Oh. “Then …” She chewed on her bottom lip, pondering the dilemma he’d just created, but no answers were forthcoming. “What?” she managed to get out, unsure how to phrase her next question.

“What do I do when I need to get off?” he asked, even as he rubbed the hard, thick length of his erection between her legs, just as he’d done the last time they were in this position.

Was he doing that on purpose, urging her need for him higher, simply to leave her? Or, like her, was he acting on instinct?

Having trouble filling her lungs with oxygen, she nodded.

“I used to pay for it. Does that shock your privileged sensibilities? Offend you? And stop nibbling on your mouth.” He leaned down and sank his own teeth into the sensitive tissue. Not enough to sting, just enough to stake a claim.

Oh, God. He was a biter. She really wished she hadn’t learned that fact. No doubt she’d start fantasizing about those teeth claiming all of her.

Have to … touch him …

She flattened her hands on his chest. His pectorals jumped up in response, flexing.

What had he asked? Oh, yeah. The prostitutes. “It confuses me.” His intensity probably scared a lot of women away, but it would draw some, too. There was no reason for him to pay for what he wanted. “You kissed me, and I liked it. You shouldn’t have to—”

Wait. He’d said used to, hadn’t he? What did he do now?

“Will you tell me if you liked kissing me?”

Such a tortured expression. “Yes. No. Damn it, it doesn’t matter. We can’t do it again.”

Oh, really? “Challenge accepted,” she purred, already rising on her tiptoes.

He opened his mouth, maybe to tell her off, maybe to welcome her inside, but either way, she rolled her tongue over his lips.

An agonized moan left him, and just like before the kiss immediately spun out of control. Their teeth banged together, and they both angled for deeper, better contact. He tasted sweet, decadent, and she thought she might already be addicted.

She gave him everything she had, feeding him kiss after kiss, conforming her body to his, kneading the muscles at his back. Pleasure rocketed through her, and she arced against him again and again, tossing fuel on her own need because, with every forward glide, her clitoris brushed against him.

This was far better than the first kiss, and that had been spectacular. But she knew more about him now. Wanted more of him. Had dreamed of this, night after night.

“Hector, touch me. Please.” Knead her breasts, pinch her nipples. Give her more.

The rock wall behind her shook … shook …

“Hector. Please.” She slid a hand down his chest, to the waist of his pants. So long and thick, his erection strained past the material, the tip already weeping for her. Mine, she thought. This is mine.

He wrenched his mouth away with a roar. “Damn it!” Still he ground that erection against her, and she closed her fingers around it as best she could. “I can’t do this!”

His skin was like a lick of flame, blasting heat at her. Little beads of sweat broke out on her brow. She loved it, wanted more. Wanted it to be hotter. “Lift my shirt. Suck my nipples.”

“Shit! Are you listening to me?” he snarled. “Do I have your full attention?”

“Yes.” Yes, yes, yes. She could feel his heartbeat, pounding against her other palm.

“Good.” The rubbing ceased abruptly, and she moaned. “I told you before not to seek me out. Now I’m telling you not to even speak to me. Not to even look at me. And I’ll extend you the same courtesy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from you, Noelle.” With that, he straightened, severing all contact, and walked away.

Walked away from her. Again.

What. The. Hell? She’d suspected, but …

Noelle rested against the wall, her knees weak, her blood on fire, with fury … with passion … She’d wanted his mouth on hers, taking, giving, ravaging. She’d wanted to relearn his taste—and not just from his mouth—wanted to hear him groan as the pressure became too much for him, too.

And all along, he’d merely thought to prove a point. To humiliate her.

To force her into avoiding him.

Well, he’d get his wish, she thought. She wouldn’t spend another moment craving him. She wouldn’t even allow herself to think about him. They were done. Before they’d ever really started, they were done.

Squaring her shoulders, determined, Noelle returned her weight to her feet. She spun, would have marched back to the bunk, but a thick waft of smoke, scented with burned syn-cotton and spiced with molten metal, danced in front of her face. She gazed around, searching for the source.

Not her this time, but the wall. Two perfect handprints had been burned into the brick. Big hands, a man’s hands. Exactly where Hector had placed his.

Gulping, confused, she reached out and ran a finger over the indented stone. She hissed at the moment of contact. Though she didn’t feel the sting, she knew the metal was hot enough to blister her skin.

So, the marks were fresh. But … how was that possible?

Her gaze returned to Hector. Or rather, to where he’d once been. He was gone now, no sign of him in the darkness. Was he … could he be an otherworlder capable of flaming objects with only a touch? Even though he appeared one hundred percent human?

Maybe. Many races possessed special abilities that their human counterparts did not. She’d always embraced those differences, and she would have embraced Hector’s, if he’d given her a chance.

But he hadn’t. By his own admission, he’d rather pay for sex from a nameless stranger than have Noelle for free. So, he would get his wish, she thought again. She would leave him alone.

A stray, torturous thought formed. One day they were going to have to work together, and she’d have to act cool, collected, as if this night had never transpired. And really, that should be easy to do. Ultimately, the men in her life always found something wrong with her. So, in that regard, Hector was no different than the rest. He’d simply been more upfront about it than the others.

I’m fine. This is fine. She’d suspected they wouldn’t suit, and he’d proven her right. No big deal. Except her chin wobbled and her eyes blurred with tears. Shit. She never cried! Why here? Why now? Why over him?

The answer didn’t matter. Like every time before, she stuffed her hurt deep inside and pasted an unconcerned smile on her face. She strolled back to the bunkhouse, to Ava, the only other constant in her life.

Though Noelle had only been an AIR agent for a few weeks, she already had one successful case under her belt. A case Ava was now engaged to marry, but whatever. Noelle couldn’t think about that.

Her second case was currently sprinting down the wealthy side of Main.

Midday, on a nice, cool Saturday, the sidewalks were crowded with clueless shoppers and the otherworlder servants carrying their bags. The same species of otherworlders she’d spotted so long ago on the other side of town, only these were dressed in crisp, clean uniforms.

The shops were high end and pristine, the cafes sparkling with activity, their outside tables shielded by large umbrellas. This was the atmosphere she was used to. The perp busted through the crowds and toppled the tables, leaving chaos in his wake, forcing Noelle to push and shove her way after him, all while leaping over shattered glass, dropped purses, and slippery food.

Hector Dean was working this case, too. Not with her. Never that. In fact, they hadn’t really spoken to each other since that night at camp. But Mia Snow, the new official head of AIR, had informed all agents to be on the alert for a white minivan with tinted windows.

Apparently, an anonymous tip had promised the van would be carrying three otherworlder females who’d been abducted from their homes. As that same anonymous tipster had never before been wrong, Mia had taken him—her?—seriously.

And ten minutes ago, Noelle had spotted the van and called in the plates.

Hector had barked over the radio: This is mine, Tremain. Stay back, but maintain a visual. I’m on my way.

Yeah, he was invested in the case. He’d worked it a year ago, but the whole thing had been iced when no new clues surfaced, the recovered girls vanished without a trace, and no other kidnappings occurred. (That they’d known of.) The tips had stopped, too. Then, two days ago that minivan info had come in, as if there’d never been a lag, and well, now things were back on.

Have to beat him, have to beat him, damn it, have to beat him.

The driver had realized she was on his tail, threw on the brakes, and abandoned the vehicle right there in the center of the road. There’d been no time to check on the women, so Noelle had sprinted after him while at the same time radioing in about the new development.

Agents were probably at the van now. Hector wouldn’t have stopped there, though. A bruiser at heart, he would have followed the commotion and come after the driver. Like her.

Have to beat him!

Perp was a scrawny human in his mid thirties—and thereby unstunnable. He was also out of shape. Was now slowing, taking the corners with less vigor. No longer throwing stuff or people in her way. I’ll have him yet.

Sweat poured down her back. Her muscles burned, the first sensation she’d had in months, and the bones in her legs vibrated every time she pounded a foot into the concrete. She was off the clock and not dressed for a street chase. Black leather halter, black leather pants, five-inch heel boots.

Plus, she had a killer hangover.

Ava’s bachelorette party had roared all night long, and had still been going strong this morning.

Noelle increased her speed. Drew in closer … closer still … The guy rounded another corner. She stayed tight on his ass, practically stomping on his shadow. Another busy sidewalk came into view. He slammed into a pedestrian and flew backward—

Just the break she’d needed. She caught him with a humph and, using the momentum to her advantage, swung him around and slammed him into the side of a building. Smack.

Reacting on instinct, he threw back an elbow and knocked the air from her lungs. For a moment, she saw stars.

He tried to sprint off, but she kicked out a leg and tripped him. He toppled on his stomach.

“Bitch!” he spat, twisting around, going for a blade in an ankle sheath.

“I invented that move.” Noelle kicked the weapon out of his hand, then kicked him in the face—knocking out a few of his teeth. He spat blood and attempted to crawl back, away from her.

With a muttered, “Oh, no you don’t,” she dove for him. Just before she hit, she reached for her own switchblade. Contact. She kneed him in the balls, making him howl with the intensity of the pain. Then she flicked her wrist, snapped the blade in place, and pressed the tip into his throat. Not enough to damage him, but enough to sting.

His struggles increased as panic hit his bloodstream, causing the knife to slide in deeper. Jolting upright, he head-butted her in the chin and she once again saw stars.

“Okay. Yeah, sure. I’ll get right on that.”

“After I kill you?” She hated being without her pyregun, but as she’d known she would be drinking last night, she’d left her piece at home.

“Fuck you!” he said on an explosion of breath, but he ultimately settled down.

“Good boy. First, a little warning. You run and you’ll suffer. Second, I’m going to ask you a few questions and you’re going to answer them. Or you’ll suffer. Basically, just get used to the idea of suffering. First up. Where were you taking those women?” Interrogations usually happened back at headquarters, but she wanted to throw the information at Hector and pretend it had been a breeze to acquire.

“Fuck you,” he repeated, panting. “You can’t hurt me. I’m human. I know my rights.”

“Really?” Noelle slammed the palm of her free hand into the end of his nose, snapping the cartilage on impact.

Blood spurted from his nostrils. His scream nearly busted her eardrums.

“Let’s try again,” she said calmly. “Where were you taking those women?”

“Not scared of you.” His trembling body belied the assertion. “Nothing you do will be worse than what he’ll do.”

Should I be offended? “Who’s he, and what will he do?” Realizing he’d said too much, the perp really panicked.

People formed a circle around them, gasping and contemplating what to do.

“—officers are on their way,” she heard someone say.

“Dude! Out of my way, you’re blocking my camera’s view.”

“I am a cop,” she growled. “Everyone stay back, and shut the hell up.”

They continued talking to each other.

“Cops are getting sexier by the day.”

Okay, maybe she wouldn’t chastise them for the chatter. They were highly observant.

As if he’d been frightened past his limits, her suspect’s head lolled to the side, his body going lax. Noelle wasn’t buying. She recalled Hector’s lesson all too well. Always make sure unconsciousness had been achieved by delivering another blow.