“I’m sorry for what I said,” he offered again. “It was crude.” Then he stood to his full height, using the significant advantage to drive home his next point. “For what it’s worth, I thought we had potential for something legendary.”
He leaned in close to me, his breath a puff on my forehead beneath my scattered hair. “And Stella?” he said barely above a whisper as he ran a finger from the top of my shoulder down my bare arm.
“Yes?” I managed before a compulsory swallow.
“I still do.”
“Don’t go there again,” I said. “We’ve already been through this. Our relationship is none of your business. Don’t say something out of jealousy you’ll regret.”
“Jealousy?” He balked, his bold eyes alight with emotion. “It’s not jealousy that I feel about it, Stella. It’s anger. It’s profound outrage that he took something that belongs to me. And righteous indignation that you gave it away.”
I was stunned silent at the truth behind his words. He meant it. Flutters of forbidden pleasure scrambled up my spine and filled me with a sick satisfaction. It was a visceral response to his bold claim. Damn him.
My lips quivered and my despair threatened to take me down with it. I sat up straighter. No. I would not break down again.
Never taking his gaze from mine, he rose from the bed. He bent his knees, his back still straight and strong, and knelt in front of me. I felt the warmth of his long arms as he pushed them along my thighs and around my hips. He pulled me into him, forcing my legs on either side of his waist. We were at eye level and he stared into mine as he slowly shook his head.
“No,” he said and put the full force of his gaze, of his powerful bearing, behind his words. “No. You’re Stella Stonewall and that’s what matters. I’ve known who you are since first I laid eyes on you. And I like it. Very much.” His voice rasped with emotion. “You’re determined, and you work hard. You’re kind, generous. You’re the smartest person I know. You’re good, Stella—I know that like I know myself.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying,” I whispered and threw my arms around him. “I could be dangerous. And I’m not just talking physically. Politically, too. Being known as my friend could mean serious trouble for you.”
“Funny,” he said and kissed high on my cheekbone where my tears had been moments before. “I forgot to add that you’re funny.”
I let out a sad chuckle. “You confound me. You absolutely blow my mind.”
I had difficulty finding an excerpt that didn’t give away anything from Book 1! I did find this fun scene from Chapter 22 in Book 2 of Stella and her friend Timbra’s night out dancing. ~Jen
Loryn had recommended a place in town that hosted local musicians on Saturday nights. Ewan assured me he and Boone would be long gone by then, and we could have all the fun we could stand without fear of bumping into them.
It was clear an hour and a half into the night what Timbra’s intention was: obliteration. I couldn’t blame her, really. She’d been nursing a dreadful heartache. And I knew as well as anyone the driving desire to be rid of the oppression of loss and sadness.
She threw her head back and her arms out wildly. “Let’s dance!” she said.
I indulged her. I had nothing against fun, after all. Timbra’s lithe body swayed and rocked to the beat, assisted by some fairly potent margaritas. Without fail, the occasion of two girls dancing together served as some unspoken invitation for horny strangers to jump on back. I shook my head sharply and shooed them away. Timbra, though, was less forceful.
“Hey,” I warned a lanky guy whose hips seemed to move on hinges, “Were your parents octopi or something? Keep your hands to yourself!”
He smirked, mitigating any handsome that might have been found in his face. “She’s not complaining,” he said and popped Timbra soundly on the ass. “You’re the only one here with a problem.” He turned from me, dismissing me well before I was through.
“Listen, asshole,” I yelled to be heard above the music. “She’s drank too much to realize what you’re up to. But I haven’t. You and her,” I flicked my finger back and forth between them, “not happening. She’s in love with someone else.”
“I’m not looking for love, darlin’, just a little lovin’.” He was behind Timbra, and banded one arm above her chest, the other at her hips, and pulled her tightly into himself. He stuck his head to her hair and breathed deeply before lowering his mouth to the back of her neck. He stared at me as he pressed his lewd lips to her, daring me to do something about it.
I was steaming mad. At him. At his audacity. And furious with Timbra for getting herself into the situation. I lifted my hand to snatch her from his grubby tentacles when I heard a growl from the door so low and menacing it made the hair on my arms stand up. The warning was audible even over the music, and every eye in the place shot to the door.
When I saw what stood at the bar’s entrance I gasped and involuntarily stepped away, though the beast was nowhere near me.
A vicious dog the size of a sofa stood nearly to the shoulders of the people at the bar. Even in the low light I could see that its golden hair was ruffled at the neck, a clear indicator of its intent to attack. Those people closest to the beast scrambled away, clearing a better line of sight. Some crazy person approached the maddened dog, and I shook my head back and forth silently willing him not to go near it.
Surprise suffused my spine like I’d suffered an electric shock. The person approaching the beast was Ewan—which meant...the beast was Boone.
“Oh, hell,” I breathed. “Oh, no.”
The dog stalked toward us, his rumbled growls growing more ferocious with every pace. When Octoman finally realized he was the one in the dog’s sights, he threw his arms away from Timbra so dramatically it was almost comical. Almost. The palpable pull of imminent danger sucked any humor from the space.
Boone’s wide snarl revealed pointed teeth the size of small daggers. My every instinct told me to run. Instead, I grabbed Timbra by the bicep and threw her behind me. I’d never been around Boone’s animal form and he looked violent as hell. I feared Timbra might bear the brunt of his fury. He was intent on Octoman, though, and I breath a little easier.
Mangled words escaped Boone’s slathering mouth. “Hands. Off. My. Woman.”
The dancing idiot had the nerve to smirk again. To taunt Boone. “She wasn’t complaining.”
Boone roared with fury, deafening those of us closest to him. It scared me. I admit it. I began backing away and took Timbra with me. Timbra, who at that point decided to clue in to her surroundings.
“Boone Adder,” she admonished. “Stop barking, for gods’ sake. This is none of your concern.”
His eyes widened with outrage before he uttered a nearly imperceptible, “You. Next.”
Ewan had positioned himself between Boone and Octoman. Not his most brilliant move, in my opinion.
“Let’s go, darlin’,” Octoman said before running his arm around Timbra’s shoulders.
I shook my head in disgust. I knew what came next. The guy was an obstinate fool. He might just deserve an ass whooping, I thought.
With a powerful thrust from his back legs, Boone launched himself toward the guy, managing to knock both Ewan and Timbra to the side.
Boone had Timbra’s suitor pinned for three seconds, snarling wetly in his face before Octoman changed—not into an octopus, as I’d imagined—but into some sort of half-crocodile, half-human combination. He used a thick armored tail to knock Boone off of him, then bolted upright on stumpy legs.
His face, which had looked so natural in a snarl, elongated to house a fearsome row of jagged teeth. He snapped them with force, and the crowd erupted in a mass exodus from the bar. I looked to Ewan to see what we could do. Timbra still lay on the floor, watching in awe as the two predators circled each other. Searching for a weakness. Readying to attack.
Ewan shook his head at me in a direct warning to steer clear. I was on board with that program. Getting between those two seemed a good way to lose a limb.