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Knew when he banged human women in the bathroom at the end of a club night.

It was like he was some kind of homing beacon—except the damn thing kept calling her to a house she didn’t want to even enter, much less move in to.

So, yeah, with him rocking his full-scale addiction to Paradise, his elusiveness had to be the explanation for the attraction.

Had to be—

Paradise sat forward and said something to Peyton … and he fucking loved whatever it was, throwing his head back, laughing like the female was a cross between Louis C.K. and a resurrected George Carlin.

Novo drank half of her Scotch.

When she brought her head back to level, Peyton was standing in front of her. “Hey, we’re gonna go. See you in class tomorrow night.”

He clapped her on the shoulder and walked right by, the three look-alike friends in his wake like water-skiers behind a flashy boat.

Boone got up and stretched. “I better head, too. Have a good night.”

“We’re going as well.” Paradise smiled as she took Craeg’s hand. “Enjoy yourself.”

Annnnnd then there was one.

One advantage to being totally self-sufficient and independent was you didn’t care if you were left alone. But for some reason, tonight, it dawned on her that none of them would have done a toilet flush like that to Paradise.

Not that Novo resented the female or thought the object of Peyton’s affection was weak. It just seemed … weird. Or something.

Whatever.

Novo stared past all the empty seats to the humans that mingled on the far side of the sunken area. There were probably three hundred guys she could fuck if she wanted, including Mr. Four a.m., the bartender. Just as many women if she were in that kind of mood, too.

Too bad not one of them seemed appealing—

Peyton popped into her line of sight from out of nowhere—to the point where she wondered if he wasn’t a hologram created by her brain.

“Forgot my phone.”

Oh, so this was real—because a hologram wouldn’t have to justify its existence.

But instead of going over to the sofa where he’d been, he stayed where he was.

“Yes?” Novo drawled.

“What are you doing?”

“Taking a load off.” She indicated the seating area. “I would think that’s self-evident.”

When his stare drifted down her body, she narrowed her eyes. “The question more is … what are you doing here, Peyton?”

TWENTY-TWO

Elise had the hard building at her back and Axwelle’s even harder body at her front, and there was no place she’d rather be.

Especially as he started to kiss her.

He was just as hungry and demanding as she’d fantasized, his mouth crushing hers, his hands rough, his erotic greed the kind of thing she knew would make a meal out of her—and oh, God, she went with it, arching her breasts into his chest, holding on to his shoulders, giving herself up to him.

The kiss was everything that she’d thought it would be and more, the cold December night disappearing, consumed by the heat between them.

But what the hell had he said to her? About wanting her to see Troy again?

She pushed at him until the contact was broken. “I don’t understand.…”

Axe cupped her face in his big palms and rolled his hips against her, his massive erection stroking at her belly because he was so much taller than she was. “Why are we stopping to talk here?”

Good question. If slightly offensive.

“Why would you want me to go out with Troy again?”

She had spent the meal forcing herself to focus on the human, follow his conversation, ask the right questions at appropriate moments, laugh when she was supposed to. But the entire time, she had been completely distracted by Axe sitting down in the far corner of the mostly empty steakhouse, his looming presence like the most beautiful thundercloud she’d ever seen off in the distance.

Heading for her.

“Why?” she prompted him. “If it pains you so much—”

“Because it turns me on.”

Axe dropped his head and kissed her again, his lips soft as velvet, his tongue bold and demanding. And holy crap did she want him, her breasts aching for his hands, that mouth of his, her sex lighting up between her legs, her—

Elise forced herself out of his hold. And walked around a little to clear her head. “No. I’m not going to see him again, I’m not going to use him. I want you to want me for myself. If I’m not enough without some kinky, subversive game involved, that’s fine—I’m certainly not going to try to entice you by playing hard to get right under your nose.”

As Axe smiled, his fangs were fully descended. “Okay. I’ll take you any way you come.”

Well. If that wasn’t a double entendre. And dearest Virgin Scribe, the way he was staring at her with those yellow eyes of his.

She might as well be naked already.

So how ’bout finishing the job, she decided.

“Where can we go,” she said hoarsely.

“I have a house not far from here. It’s safe and very private.”

As a cell phone started to ring somewhere on him, she cursed at the interruption. Yet when he made no move to do anything, she nodded to his body. “Don’t you want to answer that?”

“No.”

“What if it’s an emergency?”

“I have no one who would call me for one.” His eyes locked on her mouth. “So are you coming to my house?”

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