The Essentiants, Book 2
Ebook ISBN: 9781623005467
[ Urban Fantasy Romance, MF ]
Dresdan Mati thrives on the souls of humans and he possesses the strength to heal. He can conquer the pain of a thousand deaths, but he can’t overcome his desire to bed a virgin, one who is tethered to God.
Life had a way of punching you in the gut when you least expected it. Or worse. Dresdan Mati felt as if God had hurled a thunderbolt into his heart when the woman turned to look at him. Her hazel eyes opened wide in dismay as she stared in his direction. He recognized her loneliness instantly.
Dres had lived with the feeling for over a thousand years.
He had flown to Philly with his friend Ion Toso and followed him to the church. Standing, Dres strode to the front and stopped at her pew. “I’m Dresdan Mati.”
“I know who and what you are.”
“Wonderful, we can eliminate the bullshit.” Dres wasn’t looking for much—he merely sought a diversion.
“I think you’ve made a terrible mistake.”
“The only mistake I could make would be to walk away without getting to know you better.”
After driving to Boston for a medical conference, Dres had returned to the City of Brotherly Love to wait while Ion decided what to do about Sandy Brittingham, a woman who was leading Ion on a merry chase around Philadelphia while she came to terms with the creature he was.
“Call me Dres.” He reached for her hand, drew it to his mouth, and sucked her middle finger.
Air puffed through full, unpainted lips. “You’re the devil incarnate!”
“No, sweetheart, much worse.” She tried to tug her hand away, but he held it firmly. “I’m Essentiant. “But you already know that.” He had waited for Ion and Sandy to leave before making his move.
Keeping the light from his eyes took every ounce of energy he possessed. Dres had no intention of bending or mesmerizing her mind. What he desired she must give willingly. “It’s not your soul I’m after.”
“You’ll suffer in hell.”
“I fear nothing there.” This time he placed a kiss on the inside of her wrist. Her pulse quickened beneath his lips. Staring into her eyes, Dresdan said, “And I will allow nothing in that or this realm to harm you.”
He survived on souls, most of them damned. He stripped essence from rapists, murderers, and dying derelicts who struggled to let go of life. Dresdan used their energy to control the minds of the living and to sustain his own life. He was good at what he did, had existed for centuries drinking evil from God’s castoffs. Never had he wanted anything as much as he wanted this woman. Watching the pulse beat in her neck made him wish he were vampire, for he would have bitten her and tasted each day of her life as her blood seeped into his body. That wasn’t going to happen, but damn if he didn’t intend to take everything else.
Dresdan Mati vowed to make the beautiful, ethereal woman his.
Already, visions of her long, thick chestnut hair curtaining him as she sat astride his hips taking his cock deep brought him to a semi-hard state of readiness. And her skin—Christ, he wanted to touch it, lick it, see if it tasted velvety sweet like the dark honey it resembled.
“I must go.” She stood and trembled. Dres moved his hand to her waist to steady her.
“I can make you tell me.” No need to let her know he’d already sworn to himself never to touch her mind.
“Rosalind Graves. Now, please, I have to leave.”
“How well do you know Miss Brittingham?”
“Well enough to know what you and your friend are.” This time she glared at him with fire. He liked it. “I know what you do.”
It was because he had followed Ion and Sandy that he stood in this church. “If she’s told you about us, you also know I bring no harm to innocents.”
Rosalind cast her eyes to the floor. “She’s only told me that you take people’s souls.”
“I’m telling you I’ve never hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it.” Grasping her chin, making her look at him, he finished. “My eyes will never dance with lights of death before you.”
“But you will continue on this path of destroying what is God’s?”
“Rosalind, I’m far too old to be taught Bible verses. I am Essentiant, will always be, and yes, to survive I will do whatever I find necessary.”
“You’re pure evil.”
His lips curled. “I’m pure nothing. Don’t ever make that mistake.” He released her. “When you kneel to pray tonight, ask your God why he sent me here.” Turning, he strode toward the church’s vestibule until her voice stopped him.
“He would forgive you if you asked.”
Pivoting, Dresdan gazed at her. Her back was straight, shoulders held high in a regal pose. Rosalind was tall with small breasts. Jeans encased narrow hips, and lean thighs topped long, slender legs. The total opposite of what he desired in a woman. His mind said walk away forever because so much goodness surrounded her he damn near smelled it. Dres’s cock prodded him in a different direction.
“No need to ask.” He felt heat build in his eyes and fought the urge to demonstrate his power. Who was she to judge him? No one saw the things he had witnessed. No one tasted the evil he’d drawn into his own soul more than a million times. “I have forgiven myself.”
* * * *
He was gone, and the church’s silence engulfed her. “God, forgive him,” Rosalind whispered.
Goose bumps pimpled her arms, and a chill ran down her back. The same thing happened whenever she spoke with her friend Sandy about Essentiants. She reminded herself that Sandy was okay, so Ion couldn’t be that evil. Dresdan Mati was different, and somehow Rosalind knew in her heart—felt in her gut—she’d not seen the last of him. She trusted the Lord and followed the path he’d set her on, but one meeting with a man who might be true evil caused her to waver. When he touched her, Ros’s heart somersaulted. Other parts of her body reacted in a way she’d only dreamed of.
High cheekbones, a square jaw peppered with a day’s growth, the way his brow lifted when he gazed at her, the creature’s cold gray eyes—all were emblazoned on her mind. He had styled black hair with gray—no, silver—streaked at his temples. Broad shoulders, narrow hips, and long, long legs continued to invade her thoughts. Shaking herself to clear the vision, Ros headed to the vestibule and out the front door. Peering both ways, she hoped the monster was gone, yet a piece of her heart wanted Dresdan Mati standing there so she could see his sensual lips move once more. Stop!
Her phone chirped, and she pulled it from her pocket to see who the caller was. It was Sandy. Ros couldn’t talk to her right now. Sandy would know something was wrong, and Ros didn’t want to infect her with gloomy ideas. Sandy had left a little over an hour ago with Ion Toso, who was Dresdan Mati’s best friend.
Sandy had told Ros enough about both men to know she should steer clear, but her heart pounded another rhythm against her ribs.
After all their talks about Ion, Rosalind knew Sandy would run back into his arms. Why not? Each conversation the two had solidified Ros’s belief that Ion was Sandy’s one true love. Sandy’s apartment wasn’t far; Ros would walk over and wish her well. On the way, she passed tiny gardens planted by homeowners who took pride in the little patches of earth they eked out in the city. Flowers bloomed, and a few birds darted away when she neared their space.
Slowing her pace as not to scare them all away, she was shocked when a blue jay stopped short of hitting her in the face. Throwing her arm up for protection, she was even more amazed when the bird dropped to her forearm and stared into her eyes. Rosalind walked to the nearest porch and set the bird on the railing. Turning to leave, the animal again hovered in her face before landing on her arm. Placing the blue bird back on the porch, she heard a rustling sound in a pile of leaves. Carefully nudging it with her toe, she spotted two fledglings floundering on the ground.
The jay watched intently as she picked the tiny birds up and looked around for their nest. Seeing it under the roof’s overhang, Ros walked up the steps, climbed on a chair, and put the babies in the nest. “I hope your mother doesn’t mind the smell of a human.” The strange sensation someone was watching crept up her spine, forcing Ros to steal a glance up and down the sidewalk in hopes it was… Shaking the eerie feeling off, she jumped down onto the porch and quickly forgot about it when the blue jay lifted from the railing. It flew to the tiny ledge beneath the roof and settled beside the nest. It appeared to stare at her as it flapped its wings.
Ros’s spirits lifted when the bird hopped into the nest and disappeared.
Her step had grown lighter by the time she reached Sand’s apartment and rang the doorbell.
Sandy opened the door and smiled. “I thought you might be busy. Come in. Did you get my message? I left one asking you to hurry over.” She laughed breathlessly. “I guess I should let you answer me.”
“I came right over.”
Ion Toso watched her from the sofa. Sandy looked back at him. “Ion, don’t be rude.”
“I’m sorry if it appeared that way. I’m not used to anyone knowing about us.” He stood and walked toward them.
Sandy glowed with happiness. “Rosalind Graves, this is Ion Toso.” Goodness! Were all these creatures so beautiful?
He reached his hand out, and she took it. “Hi, I… I’ve…”
His smile lit up the room. “I know it’s a little difficult meeting someone like me.” He reached for Sand’s waist and pulled her back into the room. “I believe Sandy wants to talk to you.” He kissed Sand on the forehead. “I’ll have a car pick you up tomorrow morning at ten. Don’t worry about anything but what you need immediately. I’ll make arrangements to have someone pack and ship the remainder of your things in the next couple days.”
Ros knew Sandy would probably move to California but hadn’t expected it to be this soon. Her heart dropped a little at the thought of losing their newfound friendship. Having Sandy to talk to had helped Rosalind break out of her shell and understand a bit about how a woman feels and sees things.
“I’ll be ready.” Sand walked Ion to the door. “I miss you already.”
“One night, babe, and then forever.” This time he kissed her on the lips. He looked over Sandy’s head at Rosalind. “I do truly hope you’ll take us up on our offer. Sandy likes you a lot and doesn’t want to leave you here alone.” His gray eyes looked genuine when he added, “In either case, Rosalind, I’ll never let anything harm her. I need you to know that.”
Sandy swatted him on the buttocks. “Out. I’ve got a lot to do.”
The door had barely clicked shut when Ros flopped on the sofa and stared at Sandy. “Wow, so soon?”
Her friend sat beside her and grasped a hand. “Come with me, Ros. Please. You have no one here, and there are churches in Malibu.”
“What? I…I can’t possibly pick up and leave like that.”
“You can and you know it.” Sandy gushed with excitement. “There’s nothing here for you.”
“I didn’t expect him to be nice.” Rosalind had told Sandy to follow her heart, and she did. For some reason, she felt she’d turned the lamb loose into the lion’s den. What did Sand really know about Ion Toso, and what if things didn’t work out between the two of them? Where would she be then? Alone in a city she knew nothing about. “I have a life here.”
“What life? You told me yourself it was good to get out, shop, and become a woman.”
Ros smiled. “I did say that. However, most of those clothes I purchased I’ll never get to wear.”
“You can.” Sand grabbed her chin. “Look at me. Tell me you don’t want to put on that little black number with some heels and strut your stuff?”
“I couldn’t. God…”
“…made you a woman. You chose not be a nun for a reason.” Her friend peered at her. “Rosalind, you’re alive, and it’s time to act like it.”
“I sure felt alive after you left the church with Ion.” The way she felt when Dresdan touched her wasn’t new. It was, in fact, part of the reason she hadn’t become a nun. Spending time with Sandy helped her come to terms with the choice she had already made before they met—to serve the church in a different way. Rosalind was a woman, and she liked feeling like one. However, should something so full of evil be able to elicit such a reaction from her body?
“Did Dresdan do something?”
Heat suffused her cheeks. “Mr. Mati is…
“I forgot what he was for a moment.”
“They can have that effect.” Sand nibbled her bottom lip. “Ros, they’re attractive and powerful.”
“I don’t know. Dresdan isn’t like Ion.”
“I have no designs on him, Sandy. Goodness, I wouldn’t know where to start, let alone how to…how to manage him.”
“That’s what I mean.” Sandy took Ros’s hand. “You don’t manage them.”
“He was so persuasive.” If in his presence for long, could she fight the feeling? Giving in to Dresdan would be easy, and it’s what her body wanted to do.
“Will you come with me?”
“If I decide to join you, I could still keep my apartment here until I see how things go.” Squeezing the hand she held, Ros added, “Plus, you may need someone to look after you if things go bad.”
“I love him, and nothing will go bad.” Sandy’s head tilted. “No matter what else he is, he’s a good man, Ros.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll give it a try.” She had already planned in her mind what to pack as she stood. “Umm, was that Ion’s real face I saw?”
Sandy chuckled. “Isn’t he gorgeous?”
Rosalind thought of another man with gray eyes and remembered how beautiful he appeared until his lips curled in derision at her mention of God. She shuddered. “I’ll be here at nine.”
“It’ll be good for you to get away, even if you decide not to stay.”
* * * *
“Rosalind is going to visit us for a while.” Ion evidently suspected or knew something.
He had made things easy for Dresdan. “It would have happened eventually.” Dres shrugged. Didn’t make a difference to him when Rosalind Graves came to Malibu because he had known the minute he walked out of the church she was coming to California—one way or another. His intent had been to get Ion along with Sandy home, and after settling a few things at his house and the hospital, he’d return to Philly. “I was flying back next week.”
He was determined to have Rosalind.
Ion’s brow lifted. “Is there something I should know?”
“Other than the fact that I want her, not really.” Dres looked at the overhead panel, flipped a few switches, and radioed the tower in preparation for takeoff. He turned in the pilot’s seat to look at Ion. “Anything else?”
“Dres, Sandy likes her. Is this a good idea?”
“Hell, Ion, I’m not going to devour her soul. I just want to spend some time with her.”
“She’s alone in the world and vulnerable.” Ion stroked his chin. “She was going to be a nun.”
“That would account for her holier-than-thou attitude. I’m glad she decided not to be because fucking a nun wasn’t quite what I had in mind.” He started the engines. “Limo’s arrived. Get them aboard and seated quickly because I’ve been cleared for takeoff in ten minutes.” Dres’s copilot entered and quietly took his seat. “Ion, is there a problem?”
“Don’t hurt her.”
Dresdan laughed. “I remember uttering similar words not long ago to Miss Brittingham.”
Dres adjusted the steering control. “So am I. Anyway, don’t see how it’s your business who I choose to fuck.”
Ion spun to leave the cockpit but not before he muttered, “You’re a son of a bitch sometimes.”
“I love you too, man.”
Dresdan preferred piloting the plane himself. It was another way to maintain control. Finished with the preparation drill, he turned to his copilot. “We’re set.” The flight attendant knocked then opened the door to inform them everyone was ready for takeoff. Dres asked her to make the announcement but to hold off serving a special brunch he’d had prepared until he joined the group. His private jet was much larger than Ion’s. It carried ten in the main cabin and contained a well-appointed galley equipped to serve full meals. Though he kept no alcohol on board, guests could request almost any other beverage they desired. There were two bathrooms, one in the main area and one in his private suite, which boasted a plush sleeping area and a small office space.
Once the plane reached its designated altitude and path, he said to the copilot, “It’s all yours.” He’d flown with him before and had formed somewhat of a bond. Still, he warned, “Don’t break anything or crash.”
The man smiled with a glint in his eyes. “Special cargo, Captain?” Evidently, he’d paid attention to the conversation Dres and Ion had.
“Smart ass.” Opening the door, Dresdan entered the cabin. The pretty blonde attendant chose that moment to step into the aisle with a tray full of beverages. Dresdan gripped her waist and pulled her against his body to keep her from losing balance. “You got it?”
“Yes, sir.” Her face flushed red.
When Dresdan glanced up, he noted Rosalind’s dark head raise and that she stared at him, her mouth forming an O.
Ignoring the look of surprise, he walked down the aisle and swung into the chair beside her. “We’ll be in Van Nuys in three hours and twenty-five minutes.”
Sandy chuckled. “Knowing you, Dres, we won’t be a minute late.”
“No, we won’t.” He turned to Ros. “Wouldn’t want to keep you ladies from whatever plans you have.”
“I… No one told me…uhh…”
“Honey, take a breath and relax.”
She glared at him, her hazel eyes alight with fire. “Please call me Rosalind or Ros.”
He pinned her with a look, one that undressed her piece by piece. “I like either.” His eyes locked with hers. “But honey suits you much better.” He stroked a finger across the back of her hand and watched a red flush crawl up her cheeks, making her appear even more beautiful than he remembered.
She removed her hand from the table, placing it in her lap. “Mr. Mati, I didn’t know you were the pilot. I would have bought a ticket and followed in a public carrier.”
“Ahh, but they wouldn’t have taken the great care of you I will.”
“Perhaps I don’t want you to care for me.”
He studied her hard before he replied. “Rosalind, it’s far too late for that.”
Dres’s slacks grew snug in the front, and he thanked God the table hid the bulge. Never one to give a damn what others thought, it shocked him to the bottom of his black soul that he didn’t want the woman sitting beside him to think badly of him. Hell, she already knew the worst, and as religious as Ros was, the likelihood she’d think anything but bad caused his heart to skip a beat.
What the fuck?