The Awakening Page 12

“Danger doesn’t matter. We accept that as part of our lives. We are the keepers of the forest. It’s our duty and it has always been our privilege. Your parents understood that, and their parents before them.” His golden eyes moved over her, a brooding perusal. “There are only a few of us, Maggie, carrying on what your parents worked so hard for. It’s your legacy.” Noting her distress, he stood up slowly so as not to startle her. “What’s wrong?”

“My skin itches.” She bit her lower lip. “Do you think I could have picked up some kind of parasite? It’s strange, like something’s moving inside of me, running under my skin.” She was watching his face closely and saw the fleeting, cunning expression in his eyes. He knew. He was looking at her innocently, but he knew much more than he was letting on. She tilted her chin at him in challenge.

“You know what it is, don’t you, Brandt? You know what’s happening to me.” She moved around the counter, putting it between them, the only way she felt safe.

“Are you afraid of me, Maggie?” he asked quietly.

His tone chilled her to the bone. It was the second time he had asked her that. The silence in the house beat between them. Outside the walls, the forest was humming with life. “Should I be?”

“No,” he denied quickly, his molten gaze burning intensely, searing her. Branding her. “Never be afraid of me. I’m sworn to protect you. Above all others, above the forest and the animals in the forest. Never be afraid of me, Maggie.”

“Why? Why are you sworn to protect me, Brandt?” His very intensity frightened her. No matter how hard he tried to look civilized, she saw the hunter in him. She saw the predator. He could camouflage his savage nature for brief periods of time, but not from her, not when they were alone together. She felt edgy and irritated. Why would she know him? Why would she see through him? The ground seemed to be shifting out from under her feet.

Chapter 4

The silence stretched between them until Maggie wanted to scream. She could feel the turmoil raging deep within her, almost as if something wild were struggling for control. She was aware of so many things. The spacious room, the total isolation. The fact that few people knew where she was. Maggie was alone in the rain forest with a man whose sheer power overwhelmed her.

Brandt took a single step toward her. She reacted without thought, without plan, springing in a swift leap to the tabletop across the room. She landed in a crouch on all fours. Lightly. Silently. Her lips were drawn back in a snarl. The pins holding her hair scattered to the floor, spilling her heavy braid down her back. It took a few moments for reality to sink in, for Maggie to realize what she had done.

A soft moan of despair escaped as she surveyed the distance from the counter to the table where she was crouched. It was impossible to have jumped the area in a single leap. It wasn’t humanly possible.

“Maggie.” He said her name. That was all. His voice was soothing. Gentle. Tender even. He knew what was happening to her—she could see the knowledge in the molten gold of his eyes.

“Get out now.” She bit the words out at him, shaking with fear, with terror. She jumped from the table and raced out of the room, up the stairs to the bedroom. She was leaving, as quickly as possible. There had to have been something in the nectar, something to bring about the change in her. Whatever it was, she was going back to safety. Away from the jungle and far, far away from Brandt Talbot.

Maggie dragged her backpack out from the under the bed and began to stuff her things into it. Her hands were shaking so badly she dropped her clothes on the floor before she could get them into the pack. When she raised her eyes, he was standing there. Looming over her. His thighs were like oak trees, strong columns of power.

He reached out and took the pack from her hands, casually tossed it aside. “How do you think you can find your way without a guide, Maggie?” He touched her face with his fingertips, trailed a caress down her collarbone, then lower to the neckline of her shirt. It felt like a stroke of heat, of flame.

“People know where I am,” she told him, her green gaze locked in combat with his golden one. “The lawyer…”

He shook his head. “Is one of us; he works for me. The moment you set foot in the forest, letters—brilliant forgeries I might add—were sent to your work to give notice, and to your apartment. Your things were packed up, some stored and others shipped. No one expects your return; they believe you are staying in your new estate after all.”

“I’m a prisoner here? Why? What could you possibly want with me?” Maggie struggled for control. She needed to be calm, to breathe air and think. Brandt Talbot was enormously strong and he had the advantage of knowing the forest. She was as good as his captive. Yet even knowing that information, she couldn’t deny the chemistry arcing between them, sizzling and alive and potent beyond imagination.

He was close to her. So close she could smell him, feel the heat of his body right through her clothes. So close her breasts were only a scant inch or two from his chest. His fingers wrapped around her throat, his thumb tipping her head back. “This is your home, Maggie. You belong here. You were born here in this forest. And you belong to me.” His hand slipped from her throat, slid over her tank top to cup the fullness of her breast. His thumb caressed her nipple through the cotton and the lace.

The breath slammed out of her lungs. Flames shot through her body, from her breast to her deepest core. The strange roaring was back in her head. Need was on her. Not some gentle emotion, not a pleasant feeling, but a raging tidal wave of hunger, of craving. She wanted his hand to tighten, to knead and massage. His mouth to close over her aching flesh, to devour her.

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