A vampiric organization is secretly trusted with fighting world criminals that threaten humanity.
Continuing the crime-fighting series, Sean Reilly must face and defeat an ancient foe while battling rogue vampires who are running rampant in Ireland. The rogues' savage presence threatens to reveal vampires to civilization.
Morgan Grady, a newly changed American vampire, fights for the recognition she deserves as both a warrior and Sean's partner. Before she can be accepted into The Nightwatchers organization, or even perceived as Sean's equal, ghosts from World War II must be finally confronted and defeated.
Nothing is what is seems and the seeds of discontent are sewn. The leader of The Nightwatchers organization may not be who or what he says he is. Can he be trusted by his own agents?
Ancient drama unfolds as the Irish-based vampires fight for truth in the midst of treachery.
Rating: Limited sexual scenes, 90% action-adventure
Book 2 of a series
Release date: April 24, 2020
Publisher: Candace Sams
Print pages: 221
Content advisory: Some sexual content. Rated PG. Content heavy with Action/Adventure Romantic Elements
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Behind the book
A man who has seen the horrors of WWII is changed into a vampire and charged with finding and bringing to justice criminals in the world. He is aided by humans and other vampires within an organization known as The Nightwatchers.
The Nightwatchers: Sean, Book 2
The making of a team…
When Morgan finally returned to Sean’s room, Dani didn’t go with her. There was no reason for anyone to tag along; this was certainly a one-woman mission.
The door to Sean’s room was closed, and Skord was leaning against the outside doorframe. Morgan looked at him and he smiled. There was something in the big man’s eyes that was very kind. He could have made some crude joke or off-color comment about what was going to happen; he certainly knew about it since he’d suggested it along with Dani. But all he did was quietly open the door for her, then close it after she entered.
Morgan saw Sean leaning back against his pillows with his eyes closed. Pain was deeply etched into his face, and she suddenly knew this had to be done. The same act would be offered for her if the situation was reversed.
Okay…by her standards it was kinky, but she wasn’t human any longer and must now consider differing rationale. She tried, therefore, to keep the entire experience on a professional level and not think about the actual act.
She watched as Sean opened his eyes and stared at her.
“What, in the name of St. Bridget, do you think you’re bloody well doing?” he asked angrily.
Without speaking, she sat on the edge of the bed, next to him. She now began to notice what she hadn’t earlier. She saw every developed muscle in his pectorals and all there was clear down to where the covers had been pulled over his abdomen. His biceps were bulky and the look of that masculine, well-developed body embedded some deep need which quickly washed away her reticence. Like a caged animal finally being freed, she felt herself strengthen and change. Her incisors began to lengthen, and her body felt hot with desire. She hadn’t expected this to happen so fast. Dani, as the safe house human expert on vampires, had said she wouldn’t be able to help herself. As it had been described, Morgan knew this one act would bond her and Sean. And though she had wanted to refuse having anything to do with this bizarre ritual after first hearing of it, she now desired it more with every passing second.
“Morgan, what are you doing?” Sean whispered.
“I think that’s obvious.”
“I can do anything I want to. It’s my choice. Of course, you can refuse.”
Sean sat absolutely still as Morgan straddled his hips and further loosened the belt of her robe. As a woman, she was startlingly lovely. As a vampire, she was inconceivably sexy.
He’d never seen anything so breathtakingly arresting. She slowly shrugged the soft material from her shoulders, and he couldn’t help putting his hands around her waist. Touching her was an absolute necessity. He couldn’t have stopped himself for any reason. Her full, luscious breasts captured his attention. But before he could glance into her eyes again, she raised her right hand, raked the nail of her now extremely long and sharp index finger across her left nipple, and drew blood.
“You can refuse, Sean.”
“You know I damned well won’t,” he uttered, then leaned forward and took the breast in his mouth. Like the first time he’d tasted it, Morgan’s blood flowed rich and sweet. He already felt the pain of his wound retreating as if it had been no more than a minor injury; his body sutured itself closed. That was the gift one vampire had to bestow upon another who had been grievously wounded. But this act had more meaning than just the quick healing of his wound. It was an exceedingly sensual experience that could link them. Some instinct told him this would happen and that he’d let it.
Driven to the point of aggression by her repetitive whispers of his name, Sean tried to hold back the greatest part of his vampire’s strength. He lifted his head from her wounded breast and watched the cut quickly close. He knew her pain had only been momentary as he trailed soft, kisses up and down her deep cleavage and over to the other breast. She leaned back, and he held her as she did so, letting her body fall upon the deep soft bedcover.
Moving over her, he felt her legs open. He accepted the unspoken invitation to lie between them.
He positioned himself on top of her, while his lips kept constant contact with her throat. He sensed the great need in her as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and stroked his bare back. It had been a long time since accepting a vampiric lover for any other reason than just the sex. All he could think about was never letting her go. Even if it meant suffering a thousand agonies in the form of every known fear, he had to keep Morgan in his life. He had to keep her safe. His keeping her safe was a concept she’d deny, of course.
When his lips finally met hers, Morgan kissed him deeply and thrust her tongue against his. He heard a moan originate from deep within her chest; as though it had been torn away. She pushed at his shoulders and rolled on top of him. The sheets tangled around them in a way that made the fabric feel sensual and added to the experience. She tossed her hair back and lowered her head to his chest. Each of his nipples received the same attention he’d given hers. And when she trailed lingering kisses down his torso to the juncture of his thighs, he cried out in delight and held her head to his body. Erect and longer than a human male, he radiated sensual power she couldn’t resist. Taking only a moment to caress his most sensitive flesh with her lips, she sat up and slowly guided him into her body.
“Holy Mother of…Morgan, do you know what you’re doing?”
“I know,” she rasped and rotated her hips to take him inside more fully.
He saw her eyes begin to glow with an ethereal light and felt his incisors lengthen. It wasn’t difficult to imagine his own countenance. It would bear the same enraptured expression etched on her exquisite face.
Muscles in his body tightened and coiled as they prepared for a supreme act of energy. Morgan wasn’t afraid of him. She took with zeal. Whatever her reservations had been when she’d first seen him as a vampire on the moors, she was over it.
He watched every move she made, every look she bestowed. Her energetic cries of raw pleasure drove deep inside him. He caressed her breasts and abdomen as she moved. Nothing in his life had ever felt so right. Even pleasure with other vampire women hadn’t led him to such a state of euphoria. It was like being taken for the first time, and the beauty loving him was all his. At least, for this moment in time she belonged to him.
As the speed of her downward thrusts increased, Morgan’s pleasure seemed to grow exponentially.
Emboldened by hearing his name uttered with such gusto, his body responded automatically.
He rolled them both over and plunged into her with grace and ease; meaning to give her every bit of pleasure this moment in time deserved. She grasped handfuls of his hair and met each thrust with one of her own―matching force with force.
He knew the exact moment she yielded to the intense energy. His orgasm was only seconds behind, and he lurched when she bit into his chest quickly and deeply. Her embedded incisors increased both the length and intensity of his experience.
For a moment, their bodies went absolutely still. Then the dramatic second, orgasmic wave spilled over them as it sometimes did when vampires loved.
They became as wild as any animal; they were attached to all nature and to each other while thrashing and pressing against each other with feral abandon.
For an instant, Sean thought he’d lose his mind. His second orgasm went on and on; he heard a voice crying out in uncontrollable delight and realized it was his.
She was everything he’d ever wanted; everything he knew he shouldn’t have. For this joined moment in time, his better judgment didn’t matter. Only she did.
When they finally lay spent against each other, he slowly sat up and pulled her with him. She turned her head and silently snuggled into his chest. He plunged his hands into her long hair and kissed the top of her head. Her body was soft and yielding. In his immortal life, there was nothing he’d ever crave so much as to rest there with her forever in his arms.
For a long time, no words were spoken. They simply clung to each other and accepted what had happened. They were bonded. It had happened because they’d allowed it. The emotional side had been there as well as the purely physical desire.
Morgan wasn’t supposed to have taken his blood when she gave hers. He was certain she’d been told exactly what their mutual drinking meant. He simply held on to her, not caring about anything but the woman in his bed.
Finally, she looked up and caressed his cheek with her palm.
He pushed her hair back with both hands and gazed into her glowing eyes. Then he lifted slightly, kissed her softly, and fell backward while pulling her with him.
“It’s almost sunrise,” Morgan whispered. “I can sense it.”
He tried to word his query carefully, but there was no better way to get to the truth than to simply ask. “Morgan…why?”
“Are you pissed, Sean?”
“No. I knew what you were about to do. I could feel it coming and could have stopped it. It was like feeling a warm spring rain and not wanting to take shelter. I…I know that sounds poetic, but it’s the only way I have to describe it.” No female of his kind had ever done such a thing; he was sure he’d have stopped anyone else. But Morgan was different. She had been from the first.
“That’s what I was told,” she supplied, “that you could stop me if you wanted to.”
“That’s not an answer,” he softly insisted. “Why did you want to? You know we’ll have feelings for each other that might not be wise under the circumstances.”
“Dani said we could fight it if we wanted to. Do you…want to?”
“I don’t know, Morgan. I…I don’t know. I’m not sure why I let you do it,” he lied.
“You’re smart and so am I. We’ll figure it out,” she murmured, then snuggled her head against his shoulder again.
For the first time since WWII, Sean’s heart opened and he felt like anything might be possible. A deathlike weight in the vicinity of his chest fell away. As he drifted into the deep sunrise—sleep that already claimed Morgan—he tightened his arms protectively around her. For a brief time, he could pretend.
When Morgan opened her eyes, she was lying on her stomach with the bedspread tucked around her. She pushed herself into a sitting position while holding a sheet to her chest. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust. After the deep sleep she’d enjoyed, other parts of her body needed to adjust as well. Her inner thighs were a little sore. Other than that, she felt pretty damned good.
Sean’s room was all black and chrome and filled with large ebony furniture. It was a man’s room, and she loved waking in it.
She was about to call out, but the subject of her thoughts walked in from an adjoining room. He smilingly offered her one of two goblets of blood. When he drank his evening meal quickly and put the goblet on a bedside table, Morgan did the same. Then she leaned back to enjoy the view.
His muscular frame was now covered by a black robe, and his long dark hair was damp, as if he’d recently been in a shower. She grinned as he sat down next to her.
“Good evening, Morgan. I let you sleep in. I took a little more blood from you than I should have. Forgive me?” He stroked her hair with one hand and pressed a soft kiss onto her cheek.
Even though he’d just walked into the room, this new, sweet Sean was undoing her with every syllable he spoke and every sultry look he cast her way. She now had feelings for him magnifying even the smallest endearing sentiments she might have earlier entertained. It would be better to guard against any of them. Dani had told her that if she took his blood right after he’d taken hers, this bonding thing would be a bit of an obstacle to overcome. There was no rational reason why she’d done it. She had convinced herself it was to heal his wound quickly, so that he wouldn’t suffer for longer than necessary.
However, her act wasn’t motivated by logic but more by instinct. Still, there was no reason not to enjoy the moment. This bonding could, as Dani assured her, be undone. All she had to do was denounce it long and hard enough; it would fail. The experience, as she saw it would be something special to look back on. She’d always considered herself adventurous. This would be just one more discovery; something to remember when she left this place. For now, however, she sipped blood which suddenly seemed like wine. Why had she ever abhorred it?
When he sat next to her, she gazed into his blue eyes and lifted her face for his soft but passionate kiss. And when it ended, she ran her index finger down the part of his chest his robe didn’t cover.
“I wanted to be clear about what it is we’re feeling,” he told her.
She smiled. “It’s like…like you’re part of me.”
He nuzzled her cheek. “I am. Our blood is joined.”
She pulled back slightly. “If you could stop me, why didn’t you?
He slowly shook his head. “I can’t answer that. I’ve been fighting this since I saw you lying in that hospital bed in Los Angeles.” He shook his head in apparent confusion. “Your presence here scares the crap out of me, but I can’t deny what I’m feeling.”
“Your wanting me to stay at the compound last night is because of what happened to Simone isn’t it?” she slowly asked. “That’s why you were so angry about my having followed you and Skord. You know I can take care of myself, but you don’t want me hurt.”
He silently regarded her for a moment. “Simone was a lot like you. She believed in fighting for the right things and died doing it. I think that’s why you finally got under my skin, and why I was afraid of what might happen. I don’t want to see you end up like her.”
“When I saw how badly you’d been wounded, I was afraid for you. You never told me a vampire could be hurt like that. You never mentioned about the sharing of blood. Had Dani not been here to teach me, you could have lingered in pain for days, Sean. But…that’s part of this job, I guess. I think you’ll always be worried about me. No matter how good I am or what I do.”
“Yes. That’s how it is,” he admitted.
“Will you promise to never pull a crazy stunt like you did last night?” she asked as she saw his expression change from quiet intensity to argumentative. Before he could speak she made her feelings quite clear. “I mean it, Sean. You may have done this kind of thing before, but last night could have been the end.”
“I’ve already told you I couldn’t miss the opportunity to meet Regar. Even if it was a long shot, and I knew it could be a trap.”
“Why is it you can work so well with Skord, but won’t let anyone else be your partner?” She meant any woman as a partner. But his obsession with what had happened to his former lover was the answer. She just wanted to hear him admit he’d never let her be an equal and his past experience was the reason.
“Skord and I have worked together so many times that he knows the way I’ll react. He almost knows what I’m thinking. Do you know how long it takes to build that kind of tactical instinct? You’ve worked with partners in dangerous situations and can understand, can’t you?” he asked as he stroked her hair.
Momentarily grabbing the offer of a more congenial topic, Morgan latched onto the subject of Sean’s best friend. “Why does Skord keep helping you and this agency when it can’t benefit him? He almost got himself killed last night.”
“For reasons that are his affair, Skord left the agency many years ago. He won’t come back until the circumstances are right. I’ve tried to get him to change his mind. Because of his importance and past record, he was allowed to leave on his terms. Everyone assumed he’d eventually return.” He sighed and pulled her closer. “He’s a man who likes giving orders, not taking them. All that being said, he’d still work beside me whether the agency existed or not. The man trusts me. I return the confidence.”
Morgan considered this comment and perceived she would never have that kind of trust. But she gamely lifted her chin and lightened the subject. “You know…in my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined this organization. Knowing what you can do that humans can’t, I don’t want to picture the world without such an agency.”
Sean cupped one of her cheeks in his hand. “I knew you’d understand. And the kind of criminal element we’re dealing with these days is exactly what makes our job so much more dangerous. I don’t want to see anything happen to you.”
The subject came back around as she feared it would. She realized that was that. He could accept Skord as a partner, but not her. Reminding herself the two men had plotted to remove her from Greenwood without her knowledge or consent, how could she safely go anywhere if she wasn’t with them? The rogues knew her and could find her. But she wasn’t new to the game of criminal vengeance. She’d been threatened as a cop and by some very dangerous people who hadn’t wanted her to testify or to arrest them to begin with. With that experience to fall back on, her brain was already forming a plan.
For now she savored the moment, wrapped her arms around his waist, and lifted her face. After a slow, searing kiss, she reaffirmed her position. “Whatever happens, I’ll never forget last night. I can’t explain how I felt when we made love.”
He gently pushed her hair back with one hand. “I know. I felt it, too.”
She leaned into him and let him hold her tightly. “Why don’t we concentrate on the good that might come out of this instead of borrowing trouble?” She brushed her lips against his, and they both fell backward onto the bed. Sean pulled the covers away from her body, but the intimate moment was interrupted when a buzzer sounded.
He scowled at the intercom and considered ignoring the obvious attempt to get him to turn it on. The sound of it was so annoying that it wouldn’t let him, and Morgan have a moment’s worth of privacy. He quickly hit the button to open the communication between himself and whoever was on the other end of the device. “This had better be good!”
“I’m sorry, Sean,” Dani’s voice came over the intercom, “but Skord called his private answering machine in Dublin and there was a message left for him. It was meant for the both of you. I think you’d better come down to the parlor and hear this.”
Morgan quickly put her palm over Sean’s mouth before he could finish his angry outburst. “We’ll be right down, Dani.” She pushed the intercom button to the off position and shrugged. “We may as well see what this is about.”
“I wanted to spend more time with you. Alone.”
“I’ll take a rain check,” she said and smiled at him.
“Seems we have no choice,” he agreed. “I’ll change and you can come down as soon as you’re ready.”
Before he could lean forward and kiss her again, Morgan stood and pulled on her robe. “Give me a few minutes. Don’t discuss anything vital without me.”
Sean watched her go and couldn’t help noticing the way her long hair fell down her back in shimmering waves.
He knew Dani wouldn’t have interrupted them unless something was really wrong. Though his assistant had developed a way to keep her voice calm under the direst circumstances, he still sensed the telltale shake indicating Dani’s agitation. Something wasn’t right. That Skord was involved led him to believe the news had something to do with the previous night.
He hurried to his closet and grabbed up the black leather clothing he always wore for duty. He made his way downstairs and heard voices long before entering the lounge.
“How do you know this isn’t another setup?” Dani asked.
Skord sat in a large leather chair with a glass of blood in one hand. “Just a feeling I have. I think Sean will believe it’s real.” He stood when Sean entered the room. “Just so you’re aware of it, I stayed in Morgan’s room last night”, Skord offered. “It was close to sunrise. I didn’t think I’d make it back to Dublin in time and didn’t relish digging into the dirt to stay out of the sun.”
Sean poured himself a glass of the ever-present blood before responding. “I won’t complain since you helped save my hide.” He paused to look his friend in the eyes, and to impart the sincerity he felt. “I owe you!”
Skord laughed and waved his free hand. “You’d have done the same.”
Sean nodded and held up his blood-filled wine glass in a toast. “Yes…but thanks anyway.”
Dani broke the silence after their toast. “I’ll leave the two of you and see if Morgan needs anything.”
Both men watched as Dani quickly left the room and quietly closed the doors behind her.
Skord sat down, propped his feet on a nearby stool and offered an opinion. “Morgan didn’t seem well versed in our lifestyle last night. Dani had to tell her what to do, regarding your injury.”
Sean took a seat on the sofa and stared into the fireplace where Dani had a nice blaze burning. The fire was for her own comfort since a vampire certainly didn’t need it. Skord sat there staring at him so he offered up an excuse as to why Morgan had never heard of the cold blood procedure for when a vampire was seriously wounded with silver.
“I was putting off certain aspects of our lifestyle…hoping the events leading to exchanging blood would never happen in her case,” Sean explained. “She’s not staying with the organization therefore the chances of her ever being wounded are very slim; there was no need for me to tell her.” The excuse sounded lame. But it was better than admitting some other vampire male might one day do for her what she’d done for him.
Skord simply stared at him.
“She could have died last night,” Sean reminded him when his friend remained silent for too long. “It might be better for her not to join the agency.”
“But you have to admit that she’s taking her transformation in stride,” Skord insisted. “Morgan fought like a demon on that hillside. Very powerful, but with definite finesse. And she went to your room with very little effort on our part.” He stopped, as if to consider his next words carefully. “Yes…I’d say she was adapting quite well.”
Sean frowned. “Last night is something you and I are going to have a long talk about. I’d have healed without her help. Both you and Dani knew it.”
Skord smiled and shrugged. “It was her choice.”
“Let’s just drop the subject for now and talk about the message you got.” Sean deliberately directed the conversation away from Morgan’s gift of blood. The memory was still too poignant, and he hadn’t had time to explore the reality of what had happened. He wanted whatever missive Skord had out in the open so the matter could be dealt with.
“Regar wants to meet with us in three hours,” Skord blurted.
Sean had been pouring himself some more blood but suddenly slammed his goblet down on the table so hard the sound reverberated throughout the room. “What did you just say? Do those damned rogues think I’m out of my mind…do they think I’ll fall for that shit twice?” he furiously relayed.
Skord slowly shook his head and sat forward.
Sean saw the earnest look in his friend’s eyes and knew this was a different situation altogether. Something had happened that had got under Skord’s skin. In all the years he had known the man, he’d never seen such an intense expression on his friend’s face.
“It’s no trick this time, Sean. I’m sure of it. I re-played the recorded message and got the impression it was really him.”
Sean shook his head in disbelief. “But why?”
“It’d be just like an ancient with a huge ego to leave a message at my own pub…where his invitation would seem like an open act of defiance,” Skord reasoned. “We’ve always assumed he knows everything there is to know about the agency. If that’s true, then he knows everything about us as well. Certainly, he believes he’s invincible.”
“I meant…why would he contact us now? The coincidence, after what happened last night, doesn’t escape me.”
“He didn’t say so, but I think his message to meet is because of last night.”
Sean stood and began to pace. Skord’s instincts were renowned. They’d been accurate all during the war years. If his German friend believed the message had been left by the infamous Regar—the real one this time—then it was probably true. “I’ll have to tie Morgan in the basement to keep her from following like she did last night.”
“Not to get in your business, Sean, but it’s her choice…don’t you think?”
“Not in this life,” he growled. “She’s not going.”
Skord tilted his head in thought. “I’ve a feeling there won’t be any trouble. Regar was adamant about a meeting only. I can’t imagine someone so crafty being involved with rogues. At least not if it wasn’t in his best interests. The situation last night wasn’t planned as though an ancient instigated it. Last night was our mistake. Those rogues knew that the very mention of Regar’s name would draw us out in a hurry. Tonight…this is different.”
“How can we know for sure?” Sean asked. “We know Regar has prompted wars and confrontations all over the globe that were wrongly attributed to assorted lunatics.”
Skord shook his head. “No…I believe Berrigan was telling the truth when he said he planned the entire scenario to avenge his brother. But to get back to the subject of Morgan…she should know who Regar is. You should have told her about him regardless of whether she decides to stay in the organization or not.”
“What would be the point?”
Skord exhaled slowly. “You’re not thinking straight, Sean. She needs to know that such an entity exists since she’s, for the moment, associated with The Nightwatchers and might one day be a target because of that association.”
“Dammit! I don’t want him knowing about her.” Sean stopped his pacing and faced his friend. “We haven’t got the slightest clue about the extent of his powers. A man like him could do what he wanted to her.”
“As with us and our histories, he probably already knows everything about her being here; maybe even why.”
Sean gazed at Skord in shock. “Patrick! He might have found out about what her uncle did to save Morgan’s life.”
“That could be true. Fergus and his staff have always underestimated Regar’s contacts and his ability to get information from many sources. But you’re underestimating Morgan, my friend. By going with us, she’ll learn firsthand what a powerful ancient feels like. It could be her only chance to meet an entity like him. If she ever finds out you deliberately left her out of this, she won’t thank you.”
“She’s supposed to take orders as and when I give them, without question. Liking it isn’t her prerogative. You know the drill.”
“Sean…think! You surely realize how significant this situation is. Unlike that brawl last night, this has the hallmark of the real deal. There’s no question we have to go. My presence is by choice, yours by duty. But Fergus wouldn’t thank you for leaving Morgan out of it. She’s supposed to be your initiate. That means she should be advised of and included in all your contacts.”
Sean dragged his hands through his hair in absolute ire. “Shaggin’ hell, don’t you think I know? But I still don’t want her near him.”
Skord slowly shook his head. “You haven’t changed in all these years.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Any idiot can see you really care for this woman. As always, you’re still thinking of Simone and what happened decades ago.” Skord moved closer to make his point. “If you smother Morgan with your fears, she’ll leave.”
Sean put his hands on his hips and lifted his brows. “How do you know what she would or wouldn’t do?”
“I know that woman has spirit. In her, I can feel a will for life that’s as potent as any drug. And the fact that she was a police officer says something about her character. She won’t want to be a part of any organization where she’s treated like glass. Especially not because her supervisor is falling in love with her and fears for her safety,” Skord persisted. “I’ve known you for years and can sense how you feel. It’s written all over your face, even if I had no powers to judge the matter. Besides, I’ve felt Morgan’s brand of strength before. It’s like that of a thousand others who died doing what they thought was right. If you start making exceptions to what she can do because you’re afraid for her, she’ll walk. If that happens, I’ll offer her whatever she needs. And I mean that literally.”
Sean glared at him and clenched his hands into tight fists. He’d fallen into a trap of his own making. He now realized he’d have to send a woman, for whom he had amorous feelings, to a man who might win her love. Though he knew he couldn’t be with her and that she had no intention of joining the organization, jealousy still coursed through his veins. He didn’t like the sensation; especially since the man involved was his best friend. Skord was assuming she’d stay if she was asked and because of what they’d shared in bed. He and Morgan weren’t so attached by the bonding that they’d remain together. Their fleeting emotions would cool. The sensations that’d seemed so strong when he’d held her would pass. Though the feelings they’d developed would be hard to ignore, they were the best reason to get her out of harm’s way; even if that meant sending her to someone who could capture her devotion.
“I see you don’t care for what I’m saying,” Skord told him, then slowly leaned back in his chair. “Take care with her, or I’ll gladly offer Morgan a place to turn, and not just to help her start over. If she accepts that offer because of your insecurities, she won’t be back. A woman like that won’t put her life on hold for anyone. She won’t be dictated to and treated like a fragile piece of porcelain. She’s too vibrant and intelligent. She’s a woman any man would want.”
“Why would you consider taking her as a love interest? I thought we were friends and that you’d do this unconditionally? You’ve got enough women to keep you busy for the next three lifetimes.”
“We are friends, Sean. And I do have women I enjoy being with. But they aren’t like Morgan. Any changeling could feel how different she is. Her drive and passion are mesmerizing.”
“I can see these qualities are certainly working where you’re concerned!” Sean angrily uttered.
“She’d never have come after you and risked her live without a great deal of courage and strength. Not unless it was rooted in her feelings for you. If she didn’t care, she’d have never offered you blood when you were lying there with your intestines hanging out.”
Sean rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“For a woman with drive, beauty, and intelligence, a man would give up a lot,” Skord advised. “You won’t deserve her if you can’t make her happy, or if you can’t treat her with respect.”
Sean opened his mouth to finally tell Skord off. But the doors to the parlor opened, and the subject of their conversation walked in with Dani following.
For a very long moment, Sean couldn’t utter a sound. He was aware that Skord was rising from his chair and approaching Morgan, but his own feet seemed cemented to the spot. In her leather, she looked like some dark goddess of war; elegant, graceful, and deadly if she so chose. His blood metaphorically ran hot though he’d just tried to convince himself it would chill in time. Morgan seemed to notice his and Skord’s obsessive stares. Their mutual perusal of the beauty before them was over when she decided to end it.
“Pardon the conceit in this statement, but why are you both staring at me like I’m on the menu?” She asked in a low monotone. “You’re both dressed just like me; in the compulsory black leather that seems to be the uniform around here. What’s the problem?”
Sean cleared his throat before speaking. “Nothing. Black suits you.” It wasn’t the most original statement he’d ever made, but he was still angry about Skord’s comments and how the man was looking her over as though she was indeed the main course. Dani’s snickering at their reaction didn’t improve his mood.
“Absolutely, Morgan,” Skord readily agreed, “black suits you very well.”
Morgan suddenly grinned and held out her hand.
To Sean’s dismay, Skord kissed the back of it in an old-fashioned, chivalrous way.
“You’re forgiven,” she said as she tipped her head and affected a slight curtsy. “I just want it understood that I get equal time to stare at your butts.”
Skord burst out laughing.
Sean’s anger rose in direct proportion to his jealousy. The moment should have been more serious. They should have been deciding how to handle this upcoming meeting with Regar. Instead, the bulk of their time had been dedicated to Morgan and how to handle her.
He did his best to ignore her garb and the way her riding boots made her incredibly long legs look even longer. The open duster she wore did nothing to hide the perfectly proportioned curves, the swell of her breasts, her tiny waist or flat abdomen. Rather than minimize her femininity, the outfit punctuated it.
Her hair had, as usual, been pulled into a high ponytail and sifted around her shoulders like a brown-red, shimmering curtain. It framed her stunning face in the most alluring way. His body responded eagerly to her charms because he’d indulged in them. He knew what all that leather contained. But her spectacular presence only drove him to make a point.
“There’s just one question I have about your attire, as scintillating as it obviously is,” Sean remarked.
Morgan turned her gaze toward him.
He stepped very close to her and quietly asked, “Why are you dressed like this?”
“To confront this Regar character. I thought that was obvious,” Morgan blithely advised as she glanced from one man to the other.
Sean turned toward Dani and silently glared at his employee. She had the good grace to look away, but not before he caught a glimmer of guilt in her eyes. His once trustworthy personal assistant, the one who’d always been the soul of discretion, had obviously told Morgan every detail about the message Skord received. His attention immediately went back to Morgan when she brought a small crossbow out from under the leather coat she wore. Presumably she did this so he’d see she was armed. Her assumptive gesture was the last straw. Sean drew himself up, crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at her with all the determination he could muster. Her eyes registered his disapproval a brief second before she blurted hers.
“Oh no you don’t! Don’t even try pulling that stay back at the compound crap again!” she abruptly snapped.
Skord attempted to change the subject. “Why don’t we just get to the business at hand…that being the message I received from Regar and how to handle it?”
Morgan defiantly stared up at Sean. His square jaw was set—his full lips drawn in an ominous line. In fact, his blue eyes glowed menacingly. And though she realized he was fuming at her insistence on being included, she still felt a feral, sexual pull. In that moment, she’d never wanted a man more. And that sensation anchored her decision about the future and what she’d do with the rest of her life.
She boldly looked him over. The black leather duster he wore made his already immense shoulders seem that much broader. All that dark hair falling over his shoulders was heavenly. She wanted to get her hands into it, drag him upstairs, and back into the bedroom. The man didn’t know how gorgeous he was when he was domineering. Regardless of her first impulse to rail at him, she displayed what she hoped was her most seductive smile. This actually had the effect of putting Sean’s attention back on the reason they were standing there.
“Let’s deal with the issue,” he commanded.
Skord cleared his throat and slowly began. “I…was just telling Sean that Regar wants to meet with us at midnight,” Skord repeated for Morgan’s sake. “For some crazy reason, he wants to convene back at the same stone circle where our little rogue-tryst took place last night. He says he’ll bring his guard, a driver, and only one other man. Sean can bring any weapons he wants and any people he pleases. I’m sure he’d want you with us, Morgan. Right, Sean?”
Sean jerked his head in Skord’s direction.
Morgan watched as her mentor stood there clenching and unclenching his hands. It was as if he was trying to decide whether to rake Skord over the coals for telling her.
She used that loaded moment to change tactics. Her hand settled on Sean’s shoulder and he slowly turned to face her. “You’ll let me come, won’t you?” she softly asked. “This is the first time this guy has ever made contact like this, isn’t it? He’s something of an enigma. That’s why you put yourself in a trap last night. You told me you’d go to those lengths just for the chance to meet him.” She took a deep breath and followed through. “Well…I want a chance to see this legend for myself. If what Dani says is true, he probably knows I’m here. I may as well be with you.”
“Her logic is inescapable,” Skord murmured.
Morgan was a bit surprised when Sean gripped one of her forearms in his hand and gently guided her out onto the patio. Once they were there, she watched as he briefly closed his eyes. His patience was obviously at a breaking point. She softened her approach.
“Sean? I’m going too…right?”
He grabbed her shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Will you stay close to me and Skord? I’m asking this because I haven’t yet taught you to shapeshift. That’s a skill we might need tonight, but one of the very last you’d have been taught under any circumstances.” He took a shaky breath before continuing. “I need to know you’ll do exactly as I tell you, Morgan. No arguing or backtalk.”
The way he looked at her made her insides melt. There was fear and anxiety in his gaze that was heartrending. He was trying to overcome his dread the best way he could. She felt pity for him and what he must have lived through to experience such disquiet. “All right, Sean. But I can take care of myself. I may not know all the powers I should use just yet, but I was a cop for a long time. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that you don’t know about. I want to be treated as an equal.”
“I know. And I am trying. But if anything ever happened to you…”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and was surprised to find that this huge, muscular man was trembling. “I’ll back you up, if you do the same for me. Okay?” she gently asked.
After a very long moment of staring at one another, he nodded. “All right. We’ll take the motorcycles as we did before, and you ride with me. If anything happens, the countryside is your best escape until you can make your way back here.”
“I know. I’ve already picked out places I can hide,” she confirmed.
“Good.” He sighed heavily. “It’s obvious you can drive a motorcycle if you can’t use the landscape for cover. As powerful as Regar probably is…I don’t know if riding at high speed will help if you need to escape.”
She smiled broadly and shook her head at his protective posturing.
Almost as an afterthought, Sean lifted a hand and pointed one index at her. “Don’t even think I’m giving you permission to use my bike whenever you please! It’s not going to happen.”
Morgan suppressed another grin. She saw him begrudgingly return it, almost against his will. Then he returned to serious mode just as quickly.
“Swear to me you’ll stay close,” he quietly insisted. “You may not want the help, but I need you near. All right?”
“All you had to do was ask, Sean. In fact, if you ask me the right way…I’ll do anything.”
“I’ll store that for future reference,” he shot back.
Skord stood at the entrance to the parlor and spoke loud enough for Morgan and Sean to hear. “I hate to interrupt, but we need to make plans if we’re going through with this.”
Sean looked at his friend and suddenly saw the disarming, joking gleam filter into Skord’s expression. That was when he realized the simple truth…Skord had never meant he’d try to romantically take Morgan. The other man had only goaded him to be careful, or risk losing something that had, in a short time, become very precious. His friend knew him very well or that warning would never have been made. A woman like Morgan Grady could have any man she wanted. His problem was in making sure he could deal with that eventuality…as long as she was safe. That mattered more than his selfish desires.
“Let’s do this,” Morgan insisted.
Sean saw her determined expression. Without having seen her file, he would have known she was one hell of a good cop. That look said it all.
But good cops died. Technically she had. He had to get her somewhere far away. Someplace safe. First, they had to get through another night at the stone circle—another night of possible treachery or even death.
Sean clenched his jaw and vowed that if anyone had to die this night, it wouldn’t be his best friend…and not Morgan.
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