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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
Hope and desire spiraled through her abdomen. She ran her finger over a bruise lining his jaw and opened her mouth.
He slid inside, drugging her with his taste. Male and spice. Pleasure and ache whispered through her—from him. They’d mated, and his feelings poured into her.
The vampire held back—and always had. The tight rein he kept on his emotions, on his passion, gave her pause. Temptation to unlock him, to free him, warred with self-preservation. For now, she kissed him back, dropping her emotional shields.
He groaned low and took the kiss deeper.
Heat and steam surrounded her. She flattened her hands against the bruised ridges on his abdomen, keeping her hold light. Even wounded, Jase lit her on fire. With a slow stretch, she coasted right into the flames.
His hands manacled her hips. Before she could protest, he lifted her.
She stiffened, breaking her mouth loose. “You’re hurt.”
“I’m not that hurt.” With a powerful thrust, he embedded himself balls-deep in her.
Pain and pleasure ripped through her. She arched her back, her mouth opening. His weight pressed her into the stone tiles, his body as hard as the wall.
The billowing steam wrapped her in safety, stealing her thoughts. For the moment, she could only feel.
Hot male, chilled tiles, throbbing cock.
She rested her head back, sliding her palms up to his shoulders. The bullet holes had closed, and relief fluttered her eyelids. The man could still heal himself. ’Twas a promising start.
His head dropped to her neck, where he nipped and sucked. The pull zinged right down to her sex. She secured her ankles at the small of his back, holding tight.
His hands flexed, then slid around to where he penetrated her. One thumb brushed her clit.
It was too much. She stiffened. “No—”
“Yes.” He did it again. Then he tugged.
She reared back, shocks of pleasure bombarding her, seeking his darkened gaze. Needing to see him. Reality and fantasy all whirled away, narrowing the moment to this man and this time. Nothing else mattered except the way he held her, the way he took her. All-encompassing until she was complete.
His muscles undulated as he kept them both still. Green darkened the copper in his eyes to midnight. “Brenna.”
Flutters of heat coursed through her skin. The way he said her name—as if it was his alone. As if she were his.
Slowly, he slid out and then back in, torturing them both. Then again. She clenched around him, her thighs trembling.
Sharp fangs dropped low. She groaned in response and tilted her head, exposing her neck.
The sharp points cut deep before she could blink. A climax tried to take hold, tried to bear down on her. She fought it, wanting the closeness to remain. Biting her lip, she tried to hold back, but the flames kept building higher. Higher, hotter, and faster.
Jase pounded harder, holding her in place, drinking her blood.
His tongue lashed the wound, closing it. “Now, Brenna.”
The shower sheeted white through the fog. She cried out, the orgasm rippling through her. Riding the waves, she dropped to his chest, biting his pec.
He growled and ground against her.
They came back to reality together. He set her on her feet, tipping back her head. “I’d do anything for you, Bren.” Softly, gently, he kissed her with so much hope, tears pricked her eyes.
Jase kept his body perfectly still in defense against the need to fidget. His bulk dwarfed the flowered chair, and he felt like an overgrown dumbass in the feminine office. He’d never ventured into any of the private offices in the main lodge that weren’t commandeered by his family. This was not what he meant when he’d told Brenna he’d try.
Lily Sotheby smiled and settled her skirts around her petite body. Well over three centuries old, the blond prophet had sparkling blue eyes, frighteningly delicate features, and a wicked sense of humor. As one of the three Realm prophets, she was tasked with bringing hope and faith to their people.
Who the fuck knew she was also a shrink?
She took a sip of something raspberry-smelling from a dainty teacup. “So, you’re going crazy?”
Jase frowned. “Um, no?”
“Then why are you here?”
His meddling mate had made him an appointment. “Apparently I need help of the psychological type.”
“Why?” Lily lifted a delicate eyebrow.
“Well, of course you are. The demons kidnapped you, tortured you, and nearly killed you.” She smiled, a dimple flashing in her smooth cheek. “I’d be angry, too.”
Um, okay. “Everyone thinks I need help.”
“Do you?” She tilted her coiffed head to the side.
“Shit if I know.” He coughed, heat rising in his face. “Pardon the language, prophet.”
“I know what shit is, Jase.” She took another sip. “So, you’re angry. Any plans for revenge?”
“Are they reckless, stupid, or desperate plans?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Then what’s the problem? Of course you want revenge. Who wouldn’t?” Her tiny feet kicked out from under the skirts. The dress was somewhat reminiscent of the last century, yet on Lily, it worked.
“Okay.” He shook his head. “I’m confused.”
Her eyebrows rose. “Good. Let’s talk about that.”
Irritation and an odd panic shot down his spine. “Aren’t you supposed to help me get rid of the anger?”
“Why would I?”
“Because anger is bad.”
“Everyone.” The word exploded from his gut.
“Ah.” She leaned back. “So, you’re not responding like you think everyone else wants you to?”
“I can’t be who they want.” The words hurt as they spilled from him.
She pursed her lips. “I assume you know your brothers fairly well.”
“Well, let’s take a look at this. Knowing the king, what do you think Dage wants to do with the demons who hurt you?” Lily’s voice softened even more.
Jase exhaled, his fists clenching. “Knowing Dage? He’s torn between wanting to rip their world apart and fulfilling his duties as king to find peace.”
“Talen wants to kill them all.” Jase fought a rueful grin.
“Same as Talen, but probably with more finesse.”
Lily nodded. “And Kane?”
“Kane wants to take them out cleanly but with great precision.” Jase sat back, his mind spinning. “I hadn’t thought about it like that.”
“Like what?” Lily asked.
“Like they’re all feeling pretty much what I am.” He shook his head. Since when had he only thought about himself? His hands shook, so he tucked them in his pockets.
“What does that tell you?”
“I have no clue.” But it made him feel both relieved and guilty as hell. “I’m afraid I’ll never be the same.”
“You won’t.” Her blue eyes darkened.
His chin jerked up. “Aren’t you supposed to reassure me?”
“Why the heck would I reassure you?” She smoothed down her long skirt.
“Um, that’s your job?”
“Nope.” She smiled. “I’m here to help you heal, and the truth heals. You went through hell, and you’ll never be the person you were. Doesn’t mean you can’t be an incredible person, a happy person. But if you expect to be able to forget . . .”
“I want to forget.”
“Because . . .” He stilled and drew in a deep breath. “I didn’t like who I became underground.”
“Who would?” She tilted her delicate head to the side. “But you survived, and whoever you became during that short time helped you to live, Jase.”
He shrugged, his gut churning. “Okay.”
“You know what?” she asked.
“Who you became underground isn’t who you are now. You’re different already, and you can become whomever you wish.”
He studied her and let the words sink in. Was she correct?
Lily stood, and his manners instantly shot him to his feet.
She smiled and took his arm to escort him to the door. “That’s enough for today.”
He stumbled. “That’s it?”
“Yes. Next time we’ll talk about the anger.” She opened the door.
He paused. “You said anger was good.”
“It’s good if you use it—not so good if it eats you up.” She patted his arm and all but shoved him into the hallway. “See you in a few days.” The door closed.
He rubbed his chin, the world settling. How odd.
A feminine laugh bubbled from behind him. He turned to find his niece sitting on a bench. “Jane?”
“Yeah. The prophet is a kick in the pants, isn’t she?” Janie stood, barely reaching his chest. In her twenties, the young woman held the world on her shoulders. “I’m usually confused, yet somehow feel better when I finish talking to her.”
Jase nodded, his head cloudy. “All right. What are you doing here?”
“Sometimes Lily helps me to focus a vision. I’m hoping to see Garrett and find him.” The young psychic pushed open the door, her shoulders slumped as if the air pressed down on her.
“You’re not responsible for your brother, Jane.”
She sighed, glancing back at him. “Sure I am. He’s my little brother—vampire or not.” Agony and fear flashed in her eyes to be quickly quashed.
“How often do you see Lily?”
“Often. When I’m not in immediate crisis, we try to figure out how to end the war. The usual.” Slipping inside, she disappeared.
Jase spent a minute staring at the closed door. Shaking his head, he turned down the hallway.
Brenna tapped her foot beneath the conference table, trying to concentrate on Kane’s words. The brilliant scientist sat across the table, while Jase sprawled next to her in the small room to the south of the main lodge. He’d actually gone to counseling. For her.
Maybe they had a chance to make it. Heck. She was as stubborn as they came, and Jase topped that. If they worked together and decided to make it, they would.
Kane pulled out another pie chart.
Jase groaned. “Quit with the charts. She understands.”
Actually, she’d been daydreaming for most of the meeting. But she nodded, having been briefed on the virus years ago. “I get it. Virus-27 binds to the twenty-seventh chromosomal pair of vampire mates and witches. Then it goes to work unraveling the pairs, taking the infected down to human genetics, if not below that. But the virus is slow and may take decades.” As immortals, they had decades.
“Yes.” Kane leaned forward, his maroon eyes focusing. “So, when the comet draws closer to earth, I’m hoping you can unbind the damn bug.”
Great goal. “How?” How in the world could she unbind anything?
He reached in his pocket and slid a necklace across the table.
Jase reached for it, twirling a milky pendant. “What is this?”
“The virus is inside the glass—just like a miniature petri dish.” Kane sat back. “When the comet is near on the solstice, I want Brenna to focus energy inside to mutate the bug.”
“Why in the world do you think I could do this?” Brenna asked.
“As a witch, you can create plasma fire out of air. You can alter any matter into another form when you’re at full power.” Kane leaned back.
That was true. “But nobody has been able to alter the virus. Why me?” she asked.
Kane lifted a shoulder. “It’s a logical progression from your natural talent. If you can alter matter normally, then why not alter the virus? And it’s you because the confluence of the comet’s power and the energy of the winter solstice will create incredible power for you and you alone.”
Brenna coughed out air. “That makes no sense. Please tell me you don’t believe in myth and legend.”
Kane’s eyebrows rose. “Of course I do. Just because we can’t explain it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an explanation. I’m sure there’s one, and I’m sure I’ll figure it out someday.”
Her head started to pound. “I’m not special. There had to have been other witches born on my birthday.”
“Sure, there were. But you’re the only eighth sister born to a seventh sister in the history of the witch species.” Kane nodded toward the pendant. “You are special—whether you like it or not. All I’m asking is that you try. If it works, wonderful. If not, then we’ll move on to another line of research.”
Jase frowned. “Can she be infected?”
“Not unless she swallows it.” Kane steepled his fingers under his prominent chin. “Right now, the virus isn’t airborne.”
Brenna took the necklace and slid it over her head. “This is incredibly far-fetched, you know.”
“Yes. But it’s all I’ve got.” Kane shook his head. “The time to deal with this virus is coming, and it’s coming fast.”
Brenna swallowed. The pendant lay heavy between her breasts. An ominous weight of the future to come? She exhaled. “I’ll do my best.” For now, she needed to find out more about her strengths and how they related to the solstice.
Janie Kayrs settled into a pose on her yoga mat, her mind clearing. Her time with Lily hadn’t provided answers, so she’d decided to seek her own. Alone in an underground office, she’d set up a fountain in the corner, and the bubbling water offered solace. Humming along, she slid into a world that used to belong to dreams only. Dreams that had been filled with her best friend, half-vampire Zane Kyllwood, as well as with Kalin, the Kurjan. They’d met as children before the war broke out.