Desire ignited in a flash, hot and consuming. His cock answered the surge of need coursing through him, suddenly straining behind his black combat fatigues.


Nathan knew his pupils were winnowing down to narrow slits as he drank in the sight of Jordana’s disheveled beauty. The amber light of his transforming irises bathed her face in a dim glow.


His body’s swift reaction shocked him. And he was more than a little disturbed that he couldn’t seem to master his urges when it came to this particular woman.


Never one to back down, however, Nathan advanced on her. He called a command to his teammates to sweep out the back rooms and VIP lounge, ordering them to send every last person out of the place.


“The party’s over,” he snarled, his eyes still rooted on Jordana.


She scowled up at him, planting her hands on the tempting curves of her hips. “What right did you have to do that?” she demanded, her words sounding thicker than normal, no doubt thanks to the alcohol she’d consumed.


Nathan held her annoyed stare. “Don’t tell me you didn’t notice this place makes its profits off illegal blood sport and gambling. Not to mention other deviant amusements you’d rather not know about,” he added. “It’s about time someone shuts this hellhole down.”


“No,” she said, tossing her head back and forth. The motion collapsed her loosely gathered mane and sent the platinum waves tumbling around her shoulders and down her back. “No, I’m talking about you, Nathan. What right did you have to storm into my life and mess everything up?”


He frowned, taken aback, not only by the question but by the sound of his name on her lips. “I stormed into your life?”


“Yes, you did.” She moved closer to him, until there was hardly an arm’s length between them. Then closer still. “You’re a dark, dangerous storm, Nathan.” She tilted her head back, her glacial blue eyes arresting, even in the darkness of the club. “If I’m not careful, I’m going to leap off a cliff with you.”


He blew out a curse, peering harder at her. Christ, just how much had she had to drink tonight? She might be speaking nonsense due to one too many cocktails, but her steady, searching gaze and parted lips were communicating to his senses clearly enough.


“You’re the worst thing that could ever happen to me, Nathan.”


“At least we agree on something.” She listed toward him and he growled, whether with need or irony, he wasn’t sure. “Collect your things, Jordana. I’m going to have one of my men take you home.”


“No,” she murmured, shaking her head. “No, I don’t want to go home to my apartment alone. I want to wait for Carys.”


He glanced over, recognizing that Carys was in no better shape herself. Plus, she was wrapped around Rune in one of the booths outside the cages. It didn’t appear she would be leaving for a while, and Nathan had no intention of allowing Jordana to hang around the club in the condition she was in now.


And despite Carys’s obvious trust and affection for Rune, there was no way in hell Nathan would leave Jordana’s well-being in that male’s hands.


Fuck.


Her apartment wasn’t far. He could drop her off safely and be back on task with his patrol team in no time.


“Come on,” he said. “Let’s go.”


Nathan clamped his hand around her wrist and took her with him outside.


9


FIVE MINUTES LATER, JORDANA WAS SEATED ON THE PASSENGER side of her car, watching Nathan navigate the Back Bay’s maze of one-way streets en route to her apartment. “It really wasn’t necessary for you to take me home. I could’ve managed on my own.”


“Out of the question,” he said, his stern profile bathed in the milky glow of the dashboard.


His deep voice brooked no argument, and she was instantly reminded that Nathan was no Darkhaven gentleman. He was an Order squad captain. A Gen One Breed male and former assassin.


A man adept at killing in God only knew how many ways. And yet here he was, playing designated driver to her after she’d foolishly over-imbibed.


Already she was sobering up, the mild alcohol buzz replaced by the twitchy flutter of her pulse as she sat beside Nathan in the dimly lit vehicle.


“Anyway, thank you,” she murmured belatedly, unable to tear her eyes from him.


He was handsome in a harsh way, his cheekbones too sharp, his jaw too square and unyielding. His eyes were stormier than ever as he sped her home, a blue-green thundercloud under the severe slashes of his black brows.


His mouth was easily the softest of his features, his lips far too full and lush for the cool, almost constant grimness of his expression. Jordana knew all too well how warm those broad, sculpted lips could be. As she looked at him beside her in the vehicle, she was wildly tempted to taste them again.


He glanced her way, no doubt feeling her eyes on him. “I wouldn’t have guessed La Notte was your kind of place, considering what goes on there.”


Jordana shrugged. “I don’t spend much time at the club normally. The only reason I went tonight was because I knew Carys was there with Rune.”


“Looked to me like you were having a pretty good time up there in the front row outside the fighting cages.”


She frowned, hating that she’d let herself get caught up in the seedy entertainments of the club. Elliott would be upset if he found out, but her father would likely go apoplectic if he found out she knew the place even existed, let alone that she’d been inside.


“Of course, I don’t condone the violence of the matches,” she murmured, “nor the fact that profits are being made off spilled blood. It’s an appalling business.”


He grunted. “The fights aren’t the only way La Notte’s owner fills his purse.”


Jordana knew he wasn’t talking about the bar and dancing at street level, nor the sim lounge where people could slip into their choice of several virtual reality landscapes at a hefty hourly rate. “You mean the BDSM dens downstairs.”


Nathan swung a dark look on her. “You know about the sex rooms?”


“I haven’t actually seen them,” she hedged. “Carys told me about them.”


He cursed, low under his breath. “Don’t tell me Rune has taken her in there. For fuck’s sake, tell me he doesn’t do that with her—”


“No.” Jordana gave a dismissive shake of her head. “No, of course not. He might make his living in the cages, but Rune’s nothing but gentle with Carys. He’s protective of her, always. He wouldn’t even want her near that part of the club.”


Another grunt from Nathan, this time with a mix of relief and something else that Jordana couldn’t discern. He seemed to grow more tense now, staring back at the road ahead, a muscle ticking hard in his jaw. “If Rune truly cared about Carys, he’d make sure she never stepped foot in La Notte at all. It’s no place for you either.”


Jordana arched a brow. “Now you’re starting to sound like Elliott. He’s all but forbidden me from the place.”


Nathan gave her a sidelong look. “And yet you went there tonight.”


“Elliott Bentley-Squire doesn’t own me. I’m perfectly capable of handling myself.” She scoffed lightly, realizing how perfectly incapable she must appear to Nathan right now. “Well, I can usually handle myself. Tonight was an exception. I’m embarrassed that you feel you have to see me home.”


“It’s nothing,” he replied.


But it was something to Jordana. It was a chivalrous gesture from a man who hadn’t exactly struck her as the noble type. She would not have imagined he’d had it in him, considering he was more accustomed to combat and brutality and death.


There was probably a lot she had to learn about Nathan, and as she studied his grave profile, she found herself hoping she might have the chance to understand everything about the remote, unreadable man.


“Before we left the club,” Nathan said, “you told me you didn’t want to go home alone. What was that about?”


Jordana tried to wave off the question. “It was silly. Something happened at work tonight as I was leaving, and I got spooked. I’m sure it was nothing.”


“What happened?” Nathan was all warrior now, no longer posing a light inquiry but demanding an answer.


“I thought I saw someone outside the museum tonight, as I was heading for my car. I thought he was watching me.” It sounded foolish to her now, even though at the time she’d been more than a little rattled.


“He,” Nathan said, his deep voice edged with suspicion and a protectiveness that surprised her, warmed her. “Did you see this man? Did he threaten you in any way?”


“No,” she replied. “No, nothing like that. I saw someone standing outside the museum as I was leaving, that’s all. As I said, I’m sure it wasn’t anything but my imagination running away with me.”


Nathan made a noise in the back of his throat that sounded less than convinced, but he didn’t press any further. “We’re here,” he announced, slowing down as they approached her building. He drove around to the underground parking, then found Jordana’s assigned space without her telling him where it was.


She stared at him from the other side of the vehicle as he killed the engine and handed her the remote starter. “I can’t decide if I’m impressed or unnerved that the Order not only knows where I live but where I park my car.”


“Not the Order,” he said, slanting her a look that made her nerve endings tingle in response. “Just me.”


Nathan didn’t give her much chance to process that information. Before she could stammer a reply, he was already out of the car and coming around to the passenger side. He opened the door and took her wrist to help her to her feet. His strong fingers clamped around her in a grasp that was equal parts command and comfort.


Heat sizzled through their connection, and Jordana struggled to appear unaffected as she came to stand in front of him with hardly two inches of space between their bodies. “Well,” she said, forcing a lamely polite smile. “Thanks again for seeing me home, Nathan.”


“You’re not there yet.”


When she would have demurred, he released his grasp on her and gestured toward the elevator leading to the lobby of her building. He strode alongside her to the waiting lift and rode up with her.


Seamus was on duty, as usual. The doorman rose from behind his wide reception desk and gave her a welcoming nod as she stepped into the quiet lobby. “Evening, Miss Gates.”


“Hello, Seamus,” she greeted, trying to walk nonchalantly across the polished marble floor.


“Mr. Bentley-Squire’s looking for you, Miss Gates,” Seamus informed her. “He called several times tonight to ask if I’d seen you, even stopped by a short while ago—”


The doorman abruptly clammed up the instant he noticed Jordana wasn’t alone.


“Thank you, Seamus,” Jordana said, keenly aware of Nathan’s presence as he followed her out of the elevator and across the lobby, neither waiting for permission nor asking for it.


She saw the middle-age human guard warily eye the dark and dangerous-looking Breed warrior at her heels. It wasn’t every night that Jordana traipsed through her building in the company of a man, let alone one dressed in patrol gear and bristling with deadly weapons.


And it didn’t help that she likely carried the unsavory fragrances of the club on her as she sailed past Seamus’s desk.


The doorman cleared his throat. “Everything okay tonight, Miss Gates?”


“Yes, of course. Everything is fine. Good night, Seamus.”


She gave him a practiced smile, one that invited no further comment, as Nathan proceeded to trail her to the penthouse elevator in broody silence.


As soon as the polished steel doors closed behind them, Jordana closed her eyes and blew out a sigh. “The whole building’s going to know about this tomorrow. Seamus is sweet and well meaning, but discretion isn’t one of his strong suits.” She slowly shook her head, then pressed the button for the penthouse floor. “I can only imagine what he must be thinking about me right now—”


“Why do you care what that human rent-a-cop thinks?” Nathan’s low voice was little more than a growl as he moved so he was facing her inside the lift. “Why do you care what anyone might think of you?”


“Because I’m a Gates.” An automatic answer, a standard she held herself to from the time she was a child. “Certain things are expected of my family. And of me. I have to care what people think.”


“Bullshit.”


Startled, she looked up into Nathan’s stormy gaze, realizing only now just how close he stood to her. Heat radiated from the large, muscular bulk of his body, sending a flush to her cheeks and down between her breasts. Then lower still.


Nathan didn’t need to say anything—he didn’t need to do anything—and yet his presence was so dominating, it seemed to suck all the air out of the small space.


Although some insane compulsion drew her toward all of that heat and power, Jordana inched backward, not stopping until her spine bumped against the rear of the ascending car.


He was right there too, crowding her physically, forcing her to hold his probing stare. “That’s bullshit, and you know it. You hide behind the crutch of your family’s name and whatever obligation you feel toward it, but that’s not what I’m asking you. I want to know why you hide.”


He moved closer, leaving her no room to escape. No room to avoid his piercing eyes or the chaos of her own senses as every nerve ending inside her came alive with awareness of this man and her dangerous craving for him.

***

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