He shook his head, then brought her palm to his mouth and pressed a kiss to the center of her hand. "What I feel is anger, at myself. I never should have let her out of my sight, not even for a second. When news reached me that a young woman's brutalized, burned body had been recovered from a city river not far from the clubs, I felt sick with dread. I didn't want to believe it was her. Not even when I saw the corpse with my own eyes ...


what remained of it, after what someone had done to her prior to the three months she'd been left in the water."


Jenna winced, knowing all too well how horrific death could look, particularly to those who cared for the victim. And most especially to a man who had held himself responsible for a crime he had no way of anticipating, let alone preventing.


"She was unrecognizable, except for bits of clothing and a necklace she still wore when she was pulled out of the river. Burning her and cutting off her hands hadn't been enough for whoever killed her. She was also weighted down, making sure she wasn't discovered for a long time after she vanished."


"My God," Jenna whispered. "That kind of brutality and forethought doesn't just happen. Whoever did it did it for a reason."


Brock shrugged. "What reason could there possibly be to kill a defenseless young woman? She was just a kid. A beautiful, wild child who was living every moment. There was something addictive about her energy and her spirit. Corinne didn't give a damn what anyone said or thought, she just chewed through life without apologies. Grabbed hold of every day as though it was all going to end tomorrow. Jesus, little did she know."


Jenna saw the depth of his regret in his carefully schooled expression.


"When did you realize you had fallen in love with her?"


His gaze was distant in the dark of the backseat. "I don't remember how it happened. I made an effort to keep my feelings to myself. I never acted on them, not even when she flirted and teased. It wouldn't have been right. Corinne was too young, for one thing. And her father trusted me to watch over her."


Jenna smiled as she reached out to him, smoothing her hand along his rigid cheek and jaw. "You're an honorable man, Brock. You were then, and you are now."


He shook his head slowly, reflecting for a moment. "I failed. What happened to Corinne--God, what her killers did to her body--was beyond comprehension. It never should have happened. I was supposed to keep her safe. It took me a long time to accept that she was gone--that the charred and desecrated remains had once been the vibrant young woman I'd known since she was a child. I wanted to deny she was dead. Hell, I denied it to myself for a long time, even searched for her across three states, convincing myself she was still out there, that I could save her. It never brought her back."


Jenna watched him, seeing the torment that still lived inside him. "Do you wish you could bring her back?"


"I had been hired to protect her. That was my job, the promise I made every time she stepped out of her father's Darkhaven. I would have traded my life for Corinne's without hesitation."


"And now?" Jenna asked quietly, realizing she was half afraid to hear that he might still love the beautiful ghost from his past.


But when Brock's gaze lifted, his eyes were steady and serious, centered completely on her. His touch was warm and lingering against her face, his mouth so very close to hers. "Wouldn't you rather know how I feel about you?" He stroked his thumb over her lips, the barest skate of contact, and yet she sizzled deep within. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about you, and believe me, I've tried. Getting involved was never in my plans."


"I know," she said. "Allergic to relationships. I remember."


"I've been careful for a long time, Jenna." His voice was thick, a low rasp that vibrated into her bones. "I try very hard not to make mistakes.


Especially ones that can't be reversed."


She swallowed, suddenly concerned that his voice had gotten too serious. "You don't owe me anything, if that's what you think."


"That's where you're wrong," he said. "I do owe you something--an apology for what happened between us the other night."


She shook her head in denial. "Brock, don't--"


He caught her chin in his grasp and drew her attention back to his gaze. "I wanted you, Jenna. The way I pursued you into my bed probably wasn't fair. It sure as hell wasn't honorable, using my talent to dull your grief when it might also have drawn away some of your will."


"No." She touched his face, recalling very well how good it had felt to be kissing him, touching him, lying naked with him in his bed. She'd been more than willing to know that kind of pleasure with him, then and now. "It wasn't like that, Brock. And you don't have to explain--"


"Most of all," he said, talking past her denials, "I owe you an apology for suggesting that sex with you would be purely physical, without strings or expectations beyond the moment. I was in the wrong. You deserve more than that, Jenna. You deserve far more than anything I can offer you."


"I didn't ask you for anything more." She caressed the line of his jaw, then let her fingers drift down the strong column of his neck. "And the desire was mutual, Brock. My will was my own. It still is. And I would do it all over again with you."


His answering growl was purely male as he drew her to him and kissed her deeply. He held her close, his heartbeat thudding powerfully, the heat of his body seeping in through her skin like a balm. When he broke from her mouth, his breath was ragged through his teeth and bright points of his fangs. His dark eyes glittered with brilliant amber sparks. "Christ, Jenna ... what I want to do right now is turn this car around and drive off somewhere with you. Just the two of us. Just for a little while, away from everything else."


The idea was more than tempting but made even more irresistible when he leaned in and caught her in a sensual, bone-melting kiss. She wrapped her arms around him and met his tongue with her own, losing herself in the erotic joining of their mouths. He made a low noise in the back of his throat, a rumbling growl that vibrated through her as he drew her deeper into his arms, deeper into his kiss.


Jenna felt the abrading scrape of his fangs against her tongue, felt the hard ridge of his arousal pressing against her hip as he pivoted her around to the long bench seat and covered her with his body.


"Gideon's waiting for us in the tech lab," she managed to whisper as he broke away from her mouth to rain a dizzying trail of kisses along the sensitive skin below her ear. They'd phoned in from the road an hour ago, alerting Gideon and Lucan to the situation they'd encountered in New York and letting them know they were heading back to the compound. "They're expecting us to report in as soon as we arrive."


"Yes," he growled, but he didn't stop kissing her.


He unzipped her coat and slid his hand underneath her shirt. He caressed her breasts over the thin fabric of her bra, teasing her nipples to pebble-hard peaks. She writhed beneath him as he moved atop her, slow thrusts of his pelvis that made her body weep with the need to feel him naked against her. Buried inside her.


"Brock," she gasped, all but lost to the passion he was stoking in her.


"Gideon knows we're in here. There's probably a security camera trained on us right now."


"Tinted windows," he rasped, glancing up at her with a sexy grin that bared the gleaming tips of his fangs and made her stomach flip. "Nobody can see a thing. Now stop thinking about Gideon and kiss me."


He didn't have to tell her to stop thinking. His hands and lips erased all thought, except the yearning she had for more of him. He kissed her with demand, pushing his tongue into her mouth like he meant to devour her. His passion was intoxicating and she drank him in, clutching at him, inwardly cursing their inconvenient clothing and the confining interior of the Rover.


She wanted him even more intensely than the first time, her desire fueled by the sweetness of his unnecessary apology and the adrenaline that was still simmering in her veins from all they'd gone through together that day. Murmuring his name around broken, pleasured gasps as his mouth roamed along the side of her neck and his hands caressed the aching swells of her breasts, Jenna knew that if they stayed in the vehicle even one more minute, they would end up naked right there in the backseat. Not that she'd complain. She hardly had the breath to do anything more than moan in pleasure as he slipped his hand between her legs and rocked his palm against her in a masterful rhythm.


"Oh, God," she whispered. "Please, don't stop."


But he did stop--not even a second later. He went still above her, his head snapping up. Then she heard it, too.


The roar of a fast-approaching vehicle outside the fleet hangar. The garage door opened and one of the Order's other black SUVs came flying inside. It screeched to a halt a few spaces away from them, and one of the warriors leapt out of the driver's seat.


"It's Chase," Brock murmured, frowning as he watched out the back window. "Shit. Something's wrong. Stay in here, if you'd rather not let him know we were together just now."


"Forget it. I'm going with you," she said, then pulled herself together and followed him out of the Rover to meet the other Breed male. Sterling Chase was heading for the compound elevator at an urgent clip. He glanced over at Brock and Jenna as they approached. If he guessed at what he'd interrupted, the shrewd blue eyes gave nothing away.


"What's going on?" Brock asked, nothing but business in his deep voice.


Chase was equally grim, hardly slowing down to talk. "You haven't heard?"


Brock gave a curt shake of his head. "We just came in ourselves."


"Got a call from Mathias Rowan a few minutes ago," Chase said.


"There's been an abduction at one of the Boston area Darkhavens tonight."


"Oh, my God," Jenna whispered, stricken. "Not another Breedmate?"


Chase shook his head. "A young male, fourteen years old. He also happens to be the grandson of a Gen One elder named Lazaro Archer."


"Gen One," Brock muttered, instincts prickling with alarm. "That can't possibly be a coincidence."


"Doubtful," Chase agreed. "The Enforcement Agency is questioning witnesses, trying to grab any leads they can on where the kid might have been taken, and why. Meanwhile Lazaro Archer and his son, Christophe, the boy's father, are making noise that they want to meet with his abductors personally--whoever they are--to negotiate for his release."


"Ah, Christ. Bad fucking idea," Brock said, sliding a tense look at Jenna as they followed Chase across the garage. "There's only one person I can think of who'd have any cause to snatch a Gen One's family member. It's a trap, Harvard. I smell Dragos all over this."


"So do I. And so does Lucan." Chase paused with them in front of the hangar's elevator and pressed the call button. "He's arranged a meeting with the Gen One and his son here at the compound. Tegan's going to pick them up within the hour."


Chapter Twenty-two


Lucan and Gideon were waiting for them as soon as Brock came off the elevator with Jenna and Chase.


"Hell of a goddamned day," Lucan muttered, taking them in with a glance. "You both all right?"


Brock stole a look at Jenna, who stood calm and steady beside him.


She was a little scraped up and bruised, but thankfully she was whole.


"Could've been worse."


Lucan raked a hand through his dark hair. "Dragos is getting bolder all the time. Minions in the fucking FBI, for crissake."


"What the hell?" Chase frowned, shooting an incredulous look between Brock and Jenna. "You mean the Fed you met with today--"


"He belonged to Dragos," Brock replied. "He and another of Dragos's mind slaves grabbed her inside the building and took off with her. I pursued the vehicle but wasn't able to catch up to them until they crashed on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge."


Chase exhaled a low curse. "You two are lucky to be alive."


"Yeah," Brock agreed. "Thanks to Jenna. She took out both Minions, then saved my bacon from going crispy, as well."


"No shit?" Some of the edge left Chase's hard blue gaze as he looked at her. "Not bad for a human. I'm impressed."


She shrugged off the compliment. "I should have known something wasn't right with the agent I met with. I did know, actually. I had a certain ...


sense, I guess you could say. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but all through the meeting I kept thinking something was odd about him."


"What do you mean?" Gideon asked.


She frowned, considering. "I don't know exactly. It was just something instinctual. His eyes made me uncomfortable, and I kept getting a weird feeling that he wasn't quite ... normal."


"You knew he wasn't quite human," Brock suggested, as surprised as the rest of the warriors to hear her admission. "You sensed he was a Minion?"


"I suppose I did." She nodded. "But I didn't know to call him that at the time. All I knew was he made my skin crawl the longer I was near him."


Brock didn't miss the silent glance that passed between Gideon and Lucan.


Neither did Jenna. "What is it? Tell me why you're so quiet all of a sudden."


"Human beings don't have the ability to detect Minions," Brock answered. " Homo sapiens senses aren't acute enough to pick up on the difference between a mortal and someone whose will belongs to a Breed master."


She arched her brows. "You think this is also related to the implant, don't you? The alien gift that keeps on giving." She huffed out a sharp laugh.

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