The Awakening Page 13

Both hands flat on his chest, she shoved him away as hard as she could. “You drugged me. The nectar. You put something in the drink to make me like this.”

As hard as she shoved him, his body barely rocked in response. “Listen to me, Maggie. I haven’t lied to you. I won’t lie to you. You’re close to the change, that’s what’s wrong. It took me so long to find you, and you’re ready for me. Your body needs mine. Let me help you.” He still cupped the weight of her breast in his palm. Intimately. Possessively. His hand slid lower, over her rib cage, over her slender, tucked-in waist, to rest on the curve of her hip.

“What the hell does that mean?” Her green eyes glared at him. He couldn’t help but notice the way she was breathing, starved for air. Frightened. Resolute. Courageous. Maggie was determined to fight him even in such distress, yet she didn’t jerk away from his touch and she didn’t become hysterical. His admiration for her grew.

He used his voice, a soothing caress, to tame her fears. “Let me tell you about your family. Who they were. What they were.” His fingers stroked her hip tenderly because he needed to touch her; he couldn’t stop himself. “We can go for a walk if you’d like. If you would feel more at ease. I’d like to show you the beauty of the forest.” Your home. The unspoken words were between them.

Brandt’s touch was so intimate, so possessive, so completely right, Maggie stilled beneath his drifting hand. Absorbed his touch. Craved more. He seemed so familiar, and yet tiny tongues of flames licked at her skin wherever he stroked. She wanted to protest, to fight him; at the same time she wanted desperately to fasten her mouth to the perfection of his. Sheer sexual chemistry. That was all. That was everything.

Maggie nodded. The house was too stifling. And he was too compelling. She wanted him more than she had ever wanted anything in her life, and yet she knew nothing about him. She would have thought him crazy if she didn’t have the proof of his words in her own body. The strange sensations, the wild, savage need to have him buried deep inside of her.

This was her one chance to get out of the house, away from his influence. If she could get to the village, perhaps the others would help her leave.

Brandt shook his head, his white teeth flashing with a small, enigmatic smile. “I’m not crazy, Maggie. Really. Let me tell you the story before you decide.”

“I’m listening,” she agreed as she pulled on her boots. She didn’t look at him again. It was the safest thing to do. She would need every ounce of courage. She would need her wits about her. One look at Brandt Talbot and good sense scattered away instantly. She wasn’t making that mistake again. “Are your parents alive, Brandt?” She wondered what his mother would have to say about his behavior.

“My father is alive,” he answered softly. “My mother died a few months after your parents. Poachers killed her, too.”

Maggie shivered at his grim tone. He tried to hide it from her, but she heard it all the same, tuned as she was to his every nuance. She led the way out of the house, watching as he carefully locked the door behind them. “Are you expecting visitors?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

“It pays to be careful, Maggie. That’s the first rule you learn here. You must never forget we’re in a war. They want us dead, and if they find our homes, they’ll be waiting for us. This area has been protected for hundreds of years, but each year the forest shrinks. There will come a day when we will have to leave here and go somewhere safer.” He sounded sad. “Our people have guarded here nearly as long as the trees have existed. It will be a terrible loss for all of us and for the forest.”

She heard the regret, the genuine sorrow in his voice. “I’m sorry, Brandt. I know what you’re saying is true. We can only hope awareness of the importance of the rain forests and the various species here on earth is growing.”

He walked very close to her, protectively, his larger body occasionally brushing against hers. His proximity was exciting. He made her feel feminine, sexy, even seductive, all things she had never considered herself to be. She glanced sideways at him, not wanting him to steal her soul away along with her good sense. It was the way they moved together, as if they had known each other always. The silence stretched and lengthened. A companionable silence when she should have been nervous and afraid.

The forest was extraordinarily beautiful. Flowers of every color rained down from the twisting vines and trees. The world hummed around them, a vibrant, mystical paradise. The perfumed scents of so many flowers filling the air were intoxicating. There was movement everywhere around them as birds soared overhead and monkeys flung themselves from branch to branch. The world seemed in constant motion, yet as still as the lizards and brightly colored frogs clinging to the trunks of the trees.

Maggie felt a strange peace stealing into her body. As if she knew this place. Was familiar with it. As if it were home. The thoughts were unbidden but crept into her mind all the same. The wild forest should have frightened her, but the setting was as natural to her as breathing.

“Why aren’t the insects bothering me?” She suddenly realized that she heard continual buzzing around her but not even a mosquito had settled on her skin.

“The scent of the nectar repels them. We use it in the houses also. It makes life much more bearable here. We mix it in the village and use it daily. It works best if ingested.” He answered matter-of-factly. “There are many properties here in the forest that can be used for medicine and repellants and other worthwhile things.”

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