The Awakening Page 3

Maggie could tell they didn’t want to converse. It wasn’t exactly as if they were being rude to her, but she could tell when she addressed them directly that they were uneasy. Maggie shrugged carelessly. She didn’t need conversation. She had always been comfortable with her own company, and there were so many intriguing things in the forest. She caught a glimpse of a snake nearly as thick as a man’s arm. There was a tiny spot of spectacular color that turned out to be a frog of some sort on a tree. And so many lizards she lost count. It should have been immensely difficult to spot such creatures. They blended with the foliage, yet somehow she could see them. Almost as if the jungle was changing her in some way, improving her sight, her ability to hear and smell.

Sudden silence took hold of the forest. Insects ceased their endless hum. Birds abruptly stopped their continuous calls. Even the monkeys ceased all chatter. The stillness disturbed her, sent a chill cascading down her spine. A single warning was shrieked high in the canopy, an alert of danger, and Maggie knew instantly that it was danger to her. The hair on the back of her neck raised and she nervously turned her head from side to side as she walked, her eyes restlessly probing the thick foliage.

Her apprehension must have communicated itself to the guards. They tightened up the distance between them, one dropping back behind her, urging her to move more quickly through the forest.

Maggie’s heart accelerated, her mouth went dry. She could feel her body begin to tremble. Something moved in the deep foliage, large, heavily muscled, a shadow in the shadows. Something paced along beside them. She couldn’t really see it, yet she did, the impression of a large predator, an animal stalking her silently. She felt the weight of an intent, focused stare, the unblinking eyes of something savage. Something fixated on her. Something wild.

“Are we safe?” She asked the question softly, moving closer to her guides.

“Of course we’re safe, miss,” the third man replied, a tall blond with dark, brooding eyes. His gaze slid over her. “Nothing would attack so large a party.”

The group wasn’t that large. Four people tramping on a nonexistent path toward an uncertain destination. She didn’t feel all that safe. She had forgotten what the third man’s name was. It suddenly bothered her. Really bothered her. What if something did attack them and the man tried to protect her and she didn’t even know who he was?

Maggie glanced back. The trail had disappeared completely behind them. She lifted her chin, another shiver finding its way through her body. Something watched and waited to attack. Were they walking into an ambush? She didn’t know any of the men. She was trusting a lawyer she knew very little about. She’d investigated him, of course, to ensure he was legitimate, but that didn’t mean she hadn’t been deceived. Women disappeared every day.

“Miss Odessa?” It was the tall blond. “Don’t look so frightened. Nothing is going to happen to you.”

She managed a small smile. His reassurance didn’t take away her fear of the unknown, but she was grateful he had noticed and had tried. “Thank you. The forest went so quiet all of a sudden, and it feels so…” Dangerous. The word was in her mind but she didn’t want to speak it aloud, to give it life. Instead she matched her stride to the blond’s. “Please call me Maggie. I’ve never been very formal. What’s your name?”

He hesitated, glanced toward the left into the heavy foliage. “It’s Donovan, Miss… er… Maggie. Drake Donovan.”

“Have you been to the village often?”

“I have a home there,” he admitted. “We all have homes there.”

Relief swept through her. She felt some of the tension leave her body. “That’s reassuring. I was beginning to think I had inherited a small hut in the middle of the forest or maybe at the top of one of the trees.” Her laughter was low. Husky. Almost seductive.

Maggie blinked in shock. There it was again. She never sounded like that, yet twice now her voice had become an invitation. She didn’t want Drake Donovan to think she was coming on to him. What in the world had gotten into her? Something was happening to her, something she didn’t like at all. She knew it was wrong, everything about it felt wrong, yet her body was raging at her with an urgent, primitive need.

From several yards away, Brandt feasted his eyes on her through the thick foliage. She was everything and more than he had expected. She wasn’t tall, but he hadn’t expected her to be. Her body was curvy, with lush breasts and hips, a small waist, strong legs. Her hair was thick and luxurious, a wealth of red-gold silk. Her brows were reddish, her eyes as green as the leaves on the trees. Her mouth was, a sinful temptation.

It was oppressively hot and she was sweating, a dark vee down the front of her shirt molding to her high, firm breasts. There was a damp line down her back, drawing attention to the sweep of her spine, the curve of her hips. Her jeans rode low on her hips, exposing an enticing expanse of skin and revealing a belly button that he found exceedingly sexy. He longed to capture her right there, drag her away from the other men, and claim what belonged to him. He had taken far too long in finding her and the Han Vol Dan was nearly upon her. He could tell. The others could tell. They tried not to look at what didn’t belong to them, but she was so naturally sensuous, so alluring and compelling, the men were reacting with the same ragged hunger as he felt. Brandt felt bad for them. They were doing him a favor, despite the danger to all of them from the overpowering emotions. He had been tracking poachers when she had arrived, and the men had gone to meet her in his stead, to bring her to him.

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