Consciousness first came as a pinpoint of light in the darkness. Slowly but steadily it expanded until Kree could make out the basic shapes of things.
Above her, gossamer curtains were suspended from a dark wood canopy. Their bright crimson swags ran like blood from the ceiling. The mattress under her was made of the softest goose down.
She turned her head, instantly regretting the action. Twin daggers of pain ran from the base of her skull, up over her head, and lodged in the back of her eye sockets.
Movement from across the room caught her eye. Memory returned as fast as the current that had felled her.
Pretending sleep, Kree held still. She forced deep, even breaths through her trembling lips. It was probably too late. He'd most likely seen her movement. She only prayed her captor had been looking elsewhere when she woke.
She cracked her eyelids just enough to see if she recognized her surroundings.
Why hadn't he killed her? Had someone saved her after the enforcer shot her? It really didn't matter. She was alive, and as long as she remained so, she could still save her people.
"I know you're awake." His voice had the timbre of ground glass. But at the same time the confident tone sent desire shooting from her breasts to her sex.
Liquid heat settled between her legs.
Her heart pounded. Not even fear had caused such an adrenaline rush.
Her captor took in a deep breath and moaned. A swath of light spilled from a floor lamp. Kree couldn't see his face, but his erection was visible behind the seams of his leather pants.
He dropped a tattooed hand to his thigh and shifted in the chair.
"I'm not going to hurt you." He finally leaned into the light. Those same eagle-sharp eyes caught her in their snare, like prey.
His raspy velvet voice and hypnotic gaze enfolded her, pulling her under like a drowning woman. The mystery of the other missing Sophites had been solved. By hiring the Druma warriors as enforcers, the theocrats hadn't even given the sisters a chance at survival.
Druma hunted by pheromones. A more effective tool when hunting a population of sexually charged female mystics had never been used. The worst part was the fact Kree's own body had begun to betray her.
All along her nerve endings the sweet hum of desire caressed her under her skin, leaving a hot trail of need in its wake. All her strength and concentration remained fixed on her fake slumber. If he moved or came near her now, she'd go up in flames without a fight.
But she had to fight. That's all the Sophites had left.
Despite her best efforts, her nipples hardened under her thin shirt.
The Druma enforcer let out a long hunger-filled growl.
He stood, his pants hugging every hard curve of his impressive physique.
"If you don't want to talk now, that's all right. We can have an entire lifetime to know each other. But make no mistake, Kree Janus, you will obey me on this journey."
He put one knee on the bed. He leaned over, brushing his mouth against hers. "I have ways of making you cooperate."
A shot of pure lust exploded in her. What was happening? This man was her mortal enemy. She shouldn't have these feelings for him. His kind had been hunting the Sophites and killing them. Some of her dearest friends had died because of the Drumas' greed. Where were her powers of organic manipulation now?
She stared into his hot gaze. "Torture me all you want. I won't give you what you want."
He raised a brow and a smile curved the sensuous sweep of his mouth. "So it's torture you want?"
He looked like the kind of man who gave women exactly what they wanted whether it be good or bad. He also appeared to enjoy providing the service a great deal.
"Do your worst."
A rich laugh rolled out from deep in his chest. "This might take some time. I don't want to disappoint you."
A shudder moved through her. She arched her back, putting her breasts within a hairbreadth of his muscular chest.
His gaze slid down her body, lingering there. "Oh yeah, I'm going to have to find just the thing to make you compliant."
"There's nothing you can possibly do to make me obey you." She turned her head so she didn't have to see the flare of desire in his eyes. Her body responded too readily to his nearness. The man was as potent as any male she'd ever been in contact with.
"I wouldn't bet on it." His voice grew even silkier. "No. We'll leave that discussion for later. You need to rest now."
"I don't want to rest. I want to get the hell out of here." She brushed her hand against the softest material she'd ever felt. Finally looking down, she noticed she no longer wore her own clothes. Sopha, how had that happened?
"You can't leave." He tapped a metal plate fastened around her neck.
The substance didn't register on her senses. How was that even possible? Even inorganics let off a subtle signature she could detect. "What the hell?"
He held up his tattooed arm to her. A flat metal bracelet fit around his wrist. A green light blinked. Oh by the Gods, she knew that device, but hadn't seen one used in years, at least not outside a prison yard.
"I'm sorry. Once we get to where we're going, I'll remove it. But until then you'll not be able to venture more than fifty feet from me without losing consciousness again. It's for your safety. Where we're going, you won't want to try to survive alone."
He gave out a low chuckle, which only further infuriated her. "That's one thing I'm not."
No, he wouldn't be. A full Druma warrior was at the highest echelons of his people. He definitely knew his parentage--all the way back to the founding of his clan. Just as Kree could name all the Sophite premiers back to the goddess Sopha herself.
"Why are you doing this?" She turned her head, closing her eyes as a sudden wave of nausea moved through her. "Weren't you under orders to kill my kind?"
"I take my orders from the clan elders."
Kree cracked open one eye. "Then you weren't sent from the theocrats?"
That annoying smile lifted the corner of his mouth again. He brushed long, fawn-colored hair off his shoulder. "I didn't say that."
"You haven't said much of anything." She opened her other eye if only to narrow them both at him. "Tell me why you've kept me alive."
He ran a thick finger down her cheek. "You are in no position to demand anything from me. You'll know everything you need to in a day or two. Then, after you have all the information, you can hate me all you want. Or not."
Something about the cockiness of his posture made her believe he didn't think she'd hate him at all.
"Your kind killed my sister Sophites," she reminded him.
"My kind is trying to preserve peace." His gaze fastened on her lips, not for the first time since she'd awakened.
"By killing off the enemies of the state."
He let out a deep breath and pushed away from her. "Rest. We have a long ride ahead. It's better if you're alert. There might be trouble on the road."
That didn't sit easy with her. What kind of trouble was an enforcer looking for on the road to wherever? Was it because he hadn't killed her when he'd found her hiding in the warehouse? More importantly, where was he taking her?
He rubbed a spot in the middle of her forehead. Instantly, her eyes felt heavy. She fought back the lethargy. There was no way in hell she'd fall asleep without some better explanation than his enigmatic smiles and the flash of sexy golden eyes.
Weapons as effective as those were going to see to her downfall. There were defenses she could raise to keep his seductive powers from touching her, but she doubted they'd work. Not when she already felt the wet slide of arousal between her legs when she moved them.
The worst part was fastened around her neck. There was no way to remove the security collar without setting off an alarm on her captor's wristband. There had to be a way to get it off and escape before he delivered her to her fate. She'd not accept defeat. Her sisters under Sopha would haunt her for eternity.
"If you want my cooperation, you have to earn it."
That made him laugh. "I don't think it's up to you at this point."
Kree's heart stopped. If his smile and eyes were seductive, his laugh was death itself. She fell under the spell of animation that lit his features. He was a truly beautiful man. One she felt the low kick of desire for as it swirled in her belly. It would have been so much easier to refuse him if he hadn't smiled. Hadn't laughed. Hadn't appeared so human.
"Is this how you mean to torture me?"
The amusement faded.
Tension hung thick in the air between them.
"No, I have something much better in mind."