A dark suspicion rose in my mind. “Oh, I get it. Fine. See you around.” I turned to go, but he grabbed my arm.


“What do you mean you get it?”

I shrugged. “You’ve been acting on orders this whole time. You were supposed to do whatever it took to get me here. So you promised me things knowing the council never intended to follow through. And now that I’m here, you’re finally off the hook.”

He glared at me for a moment. Then he threw back his head and laughed. Laughed!

“Nice. Have a good chuckle. Asshole.” I turned to storm off, but he grabbed my arm and spun me around. I slammed into his chest, and before I could open my mouth to tell him to go to hell, his lips landed on mine.

Taken totally off guard, it didn’t occur to me to fight unexpected intimacy. His lips were warm and insistent on mine. As the warmth of his lips registered, my brain switched off and my libido took over. I’d kissed Adam before—once. But that had been different. Then, I’d been reeling from the revelation I had a sister I never knew about, and Adam provided a welcome distraction to extreme emotional distress. Luckily the make-out session was interrupted before it could get too out of hand, and I decided it would never happen again. He was a mage, after all, and cross-racial mating was forbidden. I mean, look where it got my parents. But now, as Adam’s tongue caressed mine, it was fairly apparent he hadn’t gotten that memo.

He cupped my face with his warm palms. Unlike last time, there was no urgent groping or wild need. No, this kiss was almost tender, but no less dangerous for my equilibrium. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and gave myself into the kiss. I was still angry with him for leaving, but I also knew this might be my last chance to touch him for Goddess knew how long.

Finally, slowly, he pulled back. When I opened my eyes, he was smiling down at me.

I cleared my throat. “Um.”

“Now, are you going to stop being an idiot and tell me good-bye?”

I opened my mouth to protest being called an idiot, but he shook his head. “Don’t start an argument. Not now. We can talk about all the reasons this is a bad idea when I get back, okay?”

I swallowed. He was so close. I could still taste him on my lips, and his sandalwood and hot-male scent made me feel a little drunk. “Bad idea?” For some reason, I was having trouble remembering why I’d thought that myself.

“We both have jobs to do, and right now neither of us can afford distractions.” His voice deepened, and he leaned in so his lips were a fraction away from mine. “But please understand, if I could stay there’s nothing I’d want more than to have you distract the shit out of me.”

My stomach flip-flopped. I blew out a long, slow breath to ease the flutters there and farther south. “Wow, mancy, you sure know how to sweet-talk a girl.”

His lips curled into a crooked smile. “I could recite sonnets if you’d prefer, but I figured you’d appreciate a more direct approach.”

He leaned in again, but before he could deliver on the promise in his eyes, the door burst open. We stopped like two deer in headlights and turned to see Maisie framed in the doorway holding Giguhl. “Oh! I’m sorry!” Maisie exclaimed, her cheeks as red as mine felt.

“That’s okay. Adam and I were just… talking.” I stepped back. Adam frowned at me, clearly resenting the distance. But the truth was, I needed the space to clear my head. Adam was sex on a stick, no doubt about it. But he was leaving. And he was a mage. And, and, and. The list could go on.

“Don’t stop on our account,” Giguhl said. “It’s about time you two got it over with.”

Maisie covered her mouth, clearly amused.

“Giguhl,” I said, a warning clear in my tone.

“Oh, please, Red—”

Right then, Orpheus and Rhea came to the door to see what the commotion was about. Oblivious to the new arrivals, Giguhl continued.

“—I was stuck in that godsforsaken car with you two for four days, remember? The pheromones were so thick I had to roll down the window.”

I glared at the demon. If looks could kill, he would have dropped dead on the floor. Instead, he merely snuggled closer to Maisie and said, “I’m just sayin’.”

My cheeks burned at Rhea and Maisie’s knowing grins. Adam cleared his throat. “On that note, I should head out.”

“Lazarus, be sure you report as soon as you arrive. I want hourly updates.”

“Yes, sir.” He turned to me. “Well, see you.”

Hyperaware of our audience, I ignored the banked heat in his eyes and held out my hand. “See you.”

He cocked his head and shot me a smirk. His warm hand closed around mine, and I swear I felt the touch all the way to my toes. “Try to stay out of trouble, okay?”

I opened my mouth to get the last word in, but he disappeared. I stood there with my hand extended like an idiot for a second. Then a cat snicker brought my attention back to the audience that had just observed one of the most awkward moments of my life. I lowered my hand and wiped it on the cloth of my dress.

“Well,” I said lamely. “I guess that’s that.”

“Hmm, yes. I’d say so,” Rhea said. I scanned her face for signs of judgment but found none. Overall, she seemed downright amused by the whole thing.

“If you’ll excuse me,” I said. “I think I’m going to take a walk to, ah, get some fresh air. Giguhl, you coming?”

The cat shook his head. “I’m good here. But if I could make a suggestion?”

I sighed, waiting for the punch line.

“You might want to consider a wardrobe change.”

I looked down. Adam had me so flustered I’d forgotten I was still wearing the red chiton. “Maisie?”

“I’m on it.” Static swirled around my body, replacing the dress with my old clothes. I patted my pockets, relieved to find my weapons back where they belonged.

“Thanks,” I said. Having my own clothes—and weapons—improved my mood considerably.

“Where are you going?” Maisie asked.

“Just around the block to clear my head a little.”

Giguhl snorted. “You might try a cold shower instead.”

With a final glare at the demon cat, I turned on my heel and walked away. Over my shoulder I called, “Giguhl, change into demon form.”

Poof. The hall filled with the acrid scent of brimstone.

Maisie gasped.

“Good gods,” Orpheus said.

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