by Parker Kincade
“Face it, cousin. You lost.”
Devlin glanced up from his cards. “Hand’s not over yet.” He tossed a few gold coins, adding to the large pile in the center of the table. “Call.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Rory said.
Beside him, Flanagan snickered. “He’s right, Dev. Admit defeat. I call.” He added his coins to the middle.
“They have a point,” Brogan agreed. “Call.” More gold.
Not to be outdone, Brogan’s twin, Bronaugh, chimed in as he tossed his cards down. “I’m out. It’s over, Devlin. Time’s up.”
“Shut up. All of you.” Devlin glared around the table at his cousins, allowing his irritation to show. “She’s an emotionless shrew. Not even Aonghus himself could seduce that woman.”
“As if the Irish love god would care about one tiny fae,” Rory said.
“Don’t think I didn’t consider calling on him, but I’ve never had a taste for cheating. Unlike some people.” Devlin looked pointedly at the twins.
“We don’t cheat,” Bronaugh argued.
“Manipulation isn’t cheating,” Brogan joked. “It’s creative.”
Devlin shook his head. Someday, those two were going to get into big trouble. He hoped he was around to see it.
For the last six months, he’d been consumed with this damned bet—seduce the fae known as Keira or do his cousins bidding for a month. Did they forget Devlin had been charmed with an allure women couldn’t resist? It was like a fucking pheromone that oozed from his skin. He could tone it down, but turning it off was impossible until he took a mate. And if he decided to turn it on thick … well … women didn’t stand a chance. There was no way he could lose.
And then he’d met Keira. Once.
He’d found her deep in the Amazonian rain forest, bathing in a hidden pool. Her hair floated on the water as she’d moved and swayed in a slow seductive dance that had made him hard. He’d settled on the edge of the pool, mesmerized by the tune she hummed. She was tall, her body curved in all the right places. The tattoos that banded her biceps shimmered, familial tattoos much like his own. Her muscles were well defined, indicating strength. He wouldn’t have to worry about hurting her if he took her rough. Knew instinctively she’d like it that way.
He’d held his breath, waiting for her to turn … and when she did his whole body felt the movement.
She was breathtaking. With eyes the color of fire and her breasts … sweet fuck, her breasts. Pert and round, her nipples barely visible through the hair that tumbled over them. But, not so hidden he didn’t see them pearl when she’d noticed him.
Keira had approached him slowly, as if she’d been as entranced as he was. He’d sat, motionless, his purpose momentarily forgotten as she caressed a finger over his lips.
They’d both jerked with the contact, and her curse burned his ears.
And then she’d run. And kept on running until he’d exhausted himself with the chase. All over the damn planet he’d followed. Each time he caught up with her ended the same way. She’d calmly demand he leave her alone and then vanish again, leaving him perplexed and pissed off. He chased her until, finally, his time had run out and he came home.
He’d failed, but damn, admitting defeat meant he’d be at the mercy of his cousins, a position he didn’t relish. He hadn’t lost a bet to them since they were kids, and, gods be damned, if they sent him to the fire pits to collect another Caorthannach egg, he’d kick all their asses. The shit that thing spit had melted the hair right off his legs. Along with some skin.
He tossed his cards, face up, on the table. “I may have lost the bet, but I’m about to take your money. Ace high flush, fuckers. Beat that.”
Groans filled the room, and Devlin took great satisfaction in raking the gold to his side of the table.
Rory sat back and folded his arms across his chest. “We’ve discussed it and have come up with a fitting task for you.”
“Let’s hear it.” Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as he thought. He could only hope.
“You’re going on a trip.” Flanagan sounded way too happy for Devlin’s liking.
“And just where am I going?” His voice was cautious, wary.
“Where better for a leprechaun to go than Lucky’s?” Rory howled with laughter. “Get ready to shake your shillelagh, Dev. For the next month, you’re one of Lucky’s Charms. It’s all arranged.”
Devlin relaxed and gave them a wicked grin. Oh, he knew the place. “What? That’s the best you could come up with? You want me to strip for a month? Not much of a challenge—” He broke off, narrowing his eyes at them. “Wait. Why? What’s the catch?” There was always a catch.
Rory laughed. “The rules were set. You lost. No questions asked.”
Devlin sighed, unable to believe his luck. “Well, cousins … it looks like I’m headed to New York.”
New York City
Four weeks later
As the outside world slept, in here, they were just getting started. Music pumped in time with the racing heartbeats, the smell of sweat and liquor heavy in the air. Time had no meaning in this place. The only things that mattered were that the booze kept flowing and the men kept shaking their dicks at the ever-growing crowd. Two things guaranteed at Lucky’s Bar and Strip Club.
His last dance complete, Devlin changed into leather pants, leaving his chest bare. Dancing in a G-string on stage was one thing, parading around the bar in one was another. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. He might be done shaking his ass on stage, but his bet demanded he remain until closing. That meant he was still on the clock and available to any horny female who wanted some private time with him.
The last few weeks had been unremarkable. His cousins’ ulterior motive had yet to present itself. Hell, he’d had fun.
Now, with two hours left on his bet, he was on edge. Waiting for the shoe to drop.
He propped himself up at the end of the bar. “Hey Colm, can I get a whiskey?”
“Sure thing, Dev.” Colm poured a generous amount of the amber liquid in a tumbler and slid the glass in front of him. He’d barely taken the first sip when the smell of cheap cologne filled his nose. There was only one man around that smelled like second-rate Old Spice. Padraig “Lucky” O’Reilly was a piss poor excuse for an Irishman if Devlin had ever seen one. He had a hard time believing the overweight, balding man standing beside him owned this place. It made him want to gag to think Lucky had actually been a stripper, back in the day. By the way he looked now, that had to have been a hundred years ago. Devlin was grateful he hadn’t been around for that.
“Good crowd, tonight, eh?” Lucky’s grin more a leer as he shoved a fat, round cigar between his lips.
Devlin shrugged, uninterested in the portly little man that actually believed he’d employed him. If Lucky knew the truth, he’d swallow his shamrocks.
“You should stay on here. The ladies like you.”
Devlin snorted with disgust as Lucky waggled his overgrown eyebrows. “I’m done when we close tonight. It’s time for me to go home.”
“I’d make it worth your while.”
“I doubt that.”
Fucking humans. Blissfully unaware of their own ignorance.
This asshole was offering him money. As if he didn’t have piles of gold stacked in the vault underneath his home, on his private island in the Muir Éireann. As the only son to King Bres, ruler of the leprechauns, Devlin’s only financial worry was how he’d make room for more.
He snorted at the ridiculous image humans had of his kind. At six-foot four, his dark hair and gray eyes were a far cry from the tiny golden-haired men of human lore. And you wouldn’t catch him dead in a green suit and goofy-looking hat. His skin wasn’t fair or freckled, but tanned and tattooed. The intricate designs that banded his wrists delineated his heritage, an indication of his royal blood and warrior spirit.
While leprechauns were indeed male, that’s where the truths ended. Rainbows didn’t house pots of gold in their roots, but the rain that caused them gave Devlin strength as the ground soaked up its healing tonic. He was nature’s champion, creating balance in a world destined to destroy itself.
He could drink as much alcohol as he wanted without getting drunk. He could move with the speed of lightning when necessary, but he’d never run from a fight. He was possessive and would do anything for those he loved.
And apparently, he wasn’t a half bad stripper, either.
At least the guys here were cool. His kind thrived on camaraderie, and in truth, he missed his poker nights with his asshole cousins. As much as he looked forward to taking more of their gold when he got home, he’d enjoyed the playful banter of the strip club. He wasn’t much for human males, but for these guys, he’d make an exception.
“Give me another month. Come on, what do you say?” A beefy palm reached out, and Devlin ignored it, signaling to Colm for a refill.
Lucky frowned and dropped his hand just as a strange sensation surged across Devlin’s tattooed wrists.
What the fuck?
His magic might not be as strong in the human realm, but it was still powerful enough to wipe this strip joint off the map … along with every city within a thousand mile radius.
Devlin’s gaze scanned the crowd, searching for what had triggered the sudden surge to his power. Lights flashed and the music blared to life once again as the next guy prepared to take the stage. Devlin darted his eyes away. The only dick he wanted to see tonight was his own. Preferably as it sank into the heat of a certain … fuck.
Dammit, he enjoyed women. All women. Their luscious curves, soft and warm. He loved the sweet sounds of release that escaped from their pouty lips as he rode them, drove them over the edge while he found his own release. Human, shifter, fae … hell, he’d even done a vampire or two. But, he hadn’t done any riding of late, his mind too preoccupied with the only woman to ever deny him. Preoccupied, hell. He was fucking obsessed.
Even her name had the power to make him rock hard. Her amber eyes blazed in his memory and fueled his arousal each night as he jacked himself off. He was certain her allure was grounded in the fact she’d rejected him. A new and unpleasant experience. One he didn’t care to have again.
Devlin drained his glass. She posed a challenge. That was all. Nothing more.
At least that’s what he kept telling himself.
Another surge to his power pulled his gaze to the entrance. His lungs seized as liquor spewed from his lips. Standing in the doorway, looking entirely too edible in her skintight jeans, was the woman who’d haunted his dreams.
What the hell was she doing here? Was she looking for him?
The way she glanced around the bar, he doubted it. She appeared to be whispering to the guy manning the door, whose name Devlin couldn’t remember. The guy waved her through, and she handed over a wad of cash before he directed her toward the stairs on the left. The guy turned and signaled Liam, Lucky’s newest charm, to come over.
Damn, with that amount of cash, she’d either be in a private room the rest of the night, or Liam was about to receive a very large tip.
Keira’s ass wiggled as she shifted from one foot to the other, hesitating briefly at the bottom of the stairs. Nervous, was she? She should be.
Of course, Devlin had no intention of letting Liam touch her. Aside from the fact that it was Liam’s first night and he looked a little nervous, there was no way another man would get his hands on Keira. Not tonight anyway. Tonight, she was all his. He’d have her … oh yes, he’d have her, all right.
And then he’d be able to get her out of his head once and for all.
Devlin abandoned his drink and went to head off Liam. Disguised for his act, Liam was dressed in a cape and domino mask, a getup that would make the women around here crazy. They loved a man of mystery. He wondered if that’s why Keira had asked for him.
The thought sent a surge of unexpected jealousy through his veins, which he promptly shut down. He had nothing to be jealous about, for gods’ sake.
Devlin stopped Liam at the door with a grin. “Liam, buddy, I have a proposition for you.”
Liam’s eyes went wide behind the mask he wore, and Devlin laughed.
“Nothing like that, man. Relax. I want this private dance. You can keep the money, but turn around and walk away.”
Devlin felt Liam’s relief. “Thanks, Dev. I’m a little wound up preparing for my first stage dance. I won’t take the money, though.”
“I don’t need it, trust me. And it’ll be worth every penny if you let me go up. I take full responsibility, I promise.” Not that Keira would complain. But she would scream. He’d make sure about that.
Liam clasped his shoulder and squeezed. “She’s all yours. Good luck.”
Luck. He took the stairs two at a time and rounded the corner at the top. He reached out with his power, sensing the room she was in. He approached the door and whispered a few ancient words to block her from disappearing on him again. He’d make his own luck tonight.
He entered the room. The door closed behind him with a soft snick. He turned the lock, further securing her—them—in.
She spun around to face him, her surprised expression quickly turned to panic. “What are you doing here?”
Her voice was like sweet honey for his taste buds, smooth as silk, seductive. He closed his eyes for a moment and savored the sound. Blood filled his cock, causing it to bulge against his leather pants. “Hmm. Does it matter? I’m more interested in what you are doing here.” He circled around her, surrounding her with his scent.
Her nostrils flared, and she waved her hand around the room. “You son of a bitch. Did you gate this room?”
“I did.” It was a spell only he could break. “We have things to discuss. Like what you’re doing here.”
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
“I must say, I’m surprised. I thought you weren’t interested in this kind of thing.”
“Who do you think you are? You don’t even know me. You think I’m not interested in men … in sex? Just because I didn’t—I don’t—want you? Obviously, you were mistaken.”
This woman infuriated him. He glanced at her lacy tank top. Her nipples were hard. His mouth watered at the memory of their shape, their color.
Didn’t want him, his ass. He could smell her arousal, her need. She wanted him all right. And he would prove it.
“Obviously.” Devlin walked her back until she fell onto the couch. “You paid for a lap dance—”
“Not from you.”
“Ah, sweet Keira. But, it’s me you get.” He leaned over her and braced his palms against the back of the couch, caging her in. She smelled so fucking good. A mixture of sweet honeysuckle and rich red wine. He wanted her scent all over his body. In his mouth, on his skin. He wanted to roll in it until no amount of showering or soap would rid him of it. He put his mouth against her ear, felt her tremble. “What’s it going to be, mo pheata?”
“I’m not your pet. In fact, I’m not your anything. Can’t you take a hint?”
He grabbed her hands before she could push him away. He bit back a groan at the contact, her soft skin an assault to his senses. “If you are so unaffected by me, then you won’t mind letting me do my job. You paid for a dance, a dance you will have.”
He’d laid down the gauntlet. She couldn’t refuse him once money had changed hands. All the fae, his race included, were bound by honor, commitment. Once their word had been given—in the form of words, a handshake, or money—it could not be broken. It was the reason he’d spent the last month in New York, stripping for strangers, unable to fuck anything but his own hand—both because of this woman.
She wouldn’t deny him again.
Her chest expanded as he straddled her hips, keeping his weight from pressing her into the couch. “We have a no touching rule.” He clasped her wrists and pulled them over her head. He conjured a set of handcuffs, attached to the floor by a chain behind the couch, and shackled her in one quick movement.
Keira’s back arched as she pulled on the restraints, giving him a fantastic view of her breasts. “You seriously think these are going to hold me?” The cuffs disappeared, and she brought her hands back down to her lap, careful not to touch him. “Not.”
Devlin couldn’t keep the smile from his lips. “So, there will be touching then.” He shrugged. “You won’t hear any complaints from me, baby.”
Her brow furrowed as she realized her error. “Tricky fucking leprechauns,” she mumbled. “Untrustworthy bastards, the lot of you.”
“Now, now. I offered to restrain you. You made the decision to take them off, thereby forfeiting the ‘no touching’ scenario.” He frowned at her expression. “Really, Keira. Am I so horrible?” He trailed a finger down the side of her face, mesmerized as her delicate lashes brushed against her cheeks. “I’m a generous lover. I’d make it good for you.” Even as he said the words, they turned to ash in his mouth. Why did the idea of a night with her suddenly seem like not enough?
Keira pushed him so hard he toppled back, barely catching himself before he fell on his ass.
“Why would I make it good for you?”
“No, why do you keep pursuing me?”
Devlin opened his mouth to answer, only to realize he had no idea what to say. At first, it had been about the bet. His cousins had challenged him, and he’d accepted. Now, all he knew was he wanted to be inside her. To feel her heat surround him and hear her sigh his name. She’d never uttered his name, he’d realized. He’d do anything to hear it pass her lips now.
“Don’t you feel it?” Her soft lilt was tinged with a touch of sadness.
“Feel what?” The inferno that raged through his balls? The need to lose himself in her. Hell, yeah, he felt it.
Keira surged to her feet, squaring off with him so fiercely his cock hardened further. “This.” She slapped her palms flat to his chest and, gods help him, he almost came. Power surged through him, electrifying his veins. His skin hummed with pleasure. He shifted, uncomfortable in his pants. He pressed a palm to his erection, fighting like hell to ward off the brewing orgasm.
Keira kept a hand on him and moved the other between her legs, mirroring his movements. Devlin jerked as the bands around his wrists vibrated, as if preparing to jump from his skin. He threw his head back on a moan.
It can’t be.
But, the proof was right in front of him, inside him. Keira was the light to his dark, the soft to his hard. The fire and passion in her spirit matched his own. She was the one made just for him.
Keira was his fucking mate.
Devlin grabbed her wrists and jerked her hands together in front of him. “Is this why you ran?” When she remained silent, he shook her with a gentleness he didn’t feel. “Answer me.”
“You think I don’t know what you’re after? I’ll not be tied to a man who doesn’t want me. Let me go!” She struggled, but was no match for him.
“Gods be damned, Keira. I haven’t been able to think about anyone else. You’re in my thoughts, in my dreams. I chased you because I couldn’t fucking help myself. From the moment you touched me that day at the pool, I was lost to you. I didn’t understand … I didn’t realize…” Devlin searched her face, unable to voice what was going on in his mind. He’d never felt more whole, more complete than right now. Standing in a private dance room of a strip club, he’d finally figured it out.
“I want you, Keira. Whatever you think about me, never doubt that.” He took a deep breath and eased his grip. “If you want to go, I’ll remove the gate. I’ll release you from your obligation to stay. But know this, if you go, I’ll not follow. Your choice will be made.” He felt the weight of his promise crash over him. If she took him up on his offer to leave, he was sure it would kill him. Their race could live without their mates, but they’d never find comfort or happiness in the arms of another. Sexual release, yes. But even those brief moments would be tainted with sadness and loss.
The tension in the air was tangible as they stared each other down. Keira studied him, as if she could read his heart through his expression. He wasn’t sure what she saw, but she shook her head, the movement so slight he almost missed it. “I don’t want to go.”
“Mine,” Devlin growled before slamming his mouth to hers. He wasn’t gentle. He pushed his tongue against her lips and demanded entrance. She opened, offering him her mouth, her tongue, and he took full advantage. She leaned into him as her flavor melted over his tongue. She tasted as she smelled—like tender honeysuckle. He’d never get enough.
His need to get inside her overwhelmed him. He broke the kiss and leaned his forehead against hers. This room was not the ideal spot for them to consummate their relationship, but it was all they had. He couldn’t wait, and by the way she panted against him, neither could she.
“I need to see you, Keira.”
“Yes,” she breathed.
He gripped the hem of her shirt and peeled it from her body. He growled in approval at her lack of bra and bent to suck a nipple between his lips.
Keira moaned and pushed her fingers through his hair, holding his head in place. He sucked, nibbled, and teased her tight bud, then moved on to the other, giving it the same attention. “Devlin.”
He froze, pulled back to look her in the eyes. “Say it again,” he demanded.
He hissed as her nails scored down his chest, his stomach. She popped the button of his pants, reached inside, and wrapped her fingers around his length. “Devlin.”
Fuck the preliminaries. They had a lifetime to explore each other. And explore they would. He’d know every inch of her skin, every place she loved to be touched, licked. He’d spend hours feasting, devouring her. Later.
He popped the button of her jeans and, as much as it killed him, removed her hand from his pants. She kicked off her shoes and quickly pulled her jeans down her legs. He watched her strip, as he followed suit, and within seconds, they were both naked.
Devlin was on fire, his power surged, creating a current that flowed between them. He’d never felt anything like it.
He fisted his length, his hand stroking of its own accord. “Last chance to change your mind, Keira.”
She went to her knees in front of him and licked the tip of his cock. “Last chance, Devlin,” she said before she wrapped her mouth around him. Her lips stretched, pulled tightly around his wide girth.
“I’ve dreamed of your mouth on me. Fuck, that’s so good.” Her tongue swirled, teased his sensitive flesh. She braced her hands against his thighs and sucked him deep, holding him in her throat until he thought he’d lose his mind. Her hum vibrated through his balls, and he jerked from her. “I’m not coming in your mouth the first time.” He gave her a mischievous grin. “We’ll save that for later.”
Keira looked up at him and blinked, a look of pure innocence on her face as she wiped a finger across her swollen lips. “I knew you’d be delicious.”
The woman was driving him insane. “You thought about how I’d taste?” His words came out on a groan.
“You aren’t the only one who’s dreamed of this, Devlin. I avoided you in life, but in my dreams … every night you’d fuck me.”
He was about to make her dreams a reality.
“Come here.” She squealed as he helped her up and spun her around, pushing her playfully to the couch. She leaned forward, bending over and presenting him her beautifully curved ass. Never one to pass up an opportunity, Devlin swatted an ass cheek with his palm. She gasped and threw him a heated glance over her shoulder.
“You won’t run from me again. Ever.” He brought his palm down on the other cheek and she jerked forward, then moaned and pressed back into his hand. “I think you like that.” He dipped his hand between her legs and found her wet folds. He slid two fingers into her, then a third. Stretching, preparing her. “I think you like that a lot.”
“Devlin. Please. Haven’t we waited long enough?”
He removed his fingers and brought them to his lips. His first taste of her rocked him. Addicted him for life.
She turned and eased back, laying herself across the soft, black velvet of the couch. The perfect backdrop for her fair skin and golden hair.
“Gods, you’re beautiful.” He reached down and caressed the lines of her tattoo, knowing soon, it would adorn his arm. By consummating their union, they connected not only their lives, but also the lives of their families. They would retain their own family markings on the right, but their left markings would move, transferring to the other. From this day forward, everyone who saw Keira would know she was taken. She would belong to him as he belonged to her.
He moved his body over hers; his knees pushed her legs as wide as the couch would allow. His cock nudged her entrance; her wet heat filled him with a surge of lust. “Look at me, Keira.”
Her gaze was one of unbridled need. She arched her hips, tried to force him to move.
“You’re mine. Say it.”
“Yours,” she panted.
He drove his hips forward, her slick channel opening around him. She was tight, so tight he was afraid to move lest he end this before they started.
She wrapped her legs around his waist and squeezed his hips between her knees. “Slow and easy later. Fuck me, Devlin,” she demanded.
Devlin lost what little control he’d held and pounded into her soft flesh. Sweat covered their bodies, the scent of sex heavy in the air. Keira’s hips thrashed under him, meeting him thrust for thrust. Her moans grew louder with each stroke.
He threw a spell over the room, cloaking it from the outside world. “Scream as loud as you want, sweetheart. No one will hear you.” He slowed his pace and leaned back to press his thumb to her clit. “Come for me, Keira. Let me feel your pleasure.”
Her fingers dug into his biceps; the bite of pain raced to his groin. Her scream rang in his ears as she broke apart around him, her pussy clenched tight around his cock. His head fell back as her release flowed through their connection, turned her pleasure into his. The tattoo at his wrist vibrated as his balls drew up tight. The powerful sensation sent him spiraling. He shouted as his orgasm tore through him. He shook, every molecule in his body shifting as he filled her sweet body with his essence.
Her soft sigh drew his attention. Reluctantly, he eased out of her. Stretching out beside her, he pulled her close. “Are you all right?”
She held her wrist up, showing him his mark. “Hmm, that was amazing. Guess you’re stuck with me now, huh?”
He turned his arm and inspected his new ink with wonder. His mate. His life.
“Never stuck, love. I’m proud to wear your mark. Always.” He kissed the top of her head, content and satisfied. “So, you never told me what you were doing here tonight.”
She looked at him, her expression twisted in annoyance. “I lost a bet. I didn’t know you were here, and, once I regain some brain function, you can explain all about what you’re doing here. As for me, I was sent here to get a lap dance. Which I still haven’t gotten, by the way. I’ll need you to pay up.”
Laughter burst from his chest. “A debt I’ll happily pay. Anytime, baby.” Devlin was happy to know his mate shared his competitive spirit. He’d look forward to challenging her, as well as devising delicious ways to make her pay up. But he was curious. “Who’d you lose a bet to, mo pheata?”
She shook her head and snickered, leaning over to nip his lip. She gave him a wicked grin. “Your cousins.”