Wanting her was one thing. Keeping her was another…
Serenity Danssaert was already in way over her head. Not even her MI6 training or her powers as one of the seven Pleiades witches is going to save her sister. Then Alexi Jovec shows up. A secret operative working for unknown forces, he’s impossibly sexy and dangerous…and the guy who bailed on Serenity after a red-hot, racy night.
So bonding to him as her destined—the One—is so very wrong.
While Alexi’s need to own Serenity—body, soul, and beyond—is nearly unbearable, it’s also forbidden. He’s the last man who could ever be her destined. Besides, Hades’s right-hand man cannot bond with a chosen Pleiades witch. He may be the one man who can protect her, but she can never be his to keep.
Black Friday Target
Alexi Jovec had a job. He strode out of the Roosevelt Fields parking deck stairwell toward the mall entrance. He refused to ride the jam-packed elevator. By nature of what he was, of the death he could deliver, crowd situations were a bad idea. People panicked when their sixth sense picked up his predator aura. He pulled the collar of his long wool coat up around his neck to ward off the blistering Long Island wind. The throngs of people surprised him. And, made his job trickier.
He typically avoided crowded two-story concrete megaliths dedicated to materialistic insanity. Today, however, was about eliminating a key terrorist. As an assassin directed by Hades to eliminate the most corrupt and evil souls, he knew the dregs of society and the upper elite, his usual targets. A bottom dweller was here.
At the mall entrance people paused by a man dressed as Santa ringing a bell and put money into his box. He’d seen such bell ringers in movies, but wasn’t clear on the American holiday tradition. Fit in. Do like everyone else. Give the man money.
“How much?” he asked the Santa who smelled as if he’d spent his last break chain smoking.
“Whaaa?” Santa stopped ringing the bell and gaped as if he’d spoken a foreign language.
Maybe his accent had been too thick. Alexi focused to say in clear American English, “How much does it cost?”
“For the love of Benji.” Santa rolled his eyes. “I know you’re messing with me. Donate whatever you want.” Santa gasped and took a step away from Alexi. His face ghosted with the telltale reaction to Alexi’s aura. Not good.
A small hand wrapped around his arm. “Give the man something, honey. Let’s get inside. I’m cold.”
Alexi gaped down at his wife, Serenity. He’d married the witch and ex-MI6 operative several months ago, but every time he saw her red-streaked dark hair and blue eyes he thanked his lucky stars for the gods giving them a chance together. But, she wasn’t supposed to be here. This was a quick mission he planned to do alone.
Alexi gritted out, “Merry Christmas.” He shoved a hundred dollar bill through the red slot. Santa muttered a thank you as Alexi grabbed Serenity’s hand and paced away.
Inside, the blend of cinnamon, fried food and scented candles assaulted his nose. He pulled her to the side, out of traffic. “Why are you here?”
“You were about to have fun without me. We had an agreement. You don’t do these things alone anymore.”
“This was a simple one. I’d be back in time for dinner.”
She smiled wide. “You’re scared I’ll make it complicated. Isn’t that what you said a few weeks ago in Canada? Maybe, I’m only here to take advantage of a Black Friday deal.” She waved at a sign to her left: Black Friday Super Sale at Sporting Goods. Ammo half price. “Half price? Come on, you probably don’t know where your target is yet. Let’s shop.”
“No.” He scowled.
An hour and a half later he strolled behind Serenity with as much ammo as would fit into the backpack they’d also purchased. Heavy, but a great deal. Even so, after too many pushy, sour attitude shoppers and more than one uh-oh moment when a person freaked out about his aura, he wanted out of the mall. Where was his target?
A small boy he guessed to be six or seven blocked the only path through the surging crowd. The kid gazed at a space ship in the Lego store window. Something about the boy reminded him of a childhood best forgotten. Maybe it was the hair in need of a cut months ago or the clothes washed too many times. Or, maybe it was the pants an inch or so too short after his last growth spurt. Where were the kid’s parents?
A man grabbed the kid’s arm and hissed, “Move.”
Alexi recognized the man’s face from the images projected into his brain from Hades. Even terrorists had kids, and based on the info Hades shoved into his skull, in addition to selling guns and girls, this guy hadn’t been nice to the kid’s mom. Alexi’s gaze met Serenity’s for an instant.
“Why don’t I take that backpack,” Serenity offered. She shrugged it on.
The kid slammed on the brakes. “No! Mom said I wasn’t to go with you.”
“She’s not here.” The guy dragged the kid a few feet.
A woman halted beside them, her face devoid of color. “Oh, God.”
“Is that your son?” Alexi asked her, receiving a confirmation nod. “I’ll handle this.”
He heard Serenity say, “We’re security, ma’am. Just wait here, please.”
Alexi stalked to the man and ordered, “Let him go, sir.”
“Shove off. This isn’t your business.”
Alexi grabbed the man’s wrist and applied pressure at the perfect trigger point to force him to release the boy. Alexi twisted the man’s arm behind his back, incapacitating him. The guy cursed and wriggled. Alexi’s grip tightened. “Stay still.” The guy paled and trembled. People streamed around them, but none stopped to question, probably assuming him to be security. Calmly, Alexi directed the terrified kid with a nod. “Your mother is over there.”
The kid regarded him with a mixture of hero worship and tears, which blasted anger through his brain. No one could formulate a good enough reason to hurt someone so young. How well he knew the panic edge on which the kid teetered. Yet, no one ever saved him. Someone would save this kid today. Him.
The woman wrapped the little boy in a hug. Her grateful eyes met Alexi’s gaze over the top of the boy’s head. “You can’t run away like that,” she said softly to the boy. She stood and pointed at Alexi’s captive. “The judge said you can’t have him. The last time…you won’t hurt either of us any more.”
Alexi ordered the woman, “Please stay here.” He signaled silently to Serenity to make sure the two stayed. He twisted the man’s arm and pushed him toward the closest exit. He hissed into the guy’s ear, “You’ll no longer be a problem for them.” His captive trembled harder. He pushed the guy through the automatic doors and around the corner, darting them into dumpster alley. “Your soul has been chosen.” With a deep breath he released the man’s soul from his body, now free for Hades to collect and shuttle it to the fiery hell where it belonged. The body fell, lifeless.
“Are you two okay?” Alexi asked when he returned to the mother and son.
The mother nodded. “Your colleague has been really great.” She cast Serenity a relieved smile. “How can we thank you?”
The kid’s eyes darted to the Lego store again. Alexi said, “I think I have an idea.” He knelt in front of the kid. “I’m Alexi and I need some help. It’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow. She loves Legos, but I don’t know what to get her. Can you help me find something for her?” His gaze met Serenity’s. She didn’t do Legos and it wasn’t her birthday, but for this kid she’d play along. She’d really rubbed off on him. Last year, with the job done, he would’ve already walked away.
The kid straightened. All signs of fear and crying faded to a sense of purpose. “I’m Max. What kind of Legos does she like?”
Alexi shrugged. He didn’t know anything about the toys.
“Is she into any shows they make in Legos?” The kid led into the store. Boxes and boxes of Lego sets packed the shelves. Hoards of kids rushed around the store.
“I doubt it,” he said, dodging a pack of crazed kids.
Max positioned himself in the center of the store. “They’ve got TV shows, movies, city stuff, build your own sets or I don’t know what’s over there.” For each he’d pointed to the section.
Alexi shook his head, overwhelmed. Serenity beamed as she moved away, toward the front of the store. She abandoned him to deal with this bedlam alone? She covered her mouth. Laughing? She loved when his plans didn’t quite go as expected.
Max marched to a shelf and returned. “It’s a Lego rose…a flower out of Legos.”
“Perfect.” Alexi smiled. “She’ll love it.” While Max wandered toward the spaceship to gawk Alexi said to his mother, “He shouldn’t bother you again. Have a great holiday.” He strode to the register and checked out. As he did, he purchased the ship to be given anonymously to Max, but requested they wait until he and Serenity left before gifting the boy.
He took Serenity’s hand. Outside the mall he handed her the rose with a smile.
“What you did for that boy…I love you.” She stood on tiptoe and kissed him. “I got a rose and a backpack full of ammo out of this. Fantastic Black Friday deal.”
“I didn’t say the ammo was for you. I paid for it.”
She smiled impishly, “I’ll be I can convince you they both should be for me.”
Yeah, he was on board with that. “We’ll see.”
Meet Zoe Forward!
Zoe Forward is a hopeless romantic who can’t decide between paranormal and contemporary romance. So, she writes both. In addition to being a mom to one rambunctious kindergartener and wife to a conservation ecologist who plans to save all the big cats on the planet, she’s a small animal veterinarian caring for all the small furries, although there is the occasional hermit crab.
When she’s not typing at her laptop she’s tying on a karate belt for her son or cleaning up the newest pet mess from the menagerie that occupies her house. She’s madly in love with her globe trotting husband of ten years and happiest when he returns to their home base in North Carolina.
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