So she saw the man get shot.
The impact wrenched his torso to the side, as the lead slug went into the meat of his shoulder, and she yelled for him to get down—which was stupid. The shooter was closing in on the victim and about to—
The salvation tackle came from the right, and whoever it was knew what they were doing. Somehow, they managed to get control of the weapon and take the shooter down to the floor at the same time. It was one in a million, unless, of course, they had been trained to do it.
Therese hit the floor hard, her teeth clapping together, the heels of her hands skidding on the wood. One of her knees burst open with pain, and so did her left elbow, and she was worried she’d been shot.
Rolling over, she curled into a ball as the trampling feet she had tried to avoid in the first place came in what seemed to be a fleet of thousands, the size of the crowd geometrically increasing now that she was at the mercy of their panic. If she stayed like this, she was going to get seriously hurt, assuming she wasn’t already, so she forced herself up, rising to all fours and scrambling as fast as she could in what she hoped was a straight line. She kept her head down to protect it as much as possible, and she prayed she could just get the hell out of the way—
Without warning, her body levitated.
She was on the floor, paddling with her hands and feet like she was in choppy water, and then she was in the air, nothing under her.
Her first thought was that someone had used her like a football and kicked her. But no. Arms were around her waist—or one arm was around her waist.
Looking forward, she saw the other of the pair thrust out in front, like one of those police battering rams that SWAT teams broke doors down with, and holy crap, it was working, clearing the path, getting her and her savior out of the crush. Determined not to be dropped, she grabbed onto the torso of whoever was carrying her, wrapping a tight hold around what turned out to be a hard, hard body.
After a few dozen feet, they were out of the chaos and away from the panic, but whoever it was didn’t stop. They seemed to want to run into the black wall—
A hidden door opened in advance of their going cartoon character through the Sheetrock, and then they were in a well-lit corridor.
The trap door slammed behind them.
Twisting around… she looked up into Trez Latimer’s harsh face.
* * *
Trez was breathing so hard, his eyesight was checker-boarding on him, although the visual optics were not the result of exertion. He had been scared fucking shitless as he’d tried to get Therese to safety.
He’d been up in his office, trying not to think about her, when he’d seen the fight break out between two asshats competing for the attention of a woman who was a sure thing either way. The men had started pushing and shoving, and then, of course, their buddies had gotten involved, the testosterone taking over and escalating everything. In a rather bored fashion, he had called down to Xhex and her team, but she was already headed in that direction, alerted by staff on the floor, and he was more than happy to stay out of it.
Except then, from his perch on high, he had seen a familiar face in the crowd, the flash of a laser illuminating what could only be Therese.
Without wasting a second, he had dematerialized through the glass, some sixth sense of impending doom calling him into furious action.
And then the shooting had broken out.
“Are you hurt?” he asked as he laid her down on the cold concrete floor of the passageway used to bring liquor to the bar during business hours.
“It’s you…” she said with wonder. “What are you doing here?”
Outside in the club proper, the music was abruptly cut off, the voices and yelling of the crowd taking the place of the beats.
“I own this place.” He stared down at her. “Are you hurt?”
“I don’t know.” She pushed her upper body up and looked herself over. “I don’t think so. I can’t smell blood.”
“Neither can I.”
Therese flexed arms. Flexed legs. Turned her hands over, assessed her elbows. “I’m okay.”
Annnnnnnd that was when a case of the woozies took Trez’s wheel, his body weaving even though he was kneeling. To keep from passing the hell out on the female—because, one, he didn’t want to crush her just after he had tried to save her from being crushed, and two, he’d pulled the fainting routine with her once already, so really, he’d prefer to keep things fresh and interesting by staying fucking conscious—he shifted to one side and sat on his ass. As they both stayed put and panted, he heard the sounds of sirens and the shuffling of feet.
“Do you need to go out there?” she asked him as she focused on the wall of the corridor.
He was momentarily distracted by looking her over himself. Her hair, previously so neat in that bun, had a halo of escaped curls, and there was a high flush on her cheeks, one that made her look especially lovely, in spite of all the drama. She also appeared to be totally not bleeding.
Fuck. His heart rate was never going to slow down.
What had she said? Oh, right.
“Xhex is on it.” Which was a good thing as he wasn’t sure whether he could stand up to go out there anyway. “You did really well—getting out of the way, I mean.”
“I was good until I couldn’t get on my feet.” She rubbed her eyes. “I was almost shot.”
As they fell silent, he was very aware that she was replaying the near miss just as he was. The idea that something like that could happen so fast—
“It happened so fast,” she said.
“I was thinking exactly the same thing.”
There was another slice of quiet, and then they looked at each other.
Later, when he replayed the next shock of the night, he would try to remember who reached for who first. Her? Him? He didn’t recall. Couldn’t recall.
Like it mattered?
All he knew for sure was that they were sitting side by side… and then they weren’t. They were in each other’s arms, and their mouths were fused, a desperate passion released, the adrenaline in their bloodstreams fueling a physical expression of the panic and the unexpected relief they both felt.
Therese’s lips moved against his own, and her tongue met his with the same kind of heat he was feeling in his veins. As her hands linked around the back of his neck, she arched up to him, her breasts pressing into his chest, her body weight now in his lap. The kissing was rough, and he told himself he needed to slow down, but that warning meant nothing to him. He didn’t know anything but the taste of her, the feel of her, the sense that what his brain told him was wrong was actually the rightest thing he had had since Selena’s death.
Because it was Selena.
The kissing, the touching, the passion that thickened his blood and his cock… it was his mate. He had been here before, he had done this before—
He had mourned the loss of this very connection. And its return was a benediction that wiped him out.
Well, not completely out. He retained enough presence of mind to lock the door they’d come through. The last thing he needed was for one of his staff to use the hidden passageway as an escape from the CPD, who were no doubt pulling up to the club right this moment.
Spurred on by a driving need, Trez swept his palm down to her hip. Then he brought it back up, under her risen arms, over her parka. He got some sense of the curves through the down padding, but it was not enough. Not nearly enough. Finding the opening between the halves, he plowed his greedy hand underneath and—
As he cupped her breast through the thin blouse of her waitress uniform, she cried out into his mouth, her body rolling against his torso, her legs churning on the concrete.
He needed her naked. Now.
He needed his own body naked. Now—
Bang! Bang! Bang!
The two of them jerked apart and he looked toward the trap door.
At least it wasn’t gunshots. And what a standard that was.
He also knew who it was. “Do not open that.”
Xhex’s voice was wry. “Just making sure you’re alive.”
“Affirmative.” Trez knew what the next question was going to be. “I don’t need help. We’re—I’m fine.”
“Okay.” As Xhex spoke, he could picture his chief of security shaking her head. “I’m handling things out here. Police have arrived.”
Trez closed his eyes and cursed. Then he focused on Therese—
She was staring up at him with wide, confused eyes, her fingertips resting lightly on her mouth.
“Are you all right?” he asked. “Are you hurt?”
Therese couldn’t concentrate on what Trez was saying to her.
She was back to when they’d been kissing, his hands on her body, his mouth on hers, his tongue penetrating her. It had not been like the quick kiss they’d shared before. That one had been a surprise. An impulse. Something that was backed away from quickly on both their parts.
But what had just happened? For one, if they hadn’t been interrupted, it wouldn’t have stopped until it was finished. For another… it was not the first time she had felt him against her. She recognized his lips, his hands, his scent.
Because he had come to her in her dreams.
This Shadow was somehow… her shadow lover. Except how was that possible?
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Trez’s eyes were worried, and he brushed a strand of her hair back from her face. “Do we need to get you medical help?”
Reaching up, she stroked his face with wonder. Maybe she was wrong, though. Maybe…
“Kiss me again,” she breathed.
As he hesitated, she was dimly aware that they were hardly in a private place. And this was not a good time, especially as urgent voices warred outside in the club proper. And moreover, she wasn’t sure where her head had gone after all that drama with the gun.
Except she didn’t care about any of that.
She had a hunger to reconnect with his mouth, his body, his… soul. A hunger that was so deep inside of her, she couldn’t understand it or determine its origin. Yes, he was a stunning male. And there was attraction on both sides. And whatever, whatever, whatever.