The fourth installment in the Haven’s Realm saga takes a step back to the beginning, back when Joshua and Catherine (Twilight Destiny) were first learning to trust each other. It’s Jason’s story, which up to now has been spoken of very quietly by the Community. Haven’s King lays out for the first time the foundation of the Community, and reveals Jason’s history in a way that threatens the lives of everyone within his Realm.
Today I’ll share a part of the prologue, in which Jason first lays eyes on the one true love of his life. He is visiting a bar on the lower side of Carrington, appraising the sinners for his evening meal, when an unusual woman enters and takes even more unusual interest in the man he’d chosen for his target.
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He took another casual sip of his drink while the woman breezed past him and made her way back to the bar. “It looks like I’m going to be here for a while.” She fished for her wallet among the contents of her cloth shoulder bag. The secretive way she sheltered the opening made him wonder what vital secrets lay inside. “Got anything to eat?”
“All I gots is peanuts,” the bartender replied. “They’re free, but you gotta buy a drink.”
“Okay. Could I just have a ginger ale?” She accepted the drink and a small bowl of peanuts, and carried them to one of the few empty seats in the bar—the one next to the mucus muncher. “Do you mind if I sit here?”
The man smiled at her—really more of a leer in his opinion—and motioned for her to sit. “Name’s Ron,” he offered, his eyes lighting up as she shimmied her way into the chair, the spandex fabric of her skirt stretching across her little round backside and showing the outline of its cleavage. Her long, nicely toned legs curled under her until the toe of one shoe rested on the floor, the other foot looped over her ankle.
“Thanks. I’m Mirissa. I don’t usually come to this part of town, but a friend of mine invited me to this party, and I really don’t know why I went, but, anyway, the party wasn’t all that great. Boy, it sure is smoky in here.”
She spoke too quickly, a nervous hitch occasionally tripping her words. And she was lying. He knew that as surely as he knew the sun would be rising in seven and a half hours.
“So, you have car troubles?” Ron asked.
“Flat tire,” she confirmed with an exaggerated sigh. “Really, I don’t know the first thing about cars. You put gas in them, and they go.”
Another lie. Truthfully, she was quite good with cars, or at least, better than the average woman. Motor oil and engine coolant were familiar scents to her. Again, he didn’t understand why he felt certain of these things, but although she did her best to look like a dainty, helpless damsel in distress, he knew without doubt she’d changed more than one tire in her life.
He hated contradictions. They upset his sense of balance. He, himself, would never have fallen for the overt lack of intelligence Mirissa projected. Ron seemed to be taking it in. “That’s too bad. You know, I could have that tire changed in no time at all.”
“Really?” she asked, leaning over the table toward him with feigned gratitude, her breasts bulging over the rim of the bustier.
Ron’s gaze went right where she apparently intended it to go. “Sure,” he slurred. “Why don’t you finish your drink, then we’ll go have a look.”
She smiled and he felt his heart stop. Her teeth were so white they glowed like pearls behind her sensuous lips. He didn’t have to work hard to imagine those lips without the glaring red wax she’d smeared across them. He brushed her mind with his, his curiosity piqued. She instantly straightened. Her eyes blinked while she tipped her head in reflexive surprise. She’d sensed his intrusion.
He quickly averted his gaze and attention to one of the two men at his table, and pretended interest in the bawdy tale he was relating. He felt her gaze sweep past him, then return. He sensed her mild curiosity, and wondered at it while he reviewed the brief glimpse he’d received from her mind.
She wasn’t innocent, and yet, somehow, she was. Although her body had been used, her soul tarnished, she’d never experienced passion. He thought she must have suffered some personal trauma early in her life and it colored her opinion of men in general. Her interest in Ron wasn’t entirely feigned, but her agenda didn’t include pleasure. In fact, she seemed distinctly disgusted by him. He wished he could take a closer look, if only to solve her growing mystery, but didn’t dare attempt it again and risk discovery.
“Something wrong?” Ron asked, regaining her attention.
“No,” she answered quickly. “I’m just not used to being in a bar. I don’t like crowds.”
“Well, why don’t we just go, then?” Ron rose to his feet, a bright smile on his face and the glow of lust in his eyes.
She didn’t seem to notice the predatory gleam, or if she did, she ignored it. She nodded, looped her bag back into place over her shoulder, and followed him toward the door. “I’m parked about a block down.”
He rose and blocked their path before he realized what he was doing. “This one’s not for you,” he said low, his eyes fixed on Ron’s while his mental powers swept the sick man’s mind.
“Excuse me?” Mirissa exclaimed hotly. “What gives you the right…?”
“You don’t want to go with this man,” he countered evenly, turning his powers her way.
She resisted. “I can go with whoever I want.”
“Whomever,” he corrected, “and you really don’t—”
“Hey, man, leave her alone,” Ron interrupted, coming to her defense. “If she wants to leave with me, that’s her right. It’s still a free country.”
“Return to your table and wait for me,” he commanded, his gaze capturing Ron’s and holding it. Ron’s mouth worked voicelessly for a moment, then he turned away without further comment, a typical blank look on his face.
“You son of a bitch! You have no right to interfere—”
“I’m sorry, but if you insist on going where angels fear to tread, you should at least learn about the people you’re dealing with before you run off with one and get yourself hurt.”
She shoved him out of her way with a huff and stalked out of the bar. Her touch staggered him. He instantly knew why she’d been sending so many mixed signals. He gaped at her retreating back in stunned silence, only finding the impulse to pursue after the door closed behind her.
“Look, miss, I’m really sorry,” he apologized while she stood at the curb and raised her hand in a signal similar to that one might use to summon a taxi.
She spun around and glared at him, jade green eyes flashing while a glorious curtain of medium-auburn hair flew around her, catching on the evening breeze, the soft waves shimmering in the bar’s exterior lighting. Her subtle and unique scent filled the air around her like an aura. Once again, he felt his loins tighten. Then, unexpectedly, a sharp, golden pain stabbed him in the most vulnerable part of his heart. He knew the sensation instantly, had felt the sting too many times in the past not to know its import.
“I could arrest you, I suppose, for interfering in a police investigation, but I’d have a hard time proving it. Don’t push me, or I’ll think of a way to make it stick.”
Her words stunned him. “Police investigation?”
“I know, you had no way of knowing,” she snapped. “Just do me a favor. Next time you see me, turn your radar in some other direction. Okay?”
She climbed into the back seat of the unmarked police car that had stopped at the curb, and slammed the door.
A smile stretched his face as he watched them merge with traffic. She looked back at him, and he felt the heat in her gaze until the car vanished around a corner.