I already knew it was. I raked my gaze over him, trying to clear the cloud of possession I felt from him.
He was dressed in black—form-fitting sweatpants and a long-sleeve shirt. His dark hair had been combed back, and those eyes… I tugged my eyes up, away from the way his lips had flattened. If his eyes were normally dark, they were black now, and they were darkening every second I held his gaze.
An emotion flickered there, then disappeared.
“It’s time.” He held out a bag. “Put these clothes on.”
I hadn’t even noticed the bag.
Embarrassment washed over me, and shame.
I needed to get a fucking grip on myself.
“Okay.” I reached for the bag. We were both careful our hands didn’t touch when I took it.
My heart tried to stampede itself out of my chest as I drew back, shutting the door with more oomph than I needed. I almost sagged against it. Almost. I caught myself. He would’ve heard. He would’ve known his effect on me, if he didn’t already.
Who was I kidding?
He knew. He knew full well what power he had.
Biting back my humiliation, I emptied the bag onto the bed. A pair of pants and a shirt similar to what I had on fell out. Black runners. Socks. He had everything in here, even a sports bra and underwear.
I held up the lacy thong and arched an eyebrow.
As if sensing my thoughts, I heard him chuckle from the other side of the door. “Tanner picked the clothes.”
But I grinned. That made it better, less embarrassing for some reason. With a sigh, I changed out of what I was wearing. Everything fit like a glove. The shirt and pants were incredibly soft, but firm against my body. I didn’t want to think how much they’d cost, and the socks and runners fit. I felt better support with these shoes than I got from my normal workout shoes. The bra fit too. As did the underwear.
It was eerie how well Tanner could shop.
A hair tie fell out of the bag, and I swiped it up, putting my hair in a braid. I had showered before trying to rest and my hair was dry now. My fingers made quick work through the strands.
Standing back, I recognized myself, but I didn’t at the same time.
The outfit was similar to what I would’ve worn on a work errand, but the woman looking back was glowing. Her eyes were alive, blazing. Her skin was flushed with color. Her lips parted, seeming swollen.
I looked like a wanton assassin.
This was him. I knew it. It was his effect on me.
Biting down on my lip again, I looked away, turning my back to my reflection. If I looked this alive now, how had I looked before? A slicing pain split through my chest, and I struggled to get oxygen for a second.
Then, as I blinked, it passed.
I couldn’t think about it. I just couldn’t.
This was a mission, just like all my others. I didn’t know the parameters. I didn’t know the time, the place, the how, but I was a participant just as much as Blade and Kai were. Only I had limitations.
The door opened, and Kai stepped in, his eyes finding me instantly.
I clipped a nod.
I was ready, for anything.
Kai and I went down in the same elevator as before, only it was just us this time. When the doors opened, four guards were waiting. Two turned to walk ahead of us, and as we stepped out, the other two fell in line behind us.
We went to a white van with a plumbing company sticker on the side, and as the back door opened, Kai took my arm. He climbed in, pulling me with him, and walked us to the front where we knelt behind the driver and the passenger’s seat. Six guards already lined both sides of the van, sitting on the floor like we were.
Two of the guards who had walked with us hopped inside, and the other two shut the back doors. A guard hit the locks from the inside, and the other two walked around to get in the front.
The van started forward, and we drove out of the hotel’s underground parking lot in total silence.
The men weren’t looking at me. No one made eye contact.
I gauged the distance, and after we’d gone three blocks, all the guards took out their guns, checked them, and put them back in their holsters. Two added silencers and held them on their laps, pointed down.
I glanced over at Kai, but he stared ahead. He didn’t seem tense. His breathing was even. He wasn’t sleepy, but he seemed calm. Then again, why wouldn’t he be? This was probably something he did once a month.
We traveled one more block, then turned in to another underground parking garage.
As we stopped, the doors opened, and all the guards jumped out. I started to follow, but Kai took my arm again. He held me back, shaking his head.
I stayed. So did the two guards in the front.
The doors were shut again, and we drove back out onto the street.
We went into another parking lot and got out this time.
The entire lot was empty, except for our van. I thought both guards would come with us, but only the one in the passenger seat got out. As we started forward, the van peeled out, hurrying to the street and turning left, back toward where we’d just come from.
Kai let go of my arm and stepped behind me.
The guard went forward to push a button on the elevator. It was already there. We stepped in, and the guard pushed the button for the sixteenth floor. This was another building that had thirty floors, but it wasn’t a hotel. I could tell that much. There were no sounds as we went up, and we went straight to our floor. As the elevator doors opened, I realized it was an office building. We walked through a glass-walled lobby into the larger main room. Floor-to-ceiling windows made up the walls here too, and we walked all the way to the one at the north end.
The guard took out a pair of binoculars.
Kai took my arm and maneuvered us so he was standing in front of me, his back to where his guard stood. My back was to the elevators now.
I stared up at him, feeling his hand tighten on my arm before letting me go.
“I know you’ve had training for your job. I know you can fight and handle yourself.” He stepped closer, his gaze boring down into mine. His eyes were heated, smoldering with promise. “I am better than you.”
I almost laughed. “Are you serious? You want to do a whole game of I’m better than you…”
My voice trailed off as he closed the distance. His hand held my elbow, and he pressed me against him. He was rock solid, every inch of him tense.
He was serious, deadly serious.
I swallowed over a lump. “Okay.”
“I travel with fewer guards than my brothers because I am as good as my men, better than most of them.” His hand tightened on my elbow, sliding up to the back of my arm. His fingers pressed in. “I am allowing you leeway by only bringing one of my men. The rest need to be on the ground. My man is here because of you, not me. I’m telling you this as a warning. Do not run, or you will get hurt. It’s not just one guard you have to calculate taking down. It’ll be me as well.”
He pulled me all the way against him. I could feel his breath on me, warming me. A few inches separated our lips.
His eyes moved there, lingering before looking back up.
“Do not get foolish and make a mistake, thinking you can escape me here,” he said flatly. “You can’t.”
His hand slid up, over my shoulder and around my neck to cup the back of my head. He closed the distance, his mouth almost touching mine.
“I do not want to hurt you,” he whispered, his lips brushing against mine. “But I will if it means losing my sister. Remember that.”
I couldn’t breathe.
I couldn’t move.
I didn’t dare.
I didn’t know if I wanted to, so I kept still, my eyes holding his, and when he didn’t move away or kiss me, I knew he was waiting.
I nodded, my lips brushing back against his. I whispered, “Okay.”
That was it.
He released me, stepping back, and I felt deprived of…something.
Something wrenched out of me as his body moved away. I wanted to pull him back. I wanted to feel him against me, but I gritted my teeth. I pushed that desire down.
I was fucked up—that was the only reason I could find for my attraction to him.
My father was a monster, so I was attracted to a monster.
That’s why I felt this lust.
Disgust flared up in me, so much I could taste it, and I forced myself to step around him.
“I won’t run,” I told him. Then I went to see what his guard was watching.
I’d been expecting to be at the meet with Blade.
I’d been expecting he would step out of his vehicle with Brooke. Kai would have me. We’d meet in the middle, and whatever happened after that happened. Whether I’d stay and fight for Brooke, or if Brooke would actually go with her brother, I didn’t know. I hadn’t fully thought it out, mostly because I couldn’t. I wasn’t in the driver’s seat for this one, Kai was.
But what I didn’t expect was to not be involved at all.
At the glass wall, I looked down and saw two vehicles in the lot. Neither was the van we’d ridden in. They were SUVs. Kai gave me a pair of binoculars, and as I put them up to my eyes, I saw the doors open.