The Hunter had finally arrived.
Victoria studied him carefully through the closed-circuit feed that monitored her office reception area. The urbane Armani suit he wore did nothing to hide the predator within. Tall and dark, the Hunter moved with a casual arrogance that made her purr. He didn’t look around, completely focused on the moment when they would be together in the same room. Alone.
As she rubbed her hands together, a throaty growl filled the air. The High Council was ready to tangle with her again. She smiled and preened, as was the nature of her kind. This Hunter was powerful, she could feel it even through the walls that separated them.
It was a testament to her own prowess that They would send a warlock such as him after her. She couldn’t help but be flattered. After all, she’d broken the laws on purpose, deliberately goading the very powers that had stolen Darius from her. And here was her “punishment,” walking into her office with that luscious, long-legged stride. She couldn’t be more thrilled with their choice.
He flashed a devastating smile at the receptionist before she closed the door behind him. Then he turned his attention to Victoria and removed his sunglasses.
She crossed her silk-stocking-clad legs to ease the sudden ache between them.
Piercing gray eyes measured her from a face so austerely handsome she was almost inclined to leave her seat and rub up against him. That firm jaw . . . those sculpted lips . . .
But, of course, she couldn’t. She first had to see if he would reveal who he was or if he intended to pretend. The High Council still hadn’t realized how much power Darius had bequeathed her. They didn’t yet realize how deeply her awareness went.
Her gaze moved to the crystal-framed miniature on her desk and the man with the rakish dimple who smiled lovingly from there. Captured beautifully in oil paints, glints of gold shining in his blond hair, the sight of Darius brought a familiar ache of loss and heartache that firmed her resolve. The waste of his life filled her with a need for retribution.
Rising to her feet, Victoria held out her hand. The Hunter took it leisurely, the palpable force in his touch betraying him.
“Mr. Westin,” she breathed, fighting back a delicious shiver. She would have to thank the Council for this gift when she was done with him. He was so dark—his skin, his raven hair, his aura. Sex incarnate. She could smell it, feel it with his proximity. It was obvious why he was a successful Hunter. Already she was wet and eager.
Max Westin held her hand a little too long, his thickly lashed gaze clearly stating his intentions to have her, to tame her. Like all kittens, Victoria liked to play, so she brushed her fingertips across his palm as she pulled away. His eyes widened almost imperceptibly, a tiny sign that she could get to him if she really put the effort into it.
Of course, she intended to do just that. The Council only sent Their best, most prized Hunters after her, and she knew how it chaffed Them when Their elite met with abject failure. It was the only thing she could do to prevent feeling helpless—give Them a harsh reminder of how great Darius had been, and what They’d lost with his needless sacrifice.
“Ms. St. John.” Westin’s voice was a rough caress. Everything about him was a little rough, a little gritty. A primitive creature. Just like she was.
Victoria waved toward the chair in front of her glass-topped desk. Freeing the button of his coat, Max sank into the seat, his dark blue trousers stretching over firm thighs and an impressive bulge between them.
She licked her lips. Yum . . .
One side of his mouth curved in a knowing smile. Max Westin was well aware of how irresistible he was, which made him irresistible to her. Confidence was a quality she held in high esteem. So was a touch of wickedness, and Westin definitely had that. That dark aura betrayed the edges of black magic he skirted. She doubted the Council had any better leash on him than They had on her.
Liking him immensely already, Victoria sank into her own chair, arranging her legs beneath her black pencil skirt to show them to best advantage.
“The museum offers its sincere apologies for the loss of your necklace,” he began.
Her smile widened. He wasn’t going to tell her who he was. How delicious. “You don’t look like the curator type to me, Mr. Westin.”
“I’m here on behalf of the museum’s insurance company. Obviously a loss of this magnitude requires an investigation.”
“That’s reassuring, of course.”
Observing him through the veil of her lashes, Victoria noted the energy that betrayed his restless nature. His firm, full lips hinted at sinful delights. She liked sinful, energetic men. This one was a bit rigid for her tastes, but that could change with the right persuasion. They all succumbed eventually. It was the only part of the game that disappointed her—the surrender.
“You seem remarkably at ease,” Westin murmured, “for a woman who’s just lost a priceless piece of jewelry.”
Victoria’s toes curled. His voice was so deep and slightly husky, like he just rolled out of bed. It was scrumptious, like the rest of him. He was so broad shouldered, yet lean, every movement he made a graceful ripple of honed muscle.
“Fretting won’t accomplish anything,” she said with a careless shrug. “Besides, you are here to find the necklace and you look . . . capable. What is there to worry about?”
“That I won’t recover it. Your trust in my abilities is flattering, Ms. St. John, and not misplaced. I’m very good at what I do. However, sometimes things are not what they seem.”
It was a warning, plain and simple.
Thoughtful, she stood and walked to the wall of windows behind her desk. Despite having her back to him, Victoria felt the heat of his gaze caressing the length of her. She fingered the pearls that graced her neck and stared out over the city skyline. “If need be, I’ll simply acquire another. Everything can be purchased for a price, Mr. Westin.”
Intrigued, Victoria turned, surprised to find him approaching. He took a position next to her, his gaze on the view, but his attention fully focused on her. She felt the shimmer of his power sweep over her, searching for her weaknesses.
Unable to resist the danger, she rubbed her shoulder against him and inhaled the rich, masculine scent of his skin—a mixture of thousand-dollar cologne and pure Max Westin. Her breathing became shallow, her heart rate picked up. Losing her perspective, Victoria moved away. It had been a long time since she’d indulged in a powerful man. Too long. The other Hunters had been crafty and seductive. Westin had that and pure magical muscle.