Excerpt: Touch If You Dare

Excerpt: Touch If You Dare

Book 2: Soulfire

Reina leapt out in the street in front of Jarvis and slammed her hands down on the hood. As she knew he would, he jammed on the brakes in time to avoid crushing her, then he gestured for her to get off his SUV.

“I accept your offer,” she shouted.

Jarvis checked the rearview mirror, then shifted into reverse. What? He was bailing on her? She raced around to the side and yanked open the passenger door. “Wait—”

“Back off.” He shifted back into drive.

He was actually going to take off without her? No way! She grabbed the door handle and swung herself into the truck just as he peeled out into the street.

He stopped the vehicle. “Get out.”

She wedged her body into the plush leather seat. “No. You made an offer and I accepted it.”

“It’s rescinded.”

“Why?” She slammed the door shut, grabbed the seatbelt and snapped it closed. She must be losing her mind. Locking herself in a car with a man who terrified her? Brilliant move, truly brilliant. But at the same time, it felt kind of good to stand up for herself, to grab onto hope and refuse to let go. She hadn’t had real hope in a long time, and the idea of Jarvis adding his resources to her battle was desperately appealing.

Jarvis took his sunglasses off the glistening dash and slapped them onto his face. “Out.”

“Why? You asked for my help—”

“You were a poor choice.” He gripped the steering wheel, and still didn’t look at her. The air inside the truck was getting heavy and thick, like it was a hot humid August day, but it was May and only fifty degrees.

Reina rolled down the window. “If you want help with Death, I’m your only choice.” Okay, twilight zone moment here. What was up with her trying to convince Mr. Scary Guy to help her, after he’d offered and she’d said no?

“We always have more than one choice.” His voice was low. “If you open your mind, there are always an infinity of possibilities.”

“Not for me.” She touched his arm, and he jerked away from her, nearly crawling out the window. Wow. Talk about a one-eighty. Last time, he hadn’t moved away at all. Had she developed some horrific communicable disease in the last three minutes? “You said you could helpme. I don’t have any other choices. You think I want to work with you and risk my boss firing me? If I had any other options I would!”

Slowly, Jarvis turned his head to look at her. She couldn’t see his eyes behind his shades, but she still shivered. His jaw was rigid, and there was a lethal energy rolling off him. With deliberate slowness, he pulled his sunglasses off his face.

His blue eyes were now a bottomless, dangerous black. “Run,” he said.

Oh, three cheers and a toast to that idea. Unfortunately, despite what he claimed, a girl didn’t always have access to an unlimited plethora of fantastic choices. “I can’t. I need your help.”

“You endanger me. And yourself.”

His voice had an edge that would scare even the toughest bad ass on the planet. And in case anyone was confused about the facts, she was not tough. She was a softie who just wanted the people she loved to be safe. That was it. Nothing more. “How could I possibly endanger you?”

He made a snarling noise and leaned toward her so quickly she didn’t have time to get away. His face was an inch from hers, so close she could smell the most delicious scent of woods and man, and she could see the muscle ticking in his jaw. The heaviness of his energy pressed at her, making her skin hot and clammy.

“I don’t react well to you,” he gritted out. “You edge my control.”

“What did I do?” She leaned back further, aware of his chest so close to hers. Of the width of his shoulders boxing out all the space in in the front seat, trapping her, stealing her air. The door dug into her shoulders. All she had to do was pull the handle and slide away.

But she couldn’t. She needed him. Saving her sister was more important that hiding from him. And plus… there was something about him crowding her that felt good. Which was insane, and her mind knew it. Except she knew it wasn’t really that crazy to feel good about Jarvis. He’d saved her twice, avoiding running her over, and had offered to help. He might be stalked by hell itself, he might demand that which she couldn’t afford to give, but he’d already had chances to hurt her, and he hadn’t. He’d saved her, and no woman in her right mind would fail to consider that was an appealing trait in a male.

“I don’t know why you unsettle me,” Jarvis gritted out. “But I can’t afford to go over the line right now.” He shook his head once as if to clear it. “You. Must. Leave.”

There was torment in his eyes. Lines of pain around his mouth. Tension in the cords of his neck. And suddenly he didn’t seem like a monster anymore. He seemed like a man in agony. “Jarvis.” Before she could think about the fact that it was one of the less intelligent moves she could make, Reina laid her hand on his cheek. “I’m sorry for your pain.”

He sucked in his breath, and she thought he was going to jerk away, but he didn’t.

He went still under her touch. His gaze was riveted to hers, and she saw the shock on his face.

His skin was hot, as if he were burning up from fever. She moved her hand to his forehead. “Are you sick?”

He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. “Your hand is so cool,” he whispered, disbelief raw in his voice.

A man who was shocked by the comfort of human touch? Well, not that she was entirely human anymore, but close enough. She put her other hand on his cheek, not afraid of him anymore. Just wanting to ease his pain, as she’d done repeatedly over the years for her sisters and mother, as they got sicker and more terrified of their future.

Jarvis needed to be touched. She could sense it in every fiber of her soul, and her spirit yearned to give him comfort. She framed his bristly face with her hands and rested her forehead against his. The position, with his face against hers, was so intimate, a connection between lovers, between soulmates who had no boundaries between them. She felt the world go still, like all the hell chasing her faded, until all that was left was the sensation of his skin against hers, of his presence wrapping around hers, of her own reaching out for him.

It was a moment of utter stillness, of peace, of having the most intimate connection with a tortured man who could protect her against the world. His skin was still burning up, but it seemed to be slightly less likely to give her third degree burns. She was easing his pain… or maybe she simply wanted to believe she could give someone relief from the hell that stalked him, after a lifetime of failing to succeed to save anyone. It didn’t matter whether it was real or not. In this moment, it was a gift of peace that she would never let go. “This feels good,” she whispered. “I—”

“Shit!” Jarvis jerked back suddenly, out of her grasp. His hand went to his sword, and before she’d even moved, he had the tip of it at her throat.

Well, excellent. That was exactly the feel-good kind of feedback she’d been jonesing for.

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