Authors: Marie Mason
“Come here, Julie.” He pulled her behind him, placing himself between her and the danger.
“So the demons are getting in on this too, are they?” The bigger male tapped a lead pipe against the palm of his hand.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Rafe’s head was beginning to hurt along with the ache in his cock. All he wanted to do was get Julie behind closed doors. Convince her he loved her and take her every which way he could. He didn’t have time for this shit. Whatever this shit was. He hoped Remington would get back to him sooner rather than later.
“The bitch there.” The shorter of the two jutted out his chin, indicating Julie. “Now hand her over and we might not hurt you. Too bad.” He smiled, showing he was missing several teeth.
Against his better judgment, Rafe took a deep breath to identify the two individuals. Not that there were too many choices. Trolls or orgs. A whiff of rotting vegetables told him he was dealing with thick-headed trolls. He cracked his neck trying to repress the rage inside him. He needed to know why his woman had been attacked twice in one night. “If you tell me why you’re here, I might, just might, not put you through the bridge you crawled out from under.”
The two exchanged glances, their expressions not quite as confident as before. He couldn’t blame them. His eyes were now flaming and his body had grown in size. Two trolls were no match for a demon, especially a Conroy demon.
The smaller of the two men took a step forward. Rafe growled, letting the man know that wasn’t a smart move.
“Look, we don’t want any trouble. We were just going to turn her in. For the bounty, you know? A bro’s got to make a little cash every now and then.”
A bounty? Someone had put a bounty on Julie’s head? That didn’t make any sense. Julie was human. Even her association with him shouldn’t have warranted such an action. And he’d made absolutely sure that no one knew where she lived even before he knew how important she was to him. A bounty hunter—even one cursed into servitude— made enemies. Enemies who didn’t give a rat’s ass why you were dragging them back to hell.
“Who put out the contract?” He stepped closer, catching the taller one, and apparent leader, by the throat. He lifted his arm until the man barely balanced on his tiptoes.
The troll clutched at Rafe’s hand trying to ease his grip. Rafe tightened his hold until the male’s eyes bulged in their sockets.
“Rafe.” The soft whisper of Julie’s voice and the light touch of her hand on his arm, made him loosen his hold a fraction.
“Luke. Luke put out the contract.”
“Dead or alive?” Rafe’s entire body trembled with his rage.
“Alive. Definitely alive.” The troll threw a glance Julie’s way. “He said we weren’t supposed to touch her and if she were injured, we’d pay for it with a piece of flesh.”
“Who’s Luke?” Julie asked.
Rafe spared her a glance, noting the glow of the streetlight added dark golden highlights to her hair, making her look almost angelic. Damn, she was pretty even with the dark circles under her eyes. If tonight were any indication, she was working too damn hard. That thought only reinforced the fact that he needed to take care of her.
“An old family friend.”
“The Prince of Hell.”
Rafe and the troll spoke at the same time and Julie gasped. The Prince of Hell had a contract out on her? Why?
She touched her stomach protectively. There could only be one reason – it was because she was carrying a demon’s child.
Julie’s small, two-bedroom house wasn’t much but it was all hers. Tonight she was simply grateful for the roof over her head and a place to call home. After Rafe had sent the trolls on their way, covered in bruises, he’d insisted on driving. She hadn’t put up much of a fight since the night had started to take its toll on her.
Feeling the warm press of his body behind her as she unlocked the door, she sighed. She was tired. So very tired. Too tired to deal with a demon or the flood of desire he was causing inside her. She’d planned on coming home, opening a can of soap and settling down in front of the television to watch her favorite sit-com. Tonight, her mind was in turmoil. Why had Rafe come back into her life? Why now? Although it was probably better now than say in three more months when it would be obvious to anyone that she was pregnant
Pregnant. With a demon’s child. That should have freaked her out more than it did. When she’d finally figured out the slight queasiness she’d started feeling hadn’t been a stomach virus, she’d thought someone was playing a joke on her. Her first step into the wild side and she’d gotten pregnant?
She turned as he closed the door behind them, laying her purse and keys on the small table in the tight entryway. When she started to take off her coat, he was there, slipping it from her shoulders and hanging it neatly on one of the metal hooks by the door. Self-consciously, her hand went to her hair. She knew she looked messy and unkempt, she always did after a long shift. She remembered she hadn’t looked her best that night either. The night she’d met him.
She closed her eyes, thinking back on that day when she’d taken the order of a dark-haired stranger just passing through and changed her life forever.
“You look beat, baby. Why don’t you go take a shower and I’ll fix you something to eat.”
“You have no right to boss me around. In fact, you need to leave.”
“I don’t like the scent of those two men on you.”
Her eyes widened as a terrible thought crossed her mind. “Umm, are you part shifter by any chance?” Maybe she could keep her secret to herself for a little while longer. Or, at least long enough for him to leave.
“No. Part demon, part angel.”
She eyed him in disbelief, the fear that he might accidently discover her secret forgotten. There was nothing, and she meant absolutely nothing angelic about Rafe. “No way.”
A grin flipped up one side of his mouth and she returned it automatically. “Yes, way. My mother is an angel.”
He raised his hand, taking the pins from her now lopsided bun. The long swath of hair tumbled down her back and she sighed in relief. He cupped her cheek before sliding the fingers of his right hand into her hair. Gently he massaged her scalp. She tipped her head back, giving herself over to the sensual tingling his touch evoked. Julie bit her lip to keep from moaning. If she asked nicely, would he rub her feet? So not sexy, but so what she needed right now. She pulled away, away from temptation, having no desire to be burned twice.
He gave her a smile she’d never seen before. Usually, his lips formed an I’m-gonna-get-you-naked grin that had her pussy clenching in need. This smile held more than a touch of sadness and was tinged with a hint of resignation. She studied him, the skin on his face appeared a lighter color than when he’d been with her before. Had he spent the last months in hell, away from the sunshine? She knew so little about how the whole demon world worked.
She had no choice but to face down the man who had flipped her life upside down. She had to resist him, no matter how appealing. Appealing? Who the hell was she trying to kid? He was a panty-wetting, orgasm-inducing demon. And just when she thought he was done, he came back for more.
Dangerous. So damn dangerous.
Her mind flashed back to the two days she’d spent in his bed. Sweet heavens, how he’d went back for more. It seemed as if he’d spent the entire time with his head buried between her thighs, licking her to a startling climax and then slamming into her with all the force of his desire, his cock hard as steel. She flushed and hoped he figured it was due to her earlier spell of sickness. She was too old to be blushing at a sexual innuendo. But something about his deep, dark voice made everything inside her start to quiver. Wasn’t her current situation proof that she had absolutely no self-control when he was around?
, she muttered to herself.
. She had to know what he was up to. What he wanted. She knew for certain he didn’t want her.
His was the same Rafe she remembered, the man who’d made exquisite and incredible love to her. And then left her without a word of explanation. The remembered hurt jolted through her.
“Go, baby.” He turned her around and gave her a gentle push forward, followed by a sharp slap on her ass cheek. She gave a startled yelp but didn’t turn back around.
Maybe, if she was lucky, he’d be gone by the time she got out of the shower.
RAFE WATCHED THE sexy sway of Julie’s hips under the tight fit of her pants. The sight of her bending over as she’d worked, serving food and busing tables, had kept him hard all evening. He clasped his fingers behind his head to keep from reaching out for her and pushing her against the wall. How easy would it have been to ease his hunger with another long taste of her?
He wanted her. Wanted her desperately.
But, first he had to figure out why Luke had put a bounty on her head. He cursed, thinking of what would have happened if he hadn’t come for her. A sudden thought struck him. Fuck, fuck, fuck—had Luke found out about his interest in her and this was the damn demon’s way of fucking with Rafe for escaping from hell? Kayley and Roark breaking the curse had freed the Conroy family. But did Rafe still need to pay for his transgression? And if he did, why the fucking fuck was Luke dragging Julie into this?
Because he was a power hungry dumb shit, Rafe’s demon reminded him.
Rafe walked to the kitchen and opened Julie’s refrigerator and let out a string of curses that would have had even his demon father cringing. Inside was a half-gallon of milk, a few slices of cheese and some wilted lettuce. A search of her cabinets revealed she had very little there as well. Shame and regret for not caring for her properly rushed over him.
Rafe’s hands tightened on the kitchen counter until he heard a slight crack of the wood. Forcing himself to pull his hands away, a long, deep growl rose inside him. The dark noise sounded as though it came from the pit of hell itself. Anger replaced all other emotions.
Grabbing the cheese and two pieces of questionable bread, he put a skillet on the stove to heat. He opened the refrigerator door again, hoping some butter would magically appear. Too bad Kayley’s sister wasn’t here, he’d heard she could conjure anything. A handy skill to have in the extended family tree. Rafe was damn happy Roark had found his mate. Even more so that she was a witch and their love had broken the spell. Now, he was free to pursue Julie.
After he got rid of the damn bounty on her head. The first thing he was going to do after he had her fed and settled, was to pay his former boss a little visit.
He placed the unbuttered bread on the skillet and topped it with the cheese. It would be dry as dust but at least it would be healthy. He would need to go to the grocery tonight or early in the morning so she would have something for breakfast.
Thinking of the trolls and shifters he’d already faced, he knew he couldn’t leave her alone. Roark was on his honeymoon, having delayed it until his new wife could get time off from work. Remington, curse his ornery hide had better get back to him pronto. Listening for the shower to end, he placed the sandwich on the back of the stove to keep warm as he pulled the milk from the fridge, his mind already spinning with plans. Maybe there was a store in town that would deliver.
By the time Julie came back downstairs, Roark had the makeshift meal on the breakfast bar. The kitchen in her house wasn’t even large enough for a small table. Her scent entered the room before she did. He drew in a lungful of the sweet scent before he turned around to face her. She’d piled her hair into a loose knot on top of her head, making him think how much he wanted to press his lips against the soft white skin of her nape. She’d dressed in a pair of knit lounging pants topped with a large, oversized long sleeved t-shirt. She looked so damn small. And vulnerable. Her face was scrubbed clean, reminding him of a child ready to go to bed.
Except there was nothing childlike about her body. Seeing the thrust of her breasts against the material of her shirt, his dick hardened behind the zipper of his jeans. Again. He barely resisted the urge to arrange his equipment into a more comfortable position. Shaken by the depth of his longing for her, he clenched his hands by his sides, fighting the urge to pull her into his arms, sweep away the food and lift her onto the counter so he could ravage her.
“Eat.” The timber of his voice reflected the turmoil churning inside him.
She nudged those adorable glasses up her nose before sitting down. He pushed a plate in front of her. She picked up the sandwich and took a small bite from the corner. “Aren’t you eating?” she asked.
He ignored her question. Even if there had been enough food for the both of them, he wasn’t sure he could have eaten. She was beautiful. So damn beautiful. For a moment he was afraid she wouldn’t eat, then she took another bite and then another.
Silence reigned as Julie ate her sandwich and drank the glass of milk Rafe had poured for her. He looked so different than he had from before. Older, more serious. His charm and wit had been the first thing—okay, so not the first thing, that had been his smoking hot body—that had drawn her to him. She’d lived alone and lonely for so long, the thought of being with someone so full of life had been intoxicating.
She stood, unsure what to do now. As she brushed the crumbs from the counter onto her plate, she thought of her life before Rafe had roared into it. She’d lost her adoptive parents in an automobile accident when she was just out of high school. That event had changed the course of her destiny in more than one way. Somehow, it hadn’t seemed right to go on with her plans to leave her hometown for college so soon after the tragedy. Taking a full-time job at the diner had allowed her to keep up the payments on the small house she’d inherited. If she hadn’t, everything would have been sold by the bank. Everything her parents had owed, gone from the face of the earth.
Rafe took the plate and glass from her before she could move. She watched as he washed them and placed them in the dish drainer by the side of the sink. Would he leave now? Ask to stay?
He moved back toward her until they were standing hip to hip, close enough to feel the warmth from each other’s bodies. Julie told herself she should move away, order him from her house. Her heart danced in her chest, a wild jackhammer rhythm. Rafe stared at her, his eyes half-lidded, the bright blue now layered with black. She’d seen him like this before. It had freaked her out the first time she realized his eyes changed color based on his mood. At first the midnight black, where no emotion showed through, had scared her. But now she knew it was the complete opposite. His eyes grew dark when emotions rode him hard. Like when he was coming inside her. His hand lifted and his fingertips caressed her cheek. His other hand curled around her waist. Julie immediately tried to jerk back, thinking, for some inexplicable reason that if he touched her stomach he would know.
He gave a rumble and clenched her shirt in his hand, pulling her forward until the small space between them disappeared. His face was close, his breath mingling with hers. And then their lips were touching, curving to fit as though made for each other—which they were.
Julie was helpless to stop him. She’d resisted him as long as she could but feelings of utter longing sprang up from somewhere deep within. She tried, really tried to ignore them, but it was impossible with the way he was kissing her, caressing her, pressing her against him as if he would never let her go.
When he deepened the kiss, she opened to him, let him in. Part of her hated herself for the weakness, yet she was unable to fight it. She melted against him, and his mouth plundered hers. Her arms found their way around his neck and she closed her eyes, afraid of what would happen next. He was raining kisses onto her willing mouth and she was drinking them in. His hands slid beneath the cotton of her shirt and circled the sides of her waist then moved up her sides. His mouth left hers and skimmed the sensitive skin along her jawline, heightening her arousal. When he covered her breasts, she moaned. How had she forgotten what his touch was like? Her breasts were tender and he must have sensed that because his touch softened. She just hoped he didn’t guess the reason why.
“Mmm.” Coherent speech was beyond her at the moment. He continued to knead her breasts, tugging on the nipples. She pressed closer, nestling his hard cock against her hungry pussy.
“Rafe,” she murmured. How did she express her need?
He stepped back and his name was a loud protest. “Rafe.”
He just smiled as he took off his flannel shirt. He wore no undershirt and she wondered again how he hadn’t frozen to death. The worry left in a hurry as his chest and torso came into view. His muscles beckoned her fingertips, enticing them to trace the ridges that made up his abs. No wonder demons were so seductive—they had a body to die for. The natural bronze of his skin invited her lips to touch and taste.
Leaning forward, she placed her mouth over one of the brown nubs, sucking his nipple inside her mouth. His hand covered the back of her head pressing her mouth closer as his fingers threaded into her hair, causing it to tumble down around her shoulders. “Oh, yeah, baby, just like that.”
She glanced up at him and saw that he’d thrown back his head as she sucked and licked and bit.
Any worries she’d had that he might not find her as attractive as before, fled. This big, bad demon wanted her. She pressed her hand against the long length of his cock, hidden by the denim of his jeans, giving a little moan of hunger against his skin.
Rafe tried to regain control as Julie’s hands and mouth loved him. Showed him how desperate she was for his touch. Just as desperate as he was. But he knew they had to, or should talk… The feel of her small hand closing around his cock drove all his good intentions away. He stroked her shoulders, her back, her upper arms. Trying to slow them down. “You are so beautiful.”
All was lost when she lifted her lips to his, a look of such need and want in the brown depths that his demon roared inside him, telling him to satisfy his woman. He captured her lips and savaged them. A heat rose in his blood and surged through his veins, pumped through his heart—and headed straight to his cock. He cupped her breasts, gripping them tightly. She moaned low in her throat and the sound was music to his ears. He bent low, lifting her into his arms.
“Which way to your bedroom?” There weren’t very many choices in the small house, but he didn’t want to open the door to a storage room and then have to backtrack. He wanted her now.
Just as he was stepping into the hallway, a knock sounded on the door and Rafe cursed. “Who the fuck is that?” His first instinct was to protect followed quickly by jealousy. No one knocked on a door this late at night unless it was for a booty call.
“I don’t know.” Julie pushed the hair away from her face and looked up at him, her eyes clouded over with passion. Damn it. He’d been so close. He knew, just knew, if he got her beneath him, his cock inside her, everything would be all right.
He sat her on her feet, his hands gripping her shoulders. “You better tell me right now, if there’s a man on the other side of that door, Julie. If you don’t I won’t be responsible for my actions.” His eyes bore into hers, letting her see the seriousness of his words, a flash of his demon strength and power.
She glared back at him, the sassy and fearless attitude making his cock harden again. “How the hell should I know who is on the other side of the door? Do I look clairvoyant to you?”
, Rafe thought silently,
you look like an angel
. An angel with a devil’s soul.
“Get behind me.” He pushed her away from the front door, putting his body between hers and anything on the other side that might be there to harm her. Over his dead body.
He grabbed the doorknob and twisted it, prepared to fight whoever was on the other side. Friend or foe, no one was getting near Julie without his say so. He staggered back in surprise when he found his brother Remington on the doorstep. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Just answering your summons, big brother.” Sarcasm dripped from each word as Remington’s mouth turned up in an angry snarl. Of the three brothers, Remington was the most black-hearted, with Rafe coming in a close second. Or had been. Seeing the surprise on Julie’s face as he closed the door behind their visitor, he realized all that darkness had left his soul. Replaced by a shining light that burned only for her.
“Julie, this is my brother, Remington Conroy.”
He stepped inside the room, near Julie, and Rafe growled. Demons might not have the natural protective instincts of a male shifter, but they sure as hell didn’t want another demon around the woman they loved.
Loved. Hell, he did love Julie. Scrubbing his hand over his face, he watched in disbelief as the darkness surrounding Remington lightened as if someone had flipped a switch.
“Hello, sweetness.” Remington made a straight line toward Julie. Her face was still flushed and her lips swollen from his kisses. If his brother had arrived a few minutes later… Rafe wouldn’t have answered the damn door.
“Hello.” She held out her hand and Remington, curse his black-hearted soul took it, lifted it to his mouth and kissed it as if he were at a Victorian ball, ready to dance away with the fair maiden.
“What the fuck, Remington?” He strode toward them, pulling Julie’s hand away.
Remington’s permanent scowl fell back into place. “What happened to the spirit of sharing, bro?” He flicked another quick look at Julie that made Rafe want to slam his fist down his brother’s throat. Sure, in the past the three brothers had, umm, enjoyed the delights of more than one female, sharing amongst themselves on more than one occasion. But no way in hell was Rafe sharing his woman with Remington. He knew Roark felt the same way, too, now that he had mated.