But good luck trying to stop a speeding train with nothing except hand motions.

Hardy-har-har.

The pleasure was razor sharp, nearly unbearable and impossible to deny at the same time—and the release, when it racked through him, bent his spine back so hard, he hit his head on the rear shower wall.

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He said her name. Loudly.

And he couldn’t stop after it was through.

Before Axe could even recover, the tide was rising again, his hand continuing to work himself out, the sensations surging until his teeth were gritted, and his neck was straining, and his entire body was clenching up.…

Wonder what Axwelle was doing? Elise thought as she stepped out of her shower and wrapped herself in a towel.

The heated marble floor turned the sparkling-white bath mat into a toasty foot pad, and she took her time drying off, wrapping her hair up, and drawing on her thick terry-cloth robe. Aware of an excitement bubbling under her skin, she put on leggings and a different cashmere sweater that was blue as the ocean; then not only hit the blow-dryer, but also the curling iron.

She even threw a little eyeliner and mascara on at her vanity.

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About a half hour later, she was wearing her coat and backpack and heading out of her room, spring-in-her-stepping it down the corridor—

When she came up to her cousin’s closed door, she hesitated. And wondered whether or not a bodyguard would have helped Allishon. Would being guarded by a soldier have kept her alive?

The answer to that would be easier if Elise knew what had killed the female.

There was no time to get into a cognitive lock about all that, though. She hurried down to the first floor and all but tiptoed past the open door to her father’s study in case he decided to recant the whole with-my-blessing thing. But then she remembered. It was Wednesday night. He had his long-standing bridge tournament.

Just as well.

Outside, the night was unseasonably warm, the kind of thing that made her think that the humans with their climate-change theories might be onto something.

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And Axe was right where he’d texted he would be, standing just outside the circle of illumination of the second lantern down the walkway.

She went toward him.

“Hi,” she said softly. “I’m glad you came for me.”

He coughed a couple of times and shifted his weight in his boots. “Yeah. I said I would.”

“Let’s do this. Right to the library. I sent your phone the link to the address?”

“I know where we’re going.”

It took a little longer than usual for her to dematerialize … because he had clearly just showered and he’d come with his hair wet, the soap he’d used tinting the night air with something spicy and delicious.

God, he smelled amazing.

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With an inner curse, she forced herself to focus and was off, re-forming miles from her house, in the shadows next to the library’s main entrance. Axe traveled right with her, his massive body materializing next to hers a split second later.

“We’re going in over here,” she said needlessly.

“I’ll be staying back, but not out of range.”

“Okay—wait, why are you here?” She waved her hand around. “I mean, what should I tell my professor?”

“Why do you have to tell the old guy anything? It’s no one else’s business.”

“Like people aren’t going to notice you?” She laughed a little. “You’re about as invisible as a semi.”

“Doesn’t mean you have to explain anything.”

As she looked up at his intractable face, she respected how unconcerned he was with what others thought. It was a nice change from all the glymera group-think she lived with. “You know, growing up in my family, everything had to be proper, and anything that wasn’t—”

He walked by her, cutting her off. “Come on, let’s do this.”

With a frown, she caught up with him. “You don’t have to be rude.”

“I don’t have to be your friend, either. I’ve got a job to do, and that’s keep you alive. I’m not here to socialize.”

So much for starting off on the right foot, she thought, as she pushed open one side of the glass double doors and strode into the library’s lobby.

In spite of the fact that she had been using the facility for years, she looked around with fresh eyes, noting that the place was the color of oatmeal, everything from the short-napped, wear-like-iron rug, to the washed-out color of the reception desk, to the anemic drapes by the card catalogues like something you’d find in a breakfast bowl.

“We usually meet down here.”

Leading the way, she took her bodyguard past the banks of computers over on the left and then down a distance of stacks to the third open area of tables and chairs.

Troy was back again where she had left him with those two female students the night before, facing away from her, piles of finals papers fanned out everywhere, his scarf and parka shoved into the chair beside him.

Kicking her chin up, she strode in his direction, and when she came up to the table, she put on her widest smile. “Hi.”

Tory did a double take as he glanced up. “Ah … hello …”

For the first time, he shoved his chair back and made like he was going to stand up to greet her—but she motioned him to stay where he was.

“So I’m happy to report that I’m back in business,” she announced as she put her things down across from him and took a seat. “You’re not getting rid of me after all.”

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