The Company of Darkness

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The Company of Darkness

 

By

Lisa Olsen

 

Copyright © 2014 Lisa Olsen, all rights reserved.

 

Cover Image licensed by Depositphotos.com/Artem Furman and Luis Hernandez Aldana

 

This book is sold subject to the conditions that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, copied, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any other format or changed in any way, including the author’s name and title, and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.  The use of any real person, company or product names are for literary effect only and used without permission.  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.

 

Visit the author’s website at
http://www.lisaolsen.net

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

 

Thanks to my editing team, headed by Beckie Pimentel of Lady Bex Editing Services, Marilyn Weaver (love your comments as usual), Randi Pandi and Laveda Kasch for their amazing beta skills and another special thanks to Laveda for heading up my street team (Lisa Olsen’s Streetbots).  Chocolate covered thanks go to my husband, James, for his help with all the behind the scenes stuff from plotting to proof reading and the awesome covers he designs.  Thanks to all the book bloggers out there for helping spread the word as well! 

Chapter One

 

Knocking on the door, Cady mustered the most serious expression she could manage when he answered it.  “Hello, Mr. Wilson.  There seems to be a problem with your rent check.”

Ethan leaned against the doorframe, the corner of his mouth tucked up in amusement.  “Oh?  What would that be?”

“You didn’t give one to me.”

“Well, maybe you’d better come in and we can discuss it further.”  He waggled his eyebrows playfully and she placed the flat of her hand on his chest, arching a single brow of her own.

“Mr. Wilson, are you suggesting something untoward?”

“I’m suggesting you get your ass inside here before I grope you in the hallway,” he grinned, blue eyes flashing. 

“Are you sure?  I wouldn’t want to do anything to get you into trouble,” she teased.  “Would you like me to come back later?”

“No, thank you,” he said politely, even as he reached for her.  “Something tells me you’re worth the risk.”

“You’re…” Cady’s couldn’t get another word in, as his mouth covered hers before he could even kick the door shut, but that was all kinds of fine with her.  What she wanted to say didn’t need words.  Finally, after all the drama, the danger, all the fear that Ash might be the one looking back at her through Ethan’s cornflower blue eyes, there wasn’t anything to stand in their way. 

She didn’t object when he scooped her up into his arms and carried her into the bedroom, already tugging at his shirt the second he laid her across the pristine white comforter.  An eager light of anticipation lit his face as he flung the t-shirt off, a few strands of his straight, blonde hair falling to his forehead.  He needed a trim. 

His arms and shoulders bulged with quiet strength as he settled beside her.  Reaching up to brush the long auburn hair away from her shoulders, he pressed a kiss to her collarbone, fingers busy at the buttons of her blouse.  Cady was glad she’d worn her good bra, the pretty lacy one, as he peeled back the flimsy fabric.  Too bad the panties didn’t match like they always did in the movies, but at least they were clean and feminine. 

His chest was broad and well muscled, tapering to the ridges of a toned abdomen, a light dusting of golden hair trailing from his navel and disappearing into the top of his jeans.  Cady’s fingers rose to trace over the swirling designs of his tattoos, appreciating the bunch and shift of his muscles that leapt at her touch.  She stopped short of touching the pattern that lay coiled over his heart. 

The symbol of Ash’s bound presence. 

Not for the first time, she wondered if she’d ever be able to look at it and not think of the terror the demon put her through.  Of what it must mean for Ethan to carry that entity with him, whether it was bound or not. 

“Are you sure?”  Ethan’s soft question brought Cady out of her reverie, and she smiled at the tenderness she found in his bruiser’s face even as his hand froze at her knee. 

“I’ve been sure, you’re the slow one,” she teased, sliding her leg against his hip.  “You still owe me a skirt though.”

His hand brushed over the ragged slit up the side of her torn pencil skirt, landing on a smooth expanse of thigh.  “You can add it to my bill.” 

There weren’t any more words then, just the heat of his skilled hands making her ready and the salty-sweet taste of his skin. 

Until his phone chimed with a text.

To her utter surprise, Ethan instantly rolled away to pick up his phone, leaving her panting and alone in the center of the bed.  “I’d better check that.”

“Are you kidding me right now?” she groaned, pulling her long hair out of the way and rolling onto her hip to watch him tap through the screens.  Was this what it would be like for them?  Permanently on call?  It sounded worse than dating a cop.   

“I’m sorry, when the Company calls, I have to check it.”

“What if you were taking a nap, or in the shower or something?”

“When the Company calls, I have to check it,” he repeated, giving her a pointed look over his shoulder. 

She was about to tell him what she thought of that particular work ethic when she noticed his brows draw closer together.  “What is it?  What did they say?” she asked, scooting closer to look over his shoulder.  He’d already lowered the phone to his side, but not before she saw the message.

Stand by for revision of offloading schedule. 

“They’re changing the date on me to offload my glyphs.”

“Oh.”  That didn’t sound so bad.  Sure, he had six demons bound to him in the form of tattoos all over his torso, but Cady wasn’t sure what the big deal was.  Hadn’t he said he’d had as many as eight in him before?  “Is that bad?” 

“No, I guess not,” he replied, staring out at the San Francisco skyline through the windows. 

“Seems like that gives us more time to get back to what we were doing,” she ventured, pressing a kiss to his shoulder, but he didn’t react at all.  “Ethan?  What’s the matter?”

“Hmm?  Sorry,” he said, catching hold of her hand and pressing a brief kiss to the back of it.  “It’s just that they’ve changed the date on me three times now.  Something isn’t right. I’d better call in.”

Cady sat back on her heels, chewing on the inside of her cheek while he dialed, both sides of the conversation plainly audible in the quiet of the loft apartment. 

“Shaw,” he announced when the call went through. 

“Identify.”  The feminine voice came on the line, and Cady wasn’t sure if it was an automated system or a really bored operator.

“Shaw, sector twelve, number six five six zero nine.” 

“Acknowledged, Shaw, sector twelve, number six five six zero nine,” she replied.  “Report.”

“Nothing to report, still awaiting offload.  Can you share the nature of the delay?”

“Stand by one.”  They waited patiently while the seconds ticked by, or at least Ethan did.  Cady’s foot started to tap nervously the longer it drew out.  “Negative.  Is there cause for escalation?”

“No… I was only wondering if there was a problem.  I can always go to a different facility if need be.” 

“Noted,” she replied coolly.  “Do you require anything else?”

“No, ma’am.”  Ethan drew in a breath to say something else, but the call dropped. 

“I guess they’re not much for chit chat, huh?” Cady tried, when he didn’t move except to tap the side of the phone against his chin. 

“I have a bad feeling about this.”

Something about the way he said it sent a shiver to the base of her spine and Cady went up on her knees, hands massaging his thickly muscled shoulders.  “I’m sure it’s fine.  They said there wasn’t a particular reason for the delay.  And if there was a problem, they’d be on it like white on rice, right?  I figure no news is good news for these guys.  Unless you think that’s why Rikard’s been sniffing around.”

Ethan didn’t react to the touch at his shoulders or her efforts to cheer him up, but his head came up at the mention of Rikard.  “What do you mean sniffing around?”

“Oh, just that he keeps stopping by unannounced, and I ran into him in the coffee shop downstairs.”

“When was this?”

“Before I came back up, that’s why it took me so long.  I had to pretend like I was leaving and double back.”

Ethan turned toward her, his face intent.  “Tell me everything he said to you,” he demanded.

“Okay…” Cady took a breath, trying not to give in to the flutter of worry that lodged below her heart.  “Basically, I went downstairs to wait him out and get a cup of coffee, but he was there before I even had a chance to sip it.  He said his name was Smythe.  How crappy is that for a made up alias?”

“So he deliberately sought you out.  What else did he say?”

“He um, he asked me if I was your landlady and I said I collected the rent for my father.  I wasn’t sure what else to say since I don’t work for the management company or anything.  I said I had to be going and he offered me a ride, but I turned him down.  He noticed my necklace.”  She reached down to touch the bow and arrow pendant, but didn’t depress the secret catch that released the rusty arrow.  “And then it was like he smelled me or something when he shook my hand.  You know, that guy seriously creeps me out.”

“You
should
be creeped out by him,” Ethan replied, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand as he rose from the bed to pace to the door and back.  “He scares me sometimes and I’m probably one of his best friends.”

“Seriously?  That guy’s your best friend?  No wonder your social skills are atrophied.”

“I’ve been in limited social circles for a while.”  He stopped pacing to face her, tugging on his t-shirt.  “I think you should probably go on home for now.”

So much for naked time.
  “Really?  Now?”  Instead of covering up, Cady let one shoulder drop out of her blouse, giving him her most seductive pose.  “Are you sure?” 

Ethan’s eyes lingered at the tanned skin exposed for the space of long heartbeats before his gaze darted up to the open windows.  “Yep, especially now.”

“Oh, come on… you can shut the blinds, no one will know.”

“If I shut the blinds that’s an indicator in and of itself.”  Ethan deliberately looked at the floor.  “Go ahead, get your shirt back on.”

“You don’t really think he’s watching us right now, do you?”  She couldn’t help but look out the windows, not that she could see anything.  Still, it was enough to have her reaching for the buttons on her blouse.

“Not necessarily, but I don’t want to take that chance.”

“If he is, he’s already gotten an eyeful.”

“If he has then he’ll see me tossing you out on your ear and that’ll put an end to that.” 

“Aren’t you entitled to some privacy?”

“You’ve already caught his interest.  Our only chance is to bury any idea that you’re more than a piece of ass to me.”

“Then why don’t you finish what you started? That makes more sense than tossing me out before you’re done with me.”  Her lips curved into a suggestive pout and Ethan’s head tilted to one side in confusion. 

“Is that really what you want our first time to be like?”

“Aw, that’s probably the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Cady beamed, touched by the romantic notion.  “Well… apart from when you invited Ash into you to save my life.”

“And none of that will mean anything if you catch the Company’s attention.  We’ve got to bury this before it goes beyond Rikard’s passing interest.  If he is intrigued enough to watch the building, he’ll have seen you come back.” 

“Okay, okay, I’m going,” she sighed, looking around for her discarded shoes and slipping them on.  Standing, she tucked the blouse back into the conservative skirt and wound her hair up into a passably fashionable bun as she shuffled to the front door, the heat of the day starting to get to her.  Ethan followed her out, his eyes tracking her movements.  “How do I look?”

“You look…”  A hungry need descended over his features, but he held it together.  “Dangerously good.”

That brought a smile to her lips.  “That’s what a girl likes to hear.  Forget what I said before about your social skills.  What about celebrating my new job?  Do you want to come over later while my brother’s at work?”  

Ethan darted a quick look to the windows, as if trying to gauge how much of a view they gave of the front door.  His features twisted into an almost helpless expression before he leaned in and kissed her fast and hard.  “Let me think this through, I’ll text you later.”

Surprised by the kiss, her mouth chased after his when he pulled away, capturing him for another.  “Don’t make me wait long or I’ll have to get started without you,” she breathed against his lips.  Ethan made a sound, something between a growl and a groan as he surged forward, his body pressing along the length of hers, hard enough to crack her head against the door and she stifled an
mmph
of pain.   

“Shit… sorry, did I hurt you?”  He immediately backed off, his face a mask of concern. 

“I think I’ll survive,” she chuckled.  “Remind me to be more careful the next time I tease you.”

“The next time you won’t have to tease.”

 

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