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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
His focus was entirely on his mate, amusement filling his eyes.
“Did I just hear you threaten to burn me, Daitlín?”
Moira batted her eyelashes and flashed him a saucy grin. “If necessary, I’ll turn you crispy.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Hmmm.”
Brenna cleared her throat, well used to Conn’s pet name for Moira. Brat. “Is the torture over?”
Conn nodded. “Yes.”
“And?” Brenna asked.
Conn took her measure. “There’s a ten-billion-dollar contract out on Jase—to take him alive.”
Good lord. “Billion?” The demons had some serious cash.
“Yes.” Conn eyed Moira.
Awareness prickled down Brenna’s spine. “What else?”
At Moira’s nod, he sighed. “There’s a fifteen-billion-dollar contract out on you—if you’re taken before the winter solstice. Afterward, it’s ten billion.”
Brenna coughed. “The demons believe in the damn solstice nonsense?”
“ ’Tis not nonsense,” Moira said slowly. “The Coven Nine has ignored the issue since you’ve been so ill, but now that you’re mending, we should investigate.”
Aye. Good idea. “At least they want me alive,” Brenna said.
“Sort of. Alive before the solstice, dead after.” Conn rubbed a hand through his thick hair. “Apparently Willa is rather pissed Jase mated a witch.”
“Who the hell is Willa, anyway?” Brenna asked.
“Sister to Suri, the leader of the demons.” Conn strode toward Moira. “Willa messed with Jase’s head while Suri and one of his lieutenants spent time destroying his body.” Barely contained anger rode Conn’s hard tone.
Dread slid through Brenna. “How did Willa mess with Jase’s mind?”
Conn turned his head. “You’ll have to ask him that.”
Yeah. Because Jase was so darn forthcoming. “Right.”
Conn grabbed a pair of grappling gloves from a rack and handed them to Moira. “Let’s discuss your threat to burn me to a crisp, shall we?”
Moira grinned, blue dancing along her skin. “I’d love to roll around with you, handsome.”
“Get a room,” Brenna muttered, grabbing her glasses and heading for the doorway. Now the demons had a bounty on her head, and Jase needed to come clean with all the information. She hustled out to track down her mate.
She found him in her penthouse living room gazing out the windows at the tumultuous water as the sun set. Closing the door, she hesitated. He looked so alone . . . and so dangerous. Large and formidable.
“I’m sorry I scared you at the mall,” he said without turning around, hands in jeans pockets.
She blinked, her mind spinning. The distance between them seemed much farther than a few yards. “I’m fine. But I think you should get help when you return home.”
His head lifted, and his shoulders went back. Muscles shifted under his dark T-shirt. Slowly, as if not to frighten her, he turned, a guarded expression on his hard face. “I don’t need help.”
A pang dinged her heart. “Your choice.” Her sister was correct. The wounded needed to want help. “I’d like it if you stayed in touch, anyway.”
He exhaled, his gaze reaching across the room and tethering her in place. “You’re coming with me.”
She stiffened. “No, I’m not.”
“I’m invoking clause eight of the contract.” His tone remained so level, they might have been talking about the oncoming storm.
Shock froze her. “No. We have an understanding. I’m not going anywhere.”
“You signed the contract.”
“I know.” She exhaled, struggling for patience. What the heck was wrong with him? “We always intended to keep our own residences.”
“Things have changed.” No give showed on his face.
Her feet tightened with the need to run. She didn’t know this man. At full power, she’d face him and burn the hell out of him. Now? Vulnerability caught on her breath. She didn’t stand a chance against him. If she protested publicly, her people would support her, but she’d be breaching the contract.
“If you breach”—he clearly read the panic she could feel in her expression—“then your people will bow to mine in all military matters.”
Oh God. A terrible liquidated damages clause inserted so nobody would breach. Damn the lawyers.
“You wouldn’t,” she gasped.
His eyes took on a dangerous edge. “You’re right. I won’t claim breach of contract or hinder our treaty.”
She stilled. Relief relaxed her stance. “That’s good.”
“I will, however, drag your ass all the way to Oregon if need be.”
Such an overt action would cause war. Real war. One that would put Conn and Moira on opposite sides of the line. Brenna shook her head. “Why? Why are you doing this?”
“You’re my mate.”
“Oh no, you don’t.” Finally, anger leapt over the surprise. “You don’t want a mate, and you sure as hell don’t care.”
For the first time, his gaze wavered. A softness spiraled into his eyes. “I do care. Much more than I’d like.”
Her head shook in jerky motions this time. No. He wasn’t going to manipulate her like that. This hurt enough as it was. “Too bad. Stick to our original understanding, the one we didn’t really say, and leave me the hell alone.”
“I can’t,” he whispered. Sliding his hands free, he stalked across the room like a jaguar tracking prey. Like prey, she stood frozen. Reaching her, he ran a gentle knuckle down the side of her face.
Her stomach quivered, and not only from anger. “Jase—”
“The demons want you, Brenna. Because of me.” He speared his fingers through her hair and forced her head back. As he leaned in, his breath brushed her lips. “They. Won’t. Get. You.”
So much murderous promise lived in his words, her knees went weak. “I can take care of myself. Plus, I have Coven Nine bodyguards.”
“Sorry.” Not by one inch did he look sorry. “Not good enough. You’re with me where I can keep you safe until I end this.”
A slow ball of lava rolled through her at his nearness, at the intensity of his hold. She tried to ignore it. “No. I make my own choices.”
His upper lip quirked, and his gaze dropped to her mouth. “When it comes to safety, I make your choices. You should’ve known that before you mated me.”
Aye, vampires were over-the-top protective and possessive. Those were vampires who mated for love. This one had mated for other reasons. “I won’t always be so weak. You don’t want me for an enemy.” She kept her voice clear and tried to stifle the desire flaring awake inside her.
His hold tightened, and his other hand flattened against her lower back, bending her. A slow blink revealed a new light in his eyes. “Threatening me is not a good idea, little one.”
“Heed the threat. You have no idea who you mated.”
“Neither do you.” His nostrils flared, apparently catching a scent.
Blast it. He could smell her arousal. This was beyond twisted. She shoved both hands against his chest.
His instant smile was carnal. Dangerous. Knowing. “Maybe it’s time I showed you.”
Icy-hot whispers tingled along her skin. “I don’t think so.”
Deadly fangs dropped low.
Waves of heat cascaded up her chest, lifting her chin, burning with need. Just from a look at those fangs.
Enough. Releasing his chest, she dropped down, used his hand as a base, and flipped backward. She landed on her feet, her hair swirling around.
She had a half a second to appreciate the surprise on his face before he moved. His hand fisted in the center of her shirt, and he yanked her against him. Hard. She opened her mouth to protest, but it was too late.
His fangs retracted as his mouth crushed hers. Anger rode his kiss, and he plundered deep, showing her in no uncertain terms who was stronger. Not only physically, but as he softened his assault, as he shot fire through her until her ears rang, he showed her true strength. After one night with him, he controlled her responses. He could make her want on demand. Possibly from the mating, from the marking . . . but more likely from Jase himself. The man was sex, danger, and fire combined.
She whimpered in her throat, her eyes fluttering shut. Desire slashed with jagged edges as it ripped into her.
His kiss held nothing back. No smoothness—no persuasion. He took everything she had and then demanded more. Demanded everything. The male wasn’t taking no for an answer.
Furious hunger moved his mouth across hers, a hunger that dug down deep in her belly and clawed.
Yanking back, he whipped her shirt over her head. A second later her yoga pants hit the floor. He bent her forward over the back of the couch. “Tell me it’s okay,” he rumbled, his voice beyond gravel to asphalted spikes.
Her stomach rubbed against the leather, while cool air brushed her bare backside. Need and want had her vision blurring. “It’s okay. Hurry.” Was that her voice? Husky and needy?
His zipper rasped. She shivered. Both hands grabbed her hips and he plunged inside her with one strong stroke. Crying out, she lifted up on her tiptoes.
He stilled, his breath heated on the nape of her neck. “Breathe, baby,” he whispered.
Breathe? She forced out air, her entire body short-circuiting from too many sensations. Hunger—pain—pleasure. Slowly, she dropped down.
Reaching around, he palmed her breast, tugging the nipple. Shards of electricity shot straight to her sex. “What are you doing?” she panted.
“Whatever I want to do.”
The dominant tone, edged with dark amusement, almost threw her into an orgasm. Panic inched for a foothold, and she tried to rise.
His hand flattened on her bottom, right across the still burning marking. A quiver shook her. She swallowed, fighting to remain sane while her body went crazy. She felt taken, all control stolen from her, and somehow, she wanted nothing more than to beg him to continue. To start moving. To take her over that pinnacle where the need wouldn’t hurt so badly. “Jase—start moving. Now.”
His low rumble of a laugh brushed her ear. “I’ll accept begging or whimpering from you, darlin’. But your time for commanding has passed.” With a sharp tug on her nipple, his hand slid down and pressed on her clit.
“Oh God,” she moaned.
“Praying will do.” He touched where she was stretched around his cock. One wet finger ran up to circle her clit. She hissed at the blast of sensation. He played, making circles, torturing until her internal walls clenched him hard enough that she gasped. She tried to rub against him, to get relief, but he held her tight.
Then that dangerous hand ran up her torso to grip her neck, his thumb under her chin. Pressing up, he tilted her head. She couldn’t move. Controlled by one thumb.
Warmth brushed her spine as he covered her.
She tensed, expecting fangs. Instead, he licked the vulnerable area where neck met shoulder. The gentle touch pounded fire through her. Then his fangs dropped low.
Her head jerked, but he held fast. He drank, a groan of pleasure rumbling from him. The groan slid under her skin and into her heart. She could already feel his reactions. Opening herself, she tried for a connection.
A hard slap against her marking caught her unaware. She opened her mouth in shock as vibrations shot straight to her core.
His fangs retracted and a rough tongue laved her wound. “Stay out of my head.” The order held bite and a hint of fury. He grabbed her hips and slid out only to thrust back in.
Nerves flared inside her. God. Too much. Way too much. She pressed her face against the sofa.
Pleasure coiled tight inside her, climbing higher. His grip bruised as he yanked her bottom higher, driving his shaft deep. Harder and faster, he pounded until she forgot all thought. She forgot the world. The only thing that mattered was that edge she needed to scale.
His fingers tangled in her hair, drawing up her head. Arching her back. Controlling her so easily.
Muscled thighs pushed hers even farther apart. He thrust hard, his balls slapping against her butt. The hold on her hair tightened.
A rush of energy gathered in one place inside her and detonated. Shock caught her at how quickly her body obeyed his order. She screamed his name as white-hot lava sprayed through her in cresting waves. Riding them, she could only shut her eyes and be swept along.
With a clenching of his hand and a growl of her name, he ground against her as he came.
They came down together, both panting.
His fingers spread along her scalp, rubbing gently. Slowly, he withdrew from her. She moaned as her internal walls protested.
He lifted her, tucking her head under his chin. Striding toward the bedroom, he crossed the darkness and slid her gently into bed. Turning, he headed for the doorway and stopped. The living room light illuminated him, a strong silhouette of maleness.
His shoulders straightened, his back to her. “Are you all right?”
The sheer number of emotions shooting from him nearly stole her breath. She could read him now, whether he liked it or not. “Yes,” she whispered. “I’m fine.”
He gave a short nod. “Sleep now. I’ll be back later.”
Then he was gone.
Brenna worked all morning in her Dublin office, fingers tapping the computer keys, finishing the reports on Coven Nine grants. Several Dublin businesses would be able to climb out of debt now. The computer light spread softly across her pristine desk, while a snowstorm bombarded the windows.