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Authors: Marie Harte

Tags: #Paranormal Shape-shifter

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BOOK: Entranced (A PowerUp! Story)
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“You would never hurt me.”

“Why? Because you have a hold on me now? You can control me?” His worst fear, and she fucking knew it.

Her smile faded. “No, Jack. Never. You told me about Melissa, and I know how badly she hurt you. I felt it.” She rubbed her heart, right over the spot where he felt a throbbing emptiness in his own chest. “Her attack left a psychic wound. That’s what I had to heal. It was wrong, not an emotional scar, because you have plenty of those. But it was an unnatural break in your energy.”

“I’ve never felt it.”

“Oh? Then you’ve always been such an arrogant, angry jerk?” She flushed when she said it, and he had to laugh.

“Jesus. Jerk is the worst you can come up with?” Yet as he considered her words, he knew he’d been much worse since his time with Melissa. He’d considered it his due to be such an untrusting bastard since being nearly killed by someone he’d considered a partner. But maybe it was more than that.

“I’m sorry I’m not as insulting as you’d like, but I’m telling you, you were never an ugly person. The leftover scarring from what was done to you hurt you emotionally.”

“Obviously.”

“But psychically as well,” she finished. “Now you’re calmer. You probably aren’t as angry about life in general.”

“Well, I did just fuck the hottest pussy on the planet.”

She turned a pretty pink, and he wanted to take her all over again. Not the best time to be a randy fool while in the middle of an operation.

“But, considering there’s been enough time for them to be coming after us, I guess we’d better go.” He finished eating with her, and they stood. He grabbed her wrist. “But don’t think we aren’t going to talk later about you taking too many liberties,” he said in a low voice.

This time, she shivered and looked away.

 

HEATHER TOOK A deep breath and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. She followed Jack on the second day of their trek to the Source. According to the compass and map, at this pace, they had another half a day to reach their destination. As much as she wanted to fulfill a family legacy, get some answers, and finally be the one to do what her brother couldn’t, Heather didn’t want her time with Jack to end.

He was growly, grumpy, and mean. He barked orders, or at least he used to. Now he just bossed her with quiet commands, his gaze hard and knowing whenever he looked at her. He stared with eyes that knew what she looked like naked, and he never let her forget it.

Yet the care and gentleness buried deep down inside him continued to show itself. In the way he helped her over rough patches of stone or downed trees. The way he insisted she eat and drink before he took his own sustenance. His way of always putting her behind him when a loud or uneven sound concerned him. He groused about the weather; first too warm in town, unnaturally so, now “too damn cold.” Pulling her to a stop to fuss over her jacket and pack, making sure she had enough on to keep her warm while pulling out more from her load to add to his, lightening her pack.

“I can carry it.”

“Shut up.” There was no bite in his tone. “I’m bigger than you, and what I’ve got on my back is like a pillow. I can carry more, and that way, you won’t be slowing us down. I have a feeling we need to make better time.”

She would have argued, because she didn’t want him to have to coddle her, but she trusted him. Instead she nodded. “Yes, Jack.”

He seemed surprised, though his expression never changed. She was coming to read him pretty well. For all that they’d just met, had incredible sex, were on the run, and had had more incredible sex in the span of only two days, Heather knew Jack better than she’d known anyone she’d ever met.

And the stubborn man knew her too, if only he’d admit it.

They continued their walk, and she decided to talk to him, wanting to share. She had no idea what tomorrow would bring beyond trouble and danger. Heck, when Jack returned her to Owen, as he harped whenever the subject came up, she might not see him again. That was if she remained in Baltimore.

“I’m thinking of moving back to Bend, permanently,” she said out of the blue.

He stumbled and cursed at a root that dared trip him. When he turned to see if she’d noticed his clumsiness, she kept her gaze on the ground and fought a smile.

“Yeah? You tired of Baltimore and jet-setting already?”

“Please. I told you I’m not part of that crowd.” She wrinkled her nose. “I never have been, which is why I’m so bad at business. Owen does all the schmoozing. I’m pretty worthless.”

“Not to hear him tell it. Guy won’t shut up about you.”

“Really?” She knew Owen loved her, but she hadn’t thought he respected her. He was constantly telling her how to run her life, how to be better at business. “What does he say?”

Jack kept walking, but he slowed down as he answered. “Owen says you’re smarter than he is. That if you wanted to, you could run the company and take it faster and farther than he has.”

She huffed. “He was pulling your leg.”

Jack shook his head. “Nope. Said your energy pulls you in another direction, but if you wanted, you could pretty much run the business. He’s glad you don’t like socializing, because it keeps the wolves off your pretty tail.”

“He said that?”

She could hear Jack’s grin. “Not in so many words.” He paused. “Didn’t warn me off you, though.”

Good for you, Brother
. Owen had probably sensed what she had—what a fine man Jack Keiser was under all his bluster.

“He probably never thought you’d be attracted to me.”

“Yeah, probably.” Jack didn’t sound like he believed her. “So I’m curious, because you haven’t said why you never asked your brother for help on this.”

She sighed. “You really want to know?”

“I really do.”

“Fine. You know
Chronicles
was stolen?”

“My team recovered the book. It was stolen over a year ago from some warehouse where your family stores a whole bunch of supernatural crap. Nice hobby, by the way, collecting cursed objects.”

“Not all cursed,” she protested. “Just…strange in nature.”

“Right. Well, your ‘strange in nature’ stuff is keeping my guys in business, so I can’t complain. Anyway, we recovered
Chronicles
. Then Owen was upset because you have it, but he seemed to have lost you. I figured he was being overprotective. Then he asked me for help. Your brother is pretty closemouthed about family, so I knew if he was worried and asking for my help, something was wrong.

“From everything he said about you, you two have a great relationship. He didn’t say anything about you being psychic, but that you help out with your charity work. Of course, Owen practically hums with power. I had a feeling you had some serious mojo of your own.”

She wondered if Owen had confided in Jack just what he could do. She doubted it.

“I asked him why his pretty little sister, who just loves him to distraction, wouldn’t ask him for help. He couldn’t say.”

She was glad Jack continued to walk in front of her, so she wouldn’t see his face when she answered. “I wanted to prove myself. There, I said it. It sounds childish and stupid, but it is what it is.”

He stopped, and she banged into him. When he turned around, he just stared at her.

“Look.
Chronicles
was left to me for a reason. The book traces back to when there was a huge boom in Stallbridge power. It’s really important, and for the first time ever, I was able to help the family in a way Owen can’t.”

“Come again?”

“Oh, you’ve met him. You know my brother. He excels at everything. He took the company’s profits, and at the age of just eighteen, doubled them. He’s a genius. He’s nice and kind and handsome…”

“Wait. Nice and kind?”

She ignored his feeble attempt at humor, feeling sorry for herself all over again. “He’s like a superhero, and I’m his lame younger sister. The pretty one who has no head for numbers. Oh, she can heal, but nothing she does helps Stallbridges. I know. It’s a petty thought. I save lives. I heal people, and I’m thankful every day that I can do what I do. But just once, I wanted to save my family. I wanted to be the one who helped Owen deal instead of the other way around.”

Jack just stared at her, and she felt an inch tall.

“Well? Say something.”

“Man, you are one messed-up woman.”

She sighed.

“I mean, you’re sexy as hell, rich, powerful…and demented. Why the hell would you put yourself in danger to prove yourself? You have nothing to prove, Heather.” Jack took a step closer and cupped her chin, grazing her cheeks with his rough hand. “You’re smart, sexy, a little loopy, and clearly out of control with this healing thing.”

He glared at her, but his approval lifted a weight off her shoulders she’d been trying for years to lighten.

“But you’re special. Really, truly special. You shouldn’t need the validation, but I get that you do.”

She blinked. “You do?”

He nodded and released her chin. “When I was just out of college, my parents passed away. I still keep in touch with my aunts and uncles and cousins, but I was an only child. When my folks were gone, I was really alone. I felt like I had to prove myself to my parents. And they were dead, so how fucked-up is that? At least your brother is alive.”

She shook her head. “You wanted to live a better life for your parents. I’m just a spoiled rich girl trying to show she’s more than her wallet and her looks. And by doing so, I put you in danger.” She swallowed hard at the enormity of what she’d actually done—
was doing
. What if Jack got hurt protecting her, and she couldn’t help him? Had her obsession to be the family savior pulled her so far away from doing the right thing?

“For God’s sake. You’re not going to cry, are you?” Jack asked in a thick voice. “Look. If I wasn’t here, I’d be somewhere else getting almost killed for pay. So think about it this way. One, I’m not your brother, so you don’t have to prove anything to me. Two, Owen’s safe at home, because you’re here with me. Three, if the shit hits the fan, you can heal me. And hell, we’re just going to some energy vortex with a magical book only you can read, in a town lost in the
Twilight Zone
full of psychic whack-jobs who want nothing more than to kill us. What could possibly go wrong?”

They stared at each other for a moment before Heather broke down laughing. His deadpan delivery brought tears to her eyes, as did the fact she was such an idiot, and Jack didn’t seem to hold that against her. When she could catch her breath again, she saw the warmth and happiness in his gaze, and she smiled back at him, glad that of all the men sent to help her, Jack had been the one she’d been given.

Chapter Seven

Jack breathed easier once they returned to their journey. Seeing Heather with tears in her eyes freaked him the hell out. He wanted nothing more than to ease her grief. And seeing her laugh so hard had made his heart race and his stomach flutter with nerves he’d never felt before. God, she was fucking beautiful. So full of goodness it made him feel dirty to be anywhere near her.

Except she was jealous of her brother. Suddenly, the saint wasn’t so pure, and that gladdened him like nothing else. He could have her. Maybe even keep her for a bit when they returned home.

They walked in silence for a few hours as the sun peaked. Noon came and went, and still they walked. He hoped to make camp at the Source by dark. Maybe a few hours past at this pace. Then Heather would do her thing, and they’d be ready to return home. To Bend.

As casually as he could, he said, “So you said you’re thinking of coming back to Bend?”

“Yeah. I’m done with the East Coast. Owen has been on me to come back anyway. I’m tired of the constant travel. I was talking to a friend of Owen’s. Doctor Cannon runs a clinic and knows a bunch of people in the medical community. She was saying that she could use my talents. I’d be based out of Bend and still need to travel, but it wouldn’t be as much.”

His palms sweated. “Oh?”

“I feel selfish, but I’d like to eventually settle down and have children. You know, start a family.”

He badly wanted to look over his shoulder and see her, but he didn’t want to let anything slip, like how badly he wanted to be the one to make those children with her. The thought had his mouth drying and his heart racing like a freight train. He’d never thought about settling down. Not with what he could do, could become. He’d had a decent childhood, but it had been hell, adjusting to being less than he could be, never able to show off his special ability to mimic others. His parents had warned him to keep his talent to himself so as not to alienate himself from the neighbors. In retrospect, they’d been right, but the secrecy had been so hard.

“You okay?”

He felt her touch on his psyche. He hated that he liked it so much. Because he knew he’d already grown to miss her when she left his mind, which was crazy. He shouldn’t like such closeness, because in that connection lay vulnerability. “Cut it out.”

She immediately withdrew. “I wasn’t doing anything. I was just—”

“I know what you were
just
. You did that before without asking.” Which he still intended to rectify. “Just keep out of my head, okay?”

“Yes, Jack.”

Christ. If she said
“Yes, Jack”
just one more time, he might lose his mind. Every time she acted submissive, he had an urge to see how far that meek streak might take them. Would she succumb during sex? Could she give over to him like that, let him lead her wherever he wanted to take them?

He forcibly stopped himself from pursuing that line of thought. “So you still have no idea what you’re supposed to do when we reach the Source?”

“Not yet. I glanced at the book this morning, but I see nothing more than directions about how to find the Source. Once I’m there, I need to read
Chronicles
again. Chapter nine has my answers.”

“You sure you’re not just getting off on your family’s weird penchant for kinky sex? I’ve seen the book, you know.”

He knew without looking that she’d blush. The woman constantly grew embarrassed about all sorts of things. And this from the woman who’d gone down on him just hours ago.
Damn. I have to stop thinking about Heather and sex. Focus on the danger getting closer. Concentrate, dumb-ass.

BOOK: Entranced (A PowerUp! Story)
10.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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