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Authors: Virginia Nelson

CallingCaralisa

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Calling Caralisa

Virginia
Nelson

 

Bond of Three, Book Two

The rumors of a Wakening creating triads instead of mated
pairs reached Caralisa months ago, but she doubts an undesirable record keeper such
as herself will be one of the ones called to power.

Bentley, sees more than the bookish façade Caralisa hides
behind. When dreams tell him to wait, to resist the call to claim her, he
realizes his premonitions might be the key to his future happiness.

Jackson fought against his fate, resisting destiny’s demand
he accept a shared mate. One hot and hurried encounter with Bentley changes his
mind and before he can second-guess his desires, he joins Bentley in the hunt
to seduce Caralisa.

As the three come together in a heated clash of skin and a
passionate tangle of limbs, they’ll discover all the delights of a bond of
three. And move their society one step closer to salvation.

 

A
Romantica®
paranormal erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

Calling Caralisa
Virginia Nelson
Chapter One

 

The feverish passion on the page translated itself into heat
that raced up Caralisa’s cheeks and down her neck. Fanning herself with the top
of her shirt, she followed along with the words as if she could embed the
sensations captured on yellowed parchment into her own life as she read.

The kind of desire the ancients whispered about in their old
books couldn’t be real—or, she acknowledged, wasn’t likely for a woman like
herself. Caralisa came to the end of the passage and strode to the window to
peer into the night. If she got lost in the words, in the promise of
fantastical sex and bonding recorded on the page, her reflection in the glass
offered concrete reasons to prove she deluded herself. In a people prized for
their lush curves, their fiery natures, she was the freak, the strange one.
Small, sparrow brown, plain and built like a boy. Sex kitten waiting to roar?
Hardly.

Nothing to drive a man to race after or seek her hand for
the rest of his time on Earth. She’d read the story and the prophecy about her
distant cousin, Tabitha. Not only one brave warrior Hunter, but two men to
share their glow and their needs with one woman. How must it feel to be the
kind of woman to inspire not one, but two to desire her, lust for her, want
nothing more than her satisfaction? Stupid to waste energy longing for
something like that, but Caralisa could imagine—mostly because of her
books—exactly what it might mean to be at the center of that storm of raging
ecstasy.

If she had a man, what would it feel like to have his rough
hands on her? To revel in sensation as his attention became solely devoted to
her pleasure? To experience firsthand what a man hell-bent on release and
eroticism would be like rather than reading about it on a flat page? Sometimes
it seemed like more than she could handle—even if she weren’t the least likely
person ever to be gifted with that occurrence.

Brushing her arm hard against her breasts, which were aching
because her time for mating had come and passed, only exacerbated her problem.
She recorded the lives of her people, kept the old books and made sure that
history wasn’t forgotten and that prophecy got recorded.

The kind of woman who recorded life didn’t need to have one.
So long satisfied with her books and her writing, she’d given up yearning to be
the one starring in the story. Or so she’d convinced herself, only to regret
her choice not to race for a mate late in the night. A creak on the stair had
her spinning, schooling her features into the calm mask she wore to hide the
bubbling discontent her body insisted on.

The door opened in well-oiled silence, revealing a man with
the predatory grace of a big cat. His dark eyes seemed to peel away the layers
of her practiced mask and awaken the edgy need she forced back with sheer will.
“Jackson! You’re up late.”

The feline amber of his eyes skated over her, taking in every
dull brown bit of her, before returning to her face. “Can’t sleep. You’re still
working?”

Living in the City, a hidden alcove and center for their
people, used to be considered a privilege only granted to those of high rank.
Now only a skeleton crew of dedicated Seers and Hunters remained, since most of
their people roamed the earth and fed on the emotions of the increased mortal
population. Jackson wasn’t a Recorder, like her. He worked for the queen
herself, guarding her and the throne. “A Recorder’s work is never done,
especially not in times such as these.”

Mentioning the darkness that threatened them only seemed to
weigh down Jackson’s shoulders, drooping them as he leaned on the wall. “No, in
times such as these, unusual power must arise to face challenges. Our kind is
forced into choices we might otherwise not make…”

She shrugged, although his presence, stony eyed and arms
crossed, made her body throb with a need she must ignore, Caralisa moved back
to the text she’d been studying. “Perhaps we’ve made similar choices in the
past, though. I’ve been reading because of Tabitha’s Bonded Prophecy, to see if
there is any record of Triads forming before.” Stroking the yellowed paper, she
turned the page to an illuminated image she’d found earlier. “Nothing I’ve
found so far suggests it’s happened before, but I have hope that I can find
answers.” The image showed a couple, twined in light and power, colorful
tattoos writhing across their flesh like living things. “How fares our queen
this evening?”

When Jackson didn’t answer, she glanced back only to find he’d
abandoned his post by the door to tower over her. His gaze was focused on the
book rather than her, so she cleared her throat and returned her consideration
to the safety of the page. His voice rolled over her when he finally spoke,
making her knees go weak with forbidden desire. “Tolerably well. You’ve never
run a race, have you, Cara?”

Closing her hand until her nails dug into her palm, she
forced iron bands of control over her expression. “I’m not the kind of woman
who calls to a mate. I’m a Recorder, an inflated term for librarian. I keep my
books, I record what happens, I stay inside. Hardly a sexy profession.”
Shrugging as if it didn’t matter, but choking on his nearness, she moved to
escape his presence and return to the window. He caught her arm, tugging her
back against the heat of his chest. Smelling of mint, his breath washed over
her neck and the side of her face as she struggled to control her breathing.

“I would think a Hunter would decide what is sexy and what
is not. You wouldn’t be the first Recorder to find her mate, nor the last. Your
books would have told you as much.”

His words tempted her to dream of more—to risk her security
and position in the hopes she’d find a mate to match her hidden passions. She
did know of others who’d run and been captured, but they were all lovely women
with fire in their hearts and spirit…she just wasn’t that kind of girl. “You’re
very sweet, Jackson, but—”

Using the hand he held her with, Jackson slowly turned her
to face him. His palm grazed down her cheek, his fingertips tracing her lips.
Her breath caught and her heart raced. “Nothing I’ve had in mind when it comes
to you is sweet, my Caralisa. Run. I dare you.”

Spinning on his heel, he exited the library, leaving a trail
of seductive masculine scent in his wake like a beacon.

She retraced the path his fingertips had taken across her
mouth as if to capture the heat he’d left behind. Could Jackson, warrior for
their queen, possibly desire a sparrow like her? Or were his words, spoken in
darkness, simply a manifestation of the loneliness of his position?

Caralisa did what she always did when something puzzled
her—she opened the books to try to find answers.

* * * * *

Carrying a pile of books, Bentley placed them on the wide
table. Caralisa’s chestnut-colored head was bent low over one. She glanced up
at him, rubbing at her bloodshot eyes, before shooting him an absentminded
smile and going back to work.

It seemed to Bentley that he’d been collecting her
absentminded smiles for too many years to count. The friend zone was the worst
place to be and he’d called it home for longer than he wanted to consider. “So,
I found these in the stacks and all but one of the ones on your list is in this
heap.”

“Which one is missing?” Rising, she headed to a cooler to
pull out a water bottle. She didn’t even glance at him again to see what kept
him from answering.


The Catalog of Numbers
. Someone must have borrowed
it.”

Bowing her slender frame, one hand pressed to the base of
her spine as if her back hurt, she stretched up onto her tiptoes. His mouth
went dry and then watered at the idea of pushing up her white shift and tasting
the waif-like body she presented. Turning his back on her since he couldn’t
think straight while looking at her, he reorganized the pile he’d carried.

“No one would have borrowed that one.” Sighing, she joined
him, one hand resting on his arm. “Everyone knows I’m researching the prophecy.
Why would someone take that book now?”

He shrugged, hating himself for being so moved by her casual
touch.

“Want to hear something funny?” She propped one hip on the
table to look up at him with her doe-soft eyes.

Swallowing hard, he couldn’t find words. He’d crushed on
Caralisa for too long. Instead of waiting for to think of the right thing to
say, he simply nodded.

“Jackson stopped up here late last night.” Her gaze shifted
down and she concentrated on tracing the whorls on the wood with her finger. “Would
you believe he dared me, of all people, to race?” She snorted, her words and
tone suggesting it didn’t matter, but she said more with her body language than
he thought she planned.

“I’m surprised you’ve never raced before.” His voice came
out gruff, like an unused machine needing oil.

Another snort, but she still didn’t look at him. “Yeah,
first girl to race and have no one give chase? I’ll pass, thanks.”

Unable to contain the wave of possession crashing over him,
Bentley felt the chains that’d long held his patience in snap. “Caralisa?”

“Hmm?” She looked up and he caught her waist, dragging her
higher onto the table until his body pressed against hers. Glow shimmered
across his flesh and he thrilled when her body answered. Her shocked intake of
breath tested his ability to control the moment so he buried his face in her
hair.

“Run.” Rubbing against her neck, he sucked in a lungful of
her scent. “Run fast and hard, but it won’t matter. I’ll be the one to catch
you.”

Before she could castigate him for his actions, he fled the
room. He’d finally braved showing her how he felt, yet he didn’t want to scare
her. If he admitted what he suspected their pairing might entail, likely the
little librarian would run so far and fast, he’d never find her.

Chapter Two

 

Having avoided Caralisa’s office all morning, Bentley lurked
outside the throne room, watching Jackson. He’d started having the dreams about
a year before. All shivery temptation wrapped in darkness, the first few nights
had left him tangled in sheets and confused. He’d been a Hunter since birth, a
bookkeeper by choice, and assumed his role in life to be reasonably clear cut
and logical.

But his nighttime adventures wakened something else—a need,
a confusing ripple of dissent, a taboo he longed to break.

It had taken him quite a long time to figure out what was
happening. To be sure he wasn’t suddenly picking up womanly Seer powers or was
just a sick fuck. No, his dreams were the result of something even more
unlikely.

Jackson.

Hunters could communicate telepathically and frequently did.
In battle, it was useful. In feeding their powers off human emotions, it was
decadent. In dreams? It generally was accidental. Sort of like rolling over and
bumping someone while you were unconscious, but with your mind rather than your
body.

Jackson dreamed in color, dreamed with a brittle vibrancy
that seared Bentley, and his dreams starred Caralisa doing things Bentley hadn’t
considered anatomically possible. With them. With both of them at the same
time.

The dreams left him horny, lonely, tangled in needs he
couldn’t admit to any more than he could ignore the jumbled cocktail of
sensations. If he dared confess his desires, more than a few would deride him,
not to mention he wasn’t sure how Jackson would respond.

During the day, however, Jackson rebutted even the
suggestion of conversation between himself and Bentley. He seemed, for all
intents and purposes, to intentionally avoid Bentley at all costs, even to the
point of being flat out rude.

But Bentley saw, in Jackson’s occasional glimpse that
lingered too long on either himself or Caralisa—or in the way he reached up a
hand only to drop it back into his lap when Caralisa walked by—that Jackson
knew about the dreams.

Knew about them and actively participated in the dreams
without even the slightest hesitation.

So Bentley watched and waited.

For a year.

But now the story of Tabitha and her prophecy were common
knowledge. Now the unthinkable and unspeakable idea of two Hunters and one Seer
wasn’t just something he dreamed of—it had become possible. Jackson had to
know…

Clearing his throat, Bentley used up what little bravado he’d
allotted for this mission. “Jackson,” he whispered. He still hid in shadows,
but watched Jackson for a response, any response. If Jackson ignored him, they
wouldn’t speak of it. He’d just wait some more, see what came of it all.

Even if it meant chasing Caralisa alone.

Jackson’s head snapped in his direction as if he had radar
tuned to the sound of Bentley’s voice. “Bentley?”

Hands shaking, Bentley nodded. Then he realized Jackson
couldn’t see him so he whispered, “Yeah, got a minute?”

“I’m working,” Jackson snapped. But silently, he added,
I
don’t want to talk about what I think you’re here to discuss.

The mental link, tenuous as it might be, hardened Bentley’s
cock. It was a reminder of that same voice whispering through his mind,
suggesting yet another idea for play, another way to ramp up the pleasure for
Caralisa in his dreams. Shaking off the dregs of desire Jackson unknowingly
awakened, he responded in kind.
We need to discuss it. Each day, Gideon is
stronger, threatening our queen. Each day, darkness looms closer and Tabitha’s
Prophecy—

Jackson strode away from his post milliseconds after his
mental hiss slipped through Bentley’s mind. “I said, I don’t want to speak of
it.”

“But Caralisa—”

Jackson was bigger, stronger—trained and honed to be the
queen’s guard. It wasn’t hard in the slightest for him to slam Bentley into the
wall by his collar, eyes flashing in fury. “I said, ‘I don’t want to speak of
it.’”

Breathing harshly, Bentley tried to decide what his safest
move would be. He didn’t want to further rile the man who held the possibility
of his happiness—if the dreams spoke true—but he also didn’t want to back down
and let the chance at happiness slip away.

Their faces were close, their breath merging as they faced
off. Jackson did something Bentley would never have expected.

He slanted his lips across Bentley’s and his tongue demanded
entrance. The kiss wasn’t kind, wasn’t friendly, wasn’t even really a kiss.
More of a demand coated in fire.

Although Bentley resisted the idea of being attracted to
another man, or tried to when he was awake, the commanding clash of mouths set
fire to a keg of lust that had lain dormant for too long. Without planning to
do it, Bentley took command of the embrace, softening it while making a few
physical requests of his own. Digging his fingers into Jackson’s scalp, he
found himself pinning the taller and brawnier man to the wall.

The really strange thing was that Jackson didn’t fight him,
even though he could have. With a sound that was somewhere between tortured
whimper and moan, Jackson gave in to Bentley’s demands, returning the kiss with
equal fervor. When they parted, both stood panting. Bentley fumbled, placing
his palms on Jackson’s chest and then dropping them to his sides, not sure what
to do with his hands under the circumstances.

“She needs to run and soon. I can’t take this much longer.”
Jackson’s words were as much a plea as the look in his eyes.

“I’ve asked her,” Bentley replied.

“I’ve practically begged her.”

“Tonight, we go to her. Together. Make it clear what we’re
looking for.” Nothing in all the books he’d ever read explained how to tempt a
Seer into accepting two men as her partner.

“Agreed. Until then, get out of here. I’m on duty.” Jackson
pushed away from the wall, shoving a hand through his hair as he moved back to
his post. Bentley stood for a moment, not sure how he felt about the exchange,
but Jackson paused and looked back. “I thought we could find another way. I
thought, hoped, perhaps I imagined the connection between us and that the
dreams were creations of my imagination. Based on this…I’m assuming, perhaps in
a self-serving sort of way, that you are as tied up in all this as I’ve been.
That said, I’ve not just accepted this. I want it,” Jackson admitted. “It might
not be everyone’s way, but if it is ours, I’m not the sort of man to do things
half-assed. We’re either all in or not in at all, so I want this thing between
us.”

The raw need in his tone translated itself to acceptance in
Bentley, peace with the hard-won decision. “I want it, too.”

Jackson nodded. “Tonight then. We go to her.”

* * * * *

Caralisa wasn’t used to feeling as if she didn’t quite fit
in her skin. Normally satisfied with her work, with her studies, this edgy
twitchiness was driving her to distraction. She wasn’t able to work for more
than a few minutes before she reread the same sentence a dozen times and ended
up pacing away from her books. At this rate, she’d wear a path from her desk to
the window in no time.

Night had fallen hours ago, bringing with it visions of a
darkness encroaching the kingdom and three lights glittering to face it. Used
to vague and disconcerting sights that might or might not come true, she wasn’t
accustomed to the same vision repeating and it didn’t help her distractedness
any. When the knock sounded at the study door, she almost sighed in relief. Although
it was late and any visitor meant something might be wrong, at least it was
something to think about other than her restlessness.

“Come in,” she called, before focusing on the book in front
of her. She wasn’t sure why she was ashamed of not getting work done, but she
was unwilling to be caught slacking regardless.

The door opened and closed and she gave a halfhearted wave
in that general direction, assuming her late-night visitor would identify
themselves soon enough. Instead, the door closed only moments later. The sound
of the lock clicking captured her attention and her head snapped up.

Jackson and Bentley stood illuminated by the various candles
she’d lit to light her workspace. Once she saw them, she chided herself for not
realizing it was them even as their combined scents—like fresh-cut grass and
the snap of a summer storm—washed over her. Who else could it have been? “Gentlemen.
How can I help you?”

Neither closed the distance, but Jackson leaned back against
the door and pretended nonchalance. She knew it was faked due to the tightness
of his neck muscles, as if he braced himself for some invisible competitor.

Neither man answered her. She cleared her throat
uncomfortably, the restless edginess seeming to build within her at their
continued attention. “Jackson, Bentley…did you need something?”

“I asked you to run, Cara…do you remember?” Jackson’s voice
seemed to reach across the room and stroke across her senses.

She shivered in response, appalled to see her flesh begin a
betraying glow. “Yes, I remember, but it hardly seems appropriate conversation…”
She wasn’t sure where to go with her train of thought—not sure if she could
make a coherent train of thought with them both so close and the knowledge that
they’d locked her in.

“I also asked you to race,” Bentley reminded her.

She cleared her throat again, her fingertips trailing up to
fan her shirt away from her heated flesh. “Yes, you did.”

“Are you going to run for us, Cara?”

Her thoughts, or what remained of them, scattered like dust
motes disturbed by an unwary gust of wind. “I—yes, well—um, I’ve been
considering it, anyway, and—er…”

Both men moved closer and she stood awkwardly, almost
stumbling over her chair.

“So, run.” Jackson offered up the solution as if it was
simple, as if she could just do it.

“Now?” she squeaked out the word while backing farther away.
Their scents were stronger now, calling to primal parts of her that awakened in
eager response. Her body, it seemed, had only waited for a moment such as this.

“Now.” As if united in their decision, both men launched
themselves at her and she scampered over her desk, knocking her precious books
willy-nilly around the floor. Ignoring the books was hard, but she knew she
only had seconds. Hitting the door with her body, she fumbled with the locks,
sensing them both closing in on her.

Part of her wanted to stop, to spin and face them. A more
carnal part urged her onward. She’d not be captured quite that easily. Freeing
the lock, she slammed the door open and spun into the hallway. Sprinting down
the dark passage, she risked a glance behind her. If they didn’t follow—if this
was some sort of joke to be played on the mousy bookworm—she might have to kill
them.

Instead, she found them both in hot pursuit. Jackson’s skin
had taken on an almost blue color, glowing silver against the stone walls. In a
surprisingly complementary shine, Bentley emitted a clearly green shade. Her own
skin felt electrified, too hot and too ready for their touch, and a glance
showed an almost brown glow… Figured, even her power was raisin brown. No time
for her insecurities, she focused on speeding away from them, but she wasn’t
sure of where to go. Perhaps her rooms?

Only somewhat decided, she launched herself that direction
and figured she’d lock them out—maybe until sense kicked in and they realized
that chasing her was a folly and that they could catch a far more suitable
mate.

It seemed instinct carried her feet, fleeter than she would
have imagined she could be, and in no time, she’d made it to her door.

Only to have Jackson pin her to it with his powerful warrior
body. The snapping scent of the storm rolled her under, making her sag against
the wood in a last feeble attempt not to melt into him. Bentley wasn’t far
behind, since his voice boomed nearby. “Do you yield?” he demanded.

To both of them? “I—”

“Do you yield, Caralisa?”

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