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Cats flew hissing off the bed. His body jerked into a sitting position, as his eyes searched the room. He reached for the gun that sat in the drawer next to his bed. Before he could retrieve it, he forced himself to calm, realizing it was only another dream.
The same damn crazy dream that had been plaguing him for months. The dreams had begun when he'd flown out to Wyoming, to help Hunter and his new wife while they were on the run from their own personal demon. That personal demon was now spending the rest of his life in a cement box, far away from the riches and power he had so adored.
Brandon Austin rubbed his hand across his chest, feeling the still healing scar of the bullet that had almost ended his life. Shot in the line of duty was how he'd always planned on going to meet his maker, but this--well, this was something else. She'd been little more than a kid, a psychotic, fucked up kid whose father had been beating her since she was little and then trained her to walk the streets. He'd gotten her hooked on drugs, turning what could have been a promising young woman into a street-smart tough.
With a gun.
Brandon could still feel it puncturing his flesh, the burst of icy pain, the shocking numbness, the heated agony that followed. He'd lain in the street, yanking his gun from its holster, returning the fire. The girl had lived, but now she would spend the rest of her life in a federal prison, for shooting an FBI agent.
He sighed, remembering Angel's face when they'd brought him into the emergency room. She'd stood there, her pregnant stomach pushing against his arm. The baby had kicked him. He remembered that too, as she'd brushed his hairback from his face, staring him in the eyes and talking to him as the others worked on him.
She'd kept him alive. Brandon knew it. If he hadn't had those warm green eyes looking into his and her soft hand in his own, he might have given up. He owed her, though she scoffed at the thought.
He laid back down on his bed, his body tense--too many memories haunting him. The ghosts of the past didn't only come on Christmas Eve. They attacked him whenever he let down his guard, letting him know he'd seen too much, had done too much. Now he didn't know if he'd be able to go back to the bureau. He didn't know if he was still cut out to do the only job he'd ever wanted. He didn't know if he could trust his instincts.
A small form jumped on the bed, padded up over the bunched up covers and climbed onto his stomach, purring the entire time. Brandon reached out his hand, fondling the kitten's head even as she swatted at his hand with her paw. He picked her up, settling her in his arms, stroking her fur while she purred contentedly.
The sigh that came from his lips spoke more of tiredness than anything else. He dropped the kitten on the bed beside him, curled up under the thick covers and let his body relax, praying the dreams wouldn't come again.
A whiff of spice, a hint of musk and a strange sort of incense wafted to his nose, leading him forward, ever onward through a maze of tents. He pushed through the fabric opening of the first tent, noting its striped canvas and the luxury of the interior. Satins and silks, thick furs of all kinds were strewn everywhere. Huge pillows meant to cushion the body were placed on the thickly carpeted floors. A feast was set out before him, luscious meats, creamy cheeses, crusty breads, ripe fruits all meant to be eaten with the fingers, sat on plates, awaiting his appetite.
This was his place, he knew it. He could sense it. It felt good to be here, like coming home after a long work week and realizing you could sleep in the next day kind of good. Seemingly, with volition of their own, his feet carried him to one of the pillows and he dropped down upon it, clapping his hands like some royal pasha calling for his harem.
The music started. It was a driving rhythm, meant to entice, meant to enflame. It rose in tempo and sound and then changed, becoming more intimate as around him, candles were lit, scenting the air and changing the atmosphere.
She came into the room like a tiny tornado, twirling and spinning, the soft gold of her skirts flaring around her, showing off firm legs and a hint of dark pelt between her thighs. Her face was veiled, her eyes heavily outlined with kohl, emphasizing their catlike shape and the amazing amber color. Her hair swirled around her, long and thick, curls caressing the naked skin of her back and the softness of her arms as she moved. She wore gold slave bands, circling the taut muscles of her upper arms, and a slim girdle of gold adorned with bells, surrounded her slender waist.
With her dark hair and the promise that shone in those amber eyes, she was pure sensual magic. She danced close to him, her fingers trailing across his chest, using her hair as a silken whip of pleasure, surrounding him in the sinfulness of her scent. She teased him, leading him on only to push him away, her dancing feet a swift blur of movement.
"Do you want me?" she whispered, her hands stroking down his chest, sliding across his stomach. "Do you want to make love to me?"
"Yes." It was the only thing he could say. She was erotic and sensual, flaming his passions with her every touch, her every move.
She backed away and he rose to follow, watching the enticing motions of her hands as they urged him onward. Out of the room and through another flap she went, slowing only to scald him with a heated, needful look before she disappeared.
He pushed through the flap, only to find the next room was deserted. The change in the atmosphere of the place from sinfully erotic to creepy and dark, confused him for a moment.
"Shanna?" he called, knowing it was her he was seeking.
Cobwebs hung from old wooden rafters, streaming down and tangling in his hair. They brushed across his face, sticky and annoying. He did his best to ignore them and their inhabitants. Instead he searched every room he came to, growing angrier with every second she hid from him.
"This isn't funny anymore, Shanna. Come on out." He growled the words but there was no sign of the tantalizing woman.
"Fine," he called loudly. "Stay here and rot then, Shanna. I don't need you." But he did and he knew it. He compared every woman to her, hadn't been able to go on a second date with anyone since she'd dropped into his life. He was infatuated.
He heard her giggle, and turned quickly to see a glimpse of her gold shift. "Shanna?" he shouted. "Come on, baby."
Her sudden scream made his blood run cold. He ran in that direction, his feet felt like lead, the floor like mud, sucking him down. He could see her outline, shadowed in the light as she fought. Then he saw the knife.
It was only a shadow. Long and slightly curved, it rose above her head, before falling toward her.
He watched it strike. It sunk deep into the shadow girl as she screamed and he roared with the pain of not being able to protect her once more.
Her screams echoed in his head as he woke. This time he rolled to his back his body covered in sweat, to stare at the ceiling.
He waited until the next day to make the call. His apartment was beginning to give him claustrophobia, so going to the park a couple blocks away was all he could think of as he dialed Hunt's number.
"So, how is everything, Hunt? Angel is good?"
"You'd know if you'd ever come over here," his friend's voice came through the ear-piece of the cell phone. "We've missed having you around, Bran."
"Yeah, I'm sorry about that. It's just with the injury and all, I've been having trouble dealing with the inactivity." He glanced around and seeing an empty park bench, headed towards it. "So Angel is good?" he asked again.
"Yeah, 'rounding nicely,' as her doctor puts it. She's grumbling that she can't see her feet, but I think she's beautiful."
Brandon could hear the love for his wife in his friend's voice and it made him happy, for them at least. "What about your sister?" he asked, trying to keep it as nonchalant as possible. He dropped down onto the bench, unconsciously rubbing a hand across his chest as if the wound still pained him. "She having any problems with the divorce?"
"That fuck wad, Clinton," Hunter growled, his voice sounded threatening even over the reception of the cell phone. "He's trying to force her into going to marriage counseling. But to do that, she'd have to fly back to Washington D.C. That means giving up her job and her apartment here. Hey," he said after a second's silence. "Why'd you want to know about Shanna? You hate her."
"I don't hate her, Hunt, she just ... rubs me the wrong way." Brandon could have laughed, for in those dreams, before they turned dark and sinister, she had sure rubbed him in all the right ways. He glanced around at the people in the park, seeing all the young mothers with their children, the older guys that came down here to walk, and one not so old standing by a waist high fence, leaning over and watching the kids play on the big toys. "He isn't threatening her, is he?" he asked, keeping one part of his mind on the conversation, the other part on the strange actions of the guy at the fence.
He seemed nervous, and was also sweating more than was necessary for the cool spring weather. He kept eyeing the kids, his hands in his pants pockets.
"No threats that she's told me, except he's promising to make the divorce last a very long time unless she comes back and does the counseling. Listen, Angel wants me to ask you for dinner. Tomorrow night, here at the apartment. She's cooking but I'll make sure we have back up, just in case."
Brandon couldn't help but laugh at that, hearing Hunter yelp as Angel surely must have smacked him. "I'll be there," he said. "Look, I gotta run, I'll catch you tomorrow night." He didn't wait for Hunter to answer, flipping the phone closed as he shoved it into his pocket. With a grimace of pain, he stood and made his way slowly over to the man at the fence.
"Which one are you looking at?" he said conversationally as he walked up next to him.
"The little bl..." the man started to say then slammed him mouth shut. "I ... uh don't know what you're talking about, dude."
"Yes," Brandon said, slipping his identification out of his back pocket and showing it to the guy. "You do. Now I'm betting that if I were to run you, you'd have a jacket as a known pedophile. Probably, part of your parole obligation states you stay far, far away from any children. Which means I could take you in--right now, no questions asked and your ass would be back in prison, before you could blink."
"Hey man, no way, I didn't do nuthin. I was only out walking." The man held his hands up.
"Then keep walking. I see you around here again and I'm taking you in, got me?" Brandon felt a spurt of amusement as the guy didn't even wait for him to finish before he took off. It felt good, even doing that little bit to help clean up the world.
His eyes cast down, he started walking, not paying attention to anything around him, he kept walking. He could still see the girl and the intense hatred in her eyes, as she'd pointed the gun at him. He'd never even seen her before. Then bam and he was down, feeling as if an elephant had punched him in the chest.
He lifted his head, and found himself staring into the golden eyes he saw every night in his dreams. "Shanna?" he breathed, surprised. "What are you doing here?"
"I work at the bank down the street. I come down here on my lunch a lot. It's fun watching the kids." She blushed as if she knew she was babbling. "How are you?"
"Good," he said, recovering from his surprise. "For a man who recently got shot, I feel pretty good."
"Aaron told me, he said if the bullet had been a half an inch to the left, you'd have died. I ... I wanted to come and see you in the hospital, but I didn't want to fight with you," she said softly, staring down at her hands where she was holding a small brown paper bag.
"That's okay, Shanna." He took her arm, steering her to another empty bench and sitting down on it. "Do you mind?" he asked, rubbing his hand over his chest again. It didn't hurt and he would have been fine walking but he wanted to spend some more time with her.
"No, of course not. You're welcome to half of my sandwich if you'd like." She opened the bag and pulled out a baggie. "Turkey salad? I made it myself."
"You do cook better than your sister-in-law, don't you?" he joked, taking the offered food and took a bite. "Hey, this is good"
Shanna laughed. "Thank you. I've always liked to cook, I used to get to do a lot of it when mom and dad went on their weekend trips and left me with Aaron and Dillon." She took a dainty bite of her half of sandwich and Brandon found himself watching her mouth. It was lush and full, and when her tongue licked out, picking up a tiny bit of bread, he thought he'd go up in flames.
"Are you okay? Maybe you shouldn't be out yet," she said him, hearing his small moan.
"No, no I'm fine," he said, cursing himself as he felt the blood rushing to his cheeks.
"Oh yes, always the big he-man, I forgot. I thought maybe getting shot would have made you a little more aware of your mortality." She sighed, feeling the irritation that always plagued her around him settle deep inside of her. Why did he have to be such a ... a butthead? She looked up at him, drawn as always by his sexy masculine features, the dark hair that turned gold in the sun. The crystalline green of his eyes seemed to almost sparkle as they stared down at her.
If he hadn't been such an ass to her, they could have been friends. Aaron seemed to find a lot in Brandon that he liked, Angel too.
"I'm aware of it Shanna, probably more than you know," he said softly, dropping his gaze to the sandwich he held in his hand.
Shanna sighed. "I'm sorry, Brandon. That was uncalled for. I don't know why we always fight when we're together. Can you forget I said it and we can start the conversation all over again?"
"Yeah," he said, glancing up to see her smile. "Besides, how can I stay mad at someone who can make such a killer sandwich." He took another bite. "How's things going with the divorce?"
He watched as her brows drew together and a sound came from her that was almost a growl. "He's trying to force me to move back to D.C. He's got some judge that wants to make us go through marital counseling before granting the divorce."
"I hope you have a good attorney," Brandon said, feeling his own anger rouse.
"The best Aaron could get me," she said. "She's kept Jackson from knowing my address and knowing where I work or finding anything else out about my life here. She's trying to put a stop to this last insanity of my husband's. I wish I'd had the courage to go to the cops before..."
She pulled a banana out of the bag, dropping the empty sandwich wrapper back inside and set it on the bench between them. Peeling the ripe fruit, she broke it in half and offered him half.
"That does make it a little difficult to prove the abuse, Shan. You do know we won't let him get his hands on you again, don't you?" He took the banana and ate it, almost laughing as she pulled a napkin out of her bag and handed it to him to wipe his fingers on.
Shanna couldn't help the flush his words brought to her cheeks. If he only knew how much she actually did think about him or how she'd freaked, when she heard he'd been shot. She had called the hospital everyday and had even gone twice, but both times, she'd chickened out before she could actually go in to visit him.
Why would he want to see her? She was only the younger sister of his best friend, a pain in the butt. She was the one who was always in trouble and needed rescuing.
Besides, she'd seen the woman coming out of his room. She'd stood there with the little bouquet of flowers she'd picked up for him, and watched as a tall, leggy blonde with a body that should be walking a runway had bent over kissed his cheek and tucked the blanket around him, laughing at something he'd said.
How could she compare with that? She was too short and her boobs were too big for her body. She did have nice hair and refused to get it cut more than a trim to keep the ends healthy. She'd also been told she had pretty eyes, but Shanna thought they were strange looking. What she wouldn't give for about six more inches of height, preferably all leg, and baby blue eyes she could bat. She sighed again.
Looking down into her lap, she glanced at her watch. "Oh shit, I've gotta go, Brandon. I'm going to be late getting back." She got up and gathered up the bag and the banana peel, taking them to one of the trash containers. "Thanks for eating lunch with me," she said, smiling.
"Can I walk you back to the bank?" Brandon heard the words come out of his mouth before he realized he was going to ask.
"Do you think you should?" she asked. "I mean, you've just been shot."
"Five weeks ago, Shanna. I'm not going to die from a little bit of exercise. If you don't want me to walk with you, you only have to say so, you don't have to make up excuses." He hated the tone of his voice but he couldn't seem to help himself.
"That's not it, and you know it. I was concerned. Fine, walk me back if it'll make you feel better." She turned on her short-heeled shoe and started to stomp off.
Brandon caught up with her, admiring the way her hips swayed in the knee length skirt she wore. "Come on, Shan, can't we spend ten minutes together without ripping on each other?"
"It doesn't seem that way, does it?" She slowed her step, her eyes glancing over at him. "I was concerned that maybe you should still be taking it easy."
"If I take it any easier, I'll go stark raving Looney tunes," he grumbled, making her laugh. "That's right, find amusement from my pain."
"Oh you poor baby. Can't they put you on a desk or something?"
"Yeah, I start desk duty next week if the doctor signs off on me. Paper work," he sighed. "The bad thing is I'm looking forward to it. It has to be better than wanting to know if E.J. is going to take off with Sami or if he's going to get caught."
"Soap operas, I've sunk that low," he sighed miserably, making her laugh more.
She opened the door to the bank and he followed her inside, not ready to let her go yet. "So how are the checking accounts in this place?" he asked, looking around the lobby of the small bank branch.
"Are you really considering changing banks, Brandon? I can get you the paperwork right now."
"Sure ... depending upon the rate of int...."
"Everybody down!" There was a rattle of gun fire and Brandon reached out to grab Shanna. He yanked her down behind a small island made of wood, used for writing out deposit slips and such. He held her close, bending his much larger body over her petite one.
"Fuck," he hissed. "Stay down," he whispered to her, peeking around her to check out the situation.
"Okay, good people. If you all behave yourselves, you should all come out of this with nothing more than an exciting story to tell. You," he said, pointing at one of the girls behind the counter. "Fill up these bags and don't try to slip any dye packs or tracers in the bags. I'll know if you do and you'll be dead. Got it?" He was a big guy, dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, and carrying an automatic weapon. He fired across the ceiling when the girl didn't move to take the bags.
Another man, dressed the same, with his hood up to hide his face and huge sunglasses covering his eyes, was spray-painting the camera lenses with black paint. When he finished, he tossed the can into one of the trash receptacles before heading over to his buddy and pushing people onto the floor. "On your faces, all of you. If you move, you die!"
"Do as they say, Shanna," Brandon whispered, slowly easing down but keeping his eyes open for any chance to take charge of the situation. He watched the robbers carefully, waiting until they weren't paying any attention to him, and slowly finagled his hands under the back of his lightweight jacket, reaching for the off duty pistol he carried everywhere.
Inch by bare inch, he pulled it from under his jacket, quietly ratcheting the slide to put a bullet in the chamber before hiding it under his body. Shanna watched him, her golden eyes wide with fear.
"You aren't going to do anything stupid, are you?" she hissed. "They've got machine guns."
"Depends on what you think is stupid," he hissed back at her, his eyes on the two men. He scoped the room, searching out the other exits and doorways, finding where all the people were. The old guard was flat on the ground, his body still with his hands covering his head. He hadn't done anything to stop them when they'd come in and he wasn't making a sound now.
A woman and a little girl were sitting close to the robbers, their faces masks of terror as they stared up at them. The little girl was crying, as the mother tried to get as much of her body over the child as she could. They were the ones Brandon would have to be most careful of. Within easy reach, they would make fantastic hostages for two criminals trying to get away.
"Hurry up, bitch, get the damn bags filled!" The leader seemed agitated, as he kept glancing around, looking out the big windows that framed the bank, his body tensed.
"Want me to find her, Joe?" the other robber asked.
"Don't fucking use my name! God, you dick wad, I knew I shouldn't have brought you with me. Yeah, find her. Remember, she's not to be touched. He's a cold son of a bitch." He slapped the younger guy on the back of his head, and his sunglasses fell off his nose, only to hit the floor and bounce close to Shanna.
The kid, who couldn't have been more than nineteen years old, his face covered with acne and pot marked from old scars, bent over to get them. He looked toward Shanna, his eyes passed over her face and then came right back to it. He stood, then slid the glasses back on his face. "Black hair, right Joe? Weird colored eyes, short with big boobs, ain't that what he said?"
"Yeah, yeah, that's what he said. You find her?"
Oh fuck, Brandon thought. He was about to get killed.
The kid reached down, grabbing Shanna's arm. "You're Shanna Clinton?" he asked her, dragging her up to her feet.
"Who?" Shanna squeaked.
Joe walked up, the bags in his hands. He reached over and back handed Shanna. "Don't give me that 'who' shit. Answer his question," he growled.
Brandon, cursing his luck all the way, stood in one quick graceful movement, bringing his off duty weapon up. "Freeze, FBI," he shouted.
For a moment, it was hard to determine who was the more surprised, the two bank robbers or Shanna. She hadn't expected Brandon to put himself in harm's way for her once more. Last time he'd been hit on the head hard enough to knock him out. Now he was standing in front of two machine guns with one small pistol.
And one big cocky attitude.
"Let her go, now." His growl came from down deep and his size alone should have scared the two men. It did the kid, he dropped her arm and put his hands up in the air, even the one holding his gun. "Come here," he said to Shanna, not wanting to use her name.
Shanna slipped away from the two men, or at least she tried. The floor had been waxed the night before and her shoes had little traction. She took two steps and suddenly she was falling, her hand reaching out to grab whatever it could to stop her from hitting the ground.
What she grabbed was Brandon.
"Fuck," he growled, trying to keep his pistol pointed at the two men and grab a hold of Shanna at the same time. She hit his arm, jiggling it and knocking him off balance on the slippery floor. They both went down in a tumble of arms and legs, Shanna's elbow connecting solidly with Brandon's eye, her hip gouging into the sensitive area of his groin.
He heard shouts, heard the two men running but he couldn't see anything but stars. The pain in his groin sent a sickening thud to his stomach, which clenched in response making him feel like he was going to hurl. He managed to stave it off, but barely.
"Are you okay?" Shanna asked quickly, as she disentangled herself from the heat of his body.
"I may never have children," he gasped, rolling onto his side and lying there for a moment. "Did they get away?"
"Yeah, I'm sorry, Brandon," she said softly, terribly embarrassed. But she was also frightened. "Why were they looking for me?"
"I don't know, but I'm awfully curious to find out." He managed to sit up, pulling his legs under him and standing up as the manager of the bank came out to him.
"Thank you," the manager gushed. "You startled them so badly, they left the bags of money behind," he said, pointing at the bags still lying on the floor.
"Did someone call the cops?" Brandon asked, gently probing the area around his eye and finding it was already swelling.
"Yes, we hit the silent alarm as soon as they started shooting."
As if to punctuate the point, a black and white car came speeding up, squealing to a stop, two men jumped out of the car and up to the building with their guns drawn.
"You've missed them," the manager said, hurrying over to the two cops. "They took off running around the corner."
"Are you sure you're okay?" Shanna asked Brandon, putting her hand out to touch him, only to drop it when he flinched away from her.
"Fine," he said. "Did you recognize them?"
"You mean the two robbers? No, never saw either of them before. Someone told them to grab me, though."
"Could it have been your husband?" he asked, trying to ignore the heavy thud in his groin that matched the pounding in his head.
"Jackson wouldn't think to associate with someone low class, he wouldn't know how to speak to them," she said, though he could tell she was thinking about it. "Besides, he doesn't know where I am, remember, my lawyer has kept my whereabouts quiet."
"Shanna, come join us in the twenty-first century. It's easy to find people. If you use a credit card, or buy something on line, even if you pay your taxes, you can be found. Paper trails are everywhere you just have to know how to sniff them out." He turned and took her arms in his big hands. "If he wants to find you, he can do it. Do you have a restraining order out on him?"
"No, I never bothered. I never thought he would come after me. Not like this anyway," she amended.
Brandon had flipped the safety back on his pistol, and slid it back in its holster seconds before the next black and white showed up. "We don't know it's him, so don't go freaking out or anything on me." He smiled down at her. "The locals are going to have questions, answer them the best you can."
He got out his identification, showing it to the officer who came up to ask him questions, trying to stay as close to Shanna as he could.
Shanna answered the questions that were fired at her, growing more frightened. "Did you find them? The bank robbers? They'd know who hired them and why they were trying to take me with them."
"We found them," the cop said grimly. "They aren't talking." He didn't tell her the reason they weren't talking, was because each of them had their throats slit. They'd been found in an alley still in their car. The young kid still with his hood up over his head.
"Then you need to make them talk," she said firmly. "I'm going through a sticky divorce right now, but I can't see my husband doing something like this."
Brandon heard the strain in her voice and reached out, taking her hand in his large one. He jerked a little as she twined her fingers with his, holding on to him like a lover would. "Ms. Clinton has been through a lot, officer. If you have the two suspects in custody, you shouldn't need her any longer."
"It's Sergeant Ford, and actually we do need her, Agent ... Austin," he said, glancing down at his notes. "The two suspects were found dead, their throats brutally sliced about a block from here."
"D ... dead," Shanna repeated, her face turning ghostly pale.
"Yes. Now if you know anything or can think of anyone who has anything against you, Ms. Clinton, it would be best if you tell us now."
"M ... my husband and I are going through legal proceedings, sir. We're getting divorced. It's not an amicable split." She stared down at where she was holding onto Brandon's hand, she noticed his fingers were white and realized she was squeezing too hard. He hadn't made a sound to indicate she was hurting him. She relaxed her grip but didn't release him, instead she held on with her other hand too.
"Is the agent here responsible for the split up?" the sergeant asked, gazing with interest at their joined hands.
"No," Brandon said, coming to Shanna's defense. "I'm a friend of the family. I saw her eating lunch in the park and stopped to talk with her. Then I walked her back to work."
"Who's your husband, Ms. Clinton?"
"Senator Jackson Clinton," Shanna said miserably. "He's in Washington D.C. at the moment. I can't see him orchestrating anything like this."
"No telling what some of them political people will do," the sergeant said under his breath. He wrote down the information including the name of Shanna's lawyer. "You might want to spend a few days with some friends, ma'am, until we get this whole thing figured out." He nodded his head at her, leaving her in Brandon's care.
"Damn," she muttered, coloring slightly as she felt Brandon's hand come up under her arm, drawing her away from the rest of the police and crime scene people who had tied off the front of the bank, with yellow tape.
"Can you stay with Hunt and Angel?" he asked her softly.
"I could, but I refuse to let that man scare me like this. Dammit, Brandon. I was just starting to get my life back." She turned, smacking him with her hand. "Why do you men have to be such arrogant jerks?"
"Maybe it's because you women are all stubborn and bring out the worst in us," he shot back before forcing himself to take a deep breath. "Okay, I'm going to apologize because this isn't the time to argue. I talked to your boss and you've got the afternoon off. Why don't you gather your things and I'll take you over to Hunt's house?"
"I'm not going to Hu ... Aaron's house," she said slowly as if explaining to a child. "I'll go home. I've got locks on my door and a doorman. Aaron made sure the apartment was in a safe area and that it had good security. I'll be okay."
"Get your stuff, we'll talk about it after that," he said, his tone declaring she shouldn't try to argue with him right now.
She went, but she was determined to get her own way about this, even if she had to go through him to do it.
His hand cupped her full breast, slipping over the turgid nipple that had darkened to a deep rose due to her pregnancy. He heard her moan, smiling evilly as he trailed his lips over the line of her shoulder. He lifted her arm over his head so he could find the skin of her ribs.
"I love you, Mrs. Hunter," he whispered, pressing his naked body against her back and hearing her moan.
"I love you, Mr. Hunter," she breathed huskily, caught in the hazy web of passion he seemed to weave so easily around her. His fingers teased her nipple and she caught her breath as the pleasurable sensations sent waves of heat to her loins, drenching her in sweet moisture. Her arousal perfumed the air around them, and she felt as much as heard his groan. "I want you, baby," she said, arching against his fingers, her naked hips pressing against his groin.
She could feel him, hot and heavy, his erection a solid force sliding against her ass. She moved against him, caressing him with every undulation even as his hand slid down over the rounded mound of her stomach, slipping between her slender thighs to dally against her wet flesh.
Angel lifted her leg, letting it slide over the hair roughened thigh of her husband who growled at the lurid invitation. "Do you want me, baby?" she asked, giving him a heated glance from over her shoulder.
"Oh, give me a minute to think about that," he groaned, shifting his hips to rub the shaft of his cock against her wet sex. "God, yes, I want you, more everyday. I don't know how I managed the month you were gone," he groaned. His hips moved slowly as he felt her heated juices drenching him. "I'll want you when I have to chase you around with my cane."
"Yeah, but what will we do the week after next," she giggled, hearing his growl and then felt his hands come down to capture her hips. He held her still, while moving so the head of his cock brushed over her clit. He tortured her, while listening to her whimper and then moan, finally begging him to fuck her.
"I don't know," he growled. "I might be too old to be able to satisfy you."
"No, oh no, you're not too old," she whimpered, trying to move to force him inside of her but he held her still. "You are the most studly of men."
"Studly? Come on, Angel, you can do better," he whispered in her ear, breathing softly and felt her shiver, as goose flesh spread over her skin.
"You are a god, better looking than any man I've ever seen, better in bed than any man I've ever had..." she had to laugh as he growled again, nipping her neck with his teeth.
"I'm the only man you've ever had," he whispered, changing the direction of his hips and pushing easily inside of her. Her heat surrounded him as the soft wetness of her velvety passage sheathed him tightly. The feeling was amazing, only with this woman had he ever felt this level of pleasure, this level of commitment, this kind of love.
He moved against her, slipping his hand between her thighs, his fingers stroking over her clit. He loved feeling her like this, the way she responded to his every move, his every touch, the way she moaned his name when her pleasure took her, her body clenching around him. He loved the sound of her moans, the soft exhale she gave when he drew her to him afterward. He loved everything about her.
He couldn't believe he'd almost lost her.
His eyes trailed down, over the smooth muscles of her back, finding the rough scar that showed where the bullet had torn through her body, coming out and burying itself inside the portrait of her and her mother and then through to the wall. He'd come so close to losing her, so close to having her torn away from him before he really knew what she meant to him. Everything.
The thought of the wound, of the days that followed and then the weeks of trying to get over her, hounded him. He drove his hips desperately into hers. His body arched, pushing deeper, as his fingers moving furiously, dragged her ever onward, pushing her towards her peak with an almost ferocious zeal.
Angel could hear his ragged breathing, and feel the frantic pace he set even as her passions soared. She knew deep inside what drove him to such urgency and her hand slipped down, cupping his fingers, drawing them over the bud of her clit, as anxious as he to renew the pleasure the two of them shared.
She felt the first blush of pleasure as a rapturous gasp, as scalding waves of heat prickled her skin sending shudders of ecstasy through her. Her velvety soft muscles contracted around him, clutching him inside her, pulsating against the sensitive skin of his cock.
He groaned as she came, feeling the rush of her pleasure soak his skin, tipping his head back and crying out as his own followed, filling her with the heat of his seed even as he moaned her name.
Angel felt limp, her body heavy, unable to even murmur as he gathered her close, dragging her against his chest. His lips caressed her temple, nuzzling into the fiery curls of her hair. "Am I too old, baby?" he whispered, his voice full of arrogance, making her laugh.
She opened her mouth to answer, but was interrupted by a soft serenade of bells.
"Damn," Hunter grouched, reaching across her to drag his shirt from where she'd dropped it earlier. He picked up his cell phone, checking the display.
"Two calls in one day, Bran? What, did you get thrown in jail again?" He laughed, only to moan when Angel pulled away, his cock pulling out of her heat.
"Very funny, Hunt, did I catch you at a bad time? You sound like you're in pain?" Brandon paced back and forth while he spoke, staring up at Shanna's apartment building. She was sitting in her car, fuming, because Brandon refused to let her go up to her apartment by herself.
"Just moving some heavy stuff around, nothing major," he said, laughing when Angel turned and glared at him as she maneuvered her rounded body out of the bed and reached for her robe. Her eyes promised retribution even as she got up and headed into the bathroom to turn on the shower. "So what did you call for this time, buddy?"
"It's your sister, Hunt. You need to talk some sense into her." He sat on the hood of her car, ignoring her outraged look. "She's in trouble and I'm only trying to help her but she won't listen."
"What's going on? It's not Sebastian," he said, quickly lowering his voice. He didn't want his wife to hear her father's named mentioned. Not now, not this close to her due date.
"No, as far as I know, that ass is behind bars where he belongs. No, I think this has to do with her husband," he said, then told him what had happened today, ending with where they were. "She wants to go and stay in her own apartment as if nothing's happened. I didn't think you'd like that." He jumped when a hand reached out, taking the phone away from him. His hand grabbed the wrist, twisting it and hearing a very feminine squeal.
"Shit, Shanna, don't do that to me!" he growled, releasing her wrist and letting her keep his phone. "I could have hurt you."
"Touch me again and I will hurt you," she snarled, rubbing her wrist before speaking into the phone. "Shush, Aaron, I'm fine. Brandon tried to go all Rambo on me because I stole his phone from him." She listened for a minute. "No," she said, speaking as firmly as she could. "I don't need a keeper, either you or him. Don't even think I'm getting Angel in on this, she's too far along to deal with the stress."
"No," she said again, after listening to him talk for a few minutes longer. "No, he doesn't need ... okay but ... wait ... fine," she said finally, turning and tossing the phone to Brandon before crossing her arms across her chest and glowering at him.
"Hey Hunt, what'd you say to her?" Brandon was afraid he was about to go up in flames, and not the kind he'd been accrediting to Shanna recently. The look she had given him was full of anger and annoyance.
"Could you do me a favor and check out her place for me?" Hunter asked him. "She's a grown up and I gotta respect her wishes to a point. But since you are already there, would it hurt for you to check it out?"
"No, that's cool. I'll take her up and then let her doorman know to watch anyone asking for her." He spoke for a few more minutes, finally closing up the phone and dumping it in the pocket of his jacket.
"This is stupid," Shanna said, starting across the parking lot, purse in hand, toward her apartment. "I've lived here for almost five months now and I've never had a bit of trouble. It's completely safe." She grumbled and grouched all the way up the three floors in the elevator. She dug her keys out of her purse, heading down a brightly lit hallway that was painted a pale yellow with light colored wood on the lower half of the wall.
"This is nice," he said.
Shanna glared at him, turning the key on her door and pushing it open. She started to step inside, opened her mouth to say something to him when Brandon grabbed her arm.
"Wait here," he said, his voice low and serious. He stepped by her, pulling his pistol out of its holster.
She turned her head, her eyes widened as she saw the mess from the hallway her usually orderly apartment was in. She could see the mess made where her plant pots had been overturned. The pots she'd picked out with such care had been crushed against the wall, shards of pottery littered the carpet. The small table she'd put in her hallway was on its side, two of the three legs were broken. The pictures she'd placed on it as well as the small tray to hold her keys were crushed, frames twisted, the pictures ripped to shreds.
A small keening cry came from her mouth as she stepped into the maelstrom of litter. She felt as if her heart had been shredded as well as her things. Shanna reached down to pick up what was left of her mother's picture. It had been taken the year she'd been murdered. "How could he?" she whispered, holding it to her breast.
"Shanna, you can't be in here," Brandon yelled, trying to urge her back out into the hallway. "I've called the police, they are on their way, but you shouldn't be in here." He didn't want her to see the mess in the kitchen, where the food had been thrown on the walls, the dishes broken and the small dining room set trashed. He'd checked the bedroom long enough to make sure whoever had done this was long gone. He'd stared at the mess that had once been her clothing, now little more than scraps of fabric. It had to have taken hours to so thoroughly destroy her home.
"I should check and see if anything is missing," she said hollowly, looking up at Brandon with eyes that almost seemed bruised.
"There's time for that later, Shanna, honey," he said gently, wrapping his arms around her. He rocked her gently, feeling her soft curves against his body. She fit so wonderfully there, resting against him so trustingly.
"My pictures," she said suddenly, pulling away from him. "My albums, in my room," she yelled back, hurrying away from him before he could stop her.
She pushed open the door to her bedroom, what had once been a cheerful room done in white and yellow, now looked as if a tornado had gone through it. She saw her albums, lying on the floor, the pictures strewn about the room, some crumpled, some ripped. Her eyes searched the room, noting every bit of destruction, finally resting upon the bed.
A small whimper escaped her lips, as her hands went to her face, as if to cover her eyes. Brandon turned and stared at the bed, his eyes widening.
"Son of a bitch," he breathed.