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Edge of Dawn (Chapter Ten)

FOR LONG MOMENTS AFTER KELLAN LEFT, MIRA DIDN'T SO much as move.

Confusion rooted her bare feet to the floor. Hurt made it hard to breathe for the ache in her breast. And all the while, her pulse was still thrumming, her body still warm and vibrating with futile, foolish desire.

Don't let me make a bad situation worse.

Kellan's rejection stung, more than she wanted to acknowledge.

So, that's all she was to him now – a bad situation that was likely to turn worse?

She didn't want to believe that. His eyes had told a different story, full of amber heat and raging need. So did his body, hard with desire, dermaglyphs lit up like fireworks, his powerful hands trembling when he'd set her away from him and told her it couldn't be.

It was his words that left no room for error.

He didn't want her.

It should have been enough, him telling her he would not have her. He could not let himself feel anything for her, despite the fact that their kiss had lost none of its fire in the time they'd been apart. Or that they still went up in flames for each other with the slightest touch. Still craved each other with a passion that defied even Kellan's iron will.

It should have been enough. It should have relieved her, giving her the chance to put him into an emotional compartment where he belonged: as her enemy. It should have provided some much-needed clarity about her duty as a warrior and her mission to ensure Jeremy Ackmeyer's safety versus her impossible wish to see Kellan somehow brought back into the fold with the Order.

Total fantasy, that.

And yet there was a part of her that refused to let him go, even now.

Especially now.

It outraged her that he could just walk away from her and assume she'd accept it. Still pushing her away, the same way he'd done as that sullen, broken thirteen-year-old boy who'd arrived at the Order's compound so full of pain and grief over the loss of his parents and kin. She hadn't stood for that then, at age eight, and she sure as hell wasn't about to stand for it now.

Mira glared at the closed door he'd stormed out of a few moments ago.

She thought about how hastily he'd gone – so hastily, she hadn't heard the lock tumble into place behind him. She crossed the floor and tried the latch. It was open.

Holy shit.

A number of choices presented themselves to her in rapid succession. One, she could simply stay put like he expected her to and fume until he decided what to do with her next. Which totally wasn't happening.

Two, she could consider his rejection a gift to her mission objectives and attempt an immediate escape with Jeremy Ackmeyer. A risk, considering she and her human package would have to get past Kellan and all of his well-armed rebel crew.

Or three, she could go after Kellan right now and make him face her. Force him to tell her that he cares nothing about her anymore, or if he does, then make him explain to her why he won't try to fix things so they could try to renew what they once had together.

No contest. She was taking Door Number Three.

Mira had years of practice pulling Kellan out from behind the walls he'd constructed around himself. She wasn't about to give up now.

She quickly tossed on his sweatpants under the oversized T-shirt she'd slept in, then slipped out the door and into the hallway outside.

The bunker was very still, little sign of early morning activity at this end of the stronghold. Mira headed in the direction she recalled would lead her to the base's main room, where she assumed she might find Kellan. Worst case, if she ran into one of his crew instead, they would no doubt immediately summon their leader to her.

But the place was so quiet, Mira wasn't even sure anyone was around.

Until she heard it . . . a soft sound, coming from up ahead, in one of the chambers off the corridor. The showers, where Candice had taken her to clean up last night.

The sound coming from inside that room now was muffled, wet.

Intimate.

Something went tight in Mira's stomach as her feet continued a silent trek up the hallway.

There was a low murmur of voices – a female, then a male. Mira's heart gave a heavy thud, like a clump of lead lodging in her rib cage. She knew that deep, low rumble. She knew the cadence of the softly spoken words. Private words. Caring words.

Ah, God.

Dread unlike any she'd known – not since the night she watched a warehouse go up in flames with Kellan inside it – seized her as she crept forward, agonizing, slow steps that eventually brought her to the open doorway.

Candice was inside, seated on a flat bench outside the showers. Her long black hair was damp and glossy against her thin white T-shirt, her head tipped back, eyes closed in a reverent kind of bliss.

And suckling at her wrist was Kellan. He crouched beside her, his dark head bent low over the human female's arm, his sharp white fangs sunk into the tattooed flames that rode from Candice's wrist to her forearm. With her free hand, Candice gently caressed his bare back with an easy familiarity that cut Mira straight to the bone.

No, she corrected, finding it impossible to catch her breath.

This cut straight to her broken heart.

Horrified, all the fight drained out of her in an instant. Mira backed away silently, grateful she'd been unnoticed.

Maybe this was why Kellan didn't want her help bringing him back to the Order. Maybe this was the reason he seemed determined to stay with the human rebels who saved his life eight years ago.

Maybe this was why he apparently found it so easy to turn his back on Mira and what they once had. Because he'd found someone else. Pretty, compassionate Candice.

Now Mira's idea to escape and take Jeremy Ackmeyer with her sounded like the better one by far. The way her chest ached, as though it might crack open any second, she couldn't wait to get out of this place. She had to get as far away as possible, before the pain had a chance to dissolve her where she stood.

She pivoted around – and came face-to-face with Vince.

"Well, well. What have we here?" His mouth went flat along with his gaze. "The boss know one of his chickens has flown its coop?"

Mira winced at the deliberately loud warning in the rebel's voice. Movement in the shower room now. Urgent scrambling. A combination of combat boots and bare feet on the concrete floor.

"Get out of my way." Mira shoved Vince with all she had. The human stumbled backward on his heels, obviously caught off guard by her strength.

She ran past him, heading up the corridor.

Kellan was behind her now. Mira could feel his presence in the corridor but, against her own will, stole a glance back at him. He was wiping Candice's blood from his lips. His eyes were bright amber, fiery orbs devouring pupils reduced to thinnest slits in their centers. His fangs were huge, and his dermaglyphs pulsed, still saturated with vivid color even after his feeding.

The sight of him like that – fresh from drinking of another female – crushed her.

Mira wheeled back around and bolted, for where specifically, she had no idea. Just away from Kellan and everything she'd just witnessed.

"Everyone, stay put," he barked, voice rough and otherworldly. "Mira!"

She ignored him, tearing up the corridor, desperate to be gone from him.

Out of nowhere, she felt a rush of cool air brush past her. Then Kellan stood in front of her, blocking her path. "Mira, stop."

She shook her head. Her voice had dried up, leaving only a raw sob in her throat. She choked on it, tried to feint past Kellan. He grabbed hold of her shoulders.

"Let go!" she cried hoarsely. "I want to go. I have to get out of here right now!"

"I can't let you do that." Calm words, allowing no argument.

She didn't care. "Try to stop me," she hissed, and managed to wrench herself free.

She spun around to head in the opposite way now. Vince and Candice waited at that end of the corridor, both of them gaping, observing the whole disastrous scene in quiet judgment. Mira had never felt more the fool.

Kellan ordered them to go. "This is private business. I don't need an audience."

They cleared out quickly, but Mira didn't feel any better once she was alone with Kellan. She took a few hurried steps and he was there in front of her again, forcing her to face him. "We can do this all day, Mouse. Calm down, be reasonable for a minute."

She choked on a hard laugh. "Be reasonable? Fuck you. How's that for calm and reasonable?"

Once more she spun away from him and lunged into a bolt with all she had. He moved so fast this time, she didn't see him or feel him – not until she was swept off her feet and scooped into Kellan's powerful arms.

"Let go of me!" She fought his hold, but he was strong – warm and solid and unyielding, a tangible reminder of the fact that he was something more than man, something deadly, dark, and formidable.

He ignored her struggles and carried her back to his quarters. Kicked the door closed behind him with a heavy bang. He set her down but gave her no chance to get away from him. Before she could take her next breath, Kellan had her spine pressed against the closed door, hemming her in with the bulk of his body, muscled arms caging her on either side.

She glared up at him, trying to ignore the hot spike of awareness that arrowed through her at the near press of their bodies. Her breasts ached to feel him against her, nipples going hard despite the rolling boil of her fury.

Kellan exhaled gruffly, amber eyes searing into her. "Damn it, Mira. I told you not to leave this room."

"Afraid of what I might see?" She lifted her chin, jealousy still burning like acid in the back of her throat. "Guess you should've been more careful, Bowman. You're the one who left the door unlocked."

His stare didn't leave her, not even for an instant. But behind her, she heard the metallic clack of the tumbler sliding into place, turned by the force of his mind alone. "It's locked now."

He bared his teeth and fangs as he said it, his voice a dark growl that should not have made her heart race like it did. Her veins shouldn't have been humming, pulse gone wild and electric, as he held her there, trapped in an unbearable place between anger and hurt, awareness and need.

She didn't want to crave him – not now. Not when she was fuming, still fighting off bitter tears that threatened to spill at having seen his mouth on another woman. A human woman who could feed him, nourish him, give him something Kellan had never taken from Mira.

"Why didn't you tell me?" The words, a broken whisper, slipped off her tongue before she could call them back. "Why couldn't you just say there was someone else?"

Fiery eyes flared brighter. "Because it wouldn't be the truth."

"I saw you, Kellan – just now, with Candice. I saw your fangs in her wrist. Her blood was on your lips – "

"Yes," he admitted, unblinking, unflinching. "I fed from Candice out of necessity. I've fed from her many times, because I am Breed and I cannot live without blood. I feed from her because I can trust her and because she demands nothing from me."

Mira huffed out a harsh breath. "How convenient for you."

She meant it to sound sharp and uncaring, but there was no hiding the fact that she was wounded. She hated the rawness inside her, hated that he might hear it now, would certainly see it in her moist eyes. She shuttered herself with a downward glance, but Kellan wouldn't permit it.

Merciless, he lifted her face, then made the ache even worse by smoothing away the trail of one fat tear with a brush of his thumb across her cheek.

"Look at me, Mira. Tell me if you think there's anything more to what you saw back there than what I'm telling you it was." His voice was level yet intense. "Look at my eyes. They're still glowing. They're still inflamed with hunger, even though I drank my fill of Candice's blood. Look at my glyphs, Mira. Do you see satiation in them, or are they still livid and churning with hunger and with the dark colors of a different, deeper need when I'm standing here in front of you?"

Mira didn't want to look at him, but he gave her no choice. And as she obeyed his demands to see him – really see him, as a formidable man and a dangerous, preternatural creature both – she realized that everything he was saying now was the truth. While the edge of his blood thirst had been curbed, he was far from satisfied.

Kellan pressed into her, letting her feel the full, hard length of his body. He bent his head down next to hers, his voice a low growl against the sensitive shell of her ear. "Do I feel like a man who's taken what he wants from someone other than the one woman he craves above all others?"

Mira's breath caught in her throat, leaking out of her in a small moan. She felt his rigid arousal, felt his desire for her radiating out of him in palpable heat.

Kellan muttered a dark curse. "For eight years I've wished I could find someone to make me forget you. But there's been no one, Mira." His lips closed around her earlobe, suckling it gently between his teeth and fangs. His warm breath rasped against her ear, reaching down into her, making her pulse race and her thighs tremble. "There's been no one since you, Mira."

He took her face in his hands and kissed her. Not the gentle nip and brush of his mouth just a moment ago, but a fierce claiming. Possessive and hot, his kiss invaded her without patience or mercy. It was a demand, raw and unbridled.

And Mira gave in to it with abandon.

She couldn't deny him, nor the passion that shot through her body in molten waves as he dragged her deeper into his kiss, pulling her body against his hard planes and rigid edges.

Like a dam breaking, Mira's meager resistance flooded out of her, along with the last small bit of her fight. She wrapped her arms around him and opened herself to his plundering kiss. Inside, she was melting. Blood ran hot, pooling in her core. Limbs went weak and unsteady, turning to gel beneath her.

She wanted him. God, how she wanted him.

Wanted this moment to last forever.

"Kellan," she murmured, arching into the heat of him.

She gasped a second later, when his strong hands skimmed around to the front of her and slipped beneath the loose cotton of her T-shirt. His fingers were rough against her bare skin, more callused and hardened, battle-worn. But his touch was light, raising a shiver on her as his palms skated up her ribs, toward the naked swells of her breasts. He cupped them in his hands, squeezed them, rubbed his thumbs over the nipples that were tight as pebbles under his caress.

Mira buried her face in the curve of his strong shoulder, relishing the feel of his hands all over her bare skin. She touched him too, running her fingers along the muscled bulk that flanked either side of his spine, retracing every inch of him, remembering his body as though they'd never been apart. "Oh, God . . . Kellan. I've missed this so much. I've missed you . . . us."

His reply was a low growl that vibrated all the way to her marrow. Without words, without asking for permission, he wheeled her around in front of him and guided her toward the bed, kissing her every step of the way.

She couldn't have resisted if she tried. Everything female in her was willing and wanton and wet, so ready to welcome him back to her.

He pushed her down onto the mattress and followed her, covering her with his body. His tongue delved deep into her mouth, thrusting and withdrawing, telling her exactly where they were heading. Mira opened to him, meeting his tongue with hers, taking when he retreated, submitting when he came back for more.

She clung to him, arched for him, yearned to have him buried deep inside her.

He knew what she needed from him, even now. He knew just how to touch her, just how to kiss her. He knew everything, still, after all this time.

Mira speared her fingers into his thick chestnut hair as he took her mouth in a hotter, more demanding kiss that left her gasping and drugged beneath him. She didn't know how he managed to strip off her sweats and panties, didn't much care. Because suddenly Kellan was moving down the length of her body, pushing up the hem of her T-shirt and kissing a warm, wet trail along the flat plane of her belly. She moaned, bowing up off the bed as he kneaded her breasts, then took one peachy nipple into his mouth. He kissed the other one too, giving it a teasing graze of his teeth.

"You taste the same," he murmured against her skin. "Still sweet and tender."

She couldn't reply, could only twist her fingers in the sheet and suck in her breath as his mouth began a downward trek, leaving a trail of fire everywhere his lips touched her skin. He paused at her hip bone, licked its delicate ridge. "Sweeter here."

Oh, God.

She lifted her head and watched as he drifted lower still. He glanced up at her as he moved into the apex of her thighs, his irises swamped with amber, swallowing the thin vertical lines of his pupils. That otherworldly, predatory gaze stayed locked on her, the tips of his fangs stretching longer, sharper as his broad mouth spread into a carnal smile. Then he parted her legs and sank down between them.

He kissed the triangle of light curls at the mound of her sex. Mira held her breath, pulse racing, veins filled with liquid fire. Another kiss, this one lingering much longer, the tip of his tongue cleaving into the sensitive folds. He licked her slowly, suckling her, drawing the tender bud against the wet heat of his tongue. His approving growl vibrated against her quivering sex as he went deeper. "So sweet and juicy. This is what I thirst for. You, Mira."

He went down on her again. The air shuddered out of her lungs on a ragged sigh, sensation shooting through her like tiny lightning bolts, the coming of a storm. He played with her, teasing her clit, tonguing her, making the petals of her body weep for him.

"I need you," she gasped, rising up to reach for him, fingers digging into the hard bulk of his shoulders. "Please, Kellan. I don't want to wait. I'm afraid to wait another second . . ."

Afraid the moment would somehow shatter and reality would toss them both back where they'd been just a few minutes ago: Enemies, not lovers. Strangers, not friends.

Back to a man and woman with a distant, shared past, an uneasy present, and a dubious, uncertain future.

Mira couldn't let go of him, not now. "Come up here. I need to feel you against me again. I want you inside me."

Whatever he said was lost in a deep, rumbling growl. He moved back up on the bed, shucking his pants along the way. Mira drank in the sight of him, naked and lean and beautiful. So strong and powerful.

So alive.

How long had she dreamed of this moment – being with Kellan again, having him back from the dead?

It made her greedy for him now. Desperate to hold him close, as close as their bodies possibly could be.

Kellan covered her, every inch of him pulsing with warmth and masculinity. He kissed her again, deep and long and possessive. His thighs were wedged between hers, his arousal heavy and hard, the thick shaft nestled upright in the moist cleft of her sex.

Not close enough.

Mira shifted her hips, seating him for his first thrust. She sucked on his tongue, and his cock gave a little kick in response. Kellan moaned into her mouth, a raw sound of need. He broke their kiss with a curse and stared down at her, propped up on his fists.

"I want to go slow with you, but . . ." His voice trailed off, and he shook his head, giving a slight press of his pelvis. The head of his penis nudged into her, testing. "Ah, Christ . . . you feel too good."

Mira's heart was banging in her chest like a caged bird, every nerve ending quivering with an urgent need. "I don't want to go slow. There's been too much time standing between us. No more, Kellan. Not right now."

He nodded, eyes rooted on her as he gave another experimental thrust. "You're so tight. Just like the first time we were together."

She'd been a virgin that first time – the only time – she and Kellan made love. He had been too. Although their desire had been mutual, undeniable for years before that night, they'd never taken it so far. She'd been too young at first, then, later, when she was a woman, Kellan had thrown himself into his duty with the Order, taking on missions that sent him away for weeks, sometimes months at a time. But he always came back to her, and when he did, it never took long for them to end up in a tangle of arms and legs and questing mouths.

They'd learned to pleasure each other in other ways before that moment eight years ago until, finally, need had proven greater than any amount of denial or restraint. Mira had given herself to Kellan and he to her.

It had been magical. Miraculous. Until a few hours later, when a rebel's bomb took all of that away.

She gazed up at Kellan, poised above her in the soft quiet of his bed. Her heart was still broken from everything that had happened that night and in the time since. But this moment was real. It was now. It was theirs.

She smiled at the feel of his nakedness all over her, moaned in pleasured pain as the head of his cock stretched her impossibly tight around him. He was so careful with her. Too careful. She reached up, stroked his handsome face. "There's been no other for me either, Kellan. Not in all this time."

A flash of bewilderment raced across his features. "No one?"

She shook her head. "Only you."

"Ah, God." He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again, they were blazing with a newer, fiercer light. He wasn't happy. Not at all. "Ah, Christ, Mouse. Damn you for that. Damn both of us for not having the sense to let go."

With a growl through gritted teeth and fangs, he pushed inside her on a swift, deep thrust. Mira cried out as he filled her, biting her lip as the sharp, initial sting of his invasion gave way to a glorious completion.

Oh, fuck.

He felt so good.

She felt so good, holding him buried within her.

She knew this dance with him, every instinct within her responding like it had been only yesterday that she'd last kissed him like this – naked and breathless, skin on skin, melting with pleasure and hungry for more. Their first time together had been branded into her senses, a memory she'd carried all this time. It had been all she'd had left of him, and she'd clung to it as she would her own soul.

And now she had Kellan with her again. Inside her.

His name was a ragged whisper on her lips as he increased his tempo, each long push going deeper, stoking the fire that was already roaring inside her. His mouth covered hers as the first broken cry of her climax curled up from the back of her throat.

He showed her no quarter, but then, she hadn't wanted any. Not like this. Not when her need for him was still so raw and unsated.

But her orgasm was building swiftly. It raced up on her with his every stroke and retreat, every kiss and caress carrying her higher, closer to the edge. Kellan drove into her with relentless purpose, pushing her mercilessly toward the cliff.

"Oh, God," she gasped as the first hot waves crashed into her. "Kellan."

Mira held on to him and tumbled headlong into the pleasure of the moment.

The pleasure of this reunion, no matter how fleeting her heart feared it might be.

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