The Pendragon Legacy #2
Mass Market Paperback
Publisher: Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
Pub. Date: December 2009 (11-24-09)
She who lives without taking risks dies without love.
London, the near future
"You call that relaxing?" A deep male voice reverberated through the exercise room, and Marisa Roarke opened her eyes. "Meditation is so overrated."
Rion Jaqard stalked with predatory zeal across the Trafalgar Hotel's workout room, flung a towel onto a chair, and whipped off his shirt before sliding onto the weight bench.
During the few times Marisa had run into Rion at her brother Lucan's apartment, she'd noticed Rion was built. But she hadn't realized he was so solid. Talk about walking testosterone. She'd bet even his sweat had muscles.
Even if he was totally irresistible, she should have been immune. He may have been a first-rate flirt with other women, but he'd always treated her like a pesky kid sister. And who could blame him? A nasty divorce many years ago had left her with the expectation that most relationships were built on a mountain of lies.
Trying to ignore the size of Rion's very broad, very muscular chest, she frowned. "These days I find relaxing pretty much like trying to fly with only one wing."
Conversation over. She shut her eyes again, and attempted to banish the image of his ripped chest and totally toned, totally etched abs.
Damn it. It wasn't like her to be so aware of one of her brother's friend's physique—even if he was half naked, and a very yummy half at that.
Rion was from the planet Honor, and if all Honorians were built like him, Earth's women would be rioting for interplanetary travel visas. Of course, no such documents existed. Not since the United Nations had shut down travel from Earth to the rest of the galaxy.
Still—she sneaked another glance. All that sculpted maleness was dazzling. Seductive. From the manly wisps of black chest hair to his rugged profile to his sharp and confident movements, he was drawing her attention like a London tourist attraction.
Despite her reservations, for a guy that hot, if he'd ever, even just once, shined any of his alpha sex-machine macho-ness in her direction, she'd have succumbed to temptation and flirted. But he wasn't interested. He'd never been interested.
Stop drooling. Just look somewhere else. Anywhere else.
Marisa had thought herself past the age of ogling men who showed no sign of ogling back. She put down her reaction due to work-related stress from her new career.
Just six months ago, Marisa had been a successful correspondent at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. Covering the story about her brother Lucan and his wife, Cael, who had brought back a cure from the planet Pendragon, for Earth's fertility problems had been Marisa's last assignment.
While the cure had saved humanity from extinction, it had side effects, a genetic shift that required some of humanity to periodically morph into dragons. But humans were not accustomed to their new dragonshaping abilities, which required controlling their more primitive side. So after discovering her own telepathic powers could be used to calm the dragons highly-sexed and predatory tendencies, Marisa had switched careers.
A fifteen-hour shift, exhaustion, and her not-so-successful attempt to erase the emotional aftereffects of dealing with her oversexed dragonshaping clients had clearly upset her equilibrium.
She closed her eyes. Out. Out. Out. Rounding up the stray emotions, she corralled them into a tiny corner of her mind, then squashed down hard.
But she still couldn't block out the man across the room. The weights clinked as Rion raised and lowered them, and Marisa peeked again through her lowered lashes. The guy was gorgeous.
"Hard day?" he asked.
"Uh-huh." The one-on-one telepathy she'd originally signed up for wouldn't have made her this susceptible to Rion's sexuality. But after Marisa had begun to work with the dragonshapers, she'd discovered she could simultaneously communicate with an entire group of dragons. Her unique ability to help many dragons at once made her a valuable asset to the Vesta Corporation. Unfortunately, the side effects subjected her to all of the dragonshapers angers, fears, jealousies and passions at once.
Don't think about work.
Left with residual sexual tension, all her cells hummed with need.
Let it go.
Unclenching her teeth, she forced her lips to part, breathed deeply through her nose, and told the muscles in her aching neck to loosen. Or at least to stop throbbing so she could go up to her hotel room and sleep.
"Maybe lifting would relax you. If you need help, I could spot you."
Why couldn't he just leave her alone? Surely by now even his oversized biceps had to be burning, his lungs aching for oxygen. But he didn't sound out of breath.
"Let me know if you change your mind."
"Meditation works better in silence," she said calmly, pleased that her voice didn't give away how aware she was of the way his buttocks tightened and relaxed in a fascinating rhythm that made her mouth go dry.
"Seems to me your meditation isn't working."
He was right. She couldn't stop staring at him. A light gleam of sweat glistened on his skin, emphasizing his muscles as he set down the weights, then perused her with a raking gaze. "Your pulse rate's over one thirty."
Hell. Any women within ten meters of him would have an elevated pulse. "Are you deliberately trying to annoy me, or do you come by it naturally?"
She expected him to take off, but he grabbed his towel, slung it over his shoulders, and wiped the sweat from his brow. And gave her a look brazen enough to heat every flat in London—for the entire winter.
Whoa. Just what was going on here? He'd never looked at her like this before. What was he up to?
His tone oozed charm. "There are better ways to relax."
"Like?" Marisa couldn't prevent a tiny smile raising the corners of her lips.
His dark gaze flicked to her mouth, tracked it with hot male interest. He'd taken her smile for an opening. Of course, he would. She doubted anyone had ever told Mr. Irresistible no. Approaching with a long-legged saunter that made her eyes narrow with speculation, he sat on the mat behind her and placed his palms firmly on her shoulders.
She should pull away until she knew what the sexy devil was up to. But she couldn't. Not when he looked so damn good.
He went still behind her, drawing out a moment of silence that thrummed with tension. Her sizzling awareness of him seemed to fill the space between them with a rush of heat.
At the first touch of his hands on her shoulders, she had to bite back a gasp of pleasure. Gently, ever so slowly, he kneaded her neck and caressed her shoulders with a sensual thoroughness that melted away the tension. Circling in on the tight spots with soothing caresses, he feathered his fingertips over her sore muscles.
Her pulse leapt. She swallowed hard.
Rion eased the heels of his palms into her tight shoulders with lingering, luscious strokes. After several mesmerizing minutes, he leaned forward and his breath fanned her ear. "You carry tension in the neck."
"I do?" She sighed and leaned into his hands, grateful for the relief.
He kneaded gently, gradually going deeper, until her muscles melted, until she felt as warm and pliable as taffy. His fingers were so clever, but as he released one kind of tension, a sensuous anticipation began to build.
She relaxed, yet filled with expectation.
"Am I too hard for you?" he asked, almost sounding innocent.
She jerked upright and made a choking sound. He was sitting behind her, but she could see his chiseled face reflected in the mirrors and caught a reckless I-shouldn't-be-messing-with-my-best-friend's sister-but-I'm-going-to-do-it-anyway gleam in his eyes. "My hands. Am I pushing too hard?"
"You feel great. And you damn well know it." She lifted an eyebrow and shot back her best I-know-what-you're-up-to look.
But she really had no idea what his intentions were. He may have been a first-class flirt with other women, but with her, he'd merely been friendly, treating her like a colleague. And no matter how badly she might want to go with the flow, no way could she do so—not until she knew what he was up to.
"I'm glad you like my touch," he murmured.
At his flirting, her heart fluttered, but she tamped down her excitement and cast him a curious glance. "From what I hear, you've had lots of practice."
Rion rubbed a knot next to her spine, applying tension until the tightness ebbed, and for a moment she wished he could rub away the old psychological wounds. Ever since her divorce seven years earlier, Marisa hadn't trusted any man who wasn't related to her by blood.
She had to give Rion credit, though, when he didn't deny his active social life. "You have an Earth saying, `Practice makes perfect.' But I'm not certain if a massage can ever be perfect. After all, there are so many variations of where to touch . . . how to touch . . . when to touch . . ."
No one could accidentally be that suggestive—not even a man from another planet. And while she'd love to find out exactly where and how he would touch her next, all her caution signals flared. Since he'd never turned his sexual charm in her direction before, she wanted to know what had changed.
Why was he coming on to her now? She wanted to call him on it. But while the charming rogue was clearly up to something, she didn't want to tip her hand until she had more of an idea what he was really after.
Leaning forward, he whispered into her ear, "Did you know you have a very sexy neck?" His gray eyes met hers in the mirror, and she could have sworn they smoldered. When he brushed a wispy tendril from her nape, heat shimmied down her spine.
Damn he was smooth. Real smooth. Although she'd already been burned by one ex-husband, she was long over the hurt. Yet, when it came to men, she still remained cautious, unable to trust her own judgment.
Ignoring the desire slamming through her veins, she scooted from under his hands and stood. "Thanks. It's been a long day. I need to hit the sack."
"Good night, Marisa." He stood, too, and grabbed his shirt. As she left the workout room, he called out to her. "Pleasant dreams."
Pleasant was out of the question. Sizzling hot was more like it.