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Seven years ago
what's your sign?" Bryn cringed inside as the words left her mouth. She should have thought of something better. Would have, if she had any real idea of how this was supposed to go down. But she wasn't experienced at this sort of thing.
Her last three efforts had been a total failure, and four was the magic number. Get it right or lose the opportunity. She would never have this chance again.
The man leaning against the gleaming black bar was blond and tall, and his clothes looked good on him. Not too tight. Not too loose. He had muscles, but he wasn't bulky. So far, she'd only seen him in profile, but it was a nice profile. Straight nose. Strong jaw. She supposed it didn't hurt that he was handsome, but really, what he was mattered far more than how he looked.
He was a supernatural of some sort. She could feel the air tingling and sparking with his power. Maybe he was some sort of lesser demon or a high level psychic.
He wasn't a walker, like her. Walkers were always female, and they didn't emit a supernatural vibe, which he definitely did. Two important points that proved he was something else. She just didn't know exactly what. The very fact that he was standing here meant he could go Topworld, and the really strong ones were confined to the Underworld. She knew that much. She wished she knew more. But her brothers had kept her sheltered and untutored. They'd figured the less she knew, the easier she'd be to control.
And for a while, they'd been right.
"What's my sign?" He turned his head, pinning her with an amused look. His eyes were an interesting shade of light blue. Like her favorite pair of well-washed jeans. Comfortable and soft and warm.
A shiver coursed up her spine.
Who was she kidding?
This guy was not soft. Or warm. There was something dark in his eyes, no matter how pretty the color.
But he was her one hope, and that kept her from backtracking and walking away.
"Next you're going to ask me if I come here often." He took a slow pull from his beer.
She wet her lips, more from nerves than anything else. But his gaze dipped to her mouth, and she felt the first spark of optimism that maybe, just maybe, she could do this.
you come here often?" she asked, happy to oblige.
He blinked then laughed, the sound rich and warm against the pounding of the music. "Aren't those supposed to be my lines?"
"Your lines? Why? Do you use them often?" She was practically screaming to be heard over the music.
He laughed again. "You are kidding, right?" He stared at her until she felt like a slide under a microscope. Then his eyes widened, and she saw a flicker of surprise. "You're not kidding. Okay. I'll bite. Do you come here often?"
"Oh, all the time. I" She blew out a breath and opted for the truth because, really, what was the point of lying? "No." She'd never been to this club before. Just as she'd never been to any of the clubs she'd tried for the past six nights. She'd only known about this place because her brother had mentioned it more than once; he liked to come here when he was in Miami. Since he tended to frequent clubs with other super-naturals, she'd figured it was a good bet that there'd be others like him here.
As a rule, she wasn't a party-all-night kind of girl. Except for three times in the past year when she'd managed to evade her brothers and had spent a week each time going through these same steps, hunting for the opportunity to do what she had to do.
This was her last night. Her last chance. All the previous failures wouldn't matter if she could just get it right this time.
She had to get it right this time.
He was still looking at her.
"It's my first time here," she admitted at last.
His gaze flicked over her, from the top of her head to the tip of her toes and back again. She resisted the urge to look down and check her T-shirt for stains.
He reached for her, and she jerked back, taken by surprise. He froze for a second, then carefully pulled the covered elastic from her hair, freeing her ponytail and sending her straight brown hair tumbling over her shoulders.
"It's sexier down," he said. "Always a bonus if you're trying to pick someone up." Then he turned to face the bar once more, lifted the bottle in front of him and drained the last of his beer.
"I could buy you a drink," she blurted.
The look he sent her spoke volumes. "I'm waiting for someone," he said, a blatant dismissal, but at least he didn't walk away. He just kept leaning against the bar, studying her as if she was a puzzle he was trying to figure out.
"Well, I could still buy you a drink. While you wait. And you could drink it." Desperation dripped from every word. There was no denying her ineptitude. She didn't have a second's doubt that she sounded like something out of a bad movie. But she had his attention, and that was exactly what she wanted. There was no one else for her, not in this entire, massive club. And, so far, not in this entire city.
She'd heard that supernaturals liked Miami. And Vegas. But Vegas was not a possibility.
So she'd opted for Miami and this was the seventhand lastnight she'd spent prowling the club scene, searching for a male supernatural. The guy standing beside her was the first one she'd found. He was her one shining chance.
Either she got pregnant tonight or she never would.
And if she didn't get pregnant, she could never be free.
"Maybe I'm the someone you've been waiting for," she said before she could think better of it. Actually, she thought that sounded pretty good. Emboldened, she tilted her head, thrust out one hip and tried to look sexy.
He blinked. Then he did a slow perusal of her pose and shook his head. "Seriously?" He lifted his head and looked around with narrowed eyes. "I feel like I should be looking around for the camera."
"Yeah. What is this, some reality TV show? A new version of Candid Camera?"
"What?" She shook her head.
His gaze flicked around the club once more, the flashing lights dancing across his skin. She was losing his interest. Any second, he could walk away.
She sidled a little closer.
He sidled a little farther away and studied her, his gaze intent. "Did Mal put you up to this?"
"Mal?" Was Mal a woman? Someone who'd know exactly what to say to lure a man like this. Frack. Bryn's heart sank. "Who's Mal?"
Relief was sweet and smooth as honey. "I have one, too. A brother," she clarified. "Three of them, actually. All older than me. By quite a bit."
"Yeah?" He looked around again, a bit of his amiable humor disappearing. "They here?"
The very thought made her ill. "No. Thank heaven. I mean" she waved a hand "I don't know if there really is a heaven but it's an expression. So, um, yeah
His attention snapped back to her, and he smiled, an easy, slow curve of his lips that made him look almost
nice. "Three brothers, huh? Guess we have that in common, then."
"You have three brothers? Well, you already said you have one. Mal, right? Are they older than you, too?"
"You talk a lot," he observed in a lazy drawl. "And ask a lot of questions. You always like this?"
She opened her mouth, then paused, considering her answer. She was always like this. A friendwell, more of a paid companion her brothers had hired had once told her she had no filter. And she tended to ramble to fill any silence. "Yes."
"Honest" he quirked a brow "and strange." He shook his head, and the corner of his mouth lifted in a wry smile. "A combination that I wouldn't normally find attractive." The way he said that made her think that maybe this time, he did find it attractive.
He lifted his empty beer bottle and gestured to the bartender. "Another, thanks. And my new and lovely friend here will have" He lifted his brows.
What to ask for? She didn't drink alcohol often. She didn't really like the taste. And she'd read somewhere that pregnant women shouldn't drink. Did that apply to hopefully-about-to-be-pregnant women, as well?
Both the bartender and the blond supernatural were looking at her expectantly. She put her hand on his arm and nearly jumped at the tingle that shot through her. Warm skin over smooth, hard muscle.
"I'll have.. you," she blurted.
He stared at her for a moment longer, but she brazened it out, holding his gaze.
Finally, he took one last glance around the club, apparently didn't find what he was looking for, and shrugged. "Why the hell not?"
Lokan had no idea why the girl in front of him was so hot to climb down his pants. Not that he didn't attract his share of attention, but she seemed too eager. Almost desperate.
She was pretty enough. Brown eyes. Dark brown hair that hung in a shiny curtain past her shoulders now that he'd pulled it free of her ponytail.
He thought she might have an Asian ancestor somewhere in her background. Japanese maybe? Hard to say. It would account for the gorgeous color of her skin, the shape of her eyes. The delicacy of her features.
She had full lips. Kissable lips.
Funny, he hadn't noticed that until this second. When she'd approached him, he'd been amused, then wary, thinking that Mal was playing some bizarre trick on him. Now, he was feeling open-minded.
There were worse ways to spend a few hours than having sex with a pretty, if utterly strange, woman. And since Mal and Dagan seemed to have ditched him, he just happened to have some hours available. He sent them a text to say he'd left the club, then he made a sweeping gesture with one hand.
"Lead the way, sweet thing," he said and watched the sway of her ass as she did just that. Nice figure. He hadn't noticed that before, either. She seemed to get more attractive as the minutes passed.
Maybe that was because he found her.. .interesting. She was definitely different. Despite the fact that her expressions and body language made her pretty much an open book, he got the feeling there were layers there. Strange and possibly fascinating layers.
She shot him a glance over her shoulder, as though worried she might have misplaced him, and he looked deep into her eyes. It was a soul reaper thing, the ability to see the Kathe soul. Hers was pretty and shiny and
It was as if she slammed a door on him. He saw her eyes, dark brown, fringed in dark, curling lashes. And he saw nothing else, nothing deeper. The soul he'd been looking at was completely shuttered.
He'd heard about the rare human who could mask their soul from a reaper's senses, but in the centuries that he'd been doing Sutekh's bidding, he'd never actually encountered one. Until now.
So, yeah, definitely layers.
Outside the club, she paused by the curb and looked up and down the street as though confused about which direction to choose.
"Your place or mine?" Lokan asked, not at all convinced that she'd choose either. He half expected a group of giggling friends to jump out of the alley and say that it had been some sort of dare. Because this girl just didn't seem like the type to pick up a one-night stand in a club.
She looked at him now, her gaze lingering on his face for an instant before sliding down his body. She took her time taking in the details. For some reason, he felt as if he was being measured for a suit rather than sized up in a sexual way. It was a little unnerving. And it made him curious. How long would it take him to find her buttons and push them just right? He was always up for a challenge.
"You're very handsome," she said, an observation, not a compliment. "Not that it matters."
He laughed. "Do you ever censor what you say?"
She slapped her palm over her lips. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I don't mean that the way it sounds."
"Right. Because you're not after my face and body, but rather my vast intellect and scintillating wit, both of which you've discovered during our lengthy conversation."
"No. Yes. No." She shook her head. "I just want sex."
He laughed. He couldn't help it.
Her brows drew together, and she looked both perturbed and adorable. He wanted to reach out and smooth his fingers along the twin little lines that marked her frown. But he had a feeling that if he touched her, she might bolt. And, oddly, he wasn't ready for her to bolt.
"How about we start with a name?" he asked. "Mine's Lokan. Lokan Krayl." He offered his hand.
She stared at it for so long, he almost withdrew it. Then she pressed her palm to his and said, "Um
No. I mean, Carrie."
"Which is it? Bryn or Carrie?" He didn't know why, but he'd expected her hand to be cold. Maybe because she seemed so nervous. But her skin was warm and smooth, and almost without conscious thought, he found himself tightening his grip just a little when she made to pull her hand away. He ran the pad of his thumb over her knuckles. Soft skin over delicate bones.
"For tonight, I was supposed to be Carrie." She looked down and stared at their clasped hands, no longer trying to pull away. He slid his thumb along the inside crease of her wrist then up to the center of her palm. She took a quick, soft breath, then said, "But you might as well call me Bryn."
"Okay. Is Bryn your real name?"
"Does it matter?" Her gaze flashed to his. There was a hint of humor there now and more than a touch of self-awareness. She knew what a hash she was making of things.
"You were planning to use a fake name."
"I was. But I'm not good at the cloak-and-dagger thing. Or at" she shook her head and made a vague gesture with her left hand because her right one was still trapped in his "this."
She flapped her hand back and forth between the two of them. "This. Us. This."
"Oh, you mean picking up a guy in a bar." He was finding this conversation, such as it was, highly entertaining.
She lifted her eyes to his. They shimmered under the streetlight. Pretty, pretty eyes. And the smell of her hair, her skin. He leaned in a little and breathed deep. She smelled good. Better than good. He wanted to put his lips against the pulse at her throat and lick her.