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DYAD QUEST 
by Ann Hinnenkamp

Genre: Paranormal Romance, E-book, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

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What had he done? Aiden looked down at the woman. She looked so small and fragile in that great beast of a bed. There was barely a bump where her body rested. It was deceiving. He’d seen her naked when he’d washed and clothed her. Lush, tempting curves hid under those covers. Her full breasts, long tapered legs, rounded bottom and silky smooth skin flashed through his head in a tantalizing slide show. His body responded with the speed of a sixteen-year-old. Stop it, he told himself. The poor woman’s half dead. What’s wrong with you, man?

Ever since he’d gazed into those expressive eyes, he’d been obsessed with her. He’d seen her soul in those eyes. From somewhere deep inside, he’d felt a connection. As if she’d called out his soul to join with hers.

It worried him. For over four hundred years he’d worked hard to stay unconnected. He liked his women willing, knowledgeable and temporary. One or two nights and he was gone. It was the chase he enjoyed, the sensual, male-female dance that had been going on since the beginning. He took great pleasure in singling out a woman and making her his. Keep it light, keep it fun. Everyone knew the score, so no one got hurt.

The woman whimpered in her sleep. Aiden knew from experience the healing process could be painful. The more grave the hurt, the longer and more painful the process. Thank God, David had kept her asleep.

Another sick bed flashed into his mind. So long ago and yet the pain still seared straight through to his soul. He’d stood by, helpless, and watched his wife and daughter struggle against an impossible illness until in the end, their deaths were a blessing. Afterward he’d…

Using a technique his Dyad partner had taught him, he cleared his mind and willed his emotions back into balance. He knew better than to rehash the past. Nothing good ever came of it. Always look to the future and stay unconnected.

Feeling more like himself, he looked at the bed and his hard-won calm turned to panic. Dear Lord, what had he done? Why had he asked David to save her? It made him responsible for her. What if he’d erred in his judgment? After all, he’d only looked into her eyes for a few moments. What if she woke and he discovered she was one of those annoying, needy women who always asked where you were, and who you were with, and what you were doing? He’d go mad.

She stirred, and he looked down at her face, so beautiful in sleep. The sight calmed him. No, if he had it to do over again, he would still ask David for her life. There was no denying what he’d seen in those eyes. He couldn’t have walked away from her as he had so many others, leaving them to fate and God’s will. When he’d looked into her eyes, he’d known he had to save her. He’d had a clarity of purpose he’d never felt before. She had to live. But why?

After a soft knock on the door, David came in. He looked at Aiden by the bed but said nothing. Crossing to the windows, he drew open the curtains and let in more light. He moved to the bed and sat down next to the girl, placing his hand on her chest.

Aiden watched him closely for some sign of the girl’s condition. The light from the windows surprised him. He hadn’t realized the sun was up. It was another sign of how out of focus he felt.

David drew his hand away and turned to face Aiden. “The healing is nearly done. She will wake soon. Have you given any thought as to what you will say to her?”

Aiden started to pace. This was all wrong. In the past it was always he who asked David what their next step was, never the other way around. This was new ground for both of them. “We can’t put her back. Even if you modify her memory, we still won’t know who tried to kill her, or why. They’ll try again. Without her memory of these events, she’ll be a sitting duck.” He stopped at the foot of the bed and looked down at the woman.

“I agree, we cannot put her back,” David said. “For many reasons. At least not right away. What do you propose?” He leaned back and gracefully crossed his long legs.

Aiden took in his relaxed posture. “Oh, you’re loving this, aren’t you?”

“Why, Aiden, I have no idea what you mean.” A smile played across David lips.

“You know exactly what I mean, damn you. You’re taking great pleasure in the predicament I’ve gotten myself into here.”

“I will admit to a certain interest. This is so out of character. You, who have always professed is the champion of untangled relationships. Was it not you saying last week to Jacob that Eleanor had clipped his wings? And now here you are, responsible for a woman’s life.”

Aiden’s hands clasped the footboard of the bed in a vise grip. “Now, wait a minute. Just because I didn’t want to see her dead doesn’t mean we’ll be setting up house together.”

“I see. So, may I tell the others you have not claimed her for yourself?”

“This is a trap, that’s what this is. You’re paying me back for the redhead in Paris.”

David let out a rich, throaty laugh. “You know the others will ask, Aiden. If you have not claimed her, there are those who will try. An unclaimed human woman spending time among us is a rare thing. What would you do in their place?”

“Well, I…I…” Aiden sputtered. “You know damn well what I’d do. But I’d never bring an unsuspecting, innocent woman around those randy, unprincipled louts.”

“You already have. And may I remind you, up until now you have been the ring leader of those randy, unprincipled louts? These men are your friends, your comrades.”

Aiden started pacing again. When they’d brought the woman to the safe house, it seemed the right thing to do. The Dyads had safe houses all over the world. Essential when you’re a race of super-beings desperate to keep your civilization a secret. And this house, an eighty-room mansion tucked away on the shore of Lake Superior, had always been one of his favorites. It housed not only the Dyads, but all the human partners as well. Including Aiden, ten partners were staying at the house. Each of them had started life centuries ago and despite all his efforts to train and educate them about the modern world, some of them remained uncivilized in certain areas. Areas like women’s liberation.

However, David was right, they were his friends. Good men all. But the thought of any of them touching this woman made his blood boil. What the hell was wrong with him?

“I will make a deal with you, Aiden. I will keep the others on their best behavior for a few days. We shall leave it to the girl to decide with whom she wants to spend her time.”

“What’s my part of the deal?”

“You, my friend, will allow her to make her own decision and abide by it, whatever or whoever it is. None of your usual seductive tricks. Do we have a deal?”

Aiden examined the deal for hidden pitfalls. Finding none, he spit into his hand and offered it to David. “The deal is struck,” he said as their hands clasped.

David rose from the bed and moved to the door. “As I said, she will wake soon. You should be here when she does. There will be questions. Be careful in your answers.”

For some reason, Aiden’s heart sped up at the thought of actually having a conversation with the girl.

“And, Aiden,” David said in a soft voice.

“Yes?”

“Treat her gently. She has more injuries than the physical. By the way, remember to call her Jude. She hates Judy.”

A few minutes later, Jude’s eyes fluttered open. She smiled up at him with a childlike innocence. She threw her hands above her head and indulged in a back-bowing stretch, lifting her midsection up off the bed. A long sigh escaped her as she settled back down on the bed and looked at him. Her eyes narrowed. He saw it coming.

She bolted upright and threw herself back against the headboard, her eyes wide with panic. “Am I dead? Are you an angel?”

Aiden chuckled. “Well, my lady, I’ve been called many things over the years, but this is the first time anyone has compared me to the heavenly cherubim.”

“Yes, but I…I…”

The memory of their first meeting flashed across her face. She pulled her nightgown away from her body to examine her chest. Her fingers found the two small red marks—the only evidence left of her wounds. She looked back up at him, confusion changing her features. “But, I was shot. That man. He shot me, twice. I was dying. I couldn’t even save the ant. And then you and,” her eyes swept across the room, searching, “the handsome one, you came, and he said my spine was severed and…” She put her hands to her head, gasping. “Oh, my God, my spine was severed. I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak.”

Aiden approached her as he would any frightened animal. His hands out, palms up, his voice soothing. “I know, I know, but it’s all right now. You’re all right now. Everything’s going to be fine, Jude.” As gently as possible, he touched her arm, still clasped against her body. “You’re safe now. No one will hurt you,” he said, soothing her with his touch. “You’re alive and healthy, in a safe place, only twenty miles from your home.”

Jude looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “You saved me. He wasn’t going to, but you made him. I don’t know how it was done, but I know you saved me.” She threw her arms around him and hugged tightly. “Thank you,” she whispered against his ear.

Tenderness overwhelmed Aiden. Against his better judgment, he wrapped his arms around her. She felt so right. He’d known it would be this way. As he’d watched her sleep, he’d known what she would sound like, feel like, smell like. What was happening to him? Not trusting himself, he pushed her away to arm’s length.