The woman who could terrify him with one narrowed expression of her pretty blue eyes. He was a grizzly shifter, for crying out loud. Next in line to become Alpha of the Estes Park Pack. He didn’t back down from anything, run from anything, or fear any—
“How do you expect me to get in this thing?”
Well, maybe he feared one small human with a perfect baby belly, looking at him like he was the biggest of idiots.
Allie stood back with her hands on her hips, her upper lip curled as Dax proudly displayed the extra-wide, extra-deep clawfoot bathtub he’d just installed. It was a modern take on an old classic with the pretty lines of an original mixed with four body massaging jets and inset LED lights at the bottom that changed color and made the water glow. There was even a built-in diffuser for essential oils that sprayed a relaxing mist over the water. The claw feet and legs were made of black and white marble. He’d had them custom made because his mate loved the similar countertops in their kitchen.
The disgruntled expression on her face suggested maybe he’d screwed up. So much for her super early Valentine’s Day gift.
“Uh, well, you put one leg over and in, and then the other.”
Her lips pulled all the way to the side as she turned fully toward him and pointedly jutted her very pregnant belly at him.
“I can’t tie my shoes, Dax. How the hell do you expect me to get in there?”
The tub was special order that he’d intended to have ready in February for the actual holiday, but the artisan had a much earlier opening and Dax grabbed it. Allie worked long hours at her business Sticky Sweet Bakery—too long most days considering she was carrying twin cubs—and she was completely drained by evening. She loved baths, so getting the tub sooner had been a no brainer.
He grinned, trying to diffuse her irritation.
“I could build you a ramp, like the ones people use so their old dogs to get on the bed.”
He knew the moment the words passed his lips that he was in for it. Damn it. Moving in quick, he took her by the upper arms and rubbed gently. “I’m kidding, Allie. I’m kidding. You’re my woman. I’m going to fill this tub and add the bath salts that you love. I’m going to light a few candles, get you some snacks. And then I’m going to strip you naked…”
Her eyes lit up.
“And I’m going to lift you in my arms, put you in the tub, and not bother you for an entire hour.”
She hitched one brow. “Only an hour?”
Dax kissed her forehead, relieved that she’d relaxed some. Maybe he was off the hook. “I can’t stand to be away from you longer than that.”
“Oh, bull!” She laughed and playfully pushed at him. “It’ll be supper time in an hour. How convenient, Dax.”
He put his hands up, palms out. “I’m capable of feeding us. I’m ordering Chinese.”
“We live on top of a mountain. No one delivers this far.”
She had a point. Their mountain home was miles from Estes Park. But he had a backup plan.
“I’ve got it taken care of, don’t worry.”
“You bribed Jett with donuts from my bakery to stop by with the food, didn’t you?”
Nothing got past her. His brother passed by their place on his way home anyway, so a little bribe was worth it to get him to drop off food on his way. Dax’s stomach grumbled.
Taking her by the shoulders, Dax turned her and walked her into their bedroom. She sighed as she spotted the huge bed. His body lit up with a different kind of hunger. She wore a red bandana tied around her curly hair, a loose ponytail coming apart from the band. Working the knot of the bandana, Dax frees it, and it flutters to the floor. He removed the hair band next and slid his fingers into the hair at her temples. Allie moaned, her body going soft.
Slowly threading his fingers through her hair, he massaged her scalp and combed the strands until they fell loose around her shoulders.
“Ugh, you’re so good at that.”
Her neck loosened, her shoulders relaxed, as she lightly rolled her head in time with his movements. Working his hands down her neck, he massaged the stips of muscle between her neck and shoulders, then slid his palms down her sides to grip the hem of her oversized tee-shirt. Tugging it up and off her body, he slid her leggings down next. Allie gripped his shoulders and stepped out of the pants. Her ripe, beautiful body set him completely on fire.
Fill the tub. Get the snacks. Light the candles.
Stick to the plan, man.
He mentally detoured the words to his cock, but it definitely wasn’t listening.
Allie licked her lips and glanced down. Slowly reaching a hand to his hip, she slid it down and gripped his erection over his jeans.
“You promised me a bath in that beautiful tub,” she purred. “And you promised me food.”
A groan squeezed from his throat. “I can’t help it. You’re hot.”
“I’m the size of a shed.”
“I know and I love it.”
Taking her belly between his hands, Dax crouched and kissed her bellybutton. His cubs were growing in there and it took his breath away every time he thought about being a father. Not long ago, he nearly lost that ability because he’d waited too long to claim a mate. No woman had been the perfect match until Allie and her sweet bakery came along.
He knew the moment he saw her that she’d be his. It just took some convincing, and a few hundred cupcakes before she realized they were fated mates.
“You’re ridiculous.” Her attempt at chastising him fell flat as he gently pushed her onto the edge of the bed and looped his hands around her back to unsnap her bra. Allie quickly crossed an arm over her breasts.
“If you take this off me, I’ll never get that bath. I’ll do it.”
She tipped her pretty face up with an amused grin. She’s had a point.
“Fine. Stay here until I tell you when it’s ready.”
Allie moved up the mattress, sat back against the pillows and closed her eyes. She’d be asleep in no time if he didn’t hurry.
Back in the bathroom, he opened the windows to let in the warm breeze. Leaves rustled from the oak trees outside and wafted a sweet and earthy scent into the room as he filled the tub. He dripped citrus oil into the diffuser, added Allie’s favorite bath salts, and arranged the over-the-tub wooden tray he’d had made to fit the tub.
Then he set out the snacks he’d stashed earlier. Sugar free chocolate muffins with fudge frosting, raspberries, salty chips, and the seltzer water she drank by the vat. His chest expanded as he looked at his handiwork. Allie had done so much for him, and it made him happy to pamper her.
To his surprise, she was still awake when he fetched her from the bed. Grabbing her silky pink robe from the edge of the bed, he helped her sit up and slipped it around her shoulders. The loosened bra slipped down her arms and his breath hitched as he got a full look at her perfect breasts. She pulled the fabric together and wagged a finger at him.
“Dax,” she warned. “Bath first.”
“You make it really hard to control myself.”
Dipping his head, he took her lips. She always tasted so damn sweet. Leaning into him, her breasts touched his chest. Her nipples pebbled beneath the thin fabric, pressing into him and jacking his desire. He lightly cupped her breast, but she slapped his hand away.
Pulling away with an agonized groan, he suddenly remembered that he’d left the box of chocolates he’d bought her in the kitchen downstairs.
“Go, get in the tub. I have to grab one thing.”
She’d been so careful with her diet since finding out she was expecting, but she’d been craving caramel nut clusters from the chocolatier in town. He’d bought her a four pack so she wouldn’t feel guilty about eating them all.
She smiled and sat up. “Okay, okay. I’m going.”
Trotting down the double staircase, he was just about to the landing when he Allie shrieked his name.
“Dax! There’s something in the bathtub!”
Racing up the stairs, he found her frozen by the bathroom door frame. She turned wide, unbelieving eyes on him and pointed quickly into the room. Water splashed from inside. Moving in front of his mate, Dax stepped into the room, homing in on the bathtub and the sprays of water flying over the side.
Alarmed, he stepped fully inside.
And a half-eaten cupcake launched across the room. The treat struck him in the shoulder, the frosting sticking for a moment before the cupcake broke free with a slurping sound and fell on the floor.
“What the hell?”
Just then, a little black head appeared over the side of the tub. An animal clambered onto the bathtub tray, its round body soaked and dripping. A raccoon! The tray wobbled, toppling treats into the water as the creature tried to get its footing. Setting all four feet onto the tray, it looked at Dax and locked beady little eyes on him.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Allie breathed from beside him. “What is it with us and raccoons?”
He’d first met Allie after a posse of drunk raccoons broke into her bakery and went ham on the place. He’d offered his carpentry services to repair the damages and the rest was history.
The animal picked up a bag of chips, staring them down as if expecting them to take it away. It slowly, methodically crossed the tray and jumped onto the far edge of the tub. The remaining contents of the tray scattered. The raccoon paused and reached behind itself to snag another bag of chips, then bolted to the windowsill and disappeared.
Dax worked his jaw to one side and surveyed the mess while trying to fully wrap his head around what had just happened. There was water and snacks all over the floor.
“There was a raccoon taking a bath in my tub.”
“There’s no way I’m getting in there now.”
Dax sighed. So much for an early Valentine’s Day present. “I figured.”
He picked his way to the window and closed it, then slipped an arm around Allie and urged her out of the room. He closed the door behind them. So much for her relaxing evening.
“You know, a massage would feel really nice.”
She side-eyed him pointedly, then wagged her eyebrows. Dragging his teeth across his bottom lip, he scooped her up in his arms and took her to the bed.
“You don’t have to ask twice.”
He reached for the tie of her robe as she looped her arms around his neck. Dax lowered to kiss her, pulled the tie free…
Knock, knock, knock.
“Dax! I’ve got your damn food.”
Jett’s voice sounded from the entryway downstairs. His voice was muffled as if he had the door cracked.
Allie rolled her eyes and flung an arm over her forehead.
Knock, knock. “I’m coming in. You better not be naked. Where are my donuts?”
Allie sat up and pulled her robe together. “Alright, mister. This was your Valentine’s Day trial run and it failed miserably.”
He stood and offered her a hand, helping her from the bed.
“I get a do-over, right?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Oh, many, many do-overs until you get it right.”
“We’ll start with the massage after we eat.”
She swatted him on the shoulder. “Nice try. You have a bathtub to scrub, sanitize, and possibly set on fire to make sure it’s clean.”
“How about after that?”
She tapped him on the nose before brushing past him and going to the staircase. “Oh, you’ll be scrubbing for a very long time.”
Dax rolled his eyes and smiled.
Fine. He’d scrub. Allie was his mate. And he’d do anything to make her happy.
On the real February 14th, though, he was going to make sure there wasn’t a raccoon within five counties.