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Seven Forbidden Arts : Book Eight

By: , Charmaine Pauls
Published By: Melange Books, LLC
Copyright: Copyright  2017 by Charmaine Pauls
Fourteen Chapters / 62,000 Words
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Bono Black is not part of Cain Jones’s taskforce. He’s merely their pilot. The minute he walks into a sex club in Amsterdam, he is no longer an outsider to the war on their beautiful target, Sky Val. Bono wants her like he’s never wanted anyone, and he’s a determined man. Sky belongs to the most dangerous sex dealer in the Netherlands who’d see her dead before he lets her go. She’s undeniably involved in the murders of a senator and president, and Cain has ordered her dead. Before the team leader slits her throat, they need information on her boss. With the interest Sky has shown in Bono, Cain decides Bono is just the man for the job, and that seduction will be his choice of arms.

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Chapter One

Bono Black flicked up his collar and ducked his head as he followed his boss, Joss, into the Red-Light District in Amsterdam. As far as he could tell, they weren’t being followed. He kept vigilant, watching out for danger from under hooded eyes. Not a breeze ruffled the summer night, too much like the quiet before the storm. The red lights from the windows turned the water canal into a river of ruby on which boats lay tranquil, except for the occasional thud-thud as they rubbed shoulders with the stonewall of the pavement. Far-off laughter sounded down the cobblestone street. He dragged in a breath and exhaled slowly. Behind the eye patch, his empty socket itched, always a bad sign. Two more steps and they were in front of a gunmetal door with a black arum lily engraving.

Joss gave him a quick glance from over his shoulder, his mercury eyes reflecting the menace Bono felt in his bones, and rang the bell. A plate on the inside of the door squeaked with rusty protest to reveal a peephole.

“We have an appointment with your fortune teller,” Joss said.

Bolts sounded from the inside and then the door swung open. A man in a white T-shirt with the same arum lily emblem as the one on the door waved them through.

“Follow me,” he said after he’d patted them down for weapons.

The interior was painted black with red bulbs hanging overhead. They passed several doors, each fitted with a window through which Bono could see the occupants—girls waiting, some working. A smell of disinfectant softened by air freshener created a sterile feel that was out of tune with what he’d expected from a sex club. They were taken past the peep shows and fuck rooms straight to the office at the back.

Doumar—he recognized him from the reconnaissance photo—sat behind a desk, wearing a military Steampunk style vest. Behind him stood a tall woman dressed in a matching outfit. She had a delicate bone structure and wheat-colored hair to match a striking, pale-skinned face. What held his attention were her eyes. They were a magnificent blue, clear like a cloudless sky over the Sambaya, and profoundly sad.

“Right on time,” Doumar said with a heavy Dutch accent. “I appreciate a punctual man.” He motioned at the two chairs facing the desk. When they’d taken their seats, he leaned forward. “What’s your fetish?” He grinned, revealing unevenly spaced teeth. “After your future has been predicted, you may crave another form of entertainment. Sometimes knowing what lies ahead makes us realize how short life is. It makes men want to seize the moment, and what better way to seize the moment than to bury your dick in a warm cunt? Fucking makes us feel alive, doesn’t it?”

“The future is all I’m here to seize,” Joss said.

Doumar’s eyes tightened. “This is a legal club, gentlemen. You can take your pick from the menu. There won’t be repercussions. No fear, no limits.” His lips stretched wide. “That’s our motto.”

Joss’s gaze trailed over the woman dispassionately, as if he was assessing goods rather than a person. “How about her?”

“The only thing she’ll do for money is read your palm.”

“You misunderstood. I meant something more permanent than renting.”

“She’s not for sale.”

“Everything has a price,” Joss said, not taking his eyes off the woman.

Doumar turned to the female and patted his knee. “Come here, baby.” When she’d obliged, he reached across and opened the flap of her jacket. Underneath, she wore a leather corset. A black arum lily was tattooed on the upper curve of her breast. He brushed his thumb over the flower. “She’s property.”

Joss returned his attention to the man and got to his feet. “Then we’ll stick to the art of divining the future.”

“Why her?” the Dutchman asked, not thrown off his game. “I’ve got plenty of prettier girls for a … permanent … deal, if you know what I mean. You’re not the first man who wants to go home with a new possession.”

“It’s not for me.” Joss cocked his head at Bono. “It’s for my friend. She’s exactly his type.”

The woman regarded Bono with a scorn that would have any honest man cower, but he managed to hold the sizzling look meant to reduce him to a worm at her feet.

Doumar twisted her hair around his fist, coiling it tight. “Sorry to disappoint you, but she’s not on the menu.”

“In that case,” Joss said, “we’ll stick to what we paid for.”

Doumar pulled her to her feet by her hair. “A word of warning—she’s never wrong.”

Joss gave him a humorless smile. “That’s the reputation that brought us here.”

Doumar released her hair and swatted her ass. “Do your thing, baby.” He cast a warning look at Bono. “Try anything you’re not paying for, and I’ll cut off your hand.”

Before Bono could conjure a reply, the woman was already on her way to the door, swaying a tight ass hugged by leather pants. Her gait wasn’t as provocative as it was cat-like, much like a small feline on the prowl. She led them to a room next door draped with red and gold curtains and sat down behind a round table with a velvet tablecloth, its only ornament a crystal ball. A trail of smoke curled from a stick of incense, but it didn’t mask the scent of disinfectant that clung to the polished floor and patterned wallpaper.

“You’re kidding, right?” Joss said, taking in the surroundings.

“Most clients prefer the theatrics. Look at it as my personal stage.” She stretched out her arms and turned her palms up. “Give me your hands.”

They took the stuffed chairs facing her and held out their hands. She took Joss’s in her left, and Bono’s in her right. Her skin was cool and soft.

“What’s your name?” Bono asked.

She gave him a hard look. “Do you ask the name of every whore you fuck in a place like this?”

It was on the tip of his tongue to say he’d never fucked a whore, but that might blow their cover. “I’m asking for yours.”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“It matters to me.” He wanted to hear what it sounded like on her lips.

Her eyes moved to the corner of the ceiling. There was probably a concealed camera. “You can call me Miss Val.”

Sky Val. The pretty girl with the beautiful name who failed miserably at hiding a shitload of sadness under a smokescreen of bravado was Joss’s target. The name suited her perfectly, like the color of her eyes. The brush of her thumb over his palm drew his attention there.

The touch was gentle and her eyes probing as she searched his. “You sure about this?”

He wasn’t sure about anything, not while her soft hand cushioned his, and her eyes consumed him with a cold, blue fire he didn’t understand. He was only a pilot, not a team member, but Joss needed him to stay close, in case they needed a hasty lift-off.

“Are you?” she prompted again.

“Go ahead,” he said. “Don’t hold back.”

Her lips curved slightly, forming a half-smile. Pale lip-gloss accentuated their fullness and set them off against the heavy black eyeliner and mascara. “As you wish.” Her gaze flickered to Joss and then she gave their hands her full attention, tracing the lines that cut across their skins.

He watched her closely. He hoped to God she was a fake. If not, her fate was sealed.

Her voice was clear and musical, her Dutch accent barely audible. “You’re a pilot.”

That didn’t mean anything. In public records, he was registered as a commercial pilot, and Joss as a French businessman with a title and castle. Doumar could’ve researched them before they’d arrived, giving her access to the information. If Doumar was the kind of sex dealer he was said to be, he would’ve pulled up every piece of information on them before giving them access to his club.

She turned to Joss. “You’re the fighter. The leader.”

He sensed Joss’s tenseness. She should shut up now, before she signed her death warrant.

“There are others … quite unique.” She leaned closer, her breath fanning over his wrist. “You care about them deeply. Their fate is in your hands. I can see their faces, hear their names.”

Bono closed his eyes for a second. Don’t say it.

His silent plea was futile, because she rattled the names off like a chant. “Maya, Lann, Sean, Clelia, Ivan, Sahara… Cain Jones.” Her lips parted on a silent gasp. “They’re here, in Amsterdam. You’re all in danger.”

Fuck. No.

Joss’s right hand flexed under the ring with the contractible spike, a weapon designed to slip through a search. A puncture in her jugular vein and a flick of his wrist was all it would take to put out the sad fire in those expressive eyes. One code word spoken into the communication system designed to resemble a wristwatch, and the people whose names she’d recited would attack, make sure they got out alive, pull the plug on Doumar’s operation, and take down the Dutchman. These were all good things, but her life seemed a too high price to pay.

His fingers closed around her thumb in silent warning, trying to shut her up, but it was too late.

“Your enemy,” she paused, “he’s close. He’s going to…”

Joss pushed back his chair an inch. Before he was on his feet, she jerked away from them as if their hands had caught fire.

With a gasp, she jumped up, knocking down her chair. “You have to go.”

Joss grabbed her wrist as she tried to back up, his words coming like a growl through tight lips. “What did you see?”

With his wild hair and eyes, Joss was a frightening bastard, but she didn’t wilt or fight his hold. Instead, she met his eyes and squared her shoulders. “You don’t want to know.”

Joss gave her a gentle shake. “What did you see?”

Bono stood and laid a hand on his boss’s arm. “Joss.”

One by one, Joss opened his fingers, allowing her to pull free, but he wouldn’t let the question go. “I won’t ask you again.”

“Believe me, you’re better off with ignorance.”

“Ignorance?” Joss gave a wry chuckle. “In my line of business, never a good choice.”

“Please, go.”

“Not before you tell me what you saw.”

She glanced at the corner of the ceiling again. “Doumar’s men are on their way.”

“Then they die here, today, and so do you.”

Her chest rose and fell rapidly, despite the calm she feigned.

“Tell him,” Bono urged. “He won’t ask if he can’t handle it, and he won’t leave until you do.”

She looked between Bono and Joss. “Have it your way. I hope you’re right. I hope you can handle the truth.”

“Spit it out,” Joss hissed. “What did you see when you recited those names?”

“You’re all going to die.”

Chapter Two

Whatever Sky was going to say, Bono knew he wouldn’t like it, but this prediction made his skin crawl.

“Are you telling the truth?” Joss asked.

“I never lie about the future.”

Joss gripped her wrist and squeezed until her fingers were splayed wide, at the same time releasing the spike in the ring on his other hand.

Fear finally crept into her pretty eyes. “Please.”

Joss’s big hand on her delicate arm didn’t look right. Bono stepped forward to shield her, but Joss said, “It’s all right, Miss Val. I just want to taste you.”

Her lips parted, either in protest or shock, but Joss pricked her index finger with the spike before she had a chance to utter a word. Catching the drop of blood with his thumb, he brought it to his mouth.

“You’re not a vampire.” She sounded confused.

“Thank you for your honesty,” Joss replied after letting the drop infuse his tongue, “and for your blood.”

From Joss’s morbid expression, Bono gathered she hadn’t lied. Joss could tell almost anything about a person by tasting their blood. It was a unique ability, one Bono still found strange, even after working for Joss for several years.

The door opened to reveal three men in club T-shirts carrying guns. “Is there a problem, Miss Val?”

“These customers were just leaving. You can show them out.”

Bono waited for Joss’s cue to see if they’d be fighting or going. Thankfully, his boss turned for the door. As Bono followed, Sky’s fingers skimmed over his upper arm.

“Did you get what you came for?” she asked when he looked back at her, her eyes even more haunted than before.

It wasn’t an easy question to answer, because they’d come for her.

“No,” he said.

“Then you better come back.” She slipped a business card into his hand.

~ * ~

The African man and his French friend left quietly. Sky stared after them, more unsettled than usual after a reading. No, they hadn’t gotten what they’d come for, and it wasn’t for sex or their fortune. Neither was it for a slave as they’d claimed.

Doumar’s heavy Docs sounding on the floor warned her of his arrival. Her muscles tensed as he rounded the door.

Stopping short of her, he grabbed her face in one hand and cradled her head in the other.

“What happened?” he asked in English.

Niks.”

“In English.”

“I prefer Dutch.” English took too much concentration. Speaking it tired her brain, and her mind was already drained from the session.

“You need to practice. Godfrey insists you speak it fluently.”

“Fuck him.”

He scrutinized her, a spark of malice igniting his eyes. “You look tired. Maybe we should cancel Friday.”

Her stomach twisted. She forced herself to soften her body and lean against him. “No, please.”

A victorious smirk transformed his features. “Repeat it. In English.”

“Nothing.”

His thumb brushed over the nape of her neck. “Almost perfect. It’s ‘na-thing’, not ‘na-ding’. Now, try again, and this time, tell me the truth.”

Holding his gaze, she swallowed away the dryness in her mouth. “It was a difficult session, that’s all.”

“Is that why you told them to go?”

“Yes.”

His fingers dug painfully into her cheeks. “The one with the eye patch, he wanted you.”

“They all do,” she said as nonchalantly as her nerves allowed. “It’s the way you dress me like you do and make me stand next to you. They think I have some kind of power in the organization, and power is a strong aphrodisiac.”

“Do you like him?” His hand moved between her legs, cupping her sex roughly. “Did he make you wet?”

The earth should open and swallow her. She pretended the security guards weren’t watching. “I don’t like him.”

“If I take off your pants, will your cunt agree, or will it be wet?”

“He doesn’t matter. Anyway, him and his friend will be dead soon.”

At that, some of his jealousy dissipated. “Is that what you saw?”

“Yes.”

Doumar had long since stopped questioning her predictions. It wasn’t necessary. They always came true. She never lied to him about what she saw, and he’d come to trust her. His trust was a trump card she held onto. One day, when the opportunity arose, she’d cash in that card.

“I hope you did as you were told,” he said. “Godfrey isn’t a forgiving man.”

“Don’t worry. He’ll be back. I made sure of it.”

His grip slackened. She used the moment to escape his touch, picking up the fallen chair as an excuse, but Doumar’s large hand circled around her upper arm with painful pressure.

“You’re mine.” He towered over her, a blond Viking with eyes as hard as gray marble. “Without me, you’re a worthless slut. Nothing.” His lips turned up in a calculating smile. “Or do you disagree?”

“No.”

He jerked her against him. “Say it.”

“I’m nothing.”

He gave a satisfied nod. “You need to rest. Go home, baby.”

~ * ~

The base from which Cain Jones operated this mission was a narrow house not far from the club. Cain and the rest of the team waited when Bono and Joss arrived.

“She’s authentic,” Joss said with a note of regret, taking a seat in the lounge.

Cain leaned on the mantelpiece, an espresso in one hand. “Is, and not was?”

“You’re sure?” Maya leaned her elbows on her knees. “She’s definitely a palm reader?”

“That doesn’t mean she’s a chiromancist,” Bono said.

Cain afforded him a fleeting look before diverting his attention back to Joss. “If she’s the real thing, why isn’t she dead?”

“It’s something she saw when she read our palms, something we need to consider before slitting her throat.”

Clelia moved to the edge of her seat. “Why doesn’t this sound good?”

“I think she saw Godfrey.”

“What did she say?” Lann asked.

“That he’s coming for us.”

“That’s good,” Sean said. “Then we can finally catch the bastard.”

“If it’s so good,” Ivan said, “then why aren’t you happy about it, Joss?”

Joss looked at the expectant faces waiting for his answer. “She said we’re all going to die.”

“This changes everything,” Cain mused. He straightened and shoved a hand into his pocket. “You did the right thing, Josselin. If she’s a lead to Godfrey, we need to question her and find out what we can.”

“How?” Lann asked. “Joss can hardly walk back in there for a cup of tea, and sending one of us for an undercover palm reading will start looking suspicious. She’ll put two and two together, if she hasn’t already. If she can read the future, chances are good she’ll see us for who we are.”

“We can kidnap her,” Maya offered, “like we did with Clelia.”

“No.” Cain left his empty cup on the coffee table. “We’ll have the whole Dutch underworld descend on us like vampires. We need to do it without attracting attention.”

Sara looked at Ivan. “Why don’t you manipulate her spirit? You can make her do whatever we need.”

“Manipulating her isn’t going to tell us what we want to hear,” Ivan replied. “I can make her talk, but she can only tell what she knows. There may be more going on behind the scenes, and knowing only half the truth makes us more vulnerable than knowing nothing.”

“He’s right.” Cain took a seat on the sofa. “We need a different strategy.”

“I think I know a way,” Joss said, meeting Bono’s eyes.

From the way his boss stared at him, he got a feeling it had something to do with him.

“Go on,” Cain said.

“She took a liking to Bono.”

No way. He knew where this was going, and it wasn’t a game he was prepared to play. “Forget it. I won’t do it.”

Joss grinned. “I haven’t said anything, yet.”

“You don’t need to.” Bono got to his feet. “That shmuck expression on your face says it all.”

“She gave you her card.”

He dragged a hand over his clean-shaven head. “I don’t need another palm reading.”

“I don’t think her intention was to give you a palm reading.”

Everyone stared at him with new interest. “I fly your asses around, and that’s where it ends.”

“You were there, Bono,” Sean said. “Did she not say we were going to die?”

He turned away. “The answer is no.”

“Bono.” Cain said his name with enough authority to make him look back at the commander. “Who sponsored the weapons for the civil war that crippled your country? Who took over the African communication networks with promises of new schools and universities, schools that spread propaganda and recruited boys to fight a men’s war?”

“Don’t lecture me on Godfrey’s sins. Nobody knows the consequences of that evil man’s actions better than I do.”

“This will be for your country.”

“You know nothing about my country, American.”

“I do,” Joss said. “We colonized Senegal, captured the country like a wild animal, made it an orphan, and then released it back into the wild after killing its instinct to fend for itself. That’s why your leaders were so easy for Godfrey to manipulate. If not for the team, do it for your country.”

“I’m not doing this for my fucking country or for anything. I’m a pilot, not an assassin.”

“I’m not asking you to kill her,” Cain said. “I’m asking you for a couple of hours of your life. Find out what you can and go back to your flying. You won’t need to carry anyone’s blood on your hands.”

Maya chuckled. “Come on, Bono. You can’t be that naïve. Working for Joss, you’re covered in blood.”

“Maya,” Cain said with a warning in his voice.

Joss held his eyes. “We have children. I’d like for them to grow up with parents.”

“Damn you, Joss.” Joss knew mentioning the kids would get to him. He loved those kids like they were his own. He wiped a hand over his jaw and started pacing the room. “I don’t want to be the reason for her to get hurt.”

“You won’t be,” Cain said flatly. “That card was dealt when she used her art to work for our enemy.”

He hung his head. “Only once.” He slowly lifted his gaze back to Cain. “I’ll see her one more time and then I’m done.”

Cain pushed a button on his wrist pad that pulled up a 3D monitor. “Let’s get to work. Bono, go get ready. You have a date tonight.”

~ * ~

There wasn’t a telephone number on the card, only an address. Not sure of what he’d find, Bono located the street and stopped in front of a trailer park. Judging from the small patches of flower and vegetable gardens, most people resided here permanently. After asking around, he was directed to an old-fashioned type caravan that had seen better days. The door opened before he could knock. Sky leaned in the frame, wearing an oversized sweater and leggings. Her feet were clad in socks and her hair braided down the sides of her face. The braids made her look younger than the twenty-five years her file stated.

“Come in.” Not waiting for a response, she moved back inside.

Joss had fitted him with a wrist pad, in case he needed backup. To avoid suspicion should he be searched, they’d decided he wouldn’t wear the comms earpiece or a wire. His only weapons were his hands. After a moment’s hesitation, he followed, uttering a silent sigh of relief when no one else waited inside.

“Welcome to my home.” She held out her arms and turned in a circle.

The interior was decorated much like her reading room at the sex club with colorful drapes, gold tinsel, and a velvet bedspread. There was a kitchenette with a small table in one corner and a dressing table with an ornate mirror.

She regarded him from under her golden lashes. “You seem surprised.”

“Do you live alone?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’m surprised.”

“Why?”

“Your boyfriend seems possessive. I didn’t take him for the type who’d let you camp out on your own.”

“Reading palms aren’t easy. I sometimes need space.”

“Where does he live?”

“In a house.”

“Do you live there, too?”

“You’re asking awfully prying questions.”

“I’m only trying to understand the situation.”

“You mean you’re trying to figure out how our relationship works, if I’m free to fuck other men, like you, for example.”

He shoved his hands into the back pockets of his jeans. “Sky, why am I here?”

“Because you want to be or you wouldn’t have come.”

“All right.” He gave her a patient smile. “Why did you give me your card?”

“To let you finish what you started at the club.”

“What may that be?”

She pulled her sweater over her head, revealing a pink, lacy bra with ribbons and an underwire that pushed her breasts high.

The sight was mesmerizing, no question about that. Her skin was smooth like white chocolate and her curves were just right. Her breasts were small but firm, her stomach flat, and her muscles toned.

When she reached for the clasp of the bra behind her back, he caught her arm. “You don’t have to do that.”

Something keen to rejection flashed in her eyes. “You don’t want me?”

“Not unless you want me more, and not when you’re with someone else.”

She gave him a frown. “You’re not the norm, are you?”

“It depends on what your norm is.” He picked up the sweater, lifted her arms, and helped her fit the garment back on.

“If you’re not here for sex,” she said, “what do you want?”

“Shall we go out? I haven’t done much sightseeing.”

She studied him for a moment as if she couldn’t make up her mind and then sat down to pull on her trainers. “What do you want to see?”

“Surprise me.”

They walked a few blocks and stopped in front of a small building with a zoology sign.

“This is my favorite,” she said, taking his hand and leading him inside.

They were the only visitors. The interior consisted of a single room, the size of a small warehouse, lined with shelves. The exhibits were stuffed animals and reptiles in jars. He watched as she walked through the rows, stopping from time to time to study one of the poor dead creatures. It was damn depressing.

“Why do you come here?” he asked.

Her voice carried under the acoustic ceiling. “To be reminded of the living. To give the dead the respect they deserve.”

“I’ll be honest, this is not what I expected.”

“What did you expect? Windmills and tulips?”

“Cheese and beer.”

“That can be arranged.” She shot him a smile. “Come.”

At the Heineken museum, she made him pay the entrance fee and go through the whole damn boring tour alone. At the end of it, he was happy to find her waiting at the high tables in the tasting area.

“You deserve a hiding,” he teased. “This was torture.”

“Don’t all men love beer?”

“Not the scientific process of making it.” He popped a piece of cheese into her mouth. “You’re a terrible guide.”

“Now that you’ve had your fill of tourism, can we go home and fuck?”

He cupped her cheek. “No.”

“Why do you keep on rejecting me? I know you want to.”

“If I take you home, beautiful, it will be to make love. Besides, I already told you, I won’t touch what belongs to another man.”

She snorted and walked to the exit. When he followed, she put her arm through his and escorted him back into the street. “You’re from Senegal.”

“Did your homework?”

“The French gave you away.”

“I didn’t speak French when we met.”

“You have an accent. The way you roll your r’s is definitely African French.” She looked him up and down. “Then there’s your strong nose and high cheekbones.”

“Are you complimenting me?”

“I don’t have to. You know you’re pretty.”

“Pretty?” he said with mock offense. “Is that how you’d describe a man?”

“You know what I mean. What happened to your eye?”

He scratched his head. “You’re very direct, aren’t you?”

“Life is too short to take the long way around questions if you really want the answers.”

“A cynic, too.”

“In my profession, can you be anything else?”

“What is your profession?”

“Do you want to know if I’m a whore?”

“I was referring to that thing you did back there at the club.”

“I’m a fortune teller.”

“Is that how you make your living?”

“Yes.”

“Doumar?”

“Doumar is Doumar.”

“How does it work between you?”

“You heard him. I’m property.”

“Yeah, I heard. I’m asking what it means.”

“It means he’s working tonight, and I’m home alone.”

“Sky, stop. Why are you doing this?”

She halted and turned to him. “Because I’m lonely, and I was hoping you’d take care of that for me, just for one night.”

“I’ll do anything for you, but not that.”

“I know you’re a player.” She gave him her back and continued on her way.

“I appreciate women, but I don’t take my relationships lightly.”

“Have you had many?”

“None.”

She paused again. “Then you can’t speak from experience.”

“No, I can’t, but I’m speaking from my heart.”

Taking his arm, she pulled him toward a French fries stand. “You’re a romantic.”

“Nothing wrong with that.”

After ordering two fries with mayonnaise, she handed him one. “Dinner’s on me.”

“That’s against my code of conduct,” he said, taking out his wallet.

She gave him another one of her half-smiles, studying him while he waited for his change.

“What?” he asked.

“You’re very handsome.”

“That’s an improvement on being pretty.”

She touched the diamond stud in his ear. “Why the piercing?”

“Why not?”

“I like it.”

“Thanks for the vote of approval.”

“Let’s take a seat over there.” She led him to a bench facing the canal.

They ate in silence, and when she was done, she turned to him, pulling her knees up to her chin. “Where are you staying?”

“Not far.”

“Hotel?”

“No.”

“You don’t want to tell me?”

“No.”

A wounded look invaded her eyes. “I see. You have a girlfriend waiting for you.”

“Nope.”

“Wife?” she asked quietly.

“Boss.”

“The French guy from the club? Joss, right?”

“Right.”

“Your address is confidential?”

“Joss is a private person.”

“What are you doing in Amsterdam?”

“Joss is here on business. I’m flying him around.”

“Wow, private plane and pilot. I knew the guy was loaded, but not like that.”

“He’s got means.”

“What business?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

She tilted her head, regarding him with a downward pull to her beautiful lips. “I guess we all have our secrets.”

“Do you?”

She turned away from him to face the water. “Who doesn’t?”

“Sky?”

“Mm?”

“Look at me, please.”

She gave him a sidelong glance. “What?”

“What did you see in our future?”

“I already told you.”

“Why do I have a feeling there’s more?”

“Everyone thinks there should be more, especially if they don’t like the prediction.”

“How do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“See the future?”

“Some people are good at ballet or baseball. I’m good at this.” She got to her feet. “Let’s go. It’s getting late.”

He dumped their garbage in the trashcan and followed. “How did you meet Doumar?”

“It was a long time ago, a story not worth telling.”

“Are you happy with him?”

She stopped to look at him, her lips slightly apart. For a moment, she didn’t say anything. Her mouth opened wider, but instead of speaking, she pursed her lips together and gave him a smile. “What a curious creature you are.”

“Is that bad?”

“Yes.” She ran her hands over his abdomen, caressing him with her palms. His muscles contracted in response, stirring desires best left dormant. “In a city like this, you can end up dead for asking the right questions.”

She went on tiptoes, bringing her lips an inch from his. With his occupation, he travelled constantly, enough to have met plenty of women from all walks of life, but never one like her. She called to him like a siren, rendering him brainless with nothing but an awareness of her sweet mouth and sad eyes.

“Sky…” He’d never touched another man’s woman before. He didn’t want to start now, but she made it damn difficult for him. “I’m only a man.”

“Yeah.” She brushed their lips together. “That’s what I’m counting on.”

Damn. Damn. He was going to kiss her. He couldn’t help himself. Catching her around the waist, he dipped her to have easier access to her mouth. The taste of that forbidden fruit was worth every ounce of guilt it ignited. She kissed him lightly, but her body rubbed up against his with an underlying urgency that tightened his cock. If he let their embrace continue for one more second, he wouldn’t be able to stop.

With a groan born from frustration, he pulled away, keeping his hands on her waist to prevent her from tripping. “You’re playing a dangerous game.”

She wiped her mouth with the tips of her fingers. “Isn’t that the point of playing?”

“If I kiss you, Sky, it’s because I want to love your body, and I don’t mean once. I only sleep with a woman I intend on having for more than one night when she’s mine. I don’t share. Do you understand?”

“If you’re not into sharing, why did you come to the club?”

“Don’t ask the wrong questions.”

“I’m asking the right ones.”

“You’re better off not going there.”

“Is that a threat?”

“No. It’s called caring.”

“Don’t tell me you care. At least be honest if you’re planning on using me.”

His body tensed in alarm. Could she know? “Where the hell did that come from?”

She turned away from him and started up the street.

He ran to catch up with her. “I’ll walk you home.”

“I’m a big girl, Mr. Black.”

“I know that, and I think we’re long past the point of being formal.”

“Goodnight, Bono.”

“I’ll say goodnight when I’m damn well ready.”

She smirked. “Pushy, some?”

“I need you to read my palm.”

“No.”

“I need to know, Sky.”

“You don’t.”

“Don’t you dare tell me what I don’t need to know about dying.”

She started walking faster. “It’s not just you. It’s me. Do you think it’s a joyride seeing people’s deaths? Have you stopped to consider what it’s like for me, what you’re asking of me?”

He grabbed her arm. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I didn’t think about how it must be for you.”

The angry lines on her pretty, too young face softened. “Why are you really here? Tell me the truth.”

He cupped her head. “You’re so goddamn beautiful.”

“Don’t.”

“You asked me for the truth.”

She pulled free. “Call on me again. I’ll try not to get into your pants if you try not to force me into your future.”

Dragging her into his future didn’t sound like half a bad idea, but not in the way she’d meant. The revelation came as a surprise. There was something about her feisty sadness and gorgeous strength that had him by the balls. He was in so much fucking trouble. By the time he’d found his bearings, she’d already disappeared into the crowd.

Fine, beautiful. Run for now.

There was more to her than what met the eye, and something fishy about her ties to Doumar. Even as he recalled his statement to Cain–that he’d only see her this once–he knew he was going to pay her another visit. And another.

As he tried to hail down a cab, he noticed a man on the opposite side of the street. He recognized his face. He was one of the security guards from the club. The weapon the man showed as he discreetly lifted the flap of his jacket was an unmistakable threat.

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