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“Can you feel this?” He brushed his lips over the knuckles of one hand and the palm of the other.

“Stop kissing me—I’m filthy.” She looked past him. “This isn’t a pit trap. I’d be impaled on a bunch of spears if it were, it’s too deep, and besides that, the Timucua never built them.”

Beau began checking her fingers. “Do remind me to thank the natives.”

“You can’t. The last Timucua Indian died almost two hundred and fifty years ago.” She shifted her eyes to the left. “This looks like a borrow pit.”

He placed her hands at her sides. “They borrowed it from someone?”

“We call them that because the natives dug them to borrow the dirt for burial mounds,” she said. “Which is even odder. There aren’t any burials anywhere near here. I think the closest one is in New Smyrna Beach.”

“Be still.” He pulled away the debris covering her abdomen and right leg. “Does anything hurt?”

“My head is pounding, and something under me is jabbing me.” She tried to look down the front of herself. “I can feel my toes.” Soil fell away from her sneakers as she wiggled them. “I don’t think my legs are broken.”

That left checking for the worst. “I’m going to put my hand under you, and feel along your spine.”

Her scowl ebbed as fear filled her eyes. “I landed on my back, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did, love. But you just moved your feet, and I suspect you have a spine made of iron.” He leaned over and kissed her brow. “Be brave now. Tell me if you feel any pain.”

She nodded.

Beau used his ability to lift her body enough to place his hand beneath it. He felt the warm wetness of blood as soon as he touched her back. He felt along her spine for the source, but Alys didn’t make a sound until he reached her waist.

“There.” She caught her breath. “Something there. It feels like a knife.”

He went around the spot and continued until he reached her buttocks. From what he could feel, her bones were intact, which meant he could risk moving her. “I’m going to turn you on your side and have a look. We’ll go slowly.”

“I can do it.” Alys shifted, groaning as she moved onto her left side. “Oh, that really hurts now. Please tell me there aren’t any bones sticking out.”

Beau lifted the lantern over her, and as soon as the light illuminated her injury, he put it down. “No bones out of place. There’s a bit of wood lodged under your skin.” He studied it before he reached for the first aid kit. “It hasn’t gone in very deep.”

“Please.” Her voice sounded strained. “Pull it out.”

He took a gauze pad from the kit. “Ready?”

“Yes.” She muffled a sharp sound as he tugged it free, and then exhaled heavily. “A twig? That was all? It felt more like a log.”

Beau tossed the wood aside and quickly bit into his own wrist, opening two puncture wounds that he held over the gash in Alys’s skin.

“What’s that?”

“Only a little antiseptic.” He watched as his Kyn blood sank into the wound, putting an immediate stop to the bleeding. He covered the gash with more gauze, which he taped in place.

“That doesn’t sting, but it feels hot.” She tried to look over her shoulder. “How did you know I was down here?”

More questions. The wench had nearly died, and she was still asking them. “I heard the ground collapse.”

“No, you didn’t; that was me falling in. This pit was already here; someone just camouflaged it.” She struggled into a sitting position. “I want to stand up.”

As he helped her to her feet, Beau glanced at the mound of deadwood around her. “The natives did not do this.”

“No.” She picked up an oyster shell. “After they dug this pit and did something with the dirt, the Timucua probably used it as a very large garbage can.” She gingerly felt the back of her head. “Maybe the kids covered it up as part of a prank.”

“They would not do something so vicious.” Beau caught her as she staggered, bringing his arms up around her and holding her against him. “I must take you to hospital.”

“I can’t leave; the terms of the grant were very specific. If I do, Hylord will shut down the project.” She looked up at him. “I think I’m all right. Mostly. Are your eyes glowing?”

Beau hadn’t fed before leaving to scout the other camps, and expending so much energy as well as using his ability to get to Alys had further depleted him. The scent of her blood had stirred the worst part of him, and if he soon didn’t get away from her and feed, his hunger would grow out of control.

“I must leave you here for a little while,” he said, holding her at arm’s length. “Don’t be afraid.”

“I’m not the one who’s afraid. Your hands are shaking.” She tilted her head. “Your voice has changed, and your teeth are different, too.”

“You just took a bad fall,” he reminded her. “You’re shaken from it.”

“Not really.” She breathed in and smiled as her eyes darkened. “Brenda calls you the Candyman. Do you know why? You smell like caramel. Hot caramel.”

She’d fallen again, this time under his sway. Beau knew that even the few mortals who were immune to l’attrait could still be affected by it when they were injured or weak. Which made him want to curse God and all the heavens for doing this to him.

“Do you like me,” Alys was asking him, “or do you just pretend to because we have to work together?”

“Alys, listen to me. I want you to sit down and wait here.” He turned away from her to pick up the lantern and switch it off. “I won’t be long.”

He reached for the rope, but when he grasped it, the entire length came slithering down, until the other end landed at his feet.

“Do you have to leave me?” she asked. “I don’t like being alone down here. Not after someone tried to electrocute us. Can’t I climb out with you?”

The fall must have addled her thoughts. “Neither of us will be climbing out of here,” he said, his voice sounding harsh. “Someone cut the rope.”

“All of the interns are back at the hotel in the city. We’re the only ones left out here. Unless it was the ghost, but I don’t believe in ghosts.” She came up behind him. “Maybe you didn’t tie it right.”

“No, it was tied well enough.” As soon as she touched his shoulder, Beau moved away from her. “You should sit down.”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “You’ll save my life again. Just like you did in France, when I was a little girl.”

“You should sit down and rest. Let me help you.” When he reached for her, his fingers brushed against her pendant. “What is this?”

“My cross.” She tucked in her chin to look at it. “I’ve had it since I was a baby. Like the omega. I think my parents were religious. And maybe a little weird.”

She was still making no sense at all, but neither was the cross she wore. Simply touching it sent an unpleasant tingle through his fingers. Beau was convinced he’d seen it before, and not on Alys. He turned it over in his hand, and saw the glint of a tiny jewel embedded in the center.

The eye of Yblis.

“I’ve seen you watching me, you know.” She tugged the cross from his fingers and bent to turn on the lantern. “Most men don’t do that after they talk to me. Either I intimidate them or I don’t say what they want to hear.”

“You do unsettle me on occasion,” Beau said, “but I am not afraid of you, Alys. And you can say anything to me that you like.”

“Good.” She beamed at him. “Will you have sex with me?”

Whatever antiseptic Beau had used on Alys’s back had burned away the pain; now it mellowed into a deep, pleasant warmth that spread through her abdomen and pelvis. She wanted him to hug her again, but he was still staring at her cross. He also hadn’t answered her question.

“I said, would you—”

“I heard you the first time, love. No.” He moved away from her again until he disappeared into the shadows. “You’re not thinking clearly right now.”

“I thought you weren’t afraid of me.” She reached for the stone wall, leaning against it until the pit stopped spinning. “That’s strange.” She ran her fingers over the surprisingly smooth surface. “This should be clay. With the water table as high as it is here, we should be swimming, too.” She turned around until she spotted Beau. “Oh, there you are.”

When Alys went to him, he caught her hands and held her away as he looked over her head. “You have to stop this now, love. You’re like a sister to me. A young sister. A very young, innocent sister.”

“That would be fine, only I’m not your sister.” She stretched her arms out to change his angle of leverage, and pressed herself against him. “Remember when you came in my hotel room, and I tripped you, and we fell down together? I was afraid, and really angry, but I liked it, too.”

He tried shuffling back, but she followed him until she had him pinned against the stone. “Alys, please.”

Pleased she had him cornered, she rested her cheek against his chest. “It was when you rolled me over onto my back, and my towel fell off and I felt you.” She shimmied her hips against him, rubbing her belly against the hard length of his penis. “Like this. You were aroused, just like this. I love that I can do that to you.”

“I’m a man; you were naked.” He lowered his hands, bringing hers down to her sides. “I did not go there to assault you. I’ve never forced myself on a woman.”

“But you thought about it, didn’t you?” She looked up at his tight features. “I could see it on your face, and feel it in your touch. Your body was practically shouting how much you wanted me. For a minute, when I thought you were going to spread my legs and push yourself inside me, I wasn’t angry. I was excited. I wanted it. I want it now.” The pit began to spin again, and Alys sagged against him. “Why am I talking like this? I never talk like this. I feel like I’ve been drugged.”

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