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“So? If you stop telling them that’s a limitation, maybe it will stop being one. I know you’ve taken a vow to protect humans, but if you just stop and think about it, you’ll see that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
“Your ways are violent.”
“But they work. Generations of Slayers have been raised exactly like this. And we’re survivors. Fighters. Just like those kids need to be.”
“What would your brother say?” asked Joseph.
She rolled her eyes. “Who cares? I stopped worrying about his opinion the minute he dropped me off on your doorstep.”
“I care. He’s the leader of your people. He was the one with the guts to walk into the home of his enemy, completely unarmed and naked, asking for a truce.”
“With me draped over his shoulder,” she added. “Don’t forget that part. The bastard.”
No chance of that. She’d been naked, too, though Andreas had gone to the trouble of wrapping her up in a sheet. To this day, Joseph still regretted not insisting that they unroll her and check for weapons.
“The point is,” said Joseph, “that your brother is not the kind of man I want to piss off. I don’t know a lot about him, but I’m fairly certain that if anything happened to you, it would be my balls getting ripped off first.”
“A trick he learned from me,” she said. “You should remember that.”
“Is that a threat, kitten? Care to have a little sparring match of our own? Prove who has the bigger pair?” What the hell was he doing? He couldn’t spar with her. What if he hurt her? What if he got his hands on her and couldn’t let go?
“You think you can beat me?” she asked, teeth bared.
He couldn’t seem to stay quiet. His mouth dug a deeper hole. “I know I can.”
“You’re out of practice. You spend all day sitting on your ass, doing paperwork and listening to people whine. Face it, Theronai. You’ve gone soft.”
Joseph normally kept a tight hold on his anger. It didn’t serve him well in his position of leadership. But right now he was furious, his blood heating with more than mere lust. He knew it was a mistake, but she got under his skin, and before he could stop himself, he was rising to her bait. “I’ll show you soft.”
He reached for her, planning to grab her hand and force her to feel his body. Sure, he spent long hours behind a desk, but his body was still toned, thanks to a set of kick-ass magical genes and the few sparring sessions he managed to fit into his schedule. And even if he didn’t have a genetic advantage, he never would have let himself go soft and weak. Too many lives depended on him being able to protect them with fast, brutal violence when needed.
Before he could so much as wrap his fingers around her wrist, she darted away, scurrying out through his office door. “Don’t you touch me. Don’t you ever fucking touch me.”
Joseph immediately realized what he was about to do and let his hand fall to his side. “I’m sorry, Lyka. I lost my head for a minute. It won’t happen again.”
“Damn right it won’t.” She inched down the hall, backing away from him. “Let me teach the class or not—I don’t care anymore. If you want those kids to die, then it’s on your head, not mine. I’ve done all I can unless you get out of my way.”
Once she was out of reach, she turned and ran, her skirt flying out behind her.
Joseph went back to his office and slumped into his chair. He wanted to run after her so badly his guts ached, but he knew that if he did, he’d probably just freak her out more. Though, honestly, he wasn’t sure how that was possible.
Had something happened to her that made her detest being touched? Or was it just Joseph she didn’t want touching her?
That thought was like a kick in the balls.
He scoured his memory for some kind of pattern, and it became clear that it wasn’t just him. She didn’t let any of the grown men touch her.
The list of things that might make a woman skittish like that wasn’t very long, but it was grim. Just the idea of someone hurting her was enough to make his hand stray to the hilt of his sword.
He needed to talk to Andreas. Find out what had happened to her so he could . . . what? Help her heal? Keep her from panicking? Warn the other men to stay the hell away from her?
He liked that last one. Too much.
Jealousy was a bad sign that his attraction to her had gone off the rails somewhere. It was one thing to think she was beautiful or even sexy as hell. It was a much different thing to want to possess her all for himself.
Not going to happen, he reminded himself for the hundredth time. Put your dick in a drawer and get to work.
His dick didn’t cooperate, but he moved to the next stack of demands waiting for him and went to work.
Tomorrow, when she was calm, he’d apologize again for losing his temper and reaching for her. He would find some way to appease her so she could be happy here and maintain the peace between their peoples. And, last but not least, he would learn to look at her without wishing his cock was buried in her as deep as it could go.
It took less than fifteen minutes for him to realize that tomorrow wasn’t going to be soon enough. He couldn’t concentrate knowing she was upset. He had to go to her now. Make peace.
He shoved away from his desk and the mountain of work waiting for him and went to find Lyka.
Lyka shivered, hugging herself as she huddled against the inside of the door to her moonlit suite.
Joseph had almost touched her.
His hand had been only inches from her wrist—so close she could feel the heat of his skin and a warning tingle of danger.
She scrubbed at the spot, but it did nothing to erase the memory of that strange sensation. It did even less to remove her from the danger that lurked here inside the plush, comfortable surroundings of Dabyr.
She knew what that tingle meant. She’d heard the stories all her life about the way Theronai recognized their mates. It wasn’t through scent, like her kind, but through touch. When skin met skin, a man and woman could both feel a buzzing tingle that told them they were compatible—that the woman would be able to wield the power raging inside the man. That’s when he would claim her. Collar her. Tie her to him irrevocably for the rest of their lives.
Lyka didn’t want that. Not with Joseph. Not with anyone. She wanted to be with her own kind and choose a Slayer mate.