Mark of the Sylph
DEMONS OF INFERNUM - Book Two - Rosalie Lario
Librarian Maya Flores has a secret: she’s immune to magic and is well aware of the supernatural beings prowling the streets of New York City. Haunted by a brutal demon attack that took her family, she is on a one-woman mission to destroy the evil demons who did it—and any others who get in her way.
Half-demon Taeg Meyers is desperate to free his pregnant sister-in-law who is spellbound to an indestructible book that will breed an army of the undead if it is not destroyed. He is convinced an ancient sword can break the spell, but this relic has been hidden for millennia by a powerful glamour.
Maya, with her knowledge of all things paranormal, is Taeg’s best hope for uncovering the sword. Unfortunately, she’d rather kill him. As he fights for her trust and to save his family, she is forced to face the truth—not all demons are evil, and she’s falling in love with one.
Title: Mark of the Sylph (Demons of Infernum, #2)
Author: Rosalie Lario
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 352 pages
Release Date: March 2013
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62061-218-7
Print ISBN: 978-1-62061-217-0
Praise for Mark of the Sylph:
“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
© 2013 Rosalie Lario
Taeg was a man on a mission. Too bad he didn’t quite know what it was.
For the third time this week, he stood in this old, stuffy library—the largest in New York City—a place no man in his right mind would ever be. He’d much rather be at a bar right now. Better yet, at the apartment of that bendy exotic dancer he’d met a couple nights ago.
If anyone had asked him last week, he would’ve known exactly what he was supposed to be doing here. But the librarian at the front counter distracted the hell out of him. Not because she was smoking hot—which, admittedly, she was—but no, it was something else.
There was something off about her.
From a distance, he watched her smile at the man on the opposite side of her counter, her lips forming the words, “Can I help you?”
It was far different from the way she’d treated him when she first saw him. The initial flare of recognition in her eyes had given way to revulsion and disdain. She’d treated him like gum on the bottom of her shoe. He would have understood her contempt if she had been one of the chicks he’d boned and never called back. But he was pretty damned sure he’d never slept with her.
He would have remembered her.
Her customer left and she bent over, searching for something under the counter. Damn, but she had a backside on her. From what he could see it was luscious, round, and plump, the perfect match for her more-than-generous breasts. But that train of thought was way too dangerous, as his rapidly growing erection reminded him. Something told him she’d be none too pleased if he walked up to her sporting a semi.
Adjusting himself, he adopted a cheeky grin and sauntered over. “Good afternoon, sunshine.”
She stiffened and straightened, shooting him a glare so blistering it would have made the toughest of demons cringe. Even coming from such a little slip of a thing—she couldn’t be more than a couple inches over five feet—her stare was intimidating. “Here again, Mr… ?”
“Meyers. Taeg Meyers,” he supplied, using the last name he’d taken since making the move to this dimension six months ago. He’d bet his ass she remembered his name. She seemed to hate him too much to forget. He gave her a flirtatious wink. “Couldn’t stay away.”
The woman gritted her teeth. “What do you want?”
Yup, still hated him. He didn’t get it. He was a good-looking guy. Plenty of women had told him so. Why did she look at him like he had a third eyeball growing out of his forehead?
He handed her the scrap of paper he’d scribbled his book requests on. She briefly glanced at it before raking him once again with her contemptuous glower. “More research on the Arthurian legend?”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for the oldies.”
Her gaze traveled down his body and all the way back again, the cold disdain in her eyes so at odds with what he was used to getting from women when they checked him out. “You don’t seem like the type to care about ancient myths.”
Yeah, she told him that every freaking time. Taeg rubbed his chin, scruffy from three days without shaving, and glanced down at his tattered jeans and T-shirt emblazoned with the words Need a Job… Will Work for Orgasms before giving her an innocent look. “What do you mean?”
She opened her mouth to reply, but anything she might have said was drowned out by the familiar pulse of energy that indicated someone was approaching. Someone who wasn’t human.
Taeg whirled around to see a creature sauntering toward them. He wore the guise of a scholarly old man, with white hair and glasses set askew on his large nose. Based on his genial smile and the fact he was in a library of all places, Taeg was willing to bet he was a nagora. They were harmless demons who, with their tiny bodies, green flesh, and pointy ears, resembled something of a cross between Yoda and a gremlin. The ultimate scholars, they would be at home in a place like this. Unlike him.
The demon gave him a curious glance and nodded his head respectfully. Taeg relaxed, returning the nod before turning back to face the woman. He froze at what he saw.
She stared at the nagora, the look of disgust on her face similar to the one she reserved for him. But wait… she wasn’t staring in the right place. She appeared to be looking at the space where the nagora’s head really would be. Not that Taeg could see it through the nagora’s glamour.
What. The. Fuck?
She schooled her features into an expressionless mask and forced her eyes up as the nagora stopped in front of her desk.
“Good afternoon, miss,” the nagora said to her. “Perhaps you could assist me?”
Her mouth tightened and her focus dropped once more before shooting back up. “What?” she snapped at the nagora, no less rudely than she’d addressed him.
Taeg’s breath caught in his throat. No, it can’t be.
Books forgotten, he turned and stumbled off before he could give himself away. He forced his feet to move, one in front of the other, until he’d strode out of the large set of double doors and into the hall. Leaning his back against the wall, he took a deep breath and pondered the implications of what had just happened.
It seemed impossible. He’d never heard of anything like this before.
Taeg straightened and glanced into the research room. The nagora still talked to the librarian. She kept her whole body tense and her attention rooted in front of her, like she was forcing herself to stand still and not look down.
“Son of a bitch,” he muttered, ignoring the reproachful glance he received from a man walking into the research room. Impossible as it might be, it seemed pretty clear—the woman was a magic-sensitive. And not just any magic-sensitive.
She could see through glamours.
How rare was that? He’d heard of magic-sensitives before—humans who could sense the presence of magic or Otherworldly beings—but he’d never heard of one who could actually see through glamours.
“Well, what do you know?” Taeg let out a long, soft laugh. It appeared today was his lucky day. The saucy little librarian with her lethal glares had just become his number-one priority. Because, wouldn’t you know… she happened to have the one thing he needed the most right now.
The woman obviously hated him—and probably all demons, from the looks of it—but she would help him. Whether she wanted to or not.
Taeg composed himself and strolled down the hallway. When he felt the urge to hum a rousing rendition of “Whistle While You Work,” he gave in to it. Not even the angry hisses and boos of his fellow library patrons would get him down today.
He’d hunt himself down a member of the staff and learn all there possibly was to know about his bad-tempered librarian.
Like it or not, she was about to get to know him a whole lot better.
Maya Flores anxiously counted down the minutes until closing time. When it came and went with no sign of the irritating Mr. Meyers, she let out a huge sigh. He’d left without getting his books, and she’d spent the rest of the day fearing he would return for them.
She grabbed a stack of reference materials and sorted through them. He disgusted her, masquerading as a human, when she knew perfectly well what he really was—one of the most vile creatures in existence. A demon.
Worse, he was one of few demons she’d seen who appeared almost entirely human. Well, except for those fiery red eyes whose pupils swirled in a shade of plum, and that faint golden glow, as if he were an angel. Ha. Far from it.
Before he’d walked into her research room earlier this week, she hadn’t known a demon could look like that. So carelessly masculine, with his lean, muscular physique, olive-toned skin, and dark, tousled hair. He would have had top male model potential… that was, if he weren’t made of hellfire.
Even if no one else could tell, she knew he was a demon. He made her skin crawl. Made her want to puke. Made her ache to sever his head from his body, something she knew from experience killed all demons.
So if he was the evil and disgusting creature she knew he was, why did seeing him make her thighs tingle and her panties wet? Why did the flash of his perfect white teeth make her heart skip a beat?
“Why am I even thinking about him?”
He must be an incubus. That had to be it. There was no way she could ever be attracted to a demon. No way in hell.
Not after what she’d lived through.
“Shit.” She slammed a book onto the counter, furious at the direction her thoughts had taken her. “I hate demons.”
“Sorry?” a familiar voice said.
Maya whirled around, flushing as Alice, the head librarian, walked up behind her. “Oh… um, just got some shelving to do.”
“You’re not staying late, are you?” Alice’s eyes, round and large as an owl’s behind her tortoiseshell glasses, stared at her in frank assessment.
“No.” She let out a nervous laugh. “I’ll be out of here soon.”
“Mm-hm.” Alice gave her a look that said she didn’t believe it, but thankfully didn’t question her. “When are you working next?’
“Not until Friday.”
“Five days off, hmm?”
“Yeah, I need to concentrate on school,” Maya replied, although really, that was the least of her concerns.
“Have a good evening, then.” Alice reached underneath the counter for her purse. “See you on Friday.”
“Bye.” Maya ambled about the room, taking her time shelving the books. She forced herself to wait for about half an hour after Alice left, making sure the building had emptied. Now that the library was vacant, her real work began, the reason she’d taken this part-time position to begin with.
Tossing her backpack over one shoulder, she walked out of the research room and down the long hallway. Her thick heels made a rhythmic click on the marble floors, echoing loudly in the empty space as if pointing out how alone she was in this huge building. She passed several doors, coming to a stop at the room that contained the collection of ancient Bibles. After another paranoid peek around to confirm she was alone, she walked inside and selected one, then sat down to work.
Where was she?
Taeg leaned against the wall of the building across from the library and checked his watch for the fifth time in an hour. Night had fallen a couple of hours ago, and the place had already cleared out.
Earlier, after he’d left his cantankerous little magic-sensitive, he’d managed to catch another staff member alone, an older woman. It had been the perfect opportunity to use his ability to charm her into spilling everything she knew about the librarian.
Maya. Even her name was sexy.
Thanks to the staff member, he now knew Maya was a part-timer, as well as a graduate student, who apparently liked to stay late after work. What the woman had failed to mention was how late Maya stayed.
What could she be doing alone in there for this long? Just thinking about it made him antsy. Too bad he couldn’t flash in there. Not with the security cameras he’d spotted throughout the ground floor. He’d learned the hard way to check for those after an unfortunate incident shortly after he’d moved to this dimension, when he’d tried to avoid the line at a strip club. Thankfully, he’d been able to use his charm on the bouncers to make them forget what they’d seen. Pretty awesome gift he’d been blessed with, if he did say so himself.
For a second Taeg considered dissipating into air and gliding into the building to check on her. But no. Unlike flashing, his clothes didn’t travel with him when he took his air form. They would fall to the ground and, knowing this city, be picked up by the bum lounging at the street corner in less than a minute. As much as the woman disliked him now, something gave him the feeling she’d have a real problem if he appeared in front of her buck-ass naked.
Just as he was about to glance at his watch again, a familiar figure came striding down the steps of the building.
“Finally.” He pushed away from the wall and followed her at a safe distance. Once there weren’t so many witnesses around, he’d pull her aside and use his charm to get what he needed out of her.
As he walked, he kept his sights glued on the round, lush curves of Maya’s sweet little ass. Couldn’t help himself. It was rounder and plumper than he’d suspected from his first brief glimpse of it. Some might even say it was too big, but if so they’d be idiots.
“Ain’t nothing wrong with her.” And no doubt, she knew it. Though her jeans and black shirt were respectable, they were tight enough that she obviously realized the appeal of her ripe curves. And those black knee-high boots she had her jeans tucked into? Damn.
He loved a woman with confidence, and her attire screamed confidence.
Taeg followed her for several blocks before losing sight of her at a red light. But he still smelled her, so he followed her scent. Little Maya’s aroma was like honeysuckle and spice. Like an exotic, mouthwatering dessert. How hot was that?
He almost bypassed the dark alley, but his nose told him to stop. Turning to face it, he inhaled, ignoring the odor of garbage and rot.
What the hell?
Why would she have gone into a dark alley? Did the woman have a death wish?
With a muffled curse, he stepped into the alleyway, bypassing a sleeping drunk and several hungry-looking rats. Up ahead was a gap several feet wide. A crossroad of sorts, marking where one set of buildings ended and another began. A million spots for someone with dishonorable intentions to hide.
Seriously, was the chick nuts? Why would she have gone down an alley? This place gave him the creeps, and he was fairly sure he could take anyone or anything that might think to hide in here.
Taeg had taken several steps forward when a small figure whirled around the corner of the gap. Something came at his face. He had little time to jump back before a wicked blade sliced the air in front of him. It cut a shallow nick in his flesh. At least it hadn’t lodged itself deep in his larynx, as it surely would have if he hadn’t reacted quickly.
“What the fuck?” he choked out.
It was Maya. She whirled around and again aimed at his neck, her long hair slapping his chest and assaulting him with the muted scent of honeysuckle. He lifted his forearm, blocking the thrust with an outward jab that knocked her to the side. Before she could attack again, Taeg grabbed her wrist and slammed her against the nearest wall.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he said.
“Fuck you, demon scum,” she spat, struggling to free her hand.
O-k-a-a-a-y… that cleared up any niggling doubt that she could see past his glamour.
Taeg tightened his hold on her wrist until she dropped the dagger. He grabbed her other wrist and pinned it back. “Look at me.”
Yeah, apparently she wasn’t in an accommodating mood. Because instead of listening she jerked her knee up, catching him square in the junk.
“Ooof.” That freaking hurt.
He let go, hands automatically lowering to protect his goods, and she shoved hard on his chest. As he staggered several feet back, she spun and delivered a stunning roundhouse kick that almost had him admiring her form, right before it caught him in the side and sent him sprawling.
“What’s the deal, lady?”
She grabbed the knife and flew at him faster than he would’ve expected from a human.
Taeg shoved off the ground and sidestepped her attack, and recaptured her wrist. He yanked her arm up behind her as he maneuvered behind her back.
“Shit,” Maya cried. The knife clanged to the ground, and he loosened his hold a fraction.
“Stop. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Yeah. Right.” Her tone made it clear what she thought of that.
Pushing her to the nearest wall, Taeg turned her to face him. He kept one hand on her shoulder and the other on her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes.
“Calm down, Maya.” The familiar hum of energy in his ears told him his charm was doing its thing. “I’m not going to hurt you. I only want to ask you a few questions.”
Her scowl softened long enough for him to assume his power had worked. He let her go and backed up a few steps. “How do you know what I am? Can you see the real me?”
Rather than answering, she lifted a knee and slid one of her dainty hands into her boot. When she withdrew it, she clutched another dagger, a match to the one on the ground. Suddenly the reason for her boots became quite clear. The woman was a freakin’ walking arsenal.
She kicked off the wall and leapt into the air in a flying move that Jackie Chan would have envied, adjusting the grip on her dagger. Hand high in the air, she aimed for his neck. The woman was clearly determined to remove his head from the rest of his body. Taeg dropped his legs out from under him, hitting the ground hard.
Maya’s legs struck his back as she flew over him. He untangled himself and whirled around, but damn she recovered fast. She tossed her dagger to the side to avoid jabbing herself as she tucked and rolled. Then she jumped to her feet and faced him with both fists up. Her face was almost expressionless, her heavy panting the only indicator she was battling to the death. Damned if his interest wasn’t drawn to her ample chest beneath that tight black top.
She smiled, almost as if she were enjoying herself, and came at him with another kick.
He leapt back to avoid being hit. “Damn it, I’m trying to talk to you, lady.”
Beyond frustrated now, Taeg closed his fingers around her arm and spun her toward the wall. She hit it hard, chest first, and he used his body to plaster her to it before she could attack him. Yanking her arms to her sides, he growled into her ear. “You’ve made it quite clear you don’t like my kind, but can we stop fighting and talk now? Please?”
“Fuck you, demon.” Maya rammed the back of her head against his chest in an effort to dislodge him. The woman was like a wildcat—she just wouldn’t stop.
Taeg pushed in closer to her, and suddenly he had a whole different problem. All her frantic squirming and wriggling pushed her luscious ass into his front, and he was in no way immune to that. She couldn’t possibly mistake his growing erection pressing to the small of her back.
Great. Now he looked like a would-be rapist. That wouldn’t do.
“Can we just talk already?” he snapped, letting go of her and backing toward the wall behind him.
“I hope you burn in Hell.” She spun and raced at him, her movements frenzied.
Fucking great. The last thing he wanted was to keep fighting her, but he wasn’t about to walk away. Not when she hadn’t responded to his charm. No, little Maya had now become more intriguing than he’d imagined.
He stepped to the side to avoid her attack, not realizing until he moved how close to the wall he was. She didn’t either. Her eyes widened a fraction of a second before she flew by him, colliding with the wall. Face first. Her head jerked back from the impact. She crumpled to the ground.
Taeg raced toward her, crouching and turning her limp body so he could examine her face. An almond-sized lump formed high on her forehead, already turning purple from the force of the impact.
It sucked that she’d knocked herself out because of him, but all he’d done the whole time was defend himself. The woman had more moves than a horny teenager on prom night. He studied her in the dim light. Long, dark hair with matching, slanted eyebrows. Mocha skin that suggested an ethnic heritage. And of course, the mouthwatering figure.
He touched his free hand to her bruised forehead. “What secrets are you hiding?”
Aw, crap. Looked like he had an unconscious, wannabe demon-slayer on his hands. What was he going to do with her? He couldn’t very well carry her down the street, and he sure as hell couldn’t flash home now, as he’d originally intended. Sighing, Taeg fished his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed his brother.
“Dagan, are you at home?”
“Yeah,” his brother replied. “Why?”
“I need you to come pick me up. And hurry. It’s sort of an emergency.”
“What did you do this time?” Dagan drawled.
“Fill you in when you get here. Just move it along.” Taeg gave him directions and hung up before his little brother could question him further. Hoisting Maya into his arms, he settled down to wait.
One thing was for sure: Dagan would never let him live this one down.
“What, you have to knock them out now to get ’em to go home with you?”
“Ha-ha, very funny,” Taeg said to Dagan. “For your information, she knocked herself out.”
Dagan chuckled from behind the wheel of the fancy 6-Series convertible he’d bought after his last two bounty gigs.
“What’s up with the car, bro?” Taeg grumbled from the backseat, where he had a still-unconscious Maya laid across his lap. “Overcompensate much?”
“For what?” Dagan snickered. “I’m not lacking anything.”
“Yeah, except humility.”
Much as he loved to mess with his brother, Taeg was glad Dagan had taken so well to Earth since they had moved here. The circumstances leading up to that move hadn’t been easy on him. On any of them.
Dagan snuck a look at Maya from the rearview mirror, narrowly missing a collision with another car. The other driver laid on his horn.
“Eyes on the road, chuck.”
“Sorry, man, can’t help it.” Dagan’s attention darted back to Maya. “That chick is smokin’.”
Taeg snuck his own glance. He couldn’t disagree.
“Remind me again why you’re taking an unconscious babe home with you? I mean, it’d be one thing if I was picking you up after a four-hour pub crawl, but—”
“I told you, she knew what I was.” Taeg took a breath, trying to quell his impatience. If the tables were turned and it was Dagan in the backseat with a passed-out babe in his lap, he’d sure as hell be curious, too.
On second thought, maybe that wouldn’t be so surprising, considering it was Dagan.
“Yeah, and on top of that, when I tried to charm her it didn’t take,” Taeg added.
“You mean The Gaze didn’t work?” Dagan whistled. “That must have burned your ass.”
Now that he mentioned it… that had been a major pain. No one had ever failed to respond to him before. Fought it, yes, but failing to respond altogether? “There’s something unusual about her.”
“I’ll say. She’s stacked. Smells good, too. Like flowers and… cinnamon or something,” Dagan said.
Now Dagan was starting to irritate him. Yeah, that’s what the tightening in his gut was—irritation. Not jealousy. Couldn’t be that. He wasn’t all caveman about women like his big brother, Keegan.
Dagan must have sensed what Taeg was thinking. “So you decided to kidnap your own woman, huh? After all, it worked out so well for Keegan.”
But Dagan had a point. When Keegan had kidnapped Brynn six months ago to keep their evil father from using her to raise an army of zombies, none of them could have imagined he’d end up married to her. And now Taeg had inadvertently conducted a kidnapping of his own. The irony wasn’t lost on him. But it was for Keegan and Brynn that he was doing this. They were his family, and he owed them. If Maya had a gift that would help him find what he searched for, he would take advantage of that.
“What are you going to do with her?” Dagan asked.
Good question. Taeg studied Maya. She seemed so innocent in sleep with her head tilted to the side, her lips parted. “I’ll wait for her to wake up, then find out if she can see through all forms of glamours. If so—”
“You think she’ll help you find the sword.” Dagan’s words were more statement than question.
“Yup. She’ll help me, like it or not.” Taeg would make sure of it.
“Waking up in a strange place won’t endear her to you.”
“She hates demons, bro. Short of cutting off my own head, I have a feeling nothing I do could endear her to me. Besides, you didn’t see her fight. She can take care of herself.” Taeg was walking proof of that. He might’ve been at least ten times stronger than her, but she’d still managed to land some good hits. Thank the devil he healed fast, or he’d be dripping blood all over the inside of his brother’s new car.
Just when Taeg was beginning to question his brother’s uncharacteristic silence, Dagan asked, “Do you really think the sword can destroy the Book?”
“I think it’s the best chance we’ve got. I need to take a crack at it.” When Dagan nodded, Taeg added, “Don’t tell Keegan, okay? I don’t want to say anything until we know for sure it’ll work.”
“Got it.” Dagan pulled up to the front of Taeg’s Lower East Side apartment, which he’d rented from Brynn after she married Keegan and moved in with him.
“Hey, bro, I need to borrow your car. Find somewhere around here to park it.”
“Fuck you.” Dagan turned to face him, a deep scowl on his face. “I just got this thing, and you want me to park it on the street? Plus, you’ve never really driven before.”
“If an imbecile like you is doing it, how hard can it be?” Taeg nodded toward Maya’s sleeping form. “I’ll need the car to transport her.”
“I can’t believe this.” Dagan muttered a defeated curse as he turned to face the front.
“Thanks, bro. Walk the keys up when you’re done parking.” Shifting Maya forward on his lap so he could reach the car door, Taeg turned the handle and slid out with her in his arms.
“Remember: not a word.”
At the building’s entrance, Taeg fumbled in his pocket for the key. Maya was light by his standards, but it was still difficult to maneuver her. Finally, he tossed her over his shoulder and opened the door. With his shitty luck, he half-expected one of his nosy neighbors to pop out to see what was up, but he got all the way to his third floor apartment without seeing another soul. Unfortunately, the way he carried Maya put her curvaceous rear on display.
Ignore it. Just ignore it.
Easier said than done.
He unlocked his front door and entered the apartment. What now? He couldn’t just put her down. She’d probably karate chop his ass out the window the minute she regained consciousness. With a muffled curse, he carried her into his bedroom and laid her on the bed. He had to tie her up. No doubt that would piss her off even more once she awoke, but he couldn’t think of a better option.
He rummaged through his closet and dug out some silk ties his friend Cresso had jokingly bought for him when he’d first made the move to Earth. After he’d tied Maya’s arms to the ornate metal headboard he stepped back and admired his handiwork. She didn’t budge. He touched the top of her forehead where a bruise had already formed. Too bad he couldn’t heal others like his brothers, Keegan and Ronin. She would probably have a major headache when she woke up.
He didn’t realize he was standing there watching her until a knock sounded on his door. Dagan, no doubt, with the keys to his car. After one last lingering glance, Taeg left the bedroom, closing the door behind him.
No, she definitely wasn’t going to be happy when she woke up.
Awareness returned slowly, melding with the remnants of old memories and all-too-familiar nightmares.
Clomp… Clomp… Clomp.
The man’s booted feet thumped across the wooden floor. From her hiding spot, she clamped her lips shut so she wouldn’t scream. Could he see her? Did he know where she was?
She inched her bare feet farther back into the dark, terrified he’d be able to spot them. That he’d find her.
An amused, gravelly voice called out to her. “Donde estas, niñita?” Where are you, little girl?
He sounded human, so very human, but he wasn’t. Por Dios, she knew he wasn’t.
Maya’s eyes flew open. Her breath puffed out in harsh gasps that made her fear she would hyperventilate. She tried to sit up but she couldn’t move. “What the—?”
Her vision finally cleared. She was in a bedroom. A small bedroom decorated in warm, masculine colors. And she was tied to the freaking bed.
Her last memories came back in a blinding rush. She’d been walking home when she felt someone following her. Squeezing in with a small group of pedestrians, she’d snuck a quick peek behind her. It was the demon from the library—Taeg, he’d called himself. He’d probably decided she was his next meal. So she’d squeezed into the first dark alley she could find and snatched one of the daggers from her boot. Then she’d waited.
Oh God, she’d gotten cocky. Had thought she could use the element of surprise to take him. She knew demons were strong, much stronger than humans, but he wouldn’t be the first demon she’d taken down.
The others hadn’t seen it coming. But somehow, he had.
She’d underestimated his strength and speed. And now she was tied to his bed with her head propped up on two fluffy pillows.
“No.” This couldn’t be happening.
From the other side of the closed door came the soft thumping of someone walking across a room. She fought a burst of pain and the nausea that arose when she turned her head toward the door. Memories engulfed her, threatening to take over once again.
Clomp… Clomp… Clomp.
His boots stomped on the floor. So loud, but even still she was afraid the sound would be drowned out by the fierce pumping of her own heart. Could he hear it?
They were dead. They were all dead. She’d heard the screams.
The monsters had come here for her. Because of her.
And now everyone was dead. It was all her fault.
As if he could sense her fear, he laughed. “Donde estas, niñita? Te encontraré.” I’ll find you.
“No,” Maya gasped, forcing her mind away from the memories she couldn’t help but relive. Things had changed. She was much stronger now. No longer a frightened little girl who didn’t understand the concept of true evil.
She would survive this.
Maya forced herself to close off her emotions, and braced for a fight. At least the sick bastard had neglected to tie down her legs. She still had some measure of control. All he had to do was get close enough to her.
The door swung open and the light came on. She winced as it temporarily blinded her.
“You’re awake,” the monster said, as if they were meeting somewhere for tea rather than in his bedroom with her tied to his bed.
“You’ll regret this, demon.” She tensed and the silk straps restraining her to the bed tightened. At least the material didn’t cause her any pain.
He leaned against the doorjamb, looking confident and carelessly masculine in his T-shirt and worn jeans. Even she would admit that his playboy looks could make any woman drool. Any woman who couldn’t see the real him, that was.
Those eyes, those evil red eyes.
“You’re the one who wanted to turn our conversation into a Bruce Lee flick,” he said to her. “I just wanted to talk.”
“Yeah, ’cause all demons ever want to do is talk,” she deadpanned.
He scoffed at her words. “You sure have a low opinion of demons. Someone did a real number on you, huh?”
“A what?” she sputtered. The nerve of him, to act like she was the crazy one. “You… you suck.”
“How do you know what I am?” He cocked his head to the side in a manner that showcased the strong bent of his jaw underneath his scruffy growth of facial hair.
Again with that question. What did he care how she knew? “Eat shit and die, hell spawn.”
The demon let out a disbelieving laugh, though if Maya didn’t know better, she would have thought he almost appeared hurt at her words. “I’m in for one hell of a hard time, aren’t I?”
“You’d better believe it.” If she was in an apartment, he had to have neighbors. Taking a deep breath, she screamed, “Someone help me. I’ve been kidnapped. Help!”
He chuckled and shook his head. He started toward her, the soles of his scuffed shoes rapping on the hardwood floor. “The walls in my apartment are soundproof.”
Clomp… Clomp… Clomp.
“Donde estas, niñita?”
“No,” she whispered, shaking her head in an effort to clear those unwanted memories.
He froze in place, a strange look crossing his face. Slowly lifting his hands up, he backed away a few paces. “I’m not going to hurt you. I swear on my mother’s life.”
Oh, shit. Despite her best attempts to hide her fear, he’d seen it. Maybe she wasn’t as strong as she thought.
No. She was strong.
She squared her shoulders and made her voice hard as steel. “Yeah, right, like demons have mothers.”
“Of course we do.” He gave her a puzzled look. “Did a demon hurt you?”
Maya fought to keep her mouth from dropping open. Why was he asking her this? Why hadn’t he attacked her already? And why on earth was he trying to reassure her, of all things? “Mind your own business.”
He shook his head and actually had the nerve to look exasperated. “I would never hurt a woman.”
“Yeah, why don’t I believe that? Maybe ’cause I’m tied to your bed.” The dull throb heightened to a sharp ache every time she lifted her head to look at him.
“Hey, all I did back there was defend myself, sweetheart. If you’ll recall, I tried reasoning with you.”
Reasoning? She let out a snort. “Like demons can reason. And don’t call me sweetheart.”
Something about his frown almost made her feel guilty. That pissed her off.
“You are an amazingly difficult woman to talk to, you know that?”
“What do you want with me?” By some miracle, she managed to keep her voice even.
“Look”—he raked a hand through his hair before looking her in the eye—“I couldn’t help but notice back at the library that you could tell what I was, what the other man—”
“Demon,” she said. “He was not a man.”
“I want to know more about what you can do,” he continued, ignoring her outburst.
Maya stared at him in disbelief. This wasn’t at all going how she’d imagined. Why hadn’t he attacked her yet? What was he waiting for? That he’d tied her to the bed while she was unconscious told her he liked to play with his prey. But now she was beginning to suspect he liked to talk them to death first. “Why would you care about what I can do?”
“I have my reasons.” His bit his lip and turned away, as if he were nervous. Hiding something, was more like it.
“Let me get this straight. You kidnapped me because you want to know more about me, not because you have any plans to hurt me? Because of course, you would never do that.” Maya made sure her tone left no doubt as to what she really thought about him.
He lifted one perfect brow. “That’s right, sugar.”
Grrr. Gritting her teeth at his casual endearment, she said, “Excuse me if I don’t believe you. Something about being tied up.” She rattled her wrists for emphasis.
Her point must have struck home, because he tilted his head and narrowed his eyes, as if considering the wisdom of her words. “If I untie you, do you promise to hear me out?”
Maya stilled. Did he mean that? Even if he didn’t, if he could only get close enough to her…
She looked him straight in the eye. “Yes.”
He nodded and started toward her. She held her breath and focused on him, rather than on the nightstand she’d spotted next to the bed. It held a lamp that looked heavy enough to do some damage. Better yet, a glass picture frame, with a photo of him laughing as he casually reclined on a couch with three other men. Three other gorgeous men who looked quite similar to him. Funny how the demon qualities didn’t capture on film. He looked normal. Human.
“Listen, I’m sorry about your head.” He reached the side of the bed and leaned over to untie her wrist. “I’d heal it if I could.”
“Heal?” Anything else Maya might have said died away as she breathed in his scent. Lord, it was positively sinful, like chocolate and sex. And his fingers seared where they touched her flesh, body heat rising off him in palpable waves. Despite herself, she felt an answering twinge between her thighs and fought back a flush of shame.
Incubus. He had to be.
She couldn’t tell if she was more shocked or confused when he actually did as he said and released her wrist. She tensed, prepared to fight, but forced herself to lie still when he moved around to the opposite side of the bed and went to work on the knot restraining her other wrist.
“There.” He gave her a quick smile and rose off the bed. “All done—”
Before he could finish his sentence, she swung her leg around and kicked him square in the jaw with the heel of her boot.
He dropped to the ground, flat on his back.
That should give her enough time.
Twirling her body back toward the nightstand, she slapped the picture frame down, shattering the glass, and grabbed the biggest sliver. Then, ignoring the prick to her finger, she launched herself over the bed.
“Shit,” he grunted when she landed hard on him, jabbing her knee into his gut. His hard-as-steel gut. Not that she noticed.
She aimed the glass at his throat, but he blocked her with his forearm to her wrist. Damn it. He used her shock to his advantage and flipped her onto her back, covered her body with his, and knocked the glass away.
“I didn’t figure you one for breaking your promises.” His eyes flashed a brilliant, dark red, showing her just how angry her betrayal made him, as he dragged her wrists above her head.
Damn, he was too strong. She couldn’t get leverage on him. Blinking away the sudden sting of hot tears, she focused on causing maximum damage. If he was going to take her down, she’d at least make sure it hurt.
“Promises made to a demon don’t count, incubus.”
That gave him pause. He shot her a lopsided grin. “You think I’m an incubus?”
Oops, she hadn’t meant to say that aloud.
“Go back to Hell.” She punctuated her words with a head butt that caught him on the chin. Stars flared in her vision and her head pounded.
“Ow!” He pushed his upper body off the floor, leaving a few inches of space between them. “Give the jaw a rest, will ya?”
She took advantage of the gap and bent her knees, popping her pelvis to the side and using his hands around her wrists as leverage to flip him onto his back. She straddled him, trying to twist her wrists free from his grasp. “Let go of me.”
“So you can gouge my eyes out with your nails? I don’t fucking think so, lady.”
He almost sounded amused by this whole scene, damn him. Growling deep in her throat, Maya slammed her forehead down toward his, but he anticipated it this time and shifted so she only caught his shoulder.
Crap. She tried to lurch back but he clamped his forearms around her legs at his sides, while keeping her wrists enclosed in his hands. He’d managed to trap her as effectively as a hogtied animal, even though she was the one on top. She tried to shimmy off.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said. “I’m afraid you won’t like the consequences.”
Maya froze when her ass met with the very consequence she was certain he referred to. He might not like her squirming, but his body apparently didn’t agree. Mortified, she chanced looking him in the eye.
The insolent demon actually had the nerve to wink at her.
“Then again,” he drawled, “if you think I’m an incubus, maybe that’s exactly what you’re looking for.” He injected a good dose of humor in his innuendo, as if he wanted to make sure she knew he was only kidding.
All her fight fled her in a defeated rush. He was obviously far stronger than she was. He could have killed her a dozen times over by now. Instead, he cracked jokes with her. What kind of demon would do such a thing?
“I… I don’t understand.”
He sobered as he replied evenly. “You might, if you stop trying to kill me for one second and just talk to me.”
She stared at him, certain her utter confusion read on her face. What could he possibly have to say to her? Why was he acting so reasonable? And why oh why, knowing what he was, could she not help but notice the searing heat of his body pressing against her thighs, or the hard ridges of his muscles beneath her?
“Okay,” she said, all too aware that she sounded beaten. “Let me up, and I’ll listen to what you have to say. I promise.”
“All right.” His grip on her wrists tightened. “But you have to tell me one thing first.”
She gave him a suspicious glare. “What?”
“No fucking around. Can you see through glamours?”
The unexpected straightforwardness of that question startled her into aggression. “Screw you.”
She tried lifting up again but his forearms pressed tighter into her thighs. There was another hard poke against her ass and this time he laughed. “I already know the answer. Just admit it.”
“Careful what you say around here. For all you know, I’d gladly do that.”
“You’re such an ass.” Maya tried to twist away again, but gave up when the hardness against her rear noticeably grew. “Fine,” she snapped.
He raised his brows. “Fine what?”
“I can see through glamours,” she admitted.
Although he must have expected her to say it, his surprise was clear. A calculating expression came over his face. He let her go with an easy grin. “This is going to be interesting.”