Beastly Desires(9)By: Nikki Winter
Kamali stared down at the phone, mind racing a mile a minute. “I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I, sweetheart.” He made his way to his truck but she could still hear that low, gravelly voice when he said, “And I’m afraid to try.”
Then he was gone, leaving her to stare down at that phone for the longest time. It wasn’t until she could no longer scent him that the illusion of comfort faded, leaving a confusing emptiness in its wake.
He hadn’t even reached the end of the road before he was putting his truck in reverse, spinning off to the side, and cutting through swathes of snow to return to the gas station. He couldn’t leave her there. Kaisal should’ve been able to. He’d given her every viable tool to seek him out should she need to. And yet he found himself going back.
Why? Why was it that everything inside of him protested the moment he couldn’t scent her anymore? She was a stranger; he didn’t even know her goddamn name but he couldn’t leave. He. Couldn’t. Fucking. Leave. The thought of separating from her, leaving her vulnerable to whatever had put that mask of fury and terror on her unforgettable face dropped the heavy weight of lead in his gut. Why? Why? Why?
Kaisal squeezed his steering wheel, anxiety causing a war within him as he silently hoped that she hadn’t already shot off into the opposite direction.
“The fuck is wrong with me?” he murmured as the sign of the convenience store came into view and his heart crashed into his throat the moment he spotted her headlights, seemingly thrumming along with the notes of Rossini.
She was still there. She hadn’t left. Pulling up just a few feet away from her front bumper, Kaisal caught sight of her on the driver’s side, a map spread out in her hands. If he had been just a few minutes later…
The second she registered she wasn’t alone, her gazed jerked to his, and he’d be a liar if he said the slow blink of her lashes hadn’t struck him dead in the chest. Her brows lowered as he climbed out of his Yukon. She rolled down her window.
“Come back for the cash?”
“When’s the last time you ate?” Kaisal blurted.
Confusion marred her stare. “How, exactly,” she asked, “is that your issue?”
“It’s not.” He rolled his shoulders.
She glanced at her cub, who was wrapped in a small parka and a few blankets, his hair escaping the cap she’d pulled down over his head as he still blissfully slept on, obviously feeling safe enough to do so. “We ate.”
“Was it fresh?”
She bit her lip. “We ate.”
“Are you hungry now?”
Her sigh was deep. “We. Ate.”
“That’s not what I’m asking you.”
“Don’t really care what you’re asking me. I’m telling you that we ate, and it may have been something that had been resting under a heat lamp, but we ate.”
He clenched his jaw, took a deep breath and said, “Let me feed you.”
Her head snapped up, eyes slightly wide. “What?”
Kaisal put his hands on either side of the door and leaned into the window. “Let. Me. Feed. You.”
Her throat worked as she swallowed, and he caught some unnamed emotion fluttering in her stare. “I don’t need—”
“Not asking what you need,” he interrupted. “I’m telling you what I want.” He watched her face. “Follow me and I’ll get you whatever you want.” Christ. Had he lost his goddamn mind? Kaisal was pushing it—he knew he was pushing it—but he couldn’t stop.
The longer he stood there, gaze on hers, hands clenching around the frame of the door, his tiger pacing the confines of its cage, the closer he got to something completely foreign but so familiar. He wanted her to be protected, for her son to be protected. He didn’t know her story, didn’t understand why it mattered to him at all but he couldn’t pull himself away. He couldn’t move, could barely breathe. Every exhale felt as though the wind was being knocked out of him. His chest was tight, his body tense. He waited for her answer, needing her to tell him yes, needing her to let him feed her, needing her to remain close just like this. Yeah, he’d lost it.