“HAVE I DIED and gone to heaven?” Tessa muttered.
Without opening her eyes, she could feel heat permeating the deep chill that stole her energy as if she’d been frozen. Except for shivers and the tingling that slowly returned feeling to her numb limbs, there was no pain. No gunshot wound.
Just wondrous heat, like the touch of sun-kissed virile flesh. Toned, smooth skin sharing blessed warmth, rocking her. No, carrying her? A large gentle hand smoothed her hair from her forehead, and a deep masculine voice assured her that she would soon be warm.
“You will recover.”
Expecting the dream to fade, expecting to see a hospital room, a doctor, beeping machines, Tessa delayed opening her eyes. She didn’t want to face her fellow agents who would tell her the sad news that she’d failed her assignment and that the president was dead.
But she’d never been one to hide from reality. Tessa forced open her eyes.
Instead of a hospital room and her detail, she found herself in a space she didn’t recognize, alone with a stranger, her head pillowed on his shoulder. Her gaze locked stares with the amber eyes of a dark-haired giant, her hand curled intimately under the vest that didn’t fully cover his broad chest.
A bare chest? She must be hallucinating. Out of her head from painkillers, the result of a bullet ricocheting through her skull.
She blinked, expecting him to vanish. He didn’t.
Okay. He was real. Seriously real. Or she was crazy. She preferred the first option, but did a double check. Beneath her hand, his heart beat with disturbing regularity, and her fingers had somehow twisted around his crisp chest hair. She took a deep breath, and his scent reminded her of exotic spices and sandalwood soap.
He might be a dream man, but he was no fantasy. He was quite the living, breathing alpha male, carrying her as if she weighed nothing. No woman in her right mind could fail to appreciate such a gorgeous specimen. Yet no human naturally possessed eyes the color of his Tupelo-honey ones, the irises ringed with fiery gold, and framed by a perfect crescent of thick black lashes. He sported a strong nose, a square jaw that suggested stubbornness, carved cheekbones of a highborn savage, and flawless bronze skin of a hue that could knock a woman flat on her heels for a second look.
His generous mouth curled with a touch of sympathy, and yet his eyes shot off hints of irritation and impatience. “Are you warm?”
She was cold, already craving a scalding cup of coffee. And naked. Naked in the strange man’s arms. In a room that resembled no hospital she’d ever seen, he laid down with her on a shimmering metallic platform.
Had she been taken hostage? Where the hell was she?
Before waking up in his arms, she’d leapt between a traitorous Secret Service Agent and POTUS. She recalled the driver’s betrayal. Was this man or his group holding the president, too?
Tessa suspected she was a prisoner, kept naked to make her feel vulnerable. Or had she somehow ended up in a sanatorium? But then where was her hospital gown? Where were her clothes and her gun? Her detail?
She tried to speak, but her dry throat only issued a weak croak.
The stranger briskly rubbed her arms, creating a friction that heated her numbed limbs. As he tended her, Tessa searched for an exit in the shimmering silver walls, floor, and ceiling, all bare of any adornments and constructed of an unrecognizable luminous gray substance that made her question her eyesight. During her years in foster homes, she’d seen some strange decor but nothing like the other-worldly walls that surrounded her.
She must be hallucinating.
But when she held up her hand that he’d finished rubbing, she clearly counted four fingers and one thumb. And the hunk was still there, watching her with those strange eyes, efficiently and briskly rubbing her other arm. Even into adulthood, she’d had nightmares of abandonment, of losing her parents and her home—but she’d never had a dream this weird.
Again, she tried to speak but managed only a soft grunt.
He picked up an odd-shaped vessel and held it to her lips. “Drink.”
She peered suspiciously at what appeared to be water. Hell, if he wanted to drug her, in her weakened state, he’d have no trouble. She parted her lips voluntarily.
Cool water slid down her parched throat. Greedily she emptied the vessel, and refreshed, her mind kept working. Where was she? What had happened to the president? Why had this stranger carried her? What was going on? Why was she so stiff? Her vocal cords so rusty?
As badly as she longed to ask questions, she followed training protocol. For fear that she might help the enemy, she didn’t ask her first questions out loud.
Assess the situation.
She forced out words that wouldn’t betray anyone. “Who are you?”
He’d moved those large, capable hands to her icy feet. “My name is Kahn.”
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