“No, I’m just thinking of the best way to explain,” Mad Rogan said. “My father survived nine assassination attempts. House Rogan always had its share of enemies. If we can see a threat, we can deal with it, but one can’t always see a sniper hiding in the dark. My father was obsessed with compensating for what he perceived as weakness. He wanted a child with telepathic magic in addition to his own telekinetic powers, so after careful consideration, he found my mother. She had a minor telekinetic talent and she was also a very powerful empath. My father had to go all the way to Europe to find the right combination of genes.”
“Where was your mother from?”
“Spain. She was Basque. My father wanted me to have a secondary talent and be a telekinetic sensate, someone who senses when they are being watched or targeted. But my telekinetic magic proved to be too strong, so instead I’m a tactile. I can make you feel touched.” He paused. “It would be easier if I showed you. Do I have permission?”
Yes. “No.” Being touched by Mad Rogan wasn’t a good idea.
We kept walking. What would it be like?
“Does it hurt?”
How would it feel?
Would it feel . . . oh hell.
“Okay.” I stopped. We were in front of a small alcove. Nobody was around. If I made an idiot out of myself, nobody would notice. “Just once.”
A soft burst of heat touched the back of my neck. I’d never felt anything like it before. It was as if someone had touched me with a heated mink glove, but the touch wasn’t soft, it was firm. It felt . . . it felt . . .
The heat slid down my neck, fast, over my spine, setting every single nerve on fire before melting in the small of my back, its echoes pulsing through me. My body sang. He’d strummed me like I was a guitar. I wanted him and I wanted him now.
“That was . . .” I saw his eyes. Words died.
All the hardness had vanished from his eyes. They were alive and heated from within. “You want me.”
The magic warmth slid over my shoulders, melting into pure pleasure.
“I feel the feedback.” He took a step toward me, grinning. “Nevada, you’re a liar.”
Uh-oh. I backed up. “What feedback?”
“When I do this . . .” The heated pressure zinged from my back up my ribs. I gasped. Oh dear God. “. . . what you feel loops back to me. I’m partially empathic.”
“You didn’t mention that.” My heart was doing its best to break through my chest, and I couldn’t tell if it was alarm, lust, or some weird mix of both.
He grinned, coming closer. “The hotter you are, the hotter I am. And you’re on fire.”
My back hit the wall. He closed in with an almost terrifying intensity. His muscular body boxed me in.
“Rogan,” I warned. In my head, a song played over and over, singing to me in a seductive voice, Rogan, Rogan, Rogan, sex . . . want . . .
“Remember that dream you had?” His voice was low, commanding.
The delicious warmth danced around my neck.
“Where I had no clothes?”
The warmth split and slid over me, over the sensitive nerves in the back of my neck, over my collarbone, around my br**sts, cupping them and sliding fast to the tips, tightening my ni**les, then sliding down, over my stomach, over my sides and butt, down between my legs. It was everywhere at once, and it flowed over me like a cascade of sensual ecstasy, overloading my senses, overriding my reason, and rendering me speechless. I hurtled through it, trying to sort through the sensations and failing. My head spun.
He was right there, masculine, hot, sexy, so incredibly sexy, and I wanted to taste him. I wanted his hands on me. I wanted him to press himself against the aching spot between my legs.
His arms closed around me. His face was too close, his eyes enticing, compelling, excited. “Let’s talk about that dream, Nevada.”
I was trapped. I had nowhere to go. If he kissed me, I would melt right here. I would moan and beg him, and I would have sex with him right here, in the Galleria, in public.
A spark of pain drained down my arm, driven by pure instinct. I grabbed his shoulder. Feathery lightning shot out and singed him.
Agony exploded in me, cleansing like an ice-cold shower.
Rogan’s body jerked, as if struck by an electric current. It lasted only a second, and I didn’t push as hard as I could have. I was learning to control it.
Rogan whipped back to me, his eyes feral. His voice was a ragged growl. “Was that supposed to hurt?”
“It was supposed to get your attention.” I pushed him back with my hand. “You were getting really excited.”
“‘No’ would’ve been sufficient.”
“I wasn’t sure.” I pushed from the wall and headed toward the exit. “I said ‘once.’ That was more than once. I wanted you to stop.”
“I was encouraged by you breathlessly moaning my name.”
I spun on my foot. “I wasn’t moaning your name. I was shrieking in alarm.”
“That was the sexiest throaty shrieking I’ve ever heard.”
“You need to get out more.” My cheeks were burning.
“Shockers take six months of training and still occasionally kill their users. Why did you implant them in the first place?”
“Because you kidnapped me.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Mr. Rogan,” I frosted my voice over. “What I put into my body is my business.”
Okay, that didn’t sound right. I gave up and marched out the doors into the sunlight. That was so dumb. Sure, try your magic sex touch on me, what could happen? My whole body was still keyed up, wrapped up in want and anticipation. I had completely embarrassed myself. If I could fall through the floor, I would.
“Nevada,” he said behind me. His voice rolled over me, tinted with command and enticing, promising things I really wanted.
You’re a professional. Act like one. I gathered all of my will and made myself sound calm. “Yes?”
He caught up with me. “We need to talk about this.”
“There is nothing to discuss,” I told him. “My body had an involuntary response to your magic.” I nodded at the poster for Crash and Burn II on the wall of the mall, with Leif Magnusson flexing with two guns while wrapped in flames. “If Leif showed up in the middle of this parking lot, my body would have an involuntary response to his presence as well. It doesn’t mean I would act on it.”
Mad Rogan gave Leif a dismissive glance and turned back to me. “They say admitting that you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.”
He was changing his tactics. Not going to work. “You know what my problem is? My problem is a homicidal pyrokinetic Prime whom I have to bring back to his narcissistic family.”
We crossed the road to the long parking lot. Grassy dividers punctuated by small trees sectioned the lot into lanes, and Mad Rogan had parked toward the end of the lane, by the exit ramp.
“One school of thought says that the best way to handle an issue like this is exposure therapy,” Mad Rogan said. “For example, if you’re terrified of snakes, repeated handling of them will cure it.”
Aha. “I’m not handling your snake.”
He grinned. “Baby, you couldn’t handle my snake.”
It finally sank in. Mad Rogan, the Huracan, had just made a pass at me. After he casually almost strangled a woman in public. I texted to Bern, “Need pickup at Galleria IV.” Getting into Rogan’s car was out of the question.
Ahead of us a grey SUV slid into a far parking spot and spat out three people, two men in cargo shorts and T-shirts, and a woman in a sundress. They began walking toward the mall and us. They were moving deliberately, with a purpose, each step measured.
My instincts whined at me. “Rogan. Three people ahead.”
“I see,” Rogan said.
The sound of a car engine made me glance over my shoulder. A blue sedan drove down our lane and came to a stop. The doors opened and an older man with short greying hair, wearing khaki pants and a white shirt, jumped out on one side, while a woman in a white dress got out of the other.
Time stopped. Things happened all at once in the space of a tiny, pressure-filled second.
The hood of the car tore off, slid sideways like a Frisbee, sliced into the woman, and kept flying.
I pulled my gun.
The man clapped his hands, and twin sparks of blue lightning hit Rogan straight in his chest.
I fired two shots. Bullets ripped into the lightning mage’s face, blowing two wet, red holes in his skull.
Rogan went down like a cut tree.
The top of the woman’s body tipped back, a huge gash opening up at her waist like a gaping red mouth. She fell.
I fired two more shots into the windshield.
The car reversed. Its wheels rolled over the woman’s twitching body.
I spun and squeezed the last two shots at the three people sprinting to us. They ducked behind the cars.
I grabbed Rogan’s legs and yanked him into the narrow space between a black Tahoe and red Honda.
Someone pushed Play on the invisible divine remote. Suddenly time sped back up. I pulled a spare magazine out, released the old one, and snapped the new one in on autopilot. Six rounds. The lightning mage and the woman were down, but the other three and the driver of the car remained. Six bullets, four people. The math wasn’t in my favor.
Fear twisted inside me like a living animal. Rogan’s legs and arms shuddered, locked up in spasms. Please, God, don’t let it be permanent.
If we stayed here, we were sitting ducks. They would come for us, and I had no idea what sort of magic they had. Bullets wouldn’t be enough.
I had to draw them away.
I put my gun down and pushed Rogan, trying to slide him under the Tahoe. His body barely moved. He was so heavy. I pushed against the asphalt. Rogan slid an inch. Another inch. What the hell was he eating for dinner, lead bricks? I pushed with everything I had. Finally he slid under the car.
I grabbed my gun, crouched low, and ran along the line of cars toward the mall, punching the car hoods. One, two, three . . . come on, the line was all SUVs, Cadillacs and BMWs, someone had to have the alarm on . . . Four, five . . . I needed the noise. I punched another hood, a beat-up orange Pontiac Aztek with a mangled bumper. The car alarm shrieked and wailed in outrage. Really? All those cars and someone put the alarm on an Aztek? Oh well, good enough. I kept moving, sucked in a lungful of air, and screamed, “Help! Help me! Help!”
Follow me, you bastards.
An old, white-haired man with wire-rimmed glasses leaned out between the cars, his ruddy face puzzled. He wore dark dress pants, a white shirt, and a dark tie with red and gold stylized flowers on it. He was holding a Starbucks coffee cup in his right hand.
“Are you alright?” He started toward me.
He had to be a decade past sixty. Why couldn’t I have gotten a younger Samaritan?
“It’s not safe!” I waved at him. “Get out of here!”
“What’s going on?”
The old man tossed the contents of the cup at me. A ball of crinkled copper wire flashed, reflecting sunlight, and smacked me in the chest. The wires shot out of the clump, catching my arms, legs, and throat, and yanked me off my feet, dragging me to the side between the cars. The wire strands whipped, twisting around the bike racks on the SUVs and stretching my arms. I hung between an SUV and a small tree growing in the grass divider, my toes barely touching the ground. The wire loop around my neck squeezed, cutting off my air.
The old man walked out between the cars, the wires stretching from the cup in his hands.
“Shhh,” the old man said. “Don’t struggle, it will make it worse.”