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Taming jack - angela knight

Taming jack - angela knight


He’d known the call to report to the Sheriff’s office couldn’t be good, and he was right.

“Jack, this isn’t easy for me to say, but I don’t have a choice,” Sheriff Steve Jones said after Ramsey had settled into the lone chair in front of the big man’s desk. “You’re endangering the case. You’re going to have to back off.”

“What case?” In his frustration, Ramsey forgot any pretense of diplomacy. “Dammit! It’s been three weeks since Heather was murdered and we don’t have shit. Not a suspect, not a clue. Nothing.”

The sheriff’s long, homely face hardened. “Watch your tone, Deputy. I’ve been willing to allow you a certain amount of slack under the circumstances, but you’re pushing it. Hard.”

“Sheriff, she was my baby sister.” A barely controlled fury rumbled in his voice. Ramsey clenched his fists as his mind flashed back to that day three weeks ago when he’d found Heather lying on the floor of her apartment.

Naked, raped and strangled. All her wit and loving spirit gone, sacrificed to a psycho’s sick lust.

She’d been just fifteen when their parents died in a car crash the year Jack was a college senior. He’d put aside his own law school dreams and became a cop so he could support her.

It had been worth it. Heather—bright, pretty Heather—had deserved the best he could give her.

And she’d given him her best right back.

Heather was determined to become a trauma surgeon so she could save people like their parents, and she’d devoted everything to that dream. In college, she worked so hard and so brilliantly, she’d won a medical scholarship to Duke University. Ramsey had been so damn proud of her, he’d cried without shame at her college graduation.

But the week before she was supposed to leave for med school, some sick fuck had extinguished all her bright promise and gutted Jack Ramsey’s soul.

He had nothing left —not for himself, not even for Lark Anderson, the woman he loved and had once planned to marry. Like his dreams for his sister, that plan was ashes now. He knew Lark deserved more than the hollow man he’d become.

Now all that drove him was the search for Heather’s killer. And he didn’t much care what he had to do to find him.

He’d raged through town like an avenging angel, questioning anybody and everybody who might know anything about Heather’s death. And sometimes he hadn’t been particularly polite in his methods, particularly with certain lowlife thugs of his acquaintance.

Which might be why the Sheriff had finally drawn the line.

Now Jones sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. “Jack, for once think like a cop instead of the victim’s big brother. Let’s say all that cowboying around town you’re doing does bear fruit, and you shake loose a lead—or even a confession. You know what the killer’s lawyer will do with that?”

“At least we’d have an arrest,” Ramsey growled.

Which is no damn good without a conviction.” The sheriff glared at Jack, frustration pouring off him in waves that were almost visible. “And we won’t get one, because the defense will claim you were on a vendetta, that in your grief you arrested an innocent man because you were so hungry to see somebody—anybody—pay. And that argument’s going to sound awfully convincing to a jury, considering you’re not even a detective.”

Jack stiffened. “That doesn’t mean I don’t know my job.”

Jones threw up his big hands in a gesture of disgust. “Oh, for God’s sake, you’re a motorcycle cop, Jack! You’re supposed to catch speeders and write traffic tickets, not solve murders.”

“Sheriff . ”

“Look, I know you’re trying to get Heather justice, but this isn’t the way to do it.” Jones caught him in a hard, level stare. “I’m giving you a direct order, Deputy Ramsey. Back off. Take your bereavement leave and let us do our jobs. Spend some time with that girl of yours and get your head screwed on straight.” The sheriff’s mouth tightened. “Before you blow your career straight to hell.”

Ramsey stalked outside toward his cycle, his boots ringing on the pavement, his strides long and angry. His sister’s murder was turning into one of the whodunits cops hated, the kind that never got solved.

Now every day that passed put the department further from catching the killer. And Jones had just forbidden him to do anything to bring the bastard to justice.

He wanted to howl.

Ramsey’s shoulders slumped. Maybe the sheriff was right and it was time to pay Lark a visit. He’d been avoiding her since Heather’s funeral, unwilling to expose his psychic wounds to her pity. All he wanted now was to go to her, talk to her. Maybe .

“Jack Ramsey?”

Impatiently, Ramsey turned to see an elderly woman standing in the parking lot under the light of a street lamp. She was dressed entirely in pink, from the pillbox hat perched on her lavender curls to her neat pink dress, right on down to her pink flats. Over one arm, she carried a huge pink straw purse that seemed to be moving. Ramsey shot it a wary glance in time to see a little Yorkshire terrier thrust up its fuzzy black head from the purse’s pink depths.

“You are Jack Ramsey, are you not?” the old woman asked in a reedy voice.

Great. She probably wanted to complain about some neighbor who liked to play his boom box too loud. Controlling his sigh, Ramsey walked over to find out what she wanted. “That’s me. What can I do for you, ma’am?”

Blue eyes met his, astonishingly sharp in that wrinkled face. “It’s what I can do for you, young man.” She reached into the bag and pulled out the Yorkie. Holding the dog out to him, she said, “This is Gav.”

Ramsey looked down at the little animal, which stared back at him with perked ears. “Cute dog. Look, ma’am, if you need help, the desk officer inside can . ”

“Do you want to catch your sister’s killer, or don’t you?” the old woman demanded.

He stiffened, his gaze narrowing on hers. “What do you know about that?”

She thrust the Yorkie at him again. “Take Gav, and all your questions will be answered.”

Impatiently, Ramsey reached for the dog. “Ma’am, what is it you have to . ?”

The instant his hands closed around the animal’s furry ribs, the Yorkie began to glow. Jack glanced down in surprise. He barely had time to yelp before a beam of raw force shot from the dog’s eyes and into his.

As the energy blasted into him, his body jolted as if he’d seized a live electric line. Pain ripped through him. He couldn’t even force a scream past his straining vocal cords.

When the beam finally cut off, Jack toppled backward like a felled tree to hit the sidewalk flat on his back.

The dog was gone.

The old woman looked down at him as he stared blindly at the stars, arms and legs still jerking. “Now, isn’t that better?”

With a satisfied nod, she turned around and headed back toward her car. Distantly, Jack heard the purr of a big car’s engine as she drove away.

Chapter One

Six Months Later

On some level, Lark Anderson knew she was dreaming again. Jack wasn’t really with her. She was alone in the big bed she’d once shared with her lover, alone as she’d been for all the months since Jack had lost his sister.

But knowing better didn’t stop the dream. It never did. And she didn’t want it to.

Dreams were all she had of him now.

Jack looked up at her over the curve of her breast, his breath gusting warmly over one hard pink nipple. “God,” he whispered, his voice silky and very male, “I just love your breasts.” He gave the little peak a teasing lick, and Lark moaned.

He laughed at the helpless sound and traced his fingers over her sensitive ribs until she wiggled. “Like that?” His white teeth flashed. “I certainly do. You taste so sweet and hot.”

Lark looked up at him, feeling a bubble of passionate love swelling within her until she thought she’d burst with it.

He lay on his side next to her, his chest forming a powerful curve, muscle shifting in his biceps as he teased her with those big hands. She loved looking at him, watching the subtle way muscle rippled in his pecs and abdomen when he moved. He was just so damn male, so damn arousing. So damn big. Six-foot-five, every inch of him built like a brick wall.

Yet despite the linebacker build, when he made love to her he was exquisitely gentle, as though she were precious and breakable. Every touch and stroke seemed to proclaim silently how much he loved her.

As Lark watched, breathless with hunger, Jack lowered his head and closed his hot mouth over her nipple. His tongue flicked and swirled around the sensitive flesh until she arched under him. Instinctively, she eased her legs apart. He took the gesture for the invitation it was and slipped one hand between her thighs. Long, strong fingers found her opening, eased inside through thick cream. He smiled into her eyes. “Oh, you are ready, aren’t you?”

“You’ve . AH! . got a real gift for understatement, you know that?” She rolled her hips and closed her eyes, letting the pleasure spin through her in long, silken streamers.

He smiled lazily and rolled over on top of her. “Well, in that case . ” She caught her breath as he settled that big body between her thighs, blanketing her in warmth and strength. He felt so good .

And even better when he slid his thick cock slowly into her creamy core. He groaned in pleasure. “God, Lark, you make me so hot!”

She grinned up at him. “Same—AH!—here . ”

He’d begun thrusting, slow and gentle, the big shaft teasing its way in and out of her, stroking her pleasure rapidly toward a quivering peak. Panting, Lark watched him as he moved over her, riding her in that easy way he had. His handsome face was absorbed as he gazed down at her. “I love you, Lark,” he whispered.

“I love you too, Jack.”

The heat rolled up her spine, and she tossed back her head, coming, convulsing around him. “I love you!” She screamed it this time, the words borne on a wave of searing pleasure.

Her own cry jolted Lark awake. Instinctively, she looked around for Jack, missing the warm strength of his body.

The bed was cool and empty.

Then she remembered.

He wasn’t there. He’d turned his back on her, cut off all communication months ago, a bare three weeks after Heather’s murder.

Without explanation. Without a word.

Tears stung the back of Lark’s lids. Biting her lip against her moan of grief, she curled on her side in her cold bed and wrapped her arms around herself.

Since Jack had left, they were the only ones that ever held her.

Lark looked up at the deli’s neon sign. She hadn’t had any real interest in food since Jack had dumped her. Today her appetite was even worse than usual, an effect of the depression that had nagged at her since last night’s dream.

You’re pitiful, Anderson, she told herself. Pining away for that son of a bitch when he doesn’t give a damn about you.

She ought to make herself eat something. Maybe some soup. She’d worked all day at the bookstore; by rights, she should have worked up an appetite.

What the hell, Lark decided. Might as well give the deli a try. After all, she and Jack had never eaten there, so it should be mercifully free of painful memories—the way he threw back his head when he boomed out that rich male laugh, the little crinkle around his dark eyes when he was about to make some truly awful pun.

The way his impressive cock rose high and hard when she modeled her latest extravagance from Victoria’s Secret .

Wimp, she thought at herself, disgusted, shoving the deli’s door open and stalking to the counter. It’s been six months. It’s time to cut him out of your heart the way he did you. Assuming he even had a heart to begin with, the big jerk.

Then she sighed. Unfortunately, it was painfully obvious Jack did have a heart, or Heather’s murder wouldn’t have butchered it so thoroughly.

Dammit, the least he could have done is let her comfort him. That’s what people in love did—turn to one another for solace in times of pain.

Which proves he never loved you to begin with, Lark told herself. Deal with it.

As she studied the menu written on the menu board behind the counter, she felt something furry brush against her ankles. Lark looked down to meet a pair of brilliant green eyes.


“Hi, there, kitty.” The cat looked like some kind of longhair mix with its pointed little face and abundance of silky black fur. It meowed up at her again and rose on its hind legs, stretching its soft paws up her thigh. “What’re you doing in here, other than violating a slew of health codes?”

“Some things are more important than rules,” a frail female voice said. “Like soothing people who are hurting. Cats are good at that.”

Lark looked up to meet the gaze of the old woman who’d just stepped up behind the cash register. She was wearing a pink waitress uniform, an old-fashioned pink frilled cap resting on her lavender curls.

The cat chose that moment to extend its claws delicately, gently pricking Lark’s leg as if to reclaim her attention. She smiled down at the animal and stooped to pick it up. “I’ve always liked cats,” she said, as the little beast settled against her chest, purring and silken.

“And she seems to like you,” the waitress said.

Lark thought of Jack. “Glad somebody does.” Absently, she reached to scratch behind the cat’s pointed ears.

Then it lifted its black head and met her gaze. An energy beam stabbed from its eyes, driving into her skull like a red-hot ice pick. She opened her mouth to scream, but her body wouldn’t obey as pain ripped through her.

She didn’t even feel herself hit the floor.

Distantly, Lark was aware of the elderly waitress moving past her to hang the “Closed” sign over the door. “There,” she said. “We wouldn’t want you and Xedda to be interrupted, would we?”

Lark didn’t care.

Something alien was in her head.

At first that was all she knew, all she cared about—the alien thing that didn’t belong, that filled her skull with its invasive presence. She began to fight, everything in her howling in frantic rebellion as she fought to force the invader away. Get out! her mind shrieked. GET OUT! Getoutgetoutgetout!

I won’t hurt you,” the voice said, soothing and female. “I’m here to help. Help you and Jack Ramsey both.

I don’t care! Get out!

He’s in danger, Lark.”

Suddenly an image flashed through her mind, like the flickering impression from a nightmare. Jack, battling savagely against twisted caricatures of men who pounded back at him with hammer blows. Men she somehow knew were raw evil in human form.

He grabbed one of them. Red light flared around the two men as they struggled, Jack’s powerful arms bunched as he held on until the evil thing slumped in his arms.

But even as it died, Jack’s handsome face twisted, his eyes burning with something wild, something tortured and mad.

He’s killing them,” the alien voice said, “but they’re destroying him. We have to save him before it’s too late.

The bottom seemed to drop out of Lark’s stomach. She knew this had to be some kind of trick, knew she shouldn’t listen to this . whatever it was.

And yet .

What if Jack really did need her? Everything inside Lark rebelled at the idea of allowing this thing to stay another second. But remembering Jack’s distorted face, the despair in his eyes, she knew she couldn’t turn her back on him. No matter what it cost her.

Who—what – are you? And what were those things fighting him?

“My name is Xedda, and I am a Spirit Rider. Those he battles are Dark Ones.”

Are they . . .human? They looked like men. In a way. But there was a sense of evil there, as if they were something more. Something worse.

“Only in part. Listen, child, and I’ll tell you what they are. What we are. Where we come from. And I’ll tell you how you can save him.”

Feeling as if she’d been trapped in a dream, Lark listened as Xedda told her the incredible story of her kind, a race of immortal energy beings.

They’d evolved on a gas giant hundreds of light years away, eventually splitting into three separate races. Among them were those like Xedda, who could feed on the ambient energy of the planet around them. Another race, the Dark Ones, preyed on Xedda’s kind, absorbing their life force to power their own.

A third species, now called Paladins, fed on the Dark Ones. They formed a kind of partnership with Xedda’s people, both protecting them and using them as bait to attract the Dark Ones.

But then the sun their world orbited became a red giant as it aged, swelling and flaming across the sky, making their world uninhabitable. All three races were in danger of extinction when a group of alien methane breathers came to their planet to observe its death throes.

In desperation, Xedda and her sisters managed to enter the minds of the some of the aliens, possessing them. The Dark Ones and the Paladins had quickly followed suit.

Unfortunately, the hosts weren’t really compatible. So once they were all on their way from their dying world, the energy creatures sought new species to possess. Physical bodies, after all, were able to use tools and equipment to protect themselves, skills the energy creatures now knew they badly needed.

Soon afterward—about two thousand years before the birth of Christ—the creatures and their hosts discovered Earth. The energy beings were delighted to find humans were more compatible than their current hosts, so they began possessing the new life forms at once.

The Dark Ones soon discovered they could prey on human life force just as they’d always preyed on Xedda’s people. But because they were incorporeal, they needed human hosts to do their killing.

The Paladins, for their part, used their hosts to hunt Dark Ones, just as they always had.

Spirit Riders like Xedda still assisted the Paladins. Yet now they did so by keeping the Paladins’ hosts sane and stable, since absorbing a Dark Rider’s energies tended to have a negative effect on the human mind.

Despite the risk, the beings’ hosts found there were advantages to harboring one of the spirit races. All the Riders formed symbiotic relationships with their hosts. imbuing their human vessels with fantastic abilities, such as super strength or the ability to heal.

Even so, finding those partners was no easy task.

Fortunately, the energy creatures learned to assume physical form for short periods—usually some small animal like a dog or a cat. Another Rider already in a human host would help them find someone suitable. In the case of Lark—and, according to Xedda, Jack—that had been the elderly lady in pink.

The question was, did Lark want to be one of those symbiotes?

“Now,” Xedda asked, when she’d finished answering Lark’s tumble of questions, “will you help me?”

And Lark, remembering the madness she’s seen growing in Jack’s eyes, knew there was only one possible answer. Yes.

Chapter Two

A week later

Pull over here,” the spirit said.

Lark hit the brakes, peering out the Honda’s windshield at the darkened street. “Are you sure, Xedda?” The sole surviving streetlight along the sidewalk revealed boarded windows, piles of garbage, and graffiti-splattered brick that did not fill her with confidence. “I don’t like the looks of this.”

Oh, hell, who was she trying to kid? It looked like just the kind of place Jack would head for in his holy mission to find his sister’s killer.

As she glanced around, she spotted the flash of rotating blue lights coming from the entrance of a nearby ally. Her heart leapt into her throat.

“Oh, yeah, he’s here all right,” Lark muttered. “Figures.”

Her gaze locked on that flashing light, she pulled the Honda into the nearest empty spot and turned off the engine. Thrusting the driver’s door open with an impatient hand, she got out and promptly stepped in something that squished under her high-heeled foot. “Shit.” Lark stepped out of the puddle of slime and slammed the car door closed, hitting the remote locks on her key fob. “I hope to hell you’ll appreciate what I’m going through for you, Jack,” she grumbled.

“We’re gonna kill you, you fuckin’ cop bastard!” The male bellow snapped her gaze toward the alley.

“Dream on, asshole,” a male voice snarled back. Lark frowned. It sounded like Jack’s, but with a deep, rumbling quality she’d never heard before. “I’m not one of those helpless women you like to prey on.”

Glass shattered, mixing with male grunts of effort and the scrape of feet over pavement as Lark broke into a run. She had to dodge broken malt liquor bottles and twisted chunks of metal as she made for the alley. It figured she and Xedda would find Jack the day she’d decided to wear a short skirt and three-inch heels to work.

As she skidded between the two boarded-up buildings, the first thing Lark saw was a police motorcycle dumped on its side, its engine still rumbling. Two men fought in the illumination of its rotating bubble light, exchanging merciless blows.

Despite the circumstances, Lark’s heart leapt. Finally, after more than a week of fruitless searching, she’d found Jack Ramsey.

Then she got a closer look at him. “God, Jack,” she muttered, “what the hell have you done to yourself?”

At least the being that had possessed him hadn’t changed that powerful body. He was still the biggest damn motorcycle cop Lark had ever seen, looking like one of her kinkier fantasies in those polished knee-high bike boots. Bunching biceps strained at the short sleeves of his uniform shirt as he pounded blow after blow into his opponent. Muscle worked up and down his broad back under the thin blue shirt, and his thighs bunched as he threw his weight into every punch.

The face under his helmet was thinner than it had been six months ago, and there were deep hollows beneath his high, chiseled cheekbones. Lines of bitterness and suffering bracketed the wide mouth under his thick sable mustache. His sister’s murder had aged him. Lark could almost feel the pain that ate at his soul.

But it was the cold, feral determination burning in his deep-set black eyes that sent a chill through her. This wasn’t the laughing lover she’d hoped to marry. This man was a driven avenger, as willing to destroy himself as those he hunted.

The current target of all that holy rage was just as big and brawny as Ramsey himself, despite the beer gut sagging over the man’s huge silver belt buckle.

At first glance, he looked like every redneck thug Lark had ever seen. Tangled, greasy hair tumbled around his bull shoulders, and his snarl revealed missing teeth.

But when Lark met his gaze for an instant in the cycle’s strobing light, she realized he was something much, much worse than the crude bruiser he appeared. There was more than malice and cruelty in those bloodshot eyes. There was evil, an evil so profound and alien that it was no longer quite human.

Like Lark and Ramsey himself, the thug had been possessed. But unlike them, there was nothing remotely good in whatever it was that had moved into his mind.

We’ve got to help the girl,” Xedda whispered.

“What girl?” Lark demanded, tearing her eyes away from the battle.

“There,” the spirit said, directing her eyes toward a pitiful figure lying near the cycle.

It was no wonder Lark hadn’t spotted her. She looked like nothing more than a pile of rags.

“What the hell did that thing do to her?” Lark hurried toward the girl, only to break step as she got close enough to see the victim clearly. The woman’s blood-smeared T-shirt was up over her breasts, and her jeans jerked down to her shins. The halves of her bra flopped open across her chest, as though the thug had simply sliced it apart between her breasts. Something dark and wet gleamed on her bare thighs. Lark’s stomach lurched as she realized it was blood.

Dropping to one knee beside the woman, she noticed an object on the ground beside the woman’s head, shining in her pale tangled hair.

A knife.

Jack stopped him before he could finish her,” Xedda whispered. “Yet still her life drains away.

“What do I do?” Lark licked her dry lips, barely aware of the meaty thud of a body hitting a brick wall somewhere down the alley. “I don’t even have a first aid kit!”

She could sense the spirit’s amusement. “You don’t need one. Just touch her. I’ll do the rest.

Lark’s heart gave another nervous thump. Is this going to hurt? she wondered, then, with a glance at all the blood, pushed that concern aside. Extending one shaking hand, she touched the victim’s pale face.

Her skin felt cool under Lark’s fingers, despite the warm summer night. She was in shock. They didn’t have much time. Okay, do it, Lark thought to the spirit.

Something . opened inside her. Suddenly it seemed Lark was in the woman’s mind as numbing cold stole up her arms and legs like frost, climbing for her heart. She fought her instinct to shrink away. “What . what’s that?”

Death,” the spirit said. “But it won’t have her. We won’t let it.


Energy came roaring out of Lark’s body in a burning flood. As one, she and the victim screamed, spines arching, arms flinging wide as Xedda poured magic into the girl’s battered, torn body, forcing it to heal itself with mystical speed.

And bringing her back to life.

Then it was over, and Lark hit the ground beside the woman she’d saved, dazed, burning, and exhilarated. She’d never experienced anything like it. “Oooh,” she muttered. “Now that was a rush!”

“What . ?” the girl murmured. “What happened?” Her name, Lark suddenly knew, was Carolyn Jennings. She’d come into the neighborhood in search of a little weed for her boyfriend, and had ended up attacked by . something that looked like a man, but wasn’t.

“Just be still,” Lark managed. “Rest.”

“They’re fighting,” Carolyn said, trying pitifully to rise. “The cop and . Oh, I’ve got to get out of here. They’ll . ”

Somehow sensing what to do, Lark extended a trembling hand and touched Carolyn’s face. “Sleep now,” she murmured. “We won’t let anything hurt you.”

This time the force that poured from her fingers was cool and soothing. The girl’s eyes fluttered closed, and she slumped back.

I can soften her memory of what happened,” Xedda said. “Make it less vivid, edit out the contact she had with Billy Simpson’s Dark Rider. It would be best.”

Lark frowned. “Billy Simpson?”

“Simpson is the man Jack’s fighting. A sadist and a killer even before he allowed himself to be possessed by one of the Dark Ones. Had Jack not stopped him, Billy would have killed the girl so his Rider could feed on her life force.”

She grimaced. “Yeah, that sounds like the sort of thing a girl would be better off not remembering. Go for it.”

Again, the spirit slid away into Carolyn’s mind. As she worked, a thunderous bang brought Lark’s head up. Her heart skipped a beat.

Simpson had slammed Jack into the side of a metal dumpster so hard the steel had dented around the officer’s big body. Her lover hit the ground on all fours, dazed.

“Oh, you’re dead now, fucker!” Simpson snarled, lifting both ham-like fists over the deputy’s head, evidently meaning to smash them down on him.

One second, Jack was on his knees. The next, he’d flipped around and sent one booted foot scything across Simpson’s calves, cutting his legs out from under him. Even as the big man went down with a startled bellow, the cop surged to his feet. Grabbing Simpson by his huge belt buckle, Jack snatched him right off the ground and heaved him into the brick wall.

Lark blinked. The spirit that had possessed Jack must have turned him into the next best thing to Superman; that bruiser easily weighed three hundred pounds.

Before Simpson could recover, her lover took a couple of running steps forward and slammed a fist into his beefy face. The impact rammed the bruiser’s head into the wall behind him. Brick broke with a crunch. Jack followed the blow with two more to Simpson’s beer gut, driving him halfway into the wall.

“Jesus,” Lark breathed, “what the hell did Jack let move into his head?”

A Paladin— a guardian hunter spirit,” Xedda said. “It makes him far stronger than human, not to mention almost invulnerable.”

With a roar, Simpson surged out of the wall, leaving a man-shaped indentation in the broken brick, and slammed his fist into Jack’s face. The cop went flying to hit the ground on his back and skid ten feet down the alley.

Unfortunately, Simpson’s equally powerful,” Xedda said.

Fear clutched at Lark’s heart. “I can’t just stand here. What can we do to help?”

“Nothing, at least right now. My powers are strictly mental – we don’t have that kind of physical strength. Given the chance, Simpson’s Dark Rider would feed on both of us. Then he’d use the power our lives would give him to kill Jack.”

Lark bit her lip as every instinct rebelled at the thought of staying on the sidelines while the man she loved fought for his life. Unfortunately, it sounded as though getting involved would only hand his enemy another weapon. “Okay, so we sit this one out.”

“Now,” Simpson snarled. “I’m gonna feed!” He flung himself through the air to land directly on top of the cop.

“Jesus!” Lark said, surging to her feet and staring helplessly at the two men as they battered at one another on the ground.

There was a blur of motion. Suddenly Jack was on top of Simpson, driving his fist down into the man’s face repeatedly, his muscled arm working like a piston. “Suckered him in,” Xedda said, sounding smug. “He’s got him.”

The cop rose to his feet and jerked Simpson upright, then spun him around. Before the big man could pull away, Jack wrapped both arms under his and around his head in a hammerlock. “Now,” the cop growled. “We’ll see who feeds!”

“Let go, you son of a bitch!” Simpson screamed and bucked in Jack’s hold, but the cop held on despite his frantic writhing. “Get off!”

“Not a chance,” Jack snarled. “You’re going to pay for what you did to Heather!”

Lark stared. Oh, sweet God! That was the man who murdered Jack’s sister?

“Noooo!” the killer screamed. Streamers of red, shimmering smoke began pouring from his eyes and mouth. Jack inhaled, drawing in the smoke, drinking it down. His own eyes flared bright crimson as his face twisted with an awful sort of triumph.

Lark caught her breath. This was what I saw in my vision!

As she stared, not even daring to breathe, Simpson seemed to shrink, as though transforming from a superhuman behemoth to nothing more than a somewhat tubby thug.

“That was just an appetizer,” Jack growled in the killer’s ear, his voice even deeper, rougher, and nastier, than it had been a minute ago. He barely sounded like himself at all. “Now this—this is for Heather.” He tightened his grip on Simpson’s head. “And all the other women you killed and raped, you sick fuck.”

He’s lost control. He’s going to kill Simpson,” Xedda said urgently. “Stop him!”

Chapter Three

“Me?” Lark’s heart began to pound. Dry-mouthed with fear, she stared at her lover as he prepared to snap Simpson’s neck like a fistful of dry spaghetti. “How?”

Talk to him,” the spirit said. Hurry!”

Xedda was right. She couldn’t just stand by and let Jack do this. It would destroy him in every sense of the word. “Stop!” Lark started across the alley as his biceps bunched, the cords working in those powerful arms as he tightened his grip on Simpson’s head and prepared to jerk. “Jack, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” she snapped with all the cold authority she could muster.

He looked up, startled by the sound of her voice. His eyes glowed with a red, demonic blaze that made her blood run cold.

“Lark? What the fuck are you doing here?” Getting a good look at her, he gaped, looking almost human again. “Jesus, you’ve got a Spirit Rider! Why in God’s name did you let that thing move into your head?”

“To save you, Jack,” Lark told him crisply. “And you need it. Let him go, dammit. You’re a cop, not an executioner!”

“He killed Heather.” Jack’s grip tightened. “Not to mention four other women, plus the six he raped even before he let the Dark Rider possess him. If anybody deserves to die, it’s him.”

“Maybe, but how are you going to explain breaking his neck?” she demanded. “If you kill him, you’re the one that’ll end up charged with murder. Is that what Heather would want?”

He bared his teeth in a snarl as he looked down at the man he still held helplessly pinned. Simpson’s head lolled. Either losing his Rider had knocked him cold, or the cop had somehow rendered him unconscious. Jack’s face hardened as his grip suddenly tightened. “Maybe I’d be better off in jail.”

“No!” She jumped forward and grabbed him by one thick shoulder. “Jack, don’t you dare do this to me! I love you! I don’t want to lose you.”

He looked up at her. She almost stepped back from the molten shimmer in his eyes, but somehow caught herself in time. If she rejected him in any way now, he was lost. You don’t even know me anymore. You have no idea what I’ve become or what I’ve done.”

“I know all that matters. I know you’re a decent man who loved his sister so much you were willing to embrace something alien to bring her killer to justice. I know you hunted him until you found him, and then you beat him and killed the thing inhabiting his body. That’s enough, Jack. Let the system do its job.”

“The system.” He sneered the word. “All it takes is one crooked lawyer and one gullible juror, and he’ll be out on the street killing again. The only way the rest of the world will ever be safe is if he’s dead.”

I could see to it that he gives a complete confession, right down to the location of all the bodies,” Xedda said. “Johnny Cochran wouldn’t be able to get him off.”

Quickly, Lark relayed what the spirit had said. “Jack, this would let all the families get closure. They’d all be able to confront him in court and see him get what he deserves. Don’t they deserve that satisfaction after everything they’ve endured?”

Jack looked down at her. As she watched, tense with hope, his cold executioner’s mask cracked. He opened his arms and let Simpson fall in a bloody heap to the pavement. “You’re right,” he said, his voice suddenly weary. “They have as much right to watch him get the death penalty as I do.”

“Thank God!” Lark stepped around Simpson and flung her arms around Jack, hugging his hot, sweaty body with all her strength. Her eyes slipped closed in relief. “I don’t know what I would have done if . ”

For a moment, he went still. Then, with a low growl of hunger, his powerful hands closed over her waist and lifted her off her feet. Her eyes flew open as he dragged her tight against him.

Startled, Lark stared up into Jack’s molten gaze. Damn, she’d forgotten how big he was—with biceps the size of her head and a broad, powerful chest that tapered to narrow hips. He felt like heated steel plastered against her this way.

Hungry heated steel.

For a long moment he stared into her face as though memorizing each and every feature. Then his lips curled into a wolfish smile, and he was kissing her, his mouth hot and open on hers, his tongue sweeping between her lips to tease and stroke.

With a muffled, famished groan, Lark lifted her arms and twined them around his neck again. The motorcycle helmet he wore felt cool and smooth under her fingers as she cupped the back of his head. God, it had been so long, and she’d missed him so badly.

She could feel her body awakening, cream flooding between her thighs. Judging from the hard ridge pressing against her belly, Jack was getting a hard-on to make a Clydesdale weep with envy.

Finally he drew back to stare down at her, his gaze feral with sensual demand. “The thing is, I’ve got all this energy I need to burn off. How’d you like to give me a hand with that?”

Lark felt her nipples harden, reacting to the demand in his gaze.

“What about it, Lark?” he purred. “Think you can tame me?”

She smiled dryly. “Not even with a whip and a chair.”

Jack laughed a low, dark sound. “I like a woman who knows her limitations,” he said, then lifted one bleeding hand to caress her cheek. “But think about it. Wouldn’t it be fun to try?”

You’d better do more than try, Lark,” Xedda said suddenly. “He needs us.”

Not as much as I need him.

His trailing finger slipped downward, brushed across the top of her breasts. Her eyes drifted closed.

This is serious,” Xedda insisted, even as Lark groaned while he thumbed one nipple. “Simpson’s Dark Rider isn’t the first one Jack’s taken over in the past six months. There’ve been at least three others—three too many, in fact. You saw how close he came to killing Simpson. Unless we can link with him psychically, anchor him, the next time he tries to absorb one of the Dark Riders, he could be lost. And then he’ll become as big a danger as they are.”

Lark looked up at Ramsey, her brown eyes huge, her full lips parted. There was something catlike and delicate about her fine-boned face, enhanced by the cap of short, dark hair that left most of her long neck bare. In contrast, her body was lushly curved, with generous breasts, a narrow waist, and voluptuous hips. He knew she fretted constantly about the five pounds she thought she needed to lose, but to him she was perfect, a sensual meal he ached to sample.

God, suddenly he was starving. It had been too many months since he’d touched her, since he’d kissed the tiny mole over her right hip, since he’d licked the rich cream between her thighs. He wanted to back her up against the brick wall behind her, slide up that short little skirt, and drive hard into her.

Down boy, he told himself. Taking a Dark Rider always put a nasty edge on his appetite. Tonight it was even worse than usual.

Images spun through his mind: pinning Lark’s lush body under his, raking her pink nipples erect with his teeth, licking and sucking until she begged him to take her in the long, ramming thrusts he craved. He growled in his throat, shifting on his booted feet as the hunger rolled in him.

Jack? Jack, you must listen! The familiar voice of his Paladin spoke in his mind, but he ignored it, unwilling to think about anything else but possessing Lark.

Then the urgency in Gav’s voice penetrated the fog of need in his mind. “We need to link with her and her Rider,” the Paladin said. “You’re too strong for me, boy. I can’t hold you alone.

Hell, he knew that. He’d almost broken Simpson’s fat neck when he’d seen the bastard’s memory of murdering Heather. Not even Gav’s desperate demands that he stop had been enough to drag him back from the edge. He doubted anyone but Lark could have reached him.

The Paladin was right, Jack realized. He needed Lark’s help to maintain control.

But were she and her Rider strong enough to anchor him the next time he absorbed a Dark One? He’d met two other Spirit Women in the past six months, but both had retreated the minute they’d attempted a link, afraid he’d drag them into madness with him. They’d probably been right.

He’d hoped destroying his sister’s murderer would sate the demons the Spirit Riders had sensed, but it hadn’t. If anything, the hunger to kill the killers had grown worse.

He was becoming a monster. Now even Gav was afraid of him.

As he looked down into Lark’s soft, dark eyes, he doubted she had the strength to drag him back from the edge. She was too . soft, too gentle for the darkness that fought to devour him.

Worse, what if she tried to help him, and he ended up destroying her?

She deserved better.

So do you,” Gav told him shortly. “And since she’s the only hope you’ve got, you’d better hope she can do the job. Because if she can’t, I’ll have to kill you myself in order to break the link that binds us. You’re infecting me with the darkness, and I can’t allow that. Or we’ll become a monster as bad as anything we fight.”

Lark watched as Jack summoned a patrol car to take Simpson to the county jail, along with an ambulance to treat the killer’s victim. Xedda had healed the worst of Carolyn’s injuries, but the spirit had deliberately left many of the surface bruises. Without their violent evidence, Simpson would have tried to argue that what he’d done to the girl had been consensual.

Then it was the killer’s turn.

Following Xedda’s instructions, Lark walked over to the thug’s unconscious body and bent to place her fingers against his head. She felt the burning rush of energy as the spirit surged into his mind and went to work planting compulsions.

Why couldn’t Jack do this? she wondered.

The Paladin gives him great physical strength, but not psychic abilities,” Xedda told her absently even as she fought to force her will on the killer.

As the spirit worked, Lark began to sense Simpson’s mind through their connection. It was like being plunged into a nest of maggots. She shivered in revulsion. The viciousness of the man’s thoughts, his perverted fantasies, his sheer sick evil shook her to the core.

The minute Xedda finished, Lark backed away, feeling as though she’d touched something vile. “Now I see why you wanted to kill the disgusting bastard,” she said to Jack, who crouched by Carolyn’s side, checking her pulse. The girl was still sleeping, deep in the grip of Xedda’s spell.

“Yeah. With any luck, we may be able to get him the death penalty,” Jack said, frowning over at the unconscious killer. “I don’t want to risk him ever getting out of jail.”

“Xedda made sure he’ll take the detectives to the bodies he’s dumped, so that should help,” Lark told him.

“Good.” He rose to his feet, reminding her again just how damn big he really was. “You do realize you’re a witness?” he said. “You’re going to have to testify about what you saw tonight.”

She winced. “What do I say? I sure as hell can’t tell them the truth.”

Jack smiled slightly. “Sure you can, just not the whole truth. Describe the fight, but not the supernatural parts.” He shrugged. “That’s what I always do.”

“But what about all this?” Lark gestured at the broken brick. “Two normal guys in a brawl wouldn’t have done this much damage. And there’s a lot more blood around Carolyn than you’d expect from her current injuries.”

If we combine our powers,” Xedda said, “We might be able to clean up the scene just a bit.

Lark relayed the suggestion to Jack. “Yeah.” He nodded thoughtfully, then shrugged. “It would give me something to do with all the energy I absorbed from Simpson’s Rider. Gav and I can’t do anything with it, but your Spirit Rider is another story.”

He held out a big hand to her. She took it automatically. And gasped at the male hunger she sensed burning hot in his tight control. Damn, she thought nervously.

She could sense Xedda’s dismay even as the spirit sent out a spell to clean away most of the blood and repair the damaged brick and dented steel. “His mind—he’s stronger than I expected,” the spirit said.

Do you think we can do it—link with him and give him this anchor you mentioned?

“I don’t know. He may be too much for me.”

Oh, hell, Lark thought as her heart sank. That was not what she wanted to hear.

Chapter Four

It was well past midnight by the time Lark started for home. She’d spent hours answering the questions of detectives and giving her statement; she should have been staggering with fatigue.

And she would have been, if not for the fact that Jack rode his big cycle right behind her. She knew when the two of them reached her bed, sleep would be nowhere on the agenda. At least, not judging by the looks he’d given her every time she’d been in sight.

Even as wet heat welled between Lark’s thighs at the thought of being with him again, unease rode in her mind. This anchoring business had all the earmarks of being a bitch. Entirely too much rode on it, and she wasn’t even sure she understood what she was supposed to do.

That was no surprise, since damn near everything else to do with the Riders was equally incomprehensible, illogical, or downright fantastic.

Blue lights flashed in her rearview mirror. Startled, she looked up to see Jack riding her bumper. He whipped the big cycle around her car and drew even with her.

As Lark looked over at him, he gestured to the side of the road ahead of them, then opened the throttle and roared out in front of her.

She blinked at his taillights. “He’s pulling me over.” A slow smile tugged at her lips. “Why, whatever does he have in mind?”

As Lark watched, the cycle’s taillight veered off down a dirt road between a stand of trees. Smiling wickedly, she followed, lifting a brow at the Dead End sign she passed.

Evidently, Jack had this little stop all planned out.

They rounded a bend in the road. Lark grinned outright as she realized how completely hidden they were from any passing motorist. Ready for whatever naughty off-duty games Jack had in mind.

She already had a pretty good idea what those might be. She’d confessed a kinky fantasy along these lines months ago, one night when they’d killed a bottle of very nice red wine. Jack had been intrigued, but reluctantly told her the idea sounded like a great way for him to lose his job.

Lark could sense Xedda’s amusement now. Don’t worry. I’ll make sure nobody sees you.

She laughed and flicked open the first button of her white silk blouse. What a pal!” Glancing downward, she decided she needed more cleavage and unbuttoned two more.

Lark looked up in time to catch Jack’s signal. She stopped and turned off the Honda’s engine, watching with anticipation as he killed his blue lights, lowered the kickstand and swung off his bike. Her headlights illuminated his big, muscular body as he sauntered back toward her, moving in a long-legged swagger, a flashlight propped on his shoulder.

Before they’d headed for home, he’d showered in the Sheriff’s Office locker room and changed into a fresh uniform. Now he looked like the embodiment of spit-and-polish authority as she rolled down the window and gave him her best innocent look. “What seems to be the problem, officer?”

Jack directed the flash into her face, then down at the cleavage she’d artistically revealed with those open buttons. “Step out of the car, Ma’am,” he growled.

“But deputy, what did I do?” Lark purred, obediently opening the door as he stepped back. She got out, knowing perfectly well that her short skirt had ridden up, flashing leg all the way up to her crotch. At fact that wasn’t lost on Jack, judging by his hooded gaze.

She stole a glance at his crotch. Yeah, he was already harder than his nine-millimeter—and looked damn near twice as long. Lark licked her lips.

“Assume the position,” he growled.

She managed a startled blink. “But I haven’t done anything!”

“You know exactly what you’ve done,” Jack said in a heated rasp. “Now turn around, spread those feet apart, and brace your hands on the hood of the car.”

Lark swallowed and obeyed, leaning down to brace her hands on the warm steel.

He stepped up behind her and lean down to rumble in her ear, “I said spread those legs.” Her nipples hardened, rasping against the lace of her bra as she widened her stance. “Morrre,” he purred. “I want you nice and open for me.”

She did as he ordered, bracing her legs wide. She could feel cream trickling deep between her thighs.

“Very good. Now, let’s see what you’ve got.” Big, broad hands smoothed down the length of her arms, rubbing the silk of her sleeves against her skin. He took a step closer and leaned over her so that his hips snuggled against her butt. The hard ridge of his erection pressed between her bottom cheeks as he circled her waist with his warm, rough hands. As he slid them upward along her sensitive ribs, Lark let her eyes slip closed.

Without skipping a beat, he reached around and cupped her breasts. Her eyes flew wide as he boldly squeezed, rasping his thumbs over her hard nipples. Licking her lips, she remembered her role. “What . what do you think you’re doing?”

Jack laughed, the sound dark and male. “Hey, you’re the one who unbuttoned your shirt halfway to your navel. Guess you thought you could get out of a ticket by flashing a little cleavage.” He lowered his head until he could breathe into her ear, “But I’m afraid it’s gonna take a lot more than that.”

Skillfully, he hooked his thumbs in the cups of her bra and pulled downward. Her nipples popped free into the warm summer air.

“Nice,” he rumbled, pulling the bra down even further until it caught under her breasts, pushing them up and together. “I just love a speeder with luscious tits.” He caught either side of her blouse and pulled. Buttons went flying.

“Deputy!” she gasped, feeling the hot burn of his eyes as he studied her bared flesh. Long fingers stroked over her jutting nipples, sending sweet jolts of pleasure along her nerves. Delicately, he caught the hard tips between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, squeezing, twisting, tugging, milking waves of delight from her breasts. She twisted in the cage of his arms.

“Sensitive,” he mused. “Good. Let’s see what else we’ve got.”

Lark moaned in protest as he released her aching breasts and knelt behind her. His big hands circled her delicate ankles, then began to sweep up the length of her legs.

“You . shouldn’t be doing this,” she managed.

“Probably not, but there’s something about a skirt this short. It just makes me want to . ” Reaching her ass, he paused to squeeze. “ . find out what’s under it. Mmmm. Thigh-high stockings. You are a bad girl.”

He leaned forward. She felt the cool brush of his helmet’s visor, and then his tongue running tauntingly up her thigh, before he caught the underside of one butt cheek in a gentle bite.

Lark squirmed.

A big, warm hand touched the inside of her thigh as he drew his thumb across the crotch of her panties. “Why, Ms. Anderson. Your panties are wet. If I didn’t know better, I’d think getting pulled over turned you on.”

“Nooo.” Yes. God, yes. She closed her eyes and moaned.

“I think this warrants further investigation.” Before she could move, he caught the fragile silk in both fists and jerked. Lark jolted in surprise as her panties ripped away from her body.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she gasped, looking around to see him holding the shredded fabric up to his nose.

He inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent of her passion, before stuffing the handful of lace in a pocket. “Just seizing the evidence. And now . ” He took her ass in both big hands and pried her slim cheeks apart. “Let’s see what else we can find.”

Lark caught her breath as he leaned forward and gave the seam of her pussy a long lick. “Just as I thought,” he rumbled. “Creamy, and hot.” A long, thick finger slid between her lips to find the tender opening. She drew in a breath as he began to enter. “And tiiight.” He slid in all the way to the knuckle, gliding in the thick juice that filled her. Withdrawing, he thrust deep again, adding a second finger this time. Scissoring the two apart, he twisted his wrist and thumbed the taut bead of her clit.

“God, Jack!” Lark moaned, panting. “That feels so good.”

“Yeaaahh.” He pumped deep again. “Oh, baby, you’re going to be doing some hard time.” Then he took his hand away. “But not quite yet.”

He stood. Instinctively, Lark arched her back, grinding her butt against him, feeling the long, thick length of his cock bulging against his zipper. “Jack, please,” she gasped.

“I said, not yet.” He grabbed one of her braced arms and pulled it behind her. She felt something cool close around her wrist with a click. As he grabbed her other wrist, she realized belatedly he was handcuffing her.

“Jack . ” she whimpered, wildly excited.

“That’s ‘Deputy Ramsey’ to you,” he growled back. “And no, I’m not going to fuck you right now. It’s been six months since I’ve had any, and I need to take the edge off.” He pulled her around by one shoulder. One corner of his handsome mouth lifted in a dark grin that held more than a little sneer. “‘Cause otherwise, I won’t be able to give you the long, grinding fuck you deserve.” Jack’s glittering black eyes narrowed. “Get down on your knees.” He reached for his fly.

Dazed, shivering, Lark dropped to her knees on the hard-packed dirt road. She didn’t even spare a thought to her expensive stockings. All she cared about was watching those big hands unzip his pants.

Leaving his gun belt on, Jack reached inside to liberate his massive cock from the placket of his jockies. As it jutted out at her, almost as thick as her wrist, she swallowed.

He stepped up to her, planting his booted feet on either side of her thighs. Threading one hand through her hair, he caught the base of his cock with the other and aimed it for her lips. “Open your mouth,” Jack growled. “I’m going to blow my first load down your throat.”

With a whimper of need, she leaned forward and took him deep.

As Lark’s soft, wet mouth closed over his cock, it was all Jack could do not to climax on the spot. It had been so damn long since he’d touched her.

All he’d known for months was the driving compulsion to bring Heather’s killer to justice. Well, he’d done that. The D.A. had told him tonight that the confession Simpson had given them would guarantee a death sentence. Jack was finally free.

Free to touch Lark again.

And he had no intention of thinking about the darkness that shadowed him, or even Gav’s threat to kill him if he couldn’t regain control. If this was all the time he’d ever have with her, he’d make the best of it. He’d protect her when the time came, but right now, he needed this. He’d earned it.

God, it felt so damn good, the way she sucked the head of his cock in long, eager pulls that made his balls draw tight. She gave him her mouth as she never had before. Each lick and nibble and suck felt so hot and demanding, it filled him with a burning pleasure. Maddened, he found himself thrusting, fucking Lark’s face in short, delicious digs.

Jack shuddered, hunger clawing at his mind as he looked down at her, kneeling in the dirt working him with such single-minded hunger.

He’d never dominated her like this, never wanted to. But now, the darkness that had been growing in him demanded it—demanded he fuck and claim her, mark her as his own.

What astonished him was the way she responded, submitting eagerly, as if the act answered some hidden need of hers as well.

Gasping, he tightened his grip on her hair and dragged her close, feeling his full length sliding into her mouth as, impossibly, she swallowed him down. Savage pleasure spun the length of his aching cock, and his balls tightened.

Then, with a last, drawing suck, she catapulted him right over the edge. Jack bellowed out his pleasure as he stiffened, shooting his cum down her eager throat.

Normally, an orgasm of such mind-blowing intensity would have finished him for the night. But that was the old, merely human Jack. This Jack, the Paladin Jack, still seethed with dark energies.

And he hadn’t had nearly enough Lark.

She had swallowed the last of his seed and was still gently suckling his softening shaft when he reached down, caught her under her arms, and jerked her off the ground. Lark yelped in surprise as he waltzed her backward, lifted her, and bent her back over the hood of the car so he could reach those rosy little nipples. Ravenous for her, he immediately began to suckle each tight peak in turn as he squeezed and stroked her soft breasts.

“Jack!” she gasped, instinctively lifting both long legs to wrap them around his waist. With her wrists still handcuffed behind her, it was the only way she could hold onto him.

“You taste so damn good,” he growled. Closing his lips over the nearest nipple, he sucked and tongued the sweet, erect flesh. “And I’ve missed you so damn bad.”

And now, at last, he had her.

Chapter Five

Lark tightened her legs around Jack’s waist and moaned as each fierce pull of his lips wrung another delicious jolt of pleasure from her nipple.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this hot. Kneeling at Jack’s feet sucking him off had been one of the kinkiest things she’d ever done in her life. Not so much the act itself, but the way he’d demanded it of her, the way he’d fucked her throat like a conqueror.

Before, he’d always been a careful, gentle lover who treated her like spun glass. Now he was wild, fierce, and hot, and she loved it.

Reaching between her legs with one big hand, Jack sought the tight opening of her pussy. Lark caught her breath as he found it and slid inside. “You’re wet,” he growled, lifting his head to fix her in his glittering black gaze. “That’s good. You need to be, because I’m about to fuck you.” His mouth curled up in a tight grin. “Hard.” The finger slid out, then slicked back inside. “Do you want it?”

Lark caught her breath as erotic delight coiled a tight knot in her sex. “Oh, yesssss! Please, Jack!”

He circled her clit with his thumb and added another finger. It stretched her lusciously until she writhed in pleasure. “Begging. I like that. How do you want it?”

“Deep.” She groaned and arched her back, lifting her weight off her bound arms and thrusting her breasts upward. “Don’t hold back. You’ve got such a . AH! . big cock, Jack . ”

“And you’re so tiny. I always wanted to pound into you, but I was afraid I’d hurt your delicate little pussy.” He added a third finger to the ones stretching her snug core. “Now you’re so slick and tight, I don’t think I can resist. I’ve just got to spread you wide open and cram every single inch of my dick all the way inside. And then . then I’m going to ride you hard.”

Lark moaned as she lifted her high-heeled feet to brace them on the hood, spreading herself in voluptuous invitation. “Yeah,” she moaned. “Now—God, please, Jack, fuck me now!”

He looked down at her wet flesh as he stroked his fingers deep. “I don’t know, babe. I’m not sure you’re ready for what I’m going to do to you. I think I’d better get you a little hotter first.”

Catching her ass in both big hands, he bent his head and fastened his mouth over her pussy. Lark gasped, arching her body in ecstasy as he thrust his tongue right up her tight core.

As he lapped between her lips and around her hard clit, he reached up her body for her bare, aching breasts. Strong fingers pinched and rolled her nipples while his long, clever tongue danced over sensitive flesh.

The orgasm took her by surprise, rolling out of nowhere to trip-hammer through her cunt and up her spine. Lark convulsed, screaming. “Jaaaaack!”

And still he suckled and stroked and flicked, dragging pulse after hot, orgasmic pulse from her sex. Until at last she collapsed on the car’s cooling hood, limp, boneless, and dazed.

Jack straightened to look down at her, his eyes dark with possessive satisfaction. Then he stepped back, grabbed her by one hip, and flipped her onto her belly. She blinked and lifted her head to look around at him. “Jack?”

“Here it comes, baby.” His eyes glittered with lust as he put the smooth head of his cock against her cream-slicked opening. His grin was a savage slash of white under his mustache. “Oh, yeah, here it comes.”

“Jack!” Lark whimpered the instant before he rammed the entire thing inside in one shattering stroke.

As he stuffed her with that long, relentless thrust, she threw back her head in shock. She felt his massive cock raking through wet, sensitized tissues as he drove himself in all the way to the balls. Until, completely impaled, she could only squirm on the hood of the car. “Oohhhhhhh!”

For a moment he didn’t move, as though savoring the tight grip of her wet cunt. At last he lowered his head and said into her ear, “Now this is where I’ve wanted to be for the past six months.”

“I hope,” she wheezed, “it lives up to your expectations!”

He laughed and slowly began pulling out. “Oh, yeah. You are anything but a disappointment.”

Eyes lit in dark joy, he started fucking her, just as mercilessly as he’d threatened.

As many times as they’d made love, he’d never taken her like this—in long, almost brutal thrusts that jarred her ass every time he pounded home. It was almost too much, even as aroused as she was. Bound, stretched across the cool metal of the car hood as he covered her with his powerful body, all she could do was writhe as his cock tunneled in and out. She’d never felt as helpless in her life . or as turned on.

Reaching under her body with both hands, he caught her breasts and began tugging and twisting her nipples. The sweet pleasure enhanced the torturous delight of his thickness stroking her core. “Jack!” she panted, as the first hot pulse of her climax squeezed around his cock. “I love you!”

“I . love . you!” he groaned, his sweat-slick body grinding against hers as he cradled her, jamming as deep as he could reach.

She felt so impossibly slick and tight around his cock, so soft and fragile in his arms. For months, he’d dreamed of this in his cold bed—not just taking her, but being with her. Then he felt her tiny muscles clamping hard around his cock.

Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! She threw up her head, writhing in his arms, coming.

The naked pleasure of it tightened around his balls like a fist. With a shout of raw pleasure, he shoved to his full length as the climax hit, hammering through him. Hot pulses of cum shot deep inside her velvet grip. “Lark! God, Lark!”

Still the orgasm went on, lashing along his nervous system like a velvet whip. Hot, burning strokes that made him writhe in a pleasure so glorious it was almost pain.

Until, at last, it was over.

Panting, he sagged against the car, feeling boneless, with Lark still wrapped in his arms like the erotic treasure she was.

But even as he thought about collapsing with her into the grass, Gav’s voice rang in his mind.

Don’t go to sleep, lad,” the Paladin said. “We’ve still got work to do. And, unfortunately, this is the perfect time to do it.

Jack stirred, drawing Lark protectively close. “What? What are you . ?”

Brace yourselves, children,” whispered an unfamiliar female presence. “Here it comes.”

A hammer blow slammed into his mind. He felt something crack.

Pressure. Light. Voices babbling at once.

Jack reeled as minds that didn’t belong to him stuffed their way into his skull—not just Gav’s, but others. He could feel them pressing in on him, crowding him. Panicked fury rose, and he gathered himself to force them out. Gav was more than enough. He was damned if he’d allow .

“Jack?” Warmth. Love. A sweet, glowing presence he knew so well.

“Lark?” He stopped dead, arresting the wave of mental force he’d started to fling against the invaders.

Yes. Lark.

Something deep and primal in him recognized the essence of his woman. His hostile fury drained away.

“You’re . in my head?” she asked. He could sense her confusion, a perfect mirror for his own.

“I think you’re in mine.”

Actually, you’re both just where you’ve always been,” the female voice said. He realized suddenly it was Lark’s Spirit Rider, Xedda. “We’ve just opened a link between you.

The last of Jack’s panic disappeared, replaced by startled joy. Lark was with him. They’d done it—forged the link he’d never been able to form with any of the others. The link he needed to save him from becoming one of the monsters he fought.

“Are you going to resist us any longer?” Xedda asked, sounding cautious. He saw in her thoughts that he was much stronger than she’d expected.

“Resist this?” Jack stroked Lark’s nipple as he cradled her in his arms. He could feel how each caress felt to her, and he groaned in pleasure. Withdrawing his softened cock from her wet depths, he turned her in his arms. She smiled up at him, and he felt the love in her like warm sunshine spilling through the cold darkness that had filled him for so long. He sent his own love back in all its sweet intensity.

“God, what sane man would resist this?” Jack asked aloud. “We’re both exactly where we belong.”

As he lowered his head to kiss her, he knew there’d be other Dark Riders to pursue, other killers to capture, but his soul was no longer in danger.

He had Lark. And nothing, no matter how evil, could ever touch the hot, sweet love between them.

The End

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