Authors: Tina Folsom
Tags: #vampire romance, #Fantasy, #Paranormal Romance, #vampire, #contemporary romance
As he stalked into the living room and slunk into the soft couch, he tried to find more reasons why he shouldn’t go up to Portia’s room and make a play for her. He came up with plenty: the girl was unstable. According to her father, she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and was acting out. Grief for her mother had made her emotionally unbalanced. No wonder she had first looked at him as if she wanted to devour him, and in the next instant hurled insults at him. Perhaps his endearment had triggered something. For all he knew, her mother had called her baby girl.
There was no way he would get involved with a volatile woman who would probably stake him if she was in one of her moods. He didn’t need shit like that. He was here to do a job: watch her and make sure she didn’t harm herself. Her father couldn’t come home fast enough to suit Zane. The sooner this assignment was over the better. And hopefully once he’d proven to Samson and Gabriel that he could be trusted and wouldn’t derail, they’d reinstate his class A status and assign him to a real job.
Zane snatched a magazine from the coffee table and paged through it while his senses remained on full alert. He heard Portia rummage in her closet upstairs. In the bathroom next to her, a faucet dripped. The occasional car drove by the house, and a neighbor walked his dog. That reminded him of the puppy.
He’d left Z at home and set out bowls with water and dog food on the kitchen floor. He couldn’t drop off the dog at Yvette’s—yet. Samson had made it clear that the puppy was part of the deal, like it or not. For now, he was stuck with the animal, but as soon as this was over, the dog would end up right where he belonged—with Yvette and Haven. No way was Zane gonna keep him.
Portia applied the finishing touches to her makeup and glanced at her watch. She didn’t have much time left to make it to her date on time. Sneaking down the stairs and past Zane would be a wasted effort since the vampire had installed himself on the couch in such a way that he could see anything happening on the first floor. Her only chance was getting out through the window on the second floor.
While she wasn’t one for climbing, she could jump. From the window in her room down to the back yard, the vertical distance was less than fifteen feet. No big deal for a hybrid. Portia pushed the sash window up as far as it went and peered outside into the dark. Beneath it, the grass came up to the wall, allowing for a soundless landing. She wouldn’t have to worry about Zane seeing her jump either since her room was over the garage and the laundry: there was no window where she was about to land.
Portia lifted one leg out the window and caught a glimpse of her shoes. Jumping with high heels was definitely not advisable. She swiftly took off her pumps and dropped them into the grass below. They made a soft thumping sound. Portia’s heart stopped. Had Zane heard it? She kept herself motionless and stopped breathing, listening for any sound in the house, but it remained quiet.
Relieved, she swung her legs out backwards and twisted her body under the window. She cursed the sash window, because unlike a regular window, it only opened halfway, forcing her to lower herself out of it facing the wall. Her hands still on the window sill, she pushed herself away from the wall and let go. She dropped into the cold and damp grass, her knees going soft to absorb the impact. Portia smiled to herself. In a gymnastics competition she would have received a perfect ten for her landing.
She brushed her hands on her skirt and turned to gather her shoes.
Shock wasn’t the only thing that catapulted her against the wall at her back.
“Going out?” Zane asked as his hands captured her shoulders and pressed her against the siding.
With her heart stopping and no oxygen reaching her brain, Portia’s ability to respond was severely impacted. Or was it the fact that Zane’s body was only inches from hers that turned her speechless? She felt his heat as if tiny flames jumped from his body to hers, igniting her cells like kindling in a fireplace. If she didn’t stop this from happening, her entire body would go up in flames. Already now, heat traveled to all her extremities, and even her naked feet felt warm as if she were wearing bunny slippers.
But the heat wasn’t the comforting heat she knew from a cashmere sweater or a woolen blanket. The heat she felt now was consuming, engulfing, destroying. Instinct told her to stay away from this fire or get burned, but everything feminine in her rebelled against the thought of pushing him away.
Oh, Zane was mean, she knew that. He’d proven that with the few words they’d exchanged in the kitchen. She also realized that he saw her as a necessary evil to perform his job, and the last thing he saw in her was a woman. To him she was a child; when he’d addressed her as baby girl, he’d made that abundantly clear. But despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the way he looked at her now said otherwise.
His gaze was heated, and she liked to imagine that it was desire rather than fury that blazed in his eyes. Zane’s fingernails dug into her flesh, and while she barely felt the pain, she noticed their sharpness, wondering how close his vampire side was to emerging. The cords in his neck bulged, and she saw the pulsing vein that ran along its side. She could fairly smell his blood, and for the first time she wondered what it would be like to bite somebody, to sink her fangs deep into his flesh and taste him. Furious at herself for the direction her mind was taking, she clenched her jaw, sending a clear signal to her fangs that they were not allowed to descend under any circumstances.
“Look at you, all dolled up.” Zane roamed his eyes over her face before his lids dropped as he perused her low-cut top. Her cleavage was clearly visible, and from his vantage point he could most likely see all the way down to her navel.
“Enjoying the peep show?” she hissed, suppressing the shudder that went through her at the thrill of Zane admiring her boobs.
One side of his mouth tilted up, but he wasn’t going for a smile. She doubted he knew what a smile was. “You’ve got nothing I haven’t seen already.”
If he wanted to deliberately hurt her, he’d succeeded. “Jerk!”
“Unlike you, I don’t care what people call me.” He made a deliberate pause. “Baby girl.”
Her fists clenched, and before she could even finish her thought, she’d raised them and aimed at his face. Zane was faster. Her fists landed in his palms, which he instantly wrapped around them, preventing her from doing any damage to his arrogant visage.
“Violent, too?” He shook his head and tsked. “They left that out of your file.”
File? They had a file on her? “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that I know what you’re all about, so don’t think you can get anything past me or—” The ring of a cell phone interrupted his little speech. He released one of her hands and dug into his pocket. “Another attempt at hitting me and I’ll have you hogtied in ten seconds flat.”
She didn’t doubt his words for even a fraction of a second.
“Yes?” His tone was more bellow that greeting.
“Hey, Zane, what’s going on?”
Portia heard the male voice on the other end clearly.
“Quinn, good to hear from you.” Despite his words, Zane didn’t crack even the beginning of a smile. That confirmed it: he was incapable of smiling.
“Listen, I need a vacation. Do you mind if I come to visit?”
“No problem. When are you flying in?”
“I was thinking tomorrow night.”
“Who’s picking you up from the airport?”
“I’ll ask Oliver.”
“I’ll give him a key to the house for you. See you.”
“Hey, man, are you all right?”
“Never been better.” Zane disconnected the call and shoved the cell back into his pants.
If it was true that he was feeling better than ever, then Portia wondered what he was like when he was in a pissy mood. She wasn’t gonna stick around to find out.
“Now,” he said slowly and focused his gaze back onto her. “Where were you heading?”
“None of your fucking business.” She twisted her hand from his grip and pivoted, trying to get away from him.
Zane wasn’t ready to let go of her and snatched her arms, preventing her from brushing past him. Not that he minded a little brushing here and there. He enjoyed the contact with her body far too much, despite the fact that she held herself rigid.
If it wasn’t for the old sash window he’d heard grinding against its wooden frame when Portia had opened it, she would have escaped him. Luckily, he had been prepared for her to pull a fast one on him and had refrained from making any noise downstairs so he could hear what she was doing. When he’d heard the doors of her closet close, he’d figured that she was getting changed. It could only mean one thing.
And he’d been right. The flimsy top she wore screamed ‘fuck me’ as if she’d had it tattooed on her forehead. Her short skirt wasn’t any better. It hid nothing of her amazing figure and her lush curves. Considering her age and her height, she should be skinny as a rail, but instead, her hips were nicely cushioned, and her breasts …
Zane tore his gaze away and swallowed. It wasn’t good to go down that road. Only a fool would allow himself to be swayed by her enticing package, and he was no fool. She was a job just like any other, and he’d be damned if he'd do anything that could jeopardize his decidedly shaky position at Scanguards. If Samson and Gabriel thought they could throw a wrench into the works by dangling this temptation in front of him to test him, then he’d do his damnedest to pass that test, even if it meant passing up some hot piece of ass.
“Fine. I don’t care what your plans were, because guess what, they’ve changed.” He released her arms, his palms burning from the touch, the need to press her against him too savage to acknowledge. “Back inside.”
When she turned to round the side of the building, he grabbed her top and pulled her back.
Portia whirled around, her hair flying, her face furious. The sight nearly undid him, undermining his resolve to treat her with indifference. “I was going inside,” she bit out.
Zane shook his head once before motioning to the window above him. Her eyes followed his look. When her jaw dropped, he knew she’d caught onto his thinking.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” she protested.
“Do you see me laughing?” He doubted that he even remembered how to laugh or smile. It had been so darn long since he’d made his facial muscles perform that particular action.
“And how am I supposed to get up there?” She gestured to the window.
“You managed to get down on your own. I’m sure you can figure out a way to get back up there.” He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall, waiting and indeed curious to see what she'd come up with. In particular, he wanted to see how she managed to get up that wall and through the window without him getting an eyeful of her hot legs and whatever else she had hidden under that short skirt of hers. While he couldn’t touch, nobody could slap him on the wrist for looking. And he was gonna do some looking, a whole bunch of it. Not that it would aid in tamping down the beast inside him that demanded its due.
Portia stepped further back into the garden and looked up at the window. Her forehead furrowed as she assessed the situation. He could almost see the little wheels in her mind turn as she narrowed her eyes. She briefly glanced at him and lifted her chin in a clear show of defiance. Suited him fine. He wasn’t here to make friends with her.
When she suddenly took off toward the back of the garden, he was taken by surprise. It took him half a second to recover and launch into a sprint to follow her. She was about to vault herself over the garden fence when he reached her and pulled her down. Without ceremony, Zane slung her over his right shoulder, her head dangling over his back, his hands imprisoning her legs.
“Let me go!” she yelled and pounded her fists into his lower back.
He didn’t care. She was touching him, and at present it was all he could think of. The faster he got her into the house, the more of a chance he had to keep his hands off her, because even the rough treatment she doled out right now was turning him on. Add to that the way he was carrying her, her shapely rump level with his face as if he needed an invitation more obvious, and he’d already lost. He kept her bare legs restrained by his arms, but couldn’t prevent his thumb from straying and swiping over her soft skin in a hushed caress.
Frustration howled through him, and it had nothing to do with his charge’s failed attempt at escape and everything to do with the thrill he’d felt at the short chase. As if he were hunting prey.
He deliberately turned his head away from Portia’s sweet backside when he lengthened his stride and moved toward the house, but not even that prevented her female scent from infiltrating his sensitive nostrils and clinging to the tiny hairs inside his nose. The ten second sprint was pure torture.
And he was a sucker for torture.
Zane kicked the front door shut with his boot and plopped Portia onto the couch. But if she thought he’d let her off this easily, she was sorely mistaken. Before she could make a move, he was on her, pinning her down with his body hovering over her, daring her to make another attempt at escaping.
It wasn’t fear that lashed at him from her fiery eyes but annoyance. He ignored it and lowered his head so only an inch of air separated them. One inch away from a kiss if he were so inclined.
“Maybe I forgot to mention something very important,” he started. “Let me make it clear to you now: don’t underestimate me. What I say goes.”
Her breath hit him as she parted her lips, and he drew in the scent. All it served was to make him even harder. If she could feel him, she gave no hint, riling him up even more.
“I’ll have you fired,” she spat, her breasts rising and brushing against his chest.
Zane suppressed the urge to groan at the contact. “I’d say join the club, but I’m afraid the membership roster is overly full.”
“I hate you!”
He narrowed the gap between them, then slowly turned his mouth to her ear, their cheeks almost touching. He took in a long, deep breath, unable to get enough of her scent. But it wasn’t all he enjoyed: her breasts now connected fully with his chest, her nipples pressing against him. “It seems you keep choosing the wrong clubs to join. Alas this one has a long waiting list as well. You see, I really don’t care who hates me.”