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The usual rhythm of kneading did nothing to calm Ian McIntyre. He went through the motions, but something was off. He stiffened.
“You really should lock your doors, Ian. Someone might just wander in.”
At the sound of Sinai Blackstone’s voice, Ian gritted his teeth. He continued working, making Ianis B Special—the intricate dessert that was his most popular seller. He listened as Sinai moved around the kitchen. For the last few months, he had become used to her coming by in the mornings before he opened or anyone else arrived. He didn’t need to see her to know she was making herself a cup of tea with a dollop of honey and a stick of cinnamon. Next, she would take a dish and help herself to the same pastry she had every day. The scrape of a plate reached his ears. Sinai came back into view.
He took in her honey-skinned beauty. Her highly carved cheeks, full nose and round chin all blended together to create a minxish sexiness. A smug smile spread over her lush lips. She walked towards him with a graceful, sensual movement that seemed to create a beat that resonated in him. He clenched his fist as heat flooded low in his gut. Her fragrance of coconut and shea butter came to him over all the scents in the bakery. Her wild, kinky curls were pulled back into her usual braid, taming them. His cock hardened painfully. Then rage pulsed in his blood. She put down her tea and pastry, taking a seat on the stool across from him.
Ian ignored her, bending his head to make pastries. After a few moments, not hearing her usual sounds of pleasure as she ate and drank, he looked at her. There was an expression he couldn’t define on her face. It made him uncomfortable. It was as if she could see all that he was. That was not something he ever wanted. Especially from her. A stronger flash of annoyance filled him. Sinai blinked, her thick curly lashes fanning briefly over her amber eyes.
“You’re not to blame for what happened with The Klionhs,” Sinai said softly.
Ian’s fingers squished in the dough. Years ago, when they had been in college, he and his friends had created The Klionhs—a gene-altering drug. They had been young and foolish, blinded by the idea of getting into the genetic code and manipulating it. They had succeeded more than they could have imagined. The Klionhs enhanced the user, giving them super-human power and strength as well as a few other things. Basically, anyone given the drug would become a finely-tuned assassin, one who would kill and kill well. They would be able to live a normal life and, when needed, be called upon. When they realised it was deadly, they had created the antidote and destroyed the formula. They had vowed never to reveal the formula to anyone. After college they had thought it was all forgotten. It wasn’t. A few months ago they realised they had been given The Klionhs without their knowledge and were being used as guinea pigs by Dr Abrams—a man they all despised.
Ian slowly released it and went over to the sink. Mechanically, he turned on the water and washed his hands. A hand gripped his arm. Ian studied the short nails and delicate-looking fingers. Raising his head, he narrowed his eyes. Sinai didn’t back down. She held on to his arm and turned him to face her. Ian turned off the faucet and let her move him. He leant back against the counter. Sinai crowded close to him.
“Whatever happened, that was—”
“Stay the fuck out of it.” He cut her off, jerking his arm from her hold.
Sinai’s amber eyes narrowed, and she stepped closer. Her scent filled his senses. Ian kept his control, refusing to let her see how she affected him.
“Stop being a fucking ass and I will,” Sinai countered.
Ian crossed his arms over his chest. “You act like we’re friends, Sinai. You hate my guts, and the feeling...well, you can guess how I feel.”
Sinai turned away. Ian reached for her, but stopped himself. He didn’t have anything to say. He had been attracted to her since they were kids. They had grown up in Blackstone Haven together. Their families’ histories could be traced back for generations. Next to the Blackstones, his family was the oldest in the town. As children Sinai and he had been friends, and close, but when they had become teenagers, that had changed. Even as a teenager, he’d known they could never be together. Although he didn’t know all the details of her family’s legend, he knew enough to know that wanting her was an exercise in futility. He’d left for college, and then set out to build his life away from Blackstone Haven, and especially from Sinai.
Yet the town had called to him, and he had returned to make his home in Blackstone Haven. He had known he had to keep her at a distance, for his own good. He chose to fight with her instead of giving in to his baser instincts. He would never admit it aloud, but he looked forward to their battles of wits. It was true they liked to bicker. Yet, in the last few months, it had grown more vicious than usual. Ian blamed The Klionhs. He supposed it was due to whatever side-effects the drug had. Knowing Dr Abrams, he wouldn’t have cared what happened because of his secretive experiments on Ian and the other members of Conundrum. Dr Abrams might have got rid of the nasty side-effect of death, but this not-being-comfortable-in-his-own-skin feeling was getting to Ian.
Sinai’s voice caught his attention. “I don’t hate you, Ian. It’s just—”