A/N: Cassie and Pritkin are characters created by the wonderful Karen Chance.

Chapter 1

At least there was hot water. The shower was more of a gentle drizzle than a downpour, but all those years on the run had taught me to be thankful for what I could get. I rinsed off, letting the warm water soothe my latest round of aches and pains. A clump of something pink and purple and squishy slid off me and down the drain. The image of the dark mage's brains exploding all over me played again in my head. I shuddered. He was about to slit my throat when Pritkin shot him, but still, I don't think I'll ever get used to people dying around me. Even the ones trying to kill me.

A loud knock, more a pounding really, on the door made me drop the thin bar of cheap hotel soap. I said one of Pritkin's bad words as I bent over to retrieve the soap.

"Go away, Pritkin!"

Only my crazy war mage partner would go so far as nagging me while I was in the shower. We were supposed to grab a sandwich and debrief our last mission. He might call it a debriefing, but these little sessions were really more about Pritkin yelling at me about everything I did wrong, and me yelling at Pritkin about how he almost got himself killed. He'd just have to wait. I wasn't going anywhere until I was clean again. Or the hot water ran out.

There was a moment of silence before the vinyl shower curtain was violently shoved back, and a familiar large hand holding a towel appeared.

"Pritkin! What the hell?"

I snatched the thin, used-to-be-white towel from him and hastily wrapped it around myself. I hadn't even heard him open the door, and now, he was standing in my bathroom, bare chested and barefoot. He had his duffel bag slung over one shoulder, a handgun in one hand, and a worried frown on his face. I turned off the water. This couldn't be good.

"What is it?"

"War mages in the parking lot. They have all of the exits covered. You need to shift out of here now."

"I can't. I've got nothing left. Shifting us here was all I could do. I can't move us again so soon."

"Shift by yourself. I'll be fine."

I opened my mouth to let him know that so wasn't happening, when he stopped what I was going to say by covering my mouth with his hand.

"They are right outside," he whispered in my ear. "I'm staying here. I can't look after you and deal with them at the same time. Shift out now."

I was spared the indignity of trying to bite his hand when I heard the outer door to my hotel room explode open.

Not good. I didn't think I had the energy to scream much less shift, but one look at Pritkin's pissed-off and scared faced convinced me that I had to try.

I grabbed his arm just as another explosion blew in the bathroom door. Pritkin slammed into me. I squeezed my eyes shut and did whatever it is I do that shifts us somewhere else. Usually, we're there in a blink. But I was so exhausted, it wasn't that easy this time. I felt my body pulled, stretched, and smeared through the gray fog of that other space until finally the scratchy comforter on Pritkin's old bed back at Dante's was underneath my bare back.

This wasn't good. We were supposed to be avoiding Dante's, and I'd brought us right back to ground zero of the guys who were trying to kill me. At least I hadn't shifted us to the penthouse where I'd been living for the last several weeks.

We were lying in a mottled pool of blue and red and green light that was shining through the recently repaired stained glass window that took up an entire wall of the small room. Confused memories of the last time I'd been in this room lying under Pritkin's hard body flooded my mind.

"Pritkin! Get off me!"

Nothing happened. This really wasn't good.

He was a dead weight on top of me. A very naked me. The damned towel had come loose, and I was acutely aware he wasn't wearing a shirt. The mat of curly golden hair that covered his hard chest was soft against my breasts. He must have been in the middle of getting dressed when the fun had started.

It was becoming difficult to breathe.

At least his breathing was warm and steady against my throat. The part of me that worried about him was relieved that he was still alive. The part of me that hated him was horrified that my body liked the feel of that chiseled chest pressed against mine with nothing between us.

Time to go.

I reached for the edge of the bed and tried to wriggle out from under him. If I was lucky, I could get some clothes on before he regained consciousness.

"Don't move!" His voice growled in my ear.

I froze. Pritkin's brilliant green gaze was staring at me from way too close. I licked my lips, trying to figure out what to say. My brain was no help. It seemed to have taken a break and left my body in charge. A body that was perfectly happy to lie beneath Pritkin and enjoy the warmth of his carved muscles against my smooth curves.

Pritkin's brain seemed to have taken a holiday, too. Normally he had something to say about everything. Now he only stared at my lips. As he leaned closer to me, I realized how badly I wanted to feel his mouth against mine. I had missed his hot and hungry kisses. And it terrified me that I could want someone so much. That I needed him. Not just the perfection of his body, but the unguarded twinkle in his eyes when I could almost get him to laugh. My fear turned to panic. Nobody knew better than me what happened when I let down my guard and allowed someone to get too close.

"Get off!" I bucked my hips, desperate to get out from under him before I gave in to my body's demands.

"Don't… move." I saw his eyes darken, and he grabbed handfuls of the bedspread on each side of my head. "Please."

Pritkin saying please? That stopped me.

"I'm injured and it is… difficult… to maintain control with you in your current state."

My current state? It took me a moment to understand what he was talking about. I felt my cheeks flush when I realized he meant my current naked state.

Pritkin as a half-incubus could feed off my life energy to heal. When he was injured, feeding was an an automatic reaction that was difficult for him to control. His eyes were getting darker. There was still a ring of green, but I could tell from his ragged breathing that my lusting after him was really not helping.

"Um, Pritkin? Maybe you should get off me?"

He swallowed. I saw some of the panic I was feeling mirrored on his pale face.

"I can't." The admission cost him. Angry eyes stared into mine. At least there was more green there now. Note to self. Keep the crazy half-incubus angry. "A piece of debris from the explosion has lodged against my spine. I can't move my legs. As long as it's in place, I can't heal. You'll have to remove it."

I nodded. I could do this; I had to.

I reached around him and threaded my fingers through the damp, soft hair at the base of his neck. Pritkin's lips compressed into a thin line. I needed to work fast. My fingers slid down his spine until I hit something rough and wet sticking out of his lower back. There was barely enough poking out of his skin for me to get a grip on it. Could I really do this?

"Miss Palmer! What are you waiting for?"

I sucked in air and pulled. There was a sickening resistance before the wooden shard came free. I tossed it away before turning back to him. "I told you to call me Cassie!"

It was his turn to nod. His eyes were closed, and his already pale face was now paler.


"Gimme a minute." He had to be in bad shape to slur his words.

I craned my neck around to get a better look. Blood was oozing out of him. Even with his amazing ability to heal himself, the bleeding didn't seem to be stopping.

"You're still bleeding. A lot. Why hasn't it stopped already?"

"Healing will take some time." He wasn't meeting my eyes.

Damn it! Pritkin had been using his shields and magic all day. He wouldn't admit it, but he didn't have enough energy left to heal the gaping hole in his back on his own.