"I don't know what you mean," he said, despite the intense steadiness of his gaze that said there wasn't much that escaped his keen intellect. "What game do you think I'm playing?" Alex stared back at him, forcing herself to try to read in his eyes all the things he probably wouldn't tell her. "You tell me you're not a wolf hunter, but you let Big Dave and the other men believe that you are. You tell me you want information from me, yet you give up nothing in return. You're either one of the good guys, or you're not. So, which one are you, Kade?"

Something flickered across his expression. "Do you view everything in terms of right or wrong, black or white? Is everyone either good or bad in your judgment?"

"Yes, they are." She hadn't really thought about it in those terms, but she had to admit she took a certain comfort in the clarity of that. Right was right and wrong was wrong. In her experience, there was a very distinct line between good and bad.

And Kade still hadn't answered her question.

To her astonishment, he reached out and brushed his fingers across her cheek where some of her tangled hair had fallen into her face. She knew she should balk at the uninvited touch, but the warmth of his caress--even as fleeting as it was--felt too good to deny. "You can be honest with me, Alex. You can trust me that whatever you tell me, I mean you no harm."

God help her, but she was tempted to blurt out everything right then and there. She didn't know this man from Adam, really, and yet when she was looking in his eyes, still feeling the trailing heat of his touch on her skin, she wanted to believe that she truly could trust him. In some frightened, little-girl corner of her heart, she actually hoped that he might be able to help her banish some of the demons that had haunted her nearly all her life.

She felt, inexplicably, that if she told him about the beasts that killed her mom and her little brother-the same beasts she felt certain had killed the Toms family, as well--Kade would understand. That he, of all people, would be her strongest ally.

"You can tell me," he said, his deep voice so gentle and coaxing. "Tell me about the track in the snow. You know what made that footprint, don't you? Tell me, Alex. I want to help you, but I need you to help me first."

"I ..." Alex swallowed hard, finding it took more effort than she expected to work up her courage.

"What I saw ... it's hard to say the words ..."

"I know. But it's okay, I promise. You're safe with me." She drew in a nervous breath and got a sudden whiff of acrid smoke and the odor of unwashed clothing from somewhere nearby. No sooner had she registered the stale stench than she saw Skeeter Arnold and a couple of his stoner buddies shuffling from the bar back to the game room. A cell phone decorated in a skull-and-crossbones motif in one hand, a beer in the other, Skeeter tipped his bottle in Kade's direction as he passed. "Thanks for the brewskies, dude. That was straight-up righteous of you, man." Kade hardly spared Skeeter a glance, but Alex couldn't hide her revulsion. And she was glad for it, because the disgust she felt for Skeeter Arnold doused some of the temporary insanity that was making her think she could trust the stranger who was playing her like an instrument of his own design.

"I take it you aren't fond of that guy," Kade said as Alex weathered an inward shudder of repugnance. She grunted. "You know that video you mentioned to me, the footage of the Toms family that had been uploaded to the Internet? Well, that's the creep who did it."

Kade's eyes narrowed as they locked on to Skeeter from across the room. His gaze was more than intense--it was lethal. And as Alex watched him, she noticed that the pattern of tattoos on his forearms, part of them just visible under the pushed-up sleeves of his shirt, were not the henna color she remembered but a dark shade of deep blue-black.

Well, that was certainly odd.

Maybe she'd had one beer too many if she was seeing his tattoos change colors. Or maybe she simply remembered wrong. She'd been so gobsmacked by the unexpected sight of him at the Toms place earlier today, not to mention the fact that his incredible body had been half naked besides, it was completely possible that she'd mistaken the color of his ink. Except she'd never seen such an amazing work of body art ever in her life, and the image of him standing there, buttoning up his jeans like she'd just roused him out of bed, was a sight burned indelibly into her memory.

After a long minute of searing Skeeter Arnold with his eyes, Kade finally looked back at Alex. "I'll deal with him later. What you have to say is more important."

Alex took a step back now, sensing the danger in the man even though he was speaking to her in the same gentle tones as before. But something was different. There was an air of menace about him that put her on edge.

And there remained the fact that when she'd asked him if he was good or bad, he hadn't answered her.

"I think I'd better go now," she murmured, retreating another step before making a quick dodge past him.

"Alex," she heard him call from behind her.

But she kept moving, cutting through the knot of people packed into the bar and desperate for some cold, sobering air--and freedom from her troubling, visceral response to Kade.

Chapter Nine

Kade exhaled a low growl as he watched Alex cut through the tavern and all but run for the exit. He had pushed a little too hard with her, a tactic he should have known would fail just from the brief time he'd spent around her, studying the way she operated. Alexandra Maguire only dug in her heels harder if someone attempted to lean on her.

And then, on top of that, he'd made everything worse by having the bad sense to touch her. He hadn't been able to resist, and some part of him acknowledged even as it was happening that she'd seemed to welcome the contact. Right up until the moment that greasy slacker with the burnout's gaze and thin beak of a nose came walking up and disrupted them. Kade had a serious urge to pound the guy for that alone, never mind the fact that the stoner had also been the one to broadcast visual evidence of a vampire attack all over the World Wide Web.

As for dealing with Alex, Kade had seen the fear in her eyes as he pressed her for answers. She'd been terrified to spit the words out, but he was certain he'd been very close to getting her to open up completely about what exactly she knew. And the cold-as-ice feeling in his gut was telling him that what she knew went a whole lot deeper than just the recent attack and slaying of the family in the bush. Could she possibly be aware of the Breed's existence?

Had she seen one of his kind before?

Jesus Christ, what if she'd found more than just an un-explainable footprint out there at the Toms settlement?

If she had information that might implicate Seth in the killings--or clear him, slim as that hope seemed--Kade had to know. He had to know right now.

And if she did, in fact, have any inkling about the Breed, Kade figured it would be a hell of a lot easier to strip the memory from her outside in the shadows of the dimly lit parking lot than in the middle of a crowded restaurant and bar.

He stalked out after her to the snow-covered lot. She was already halfway across the short span of plowed tundra, walking briskly past the couple of pickup trucks and the half-dozen snowmachines parked outside Pete's. She didn't even break stride as the clank of the bell on the door sounded behind Kade as he leapt off the squat, covered porch and fell in, hot on her heels.

"Do you always run away when you get scared?"

That brought her up short. She pivoted around, an odd look on her face, as though his comment hit too close to home. But then she blinked and the look was gone, replaced with a narrowed gaze and a stubborn tilt of her hooded head. "Do you never give up, even when you know you're not going to win?"

"Never," he said, zero hesitation.

She muttered a particularly vivid curse and kept on walking, headed in the direction of the street. Kade caught up to her in a few long strides.

"You were going to tell me something back there in the tavern, Alex. Something important that I really need to know. What was it?"

"God!" She spun toward him, anger flashing in her brown doe eyes. "You're impossible, you know that?"

"And you're beautiful."

He didn't know why he said it, other than that he found it too hard to keep the thought inside his head when she was standing there looking windblown and wild, her cheeks carrying the pink kiss of the Arctic chill, her blond hair framing her face in tousled waves beneath the fur ruff of her parka's hood. If Brock or any of the other warriors in Boston had heard him just now, they'd guess that he was just playing this female, plying her with flattery to get what he wanted from her. Kade himself wanted to believe that was the cause of his ham-handed blurt. But as he looked at Alexandra Maguire, her simple beauty lit up by the thin moonlight overhead and the multicolored glow of the neon bar signs in the windows behind him, Kade knew that he wasn't playing any kind of game here. He was attracted to her--fiercely attracted--and he wanted her to understand that he wasn't the enemy.

Not precisely, at any rate.

Her outrage cooled to something resembling confusion as she started to take a backward step away from him. "I really have to go now."

Kade lifted his hand but stopped short of physically holding her back. "Alex, whatever secret you're keeping, you can tell me. Let me share some of the burden with you. Let me protect you from whatever it is that's got you so scared."

She shook her head, her light brown brows knitting together. "I don't need you. I don't even know you. And if I felt the need to share, I have friends I can talk to instead."

"But you haven't told any of them, have you." It wasn't a question, and she knew it as well as he did.

"There isn't another single person in your life who knows what you're keeping bottled inside you. Tell me if I'm wrong."

"Shut up," she murmured, her breath steaming on the chill air, her voice cracking softly. "Just ... shut up. Leave me alone. You don't know anything about me."

"Does anyone really know you, Alex?"

She went so still and quiet, Kade thought for sure he'd crossed yet another line that would drive her farther away from him. But she didn't spin around and leave him eating her wake. She didn't curse him out, or strike him, or scream for anyone to come out of Pete's and do it for her. She stood there, looking up into his eyes in a silence that felt so lost, so broken.

His warrior's duty to collect vital intel and erase a potential security risk for the Order collided with the sudden urge he had to offer comfort, to protect this female who professed so strongly to have no need for either.

Kade stepped closer to her, and then he did touch her again. Just the lightest brush of his fingertips over one golden strand of her hair as it caught on the wintry breeze. She didn't move. Her breath had stopped puffing through her parted lips, and this close, Kade could hear the rush of blood pulsing through her veins as her heart rate kicked into a faster beat.

"You asked me in the bar if I was a good guy or a bad guy," he reminded her, his voice low and rough for the awareness of her body's heat mingling with his as he inched tighter into her space. He shook his head slowly. "That's not my call to make, Alex. Maybe you'll find I'm some of both. The way I look at the world, everything is just a different shade of gray."

"No ... I can't live like that," she said, the tone of her voice naked with sincerity. "It would make it all too complicated, too hard to know what's true or not. Too hard to know what's real."

"I'm real," Kade said, holding her gaze as he stroked his fingers along the curve of her jaw. "And you feel very real to me, too."

She drew in a soft breath at his touch, and as her lips parted, Kade swept his mouth against hers in an impulsive--instantly electric--kiss.

He held her face tenderly in his palm as he brushed his lips over hers and savored the soft, wet heat of her mouth. Alex's kiss was sweet and open and giving ... so damned good. The feel of her body pressing against his sent a jolt of fire swimming through him, searing every nerve ending with the stamp of her lean curves and the warm, wind-and-woods scent of her.

He wasn't thinking about gathering intel or finding a quiet place to scrub her mind once he had the information he needed. The feeling he had right now had nothing to do with offering her comfort or protection, either.

All he felt was need for this woman, his desire for her startlingly intense. And a hunger that was growing more consuming the longer Alex remained in his arms. With a simple, unplanned kiss, she drowned him in a swamping tide of lust and bloodthirst. He hadn't fed since he arrived in Alaska, a careless oversight that now sank sharp talons into him, demanding to be slaked every bit as urgently as the throb that beat hard and hot between his legs. From somewhere in the hunger-drenched fog of his consciousness, Kade heard the rumbling approach of a vehicle nearing the parking lot. He wanted to ignore the low growl of the truck's engine, but then a male voice called out from the shadows.

"Alex? Everything all right out here?"

"Shit," she hissed, pulling back now. "This was a mistake." Kade said nothing as she retreated several more steps, but then speech would have proved a bit difficult, given the fact that his fangs now filled his mouth. She wouldn't look at him, which suited Kade just fine, since one glimpse of his eyes right now--transformed from the pale gray they normally were, to the bright amber glow that betrayed him as one of the Breed--would have turned the ill-conceived impulse of kissing her into a catastrophe of huge proportions.

"I never should have let you do that," she whispered, then ducked around him. Kade slanted a cautious look over his shoulder at the idling Blazer bearing Alaska State Trooper colors, watching as Alex walked up to it. "Hey, Zach. What's going on? I thought Jenna was at your house."


***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com