In the blink of an eye, Jasper had a lethal hold on Bell, his fingers wrapped tightly around the back of her neck and skull. Teeth bared, his rippling snarl grew louder as his eyes drilled into the much smaller female’s. He began to lift her from the ground. With just a flick of his wrist, he could remove her head from her body.
Unlike any other coming face-to-face with the reigning king of the southern Hell, her snarl answered his. With her right hand, she clamped onto his forearm and tried to pull his hand from her neck. With her left, she drew a six-shooter from her right hip and fired.
Even before the smoke of the gun powder cleared, Jasper slapped away the pistol and removed the others from the holsters on her other hip and from under each of her arms. He threw them at Peter’s feet out in the sunbaked, dusty yard and leapt to the front porch of the old farmhouse.
Peter took a step, one hand reaching out toward them. “Let her go! You can have any woman you want.”
Jasper reached for the door knob, and Bell struck, grabbing a fistful of his hair at the back of his head. He caught her hand before she could rip it out.
Jasper glanced at Peter over his shoulder. “I want this one.” He kicked open the front door and stepped inside, catching it on the rebound with his booted heel and swung it shut.
“But why her?” came Peter’s plea from outside.
Dismissing him, Jasper stalked across the wide open room. Its only furnishing was a wide, map-covered table in the center. Various other worn and faded maps were pinned to the walls. He pushed his way through another door and entered a sparsely furnished room where a cast iron bed was shoved into a corner opposite the doorway and a large wardrobe.
He pried Bell’s fingers loose and threw her onto the center of the bed. “Because this one wants me.” His voice was low and rough.
She growled and scrambled backwards, flattening herself to the rough board wall. “No, I don’t.”
Nostrils flaring as he inhaled deeply, he raised his head and closed his eyes. “Don’t lie,” he warned, lip curling. He peeled off the powder-burned shirt with the fresh bullet hole and flung it to his right where it landed on a battered chest-of-drawers.
Bell glanced toward the window beside the bed and back at the most beautiful male specimen she’d ever laid eyes on, and had to admit he was right. She did want him, but shouldn’t they at least be introduced first?
She wasn’t going to take his bullshit, but he was too close and too fast. She’d never make it out. Did she really want to? She’d lived with Charlotte and Peter long enough to know their private loving times weren’t always soft kisses and sweet murmurings. They got downright destructive. The back wall of their bedroom had been replaced more than a few times just since she’d come to live with them.
Finally, a trickle of nerves infiltrated the outrage, and the fiery desire she worked so hard to repress. She couldn’t force her eyes away from his broad, scarred chest, the hard plains of his stomach, or the smattering of tawny hair that drew her eyes from his navel and down.
When his hands dropped to his belt buckle, her eyes snapped up to his. His angelic golden beauty was in direct contrast to the arrogant gleam in his darkening red irises.
She couldn’t tear her eyes away, even when the sound of a lowering zipper caused her breath to hitch.
In the next instant, she was dragged from her corner and crushed to his body, her arms pinned to her sides. She could have bitten him, but didn’t even think of it.
“P-Peter said we had to get you out of here.” Her voice was only a wisp of air.
“Rescue mission?” His lips were almost touching hers.
She swallowed thickly when the deep vibrations of his words moved through her and into her bones. “Yeah. He said Maria would punish you for lettin’ him and Charlotte leave, and not let you go.”
“Let me go?” He pulled at the leather thong tying her braid and then combed his fingers through her long hair, bringing a thick lock to his nose, breathing her in. “She did punish me for allowing them to escape, but that was the last time. I could leave any time I wanted.”
“Why didn’t you?” Bell gulped. Being held against him, her brain refused to work properly. All she wanted was to be even closer to him. Every breath was filled with his scent—she could practically taste him. Desert wilderness, a heady spice, the intoxicating essence of a strong and capable male. A tension like she could never remember feeling before was building throughout her body and she needed to touch him. She realized his grip had eased and she rested her hands on his sides. It wasn’t enough.
“Never had a reason to.” He captured her face between his hands and held her still. “I smell Peter all over you.”
She opened her mouth to explain, but had no inkling what she thought she would say. How could she describe what Peter meant to her? That he was more than her sire and mentor? He had saved her, and he and Charlotte had guarded and taken care of her through the burning transformation and through her newborn year.
Jasper’s face edged closer. “We’re not leaving until you’re mine.”
“What? But, I—”
His mouth silenced her words. His tongue swept over and tangled with hers while he pushed her down onto the bed, the fingers of his left hand again wrapping around the nape of her neck.
She didn’t know what to do with her hands—she’d never had a male so close, as far as she knew. She had barely any memories of her human life.
She’d met a few vampires and never wanted one in that way. It suddenly didn’t matter. The hills and valleys of Jasper’s muscles called to her and her fingers dug into his back, trying to bring him even closer to make full contact—his body on hers, covering all of her.
He ripped through the stiff material of the buff-colored canvas work shirt she wore and his full lips took full advantage of her bare skin. When he nipped at and suckled one of her nipples, all she could do was groan in pleasure and wrap her arms around his head to hold him in place. It still wasn’t enough. Her fingers wove through his thick hair and tightened against his skull, keeping him where he was. She reached up to push her face into his hair and breathe him in.
He squeezed and kneaded her breasts in turn and then his free hand was coasting down her ribs and belly, pausing only to unhook her gun belt and throw it to the floor before tugging down her dungarees.
A moan started low in his throat and it was soon a rumbling in his chest. He lifted himself away from her, his midnight black eyes staring into hers.
“You’re mine,” he forced out between clenched teeth before he took hold of her, flipped her onto her stomach, and pushed her farther onto the bed.
Crawling over her, his right hand slid under her, between her body and the bed, until his fingertips brushed her throat. His other hand slid up under the remnants of her shirt, then down the dip in her back and over the soft swell of her ass before sliding between her thighs.
Startled, she gasped in surprise when he groaned as he nuzzled her neck and jaw, and his fingers entered her. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do but she was soon lost in the sensations of heat and want.
Something nudged the back of her mind and she remembered that Jasper could control and manipulate emotions. She fleetingly wondered if he was doing that to her, but found she didn’t care. She did care when he removed his fingers from her. Wanting them again, she forced her ass up and against him, realizing something bigger and harder was pressing into her skin.
She held her breath and stilled, but then he curled over her, his mouth searching for hers and the hardness that had been digging into her thigh was slipping between her thighs. She twisted and turned her face toward his and he devoured her mouth.
His hand clutched at her hip and pulled her into him. There was a stretching, a slight burning, and he let out a gasping sigh as he entered her.
He pulled back and his fingers dug into her hip as he thrust forward again.
She was drowning in their combined needful lust as he filled her again and again. She didn’t know when he had begun whispering in her ear, but the only words she could make out were “wet” and “good.” His pleasure was a physical sensation and it wrapped around her as tightly as his arms, and she was lost in the overpowering rush.
He shifted, covering more of her body with his, and began to push harder and faster. Needing even more, a soft cry left her as she met each thrust, urging him on.
They spiraled higher and he grasped at her in near-desperation. Again, she wondered if it was what he was experiencing or a combination of them both. It didn’t matter. She was chasing a release of the building pressure and she couldn’t stand it any longer.
His right hand spread over her upper chest, pulling her into him. His left slid over her hip and down until his fingers glided over her clit, making her tremble under his hands.
He pushed the collar of her shirt down with his chin to reach her skin. His kisses along her neck grew rougher and more urgent until his teeth grazed up and over her shoulder, stopping at the curve of her neck. When his teeth pierced her skin, her breath caught in her throat and she jolted in his hold.
Gasping for air, sucking in his intoxicating scent, she shattered in his arms, straining against the iron bands of his shuddering embrace. His low growl increased and grew in volume, and he snatched his teeth from her. His hips slammed into her one last time, and she felt the pulsing of his dick deep inside her.
With one last guttural groan, his body coiled rigidly around her, and then he abruptly relaxed his hold, slumping over her. He took in a long breath and licked her shoulder where he had bitten her and released a contented sigh. He nuzzled her jaw and rolled to his back, wrapping his arms around her and drawing her with him.
All was quiet and calm in their post-coital bliss, until Bell turned to study his profile. Eyes closed, peaceful—again he looked just like an angel.
“Um,” she began tentatively. “We didn’t even take off our clothes.”
“I wanted you,” he whispered. “You wanted me. Why waste time?”
She thought she should have been insulted, and somehow she wasn’t, but the thought of Maria catching them in bed, their pants merely shoved down to their knees and Bell’s shirt ripped open, spurred her to action. She sidled away from him and gasped again as his slick dick slid out of her.
His irritated grunt appeased her growing annoyance. “We have to get out of here before that woman comes back.”
“Peter’s not far away. He can handle her if she comes back early with her entourage. Then Peter and Charlotte can take care of them. Maria knows better than to come in here.” His smile grew. “I’ll kill her, and then we’ll leave.”
Bell sat up and instantly missed the feel of his arms around her, but her annoyance was growing. “Peter was right when he told me you were an asshole. I don’t know why we came here to get you.”
Eyes still closed, a small smile played over his lips. “Never said I wasn’t an asshole.”
Bell’s boots thumped to the floor and she jumped up, yanking up her jeans and trying to tie her shirt to cover her modesty. “That was my first time,” she snarled. “Well, maybe. As far as I can remember.” She adjusted her underarm holsters and retrieved her gun belt from the floor. “You could have …” She angrily shook her head.
“Been nicer? Brought you a bouquet of flowers?” Jasper used the rough sheet to wipe himself off and stood from the bed, hitching up his own pants. “No. You’re marked as mine. That’s all that’s needed.”
She threw open the door and stomped out. On the way by, she kicked over the map-strewn table and whirled to face Jasper as he indolently sauntered out of the bedroom, pulling a fresh shirt on over his head, and tossing another to her.
“You could have at least asked me what my name was!” Bell shouted, refusing to catch the offered untorn clothing and planting her fists on her hips.
The smirk reappeared. “Okay. What’s your name?”
“None of your damn beeswax!”
A true smile spread over Jasper’s face for the first time in decades. “I’ll get it out of you.”
“Go soak your head!” Bell crashed through the front door, leaving it in splinters, and bolted across the porch.
Charlotte and Peter came running from the cover of some boulders at the side of the canyon opposite the house.
Bell threw her arms around Charlotte and glared at Peter. “We didn’t need to come save him from Maria,” she sneered. “He said he could leave any time he wanted. He just didn’t.”
Peter eyed Bell and looked over at the slowly approaching warrior. For the first time in his second life, Peter saw a genuine smile on his sire’s face. He looked back at Bell and patted her shoulder. “Maybe he just needed a reason.”
~0~ the end, for now ~0~