Fear. That’s what he’d felt. He hadn’t recognized it at first because he’d never experienced it before. He knew it now because he had lived through it via Lindsay’s memories; he’d felt the raw terror that had frozen her from the inside out. What she recalled of her mother’s murder was a nightmare capable of warping the minds of adults, let alone that of a child of five—a blood-splattered picnic, a mother’s pleas for mercy for her daughter, a sunny summer afternoon shattered by a child’s screams. The images of crimson dripping from blades of grass and the remembered feel of claws almost breaking fragile skin were so vivid in her mind they’d imprinted themselves in his.

It was nothing short of miraculous that Lindsay Gibson had matured into the woman she was—strong and sane, determined and compassionate. It was one of the many great ironies in his life that the woman who was his downfall was also responsible for restoring a little of his tarnished faith. She proved that redemption was always possible, no matter how dire the circumstances or how insurmountable the odds.

And so with his heart racing with fear, he’d joined her in the backseat of the town car and gingerly lifted her unconscious body into his lap. Her decimated arm had lain across her chest, the bone exposed and tendons flayed. The flesh sizzled as the blood he’d squeezed out of a slice in his palm worked its miracle, mending the rent tissues and rebuilding what had been blown away by the shotgun blast. Had she been hit directly, he wouldn’t have been able to save her arm. He couldn’t give her back a lost limb; he could only heal what was still alive.

She’d risked her mortal life for his.

“He’s not the first diseased minion I’ve seen lately,” Adrian said, forcing his focus back to Raguel. “I need to figure out what’s wrong with him and how widespread the illness is.”

“Perhaps the vampires’ time has finally come. Jehovah does love his plagues.”

“I considered that and I can’t rule it out, but I think it more likely that they’re trying to combat their photosensitivity with a new drug that has horrendous side effects. There were too many minions in that nest capable of tolerating sunlight.” Another alternative was that Syre had sent large quantities of Fallen blood to Hurricane. Considering how close the nest was to the Navajo Lake pack, it was a very real possibility. But that wasn’t a speculation he would share with Raguel at this time, if ever.

“Would you like me to have his blood tested?” The glimmer of avarice in the archangel’s dark eyes belied the altruistic nature of his offer.

“Yes.” Adrian intended to have a full blood workup done at home, but he still had to make the trip up to Navajo Lake. Meanwhile, he needed answers and he needed them now. Although it had been proven to be a vampire attack that killed Phineas, it was still necessary to finish the lycan population reduction the lieutenant had started.

“I will see to it. If I can be of further assistance, just let me know.”

Adrian arched a brow. “You’re being helpful.”

“It pays to be useful.” Raguel smiled enigmatically.

“I’ll keep that in mind. If there’s nothing else . . . ?”

With a slight mocking bow, the archangel left without getting what he’d really come for.

Adrian stared at the door after it closed, knowing Raguel had visited for one reason and one reason only: to see Lindsay. To see Adrian with Lindsay. To see how vulnerable she made him. The conversation itself could have been managed over the phone.

It wasn’t just the vampires who would smell blood and circle like vultures.

Fresh from the shower, Lindsay stood in front of the brightly lit vanity mirror and examined her left forearm. Twisting it to and fro, she noted the baby pink hue of the hairless flesh. Although it looked tender, the muscles and tendons beneath had been strong enough to wash her hair with. Her fingers and hand flexed smoothly and with only slightly compromised strength.

Her arm was regenerating. A fucking miracle.

She exited the bathroom wrapped in a towel . . . and found a lover’s gift waiting on the bed—champagne-colored silk pajama pants and tank top with a luxurious full-length robe in the same hue. The matching lace thong sealed the deal.

She stared down at the ensemble for a long moment, then removed her towel and dressed. She couldn’t fight the flare of desire the feel of the silk evoked, but it was tempered by everything she knew and everything she didn’t know. Adrian was intricately complicated, and she had more than enough complications in her life.

Belting the robe, she moved to the door and stepped out into the living room. Its massive size froze her in midstep. Aside from the grand piano, there was also a full-sized kitchen, dining room, and billiards table. Through a glass partition, she spotted an indoor swimming pool.

“Food’s here,” Adrian said, drawing her gaze to where he sat on the couch. His bright white pants were a sharp contrast to the blue of the upholstery. The way his legs were propped on the mahogany and glass coffee table, crossed at the ankles and barefoot, was gracefully erotic. He stood when she entered, his gaze sliding over her in a heated caress.

He was so human-looking . . . if not for his impossible beauty and sensual elegance.

Lindsay went to the dining table and lifted the domed lids from the plates one by one. Pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage and ham, hash browns, orange juice and coffee. A feast for two, but he wouldn’t be eating. She, however, would eat every bite. She always ate for an army after one of her power binges.

“You look beautiful,” he murmured as he resumed his seat and retrieved the iPad lying on the cushion beside him.

She sat and picked up her fork. “Thank you. So do you.”

His dark head tilted in acknowledgment.

“Why are we here?” she asked while slathering butter in between each layer of pancake.

“We’re regrouping.”

“You mean to say I’m holding you back.”

He looked down at whatever was on the screen. “No.”

“I’m grateful for whatever you did to my arm.”

“You’re welcome. But if you ever put yourself in danger for me again, I’ll make you sorry you did.”

She shot him a glare he didn’t see, while secretly wondering if she was crazy. No sane modern woman would listen to that chauvinistic bullshit and hear a sensual threat in it. But she did, and some primitive recessive gene made her body tingle in response. “Don’t threaten me.”

“It’s not a threat. I won’t lose you. I’ve lost too much already.”

Wincing, she remembered he’d just lost a friend who had been like a brother to him. Her affront drained away. Struggling to find something to say to fill the sudden void, she floundered and managed a lame “Thank you for the clothes.” After a mental smack upside the head, she added, “They’re lovely.”

“I’m glad you like them,” he said, too neutrally. His control appeared absolute, but the softly howling wind outside and the steady rain told her otherwise.

Lindsay couldn’t bear his turmoil. She was as scrambled as he was—vulnerable—but she couldn’t hide it the way he did. And she couldn’t let him hide it, either. He knew her secrets, and she needed to maintain that openness now that they’d achieved it. “Although they’re clearly not suitable for wearing in public. Are you leaving me behind?”

Without looking up, he replied, “We’ll be heading out tomorrow. Together. Until then, you need to eat and rest.”

“They’re not really suitable for resting, either.” She poured syrup over her pancakes and began to eat.

He lifted his head to study her. “Aren’t they comfortable?”

She swallowed her food. “Sure.”

Adrian’s brows rose in silent inquiry.

“They’re also very sensual.” She stabbed her fork into a sausage link. “Designed to be sexy for the wearer and for the beholder. But I heard angels might not be wired the same way—sexually—as we mortals are, so maybe you weren’t thinking along those lines when you bought them.”

Very calmly, he turned off his iPad and set it on the seat beside him. “You’ve been talking to Elijah. I would prefer it if you would pose your questions to me.”

“Well, see, that’s the problem. I don’t know what to ask.” She bit the end off the link with more gusto than necessary.

“Perhaps because there’s nothing to question.”

“I doubt that,” she said, chewing. “Are you leading me on? Maybe you picked me up because you needed a female companion for media purposes or a date for an upcoming event. Then I surprised you with the dragon and you’re not sure what to do with me now.”

He set his elbow on the couch arm and settled in, displaying his body to even better advantage. He might be an angel, but he knew his assets and her weakness for them, and he wasn’t above exploiting both. “Oh, I know what to do with you.”

“But you didn’t do it the other night. And apparently you haven’t been doing it for a long time—if you’ve ever done it.” Oh god. She was getting turned on by the idea of him being a virgin. The thought of training a man like Adrian—the things she could teach him . . .

“So,” he murmured, “the fact that I’m not promiscuous disturbs you?”

“Ha!” Lindsay wagged her knife at him. “There’s a big difference between discerning and celibate.”

“Maybe the celibacy exists because of the discernment.”

“Is that your answer?”

He examined the fingernails of his right hand. “I didn’t know there was a question on the table.”

“Okay, here’s one. Are angels forbidden to have sex?”


Her gaze narrowed. “Any truth to the rumor that lust is beneath you?”

“What do you think?”

“I think I want to be beneath you. And I thought we were headed there—eventually—but I’m sensing there’s a whole lot going on I don’t know about.”

His tongue slid along his bottom lip, making her as damp as if he’d licked her with it. “Let’s head there now.”

Lindsay wiped her mouth with the napkin in her lap, then pushed back from the table. She moved toward him with a deliberately slow and sultry stride. Her hands went to the belt of her robe, her fingers sliding through the silken knot and loosening it. Reaching the coffee table, she allowed the robe to slide to the floor. She smiled when Adrian’s breath hitched. He straightened, planting his feet wide on the floor and revealing the thick length of his aroused cock. The act of the tease was enticing on its own, but his physical response took her quickening hunger to another level.

She was yanking an edgy tiger by the tail, and from the sharp, rapacious hunger in his gaze, Adrian was getting ready to pounce. And bite.

Leaning over him, Lindsay balanced herself with one hand on the back of the couch and allowed her camisole top to gape open. When his gaze slid to the view, she used his distraction as an opportunity to snatch his iPad.

Straightening, she returned to the table. She resumed eating while using the browser to Google some choice keyword phrases. Like “angel sex” and “sentinel angels” and, finally, “watcher angels vampires.” She was briefly distracted by an article speculating that male Watcher angels had been capable of endless erections, but the deeper import of what she discovered was what, exactly, the Watcher angels had done to get damned with vampirism—they’d lusted after and fucked mortals.

While she read, Adrian sat on the couch, still and silent. She didn’t look his way, but she sensed the coiled expectancy in him and heard it in the rumble of thunder outside. Inside the air-conditioned suite, it felt like the hour before a heat wave broke with a summer storm—unbearably hot and humid, crackling with bated energy. All the turbulence inside him was primed to explode. She knew he needed the release, just as she instinctively knew she could take him to that point of exposure. But at what cost?

She forked the remnants of her hash browns into her mouth, then sat back, chewing thoughtfully. Their gazes met and held.

“As I suspected, I didn’t ask the right question,” she said, after finishing off the orange juice. Now fed, her body was recharging so swiftly she felt light-headed. “Are you forbidden to have sex? Is that the sin you were talking about the other night? Not the lust itself, but the culmination of it?”

Adrian set his elbows on his knees and steepled his fingers together. “I don’t suppose my telling you to leave the consequences to me will satisfy you?”

What would satisfy her was him, hot and hard and deep inside her. But there were consequences, and then there were consequences. “Could you lose your wings and soul and become a vampire?”

“I could lose my mind wanting you.”

“You can’t be serious.” He was killing her.

“I can’t?” He set his chin atop his fingers.

“No. You can’t. And I’d be an idiot to think I’d get away scot-free. My life doesn’t work that way. I pay for everything. In fact, I might have been paying for this”—she gestured between them with an impatient flick of her wrist—“my whole life. I mean, who has the shit happen to them that’s happened to me? When I was born, maybe someone said, ‘Yep, that’s the one who’s going to fuck with Adrian’s perfection.’ ”

He straightened abruptly, his gaze haunted. “Lindsay—”

“You’re the most powerful warrior in the highest rank of angels. I’ve seen how the others look at you. They trust you. Admire you. To have the power you do, and to look like you do . . . someone up there loves you madly. I’m not going to be the one who screws you up.” Pushing back from the table, she stood, feeling agitated enough to run five miles just to burn energy.