by Sharon Clare
eBook ISBN: 9781440561924
When Paradise Resort disappears, Isabelle and Jonathan are trapped in a sensual game they must play to win their freedom. With each roll of the die, desire grows until Jonathan is forced to confront his worse fear or forfeit Isabelle to the dark mastermind of the game.
Note: Prologue omitted.
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The promise of amusement brightened Finn’s mood as he leaned against a bamboo beam where orchids hung in terracotta pots, perfuming the air at the Caribbean resort. Veiled from mortal sight, he watched a woman’s sleek black hair whip across her bare shoulders as she danced. So relaxed. So at ease. So content in her packaged life. Not a hint of suspicion her vacation would soon take a turn. Her oblivion curled his Elvin lips.
The perfect subject.
For a human, she had a body that bid his gaze to each curve, skin that shone like wet pearls. He’d watched her languish daily on a beach chair to escape into her books. Once, her cheeks had flushed when she’d read an erotic scene — a blindfolded heroine anticipating the feel of the hero’s hands on her thighs, spreading, exposing, touching. Isabelle had glanced around as if anyone other than Finn had the power to read her mind.
Enjoy your last dance, princess.
He saw her clearly. Isabelle Carson had taken a self-imposed vow of celibacy. A mindset she’d have to overcome — tonight — if she intended to stay in the human world.
Finn had chosen the male subject, another fine specimen, months ago. Jonathan Raynor, a man who didn’t acknowledge his emotional void, a man who didn’t recognize his own need for one good woman.
Before he could set the boundaries for the game, he needed Isabelle to leave the dance floor. He knew just the right prompt to send her to the beach.
The telltale wind of another elf’s approach curled against his neck. Who had found him? The waft spiraled down his back and blew through the ends of his waist-length ivory hair. Finn’s chest constricted and quashed the flow of energy through his veins.
King Oberon appeared beside him. The king, no less. Finn swallowed and forced the quivers that threatened his composure to settle down.
Formidable as always, the king pierced Finn with a gaze that would make an elf of lower caste fall to his knees. “You’ve decided to provoke the mortals despite my warning to stay out of human minds.”
Denial was futile. “Only for our greater good,” Finn retorted, once again. How many times would he need to explain simple concepts? “Just because the council didn’t agree with my theory, doesn’t make it less valid.”
“They did not disagree that humans are over-populated, all-consuming, and self-destructive. And they did not disagree that the quest for true love is not a priority in human lives.”
“Oh?” Small concessions as they were from the council was progress. Frustrated by opposition that belittled his intelligence, Finn had left the council meeting abruptly when it became apparent he had no supporters.
“But, Finn, you truly can’t expect the council to agree that the energy from a few billion humans, no matter the degree, can affect us in Alfheim.”
The king didn’t see it. The council didn’t see it. Even though the human dimension was a mere hair’s width removed from the Alfar, no Alfarian believed the negative energy humans generated could weaken an elf, any more than they understood the energy from human love could be used to enhance their powers.
Finn looked into the king’s cobalt blue eyes. “If that is the case, then I ask that you grant me leave from the council. Give me time with the humans to gather the proof I need. Give me twenty of their human years to conduct my study.”
The king let go a snort. “Leave you to play games with the humans?” His gaze traveled over the sea of dancers. “Do you see a miserable face out there, Finn? Humans love their holidays, yet they allow themselves little leisure. No wonder so few find true love. Create. Destroy. Over and over. No one understands them. How could you have insight enough into the ways of these creatures to pair them with their true mates?”
Finn had watched humans for as long as he could remember. He didn’t know why he was entertained by them when most Alfarians viewed them as inconsequential. Centuries ago, he’d started to see the energy that swirled around them, how the color of the energy changed dependent on their thoughts, how love surpassed all energies, even hatred. “I read their minds.”
King Oberon drew in a short breath.
Finn carried on before the king could protest. “Humans don’t see themselves, they don’t understand their own needs, so how can they determine what they need in a mate? By instigating more love into their world, I serve both our realms, and I have the means to prove it. The matchmaking service I will provide will be faultless.” Practically. There’d be human hearts broken here and there, terribly difficult to avoid, but he served the greater good, and did he request compensation? Never. “I will tell no one I have the king’s approval for my work, unless you wish acclaim when I pool my results for the council.”
“You have five human years, Finn. I want reports annually.”
Finn bit back the exclamation that five years was nothing. He worked alone. He had to find subjects, devise games, measure responses, tally results. But he also knew when to push and when to wait for another day. He drew a deep breath that mushroomed his chest.
The king wasn’t finished. “I trust you’ve curbed your tendency to indulge them.”
Finn’s chest deflated.
“I wouldn’t call it a tendency.” He’d paid a hefty price for those mishaps. “And those humans thought me a trickster, so I doubt they felt indulged.” But it was fruitless to explain human habits to Alfarians. “I desire nothing other than the time to test a dozen or so variables.” Which factors unleashed the greatest passion between two mates? This game would test sexual boundaries.
“Your credibility is at stake, Finn. I wouldn’t forget that.”
King Oberon disappeared without a goodbye.
Finn knew what was at stake. When he’d tapped the force behind the most passionate love, no longer would his genius be called lunacy. No longer would his isolation be called defeat.
An instant later, Finn appeared on the beach under palm fronds that cast long black shadows over the sand. He watched his male subject halt at the shoreline and stand frozen even when a wave brushed his sandals. Alone for a moment, Jonathan glanced toward the Italian restaurant, as if he controlled his destination.
Finn was the master of the night, Jonathan and Isabelle mere players. Power surged in his veins — there was nothing finer.
He cast the Alfarian spell to begin the game.
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