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Taken by Midnight (Chapter Thirteen)

Jenna felt like the biggest coward–the biggest damned fraud–as she fled up the corridor, sucking back tears. She'd let Brock think she didn't want him. Probably made him believe he'd been forcing himself on her in some way with that kiss, when it had nearly melted her into a puddle on the conference room table. She had let him worry that he'd done something wrong, possibly even hurt her somehow, and that was the most unfair thing of all.

Yet she couldn't stop running, needing to put distance between them with a determination that bordered on desperate. He made her feel too much.

Things she wasn't prepared for. Things she craved so deeply but didn't deserve.

And so she ran, as terrified as she'd ever been and hating the cowardice that pushed her each step of the way. By the time she reached her quarters, she was shaking and breathless, tears streaming in hot trails down her cheeks.

"Jenna."

The sound of his deep voice behind her was like a caress of warmth against her skin. She turned to face him, astonished by the speed and silence that had brought him there not even a second after she'd arrived. Then again, he wasn't human. Not really a man at all–a fact she had to remind herself of when he was standing so near, the sheer size of him, the raw intensity of his dark gaze, speaking to everything that was woman inside her.

Her mouth still smoldered from his kiss. Her pulse was still thrumming heavily, heat still kindling deep into the core of her body.

As if he knew this, Brock moved closer. He reached out to her, took her hand in his, saying nothing. There was no need for words. Despite her slowing tears and the tremble of her limbs, she couldn't hide the desire she felt for him.

She didn't resist as he drew her nearer, into the heat of his body. Into the comfort of his arms. "I'm scared," she whispered, words that didn't come easy to her, and never had.

His eyes locked on hers, he gently stroked the side of her face. "You don't have to be afraid of me. I won't hurt you, Jenna."

She believed him, even before he bent his head and brushed her lips in an achingly tender kiss. Incredibly, impossibly, she trusted this man who was no man. She wanted his hands on her. Wanted to feel this connection to someone again, even if she wasn't at all ready to think beyond the physical, yearning to touch and be touched.

"It's okay," he murmured against her mouth. "You're safe with me, I promise."

Jenna closed her eyes as his words sank into her, the same words he'd soothed her with in the shattered darkness of her Alaskan cabin, then again in the compound's infirmary. Brock had been her steady link to the living world after her ordeal with the Ancient. Her only lifeline during the endless nightmares that had followed in the days after she'd been brought to this strange place, changed in so many terrifying ways.

And now …?

Now she wasn't sure where he fit in the confusion that remained of her life. She wasn't ready to think about that. Nor was she at all certain she was ready to give in to the feelings he stirred in her.

She pulled back slightly, doubt and shame welling up from the part of her that was still in mourning, the open wound on her soul that she had long ago come to accept might never fully heal.

Pressing her forehead against the warm solidity of his chest, the soft cotton of his gray T-shirt laced with the exotic scent of him, Jenna drew in a fortifying breath. It leaked out of her as a quiet, broken sigh. "Did I love them enough? That's what I keep asking myself, ever since that night in my cabin …"

Brock's hands skated lightly over her back as he held her, strong and compassionate, the steady calm she needed in order to relive those torturous moments when the Ancient had pressed her to decide her own fate.

"He made me choose, Brock. That last night in my cabin, I thought he was going to kill me, but he didn't. I wouldn't have fought him if he had. He knew that, I think." She was sure of it, in fact. She had been in a bad place the night the Ancient invaded her cabin home. He'd seen the nearly empty bottle of whiskey on the floor beside her and the loaded pistol in her hand.

The box of photographs she brought out every year around the anniversary of the accident that had robbed her of her family and left her to carry on alone. "He knew I was prepared to die, but instead of killing me, he forced me to speak the words out loud, to tell him what I wanted more–life, or death. It felt like torture, some kind of sick game he was making me play against my will."

Brock ground out something coarse under his breath, but his hands remained gentle against her back, a tender, soothing warmth.

"He made me choose," she said, recalling every unbearable minute of her ordeal.

But even worse than the endless hours of imprisonment and being fed upon, the horror of realizing her captor was a creature not of this earth, was the awful moment when she heard her own voice rasp the words that seemed torn from the deepest, most shameful pit of her soul.

I want to live.

Oh, God … please, let me live.

I don't want to die!

Jenna swallowed past the lump of anguish in her throat. "I keep thinking that I didn't love them enough," she whispered, miserable at the thought. "I keep thinking that if I really loved them, I would have died with them. That when the Ancient forced me to decide if I wanted to live or not, I would have made a different choice."

When a sob caught her breath, Brock's fingers brushed the underside of her chin. He lifted her face to meet his solemn gaze. "You survived," he said, his voice firm yet infinitely tender. "That's all you did. No one would blame you for that, especially them."

She closed her eyes, feeling the weight of her regret ease a bit with his soothing words. But the void in her heart was a cold, empty place. One that gaped even wider as Brock gathered her close, comforting her. His warmth and caring seeped inside her skin like a balm, adding deeper emotion to the desire that hadn't lessened for the nearness of his body to hers. She curled into the shelter of his arms, resting her cheek against the solid, unwavering strength of him.

"I can take it away, Jenna." She felt the warm press of his mouth, the riffle of his breath through her hair, as he kissed the top of her bowed head.

"I can carry the grief for you, if you want me to."

There was a part of her that rebelled at the idea. The tough woman, the seasoned cop, the one who always charged to the front of any situation, recoiled at the notion that her grief could be too much for her to bear on her own. She had never needed a helping hand, nor would she be the one to ask–not ever. That kind of weakness would never do.

She drew back, denial sitting at the tip of her tongue. But when she parted her lips to speak, the words wouldn't come. She stared up into Brock's handsome face, into his penetrating dark eyes, which seemed to reach deep inside her.

"When was the last time you allowed yourself to be happy, Jenna?"

He stroked her cheek so lightly, so reverently, she shivered under his touch.

"When was the last time you felt pleasure?"

His large hand drifted down, along the side of her neck. Heat radiated from his broad palm and long fingers. Her pulse kicked as he cupped her nape, his thumb caressing the sensitive skin below her ear.

He brought her toward him then, tilting her face up to meet his. He kissed her, slow and deep. The unhurried melding of his mouth against hers sent a current of liquid heat arrowing through her veins. The fire pooled in the center of her, the raw core filling with bright, fierce longing.

"If this isn't what you want," he murmured against her lips, "then all you have to do is tell me. At any time, I'll stop–"

"No." She shook her head as she reached up to touch his strong jaw. "I do want this. I want you–so much right now, it's scaring me half to death."

His smile spread lazily, those sensual lips parting to reveal the white flash of his teeth–and the growing length of his fangs. Jenna stared at his mouth, knowing that basic human survival instincts should be throwing off all sorts of alarms, warning her that getting too close to those sharp canines could be deadly.

But she felt no fear. Rather, her mind recognized his transformation with an inexplicable sense of acceptance. Excitement, even, as the absorbing brown of his eyes began to glitter with fiery amber light.

Above the crewneck collar of his gray T-shirt and beneath the short sleeves that clung to the knotted bulge of his smoothly muscled biceps, Brock's dermaglyphs pulsed with color. The Breed skin markings deepened from their usual dark bronze hue to shades of burgundy, gold, and deepest purple. Jenna ran her fingers along the swirling curves and tapered arches of his glyphs, marveling at their unearthly beauty.

"Everything I thought I knew is different now," she mused aloud as she stood in the circle of his arms, idly tracing the pattern of the glyphs that tracked down his thick forearm. "It's all changed now. I'm changed–in ways I'm not sure will ever make sense to me." She glanced up at him. "I'm not looking for more confusion in my life. I don't think I could handle that on top of the rest of it."

He held her stare, no judgment in his eyes, only patience and an aura of unerring control. "Are you confused right now, when I'm touching you …

or when I'm kissing you?"

"No," she said, astonished to realize it. "Not then."

"Good." He bent his head and claimed her mouth again, suckling her lower lip, catching it between his teeth as he stroked her back, then palmed his hands along the curve of her ass. He squeezed her possessively, hauling her electrified body up against the hard ridge of his groin. He nuzzled into the crook of her neck, his lips warm and wet on her skin. When he spoke again, his voice was thicker than before, edged with the same kind of need that was roaring through her. "Let yourself feel pleasure, Jenna. If you want it, then that's all this needs to be between us. No pressures, no strings. No promises neither one of us is ready to make."

Oh, God. It sounded so good, so tempting to give in to the desire that had been crackling between them ever since she woke up at the Order's compound. She wasn't ready to open her heart again–she might never be ready for that vulnerability again–but she didn't know if she was strong enough to resist the gift Brock was offering her.

He kissed the hollow at the base of her throat. "It's all right, Jenna.

Give the rest to me for now. Let everything else go, except this."

"Yes," she sighed, unable to hold back her breathless gasp as his caress roamed her body. His strong, gifted hands sent tingles of energy through her veins, his preternatural talent drawing away the lingering weight of her sorrow and guilt and confusion. His hot, skilled mouth left only sensation and hunger in its wake.

He kissed a slow path up the length of her throat, then along her jawline, until his lips found hers once more. Jenna welcomed his passion, opening to him as his tongue swept the seam of her mouth. He groaned as she sucked him in deeper, growled with pure male approval as she wrapped her fingers around the back of his head and held him more firmly against her mouth.

God, she had no idea how badly she'd craved a man's touch. She'd gone so long without intimacy, willingly depriving herself of sexual contact and release. For four years, she had convinced herself she neither wanted it nor deserved it, just a further self-imposed punishment for the offense of having survived the accident that killed her loved ones.

She had believed herself immune to desire, yet now, with Brock, all those once-impenetrable barriers were crumbling, falling down around her like nothing more than dried, weightless leaves. She couldn't feel guilt for the pleasure he was giving her. Whether due to Brock's powerful ability to absorb her anguish, or the depth of her own repressed need, she couldn't be certain. All she knew was the soaring intensity of her body's response to him, a surge of pleasure and tightening anticipation that left her breathless and greedy for more.

Brock's big hands drifted to her shoulders, then made a slow journey over her breasts. Through the thin cotton knit of her shirt, her nipples peaked, hard and aching, alive with sensation as he kneaded each heavy mound. Jenna moaned, wanting to feel more of his touch. She caught his hand in hers and guided him up under the loose hem of her top. He didn't require any more direction than that. In less than a second, he'd unfastened the front clasp of her bra and covered her bare flesh with his heated palm.

He teased the diamond-hard bud as he caressed her. "Is that better?"

he murmured just below her ear. "Tell me if you like it."

"God … yes. " It felt so good, she could hardly form words.

Jenna sucked in a hiss of pleasure, tipping her head back as the coil of sensation twisted tighter in her core. He kept touching her, kept kissing her and caressing her, as he slowly removed her shirt. He took equal care with her loosened bra, sliding the thin straps off her shoulders, then down her arms. Suddenly she was standing before him, naked from the waist up. The instinct to cover herself–to hide the scars that riddled her torso from the accident and the one on her abdomen that was a daily reminder of Libby's difficult birth–flared swiftly, but only for an instant.

Only in the time it took for her to glance up and meet Brock's gaze.

"You're beautiful," he said, gently taking her hands in his and drawing them away from her body before she had the chance to feel awkward or embarrassed by his praise or his open observation of her.

She had never felt particularly beautiful. Confident and capable, physically fit and strong. Those were words she understood and could accept. Words that had carried her through most of her thirty-three years of life, even through her marriage. But beautiful? It felt as alien to her as the odd language she'd heard herself speaking on the infirmary video recording yesterday.

Brock, on the other hand, was beautiful. Although that seemed an admittedly odd way to describe the dark force of nature that stood before her now.

Every speck of velvety brown color in his eyes was gone, devoured by the glow of bright amber that warmed her cheeks like an open flame. His pupils had thinned to narrow slivers, and his lean cheeks were now taut and more angular, his flawless dark skin stretched tight across his bones, setting off the astonishing appearance of his long, deadly sharp fangs.

Those searing eyes locked on her, he pulled off his T-shirt and let it fall to the floor beside hers. His chest was incredible, a massive wall of perfectly formed muscle covered in an intricate pattern of pulsing glyphs.

She couldn't resist touching his smooth skin, just to see if it felt as satiny against her fingertips as it looked to her eyes. It was even softer than she'd guessed, but the sheer, inhuman strength beneath it was unmistakable.

Brock looked every bit as lethal as he had when he'd come to save her in the city, except instead of the cold malice that had rolled off him in waves that night, now he vibrated with something equally aggressive and intense: desire. All of it centered on her.

"You are … damn, Jenna," he rasped, tracing the line of her shoulder, then circling the dusky rose tip of her breast. "You have no idea just how lovely you are, do you?"

She didn't answer him, didn't really know how. Instead, she moved closer and brought his mouth down to hers in another scorching kiss. Skin against skin, her breasts crushed against the bulky slabs of his chest, Jenna nearly combusted with need. Her heart was hammering, breath racing, as Brock reached down and unfastened the button and zipper fly of her jeans.

She caught her lip with her teeth as he slid his hands between the slack waistband and the skin of her hips, then smoothly eased the denim down over her white bikini panties. He sank to his haunches, following the denim's descent with his hands.

He took care around her healing gunshot wound, cautious not to disturb the bandage that wrapped around her thigh. "Is this all right?" he asked, glancing up at her, his deep voice so rough she hardly recognized it.

"If there is pain, I can draw it away."

Jenna shook her head. "It doesn't hurt. Really, it's okay."

His bright amber eyes shuttered with the fall of his lashes as he turned back to his task. Her jeans removed, he sat back on his heels and gazed at her, stroking his hands up and down the length of her legs.

"So, so beautiful," he praised her, then leaned his head in and pressed his lips to the triangle of white cotton between her thighs, the sole bit of clothing that covered her now.

Jenna blew out a shaky sigh as he caught the fabric in his teeth and fangs. With a meaningful look up at her, his hands still caressing her legs, he tugged at the cotton before letting it snap softly back into place against her overheated flesh. He followed it with his mouth, kissing her again, more determinedly now, nudging aside the paltry scrap of material and nuzzling his face deep into the moist cleft of her sex.

His hands clenched her backside as he explored her with lips and tongue and the erotic graze of his teeth against the wet flesh at her core. He eased her out of her panties, then spread her thighs open and suckled her again. He brought one hand between her legs, adding the slick play of his fingers to the already dizzying expertise of his mouth. Jenna trembled, lost to sensation and less than a breath away from flying apart.

"Oh, God," she gasped, quaking as he delved between her drenched folds with the blunt tip of his finger, penetrating her slowly, while his kiss stoked her need ever tighter. She rocked against him, awash in heat. "Oh, my God … Brock, don't stop."

He moaned against her wetness, a long purr of blatant male enjoyment that vibrated through her flesh and bone, deep into the heated center of her.

Jenna's climax roared up on her like a storm. She shook with the force of it, crying out as the pleasure seized her and flung her skyward. She broke apart, sensation shimmering over her like stardust as she spiraled higher and higher, tremors of pure bliss shuddering through her, one after the other.

She was boneless as she floated back down to reality. Boneless and drained, even though her body was still pulsing and alive with sensation.

And Brock was still kissing her. Still stroking her with his fingers, wringing every last quiver from her as she clutched his thick shoulders and panted with pleasurable little aftershocks.

"I think I needed that," she whispered, shuddering as his low chuckle rumbled against her sensitive flesh. He kissed her inner thighs, nipping teasingly, and her legs went a little wobbly beneath her. She tipped forward, draping herself over Brock's broad back. "Oh, my God. I had no idea how much I needed that."

"My pleasure," he rasped. "And I'm not finished with you just yet." He shifted beneath her, bringing his arm around her and settling her over his right shoulder. "Hold onto me."

She had no choice. Before she knew what he intended, he stood up.

As in deadlifted all of her weight on one shoulder and rose to his feet like she was nothing but feathers. Jenna held on as he'd told her and couldn't help but admire the sheer power of him as he strode with her into the adjacent bedroom. Clad in just his jeans, his back muscles flexing and bunching beneath his smooth skin with each long stride, a perfect concert of fitness and form.

No doubt about it, he was beautiful.

And her already-electrified body hummed with renewed heat when she realized he was carrying her directly to the big king-size bed.

He pulled aside the coverlet and sheet, then set her down on the edge of the mattress. Jenna watched with growing hunger as he unbuttoned his dark jeans and stepped out of them. He wasn't wearing anything underneath.

Elaborate glyphs tracked around his trim waist and hips and down onto the sinewy bulk of his thighs. The colors pulsed and mutated, drawing her gaze only briefly from the thick jut of his erection, which stood rigid and immense as he watched her take in the sight of him.

Jenna swallowed on a parched throat as he strode toward her, devastating in his nakedness. The fiery glow of his eyes had grown impossibly brighter, his fangs seeming huge to her now.

He paused at the edge of the bed, scowling when she held his transformed gaze. "Are you afraid of me … like this?"

She gave a small shake of her head. "No, I'm not afraid."

"If you're concerned about pregnancy–"

She shook her head again. "My internal injuries in the accident took care of that. I can't get pregnant. Anyway, regardless of that, I understand that Breed and human DNA doesn't mix."

"No," he said. "And as for any other concerns you might have, you're safe with me. There is no sickness or disease among my kind."

Jenna nodded in acknowledgment. "I trust you, Brock."

His scowl lessened but he held himself very still. "If you're not sure–

if this isn't what you want, then what I told you before still stands. We can stop anytime." He chuckled low under his breath. "I think it might kill me to stop right now, when you're looking so damn hot in my bed, but I'll do it.

God help me, but I'll do it."

She smiled, touched that someone so powerful could have such honor and humility. She pushed back the sheets and made room for him next to her. "I don't want to stop."

His mouth broke into a wide grin. On a growl, he stalked forward and climbed into the bed beside her. At first, they merely touched and caressed, kissing tenderly, learning more about each other's bodies. Brock was patient with her, even though the tension in his body told her he was racked with the need for release. He was kind and caring, treating her like a cherished lover even though they'd both agreed up front that this thing between them could never be more than casual, no strings attached.

It seemed incredible to her that this man she barely knew–this Breed male who should by rights scare her spitless–could instead feel so familiar, so intimate. But Brock was hardly a stranger to her. He'd been at her side through a nightmare ordeal, then again through the days of her recovery here at the compound. And he'd come after her that night she'd been alone and injured in the city, her unlikely, dark savior.

"Why did you do it?" she asked him quietly, her fingers tracing the dermaglyphs that swirled down around his shoulder and onto his chest.

"Why did you stay with me in Alaska, and then all those days I was in the infirmary?"

He was silent for a moment, his black brows knitted tightly over the fiery glow of his eyes. "I hated seeing what had happened to you. You were an innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire. You're human. You didn't deserve to be dragged into the middle of our war."

"I'm a big girl. I can handle it," she said, an autopilot response that she didn't truly feel. Especially after the disturbing results of her latest blood work. "What about now … what we're doing here, I mean. Is this part of your be-nice-to-the-pitiful-human program, too?"

"No. Hell no." His scowl deepened almost to the point of anger. "You think this is about pity? Is that what it felt like to you?" He rasped out a harsh breath, baring the sharp tips of his fangs as he rolled her onto her back and straddled her. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty goddamned hot for you, lady. Any fucking hotter and I'd be ash."

To prove his point, he gave a none-too-subtle thrust of his hips, seating his shaft between the plush, wet folds of her sex. He pumped a couple of times, sliding the rigid length of his cock back and forth within the slick cleft, teasing her with the hard heat of his arousal. He hooked his arm under her leg and brought it up around his shoulder, turning his face against her thigh and giving the tender skin a sharp nip.

"This is pure necessity, not pity," he said, his voice rough and raw as he entered her, long and slow and deep.

Jenna couldn't form a response, even if she tried. The stunning feel of him filling her up, stretching her deeper with each powerful thrust, was so overwhelming it stole her breath. She clung to him with both hands as he caught her mouth in a bold kiss and rocked over her, his body moving in a fierce, demanding tempo.

Already, the crest of another climax was swiftly rising up on her. She couldn't hold it back. It crashed into her, splintering her senses, sharpening them. She felt the rush of her own blood in her veins, felt the furious pound of Brock's pulse, too, drumming beneath her fingertips and in every nerve ending. Her ears filled with the sound of her breathless shout of release, the slick friction of joined bodies writhing against the sheets. The scents of sex and soap and clean sweat on hot skin intoxicated her. The taste of Brock's searing kiss on her lips only made her crave more of him.

She hungered, in a way she couldn't understand.

She hungered for him, so deeply it seemed to wring her out from the inside.

She wanted to taste him. To taste the power of what he was.

Panting in the wake of her release, she drew back from his mouth. He swore something dark and aggressive under his breath, his strokes growing more intense, veins and tendons popping up in his neck and shoulders like thick cables rising under his skin.

Holding on to him, Jenna let her head fall back for a moment, trying to lose herself in the rhythm of their bodies. Trying not to think about the gnawing ache that was festering in the center of her, the confusing yet irresistible impulse that called her gaze back to his strong neck. Back to the engorged veins that pulsed like war drums in her ears.

She pressed her face into the strong column of his neck and ran her tongue along the pulse point she found there. He groaned, a pleasured sound that only served as fuel for the fire still stoked and burning within her. She ventured a little more, closing her teeth over his skin. He snarled a raw curse, and she bit down tighter, feeling the surge of tension that arrowed through his whole body. He was on the edge now, his arms like granite around her, every thrust of his hips growing more intense.

Jenna clamped down harder on the soft skin caught between her teeth.

She bit down until he was frenzied and wild with passion …

Until she tasted the first sweet drop of his blood against her tongue.

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