"I talked to Sawney today."
Ricardo ‘Ricky’ de Luca stilled, his fingers spreading as soil slid through them. His heart pounded hard causing his chest to ache. It had been so long since he had heard that name or allowed himself to even think of the man that haunted his dreams for so very long.
"He asked about you."
Ricky swallowed roughly. "Yeah?" His voice sounded worn. He was tired. It took too much energy most days to merely function. He didn’t have the strength to do more than that. He certainly didn’t have the strength to give into the desires that constantly ate away at his control.
Only when he was asleep and his guard was down were his desires strong enough to break through the wall he had frantically built around himself just so that he could survive to breathe another moment.
"He wanted to know how you were."
Ricky turned his head until he could see the vivid pink flowers on his sister’s skirt. She did so love wearing the brightest colors she could find. "What did you tell him?"
Maria shrugged. "What was there to tell him?" Maria’s voice was sour, bitter, yet resigned. "You wake up. You play with your plants. You go to bed. Sometimes in between you eat, but not nearly enough. There wasn’t much else to tell."
"Whatever." Maria turned and started back toward the door of the greenhouse. She paused at the doorway, glancing back over her shoulder, her angelic face lined with worry. "I love you, Ricky. You know that. But I’m tired of watching you fade away to nothing. If you want to continue to kill yourself, you’re on your own. I’m going to go stay with Aunt Clara."
"No, wait, I…Maria, please!" Pure, unadulterated panic shot through Ricky’s system like a run-away freight train heading for broken track. He needed Maria. He couldn’t function without her. She was the only bright spot in his life, the only reason he continued to draw in breath. Without her…"Maria, you can’t—"
Maria’s caramel-colored eyes were suspiciously bright and glossy when she replied, "I can and I am. Call me when you decide to come back to the land of the living."
Maria turned and walked away before Ricky could find the words to reply. When he finally did, they came out in a soft cry that slowly turned to heart wrenching sobs that shook Ricky’s body until his muscles seized and he finally collapsed on the ground.
Hours passed, moments ticking by at a snail’s pace. Time came and went. The sun rose, light filtering through glass panes high up on the roof of the greenhouse. Darkness eventually settled over the valley, blanketing the sky with points of light a million miles away and still Ricky lay on the ground, unmoving.
He had nothing to move for. Maria was gone. Sawney Marshall was beyond his reach. His mother had been gone for more years than he cared to remember. Only his loneliness and despair remained, clinging to Ricky like a second skin. It never left him, always holding on, permeating his every move, his every thought.
He had nothing but the stars in the night sky to keep him company until he faded into nothingness. It shouldn’t take too long. He was practically dead already and had been for months. His body just hadn’t gotten the message yet.
"Come on, baby." Gentle hands reached for Ricky, pulling him off the ground, cradling him close to a wide muscular chest wrapped tightly in a black cotton T-shirt. A loose tendril of hair on Ricky’s cheek was lightly fingered. "Time for you to come home."
Ricky inclined his head in compliance, turning his face until his lips brushed against warm skin that tasted of musk and man and everything right in the world. He inhaled deeply letting Sawney’s strong scent invade his senses and sink into his soul. Sawney’s hands were rough on his sore body yet gave Ricky a sense of protection he hadn’t felt in forever.
He tilted his head back to gaze up into eyes that had the ability to steal every thought from his head. Sawney’s dark smoky blue eyes were startling against his golden skin and thick coal black hair. There were touches of humor lines around his mouth and near his eyes. He was even more stunningly virile than ever.
"Sawney," he whispered on a slip of sound, wanting, needy as he rubbed his face against Sawney’s skin.
"I’m here, baby."
Ricky wiped his tear-stained cheeks with the back of his hand. He wasn’t wiping away the evidence of his breakdown. It was too late for that. Everyone knew he was fragile, on the verge of falling off the edge of reality and never coming back. He was strung too tight, his emotions chaotic and out of control. But his cheeks were cold.
Sawney stood, lifting Ricky’s slight from his arms. There was a disgruntled twist to his lips that spoke of his displeasure in how skinny Ricky had become. Sawney didn’t make a sound, though. He simply headed for the door of the greenhouse, the same door Maria had exited hours earlier.
"Oh, Sawney, I can’t—what if—" God, he was terrified. The thick emotion consumed him.
Sawney’s dark eyebrows slanted into a frown, a muscle flicking angrily in his jaw. "Let me take care of everything, Ricky."
He always had.
Ricky remembered the moment he became Sawney’s obsession. He had been nineteen, a young man just learning about life. Sawney had been a beautiful man from the neighboring pride, meant for things far greater than Ricky.
Sawney had been on a mission for his alpha. Ricky had been working at his part time job at the local general grocers. He had been sweeping the walkway in front of the small brick building when Sawney pulled up on his motorcycle. He had sat there and looked around, the king of all he surveyed.
And then his smoky blue eyes had landed on Ricky, and Ricky’s world changed forever. The heat that had instantly ignited in Sawney’s eyes singed Ricky to the bone. He still had the scars, at least on the inside. They were burned into the very fiber of his being.
"I’m tired, Sawney." He could barely lift his eyelids to look up at Sawney. It took effort, energy, and he had just enough left to cling to Sawney, curling his fingers around the man’s shirt.
"I know, Ricky." Sawney’s chest began to rumble, a deep purr filling the air, cocooning Ricky in its soft welcoming sound. "Close your eyes and rest. I’ll keep you safe."
"No one can keep me safe."
And therein lay his problem.
"You could touch me now…" Ricky stared at Sawney with such longing that it took his breath away. "If you want to, I mean."
"Is that what you want, Ricky?" He would never do anything that would make Ricky uncomfortable.
"I just want to be yours." Ricky’s voice was a mere whisper.
"Hey." Sawney grabbed Ricky’s chin and tilted his mate's head back. "You are mine, Ricky. You’ve always been mine and no power on Earth will ever change that."
Ricky’s eyes dropped, and then darted back up. Every time their eyes met, Sawney’s heart turned over in response. Ricky looked so nervous, the slow lick of his lips giving Sawney sensual fantasies that made his cock hard and aching.
"Does that mean you don’t want to touch me?" The smoldering flame Sawney saw in Ricky’s eyes startled him.
Sawney knew he needed to be careful with Ricky, but at the same time he wanted to devour the man. Ricky was everything Sawney had ever wanted in his life and hadn’t known he wanted until the man stood right in front of him. Since that first day, Sawney had never even envisioned being with anyone else. His world revolved around Ricky and finding a way to bring him home.
"Oh, Ricky, you have no idea how much I want you, but—"
Ricky pressed his fingers against Sawney’s lips. "No buts," he said in a voice that trembled. "Just kiss me."
Sawney groaned as he sank his fingers into Ricky’s honey brown curls and tiled his head up, his tongue tracing the soft fullness of Ricky’s lips.
Sawney slanted his mouth over Ricky’s, trying his best to devour the man. He gently pressed into Ricky, becoming familiar again with the sexy mouth he'd been dreaming about for the last several months.
Ricky’s hard cock pressed against him as he took the man’s lips in a kiss rife with need. His own cock jerked in anticipation. He couldn’t seem to get enough of Ricky. He wanted to consume him. He was delighted with Ricky’s eager response when their tongues slid together and tangled.
Ricky whimpered when Sawney lifted his head. As much as he wanted to go on kissing his mat, he had other plans for the gorgeous little man.
Sawney watched Ricky’s eyes widen and then fill with delight as he lifted his shirt and pulled it over his head. Ricky inhaled a shaky breath, his eyes riveted on Sawney’s chest.
Sawney grinned as he grabbed Ricky’s hand and brought it to his chest, pressing the palm against his hot skin. "You can touch me as well, angel."
The soft stroke of Ricky’s fingers on his flesh sent pleasant jolts through Sawney. He held his breath and stood still as Ricky explored, moving from his collarbone down to the gentle swell of his pectoral muscles, and then to his nipples. The little buds firmed instantly, shivers of delight following Ricky’s touch.
"You’re so strong," Ricky whispered absently as his fingers moved over Sawney’s muscular chest. His eyes dropped to his own thin pale chest. "I’m not—"
"You’re perfect," Sawney argued.
Ricky gasped when Sawney cupped his face, pulling it toward his once again. Sawney’s eyes locked onto Ricky’s luscious lips. They were perfectly made for kissing, they were made for him.
Sawney’s hands slid up Ricky’s sides, and then wrapped around him, pulling his body closer as he pressed their lips together. Ricky opened, allowing Sawney’s tongue to do whatever the hell it wanted.
A moan of ecstasy slipped through his lips as their body rubbed against each other, the friction maddening, and not nearly enough. Sawney’s hands slid down Ricky’s body to the buttons of his pants. The sound of a zippered being lowered ricocheted through the small bathroom like a shot.
Sawney lifted his head and stared down into Ricky’s caramel-colored eyes. What passed between them in that moment was more than desire. Sawney could see his soul reflected in Ricky’s smoldering eyes. There was an awareness there, a deep connection that seared Sawney and inflamed him.
"Love you, Ricardo."
Ricky’s eyes shone bright in the pale bathroom light, slowly beginning to shimmer with unshed tears. "Don’t ever stop," he murmured on a broken breath. "Please don’t ever stop."
Sawney trailed a knuckle over the soft skin along the curve of Ricky’s cheekbone. "Promise."
A weary sob fell from Ricky’s lips as he reached for Sawney. The cold knot that had formed in Sawney’s stomach six years ago when he realized he couldn’t claim his mate, slowly unfurled and faded away as he drew Ricky into his arms.
"I’ll always love you, angel," Sawney whispered against Ricky’s neck. He couldn’t conceive of ever not loving Ricky. The man had held his heart for so long, he couldn’t remember when it didn’t belong to Ricky.
Sawney lifted Ricky then set him on his feet. He unzipped his pants and pushed them down his legs, Ricky stepping out of them. When Ricky covered his groin with his hand, Sawney shook his head, dropping to his knees.
"Nu uh, sweetness, this is mine now."
Ricky’s face flamed red as he slowly dropped his hands back to his side.
Sawney inhaled a shaky breath. "I’ve felt it through your pants, babe, but I never really got a good look at it. That is one damn impressive cock you have there."
Ricky’s thick erection stood proud, jutting out of a nest of honey colored curls like it was waving hello. Just on a hunch, Sawney reached up and encircled the wide girth with his hand.
"Damn, baby." His fingers didn’t touch. Ricky wasn’t terribly long but he more than made up for that in thickness. "I can wait to feel this beautiful thing pound my ass."
Ricky gasped, his eyes growing wide. "You’d let me—"
Sawney cupped the side of Ricky’s face. "You’re my mate. I’d let you do anything." In fact, he looked forward to it. Before he met Ricky, no one had gotten into his ass, but he was starting to believe he had just been saving himself for his mate. "You’ll be my first."
Ricky’s cock jerked.
Sawney grinned. "You like that idea, don’t you?"
The blush in Ricky’s face deepened. "Maybe."