Rochelle Bailey had been born into a technological world devoid of magic. She had never imagined anything different for herself, only pushed forward, slogging through tragedy after tragedy, waiting for her misery to end. Then she woke up, naked and confused, in an alternate world so full of magic she could practically taste it. Except she still had none.
Until the day she met him. Aric Vardanyan, the Sentry of Yafae … the very grown-up version of an anime protagonist she’d once watched on TV.
Aric volunteered to take Rochelle into his home and teach her how to control her magic. There was something about her that intrigued him and compelled him to take action in a way he wasn’t used to. So he trained her, he made her strong, and he did his best to resist his rapidly rising attraction to her in the process.
But the fragile balance of their relationship tipped forever when he received a secret assignment to investigate a rumor that could lead to war … and his true enemy took the opportunity to put their hands on Rochelle.
He was the kingdom’s most powerful sorcerer, and for her, he would throw it all away.
“Very good,” Aric said. “Take a break.”
Rochelle blinked open her eyes and let her magic fade. “I never visualized my presence in another location,” she said.
“First you need to be able to do what you just did, faster.” Aric extended one arm and pointed out, beyond her, toward the pool of water at the base of the accumulated waterfalls. “Do you see that rock in front of the largest waterfall?”
Rochelle easily spotted the boulder, which appeared to be at least mostly flat and possibly even polished, judging from the way it gleamed in the sunlight. It was large enough to sit on, cross-legged. “I do.”
“When you’re ready, that’s the spot you’ll aim for.”
She stared at the rock for a moment, and then it clicked. The elements she’d missed. She felt like an idiot. “Water and energy,” she said, turning a proud smile to him.
He matched her smile with a breath-stealing grin of his own. “Correct.” He stepped into her space again, curled a finger under her chin, and tugged her close until the subtle scent of him was all she could smell. “If you can successfully learn this spell, I might just have to reward you.”
Butterflies took flight in her belly at his quiet words. Her skin heated from his touch, and her body ached. Rochelle didn’t think she’d ever fought so hard not to lick her lips. He didn’t mean it that way, no matter how it sounded. “What sort of reward are you offering?” She kept her voice equally hushed but had little control over the heated tone it had taken.
His eyes flashed. “That will be entirely up to you this time, I think.”
Never in her life had she more wanted to throw herself at a man. She’d never understood the idea—not even enough to read a romance novel—until this moment. And he was only touching her chin. The question was, what would she ask for? A night of passion that she didn’t doubt for a moment he could deliver? Tempting. So tempting. However, there was something ultimately more pressing. No matter how much she would enjoy spending a night with him, her feelings ran deeper than that. What she wanted most was his forgiveness.
Rochelle smiled and scooped up his hand, removing it from her chin in order to press a kiss to the back of it without breaking eye-contact. “I’ll master the spell by the time you’re done with this invasion mission, and when we get home, I’ll ask for my reward.”
Aric curled his fingers around hers but didn’t pull her any closer, despite the flare of what looked like heat in his eyes. “I look forward to it.”