Book 4: Order of the Blade
It wasn’t her.
Ian gritted his jaw, fighting against the need to sprint across the room and grab the woman standing beside the bar. It couldn’t be true. There was no chance that the woman thirty feet away from him was Catherine Taylor.
Catherine Taylor was dead. She’d fallen into his arms, stared at him for a fraction of a second, and then Ian’s teammate had struck her down. Dead. Done. Over. She was history.
And the second woman he’d buried earlier in the evening? He was sure now that it hadn’t been Catherine. It had been a woman who looked like her, and his screwed-up mind had mixed them up.
The curse was trying to work him over. There was no reality anymore. Just delusions.
It’s not her.
Sweat beaded on Ian’s brow, and adrenaline surged through him. His entire body shook with the effort of staying where he was instead of responding to the siren call of the woman by the bar. His head pounded with the strain of trying to control his thoughts, to keep from hauling ass over there, sweeping her up in his arms and carting her off to his place to make love to her until neither of them could move.
He ground his jaw, focusing his attention on an old wooden sign on the opposite wall. Be a Man. Play with Sharp Objects.
Be a man. Stand with honor. Shit. What was he doing hiding in the shadows?
Honor didn’t mean he was supposed to shrivel in the corner, afraid to look at an auburn-haired woman. It meant he stood tall, faced down that damn curse and defeated it. The curse had come to claim him, and it was time to step up and fight it. He needed to challenge what it threw at him and prove himself stronger.
He had to face it.
Ian clenched his jaw and slowly turned his head back to the woman. He steeled himself for the impact of seeing her, but the moment he saw her again, he felt like he’d been sucker-punched in the gut.
It was Catherine. It was her. It was his woman.
He would never forget those strawberry-gold highlights in her hair, the upturned slant of her nose, the way her lips pressed together in tension. Her skin was paler than he recalled, but her hips had that same curve of muscles and femininity. He would never forget the feel of her hips beneath his hands when she’d fallen down that damned cliff and he’d caught her. He knew exactly how they felt, precisely how they curved, and he knew just how her jeans caressed them.
Her hair was tossed over her right shoulder in a tumble of waves, and her white tee shirt hugged her body like it was put on this earth to torment him. The plain cotton was almost innocent in its simplicity, but the curve of her breasts beneath it made Ian’s thoughts go to places that were far from innocent. On her left wrist was a thin gold bracelet that matched the gold hoops in her ears. No other adornment, no other flash. Not even any makeup. Just the pure, sensual beauty of a woman who was simply who she was, and that was more than enough for him.
She was searching the room now, her face tense with worry as she scanned the crowd. Her tension made his protective instincts pulse deep. Adrenaline rushed through him, and his weapons burned in his arms. This time the urge to arm himself was not to impale himself like some weak-willed embarrassment to his kind, but to protect her. To make her safe. To keep her from the fate she’d already suffered twice—
Ian swore and gritted his teeth. What was he thinking? It made no sense that this woman was Catherine Taylor, that she was some reincarnation anomaly who could come back to life hours after he’d buried her. What the hell was his problem?
He knew the answer to that one. The curse was his problem. It was going to keep trying to make him relive the death of his sheva until it finally broke him.
Well, fuck that. The woman across the bar wasn’t his sheva. He was going to prove it, and then cut himself free from her influence.
She turned her head and met his gaze. His gut jumped as her green eyes met his, and he felt himself sliding helplessly under her spell. She stiffened, then took a step back and glanced over her shoulder toward the door.
She was leaving? Unacceptable.
Urgency coursed through Ian, and he broke from the corner, heading right for her.
Her eyes widened when she realized he was approaching, and her cheeks flushed. But she didn’t back away. She lifted her chin and waited for him to approach.
Anticipation roared through him as he neared her, and an urgent lust rose within him as he closed the distance between them. The scent of lilac and lavender filled the air, so subtle, so faint that he wouldn’t even have noticed it if he hadn’t been searching for it so relentlessly.
Lilac and lavender. Hot damn. She smelled right.
Her green eyes searched his, and in them he saw pain and fear, so deeply etched it had become a part of her soul. But at the same time, they flashed with defiance and courage, a woman who had not surrendered to the burden she carried. Respect surged through him, igniting his lust even further.
But it was more than respect and lust. It was a raw, burning need to drag her over to him and make her his, in any and every way that he could.
She swallowed, and he felt her rising nervousness. “What do you want?” she asked.
Sweet Jesus. Her voice was like the choir of angels. Desire exploded through him, a yearning so powerful he could barely contain it. He had spent his life fighting the carnal urges that were a part of being a Calydon male, determined not to let it rule him and put him in a position where a woman could bring him down. But with those four words, this woman had unleashed all the raw sexual need he’d held at bay for so long.
She had to be Catherine. She had to be his sheva. There was no other explanation for the intensity of his response…but Catherine had died eight months ago. Her spirit couldn’t have been reincarnated into a twenty-something body that was already alive.
What the hell was going on?
He needed answers. He had to know. He wanted to feel her body against his, to crush her into him and feel their bodies come together. He needed to dive deep into her soul and see who she really was, and he needed it now. The pulsing of music from the band vibrated through him, the deep base thudding in every cell in his body. “Dance with me,” he said hoarsely, his voice raw with lust and need. “Dance with me.