Series: Descendants of Ra
Book Length: 358
Publisher: Tmonique Stephens
Tires squealed to a stop. It wasn’t long before a pair of combat boots came into her line of sight. Strong hands scooped her up and cradled her against a broad chest encased in a leather coat. Warmth surrounded her, made her want to burrow closer to his heat. Male musk and a hint of something else, something dangerous filled her nostrils.
“I got you.” His voice, guttural and so damn sexy, rumbled through her.
No, he was on the hook. And she had just reeled him in. Her teeth chattered from the cold, his heat, her nerves, the lies.
Avery opened the passenger door and carefully sat her on the leather seat. He hit the overhead lights and gently took her chin between his thumb and forefinger. Calloused fingers brushed her hair away and angled her face toward the light.
“Who did this to you?” Low, his voice promised retribution.
“I didn’t get their number.” She tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her. His intensity made her insides squirm.
“I’ll take you to the hospital.”
“No.” She touched his hand. “It’s okay, not as bad as it seems.” She wiggled her jaw and managed only a slight grimace.
He leaned closer. All of him filled her vision. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
Captured by his heated stare, she shook her head.
“How many were there?” His finger trailed over her cheek and down her neck.
Her thoughts kinda fizzled at his touch. “Who are you?” She remembered to ask again. He gave her a quizzical look, possibly thinking of a lie, she wondered. Her phone rang. Emeline fished it out of her purse and answered without looking. She listened to Zackary pound his chest about hiring a bodyguard for her. He was so proud of himself and expected a reward. The sick hope in his voice almost made her laugh.
“Describe him.” She ordered watching Avery.
“Big guy, bald, pissy attitude. I wanted his brother, but he volunteered,” Zachary said.
“Thanks, Zachary. I owe you one.”
She pressed end. “So you’re my bodyguard?” Perfect. Zachary finally did something right.
“Until I get someone else.” He stepped back and slammed the passenger door closed.
Why accept the job only to get someone else? Nerves made her stomach flutter as she watched him walk around the front of the Range Rover and climb into the driver’s seat. “Do you have a name or shall I make up one?”
“Avery,” he said without looking at her. The car rumbled to a start. Something loud and angry blasted from the speakers. He clicked it off, though she didn’t mind. She preferred Hip-Hop, R&B, and a little bit of Rap. No love songs, though Luther Vandross could put the most celibate body in the mood.
“Emeline,” she offered when he didn’t ask. A giggle threatened to escape, but her bruised ribs would have none of it. ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.’
“Something funny?” He pulled into traffic.
He’s observant as a killer or watcher should be. No more lapses. She had to be on guard. Emeline noticed his hands gripping the steering wheel. Big capable hands. “Two men. They wore masks. Tried to steal my purse.” He glanced at the satchel in her lap. Damn, she should’ve insisted they take it.
“Two men, one purse?” His gaze locked on hers. “Why do you need protection, Miss Gamble?”
She hadn’t told him her last name. She could call him on it, but he’d say Zachary told him, so she let it slide. “I don’t. I’m not the one who hired you.”
“Your ex is very concerned about you welfare.”
“You know a lot about me in such a short time, Mr.—what is your last name?” The car rolled to a stop at a red light. His head turned to her and she shifted in her seat to keep an eye on him.
“Nicolis. Your ex filled in a few blank spots before I caught up to you. Anything else you want to know?”
“Yeah. Did he fill you in on where I live too ‘cause we’re real close?”
His eyes narrowed and he glanced at the surrounding area. The light turned green. “Your boss said someone broke into your house. Beat up you and your grandfather. Now you’re attacked on the street. Your enemies, who and where are they?”
“I don’t have enemies.”
“We all have enemies,” he growled. “Some closer than others.”
A shift in the air alerted him that he was no longer alone. The hesitant whisper of feet gliding across the carpet revealed his intruder. And her scent. She smelled of him—of sandalwood and the night—mixed with her womanly aura that spiked his blood. A growl rumbled in his throat. Could he not have a moment alone? Maybe if he didn’t move she’d go away and leave him to finish meditating.
Silence stretched painfully until curiosity made him open one eye. She sat in front of him, so close he could count the treasure of gold flecks sparkling in her hazel eyes. Her gaze skimmed his face, leaving a trail of hunger he no longer wanted to deny. Her eyes widened when they dropped to his scars. Pity welled.
Her gaze shot to his. Questions danced in her eyes. Questions he refused to answer. It would serve no purpose to spill his guts to a woman who considered him damaged, less than any other man. Her hand stretched forward. Avery almost leaned into the touch, he craved her that much. But not while pity surfed in her hazel eyes. He’d have none of it.
“Don’t,” he snarled and grabbed her hand.
“It’s…” Her voice wavered.
He held his breath, waiting for her to finish her sentence with any of the words on his personal list: ugly, grotesque, monstrous.
Huh? He hadn’t heard right. Didn’t she see the scars, ravaged skin, and muscles beneath the ink?
“It’s changed. It didn’t look like this before.”
Shit! Sometimes his Ink did change from one indiscriminate mass to a slightly different indiscriminate mass.
“Now it’s intricate with swoops and swirls. Curlicues.”
Curlicues? Not possible. Her hand kept coming. He’d never let anyone touch it, not even during sex. Yet…he wanted her to touch him—all of him—but that was not going to happen. “I did it to hide the scars. Make it pretty. Didn’t work.” He lied.
Again, her hazel eyes filled with skepticism and her hand kept coming, as if he hadn’t ordered her not to. He was about to push her away when her fingers veered to his face. His breath caught, stilled by the possibilities of the moment.
She traced his face with soothing, lazy fingers. Her eyes, fringed with long, sooty lashes, were focused, intent on the torture she inflicted on his flesh. A gleam of interest sparked in their depths and a sultry smile tugged at the corners of her full lips. He’d dreamed this fantasy, never expected it come true. It was wrong to want more, yet her gaze caressed his skin.
Her hand dropped and she swept her thumb over the slight scar on his forearm, a reminder from the fight with her intruders. A jolt raced through him and he sucked in a startled breath.
She studied the slight demarcation. “Your wound? It’s gone. Want to explain?”
Kiss her, part her soft pouty lips and taste her. He shrugged. “Genetic anomaly. I heal fast.” He waited for more questions, but she surprised him when she cupped his face, and rubbed her palm over his day-old stubble. Desire flooded his system, turning the darkness within him into a sea of need.
Take her. Take what you want. Spread her. Fuck her. Take. Take. Whispered, taunted, and finally screamed. Avery balled his hands and kept them at his sides, anything to keep from humiliating himself. If only he could lock away his unending need, treat her as a client and not the only woman who’d ever made his blood simmer.
If he could do that, then he could walk away, but a little bit of Emeline wouldn’t be enough. And if he couldn’t have all of her, he’d rather have none.
He had to leave.
Her hands slid down his neck to his shoulder, and brushed his burn. Avery jerked away. The skin sizzled, as if freshly torched, but it wasn’t pain that seared his body.
“W-what? What did I do?” Her lovely eyes filled with concern.
Her stuttering mimicked his fluttering heart. When she touched his scar, all his nerve endings were zapped. He felt her soft hand stroking him, when his damaged skin hadn’t sensed anything in more than two decades.
“How did this happen?”
Though he never wanted her begging for anything, ever, Avery shook his head. Those dark memories didn’t belong here, tainting this moment. He took her hand, caressed the smooth back, and brushed her knuckles.
“Tell me,” she whispered and squeezed his fingers.
He brought her fingers to his tortured skin. “Touch me again.” The unspoken ‘please’ hung in the air between them.
Emeline hesitated, and for long seconds he suffered in anticipation. Then she slid her hand from his elbow to his shoulder over the burned skin. Bliss roared through him, leaving his restraints in tatters.
His head dropped back. Lust, potent and violent, clawed through him as never before. Did he moan or did she? The blood storming through his body and pounding in his ears muffled everything except her hand on his flesh. No one had ever come close to making him feel this way. No one, but Emeline with her luscious lips and arresting eyes. With her coy scent and fat curls bouncing on her shoulders, making her eyes do a peek-a-boo dance. Beneath the towel, his cock turned to stone.
She moved away and he nearly screamed at the loss. He grabbed her, couldn’t stop himself from hooking her around the waist and sliding her body under his.
Her hand braced against his chest. “I-I’m not having s-s-sex with you.”
Sex? Is that all she thought this was? He wished the feelings she evoked in him were so simple. Sex he could get anywhere, with anyone. With Emeline, he wanted all that she would give…and more. More he could never have.
She’d said no, though her half-mast eyes were dreamy, waiting for his next move while her tongue flicked out and stroked her bottom lip. Damn, burying himself inside her and never coming out sounded like an epic plan, but her breathy words shackled him.
“Just touch me,” he said. He was ready to demand that she place her hands on his skin.
Her bottom lip trembled and a sliver of fear entered her gaze. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she rasped.
Her words already had. They doused his desire and delivered an unwanted dose of reality. This was wrong on every level and at least one of them had the balls to admit it.
“Same here.” He didn’t want to hurt her either, and that’s exactly where this would lead. Nothing about him had changed. He was still a mercenary, dealt in death. Family obligations came before all of his longings and always would. Let her go, whispered through him.
I will…in a minute.
Slowly, her hands went from fists, ready to push him away, to warm palms and splayed fingers on his pecs. “Why did you agree to be my bodyguard? The truth.”
Heat traveled from her to him, straight to his cock. He leaned into the touch, seeking more. “Because I couldn’t take my eyes off you. Still can’t.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tmonique Stephens wrote her first novel about a reporter and a hockey player after the U.S. hockey team won gold in the 1980 Olympics. She loves writing flawed characters who reflect the emotional baggage we all carry. She writes complicated stories for complicated people. Paranormal romances and fantasy novels are her favorite genre.
Eternity, Everlasting, and Evermore are the first three novels in her Descendants of Ra series. Currently, she is working a contemporary revenge series and Encore, the fourth novel in the Descendants of Ra series. She will read anything about fairies, demons, or angels. She also enjoys Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Preston and Child.
Born in St. Thomas USVI, Tmonique Stephens grew up in The Bronx, New York one mile from Yankee Stadium. She loves SyFy, the History channels, and also Asian cuisine. But her heart and stomach longs for anything from the Caribbean.
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