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By CRYSTAL JORDAN
APHRODISIACopyright © 2012 Crystal Jordan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe scuff of a boot on the ground alerted him to the fact that he wasn't alone. It was the lightest of sounds, almost indiscernible from the loud bustle of humanity on the thoroughfare only a few meters away. But if anyone sensed the danger, they looked the other way. It didn't pay to be a Good Samaritan in this part of New Chicago.
Kienan Vaughn suppressed the growl that threatened to rumble up in his throat. The gray wolf inside him didn't care to be hunted, wanted to take control of the man, shift forms, and rip his stalker's throat out. He felt his fangs slide down, and he ran his tongue down to the sharp point of a tooth. Instead of confronting his stalker, he ignored him.
No need to encourage the local color.
A low hiss sounded just behind him and to his left, indicating the other man had moved, but Kienan continued at his steady pace. Until the other man took direct action, he wasn't going to engage.
"Sooo, tasty." The reptilian hiss was fuller this time, low and ominous in the way only a snake could manage. "I've never seen you on my street before, tasty. How much?"
"I'm not a jade." Nor did he look in any way like a man who prostituted himself, so this sidewinder was trying to take advantage of someone he thought had stumbled into the Vermilion District by accident.
This steaming cesspool of humanity was the worst that the city had to offer, the crumbling remains of the Third Great War festering with criminals and degenerates. Kienan sighed. His cousin couldn't have mated himself to a woman who lived in the affluent Lakeshore District?
"If you don't sell it, maybe I take it for free." His stalker's scent drew closer, and Kienan's muscles tensed. The wolf waited to spring, while the man just snorted in annoyance. This was going to go south. Fast.
Turning abruptly, Kienan caught the other man off guard, and he stumbled back a step, his eyes widening. Kienan let a lupine grin form on his lips, an expression only a suicidal fool would call friendly. "I don't want to play. Go away."
"You're not from here if you don't know Niso's rep." Another hiss rattled out of the man's throat, angrier. "My district, my game, my rules. You'll play if I say so. Won't he, boys?"
Two more men slid from an alleyway that was more like a dank crevice between two buildings. They were in front of Kienan, blocking his path to freedom. He'd sensed them, sensed the menace from them, but until they'd been called by their master, it had been no stronger than the average citizen's in this part of the city. Now it was. Now he knew he was their target.
"No, I've never heard of you, Niso." But he'd remember the name from now on, which was unfortunate for the reptile and his goons. They just didn't know it yet. "I'm not interested in fighting you off."
Triumph shone in Niso's gaze, and he licked his lips, looking Kienan over. It wasn't that he minded the idea of fucking another man—he'd slake his lust with whomever was convenient as long as everyone was willing. But he wasn't willing. The snake-shifter palmed his erection, a cruel smile twisting his mouth. "You don't have to fight, tasty. Just do what I want. Nice and quiet. We won't hurt you much."
Much. Kienan ground his teeth together but rolled his shoulders to loosen his limbs. His pack shifted across his back. He'd do better to drop it, but he'd rather not part with his possessions unless he had to. If he dropped the bag, it would probably be stolen.
A quick glance around showed no easy escape route. The buildings on either side were several stories high with no windows in reach. Except for the alley the two goons had come out of, there was no direction left to go. So fighting his way out was his best option. Three against one didn't make for good odds, but he'd faced worse. Many, many times. And he was still breathing. Others who'd faced him couldn't say the same.
He welcomed the adrenaline that coursed through his veins, let it heighten his awareness even more than normal, but controlled it so it wouldn't control him. Years of training had sharpened him too much for that.
Turning back to look at Niso, he found the snake had pulled a gun. The muzzle was a few centimeters from Kienan's nose. His heart rate bumped up at the sight, though he kept his voice even. "You know the problem with firearms?"
The evil grin grew wider. "What's that, tasty?"
"They're best used from a distance. Up close they just give your opponent something else to grab on to."
"What?" Confusion darkened Niso's gaze for just a moment, a split second of wariness that his prey wasn't reacting with the terror he'd expected.
Snapping his hand out, Kienan caught the snake-shifter's wrist, breaking it before he could even squeeze off a shot. Screaming, spittle dribbled from Niso's lips as he fell to the ground, curling in a ball around his injured limb. The other two were on Kienan in milliseconds, and time seemed to stretch, become fluid. Every sense intensified until he could hear their every breath, their pounding hearts.
Goon One launched himself at Kienan's back; Goon Two came at him from the side. His pulse hammered, sweat beading on his forehead. Throwing the gun, he nailed Goon Two in the nose and blood sprayed out as he stumbled back, his hands over his face. Goon One slammed Kienan forward into the ground, and he heard claws tearing at his pack. The goon was going for his possessions rather than trying to kill him. Fuck. He wiggled under the weight of the other man, working his arms free of the straps.
Dragging himself out from under his bag scraped the flesh off of his palms, but he rolled and kicked out a foot to catch the man looting his belongings in the gut. The air whooshed out of the goon's lungs, but he lunged forward, his fist catching Kienan in the jaw. Kienan fell back a few steps, coppery blood filling his mouth from the blow.
A leonine roar echoed down the narrow street, and the goon bared his fangs, coming at Kienan again. He growled, but froze in place and made himself an easy target until the last moment. Turning aside, Kienan sliced the side of his hand into the base of the other man's skull.
He went down.
Kienan didn't pause, didn't look to see if the other man would get up. He knew he wouldn't. Goon Two had recovered from the blow to the nose, though blood still flowed from his nostrils, and his mouth and eyes were swollen. Kienan didn't underestimate the danger—he'd been as injured before and come out the victor in a fight. The man was huge, someone who expected to use his size to intimidate, to overwhelm. It was going to fucking hurt to take a hit from him. They circled each other, looking for an opening. Goon Two grew impatient, and Kienan knew he had him. The big man charged and Kienan stooped to grab his pack off the ground, swinging it between them to block the other man's hit. Kienan thrust the butt of his hand up to slam into Goon Two's already damaged nose, and his eyes rolled back. Unconscious.
It felt as though an hour had past, but his chrono said the fight had been over in mere minutes.
Energy hummed through Kienan, and he spun in a tight circle, waiting for the next challenge. His fists clenched and unclenched, but the only other person moving on the street was Niso, who whimpered and crawled away from the fight.
"Who are you?" His broken wrist was tucked up to his chest, and he dragged himself across the ground with his good hand. Toward the discarded gun. "You said ... no fighting ..."
Sighing, Kienan walked over and kicked the weapon away. Niso flinched as his revenge spun out of reach.
"I said I wasn't interested in a fight." Kienan spit the blood out of his mouth. "I never said I didn't know how."
A quick tap to the temple and the man was drooling and insensible like his goons.
Brushing off his clothes, Kienan went to retrieve his bag. His heart rate and breathing began to return to normal. Only then did the aches and pains from the battle begin to screech. His palms stung, his muscles twinged, the side of his face ached. He doubted he'd have a bruise, but it didn't feel good.
He grabbed the bag, and as he lifted it, his senses shivered, alerting him to the fact that he was being watched. By more than one person. Another welcoming committee? He gritted his teeth and straightened, glancing around. There were people who peered out of the shadows, waiting to see who lost the struggle, waiting like so many carrion to pick apart the scraps. He snorted, weariness crashing down around him. He shrugged to resettle his kleather jacket before he slung the bag over his shoulder. Likely, the bone pickers had been hoping he would lose for the prime kelp leather coat alone. It was his one indulgence, and would have gotten the scavengers quite a few creds.
He shook his head and strode toward the larger street ahead. Not that it would be any safer, but it was the direction he needed to go to find his cousin. What was he doing here? He hadn't seen Pierce in years. Decades. He had no idea if the other man even wanted to see him. But it gave him something to do, since he had no clue what to do with himself now that he was a free man.
Free. Was that how he considered his years in the government's black ops? A prison sentence? No. But it had felt like one the last year or so. Dissatisfaction had closed in around him until he could barely breathe. He was burnt-out, married to his work in the shadows, living every day as a lie where he played cat and mouse with criminals and operatives like himself from enemy countries. He'd sacrificed everything for his mission, and it was too late that he realized the darkness he lived in was eating away at his soul.
He'd had to get out before there was nothing left of his humanity to be worth saving. Now he just wanted to see someone who knew his real name, who'd known him before. So here he was, hauling his ass through the shittiest part of New Chicago in search of the last of his family. Everyone else was long dead, and he'd rarely been home except to attend a funeral.
Home. There was a word he hadn't used in a while.
Dragging in a deep breath, he shoved the past away. There was no hope there. He had only now, had only that slender thread that still attached him to abstract concepts like home, family, love. Things other people had, things he'd left behind long ago. He didn't know who he was without his job, but he had to find out. Another deep breath and he nearly gagged on a wave of the stench coming off the street.
Deus, the Vermilion had gotten even worse since the last time he'd been in town.
A woman sitting on a heap of garbage bared her fangs and hissed at him. She reeked of cat piss, so he didn't have to wonder what species of shifter she was—feline of some kind. Everyone was a predator here. Everyone, everywhere in the world was a predator. The Third Great War had seen to that—it had left its touch on humanity as much as it had on the crumbling buildings in this district.
Biological warfare early in the twenty-first century had ripped the planet apart. Their scientists had never anticipated the effect long-term exposure to their weapons would have on humans. It twisted their genes, morphed them into shape-shifters—jungle cats, bears, wolves, birds of prey, every possible predator.
No one had ever uncovered why, but the chemicals brought out the most feral instincts in humankind. Dark, rough, and dangerous, just like the world they now inhabited. Nearly a century later, people simply accepted that inside each human lurked a beast who might take control at any moment. It had made Kienan's job as an operative that much more deadly. At one time, he'd loved that. Loved the adrenaline rush, the challenge of pitting himself against another predator. All of it.
Now, he was just tired.
The weariness hadn't let up in more years than he could count. It wasn't so much a physical issue as it was a state of mind: tired of life, tired of death, tired of himself. Just fucking tired of it all.
He inhaled a breath and coughed as the stench of rotting waste and human filth hit his nose. Laced in with the stink was the scent he sought. Following it, he worked his way deeper into the Vermilion. Here, what was left of the pre-war buildings clustered together in all their dank, moldering glory. He could feel eyes on him, and his shoulders twitched, but he kept walking.
Keeping to the shadows he'd lived in for decades, he ghosted down the streets and through twisted alleyways littered with refuse, until he found himself in front of a building that made his eyebrows arch. He checked the locale against the intel he'd received on his cousin. Yes, this was the place.
His cousin lived in a jadehouse.
Curved windows belled outward into the sidewalk, and his brows rose higher as he strolled toward the door. Inside the windows were naked, masked people, women and men who dangled from clamps attached to their nipples, their vaginas, their cocks. Some had lighted stim-probes inserted into their pussies and asses, and each time the probes lit, they undulated against their bonds. Still others were mummified in black kleather and hung upside down like wriggling corpses.
He stepped closer to one display. A woman and two men were bound together, clamped, probed, and had fluorescent blue wires attached to each probe and clamp. The men were chained on their knees, one piercing the woman's pussy, the other filling her mouth. Their muscles flexed as the men thrust their cocks into her, fucking her hard. All three arched together, writhing as the wires flashed blue.
Kienan swallowed as one man threw his head back, obviously reaching orgasm. Stepping away, Kienan turned toward the door, ignoring his body's reminder of how long it had been since he'd gotten some trim. He pulled his ident card out of his jacket pocket and swished it in front of a vidpad beside the entrance. The word Tail was etched into the surface of the massive iris door. The vidpad beeped and the middle point of the door split into nine curved slices, retracting into the walls.
Loud synthrock pulsed from inside, and he stepped into the most notorious technobrothel in the world. Where his cousin, Pierce, now made his home with his two mates. One of those mates, Lorelei Chase, was the owner of Tail. She was supposed to be the most beautiful woman alive, and a notorious madam whose jades specialized in any wild pleasure a person could dream up. From what Kienan had seen through the windows, he believed it. What would he find inside?
He shook his head. It was difficult to believe Pierce lived here. Kienan could only hope his cousin was home and willing to see a long-lost relative. Some of the weariness fell away as Kienan moved forward.
This should be interesting.
Sex with Gea was some of the hottest he'd ever had in his life. And he'd had plenty.
Quilliam North grinned, reveling in the feel of soft female curves and raw hot fucking on smooth microsilk sheets. If there was anything better than this, he hadn't found it. She straddled his lap, her back to his front, and he slid his hands up to cup her pert little breasts. The nipples stabbed into his palms, and he couldn't resist them. He pinched, twisted until she moaned.
"That's my name, dearheart," he purred.
She stiffened a bit at the nickname, one he knew she wasn't comfortable with. But that was why he used it. Because she reacted, because he couldn't resist pushing her buttons. Because in the year they'd been having sex, she'd continued to shy away from anything that might be called affection, intimacy. She didn't cling like other women when she got near a man with as much money as he had. She didn't demand more. She just used him for his body, fucked his brains out whenever she happened to be in the mood, and then she disappeared again.
She fascinated him.
Shoving deep into her pussy, he ran one hand down to tweak her clit, just the way she liked it.
"Move on me, Gea." He let his fingertip slide in to tease her slick flesh, stretched around his cock.
Leaning forward to brace her palms on his thighs, she did as he wanted. Her hips rose and fell, her wet pussy taking his dick deep. They moved together, the carnal sounds of mating making the leopard within him purr. Blood pulsed through his veins, hot and fast. Every micrometer of her soft skin that rubbed against him just served to stimulate his senses. Her scent, her touch. He dipped his head forward to bite the back of her shoulder. A flavor that was uniquely Gea's filled his mouth. His fangs scored her flesh and a moan bubbled out of her, her sex flexing on his cock.
Excerpted from UNLEASHED by CRYSTAL JORDAN Copyright © 2012 by Crystal Jordan. Excerpted by permission of APHRODISIA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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