"Don't sit on the - " She bit off a sigh because he'd already lowered himself to the coffee table facing her. "I see you never have figured out the difference between a table and a chair. "

"They're both in the furniture family. There, you've got some color coming back. Good thing I came along to annoy you. "

"Just my lucky day. "

He took her hand again, warming it in his. "What scared you, baby?"

"Don't call me that. " He had only used that term, she remembered, when he was being particularly sweet. She let her head rest back against the cushions. "It's just . . . I had a near miss on the drive down. A dog jumped out in the road. The roads were damp with the mist, and I skidded. "

His grip tightened on hers. "I don't think so. "

"Why would I lie?"

"I don't know. " He held on until she stopped trying to pull her hand free. "But something's off. I imagine I could find out for myself if I took a drive up the coast road. "

"Don't. " Fear grabbed her by the throat so that the single word was thin and urgent. "Don't," she repeated with more control. "It isn't for you, but at this point I can't be sure it won't take what it can get. Let go of my hand, and I'll tell you. "

"Tell me," he countered, knowing the value of the link, "and I'll let go of your hand. "

"All right," she managed after a vicious internal struggle. "Your way. This time. "

She told him, sparing none of the details but keeping her tone even, almost conversational. Even so, she saw his expression change.

"Why aren't you wearing protection?" he demanded.

"I am. " She lifted the trio of crystals dangling from a star-shaped pendant. "It wasn't enough. He's strong. He's had three centuries to gather his forces, nurse his powers. Even so, he couldn't cause me real harm. He can only play tricks. "

"This trick might've caused you to have an accident. You were probably driving too fast. "

"Please, you'll force me to pull out the old pot calling the kettle. "

"I didn't nearly drive off a cliff. " He pushed to his feet, paced away the terrifying image of Mia doing exactly that.

He hadn't anticipated this kind of direct, frontal attack on her. And, he thought, neither had she. Confidence in their own powers, he realized, had blindsided them.

"You'd have taken extra precautions with your home. "

"I protect what's mine. "

"You neglected your car," he said, tossing a look over his shoulder and having the satisfaction of seeing her flush.

"I certainly did not neglect it. I have the standard charms - "

"Standard isn't enough, as you've just discovered. "

Her teeth clenched at being told how to conduct herself, but she nodded. "Point taken. "

"Meanwhile, I'd prefer to give him back some of his own rather than constantly taking the defense. "

She got to her feet. "This isn't for you, isn't about you. "

"No point in wasting time arguing that point, as we both know I'm part of it. "

"You're not one of the three. "

"No, I'm not. " He stepped back to her. "But I'm of the three. My blood and your blood, Mia, spring from the same pool. My power and your power feed from the same source. It links us, however much you might prefer otherwise. You need me with you to finish this. "

"What I need isn't yet clear. "

He lifted a hand, grazing a knuckle over the line of her jaw. An old gesture. "And what you want?"

"Wanting you sexually isn't life and death, Sam. It's scratching a vague itch. "

"Vague?" Amusement brightened his face as his hand slid around to cup the back of her neck.

"Vague," she repeated and let his mouth come to hers, let it rub teasingly. And entice. "Slight. "

"I was thinking more . . . " He danced the fingers of his free hand up and down her spine. "Constant. Chronic. " Nibbling on her, he eased her closer.

She kept her gaze on him, her arms at her sides. "Desire's only a hunger. "

"You're right. Let's eat. "

He ravished her mouth, shifting so swiftly from gentle warmth to raging heat that she had no choice but to plunge with him.

Her hands gripped his hips, squeezed, then ran roughly up his back to hook like talons over his shoulders. If he would push her to the brink, she thought, she would push him harder - and further. She let her head fall back, not a gesture of surrender but one of demand. Take more, if you dare. When he dared, she purred in pleasure.

Her scent seemed to pour over him, into him, until his belly ached and his head spun. In one desperate move he dragged her closer and prepared to fall with her onto the couch. The front door opened. The cheerful jingle of bells might as well have been sirens.

"Go rent a damn room," Lulu snapped and let the door slam behind her. It gave her dark satisfaction to watch the two of them spring apart. "Or at least crawl into the backseat of a car if you're going to act like a couple of horny teenagers. " She slapped her enormous purse on the counter. "Me, I've got a business to run around here. "

"Good point. " Sam slipped an arm possessively around Mia's waist. "We'll just take a walk across the street. "

It was another old gesture, Mia remembered. Once she would have hooked her arm around him in turn and leaned her head against his shoulder. Now, she simply stepped away.

"That's a charming offer, really, but I'll just take a rain check. The business that Lulu so helpfully pointed out needs to be run is mine. And we're opening in . . . less than an hour," she said after a glance at her watch.

"Then we'll make it fast. "

"Another delightful offer. Isn't that sweet, Lu? It's not every day a woman gets an invitation for a quick roll before operating hours. "



Tags: Nora Roberts Three Sisters Island Romance
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