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Authors: Crystal Jordan

Edge of Night

BOOK: Edge of Night
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Dedication

I finished this book while on a ten-day road trip with the Professor Moriarty. So, amid stops at roadside hamburger joints, visits to volcanic monuments, random excursions to farmer’s markets, Shakespearean plays and stargazing at observatories, he was awesome enough to help carve out time for me to write and edit. Is it any wonder I keep him around?

On that same trip, the Mad Madam M drove over to meet us halfway and hang out for a day. So here’s to scoring in the clearance section at Coldwater Creek and ogling Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine during a showing of
Star Trek into Darkness.
Some times, you need a break even from a looming deadline.

This book is for you both. Thanks for all the memories.      

Chapter One

Someone was watching her.

Awareness prickled along Erin’s nerves and made the hair rise on the back of her neck. She froze, her breath stopping as her gaze darted around the empty restaurant. Cold sweat broke out on her forehead. She’d watched the last of her employees leave ten minutes ago, and no one had come in since, but she could
feel
eyes on her. Staring. Boring into her skin.

It wasn’t the first time she’d had this feeling recently.

She needed to get the hell out of here. Her purse, with her car keys, was in the kitchen, so she hurried in that direction, hoping the sense of being watched, cornered like prey, would fade as she went. It didn’t. When she reached the threshold of the kitchen—normally her domain as the chef—she hesitated, glancing around again. Had someone managed to hide in there? She swallowed, swiping her clammy palms on her pants. There was a wooden stand with her knives to the left, and she grabbed the closest one.

Not bothering to strip out of her chef’s jacket as she normally would have, she scooped up her purse and scurried down the long galley kitchen toward the back door. Ten more feet left…five…a few more steps and she’d escape. A clattering explosion of sound erupted just behind her and she whirled and screamed, the knife raised to fend off her attacker.

A massive orange tabby cat hissed and spit, leaping over the soup pot he’d overturned. In the process, he careened into a stack of freshly-washed muffin tins, scattering them across the counter. He looked at her, blinked. “Meow.”

“Balthasar,” she said faintly.

Her heart slammed against her ribcage and she sucked in a breath. Adrenaline still pumped through her system, making her hands quake. She dropped the knife onto the countertop and bent over to brace her hands against her knees. “Jesus.”

Just a cat, Erin. Nothing to freak out about.
She shook her head. Letting the air ease out of her lungs, she straightened and found the big tabby had parked himself on the counter nearest her, purring as if scaring the shit out of her was no big deal. Sighing, she rubbed his back. “Sorry, kitty, the kitchen is closed for the night. No scraps for you.”

His whiskers drooped pathetically, as if she’d stolen his will to live.

“Besides, you made a mess.” She gestured with the hand holding her purse.

Looking over his shoulder, he flicked his ears at the offending cookware, which rose in the air for a moment before settling back into its former order. Goose bumps shivered across her skin, the only indication she, a Normal, would have that magic was occurring. Erin arched her eyebrows at the cat. “Impressive.”

His purr revved, and he bumped her fingers with his head, indicating that she should pet him for his efforts. She snorted and picked up the familiar to cuddle him close. He didn’t belong to her. Magickal animals didn’t attach themselves to non-Magickal people, but she knew his owner well. She’d been sleeping with him off and on for almost a year. The booty-call arrangement worked well for both of them. Lately, though, the man’s familiar had been making himself at home in Erin’s restaurants and condo. How Balthasar got inside them, she never knew. The security systems she had in place had been installed by Magickals, and they used magic and technology to ward off uninvited visitors. Her security systems
should
keep the cat out, but they didn’t.

Maybe all the creepy, being-watched feelings lately had come from Balthasar. The sensation had stopped now that the cat had popped up. She didn’t know though. The stare had felt more…malevolent…than she thought the familiar could ever manage. Maybe she was just being paranoid. Nothing had ever come of the feeling—no one had ever approached her or jumped out from behind a dumpster. No boogiemen in the dark.

Perhaps she just needed more sleep. Blowing out a breath, she gave Balthasar a last cuddle and then set him on the floor. “Time to lock up. Behave and I might have a treat for you at my house.”

The cat made a little chirrup of interest, darted ahead of her and sat by the door. She set the alarm on her security system, then ushered Balthasar out and turned to lock the door behind them.

“Nice night out.”

She jolted at the voice that sounded directly behind her. But she knew that voice. Relief crashed over her just as suddenly as the terror had—a rollercoaster that left her head spinning. Her hand clamped tight on her keys, trying not to let them betray the shudder that ran through her. When she knew her expression wouldn’t give her emotions away, she finished locking the door and turned around.

“Hey, Luca.” A thought occurred to her. Had Luca been watching her? Maybe through a window? No, his gaze would definitely feel more naughty than malevolent. Still, she had to ask. “How long have you been waiting for me?”

“I just got here. Your timing is perfect.”

Balthasar wound his way around his owner’s ankles, getting cat fur all over the expensive-looking suit. Luca glowered down at his familiar, flashing a bit of vampiric fang when his lip curled in disgust. His familiar didn’t appear impressed, so Luca shook his head and sighed. “Really?
Must
you shed all over the Armani?”

The cat’s eyes widened in an innocent look that didn’t fool anyone.

“Your accent gets thicker when you’re annoyed.” Erin dropped her keys into her purse. Though she knew Luca was originally from Italy, his accent was faint enough that it was difficult to tell. Unless he was irritated. Or passionate. She had no idea how long he’d been in America or even how old he was. He could be forty or four hundred, and she wouldn’t be able to tell. Magickals tended to stop aging somewhere in their thirties and stayed that way for five
hundred
years before they croaked. That kind of lifespan still boggled her mind, but she’d only known about magic of any kind for a handful of years, so there was a lot she didn’t know and even more she didn’t quite understand.

Her Aunt Angela had married a werewolf, Darren Kerr, and he’d Changed her into a wolf too. But it was all one massive secret—Magickals were as far in the closet as they could get. They had to receive approval from the All-Magickal Council to tell anyone about the existence of magic. Angela and Darren had been married for decades and Erin hadn’t known a thing about their big hairy secret. It wasn’t until she’d moved to Seattle and opened a restaurant with Darren’s other niece, Holly, that they’d gotten permission to clue her in.

“You can take the man out of Italy, but you can never take Italy out of the man.” Luca glanced up and snared her with his gaze. A little grin kicked up one corner of his full lips. “I came to see if you were available for the evening.”

“They have this invention now, you know. It’s called a cell phone.”

“True.” He stepped closer, ducking down until their eyes were level. Almost close enough to kiss. His breath brushed over her lips when he spoke. “But I find I get better results in person. If I’d called, you might have said you’d had a long day and were too tired to see me.” The tips of his fingers grazed the curve of her hip, and her breath hitched in reaction. Even so simple a touch could make her body begin to ready itself for more. “It’s harder to say no to someone standing right in front of you.”

He was being presumptuous, but that didn’t mean he was wrong. Her pulse sped, heat flowing inside her like liquid fire. She
wanted
him. Always. She could pretend to be pissy, but as a vampire, he’d be able to tell her heart-rate and body temperature had elevated. As a regular person, she was at a disadvantage most of time, but she didn’t have to let that stop her from winning. Holding his gaze, she reached out to cup his cock through his trousers. He choked, sucking in a shocked breath as her fingers traced the outline of his shaft. A low hiss burst from his throat, his fangs baring as he thrust his hips forward to increase the contact.

She felt him lengthen by the second and lust tightened his features. In the harsh light of the parking lot, she could see his face flush. Making him respond for her was a rush—it always had been. The man was powerful in every sense of the word—rich, well-connected, Magickal, an FBI agent with all the authority that came with it—and there were times when she could make him beg for her. It damn near made her purr.

Her grip tightened on the rigid arc of his dick, and she rolled her thumb over the head where a bit of precome had seeped through his pants. “You’re right. It’s so
hard
to say no to someone standing in front of you.”

“Your place is closer than mine.” His voice dropped to a low, dangerous growl. “Let’s go or I will take you against the door. Now.”

Oh, that was tempting. Far, far too tempting. Her body flamed with need, her sex going slick. She had to remind herself they were in public, in a well-lit area and at her place of business. That was a police report she did
not
want to have to explain to Holly.

It hurt, but Erin took her hand away from Luca’s cock and pressed her palms to his broad shoulders. She licked her lips, trying to think of something to say besides
take me hard
. His gaze zeroed in on her mouth, and his irises burned with a predatory gleam, his fangs sliding down into view. His control was slipping. She liked that, liked pushing him to his limits. The same way he liked pushing her.

“Kiss me,” she whispered.

“That’s a bad idea.” But she could tell he wanted to.

She leaned against the door, letting her gaze roam over him in blatant invitation. Damn, he was pretty. Even after a year of knocking boots with him, he still made her insides quiver. At six-five, he was one of the few men she knew who could make her feel petite. That was a novelty. And every inch of him was pure muscle. He was dark haired, dark eyed, olive complexioned and a little soul patch decorated his chin. She liked the unexpectedness of that tiny triangle of hair on his otherwise smooth face.

The man could make a fortune as an underwear model, but instead he was a federal agent. She’d never been one to drool over a man with a badge, but she made an exception for him. Add that to the magically naughty bag of tricks that vampires brought to bed and it was no wonder he could make her spontaneously combust.

“Stop looking at me like that, Erin.”

“Huh.” She had to tilt her head back to meet his gaze; he towered over her. “I guess sometimes you
can
say no to someone standing right in front of you.”

Groaning, he had her in his arms in the blink of an eye, his vampire speed making his movements too fast for her to track. Her breasts flattened to his chest, and her nipples beaded tight in reaction. He caught her mouth before she could moan, his tongue shoving between her lips. God,
yes
. Burying her hands in the rough silk of his hair to pull him closer, she kissed him deeper. The hard length of his cock prodded her belly, and he held her almost too tight, compressing her ribs. Throwing her head back, she gasped for air. His lips moved along her jaw in tiny kisses, his tongue sliding down the side of her neck. She felt the scrape of his fangs against her throat, and excitement exploded within her.

Would he bite her? Here and now? She dug her nails into his scalp, urging him on. “Please, Luca.”

“Not yet,” he whispered, and then reclaimed her lips.

He insinuated his leg between hers, flexing the muscles in his thigh to rub against her sex. She gasped into his mouth, rocking her hips to increase the stimulation. Every movement stroked over her clit, and she could feel herself building toward climax. His hands gripped her ass, pulling her tighter against his thigh, sharpening the sensation. Her pussy fisted on emptiness, juices weeping from her core. A low whimper was all she could manage as she held on to him.

She was close, right on the edge.

He ripped himself out of her arms, his chest heaving as he dragged in air. “No. I want to be inside you when you come. I want to feel it. Let’s go to your apartment. Right now.”

BOOK: Edge of Night
8.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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