Kenric St. James wants revenge. After two centuries of denying his body’s needs and with vengeance finally at hand, the last thing he expected to find was the one woman he burns to claim as his own. If only giving her his love wouldn’t surely mean her death.
All Emily Ross desires is time alone to learn who she is without a man and to save the home that holds her heart. The last thing she wants is another controlling, dominant male calling all the shots, in bed and out. Never would she have thought stopping her car one night to save a dying man might change her mind, and her life, forever. But is what they have, their desire, worth dying for?
Emily shoved the key into the deadbolt for her unit. The heavy fall of boots on the wooden steps behind her told of Kenric’s arrival. She wondered what he thought of her meager apartment accommodations compared to his sprawling mansion. Her gaze wandered to the complex’s faded-brown paneling. It had seen better days. The constant salt of the ocean’s spray in the air played havoc on any dwellings this close to the ocean.
Everything in the area appeared much older than its actual years. Her mom’s thirty-year-old condominium complex looked closer to sixty. Mom had loved it here, and Emily loved the memories -- the ones that came before her dad had lost his battle with the bottle.
“Come on in -- if you wish,” she said, flipping the light switch to the right of the door.
Emily strode through the living area toward her bedroom, talking as she went. “Make yourself at home. I’m going to change my clothes. I won’t be long.” She glanced back and pointed in the direction of the small galley kitchen. “There should be something to drink in the fridge. Oh.” She halted and then turned. “That’s if you drink anything other than – well -- you know.” She shrugged, knowing her smile had to look uncomfortable.
“I can drink other things on occasion if I wish, but I don’t necessarily get thirsty.”
He’d parked himself inside the closed front door, leaning against it in that casual, I-have-no-idea-how-sexy-I-look kind of way. The leather jacket he’d slipped on before they’d left and all those midnight waves added to his dark bad-boy aura. Yummy.
“Okay. Well, if you would like something tonight, there should be sweet tea and soda in there.” She backpedaled a couple of paces, then spun and headed down the hall.
Entering her room, she noticed the red light from the answering machine sitting on her nightstand was blinking. She strode over to the table and groaned, knowing the callers were probably the two people she despised most in the world. Bill collectors or Jeff, her ex-fiancé. The thought of either made her want to hurl. Both hounded her constantly for money. She braced herself and pressed play.
Yup, collectors. Including one call from the bank holding the lien on the condo. If they didn’t have her payment soon, she risked foreclosure. Why she ever allowed Jeff Monroe to convince her to borrow so much money using her credit, she’d never understand. She took a deep breath and released it, blowing the bangs out of her eyes.
The next three messages mimicked the first. Payment due immediately. Then she came to Jeff’s. Of course, he’d called. Why the hell would he even think of giving her more a than seventy-two hour break from his bullshit? His deep voice, scratchy from years of smoking, filled the bedroom. “You owe me. Pay up, bitch, or I’ll make sure you wish you did.” The call ended. It was always the same threat.
What made her think she ever loved him? She’d been too young and too desperate for attention. So eager to jump into the arms of the first man who acted as if he wanted to take care of her. Never again. She slammed her finger down on the delete button.
Emily changed into a pair of her own cotton sweats and matching T-shirt. She brushed her teeth and ran a brush through her hair. Kenric had already seen her without makeup, so no sense in going there. Turning off the bathroom light, she grabbed the doorframe and took a calming, deep breath.
He wasn’t in the living room when she returned. Ice clinked against glass in the kitchen. Maybe tonight, he had a taste for something -- cold.
“I see you’re thirsty tonight,” Emily said with a nod at the drink in his hand. He stood in the open door of her avocado green refrigerator, pouring a glass of sweet tea.
“No. Actually, I made it for you. You still need to drink a lot of fluids for the next couple of days.”
“Thanks. By the way, here’s my cell number.” Emily held out a slip of paper. She’d jotted it down before leaving the bedroom. Kenric silently moved toward her over the black-and-white tiles.
“How do you do that?”
“Do what?” He stopped in his tracks.
“Move like that?” She pointed to his boots. “Without a sound. It’s spooky. It’s like you’re not really here. I’m looking at you walking toward me, but I can’t hear you.”
“Sorry, I didn’t realize I was doing it.” Suddenly, the sound of his boots returned. The hard soles thumped the floor as he took the final two steps to hand her the tea.
“Thanks for the tea. That was very thoughtful,” she said, reaching for the glass. Her fingers brushed his. He didn’t let go. She glanced up and was instantly captured by the provocative gaze he gave her, overshadowed by his dark eyelashes. A faint smile lifted his lips. She hoped her T-shirt and bra were thick enough to hide the effect he had on her nervous system.
“It was my pleasure,” he said and handed her the glass before he took the piece of paper she held and slipped it into his pocket.
“So, what didn’t you realize you were doing?” Emily crossed her arms over her chest and headed into the living room.
“I imagine I do it without thinking anymore,” Kenric’s deep voice followed her. “We’re able to silence our movements. It’s essential when we need to feed, and when we hunt the ones who enjoy killing. We have the ability to levitate and move without striking the surface. In effect, we glide.”
“Wow, that’s incredible,” Emily said as she took a seat on her overstuffed, brown-and-white checkered couch. “I can see where that would come in handy.” The ice cubes twirled in her tea while she fidgeted with the glass. She glanced up and smiled. “I have to say, though, it’s still spooky.”
He laughed, then added a warm smile. He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall beside the sofa.
“You are so refreshing.”
Man, he curled her toes with the sultry sound of his voice.
“Gabrielle seemed nice.” Emily cringed and took a hurried sip of her tea. Real smooth transition there, girl. You’re not obvious at all.
“Yes, she is.”
She cleared her throat and stared at the ice in her drink. “I noticed she didn’t make the same pledge as Logan and Guerin. She is part of the Enclave, right?”
“Elle is human. She works with us, but she’s not an Enclave warrior. She’s been with us and under my protection for five years now and is an invaluable part of our team.”
“She’s human. I didn’t realize. She’s under your protection too -- like me.” Wonder how many beautiful woman he thought needed his private security services? “Are you two close?” She chanced a glance from under her lashes. He had a big fat grin on his face.
“What? Why are you grinning at me like that?” She had to resist the urge to kick him in the shin and knock that smile right off his mug.
“Are you jealous, Wildflower?” He moved away from the wall and came closer. With the tips of his fingers, he lifted her chin. “She’s family. Like a sister who I care a great deal for. But that’s all there is. And in case it’s the next question coming, you are the only woman whom I’ve placed under my protection outside of the Enclave.”
Emily pulled her chin free. “Well, it’s nice to hear that you care so much about each other. And just so that we’re clear here.” She hesitated a second to make sure she had his complete attention. “I’m not jealous.”
She leaned forward to sit her tea on the coffee table -- and missed. The glass hit the floor and shattered. Tea and shards of glass flew in all directions across the pale hardwood floor.
“Oh my God!” Emily jumped to her feet and bolted into the kitchen. After snatching a towel from the counter, she hurried back to the wet mess, forgetting she was barefoot.
“Be careful.” Kenric grabbed hold of her while she hobbled on one foot. “Here, let me help,” he said, tugging at the dishtowel.
“I’ve got it.” She yanked the rag free and dropped to the floor, mopping at the sticky mess. “If I’m capable of creating this disaster, I think I can clean it up.” God, she was so embarrassed.
“Damn.” Emily jerked her hand from the soaked towel. She peered at the center of her palm.
“Let me see.” Kenric knelt down beside her and wrapped his hand around her wrist.
“I’m the nurse here. I’m all right.” Emily tried to pull free from his grasp.
“Let me help you. You’re shaking -- it’s okay.” He held her hand steady.
How did he do it? Make everything better with his gentle words and the touch of his hand? She quit her struggles and allowed him to help. She peered over his shoulder as he worked the glass free from her palm. He ran the pad of his finger across the surface. A small drop of blood formed in the center of her hand. Before she could react, he lowered his head.
His lips touched the sensitive center. She gasped. The warmth of his tongue brushed across the wound. She nearly came unglued. Christ, how could something so simple feel so erotic? From under his lashes, his pale eyes met hers. Without words, his gaze alone told her he enjoyed her taste.
“Let me take care of you,” he said, lowering her hand. He reached for her foot.
She opened her mouth to protest, but no sound emerged.
He pulled the shard free, and then his warm lips met the sole of her foot. A whimper came out of nowhere. That had to be her. His tongue moved to her ankle, and a moan filled the room. Oh yeah, that was her.
Kenric couldn’t fight back the growl that rolled from his own throat. She tasted like sin, and he’d lost his soul to her flavor. Never would he get enough of her. He’d healed her foot, and now he wanted more. Pushing up the leg of her sweats, he sampled the wicked sweetness hidden there.
The sound of her pleasure-filled moans drew his attention, and her passionate gaze blasted the remaining lock off his control.
“Fuck.” Such an appropriate curse for what he had in mind.
He lowered her leg and eased to his full height. The vampire and the man were both consumed with the desire to claim. Reaching down, he grasped her arms and lifted her away from the glass scattered across the floor. In two strides, he had her back pressed against the wall, his body against hers. A surprised gasp escaped her lips, the air brushing against his cheek, stoking his fire higher. He caressed her face, drinking in the desire from her hazel eyes. The hard points of her nipples dug into his chest with each of her labored breaths. He groaned and lowered his mouth to hers.
How had kept himself from her for this long? He licked at the fullness of her bottom lip and then nipped the tender flesh. So sweet. The taste of her sugared tea rolled over his tongue. She pressed into his kiss and parted her lips. Holding her, kissing her, tasting her, his heart soared. This beautiful woman, she filled him with sunshine and happiness. Items long since buried, right along with his humanity. He ravished her mouth, licking, thrusting -- claiming. Mine.
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