“No more questions,” he said, looking away. His gaze landed on Nicola, perched next to her sister in front of the kitchen window, gazing out. She waved, unabashed at being caught staring. He swallowed a curse.

Desire wasn’t supposed to hurt. Was it?

THOUGH THE TIME ZONES were off, Koldo knew when Monday morning dawned in Kansas, and flashed Nicola and Laila to the rear of the Estellä building. The girls hadn’t wanted to be parted, and he’d liked the idea of having them both in the same location.

He materialized in the natural realm and walked the pair from the alley to the front door.

“You won’t grant my request and quit?” he asked Nicola. “Even though it’s dangerous here?”

“Because she won’t always have you, but she’ll always need the job,” Laila answered.

He...had no protest, he realized. He planned to keep Nicola, but he was as uncertain about his future as any human. Actually, his was more uncertain than most.

“Very well,” he replied, because really, there was nothing else to say. He stomped inside and into the confines of the elevator.

There were two other males in the tiny cart, and they pressed themselves against the far wall, getting as far away from him as they could. He forced his scowl to ease before the pair began screaming for aid.

“Don’t look at the women, and you’ll be fine,” he said.

Nicola’s sweet perfume wafted around him, and his anger with her was lost to another punch of arousal. At what point would his body just shut down, the desire for this woman too much to endure? How was he supposed to ease her into making love without killing himself?

She leaned into him and whispered, “The last time we were in an elevator together, I wanted to sniff your neck.”

He sucked in a breath. She really was going to kill him.

“I wonder how you would have reacted.”

Laila gagged. “If you guys get any more lovey-dovey, I’m going to puke.”

Nicola slapped her on the arm. Laila slapped her back, and the two erupted into a childish fight and a fit of giggles.

The elevator dinged, and the doors slid open. The men raced out, and the girls ceased their antics, acting as if they’d never attacked each other. Silly humans. But their play lightened his mood. Oh, to have a playmate.

He wasn’t sure whether or not Axel had slept with Laila again last night, but either way, her color was better, and there was a bounce to her step.

Koldo wanted to put that same bounce in Nicola’s step.

He took her hand—soft, delicate—and ushered her to her office. Jamila sat at one of the desks out front, dressed in a tight black dress, her dark hair piled on top of her head. Sirena was nowhere to be found.

Guard her, he projected into the Sent One’s mind. An ability he was more and more comfortable using, he realized. Anything for Nicola’s safety. With your life.

He yearned to kiss Nicola goodbye, but couldn’t allow himself the luxury. At the moment of contact, he would convince himself it would be okay to take things further. Already his muscles were knotted. His blood was fever-hot. His palms itched.

“I’ll be back,” he growled, and didn’t wait for Nicola’s reply. Her expression was one of confusion, but now wasn’t the time to explain his thoughts—and if he tried, he would only make things worse.

The moment he cleared the doorway, he entered the spirit realm. He stalked through the entire building, searching for unattached demons and lurking Nefas. He found neither.

He should have forced Nicola to quit, but...he couldn’t bring himself to argue with her. He didn’t want her mind on his stubbornness, didn’t want her to think he was mean. How ridiculous was that? He was mean.

He just, he wanted her focused on her healing.

And that wasn’t an attempt to buy her affection, he told himself. Even though, every time she looked at him with those big stormy eyes, he experienced a desperate urge to hand her the world.

He materialized in the natural before pushing through the door to the accounting offices. Jamila was exactly where he’d left her, but now, Sirena was also in place. Sirena, meaning temptress. And she was certainly that—for other men. She was the girl who had slept with Dex. The girl of questionable origins.

It was time to talk to her, and find out what she had planned.

When he loomed in front of her desk, she glanced up from polishing her nails. “Well, hello there, gorgeous.” Her bold gaze perused him from head to toe, lingering on his chest, between his legs, making him feel like a piece of meat. “You decided to return. I’m glad.”

He flattened his hands beside her keyboard and leaned forward. “What are you?”

A sultry grin revealed a mouthful of pearly whites. “What do you want me to be?”

The pale haired, blue-eyed vixen failed to tempt him in any way, even though she would have been a more appropriate choice for his mate. Though she was small, she was stronger than a human, with a greater muscle tone hidden underneath her bulky clothes. He wouldn’t break her, and her health wouldn’t fail.

She bopped the tip of his nose with a fingernail. “Do I?”

He’d always resented the fact that he couldn’t taste another’s lies. “You do.”

“Maybe I do.” A pause as she returned the lid to the polish. “You’re Koldo, aren’t you? The Sent One with a will of steel and a fist as hard as iron. I’ve been hoping to meet you for a very long time.”

She was here for him, then, not Nicola. Sent by his father? he wondered again. To...what? “I’m a Sent One, yes, but I’m also Nicola’s protector, and I’ll destroy anyone who thinks to hurt her to get to me.”

“Well, you’re not doing a very good job with your protecting duties,” she announced, and tsked. “I could have killed her at any time. And I wanted to, I admit it. Resisting has proven difficult.”

A flicker of rage practically burned a hole in his chest. He could feel his teeth and nails elongating. Control. “You’ve done something to strike at her, haven’t you?”

She flicked her tongue over one overlong canine. “I have, but before I start bragging, you should know I’m the one who raised the false alarm about the demons. I knew you’d return again and again to investigate. And guess what? You have.”

“And you wanted to see me...because?”

“Because we’re destined to be together.” She leaned back and traced a finger between her breasts. “As for what I did to Nicola... I stole her petty cash and doctored a few of her accounts. And she would have been arrested if your precious Jamila hadn’t found out and fixed everything. But don’t worry. I’ll get her next time.”

Destined to be together? He reached out and grabbed the girl by the neck, jerking her into the air. As she yelped, he flashed her to the cavern where he’d kept his mother. Cornelia was now in the other cage he’d built for her, though he hadn’t yet explained things to Nicola.

He’d tried, but had stopped himself. What if she was unable to understand?

He dropped Sirena in the center of the cage and flashed out, behind the bars. She whirled around to face him, her eyes narrowing. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Think? No. Know? Yes. You’ll stay here for a few days. On your own, with nothing to do but ponder how best to appease me. I’ll return and you’ll tell me everything I want to know and probably a thousand things I don’t.”

She raced toward him, trying to reach through the bars and grab him.

Grinning coldly, he flashed back to the office.

But he wasn’t given a chance to speak with Nicola. Axel was there with Jamila, and the two were arguing.

“Whatever you’re planning to do needs to wait,” the warrior said when he spotted Koldo. “I’ve found Nefas tracks just outside this building.”

THE LIGHTS IN NICOLA’S OFFICE flicked off—yet no one stood at the switch.

Laila stopped dancing. “Power go out?” she asked, her voice louder than it should have been as she listened to her iPod.

Nicola returned to the work piled up in front of her. Jamila and Sirena had only done half of what they’d promised, and nothing that had come in since. So utterly useless, she thought.

An instant message popped up on her screen.

What happened Sat? Who was that guy?

Her palms grew damp as she typed:

I’m sorry! Koldo is a guy I met a few weeks ago. We had never dated, but we had—never mind. It’s complicated, and I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true nonetheless. I’m sorry, though. I really am. But now I’m together with him. For sure.

Even though he’d acted like a jerk today, snipping and snapping at her before marching off without any explanation.

The lights flicked back off. On. Off.

Sighing, she propped her elbows on her desk and rested her head in her upraised hands.

On. Off. On. Off.

“Seriously, this is annoying,” Laila said with a tremble to her voice. “And okay, fine, a little scary.”

Nicola never moved, but her phone was suddenly thrown across the room. The device slammed into the wall and shattered, little pieces raining to the floor. Laila yelped and darted in her direction.

Her sister obeyed, gasping out, “What about you?”