Scrubbing at his body and hair until the water ran clear, he got out, dried himself off. It was as he was about to put on a suit in preparation for the meetings he’d had Silver postpone that he remembered the way Sahara’s gaze had fixed on his bare chest, her breath hitching as her skin heated.
He knew he had a physically attractive body—changeling and human females had made that clear with the silent invitations they sent him on a regular basis. None of them ever approached, realizing who and what he was, but he’d known that should he decide to accept one of those invitations, he wouldn’t hear the word “no.” His very coldness seemed a lure for certain women, and though he had paused to consider if they would scream in terror when faced with the reality of him, he had never tested the theory.
To him, his body was a tool, and the women who’d sent the invitations had nothing to offer him that would’ve made it worth his while to put that tool to intimate use. Sahara wasn’t one of those nameless women with a heat in their eyes that reminded him of the fever in Santano Enrique’s at the moment of the kill. Given that link to blood and torture, Kaleb wasn’t certain he wouldn’t have snapped the women’s fragile necks had he accepted their invitations.
That wasn’t ever going to be an issue with Sahara. She fell into a unique category of her own.
More, he needed her to bond with him. And regardless of the fact that physical contact caused him acute discomfort, and sex would require him to push himself inside Sahara’s body, the primal act was known to create a bond far stronger than any chain. As if the sweat and heat of sex melded the couple together.
His hand flexed, clenched, his body hardening in response to images he wasn’t consciously aware of forming. It was a problematic development. While his body was in prime condition, the fact was, he shouldn’t have responded—that he’d done so with such faint provocation spoke to deep issues with his control that he’d have to fix before he laid hands on Sahara.
As it was, any such thoughts were premature. Sahara wasn’t yet at a point where he could initiate the most intimate level of physical bonding. For now, he’d use her attraction to his body to keep her off balance, allow it to eat into the fear that colored her eyes whenever she looked at him . . . a fear that made his Tk wrench at the reins, ready to break free and destroy everything around them.
Discarding the shirt he’d picked up, he pulled on only a pair of the lightweight black pants he wore while running, his upper body bare. His eye caught on the mark on his left forearm as he threw the towel over the railing in the bathroom. Though Sahara had seen it multiple times by now, she hadn’t asked about it.
She would. It was inevitable.
As inevitable as what had taken place seven years ago, what he had done. A boy who grew up with a monster had no choice but to become another monster just to survive. Redemption was an impossibility, a mirage flecked with blood.
Sahara knew that better than any other person on the planet.
* * *
SAHARA made it to the kitchen before collapsing against one of the walls for a long, shuddering minute, her heart in her throat. She’d gone to Kaleb’s room with some vague idea of confronting him with her suspicions about his involvement with Pure Psy while he was tired, his guard presumably lowered.
Then he’d walked in and her neurons had gone haywire. The sight of him with his shirt unbuttoned to the waist had been an electric kiss to her body, a physical response so deep, it was as if it had had years to take shape, not simply a matter of days. And while the sight of his muscled chest and abdomen had dried up her throat, made her skin burn, it was the intimacy implied by seeing him half- dressed that had her heart stuttering in the most erratic of rhythms.
Fisting her hand against her stomach in a vain attempt to control the strange fluttering sensation within, she forced herself to move and prepare the nutrient drink he preferred, as well as a cup of hot chocolate for herself. The sweet drink had rapidly become something she associated with care, with safety.
The fact that Kaleb had given it to her the first time wasn’t lost on her.
After a second’s thought, she made several sandwiches using a high-calorie spread she found in the cooler, and put the plate on the table, along with four bars of dark chocolate. All of the items were designed specifically for Psy, the tastes muted, and would help Kaleb refuel his body after the massive amount of energy he’d just expended.
The task was complete all too soon, leaving her grappling with the same clawing desire that had gripped her by the throat in the bedroom. “I’m unsteady,” she whispered, her skin aching with a sense of acute anticipation. “My judgment is impaired. I was sixteen when I was captured.”
“A very mature sixteen,” said a familiar masculine voice from the doorway. “You made a meal.
She couldn’t look away from him, his skin a sun gold that belied the cool lack of expression on his face. If he’d kept his distance, she might have resisted the temptation that had been riding her since the bedroom . . . but he crossed over to her, didn’t say a word when she ran her fingers over the tensile warmth of him, her ni**les tight points against the thin fabric of her sleeveless lilac shirt.
His own hand was big, warm against her cheek as he cupped her jaw. “Don’t be afraid of me, Sahara.” Bending his head, he spoke with his lips against hers, the contact igniting a thousand tiny lightning strikes in her blood. “I’d line the streets with bodies before I’d ever hurt you.”