Anjali juggled the sacks of groceries in her arms and unlocked the door of her Upper East Side Apartment. When she saw the man sitting on her couch, a yelp escaped her lips, and the sacks tumbled to the ground.
“Good morning, Anjali,” he said with a slight European accent. “Need some help?”
She fumbled for the canister of pepper spray on her key ring. “Who the hell are you, and what the fuck are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to see you.” He flashed a dazzling smile that almost made her want to lower the pepper spray and drag him back to her bedroom. Gorgeous didn’t begin to describe him. Straight black hair surrounded his face, the blunt angles of the cut complimenting the sharp curves his cheekbones and the straight line of his nose. A few strands fell in front of eyes that seemed so dark they looked black from where she stood.
“I’m not in the habit of having strangers break into my apartment and then serving them tea.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell phone. “I’m going to call the cops if you aren’t out of here in one minute.”
He stood and approached her like a leopard stalking his prey—dangerous, yet beautiful in a brown leather jacket, T-shirt and faded jeans that molded his body like a glove. His dark eyes locked with hers. A feline grin spread on his lips. He seemed to be daring her to carry out her threats. “Come inside, and let’s talk.”
His voice washed over her and burrowed deep into her mind. Lust replaced fear. How long had it been since she’d been with a man? Her hand trembled.
His smile widened as her resistance crumbled, and he gently pushed her arm down. A jolt ripped through her body, gathering in the pit of her stomach. His breath tickled her neck as he leaned forward. “Please,” he whispered in her ear. “You’re beginning to make me feel unwelcome.”
A new wave of anger surged through her, and she squeezed the nozzle of her pepper spray, aiming for his eyes. A cry of outrage echoed through the room. She bolted past him. Her fingers dialed 911. Just before she hit the Send button, he yanked the phone from her hand and threw it into her bedroom.
“That was rather rude of you.” His black eyes flashed red, and a new wave of fear coursed through her. Whatever he was, he wasn’t human.
“Then you’re going to hate this.” Her knee landed squarely in his groin, and a grunt of pain escaped his lips.
Anjali ran into her bedroom to retrieve her phone. Forget the police. She was calling the Foundation on this one. They knew how to handle these kinds of things. She snatched it off the bed and ran for the door.
He blocked the doorway, preventing her escape. “There’s no need to piss me off, Anjali, not when I came here to ask for your help.”
She feinted to the left, hoping he’d fall for it and she could squeeze past him. He didn’t waver. Now she wished she had qualified for vampire hunter training. At least they would have taught her a few self-defense moves.
Was it just her imagination, or did he seem to grow in size, almost filling the narrow doorway. She backed away and eyed the fire escape. “What do you want?”
“I told you. I want your help on a certain matter involving demons.”
Warning bells pealed in her mind. Only a few people knew she was a demon hunter, and he definitely wasn’t one of them. “What makes you think I can help you?”
The cocky son of a bitch had the nerve to laugh at her. “Let’s just say I’ve seen your work.”
“You’ve been stalking me?”
“Stalking is such an ugly word. More like investigating you.” He turned sideways and indicated that she go into the living room. “Please, let’s discuss this like civilized people.”
“You broke into my apartment. You admit to stalking me. And now you want me to sit and chat with you like we’re old friends?”
“More like business acquaintances.” But the way his eyes flickered over her body told her his thoughts wandered in a different direction than purely business.
A flush crawled over her skin. Anjali wondered what kind of appeal she held for him. She was just some skinny Punjabi with a nose that was too big for her face. Yet he looked at her as if she could be a Bollywood pin-up girl. Her nipples hardened under his stare, and she crossed her arms over her chest to cover them. His smirk told her she was a few seconds too late.
“You have five minutes.” She flipped her phone open and began texting the Foundation about the stranger in her house as she followed him into her living room.
“You know I’ll be gone before they get here.”
A silent curse hissed in her mind. So he was not only inhumanly gorgeous but had eyes in the back of his head too?
“Let’s discuss logic for a moment, and maybe that will help put your mind at ease.” He stopped inches from her and placed his hands on her shoulders. Instead of repulsion, a calming wave of reassurance
passed through her. “I need your help. A dead or injured demon hunter is useless to me. I’m not going to harm you in anyway.”
Her sex clenched from his silky words. “I’m not worried about you killing me.”
“Then why do you act like a scared little rabbit?” He tucked a strand of her black hair behind her ear. “I’m not that intimidating, am I?”
Intimidation had nothing to do with it. Tempting would be more appropriate. Her panties grew damp as she imagined his lips on her skin. Damn, she wanted him, but she refused to let him know that. She shrugged his hands off. “The clock’s ticking.”
“Of course. Shall we sit?” He sank back into her couch.
She took a seat on the edge of the chair across the room. With a little distance between them, her mind cleared, even though her sex still throbbed when she crossed her legs. “So, what makes you think you need my help with anything, Mr.…?”
“Vassago. But please, call me Will.” He flashed another one of his dazzling smiles.
“Answer my question.”
His smile fell, and his posture stiffened. “Very well. I’m trying to find a demon that’s gotten loose in Manhattan. Normally, I wouldn’t need help, but this is a—um, special case.”
“Special in what way? Do you want to capture it and use it for something?”
“No, I want to capture it and send it back where it came from.”
“And what makes you think you can do that?”
He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “Let’s just say I have connections.”
A few minutes without his charm at full wattage restored her confidence. She mirrored his posture. “Mr. Vassago, as much as you’d like my help, I’m afraid I’m already contracted and cannot take on any more work without my employer’s permission.” There. That ought to cool him down and get him out of my place.
“So I’d need to speak to someone at the Kavanaugh Foundation first?”
Her breath hitched. Shit, if he knew about the Foundation… “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t lie to me, darling. I’ve already told you that I’ve been studying you.” He stood and closed the space between them. “I know what you do, where you work and what your abilities are.” She froze as he traced the line of her jaw with his finger. “I even know your favorite flavor of ice cream.”
“What the fuck are you?” Rage curled in the pit of her stomach and fueled the magic in her veins. She may be a sorry excuse for a witch, but she could definitely summon a spell that would get her message across in a language even Mr. Stalker would understand.
“I’m not someone to be trifled with.” He slid his finger off her face. “If I need to ask the Foundation for permission to hire you, I will. Until then, I looked forward to working with you.”
He turned on his heel and strolled across the room, allowing her ample viewing time of his tight ass. Just before he got to door, he paused in front of a painting. “I like this one,” he said and tilted it to the left.
A shudder ripped through her like someone had just scraped his fingernails down a chalkboard. She released her breath slowly through her teeth and wished her heart wouldn’t pound so loudly in her ears. As soon as he left her apartment, she straightened the painting. Then she dialed the Foundation. They needed to know about him ASAP.
While the phone rang, an annoying voice in her head whispered over and over again that she hoped this wouldn’t be the last encounter with Will Vassago. Her body liked him far more than her mind cared to admit. She secretly wondered if his smooth charm carried over into the bedroom.
Then she glanced at the rest of the pictures in the room. They all hung at the same angle, tilted slightly to the left. Her fingers curled into a fist. Damn him!