and he’d never let her forget that day. From then on he’d flirted endlessly with her and did his best to taunt her into seeing him as more. Only with Jake, more came at a price. From what she knew he wasn’t interested in anything long-term, much less a serious relationship. Not that Nic wanted long-term commitment either. She wouldn’t mind long-term fun though. And Jake the dirty-talker could probably make her come with just the things he said to her. Christ. Most of the time their conversations ended with her rushing home to take a cold shower…with her vibrators.
Jake was another story. According to Ellie he didn’t even have a cell phone on contract because he didn’t like commitment. That spoke volumes of him. It didn’t stop the fact that Nic had developed some feelings for Jake. Feelings she didn’t like to think about most of the time. Emotions were dangerous. She wasn’t familiar with them much and preferred to keep them as far away as possible.
Hearing Jake say her name made her squeal. Before she could catch her breath, his hands were on her hips, pulling her back into him. Air caught in her throat. He gripped her waist. Held her captive. The hard bar of his cock pressed at her butt, the thin spandex from her yoga gear no match for his hardness.
“Jake…” What? Her throat went dry. She didn’t know what to say, only that she really liked how good he felt holding her. How wet it made her to feel him pressing on her ass.
“God, Nic,” he growled softly. “I love how fucking good you smell. You’re hot for me. Aren’t you, sweetheart?”