Her desire becomes his pleasure…
Max Westin. Sex incarnate. She could smell it, feel it with his proximity. Everything about him was a little rough, a little gritty. A primitive creature. Just like she was.
He held her hand a little too long, his thickly-lashed gaze clearly stating his intentions to have her. To tame her…
Her name, just one word, but spoken with such possession she could almost feel the collar around her neck.
“It’s in your nature,” he murmured. “The desire to be taken.”
In this game of cat and mouse, everything is an illusion but the passion is as real as it gets…
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Original Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Spellbound debuts on the USA Today bestseller list. Thank you, readers!
The Hunter had finally arrived.
Victoria studied him carefully through the closed-circuit feed that monitored her office reception area. The urbane Armani suit he wore did nothing to hide the predator within. Tall and dark, the Hunter moved with a casual arrogance that made her purr. He didn’t look around, completely focused on the moment when they would be together in the same room. Alone.
As she rubbed her hands together, a throaty growl filled the air. The High Council was ready to tangle with her again. She smiled and preened, as was the nature of her kind. This Hunter was powerful, she could feel it even through the walls that separated them.
It was a testament to her own prowess that they would send a warlock such as him after her. She couldn’t help but be flattered. After all, she’d broken the laws on purpose, deliberately goading the very powers that had stolen Darius from her. And here was her “punishment”, walking into her office with that luscious, long-legged stride. She couldn’t be more thrilled with their choice.
He flashed a devastating smile at the receptionist before she closed the door behind him. Then he turned his attention to Victoria and removed his sunglasses.
She crossed her silk stocking-clad legs to ease the sudden ache between them.
Piercing gray eyes measured her from a face so austerely handsome she was almost inclined to leave her seat and rub up against him. That firm jaw… those sculpted lips…
But, of course, she couldn’t. She first had to see if he would reveal who he was or if he intended to pretend. The High Council still hadn’t realized how much power Darius had bequeathed her. They didn’t yet realize how deeply her awareness went.
Her gaze moved to the crystal-framed miniature on her desk and the man with the rakish dimple who smiled lovingly from there. Captured beautifully in oil paints, glints of gold shining in his blond hair, the sight of Darius brought a familiar ache of loss and heartache that firmed her resolve. The waste of his life filled her with a need for retribution.
Rising to her feet, Victoria held out her hand. The Hunter took it leisurely, the palpable force in his touch betraying him.
“Mr. Westin,” she breathed, fighting back a delicious shiver. She would have to thank the Council for this gift when she was done with him. He was so dark–his skin, his raven hair, his aura. Sex incarnate. She could smell it, feel it with his proximity. It was obvious why he was a successful Hunter. Already she was wet and eager.
Max Westin held her hand a little too long, his thickly-lashed gaze clearly stating his intentions to have her, to tame her. Like all kittens, Victoria liked to play, so she brushed her fingertips across his palm as she pulled away. His eyes widened almost imperceptibly, a tiny sign that she could get to him if she really put the effort into it.
Of course, she intended to do just that. The Council only sent their best, most prized Hunters after her, and she knew how it chaffed Them when their elite met with abject failure. It was the only thing she could do prevent feeling helpless–give Them a harsh reminder of how great Darius’ had been, and what They’d lost with his needless sacrifice.
“Ms. St. John.” Westin’s voice was a rough caress. Everything about him was a little rough, a little gritty. A primitive creature. Just like she was.
Victoria waved toward the chair in front of her glass-topped desk. Freeing the button of his coat, Max sank into the seat, his dark blue trousers stretching over firm thighs and an impressive bulge between them.
She licked her lips. Yum…
One side of his mouth curved in a knowing smile. Max Westin was well aware of how irresistible he was, which made him irresistible to her. Confidence was a quality she held in high esteem. So was a touch of wickedness, and Westin definitely had that. That dark aura betrayed the edges of black magic he skirted. She doubted the Council had any better leash on him than They had on her.
Liking him immensely already, Victoria sank into her own chair, arranging her legs beneath her black pencil skirt to show them to best advantage.
“The museum offers its sincere apologies for the loss of your necklace,” he began.
Her smile widened. He wasn’t going to tell her who he was. How delicious. “You don’t look like the curator type to me, Mr. Westin.”
“I’m here on behalf of the museum’s insurance company. Obviously a loss of this magnitude requires an investigation.”
“That’s reassuring, of course.”
Observing him through the veil of her lashes, Victoria noted the energy that betrayed his restless nature. His firm, full lips hinted at sinful delights. She liked sinful, energetic men. This one was a bit rigid for her tastes, but that could change with the right persuasion. They all succumbed eventually. It was the only part of the game that disappointed her–the surrender.
“You seem remarkably at ease,” Westin murmured, “for a woman who’s just lost a priceless piece of jewelry.”
Victoria’s toes curled. His voice was so deep and slightly husky, like he just rolled out of bed. It was scrumptious, like the rest of him. He was so broad shouldered, yet lean, every movement he made a graceful ripple of honed muscle.
“Fretting won’t accomplish anything,” she said with a careless shrug. “Besides, you are here to find the necklace and you look… capable. What is there to worry about?”
“That I won’t recover it. Your trust in my abilities is flattering, Ms. St. John, and not misplaced. I’m very good at what I do. However, sometimes things are not what they seem.”
It was a warning, plain and simple.
Thoughtful, she stood and walked to the wall of windows behind her desk. Despite having her back to him, Victoria felt the heat of his gaze caressing the length of her. She fingered the pearls that graced her neck and stared out over the city skyline. “If need be, I’ll simply acquire another. Everything can be purchased for a price, Mr. Westin.”
Intrigued, Victoria turned, surprised to find him approaching. He took a position next to her, his gaze on the view, but his attention fully focused on her. She felt the shimmer of his power sweep over her, searching for her weaknesses.
Unable to resist the danger, she rubbed her shoulder against him and inhaled the rich, masculine scent of his skin–a mixture of thousand-dollar cologne and pure Max Westin. Her breathing became shallow, her heart rate picked up. Losing her perspective, Victoria moved away. It had been a long time since she’d indulged in a powerful man. Too long. The other Hunters had been crafty and seductive. Westin had that and pure magical muscle.
“Max,” she called softly, hurrying their familiarity by using his first name.
She looked over her shoulder. He was following her. Stalking her. Reminding her that he was the predator here.
Oh, he could be fun. If he wanted to play. “Have dinner with me.”
“My place,” he agreed.
She moved to the wet bar and retrieved two glass bottles of milk, a deliberate choice that showed her cognizance. Certainly he knew how she worked. But did he know why?
Did Westin know that with Darius’ dying breath he had transferred his magic to her, making her far more powerful than the average Familiar? Did Westin know that she’d been loved by her warlock, and that it was that love which gave her the ability to make her own choices now?
Before Darius’ gift, she had been like other Familiars. The High Council assigned the pairings between her kind and their magical counterparts, regardless of their wishes. Some Familiars were unhappy with their partners. She had been lucky the first time, finding a love for Darius that transcended time. Now, because of that love, she was too powerful to be taken against her will. In the two centuries since she’d lost him, no other warlock had succeeded in collaring her. Westin would fare no better. She had loved once, and deeply. There would never be another warlock for her.
Swaying her hips and offering a seductive smile, she returned to him. “How about my place?”
“No.” He took the bottle from her outstretched hand, his fingers deliberately curling over hers and staying there. Pinning her in place. “Victoria.”
Her name, just one word, but spoken with such possession she could almost feel the collar around her neck. Hunters did not keep Familiars, they caught them and passed them on to lesser warlocks. She would never allow herself to be distributed in that manner again.
So they stood, touching, sizing each other up. She tilted her head and allowed her interest to show, not that she could hide it with her nipples hard and obvious beneath her green silk shirt. Her chest rose and fell with near panting breaths, her blood heating from both his proximity and his darkly seductive scent. He was so tall, so hard, so intense. Only the silky lock of dark hair that draped his brow softened his purely masculine features. If he weren’t a Hunter, she’d be crawling all over him, she wanted him that badly.
As his gaze dropped to the swell of her breasts, his mouth curved in a carnal smile. “I bet I’m the better cook,” he rasped softly, his fingers stroking hers, sending sparks of awareness through her.
She pouted. “You won’t know if you don’t come over.”
He pulled away, his charm vanishing in an instant. “My place or I’ll have to decline.”
Victoria wished she were in her feline form so she could flick her tail at him. Max Westin was most definitely accustomed to getting what he wanted. He was a Dominant, as were all Hunters. Too bad she was, too.
“A pity.” And she meant it, her disappointment was painful. His place was not an option. Who knew what spells he’d cast there? And what toys he had…? It would be akin to walking into a cage.
She ignored the thrill the thought gave her.
“You changed your mind?” His surprise was a tangible thing. The man definitely didn’t hear “no” often enough.
“I asked you to dinner, Mr. Westin, and you placed restrictions on the invitation.” She waved her hand toward the door in a gesture of dismissal designed to rile him. “I don’t tolerate restrictions.”
A return warning to him.
When he made no move to leave, she purred aloud, a soft rumbling sound that made the muscle in his jaw tic.
So… the raging attraction was reciprocated. That made her feel slightly better about waiting longer to have him.
With calm, deliberate movements, Westin lifted the bottle and drank, the working muscles of his throat making her mouth dry. The implied threat in his actions was not lost on her.
Then he set the empty container on the edge of her desk and came toward her, buttoning his coat before clasping her hand. His touch burned, even though his skin was cold and wet with condensation. His gaze was as icy as his grip. He’d regroup and come back, she knew.
And she’d be waiting.
Victoria brushed her fingers across his palm again before releasing him. “See you soon, Max.”
Max stepped out of the St. John Hotel and cursed vehemently. Gritting his teeth, he fought off the erection that threatened to embarrass him on the crowded sidewalk.
Victoria St. John was trouble.
He’d known that the moment the Council had summoned him. Taming ferals was a task for lesser, newer warlocks. The request had startled him at first, and then intrigued him. When he’d met his prey, however, he understood.
Sly and playful, Victoria moved with the natural grace of a cat. Short black hair and tiptilted green eyes made her a heady temptation. He’d seen her picture a hundred times and felt nothing more than simple appreciation for a beautiful face. In person, however, Victoria was devastating, all sensuality and heat. She was a bit thin for his tastes, more lithe than curvy, but those legs… Those impossibly long legs… Soon they would be wrapped around his hips while he stroked his cock deep into her. But it wouldn’t be easy. She made that clear with her smile.
She knew who and what he was, which meant the rumors of her power were true. She was no ordinary Familiar.
He shook his head. Darius had been a fool. Familiars needed the strong hand of a warlock or they turned feral. Victoria was a prime example. She was already too wild, defying the High Council at every turn.
She’d also defied him.
Both intrigued and attracted, Max mentally ran through the information he’d gathered before approaching her. Victoria was one of the most prominent figures of their kind, her shrewd business dealings taking her from franchising a motel to owning one of the largest chains of upscale hotels in the country. Up until the death of her warlock, she’d been an esteemed member of the magical community. Her wildness since Darius’ passing solidified the Council’s position that it was best if the pairings were made with mental calculation, rather than through affairs of the heart. Occasionally, love grew anyway such as happened to Victoria, but this was far rarer with Council intervention.
Max rounded the corner and stepped into a side alley. Using his powers, he bridged the distance across town to his penthouse apartment in the blink of an eye. There he paced the acid-washed cement floors restlessly, every nerve on edge. He had no doubt Victoria St. John had stolen her own necklace. It would have been impossible for a human to accomplish the theft.
The museum’s security was too advanced. Victoria had done it knowing the brazenness of the act would bring another Hunter after her. The Council worked tirelessly to keep the existence of their kind hidden from humans. Her reckless disregard of their laws had to be stopped before they were revealed.
But why was she acting this way? That was what he didn’t understand. There had to be a reason beyond lacking a warlock. She was too self-possessed, too calculated. Yes, she needed some reining in, but she wasn’t out of control. Before he released her, he was determined to find out what her motivation was.
Exhaling harshly, Max looked around his home, a sprawling loft cloaked in silence and protection spells. The soft gray walls and dark armless sofas had been called cold and barren by some of his subs, but he found the decor soothing, absorbing the energy of the place with the ease of breathing. It would have been simpler to tame her here, where all the tools of his trade were available for his use. But even as he thought this, he realized something different would be required in order to succeed where others had failed.
Collaring Victoria would take a unique approach. Her power was augmented in some way, he’d felt the charge she carried with more than a little surprise. It explained how she had managed to avoid capture all these years. He would have to take her, not just sexually, but in every way. She had to be dominated, as all good Familiars were, but he would have to make her want it. She would have to willingly submit–body and soul–in order for the collar to appear, since her powers prevented the usual collaring without consent.
As Max thought of all the things he would do to her, magic coursed through his blood in a heated wave. He couldn’t deny how the thought of the taming ahead filled him with anticipation. Not of the task, as he was used to in his private hours, but for the woman upon whom he would work. Just the thought of Victoria’s total submission made every muscle in his body harden. All that fire he saw in her eyes, and her careless disregard of how powerful he was–not from ignorance, but for the thrill of the game. For the first time, there was a remote possibility of failure and that whetted his appetite like nothing else ever had.
Max wondered who she’d be assigned to once he finished with her. She would always be stronger than other Familiars, and he refused to break her. A broken Familiar lacked the vitality necessary to be truly helpful.
The hair on his nape prickled with awareness, warning him of the summons before They spoke.
Have you met with the feral? the Council asked. Hundreds of voices speaking in unison.
“She’s not feral,” he corrected. “Not yet.”
She cannot be tamed. Many have tried. Many have failed.
He stilled, wary. “You asked me to capture her. That is what I agreed to. I won’t kill her without trying first. If it’s an assassination you want, you’ll have to find someone else.”
There is no other Hunter with your power, They complained. You know this.
“So allow me to make an attempt to save her. She’s unique. It would be a waste to lose her.” Running a hand through his hair, Max blew out his breath. “I will do what is necessary if it comes to that.”
We accept your suggestion.
He should have felt reassured by that. But he didn’t. “Have you decided where I’m to take her once she’s been tamed?”
His jaw clenched at the vague answer, the flare of possessiveness unwanted, but there nevertheless. The Dom/sub relationship was unique to each pairing and required a depth of trust not easily passed to another individual. This would be the first time he attempted it, and he wasn’t certain he was comfortable with the idea. “Go, then. Leave me to plan.”
As the evanescent presence of the Council faded away, the urge to summon Victoria with his power and begin the taming immediately was strong. But he tempered it. His eagerness was ill-placed and inconvenient. He loved hunting, relished the taming, but was not prone to hurrying matters. A proper domination took time, something the visit from the Council told him he didn’t have. He had several weeks, at most.
Max growled as his cock hardened in anticipation. Weeks with Victoria.
He was ready to get started.
Spellbound debuts on the USA Today bestseller list. Thank you, readers!