“I love you too much to stay.” ~Tiberius
Telling each other their true feelings could destroy the powerful friendship they have forged. But when their haunted past comes back to stalk them once again, love may be the only thing that saves them.
Kenzie Butler is in love with the man who saved her life eight years ago. Her problem? He’s a Siberian were-tiger with the ability to scent his mate, and she wasn’t it. For years they lived across the hall from each other, helping one another with the aftermath from being tortured in a science experiment gone wrong. With each passing day, she falls more in love with him, even while knowing that one day Tiberius will find his true mate.
Tiberius Petrov leads a shadowed life. Kenzie is the only thing standing between him and the gruesome fate awaiting any shifter who goes rogue. For eight years the sound of her voice, the sweet intoxication of her scent, and the soft feel of her skin have kept him from turning down darker paths. But he’d always believed she could never be his. His nose was supposed to tell him who his perfect mate is, but it lied. He didn’t know if it was possible to develop a mate scent. All he knew was one day Kenzie didn’t smell like his mate, and the next day she did. Even after her scent changed, she kept insisting they were perfect as just friends.
After Kenzie survives a mysterious were-bear attack in her place of work, Tiberius learns the scientists altered more than his state of mind. Just when he thought he could take Kenzie as his mate he discovers he could be the biggest threat to her life.
Secret Blood, Book 3
Every instinct screamed for him to get to her. The stench of blood and disease wafted through the automatic doors, but Tiberius Petrov ignored it. He already knew her exact location in the building, but he had to get through the human gatekeeper barring the way between the waiting room and the emergency department. He skidded to a stop in front of the information desk. “Mackenzie Butler. Please. I need to see her.”
The nurse typed the name into the computer and looked at him over the rim of her glasses. “You are?”
“Her boyfriend.” It was a lie, but the nurse didn’t need to know it. Getting to Kenzie without tearing apart the hospital brick by brick was his single-minded goal. Humans wouldn’t understand his need. His heart jackhammered against his ribs. Kenzie had been in the building covered by all the local news stations. A live bear had somehow gotten inside the Watts Specific Building where Kenzie worked and mauled several people. He’d already been on his way when he got the call from the Pittsburgh hospital.
The nurse’s eyes narrowed, and the line of her mouth hardened. “Someone is already back there using the title.”
Impossible. Kenzie didn’t currently have a boyfriend. He wasn’t going to fight with the woman as long as she told him where to find Kenzie. “Open relationship. Which room?”
Her brow hiked up. “Look, I’d love to help you, but the woman has been through enough trauma.”
“I’m Tiberius Petrov.” He racked his brain for a way to get in without killing anyone. Then he remembered what he could do, pulled his wallet out, and flipped it open to his driver’s license. “I’m her emergency contact.”
The nurse studied his ID and then looked at the computer screen. “Room fourteen.” She hit a large button on the wall behind her, and the double door separating the waiting room from the emergency ward opened. “Second hall, about—”
Tiberius didn’t hear the rest of what she had to say. He always knew where Kenzie was. His large size made it difficult not to run people over as he rushed through the hall. The energy to shift tingled through his body. He could prevent the unforgivable—shifting in public—if he could see with his own eyes she was safe. He got to the door and the odor of human male cologne hit his nose. He sneezed.
“I’m sorry. Who are you again?” Kenzie’s weak and trembling voice sounded through the open door.
Tiberius stilled with his hand poised to push back a curtain keeping the room private even when the door was open. He wanted to know what he was dealing with before he walked in on it.
“Phillip Macon,” the mystery man said. “I know you’ve had a traumatic experience, but it’s important for you to answer my questions.”
“You’re going to leave,” Kenzie said. “Maybe if you have a card, I can call you when my ears stop ringing?”
“You’ll be released into my custody, Miss Butler,” Phillip said. “I need to know what you saw.”
Tiberius didn’t know what kind of injuries Kenzie had, but he wasn’t about to let some human male take advantage of her. People weren’t released into other people’s custody from a hospital unless it was a criminal to the police. He shoved the curtain to the side.
“Sweetheart.” He didn’t bother to hide the worry in his voice. “My God!” He rushed to her side without looking at her. His temper was volatile on the best of days, and seeing whatever marks might be on Kenzie from her misadventure would only make it worse while dealing with a dick. “Thank you for staying with her until I got here. I can take it from here.”
The shorter man, at maybe an inch over six feet, glared at Tiberius with dark brown eyes. He was probably one of those assholes who used his looks to take advantage of women. Phillip took a step toward him. “I’m sorry; who are you?”
“None of your business. You can go now.” Tiberius failed to keep up the soft boyfriend farce. He straightened, dwarfing the man with his sheer size. “She asked you to leave. You can give me your card—or not—but you’re still leaving.”
Phillip opened his mouth, and then his eyes dragged over Tiberius standing between him and Kenzie. His mouth closed, and his hand dipped into his coat pocket and pulled out a business card. “Make sure she calls me. I don’t think the bear in her office building was an accident.”
Tiberius shoved the card into his pocket. “Go or I will make you.”
Phillip headed for the door. He tipped his head to Kenzie. “Call me soon.”
Tiberius went to the door and watched until Phillip rounded the corner before he felt brave enough to look at Kenzie. On a good day, she was a tiny person, but to be fair, at near seven feet in height, everyone was tiny to him. She sat on the hospital gurney in one of their gowns, looking even smaller and more vulnerable. Seeing the dark bruise running down the side of her face and her body trembling was so not good for him.
Ever since he and Kenzie had escaped the experiments in the laboratory of one Dr. Eckhart, Tiberius had trouble reacting rationally to normal, everyday types of traumas, and humans went to the hospital. Maybe not every day or because of a bear attack, but Kenzie was human and sometimes needed human doctors to make her better when she was hurt.
Kenzie was pinup-girl hot, with the curves to match. Dark wavy hair with a bold stripe of intense pink framed a beautiful face. Bright, fear-filled cobalt eyes stared up at him. Tiberius kept a tight rein on his temper. The hospital staff would not understand the sudden appearance of a Siberian tiger in an exam room. Seeing her like this played hell with his emotions, and if he wasn’t careful, he’d shift shape where he wasn’t supposed to do it.
He took a hesitant step toward her, before he forced himself to go stand at her side. Mixing Kenzie and danger never played well on his system. She was too important to him. They’d survived too much together, and it killed him he hadn’t been there to protect her when the world got scary. He caught the bright strand of hair between his fingers. “Hey, you.”
Her bottom lip quivered, and her eyes shone with tears, but she didn’t cry. Instead, she smiled. “Thank you.”
He pulled a chair over next to the gurney and sat down, taking her hand in his. He forced out the image concocted in his mind of a bear wanting to maul her. “How are you feeling?”
She scooted closer to him. “My head hurts. I have a concussion, but the doctor says if I have someone to watch me, I might be able to go home tonight.”
“I’ll clear my schedule. There are new rules about concussion care, right? You can’t do shit for six weeks or something.” He put down the rail on the bed and got as close to her as he could. If he could get away with it, he’d haul her onto his lap and just hold on until it was time to take her home. Instead, he slipped an arm around her and let her cuddle against his side. He’d never tell her how much he needed this closeness with her, but for now, he’d endure her intoxicating scent while she used him to calm her frayed nerves.
Kenzie let out a soft breath and turned her face into his chest. “It wasn’t just a bear. He was looking for something.”
“Okay,” he murmured against her hair. “I’ll handle it. You’re safe now. I won’t let any bears hurt you.”
He could feel her fear, and he wished he could do more than hold her, but he couldn’t go there with her. Not yet. They needed to talk. He didn’t know how to tell her she’d gone from friend to mate, and now wasn’t the time to discuss it. Instead, he did the only thing he could do for her. Hold her until she once again felt safe.
They stayed wrapped around each other for forty-five minutes until the doctor came in. The woman cocked her head to the side and gave Tiberius an appreciative smile before she pulled up the stool and sat on the other side of Kenzie’s bed. She smiled up at Tiberius. “Hello, I’m Dr. Evans. I just went over Mackenzie’s scans, and everything looks good. I’m willing to let her go home as long as there is someone there to watch her for twenty-four to forty-eight hours.”
“She’ll stay with me,” Tiberius said. “I work from home, so it won’t be a problem.”
“Good,” the doctor said. “I am giving her a prescription for pain meds for the next two days, and I want her to make an appointment with her primary care physician. I’ll go get the paperwork started for her release. She can get dressed now.”
Kenzie shook the doctor’s hand and then went limp against Tiberius. “My shirt is bloody. Not my blood, but I don’t want to take it home.”
Tiberius made sure she was stable on the bed before he hunted down the plastic bag that would have her clothes in it. The bloody shirt wasn’t in it. He pulled his shirt off and handed it to her along with the plastic bag. “I’ll be in the hall if you need help.”
She stared at his chest. “It’s freezing outside.”
“And I have a coat. You’re not walking out of this hospital in just a bra.”
Her face screwed up in irritation. “Where is your coat?”
He grinned. “In the truck.”
She snorted. “What about asking if I can just wear the gown as a shirt home?”
“Put on my shirt,” he insisted. “The temperature is just at freezing; it’s not cold enough out there to hurt me.”
She let out a little sigh and then pulled the shirt on over her head. “Please don’t leave me.”
He clenched his jaw. “I’m not going anywhere.” He watched her wiggle around in his giant shirt to take off the hospital gown. She tossed it out the bottom before poking her head out through the top and her arms out of the sleeves. She held the wide neck of the shirt collar closed, grabbed the plastic bag, and pulled out a black pair of dress slacks. Kenzie was the master of dressing in front of other people without revealing a thing, or maybe it was just him she liked to tease with a hint of silky soft skin he wanted to touch.
He cleared his throat and turned his head. Fucking hellcats! He was a damn fool. Over the last few years, he’d managed to land himself in the middle of the friend zone. His traitorous body, reacting to her scent, didn’t care that some kind of bear—shifter or natural—had traumatized her.
His attention snapped back to her. She wobbled on one leg as she tried to put on another high heel. He growled and walked over to her. Her little body still trembled. Without a word, he scooped her up and set her on the gurney. “Stay,” he ordered and went in search of the little weird socks hospitals gave out to keep feet warm. He found a pair in a cabinet above the sink. “Put those on. I’ll carry you out. No point in you getting a twisted ankle on top of everything else.”
The look on her face tore at him. He’d seen the fear and a bone-deep weariness in her amazing eyes too many times in the past. Strain built between them, and the uncertainty in her cobalt eyes was almost too much for him to take. She broke off eye contact and took off the shoes she had struggled to put on. With trembling hands, Kenzie tried unsuccessfully to work the socks he had handed her onto her foot.
Tiberius pulled up the chair, sat down, and took her delicate foot in his hand. “Let me help you. You have a head injury, and I can only imagine the meltdown you’re going to have the second we get home.”
“The mother of all meltdowns,” she confirmed. “Your hands are warm.”
“Of course they are. I run hot.” He winked and worked the other sock on her remaining bare foot.
“I know you do.” There was an odd hitch to her voice. “I’m cold.”
Then he wished he’d remembered his damn coat. The weather teetered at freezing. Not cold enough it would affect him, but more than enough it could be dangerous for her. “I’d offer to get my coat for you, but—” He shrugged. “You know how I am.”
She shook her head, and a ghost of a smile curved her mouth. “I do. Nothing is going to make you leave.” She slipped her hand into his. “And I am not going to argue about your quirks right now.” Her lower jaw quivered. “I swear that bear was looking for me.”
“Shh,” he murmured. “I’m bigger than any bear out there.”
“I know.” Her voice cracked, and then she burrowed into his side. “But you weren’t there.”
He closed his eyes and held her. On a logical level, he knew he couldn’t be everywhere, and she knew it too, but it didn’t stop the fear she was feeling now. “I’m here now, and I’ll have the bear checked out.”
There was a knock, and then the curtain moved. A nurse stuck her head in. “Hi. You’re all set to leave just as soon as you sign this.”
Kenzie pulled away from Tiberius and took the clipboard and pen. She signed the paper, and the nurse gave her a copy of everything. “This last one is your pain prescription, and you’re ready to go home.”
“Thank you.” Tiberius took the papers, tri-folded them, and shoved them into his back pocket. He turned to Kenzie and brushed the back of his knuckles down the colored streak of pink hair nestled in a sea of mocha chocolate. “Ready?”
Her nose scrunched up, and then she bobbed her head. Tiberius bent down and scooped her up into his arms while she clutched her bag of designer shoes to her chest. He rested his cheek against her hair for a moment before he walked out. People in the halls whispered about the sight he was sure they made as he carried her to the entrance of the hospital.
Phillip Macon was standing by the information desk. “There she is. If you’ll excuse me.”
He followed them out to the truck, babbling at them about needed information. Tiberius ignored him as he strapped Kenzie into the passenger seat. He put his key in the ignition and started it, and then wrapped his coat around her. He locked and closed the door before turning on the bastard. “I have your card, asshole. Unless you have a badge, I don’t have to make her do a goddamned thing for you.”
Confusion furrowed Phillip’s brow. “Are you cold?”
Tiberius snorted. “I’m frozen. I should go where there is heat.” Without saying another word he got in the truck and backed out of the space before turning to Kenzie, “I don’t want you alone with him.”
The magic is in their DNA.
Check out other Secret Blood Novels.