Eventide of the Bear

By: Cherise Sinclair


That the Daonain birthed more males than females had been merely an interesting fact until now. Enveloped by the overwhelming masculine scents and sounds, her body flared to life and into heat. She was panting as if she’d galloped up a mountain. And oh, Goddess, the need.

She took a step forward and stopped.

Near the door stood the Cosantir, the guardian and leader of the Mt. Hood Territory. As always, when Cedrick saw her, his eyes chilled. Because of her mother. As one of the God’s avatars, he acted for the good of the clan. Her mother had acted only for the good of herself, so they’d hated each other. Emma gave him a wide berth and moved farther into the room.

A brown-haired male, lust reddening his normally pale face, stepped into her path. He raised his eyebrows. “Hey, it’s Emma. Come to slum with the rest of the town?”

Despite his offensive tone, Emma still felt a tingle down her spine.

Another male moved closer. His broad shoulders blocked out the light behind him. “It’s Emma, isn’t it? You look very pretty tonight.” This voice was wonderfully deep and resonant, and the interest in it sent arousal streaming through her.

As the song of need humming in her ears grew louder, she managed to focus her eyes. Gawain.

The male was quite a bit older. He’d made a knife for the bard master. His wonderful eyes were the clear blue of a summer sky—and he wanted her.

She shivered with the wonder of it.

*

Emma had no idea how much time had passed, but the night was well advanced. Standing at the drink table, she tried to gather her senses.

She’d been with several males and had enjoyed mating, if enjoyed could be the word for something so primal and out of control. Some of the males had been rough, and she hadn’t known how to slow them down—or how to slow herself, for that matter.

She smiled. Thank the Mother Gawain had been patient. Gentle. He’d led her to the room, removed her clothes, and stroked each inch of exposed skin until her entire body shimmered with desire. Kissing, nibbling, licking.

Even now, her body started to warm again at the memory. Then he’d firmly—gently—laid her on the cushion-covered floor and put his mouth—his mouth—between her legs. By the Mother’s Grace. Everything in her had spun out of control. By the time he’d settled himself over her, she needed him so desperately that when he’d thrust through her maidenhead, the sharp pain disappeared under the marvelous sensation of being filled.

Afterward, Gawain had held her as she shook. The room had held the scent of sex, of musky males, of her need—and her blood.

Blood. She’d bled.

As she’d started to panic, he’d quickly explained, although he’d been surprised her mother hadn’t taught her about such a basic fact of life.

Priscilla Cavanaugh hadn’t been much of a mother. Emma had grieved when her mother passed on to the Goddess, but her sense of loss had been even greater. All the chances to change their relationship had disappeared. She would never know a mother’s love or care.

Even as she pulled in a shuddering breath, she felt her body starting to arouse again. A full moon heat didn’t care about mourning or lost chances. Tonight, the physical ruled the mental, and her body was all about trying to mate, to become pregnant.

Why had no one ever told her about how overwhelming a Gathering could be? She gave a huff of a laugh. Who would have talked with her? The same mother who hadn’t explained what a first mating would entail? Hardly.

Her bard instructor hadn’t discussed Gatherings other than as a basis for songs. He was very old; maybe he’d forgotten the effect of a full moon on a shifter.

Sipping apple cider, she directed her mind to happier thoughts. After all, she now knew all about Gatherings, right? And she hadn’t been ignored, as she’d feared. A lot of the males had been interested in her. One werewolf had even complimented her on her size and wasn’t making fun of her or anything. She bit her lip. Of course, his appreciation might not extend past Gathering night when hormones ruled.

But, oh, it was exhilarating to be touched and treated like everyone else.

“Hey, Emma, you’re looking fine tonight.” The male’s tenor had a pretty resonance.

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