Chapter 1: Prelude

Two knots. Oh what that sight does to my poor head.

Gabriel couldn't get his mind back on what she was saying, not with those two knots the only thing keeping him from the reality of one of his recurring fantasies. Sara. Naked.

Shit.

"... keep half catching sight of things, half hearing things, its driving me more than a little nuts. Can't you find anything relating to the history of the other wielders and how they dealt with it?"

Right, she needed help from him. She often needed his help. He wished she needed it for more than just esoteric research. Like untying those knots... Damnit, stop letting your mind run, Bowman. She still thinks you're some scrawny geek-boy research hound. Remember? She doesn't know that you need a cold shower every time she leaves.

She hitched her thigh onto the corner of the industrial steel desk, the leather of her short skirt caressing lean muscle as her weight settled. He saw her shiver as the bare back of her thigh encountered the surface, goose bumps flashing momentarily across skin.

Shit.

His lungs tightened numbly as his brain produced an image of Sara, dressed exactly as she was right now with a black leather skirt wrapped low across her waist and bright red leather halter, her hair loosely spread across his desk while he drove into her, fucking hard and reckless. What the hell was she doing, dressed like this. Why did it have to be leather?

"Gabriel?"

Right.

"It'll take me a little while to find something, you can head out if you want," he added casually. Or, he prayed, you could stay.

He didn't see her features shift; disappointment, withdrawal, stoicism. The wind drove hard for a moment, rattling a couple dead leaves against the basement window along with a crumpled brown bag and an empty pack of cigarettes. She shivered again.

She chewed her bottom lip for a moment. "Hey, you mind if I borrow your bathroom for a sec to get out of these clothes? I feel a bit, um, exposed, dressed up like this." She cursed inwardly. Of all the poor timing in the world! Why did the damned blade decide to play games with me while I'm doing an undercover job?

Gabriel stopped himself short of licking his lips...out of these clothes? God how he wished that had been an invitation instead of the ordinary request it really was. Sara, out of her clothes, was something that kept him sleepless more often than he cared to admit. At 27, Gabriel Bowman's life so far had by no means been lacking in rich imagination or enjoyable recreational experiences. He'd been resisting his attraction to Detective Sara Pezzini since the day she'd walked through the door of his basement office 3 years ago. Sure, he fantasized about her, but the ancient stone hanging gracelessly around her wrist marked her not only as a force to be reckoned with but as untouchable to any ordinary mortal man's heart or hands.

Like his.

"Why don't you use my bedroom instead? The bathroom's barely big enough to turn around in."

Her uneven quirk of the lips and brightening of the eyes in response made him gulp, then sputter, choking on the breath he'd swallowed.

"Hey!" she slapped his back vigorously, "you okay there chief? Swallow something?"

My tongue, he thought. Or how's about you? Gabriel's hands tensed as his imagination provided an almost-real sensation of her lips, smooth, gentle, plump, brushing delicately across his own before returning with more certainty to claim a deeper kiss. Sara yelped and he broke violently away from the though. Her hands clamped to her head as her knees buckled.