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A small smile played across his full lips. “I grabbed it because I like the feel of your magic. I want to feel that magic pulse through you as you wrap your lips around the head of my cock.”

I sucked in a breath. The pounding grew more persistent. His eyes danced with desire.

He was so fucking sexy.

I struggled for control as my grip on reality wobbled.

It’s the magic, Alexis. Your desire is because of the magic.

Or is it?

I clenched my jaw at that last traitorous thought. I was turning on me. I hated when I did that almost as much as when I didn’t listen to myself.

“You win the blunt award,” I struggled out, trying to play it cool. Predators liked a chase. I couldn’t let him know he was getting to me.

Or how hard he was getting to me.

Or how badly I wanted to feel how hard he was.

“Still a firm ‘no,’” I managed, unable to believe I was reacting like this. He’d stalked and threatened me, for criminy’s sake. And now he wanted to get me into bed? Was he Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hard-On? Because I wasn’t buying it.

Except I clearly was, because my core was throbbing and fire raged through my body.

I opened my mouth to…retaliate, or call him a fooking coont like Mick might’ve, or…something I hadn’t thought of, because my brain was buzzing strangely, when he went on.

“I’m here because I wanted to see the place a creature like you frequents. Before you ask, I stayed because the Guinness is good.”

“Wait…how’d you know I frequent this place—”

“I bought the blanket because you weren’t lying about the sick boy, though he’s less of a boy than I’d originally expected.” He paused, and cold replaced the heat from a moment before. Warning signals pulsed through my body again, but they didn’t eradicate the hot pounding. “I followed you yesterday because your inner fire and the strength of your magic, mixed with your apparent lack of status, intrigued me. I wondered what you were up to. Who you were working for.” He paused again, his eyes narrowing slightly. “But you’re not working for anyone, are you? Not anyone magical, at any rate. You are exactly as you appear on paper…except for everything to do with your magic. Your situation is incredibly perplexing, Alexis.” He shifted, studying me. “You live below the poverty level, doing odd jobs that require little skill. Your decrepit little house was passed down to you by your mother, who bought it shortly after you were born. She could’ve survived if she’d had access to treatment. You happily hole up in the worst part of town. It is as though you want to constantly struggle. You’re a hard and thorough worker—even the Chesters acknowledge that—but you never strive for more. Why is that?”

My mouth worked, but nothing came out. He was here because he was stalking me, and he’d done a lot of homework in a very short period.

His steady gaze never shifted from my eyes, as though we were the only two people in the room, and nothing short of the world ending could tear his focus away. I wished he were a little more easily distracted.

“How do you know all that?” I finally uttered.

His eyebrows lowered marginally. “We keep records on magical people. You must know that. For those with a larger-than-average power level, we usually keep extensive records, and the subject is strongly encouraged to live within the magical zones, at least part-time. But in your case…it seems there are varying reports in regards to your ability and the magnitude of your power. None of the reports are accurate. Not even remotely. What they have on file for your magical talent is ridiculous. Laughable, even. The bad reporting is another…perplexing aspect of you.”

It wasn’t perplexing at all. I just didn’t like people sticking their noses in my business, so whenever the low-level magical governing body employees brought me in for routine testing, I fluctuated my magic to mess with their equipment.

My magic wasn’t useful to society at large, but it was plenty useful to me.

I palmed my chest and took a step away. “I don’t have an above-average magnitude of power—this non-magical place has clearly bamboozled you. I don’t strive for more because all the jobs I could do are already being done by those with a lot more experience. Find someone else to stalk. I’m good right where I am.” I took a deep breath and straightened my shoulders. Throwing my weight around worked a lot better when I could keep up the facade of confidence. “Now, if you wouldn’t mind, get out of my chair.”

Our eyes met, and locked, the distance between us reducing until it was just him and me, his power and intensity washing over my body like a physical presence. Silence descended on the bar, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see more than a few people looking our way.

My legs shook, but I held my ground and his stare. Finally, slowly, a tiny smile tickled his lips. His eyes sparked fire.

“Sure, if that’s what you want.” He took his time lifting the Guinness to his mouth before draining it. The glass thunked softly as it hit the wood of the bar. He stood, still in no hurry, unfolding to his full height, which, as predicted, topped mine by at least five inches.

He stepped closer. His body came within inches of mine. Heat and electricity sizzled across my skin and fire pounded in my core. His sweet breath fell across my face, and it took everything in me not to back away. It took even more willpower not to close the distance and run my hands up his chest, exploring those defined pecs his shirt merely hinted at.

I couldn’t seem to get enough air. Swimming in that sexy magic was slowly turning to drowning, only I didn’t want a life raft. Something about him called to me. Something smooth and silky. Decadent. Like a rich, complex chocolate made with the finest ingredients. I wanted to taste. To experience.

To let him take me home, strip off my clothes, and show me how powerful he really was.

“Until next time, Alexis.” He bent, slowly, and suddenly I worried he’d try to kiss me.

I worried I’d let him.

He turned, and all too soon, though not soon enough, he was slipping by me and striding to the door.

“Arrogant prick,” the grizzled old man said as he reached for his drink.

“Yeah.” I put out a hand and braced myself against the bar. “He was, right? You don’t say those things to people you barely know. Even if you have the kind of magic that makes them want to hear those things…”

“He’s dangerous. You ought to steer clear,” said a wispy-haired man on the other side of my recently vacated chair, nothing in front of him. “Nothing good can come from tangoing with a man like that. I should know; I was like him once. Young and strong, with the whole world in front of me…”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” the grizzled man said, and turned back to face the bar.

“Women wanted me and men wanted to be me. I was in my element. Nothing could tear me down…”

“And yet here you are,” I said, grabbing my chair. “Clearly you took a wrong turn somewhere.”

The grizzled man snickered, and Liam stared at me from the other end of the bar.

I pressed my lips closed and hefted my chair, walking it back to its rightful place.

“Good for you,” Liam said as I set down my chair. Once I switched it for the wobbly one, I scooted in and sat down with a sigh.

“Good for you,” Liam said again. “Don’t let that bastard try to intimidate you.”

“Don’t show that he does intimidate me, at any rate, huh?” I took a big sip of the Guinness that had been waiting for me.

Mick growled something and reached for his beer. A moment later, he said, “Get me a whiskey, will ya, Liam?”

Liam ignored Mick. “All those powerful magical types do is throw their weight around,” he said. “They don’t care that this isn’t their territory. They come in here and bark commands like they own the place. Well, they don’t.”

“No, they do not. I’ll drink to that.” I raised my drink in the air before lifting it to my lips, trying not to gulp the whole thing down. I only half succeeded.

“And next time you see him, you just keep putting him in his place, Alexis,” Liam went on, quite chatty this evening. “You have the law on your side. If he tries to do anything you don’t like, you just go ahead and find the nearest cop. They’ll sort him out.”

“That’s…great, thanks,” I mumbled. I doubted any underpaid dual-society cop would want to mess with a guy like that.

“Because once those types get a whiff of something they want, they keep going until they get it. I’ve seen it before,” Liam said. “They leave young girls like you in a wake a mile long.”

“Feck sakes, what did someone do, pull your string?” Mick grumbled.

“But not with you, Alexis.” Liam nodded knowingly. “He’s met his match with you. You just keep on sticking up for yourself. You’ll give his royal highness a run for his money, you will.”

The sarcasm rang out loud and clear. There was obviously a reason Liam worked in a place like this, where he never had to meet influential or powerful people. Usually.

“It doesn’t matter.” I waved the whole thing away, hoping Liam would get the hint and bugger off. “I won’t be seeing him again. His curiosity has been satisfied. He had some misperceptions about me. This should be the end of it.”

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