[Check out the Summertime Contest rules on my June 19th blog! Be sure to post there to qualify for the grand prize, then come back here and post for another chance to win!]
Here’s a glimpse of Nicolas from the last book, Seduced by Darkness, you remember him—tall, dark and dominant? He and Alex have shared a little more than air and Nic’s still pissed!
Just as he opened the French doors, a gust of air brushed against his back. “Hello, Nic,” he said, turning slowly.
Nicolas stood in shadows, his tall frame bristling with anger. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t raise the alarm now and let the coven know their daywalker is here.”
Alex breathed a sigh of relief. If Nic was taking the time to have a conversation with him, he might actually listen to what he had to say. “Let’s take this outside.”
“And give you a chance to escape into the sky?”
Alex blinked. “You know I’m Born?”
Nic closed in, his lips stretching into a mirthless smile. “Not until you just said it.”
“I’m not trying to keep it a secret from you, but it’s interesting Chessa didn’t give me away.”
“Chessa’s emotions are complex, right now. She’s hormonal. Something to do with her pregnancy, you bastard.”
Alex folded his arms over his chest, pretending he wasn’t already shifting his balance to bolt through the door. “Are you really unhappy about that? Unhappy for her? Or jealous you couldn’t be the one to plant it in her womb?”
Nic’s eyebrows lowered and his hands tightened into fists. “I’m going to kick your ass.”
Not kill him. Alex took note. “Again, let’s take this outside where we’ll draw less attention. I promise the wings will stay folded until we’re done.”
Nicolas stuck his fists on his hips; his scowl was brutal, his gaze penetrating.
Alex turned again to the door, giving Nicolas his back, trusting the core of honor he knew still resided inside the former warrior monk.
“Out to the grounds behind the barracks,” Nicolas growled behind him.
Without glancing back, Alex nodded, striding through the door and straight past the flower garden and the bench where he’d seduced Sarah, past the gazebo where he’d fucked her, ravaged her, tasted her rich human blood. He’d thought to teach her a lesson and hoped to never see her again. But he’d made a grave mistake. An oversight that further complicated his already muddled life.
Later, after he’d bested Nicolas, he’d seek the information he needed to track her down.
If he bested Nicolas. Nic wasn’t your average vampire. He’d trained as a warrior all his life and long afterlife. Strong and skilled, he also had righteous anger bulking out his muscles and his resolve.
He had no doubts Nic wanted to hurt him. Badly. Adrenaline had to be slamming through his body as they approached the barracks and took the path to the arena behind it.
Perhaps, he’d let Nicolas get a few licks in to help assuage his anger and self-recrimination. Nicolas had his own guilt to deal with. He’d manipulated Chessa’s emotions, her sensuality to burrow beneath her gruff façade and stake a claim on her heart. He’d invited Alex’s participation in her seduction, thus enabling him to impregnate her.
He’d betrayed Inanna and the Born he’d served for centuries in a bid to earn, if not equality, at least respect and a voice on the ruling council. His means had been questionable, nearly earning him a death sentence. But he’d prevailed.
Because the time was nigh.
Inanna sensed it. Knew she needed all the allies she could amass. Alex needed to turn Nicolas from his devotion to the woman who’d been responsible for his induction into the Underworld.
But first, he had to let Nicolas come to terms with his anger.
With Nicolas at his back, Alex followed the pathway from the white-washed barracks building through a thin stand of oak trees to the training field. The scent of freshly mowed grass and heavy, humid air filling his nose and lungs. Lights on motion-detectors flared as they stepped onto the field.
At the center of the training arena, Alex faced Nicolas who already prowled around him, tension radiating from his body in hot waves.
“How do you want to do this?” Alex asked, keeping his tone casual as he deepened his breaths and summoned his own inner demon to the surface. Forcing his gaze away from his adversary, he calmly rolled up his sleeves.
A gust of air whooshed ahead of the fist rising to collide with his jaw.
Alex took the blow, letting the force drive him back a step. He raised a hand to rub the side of his face and glared at Nicolas whose fangs curved beneath a feral snarl. “Nice,” Alex murmured. “Do you even know why you’re so angry with me?” He cocked his head left, then right, and shook out his arms, sinking into a fighter’s stance with his hands raised and balled into fists.
Air whipped around him. A kick landed against his knee, but Alex resisted, standing firm, thinking it better to let Nicolas spend some of his rage early. Perhaps then he’d be ready to listen.
Nicolas flashed past him again, his forearm clouting him across the shoulders. “Fight me, bastard!”
“I’m just letting you take a few practice blows, Nicolas. Just to be fair.”
“I don’t need your handicapping me in any fight,” Nicolas roared. “This isn’t a game.”
Knowing he was taunting the man into a fury, still, Alex couldn’t help tweaking his anger a notch higher. “I don’t want you totally demoralized,” he said, his voice calm and sympathetic. “I’d rather you still feel strong, secure in your own power.”
“Again, I don’t need any favors from you.”
“If you’re ready, then…” Alex didn’t give him any more warning than that. He sank, gathering power in his thighs, then launched from the ground, springing high above Nicolas’s head, turning mid-air to land directly behind him. He swept out a foot, catching Nicolas below the knees and shoving him forward.
Nicolas rolled, and then quickly regained his footing to face Alex. His gaze narrowed. “You’re fast. I’ll grant you that. Faster than your womenfolk.”
Alex lunged forward, clamping his hands on Nicolas’s shoulders, squeezing as he pressed him down to his knees.
They wrestled a moment, Nicolas resisting the hold, his hands coming up beneath Alex’s arms to pummel his ribs and his chest with several solid, breath-stealing blows.
Still, Alex held on, pushing to the point bone popped and crackled.
Nicolas must have sensed how close he was to defeat, he sank to his knees. “You’re stronger. But not invulnerable.” He slammed his fist between Alex’s legs.
When Alex’s breath left him in a pained wheeze, Nicolas brought up his arms and swept them outward, knocking them away. Alex took a step back, his hands planted on his thighs as he bent, dragging in tight breaths. “I…underestimated…your venom.”
“What? You thought I’d fight fair?” Nicolas swung his leg in an arcing roundhouse kick, aiming straight for Alex’s head.
Alex dropped and rolled beneath the kick, coming up in a crouch, his groin still throbbing hard. “Won’t make that mistake again,” he gritted out.
“You think you can cow me with your superior speed, your power…Your showboating is wasted on me. I’ve fought demons a hundred times more intimidating than you and lived.”
Alex grimaced and straightened. “If I intended to cause you serious harm, I would. What I prefer is a conversation. We have mutual interests—”
“You won’t ever have Chessa again. She chose me.”
“She’s the mother of my child. There will always be a bond between us.”
Alex dug his heels into the grass and pressed forward at the exact moment Nicolas launched, his expression a mask of fury. Their bodies slammed together, their hands wrapping around each others’ throats as thighs and buttocks bunched to propel them forward.
Alex had weight and superior strength on his side—Nicolas blazing anger that shot adrenaline sparking through his body.
Alex dug his toes deeper in the grass, feeling his face redden, his expression tighten as a growl of frustration ripped from his throat. He strained the muscles of his neck, bulking them beneath the powerful, tightening grip of Nicolas’s large hands.
Nicolas’s feet slipped in the grass, enabling Alex to shove him backward, momentum allowing him to take another step and another, until he plowed forward, carrying Nicolas to the ground.
Nicolas’s thighs strained, bucking beneath him, hammering his knees into Alex’s. Then he planted his feet and thrust upward, attempting to roll with Alex.
Alex had had enough of the match, feeling frustrated and more than a little foolish for expending energy on a battle neither was really willing to win, because victory could only mean the death of one of them.
But how to end the match? They could battle like this for hours. Alex almost smiled as he stared down into Nicolas’s face, growing purple from his strangle hold.
Alex was brawnier, heavier. Without leverage, Nicolas would have to concede.
Alex stretched out on top of Nicolas, pinning his ankles with his feet, his chest with the weight of his own. Letting go of Nic’s neck he clamped his hands around his wrists and stretched them above his head.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Nicolas spat, his lips curling in disgust.
“Ending this,” Alex said glibly, relaxing now that he had Nicolas pinned and off-balance from the intimacy of their position. The humor of their situation had Alex fighting the urge to chuckle, which would only further enrage the vampire already trembling with rage beneath him.
Nicolas slammed his head upward, but Alex drew back from the head-butt. “Easy now,” he whispered.
“Alex…” Nicolas’s voice rose in warning.
“Relax. I’m not after your cock. And I know you haven’t the slightest interest in mine. Let’s have that little talk.”
“I can’t think with you plastered to me. This is…unseemly.”
“But effective,” Alex said smoothly. “You have to concede that.”
“Are we going to just lie here? Are you so cowardly you won’t fight me like a man?”
“That’s the key phrase, you know. Like a man. I’m not really. Never have been. I’m demon-spawn. A Born vampire. You, my friend, came into this world a man.”
“The point of your lesson being?” Nicolas said, gritting his teeth.
“Chessa is Born. Also, never a woman, although she is human in her heart.”
“We’re back to the subject of her child.”
“You can’t be certain it won’t be a son, since I now understand males can be born.”
“One every generation,” Alex murmured agreeably.
“Alex, get the fuck off me. This isn’t comfortable.”
“Because you’re growing aroused? Don’t worry about it. It’s natural. The pressure of another groin pressed to yours. Instinctive, really. Nothing to do with your manliness.”
“I’m worried about yours.”
“Don’t be. Also perfectly natural.” Alex couldn’t help teasing him just a bit more. Nicolas’s growing panic nearly had him chortling. “Let me shift a bit.” He lifted his hips, aligning his cock alongside rather than directly on top of Nicolas’s. “Better now?”
“Alex! Get off!”
“Not until you give me your word we’ll talk. No more fisticuffs. Civilized conversation.”
“Not possible,” Nicolas ground out, his face red and contorted with fury. “Chessa is undone. Weeping all the time. You’re little package has shaken her.”
“I gave her a gift. One to replace the hole in her heart. One you could never fill no matter how many decades you tried.”
Nicolas stopped struggling, and his expression grew stark. “What do you want from us? What must we do for you to go away?”
“That won’t ever happen,” Alex said slowly, wanting the message to finally sink in. “For better or worse, I’m part of your lives now. Forever.”
“I don’t accept that.”
“You think exposing me to the coven, delivering my body, will end this?”
Nicolas’s lips twisted. “I think it will be one problem removed.”
“Would you think for a minute with your mind instead of your pride? Who will stand between Chessa and Inanna once the baby is born?”
The last traces of his anger finally faded from Nicolas’s dark eyes. “I would have you take the child…but Chessa would be inconsolable.”
“Then we must protect her together.”
Nicolas’s internal struggle played out in the tightening of his mouth, the fierce flex of his grinding jaw. But at last, he turned aside. “What do you want from me?”
Alex shut his eyes, knowing what he said would be binding. “Your acceptance that I am a part of your lives…the father to her child. And I’ll agree never to seek intimacy with Chessa again.”
“You saw her tonight, didn’t you?” Nicolas whispered.
Alex thought it wise not to mention that she’d been nude and that he’d touched and kissed her. He nodded slowly. “I needed to know she was safe for the moment and healthy.”
“How did she receive you?”
“She was angry…at first. She refused my offer to help her escape. She won’t abandon you.”
Nicolas closed his eyes for a moment. “If I were stronger, I’d force her away from me. For now.”
“But you love her.”
Nicolas’s stark, haunted eyes said it all.
Alex let out a slow breath. “You can’t reveal me to Inanna. Not yet.”
Nicolas gave him a sharp nod. “Agreed.”
“Not going to ask why?”
“I had already decided I would protect you. For Chessa’s sake.”
Alex gave Nicolas a mock scowl. “Then what was all this about, Nic? Missing me?”
“Like a toothache,” Nicolas said, raising his upper lip to give him a little fang.
“I’ve worked up quite an appetite,” Alex murmured, not quite done tormenting the man beneath him.
Nicolas leveled a lethal glare. “Sink anything of yours into me, and you will die.”
Alex drew a deep breath and closed his eyes. “You smell divine. Are you sure?”
Alex leaned forward and planted a kiss Nicolas’s forehead, laughing as his face screwed up in disgust. Then he rolled to the side, kicked out his legs and flipped upward on his feet in one fluid movement, ignoring the throb between his legs.
From Nicolas’s kick, of course.
Nicolas rose more slowly, his eyebrows lowered in a deadly scowl. “If you ever mention this to anyone…”
“Embarrassed that I pinned you? Or that you enjoyed it?” Alex ducked beneath the blow Nicolas swung toward his face, and then bobbed up, grinning.
Shaking his head, Nicolas glared. “I have to get back. The sabat members are mingling with the guests. You’d better leave.”
Alex began rolling down his sleeves, then clicked his tongue in disgust when he found a tear along the seam. “Was I the only topic of interest during the meeting?”
“A wolf has been hired to track you.”
“Met her. Delicious woman.”
Nicolas shook his head. “Do you have a death wish?”
“Gabi and I go way back.”
Nicolas’s mouth opened then snapped shut. “Figures.” He turned toward the house and began walking away.
Alex’s long strides quickly ate up the distance between them. “Communication between us will be difficult.”
“Won’t be a problem at all,” Nicolas said, flashing his teeth. “Since we won’t be talking.”
“If you need help, you’re to contact Simon.”
Nicolas snorted. “Simon is the last person I would ask for help.”
“Still upset he kept me a secret from you?”
“I’m upset that he manipulates all of us. Our friendship is over.”
“You need all the friends you can get now.”
Nicolas aimed a sharp glare. “I will protect what’s mine.”
Alex grinned. “You know if anyone sees us walking back through the garden together, looking mussed, they’re going to jump to some embarrassing conclusions.”
Nicolas’s smile was tight and didn’t reach his eyes. “I dare them to say a word.”
They passed the barracks. At the edge of the garden, Alex planned to peel away into the darkness and find a secluded spot to take to the air.
Instead, a long, feminine scream pierced the air. He and Nicolas shared a charged glance.
“Leave now!” Nicolas barked.
“Not a chance.”
“Then stay out of sight.”
They loped toward the garden, slowing as they spied the crowd gathering around the flagstone patio.
Nicolas shoved his way inside the circle, disappearing as he knelt at the center.
Alex followed in his wake, feeling certain no would notice him because all gazes were turned to the body lying crumpled beside the garden bench.