Serenity Danssaert was already in way over her head. Not even her MI6 training or her powers as one of the seven Pleiades witches is going to save her sister. Then Alexi Jovec shows up. A secret operative working for unknown forces, he's impossibly sexy and dangerous...and the guy who bailed on Serenity after a red-hot, racy night.
So bonding to him as her destined—the One—is so very wrong.
While Alexi’s need to own Serenity—body, soul, and beyond—is nearly unbearable, it's also forbidden. He's the last man who could ever be her destined. Besides, Hades's right-hand man cannot bond with a chosen Pleiades witch. He may be the one man who can protect her, but she can never be his to keep.
Wanting her was one thing. Keeping her was another...
Keepers of the Veil Book 1: Protecting His Witch
Keepers of the Veil Book 2: His Witch to Keep
Keepers of the Veil Book 3: Playing The Witch's Game
About the Author
Zoe Forward is a hopeless romantic who can't decide between paranormal and urban fantasy romance. So, she writes both. In addition to being a mom to one rambunctious kindergartener and wife to a conservation ecologist who plans to save all the big cats on the planet, she's a small animal veterinarian caring for all the small furries, although there is the occasional hermit crab.
When she's not typing at her laptop, she's tying on a karate belt for her son or cleaning up the newest pet mess from the menagerie that occupies her house. She's madly in love with her globe-trotting husband of ten years and happiest when he returns to their home base in North Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
His Witch to Keep
A Keepers of the Veil Novel
By Zoe Forward, Allison Collins, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Zoe Forward
All rights reserved.
This mission needed a special forces unit. Balls, brains, and firepower. Not her. Alone.
Serenity Danssaert crept along the edge of the Boston warehouse and ducked behind a pallet of plastic-wrapped boxed goods. Thirty or more heavily armed Hispanics argued over the purchase price of a rocket-propelled grenade fifty feet away.
Tangling with cartel ranked high on her avoid list. If she had a choice, she'd abort, yet she had to get the cartel leader's laptop tonight or her sister would be killed.
What she wouldn't give to be able to cast a good spell or do a magical finger snap to resolve this mess. Why be labeled a witch if she couldn't perform basic fictional witchy skills? She had gifts, as one of the seven chosen descendants of the Pleiades goddesses, but invisibility, while useful to penetrate the perimeter, wouldn't guarantee a positive outcome tonight.
The shouting escalated. Her body tensed to sprint when the bullet showdown commenced.
An arm banded around her midsection and a hand clamped tight over her mouth.
"Don't move," ordered a gritty male voice.
She'd been invisible. How the hell had she been caught?
Anger and fear rippled through her when he dragged her deeper into the shadows. She prepared to head butt backward, but her brain recognized the eastern European accent. Anger dissolved into relief, followed swiftly by irritation. Her body cataloged the powerful contours pressed tight to her back.
He didn't try to disarm her. She didn't disrespect him by struggling and dropped her invisibility.
With a spin, he pressed her against the wall, maintaining an arm across her shoulders. His hand moved off her mouth. He put one finger against his lips.
Alexi Jovec. His green gaze seemed to glow despite the darkness shrouding them. What was the world's most elusive assassin, the Shadow, doing here?
"What is your game tonight?" he asked in a cool tone. That look on his face — dangerous yet volatile — cried out to every one of her senses. In all the years she'd known him, he'd always been in control. No unnecessary movement. Rarely did he demonstrate outward emotion. Except when naked. And, holy mother, did this man look amazing naked.
"Why are you here?" she asked as an uncomfortable heat spread through her body.
"That's my question for you." His gaze dropped to her mouth, where it settled on the small scar on her upper lip.
Her breath caught. Sensation tingled across her upper lip as if he'd touched the memento left from her long ago one-time torture session with witch hunters. Did I even mean anything to you? Memory of their one night together kept alive a tight need deep in her body, one she'd do anything to shake. And one she'd never admit to him.
Hoarsely, she whispered, "Are you stalking me for the witch hunters you now work for? Or have you been contracted by Russia to take me out again?"
She squirmed against his arm, desperate to put some air between them.
He leaned in harder. His strong thighs pressed into hers.
She wished he'd touch her the way his eyes suggested, although if he did, she'd be a goner. She screamed at herself, No. And say it again: no. This dangerous man had already exceeded her tolerance for humiliation this decade. If she could maneuver a fist free, she'd punch his nose just to hear the gratifying crunch. Then she'd grind his balls until he experienced a fraction of the heart-shattering pain he'd caused her eight months ago, when he'd abandoned her while she slept naked in his hotel room.
She tensed her leg to kick up, sensing his distraction while he listened to the argument behind him. He pinned her tighter. "I said don't move."
I hadn't yet. Adrenaline poured into her blood. Her training gave her the tools to escape him easily and inflict major hurt in the process, but discipline and control always flew out the window when she was near him. Her heart raced as her body betrayed its desire for this formidable man. She didn't know his specific preternatural capabilities. She'd watched him kill with more precision and less emotion than any human. What he did to kill the particularly evil placed him well into the not-just-a-human category.
"Please tell me what you are doing here, ragana." The Lithuanian word for witch betrayed his homeland. His gritty inflection of the foreign word turned it into an endearment. "Whatever you seek, you must acquire a different day."
He kept her trapped, reminding her of his strength. He nodded toward the escalating cartel argument. "That is about to become a bullet shitstorm."
She narrowed her eyes, refusing to answer.
He shifted, allowing her a measure of freedom, and whispered hoarsely, "Why?" He shook his head and exhaled slowly. "Why are you taking these crazy risks this week? Are you trying to get yourself killed?"
His troubled gaze tempted her to spill everything. But she wouldn't. This was her mess and she'd figure a way out of it. Reliance on another never ended well for her. The person almost always disappointed her or died. She said, "I must get this done now."
Concerned wrinkles creased his usually smooth forehead. His dark hair fell over his eyebrows, now longer than she'd ever seen it. It added a bad boy element to his deadly vibe. Between the hair and chiseled facial structure, she thought him model-worthy gorgeous, but the dark aura surrounding him and the death his presence promised overshadowed his beauty. He terrified most humans on a subconscious level. Most never attempted direct eye contact and avoided him. For her, his darkness did the opposite. It fascinated her.
He gazed deeply into her eyes as if trying to read her soul. "Does someone threaten you? Is that why you breached Belauger's Canadian compound two days ago?"
"How do you know about that?" Chills slithered down her neck and dispersed through her arms and legs. He'd stalked her. Did that signal a personal interest in her? Her mind spat out: Really? You're going to be that pitiful? He'd proved how interested he was when he used then ditched her months ago. Maybe Russia really had ordered he attempt to assassinate her again, although she doubted it. If Alexi intended to kill her, she'd already be dead. He didn't play with his prey.
"This ... whatever you're up to, is sloppy." He traced a finger across her cheek. "I can tell you're worried. Someone does threaten you. Tell me who."
Her body swayed toward him. She bit her lip against the impulse to tell him everything. That this was the second insane mission the faceless bastards pulling her strings had demanded she perform this week based on facts that were more than a few thousand miles off the mark. That they'd set her up for death, or at least major hurt, both times. Tonight she'd been led to expect her target would be alone, or perhaps with one or two bodyguards. All she was supposed to do was create a distraction for a few night guards, grab his computer, and leave. For an ex-MI6 operative it was so simple.
You don't trust him. She shook off whatever magic he wove, disgusted by her susceptibility to him. And glared a bitter go to hell.
Evidence he was just as affected as she by their close proximity in this whacked situation pressed tight to her abdomen. With a mental head shake, she threw off the distraction and struggled.
Bullets hit the wall above them, causing them both to duck. She twisted out of his distracted grasp. He caught her wrist and spun her face-first into the wall. She needed to go in now. A push against him seeking escape failed.
He leaned in close to speak into her ear over the gunfire. "Even if you go invisible, bullets can still kill you."
Unease permeated her brain at the echo of her own assessment. "Please, Alexi. I've got to do this."
"This is not worth death."
Her sister's life? Hell yeah, it was.
"Let. Me. Go." She struggled for freedom, managing to stomp his left foot, not that it affected him. Damn those steel-toed boots he loved. He grunted when she butt-slammed against his erection, but he didn't release her.
She had seconds before the shooting ended and her target left or died.
Alexi wrapped one arm around her front while keeping the other firmly around her wrists. He spun her and pulled her tight against his hard chest, which wasn't hard from Kevlar. He was 100 percent sculpted male. Mere millimeters of fabric separated their skin. She wondered if he bench-pressed in his spare time. He zip-tied her wrists behind her back and removed her gun.
Shock froze her. Fury bubbled from deep in her gut. "I can't ... flash out of here, not with my hands like this."
"I don't want you disappearing again, or shifting away to your alternate dimension, my little hopper, at least not until I retrieve that which you feel is worth your life. Then, you will owe me." He smiled wolfishly.
"I'm not asking you to do this. I'm perfectly capable —"
He clucked, implying she had no say in what happened. She hated that. He asked, "What's your mark?"
He had her cornered and he knew it.
She couldn't get out of the zip tie fast enough to make it into the fray. She had to bargain with him. "If you do this, what's your price?"
"We'll discuss it later. There's no time now. What do you seek to acquire?"
"Colombian cartel leader's laptop. Name is Munoz." She gestured toward the mayhem with her chin. "He's the guy who's —"
"I know who he is." Alexi pushed her to her knees near the wall.
He knelt in front of her and gently cradled her chin to force eye contact. "Stay here. I'll get the computer. You're going to try to get free and run out there. But, if you do, you will get shot."
He blew out a ragged sigh and cast a gaze behind him into the shooting. His tortured gaze returned to hers. "I can't watch you die tonight. I don't understand what's driving you to do this, but I need for you to stay here and be invisible."
He traced the scar on her lip with his thumb. Abruptly, he stood. A few steps away he glanced back, his face etched with unease. He mouthed, Stay. And then he disappeared.
She made herself invisible. From her kneel she squinted toward the lighted area of the warehouse, desperate to make out details and track him. Box towers blocked most of her view. This was her job, not his. He had no right to risk his life. She bit her lip, worried for a brief moment he'd get shot. And, if he accomplished this, then he'd ask a hefty price in exchange for the merchandise, one she wasn't certain she wished to pay.
If he accomplished this? Of course he'd succeed. He also wouldn't get shot. Alexi was superhuman. That made him a feared covert operative, although none of their cohorts knew about his preternatural gifts, or hers. He was the most successful operative she'd ever gone up against. Last year she'd been assigned to kill him. He'd apparently been commissioned by Russia to kill her, but instead he'd calmly informed her it wasn't her time to die. He had arrogantly assumed she couldn't kill him, and he'd been right. She'd ended up having the most extraordinary night of her life. Until he'd slipped away without a word or a note.
She tried to stand but realized Alexi had zip-tied her ankles as well. She shook her head with reluctant admiration. The guy was good. He must've tied her ankles at super speed. She resumed her kneel. If she could just reach her ankle, she'd retrieve the knife she'd hidden for this kind of restraint. After an uncomfortable Twister game move, she palmed the blade. She worked the knife between the tie around her ankles and popped it off. Then she started sawing behind her back on the one binding her wrists.
Before she cut free, he returned. The pop-pop of gunfire and the sounds of physical fighting echoed behind him but slowly diminished. He casually laid the miniature laptop on a box too high for her to reach, a subtle jab at her five foot five versus his six feet.
Long ago she'd discovered he could see through her invisibility. She stood and became visible. She eyed the computer while working the blade against the wrist zip tie, nicking herself a few times in the process. "What do you want in exchange for that?"
He stepped close. Only a foot of air separated them. He didn't answer but turned to glance behind him. "They're all leaving. It will be over soon."
"What do you want for that?" She nodded toward the laptop.
He gazed at her as if his request didn't come easily. "I would like the answer to one question."
She resisted her instinct to back up. "Okay," she replied warily. "Just one."
He traced a solitary finger along her jaw, then down her neck to her collar. His finger dropped away, but he didn't back off. She couldn't breathe. All coherent thought drifted away, leaving her victim to a white-hot need for this man. She wanted him surrounding her. Inside her. Against this wall. On the boxes. Hell, it didn't matter where. Just that it happened now. What is wrong with you? Wrong time. Wrong place. Snap out of it.
He said, "I suspect you won't tell me why you need that laptop. So, my little Greek goddess descendant, tell me if you have a Sentry druid you're bonded to yet. I know each of you witches usually has one within their ranks."
"What?" She halted the knife work at her wrists and forced her eyes off the temptation of his lips. His question slowly replayed in her mind.
He raised his eyebrows in unspoken demand for an answer.
She couldn't comprehend why he'd care. She'd expected him to ask for the why of her actions this week. He was right, she would've evaded. But this? How did he know each of the seven Pleiades women had one destined man chosen by the Greek gods from the ranks of their bodyguards? And better yet, why did he want to know this? He could bargain for something bigger, like a favor ... or her in bed.
Get your head out of the gutter. He'd proved he wasn't looking for more of that from her when he'd ditched her. She asked, "Is that the price tag?"
"Yes." Something primal and possessive flashed in his eyes. That instantaneous flare was so intense it shot heat straight to her center and ignited a buzzing in her ears.
Her mind scrolled images of the Sentry men, each powerful and handsome. Her mental page turning paused on Eli Morgan — not that they had anything actively sexual in their relationship, but she trusted him. She'd considered confiding in Eli about this mess. She replied, "No. There's no druid."
His eyes narrowed. "But there is one that interests you."
"Jealous?" She bit her lip against a smile. The infamous Shadow was not the cold psychopath many believed.
His gaze slid to her lips. "Did he make you scream your pleasure like you did for me?"
A final cut popped the zip tie around her wrists. She stepped into him and pressed her knife against his dark shirt, targeting the vulnerable area near his belly button. She glanced upward and grinned, enjoying his surprise. "Was I the last woman to drive you to your knees with desire? Can't stand not knowing if it was the same for me?"
Memory of her mouth on him and of him crying out her name skittered through her mind. She shoved her body's wicked desire into a dark corner of her brain.
"You think I can't disarm you of that toy?" Humor swirled in that statement, but respect reflected in his gaze.
His head moved toward hers. Her body screamed hallelujah at the possibility of him taking this to the next level. He whispered near her ear, "Will you come away with me tonight?"
The question dripped with suggestion.
Images of the last time he'd whispered that, of when she'd accepted, slideshowed angles of his sculpted naked perfection in her mind. Her body voted a resounding hell yes. Her brain spat out, absolutely not. She shook her head and dropped the knife away from his abdomen. She wouldn't hurt him. But she refused to give in again to this insane reaction her body reserved for him.
He kissed the arch of her ear. A shiver shot through her shoulders. He whispered, "When you are in over your head, contact me. If you get hurt before you phone me ... I won't like that."
He fingered a strand of her hair that must've escaped the ball cap. A deep chuckle echoed in her ear. That rich low sound cramped her belly with longing. She bet her natural red peeked through on the strand he chose. No matter how often she dyed her hair the darkest black, the natural red shed the color within weeks, sometimes days. That night when they were together she'd let that little factoid slip out.
Excerpted from His Witch to Keep by Zoe Forward, Allison Collins, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2015 Zoe Forward. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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