Hounded:A Steamy Shifter Mystery

By: Tasha Black

Dulcie felt herself tremble under the command of that talented tongue. Emboldened, she grasped his lower lip between her teeth, and nipped him gently.

For a moment he froze, then his hands left her cheeks and she was flying through the air, landing with her back pinned to a pine tree and Van’s hard body angled against her soft one.

He gave her no time to adjust, or even to breathe. His mouth devoured hers and his hands were everywhere, one tangled in her hair, the other smoothing down the curve of her hip, then dragging her closer still by the collar of the leather jacket.

Dulcie moaned into his mouth and pressed herself against him.

He swallowed her sounds, pushing his hips forward so she could feel the rigid length of him throbbing against her stomach.

Dulcie snaked a hand up to gently stroke his rough cheek. The five o’clock shadow felt as satisfyingly raspy as it had always looked.

Then his hand was between her breasts.

She panted into his mouth, aching for his touch. Her nipples were so stiff they hurt.

But he didn’t touch her breasts. Instead he left his hand flat against her chest, as if he were counting her heartbeats.

She kissed him harder then, like maybe his tongue could answer her questions better from inside her mouth.

He pulled back just as she was forgetting her name.

“Dulcinea, we need to slow down,” he whispered. But his eyes were luminous and he glowed with lust.

She couldn’t speak, so she slipped her arms over his shoulder instead and raised herself up on her toes to nuzzle his neck.

“Christ, give me strength,” he whispered. But he threw his head backward, making it easier for her to reach him.

His plea stoked the fire that was already crackling inside her.

She buried her nose in the hollow between his shoulder and neck, breathing him in.

His hands tightened on her hips.

“Dulcinea, please, not like this,” he whispered again.

But when she extended the tip of her tongue to lick a lazy path up his neck he stopped speaking.

Enjoying the effect she was having on him, Dulcie nipped gently at his fevered flesh.

A terrifying growl erupted from his throat, as he spun away from her.

“Hey man, you okay?” an unfamiliar male voice came through the brush.

Van must have sensed him coming.

“Fine,” Van spat back. “What are you doing out here?”

Chapter 8

Van fought his instinct to snarl as the man approached.

He was on the short side and fit, with a neatly trimmed beard and steel-grey eyes. His clothing made it look like he might be on safari, and he carried a delicate net on a long stick.

“I’m just going for my early evening walk,” the stranger said at an oddly slow pace, as though he considered each word. “I’m a lepidopterist, so I always bring my net. I’ve collected the most amazing specimens in these woods.”

Dulcie’s heart rate sped wildly against his arm.

“Forgive me,” the man said, offering his hand to Van. “I’m Templeton Burroughs.”

“Van Blanco,” he said, pumping it once.

“And who is this beauty?” Templeton purred, looking at Dulcie.

She was terrified, the scent of fear poured off her. Before Van could protect her, she spoke.

“Dulcie,” she said calmly. “Are you with the university?”

Van approved of the way her cool voice hid her distress.

“No, I’m a caretaker at the cabins on the preserve,” he said in the same slow and measured tone. “I do it to support my amateur work with butterflies. I could ask what you two are doing out here, but I’m sure I know the answer.”

He gave them a small wink.

“Do you spend a lot of time in the woods?” Dulcie asked. Van admired the way she refused to take the bait. She was a good detective, he had to give her credit.

“Oh yes,” Templeton replied.

“Were you in the woods last night?” she asked.

He took in a breath and let it out through his nose.

“I suppose you mean the Barrymore thing, don’t you? Are you some kind of police?” he asked doubtfully.

“Just concerned friends,” Dulcie replied.

He nodded slowly.

“I was not in the woods last night,” he replied. “But I saw and heard enough from my cabin.”

“What did you see and hear?” Van demanded, trying, and failing, to emulate Dulcie’s patient tone.

“Let’s walk over that way and I’ll explain as we go,” Templeton said, turning to head in the direction of the clearing where Barrymore was found. “Fair warning though, you may not believe what I tell you.”

Van turned to Dulcie to see if she could handle it, but she had already marched after Templeton.

He shrugged and headed after her.

It was hard not to get fixated on how adorable she was in his jacket. The sleeves were too long and her fingers clutched the cuffs.

“Here we are,” Burroughs announced as they emerged from the woods into the clearing near the cabins.

Police tape fluttered from a couple of pieces of rebar that had been pounded into the ground. Woodland Creek residents must be respecters of implied boundaries. In the neighborhoods Van frequented before, the cops would have put up chain link, or not even bothered with the tape. An incident in North Philly came to mind, but he pushed it away.

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