Series: Dark Bonds 2
Couple: Kara Stone & Dupree Jackson
First Published: December 2011
Dupree Jackson is master at arms, and everything a senior Order soldier should be. Cold. Unbreakable. Seasoned. Tested. But every race has a weakness, and a hybrid’s is his or her demon. Dupree is beginning the long slow slide to losing his soul and he knows it. There’s a way to save himself, though, and he knows that too. One woman has the power to save him or damn him. If he lets her. Kara Stone wants only two things in life. To be accepted as a full member of the Order, merged with a demon, and Dupree Jackson. Both are more easily longed for than attained. Dupree fights her every step of the way, but as she uncovers secrets about her past, her family, and their connection to the Order, Dupree has no choice but to go along for the ride if he wants to protect her.
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Kara’s hand shook as she brushed her fingers over Dupree’s brow, then his high chiseled cheeks. When she’d heard that he’d been injured in tonight’s big demon showdown and taken to the lupine lair for treatment, she’d rushed right over. He didn’t look like he’d been hurt. There were no monitors or IVs, only a white bandage across his stomach. But he was so still. So quiet.
“He’s going to be okay, right?” she asked the lupine hovering behind her.
“He’ll be fine in a few days.”
She couldn’t believe anything else. Dupree looked as strong and imposing as he always did. Indestructible despite his unconscious state. Until he opened his eyes. They glowed red and hot, stormy and confused.
He lifted a hand and gestured to his side, motioning her to lie down next to him. She was stunned. Partly because with the demon poison raging through his system, he shouldn’t be conscious much less able to move. Usually it left victims paralyzed for days and weak for much longer. Though this was Dupree. She shouldn’t be surprised he was stubborn enough to fight its effects.
What really shocked her was his wanting her closer. There was an attraction between them that she couldn’t fight but that he was damned good at pretending didn’t exist. He rarely touched her. He’d sure as hell never suggested she lie down with him. He kept a distance between them even while he tried to protect her. Maybe this was no more than that. Under other circumstances that would have pissed her off, but now she just wanted reassurance he would be okay, so she scrambled over him and stretched out on her side, propped up on her elbow so she could stare down at him.
The lupine said something about watching out for them, but she didn’t really listen. All her focus was on Dupree.
“You scared the hell out of me,” she whispered.
She didn’t try to hide the fear she’d felt when she’d heard he was injured and poisoned. Dupree was her rock. He couldn’t be hurt. He’d rescued her from a demon attack when she was a child. Had been one of her protectors as she’d grown to adulthood.
“Then maybe now you understand why I won’t to let you go through the merging ceremony.”
In a few weeks she’d go through the ceremony to merge her soul with a demon’s and become the same thing Dupree was. For some reason he really hated that idea. Born human, members of the Order willingly bound their souls to that of a demon, pure evil, to aid in the secret battle against the true demons who managed to escape the underworld and come through the portal to Earth. The merging made them stronger, faster and damned close to immortal as long as they were blood bonded to a spouse. They also gained some kind of mental ability when they took on a demon’s soul, though no one knew what in advance. Telepathy, telekinesis, psychometry. The possibilities were endless, though all hybrids could teleport.
Unfortunately, Dupree still refused to recognize that at almost twenty-five, she was an adult and capable of making reasonable, well thought out decisions. And he wasn’t hurt that bad after all if he was bringing up this old argument. She glared at him.
“You don’t get to make that choice for me, Dupree.”
“Yeah, I do.”
Sometimes he made her want to scream. She punched his shoulder instead and tried to get up, but he caught her hips and rolled over, pinning her beneath his body. Her reaction was immediate, a hot molten desire searing her. He’d been so careful to bank the attraction that had grown between them in the last few years, but it flared full force and unfettered now. He snarled when she struggled against his hold, but she was trying to get closer not away. She cupped his face with her palms and softened her body beneath his. Welcoming.
“You should be running like hell from me,” he muttered.
When she was finally making progress? No way. “And leave the other half of my soul?”
He stared at her like she’d lost her mind, a combination of astonishment and disbelief. Like he just couldn’t believe she’d laid it all out on the line. Well, why shouldn’t she? He knew she wanted him. She knew he wanted her. She shrugged.
“I think I’ve always known, Dupree. Why do you fight it so much?”
She wondered if he’d fall back on his usual excuses for keeping her at arm’s length. She was too young. He wanted to protect her, even from himself. Blah blah blah.
“You deserve more,” he whispered, gaze fixed on her lips. Could she tempt him to kiss her? Just one little kiss before he reverted to the reserved, unapproachable Dupree she was more accustomed to? God, she hoped so.
“Definitely,” she answered, lifting her head from the pillow, lips getting closer to his. He groaned and she continued in a whisper she hoped enticed, “But maybe I’d rather have you. Just you.”
He leaned into her, full body contact that made her crave more. She slid her hands up the smooth skin of his back and marveled at the feel of him. He was big and heavy and his eyes glowed with hungry intent. She got the impression he was a hunter and she was his prey. That was fine with her.
His mouth slanted over hers, teeth nipping her bottom lip when she didn’t immediately open to him. When she gasped, his tongue thrust into her mouth, stroking and sending little sparks of sensation through her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and clung to him. His kiss was wild and untamed, demanding and explosive. He broke away too soon, leaving them both panting. She fell back into the pillow, and moved her hands to grip his upper arms, trying to pull him with her.
“You get back here and finish what you started, Dupree Jackson,” she ordered.
He couldn’t stop now.
“You’re playing with fire,” he said.
His voice was hard, but his lips twitched as he fought a smile. She knew she was one of a select few who didn’t fear him. She knew also, despite how much he tried to hide it, that it pleased him she wasn’t afraid. She grinned up at him. “The only way to play with you is to play with fire.”
He rolled to her side, as if the strength had suddenly left his body, and she experienced a surge of guilt. Damn. How could she have forgotten so quickly why she’d come here? She propped up on one elbow to lean over him.
“Dupree?” It wasn’t worry that made her suck in a deep breath when he met her gaze, however. He was so successful at hiding the way he felt that even she usually had a hard time reading him. He wasn’t hiding anything now and she hoped she could handle what she’d unleashed. The dominance and possession that gleamed in his eyes was enough to overwhelm most women.
“How did you get here?” he asked.
He nodded and she could see him pulling back into himself. “Go back. I’ll be there in a few hours,” he said, tone even and firm.
He was doing it again. Pushing her away. But she saw the desire he couldn’t quite hide in his eyes and it gave her hope. It wouldn’t be easy, breaking through the walls Dupree had spent a lifetime building, but she sensed she was close. Patience. Just a little more time, she promised herself. For now, she’d let him rest. He’d see how determined she was soon enough. She pressed a kiss against his lips and left.