Home > Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)(4)

Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)(4)
Author: Jeaniene Frost

It was nothing to look at a naked man. To do so and then glance away guiltily? What was the matter with me?

Maybe it was my circumstances. The brands Ian carried were my ticket to trapping Dagon—a feat that had eluded me for millennia. Now that it was within my grasp, I was feeling emotions I hadn’t allowed myself to feel for a long time. That must be it. In any event, I needed to get them back under control.

That’s why I crossed my arms and gave Ian a deliberate look from the top of his head down to his toes. Then, I met his eyes so that he could see he had no effect on me this time.

“By all means, get dressed, but only after you take a shower. I don’t need to tell you what you smell like.”

“Over two dozen whores?” he supplied.

“Exactly, so use plenty of soap.”

He winked. “Looking for an excuse to watch? Just ask, and I might let you.”

I was about to tell him I’d rather watch paint dry. Then, I caught myself. Clever. I’d been about to insist that Ian shower as far away from me as possible, giving him an excellent opportunity to escape or to conjure up more magic against me.

“In fact, I would like to watch,” I said, arching my brow. “Unless you’re going to claim that you’re suddenly shy?”

His gaze narrowed. Icy fingers skittered up my spine. In all my years, I’d never felt that unless I was in the presence of someone truly dangerous. Everything on paper said that Ian shouldn’t be, yet right then, I knew I could never drop my guard around him. If I did, I might not live long enough to regret it.

Then Ian smiled. It was so flirtatious and relaxed, I almost believed I’d imagined his hidden dangerousness. Almost.

“Shyness is a virtue, and you’ll be glad to know I have none of those.”

With that, he swept me a bow that managed to look elegant despite his being clothed only in a circus ringleader jacket. We might both be pretending that this was a real agreement instead of a race to see who could use the other person first, but I knew better. For now, though, I’d keep up the pretense.

And since I was currently pretending that I wanted to watch Ian shower . . . “After you,” I said, and followed him up the stairs.

Chapter 3

Ian went to one of the second-level bedrooms as if he were very familiar with it. He probably was. Judging from what I’d seen, he’d been at this brothel for at least two days. That mock carnival in the basement certainly hadn’t been set up in a mere afternoon.

He stripped off his jacket as soon as he crossed the threshold. I made sure to keep a close watch on his hands as I followed him into the bathroom. I couldn’t allow him to magically fabricate another weapon. There were plenty of things in this room that a highly skilled practitioner could use.

Ian’s dossier revealed that he had spent time in the company of witches and mages, but it posited that he’d done so for excitement and socializing. Wrong and wrong. Most practitioners would’ve needed to recite an incantation in order to get the power to transmute one type of object into another. Another way would be to draw several specific magical symbols to create the necessary power. Ian had changed a silver pebble into a knife without a single word or scribble, and he’d done it while I was beating his skull half in.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, tactile magic was one of the highest forms of the craft. That’s why I couldn’t take my eyes off his hands. He’d need to use at least one of them to conjure up more of that kind of magic. Right now, he wasn’t doing anything threatening. He stepped beneath the shower spray and closed his eyes as that first blast of water hit him. Then, he washed his hair, his movements brisk and efficient. When he picked up the body wash, however, he slowed down, working the liquid into a rich lather before running his hands over his body.

Did he think I’d never seen a man make a show out of washing himself before? I had, and even the most seductive of them had always been a little too obvious, a little too sleazy. Women were much better at this form of manipulation, but if he wanted to give me something to look at, let him.

After a few minutes, I had to give Ian credit—he was good. He didn’t attempt to meet my eyes to gauge the effect of his actions. He also didn’t go right for his groin as most men did. Instead, he acted as if I wasn’t even there while he started with his arms, washing each with smooth, sweeping strokes that emphasized the muscled elegance of his limbs. Then he moved on to his chest, soaping it with a languid thoroughness that highlighted every ripple, hollow, and chiseled inch.

He gave the same unhurried attention to his lower body, his hands running down the tautness of his abdomen before sweeping over the hard globes of his ass. Those hands lingered over the thicker muscles in his thighs before moving down to his well-defined calves. Even his feet weren’t neglected.

Somehow, the never-ending sweep of his hands started to feel hypnotic. If I were a few thousand years younger, I might even start to imagine how each muscle, hollow, and sinew would feel if I were the one touching him. Or notice how his muscles appeared even more defined when the water washed away another swath of suds, or how his skin glistened beneath the bright lights in the shower stall.

Or fixate on how the thick appendage between his legs was growing as if also longing to feel the touch of those slow, skilled hands.

When I realized I was staring, I gave myself a hard mental shake. Again, I’d underestimated him. Ian was obviously as skilled at using his body as he was at using magic. That, or I wasn’t as immune to his decadent beauty as I’d assumed. Whether it was my newfound compromised emotional state or my extended bout of abstinence, I didn’t know. Either way, I had to keep my focus on both his hands. Not just the one currently slicking suds over the impressive appendage between his legs.

“I say, you’re looking in all the wrong places now.”

His voice held the silkiness of honey along with the lure of wine, but deadly potions could also taste sweet. My careful watch on his other hand revealed his true intentions. He wasn’t trying to seduce me. Like a magician, he was drawing my gaze one way while the real trick was about to take place somewhere else.

I gave a pointed look at his left hand, which was creeping behind his back. “Keep both your hands where I can see them.”

His smile changed into a scowl. “You’re no fun at all.”

He wasn’t even trying to deny that he’d been about to fling a spell at me. I’d take that roundabout honesty as progress.

“Law Guardians aren’t supposed to be fun,” I noted dryly. “We’re supposed to be good at our jobs, and despite a few slip-ups already with you, I am. Even if I couldn’t stop time, there’s still no spell you could fling at me that I haven’t defeated a thousand times before.”

He smiled again. For the first time, it seemed genuine. “I take that as a challenge. Let’s make it interesting, shall we? If I use a spell on you that you’re unable to defeat, you’ll drop your requirement that I follow your lead on our quest to kill Dagon. Instead, you’ll follow mine.”

He hadn’t been following my lead as it was, but damned if I’d let him off the hook. Plus, his arrogance could be useful. Good to know I wasn’t the only one letting emotion cloud my judgment.

“How long are you giving yourself to attempt this supposedly unstoppable spell?”

“Two weeks.”

Perfect. If all went well, I would be done with him by the time he tried it. “Fine, if you agree to stop trying to escape or trick me until this grand attempt. And when you fail to hit me with a spell that I can’t defeat, you’ll follow my lead plus give me three unquestioning acts of obedience.”

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