Derrick, a former spy, has been asked to protect the sultry Sonja, a death metal singer whose magical voice grabs him by the balls and won’t let go. He’ll protect her, all right…with every part of his body tight against hers.
Sonja uses her voice to purge her fans of their darkness, their hate and hopelessness. But evil forces want to use her magic for their own ends. All she wants, at this point, is safety for herself and her band.
When Derrick and Sonja team up, Sonja does her best to resist the lure of safety he represents, until a radical league that wants her dead propels her into his arms. Will his help be enough? Or will she lose her heart to him, only to be killed in the process of saving the world?
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The shitty light show didn’t bother his eyes; he was otherworldly. The extra effort of the band onstage was lost on both him and and the other patrons slowly filling in to see the main act.
He’d been in worse places with even crappier light. Such was the life of a spy, especially one who could move between worlds like Derrick. The term spook didn’t just hold true for his human side; it was reinforced exponentially for him as a shifter.
Tonight he wasn’t here to think of the past.
Stale cigarette smoke and sweat hung in the air, irritating Derrick’s puma senses. After thirty minutes, the opening band managed to move the crowd into some semblance of frenzy, if the tiny mosh pit could be called that.
Too bad no one gave a shit about the poorly expressed political message in the band’s lyrics.
Derrick stood in the back with the bartender, Rob, a leather-clad human that dwarfed most people. Rob’s auburn curls emphasized the scariness of his face; black eyes sunk deep into a skull that might have made Derrick afraid if he were simply human.
Pumas didn’t fear mankind. A two-hundred-pound solid mass of muscle that could easily leap eighteen feet need not fear anyone, especially when it could tear out the throat of its victims with ease.
Scanning the crowd, Derrick swirled his drink around and took a sip. The Manhattan slid down his throat before he set the glass on the bar and another quickly sailed his way.
Derrick reached for his wallet while thunderous kick drums, booming bass guitar, and fast riffs from the band onstage assaulted his ears.
Rob’s voice didn’t change despite the loudness in the club. “No charge. You’ll want to sip this one slowly, though, Derrick. In fact, keep your eyes on the stage.”
Nodding, Derrick turned to face the stage, grateful for his enhanced hearing. He could actually hear Rob’s words over the riffs played by the newest band in the death metal scene.
The band Ark-KaotiK jammed loud and fast onstage, causing a melee of noise while the crowd erupted into a mosh pit that would have made the Devil himself proud. For thirty minutes, they cranked out chords, kicked off melodies, and warmed up.
Derrick sipped his drink and kept an eye on the crowd. Many of the concertgoers were human, though he noticed a few wolves and bears had made their way in. As a former spy, he’d learned to watch the crowd for signs of violence, ignoring most of their behavior as harmless. Metal music listeners tended to get a little raucous, especially since this was one of the largest bands making the death metal circuit.
After a few more minutes of jamming, his target would appear onstage.
Ark-KaotiK sported a drummer on a par with the greatest of technical death metal drummers. Their guitarist played complex riffs and melodic rhythms like nobody else. Their bass player proved capable of bringing out a thunderous low end.
Sonja, their legendary lead singer, made them the most amazing death metal band around.
Stories circulated in the paranormal community about a witch with the voice of a goddess and the power to influence crowds. At a time in the country when waves of violent uprisings by angry mobs fed up with class inequality were becoming the norm, the youth remained neglected. Many of the displaced youth did what they did best: went to metal shows, got drunk, and took out their aggression on willing and sometimes unwilling participants.
Supposedly, Sonja could control all of that with her voice.
The tension in the crowd had risen to an all-time high. The previous band managed to pull out charisma at the last moment and rile up the crowd, jumbling listener emotions, serving as a reminder to many of the patrons of class warfare issues and capitalist pig ideas. Combined with alcohol, drug use, the aforementioned tension levels created a powder keg of violence. Already, two fights had been broken up between two were-beings. That couldn’t be allowed to continue. Humans would get hurt, a body count would be established, and everything that had been done by those in the shifter community to improve the perception of humans would be torn asunder.
Derrick chose to keep his distance from the crowd. Rob had asked him to watch the lead singer, tail her, keep her safe. Hanging back gave him the best vantage point; he could see who came in while he watched the stage.
“I really appreciate you coming out to watch her. I’d apologize about the music but—”
Derrick held a hand up. “It’s no problem. I’m a fan. Besides, you did me a favor, so thanks.”
Rob arched a brow. “I did?”
“Let’s just leave it at I needed to get out of the house.” Derrick smiled.
His routine hangout was the cigar club on the other side of town. Pumas were notorious loners. In his normal crowd, he hung out alone or included himself in conversation as he saw fit.
Except among his few friends, Derrick affiliated himself as a diehard metal head. If a show came to his part of town and even one of the bands was someone he listened to, he showed up. The large crowds allowed him to get out and mix his aggression with theirs. If he didn’t, he became irritable and that tended to turn off any women who might otherwise share his bed.
He had no misconceptions about sex. At his age, he could still have any woman he wanted, but commitment scared him. He shunned the idea after his last few relationships. Nicole turned out to be psycho. Mahalia couldn’t deal with him being a shifter. Margaret worried for his safety when he admitted to being a spy, and she hated the lies he had to tell her.
Most of them wanted commitment.
Even though he was out of the spy game, he still had reservations from his past that kept him from seeking a lifelong partner.
Except for the dry spell he’d been in, Derrick had a pretty decent sexual career, but his heart was empty and he desperately craved companionship.
Tonight, he wanted none of that. Tonight would be for the music, the drinking, and keeping the peace. And, oh yeah, protecting his target.
The lights went down.
The band left the stage.
Another drink slid across the bar.
Without looking, Derrick extended his hand and caught the glass before bringing it to his lips. Cool liquor slid down his throat and sent tingles racing through him.
Screaming voices erupted from the PA and mixed with loud thunderclaps followed by rain. A mist appeared from the darkness, illuminated by purple and blue lights just above the stage. The crowd quieted down just enough to let the aural buildup occur. Then the rain stopped.
A thundercloud outside shook the walls of the bar and boomed against the brick and mortar. A few hushed gasps immerged from random places in the audience.
The sound of shattering glass pulled Derrick’s attention center stage.
On the stage, he noticed what appeared to be glass shards reassembling themselves.
He scratched his head and did a double take.
Yup, the glass was indeed reassembling itself into the wine bottle it had once been.
Then it floated offstage while band members took their places, instruments in hand.
The small lead singer dispersed the smoke with a wave of her hand.
At the same time, the lights kicked on, the band started playing, and the lead singer emitted the most beautiful growls through the mic.
His heart thundered in his chest, blood pooled south. Derrick did another double take. He couldn’t quite wrap his head around the now-angry screams coming from the woman onstage.
She belted, grunted, made the disjointed music make sense.
Metal had a way of being both darkly angry and intensely beautiful if the singer’s voice and lyrics could captivate the listener.
Worse yet, she’d captured the attention of his dick. Hands angrily gripped the microphone. Dark, waist-length hair swirled around and fell at her sides, blanketing her face; Derrick saw plump lips ripe for kissing. Her ample chest rose and fell with each breath she took.
She moved with grace. Power spilled off her in time with the music.
The audience followed her every move.
The mosh pit opened up; bodies slammed hard into one another.
Then, as if they weren’t a death metal band at all, their music changed tones, became melodic. Her singing matched the music, and all the weight of the aggressive pit seemed to lift off the humans and into the air.
The pit slowed down.
Derrick watched the woman who now sang with an angel’s voice in absolute amazement.
Slowly, he slid off the barstool and made his way toward her, only to be stopped by Rob’s hand on his arm.
He looked over his shoulder and almost growled back at Rob.
The bartender shook his head. “Something’s wrong. She’s calling to all the shifters to come closer, to let go of their animalistic violence fetish. You go to her now, she’ll own you. Shake it off.”
Derrick must have looked puzzled because Rob scowled. “I’ll introduce you after the show. Trust me.”
He shook his head and found Rob staring back at him. “Thanks.” Derrick took his place back on the stool. He’d wait, but that melodic voice carrying such pain and sorrow had already woven a spell on him. The glint in her silver-blue eyes caught his gaze and helped push sensual lust into her death-laced lyrics.
Something resonated deep in his bones, but he didn’t quite understand why. Never had he felt a power like hers.
The overwhelming need to wrap his arms around her and hold her startled him.
The band went into the second song—a nonstop blast-beat number with rhythmic guitars that created the perfect scene of darkness and despair while Sonja continued singing. Sumptuous, clean vocals nearly forced him off the stool again.
Rob clapped his hand on Derrick’s shoulder and applied a bit more pressure. Derrick didn’t look back, but he gripped the bar until his knuckles ached.
She sang and took the audience on an auditory journey of a troubled teen struggling into adulthood who ultimately took his own life.
As hard as he was, Derrick found himself wanting to comfort Sonja now.
Lights flashed in sync with the rapid-fire drum kicks and created a strobe light effect.
Derrick leaned forward while still holding his drink. Lights onstage gave Sonja a more dramatic appearance. Corpse paint covered her round face; eye shadow set her eyes deeper in her skull than they really were; blood-red hair looked like the darkest tar. A charcoal sweater clung to full breasts and showed off a flat tummy meant for licking. Black leather hugged luscious hips. Derrick couldn’t pull his eyes away from her sultry swagger.
A third song morphed into a fourth, and an hour later, the band retired for the night after playing one encore. Sonja thanked the crowd and tossed the microphone onto the stage.
Derrick noted the mood in the bar as it slowly emptied out. People, moods, everything seemed lighter.
The air of danger and despair had fallen prey to sadness, acceptance, and finally relief.
His body still thrummed with sexual need.
Derrick finished another Manhattan and turned to pay the bartender.
“No need.” Rob shook his head. Auburn curls spilled down the sides of his face. Black paint around his eyes made them appear to be sunken deeper into his skull. “Give them a few minutes to clear out and I’ll take you backstage to meet Sonja. She’s…waiting for you.”
Derrick didn’t understand but nodded anyway. The nervous underlying tones in Rob’s voice made him wary. He gripped the glass, spun it around on the bar, and slid it toward Rob.
With typical bartender flair, Rob caught it, tossed the ice, and set the glass in the dishwasher.
A bottle of water flew past a patron and ended up in Derrick’s hand.
“I am still amazed at your speed.” Rob laughed.
His ears rang but he could still hear Rob with precision. Derrick popped the top off. “You’ve got speed yourself and you’re not even a shifter.”
Rob snorted. “I’m something, that’s for sure.”
Derrick laughed. “Indeed.”
He turned back to the empty stage and watched roadies carry equipment away. His mind wandered back to the singer, how her prowess on stage controlled the crowd with exactness, getting them to move just as she directed them.
Many singers were charismatic, but not like Sonja.
A few minutes passed and the stage emptied. Rob reached out and grabbed Derrick’s shoulder. “Come on. You want a proper introduction, right?”
Derrick nodded. Heavy sexual energy consumed him, making him fear he’d say the wrong damn thing. He made a mental note to keep his mouth shut and let Sonja do the talking—if she had the voice for it.
Besides, he wasn’t supposed to let her know he was watching her. As far as she would know, he was just an old friend of Rob's from school.
Rob escorted Derrick past the bar and down a long dark hallway. Fans ran on high and sent an obvious chill through the bartender. The leather he wore proved no match for the warmth of puma fur.
“Here’s her room. Remember, she shouldn’t know I hired you to protect her. Nor does she need to know about the note threatening her life. The guys typically head into the hidden cellar here for a shower.”
“Right, we’re just old friends from school. Took some of the same classes and I’m in town visiting.”
Rob nodded. “Right.”
Derrick rubbed his chin. “You said something went wrong when she sang and began pulling shifters toward the stage. What did you mean?”
“You’ll see in a moment.” Rob pushed the door open.
Behind the wooden slab that passed for a door, dimmed lights illuminated the area. Derrick made out the leather couch and the sounds of muffled cries. He rushed in and scanned the area.
Senses on high alert, Derrick spotted the tiny woman with her head buried in her arms on the couch. She curled up in a tight ball against the corner, sobbing…and clad in only hip-hugging panties and a bra that pushed luscious curves upward.
Alabaster skin glistened with sweat against the black leather couch. Her hair hid her face and muffled her sobs. Derrick sighed but caught a whiff of something.
“Sonja?” Rob stepped in and knelt at her side. He reached out but didn’t quite touch her. “Come here, Derrick. If I’m right…” Rob didn’t finish his statement.
Derrick stepped inside and scratched his head.
Rob met Derrick’s gaze dead on. “Now, please.”
The urgency in Rob’s voice matched his concerned expression. Sonja’s sobs continued to tear at his heart. He wanted to know who made her cry and why. Then he wanted to pummel them. Vengeance filled him instantly.
Rob’s voice floated through the rage and managed to ground Derrick back to reality. “Calm down, Derrick. It’s not what you think. Take a deep breath, clear your mind, and touch her. Please.”
Derrick knelt, ran a hand through his hair, and sighed, letting all the worry slip away from his mind. He found that calm place in the forest where the puma inside loved running free, and went there. Luscious smells confronted his sensitive nose. Colors sharpened. Then he returned to reality. Rob moved beside Sonja. His eyes filled with despair. “Touch her, please.”
Derrick didn’t miss the pain in Rob’s voice. What is going on here?
He reached for Sonja, touched a hand along her thigh. Smooth, soft skin met his.
Her thigh twitched and she stiffened against his hand.
Derrick started to withdraw but met Rob’s gaze.
Derrick nodded. Sexual energy along with something else crackled between them and sent a shudder through his body.
Sonja must have felt it, too, because she shifted and straightened. Her eyes widened.
Derrick slid his leather trench coat off and used it to cover her.
She sniffled and lifted her head to meet his gaze. “Thank you.”
Intense silver-blue eyes stared back at him with such force they threatened to knock him back. He struggled to hold his ground, remaining unsure of whether to remove his hand.
She answered that question by cupping his hand with hers and offering a weak smile. “You’re tranquil,” she whispered.
Derrick nodded and smiled weakly. “Sometimes. What’s going on?”
Sonja shifted again, rolled her head back and forth. She swept a hand through her red hair and brushed it over her shoulders. “I’m…empathic, and in this crowd there was so much hatred. It’s overwhelming. I picked up on it instantly and it inundated me.”
Blinking, Derrick looked at Rob. “It’s like she was thrust in the middle of the mosh pit before it started?”
Before Rob could answer, Sonja nodded. “You’re a shifter. Your feelings are heavier than most. Let me just touch you back.” She leaned forward and the jacket slid down her body, exposing a black bra.
Her hand caressed his cheek, then slid down his neck and stopped at his heart. She pressed the palm of her hand against him and closed her eyes.
It hit him then, the pressure of all he kept buried inside. Swamped with that weight, he staggered forward, reached out for the couch, and found the warmth of Sonja’s body wrapped around his.
Her sweet voice echoed in his ear. “You’re…missing something.”
Inside, Derrick’s mind went on high alert. She’d hit a trigger but his training kept him from showing any emotion other than what he wanted her to see.
Derrick looked to see Rob standing, Sonja glaring at him. Her brows furrowed, lips pursed together in a thin line. “Brother, please.”
Derrick stiffened and narrowed his eyes at Rob. “Brother? You didn’t tell me that, Rob.”
Rob sighed and nodded. “Yes, I did. Night before last.”
Sonya wrapped her arms around Derrick’s waist and pulled him into softness that complimented each hard bit of his body.
He felt right sitting awkwardly in Sonja’s lap, but had to ask about the tears. He wasn’t a total cad, though his body’s reaction certainly made itself known. “So the tears were a reaction to the crowd?”
She nodded and spoke in a whisper, “The crowd in this genre of music is so lonely, so angry, so displaced. Add in a few shifters and it becomes burdensome when mixed with all the normal pent-up aggression metal heads carry around. Sadly—or not, some say—I absorb that burden in the music, with my voice.”
His heart felt heavier.
Her hand pressed harder against his chest.
Derrick felt a weight lift off his shoulders. “It’s not—”
Two slender fingers pressed against his lips. Eyelashes batted enticingly at him.
Derrick groaned. He wanted to stretch her out on the couch and spread her legs apart while exploring her with his tongue and lips. Her scent, sweat mixed with heady heat, wafted past his nose. Yet he couldn’t make another move.
She was a goddess. His nerves felt unsteady, his body was on fire.
Sonja adjusted herself on the couch, pressing herself deeper between his spread thighs.
“I’d hate to be confused for a groupie.” He went for humor, letting his natural sarcasm come through.
She chuckled. “I haven’t any groupies.”
Derrick arched a brow. He wouldn’t point out the obvious to her yet, figuring she’d heard it all the time. Instead, he went for subtle. “You’re a beautiful death metal singer. Surely you have groupies.”
“Nope.” She shook her head and leaned against the couch, pushing her breasts into his chest. “None. I mean there are boys and girls who have a silly attraction to me, but it’s not returned.”
“Good to know.” He couldn’t keep the growl from his voice.
“Ahem.” Rob coughed again. “I should leave you two alone.” He glared hard at Derrick. “Be nice to my sister. She’s rather special, puma.”
The unmentioned threat hung in the air. Not that it mattered, Derrick was hired to do a job, not to fraternize with the severely attractive client. He smiled. “I understand.”
Rob glowered and backed out of the room, shutting the door.
Sonja slid one leg from beneath her, giving Derrick a view of very creamy skin and shapely thigh. She tilted her head slightly. “He’s very protective. I’m sorry.”
He shrugged again. “I would be, too. You’re an attractive woman, and I may be a shifter but I’m still a man. I was…”
“Dying to meet me?” Her eyes twinkled with something that looked like lust.
He shrugged and grinned. “Yeah. Sort of.”
“How do you know my brother?”
“Friends from school.” Derrick leaned back while not breaking the physical contact.
A brow quirked. “I see. Funny, he never mentioned you.”
“Yeah, we lost touch after graduation. I had a thing overseas. Real hush-hush.” Half-truth.
Sonja stretched her other leg out from beneath her and shifted in her seat, giving Derrick a fabulous view of her contours.
Instantly, he wondered why she was practically nude after the show. “Are you that hot and sweaty up there on stage?”
She rolled her shoulders and shook out her hands. “A little, yes. But the problem I have is that not only do I pick up the feelings, they mold to my clothing. Especially with the previous band pushing a message of hatred, I picked up a lot of negative rage. When I came back here, I stripped off the clothes.”
He licked his lips. “So your underwear doesn’t pick things up? I’m very much enjoying the physical contact.”
She smirked. “All clothing I wear picks up some semblance of emotion, it’s part of my nature. But I’m not a slut. And that clothing is hot. I mean, we wear all black.”
He chuckled. “I’d never think that of you. I can only imagine what it’s like to be in the limelight and need the break. And I’ll mention again, I’m certainly enjoying the view.”
Sonja flipped her hair off to one side, showing the pale curve of her neck. “I figured you would. I sort of sought you out.” A light blush crept up her cheeks.
“Oh?” He cocked a brow. If she knew his purpose, she hadn’t let on yet. “Why?”
She leaned forward, giving him an even better view of ample cleavage. “I don’t know. You felt…safe.” She closed her eyes, puckered her lips, and made a popping sound before returning her focus on him.
“Honey, I’m anything but.” He let his voice drop, watching her expression slowly change.
The deep-blue shade of her eyes intensified, the silver irises appeared to swirl. Energy poured out from her so fast that it slammed into Derrick like a freight train.
Memories, screams, visceral images all bombarded him. The instant message his mind received had only one thing: bleak blackness so heavy, so dark it made the winter night sky look like the middle of a sunny summer day.
He slid off the couch, stumbled back. Hands at his sides, he tried to brace himself for the next wave but it hit him too fast. Nausea settled in his stomach and all of those Manhattans he’d drunk earlier threatened to come up, bringing bile with them.
The sensation dizzied him, brought him to his knees.
All the agony he kept buried and all the trepidation the puma had about killing—even though nature said otherwise—made him howl out. He opened his eyes and saw the sight of himself being forced to burn a village because some government jackass was breathing orders to eliminate the warlords of that village by whatever means necessary down his neck.
That meant force. A lot of force because the villagers had been trained in guerilla warfare and wouldn’t hesitate to shoot the foreign shifter menace.
Derrick had no idea what was waiting for him or his brother once they arrived.
Max hadn’t slept any more soundly than Derrick since their return, and Derrick left that mission in the past with all the other ghosts that haunted him.
Or at least he thought he’d buried the dead. He opened his mouth to scream but nothing came out. Not even a puma cry.
Just then, soft arms surrounded him and forced him back to reality. Sonja held him to her, whispering sweet words while the energy pulled back from him. “I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry. Relax, please. Calm down, babe. Let me help you.” Her hand caressed the small of his back, ran up his spine. Fingers crept on his neck, teasing little hairs to attention along with other things.
He shook with a fear so dark it threatened to pull him over the edge into a bottomless abyss. Behind tightly closed eyes, he saw his puma standing at the edge of that cliff, overlooking the canyon while the hordes of victims he’d mindlessly executed with the click of a button slowly slipped away.
Derrick shook his head.
Sweet sounds of feminine laughter fluttered over his ears like the day’s fresh breeze.
The puma shook its muzzle, and Derrick saw creamy flesh eager for tasting.
He lifted his head, met her heated gaze, and pressed his lips to hers. Unthinking, his mind went on autopilot and led his body into hers. The energy around them charged with a different heat, one filled with promises of lust and darker, sensual fun.
Just the briefest of touches against her lips threatened to steal his control. Was this her magic or the pure attraction the two obviously shared?
Hands gripped his shoulders, nails dug into his flesh.
Derrick caught her arms, caressed them. Felt waning strength in them and vowed to support her if she felt even an ounce of the heat between them that he did.
Soft, full lips kissed him, parted for his tongue, curled upward in a smile when he swept his tongue over her bottom lip. Fingers tangled in his hair, in hers, too, caressing her while he ate at her mouth, then pulled back, met her fierce stare, saw the power in those eyes.
Knew she’d play with his beast.
The puma in him wagged its tail.
The second round was all Sonja, all control, all feminine power. Her arms wrapped around his neck, fingers locked behind his head while she moved him how she wanted him. Her body pressed into his, making the kiss a full-on affair, rather than the chaste kiss he’d given her earlier.
Then she pulled back and he swore he heard a growl that didn’t come from him.
Low, the sound vibrated and made him even more eager to taste her. But he remembered her earlier, trembling and afraid in the corner of the couch, curled up in a ball. So he did the sweet thing, shut his libido down, and took his cue from the rational thinking part of his brain that still had some blood flow.
When he kissed her, her perfect mouth kissed back, then pulled away. She kissed his nose, then moved to kiss his forehead. Desire still danced in her eyes all while a sweeter side of this woman emerged—something Derrick had never expected, not after seeing her onstage.
Then she leaned in again, smiled into the deepening kiss. Her mouth continued to work with his, while her tongue licked his lower lip.
Her arousal, along with the taste of fine brandy, filled his nostrils, surrounded him. Hardened him further. Quickly, he realized if he didn’t stop this train he’d either have her naked and owe her a new bra and panty set—not a problem—or just fuck it and shove the damn things aside while he ravished her.
Slowly the pressure on his mouth eased up. His mouth felt empty from the loss of contact.
She moved back and frowned.
Her expression confused him. “What? Was I too forward? I thought—”
She rose, shook, and wrapped her arms around her body. Turning, she headed back to the couch and curled up against the corner.
Derrick stood and stepped back. He didn’t know what had just happened, but he needed to get Rob. His client was going to be more difficult to watch if she couldn’t control her magic.
He never took his eyes off her as he backed into the door with a thud.
Sonja looked up with tears in her eyes. She sniffled, brushed strands of deep red hair away from her face, and mouthed, “Please stay.”
Something heavy coated the air and filled his lungs. The scent he couldn’t place was wet, humid. Then it became arid before disappearing completely. Odd, Derrick had never had that experience before. He shrugged, leaned back against the doorframe. Crossing his arms over his chest, he eyed her with wariness usually reserved for an opponent. “Are you sure? I can get Rob.”
“No!” She covered her mouth with her hand. The noise came out as a growl and made the puma inside Derrick take notice, almost as if it had found a mate in Sonja.
He didn’t understand her. The weight she carried pressed down on his shoulders with steadily increasing tension. Derrick had no intention of letting it best him. “What can I do?”
“Just…” Her voice shook with fear. “Hold me please.”
“Are you sure?” As he took a tentative step toward her, he prepared himself for another bout of energy to come flailing at him, but after that first step, none came. Then he took another. His body ached to come to her, to comfort her even though they’d barely met. Sex consumed his brain, definitely. His cock hardened painfully. He’d already sampled the sweetness of her lips, but the way her eyes opened wide with shock and anger, then fear, bothered him and did little to shut down his libido.
The puma wanted to claim her. It had been too long since he’d been with another. The human mind knew better.
Slowly, he stepped toward the couch and knelt before her. He reached for her, touched her, and felt tranquility wash over him like a warm blanket on a cool evening.
That was the best way he could describe it. “How did you do that?”
She lifted her head, spoke low, “I have to readjust to the larger crowds. It’s becoming tougher to control my emotional outpouring and what I take in. I told you, you’re calming.”
He laughed again, then met her stare. Realized she believed what she said. He sighed. “Fine. I’m calming. But if that’s the case, what’s going on?” When she didn’t reply, Derrick moved to the couch and wrapped his arms around her body. Somehow he knew she’d fit perfectly with the way he sat. “Like this?”
She scooted against him, pressed her perfectly round and panty-clad backside into his crotch. Her head rested on his shoulder. “Yeah, just like that.”
He looked up, then back at her. He caressed her hair, enjoying the feel of silky smooth strands fluttering through his fingers. Puma senses picked up her scent, lush and of the forest, wet moss and pine. Oak and earth undertones reminded him of the peace he used to find as a child playing with his sibling.
She shook against him.
“It’s…not your fault.” The faint whisper of her voice indicated just how strained she’d been. “Okay. Just try to steady your mind. In the morning I can do it for you, but until then…” Her sentence drifted off. Her chest rose and fell above his forearms, indicating she’d drifted off to sleep.
It took a moment, but Derrick cleared his mind of all the day’s events. In a few breaths, he allowed his focus to center on Sonja’s steady breathing. He stretched his legs and wrapped himself around the sexy little death metal singer who took on the weight of the world and made it her own. Oh, and somehow found a liking by his puma.
Rob would have to explain more to him in the morning. For now, he wondered where the rest of the band mates were and why no one had bothered to check on her.
She was their front man after all.
Only a day ago, Rob had come to Derrick asking for protection for his sister. He paid a portion in cash and offered Derrick free drinks if he’d show up.
“You can’t go to the police with this? They’re better equipped—”
“No.” Rob cut him off. “They lack experience with this sort of thing. Plus, you’re not the only one the Anti-Shifter League has a grudge against. They’re not a fan of witches, and Sonja is one of the strongest out there. At least that we know of.”
“Her magic can’t keep her safe?”
“No.” Rob had shaken his head. “No one else’s can. She needs a bodyguard, a protector and champion who will support her.”
“Sounds like you’re trying to set us up.” Derrick crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. He’d slid his sunglasses on, started to stand, but Rob put his hand out, grabbed him.
“She’s so very important. She’s lonely, and anything I do to bring this to her attention is simply going to make her worry more but be more reckless with her power. She’s…” His eyes pleaded.
Derrick couldn’t stand it. “The weak and underprivileged. There are others out there who can deal with terror threats like this. What do they want?”
“Control of her power. But I know you can keep her safe.”
Again, Derrick sighed. He had no idea how this man could put that much faith in someone he’d just met. Even as a spy, Derrick knew most people—most creatures—were liars. Not on purpose usually, but that’s just the condition of life.
How Rob found Derrick puzzled him. There were a few spooks still doing side jobs in between operations and whatnot, but Derrick was most certainly on the do-not-touch list.
He’d never discussed the secret agent stuff with anyone but Max. Then Rob showed up asking for a favor that sounded like something a former spy could do.
Being a spy had privileges, but after a while, it became difficult to tell who the real enemy was and what he truly fought for.
The second he had the chance to escape that nonsense and move to California, he took it.
And he ended up here, on a leather couch holding a beautiful woman, the lead singer of the most famous death metal band around.
She wasn’t just a witch, she was an empath, but how far did her powers extend?
Now that he’d seen her power firsthand, he understood why people would easily target her and try to use her. If she could knock him down by just lessening control over her thoughts and the crap she’d taken in, she could be a violent weapon. She was the one who calmed him down when the night terrors hit him full force.
She took those visions away much faster than the drinks and pills ever could.
Others could use her to do great damage to the world. He had to prevent that. That’s why Rob hired him.
He’d detected no threats in the crowd. No rogues, no black ops teams, no nut jobs nuttier than the usual religious freaks who protested and promoted a religious agenda safe from supposed persecution and damnation.
For the time being, she would be safe here.