Home > Sweet Temptation (The Sweet Trilogy #4)(6)

Sweet Temptation (The Sweet Trilogy #4)(6)
Author: Wendy Higgins

Finally the blasted song is wrapping up and I can put an end to this rubbish.

The blond Neph heads back into the club just as we’re rushed off the platform. I keep my hearing tight around the girl as I walk backstage. She meets up with some guy called Jay. Their conversation sounds ordinary. She’s a good actress, but she can’t fool me.

Anna. He calls her Anna.

Jay is taking “Anna” backstage. Perfect. I feel the weight of my knife in my boot as Michael, Raj, and Bennett high-five down the hall and bump shoulders next to me.

Time to play, little Neph.

Ah, cripe. Three local models are waiting for me backstage. I forgot I’d invited them. My mind is too preoccupied to fully appreciate the females encircling me as I sense the Anna girl walking in with two human boys.

The girl next to me lifts a cigarette. I have a matchbook out of my pocket and lit before she can reach for her lighter—a pub talent I’d perfected at age fourteen after seeing my father do it. But I can’t pretend to be more interested in the girls—I’m too distracted by Anna as I watch her human boys leave her there, looking out of place and uncomfortable in her own skin. And her aura! Her emotions are on display all around her. Why the hell is she letting them show like that? Some sort of trick to confuse me, no doubt. Can you trick your body into displaying false emotions?

The models chat me up and I reply absently, but I can’t for the life of me take my eyes off Anna. And then she raises her eyes to mine, giving my pulse a punch.

Her aura goes berserk, and she drops her eyes abruptly, as if shy. As if. Does she think I’m a fool? She looks back up, and I swear she appears terrified, which irks the hell out of me. She thinks she can play me? Balls to the wall. Time for confrontation.

A slender hand grabs my arm and calls my name in a whine. I raise an index finger and excuse myself.

The Neph’s eyes dart all around as I approach, which only makes me stare harder. What is the point of this frightened, innocent act? I don’t know what she’s playing at but she’s about to lose.

Finally she holds my eyes, locked.

“Who are you?” I ask.

Her mouth pops open. “I’m . . . Anna?”

Trying to be cute, eh? Not buying it. But damn, she is cute. Fifteen. Maybe sixteen. Legs and arms are a bit too thin in the denim skirt and tank top, but she’ll fill out as she gets older, no doubt. Her long, honeyed hair falls smoothly to her waist and her face has lovely symmetry. Brown eyes that tip slightly downward at the corners. Small nose. Rosebud lips. The wholesome, all-natural look is quite brilliant if she’s trying to put me at ease, but I’m not buying it.

“Right. Anna. How very nice.” I lean closer. “But who are you?”

“I just came with my friend Jay?”

She begins to babble and fidget as I stare at her nervous aura and that amber-and-white-swirled badge at her lower chest. I’ve never seen a Duke with an amber badge, and white is unheard of—the light of angels. Anna crosses her arms where I’m staring and I look up.

Her lips are pursed like she’s offended . . . and she has the loveliest beauty mark at the top edge of her lips. God, I want to touch it . . . to kiss her mouth and lick that dark freckle. Naturally, that thought leads to imagining her naked, silky hair falling all around her. She wouldn’t be able to keep up the innocent act in bed with me. I’d have her true vixen side showing in no time.

Hey, arsehole, she’s likely here to gather intel that could lead to your death, I remind myself, clearing my head and shifting before my body has a chance to take over. I have a firm “no Neph” rule.

This girl is strange, no doubt, but I can’t help getting closer. If she’s pretending to be human, I want to see how far she’ll take this impromptu act.

“Where’s your angel?” I ask.

“If you mean Jay, he’s over there talking to some man in a suit. But he’s not my boyfriend or my angel or whatever.”

She seems genuinely flustered. If this is all a charade, why are her colors jumping around like that? Light gray, medium gray, fuzzy, sharp, and yeah boy . . . a nice swirl of red. She wants me, but I can tell she’s not happy about it.

Completely baffling.

Why doesn’t she just show her hand? Tell me what she wants? Why play this game when she knows I can see she’s a Neph? I’ve even seen her gazing at my badge. I step back as a thought occurs that freaks me the fuck out. What if she doesn’t know what she is? What we are?

No.

That isn’t possible. Perhaps back in the day when Dukes had countless offspring there could have been unaccounted-for Neph orphans. Everything is tightly regulated since the Great Purge a century ago, when the Dukes wiped every Neph from the face of the earth. Thousands of us were killed because our numbers overwhelmed our demon fathers. Apparently the Neph were growing out of control, not being careful with their powers, and even sliding under the radar when it came to working. Now there were only a hundred something Neph children, and the Dukes were careful not to overpopulate again.

Someone has to know about this girl. Perhaps she’s been kept hidden from other Neph, to be used as a secret weapon against us—to confuse the hell out of us and then go for the kill.

I wonder how far she’s willing to take this before she fesses up. I glance over at the humans she came with.

“Not your boyfriend, eh?” At this, she appears angry. “Are you certain he doesn’t fancy you?”

I grin and she juts out her chin, standing a little taller, which isn’t very tall at all.

“Yes, I am.”

“How do you know?” I ask.

She seems to ponder this question before spouting smartly, “I just know, okay?” Her arms are still firmly crossed over her chest.

I lift my hands and laugh in the face of her adorable show of sassiness. Perhaps I’m having a bit too much fun with this whole thing, but I can’t help myself. It’s just so ridiculous. I’m determined to out her by any means. Intimidation hasn’t worked, so it’s time to turn on the charm.

“I’m terribly sorry, Anna. I’ve forgotten my manners. I thought you were . . . someone else.”

I stick out my hand. “I’m Kaidan Rowe.”

She pulls a hand away from her side and takes mine. Hers is soft and cool and seems right at home in mine, which is an idiotic thing to think. This little Neph is having bizarre effects on me. I stare into her eyes wondering how she can hide her deceit so well.

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