Authors: Jenny Schwartz
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal
By Jenny Schwartz
She’s breaking the rules. Again.
An archivist in the heavenly library, Sara must follow protocol when it comes to curating the knowledge of the universe. But “liberating” an ancient text from the collection of a human—an Australian drug lord—could save a boy’s life. Sara has no way of knowing that one of the man’s other treasures is a sexy-as-sin djinni, bound by a wish to guard the estate.
He’s only following orders.
Filip is compelled to turn over intruders, even celestial ones, to his master. When he catches Sara in the library, he isn’t above indulging in some sensual kisses with her, or using her to trick the mobster into wasting a wish. It’s what he must do to preserve his facade of freedom and protect his heart.
But the kidnapping of the drug lord’s daughter forces Sara and Filip to work together—bringing out the hero that lurks within the soul of the djinni, and the passion within the angel.
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Executive Editor, Carina Press
“Let me go! Let—”
Jay Ablett’s world went black as she was lifted into the back of a van and the door slammed behind her. There were no windows and she couldn’t find a door handle.
The van shifted with the weight of someone climbing into the driver’s seat. The engine was running and he moved off fast but steadily, not at a speed likely to be remembered and reported.
All she’d been doing was studying late at the uni library. Her fists hit the van door. This couldn’t be happening. “God, no.”
She slumped down, bracing against the side wall as the van took a corner. She reached instinctively for her bag and the breakable netbook inside. But the bag was gone. It had been ripped off her shoulder. Undoubtedly to prevent her finding her phone and calling the police, calling her father.
Dad would be furious. He’d told her to be careful. She’d grown up knowing he had enemies. Enemies he’d created.
In her pleasure at being just another uni student—anonymous, industrious, judged on her own merits—she’d put his warnings out of her mind. She should never have left the library alone after dark. Never taken the shortcut.
She hated newspaper articles that blamed the victim. If a girl wore a short skirt and flirted in a bar, she was asking for it. No. She hated those articles, that whole attitude. But the truth was this time she had been careless.
And no one would rescue her.
The clock ticked past midnight and Sara paced the marble floor of the heavenly library. She was a dark shadow among the gently glowing texts.
Urgency fought with common sense. She had a plan. Just because her heart beat
was no reason to lose her nerve and plunge headlong to Earth. She had to wait.
But all her angel instincts demanded action. Good had to triumph. Hope had to shine. She would risk her reputation and career to kick back the shadows and save an innocent life. Tonight, she would break into the human world.
She glanced around at her world, at the light texts, familiar and reassuring on their fine spider-web shelves. Recent advances in quantum laser scanning meant improved long-term storage of ancient texts.
As a senior archivist, it was her job to ensure the survival of knowledge from across the universe. However, the Archivist Guild had strict rules that no text could be acquired until the nanosecond when the author species would have lost it to fire, flood, earthquake or comet strike. In other words, the text could only come to heaven when it died.
Sara intended to stretch that rule. Again. If she was caught—
Anthea will cut the laser budget.
The Guild President had made the threat after the bstemmi affair, and Anthea knew where to hurt. Quantum laser scanning was Sara’s project. She felt immense satisfaction in its efficient storage, retrieval and display of knowledge.
To be useful, knowledge had to be accessible. Sara believed that passionately. She thought of herself as an knowledge explorer, an Indiana Jones of data archaeology bringing back treasures. Unfortunately, Guild rules frowned on adventurous archivists. They wanted steady, reliable angels with impeccably shiny halos. Angels who stayed safely in the heavenly library.
“Ivory tower dwellers. Angels divorced from their hearts. Cowards.”
Sara never wanted to look in the mirror and see someone who shut her eyes to suffering and buried herself in old texts. For all that she lived and worked in the heavenly library, she was part of the world.
“‘Every man’s death diminishes me,’” she quoted Donne. “And a child’s death diminishes me most of all.” She tilted her chin. No matter what punishment she faced, she couldn’t turn aside now. Even if she lost the quantum laser project and ended up on recording duties.
She checked the clock on the far wall, seeing it through the shimmering distortion of the light texts. It showed the time anywhere in the universe. Currently it was set on Sydney time. She would have to reset it when she returned. Sydney time would be a dead giveaway if Michael came sniffing around. Although she didn’t think he was suspicious—yet.
One o’clock was her witching hour. It was a heartbeat away. She’d dressed carefully for the occasion in a ribbed silk top above ink-dark tights. Her red hair was wound in a flat coil, pinned securely and covered by a black beret. On her feet she wore black sneakers for a fast, silent getaway.
Strictly speaking, the cat burglar suit wasn’t necessary. As an angel she could materialise and dematerialise in a second. No human or human technology could hold her. But the dark clothes gave her confidence. If she was going to break the rules, she’d do it in style.
The clock struck the hour and Sara flashed down to Vince Ablett’s library in the eastern outback, the wild country of miles and miles of dirt, dust and dreams. She materialised in a soft puff of sound and paused a moment for her dizzy head to steady. She gripped a shelf for balance.
Unlike a guardian angel, Sara wasn’t used to dematerialising, rematerialising or entering the human world. She’d been pretending for months now that she was a quiet scholar, serene, inactive, removed from chaos in the order of the heavenly library. Hell’s harps, her halo probably did shine.
But if Michael caught her now, he’d kick her into recording duties so fast her halo would spin and she’d be stuck with listing credits and debits for decades. Worst of all, she’d have failed and a little boy would die.
So hurry up.
Sara conjured a light.
Vince Ablett’s library was dark, the air cool and dry, perfect for manuscript preservation. She only had to liberate the ancient text
and return to the heavenly archives. Before dawn, she’d have the text light-scanned and the original back on Vince’s shelves. No one would ever know. She’d followed the same procedure two weeks ago when she acquired
She rubbed her forehead. Just thinking of
made her head ache. It was a Gnostic text written in a mix of metaphor and riddles designed to hide its secrets. The later medieval alchemists had copied its style, elevating it to art form. Sara preferred plain speaking. It had taken her a week and a half to decipher
only to discover it had a mere glancing reference to the knowledge she sought. But it did mention
as a source.
And Vincent Ablett, rare book collector and criminal drug lord, owned both. He’d bought the manuscripts at auction, caught up in competitive fever, and never even opened them. It was enough for him to own them and know himself envied.
Sara took a deep breath, counted to three and released it slowly. Forget her opinion on those who hoarded knowledge—selfish cuttlefish—she needed to be calm.
ought to be against the southern wall, high on the top shelf. Sara scanned the shelves.
“Looking for something?”
The man materialised in a blaze of light. He didn’t share her desire for secrecy, and electric lights flickered on, the fluorescent last of all. Its stark lighting showed the uncompromising lines of the stranger’s male beauty.
He wore jeans, zipped but unbuttoned, and nothing else. The bones of his face were dominant angles, the nose aquiline, the wide mouth made for sin. Blue eyes were astonishingly bright against the darkness of his gleaming wet hair and skin.
Desire tightened Sara’s stomach, kicked along by a rush of adrenaline. Her nerves, vibrating with guilt and tension, were unusually responsive to his slow study of her body, which took in every silk-covered curve.
She tried for dignity. “I am looking—”
“—for a book.” She could see a water droplet rolling down his muscular chest, gathering speed before it vanished into the shadow of unbuttoned jeans. She swallowed and forced her gaze up. “I’m looking for a book.”
“Hence your return visit to the library.” His agreement was too smooth.
She looked into mocking blue eyes and blushed. Something shifted in his expression, but she lost it as his words registered. “Y-you know I was here before?”
“Two weeks ago.”
Caught. Her shoulders slumped under the weight of failure. Michael, the Guild’s chief enforcer, had sworn that the next time she broke the rules he’d have her on recording duties for decades. He’d been cleaning up a mess of shattered bstemmi etched glass shells (the purple-tentacled aliens used awesomely fragile methods of knowledge storage) when he growled the threat.
Recording souls’ good and bad actions was a hideous punishment. It was so frustrating to be that close to a person and unable to interfere and nudge them into healthy, happy life choices. You could only stand aside and watch.
The Archivist Guild was simply playing with her, allowing her rope sufficient to hang herself—and she’d obliged. They didn’t care about the reasons for her actions. Their enforcer would simply haul her in front of Anthea and Michael and she’d be charged with promoting chaos. What did it matter if he were sexy? She’d be on recording duties for decades.
Still, she was an angel. Hope insisted on its chance.
“Have you told Michael or Anthea?” She crossed her fingers behind her back. Of course he would have—the Guild’s enforcers had a duty to report infractions.
Hope surged. Her hands came out and up. “I can explain—”
“Not to me.” Flat, inflexible, three syllables like a cell door clanging shut.
His chest muscles rippled as he reached out and touched her face. “Never grovel to fate, angel. Work around it.”
As if anyone could work around Michael or Anthea. Sara jerked away from the enforcer’s touch. Let him flirt and flex his muscles with someone who’d be impressed.
“Uh huh.” He grabbed her wrist. “You are not vanishing on me again.”
“Why would I try? You’d just follow me.”
“Would that I could.” His thumb stroked the sensitive inner skin of her wrist. It feathered over her racing pulse point. “Funny how assumptions mislead us. I thought the library intruder had to be a demon. I never considered the dematerialising thief could be a rule-breaking angel.”
He smiled. “But no demon blushes like an innocent.” He put the back of his hand against her hot face. Its slow withdrawal was a caress. “I think you’ve made some false assumptions yourself, angel. I guard this library, but I don’t need to run to your Michael or Anthea to deal with an intruder.”
“You’re not a Guild enforcer?” It was hard to concentrate on his words when he was studying her so closely.
“But you have to be an angel. A human couldn’t have caught me.” And he couldn’t be a demon. If he were, then her body was betraying her in the worst way. It was heating and tingling, excitingly aware of the shackle of his hand on her wrist.
“I’m no angel.” The stranger’s amused drawl made the admission an invitation.
Sara tried to refuse it. She stiffened her wobbly knees.
“You’re not a demon.”
Please, please, please,
she begged mentally. Break one pettifogging rule and disaster followed. She couldn’t be attracted to a demon. “You can’t be.”
Relief flooded her, then froze as realisation dawned.
Not an angel. Not a demon.
Her eyes widened. Something far less conventional. Something that upped the potential for disaster a thousandfold.
“You’re a djinni.”
He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.
“Let me go.” Sara kicked his ankle.
“Dear heart, even if I could, I wouldn’t.” He evaded her second kick, tipped her off balance and toppled them both onto a chesterfield.
Beneath Sara was the cool embrace of leather. The djinni’s imprisoning weight pressed her deeper. She squirmed.
The djinni obliged by shifting his weight. Now each squirm rubbed her directly against…
“You’re enjoying this,” she accused. She could feel the evidence.
“Aren’t you?” As she stilled, he rocked against her. “Aren’t you, angel?”
“Liar.” He touched a pebbled nipple, outlined by her ribbed silk shirt.
“I am not responsible for my body’s— You pinched me. You pinched my nipple.”
“Should I kiss it better?”
“Just get off me.” She pushed unavailingly against his chest.
“I like your hands on me.”
She snatched them away, but then, where was there for them to go? She placed first her left hand then her right on his back. She could always curl them into fists and pound him, although she suspected the effect would be rather like a moth fluttering at a lamp.
His skin was warm and smooth over the bumps of his spine.
“You could try to seduce me into letting you go,” he suggested.
She closed her eyes against the blue challenge of his and the glare of the overhead lights. Through her lids, she sensed the lights dim. She took his remote control of electricity as a warning of his power and ignored it.
“If you’re guarding Vince Ablett’s library, then he must hold your djinni bottle. You aren’t free to release me. Vince’s three wishes constrain you. So seducing you would be pointless.” Her body clamoured to disagree. But what did it know? “Did Vince use a wish to have you guard the library?”
“Nothing so modest. I’m guarding his whole country property. No cattle rustled. No enemies breaking down the back door.” His lips whispered over her skin in between the words. A touch at her mouth, a brush over her cheek, breath against her ear. “I don’t think seduction between us would be pointless.”
Sara trembled. He was overwhelming her senses, and her treacherous body responded with feverish heat. “What do you do with trespassers?”
“I’ve orders to present them to Vince.”
“You’d surrender me to a human?”
“Unwillingly, angel.” His mouth returned to hers. “But not untasted.”
The kiss exploded between them. He’d primed her with the weight of his body, with how he looked and how he felt. He was hard male intensity, tender with her inexperience.
Now she learned his taste.
Like mulled wine, all spice and rich temptation. But wine had never made her greedy, never fired her blood with urgency, making her body strain for greater connection. Desire slammed through her, blanking her mind of doubts and commonsense. She forgot why and where she was.
The djinni deepened the kiss, slanting his mouth over hers and forcing her lips against her teeth. There was hunger raging in him too. It quickened his breathing and hammered his heart. He claimed her breast through the thin silk shirt and massaged it roughly.
It felt good, brilliant, not nearly enough. Her need shocked her. She raked her nails down his back and tried to arch beneath his weight.
“More?” He guided her legs up, encouraging her to encircle his hips, and when she did, he thrust against her. His tongue fed the rhythm, stroking into her mouth.
All her nerves tightened as he increased the rhythm. Faster, harder, refusing to release her. She opened her eyes, trying to find a stable point in her kaleidoscoping universe, and found her gaze locked with blue fire.
Through the aftershocks she was aware of him changing their positions until she lay over him and his hands were free to shape her derriere and trace patterns over the barrier of her tights.
He had restless hands. They slid up, under her shirt and unclipped her bra.
Freed, her breasts felt heavy and swollen, resting against his chest. The fabric preventing skin to skin contact irritated her. She kissed his throat and stretched as he pushed up her shirt.