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She whimpered, squirming against him as he slowly rose before her and caged her with his body. When she spoke, the words tumbled out in a breathless gust. “Oh, God … I shouldn’t be doing this. I shouldn’t want this … shouldn’t want you.”

“Then tell me to stop.” He pressed himself against her, fusing them from chest to thigh as he licked the fluttering artery on the side of her neck, then took her earlobe between his teeth. “Tell me to let you go, Jordana.”

He stroked his free hand down the front of her body, then around her backside, squeezing one firm cheek over the fine wool weave of her skirt. When she parted her lips on an indrawn breath, he took her mouth in a deep, heated kiss, at the same time delving his fingers into the cleft of her ass.

She gasped against his mouth, tensing for a moment, before she accepted his wicked caress. He slid deeper along that crevice, reveling in the way she quivered under his hand. He didn’t cease until his fingertips were nestled in the juncture of her thighs. Her sex was a furnace against his palm, tantalizingly soft.

He wanted her bared to his touch, couldn’t stand the impediment of her clothing. But some shred of reason warned him that to see her naked, here and now, in his current state of need, was a temptation not even his iron will could withstand.

Instead, Nathan satisfied his craving by gathering up the hem of her pencil skirt and slipping his hand beneath it. The hand that held Jordana’s wrists began to tremble as he used his other to sweep aside her delicate panties, uncovering the moist haven between her legs.

“Oh,” she sighed, exhaling a thready cry as he stroked her mound and the slick seam of her core. “Oh, my God … Nathan …”

“Tell me I go too far, Jordana.” He dragged in a slow breath, inhaling the sweetness of her arousal. “Ah, Christ. Say the words and this will stop right here and now. Say you don’t want it, and this is the last you’ll ever see of me.”

Was the mercy he offered now—rare though it was—intended more for her or for himself?

He didn’t know. He hadn’t intended for the night to end up like this. This thing with Jordana had never been fully in his control, and seducing her like this wasn’t going to make it better for either one of them.

That realization alone should have been jarring enough to cool his need. But it was impossible to deny himself the satisfaction of pleasuring Jordana. She shuddered under his touch. Her flesh was wet and lush, her petals open to him, welcoming all he had to give her.

He wondered how far he could push her. How much of his dark urges could she take?

When would she break—if not in denial, then in climax?

Her cream coated his fingertips as he started to slide one finger inside her. He met with a slight resistance, reminded at once that Jordana was not the kind of experienced partner he had always preferred.

“Fuck, Jordana,” he groaned. “You are so tight. You’re so wet.” Her virginity made him want to protect her and claim her at the same time. He inched his finger in only a fraction, exercising caution despite the fact that everything male in him was rampant with the urge to possess, to plunder.

But not here. Not like this.

For now, he spared her untried body, stroking her tender flesh as he smoothed the pad of his thumb over the swollen pearl of her clit. She arched into him, whimpering as he began a slow but building rhythm. She trembled and bucked, her soft moans growing more intense as he steered her toward the orgasm he felt rising in her with each fevered pound of her veins.

“Miss Gates, please respond,” the guard in the lobby insisted now.

“Oh, God,” she moaned. “Oh, God … I’ve never, not like this … Nathan, I can’t hold on any longer …”

Her body quaked with release as Nathan stroked her deeper, harder. She uttered something raw and wordless in the instant she shattered, her pale blond hair tossing around her shoulders as she was caught up in a powerful climax.

Nathan watched her splinter in wave after wave of pleasure, unable to curb the satisfied curve of his lips for knowing that she came for him. Her first time, by her own breathless admission. He had the sudden, fierce urge to show her many other firsts, each one more wicked than the next.

“Miss Gates, since I can’t be assured of your well-being, I’m going to override the system and bring the elevator back down to the lobby—”

“Shit,” she gasped, panic instantly replacing pleasure on her pretty face. “Let me go, Nathan.” When he didn’t immediately release her, Jordana’s voice rose. “Dammit, let go!”

As soon as he had, she flew to the other side of the elevator car and hit the intercom switch on the emergency panel. “It’s okay, Seamus. There’s nothing wrong. I’m perfectly fine.”

“Are you sure, miss?”

“Yes, of course.” Her voice sounded more than a little out of breath to Nathan, but the guard downstairs didn’t seem to notice enough to remark on it. Jordana canceled the stop button and the lift resumed its ascent. “We’re moving again, Seamus. I don’t know what the problem was, but everything’s back to normal now.”

Back to normal.

Nathan studied the woman who’d been writhing and moaning under the illicit touch of his hand just a minute ago. Now Jordana smoothed her skirt back in place with crisp efficiency. She reached up to finger-comb her loose platinum waves, then adjusted her disheveled blouse. Crossing her arms over herself like a shield, she blew out a long sigh.

She was trying to become Jordana Gates again, retreating back into her carefully constructed, perfectly proper cocoon. She glanced at him now, no longer watching him through passion-drowsed eyes but eyeing him with a look that was equal parts bewilderment and shame.

Nathan said nothing to ease her discomfort. His body was still raging with hunger for her, and there was a darker side of him that wanted to see how quickly he could have Jordana surrendering to him again, panting and crying out in pleasure, once he had her alone in her penthouse.

He moved up close behind her, giving her a good long feel of his stiff erection against her backside. He ground into her with his pelvis, wanting his intentions to be clear. With his head lowered, he placed his mouth near the delicate pink shell of her ear.

“Until I say otherwise, we’re still on my terms, Miss Gates,” he warned her, his voice rough and thick with promise. “Don’t think I’m finished with you yet.”

She shivered as he spoke his erotic threat, and he could sense her slow, spreading smile as the car came to a stop on her floor.

The doors slid open, revealing the black wrought iron grate that secured the white marble vestibule of Jordana’s lavish apartment.

The grate was ajar. Someone waited inside.

A Breed male, seated on a delicate, velvet-upholstered antique chair, his head down, forearms braced on his knees. A dark wool coat was folded over his lap as if he’d been sitting there for some time.

“Elliott.” Jordana practically squeaked the vampire’s name.

He lifted his head at once, worry etched deeply into his face as he stood up to greet her. “Jordana, thank God. I—” His eyes narrowed the instant he spotted Nathan behind her. Disapproval and suspicion ate away his look of concern.

Jordana stepped off the elevator and walked into the vestibule. “Elliott, what are you doing here?”

He didn’t look at her at first, instead stared coldly at Nathan, lurking behind her.

Nathan didn’t so much as blink under the outraged scrutiny of Jordana’s would-be mate. Part of him flared hot with the urge to haul Jordana against him and kiss her like he had in the elevator—show Elliott Bentley-Squire that she would never belong to him.

But a possessive display like that was unnecessary.

The other Breed male could smell freshly spent desire on Jordana as easily as any of their kind, and Nathan’s still-rampant erection—to say nothing of his amber-swamped eyes and elongated fangs—was equally hard to overlook.

Nathan would have ripped apart any male who had the bad judgment to lust after a woman he cared for, let alone touch her. Yet the Darkhaven lawyer seemed to let the affront slide with little more than a bitter scowl.

Nathan had a mind to throttle the undeserving man simply for his lack of reaction.

Bentley-Squire swung his frown on Jordana. “I tried reaching you tonight, several times. When you didn’t return any of my calls, naturally, I became worried something might have happened to you. Did you get my voice messages?”

“I worked late,” she murmured. “Did Seamus let you in?”

He scoffed. “I don’t need a human to give me permission to make sure you’re all right, Jordana. Where have you been?”

Panic spiked in her, a feeling so intense and visceral, Nathan could practically hear the sudden race of her heartbeat from where he stood near her. She swiveled her head in his direction, and there was misery in her wintry blue eyes.

“I was out, with Carys. We were at La Notte.” Her voice quieted then, an apology swimming in her gaze. “I had one too many drinks, so Nathan kindly offered to drive me home.”

Bentley-Squire grunted, his lips pressed flat in disapproval. “I didn’t realize the Order was running a chauffeur service.” Sneering, he glanced once more at Nathan. “How much do I owe you for taking care of my lady tonight?”

Vibrating with menace, Nathan had already calculated ten different ways he could kill the male. He said nothing, half hoping Bentley-Squire would be fool enough to try him.

Jordana must have realized the dangerous direction of his thoughts. She pivoted back around to face him.

Please, she mouthed silently, giving him a nearly imperceptible shake of her head.

If she hadn’t looked so desperate, so terrified of what he might do in that moment, Nathan might have acted on the anger simmering just below his deceptively cool surface.

“Thank you for seeing me home safely,” she told him, her politeness grating after what had happened between them just a few minutes ago.

“Jordana,” Bentley-Squire said from his position behind her in the gleaming finery of the vestibule. “I’m sure this warrior has more pressing business to attend to tonight. You’ve delayed him from his work long enough, don’t you think, darling?”

Nathan ignored the other vampire, his blazing eyes locked on Jordana. If she gave him any inkling that she didn’t want to be there—if she looked at him even remotely like she had last night at the museum reception, when her gaze seemed to all but beg him to take her somewhere, anywhere, else—Nathan would have dragged her back into the elevator in that same instant.

“I have to go,” she murmured softly. “Please try to understand.”

She stepped away from him, back to the Breed male who was part of this other world she inhabited. The world that drew her back into its orbit, even while Nathan could still her hear climax in his ears, could still smell her sweet juices on his fingertips.

He didn’t like the anger that seethed in him as he watched her fade out of his reach.

He wasn’t accustomed to letting emotion rule him.

He’d survived his childhood by learning to master his feelings—by learning to master every facet of his life with ruthless control and punishing discipline.

He wasn’t about to let that hard-won control slip out of his grasp now.

Without a word, without acknowledging Jordana or the sting of her retreat, Nathan stalked into the elevator and hit the down button.

Elliott Bentley-Squire had been right, after all. Nathan did have more pressing business to attend to tonight, back in his own world.

About damned time he got back to it.

Forcing her feet to remain rooted to the floor, Jordana watched the elevator doors close behind Nathan.

Instantly, she regretted that she hadn’t had the nerve to walk right in with him. Not to follow him like some passion-blinded fool but to taste some of the freedom he seemed to enjoy as someone who walked his own path, controlled his own destiny.

And yes, she had to admit, there was a wild, reckless part of her that did want to taste some of Nathan’s freedom firsthand, as the woman at his side. As the lover in his bed, abandoning herself to his every powerful, wicked whim.

But he hadn’t promised her anything tonight. Even if he had, she couldn’t throw her life away on an impetuous impulse.

Why not? some dangerous voice whispered in the back of her mind.

How long could she act as if she wasn’t slowly suffocating under the burden of what everyone in her life expected of her?

Nathan’s words came back to her in a rush—all the intimate truths he seemed to know about her, when a few days ago they’d been all but strangers to each other.

His words had made her angry. Even in his absence now, she felt cornered and exposed, stripped bare in a way no one had ever done to her before.

His touch had made her burn. Tonight Nathan had made her feel as if she’d been living and breathing for the very first time in all her nearly twenty-five years.

And she’d simply let him walk away.

Not that it had taken much for him to go.

Jordana hadn’t missed his seething reaction to her attempt to pretend nothing had happened between them—that he hadn’t just given her the most explosive experience of her life.

She’d done it out of fear, and out of a feeble respect for Elliott. She didn’t love him, but that didn’t mean she wanted to wound or humiliate him. Even so, Elliott was an intelligent man, and Jordana knew only an imbecile would mistake the intense, erotic energy that sizzled between Nathan and her for anything other than what it was.

“Jordana,” Elliott said now, his tone soothing as it broke into her private torment. “Darling, you can’t intend to stand out here all evening. Come inside with me.”


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