Read An Excerpt

by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

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Max slammed open Alexander’s door without bothering to knock. His wards flared and gave beneath her lock spells.

He was waiting inside, dressed in black and leaning back against the opposite wall, his arms and legs crossed. His eyes gleamed. His Prime was as roused as hers.

“Took you long enough,” he said, straightening.

She shut the door hard. “What the fuck makes you think you don’t have to answer to me?” she demanded.

“What makes you think I do?”

“Because Giselle claimed you and that makes you one of my Blades. Unless you want to challenge me for Prime? Is that what you want, Slick?” Her voice dropped to a low singsong. She was ready to explode, though whether she wanted to hit or kiss him more, she didn’t know.

“I am not bound here. I am nothing here.” He spat the words with equal fury. “Neither one of you will give me the time of day. So I might as well act the part you have given me. So no, I do not think I have to answer to you. I am tired of this limbo.”

That caught her up. She’d told him once to leave, that he could have his freedom—he was unbound. There was nothing keeping him here. But he’d been determined to stay and she’d begun to get used to that. Now, the thought of him going made her heart ache. And that pissed her off.

“So you have decided to leave?” she said, her throat tight.

“No, dammit.” He lunged forward and grabbed her arms in a bone-crushing grip. “I want to belong here. What’s it going to take? Do I need to promise never to take Prime? I will, if that will put things to rest. But I am done with this half-life. Choose whether you want me here or not.”

He stared at her, waiting. Her tongue clung to the roof of her mouth, and her heart pounded painfully against her ribs.

“Not my choice. It’s Giselle’s. Take it up with her.”

“The hell with that.” He shook her hard, then slid his hands down to hold her hips. He pulled her against him, his lips inches from hers. “I want to know what you choose. That is all that matters.”

Crap crap crap. Being this close to him made her stupid. Heat pooled in her stomach and want tingled through every single one of her cells. Tutresiel was pretty, but Alexander made her want to rub herself all over him.

“I told you. I don’t fool around with the men in my covenstead,” she said hoarsely.

“I am not of your covenstead,” he said, his mouth inching closer. “You have made that all too clear. So that must mean there is nothing to hold us back. Unless you do not want me. For the record, I want you, and I want a lot to do a lot more with you than just fooling around.”

With that, he closed the distance between them. His lips pressed hard against hers. His tongue slipped into her mouth and tasted her with strong, determined sweeps. She gripped his shoulders, her fingers digging hard into him, and kissed him back. She tipped her head and pressed herself closer. He groaned into her mouth and his hands came up to grip her head as he deepened the kiss.

Heat and pleasure rocketed through Max. Her body ached for his touch and she ground her hips against his with hungry eagerness.

Suddenly she pulled back, pressing the back of her hand against her throbbing lips. She was breathing hard, and so was he. His fingers were tense against the back of her neck. He looked down at her, a hard, cold look.

“Are you saying no? Should I be leaving here?”

Her eyes narrowed. “If I say I don’t want to screw you, then you’ll walk out? Is that the deal, Slick?”

She shoved against his chest and he fell back a step, his arms dropping to his sides. Her stomach knotted, and the euphoria she’d been feeling turned sickening. She’d stopped the kiss to catch her balance. His touch drove her out of control, like she was being tossed around in a tornado. She wasn’t sure how she liked it. But now, anger warred with contempt and disappointment.

“Good luck with that. Giselle will send you out of here with a toe tag. She doesn’t want you spilling our secrets.”

He gave a harsh laugh. “I am not worried. I will leave when I want, and she will not send anybody to hunt me. She cannot spare anyone from guarding Horngate.”

He stepped closer until he was barely an inch away. Max bristled, standing firm.

His breath brushed her face, his eyes hot with a churn of emotion. “I want you. More than I can say. But I am done waiting for you and Giselle to figure out what to do with me. I will go with you and help you get your family. I will watch your back. But if you have not chosen me before we return, then I will disappear and you will not see me again.”

“I don’t like ultimatums, Slick.”

He spun around and walked away to his duffle, sliding the strap over his shoulder. “And I do not like swinging in the wind. It is almost dark. Are you ready to go?”

It was a dismissal. Max clenched her teeth. He was right. He did deserve better from Giselle. He’d proven himself loyal to Horngate. But this—

It was more than she was ready for.

“See you topside,” she said, then walked out without looking back.

Inside the door to her own apartment, she sagged back against the closed door, her eyes shutting. Her body still felt the rush of Alexander’s touch and it was good. So damned good.