Holy shit, he’s hot!
The notorious rogue called the Ghost, who kept his face hidden under all circumstances, was a goddamn Adonis. Messy black hair, an ivory complexion, strong cheekbones, and a sculpted jaw combined to make a deliciously perfect final product, given an extra yummy hint of danger by the black feather tattoos running up the sides of his neck. And by my best guess, he was barely older than Aaron and Kai.
Damn it. He wasn’t ugly at all. He would’ve fit right in with my three favorite mages, and I almost growled. So much gorgeousness so wasted.
His forehead crinkled. He sucked in a breath and his eyelids flickered. Panicking that he’d catch me peeking at his super-secret face, I frantically yanked his hood back over his head—a bit too frantically. I overshot my reach and my knuckles cracked against his nose.
He yelped and shot upright, his hood falling off again. Uh. Did I just punch the Ghost in the face?
Holding his nose, he shot me a furious glare. Yes. Yes, I did just punch him in the face. But only a little?
I met his glower and immediately lost my train of thought. Not just lost. The train careened right off the tracks and exploded in a giant fireball of oh my god, those eyes. He had the most striking green eyes I’d ever seen in my life: liquid emerald with a distinct dark ring around the irises, framed by thick lashes.
“What’s the matter with you?” he demanded—and good god, that deep, husky voice was suddenly oh-so-sexy instead of intimidating. Gah! Had he murdered a fae of unholy attractiveness and stolen its powers?
“Sorry,” I wheezed, struggling to pull myself together. It was the surprise, that was all. I just hadn’t expected him to look like Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper’s beautiful love child. I was already over it. Really, I was.
A cackling shriek cut through the trees and all our heads jerked toward the outcry. The Ghost shoved himself off the ground, his expression grim. He didn’t pull his hood back up. Instead, he slid his coat off and threw it behind him.
Hidden beneath the leather was a sleeveless shirt that displayed his sculpted arms from shoulders down to tattooed wrists. The feather pattern that ran over his skin disappeared under the dark fabric, but that wasn’t all his coat had been hiding.
Hanging from ties around his neck were four crystals in bright colors, shimmering with unnatural vibrancy. Clipped onto his belt were a dozen thin glass vials, almost like test tubes, that ran from his hips around his back, each filled with a potion.
He tugged his gloves off and tossed them aside, then snapped a vial off his belt. Pulling the cork out with his teeth, he downed the liquid like a shot of absinthe.
“Whoa!” I exclaimed. “What did you just drink?”
His glower snapped to me, punching the air out of my lungs. Or maybe that was just his unfairly handsome face stealing my breath away.
“Strength-enhancing potion,” he barked. “Get back and stay out of the way.”
Probably better that I didn’t argue. Retreating a few steps, I joined Nadine in front of a cluster of trees that would shield us from any sneak attacks, though I was hoping the monsters would focus on the real threat.
And I had to say, the Ghost looked every inch a threat.
As a tall, monstrous silhouette slunk out of the shadows, the druid clenched his hand into a fist. A rune on his inner forearm lit up in a swirl of red light. As he opened his hand, matching light formed in his palm and extended into a curved saber, flames flickering off the hilt.
Hissing furiously, the darkfae charged. The Ghost leaped forward to meet it.
They crashed together in a burst of fiery red light and electric green power. I flinched, gripping Nadine’s arm as the Ghost whipped his magic blade across the creature. It swung an arm at his legs, forcing him back. They slammed together again, and as the creature twisted away from the Ghost’s saber, he thrust his other hand at it.
“Impello,” he snarled.
An invisible force struck the creature, throwing it backward. I knew that incantation. So the markings on the Ghost’s palms were sorcery spells—hexes embedded in his flesh.
He surged after the monster, and as they clashed, another rune on his forearm lit up—this one a yellow so pale it was almost white. With a blinding flash, the creature fell, shrieking in agony. But it didn’t stay down, and as it rolled to its feet with green light sizzling across its body, movement among the trees caught my attention.
A second creature loped into view, a crackling orb forming in its hands. As the sickly green light expanded, the leaves on the overhanging tree branches shriveled and turned brown. The ferns nearest the beast melted into soggy black tendrils.
The fae flung its attack at the Ghost. He whipped his sword around and the blast struck it, the impact flinging him into the air.
He should have fallen. He should have slammed down with bone-breaking force.
As he flung his arms out for balance, his feather tattoos blurred—then lifted away from his skin. Shadowy black wings rose off his back, spreading wide as he landed on his feet and skidded backward across the leaf litter.
The wings snapped down, pushing him forward, and he launched at the creatures with scarcely a pause. As he moved, the shadowy wings blurred and resettled over him, turning into tattoos again.
He’d survived that attack, but now he was fighting two creatures instead of one.
I stared around wildly, hoping to see the vargs charge out of the trees a second time. No wolves appeared, but light gleamed across something shiny amidst the leaf litter—a potion bottle. Miraculously, it hadn’t broken when I dropped it.
I snatched the bottle by its neck, and as the second creature conjured another spell, an eerie glow snaking out from its hand like green vines, I ran toward it. It grinned at me, long tongue sliding between its thin lips. It didn’t think the puny human could hurt it.
Drawing the bottle back, I smashed it over the monster’s bony shoulder.
The glass shattered and pink liquid sprayed all over. The fae roared. Rosy smoke billowed off its skin in pretty spirals and the liquid bubbled. Still bellowing, the fae slashed its claws at me.
A hard yank on my shirt pulled me backward and the fae’s claws missed my face by inches. Releasing my shirt, the Ghost grabbed my arm. Pain registered on my senses and when I saw the pink mist spiraling off my hand, generously splattered in liquid, I got a bit lightheaded.
Holding my arm by the elbow, his hand well away from the potion, the Ghost snapped another vial off his belt. He pulled the cork with his teeth and dribbled tangerine fluid over my hand. Cool tingles rushed across my skin and the pink stuff hissed, puffed smoke, then washed away.
He emptied the vial over my hand, rinsing away all the pink, then stepped back. I squinted at the tender spots on my skin and tried not to think about what would’ve happened if he hadn’t been carrying an antidote. When I looked up, I discovered we were alone again.
“Where are the things?” I asked shakily.
“The darkfae left.” He rolled one shoulder like it was hurting him. “It wasn’t an easy fight and they’re cowards at heart.”
“Huh. Where’s your fire sword?”
He didn’t offer an answer, but I supposed I didn’t need one. The saber must have dissolved back into nothing, the same way it had formed out of nothing. I glanced at his arms, but the rune tattoos were dark again.
His green eyes slid over me. “You’re impressively reckless with your wellbeing.”
He didn’t sound impressed. I folded my arms and scowled. “You’re very welcome for saving your sexy ass.”
His eyebrows shot up and I almost cringed. Think, then speak. I needed to practice that.
“Is this what you sneak off into the forest to do all the time?” I rushed on. “Trading lethal poisons with darkfae?”
“I don’t ‘sneak’ anywhere,” he growled.
I waved a hand dismissively. “But you do trade in black magic shit with darkfae?”
“Not all darkfae. And as you saw, some of them don’t like it.” He picked up a discarded vial and clipped it on his belt, then surveyed the clearing. Where the pink potion had splattered, the fallen leaves were disintegrating into dust, but that was the least of the damage. All the surrounding trees and shrubbery sported shriveled brown leaves—the life sucked out of them by the darkfae’s magic.
As he headed toward his discarded coat on the ground beside Nadine, she gulped. “Are you hurt?”
Her question came out as a faint warble and she pointed at his midriff with a quivering hand. Darkfae claws had shredded the bottom half of his shirt. He pulled the tatters up to check himself for injuries, giving us girls an amazing view of his ripped abs.
“No,” he said. “I’m fine.”
She nodded dumbly. I could practically see her panties melting. Mine had already evaporated.
As he pulled his coat on, I patted my cheeks, hoping they weren’t as red as Nadine’s. I needed a cold shower. The fact that this dude was a murdering rogue who freely traded in black magic with vicious darkfae should have been as sobering as an entire arctic sea dumped on my head, but that logic wasn’t working as well as it should.
He shrugged his coat into place, then located the other three potion bottles—unbroken, it turned out. Offering them to me, he lifted an eyebrow. “Can I trust you with these?”