Found by Avarice Rose

The distance between the sun and my car was fairly great, but the heat was unbearably close. I turned the A/C to full blast as if it made a difference. Summer was upon us. Windshields surrounding me glinted in the glare of dusk as I tapped my freshly-manicured nails against the rose-gold Coach watch gifted to me earlier in the week. Another suitor attempting to catch my eye. Another shifter with pants bulging at the seams. I cringed at 
Found
Found by Avarice Rose

the memory. This city was full of ridiculous shifter men who were just begging to be validated beneath some fancy Egyptian cotton sheets, nestled firmly in a more expensive and smug part of LA. Ever since I moved here two years ago, I've regretted it. I just wanted a taste of fame, those fifteen minutes that were promised to me as a kid. Everyone gets one, right?

I was sorely mistaken to think my creative writing would get me anywhere around those disgusting pigs in the entertainment industry. The shifters ran pretty much everything, from night clubs to music labels. Anything that could be exploited for millions of dollars was under a monopoly of these chauvinistic and ravenous creatures. I wasn't without my desire for them of course, but their mating habits were simply archaic. For what reason did they need multiple mates? It certainly wasn't for reproductive purposes. Anytime I went to a bar, I could smell the hedonism polluting the air with false confidence, bravado, and billions of dollars in plastic fashion. Hollywood is gross.

As my car inched through traffic, I considered the new screenplay I was commissioned to write – another sci-fi thriller – and wondered how much I had sold out since I moved here. My original screenwriting ideas were so full of life, poking the patriarchy for every bit of discomfort they've caused generations of women. I had a zest for defiant and loud Feminism. I could make any man feel uncomfortable within moments of meeting him because I was unapologetic in my stance and word. But these Hollywood shiners were so cocky. Their ideas catered to the male gaze and were regurgitated versions of previously condoned sexist crap. My boss, Jeb, said my work threatened the structure of typical Hollywood movies because I wanted to make my female leads strong with supportive mixed gender characters surrounding her. What was so threatening about that? Our disagreement from earlier in the afternoon surfaced in my mind.

I could tell from the look on his face as I defended my writing style that I'd have to rewrite most of the screenplay, despite my pleas for it to be left alone.

“This is show business, baby.”

I had to stop and take a breath before I stabbed him with the heel of my Jimmy Choos.

“You know this is how we run things. You should really loosen up and enjoy the ride, Miss Skylar Jones.” I hated it when Jeb called me by my full name. It made me feel like a child.

“But Jeb, think about how much headway you could make by paving a path for a new trend in movies?” I was attempting to speak his language. “You could be a catalyst for a new movement. Think of all the money you could make by empowering women. You would appeal to an entirely new demographic!”

“This isn't up for debate, Sky. Pick up the editorial changes from my secretary. We'll see you Thursday.” His eyes sparkled the sort of gold that you might find in an African lion. I could tell he was showing off by making them glitter. Why were shifters so shifty?

I huffed, rolled my eyes, and stomped out of his office, snatching the markups from Ellen whose body language relayed a sort of remorse. She had been working here for the past eight years and had seen her fair share of inequality. She knew exactly what I was going through. Who knew how many writers they'd gone through before me? I was lucky to be here. I wouldn't be so lucky if I kept up this defiant attitude. Still, thinking of selling out made me feel sick to my stomach. Or maybe that was the toxic smog that seeped into my car as I sat in traffic. I sighed.

At least I could afford my favorite pair of heels. I gazed down at my sparkling red designer heels that winked up at me from the gas pedal and smiled to myself. I know it's vain of me to run out and purchase a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes with my first big paycheck, but they really did make me happy. I promised myself a lavish gift for my first accomplishment, and Jimmy Choos were on my bucket list. I wasn't exceptionally poor growing up, but designer clothing wasn't the first thing my parents were thinking about when we were shopping. A sharp honk from behind me jolted me out of my fantasy, and I focused my attention back on the road.

After another ten minutes lulled by, I made it to my little piece of comfort that had been my apartment for the past two years. I scurried up the stairs as quickly as my heels would allow and crashed through the door to be greeted by the scent of lavender and honey. I locked myself in and took to the kitchen where I bustled about preparing a chicken salad to munch on while relaxing in front of the TV. When I was finished, I sunk into the cushions of my bohemian couch and kicked off my heels, a motion which immediately caused a groan of relief. I tossed my head back to relish the moment. The motion alone made me miss having someone to intimately touch me right after coming home from work. I almost ached at the thought.

Being so busy in LA was like a plague for single women that kept us from wandering into the sea of normal, single men. It wasn't like I didn't have plenty of chances – my phone frequently blew up with requests for dinner or drinks – but it was the delivery that was so off-putting. Since the majority of the city was overwhelmed by shifters, I was going to have a hard time finding a regular guy to go on a date with. Associating predominantly with this particular race of humanoids wouldn't help either. What was a poor, single girl to do?

I pushed all of my lonely thoughts out of my head and turned on the TV to be met with the usual daily LA News spill. Some big whoever was coming into town, and this new billionaire scandal was happening, and what's-that-family got into trouble with the law again – it never ended. I wondered if these people ever got tired of being so rich and popular. Didn't it ever get annoying? I mindlessly flipped through channels before settling on HBO for whatever movie they were airing.

As I began to get lost in the drone of the TV, my phone buzzed from my purse. I glanced over at the counter where my purse was located and decided to let it ring. I was off work now. No one should be bothering me. I continued to nibble on bits of chicken from my salad as my phone buzzed again, the persistent vibration posing a dangerous threat to my sanity. I conceded and rose from the couch to see who was calling.

Incoming Call: Maya

I smiled. Maya was a pest at times, but she was one of my closest friends. She had a vivacious personality that could capture anyone's attention, laughter that could serenade a man's soul, and a carefree attitude that could hold parties together for days. She once took me to a bonfire at the beach that was exclusively celebrity producers and actors who shifted skins between the shadows. Firelight danced across the sand in waves, nearly mimicking the echo of the ocean behind us. I could hear growls and the crack of bones within close proximity. It made me nauseous.

That's when I first met Zack Rider.

He emerged from the dark brush a ways away from the guests and gracefully pawed at the sand with his feet while buttoning his shirt, appearing too preoccupied to approach the rest of the party just yet. His eyes wandered over each face, occasionally pausing with a look of recognition before a drunken voice called for him from the other side of the fire. A smile crossed his lips as he jogged over to meet his admirers. As he moved, I watched his form stretch and compress beneath the white silk shirt, my mind completely captivated by his scruff, yet stylish appearance. He fit so seamlessly in the world of billionaire superstars and yet also retained a sense of wild abandonment. My skin began to grow hot before Maya broke me of my trance.

I swiped my finger across the screen and said, “Hey girl, what's up?”

“SKY!” I held the phone away from my ear as she shouted my name. When she was done, she asked, “How are you?”

“I'm fine. Are you off your meds? You sound more uppity than usual.”

“You're cute when you make jokes. Did you know that?” She teased. “What are you doing tonight?”

“I'm probably taking a hot bath and then going to bed with a bottle of Merlot. Why?”

Maya gagged on the other end of the phone.

“That sounds depressing. I think you need a night out.”

“No, Maya. I've had a really long day. Jeb pretty much rejected another one of my screenplays, I nearly tripped into traffic, and I'm pretty sure I'm coming down with a fever.” I raised my hand to my forehead even though she couldn't see me do it. “Yeah, I feel warm.”

“Skylar Jones,” There's my damn name again. “You need to get out of the house. You spend all day writing and then hole up in that dark cave where nothing exciting happens.”

“Hey, I've got plenty of excitement here. There's mint chocolate chip ice cream in my freezer that's sitter there, dangerously unopened.”

Maya chuckled.

“Well, fine. You'll just miss the most spectacular after party ever in the history of Los Angeles.” She paused for dramatic effect, knowing that it would pique my interest enough for me to ask.

“Okay, I'm dying to know.” I droned sarcastically into the mic. “Which movie?”

“Only the latest and greatest creation of the sexiest and most debonair man in the country: ZACK RIDER!” Squeals erupted from the speaker which caused me to hold the phone away from my ear again.

“Maya, you're going to make my ear drum explode. Take a chill pill.” I gently rubbed my temple. I wasn't going to be able to get out of this one.

“Look, just come out for a bit with the girls. We'll take some shots, sip a few cosmos, and only dance to a few short songs.”

“You know these parties are full of groupies,” I pointed out. “And we'll be surrounded all night by little girls and boys trying way too hard.”

“You know we're much cooler than that. We actually know these people. They don't.”

“That doesn't make us better.”

“No, it gives us an advantage.”

“Maya!”

She giggled maniacally. I had to laugh along with her because she had a point. We were nothing like the shifter groupies who lined up night after night outside of celebrity clubs attempting to get a taste of the high life beyond the crimson doors. I've watched these celebrity followings pop up over the last couple of years and reach alarming levels of obsession. One girl had a shifter's name tattooed on her neck where she said he'd “forever suckle.” It was appalling what people did to attract attention. The shifters were no better. They devoured the adulation they received from groupies and fans. Any time bouncers allowed outsiders into their parties, they treated them like pets. It was absolutely disgusting to watch. I didn't want to go. It made me cringe to see people being used like that, but Maya was right. I've been trapped in my apartment every night for a week, and only left once to get dinner from the Chinese restaurant up the block.

“Fine. I'll go under one condition.” It was my turn to pause for dramatic effect.

Maya sighed and groaned, “Whaaat?”

“Don't try hooking me up with anybody again. The last one was embarrassing.”

“It's not my fault you can't socialize.”

“He was a total d-bag, Maya.”

“Yeah, you're right. He was. I'm sorry.” She took a deep breath. “Alright, the only hooking up I'll be doing for you will be with some flirty martinis. Deal?”

“Deal.”

“I'll see you at eight! Wear something sparkly. I want us all to match.”

“Maya, that's gross.”

“You know you like sparkles.”

“Yeah, I love sparkles.”

“Then, it's settled!”

And with that, we got off the phone.

This was going to be a long night.





2.





The club was packed tight with celebrity bodies and groupies alike who were just oozing with desperation and sexual excitement. I scanned the sea of faces and shiny clothing for familiar features, but only found strangers wearing Versace and Dior. Maya pulled my arm and pointed.

“Look, there's Zack Rider!” She exclaimed over the boom of the bass.

I followed her finger across the dimly lit room to the bar where Zack Rider was leaning against the counter, his 4.6 million dollar Louis Moinet Meteoris watch glimmering in the light shining from above. It was as if the spotlight was on him. I shook my head and turned my attention back to the rest of the club. Greens, blues, and reds exploded all over the dance floor in a visual spectacle that could have easily given someone seizure. We fought through the mess of bodies to the bar where we each ordered a beer and then sat at a table nearby that was decorated with confetti. My eyes trailed back over to Zack.

“You should go talk to him.” Maya prodded me with her elbow. “He looks a little lonely.”

“I'm pretty sure that group of fangirls behind him will take care of that.” I nodded in the direction of three tall women wearing knock-off Gucci dresses who were excitedly chatting into each other's ears.

Maya snorted loudly and said, “They don't have a chance. You're far more interesting. You're also not trying too hard to look rich when you're not.”

I laughed at her comment and sipped my beer. Zack Rider was such a spoiled child. He kept flashing his watch any time he raised his hand to run his fingers through his hair and he nodded nonchalantly every so often at people who waved excitedly in his direction. I was willing to bet that he only came for the praise and glory. He didn't need to turn up to these things to promote his ridiculously produced sexist garbage - simply having his name tied to anything seemed to guarantee instant success with the Hollywood 'it-crowd.' Which movie had he made again? Another steamy romance flick where the lead male shows the lead female that he can fix all of her problems with the wave of his hand? It was likely the same overly-used Hollywood plot that involved something along those lines. There was no individuality anymore. Jobs like mine were slowly becoming obsolete because the public didn't crave uniqueness. They wanted unity through uniformity, a name brand flock that they could cling to because they had no idea how to be real.

“I bet I could catch his attention.” Maya interrupted my thought process. I hadn't noticed half my beer was gone by the time I came back to consciousness. I swirled the rest at the bottom of the bottle.

“I bet you could.” I poked her shoulder in a flirty manner. “You're hot, girl. Go work it.”

With that, she stood and angled her way through the crowd to the bar where she gracefully placed herself near Zack, just close enough to get his attention without seeming too interested. She clicked her heels against the waxed marble floor and acted bored, shouting to the bartender for another drink and leaning back so her dress sparkled in the light from above the bar. Zack regarded her with little to no interest, likely because she looked gaudy trying to show off. I looked back down at my beer as Maya's attempted mating dance was becoming embarrassing to watch. When I looked up again, I locked eyes with Zack.

They were a cold blue, like icicles lining the inside of a cave in winter. Yet there was somehow a warmth to them at the same time, the deep blue of the ocean, maybe even of the marble floors we now stood upon, and they were piercing right through my skull as if to analyze every bit of my being. They were so wolf-like. I hadn't realized a shifter could embody so much of his animal form in just a gaze. They held me in a bond briefly until I broke away to scan the rest of the lousy club and its hedonistic inhabitants, willing myself not to blush. I admired a particularly elegant ballroom style gown until I noticed the cackling woman wearing it. Her million dollar porcelain smile didn't match the rest of her body and appeared plastic compared to her face. I grimaced.

Just out of my peripheral vision, I noticed a figure approach. He cleared his throat.

“May I sit with you?” He asked.

I turned to respond with something incredibly snarky until I realized it was Zack. My face flushed with embarrassment.

“Oh, sure,” I responded quickly, turning my attention down to my beer that was now empty.

“You looked a bit lonely over here,” He smoothed his hair behind his ear. “And it was getting so crowded at the bar. I seem to have a following.”

His eyes were totally focused on me. He didn't look around to scan the crowd or to search for friends. In fact, he didn't seem very interested in anyone else in the club. As of now, his focus was mine. Those blue arrows stung my skin like the rays of a harsh, midday sun. They penetrated every bit of my body right down to the particles until I was completely stripped bare – but they never wandered below my neck. He never broke eye contact even when I looked away. Now, I was captivated.

“You don't seem totally preoccupied by me.” He said.

I met his gaze with confidence and said, “Not at all. I don't find your work that impressive.”

He met my comment with a raised brow and an inquisitive nod.

“Well, I'm quite relieved. I don't think I could possibly handle another woman fawning over my work just to get into my good graces.” He smiled sweetly. “I know the guy who owns this place. It's why my party is being hosted here. He actually gave me this watch.”

Our eye-lock finally broke when he looked down at his wrist, shook it with a look of fondness, and then readjusted it to a more comfortable setting.

“I would have felt bad appearing without wearing it, but it's not typically my style. It's sort of flashy, no?” He held it up for me to look over.

Bravely, and against all inner intuition, I reached across the table to outline the edge of the watch with my finger. I tapped the glass with my nail.

“You could have fed an entire world with this watch.” I shrugged. “But morality first: don't offend anyone. Right?”

Zack met my gaze again with a teasing smile before saying, “You are no ordinary LA woman, are you? You care more about what's out there than what's in here. What's your name?”

“Skylar Jones. I'm a screenwriter.”

He shook my hand.

“It's lovely to meet you, Skylar Jones.”

Oh ya, my name sounded much better coming out of his mouth.

I giggled, against my better judgment, and held his gaze this time, feeling much more confident than when he'd sat down.

“The world needs change, Mr. Rider. I think that change has to start in big places like Hollywood. Don't you think so?” I wanted to challenge his way of thinking to see if he was more intelligent than his flashy suit.

“Please, call me Zack. And I think that's a noble cause. I completely agree. People are so preoccupied with image and they could use an awakening.”

He placed his hand gently over mine as we continued to chatter on about the status of Hollywood and currently existing inequalities. I explained my situation with my screenwriting and how I felt that no one was taking me seriously as an artist. He apologized, saying that many executive producers who were shifters simply weren't interested in changing the status quo. Their focus was on the money that could be shoveled in and the potential groupies that it would bring.

“Everything is about sex and money, and how to market that to the rest of the world so it becomes normal.” I couldn't break away from his eyes. I was being sucked in further with every bit of our conversation.

“Indeed. If we invested more into our female compatriots, we could see such a bigger shift in public thinking. Compassion, harmony, civility, and acceptance would be ingrained instead of greed and body shame.” His intelligence was surprising.

“I don't get it.” I shook my head and laughed. “You're so culturally aware and informed. How is it you seem so...so…?”

“Aloof? Dull?”

I nodded, almost embarrassed to admit that earlier I'd considered him a spoiled brat.

“Yes...I'm sorry. I don't mean to imply you're not educated. You just don't act like you agree with these things.” I curled my fingers around his hand that was still resting over mine.

“You don't have to be sorry for your opinion. You just have to be sorry that you were wrong.” He teased.

As I gaped at him, my eyes wide, he threw his head back in an uncontrollable yet surprisingly charming laugh and squeezed my hand.

I instinctively swatted his hand away.

“Oh, darling! I hadn't meant to offend.”

“Sorry – habit,” I said sheepishly.

His wolf-life eyes were sparkling from across the table as if the unexpected chemistry igniting between us was inspiring his wildness to shine through. I hadn't noticed how much closer we had been sitting, that the entire club was basically watching us whether they made it known or not. I briefly glanced around. A group of girls was beginning to gather near the table. They weren't blatantly surrounding us, and they grew uncomfortably close. Zack noticed the shift in my energy.

“Would you like to escape the inevitable carnage that is about to ensue if we continue sitting here, enjoying each other's company?”

I paused and then responded, “Uh. Yeah, sure.”

We rose from our seats to be met by a ferocious crowd who tried piling around Zack in an attempt to get his attention. I felt like an anchovy being shoved around until I felt Zack tug my arm in a different direction. We dodged between dancing drunk bodies and found our way to the back door where I caught Maya ogling us in shock, eyes wider than saucers and mouth hanging agape. I shrugged and waved, unsure of how to respond. I hoped she wasn't upset that I was leaving without her. The bouncer smuggled us out the back door and into a hidden alley so we could avoid the crowds and nosy paparazzi that were waiting for us out front. Victorious, we ran hand-in-hand down the wet alley towards his car that was parked conveniently a few blocks down. Once we were snug in our seats, Zack sped us off into the dark night, his contagious laughter filling the air behind us.





3.





Ocean waves crashing over the sound of a light breeze was the perfect greeting upon exiting Zack's lush, silver Porsche. I carefully removed my Jimmy Choo's, the same pair I'd worn earlier in the day, and tossed them onto the seat along with my clutch. I was ready for my feet to meet the sand. It had been far too long since I'd seen the ocean. I don't even remember the last time I was down here, despite living so close. Zack removed his shoes as well and placed them on the floor of the driver's side, tucking the laces carefully so they wouldn't get ruined. I admired the way he handled them - like they were glass dolls that he didn't want to break. After he shut the door, he regarded me with a playful look.

“Somebody is eager, I see.” He smiled and extended a tan hand, the empty space between us electrified with mystery and exhilaration. I took his hand.

“It's funny. I live nearby, yet I hardly come down to the beach. It's one of my favorite places to be.”

Zack responded with a kind laugh and said, “I'm glad I could be the one to bring you out here.” His gaze never left my eyes when he spoke to me. I found it hard to look away.

I inhaled deeply as we wandered across the sand to a darkened pier a couple hundred yards from where we parked. It hadn't dawned on me that I might not be safe out here with Zack. In fact, I never once questioned his intentions with me – I just automatically assumed my company was satisfactory, but now I was starting to doubt everything. I paused.

“Zack?”

“Yes, Skylar?”

“Uh. I'm..." I didn't know how to say it without sounding like an idiot.

"You can tell me anything," he said as he squeezed my hand.

"...afraid.” Yeah, I did sound like an idiot.

“Afraid of what?”

“You.”

I expected him to be upset or disappointed, perhaps even angry, but the features in his face only softened further as his eyebrows drew together. He took both of my hands in his and looked deep into my eyes. This wasn't the same gaze from the club. This was much more intense than that initial captivating glance. His eyes opened. His pupils blossomed and expanded, and the blue surrounding them swirled into a paler shade. Suddenly, I found myself inside a riptide, his eyes pulling me deeper and deeper into their vast and expansive waters.

“Skylar Jones, I would never harm you – I absolutely promise you with every fiber of my being. If you no longer feel safe, we can return to the car, and I'll drive you home. I will not be angry at all.”

His explanation was surprising. Why was he being so kind to me? I was of no real significance in the world of Hollywood, and I certainly hadn't made any huge impressions on anyone lately. So, what about me was keeping Zack Rider interested? As if he could hear my thoughts, he went on:

“I'll admit that it's been torturous to keep my hands off you the entire evening, but I will not press forward unless you give me permission to do so. I don't want to alarm you, but wolf shifters like myself mate for life, and our encounter is no coincidence. I believe we were meant to meet.”

The breeze picked up as he went silent and I followed its path up towards the moon that was glittering down upon the sand around us. Another wave crashed nearby. My eyes traced our footprints up to where we were standing, and I raised my eyes to meet his once more.

“I'm not sure I understand,” I managed to say.

He simply watched me silently, peering deeper into my eyes. I hadn't felt this way about anyone in a long time. Ever, really. And I had no way of justifying this to myself. I had strict rules about what I let happen on first dates, and that was usually just sex. This... this felt like more. I couldn't explain it, but there was something about this man that just totally and completely consumed me.

"I believe we were meant to meet," he repeated, almost in a whisper.

My chest nearly exploded as realization crashed down on me. He thinks I'm his mate. That can't possibly be right. He's Zack Rider, and I'm... well, I'm the farthest thing from the women men like him typically date. Let alone mate with. I could feel my heart beating so loudly, and by the way he watched me, I knew he could hear it, too.

"Please say something," he said to me, wrapping his hands around mine.

"I know this will sound ridiculous," I whispered to him, as he pulled me closer towards him, "but I have never felt this way before. I don't really know what to do."

“Nor do I,” he laughed. His warm, boyish laugh loosened my nerves a little bit. He pulled me in close, and I leaned into his chest, thankful for the excuse not to speak for a moment.

He kissed the top of my head, a sweet and comforting gesture.

“I want to spend time with you. Here. And I want to keep spending time with you,” I whispered into his broad chest, taking in the smell of his expensive cologne.

I couldn't see, but I could feel him smiling. I noticed that as I stood pressed up against him, I could sense so much of what he was feeling. Was that a shifter thing?

“That is by no means a promise to be your mate,” I added quickly. “But I'm positive I don't want tonight to end.”

He traced my arms with his fingers and didn't stop until his palms were gently cradling my face.

Someone once told me that shifters can't choose their mates, they have no control over who it is or when it happens. For many shifters, it's not an issue because they take on many mates over their lifetime. Wolves are unique, in that they mate for life - no exceptions. I never believed that story about shifters, thinking it was their excuse to take who they wanted, when they wanted. Now, however, I knew it to be true. I could feel it, somehow. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

“Skylar,” he whispered. “Do not fear me. I will take care of you.”

Without hesitation, I leaned into his lips as a signal of agreement. I hardly knew what my own emotions were telling me, but I felt no bad energy. He didn't seem manipulative. He wasn't trying to pull some typical suave moves like most Hollywood shifters. He was just holding me under the moonlight with the cold sand pressing against our bare feet. The particles of our skin melted into the surrounding wind, and we became one with the sand, the ocean, the sky, the moon, and even the cars zooming across the highway in the distance. I felt their tires rattling the ground with their electric vibrations. This sort of energy could shatter the earth, but we sustained it between our lips as they continued to play.

“Let's walk further. I love the view from this pier.” He nodded towards the wooden structure just a hundred feet ahead. I agreed, gently tracing the veins in his hands as we walked. What a strange night this was turning out to be.

Our footsteps echoed underneath the pier as we made our way to the end, way out from where the water broke upon the shore. Long, rolling waves crashed in the distance as the wind whipped salty bits of water against our exposed skin. Water lapped at the posts holding the pier, and I looked down through the darkness to watch it shimmer under the light of the moon. I shivered. Zack removed his suit jacket and draped it over my shoulders and then returned his arm to my waist. The warmth was comforting, so I leaned into his body and rested my head against his chest. I finally recognized his cologne to be Armani, a robust scent that filled my nostrils and stirred the emotions sitting at the bottom of my stomach. My sense of smell was getting better – interesting. I nuzzled his neck with my nose which elicited a soft moan that was barely audible above the sound of the wind, the waves, and the warring of my heart against my brain.

Zack's fingers found my neck and traced circles up to my ears while his lips gently decorated my throat, a motion that immediately caused my knees to buckle. He caught me and laughed.

“I didn't know I could do that.”

I laughed. There was nothing else I could do. He was perfect. This was perfect.

Instead of pulling me back up, he lowered me carefully to the ground and positioned himself between my legs with one hand on my hip and the other cradling my head. His lips trailed down my throat to my chest where they paused as his eyes asked for permission to continue. I nodded yes and moaned into the breeze, as he bit down on the fabric of my dress and tore open the front buttons with a slight jerk of his head. He slowly kissed my skin as he worked his way down my chest until he reached the mounds of my breasts. With clever hands, he nimbly unclasped my bra as if he'd done it a thousand times before. I tried not to think about that.

His tongue plunged beneath my dress to my nipples where he deliberately devoured each one as if tasting something sweet for the first time. His hands smoothed my straps off my shoulders as he playfully sucked and bit at my soft flesh, moaning adorably with delight. I carefully unbuttoned his shirt, doing my best to steady my arms from the pleasure I was feeling. I trailed my nails across his broad chest as he lifted the hem of my dress to massage my legs, working his hands up my thigh as I moaned into his neck.

The anticipation became too much, and he tore his shirt off as I fumbled with his belt and zipper. His shirt disappeared into the distance with the breeze as he kicked off his pants. I lifted my torn dress over my head as I watched him undress. I shivered again, but not from the chill of the wind. His body was absolutely amazing, a fortress built from years of running and switching between forms. His tanned skin had traces of freckles, and only the smallest amount of hair trickled down below his belly button. I noticed a scar above his left nipple that ran from his shoulder blade down to the center of his chest. I traced it. I didn't want to break our moment and ask, even though I was curious. As he leaned down to kiss me, I tucked the thought away for later and became lost in his hot breath against my skin.

"Please, Skylar," he breathed into me. "Be mine. Oh please god, just be mine." He plunged his tongue deep into my mouth with desperation, yet his hands held restraint. He was waiting for me to answer and give him permission. For a man who was lying nearly naked on top of a girl on a public beach, he still managed to be a perfect gentleman. I would have given him points for that, but his chivalry was getting in the way of him being inside me, and I was ready to explode with physical starvation.

"Yes," I nearly shouted at him. "I'm yours. I'm all yours if you'll have me. Oh fuck me, please take me."

A loud moan escaped my lips as Zack one-handedly tore off my thong and spread my thighs, his thumbs tracing along my pink flesh, exposing the wet warmth that was aching to be touched. He gently pushed my chest back with his free hand until I lay down on the damp wood of the pier, as he lowered himself down between my legs and masterfully plunged his tongue deep inside me, bringing forth sensations I never thought I could experience. His tongue worked in and out and in circles, and he alternated back and forth between sucking on the outer folds of my flesh, and plunging deeper and deeper inside of me with his tongue. My legs began to spasm from the pleasure as he withdrew and nibbled curiously on my labia, his large fingers replacing his tongue inside my throbbing, wet cavity.

I laughed in delirium, never having experienced anything quite like this before. It felt as though my senses had been heightened. I wondered if that was a side effect of mating with a shifter. I made a mental note to ask him later, although I questioned my mental capacity at this moment. Mating – what? No, what a ridiculous thought. I easily pushed it from my mind as I became utterly consumed with his physical presence.

His fingers inside of me slowed, and my breath returned to me. I reached down and grabbed his arm, pulling him back up to face me. Our eyes locked together, and as we peered so deeply into each other's souls, I knew then and there that no physical experience could ever rival the closeness we felt at that moment.

That didn't stop my desperate need to have him inside me, though. I moaned desperately, imploring him to take the next step. As if reading my mind, he reached down and pulled off his briefs in one elegant motion. His massive, thick member spilled out before me, standing erect up against his tight stomach. Fuck, he was perfect. Godly, even.

The animal inside of him slipped out briefly as I reached my hands down and grabbed hold of his penis in a tight grip with both hands. An inhuman growl rumbled from his chest, sending shivers throughout my entire being. I watched as the colors of his eyes changed back and forth between different shades of blue, the wolf inside of him staring back at me protectively. I knew right then and there that we were mated, and it felt absolutely and naturally perfect.

Before I could react, he shook his head, bringing himself back to his human reality, and he pinned my arms down with his as he moved his hips down to meet mine. He positioned himself just at my opening, pressing his member against my clit teasingly. I moaned and shivered again as he pressed himself firmly against me, still trapped beneath his grasp. My legs were shaking uncontrollably at this point, and I suddenly grew nervous. I had never actually had sex with a shifter before. Nor had I been with a man of his... size. He sensed my hesitation and eased back a little bit.

"What's wrong? What did I do? Are you okay?" He said quickly, pulling away.

"Nothing," I whispered to him. "Nothing at all. Please, oh god please go on."

"No." He watched me for any hint of explanation, frozen in place.

I sighed, confused. "It's just, I've never been with anyone like you before. I'm scared. Not of you, really. Although I will admit, you're something to be marveled at." I motioned my eyes down towards his swollen cock that lay against my stomach. "I just don’t want to disappoint you."

He laughed in that beautiful boyish way and caressed his hand against my cheek. "You will never disappoint me, Skylar. You are mine, and I am yours, and you are perfect in every way. If you don't want to do this, we can leave, grab a coffee, and just hang out. If you want to stay, then I'll take it slow. I will never hurt you, I promise you this." My body felt like jelly. I nodded to him, unable to believe how absolutely perfect this man was.

"Take me," I whispered, and then bit his earlobe playfully.

At that, he pressed into me. Slowly at first, but I was so wet in anticipation that it didn't take long for my body to open up completely to him. After a few slow thrusts, he pressed himself fully inside of me, and my body exploded in pleasures I never even knew existed.

"Oh god," I moaned into him, as he worked himself in and out, pressing so deep inside of me. He pounded me like the waves pounded the shore. My desire resonated with Zack, and he quickened his pace as I arched my back, my head pressing into the wood beneath us as my hands ran up and down his back. He completely filled me. It was like puzzle pieces linking together to form a larger picture. He was the piece that had been missing. I lifted my hips to meet his as our rhythm built together, moving in unison pressed so closely against each other. He was far larger than any man I had ever been with, and my body ached from the pressure he built up inside of me. It was a good ache, and no matter how hard he pressed into me, he was never close enough. I needed him to consume me, to be part of me. I was desperate, and I couldn't let him go.

I felt a warm trickle down his back where I had been digging my nails into his skin. I hadn't realized I was holding on to him so tight. I felt guilty until I realized it was actually turning him on, and then I clawed him even harder. He pressed his body so deep into mine, then grabbed me behind the shoulders and spun me over so I was on top of him.

He stared up at me with those ice blue eyes, his gaze never wavering for a moment. I sat back on his swollen cock, pushing myself deeper and deeper onto him, willing my body to take him even further inside. Our hands clasped together, fingers intertwined, and we gazed into each other's eyes as I rode him to the rhythm of the surrounding waves. The wild ocean breeze felt cold against my skin, but his body exuded a warmth that radiated through my bones.

We spent quite a while together like this, eyes locked as I rode him rhythmically until I could feel myself getting closer to climax. I was so desperate to reach it, yet at the same time, I never wanted this night to end. I could tell from the look in Zack's eyes that he felt the same. I pressed my body down onto his as hard as I could, taking him as deep inside of me as I could possibly handle, and leaned down to whisper in his ear, "Fuck me. Now. I want to feel you come inside of me."

Without hesitation, he flipped us both around and pounded into me so hard I thought I might tear open. I wrapped my legs around him as tight as I could, as I could feel myself approaching a climax. He ground himself deep inside me, pressing his hips low into mine to build the friction between our bodies. I moaned loudly, my head bent back in agony. "Fuck me, Zack," I murmured in his ear as he pressed his face into my neck, panting wildly.

"Skylar," he whispered into my skin as he bit my collarbone, drawing just a little bit of blood. I screamed in ecstasy as he drew me over the edge, my orgasm hitting me so hard I could hardly breathe. He pushed himself deep inside as I felt his warmth spill inside of me, his body shuddering on top of me as the weight of his body settled onto mine. Still, he pressed deeper, coaxing my climax along for a longer ride than I knew myself capable. He suckled the skin in my neck as I moaned uncontrollably at my newfound sensations. We pressed out hips together one last desperate time, and then our bodies collapsed together, completely spent.

We laid there for what felt like hours under the moonlight, our bodies intertwined at the end of the pier, listening to the waves crash around us. Finally, the air started to get cold against my bare skin, and Zack moved to stand to get our clothes.

“Where are you going?” I asked while sitting up.

Zack fell back beside me and smoothed my hair from my face.

“Oh, sweetheart, I'm not going anywhere. I wouldn't dare leave you alone.” He shushed me with kisses. “I'm here for you. Always.”

His words were such a comfort that I relaxed straight into his arms and fell asleep against his warm body, the sound of the waves lulling me into fields filled with dancing wolves under a shining moon.





4.





The morning sun stung my eyes, and I grimaced against the light as seagulls cried in circles above. For a moment, I was confused. Where was I? I peered to my right and found a sleeping Zack, his beautiful features a welcome sight in the bright light of dawn.

No, that wasn't sunlight. That was--

“Mr. Rider! Mr. Rider! Is this your new girlfriend?”

“Zack, is this another one-night-stand?”

“Did you meet her at your party?”

“How long have you been seeing each other?”

“What's your name, beautiful?”

Oh, God. We were crowded by flashing cameras and people calling out insanely probing questions about who I was and how we came to meet. I shook Zack who was already awake and assessing the situation. He has managed to put his pants on and stood confidently. I was grateful to see he had covered me with my dress. He took my hand to help me up, and collected his jacket and placed it around my shoulders. I was lucky to be small enough that it covered all the parts that needed covering. He gave the cameras a debonair smile and then pulled me through the pack of flashing light with the most aggressive smirk I'd ever seen him wear. Once we were safely past most of the mob, he broke into a run.

Our legs moved in sync against the wooden pier until we hit the sand where I tripped and fell. Zack laughed and helped me to my feet, pulling me towards his car that was just across the sand and up the hill. My heart was racing, and I was absolutely mortified. My life was now no longer anonymous – I would become the new face associated with Zack Rider, and my bare bottom would be plastered across LA papers, not to mention magazines and news sites nationwide. Zack was still shirtless as we hopped into his Porsche, his jacket now lost to the beach behind us where paparazzi were stumbling through the sand to capture another picture of us making our escape.

As he peeled out of the parking lot, he waved his hand out the window, and I followed suit, soaking up the LA sun that was peeking over the edge of town and greeting us with rapturous applause. He turned to me and smiled. I couldn't help but smile back at him.

Suddenly his phone beeped, and he looked down at it. An instant look of anger flashed across his face.

“We need to leave town,” he said sharply. “Now.”

He swerved the car over four busy lanes of traffic and headed towards the onramp that would lead us to the highway heading north out of Los Angeles.

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