Book 3: Order of the Blade
Ana felt Elijah tense beneath her. He was awake.
His body hadn’t so much as twitched, his breathing hadn’t changed, and his heart rate hadn’t sped up. But there was a vibrating tension about him, a readiness… A warrior in battle, not giving away anything.
She lifted her head to look at him, trying to move slowly so as not to trigger him into another manic episode. His scarred brown eyes were glazed, unseeing, but they were focused on her face, as if he could see her through some deeper force than his vision.
Her heart started to race and she hesitated, not sure what to do. Was he about to freak out again? Or was he sane? “Um…” She licked her lips nervously. “I’m Ana Matthews… but I guess you already know that.”
Elijah blinked several times, the movement awkward and jerky, as if his eyelids were rasping painfully over his damaged eyes. Her heart ached at the sight of all those raw scars on his face, as if he’d tried to claw out his own eyes rather than see the hell he’d been facing. Was she responsible for that? Had it been her illusions that he’d tried to defend against by blinding himself?
Tears filled her eyes, tears of guilt, regret and empathy, and she instinctively laid her hand on his cheek. “Oh, Elijah,” she whispered, forgetting to fear him, ignoring all Gideon’s warnings about how Elijah might be so violent and insane when he finally awoke from his coma. “I’m so sorry.”
He blinked again, wincing at the agonizing movement as he tried to see her.
“No, no,” she whispered. “Don’t torment yourself. Here.” She clasped his wrist and placed his palm against her cheek. “See me this way.”
He closed his eyes and let his hand drift across her face. He moved his fingers over her skin, over her cheekbone, her eyelashes, the bridge of her nose, his callused fingers so
light against her skin.
Elijah touched her mouth, tracing the outline of her lips. Heat began to swirl inside Ana as he gave a small nod. “Good.” The word came out as a grinding noise, and her heart tightened at the grimace of pain on his face.
But God, to hear his voice again, his real voice, not the whisper in her mind. It burned right to her soul, like the forbidden heat of a sensual danger designed to strip her defenses and possess her completely. She swallowed, suddenly nervous, no longer feeling like a woman trying to protect a man. Instead, she felt like a female being drawn ruthlessly into the spell of the male destined to consume her. “Elijah—”
His arm snaked around her, trapping her he pulled her down against him. He buried his face in the curve of her neck with a deep groan of contentment that made desire pulse through her relentlessly.
Ana froze as he inhaled deeply, and she knew he was examining her scent, memorizing every detail about her body. “It’s me,” she whispered. “You know me.”
He blew out, his lips feathering her neck with heat.
Her skin felt like it was on fire. She became aware of his scent, the raw, fierce pulse of danger and death, mixed with something softer. Vulnerability. Fear. Desperation. Dear God, his suffering was so intense, filling her with the agony of his despair, of his confusion. Had she done that to him? Was all of that her fault? How much worse would she make it if she stayed with him, if he realized who she was? “This really isn’t a good idea.” She set her hands on his shoulders and gently tried to push him away. “It’s the sheva bond making you want me. You actually hate—” She stumbled over the words, regret thick and bitter. “You hate me, Elijah. As soon as your mind settles again, you’ll remember.”
His hands snapped to her hips, trapping her against him. “Mine,” he growled. His eyes were still closed, unable to defeat the pain of the scar tissue, but his hands were burning over her, as if he were stripping her clothes off and branding her with every touch.
“Oh, God,” she whispered. “Don’t pull me into this. I don’t have many defenses left.” Her heart had bled for this man so many times, and now he held her like she was his salvation, his anchor, the only thing he had to hold onto.
She’d already seen the way he looked at her, with pure revulsion for who she was and what she’d done to him. She knew it would come again the moment he regained his senses. She couldn’t let herself fall into his touch, into his need, and then survive it when he took it away from her. He wouldn’t survive it either, being sucked into her nightmare. “We can’t lie to each other,” she whispered as she grabbed his wrist, trying to stop him. “This isn’t real. Please, don’t do this to me. To us.”
“Real,” he whispered, sliding his hands beneath her shirt, flattening one palm over her belly. “You’re not real?” His voice cracked, and he gripped her sides with sudden intensity. “You have to be real—”
“I am, I am,” she soothed quickly. “You’re not having illusions. I’m right here.” She knew he’d been tormented by illusions. He’d been thrust mercilessly into the world of uncertainty, unable to know what nightmares were real, and which were fake. Men had died from the insanity the illusions caused, from the inability to know truth from delusion, and she knew Elijah’s greatest tool right now was reality. She couldn’t take that away from him. “I’m not your imagination,” she said.
Elijah opened his eyes again, straining to see her, but there was no recognition in those scarred eyes. “I can’t see you,” he croaked. “You’re not real—”
“I am!” Ana grabbed his hands and squeezed. “Feel my touch,” she ordered. “Hear my voice. I’m here, dammit! You’re not being messed with anymore!”
“You’re real?” His voice softened with awe and disbelief. “This is you?” He ran his hands over her stomach, her ribs, and desire leapt through her.
Ana leaned her head back and closed her eyes, her body trembling at the sensation of his hands on her body. God, how long had it been since a man’s hands had touched her with kindness? Not just kindness. Reverence. Adoration. Callused hands that would never hurt her, no matter what she did. Hands that would wrap around her at night and keep her safe. Strong, masculine hands that would seduce her until she was his, forever…
Oh, God. What was she thinking? She couldn’t do this, not to him, not to herself. Her only job was to help him regain his sanity, to bring him back so he could fulfill the mission he was meant to do. She had to stop him from weaving this web around them, from drawing them both into the dangerous attraction between them, the one that was only about their sheva bond, not reality, not the truth about how much damage there was between them.
“Elijah! We don’t have time for this. Your team needs you upstairs. You have to save the damn world.” She winced at how she sounded a little too breathless and sensual. Desperate and panicked, yes, but also… intimate. She cleared her throat and leaned back, away from his face still nuzzling her throat. “If you were in your right mind, you’d never touch me like this. You despise me and I—”
“No,” he growled. His hands slid up her back beneath her shirt, and he pressed against her bare shoulder blades, pulling her toward him. Toward his mouth.
Anticipation hummed through Ana even as she stiffened, fighting the urges racing through her. God, how she wanted to lose herself in him. “Dammit, Elijah. Stop!”
Her body was trembling with desire, with nervousness, and the need to leap off his lap and bolt. But she knew he’d snap if she broke physical contact with him, and she didn’t know if she’d be able to bring him back from his delusions and insanity again. She owed him, and she knew that her soul was already too black to survive causing Elijah’s death for a second time. “Elijah—” Her palms went to his bare chest to try to block him from pulling her any closer, and the heated spark was almost instant.
They both froze, and she could feel his heart pounding beneath her palms.
Mine. His possessive growl echoed in her mind, sending spirals of fire and heat racing through her.
Yours. The word popped into Ana’s mind before she could stop it.
The moment the word formed in her head, Elijah jerked upright and yanked her against him. His hand roughly palmed the back of her head to bring her down at the right angle, not giving her a chance to resist or to stop him. He sank his mouth onto hers, and her lips parted instantly for him… and then she felt the beast consume him. His need pulsed at her, shredding all her resistance in a heartbeat.
She barely stifled a scream as Elijah shifted and rolled her beneath him, covering her with his body. His kisses were frantic, his mouth almost violent in its assault on her. His hands were all over her, her stomach, her breasts, his fingers bruising and desperate. She could feel his desperation for her, and she knew he might hurt her.
And she didn’t care.
Hot desire rose hard and fast inside her, and she threw her arms around his neck, holding him tightly as her own need met his. God, she’d needed this for so long. Not just any touch. His touch. She knew it in every fiber of her being that he had been inside her soul since they’d met. We will destroy each other. The thought was like a cold hit to her gut and she tried to break the kiss. “I can’t—”
He tugged her shirt up and caught her breast in his mouth, a decadent, raging kiss of desperate desire that eviscerated her resistance to him. His fervent passion for her was tearing at her soul with every kiss.
Darkness slithered along the edges of her mind, a danger so vivid and poisonous that her soul recoiled and she tried to pull back. Elijah growled and deepened his kiss, and she realized that the hell she’d sensed was in Elijah’s mind, a demonic darkness trying to overtake his sanity. She knew Elijah was trying to outrun it by sinking himself into her body and her mind, seeking solace in their touch, in the kisses.
She was the oasis, the sanity, the beauty that could bring him back from his insanity, from the demons in his mind. A sense of absolute rightness filled Ana with heat and warmth at the realization that she could help him. The hell she would face later didn’t matter anymore. Elijah needed her, and as his soul mate, she could help him. I’m here for you.
His energy reached for her through the nightmare that beat at him. His soul wrapped itself around her as he fought for his sanity and control. His relentless need for her consumed both his mind and hers…
Yes, Elijah. Take me. Whatever you need from me, it’s yours. She wrapped her arms around his neck, gasping as he kissed her breasts. A growl ripped from this throat, an untamed sound of possession and domination as he lowered his hips between her thighs. His hips began to pump, his erection slamming into her through her jeans.
Desire raged through her, sweeping her up and away from all the anguish she’d been carrying for so long. In his arms, there was nothing left of the woman who’d hurt so many people. Gone was the debilitating guilt and grim awareness of the monster she was. The aching loneliness, the constant fear, the incessant terrors…all gone, cradled in the strong palms of this courageous warrior. Instead, there was simply beauty and passion, a sense of being loved and desired, of being treasured. Yes, she whispered, her heart too full of emotion to dare stop him. She wanted more of this moment, even though she knew she didn’t deserve it, even though she knew it would all be torn apart the moment he recovered enough to remember who she was.
His body was rigid under her touch, and she felt every cut, every wound under her hands. There was nowhere to hold him without hurting him more. He shouted and thrust harder, and suddenly she couldn’t think anymore, his need for her calling out an answering yearning in her. His body was so hot, his skin serrated and broken, his muscles rock hard beneath her touch, sliding under his skin.
Ana arched her back, her body reaching for him, for his touch, for the heat in his hands and the fire in his kisses until it wasn’t just about his desperation, but hers as well. His hand went to her jeans and he fumbled with them, trying to get them undone as his thrusts grew more frantic, more forceful, his erection slamming through the denim into her most sensitive spot.
Utter rightness swelled inside her, consuming her, until the fire began to lick down her limbs, igniting every inch of her until the sensations exploded, overwhelming her soul and her body. She screamed Elijah’s name and his deep roar mixed with hers, his body convulsing against her as he drove again and again, his hands braced on the floor by her head, his attempt to get her pants off lost in the blazing inferno consuming them both. He went rigid above her, and then he collapsed, his body sinking onto hers, his chest flush against the bare skin of her breasts, his hips stilled between hers, his breathing raw and harsh on her neck.
She locked her arms around his shredded back and entwined her feet along his thighs, holding him as tightly as she could as the final tremors faded.
Elijah shuddered against her and then his body finally went quiet.
Neither of them moved or spoke, though she was certain he was awake. They just lay together, intertwined, on the steel floor, recovering.
After a moment, she rested her elbow on his shoulder and pressed her hand to her eyes. Dear God. What had she done?
Elijah shifted suddenly. He rose swiftly to his hands and knees, his body going rigid. He straddled her, his palms braced on either side of her head, his legs outside hers. It was the position of a male defending his woman with his body. He stopped breathing, going utterly still, a predator waiting for the enemy to attack.
Ana froze, her heart pounding. What had he seen? Had his mind snapped? Elijah? What’s wrong?
They’re coming. His head was up and he was staring blindly past her with the intensity of an assassin who had targeted his mark.
Who? Demons? Some figment of his ravaged mind? Ana carefully twisted her head to look where he was looking. Relief rushed through her when she saw Quinn and Gideon standing inside the door. Elijah wasn’t imagining things. He was all right! “I’m fine,” she quickly told them, her cheeks heating with embarrassment at being caught in such an intimate position. Her pants were still on, but it was obvious what they’d been doing.
Neither warrior moved, and Elijah lowered himself slightly, his chest resting protectively against hers. She noticed then that Gideon and Quinn had their weapons out, and they were pointing them at Elijah. Oh, crap! No wonder Elijah was on the defensive. “Put your weapons away,” she said quickly. “He’s—”
Elijah’s hand went to her mouth, silencing her.
Gideon swore and didn’t sheathe his weapon. “We’re going to grab you and pull you out from under him.”
Oh, Dear God, that would make Elijah snap if they went after her! “No! Don’t touch me! Don’t take me away from him!”
Elijah tensed at her sharp tone, and he immediately shifted his weight to free his right arm. “No, Elijah.” She fought to keep her voice calm. “They’re your friends—” He called out his throwing star with a crack that reverberated against the steel wall, and she knew they were a split second away from a full battle, a battle which she knew would end only in death.