Book 3 of The Only Sorceress series
Kora, self-proclaimed sorceress and new business owner, would love to concentrate on her bottom line instead of doing her divine mother’s bidding. But keeping her head above water is almost impossible with the goddess of magic’s past favors still haunting Kora. Especially when a Water witch begins drowning victims on dry land and their high priest—the beautiful Desmond—isn’t to blame.
Fighting off sultry vampire Maximo’s advances in between her nemesis’s temper tantrums, an upsetting funeral, and the arrival of vampire investigators hunting for the undead Prince of Persia leaves Kora little time to focus on her mother’s bigger picture. And Desmond stepping in to save the day has Kora on uneasy footing. But it’s his assistant who steal’s Kora’s marionette strings. This time Kora’s soul isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance.
The vampire sauntered across the space as though he owned it. He pulled out the empty seat to my left and settled catty-corner. Faster than I could follow, he had my hands in his cool palms. His milk chocolate colored irises ensnared my pale gray gaze.
His sable hair was styled in a partial pompadour today that managed to look sexy when it would have been ridiculous on just about everyone else. As always, a wavy lock hung over his forehead rather like Augustus Caesar—his trademark.
“Hear me out.” His resonant voice spoke at a soft volume that somehow carried over Henry’s music.
Against all reason, I remained exactly where I was.
“It was never about the ring.” One hand slipped down my arm, caressing the soft hairs across my skin. Shivers of desire skittered up my limb. The rest of me drew tight in a too-sexy way. His fresh lavender, warm sand, moss, and cedar scent pierced the divergent smells until all I could smell was him. “I wanted you before it. Rebecca.”
He’d said this once before. I hadn’t believed him then.
“I want you still.”
My breath caught from the force of desire in his heated eyes. The memory of us together on his sofa, on his bed, on my futon poured through me, warming me from within. My skin burned from it.
“Rebecca.” Sensing the change in me, he crooned softly. “It wasn’t only about the ring for you.”
He brushed his thumb over my lower lip. Finding a drop of moisture at the corner of my mouth, he brought his finger back to suck it clean. His eyelids fluttered shut, and a soft moan escaped him.
Maximo’s eyelids snapped open. He speared me with a full-on silent demand for more. Maximo moved in a blur I’d been unable to anticipate. His mouth clasped over mine, tongue urging itself between my lips before I’d worked out what had happened.
I tried to remain stiff. But the graze of his hand behind my waist and the other fisted in my hair called forth muscle memory. I melted into him like the stupid girl I was. He was firm, cool, and entirely sexy. Every eye in the room would be on us. After all, he was a local celebrity.
I should have bolted when he drew his lips away. Maximo’s grip kept me fixed where I was. I couldn’t move unless I was willing to force the issue with magic. I wasn’t. Not in Flagstaff with the local populace mostly ignorant of the Underground.
He pushed his mouth to my ear, whispering, “Querida, I’ve missed your warmth. Come back to me.”
The sensual sound cut through my core. His cool breath on my skin and firm fingers holding me made me weaker still. Hera, help me resist this man! I shouldn’t want to climb into his lap in the middle of a crowded establishment—not when I was ashamed to be with him in the first place.
“I can’t.” My throat closed from the strength of his emotion. Without an empathic link—emotion sensing courtesy of Water magic—I could still sense extreme emotions. Apparently Maximo was experiencing something. I ignored it. “I can’t get the image of what you did in my apartment out of my head.”
It was the truth, but not the whole truth. What he’d done to the foreign vampire intent on turning me was something I’d never forget, true. But I’d never wanted to get involved with Maximo in the first place.
He released my hair and dropped his hand to my shoulder. Maximo’s face returned in front of me. A grim expression stretched across his handsome features. “I did it to save you.”
The implication was there, but he didn’t speak the word.
“I know.” I nodded. “But I know that’s in you. It frightens me.”
Okay, so I was hamming it up a little, but it was the truth. I was uneasy he had the power and fortitude to rip a man’s spinal cord right out of his back.
“You are safe from me. Rebecca.” Maximo gave my shoulder blade a gentle squeeze. “I won’t hurt you.”
He didn’t say that he’d never hurt me. We both knew that would be a lie. He’d killed his last lover because she’d set me on fire. Maximo claimed their love had faded decades ago, but I didn’t know how anyone could hurt the one they’d loved.
I made myself give him an answer. “I’m sorry, Max.”
He lowered his head within kissing distance. “Querida, give me a chance to fix this.”
Though I could practically taste him, I managed to stay strong. “I’m sorry, Max. But we tried. It didn’t work. It’s over.”
“No.” The single word was stated with an emphatic press. “It isn’t over. I won’t give up.” He got to his feet with a regal flourish of powerful limbs. “I will fix this. Rebecca.”
Declaration uttered, Maximo de Sole strode to the glass door.
I slumped against the chair as soon as his sable head disappeared around the corner.
I’d held my ground. Maximo hadn’t been able to seduce himself back into my good graces. I was free to move about after dusk, secure in the knowledge my will was stronger than Wipuk’s First’s will.
Thank the gods for small victories.