She couldn’t show up wearing any of the dresses or peasant skirts her sister had selected, so Sera had appropriated Jehan’s white linen tunic from the night of the banquet and a loose-fitting pair of linen pants. With the pant legs rolled up several times, the waist held around her by a makeshift red silk belt, and a pair of her own kid leather flats, her clothing wasn’t fashionable, but it was functional.
It also had the added benefit that it carried Jehan’s deliciously spicy scent, which had been teasing her senses ever since she slipped the tunic over her head.
She wasn’t sure how to explain what she was wearing, but then Karsten no longer seemed interested. His gaze flicked past Sera now, to where Jehan had just unloaded the last of the crates and supplies.
His brow rankled in confusion. “Who’s that?”
“A friend,” she said, unsure why she should feel awkward calling him that.
“He’s Breed.” Karsten’s eyes came back to her now, wariness flattening his lips as he lowered his voice. “You brought one of them into the camp?”
Even though it had been twenty years and counting since the Breed were outed to mankind, prejudices still lingered. Even in her affable coworker, apparently.
“It’s okay. Jehan is, ah...an old friend of my family.” She waved her hand in dismissal of his concerns. “Besides, we won’t be staying long. We have to get back to the villa tonight.”
Shit. She really didn’t want to explain the whole awkward family pact and handfasting scenario to him. For one thing, it was none of Karsten’s business—even if she did consider him a friend after they had dated briefly once upon a time. And maybe it was none of his business precisely because of the fact they had once dated.
Whatever the reason, she felt strangely protective of the time she’d spent with Jehan. It belonged to them—no one else.
“Once we get everything settled here in the camp, Jehan and I need to return. We’re expected to be back as soon as possible.” Which was about as close to the truth as she was going to get on that subject.
Karsten shook his head. “Well, you won’t be leaving tonight. There’s a big dust storm rolling in off the Sahara. It’s moving fast, due here in the next hour or less. No way you’ll be able to outrun it.”
“Oh, no.” A knot of anxiety tightened in her chest. “That’s awful news.”
“What’s awful news?”
Jehan’s deep voice awakened her nerve endings as sensually as a caress. He’d closed up the Rover and strode up behind her before she even realized it. When she pivoted to face him, she found his arresting blue eyes locked on Karsten.
“You must be Jehan.” Instead of extending his hand in greeting, Karsten’s fists balled on his hips. “I’m Karsten Hemmings, Sera’s partner.”
“Coworker.” Jehan subtly corrected him. And as far as introductions went, his didn’t exactly project friendliness either. His palm came down soft and warm—possessively—on her shoulder. “What’s awful news?”
She tried to act as though his lingering touch was no big deal, as if it wasn’t waking up every cell in her body and flooding her with heat. “There’s a dust storm coming. Karsten says we may have to wait it out here at the camp. I know we need to get back soon, though. Your brother’s waiting for us to return the Rover tonight—”
“Sera, if your friend has somewhere he needs to be,” Karsten piped in helpfully, “then why don’t you wait out the storm here at camp and I can bring you back to your parents’ place tomorrow, after it passes?”
“Not happening.” Jehan’s curt reply allowed no argument. “If Seraphina stays for any reason, so do I.”
Although he didn’t say it outright, the message was broadcasted loud and clear. He wasn’t about to leave her alone with Karsten, storm or no storm.
And if the protective, alpha tone of his voice hadn’t sent her heart into a free fall in her breast, she might have found the good sense to be offended by his unprovoked, aggressive reaction to the only other male in her current orbit.
Karsten smiled mildly and lifted a shoulder. “Suit yourself, then. I’m going to start boarding things up ahead of the storm. If you need me, Sera, you know where I am.”
She nodded and watched him walk away. Then she wheeled around to face Jehan. “You were very rude to my friend.”
“Friend?” He snorted under his breath. “That human thinks he’s more than a friend to you.” Jehan’s sharp blue eyes narrowed. “He was more than that at one time, wasn’t he?”
“No.” She shook her head. “We went on a few dates, nothing more. I wasn’t interested in him.”
“But he was interested in you. Still is.”
“You sound jealous.”
He exhaled harshly through flared nostrils. “Call it observant.”
“I called it jealous.” She stepped closer to him in the moonlight, weathering the heat that rolled off his big body and flashed from the depths of his smoldering gaze. His jaw was clamped hard, and the dark-stubbled skin that covered it seemed stretched too tightly across his handsome, perturbed face. “Why the hell should it bother you if Karsten is a friend of mine or something more? It’s not like you have any claim on me. I could go after him right now and there’s really nothing you can say about it.”
A low sound rumbled from deep inside of him. “I would hope you don’t intend to try me.”
“Why? Because of some stupid pact?” Her voice climbed with her frustration. “You don’t even believe in it, but yet you want to pretend we have to live by its terms.”
“I don’t give a fuck about the damned pact, Seraphina.”
“That didn’t stop you from using it as an excuse to make me feel like an idiot.”
Sparks ignited in the shadowed pools of his eyes. “If you really think my walking away from you that night had anything to do with the pact, then you are an idiot.”
She sucked in a breath, ready to hurl a curse at him, but he didn’t give her the chance.
In less than a pace, he closed the distance between them. One strong hand slid into her loose hair and around her nape. The other splayed against her lower spine as he drew her to him and took her mouth in a blazing hot, hungry kiss.
Seraphina moaned as pleasure and need swamped her. Her breasts crushed against the firm, muscled slabs of his chest. Against her belly, his cock was a thick, solid ridge of heat and power and carnal demand. Hunger tore through her, quicksilver and molten. It burned away her anger, obliterated her outrage and frustration. As he deepened their kiss and his tongue breached her parted lips, all she knew was need.
She speared her fingers into his thick, soft waves and clung to him, lost in desire and oblivious of their surroundings. Willing to ignore everything so long as Jehan was holding her like this, kissing her as if he’d been longing for it as much as she had.
He drew back on a snarled curse and looked at her. His eyes snapped with embers, his pupils nothing but vertical slits in the middle of all that fire. His wet lips peeled back off his teeth and fangs as he drew in a deep breath, scenting her like the predatory being he truly was.