Black and Blue
NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY

BESTSELLING AUTHOR

GENA SHOWALTER

"Passion, humor, pulse-pounding action and just plain fun . . . her books are always a refreshing escape!"

--New York Times bestselling author Lara Adrian Applause for the first book in her Otherworld Assassin series

LAST KISS GOODNIGHT

"Showalter kicks off her new Otherworld Assassin series, addressing her signature themes: inner darkness, inner light, and the battles between good and evil waged both between people and within individuals' souls. . . . Her fans will be eager to follow her into new adventures."

--Booklist

"A fast-paced, intense paranormal romance that offers original, dynamic characters, vivid, compelling worldbuilding, and a powerful 'love prevails' narrative."

--Kirkus Reviews

"This dark and edgy novel features two damaged protagonists trapped in a horrific situation with few options. Their growing relationship is tender and touching despite their circumstances and it really strikes a powerful romantic chord. Settle back and enjoy this truly fantastic read!"

--RT Book Reviews

"You get pulled into a dark world. . . . This one goes to the top of my Gena Showalter Personal Favorites list. Now I not so patiently wait for [Black and Blue], the next book in the series."

--Night Owl Reviews

"A hero to die for."

--Under the Covers

And praise for the Alien Huntress series

DARK TASTE OF RAPTURE

"A literal taste of rapture."

--Fresh Fiction

"Showalter consistently creates compelling and action-packed tales where alien creatures are intricately woven into a believable futuristic world. But Dark Taste of Rapture takes it up a notch. . . ."

--RT Book Reviews

ECSTASY IN DARKNESS

"A glued-to-your-seat kind of book . . . Showalter is a master of creating unique, fun, and super-sexy characters."

--RT Book Reviews

SEDUCE THE DARKNESS

"Imaginative and sexy, this story teems with nonstop action!"

--BookPage

"[A] compelling and entertaining story of lust, deception, intrigue. . . ."

--RT Book Reviews

SAVOR ME SLOWLY

"Takes the characters to their sensual and emotional limits--and beyond!"

--New York Times bestselling author Susan Sizemore "Danger and sizzling sensuality are hallmarks of Showalter's style, and they're both here in this latest Alien Huntress novel. Kicking butt and taking names is what these protagonists do best, and they crank up the action quotient for an intense new read!"

--RT Book Reviews

ENSLAVE ME SWEETLY

"A roller-coaster-like adventure. . . . Sizzling romance and nail-biting suspense."

--Booklist

"A terrific tale."

--The Best Reviews

AWAKEN ME DARKLY

"A heady mixture of speculative fiction, romance, and chick lit."

--RT Book Reviews

"Brilliantly written. . . . Sizzles with intrigue. . . ."

--Fresh Fiction

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Acknowledgments

To Lauren McKenna and Elana Cohen--THANK YOU just isn't enough.

And Lauren, this book would not be the same without your insight, for which I will be forever grateful. Working with you has been an honor and a privilege.

To three ladies who make my life better in more ways than I can list: Jill Monroe, Roxanne St. Claire, and Kresley Cole. You carry my heart!

To Diana Peng and Sarah Lieberman for the audio support! You guys are rocking it!

To Elisa Cavassi for the camera fun and awesome photos at RomCon 2013.

Every time I think of you, I smile!

To Casey Harris-Parks and Sheila Hall for the tremendous support. I had a blast, girls.

And to Nathalia Suelle for the amazing cover. It's one of my favorites!

Prologue

CORBIN BLUE TUCKED HIS girlfriend against his side, smiled his patented bedroom smile, and faced the cameras, playing the part of irreverent debaucher to perfection. As usual.

In reality, he was the World's Best Spy and Assassin (trademark pending), with the singular ability to kill everyone around him with only a thought. Too bad mass homicide was not tonight's orders.

Another round of flashbulbs nearly blinded him, and voices assaulted his ears.

"Blue! Noelle! Over here."

"Any wedding bells in your future now that the New World Order has legalized human-otherworlder marriages?"

"Blue, how did it feel when you broke the Mack's spine during last week's game?"

The crowd went silent, willing to wait for his answer this time.

"Like I should have hit him harder," he said. Football was his cover. And the Mack, well, he was the quarterback for the Strikers, the number two-ranked team in the National Otherworld Football League, and collateral damage.

Besides, it wasn't like the guy had suffered for more than a few days. He was an Arcadian, like Blue, and healed supernaturally fast. In fact, the arrogant prick was already back on his feet.

Noelle patted Blue's chest, her gray eyes twinkling mischievously. "Here's hoping for permanent damage next time," she announced in her I-just-want-to-be-naked voice.

While gasps of shock and glee swept through the paparazzi--the sharks had scented blood--Blue ushered Noelle into the crowded hotel ballroom that had been transformed into a twinkling wonderland. Multicolored flowers hung from the ceiling, and black velvet embedded with faux-diamond lights draped the walls.

A collage of perfumes scented the air, mixing with the effervescence of champagne and the aroma of smoked salmon on herbed crackers carried on trays by more than a hundred waiters.

The same conversations Blue had heard a million times echoed.

"Who are you wearing?"

"Did you hear about--" Blah, blah, blah.

Two minutes in, and Operation Lullaby was already boring him.

Come on, people. Let's try a new play on this field. He loved both of his jobs, and he was certainly great at them, but nothing challenged him anymore. Everything came so easily. From missions to ball games . . . to women.

Where was the fun? The excitement? The danger?

"After we've said our hellos"--Noelle swiped a glass of bubbly--"let's sneak into the bathroom and make out."

Can't sigh. He checked his watch. Ten thirty-four. Would he have time for a will-we-won't-we-be-caught quickie? No, probably not. Even though he expected tonight's plan to encounter zero problems, he knew it would be better to act as if the worst could happen.

"Sorry, Elle. That's a no go." To prevent any pushback, he said, "That's not the way we act in public, is it?"

She bowed her head, embarrassment coloring her cheeks. "I guess not."

And the Boyfriend of the Year award does not go to Corbin Blue.

He hated dishing the naughty child treatment to Noelle, but sometimes it was the only way to stop her from inadvertently ruining a mission.

She was a sweet girl, though she practically sprouted fangs and horns when anyone riled her temper. Despite Dr. Sweetness and Miss She-devil, which he actually liked, she wasn't his type. She had no idea she'd been handpicked by his boss and mentor, Michael Black, or that Blue worked for the government and he had stayed with her for the past year only for her connections. She thought they were in love.

Yes, he was a total douche for lying to her. He knew it, and tried to make it up to her with orgasms. "Just wait till we get home . . ." he whispered, hoping to soothe her. He kissed the hollow of her neck before maneuvering her through the crowd.

Smart people stepped out of his way. He had a reputation for causing "unnecessary bloodshed" in a sport lauded for its brutality, and as an Arcadian, one of the most feared races ever to cross a bridge of inter-world wormholes to live on earth, he possessed countless supernatural abilities. Not that the good citizens of the world knew about the majority of those abilities.

Like, say, the fact that he could propel the hotel through the sky if ever he unleashed the power frothing inside him. He could compel certain people to do anything he wanted with only a few spoken words. He could heal others with only a touch, though he had to take their pain inside himself. He could drain others just as easily.

He could do a thousand other things, but only a rare few could actually feel the energy humming inside him.

He scanned the sea of faces, searching for his crew. He spotted John No Last Name first. The golden-skinned Rakan despised crowds, but there he was, dressed in a waiter's frock, offering an older lady a glass of deep-red wine while the woman behind him gave him a good old-fashioned eye-screw.

Aaannnd . . . there was the big and monstrous-looking Solomon Judah standing in front of a set of terrace doors, acting as security. Not even Solo's closest friends knew his origins. They just knew to stay far, far away whenever his dark side took over. He made the Hulk look like a toddler who'd just had his paci taken away.

Blue, John, and Solo had met over two decades ago, after Michael rescued each one from a broken home. Or, in Blue's case, a darkened street. And though they had been given to different families, they'd come together every weekend to train, and quickly bonded. They'd worked together, killed together . . . and, in the end, saved each other. There was no one Blue loved more.

A low, sultry laugh drifted through the kaleidoscope of noise to caress his ears. The blood in his veins heated, surprising him. Interesting him. Muscles knotting with sudden eagerness, he searched the ballroom for the source--there.

Cue the slow-mo special effects. His surroundings blurred, a lone woman becoming the center of his focus. The only thing he noticed. She wasn't facing him fully, but had her side to him. Her dress was sapphire blue, the material clinging to her slender frame until flaring at her feet and trailing behind her like waves in the ocean.

The imagery fit. She was straight-up man bait, and he was already hooked and reeled. Her black-as-night hair curled down her back in long, shimmering ribbons. Pale skin with rosy undertones glowed as if she'd just rolled from bed--not completely satisfied, since she hadn't left his.

Five minutes alone with her. That's all he needed to take her from "not completely" to "utterly."

She was spectacularly animated as she spoke to a blond female in a red dress, her hands waving through the air. Then she turned in his direction, grinning, clearly searching for someone. Her gaze skipped right over him--what the hell?-- as she pointed and the other girl nodded.

The force of her beauty hit him. Followed by her identity. His mouth dried the moment he realized he was lusting after none other than Evangeline Black. Michael's youngest daughter. Early twenties, lovely . . . and completely off-limits.

Blue had known she would be here, among the rich and famous, celebrating eighty years of peace between humans and otherworlders. Earlier, Michael had shown him a picture of her.

Look out for her, but don't touch her, he'd said, his tone sharp. I didn't get to be a father to her while she was growing up, so I'm making up for it now. She is never to be a conquest.

Defile the offspring of a man he respected? Never.

In the picture, she appeared innocent and pretty, so he had no problem assuring Michael of his pure intentions. No problem meaning what he said.

In person, she appeared wanton and gorgeous, and Blue was having trouble catching his breath. Defile? With pleasure.

Apparently, she spent most of her life overseas with her mother, and the last two years secretly training with her father. Tonight was her final lesson. Michael wanted her dropped into the middle of a mission, with only the barest of facts, having only seen photos of her team.

"Oh, no. My mother just spotted me," Noelle muttered, reminding him of her presence. "I've got to hide before she corners me and tells me all the ways I've disappointed her. Join me?"

"I've got to say hello to Michael's daughter," he said, tearing his gaze from the dark-haired girl.

Noelle cringed. "I think you've got it worse. Good luck."

Worse than the devil's twin sister? "Wait." He took his girlfriend by the shoulders. Exactly. You have a girlfriend. Remember that. "You know her?"

"We met the last time I was in Westminster. Let's just say she's unforgettable and leave it at that. Why ruin the surprise?"

Unforgettable wasn't a bad thing. "Outsassed you, did she? Well, I doubt I'll have the same problem. I happen to know how to charm the ladies." A flicker of guilt accompanied the words. If she only knew half the things he'd done . . .

She grinned with wicked anticipation and gave him a little push in Miss Black's direction. "Go charm her, then. Give her everything you've got. You can tell me all about it when we get home--after you've nursed the Blue Ranger and his berry good friends back to health."

No one could be as bad as Elle was leading him to believe.

As she raced away to avoid her mother, Blue homed in on Evangeline. He felt like a hunter who'd just spotted the tastiest of prey. At her side, he noted the scent of honey and almonds wafting from her. The fire in his veins sizzled and smoked.

"--bloody hot," she was saying to the pretty blonde, her accented voice rich and smooth, as much of a caress as her laughter. "I mean it. At least ten guys have mentally stripped you out of your knickers. I'm only surprised you haven't been ticketed for indecent exposure."

The girl giggled behind her hand.

Seizing the opportunity, he said, "Miss Black. I'm--"

She sucked in a breath, the action so inherently sexual his body responded as though she'd stuffed her hand down his pants and gripped his length. Careful.

As her smile melted away, she turned in his direction. Their gazes collided, locked, and he experienced an instant shock of awareness. Her eyes were a rich, chocolate brown, and the longer she looked at him, the more her pupils dilated.

A sign of attraction.

I'm in trouble.

"I know who you are," she finally said, her tone giving nothing away. "You're Corbin Blue. Breaker of spines and hearts. A legend on and off the field. And an absolute, total tool."

A tool. As in strong, reliable. Able to fix any problem. He would assume that's what she meant.

He ran his tongue over his teeth. Charm. Taking her hand--not that she'd offered--he pressed a kiss against her knuckles. Her skin was surprisingly calloused and scarred, yet deliciously warm, and for the first time in his life he actually tingled from contact with another person . . . as if he were a woman overdosing on sappy romantic comedies. He mentally berated himself.

"Please," he gritted. "Call me Blue."

Rose infused her cheeks as she jerked from his hold. "I suppose you may call me Evie."

Formal tone, but oh, that blush . . . or was it a flush of deeper attraction?

Either way, instant hard-on.

You can't go there with this one, remember? Even though Blue was only using Noelle, he had never cheated on her--except when the job had demanded it. He wouldn't start now. Especially with Michael's precious.

Eyes narrowed, Evie hitched her thumb at him and said to the blonde, "He's exactly the type of male I warned you about. Lovely on the outside, poison on the inside. Stay far, far away."

Irritation was like a hook in his chest, snagging several other darker emotions. She didn't even know him and yet she dared speak about him like that? You read this one wrong. No way she's attracted.

The little blonde was a few years younger than Evie, probably no more than eighteen, as well as shorter, curvier, and not nearly as confident. She peered down at the black-and-white-tiled floor as she said, "Wonderful to meet you, Mr. Blue. I'm Claire."

He arched a brow at Evie.

She elaborated, her expression softening. "Claire is my sister. From my mum's side, not my father's."

Clearly she adored the girl.

He reached for Claire's hand, but Evie moved between them, blocking him. Taking Claire by the shoulders, she said, "Darling, I'm having a chat-up with Blue, so I'm going to leave you for a few minutes. Will you be all right?"

Claire offered a wide, assuring smile. "Yes, of course."

After kissing the girl on the cheek, Evie turned and hooked her arm through Blue's, practically dragging him through the throng of laughing, chatting partygoers. The heat she radiated seeped through the fabric of his tux, stroking his skin. Felt good. Too good. He swallowed a mouthful of curses.

"I'm going to do you a solid and always be honest with you, no matter how cruel it may seem," she said, nodding to an acquaintance across the room. "I'll start with this little nugget of truth. I'm not interested in making nice with you. We're here for a reason. Let's get on with it and go our separate ways."

It took him a moment to realize she was serious. Women just didn't talk to him that way. They fawned. They flirted. They teased. "Did I kill your cat or something, and just don't remember? What's your problem with me?"

"Where to start?" she said on a sigh. "Oh, I know. How about the fact that you're a he-slut? Or do you prefer the term 'man-whore'?"

His sense of irritation grew. No wonder Noelle had warned him about the girl.

"Have you lived your life so perfectly you've earned the right to judge me?"

John stopped in front of them and held out a tray of crab cakes, golden eyes bright with determination. "May I get you anything, sir?"

Blue wanted to say "A rack and flogger," but didn't. John would have found a way to get the items for him.