Possessed by evil, ruled by lust, driven by hunger. Can love defeat the ancient demon and turn the darkness into light?
EXCERPT - Here's the set up: Shelby left Kyle in Guatemala after Amyra slipped a paralyzing drug into her wine, and she watched Amyra seduce Kyle all night. She and Max are having dinner when she gets back to New Orleans...
“When you’re ready, if you want, you can tell me your side of the story.” Max brought the wine to the table and refilled her glass before he sat down. “Kyle already told me his.”
“He what?” Shelby stopped eating and lost her train of thought. It was probably a good thing anyway. She didn’t need to be thinking about Max sexually.
“He called me after you left to confirm I got your messages. Wanted to make sure you were safe.”
Anger replaced her self-pity. “Asshole.” She slammed down her knife.
Shelby unclenched her fists and released the knife, smoothing her fingers over the smooth dark wood of the table. “Safer, anyway.” She laughed and shook her head at nothing.
Max never took his eyes from her. He had a way of appreciating her worst traits.
“So what did he tell you?” She took a bite of bread and picked at her salad while Max skimmed over Kyle’s story.
“Something about sleeping with some woman, and you being gone in the morning.”
She stared at her plate. Pick up the fork. Bring it to your mouth. Chew. Swallow. Repeat. Shelby shuddered.
“Bad as all that?” he asked and touched her cheek. “Or worse?
“Spoken aloud, the words sound terrible.”
“The betrayal is terrible. The way you looked when I reached you made me want to beat the hell out of him and I’m not usually known for my violent streak. Want to tell me?”
The red wine covered the bottom of her glass and her plate was almost empty. She’d been able to eat but she wasn’t ready to talk.
“No.” She felt his fingers caressing her wrist and knew. “What I want...” She stared into space and said nothing.
“Shelby? What do you want?”
“It’s not fair to ask you this, Max.”
“Why don’t you let me decide what’s fair?” He stabbed at his salad but held-on to her hand.
“I need you to make love to me. Then maybe I’ll be able to talk.”
Max’s mouth slammed shut. His fork stopped in midair and he didn’t move.
Yes, he looks as stunned as I feel for asking.
“It is unfair of me, isn’t it? If you don’t want me, I’ll understand. It’s just...you know we never had a problem in that department. You’ve always appealed to me. I’ve never lost my desire for you even though I loved…”
Kyle’s name would not take form on her tongue. She cleared her throat and left it unspoken as the moisture in her eyes blinded her.
Max was up and on his knees in front of her before she could blink. “Don’t,” he said and put a finger to her lips. “Don’t doubt that I want you.”
He pulled her out of the chair to stand and tilted her chin so she had to look at him when he spoke. “I’ll never stop wanting or loving you.”
“Don’t you care that I’m in love with someone else?” Not past tense? She hadn’t even thought in past tense. God help her.
He took her hands and placed them on his broad shoulders. “Not as long as I know you love me too, Shelby.”
Heat radiated off him as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her against him. He wasn’t lying. He wanted her—his body did, but what about his heart?
He cupped her face in his hands and when he kissed her, it was gentle and comforting. At first, she kissed him back the same way. Then she reacted to her feelings. She took the kiss deeper and he followed her lead, finally taking a tiny nip at her lip.
He tilted his head to one side waiting for her to finish her question. She lowered her lashes, not daring to meet his gaze when she told him what she really wanted.
“What, Shelby? This is me. You can ask me anything.”
She blew out a breath. “I want you to take me hard. I want you to fuck the memories out of me so there is only you in my mind tonight.”
Max smacked her ass, curved his lips into the devilish grin she loved and hated at the same time. He couldn’t resist teasing her. “Any way you want it, sweetheart,” he said and purposely gave her the wink he’d heard had the power to melt women’s hearts. He’d used it for years from Atlanta to New Orleans, and even Shelby wasn’t immune. For tonight, he’d guarantee she’d only be able to focus on him making love to her.
She still looked unsure.
“From past experience, you know I can handle rough, and I bet you’ve heard through the hospital grapevine I’ve gotten even better over the years. Like fine aged whiskey.”
A mix of emotions washed over her face. Her eyes glinted in challenge then she burst out with a guffaw. “Fine aged whiskey? That line gets you laid?”
“It has.” The laugh was the reaction he was looking for. Best friends knew how to call each other out. They still had it.
“Okay, Shelby, enough laughing. No need to be mean.”