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Authors: Karina Cooper

Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #Paranormal

Sacrifice the Wicked

BOOK: Sacrifice the Wicked
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D
EDICATION

For Kyle. You put up with me day after day, but the strength of your tolerance shines most when I begin an IM session with “Okay, say you’re a witch hunter and the woman you totally dig has just kneed you in the balls . . .” Thank you for wearing with such grace and charm the many hats I force on you.

 

C
HAPTER
O
NE

A
metal edge pressed against the back of his skull.

Missionary Simon Wells froze even before the
click
told him a pistol had just been unnecessarily cocked.

“You have more guts than I gave you credit for,” came a low, feminine voice, husky from sleep and so goddamned sexy that it stroked all the way from his ear to his dick.

Parker Adams inspired that visceral response just by breathing; had since the moment he’d strode into the Mission director’s office early last summer. That she was his boss didn’t seem to matter to the rest of his body.

He raised his hands, the docket he’d found in her desk drawer obvious in one.
Operation Wayward Rose.
The classified stamp on it looked black in the faint seam of blue-white light rimming the curtained windows.

“Good morning,” he said easily. As if he didn’t know what she meant, as if she didn’t have the business end of a pistol locked against his skull. “Is now a bad time for a social call?”

He heard her teeth grinding; reflexive, he figured, especially around him. “Give me that file,” she demanded through them.

A corner of his mouth twitched.

So did his erection.

“I can’t do that.”

The increased pressure at his head warned him before she moved. He pulled the folder out of her reach, spinning away from her gun at the same time.

He didn’t touch her. Didn’t have to. As an administrative missionary, she wasn’t trained to fight. Not like he was.

Not that
he
exactly ended at
missionary
.

She drew up short before she collided with his chest, put distance between them so fast he couldn’t help but grin.

He made her nervous.

Good. Because right now, in the dark and the quiet, with her sleep-tousled hair and her midnight blue eyes dangerously bright, she made him think about things she didn’t want him thinking about.

Lots of things he
shouldn’t
have been thinking about, anyway.

Witch hunters didn’t like witches.

Of course, with her gun trained steadily at his chest, Simon bet this particular missionary wouldn’t like him anyway.

It was a struggle not to grin.

“You break into my home,” she said, her voice arctic. Her eyes snapped in frigid warning:
Don’t even breathe.
“You steal my property—”

“The Church’s property.”

Her jaw tightened. “Give me that file,” she repeated, every word a knife. It didn’t fit the sex-kitten look, a look an entire world away from the mask she cultivated at work.

He wasn’t prepared for the Parker he found here.

Her hair gleamed like a blood red ruby in the dark, and while the cool copper color had always caught his eye, now it begged for his touch. Falling in disheveled waves past her shoulders, it framed her high cheekbones and dark blue eyes.

As if that wasn’t bad enough for his peace of mind, she wore silk pajamas. Thin, flowing pants, a button-down shirt. The pale blue material cupped her body like a lover—shit, like
he
wanted to—and outlined every curve of her body like it’d been poured on. Her round, full breasts, the line of her hip. The sweet, teasing contours of her thighs.

The night made her look softer. Much younger than a Church director had any right to be, infinitely vulnerable.

So much more fuckable.

Lust tightened his chest. Curled in his already too-damned-aware cock. Vicious, demanding. Hungry.

His fingers tightened on the file. “Sorry,
Director
Adams.” He drew out her title deliberately. “I’m going to have to confiscate this.”

Anger—real fury—lit her eyes to twin diamonds. The gun leveled between them. For all her lack of hand-to-hand training, the Church made sure all its witch hunters knew how to shoot. He didn’t doubt she could nail him square in the chest at this range.

His side twinged in vividly remembered pain.

Maybe it said something about him that the last woman to put a bullet in him had been a redhead, too. Although the through-and-through wound had healed over the past two months, the idea of a matching set made his skin itch in nervous anticipation.

Given Parker’d been the one to bandage him up, he wondered if she’d really pull the trigger on him now.

Probably. She was one determined woman.

Which explained why he was in her—up until recently
extremely secure
—condo in the dead of night, rifling through her office. Simon had known of the director’s interest in the events locked inside this folder. He’d suspected she’d kept the classified information despite the order to destroy it.

He didn’t know until today what she’d been doing with it. The stupid—clever, relentless, dedicated—woman.

The docket in his hands held secrets she had no business sticking her nose into—secrets that others would kill for.

Were
actually
killing for.

Simon should know. He had a list in his comm and the blood on his hands to prove it.

He didn’t want to add hers to the mix.

Parker’s jaw shifted. Firmed. “You have two options, Agent Wells. One, you put down that file and we’ll talk about this.” Her eyes, softer without her careful makeup and framed with red-tipped lashes, narrowed. “Like civilized people.”

Simon raised an eyebrow, tucking the folder behind his back. “And two?”

“Two,” she told him icily, “I shoot you, end your grating habit of disobeying my every order, and expose you for the witch you really are.”

Like he’d thought. Clever. “You wouldn’t.”

“Try me,” she replied, her gaze dead-straight.

But he didn’t have to. Another time, another man, and maybe he’d have bought it. Simon knew better. “You’re a good woman, Director. You can’t even bring yourself to arrest someone without hard evidence, so you sure as hell won’t shoot me down. That’s inhumane.”

A bell jingled from the kitchen, shrouded in blackness through the second entry. Simon didn’t look away. He’d already met her cat—a white bundle of inquisitive fluff.

One more reason she wouldn’t shoot him. Anyone who owned a cat that ridiculous couldn’t pull the trigger on an unarmed man.

God damn, she was adorable.

The gun shook, ever so slightly. “Inhumane is what’s in that file.” And too fucking curious for her own good. “Put it down, Mr. Wells. Now.”

Simon grimaced. “Fine. Let’s take option one.” Slowly, his eyes on hers, he set the folder on the desk behind him.

She didn’t drop her guard. He didn’t expect her to. Instead, she cupped one hand under the other, a two-armed stance that only brought attention to the roundness of her breasts beneath thin silk. And the divot her nipples pushed into the fabric.

Maybe
adorable
wasn’t the word. How about smoking hot? Drop-dead sexy.

Hands-off erotic, like every
screw the boss
fantasy every man had ever entertained.

“Good. Now, let’s talk.”

Bad idea. Every beat of his heart pumped a surge of raw need through his system.

He needed out. He needed to get this folder away from her grasping hands. She needed to leave him alone.

Or else he was going to show her what
need
really was.

He’d already spent too fucking much time entertaining his own fantasies. How she’d respond to his touch; to the feel of his fingers against her softest skin, what she’d sound like when she climaxed against him.

His back teeth locked as blood surged to his rapidly hardening erection.

Bad timing. Bad choice.

On everybody’s part.

“How about I leave now and we can talk tomorrow?” A thin chance.

One she ignored. “The Salem Project. GeneCorp. Human testing, Mr. Wells.” She watched him like a hawk, clever gears obviously engaged under all that red hair. “How deep does Sector Three go?”

“What makes you think I know?”

Her gaze dropped to his left shoulder. Flicked up again, cold as any frozen hell he could imagine. She was good, signaling scorn without having to open her mouth.

He liked them spiky.

He didn’t rub his shoulder, the spot where a black ink bar code marked the flesh beneath his Mission tattoo. That block of thin lines marked him as obviously as any neon sign—for those who knew what to look for.

Lab subject. Witch.

Dead man walking.

“Fine,” he allowed. He leaned back against the desk, perched on the edge. “What makes you think I’ll tell you?”

“Because I have the gun.” As if she knew how little that seemed to count for her, her unpainted mouth quirked—a thin smile angled toward self-deprecation in the shadowed office. His gut kicked. “And if you don’t, I’ll keep sniffing out the answers without you, Mr. Wells. Whatever it takes.”

Her eyes flared, smile fading as he pushed off the desk, took a step forward. “Going to warn you once, Mission Director.”

The gun jerked in her hand. Then rose in silent warning as she took one barefoot step back.

Goddamn, her toenails were red. Bloody lust red.

“This is
way
over your pay grade,” he told her. “This goes so far, no one’s going to think twice about dropping your body into the burning chambers without so much as a trial. Leave Sector Three alone.”

Her chin rose. She stepped back once more, butt of the gun cupped in once-more steady hands. “I’ve had meeting after meeting with Director Lauderdale,” she said evenly. “With the bishop, even with clerical offices the Mission has never had a reason to deal with. All because of Operation Wayward Rose. So why don’t you tell me what that op was
really
about?”

“Juliet Carpenter is a witch. That’s what.”

“Bull.” Her mouth twisted. “Up until seven weeks ago, she wasn’t even a footnote in the Mission database.”

“Obviously, you’re wrong.”

Again, that fine edge tensed in her jaw. He tested her patience. He knew he did; loved that he did. It was one of Simon’s secret pleasures. “Where is she?” she asked evenly.

“I don’t know.” Truth. He’d barely made it out of the lab facility alive; there was no way for him to know where Juliet and her rescuers had vanished to.

“But you didn’t arrest her.”

This was old ground. His debriefing had already covered all this. He didn’t care that his smile flashed a hell of a lot more tooth than amusement required. “I was bleeding to death at the time.”

The gun vibrated, a nearly imperceptible tremor as the weight dragged at her arms. She wouldn’t be able to hold it forever. He could just wait it out. Wait her out. Know that if he did, she’d hate him all the more.

He recognized how much the Mission director valued her control. Of herself, of others. Of her surroundings.

Simon wasn’t the type to fall in line.

And she knew it. “You’re a witch,” she said quietly, voicing the accusation that had hovered between them all these weeks. All the meetings, the briefings, the fucking eye contact in the halls on the rare occasions he found himself topside.

He went still. “Yes.”

Her eyes locked on his; infinitely deep, bottomless pools of something unreadable. That icy mask of hers served her so well in boardrooms and briefings, but his fingers twitched now. Standing in the darkness of her office, hair tumbled, ice blue silk luminescent around her, Simon almost groaned at the fierce surge of denial—of want—forcing itself through his skin.

He wanted to mess her up. Dirty her pale skin, grab her long hair and watch color suffuse her cheeks. Strip the ice from her, inch by silken inch.

“Who else is like you? How deep does the infiltration go?” she asked him, and he thrust his brain into gear. Forced himself away from a precipice he didn’t completely understand.

She
fascinated
him.

“You know I can’t tell you.”

“Can’t?”

“Won’t,” he acknowledged, setting his jaw.
Can’t
. She was in enough shit with the director of the Church’s secretive research and development sector. Lauderdale had reach.

Worse, he had the bishop’s ear.

“Not even if I take you in?” Her voice remained low. Taut. The unspoken threat easily implied.

Taking him in, taking a
witch
like him in, meant interrogation.

She didn’t have every secret—if she did, this would be an entirely different conversation—but Simon heard the tensile steel in her voice and wondered how far he could push.

How fast he could run.

He shook his head. “You won’t be able to,” he said, not unkindly. It wasn’t her fault. Months of clandestine preparation, weeks and weeks of politicking had all but stripped the control over the Mission she supervised.

Parker just didn’t know it yet.

She jerked her face aside, forcing the sleep-tangled curtain of her hair back from her face as if in emphasis of the frustration he clearly read in her tone. Her expression. He bit back an unwelcome surge of sympathy. “All I want is answers, Mr. Wells. I’ll do anything I have to.”

Shit. She had no sense of self-preservation.

“You play a dangerous game.” He took another step forward—threw up his hands as her arms stiffened, gun barrel aimed at his head. “I’m not going to sit back and let you kill yourself.”

Her eyes flashed. “Nobody
lets
me—”

Clatter.
A white mop darted out from under the desk, bell tinkling merrily with every scrabbled footstep. Her gaze flicked down to the cat, one foot moving aside as if she were used to the animal’s antics.

Exactly what he needed.

Simon lunged, faster than she was ready for. Exploded into calculated aggression, so sudden she had no time to do anything but strangle on her own sound of surprise as he closed one hand over the gun slide, wrenched it back, thumb on the catch.

He crowded her, all in the same fluid motion, until her back slammed against the door frame and Simon was keenly aware of her breasts against his chest. Of her thighs cradled by his, the soft silk of her pajamas under his hand. The warmth of her skin under that.

BOOK: Sacrifice the Wicked
11.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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