Winter’s Quest by Anne Kane

Winter's Quest by Anne Kane

Winter’s Quest

Mercenaries, Book 4

by Anne Kane

Changeling Press

Ebook ISBN: 07657-02469

[ Futuristic Romance, MF ]

Trace isn’t sure why Winter is so hung up on her past but if she plans on chasing all over the nine provinces looking for answers then it’s up to him to make sure she stays safe. And, while they’re spending all that quality time together, maybe he can convince her that he’s more than just a convenient sex partner.

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Chapter One


Two weeks prior

“Hey, soldier boy. Want a drink?” Winter tossed a can of beer at the big mercenary they called Trace. She’d been watching him for a while now, admiring the way he moved and the way his tight shirt clung to his massive chest when he stood still.

A lot to admire in that package. She wet her lips with the tip of her tongue. Definitely a lot to admire. She’d been celibate much too long.

Trace plucked the can out of mid-air as if he were used to having things tossed in his direction in the dim light of a bonfire. “Thanks. Don’t mind if I do.” Popping the tab, he took a long pull on the brew, his eyes appraising her with a disarming frankness. “So, you come here often?”

Winter burst out laughing. He certainly was direct. “Is that the best pickup line you’ve got?”

The big mercenary grinned, taking a seat on one of the many old stumps scattered around the fire. “I’m not much of a ladies’ man. My pickup lines are all a bit rough.”

“I’m not much of a lady so I guess that makes us about even.” Winter grabbed another beer and made her way over to sit on a stump beside Trace.

Now that Saralyn and Brice had decided to introduce a group of mercenaries into their midst, she realized how just how long she’d been celibate. Hiding secrets had a way of discouraging much in the way of intimacy, and her suspicious nature didn’t help either.

One look at Trace had rekindled familiar warmth in her gut, though. Lust. Need. Want. It didn’t really matter what kind of label you put on it, there was only one way to defuse the heat building deep inside her. The only decision she needed to make was whether she made the first move, or sat demurely waiting for Trace to notice her.

Patience wasn’t her strong suit.

Opening her beer, she tipped her head back and took a healthy swig. “So, Brice says you guys are a standup bunch, don’t side with the Alliance much.”

Trace shrugged. “The Military Alliance doesn’t hold any attraction for guys like us. We were on the wrong side of the Provincial wars, and most of us lost everything we cared about either during the wars, or afterward when the Alliance took over. Kind of took all the fun out of things. Nowadays, we only take on contracts we feel are worth fighting for. We make enough to survive on, and not much else but that’s okay. We don’t need a lot and we watch each other’s back. Kind of like what you gals do for each other.”

So he knew about her and her sisters. They weren’t blood relatives. They were much closer than that. They’d been to hell and back together, and they didn’t plan on making a return trip.

“You got a girl waiting for you to come home tonight?”

He raised one brow. “Not very subtle, are you?”

She shrugged. “I don’t hunt in another woman’s forest.”

“And you plan on doing some hunting tonight?”

She gave him her most seductive smile. “Already have. Just haven’t closed on in for the kill shot yet. I’m waiting to see if there’s a brand on the critter.”

His blue eyes twinkled with a mixture of laughter and lust. “Can’t say as any woman’s bothered to lay claim to me. Yet.”

“Well then.” Winter stood and held out her hand. “Can I interest you in a private tour of a lovely clearing in the forest? It features a soft mossy floor and enough privacy for whatever strikes our fancy.”

Trace took the offered hand. “Love to. I don’t get to see a lot of clearings in my line of work. I’ll just need to let the Sarge know I’m going to pull a disappearing act. He’s a bit of a worrywart, you know?”

She nodded. “The best leaders are. I’ll tip off a couple of my sisters, and meet you at the North edge of the pit.”

Trace nodded, and pulled her in close. Lowering his head, he seared a kiss across her lips that scorched her to the very core. Damn. Either she was way more desperate than she’d realized, or he was one talented kisser. Maybe a bit of both?

Trace raised her hand to his lips, teasing the center of her palm with the tip of his tongue. Waggling his eyebrows he gave her the sexiest grin she’d ever seen. “I can’t wait to see your little clearing.”

* * *

“So what do you think?” Winter swept her arm in a wide arc to encompass the entire clearing.

Trace gave the forest glade the briefest of glances. “It’s everything you said, but not nearly as lovely as the woman at my side.”

Pulling her into his embrace, he reclaimed her lips, giving her the kind of kiss a man gives a woman when he intends to make sure she is supremely satisfied with him. It involved lips and tongue and a lot of passion. He might not be the most cultured guy around but he did what he did with enthusiasm.

Winter surprised him by taking over the kiss, winding her arms around his neck and sliding her tongue along the side of his in an erotic duel that set his blood on fire. She kissed him with a fierce intensity that took his breath away. He’d never met a woman so honest about her sexuality before, one who was comfortable making the first move and asking for what she wanted. He felt a strange sense of connection to her, had since he’d first seen her earlier this evening. There was something about the way she carried herself, the self-confident way she strode amongst her sisters, that touched a chord somewhere deep inside him.

Hell, maybe he had a heart after all. Wouldn’t that surprise the guys!

He felt her hands go to the waist of his jeans, fumbling with the buckle on his belt, and he suddenly found it hard to think about much of anything except how very much he wanted the woman in his arms.

Winter made short work of both the belt and the fastenings on his jeans, and then her fingers touched his shaft, exploring the length before pulling it free of his underwear and cupping his balls.

Damn, she definitely wasn’t shy.

He pushed her shirt up, not surprised to find that she didn’t wear a bra. Her breasts were small and pert, the nipples tilted up to the sky. They fit in his hands just perfectly, and the feel of her naked skin against his palms sent a curl of lustful heat right through him.

She let go of him long enough to pull the shirt over her head and throw it carelessly to the ground, and he took advantage of the time to rid himself of the rest of his clothes. He didn’t intend this to be one of those hurried encounters where both participants kept half their clothing on in anticipation of a quick departure. Hell no. When he was done with Winter she wouldn’t forget him come morning.

Winter sucked in an audible breath as the metal zipper on his pants clanked noisily against a rock on the ground. Her gaze locked on his groin and he felt himself grow even larger under her eager scrutiny.

“Damn, you are one fine specimen of a man.” A single step brought her to his side and then she was touching him everywhere. His chest. His hips. His buttocks. She wrapped her thumb and forefinger around his cock and traced its length.

Trace let out a breath he hadn’t been aware of holding. He wasn’t going to last long if she kept this up. Grasping her hands, he pulled them up to rest on his chest, while he lowered his head to suck in one delightfully pink nipple. Scooping her up in his arms, he laid her gently on the moss-covered ground.

The earthy damp moss and rocks vied with Winter’s unique scent to tease Trace’s highly developed sense of smell. He inhaled deeply, his eyes closed as he stored her scent away for future reference. One of the upsides to all the experimental DNA spliced into his was an almost canine ability to recognize people by smell. He’d know Winter anywhere.

She shivered delicately in his arms. She felt small in his embrace, small and very curvy. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, Winter was all woman.

“Trace?” Her voice came out a husky whisper.

“Yeah?”

“You going to just lay there all night or are you going to make love to me?”

He felt a hint of a smile curve his lips, and he lowered his head with slow deliberation until his lips hovered right beside her ear.

“I’m going to make love to you until you beg me to stop, darling, and then I’m going to make love to some more.”

“Good.” She wrapped her arms around him, scoring her fingernails down his back in a slow sensuous tease. “‘Because right now I need me some loving real bad.”

Trace slid his hand down across her belly to cup her mound. He could feel the wet heat emanating from her sex. She was ready for him, more than ready. Shifting positions, he straddled her hips, resting his weight on his forearms. Reaching down between them, he parted the soft folds guarding the entrance to her sex and positioned himself to enter.

Brushing the hair away from her face, he stared down into her gorgeous eyes. They were the color of new leaves on a tree in the spring, and right now they were glazed with lust. He felt so incredibly powerful and yet at the same time so very humble. She didn’t even know him, but here she lay trembling beneath him, trusting him with her very being. “I have no idea what I did to deserve you, but I’m thankful to whatever quirk of fate led you to me tonight. You are so beautiful.”

He kept his gaze locked on her and gave one powerful thrust of his hips, burying himself balls deep in her slick heat. Her tight sheath surrounded him immediately, gripping him, making him feel welcome. “I intend to make you so happy you’ll keep coming back for more.”

A mischievous twinkle shone through the heat in her eyes. “Give it your best shot, mercenary.”

Heat flared through him, dark and edgy. He’d never felt like this before with any female — this burning lust, this aching desire. He rotated his hips, grinding himself deeper inside her delicious warmth. “You got it, darling!”

“You’re so damn big,” she whispered softly. “I can feel every inch of that cock of yours.”

“It’s all for you.” Trace circled his hips in a slow tease. Lust flared along every nerve, building up speed as erotic heat gathered deep inside him, urging him to move ever faster. He gritted his teeth, forcing himself to slow down. He wanted this first time to be one of many, and rushing it wasn’t going to help his case.

Winter matched him thrust for thrust, her inner walls gripping at him with every stroke. She let out a choked scream, signaling the start of her orgasm. Her sex clamped down hard on his shaft, and he thrust one last time as his own orgasm swept over him, carrying him along in a tidal wave of feeling more intense than anything he’d ever experienced.

Rolling to his side, he collapsed beside her, too spent to hold himself up. He wrapped his warm arms around her, holding her close. She murmured softly, but he couldn’t make out the words. It didn’t matter. She sounded satisfied.

He didn’t know how to describe how he felt about Winter. It had been a long time since he’d bothered to care if he’d satisfied his partner.

Of course, once she learned the truth about him, she’d probably run screaming for the city guards.

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