Home > Hero's Haven (Dark Protectors #11)(8)

Hero's Haven (Dark Protectors #11)(8)
Author: Rebecca Zanetti

One knuckle beneath her chin lifted her face so she could look into those deep eyes. Otherworldly aqua. “You have nothing to be sorry about.” His touch infinitely gentle, he brushed more wet hair off her face. “I am sorry I was not here to protect you. That nobody was here to protect you.”

So was she. Sure, she should say she didn’t need protection, and maybe now she didn’t. But she had. As a child, she’d definitely needed help. “That can’t be your fault, Quade. You’re a zillion years old, and you have been on a different world. I didn’t even meet you until I was in my twenties.” She’d seen his world, many worlds, but she hadn’t met the man until her twenty-fifth birthday. Maybe fate had given her a present. Maybe not. Every time she trusted in her life, it turned out wrong.

“I will protect you now. We do not need to mate for me to take care of you.” His gaze was earnest and somehow sweet.

She shook her head. “I’m all right. I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time.” Her pity party was over.

“That is not right,” he murmured.

The only thing she knew about Quade was what he’d told her. “Do you really think you have family out there somewhere? Are there other demons and, well, fairies?” She’d liked it when he’d called them Fae before. It sounded tougher, somehow.


She exhaled slowly, letting her body relax. The second she did, every inch of her became aware of every long, solid inch him. Of the rock-hard thighs she rested on. The ripped abs pressed against her rib cage. The impenetrable torso against her cheekbone. For a woman, she was petite at only five feet tall, and he made her feel even smaller. Delicate. She’d managed to live in Portland for almost a year, and she’d had the freedom to explore and cook and eat, so her curves had turned generous, and she’d enjoyed that.

But already she was losing weight, now that she was on the run again. Most women wanted to lose weight. Not her. She felt healthy and whole and secure with curves. Free.

And feminine. This male made her feel so much a woman. It was a dangerous trap to trigger, but she couldn’t help it. She looked up again, meeting that dark gaze. “Quade.”

He exhaled, the smell minty. Very. “Haven.” His broad hand slid along her jaw and cupped her head. His gaze intently watching her, he slowly lowered his head toward hers. She sucked in her breath, her entire body growing still like the air in that quiet moment before lightning strikes the earth.

His eyes still open, he touched his mouth to hers.

Firm and sweet and minty and male. She blinked, and her eyelids closed. Leaning closer to him, she pressed her mouth harder against his.

His growl was a low roll of thunder to match that lightning strike. His lips moved over hers, seeking and exploring as if his mouth hadn’t been used in eons. He took his time, gentle and firm, increasing the pressure by increments until the touches turned into a kiss.

A deep, hard, delving and demanding kiss.

Desire engulfed her in a sweet heat that made her limbs heavy. Colors flashed behind her eyes, images more powerful than any she’d ever dreamed, much less painted. She kissed him back, a moan spilling from her as she tried to get closer to him. Her hands curled over his robust shoulders, and his skin heated beneath her touch.

She shifted her weight, and evidence of his arousal prodded her thighs. Need swirled through her with sharp edges.

He jerked his head to the side, his chest shuddering with fast breaths.

She could only stare at him, stunned. What had just happened? Her body didn’t even feel like her own. His gaze swung back to her, and his eyes had sizzled to an incredible bluish-green topaz. A color that she hadn’t realized existed.

“This is real,” he said, his voice guttural and raw. “You have to know. This is real.”

She could only nod. It had to be. Right?

Chapter Seven

Quade’s fangs began to drop, and he ruthlessly drew them back into place. The scent of her blood was so close, and the need to bite her, to taste her, nearly drove him mad. The female had been crying and vulnerable, and he would not take advantage. He might be an animal, but she could have been his mate if the fates decreed otherwise, and he would protect her. Even from himself. “Tell me why you cry.”

She sniffled and a small smile escaped her. “You want to talk about feelings?”

“Yours, not mine,” he said, amusement filtering through him. Such an odd and delightful feeling after so long in pain and hell. “Why are you crying?” He needed to know her problem so he could take care of it.

She plucked at a string on his flannel. “I’ve always felt wrong in my skin. Never at home. Like maybe I was possessed.”

“You did not know yourself.” With one knuckle beneath her chin, Quade lifted her face. She was lovely and had no idea. “You are strong and intelligent and magical.” His people did not believe in magic, but the word fit her. “Not to mention beautiful and incredibly talented.”

She rolled her eyes.

Ah. Not good at taking a compliment, now was she? “I will avenge the wrongs of your past. Whoever hurt you will cry much larger tears than yours.” Not only the humans but whoever had left her with them.

She shook her head. “I don’t want vengeance, but I do want answers. Who am I?”

An age-old question. From day one, he’d known his brothers and his family, and he’d known his destiny. He’d had that comfort, but she never had. She had no idea who her people were, and actually that might be a good thing. “I will find the answers you seek,” he vowed. First, he had to find his own family. Then, if he did not like her people, she could make her way with his somehow.

Being this near to her made the brand on his hand hurt as if he’d touched burning metal stuck in embers. Her curvy body felt just right on his lap, and the urge to kiss her heated through him like a live wire.

Not mating her, when she was so clearly made for him, might be the worst hell of all.

She looked up, tears still on her lashes. “You said we couldn’t mate because of your destiny. What is it?”

He weighed how much he could reveal. The vow he had taken included silence. “Seven of us created the world you saw to bind an evil Cyst who will probably return some day. There is a ritual that can kill him—it’s the only way he can die—and I must be there to endure it. All seven of us must be there along with five others. Three Keys, a Lock, and the keeper of the location. I cannot tell you more.” He brushed her soft hair from her face.

She leaned into his touch just a tiny bit. Barely noticeable, but he noticed. “You might live.”

“Doubtful. The Fates require balance. A win and a loss.” Usually. During the wars he’d experienced, usually everybody lost. To take Ulric out, to make sure he could not destroy this world, would be worth the ultimate sacrifice. Quade had trained since birth to do just that.

“You need Keys?” Her frown was adorable.

“They’re females but that’s all I know about them.” It was doubtful any of the Keys had been found.

She pressed her hand against his chest, looking young and vulnerable. Female and soft. “Am I a Key?”

“No.” He placed his hand over hers. “The Keys are marked as such and give off a certain aura.” He doubted she understood those words. “You are powerful and unique all on your own.” Which was definitely true. It was quite possible she was the only Fae-demon hybrid in existence.

Her pretty eyes were bloodshot and she yawned, hiding her mouth behind her hand.

He was not taking very good care of her. As gently as he could, he set her to the side and stood. “You must get some rest. It has been too long.” Even he had slept in the vehicle while she drove. “Mayhap you will feel better once you awaken.” He couldn’t look at the bed. If he did, he’d have her on it, and that could not happen. So he had to get out of that room and hope she went to sleep for a while.

“Yes,” she murmured. “I could use a nap.”

The idea of her lying in the bed made his body jerk and harden. The marking on his hand pounded. Damn it. He backed away from her. “We have soldiers after us, and I need sustenance. I’ll catch game.”

She shook her head. “We can find a small store, probably one without cameras, tomorrow morning. All of the nearby stores are probably closed right now.”

He needed to run. Hard and fast and flat out. “That will suffice tomorrow. For now, I will hunt.” He had missed hunting. In the world he’d just left, he was the prey more often than not. He moved toward the door.

“Wait. You have to wear the socks and boots I bought you. And for Pete’s sake, put on a shirt and that jacket.” She stood, her eyes deep pools in her pretty face. She sniffed the air again. “Also, you’re very minty. I mean, I liked kissing you, but did you…”

Heat climbed into his face. “I found your toothpaste.”

She pressed her hands to her hips. “Did you eat the entire tube?”

Well, the first tube had been so delicious, he had figured another would not hurt. He shuffled his feet. “Maybe.” It was not right that she was providing for him. He needed to provide for her. Surely he had currency somewhere in this world. “It tasted good.”

She pressed her lips together as if trying not to laugh. The small gesture lifted his mood as nothing else could have. “You’re not supposed to eat toothpaste, Quade. It’ll upset your stomach.”

“I’ve eaten rocks,” he returned. In fact, he’d eaten things she couldn’t even imagine in his quest to live. At least now he understood what he’d been living for. A better and safer world for her. “I will not eat your toothpaste if we acquire more. Just brush with it.” Seemed like a good waste of something delicious, but he owed her that much at least. “For now, I will hunt and then find rocks so we can strike sparks to make a fire.”

Her mouth opened and then shut quickly. “I have a lighter in my bag. That makes fire faster than rocks. Are you sure you can’t wait until tomorrow morning?”

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