It was the location that alerted Marcus to the fact that this wasnâ€™t his world.
A golden sunset filled the sky directly before him, the sun slowly sinking into the infinite ocean, its light rippling on the water and sparkling like diamonds. The soft sound of waves gently breaking against the pristine white sandy shore filled the silence along with the rustling of the swaying palm trees in the light refreshing breeze that came from the sea, carrying a salty tang and her fragrance.
She sat on a chipped white metal pole that created a railing along the seafront, separating the sun-bleached wooden boardwalk from the sand, her back to him and shoulder-length dark hair dancing as the breeze caught it.
The sound of the ocean and the warm breeze soothed away the anger he felt over Taylor and Einarâ€™s trick on him. They had sent him into Ameliaâ€™s inner world rather than to his own. He would have a word with his old friend when he woke. This wasnâ€™t allowing things to progress naturally at all. This was matchmaking.
Marcus walked across the boardwalk to Amelia and leaned his elbows on the metal railing that ran at waist height to him. Amelia didnâ€™t look down at him. She continued to stare into the distance, her skin glowing in the warm light of sunset and her hair threaded with golden highlights. Marcus drank his fill of her beauty, taking his time to put her face to memory as it looked in this moment. A slight smile played on her lips, shining in her eyes, and he knew without asking that she was happy here.
It was definitely her world.
But it wasnâ€™t her happiness that gave it away.
He hated sand.
It got in his feathers.
He looked down at himself and shook his head when he saw that he was only wearing a pair of loose black swimming shorts. That wasnâ€™t going to happen either. Water was a pain to get out of his feathers, worse than sand, and for some reason his wings were out and he couldnâ€™t convince them to go away.
Were they out because Amelia wanted to see him this way? This was her world which meant that in part she was controlling it, and controlling him too.
When he turned to ask her about his wings and whether she wanted to see them, his gaze caught on the skimpy black bikini top she wore. He stared unabashed at the flimsy triangles of material barely covering her breasts, his stomach tightening and temperature rising, and then slowly lowered his eyes to her hips. A short black near-see-through strip of material covered her from waist to just past her backside, tied on her hip closest to him. The light fabric fluttered in the breeze, revealing her creamy slender thigh.
â€œItâ€™s peaceful here,â€ she said, distant sounding. â€œAm I dreaming?â€
Marcus forced his focus back up to her face. â€œI do not think so. We are both awake. Taylor can make a world in which we can hide but I am not sure how long it can last.â€
â€œIâ€™m scared, Marcus,â€ she whispered and her grey eyes finally came to meet his.
â€œOf me?â€ He wasnâ€™t sure why he said it. The gnawing feeling that she feared him now had lingered at the back of his mind since he had rescued her from the Hellâ€™s angels and revealed his true self to her, but he hadnâ€™t intended to say anything about it. Her look instantly softened, warming again, and she smiled.
â€œNo. Youâ€™re the only thing that doesnâ€™t frighten me.â€ She went to touch him but he shifted to one side, enough that her attempt failed, and stared at the ocean.
How could she look on him so kindly and with such compassion? She had seen him fight those Hellâ€™s angels, had witnessed him kill without hesitation and had been covered in blood because of him. He had shown his darkest side to her and she still looked at him with warmth in her grey eyes. It astounded him and drove him to question her, to confess the things that he had done and the reason he had warned her away from him. Need burned deep in his heart, a desire to know if she really could feel something for a man like him.
â€œI am a guardianâ€¦ but there are times when I have been a warriorâ€¦â€ Marcus couldnâ€™t bring himself to look at her. He clenched his fists and stared intently at the sunset, afraid of what he would see if he turned to face Amelia. Would she look upon him with such warmth after his confession? He didnâ€™t think so, and while he wanted to stop now before he ruined everything between them, the greater part of him needed her to know what sort of man he was and why he felt he didnâ€™t deserve the love of such a pure and beautiful woman. She might have managed to convince herself that he had only done what was right when he had killed those demons in front of her but she had feared him at the time. He knew that. He had frightened her. Now he had to do that again so she would know him, and he would see in her eyes and hear in her voice whether she could ever bring herself to love him. â€œA bringer of death. I am not a good man, Amelia. I have killed many without remorseâ€¦ hundredsâ€¦ if not thousands.â€
He uncurled his hands and stared at his palms. Hands made for killing in the name of Heaven. He had followed those orders without question, obeying his superiors, loyal to his duty and happy to carry it out. Not once in his life had he regretted the things he had done. Not until he had met her, and then he had wished it all away.
He had wanted to be a better man so she would love him.
He could see that now. For all his attempts to remain distant from her, he had fallen for her, but new to the experience, he had not realised his feelings until she had first touched him, thrilling him with little more than a brief caress and bringing him to life with emotions he had never known existed.
â€œIf youâ€™ve killed, then I believe you did so out of loyalty, just as Einar said about you. You killed to protect others, and to protect me. I canâ€™t offer you absolution, Marcus, but I can forgive you for killing others in order to protect me. You are a good man. I believe that.â€
Marcus looked up to find her watching him, her grey eyes not full of icy cold or hatred, but full of the warmth and tenderness that had been in her words. There was no fear in her, only a calm that he knew was real and it touched him, warming his chest and making him crave a stronger connection to her. She smiled, twisted towards him, still holding on to the railing she sat on with her left hand, and stroked the unruly strands of his hair from his face.
And he stared at her.
Awed and transfixed by the beautiful acceptance she showed towards him.
For her, he could be a good man. He could be the man that she deserved.
â€œWas that why you stopped me the other night when we kissed, or was it because youâ€™re an angel and it was wrong?â€ She lowered her hand from his face.
â€œNo.â€ His eyes followed her hand, leapt to her thigh, and then he lifted them to her face again.
There was such understanding in her eyes.
â€œWas it because youâ€™ve never been with a woman?â€
Marcus exhaled and stared out to sea. The sun had set and a full moon was rising in its place, beautiful as it hung over the darkening ocean.
â€œEinar told you?â€
Amelia made a small noise and then touched his hands where they were clasped together in front of him. He looked up at her, wanting to explain and needing to ask her not to believe him any less of a man because of it, and she dipped her head towards him. She kissed him before he could utter a word, her lips soft against his, slowly shifting in mesmerising waves that drew him into responding. He leaned into the kiss, eager to taste her again and believe that this was another good sign. When she broke away, briefly resting her forehead against his before sitting up, she was smiling at him.
â€œI think itâ€™s beautiful that you waited so long,â€ she whispered and his heart leapt in response, turning his insides with it. He stared up at her, torn between kissing her again and saying something that would bring another smile to her face.
â€œI never really thought about it. I never cared about mortals.â€ Marcus straightened and then cupped her cheek, keeping her eyes on his. â€œBut I care about you.â€
Ameliaâ€™s smile was brilliant and he thought that she would kiss him, but she slipped down from the railing on the other side, landing softly in the sand.
A mixture of light from the strings of white lights that hung between the palm trees, illuminating the boardwalk, and the moon played on her, turning her skin pale and eyes dark. It had turned dark quickly and the moon was far higher in the inky sky now. How long had the kiss lasted? It had felt like barely a heartbeat had passed but it must have been close to an hour.
She crooked a finger at him.
â€œI think we should swim.â€
Marcus warily eyed the sand and then the water. â€œUnwise. I donâ€™t seem to be able to put my wings away.â€
She looked at them and his eyes widened when they shrank into his back.
â€œNo excuses.â€ She reached over the railing to him.
Marcus vaulted it and looked down at the warm sand beneath his bare feet. Amelia laughed and ran down to the sea, leaving footprints in the soft sand for him to follow. He hoped his wings didnâ€™t reappear. Just as he looked up, Amelia untied the slip of black material around her waist and tossed it aside.
A deep pulse of arousal beat through him at the sight of her in such a small scrap of fabric. Her bikini bottoms didnâ€™t cover her buttocks at all. A single dark line disappeared between them, leaving them on display. Hell. His groin responded in an instant, cock twitching against the loose swimming trunks. He had been intent on mentioning that he couldnâ€™t swim but the thought of playing with her in the shallows and seeing her wet all over had him striding towards the sea.
She smiled and crooked her finger again, and Marcus could only obey. He followed her into the shallows and then hesitated as a gentle wave came rolling in and the dark water reached his waist. The current wasnâ€™t strong but he didnâ€™t dare venture further out. Taylor hadnâ€™t mentioned what would happen if one of them got into trouble inside this world. Would his consciousness be trapped here if he drowned?
Amelia took hold of his wrist and tried to tug him into deeper water. He stood firm and she frowned.
â€œYou canâ€™t swim, can you?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. I have never tried.â€ He might be able to swim. Angels sometimes remembered how to do things that they had experienced in a previous lifetime. If he had known how to swim then, he could instinctively remember it now, but he wasnâ€™t willing to risk drowning in order to find out.
It didnâ€™t seem to bother Amelia. She splashed his bare chest and face, and he responded by sweeping his arm across the warm water, sending a wave rushing towards her. She ducked under the surface and the water settled around him, lapping at his waist. He turned on the spot, searching for Amelia. When she didnâ€™t surface after a few seconds, his pulse picked up and he waded further out, fearing that something had happened.
Something brushed his backside and he turned sharply, causing ripples to spread outwards from his chest. His senses blared in warning but he wasnâ€™t quick enough. Amelia launched out of the water, looped her arms around his neck and her legs around his hips. Her playful attack caused his heels to dig into the soft wet sand under his feet and he fell backwards, sending them both underwater.
It went straight into his mouth and stung his eyes.
He broke the surface a split-second later, coughing the vile water up, and Amelia re-emerged, her sheepish smile visible in the strong moonlight.
She swam towards him and then around him, and his anger faded away when she came to stand behind him and stroked his back.
â€œTheyâ€™re beautiful. Are they really a curse?â€ she whispered, her warm fingertips tracing the wings marked on his shoulder blades.
Marcus stilled, his focus so intently fixed on her that every light touch stirred his insides, fanning his desire for her. Her breath washed over his wet skin, teasing it and he closed his eyes, wanting to absorb how he felt when she was so close to him. Warm. Hungry. Mad for her.
â€œApparently so,â€ he said and she came around him. He caught her bare waist and drew her flush against him. She surprised him by taking hold of his shoulders, lifting herself up and wrapping her legs around his waist. He groaned and clutched her backside to support her, and then remembered the flimsy thing she was wearing on her lower half. He pressed his fingers into her bare bottom and groaned again, his body stirring and aching as he familiarised himself with her soft flesh.
â€œHow did you get them?â€ Amelia leaned in and peppered his shoulder with kisses, gradually working her way along towards his collarbone and then his neck. He couldnâ€™t think straight to answer her when she was touching him like this. It seemed like torture to have to think at all. She placed a single wet kiss on his jaw and then leaned back and rested her hands on his chest. Her pupils were wide in the low light, darkening her eyes, and he stared into them. â€œWell?â€
She really expected him to answer.
â€œI got drunk and when I came around, I was sleeping face down and couldnâ€™t call my wings. Heaven called me back to them and I discovered that someone had drawn this curse on me whilst I was unconscious.â€
Her hands ran up his chest to his shoulders and then she leaned towards him and caressed his shoulder blades, her breasts pressing against him.
He murmured his agreement and stared at her mouth.
â€œIt explains why you didnâ€™t want to drink the wine. And youâ€™re really an angel?â€ Her eyes searched his.
She glanced away and a sense of sorrow flowed through him. He frowned and ducked to one side, trying to see her face so he could understand the sudden change in her emotions. Her gaze met his and the edge of hurt in it compelled him to comfort her even though he wasnâ€™t sure what was wrong.
â€œWhat is it?â€ he whispered, his brow furrowing as he waited for her to speak.
â€œEinar said that you arenâ€™t omniscientâ€¦ or some fancy wordâ€¦ that you couldnâ€™t have stopped my mother from dyingâ€¦ I wished that you could have.â€
He did too. Watching her grieve had been one of the most difficult trials he had ever endured.
â€œI wish I could have been there for you.â€ He let the confession slip out quietly, unsure of whether it would only hurt her further to know that he had seen her suffering and had done nothing about it.
Amelia rested her head on his shoulder and sighed, her breath skittering over his collarbones. Marcus closed his eyes, leaned his cheek against her forehead, and held her close to him, comforting her in the way he had wanted to then. Waves lapped against them, rocking them back and forth. It had been a long time since he had felt such peace.
â€œI could sleep here, like this. Itâ€™s so hard to sleep these days.â€ Her words were a bare whisper and she sagged against him.
He remembered the couch in her apartment and the blanket. â€œYou havenâ€™t been sleeping well?â€
She shook her head. â€œNot since that break in.â€
Marcus frowned. He hadnâ€™t thought to piece the two together. Her mother had died during a break in and one had occurred in the apartment building they shared. It had frightened her and he hadnâ€™t noticed it. That was why her ex had shaken her up by trying to bang her door down. She had feared him breaking in and hurting her.
He wrapped his arms tighter around her and pressed her close to him, enveloping her slender form in his protective embrace. Desire to call his wings out and wrap those around her too, to cocoon her completely, ran deep in his veins but he held them at bay.
â€œI will never let anything happen to you, Amelia. I promised you that and I mean to keep my word.â€ The hardness in his voice surprised him as much as the intensity of the emotions that beat in his heart at the thought of her coming under attack and being afraid.
He pressed a kiss to her forehead, rested his lips there for a few heartbeats of time, and then drew back. Amelia emerged from his embrace, her eyes sparkling with tears. He kissed away the ones that had fallen onto her cheeks. She raised her head into his kisses, until their lips were a hairâ€™s breadth apart.
â€œYou really are an angel.â€ Her lips brushed his as she spoke, stirring his passion.
When she went to speak again, he swooped on her lips, silencing her. Her words became a quiet moan that sent a shiver through him and he held her closer, one hand supporting her backside and the other splayed between her shoulder blades.
He didnâ€™t want to talk anymore.
He wanted to show her without words how she made him feel, how much he craved her taste and her touch, and that he needed her. He hadnâ€™t promised to keep her safe and protect her because he was an angel. He had made that vow because he was a man, and he cared about her.
Marcus ran his tongue along the seam of her mouth and she opened to him, her tongue coming out to play with his and tease it inside. He slanted his head and claimed her mouth, plundering it with his tongue and drawing another heated groan from her. She shifted against him, pressing closer until her warm body was flush against his, driving him mad with the need to caress every inch of her, to taste her and seek out her sensitive spots with his lips. The water lapped at his waist, knocking against him, and he turned with her and carried her back to the beach.
The moment he was clear of the water, he laid her down on the hard sand and covered her body with his.
Did you enjoy today’s tease?
Caris Roane is also posting a Teaseday snippet, so be sure to check out her blog and read it! http://www.carisroane.com/2013/01/teaseday-the-darkening-2/
A guardian angel dedicated to his duty, Marcus will do whatever Heaven asks of him, but even his loyalty has its limits. When his superior orders him to gain Ameliaâ€™s trust through seduction, Marcus starts to question his mission and his feelings for the beautiful woman he has watched over since her birth.
Amelia has gone from one bad relationship to another, so when a gorgeous guy moves in next door looking like Mr Right, she hopes he doesnâ€™t turn out to be another black knight in disguise. But thereâ€™s more to Marcus than meets the eye, and when he rescues her from three demonic men, Amelia is thrust into his nightmarish worldâ€”a world where God and the Devil exist, and only one angel can save her from deathâ€”Marcus, the angel sheâ€™s falling in love with.
On the run from demonic angels and the Devil himself, aided by Marcusâ€™s angel friends and their amazing women, fighting for survival against the odds, Marcus and Amelia discover a love that will last forever.
A love so strong it will shake Heaven and Hell.
Available in e-book from:
If you haven’t had a chance to read any of the books in the Her Angel romance series yet, they’re all available at major ebook retailers and in paperback, and you can find the links and samples of the books at my website:
Her Dark Angel (Her Angel Romance Series #1)
Her Fallen Angel (Her Angel Romance Series #2)
Her Warrior Angel (Her Angel Romance Series #3)
Her Guardian Angel (Her Angel Romance Series #4)
Her Demonic Angel (Her Angel Romance Series #5)