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Straightening, Elise pulled her cashmere sweater down and glanced at Axwelle.

His yellow eyes were on her, his lids low, his expression remote. From her father’s perspective, he no doubt appeared to be intense in a professional way. But she knew better. There was fire in that stare, fire that would consume her.

If she let it.

“I think this is great idea,” she heard herself say. “The bodyguard thing.”

As Elise spoke, Axe shifted his eyes back to the female’s father. One guaranteed way to lose the job before he even got it? Undress the daughter in your mind right in front of the guy.

Even a poor kid like him knew that was “tacky.”

Plus, the truly odd thing, considering the way he typically related to members of the opposite sex, was that he felt as though pulling a leer was just plain wrong. The world was a dangerous place, and this female was extraordinary. Males, human or vampire, coveted things like her. And then there were the slayers.

She needed protection. Deserved it.

He was here in a professional capacity, and there was nothing professional about being the very thing he could be hired to keep her safe from.

“Okay, dear,” her father said as he shifted in his chair. Like he preferred her to go back around and be at an arm’s length. “All is well.”

And that was kind of sad—then again, he’d gotten his fill of parental rejection, hadn’t he. At least she didn’t seem to mind, though, as she returned to the chair beside him.

“Now, is there anything you should wish to ask of him, Elise?”

Axe felt her glance over, and damn it, he liked it. He wanted her eyes all over his face, his throat, his naked body. He wanted to be sprawled out in front of her on some bed … maybe the floor … fuck it, he’d lie flat on hot coals for her if that turned her on … and he wanted to have his hand on his cock as he looked in her eyes and begged her to ride him.

The submission fantasy, with him as the sub, was a new one for him, but what the hell.

It wasn’t like it was actually going to happen.

“Yes?” Axe prompted her.

“Um … so I go to SUNY Caldie. I attend class at night and I work with one of my professors as his assistant. Will you be able to … blend in?”

Axe could tell she thought the answer was no, but he wasn’t sure she exactly cared. Then again, she had narrowly missed being all but shut indoors for the rest of her life if a sehclusion petition had been filed.

If he were her, he’d take a hall pass to the university in any form it came: Santa Claus … asshole in a Batman suit … him.

“I will do whatever is necessary,” Axe said—and he directed the response to her sire. “I will be as visible or fade-to-black as required. I will not hesitate to use force, but I will not provoke the humans. And yes, I am prepared to take a bullet for her if I have to. Nothing scares me and I do not run—from anything. Even my own death.”

Next to him, Elise recoiled, but he couldn’t help her with that. He’d gotten a modified dose of reality last night out in the field, and he knew all too well exactly what her father was worried about.

Felixe the Younger cleared his throat. “That’s just fine. That is …”

“What you need,” Axe finished for the male. “That is what is necessary if you want to protect your daughter. The goal is to let her do her work and make sure she comes home alive every single night. I can give you that peace of mind because when she is in my care, she will be my only priority, above even myself. Nothing and no one will matter except for her.”

Felixe exhaled like the elephant that had been sitting on his chest had gotten up for a drink at its water source.

“You can trust me,” Axe said.

“Well.” More of that throat clearing. “That is just fine, son. Just … fine.”

Annnnnnnnd that was when he knew he’d been hired.

Meanwhile, Elise was quiet and tense next to him, but then she was telling him what her schedule was like—which wasn’t going to be a problem, because now that the trainees were heading out into the field, the Brotherhood’s classes were going to be starting later.

He listened to it all, and then her father told him what the salary was.

Holy shit, Axe thought.

Steak-for-dinner money. Electricity. Repairs to his father’s house.

“What is your family like, son?” the father inquired.

Axe started to jerk back and caught himself. He hadn’t been prepared for anything personal.

At least the answer was easy: “My parents are dead. I have no mate and never will. I have no ties to anything or anybody aside from the training program.”

“Did you lose your family in the raids?” Elise asked softly. Like she was having a moment or some shit.

He narrowed his eyes at her. “All you need to worry about is whether I can keep you alive, and I will. That’s it.”

As her spine straightened in that chair, he kept his smile to himself. She might be a female, but she was a fighter at her core. And she clearly didn’t like doors shut in her face, literally or figuratively.

An image of her holding his arms over his head and putting all her weight into keeping him where she wanted him made an erection threaten behind his fly.

Axe cocked a brow back at her, challenging her to let some of that heat out. But she wouldn’t. Not in front of her father.

Man, he couldn’t wait for his first night on the job. She was going to give him an earful.

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