Book 1: Immortally Sexy
Justine slid the papers back into the envelope and looked at her doorman. “So, who left these papers?”
She spun around, her hand going to the dagger at the small of her back. A man in a business suit was standing inside the lobby doors, a briefcase in one hand. He looked just over six feet, short dark hair and a stance that exuded readiness. He was absolutely gorgeous and made her mouth go dry, which meant the odds that she was going to have to kill him were quite high.
And he looked very, very familiar.
Xavier moved next to her. “Want me to get rid of him?”
“No. Not yet.” She eased away from the doorman so he didn’t cramp her movement. “Who are you?”
“Didn’t my brother say I’d be coming by? I asked him to stop by earlier.”
“Your brother?” This was the surfer dude’s brother? “He wasn’t real chatty.”
The man sighed. “Yes, sometimes he’s a bit distracted.”
Her fingers closed around the knife. “Do I know you?” It was his chin, she decided. She knew that chin. Nice angle, strong. Masculine. “You look familiar.”
He lifted a brow. Nice eyebrows. Would he mind if she licked them? Yikes. No sex, remember? “My brother looks like me,” he said.
“No, he doesn’t.” Not at all. “Not that I believe he was your brother. Paid assassin is more likely.”
The man raised an eyebrow. “Assassin?”
“Yes, and he wasn’t a very good one either. Next time you should check references.”
“If I ever hire an assassin, I’ll be sure to keep your advice in mind.” He took a few steps toward her, and she moved to her right, drifting toward the middle of the lobby so she’d have room to maneuver. “At the moment, however, I just want to ask you some questions.”
“Ask away.” Seeing as how his “brother” had tried to kill her earlier today, she knew she ought to take him out first and skip the questions. But unlike Theresa, she didn’t get a thrill out of killing people, and she was still hoping he’d turn out to be a vacuum cleaner salesman.
He moved opposite her, until they were both moving in a slow circle, like assailants looking for an opening.
Which she was.
A spike of adrenaline washed over her. She hadn’t had a good battle in forever. How fun would it be to have one now? Maybe she couldn’t sleep with him, but she could knock him around a bit.
“You know any dragons?”
She stopped. “What?”
“Dragons. Know any?”
Who was this guy? “Xavier, I think you should leave.”
“I think he should leave. I think he’s tired and needs a nap,” Xavier replied.
“Shut up!” The man glared at Xavier. “You say one more thing and I’m blowing your cover.”
Justine eyed her doorman, who nodded and closed his mouth. “Um, what cover?” she asked Xavier.
“Nothing. You asked me to leave and I will.” Xavier scowled at their visitor. “You hurt her, and you’ll die.”
The man didn’t look impressed by the threat. “Go have some coffee.”
Xavier growled, but he walked out the door, muttering what sounded like orders to go to sleep immediately.
She directed her attention back to the man, catching the tail end of a yawn. “Who are you?”
He yawned again. “The Curse. I need to know how to stop it.”
He staggered slightly and slapped his cheek, even as he yawned again. “Bastard.” His epithet was mumbled, his eyes bleary.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Xavier.” He blinked and stumbled over to the wall. He leaned against it, then slid down to the floor, his head collapsing back against the wall with a thud. “The dragon. The goblet. Need answers.” His eyes closed for a moment, before he jerked them open again.
She let her fingers slide off the dagger. “What goblet?” Was he faking it? He didn’t look like it. He looked like he was about to pass out.
“Eternal youth.” His eyes closed and his head slumped forward.
Shit. He knew what he was talking about. At least he didn’t know Mona was an espresso machine… or did he? “What do you know about it?”
She withdrew her gun and pointed it at him, them eased over to him, nudging him with her toe.
Was he dead?
Keeping her gun out, she squatted next to him and felt his pulse. Strong.
He was alive.
And he smelled divine.
She took a quick glance around, then leaned forward and buried her nose in his neck. Closed her eyes and inhaled him. He smelled like man, like woods and sophistication, all tangled up together. Surfer boy had smelled good, but this guy smelled incredible.
“What’s going on down there?” Theresa’s voice bellowed out from the intercom.
She jumped and sat up. “He passed out.”
“Who is he?”
“I don’t know.” She flipped open his suit jacket and felt for a wallet, trying not to notice he had a very nice chest. “Got a wallet.”
“Is he hot?”
“I didn’t notice.”
“Liar! Take advantage of him while he’s unconscious.”
“Don’t tempt me.” She opened his wallet and pulled out a driver’s license. “Holy shit.”
She collapsed against the wall, staring at the words.
“His name. It’s Derek LaValle.”
Silence for a moment. “You think he’s related to Carl?”
Her heart thudding in her chest, she turned and studied Derek’s profile. He had Carl’s chin. “Yes.” No wonder he’d looked familiar.
“Well, shit and damn. Is he as good looking as Carl was?”
“Better.” She clenched the license in her hand.
“Better? He must be gorgeous! Is he gay, like Carl was? Or is this guy fair game?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, did he check out your breasts before he passed out?”
“Theresa! I don’t know! God, what am I supposed to do with him?”
“Bring him upstairs. We’ll handcuff him to your bed and torture him sexually until he confesses all. If we blindfold him, do you think he’ll realize I’m a dragon?”
“I think I should kill him.” She stood up and pulled out her knife. “Carl betrayed me. This guy’s ‘brother’ already tried to kill me today. There’s no way this guy can be anything but a danger to us.” But she stood there staring at Derek, who wasn’t moving. She really didn’t think killing in cold blood was the best approach, given her mom’s situation. Plus he was so good-looking and smelled really delicious, and, well, would it be so bad to take a couple minutes to inhale him? Not long. Just a brief moment.
“Justine? Did you kill him? I don’t hear any blood rushing around down there.”
She shoved the dagger back in its sheath. “I’m bringing him up.”
“Oh, goody. Can we torture him? Burn him up? Use him until we’re all heavily sated and exhausted?”
“No, to everything except burning him up, and that’s a maybe.”
“Sweet. This will be so fun!”
Justine eased behind him and wrapped her arms under his arms and around his chest… oh, wow. It felt so good to have him smashed up against her. Maybe Theresa was right. Maybe she should make him her love slave for the next few hundred years… She dragged him into the elevator, got his feet clear of the door…but didn’t let go.
Not yet. She wanted to enjoy this sensation for another minute. Granted, he was passed out and limp against her, but she could feel his muscles. He was a man, for God’s sake, and he was in her arms. It had been so long. Was this why Theresa had turned to cybersex? But how could cybersex possible make up for the feeling of a man’s body against hers, the heat from his skin pressing against her and—
He twitched, spun around in her arms and flipped her beneath him, trapping her instantly under the weight of his body, on the floor of the elevator. Big enough for transporting couches, the elevator was apparently also large enough for to adults to stretch out in a very intimate fashion.
He opened his gorgeous eyes and peered down at her, the slightest hint of smugness in his expression.
Oh, so that’s how it was? Try to lull her into submission with his manly appeal and then take her out? Not so much. She was a Guardian first and a woman second, and he was so going down. But damn, he smelled good.
* * *
His first thought was that the sketches in the journal didn’t do her justice.
His second thought was that her body felt extremely nice under his.
His third thought was that she had on a gun holster under her jacket.
He suddenly didn’t feel so bad about pinning her to the floor of the elevator. “You planning to shoot someone?”
“You.” She didn’t sound contrite. Or worried. “Will you please attack me now?”
Adrenaline rushed through him as he stared down at her flushed cheeks and disheveled hair. “Attack you, how?”
“Try to kill me.”
“Oh.” He’d thought of a much friendlier, more intimate kind of assault than killing her. Yeesh. Mind in the gutter? He was here to find out whether she was the woman he had to behead, not take advantage of the fact he was lying on top of her. “Why do you want me to kill you?”
She rolled her fantastically gorgeous green eyes, and for a moment, he forgot about everything except getting sucked up into them. He still couldn’t believe how much she looked like the drawings in Carl’s journal. Either this woman was an immortal Guardian (holy shit!) or she was the descendent of the woman in the journal. Either way, he wasn’t leaving without answers.
“I don’t want you to kill me. I just want you to try, so I can slay you in self-defense,” she said.
“Ah.” With that answer, it was time to disarm her. He shifted slightly and removed the gun from its holster. She didn’t try to stop him. Not that she had a choice. He was pretty impressed with the position he’d gotten her in, actually. Might stay here for a while. Just until he was sure she wasn’t going to kill him. Yeah, that was why he didn’t want to move. Self-preservation. “Thanks for the offer to battle to the death, but I’ll pass for now.”
She scowled. “You’re not very accommodating.”
“My apologies. My family would no doubt be disappointed in my unwillingness to help someone kill me.”
She lifted a brow at that. “Really? Your family wants you dead?”
“Locked up at least.”
She looked much more interested now. “Why?”
“Apparently, I’m insane.”
She tilted her head, seeming not at all concerned she was still pinned underneath him. Either she sensed he wasn’t going to hurt her (yet), or she was entirely serious about her ability to kill him.
Maybe Xavier wasn’t the only one with supernatural-ass-kicking skills. He shifted his position again, a more secure setting that put his thigh in a very interesting place. He tried not to notice, but her sharp intake of breath and the sudden glow in her eyes made it absolutely impossible for him not to think about it. Or wonder what her lips tasted like. And…
She cleared her throat and took a deep breath. “Well, so, why are you insane?” Her voice was a little high pitched. A little frazzled.
He grinned. No problem. They could have a perfectly normal conversation while their legs were entwined and his pelvis was pressed against hers. Easy. Ahem. “I’m insane because I believe in Curses, dragons, Guardians and the Goblet of Eternal Youth.”
Her face froze for a split second, before she gave him an easy smile. Too late. He’d seen her expression. She knew exactly what he was talking about. Question #1: answered. “You really believe in that stuff?” she asked.
“No. I’m a secular kind of gal.”
At that point, the elevator door slid open, and he glanced instinctively into the room. The door to the apartment swung open, and the blue head of a dragon popped into the elevator, its eyes instantly widening. “Shit!” It punched the emergency stop button in the elevator, then slammed the door shut. He heard something crash inside, followed by another curse.
Holy crap. There really was a dragon? And it talked? Jesus. He was never going to recover from this night.
* * *
Justine took one look at Derek’s stunned expression and knew she was in trouble.
He’d seen Theresa, he knew what she was, and he wasn’t about to believe it was a Halloween costume.
He looked down at her, his facing twitching with the effort of keeping his composure. She was pretty impressed he hadn’t leapt to his feet and tried to bolt to safety. It wasn’t every day one had their first look at a fire-breathing dragon. The man had backbone, and she was a sucker for tough men.
“Care to amend your claim of being a secular girl who doesn’t believe in dragons?” he asked. Okay, so his voice was a little strained. It was sort of cute actually. Big man afraid of a lady dragon.
“No.” Yeah, great reply. Where was her brain? Why couldn’t she think of a smart retort? Just because she was having trouble thinking about anything other than the fact that there was a man between her legs didn’t mean she had to completely abandon her Guardian skills.
He lifted a brow. “So, tell me this. Are you the Guardian or merely her offspring?”
She pressed her lips together. What was she supposed to tell him? It was a little late to pretend to be the sweet Catholic girl from down the street. Not that she was in a good bargaining position. He had her in a very secure hold. She tried to move her wrist, and he grinned.
She had no chance.
Or not. He was the first man who’d gotten the jump on her in centuries. She sort of liked the fact that she might have to work to take him out. No woman wants a man she has to worry about hurting.
But still. This situation really wasn’t optimal. If she could just get free… she squirmed under him, and instantly felt something she hadn’t felt in way too long. Something against her leg that sent a surge of hormones catapulting toward her nether regions. Um, hello! Haven’t seen you for a while.
“Stop moving.” Derek’s voice was strained.
Yeah, good idea. Otherwise she might find herself doing things that she wasn’t supposed to be. With her mom’s fate in her hands and the Council hovering, now wasn’t the time to violate her Oath. Especially since Derek might be here to kill her.
Oops. Nothing like some heavy duty sexual attraction to make a woman forget her life might be at risk. She cleared her throat. “Theresa! A little help here!”
Derek tensed as Theresa’s voice echoed through the door. “Are you kidding? After two hundred years of celibacy, you want out from under that hunk of burning love? Forget it. You need to get laid and I’m not helping you until you do. Why do think I hit the stop button the elevator? Take advantage of him.”
Derek grinned and she felt him relax. How amazing to be so close to a man that she could gauge his moods by the tension in his body. God, it felt good. Too good. She needed to focus.
“Some kind of bodyguard you have,” he said.
“Shut up. And it hasn’t been two hundred years since I’ve had sex.” Not that it was any of his business, but sometimes a girl had to protect her reputation. She gave him her most hostile glare. “What do you want?”
She blinked. “What?” She’d been expecting him to say Mona, or propose a deal, or demand eternal youth. Not dinner.
“Dinner. My treat. How about tomorrow night?”
“A date? You want a date?” A shiver of a very girlish emotion rushed through her.
He tilted his head. “Sure. Let’s call it a date.”
“I don’t date.” But it was oh-so-tempting.
“Then let’s call it an exchange of information. I want to know about this Guardian thing, you want to know who I am. I’ll buy, you eat and we both talk. Deal?”
“Or you could bring him in here and we could torture him until he confesses,” Theresa said through the door. “I could bite off his extremities one by one. Please? Bring him in?”
Derek grinned. “My vice president knows I’m here. If I miss work tomorrow, she’ll have your head. And I’m not kidding. She has no mercy when it comes to business.”
Justine rubbed her neck. Did he really know the only way to kill her was to behead her? She needed to find out more about Derek LaValle, and the sooner the better. Despite what Theresa said, she couldn’t kill him for wrestling her to floor and getting her hormones in an uproar. “Fine. Dinner.”
His smile broadened. “Great. I’ll pick you up here at seven. Make sure Xavier knows I’m coming. I’d hate to pass out in my dinner.”
“Thanks for the reminder.” She lifted a brow. “How do you know Xavier? And what little secret do you two have going on?”
“Sorry. No answers until tomorrow night.” His smile faded. “Now that I’ve wooed you into a dinner date, I’m thinking I’ll take off now, but if I get up, you might kill me.”
She grinned at his matter-of-fact tone. “I promise not to kill you until after dinner.”
Her voice came easily through the door. “Fine. I won’t either. But I’m not happy about it.”
He nodded. “Deal.” He rolled off her, sweeping her dagger out of the back of her jeans as he went. “Insurance.”
Refusing to wail in dismay at the loss of their intimate position, she jumped to her feet and faced him in the elevator that suddenly seemed very small. Cozy. Intimate. Nothing like raging pheromones to make a five by seven space suddenly seem oh-so-tiny. She cleared her throat and nodded at the dagger hanging from his left hand. “I’m very hurt you don’t trust my word and felt the need to take all my weapons.”
“Except the one between your shoulder blades. I couldn’t reach that one.”
She blinked. God, she liked a man who could find all her weapons. Made her feel almost doted upon. Cherished.
He grinned at her surprised expression. “I’m psychic.”
“Or you felt it when you grabbed me.”
“Could be that, too.” He reached around her and flicked open the door to her apartment. “Your stop?”
She backed out of the elevator, keeping an eye on him. But he didn’t try to barge into the loft. He simply gave her a nod. “Until tomorrow at seven. Dress up. We’re going fancy.”
The door slid shut before she could figure out how to respond to that request.
“Hot damn, girl. He’s totally gorgeous.”
She sighed and glanced at her blue-scaled friend. “You realize that means I’m definitely going to end up having to kill him?”