This is for you, Princess!
“You should put these on before we begin.”
A soft T-shirt and loose, drawstring-waist, cotton trousers were tossed at Maximus as he pulled himself to a sitting position on the bed. Both items were new, for they still sported tags, which he ripped off with a flick of his hand.
Wordlessly, he shrugged into the clothes, taking a few seconds to gather his wits.
It didn’t escape his notice that the woman watched him avidly as he lifted his butt to pull up the pants. She stared in unabashed fascination at his groin before he tucked himself out of sight.
A fission of awareness chased down his spine.
He was hard and aching, fully erect, but he ruthlessly shut down the basic animal needs.
The act of leashing his urges gave him a calming sense of familiarity. Controlling the beast within was like donning an invisible armor, hiding his true self from the world.
In his mind, a slew of questions pushed to the fore, but he didn’t give them voice. Questions like: What are we beginning? Why have I been lying naked and unconscious in this bed? How long have I been out?
And nonsensical thoughts like—
Why do I want to drag you into this bed with me, gorge upon your blood, and lose myself in your body for days on end?
What he said was, “Where am I?”
“In my hideout,” came the quick response.
Not the most enlightening of answers.
“Who are you?” That seemed to be the next logical query.
“Ariel Kyles,” she said with less certainty, a small frown creasing her brow. “You know who I am. You’ve been tracking me.”
Yes, he knew who she was. Special Agent Kyles. Middle name Pain-In-His-Ass.
Her speech was staccato, as if she wasn’t used to speaking. She used the minimal words possible to convey her thoughts, and there were noticeable pauses in between sentences as if she were translating between languages in her head.
Strange. Maximus was almost certain she was born and raised in the U.S., a native American English speaker even though she’d also acquired fluency in several other languages while serving her country in various capacities.
Perhaps she wasn’t translating languages in her head so much as debating within herself what to say out loud. He could sense that she withheld more information than she divulged.
His gaze meticulously catalogued her elfin features, those startling golden green eyes, black, slashing brows and full red lips in a ghostly pale face.
He’d seen her pictures before, some grainy, taken from afar; some crystal clear, zoomed in with a special lens. He’d gotten his hands on classified information tucked deep into her personnel file at the Bureau. But the living, breathing woman didn’t fit the dry facts and figures he’d collected.
The female seated not five feet in front of him was mysterious and wild. Larger than life.
“How long have I been here? How did I come to be here?” he asked, his voice calm and low, as always, but vibrating just slightly with an undertone of impatience.
She wasn’t very forthcoming when he wasn’t asking questions, even though she was the one who said they needed to talk.
“A little over three days,” she answered directly. “You were shot up pretty bad. Practically died. So I brought you here to recover. It’s a safe house I never use. Off the grid. Not the apartment in my records.”
He took in his surroundings with an efficient sweep. No, this was not the address he had of her on file. The place had no windows. He didn’t hear sounds coming from outside. They must be in a remote location.
“You brought me here.” He shot her a doubtful look.
He was easily twice her weight and towered over her by a foot. She must have had help to get him here. Which begged the question, where was her aide? Who was she working with?
She cocked her head at him as if hearing his unspoken question.
“I dragged you here by myself. I’m stronger than I look.”
He remained skeptical but didn’t argue with her.
For long moments, he was silent, sifting through the bits and pieces of the past three nights.
“You…healed me,” he surmised reluctantly, not liking the fact that he was so deeply indebted to her.
He might have been unconscious, but he did retain fragments of memories.
Memories of her feeding him her blood. Her hands gently stroking his too-tight skin to calm him. Her mouth…
His cock jerked hard and seeped pre-cum as it remembered too.
Her heavenly mouth had given him the release his body so sorely needed as it battled the stress of coming back from death. She’d given him exquisite pleasure to combat the mind-bending pain.
As if she knew where his thoughts had gone, she slowly licked her wet, pink tongue across her upper lip, then around the corner to the luscious lower one.
“You don’t owe me for that,” she uttered low, reading his mind. “That was the reward I took for feeding you.”
She looked like she wanted more of him right now. A rumbling noise vibrated through her body as she continued to stare at him like a predator hypnotizing her chosen prey.
It sounded like someone had started a small motor in the silent room.
Agent Kyles was purring.
Maximus’s fangs punched through his gums as saliva flooded his mouth. His sex pulsed and shuddered like a lightning rod set off by a mighty storm.
He wanted her too.
With a violent urgency he’d never felt before. It was all he could do to keep himself from leaping on top of her, pull her to her knees and pound into her hard and deep while biting the back of her neck and marking her his.
He shook his head to clear it.
What was happening to him? He had more control than this! He never lost control.
As if sensing his determination to resist his darker instincts, she gave his crotch one last lingering, covetous look before asking him a question in turn.
“Do you remember what happened that night?”
The fog of primal lust lifted from his head. Maximus would rather not remember, but there was only so long he could put it off.
He recalled going to the docks to meet Agent Kyles, impersonating a higher up in her division. They’d been ambushed by dozens of shooters. He was taken down by a vampire killer.
That was when…
Maximus gouged the heels of his palms into his eye sockets as an explosion of pain within his chest robbed him of breath. His nostrils filled with acid.
She’d sacrificed her life to save him.
Dark Goddess above! He couldn’t breathe. The beast within him howled and thrashed, banging against the prison of his conscious mind.
He’d lost his partner three nights ago.
He’d watched her beautiful black hide get shot full of bullet holes. She’d leapt into the air at that last moment…and disintegrated into a shower of stardust.
She was gone.
Just like that, after centuries by his side, his partner, his family—his everything—was gone!
Maximus shuddered uncontrollably when a strong hand squeezed his arm. His first instinct was to tear the offensive limb from his person; he couldn’t bear to be touched right now.
Instead, he grasped the hand tightly with his own, as if clutching a lifeline.
“Look at me, Maximus. Focus.”
Helplessly, he obeyed and opened his eyes.
“We have to get out of here. I don’t know how long this safe house will remain secure. Even now, they’re tracking us. It won’t be long before we’re found.”
Through the wet filter of his lashes he stared into familiar golden green eyes. Almost immediately, his breathing calmed. His heart slowed its frantic thumping.
Who was this woman?
“Who is tracking us?” he asked instead, her lowly uttered words momentarily distracting him from mind-numbing despair.
“Medusa and her henchmen,” she replied readily, as if she hadn’t just revealed the name of the Dark and Pure Ones’ nemesis.
“I must alert the Cov—”
“You’ll put your comrades in danger if you tell them,” she broke in.
“Besides, Medusa is likely counting on your contacting them and could piggy back onto their communication channels. You’ll only blow our cover faster. Her new tech master is just as good as, if not better than, your Grace Darling. If he’d been Medusa’s digital architect at the time, you never would have been able to retrieve the list of names.”
“How do you know this?” He had to ask.
How could a human woman possibly know so much? Not only about his Kind, his role among the New England Dark Ones, the fight clubs she’d infiltrated, but also about their enemies and Medusa’s plots?
She regarded him with an unreadable expression.
“You vampires are so arrogant,” she informed him without judgement, simply making an observation.
“Humans aren’t stupid. We’ve known about your Kind for a very long time. You’ve made allies amongst us. Of course you have. After all, you are outnumbered tens of thousands to one. Do you really think we haven’t kept our own tabs on you?”
“What do you know about the list of names?” Maximus grasped onto what she’d said. Something told him she didn’t say it casually.
“A list of all the warrior-class Dark and Pure Ones in existence along with their physical coordinates,” she replied readily. “The ones that are italicized are True Bloods, Dark Ones born. And there are also names marked by asterisks.”
“What do those signify?”
Her eerie feline eyes glinted with a flash of fire.
“Would you like to find out?”
His eyes narrowed, his body tensing with aggression.
From all appearances, she’d saved his life, but that didn’t mean he could trust her.
“I’m not in the mood for games,” he growled.
She ignored his warning, not in the least afraid of him.
“Your name is on that list,” she told him.
He gave a sharp nod. He knew this already. It would have been odd if his name wasn’t on the list, for the most formidable immortal warriors were Medusa’s primary targets for recruitment.
“So is the name of your panther.”
Maximus’s breath froze in his lungs, even though he knew that too.
“Her name was Simca, was it not?”
Was, not is. He didn’t want the reminder.
“You can get her back,” Ariel Kyles said, hypnotizing him with her uncanny stare.
“The one you think you lost. I carry her inside me now. There is a way to release her.”
His mouth parted in shock.
“But we have to release you first.”