"No game," Chase said, his piercing blue eyes steady. Clear. Honest, to Brock's amazement. "It was beneath me to act the way I did earlier, and I apologize."

Brock backed off, lifting his chin as he considered the surprising sincerity of Chase's words. "All right," he said slowly, cautious that he didn't get too comfortable too soon.

He'd been on enough missions with Sterling Chase. He'd seen him operate, and he knew the male could be a viper--both in armed combat and in wars of words. He was dangerous, and just because he was extending his hand in an apparent truce now didn't mean Brock should be too eager to turn his back to him.

"Okay," he murmured. "Apology accepted, man."

Chase nodded, then went back to cleaning his weapons. "By the way, that cut on your neck is bleeding."

Brock growled a curse as he reached up and ran his fingers over Jenna's little bite mark. There was only the faintest trace of blood there, but even a fraction of that would have been too much to escape the notice of one of the Breed. And under a truce or not, it was just like Chase not to let that notice slide by without comment.

"I'll be ready to roll at sundown," Brock said, his eyes trained on the bent blond head that didn't so much as twitch in response, Chase's attention remaining fixed on the work spread out on the table before him.

Brock pivoted and stalked out to the corridor. He hadn't needed the reminder about what had happened between Jenna and him. She'd been on his mind, occupying the bulk of his thoughts, since the moment he left her in his quarters.

Chase's apology made him realize that he owed one, as well.

He didn't want to leave things the way he had with Jenna. Part of him wondered if he'd been fair in how he'd pursued her, following her after she'd run away from him, fighting back tears. He'd drawn away her grief with his touch, but had doing so also made her more pliable to his own demanding need for her?

It hadn't been his plan to manipulate her into his bed, no matter how badly he'd wanted her. And if he had seduced her, there was no mistaking Jenna's desire once they had gotten started. It didn't take much to relive the feel of her hands on his skin, soft yet demanding. Her mouth had been hot and wet on his, giving and taking, driving him wild. Her body had sheathed him like slick, warm satin, a memory that had him growing hard just to think of it.

And then, when he'd felt the blunt pressure of her human teeth at his throat ...

Holy hell.

He'd never known anything so hot.

He had never known a woman as hot as Jenna, and he hadn't exactly been living the life of a monk that he lacked the basis for comparison.

Human females had long been his preferred type--a pleasant persion with no threat of attachment. He'd never even been tempted to think past a few nights when it came to his human lovers. Now he wondered if he hadn't been looking at Jenna Darrow in the same light. Deep down, he had to admit that he'd been hoping he could keep her in that neat little compartment.

As of now, he was determined to lock the lid down on his attraction to her and walk away while he had the chance.

But there was still the matter of how he'd left things with her.

Even if she was upset with him, which she had every right to be, he wanted her to know that he was sorry. Not sorry for the sex that had been so hot it was a wonder they hadn't combusted together, but sorry for taking off without manning up to his own weakness afterward. He wanted to set things straight so they could move on.

And what, be friends?

Hell, he wasn't even sure he knew how to do that. He could count his friends on one hand, and none of those friends were human. None of them were females who set him on fire just by being in the same room.

In spite of all that, he found himself standing outside his former quarters, his clenched fist poised to rap on the closed door. He dropped his knuckles against the panel in a light knock. There was no answer.

For a moment, he debated whether he should just turn around and let the whole thing lie. Chalk up the whole episode with Jenna as a lapse in judgment that he was never going to repeat. But before he could decide which would be the bigger offense--walking in uninvited or walking away again--he had opened the door.

The place was dark, not a single light on. He smelled shampoo and dissipating steam emanating from the bathroom as he strode silently through the apartment. He made no sound as he walked into the bedroom, where Jenna lay in his bed sleeping, curled away from him on her side. He drifted over to her, watching for a moment, listening to the slow, quiet rush of her breathing.

The urge to slip in beside her was a strong one, but he held himself in check. Barely.

Her dark hair spread over the pillow in damp, glossy strands. He reached out, let his fingers stray into its softness, careful that his touch didn't disturb her. His apology would have to wait. Maybe she wouldn't even want to hear it.

Yeah, maybe it would be best for both of them if he just backed off from anything personal and kept their interactions on a purely professional level for however long she might remain at the compound. God knew, that sounded like the most reasonable plan. The safest plan for both of them, but especially for her. Getting too close to someone he was assigned to protect meant getting sloppy at what he was trained to do.

He'd been there before, and a vibrant young woman paid the price with her life. He wasn't about to put Jenna in that kind of jeopardy. Sure, she was tough and capable, not the naive innocent who had put her trust in Brock and died for the mistake. But so long as he was charged with Jenna's well-being--entrusted with her protection--he was going to have to keep her at arm's length. That was one promise he was determined to keep.

Not that she'd likely argue, after the way he'd bungled things between them in this room.

He let the damp, dark tendril fall back into place on the pillow.

Without a word, without a sound, he backed away from the bed. He left the apartment as stealthily as he'd entered ... unaware that in the stillness of the bedroom, Jenna's eyes had opened, her breathing stopped as she listened to him make his almost perfect escape for a second time that night.

Chapter Fifteen

Earth to Jenna. Everything okay with you?"

"Huh? Oh. Yeah, I'm fine." Jenna glanced up at Alex, snapping herself out of the daze that had been hijacking her focus all night. Ever since Brock's unexpected B&E in her room a few hours ago. To say nothing of the incredible sex that had preceded it. "Just lost in my thoughts, I guess."

"That's exactly why I asked," Alex said. "You've been somewhere else since you sat down with me here tonight."

"I'm sorry. It's nothing to worry about. Everything is fine."

Jenna picked up her fork and chased a bite of salmon around her plate.

She wasn't hungry, but when Alex had fetched her for a quiet dinner together in her quarters, Jenna couldn't deny that she welcomed her best friend's company. She wanted to pretend, if only for a little while, that things were the same as they'd been in Alaska just a few weeks ago--before she'd known about her brother's corruption and death, before she'd learned about vampires and alien biotechnology and accelerated DNA mutations.

Before she'd compounded all of her problems by getting naked with Brock.

"Hello?" Across the table from her, Alex watched her over the rim of her beer glass. "FYI, in case you're wondering, you're doing it again, Jen.

What's going on with you?"

"I suppose you mean other than the obvious," Jenna replied, pushing aside her plate and leaning back in her chair.

She stared at her friend, the most sympathetic, supportive person she knew--the one person, aside from Brock, who'd given her the strength she needed to get through the worst of her life's ordeals. Jenna realized she owed Alex more than the usual don't-worry-about-me facade. Never mind the fact that Alex had the ability to see through any bullshit with her built-in lie detector, courtesy of her Breedmate genetics.

Jenna took a slow breath and let it out on a sigh. "Something happened earlier. Between Brock and me."

"Something ... happened?" Alex looked at her in silence for a moment before her brow knit into a frown. "Are you saying ..."

"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying." Jenna got up from the table and began clearing her place setting. "I was in the war room alone, after everyone had gone to bed. Brock came in, and we started talking, then we started kissing. Things got really intense, really quickly. I don't think either one of us meant for it to happen."

Alex followed her into the kitchen. "You and Brock ... slept together?"

she asked. "You had sex in the war room?"

"God, no. We just kissed in there. On the conference table. The sex came later, in his quarters. Or, rather, my quarters." Jenna felt a blush creep into her cheeks. She wasn't used to discussing her intimate life--mainly because she hadn't had one in a very long time. And certainly never anything as out of control as what she and Brock had shared. "Oh, for crissake, don't make me spell out every detail. Say something, Alex."

She stared, somewhat slack-jawed. "I'm, um ..."

"Shocked? Disappointed? You can tell me," Jenna said, trying to guess what her friend must think of her, having known how she'd avoided anything resembling a relationship or intimacy in the years since the accident, only to end up in bed with one of the Order's warriors after just a couple of days in his company. "You must think I'm pathetic. God knows I do."

"Jenna, no." Alex took her by the shoulders, forcing Jenna to hold her gaze. "I don't think any of those things at all. I'm surprised ... then again, not so much. It was obvious to me that you and Brock had a connection, even before you were brought here to the compound. And Kade mentioned to me a couple of times that Brock was very attracted to you and that he was concerned about you, protective of you."

"Really?" Curiosity fluttered to life inside her against her will. "He talked to Kade about me--when? What did he say?" She suddenly felt like a teenage girl prying for details on a schoolyard crush. "Oh, God--forget it. I don't want to know. It doesn't matter. What happened between us didn't mean anything. In fact, I'd really like to forget about it."

If only it was that easy to put the whole thing out of her mind.

Alex's eyes were soft, her words careful. "Is that what Brock thinks, too? That making love didn't mean anything? That you should try to pretend it didn't happen?"

Jenna thought back to the incredible passion they'd shared and his tender words afterward. He'd told her he didn't want her to regret it. He didn't want her to think it was a mistake. Sweet, caring words that he'd offered just moments before he'd fled from the room and left her sitting alone and confused in the dark.

"We agreed up front that there would be no strings, that it wasn't going to go anywhere between us," she heard herself murmur as she broke from Alex's gaze and pivoted to clear more dishes. She didn't want to think about how good it felt to be in Brock's arms, or the startling hungers he stirred within her. "It was just sex, Alex, and a onetime thing at that. I mean, it's not like I don't have bigger things to worry about, right? I'm not about to make everything worse by getting involved with him--physically or otherwise."

It sounded like a smart and reasonable argument, though whether she was trying to convince her friend or herself, she wasn't totally certain.

Alex drifted out of the kitchen behind her. "I think you already care about him, Jen. I think Brock has come to mean something to you, and it's got you terrified."

Jenna pivoted around, stricken to hear the dead-aim truth voiced out loud. "I don't want to feel anything for him. I can't, Alex."

"Would it be so bad if you did?"

"Yes," she replied, emphatic. "My life is uncertain enough as it is.

How foolish would I be if I let myself fall for him?"

Alex's smile was subtly compassionate. "I think there are worse things you could do. Brock's a good man."

Jenna shook her head. "He's not even totally human, in case either of us is tempted to forget that small fact. Although I probably should be questioning my own humanity, after the way I bit him earlier tonight."

Alex's brows arched. "You bit him?"

Too late to take back her careless blurt, Jenna tapped a finger against the side of her neck. "While we were in bed. I don't know what came over me. I suppose I got swept away in the moment, and I just ... bit him. Hard enough to draw blood."

"Oh," Alex replied slowly, studying her now. "And how did that feel to you, biting him?"

Jenna huffed out a short sigh. "Crazy. Impulsive. Like a runaway train. It was embarrassing as hell, if you want to know the truth. Brock seemed to think so, too. He couldn't get away from me fast enough afterward."

"Have you talked to him since then?"

"No, and I hope I don't have to. As I said, it's probably best that he and I both forget the whole thing."

But even as she said it, she couldn't help thinking back to the moment she'd realized he'd returned to the room after she'd showered and gone to bed. She couldn't help remembering how desperate she'd been to hear him speak to her--to say anything--in those quiet couple of minutes that he watched her in the dark, assuming she'd been asleep and didn't know he was there.

And now, after trying to convince herself and Alex, too, that she was in control of the situation with Brock, the memory of their passion put an undeniable quickness in her veins.


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