READ AN EXCERPT from Celebration for the Dead

He’d made up his damned mind and this time he wasn’t going to be put off. The world could end and he’d have her before the last star flickered out. So much stupid crap had gotten between them and he wasn’t standing for it another moment. He was there and things would be made right once and for all.

Celebration of the Dead

He knocked, listening to the muffled sounds on the other side of the door.

She opened up, standing there all sleep-tousled and delicious, surprised to see him. A silky peach-colored robe was all that stood between them. One bare shoulder peeked out as she tightened the belt at her waist.

Dumbfounded for long moments, Connor took her in. All dips and curves, she was the most beautiful and most dangerous thing he’d ever beheld. The contradictions set him aflame.

Her mouth opened to speak and he took it as an invitation. In another step he bumped against her body. He kicked the door closed behind them as his arms encircled her, pulling her to him tight.

Time slowed like honey as he lowered his head, his mouth seeking hers. And when his lips brushed against hers, lush and full, his entire body tightened with need and a sense of coming home.

She sighed softly, the sweetness of her breath something he eagerly took into himself as she relaxed into his hold. He took that sigh as permission and his tongue danced into her mouth, tempting, teasing, tasting the heady sensuality she exuded simply by existing.

Her fingers dug into the muscle and flesh of his biceps as she held on. Her tongue fluttered against his and he groaned, breaking the kiss with a longing nip of her bottom lip.

“Hello, Melanie Rodriguez.” He tipped his forehead against hers, looking into the deep, dark-chocolate depths of her eyes.

“Why it’s Connor Bell, vampire Oathkeeper. What brings you to Mexico?” She took a step back, out of his grasp.

Despite the physical distance she just put between them, he liked the breathless quality of her voice, liked knowing he made her that way.

“I think you know why I’m here.”

Her mouth hardened into an angry, hurt line. “No, no I don’t. You seem to have a problem with communication other than running out the door. Have you come to get me all hot and wet and then leave? I’m not a plaything, Connor.”

He winced at the memory of their last time together. “I’m sorry about that. I am. It was a mistake but I’m back, for good. Back to make things right. You are so much more to me than a plaything. You’ve always been more to me than that. Which is I guess part of what freaked me out. I do plan to get you hot and wet though. More than once.”

She shivered but stood her ground, chin jutting out. “Why are you here? I get that you want to fuck and whatever.” Her beautiful café au lait shoulders lifted with a shrug. “You haven’t actually said anything. You said a bunch of stuff that sounds like it’s something but really, why are you here?”

He took a deep breath. It wouldn’t do to get frustrated here. “In the first place, I don’t just want to fuck and whatever. I’m here for you. For you and me. We’ll get down to real talking in a moment. In the second place, Melanie Rodriguez, what in the bloody blazes did you think you were doing coming down here alone to hunt Perdue?”

Celebration of the Dead

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Not that it’s any business of yours, but I didn’t just come down here for that. I’m here for El Dia de los Muertos. I’m here for my family. Perdue just happened to have been sighted near San Fernando and since I was going to pass through anyway I thought I’d stop and see what I could see. And there is no us.” Her voice was hard but her body told a different story.

“I only have an hour before Max and Jagger come back, probably a bit more if I know Max. We both know we’ll work this out. We can argue when I’m done with you.”

One of her eyebrows slid up and he wanted to laugh. “Done with me? Like a Happy Meal or something?”

“You’re being very difficult for a woman whose body is so hot the heat’s rising from her in waves. I can smell your pussy, sticky and sweet just for me. I know you want me as much as I want you.”

Sliding his hands up her torso from her waist, he pushed the collar of the robe she wore down her arms. Inch by inch the beauty of her skin revealed itself, soft and supple. Unable to resist, he kissed her bare shoulder, breathing her in as he did.

It was then he saw the bandages. “What happened?”

“Vampires. I told you, I stopped just outside San Fernando last night to do a bit of hunting. One turned into four, and one of those four was Anton Perdue.”

Rage washed through him, a relief since the fear was something new and put him off balance. “That bastard did this to you? My god, Melanie, this is severe. Did you go to the hospital?”

“No, he didn’t touch me. Got away right after I shot the last two. The one who did this is dead too. I’m all right. It’s already healing. No hospitals! Good god, what would I tell them? Pour holy water on it, I was attacked by a cougar?” She shrugged. “On a scale of what I’ve had happen to me this is just moderately bad. I’m not dead, or even undead.”

“Don’t joke! You’re damned lucky Perdue left instead of staying when you were already weakened. Don’t try to pretend, I can sense you lost a lot of blood.” He pushed away from her and began to pace.

“I’m not pretending. I’m just not having kittens over it. I slept for most of the day and went into town, bought lots of food high in iron and after I ate, I slept more. I know it’s not a joke. It’s what I do. What we do, or are you retired?” She moved to the chair and sat. Disappointment tempered his anger when she put her robe back in place.

She’d sort of looked forward to a few days alone to wallow a bit and to really figure out what she felt for him. Not like he cared. The man existed just to confound and tempt her. It was hard to think when he was there, taking up her every breath, her every thought. Which sort of answered the question of what she felt for him. Damn. The question, she supposed, was more of a what-to-do-with-him type thing.

Melanie took a long, leisurely look from the tips of his Marc Jacobs shoes to the top of his head. Sexy as sin and she figured he’d be twice as fun in bed. Funny, intelligent, compassionate and a damned fine warrior. And yet he’d walked out. Hell, ran out. She wanted him, and from that kiss he wanted her too. But could she pay the tab when he left again?

“I hate to think of you in danger. It drives me insane. I want to stop thinking of you but I can’t. You’re in my head twenty-four hours a day. I dream of you. Visions of you paint my eyelids every time I close my eyes. I smell you on my hands, hear your voice in my head. I’m done trying. I give in, Melanie, do you hear me?”

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