Blood of the Demon ONLY
a Demons of the Infernum novel by Rosalie Lario
Keegan lives to exact revenge on the evil demon who sired and abused him. When his father devises a plan to bring on the apocalypse, he and his three half-brothers, inter-dimensional bounty hunters for the Elden Council, are charged with capturing and delivering their father for punishment.
Art gallery owner Brynn Meyers has no idea that her ability to read memories embedded in objects and drain people of their life force means she has demon ancestry. Unfortunately for Brynn, she’s also the key to raising an ancient zombie army, which puts her on every demon’s Most Wanted List.
And no one wants her more than Keegan’s father.
Keegan must protect Brynn from his father by any means necessary, but he’ll have to learn to harness the other half of his genetics—the far deadlier, uncontrollable half—when he starts to fall for the one woman standing between him and the vengeance he so desperately seeks. The one woman he’ll never be able to resist.
Title: Blood of the Demon
Series: Demons of Infernum, #1
Author: Rosalie Lario
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 254 pages
Release Date: June 2012
eBook ISBN: 978-1-62061-040-4
Print ISBN: 978-1-62061-039-8
Imprint: Select Otherworld
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
Praise for Blood of the Demon:
★★★★ “Likable characters and an inventive plot that will keep readers happily entertained for hours. The fiery heroine and the noble alpha male are a well-matched couple. This is a great start to the Demons of Infernum series.”
– RT Book Reviews
“This thrilling new series mixes danger with demons and romance with rocket-paced action! I can’t wait for the next one.” – Alyssa Day, New York Times bestselling author
“BLOOD OF THE DEMON grabs hold of you from page one and doesn’t let go. It’s a wild and hot paranormal ride readers will love.” – National bestselling author Cynthia Eden
“The hot and wild fusion of demon, dragon, and desire had me burning through the pages!” – Jessa Slade, author of Vowed in Shadows
An Excerpt from
Blood of the Demon
by Rosalie Lario
Copyright © 2011 by Rosalie Lario. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
She wasn’t what he’d expected.
Keegan crouched on a nearby roof, watching, waiting for her gallery to clear out. A stray gust of cold wind whipped through the night air, ruffling his jacket. It didn’t matter. Considering where he’d come from, the cold was a welcome relief.
The woman had looked fragile when he’d caught a glimpse of her through the store’s large window front. Undeniably beautiful, with her long, honey-brown hair falling in waves around her heart-shaped face—but fragile nonetheless.
It was the perfect cover. No one would ever believe what she truly was, what lived inside her. But the blood never lied. She wasn’t what she seemed.
Despite the gravity of the situation, Keegan had felt a stirring of lust rise within him at the sight of her, blindsiding him with its unexpected force. It had simply been too long since he’d gotten laid, something he’d have to remedy soon. Didn’t have anything to do with the woman. It couldn’t.
After all, she might very well be dead by the end of the day. Because if he received the order, he’d have to kill her.
He fished his cell phone out of his jacket pocket and called his brother. As expected, Taeg answered on the first ring. Skipping the useless chatter, he said, “I’ve got an eye on the target.”
“That’s perfect.” Even over the phone, the relief in Taeg’s voice was palpable. “What now?”
“As soon as she’s alone, I’ll grab her.”
“You don’t think Mammon has managed to find her yet, do you?”
Keegan gave a short laugh. “If he had, he would’ve taken her already. Waiting’s not his style.”
“Yeah, right,” Taeg muttered. “Don’t I know it?”
“I’ll keep you posted.” He hung up without waiting for a reply.
Even though he couldn’t see her from this vantage point, he wasn’t worried about losing her. Not after he’d tagged her scent. He closed his eyes and inhaled, giving himself over to his sense of smell. Sorting through the various odors he’d picked up—the rich aroma of coffee, the ashy smell of a discarded cigarette, the pungent stench of rotting food—he discarded them, one by one.
Yes. There she was. Her scent was unique. Like strawberries and cream. Something he’d tried only recently and discovered he loved.
Would she taste just as sweet?
Shit. What was he thinking? She wasn’t a potential lay, but a dangerous and powerful weapon. Maybe even the enemy. He’d do well to remember that.
Finally, the store emptied of everyone but her. He supposed the right thing would be to go in and question her. But what if Mammon was no more than a few steps behind him? He couldn’t take that chance. Not when the stakes were so high.
He would take her back to the apartment with him. There, he could question her at leisure and decide what to do without having to worry about Mammon or his henchmen discovering them. But what were the odds of her going along with him willingly?
Well, he couldn’t worry about that now. He’d simply take her.
The night had grown dark enough that he didn’t bother heading for the roof exit. Instead, he walked to the side of the building facing the narrow alleyway and stepped off. He landed the six-story fall with a thud that shook the ground. A cracking sound, followed by a twinge of pain shooting up his right leg, made him pause, but he ignored it as the fissure healed itself. The homeless man lying unconscious in a puddle not ten feet away mumbled and stirred before growing still once again.
Keegan crossed the street, his gaze singlemindedly locked on the figure of the woman visible through the window as she buzzed about the front of the gallery. A ray of light from a small lamp decorating the window caught her hair, spinning it into a web of gold. In that lighting, she looked almost like an angel.
But why was he thinking about the color of her hair? She wasn’t an angel—not by a long shot.
And her luck was about to run out.
Brynn Meyers stifled a yawn as she tidied up the eclectic space of her showroom floor. With its old furniture and traditional chandeliers, the space more closely resembled an antiques shop than an art gallery. She’d started it several years ago with the inheritance she received following her father’s death from a car accident, just a short time after her mother died of breast cancer. It seemed like she spent every waking moment here. If she wasn’t working, she was painting in her small studio located in the back.
“Just two hours of painting tonight, then I’ll go to sleep early for a change,” she told herself. “This time I mean it.”
God, how pathetic was she? Was she so lonely that she had to start bargaining with herself?
No, not lonely, Brynn. Just a loner. There’s a difference.
Really, there was.
Her hand grazed the easel holding the painting that had arrived earlier today. She turned to examine it more closely. Created by her favorite artist, she was drawn to it because of his tendency to incorporate unusual materials into his work, such as the tattered pieces of muslin glued to this painting. It was an amazing work of art, and the cloth obviously old and worn.
Brynn brushed her hand against the gathered fabric. Closing her eyes, she focused on the feel of it at her fingertips, on the shadows of memories that whispered to her, begging her to uncover them.
The muslin yielded beneath her touch, revealing its deepest secrets. Her vision narrowed, focusing in on the fabric as its memories hurtled toward her. Several hundred years old, its journey to her began as part of an elegant dress worn by a Frenchwoman. Images of the woman’s trembling fingers flowed into Brynn’s mind, and she smiled at the impressions of the woman smoothing the material down, eagerly anticipating a visit from her secret lover. Then, in a scene years later, someone tore apart the dress for scraps. Even later, the bits of fabric were twisted and crafted into a rag doll, cherished for many years by the little girl who lovingly slept with it until she became too old for dolls.
The flashes of memory faded away. Taking a deep breath, she slowly returned to the present.
It’s just a bit of fabric. She often had to remind herself of that. The memories embedded in inanimate objects tended to make them seem alive to her. But they weren’t. They were just conduits for energy. And for some reason, she had the ability to sense this energy. This was a gift she’d had her whole life, and what had initially drawn her to art. Each piece had a story, an experience, rooted within it. Older art pieces could be positively overwhelming.
The front door opened with a loud chime and Brynn snatched her hand away. Not like anyone would ever know what she’d been doing, but for some unexplainable reason, she always feared her gift would be discovered.
She lifted her gaze to find a tall, well-built man standing in the doorway. Her breath caught as her eyes traveled from his skintight black shirt, highlighting every curve of his muscular chest, to the dark, shaggy hair framing his olive-toned face. A shiver ran through her. He embodied Dark and Dangerous, with the leather jacket to match.
And crap, she was ogling him like a slab of meat in a lion’s den.
She wiped her suddenly damp palms against her slacks before moving forward to greet him. “Hi, welcome to Meyers Gallery. I’m Brynn.”
He stared at her outstretched hand for so long that she fidgeted. Maybe he’d noticed her wiping her palms and had gotten grossed out. Great.
She started to pull her hand back, but he stopped her by at last reaching out to clasp his hand over hers. A tingle of awareness flashed across her palm, so sharp she had to struggle to hold back a startled gasp.
“I know,” he said.
“What?” Brynn took a second to remember what they were talking about. Once she did, she flushed anew. This hunk of a man was making her lose her train of thought. “You mean you know my name? Have we spoken on the phone before, then? Are you here about one of the new art pieces?”
“No,” he said, without releasing her hand.
His grasp was warm, heating Brynn from the inside out. The sensation was so disconcerting she needed another long second to process his response. “No? Well then, how can I help you?”
The man smiled, but something resembling regret flashed through his bluish-green eyes. Lord, they were amazing.
“Sorry,” he said, the sound curling around his lips like a lover’s caress.
Her gaze drifted to his full, luscious mouth, and she couldn’t look away. If she didn’t get him out of here soon, she was afraid she might jump his bones. Never before had she felt so viscerally attracted to a man, and to say the least, it was unnerving. This was the sort of distraction she didn’t want or need.
“You’re sorry? About what?” She tried to tug her hand back, but the man’s grip held firm.
His left arm came at her so fast she only saw a flash of it, right before his fist connected with the side of her face. There was a burst of pain. Then, she went blissfully numb.
He’d made it all the way Uptown with an unconscious woman in his arms and hadn’t been spotted once. Not bad. Then again, he did have a few assets at his disposal. Like not having to use the ground.
Keegan carried the woman’s limp figure into the Upper East Side penthouse apartment the Council had lent him and his brothers. The place was a far cry from the tiny shack he lived in back at home—an office, four sizable bedrooms, and an amazing view of the city skyline from the wall of windows in the living room. Too bad the magnitude of the situation didn’t allow him to enjoy the view.
Taeg and Dagan, however, seemed to have no qualms about living it up. Sprawled out on the huge leather sectional in the living room, beers in hand, they watched some sports game on the large plasma television. The two of them didn’t even look up when he entered the room.
“Glad to see you two douchebags can relax when this whole world is on the verge of being destroyed,” he said.
“No problem,” Dagan said, before turning his attention back to the screen.
Taeg shrugged and kicked his feet off the coffee table, swiveling his head in Keegan’s direction. He was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words Why Do Today What You Can Put Off Until Tomorrow?
Keegan stifled a snort. “Nice shirt.”
Taeg rose and started toward him. “My favorite thing about Earth so far is the shirts. Followed closely by the supercool lingo. Did you know ‘Fuck off’ is practically a greeting in this city?” He stopped a few feet away and examined the figure of the unconscious woman lying in Keegan’s arms. “Wow. She’s a real looker. What did you do to her, anyway?”
Keegan would’ve thought that was obvious. A dark purple bruise in the shape of his fist marred her otherwise flawless cheek. “Knocked her out. How else was I going to get her back here?”
“I could have gotten her to come with us willingly, if you’d let me go with you,” Taeg said. “But no, you wanted to go off and be Master of the Universe all by yourself.”
“She was my responsibility.”
“Yeah, and we all know how much you love responsibility,” Taeg said.
Keegan ignored the unreasonable stab of irritation his brother’s words provoked. He was only annoyed because Taeg was an ass. No other reason. Of all his half-brothers, Taeg especially knew how to push his buttons. The only way to win this battle was to ignore him.
“She’s a job, and nothing more,” he told Taeg. “And don’t forget what we might have to do to her.”
“I haven’t forgotten.” Taeg smiled, though there was no humor in it this time. He obviously dreaded this as much as Keegan did. Taeg wasn’t a monster. Not like their father.
Keegan’s irritation melted away. His brothers didn’t want to be here any more than he did. It wasn’t their fault, what they were born into.
“Where’s Ronin?” he asked.
“I’m here.” Ronin appeared in the doorway leading in from the kitchen. He was the second youngest of his half-brothers, older than Dagan but younger than Taeg. “So you got her, huh?”
“Did she seem to know anything about Mammon or her ancestry?”
“I haven’t questioned her yet. But there wasn’t a trace of demon activity surrounding her. I figured I’d get her out of there first and ask questions later.”
“Good idea.” Ronin waited a beat before saying, “So… are you going to hold her all day, or what?”
Embarrassment flooded through Keegan. He hadn’t even considered letting go of the woman. Holding her in his arms eroded his ability to think straight, like the blood kept trying to rush out of his brain and into other parts of his anatomy.
I really need to get laid soon.
That was it. Nothing more.
Keegan turned and strode into the room they’d specifically prepared for her. For Brynn. As he carefully laid her on the bed, he couldn’t help but think how well that name suited her. It was just as interesting and unusual as she was.
With her figure encased in tight wool slacks and a fitted black sweater, the outline of her slim form was clearly visible. Small, firm breasts. Flat stomach. When she’d looked up at him back at her art gallery, her eyes had been a soft, calming green.
She was beyond enticing.
The sound of a throat clearing roused Keegan from his slow survey. He swiveled to see Ronin and Taeg crowding the doorway.
Ronin nodded toward Brynn. “Looks like you hit her pretty hard.”
“Didn’t mean to.” What a dick thing to do, hitting her like that. But he’d had no choice. Not really. There was no knowing how close Mammon was to finding her, or if he hadn’t gotten to her already. Either way, he’d needed to get her out of there fast. “I’ll heal her.”
“That’s not necessary,” Ronin interjected. “Not when I can do it with a simple touch.”
Ronin started toward Brynn, but Keegan surprised himself by letting out a low growl. “I said I’ll do it.”
Shock registered on Ronin’s face, and he held up his hands, backing off. Not that Keegan blamed him. Where did he get off being angry at the thought of his brother touching Brynn?
He must be losing his mind.
“Let him do it.” Taeg’s smooth voice dispelled the tension in the room. “You know how Keegan likes to suffer for his sins.”
“Fuck you,” Keegan said, taking a seat on the bed next to Brynn. He withdrew his iron pocketknife, flicked it open, and cut a shallow groove in his palm. After pressing his hand to her cheek, he drew it away. His blood seeped into her pores, healing her blood vessels. The swelling went down, and within a few seconds she was good as new.
He wiped the remnants of his blood off her cheek, trying not to think about how soft and cool her skin felt beneath his hand. She was just a woman, and a human one at that.
Well, mostly, anyway.
“So what now?” Ronin asked him.
“Now, we wait for her to wake up and question her. Then we’ll decide what to do with her.”
Taeg gave a soul-weary sigh. “Sounds great. I’m gonna go drink some more.” He did an about-face and disappeared.
Unable to help himself, Keegan turned back to the woman. So soft and feminine.
The sound of Ronin moving behind him barely registered. “So you did more than just walk tonight, huh?”
Without another word, Ronin poked his fingers through the jagged slits in Keegan’s jacket and shirt, making contact with the bare flesh of his back.
“Oh. Almost forgot about that.”
“I had a feeling,” Ronin replied dryly. “Might want to change before she wakes up.”
“Yeah, good idea.” If she didn’t settle for outright panic and screaming when she awoke, she was bound to have questions for him. He didn’t need to add any more to that list. Standing, he followed Ronin out of the room and clicked it shut, and then slid the lock on the outside of the door into place.
Brynn opened her eyes to taupe satin wallpaper, dark wood furniture, and the faint smell of fresh, clean linen. She turned her head to the side, confirming that she was lying on a bed. A soft, comfortable bed with silky, chocolate-colored sheets and a faux fur bedspread folded across the bottom. Where the hell was she?
Wait. What happened?
It all came back in one blinding rush. The gallery, the too-hot-to-be-real man. His fist shooting toward her face.
Brynn jerked up off the bed. She lifted two fingers to touch the spot where he’d hit her but, amazingly, didn’t find even a hint of pain. He’d hidden behind his gorgeous exterior and managed to totally catch her off guard. Had knocked her out. And apparently brought her here. To his… to his… palace?
The amazing skyline view from the tall windows on one side of the room, as well as the lush décor of the massive space, told her the word palace wasn’t too far off. She was obviously in an exclusive luxury apartment, one on the Upper East Side if she didn’t mistake the view.
What kind of criminal brought his victim to a place like this? He was probably a rapist. Or a serial murderer. Well, it didn’t matter. Whatever his reasons, he might have caught her off guard once, but it wouldn’t happen again. And she wasn’t scared of him. Not with what she could do.
“Once I get my hands on you, you’ll regret it,” she muttered. No doubt he’d regret it.
The hollow sound of her heels clacking on the wood floor vibrated in her ear as she stalked over to the door on the far side of the room. She tried the knob. Locked. Great. Just great. She pounded on it. “Is anyone there? Hey, where are you? Let me out.”
When there was no immediate response, she pounded louder. “Come on. Hello? Let me out!”
Brynn was about to lift her fist for a fresh bout of knocking when the doorknob turned with a click. She scampered back as the door swung open.
The hunk from the gallery stood on the other side, sans leather jacket. He wore an impassive expression on his face.
Her fingers clenched into fists at the sight of the man who’d imprisoned her. He was about to pay. “You.”
He opened his mouth. “Let me explain—”
Without further thought, she rushed him, pummeling her fists into his chest. He didn’t flinch, didn’t even budge. He was like a freaking steel beam. But that was okay. She’d get him, anyway.
She lifted her hand to his throat and dug into his bare skin. Giving herself over to her senses, she willed the flow of energy through her body, just as she’d done so many times before. Her arm grew hot with the familiar sensation of energy drawing through her fingers, working its way inside her with an electric sizzle.
But instead of collapsing as she expected, the man merely lifted one perfect brow. “Ow.”
That was it. That was all he said.
“Ow?” Brynn repeated, going numb with shock. She’d felt it! She’d felt the familiar draw of energy. But instead of falling to the ground in an unconscious puddle, he just said, “Ow”?
“Impossible,” she gasped.
He tilted his head to one side. “What exactly are you trying to do?”
This couldn’t be happening. It had never failed her before.
She brought both hands to the bare skin of his muscular arm, right below the sleeve of his shirt, doing her best to ignore the spicy, masculine scent emanating from his body and the heat of his rigid flesh beneath her palms. Seriously, the man must be running a fever. He was scorching hot.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she once again concentrated on summoning her energy. Again, she felt it flow, but he stood still in front of her. He didn’t even flinch.
She staggered back. “Oh, crap.”
It didn’t work on him.
For the first time in a very long time, there was a strange stirring in the pit of Brynn’s stomach.
She was stuck in a room with a psychopath who’d knocked her out and kidnapped her, and she had no way to defend herself. No way to fight back.
Oh, God, she was totally screwed.
Brynn stumbled away from Keegan, appearing scared for the first time since he’d entered the room. An uncomfortable twinge tightened his gut. He didn’t want her to be scared of him. Which was ridiculous. After all, why should he care?
He held his hands in the air, moved forward far enough to kick the door shut, then leaned against it, trying to look as non-menacing as possible. “Listen, I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk to you, okay? My name is Keegan.”
She backed up until she was on the far side of the room, by the large set of windows. She seemed to notice she was wringing her hands and dropped them to her sides. “What do you want with me? If—if it’s money, I don’t have that much, but I’ll give you whatever I have—”
“I don’t want your money, Brynn,” he interrupted, keeping his tone soft and calm. “Right now, I only want to talk to you.”
“You’re not going to—?”
“I’m not going to hurt you.” Keegan tried not to wince at that lie. He might very well have to hurt her. But if he did, it wouldn’t be because he wanted to.
She nodded, but she seemed to doubt the sincerity of his tone because her gaze darted about the room as if checking for possible weapons. It settled for a moment on the bulky lamp by the bed. The lamp probably was heavy enough to bash in a human’s head. But she’d be unpleasantly surprised if she tried using it on him.
“If you’re not going to hurt me, why did you kidnap me?”
Keegan sighed and closed his eyes. The question he’d dreaded. He probably should have allowed Taeg to simply charm her into telling them what they needed to know. She wouldn’t have been afraid that way. And he wouldn’t be stuck coming up with a story she would believe. But as stupid as it might be, the least he owed her was her free will. He didn’t want to take that from her. No, he knew all too well what that felt like.
Finally, he settled on a perverted version of the truth. “It’s sort of a long story. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll tell you?”
Brynn cast a pointed glance around the room and then at the bed, which was the only piece of furniture she could sit on. “I don’t think so,” she said in an icy tone.
Keegan chuckled at her bravado. She was tougher than she looked. “Sorry, I guess not.” Slowly, so as not to alarm her, he drew away from the door. “What do you know about your ancestry?”
She appeared startled, as if that was the last question she’d been expecting. And who could blame her? “My—my what?”
“Your ancestry. Where you come from. Who your ancestors are.”
“I… not much. My parents weren’t exactly into the whole family tree thing. I can only go as far back as my grandparents.”
Keegan scoffed. “I figured. You humans are so focused on yourselves that you forget about the past.”
Shit. He needed to watch what he said.
He cleared his throat. “I meant humankind in general.”
Confusion gradually replaced the fear on her face. “Listen, uh… Keegan, right? I’m not really sure what you’re getting at here, but—”
“Did you know that your ancestry can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians?”
“What? No.” A hint of interest colored her tone. “Really, that far back? I mean, that’s kind of cool, but I still don’t know what it has to do with you kidnapping me. And how the hell do you know that, anyway?”
All right, here it went. Hopefully, she’d buy it. “Brynn, one of your ancestors was an Egyptian priest who lived about three thousand years ago. He created something, a book. When he died, he was buried with it. And now there’s someone who’ll stop at nothing to find it.”
All true so far. But here’s where he had to start stretching the truth. “The man who’s searching for the book believes you can lead him to it. He’s not a good… person. If he gets his hands on you, there’s no telling what he’ll do.”
Her confusion morphed into doubt. “But… but that’s ridiculous. I don’t even know anything about my great-grandparents, much less some obscure relative who lived three thousand years ago.”
“Nonetheless, it’s true.” He kept his tone calm and flat. That, more than anything, seemed to sway her into believing him.
“Who keeps track of their ancestry that far back? How could he even think I might lead him to the book?”
“He’s insane.” Which was true. You didn’t get much crazier than Mammon. He knew that all too well.
She crossed her arms over her chest, brows furrowed. “Yeah, well that still doesn’t tell me how you got involved.”
“I… ” Fuck. He took a breath. “I work for a secret branch of the government.”
What would the Council members think to hear themselves described that way? They were far more powerful than just one government—than just one world, even.
“We’re trying to stop him,” he added, “and part of that means protecting you.”
Unless it becomes too dangerous. Then we’ll have to kill you.
“A secret government organization, huh?” Brynn’s tone was ripe with suspicion, and who could blame her? “Why did you bring me here? Am I supposed to believe this is some sort of safe house?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
She arched a brow. “Where’s your government identification, then?”
Man, but she was cheeky. And the devil help him, he liked it.
Yeah, well, don’t get too caught up in singing her praises. You still don’t know whether or not she’s playing a game.
“We’re an unofficial branch. We don’t get identification.” Then, before she could question further, he asked, “Brynn, have you been contacted or followed by anyone unusual the past few days?”
“Other than you?” She snorted with a slight shake of her head. “No.”
Keegan straightened and pushed off the door. “I need you to be straight with me. You’re not helping anyone, are you?”
“Who would I be helping?” When he took a step toward her, she lifted her hands in front of her. “Stay back.”
He stopped, curiosity getting the better of him. “What is it that you can do with your hands?”
She glanced down, appearing startled, as if she just realized she’d lifted them. “Hmm? Oh, nothing. It doesn’t seem to be working, anyway,” she murmured, so low that a human wouldn’t have been able to hear it.
Another stirring of sympathy churned in his gut. This couldn’t be easy for her, having to deal with her loss of powers on top of being kidnapped. “Do you want to try it again?”
“What?” She let out an uncertain chuckle. “You expect me to fall for that? I’m not getting anywhere near you.”
“You have nowhere to go,” he pointed out. “I could overpower you at any moment if I wanted to. In fact, I could have hurt you while you were unconscious, if that was my true intent.”
She bit down on her lip.
“I can sit on the bed, if you like.”
After a moment’s pause, she gave him a jerky nod. “Okay.”
Keeping his movements even, he sat on the bed with his hands in full view at his sides.
Brynn inched forward. “Lift up your shirt.”
Keegan sucked in his breath at the unexpected arousal her words caused. It wasn’t as if she’d asked him to get undressed. She just wanted to make better contact with his skin. But his cock didn’t seem to know that.
If it kept reacting that way, there’d be no doubt in her mind what he was thinking, and she’d run across the room screaming. He tugged his shirt up to his chest, his movements slow and his breath steady.
She crept forward, like a curious deer fearing a trap.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said again.
Finally, she stood only a few feet in front of him. With an indrawn breath, she placed her hands on his chest. His eyes closed of their own accord. Her hands were slightly cool to the touch, but softer than anything he’d felt before. Once again, the strange sensation of electric current zinged off her fingertips. It tingled to the point of being uncomfortable, but nothing more than that.
“Nothing,” she breathed, seemingly abandoning her fear as she knelt down in front of him and squeezed her palms tighter against his chest.
He opened his eyes to peer down at Brynn, who was clearly so focused on trying to do whatever it was she could normally do, that she didn’t realize she was kneeling between his splayed legs. The position put her head level with his stomach, so close her strawberries and cream essence practically assaulted his senses.
“Is it me? Or is it you?” She lifted her eyes to his for the first time since touching him, and her breath audibly caught in her throat. “So warm. Why are you so warm?”
Keegan’s pulse raced. He couldn’t help himself. With her looking at him that way, her green eyes clouded over, he didn’t stand a chance.
“I just am,” he whispered, all the while trying to remind himself who she was.
He wanted to kiss her, to feel those lips on his. To taste her pink little tongue. He knew it was wrong, but he had a hard time caring right now.
Mission be damned.
He inched toward her face. Her eyes widened, but she didn’t move away. If he could have one taste, he could forget about it. Get it out of his system. Go on with the mission.
Just one taste…
“Am I interrupting something?” said a voice from the doorway.
Brynn flew up and shuffled away, toward the window as Keegan aimed his guilt-filled gaze in the direction of the door.
Taeg leaned against the doorjamb. Apparently, he’d managed to open the door without Keegan noticing. And by the look on his face, Taeg hadn’t missed what had almost happened with him and Brynn.
Well, that was just great.
Brynn retreated to her spot by the large window. Another man leaned casually against the doorframe. He resembled Keegan, but he was a little narrower and had a slight cleft in his chin. His carelessly tousled hairstyle was quite a bit shorter than Keegan’s shaggy cut.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
Keegan stood and smoothed his shirt down. “He’s my brother.”
Brother? Well, that explained the similar build, the resemblance, and the general hotness. Was everyone in his family just as gorgeous as he was?
Then it hit her. A mortified flush crept to her cheeks. Oh, God.
What on earth had she been doing, kneeling on the floor in front of him like that? If she wasn’t mistaken, he’d been about to kiss her. And she’d been about to let him.
Jesus. The guy was her kidnapper. He might be trying to feed her some line of bullshit about being a government agent, but she wasn’t buying. And despite that, she’d still allowed him to sway her with his good looks and his hotter-than-molten-steel body. And oh, what a body it was. His rock-hard muscles had pulsed underneath her palms. She wiped her hands on her slacks.
She’d heard of Stockholm Syndrome before, but she’d known this guy for a total of ten minutes, tops.
Lord, I’m such a slut.
“I was just telling Brynn about her ancestry.” Keegan ran a hand through his hair as he addressed his brother. “About the man who’s trying to find her.”
“Yeah, sure you were,” his brother responded, his tone saturated with sarcasm.
Rising up to her full height, Brynn assumed a challenging pose and addressed the brother. “Let me guess—you expect me to believe you’re a government agent, too, right?”
“Agent?” He choked out a laugh, glanced at Keegan, and then laughed again. “Yeah, sure, I’m a regular James Bond.”
“Taeg,” Keegan said in a warning tone.
“I’m Taeg,” he said, ignoring Keegan as he moved toward Brynn with an outstretched hand.
She stared down at his hand, hesitating.
“I won’t bite.” Though the wolfish smile on his face said maybe he’d like to. “Promise.”
Oh, what did she have to lose?
She took his hand. “I’m Brynn. Wish I could say it was nice to meet you. But I’m not feeling too nice right now.”
Taeg snickered as he let go of her hand. “I get it. Believe me.”
Wait a second. He now stood right here in front of her. All she needed to do was reach out and touch him…
Without taking another second to contemplate it, Brynn placed her palms on his chest and concentrated on her powers.
He jumped back. But that was it.
“Unbelievable.” Her touch had once leveled a man twice Taeg’s size, and to him and Keegan it was just a minor annoyance. What was going on here?
Taeg gave her an appraising look, tilting his head to the side much as Keegan had earlier. “What were you trying to do?”
Heat rushed to her cheeks. “Nothing.”
“She tried the same thing with me earlier,” Keegan said from his spot by the doorway. “With a similar effect.”
“Hmm… ” Taeg put a hand to his chin. “You’ve got some powers, huh?”
Why the hell would that even cross his mind? It wasn’t like anyone ever believed what she could do, so why would a total stranger make that assumption?
“Powers.” Taeg grinned. “Want to see what I can do?”
Keegan stirred. “Taeg, stop—”
Before Keegan crossed the room, Taeg grabbed her, his hands searing hot where they touched her arms over her light sweater.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Brynn glared into his eyes. The blue depths of his irises seemed to swirl around his pupils.
She couldn’t look away. Didn’t want to. Nothing existed but those swirling, blue-green eyes.
“Relax,” he said, his voice soft as honey.
Amazingly, a liquid sensation washed over her. Her body went boneless, until Taeg practically held her up by the arms.
Keegan approached and grabbed his brother’s arm, as if about to push him away. “I said stop.”
Taeg’s eyes turned to Keegan, and Brynn fought back a whimper. She wanted his eyes back on her.
What had he done to her?
“Let me do this,” Taeg snapped at Keegan. “We have to know.”
Keegan paused, an angry scowl on his face. “Fuck.” He whirled and paced about the room.
Taeg returned his attention to her, and she exhaled in relief.
“It’s all right,” he drawled, a rakish smirk on his face. “Tell me, do you know anyone by the name of Mammon?”
Mammon? Who? “No.”
“Has anyone unusual approached you the past few weeks, or anything weird happen to you?”
Other than this? She shook her head. “No.”
“What can you do with your hands?”
“I… ” Why the hell did she feel so compelled to answer? She never shared her secret. But she couldn’t stop herself. “I can make people pass out. Almost like I’m draining their energy. At least, I used to be able to do that.”
Taeg actually looked impressed. “Pretty cool. What else can you do?”
“I… ” Perspiration built at Brynn’s temples from her effort to keep her mouth shut, but she was powerless. She couldn’t stay quiet. “I can read energy off objects, get their memories.”
Taeg whistled, glancing over at Keegan. “You hear that? Our little friend is turning out to be pretty interesting. Over three millennia, and she’s still gifted.”
Keegan stopped pacing long enough to spit out, “Hurry up and finish it.”
Taeg chuckled and turned to Brynn. “Do you know how you got your abilities?”
“No.” She licked her lips, which suddenly felt too dry. “How are you doing this?”
Taeg smiled at her. Right now, his face was the most captivating thing she’d ever seen. The angular cheekbones, the almost imperceptible cleft in his chin. The shadowy stubble just starting to grow on his jaw. His voice was smooth as butter when he said, “Don’t you want to kiss me?”
Now that he mentioned it, she really did. How had she ever lived without kissing those impossibly full lips before?
“Yes,” she whispered, moistening her trembling lips. She leaned forward, but before she reached Taeg, Keegan rushed him. Jostling her to the side, he grabbed his brother by the throat and slammed him against the wall.
Now that she was no longer supported by Taeg, her limbs felt like goo. She stumbled and fell to the ground. The crazy compulsion to kiss Taeg faded until she wondered if she’d ever really felt it.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Anger radiated from Keegan in violent waves, making Brynn’s stomach knot. From this position, he resembled a feral animal, one with no qualms about killing its prey.
Taeg choked out a laugh as he reached up to pry Keegan’s hand from around his neck. “I was just screwing around,” he rasped, clearly amused, even though it looked like Keegan was throttling the life out of him.
Keegan said something else, but it wasn’t in English. Instead he spoke a deep, guttural language Brynn had never heard. But she didn’t have time to contemplate that, because she could only focus on one thing.
Taeg had done something to her. When he’d touched her, looked at her, she’d done whatever he had asked, whatever he suggested. Even now, the reminder of how full and kissable his lips had seemed made her heart pound and her body temperature heat.
Holy crap—Taeg had powers, too!
Brynn rose to her feet, addressing the two men, who even now yelled at each other in a foreign tongue. “Okay, who are you guys?”