No, not just a man—a Breed warrior. Six and a half feet of sinew and dark, stormy menace. Jordana knew that massive build and prowling swagger anywhere.
She could still feel his hands on her. She could still hear the sinful rumble of his deep voice against her ear.
God help her, she almost called his name out loud.
But then, in that next awful instant, a woman came out of the room behind him.
More naked than not, she strutted out on spiked boots, her breasts strapped into a complicated web of black leather and metal rings, another skimpy, punishing-looking set of straps emphasizing the round globes of her bare behind.
There could be no mistaking the brunette’s line of work. Nor the fact that she and Nathan had been in the room together behind the closed door.
The woman glanced over her shoulder and spotted Jordana and Carys gaping at her in the corridor. In the sex worker’s hand was a wad of cash, which she ceremoniously slipped beneath one of the tight black strips of leather on her bosom before sauntering off.
Jordana felt sick. If she’d been afraid of how she’d left things with Nathan tonight, apparently she shouldn’t have worried. He certainly hadn’t wasted any time finding a replacement for her.
Disappointment and hurt roared up on her. She was pissed too—at him, but even more so at herself, for caring enough to be upset.
“Get me out of here,” she whispered to Carys.
Her friend looked equally miserable. “Oh, God, honey. I had no idea. I never would’ve told you to come—”
“He can’t know I was here,” Jordana hissed urgently. “Don’t let him see me, please. He can’t know that I saw him here tonight.”
“Of course not.” Carys took her hand. “Come on. Rune’s quarters are this way.”
Jordana followed her friend down another length of dark hallway, feeling as if that cliff she’d been so afraid of had suddenly broken away under her feet and left her falling.
“YOU TRYING TO CLEAN THAT FIREARM OR RUB OFF THE SERIAL number?”
Jolted, Nathan swung his head around from the table and chair where he was seated and found Sterling Chase leaning against the jamb of the open weapons room door.
Jesus Christ. He’d been so engrossed in his work, his head full of steam and troubling realizations, he hadn’t even heard the commander arrive.
It was early morning at the Order’s Boston headquarters. Most everyone in the compound and the connected estate would be in bed. Nathan, however, had been awake and twitchy ever since he and his team returned to base last night. A couple hours ago, he’d finally given up the idea of sleep and decided to make some productive use of his restlessness.
He met Chase’s stare. Years of old training schooled his expression to a bland, unreadable mask before he went back to cleaning and lubricating the field-stripped black Beretta 9 mm. “Didn’t expect to see you down here at this hour. How long you been standing there?”
“Couple of minutes,” Chase said. “Long enough. You wanna talk about it?”
With nimble fingers, Nathan reassembled the pistol and set it aside. “Nope.”
Chase strode into the room now and took up a position next to Nathan’s worktable, his thick arms crossed over his chest. He wore a white short-sleeve T-shirt and loose gray sweats, his trim golden hair rumpled.
At the moment, Sterling Chase looked less like the impeccable, tight-ship captain he was and more like a man with troubles of his own. Troubles that dragged him from the comfort of the warm bed he shared with his mate at an unholy, early hour.
“Looks like you’ve been up for a while yourself.” Nathan glanced at him sidelong. “Maybe you wanna talk about it?”
“Not really.” Chase smirked and blew out a short sigh. “I guess I’m still trying to get used to the fact that Carys moved out. Tavia doesn’t like it either, but she says we have to give her time. Give her space.” A growl rumbled in the vampire’s chest. “If anything happens to her … if anyone hurts her now that she’s living outside my direct protection—”
“She’s doing all right,” Nathan said. “She has people looking out for her.”
Chase scoffed. “Jordana Gates may be well connected in the Darkhavens, but no one she knows is going to keep my little girl safe the way her mother and I can.”
“Your little girl is a full-grown woman,” Nathan pointed out. “She’s making her own choices. You have to trust her. Hold her too close and you’ll only make her pull away harder.”
“Philosophy at this hour—and from you, besides?” Chase chuckled, then gave a nod. “It’s good advice, Nathan. Gonna be damned hard to follow it, though. And if Carys ends up getting harmed by anyone in any way—”
“Then she’ll have you and all the rest of the Order making sure someone pays,” Nathan said.
“Damn straight she will,” Chase agreed, his blue eyes glittering with menace. He went quiet for a moment, then cleared his throat. “My daughter’s actually not the only reason I’m pacing the halls this morning.”
Nathan glanced up. “What’s going on?”
“Gideon called a few minutes ago from D.C. One of Crowe’s exes surrendered some interesting news under tranced interrogation today. Seems Reginald Crowe had a mistress.”
That was the most promising intel they’d uncovered so far. “Who? Where can we find her?”
“Ireland. Dublin, according to the former Mrs. Crowe,” Chase said. “As for the who of it, we’re still trying to figure that out. We don’t even have a name yet. All we know is that Crowe’s ex claims he saw this woman frequently during their marriage and that it had been going on for quite some time.”
Nathan’s veins lit up with the instinctive, predatory spark of his assassin past. “We’ve got to find her. We’ve got to find her now. I can be ready to roll out anytime, if you need me to go in solo and see this done.”
“You’re best utilized right here in Boston, going after Cassian Gray. Besides, we have boots on the ground over there already. Mathias Rowan’s team in London will be mobilizing at sundown tonight. Lucan’s put this in their court for now.” Chase narrowed a look on him. “You’ve never walked away from a mission. You’re not looking to do that now, are you?”
“Absolutely not,” Nathan replied, a brisk denial, even though his conscience pricked him.
Had he been hoping for a reassignment? One that would put a whole continent between him and Jordana Gates?
Fuck, he didn’t know what to think about that.
Chase studied him now. “You seem … unfocused, my man. Like you’re walking a dangerous edge. What’s going on with you? When’s the last time you fed?”
“I was with a blood Host last night,” he replied, the unwanted reminder of the brunette from La Notte’s BDSM club making his voice darken to a growl.
Chase seemed to consider for a long moment, his shrewd gaze lingering for longer than Nathan liked. But his commander didn’t challenge the lie, even if he suspected it.
“I’ll leave you to your work,” he said, and headed for the door. “Good job last night. If nothing bubbles up to the surface on Cassian Gray today, let’s hit him even harder again tonight.”
Nathan gave him a vague nod. Only after Chase was gone back up the corridor did Nathan release the curse that had been burning like acid on his tongue.
Although Chase seemed satisfied with his answer, Nathan knew the elder vampire had seen through him. Self-directed anger heated Nathan’s blood at the dishonor he’d shown the other Breed male just now. He had never been compelled to lie to his comrades, least of all his commander. His training as a Hunter would have deemed a breach like that suicidal.
And while Nathan was many years away from the brutality and punishments of his handlers, their lessons had never left him.
He didn’t expect they ever would.
No one knew what he had endured as part of his shaping into the killer he became for Dragos. Not even his mother, Corinne, who rescued him from that life, or her mate, Hunter, a Breed male brought up in the same program as Nathan decades earlier.
Not even Nathan’s closest friends and teammates in the Order knew what he went through—no, especially none of them. They would never see him the same way again if they knew how he’d been degraded, shamed.
He’d kept that corrupted, dirty part of him a secret all his life. Stuffed it down deep, the only way he was able to move on, move past it.
And he intended to keep it there forever.
As for Jordana, he would turn his deadly skills on himself before he would ever let her know his truth. Ironic that he’d pressed her so hard to open herself to him when he had no intention of truly letting her in.
It was a small mercy that he hadn’t been able to seduce her completely last night. He might have done things he could never take back.
Far better that he slake his carnal appetites elsewhere. That had been his thinking when he went with the female at La Notte. But his effort to purge his hunger for Jordana with another woman had only made him want her more.
He hadn’t taken the sex worker’s vein, as he’d implied to Chase. He hadn’t taken anything from the woman, in fact, but he’d paid her just the same.
And after he and his team left the club soon afterward to search the city for leads on Cass, Nathan had made sure his path took him past Jordana’s building. Just to assure himself she was safe, he’d told himself, but it had taken all of his increasingly questionable restraint to keep his feet from carrying him inside and back up the elevator to her penthouse.
But the apartment had been dark from the street.
He’d moved on but spent the rest of the night’s patrol trying—and failing—to keep her out of his thoughts. Recalling her orgasm with him was only slightly less tormenting than picturing her home in her dark apartment with Elliott Bentley-Squire.
Nathan didn’t like the violence that perked to life inside him at the thought of another male being with Jordana. Especially one with less obsession for her than him.
Not that Nathan was worthy of her. His background made him unfit for anyone, but particularly a woman as pure and clean as Jordana.
He had already brought her too close to his world. And he knew he would have taken things much further last night if not for running into her undeserving, would-be mate.
He had to be done with Jordana Gates.
Already she was starting to mean more to him than he cared to admit, and that, if nothing else, was cause enough for him to keep his distance.
Even if that meant watching her bind herself in blood and vow to a male she would never love.
By five o’clock that afternoon, Jordana had already put in an eleven-hour day at the museum.
She’d gone in alone, hours before anyone else had shown up for work. After everything that had happened the night before, the solitude of her workplace had been welcome, even more needed than sleep.
Jordana had eventually left La Notte around two in the morning, accompanied back to her apartment by Carys and Rune. Elliott had been long gone by then. He’d politely turned off the lights and locked up for her, apparently departing her life as ambivalently as he’d entered it.
Jordana wasn’t sure how she would break the news of their split to her father. Then again, dutiful Elliott probably had taken care of that for her too.
Instead, she had chosen to put all of the drama and emotional stress on hold for a while, letting her work at the museum absorb her. It was the one thing she had that had always been hers all on her own, historic art being her passion.
Her personal sanctuary and escape.
Fortunately, her work was giving her plenty of things to think about, aside from the sudden mess of her private life. The exhibit’s grand opening was little more than twenty-four hours away and was nearly sold out. She and Carys had reviewed the final list of preparations top to bottom twice today, ensuring that everything was in place for a successful event.
Still, that didn’t keep Jordana from obsessing over the details yet again. She was in her office on the phone with the local florist when she felt a queer prickling of the fine hairs at her nape.
Was someone in the closed exhibit room outside?
It couldn’t be Carys. She’d left just a few minutes ago to pick up a last-minute printing order across town. As for the rest of the museum staff, most would be packing up and preparing to close for the night.
But there was definitely someone in the exhibit. Jordana felt the presence like a cool hand settling against the back of her neck. She felt observed somehow, much as she had been in the parking lot the other night. Anxiety spiked through her as she ended her phone conversation and walked out of her office.
A man stood inside the closed exhibit.
Dressed in a rumpled, rain-dappled gray overcoat, he pivoted to face her as she approached. He was tall and fit beneath the drooping coat, worn jeans, and faded T-shirt. His short, bland brown hair was combed neatly to the side.
Everything about him was average and nondescript, except for his eyes. An arresting shade of peridot, they held her in an unrushed, considering stare.
Although nothing about him broadcasted a threat, Jordana’s senses remained alert, expectant in some odd way. “I’m sorry, but the exhibit hasn’t opened to the public yet. You can’t be in here.”
“I won’t stay long,” he said. “I only wanted to come in and have a quick look.”
She frowned. “I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave. We have tickets for sale at the museum website, or you can come back tomorrow evening at the grand opening and purchase a ticket at the door.”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com