He stopped a few feet away and stood hands on hips. “I’m sorry for snapping.” He walked back to me. “I admire your compassion, but it’s a human emotion. It’s not something that will serve you well in our world. In your true world.”
I wanted to argue, but my words evaded me. And then his arm was around my waist, and the world splintered. Uncertainty gripped me, because what if he was right? What if my human nature became my downfall?
I stared at my naked body in the mirror. I had muscle tone. My arms, shoulders, and my stomach … Shit, where was the cushion? Cora was going to go nuts when she saw me.
Four days of intensive training and the weight was falling off. I was stronger. I felt stronger. I may actually be able to kick ass. Okay, I was getting ahead of myself, but damn, it was exciting.
And all because Peiter had died.
I swear there was a negative Nancy living in my head who loved to torment me. I hit ignore on her ass and focused on working the tangles from my hair. I had a club to go to. Weird considering I’d not long ago woken up, but morning here was nighttime in the human world.
“Nice work.” Mal’s drawl was like a bucket of ice water over my post-bath warm skin.
I grabbed the towel I’d discarded on my bed and wrapped it around myself before turning to spear him with a glare.
“What. The. Fuck?”
Mal leaned casually against the door jamb, arms crossed. “You should really lock your door.”
His hair was artfully tousled, green eyes super sharp in his chiseled, arrogant face. My palm itched to slap his alabaster cheek.
“I did bloody lock it.” I bit out the words through clenched teeth.
“Oh, yeah.” He shrugged one shoulder. “I picked the lock.”
He pushed off the doorjamb and sauntered into my room, all slender-hipped and sexy. No. Not sexy. Damn, he was putting shit into my head again.
“Conah’s whipping you into shape nicely,” he said.
He was raking me over as if he could see right through my towel. My skin heated, and my mouth went dry.
God, if he came any closer … what? Contradictory emotions swirled inside me. My brain telling me to yell at him, and my hands wanting to drop the towel because as much as I hated to admit it, there was something pure sex about Mal that went straight to my core. I’d be damned if I’d let him know that, though.
I lifted my chin and glared at him. “Get out.”
He pulled open my dresser drawer and plucked out a pair of lacy pink panties. “Ooh, nice.” He studied me, gaze on my hip area. “But I bet they give you a wedgie, don’t they?”
I couldn’t get a read off him. Conah must have told him about my empath ability, and now he was blocking me too. But one thing I’d learned about Mal over the past few days was that he liked to play games. He liked to rile me up and see me flustered. This, coming into my room like this, was his attempt to embarrass me, to make me sweat. Well, fuck that, two could play at that game. My head and my body were both going to get what they wanted.
I dropped the towel.
His mouth parted in shock, and the lacy underwear he was holding slipped from his fingers.
Satisfaction surged in my chest. Satisfaction and the sluggish heat of arousal because he was looking at me, really looking. Unashamedly devouring me with his eyes. It was as if he were touching me. My pulse sped up, but I kept my expression neutral.
“What do you want, Mal?” I padded casually over to my bed and picked up the underwear I’d laid out earlier. Black cotton panties. I stepped into them, ignoring the urge to hurry and cover myself. “I don’t have all day.” My tone was light as I clipped on my bra. “Conah and I are headed out.” My black slinky halter-neck top went on next, and then I stood facing him, hands on hips. “Well?”
He walked toward me, and I took an involuntary step back. His eyes flared with triumph.
“What do you want, Mal?” My voice trembled slightly, giving me away. Fuck.
“What do I want?” He leaned in, his gaze darting across my face as if taking in every minute detail before dropping to my mouth. “What do I want?” he said in a pondering tone. He inched closer, so our lips were a hairbreadth apart. My mouth parted slightly, lips tingling with expectation. “Nothing you could give me.”
He stepped back, and my breath whooshed out in a rush. What the fuck?
He backed up, his signature cocky smile on his face. “Don’t try playing games with me, Fee. You’ll lose.”
Bastard. “Get out.”
He was already at the door, though. “Your dagger has arrived,” he threw over his shoulder.
Excitement jumped in my veins. My weapon was here. Wait. Since when did I get excited over a dagger?
“Don’t overthink it,” Mal said. “You’re a demon. Sharp pointy things are our go-to for fun. You’ll get used to it.” He made to leave.
“Wait, is that all you came to say?”
He looked back over his shoulder. “And it was totally worth it for the show.”
The door closed softly behind him, leaving me with a thudding heart and hot cheeks.
I was in my impulse-buy jeans. Why had I packed them? No idea. They were that item that you kept in your closet, hoping one day you’d try them on and look amazing in them. My regular jeans were loose. Actually, too loose to wear without a belt to cinch in the waist, and these beauties fit perfectly.
I made my way toward the lounge but paused outside as the sound of slightly raised voices reached me.
“—you think you’re doing, anyway?”
This one was Mal, demanding and annoyed.
“I’m pouring a drink,” Conah replied.
“You know what I’m talking about, brother.” He saturated that word with sarcasm.
“I’m doing my job,” Conah replied. “Maybe you should do yours.”
“Yes, really. If you’re so worried, maybe you’d like to tag along?”
“You think I care?”
“You obviously do, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Conah retorted.
“Fine, I’m concerned, and so should you be. She’s broken. You know it, I know it. She’s the only one that doesn’t realize it.”
Wait, were they talking about me? Broken?
“It’s not that big of a deal.” Conah didn’t sound too sure, though. “We’re all broken in some way. Better to be oblivious.”
“Are you insane? Do you know how much power it takes to do what she—”
Shit, they knew I was out here. I walked in. “What did I miss?”
Mal didn’t look at me; his attention remained on Conah, lip curled. “I’m out.” He strode from the room without even looking at me. A far cry from the demon of an hour ago who hadn’t been able to take his eyes off me.
Conah drained his glass, giving me a moment to check him out in his clubbing clothes. He’d paired a navy shirt, sleeves rolled up, with dark denim and boots. His golden hair was brushed back off his forehead, but I was transfixed by the bob of his throat as he swallowed. It was a sexy throat. He finally looked at me and smiled. But his eyes remained troubled.
“Ready to go?” he asked.
I didn’t like this weird feeling between us. “Is everything all right?”
He glanced at the door. “Nothing for you to worry about.”
I wanted to confront him about his conversation with Mal, to ask if they’d been arguing about me, but intuition warned me not to press.
Instead, I fixed a bright smile on my face. “Mal said my dagger arrived?”
“Yes, we can work on dagger use tomorrow.” He held out his hand. “We should go.”
I did enjoy holding his hand, even if it was brief. I slipped my palm into his and allowed him to draw me close, reveling in the scent he was wearing today, citrusy and fresh.
Do not sniff him, Fee. “You know, we need to address how I’m going to get to and from the underworld soon? You can’t be my escort forever.”
“I can’t?” His tone was suddenly playful, and my pulse leaped.
But then the world splintered, taking my concerns with it.
Music pressed in on me, vibrating through me as I made my way across the club. Conah was right behind me, his hand on the small of my back, sending tingles through the thin fabric of my halter-neck. Focus, Fee. I scanned faces, looking for the chestnut-haired guy who’d led Peiter to his doom.
No sign of him.
We combed the club three times, and Conah made sure he was touching me all the time. A hand on my elbow, at the small of my back. Fingers twined with mine in an intimate handhold. Fuck, I was too old for this tummy flutter shit, but damn, it felt good.
After the third sweep, he brought me to a halt by a set of steps that led to a cute balcony looking down on the dance floor.
“I’ll grab a couple of drinks,” he said. “Meet me up on the balcony. We can view the club from there.”
While pretending to lounge with drinks. Good plan. I watched him melt into the crowd, well, not completely, because he was a head taller than most of the people in the club and drawing a shit load of attention because let’s face it, he was gorgeous, and I was so doomed.
If I were a cartoon character, my heart would be beating out of my chest. With Lucas, the attraction had crept up over time, but with Conah, it smashed me in the face every time we were together. The attraction to Conah was different from my physical attraction to Mal because I actually liked Conah. When it came to Mal, my body was a fucking traitor. Pheromones were fuckers. I tore my gaze from Conah and raked it over the dance floor and its bopping inhabitants before heading up the steps to get a better look.
A couple canoodled on the cushy seats at the back. Ignoring them, I took a spot at the barrier looking down on the dance floor. Had we missed our guy? What if he wasn’t a regular? What if this had simply been a one-off meeting place. This was a long shot, and both Conah and I knew it. Speaking of Conah, there he was, at the bar ordering drinks.