Sunday Snippet: The Cursed by Alyssa Day

I’m always sad when an author ends a series so when Alyssa’s Warriors of Poseidon ended I hoped her next series would be just as good. I worried for nothing because the first book and the second book in her new series The League of the Black Swan are so much fun and great reads. I loved this book so much I knew I had to spotlight it. So here’s one of my favorite scenes from the book. Thanks to Alyssa for providing it.

When Luke collapsed, Rio dropped her small backpack on the floor and guided him down to the ancient couch, which was the same dark green and brown plaid it had been when she’d last delivered a package there.  In fact, not much of anything had changed.  Not even Luke.  Not really.

She brushed a strand of his silky black hair out of his eyes and took the opportunity to look her fill of him, since he was out cold.  He looked exactly the same as the first time she’d met him—but not.  A little harder; the lines and angles of his face were more pronounced.  A little older, maybe; but then again, no.  Wizards never aged, or so she’d heard.  Mrs. G once had let slip that she’d known him for more than sixty years.

His shirt was ripped and bloody over his ribs, and sticky smears of his blood were drying on her shirt.  She took a deep breath and forced herself to quit staring at him like an idiot and do something useful.  She hobbled over to the small bathroom, washed her hands, and found the first aid kit under the sink.  With that and a clean wet towel, she limped back to the couch to clean him up and see if he needed a doctor.  Not that he’d agree to go to a hospital, probably, but she knew a friend of a friend who might be willing to come out and help.

She pulled the ottoman over to sit on and unbuttoned his shirt with fingers that barely shook at all, pulling the edges apart over his muscled chest and abdomen.  She caught her breath at the wave of heat that swept through her at the sight of all that masculine beauty, but shoved her reaction aside to focus on his injury.  The gashes from the Grendel’s claws were an angry, puffy red, but they seemed to be closing already, courtesy of Luke’s superior healing powers.  She’d heard that he could heal from a gunshot wound overnight.  Of course, that was the kind of rumor that made some want to make him sheriff and made others want to shoot him on sight.

She’d gathered up all of her courage and asked him out for coffee once, wondering if the sparks that flew between them were only in her imagination.  He’d shot her down, telling her he didn’t have time for “meaningless flings.”

The sting had dulled over the course of the year, so the memory didn’t slice through her as sharply as it had before.  She hadn’t even tried to be social much since then, afraid to risk rejection all over again.

Not good enough.  Not wanted. 

“Not now,” she told herself, impatient with her own stupidity.

Time enough for useless bouts of wounded pride when their lives weren’t in danger.  She concentrated on his wounds and cleaned the gashes out as best she could and then liberally smeared antibiotic ointment on them before bandaging them.  The stark white of the bandages over his side contrasted sharply with the bronze of his skin and the silky arrow of dark hair that disappeared into the top of his jeans.  Rio caught her breath at the sight and couldn’t resist touching his hot, smooth skin.  The last thing she’d expected when she’d planned to hire Luke was that she’d have her hands on him within thirty minutes of finding him.

She glanced up and found him watching her, the brilliant blue of his eyes focused all too clearly on her face.  She blushed and yanked her hands away, clasping them in her lap.

“I was just cleaning your injury,” she said, trying not to sound defensive.

He glanced down at the bandages, wincing a little when he moved his head.  “Thanks.  How long was I out?”

“Not even ten minutes. That venom hit you kind of hard, though, maybe you should rest–”

But he was already swinging his legs to the side of the couch and sitting up, the movement causing the muscles in his abdomen to pull tight, and her mind went blank before wondering how long it had been since she’d had sex.  Way too long, if her reaction to Luke’s taut abs were anything to go by.  Damn.  She was all but drooling on the poor man.

“What happened after the venom started working on me?”  His voice was grim, and the narrow-eyed look he aimed at her was empty of any emotion or humor, so clearly he couldn’t read her mind.  “I remember going fuzzy—oh, shit. Did I really threaten Miro?”

“No, you just growled at him and then grabbed me and did something weird where we seemed to walk through a whirlpool without water, if that makes any sense, and then we were here and you collapsed.”  She jumped up off the couch and took the used cloths and first aid kit to the bathroom, more to get away from him than out of any need to clean up.

She reached out mentally, tentative at first and then with a stronger push, but she couldn’t read anything of his thoughts.  She’d never been able to do it before, but she’d wondered if the venom would interfere with his shields.  Apparently not.

“I’ll have to get him a present.  Ogres are touchy,” Luke said.  He stood up and pulled off the shredded remains of his shirt and tossed the whole mess in a corner.

“He likes candy,” Rio offered, as she tried not to stare at his back and failed miserably.  The broad, muscled expanse was scarred and bruised with old, healed marks and newer, raw-looking ones, and she wondered how much truth there was in the legends about his healing capacity.

“Is that a fresh bullet scar?”

He whirled around and scowled.  “Nothing that needs to worry you.  I protected you, didn’t I?  Did something happen that you’re not telling me?”

He crossed the room in two quick strides and lifted her chin with his fingers, staring down at her with eyes that had gone glacial.  “Did they hurt you before I found you?  Did they get their filthy hands on you?”

“You’re the only one with his hands on me,” she began hotly, but then she realized what was going on and exhaled slowly.  “Luke.  I’m fine.  Nobody hurt me.  Even with the poison in your system, you protected me.”

It was the way he was built.  Mrs. G had once gotten a little tipsy on New Zealand wine and told her that Luke was like a warrior of old.  She’d touched Rio’s hand and then looked off into the distance, as if seeing a scene from long ago, and spoken so softly that she might have been talking to herself.

He’s the best version of a warrior.  Or maybe a cowboy gunslinger.  He has to protect others or it damages something deep in his soul.

Rio blinked, snapping herself out of it.  “So, do you have a shirt?  Or maybe two?”

“What?”

“You need a new shirt, and I would like to get out of this one, so I was just thinking, well, do you have a couple of shirts?”  By the time she finished, her face felt like it was on fire, and he was grinning.

“I’d be happy to help you out of that shirt,” he said, pushing away from the desk and stalking across the room toward her like he was the predator and she was his prey, and he wanted to eat—oh.

Oh, no, we’re so not going there.

No matter how much she wanted to do exactly that.

cursedBordertown private investigator Luke Oliver’s beat is the dimensional fold in Manhattan between the human and supernatural realms. But now a secret from his past—the League of the Black Swan—has surfaced. Because Luke isn’t any ordinary P.I. He’s the Dark Wizard of Bordertown, and he never backs down from a fight.

But this time the fight threatens his life and his heart. Rio Jones, the only woman he loved, needs his help against a deadly menace. Luke pushed her away once before, so she’d never fall prey to the curse that threatens to destroy him. He swore he’d never let her go again.

Luke and Rio, with the help of the newly reformed League, must keep evil forces from taking over Bordertown—all the while battling a passion on the razor’s edge between danger and desire. And going to take everything they have just to stay alive

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