Tires rolled to a stop a few feet from the curb in front of me, and I craned my neck enough to make out a black stretch limo—not the cab I’d been hoping for. I started to amble on farther down the sidewalk to where a cabbie would be better able to spot me, when I heard the sound of car doors opening.
Sure, rapid footsteps fell smoothly upon the concrete in my direction.
Some innate self-preservation instinct made my pulse quicken. I had a mad compulsion to drop my boxes and flee, but I was wearing my practical two-inch heels paired with a very impractical pencil skirt. It was doubtful I’d be able to outrun a K.
A second later, it was too late entirely as I sensed his heat at my back—running along the entire length of my body, blocking out any trace of the evening breeze. I froze as the familiar scent of inhuman male perfection assaulted my olfaction, bringing with it the memory of the most carnally gratifying night of my life.
My stomach clenched. My nipples hardened. The rest of my body seemed to have a vivid memory of that night as well, judging by its immediate—and mortifying—Pavlovian response to Vair’s mere presence. My inner muscles fluttered in anticipation, slick heat rushing to lubricate my sex.
I reminded my stupid sex that this was the same alien who had just destroyed my career and my life. He was the enemy who had invaded my planet. An enemy who was possibly about to kill me as well.
Or worse—turn me over to Krinar authorities.
But when warm, long fingers encircled my right bicep, another jolt of sexual electricity shot through me. And when his other hand latched onto my left hip, it felt oddly reassuring, momentarily calming and centering me as a second set of unseen hands pulled the file boxes from my grasp.
“This way, darling,” Vair’s deep voice instructed from above my head as he bodily steered me in the direction of the stretch limo.
To the person who had confiscated my file boxes, Vair spoke rapidly in a foreign, guttural-sounding language that I couldn’t place. Over my shoulder, I glimpsed a tall, beautiful male K in a black suit nodding in assent as he effortlessly hauled my boxes back in the direction of the building where I worked.
Had worked. Wait…
“That’s my stuff,” I protested a little too late. “Where’s he going? Why’s he taking my stuff?”
“Get in the car, Amy.” The command was accompanied by gentle pressure at my crown as Vair physically maneuvered me into the limousine before I had sense enough to put up a fight.
He followed closely behind, folding his huge form gracefully into the luxuriously upholstered passenger cab and taking the seat across from me. The car began moving while I remained stock still—frozen in place amid a mixture of heart-pounding shock, fear, and anticipation.
The moment Vair was settled and his full attention was fixed upon me where we sat face to face, I blushed. And not just a little flush that could pass for nervousness or be attributed to recent exertion from the heavy boxes I’d carried, either. It was the kind that made my skin feel sun-blistered and my head dizzy. The kind that screamed “guilty” in a court of law.
The sort of blush that broadcast exactly how well I remembered the sensation of him plunging deep inside me and the sound of his masculine groans and grunts as he spent himself in me… in my mouth… across my back, my stomach, my…
I broke eye contact—for fear of passing out—and let my eyes roam about as if investigating my surroundings. But I barely took in any of it. Every cell and fiber of my being was too acutely aware of the god-like alien sitting across from me.
God, he was so much better-looking than my masturbatory sessions had given him credit for. So much bigger. More predatory.
Way more dangerous.
There was too much room in his enormous limo for just the two of us. Yet not nearly enough space for me to avoid the sight, the scent, the very vibration of his essence in the air surrounding me.
He could be taking me anywhere. Planning to do any number of terrible things to me.
Pull it together, Amy.
“You look hot.” His deep voice was light and playful, but it startled me just the same. “Shall I adjust the temperature?”
My eyes snapped back to him and found that he was staring down at his palm—tracing something there with the forefinger of his other hand and not looking at me at all. He was wearing casual slacks, a simple white T-shirt that accentuated his bronzed skin tone, and loafers, and he managed to look fresh and chic—more sophisticated than I’d looked first thing this morning in my pencil skirt and silk blouse… before I was rumpled and disheveled from my day.
“What are you going to do to me?” My voice betrayed me, emerging too high-pitched and with a slight quiver. Pitiable-sounding. Damn it.
He seemed taken aback by my question at first—or perhaps by my tone—as he returned his attention to me, but then a slow, sensuous smile spread across his wide mouth and full lips. “What indeed?” His forefinger brushed absently across those gorgeous lips, and I had to remind myself to focus on his mocking tone—and on finding a way to live through this.
“What would you do if you were in my shoes?” He sighed, and his face was suddenly devoid of humor. “I’m afraid several very powerful Krinar Council members were rather displeased with your article.”
There it was. My very worst fear realized. I was a dead woman.
And it was bullshit. My mother could not be right about this.
“What?” I feigned shock. “What do you mean?” I blustered, a surge of adrenaline fueling me. “I was simply presenting factual information about your club… about the sexual habits of your race. I mean… you can’t be serious? You’re not serious, are you?” I latched onto the offensive and ran with it. “My God, your club is now the most sought-after best-kept secret in town. I’ve got New York’s hottest supermodels calling me, begging for your address!”
I’d failed to mask the jealousy in my voice at that last part, so I quickly rambled on. “And anyway, I was under the impression that your powerful Council members controlled our media. I thought they’d simply squash the article—erase it from online circulation entirely—if they didn’t like what I’d written.”
Vair’s features remained impassive. Uncompromising.
Fear and panic had my mouth working overtime. “They let it run,” I emphasized, as if that alone signified their tacit endorsement of it. “Well, I’m sorry; I had no idea anyone would be offended.” I threw in a huff of confusion. “If they disapproved, why didn’t they just pull it? It can’t be my fault they failed to pull it? I mean, they could’ve just called The Herald and asked them to pu—”
I stopped at the sound of Vair’s slow clapping and the look of mocking amusement in his dark eyes.
“Thank you for that lovely, very insincere apology, Ms. Myers. A pity you didn’t take up acting while you were at NYU earning your degree in journalism.”
Shit. I really was in trouble.
He held my gaze in silence, and the air around me seemed to grow colder with each passing second.
“So… what then?” I raised one haughty, exasperated brow and emitted a dry chuckle that came out sounding far too nervous to support my bluff. “You going to cart me off to K jail? Or is capital punishment customary for alien-sexing-n-telling?” Oh my God, shut up!
“Mmm… a bit of torture, a decade in a Krinar hard labor camp, and then public beheading. Customarily.”
This couldn’t be happening. My mother’s wacky sources could not be accurate. There was no way. He was messing with me. I was sure of it.
I released a nervous laugh. His expression remained stoic.
“Y-you’re not serious…”
He frowned and ran a hand through his tousled hair. Now he looked pissed. “I convinced them it would be bad PR to torture and kill you.”
“Oh?” My monosyllabic response somehow managed to affect effortless nonchalance—while my heart began to pump overtime.
Was he fucking with me or was he serious? I’d lost the ability to gauge.
“The Council agreed that I would be allowed to… handle the situation with you. Directly.” His eyes had darkened at “handle,” sending an involuntary shiver through me.
“W-what does that mean?” That he personally got to torture and kill me? Somewhere away from prying human eyes? Was that where we were headed now?
My face must’ve projected my train of thought because he rolled his eyes in a surprisingly human-like manner, then muttered something in that guttural foreign language he’d used before. Probably Krinar cuss words, judging from the angry set of his jaw and the way his big hands had balled into fists against the seat on either side of him.
But when he addressed me again, his voice was gentle. Patient. “We don’t practice capital punishment on Krina. Our methods for reforming those who break our laws are very different from what you’re accustomed to in human society. No Krinar will harm you. Least of all me.”
His eyes on me were thoughtful as he said it. Forthright. They didn’t look like they wanted to hurt me at all. Those bottomless eyes looked like they wanted something else entirely. And in my haze of relief, I suddenly wanted to drown in them—to cast years of sanity and sound judgment aside and believe anything they said.
I blinked and looked away, breaking the connection as I recalled the grainy YouTube footage of those Saudis being torn apart.
“Ks have killed humans,” I pointed out. Because facts were facts—no matter what voodoo his eyes made me feel. “It’s been documented. Graphically,” I added with a grimace of disgust.
“Yes, it’s true,” he acknowledged. “We have killed humans when necessary. Mostly in self-defense as a last resort.”
It was my turn to roll my eyes. But I chose not to debate it further, my mind shifting to my initial cause for panic this evening.
The video footage.
If they didn’t intend to harm me physically in retaliation for my article, then there was another reason for this meeting. And for that footage.
My pulse raced as it hit me. They were blackmailing me?
Horror and excitement gripped me at once. If I was right and they intended to blackmail me with it, then there was a chance the video hadn’t been released to the masses yet. And I would do anything to prevent its release. Even if it meant…
Fine. It was inevitable.
“You want me to retract what I wrote in my article,” I stated, my voice flat. My career as a journalist would be over, but at least I’d walk away with some shred of dignity if I could keep that sex tape out of circulation.
He frowned. “Of course not. Your exposé was brilliant. And”—his tongue ran casually across his full bottom lip as his gaze swept over me—“enlightening.”
The heat that pooled anew in my belly was as untimely as it was unwelcome.
I gave myself a mental shake. “You don’t want me to retract what I said?” A sense of dread crept up my spine at the realization that I might not have any bargaining chip at all.
“No.” His lips parted in a lazy smile as his dark eyes held mine.
Then his gaze fell to my breasts.
My palms were slick with sweat where they gripped the leather seat beneath me. I swallowed. Breathed. “Why the video footage then?”
He leaned forward, his expression deathly serious as reproving eyes returned to mine. “You didn’t call, Amy.”
It was as if all the air had suddenly been sucked out of the limo.
“You never came back to my club.”
I’d soaked through my panties by “Amy”—in spite of the confusion and mild terror that his abruptly accusatory tone evoked.
“I didn’t know you wanted me to.” The truth tumbled out defensively, faster than I could process what he’d said as conflicting emotions flared to life within me. “I mean—I didn’t mean for anything to happen… with you… that night at the club.”
What the hell was I saying?
What was he saying?
A bead of sweat trickled down between my shoulder blades, causing me to shiver in my silk blouse. It was freezing in the limo now.
“I see. You were a victim then?” His tone was earnest, but his eyes appeared amused. Smug.
I felt my anger rising. There was no easy answer to his question. I kept my knees glued together and my sweaty palms planted on the seat in an effort to subvert my shaking.
“I never meant for anything to happen between us that night,” I reiterated, my words clear and firm despite the dryness now choking my throat.
He sighed. “Humans complicate the most basic emotions by experiencing them through extraneous social filters.” His eyes projected a strange sort of pity—and a measure of quiet disappointment that was somehow unsettling.
I needed water. I needed out of Vair’s limo.
I needed answers more.
“Is it on the internet already?” I blurted, my heart pounding in my ears.
“Is what on the internet, love?”
“You know what!”
“Answer my question, and I’ll answer yours,” he countered.
“I’m not a victim.”
“Good.” He gave a curt nod and proceeded to retrieve a glass bottle of clear liquid from a refrigerated side compartment. “I don’t play well with victims.”
He uncapped the bottle and held it out to me.
“I’m not drinking that.”
“It’s water, Amy.”
“And what else?”
He smirked and shook his head, murmuring, “Whatever else you want, darling.” He proceeded to give me a lazy, blatant once-over reminiscent of the flirtatious, teasing manner he’d taken with me during our initial meeting at his club.
His all-consuming gaze held the promise of so much more than water. And it had the same spellbinding effect as before, drawing me in and making me want things I rationally shouldn’t, leaving me feeling confused, vulnerable, and exposed.
He shifted his big body forward to the edge of his seat, grazing my bare knee with the cold bottle in the process, and I jerked back reflexively.
With a chuckle, he tipped the bottle up to his own mouth, and I found myself riveted by the sight of his lips pressed against the bottle’s opening, of his throat muscles working as he gulped down half the contents of the glass container.
When he’d drunk his fill, he offered it to me again with a raised brow, and I didn’t hesitate to wrench it from his grasp. I rationalized it was because I was parched, and not because I was answering his unspoken challenge—or because I had some mad impulse to put my mouth where his had been.
It was a safe bet it wasn’t poisoned. A powerful alien didn’t need poisoned water to get whatever it was he wanted from me. I just needed to figure out what that something was, if it wasn’t the retraction of my x-club story that he was after.
Brazenly wrapping my lips around the bottle’s opening, I tipped my head back and chugged the remains of the container in one noisy, unladylike pull. Because fuck the Ks with their constant superiority bullshit and their ongoing intimidation of my race.
My thirst quenched and a sliver of my dignity returning, I lowered the bottle along with my chin, releasing an uncouth, open-mouthed sigh of satisfaction in the process. Only to have my stomach fall straight through the floor at the look on Vair’s face.
It was the look of a jungle cat ready to pounce. The face of a starving man intent on his favorite meal.
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