Authors: Lauren Dane
A tall, tattooed woman passed him, bared her teeth and hissed, her eyes flashing that strange silver sparkling whatever at him. Okaaaaaay. Yeah, this was a Goth club all right.
They prodded and muscled him through a door near the bar, then through a kitchen to another door at the back of that room. They pushed him through that one so hard, he stumbled and fell to his knees.
“Fuck! I’m really starting to get annoyed,” Damian said, staring at the bloodred carpet he’d landed on.
Nothing. No response but the sound of a closing door.
The thugs had left him alone.
Damian raised his head, looking up slowly. Standing in front of him with one hip cocked was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. That was not a good thought to be having on his wedding day, while Cassidy waited for him at the altar this very moment.
God, he was such an asshole.
He lowered his forehead to the carpet, closed his eyes and counted to five. Maybe this was al some kind of hallucination brought on by the stress of impending lifetime commitment. Maybe when he opened his eyes the next time, the Most Beautiful Woman In The World would be gone.
“You punched Hugo,” his dream woman said in a liquid silver voice. “That’s why they manhandled you. Otherwise, your trip to Darkness would have been uneventful.”
Damian opened his eyes and stared into the red. Damn it, she was still there.
He raised his gaze. She wore fuck-me shoes of tooled black leather. From there things just got better. Her legs were bare, shapely and creamy pale. She wore a short black skirt, slit to show one mouthwatering thigh. Her shirt was a shimmering blue button-down, opened to show just a hint of cleavage. Long, dark brown hair tumbled around her shoulders and framed a heart-shaped face with a small, pointy chin, a longish nose and beautiful dark brown eyes. She wasn’t tal , but she was curvy.
Full ruby-red lips parted and she spoke again. “Do you have a brain in your head? You haven’t said a word.”
She was pretty, but apparently not all that nice. And he was on his knees in front of her.
Damian stood. “Hey, Hugo grabbed me and pushed me up against the wall first. He had the punch coming. Who the hell are you people, anyway?”
“We are your people. We’re the thooahaw day dah nawn.”
Damian resisted the urge to say God bless you. He blinked. “The who?”
“The people of the goddess Danu,” she replied patiently. “A lost race of Ireland thought by mortals to be only myth and so much legend.” She paused a beat. “We’re the fae, Damian, and you are one of us. I am one of the daughters of the king who rules here in the Las Vegas fae underground.”
The Tuatha Dé Danann. That’s what she was talking about. He remembered the term from one of the books on Irish history his sister had been reading. Suzanne was a nut for anything about the history of Ireland. The name and the story of the Tuatha Dé had captured his imagination and he’d read a bit about them after finding her book open on the kitchen table one night. He’d just never known how to pronounce their name.
His brief flirtation with faery tales wasn’t something he’d ever told anyone about because that’s what it was…a faery tale. As in not real. Anyway, that stuff was for girls so he’d never admit how much it had fascinated him.
“Though Hugo and Aaron, the men who picked you up from your apartment, are not fae, they’re demons. We hire them once in a while.”
“Elena? Is that your name?”
“Well, Elena, I think you’re bat-shit crazy.”
“I know you probably don’t believe me yet,” said Elena, casting her eyes down so that her eyelashes shadowed the peaches-and-cream skin of her cheek.
She really was pretty enough to be a faery. The thought bit into him with a good dollop of guilt.
“Yeah, you’d be right on that count, al except for the yet part. I don’t believe you now and I never will. Now I don’t know who you people really are or why you’ve brought me here, but I have to leave. This suit I’m wearing isn’t just for show. I don’t wear one of these every day. I’m supposed to be at a chapel marrying my fiancée. She’s there, right now, waiting for me…at the altar!” He yel ed the last part, his control finally shredded.
Elena jumped, but quickly regained her composure. “You’re supposed to be marrying Cassidy Williams right now, I know.”
“How do you know—”
She held up a hand. “Listen to me for a just a moment, Damian, please.”
She didn’t wait for his reply, which was good, because he had none. Elena walked to him and took his hands in hers. Her palms were warm and silken. As much as he wanted to deny it, the touch of her was good.
“You may not believe me yet about the Tuatha Dé, but believe this—I am a fae princess and I can see into your heart and soul, Damian Alex Porter. Don’t ask me how, not yet, just accept that I can.” She lifted a brow. “Don’t believe me? I know how you really feel about Cassidy. I know what you’ve told no one else in the entire world. I know that you don’t really want to marry her. I know you only asked because you thought you should, that you’d been together for so long it was a question of either marriage or breakup. I know you like Cassidy a lot and that you think she’s a wonderful woman and you can’t figure why you can’t just love her like she deserves. You think that if you marry her the love wil eventually come.” She paused. “But it won’t.”
Damian opened his mouth, but she covered it with her hand. He was suddenly caught between wanting to bite it and wanting to suck every one of her slender, pretty fingers into the recesses of his mouth.
She continued, “Cassidy is the best of women, it’s true, but she is not the one for you, Damian. And you are not the one for her. Don’t blame yourself, but do let it go…let her go. If you marry Cassidy this day, you will be making the worst mistake of your life and of Cassidy’s. If you marry Cassidy today, she wil miss meeting the man she should be with, the one who wil love her with all his heart and soul the way she deserves. Do you want to do that to Cassidy, Damian?”
“No.” He couldn’t say anything else. It was like she could see into his heart and soul.
“Cassidy will be all right, Damian. You should have broken it off before now and it’s a pity you couldn’t find the courage, a pity you were so afraid of ending up alone. She’ll have a rough year, it’s true. She’ll doubt her ability to fall in love again and she’ll fear it.
She wil suffer for the rejection you give her today. But in the long run, she’ll be better off.” Elena smiled. “You see, she’s already met her true love—she just doesn’t know it yet.
“Yes?” His voice was a rough, emotion-filled whisper.
“I’m sorry to put a chink in your ego, but it’s not you. Don’t go off and marry Cassidy when you don’t really want it way down deep in your heart. It’s not fair to her.”
Damian stared into Elena’s eyes. Her gaze hadn’t wavered from his even once since she’d begun speaking. How did she know any of this? He’d never told anyone about his doubts. No one, ever. His family and friends thought he and Cassidy had the best of relationships, that they’d been made for each other.
Elena finally let go of his hand and walked to a table in the corner. Damian blinked. He hadn’t even noticed the room beyond the carpet and the woman. It appeared to be a living room, but a bit more formal…more like a waiting room in a really fancy doctor’s office. On the table, near a vase of expensive flowers, she picked up a phone. Then she walked back and handed it to him. “Press One for the White Wishes Chapel. I put it on speed dial.”
Oh, God. He stared at the sleek black phone in his hand.
“You know it’s the right thing to do. No matter how much it might hurt Cassidy today, it’s best for her in the long run. You’re best removed from her life to make room for another.” Elena looked thoughtful for a moment. “His name is James, James Carter.”
James. His best man. Why didn’t that surprise him? He’d known James had the hots for Cassidy.
Oddly, it didn’t even prick his ego—the thought of James and Cassidy together. He just wanted Cassidy to be happy and loved. James was a good man. He’d treat her wel .
No, Damian didn’t feel jealous or hurt. He didn’t pine for Cassidy and want nothing more than to be at the chapel right now marrying her.
“Call her,” Elena said again.
“And tell her what?”
She tipped her head to the side and gave him a sad little smile. “The truth.”
H e glanced up at her. “That two demons kidnapped me on the way to my wedding, brainwashed my friend and brought me to a nightclub on the Strip I’ve never noticed before—and I thought I knew every place on this street—where I was greeted by a faery princess? Yeah, Cassidy won’t believe that. I don’t believe that.”
Elena lifted a brow. “The other truth.”
Damian stared at the phone in his hand some more. He felt freer at the simple contemplation of calling off the wedding. And that, ultimately, is what made him give the phone back to Elena and take his own cell phone from his back pocket.
He called his best man.
“Where the hell are you, Damian?” James demanded as soon as he answered. “She’s waiting for you.”
“Can I talk to Cassidy?”
There was a lengthy pause before James handed the phone over.
“Damian?” Cassidy’s voice was shaky.
“Hi, Cassidy.” He paused and tried to form the right words. Emotion tightened his chest. “I’m sorry, but I’m not coming. It’s not because I don’t care about you that I’m doing this. I do care about you…and that’s why I can’t be there today.”
“I—I don’t understand.” Cassidy’s voice broke on a sob. “You unbelievable bastard!”
“Yeah, I am. I know I am, Cassidy. God.” He sighed. This was the hardest thing he’d ever done. “You may not think so right now, but I’m doing you a favor.” He closed his eyes. “Have a good life.”
She hung up on him.
He turned off his cell phone and stared at it for a moment before repocketing it. He felt like absolute shit for hurting her, but he knew, knew he’d done the right thing. He was a total asshole for letting it go as far as he had. A coward.
Anger at himself billowed up from the bottom of his toes and exploded at Elena. He stalked toward her, looking menacing enough to cause her to take a few steps back.
“You’re going to let me out of here, lady,” he growled. “You may have been right about all that, but that doesn’t make you my friend.”
She bumped against the table behind her. “I understand that you’re upset.”
He pinned her against the table and bracketed her there with a hand to either side of her luscious body. “And being right doesn’t make you any less crazy. I want out. I want out now, so I can go home, lick my wounds and clean up the fucking mess I’ve made of my life and hers.”
Elena’s eyes widened and her lips parted. Damian tried hard not to stare, but the attraction he’d felt for her before seemed to have exploded with his rage.
Maybe it was stress. Maybe it was cutting that tie with Cassidy. Whatever it was, he fucking wanted the woman in front of him with a desire so deep it was nearly uncontrollable. He wanted to turn her around, yank up that silly, frivolous little skirt and bury his cock deep inside her silken pussy.
And from the flush on her face that seemed to have little to do with fear, Damian wasn’t so sure she didn’t want that, too.
He leaned in and kissed her.
She made a little whimpering sound, wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.
Fuck. Sweet heaven.
He let his hands snake around her waist as he slanted his mouth across hers and forced her lips open with his tongue so he could take her hard and deep, just like how he wanted to fuck her.
And that’s how Damian was spending his wedding day.
At the thought, he pushed from her and turned away, swearing under his breath.
“It’s not your fault,” Elena said breathlessly. “It’s not your fault you’re attracted to me.
There’s a reason for it and there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s nothing I can do about it, either. Don’t beat yourself up, Damian. It’s just bad timing.”
Damian made a scoffing sound, went back and kissed her again. He was doomed to hell anyway, might as wel enjoy himself.
His hands slipped over her curves, over her small breasts through the material of her shirt. Her nipples—God he wanted to taste them—puckered and hardened against his palms. Her hands slid over his shoulders, his back, as she kissed him with total abandon and complete passion. His cock was hard as a rock and he wanted her so badly he could hardly stand it.
She broke the kiss. Her eyes were heavy-lidded and her lips swol en. “You were born on January 16 at 11:25 a.m., right?”
His mind was so blurred with lust, the oddness of the question barely registered. “Yes.”
Two strong hands yanked him back. Thug One, Hugo, pressed a syringe gun to his neck and pul ed the trigger. Sharp pain followed the press of the cold metal.
Damian turned and threw another punch, but missed because whatever they’d injected him with was spreading like fire through his veins. He stumbled forward on the momentum of the punch and fell to his knees for the second time that day. The room swam, but he forced himself to stay upright. Voices were raised around him, but he couldn’t understand what anyone was saying.
Damian bowed his head and shook it, bracing his hands on the thick carpet. Gradually the haze over his mind dispersed and the fire in his body leaked away. Sounds came clearer. His vision suddenly was better, sharper, more focused. He felt stronger…
“What the fuck?” he roared, coming to his feet in one strong move. “What the fuck did you just do?”
“We did you a favor,” said Elena. Her eyes were shiny. “I’m sorry it had to be like that.
You never would have accepted the activation and it had to be today. It had to be now.
Otherwise it would have been too late.”