Chapter One



Warm liquid trickled down the left side of his temple, a reminder that precious life pulsed through his veins. The mixture of blood and sweat stung his eyes, blurred his vision, summoned an ancient, primal, protective instinct. A fury unfurled from the deepest, darkest parts of him, promising wrath born only of the heavens.

“I’m sorry it had to come to this.” Red-stained lips invaded his field of vision before a soft kiss landed on the tip of his nose, filling his nostrils with the scent of mint. “You left me no choice.” The raspy voice complimented her dark skin, raven hair, and lean, muscular features. “I want you. You want her. That just won’t do.”

“What have you done?”

“Oh, I have a lovely dinner planned. I’ve invited my friend, Martin. He’s a master at making the ladies scream, and he’s quite eager to play with your Camilla.” The bitch dragged a nail across his chest. “I’m going to let you watch. You see, this is my island. Nobody tells me no.”

“I told you no.”

“And for that, there will be consequences.”

“Lay a finger on her, you die,” Marcus promised with a snarl.

“Tsk, tsk.” Barely covered breasts blocked his view of the exit. “That’s no way to talk to a lady.” Slow and thorough, she tugged each rope binding him to the chair, starting with his ankles, then moving up to his arms and chest. She stepped behind him and bent to whisper in his ear. “Nice and tight, hmm? Like me.” A firm breast pressed against his shoulder.

His facade of calm damn-near cracked. “Where is she?” He pulled at the binds, not to break them, but to test their strength. “It’s clear you have the upper hand. Just tell me where she is.” He pretended to struggle. The chair rocked back and forth, bouncing and banging against the floor. The bones of the wooden structure rattled under the force, dropping dust from the ceiling.

“Don’t worry, darling, she’s safe for the moment. We’re on our way to retrieve her.” She caressed his arm. “Now be still. If you fight me, we’ll have to put you back to sleep.”

Marcus loved a woman in heels. The pair she wore were of the over-priced, British variety but could have been purchased at Clogs-R-Us for the god-awful clunk they made across the decaying wood floors. What kind of crazy bitch wore heels in the jungle? He’d met his share of looney broads, but this one, without a doubt, took the cake.

“You don’t want to go back to sleep, do you? You’ll miss the fun.” Tensia batted her lashes, tapped his nose with her fingertip, and turned to leave. Her hips swung from side to side, calling to mind the Newton’s Cradle sitting on his desk at home. The ultra-mini, red dress she wore revealed the bottom of her ass. If he looked hard enough, he could probably see her crotch between her long, lean legs. Had it been a few weeks ago, he would have peeked. Hell, he’d be fucking her straight to the crazy house instead of pretending to be her prisoner.

“I’ll return soon. Don’t go anywhere.” In a clearly calculated move, she looked back, dipped her chin to her shoulder, batted her long, thick lashes, and parted her lips with the slightest hint of a smile. She knew how to play the sexy card. He’d give her that much.

Sure, he could’ve broken loose eons ago, but he’d stumbled into a pool of shit, and he needed to gauge the depth before coming up with an exit plan. Considering Tensia hadn’t left one of her goons to babysit, ankle deep seemed about right. Childs’ play.

Sexy, she was. Smart? Not so much. The poor girl didn’t have a clue who she messed with. Marcus, by most accounts, was human, but the blood that ran through his veins gave him superhuman abilities. Angel blood to be exact, and not the white gown, halo-packin’ kind. He stemmed from a pissed off group of creatures who, in an unfathomable act to spite God, mated with humans, spreading evil seed through humanity in hopes their dark breed would wreak havoc on the earth and someday rise up against their Creator.

Ears on alert, Marcus waited. The Jeep drove away, its engine in obvious need of a tune-up by the way it sputtered and clanked up the long, dirt drive. Confident his captors were far enough away, he bounced his body up and down. As he’d suspected, the well-worn wood cracked and splintered under his massive weight. A few more bounces, and it fell to pieces beneath him. Profanities ensued. He’d have a bruise on his ass and a sliver or two. That was nothing compared to the guilt eating a hole in his gut. He’d put his woman in danger. Shitty part? He hadn’t even met her yet.

* * * *

After an overdue stretch and eye rub, Camilla Nilsson powered down her e-reader. “Ah, good book.” For the first time in years, she’d enjoyed a smutty romance novel, beginning to end, and heck if it wasn’t a million times more satisfying than her usual self-help and inspirational mumbo-jumbo. It took two and a half days to finish this one. Which by her calculations, put her six months and twelve days ahead of her previous record. The down side? The throbbing sensation between her legs left her wanting. Craving things she couldn’t have, shouldn’t desire.

Her mother’s voice was an annoying tickle in her ear. You shouldn’t read that pornographic trash. What would the ladies at church think? You’re poisoning your beautiful mind.

Her mother had been half right. It had tainted her mind with something. A desire for, and belief in, fantastic, life-altering, soul-bending love. It hadn’t started with romance novels. Bedtime stories, those of the princess varieties, were to blame, which in turn, meant her mother was the root cause of her sinful desires.

Cami smiled, giddy with anticipation. She’d tuck herself between the high thread-count sheets tonight and await the dark lover who’d haunted her dreams for as long as she could remember. Some nights, he’d arrive a prince, others as a sword wielding, battle-scarred warrior. Often times, he appeared offering nothing more than a pair of strong arms to hold her tight. With each passing year, the dreams grew more real, more erotic, and more graphic in nature. Without fail, every one ended with promises of forever and happily ever afters.

A quick perusal of her surroundings proved disheartening. Alone again. The hotel’s private beach remained deserted save a young couple canoodling on a blanket not big enough for two. Waves crashed on the white sand, forcing a rush of bubbling salt water to her toes before receding back into the ocean.

The mid-afternoon sun passed sweltering an hour ago. Cami had the sneaking suspicion the couple awaited her departure, eager for alone time on their tiny love-towel. A quick glance over her shoulder and down the stretch of beach opened a gaping hole in her chest. No sign of him. Odd reaction to a man she’d never met. He’d never come close enough to get a good look, but wow. Just wow. Even from a distance, a magical, magnetic pull had knocked her off balance, and she’d spent a sleepless night fighting the urge to hunt him down. His fierce energy had lit her skin on fire, made her blood pump faster.

There was no sign of him today, and for some strange reason, that made her heart and flesh ache. Eyes closed, she sighed and imagined herself tangled with the tall, dark stranger on a blanket that was, incidentally, big enough for both of them. He’d have strong hands and soft lips. Not a doubt in her mind the man would know how to please a woman. Even from a distance, sexual prowess dominated his aura.

“Oh, Cami, don’t be silly.” She huffed. There would be opportunity for romance when… Well…most likely never. Not with her work schedule. Time to give the lovebirds some privacy. With a turtles pace, she gathered her belongings and stuffed them into her bag. E-reader, towel, water bottle, 75 SPF sunscreen, and the envelope labeled My Beautiful Angel that she’d found this morning. She’d meant to return it to the front desk on her way to the beach. It must’ve been slipped under her door by mistake. For some reason, she couldn’t let it go, and she’d fought the urge to sneak a peek all day long. She glanced up and down the beach one last time in hopes of catching a glimpse of the mystery man, then headed up the trail toward another dinner for one.

Cami skirted around the group of drunk hotel guests playing volleyball and approached the back entrance to her room. She stopped cold and clutched her bag when two large men stepped in front of her. They were dressed in identical black cargo pants and black cotton T-shirts that stretched to their limit against overdeveloped arms. Across their chest, each of them wore a holster with a gun at each side. What was security doing here? Why the firearms?

A tall, raven-haired beauty pushed between the men and extended a perfectly manicured hand to Camilla. The girl must’ve sprung from her mother’s womb doing power yoga—long, lean, and holy cow, her legs stretched for days.

“Miss Nilsson.” The stranger’s deep, raspy voice didn’t surprise Camilla. It suited the young woman perfectly. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Tensia. My uncle owns this island. I run it for him.” Tensia stepped closer and grabbed the hand Camilla had not offered in exchange.

Camilla reminded herself to blink and forced her jaw closed. “Oh, um. I’m sorry. You took me by surprise. Is something wrong?” Regretting her state of undress, Camilla took a step back, a maneuver immediately reciprocated by the matching men who took two steps toward her and over the threshold of her comfort zone.

“Oh no, Miss Nilsson. It’s my job to make sure your accommodations are nothing short of exemplary. Do you have everything you need?” The woman’s captivating beauty failed to cloak the evil intentions lurking under the surface of her hospitable mask.

“Everything is perfect.” Run, run away. Warning bells chimed in her head, sparking prickly bumps down her arms. Ready to spring to action, her leg muscles tensed. This encounter was not kosher.

“Well, that’s wonderful.” Tensia glanced at the beach bag slung over Camilla’s shoulder. “I understand you’re leaving tomorrow, is that right?”

She hadn’t made that information public. “Yes, tomorrow.” A nervous laugh escaped Cami’s lips along with a snort. God, she hated when that happened. “A work emergency came up.” Not really. Being alone on such a beautiful island amplified the ache that gnawed her heart, a reminder of how undeniably, pathetically single she was. Lonely, too. Yes, she accepted full responsibility for her current relationship status, having put work first and foremost in her life. How else was she supposed to prove to her family there was more to her than a pretty face? Intelligence, drive, passion—she’d worked hard to shed the shy girl image.

“Then, you must join me for dinner this evening. I’m disappointed to hear you’re cutting your stay short. Lets say seven, all right?” Piercing dark eyes shredded any resolve Cami held, making it impossible to say no. Made it impossible to say anything. “Good. I’ll have my boys pick you up. Oh, and wear something…” Tensia paused, eyeing Camilla up and down. “Wear something nice. Sexy, if you have it.”

Sexy? What a strange and inappropriate thing to say. Camilla straightened her spine and willed her legs to move. Stepping around the wall of beefcake, she scurried to her door, turned, and backed through to avoid being clocked from behind. She faked a polite smile and waved to the threesome.

“Wait! I’m sorry,” she yelled. “I won’t be able to make it to dinner.” In an outright cowardly gesture, Cami pulled the slider closed, leaving only enough space for her voice to travel through. “I forgot. I have plans already. But thank you for the invite.” Being rude was a difficult deed to pull off, but it would be unwise to ignore the nagging tingle, the warning this encounter was not on the up-and-up. She slammed the door shut before her unwelcome visitors had a chance to respond.

* * * *

A traipse through the humid jungle with a gaping wound on his head was not what Marcus had planned for the day. He was supposed to woo his woman. Dinner. Romance. Sex on the beach. Hopefully a lot of sex on the beach. Then a ride home in his private jet. Not this bullshit. Idiot. Why had he gotten mixed up with that minx? Why hadn’t he gone back to his room last night instead of stopping at the bar? Fucking old habits.

He’d come to meet and claim his soul mate, Camilla. Instead of hunting her down the minute he landed, like he should have, he’d heeded Chelsea’s advice and planned a mysterious and amorous rendezvous. One where he would sweep her off her feet, and she’d fall head over heels in love before he revealed the truth about who he was and who they were together. He’d only gotten as far as slipping the handwritten letter that requested the pleasure of her company for breakfast the next morning under her door.

After watching Camilla read on the beach for most of the morning, following her on a sightseeing escapade for the rest of the afternoon, and then delivering the letter, he’d decided to head to the hotel bar rather than go to his room alone. Big mistake.

Tensia, the sexy siren, sat solo on a barstool. He’d planted his ass down in the chair right next to the delicious beauty, as he would have done anywhere in any bar on any given night. He’d no intention of hitting on this one. It was just a matter of habit.

He’d known he was in trouble the moment their eyes met. She was the devil—it was in her glare, written all over her face, and unspoken but evident in every word that came out of her mouth. I’m going to eat you alive.

His usual MO, pre-Camilla, would have been to talk briefly and get a room. Getting a woman good and naked took little more than a flash of his smile or one of his playful winks. From the moment he had laid eyes on Camilla, his predestined mate, all interest in unlawful carnal knowledge with the opposite sex had disappeared. An event that left him feeling out of sorts, to say the least. Marcus loved women. Better yet, chicks loved the shit out of him. He took advantage. Hell yeah, he did. He wasn’t given his gifts and blessed with his dark and dangerous sex appeal to sit at home and twiddle his thumbs.

So when he’d dismissed Tensia’s advances, although appreciated, he’d expected her to lash out as most women did when rejected. Not that he’d made practice of telling them no. But he hadn’t anticipated the slap he received before she stormed out of the bar. Nor had he expected her to break in to his room later that evening and caress him from a deep slumber with a set of talented hands.

What had surprised him most were the two goons waiting outside when he’d deposited Miss Princess Spoiled Rotten, kicking and screaming, outside his door. After that, lights out, hazy memories of being carried through the jungle and waking, tied to a chair with a canvas sack over his head.

Curse his magnetic charm.

His supposed dream date had turned into a rescue mission. If he had to flick one more Godzilla-sized bug off his face, he would lose it for good. The buzz of the hotel’s air conditioning units grew louder, an indication he was close. About goddamned time.

Electrical charges danced across his skin, quickening his pulse. His body’s way of announcing her presence. Definitely not the romantic interlude he’d arranged. Oh well, he’d make due. It was the end game that mattered—Camilla by his side for eternity.

No guessing what that psycho bitch, Tensia, planned to do to his lady. Camilla better be there, or so help him that sexy viper in the killer red dress would meet her maker sixty years too soon.

* * * *

A rat-tat-tat at the front door sent Cami flying off her wicker chair. Already on edge thanks to her earlier encounter with Miss Greco and the henchmen, she drew a deep breath, hoping to steady her pulse. A heated flush burned her cheeks. Jeez, why was she so nervous?

She pulled at the back of her bikini bottom, dislodged it from her crack, and looked down to make sure her bosoms hadn’t fallen out of the way-too-tiny top. When she passed the glass slider door that lead to the back patio, a large, dark shadow caught her eye. Goosebumps exploded across her arms, and her heart fluttered.

The rat-tat-tat beckoned her again. Someone strummed their fingernails on the door. Someone with zero patience. She’d almost reached the knob when a loud pound on the glass sent her ticker in to a dangerous rhythm.

“Seriously? Both doors at the same time?” she mumbled. Pulled by an invisible, magical, unsettling impulse, she stepped toward the daunting form, outlined in shadow, behind the gauze curtain.

In a perfectly synchronized series of events, the glass exploded in a spray of shards. Behind her, a giant boot busted through the front door, throwing splinters of pale wood across the room. Camilla dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around her head.

“What’s happening?” Her scream bounced off the walls. Trapped in the micro-bikini that she hadn’t wanted but her best friend had insisted she buy to attract a man, Cami didn’t know which way to run. Something slid over her shoulders—her swimsuit cover-up.

Through the door behind her, she heard Tensia shouting, “I have a key, idiots. Get out of my way.”

Quickly righting her garment, she looked up into the most alluring hazel eyes she’d ever had the pleasure of examining.

“Oh.” She gasped. An explosion of adrenaline or fireworks or electricity—maybe all three—blasted her chest. There was no denying by her body’s reaction. It was the man she’d admired on the beach.

The door handle rattled.

“We need to go. Now.” The stranger lifted her effortlessly over his shoulder and headed out the back door. Shards of glass crunched into the avocado green carpet under his solid boots. Skirting the table, he grabbed her beach bag and tossed it over his other shoulder. With unnatural ease, he maneuvered through the broken door and drudged through the sand at a slow jog. She braced her hands on his back to keep from bouncing. When they hit tall grass, he found his footing and started to run, forcing the air from her lungs in violent, painful bursts.

Camilla squeezed her eyes shut, breathed through the pain, and prayed this wouldn’t be her last day on earth.




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