I love sharing my work with people, especially if that work isn't available anywhere else! Here's a sneak peek of the first chapter of Dark Devotion. Enjoy!
***This is unedited work and subject to change. All this material is copyright by Lauren Dawes***
*This chapter does contain swearing. For readers 18+ only*
Aubrey looked at himself in the mirror, brushing his fingertips against the lapel of his charcoal Tom Ford suit jacket. His tie was the same shade, contrasting against the crisp whiteness of his shirt. He buttoned up the front of the jacket, then unbuttoned it, then buttoned it again.
He was nervous.
The question wasn’t so much why, but who.
She’d seen him in nothing more than a workout singlet and jeans, and she’d still wanted him…not that she would have admitted to that. He would break her though. He was determined to get into her panties if it was the last thing he did. He could practically smell the sexual tension whenever they were around each other, and no matter how hard she fought him on it, Aubrey was sure she felt the same way about him as he did for her.
The trick was getting her to admit to it.
Stepping back from the mirror, he turned to look at the entire ensemble, smiling devilishly.
She wouldn’t be able to resist him.
Turning around, he left his bedroom, collecting the keys to his Lexus as he strode past the hall table. Although he didn’t need a car, he found great pleasure in driving. He took even greater pleasure in the looks of admiration and outright lust that came his way when he drove the high-powered LFA around the streets of Boston. Ostentatious it may be, but he wasn’t afraid to admit that that was what he craved.
Although, if he was honest, he was craving a little dark-haired Mare more.
The car door closed with a satisfying thump that spoke of precision engineering and Aubrey carefully pulled away from the curb. The traffic was sparse – an phenomenon which only survived in a tiny window of time between the peak hour rush and the time when young professionals returned to the city to spend up big at the many clubs and bars in the downtown area.
Aubrey navigated his way down to the Eye, pulling up into the loading zone outside the front of the club. He didn’t need to worry about being towed though—he had more than half the Boston Police Department in his pocket. Having that kind of backing was essential for the line of work Aubrey was in.
A line had already formed outside the bar-slash-nightclub-slash-gentlemen’s club—a line Aubrey by-passed completely. A few people cursed him out, but he ignored them all. Focusing his attention on the Valkyrie at the door, he met her bi-colored eyes and waited. There was something about the female that he couldn’t place. With her shaved head, she was a soldier that was clear enough. But there was something else going on there. He’d never heard her speak before, and by the looks of the scar running across the front of her throat, he thought that maybe she couldn’t.
After one long eye-fuck, the Valkyrie uncrossed her arms and stepped away from the door. He nodded to her as he passed, stepping into the Eye. The first level was where the bar was. It wasn’t very busy. A lot of people were going straight to the stairs, hoping to get access to the club and strippers up top. Aubrey surveyed the bar, looking for Taer and wondering whether she was working when he didn’t immediately see her.
He was scanning the area near the stage when he caught sight of her. Wearing a shirt with the club’s logo across the front of her chest, Aubrey drank in every detail of her. The scar across her throat that she hid away before was now on show. Her hair was tied back into a high ponytail that bounced on her shoulders as she walked, and the determined glint in her eye was curiously absent. Instead, she looked almost serene.
Aubrey moved towards her, reaching for her shoulder as she turned around to wipe down a table. She jumped at the contact, swinging around with a grimace on her face and a curled up fist ready to strike. Recognition flooded her eyes, and she lowered her hand. Aubrey squeezed her shoulder, just for the physical contact, but when she winced, he frowned.
That was when he noticed the bandage on her shoulder. Rage filled him suddenly. The feeling was so intense it staggered him. Pulling the shirt away from her shoulder, he stared at the bloody patch.
“Who did that to you?” he demanded, the urge to tear whoever it was apart with his bare hands wrestling with his common sense. It was just like when he’d seen her scar for the first time, only this time the feeling was ten times stronger.
Her green eyes met his. “He’s dead.”
‘He’ was Darrion, the Mare who had both mentally and physically tortured Taer; firstly by killing her brother and secondly by haunting her dreams. Darrion had also been the thorn in Aubrey’s side, the one thing to stop him from expanding his business empire. Aubrey was the top supplier of Cocaine in Boston, Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut. What set him apart was the purity of his product. With Darrion out of the way, Aubrey could now use more Mares to move the drug.
It struck Aubrey then just how close he’d come to losing Taer. He’d manipulated her into killing the guild master purely for personal reasons, but after spending time with Taer, training her, he realized that she was much more to him than he ever thought she’d be. Reaching up, he ran his hand down the side of her neck, feeling her pulse fighting to get out in reaction to his touch.
“Do you have any other injuries?” he asked.
The room seemed to get sucked away whenever he was with her. He didn’t care that they were standing in the middle of a room filled with people. Aubrey had tunnel vison when it came to Taer. Her eyes had closed when his fingers grazed her skin, and he noticed the deep purple bruises peeking out from under the bandage.
Taer sucked in a deep breath. “Broken wrist, internal bleeding, cut across the ribs, one in the shoulder…” She rattled them off like they meant nothing, but with every injury she uttered, Aubrey blood pressure shot up just a little more.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She shrugged. “I’m breathing.”
And Aubrey was thankful for that. “Can we speak somewhere more private?”
Taer shook her head. “I’ve only just started my shift.”
“Come to me later?” In my dreams?
Taer’s expression hardened, her eyes growing cold. A tangle of complex emotions crossed her face and she shook her head tightly once more.
“Taer?” someone called. Aubrey looked over to his right, seeing a large man standing there. His dark eyes were two daggers trained on his heart and Aubrey dropped his hand from Taer. He straightened up and faced the guy.
Taer stepped in front of Aubrey, attempting to shield him from view. “I’m coming.” Without turning around, she said to Aubrey, “I’ll see you later,” and walked towards the other male. Jealousy, something he hadn’t felt since he was a young man, shot through his body. Who was this other guy? And why did Aubrey care? It wasn’t as if Taer belonged to him.
Although she should. The thought had come out of nowhere. He didn’t want her to belong to him, did he? He wanted to get her flat on her back and begging him for more of what his body could give her, but that was it. Wasn’t it?
“Too much to fucking think about,” he muttered to himself, moving through the crowd which streamed around him like he was a stone in a river.
Aubrey left the Eye straight away, jumping back into his car and abruptly pulling out into the traffic. The driver he’d just cut off slammed on the horn. Aubrey flipped the guy off in the rear view mirror and accelerated, leaving the Honda driver staring at his Lexus’s vanity plates. Aubrey felt reckless and out of control and it was all because Taer might have another lover. He had never thought to ask her. He was just going to take what he wanted whether she was available or not, but seeing the other bastard had unnerved Aubrey.
Was he willing to fight for Taer?
The answer scared him more than the question.
It was close to three a.m. when the doorbell rang. Aubrey was still awake; his concern for Taer still had a firm grip on his mind. Strolling to the intercom on the wall, he pressed the button and waited. He wasn’t expecting anyone.
“Hello?” a voice asked after a few seconds.
“Taer?” Aubrey replied.
“Yeah, it’s me. Can I come in?”
Aubrey released the lock on the gate and strode towards the front door. As he opened it, Taer was closing the main gate on the other side of the courtyard. Propping himself against the door jamb, he waited for her to come to him. She’d changed out of her work uniform and was now wearing a black tank top that hugged her lithe frame and a pair of yoga pants. Her intense gaze never wavered as she moved towards him, until her eyes dropped to peruse his body. He straightened then, wanting her to get a good look. He’d changed out of his suit, and was wearing a pair of sweats and a tee. Nobody had seen him dressed so casually before. He was always working hard on portraying an image of power to his work associates and clients. But with Taer, he didn’t feel like he needed to keep up the act.
“How’s your shoulder?” he asked.
Taer winced when she shrugged. “Fine.”
He stared at her for a long, hard minute before stepping back and letting her into his house. He led her through the kitchen where he filled the kettle and set it to boil.
“Tea?” he asked.
Taer climbed into one of the tall stools set under the breakfast bar. “Got anything stronger?”
He smiled. Fuck, he liked this woman. “What’s your poison?”
Aubrey walked over to the freezer and pulled out the iced bottle of Goose he always kept in there. Collecting two glasses from the cupboard beside the fridge, he walked back over to her. Placing the glasses down, he took off the cap and poured them both half a glass. Taer took hers before he could offer it to her, swallowing down two-thirds of the clear liquid in one mouthful.
“Cheers,” he said, smirking, and taking a sip of his own drink. Taer took the sweating bottle and poured herself another drink. Aubrey raised an eyebrow at her. “Something bothering you?” He instantly regretted the question. Clearly something was troubling her, and he didn’t have to guess what that something was. Aubrey settled down on his elbows, leaning down to catch her eye, but she refused to look at him. “Sorry. What happened?”
Taer took a deep breath and winced. “It was bad. He almost killed me.” As she spoke, her voice became softer. “He talked about Adrian, and I almost lost it.”
“What made you stop and think about it rationally?”
Taer’s green eyes met his. They blazed with triumph. “You.”
Aubrey blinked dumbly. “Excuse me?”
“Your words pulled me back. I remembered what you told me about not being controlled by my emotions. As soon as I took them out of the equation, I was able to think clearly again.”
Aubrey kept his expression serious but on the inside he was puffing up with pride. He stood up again, taking a sip from his glass. “The shoulder injury, it happened before then, right?”
She nodded and swallowed the rest of her vodka. “Yeah. The bastard threw one of his daggers at me.”
“Will it heal?”
Taer shook her head. “Probably not.”
Darrion was lucky he was already dead otherwise Aubrey was going to put him in the ground himself. “Why did you come to me tonight, Taer?” he asked. “Here, to my house,” he clarified. “Why not just visit me in my dreams?”
Taer was silent. She reached for her glass, her hand shaking as she brought it to her lips. “I don’t want to do any dream walking for a little while.”
He frowned. “Because of Darrion?”
“Because of Darrion.” Aubrey’s returning smile made Taer’s brows rise. “What?”
He walked around the island bench, standing directly behind her and leaning down to run his nose along the same path his fingers had taken earlier. Goose bumps broke out on her skin, and her breathing hitched in her throat. Over her shoulder, Aubrey could see her fingers cinching shut around her glass, and he smirked. “I like having you here in the flesh rather than just in my dreams. It means I can do whatever I like to you.”
A small moan broke free of her mouth—a sound that was abruptly cut short. Taer’s shoulders tightened and she became stock-still. “I haven’t touched you,” she whispered.
Aubrey stopped what he was doing, her vow from when they were training ringing in his head with pain-staking clarity.
I’ll make you a deal, Aubrey. The day I voluntarily touch you—when we’re not training together—is the day I’ll let you fuck me.
They were back to playing their games.