She hungered, in a way she couldn't understand.


She hungered for him, so deeply it seemed to wring her out from the inside.


She wanted to taste him. To taste the power of what he was.


Panting in the wake of her release, she drew back from his mouth. He swore something dark and aggressive under his breath, his strokes growing more intense, veins and tendons popping up in his neck and shoulders like thick cables rising under his skin.


Holding on to him, Jenna let her head fall back for a moment, trying to lose herself in the rhythm of their bodies. Trying not to think about the gnawing ache that was festering in the center of her, the confusing yet irresistible impulse that called her gaze back to his strong neck. Back to the engorged veins that pulsed like war drums in her ears.


She pressed her face into the strong column of his neck and ran her tongue along the pulse point she found there. He groaned, a pleasured sound that only served as fuel for the fire still stoked and burning within her. She ventured a little more, closing her teeth over his skin. He snarled a raw curse, and she bit down tighter, feeling the surge of tension that arrowed through his whole body. He was on the edge now, his arms like granite around her, every thrust of his hips growing more intense.


Jenna clamped down harder on the soft skin caught between her teeth.


She bit down until he was frenzied and wild with passion ...


Until she tasted the first sweet drop of his blood against her tongue.


Chapter Fourteen


He didn't know what packed the stronger punch--the tight, wet heat of Jenna's sheath gripping his cock as he roared toward release, or her sudden, wholly unexpected nip at his neck.


Together, the two sensations proved cataclysmic.


Brock caught Jenna around her back and pushed her down beneath him as the knot of mounting pressure coiled tighter, hotter, then exploded.


Fangs bared and throbbing, he threw his head back on a guttural shout as he came, hard and fast and unrelenting, the most intense climax he'd ever known.


And even as it racked him, his release didn't slake his need for her.


Holy hell, not even close. His sex remained rigid inside her, still rampant and thrusting, operating on a will of its own as the earthy, sweet fragrance of Jenna's body mingled with the scent of his own blood.


He reached up to where the sting of her small bite burned. His fingertips came away sticky from the faint rivulet that trickled down onto his chest. "Jesus Christ," he hissed, his voice constricted with surprise and far too much arousal.


"I'm sorry," she murmured, sounding appalled. "I didn't mean to ..."


When he glanced down at Jenna, the amber glow of his transformed eyes played over her pretty face and then her mouth. Her kiss-swollen, gorgeous mouth. His blood was there, too, slick and red on her lips.


Everything Breed in him locked onto that dark, glossy stain, wild need flaring in his gut. All the worse when the tip of her pink tongue darted out to sweep the scarlet traces away.


Hunger ratcheted in him like a vise. He was already dangerous with need, and now this other, mounting craving. He reeled back, even though every savage impulse within him bellowed with the desire to take this woman in every way that one of his kind could.


Forcing himself to dial things down before they got any further out of his control, he pulled out of her warmth and swung his legs over the edge of the bed on a ripe curse. The floor was cold beneath his feet, frigid against his enlivened, sweat-sheened skin. When Jenna's hand came to rest lightly on his back, her touch went through him like a flame.


"Brock, are you okay?"


"I gotta go," he said, gruff words that scraped over his tongue.


It was hard as hell to make his body move off the bed when Jenna was so near, naked and beautiful. Touching him with sweet, though unnecessary, concern.


This encounter--the sex he'd so benevolently offered, thinking he had everything so well under control--was supposed to be about her. At least, that's what he'd convinced himself of when he'd kissed her in the war room and realized how long she'd been alone, untouched. But it had been a selfish move on his part.


He'd wanted her, and he'd fully expected that all it would take to get her out of his head--out of his system--was having her in his bed. He'd expected her to be like any other of his pleasantly casual, deliberately uncomplicated dalliances with human women. He couldn't have been more wrong. Instead of dousing his attraction to Jenna, making love with her had only increased his desire for her. He still wanted her, now more fiercely than before.


"I can't stay." The muttered statement was more a reinforcement for himself than an explanation directed at her. Without looking at her, knowing he wouldn't be able to find the strength to leave if he did, he stood up. He reached down to pick up his jeans and hastily put them on. "Sundown is coming soon. I've got patrol orders to review, weapons and munitions to prepare--"


"It's all right, you don't have to give me excuses," she interjected from behind him. "I wasn't going to ask you for a cuddle or anything."


That made him turn around to face her. He was relieved to see there was no judgment or anger in her expression, nor in the steady gaze that locked onto his, but he didn't quite buy the careful set of her jaw. She probably expected it made her look tough, unflappable--the cool, practiced confidence that said she would never back down from any challenge.


If he had just met her, he might have believed that look. But all he saw in that moment was the fragile, secret vulnerability that hid behind the take-no-bullshit mask.


"Don't think this was a mistake, Jenna. I don't want you to regret what happened here."


She shrugged. "What's to regret? It was just sex."


Incredible, mind-blowing sex, he mentally corrected, but refrained from saying so when just the thought made him grow even harder. God, he was going to need to find a very cold shower and fast. Or maybe an ice bath.


For a week straight.


"Yeah." He cleared his throat. "I have to go now. If your leg bothers you, or if there's anything else you need ... anything I can do for you, let me know. All right?"


She nodded, but he could see from the defiant glint of her eyes and the slight, stubborn rise of her chin that she would never ask. She might have been reluctant to accept his help before, but now she'd be damned determined to refuse anything he might offer.


If he'd wondered whether this encounter had been a mistake, the answer was staring him full in the face now.


"I'll see you around," he said, feeling just as lame as he sounded.


He didn't wait for her to tell him not to hold his breath, or something even more succinct. He turned away from her and left the bedroom, grabbing his T-shirt on his way out, and cursing himself as a first-rate asshole as he closed the door behind him and headed up the empty corridor.


--------


With a self-loathing groan, Jenna let herself fall back onto the bed as the door in the other room closed behind Brock. She'd always had a knack for scaring men off, with or without a loaded weapon in her hand, but sending a formidable male like Brock--a vampire, for crissake--into a post-sex bolt out the door ought to win her some kind of prize.


He said he didn't want her to think getting naked with him had been a mistake. Didn't want her to regret it. Yet the expression on his face as he'd looked at her seemed to contradict all of that. And the way he'd hightailed it out of the place didn't leave a lot of room for doubt, either.


"It was just sex," she muttered under her breath. "Get over it."


She didn't know why she should feel stung and embarrassed. If nothing else, she should be grateful for the release of so much pent-up sexual frustration. Obviously, she'd needed it. She couldn't remember ever feeling so heated and out of control as she had been with Brock. As sated as she was, her body still vibrated. All of her senses seemed tuned to a higher frequency than normal. Her skin felt alive, tingling with hypersensitivity, too tight for her body.


And then there was the tangle of her emotions. She lay back, awash in confusion about the still-ripe curiosity that had made her bite Brock--so hard, she'd actually drawn blood. The strange, spicy-sweet taste of him lingered on her tongue, as exotic and enigmatic as the man himself.


She had the fleeting sense that she ought to be appalled at what she'd done--in fact, she had been horrified immediately afterward--but as she lay there now, alone in the bed that belonged to him, some dark, twisted part of her craved even more.


What the hell was she thinking? She must be losing her mind to entertain thoughts like that, let alone to have acted on the impulse.


Or maybe what was driving her was something even worse ...


"Oh, shit." Jenna sat up, a sudden, sick worry coming over her.


Her blood work and DNA had begun to alter from the implant embedded inside her. What if that wasn't the only thing that was changing about her?


Dread sitting like a cold rock in her gut, she leapt out of the bed and hurried to the bathroom, flipping on all of the lights. Leaning over the marble counter, she peeled back her upper lip and stared into the large mirror.


No fangs.


Thank God.


Nothing staring back at her except her own familiar reflection, her own unremarkable, wholly human set of teeth. She'd never been so glad to see them since the day she first had her braces off at the awkward age of thirteen--a too-tall, too-tough tomboy who'd had to kick a lot of junior high school boys' asses for all the teasing she took about her metal mouth and training bra. A wry, half-hysterical laugh bubbled out of her. She could have saved herself a lot of effort and bruises if she'd been able to flash a pair of razor-sharp fangs at her schoolyard tormentors.


Jenna heaved a long sigh and sagged against the counter. She looked normal, which was a relief, but inside, she was different. She knew that, and she didn't need Gideon's latest test results to tell her that something very peculiar was going on under her skin.


In her bones.


In the blood that seemed to rush like rivers of lava through her veins.


She brought her hand up under the fall of her hair, brushing her fingers over her nape, where the Ancient had made his incision and embedded his piece of hateful biotechnology inside her. It had healed up; she felt no trace of it on the surface of her skin as she had before. But she'd seen the X rays; she knew it was there, burrowing deeper into her nerves and spinal cord. Infiltrating her DNA.


Becoming part of her.


"Oh, God," she murmured, a wave of nausea rolling up on her.


How much more messed up could her life get? She had something this monumental to deal with, and yet she'd gone and gotten naked with Brock.


Then again, maybe she'd needed to be with him precisely because of everything else she was dealing with lately. What she didn't need was to complicate an already overcomplicated situation.


She sure as hell didn't need to sit there and worry about what he might think of her now. She didn't need to go there at all, but telling herself that didn't keep the thoughts of him from entering her head.


And as she peeled the bandage from her healing thigh and turned on the shower, she told herself that she didn't need Brock or anyone else to help get her through whatever lay ahead. She'd been alone for a long time. She knew what it was to fight on her own, to pull herself through dark days.


But knowing that didn't keep her from leaning on the memory of Brock's strength--the soothing power of his tender words and his gifted hands. His gently murmured promises that she wasn't alone. That with him, she was safe.


"I don't need him," she whispered into the empty echo of the room. "I don't need anything from anyone."


There was a small quake in her voice, a wobbly note of fear that she despised hearing. She sucked in a sharp breath, blew it out on a curse.


Jenna stepped into the shower and under the warm spray, closing her eyes. She let the steam envelop her fully, let the steady rhythm of the falling water swallow up her soft, shaky sobs.


Brock should not have been surprised to run into one of the other warriors, since nightfall was approaching topside and most of the Order would be heading out soon on patrols of the city. But probably the dead last person he wanted to see as he came out of the shower room, where he'd spent a good hour under a frigid dousing, was Sterling Chase.


The former Enforcement Agent was cleaning his firearms on a table in the weapons room. He looked up from his work when Brock strode through, already dressed in black fatigues and combat boots, ready to get a jump on the night's missions.


"Looks like you and I are partners tonight," Chase drawled. "Lucan's sending Kade and Niko down to Rhode Island. Something about intel Reichen picked up on his recent work in Europe. They're heading out as soon as the sun sets."


Brock grunted. He and Chase, patrol partners? Talk about a bad day heading farther south. "Thanks for the update. I'll try not to accidentally kill you while we're looking for bad guys tonight."


Chase gave him a deadpan look. "Likewise."


"Shit," Brock hissed on a sharp exhale. "Which one of us pissed him off?"


Chase's brows arched under his short-cut, blond crown of hair.


"Lucan," Brock said. "I don't know why the hell he'd team us up, unless he's trying to prove a point to one or both of us."


"Actually, the assignment was my suggestion."


The admission didn't exactly make things better. Brock stilled, suspicion rankling his brow. "You suggested that we partner for patrol."


Chase inclined his head. "That's right. Consider it an olive branch. I was out of line earlier with regard to you and the human. I shouldn't have said what I said."


Brock stared, incredulous. He bore down on him, more than ready to escalate things if he got even so much as a whiff of duplicity out of the arrogant male. "Let me tell you something, Harvard. I don't know what kind of game you think you're playing, but you do not want to fuck with me."

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