Excerpt: Hunt the Darkness

Excerpt: Hunt the Darkness

Book 11: Order of the Blade

Gabe awoke from his healing sleep in an instant, going from total submersion to complete readiness in a split second. The first thing he noticed was that there was a woman in his arms, and the second thing he noticed was that he had no idea where the hell he was.

His eyes snapped open, and he scanned the room, assessing every last detail with rapid speed. They were deep underground, and the walls were volcanic rock laced with magic and metal. There were nor doors or windows, just rock on all sides, and there were only a few pieces of furniture scattered about the room.

He sat up, too fast, and the room began to spin violently. Swearing, he gripped the mattress while he fought against the vertigo. Memories came flashing back of the demon attack after Vlad had brought him into the demon realm. He recalled instantly the woman who had rushed into the room, warning him off her brother.

Brother?

He looked down at the woman still unconscious beside him, noting her red bodice, black pants, and badass boots. Same woman. Her brother was a demon? The room kept spinning, and he lay back down beside her, fighting against the spinning in his brain. He did a quick scan through his body and found remnants of the poison that the demon had thrust into him. It was mostly gone, wiped away by a healing energy…a female energy…hers.

His attention snapped to the woman beside him once again. She had saved him? And she’d invaded his body with her energy? Who was she? His gaze swept over her high cheekbones, the curve of her mouth, and her breasts that were pushing up out of her bodies. Her hips had the soft angles of a woman, and for a split second, he had a sudden urge to run his hand over her hip, to feel the curves beneath his palm. His hand actually started to move, but he jerked it back by his side, shocked by how strong the temptation to touch her was. 

He was immune to woman, and he had been for centuries. Celibacy had been always been a part of his life, because even when he was a kid, he’d known that he’d wanted to be part of the Order of the Blade. Even if a Calydon could avoid the sheva destiny, which he doubted, no warrior could give a hundred percent to his mission if his time was split with a woman. It simply wasn’t possible.

With the Order crumbling since Dante’s death, Gabe knew he was the last chance the Order had to survive. He had to find Dante and bring him back, because no one else was doing it.

Which meant he had no time for women, and he never had. He didn’t even notice them as women, and he never wanted them. It had never been an issue…until now, until her.

He could still feel her presence inside him, like a silken seduction that had caressed every cell in his body while he’d been unconscious. It was a feminine energy, soft, seductive and tempting, utterly unlike anything he had every experienced in his life. 

Slowly, reluctantly, he leaned forward and inhaled. She smelled like untouched beauty, dark and sensual, with a hint of something lighter and more feminine, like some sort of flower. It was intriguing as hell, and he wanted more of it. 

Her hair was dark and thick where it tumbled over her shoulders and across his upper arm. He moved his fingers slightly, rubbing the strands. Soft. Like silk. He hadn’t even realized that anything that soft existed, not that he’d ever thought about it. He was always working, always focused on the mission of the Order, always alert for threats. Yeah, he’d seen his team members fall for women, but he’d never noticed or cared about it, other than to assess whether the situation adversely affected the ability of the Order to discharge their duties. He’d never even been curious.

But now, with this woman lying so still in his arms, he was riveted by her, and he wanted to know why. Was she his sheva? The thought made his blood run cold, but he didn’t shy away from the possibility. He had to know what he was facing, why she had managed to get him to notice her. 

He studied her again, systematically going over her, trying to figure out why he was reacting to her. A dozen weapons were strapped to her body, and those were just the ones he could see. A warrior, then. He recalled how she’s strode right into the middle of battle, utterly without fear. Not just a warrior. A brave, fearless one who would risk anything to save her brother.

Frowning, he brushed his finger over her cheek. She was cool to the touch, a fact which deepened his frown. Her skin was pale, almost ashen, and her breathing was much too shallow. He moved his hand to her chest, letting his palm hover over her heart while he sent his energy into her, assessing her injuries.

No broken bones or injuries that he could find. Just a fading spirit, and a body that was full of darkness and taint. He closed his eyes, reaching more deeply inside her, retracing connections that she’d built between them when she’d healed him. He could feel his own presence inside her, and he realized that when she’d healed him, she’d brought his energy into her own body, along with the poison that had been killing him. She’d healed him by taking the poison into her own body, and now it was trying to kill her.

_Shit. He owed her, and he needed her, which meant he had to save her…but how? Could he heal her the way he could heal other Calydons, with his energy?

Frowning, he put his hand on her hip. She was on her side, with her back toward him, so it seemed like the most logical place to touch, but it felt awfully damned invasive to touch her like that. The leather of her pants was smooth and sleek beneath his palm, an assault to his senses, but it was blocking his ability to sense her. With a groan of resignation, he slipped his hand beneath the waistband of her pants and spread his hand across her bare hip, so he had skin-to-skin contact with her.

Her skin was incredibly soft, but it was cold. Too cold. She was fading quickly. He closed his eyes, summoning all his healing energy to his hand. His hand began to heat up, and he offered it to her, but she didn’t let him in. He moved his hand lower, trying to find a place where her barriers were less strong, and then he tried again…and again, she didn’t let him in.

Shit.

He withdrew his hand, irritated by the fact that his cock was starting to get hard. He needed to focus. Getting a hard-on was a ridiculous lack of discipline that hadn’t happened to him in centuries. 

He studied her for another moment, trying to decide the best place to touch her. The skin on her face was too soft. Her hip…too dangerous. Her arm or leg? Not connected closely enough to her vital organs. That left her torso. He could try her heart, but with her breast spilling out of the bodies, he’d be getting a handful of flesh that he didn’t want to risk.

Her stomach then. The belly was a powerful source of energy for the soul and the physical being. With another groan of resignation, he tugged her bodice up and shoved her high-waited pants lower on her belly. Her stomach was flat and muscled, but there was a softness that was pure woman.

Jesus. 

Gritting his teeth, he flattened his palm over her stomach. Her body was soft and womanly beneath his touch, not the hard, steel of his own flesh. She was strong and muscular, but her body was so different than his. His palm burned with heat, but again, she didn’t accept his help.

He tried three more times, and got nothing, except a bigger hard-on.

Swearing, he untangled himself from her and got off the bed. It took a moment to get his balance, but he walked across the room and sat down on the floor, draping his hands over his knees while he took some space from her. “What do I do with you?” he asked her. His voice was low, bouncing off the walls, echoing his question back at him.

He had to get out of the room. He had to find Dante. And he needed her help to do it.

Her breath stuttered in her chest, and he narrowed his eyes. Did she look even more pale than she had before? Was her breathing shallower? He jumped up and strode back over to her. He crouched in front of her and touched her cheek. Her skin was definitely colder now. Son of a bitch. What was going on? 

Her eyelids suddenly fluttered, and then opened. He found himself instantly staring into the most vibrant blue eyes he’d ever seen in his life. They were icy blue, like a glacier that was ruthlessly tearing apart everything it its way. But at the same time, there was such pain and fear in her eyes, vulnerability that violated everything that a warrior should be. “I can’t die,” she whispered. “They need me.”

Her voice was soft, so soft he could barely hear her, but it was laced with fierce determination. She was vulnerable and powerful, both at the same time, a combination he wasn’t accustomed to. Male warriors were only hard. Never vulnerable. But this woman was both, which intrigued him. He leaned forward, his hand still on her cheeks. “What can I do?”

“Kiss me.” Her gaze was steady and unyielding, but her breath was becoming more shallow.

He blinked. “Kiss you?” Instinctively, he dropped his hand

The moment he released her, fear ran starkly across her face, and she cried out in protest. “Don’t let go!”

He immediately put his hand on her cheek again, and this time, he saw her body shudder in response. “My touching helps you,” he said. “Why?”

Her gaze met his, and he saw a hint of something in there. Embarrassment? Vulnerability? “I’m a lust demon,” she whispered. “I get my energy from sex. I need you.”

“Oh…shit.” His cock got hard instantly, and he jerked backward, away from her. “I don’t do that.”

“Don’t let go of me!” She snapped the command at him.

For a long moment, he didn’t move, every instinct screaming at him to back off and not get involved. But when her eyes lids fluttered shut and her body went limp, fury tore through him. “No.” He crouched in front of her again and framed her face with both hands. “I need you.”

For a moment, she didn’t respond, but then her eyes opened again. “Mutual need. Take me, I’m yours.”

Again, with the surge of blood to his cock, like he was some animal who couldn’t control himself. “My leader is trapped in the demon realm. I need your help to find him.”

She studied him. “You’ll give me sex only if I assist you?”

He grimaced at the way she’d phrased it. “I don’t have sex. How else can I save you?”

She shook her head, and her eyes fluttered shut again. “Lust demon,” she murmured. “Only sex.” She took a shuddering breath, and then went still.

Shit. He didn’t do sex, and now he was supposed to make out with an unconscious woman? What the hell? If there was any way, any other way, he would do it, but there was nothing else. He had no other choice if he wanted to save his leader. Whatever it took to engage his mission. He’d made an oath, and there was no other path.

With a deep inhale, he calmed his mind, shutting down his physical response to her. He steeled himself against her femininity, and then he lowered his head and pressed a kiss to her mouth. 

The moment his mouth touched hers, he froze in absolute shock. Her lips were softer than he could even conceive of, like the air itself had come together to form her lips. He’d never experienced anything like it, and his entire body came alive. Energy rushed through him in a violent frenzy, and lust slammed into his gut violently. 

He gritted his teeth against the warring urges to drag the woman into his arms and unleashed himself onto her, and the equally strong instinct to hurl her aside and bolt for safety before anything further could happen. 

He did neither. He simply kept his mouth against hers, hoping that the closed-mouth kiss would be enough. Even aside from the fact that he wasn’t going to have sex, there was no way in hell he was going to take advantage of an unconscious woman, no matter what she’d said during her brief moment of lucidity–

Her lips suddenly parted beneath his.

Desire rushed through him, and before he could stop himself, he kissed her again, deeper this time, running the tip of his tongue over her lips. The moment he did, she responded. She began to kiss him back, her decadently mouth moving under his in a rush of sensual temptation that was beyond anything he’d every experienced.

She slipped her tongue between his teeth, and he groaned when he felt it slide across his in a sensual caress. Sweat broke out on his forehead with the effort of restraining himself, but he kept to the script, deepening the kiss while never moving his hands to her body.

Then she slid her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. He lost his balance and went to his knees, falling against the side of the bed as she took over the kiss. Her mouth was hot and sensual, a temptation of the most sinful kind. His cock was hard as a rock, straining against his jeans, and his entire body was screaming for more. 

She deepened the kiss, a carnal assault against his defenses, stirring up desire in him that he’d never experienced. What this what his teammates had felt when they’d met their soulmates? Was this what all men felt when they fell under the spell of a woman? For the first time, he comprehended the power of a woman over a man. He’d always kept himself so far removed that no woman could access him, and yet with one kiss, he was consumed with thoughts about what he wanted to do to her, of what her breasts would taste like, of how he wanted to part her legs and—

Shit!

He jerked back, breaking the kiss, but she didn’t release him. Her grip was surprisingly strong, and he didn’t want to hurt her by exerting the effort it would take to break her hold. “I can’t do this,” he said.

She met his gaze, her icy blue gaze steady. “You have to,” she said softly. “There’s no other way.”

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