Rosalind lifted onto her toes, sliding her iron fingers through the inky black strands of his hair. Her lashes half lowering, she dragged his head down with a fistful of his hair and guided his mouth to hers.

She’d kissed men in the line of duty, seduced them with a flirtatious smile that barely touched the cold, hard ball of emotion within her. It had never meant anything to her. Yet she trembled now, her hand stroking the hard, leather-clad body, feeling the buttery soft texture of his armor beneath her gloves. Her words hadn’t only seduced him—she felt the truth of them herself. The excitement of something forbidden.

His cool breath brushed against her sensitive lips as they caressed her own. Lynch resisted. “Take off your mask,” he said hoarsely, his own fingers stroking the trembling flesh of her jaw.


She could feel his body leaning away from her as he fought for his senses. In desperation, she reached up and opened her mouth over his.

A shudder swept through the massive frame enveloping hers. He stiffened in shock and she drank of his mouth, her tongue caressing his with a dare and her hands sliding lower. That hard body melted against her and she felt the moment he stopped fighting his inclinations. Hands cupped her face and he kissed her as if he were a desperate man, passion rising up within him so swiftly that it shocked her. She tasted loneliness in his hunger, and something flared to life within her, something foreign and dangerous. A yearning that ached like a fist in her stomach, an echo.

Rosalind turned her face, gasping into his hair as she sought to pull herself back from that. The moment she could breathe the sensation lessened, but she didn’t immediately kiss him again.

His hand cupped her nape and he grabbed a fistful of hair, dragging her head back. Cool lips slid over her chin and lower, across her throat. Rosalind clutched his shoulder, wary of her vulnerability but it didn’t return. If she concentrated on the feel of him, on each delicate sensation as he licked at her throat, then she could manage to hold on to herself.

A blue blood. But he felt like a man beneath her questing hands, and he tasted like one as he returned to her lips, his breath sweet with his evening wine. The kiss deepened, his tongue forcing her lips apart, taking no prisoners. Hungry. Her body ached, the throb between her legs so long denied. Eight long years since Nathaniel died, and she’d never once regretted not taking a lover. Never found a man who even tempted her. But danger was its own addiction and a part of her thrilled at the man in her arms. The Nighthawk. Her dearest enemy. A shadowy entity she’d taken great pleasure in thwarting for the past six months.

A man she was about to thwart again.

Her back hit the brick wall. Lynch’s mouth slid up her throat and claimed her lips again. She barely had time to snatch a breath or even a fistful of his shirt before his tongue rasped over her teeth. A thousand impressions leeched into her; the chafe of her nipples against the linen that bound them; the taste of his mouth; the drugging scent of him; and the gravely rasp of his knuckles on the brick as he caught her beneath the arse and dragged her legs around his hips.

Rosalind’s nails curled into his shoulders, padded only by the single glove she wore. Sweet lord… She was losing herself again… She kissed him, biting at his mouth, drawing his lip between her teeth and nibbling on it. It would be so easy to forget herself, to let herself surrender until she was lost…


Hands caught her own, pinned them to the wall. But she needed them free and she fought him.

Her head spun. “Let me—let me touch you. I want to touch you.”

The words stilled the violence of his passion. Rosalind bit her lip, catching a glimpse of those dark eyes. She wasn’t the only one fighting this attraction. And if she let him go—for just a second—then she’d lose him.

Never. Rosalind surrendered, rocking her hips against his, feeling the hard steel of his erection between her thighs. She let her body ride against his, her hands sliding over his shoulders and luring him closer as she threw her head back and gasped.

Lynch slammed one hand against the wall beside her head, shuddering. “Curse you,” he whispered. Then his mouth bit at hers hungrily and he was lost in her again.

Rosalind slid her hands over the corded muscle of his throat, linking them behind his neck. It was a simple matter to tug the glove from her mech hand. Dropping it carelessly, she groaned into his mouth as his hand slid over her arse, tugging her against him hard.

A twist of the knuckle on her mech ring finger and a sharp needle slid from the interior. Rosalind tasted his breath and realized that she was stalling. She slid her hands over his shoulder, the rasp of his stubble scraping her jaw.

Just another moment.

One more…

Her hips rode his and she threw her head back, eyes glazed with passion. “I almost wish…” she gasped, “that I didn’t ’ave to do this.”

Then she slid the needle into his neck and injected the hemlock straight into his body.

Lynch stiffened, spasms racking him. “No.” Slumping against her, he clawed at the wall to hold himself up, his knees giving way.

Rosalind landed lightly on her feet, the hard body pinning her to the wall. It was a good thing, for she wasn’t sure her own knees would support her right now. She caught Lynch under the arms as he gurgled something in his throat. Words she probably didn’t want to hear.

Laying him on the ground, she stepped back, capping the needle neatly within her metal finger and twisting the knuckle back into place. A sensation almost like guilt licked at her.

A stupid thought. A dangerous one. Sentiment had no part in her world. Nor emotion. Either could get her killed in an instant.

Her knives were tucked behind his belt. Lynch’s gaze locked on hers and she realized what he was thinking.

Cut his throat now and there’d be no more Nighthawks on her trail, no more martial law. This would be a devastating blow to the Echelon that they might not recover from.

Her fingers slid over the knife hilt as she took it, familiarity molding it into her hand. Rosalind’s fingers clenched unconsciously as she stared at him. It wouldn’t be the first blue blood she’d ever killed.

Come on, my little falcon. Do it. You are what you are, after all. What’s one more death?

She could almost hear Balfour whispering in her ear. Lust died a quick death and bile rose in her throat. No. She wasn’t his to command. Not anymore. She’d freed herself the moment she’d cut her hand off.

It doesn’t matter. His whisper sickened her. I made you what you are. And you can never escape that…

“No,” she whispered. Metal clanged and she realized she’d dropped the knife.

Lynch twitched, a gurgling snarl in his throat. She couldn’t tear her gaze from his. He knew, she realized. Knew that she couldn’t do it. No, not couldn’t. Wouldn’t.

Fool. She shook her head and took a step back, her boots crunching on old metal filings on the ground. She’d regret this. Tactically this wasn’t the right choice. All of her training screamed at her to finish the job.

Lynch’s fingers twitched. How long had he been down for? One minute? Two? The amount of time the hemlock would paralyze him depended on how high his craving virus levels were. If his CV levels were high, then he might begin to regain control of his body before she’d fled the scene. Not a thought to relish, especially with that look in his eyes.

Rosalind snatched her knife up again and sheathed it in her boot. Sparks sprayed off a welding rig nearby. She crouched low, looking to see if anyone had seen. If they had, then Lynch’s life would be in danger.

You don’t even have to wield the knife. Just walk away and leave him here. Defenseless.

One second of hesitation. It would be so easy…but something stopped her. A hitherto unknown sense of mercy. This was the second time in as many months where she’d allowed someone to live whom she probably shouldn’t have. Rosalind cursed under her breath and bent low to grab his wrists. Dragging him behind a boiler, she hid him from sight.

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