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She glanced at him over her shoulder, a frown etching into her brow. “Aren’t you upset with me about what happened tonight?”


He blinked at her slowly, then gave a mild shake of his head. “You’re home safe, and that’s all that matters to me.”


Was he serious? A bubble of hysteria climbed into the back of her throat. “It doesn’t matter to you that I was with another man?” At Elliott’s prolonged silence in response, she exhaled a sharp laugh. “My God, it doesn’t bother you at all. You don’t love me.”


There was no venom in her words, only a sense of disbelief that she’d never realized this truth until now. The discovery didn’t upset her. It liberated her.


“You never really wanted me at all, did you?”


He sighed heavily, his expression patient, kindly indulgent. “Are you trying to provoke me, Jordana? Of course I care about you. I always have—”


“Yes,” she said, seeing it now. “You care for me, the same way my father does. The same way a dear uncle would. Like a child, a ward in need of guidance and protection. Not the way you would if I really meant something to you.”


He cursed now, but there was no passion there either. “Come inside, Jordana. I forgive whatever went on between you and that miscreant from the Order. Let’s put this night behind us where it belongs.”


“No. I can’t do that.” She crossed her arms over her chest, her feet refusing to move, even when Elliott came over and tried to guide her away from the elevator. He put his arm around her shoulders, and she ducked out of his embrace. “I can’t do any of this anymore.”


“Any of what, darling?”


“This. Us. All of it.” God, she hadn’t imagined she’d be standing there, ending the farce of her relationship with him like this, but it felt good to let it go. It felt right, for both of them. “I’d like you to leave now, Elliott.”


“Leave?” He studied her cautiously for a moment, then shook his head in denial. “No, I don’t think I will, Jordana. I understand. It’s late, and you’re upset. I don’t think you realize what you’re saying or doing right now.”


She barked out a sharp laugh. “Stop telling me how I feel, Elliott. Dammit, I wish everyone would stop telling me what they think I should do and think and feel!”


He stared at her like he might look at a furious, hissing snake suddenly dropped in his lap. “This kind of outburst isn’t like you, Jordana. You’re only proving my point that you need someone to look after you right now. I really think it best that I stay awhile—”


“Fine,” she replied. “Then I’ll go.”


She punched the elevator call button, half hoping it would come back up with Nathan still inside. But when the doors whisked open a moment later, the car was empty.


“Jordana, you’re being ridiculous,” Elliott said as she stepped into the lift. “This kind of behavior isn’t like you at all.”


“No, it isn’t,” she agreed. “But maybe it should be.”


“Jordana—”


“Good-bye, Elliott.” She pushed the down button, feeling a sudden surge of exhilaration—her first taste of newfound freedom—as the doors slid closed in front of Elliott’s incredulous expression.


11


NATHAN MADE THE TREK BACK TO LA NOTTE ON FOOT. NOT EVEN the brisk run through the cool night streets managed to curb the rawness of his need for a woman he should never have pursued in the first place.


He was a man used to being in control of every situation, especially when it came to sex. He fucked who he wanted, when he wanted. He called the shots. He controlled the rules, the pace, the boundaries. He decided how things started and ended—all of it, every time.


And then she came along.


Jordana, and that impulsive kiss that had ignited a flame in him that he couldn’t seem to put out.


Taking things as far as he had tonight had only made that heat flare hotter. If he’d expected to have a taste of her only so he could finally get her out of his head—get the need for her out of his blood—then he’d just proven himself a goddamned fool.


He could still see her face as she pleaded with him to keep his silence, to play along with her where Elliott Bentley-Squire was concerned. It shouldn’t have mattered to him, but it did. What she had with the other Breed male was a fucking farce that burned Nathan almost as much as the fact that he still craved her with a fierceness he could hardly reconcile.


She had made it pretty clear that she intended to keep to her own, even if she had to do it unhappily. So now Jordana was back at her place with a male who didn’t deserve her, and Nathan was hoofing it into Cassian Gray’s seedy club with a raging hard-on and a deadly bad attitude.


He found Rafe down in the empty arena of the old neo-Gothic church, questioning a trio of humans employed as blood Hosts to serve the club’s vampire clientele. As Nathan strode in, the blond warrior lifted his chin in acknowledgment and dismissed the group with a low command.


“Got the place swept out, except for the fighters and some of the staff,” Rafe informed him. “Nobody’s giving up anything on Cass, though. We’ve questioned everyone. They’re all telling the same story—no one’s seen hide or hair of the son of a bitch for the past several days.”


Nathan grunted, his voice gravel in his throat for the way his blood was still pounding in his veins. “Maybe the disruption of tonight’s revenue stream will get his attention.”


Rafe arched a tawny brow. “Right now, that’s all we’ve got. Where the hell did you go? I looked for you an hour ago, but you were gone. When I saw Carys with Rune a few minutes ago, she said she thought you left with Jordana Gates.”


Nathan bit back the ripe curse on his tongue. Barely. “She was in no shape for driving, so I brought her home. Took longer than planned.”


His friend and teammate studied him, then blew out the curse that Nathan strived to contain. “You and Jordana. Jesus, Nathan. Do you really think that’s a good idea?”


“No, I don’t,” he replied, not interested in explaining himself, nor in reliving what had gone on between Jordana and him tonight. “I think it’s one bad fucking idea. And after tonight, it’s not happening, so feel free to drop the subject and tell me what you and the rest of the squad have been doing while I was gone.”


As Rafe gave him a quick rundown, one of the club’s other service workers came out of the back corridor that led to the BDSM dens. Dressed in a few straps of black leather held together by silver metal rings, the brunette female sashayed into the arena in a pair of tall, glossy boots with sky-high heels.


She’d taken care of him once or twice at the club, one of the many nameless partners who had long been his preference. The sex worker spotted him now and her hips took on a more languid, inviting sway as she headed to the bar a few feet away from him.


“We cleared the sim lounge and dance club upstairs,” Rafe said. “Eli and Jax are giving Cass’s office and private apartment another once-over. I came down here to see if I could squeeze anything useful out of the service staff, since Syn and Rune and the other fighters are less than cooperative.”


Although he was listening to the report, Nathan couldn’t help but notice how the woman leaned over the bar to reach for a bottle of liquor, giving him a good long look at her ass and the leather thong wedged between her cheeks. His body was still fevered from want of Jordana, and it responded to the obvious invitation from this other woman the same way his fingers would reach to scratch an itch.


And she worked hard to get his attention. Grabbing a bottle of whiskey from the bar, she poured herself a shot and checked to make sure he was watching. As she tilted her head back and downed the amber liquor in one long, open-throated gulp, Nathan saw another delicate neck in his mind.


In a hard, heated instant, he relived the sight of Jordana’s pale, pretty throat, bared to him as he’d tugged her head back, the silky platinum rope of her hair wound around his fist.


Hunger drew his fangs out, and he wondered how long it had been since he fed. About as long as it had been since he satisfied the other craving that was gnawing at him, both made worse after the way his encounter with Jordana had left him feeling.


The sharp, nagging edge of his twin needs aggravated him, but even more disturbing was the fact that everything male and primal in him demanded he head right back to her place and slake the need she stirred in him—even if he had to tear through Elliott Bentley-Squire to have her.


Dangerous thoughts.


And a craving he could not permit himself to act on, no matter how tempting.


The leather-clad female plopped her shot glass back on the bar and sauntered past him, an inviting look in her eyes as she slinked back to the corridor leading to the BDSM dens.


Rafe stared after her too and let out a low, approving whistle. “Maybe I should do a more in-depth interrogation of some of the backroom staff. Wouldn’t want to leave any stone unturned.”


Nathan slanted him a dark look. “There’s nothing more for us to do here tonight. Go tell Jax and Eli to wrap things up. I’ll be right behind you.”


Rafe shrugged, then took off to carry out his captain’s order.


Once he was gone back up to the club at street level, Nathan crossed the arena floor on a direct course for the VIP rooms in back.


The brunette was waiting for him, already arranged for his pleasure on a red leather settee with her legs spread wide and her hair gathered off to the side to give him open access to her carotid. “How can I serve you tonight, sir?”


Nathan stepped inside the room. A pair of buckled restraints hung from a hook on the wall near the door. He took them down, then kicked the door closed behind him with the heel of his combat boot.


“What do you mean, you walked out on Elliott?” Carys’s voice sounded incredulous on the other end of the line. “What happened? Does this have something to do with you and Nathan? I saw you leave the club with him. Did something happen between you? Is Nathan with you right now?”


“No. He’s gone.” After the way she’d acted, probably gone for good.


Jordana hated the way things had ended tonight. She’d been a coward and a fool, and she owed him an apology at the very least. She hoped he would accept it, if she ever saw him again.


If she was being honest with herself, she hoped for far more than that.


While she hadn’t broken it off with Elliott because she expected anything from Nathan, she’d be a liar if she tried to deny her attraction to him.


Attraction? Good lord, the way her heart raced at the thought of him—the way her body still hummed with electricity from the wicked things he did to her, things he warned that he intended to continue before they’d come face-to-face with Elliott at her apartment—Jordana had to admit that what she felt toward Nathan was a pull as fierce as the tide to the moon.


He was darkness, as cool and untouchable as night itself, and she craved to know him, to be close to him, like nothing she had known before.


Tonight he’d taken her to the edge of that cliff she feared, but she’d been too terrified to step off.


Jordana blew a sigh past the receiver of her phone. “It’s a long story, Car. One I don’t particularly feel like reliving at the moment.”


“Are you okay?” Jordana heard her friend whisper the gist of the situation to Rune. “So, if you left Elliott at the apartment, where are you?”


“On Commonwealth, just outside my building,” Jordana said, her low heels clicking on the sidewalk. “And I’m fine. I just needed to get out of there.”


Part of the problem with making a dramatic exit, she had realized pretty quickly, was the need to have someplace else to go.


The thought of going home to her father’s Darkhaven didn’t hold much appeal. It was late, and although she would have been welcomed with open arms, Jordana didn’t want to show up on her father’s doorstep to disappoint him with the news that she’d failed at the relationship he wanted so badly to work for her.


Ordinarily, she might have gone to the museum to escape. It had been her secret refuge on numerous occasions in the past, but she hadn’t quite been able to shake her sense of unease about being watched as she’d gone to her car in the parking lot earlier that night. And although her cocktail buzz was long past, Jordana wasn’t about to climb behind the wheel and drive aimlessly through the city so late at night.


“Come back to the club,” Carys told her. “From the sounds of it, the Order has the place pretty well shut down, but I’m still here with Rune. We can both crash in his quarters overnight and sort everything out tomorrow.”


“Oh, Carys. I don’t know—”


“You’re not far from the train. It’ll get you here in less than ten minutes. I’ll be waiting for you. Come around back and I’ll let you in through the staff entrance.”


“Carys—”


“Let me take care of you for once, okay? Be here in ten, or I’m sending Rune out to drag you here.”


Which is how Jordana found herself getting off the train in the old North End some seven minutes later and walking the short block to La Notte’s rear door.


Carys was there before she even had a chance to knock, opening the door and pulling Jordana into a warm embrace. “You’re shivering,” Carys pointed out. “Come in, and tell me what’s going on.”


Jordana walked with her friend into the back corridor, feeling relieved to have come, now that she was there.


But the feeling was short-lived.


No sooner had she stepped inside when a door opened farther ahead of them in the gloomy passageway. A man walked out and strode in the opposite direction of Jordana and Carys.

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