Free Read Weekend: Demon Seduction, Chapter TwoNovember 28, 2008
Welcome back to Harlequin’s free paranormal read weekend! Chapter one of Demon Seduction by Pat White was posted last week…now here’s Chapter Two…
Elizabeth didn’t feel threatened exactly, yet her nerves skittered as she stepped into the quaint cottage. She helped Marcus to the couch and glanced around the room. A hearty fire crackled in the fireplace and she wondered who’d tended it while he was on his walk about.
Glancing at the walls, she noticed worn classic novels lining wooden bookshelves and an oil painting on the opposite wall. Created with warm, red tones it featured a naked man and woman in the throes of passion, the woman’s head tipped back as her lover brushed his lips against her neck. Elizabeth’s skin warmed.
“I’m sorry, it embarrasses you?” Marcus said.
She ripped her attention from the painting. “Of course not.”
He didn’t have to know how utterly prudish she was, how innocent and naïve. She was rather inexperienced because typical blokes didn’t appreciate her qualities of focus and determination, nor did they fancy a girl who dressed in baggy jeans, a knee-length slicker and combat boots, with a fifty-pound pack of equipment strapped across her shoulders. Elizabeth didn’t fool herself. She wasn’t sexy or alluring, and that was fine by her. There was work to be done in the fight against creatures of the dark realm.
“Please, sit,” he offered.
“I could warm water for tea,” she said.
“That would be lovely.” He smiled.
Her stomach did a back flip. She snapped her attention from those fascinating blue-green eyes of his and went to put the water on. Truth was, she hadn’t taken the time to properly size up his looks, what with all the excitement of paras in the woods and Mickey’s confrontation.
She sighed. The destruction of her equipment wouldn’t stop her. She kept back-up materials at her flat in London. Later, she’d think about that, after she eased her conscience and tended to Marcus, the innocent bystander.
She glanced over her shoulder to get a proper look at her host. He was striking, with high cheekbones and an angular face. Yet he had a friendly look about him as well. Curious. Maybe that’s why she didn’t feel threatened. No, it was something else that put her at ease.
He ambled to the fireplace.
“You’re feeling better?” she asked, placing a pot of water on the stove.
“Much. Just being home puts it all right.”
She took off her slicker. “How long have you lived here?”
“The cottage has been in my family for centuries.”
She grabbed a kitchen towel and squeezed the moisture from her hair.
“Elizabeth?” he questioned.
She glanced up.
“I have a confession to make.” His gaze drifted to the mantle where his fingers stroked a statue of a scantily dressed faerie with long, wavy hair and soft wings sprouting from her back. Back and forth, his thumb brushed the faerie’s hair, down to her hip, to her naked thigh.
Elizabeth’s heartbeat pounded in her ears.
“What confession?” she whispered, because right now her thoughts were heading in a rather inappropriate direction.
“I’m not who I pretended to be, out there in the forest.”
As she watched him trail his thumb up the faerie’s torso, to her chest and lips, Elizabeth suddenly itched to feel this man’s hand on her skin, stroking her, setting her body afire—
“I lied,” he announced. “I didn’t just happen to wander into the forest. I knew it was there. I knew it was dangerous.” He snapped his hand from the statue.
Elizabeth took a step back, catching her breath. “You knew it was dangerous?” she questioned. “But you went out there anyway?”
“Yes, I’m looking for someone, someone I lost years ago in the forest.”
“Your true love,” she whispered. She didn’t know why she’d said it, but it made sense.
He glanced at the fire. “It’s not like that,” he paused, “exactly.”
She suspected it was.
“Why did you come out tonight?” she asked.
“The full moon. Legend has it that ten years would pass and on the full moon she would be released into the forest where I could rescue her.”
“How did she end up in the dark realm to begin with?”
“She was taken by a para, a demon, I think.”
Elizabeth leaned against the solid stone wall to ground herself. “Poor girl.”
He blinked and glanced away. Did he blame himself?
“I thought I could save her by offering to exchange information about PCell to the creature that held her captive.”
She stood straight. “You know about PCell? And you were going to betray your country?”
“No, I was going to lie. Make something up.” He shrugged.
“A demon would know you were lying. He’d kill you on the spot.”
“I had to risk it.”
“Yes, I guess you would.” Elizabeth wished a man had cared so much about her that he’d risk everything to love her.
“But now,” he hesitated. “I’ve lost my chance. When I saw you in the forest, I thought maybe you could help me find her with your instruments. But the PCell agent ruined that possibility when he destroyed your equipment. I must accept that it’s over.” Marcus ambled to the sofa and collapsed, staring into the burning embers.
She couldn’t stand it, couldn’t stand that a bloody demon had taken this man’s true love.
Her mobile rang, jarring her from her sympathies. “I’m sorry, excuse me.” She ripped the phone from her belt. “Burke here.”
“Elizabeth, I cannot believe you defied me and went hunting again.”
“You have no business wandering about the countryside. It’s a good thing Mickey stopped you before you did real damage.”
“He did all the damage. He killed my equipment.”
“Good, now you can forget your foolish pranks, return to London and get back to work at the plant. That’s more your speed.”
She cringed at the thought of her boring job at father’s printing plant, one of his many businesses. She’d failed out of university thanks to sleepless nights tracking paranormal activity.
“I was trying to help the cause,” she explained.
Silence, then, “Lizzy, you will never be one of us and that’s final.”
The line went dead. His words rang hollow in her chest. She’d never be a favored Burke, but didn’t know why, didn’t know what she’d done to be cast aside as the frivolous, unimportant daughter. Her younger brothers, Thomas and James, were given family responsibilities and encouraged to reach their full potential. But not Elizabeth. She’d had her chance at university and mucked it up. If she didn’t get back to London immediately her father would take her job as well.
“Trouble?” Marcus queried.
She appreciated the furrow of his brow and concern in his voice.
“Father’s upset again.”
“Because he knows you’re with a strange man?” He smiled.
“Because I was out hunting. He’s ordered me to come back to London and forget this nonsense.”
He moved to her side, placing his hand on her shoulder. Warmth spread down her back.
“Do you want to go?” he asked.
The intensity of his eyes caught her off guard. She couldn’t break the connection.
“No. I need to prove I have something to contribute.”
He grazed her cheek with his fingertips and she automatically closed her eyes. What in God’s name was happening to her?
“I have an idea,” he offered.
So did she. And it had nothing to do with tracking paras. Back off, Lizzy. This bloke’s taken.
She opened her eyes and he was smiling at her.
“I’ll help you,” he said. “What do you need to prove your worth to your father?”
“I can’t involve you.”
“You saved my life tonight. I could have been blasted by that Mickey character.”
“He would have figured out you weren’t a para and sent you on your way.”
* * *
But Marcus knew differently. If Mickey had pointed that tracking device at him, Marcus wouldn’t be standing here, safe in his cottage near the enchanted forest, chatting with this beguiling creature. She’d developed into a fascinating young woman.
He struggled not to be distracted by her charms.
“I’ll repeat my question. What must you do to prove yourself?”
He trailed a strand of auburn hair from her cheek. He noticed her pulse speed up at his touch. Take it slow, earn her trust. Then she will give herself to you willingly.
“Demons are the most dangerous,” she started. “PCell has been trying to discover their crossing over point, something called a traiectus. I think it means passageway in Latin.”
“If they find this spot?” he asked, but knew the answer.
“They will destroy the demons as they come through, before they can hurt us.”
“What will this mean for you?”
She turned and paced the cottage, her excitement making him hard, making him want her.
“I’ll finally earn their respect,” she said. “I’ll be the hero and I’ll have saved innocent lives, and PCell will have to accept me and father will…” Her voice trailed off.
“Your Father will?”
“Respect me.” She glanced at the worn floorboards.
Marcus knew she didn’t crave his respect as much as she ached for his love. He couldn’t bring himself to tell her you can’t force someone to love you; she would never love Marcus, thanks to their differences. Yet that part of him, the mortal blood that raced through his veins had always felt something akin to love for this girl ever since he’d held her in his arms.
“Do we know each other?” She studied his eyes and he warmed under her scrutiny.
“Why do you ask?”
“There’s something familiar about you. I’m sorry. It’s silly. This whole plan is silly. I can’t find that portal any more than my father can stop me from wanting to save the world.”
“But I think I know where it is.”
Her eyes sparkled with renewed interest and desire rushed through his body.
“Just before I was knocked to the ground I noticed an orange glow coming from the forest,” he said. “I believe that could be the passageway you’re looking for.”
“Thank you!” She wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Sweet Elizabeth,” he whispered against her ear. She released her hold on him, but didn’t move away. He reached out and stroked her cheek. She turned into his palm he pulled her against him so she would feel his need.
“I shouldn’t be letting you touch me this way,” she breathed. “You, your heart is spoken for.”
He leaned forward, his cheek brushing against hers. “It’s not like that. I feel responsible for her, but
it’s been years since I’ve wanted to touch a woman like this.”
He kissed her and to his surprise she parted her lips as if wanting to take him inside of her. Satan’s tears, she tasted sweet, like vanilla tea.
“You are too beautiful to be out chasing spies and ghosts,” he said.
“Hmmm,” she moaned against him.
With one hand framing her cheek, he trailed his other down her arm to the front where he could graze her breast with this thumb. Even through her thick T-shirt he felt her nipple peak with wanting. A moan vibrated against her throat, tickling his tongue.
He broke the kiss, breathing heavily against her cheek. “You are such an amazing creature,” he said. “Once we achieve our goal, they will be ashamed they never believed in you.”
“I will be the hero.”
She started unbuttoning his shirt.
“When we find the passageway you should call agents to be ready with their blasters.” He kissed her cheek, then down, to her neck.
“Yes, I’ll call them.”
And an army of Ash Demon would be waiting, would encircle and ambush the murdering PCell agents before they could discharge their weapons.
“I suppose we should go find the passageway,” she whispered.
“Daylight is best.” He reached between them and pulled her shirt from the waistband of her jeans. He slipped it up and over her head and tossed it to a nearby chair.
She spread his shirt wide and layered kisses against his chest. Bloody hell, he was a fool to think he was completely in charge. He’d only tasted female demons, never mortals, for fear he’s lose himself completely.
And now he realized how right he’d been.
But this was an assignment directly from Grigori. Find the girl, mate with her, control her.
She kissed his nipple, then licked it with her hot, wanting tongue. His hands tightened around her upper arms. Who was controlling whom?
“Elizabeth,” he said.
“I’m not, this isn’t like me…usually,” she confessed, nuzzling his chest. “I’m usually a good girl.”
Yet now she was bad, very bad because she was going to have sex with a stranger. She was going to give herself to Marcus, not because she cared about him, but because a mortal female could not resist an Ash Demon.
Marcus realized he was no better than his cousin.
He gripped her shoulders and gently held her away from him. Glancing up, her golden eyes were filled with desire, yet tinted with confusion.
“Elizabeth, we shouldn’t do this.”
Her eyes darkened with shame. She nodded and wrenched free, grabbing her shirt from the wood floor. She put it on, then searched the room. “Time to get some air.” She put on her coat but still hadn’t looked at him.
“The tea, the water should be boiled. I’ll take English Breakfast if you’ve got some. I just want to, I mean, need to—”
She rushed past him out the front door and slammed it behind her. What was the matter with him? He should have taken her. It would have been the best screw of her life. It’s what she wanted.
And he wanted to complete this torturous assignment.
He marched to the door, ripped it open and heard a woman scream just as a bullet hit him in the shoulder.
© 2007 Harlequin Books S.A.