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Authors: Rayne Forrest

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BOOK: A Hero's Bargain
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“Heal me,

His mouth
came down on hers with bruising force. She pushed against him but he was too
strong. His tongue swept over her lips and suddenly, escaping him wasn’t
important. Deep in her belly her womb contracted. Need, hot and sweet, throbbed
with each beat of her racing heart.

His kiss
gentled, coaxing her now with a soft plea to answer him. Her arms slid around
his neck. Her lips opened. There was a low rumble in his chest as his arms
tightened around her. Awareness of her surroundings faded. All she knew was his
lips moving on hers and his warm hand slowly caressing her back. She was caught
in the spell he wove, floating in some dark place where her body spoke to her
of aching loneliness and whispered its hope of fulfillment.

ever so softly, the kiss ended. His lips left hers, lingering a hairsbreadth
away. His hands slid to her hips, grasping them with strong fingers and pulling
her to him. The hard ridge of his manhood greeted her. She looked into his
eyes, gone black with desire.

come to my bed first. Then I’ll talk to Tyree about weapons.”

Chapter 8


spine burned from his tailbone to the base of his skull. It wasn’t the searing
fire of previous hours. It was almost bearable. The ache in his groin was more
than bearable. He embraced it and would have welcomed more. Every molecule in
his body screamed at him to lay his angel down and take her. But he’d have to
wait. He wouldn’t feel like much of a man if he couldn’t finish what he started
right now. Hard as a rock or not, he wasn’t sure about it lasting.

He tried
not to listen to the voice in his head yelling at him, asking him what if he
never had another hard-on. This had to be a good sign the toxin was working out
of his system. Surely.

and whatever that soup was she fed him had him feeling restored. Even at that
he was smart enough to know the restoration might not be genuine. It could just
be that his blood sugar was up a little bit and that’s what made him feel like
he could take on the world. An hour from now he might well be a shaking, quivering
mass of jelly once again.

stopped speculating and turned his attention back to the woman trembling in his
arms. She licked her lips. He sucked in a quick breath and kissed her again.
Her lips opened under his, more than accepting, but far from bold. His cock
throbbed. He could have wept for joy.

He pulled
back from her and her eyelids popped open.

“Will you
have me now?” She swallowed, hard. Her uncertainty was evident. The unwelcome
notion that she was a virgin formed behind his eyes. His penis clearly wasn’t
concerned about such mundane matters.

caressed her cheek gently with his knuckles. “I don’t think I’m quite up to it,
angel. No pun intended.”

thought about that for a moment. The corner of her mouth twitched. Her chin
lifted. “I am pleased for you, Ryder, that you seem to be recovering.”

“Yeah? If
I let go of you, are you going to run to Tyree?”

She shook
her head. “We made a deal.”

“Did we?”
He searched her face. Her cheeks pinked. Realization dawned.

Well, hell’s bells.
deal indeed. She simply wanted him.

you can have me, deal or not. Just say so. I’ll make a deal with Tyree for my
weapons and leave you out of it.”

will not make deals with you. If pushed, he will simply take your weapons and
figure them out for himself.”

laughed softly. He knew she was telling the truth. What he wasn’t about to tell
her or anyone else was his weapons were secure activated to his DNA. These
people probably hadn’t ever heard of such a thing.

can examine them all he likes. I won’t mind.” He ran his hands down her back to
cup her bottom. He squeezed. Lord, she was perfect in his hands.

that!” She tried to back away from him. He grinned and pulled her back to him.
Her lips thinned into an annoyed narrow line. He released her, holding his
hands up in the air. He sighed.

She may
want him, but she didn’t understand all the byplay between the sexes.

“Angel, I
hate to be a pest, but I need…” He pointed at the back door. She looked at the
door, nodded, and was out the front before he could grab her, calling for

Wonderful. Just fucking wonderful. It would be time to play
Twenty Questions. Maybe more.

showed up promptly, without Saba, ready to lend a hand—and ask his questions.
At least he waited until Ryder was settled in the chair by the fire.

“You are
welcome here, Ryder Vaughan, but know this—I won’t tolerate deceit.”

think I’ve been in a position to deceive you?”

look darkened, but remained virtually unreadable. He’d be good at cards.

“Do not
seek to play word games with me. I give this warning and I do not couch it in
riddles. Deal openly and fairly with us and we’ll deal openly and fairly with

as well test some of those limits right now, Ryder, old boy.

He met
Tyree’s gaze, eye for eye. “Is this where you want me to bow and thank you for
saving my life?”

should thank Saba, and only Saba. I would have left you to die where you lay.”

of this

looked surprised, but not unpleased. “You remember? Saba wasn’t sure you
would.” He glanced at the door. “Truth, Ryder Vaughan. You were injured before
your vessel crashed here, were you not?”

nodded. “A very untrustworthy person may have tried to poison me. He certainly
tried to kill me.” There was a thump outside the door.

looked at Tyree, raising an eyebrow in silent question. Tyree shrugged and
rose, going to the door on silent feet. He opened the door. Saba was just
outside. He shook his head and motioned for her to come in. She reminded Ryder
of a child caught red-handed with a fistful of candy. Tyree turned to her,
hands on his hips.

you would hear this conversation, perhaps you would unearth some of the wine
you keep hidden under the floor?”

cheeks pinked again. Gods, she was cute when she blushed. Ryder grinned at her.

lifted a rug, pulled up a board and reached down. Tyree tried to look around
her but she quickly let the board fall back into place.

So. Tyree
wasn’t privy to everything about Saba and maybe, just maybe, she wanted to keep
it that way.

dusted off the bottle and carefully broke the seal before getting three tiny
ceramic cylinders off her shelf. She poured one full for Tyree and handed it to
him. Ryder received his with a warning.

“Sip it
slowly. It would not be good if it doesn’t sit well in your belly.”

you, angel. I’ll sip.” He crossed his heart for her. She looked perplexed but
didn’t ask. Tyree glowered at him.

would this very untrustworthy person want to harm you?”

snorted. “You mean you don’t want to know what I was doing in the company of
such an untrustworthy person?”

“I warned
you I would not play word games with you. I can only believe you are accustomed
to be in the company of such.”

lifted his wine, saluting Tyree. “Sometimes. Did you find a gold coin in what
was left of my clothes?”

reached into his vest pocket and flipped the coin to him in one smooth motion.
Ryder caught it deftly. He ran his thumb over the embossing.

Damn. Damn. Damn.
coin was Xenturan and worth a small fortune.

For all
the good it would do him on Adena.

you. It’s supposed to be my good luck piece.”

It was
Tyree’s turn to snort. “You need a better one, my friend.” He sipped his wine.
“Let us get to the point. Have you weapons?”

weapons only, for self-defense. Nothing you could use to start a war.”

“We do
not seek to start a war. We need to kill only one very dangerous creature. Have
you a weapon for that?”

was not always the best policy, and he had some questions of his own. Ryder
sipped, keeping his gaze locked with Tyree’s.

“How do I
know you won’t murder me in my sleep if I give you what I have?”

Saba had
been silent, but now she jumped to her feet. “We are Ramalho! We do not

“Saba. We
are only talking. It’s a valid question from one who does not know us.” Tyree’s
voice was gentle, but Ryder heard the censure in it. So did she.

She sank
back into her chair, bowing her head, putting her face in shadow.

smiled. His lips bowed but his eyes remained cool. “We are Ramalho and we do
not murder.”

nodded. “That’s reassuring, I suppose. That and you’ve had ample opportunity to
let me die.” He took another sip of his wine. It was blood-red, fragrant, and
full-bodied. And very potent. His joints were loosening. He’d give Tyree more
truth than the man probably expected at this juncture, and let the village
headman worry on the bone.

my weapons may not be of use to you. How big is this creature? Where is it
from? Is its nervous system like mine? Or yours? If not, it’s very possible
small hand weapons will not deter it, and may anger it into attacking instead.”

rose. “You are still weak and need to heal. Word has come the
on the far side of its range, almost a seven-day walk from here.” He held out
his hand to Ryder, who grasped it.

understand what we need. Think on it as you enjoy the meager hospitality we
have left to extend to you. Before the
, we could feed you better.”

looked up at him. It was clear why Tyree was the headman here. The man knew the
questions he posed were simply a way to stall for time.

consider my options, Tyree. And the hospitality of the Ramalho is exemplary.
Far better than I’m used to.”

nodded and walked out, closing the door. Saba raised her head and glared at

“Do not
toy with him.”

“I’m not,
angel. I’m really not. Tyree and I are coming to an understanding.” He finished
his wine and held the little cylinder out. “May I have a bit more?”

“It will
make you sleep, and I do not understand the ways of men.”

sure,” he said dryly. If he went to sleep maybe he’d forget about trying to get
her naked. Maybe.

he’d dream of taking her. That would be fine. She sat quietly, watching him
with those beautiful dark eyes that would haunt his sleep.

looked at the closed door, licking her lips. The color came back into her
cheeks. “What of our deal?”

The jolt
of carnal desperation that shot through his belly about undid him. Sweat broke
out on his back. He started to swell.

“I plan
to collect.”

Her gaze
flicked to his, then quickly away, but not before he saw her fear—and her
longing. His groin tightened again and his erection completed. Thank the gods.

give me another shot of that wine and then go about your business so I can take
another nap. Can you do that?”

stared at the embers in the hearth for several long moments and then she
reached for the wine bottle and handed it to him.

“You may
have as much as you like. I won’t trouble you over it. Sleep is the best thing
for you right now. Tyree has agreed that I can go outside to gather plants. If
is days away, I can go now without fear and without escort.”

His angel
outside the protection of the walls alone? His skin prickled.

someone with you, Saba. Take me with you.”

“You? You
cannot walk yet! Don’t be foolish, Ryder.”

goes for you, too. Don’t be foolish and go alone,” he shot back at her. He
rose, cautiously straightening his back. She rushed to his side.

“What are
you doing?” Her hands fluttered around him. He kept a firm hold on his blanket,
keeping it wrapped around him and bunched up in the front to hide a few things.

going over there to get in that bed. It’s yours, isn’t it?”

Her mouth
dropped open then snapped shut. He grinned at her.

want me to be there later, angel. Admit it.”

squared her shoulders and glared up at him. “We made a deal. I will honor it.”

He shook his head sadly. “Angel, you shouldn’t make deals with people who have
no honor, and I’m one of them.” He took a tentative step. Then another.

He moved
along rather easily, and he prayed it stayed that way. If it did, he’d be back
to normal in a day or two. He plopped down on the edge of the bed.

really like to acquire a pair of trousers, angel. I can’t run around the
village without them, can I?”

She put
her hands on her hips. “You are…you are…”

Annoying? I know.” He grinned at her then crooked his finger at her. “Come

backed away, shaking her head. “No. I have things I must do while it’s
daylight. You should rest. Take the bed. I’ll sleep on the pallet.”

our little deal, angel.” He let the blanket slip just a hair. Her eyes flicked
down to his groin. She licked her lips. His cock twitched. He could have howled
with glee at the response.

take the pallet his ass. Who was she trying to fool? Her curiosity about the
stranger in her care consumed her.

tossed the blanket over the foot of her bed and let her get a good look at him
as he worked his way beneath the covers. The bed was longer and softer than the
pallet, and he stretched out. It was heavenly to suddenly be comfortable—and
free of pain. Ryder tucked the covers around his hips before he looked at her.
She watched him, stared at him, actually. He met her gaze.

BOOK: A Hero's Bargain
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