**warning–adult content**

This chapter begins the physical relationship of the characters, so if you’re under 18, this is no place for you to be!

Chapter Three

 Aidan poured two glasses of Chardonnay, proud his hands didn’t betray the tremors still racing through him. His cock was doing a dance of its own, demanding to be let out and complete the mating ritual begun so torridly moments ago.

He wasn’t sure what had happened back there in the living room, but his body and soul had responded to Leanan Murphy as it never had to anyone. How could a mere mortal draw him so? And why did it shake him right down to the marrow?

Turning, he pressed the cool, stemmed glass into Leanan’s hand. “Please, have a seat.” He gestured to one of the four chairs surrounding the old oak table, pleased when she took the seat directly opposite him. He needed as much distance from
her as possible, at least until he figured out exactly what she’d seen.

He’d been deep in conversation with Rhiannon when his locked and warded door had swung open, and even though the room had been dark, lit only by the ritual fire, it was possible the good doctor had seen more than she should have.

“So,” he began, glancing down at the glass of wine framed between his hands, looking anywhere but at her. “What can I do for you, Leanan?”

It wasn’t purposeful, the way her name slipped across his lips like a lover’s song, but it was there, and there seemed to be nothing he could do to stop it. Nor could he stop the want, the need to look up at her, to watch her expressive face as she answered his question.

Her eyes darkened from that unique golden color to almost brown, pupils dilating as she studied him across the table. The scent of her arousal teased the air around him for a long moment, and then she shook her head slightly, shrouding her face behind a mane of dark hair.

When she surfaced again, it was as if another woman had taken her place. The woman who had flirted with him this morning, the woman who had been a hair’s-breath of consummating something beyond words this evening, was replaced by the professor, anguished to find her collection had been destroyed.

“I think I may have a lead for you.”

With those words, Aidan’s purpose was restored. He could handle his libido … the rogue Fae was another thing altogether.

He reached back, snagging a pen and tablet from the counter and faced her again. “Go on.”

Something like relief flooded Leanan’s features. Yes, it was relief, and it was then he realized Leanan Murphy was as disconcerted by the strong pull of attraction between them as he was. For some reason, it spiked his interest even more.

“This morning I told you there wasn’t anyone strange hanging out at the exhibit, and there wasn’t,” she quickly amended. “But I’ve got a new kid in my class, a mid-semester add-on and he’s a bit odd. Sits apart from the other students. He’s very knowledgeable about folklore, and while he never volunteers anything, he always has the answers when I call on him. His papers are nothing short of brilliant. To be honest, I was thinking of asking him to be an aide next semester.”

Aidan rolled the pen absently between his fingers. “So what’s so odd about him? Maybe he’s just shy.”

“That’s what I thought. Until he missed my class today. I knew it was something he’d been looking forward to, so I was concerned. After class, I went to the dean’s office to get his address. Then I went to see if he was home.”

Without thinking, Aidan exploded out of his chair, the thought of the risk she’d taken shaking him to the core. What if she’d confronted the rogue from his clan? She could have been killed. He stalked around the table until he stood directly in front of her, towering over her. “You did what?”

“I went to his address.”

“Did you once stop to think how dangerous searching him out was? How stupid?”

Leanan surged up and poked him in the chest with a finger. Hard. “It’s not stupid; it’s called being a good teacher. It’s not like I was even thinking of the fire. I was just worried about my student.” Absolute fury claimed the fine lines of her face, and instead of making her look ugly or bitter, it emphasized the passion he now understood she was capable of. “Don’t you ever call me stupid again.”

Aidan drew in deep breaths, trying to calm himself. His mind kept flashing on her burning alive, flames leaping from her body as she died and everything inside him screamed to protect her, to make sure she was safe.

He needed to ground himself, and clasped her arms. Gently, so she couldn’t break his grip. “Listen to me closely, Leanan. Our suspect has already burned three warehouses to the ground, and killed a vagrant in one just two weeks ago. Going to your student’s house was foolhardy and could’ve gotten you hurt. What if he’s my arsonist?” He released his hold, running his hands slowly down her arms to grasp her hands. “Promise me you won’t do anything like that again.”

“I promise,” she answered shakily. When she lifted her eyes to his, he could see her anger had changed to something else, something elemental–and dangerous–for both of them. His pulse soared in response, and it took everything he had not to swoop down and claim her mouth with his, finishing what they’d started back in the living room.

Disengaging their hands, he pushed down on her shoulders, guiding her into a chair before he circled the table and reclaimed his own.

“I didn’t mean to call you stupid.” Aidan took a long sip of wine, giving himself time to control his expression and heartbeat. His own reaction to what she’d said had his mind in a whirl. He’d never felt such an overwhelming compulsion to protect, defend at all costs. “You scared me,” he finished simply, placing the glass on the table.

Leanan’s indrawn breath forced him to glance up. Her eyes were locked on his, filled inexplicably with moisture. Those unshed tears undid him and he started to stand, to go to her, when she held up a hand, forestalling him.

“I’m sorry,” her voice wavered, but the strength behind it was obvious. “I’ve never had a stranger, hell, even my own father, express so much concern over me.”

Aidan fought back a grin, relieved and a little bit amused at the reason behind her mistiness. “Not to sound presumptuous, Leanan, but I get the feeling you and I are anything but strangers.” The words hung in the air for a long moment and he
could almost see the air thicken between them again.

Purpose, Aidan reminded himself forcefully, he had a purpose here, and it wasn’t bedding Leanan Murphy, as much as he would like to. He needed to expend his energy and attention on his mission.

He broke the building web with much less subtlety than he’d like. “So what happened when you went to visit your odd student?”

Leanan gaped for a moment, then regained herself, the mist in her eyes vanishing. She stiffened her spine, sitting up straight. Aidan wondered if he’d gone about shifting the subject in the wrong way, even if it was for the best.

“You’re  right.”

Aidan wasn’t sure if she was referring to his “strangers” comment, or to the change of subject. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know at this point. The woman across the table puzzled and aroused him in equal measures. It wasn’t a feeling he was accustomed to and he didn’t like it.

“Ian’s home was a burned out shell down in Hillcrest.” She referred to the less-affluent neighborhood surrounding the
university, where down-on-their-luck students lived. “That’s what made the connection in my mind, made me think you needed to know.”

Aidan mused over her revelation, anger at the rogue Fae building in him again. The pieces were certainly coincidental enough, and getting more “official” information on the mysterious, odd student shouldn’t be difficult, given the fact the university had suffered such a heavy loss. What he did unofficially was another scenario altogether.

“Thank you. While I still object to how you got the information, you might have given me the lead I need to find this bastun.”

*

The vehemence in Aidan’s reply shouldn’t have surprised Leanan, but it did. It was obvious to her now. His demeanor this morning hadn’t hinted that finding this arsonist was personal to Aidan.

It made him all the more attractive and for the life of her, she couldn’t think of one good reason to squelch her desire for him. She wondered what an affair with him would be like and flashed back to the moment in the living room. And it had been a moment … one she’d been relieved to see end because it was so unexpected.

She considered him across the table.

No, it wasn’t going to happen tonight, or maybe ever, simply because Aidan personified the unexpected, and she liked her affairs hot, discreet and fast. Everything about Aidan Hughes screamed of long, sultry kisses and damp sheets, and as intriguing as her body might find the concept, she couldn’t and wouldn’t let her mind wrap around it. Regaining control, of both her profession and her life, was something she’d fought long and hard for, and the man across the table had her reacting in ways far surpassing her comfort zone.

Never mind the fact she couldn’t afford the distraction of having a man in her life right now, especially not a man as vital as Aidan. Not with the exhibit in ashes. As enjoyable as a brief fling might be, her professional life was on the rocks. She would need every bit of her time and attention focused on making the exhibit a success with the odds and ends she had kept in her office and home.

The thought was enough to depress her all over again. She needed to pull her head out of the clouds and go home.

With her decision made, she picked up her wineglass and took a last sip before standing.

“Give me a minute to make a call, please?”

Torn. She was seriously torn, but in the end, did what she knew to be best. “I really should be going. Thank you for the wine.” Turning, she walked through the living room to the front door, actually feeling Aidan behind her as he escorted her. While it certainly gave her a delicious shiver, Aidan Hughes–hell, any man–was off limits until she could stand triumphantly at the doors of the Corcoran on opening day.

She shot a glance at the fireplace as she passed, feeling a smile kick up at the corner of her mouth. Damned if her imagination wasn’t fanciful tonight. It was Ireland all over again.

“What’s so funny?” Aidan’s voice came from directly behind her and rumbled through her body, stoking the fire that had been banked within.

Her physical response and wandering thoughts had her answering absentmindedly.

“Nothing, I was just being goofy earlier, seeing things in the fire.”

Aidan’s presence behind her intensified as he drew in closer until he almost touched her. Almost. A brief flash of panic skittered through her, as titillating as it was frightening.

“And what did you see, Leanan Murphy?” His honeyed voice washed over her, making her knees weak and her body weep. Aidan Hughes should be declared a lethal weapon, with the way he was making her feel.

His warm breath feathered across her cheek as he leaned in still closer, bathing her in the scent of soap, sandalwood and good clean sweat. Her heart threatened to jump out of her chest.

Out, she had to get out before she made a total ass of herself. She did flings, not one-nighters, and being this close to Aidan had her ready to drag him to the floor. She surged to the door, opening it with more strength than necessary and stepped into the balmy San Diego night.

“Leanan.”

She turned, pivoting on her sneaker slowly, carefully. If he touched her right now, she wouldn’t be able to resist him. She’d definitely been without a man too long.

Aidan stood in the doorway, framed by the flicker of the fire behind him, face unreadable in the wash of the porch light.

She understood what he wanted, and gave it, as a condition of her release.

As she spoke the words, she knew them to be true, even though they sounded ridiculous, too much like the child who had seen the magic of the Fae twenty years earlier and been ridiculed and humiliated by her staunchly academic father.

“A Fae, that’s what I saw, all right?” A bit of anger drove her words as she braced for another round of the old hurt.

Instead of making fun of her, he did the one thing she least expected.

“Good night, Leanan,” he murmured, and leaned in, capturing her lips in a sweet kiss. The sweetness mushroomed immediately, eclipsing their moment in the living room, as sudden, complete desire enveloped her. She sagged into him, her body
turning to fire wherever she touched him. All thought vanished but the absolute need to have this man, and have him right now.

Aidan growled, deep in his chest. The vibration rocketed through her, making her wet, wanton and ravenous.

She opened her mouth, meeting his tongue with her own, sparring and thrusting, until the only thing in her world was the pure heat shooting in a never-ending circle from her mouth to her breasts to her pussy.

When his hand snaked beneath her t-shirt to cup a breast, she almost screamed her delight. Mouth still feasting, Aidan anchored a hand in her hair and tortured her nipple, circling it with hard, demanding fingers, squeezing it with just the right amount of force to bring her to the brink of coming.

Reaching down, she palmed the hard length of his cock through his shorts, measuring it appreciatively as she dove into his mouth, moaning as his hands tightened in her hair, on her breast. Sliding her hand up, she dipped her fingers beneath the waistband of his shorts, needing to feel the length of him.

A wolf-whistle cut through the fog of desire. “Get a room, why dontcha?” The catcall was punctuated by the bleat of a car horn and laughter coming from the street. Young, juvenile laughter.

Leanan froze, fingers centimeters away from his cock, then whipped her hand out and twisted her head to the side, breaking their mating of the mouths.

Jesus, what in the hell was she thinking?

She pulled out of Aidan’s arms, shivering with fear over her loss of control.

He let go of her reluctantly, shaking his head as if coming out of a daze. She understood exactly how he felt.

“Leanan…”

“I’ve got to go.” She turned and did something she’d never done in her life. She fled.

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