Excerpt

DARK STRANGER REVEALED
Excerpt

Chapter 1: Syssi

“Wow, that was one hell of a kiss,” Syssi breathed. More like a total meltdown.

She was grateful for the call that had interrupted what might have ended in Kian’s bedroom. It had broken the spell. If not for the emergency that had required Kian’s immediate attention, she would’ve let him take her to his bed and would’ve regretted it dearly.

Even though she was no longer mad at him, Syssi still refused to become another notch on his belt. She held herself to higher standards.

Oh, God, she wished she didn’t.

Relinquishing her outdated standards for a morning of passion with Kian would’ve been worth the sacrifice. The fire he’d ignited in her was like nothing she’d ever experienced before and she craved more, wanted to explore it and find out where it led.

Still hot and bothered, she wondered how long he’d be gone. It depended on what kind of emergency it was. Must’ve been something major to bother the CEO on a Sunday morning. Unless he’d used it as an excuse to leave and cool down.

For some reason, Kian was fighting his attraction to her.

Did he deem her beneath him?

It wasn’t as if he was some kind of an aristocrat while she was a pleb. The only things that defined social strata in the United States were money and political connections. Granted, she had none, but Kian didn’t strike her as snob. Maybe it had something to do with her working for his sister. He might have regarded a relationship between them inappropriate because of his financial connections to the lab. According to Amanda, her research was funded by one of the corporations owned by their family.

Syssi shook her head and gathered the dirty dishes left over from their brunch. Guessing would bring her nothing other than a headache. She would have to grow a set and ask Kian what was his deal.

God, what a big mess her simple life had become.

As she carried the dishes to the kitchen and got busy at the sink, Syssi reflected on the recent upheaval in her orderly routine. In the span of less than twenty-four hours, she had been chased by a group of dangerous zealots, spellbound by her boss’s gorgeous brother, and hypnotized by him to forget all about it, including meeting him, only to have Kian star in her most erotic dreams ever.

In the light of day, however, the real Kian was better than any dream, and to be wanted by a man like him was one hell of a heady feeling.

If she was wanted, that is.

The man was a puzzle she couldn’t decipher, a mystery. Not a problem she’d encountered often. Most people were transparent to her, their motives clear.

That fact in itself was cause for alarm, and then there was her insane response to Kian.

Syssi didn’t know what to make of that. Yes, he was gorgeous, intelligent and successful, but that shouldn’t have been enough to induce such a profound transformation in her.

The woman who had thought of herself as not all that sexual had been turned into a mindless puddle of need. And even more shockingly, it seemed that her newfound passion had a somewhat kinky twist to it.

Who would have thought.

Embarrassed, Syssi felt her face heating and attacked the dishes with renewed vigor, soaping and scrubbing the already clean plates.

“Please, mistress, let me.” Gently but firmly, the butler took the plate she was washing out of her hands, then led her away from the sink.

“I’m sorry, I just thought to make myself useful.” The poor guy probably thinks I’m after his job. “I’m not the kind of guest who needs to be waited on. I like to help.”

“Oh, but madame, it is my distinct pleasure to serve you. You would not wish to deprive an old man of his pride and joy now, would you?” He smiled his weird mannequin smile.

“Well, of course not…” manipulative butler… And although it was hard to tell, she hazarded a guess that he was in his early forties—hardly an old man. “But please, call me Syssi.”

Okidu squared his shoulders. “I certainly would not.” He affected indignation with a heavy British accent. “Let me show you the guest rooms, madame.” He dipped his head and extending his arm motioned for her to precede him down the corridor.

There were four luxurious bedroom suites in addition to Kian’s and the butler’s, each decorated in its own unique color scheme and style.

Syssi chose the smallest of the four, snorting as she was reminded of Goldilocks in the Three Bears’ House.

“May I unpack your luggage, mistress?” Okidu asked as he brought her duffle bag inside the walk-in-closet.

“No, thank you. I’ll do it myself.”

“As you wish, madame.” He bowed, then eased out of the room, gently closing the door behind him.

Syssi emptied her bag, fitting the few things she had brought with her all on one shelf, then moved on to the bathroom to deposit the ziplock bag containing her toiletries and makeup on the vanity.

Eyeing the large jacuzzi tub, nestled within an intimate enclave with a big window overlooking the cityscape, she was tempted to try it out. Which reminded her that there was a lovely lap pool out on the terrace, and it would be a damn shame if she didn’t take advantage of it while staying at Kian’s amazing penthouse. The tub could wait for later.

Problem was, she didn’t bring a swimming suit. Syssi was about to give up on the idea when a simple solution popped in her mind. In a pinch, a solid black bra and matching undies could pass for a bikini.

Still, on the remote chance that Okidu was more astute than most men and would guess it was underwear, Syssi wrapped a large towel around her makeshift swim attire.

The sun was warm on her skin as she stepped onto the terrace. Hopefully, the pool was heated and the water was warm as well. Dipping her toes, she was happy to discover that it was and jumped in. The pool felt heavenly, soothing away the remaining vestiges of her anxiety as she swam slow, lazy laps then rolled over onto her back and floated.

Sweeping her hands in circles to keep herself afloat, Syssi closed her eyes in bliss. It was like vacationing in some luxury resort, and to make the experience complete, Okidu even served her a piña colada smoothie, poolside.

Perfect.

Well, almost. Kian wasn’t there, and she missed him.

A warm feeling suffused her. She really liked the big, arrogant oaf. He’d blundered bald, behaving like as ass, but any guy that was man enough to apologize and take responsibility for his mishaps, as well and as sincerely as Kian had done, was okay in her book. And anyway, the way the man got her heart pumping, she wasn’t sure she wouldn’t have forgiven him even if he had not.

Yep, I’m definitely turning into a horny, brainless floozy. She chided herself as she finished the last of the smoothie with a loud slurp.

Leaving the empty goblet by her towel, she glided into the center of the pool, turned on her back again, and paddled leisurely with her eyes closed.

“Hi, gorgeous!” Amanda startled her.

Splattering and splashing to right herself, Syssi soaked Amanda, who was squatting by the side of the pool and smiling like a Cheshire cat. Served Amanda right for sneaking on her like that. “Hi, yourself, I completely forgot you’re next door.” Syssi wiped her eyes. “Wait a minute, you told me you have a condo in Santa Monica. When did you move here?” she asked, twisting her hair to wring it out.

Amanda brushed water droplets off her jean-clad legs and got up. “Oh no, this is just temporary. I definitely did not move in here, although Kian keeps nagging me to. I love him, but living right under his nose would be a really bad idea. Anyhow, he keeps it ready for me in case I change my mind, and with those crazy fanatics on the loose, I decided to humor him.” She winked.

“Kian told me what happened at the lab. I would’ve called you, but he threw away my cell phone, and I didn’t remember your number. How are you holding up?” She could’ve asked Kian, but it hadn’t even crossed her mind. She’d forgotten all about Amanda. Apparently, with him around, her hormone level skyrocketed, affecting her brain’s ability to function properly.

“I’m fine. The whole thing will blow over in a few days, and by then the lab will be as good as new. I’ve already arranged for cleanup and for new equipment to be delivered. The only task remaining is repainting the walls and maintenance is on it.”

“Have you given any thought to how we’re going to continue the research until the lab is ready? I think you’re overly optimistic assuming all of this can be done so quickly. I’d give it at least two weeks, if not longer.” Syssi got out and wrapped herself in the large towel.

“We can do some of the work from here, going over the data we already have, maybe even start a new paper. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you earn your pay. It wont’t be all swimming and lazing around… Just most of it.” Amanda snorted as she plopped down on one of the lounges.

“What about Hannah and David, are you planning on bringing them here as well?” Wrapping the towel tighter against the cool breeze, Syssi sat down next to Amanda.

“Heavens, no! I called Professor Goodbow and explained the situation. He promised he’d find them something to do until this mess is cleared. And anyway, Kian doesn’t allow strangers up here. Top floors are for family only.”

“I’m not family…”

“Yeah, but you’re special. Besides being the lunatics’ top target, I think my stubborn brother finally capitulated and went after you. Am I right? I hope I’m right. Tell me I’m right!”

Syssi’s cheeks heated. What the hell had Amanda done? Had she been talking with Kian about her and he had not been interested? That would explain a lot. Like his reluctance to engage with her.

Damn.

“What do you mean—finally capitulated?”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just that I wanted to get the two of you together for some time, but Kian being Kian refused all of my matchmaking efforts. So I didn’t tell you anything because what was the point? Right? But now that the fool finally met you, he likes you, as I told him he would. I’m going to have such a blast saying I-told-you-so. You guys are perfect together.” Amanda smirked, all smug satisfaction over the success of her yenta schemes, or perhaps over the prospect of endlessly needling Kian.

Amanda pushed up from the lounger and stretched her long body, the bottom of her T-shirt still damp and clinging to her skin. “I’m going back to my place across the hall. If you need anything, you know where to find me.” She bent down and gave Syssi a warm hug. “I’m really glad you’re here, Syssi. Kian needs someone to take care of him. And being the loving sister that I am, I found him the perfect someone.” Amanda kissed Syssi’s cheek.

Surprised and touched, Syssi hugged and kissed her back. Knowing Amanda liked her was one thing, but this was above and beyond. “Thank you. It really means a lot, you thinking so highly of me. But Kian and I have just met, and I don’t know if anything will come out of it. He is… well you know… he is really handsome… obstinate… controlling… endearing…” Syssi laughed as Amanda rolled her eyes and made the go-on gesture with her hand. “And he seems to like me, but we don’t really know each other, so don’t plan the wedding just yet. Okay?” she said, meaning it as a joke.

“I’ve got a good feeling about this, girl, and I hate being disappointed.” Amanda poked a warning finger at Syssi’s chest before turning to go inside.

Syssi shook her head. Bossy family.

Lying down on the lounger Amanda had vacated, she turned on her stomach and cradled her face in her arms. Tired from the day’s excitement, the sun pleasantly warm on her back, she grew drowsy and closed her eyes.

“Mistress,” Okidu said. “I brought you supper in case you were peckish.”

Slowly, Syssi opened her eyes. There was a thick robe draped over her back, which explained why she felt so warm and toasty even though it was getting late.

It was so nice of the butler to cover her. With the two of them alone in the place, it couldn’t have been anyone other than Okidu. “Thank you for the robe. It was very kind of you.”

She slipped her arms into the overlong sleeves and looped the belt twice around her waist, then brought the lapels closer to her cheeks. Kian’s scent was all over the thing. Combined with the warmth of the thick terry fabric, it cocooned her in what felt like home—safe, hers. Syssi closed her eyes. She missed him, and his absence felt as if there was a hole in her heart .

Which was nuts.

“You are welcome, mistress. It was getting chilly, and I did not want to wake you. You looked so peaceful. But it is late, and the master would have not been happy if I failed to provide you with nourishment. Would you like to dine outside? Or should I take the tray inside?”

By now, it was indeed a little cold out on the terrace, but recalling yesterday’s sunset, she wanted to watch it again. “Here would be great, thank you.”

Syssi ate her dinner at the small bistro table, watching the clouds turn all shades of orange, red, and purple until they faded into darkness by the time she was done.

She couldn’t help feel a bit disappointed that Kian had not returned in time to join her for dinner, and as she carried the tray to the kitchen, she wondered what was keeping him. He had been gone for hours. But then, he obviously couldn’t just drop everything to be with her. Hopefully, he wasn’t staying away because he didn’t want her company.

A disturbing thought. But she couldn’t allow herself to think like that.

Amanda had told her about Kian’s insane workload and long hours, and so had he. Evidently they had not been exaggerating.

The little Syssi knew about Kian, she had learned from Amanda’s complaints about how difficult it was to get him to come see her teach because he was always working; busy running the family business. He’d mentioned real estate, and a military grade drone factory that he was in the process of buying. Two completely unrelated businesses. Supposedly, Kian was running an international conglomerate, which meant that there were many more.

She should Google it. Maybe she could find out more about their financial empire. One thing was clear, though, big money was involved, on a scale that was hard for her to grasp even though she’d minored in business. Later, she could ask Kian about it. It was a safe topic, far removed from carnal thoughts.

But right now, a jacuzzi tub with her name on it was waiting.

Chapter 2: Dalhu

Dalhu paced the length of the mansion’s opulent home office, contemplating his newfound knowledge. The professor’s little red notebook had been an eye-opener on so many levels.

With a light knock, the old cook pushed the door open. “Your tea, sir,” she said and shuffled in, holding a tray in her trembling hands. On her first day, Dalhu had thought the tremor was caused by fear. After all, cooking for twelve large warriors wasn’t something the woman was used to. But after she’d served them three meals that day, with her old gnarled hands trembling no more and no less, he’d realized it was just age.

Dalhu took the tray from her, afraid she would spill the hot tea on her large bosom. The last thing he needed was a trip to the hospital. The woman was in her seventies—there was no way any of his men could produce venom to heal her with a bite. “Thank you, Miriam.”

“Would you like something to eat, sir?” she asked. “I can make a special treat just for you.” At least once a day, she would offer to pamper him with something special, and each time he would refuse. For someone her age, she already worked too hard.

“No, thank you. That will be all, Miriam.” She looked disappointed, but he wasn’t particular about his food and was fine eating whatever she made for the men.

When she left, he closed the door behind her and resumed his pacing.

It had taken him a while to decipher the professor’s illegible handwriting and cryptic references, but eventually an interesting picture had emerged.

First and foremost, he had discovered that the enemy still adhered to the old taboos against procreating between members of the same matrilineal descent. Second, and not less important, that they had no Dormants of other lines.

He’d always assumed that they were a cowardly bunch; the kind who preferred running and hiding to honorably facing their enemies in battle. But as the real reason for their tactics became glaringly obvious—that there just weren’t enough of them to offer a fight—he was grudgingly compelled to grant them respect.

How the hell had they managed to achieve so much—stolen knowledge notwithstanding—when there couldn’t have been more than a few hundred of them?

Making tracks in the luxurious Persian rug, his mind went back to the issue of Dormants. Apparently, the professor believed that finding mortals with special abilities, of the paranormal kind, would lead her to potential Dormants.

Why?

None of his brethren had any of the various traits she had mentioned in her notebook. And certainly none of the Dormants he had encountered as a child had exhibited anything out of the ordinary—not his mother and sister, nor any of the other women in Navuh’s “Special harem.”

Navuh’s powers were to be expected, after all, he was the son of a god, and so were his sons’ formidable abilities.

The rest of the men could thrall most mortals to some extent, but not all—the weaker the mind, the less it resisted manipulation—but that was it.

As to Dormants, they were a rare and precious commodity, guarded fiercely by Navuh for obvious reasons. And apparently, the despot was the only one to possess any.

Dalhu closed his eyes as his thoughts drifted back to his mother and sister. His mother had been a whore, as all the other Dormant women in Navuh’s special harem—and the same fate had been awaiting his sister—he just hadn’t been around to witness it.

After all this time, he had trouble remembering their features. The only clear memory that he still managed to hold on to was his mother’s voice. Some nights, he still heard her singing to him in his dreams.

Dalhu had been taken away to the training camp and turned at thirteen, never to see his small family again. He hadn’t been allowed. The one time he’d tried, he’d gotten off easy with a severe beating as punishment, only because he’d been so young. An older male would’ve been beheaded.

The group of Dormant women were Navuh’s secret broodmares. Selling their bodies to serve wealthy mortals provided him with a source of income and male children for his army of near-immortal mercenaries.

The sons were activated and became soldiers, the daughters were not and were relegated to prostitution like their mothers before them. Neither were given a choice.

Once the boys were turned, they were never allowed near the Dormants again. Fornicating with one carried the death penalty for both.

The Dormants were to serve mortals only.

In the past, Dalhu, like the rest of the soldiers, had assumed that the women weren’t turned because according to the teachings of Mortdh they were deemed inferior. It had taken him centuries to piece together the real reason behind the segregation. If turned by an immortal male’s venom, an immortal female’s chances of conceiving dropped to nearly nonexistent. And Navuh needed the women to bear as many children as possible, which they had, providing over the millennia thousands of warriors for his army.

The special harem had always been heavily guarded—nowadays even more so as a fenced-off enclave of Passion Island.

A selective breeding program was pairing Dormants with clients believed to possess the traits valuable to Navuh; mainly physical size and strength, with sociopathic tendencies a close second.

Navuh needed his soldiers to be strong and ruthless—nothing more.

Dalhu sat back at the desk and pulled out a quarter from his pocket. He tossed it up in the air and slammed it onto the desk when it came down. Repeating his experiment twenty times, he was assured of having no special precognition ability.

As expected, his predictions came true roughly half of the time.

“Edward!” he called his second.

The soldier came rushing in. “Yes, sir.”

“Take this coin and flip it ten times. I want to see how many you can guess correctly.”

Edward looked puzzled, but he did as he was told with no questions asked. He guessed right four out the ten.

“That will be all,” Dalhu dismissed him.

Returning the quarter back to his pocket, he wondered if these abilities could be somehow developed, learned. He wouldn’t have put it past Navuh to conceal this kind of information from his troops. As power hungry as Navuh was, the despot would not have wanted his divine status undermined by his lowly soldiers exhibiting even a fraction of his abilities.

Dalhu lifted the professor’s small red notebook off the desk and leaned back in the heavy executive swivel chair. Flipping through the pages, he reached the one containing the list of paranormal subjects.

Interesting stuff really. Telepathy, both sending and receiving, or only one-way transmission. Remote viewing, past viewing, precognition, influencing—emotional and otherwise. The ability to cast illusions. Communication with the dearly departed.

Most of the test subjects exhibited dismal talent. Except two.

Syssi, the professor’s assistant, was the sole recipient of the score of ten—the highest. Her talent was precognition. How ironic that he’d met the girl and hadn’t realized what a priceless treasure she was. A seer. What a powerful tool she could be. Dalhu wondered what kind of predictions she could make.

The other interesting subject was a guy named Michael: a student on the same campus. His talent was telepathy—of the receiving kind—his ranking was eight. Not bad. Being able to read other people’s minds could be a great asset too, probably a more useful tool than that of the female’s.

Soon, Dalhu would have both to do with as he pleased.

The woman’s address had been easy to find in the university’s Human Resources database. The hacker he had hired hadn’t had much difficulty retrieving her record, especially with that weird spelling of her given name. He could’ve sent one of the man to the HR office for that, but hacking worked faster.

The telepath posed a greater challenge, but it was nothing money couldn’t overcome. His cellphone number was listed to his parents’ account in Minnesota, so the phone bill was useless for finding his address. And there were five students named Michael Gross living on campus. He had to be located by his phone’s signal.

The guy Dalhu had found to do it had been expensive but worth it. Unfortunately, he encountered some trouble, and had gotten the job done only late this evening, pinpointing the boy’s location to a popular student hangout, a club not far from the dorms, which was currently teeming with people.

Dalhu had men in position at both locations.

The team at the woman’s house was poised to snatch her as soon as she came home. Though if she didn’t show up soon, he planned to fork out the money for the guy to track her cellphone as well.

The other team, dispatched to bring the telepath, was hanging outside the club. Without a picture to identify him by, they would wait for the boy to get out and separate from his friends. Regrettably, the acuity of the tracking device was limited to pinpointing the place, but not one individual out of a tightly packed crowd.

It wouldn’t be much longer.

Soon, Dalhu’s phone would be buzzing with the confirmations of their capture.

This wasn’t what excited him, though. Catching the two potential Dormants was almost inconsequential in comparison to getting his hands on the beautiful, immortal professor.

Dalhu pulled out the auto repair shop’s estimate he’d found tucked between the journal’s pages. Apparently, the professor’s Porsche was undergoing repairs at a Beverly Hills collision center specializing in luxury European automobiles, and it would be ready for pickup next Thursday. Luckily, the estimate included the car’s license plate number.

This time, he wasn’t going to send any of his underlings. Dalhu was going to be there himself, waiting all day until someone came to pick it up. If it were the professor, he would snatch her from there. But even if someone else showed up in her place or the shop delivered the car, he would just follow the Porsche to the professor’s actual residence.

Next Thursday, the lovely Dr. Amanda Dokani would be his.

Chapter 3: Kian

“Finally, it’s done.” Kian put down the phone and leaned back in Shai’s chair. The deal had almost gone up in smoke. Several times he’d been tempted to let it go to hell, but Onegus had kept things going. His chief Guardian and negotiator was in Spain, ironing out the last details on the beach property Kian was trying to snatch before it even went on the market. But as often happened, a competitor had also learned of the deal and offered a better price.

Kian wondered who’d tipped them off. Perhaps his sniffer had double dipped, selling the information twice.

Who else could’ve known that the owner of the shabby hotel had just lost his wife to heart failure and wished to get rid of the place they had run together for years? The guy had told his son, who had told his girlfriend, who had met the sniffer at a coffee shop and had told him about it during a random conversation.

Unless the guy had also sold the information to Kian’s rival, no one could’ve known the place was on the market.

With the bidding war getting out of hand, Kian had been about to give the thing up when the competitor bowed out. Not that he could blame the guy. With what he’d ended up agreeing to pay for the place, it would take much longer to realize profits, but Kian and the clan were in no hurry.

Time was on their side.

“You want to drink to that?” Shai opened his mini fridge and pulled out two Snake’s Venom beers—the world’s strongest at almost seventy percent proof, and the only beer immortals could get drunk on.

“Sure, why not.” Kian accepted the bottle.

He needed something to take the edge off. Not an easygoing guy on a good day, which this one certainly wasn’t, Kian was nearing melting point. It had started with Amanda’s ultimatum, then continued with a deal that turned out to be not as sweet as he’d hoped, and now he had no more excuses and needed to decide what to do about Syssi.

“It’s not such a bad deal. We’ll still make good money.” Shai mistook his grimace.

Kian wasn’t going to correct him. Let the guy think he was disappointed with the numbers, not with his sister and her cavalier attitude, and not with himself and his crumbling resistance.

“Good job, Shai.” He clapped his secretary on the back. “Let’s call it a day. I’m out of here.”

“Thanks. But I’m just the pencil pusher. You and Onegus have done all the work.”

Yeah, right. That was Shai’s favorite expression, when in fact he was indispensable. The guy could’ve taken on more, but he didn’t want to. He was comfortable with his position and didn’t strive for anything more. Something Kian couldn’t for the life of him relate to. He always pushed himself to the limit, expected more of himself than others, and was incapable of giving up.

Except, it seemed that he was capable of giving in.

As he’d mauled over the situation in between the phone calls and the emails and the general hysteria that erupted around this fucking deal, he’d realized that he was being a hypocrite.

He hadn’t forbidden Amanda from using another male to try and activate Syssi. Did he count himself above the other males of his clan? Was it okay for another to act immorally while Kian prided himself on taking the higher ground?

The answer was obviously no. But the last straw that had done it for him, was thinking of some other male touching his Syssi. As soon as Amanda would realize he was not going to do it no matter what, she would rope another male in. None of the others would refuse her, not unless Kian issued an order prohibiting it.

He could still do it, but Amanda must’ve anticipated this move before he even thought of it and threatened him with involving their mother. There was no doubt in his mind that Annani would side with Amanda. The future of her clan was at stake, and she had no problem bending the rules when it suited her.

They had him cornered, which was a huge relief. Having no choice felt a lot better than admitting he couldn’t control his craving for the girl.

Except, when he finally made it back to the penthouse, ready to pick up where he had left things off with Syssi, she wasn’t there.

Searching, he poked his head into every room, checking even out on the terrace, but she was nowhere to be found.

Where the hell can she be?

He pulled out his phone and rang Amanda. “Is Syssi with you?” he asked without preamble.

“No, did you manage to scare her off already?” Amanda taunted.

With a grunt, he ended the call and shoved the phone back in his pocket.

The obvious conclusion was that she had left. Though, how she had managed to do that without a thumbprint access to the elevators, or security letting him know, baffled him.

Maybe Okidu had helped her, taking her down in the elevator. With that main obstacle out of the way, there would have been nothing preventing her from waltzing away.

And as the guys in security were more concerned with people coming into the building than leaving it, they would have thought nothing of her casually strolling out the front door.

With a vile curse, Kian kicked a planter, wincing as the thing toppled.

He had no one to blame but himself.

After all, he hadn’t specifically forbidden her to leave, or informed security to detain her if she tried.

Walking back inside, Kian pulled out his phone ready to call Okidu when he heard a distant hum.

Jets.

Whirlpool tub’s jets.

So that’s where she is…

Relieved, he shoved the phone back into his pocket and followed the sound.

When he reached the room she was in, Kian shook his head. Syssi had chosen the smallest, most plainly furnished suite in the penthouse. It was so like her. Though how he knew that about her puzzled him. He just did.

With a sigh, he kicked off his boots and plopped down on the bed. It seemed that despite the long hours it had taken him to get back to her, his wait wasn’t over yet.

Closing his eyes, Kian made a go at some shut-eye, but it was no use. Problem was, he kept imagining Syssi’s gorgeous body soaking naked in that tub, the tips of her perfect breasts peeking above the soapy water…

Oh, hell. With that scenario doing all kinds of things to his male anatomy, he itched to barge in there and…

Yeah, as if that would end well…

“Not!” he muttered as he reached inside his pants, adjusting himself. But his damned cock was so distended that it jutted above his waistband.

Cursing, he covered it with his shirttails.

With all that had been going on lately, he hadn’t had the time or the inclination to go prowling for sex. And the long stretch of abstinence was taking its toll.

His biology was demanding its pound of flesh.

Except, the thought of slaking his need with some cheapie he picked up at a bar, suddenly felt repugnant to him.

He craved Syssi. Her fresh, sweet innocence was calling to his tainted soul.

Soon.

She would get out from that bathroom and find him waiting for her like some creepy stalker, and realize that her time was up.

What the hell is taking her so damn long?

Kian was losing his patience. Now that the decision had been made, he could wait no longer.

As the tub began draining, his pulse sped up. Any moment now, she’d get out…

No such luck.

He growled deep in his throat. Then he heard her applying lotion. And more lotion. And just as his agitation was gaining critical velocity, he heard what sounded suspiciously like a moan.

What the hell?

Had the little minx rebuffed him just to go ahead and pleasure herself without him?

Oh, no, she didn’t!

With a surge, Kian shot out of bed and was about to barge in on her, when he heard the hairdryer turn on. His palm a fraction of an inch away from the door handle, he barely managed to stop in time.

His body bursting with barely contained aggression, he plopped back down on the bed, crossed his arms over his chest, and ordered himself to calm the fuck down!

One deep breath after another, he kept talking himself down from the high tree branch onto which he had climbed.

Take it easy, moron. She has no idea you’re lying in wait for her like a fucking perv.

He kept telling himself he needed to be patient, romantic, go slow…

Except, how the hell would he manage that when he was strung up tighter than a bow string?

Exasperated, Kian banged his head against the headboard.

Chapter 4: Syssi

Syssi’s fingertips were starting to prune.

As fun as the spa was, it was time to get out. Turning the whirlpool off, she stepped out of the tub and wrapped herself in one of the plush towels stacked by its side.

All during her soak, Kian’s words from earlier had been playing over and over in her mind, providing a background soundtrack to the vivid images they were painting.

On one hand, all these new and intense sensations electrified her. It was like discovering a whole new world of pleasure she had never known existed. It was exhilarating. On the other hand, she was afraid that once she had gotten a taste for how it could be, she would do just about anything to get more of it.

Before, she had never understood what drove people to indulge in careless sex, despite the potential utter devastation it entailed. Unwelcome pregnancies, ruined marriages, family feuds, wars… Literature painted an abundance of catastrophic scenarios, Syssi had used to believe were mostly fictional. After all, what was so difficult about keeping your pants on?

But now, as need gnawed at her like a hungry beast, she understood.

Standing on the cold marble and looking out the window at the dark sky, she grew nervous. Kian would be back soon. And then what? Was she strong enough to say no to him, or at least not yet? Or was she going to surrender to her longing and have reckless sex with a man she barely knew but wanted desperately?

Toweling the moisture off with the excessive vigor of her rising frustration, she questioned her indecision. What was really the point of delaying the inevitable? If not tonight, then the next, or the one after that. If Kian still wanted her, that is. He might have concluded that she was too much trouble, and go for the easy and available.

Everyone around her was talking about hookups and booty calls, instead of dates and relationships. People treated sex as casually as going to the movies or out for a drink. In this uninspiring, emotionally disconnected landscape, the pursuit of sexual gratification was the norm, and the rare relationship an exception. An oddity.

Still, she wondered if all these people were deluding themselves into accepting this sorry state of affairs as gratifying. Perhaps they were just desperately reaching out for any kind of connection, hoping something real would sprout from all that carnality.

She couldn’t see herself living that way. Maybe she was old fashioned, or just naive, but she needed at least the illusion of a relationship, if not the real thing, to get all hot and sweaty with a guy.

Oh, but Kian…

He was like an addiction, an obsession, calling to her, drawing her in like a moth to a flame. She knew she was going to burn, but at this point she didn’t care.

She was going to do it, had to…

Catching her panicky reflection staring back at her from the mist-covered mirror, her hand flew to her chest.

Oh, God! She wasn’t ready!

It had been so long since her last time, Syssi felt like a virgin all over again; nervous, insecure, frightened. So okay, it probably wasn’t going to hurt like the first time had—thank heavens for small favors—but she felt anxious nonetheless.

What if she fell short of Kian’s expectations, what if he found her unexciting… lacking…

What if, what if… stop it! She ordered the self-disparaging internal monolog to cease.

Rubbing lotion onto her hands, she decided a whole body rub would help with her jitters. Squirting a generous dollop of the stuff, she slathered it all over, watching her skin turn slick and soft.

She took a little longer than necessary to work it into the soft skin of her breasts, running her thumbs over her sensitive nipples and tweaking them lightly till they tightened into hard little knobs. It felt nice, but didn’t come close to the kind of fire Kian’s touch had ignited in her dream.

Would reality be as amazing as that fantasy? How would his hands feel? His lips? She closed her eyes, imagining, and as the slow simmer of arousal flared into searing heat, a quiet moan escaped her throat.

What am I doing? Syssi sneaked an embarrassed glance at the mirror as if catching herself red handed. Grimacing, she shook her head; how pathetic was it for someone her age to be so reserved. After all, she was by herself with no one to judge her one way or the other, but she still felt uncomfortable touching herself with the lights on and in the vicinity of a mirror.

With a sigh, she wiped her moist hands on the towel and began blow drying her hair. Once she was done, she was ready to head out when a faint bang sounded from behind the closed door.

Cautiously, she opened it a crack.

It was dark, and coming from the brightly illuminated bathroom, it took a moment for her pupils to dilate enough to make out the large shape lying on her bed. As her eyes fully adjusted to the dim light, Kian’s handsome but brooding features became clear.

He looks like the big bad wolf about to devour Little Red Riding Hood… Me. Syssi chuckled. Apparently, today was a fairy tale day. First Goldilocks and the Three Bears, then Little Red Riding Hood, what next? Cinderella, or Beauty and the Beast?

Syssi leaned toward the second one. As gorgeous as Kian was, she had a feeling that he was more of a beast than a prince.

“Oh, my! What a big, strong body you have, Grandma!” Purring seductively, she sauntered into the room. But as Kian’s expression turned from brooding to menacing, she chickened out, and cursing her inability to put a muzzle on her stupid mischievous streak, she turned to flee into the walk-in closet.

“All the better to pounce on you, my dear!” Kian took to the role play with gusto, and leaping off the bed with the swiftness and grace of a jungle cat caught her from behind before she managed to reach the closet. Holding her back against his chest, he lifted her up.

She jackknifed, kicking her legs and trying to get away while laughing nervously and clawing at the strong fingers clutching hers on the towel.

It was futile.

In one swift move he swung and tossed her on the bed, then pounced, looming above her as he caged her between his thighs and outstretched arms. Still panting from the laughter and exertion of her failed escape attempt, she couldn’t fill her lungs.

Or maybe her shortness of breath had nothing to do with exertion and everything to do with Kian. The long strands of his wavy hair falling around his angular features, he was insanely beautiful…

And terrifying.

There was no humor in that hard beauty, only hunger.

Caught in the intense glow of Kian’s eyes, she felt trapped like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. Fear trickled down her spine in liquid drops of fire that pooled at her core, wetting the insides of her naked thighs.

He caressed her cheek then kissed the hollow of her neck, gently soothing her before bringing his palm to rest over her fisted hand. “Let go of the towel, Syssi,” he whispered. Except, coming through his clenched teeth, his words sounded hissed, rough and demanding.

Not ready to let go yet, Syssi shook her head.

He kept at it, stroking her straining knuckles with his thumb, until gently, one at a time, she let him pry her fingers open.

Gazing into his hungry eyes, she was still apprehensive but didn’t resist when he entwined their fingers and stretched her arms over her head, holding them there as he brought his face down to shower her with feather-light kisses.

He kissed her eyelids, her eyebrows, her cheeks, her nose, the hollows at the sides of her neck. He kept kissing her like that until she began to relax; her body growing slack. Only then, he released his hold on her hands and leaned back on his haunches to stare hungrily at her body.

Under Kian’s searing gaze, laid out like a bounty before him, Syssi stretched out ready to be unveiled. There were no more thoughts, no more hesitation, only a burning desire.

Slowly, carefully, as if unwrapping a precious gift, Kian peeled away one side of the towel and then the other.

“Damn! Just look at you… perfection.” He swallowed, gazing at her with an expression full of awe, as if he’d never seen a woman as beautiful as her. No one had ever looked at her like that. She basked, for the first time in her life feeling truly desired. And not by any man, by Kian. The nearest male approximation of a god.

As his eyes lingered on her breasts, watching them heave with her shallow, panting breaths, Syssi felt her nipples stiffen. And when his tongue darted to his lip, her breath caught as she imagined him licking, sucking. Instead, he continued his tour of her body, his eyes traveling down until coming to a halt at her bare mound.

“Beautiful. All of you.” He cupped her center.

With a strangled moan, her lids dropped over her eyes.

“Perfect,” he whispered, bending to lightly kiss one turgid peak. “Magnificent.” He kissed the other, then waited until she opened her eyes and looked at him.

“I want you so badly, I’m going to go up in flames if you won’t have me,” he breathed. Running his hands along her outstretched arms, he reached her hands and entangled their fingers. His face a scant inch from hers, he searched her wide open eyes.

Gazing up at his beautiful face, she saw her own raging need reflected in his eyes. “I want you, Kian, so much that it hurts,” she whispered.

It was a terrifying thing to admit, and the only reason she’d mustered enough courage to speak the truth, was the way he was looking at her. There was no way he was faking it. Kian’s soul was shining through his eyes, and he was baring himself to her just as much as she was baring herself to him.

He closed his eyes in relief, but only for a brief moment. Then with a measuring look, he asked again. “Are you sure?”

She must’ve seemed shell shocked to him, laying underneath his big body with her eyes opened wide, panting.

And in truth, she was.

Still, she needed this like she needed to take her next breath.

“I need you,” she whispered.

The change in his expression was lightning fast. Sure of his welcome, Kian’s last vestiges of restraint shattered, and he descended upon her like a hungry beast; smashing her lips with his mouth, thrusting his tongue in and out, and growling as he nipped at her lips.

Swept in the torrent of his ferocity, Syssi arched her back, aching to feel the length of his body pressed against hers—to feel his weight on top of her.

Except, he remained propped on his shins, his bowed arms supporting the weight of his chest, their bodies barely touching.

But with her mouth under attack and her arms pinned, there was little she could do about it besides moan and whimper.

Kian’s mouth trailed south, kissing and nipping every spot along her jawline and down her neck to her collarbone, then licking and kissing the small hurts away.

Syssi panted in breathless anticipation, her painfully stiff nipples desperate for his hands, his lips…

“Please…” she whispered, her need stronger than her pride.

He lifted his head, the hunger in his eyes belying his teasing mouth. “Tell me what you need, beautiful.” He let go of one of her hands to caress her cheek, extending his thumb to rub over her swollen lips before pressing it into her mouth.

She sucked it in, swirling her tongue around it until he pulled it out to rub the moisture over her dry lips.

With the hand he had freed, she cupped Kian’s lightly stubbled cheek, letting the last of her shields drop and allowing him to see in her unguarded expression all of the desire and adoration she felt for him.

He leaned into her tender touch. “My sweet, precious girl,” he whispered, covering her hand with his own.

Holding her palm to his lips, he kissed its center before returning it to where it was before. “I like the way you look with your arms outstretched, surrendering to me, trusting me with your pleasure.”

Hooded with desire, his eyes were pleading with her to give him that, promising only pleasure if she did.

Syssi felt powerless to deny him anything. Without a word she complied, stretching her arms and grabbing onto the headboard’s metal frame.

How did he do that, she wondered, setting her body on fire—knowing what she needed better than she did herself.

To hell with precaution and consequences, she was done being careful. No more almosts, no more only ifs, no more maybe-next-time’s, this was it.

With Kian, she had finally glimpsed the path to the elusive bliss. And the only way she could traverse that road was with him in the driver seat. She needed to cede control to him. And to do that, she needed to trust him… which was scary.

It wasn’t that she feared he’d hurt her physically, she knew he wouldn’t. But to trust that he would not exploit the tremendous emotional vulnerability she was about to expose; that took real courage.

Or stupidity.

Still, she knew it was her one and only chance to take the plunge because there was no doubt in her mind that she would never even consider this with anyone but Kian.

Releasing a shuddering breath, she gazed into his eyes, and the way he looked at her, waiting breathlessly for her acquiescence, provided the final push.

She took the plunge.

“I don’t know why I feel this way with you, trusting you to take control of my pleasure, but I do. I crave it,” Syssi whispered, a rush of pure lust sweeping through her with the admission.

Chapter 5: Kian

Kian groaned. “Do you have any idea how perfect you are? How much your trust means to me?” He dipped his head, pouring his gratitude and appreciation into a tender kiss.

Well aware that lovely, sweet Syssi was nothing like what he was accustomed to, and the set of rules she played by was different than his, he had to make sure she understood the rules of this new game he was introducing her to. But now that she had given him the green light, he was in serious trouble because there was nothing holding him back, and his damned instincts were screaming for him to rip off his pants, plunge all the way into her, and sink his fangs into her neck while he was at it.

Not going to happen. Kian took a deep breath and closed his eyes, forcing the beast to back the hell off.

First, he would make sure to take care of her pleasure.

Kissing and licking the column of her throat, he needed at least a moment between her thighs, even if only to feel her through the fabric of his pants. Pushing her knees apart, he aligned his erection with her sex, careful not to scrape her with his zipper as he rubbed against her.

Fuck, it feels good.

With a groan, he slid further down her body until his face was level with her stiff peaks. For a moment, he just looked at their sculpted perfection, watching them heave with each of her breaths. Until he heard her whimper.

Only then, he took one tip between his lips. He pulled on it gently, twirling his tongue round and round, while lightly pinching its twin between his thumb and forefinger and tugging on it in sync with his suckling.

As he kept alternating between the sensitive nubs, suckling them harder and grazing them lightly with his teeth, Syssi’s moans and whimpers were getting louder and more desperate.

She was loving it. Her hips circling under the weight of him, she held on to the headboard with a white-knuckled grip.

Kian eased up, giving her a small reprieve. “Ask me to make you come, baby,” he breathed around her wet nipple, lifting his eyes to her sweat-misted face.

“Please…” she whimpered.

“That’s not good enough. You can do better than that.”

Syssi arched her back, and as she turned her desperate eyes up to her tight grip on the headboard, he felt an outpour of wetness slid down her thigh.

“Oh, God! Yes! Please… Please make me come… Kian.”

As his blunt front teeth carefully closed around one nipple, and his fingers around the other, Syssi erupted. And as he kept increasing the pressure, turning the slight ache into what must’ve been an almost unbearable hurt, her climax continued rippling through her—her beautiful body quaking with the aftershocks as she wailed until her voice turned hoarse.

That was it for him.

Unable to hold it off anymore, he came hard, erupting spasmodically inside his pants. Except, it did nothing to soften his erection, he was still as hard as before.

Releasing some of the pressure took the edge off, though. Now, with the wild beast raging inside him contained for a little longer, he could watch Syssi climax again and again.

He would never tire of seeing her like that. Her dazed, blissed out expression suffusing him with tenderness.

My beautiful, passionate girl.

Cupping her breasts with his palms, he soothed her tender nubs, waiting for them to soften under the warmth of his touch.

As her ragged breathing slowed down, Syssi mouthed, “Wow!” her cheeks flaming.

Kian smiled, peering at her from between the hands he had cupped over her ample breasts.

Releasing her hold on the metal frame, she took his cheeks between her palms and pulled him up for a kiss.

“Did I give you permission to bring your arms down, sweet girl?” he said before sealing his lips over hers. He then traced the line of her jaw with kisses and nibbles, all the way up to her earlobe, catching the soft tissue between his teeth.

Syssi squirmed. “No,” she said in a small voice, caressing his stubble with her thumbs. “My hands have a mind of their own. I just had to touch you.” She pouted, pretending contrition.

“Be a good girl and put your hands back up, or I’ll have to flip you over and spank that sweet little bottom of yours.” He tweaked her nipple and smirked, watching her eyelids flutter as a shiver of desire swept through her.

“Is that a promise?” Syssi taunted, whispering breathlessly as she lifted and tightened the aforementioned body part and pressed her pelvis up to his belly. Still, she hastened to obey his command, and stretching her arms, returned her hands to the headboard.

The hint of trepidation in her eyes hadn’t been lost on him. Syssi wasn’t sure if he was just teasing or intended to make good on that threat.

“Could you be any more perfect for me?” Kian said, shaking his head. “My little minx has some naughty fantasies I would be more than happy to fulfill. I promise. If you ask really nicely… or behave really badly, you can bet your sweet bottom on it.” He winked, and with a surge, dived down and pressed an open-mouthed kiss to her wet folds.

Syssi squeaked, lifting and pulling away from him, but Kian gripped her hips and pulled her back down. Sliding both hands under her bottom, he lifted her pelvis up to his mouth and licked her wet slit from top to bottom and then back up, growling like a beast.

At first, she stiffened. But Kian kept at it even though he knew she felt scandalized. This was such an intimate act, demanding a level of trust and familiarity that must’ve been difficult for her. After all, he had her spread out naked, her sex soaking wet from her earlier climax, licking and feasting on it while he was still fully dressed.

He was pushing her, testing her limits, thrilled that despite her initial reluctance she was letting him have his way.

He loved that ceding control to him turned her on. The more he demanded, the more he pushed, the more she responded with wild abandon, rewarding him with her moans and whimpers and more of her sweet nectar pouring onto his greedy tongue.

He could go on like that for hours, savoring and exulting in the pleasure he was wringing out of her.

It wasn’t about him being a selfless giving lover, not entirely. Having his pants on and not allowing her to touch him was the only way he could stay in control. His hunger for sex, for her, was so intense, he was afraid of what he’d do to her otherwise.

The beast in him wanted to impale her sex with his cock and sink his fangs into her neck in one brutal move. And then go on fucking her for hours, biting her and coming inside her over and over again. Rutting on her like the animal it was.

Traumatizing her.

It was true that she would have climaxed every time he would have sunk his fangs into her neck… or her breast… or the juncture of her thigh. The aphrodisiac in his venom would’ve made sure of that. And yes, her pain and bruising would’ve faded from its healing properties. And after he was done, he could easily thrall the nasty memory away.

Except, he was neither a sadist nor a mindless beast… well… not entirely, and not as long as he remained in control.

He cared too much for this girl to let go—even a little.

Before he slaked his need, he would make sure she was properly pleasured, sated, and soaking wet from multiple orgasms. And even then, he couldn’t let loose the monster lurking inside him.

Chapter 6: Syssi

The man is wicked.

Drawing lazy circles around her nether lips and scooping her juices with his tongue, Kian groaned with the pleasure of literally eating her up.

He’d been doing it for so long, keeping her at a slow simmer, skirting the spot where she needed him most, that she had to bite on her bottom lip to stifle the sounds she was making. Her needy groans sounded like angry growls.

“Please, I can’t take it anymore!” she finally hissed.

Kian lifted his head. “Tell me what you need, baby.” He smirked, licking her juices from his glistening lips.

Hanging on the precipice, she was beyond shame or reserve. “You… I need you inside me! Please…” She groaned—panting from parted lips as he pulled his hands from under her butt and lowered her back to the mattress. Eyes trained on her face, he tightened his grip on her hip, anchoring her down, and slid one long finger inside her slick core.

Her channel tightened, clutching and spasming around the thrusting and retreating digit. It felt so good. Syssi moaned, closing her eyes and letting her head drop back.

“Look at me!” Kian growled.

With an effort, she lifted her head and looked at him with hooded eyes, her lower lip pulsing, swollen from where she had bitten on it before.

Holding her gaze, he pulled out his finger and pushed back with two. She inhaled sharply at the amplified pleasure. A slight burn started, reminding her how long it had been for her, and for a moment she got scared. But then as he lowered his chin and slowly, deliberately, and flicked his tongue at her most erogenous spot, a flood of moisture coated his fingers, turning the intrusion from slightly painful to blissfully pleasurable.

His fingers pumping in and out of her, in that slow, maddening way, Syssi was hanging by a thread—straining on the edge of the orgasm bearing down on her. She needed him to move just a little faster, or pinch her nipple with the powerful fingers of his other hand, and she would’ve gone flying.

But Kian had other ideas. Joining a third finger, he stretched her even wider. Again, there was a slight burn, but she couldn’t care less.

Let it hurt, just let me dive over that edge.

She kept her eyes on his face, watching him as a wicked gleam sparkled in his eyes, just a split moment before he closed his lips around the tiny bundle of nerves at the apex of her sex and sucked it in.

“Kiannnnn!” Syssi erupted, mewling and thrashing as the climax came at her violently, jerking her body off the bed. Kian didn’t let go, pumping his fingers and suckling on her, he prolonged it, squeezing every last drop of pleasure out of her.

A moment later, or perhaps it had been longer than that, she came down from floating in that semi-conscious, post-orgasmic space and opened her eyes. A gasp escaped her throat. Kian was suspended above her—gloriously naked. Giving her no time to ponder the how and when he had shucked off his clothes, or to admire his beautifully muscled body, he speared into her with a grunt.

Syssi cried out.

It hurt. Boy did it hurt, and not in a good way. Not an erotic pain. Just pain, hot and searing.

As her channel stretched and burned, struggling to accommodate Kian’s girth, Syssi wanted to push him off; memories of her first time intruding on and marring what was supposed to be something wonderful—casting an unpleasant shadow over the bliss that he had brought her before.

Tears streaking from the corners of her eyes, she panted, waiting for the pain to subside.

“I’m sorry,” Kian whispered, kissing her teary eyes, as he tried to pull out.

“No, just give me a moment.” She clutched him to her. This wasn’t going to end like that, no way.

He didn’t move, not even a twitch. With muscles strained and eyes blazing in his hard face, he looked at her, holding his breath as he waited for her body to adjust to his invasion. Only when the pain started to ebb and she began to moan and undulate—her lust and her pleasure overriding her pain—did he began thrusting, carefully, gently, until she gasped again.

This time, in pleasure.

For what seems like a long time, he moved inside her with infinite care, his thrusts slow and shallow, and eventually even the memory of pain was gone, there was only pleasure.

Syssi brought her palms to Kian’s cheeks and pulled him down, kissing him softly. She was falling in love with this man, and there was little she could do about it. Right now she was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude, for his patience, for his care. Kian was putting her pleasure first.

“I’m okay now. You can let go,” she whispered against his lips.

His thrusts got a little deeper, but he kept going slow for a few moments, gauging her response. When she closed her eyes and moaned deep in her throat, he increased the tempo and force, gradually going deeper and faster until the powerful pounding rattled the bed, banging it against the wall and driving them both toward the headboard.

Kian braced himself by grabbing the metal frame above where she was holding on, his biceps bulging with the strain and sweat dripping down the center of his muscular chest.

As Syssi climbed toward another climax, Kian’s grunts and her moans were accompanied by the sounds of the bed’s feet sliding and screeching on the hardwood floor, and the headboard banging against the wall. A carnal soundtrack to the drama of their fierce coupling.

Forcing her eyes to remain open, Syssi stared at Kian’s handsome face, awed. Straining, he was covered in sweat, his lips pressed into a thin line. And his eyes, those hypnotic blue eyes of his, were glowing with an eerie luminance.

I’m delirious, she thought, marveling at the sight.

Shifting those amazing eyes down to her neck, he dipped his head to suck and lick at her fast pulsing vein; strands of his soft hair caressing her cheek as he kept his relentless pounding.

On an impulse, Syssi turned her head sideways, startled to find herself silently pleading with him; Bite me! Please…

Oh, God!

The sharp pain of his fangs sinking into her flesh shocked her; the needle-like incisors clearly not human.

Fangs… He had fangs in my dream… was her last coherent thought as his seed jetted into her, and she fell apart, her climax erupting in waves of volcanic intensity.

The euphoria that followed left her boneless and exhausted. Unable to open her eyes, blissful and content, she sighed, surrendering to oblivion.

Chapter 7: Kian

Kian retracted his fangs and closed the small incision points with a couple of licks.

Stroking Syssi’s damp hair away from her temples, he looked at her peaceful, sleeping face, then pressed a gentle kiss to her parted lips.

He had exhausted the poor girl.

When he had entered her, he had not expected her to be so tight, and the look of pain on her face had startled him. After climaxing twice, she had been so wet, it should’ve been a smooth glide.

If he hadn’t known better, he would have thought her a virgin.

He’d wanted to withdraw immediately, but Syssi had stopped him. Apparently, she was made from tougher stuff than he’d suspected. Still, he’d held himself in check. With his superior physiology providing stamina to match, he could’ve kept going. Except the same couldn’t have been said about her. What was slow and gentle for him, had been a rough ride for Syssi.

She looked drained.

Pulling out, careful not to wake her, Kian remained suspended over her for a moment, and as he looked at her beautiful face, he was gripped by an intense craving to cleave unto her and make her his.

Heavens! How he wanted to come clean and tell Syssi everything: about himself, who he was, what he was… needing her to accept it all, accept him…

To love him.

His chest tight, he reluctantly prepared to perpetuate the deception, and with a heavy sigh, reached into her mind, carefully extracting the memory of his bite.

It had to be done.

Out of respect for Syssi, he resisted the temptation to take a peek and see himself through her eyes. It was selfish, but he hoped she was falling in love with him, even if just a little, because he couldn’t help falling for her.

It was futile, and tomorrow he was going to exorcise these dangerous feeling by any means available to him, but tonight he would allow himself to feel. Just this once.

With one more kiss to her sweet lips, he got up and walked over to the bathroom, bringing back a warm washcloth for his girl.

Syssi didn’t stir. Not as he gently wiped away their combined issue, nor when he climbed into bed, not even when he turned her sideways so he could spoon behind her.

Reaching for the crumpled comforter at the foot of the bed, he pulled it up to cover them both.

“Sleep tight, precious,” he whispered.

Too early for him to fall asleep, Kian closed his eyes and focused on the sensation of Syssi’s soft curves curled against his body. Ever since Lavena, he hadn’t spent a night with a woman. Frankly, he hadn’t been so inclined. But he would have loved to have Syssi pressed against him every night. There was a sense of peace, of rightness in having her there that he hadn’t expected.

He wondered if Syssi had known it would be like this between them. She was a seer, so it was possible she’d gotten a glimpse of them together.

When his phone went off on the nightstand, Kian grabbed it quickly before the ringing woke her up.

“Yeah,” he whispered.

Syssi didn’t stir. Yep, exhausted.

“Why are you whispering?” Yamanu asked.

“Never mind that. Do you have news about the boy?”

He’d assigned Yamanu the job of retrieving Michael, the other talent on Amanda’s list who was a potential target for the Doomers. But instead of picking him up right away, he had Yamanu and his team follow the kid around to see if Doomers showed up. There had been a couple of problems with that. Michael and his football team had traveled out of town for a game, while his phone remained behind.

“He is back and he has his phone. Someone found it and brought it to lost-and-found, but the battery was dead.”

“Is he in the dorms?”

“Was, until about an hour ago. He went with a couple of buddies to a club.”

“Wait until he gets back and you can pick him up the moment he’s alone. We’ve wasted enough of your time already.”

“Yeah, I figured you’d say that. But if the Doomers don’t make a move, now that he has his phone back, he might be safe. One more day and we’ll know for sure.”

Kian chuckled. Yamanu was disappointed that no Doomers had shown up and there was no fight. Ever since Brundar and Anandur’s report about the skirmish at the lab, he’d been eager to test his skills against some Doomers. The Guardian hoped he would still get his chance. “I’m giving you until tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks, boss.”

I hope you enjoyed this extended preview and can’t wait to read the rest of the story.
(I’m crossing my fingers  ? ) 

Click HERE to get the book.

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