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© 2018 International Bestselling Author Autumn Archer. Autumn writes romantic suspense, dark romance

and contemporary romance. 

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His to Keep
(Formerly published as Veritas)
Chapter 9


Lana’s eyes pinged open. She bolted upright and held the bed sheet to her tight lungs. A bead of sweat trickled down the clammy skin at her temple. Scanning the dimly lit corners with the same speed as her racing heartbeat, Lana recognised the large room - she was back in Fermanagh.

“Lana.” Marcus’s voice rumbled from the armchair beside the bed. His torso hunched forward and his elbows rested on his knees. “You’re safe. I’m here.”

Her breathing was ragged, each little intake of air rasped in the stillness. Pulsating adrenaline jumped in her throat and her chin wobbled. “Marcus?”

The pale moonlight peeked through the wooden window slats, shadowing half of his features like a mask and sparking the gold flecks in his eyes, making them glisten like shards of amber. Her eyes narrowed to slits, fixated on his broad powerful form.

Marcus yawned, rubbing his prickled jaw with both palms. “It’s okay, beautiful.” His tired voice was husky.

“It’s you…thank fuck.” Lana breathed in his familiar musky scent and detected his perfect white teeth behind a warm smile. Palming the bedside table, she fumbled for the lamp. The edge of the bed sank down and Marcus leaned over, flicking the switch. Light flooded the room, casting shadows on the walls like monsters.

“Go back to sleep.” He ordered with a calmness to his rasp.  “I’m right here.”

She gulped, cowering under the protective sheet with only her face peeking out. “Are you sure he’s not here…hiding in the house?”

“He’s locked up.” His face was pale, almost grey, and dark crescents hung under his sleepy eyes. Even though his jet-black hair was messy and his unbuttoned shirt hung loose, he still looked sexy as hell. She desperately wanted to crawl onto his lap and curl around his muscular torso for safety, but she couldn’t fathom why he was sleeping in a chair when she was lying in a king-sized bed, alone. 

“Why were you sleeping in that chair, Marcus?” She slid him an uncertain look.

The corner of his mouth raised with a sexy smirk. His hand drifted to a lock of hair that hung in front of her face. Gently and carefully he tucked it behind her ear. “I didn’t want to crowd you, Lana. I heard your screams and wanted to stay close.”    

Her face pinched. “Why don’t you share the bed with me?”

Marcus brushed his knuckles across her jaw, his eyes soft. “We haven’t worked out what this is yet.”

His gentle touch prompted a seductive shiver that stirred an unexpected heat between her legs. “Us?” she asked, curling her fists.

The look on his face was dark and dangerous as his eyes drifted down her body. “I was giving you time before…”

“What?” she barely whispered.

His hand retreated and he sat tall. “It’s been a long few days.”

She nodded dizzily, feeling a surge of adrenaline heat her from the inside out. “The tablets the hospital gave me were really strong. The past few days are a blur.”

A smile tugged his lips. “I’m sure they’re out of your system now.”

The sheet floated to her waist and she edged closer to his thigh. Resting her hand on his arm, she delicately brushed his skin with the pad of her thumb. “Lie with me.” Lana shuffled her hips down the bed. “When the nightmares take over, I’d like you to be right here. Will you lie beside me?”

For the first few nights she had relived Carl’s torment, helplessly letting the terror fracture her dreams. Sometimes, she screamed like the demons were breathing fire down her throat and other times she jack-knifed with her mouth wide open and only a strangled squeak bubbling out.

Patting the empty space on the bed, she nodded for him to join her. “Please. Lie down with me.”

“Sure.” He clambered over her legs and pulled back the cover, removing her protective barrier. She shifted, feeling exposed without her safety blanket. He slid his arms free from his shirt and tossed it to the ground, then he sank down on the mattress and fixed the bedding just below her ribs. His nails skimmed her braless breasts making her thighs instantly clench. Holding his hand centimetres from her quivering skin, he paused. The green of his eyes darkened like the churning ocean amidst a frenzied storm. Pulling back, a puff of air blasted from his lips when he stretched out his legs.

A wave of protection lightened her fear the minute Marcus joined her side. She shivered as tiny sparks exploded through her muscles and she sucked up the wicked energy that vibrated between his body and hers.

“Thank you for bringing me back here,” she said softly, grazing his bicep with her fingertips.

He turned on his side to face her, expelling a hoarse sigh that rumbled like distant thunder making her stomach whirl. “Don’t mention it, beautiful.”

A slight wink sent her heart into melt down. “Marcus?” Erratic palpitations fluttered wildly in her throat and a slow burn between legs was quickly becoming a hungry necessity.

She pressed her pelvis against his hard body, enthralled by his warmth. “What are you doing, Lana?” he rasped.

His chest was carved and firm, silky and inviting but his strong muscular arms were like shields. She longed to be swathed in his embrace, held by his masculine strength and devoured by his wickedly sinful mouth. Just the simplest touch from Marcus was enough to rescue her from the disturbing memories.

“My body is yours if you want it. Brushes with darkness have made me realise how much I need this right now.” She was almost panting. “You can wipe out his hell, Marcus. I give you permission to burn your touch onto my skin.”

Marcus hummed low in his throat. His head lifted from the pillow and his tongue swiped across her open mouth. “You’re too fragile – too broken for the things I want to do to you.”

Her stomach fluttered. “What do you want to do to me?”

The corner of his mouth raised in a sexy half smile and a shadow danced behind his eyes. Drifting his hand to her waist, Marcus jerked her closer with a firm jolt. “I want to hear you scream my fucking name, Lana.” His husky voice was thick and inviting. “I want you, on your knees, with your hands tied behind your back and your pussy on my face.”

Her tongue darted free from her dry mouth, anticipating his commands. A slight flutter of fear escaped her throat. Did she want to be tied up again?

The fleeting apprehension was quickly erased when he nuzzled her neck and growled, “Fuck, Lana. I’ve wanted to spread you apart from the second I brought you home to this bed. Is that wrong?” Tingles scattered her spine with his delicious wicked rumble. “I’ve watched you sleep for hours and each time a sexy little groan left your throat, I wanted to press my dick to your lips and shove it in your damn mouth.” He grabbed her hair at the scalp and yanked her mouth closer. “I want to ruin you.” With a slow lick, he teased the tip of his tongue with hers. “And I want to own you.”

The swell between her legs grew so intense that she began to gasp. Nudging her pelvis into his thigh, she rubbed against him. A desperate groan filled the electrified air. “Touch me, Marcus. Be my gravity. Own me.”

His hand drifted to her silky shorts and his long fingers slipped underneath the elastic. “Those fucking sounds you make, Lana. They make my dick so hard.” He slid a finger around her slick heat, teasing her entrance as his teeth nipped her earlobe. “I want to smack your ass so hard it shakes.” She arched against him, melting as his finger pushed deep inside. “But that’s for another time.”

He grabbed her hand and raised it to his mouth. With long leisurely sucks, he took each finger in turn until she whimpered. This was exactly what she needed. Marcus McGrath was her protector, and her teacher.

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