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She wanted him now, again … always, she was certain.


“I’m glad you’re here,” she murmured, wishing he’d touch her again. “But I don’t want to cause problems for you with the Order.”


“Any problems there are mine to deal with.” That devastating smile faded as he sent a dark glance around the gathering. When his eyes came back to her, they glittered as bright as embers. “And there was no way in hell I was going to let you wear this dress for anyone but me. Even if I had to put on a monkey suit and try to play nice with the natives.”


“It’s a very nice monkey suit,” she said, melting under his possessive stare. “Oddly enough, seeing you in it only makes me want to sneak away somewhere and tear it off you.”


Nathan’s answering growl vibrated all the way to her bones. “Don’t tempt me, female.”


Oh, but she wanted to tempt him. She wanted to be the one in control, the one making him crazy with pleasure and need, until she was certain she owned his body the same way he had mastered hers.


She wanted to kiss him. She wanted to be naked with him again, feel him crashing into her, filling her.


The urge swamped her, feral and fierce.


“Keep looking at me like that and watch this civilized facade turn to ash right where we stand.”


Jordana grinned. “Is that a promise?”


Another growl, this one darker, accompanied by a flash of his fangs. “What do you think?”


She gazed up at him for a long moment, surprised by the current of interest that lit up her veins. She felt daring with him, fearless. Too aroused by him to let inhibition put any limits on what they could share together.


“I think we should definitely explore the idea,” she said, but it was a knowing tease when she was already late for the podium. She gestured vaguely behind her. “I have a little speech to give right now. It shouldn’t take very long.” Jordana stepped in closer to him, putting her lips almost against his ear. “So, whatever wicked thoughts you have, hold them until I get back.”


At his rumble of interest, she drew back, out of his reach. Then she slowly pivoted to give him time to watch her stroll away from him.


She didn’t have to glance back to check if he was watching her, but she did anyway.


Oh, yes, he was watching.


His smoldering eyes threw off a palpable heat, desire so intense it nearly burned everything in its path. And all of it trained on her.


Jordana tossed him a flirty smile, then headed for the dais at the front of the crowded exhibit hall.


20


EVERY BLOOD VESSEL IN HIS BODY SEEMED TO HAVE MIGRATED south as Nathan watched Jordana walk away from him to take her place at the raised podium. His ear was still warm from her whispered suggestion—a suggestion he had every intention of holding her to as soon as she finished greeting her event’s guests.


Damn, he wanted her naked beneath him now. How he was going to survive the rest of the night without burying himself inside her, he had no idea.


Nathan shifted his stance and tugged at the jacket he’d borrowed from Rafe. For all the good it did. Nothing was going to ease his ache except the sheath of Jordana’s hot, wet body.


And her hands.


Or her pretty, pink mouth.


Had he actually believed at one point that a taste of this woman would be enough to satisfy his need for her?


Christ, what an idiot he’d been.


Now he craved her more than ever. She captivated him completely, held the power to render him hard as steel with just a few simple words.


He tried to tell himself he didn’t like the feeling. He’d kept such a merciless grip on his needs and desires for so long, it should chafe more to realize he was losing his hold so easily where she was concerned.


Jordana was magnetic, her blond hair and flame-colored dress a beacon across the sea of darkly attired men and women. Watching her smooth command of the room and everyone in it filled Nathan with a possessive, selfish pride.


How had such an extraordinary woman become part of his life? Why choose him, when she had her pick of a hundred other more worthy males in this room alone?


But she had chosen.


The private glance she sent him through the thick crowd as she delivered her welcome would have erased any doubt. The instant their eyes connected, Nathan’s blood simmered with added fire. His veins throbbed, and the erection he’d been sporting when she left him a minute ago now worsened to near agony.


He felt his glyphs surge with heat and knew his desire would be plain in the deepening colors that were blooming at his collar and up the sides of his neck. His fangs pricked his tongue, sent saliva surging into his mouth.


Jordana belonged to him.


And whether he wanted to admit it or not, he belonged to her too.


A throat cleared pointedly from beside him. “Remarkable, isn’t she?”


Nathan swung a hard look over his shoulder at the Breed male who’d moved in from the surrounding crowd without his notice.


Son of a bitch.


“Yes, she is,” he replied stiffly, then extended his hand to the Darkhaven leader. “Mr. Gates. I’m Nathan—”


“I know who you are.” Gates kept his arms folded over his tuxedoed chest, his gaze trained on the podium across the wide hall. “What I don’t know is what interest you have in my daughter.” Now he turned his head in pointed observation of Nathan’s ember-flecked eyes and churning dermaglyphs. “Aside from the obvious, that is.”


Nathan bristled but could hardly take offense at her father’s disapproval. “My interests are no different than yours, sir.”


Gates scoffed. “I’m sure they couldn’t be any more different.” His cutting stare narrowed. “I suppose you’re the reason she cast Elliott aside?”


Nathan glanced toward the dais, where Jordana had just finished her speech to a round of enthusiastic applause, and was now being swamped by adoring party guests. “Maybe you should ask her that question instead.”


“There’s no need,” Gates replied. “I saw the way she looks at you, the way she’s acting … the way she’s dressed tonight. It’s all because of you, isn’t it?”


Nathan met the elder vampire’s accusing gaze. There was something more than suspicion or disapproval in the male’s eyes. A protectiveness that verged on desperation.


“Jordana has her own mind,” Nathan said. “She has her own will. How she acts or thinks or behaves is up to her.”


Gates grunted. “Well, I don’t like it. I want this to stop. Immediately, do you understand?”


“I’m not sure I do,” Nathan challenged. He had no wish to make an enemy out of her father, but if Gates thought he had anything to say about Nathan’s relationship with Jordana, he was sorely mistaken.


“Jordana means the world to me,” Gates said. “She’s a very special young woman. I don’t expect someone like you to comprehend that, or to care—”


“Someone like me.” Nathan all but growled the words.


“Stay away from her,” Gates ordered tightly. “As a man—as a fellow Breed male—I am asking you to leave my daughter alone.”


Nathan thought back to a mere week ago, to who he was before the night Jordana crashed into his life with one impulsive, unforgettable kiss.


That man—the street warrior whose nights were filled with ugliness and violence—would have never imagined himself standing in the middle of a glittering society event in a borrowed suit, waiting to be reunited with the most exquisite, extraordinary woman in the room.


He would have never imagined a time or place where he would want to belong to that kind of world, or wish that he had all along, if only to be part of it with her.


To be worthy of her.


To have some kind of future to offer her that didn’t consist of darkness and war and bloodshed.


As the Hunter bred and trained for destruction, he never would have dared permit himself to care for someone as he did for Jordana.


There was no turning back.


Now that he had let her in, no one was going to tell him to let her go.


“No,” he said finally. He gave a solemn shake of his head. “I don’t think I can do that.”


Martin Gates studied him in a searching, scrutinizing glare. Resignation bled into his face and he huffed out a brittle sigh. “Very well. How much will it take for you to comply?”


“A bribe?” Nathan’s voice was cold and level, even while his outrage spiked. “You can’t be serious.”


But Gates was unswayed. “Name your price and it’s yours. She need never know.”


Nathan’s answering curse was ripe with outrage. Dark with fury. “There isn’t enough goddamn money in the world. If you really love Jordana as much as I do, you’d know that.”


Gates reeled back, his head snapping up as if he’d taken a physical blow.


Only then did Nathan realize what he’d said.


He loved her.


He couldn’t bite the words back, not because he’d already let them out, but because they were the truth.


Holy hell … he meant it. He was in love with Jordana.


Gates said nothing, not for a long time. Then, face blanched, hands visibly shaking at his sides, he lowered his voice to a savage whisper. “Stay away from Jordana. Or you will leave me no choice but to make deadly certain that you do.”


A threat? Nathan saw the menace—and the abject alarm—in the Breed male’s dark eyes.


Martin Gates would have Nathan’s head before he allowed him to continue with Jordana. Or, rather, he would try.


Nathan didn’t want to think about a confrontation between the elder vampire and himself. And Gates had to know that taking on one of the Order, particularly a Gen One Hunter like Nathan, would be tantamount to suicide.


Yet that was his intent. Gates would risk anything, including his own life, to keep his daughter away from Nathan.


“Leave my daughter alone,” Gates ground out. Then, as quickly as the threat had been thrown down, he flashed away, vanishing into the thick crowd.


Nathan understood why in that next instant. Jordana was approaching from behind.


Nathan sensed her like a current in his blood. The air stirred with her bright energy. Her voice drifted to him, vibrant and rich, as she accepted praise and offered thanks to the patrons and museum guests who vied for her attention as she made her way through the throng.


He turned toward her, prepared to explain what had happened with her father. But Jordana’s beaming expression stopped him short.


She didn’t know. She must not have seen them talking while she was at the dais.


And Nathan wasn’t going to be the one to ruin her night. Not when she was looking at him with such exuberance and satisfaction. Despite all the eyes on her, she looked at him as though he were the only other person in the room.


“Still want to make good on that promise?” She reached up and touched his face, just the briefest contact.


Old, battered instincts clenched inside him, but newer ones—the ones she’d awakened in him—responded to her fleeting caress with heat and hunger for more.


Mischief danced in Jordana’s ice blue eyes. Her smile broke slowly, seductively. “Come with me.”


She breezed past him, the sight of her bare back in that red dress, her hips swaying with each fluid stride of her long legs, leaving him no choice but to obey. Nathan stalked after her, out of the exhibit hall and into a gallery outside. She kept going, leading him farther away from the buzz and activity of the party.


He was enjoying the view so much he hardly realized what she was doing until she disappeared into the gloom of a nearby office. When he reached the open doorway, she yanked him inside by the lapel of his suit coat and shut the door behind him.


Her mouth came down hard on his as she pushed him backward against a desk.


No warning.


No waiting for him to make the first move.


Not the slightest trace of uncertainty as she pressed her body against his and pushed his lips apart with her demanding little tongue.


And fuck if that didn’t shoot molten fire into his veins.


Outside the closed door of the office, the drone of conversation and soft music carried from the exhibit hall several yards away. Low light from the gallery filtered through the shuttered blinds of the window behind the desk. A bark of laughter sounded from just outside as a small group of party guests walked the promenade that led to the museum lobby.


He and Jordana were secluded enough in the private office, but there was no escaping the knowledge that the risk of discovery lurked just beyond its four walls.


She didn’t seem to mind.


Hell, she seemed to revel in the risk. As she kissed him, he felt her hands at the collar of his shirt. His mind was slipping, getting pulled under the more powerful force of his need.


He only vaguely registered that his shirt was open, his chest bared to her gaze, to her touch. When she dragged her mouth down along his throat to the glyphs that rode his pectorals, he wrenched up off the desk on a lust-filled groan.


“Shh,” she admonished him with a playful smile and a daring glimmer in her eyes. Her pretty pink tongue followed the arc and flourish of his dermaglyphs, making them flush with darkening colors. “I’ve been wanting to do this all night.”


Ah, Christ. Nathan watched, entranced, hard as granite, as she licked and suckled him, each wet kiss igniting a dangerous fire in his veins. She drew his nipple into her mouth, grazing the tight peak with her teeth.


Her touch shouldn’t have been so welcome, so easily accepted. It didn’t fit into the way he lived his life. It went against everything he’d been taught. Defied the years of training and hard lessons that still haunted his dreams, all too often left him soaked in cold sweat, stomach pitching with nausea for what he’d witnessed. What he’d been made to do.

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