Book 10: Order of the Blade
Levi Hart froze, his senses shocked into hyper-awareness when he caught the unmistakable scent of a woman. It plunged past his shields, invading his being with a force so strong he had no chance to protect himself from the sheer intensity of her presence. He swore and went utterly still. His mind went into hyper-focus as he fought to regain control, his body barely swaying on the ancient meat hook he’d been chained to for over a century.
But with each breath he took, the fragile, delicate scent of pure femininity wrapped itself tighter around him. Hot. Sensual. Tempting. And utterly dangerous to a Calydon warrior who was driven by a dark, powerful need for a woman.
His ancient instincts rose fast and hard, a driving lust that he hadn’t succumbed to in centuries. Swearing under his breath, he closed his eyes, summoning what was left of his once formidable discipline to regain control of his body and his senses. It took precious seconds to shut down the lust burning through him. He had to engage strength he couldn’t afford to waste in order to crush the almost insurmountable need to find her right then, but he did it.
The relief was instant, but a residue of emptiness resonated through him, as if his very being was stumbling in the absence of that sexual hunger. Without the distraction, however, a sharp-edged focus settled over him. He narrowed his eyes and called upon his preternatural senses, sending waves of psychic energy out into the surrounding tunnels, searching for the physical presence of the woman he had scented.
He found nothing.
A dark fury raged through him, anger that he couldn’t find her. Urgency mounted, and he sent out another wave of energy, but this time, he opened his mind, sending the tentacles of his consciousness out into the air, searching with ruthless speed. Within seconds, he picked up her feminine energy again. This time, he kept his physical response contained, and he allowed his mind to hurtle toward her at a mind-numbing pace, racing through tunnels and around corners, faster and faster, gaining speed with each millisecond, her scent becoming stronger and stronger until—
He found her.
The moment his mind touched hers, she sucked in her breath, and her mind snapped to his, injecting warmth and passion into his cold, isolated being. His entire body clenched in response, and tension radiated through his muscles as he fought to concentrate. She smelled of spring and outdoors, of grass, of nature, and of a lazy sensuality, things he hadn’t experienced in over a hundred years. But since he’d opened his mind to her, it wasn’t simply her physical being he accessed. Her emotions assaulted him, a dizzying onslaught of fear, courage, and desperation, all of it ruthlessly contained by her single-minded focus and determination. His name reverberated through her mind, and it was layered through her entire being.
All her attention was centered on him.
His body responded to the knowledge, a tightening of his cock that he couldn’t control no matter how hard he fought it. To have his name and his existence so intricately woven into the fabric of her being was so visceral that he could almost feel her presence, as if she was right in front of him. He couldn’t keep his physical response contained, and his lust spilled over their connection into her. Instantly, desire flooded her, and he felt her body respond to his.
The connection between them was electric and intense, igniting his cells like fire licking its way through his body. He was a cold-blooded assassin who’d spent a lifetime honing his utter lack of emotion and eradicating his need for physical connection with a woman, and yet, in mere seconds, she’d stripped away every last defense and created a need in him so powerful he knew he’d be sprinting through the tunnels in search of her if he weren’t locked down.
Who the hell was she? And why was she there? No one had set foot in any of the caverns surrounding his prison since he’d been chained up, and he didn’t believe it was a coincidence that she was so close, thousands of feet below the surface of the earth in tunnels that no human being would ever stumble across, thinking about him. Who are you?He pressed the question at her, instinctively erecting a telepathic bridge between their minds.
She froze in response, and for a split second, he felt her confusion that he was speaking in her mind. Then fear rippled through her, and she slammed up her mental shields, severing their link. Emptiness assaulted him at the lack of connection, and he swore, struggling to regain his equilibrium. She’d cut him off, but he knew she’d heard him.
She’d heard him. After more than a century of complete isolation, she’d heard him. The sudden shock of having his existence recognized by another living creature hit him with an almost violent crash of emotion. His entire being suddenly burned with a need to be acknowledged, to be recognized, to be seen.
He shoved aside the emotions before they had a chance to claim him. He’d lived his whole life alone. He’d been a shadow in the night, a phantom who was everyone’s worst nightmare. His solitary existence had never bothered him, not even for an instant, and he wasn’t going to let it start grating on him now just because he’d been strung up like a carcass for a century and had scented a woman so enticing it could drive him mad if he let it consume him.
Her essence became stronger, and he realized she was headed right for him, on a direct path through the tunnels. She was seeking him out.Anticipation burned through him, an escalating need to see her, to hear her voice, to drag her against him and taste her mouth against his.
He swore and closed his eyes, raising his own shields to block her scent so he could recalibrate. What the hell? Why was he reacting like that to her? Was it just because he’d been isolated for so long? Or maybe she was some sort of seductress? Not that it mattered. He didn’t want to make out with her. He wanted to escape.
This might be his chance.
He took a deep breath, summoning the combat-focus that had once been as instinctual as breathing and staying alive. Decades of no food, no water, and no external stimulation had weakened him, and his mind fought against his commands to concentrate so intently.
With a snarl of fury, he forced his mind to respond, channeling what was left of his strength into his mind until it coalesced into the razor-sharp clarity that had once defined him.
Straining to see in the darkness, he scanned the cave that had been his prison for so long. It had taken years for his eyes to adjust to the rampant darkness enough for him to be able to see anything, and even now, he could make out only the faintest dark shapes that indicated tunnel openings, escape routes that were only yards away, and yet completely out of reach.
She was in one of those tunnels, getting closer with each step.
Manipulating his body weight with the effortless grace of a man who’d spent countless hours figuring out how to stay fit and strong even while he was suspended by his wrists in a frigid, underground cave, Levi spun in a circle. He systematically inspected every inch of his cave, searching for indications that would tell him which direction she was approaching from.
Unable to resist the temptation, he inhaled again, and her scent wrapped around him, diffusing through his cells like a tendril of sunshine in a body that had long been dead. Energy pulsed through him, a sense of vitality he hadn’t felt in decades. He reached out to her again, this time searching the space around her for more information on who she was. With his attention no longer only on her, he noticed the presence of two powerful males flanking her.
His hands clenched, and his muscles went taut. She was with two Calydon warriors. Possessiveness surged through him, a sudden fear for her safety. Was she their prisoner? Were they going to lock her up the way he’d been strung up? Suddenly, it was no longer about sex. It was no longer about his need to be acknowledged. It became only about protecting her. Are you in danger? He pressed the question ruthlessly at her mind, shattering her mental shields.
Again, she flinched, clearly hearing him, but once again, she didn’t answer. Instead, she thrust him out of her mind as efficiently as he’d penetrated it.
He had to admit, he was impressed with her defenses, but at the same time, it was annoying as hell. He had no idea what the situation was. Did he need to protect her? Was she in danger?
No. No. No.
His job wasn’t to protect anyone. He had one last mission to accomplish, and he couldn’t afford to get distracted by a woman. He had to escape, hunt down the man who had nearly destroyed Levi’s soul…and then kill him. He could allow the approaching threesome to mean only one thing to him: a chance to gain his freedom.