CORBIN BLUE TUCKED HIS girlfriend against his side, smiled his patented bedroom smile, and faced the cameras, playing the part of irreverent debaucher to perfection. As usual.
In reality, he was the World’s Best Spy and Assassin (trademark pending), with the singular ability to kill everyone around him with only a thought. Too bad mass homicide was not tonight’s orders.
Another round of flashbulbs nearly blinded him, and voices assaulted his ears.
“Blue! Noelle! Over here.”
“Any wedding bells in your future now that the New World Order has legalized human-otherworlder marriages?”
“Blue, how did it feel when you broke the Mack’s spine during last week’s game?”
The crowd went silent, willing to wait for his answer this time.
“Like I should have hit him harder,” he said. Football was his cover. And the Mack, well, he was the quarterback for the Strikers, the number two–ranked team in the National Otherworld Football League, and collateral damage.
Besides, it wasn’t like the guy had suffered for more than a few days. He was an Arcadian, like Blue, and healed supernaturally fast. In fact, the arrogant prick was already back on his feet.
Noelle patted Blue’s chest, her gray eyes twinkling mischievously. “Here’s hoping for permanent damage next time,” she announced in her I-just-want-to-be-naked voice.
While gasps of shock and glee swept through the paparazzi—the sharks had scented blood—Blue ushered Noelle into the crowded hotel ballroom that had been transformed into a twinkling wonderland. Multicolored flowers hung from the ceiling, and black velvet embedded with faux-diamond lights draped the walls.
A collage of perfumes scented the air, mixing with the effervescence of champagne and the aroma of smoked salmon on herbed crackers carried on trays by more than a hundred waiters.
The same conversations Blue had heard a million times echoed.
“Who are you wearing?”
“Did you hear about—” Blah, blah, blah.
Two minutes in, and Operation Lullaby was already boring him.
Come on, people. Let’s try a new play on this field. He loved both of his jobs, and he was certainly great at them, but nothing challenged him anymore. Everything came so easily. From missions to ball games . . . to women.
Where was the fun? The excitement? The danger?
“After we’ve said our hellos”—Noelle swiped a glass of bubbly—“let’s sneak into the bathroom and make out.”
Can’t sigh. He checked his watch. Ten thirty-four. Would he have time for a will-we-won’t-we-be-caught quickie? No, probably not. Even though he expected tonight’s plan to encounter zero problems, he knew it would be better to act as if the worst could happen.
“Sorry, Elle. That’s a no go.” To prevent any pushback, he said, “That’s not the way we act in public, is it?”
She bowed her head, embarrassment coloring her cheeks. “I guess not.”
And the Boyfriend of the Year award does not go to Corbin Blue.
He hated dishing the naughty child treatment to Noelle, but sometimes it was the only way to stop her from inadvertently ruining a mission.
She was a sweet girl, though she practically sprouted fangs and horns when anyone riled her temper. Despite Dr. Sweetness and Miss She-devil, which he actually liked, she wasn’t his type. She had no idea she’d been handpicked by his boss and mentor, Michael Black, or that Blue worked for the government and he had stayed with her for the past year only for her connections. She thought they were in love.
Yes, he was a total douche for lying to her. He knew it, and tried to make it up to her with orgasms. “Just wait till we get home . . .” he whispered, hoping to soothe her. He kissed the hollow of her neck before maneuvering her through the crowd.
Smart people stepped out of his way. He had a reputation for causing “unnecessary bloodshed” in a sport lauded for its brutality, and as an Arcadian, one of the most feared races ever to cross a bridge of inter-world wormholes to live on earth, he possessed countless supernatural abilities. Not that the good citizens of the world knew about the majority of those abilities.
Like, say, the fact that he could propel the hotel through the sky if ever he unleashed the power frothing inside him. He could compel certain people to do anything he wanted with only a few spoken words. He could heal others with only a touch, though he had to take their pain inside himself. He could drain others just as easily.
He could do a thousand other things, but only a rare few could actually feel the energy humming inside him.
He scanned the sea of faces, searching for his crew. He spotted John No Last Name first. The golden-skinned Rakan despised crowds, but there he was, dressed in a waiter’s frock, offering an older lady a glass of deep-red wine while the woman behind him gave him a good old-fashioned eye-screw.
Aaannnd . . . there was the big and monstrous-looking Solomon Judah standing in front of a set of terrace doors, acting as security. Not even Solo’s closest friends knew his origins. They just knew to stay far, far away whenever his dark side took over. He made the Hulk look like a toddler who’d just had his paci taken away.
Blue, John, and Solo had met over two decades ago, after Michael rescued each one from a broken home. Or, in Blue’s case, a darkened street. And though they had been given to different families, they’d come together every weekend to train, and quickly bonded. They’d worked together, killed together . . . and, in the end, saved each other. There was no one Blue loved more.
A low, sultry laugh drifted through the kaleidoscope of noise to caress his ears. The blood in his veins heated, surprising him. Interesting him. Muscles knotting with sudden eagerness, he searched the ballroom for the source—there.
Cue the slow-mo special effects. His surroundings blurred, a lone woman becoming the center of his focus. The only thing he noticed. She wasn’t facing him fully, but had her side to him. Her dress was sapphire blue, the material clinging to her slender frame until flaring at her feet and trailing behind her like waves in the ocean.
The imagery fit. She was straight-up man bait, and he was already hooked and reeled. Her black-as-night hair curled down her back in long, shimmering ribbons. Pale skin with rosy undertones glowed as if she’d just rolled from bed—not completely satisfied, since she hadn’t left his.
Five minutes alone with her. That’s all he needed to take her from “not completely” to “utterly.”
She was spectacularly animated as she spoke to a blond female in a red dress, her hands waving through the air. Then she turned in his direction, grinning, clearly searching for someone. Her gaze skipped right over him—what the hell?— as she pointed and the other girl nodded.