Copyright © 2012 Sierra Dean
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I don’t know if the fool’s errand I was on counted as good intentions, but I was pretty sure there was a chance it might take me straight to hell. Handbasket included.
It had been almost six months since Holden had made me promise I’d spend the night with him. Six months for me to pretend I’d never sworn to it and to ignore the reason for his request. Half a year for him to prod and tease and constantly remind me he was still there.
That he was still waiting.
He wanted a night to prove there was more between us than just friendship or a wildly unprofessional work relationship. Neither of us knew what that was, but he was bound and determined to find out.
I, on the other hand, wanted to keep disregarding the chemistry because I didn’t think there was room in my life for another man. Not with two werewolf soul mates. My love life had been complicated enough without throwing a vampire into the mix.
That was then.
Now I was a werewolf queen, but I no longer had any soul mates. One had stood me up at the altar on our wedding day, and the other couldn’t bear to look at me anymore.
Lucas publicly abandoning me had hurt like hell. Desmond looking at me like I’d betrayed him…that ripped my heart to shreds in a way I didn’t think I’d ever be able to heal. I’d always known I loved Desmond more than Lucas, but since Lucas was a werewolf king, he claimed to need me more. And being the sucker I was, I believed him.
He’d needed me when it was convenient.
Then I stopped being convenient, and he chose to fight over territory instead of being there for me when I needed him.
I was out two wolves and standing in the open-concept loft of a vampire who’d never been shy about letting it be known he wanted to be with me.
And I was lost.
Holden stared at me, and I took a good look at him for the first time since I’d awkwardly barged into his apartment. He wore perfectly tailored jeans and a white dress shirt with all the buttons undone, exposing a sculpted plane of pale, muscular abdomen.
I swallowed hard, and it didn’t escape my attention that his gaze drifted to my throat. He had a hard time hiding the fact he found my pulse appealing. I wondered—now that I was here—if he was planning to bite me the same way he had in countless dreams.
“I…” My voice trailed off as I tore my focus away from him and let myself take in the room. I hadn’t been to Holden’s apartment for a long time, and I was often impressed by the stark, minimalistic cleanliness of the place.
Hardwood covered the floors, and against the far wall was a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows. I’d never asked what he covered them with during the day, or if he left them bare and hid from the light behind the Japanese paper-screen walls at the back of the apartment.
“Secret.” My name sounded different than it ever had before, at least from his lips. There was no exasperation, no teasing or sarcasm. The way he said it made the small hairs on my arms rise.
It proved to be harder not to look at him directly because my wandering gaze found the mostly nude Mapplethorpe portrait of Holden on the far wall, female hands strategically placed to hide the goods. I felt my cheeks flush, and when I turned away from it, he was still there, in person, more attractive than any portrait.
“I don’t know what I’m doing here,” I confessed.
He took a step closer, and the hunter’s instinct in me told me to back away, but I didn’t listen.
“Sure you do.”
Shaking my head, I added, “I shouldn’t be here.”
“But you are.” The obvious having been stated, Holden took the final step to close the space between us. A moment earlier I’d been sure there were miles of floor to keep him at a nice, safe distance. Now his hands were tentatively reaching for mine, and when his fingers twined with my own, I let out a shuddery breath I hadn’t known I was holding.
“What are you doing?” I whispered.
His grip tightened, and he pulled me towards him so my body was up against his. I didn’t usually run hot, and Holden was room temperature on a good day, yet somehow my skin was burning up the closer I got to him.
“What do you need?” he asked.
What did I need? What kind of question was that? I tugged my fingers free of his, and my focus locked on the pearl-colored buttons of his shirt. He might not be able to enthrall me with his gaze, but I still couldn’t look at him. I played with one of the buttons, rolling it between my thumb and index finger.
I could think of a dozen things I needed, none of which Holden could give to me. But I’d been drawn to him because I knew, deep down, that I might never have the things I once did. I’d made a mistake, agreeing to marry Lucas, and I was paying the price for it.
And if Desmond really was gone—which I was starting to believe he was—I needed to forget what it meant to love him. Which would be impossible. So the next best thing would be to feel something else.
“I need a distraction,” I said.
Holden placed his hand under my chin and gently lifted my face so I was looking at him. “A distraction?” The smirk playing on his lips did funny, wobbly things to my insides. He was almost painfully beautiful this close up. “That wasn’t our deal.”
“You said I had to spend a night with you. Here I am.”
He trailed strong fingers over my cheek and raked them through my hair, tangling himself in my curls. “Should I be grateful?”
The small hairs on my arms and the back of my neck bristled. The way he spoke was brusque and slightly predatory. He wasn’t exactly angry, but there was a new charge in the air that had little to do with seduction.
“You wanted this.”
“I wanted you. I made no secret of that…no pun intended.” Holden’s eyes were dark and held a hungry gleam. But hungry for what, I wasn’t sure.
“If you wanted me, here I am.”
“I want Secret McQueen, not some sniffling, mopey, pathetic schoolgirl who can barely get out of bed because she’s sad.” The last word was heavy with insult.
My stomach clenched. “What did you just say to me?”
“I said I don’t want you like this.” His grip on my hair tightened, and he jerked my face close to his, close enough our noses touched.
I’d come here expecting to give myself to him, but now that he had me locked in his grip and was looking at me like a victim, I was having a huge change of heart.
“Let me go,” I demanded.
“You’re the big, bad vampire hunter,” he said, his gaze narrowing. “Why don’t you make me?”