“The things I’m going to do to you...” He discarded the cotton with a shrug of his shoulders.
He ignored her words, looking her over. “I’ll be very careful with your clothes, so that there’s no sign of a struggle.” He reached down, tugged her shirt and bra over her breasts, baring her to his view, and licked his lips. “Well, well. I never expected you to be so pretty here.”
The tears cascaded down her cheeks, burning. “Please.” The room was growing darker by the second.
“Hmmm, I do like when you beg.” He unsnapped the waist of her jeans, slowly lowered the zipper.
“Why are you doing this?” she whispered, fighting sobs. Darkness...so much darkness...
“Because I want to. Because I can.” She heard the slide of his zipper.
A ferocious bellow suddenly ripped through the entire room, scraping at her ears. Mr. Ritter stiffened—just before his weight was thrown off her.
Nicola blinked, light returning. She saw her boss across the room, plaster and dust forming a cloud around him.
“I grant you battle rights to the demon,” a familiar voice snapped, and then Koldo was leaning over her, cutting her loose, righting her clothing. His big, strong hands were gentle, comforting. “But the human is mine.”
He was here.
He had saved her.
The sobs finally battled their way free, and she threw her arms around his neck, holding him as tightly as she possibly could.
“Are you all right?” he asked in a soft voice.
She tried to reply, but she was choking, gasping, and couldn’t work out a single word.
He lifted her against his chest, anchoring her with one hand and righting the chair she’d vacated with the other. He placed her in the seat and tried to straighten, but she maintained her grip.
He knelt in front of her and cupped her cheeks, forcing her to face him. “What was done to you, Nicola?”
Somehow, she found her voice. “He...he...tried to...was going to...”
A hard gleam in his eyes as he said, “But he didn’t?”
“I know you gave me rights, but I will bow to your desires. What would you prefer I do?” an unfamiliar male asked. “Capture or destroy?”
“Destroy,” Koldo replied, and with the word, whatever tether he had on his control must have snapped. He straightened, every inch of him vibrating with aggression, and stomped over to Mr. Ritter.
One punch. Two. Three. Four. There were no pauses. No stopping to issue a taunt. Koldo simply unloaded, his fists pounding into her boss’s face. Blood sprayed in every direction. The sound of breaking bone echoed.
The brutality of the act stunned her. She’d never seen such focused rage.
Her gaze slid in the other, unfamiliar man’s direction. He was the same size as Koldo, and sweet mercy, he was beautiful. So blond and tan and, wow, he had some big baby blues. But what truly snagged her attention were the huge, feathery wings arching over his shoulders and swooping all the way to the floor.
I grant you battle rights to the demon, Koldo had said.
Angels fought demons. Right? So...yes, he had to be an angel.
The winged male picked up speed as he chased the monkey—the demon—through the room, his image blurring. He swung two menacing swords, papers floating from the desk to the ground. Files scattered, and furniture was toppled over. Finally, though, his blades slicked through the monkey’s fur—right across his throat. The head separated from the body, and both toppled to the ground. Black mist rose from the pieces...pieces now sizzling, burning to ash.
Ash that danced through the air, curling up, up and away.
He tossed the blood-soaked swords behind him, and as they vanished, frowned at Koldo. “Hey, that’s enough,” he said.
Mr. Ritter was too busy dying to weigh in with his opinion.
The winged male threw his arms around Koldo’s middle, trapping him against his chest. Koldo jerked free and spun, his expression cold and menacing, his teeth longer and sharper than she’d ever seen them. He clearly intended to bite the other man, perhaps even to rip his head off.
Somehow, he caught himself in time. Just before contact, he shut his mouth. But he was moving too quickly to stop altogether, and his cheek slammed into the other guy’s chin, sending him stumbling backward. When the blond straightened, the two faced each other.
“You can’t kill him,” the blond snarled. “I did us both a favor.”
There was something about his voice...something that caused Nicola to flinch. A purity she’d never before heard. A compulsion to believe him, whatever he said.
Otherworldly blue eyes narrowed with determined calculation. “Fine. You finish with the male, and risk ruining us all, and I’ll take care of the female.”
A second later, Koldo was standing in front of her, yet he’d never taken a step. His heat quickly enveloped her, and his comforting scent followed suit. “You won’t touch her.”
The blond nodded as though disappointed, but he couldn’t hide the twitching of his lips. Clearly, he was now amused.
He leaned down and wrapped his big hand around Mr. Ritter’s neck and lifted him off the floor. Her boss was unconscious, his face nothing but blood and pulp. His eyes were swollen shut, his nose flattened against his cheek, and his lip slit in multiple places.
“What are his crimes?” the blond asked her.
Koldo reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder, offering comfort.
“He videos girls going to the bathroom,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around her middle. At least she could cross concussion off the list. Her eyesight was fine, her stomach calming. “He tied me up. He touched me. He was going to... Was happy about...”
A growl erupted from Koldo. Those too-sharp teeth were once again bared. His nostrils flared with his every breath, and his muscles knotted, seeming to expand. “You will give him to me and walk away, Thane.”
“Hardly,” the male—Thane—retorted. “I told you. You’ve done enough. I’ll take him to the human authorities.”
Nicola studied Koldo more intently. He might skirt the edge of savage right now, but his image was her lifeline to sanity. He wore a long, white robe, just like the other guy, but there were no wings stretching from his back.
He couldn’t be an angel, then. So...what was he? And why wasn’t he covered in Mr. Ritter’s blood? There wasn’t a single crimson speck on him.
“I can’t allow you to break Zacharel’s golden rule,” Thane added.
“I will gladly break the rule,” he snarled, every word edging closer to murderous.
“Koldo,” Nicola whispered. She didn’t want him in trouble over this.
Instantly the warrior spun back to face her, flickers of concern in his golden eyes. “Yes?”
“I want to go home. Will you...please open...the door?” Her chin began another round of trembling, not from tears, not this time, but from cold. Despite the warrior’s heat, ice was crystallizing in her veins, shock giving way to a heavy realization. After this, her life would never again be the same.
“He somehow locked the office from the inside,” she added, “and I couldn’t get the door to budge.”
Rage contorted his features, but his voice was tender as he said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner.”
“Please, don’t be—” She pressed her lips together, and her heart skipped a beat as she remembered the words she’d offered to Mr. Ritter.... Please, don’t do this.... Yet he had spurned her. Laughed.
“I’ll take you home,” Koldo replied, and she almost slumped over with a new tide of relief.
“Find the proof of the cameras,” Koldo told Thane, “and make sure the authorities learn of his crimes. All of his crimes. If he isn’t locked up by morning, make no mistake, I’ll return and finish what I started.”
“Of course. By the way,” the other male said, “Zacharel just spoke inside my head.”
“So you know we’re free of each other.”
“And that the girl is now my charge. Yes.”
“Makes sense,” Thane said. “You know when she’s in trouble.”
“Until the next battle, warrior.” Thane spread his wings and catapulted through the air with Mr. Ritter clutched at his side.
HIS CHARGE, KOLDO THOUGHT. Nicola’s actions were now his. If she killed a human, he would be held accountable. If a demon killed her, it would be as if he had delivered the deathblow himself.
Their lives were now irrevocably tied together.
As Koldo’s commander, Zacharel had the authority to place someone, anyone, in Koldo’s care. Just as Germanus had the authority to place Koldo in Zacharel’s care. But why had Zacharel done this to him? What could the Elite warrior possibly hope to gain?
Whatever the answers, Koldo would have to question Zacharel later. Right now, he wanted the shell-shocked Nicola tucked safely away. And he reeeally needed to rein in his temper.
As gently as possible, he tugged the trembling Nicola to her feet and into his arms. “Close your eyes.” He could flash whatever he held, and was thus able to take her home with only a thought. One moment they were in the office, the next they were in the center of her living room.
His arms fell from around her, and she stumbled backward. When she righted, her gaze caught on the familiar surroundings of her living room and her jaw dropped.
“I’m home. But how did... We never took a step and...only a second passed!”
“It’s called a flash. It’s what I’ve done every time I’ve arrived and left you. This time, I brought you with me.”