“Sod of a bitch,” he cursed, wiping at the blood just before the wound healed.

I cracked the whip again, catching his left ear.

“Sam, stop! I don’t want to fight you again.”

“Well you’re gonna.” The whip split the top of his right ear open this time.

“Sam.” The word dripped with warning.

I snickered and lashed the whip again. He yelped as it ripped through the sleeve of his top and sliced the skin of his forearm. His expression said ‘fine then’.

A spray of electric sparks abruptly came at me from shaking fingers. I held my palm out straight, slamming a protective shield in place. The sparks bounced back at Jared but he leapt in the air and did a perfect summersault over me. However by the time he had landed on his feet I was facing him with an energy ball in hand. He ducked, making the ball hit the filing cabinet behind him.

My wrists suddenly sizzled with pain; Jared had gripped them tight and was sending electric shocks through my hands and up my arms. Which would have been clever had it not been for the fact that the source of my gift wasn’t my hands; they were just my preferred outlet. Closing my eyes I inhaled deeply, concentrating hard on breathing in the energy around me, and I then whistled out a current of air strong enough to send him crashing into the already broken filing cabinets. Again he cursed at me.

In less than the time it took me to blink, Jared was behind me pinning my arms to my sides. I realised he had teleported himself there. Not as clever as he’d thought it was. I absorbed more energy into my palms and then wiggled my trapped arms enough to allow my hands to slide behind my back. If it had been anyone but Jared I might have felt guilty about what I was about to do, but I was sick of him being so sexist, sick of the way he looked down on me, and sick of how I still found him to be the most gorgeous bloke I’d ever seen. I slapped my hands over his crotch and emitted the energy I’d absorbed in the form of boiling heat.

Jared cried out and released me. When I turned he was on all fours, coughing and making noises that were a mixture of pain and total aggravation. Finally he peered up at me, his irises red. I expected him to try to electrocute me again, or curse at me, or growl at me, or maybe even strike me. Instead, he abruptly grabbed my leg and yanked. Suddenly I was lying on my back, my head the only thing not connecting with the floor, being slid toward him. And then he was on top of me and his mouth had closed over mine.

I might have fought him if there hadn’t been a blast of heat inside me the very second that his lips touched mine. And then bang; self-control gone. Conscious thought gone. Rest of the world gone. All I was aware of was this moment.

The kiss was hungry, dominant, possessive, demanding everything from me. His hands slithered into my hair and tugged and pulled, causing the sweetest pain. Each time his tongue stroked mine the heat just intensified until my whole body was burning. The feel of him was entirely too much but at the same time was nowhere near enough. I slid my arms around his neck and pulled him tighter against me and he growled into my mouth.

It had been so long, too long, since anyone had touched me like this. But nothing in my vampire life or my human life came remotely close to this moment. His hips rocked against mine, feeding the ache that was ruling my body and making me arch into him. And, God, the way he was kissing me...It was like he was claiming me, and the kiss just kept deepening and deepening, taking me down to a place where nothing but Jared and the feel of him mattered. I was ready to moan in protest when his lips left mine, but then they began to kiss their way down my throat and my body practically turned to liquid.

Sam, I heard in my head as he scraped his teeth over the pulse in my neck. I want you.

And God I wanted him too, but suddenly I had the sensation of someone splashing cold water on me and of another voice in my head. A browbeating voice. My conscience. Then a face flashed in my mind and I remembered that none of this should feel right.

“Joy.” That was all I managed to say. I breathed it more than I said it. I might see her as a twig-witch, but Jared was her boyfriend and here I was kissing him while she was wherever she was, none the wiser. That was so unlike me, but reason and rationality had just gone the second his lips united with mine.

“She’s just a consort,” he said against my neck, kissing it attentively. “I’m not committed to her, just like I’m not committed to Daniela or Tammy.”

Daniela and Tammy? There wasn’t just Joy? I didn’t know what was worse; the idea of sleeping with someone who I thought was already claimed, or the idea of sleeping with someone who would consider me nothing more than a notch on his already very busy bedpost.

He must have felt me tense beneath him because his mouth paused. “Sam?”

“Sounds like your dance card is already full.” I wriggled under him and pushed on his chest. Reluctantly he moved away.

He was gazing at me incredulously as we stood facing each other. “I don’t get it.”

Blokes! If he was a woman he’d be considered a bit of a slut, but apparently because he was a bloke it was completely normal and acceptable. “I suppose you probably don’t.”

“Look, if you’re offended that I haven’t asked you to be one of my consorts yet then, believe me, I was going to ask. I’ve wanted you since I first saw you.” He said it as though I should be so unbelievably flattered that I’d be bouncing on the spot with excitement like someone who had just won X-Factor.

“Well then you won’t like this: the answer’s ‘no’.”

“You are definitely one of the most confusing women I’ve ever met in my entire human and vampire years.” His tone didn’t suggest this was a bad thing.

“Seriously, Jared, did you honestly expect to hear ‘yes, yes, a thousand times yes’ to being a live-in prostitute – who does it for free, to make things more insulting.” I waved him away from me. “If you’re horny, you have three women on call for sex for whenever you need them so you know where to go.”

“You want me, I want you. I don’t see what they have to do with what just happened. They’re just consorts. They don’t even share my apartment with me. They share a separate one together.”

That made me laugh.

“What?”

“It’s just the idea of it. You having three women all living together just waiting for you to come along and have sex with them at your leisure, probably all at the same time. I’m actually offended that you think I’d be up for anything like that. Well, I don’t work well as part of a group, sorry.”

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