The Earthbound Series, Volume 4
After ten years of separation, Tessa and Alec are called to the deathbed of Tessa’s father and tasked with solving a mystery that points to WWII, the Nazi régime, and the shadowy world of the Djinn. Although their passion still burns, forgiveness requires more than desire.
Alec, the Riddle King to the Defensori, is used to shutting out the world and working on his puzzles alone. But this time, he can’t shut Tessa out. This time, he needs his estranged wife's help. Tessa and her gift hold the key, and failure could cost her sanity…or her life.
Insecurity, immaturity, and misunderstanding drove them apart. Can they rebuild their shattered trust and work together to rescue a captive Djinni, stay one step ahead of the servants of the Fallen, and save their marriage along with Tessa’s life?
“That wasn’t fair!”
“I don’t have to be fair,” Alec replied. “This isn’t a democracy, you know.”
“You can’t just go around doing things like that to people without warning,” she whispered in a tremulous voice, and only then did Alec realize she was trembling from head to toe. Well, shit.
“Tessa…” he stepped toward her and held out a hand.
“Don’t you touch me,” she warned, taking a quick step back, eyeing him warily.
Okay, so maybe he’d been an oblivious jackass. Hardly the first time, but maybe it showed progress if he’d noticed without someone else pointing it out?
“Look, I could have warned you, but frankly it just never occurred to me. You’ve had a long night, and you’re tired and hurting. I get it. I’m not happy about this, but believe it or not, I really am trying to help. I’m not the bad guy here.”
“Meaning I am?” She spat, stepping right up toe to toe, crossing her arms over her chest, and craning her neck to look directly into his face. “I fly thousands of miles, watch my father die, and then, before I can even process what that means, I am grabbed by you, of all people, and spirited off against my will without so much as a by-your-leave. And you have the audacity to stand there and tell me you’re not happy about this?”
Alec decided he definitely preferred angry Tessa. Her eyes deepened to the swirling blue of an angry sea and her chest heaved, straining the buttons of the wrinkled white blouse and thrusting her high breasts against the thin fabric. With her bright eyes snapping, red-gold curls tumbling over her shoulders, and her cheeks hot and flushed, pissed or not, she was freakin’ magnificent.
“Okay, let’s agree neither of us are happy about this. You’re still staying here.”
“You’re impossible!” She threw up her hands in the universal gesture for frustration and bent to retrieve her backpack while mumbling under her breath in rapid Italian. Glancing around wildly, she turned and stomped toward the walkway leading to the front of the villa. He caught up to her in two long strides and grasped her upper arm, spinning her to face him. She struggled automatically, stopping short as a woman’s voice floated out of the back door into the still morning air.
“Alec, if you’ve finished badgering the poor girl, the coffee is on the table.”
“Who’s that?” Tessa whispered in a shaky voice.
“I realize it’s been a while, but surely you haven’t forgotten my mother?”
“Madge? You were serious? You’re living with your mother?”
“No, but you know I stay with her when I’m in Rome.” Alec shrugged. “Is that a problem?”
“No…no, of course not. It’s just that I thought…oh, never mind.”
“You thought what? That I brought you here to… Well, sweetness, sorry to disappoint you, but even I’m not that insensitive. Or desperate.”
“You flatter yourself. I’m not disappointed in the least. Self-centered, overbearing mama’s boys aren’t my type.”
Alec reminded himself she’d just lost her father, and bit back the sharp retort that sprang automatically to his lips. He settled for following slowly behind as Tessa shook off his hand and marched back to the kitchen door, climbing the stairs right into Magdalena McAllister’s open arms.
“I’m so sorry about your father, my dear,” Madge murmured quietly. “We loved him, too.” Tessa nodded into the other woman’s shoulder, but if she responded, she kept her voice too low for Alec to hear.
“Don’t take it personally, darling. The girl is grieving.” His mother’s amused voice entered his mind through the telepathic channel used by his family.
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