Punch looked down at his attire and shook his head solemnly. I can’t believe this shit.
He was in utter turmoil, ready to bang some skulls. Angry with himself for letting her talk him into this. On his one night off. Pffff. He should have just stayed at home, but no. He couldn’t refuse her. She was his weakness. After overcoming so many adversities in life, he’d allowed her to become his Achilles heel. He’d allowed it. Somewhere underneath all his machismo, his lust for this woman had made him sink this low.
Not only was he promised to another, which made his lustful desires all the more illicit, but there was no way a self-respecting man would ever step out of the house like this. Not a real one. Not under normal circumstances without a gun to his head. Had he really agreed to this because she’d convinced him his bodyguard skills were necessary when she scoped out the human Halloween party off Westheimer? Or did he get dolled up like a dick so he could spend time with her outside the ever-watchful eyes at Hades? He’d wager the latter and that bothered him.
Sure, she’d played up his altruistic side, even used the label “team player”, like he’d ever displayed a selfish bone in his body. Fact was she knew how to get to him. She’d played him like a fiddle, stirring up his protective syndrome, and he fell for it every time.
Right about now, Punch decided being a team-player was overrated. So was lust.
He changed his mind as she parted the crowd and walked towards him, her crimson gown swaying at her ankles, her pearl earrings and bracelet sparkling under the disco light. He could smell her divineness from across the room. There was no one else like her. No other scent like that. His heart started to race, and he cursed under his breath. She’d know the effect she had on him if she tuned in to the way his chest boomed with excitement like a teenaged groupie around his favorite rock star. Then again, she was no idiot. A bit sassy and eccentric maybe, but not dumb. She wouldn’t and couldn’t be surprised by his reaction to her. She knew. Had to. It had been like this since he’d first met her. He would have cursed the day if he hadn’t believed all the prophecies that foreshadowed their intertwined fates.
“Ahoy there, matey. Arrrrrrr,” Willow snickered as she curtsied in front of him.
That did it. He refused to take the ridiculous yellow parrot perched on his shoulder, or the ridiculous black leather eye patch strangling his head, or the ridiculous plastic sword swinging on his hip any longer. He started ripping those pieces of his costume off until they landed on the floor one by one. He felt some satisfaction in watching other ridiculously clad, non-self-esteem-having folks trample all over what he’d formally worn as part of his costume.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” his voice rumbled partly because it was always a deep baritone, and partly because he was growling from anger at himself for letting Willow get to him. He couldn’t even blame her for this like any other warm-bloodied male worth his salt would. He was in a roomful of people wearing masks and elegant costumes, and though he should feel humiliated that his costume was out of place, he was more upset over his lack of will power where she was concerned. He had let Willow entice him into coming to this shindig to begin with, and that was unacceptable, if not gay. He hadn’t even fucked her and he already acted whipped and ball-less.
“Hey, what are you doing?” She tried for concern and fell short, unable to hide her amusement.
“Getting out of this mess and going to find my dignity and testosterone.” He pulled the string of colorful beads looped around one of his long dreadlocks and tossed them to the floor, watching them scatter around like fruit loops. Men didn’t wear barrettes. Men of his stature and position didn’t go against their better judgments over women just because they got boners either. Well, maybe some men did. Not Punch. He preferred to stay on the sidelines and make sure everyone else had a safe environment to play in rather than dressing up and actually participating. Role playing was not his thing. Cosplay was definitely not his thing.
All that time he’d been working at Pit of Hades Fetish Club, he’d never once gotten involved in the kinks. He’d observed. He’d kicked some ass. He’d delegated security tasks to others. He’d done whatever he had to do to keep the place safe for those who had their minds in the gutter. That was his role, his calling. He sacrificed to make sure others could enjoy themselves. He was a straight-laced, all-American, wholesome good ol’ boy who did not dress in costumes and attend parties on his nights off of security duty.
This IS all Willow’s fault. Thankfully, he’d finally found half a nutsack before he did something really stupid like curtsy back.
She threw her head back, exposing more of her ample brown cleavage in the low cut gown, and laughed. “It’s a masquerade ball, silly, not a pirate convention.”
“Well, you just told me I needed a costume. I’ve never been to anything like this…” he looked down at his ruffled sleeves and growled, “and I shouldn’t have come tonight.” With one palm, he grabbed the Jack Sparrow hat from his head, tossed it on the floor, and kicked it across the room. While en route, it was kicked again twenty times by masked people waltzing around the nightclub. He smiled at the ruined hat getting just what it deserved. “I’m outta here. Call me if you need backup.”
From what he could tell, it was a party with several bars for humans who liked to get drunk and pretend to be someone they weren’t. As long as she didn’t start biting them while she searched the crowd for supernaturals, Willow would be fine.
“Party pooper,” she pouted.
“I came. I saw. I left.” Fuck this.
“Please don’t go.” Willow removed her mask and gave him the full weight of her hazel eyes.
Damn. Why she have to go and do that? Whether she was intentionally trying to spell him with her magic or not, didn’t matter. The chemistry between them was undeniable, irresistible, and fully charged when they made eye contact for more than a few seconds. He sighed, intending to look away but was unable to do so. As long as she asked him to stay, it would be hell to refuse her.
He had to appeal to her sensibility. “Your clan and my pack are spread throughout both floors. If there are any supernaturals here, they will be found and urged to come with us. You don’t need me here for that.” He spread his arms, looking downward to indicate his emasculating brown knit pants and striped sash. “We all have our roles to play, and this isn’t mine. I’ve humiliated myself enough for one evening.” His eyes formed a question, begging her to release him from her non-magical hypnotism. Feeling like he was letting her down was even worse than parading around in his clown suit. Thank Baal she couldn’t actually captivate him. Their particular blood bond bound him more than he could stand already.
She reached behind her head, smoothing hair from her nape to the top of her head where it was piled neatly in some kind of bun. “But we hardly have a chance to spend time together anymore. I want you here.” She looked at the dance floor and swayed left and right. “I want to dance with you. You’re always so serious all the time. So intense. You never have fun.”
“Oh, I have fun. Plenty of it. With my wife.” It was a cheap blow, its childish bite magnified by the look on Willow’s face. She looked offended that he would bring Fire up at a time like this, but it was more for his benefit than hers. He had to be reminded that he belonged to someone else, a dragon that would eat them whole and spit out their eyeballs. Knowing their destinies did not include death in the near future, did nothing to make the image in his head of Fire eating them seem any less likely.
“I don’t want to fuck you. I just want to dance. I thought it would be nice to, you know…hang out as friends, instead of us just working together all the time.”
His heart thumped harder as he caught the motion of her tongue licking her bottom lip. But I don’t trust myself around you. Her eyes narrowed so subtly, no one else would probably have noticed. It had happened, letting him know she’d caught her effect on him. She clamped her mouth shut and looked away.
Good thing she never did anything intentionally. If she ever tried to seduce him, he’d be weak. Working with her and being bonded to her was already too much. She was forbidden fruit, ripened to his liking with a big stamp on her forehead that said DO NOT TOUCH. She’d done her best to make sure nothing sexual transpired between them. At least in that regard, she had shown herself to be someone who respected him. Even inviting him to a public place under the disguise of recruitment showed she wanted to keep things platonic. At least it hadn’t been to a hotel room. She genuinely did consider him to be her friend. Somewhere underneath the overwhelming animalistic need to drive his dick in her deep, he felt the same way about her.
If only Fire had been off tonight too. He could have given the excuse that he wanted to spend the evening with her. Willow would have accepted that.
Enough of the wussies. He hadn’t been scared of a woman since he was a boy. He was a grown-ass man. He could do this. He was already here. The music was nice. No harm in dancing with her.
Punch offered one hand out to hold one of hers. She smiled triumphantly and took it. They both winced as the low electric current pulsed where their palms met. That had started happening ever since she’d become a maistress and he a pack leader. The power between them was literally electric. They had been practicing how to harness that power so it would reach its full potential by the time it was necessary. During the times they weren’t practicing, they did their best to pretend it was nothing more than static electricity produced by shoe soles on carpet. Even when there was no carpet.
He placed his other hand flat and chaste against her side, high enough that he didn’t feel her hour-glass waist curve into her luscious hip. He found a strobe light in the ceiling to stare at to avoid concentrating on how good she felt in his arms, and the irony of them slow dragging as Alicia Keys and Maxwell sang “Fire We Make” through the speakers.
Though the hand holding her mask gripped his back intimately, there was still space between them. He was grateful for that. Grateful and comfortable. He let his guard down and tucked his chin on the top of her head. Sway to the left. Now to the right. Repeat. She leaned further into him, resting her head on his chest. He got a good whiff of her scent. It was still all Willow, but it had changed somewhat. He closed his eyes to savor it. Sniiiiiiff. She was aroused. Being this close to him, touching him had started it. Her arousal aroused him.
No. On second thought, he couldn’t do this. If that made him a pussy, so be it. He stepped back suddenly, letting her go before she called the wild beast in him to the surface. “Thanks for the dance. I’m going to go now.”
The loss of his body had caused her to stumble forward, but she regained her footing quickly. “Why? We just got started.”
“You lied.” He adjusted himself through a pants pocket with more conspicuousness than he had intended.
She looked puzzled. “I really do believe there will be supernaturals here to recruit for our team and to take back to the safety of—”
“You lied about not wanting to fuck me.” He tapped his flared nose. “This doesn’t lie, and neither does your scent.”
She stared at him for a moment as if contemplating whether what he’d said was true. After getting bumped a few times by other dancers, she finally nodded a confirmation of sorts and returned her mask to her face. Arguing against Punch’s nose and her desire for him was futile. “Well, shiver me timbers. No matter how hard I try, there’s no escaping my nature, is there, bucko?” She smiled real sweet, the kind of smile that made his dick twitch. “I swear I had the purest of intentions, but—”
It happened so fast, there was no time to react. One second, his and Willow’s eyes were locked on each other again, fighting the temptation to indulge. The next, they were surrounded by people dressed in black uniforms with guns drawn. The floor was covered with fabrics from costumes that had been ripped in half and slipped to the floor. A quick glance around, and he noticed different members of their entourage had several black-uniformed humans with guns trained on them as well. The sudden silence was more deafening than the music that had been setting the festive scene.
Guess the party was over.
With Punch’s instincts on high alert now, he had a really bad feeling it had been a trap all along. The whole ball was a sham. He’d walked right into a setup on his night off. He looked down into Willow’s startled eyes and snarled. This was all her fault. Arrrrrrrr!
COMING NOVEMBER 2013!