Murder Game Page 24

And now the puppet master knew he wasn’t alone. He had a companion who could tread the same minds if she chose. Tansy had noticed the smug amusement, but she hadn’t caught the flair of male interest, the scent of sex. There was intrigue. Finally, someone to share his quiet genius with. Someone who would appreciate him for his camouflage. She would know what it took to control killers, to manipulate everyone around him and not get caught. The puppet master hadn’t been alone for those few moments, and he wouldn’t want to go back.

Kadan frowned as he buried his face in the thick mass of her hair. The puppet master wouldn’t be able to stop himself any more than Kadan could. The tracker would think about it first, but she wouldn’t leave his mind, any more than Tansy could get the killers out of hers. He would obsess about her. Fantasize. Want to show her he was stronger and could beat her at her own game. He’d want to show off, because finally, there was someone who truly could understand and see him. The puppet master wouldn’t be able to resist that lure. In the end, self-preservation, discipline, and common sense would go, and he would begin to hunt her.

Kadan inhaled sharply, drawing Tansy’s scent into his lungs. His. Talk about obsession. He could go from not feeling a damned thing to—this. Need. Hunger. His hands shaking with the desire to touch her. His mouth hungry for the taste of cinnamon and sex. He skimmed the pads of his fingers down Tansy’s bare midriff, careful to keep the bristles velvet-soft, moving in the direction that prevented sticking. She liked the sensation, arching toward him even in her sleep. She was very responsive sexually, her body ripe for his with a few touches. She seemed just as starved for skin-to-skin contact as he was. When one had had a lifetime of emptiness, perhaps overindulgence and feasting were the only cure.

He glanced at his watch. They had a little time left, not much. He wanted to bring her back to the surface, replacing pain with something altogether different. He caught the sheet in his fist and pulled it down her body inch by inch to reveal the long expanse of skin. When the sheet pooled at her feet, he rolled her onto her back so he could drink in the sight of her. He’d never get tired of looking at her, never tire of touching her, or making her scream with pleasure.

His hands were big, calloused and rough, dark against her skin from so many years spent outdoors in the weather. The contrast between his hard body and her soft one gave him a monster of a hard-on, but now wasn’t the time. He was going to indulge himself, but this time, it was all for her—okay, maybe not all.

He bent his head to her and licked at her soft belly the way a cat licked at cream. She tasted faintly of peaches. He inhaled her scent again just because it gave him so much pleasure, a unique mixture of cinnamon and other spices that went straight to his groin. He flicked his tongue over her, tracing her ribs and then teasing the undersides of her br**sts.

Tansy moaned softly. He felt her fingers move in his hair.

“What are you doing?” Her voice was a mixture of sexy and drowsy, playing along his nerve endings, so that every muscle tightened and electricity arced over his skin.

He teased his way up the outside slope of her breast, swirled around her nipple, and then bit down gently. A broken cry escaped her throat. She tugged at his hair.

“I’m not awake yet.” If it was meant as a protest, it failed miserably; excitement edged her voice.

“You don’t have to be.” He drew her breast into his mouth, suckling strongly. She was evidently very sensitive, because she arched into him, nearly coming off the bed.

Tansy closed her eyes, allowing the sensations to roll over and into her. His voice was pure velvet, brushing at the insides of her thighs until she was shaking with arousal. His knee roughly pushed apart her legs, allowing him better access as he kissed his way back down her belly, making her stomach muscles bunch with need.

He was fully clothed, the denim rubbing roughly against her skin, and there was something very decadent and forbidden at being totally naked, held open beneath a fully clothed man. His hands went to her thighs, pushing them even wider as he dipped his head low. His hair brushed against her inner thighs, making her jump and shiver. The shadow along his jaw scraped, sending flames dancing over her skin.

He bit at her inner thighs, his tongue bathing the tiny stings. Her h*ps bucked and she tried to pull his head away, squirming, moaning, rather shocked at her body’s uninhibited reaction to him. His breath hissed out at being denied, and he caught both wrists in one hand and pinned them against her belly, raising his head an inch to look at her with dangerous eyes.

“Lie still.”

“I can’t.” Her head tossed on the pillow. “It’s too much.” His weight pinned her down while his shoulders kept her legs spread apart, her silken sheath open to him.

He didn’t bother to contradict her, but simply lowered his head again, taking long, slow licks, lapping at the spicy cream her body rewarded him with. Her h*ps continued to jerk and buck, as she writhed beneath his relentless tongue.

He took her over the edge in minutes, enjoying every moment of her soft body melting beneath him. He loved the look on her face, the shocked delight as waves of pleasure rolled through her. Kadan laid his head on her tummy, his arm slung around her waist, feeling the aftershocks gently rock her while he touched her mind. He’d driven out the demons, slammed the door closed on the voices, and left, in the place of cold and evil, something altogether different. There was a feeling of warmth, of love even. He winced away from the word, but it was out there now, in his mind. Love. What was it and how had such an emotion twisted its way into his heart and mind?

He pressed kisses from her belly to her br**sts. “It isn’t about the heart, Tansy, it’s all about the soul.”

She brushed the hair from his forehead with gentle fingers. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I know you don’t. It’s just as well. I’m the tough guy, remember?”

He pushed up, but Tansy caught his arm. “Are you all right? Tell me if something is wrong.” He’d just sent her rocketing to the moon, and now he was already slipping away from her into a remote, distant man she could barely read, and he knew it bothered her. He hated separating himself, but he had to get her parents to safety before deciding if they should live or die.

“Everything is right, baby. I just wasn’t ready for the way I feel about you, but I’m getting there.” He’d accepted that she was his world. That didn’t mean he was comfortable with it yet.

Chapter 9

Ryland Miller wasn’t at all what Tansy had expected. He was definitely a force to be reckoned with, tough and scarred and built like a fighter. His steel gray eyes seemed to look right through her, his dark hair spilled in unruly waves over his forehead, but his smile was kind. She had emerged from a shower, dressed, little makeup, hair still damp, to find Ryland sitting comfortably with Kadan.

Kadan glanced up, and something in his energy chilled her at first, but then he smiled and got to his feet, and she immediately felt a shift inside of her, a melting. Kadan took her hand and tugged until she was beneath his shoulder, one hand sliding possessively around the nape of her neck while he performed introductions. Ryland’s expression went from speculative to knowing, and she had to fight to keep from blushing.

“Ryland is married to Lily Whitney. They just had their first child,” Kadan said.

Tansy struggled to keep her face from showing anything but polite interest. She still found it difficult to believe that a friend of Kadan’s could be married to Whitney’s daughter. She glanced at Kadan, but as always, his expression gave little away.

You can trust him.

Kadan’s expression might be remote, but his warmth poured into her mind. She managed to keep smiling and nod at the introductions, keeping her gloved hands behind her back. She detested wearing the gloves now that she’d had months in the mountains and her brief time with Kadan without them. It was as if she’d gone from freedom back to prison, although even to her that seemed a melodramatic analogy. She couldn’t help it. Her fingers felt tight and confined, itching to get out of the cramped quarters.

Three men waited in the living room, all coming to their feet when she entered. Ryland Miller might not look like a man who could be trusted; in fact, he looked like a man of few words but long on action, yet there was a steadiness in him that appealed to her. She could feel respect and even a certain friendship in Kadan’s mind for the man. It would take a strong man to marry Whitney’s daughter. Kadan was blocking a good deal of the energy, but he was allowing enough to slip through, and she recognized that Ryland was a psychic talent as well.

“This disreputable scoundrel is Raoul ‘Gator’ Fontenot. He’s going to try to steal you away from me with his charm.”

Gator grinned boyishly. “Ma’am, I got me a mean little hellcat at home and she’d have my head if she thought I was flirtin’,” he drawled in his Cajun accent and winked at her, declaring her safe even though his smile could and probably did melt hearts.

“Is Gator some kind of nickname?”

“Yes, ma’am. In the Special Forces we often give each other appropriate handles. Kadan is ‘Bishop.’ Rye there is ‘King,’ and Sam, one of our team members, is ‘Knight.’ ” Gator grinned at her, his drawling voice like molasses on a Sunday. “I don’ play boring chess, honey, but I wrestle alligators.”

Kadan pinned his friend with a steely-eyed stare. “You keep flirting with her and you’ll be wrestling with Flame. That woman is the only person who may be meaner than me.”

Tansy sent Kadan a sharp glance. As a rule he could read people’s minds. It was fairly clear that Gator might flirt, but he was definitely a one-woman man.

Yes, he is, Kadan agreed, but it’s good for them to know the score.

His hand slid from the nape of her neck to her shoulder, his fingers brushing her neck, small, caressing strokes that were featherlight, but she felt them all the way to her toes.

Tough guy. She did the equivalent of mind eye-rolling, not wanting to show that even that light touch could affect her the way it did. Shivers of awareness raised goose bumps on her skin and down her spine.

Kadan merely shrugged, his hard expression and cold eyes saying it all to his friends.

Gator’s unrepentant grin widened, flashing white teeth. “Flame’s the better half of me and she sure keeps my life interestin.”

Tansy’s mind was racing with the idea of themes and nicknames in the Special Forces. Each ivory game piece had been carved obviously for a specific killer. If they were military and GhostWalkers, it couldn’t be that difficult to track down their handles. There just weren’t that many GhostWalkers, if what Kadan said was the truth. Wouldn’t it be a matter of just going through the teams and finding out what they call one another?

She glanced toward the dining room. She could just glimpse the long table from the arched doorway leading to it. There were no figurines left out. All evidence was back in the war room, and she would bet her last dollar that the door was securely locked.

There is no way my teams are in any way responsible, and I would have recognized the names. I’ve worked with all the members of both teams. No, this is an outside team, run by Whitney or someone else. They’re connected to Whitney; there was no doubt in my mind before you ever found the puppet master with Whitney’s taint on him.

Tansy let her breath out slowly. Whitney hadn’t been content with working on a few men; he’d given enhancements to others, and obviously their psychological profiles hadn’t shown they were dangerous, or maybe it was because they were that he had chosen them. And that was very, very scary. She turned her head and looked at Kadan.

You knew. All along, you knew.

He didn’t look at her, but his mind brushed against hers. I suspected. I know these men and the others on my team. They are capable of killing, but not murder for pleasure. These killers are doing it for fun. It’s literally a game to them.

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