To get to the bar, I had to make my way across the dance floor and then through a half-ring of little, round tables. I could have gone around the perimeter, but with the place being so crowded, going around the edge would have taken me a good fifteen minutes. So, I braved the dance floor; a grinding mass of bodies with a blood-red, lusty haze pulsing around them. People pressed against me as rock music blared in my ears and vibrated through my bones. I tried not to focus too much on the colors that seemed even louder to me than the music; I just angled my head down and plowed my way through.
And that was my mistake.
A hand slid around my waist and pulled me tightly against a hard chest. I thought it was some drunk jerk, and I was about to turn around and tell him where he could shove it because it wasn’t going to be inside me, but then he pressed his warm cheek against mine and wrapped his other hand lightly around my throat. His aura was lost among the others around me so I couldn’t latch onto it. Still, I could have attacked him directly and not bothered with altering his aura. I could have thrown several colors at him that would have targeted all sorts of organs; all I’d have to do was glance over my shoulder. But before I could decide on which color to use, he spoke.
“Hello, Amara,” he purred into my ear. “You look amazing tonight; practically devilish.”
His voice was like thunder on a dark night; something scary and exciting all at once. The enticing scent of man, leather, and something spicy tickled my nose and made me inhale deeper. In combination with that voice, it made my head spin. Then the hand around my throat moved up to my chin and his thick thumb rubbed gently across my lips. I exhaled a shuddering breath over the tip of his thumb, and he made a surprised, aroused sound as his body jerked against mine.
“I should have known you’d be beautiful and sensual,” he murmured as he rubbed his fingers together over the lipstick stain on his thumb. “Only a woman with deep passions could shift a man’s emotions so swiftly.”
I have to admit that startled me; I’d never been called passionate or sensual before. My abilities must have confused him. Still, the mere thought of it—of letting my desires rule my life—made my stomach clench in longing.
“You’re a Bleiten?” I asked warily.
He chuckled as he began to sway me to the music; his hand sliding back along my chin to press my cheek against his.
“I am Lord Malik,” he said. “My team and I were sent to Earth to secure you. I have never, in all of my military career, ordered my men to stand down, Amara. But I’ve seen what you can do, and I think you require a softer touch; my touch.”
Malik swung me around to face him; keeping his hand on my waist but moving the other one to the nape of my neck. He began to massage my muscles gently.
“I’ve never failed to complete a mission,” he said in a challenging tone.
I stared up into Malik’s unyielding expression; briefly noting the stubborn slash of his lips and the angled ridge of his brows. His hair was dark, and I think his eyes were too, but it was hard to tell in the shadowy interior of the nightclub. Malik was sharply and dangerously handsome, and I found my heart beating faster for inappropriate and disturbing reasons. His eyes—whatever color they were—fastened on mine and widened as if he’d seen something surprising. We stared at each other for a moment before he tightened his grip even more and started moving slowly with me again.
“Are you seriously taking the time to dance with me?” I asked him as I tried to calm my racing heart.
“We have all the time in the world, Amara,” he said with a sensual smile. “Unless you’re in a rush?”
Malik’s aura flared around me suddenly; swaths of wise dove-gray and stable oak mixing with a spreading lust-red. There was a hint of black—as I expected—but it was an authoritative jet instead of pure black; there was no evil in him. Odd; I’d expected a Bleiten leader to be consumed by it.
“You’re a strange Bleiten,” I blurted.
“Am I?” Malik asked as his hand slid down my back. “Why am I strange?”
“You don’t seem to be evil,” I decided to go with a partial truth.
“And you’ve met enough Bleiten to determine that we’re all evil?” He asked with a lifted brow.
“I’ve had a few run-ins,” I said.
“With low-class soldiers, no doubt,” he said with a sudden pensive look. “We are not the demons humans believe us to be, Amara.”
“Is that so? And yet you were sent here to secure me. What does that mean exactly?” I challenged.
“You hold something very powerful in your veins,” he said grimly. “We can’t afford to let the Triari get their hands on it.”
“The Triari created it,” I pointed out. “And they instructed my father to destroy it.”
“Is that what they told you?” He asked with a sexy—and slightly condescending—smirk.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “You’re not going to twist me into going with you willingly.”
“I don’t have to; I can take you unwillingly,” Malik threatened in a low growl. “You’re wanted for the secrets in your blood, and I suspect that you’re reluctant to share those secrets. I’ll have them, Amara—one way or another—but wouldn’t it be better if it was an exchange and not a barbaric theft?”
“You want to buy my blood?” I asked in surprise.
“What have the Triari offered you?” Malik asked. “Did they even let on that they want your blood, or have they tried to trick you onto one of their ships so they can whisk you off this planet and start experimenting on you?”
“The Bleiten are the ones who experiment on their own people,” I pointed out.
“Criminals who volunteer for it in exchange for reduced sentences,” Malik said with a shrug. “Every race has their wicked ways; ours just happen to be excessively publicized and misrepresented.”
“Sure,” I said scornfully. “You make your people into monsters for their own good.”
Malik closed his eyes and let out a slow breath as if he were seeking patience.
“Believe what you will, Amara,” he said. “But my offer is a fair one. I can make you a wealthy woman on another world; help you escape your own people. All I want in exchange is a vial of your blood.” He leaned in and whispered in my ear, “I could have taken it already.”
Malik’s mouth moved down to my neck, and I felt the graze of sharp canines against my skin. I sucked in a startled breath as he lifted his head to smile wickedly at me and show off the fangs I’d failed to notice.
“Then why haven’t you?” I asked in confusion.
“I’ve been watching you.” His lips parted as he trailed the back of his hand down my cheek. “You’re strong in ways I’m not used to seeing. I like it. I like you. I’d rather not mistreat you, Amara. We can be friends.” His hand tightened around my throat. “Or we can be enemies. I don’t recommend the latter.”
I was about to change Malik’s stable brown aura into cowardly yellow when he released me.
“To prove my good intentions, I’m letting you go,” Malik said with a brush of his knuckles across my cheek. “I’ll return for you in two days. Think about my offer.”
Malik stepped back into the crowd and then turned to head toward the door without any trouble; people simply moved out of his way. I stared after him; completely baffled. Had a Bleiten just offered to buy my blood instead of simply snatching me and taking all he wanted? Had he just danced with me? And—most importantly—had I just enjoyed every second of it?
“I need to have sex,” I muttered. “It’s obviously been far too long.”