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Patti O'Shea - Paranormal Action Romance Author

 

Excerpt from Through a Crimson Veil

Frowning, he reached into one of the kitchen cabinets, pulled out a plastic glass and put it on the table. For a few days, he didn't have to worry about B-Ops or alliances—he'd just be protecting Mika. A nice, straightforward job.

He snorted at that thought. It had been maybe fourteen hours since he'd met her and she'd already turned his life upside down.

Taking out a carton of orange juice, he filled his cup to the top, then returned it to the fridge before settling in the wooden chair facing the hallway. Something made him freeze—a shift in the energy maybe—but as he tried to focus, he heard the bathroom door open and he lost the sense. Had it even been there? He shrugged and raised his glass as Mika made her entrance.

His body jolted, sending a wave of juice over his hand to pool on the wooden surface of the table. Quickly, he put down the cup, in order to stare unimpeded. Her legs looked impossibly long and he let his eyes trail slowly over every inch of them. By the time his gaze reached the edge of her red, high-cut panties, his jeans had become restrictive. He shifted in his chair, trying to give himself more room.

Her midriff was bare, her skin golden. He moved on and saw she was wearing a red tank top that ended above her navel. It clung to her, especially her breasts, and outlined her beaded nipples. More blood surged away from his brain. He wanted his mouth on her, wanted it bad.

Reluctantly, he moved on and saw her dark hair was sexily mussed, her eyes heavy-lidded. It was probably from sleep, but it made her appear even sultrier. Conor swallowed hard as she started walking toward him. For a moment, he was mesmerized by the sway of her hips, then he snapped out of it.

"What the hell are you wearing?" His voice came out a combination of rasp and growl, but he was relieved he could form a coherent sentence. He slid the chair back from the table far enough to reach the dish towel looped through the oven handle and wiped the orange juice off his hand.

"What's wrong with my pajamas?" She stopped in front of him and rested her hip lightly against the table. Mika looked confused, but that was bullshit.

"Pajamas? That's underwear. Go put some clothes on."

"Everything's covered. Besides, women wear less than this at the beach every day."

"We're not at the beach." He forced that out one word at a time.

She smiled, and Conor tensed, but although he realized she was up to something, he wasn't prepared for it. Before he could react, Mika straddled him. It was a bold action except for one thing—she stayed an arm's length away.

He dropped the towel he held and took her waist, but instead of lifting her off his lap, he drew her tightly against his body until her breasts pressed against his chest. Nothing before in his life had ever felt so damn good. He managed to stop his groan, but not the shudder. She smiled at his reaction and nipped his chin. He hated that he wasn't indifferent to it, hated that Mika's teeth on his skin made him that much hotter, but Conor arched forward anyway.

Why her? He'd been immune to the few other female demons he'd seen, but from the instant he'd sensed Mika, Conor had been on the edge of control. "Stop that," he said, but wasn't surprised she ignored him. Even he could hear the lack of conviction in his tone.

Her mouth moved up his jaw line, kissing, licking and nipping at him. Conor had his hands on her waist again and he stroked the bare skin over her spine, tracing each of her vertebrae. He was losing himself in her when he felt the disturbance again. It had something to do with the protective barrier around his house, but he couldn't figure out what. It was tamper-proof. Or close to it.

He attempted to zero in on what he sensed, but Mika reached his ear and traced the outside edge with her tongue. He shuddered more strongly this time and his hands went to her hips, pulling her against his erection. She eased back, letting him see her smile, then rocked her body into his.

Conor wouldn't have guessed he could get any harder, but she showed him differently. His world narrowed to Mika. To the feel of her curves against him, the sight of her eyes glowing and red, the scent of her arousal. She took his mouth in a kiss that was as wild and unrestrained as he felt. At first, he tried to hold back, tried to keep from scaring her, then he realized he didn't have to do that—his relentless hunger wouldn't frighten her. The part of him that was Kiverian strained at its tether.

That shook him enough to knock him out of the sensual daze.

Breaking the kiss, he said, "That's enough."

It wasn't, not even close, but he couldn't risk it, couldn't let his demon nature loose. Mika was bad for him. Very bad. And she still leaned into him, tempting him to throw control aside and take what he wanted with every cell of his being.

His grip tightened and he shifted her back so she wasn't molded to his torso. He nearly groaned a protest at the separation, but closed his eyes and fought the need.

Mika didn't help. Although he kept her from sliding forward again, her hands were roaming his chest and belly, even dipping beneath the waistband of his jeans. He pinned her with a hard stare. His resolve faltered for a moment as he saw the thick glaze of arousal in her eyes, but he said, "Stay still."

She listened. That shocked the hell out of him before he realized that she was probably trying to keep him off-balance. It worked. He didn't know which end was up right now. "You're trouble," he told her, voice still thick with need.

"Why? Because when you're with me, you actually start to feel things? That means you're alive."

"No." He shook his head, denying what she'd said.

"Yes. Look at you, Conor. Your eyes are burning red fire, your skin is flushed and—"

His whole body went rigid. Immediately, she tensed and stopped talking. He knew she was trying to sense what had caught his attention. Conor forced his awareness of her out of his mind; he couldn't afford the distraction. It was definitely his protective shield and someone was testing it. If he had to make a guess, he'd say they were probing it, trying to find if there was a weakness and where. He simply needed to figure out who or what was out there.

As hard as he focused, though, he couldn't get a good read on the energy. Whoever it was had shielded himself, and done a damn good job of it. That tipped the odds in favor of his uninvited guest being a demon. If he weren't in tune with his security, he might not have picked up on it at all.

"What is it?" she whispered.

Conor shook his head, silently telling her to stay quiet. The fact that Mika didn't sense anything wrong reinforced his belief that it was his familiarity with his defense that allowed him to pick up the problem. He should go outside and check, but he hesitated. If he left her alone, and if somehow whoever it was made it through the barrier, she'd be virtually helpless.

Okay, as helpless as a demon could be.

He was under no illusions about Mika's nature. She might be on the lighter end of the spectrum, but she could kill. Maybe not in cold blood, but in self-defense, hell, yeah.

But if this was the same demon that had set that snare they'd run into last night, she wouldn't stand a chance. It wouldn't matter what kind of powers she had or how skilled she was with them, he'd have her in seconds. Conor wasn't positive even he could battle something that dark and survive, but his odds were a damn sight better than Mika's.

No, he decided, he'd stick with her until he was positive his protection wouldn't be breached, then after the intruder was gone, Conor could look around and see if he'd left any evidence.

He breathed a silent sigh of relief when the would-be trespasser gave up. His shield had held. As soon as he relaxed, Mika did as well. Her arms went around his neck and she rested her forehead against his. She was plastered against him, and Conor cursed silently. He'd done it again, drawn her close.

"What was it?"

"Someone was trying to bypass my security. Probably to get to you." He ran his palm down the length of her hair a couple of times, letting the soft strands slide between his fingers.

"Me?" She straightened and his hand fell to her waist as she studied him. "Are you sure about that? Maybe it was someone after you. I mean, I only hired you last night," she added quickly. "That would be fast to find me here."

"Maybe." He shrugged. "But don't take the potential threat lightly. The timing is too coincidental, and after running into that trap keyed for you, I think it's more likely you're the target. Just because neither one of us sensed a tail when we walked here, doesn't mean there wasn't someone cloaking."

"True," she agreed. She smiled mischievously, moved her hand to his nape and toyed with his hair. "So what's the plan for tonight? There's only a few hours until the sun goes down."

"You're staying in the house until this whole situation is resolved. Think of it as protective custody," he added at her frown. "I'm going out to see what I can scare up about any Kiverians that have arrived in Crimson City recently. I'm guessing your stalker came from Orcus." Damn, he should have asked these questions last night. Conor frowned. She'd messed up his head till he could barely think.

Mika nodded and he wasn't surprised by her answer. If there had been a Kiverian in the Overworld, he would have hunted it.

"What did he look like?"

"I don't know."

"How can you not know?" When her eyes started dancing with amusement, he realized she'd picked up on his frustration and sighed. Now he was in for it.

"Some demons can shapeshift."

"Yeah, but you should be able to see through it." It was damn hard for one demon to fool another. Illusion didn't work at all and it took a hell of a lot of energy, not to mention, concentration, to stay completely hidden from one of their kind—it was why demons rarely fought each other while cloaked. Shapeshifting would take even more power, and while they had unlimited energy, the ability to use that much of it for an extended period of time was uncommon.

"I couldn't," she disagreed. Mika trailed a fingernail across his nape and a shiver went through him. "I was too busy fighting to stay alive and looking for a way to escape him."

Shit, he hadn't considered that. Mika would have had more on her mind than seeing through an illusion. But that raised more questions than it answered. "What about while you were mouthing off to him? Was he cloaked then? And why did he disguise himself to attack you?"

"I don't know."

She shrugged, her breasts moving against his bare chest. The flimsy tank top she wore teased him, and he took hold of the hem, ready to tug it over her head, before he realized what he was doing. Conor released the cloth and took his hands off her.

"Give me a break. Just because I didn't question you last night, doesn't mean you're off the hook. You want me on the job, then give me the information I need to take care of things."

"I don't like to talk about it," she said.

She looked uneasy, but how much of that was real, and how much was some act? "Let's start with the basics. Where were you when you first saw this Kiverian?"

"Biirkma." A rumbling noise escaped him and she quickly added, "It's a major city in Orcus. Unless you're familiar with it, what good does it do to be more specific? If I tell you I was in a square near the palace, does that mean anything to you?"

"You have a point. So he insulted your mother and you made a few smart-ass remarks?" Mika nodded and squirmed a little on his lap. "Okay, he wasn't shapeshifting during this time, right?"

"No, but I'm not sure I can describe him. I wasn't paying attention until he confronted me, and as soon as I realized he was looking for trouble, I started trying to get away from him. I'm a weak demon," Mika said, sounding apologetic.

"Of course, you didn't realize he was looking for trouble until after you lipped off."

Her contrition increased. "I'm Mahsei. We're impulsive."

Conor took a deep breath and realized he was getting sidetracked again. That happened a lot around Mika. "Describe him. Give me his height, weight, hair and eye colors."

"He was maybe your height, but not as big as you are. His hair was dark, and he wore it long." Mika shrugged. "I can't say what color his eyes were. It was night."

"You've just described about half the male demons," he commented, voice neutral. "It seems to me that since you were targeted, you would have paid more attention to detail."

She shrugged. "There was a lot going on."

Conor bit back a curse. "Let's try this instead. How did you and the Kiverian get across the veil?"

"My dad can do summonings. How do you think he met my mom? As for the Kiverian, he must have a human minion."

Looking past Mika's shoulder, Conor considered her answer. It wasn't quite as easy as she made it sound. First off, minion wasn't all that accurate a term. Though they probably wished otherwise, the residents of Orcus couldn't control these people. Secondly, not just anyone could successfully call out demons—only those who had an innate magical ability. Few humans fell into that category, and most of those were too well-trained to be used. Even the handful who were open to trading a summoning for a favor knew enough to put tight boundaries on the demon.

"So you're saying your fath—"

Mika rocked her pelvis against his and he swallowed a curse. His response made her smile before she trailed her mouth over his left shoulder and upper arm, down to his biceps. She bit the muscle and Conor lost his train of thought. All he could think about was how her position gave him access to a wide expanse of bare skin. He gave her a love nip on the curve where her neck met her shoulder, then pulled away, appalled. Even though he was half Kiverian, he didn't bite women. Ever. Until today.

"Stop," he ordered.

She didn't. Instead she used her teeth another time. He felt the beast inside him struggling for freedom and it scared him how strong that side of him was. It would swamp him, take him over, he didn't doubt that. "Mika."

When she ran her tongue over his collarbone, he knew she planned to ignore him. It was time for drastic measures. Conor took hold of her waist, picked her up, and as he stood, he sat her on the table. Her eyes widened and she gasped. That's when he remembered the large pool of orange juice.

He didn't apologize. "Maybe that will cool you off," he said, taking another step back. Three feet didn't seem a safe enough distance, not how he reacted to her.

"Conor," she purred with a smile that made him twitch, "there are more pleasurable ways to get my panties wet."

He opened his mouth, then shut it again without speaking. As he took in the tousled hair, her softly glowing eyes, that tempting grin and her incredible body, he knew there was only one thing for a smart man to do. Retreat.

Her laughter followed him as he fled the kitchen.

 

back to THROUGH A CRIMSON VEIL

 

 
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