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Authors: Rie Warren

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BOOK: Under His Guard
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“Will we ever be okay?” He blinked big honey-brown eyes at me.

“Yes.” I cuddled him closer. His hands skimmed over my shoulders, landing on the sensitive scar tissue on my upper back. I shivered with his warm caresses and something more potent. With time running out, there was one way to convince Leon of my love. “Do it…the moko.”

“What?”

I ripped my shirt off. “I want what you want. You, on my skin.”

His gaze roamed over my chest. Pink tinted his cheeks.

“You sure this is a good idea? If you gotta fight, you'll be in pain—won't be at your best.” His hesitation didn't mask the overwhelming joy radiating from him.

This felt so right.

“I'm not going to cry, if that's what you're worried about.” Emotion made my voice brusque.

“Oui.”

Leon practically danced from the bed to his rucksack. I barked a loud laugh at his eagerness.
Joie de vivre.
That's what this was all about. I remembered that long-lost term, something my mom had said to me once about how it felt when she was singing—no matter who her audience was.
The joy of life.

The will to live. I could give that back to Leon as he'd done me.

“Where?” When he returned, his hands trailed along my back.

I lay down on the bed and placed my hand on my upper chest. “Right here.”

“What do you want?”

“Angel wings. And your name.”

Nodding, Leon said, “
D'ac.
Okay. Dat's good.”

I spread his palms across my pecs. “You sure you want your name here?”


Mon Dieu
. Yes.” He leaned in to my mouth, flitting his tongue along my lips and deep inside. “'S'all I want.”

“My little devil with angel's wings.”

“Not so little.” He grabbed his crotch, highlighting the hard-on clearly visible beneath faded denim.

“Not so little,” I agreed.

With his tools laid out, Leon shaved my mostly smooth chest. To sanitize me, he used the same alcohol swabs Raine had given him for the injection. Each touch was tantalizing torture. Keeping still made me ache while my cock hardened to full capacity, getting slick and thick inside my pants. Leon knew it, too. His hands grazed my groin, multiplying the exquisitely sensual intimacy of this moment.

The first puncture was the worst. He started at my sternum, moving slowly outward over my left side. As the bone chisel and small mallet gouged into my flesh. Leon's gorgeous face was lined with intense concentration. Blue-black dye dripped into my skin while his eyes screwed up over every painstaking detail. He swiped away the blood and the sweat on my face and his.

He was an artist at work, the masterpiece of our love on my skin. My chest puffed up, and he slapped my side. “Don' move.”

“Yes, sir,” I blurted.

He arched one of his eyebrows in amusement.

An hour elapsed. Two and then three. He designed my torso freehand. Every so often, he pressed a kiss to my lips. Those light brushes were powerful enough to be some sort of numbing agent or aphrodisiac. I didn't know. I didn't care. His kisses soothed me into a mindless substate of relaxation beneath the continuation of pain.

Leon got up and stretched so high that his shorts rode dangerously low. Just the sort of hot visual I needed to keep this statue-like stillness up for the rest of the moko. When he hunkered over me again, his fingers were less sure, like he'd lost the moment.

“If your hand shakes, you're gonna fuck it up.”

He gave me a
tsk
and steadied himself.

I grinned.

He'd tied back his hair, so I had an unimpeded view of his artistry. The design spread across my breastbone, over my pectorals, down my diaphragm. The lines on the outside were thick. On the inside he etched smaller, tighter patterns. At one point his forehead rested against my neck so he could get close enough to put in the fine detail. That was when the enormity of this deed delivered a pure shot of emotion to my heart.

I shuddered beneath his touch.

Leon raised his head. “You said you weren't gonna cry.”

“I'm not crying because it hurts.” I brushed the backs of my knuckles across his cheek, careful not to disrupt his work but desperate to touch him. “You are so damn beautiful. I am honored to wear your mark and your name on my body. I love you.”

He beamed with warm pleasure and pride. “I don' think I'll ever get tired of hearing you say dat.”

“You won't have to. Gonna say it every day.”

“I thought you din't want me to fuck this up.”

“You won't. We won't.”

It took grueling hours. It was painful. It would need finishing touches. But watching Leon throughout the entire process, I was enamored. Daylight was long gone by the time he finished, but I didn't regret a single minute of being spread out and at his mercy.

After his careful cleanup, he led me to the mirror in the bathroom. He lit the pillar candles and stepped back.

The black-indigo ink stood out on my skin. Wings opened in flight from one side of my chest to the other. In clear script, his name wound through the feathers that looked like they ruffled in a breeze.

I touched my tender skin, grazing his name. It was such a heavy moment, yet it made me feel so light. “It's perfect. Like you.”

“Like us.” His fingers rested at the shallow dip at the bottom of my spine.

Stiff after being still for so long, I gave my back a stretch. I bunched my arms forward, clenching and releasing muscles.

Leon hissed behind me.

I glanced at him. The same immediate famished need reflected back at me.

Quickly losing my pants, I stretched out on the bed. My body was stinging with pain, but the hurt was so damn good, and the love resonating between us was worth every moment of it. I couldn't wait until my skin healed over and his name was right there for all to see, front and center on my chest, intertwined with the wings that represented everything he was to me.

But right now I needed to claim him. Give myself to him.

“Get over here.”

“Maybe you shouldn't do anything too strenuous.” His eyes were glittering and deviously dark.

“If you don't get over here and fuck my cock right now, I'm gonna show just how strenuous I can get.” Arching my back, I stroked my aching rod.

“Well, I guess. Since you aren't givin' me any choice.”

He took his damn sweet time undressing. Swiveling his hips, running his hands down his well-muscled body, covering his cock, cupping his ass.

The final straw was when he sucked a finger into his mouth and let out a small moan.

The second Leon stepped next to the bed, I hefted him on top of me. With lubed fingers I quickly stretched his wanton ass to accommodate me while he sheathed me in a condom and stroked slickness over me.

I gripped his hips as he straddled me. “Ride me.”

There was no tease or buildup. The entire day had been foreplay. He squatted above me, grasped my cock, and sent it home with a guttural cry. Each time he rose up and sank back down, I pried him open. His head fell back. His velvet tunnel enveloped my shaft.

In heat. I was in heat. I sat up until we were face-to-face, close enough to kiss. He linked his ankles at the base of my spine, using the leverage to force me deeper, faster.

“Leon!”

He dug his fingers into my hair and yanked my neck back. Teeth nipped at my throat and across my collarbone. The heated wet passage of his ass contracted. He thrust upon me, his dick slapping my stomach. Balls banging my groin. The thatch of his pubes rasped mine. I grinded into him and reveled in his bite—the one from his teeth and the one that sizzled grooves of heat from my cock all the way up my back.

Our hands clasped around each other's biceps. We longed to get closer, but the fresh tat prevented it. Our skin was slick, and my chest burned. With my hands skimming on to both sides of his ass, I opened him further and sunk so deep inside there was no turning back.

His eyes opened wide. He arched in my arms. “Yes!”

Leon's moans and whimpers came faster and louder and longer, my cock dragging the incredible sounds out of him.

“No one's gonna be inside you like this, angel,” I grunted.

The high-pitched moan that met me was music to my ears. “Only you, Darke. Always.”

“Damn right.”

I smoothed my hands over his back, doubling them across him, holding him, covering him, loving him. Forever.

I lost it. As I pounded up into him, I fisted his shaft at the same punishing pace. Crashing my mouth to his and moaning within the wet heat, I gave everything. My skin for his name, my soul for his heart, my love for his life.

“Angel, angel.” As I pulsed into him, seed propelled from my shaft in an outpouring of one soul to the other.

Leon shuddered on top of me. The sweet scent of his come sprayed between our bellies.

My thrusts slowed. I flopped back. “Holy shit, baby.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay?”

“Ungh.”

“I'm not moving tomorrow.” I was all loosey-goosey. I managed to just about bring him to my side, where the wet tip of his cock hit my hip. He was still firm and hard for me. I stroked another few drops from him, bringing the lush male taste to my mouth.

“Today.” Leon gathered more of his release and fed it to me one finger at a time.

I lapped and sucked and asked, “What?”

“It's way past midnight.”

“God. What did you do to me?”

And please do it again and again.

*  *  *

Of course, life waited for no man, and neither did former First Lieutenant Liz Grant of the Alpha Elite Tactical Forces.

Too few hours later there was a rap of knuckles on the door, quickly followed by, “Knock, knock.” Surprise.

“Fuck off,” I returned by rote.

“Darke.” Leon hopped to his feet, completely naked.

“What?” I rolled into his warm spot. “Can't I just have a few minutes alone with you?”

“You had the whole day and last night, too.”

Of course Liz chose that moment to stick to our old routine, opening the door and barging right in with everyone behind her and Leon naked as a jaybird. I wrangled him to the bed and covered us up.

I was relieved to see the group that had gone after Raine were present and in one piece, lingering on the side. But when everyone gaped at me instead of Leon, I had to make sure I wasn't busting a new tent-by-erection beneath the blankets.

Leon laughed against my ear. “They be lookin' at the moko,
cher
.”

“Finally got my angel wings,” I said to all with a sweet affirming kiss on Leon's lips.

I felt like a goddamn leader of my people. Truly capable for the first time with Leon my consort, my lover. We sat side by side in the bed. Pride puffed my chest as I held Leon's hand above the blankets for all to see.

“Report,” I ordered.

“Fuck. Are we supposed to bow now?” Cannon said to Nathaniel, who gave a little smirk.

“I don't do curtsies.” Darwin shot one eyebrow up.

Liz heckled, “Oh, that's okay, because Farrow does.”

Sure enough, Farrow performed a small dip of her knees with the elegance and grace of her fine breeding, all the while shooting a simmering glare at Liz.

“Is there news on Raine or not?” Because if not, I had other plans that had to do with Leon's hand, which was wandering up my inner thigh.

“Shehu spotted him in Omega,” Cannon said.

“So we move out together.” Linc tapped his holstered weapons.

“No one's moving out but me.” I wriggled from the bed, intent on finding clothes, weapons, bullets designed to make Raine's brain splatter.

Everyone was quick to voice their support, but Leon's low voice drew me in. “I don' want you to do dis.”

I turned toward him as I dragged on my pants. “This is about avenging you, and that's mine alone to do. There's no telling when or if we'll be attacked here. Everyone stays.”

“Just take a backup, man. I volunteer.” Cannon thumped his fist to his chest.

All the rest stepped forward.

“No. This is something I've got to do.” I strapped a knife to my waist. “Give us a moment?”

Leon's anguish swirled around us as the room emptied. He unrolled gauze and tape. Then he carefully sheltered my new wings under clean bandages. Afterward I drew on a shirt and finished arming up.

“I'll be back soon. Nothing and no one can keep me from you.” The kisses I stole from him pulled a deep groan from my throat. I moved back, but he followed, landing in my lap on the bed. I twisted strands of glossy hair between my fingers, helpless beneath the onslaught of his mouth. “I can't get enough of you.”

The delicious curve of his bottom lip nudged against mine. His tongue swooped inside, seeking me out. Our faces angled for a better fit. Each twirl of his tongue, every murmur from his lips was seared in my mind when we broke apart.

“You are too damn sexy,” I said.

“You are too dangerous.” He yanked me against him by my shirt when I tried to stand up on unsteady legs. “Remember last time? The explosion in Beta? I said
no more
. I don' need my honor defended or whatever. I need you alive, so you best be careful out there.”

I
roared off in the Cruiser on my way to Omega. I wasn't thinking. I was working on blind fury, the kind that ate up every other emotion and spit it back out, leaving a red-black rage in its wake.

A pinging on my D-P made me ease back on the gas. It was a message from Darwin. Seemed our little mole Raine had had the forethought to sneak back and cut the brake lines on both vehicles.

Oh joy.

I tested the brakes, and sure enough I got no traction in return. I added that to the latest
Oh shit
crisis. Looked like I had no option but to keep up my headlong, breakneck speed.
Shame.

Coming up on the now wide-open gates of Omega, I spied a nice little parking spot off to the left—aka a hilly sand dune. I took my foot off the pedal and braced myself in my seat. This was going to hurt.

The car slowed in the troughs of deep sand, enough to lessen the impact to a mere body-rattling, teeth-clattering crash when I collided with the dune hood-first.

Leaving the vehicle behind in a heap, I plugged Shehu's coordinates into my D-P and raced off.

*  *  *

The city hadn't slept since the Quad had been repurposed and the old rule kicked out. I slithered through high-lit streets, which were teeming with revelers who would be put to better use organizing their militia.

I located Shehu and my prey on the rooftop of a vacated building in S-4, where the quietness was pronounced after the heaving atmosphere of the inner city.

Raine was quiet, too, an improvement on his usual chatterbox.

He didn't look scared enough to satisfy my kill-him-dead urges, though. In fact, he leaned casually against an upended crate, puffing on a cig.

He blew a smoke ring up to the pitch-black sky. “I expected you sooner. The fierce warrior and all.”

Before I could retaliate, Shehu smacked him on the side of the head with a hand as big as a brick. The blow made Raine cough, and his cig dropped to the floor. I stomped it out on my way to getting in his grill. Standing over him, I wasn't just a fierce warrior. I was a harbinger of death.

“That was for your insolence,” Shehu coldly commented.

“And this is for your ignorance.” I slammed my fist into his gut, causing another round of coughing and hacking. “You know, smoking will kill you. But not before I do.”

Spluttering and shaking in his sandals, Raine looked to Shehu for support that wasn't coming. He started in with the begging, but Shehu remained stoic and unmoved.

“I'm one of your tribe!” Raine wailed.

Shehu spat at his feet in a gesture of disgust and disownment. “I do not know you. You are no more than a rat in the streets.”

Not two seconds passed before the slippery shit made a run for it.

“Fuck!” I pounded after him, Shehu at my heels.

Raine leaped across a gap between the tight buildings, falling to his knees as he landed. He punched right back to his feet and took off in a zigzag.

I briefly appraised the four-story drop between one roof and the next and then went airborne behind him. My landing was a little clumsier, but I was in much better shape than my pot-toking, cig-smoking quarry. I just hadn't taken his familiarity with the city into account.

One rooftop led to the next. Clotheslines, potted plants—even people in pretty little terraced gardens got in my way. As far as the Territories went, Omega was nice. I felt bad that I didn't have time to sightsee or say sorry, especially when I knocked over a table laden with food.

By the time Raine drew me into a mazelike menagerie of live exotic animals, my patience wore thin. The animal part would be okay if it were simply parrots or monkeys or other nonlethal vertebrates, but no. I almost fired off my Smiths when a lion reared up in its cage, rattling the bars and roaring at me from two paces away.

“Oh, you gotta be kiddin' me.”

I bolted away from the only other predator that was bigger than me. I was gaining on Raine. Finally, I cornered the traitor in the heart of Omega. There was no escape. No other roof to jump to, no ladder down. Raine was huffing and puffing in near exhaustion, and his hair stuck in thick, sweaty clumps to his face.

Shehu came up behind me, and then he sidled past. He was pissed, judging from the sharp copper emotion he gave off and the sharp metal machete he brandished in his hands. His long braid swung down to his hips. He was bare-chested apart from two crisscrossed leather straps on his torso and a boatload of scars that marked him as a man of action.

Not a dude to mess with.

The flat rooftop overlooked the city and the desert. It was secluded, and the only sounds carrying to us were Raine's whistling breaths and the susurrations of the breeze.

“I will contain him,” Shehu said, his teeth glinting like the metal of his weapon.

“How?”

The blow from the butt end of his heavy machete to the side of Raine's head was enough to rock Raine on his feet, but not enough to knock him out. Torqueing Raine's elbows behind him, Shehu forced him to his knees with arms high above, pulling painfully at his shoulder sockets.

“That is how.”

Grasping Raine's hair in my fist, I hauled his head back. I couldn't wait to fuck him up so badly that even the devil in hell would take one look at him and turn him away—but first I wanted answers to my questions.

“Let's start, shall we? What was the real deal with Colt?”

Raine was keeping his mouth shut for once, so I helped loosen his lips with a swift knee to the jaw.

He spat blood to the rooftop with a whimper. “Colt was gonna talk. He'd helped with the cure because he thought it was for a good cause. He'd followed all of you Revolutionary assholes since Cannon's first speech to the masses.”

“That doesn't tell me why he had a gun to Leon's head.”

“I drugged him, messed with his mind, and made him think Leon was out to get him.”

“You evil little cunt.” My lips curled in disgust. “What else?”

“When he found out I had no intentions of giving you the real cure, Colt threatened to tell you. No amount of opium could keep him quiet.”

“Back the fuck up for second. You mean you staged the whole Amphitheater night?”

Raine's face shot up in defiance. “Yeah. Colt needed to be silenced. Leon needed to die. I'd planned on killing two birds with one stone that night, without even lifting a finger. Once you found your pretty boy dead at Colt's feet, you'd retaliate.”

“Too bad your plan backfired. So that's why you killed Colt.”

“I had to plug the leak before he came to his senses and told you the truth.”

“With a bullet.”

He shrugged.

“You threw us off the scent and solidified your position as a good guy by murdering an innocent.”

He smiled. “One of my finer moments.”

“This is one of mine.” I grabbed him by the neck, cutting off his air. “This is what Leon felt when he hanged himself.”

I watched his mouth gape and his eyes bulge.

“Darke, we're not finished with him yet,” Shehu cautioned when the traitor's face turned purple.

I relented and stepped back. Raine's breath exploded from him.

“Give me the real antidote.”

“I can't. I sold it to the highest bidder.”

“Who?” My fingers clenched, aching to be wrapped around his windpipe again.

I received no answer.

Shehu swiftly splayed Raine's right hand on the rooftop. His machete swung down with a whistle. It sliced through three fingers, unleashing spurting blood and bloodcurdling screams.

“You won't be needing those. A shaman would never sell out his brothers. You have brought shame to your calling.”

He kicked the dismembered digits aside.

“Cutler,” Raine said through wheezing breaths. “I sold it to him in return for sanctuary. I'm the only one who discovered an antidote to rival the one he had cooked up in the chem labs.”

Cutler had struck once again. And didn't this sound exactly like Taft's excuses for turning tail, selling out Sebastian…and giving up Leon. The only difference was, in the end Taft had died with some semblance of honor. The same would not be said of Raine.

I pressed my boot heel down on Raine's mangled hand, deaf to the sound of his caterwauling. “Why the setup with Leon? Why did you send us to the field hospital?”

Sweat dripped down Raine's face when he glowered up at me. Between panting, pain-filled breaths, he gasped, “It was part of the bargain, another one of Cutler's mind games. He wants to invade your psyches, and since he's not close enough to do it with his usual pharmaceutical methods, he's getting creative.” He cradled his stumpy hand to his chest when I let up. “He wants you all broken down before he puts the bullet in your brains, or before you're infected. So you know with your last dying breath he has won. And I had to get you out of the way. You were plastered to Leon's back night and day.”

“What about Leon?”

“The CEO wanted to watch him crumble, see his will break, then watch you fall to pieces. Worked, didn't it?”

He had just enough stupid pride to pull off a defiant glare.

Defiance I happily knocked off his face with my fist.

“On the contrary, you worthless piece of shit. Leon's alive, he's well, and he's going to live to tell the truth. Whereas you will not.”

Shock overtook his smugness. I paced slowly back and forth, making sure to mash his missing fingers beneath my boots to his long, low whimpers.

“Quite the little acolyte, aren't you?” I teased.

“I prefer entrepreneur.”

“How about you interpret this?” I jabbed his unprotected belly, then pulled his wounded hand from his chest. I punched the meaty, bloody mass over and over again while Raine writhed on his back.

“Wait. Wait!” His voice weakening in the wake of my violent outburst, Raine started to cry. He looked to his chieftain.

That time Shehu didn't step in. His lips lifted off his teeth in a feral snarl.

“There's more.”

“This better be good. Where the fuck is Cutler, and where is the cure?” I leaned over Raine.

“The unholy trinity, the triumvirate of evil—”

I gripped his neck and snarled in his face. “Fuck off with the word games.”

“Dr. Val, Denver, and Cutler are all in Delta.”

Fuck.
Delta was on a totally different continent, a small island in the northern seas. Formerly known as a big city by the name of London, pre-Purge Delta had been home to places called Piccadilly Circus and Canary Wharf. Now I nearly smiled, listening to Raine sing like the yellow-bellied canary he was.

“When you get to Delta, say hi to my old lover for me.”

“Who?”

“Cutler's henchman. Denver.”

Denver. The man who told us to locate Raine. The one who knew all about Leon's abduction. Then there was the lovely Doc Val, who had not only brainwashed Liz's father years ago but had masterminded this entire germ warfare against Leon and all the others infected. Raine would be the first to pay for the pain he'd put Leon through, but he wouldn't be the last.

My hands closed around his throat once more. Now it was
his
neck in a noose; one I tightened as rage coursed through me.

He grabbed clumsily at my wrists. He flailed at my feet.

Shehu watched dispassionately for half a minute before lowering into my line of vision. “He has more to say.”

I dragged in deep breaths before I broke my hold. “This better be worth it.”

I was glad the marks of my strangling fingers bruised Raine's neck. He deserved to die in so many horrific ways I'd lost count.

He could hardly whisper after my assault. “Leon's going to have an InterNations-wide target painted on his back, thanks to his broadcast, once word gets out he's still alive. And it will, now that I've leaked the location of your stronghold.”

“What did you just fucking say?” I yanked his head back by his hair.

“You heard me. Cutler wanted you flushed out. I already made sure that's gonna happen. I leaked your location to some anti-rebel groups.” Beaten up and on death's door, Raine watched me with the last ounce of glee he'd ever feel. “Turns out you're on a lot of hit lists, Darke.”

“Bullshit. Cutler wanted us out in the open. Instead we're going to land on
his
doorstep.”

“He will win, you know.”

“Too goddamn bad you won't be around to see just how motherfucking wrong you are.” I lifted Raine to his feet, delivering him to Shehu's arms. I had all the intel I needed from him. There was only one thing more I wanted. I withdrew my knife from its sheath at my hip.

Finally sensing the end, Raine started sobbing.

“You tried to take my lover from me. For that I will take your heart.” I looked to Shehu for permission.

“Yes. It is just.”

“Please don't,” Raine cried. “I'm sorry! I—”

Raine's wheedling was cut short when the knife pierced his chest. Shehu caught him, silencing his gurgling with a merciful hand suffocating the last breaths. He kissed Raine's temple and laid him down. “I will take care of the remains.” The devastation of this night finally showed on my mentor's face in deep lines.

“Will you bury him?” Everyone deserved finality in this war.

“He will receive last rites.” Shehu rested his hand on my shoulder. “Godspeed, brave warrior.”

BOOK: Under His Guard
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