Home > Arctic Bite (Forgotten Brotherhood #2)(5)

Arctic Bite (Forgotten Brotherhood #2)(5)
Author: N.J. Walters

   The threat was a mistake. Because of Alexei and his intervention, John was bristling for a fight. He smashed the cue stick against the table, cracking the top off and leaving a jagged edge.

   “You want trouble? I’ll give you trouble.”

   “Come on, man. Let’s just go,” one of his buddies muttered in a worried tone. But it was too late for him to intervene.

   John lurched forward, brandishing the broken stick like a spear, thrusting it toward Alexei’s stomach. The big man captured it with one hand, holding it easily when John tried to pull it away.

   Alexei gave one yank, and both man and stick went flying toward him. At the last second, he released his makeshift weapon and stumbled back. Alexei examined the broken stick and proceeded to crack it into little bitty pieces. With his bare hands.

   When he was done, there was a pile of small shards at his feet. He dusted off his hands. “You need coffee.” It wasn’t a question but a pronouncement.

   All the men but John nodded. He seemed befuddled and then angry. He took a step toward Alexei, who simply held up his hand.

   “Don’t.”

   Tension thrummed through her. She had no doubt that Alexei would fight, if necessary, and he’d wipe the floor with all four. There was a quiet competence about him, something that announced he had nothing to prove and nothing to lose.

   She wondered what his story was. But she’d never ask. He might ask about her past.

   Two of John’s buddies latched on to his arms and pulled him back. “We’ll take that coffee, Cassie.” Sam gave her protector a sidelong glance. “If it’s no trouble,” he added.

   “No trouble at all.” The faster she could sober them up, the better. Hurrying behind the counter, she grabbed the pot of coffee she’d brewed for just this purpose. It didn’t take her long to pour up four mugs. She added two more, one for her and Alexei, doubtful he’d be going anywhere until the four idiots left.

   A much more subdued group finally departed a half hour later, after allowing her to call a family member to come pick them up.

   Alexei was still seated at the bar sipping coffee when she watched the taillights of the car disappear through the window and locked the door. Leaning against it, she studied him. He was the quintessential mountain man, quiet and strong. But she sensed there were a whole lot of layers to him.

   It was tempting to drop the walls she’d erected and scan his emotions to see what she could learn. With a shudder, she suppressed the urge. She’d come too far to do something stupid just because she was attracted to the man.

   “Thanks.” She pushed away from the door and headed back to finish her closing routine. “I appreciate your help, but I could have handled it.”

   “I know.”

   A flick of a switch shut down the main lights, leaving only the security ones on. “Then why did you get involved?” She tilted her head, studying him in the dim light. He kept his head down, as though fascinated by his coffee mug.

   “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should have to.”

   Wow, he was a knight in shining armor under all that hair and his thick knit sweater. It was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for her.

   He had no idea the only thing that could end her existence was Death’s scythe or one of his sickles, and there weren’t a lot of them floating around. Only the head reapers had them.

   “Well, thank you.” She came back around the bar, and Alexei spun around on the stool so he was facing her. “You know he isn’t going to let this go, right? He’ll sober up and remember how you stopped him. His buddies will tease him, and he’ll convince himself the only reason you stopped him was because he was drunk.”

   “I know.” Once again, he seemed totally unconcerned.

   “You going to be around long?” If he was leaving Nome, then it wouldn’t be a problem. John and his friends would come back and hassle her, but she’d cajole them out of their anger. After all, there weren’t so many places around where they could drink and play pool that they’d risk getting banned for life.

   Maybe.

   The male ego was such a fragile and unpredictable thing. Men had started wars over some perceived slight.

   “Depends.”

   After about thirty seconds of silence, she realized he was done talking. “On what?” Not that she had a right to know, but she wanted to.

   “You.”

   His blunt statement took her off guard. “Me? What about me?”

   He remained seated but reached out and hooked his hand behind her waist and sort of corralled her against his chest. His impossibly wide chest.

   “What are you doing?” Excitement and a sense of anticipation sent her heart racing.

   “Complicating things.”

   What does that mean?

   He pressed his lips against hers. They were soft and firm. Warmth spread from where they touched and traveled throughout her body, driving back the ever-present chill. She curled her fingers into his sweater to steady herself. The heat from his big body surrounded her.

   In spite of his size, he was extremely gentle. Most likely because of his size he was used to having to be careful.

   His beard was a soft brush against her chin. Her breath hitched in her throat when he eased away. His eyes seemed to glow. Then he blinked and they were normal again. A trick of the light and the passion clouding her brain.

   He inhaled sharply, his massive chest expanding. Wow, that kiss was tame by most people’s reckoning, but it sure packed a punch. Her knees were weak and her pulse fluttered wildly.

   He rested his forehead against hers and heaved a sigh. “That was nice.”

   Surprised, she laughed. He sat upright, a scowl on his face. She laughed even harder.

   “You’re the master of understatement,” she told him once she got control of herself. The corners of his mouth twitched but didn’t turn upward. Not quite. She wanted to see him smile, more than she should. Even more, she wanted to be the one to make it happen.

   He pressed his mouth against hers, tracing his tongue over her bottom lip.

   The surge of sensual arousal shocked her. Her nipples were taut buds, pressing against the cups of her bra. She wanted to rub them against the hard planes of his chest to ease the ache. Her skin was incredibly sensitized. The slightest touch, even the air, was magnified a hundredfold. A low pulse throbbed low in her belly. When her lips parted on a groan, he thrust his tongue inside.

   A supernova exploded inside her. Energy crackled all around them.

   He cupped the back of her head in one large palm and tilted it to the side, deepening the contact.

   She dug her fingers into his massive shoulders, which felt more like iron than flesh and blood, so she didn’t end up melting in a puddle at his feet. He was so big, so vital and alive. She could get up close and personal without any worry. Talk about a turn-on.

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