There isn’t anything Annie Pontin won’t do for her lover, the reclusive artifact collector Quin Black. As his personal assistant, she even takes care of the most valuable item in his collection, a ruby-encrusted sword that dates over two thousand years old. One day while cleaning it, she cuts herself on the blade. The next thing she knows, the sword is gone, and in its place ... a young man named Theodotus.
Theo claims to know Quin, but when she asks Quin the whole story, what unfolds is out of this world. She isn’t prepared to hear how he sold his soul in order to be with his dead lover forever, nor does she want to hear that he’s lived for centuries. The only problem is, Quin refuses to let her walk away. He wants them both. Now he and Theo just need to convince her to stay ...
Humming under her breath, she went back to the sword’s case. She unlocked it by rote. Her thoughts were elsewhere, awhirl with the possibilities of how she could pamper Quin when he got home, when she lifted the lid and reached inside.
The blade sliced across her fingers, cutting through the latex gloves she always wore when she handled the sword and into her skin like it was paper. With a pained cry, Annie yanked her hand away, but droplets of blood splattered across the jewels, even more dripping from the side of her palm as she darted over to the table to grab one of her polishing rags.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” she chastised as she wrapped the cloth around her hand. She hadn’t been watching what she was doing and misgauged her reach for the hilt. How many times had she handled the sword? How many times had she sat and watched Quin hone the blade until it was as sharp as it had been when it was first wielded? She knew it was dangerous. He was going to have a field day when he got home and found out what she had done.
Unless she wasn’t here because she had to go to the ER. Blood soaked through the rag already, sopping it enough to make her wonder how deep the cut really was.
She was peeling back the edge of the rag to see if she was going to need stitches when she heard it.
A groan. Male.
Followed by an odd creak. It grated across her nerves, like nails down a chalkboard, but she had no idea what it could be.
Then she heard it again. Only louder.
The hair stood up on the back of her neck. She was alone in the room. Did people experience auditory hallucinations from too much blood loss?
Slowly, Annie turned her head. Her blood froze at the sight that greeted her.
A naked man was in the sword’s case.
He was on his hands and knees, his head hanging so his dark hair obscured his face. The tawny skin of his back heaved up and down as he seemed to fight for breath.
The creak echoed through the room again. Now, Annie recognized it. It was the industrial glass protesting the added weight.
Panic set her into motion. She bolted for the door, but as soon as she moved, the man lifted his head and looked in her direction.
His light brown eyes widened. “Annie?”
She stumbled at the sound of her name, only managing not to fall on her ass by twisting to lean against the wall. A hallucination. It had to be. The man looked real, and he sounded real, but she had no idea who he was, let alone how he’d gotten into the room without her noticing.
They stared at each other in silence. He was younger than she was, probably twenty-two or twenty-three, with a heart-shaped face and fine, almost delicate, features. Dark brown hair hung to his shoulders, and the cast of his skin suggested a Mediterranean heritage. Under other circumstances, she would have thought he was a model, because on top of the too-pretty looks, the strange man had the body of an athlete. Broad shoulders, tightly muscled arms with a chest to match, and—her gaze flickered farther along his length—an ass that would look phenomenal in jeans.
He hid that particular asset from view when he sat up onto his haunches. “What did you do?”
His awed question snapped Annie out of her panic. “What did I do? What the hell are you talking about? I don’t know who you are. I don’t even know how you got in here.”
“I was here first.”
Alarm bled into irritation. Now her hallucination was calling her blind? “Excuse me?”
But he seemed unfazed by her sharp tone. “I’ve lived in this room for as long as Quin’s owned the house. I’ve seen you every day since he hired you, Annie.”
Her mouth was open to argue further, when one, very vital fact registered on her consciousness.
The sword was gone.