The existence of the Coteri has remained hidden for centuries…until now
He would protect her with his life…
Mathias has been ordered to protect Mina Roarke at all costs while keeping her Father’s secrets concealed. But from the moment he sees her, the hunger he’s desperately tried to bury, roars to life. The beast within is awakened and wants only one thing…Mina.
But when his enemies target her life, Mina and Mathias become caught in a lethal game of revenge. To save her, Mathias must not only expose the truth…but also what lies deep within him.
She was just looking for answers….
Mina had always been told she was special. In what way, she never fully understood until her life and everything she thought she knew and believed in was turned completely upside down.
After the unexpected death of her mother, Mina finds clues about her past that trigger more questions than answers. Her quest to find those answers thrusts Mina deep into the Black Forest of Germany and into the arms of a man who tests her control…in more ways than one. She is wrenched from her own reality into a world filled with adrenaline-charged danger, blazing sexual heat, and the answers that have been hidden her entire life.
Mina alone holds the power to change her future but when she comes face to face with ultimate betrayal, can she still trust in the one man that has captured her heart?
They reached the lantern-lined street and continued toward her hotel. Her gaze shifted to the left to take him in. Damn, he really was beautiful. She imagined wrapping her hands in his long, thick hair and pulling his mouth to hers. She shivered. What she could do to him and what she wanted him to do to her were not what she should be thinking about right now, but she couldn’t help it. His skin was alabaster white and smooth as silk. With his dark green eyes and golden brown hair, she thought he would be at least a bit tanned, but his coloring definitely worked for him. He was sex on fire. Her gaze traveled down his profile to his arms. They looked solid and extremely capable of sweeping her off her feet and throwing her across her bed. And those hands … long fingers ending in what looked to be a two-hundred-dollar manicure.
She worked her gaze back up to his face to check out that mouth again. His lower lip was plump and totally kissable. She wanted to suck it into her mouth and nibble at it with her teeth. What would he taste like? She imagined vanilla mixed with sin. Totally lost in thought, she didn’t realize he also looked at her peripherally.
Mina covered. “I like your coat.”
His mouth formed that sideways grin again. “Thank you.”
Yeah … totally busted.
They followed the cobblestone street through the empty market area to the long multicolored row houses for some of the businesses in town. Above each door was an elaborate brass filigree hanger with a sign hanging down identifying each business. They swung in the chilled wind, making it sound like a playground swing set during recess. Strands of little twinkling lights were strung on anything that was permanent for the holiday season. The entire scene looked like the inside of a snow globe.
Finally reaching the hotel, Mathias pulled open the heavy wooden door with one hand and swept the other in front of him, bowing before her. Mina stopped in the lobby to grab her shopping bags and headed toward the stairs to her room. She turned to thank Mathias for taking her back to the hotel and almost ran into the wall that was his chest. She caught herself before placing her hands on his well-defined body and righted herself just inches away from him.
“What are you doing?” Mina blurted out, her eyes widening.
Mathias lowered his head and stared into Mina’s surprised gaze. His lips lifted into a smile. “I am, of course, escorting you to your room.”
Hand shooting up to stop him in his tracks, Mina blurted, “Um … no. Thank you but, no. I’ll be fine.” She turned and started to move up the steep steps to her desperately desired room when she felt his hand snake around her lower arm.
“Ms. Roarke, I received very specific instructions from your father. I am not to leave your side until he returns.”
Mina looked down at his hand circled around her arm. She felt his heat through her coat. There was no way she could let him walk her to her room. She was too turned-on by him and it had been way too long since she’d had a man in her bed. “Look Matty…”
“I’m sorry. Mathias. It’s been an interesting day, to say the least. I’m in Germany, they lose my luggage, I meet up with a stranger in the middle of the Black Forest and find out my father wants to meet me. To be honest, right now, I just really want to take a shower and try to relax. I don’t need you to walk me to my room. It’s right up the stairs, and again, I appreciate your kindness but this is good night.”
Mina tried to turn again to go to her room. His fingers tightened slightly and he took the first step to loom over her. He inhaled slowly as if he was getting ready to deliver an unwanted speech. Mina narrowed her eyes and raised a hand to stop him from speaking. Instead of delving into the reasons he would not be leaving her side, he reached up with his free hand and grasped Mina’s raised palm gently. He released her arm and pressed her hand between both of his as if warming it. His green eyes darkened as Mina’s mouth fell open in shock. She stopped breathing, almost as if in expectation of what he was going to do. Very slowly and deliberately, he raised her hand to his mouth.
The blood in her veins stopped flowing as her knuckles came into contact with his warm lips. His mouth remained on her hand for what seemed like hours. Her fingers instinctively curled inward and she fought the urge not to place her other hand in his hair and hold on tight. Jesus, what this man could probably do with that mouth. It might have been a while since Mina had had sex, but the flutter in her stomach reminded her she was probably due for some real quick.
Slowly removing his mouth from her hand, he took a slight nip at her skin with his teeth. Mina’s nipples immediately tightened against her shirt at the sensation. Mathias lifted his thick lashes and she met his heated gaze. His eyes were warm and inviting. He didn’t let her hand go but simply started brushing the inside of her palm with the pad of his thumb. Mina was immediately aware of the wetness pooling between her legs at the mere idea of what could happen next. She felt chilled but about to melt at the same time. No words came to her. Only a feeling of guilt mixed with the tantalizing thought of letting him touch her more. She was way too turned-on to utter a word. With her mouth still open, she just stood there and stared. His eyes were almost hypnotic. Her mind was a complete blank. All she knew was she did not want this man to let go of her hand.
She imagined he continued up the steps and led her behind him, like a lamb to slaughter. Once reaching her room, he would push her up against the door and crush his mouth to hers, sending her into oblivion. He’d lace his hands into her hair and gently tug at the curls to force her closer. She’d arch against him to get the feel of his body against hers. Warm, hard and ready. His hands would move slowly down her back to grip her ass, lifting her against him. Wrapping her legs around his hips, she’d feel the hardness of his need for her and grind herself against it. She’d moan into his mouth that she wanted him desperately. He’d magically open the door, and within seconds, he’d be on top of her, burying her in the soft down comforter on top of the bed in her room. Gently moving his hands up her sides and underneath her sweater, he’d cup her breasts and move his thumbs expertly over her already hard nipples. Throwing back her head in ecstasy, she’d beg him to take her…
Wake up Mina!She snapped out of her sexual trance to realize she had been grasping his hand hard enough to dig her short nails into his skin.
He slowly straightened his stance. Once again, she looked up into his gorgeous face. Was he smiling? Her hand still molded in his, Mina remained frozen in place. “Good night then, Mina. Sleep well.”
Mina’s hand was slowly lowered to her side and his warm palms slipped away, leaving her wondering what the hell had just happened.
Very casually, Mathias turned and walked out of the hotel, closing the door firmly behind him.
Mina remained standing on the third step with her mouth open and her gaze glued to the closed front door of the hotel. “Holy shit.”
* * * *
Mathias reluctantly made his way down the cobblestone street away from Mina’s hotel. He should not have touched her. What would Roderick do when he found out what happened? Touching the king’s daughter in such a familiar way was completely forbidden, and Mathias knew his head would roll if Roderick ever found out. Mathias was sent there to protect and keep vigil over her until the king returned. He was not there to become personable with her. He thrust his hands into his coat pockets and strode toward the forest.
For the life of him, he couldn’t help himself. Her hair was long, lush and beautiful, and he itched to run his hands through it. Dark brown curls had bounced in the middle of her back as they had walked back to the hotel. She smelled like lust. Her face was pale and freckled and all he could think of was looking into those deep chocolate brown eyes while he plunged deep inside her, taking her hard and fast. He hadn’t wanted a woman like that as long as he could remember. He had only been in her presence for less than an hour and all he wanted to do was ravish her until she screamed.
In searching her room that morning while she shopped, he’d found some of the contents of her backpack she had traveled with. She wore Obsession perfume and used a citrus lotion on her skin. He could almost feel her lying underneath him, wrapping her firm, strong thighs around his middle and digging her nails into his ass while he pounded furiously into her. Standing on the steps of the hotel stairwell with her, he’d inhaled her scent deeply as if to tattoo it on his brain. When he kissed her hand, he could faintly make out the tangy lotion permeating from her skin. He could still smell her scent on his hand. Hell, he needed to wipe that thought out of his mind immediately before Roderick found out what Mathias really wanted to do with his daughter.
Knowing she wanted him in the same way made things worse. Not only could he feel it, but he could smell it as well. When he held her hand, he felt her heart rate spike as he swirled a thumb in her palm. She had little goose bumps on her skin, even though she’d been hot to the touch. With her fingernails digging into the top of his hand, he knew how he affected her. Mixed in with the perfume and citrus of her body lotion, there was also a distinct aroma of arousal. The musky scent made his mouth water. She wanted him.
This was one of those times Mathias wished he didn’t have the gift of animalistic senses. Of course in battle, his ability to sense others around him, hear the slightest movement or sound, and to have the ability to shape shift into just about any animal that didn’t fly was why he was ranked as high as he was within the Coteri military. As one of their most feared warriors, he was quickly moving up the ranks. This assignment involving Mina had been his first mission to come directly from Roderick.
Others in his family had been in the king’s service in the past. His sister recently completed a highly regarded position in America because of her expertise in the outer world where mortals resided. Mathias’ father, Xavier, served as a long-standing member of the king’s council before his death. He had been relied upon for several centuries to assist and mentor to Roderick in the elements of war.
This assignment was Mathias’ chance to show the king he possessed skills other than ones needed in battle. Yes, he was strong and calculating on the battlefield, but Mathias believed he could out-think any opponent put against him. He had a skill for strategy, but unfortunately a temper that rivaled an erupting volcano. His competitive nature didn’t allow Mathias to admit defeat in any manner, be it on the battlefield or playing a simple game of chess. He was determined to be the best at everything. But because of this, few council members laid their faith in him when delegating an assignment.
This had held him back when directives were assigned. The king wanted someone loyal to carry out any mission he needed. Roderick did not want someone questioning him or changing the elements of their duty to him just to fit their own beliefs. The king did not want a loose cannon out in the field. There was no question that Mathias could defend the Coteri kingdom with one hand tied behind his back, but could he handle following orders he did not necessarily agree with?
Mathias battled himself over his strengths that were now becoming his weaknesses. He thought his sheer will and determination on the battlefield entitled him to all of the other benefits that came with a highly ranked member of the military. His baby sister set him straight on this.
Upon receiving the protection detail assignment and learning it involved the king’s only daughter, he had been dumbstruck. The king wasn’t supposed to have a child, especially a human child, considering he had not mated with anyone during his reign.
Even though Mathias now knew this was what his king had been preparing him for all along, he now questioned his ability to succeed in protecting such a vulnerable treasure. Just being around Mina sent his body into a state of complete need. Hell, his dick was still rock-hard. His frustration with himself prevented him from staying at the hotel as he’d been ordered to do. He ached to be with her, to feel her, to be inside her. He desperately wanted to turn on his heel, return to the hotel, run up those rickety stairs to her room and mark her as his. And nothing short of having her would tamp down his colossal erection. He wished he had not sensed her response. With the knowledge she wanted him as much as he wanted her, there was nothing stopping him. Nothing but the king’s wrath.
And now, because of a moment of weakness, Mathias was probably a dead man walking.
Continuing toward the forest, Mathias shed his coat, dropped it where he stood and trotted toward the trees. By the time he reached the edge of the tree line, he was in a dead run. Feet slamming into the frost-covered ground, he sped past the huge evergreens into the mouth of the Black Forest. As he made his way deeper into the trees, his eyes adjusted to the darkness. His strength ebbed and flowed through his body, his muscles and his legs as he gained speed. Finally letting his anger and frustration take over, he began to transform. His long arms reached out in front of him as he dove forward. Muscles contorted and stretched. Bones shifted and cracked. The hair on his body thickened and turned dark as ink. In midair, his body stretched and wriggled into the shape of a black panther. Claws outstretched to grasp onto the cold earth, Mathias skidded to a stop and turned back. Even in animal form, he knew where he wanted to be. Where he should be.
There was something about this woman. Something that tamed the anger inside him. The bitterness that had caused him so much trouble for years. She calmed him, but at the same time he had the fierce need to protect her, to be next to her. He had always been satisfied with relying on himself. Providing strength for his sister when his parents died. He wasn’t used to being distracted by anything or anyone. And then he set eyes on Mina and all of that changed.
He crouched down and focused his gaze on the darkness of the forest surrounding him. His ears twitched at each sound made by the regular inhabitants of the Black Forest. Above him, a falcon circled and made its way north toward the castle. Tremayne doing his nightly rounds. Mathias kept close to the ground to go undetected by one of his best sergeants. If he succeeded in not being seen, he would be speaking to Tremayne in the morning regarding his lack of security within the kingdom’s realm.
Within seconds, Tre appeared behind Mathias and casually leaned against a giant evergreen.
“Hey boss. How’s the assignment going?”
Not wanting to transform back to his human form, nor deal with answering the million-dollar question of the moment, Mathias let out a feral growl and bared his teeth to the young officer.
“Okay… Okay. I get the hint. See you back at the station.”
Tre turned away as if to return to his rounds, but stopped and turned his head back toward Mathias.
“She’s pretty, isn’t she?”
At that, Mathias crouched and bared his teeth at the young soldier. The fur on his back bristled in anger. At that moment, he knew he could and would attack his friend for that remark.
Tremayne took off running and leapt into the air. Within seconds, he was airborne and streaking straight for the royal security station in bird-form.
Mathias turned and padded his way back to the edge of the forest in order to keep an eye on the hotel. He would have loved to have the ability to transform into a falcon like Tremayne. How easy and convenient to just fly up to her window and remain on the sill until morning, nice and close to her. Mathias was extremely thankful Tremayne had no idea who Mina was. He didn’t need anyone knowing he was actually that close to the daughter of the king. Even though the physical exchange between Mathias and Mina was unknown to Tre, there was no doubt Tre felt Mathias’ strong emotion toward her after that little display just now. When Tre mentioned her beauty, Mathias’ immediate anger and possessive surge sent up a huge red flag. Great. Way to wear his feelings on his sleeve, so to speak. So much for working on his temper and wearing a mask of calm.