Everything happened so quickly, the first man only now realized what had transpired. Blood poured from his broken nose as he stared, wide-eyed, at his friend. A roar of rage and horror erupted from him, and he leapt at me, hands raised to choke the life from me.

I held the dripping knife steady, waiting, waiting until he reached striking distance. Only then did I swoop low and gut him, sharp silver sinking into human flesh. His own momentum sent the blade deep.

He gasped as his knees buckled, and in the next instant he was dead, collapsed at my feet. I sucked in a breath of satisfaction. Simple. Easy. They deserved what they’d gotten.

I didn’t feel an ounce of remorse.

I couldn’t leave them like this, however, because I didn’t want anyone to realize I was responsible for this carnage. If they knew, they might begin to wonder how a delicate other-worlder interpreter, a peaceful Raka, had bested two burly human males.

Though I didn’t possess any fingerprints, I cleaned the knife with the men’s clothing to remove any evidence I might leave behind and placed the hilt in one of their hands. The other guy needed a weapon, too, so I performed a thorough search and found one strapped to his ankle. I dipped the tip in the other’s blood before wrapping his fingers around it. There. Done. They looked like they’d fought with each other, and both emerged the loser.

Satisfied with my work, I cleaned my hands in the grass as best I could and strolled back to the house. I whistled along the way.

“Where were you?” Claudia asked the moment she spied me. She stood on the porch steps, staring down at me in concern.

“I went for a walk,” I said, all innocence.

“But…” Her eyes grew wide, concerned. “There’s blood on your shirt.”

I glanced down and spotted the crimson splotches. Jonathan and Lucius joined her in the doorway, avidly watching and listening to our conversation. I felt Lucius’s questioning stare all the way to the marrow of my bones.

“Jonathan,” I said, forcing myself to tremble, “two of your men are knife fighting just over the north hill. I was coming to tell you.”

Lucius’s eye flared.

Jonathan frowned.

Claudia raced to my side. She wrapped her arm around my waist. “Knife fighting? Dear God. Let’s get out of here.”

I had to contain my smile as she ushered me to the limo.

That night, I waited for Lucius to come to me.

I stayed crouched under the window, in the shadows, practically glued to the wall. It wasn’t a comfortable fit, but I didn’t mind the pain. Anything to best Lucius.

I’d reinforced the balcony lock with steel pins, which would force him to crawl into my room through the highest, smallest window above me. I grinned because I knew he’d have to climb down from the roof to fit. Would he make the effort?

Oh, yes. He would.

I heard the gentle slide of glass, which meant he’d already disabled the security box. A moment later, I saw his booted feet peek through. Silently I jolted up, grabbed his ankles, and jerked him inside. Not expecting the action, he propelled to the ground, crashed hard and grunted. The wire he’d used to rappel from the roof snapped his feet back up.

I was on top of him in the next instant, my knife at his throat.

He wore all black, but no face mask shielded his face from view. A bead of sweat trickled down his temple. He remained where he was, silhouetted by shadows and moonlight, staring up at me.

“Think you’re funny?” he bit out on a quiet breath.

Like Lucius, I wore black pants and a black shirt. I’d hoped, by wearing these clothes, I’d ensure we wouldn’t become sidetracked.

“Well?” he said.

“Yes, I do.” I tapped the silver blade against his cheek. “Think I’m funny, that is.”

His gaze slitted. “Where’s your dog?”

“In the bathroom.” I’d locked her in and petted her to sleep on a fluffy pallet. I hadn’t wanted her to worry if Lucius and I tussled. “Sneak in on me once, and that’s my bad. Sneak in on me twice, and it’s yours.” I cut the wire to his feet.

His legs dropped to the ground with a thump, and Lucius sighed. He tangled a hand through his hair. “You’re turning out to be more than I ever expected. I’ve told you that, haven’t I?”

“Yes and I still take it as a compliment.” I inched off him and sat down, remaining in a crouch.

He pulled himself up and met my stare. “That’s how it was meant. Now, tell me what happened at Jonathan’s. Why was there blood on your shirt? Why were those two guards dead?”

“I did a little exploring, and those men followed me. They dragged me outside, behind some bushes, hoping to steal my skin and hair.”

His ice-blue eyes became hard, steely. “For the gold?”


“And?” he prompted when I said no more.

“And I killed them.”

“Were you hurt?” Once again his muscles tensed as he waited for my answer. He reached out and gripped my arm with vise-like strength.

“Not even bruised,” I assured him. I tossed the blade aside.

Instantly he relaxed. I told him what I’d learned about the solar flares, and he nodded. “That’s good stuff. There’s more there, I know it. Keep digging.”

“You do realize I’m winning, right? I’m truly kicking your ass.”

He grinned. “Yes, I realize you’re winning. You want to hear what happened after you left Jonathan’s or not?”

I tried not to let my eagerness show. “Tell me.”

First, he surprised me by tugging me to his side. I didn’t protest, but all the while I told myself I wasn’t going to have sex with him again. We’d been there, done that. Didn’t need the added complication. Again. One of his hands gently caressed my back, the other clasped my palm. “The men were found, but Jonathan assumed they’d simply killed each other. After we cleaned up the mess, Jonathan pulled me inside his study for a chat. He wouldn’t say EenLi’s name, but he offered to put me in touch with a man who could help me ‘obtain’ you.”

Excitement pounded through me. This was it. We were so close. Without removing my hand from his, I leaned back and rested my weight on one of my elbows. My hair spilled over my shoulder and onto his stomach, gold against our black clothing. “It won’t be long now.”

“No. It won’t be long.”

I nodded as satisfaction blended with my excitement. “I’m glad.” EenLi would soon send someone to abduct me. God, I couldn’t wait!

With his free hand Lucius wound long strands of my hair around his palm and tugged my face close to his. “I know having you taken is the plan, but I expect you to be armed. From this moment on, wear your weapons twenty-four/seven.”

“I do, anyway.”

“You’ll also inject the isotope I brought. It bonds to your cells and helps us track you.”

I frowned. “For how long?”

“Three months.”

“And if the mission is completed in two days?”

“Don’t argue.” His expression turned hard, unbending. “You understand the reason for it.”

“I don’t like the fact that anyone who knows about isotopes and computers will have access to my location.”

“We’re setting you up to become some bastard’s slave, Eden. Hopefully mine, but maybe not. You want to risk being captured and no one knowing where to find you?”

Damn it. I hated it when someone had a good point—a point that annihilatedmy point. He was right. There was a chance I’d be taken underground, hidden away by a stranger. “You’re right.” I sighed. “I’ll inject it.”

“Good girl.”

“I’ll inject it,” I added, “on one condition.”

“What condition is that?”

“Tell me your real name.”

He shook his head. “You still have two guesses, and I’m not telling you a damn thing.”

“At least tell me what your first name starts with.”

“Why do you even care?” he asked, an edge to his voice, layered by a forced casualness.

“I don’t like calling out a fake name during sex, okay?”

“We having sex again?” His lips twitched, and I felt my heart skip a beat. He looked so relaxed just then, so sexy. I loved it when he lost his reserve and simply enjoyed the moment. I don’t think he allowed himself to do that very often. Neither did I.

“No?” I said, more a question than a statement. Damn it.

“Liar. Tell me what the F stands for in your name.”

Oh, oh, oh. What was this? “I thought you didn’t care.”

“Maybe, like you, I was lying.”

“I’m not telling,” I said in a singsong voice. I liked, really liked, that he wanted to know.

His eyes dipped to my mouth, and he ran his bottom lip between his teeth. “I’m not telling, either, so I guess we have ourselves what’s called a Mexican standoff.”

“Looks that way.” I lost my smile. He looked like pure desire just then. Total pleasure. I gulped and hurried to change the subject, to get our minds on the right track. “When I’m taken I want you to kidnap Luc from here and take care of her until I return.”

“Consider it done.” The teasing light slowly extinguished in his eyes. Before I could protest, he rolled over and pinned me.

I held my breath as he stared down at me. Hell, even the room seemed to hold its breath. A thin beam of moonlight slipped past the curtains over the window, illuminating his bronze skin. A gentle breeze caused those curtains to dance over us, circle us in a wispy, private haven. My pulse leapt.

He braced himself on his hands, and his gaze raked over my clothes. His lips twitched. “Did you really think locking the balcony doors would stop me?”

Stay strong. Don’t give in.“Look, we have more to talk about.”

“You’re right. We’ve got a lot to talk about.” Reaching behind him, he tugged his shirt over his head.

My mouth watered at the sight of his pecs…his shredded abs. “Put your shirt back on.” I didn’t sound convincing, not in the least.

As he stared deeply into my eyes, hetsked under his tongue.“Silly girl. You’re going to be the death of me. You know that?” He leaned down, placing his mouth within a whisper of mine. His warm, soapy scent enveloped me. “Talk later. Fuck now.”

Then he was kissing me, and I was kissing him back. I forgot what I wanted to tell him, forgot everything but this man and his wicked mouth. Without slowing our kiss, he peeled away my clothes and weapons, as if I’d never been stupid enough to don them.

I tore off his pants, wanting—needing—skin-to-skin contact. His hardness to my softness. Nothing else mattered. I might hate myself for it later, but there it was. I knew how he felt buried deep inside me, and I craved that again. I knew how my name sounded on his lips as he found his pleasure.

Iwould have that again.

“You didn’t cut into my skin this time,” he whispered huskily against my lips. He stood, scooped me up and tossed me on the bed. The mattress bounced with my weight. He was beside me in the next instant. “That’s progress.”

“Why are you talking?” I tugged him down on top of me. He gave me his full, muscled weight.

I cradled his long, thick erection between my legs and rubbed against him, already wet, already willing. The friction nearly caused me to go off like a rocket. My honey scent blended with his pine scent, fragrancing the air.

He paused while I nipped at his jawbone, his neck, and he blinked. He pulled back, searching my gaze. Then he slowly grinned. “You smell like honey when you’re turned on.”

I stilled. I didn’t deny it, but I didn’t confess, either.

His smile widened. “I may be slow, but I finally figured it out. That day in the gym…”

“So what?” I snapped, my cheeks heating.

“Admit it, baby.” He laughed with genuine amusement. “I rocked your world then, and I’m rocking your world tonight.”

His male superiority irritated me. My eyes narrowed, and I seductively licked my lips. “Just for that,” I told him, “you’re going to be punished.”

Heat flared in his eyes, melting the ice into blue fire. “How? A spanking?”

He sounded so eager, I almost laughed. “Not a spanking.” Though I liked the idea of inflicting a bit of innocent pain, then easing away the sting.

“You sure?” A bead of sweat rolled down his temple and dangled at his chin. “I probably deserve a good, hard one.”

“You have to make me come three times.”

“Three?” He smirked.

“You only managed two last time.” I traced my hand between our bodies, letting my fingers graze his erection.

“Damn, you’re evil,” he said, but there was a layer of anticipation and relish in his tone. “Thankfully I’m up to the task.”

He swooped in and gave me another tongue-thrusting, frantic kiss. His hands and fingers worked over my body, plumping my breasts, pinching my nipples, caressing between my legs before darting away.

Within minutes, I was writhing and moaning his name. He licked his way down my body, and my belly quivered. Without pause or breath, he drove his tongue into the heart of me. I had to bite my hand to cut off the screams I couldn’t allow, causing sultry, hungry moans of total abandon to emerge. His tongue tormented me, made me ache and claw at his shoulders.

“You taste like you smell,” he murmured against me. “Honey and cinnamon.”