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Authors: Leslie Dicken

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BOOK: The Price of Discovery
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“Yes. Bring him here.”

She tucked her short hair behind her ear, tempting him to run his tongue along the outer curvature. “Um…well, he could, but he might think it was rather strange…”

“You come out here to visit us.”

She leaned against her car and folded her arms under her breasts. His tongue tickled with urgency to take one in his mouth. Liquid fire scorched his bones.

Her slight shoulder lifted. “Okay, whatever. How about you come tonight to the dance club and I will introduce you to my brother?”

Drakor nodded.
 

Her eyes crinkled for a bit, but then she nodded. “Does this mean you've changed your mind?”

He stared at the rising moon, its light illuminating a thin band of clouds. What was he getting himself into? He should speak with the brother, but he could not allow himself to be too close to Erin. The allure of her body was becoming too much for him to manage. It perplexed him. Once he reached adulthood, his entire life was focused on finding his
Mharai
. He'd been celibate for years now, his desire doused by the successful emergence from his Crossing.

He couldn't understand how a human could do this to him. One thing was certain—he must not give in to the cravings.

“You will drive us,” he said as several winged creatures flew over their heads into the darkness.

Erin glanced up. “Bats.”

He said nothing, instead perusing the long column of her throat. His pulse kicked up a level.

She looked back at her car. “You don't have your own car?”

“No.” They had no Earth vehicle. Though Drakor assumed he could figure out how to maneuver it, his father thought it would not be wise if they were caught by the authorities in one. Thus, they were left with walking or Transporting. That, of course, would cause immediate attention if not done discreetly.

Erin shrugged then tucked her hair behind her ear. “I'll get my brother to drive us in his car. It's a hell of a lot bigger.” She opened the car door and slid inside. “See you in a few hours.”

Again, without allowing him to reply, she started the vehicle, gave a quick wave, and turned the car around.

He stood watching while the dust kicked up after the tires. His groin throbbed, desperate and tender. He might bear the night if was far apart from Erin in a large building. But what the
helta
would he do while trapped in the tight space of an Earth vehicle?

Drakor sprinted up the steps and into the house. He had to practice the control he learned during his Crossing. He'd nearly failed this afternoon. He could not allow for that again.

No matter how many weeks separated him from losing his desires once and for all.

 

 

Erin closed the door to her apartment and sagged against it. Blank white walls stared back at her. She should paint, hang up a picture or two, but this place was supposed to be temporary, not her home. Once she got her groove back, she'd move to the big city again and settle down.

So did she have a date with the mysterious but sexy Drakor? No. Not if he was hiding something she needed to know. As hot as that man was, he was hands-off as far as she was concerned. She'd been down that road once. And got lost.

Erin blinked the sting of tears away and tapped on Shellbert's container. The hermit crab didn't look up. Not that he normally gave her much sympathy.

Okay, so maybe Evan Moreland was a class-A jerk. He had been a sexy guy too, sexy enough to lure her into his bed. Sexy enough to make her lose sight of her story. Sexy enough to nearly get her fired when it all blew up in her face.

Erin clenched her jaw, that old familiar rage and humiliation bubbling up in her throat. Evan said he'd been set up. Or that's what Evan's story was when she interviewed him. Over the course of the in-depth exclusive, the man seduced his way into her bed. She ended up leaving her morals and ethics on the floor with her panties. Without realizing it, her articles grew more slanted, less objective. During the day, she fought his cause for innocence. At night, she kept him warm.

Then, he accepted a plea from the district attorney.

Damn him! That admission of guilt ruined her credibility. She looked like the biggest fool in the industry.

Erin left the big city then and moved back home. But the
Virginia Sentential
would never take her far, or recreate the success she once had. She needed something bigger.

And she did not need to screw it up by getting involved with the subject of her investigation. No matter how much she ached to have him inside her.

Erin dropped her bag and picked up the cordless on her way to the bedroom. Her brother picked up on the third ring. “Greg here.”

“I hope you don't have plans tonight.”

“Why? We have a date?”

“Don't be an ass. I need you to come along with me somewhere.”

“I have poker, you know that.”

Erin slipped off her capris and underwear. “It's to go Mickey's, okay?”

“Mickey's? Whoa, I didn't think that was your style.”

“Look, I'm about to get in the shower. You coming or not?”

She heard the music volume lower in the background. “Who's going?”

“My new friend, Ankra…” She didn't need to tell him about Drakor. He'd just ask nosey questions.

“Oh?”

Erin went into the bathroom and turned on the water to warm it up. “You told me you wanted to meet Ankra and here's your chance. Take it or leave it, but this is your only opportunity and I won't ask you again.”

Greg laughed. “Okay, okay. I'll go. No need to get your panties in a twist.”

“Good. And you're driving.”

“What?”

“I'll drive home if you drink too much, but my car is way too small. Pick me up at eight thirty.” She turned off the phone and stepped into the shower.

It took three outfit changes before Erin decided on a pair of nice-fitting jeans and a plum-colored shirt. She lowered the zipper, hoping for a hint of cleavage. Nope, her size B's were not cooperating. Even a push-up wouldn't help her tonight.

She slid the zipper up a few inches and shrugged. Who was she trying to impress, anyway?

At eight forty-five, Greg pounded on the door.

“Okay, Brutus, I'm coming.” She swung the door open and reached for her purse.

“Look out now!” He whistled. “Don't you look hot.”

“Ugh. That's really kind of gross coming from your brother. You understand that, don't you?”

He shrugged. She looked him over. He wore jeans like her, and a button-down striped shirt. His blond hair was slicked back with some type of gel or something. She had to admit he was a good-looking guy. But she wouldn't go so far as to say he was hot. Yuck.

Erin ushered him outside and locked the door. “Let's go.”

They climbed in his silver SUV. He turned down the music and backed up. “So I get to find out where the weirdos live, huh?”

“Oh, Greg, don't go screwing this up for me. This could be something really big.”

“I know. A family lives in a painted Victorian out in the middle of nowhere and don't have glasses in their kitchen.”

She reached in her tiny purse for her lip gloss. “You're patronizing me again.”

“I just think you push for something when it might not be there.”

Erin slid the window down and put her hand out into the rushing air. “You said ‘might not be there'. What if it is? You'll get to see. You can be the judge.”

He pulled onto the highway and they rode in silence for twenty minutes until Erin pointed them down the dirt road. Greg pulled the SUV up in front of the barely lit house.

“Don't they have electricity?” He craned his neck out the window.

“It looked like gas lamps to me, but I've never been here in the dark.” She glanced out her window and saw nothing but blackness until her eyes lifted to the twinkling stars and half moon.

“I've got to admit…this place looks a little creepy. Remember
The
Addam's Family
?”

Erin chuckled. “Wait until you meet them.”

They got out of the car and went up the porch steps. She grabbed Greg's arm. “Please, above all else, be nice. Don't tease them and do not try to fix me up with Ankra's brother. I'm looking to do an article on them, remember?”

He lifted an eyebrow. “Now I wouldn't do that. Besides, what did you say his name was?”

“Drakor.”

Greg wrinkled his nose. “Where on Earth did these names come from?”

Erin grinned. “See, and that's just the start.”

She knocked, her stomach clenching with junior-high nerves despite her every attempt at reasoning it away.

Drakor opened the door, his large body filling the front hall. He wore black khakis and forest green polo-type shirt. His dark hair still looked wet and curled under his ears; the scent of his shampoo awakened a thrumming low in her belly.

“Holy shit,” she heard Greg say under his breath.

Ankra had come around the other side of her brother and smiled at Greg. She wore tight black pants and a sparkly red top. Her hair hung long and loose down her back and her beautiful eyes flashed with her grin.

Erin nudged him in the door. “This is my brother, Greg Price.”

Ankra extended her hand and Greg brought it up to his lips.

Erin rolled her eyes then glanced at Drakor. He watched the polite kiss then turned to her. Sweat sprouted on his forehead, his chest rose and fell in a quick rhythm. Those compelling eyes raked over her hips, her stomach, then lingered at her breasts. His tongue darted out and moistened his lips. Finally, his gaze lifted to her mouth, staring at it with such passion, her breath froze in her throat.

Awareness crashed through every cell in her body, caving her knees. Erin grabbed a hold of the doorpost for support.

Maybe it would be a better idea to keep her focus on the dead guy. John Doe didn't talk, couldn't lie, and he most certainly couldn't screw her. Not in either sense of the word.

Chapter Four

Drakor's heart crashed against his ribcage. He should turn away, but he was immobile. The curve of her hips, the soft swell of her shirt, the tempting pull of her lips…

Erin's light eyes blinked at him and her lips shone like a crystal from Elliac's northern caves. A searing urge to kiss her ricocheted through him.

Her brother started down the steps. “Why don't we get going?”

Drakor swallowed and followed them out to the car. They reached the vehicle, a larger one than Erin's. She pointed to the front.

“Why don't you ride up front, Drakor? Your long legs will have much more room up there.”

As long as he wasn't next to Erin, he didn't care where he sat. He climbed in the front seat, while she and Ankra got in the back.

“So,” Greg said after they drove a while, “what do you do, Drakor?”

He didn't understand the question. Too many things to remember, too many cultural references to comprehend. Eventually these humans would grow suspicious. “Please rephrase the question.”

“What is your job?” Erin prompted from the back seat. He could still feel her presence, smell her mouth-watering scent.

“My profession is to do research,” he answered, hoping they wouldn't pursue the conversation.

Greg tapped the steering wheel a few times with his fingers. “I own my own company. Developing software.”

Drakor remembered that software had something to do with computers, a piece of equipment humans had recently developed that had a major impact in their lives and economy. So, insisting on meeting Erin's brother had been a wise decision. Perhaps this software could help them on their quest for a cure.

“Tell me more.”

“Started Invasion Shield about three years ago. We develop software to detect security breaches on personal computers. I just hired a new guy a few months back and we've already started development on intrusion detection software that will rock this field.” Greg gestured behind him with his thumb. “I tried to get Miss Stubborn back there to come on board, but she won't have any part of it.”

Erin cleared her throat. “I don't want to sit in front of a computer all day.”

“Right…” her brother said, with a mocking tone to his voice. He turned down a city street and slowed the vehicle. “Help me look for parking, will you?”

Drakor glanced out his window, searching for an open space between two cars. At least, that's what he thought he was supposed to do.

“Over there,” Erin said, pointing over the seat between him and her brother. “Next to the white Toyota.” Her fingertips brushed his shoulder, creating an instant burn on his skin.

After Greg parked the car, Drakor was the first to hop out. The sign for Mickey's lit up like the luminous red sunsets from home, flashing over a black door. People milled around out front, laughing, smoking, kissing. There were meeting places on Elliac, but nothing remotely similar to this.

Drakor handed his money to the large male at the door as the booming music reverberated in his body. Smells of alcohol, sweat and smoke invaded his nose and overloaded his brain.

For a moment, he sagged against the front window of the club, his entire body under assault from the surrounding sensations. Drakor closed his eyes, the pounding music thumping with his pulse. Acrid odor from a passing cigarette battered his nostrils.

But then he smelled Erin. He took a deep breath, welcoming the more pleasant aroma. It swirled within his bloodstream, comforting his taut nerves…until he grew erect.

Drakor's eyes snapped open.

Erin stood before him, her head tilted and eyebrows raised.

“Sick?” she shouted over the noise, but a knowing smile played on her lips.

He shook his head.

She shrugged then disappeared into the crowd. Drakor followed her into the depths of the building. The loud music pulsated through his blood. Colorful lights flashed among the crush of dancers.

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