And so it began.
Eli bit out a curse as one of the silent alarms was triggered. Though he’d been expecting company, he hadn’t expected it so soon.
She certainly could have picked a better time. One when both Ian and Braden weren’t off prowling the grounds looking for kitty food.
Then again, he might do well to be more worried about them than Tyana Berezovsky. She might shoot first and ask questions later.
Gabe was God knows where, having decided yesterday to disappear into the village down the mountain, probably in search of pussy. His parting words had been something to the effect that since Eli was so keen for Tyana to find his ass then he could deal with her when she got here.
Good help was hard to find and harder to keep.
None of the others seem to think Tyana posed any sort of threat. Eli knew better. To them she was just a woman. Easily handled, easily subdued.
He smiled. He was looking forward to the challenge.
Pulling his hair behind his neck, he secured it with a leather tie then reached for his shoes and tugged them on. He might as well either go save her from the cats or save the cats from her. One way or another, someone better damn well be grateful.
A quick glance of the infrared monitor told him she was slowly making her way toward the south entrance. The most obvious course would just be to meet her, but where would the fun be in that?
No, he was going to enjoy this. Savor it. He smiled again. And maybe before the night was over, he’d take the impending confrontation to the bedroom.
He stepped into the night and breathed deep of the chilly air. Quietly he slipped beyond the shadows cast by the glow of the interior lights. He went east, cutting a direct path to intercept her…from behind.
He closed his eyes and let go, embraced the faint mist, let it curl around him, and then he became the very air he breathed.
A faint breeze carried him through the trees. Ahead, he saw movement. He looked down as he floated above the figure clad in black.
She moved with grace and stealth, her movements slow and calculated. She made no noise, left no disturbance in her wake.
He contented himself with watching her, gauging her patterns as she stopped and patiently observed the area around her. He saw her shiver then look quickly back, and he wondered if she’d sensed him again.
He ventured closer, wrapping around her hair and whispering softly against the nape of her neck. A slight shift in the air alerted him to her movement. Silver glinted in moonlight as a knife appeared in her hand. With the other, she grasped the barrel of her rifle and hauled it over her shoulder to cradle in front of her.
A faint apparition, he wrapped himself around her in a veil of mist, faint trails of smoke curling around her wrists. Then he jolted back to his human form, his fingers like bands around her small bones.
She exploded in a flurry of motion. He went sailing over her shoulder and wondered again how the hell she always managed to get the drop on him no matter how prepared he was. He was starting to take it personally.
There was the wee little matter that he honestly wasn’t trying to hurt her, but still. He could have simply slit her throat, and he consoled himself with the fact that if he was a real bastard, he could have broken her neck.
But no, instead he was lying on the ground feeling like a goddamn sissy for being beaten up by a girl.
He started to pick himself up and found a boot pressed against his neck. He grabbed her ankle, yanked the knife out of the side sleeve then wrenched her back, making her fall.
They both bolted to their feet, knives in hand, and began circling.
“You’re late,” he said, though he wasn’t about to admit he hadn’t really expected her for a few more days.
“I had a few technical difficulties,” she said, and it was then, when she turned her head and a sliver of moonlight hit her face that he could see her split lip.
“Piss off one too many people, my love?”
She bared her teeth. “The last man to piss me off died in a Paris alley. I wouldn’t push my luck if I were you.”
“Isn’t that what you’re here to do, though? Kill me?”
He watched intently for any change, any flicker, some sign of what was going round that pretty head of hers. That incredibly stubborn, obnoxious, gorgeous head of hers.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve had this conversation before,” she said in a bored voice.
“Then what are you here for?”
He blinked, and she was in his face, her knee planted in his stomach and one fist buried in his ribs. He let out a growl of pain but didn’t budge. Instead he yanked her against him. She gasped in surprise and the knife fell from her hand.
When she brought her other knee up, he blocked it with his.
“You’re getting too predictable, love,” he murmured. “You have a morbid fascination with a man’s balls. Is that any way to treat such delicate equipment?”
She cursed in what sounded like four different languages. He recognized at least two and raised his eyebrows.
“And to think I’ve kissed that mouth.”
Her eyes glittered in the moonlight. Just before she reared back and head butted him.
Pain exploded over him. He let go and stumbled back, holding his nose as blood gushed. Jesus H. Christ. Bitch was vicious!
She took off in a dead run. He watched her leap like a damn gazelle over rocks and roots and disappear into the night.
He vaporized into smoke and streamed after her.
He materialized in front of her this time, stopping her in her tracks. She let out a disgusted grunt.
“Can’t beat the weak woman without resorting to your little smoke tricks?” she taunted.
He grinned and wiped more blood from his nose. “If you want me to apologize for pressing my advantage, you’ll be waiting a long time. If you’d just play nice, I’d invite you in for a drink…” he made a slow up and down sweep of her body with his gaze, “…and maybe show you just how hospitable I can be.”
“And you say I have an obsession with that part of the male anatomy.”
“I’m a man. We think with our dicks, remember?”
She responded with a quick jab. He dodged and punched back, connecting with her shoulder. It wasn’t enough to even knock her back, but he heard her quick intake of breath, and he frowned.
Then once again, he found himself staring up at the stars when she executed a lightning roundhouse kick to his jaw. And she was off again.
Damn but he must have it awfully bad for this chick to put this much effort into getting into her pants.
He got up, rubbing his jaw, and set off. She was making steady progress toward the house. What did she want? She wasn’t trying to kill him. Hurt him? Taunt him? Yes. But she was pulling her punches every bit as much as he was, and she hadn’t tried to filet him with the damn machete she called a knife.
Chasing after women wasn’t his style, but damn if he wasn’t wagging his ass after her like a damn lap dog. He had a sneaking suspicion the feisty little wench just might be his dream woman.
The constantly trying to do him bodily harm could put a serious kink in their relationship, though.
He shifted again and streaked after her, suddenly weary of the chase. It was time to end it. He wanted her. Wanted to taste her again. To get so deep inside her that he lost all sense of himself.
A low growl echoed across the night.
As he rounded the corner of the west wing of the house, he saw Tyana frozen, staring at two pacing cats.