Wyatt Kennedy was a dead man,and other than a few problems like being unable to use his credit cards, it hadn’t been so bad.
Of course, he’d already been declared dead once before, a long time ago, so he knew the drill. Lay low, use cash, watch your back.
When he’d dropped off the face of the earth years earlier, he’d had ACRO – the Agency for Covert Rare Operatives, of which he was one – on his side. ACRO had recruited him, changed his name and killed him off so he wouldn’t face a murder rap for the death of his half-brother.
Which, for the record, he still wasn’t sure he was responsible for, thanks to a memory lapse that had lasted for the last five years, despite ACRO’s best efforts.
This time, he got to keep the same first name, at least. The most important part of being dead this go around was letting everyone at ACRO think he’d been killed – for reasons he didn’t quite understand but when orders were given, orders were followed. The rest of the world, and Itor Corp – ACRO’s major nemesis, had never known Wyatt had existed anyway, and he knew the mission he was dealing with – finding the weather machine that Itor Corp had built and hidden on an offshore oil platform, was some serious, we plan on destroying the world, shit.
He’d handle it easily enough. It’s not like he looked as if he had special powers. But he was tall enough that most men gave him a wide berth, which was cool with him. He tended to live mostly inside his own head anyway and preferred his own space, big time. Even when he was in a room full of people, like now.
The bar crowd tonight was rough, made up mostly of roustabouts who wanted to be roughnecks and roughnecks who wanted to be drillers, all either preparing to rejoin their offshore crew or just coming off their two week work week. Wyatt was just coming off his own fourteen day break, prepared to go back in and finish up the job he’d started for ACRO. He’d been on the rig, doing recon on the weather machine – ACRO wanted to make sure there weren’t any more out there like it. So he’d spent the first days getting the code and transmitting it back to Haley at ACRO. Now, he’d been ordered by Oz to actually destroy the machine.
Wyatt had grown up in this life, under the name of James Jasper – his father owned his own drilling company by the time Wyatt had been born, and he’d already had two sons from his first wife.
Wyatt had been thirteen at the time all the other crazy shit had started happening around him.
For as long as he could remember, he’d always had what he’d thought of as secret powers. He remembered moving an object with his mind when he was just two years old, but it had gotten worse when he’d hit puberty. Out of control, until every time he lost his temper even slightly, shit would fly.
At first, the doctors in the mental facility he’d been forced into were concerned, and then they became downright fed up with him. Especially because he became really good at ripping up their offices, all while sitting in a chair looking innocent.
One minute, he’d been drilling, the next, learning how to avoid medication he didn’t want to take by hiding it in his mouth. He never did tell anyone at that mental institution about the sex-thing, a power that ACRO scientists now believed had roots in his telekinesis – hadn’t begun full force until he was fifteen. Even then, everyone just assumed he was getting laid on a regular basis because he was good-looking.
Yeah, totally One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, only not as fun, and he’d escaped before the electro-shock therapy by seducing all the female nurses and pretending to be normal.
Pretending. Wyatt did that a lot. Pretend to not be telekinetic. Pretend to be dead…
So far, pretending to be dead this time around was pretty cool. He’d always wanted to come back as a ghost, thought that would be the coolest part of actually being dead. Creed, another operative at ACRO – a ghost hunter – had assured him that most ghosts were on the up and up, even though Oz, a medium who spoke to ghosts who were the worst of the worst, disagreed.
Oz had temporarily taken over for Devlin O’Malley, the head of ACRO. Oz was the one responsible for Wyatt’s death and his current assignment, which placed him back on the job as a roughneck.
Like being fucking reincarnated.
Just concentrate on getting your shit together, man.
When his concentration went elsewhere, his gift began to scatter like loose marbles on a slick, hardwood floor. But then, he always felt scattered – not fully whole – not integrated. Motherfucking crazy. Like maybe he really did belong in a padded room somewhere. He’d tried to explain it to the psychics at ACRO, told them it felt as if his powers were Lego’s missing the connecting pieces.
When he’d been released from the mental ward at sixteen – he’d worked on the oil rig with his father and brothers until he was nineteen and then he went the military route. Learning to drill had been cool, and in his blood – learning to destroy had been equally so. Fuck the middle of the road bullshit. As someone as bent on extremes as he was, he went straight for the roughest route possible.
Special Forces. SEALs, specifically. The drill sergeant at boot camp had taken one look at Wyatt’s lanky six foot four inch frame and laughed. Wyatt had knocked him out cold with one punch, spent the night in the brig and found himself in BUD/s two days later. As punishment.
He loved it – every single brutal minute.
He’d passed his psych evals for the Navy with no problem. He’d faked it, the way he’d faked a lot of things, but the Special Forces community wanted its men to be a little bit on the crazy side, even it they didn’t outright admit it.
But the sex thing, oh yeah, he’d let his handle on that slip, especially this past week. Mainly because it was fun as hell letting it go out of control and he’d known he wasn’t going to get laid at all during the next phase of his mission.
He’d been tamping it down hard when he’d been rigging for two weeks straight – so hard that it made his head hurt.
When you could have any woman – or man, if he’d swung that way – sex got old fast. If his libido wasn’t in constant overdrive, he’d have given up sex all together long ago, shaved his head and become a monk.
He’d tried the monk thing once, when he was seventeen. His apprenticeship lasted exactly three weeks, until he couldn’t stand the other men trying to break into his room to have him. The head of the abbey agreed with Wyatt’s decision. Didn’t stop him from trying to screw Wyatt, though.
Wyatt was still learning to control his pheromones – most of the time they only worked on who he wanted them to work on, unless he let himself go too long without or if he and the object of his desire were around other people when he got turned on. In that case, everyone and their mothers – literally – needed to watch out.
And there was an even bigger price to pay for the sex mojo – the women he’d been with never remembered the sex once he’d left the room. So yeah, that would be great when trying to have any kind of long term relationship – waking up in the morning with a woman who would soon forget sleeping with him in the first place.
He’d put the mojo to rest completely yesterday after a round with two women in a ménage a trios that lasted all night and into the afternoon. Sex wasn’t a severe drain on his powers, but it did mess with his head.
When a man’s fucking, his walls crumble, Dev always said. And yeah, that was the truth in plain English.
English. Like the accent purring against his ear, “Got any plans for tonight, love?”
# # #
Faith Black’s plans for the night hadn’t included a tall, dark and handsome man, but with someone trying to kill her, she’d had to make some adjustments.
The stranger she’d propositioned wrapped his arm around her waist. Before she could so much as blink, he tucked her between his long legs. The bar stool bit into the front of her thighs and his fingers bit into her hip, and for some reason, all she could think about was biting into him.
“I can always make room in my schedule for a beautiful woman,” he said, in a rich, whisky-smooth southern drawl that made her want to drink him in. And those eyes…even in the hazy, dim light from the beer signs, they glowed clear green. She’d never seen anything like it.
And as a biokinetic – a specialized telekinetic with the ability to manipulate living tissue — who had grown up alongside people with gifts even more incredible than hers, she’d seen a lot. She’d seen even more since the day she and her partner, with funding from the British government, had started up The Aquarius Group, a small, secret agency employing people with special abilities, like herself.
“I’m not usually so forward,” she said, tearing her gaze away from his when the pub door opened. “But see that man walking in?”
The stranger inclined his head almost imperceptibly, as though he hadn’t looked, and she gave him points for his astute assessment of the situation. She gave him extra points for having the most gorgeous, stout-colored hair that just brushed the collar of his tee.
“He’s my ex-lover,” she lied. “He’s a loon. Completely mad, and he’s stalking me. I told him I have a new lover-”
“And I was the first guy you saw?”
“Yes.” No, but when she’d detected a tail as she strolled along the moonlit boardwalk, she’d slipped into the nearest public place that would be full of men, and as luck would have it, these weren’t just men. They were bikers, oil drillers and roughnecks, and the man who now held her had stood out as the toughest of the tough.
Not to mention, the best looking.
Marco watched from near the entrance, not bothering to hide his annoyance.
“Well,” the stranger said, threading one hand through her hair to pull her face close to his, “I can either take care of you, or I can take care of him.”
A sweet offer, but no matter how capable this guy looked – and he did look capable, all steel-strapped muscle and broad shoulders beneath his black AC/DC T-shirt – Marco was a trained killer, an excedosapien with reflexes ten times faster than the average person’s. She knew because she’d gone head to head with him a year ago, and though her combat skills couldn’t be better, his speed and fondness of the wire garrote had nearly spelled her doom.
She fingered the black lace choker that hid the thin scar circling her neck, before catching herself and dropping her hand to his shoulder. “I’d love it if you’d play along, for just a bit.”
One corner of his made-to-please-a-woman mouth turned up like she’d picked the right answer, and suddenly she was experiencing just how much that mouth was made to please.
The contact was gentle, more a brush of lips than anything, but her body’s response was immediate and alarming. A blast of heat that had nothing to do with the Florida summer temperatures licked at her breasts, her belly, her inner thighs. When the expert sweep of his tongue opened her mouth, her legs opened, too.
At least, as much as they could open with her caged between his jean-clad thighs.
This was not good.
Mustering all her self-control, she concentrated on Marco, using her unique form of telekinesis to probe his aura with her mind, searching for a weakness, a chink in his armor. On average, it took her thirty seconds to penetrate the protective weave of energy around a human, but in the heat of battle, thirty seconds was about twenty-nine and a half seconds too long – which was why she’d honed her hand-to-hand combat skills to a machete edge. Fortunately, she had time now, but this wasn’t going to be a thirty-second jobber. It figured that Marco’s aura would be the psychic equivalent of Kevlar.
“What’s your name?” the stranger murmured against her lips, and for a moment, she forgot about Marco.
“Faith Black. Yours?”
“Wyatt.” He dragged his mouth across her cheek to her ear. “What did he do to you?”
Marco sauntered toward them, his khaki business casual out of place in a rough crowd like this. Men jeered…until Marco shot them a dark look that shut them up in an instant. Even predators recognized when they were in the presence of something higher on the food chain.
His flat, black eyes remained trained on her as he took a seat at a nearby table.
“Nothing I want to talk about,” she said finally.
Wyatt pulled back as though he wanted to say something, but the bartender, a bulldog of a man with gray hair pulled into a low ponytail, interrupted.
“Can I get you anything, lady?”
Taking the opportunity to peel herself off Wyatt, she sank down onto a bar stool. “I’ll have what he’s having.”
The bartender palmed a highball glass. “Jack neat with a beer back, coming right up.”
“So, Faith,” Wyatt said after the bartender slid her drinks to her, “where in England are you from?”
She sent out another probing pulse toward Marco, and thank God, found the chink in his aura. “All over, really.”
Standard answer. She’d spent a lifetime cultivating an accent that wouldn’t reveal a background from any particular region, especially Devonshire where she was born, or Yorkshire where she grew up after her parents were killed. In order to blur the lines even more, she threw German inflections and American phrasing into her speech.
Blending in helped keep a secret agent alive.
One of Wyatt’s hands came down on her knee, but she felt it to her core. Moisture drenched her panties. Her head felt light, her breasts heavy. The sensations breaking over her body were strangely intoxicating, and she had to give a little shake of her head to clear it. No man had ever affected her like this. Not even Sean, the one and only man she’d ever loved.
It had been a year since she’d last seen Sean, since they’d played cat and mouse, pain and pleasure. He couldn’t resist her even when his job was to kill her.
She was counting on his predictability once more, because this mission could get her very dead if Sean’s love for her had finally taken second place to his job with Itor.
“It’s a little hot to be wearing leather.” Wyatt’s gaze took in her Goth attire that went against the whole “blend in,” thing, her black leather pants, the crimson silk and lace corset top and leather jacket, his appreciation obvious in the way his lids grew heavy.
“The heat doesn’t bother me.” Neither did the cold. She’d always been able to regulate her own body temperature, though that was the extent of her powers over her own bodily functions. She could, however, do anything she wanted to anyone else.
Sliding a glance at Marco, Wyatt downed the whisky in his glass. The fine muscles in his throat worked beneath the golden, whisker-roughened skin there, holding her gaze for a moment. When he finished, he spun the glass across the polished bar top and nodded to the bartender for another.
“Think the heat will bother khaki-boy?” he asked.
She grinned. “It might,” she said, knowing full well that nothing would deter Marco from his goal but needing time to finish breaking through his aura.
“Let’s find out, because the way he’s looking at you is bugging the shit out of me.” He palmed the back of her neck and slanted his mouth over hers once more.
Even though she’d anticipated the kiss, her breath caught. The way he maneuvered his lips, teeth, and tongue with gentle, dominant skill…Christ, the man could probably make her orgasm from kissing alone.
“We’ve got be convincing, right?” he whispered, and then licked the swell of her bottom lip so a ragged moan escaped her. “Open for me.”
She didn’t hesitate, welcomed the slide of his wet tongue against hers. He tasted like whisky, smelled like earth and man, a potent combination that made her loosen up more effectively than if she’d poured the entire fifth of Jack Daniels down her throat — her throat that throbbed in a grim reminder that Marco wanted to slit it.
Doing her best to ignore what Wyatt’s hand was doing to her thigh, she used her mind to pluck at the weak strings in the weave of Marco’s aura. Finally, with Wyatt trailing kisses along her jaw, visions of the internal workings of Marco’s body filled her brain.
He still watched, but had leaned forward, elbows propped on knees, enjoying the show. The dozen or so patrons in the pub could care less, were too fascinated by the two scantily-clad women near the pool table who were doing a lot more than kissing the four guys they were with.
Marco’s heartbeat gave nothing away. Slow, steady, strong. She could stop it in an instant, give him an aneurysm, or boil his blood.
But all of those things would attract attention. Besides, killing one of Itor’s men when she would be meeting with a top Itor operative tomorrow was not conducive to a good working relationship. Even if – or especially because — she was going to be faking the relationship.
In the back of her mind, she knew Wyatt was nuzzling her ear, knew he’d pulled her nearly into his lap and that he had a monster erection nudging her hip. She knew her fingers were gliding over his hard, bunched biceps, and that her sex had flooded with silken cream.
If Marco weren’t a threat, she’d drag Wyatt No Last Name to her hotel room and rock his world.
But she wouldn’t put it past Marco to try to take them both out before they made it to her bed.
A psychic flare-up drew her to Marco’s stomach, full after a meal. In her mind, she reached for his pylorus, the ring of muscle that separated the stomach from the small intestine. With a mental nudge, she opened it, allowing unprocessed food to spill through.
Marco winced, rubbed his belly. He’d cramp up soon, but she needed something more immediate to distract him until the cramps started.
“Wyatt,” she gasped, when she felt the slide of his palm beneath her corset-like top.
His tongue swirled against her neck. “Do you think he’s convinced?”
“I don’t know, love, but I certainly am.”
His smile tickled her skin, and before she became distracted again, she dropped south inside Marco’s body, located his bladder, and gave a mental squeeze.
The expression of horror on Marco’s face as his pants darkened with urine brought immense satisfaction. He looked around wildly for the toilet, and then, clutching his gut, he ran for the men’s sign near the back of the pub.
“Brilliant,” Faith said, pulling away from Wyatt and ignoring her body’s protests. She slid the bartender a sultry smile. “Wyatt’s picking up my tab. Cheers.”
She darted out the door, Wyatt’s curse following her. She’d nearly made it the three blocks to her hotel when she realized someone was following.
Spinning, she threw out her fist. Recognition bloomed, but she pulled her punch too late. Wyatt blocked the strike, lightning fast, and then she found herself against a building, Wyatt’s body pressed against hers.
Sloppy work on her part, letting it happen, but a small part of her had wanted this from the moment she recognized his face beneath the street light.
Relaxing, because doing so rolled her hips into closer contact with his, she dragged her gaze up from his broad chest, past the dazzling white teeth that flashed in a smile as though he knew she was taking his measure now that they were alone.
The look in his eyes confirmed it. Amusement swirled there in the green depths, amusement and wariness and a touch of wild, as if he’d seen one too many horror movies.
Or had lived them.
“Tell me to back off and I will.”
Grinning, he tugged her hard against him so she had to crane her neck to look up at him. Oh, my. She’d known he was tall, but at five-ten, she wasn’t short herself, and he topped her by at least six inches. For all that height, he moved like a cat. Powerful muscles sang with reserved energy while in motion, went loose-limbed at rest.
A flicker of unease made her tense. This man was even more dangerous than he’d appeared to be in the pub. Prior military, maybe a merc.
It worked for her, the whole danger thing, since that was her life, but on the eve of what might be the riskiest mission she’d ever accepted, she didn’t need any extra stress.
“You didn’t back off,” she said.
“Because you didn’t mean it.”
No, she supposed she hadn’t. Sex oozed from every pore in his smooth, tanned skin, the promise of eroticism so tangible she could feel it rumble through her like a purr.
“Did you want to go at it here, then?” She skimmed her thumb over the massive ridge in the fly of his jeans, and he arched into her palm. “Where anyone driving by can see?”
His hand dropped to grasp her ass and hold her as his hips undulated against hers, driving his cock into her belly. “I’m not into exhibitionism. No one sees my woman but me.”
“I’m not your woman.”
Dropping his head, he nipped at her earlobe, held it between his teeth as he growled, “Tonight, you are.”
Somewhere deep inside, she wanted to protest, but when her mouth opened, only one word came out.
Her voice sounded husky, needy. It had been so long since she’d allowed herself an indulgent night of pleasure. Normally, sex was a tool, whether she offered her body or merely the promise of her body. Seduction played a big part of her job as a special operative for TAG, and tomorrow it was back to the job.
Tonight…tonight was for her, because if her mission aboard Itor’s oil platform met with success and she nabbed the weather machine, someone she loved might die. If her mission failed, someone else she loved would die.
Either way, she’d lose Sean or Liberty, and either way, she didn’t have a lot of time left for pleasure.
Reaching up, she took Wyatt’s face in her palms and captured his gaze with hers. “Your room or mine?”