The Devil In Disguise

June 28, 2016 – Bad Things, Book 1

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The Devil In Disguise
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Don’t make the devil angry…

Luke Thorne loves having one hell of a good time. As the ruler of every dark creature to walk the earth, he certainly has more than a bit of a bad side. He lives for danger and isn’t the type to lose his heart—mostly because he doesn’t have one. Then she walks into his life.

Mina James is seduction in the flesh, a perfect temptation that the devil himself couldn’t pass up. Too late, Luke realizes he’s let a real siren into his life, a woman who is bent on using his dark powers to free herself from hidden enemies. Since Luke isn’t the type of man to be used, he should walk away from her, but…something about Mina draws him close.

Soon he’s realizing that she isn’t who she appears to be. Not dark and cold, but burning red hot. Mina is a woman fighting for her life—and the Lord of the Dark suddenly finds himself in an unlikely role…hero. Luke isn’t going to let her enemies destroy Mina. He will fight heaven and hell to keep her. But in the end, the secrets they both carry may just rip apart a love that should never have been…

There are Bad Things in the world…very, very bad. Are you ready for them?

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Chapter One

The whiskey burned as it slid down his throat. Luke Thorne loved that little sting. He’d always thought pain could be enjoyable, and the burn that came from a twenty-three-year-old whiskey? Damn good.

He rolled back his shoulders as his gaze swept over the bar. More of a dive really, one right at the tip of Key West. Music was blaring and laughter filled the air, but he could still hear the thunder of the waves right outside. The scent of salt air teased his nose, a scent he liked far better than the bitter odors of sweat and cheap perfume that lingered in the air around him.

Humans were in the bar. Gyrating. Seducing. Boring the ever-loving-hell out of him. He’d thought a visit to the human nightspot would take his mind off his troubles. He’d been wrong.

They’re so clueless. They have no idea of the danger that is sitting right in front of them all. One wave of his hand, one whispered order, and everyone in that bar would be dead.

“You want another?” the bartender asked him.

Luke wasn’t sure how many he’d had so far. But, hey, why not? He tapped the bar top and tossed down more money. One good thing about this dive…

It was the only place in Florida that had his drink of choice. Because he paid the bartender to keep his whiskey in stock.

His finger drummed against the bar. The whiskey wasn’t calming his mind. He was still too torn up over the recent battle. The vampires and the werewolves were pissing him off. Soon enough, he’d have to put a stop to their little wars.

And that meant he’d be killing someone.

I need more than a drink. His gaze slid to the women dancing near the small stage. Women in barely-there skirts and too tiny tops. Maybe I could use a fuck.

As if sensing his gaze, one of the women looked his way. A redhead. Her green eyes widened as their stares locked. She seemed helpless to look away.

Because she was.

That was just part of his power. His appeal. What he wanted…he got.

Someone stepped in front of him, blocking his gaze so that he couldn’t see the redhead any longer. Annoyance flashed through him and a growl built in his throat. How the fuck dare anyone—

“Trust me, you’ll like me better.”

Her voice was like sin. Husky and soft. Tempting and sexy.

She was small, delicate, and wearing the best-looking fuck-me high heeled shoes that he’d seen in ages. Red shoes. Devil red. His favorite color.

Nice.

His gaze drifted up her legs—long legs wonderfully bared by the skirt she wore, one that was even tinier than the redhead’s had been. Her hips flared and her breasts—oh, he liked what he saw. Full and firm.

“Want to look all the way up?” she asked.

His gaze rose to her face.

And he found he couldn’t look away.

She had the bluest eyes that he’d ever seen. Bright, bright blue. Framed by dark lashes. Lashes that were as dark as the curtain of black hair that surrounded her face. Her lips were red and plump, her forehead high, her nose long and straight.

She wasn’t perfect—he told himself that twice, but he’d never liked perfect. This woman…she was better than boring perfection.

Sexy. Alluring.

Stunning. Her features just came together in a way that made him think of sex appeal. Pouty lips, bedroom eyes, sharp cheekbones…

Not pretty.

So much better.

“Buy me a drink?” she prompted him.

He’d buy her anything she wanted, as long as she kept talking. The sound of her voice seemed to slide right through him, igniting a hunger, a dark need that heated his body. His cock was hard and eager, and the night—oh, yes, it was definitely looking up. He motioned to the bartender. “Get this lovely lady anything she wants.”

The lovely lady in question smiled at him and…dimples winked in her cheeks. He blinked at the sight, a bit bemused. The dimples were an odd touch of…innocence…when the rest of her was so seductive.

“The lady just wants a beer,” she said as she glanced at the bartender. The bartender—Eli Nabb—was staring at her with the same sort of bemused fascination on his face that Luke felt.

Interesting.

Eli popped open a beer bottle and pushed it across the bar.

The woman came closer to Luke, and when she reached for the beer bottle, her body brushed against his.

The need he felt for her spiked even more.

She nodded her thanks to Eli, then said, “Nice tat.” Her gaze was on the dark spider tattoo that marked the side of Eli’s throat. Eli was tall and thin, and his shoulders usually hunched forward as if he were expecting a blow. Luke knew about the secrets that the guy carried—secrets like that dark tattoo—and he understood exactly why the fellow had decided to hide out in Key West.

You thought I’d keep you safe…if you kept my favorite whiskey coming. An interesting arrangement. One that had, so far, worked out for both men.

“You need anything else?” Eli asked Luke, his voice gravelly.

Luke glanced back at the woman. Actually, he thought he had everything he needed, right there. Luke pushed some cash toward the other man. “I’m good.” Then he focused on his new prize.

“What’s your name?” she asked. She brought the bottle up to that sexy red mouth of hers. Took a long sip. Then licked her lips.

He could have helped her out with that licking. He would help her. “Luke.” The name came out as a growl. “Luke Thorne.”

She took another long sip.

“And who are you?” he asked her.

She put the bottle back on the bar. Her hand curled around Luke’s neck as she leaned in toward him. He was sitting on a bar stool and she’d slid between his legs. A dangerous place to be.

Staring him straight in the eye, she said, “I’m the woman you’re taking back to your place tonight.”

Direct as hell. No games. He loved that.

The werewolves and the vampires and their dumb ass battles could wait. He was about to have fun with the gorgeous creature before him.

His hand rose. His fingers curled around her chin and she—she gave a quick, nervous jerk. Luke frowned. “Are you all right?”

Her breath whispered out. “Let’s get out of here. Take me to your place.”

The words seemed to hum through him and Luke found himself nodding. Getting her out of there, getting her alone—best idea ever to him. But first…

His fingers were still on her chin. He tilted her head back, leaned in even closer as he brought his mouth near hers. He’d take a taste first because he had a feeling she was going to be—

“Not yet.” Her finger pressed to his lips. “Once we’re alone, then I’ll give you that kiss. I’m not exactly the public display type.”

Luke blinked.

She pulled her hand away from him and stepped back. “Are you ready?”

“No.”

Surprise flashed on her face.

He picked up the whiskey glass near him. “This is the kind of drink that should be savored.”

Her hair—so thick and dark—slid over her shoulders. “I’m the kind of woman who should be savored.”

He believed that. He drained his glass, loving that burn, loving that little flash of pain. Sometimes, he needed that pain to remind him that he was still alive. After all of the long years he’d spent walking the earth—fucking centuries—sometimes a fog surrounded him and it was hard to feel.

But he suspected he’d be feeling that night, with her.

He caught her hand in his and led her to the door. People moved out of his way as if by instinct—and because of the little psychic push he gave them. He wasn’t in the mood to be slowed down. Not while she was with him.

The bouncer held the door open for him and Luke stepped into the night. Hot and dark, perfect for him. He kept his grip on her and walked to the side of the building—and when he was sure no one was close, he caged her against that wooden wall.

“Wh-what are you doing?”

His eyes narrowed. In the dark, he could see her perfectly. One of his many gifts. His hand rose and his fingers curled around her neck.

She gave a quick gasp and he felt the frantic flutter of her pulse beneath his touch. Only he was willing to bet that wild beat wasn’t due to arousal.

Fear.

Why the hell would she approach him if she was scared? “You knew who I was before you even came across that bar.”

She stared at him.

“Why?” Luke demanded. “Why come to me?”

“Maybe I’m one of those women that likes a man with a dark edge.”

Oh, he knew plenty about darkness.

“But the why doesn’t really matter,” she added, staring up at him. And as he looked into her eyes—that incredible blue—he swore that her words seemed to echo in his mind and…

Her eyes took on a faint glow in the dark.

Luke shook his head. His thumb caressed her throat, sliding in small circles against her skin.

And that glow got even brighter.

She isn’t human. No human had eyes that could do that. And since she wasn’t human…

I don’t have to play the nice guy. “If you like a dark edge, sweetheart, then you had better prepare for one fun night.”

Again, her pulse kicked beneath his touch. Standing so close to her—without all of the other cloying scents that had been in the bar—he smelled a sweet, light fragrance. Strawberries. She smelled just like strawberries.

“I want a taste,” he whispered and Luke bent toward her. Right before his lips touched hers, her hands flew up and pressed to his chest. But she didn’t push him back. Didn’t shove him away.

Her lips were closed when his mouth touched hers. Soft and silky, plump and perfect…he pressed his mouth to hers, then he licked the crease of her lips.

She gave that little gasp again, a sound that he was coming to find quite sexy, and her lips parted. His tongue thrust into her mouth, going after that sweetness. Exploring, seducing, and claiming as he kissed her against the side of that building. His body pushed against hers. He trapped her against the wooden wall.

And he enjoyed the hell out of her mouth. Tasting—taking. She kissed him back with a sensual hunger that was a damn beautiful thing, a soft glide of her tongue against his, a lick, the press of her lips to his, the faint moan she gave in the back of her throat and then—

“No.” She’d pulled her mouth from his. Her breath came out in little pants. “Not here. I told you...” She stared up at him with those too bright blue eyes. “I told you that I want to go to your home. Take me there.”

He backed away. His dick shoved against the front of his jeans and the need he felt for her was clawing his insides apart. But she’d said not there…

Luke offered his hand to her. “I live on an island nearby. There’s a boat waiting for me—it can take us over.”

“G-good.” The faintest stutter. She put her hand in his. A soft hand. Delicate.

His fingers tightened around hers and he led her toward the dock. Luckily for him—and his growing hard-on, the dock was just a few yards from the bar. As a general rule, Luke didn’t normally bring a guest back to his island. Having a guest wasn’t the safest of plans considering the friends who made a habit of staying at his place but…

One night wouldn’t hurt.

“Devil’s Prize,” she murmured, reading the name of his sports yacht when they stopped at the edge of the wooden dock. The yacht was a real beauty. Forty feet of pure fun.

She turned, studying him with her head cocked. “Are you the devil?”

“Only if hell’s on earth.” He jumped onto the boat and then turned back for her. His hands curled around her waist. She stared at him, and he saw the surprise on her face.

Luke smiled. He kept his hands on her, but didn’t lift his mystery woman onto the boat, not yet.

Footsteps rushed behind him. “Boss?” Marcos Mantez called. Marcos was his driver for the night. A retired Navy man who’d wanted to vanish in the Florida Keys, Marcos didn’t ask any unnecessary questions and the guy could captain any boat with ease. Two important requirements for any captain Luke hired. “You going back early tonight?”

Luke didn’t look away from his prey. “Indeed, I am.” He lifted her onto the boat. His strength was enhanced, far greater than a normal man could ever imagine. Even though the delectable woman with him wasn’t human, he’d still have to be careful with her.

He had to be careful with all of his lovers.

“I’ll get us underway.” Marcos hurried toward the dock, moving to untie the ropes that kept them in place.

“I think I should get your name now,” Luke said, giving her a brief smile. “Otherwise, things will get awkward later.”

“Why?” The wind caught her hair, teasing it, blowing it around her face. “It’s not like we’re planning to see each other past the night. Why can’t we just be two strangers coming together? Isn’t that the way these things work?”

These things. She’d done it again. Slipped up just the slightest bit. She looked like a femme fatale, pure sex in motion, but little tells kept giving her away.

She wasn’t what she was pretending to be.

His jaw set. “Tell me your name or I’ll leave you on this dock.”

Her eyes narrowed. “No, you won’t.” Her voice, if possible, had gone even huskier. It was like a sensual stroke right over him.

She was right, he wasn’t about to leave her. But he wanted her name.

Marcos brushed past him and headed to take the wheel.

“Mina,” she said, glancing away from him. “My friends call me Mina.”

He caught her hand in his, brought it to his lips, and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. Because he was watching her so closely, Luke saw the little shiver that slid over her skin. “We aren’t going to be friends.” Just so there would be no confusion.

Her gaze skittered back toward him.

He held that blue stare a moment, then smiled. “We’re going to be fucking insane lovers.”