DARIUS headed in the direction of the bar he inevitably arrived at once his night was just about over. This habit of getting a drink before he returned to his home had started six months before. Out of the last five years he’d lived in Miami, not once had he’d been drawn to a place as he was to the White Sands Bar.
He knew exactly why he went there night after night. It had nothing to do with the bar’s atmosphere. To be honest, Darius really didn’t pay much attention to the mortals who sat around him. No, the other patrons would never hold his interest as one mortal in particular would. The image of the woman bartender rose in his mind.
Before Darius let his thoughts wander down a path they shouldn’t, he felt a familiar pull on his senses. It was something he couldn’t ignore. Something that had him out walking Miami’s streets once the sun went down each night.
Changing direction, he followed the invisible trail that tugged him closer to its source. His nose picked up the scent of evil, something only he could smell because of what he was. Ducking down a dark alley, Darius prepared himself for what would play out when he arrived. Even though he’d been through it thousands of times, it still wasn’t pleasant to experience.
He reached the end of the alley and turned the corner into a shorter one that dead-ended. And there was the source of the pull. A man had a woman up against the brick wall, a knife held to her throat while he groped her, tearing at her clothes. The woman’s whimpers of fear reached Darius’ ears.
He walked closer, the man oblivious to Darius’ presence. As he did so, Darius felt the change start to take him over. His eyesight was keener, heralding the shift. It happened quickly, but it didn’t mean it was any less painful. He growled as his bones realigned themselves, growing larger. He grew taller to stand at almost seven feet. His body shifted to his half-human and half-jackal form, his muscles becoming bigger. Black fur sprouted from his skin until he was completely covered from head to toe. Gold armbands appeared around each of his thick biceps, and last, a snow-white Egyptian-styled kilt formed around his hips to fall to the middle of his thighs.
Having finally caught sight of him, the woman let out a scream. Darius’ pointed ears on top of his head twitched, but he ignored her and focused his sights on the man assaulting her. The scent of evil seemed to ooze out of every one of the man’s pores. He was Darius’ prey. The man didn’t know it yet, but he was about to finally get his comeuppance for every evil deed he’d ever done.
With one furred hand, Darius grabbed the man by the back of his shirt collar and threw him. A loud growl rumbled out of him as the man sailed across the narrow alley and slammed into the opposite wall before he slumped to the ground. Darius only took the few seconds needed to snag the frightened woman’s gaze and to wipe her memory of him before he sent her on her way.
He turned to the man to find him slowly regaining his feet. Darius moved in to subdue him. His prey slashed out with the knife he still held. Darius blocked it with a sweep of his arm and knocked it from the man’s hand. With a snarl, he took hold of his prey by his throat and lifted him off the ground with one hand, the man’s feet dangling in the air.
“What the fuck are you?” the man gasped as he struggled for breath.
“The one who sends you to be judged,” Darius said, his voice deeper and gruffer in that form.
He pushed into the man’s mind, not caring the pain he caused. Scenes of each crime and assault his prey had ever committed flashed through Darius’ mind. The screams of the man’s victims echoed inside it. Darius lived each one as if he’d been the one on the receiving end. He felt their pain, their terror.
Seeing all he could, Darius definitely knew this one was for Anubis. He willed a gold dagger into his hand. The blade had hieroglyphs carved on it—the spell Anubis had infused into it to send evildoers to the underworld. All it took was one cut to do its job. He sliced it across the man’s chest, cutting through his shirt to his skin. His prey gasped some more, clawing at Darius’ hand.
It was already too late. The dagger had already done its magic. The man’s body lost its solidity, then he was gone. Sent on his way to face the god of the underworld. There, Anubis would weigh the man’s heart on the Scales of Justice. If he was evil, his heart would be fed to Ammit to be consumed.
Lowering his arm, Darius willed the dagger away. The shift took hold of him. He growled as the familiar pain tore through him once again. After it was over, he stood in human form, wearing his black jeans and T-shirt. He’d become one of Anubis’ warriors back in 1218, as a dying German soldier lying on the banks of the river Nile, having fought in the fifth crusade to Egypt. Only Anubis had answered his call, not the god Darius had worshipped.
He pushed the thoughts of that fateful day aside. His work done, he headed out of the alley. Once he hit the sidewalk, he backtracked to where he’d been. This time he reached the bar with no interruptions.
Inside, Darius scanned the place with his gaze as he “felt” it out. If there happened to be prey there, he’d have no choice but to act quickly to get that individual outside before Darius shifted. As long as the person wasn’t in the middle of an evil deed, the change could be held at bay for a short period of time.
Not feeling a pull, Darius walked farther into the bar and sat at a table at the back corner of the room. He’d learned long ago if he wanted to be around mortals without being set off, he had to choose places where evil did not go. The White Sands Bar was such an establishment.
After a waitress took his order for a beer, he ignored the mortals who sat nearby and focused his gaze across the room at the bar. She was there, working. Darius followed her movements, able to see her face clearly even from that distance with his sharper-than-normal eyesight. His gaze touched on her long, black hair, which hung to the middle of her back. Her hazel eyes crinkled as she smiled at his waitress when she came up to the bar to place his drink order.
Darius could stare at her beautiful face all day. And her slim, curvy body heated his blood, making his cock hard with thoughts of how good she’d feel under him as he took her. Even now he was getting an erection. He let out a deep breath, sighing silently. He wanted her, but he wouldn’t approach her. She wasn’t the type of woman he’d be able to have a one-night stand with and just walk away. He’d become too obsessed with her. One taste and he’d crave more, which wasn’t something he could do. What he was, what he did, left no room for a woman in his life. Besides, he doubted one would be able to accept his being a warrior of Anubis, and what it entailed. No, he was better off alone, only finding a willing woman to slake his lust when his need became too great, then leaving her behind.
Brisa took the cap off the bottle of beer she held, knowing it would go to him. She snuck a quick look across the room at the large man who sat at the back corner of it, alone. He was always alone.
When he’d first started coming to the bar, she’d noticed him right away. What hot-blooded woman wouldn’t have? The man was sinfully gorgeous. Besides being at least six-feet-five and having a build of a bodybuilder, he had the sexiest longish, light-brown hair with blond highlights. It was the type she wanted to run her fingers through. Having never gotten close enough to see his eyes, she’d found out from the waitresses who had served him that they were a piercing blue. And his face, God, the man would make any woman wet just from looking at him.
“Are you done staring so I can go give him his beer?” Janey, her friend and his waitress, asked.
Brisa knew exactly which “him” Janey referred to. They’d talked about him enough. “Hey, you were staring at him as he came in.”
“Yeah, true, but I’m not the one who practically has her tongue hanging out.”
She tore her gaze off the hottie and scowled at her friend. “I am not that bad.”
Janey shook her head. “Oh yes, you are. I’m surprised you haven’t set the bar on fire with your erotic thoughts. The ones starring him.”
Brisa lifted a brow. “And how exactly would you know I’m having erotic thoughts, hmm? Are you a mind reader now?”
Her friend laughed. “No, but I know you have your mind in the gutter as much as I do.”
She chuckled. “So true. We do have sex on the brain.”
“Yeah, but at least I have a boyfriend to get me some. You, on the other hand, do not.”
“So I’m not seeing anyone right now. It’s not the end of the world, you know. I’ve just decided I need to be pickier in my choice of men.”
“I have to agree with you on that. The last one was a loser with a capital ‘L’. He wanted you to be his mother more than a girlfriend. I don’t know how you stuck it out for a month.”
Brisa groaned. “Don’t remind me. I’d hoped he’d get over it. He wasn’t that bad of a guy.”
Janey gave her a look that said who was Brisa kidding. “Maybe, but he wasn’t that good either.” She glanced over her shoulder, then turned back to Brisa. “I think the hunk over there would be perfect for you. Why don’t you go over and talk to him?”
“No way.” Brisa shook her head. “I’m waiting to see if he’ll talk to me first. I’ve caught him watching me a few times.”
“Brisa, you’ll be waiting a long time if you leave it up to him. He’s been coming in here for six months and hasn’t even said hello to you. There is nothing wrong with a woman making the first move.”
She nibbled her bottom lip. “I know. I just can’t.”
“Well, look at him. I’m sure he has women throwing themselves at him all the time. I doubt he’d appreciate it if I were to do the same thing.”
Janey rolled her eyes. “I’m not suggesting you jump his bones or anything. Just go up to him and start off by saying hi and introducing yourself.”
“I don’t know. I have to be at the bar,” Brisa hedged.
She’d love nothing more than to talk to the hottie, but every time she thought about it, she found herself not getting up enough nerve. Brisa had a sick feeling she’d make an ass of herself in front of him by saying something really stupid. As she’d said to Janey, he was so good-looking he probably had women going after him all the time. Brisa felt she’d have to make a good impression if she wanted to stand out in the crowd. And coming across as an airhead wouldn’t cut it.
“Stop thinking up excuses,” Janey said. “And that’s what it is. I’ve seen you handle guys who have tried to hit on you here with no problem. This should be much easier than warding off those dumbasses.”
“But nothing. Tonight’s your night. I’ll watch the bar while you serve the hunk his beer. I’ll even let you keep the tip.”
Brisa shook her head. “You’re not going to let up, are you?”
“All right. You win. I’ll take him his beer, but I’m giving you the tip.”
She walked out from around the bar and went to where Janey stood. After picking up the beer bottle, Brisa turned and headed for the hottie’s table. As she came closer, his gaze landed on her and stayed. Her body instantly stood at attention. Her nipples grew taut beneath her white cotton blouse. With each step, she felt more nervous. The hand holding the beer shook ever so slightly. Get a grip, she berated herself. She was a mature woman of twenty-nine. She’d talked with enough men that she shouldn’t be feeling this way. Finally reaching the table, her mouth suddenly went dry when she looked into his blue, blue eyes. With his tanned skin, they seemed to pop.
Brisa quietly cleared her throat. “Here’s your beer,” she said as she placed the bottle in front of him. “I’m Brisa, the bartender, by the way.”
Now didn’t she sound real intelligent with that one? Duh, he had to already know she was the bartender. Any idiot would know that, considering that’s where she spent all of her time when working her shift.
His gaze met hers. “I’m Darius.”
His deep, slightly accented voice washed over Brisa. A shiver of delight shot through her. God, she could have an orgasm just from listening to him talk. As if her pussy agreed wholeheartedly, an ache built inside it and she grew wet.
Darius’ chest rose as he took a deep breath. And for a second there, Brisa swore she saw hunger lurking in the blueness of his eyes. She became tongue-tied, only able to stare back at him, wishing she could strip him out of the black T-shirt that seemed molded to his broad shoulders and wide chest. Better yet, she wished she could plop down on his lap, take a good grip of his hair, and have her way with his mouth.
He shifted, reaching into the front pocket of his jeans, and Brisa snapped her thoughts back to reality. He took out some bills to pay for his beer. She reached for them when he held them out. As their fingers touched, and she took the money, his hand wrapped around hers before she could pull away. His was warm and seemed to envelop all of hers. At the simple contact, her heart beat faster, her breath speeding up as well. It wouldn’t take much to have her melt into a pile of goo at his feet.
“Keep the change,” he said. Still holding her hand, he continued. “Have a drink with me, Brisa.”
“Ah, I can’t. I’m not allowed to drink while I’m working.” Where they touched, a current of pleasure rode through her bloodstream all the way to her pussy.
“Then once you’re finished your shift.”
“That’ll be closing time.”
“I’ll wait and walk you to your car.”
Brisa was about to tell him that he didn’t have to when Janey breezed by, and said, “She’d love for you to walk her to her car.”
She figured her friend had to have been somewhere close enough to eavesdrop on her conversation with Darius, even though she was supposed to be watching the bar. Brisa shook her head as the other woman went to another table to take orders.
Brisa turned her attention back to Darius. He still hadn’t let go of her hand. “I guess my answer is yes.”
Darius released her. Brisa instantly missed the warmth of his hand surrounding hers. She smiled and slowly backed up, clutching the money. She spun around and beat a hasty retreat.
She wasn’t too surprised to find Janey approaching the bar a short time after Brisa had gone behind it. The knowing smile her friend wore said everything.
“Aren’t you glad I made you go talk to him?” Janey asked.
“Yes.” Brisa rang in the sale of Darius’ beer in the cash register, then took out the change and handed it to Janey.
The other woman pocketed the money. “And don’t worry. I won’t stick around to see what happens when he walks you to your car.” She winked. “Maybe you’ll get lucky tonight.”
Brisa doubted it. For one thing, she wasn’t the type of woman to hop into the sack with a man she’d just met. Considering how late it would be when the bar closed, it wasn’t as if she and Darius would have a lot of time to get to know each other enough for sex to be part of the picture. If he asked her out on a real date, that would be another matter.
“Oh yeah, I’m going to have some hot sex with Darius in the back of my car in the parking lot,” Brisa said. “And given how small it is, I doubt the man would manage to fit inside it.”
Janey laughed. “Okay, I just got the mental picture of him sitting in the backseat with his legs hanging out the car door as he does the nasty with you.”
Brisa smacked her friend in the arm with the towel she’d used to dry some glasses. “You really do have a gutter mind.”
“Takes one to know one.”
“Yeah, well, yours is worse than mine.”
After Brisa mixed the drinks Janey needed for one of her orders, and Janey left to serve them, Brisa turned her gaze in Darius’ direction. He seemed to stare at her with a slight smile on his lips. The expression made him even better-looking. She sighed. She’d have to wait and see what happened when the bar closed.