Free Chapter Friday! Baptism by Fire, Chapter Five

**warning–adult content**

This chapter continues the physical relationship of the characters, so if you’re under 18, this is no place for you to be!

Chapter Five

Aidan stood in front of Sophie Kincaid’s desk, barely containing his impatience. “I requested the ownership information on these
warehouses the day after each fire. Why has it taken over three weeks to get them?”

“Budget cuts, Hughes. No clerks to hunt down the histories. Until your homeless guy died, we were probably on the bottom of the
priority list. Now, with the fire a few days ago, someone finally decided to push it to the top. We only found out about the ownership of the last one because of the security guard.” Sophie held out a thick yellow envelope.

Aidan shook his head in disgust and took the proffered paperwork. “Sorry, Sophie, you know I’m not mad at you.”

She responded with a cheeky smile, her teeth blindingly white against her ebony skin. “It’s okay, sugar. You can get pissed with me any ol’ time you want.”

That had Aidan chuckling. Sophie was happily married to a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers. While she was gorgeous and had a wonderful personality, there was no way Aidan was going to go head-to-head with a professional athlete who could break him in half, Fae power notwithstanding.

“Very funny. I’m quite attached to my head, thank you very much. Any chance Mikey and I can use the conference room?”

“Go right ahead,” she said, consulting her computerized calendar. “There’s nothing in there all day. Give a shout if you
need anything.”

“Thanks, Sophie.” Aidan poked his head into the hallway, pulling Mikey away from his conversation with a beautiful patrol officer.

“Quit drooling on her, Alvarez. You’ll get her uniform all slobbery.”

“Piss off, Hughes,” Mikey retorted, turning his back to Aidan.

“I’ll be in the conference room when you decide to get to work, you piker. Don’t believe a word he says, Officer. He’s all smoke, no fire.” Chuckling, Aidan walked into the conference room and began laying the background paperwork of the three fires on the table.

It only took twenty minutes for the connection between the three fires to become clear. When it did, it shook Aidan to his core.

“Mount up, Mikey, we’re going to the university.”

* * * *

This time Leanan didn’t miss him, or the Hispanic man waiting by his side.

Her stomach muscles clenched as her mind flashed to last night and her shower scene just an hour ago. She so did not need this, not this early in the morning, not with her equilibrium shot to hell. It was a damned good thing she had her keys in hand already, or she’d be digging for them for five minutes while Aidan watched. “Aidan. I didn’t expect to see you so soon.”

“Me either. We need to talk.” He turned to his friend. “Leanan Murphy, Mike Alvarez.”

Alvarez stuck out his hand. “Very nice to meet you, Doctor Murphy.”

Leanan absentmindedly shook the man’s hand, but her eyes were locked on Aidan. Damn, he looked good, even better than she
remembered. Her nipples tightened in anticipation of a touch she would never feel again. Tonight, however, when she was all alone, was a completely different story.

She tore her eyes from Aidan to see Alvarez watching them both with a sardonic smile on his face.

“Nice to meet you, too. And please, it’s just Leanan. Hang on a sec and I’ll get us some java.”

When the three of them were comfortable, sipping their coffee, Aidan began speaking.

“Did you realize, Leanan, all three of the torched warehouses belonged to SDSU?”

“Huh? That can’t be right. As far as I know we only had the one. That’s why so much stuff was stored there.”

“Maybe it’s the only one you were aware of, but all three were held by the university. The warehouse holding your exhibit just
happened to be the one most deeply buried in paperwork. Probably because of the value of the contents. Mike and I are working on a hypothesis the arsonist might have gotten what he wanted this time around. Your exhibit.”

Leanan reached out blindly, grasping her worry stone and rubbing the stylized rune engraved on it with her thumb.

“Why would my exhibit be of any interest? Especially to an arsonist. What you’re saying doesn’t make any sense.”

Aidan leaned forward in his chair and met her eyes. “Think about it, Leanan. You have a student who’s expressed specific interest in your courses. A student you were so concerned about you actually went to where he lived to check up on him. Are you sure you’d never seen him before he started attending your classes?”

Shaken, Leanan sat back, continuing to caress the rune stone as she racked her memory.

“No. He was a complete stranger to me when he showed up the first day. I can’t believe this is happening. He’s just a kid, almost a
boy.” She pushed out of her chair. “C’mon, let’s go see what the Admissions Office has on him.”

* * * *

It wasn’t much. The student’s name, Ian O’Shea; his address; his transfer paperwork from a university in Dublin, which hadn’t been confirmed yet. Budget cuts, again. Aidan would bet his last dollar the transcripts were fake.

Dean Harris hadn’t been much help either. He’d known the first two warehouses belonged to the university, but hadn’t given it a
moment of thought until something of value, namely Leanan’s exhibit, was destroyed. While Harris’ response to the whole situation struck Aidan as false, over the next few minutes, the man’s utter prissiness and self-importance came through. It was simple. He was just a dickhead.

Apparently, the vagrant who’d died in the second fire wasn’t something the academic considered “valuable.” Aidan’s already poor
opinion of the man had gone even further south when he started haranguing Leanan about what she was planning to do to resurrect the opening at the Corcoran.

It had taken everything Aidan had not to give the man a serious case of hot-foot, just as payback. Mikey’s reaction to the little
man’s attitude hadn’t been any better, if the stiffening of his wiry frame was any indication.

Now they were back in Leanan’s office.

“I’m sorry I have to bail, but I have a class I’ll be late for in about two minutes. I’d let an aide take it, but it’s a graduate course, so it’s definitely something I need to be there for.”

“That’s fine, Doctor Murphy. I think we’re done here, at least for now. Right, Aidan?”

Mikey poked Aidan in the ribs. He would have winced, but didn’t want to give Alvarez the pleasure of seeing such a response.

“One more thing, if you please.” He’d worked hard at keeping his professional demeanor all morning, but Mikey had seen through it from the start and was giving him grief. It was discreet, but definitely goading.

Leanan looked at her watch, nodded, and bent to pick up a stack of papers, her slacks drawing tight against a perfect, heart-shaped

Aidan dragged his eyes away and focused on the painting of Leanan Sidhe over her desk. He knew, without looking, that Mikey
had a shit-eating grin on his face. “Do you have any of O’Shea’s papers? Something we could look at and read over?”

Leanan straightened, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Not here. They’re all at home. I didn’t even think to bring them along this
morning. If you like, I can have them here tomorrow.” She walked to the door and ushered them out.

“Actually, if it’s all right with you, I’d be happy to pick them up tonight.” Aidan fought to keep the strain out of his voice. He
was going against Rhiannon’s strict orders, but he hadn’t been able to get Leanan out of his head. He could tell it was mutual, and that it was something Leanan fought as strenuously as he. Perhaps what they both needed was time alone to talk it out, to acknowledge their attraction for the other, to clear the air.

Even as he thought it, he understood he was attempting to justify a chance to get to know her better. A chance to taste her again. A chance to do so much more.

He watched Leanan gulp, then force a smile. “That’s just fine. You’ve got my contact information from yesterday, right? Just give
me a call before you head over. I’ll be leaving about six.”

With that she closed and locked the door behind them. “Mikey, it was nice to meet you, even under these circumstances. Aidan.” She acknowledged him with a short dip of her head, turned and walked down the long hallway.

“Oh, my man, you are so hooked.” Mikey singsonged in Aidan’s ear. “This is going to be more fun than I’d imagined.”

“Shut up, Alvarez,” Aidan growled, and stalked to the exit.

* * * *

How in the hell are you going to handle this? Leanan asked herself for the hundredth time as she looked around her tiny house. It
was much too small for both her and Aidan to mingle in, too close for comfort. And he’d be here any minute.

She’d spent the afternoon thinking of little else, finally coming to the conclusion that being around Aidan Hughes was nothing but
bad news. He consumed her thoughts when she should be thinking about her career. Especially after the tongue-lashing the dean had given her … in front of Aidan and Alvarez no less. It had been an utterly humiliating moment. She’d already known Dean Harris was an asshole, but this morning’s events had made that fact even more clear.

She’d done as Maggie had asked, and thought about what might happen if she got together with Aidan. Even knowing him as briefly as she had, she couldn’t deny she wanted more than a brief affair with him. He’d shown a passion she’d never experienced before, and such passion shook her to her very foundation. It was a distraction she couldn’t afford, not in her career, and not with her still-shaky psyche.

After tonight, she decided, she and Aidan would stay as far away from each other as possible.

She settled into her rocking chair, restlessly pushing it into motion as she scanned Ian O’Shea’s homework. The boy was a talented writer, and obviously knew the subject matter. But there was nothing about fire anywhere to be found in his work. Instead, he’d presented fascinating conjecture on the day-to-day lives of the Fae.

That made her think about Aidan and what her mind was now insisting had been a trick of her eye. The Fae were not real, they were simply a colorful legend, an immensely entertaining mythology. She had to keep thinking that, or begin to slide into a land better inhabited by minds like Tolkein.

The doorbell interrupted her thoughts before they went too far into the bizarre. She answered the door, struck again by the pure,
wholly sexual aura Aidan carried with him. His sky-blue gaze danced over her face, her breasts, her hips, before coming even with her eyes. Each place he lingered over burned with sensual heat.

His scent surrounded her, making her dizzy. But it also held a certain comfort, a feeling of coming home.

She was right. Her house would be much too small for the two of them. They should have met at a neutral place, over drinks. But it
would have seemed too much like a date.

Leanan shut down the babble in her brain and the edgy fire in her body and invited him in without a word.

“Would you like some iced tea?” She would have offered wine, but she’d need every single one of her faculties tonight.

“That would be fine.” Aidan’s answer was just as stilted as her offer had been.

“Please, have a seat,” she continued as she walked into the kitchen. “I have to tell you I went over Ian’s assignments this
evening, and I don’t see how it could have anything to do with your investigation. Or with me.”

“While I certainly trust your guidance on academia and your specialty, let me be the judge of what is relevant to my case.” Aidan’s amused answer didn’t come from the living room, as she’d expected, but instead from directly behind her.

She barely stifled a purely defensive leap away and steeled her nerves.

Turning, she found herself staring at his chest for the second time in two days. At least it was clothed this time.

The deep breath she took didn’t help. Instead of calming her, it gave her a lungful of Aidan and started the dizzy sensation
again. Shoving the glass into his hand, she darted around him and into the other room.

Space, she needed space.

She dropped into her rocker as Aidan settled onto the sofa.

“We need to talk about this.”

“About what?” Leanan knew exactly what he was referring to, but wasn’t ready to discuss it while her head still swam.

“The chemistry between us. It makes us both edgy, and to be honest, it shakes my concentration all to hell when I should be working on this case.”

Well, it didn’t get much more out-in-the-open than that.

“I don’t know what to say. You’re right, there is something between us, but it’s not something I’m comfortable talking about now.
You and I are like fire and water; there’s a lot of steam, but we’re just not compatible.”

Aidan visibly started at her analogy, then relaxed.

“I don’t know,” he murmured softly. “It might be a test worth taking.” He stood, placing his tea on the side table before walking
the few short steps to her.

Leanan’s heart stuttered in her chest. This was not happening. Especially after the little heart-to-heart with herself this afternoon. She should say something, anything to stop this, but no words came. “What do you say we give it a try? It’ll stop the wondering, at least.” He leaned down, gripping the arms of the rocking chair, stopping a hair’s-breath away from her.

“Just say the word, and I’ll stop.” His eyes were locked on hers, and if her life depended on it, Leanan couldn’t say no.

He waited a moment that seemed to stretch into infinity before lowering his head, brushing his lips against hers gently. Sparks mushroomed inside her from that simple contact, setting her already overheated body aflame. Any reservations she might have had were incinerated.

She didn’t even try to stifle a moan, immediately gratified when Aidan groaned himself and delved into her mouth, his tongue hot
against hers as he thrust in, claiming her. She rose up, putting her own demands into the kiss as she twined her fingers in his hair, pulling him closer, so much closer.

Aidan stood, bringing her with him and into full contact with his body. Her sensitized nipples brushed against his chest, shooting sensation straight to her core, flooding her with scalding, wet heat. His erection pressed against her belly through the denim of his jeans, making her impossibly hotter.

She wanted him here, now, on the floor, anywhere, it didn’t matter.

“Bed, Leanan. Where is it?” Aidan rasped against her lips.

“First door to the right. Hurry.”

Keeping her in his arms, Aidan walked backward, resuming their kiss as he did, stumbling over the threshold of her lamplit bedroom.

Leanan pulled away, ready to strip off her t-shirt. Damn the consequences, she wanted this with Aidan, even if it was only a
one-time deal. She’d never really, truly been wanton before, but that was exactly how Aidan made her feel. Wanton and needy and powerful, all at the same time.

“Ach, Leanan, stop.” Tension threaded his voice and etched itself into the chiseled planes of his face.

She did, confused. He wanted her to stop, now? Was this some kind of game to him?

“Slowly, please. I want to see every inch of you.”

Oh. He wanted a striptease, did he? That she could handle.

She inched the cotton up, and up and up, oh-so slowly. Pulling it off, she shook her head, reveling in the sensuous feel of her hair against her bare back and at the blue fire in Aidan’s eyes. Reaching back, she unhooked her bra and let the straps fall off her shoulders, caressing her breasts and pinching her nipples as she peeled the cups away.

Aidan’s harsh, indrawn breath made the delay worth the torture.

She flung the bra away and unbuttoned her shorts, sliding them down her legs, bending as she did so, bringing herself face-to-face with Aidan’s crotch. Impressive.

With a smile, she stood back up, clad only in red lace panties.

“Your turn.”

His only response was a low growl as he began to tear away his clothes with barely restrained ferocity. Apparently going slowly when it came to him wasn’t an option. That was perfectly fine with Leanan.

Oh my.

She’d seen enough last night to know his body was perfect, but now, totally naked, she saw what she’d been missing. His cock was
long and thick, and had her licking her lips in anticipation. She sat on the edge of her bed, refusing to move when Aidan stood between her legs.

“Lie back, Leanan.”

“Hmmm. I don’t think so.” Control … she would keep control. She leaned in, licking away the drop of pre-cum glistening on the
purplish head of his shaft, and took him deep into her mouth.

His hands fisted in her hair as she began to move, ever so slowly, learning the taste and texture of him with her lips and tongue.
He tasted as good as he smelled … warm and salty and all man. His taste and obvious desire for her had her spiking even higher with each long suck and pull until she thought she might come just from the act of giving him head.

Aidan pulled on her hair, tilting her head up so she was looking in his eyes. Oh, those eyes. They were so blue they glowed.

With one last stroke inside her mouth, Aidan pulled free. “My turn, indeed,” he grated, dropping to his knees in front of her.

With leisurely, tantalizing strokes, he traced the band of her panties, touching her everywhere but where she really wanted to be
touched. Leanan leaned back on her elbows as he dipped a finger beneath the lace, tracing her slit, making her arch her back for more.

“Mine,” he whispered softly, dipping his head and blowing a scalding breath on her pussy. A sensuous thrill, instead of pure
panic, ran through her at his possessive word. Pushing the crotch of the panties to the side, he tasted what he’d just touched, tongue dipping and swirling, fingers stroking and plunging into her.

Leanan threw her head back and moaned as the first tremors shook her, collapsing as the tidal wave hit. She barely registered
Aidan’s heavy weight next to her until his hand began coasting over her body, igniting her all over again. Feather-light touches against her collarbone, her navel, under her breasts, tracing the arch of her eyebrows; they were tender and reverent and made her want to cry.

She opened her eyes to find him propped up on an elbow beside her.

“Definitely a test worth taking,” he murmured, then lowered his mouth to hers.


Leanan’s lips parted beneath his again and Aidan was lost in a swirling maelstrom of desire and emotion he’d never experienced

He plundered her mouth with bold, hot strokes, fondled her breasts until her nipples stood up in tight, hard peaks.

Levering over her, he stared down into her whiskey-colored eyes, half-lidded with a combination of satisfaction and lust, and felt something kick deep inside him. It wasn’t, couldn’t be what he thought it was. His fate was not here.

With something akin to panic, he leaned in and kissed her. Anything to erase the feeling of ownership, of complete rightness, that kick implied.

Leanan’s hand on his cock had the desired effect, spinning him past his thoughts and into pure sensation. He mimicked the motions of her hand with his mouth, thrusting again and again until they were both trembling, sweaty and hot with anticipation.

“Now, Aidan,” Leanan ordered, a sultry smile tipping her pouty, kiss-bruised lips. “But first…” She pointed to the nightstand, and
he understood immediately what she meant.

He found the box of condoms and ripped one open, sheathing himself with trembling fingers, knowing she watched him with tacit
approval as she shimmied out of her panties.

He rolled back to her, and letting her guide him, feasted on her neck as she positioned him at the entry to her scalding entrance. Rising up, he thrust into her in one long, smooth stroke, almost coming from the sense of completion he felt in joining with her.

“Oh, God,” Leanan breathed, clamping her legs around his body, urging him in further.

Exquisite sensation ripped through him as he began to move, slowly at first, then picking up speed until flesh slapped against flesh
in a tempo as old as time. Leanan’s heels dug into his ass, her nails clawing at his back and shoulders.

Dropping down, he took her mouth with his, reveling as her tongue dove into his mouth, exactly mirroring the possession he was
taking of her body.

Suddenly her hands were twined in his hair, pulling his head back. She stared into his eyes as she began to come undone, each
miraculous second stretching elastically as he felt himself join her, swirling deeper into an abyss he had no hope of escaping, until they came together, bodies pulsing as one.

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