Authors: Danielle Zeta
EXHIBITION (ANGELS OF MYTHOS: VOLUME 1)
© 2012 Danielle Zeta
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the Author.
All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover Design: Danielle Zeta
© margo_black of Shutterstock.com
ASHLEY GAVE HERSELF one last smile in the mirror before peeking out of the store’s dressing room at her boyfriend.
Shane, looking out of place in his dark, buttoned-up shirt and cropped wool pants, didn’t glance up from his phone. He’d only had it a week and was still obsessed with it.
Maybe this outfit will capture his attention
, she thought. With a deep breath, she pulled the door all the way open and noisily cleared her throat.
Frowning in concentration, Shane rubbed his finger along the screen, still not looking up. “It says it’s a drought back home. The elders will be blaming us for bringing God’s wrath upon the community.”
Ashley pushed aside her guilt. It was a lot easier to do that now than it had been six months ago, when she’d first left home and still had all the restrictive beliefs of their upbringing fresh in her mind.
“Well, what do you think?” she asked. Her pounding heart was probably visible under her pale, exposed chest that had never seen the light of day. It was highly improper for her to be so scantily dressed, but she needed to show him she was a grown woman now, not the child he’d known all his life.
When Shane finally looked up, her throat tightened; she felt it difficult to breathe. Then, to her immense relief, she saw the desire flare in his eyes. Jaw slackening, he stared first at her chest, then lower at her belly, her hips, her thighs.
She forced herself to stand still under his gaze, keeping her arms loose at her sides instead of wrapped protectively in front of her, as a truly modest woman would do.
“What are you wearing?” he asked roughly.
She looked down at the tight, scoop-necked T-shirt and cut-off denim shorts. She’d hidden them in the pile of long dresses and men’s shirts she’d carried into the dressing room. “It’s what people wear here,” she said, putting a hand on her hip the way the mannequin had been arranged in the store window.
“Not the men,” Shane said.
His voice sounded as if he’d been yelling into the wind all day, low and hoarse.
“No,” she said, feeling bolder, “not the men.” She lifted her chin and took a step towards him. She’d wanted him so long. Last spring the elders had decreed that her role in life was to remain at home with her parents, unmarried and untouched, and Shane was betrothed to another.
So she’d run away, unable—unwilling—to face living her entire life without ever knowing pleasure.
When Shane had followed her, joining her in exile, she knew it was a sign from God. He wanted her to feel good. He wanted her to
She reached out and stroked Shane’s strong, freshly-shaven jaw, tunneled her fingers through his light brown hair, letting the familiar desire for him wash over her. At last she was seeing a matching hunger in his own eyes, the familiar hazel eyes she’d gazed into so many years, not just the protective affection of a close male acquaintance. She’d waited so long.
The slap, when it came, was so unexpected she didn’t know what it was. A light fixture falling from the ceiling, perhaps. Or a door slamming shut. Even an explosion from a terrorist bomb. Any one of those things was a more reasonable explanation for why the side of her face was burning with pain.
“You whore,” Shane said, and lifted his hand to strike her again.
She flung up her arms to protect her head. The next blow landed on her wrists. “No!”
“I came all this way for a
.” He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her.
“Stop saying that!” She tried to pull away, but she was small, and Shane was built like an oak. His fingers were digging into tendon and bone. “You’re hurting me!”
He didn’t release her. “They were right. They told me and I didn’t believe them. You’re not whom I thought you were.”
Where were the other people who were working and shopping in the store? They wouldn’t let him hurt her, would they? Violence was so accepted in the city—would anyone lift a figure to help a stranger?
“Please let me go,” she said. “Please.” She looked up into his face, shocked to see not anger but grief twisting his features.
Abruptly, he released her and closed his eyes. “I should’ve listened. I’m a fool.”
“They’re just clothes, Shane,” she whispered, folding her arms over her chest. “I’m the same as I ever was.”
His eyes popped open. For a long moment, he stared at her. She felt as though he was unwrapping hers soul, layer by layer, until all was left was the sin that disgusted him.
“That’s what they told me,” he said, shaking his head. “I should’ve listened. I will from now on.” He turned and strode away, head high, shoulders back, every inch of his strong frame declaring his judgment of her.
She sank onto the bench in the cramped dressing room, feeling as though she’d been condemned by God himself.
* * *
As soon as the young woman walked onto the train, Marcus knew he had his playmate for the trip.
She was blond, a little short, ordinary. Very young, not much older than twenty. The kind of girl nobody would notice, and from the way her shy eyes darted around the car looking for a seat, Marcus could tell she liked her invisibility.
Marcus smiled, got up from his seat, and slid past the standing commuters to get closer to her.
Nobody noticed him, either—because he, too, chose to be invisible. He could strip off his black suit and underclothes and walk naked past all fifty-seven people in that subway car, and not one of them would spare him a glance.
Imagining the reaction if the young woman stripped off
clothes brought another smile to his face.
naked body—ordinary or not—they would notice. He felt the deeper stirrings of desire, indulging in the fantasy. He could make her do it. Even as people looked and stared, laughed, admired, and shouted, he could make her strip off her clothes and show her body to the world.
There was a lot he could do.
When he was almost within his reach, Marcus stopped to study her. Standing between them, a young man in a black polo shirt and baggy jeans, reading his phone, abruptly lurched to the side and his body into a smaller space near the door. Now Marcus had the head-to-toe view of her.
She had her head bowed over her own phone, one hand gripping a handrail overhead that ran the length of the train above the seats. The posture exaggerated her hourglass figure. The blouse gaped between the buttons, exposing not flesh or lace, but a plain white cotton camisole. Her lower body was encased in a long, dark, shapeless skirt. Her charms—and he could see them, feel them, smell them—were completely disguised.
He wasn’t disappointed. If he’d wanted confident sexuality, he would’ve chosen the tall, elegant raven-haired beauty with the Japanese vibrator in her shoulder bag who was perched in the priority seats next to the door.
No, he liked his new playmate in ugly, ill-fitting clothes. What fun it would be to take her out of them.
What’s your name?
he asked silently.
Her eyes darted up in alarm. She scanned the faces around her, a crease forming between her eyebrows. Pretty eyebrows, darker than her hair, nicely arched over big, sweet brown eyes. Her nose was smallish, a little off-center, and dusted with freckles. Her lips—
After a long second, she dropped her gaze back to her phone.
He stepped closer. Her lips were perfectly curved, dark pink, glossy. He sent out a curious tendril of consciousness into her thoughts.
Ashley. Her name was Ashley.
How about a taste, Ashley?
She looked up again, mouth parting. He could feel her heart begin to race as she tried to understand where the voice was coming from.
The voice only she could hear.
First her gaze darted to the young man in the jeans, but he was completely preoccupied with the message from his girlfriend.
Next her eyes focused on a dark man in a charcoal suit sitting across the aisle. His hands were clamped over a paperback in his lap, squeezing it so hard it folded like a newspaper. He stared off into space, frowning. Marcus grazed his thoughts, not surprised to find numbers and plans. His was the mind of a businessman on the verge of a big deal.
Perhaps he needed a woman to take his mind off things for a little while.
Ashley watched the man, waiting for him to say something, to indicate his was the voice she’d heard.
Smiling, Marcus moved so close to Ashley he could smell the fruity sweetness of her shampoo. Inhaling deeply, he lifted a finger and traced the air over the tip of her nose.
Would you like to get naked, Ashley?
A hot blush bloomed in her cheeks. Eyes widening, her pupils dilating, she sucked in a breath.
You can’t see me, but I can see you,
he whispered inside her mind.
She shivered and took a step back. Her bottom bumped the guy in the baggy jeans. With a jerk, she pulled away from him as if scorched, then regained her balance by grabbing the vertical rail next to her with both hands.
Marcus frowned, unhappy with her fear. Maybe she wasn’t the right playmate for him after all. His brother was infamous for terrifying mortals and immortals alike; Marcus had no interest in stepping into that realm. His goal was pleasure.
He studied her. Such a crime to let all that beauty go unexplored, hidden under the ugliness of her attire, trapped by a spirit too timid to break free by herself. If he gave up on her now, she’d dream of him the rest of her days, never satisfied, always wondering; her core, untouched.
Really, to stop now would be dishonorable.
Grinning, he moved closer until barely an inch of air remained between their bodies.
MARCUS INHALED DEEPLY. She smelled wonderful, like apples and sunshine and desire. Her body was hungry for a man.
He looked down the gap of her camisole to the tops of her pale, rounded breasts. Ducking his head closer to hers, he lifted his hand and brushed his fingertips across her blouse, giving her left nipple the faintest hint of a caress. So gentle she might think she was imagining it. Just enough to awaken her nerves.
With deep satisfaction, he watched her nipples harden. The outline of the tight buds appeared in the fabric.
She tightened her grip on the handrail as the train rumbled on through the tunnels. Her knees were shaking. He knew she could feel him touching her but saw nothing there but empty air. Her pulse was alarmingly high.
he told her, breathing calm into her with his mind. She was so much more skittish than he’d expected. Had nobody ever touched her before?
He dove into her memories. Lonely, quiet, fearful memories.
No, nobody ever had.
His arousal intensified. A pleasant surprise. Virgins weren’t as common as they used to be. And he did his best to lower the number every day of his long, long life.
, he said.
This time he soothed her mind with whispered compliments while he brushed his fingertips across one erect nipple, then the other. While she relaxed slightly, he cast his awareness down the tracks to see how many moments he had until the next station.
Only two. He’d have to act fast.
He dragged his lips across the dancing pulse in her throat, flicked his tongue out to moisten the skin, then breathed out.
She swayed under his touch, her fear draining out of her.
Gently, gently, he traced the curve of her breast with his fingertip. Licked her throat. Breathed out again.
Knees buckling, she leaned a hip against the short metal wall between the doors and the first row of seats, took a deep breath, and—