Authors: Stephanie Julian
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Erotica, #Fantasy
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
Seduced by Two
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Seduced by Two Copyright © 2009 Stephanie Julian
Edited by Sue-Ellen Gower
Cover art by Syneca
Electronic book Publication June 2009
The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
(http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Seduced by Two
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
CNN: Cable News Network LP
Coke: The Coca-Cola Company
Guitar Hero: Activision Publishing Inc.
Phillies: Phillies, The, David P. Montgomery, a U.S. citizen, its sole general partner
Playboy Bunny: Playboy Enterprises International
: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
: Paramount Pictures Corp.
Toyota Highlander: Toyota Motor Corporation
Wii: Nintendo of America Inc.
X-Box: Microsoft Corporation
: Etruscan Underworld
: magical power inherent in the races of Etruscan descent
: Etruscan coven, traditionally comprised of thirteen
: humans of magical Etruscan descent
): Etruscan for foreigner, used to describe regular humans
: elemental beings of magical Etruscan descent
: Etruscan sprites who love to clean
, a night elf
: Founding gods of the Etruscans, those from whom all other Etruscan deities were descended
: Descended from the Etruscans but born with a bent toward evil, with a taste for power and wealth,
, always female, induces fierce sexual desire in men and feeds off that desire
: Etruscan satyr
): Etruscan witch
): literally “skin shifter”—shapeshifters including Etruscan
(bears) and French
“Oh, now, that one has potential.”
Sitting along the back wall of Lacey’s Stay-A-While bar, Niccola Donato continued her examination of the condensation on her glass.
The rum and Coke was her second for the night but definitely not the last. Five, six more and maybe she’d be able to feign some interest for the group of men Tira Belludi had pointed out.
Her best friend had been sizing up every guy who walked in for the past two hours, weighing each one’s potential as a candidate to share her bed tonight.
Since no one ever turned down the blue-eyed blonde with the pixie features and the body of a Playboy Bunny, Tira had her choice of men.
Nica could hate her for that ease with the opposite sex but why bother? Tira had been her best friend since birth. They had a shared upbringing, a common destiny and a bond forged through their entire life.
Fortunately for Tira, life as she knew it wasn’t about to end.
Nica had until Monday. Then her life would no longer be her own.
She really should join Tira in her quest to find a bed partner. Who knew when she might get the chance again?
Tears tried to rise but she blinked them away. She was such a baby.
“Which one are you looking at?” Nica asked. Not that she really cared but Tira was her best friend and Nica knew Tira was trying to cheer her up.
Tira had practically dragged her out the door of their apartment tonight. Given a choice, Nica would rather have locked herself in her bedroom all night with two men named Ben and Jerry after her mother had dropped her bomb over the phone earlier today.
“It’s time, Niccola. You’re already five years older than I was when I took my mother’s position. I’ve served my time. There’s no man in your life, no children. It’s your turn.
“You’ll need to come home next Monday for initiation. Give notice at your job and tell Tira you’ll be moving out. I’ll call you later in the week with more details.”
Then her mom had said goodbye and hung up.
And Nica had nearly hyperventilated.
“I like Mr. Tall, Dark and Sexy.” Tira’s voice brought her back to the conversation. “He’s yummy.”
Nica looked up and caught Tira staring at her with such pity, she knew she’d been awful company all night.
No more. She only had a few free nights left. She shouldn’t waste them drowning in self-pity.
So Nica closed her eyes and let her
, the magic inherent in her blood, rise up, let it flood through her and fill her with power.
Then she took a breath to steady herself and reopened her eyes. The shift in her sight caused her stomach to roll but the ability to see auras made it worth the slight discomfort.
It was a Goddess Gift, not as powerful as her Gift of healing but useful. She studied the auras of the men, each slightly different but generally the same. They all had the pale blue aura of the
, those regular humans without magical powers.
She saw nothing out the ordinary in any of the men’s auras. Nothing to indicate disease, mental illness or a violent nature.
Except for one.
At the tail end of the group, the man had his head down as he bellied up to the bar in the front of the building. The other men laughed and talked, their confident voices overpowering the other conversations around them.
This one, though, was silent, his mouth pressed in a flat line. Nice looking, but not movie-star handsome. Almost bland compared to the men he’d walked in with.
In contrast to his crisp, white button-down and pressed blue slacks, his light brown hair was too long to be considered respectable, brushing his wide shoulders. His nose was a little too big, his lips a little too full.
He was the shortest of the group, probably only five-ten but then she barely hit five-two.
Still, something about his aura… The hint of yellow at the edges made her look more closely.
From the outside, he looked tough, like he didn’t give a shit about anything. But his aura… His aura revealed hidden pain.
So did his gorgeous eyes. Even from here, she could see how bright a blue they were, just not bright enough to mask the underlying darkness.
She had the overwhelming urge to heal him, tempered by the desire to get him naked and see if the rest of his body matched those broad shoulders and the perfectly tight ass under his pants.
Hmm, maybe she wasn’t as depressed as she’d thought.
Still, she couldn’t heal him. He was
. An outsider. And that made him off-limits as anything other than a limited-time diversion.
Of course, all she had right now was a very limited time.
“Nica? Do you see something?”
Nica blinked, the auras disappearing, and she turned to Tira with a smile. “Nope, he’s clean. Actually, they’re all clean.”
Tira’s mouth curved in a wicked, sexy grin. “Ooh, goody. Now what about you? Do you see one you like? You could use a little fun, considering.”
At that moment, Nica’s gaze lit on the tall blond guy next to the man she’d noticed.
This one looked like he belonged on a movie screen, perfect smile gleaming, dark blond hair tousled. Too perfect.
His features were a little sharper, his nose, his cheekbones, his jaw—perfect. His eyes were blue like the other guy’s but not as sharp.
This one probably wouldn’t give her a second glance.
She wasn’t beautiful, but she wasn’t hideous. She had dark brown eyes and matching brown wavy hair, her best features. The rest was unremarkable, her Etruscan heritage evident in her strong nose, high cheekbones and the olive tone of her skin.
She’d never been the kind of girl men looked at twice. Not that she hadn’t had boyfriends and lovers. She had. But those had all been friends first.
She’d never picked up a man in a bar. Well maybe it was time to change that.
The quiet guy drew her like no one had before.
He had issues. Big, messy ones that made her fingers itch to play along his skin and drink in some of his angst, letting it drift through her body and edge out her own.
She shivered, as if she’d caught a breeze from somewhere. Could be the air conditioning, cranked high to combat the July heat of an eastern Pennsylvania summer. It wasn’t.
She was nervous and that frosted her cookies. Men, especially
men, shouldn’t make her nervous. She was a powerful
, a witch from a long line of powerful women.
She was a descendent of the ancient Etruscans, human for all intents and purposes but her blood held an ancient and powerful magic inherent in all the Etruscans. That magic could do amazing things.
She should walk up to him and flash him a smile. She’d let him buy her a drink and when he asked her to go back to his place, she’d say “sure”.
When will you listen, Nica? Always so stubborn. Always jumping without thinking.
Her mom’s voice harangued her even though Carmina Donato had no idea what she was doing tonight.
Right now, she really wanted the guy at the bar.
“Wow, you’re really into him, aren’t you?” Tira nudged Nica’s shoulder with her own. “Come on, let’s go up and say hi.”
Nica took a deep breath. “What the hell? Might as well live. Before my life is over.”
* * * * *
Jensen Miller saw the woman approach the bar from the corner of his eye.
The blonde was a beauty, stacked and hot. Her smile could melt paint from across the room and she had it trained on Daniel. Looked like the tax attorney was going to get lucky tonight. No surprise there.
Jensen almost missed the brunette at the blonde’s side. She trailed along behind and he only caught a glimpse of her until she passed the blonde and continued up the bar.
She was pretty with dark wavy hair and wide dark eyes. Not gorgeous, not like the blonde. But while Jensen could appreciate a beautiful woman, he’d been burned enough to know most of them wanted you to worship them.
He’d done his time on his knees. Never again.
He would have expected the brunette to stop with the blonde. Strength in numbers.
But she kept moving down the bar. Probably headed toward his brother, Tanner, sitting on the chair next to him.
After Daniel, Tanner had the most notches.
But she didn’t stop until she slid onto the stool next to Jensen.
Surprised, he glanced over to see her smile at the female bartender. Lacey had introduced herself as soon as they’d sat at the bar, her bright smile welcoming. And immediately tempered by the scowl from the tall, dark-haired man working with her behind the bar. That one promised retribution if any of them so much as looked at Lacey the wrong way.
The two women seemed to know each other, calling each other by name.
He caught what sounded liked “Nikki” but couldn’t be sure.
When Lacey set a drink in front of the woman and moved away, Jensen figured he might as well attempt to strike up a conversation. At least then Tanner wouldn’t bust his ass for being a solitary loner.
He looked over and found her staring at him, a half smile on her face.
“Hi.” He held out his hand. “I’m Jensen. Come here often?”
Jesus Christ. He was a total idiot. Could he sound any more uninterested?
He wouldn’t blame her if she ran the other way.
Not that he’d come here looking to get laid. He’d had a bitch of a day at work. Meetings all day, meaning he needed clothes other than the jeans and t-shirt he usually wore to the sites.
Tanner was used to ties and shoes that weren’t steel-tipped. He handled the business end of the construction business, something Jensen hated. He’d much rather be outdoors, on-site with the crews.
Today, the school board had requested they both appear and it’d gone downhill from there. But that was no reason to take it out on the woman who had been smiling at him.
Her lips had lost their curve but her eyes had softened. “Bad day?”
His own mouth curved up. “That easy to read, huh?”
She shrugged. “I’m good at reading people. I don’t mean to be a pest…”
She made a slight move away from the bar and before he knew what he was doing, he reached out to touch her arm. He didn’t grab her, didn’t restrain her in any way. But she stopped.
“You’re not a pest. I could use the company. And what man would turn away a pretty woman?”
Her lopsided smile said she wasn’t buying the pretty woman comment. But the more he stared at her, the more he realized just how pretty she was.
What did she see in a bad-tempered idiot like him?
“So tell me about your bad day, Jensen. I’m Nica, by the way.”
She held out a small, slim hand. No rings. He took it automatically and didn’t release her right away, caught in the warmth of her dark eyes. She seemed genuinely interested in him and he couldn’t help but wonder what she was after.
He shook the thought out of his head. Hell, he needed to get over himself. Not every woman had ulterior motives for talking to a guy.
“Well, to begin with, I’m dressed like the rest of these yahoos, so right there that’s sure to set me off.”
She laughed, a rich, deep sound that hit him low in the gut.
“And second, I spent the day cooped up inside talking.”
“So you’re a man of action, not words?”
He nodded. “My brother can say a few words and have an entire school board eating out of his hand. I say one thing and piss them all off.”
She laughed again and his cock began to harden. Damn it, now he really wished he had his jeans. They hid an erection better than these pants.
“What do you do for a living, Jensen?” She picked up her glass and took a drink, licking away a drop of liquid from her lip and making his mouth dry.
He cleared his throat. “My brother and I run Miller Construction. He’s CFO. I’m COO.”
“And what exactly does that mean?”
“It means he handles the money and I handle the actual work. We each have our strengths.”
“Sounds like you work well together.”
Oh baby, if you only knew.
And maybe, if he was very lucky and didn’t scare her away, she’d find out just how well he and Tanner worked together.
Her head cocked to the side when he didn’t comment right away, that lopsided smile returning.
His body temperature rose as his erection hardened another degree. And he felt more of his stress slide away.
Maybe this day wouldn’t be a total bust after all.
* * * * *
“So are you going to introduce me to the beautiful woman, Jensen, or keep her to yourself all night?”
Nica glanced up to find herself staring into the pale blue eyes of the blond man sitting next to Jensen at the bar.
She didn’t know how long she and Jensen had been talking but she was surprised at how easy it had been. She’d never considered herself very good at small talk, and she certainly hadn’t come out tonight looking for conversation.
She’d wanted to lose herself in alcohol. Not pretty but it was the truth.
Then she’d met Jensen and they’d seemed to hit it off.
It had taken her a little while to get a smile out of him and, when he finally grinned, she decided she needed to rethink her assessment that he wasn’t the most handsome man in the room.
That smile popped up now as Jensen rolled his eyes and pointed his thumb over his shoulder.
“Nica, my brother, Tanner.”
Tanner reached around Jensen to offer his hand. She took it, startled to feel the same flash of attraction she’d felt the first time she’d touched Jensen.
Not that she didn’t find Tanner attractive. He was.
“Older brother,” Tanner added with a grin.
Jensen snorted. “By fifteen minutes. He has a slight ego problem.”
Her eyes widened as she looked back and forth between the brothers. “You’re twins?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” Tanner sighed theatrically, a casual arm thrown around his brother’s shoulders. “Though he barely admits to being related most of the time.”
She could see the resemblance now, as they stood side by side. It was there in the shape of their nose and eyes, even as everything else about them was different.