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Forbidden Magic A Wing Slayer Hunter E-Novella Jennifer Lyon Smashwords Edition Copyright 2012 Jennifer Apodaca First

t Readers: Maureen Child and Laura Wright Proofreader: Anne Victory Cover Design: Patricia Schmitt (Pickyme) This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the authors imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locals or organizations is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.

Dedication: For the Wing Slayer Hunter fans. Your support is the magic that keeps this series alive. Thank you!

Other Wing Slayer Hunter Novels by Jennifer Lyon Published by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Blood Magic Soul Magic Night Magic Sinful Magic

Table of Contents Prologue Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six

Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten About the Author Excerpt from Cage Magic

Prologue Ramsey Virtos needed one thing. Sex. Now. Before the thinnest thread of his famed self control snapped. If that happened, the monster he kept locked down inside of him would break free. That creature would butcher any witch it could find to harvest the power in her blood. Then Ram would become the one thing he fought against on the streets every damned night of his life a soulless rogue.

Sex. Now. That was his mission, the one that had him turning away without a word from the concerned faces of Wing Slayer Hunter Kieran DeMicca and his mate, the fertility witch, Roxy. Screw their concern. They had known for a week, a fucking week! Known that the cause of the new energy winging through him as if hed had an electrical cord shoved up his ass was not from a supersized weapon as hed believed. It was from his soul mirror, the one witch who could break the curse riding him, making him crave the blood of witches. He had inadvertently crossed paths with his soul mirror and somehow activated the live-wire feeling hounding him. Oh but it got better. This witch who held the fate of his soul in her hands? Shed run rather than mate with him. Well, if she was expecting him to come after her, she was doomed to disappointment. Ram did not chase witches. Ever.

He shot down the stairs from the second floor condos at inhuman speed. He ignored the warehouse on his right that served as the Wing Slayer Hunters headquarters. Instead, he headed into the nightclub next door, Axel of Evil. Shit, he cursed, the door hitting him in the ass as his gaze traveled to every table, every dark corner. The club was already closed. Empty. Except for one woman. Her scent cut through the fading stink of sweat, stale perfume, and lingering sex like a spring rain. Clean, sweet, tantalizing and familiar. Ginny Stone. She was moving around the club beneath the harsh house lights, checking on everything, and probably waiting for her brother, Wing Slayer Hunter Eli Stone, to pick her up. Shed taken off the black and red apron the wait staff wore, leaving her in her street clothes. Hot lust drove blood right to Rams groin. Oh hell no. He wasnt letting her see him like this, wired to fuck or kill. This was the part of him he tried to shield her from. He cared about her opinion, didnt want her to see his dark side. Ginny was his weakness. His mate, he wouldnt even

recognize. But Ginny was the one thing he wanted but would never have as anything more than a friend. She was too young at twenty-three, too innocent and way too good for himwhile he was thirty six, and a highly trained killing machine who kept his emotions on ice. Ram had gone into the Navy, then the SEALs, only to retire and vanish into a branch of the armed forces so black, so secret, only those who served and a handful of civilians knew they existed. Ram had spent a decade in hellholes all over the world, rooting out evils few could imagine and stay sane. He didnt have any business around something as sweet and real as the woman across the room from him. He swore silently, admitting a truth to himself. His internal clock had known damn well the club was closed. It was Ginny he had come for. Seeking her out was becoming a habit. Goddamn, he was getting good at torturing himself. Enough of that bullshit. He turned to leave. Ram? He came to a halt, gripped by the sound of his name on her tongue. Hey, I didnt see you there, she continued. I put a beer on

ice for you in case you stopped by. He turned around, saw her walk to one of the two bars, slip behind the black acrylic countertop, and reach below to pull a bottle out. Unable to resist, he watched her graceful movements. He never tired of watching her. Damn he was bordering on sick-ass stalker syndrome. Tell her no, dickhead. Leave. Dont get any closer to her or you wont be able to resist touching her. But he didnt move, just continued watching, caught in the web of Ginny. He thought back on the past few months when he would often stop by after closing, just to hang with her for a few minutes. Hear her laugh, inhale her scent. Friends his ass. He didnt stare at his friends, imagining them naked and willingly putting themselves at his sexual mercy. He wanted Ginny submitting to him as he drove her to heights shed never imagined. Crap. Her exclamation pierced his thoughts and instead of doing the right thing, the smart thing, and leaving, he walked over to the bar. Whats wrong? When she didnt answer, he rounded the bar and got one hell of an eyeful. From her high-heeled boots, slim jeans that showed off her wickedly

long legs, and flat belly, to her breasts barely hidden in a black t-shirt. He lifted his gaze to her face. Her body was rockin hot, but her face was a mix of elegance and mystery that made him want to study her. Learn the gentle shape of her jaw, the hollows of her cheeks, the curve of her cheekbones, and trace the sweep of her winged brows. Then he wanted to coax the story of her shifting eye color and the incredible radiance he sometimes spotted when looking at her, from her full lips. The sudden metallic scent of her blood caught his attention. He dropped his gaze to her hand holding the beer. Shed caught her index finger on the bottle opener. Reaching out, Ram eased the cold bottle from her hand. Then he grabbed a bar towel and wrapped her bleeding finger. She lifted her hazel eyes to his. His guts clenched; his blood heated. Renewed tension snapped and sizzled in him. Her scent clouded his mind. It wasnt witch blood, but the scent troubled him simply because he didnt like the idea of her injured. She tried to tug her hand from his. My finger will heal in a second. Go ahead and drink your beer. Tell me about your night. While keeping hold of her injured finger, he caught her free hand in his so he held both her hands. A second to heal?

While her brother was a Wing Slayer Hunter, Ginny should be mortal. Only men were Wing Slayer Hunters, plus Eli and Ginny had different fathers. But looking at the light and shadows dancing in her hazel eyes reaffirmed his belief that she wasnt mortal. Especially since hed seen her wrapped up in an aura of light when she thought she was alone. Not that it mattered to him, but once again his curiosity had him wondering What was she? I meant to stop bleeding, she said with a soft laugh. Not heal. Shit, her laugh rolled down his spine and right to his cock. He stood so close to her, he could feel her breath caress his face. Need clawed at him. He dropped his gaze to her mouth. She pulled her uncut hand from his grip and put it over his holding her towel-wrapped finger. I can feel the tension in you. Bad night? She was deftly changing the subject. He dragged his gaze up to her face. Saw the concern as she focused on him was real, not just a diversion. Her smaller hand stroked his, the sensation of her touch ripping right through his will. Yeah. Want to talk about it?

How many times had he talked to her? Or listened while she told him of her night? Shit, he was treading on dangerous territory here. Hed been able to cope before. Sure, hed wanted to touch her, pull her to him and kiss her, but hed kept his self control front and center. Tonight was different. Tonight control hadnt walked into the club with him. He should step back. Get some distance. He had to end this farce of a friendship right now before he did something they would both regret. Bluntly, he said, You cant give me what I want, Ginny. We both know it. Her eyes widened, making her look so damned young. Soout of his reach. Then she curled her fingers around his hand. Sex. A tiny zip of electricity sparked where she touched him. His brain cataloged it automatically, while his body zeroed in on her touch. Her word.

Sex. His guts churned with the raw truth. We cant do this friend thing anymore. She closed her eyes, her hand clutching his tighter. Youre breaking up as friends with me. Dumping me.

The pain in her voice made him furious at himself. He should never have started this lie of friendship with her. Leaning closer, he said, You think I cant scent the arousal on you, little one? If we spend another hour together, alone, Im going to be buried so deep in you, Ill be imprinted on your soul. Her breath quickened, and her eyes dilated as he watched. Ram knew he was lost. She wanted him.

Tell her, asshole. Tell her that you found out tonight your soul mirror, the witch with the other half of your soul, is out there somewhere. Ginny is not a woman to jump into bed with a man when another woman owns half his soul. Damn it, Ram sucked in a breath to do it. But Ginny spoke first. Sex is complicated for me. But if were really ending this, lets do it with a kiss. Her gaze shifted to his mouth. Ive always wanted to kiss you. Then she rose up on her toes, so close he felt her breath on his lips. His muscles went rigid as his blood powered through and swelled his cock to painful. He jerked his gaze to her mouth. Miscalculation. Her full lips were softly parted like an invitation.

Stand down! He told himself. Too dangerous, he all but growled at her. Ginny ignored him, leaned forward, and pressed her mouth to his. Her lips were warm and sweet. Her fingers dug into his arm. Hot spikes of lust pounded in him. Need, desire andshit. He yanked back. Ginny sank down to her heels, a flush riding her cheekbones. That kiss was dangerous? Rams ears were buzzing; his balls ached but he stared at her with growing suspicion. Hed guessed Ginny wasnt very experienced. But the mix of confusion and curiosity in her voice, along with her statement that sex was complicated for her, confirmed it. And his natural dominance, his need exploded. If they were ending their relationship on a kiss, itd damn well be an unforgettable one. That wasnt a kiss. A small part of his brain sent up warning flares for him to abort. But the bigger part of his brain was too drenched in the feel and scent of Ginny to listen. She stared back at him, her face was flushed, her eyes

bright. No? Even her voice had a new breathlessness hed never heard. He wanted to hear it again. Committed to an insanely treacherous mission now, he moved with determination. He wrapped his hands around her waist. She barely flinched, then relaxed into his grip on her. Christ, she couldnt turn him on more if she stripped herself naked and spread out on the bar. He could see, smell, and taste her innocence, and yet, in her eyes, he saw layers of knowledge and mystery. And trust in him. No. That was a peck. He lifted her and settled her on the counter that ran beneath the bar. You want to know what its really like to be kissed by trouble? Think hard before you answer. She put her hands on his shoulders. I want to know what its like to be kissed by you. Really kissed. The contact blazed through his t-shirt right to his skin. Oh hell yeah. Ram slid his hands down her hips. Full and round, he savored the feel. Then he drew his palms down the tops of her thighs. She shivered. More heat colored her skin, making her eyes nearly shimmer in contrast. She caught a deep breath. Her

breasts strained against her shirt. Her scent filled his nose and throat. This was what Ram loved, learning the sensuality of a woman as he held himself in rigid control. It was so fucking hot to get a womans trust to follow his orders and unleash as much pleasure as she could take. But with Ginny? Explosive. Ram fought hard for control. For her. Hed show her a kiss that would sear her dreams. Fuck the warning flares going off deep in the jungles of his mind. He wrapped his hands around her knees and pressed her legs open. Wide. Her fingers dug into his shoulders as she obeyed. Ram stepped in. Tight. He gave her no escape. He wanted to fill her vision, fill her senses. Youre going to kiss me again. A real kiss, Ginny. She tilted her head back, staring at him. A dangerous kiss.

Itll be wet, Ginny. He leaned closer, until he knew shed feel his words as well as hear them. Im going to take command of your mouth. All of it. Her eyes glazed. And her mouth, Christ. Her pink tongue darted out, sweeping over her lips then disappearing. Exactly what Ive dreamed of. Damn she was killing him. He lifted his hands, cupping her face. Then he brushed his lips over hers. Pure heat blazed through Ram. He gave her a second and then he angled her head back and touched his tongue to hers. She tasted so damned good. So fresh and bright, like clean water in the desert. Ram flexed his thighs and fought to keep control of the kiss. Of her. Of the wild blazing lust snapping between them. Sliding an arm around her waist, he pushed her back until she lay on his arm and he consumed her. Tasted all of Ginny, learned every little shiver. Felt her nipples tighten and bud against his chest. Then he felt her slide her tongue into his mouth, at first tentative, but growing bolder. And bolder. She reached up, burying her fingers into his hair, throwing herself into the kiss.

Damn, he wanted to strip off her clothes and keep tasting her.

Soul mirror! The words screamed in his mind. He ripped his mouth from hers, lifting her upright. Shit. He reached out, grabbed the beer shed opened for him, and drained half of it in a couple swallows. It did nothing to cool his raging desire for her. He drained the rest of the beer. Set it down, then looked over at her sitting to his left. She met his gaze. That was a hell of a kiss. Is it always like that for you? Are you that good? Wonder tinged her tone, while desire thickened her voice. Tearing his gaze from her swollen lips, he answered. No. Never like that. He wouldnt lie to her. And he wanted the truth in return. Youre a virgin. With her hands braced on the counter where she sat, she closed her eyes, dropping her head. Yes, and I need to stay that way. He froze beneath the sizzling, nearly uncontrollably possessive need to make her his. But she wasnt his, would never be his. He forced out the words, All the more reason for us to quit the charade. We cant just be friends.

She looked up at him. I could have gone on as friends. But now she trailed off. Then she slid down to her feet and went to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water. Ram noticed the cut on her finger was completely gone. Vanished. So not mortal. She glanced at him and said, That kiss changed everything. Ginny opened the bottle, drank some, then lowered it and added, This sucks. Youre the only real friend I have. Aside from my brother anyway. Goddamnit. He was a scum-sucking bastard. A total tool. Every cell in his body wanted to pull her into his arms, kiss away her sadness, bring her mind-bending pleasure. He wanted to be the man she seemed to believe he was. But he wasnt. Never had been. Never would be.

Tell her. Make it clean and simple for her. He spit out the words that would end it now. I found out tonight that I have a soul mirror.

Chapter One Two Months Later: Ginny Stone carried a drink order and skirted the dance

floor packed with writhing bodies gyrating beneath the violently pulsing red and purple strobe lights. That was easy. The feel of Rams gaze on her from across the nightclub? That made her heart race. The memory of their kiss still haunted her as she resisted the urge to turn and meet his stare. Two months and she still couldnt forget. Couldnt let him go. But she had to. Focusing on her customer a few tables ahead, she kept moving. Kept going. Didnt look back to where Ram had paused on his way through the club beneath one of the archways made up of carved gargoyles, dragons and demons. One foot in front of the other, she reminded herself. Away from Ram and toward her goal of escaping her fathers clutches. Hatred for the angel that had sired her gave Ginny the strength to resist. If she caved, if she and Ram gave into the fiery desire that burned between them, Ginny would fall in love with him. And then her father would force her to ascend.

Not this Halflingshe was keeping her feet, body, and soul firmly planted in the mortal realm. And that meant staying away from Ram. That was how they both played it now. If Ginny was working, Ram didnt hang out in the club, but just took care of whatever business he had and left. In spite of her determination, she shot a quick look to the spot he where hed been standing. Gone. Hed vanished through the door to the warehouse next door. Damn it, two months and she still felt disappointment burn her chest. Ignoring approached her customers table, smiled and you are, Shane. One Chivas neat. She set glass in front of him. The man didnt bother looking at her. People seldom did as long as she kept her sudden surges of power hidden. Plain as wood paneling, even the witch hunters with their oversized sex drives rarely noticed her. She was as alluring as the chair Shane sprawled in. Brown hair, hazel eyes, on the tall side at five eight, and utterly unremarkable. Justthere. Easy to keep what she truly was hidden when so few actually noticed her at all. Except for Ram. a jolt of that, she said, Here the Scotch

Stop. Not going there. Not thinking about how much she missed him coming into the club after closing while she was finishing up. The way he made her feel by just listening to her, like she mattered. She reminded herself that nothing, not even Ram, was worth being forced to ascend. If she got involved with Ram, shed fall in love with him and ultimately get her heart broken. Love and heartbreak were the two requirements left that her father had demanded of her before he would take her from this world. And once that happened, her father would then strip away all her emotions, leaving her an empty servant. Put it on my tab. Shanes voice jerked her out of the straying thoughts. She slipped the black folder with the tab and pen from her apron pocket and set it on the table. Sure thing, just sign and The man grabbed her wrist. I told you to put it on my tab. His fingers bit hard into her wrist, but she barely felt the pain. Instead, a sudden buzz began in her head, increasing so rapidly she couldnt get her breath. Her heart sped up and slammed against her chest wall.

Need. Pain.

Bloodlust. It seared through her veins. Only the powerful kick of witch blood would cool the burn. Had to have it. Now. Oh God, it was happening again. Her Halfling magic was surging uncontrollably. Blind panic hit Ginny at her total loss of control.

Witch blood. Need it. These werent her feelings or thoughts. She was picking up on Shanes turmoil of emotions. She couldnt even focus her vision. Instead, everything in the club blurred, then the flashing red and purple strobe lights began to spin in a sickening blur of color. Alarmed by this new twist to her power, including the inability to jerk her hand back, she squeezed her eyes shut. Ordering herself to calm down, she sucked in a breath and slowly opened her eyes. Then wished she hadnt. She didnt see the club any longer, but a cold cement room with an obscene-looking drain in the floor. A woman wearing only panties was clamped into a set of shackles anchoring her to a wall spattered with dried blood. Her mouth moved but no sound came out.

Silent prayers? Ginny could smell the sweet and spicy scent of power in the blood. It made her own veins twist in need. Her belly cramped, sweat popped out all over her body. Violent nausea roiled in her gut. She felt herself moving forward. The woman cringed back against the wall. Please, no. A sob broke in her throat. Ancestors, help me! Ginny looked down and saw the knife in her hand. But it wasnt her hand, it was a mans hand. No! She screamed but there was no sound. Understanding blazed through her with sickening clarity. Up until now, shed occasionally gotten flashes of telepathy when she touched someone. But this time, when Shane had grabbed her wrist, a surge of her uncontrollable Halfling magic buried her deep in his mind. She was feeling his bloodlust for the chained witch. Anxiety clawed at her, but she couldnt escape. She had no choice but to ride it out. She felt her own hand shake, but it was his hand that held the knife. Ginny could do nothing to stop what was going to

happen. Or what had already happenedthis was his memory. She felt it. She saw him lift the knife. Horror racked her but she couldnt escape. Then Shane jerked to a stop. His hand holding the knife trembled. For one hopeful second, he stared at the witch. Tears poured down her face. Fight it, she begged. Youll lose control and kill me if you keep doing this. He seemed to hang there for a second longer. Then he doubled over, his fingers around the knife turning white. Cant. Have to have a hit. He straightened and moved in a blur, covering the space between them. Before Ginny could process it, the gleaming silver blade flashed in the overhead light as he cut the witch with three vicious strokes. Painfilled screams ricocheted off the cement walls. Then Shane ripped off his shirt, pressed his body to hers. In seconds, hot pleasure and power from her blood ripped through him. His entire body lit up, and he shuddered beneath the onslaught. A deep groan rumbled up his chest. It was the most addictive feeling ever. As the high took over, Ginny got a barrage of images from Shanes head. She saw that there were three different

witches chained in this place. Their bodies had healing cuts and open wounds, while their eyes screamed terror. Worse, she heard Shane telling a friend about the witches, that they were being held as blood slaves. Hunters could pay for hits of their witch blood. If the witch died, they were charged a killing fee. She even saw the route Shane took to get to the place where the blood slaves were held. Her mind stretched like a rubber band as she writhed under the terrible realization of what the witches were enduring. Suddenly, she felt an internal snap. In the next instant, she was back inside her own head, staring at Shanes fingers wrapped around her wrist. The same hand that had held the knife and cut the witch. Repulsed, Ginny jerked her hand back, breaking his hold way too easily with her supernatural strength she usually kept carefully hidden. Red rage roared through her. She wanted to kill him. Wanted to take her serving tray and beat him bloody for what hed done. But she was forbidden. She could not interfere, nor could she ever reveal what she was. Because shed been told, that doing so would cause unintended consequences in the world order of things. She

could only observe, experience and feel. If she did manage to break that rule before her father could stop her, then she was made to suffer for it. Shed endured his brutal punishments enough times to learn the lesson. Ginny panted with helpless fury, sickness and hatred as she glared at Shane. His brown eyes widened as he saw something frightening in hers. What are you staring at? Get me another drink. The vileness of what he had done to that witch killed her ability to censor her words. Youre an animal. A sick, twisted fuck. Shane shot up out of his chair, his face blazing with fury. His entire body shook. Ginny hoped hed come after her. She wouldnt need to do a thingher brother was in the club and he would kill Shane before the man took his next breath. Shane looked around, his dark gaze burning with rage. His mouth tightened. She knew then that hed spotted her brother. He jerked his gaze back to her. Be careful with that mouth

of yours, bitch. Or Ill shut you up for good. He turned and stormed out. As he brushed by her, the contact seared her brain with images of those three chained witches covered in gaping wounds and blood. He was going back. Oh God, he wasnt going to stop. Her stomach heaved and tears filled her eyes. She turned and ran for the bathroom. *** The glare of the harsh lights spilled over the dead witch hunter. Ram Virtos kept his fury on a tight leash as he wiped off his knife, sheathed it, and looked around the convenience store parking lot. The young witch, maybe nineteen or twenty years old, sat on the dirty curb, holding her hand over the bleeding wound on her arm. Her blood smelled like the snickerdoodle cookies from The Cookie Witch Bakery that he loved. He could see it squeezing between her fingers, tracking a glistening red trail of raw power. Vibrant pleasure. Her magic rose and punched him in the chest with pure bloodlust.

Shit. He hated the dark need that urged him to attack the helpless witch. Hated the violent desire slicing through him, ripping apart his every belief until all he could think about was the blood. Witch blood swimming with pure power. Ram pulled on his discipline and jerked his gaze away just as he saw twin shadows streak across the darkened sky. They banked a turn and came in for a landing. Then the two split up. Phoenix Torq folded up the brightly colored wings of his phoenix and they disappeared beneath his skin. He strode to the witch that Ram was keeping a careful distance from. The hardass hunter had a way with women, even witches, and would calm her. Not like Ram. Her blood would light the fuse of his dark cravings, but it wouldnt bother Phoenix as he had mated and broken the curse. If she needed more help than her magic could provide, Phoenix would get it for her. Axel Locke headed straight for Ram. He folded up his hawk wings and they vanished into the tattoo on his back. The huge leader of the Wing Slayer Hunters was shirtless, clad only in jeans and boots. His green eyes were hard with anger. Update me. Ram could feel the witch using her magic to heal her wound as Phoenix talked to her in a low voice. He focused on Axel and said, Shane was too tense

and sweaty at the club tonight. Yeah, he managed to notice that, in spite of Ginnyshit. For two months theyd done their best to avoid each other. And tonight, hed lingered for a full minute, staring at her like a starving man. Disgusted with his weakness, hed finally turned away and gone into the warehouse. But Shanes demeanor nagged at him, so hed strapped on his balls to go take care of business and talk to the man. He and Ginny were adults, they could be in the same room for a few fucking minutes. Pulling his thoughts back to his report, he went on, Shane stormed by me on his way out of the club, and I caught the smell of witch blood on him. Followed him. He attacked the witch. He gestured to the woman. He managed to slash her once before I reached him. Cold anger iced his veins. He didnt do failure, and that witch suffering was his failure. Axel toed the dead mans wrist, flipping his hand over, palm up. Lifelines are there; hes not rogue. He lifted his gaze to Ram. What the fuck? Adrenaline and need coursed through Ram, making it difficult to stand still. Their god, Wing Slayer, took their souls if they killed an innocent witch. When that happened their lifelines vanished. He hasnt killed a witch yet, but he has been getting hits of their blood somehow. He tilted his

head to where Phoenix hovered with the woman. He would have killed this witch. I could see hed lost all control. He wanted her blood, all of it. Ram locked his jaw against a wave of cramping need for the same blood. Never. Hed never give in to the blood and sex curse that made all witch hunters crave the power in witch blood. Hearing a faint sizzle-popping sound, and feeling the livewire sensation run down his arms, Ram lifted his hands, but he didnt see any sparks coming from his fingers. Realizing what he was doing, that hed broken off in the middle of a report to his leader to stare at his hands like some kind of junkie, he dropped his arms. Axel watched him with his too-sharp gaze, and said, The witches are worried about you. Darcy is worried. She believes this rising electricity in you is going to keep getting worse. You need to find Shayla. Make her understand she has to mate with you. Right. He was going to hunt down and beg a woman to mate with him for life. A woman, a witch, who didnt want him. That was going to happen like Never. His life was beginning to feel like one big kick in the nuts from Irony. He couldnt have the woman he wanted, and the woman he needed rabbited to avoid him. Not feeling the need to clue Axel in to his internal freak show, he said, Lets just deal with this situation here. Ive

shifted the short-term memories of the clerk and customer in the store. They think this guy is drunk, the witch is his girlfriend, and Im her brother. Theyre staying out of it. Axel took his hand back. Impressive. Ram shrugged. After seeing what careless memory shifting had done to his mother, hed made a point to master the witch hunter ability. Had to do something. They wanted to call the police and an ambulance for her. A burn began moving through his veins. He could almost feel sparks leaping from his skin. His thunderbird tattoo was waking; for anyone else, no big deal. But the markings on Rams body werent like the other witch hunters. Every hunter had a tattoo of a legendary winged creature. But only Rams shot electrical impulses through his body when things got tense. Axels gaze locked on him. Youre done. Fried. Go find a woman. Now. Phoenix and I got this. Ram stiffened. He was military trained, and in this Axel was his commander and chief, but every fiber of his being rebelled at the idea of leaving a job unfinished even when ordered to do so. Hed run on a broken foot, fought with bullet holes spurting blood; he had once pulled a knife out of his own gut and killed his attacker with it.

He did not walk away from a mission unfinished. Doing the job, saving witches and killing rogues, that was all he had. The only things about him that was right, real, and worth anything. I dont need a woman, I need to do my job, he told Axel, his voice matching his will in cold determination. I have to track the source, find out where Shane got the witch blood. He sucked in a breath to cool the burn eating through him. Then he added, He was one of my recruits. That made him Rams mistake to clean up. Recruits were picked to train in the hopes of becoming a Wing Slayer Hunter accepted by their god. Find a woman. Axels jaw flexed and his eyes hardened. Thats an order. Youre walking the edge, Ram. The curse is riding you hard. Get control. Once upon a time, sex had done the job and tamed the curse. But that was before hed unknowingly run into Shayla Banfield and woken the electrically charged thunderbird inside him. But now? He fired out the words, Not an option. He could hurt a woman with the untamed electricity snapping through him and periodically escaping from the tips of his fingers. Hed never allow that to happen. As a teenager, before hed known what he was, he nearly killed a young woman.

She was a witch, but back then Ram had known nothing of witches. His grandfather had pulled him off the girl. Neither of them had known what kind of monster lived in Ram, but his grandfather knew about duty and discipline and hed taught Ram. The old man had given him the tools to get control of the monster inside him. Discipline and self control. That was why hed chosen the militarydiscipline. He lived by it and he would die by it. But he would never go rogue. Axel tilted his head down, giving Ram a stare. Why is sex not an option? Whatever this shit is in me, I cant control it. Sometimes when I touch someone with my fingers nothing happens. Other times Ram reached out and laid his hand on Axels shoulder. A quick series of tiny pops sounded. Axel frowned. So? Barely felt it. Like static electricity from your fingertips. Jerking his hand back, Ram snapped, Dont be an ass. Youre a witch hunter; I could hit you with a fully charged stun and youd barely feel it. We dont feel pain like humans or witches. He sucked in a breath to ice the anxiety roiling in his guts. The shocking thing is new and random. Sometimes it happens, then it stops. But the next time it happens, the shock seems stronger.

Sounds like an easy enough fix, Axel shot back. Drain the shock shit by touching one of us until it runs out, then have sex. Its not that simple, I havent been able to predict it like that. He forced himself to stand still and explain, when he really wanted to go out and do his damned job. Find the witch Shane had been harvesting blood from; and then find some rogues to kill. I wont lose control, A. Too risky. Not that he ever had. Even in sex, he had always been in control. Some might call him dominant. But now he wasnt sure if sexual energy would ramp up the electrical impulses enough to hurt the woman he was with. The control that hed mastered, that he always counted on to keep the curse locked down tight, had started to melt like a sunbaked glacier. It felt like his willpower was unraveling, like he was beginning to come apart. He caught another whiff of the wounded witch and the need clawed through him. He fisted his hands at his sides. Axel stared him down. Find a way. Go, Ram or I swear Ill drag your ass to a room, chain you up and send in Roxy to unleash her sex magic on you. Then find you a willing woman. Ram shuddered at the thought. Theyd all been slapped by the ball-squeezing magic of Key DeMiccas mate. Roxy Banfield was a fertility witch, and she wielded sex magic with as much impact as Ram used his knife. She

could bring any man to his knees and make him beg. And they all loved her. Shed saved Key with their soul mirror bond. Key was a lucky man, and now he and Roxy had a child on the way. Good for them, but Rams destiny seemed headed for a big-ass explosion, not a happy ending. Dont threaten me, A, Ram said. Not with sex. You dont have any idea what you might unleash. Ram turned and strode away. He believed in the chain of command, but not for this. Hed deal with this his own way.

Chapter Two Ginny came to on the floor, stuffed into an unused corner of the bathroom in the nightclub. The gray tile was cold beneath her, and her muscles were cramped. Pushing up, she blinked in the bright light and fought to clear her sluggish brain. She saw her cell phone shattered on the tiled floor next to her, and her memory surged back. Sick with that awful vision, she had stumbled into the bathroom.

Swallowing against the nausea, she had refused to fall apart and be sick when those witches needed help. Damning the consequences, shed pulled out her cell, determined to call one of the witch hunters out in the field and convince him to go find the enslaved witches. Shed been scrolling through her contacts when she felt her fathers sudden cold touch blast through her aura and then blackness. The fact that her aura came directly from her angel sire gave that asshole the ability to reach her physically anytime he wished. He could hear and see through her aura as well. Knocking her unconscious was better than some of the crap he did. Shed bet he made her appear invisible too so that anyone who came into the bathroom wouldnt have noticed her in the corner. Furious, she climbed to her feet and kicked the shards of the phone across the floor. As the clattering noise settled, she realized it was quiet outside the bathroom. Too quiet. How long had she been out? Had Shane gone to the blood slaves while she lay on the floor? Her bile rose again, but she refused to give in. Shane seemed to know she was on to him, but he wouldnt know that she couldnt rat him out. Hopefully he wouldnt risk going there so soon.

Ginny went to the sink and splashed cold water on her face, trying to pull herself together. When she looked up in the mirror, she saw herself. The useless Halfling. Her brother, Eli, had a purpose of fighting rogues to serve his god. Sure, he could only serve until Ginny was called to duty, since hed be forced to go with her as her Eternal Guardian. But at least he was useful. At least he could fight and make a difference. But Ginny? She had her base strength, grace, and speed, and in the last two years, she was getting flashes of a new power that she couldnt yet control. Wouldnt be able to control until she ascended, leaving her mortality behind. But until then? She was useless, not allowed to do anything with the information her power revealed. Her father had forbidden it. It was some kind of celestial rule. As a Halfling, Ginny didnt need to understand, just do as she was told. She dried her face, refusing to look in the mirror again, refusing to see the weak coward she was forced to be. Her father had used his power to knock her out of commission and break her cell phone. Jesus, was she really going to allow him to break her too? Was she going give up trying to help those blood slaves that easily? She closed her eyes and saw that chained witch again, her

skin sliced open by Shane, and knew her answer. No matter what her punishment, she had to try. She stuffed the paper towel in the trash and turned, determined to find someone to help those witches. Rushing out of the bathroom, she walked out into the silent, empty and dark club. As shed suspected, Axel of Evil was shut down. She was alone as she made her way to one of the bars, flipping on the lights around the mirrored rack holding various bottles of liquor. There was a landline beneath the bar that she reached for. A sudden and menacing streak of brutal light blazed in the club, so powerful it burned through her and stabbed her brain. The angel had one suck-ass calling card. Forgetting the phone, Ginny covered her eyes with her arms. Enough! Damn, when her father dropped in, he made an entrance. Shed have been the hit of her birthday party the one and only that shed ever had if her father had shown up. But he hadnt, of course. Ginny was a tool to him, not a child. It had taken her many painful years to figure that out. About the same time shed figure out her mother was angel-struck, sort of the celestial version of star-struck. Her and Elis mother did anything and everything the angel said,

regardless of the emotional or physical pain it caused her children. Nothing like a visit from a parent to stir up all her childhood angst. Sheesh, get over it already. The violent glow that felt like hot satin on her skin dimmed from stunning starburst to flickering firelight. My patience thins, daughter. She blinked away tears caused by the searing light and lifted her head. Lance, short for Vigilance, stood a few feet from her. Hed muted his angel fire glow, but his diamondbright wings gave away his true essence. The feathers were the color of the moon pouring over a still lakewhite diamond with veins of blue and gray. Folded like they were now, there was an elegant arch rising up to her fathers height of six foot, ten inches, then they swept down in a graceful curve to brush his calves. Spread for flight, his wingspan was easily fourteen feet. The rest of the angel appeared almost mortalblack hair, blue eyes, thin and wiry buildif one ignored the wings and internal glow that made him look like he was professionally backlit. He was stunningly beautiful, but emotionally cold. If given a choice, Ginny wouldnt trade her plainness and ability to care for even a fraction of that beauty.

She ignored his announcement of impatience and went right to what she cared about. I cant let those witches suffer. They are not your worry. Or mine. Like he gave a shit about her worries. Speaking of worries, where was her brother? Looking around the dim, empty club with her still watering eyes, she asked, Where is Eli? He wouldnt just leave me. Eli was as screwed by daddy dearest as Ginny. Which sucked even more for Eli since Lance wasnt even his father, although she and Eli had the same mother. Five years older than Ginny, hed been born a witch hunter. But because of the old curse that broke the hunters link with their god, Wing Slayer, Lance had been able to claim him as a servant, compelling Eli into the role as Ginnys protector. And once Ginny was forced to ascend, Eli would go with her. In spite of Elis hatred of her father, and the role that had been thrust on him, Eli loved Ginny and protected her. Hed never leave her unconscious on the bathroom floor. The edges of Lances wings darkened. He serves me. I planted a memory of him finding you sick and taking you

home. He told the other hunters youre resting in your own bed and already feeling better. She hated the way her father treated Eli. It didnt matter to Lance that Eli wanted only to serve his god as a Wing Slayer Hunter. Once Ginny ascended from this world, Eli would be ripped out of the life he loved. Ginny would not let that happen. He only serves you because you stole him from his god. Tiny sparks popped around his wings. Defending your brother. An excellent example of family love. Youve done well learning many of the mortal emotions. But you still lack the vital piece that drives humans to historic extremes. Its time to finish your earthly training, Virginia, by experiencing sex, love and heartbreak. Chills raced down her arms at the soft ice in her fathers voice. Many people thought of angels as warm, benevolent and powerful creatures. But they had lived for centuries, and over that span of that time, they had lost all empathy with human emotion. Angels were supposed to be the watchers of humans. But time, and in Ginnys opinion, the arrogance of too much power, had numbed them until they no longer understood the people they watched. They were relearning with Halfings. The half angel, half mortal children grew up in the mortal world, experienced emotions while their angel parent watched and

manipulated. Then once ascended, those emotions would be taken from the Halflings and absorbed by their angel-sires. That was a father-daughter bonding experience Ginny planned on avoiding. And the reason she had avoided romantic entanglements and sex. I cant. I wont fall in love and damn Eli to a life he doesnt want. Eli would grow to hate her. And Ginny would be a shell of herself, all her emotions gone. She couldnt bear the thought of it. The sparks on her fathers wings turned to ice crystals. Youd rather damn him to an eternity as a shade? Horror flooded her body, and bile burned her throat. Ginny locked her fingers around the edge of the bar. You cant do that. Youre an angel! For humans, not witch hunters. I can force him to kill a witch and go rogue. Or just kill him outright and cast his soul into the between worlds before Wing Slayer can stop me. And what about your god? Dont you think He might notice an angel committing murder?

Gods too busy to care what happens to a single witch hunter. Blood pounded in her ears and rage made her dizzy. She knew her father didnt bluff. He would destroy Eli. He was blackmailing her with her love for her brother. What choice did she have? None. Because her father, like other very old angels, had to regain their human understanding or they would be cast to earth as Fallens. Ginny, and her emotions, were vital to her fathers survival as an angel. She glared at Lance with violent hatred churning in her guts. You win. Ill find some man and screw him. His blue eyes narrowed, looking like arctic chips. Thats not the assignment. Theres only one man that makes your emotions react. Shit. She should have realized hed knoweven with his numbed state, he could see still the flares of her emotions in her aura. Especially after that kiss she and Ram had shared. So he knew there was only one man Ginny wanted. One man she dreamed about. Wished for. Even the sound of his voice stirred her desire.

The one man who, if Ginny let herself fall for him, would have the power to drive her to emotional extremes. Hell, just his rejection of her friendship had hurt enough that shed done something reckless and stupidshed asked him for a kiss. And that kiss had seared her mind, body and soul. Her chest squeezed at the memory. Maybe she could lie, convince him it was another she had feelings for. Ramsey Virtos, the witch hunter, Lance said, closing off any hope. Ginny wouldnt let this happen. Couldnt. Thinking fast, she shook her head. It wont work. He refuses to come near me now. And hes got his own problems with his runaway soul mirror. The bar lights shook and sparked. If you want your brother to keep his soul, then youll do whatever it takes to make Ram forget his soul mirror long enough to get involved with you. Make it happen. Ginny was out of options. She had to save Elis soul and find a way to free him from her fathers clutches later. As for her?

She was doomed. A wooden feeling settled heavily over her. Ram wasnt an easy man to manipulate. Theres only one way I can think of. A wave of misery weighed her down even more. Lances gaze studied her. Im listening. Let me call Ram and get his help in freeing the witches being held as blood slaves. Ram would rescue the witches, and that was the one saving grace to the treachery she was inflicting on him. Being around that much witch blood will incite his curse, she said, forcing herself to explain in order to gain his permission since hed already knocked her unconscious to keep her from telling anyone. And Ill be there, offering sex to help him. Bile burned her throat at what she was doing. She wouldnt let Ram go rogue; she would do whatever she had to, both for him and for her brother. You can lead him to the witches as long as you dont reveal that you are a Halfling. Then he vanished, leaving her alone. Heavy regret made her normally graceful steps leaden as she went to the landline and called Ram. *** Ram strode into the nightclub and stopped at the sight

before him.

Ginny. Shed called, said she needed him in a voice that was too grave. Hed dropped everything and come to her. Just the sight of her triggered his memory of the kiss. Sexual heat surged to slam his brain and nearly melted his bones and muscles. He steeled himself against the effect. Ginny threatened him, his willpower, in a way nothing else had since he was a teenager. She was too special, too extraordinary for a cursed hunter battling everyday to keep his dark side locked down. Or so fucked up, he didnt dare go after his coward of a soul mirror for fear hed lose control and kill her. Shoving away useless thoughts, he watched the way she sat at the bar, staring into a bottle of water. Her long brown hair spilled over her hunched shoulders. She had her feet braced on the rung of the barstool, one leg bouncing with pent up tension. She didnt know he was in there yet, didnt realize he was watching her as she sat in the gloom of just the bar lights. He knew she was unaware because there was an aura of

soft light surrounding her, so faint he doubted a mortal would see it. It looked like she had a tiny candle burning in her center, and the gentle radiance flowed out to encase her in its cozy glow. Her aura made all other light look dull and dirty in comparison. Ram sucked in a silent breath, fighting the need to reach into that light and touch her. Touch the very essence of Ginny. She was something more than mortal. But that wasnt why she had called him. What had happened to create the sadness that bowed her shoulders even as the light bathed her in sweet beauty? Time to find out. Ginny? he called softly. She jerked upright, spinning around on the stool. For a second, he saw a bright green flash in her eyes. Then as the light around her pulled inward, her eyes flattened to their normal hazel. I didnt hear you come in. Few people do. He strode to where she sat, clenching his fingers tight into his palms to keep from reaching out and rubbing the obvious tension from her shoulders. Why did you call me? She eased slightly. Shane. A whip of electric tension shot through his system. Did he

hurt you? Damn. Had Shane done something to her that Ram hadnt seen? No, he only grabbed my wrist. She lifted her right arm to indicate the wrist. Thats not Needing to see for himself, he caught her hand in his fingers. Sparks shot from his fingers and zapped her. Jerking his hand away, he took a step back. Damn bird. It was one thing for the creature to shock him, but he would not allow it to hurt a woman. Especially Ginny. Ram, that little pop didnt hurt me. Nor did Shane. I just need you to listen. Her voice melted some of his tension, much as it tried to melt his vigilant self-control. Standing straight, he folded his arms over his chest. Shane is dead, Ginny. He cant hurt you, if thats what youre worried about. Although Ram thought she would have called her brother if that had been her concern. Why had she called him? She lifted her head, staring up at him. Who killed him? I did. I followed him. He attacked a witch in a convenience store. Ram was still pissed that he hadnt caught Shane

before he cut the witch, but at least she was alive. I should have told someone sooner. That witch could have died. Ram could see the misery clouding her eyes. Told someone what? What happened between you and Shane? She slid off the stool and stood, bringing her closer to him. Too close. Ram couldnt look away from her. Her long legs were encased in dark jeans that emphasized the wicked curve of her hips. That t-shirt clung to her belly and cupped her breasts. She had a long neck, exposed by her hair clipped up on her head. Long tendrils of her dark hair slipped down, brushing over the swell of her breasts. And her facethe elegance of it made his fingers twitch to touch her. To track the gentle curves. He stood rooted to the spot. He knew he had to move, step back. Keep distance. Then he caught her scent, light and so damned tantalizing his mouth watered for more of it. Of her. She stepped toward him. Shane was getting blood from witches captured and held as blood slaves. He yanked his brain back into focus. Blood slaves. Just the words sickened Ram. I smelled blood on him. Where are the witches being held, do you know? She met his

gaze. Yes. There are three of them. We need to rescue them. Ram folded his arms over his chest and looked down at her. Not we. Ill go. Tell me where they are. She shook her head. I cant. I have to show you. I dont know the street names, but Ill recognize it by sight. He studied her face. What the hell is going on here, Ginny? How did you get this information? I doubt Shane told you. He didnt, I found out by accident. She moved closer to him with her flowing grace and laid her hand on his arm. Ram froze, fearing hed throw sparks like metal against a grinding stone. But all he felt was the touch of her fingers. It was becoming clear that the sparks only came from his fingers. The warm contact of her hand on his skin lit his nerves with a different kind of fire. Ginny. He threaded steel into the warning. Please, Ram. She looked up at him, intensity burning in her. Do this for me. Help me save those witches. All the years of his rigid training buckled under her soft touch on his arm. But he didnt give in. Not yet. He had to figure out what was going on. Ginny didnt play games, but clearly she had secrets that she refused to reveal. Something else was going on here. This is about more than rescuing those witches.

She paled slightly, but held her ground. Yes. She clenched her jaw, the paleness giving way to a flush. It is. I have to seduce you. He went utterly still. Ginny touched a vulnerable place inside of him that he had not yet mastered. He wanted her with both a violence and a tenderness that tortured him. She was the one woman, the one person, who could make him lose control. Are you drunk? It was the only explanation he could think of. Although hed never seen her drink more than a sip or two of wine. Furious, he added, This isnt funny, Ginny. We had this discussion. You told me you need to stay a virgin. But she looked grimly serious. And sober. What the fuck is this? he demanded. Staring at him, she said, My orders. I have orders to seduce you. Releasing a frustrated breath, she added, I dont know how else to say it. Who the hell gave you this order? Ram would think he was the one who was drunk, except his witch hunter biology made it damn near impossible. She looked away, unable to hold his gaze. My father. Caught completely by surprise, he was speechless. Shed never mentioned a father, just a mother who had died years ago. To his knowledge, shed never lied to him. Evaded yes, particularly about things like healing too fast to be

mortal, but shed never lied. He had to believe her, but what kind of father did that? Why? She turned her gaze back to him and unease crackled through him at the utter despair he saw there. For a quick second, he saw her aura of light flare, then it vanished before he could blink. Thats all I can tell you, she said softly. My father will kill you if I tell you any more. As it is, hes threatening Eli if I dont do what he wants me to do. Ram took all that in and spit out the truth that had hung between them for months. Youre not mortal. She crossed her arms over her waist for long seconds as if protecting herself. Then she dropped her arms and asked, How long have you known? He shrugged. Not sure exactly. Sometimes you move too fast with extraordinary reflexes and occasionally, Ive caught glimpses of an aura of light around you. My and Elis mother was mortal. My father is not. Ive been doing all I can to fail him so that hed strip out my other side and let me just be mortal. But he isnt going to allow that. Her eyes filled with bright pain. Hes powerful enough to destroy Eli, and hell do it. I cant let him. I have to convince you.

A surge of red-hot rage raced through him. Adrenaline pumped, his heart pounded, his veins swelled with it. He wanted Ginny with a blazing hot need, but hed never have her. Especially now that his touch came with a mood killing shock of pain. Her fatherwhatever he was wanted that for his daughter? Hatred for that bastard battled with protectiveness for Ginny. The same protectiveness that hed felt all those months ago after Phoenix had rescued her and Eli from rogues. The rogue witch hunters had shot Eli twice; and were threatening Ginny with a knife to get Eli to kill a witch. Ram had arranged the safe house for the brother and sister and stayed there himself as protection. He had expected hysterics or tears from Ginny. Instead, she had been calm and determined in forcing her brother to rest and heal. Her strength attracted him instantly. Later she sat by her sleeping brother, and Ram walked in. Ginny hadnt heard him. Hed seen her face was streaked with tears as she stared at nothing, saying, Heal him. Isnt it

enough I watched him shot and you wouldnt let me help him? How much pain does he have to suffer so you can feel my emotions? How much, damn it! A quiet sob had racked her shoulders. Ram had felt her grief and anger, her utter rage and

helplessness, and hed wanted to rush in and kill what was hurting her. But hed had no idea what it was tearing at Ginny. Hell, he still didnt. Her father could be anything. Not mortal didnt exactly narrow it down. But if he had the prick in front of him right now, Ram would have found a way to kill him. Knowing what he did now, Ram suspected shed been talking to her father that day. Clearly the man, or god, was cruel to Ginny and that was shredding Rams control. Enough. He was not ruled by emotions or desire. He took one measured step back so her hand dropped and they broke contact. No. Your father may be threatening Eli, but Im a threat to you. And she to him, but that was his problem, not hers. I dont know what the fuck this birds, he said, slapping his hand on his chest to indicate the thunderbird tattooed beneath his shirt, problem is, but its getting worse. You wont hurt me, she insisted, her eyes wide with conviction. He shook his head, refusing to let her sway him. Youre too trusting of me. But I know better. She had trusted him with her kiss, and it had taken all his formidable will to end it. Her shoulders dropped, and her eyes muddied with shadows. Youll save the witches though. Dont let them

suffer. Please. It took iron control not to soften toward her. You know I will. One more question though. Why is it so important to you? With all she had going on, she was worried about three witches she didnt even know? Furrow lines appeared between her eyebrows as if a memory hurt. She rubbed her forehead as she answered, When I touched Shane, I saw him cutting a witch to get her blood. Felt it. She sucked in a breath and dropped her hand. I felt his high from her blood. And the poor witch Her whole face tightened. Im forbidden from doing anything, and when I try anyway, Im punished. But this time I negotiated to Youre what? Ram cut her off, his voice strangled with the need to kill. Her father punished her for trying to help? What the hell? Who was that son of a bitch and just how hard could Ram kill him? She squared her shoulders. That doesnt matter. I won the right to help you save them. I need to do this much. Lets go. He turned and strode halfway through the club, knowing she followed him. Then he stopped, unable to let it go. Ginny. She paused midstep with her easy grace and met his gaze.

Yeah? It matters. Her father punished her? Oh yeah, it mattered. Then he turned and began to plan how to keep Ginny safe while keeping his hands off her and rescuing the witches.

Chapter Three Ginny sat in Rams Range Rover, her fingers digging into the soft leather of the passenger seat. The sixfoot-five man beside her easily dominated any space he occupied, but inside the cab? It was overwhelming. She glanced over at him again. His blonde hair was cut ruthlessly short, his face as harsh as his electric blue eyes, and his shoulders were nearly bursting from his t-shirt. He wore dark pants with his knife strapped to one thigh. Boots finished the look of raw jungle ability. There was nothing this man couldnt do. For seven minutes, shed recalled the route from Shanes mind and directed Ram through the early morning darkness of Glassbreakers, California. He easily followed her directions while coordinating with Axel and Sutton on the Bluetooth. He turned, his gaze tracking over her. This the place?

Tearing her gaze from him, she peered through the dark to the strip-mall car stereo shop. Exactly as it had looked in Shanes memory. Repressing a shudder, she answered, Yes. The noise of the loud pounding music coming from the shop would cover any screams from tortured witches during the day. And at night? The place was deserted. No one was around to hear any frantic calls for help. Looking back at him, she asked, What now? His face hardened to stone. Axel and I will get the witches out. But She snapped her mouth shut when the passenger door opened. Whipping around, she looked right into the light green eyes of her brother. Come on, Gin, Eli said. Instantly, she realized Ram and Eli planned to get her away from danger. Probably Ram had texted her brother. But she needed to be nearby to help Ram once he got close to the witch blood. Panic bubbled below her breastbone. No. Eli, leave! She threw off her seat belt and grabbed Rams arm. When his eyes widened in surprise, she realized shed moved too fast, and was clutching his arm with too much strength. But she didnt care. You dont understand. My father. Hell make Eli go rogue! There are witches in there, if he loses

control and kills one, hell lose his soul. Damn it, Ginny. Elis harsh voice had her turning to look at him. You should have called me! Told me that winged asshole hurt you. Again. She saw her brothers blazing hot anger and knew that raw emotion would only feed whatever her father chose to do to him. She wouldnt be the cause of Elis misery. Go home, Eli. Please, one way or another, hell destroy your soul. Her brother knew exactly what her father was capable of, but he was too stubborn to listen to her. She turned to Ram. He flicked his gaze to Eli, then back to her. His arm flexed powerfully beneath her fingers. Take Eli home where hes safe. He leaned closer. I will never risk your life. Never. Not for anything or any power in the universe. Neither will your brother. Well both die first. Yeah, you will, she snapped, realizing they were ganging up on her. Two big men, determined to save the little woman. When even they should be able to see that she needed to save them. Eli tried to take hold of her arm. She shrugged him off. Focusing on Ram, she demanded, But what about your souls? Hell take Eliss soul and toss it where Wing Slayer cant get it. Maybe yours too. Is that

okay with you? She was shaking with outrage. She was screwed no matter what, but she was not going to let that happen to Eli. Or Ram. Eli had to leave, and she had to be here for Ram when he got near witch blood. Then hed need sex. Hed need her. Ram didnt move, didnt flinch, didnt even blink. If it came down to that choicethen yes. She jerked back as if hed hit her. You cant mean that. He didnt give an inch. Go with Eli, Ginny. She had thought Ram would understand. Help her. Her eyes burned, but she refused to cry in disappointment and frustration. Somehow, shed let herself believe Ram would see her differently, see her as a strong capable woman. A partner. Damn, she was an idiot. Look at her, already building romantic fantasies, already setting herself up for the heartbreak her father craved so badly. Only years of practice helped her get her emotions under control. She drew her hand back and slid out of the Range Rover to stand. Then she looked back at him. Youre as bad as my father, thinking that I cant make my own decisions. She slammed the door and left with her brother.

But she wasnt done. Ram would need her. And one way or another, shed be there when that happened. *** Ram kicked through the front door of the stereo shop at the same time Axel came in the back way. He was so juiced up on pure rage, he went cold with the need to kill. No emotion. Just death. Two men lunged up from the couch where they were eating chicken wings and watching a big screen. The smell of spicy barbecue sauce and fat didnt cover the scent of blood. Witch blood. The two men werent witch hunters, but pure steroid meatheads. Hired thugs. They knew what was happening to the witches and didnt care. These two are mine, he called to Axel as his leader began moving through the space. He and Axel had fought together more times than he could count. Youre dead, asshole. One of the meatheads said, raising

a gun. Ram launched himself, leaping over the food-littered coffee table, kicking the gun from the first mans hand. The second man fired his weapon. But Ram was too fast, twisting from the bullets path and landing upright. He snatched the knife from his thigh holster and cut the second mans throat. Then he turned to the guy holding his broken hand. Grabbing him, he snarled, Who else is here? Three more guards and two clients.

Clients? The word sickened him. Axel, copy that? The guards are dead, Axel responded in Rams Bluetooth. Lets get the witches. Right there, Ram said even as he felt the guy in his grip shifting. A second later the tip of a knife penetrated right below his rib cage. Ram reacted, snapping his body back from the blade and shoving his knife through the mans chest and into his heart in one smooth move. He sliced up, shredding the still beating organ. The pricks eyes widened in terror, his mouth opened, but

only a strangled sound came out. Death blanked his expression. Ram pulled out his knife, cleaned it on the mans shirt, then dropped him. He didnt bother looking back as he headed down a hallway, following the scent of witch blood. Axel met him with one witch. She looked bad, clutching a blanket around her body. The smell of her blood was fresh and Ram froze beneath the hot craving. Axels eyes narrowed. Get out, now. Keys on his way. No. Dont leave, the witch cried. They are in those rooms, she said, pointing to the two doors set in the hallway. A muffled scream trembled through the walls. Ram raced for the first door the other witch had pointed to, knowing that Axel would go for the next one. This was their job, saving innocent witches and killing the bastards that attacked them. Cut them for their blood. Ram kicked the door with so much force it flew off the hinges. He swept the room with his gaze, instantly noting that it was essentially a large, cement shower room.

Concrete floor and walls, big drain in the center, a shower head on a long hose. There were chains bolted into a wall. The door had slammed into the man with the knife, knocked him cold. Both the man and door were on the ground. The witch slumped in the manacles, moaning softly and bleeding profusely from gaping cuts. At least six or seven of them. The sweet and spicy scent of her blood saturated Rams entire body. His veins swelled and heated until he could almost smell his own body cooking with the need.

Witch blood. It would cool the burn. Give him so much fucking power No. He shook his head once and shoved the knife in his hand into the holster. He strode to the witch hunter, wrenched him over to his back and smiled coldly. The bastards own knife was stuck in his heart. Somehow when the door hit him, the force of it shoved the knife hed been cutting the witch with into his chest and killed him. That was some damn fine justice. Ram glanced down at the mans palm and saw his lifelines. He died with his soul. He was their god, Wing Slayers, problem now.

Lifting his gaze, he went to the witch. Too close ! His brain warned, but he couldnt just leave her hanging there. Ignoring the warning, he grabbed the chains and snapped them with his hands. Freeing her from the wall. She only wore panties. He ripped off his bloody shirt and wrapped it around her, trying to cover the cuts. Then he lifted her gently. She moaned again and that was the last thing he heard as her blood touched his skin. A buzz filled his head, energy and pleasure crackled through him. His muscles seized with an internal orgasm so strong, he shivered beneath the wild bliss and strength. He soared so high, so Goddamnit! The roar from the doorway penetrated the awesome ride. He whipped his head around, saw Axel, and a ferocious possessiveness ripped through him. Mine. The witch blood is mine. He felt a growl rumble up from his chest. No more. Let me die, just kill me, the woman in his arms sobbed. He dropped his gaze and saw brown eyes staring up at him with hopeless resignation edged with unending horror.

That horror was reminiscent of the way his grandfather had looked at him all those years ago when Ramd attacked the witch at fifteen. Take her, Axel! He bellowed the command. Axel was pulling the witch from his arms before hed finished the words. Ram wanted to kill him. Needed to kill him and take her back. He fought the madness of the curse, turned and got the hell out of there. Before he became the rogue he was committed to fighting. *** You arent going, Eli blocked her path to the garage. He stood in his stubborn stance, legs wide, arms crossed, eyes glinting dangerously. Get it through your head, Ginny. Ram doesnt need you, he needs his mate. Shayla. This will force him to go after her. Ginny had never met the witch and hated her with a green-tinged bile that made her want to hurl. Sighjealousy. Another emotion for her dad to steal from her. I heard Axel tell you that Ram is in bad shape. He doesnt have time to search for Shayla. Im going. She was strong, but then, so was Eli. Who would win if it came to a true test? He can find a woman for sex to ease the bloodlust. He

doesnt need you. He narrowed his eyes. Is that what you want? Just to be another woman to him? She dropped her shoulders. She had told Eli everything her father said, but her brother just wasnt grasping the situation. Dont you get it yet, Eli? It doesnt matter what I want. It never did. My bastard father only let me have a brother like you, a brother I would die for, so he could use you to control me. He won. Im going to Ram. She shoved him aside and strode to the garage. Gin, damn it. Youll ascend, and then well both be screwed anyway. She turned back. Except youll have your soul. She hated the bitterness she saw brewing in Eli. Her brother believed that if he found his mate, the one witch who had the other half of his soul, and bonded with her, then Lance would lose his hold on him. But he hadnt found the witch and time was running out. She told him, Im going to find a way to negotiate your freedom, Eli. Or Ill use my magic to help you find your witch. Whatever it takes, you belong to Wing Slayer. Not Lance. She turned away, refusing to let him see the hot tears filling her eyes as she added softly, Or me. Because in the end, what would it matter? All her emotions would be gone. Eli wouldnt matter to her then anyway. Nothing would.

Chapter Four Ram had run six miles, stripped off his clothes in his backyard, tossed them on the wrought-iron chair next to his towel, and dove into his ice-cold pool. The first light of dawn was just beginning to pinken the sky, but he kept swimming laps. Experience taught him that the burn in his muscles would ease the gutcramping, vein-twisting craving for witch blood. As he cut through the water, setting a merciless pace, he could still smell the scent of that witchs blood. It had sunk through his skin to sear his veins. Forever. Hed struggled for so long to keep the dark, blood-craving creature inside him locked down. Ruthlessly controlled. But sometimes he was just fucking tired. He thought of the other soul mirror couples; Axel and Darcy, Sutton and Carla, Phoenix and Ailish, and Key and Roxy. They all had love, a deep unending love that made life worth living. What did he have?

A soul-mirror witch who didnt want him or their bond, and who ran from him. Witches who ran from him tended to get hurt. As he swam deeper, the watery silence amped up the memory of the witch that had run from him when he was fifteen. He could still see her long blond hair flying behind her, smell her blood. Feel the small knife in his hand. He broke the surface of the water and shut down that train of thought. He wasnt going back there. Hed learned. And one of the things hed learned? Dont chase a witch. It brought out the predator in him. Once more, he pushed deep under the frigid water, turned, and kicked off the side, slicing up cleanly through the water. Shayla, his soul mirror, wasnt who dominated his thoughts. Hed crossed her path inside Roxys apartment without knowing it. It had set off a reaction in his tattooed bird and caused him to feel like he was forgetting something important. There was an urge to find her, but it was an abstract, undefined need. Like being hungry, but not knowing what he wanted. But with Ginny, yeah, that was very real, very much about her. Just her. She was the one who stealthily crept into his thoughts

whenever he let down his guard. Her expression earlier tonight when hed sent her away with her brother had made him want to grab her, pull her tight, and kiss that lookthe disappointment and griefoff her face. She made him want to promise to fix her world. He wanted to make love to her. Not because her father gave her some kind of fucked up order. But because both of them craved it, both wanted it. He turned again, pushing himself hard through the water. Trying to cool his lust. Sex between him and Ginny wasnt going to happen. If it came down to a choice between Ginnys well-being or Elis soul? Ginny always came first. He increased his strokes, cutting through the water, trying to outdistance all the needs riding him. Then he heard a sound. Ram stopped swimming. Treading water in the deep end, he tracked a noise coming closer to his yard. Then he heard a latch click on his back gate. Instantly, he switched to full alert. It was probably Axel coming by to check up on him, but Ram didnt take chances. He powered over to the side of the pool, and then went predator still. Watching the gate in the barely breaking dawn, he readied his muscles to shove himself out of the pool and attack.

His visitor came through the gate. His chest went hot, and that heat spread through his veins at the speed of a supersonic jet. The burn of the throbbing bloodlust drained. Right. To. His. Cock. There, on his stamped concrete patio, close to his oversized wrought-iron table, stood Ginny. She had changed into low-cut black yoga pants, and a tshirt that left an inch or two of her belly bared. He could see the bumps of her hip bones, making his mouth water to taste that warm skin there. Fuck. What was she doing here? Planning to ream him out for the power play he and Eli pulled on her? Or was she here to ask him, again, for sex? Oh hell no, he wasnt that strong. No man was that strong. Forcing his gaze up, he saw her hair was down, and she wore a look of pure determination. He knew exactly what she wanted. What they both wanted.

The colors of dawn slipped down from the sky, bathing her in pink light. She looked ethereal and real, sexy and touchable.

His. Swallowing once, he tried one last fucking time to do the right thing. The sane thing. If youre smart, youll leave. Now. She took a step closer to him. Get out or Im coming in. Bad plan, his mind screamed. Shitty plan. His lower half however disagreed with a hard, throbbing vehemence. Ginny was watching him, watching his mind working. You need sex, and I need you. By some fucking miracle, he kept a tight rein on the raw lust coursing through him. I told you, I wont risk hurting you. If I shock you badly enough, you could burn. It hadnt happened yet, but the witches thought it would eventually. Thats an excuse. You didnt hurt me when you touched me earlier tonight. Im tougher than you think, Ram. He knew she had a spine of steel, hed seen that when Eli was hurt and when she dealt with difficult customers. But showing it to him? Now? When he was so close to losing control from the bloodlust that it made the predator in him

rise up and demand to prove its dominance? She was taunting danger. Damn it, Ginny, he growled low in his throat. The need for her, only her, strangled his balls. Made his chest burn beneath the tat. Leave. She kicked off her sandals. Then she curled her long fingers around the hem of her t-shirt and lifted. Exposing the smooth expanse of her belly. Then higher. Revealing the contours of her ribs. Christ, he was going to explode. Heat raced down his spine and filled his cock. The water might be cold, but his blood was hot. Too hot. Stop. He forced sheer command in his voice that made hardened witch hunters take notice. She yanked the shirt off, freeing her breasts in a perfect bounce that made his hands itch to touch her. Rounded globes with dark nipples that hardened to delectable points as the cool morning air touched them. Ginny tossed her shirt to the chair where hed laid his clothes after stripping. She shook her head once, letting her dark hair fall around her.

Ram dug his fingers into the concrete. His mouth was dry and raw, fiery need clawed at his belly and seared his balls. Too dangerous. He was always in control, always. He was a demanding, controlling, dominant sexual partner. He carefully chose women who were a little damaged and needed him to take control to give them pleasure. He could handle thatthe two damaged people taking from each other. Not like Ginny. Smart, sexy, self-confident, and too fucking innocent to know what she was tempting. He opened his mouth to tell her when her fingers went to her belly, then slid into the waistband of the lowriding yoga pants. She lowered her chin slightly and gave him a look that smoldered with her will. Guess Im going to get wet, she said softly and slid those pants down an inch. A rush of need slammed him, snapping the last of his resistance. Ram heaved himself out of the pool, his feet barely touching the concrete before he was moving. He strode to Ginny, caught her wrists and easily locked them in one of his hands. Then he slipped his hand into her hair, cupping her head and tilting her back over his arm. Some part of his brain told him to stand down. Let go, let her run. Normally he seduced women into the kind of trust he required. But Ginny challenging him, stripping in front of him, had snapped his control. He stared at her, searching

Her aura flared around her, illuminating her in a soft glow. Damn. She wasnt afraid. He could feel her nipples against the skin of his chest, see the rapid beat of the pulse in her neck. Her tantalizingly sweet scent was stronger. Not fear. Excitement. He leaned down to her ear, Do you want to get wet, Ginny? She sucked in a breath. Already am. Got wetter when you rose out of the pool like a naked god. Another shudder of need ripped through him. He tugged her head back and slanted his mouth over hers. He had to taste her, had to feel the warmth of her mouth, her tongue, against his. Not enough. Not nearly enough. Breaking the kiss, he grabbed his towel from the chair, and snapped it out on the huge Tuscany-style-wrought-iron table. Then he turned to Ginny. Her lips were already swollen from his kiss, her hair tousled around her flushed cheeks. She lowered her gaze, tracking over the thunderbird tattoo on his chest, then lower until she locked onto his erection. Her cheeks burned, and her eyes widened. Her pink tongue

darted out to touch her top lip, still wet from his kiss. She lifted a hand, trailing her fingers along his cock from the tip to the root. Hot pleasure seared him. The need ballooned deep in his gut. He reached out and settled his hands on her waist, above her pants. He lifted her, turned and pressed her ass to the towel covering the table. She put her hands on his shoulders. A slight shock shimmered around his hands holding her waist. Hot anger arced up with the electrical impulses snapping through him and hurting Ginny. Ram started to pull back. She moved fast, linking her hands around his neck and tugging him to her. Ram felt her true strength as she leaned back and pulled him down over her. His surprise muted the electrical charges. Ginny wasnt lying, she really was strong. Damn strong. Oh yeah, he liked that. A hell of a lot. So did his cock. He stood pressed between her thighs covered in those thin pants. He could feel her heat bleeding through, caressing

his dick and balls. But he had enough reasoning ability left to finally understand why she thought she could handle sex with him. She believed, wrongly, she could overpower him if things got out of hand. He let her think she had him until she was flat on the table. Then he reached back, grasped her wrists in his fingers and used just enough strength to break her hold. Her eyes flared at the realization that he was truly stronger than her. He watched as he gently stretched her hands up over her head and locked them into one of his hands. She squirmed slightly, the pulse in her neck fluttering. Ram looked down at her stretched out on the table below him, her arms over her head with her wrists secured in his hand, and felt his chest squeeze. Ginny had an elegance to her, along with all that hidden strength hed just discovered, and that amazing internal light that made her stunning. She stared back at him, her eyes full of temptation. She wasnt fighting him, not resisting in the least and that made him burn hotter. He laid his fingers over her jaw. Tiny pulses of electrical energy pinged. He started to pull back, disgusted at himself.

Dont stop, Ginny said, arching her back. Ram felt her reaction right to his balls. She liked his touch, even with the electrical shocks. His Ginny liked a little bit of edge to her pleasure. Shifting his gaze to her breasts, he saw her nipples were dark, swollen and peaked. Sensitive. Tender. What would happen if he touched her nipple? With a little shock? His head buzzed, his veins screamed as blood pumped and seared through them. And Ram moved his hand. Slowly. Not touching her, not making contact, sliding just above her skin until his thumb and index finger was over her throbbing nipple. Slowly, he lifted his gaze to her eyes. Please, she begged him, her voice thick with excitement. Do it. Touch me. Ram gently clasped her nipple and felt the pings shoot through his finger and thumb. *** Ginny gasped as Ram touched her nipple. She felt the

sharp spark of his electric energy mix with his warm skin. It shot straight down her belly and made her clamp her thighs around his hips. The fiery rush of pleasure pushed her pelvis up. Then his warm, wet tongue laved at her sensitive nipple. The sensations poured through her until she felt like her skin was burning. She wanted to touch Ram, but he still held her hands immobile. She was at his mercy. He was stronger than her. Hed proved it, and she liked it. A lot. While sucking one nipple he touched the other. Once. Shock. Again. Shock. The feeling rippled her stomach muscles and hit her clit. He touched her again, and she cried out, her nipple so sensitive even the air aroused her. Then his hot mouth latched on, suckling. There were no shocks from his mouth, just wet heat. Somewhere in her desire-drenched mind, she recognized that those sexy little jolts only came from his fingertips.

When she thought she couldnt take any more, he released her nipple and started tracing her ribs with his lips and tongue. Then lower. The stubble on his face rubbed over skin, creating tiny friction burns. Her stomach muscles jumped in response. He stopped, lifting his head. She forced her eyes open and looked at him. Saw the man she had fantasized about for months looming over her, pure male possession in his eyes, hunger for her in the curve of wicked smile. As he watched her, he slowly released her imprisoned wrists, then he dragged his hands down her sides, tiny sparks scattering over her skin. She squeezed her thighs against his hips, feeling a pulsing need that was growing unbearable. His long fingers traced over her hip bones. Youre going to lie there, just like you are, Ginny. His voice was deep and rough. It resonated in her chest. I am?

Damn right. While I take these off. He slid the pants down, catching her panties and stepping back to drag then off her legs. Ginny clasped her hands together over her head to keep from moving them as she lifted her legs. Now she was as naked as Ram. He settled his hands on her thighs. Tiny pops of electricity shot through her and speared her core. She gasped as hot need whipped through her, leaving her swollen and aching for more. He dropped his gaze. Slid his hands up her inner thighs. She watched as heat rose into his face, staining his cheekbones with pure arousal. No man had seen her like this. No man had made her feel like this. She always had to be careful and vigilant to hide what she was. But now, in his moment, she felt free and sexy. She knew he liked to dominate and loved the sensation that she was safe with him to give him that kind of control. I want to touch you. He jerked his gaze up. Not yet. Not until you earn it when you come for me. Ill decide how many times. A slight edge of worry slithered into her haze of sensation. I dont know if

I do. He cut her off. You liked the edge of pain when I touched your nipples, then suckled you. She felt a hot blush rush up her chest to her face, and keep spreading through her body. But she didnt lie. Yes. Im going to do the same thing here. He gently ran his fingers down her seam, parting her until she was completely opened to him. Then he touched her clit. A tiny spark, made more intense by the dampness flooding her there. Then another sweet zing as he circled the nub of flesh again and again. More, she whispered as her throat tightened and need was coiling within. Her nipples ached, and deep between her legs, she throbbed. Ram used his other hand to touch her entrance, and more energy popped and teased. He slid in one finger, creating an electric friction that made her pump against him. Then Ram dropped to his knees, taking his finger from her clit. He wedged his shoulders beneath her thighs while pumping one finger in and out with that extra kick of friction. Ginny threaded her fingers together, squeezing as her body tightened. She lifted her hips, seeking

He leaned in and licked her clit while adding a second finger to fill her. He licked and kissed her, pumping his fingers in and out with that electric friction. She wound tighter and tighter as she moved against him. Then he pressed his lips around her clit and sucked. Everything released in an explosion of white-hot, totally wicked sensations. She lost herself as the pleasure, and Ram, consumed her. She didnt know how much time had gone by when she realized he had moved. Opening her eyes, she saw Ram standing between her thighs, his hands on her hips and he was pressing his huge erection into her. Filling and stretching. She didnt have time to think. Barely registered the tiny sparks from his fingers at her hips. Instead, she looked at his face. It was stark and raw with need. The sensation of him filling her was overwhelming. She rolled her hips, trying to accommodate him. Ram answered that move with growl as he tightened his fingers on her hips. He pulled back slightly, and his chest

expanded impossibly big as he sucked in a breath. His gaze locked on hers. Remember Ginny, buried so deep, Ill be imprinted on your soul. She stared back, the memory of those words hed said to her right before they kissed two months ago. A new, deeper ache flared in her pelvis, a desperate emptiness that only he could fill. Lost in his electric blue gaze, she said, Youre my choice, Ram. The only one I want. This wasnt about an angels blackmail. This was about her and Ram and this special moment between them. Only them. His mouth curved slightly and then he pressed into her in one long, hard stroke. The invasion shocked the air from her. His erection stretched and filled her completely. A flash of pain, then her body shifted and adjusted in seconds. Ram leaned over her, backlit by the rising sun. His huge shoulders, packed with bulging muscles, were rigid as he held himself utterly still. He leaned down farther and kissed her, his mouth covering hers with a gentleness that made her eyes sting. The sweetness of it contrasted with the light taps of electric energy anywhere his fingers touched her. He kept kissing and licking until she sighed. Then he swept into her mouth, tasting and stroking, sending new waves of desire through her.

He reached down between their joined bodies and feathered his fingers over her clit. Wild energy, a mix of sizzling desire and his electric energy, shot through her. She felt her womb clench in response. Breaking the kiss, he said, Beautiful, Ginny. Thats my girl. Youre going to let go again for me. Just let go and feel everything I give you. He kept stroking her clit and rolling his hips to press his erection deep within her. She was completely surrounded and overwhelmed by him. It was easy to relinquish all she was to him, to give herself fully and completely to him. Everything in her began to tighten and spiral. It was hard to keep her eyes open, but she wanted to see him. Watch Ram as he crested and came apart. You too. Want to watch you. She wanted what he promisedthis man imprinted on her soul so deeply no one could ever take the memory, this feeling of sweet, vulnerable intimacy, from her. She tried to wring all she could from this, from Ram, enough to last her forever. His eyes flared with raw heat. He pushed up onto one hand, the muscles and veins bulging in that arm. He pulled his hips back and slammed back into her. Again. Over and over. With every stroke he gave her, his face tightened, his muscles bulged, and untamed need blazed in him. Now, Ginny, he said in a voice so rough, it scraped over her nerves.

She shattered into spirals of pleasure. Ram clamped down on her hip, riding her hard, a loud groan ripped from him as he slammed into her a final time and released. His faced filled with hot color, his chest heaved. For a brief second she thought she saw a flash of red streak across his chest. But then Ram let go of her hip, slid his arms under her back, and lifted her to cradle her against his chest, while he continued to pulse and jerk where he was buried deep inside her. Her body answered with aftershocks of pleasure while feeling his hard arms holding her safe against him. Even the shocks from his fingers had stopped. And Ginny let herself feel safe and cared for. Let herself know what that felt like for this one time. For it would be her last, she knew it deep in her soul.

Chapter Five Ram looked down at the woman in his arms, her dark hair spilling over her shoulders and a soft glow shimmering in the air around her. Shed surprised the hell out of him. Hed known she was sexually innocent, yet shed responded to him with wild passion.

Even with the fucked up electrical charges running though him. She had liked the small zaps adding a little kick to her pleasure. His Ginny was strong, physically and mentally. And shed come to him when he had needed her most, giving him the most pleasure, the most intense experience hed never known. Yeah, he knew why she had done it, knew that she had engineered it. But her response to him had been as real as it gets. How the hell was he going to let her go? There was no future for them. Destiny had saddled him with half a soul, a witch who didnt want him, and a pissed off thunderbird tattoo. Ram set Ginny on her feet, stepped back and forced himself not to look at her body, only her eyes. You deserve better than this, Ginny. So much more than I can give you. He hated that, but he wasnt going to lie to her. The passion glaze in her eyes, and the flush on her face faded. She turned away, scooping up her clothes and dragging them on. Once dressed, she turned back to him, her gaze churning with conflict. You dont have to be nice, Ram. I set this up. Forced you to need me by sending you after those witches.

In spite of his resolve, he reached out and put his hand on her shoulder. No spark, he guessed sex had drained off the charge for a while. But he was more concerned about her and softened his voice. I figured that out. He couldnt be mad at her for that, and admired her willingness to do what she had to. More importantly, hed never regret the moments hed spent with her in his arms. I understand you did what you had to do to save your brother. But its going to be harder for us to stay away from each other now. He forced himself to lower his hand, to stop touching her. Harder for me, anyway. God, how was he going to see her and not touch her? She shook her head. My brother? Yeah, maybe that was the final straw. But I wanted you. I still want you. She took a breath and said, I dont think Ill ever stop wanting you. Her gaze slid down, then froze on his chest. She reached out and gripped his arm. Ram. Look. He dropped his gaze to the ink on his chest. He saw the familiar bronzed-colored thunderbird with his wings spread high and his eyes closed. But the streak of lightning was new, hadnt been there when he stripped down and dove into the pool. What the hell? Ginny looked up at him. Ive seen your tat several times when you spar with Eli. Looking back at the bird, she added, This wasnt there before we had sex. She reached out, her slim finger touching the short, jagged red lines shooting out from one of the birds closed eyes.

He instinctively reached for her hand, not wanting her touching the new markings. Ram heard a sizzle. Ginny frowned, pulling her hand away. Ram saw that where his fingers made contact with her skin, there were now faint black marks. They vanished a couple seconds later, but he recognized electrical burns when he saw them. Damn it. I touched you a minute ago with no shock. The electricity recharged. Faster and stronger than before. Look, she said. My hand is fine. She held it up for him to inspect. He saw the newly healed pink skin. But what about the lightning mark? She gestured again to the red streak next to one closed eye of the tat. What does it mean? A blast of hot anger sheered through his body. He ground his jaw, stepping back to keep from touching Ginny again. Glancing down again, he glared at the tat, at the loss of control over his body. His life. Hell, maybe even his soul. The bird is waking. Getting stronger.

Oh Ram. She lifted her gaze, her eyes filled with worry, and something else that was deeper than friendship. Did I do that to you? Cause this thing to get worse? The way she looked at him, with such compassion, worry, caring, it all made him want her again. More than ever. She was addictive to him. Had been from the first time he saw her. He remembered that day vividly; hed arrived at her house, which was littered with the bodies of rogues Phoenix had killed. Eli had been shot in both thighs. Ginny was kneeling over him with a knife and tweezers. Her shirt had been sliced open, and shed tied the loose tails together, concerned about getting the bullets out of Elis thighs before the other hunters supersized healing ability closed up around themnot modesty. Ram had walked over, put his hand on her shoulder and told her hed take care of Elis wounds. She could go change and grab some clothes as he was taking them to a safe house. She never hesitated as she worked, but just said, Either help keep Eli still or get out of my way. She finished the job of digging out both bullets, then she cleaned and wrapped the wounds. She wouldnt let Eli so much as twitch until she was satisfied he would recover.

Seeing her like thatthe mental toughness, her bloody shirt tied out of her way, not giving a shit about modesty or gore, but focused on the mission of saving Eli. Shed been so damned hot. And now she stood there wondering if she had hurt him? After fulfilling his greatest wish, his hottest fantasy since hed met her? And left him craving more? He shook his head. Not you, Ginny. Never you. He sucked in a breath. Its the tattoo waking. The witches had said this would get worse, and it is. He was turning into a human lightning rod. Hed given her what she needed to save her brother and shed given him the best moments of his life. Now he had to end this. Both for her safety from the increasing electrical currents running through him and because Ram had to stay in control more than ever now. Ginny was a threat to that, always had been, always would be. She made him feel, made him want more than he had a right to. In his clearest voice, he added, This is why theres no future for us. She stared at him with misery clouding her eyes, then turned to walk to the edge of the pool, looking down into the still water. It doesnt matter. I know you have to go find your mate. Go after a witch who didnt want him and beg her to mate with him? Assuming he didnt lose

control of the curse and kill her before he convinced her? Yeah, hed get right on that just as soon as he amputated his own balls with a plastic knife. But more important to him at the moment was the sadness radiating from Ginny. He grabbed his shorts and tugged them on. Then he moved to her, reaching out to put his hands on her shoulders. Saw the sparks leap from his fingers and jerked his hands back. He used words instead of his touch. Ginny, youre the woman I would choose if I could. I wish I could give you a future, promise you a life like the other hunters have given their mates. I dont have a future, Ram, she said quietly. He froze at her words. What do you mean? A feeling he barely recognized, hadnt felt since he was a teenager, rippled in his gut. This was about her father. He knew it. The fucker had punished her. What else did he have in mind? Something was wrong, very wrong. Moving closer, he kept his hands away from her but wrapped his arms around her waist and tugged her back against his chest. The snapping tension inside him eased with the feel her body pressed against his. What then? Would she tell him? He folded his arms around her as if he could protect her from whatever it was that threatened her future.

She rested her arms on his, her fingers stroking his wrists. That night we kissed in the bar I wanted you. I think I wanted you from the moment you strode into our house and tried to take over getting the bullets out of Eli. He assumed she was answering his question in her own way, so he gave her the space. You had it under control. She tilted her head back, looking up at him. Exactly. So you held his legs still and asked him questions to divert his attention from what I was doing. No one else sees me like you do, Ram. Hot? Capable? Beautiful? Sexy? Able to bring him to his knees like no other woman? Yeah, he kept that last thought to himself. Her smile was bittersweet. I wanted you, but I knew if I had sex with you, Id fall for you. Regret stabbed him again. Ginny, I dont want to hurt you. I never wanted that. She dropped her gaze back to the pool. Just listen. You asked me and Im telling you. There is no future because having sex with you will set me onto the road to my destiny. When Ive acquired enough of what my father wants from me, Ill be pulled from this realm into his. Forever.

Ram tightened his arms around her involuntarily. Deep in his chest, a hot emptiness spread, eating at his ability to even breathe. Shed be gone. He stared over her head at the water. Even though they werent destined to be together, the thought of never seeing her again nearly brought him to his knees. What was her father that he could do this? Threaten this? Is there any way out? Can you stop him from taking you? From him. Even though she wasnt his. But that hadnt stopped him from taking her body, had it? He could blame the bloodlust. But the truth was simple. Ginny was the one he wanted. The one who mattered. Ginny took a deep breath. No. Hell destroy Eli. So Ill give him what he wants. Ram dropped his face to press his cheek against her soft hair. What does your father want? He felt her shiver in his arms. He tried to steel himself for her answer. My emotions, she said flatly. Once I ascend, he will take every feeling Ive ever had from me and assume them. Take? He had seen all kinds of sick shit in his life, including torture so cruel it shattered the victims mind. But

this? As in gone? Like all your memories wiped? Ill have my memory, just not the emotions attached to them. SoIll know Eli is my brother, that we shared the same mother. But I wont feel it, she said in a hollow voice. I wont love him anymore. He wont matter. From the time he was fifteen, Ram had used discipline to control his emotions. Always. He made decisions based on information and facts, not his feelings. Losing control of his emotions meant losing control of the animal inside him. Thats what hed believed. But to have his emotionsstripped away? The horror of it chilled him to the bone. He thought of his grandfather, the ex-military man who had been the constant in his life. His mom had come and gone, more dedicated to the Marines than her son. But the old man had been there. And when Ram had felt the first surge of the curse and gone after that witch with the knife in his hand, it had been his grandfathers epic anger mixed with heartbroken disappointment that snapped Ram out of the bloodlust. Then it had been his tough love that helped Ram cope and find a way to control the monster inside him. If he couldnt feel those emotions anymore Hed be a monster.

Lifting his arms from around Ginny, he turned her to face him. No. You cant let him. Hell destroy the very thing that makes you who you are. It was her willingness to care so much that made Ginny so fucking special. He tried a new tactic. Eli wouldnt want you to do this, Ginny. Sadness filled her eyes as she stepped out of his hold. He cant stop it, Ram. Even if I refused and Eli is destroyed, my father can take me anytime he wants. I dont have the power to prevent him. So Ill give him what he wants and find a way to free Eli from his clutches. He stood there with empty rage filling his head as he tried to grasp the situation. How can he do anything to Eli? Wing Slayer is Elis god. Her mouth tightened, then she said, Wing Slayers not strong enough to stop him. Ginny turned and walked toward the gate. She was leaving. Ram didnt think, he just asked, Who the hell is your father? She glanced back. Her eyes began to glow with that internal light that turned her eyes to fiery emerald green. An old and very powerful angel.

Chapter Six Ram slammed his fist into Linc Dillingers pretty face. They were sparring in the gym area of the warehouse that served as the headquarters of the Wing Slayer Hunters.

The other witch hunter reared back with the punch, spun with the momentum and thrust his elbow into Rams side. He grunted as two ribs cracked. Shit, that hurt. He leapt, moving so fast he hit Linc with his body and pinned him to the mat before the other hunter reacted. Ram shoved his forearm against Lincs throat. Sparks jumped from his fingertips, landing on the mat. The scent of burnt rubber mixed with their sweat. Where did you disappear to last night? Ram was in charge of sending out the full-fledged Wing Slayer Hunters, as well as the recruits to hunt for rogues. Linc had texted he was unavailable. Ram didnt go for that bullshit. Lincs light brown eyes took on a lion-amber tinge. Fuck off, asshole. He caught Rams legs in a scissor hold and flipped him. Followed that up with a fist to his jaw. Ram ignored the pain radiating up his jaw and bouncing in his head and threw the man off him. Jack-knifing to his feet, he whipped around. I can smell the sex pheromones pouring off you. Witch hunters had cranked up sex drives thanks to the curse. Fortunately, they also had pheromones that attracted women. Since sex helped control the lust for witch blood, that was a good thing. Normally. But Linc had been soaked in witch blood a bit over two

months ago and it had taken a massive amount of Roxys sex magic to save him from the bloodlust. But that slam of sex magic had left Linc a walking boner that no amount of sex eased for long. Ram was the one who had recruited Linc. Hed trained the hunter, had been there when Wing Slayer finished the tattoo of the falcon on Lincs back as their god accepted him. Ram wasnt losing him now.

Snap. Crackle. His fingertips shed blue sparks. A thin wisp of smoke curled up from the mat. Linc circled him, his eyes narrowing, his too-handsome face shifting into feral lines. Whats that saying? The bigger the spark, the limper the dick? Linc spun into a roundhouse kick. Ram dropped into a crouch and kicked Lincs anchor leg out from under the man. Linc slammed down on his back. Ram saw all the downed mans muscles contract to shoot up to his feet and fight. Linc oozed money and charm until he fought. Then the James Bond veneer shattered, revealing the street fighter beneath. Linc would get up every damned time until death stopped him. But Ram was a highly trained killing machine. Hed come

up through the Navy SEALs, then retired into a branch of military so secret, even Sutton Wests hacking skills couldnt find it. Ram put his entire two hundred and fifteen pounds into a knee-drop right onto Lincs solar plexus. The other man managed a half grunt until every nerve in his body got the message and seized. He lay there frozen. Except for his eyes. Ram saw death in Lincs eyes. The man didnt care if it was someone elses death or his own. But Ram cared. He leaned in and said, Sex isnt a problem for me. But losing a friend? Not. Happening. Im not going to let you get yourself killed or lose your soul. He calculated about five more seconds before all Lincs nerves came back online and he went into kill mode. Ill find out where youre disappearing to and what youre doing. And Ill make damned sure your back is protected. Time was up, so Ram threw himself back. Linc reared up to his feet, his fists clenched, anger riding his face. Stay out of my business, Virtos. Ram laughed. Dude, Im going to be so far up in your business, you arent going to shit without me knowing. It was a relief to deal with Linc. Yeah, this he could do.

On the flip side, thinking about Ginny ripped his guts to bloody strips of agony. She was a half angel. That fit, Christ did that fit. Her aura, her eyes, her inner beauty so sweet and sensual, it was addictive to him. And she wasnt his. Bad enough. But she was going to be taken from her life and stripped of her emotions. Rage poured out like salt over his raw gut. Fuck. A boot slammed into his cracked rib, sending Ram flying into a weight bench. He shoved back to his feet. Distracted, Linc said with interest. Thats new, along with that lightning streak on your chest. Ram had coiled his muscles to pounce when he heard the door to the warehouse slam open and a powerful voice rang out, Virtos, youre dead! Linc smirked. Popular guy, arent you? Ram turned as Eli stalked into the gym area. Six foot six, wearing two fifty worth of rock-hard muscle, and holding a long whip coiled in his right hand, Eli stopped a half dozen feet from Ram.

Linc whistled. Someone is serious about flaying you. Ram didnt take his eyes of Eli, but said, Get out, Linc. This doesnt concern you. But what if I have to take a shit? You might miss it. Lincs voice flowed like melted gold. Clearly the hunter was back in control, bringing out his twisted humor. Besides, this is a hell of a lot more interesting than your pathetic attempt at sparring. He turned to Eli. What did ice man do? Eli turned to Linc. Get out, Dillinger. Linc stared back for a long second, seemed to be considering whether he should stay or go, then he turned and strode to out of the warehouse. Eli dropped the coiled lash and checked his grip on the handle. His gaze locked on Ram. Ginny, he snarled. Ram stared at her brother. Thats between your sister and me. Think so? Eli said in a low voice. He flicked his wrist, snaking the lash across the blue mat.

Ram didnt look at the whip. He watched Elithe hunter could skin a man with the lash, but the real threat was the knife still in his holster. Ram fully expected to feel the burn of the whip, he could handle that. Deserved it, even. But he wasnt getting his heart filleted with that knife. Eli went on, I found her an hour ago, moaning in pain until that sire of hers managed to freeze her vocal cords too. That makes it my problem. He snapped the whip, sending the lash flying. It stuck Ram in his bicep and bit deep across his back. He stood utterly still, even as he felt blood well and drip from the cut. Ginnys hurt? Shed been fine when she left him. What the hell happened? Who froze her vocal Then it hit him. Fuck. Her father, the angel. She told you. Thats why shes being punished. Eli struck again, the whip hissing through the air. Ram caught it in his hand, feeling it cut to the bone. Wrapping the lash around his arm, he jerked Eli to him. Getting right in his face, Ram demanded, What is happening to her? Sparks from his fingers popped around the lash. The muscle in Elis jaw twitched. That bastard touched her, forcing extreme cold into her muscles and nerves until they freeze or some such shit. That hurts her like a motherfucker,

but the fun is just beginning. As she thaws out like a piece of meat, every part of her becomes oversensitive until just the air on her skin hurts her. Elis eyes burned with agony. She screams if I touch her. His skin took on a gray cast. I cant even turn on the fucking heat to warm her. The air blowing on her skin makes her cry. The other mans words hit him like exploding bullets. Ginny was suffering. Because of him. A red glaze coated his vision, adrenaline slammed his veins. He shot his hand to his thigh holster and wrapped his palm around the cool hilt of his knife. But he couldnt kill an angel. Neither could Eli, and thats why hed come after Ram as a substitute. Ram forced calm over his rage. His guilt. Ginny was what mattered. He had to help her. If she were his mate, if she had the other half of his soul, hed be able to take her pain and bear it for her. Hed seen the mated hunters do it for their witches. But Ginny wasnt a witch and she wasnt his. Fixing his gaze on Elis strained face, he said, Ill find a way to help her. Youre coming with me. Tell me everything you know on the way to Ginny. He whipped around and ran

hard for his truck. *** Ginny had no concept of time. Just icy, endless pain. She was naked. Couldnt bear clothes touching her. Her hair brushing over her shoulder felt like twenty nails slicing her. Flat on her back on her queen-sized bed, with only the fitted sheet beneath her and no covers, she struggled to breathe. It hurt. Drawing air into her icy lungs burned. Her thigh muscles cramped and twisted, forcing her to suck in air. The hot agony ripped through her quadriceps, then sliced through her knees and deep into her calf muscles. Her legs twitched, scraping over the sheet. She tried to just endure. Dont fight it. Any resistance made it worse. Tears welled up in her eyes. No, she thought desperately. But it didnt matter. One tear spilled over and scraped horribly against her skin. She had told Ram who her father was and was paying for

that decision. Yet she didnt regret giving Ram the knowledge of what she was. No, that she didnt regret. But right now, she regretted being born and existing at all. Her bedroom door opened. Oh God! Any air movement would make it worse. Eli knew better. Besides, he hated seeing her like thisnaked and suffering. Ginny. Shock made her twitch on the bed. Hot agony rippled over her skin. She shuddered violently, but still turned her head and saw him. Ram. He moved into the room wearing only his black pants and boots. No shirt. His chest and arms gleamed with muscles, there was a fading bruise over his ribs, and she noted a thin line on his shoulder. His right hand had dried blood from a deep slice on it. But he couldnt be here, was she hallucinating? Had her mind finally snapped under the pain and taken her to a better place? Ram. He was the best place. She tried hard to mentally lock onto the thought and hold it. He came to the side of the bed. She felt the air move over her and gasped at the pain. Not her imagination then. He was real, and seeing her reduced

to a mass of crying pain. Ram leaned over her until his face filled her vision. Eli told me what your father did to you. Im going to help you. Cant, she croaked out. No one could help her. Ram kept his face directly in her line of vision. Eli said your muscles and nerves have been magically frozen. Its the thawing that hurts. And a slow thaw is vicious. Im guessing that your angel side doesnt allow your cells to actually die, or the power hes using doesnt kill your cells. His calm, logical voice soothed her ragged nerve endings. And his eyessteely blue and so capable. She remembered him staring at her as he orgasmed deep inside her. The color had warmed and melted into endless pools of swirling blue water. Now they looked like pure determination. She didnt try to talk, just kept her eyes on him, on Ram. I need you to trust me Ginny. For a second his jaw tightened, then he went on, We have to get you warmed and thawed. Fast. I sent Eli awayits just you and me and were going to get you through this. A spasm in her lower back made her arch and jerk. Pain radiated in unrelenting waves. She heard her cries and

despised her weakness. It took her a few seconds to realize Ram was no longer in her field of vision. Panic assaulted her, mixing with the pain. She was alone. Some part of her mind heard water running and then shut off. Then Ram was back. Leaning over her again, he looked into her eyes. Relief let her breathe. She realized he had stripped off his clothes, but all that mattered to her was that he was there. She wasnt alone in this endless misery. I wont lie to you, he said. This is going to hurt, but I wont leave you. Ill be there holding you. In a few minutes, the warm water will begin to help. Itll be better, Ginny. He paused for a second. She saw every line in his bodyhis jaw, neck, arms and chestall firm up and then bulge. He was steeling himself to do what he had to do. Then before she could blink, he leaned down, slid his arms under her and unleashed the fires of hell in her body.

Chapter Seven Ram refused to waver in his task, even as her pain-filled screams tore through his head. He moved with preternatural speed, rushing into the adjoined bathroom

and stepping into the tub. The water steamed and swirled around his legs. It was going to get worse for her. Hed rather cut out his own liver than do this, but he didnt hesitate. He lowered them both into the hot water. Another scream ripped from her, followed by a choking sob. Tears poured from her eyes. Tremors racked her body. Ram was going to figure out how to fucking kill that angel for this. He wrapped his arms around Ginnys slim, shaking body and anchored her to him. He lay back so the water covered her up to her neck. He felt her tears on his throat. Her chest heaved as sobs choked her. At least he wasnt throwing sparks right now. He lifted a hand and stroked her back. She flinched, but he kept going, warming her skin. After a few minutes, the shaking and spasms stopped. Finally she began to relax. While his muscles were so tense, he was ready to snap from the tension. He stroked her hair, playing with the

strands floating in the warm water. In his mind, he could still hear her screams when he had lifted her, then when hed put her in the water. Her sobs would stay with him until the day he died. Hed changed out the water several times, keeping the temperature up. But it was cooling again. Ginny. He cupped her head, tilting her face up. Her swollen eyes looked bruised. The sight made his chest ache. If he was her mate, hed never have let her feel this pain. Never. This was my fault. You warned me that you couldnt tell me about your father. I shouldnt have asked. Hed been so shocked at learning what he had about herthat she would leave earth and lose all her emotionshed blurted out the question. And she suffered. His neck ached from tense muscles. I wanted to tell you. Wanted you to knowme, she answered in a ragged voice. He brushed her hair back, relieved that his touch didnt seem to hurt her. I know you, Ginny. Youre my angel. He leaned forward, brushing his mouth over hers.

She tasted of Ginny. Desire flared low in his belly and swelled his cock, but he pulled back and looked into her eyes. Dont do it again. Dont tell me anything that will cause your father to hurt you. He didnt let her answer, but shifted her into his arms and stood. He stepped out of the tub, set her down, and grabbed a towel. Drying her was a test of his self control. All her sweet skin, her breasts tempting him, the nipples peaking from the friction of the towel. And when he drew the cloth down her belly and between her legs How did you know the bath would help? Her voice helped him jerk his thoughts into line. His cock was huge and throbbing, but he ignored that. Eli researched on his phone as I drove us over here. The only thing we could liken it to was frostbite. But your brother, Ram said, moving the towel to dry her hair, he wouldnt be able to bear your screams when he touched you so he left. But you could, she said softly. He turned away and hung up the towel. I had to stop your pain. Whipping back around, he felt his icy control slip.

Your father is a goddamned coward. If he wanted to hurt someone, prove what a badass angel he is, he should have come after me. Not you. Unable to stand it, he slammed his hand against the marble counter. Sparks sizzled all around his fingers. When he lifted his hand, there were ugly black scorch marks on the marble. He clamped his jaw tight. Guess hed recharged, and the electricity was even stronger. He stared down at his hand, hating that the thunderbird, the tat that he had chosen, was now betraying him. Trying to force him to go after the witch he didnt want. Or at least that he didnt want to want, didnt want to feel anything for. The difference between her and Ginny was stark and vivid to Ram. Shayla had run from him. Ginny had come to him with full trust. His angel put her hand on his shoulder and asked softly, Does it hurt when you spark like that? She stood close enough for him to inhale her scent warmed by the bath, and feel her breath on his skin. Hardly noticeable. Witch hunters are built to withstand a lot of pain. The need to touch her was an ache in his chest. But he had hurt her enough. In too many ways.

Come on, lets get you in bed. You need to rest. He reached for his pants, yanked them on, and strode out into the cooler air of the bedroom where he snagged a tank top and a pair of panties from the floor. He walked back into the bathroom and stopped. Ginny stood at the mirror, drawing a brush through her damp hair. She was still nude, her flesh rosy. Her hair fell to the middle of her back. He loved her breasts, small but so full and sensitive. His balls tightened at the memory of her reaction when hed touched her nipples with the tiny shocks, then licked and sucked them. Then had continued down her belly until he got to the sultry curls and had spread open her thighs. He dropped his gaze to the curve of her hip and his mouth watered and his cock strained against the zipper of his pants. She set the brush down and turned. Ram forced his gaze up to her face and saw how damned tired she was. Cold anger dampened his lust. What the hell was he thinking about? Shed been tortured, suffered, and hed hurt her more in the process of helping her. Then there was that tiny little factoid that he was the fucking reason shed been tortured.

Wordlessly, he set the shirt and panties on the counter for her. Then he went back to the room, picked up the covers shed kicked to the floor, and quickly remade her bed. Ginny walked out, her movements slow. Ram lifted the sheet and blanket for her. Get in. She slipped between the sheets hed smoothed to military crispness. Ram covered her, then pulled his phone out of his pocket and made the call. Tell me, Eli snapped. The hot bath worked. Ginnys better, but very tired. Should I come home? Imshit man, Im wired, the curse is eating my guts. Yeah, Ram knew what that was like. Kill some rogues, find a woman. Ginny will sleep now. Ill stay with her until you get home. He didnt wait for an answer, just handed her the phone. Your brother. Eli, Im okay, she said and fell back against the pillows. Exhaustion was evident in her sluggish responses to her brother. Periodic tremors shook her body as she answered her brothers questions. She was still cold. Unacceptable.

The driving need to care for her, to make absolutely sure she was comfortable and content, pushed Ram into action. Going to the other side of the bed, he lifted the covers and slid in. Ginny watched him as she said to Eli, Need to sleep. Well talk later. Ram took the phone from her hand, careful not to touch her with his fingers and shock her. He set it on the bedside table, then turned back to her. Sit up for a second. She pushed herself up. Ram stretched his arm out across the bed, then said, Come here. Ill keep you warm. Just try not to touch my fingers, I dont want to shock you. He sure as hell didnt want to scorch her skin like he had the marble in her bathroom. She stared at him, her hair tumbling around her face, her eyes tired and swollen. Her gaze traveled down to his ribs. That bruise, its gone. He was surprised. You saw that? It had been halfway healed by the time hed gotten here. His ribs felt fine now. Her brows lowered. And the mark on your shoulder and your hand. Elis whip. He had no right to go after you. Im sorry.

Shed been in agony, and yet shed seen the marks and realized what had happened. Forget it. Lie down and get some rest. She stared at him with trouble brewing in her hazel gaze. You shouldnt have come here. You should just forget about me now and focus on finding Dont, he snarled, every muscle tightening in reaction to even thinking about Shayla. And losing Ginny. He had no rights to her, no claim, and he hated that. Color darkened her cheekbones and her eyes brightened with anger. Hows that denial working for you? She shot her hand out and caught hold of his. Sparks burst from his fingertips, arcing up an inch or two and dropping down onto the bed. Pinpoints of singe marks appeared on the sheet in a random pattern. He had a tingling sensation that traveled a path from the thunderbirds closed eyes to his fingers. Ram jerked his gaze up to hers. Let go of my hand. He didnt yank his hand free, fearing hed wrench her tightly

clenched fingers. She held on. Lightning appeared on your tattoo after we had sex. The electrical energy is getting worse. You have to see what the witches can do to help you, Ram. He saw worry in her gaze. For him. After what shed been through, that humbled him. He looked down at her smaller hand wrapped around his. She cared. About him. Shed trusted him twice now, first with her virginity and then when she was in so much pain. But he wanted, needed, to take care of her. Since she had hold of his hand, he tugged her down onto his arm, then pulled her close to his chest. Theyve tried, Ginny. Theres something off about this thunderbird, and when they attempted to use their third eye magic to see him, they hit some kind of wall. Carla said that they might have better luck once the bird wakes a bit more. I guess shed know, Ginny answered. Isnt she some kind of leader? Moon witch advisor, he answered. Shes sort of a liaison between the witches and their revered Ancestors. No one but the witches really understands what that means, but I

gather that she has more information than the other witches. She lifted her head to look up at him. What about that dragon on Key? Isnt he the creator of fertility witches? Shayla He flinched, hating hearing her name. Hating that she evoked a reaction in him at all. Ginny ignored that. Shes a fertility witch, right? Infertility witch, Ram told her flatly. There is one born every generation. Dyfry, the dragon youre talking about, says a curse of some kind caused the change and hides the infertility witch from him. Im a little confused, what is an infertility witch? Ginny asked, her thumb stroking his hand. He explained what Keys mate had told him. Like Roxy before she mated with Key, her powers are dormant until she finds her Awakening and has sex. Ginny stiffened. Thats you. Youre her Awakening. And once youwell, youll Awaken her magic. I might be her Awakening, but well never know. Roxy says that Shayla will spread infertility once her magic Awakens. She doesnt want that, so when she saw me in Roxys apartment and felt the connection, she panicked. And ran.

That pissed Ram off right down to his bones. Running was for cowards. Yet Ginny had told him a truth that was more than emotionally painful, it was physical torture for her. Despite knowing shed be punished, she had trusted him with it. Her bravery amazed him. Feeling her shift in his arms, her skin sliding against his, he pulled her closer and said, I dont want to talk about her. He didnt want any part of Shayla here in this bed with them. Tough, Ginny squeezed his hand. This is your life were talking about. I know I wont be a part of it much longer, but Dont. He couldnt stand it. Ram swallowed the thickness in his throat. Shed be taken from this life, thrust into another realm, and all her feelings stripped from her. And he couldnt stop it. What good were all his hunter strength and his skills from a decade of his deep-cover military service if he couldnt help her? Couldnt save her? Ginny leaned up on her elbow, still keeping his right hand in her left. You dont get it, do you? I care about you. I have from that first day when you stayed with us after Eli was shot. Then our kissI care, Ram. And one day She drifted off,

sucking in a breath and closing her eyes beneath a weight only she could feel. Then she opened them. Ram saw the sheen of tears. Seeing that felt like a horse kicked him in the chest. Ginny blinked, clearing her eyes. One day I wont feel that anymore. So now, while I can, Im going to feel, and Im going to fight for you. I want you to live and be happy. Maybe Ill be able to see you from the other realm, maybe Ill look at you and remember what I felt in some small way. She drew her thumb over his hand. Her chin firmed up. Even the jealousy of Shayla. Damn it, he didnt want her to hurt like this. I wont ever feel this, what we have, for her. Ever. Ram, she chided softly, you havent given her a chance. She ran from me, he snarled. Do you know what happens when a witch runs from a hunter? Cold fury ruptured inside him. Unable to stay still, he untangled himself from her, threw the covers back, swung his legs over the side of the bed, and stared out the window. Just talking about Shayla caused this manic restlessness in him and Ram hated it. To Ginny, he said, It brings out the predator in me, the one that will stop at

nothing to get her blood. If I go after her, Ill kill her.

Chapter Eight No! Ginny stared at Rams massive back as he sat on the side of the bed. Denial surged hot and furious through her. Youre the most controlled, disciplined man I know. Youd never hurt a witch, or any innocent He laughed. It was a sound so bitter and rough, it sent chills down her spine. Turning his head, he looked over his shoulder at her. Wrong. I almost killed a young witch when I was fifteen years old. If my grandfather hadnt pulled me off her, Id be rogue. Ginny could see the memory haunted him. She pushed up to her knees and shoved her hair back. How did that happen? Why were you around a witch at all? She realized how little she really knew about his pastjust that he was raised mostly by his ex-military grandfather, and his mom was there when she wasnt gone on deployment with the Marines. The blue in his eyes darkened. I didnt know what I was, didnt realize I wasnt human like my grandfather and mom. They didnt know either. Turning away from her, he put his forearms on his thighs, bowing his shoulders. I looked older, bigger. I was hanging with some older kids and

snuck out of the house to go to a party. There was a girl there, Britney, that I was drawn to like Id never been drawn to anyone else. She roused dark needs in me, a sense that I had to havesomething. My skin itched, my veins throbbed. She saw him clamp his jaw shut so hard even his neck and shoulders bulged. He was shutting down, pulling even farther away from her and wrapping himself in a thick loneliness that tore at her heart. How long had he carried this guilt and fear of himself? Hating his turmoil, she wished for a second that she could control her Halfling magic and give him some ease, some peace. She tried to will her power to rise. But there was no answering whip of energy that signaled her magic. In this moment, she was just a woman. So she did the only thing she could, she reached out and touched his shoulder. Felt his warm skin over impossibly hard muscles. Youve never talked about this, have you? she asked softly. His profile was unforgiving. No. And shed thought she was lonely? At least she had her brother, Eli. Trust me, just as you asked me to do, she said softly. Tell me. He sat stone still. As seconds ticked by on her bedside clock, Ginny feared

hed refuse. Then he began to talk. The girl, Britney, she smelled like sweet and spicy power. Her scent made my veins throb. Id had plenty of sexual lust, but this was bigger. More. Darker. She saw him dig his fingers into his thighs. Her skinit sort of glowed. Not like you, when your aura is out, that surrounds you in light, but this was her actual skin glowing. Witch shimmer, Ginny said. Eli had told her how witches have a shimmer to their skin that witch hunters could see. He nodded. Yeah. We went outside, and I was leading her down by a lake when a branch caught her arm and cut her. She bled. He paused, flexing his fingers. The smell hit me, and seconds later, I had cramps, sweats, pain and then insanity. The madness of the curse screamed in my head, cut her. I whipped out my pocket knife. Beneath her hand, she felt an internal shudder rip through him. I still remember her expression as she looked up from her cut arm to me holding the knife. She went white with terror, turned, and ran.

Ran. It clicked in Ginnys head then. You chased her.

I tackled her to the ground, my knife ready to slice her open when something big and enraged smacked into me from the side, throwing me off her. He turned, his gaze hitting hers. Ginny saw the self-loathing in his blue eyes. What happened? she asked, but did she really want to know? Her mouth dried with nerves. It was my grandfather, hed found me. I rolled over, came up on top of him, and shoved the knife against his throat. That was when some tiny thread of sanity clicked in my head and I stopped. He paused, then said in a gravelly voice, I almost killed him. But you didnt. No. The old man kept in shape and he knew how to fight. He flipped me and slammed his fist into my jaw. The pain cleared the rest of the fog. I couldnt believe what Id nearly done. She rubbed his shoulder, stroking his skin with her hand, trying to give him some comfort. How did you find out youre a witch hunter? We figured out I wasnt human, but it wasnt until later we learned what I was. But my grandfatherhe saved me. He gave me a choice; either I give into my sick, fucked up animal side, and he would put me down like a rabid dog, or I learn to control it with discipline.

Put you down Horror nearly gagged her. Ram stared at her. He wasnt kidding. He was holding a loaded gun when he said it. She jerked her hand back. He was a monster! You were only a kid, fifteen He was right, damn it! Ram surged to his feet, pacing the space between the bed and window. It was dumb luck that hed realized I had snuck out of the house that night, and more luck that he was able to stop me. By then I was strong enough to break every bone in his body. Im the one that was, that is, a monster. He stopped walking, faced her, and went on in a calmer voice, He gave me hope, a chance to live as a man. He set up rigid schedules of grueling exercise, and at night I slept chained. We couldnt risk a craving hitting and me sneaking out again. But I learned to control the curse. Control myself. She tried to take it all in. To her, it sounded brutal and cruel. Didnt someone love him, give him some softness and caring? Protection? What about your mom? I mean, didnt she know your father was a witch hunter? His shoulders tensed to granite, the veins in his neck popping. No. We never knew who my father was. My mom got upset and confused whenever anyone tried to ask about my father. He looked back, his face a tightly drawn mask of rage. Her memory had been shifted. She literally

couldnt remember and it made her agitated. Eventually she died of dementia at forty-three. There was no end to what Ram had suffered. Staring up at him, she asked, From memory shifting? Thats my theory. If not done right and carefully, then shifting can set off a chain of events in the brain that are extremely damaging. She couldnt bear that raw pain in his gaze. Your mom must have loved you, Ram. No matter what your father did, she loved you. Yeah, she did, he said, his voice flat. At least hed had some love, she thought. Thats why he was so kind with her, so Until the end, he went on. Until she screamed in terror whenever she saw me, thinking I was him. He turned away again. Watching his daughter, my mother, deteriorate like that on top of everything else, it killed my grandfather. He had a massive heart attack and died the day of her funeral. Ginny heard the words, flat and brutal, and knew he held his pain as tightly as he held on to his guilt. She shuffled off the bed, walked to him. He stepped back, his face ravished. You dont know me, Gin. Im wrong, just like this bird on me is wrong. Youre an

angel, and Im a predator who kills. No. She couldnt stand his pain. Ram had been the one who helped her. She needed to do the same for him. She closed the foot of space between them, putting her arms around his waist. He stood immobile, frozen. She tilted her head back, looking into his eyes. Youre a survivor. Not a quitter. Youre going to find the solution, Ram, a way to stop the electricity burning through you. Ginny She hugged him tighter. Ignoring the tattoo, she pressed against his chest and laid her cheek to his heart. Ill be here with you. As long as I can, Ill be here. ***

Fire seared Rams veins. The pain drove him on relentlessly. It was so fucking hot, it felt like he was in a furnace. His guts cramped, he had to find relief. Then he caught the scent. Froze, lifting his nose like a wolf on the hunt. Witch blood.

His muscles twitched with need. Predator silent, he slid his knife from the thigh holster, following that scent. Down a hallway. Deep in his brain, he felt a warning flare go off. This was wrong. No distractions! He was on a mission; he needed that blood. There. Behind the door. Ram took one step back and kicked the door right off its hinges. Familiar. Why did this feel familiar? Focus! Must have witch blood. Right in front of him, a witch was chained to a wall, her sweet, powerful blood flowing from multiple cuts. The aroma bloomed thick with power. Sweat coated his body, and tremors attacked his nervous system. His body coiled, ready to strike. A hand, cool and small, touched his arm. He flung it away. His witch blood! Hed hunted it, he Ram, wake up! He snapped to full consciousness, his heart pounding like

hed sparred with Axel and Sutton at the same time. He bolted up to a sitting position and Ginnys bedroom came into focus. Hed fallen asleep here, with her. It was dark, Eli was still out, probably wouldnt be back until morning. Looking down, he saw his knife was clutched in his right hand. Oh shit. Not good. Turning his head, he saw Ginny on her knees, her dark hair tumbling around her. The little tank top she had slept in was sliding off her shoulders but drawing tight over her breasts. Desire, need for hot pounding sex, blasted through him. He recognized that he was deep in the hell of withdrawals from his earlier contact with witch blood, but the pain, the tremors wouldnt let go. Conflicting cravings crashed through him. He stilled his body, commanding his muscular system to follow his orders. Ginny stared at him, her eyes flooded with worry. He only had one question. Did I hurt you? No. She looked as though she wanted to get closer to him, touch him, but concern still glittered in her gaze. Are you all right? You were having a nightmare. He looked down at the knife he held. A block of ice formed in his stomach. Christ. He could have attacked her. And if he had, shed be dead.

He had to get out of there, put distance between him and Ginny. After setting the knife by his holster on the nightstand, he shoved the covers back and started to swing his legs off the bed. Ram? Ginny caught his hand. Sparks exploded between their joined hands. She jerked her hand back, looked down. Ram followed her gaze and saw several black marks on her skin. Rage blasted through him. Hed hurt her. Hurt the woman that had listened to him as he spilled his putrid guts, then took him in her arms and held him. Went to sleep curled up against his chest with total trust. Shed trusted him, and hed paid her back in pain. He was so fucking worthless. Furious, he snapped out, I have to go. He threw his legs over the side of the bed. Running away, Ram? Guess youre as much a coward as Shayla. He froze on the edge of the bed. He was somewhere between wanting to turn on her and spit out a vile retort and heading straight for the door without a word or a glance. But shit, he couldnt do either. Her wordsher accusationwas making its way down from his eardrums into his very soul. Complicating it all, her sleep-warmed

scent flooded his senses. Clutching the edge of the sheetcovered mattress, he said roughly, I dont want to hurt you. Thats why I have to go. You dont have to do this alone. Her warm hand settled on his shoulder. You came to me in my worst moment this morning and gave me hope. No one has ever beaten my father before, but you did. I didnt beat him, Ginny. You still suffered. Each second of her pain was imprinted on his mind. Once again, he lamented that he hadnt had the ability to take her pain and bear it for her. You were there, Ram, she told him. Let me be here for you now. Let me help you. Help him? Didnt she get it? Ginny, look at me. Im racked with a craving for bloodlust. If a witch walked in this room right now with a bloody nose, Id lose it and kill her. I was dreaming of killing a witch. He forced the words out. And right now, if I touch you, he said with a grimace, looking down at his hands gripping the mattress, Ill burn you. So? Ill heal. She shifted closer to him, her thighs pressing to his side as she stared at him. Sex helps the cravings, right? Hot shafts of desire spiked through him. Women wanted him, but it was always for what he could give them. No one

touched him with only the goal of easing him. Especially with the risk of getting burned. His chest ached at her offer. Lifting his gaze to her face, he saw the thick emotion churning within the hazel depths of her eyes. She cared. Too much. He was going to hurt her one way or another, either burning her skin or breaking her heart. No amount of relief or pleasure is worth your pain. She straightened, folding her arms beneath her breasts, her expression turning fierce. Youre worth any price. Ill be gone, but you will be here, and you have to survive, Ram. Live on. Carry the memory of us, of the short time we had together and what you meant to me, how damned much you meant to me She sucked in a breath. Because I wont. Hell take every goddamned feeling I ever had for you. His chest felt like hed been stabbed with a red-hot pole. Damn it, Ginny. There has to be some way to stop him! Theres not. Nothing stops him. But you have a chance. Im not going after Shayla. He had told her that earlier. He hated talking about the soul mirror he didnt want, while what he and Ginny had between them was ending before it had a chance to begin. Yes you are. Not now, not tonight. Because this is our time. My time. Uncrossing her arms, she lifted her hands to his shoulders. I get one chance at caring, at experiencing this

kind of love. Im going to live every second, feel every sensation, each scent and taste. Love? The word branded his brain and thrust it into neutral. She couldnt love him. Could she? Her face shadowed. I know you dont love me. Im not your soul mirror. But for me A pool of raw honesty filled her gaze. Its been you since I met you. And thats enough. She looked away, the lines of her face softening with sadness. Its all Ill ever have. Deep in Ram, the need to grab her to him, hold her tight and protect her with every last breath in his body clawed to be free. She was his. The most basic part of him was demanding the right to claim her. But she wasnt his to claim. Ram had understood since the day hed attacked that young witch that he had no right to love. To be loved. His grandfather had warned him not to let his emotions rule him. Ever. Or hed lose control of the dark side of himself. Just like hed lost control that day hed chased Britney. Ginny? She was all-the-fuck-over his emotions. If he loosened the reins, if he touched her again, tasted her,

breathed her in And then she left him by ascending? He would crack. Break. Become a monster of epic proportions. It would destroy him. I cant, he said stubbornly. Determination firmed up her expression and she turned back to him. She leaned close, brushing her fabric-covered breasts across his back, her breath fanning his neck. Cant what? Care for me? Every movement sent shards of pleasure right down his spine. He clenched his jaw, fighting his body. Or have sex with me? she asked in that breathy voice right into his ear. His cock jerked, his balls squeezed. Ram whipped his head around. Not happening, he ground out. I can feel the electrical buildup in me getting stronger. Im not going to use my hands on you and cause you even one second of pain. She dropped her hands down his back, then slid them around his sides to his abdomen.

His muscles jumped and twitched beneath her touch. She put her mouth to his ear. Thats not a problem. Because youre not in control here, I am. You keep your hands right there on the edge of the mattress. She trailed a kiss down the side of his neck. While her hands slid down his stomach. He couldnt touch her to stop her. I dont have sex this way. He stayed in control. Always. No emotion. No vulnerability. He surrendered nothing when he had sex. She undid the button on his pants. Lifting her lips from his shoulder, she looked into his eyes. With me, you do. Youre safe with me, Ram. Free to let someone else be in control so you can just feel. Sliding her hand into his pants, she traced the head of his cock. His body bowed from the fiery sensation of her gentle touch. And her powerful words. She stared into his eyes. Uh uh. No moving unless I tell you. Color darkened her face. Youre mine for a little while. Were going to make

memories together, and you are going to hold onto them for both of us, forever. She shoved his pants aside and closed her fingers around his shaft, her thumb gliding over the tip. Say it, Ram. Say you belong to me for this moment in time. His head spun from her touch. And her demands. Her sheer confidence in what her touch was doing to him. He could see it in her eyesthey were clearing to a sharp green. Gripping the edge of the bed, he ground out, No. Struggling to hold on to himself, to keep her from ripping him open and releasing all the darkest parts of him that he kept ruthlessly locked down. She hissed low in her throat. You will. Damn that was hot. Ram fought not to push his cock deeper into her hand. Fought to remember he could hurt her. And she could destroy him. She took her hand away, got off the bed, and stood in front of him. He should get up, leave, put an end to this.

Protect himself. And her.

But he couldnt look away from her. He sat transfixed, watching as she grasped the edge of her shirt and pulled it up. He sucked in a breath as he watched her belly revealed, her ribs, then her breasts. Dropping the shirt, she shook out her hair, the long strands falling around her like midnight. Clad only in her black panties, she was a vision. A primal need to claim her roared over him. The battle between the woman he wanted, needed, craved, and the fear that he could only be worthy and whole if he stayed in control. Cold and remote. Distant. But if he got her to bend to his will, his way. Seduce her to his will. Then hed be in control. Focusing on his goal, he said, Come here, Ginny. I cant touch you, but I can taste you. Oh hell yeah. He didnt need his hands, hed use his tongue on her mouth, her nipples, down her belly to the lush place between her thighs. She drew her hands up her thighs, followed the curve of her hips, trailed up her sides until she cupped her breasts. Lifted them. Taste these? He zeroed in on her swollen, ripe nipples. His heart pounded. He could do this. Yes.

No. He jerked his gaze up and narrowed his eyes. She was challenging him, fighting him for dominance. And something much deeperhis heart. He couldnt use his hands. Couldnt touch and stroke her into a frenzy of need that made her blindly desperate for him. Youre pushing me, little angel. She brushed her thumbs over her nipples. Damn right. Its your turn to submit. To trust me. He lunged up. Ginny. His voice came out a low, thick growl. Every fiber of his being wanted to sweep her up, lay her down and teach her the penalty for taunting him. Make her beg with need, then scream with pleasure. She didnt even flinch, but stared back at him while releasing her breasts. Then she began sliding her hands down her belly. To the edge of those panties. Youre strong enough to do this, Ram. Trust me now, then trust yourself to handle it when Im gone. She knew. Knew him right to his deepest fears. No one else knew him like that, and the intimacy spun through him like a tornado, ripping holes in his protective walls. He clenched his fists against the storm, struggling to not dive at her, pull her hands away, drop to his knees and rip those panties off her. Mine, he thought wildly. He was only dimly aware of his own pants sliding lower on his hips.

Fingering the edge of her panties, she kept his gaze. I will fight dirty for you, Ram. Because youre worth any price. Ill risk loving you, getting my heart broken and being forced to ascend. But I will not take any less than all of you. I wont let you hold back that one part of yourself, the one you protect, by giving you control. She pushed her panties over the curve of her hips and shimmied them down her legs. Either we make sensual memories filled with whatever emotion you can give me, or we do nothing. Flaming desire roared in his head. She stood there naked and so beautiful he couldnt breathe. Only stare. And want. Now if you were willing to belong to me, to submit to me she drifted her fingers down into the hair that shielded her sex. Yes! he rasped out, his chest heaving even as he knew he was losing the battle. She tilted her head, her eyebrows rising. Yes what? He couldnt believe he was doing this. For the first time since he was a teenager, he relinquished control. But this was Ginny. His angel. A wall inside him shattered. Yes. I belong to you. He sucked in a breath, feeling years of restraint melt away. He bore his stare into hers and his

voice deepened with meaning, You are mine, now and always. I will fight the devil himself for you. He was in agony to have her, to feel her body claim him. But his hands, he still couldnt touch her, would not risk hurting her with the live electricity snapping inside him. She stepped out of the panties pooled at her feet and walked to him. Putting her hands on his waist, she looked up into his eyes as she dragged her hands down, catching his pants then pushing them down. For as long as we have I wont let anyone take you from me. He saw her face flush, her nipples hardened, and her scent thickened with arousal. She loved him claiming her. You started this, angel. You wanted all of me, you have it. Now what? He shuddered with the dual cravings ripping through him. I cant, wont, touch you with my hands. Her eyes flared hot green as she stroked his cock from the head to his balls. Then she slipped her hand deeper, cupping his sac. Do you trust me? Yes. Hed give her anything if she just kept touching him. Cant hold back much longer. His cock throbbed mercilessly. Too many needs surged inside him. On the bed. Wrap your hands around the headboard. Dont let go. Her voice flowed with command.

He sank onto the bed, went flat on his back and grabbed the thick iron headboard. Before he could even test its strength, he felt her straddle him, her thighs spread wide. Then she lowered herself until his cockhead touched her soft, moist center. She hesitated. Ram dug his heels into the mattress and clenched his hands around the railing. He hadnt gotten her ready, hadnt touched her or kissed her Baby, are you wet enough? He didnt know if he could hold back. Shh, Im a little new to this, but Ill figure itoh! she pressed down an inch. Then another. And another. She was slick, wet, it felt so damned good. Ram squeezed the headboard. More, angel. Take more. She pushed down, her body hot and tight. Nothing felt this good. Only Ginny. She paused, then pushed again. Ram arched as she took him right to his balls. His heart pounded; his body broke out in icy-hot pleasure. He struggled to be still, let her body adjust to him. Feel good? he asked her. She put her hands on his chest, leaned down, and kissed

him. Hot, opened mouth, her tongue demanding entrance. She tasted all his mouth, as if learning him, while rocking her hips. Ram was on fire. Her tongue filled his mouth while he filled her body. She pulled back, looked into his eyes. More. Ride me. Hard as you need to. Ride until you explode. She pushed up, lifted her hips, and came down. Ram thrust up, meeting her in a slap of bodies that inflamed him. He watched her mouth part, her eyes begin to dilate. She liked it. Harder, he rasped out. Something broke free in her, and Ginny rode him. Her breasts bounced, her hair swaying, he could see the fire in his angel as she rode him for all she was worth. Fearless and free and so stunning he couldnt look away. Her thighs clench hard around him, her internal muscles gripped his cock and he knew her orgasm was racing toward her. He seized the railing harder to keep from touching her. Instead he used words. Youre mine, Ginny. I wont let anyone take you from me. She exploded, her body convulsing around him. Pure light shot out from her skin to surround her in ethereal beauty.

Ram saw it, felt the light touch him as pleasure raced down his spine and detonated. He pounded into her as he came, drowning in the intense pleasure. He barely felt the burning in his hands wrapped around the iron headboard.

Chapter Nine Ginny lay on Rams chest, feeling his heart beat against her breasts. She could still feel him deep inside her body. Warmth spread through her. She loved Ram. He cared for her, cared enough to at least fight. It wouldnt work, of course. How do you fight an angel? Yet she loved hearing him say it, loved feeling like she mattered. A smell singed her nostrils. Likeburning flesh and metal. She felt Ram move beneath her. Alarm chased out the languid feeling. Lifting her head, she looked up. Sparks flew and smoke curled up from her iron headboard where Ram gripped it. The bars beneath his hold were softening, bending. Realization slammed into her. Oh God, he was a human

soldering iron. Bile rose in her throat. Ram! Let go! She shot up to her knees, barely feeling him slide from her body as she grabbed his forearms. Hot skin. Bunched muscles. Dont touch me, he shouted, lifting his body and throwing her off him. Stay back. Ginny landed on her butt on the other side of the bed. Staring in utter horror at him. Sweat poured down his face and every muscle bulged and rippled. Then he gave a mighty pull. The entire headboard broke apart. Ram lifted the pieces over his head, careful not to hit her. There were chunks of misshapen iron stuck to his hands, and sparks shooting from his fingers, melting the iron into his hands. Oh God The smell made her stomach heave, but she focused on trying to help him. What do I do? Tell me! Just stay clear. His voice was tight but calm. She watched as he rested the long piece of ruined wroughtiron melted to his hand on the bed. Shifting in an unbelievably fast motion, he shoved his foot onto the hot piece of iron and pulled.

She heard his skin rip as the iron came free. But before she could even blink he grabbed the piece stuck to his left palm and fingers in his bleeding right hand, and ripped that off too. Your hands! They were torn and bleeding. She reached for him, desperate to do something. Anything. Maybe her magic would rise and Ram leaped off the bed, then turned, his face dark and violent. Ill heal, but you cant touch me. His gaze flickered to the ruined headboard, then back to her. His mouth flattened and white lines appeared like cracks. If I had touched you, I would have burned your skin right off. She hated that bird and dropped her gaze to glare at it. Shit, your tat. A second streak of jagged lightening was shooting from the thunderbirds eyes. She looked up. Im calling Carla. You said she might be able to see what the creature is doing when the bird woke more. You now have two streaks of lightning, and I think She trailed off as she scooted across the bed so she could look closer. His eyes, they are slightly opened. He stood utterly still, blood dripping from his hands. Fear and worry made her frantic. Was he shutting down, pushing her out? Her chest felt like a house fell on it. Unable

to draw a breath, she put her hand on his hip, desperate to keep the connection between them. Please. Use my cell. Carlas in my contact list. Then he turned and strode into the bathroom. Her lungs unlocked. She grabbed the phone, frantic to find a way to save Ram. *** Fifteen minutes later, Ginny opened her door, wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that shed thrown on. Sutton West stood on her porch, his bald head gleaming in the porch light. He was bare-chested, a sign that hed used his wings to get to there. He had one beefy arm around Carla. She looked tiny next to him. Ginny stood back as they both came inside. Ram is in the family room. Sutton lifted his arm from Carla, strode past her and through the archway dividing the formal living room from the big kitchen and family room area. Carla stopped and put her arm on Ginnys shoulder. Are you okay, Ginny? The concern in Carlas voice filled Ginnys throat. The panic shed been holding down broke through. My iron headboard melted to his hands. The horror of it consumed her as she saw it again in her mind. He ripped it off, and his handsoh God. Tears flooded

her eyes and ran down her face. Carlas gaze filled with sympathy and she wrapped her arms around Ginny, holding her for a minute. Then she pulled back and said, Ram would never have called me, Ginny, he needed you to do that for him. You helped him more than you know. The witchs kindness surprised her. In the past, it had been hard to have friends when she had to lie to them about what she was. After a while, it was easier to just have acquaintances. Shed even kept her distance from the witches, because they were too smart, saw too much, and she feared what her father would do to her, or to Eli, if they found out she was a Halfling. Keeping her distance was habit. Yet Carla treated her like a friend. Like she mattered too, not just Ram. Thanks, she said softly. The two of them walked into the family room. Ram was dressed in his black pants and boots and standing behind a huge L-shaped couch. Sutton stood just to one side of his friend. The two men took up a huge chunk of space in the area between the kitchen and family room. My hands are healing, Ram said, facing Sutton and obviously answering a question. Not a problem. But the bird, Sutton gestured to the thunderbird. The lightning streaks are new. Carla moved closer and tripped

over the rug that ran beneath the sofa and coffee table. Sutton reached out and steadied her, as if hed done it a thousand times. Carla barely noticed she was focused instead on Rams tattoo. His eyes are cracked open a slit. Ginny moved up next to Ram and put her hand on his arm. I saw that too. She looked at the witch. So the bird is waking? Will you be able to see him, find out what hes doing? Ram lifted his arm, putting it around her shoulders and pulling her close without touching her with his fingers. Ill try, the witch said. Sutton put his hands on Carlas shoulders. Opening your third eye? Carla nodded. Lean against me, Carly. He tugged her back to his chest, and cradled her in his arms. There, I feel your magic rising. Ginny felt a shift in the atmosphere, that must be Carlas magic. At least it wouldnt cause bloodlust in Ram. The way Eli explained it, once the soul of the witch mated, her magic didnt stir the curse. Silence fell over the room but for the sounds of their breathing.

She saw Carlas eyes slide closed. Her third eye opened, Sutton announced. Ginny slid her arm around Rams waist in an irrational need to hold him to her. Minutes ticked by, stretching her nerves. All Ginny could think about was Ram. The way hed made love to her in his backyard. Then coming to her when he found out she was in agony, finding a way to help her. But the biggest moment for her was when he relinquished his control to her. He trusted her as much as she trusted him. That was something so huge and precious and rare. Love. God, she loved him. She couldnt lose him; but even worse than that would be her father ascending her then taking away her emotions. And then shed feel nothing for this man. Their shared moments, their growing feelings would all mean nothing. She looked up at his harsh profile. Thought of all hed been through in his life. He relied on discipline and self-control with no softness, no comfort. Except when he was with her. She gave him the caring he deserved. Her heart swelled with love for him, desperately

wanting to give him all the love hed missed out on. Ram looked down at her, his hard gaze gentled. Leaning down, he brushed his mouth over hers, then stood straight again. Just a touch of reassurance that they were in this together. Oh dear crone. Carlas sharp voice burst Ginnys bubble of warmth. Ram stiffened and said, What is it? Ginny watched as Carla opened her eyes. The witch was pale. She blinked, then said, I saw the thunderbird. Hes waking, and he is furious. Hateful. Vile. She leaned back deeper into Sutton. And part demon. Fuck, Ram snarled, jerking his arm from Ginny and striding to the sliding glass door that led to the backyard. What does that mean? Ginny asked desperately, swiveling her head between Ram and Carla. I dont know exactly. But the bird is waking, and as he does, hes gaining an electrical charge, a form of lightning. Carla turned, breaking Suttons hold on her and walking to Ram.

Hell kill you. The electrical charge will grow until you burst into flames. How do you know? Ram asked, his words soft and measured as he continued to stare out into the dark. I saw it. The bird had done it time and again every generation he was reborn into a man. Ginny saw the witch shudder, her long braid twitching. Then she added, Spontaneous human combustion. Heard of it, Ram said in that flat voice. Carly, Sutton said from where he stood by Ginny. What can he do? There must be something. Carla put her hand on Rams back. You only have half a soul. You have to find Shayla. Convince her to mate with you and seal your souls. Then she should be able to control the bird and stop it. Ginny heard the words and felt her entire world shatter. Felt her hope die. The truth cut her deep and vicious. He belonged to another woman. Pure and simple. Ram reached out, laying his hand on the window of the big slider. Sparks flew. The glass cracked. Chase a witch who

ran from me. Cant. Ill kill her. Ram! Panic cut through the self-pity and clawed at her chest and throat. Youll die! You have to go after Shayla. She was losing him. One way or another. Carla, how much time does he have? How long? The witch turned, her face heavy with pity. Youre accelerating it. Every time the two of you have sex, it makes the bird insanely furious. Youre in the birds way of what he really wants.

Shayla. They all knew it. Ginny felt like a steel-toed boot kicked her in the chest right between her breasts. The pain, it was different than what her father did to her. This hurt worse, sharper and deeper. It felt like all her insides were cracking. Breaking. Shattering. Carla walked to her, her hand settling on her arm. If you care about Ram, let him go. Let him go? she asked stupidly. Carla, dont, Ram warned. But she didnt listen, the witch kept talking. Itll give him time to find his real mate. The one who can save him. The one that the bird wants.

The pain detonated, an explosion so loud, she couldnt hear anything else. Heat flashed through her like a firestorm. Ram wasnt hers. Shed wanted to love him, but shed hurt him. Not. Hers. Ginny! Rams bellow penetrated the roar in her ears. But it didnt matter. Because her father hovered in front of her. It is time, daughter. He held out his hand. Ascend and you will hurt no more. For the first time in her life, ascension didnt sound like a bad deal. No more pain. No memory of hurting? Of losing Ram? The pull was so powerful and desirable, she began to lift her hand.

Chapter Ten Light burst from Ginny, so blinding it seared his eyes and left him in total darkness. But he didnt stop lunging for her. Her father was trying to ascend her. He knew it right to his defective soul. Ram hit something, some force that threw him back.

As he flew through the air, he evaluated. The only explanation to what was happening was that the angel was in the room with them. Ram had to get around him to Ginny. He landed on the wood floor and rolled, and the impact jarred loose a memory. Carla tripping on that rug. Ginny had been standing on the rug. Thats how he could get to Ginny. Ram came to a rest on his stomach and slid out his hand. He was trapped in blackness, unable to see even shapes. There, he felt the edge of the rug. Quickly he calculated. Ginny had been standing to the right of where Ram was now, behind the back of one side of the couch. It was near the edge of the rug. Sure now, Ram sat up, fisted the rug and jerked hard. He heard the furniture move, and then Ginny tumbled into him. He could feel the hot light pouring off her, but managed to get his arms around her. He felt something, some force, trying to pull her away from him. Ginny, he lowered his face to her ear, forcing her to hear him. I wont let you leave. Youre mine. Hold on to me, angel, hold tight. He kept talking to her, willing her to stay with him. Ram? she finally answered.

The intense light dimmed enough that he could see the shadow of her. Yes, angel, its me. Youre not mine. You belong to Shayla. Her voice was so broken it killed him. He knew his fingers were sparking but it wasnt as bad as before. Fucking bird needed to recharge. He had a few minutes to touch her. Ram found her face with his palm, fitted his hand to the curve of her jaw and said, No. I belong to you. Stay with me, Ginny. Well fight together. I swear it. He held her tighter, cradling her in his lap. But he continued to feel that pull on her, the force tugging her, trying to drag her away from him. He was still losing her. Damn it! Desperation revealed the raw truth in his heart. Please, angel. I love you. Dont leave me. Then he lowered his mouth to taste her lips, to fill her with his love. The brutal light vanished. Ginny was safe in his arms. But for how long? ***

Ram looked at Carla and Sutton, both staring with wide eyes at him and Ginny. Dont ask Ginny what happened here tonight. Dont ask her what she is. He had to protect her from her fathers punishments. Had to keep her. Ram slipped his arms under Ginny and rose, walking to the couch. He sat, holding her to him. Soon the lightning would recharge, and hed be throwing stronger jolts through his fingers. But for right now, he could hold her and touch her. Feel the solid weight of Ginny on his lap and in his arms. Hed almost lost her. A tremor rocked him right to his bones. Never before had he given all of himself to a woman, never before had he cared so damn much. Ginny was everything to him. Carla and Sutton walked over and sat adjacent to them. He stared at the witch. I mean it, Carla. Dont ask Ginny questions about what she is or what happened tonight. Dont use your third eye to try to find out. I wont, Carla agreed. But Ram, youre still in danger. You have to No, he shook his head, refusing to hear it. Ginny is mine. I

choose Ginny. Ginny stiffened, pushing herself up to look him in the eyes. Ram, you cant. Didnt you hear Carla earlier? Youll die. She dropped her gaze to the ink on his chest that now had two red lightning marks near the eyes. The bird will kill you. He stared back at her. Make your choice, little angel. You either love me enough to fight for us Or? she challenged him. He leaned forward and brushed his mouth over hers. Or Ill fight for both of us. Im not letting anyone come between us, not this bird, and not the bastard who tried to take you from me tonight. He kept it vague enough so that Carla and Sutton wouldnt know exactly who he meant. But how? she asked in a bemused voice. How do we stop him? He shook his head. I dont know. I dont have any answers, Ginny. Except one. He brushed her hair off her face, and gave her his heart. I love you, and Im not letting you go. She smiled, relief and joy bringing hot color back to her face. She leaned up and kissed him, then said softly, I love you, too. Carla cleared her throat. They both looked at her. This time, just listen. She glared a warning at him, then went on, I know how you both feel, believe me. Sutton and

I, we werent true soul mirrors. And it killed Carly, literally killed her, Sutton said. Carla looked at her mate. Sutton made a sacrifice that changed everything, that brought our souls together. She turned back to them. But thats our story, not yours. So what do we do? Ginny asked. Carla looked at her. Since Ram said I cant ask you about yourheritage, Im going to focus on Rams problem. That thunderbird on his chest will kill him. I saw it clearly. Ram tensed, ready to tell Carla to stop. This wasnt helping, this was only torturing his angel. But Ginny put her hand on his shoulder. Shes trying to help and I want to hear what she has to say. He nodded, looking back at Carla. The witch went on, Find Shayla and unravel the mystery of her Infertility curse and the thunderbird. If you can do that, you two have a chance at having a life together. Ginny turned to look at him. Find her, Ram. You have to. She leaned closer. For me. For us. Ill help you, well do it together if you want. Ill make sure you wont lose control around her. But we have to find her. He knew she was right. It would be the biggest fight of his

life, the toughest mission he had ever faced. But he was ready, and he told her why. Framing her face with his hands, he said, I can do anything with you by my side, angel.

About The Author Jennifer Lyon grew up under the shadow of the Matterhorn at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. She attended Walt Disney elementary school and her very first playmate was her beloved dog, Duke, who was cast in the role of hero in all their adventures. Clearly Jen was born to daydream. But it took her years to figure out how to turn her imagination into a career as an author. After marrying and becoming a full-time mom to three sons, Jen launched her career with the award-winning Samantha Shaw Mystery Series and other romantic mysteries under the name Jennifer Apodaca. Later, she took the name Jennifer Lyon, combined her love of witches, alpha males and sizzling romance into another awardwinning series, the Wing Slayer Hunters. For more information on Jen or her books, please visit her website ***

Turn the page for an excerpt to the next Wing Slayer Hunter Novel. Release date to be announced on Jens website:

Cage Magic A Wing Slayer Hunter Novel Jennifer Lyon Copyright 2012 Jennifer Apodaca

Chapter One Las Vegas, Nevada: Linc Dillinger hadnt even washed the sweat of his latest kill off him when he lifted the woman Kelly? Molly? Didnt matter. against the wall, spread her thighs and positioned his aching cock to her entrance. She was wet, ready, and yet he stopped and forced himself to look at her, to see her. He used these women to fight back the blood curse, to keep the animal in him caged. Hed damn well give them

the courtesy of acknowledging them as more than a warm, willing body. So he looked into her dilated, desperate eyes. And for that second, he felt almost human. But then the curse came roaring back, swamping him in a tidal wave of fierce craving. Witch blood. Nothing could touch the icy hot pleasure of that powerful blood spilling over his skin, then whipping through him like multiple orgasms. Shit! Linc gripped the womans hips tighter and thrust into her hot sheath. The fires of sex would singe the craving for witch blood enough. Just enough. Barely enough. The womans fingers dug into his arms. Oh God. Her cries hit his gut and he pounded into her, the sounds of raw sex filling the locker room of the boxing club. He looked down, watching as his cock filled her thirty-something body, seeing her legs tremble as the pressure in her built. Linc shoved his shoulder close to her mouth. Bite, he told her. She clamped down on his skin and muscle.

Then he rotated his hips and her tremors exploded in an orgasm so wild, a high-pitched keening noise spilled from her throat as she ground her teeth into his upper arm. Her nip on his shoulder, combined with her pleasure, drove him higher, closer to the pinnacle. He was almost there, almosthe pumped into her, feeling the sweet heat of her release gloving his dick, hearing her mewling cries as he stroked her sensitized nerve endings. Not enough, it was never enough these days. The clawing, unending need for sex rode him relentlessly but the single moment of release was getting harder to achieve. The feel of her teeth added just enough sensation. His balls drew up, begging for release. He slapped one hand on the wall, bracing himself as he drove his cock into the willing woman. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on the feel, the heat, until finally, the streaks of fire raced down his spine and slammed him into an orgasm. He leaned his forehead against the wall just over her head and let out a breath of relief. For these brief minutes, he could fucking breathe. But in five minutes hed be rock hard again. The need for witch blood and violence would be riding him, destroying his sanity and his soul.

Finally he pulled out settled the woman onto her feet and touched her face. You okay, sugar? Her gaze was still vague. Yes. She smoothed her skirt down. Need a ride home? They both knew this had been just sex. No. She turned, walked to the door, then paused and looked at him. I won money on your fight tonight and I got a bonus. Ill be fine. Linc flashed a grin. Then my work here is done. She laughed, then slipped through the door. He picked up the silver knife hed set on top of a locker, then scooped up the shorts hed fought in and tossed them in his gym bag stored in the locker, but he kept his knife with him. Then he headed toward the showers to wash off his disgust. Not at the woman, she had given him a few minutes of respite from the hell of his existence. No, his revulsion was the growing compulsion for cage fights and the kill. The need to confront the cage over and over, to confront his past.

In the tiled shower area, he set his blade on a shelf within easy reach. He didnt trust the rogues that ran this club, and why should he? In his other life, he hunted and killed them. Turning the water to scalding, he stepped into the spray when he heard the door open. Linc grabbed the knife and spun to face the intruder.

Document Outline

Table of Contents Prologue Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten About the Author Excerpt from Cage Magic

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