Tangle of Need

By: Nalini Singh

Her hand fisted, that nerve far too close to the surface.

A year.

It had been a year since she’d shared intimate skin privileges, a rawly painful kind of isolation for a predatory changeling in the prime of her life. Even before then, things had been fragmenting for a long time, her wolf starved of affection. But she’d been handling it, handling the broken pieces inside of her, until Riaz and the raging storm of a sudden, visceral sexual attraction that gripped her in its claws and shook, until she could barely think.

“If we’re throwing stones,” she said, protecting herself by going on the offensive, “I’m not the only one who prefers a cold bed.” Riaz was a highly eligible male—the fact he’d taken no lovers was a point of irritation with the SnowDancer women who wanted nothing better than to tussle with him. “Maybe that’s why you’re such a prick.”

Riaz’s snarl was low, rolling over her skin with the power of his dominance. Wrenching the wheel, he brought the SUV to a stop on the side of the road. “I’ve had it.” He pinned her with his gaze. “What the hell is your problem with me?”

Chapter 2

“DRIVE,” SHE SAID, almost ready to crawl out of her skin with the need to rip off his T-shirt and use her teeth on all that hot, firm muscle. “Mack is waiting for us.”

“He can wait a few more minutes.” Eyes that were no longer in any way human slammed into hers. “You’ve had a hard-on for me since you transferred to the den. I want to know why.”

Gut twisting, she snapped off her safety belt and pushed open her door to step out into the cold mountain air, summer a distant memory this far up. The chill did nothing to cool the fever in her blood, the need ravaging her body, a need that threatened to make her a slave when she’d finally found freedom.

Desperate, she focused on the majesty of her surroundings in an effort to fight the tumult within, her wolf clawing at the inside of her skin in violent repudiation of her choice to back off. In front of her lay tumbled glacial rocks, huge and imposing, beyond them the rich, deep green of the firs that dominated this area. Above it all was a sky so blue it hurt.


The slam of a door, followed by the thud of boots on the earth shattered her fragile attempt at control, and then Riaz was standing in front of her. Suddenly her view was hard muscle and implacable strength, the wild, dark scent of him in her every inhalation.

“We are not leaving,” he said, his skin caressed by the sunlight that gilded his hair a gleaming blue-black, “until we work this out.”

Feeling trapped, suffocated, she shoved at his chest and slipped out to stand beside the car rather than with her back to it. “Don’t you put all the blame on me.” Fighting back was instinct, her internal composure shattered. “You’ve been picking at me since the day I was pulled into the den.”

He growled, and the rough sound rasped over her skin, wrapped around her throat. “Self-fucking-defense. You took one look at me and decided you hated my guts. I want to know why.”

Jesus, Adria thought, how had she gotten herself into this? She wasn’t this woman who couldn’t control her words, her thoughts. She was calm, stable, sensible, had been the levelheaded pivot for her friends when they’d all been hormone-fueled teenagers. She was the one who’d talked them down from the adrenaline-induced ledge she was now riding.

“Look,” she said, making the conscious decision to wrench herself back before her frustrated wolf took control and she found herself feasting on male lips currently thin with anger, “it’s nothing personal. I’m generally a bitch.” According to Martin, she was one with a stone heart.

Riaz snorted. “Nice try, but I’ve seen you with others in the pack.” He took another step toward her, invading her space and her senses, the scent of the forest serrated with a sharper edge that was pure furious wolf. “I’ve even seen you smile. How about you crack open one for me?” Eyes of dark gold drilled into hers.

Hell if she was going to allow him to walk all over her. “Get out of my face.”

“You sure you want me to?” he asked, a dangerous angle to his jaw. “Maybe the reason you react like a hissing cat around me is because you want me even closer.”

She sucked in a breath.

Riaz’s eyes widened.

“Damn.” It was a wondering statement.

A fraction of an instant later, strong, rough-skinned hands cupped her face, a voracious mouth slamming down on her own, the potent scent of aroused male and the exotic, luscious taste of citrus and bitter chocolate flooding her senses.

Adria froze for a second before her touch-starved body took over, her wolf clawing to the surface. Grabbing at his shoulders, she devoured that sensual, demanding mouth, tangling her tongue with his, licking and sucking. When he hitched her up with a single powerful move, she wrapped her legs around his waist and let him slam her against the door of the rugged all-terrain vehicle. He tasted as sexy and dangerous and infuriating as he looked, one big hand thrusting into her hair, the other gripping her hip.

Parts of her body that had been in cold storage for a lot longer than a year sparked to wakefulness, hungry and wild and more than a little feral. Riaz growled when she drew blood with her claws on his nape, only to deepen the kiss, shoving the hand on her hip under her shirt to close over her breast and squeeze.