"Are you okay?” Kri asked.

Michael cast her a sidelong glance. “Why do you ask?”

She shrugged.

As he steered her green Hummer through the busy Los Angeles streets, it appeared that Michael wasn't in a talkative mood. Kri didn’t mind. The silence suited her; she was comfortable with it. Except, this wasn't like him. Normally, her boyfriend wasn't the silent brooding type. Was he anxious about meeting his old college buddies after not seeing them for so long?

Or was he nervous about introducing them. Kri wasn't exactly typical girlfriend material, unless one had a taste for the Amazon-warrior-woman type.

Kri smiled.

Luckily for her, Michael had.

It must've been about explaining his long absence.

For months, his friends hadn't heard a word from him. Fates only knew what they had imagined had happened to him. The last time they had seen Michael, the three had been on their way back to their dorms when they’d been attacked by Doomers.

Her fellow Guardians had gotten there just in time to intercept.

Regrettably, though, she hadn't been invited to participate in the Doomer butt kicking. As a female Guardian—the first and for now the only female Guardian—she was relegated to internal policing duties. Kian would never allow her on missions involving Doomers, afraid of her falling to the enemy. It irked that he underestimated her skills, but she understood his concern. Captive of Doomers, the fate of an immortal female would’ve been worse than death.

A never-ending cycle of brutal rapes would’ve been all she had to look forward to.

Of course, Michael's friends had no recollection of the attack. Yamanu had taken care of that, thralling them to believe that Michael had left because of a family emergency.

A shiver ran down Kri’s spine as she imagined what would have happened to Michael if the Guardians hadn't gotten there in time. He and his buddies were big guys, strong from years of football practice, but as humans they hadn't had a chance against the immortals. Even now, with the superior strength he'd gained following his transition, Michael still lacked the combat training to overcome a Doomer, let alone three.

Besides, his venom glands were still inactive. It would be several more months before he could do some damage with his new baby fangs, as Kri liked to call them, annoying the shit out of him. Michael was so proud of his fangs. Except, without the venom, they were not only useless as a weapon, but lacked the ability to elongate.

Bummer.

Poor guy, he couldn't wait to sink these babies into her neck, and frankly she couldn’t wait either. After more than two decades of hooking up with measly humans, she was more than ready for immortal sex. After his transition, Michael had gained the stamina and staying power, but she couldn’t wait for him to give her a venom bite so she could finally experience its euphoric effect. Supposedly, there was nothing that could compare to the ecstasy that followed.

She sighed. “I thought you might feel anxious.”

He lifted a brow as he glanced her way. "About the fake ID?"

"No. With this new one you have nothing to worry about." Even though Michael would be turning twenty-one in exactly twelve days, and would have no more use for it, William had made him a professional quality counterfeit ID that would pass any scrutiny. "I was talking about seeing your friends after all this time."

Michael shrugged. "Why should I be nervous? We talked on the phone and they bought the story I told them." He turned into the club's parking lot.

"Let's go over it again, so I don't mess it up." Given the line of cars in front of her Hummer, they had a few minutes before the attendant could get to them.

"It's the same story I told my parents when I accepted Kian's offer to stay at the keep. It wasn't as if I could have told them the truth even if I was allowed to." He chuckled. "I can just imagine it. Hey, Mom and Dad, just wanted to let you know that I'm taking a break from college and staying with a bunch of immortals. They claim I might be a dormant carrier of their immortal genes, and one of them is going to beat the shit out of me and bite me with his fangs because that's the only way to activate them." He snorted. "They would have suspected drugs and got on the first available flight to drag me to rehab."

"Yeah, you're right. So what story did you end up telling them?"

"That I've been recruited into a special training program by a secret organization that is unofficially affiliated with the government. If I pass the finals, the organization will finance the rest of my studies at their own facilities. If I don't, they'll reimburse me for the semester I've missed. I'm not allowed to talk about it, so this is all I can tell them.”

"And you told your friends that you met me at the program, right?"

"Yes. So you can claim the same bullshit; that you're not allowed to tell them anything about yourself. Yada, yada, yada."

"I like it. It's a simple story with not too many details to remember. But what if they ask how this secret organization approached us?"

He smirked. "Same answer, baby. We are not allowed to disclose any details."

"Sounds good to me." Kri reached into the glove compartment and pulled out the bottle of cologne she'd bought for him. "Here, take this and spray it all over yourself."

"Why? Do I stink?" He lifted his arm and sniffed at his armpit. "Nah, still fresh. I showered and used the deodorant you got me."

Early on in their relationship, this had been a point of contention. Michael had thought nothing of skipping a shower, and he’d believed that deodorant and cologne should be used only when going out on dates.

In some ways, he was still so immature. What did she expect, though? After all, he was not even twenty-one yet, and she was forty-seven. They only looked the same age. Never mind that as an immortal, she was considered the equivalent of a human teenager.

"This is to mask your scent, you big oaf. So spray it liberally. I'd rather you stink of too much cologne than for your own natural scent to be easily detectable by other immortal males."

Michael glanced at her with an amused smirk. "My baby is afraid of Doomers?"

She crossed her arms over her chest and pushed her chin out. "We are unarmed, and I'd rather spend a nice evening getting to know your friends than worry about fucking Doomers."

"Fine." He shook the bottle a few times before spraying the thing all over his clothes and his hair. "Is this good enough?"

"That's plenty." She coughed, her eyes tearing up from the stuff. Damn, it was hard to breathe in the enclosed interior of the car, and she rushed to open the window and stick her head out.

Michael shook his head. "From what I understand, it's not about the smell. I think it's the pheromones that alert immortal males to each other."

She pulled her head back inside and fanned herself. "This cologne is made with them, and supposedly in high concentration, so it might do the trick. It's better than nothing, right?"

With a whole platoon of Doomers scoping clubs and sniffing for immortal males, she didn’t want to take a chance. A team of them might happen to be at the one they were going to.

Michael shrugged. "I suppose."

As the car in front of them was driven away by one of the guys manning the club’s valet station, Michael let the Hummer roll forward.

Forestalling the attendant, Kri pushed the door open and jumped down. "Thanks," she said.

The guy took one look at her and stepped back, giving her plenty of room.

He wasn’t the first dude to react to her this way. But that was fine. She liked the effect she had on people. Her thick-soled boots added an extra inch to her height, rounding it up to a solid six feet. But it wasn't only the height. Her shoulders were wider than those of most guys, and so were her biceps.

With a wink, she tugged on her leather jacket's lapels and closed it, hiding the girly blouse she was wearing under it. Ugh, she hated the feel of the silky material against her skin, it was odd, almost like it was wet. 

Why, oh why had she let Amanda convince her to wear it?

Kri missed the familiar comfort of a T-shirt, which was what she normally wore to clubs and elsewhere. Rhinestones for the clubs, plain for every day. But Amanda had argued that a nice blouse would make her look less intimidating to Michael's friends.

She had even tried to get Kri into a skirt.

Yeah, right, as if ever.

As far as clothes, the blouse had been her only concession. The jeans and the combat boots and the jacket stayed. The one other compromise had been letting her hair out of the tight braid. Frankly though, she had done it for Michael and not as a gesture to appease Amanda. He loved to see her long hair hanging in loose waves down her back.

Michael wrapped his arm around her waist, and she tucked her hand inside his back pocket. He was only a couple of inches taller than her. But it was more than enough. Her guy was built like the linebacker he was. Next to him, she didn’t look so big.

Ugh, she still remembered the endless teasing she’d suffered in the human high school. It had been such an effort not to beat the shit out of those guys. But she couldn't show how strong she was. Even considering her size. So she’d gritted her teeth and waited until graduation, knowing she’d never have to see those people again.

"Damn, I haven't hung out with humans since high school."

"Really? How about college?"

"I didn't go," Kri mumbled under her breath.

Fuck, until now, she'd somehow managed to avoid telling him, letting him assume that she'd attended.

Michael stopped in his tracks and turned to her. "All this time, you were giving me grief about not wanting to go back to school, while you never went? Don't you think it's hypocritical of you?"

“I just want what's best for you, that's all. I had my reasons for not going, and this is not the time or the place to talk about it. You are still so young, Michael, you should have fun before you settle for the first job prospect that comes your way. Why miss on the college experience? Maybe you'll find something you like better than becoming a Guardian? You can always join the force later. It's not like you don't have all the time in the world to do both."

His lips pressed into a tight line, and for a long moment, he regarded her with a hard look that belied his youth. "I'll make you a deal. I'll go back to school if you come with me."

Say what? Where did that come from?

With a smile, Michael touched a finger to the crease that had formed between her eyes. "Don't look at me with this frown. Everything you just said to me applies to you as well. You too have all the time in the world, so why give up on college? Right?"

He’d got her good, and there was nothing she could say to dispute his logic. Except—

"We are short on Guardians. This is not a good time for me to take a break. It would be selfish."

Michael wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her tight against his side as he led her to the front door of the club. "The same holds true for me. They need me."

She rolled her eyes at him as he opened the door for her. "But you're not a Guardian yet."

He cocked a brow. "As you're well aware, I'm their best recruit."

"Ugh, you are so frustrating." It would take him decades of training until he reached the level of a Guardian. Taking a few years off to finish college would not make a dent on this long timeline, especially if he continued training during school.

"Let's call a truce for now. Here is Zack." He waved at a bulky guy with a buzz cut.

The one sitting next to him was probably Eddie, and the third one was a girl with too much makeup who was giving Kri the evil eye.

She elbowed Michael. "Who's the bimbo?"

He groaned. "Gina. God, I hope she is with Eddie."

"An ex-girlfriend?" Kri fisted her hands, then forced them to relax by her sides.

"Just someone I've flirted with a couple of times."

"That's why she is looking at me with those hateful eyes."

He squeezed her hand. "Ignore her. She's a nobody."

As they reached the table, Michael and Eddie did the whole shake, embrace, and clap thing, then it was repeated with Eddie. Gina got up and sauntered up to Michael, giving him the once over as if Kri wasn't standing right next to him.

Skinny, short, with long black hair—not her natural color—Gina was wearing a clingy black dress that had ridden up her thighs as she'd gotten up. But she made no move to try and tug it down.

"Michael, I missed you, where have you been?" She threw her arms around his neck, pulling him down to kiss his cheek.

Eddie watched the display with a scowl, shifting from foot to foot as his girlfriend, or date, or whatever she was to him was throwing herself at another guy.

Poor schmuck.

Michael was trying to peel Gina's hands away from his neck, but she was holding on like a little monkey.

Time to end this.

With a deadly looking smile, Kri tapped the girl's shoulder.

Still plastered to Michael, Gina turned her head around, the sweet smile she had for him replaced by an expression that belonged on a demon. "What?"

Kri glanced down at Gina's behind. "Your ass is showing." She leaned into Gina's ear. "Thought I'd save you the embarrassment, you know, one girl to another." She winked.

Gina tugged her dress down with one hand, keeping the other fastened around Michael. But Michael had had it with her, and pulled her hand away not too gently, then pushed her toward Eddie. She stumbled, but the guy caught her.

Michael wrapped his arm around Kri's shoulders. "Guys, I want you to meet my girlfriend, Kri."

She shook hands with everybody, including Gina.

"You're really tall." Despite the five-inch platform shoes she was wearing, Gina had to crank her neck to look up at Kri.

Kri bent at the waist, lowering her face to Gina's level. "Or maybe you are really short. It all depends on your perspective." She winked and slid into the booth to sit next to Michael.

"Why don't you take off your jacket, baby?" Michael said as he took his off.

Hell, why not. Give little Gina some competition for the slutty look. Kri unsnapped her leather jacket and shrugged it off, then quickly readjusted the two overlapping halves of her silk wrap blouse. Immediately, like four heat-seeking missiles, Eddie and Zack's eyes homed on her cleavage.

Kri rolled her eyes. She wondered if it was only the effect of hers, or did every set of double Ds reduce men to drooling idiots. And if so, then she needed to think of a way to use her big boobs against her enemies. A distraction could provide just the edge she needed when facing a larger and stronger opponent.

"Eyes up here, boys." She motioned with her fingers.

The embarrassed stammering was interrupted by the waitress who arrived to take their order. 

"What can I get you?" she asked, her eyes zeroing in on Michael as a light blush crept up her cheeks.

Odd, to say the least.

Michael was handsome, but so were his friends, not that they could hold a candle to her man, but still, they were fine male specimens. So what was with these females and their crazy focus on her guy?

Of course!

Kri slapped her forehead. The fucking pheromones—they were actually working—not as concealment from other immortal males, but as an attractant to females.

Damn.

"Are you okay?” Kri asked.

Michael cast her a sidelong glance. “Why do you ask?”

She shrugged.

As he steered her green Hummer through the busy Los Angeles streets, it appeared that Michael wasn't in a talkative mood. Kri didn’t mind. The silence suited her; she was comfortable with it. Except, this wasn't like him. Normally, her boyfriend wasn't the silent brooding type. Was he anxious about meeting his old college buddies after not seeing them for so long?

Or was he nervous about introducing them. Kri wasn't exactly typical girlfriend material, unless one had a taste for the Amazon-warrior-woman type.

Kri smiled.

Luckily for her, Michael had.

It must've been about explaining his long absence.

For months, his friends hadn't heard a word from him. Fates only knew what they had imagined had happened to him. The last time they had seen Michael, the three had been on their way back to their dorms when they’d been attacked by Doomers.

Her fellow Guardians had gotten there just in time to intercept.

Regrettably, though, she hadn't been invited to participate in the Doomer butt kicking. As a female Guardian—the first and for now the only female Guardian—she was relegated to internal policing duties. Kian would never allow her on missions involving Doomers, afraid of her falling to the enemy. It irked that he underestimated her skills, but she understood his concern. Captive of Doomers, the fate of an immortal female would’ve been worse than death.

A never-ending cycle of brutal rapes would’ve been all she had to look forward to.

Of course, Michael's friends had no recollection of the attack. Yamanu had taken care of that, thralling them to believe that Michael had left because of a family emergency.

A shiver ran down Kri’s spine as she imagined what would have happened to Michael if the Guardians hadn't gotten there in time. He and his buddies were big guys, strong from years of football practice, but as humans they hadn't had a chance against the immortals. Even now, with the superior strength he'd gained following his transition, Michael still lacked the combat training to overcome a Doomer, let alone three.

Besides, his venom glands were still inactive. It would be several more months before he could do some damage with his new baby fangs, as Kri liked to call them, annoying the shit out of him. Michael was so proud of his fangs. Except, without the venom, they were not only useless as a weapon, but lacked the ability to elongate.

Bummer.

Poor guy, he couldn't wait to sink these babies into her neck, and frankly she couldn’t wait either. After more than two decades of hooking up with measly humans, she was more than ready for immortal sex. After his transition, Michael had gained the stamina and staying power, but she couldn’t wait for him to give her a venom bite so she could finally experience its euphoric effect. Supposedly, there was nothing that could compare to the ecstasy that followed.

She sighed. “I thought you might feel anxious.”

He lifted a brow as he glanced her way. "About the fake ID?"

"No. With this new one you have nothing to worry about." Even though Michael would be turning twenty-one in exactly twelve days, and would have no more use for it, William had made him a professional quality counterfeit ID that would pass any scrutiny. "I was talking about seeing your friends after all this time."

Michael shrugged. "Why should I be nervous? We talked on the phone and they bought the story I told them." He turned into the club's parking lot.

"Let's go over it again, so I don't mess it up." Given the line of cars in front of her Hummer, they had a few minutes before the attendant could get to them.

"It's the same story I told my parents when I accepted Kian's offer to stay at the keep. It wasn't as if I could have told them the truth even if I was allowed to." He chuckled. "I can just imagine it. Hey, Mom and Dad, just wanted to let you know that I'm taking a break from college and staying with a bunch of immortals. They claim I might be a dormant carrier of their immortal genes, and one of them is going to beat the shit out of me and bite me with his fangs because that's the only way to activate them." He snorted. "They would have suspected drugs and got on the first available flight to drag me to rehab."

"Yeah, you're right. So what story did you end up telling them?"

"That I've been recruited into a special training program by a secret organization that is unofficially affiliated with the government. If I pass the finals, the organization will finance the rest of my studies at their own facilities. If I don't, they'll reimburse me for the semester I've missed. I'm not allowed to talk about it, so this is all I can tell them.”

"And you told your friends that you met me at the program, right?"

"Yes. So you can claim the same bullshit; that you're not allowed to tell them anything about yourself. Yada, yada, yada."

"I like it. It's a simple story with not too many details to remember. But what if they ask how this secret organization approached us?"

He smirked. "Same answer, baby. We are not allowed to disclose any details."

"Sounds good to me." Kri reached into the glove compartment and pulled out the bottle of cologne she'd bought for him. "Here, take this and spray it all over yourself."

"Why? Do I stink?" He lifted his arm and sniffed at his armpit. "Nah, still fresh. I showered and used the deodorant you got me."

Early on in their relationship, this had been a point of contention. Michael had thought nothing of skipping a shower, and he’d believed that deodorant and cologne should be used only when going out on dates.

In some ways, he was still so immature. What did she expect, though? After all, he was not even twenty-one yet, and she was forty-seven. They only looked the same age. Never mind that as an immortal, she was considered the equivalent of a human teenager.

"This is to mask your scent, you big oaf. So spray it liberally. I'd rather you stink of too much cologne than for your own natural scent to be easily detectable by other immortal males."

Michael glanced at her with an amused smirk. "My baby is afraid of Doomers?"

She crossed her arms over her chest and pushed her chin out. "We are unarmed, and I'd rather spend a nice evening getting to know your friends than worry about fucking Doomers."

"Fine." He shook the bottle a few times before spraying the thing all over his clothes and his hair. "Is this good enough?"

"That's plenty." She coughed, her eyes tearing up from the stuff. Damn, it was hard to breathe in the enclosed interior of the car, and she rushed to open the window and stick her head out.

Michael shook his head. "From what I understand, it's not about the smell. I think it's the pheromones that alert immortal males to each other."

She pulled her head back inside and fanned herself. "This cologne is made with them, and supposedly in high concentration, so it might do the trick. It's better than nothing, right?"

With a whole platoon of Doomers scoping clubs and sniffing for immortal males, she didn’t want to take a chance. A team of them might happen to be at the one they were going to.

Michael shrugged. "I suppose."

As the car in front of them was driven away by one of the guys manning the club’s valet station, Michael let the Hummer roll forward.

Forestalling the attendant, Kri pushed the door open and jumped down. "Thanks," she said.

The guy took one look at her and stepped back, giving her plenty of room.

He wasn’t the first dude to react to her this way. But that was fine. She liked the effect she had on people. Her thick-soled boots added an extra inch to her height, rounding it up to a solid six feet. But it wasn't only the height. Her shoulders were wider than those of most guys, and so were her biceps.

With a wink, she tugged on her leather jacket's lapels and closed it, hiding the girly blouse she was wearing under it. Ugh, she hated the feel of the silky material against her skin, it was odd, almost like it was wet. 

Why, oh why had she let Amanda convince her to wear it?

Kri missed the familiar comfort of a T-shirt, which was what she normally wore to clubs and elsewhere. Rhinestones for the clubs, plain for every day. But Amanda had argued that a nice blouse would make her look less intimidating to Michael's friends.

She had even tried to get Kri into a skirt.

Yeah, right, as if ever.

As far as clothes, the blouse had been her only concession. The jeans and the combat boots and the jacket stayed. The one other compromise had been letting her hair out of the tight braid. Frankly though, she had done it for Michael and not as a gesture to appease Amanda. He loved to see her long hair hanging in loose waves down her back.

Michael wrapped his arm around her waist, and she tucked her hand inside his back pocket. He was only a couple of inches taller than her. But it was more than enough. Her guy was built like the linebacker he was. Next to him, she didn’t look so big.

Ugh, she still remembered the endless teasing she’d suffered in the human high school. It had been such an effort not to beat the shit out of those guys. But she couldn't show how strong she was. Even considering her size. So she’d gritted her teeth and waited until graduation, knowing she’d never have to see those people again.

"Damn, I haven't hung out with humans since high school."

"Really? How about college?"

"I didn't go," Kri mumbled under her breath.

Fuck, until now, she'd somehow managed to avoid telling him, letting him assume that she'd attended.

Michael stopped in his tracks and turned to her. "All this time, you were giving me grief about not wanting to go back to school, while you never went? Don't you think it's hypocritical of you?"

“I just want what's best for you, that's all. I had my reasons for not going, and this is not the time or the place to talk about it. You are still so young, Michael, you should have fun before you settle for the first job prospect that comes your way. Why miss on the college experience? Maybe you'll find something you like better than becoming a Guardian? You can always join the force later. It's not like you don't have all the time in the world to do both."

His lips pressed into a tight line, and for a long moment, he regarded her with a hard look that belied his youth. "I'll make you a deal. I'll go back to school if you come with me."

Say what? Where did that come from?

With a smile, Michael touched a finger to the crease that had formed between her eyes. "Don't look at me with this frown. Everything you just said to me applies to you as well. You too have all the time in the world, so why give up on college? Right?"

He’d got her good, and there was nothing she could say to dispute his logic. Except—

"We are short on Guardians. This is not a good time for me to take a break. It would be selfish."

Michael wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her tight against his side as he led her to the front door of the club. "The same holds true for me. They need me."

She rolled her eyes at him as he opened the door for her. "But you're not a Guardian yet."

He cocked a brow. "As you're well aware, I'm their best recruit."

"Ugh, you are so frustrating." It would take him decades of training until he reached the level of a Guardian. Taking a few years off to finish college would not make a dent on this long timeline, especially if he continued training during school.

"Let's call a truce for now. Here is Zack." He waved at a bulky guy with a buzz cut.

The one sitting next to him was probably Eddie, and the third one was a girl with too much makeup who was giving Kri the evil eye.