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Authors: Sylvia Day

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fiction

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BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
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Yet Adrian and his bullet catchers made a lie of what she’d come to accept as the truth. What was he? What was
? Where did she fit in a construct where beings who weren’t inhuman also weren’t evil?
Lindsay swallowed past the lump of uncertainty and confusion clogging her throat.
Adrian’s lips pursed so slightly the action was almost imperceptible. The hot, pulsing energy charging the air around him was totally at odds with his insolently apathetic demeanor. He sprawled elegantly in the bucket seat, sleekly graceful and inherently lethal. When Adrian had issued that softly voiced threat to Sam, she hadn’t blamed the whatever-the-fuck-he-was for looking like he was going to piss himself. While there hadn’t been even the tiniest fissure in Adrian’s composure, he had felt like a tornado to her, a violent and sweeping unstoppable force of destruction.
If death had a face, it was Adrian’s when he was pissed: a terror made more horrifying by its impossible beauty.
“You don’t know what I am,” he said, the unique resonance of his voice even more pronounced, “but you knew what the store clerk was?”
“The only time I like showing my hand first is when there’s a knife flying out of it.”
He moved so swiftly. One instant, he was arm’s distance away; the next, he’d immobilized her. Her hand holding the knife was pinned at the wrist to the leather seat, while the other was locked to the seatback in an iron grip. His blue eyes were aflame, literally glowing in the darkness.
Her heart raced in awe and mad fear. She had no idea what he was, but she knew he could break her far too easily. Power radiated from him like a heat wave, flushing her skin and stinging her eyes. “Let me go.”
Adrian’s gaze was hot with rage and sex. “You’ll find me to be amazingly lenient with you, Lindsay. I’ll concede and bend for you in ways I won’t for anyone else. But when it comes to your safety, there can be no games or evasion. You just took out a dragon who didn’t attack you first. Why?”
“A dragon?” Shock stuttered her breathing. “Are you kidding?”
“You didn’t even know what he was before you killed him?”
Realizing he was serious, Lindsay deflated into the seatback, all fight and resistance leaving her in a rush. “I knew he was evil. And not human.”
Just as she knew Adrian wasn’t, either. Not human but not vile. Capable of being terrifying, yet he didn’t incite the chilling and paralyzing fear that had afflicted her when her mother was killed. Lindsay searched for it, waited for it to rise and choke her with sick dread. But the anxiety never came. The tempest she sensed in him lacked violence, but even that—his effect on her inner radar—was unique. She read him as she would the weather, as if he was one with the wind that had spoken to her for as long as she could remember. There was a familiarity about him that she couldn’t explain or deny. And though he subdued her, he did so with an unbreakable but gentle grip, the look on his face filled with longing and torment . . . Everything about the way he dealt with her humanized him.
Whatever he was, she saw him as a man. Not a monster.
Adrian stared at her, his jaw taut. Above them, the panoramic glass roof afforded a backdrop of black sky and stars. The moment lengthened into two, then three, with neither of them capable of looking away. Finally, he whispered in a language she didn’t recognize, his voice throbbing with an emotion that elicited a quiver of warm surprise. His head bowed. His temple touched hers, nuzzling. His lips brushed against her ear, his hair drifting like thick silk against her brow. His scent—the earthy, wild fragrance of the air after a storm—enveloped her. Her lips parted on gasping breaths and she sought his mouth blindly, overcome by an inexplicable hunger for the taste of him.
He shoved back, reclaiming his seat. His head was turned away from her as he asked in too calm a tone, “How did you know?”
Lindsay sat unmoving, devastated by that moment of tenderness and yearning so fleeting she wondered if she’d imagined it. She struggled to pull herself together, swallowing hard to find her voice. “I can feel it. I know you’re not human, either.”
“Do you intend to kill me, too?”
His menacing purr set her teeth on edge. She straightened. “If I have to.”
“What are you waiting for?”
“More info.” She deliberately flipped her small blade up and down through her fingers, trying to regain her center of balance by engaging in a familiar activity. She wasn’t going to tell him about the wind and the way it spoke to her. For all she knew, it could be a major weakness he’d know how to exploit. “You’re . . . different. Not like the others.”
“What, exactly, constitutes an ‘other’?”
“Vampires,” he repeated.
“Yes. Sharp teeth, claws, bloodsuckers. Evil.”
“How long have you been killing vampires?”
“Ten years.”
A long stretch of silence. “Why?”
“Enough questions,” she shot back. “What are you?”
“I can hear your heart racing,” he taunted softly. “You’re smart to be wary. You don’t know what I am or what I can do. And you’ve lost the element of surprise. Now I know what you’re capable of.”
Lindsay smiled without humor, rising to the challenge. He was in a volatile mood, and it whipped against her senses like the lash of tropical rain. “You have
no idea
what I’m capable of. You haven’t seen anything yet.” Leaning toward him, she repeated, “What. Are. You?”
He turned his attention ahead. “When we get to the house, I’ll show you.”
Lindsay stared at him and played loosely with her knife. He’d gotten the drop on her moments earlier, taking her completely unawares, and even that wasn’t enough to put her on full alert. He disarmed her in every way, despite knowing how dangerous he was.
Whatever else she discovered about Adrian Mitchell, it was irrefutable that he beguiled. And that was more hazardous to her than any claws, fangs, or scales he might reveal. A damned sight scarier, too.
She focused on his magnificent profile. Even after receiving the entirety of his attention for the last few hours, she was still arrested by the strength of his jawline and the aristocratic line of his nose. And she loved the shape of his lips, which were so beautifully etched they were a work of art in their own right . . .
Mental images of that seductive mouth brushing across her skin, whispering heated, erotic words and curving in full smiles seized her heart in a fist. In her mind’s eye there was an entire repertoire of intimate, shadowy images that were so moving they were almost like memories. Arousal swept over her skin, tightening her nipples and spurring a slow, hot trickle between her legs.
Tearing her gaze away, she looked out the window and fought to regulate her erratic breathing.
. What was
with her? She was a mess. A quivering, pissed off, turned on, jittery mess.
The distance between the sprawling hillside properties was widening the higher they climbed. Soon the infrequent streetlights disappeared, the evening sky swallowing them whole except for the narrow swathe of the headlights. She reminded herself that Adrian was a known personage and her father knew where she was, but those safeguards didn’t calm the part of her mind screaming,
He’s not human
The car slowed when they reached a wrought-iron gate bisecting the road, cutting off further public access. She surveyed their immediate surroundings, her gaze pausing on a rough-edged granite slab on the shoulder that was sandblasted with the words ANGELS’ POINT. A frisson of unease slid down Lindsay’s spine.
A burly guard stepped out of a gatehouse. He looked at Adrian’s driver—Elijah—and nodded, then retreated back inside to open the gate. The Maybach drove another half mile or so before the house came into view. As dark as the night was this high above the light pollution of the city, Lindsay had no trouble seeing the home. It was drenched in floodlights to the extent that the evening was lit like daylight. It would be impossible for anyone to approach the house from any side or from above without being seen.
The residence scaled the side of the cliff in three tiers, each with its own wide wraparound deck. Distressed wood siding, rock terraces, and exposed wooden beams made the house seem almost as if it was part of the hillside. She knew nothing about architecture, but Angels’ Point screamed affluence—as everything about Adrian did.
The car rolled to a stop, and her door was opened by yet another guard. Lindsay was about to step out when Adrian appeared before her with his hand extended. She couldn’t help but notice his speed, which he apparently felt he no longer needed to hide, but she made no comment. She appreciated him dropping the pretense of being human, but she wasn’t going to praise him for it.
Her feet crunched atop the gravel driveway. She was attempting to absorb the grandeur of the house when movement in the periphery of her vision turned her head. A huge wolf prowled by.
Gasping in surprise and instinctive trepidation, Lindsay flattened herself against the side of the car. Adrian caught her by the elbows, the shield of his body filling her with indefinable comfort and relief. The beast sniffed a tire, then lifted its majestic head and studied her with undeniable intelligence. Her startled senses kicked into overdrive, prepping her body for defending herself.
“You won’t need that,” Adrian murmured, making her realize the readiness with which she held her knife.
Elijah rounded the hood of the car. A low growl rumbled from his chest as he stared at the wolf. The beast stepped back, lowering its gaze.
More wolves appeared. An entire pack, or perhaps two. Lindsay didn’t know how many wolves made up a pack, but there were at least a dozen of the multicolored beasts padding around the driveway. Their size was imposing. Each one looked as if it ate an entire cow every day.
Lightning streaked across the sky, perfectly mimicking the electrical charge around Adrian.
She exhaled in a rush.
The otherworldliness of both the place and the man beside her made her shiver. The wind caressed her, ruffling her hair but carrying neither a warning nor reassurance. She was on her own and feeling like she’d fallen down the rabbit hole—confused, fascinated, stoned.
Adrian gestured toward the house. “Come inside.”
She followed his lead. They entered through a double-door entrance, crossing over a slate foyer to reach a massive sunken living room. An enormous fireplace dominated one wall; Lindsay was fairly certain her Prius would easily fit inside it.
“Do you like it?” he asked, releasing her and watching her carefully, as if her opinion mattered.
The interior of Adrian’s home was a thoroughly masculine space, decorated in shades of brown and taupe, with splashes of a burnt red that reminded her of rust. Renewable green materials had been liberally used—carved woods, thick cotton linens, dried grasses. Directly opposite the front door was a wall of windows overlooking the smaller hills and valleys below. In the distance, city lights twinkled with multihued fire, but the metropolis seemed worlds away from this transcendent place. To call the residence amazing would be an understatement. It suited Adrian so well. For all his urbanity, she sensed an earthy connection to nature in him.
She kept her bag close to her side and faced him. “What’s not to like?”
“Good.” He gave a regal nod. “You’ll be staying here indefinitely.”
His imperiousness was stunning. “Excuse me?”
“I need to keep you where I know you’ll be safe.”
I need to keep you . . .
As if he had the right. “Maybe I don’t want to be kept.”
“You should have considered that before you killed a dragon in a public place.”
“You’re the one who gave me away. Or your bodyguards did. If I hadn’t been with you, he never would have paid any attention to me. So if I’m a target, it’s your fault.”
“Regardless of who’s to blame,” he said calmly, “Elijah noticed you were being followed. There was a brief span of time while you were in the restroom when Sam’s whereabouts are unaccounted for. It’s possible he notified someone that he saw you with us. If he did, his disappearance will raise suspicions and we’ll be the first place to start looking for him.”
She frowned. “Why would a chick hanging out with you interest him or anyone else? You’re rich and hot as hell. I’m sure you’re seen with women all the time. Are you talking about him calling the paparazzi? Or more dragon dudes?”
Adrian gestured down the hallway with a graceful extension of his arm. “Let me show you to your room. You can freshen up; then we’ll talk.”

talk,” Lindsay corrected. “I’ll listen.”
His hand came to rest at the small of her back and she felt the power thrumming through him—tremendous energy restrained by a cyclonic force of will that awed her.
He was something different in this place. The power she’d felt in him from the beginning was sharper, more refined. Or perhaps it was just more apparent. Perhaps he made it so deliberately. Either way, the agitation he’d exuded in the Maybach was tightly leashed now. Why would he betray that disquiet to her, a stranger, but restrain it in his own home, where he should feel the most comfortable?
BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
6.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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