The Attraction

Heels clicked on the tiled floors of the hallway, becoming louder and more strident as they neared the practice room. The mumbling sounds of agitated conversation grew audible.

“Hellfire, Lexi, you can’t believe Mikos….”

“Get out of my way, gnat,” a taut tone interrupted, “or I’ll swat you like a fly.”

Ah, the Defender. And Rocky. Mikos felt his lips twitch. Of course, she had permission. He just hadn’t expected her to come on her own. Indeed, he’d anticipated a visit to her domicile or place of employment. Her impromptu visit served his purposes much better.

Mikos rematerialized and held his rapier loose at his side. He braced himself for her arrival. Part of the reason he currently employed the blade was to work off built up energy accumulated after his encounter with Lexi.

Michael’s appearance and cryptic references had not helped. At the end, had his comment about his faith in Mikos been meant to encourage him? Or warn him? The Archangel should know better. He was well aware of the consequences should he succumb to Lexi’s considerable charms.

When the door swung open and Lexi stormed in, her energy overflowed the space, arrowing straight toward him. The force of her life-force pounded against his fortified personal shields, seeking a way in past his defenses. He couldn’t allow that to happen.

His gaze traveled her irate form. Long legs chewed up the distance toward him, her trim form poured into a pair of blue jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt of crimson. Lips normally full and pouty were pulled into a thin line. Cinnamon-shaded eyes narrowed, her eyebrows pinched together. A metal rod, about two feet in length, was clenched in a tight fist.

Christ’s wounds, the woman was even more striking when filled with anger. He started to greet her. In fact, he had his mouth open when he noticed Rocky’s location. Good grief, what had possessed the shape-shifter? Despite their heated discussion and her threats, Lexi seemed perfectly agreeable with Rocky riding on her shoulder.

As usual, the contrary woman acted against his expectations. Why should she? She hadn’t done anything Mikos expected. She seemed to accept the shape-shifter’s presence more readily than her death, resurrection and subsequent destiny.

Lexi came within a couple of feet and slammed to a halt. Gold flecks danced in the warm copper of her eyes. Palpable fury came off her in waves.

Mikos instinctively stepped backward before he caught himself. He froze and swore softly. “Defender, I’m glad you’ve come.” Keeping his tone cool and polite, he asked, “What can I do for you?”

Behind the façade of implacable calm he worked to present to her, confusion and anger fought for control. Confusion that she continued to have power over his emotions and anger at himself for allowing her that power.

“You can tell me what the hell this was doing in my professor’s office?” Lexi held a white card up in front of his face, waving it furiously in front of him.

Mikos’s eyes crossed. He grabbed her wrist, holding her arm still. She held one of his unique cards. One that remained blank unless viewed by someone he’d warded to see.

“Your professor?” Mikos frowned. He had no idea who she meant. Not many could see the sigils on the card. And none of those who could were named professor.

“Uh, yeah, Boss, she means Xaviera,” Rocky interjected, earning him a glare. He shrugged then made the human gesture of locking his mouth shut and throwing away the key. Another habit he’d picked up from being around mortals. At times, Mikos actually wished the motion worked.

He thought for a moment, his mind whirling with the implications. Grigori Xaviera had been Lexi’s professor? What did that mean?

Grigori, Watchers, were neutral. They watched, not interceded. And they certainly didn’t give mortals the Nativitas. Which by the obvious fact the amulet had been in her possession at the time of her death seemed to have occurred. That night, he’d assumed her parents had left it to her. Obviously, an inaccurate assumption.

With the connection between Xaviera and Lexi, it was likely the Grigori had indeed violated the basic tenet of observation, not interference, and given Lexi the talisman.

Xaviera was in considerable trouble if that was truly the case. Despite the fact that in doing so, he had, in all probability, saved the Guardian’s life, the light and dark powers did not take interference lightly.

Grigori kept their immunity simply because like Switzerland of the human world they were neutral. For Xaviera to interfere, if he had. . . For his friend’s sake, Mikos hoped the Grigori hadn’t slipped so far.

As for the card. “Xaviera is a friend of mine.”

“Uh, Boss.”

Mikos repressed a sigh. Rocky’s lock-and-key pantomime hadn’t lasted long.

“Pipe down, stone-head,” Lexi tossed at her shoulder.

Rocky grimaced and disappeared from his perch only to reappear upon the side table cluttered with fencing items. A smart move.

Lexi took another step forward, seemingly ignoring the fact Mikos still held her wrist. He wasn’t sure why he didn’t let go. Under the soft skin of her wrist, the bones and tendons felt strong. The top of her head barely came to his chin and she had to lift her chin to look into his eyes. Their gazes clashed.

“If that’s the case, than the professor was your friend,” she said. “He was murdered two days ago.”

He felt his mouth drop open. Christ’s wounds. Xaviera dead? How was it Mikos hadn’t sensed his passing?

Immortals didn’t die. Not like humans or animals. When an immortal passed, their soul was shredded, split into its smallest parts until there was nothing left. All immortals felt their passing. A small reminder that even they were not safe. Small bumps lifted on his arms and he involuntarily shivered. 

Had the Grigori been killed because he gave the Guardian the one thing that would save her life or was his death something else entirely?

*    *    *

Oops. Lexi fought to keep from ducking her head with guilt. Maybe she shouldn’t have told him about the professor’s death in such a blunt manner. Golden tan had blanched, the shock in his expression too extreme to be anything but genuine. Could he fake the strength of his reactions to her announcement? Her lips thinned. Genuine or not, she needed answers.

“I found your card in his office.” She stopped, took a deep breath, and the question came out in a rush. “Did you kill him?”

“Excuse me?” The strong jaw clenched, and his face flushed.

She didn’t like that look on his face. Lexi stepped back a step. His grip tightened on her wrist, jerking her to a halt. Her abandoned sanjiegun slipped from her fingers and fell to the floor with a sharp metal clatter.

Crap. She’d forgotten he still had her in his grasp and her stick. Damn it. And, by the way his hand gripped her wrist, he didn’t intend on letting go any time soon.

Her and her big mouth. She didn’t even know this man. What if he had killed the professor? What’s to stop him from doing the same to her? Rocky? Right, he could throw pieces of his body at Mikos. That would help.

“You believe I killed Xaviera?”

Cold and dark. His tone. The gray of his eyes turned the clear crystal of ice. Her gut twisted. Those damn butterflies fluttering like nervous hands.

She lifted her chin higher, meeting his icy stare straight on. “Let go of me.” She tried a little yank. Which got her absolutely nowhere. The jerk didn’t budge.

“Boss,” Rocky interrupted. In his agitation, his voice had deepened sounding like two stones grinding together. “I tried to tell her the Xaviera was our friend and there was no way you’d kill him, especially since you’d lose. . .”

Mikos sliced a hand at the shape-shifter. Wisely, Rocky snapped his mouth closed with an audible click. Hmm.

Without moving his eyes from Lexi, yay her, Mikos ordered, “Report to Michael.”

“Aw come on, I’m sure the light head knows already. Wouldn’t it be better if I . . .” Rocky’s complaint trailed off as Mikos pulled his eyes from her and turned to the shape-shifter.

Rocky ducked his head and shuffled a foot. He nodded. “Okay, then. I’ll, uh, go know.” After darting an apologetic look her way, he disappeared in the time it took to blink.

Gray eyes turned back to her. Lethal calmness lingered in  the pale depths. Lexi sucked in a deep breath. For Pete’s sake, she’d never had anyone give her such a smoldering look. The tic in his jaw told her he was angry. Scratch that. Not angry. Pissed.

“Xaviera was my friend,” he said in a harsh, raw voice. “I did not kill him.”

In for a penny– “Then explain why I found your card, and why he’d been killed by a sword.”

Despite his close proximity and the vise-like grip on her wrist, she was not about to back down no matter how scary his scowl became.

“A sword?”

Lexi rolled her eyes. “Why does everyone keep repeating it like they think I’m crazy? Yes, a sword. And look,” she waved her other hand at the table. “You have lots of swords and knives.” She jerked her captured arm again. “And damn it, let go of my wrist!”

Mikos’s gaze turned thoughtful. The anger faded. His unusual eyes returned to their normal smoky color. No glittering silver light danced in the dark of his pupils.

His grip on her wrist eased, and Lexi snatched her arm free. She clutched the aggrieved body part in her other hand and glowered at him. For all the good it did since he didn’t appear to notice what she hoped was her own scary scowl.

Now that his anger had passed, she got nothing when she looked at him. No impression of any kind. His expression was as blank as a new piece of paper.

She gnawed on her lower lip. God help her but she believed him. His reactions made it clear he had nothing to do with her professor’s death. That’s as far as she went.

No one had to draw her a picture. Because, just as equally clear, both the king of crazy and the skittish rock knew more than they shared. Or offered.

Mikos turned and strode to the table, pulled off his fencing jacket and tossed it to the surface. Briskly rubbing a white towel in his hair, his actions gave her a clear view of the fine muscles under his totally tight t-shirt bulging and flattening with every movement.

Oh boy. What had she been thinking about?

Lexi swallowed past a dry throat. The sleeveless white muscle shirt Mikos had on underneath the pristine white jacket left absolutely nothing of importance to the imagination. Golden skin gleamed under the fluorescent lights. The light dusting of chest hair peeking from the open V of his shirt glistened, slightly damp from his recent exertions. Perfect. Almost too perfect.

“Bless you,” she murmured to whatever god had created this man. Even though she didn’t intend to touch, she wasn’t blind. Why shouldn’t she delight in the eye candy posing before her? So she did. She stared. Unabashedly, unashamedly stared.

Ogled.

Gaped.

Any one of those adjectives would do.

As if he heard the purrs of enjoyment in her mind, he turned and looked over his shoulder. The hard lines of his face softened, relaxed. His gaze dropped from her eyes to her neck and slid down to caress her breasts. Her heart jolted. Heat rose from her chest into her cheeks.

Lexi took a step forward. Then another. Her fingers itched to stroke the smooth skin, curl her fingertips into his thick hair. To feel the solid planes of his body pressed against hers. She licked her lips. Moisture rolled down the center of her back, the tickling sensation causing her to shiver.

She took another step. No freaking way. What the hell was he doing to her? And how? Giving her head a brain-bumping shake and tripped to a halt. Sexy or not, she was so not going to jump into bed with him.

“Whatever you’re doing, knock it off,” Lexi said. Her jaw tightened.

He had to be doing something. On her own, she would never act as if he was a big bowl of ice cream she wanted to lick clean. And even though her body clamored for a caress, a taste of the man in front of her, her will ruled. Not her traitorous body. To prove it, she bent down and snatched up her dropped sanjiegun. As if the smooth metal rod had abilities of its own, its comforting lines provided some security.

He blinked, and the come-and-get-me expression disappeared. His lips pulled into such a tight line, the corners of his mouth whitened. “My apologies. I assure you, it won’t happen again.”

“What the hell were you doing?”

“It’s not important.”

“It is to me.”

Mikos ran a hand through his hair, his fingers separating the black strands. Lexi watched, her own itching to touch. Was his hair as silken as it looked? She folded her hands into a fist.

Shit on a shingle! What the freaking hell was wrong with her?

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2 Responses to “The Attraction”


  1. February 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Oh, my! (Fanning self with nearest paper) What a debut, Cassiel!

    The tension between your hero and heroine is amazing. So is the story. Can’t wait to read the whole book. Of course you had me with the title.

    best,
    Cathryn

    • February 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      Whew! Never quite sure if the right atmosphere is created. You know, some had issues with the title – said it wasn’t romancy enough. I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


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