scroll down for excerpt Book 11 in the Heart & Soul series
Take one Argon healer, add one maddening Felys male, a hefty pinch
of sexual attraction, mix in some sass, a dash of dislike, stir well and
watch the sparks and hisses fly. Now add Death and a deadly secret.
Can Tera and Illam stop the fur flying long enough to save a whole
species from extinction?
Once the meal was finished, the dancing started. It was with relief that Tera watched everyone get up and pair off to the dance floor. Turning to her father, she groaned silently to see that he was leading a laughing Hanna onto the floor. Turning back to the table, she leaned forward and saw that everyone else had gone as well.
She caught a glimpse of Eulie and Wylin’s laughing faces, and the teasing wink that Eulie sent her way. Curses! That leaves one other person…
Everyone was waiting for her. Not one occupant of the other tables would get up until the main table was empty, and every one of them on the dance floor.
“I think that leaves you and I paired off for the first dance,” Illam’s voice stated coolly by her ear.
“So it would seem.” Smiling tightly, she turned and laid her hand in his upraised palm. “Shall we?”
Without a word, he stood and waited for her. Once she was on her feet, he led her onto the dance floor. As soon as they left the table, the rest of the tables emptied, and everyone was on the dance floor.
Tera glared at Eulie, her look promising retribution at a later date, and he grinned widely back at her.
Drawing in a deep breath, she turned her head forward and stared at the uniformed chest before her. Tall for a woman, she nevertheless reached only shoulder height on Illam.
His warm hand clasped hers securely, and his other hand came to rest on her waist as the music started. She felt the burn of his palm through the satin of her gown, and thought how hot-blooded the Felys must be.
Don’t go there!
With an expert manoeuvre, Illam whirled her into the dance.
“I take it we’re to continue this dance in utter silence?” he finally asked.
“I think it’d be best.” She rigidly maintained distance between their bodies.
He jerked her closer as they passed through a crush of dancers, his hand pressing her against him. When she made to pull back, she felt the sudden flexing of muscle in his arm as he stopped her movement.
His closeness was disturbing. The heat of his body seemed to seep through into her. A faint shiver went through her.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to be so close.” She looked up to meet his gaze.
His eyes held a curious expression as he studied her. He seemed to be searching her face for something, but she didn’t know what. Instead of revealing his thoughts, he said, “Considering how close everyone else is dancing, we’re drawing attention to ourselves by your continued resistance to be close to me.”
“It’s not like you want me close,” she returned sharply. But all the same, she glanced around to find that there were a few speculative—and amused—glances being cast her way.
“What we want is of no consequence right now.” Illam drew her close, the strength in his arms almost intimidating. “But I wouldn’t be rude enough to risk insult to my host.”
The reprimand was unspoken, but she felt it keenly as though it had been aimed at her. Which it probably had been. She was treating her leader’s guest with a rudeness she wouldn’t normally do.
In a sudden rush, she felt quite small. Oh shooting stars of Cyran, I’m behaving like a spoilt child! Sulky, rude… With a quiet groan, she shook her head.
“Are you all right?” He whirled her near to a window which opened into the gardens.
“I’m fine.” She looked back up at him, and felt a flush steal into her cheeks. Shame. She felt shame at being so childish. She came to a stop. “We need to talk.”
He whirled her back into the dance. “About what?”
“I… I need to apologize.” The very words made her cringe.
“Really?” In one swift movement he neatly swung them back out of the dance, through the open glass doors, and out onto the dimly lit porch which led to the gardens.
He moved so fast that Tera had to grip his arm to stop her from falling over. In a skilful manoeuvre, Illam had her backed up against the porch railing and was standing so close to her, she could see his pupils dilate as he watched her.
Like a lycat with a rodent.
Utterly still, his attention was focused on her. The heat from his body seemed to seep out and invade her senses. This close, she could smell his scent—male, clean… and with a touch of wildness. With his attention focused so intently on her, she felt as though he could see inside her mind at every thought.
And to top it all off, the… cool breeze… was making her nipples harden. Bloody weather.
“You were saying?” he prompted softly.
“Ah… yes… Sorry.” She made to move past him, but he hadn’t moved. “Excuse me.”
“Sorry for what?” His gaze locked hers.
“Uh… for being… inhospitable.”
“Rude. There, I said it. I was rude.” Tipping her head back, she raised her chin and tried to ignore the heat that flamed her cheeks.
Heat because Illam leaned even closer, his warm breath whispering over her face as he studied her intently.
“You’re making me very uncomfortable,” she said sharply.
“Yes. What are you doing?” She drew her head back and glared. “Are you sniffing me?”
“I like your perfume.”
“I’m not wearing perfume.”
He stared at her. “You’re not?”
“No.” What is the matter with this hunk—I mean lunkhead?
“Well, you should be.”
Tera’s mouth fell open.
“Are you sure you’re not wearing perfume?” Illam leaned back in for another sniff.
“Now who’s being rude?” Placing her hands on his chest, Tera shoved hard. “Back off, fur-ball!”
Illam froze. His golden eyes almost glittered with sudden anger. The black lines whirled agitatedly in his golden irises, and his pupils narrowed to thin slits. A low growl issued from deep in his throat, and those luscious lips lifted up at one corner to show a flash of sharp, white teeth. His ears actually twitched.
For the first time in her life, Tera wondered if she’d actually managed to push someone too far.
Illam’s arms shot out with amazing speed, going one each side of her, his hands fastening around the marble rail behind her. Caging her in. He leaned forward and down until they were nose-to-nose. And still the growl rumbled out, low and threatening. His rounded eyes narrowed.
Silence pervaded the porch.
He was looking at her like a predator would a prey.
Oh, suns. Tera licked her lips nervously.
“Scared, little healer?” The words hissed out low and deep.
“Not at all,” she croaked. Coughed. Cleared her throat. Started again, stronger. “No!”
“You should be.”
“Pull a lytiger’s tail enough times, and it’s going to bite.”
“You’re not a lytiger,” she felt compelled to point out.
“But I’m feral.” The vertical pupils enlarged slightly before returning to slits.
“You think?” Mentally, she chastised herself for tweaking the feral’s tail again, but something made her reckless.
“I know.” He leaned forward a little more.
Now she could feel the buttons on his jacket pressing against her breasts. The warmth from his body was creating a heat between them. Mesmerized, she watched the black threads in his eyes slide around quickly. His gold eyes seemed darker, but it just had to be the dim light. They weren’t really starting to glow, were they?
Those hot eyes slid down her face, and she felt the intensity of his regard. Then he angled his head, and her breath caught as she realized his intent.
He was going to kiss her.
Her heart thudded, and she knew she should push him away, swear at him, do anything to make him shift his loathsome lykitty hide back from her.
Instead, she waited in fascinated stillness to see what he tasted like.
And, stars, he tasted her instead. His rough tongue slid across her lower lip in a smooth glide, rasping gently. Her knees started to shake, and she blindly sought out the rail behind her with her own hands, gripping onto the smooth marble tightly for support.
Then he licked her top lip, with the same rasping gentleness.
“We shouldn’t – ” she began hoarsely, only to halt as a warning growl rumbled from him.
Tensely he waited until she stilled, then he trailed his tongue back to the centre of her lips, playing the tip along the little bow on the middle of her top lip. Dipping his tongue down a little, he found the very centre of where her lips met.
Heart thundering, Tera started to open her lips, eager for his kiss.
He nipped her.
Tera jumped and jerked her head back. Her bottom lip tingled. It didn’t pain, but she could feel the imprint of his sharp teeth in the tender flesh. Shocked, she stared up at him. “You bit me!”
“So? You bit me!” Reaching up incredulously, she touched her lip.
“I’m a carnivore.” His teeth flashed with a white sharpness in the gloom. “What did you expect?”
“I’m not a piece of meat, damn it!”
“And yet you’re so tasty.”
For a Felys, his smile was very wolfish.
Eyes narrowed, Tera placed her hands on his chest and shoved hard.
Illam only leaned further into her.
“I’ll scream,” she threatened.
“Go ahead,” he taunted.
“Don’t play games with me, Illam!”
“But I want to play with you, healer.” His breath was warm on her face, the faint hint of spice within it. “I find I suddenly want to play with you very much.”
How did the man manage to make it sound so… kinky?
“Well, I don’t want to play with you, so back off.” This time Tera gave his shoulder a thump with her fist. “Now.”
“You shouldn’t hit back, Tera, my ssssweet.” The last word came out in a low hiss that sent a shiver of apprehension down her spine. “A feral would take that as an invitation to play rough.”
“Is that right?” Tera’s dander was well and truly up. “As rough as this?” In a sudden sharp move, she snapped her knee up, coming to a halt just a hairbreadth away from Illam’s scrotum. Dropping her voice to a low huskiness, she drawled, “Rough enough for you, feral?”
He was so quiet, she wondered if he was speechless. The tension in him built higher. He didn’t move back, didn’t waver; he just continued to stare at her.
Tera arched one brow at him. “Nothing to say, big, brave male?”
“More like a promise.” A gleam entered Illam’s golden orbs. “Try anything that rough, Tera, my savage little healer, and I’ll be coming for you.”
“Is that right?” Recklessly, Tera pressed her knee up against him, not enough to hurt, but enough to add some pressure. “I’m so scared.”
“I know your scent. I’ll track you down and exact some vengeance. You might not like the vengeance, but I’ll be having a lovely time.” Those white teeth flashed again, this time in more of a snarl than a grin.
Tera feigned a yawn, and then gave a small yelp when a hand suddenly gripped beneath her upraised knee and twisted it out to the side. Illam surged forward and she suddenly found herself pinned back against the marble rail with his groin pressed firmly against her womanhood. He had her knee raised high enough that if it wasn’t for her gown and underclothes, her up-tilted nakedness would be perilously vulnerable to him.
His body is so hot! And is that…? By the suns, he’s… he’s…
Blood pumped hotly through Tera, flashing down to heat her where she had no desire to be heated. Especially by close contact with Illam. By close contact with an undeniable hard, thick length that pressed against her through the material of his pants and her own clothes.
Her feelings suddenly perked up with interest. Uh oh! Strangling a little on the words, Tera rasped, “Let go.”
“It seems I have the upper hand, Tera.” His nose touched hers lightly on the tip. “Do you surrender?”
“Surrender to me.”
The words whispered across her lips. Simple words, yet there seemed to be a wealth of meaning behind them. More than a simple acknowledgment of his having her cornered, so to speak.
Her breath caught when those sinfully thick lashes rose and the brilliance of his golden eyes locked with hers. The thin black threads were pulsing slowly in the darkened gold of his irises.
Illam breathed deeply of her. “You smell so good,” he whispered huskily.
“What?” Good? Oh my God!
His hips moved, a slow nudge of his groin against her softness, and every nerve ending inside her went on full alert. Little sparks danced merrily to life, and fire ignited in little flares deep inside her.
“I want to sink my teeth into you.” His sharp teeth nipped at her top lip in a barely-there sensation, but it made her gasp. “I want to hold you at my mercy while I—”
“I think I’m going to puke,” a voice stated out of the darkness.
Tera felt the desire slip from Illam quickly, to be replaced with an alertness that made his pupils slit. He didn’t do anything more than let her knee go so that her foot slid to the ground. Without releasing her or moving, he lifted his head and looked over Tera into the dimness of the gardens beyond.
A low growl rumbled in his chest, and if Illam had hair on his back, Tera could swear that would be bristling, too.
copyright Angela Verdenius