Seven o’clock came around both too fast and not fast enough. Security buzzed me when Willow arrived at the door. Fray’s charged atmosphere indicated a big night ahead, though it was still early. The line for entry stretched halfway around the block as security counted heads and made certain the building stayed full enough to create an exclusive atmosphere as well as drive a need to be inside from those waiting in the open air.
Willow slipped through the door and disappeared from the camera. I closed my laptop and pushed back in my chair. I knew what I wanted from her tonight, what I wanted to do with her, but I also couldn’t rush her. Not after the catastrophe that had been my previous attempt at a relationship.
I hadn’t claimed a sub of my own for far too long, but I’d rectify that for the right girl. A girl I could spoil, who I could give my full attention. Because any woman with me deserved no less.
My phone buzzed, and I checked my messages, my brain already on hiatus for the night as I kept one eye on the door.
Don’t break her, for fvck’s sake.
Killian’s one-line text message ripped through my brain. I laughed and tossed my phone onto a two-seater sofa pushed against one wall.
Her tentative knock drew my attention.
“Come in,” I pressed my hands to my thighs, denying the urge to leap from my chair and open the door for her. Hell, if she looked as edible as the night before, I’d be on her in an instant and things would never get done the right way.
That checked me. Since when had I ever been concerned about doing things the right fvcking way?
Willow opened the door and slipped through, shutting it behind her. Before she took another step into the room, she stole my breath and a large slice of my heart.
A strapless, cream sundress sheathed her body to her thighs where it swirled around slim legs, their sweet curves accentuated by the flare of her skirt. Her hair curled around her face in gentle waves that highlighted rose-tinted l!ps and the soft slope of her cheeks. Pink-tipped toes peeked out from the bottom of the dress. She was barefoot.
No one who entered my club ever looked so out of place.
A laugh bubbled in my chest as I stared at her, though a shot of pure arousal pushed my humor aside in short order. “I told you to wear something I could ruin,” I rasped. I also told her I liked that pink harness she’d worn the night before. My hand strayed under my desk to adjust myself.
Her knowing little smile was cute as fvck and pissed me off at the same time. Willow stepped forward and reached behind her. The zing of a zipper preceded the dress falling to the floor, but she hadn’t finished her private little str!p show for one. Willow did as I’d not-quite requested and worn the harness, but somehow, she’d adjusted it to suit the dress. Hot pink straps framed succulent br*easts, the marks I’d made on her body still visible.
I stroked myself beneath my desk as she ran her fingers over the leather straps. A little fiddling, and she wound them up around her throat, holding up her hair. “Will you help me, please?”
I swallowed at the offer. Fvck me, but she was all too damn tempting. My chair crashed into the wall behind my desk as I shot to my feet. She didn’t flinch, as though she expected it. Two long strides brought me to her side. I wrapped my hand around her throat, squeezing gently before she could take her next breath. Light pressure beneath her jaw lifted her to her toes. I dipped my head to speak against her mouth.
“You don’t give me orders, Willow. I don’t give a fvck if they’re coated in the prettiest little request, and you’re all trembling and needy. For fvck’s sake, I could smell your arousal from outside my office.” I couldn’t, but she didn’t need to know that. Fvcking with her head was my favorite game to play. My own arousal skyrocketed as she pressed up as high as her tiptoes allowed to k!ss me.
I let her have her moment, k!ssing her back with closed l!ps, enough to sate her need for a single instant before I ripped away from her and put her back on her feet.
“You don’t.” I strode around behind her and slapped her a*ss. Hard. “Get to parade in here and str!p for me unasked. You don’t get to exert control over me and leave me horny as a fvcking teenager.”
“You’re horny?” She looked back at me through her lashes, her l!ps parted.
If I hadn’t known she’d never stepped foot in my club before last night, I’d assumed her to be a practiced seductress from that move alone.
“You realize who you are to me, little mouse? You’re prey. My fvcking food.” I leaned closer. “And I haven’t decided which is my favorite way to devour you yet.”
She stared up at me, her eyes widening. I pressed closer, inhaling her air, and growled.
Willow shivered. A full-body effort that ended with an almost audible pop and ended with me holding a small tuft of brown fur. A tiny fluffy ball of the same color trembled at my feet, puddled in the pink leather harness far too small for her shifted form.
She gazed up at me through a face nothing like the one I knew. Staring into her eyes, I identified her timid nature, and nothing of the inner strength she’d displayed as I attempted to roar my frustrations and laugh at the same time.
“You’re a fvcking quokka.” My words ended on a snarl. I dropped the tuft of fur and stormed back to my desk.
Silence filled the room behind me as I gripped the window ledge and stared out at Melbourne’s lights, already aglow, showing the city in full swing. My nostrils flared as I breathed hard through my nose. I couldn’t do it. Killian was right. I’d destroy someone like her. Someone soft. For fvck’s sake, quokkas threw their children at their enemy in an attempt to escape, or so I’d heard.
I spun around, ready to rain hell on her to find the brown fluff ball in the middle of my desk. A dark laugh ripped from my throat. “Get down.”
The quokka—Willow—waddled forward and nearly tripped over her own feet. She reached out a tiny paw, and I couldn’t help taking it. Fine bones, I could crush her in a single squeeze. She raised my fingers to her cheek, and when I thought she might nuzzle, or beg, the little minx bit me.
I hissed between my teeth as she released my hand and transformed back into the girl I recognized, curled into a kneeling pose on my desk.
“I’m still me.” Deep brown eyes—the single recognizable part of her in shifted form—glistened, but she didn’t cry. She didn’t say anything else, curled on my desk, na*ked and waiting.
“Aren’t you going to throw something at me to save yourself?” A childish barb, but I had nothing else. This girl ripped me bare, and I shouldn’t want her the way I did. The way I craved her. I tapped her ankle with the back of my hand, not daring to touch her more than that. My control hung by a tether, one not so easily released as hers last night. “Off.”
“No.” She raised her chin.
“Oh. I see.” I rubbed my thumb over my bottom l!p. “You need to be in actual danger before you try to run screaming.” I unbuttoned my shirt at a slow pace. No point ruining my favorite one. “You won’t get far.”
“Do I look like I’m running?”
No, pretty girl. But you will.
They all did, once they saw the demon I became. Few people knew who and what I hid inside my daily form. Sharing my secret with her after our scene brought the grand total to five.
My shirt peeled back and dropped from my shoulders to pool around my feet, much as Willow had done with her dress moments before. Black shadows shifted beneath my skin, feathers peeking through already as I unbuckled my pants and dropped them to the floor.
Her gaze tracked down, lingering.
“Did you think your little stunt wouldn’t bring out the worst in me, Willow?”
Thick lashes framed shocked eyes.
I gave her a feral smile. “Not your inner little quokka. Dropping your dress and begging.” I leaned forward, the change already working its way up my spine. “Did you think I’d play nice?”
Her l!ps parted as I shifted, and I couldn’t tell if my cry or hers tore the sudden silence in the room. Stretching my wings as far as I could, I arced my elongated throat. I might be a different shape to my usual six-foot, four-inches, but this was freedom. One beat of my wings marked my limit in the cramped office space—a seven-foot wingspan made full movement a little tough. Flight was impossible in the room.
Gleaming brown eyes stared up at me. Instead of the terror I expected to see in her face, she gave me soft trembles, trust, and … adoration?
That was a new one.
Shoulders rolled back, Willow edged forward, her fingers outstretched. She halted less than an inch from touching me. Emotion flickered across her gaze, and she looked up, requesting silent permission.
There’s my good girl.
I inclined my head to one side. Trembling fingertips traced over my plumage in a light touch. The gentle pressure over my chest left me aching inside. Years. It had been years since anyone touched me like this. Since I’d let them.
Even Killian hadn’t touched me in this form, and I’d known him for over half my life. My poor little wallaby hadn’t gotten this far before she let herself out of my door, screaming her fear and trailing a puddle of her own urine.
The merest of all of us, a tiny marsupial shifter, traded dark caresses with a creature that could rip her to shreds in an instant.
And enjoy it.
But I wouldn’t. I wanted her to adore this form, to react to my touch the same as last night. I wanted her to want me and not be terrified of me. Not that she should listen to me. Even I recognized the bad idea at its inception. This would end in tears, or worse.
“You’re beautiful.” Her luminous brown eyes glistened with those same unshed tears. She knelt on my desk, her knees pressed together, and rose on them to bring her gaze level with mine where I perched on my desk chair. Her fingers traced along my throat, her hand big enough to snap my neck at this range.
Good to see this trust thing went both ways. I might be a bastard who wanted to tease her into submission and get everything I craved from her body, to hear my name on her l!ps. But that I could give my safety into her hand, quite literally, was a new experience for me.
I stood still beneath her little discovery tour and promised myself I wouldn’t return that nip. My bite would be a whole lot harder than hers, and breaking skin on a woman I spiraled for wasn’t my style.
“So regal. Beautiful,” she murmured and swallowed. “I—I don’t feel worthy in front of you.”
Her hand around my throat loosened as I shifted back, and I pulled her onto my lap. Willow curled there, her a*ss in the perfect space over my hard length, hands loose around the back of my neck, l!ps parted. Like she’d always been there.
I never wanted her to leave.
“You’re amazing,” I whispered, my voice hoarse—from arousal, emotion, or the change, I couldn’t tell. Before she could say a single word more on the topic, I k!ssed her.
That was the best-worst idea I ever had.