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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
He nodded and focused on his hands. “I, ah, need to tell you that it’s been awhile. I mean, for me.”
Heat spiraled into her face. “Oh. Well, actually, me, too. Since I’ve been sick.”
Whiskers rustled when he rubbed his chin. “I work out a lot, and I try to breathe deep, but sometimes . . .”
“The anger takes over?” she asked softly.
His gaze met hers. “Yeah. You empathic?”
“No.” She set down her wineglass. “You’re the angriest person I’ve ever seen. No empathic abilities needed.” The fury was eating him up inside, and it hurt to watch. Why hadn’t his brothers gotten him help?
“Yeah, well, I don’t want to hurt you.” His nostrils flared. “I’ve asked Kane to obtain dampening pills for the mating.”
Her head jerked back. Oh no, he hadn’t. She sat back and crossed her arms. “No way. No dampening pills.”
“Yes.” His jaw firmed. “I insist.”
“Oh good, our first fight.” Dampening pills had been used for centuries when a vampire mating was arranged. It took the edge off for the female and combined some sort of pain reliever with a relaxant. “I will not use dampening pills.” Did he think she was some hapless human?
He hesitated. “Please.”
A low laugh rolled from her stomach. “That had to hurt.”
“You have no idea.” His upper lip quirked. The man was dominant and used to giving orders. No doubt asking went against his every instinct.
“I’m not less than anybody else.” For her entire life, she’d had to prove her worth and that she wasn’t some anomaly. For her one mating, she intended to be strong enough to engage completely. “No dampening pills.”
Watchful intelligence lived in his gaze. “When you bit me yesterday, my blood should’ve made you stronger for days. Yet it only lasted a couple of hours.” He reached for her arm and tugged her off the sofa.
“I’m not weak.” She landed on her knees between his legs. What was he doing? Heat uncoiled in her gut.
“I know.” Threading both hands through her hair, he tilted her head back until she looked up at his angled face. “But you’re not strong right now, either.”
Her neck elongated. Vulnerability and need washed through her. She dug her nails into his hard legs. “I will be. After we mate.”
A dark flush covered his high cheekbones. His eyes flashed into a sizzling green. Heat from his thighs pressed in on her. “Speaking of which, are you all right with the contract?”
Flattening her hands, she pushed away to stand.
But she didn’t move. The vampire easily kept her in place.
She tilted her head, intrigue and warning swishing through her. Without question, she was out of her element with the formidable Kayrs brother. “I’d prefer not to be on my knees as we discuss this.”
His eyes darkened.
Lowering his head, his lips brushed her jugular. “You’re so strong you don’t need dampening pills? Then get off your knees.” Low, rough, his voice rumbled right through her skin.
A long shiver wandered down her spine. She swallowed. Aye. Definitely out of her element. She pushed again, this time putting all her strength into it, and once again didn’t move. “Stop playing games,” she breathed.
“Who’s playing?” His fangs slid into her flesh.
Pain. Dark pleasure. Need. Hurt edged with a sharp desire spiraled through her to pound between her legs. God. She arched her back, her mouth opening. He drank deeply, taking what he needed—taking what he wanted.
A low growl rumbled from his chest.
Rough, his tongue sealed the wound. The fingers on her head flexed, shooting erotic pain along her scalp. He lifted until his gaze met hers, his face an inch from hers. His lips within reach.
Lust and determination tightened the skin across his sharp bones.
Her chest panted out breath.
He slid to the edge of the chair and loomed over her, his thighs bracketing her. Trapping her. Then his mouth covered hers. The kiss the other day had been nothing. A mere meeting of mouths.
This one was Jase Kayrs in full force. Deep and hard, he took. Holding her where he wanted her, he did as he pleased. Dark pleasure cascaded from him and heated the air around them.
She opened to him, helpless beneath his onslaught. His tongue claimed her mouth, learning every curve. Firm lips, strong hold, devastating motions. All she could do was feel. So much pain, so much pleasure, so much damn demand. He tasted of red wine and determined male. The world narrowed to him.
The kiss went on forever. He didn’t touch her anywhere else, yet her entire body burned for him. Desperate and primed. Slowly, he softened his assault and leaned back.
Clarity rushed into her brain. She’d never be able to match him. He watched her, his eyes hard, his sharp features wearing that male expression that said, I warned you. Now you’re on your own.
Deep down, where reality and hope commingled, she understood without a doubt he’d break her heart. Even deeper, she knew it was too late to turn back.
He had warned her.
Jase stared at the little witch as his cock tried to punch through his pants. The woman was sexy as hell. The soft sound she’d made in the back of her throat as he’d kissed her had almost pushed him over the edge. Even now, with her soft gray eyes unfocused on him, temptation rode him to strip her bare.
What he wanted wasn’t soft, and it sure as hell wasn’t pure.
Her scent of night jasmine and vanilla filled his senses, while her dark hair curled around her shoulders, tangled from his hands. Those too-knowing eyes had taken on the hue of a lake during a storm, gray and mysterious. Her T-shirt outlined hard nipples. A primal being inside him reveled in having her on her knees before him. He hated himself for that as much as for everything else.
He wanted so badly to sample her bare skin. The woman probably tasted like candy. Her blood tasted like forever.
There was no forever for him.
Even so, as her nails dug into his legs like he was her lifeline to reality, no doubt whispered in his mind that she was his lifeline. Even temporarily, while in her presence, he was alive again. Finally.
An ache pounded through his wrist. He frowned and released her hair. Slowly, he drew back his arm and turned over his hand.
The Kayrs marking.
An intricate K circled with Celtic knots now pulsed with life on his right palm. The marking that transferred to a mate during the mating process. Shock filled him that he hadn’t had to force it into existence.
Brenna gasped. “When?”
“Just now.” His voice was more gravel than tone.
Her chin lifted, her eyelids dropping to half-mast. Female awareness shone through.
He nodded. “You have tonight to decide, and I’d spend some time with the decision.”
“I’ve made up my mind, or I wouldn’t have signed the contract.” Her hands trembled on his legs.
He leaned forward until they were almost nose-to-nose, but he didn’t touch her. “There’s no turning back after tomorrow night. Make sure you want to be mine.” The small part of humanity he still owned wanted her to refuse. To run fast and hard in the other direction.
At his order, her eyes dilated. Courage and strength lifted her chin. “Per the contract, after we mate, you go home and I stay here. I’m not worried about being yours.”
The defiance in the gentle woman prodded the baser nature inside him. “Even so, I wouldn’t push, baby. Ever.” It was only fair to give her warning. Not that the woman seemed to heed it. “Besides, per the contract, I can demand your presence at my home any time during the first decade.” A clause inserted by the vampires probably in reaction to Moira being kept from Conn for a century.
“We both know you won’t be around for a decade, baby.” Temper flashed across her classic face.
His temper pricked the back of his neck. “You’re awfully brave, considering you’re still on your knees.”
The door burst open with a shattering of wood. A man stood there, dressed all in black, feet braced, fury on his face.
Jase leaped over Brenna, planting himself between her and danger. He stilled and shook his head. “Kell?”
Kellach Dunne dropped his leather duster to the floor. “You are not mating my cousin.”
Anticipation flooded Jase’s veins. At six and a half feet, they stood eye-to-eye. More important, Jase had been working out impossibly hard for the last five years. He could handle the witch enforcer. “Apparently, I am mating your cousin.” He settled his own stance and flashed a grin. “Is there something you think you can do about it?”
Kell moved with the speed of a soldier and the fury of a witch. The first punch to Jase’s jaw sent his head to the side. Jase slowly turned back, his smile even feeling dangerous. He pulled back his arm as a decoy and jumped up, slamming both feet into Kell’s face.
The witch flew back against the damaged door. His long black hair escaped its band. Anger glowed deep in his odd black eyes.
With a roar, he shot forward, his fists punching too fast to see.
“Kell!” Brenna yelled and stumbled toward them. “Stop it.”
Jase pivoted to keep her behind him and cracked his elbow up into Kell’s nose. Cartilage broke with a resounding snap. Two bodies rushed through the doorway, and his brother tackled Jase into the wall.
Moira slid between them, her hands on Kell’s chest. Green fire danced up her arms.
Jase struggled and nailed his brother in the cheek with a right cross.
Conn pinned his forearm against Jase’s neck, shoving him harder against the wall. His eyes glowed with a mixture of anger and concern. “What the hell are you doing?” he growled.
Jase struggled, yet kept his legs still. He didn’t want to hurt his brother—he wanted to hurt Kell. “Let go of me.”
“No. Calm down, Jase.” Desperation rode Conn’s tone.
Jase turned his focus on his older brother. The brother who’d taught him to fight. Years ago, before he’d been taken, Conn would’ve cheerfully kicked his ass for that punch in the face. Now, not so much. He showed his teeth. “You want to go, big brother?”
Conn’s eyes narrowed, and his forearm cut off more air. “No, and neither do you. Calm the fuck down.”
“No. Let’s go, asshole. You want a fight? You’ve got one.” Even as the words spewed from Jase, nausea filled his gut. He couldn’t stop the fury.
The desolation in Conn’s expression cut deeper than any knife the demons had used. “I don’t want a fight.” He shoved away from Jase. “I want my brother back.”
Jase straightened and tugged his shirt into place. “Your brother is long gone.” He pivoted to face Kell, who had blood running down his face from the broken nose. “Mind your own business.”
“No. This mating will not happen.” Kell wiped blood off with the back of his hand. “Brenna, pack a bag. We’re out of here.”
Brenna stepped over shards of wood to stand next to Jase. “What in the world are you doing in Dublin? I thought you were fighting in the north.”
“I heard you were attacked.” Kell eyed Jase and clenched his hands into fists.
“She was. Great job protecting her, enforcer,” Jase said.
Kell’s left eyebrow rose. “You are not mating this self-destructive bastard.”
Brenna sighed. “I love you, Kell. But my mind is made up, and you need to respect that.”
“Over my dead body,” the witch hissed.
“That can be arranged,” Jase drawled.
Conn rubbed his head. “Shut the fuck up, Jase.”
Brenna tangled her fingers with Jase’s. “Everyone just calm down.”
Jase kept his gaze on the witch and tried to ignore the sense of comfort he felt from Brenna taking his side. Her small hand felt fragile in his. “In fact, everyone get the hell out. Brenna and I weren’t finished talking.”
Moira held both hands out. Her wild red hair curled around her shoulders, and her eyes were pissed. “Enough testosterone, damn it. Kell, Brenna is a big girl who can make her own decisions. Besides, you should look at her medical records before being such a jackass.”
Kell frowned. “What medical records?”
Brenna’s hand trembled in Jase’s.
Jase growled. “Get out, and go look at them.”
Kell scratched his chin. “Fine. But nothing is happening before the cultural event tomorrow, right?”
“Right,” Brenna said.
“Good.” The enforcer smiled, his gaze on Jase. “Then we’ll discuss this further tomorrow.”
Jase’s shoulders went back. “I look forward to it.” He glanced down at the small woman so bravely facing one of the most dangerous predators on earth. What in the world was he going to do with her? Then he frowned. “What cultural event?”
Brenna stood in the foyer and patted her pinned-up hair. “I’m not sure ’bout this dress.”
“ ’Tis perfect.” Moira shimmied her blue dress down over the gun strapped to her inner thigh. “You look gorgeous.”
“Hmm.” Brenna glanced down at the beaded mesh halter gown. The sparkly material revealed the tops of her breasts and cut in severely at the waist. It was backless, yet the skirt allowed enough room for her weapon. “Thanks for the new gun.”
“I thought you’d like it.” Her sister smiled, but humor failed to reach her stunning green eyes. “The vampires created the stub-version a couple of months ago. It’s as deadly as a normal laser but fits much better in a smaller hand.”