VEILED TARGET BY ROBIN BIELMAN
“Cut the crap, Tess. Why were you following me?”
“How do you know I was following you?” Oops. She meant to say, “What makes you think I was following you?”
He gave a knowing smile—that looked ridiculously sexy rather than irritating. “I know you don’t want to insult my intelligence so let’s just say for argument’s sake, if you were following me, why would that be?”
At least she’d gotten him to change his tone.
“Truthfully?” She leaned a little closer to him. She couldn’t help it.
“That would be nice.”
“I’m really not a very nice person,” she announced.
“Neither am I.” He reached out and moved a strand of hair behind her ear.
Was he trying to confuse her? Because it was working. She’d nearly fallen into his hand before he pulled it away. He was indeed a very bad man.
“That’s good. I hate nice guys. So where does that leave us?”
“I haven’t got all night, Tess.” He lowered his chin, indicating—she presumed—he was growing tired of their banter.
She lifted an eyebrow. “No? That’s too bad. I’m a night owl. I can—”
“Answer my question before I haul you to your car over my shoulder.” His tone sent a little zing of pleasure right to the tips of her breasts.
“As if you could—” She was over his shoulder in one second flat. He moved swiftly, quietly and with superhuman strength. Uh oh. “Hey, put me down!”
He started down the alley, seemingly unbothered by her spastic attempts to get him to let her go. “You ready to walk and talk now?”
“Fine,” she conceded, although the view of his backside was pretty damn good.
When both feet securely hit the ground, she tugged down her dress and shifted the V-neck into place. He watched her squirm to put the rest of the material back where it belonged and his roving eyes heated her from the inside out.
“I followed you because I wanted to help.”
He started walking. “Do I look like I need help?” A little gleam—and major interest?—flickered in his sideways glance.
“Well, no. But I’m very capable and I didn’t feel like going home, so I decided there was no harm in making myself available to you should you need me.” She took a deep breath. It was time to put the question out there. “Did you know Dane is a—”
“Wolfen? Yeah I know.”
“How do you—”
He stopped and turned toward her with confusion and passion in his deep blue eyes. For several seconds he stared at her, like he was trying to get inside her head. Guess what she was thinking. “I’m the leader of the Night Runners,” he finally said.
She imagined he’d told her something he’d never told another human being before.
What the hell was she going to do now?
BLOOD SMOKE AND MIRRORS BY ROBYN BACHAR
“I’ll be here as long as you need me.” Lex looked down at me, seeming sincere, and I shook my head at him.
“Don’t, Lex. You’re only here on orders. You’ll be gone and on to the next as soon as this assignment is over.”
“What if I don’t want that?”
“What if I do? I’m all for the life-saving thing, but I don’t want you in my life again.”
“Are you sure of that?”
Scowling, I took a steadying breath and prepared to launch into an explanation of the myriad reasons why I wasn’t about to go through another round of heartbreak with him, but before I could speak he leaned down and brushed a kiss across my lips.
A warm tingling suffused my body as soon as our lips met, the sort of electric reaction I usually associate with casting magic, but much, much better. He was hesitant at first, probably afraid I’d slap him or zot him with a spell, but when I didn’t object he slowly began to deepen the kiss. My knees went weak as my good sense vanished, and I slipped my arms around him to steady myself. Lex held me close as he continued to kiss me, and I leaned into him. I’d forgotten how well we fit together. He sighed, as though my lips were delicious and he savored them.
“This is a bad idea,” I murmured.
“No, this is a good idea.” Lex nudged me back toward the couch, and I sat down in a less-than-graceful flop. Next he joined me and drew me into his arms.
“Oh yeah? How?” My hormones were obviously happy to see him, but I still had a little bit of brainpower left, enough to be skeptical of the situation.
“Because letting you go was a bad idea. I don’t want to make that mistake again.” His voice was low and strained, and I wished it wasn’t so dark so I could see his expression. I sighed, a mix of old pain and new uncertainty, but he kissed me again and I stopped arguing.
I relaxed into the embrace, returning the kiss passionately. I felt better instantly—safe, warm, desired. Lex stroked my braided hair and let his hand rest at the small of my back. I ran my own hands up and down his back, debating whether or not it would be a good idea to tug his shirt off, but then I felt him unhooking my bra. My pulse jumped, and my magic decided to take that opportunity to wreak havoc on a pair of unsuspecting table lamps. With an electric sizzle followed by two sharp pops the light bulbs flashed and exploded. Startled, we jumped apart, the mood broken. We stared at each other, and I felt a guilty blush heat my face.
“Cat—” he started, and I held a hand up to stop him before he could say anything further.
SLAYER’S KISS BY CASSI CARVER
After a quick handshake, just a fleeting grasp of one wrist to another, Gavin broke away from the other man and came through the door. His gaze arrowed through the crush of bodies and landed squarely on Kara.
Her mouth went dry. Tha-thump. Tha-thump. Her heart throttled from zero to sixty in one glance, hammering as if she’d run a hundred miles through the desert.
But he was the oasis she’d been waiting for.
Gavin reached the bar, pulled out a stool and settled himself on the brown vinyl perch.
“Miss Reed.” He tipped his chin in greeting. His suit jacket was draped across one knee, leaving him in slacks and a white-collared shirt with the first button undone. With the way the fabric stretched around his biceps, he didn’t look like any businessman she’d ever met.
Her mind raced. Maybe he’d thought through her unspoken offer. Maybe she wasn’t the only one who’d felt the connection. Her body flushed, but not in embarrassment this time—this was simply blood rushing to all her important parts.
She nodded back and smiled, trying not to look as smug as she felt. “You found me.”
“I did. It must be nice working so close to home.”
“Yeah. It’s not a bad gig.” She wanted to laugh. It was clear he had something to say, and she already knew what it was going to be. Mutual attraction this strong couldn’t be denied. She wasn’t going to play hard to get just to get even with him. He might deserve it, but that wasn’t her style. She rarely wanted a man, but when she did, she let him know flat-out. “I’m glad you rethought my offer.”
He clasped his hands on the bar before him. “It’s the key.”
She put down the bottle in her hand and cocked her head. “What’s the key?”
“The reason I’m here.”
“Huh? I’m confused.” Confused and sinking like that rock in the pit of her stomach.
Gavin looked like he’d swallowed a bug. “The key doesn’t work.”
The blood drained from Kara’s face. “Oh…you’re not here to see…me.” She was the world’s biggest jackass. Such an ass, in fact, she was surprised she hadn’t brayed the soft, mortified words from between big blocky teeth.
“Technically, I am here to see you. The key doesn’t fit. I can’t move in my things until you open the door.”
She turned her back on him under the pretense of getting another bottle of tequila from the low storage cupboard, but she needed a minute to get herself under control. She rummaged around, shifting bottles, until she thought she could speak without her lips quivering.
“Take this for your trouble.” She handed him a shot of their best tequila. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what could have happened—they’re all numbered. But don’t worry. I have a set of master keys. As soon as I get off, I can let you in.” She swabbed the counter near him with shaking hands.
“Kara.” He reached out and covered her hand with his. “It’s all right. I waited weeks for that apartment. A couple more hours aren’t going to kill me.”
SOUL BOUND BY ANNE HOPE
He retrieved the driver’s license, which belonged to Jace Cutler. So now he had a first name to go with the second. Unfortunately, it still didn’t trigger a memory. The man in the photograph was a complete stranger. He quickly scanned the description provided: six-foot-two, dark brown hair, green eyes. The height felt about right. The guy in the snapshot had a cleft on his chin. He ran his thumb across his jaw and traced the slight indentation.
Suddenly curious, he headed to the mirror hanging over the pedestal sink. The man gazing back at him was no more familiar than this place, this room, the nurse he’d apparently scared half to death. He wasn’t very old, early thirties he guessed. He slanted a glance at the ID again, quickly did the math. Yup, thirty- two.
Peeling off his hospital gown, he stood in front of the tiny mirror, as naked as the day he was born, studying himself. From the looks of it, he worked out regularly. His legs were long and lean, his stomach flat and ripped. But that wasn’t what shocked him. What blew his mind was that he didn’t have a scratch on him, not even an old scar to show he’d lived some kind of life. How did a person exist for thirty-two years and maintain skin as untarnished as a baby’s?
Another presence slowly invaded the room, one that made everything inside him come alive and the darkness retreat. For a moment, he felt almost human again. Almost.
Jace turned around, not caring that he didn’t have a stitch of clothing on him. The woman entering his room froze at the sight of him.
He squinted. Glancing at her made his eyes hurt. She was so damn bright, he needed a frigging pair of sunglasses just to look at her. The nurse who’d examined him earlier paled in comparison, and not because this woman was any kind of beauty. She was plain at best, with blond hair pinned in a ponytail and not a drop of makeup on. Still, something inside him recognized her.
She checked him out briefly before averting her gaze. “Looks like you’re feeling better.”
He couldn’t find his voice to answer. Waves of emotion washed over him, constricting his windpipe. He’d felt nothing since he’d awakened in this stifling hospital room, and all of a sudden he couldn’t get his feelings under control long enough to offer some kind of greeting. Her glow enfolded him, and the hunger returned with sharpened fangs.
“Katie, the nurse who was just in here, told me you were awake, but I had to see for myself.”
She took a step toward him, then another.
Please, don’t come any closer. I can’t stand it.
“Who—” The word scraped his throat. “Who are you?”
Her gaze latched on to his face. Confusion and a touch of fascination glimmered in her clear blue eyes. Right there and then, he could’ve sworn he glimpsed her soul, and it was a beautiful thing to behold, potent and familiar.
She shook her head, swallowed hard. “The person who watched you die last night.”
PHOENIX RISING BY CORRINA LAWSON
“I’m trying to get you to reconsider what you’ve been forced into doing for your entire life. There’s a whole world out there you haven’t seen.”
She walked over to the coffee table, reached down and brushed her fingertips over the gun. Her hand trembled. The gun looked like the same kind that her kidnappers had used, years ago. If he stayed with the Resource, Alec might become like those men, using any ends to justify the means.
“Hey! What’s with the nerves? Where’s my competent, no-nonsense counselor?”
The gun rose from the coffee table, floating in air. She turned and followed its flight. He snatched the gun out of midair with a smile and holstered it.
“See?” he said. “I control the guns, not the other way around.”
“And who controls you?”
His chest, Kevlar vest and all, rose and fell in a deep sigh. “I know someone in this room who’s trying to control me. What’s wrong, Beth?” He walked to her and lifted her chin with two fingers, his dark eyes crinkling around the edges.
“This is not a life you chose, this is a life that’s been imposed on you, from birth.”
“And?” His fingertips moved along her jaw, in a soft caress. I should move away. It feels too good. But he’s listening.
“I’m scared. About this mission, about you being locked up inside the Resource forever.” Deathly afraid, so afraid her stomach felt like a heavy lump of coal. “There’s so much you don’t know about the Resource and about Lansing, so much you don’t understand. And you need to know it before it kills you.”
“Hey, I know Lansing can be a bastard. And that he’s overprotective and controlling. I’m working on it. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is my job.” Alec leaned closer to her face. “We can talk about that another time.”
“Do you really think there’s going to be another time?” Her voice rose, almost panicked now. She wasn’t getting through. “What if you get hurt tonight?”
“Look, this cell might have a dirty bomb. They need to be stopped, and I’m the one who can do it. I have to do this, right now.”
“Just that simple?”
“Yep. I walk away, people get hurt. I do my job, people are saved. That’s the deal, that’s my life. You analyze things too much.” He cupped her face in his hand. “But if it took this mission to find out you care, then good.”
She shuddered. Wrong, wrong, she shouldn’t let him touch her like this. Yet it felt like he touched her somewhere far deeper than her skin. A shiver, like the one from their first meeting, traveled from her neck to her toes, setting her nerves jangling. “This is wrong.”
“The mission isn’t wrong,” he said, misunderstanding her. “Relax.” His face was less than an inch from her lips and his breath fell on her cheek. Her skin felt inflamed, sensitive to the slightest movement of his hands.
He kissed her.
His lips were softer than she had expected, tender, not at all like his casual, even macho, confidence. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck, feeling those strong muscles and pulling him against her, intensifying their contact, even as her mind screamed in protest. This is not what I came for!
Her body became enveloped in that strange energy, alive as never before. It was like the kiss had a second level, one which she responded to instinctively, creating a living connection between them. He drew her lips apart with his tongue, still tender, still allowing her the chance to back away. But she opened her mouth to him instead, her whole self consumed with wanting to touch him, her face flushed with desire. She grabbed the buckles of his body armor for balance, her equilibrium lost along with her reason.
He crushed her against him, no longer tender, a bruising kiss demanding conquest. She allowed him full control, despite the buckles digging into her shoulder. He lifted her completely off her feet and brought her up to his eye level.
“Beth,” he breathed, brushing his lips against her neck before moving back to her mouth.
Her mind whirled, too lost to remember that she should stop him. She wanted him too much. The air heated up, warming them. The papers on the coffee table began to smoke.