I’m Darius Storm, one of four identical princes meant to protect my kingdom. Evil has come, and my brothers and I are thrust far away, into a world not our own.
As the prince of fire, I burn hot. Angry and impatient to go home, I’m tired of being reminded I can only return with a bride in hand to restore our magic.
The women here lack power. Or so I thought. Because Samantha is unlike any woman I’ve ever met, and she sets me on fire in more ways than one.
Leaving her world is the only way she can help save mine. But falling in love might just kill us both.
I shifted a hunk of drenched hair out of my eyes and sneezed. I hadn’t been back through Seattle in months and now thought I should have postponed this trip until the weather warmed.
February usually brought snow, but on this unfortunate Thursday night—technically way early Friday morning—the weatherman had correctly predicted freezing rain. Too bad I hadn’t unpacked my heavy winter coat or even an umbrella.
Shivering in a thin leather jacket, not in the least waterproofed, I sighed and stared at the blazing neon sign of Seattle’s newest nightspot, Outpour.
“Catchy title,” I murmured and banged on the front door. Checking my phone just as it died, I noted the hour had passed closing time, almost two a.m.
Damn, I’d wanted to see the club in full swing but my flight had landed later than expected. There’d been that haggling over the location of my luggage, and then the rental car agency had lost my reservation and I’d had to fight for their very last car, a compact beer can on wheels. Well, I was here now. Maybe I could plan a workup of what the club was like after-hours and get a fresh feel for the place without bodies before I started the improvement assessment for Gerry.
A rivulet of water managed to sneak under the collar of my jacket, sending a frisson of cold down my spine.
Yeah, this weather sucked.
I knocked harder. Surely the staff remained behind to clean up. I thought I heard music. After standing another minute in slushy rain, I pushed on the door, surprised when it opened.
Once inside, I felt instantly warmer and wandered down a darkened hall to the low hum of music and the dim glow of lights.
Stripping out of my sodden jacket, I carried it to the nearest bar, looking for a hint of anyone present.
My only answer was the muted thrum of house music pulsing through surround sound speakers. Someone had been cleaning, I noted, seeing the massive trash bins staged at various points in the overlarge room. The smell of stale beer lingered in the air, mixed with a hint of citrus cleanser that made the stench almost pleasant.
Chrome tables and matching chairs with neon colored cushions littered the main floor that surrounded the dance area. Throughout the room, several higher platforms housed booths and tables, likely designed to hint at exclusivity.
I spied a second bar across the room, gathered my jacket, and approached it, looking around for someone to talk to. This area appeared recently cleaned, the countertops shining and devoid of debris. Leaving my sopping jacket and satchel on a bar stool obscured by the counter, I kept looking around.
Someone had to still be here. I looked for signs of life and noticed a door reading Employees Only cracked open. Much as I longed to go to the hotel and deal with this later, I needed to find out who had left the doors unlocked and the floor unattended.
I entered cautiously, feeling like the dim-witted victim in a horror movie who searches an abandoned warehouse only to find death in the arms of a deranged serial killer. I despised those films for portraying the victims as so hopelessly stupid. But as I descended step after step, I wondered at my own intelligence.
Maybe I should just come back tomorrow.
My footsteps sounded like thunder on the cold concrete of the basement floor, and I hesitated as I reached the end of the stairwell light’s reach.
“Hello? Is anyone here?” I flicked the light switch at the bottom of the stairs, not surprised when nothing happened. “Damn.”
Gerry could deal with the absent employee tomorrow. There was no way I was going to tramp around a dark basement, especially one that felt this eerie. I swore I could feel someone, or something, watching me from the dark.
I’m outta here. I turned around and put one foot on the steps when the stairway light flickered and died. Goosebumps crawled over my skin, making me shiver with more than just cold.
Reaching for the railing, I had ascended the second step when a hand settled hard over my shoulder, pulling me back into a large and rock solid body.
I shrieked and flailed, trying to free myself from the strong arms suddenly caging me like a constrictor against a steel-hard frame.
“Hold,” a deep voice growled against my ear.
I immediately froze, my heart beating a mile a minute. My breath caught as the arms around me loosened. A hand tugged at my wet hair, then trailed over my face and down my chest, lingering over my breasts.
What the hell?
I tried to yank myself from his grasp, terror gripping me hard, yet he continued to pat me down, his touch impersonal, which should have made me feel better but didn’t. His hands felt uncomfortably warm, stirring both fear and a curious ache in my body that made absolutely no sense.
I had never been into creepy foreplay with strangers. Fear didn’t turn me on; it freaked me out.
“Didn’t I tell you not to come back here?” the man holding me asked. “I’m not your plaything.” His hands returned to my breasts and tightened almost painfully. Odd, but his tight grip only excited me further.
As his words dawned, I took a deep breath and sought control over my off-kilter emotions. Okay, so the guy wasn’t some psycho killer. He thought he knew me. Still, he was a little grabby for my tastes…no matter how my body reacted.
“Look, there’s been some misunderstanding. I don’t know who you are, but the owner invited me here.”
His hands slowly left my body, grazing my nipples and shooting sparks through my already overloaded senses, and he stepped back. I turned cautiously, ready to run at any moment. A sudden light lit the room, and I blinked at the glare of flame in his hand. If I hadn’t known better, I’d swear his fingers were on fire. He cursed, and I looked up at his face, finally seeing my captor.
All thoughts of fingers on fire vanished.
My eyes widened as they took in the dark-haired Adonis standing before me. Black hair grazed his shoulders, framing a face steeped in sensuality. Fathomless dark eyes gazed at me, giving me a thorough once-over from my head to my toes. Yet his study wasn’t the least bit leering. It was full of male speculation and downright tempting.
Whoa. Stranger danger! Where the hell had my caution gone?
I took a subtle step back, unable to stop staring at him. The man had arresting features, from his straight, aristocratic nose to his stubborn, squared jaw. And his body—tall and muscled—would have been right at home as the cover for any muscle magazine.
“You aren’t Janet.” His voice oozed sex appeal, dark and husky, like the rumble of thunder that passed overhead.
“No, I’m not.” Adrenaline made my heart thump, as much from the fright he’d given me as from his luring attractiveness.
He sighed and lowered the light he held. “Sorry. I thought you were someone else.”
“Obviously,” I muttered then sneezed.
His full lips quirked into a smile, and my heart beat double-time.
“As you can tell, the basement lights are out due to the storm. We should head upstairs, where you can introduce yourself and explain what you were doing down here.” He nodded to the stairs behind me, his words clearly an order rather than a suggestion.
But I didn’t care. I wanted heat and distance from the stranger rousing my sleeping sex drive. I turned and hurried up the steps but felt his gaze on my back like a physical caress.
Crap on a cracker, I’m losing it.
I reminded herself that too little sleep and this weather had made a muck of my sensibility. Stiffening my spine as I entered the warm—and lit—atmosphere of the club once more, I headed for my things behind the bar and turned once I had a firm grip on my satchel.
I hadn’t heard him move and gasped to find him standing right behind me. Had this guy never heard of personal space? I didn’t mean to but my throat was dry, and I audibly swallowed my nerves.
Was it me, or did he seem even taller than the six-four I’d earlier estimated? “I’m Samantha Brooks, the assessor Gerry Barnham hired. I take it you work here.”
“Let’s see some ID, sweetheart.”
Sweetheart? Oh my God. He’ll be lucky if I don’t punch him in the throat.