Make Me Burn
Book 2, Fireborne Series
Aziza Jane Stewart is the last of the Fireborne, and so far it’s been nothing but a curse, destroying her family and putting everyone she loves in danger. Now she’s on a quest to find her brother’s portion of the power that flows in her veins and track down the murdering Jiniyr who are a threat to her loved ones.
She and her Enforcer lover Brandon are officially “in a relationship”, but she’s still torn between two men who both set her on fire. Brandon’s duties are driving a wedge between them, and her need to protect her Jinn guardian isn’t helping. Exiled and stripped of his powers, Ram is focused on satisfying his darkest urges…and tempting her to come along for the ride.
When Aziza discovers Brandon has been keeping news of ritualistic murders from her and the evidence is pointing at Ram, all bets are off. It’s time to find her own answers, embrace what’s inside her and make her own rules, damn the consequences.
Warning: Explicit content, and even more danger and heavy drinking than book one. Fetish clubs and role-play, whips and chains, voyeurism and exhibitionism. More inappropriate use of supernatural powers for deviant activities. In other words, burning down the house.
Copyright © 2014 R.G. Alexander
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
It’s almost time. All you have to do is let go.
No. If she let go she would fall.
Adrenaline made every muscle in Aziza’s taut, outstretched body tremble and her grip tighten instinctively on the silk fabric, the only thing keeping her from crashing to the floor far below.
Her mind was flooded by the memory of falling backward carelessly and plummeting from Penn’s roof with her arms wide. Though the world had gone black, before she realized it, Ram had saved her from crashing into the unforgiving ground.
He wouldn’t save her this time. He wouldn’t need to. Things were different now.She was different.
A small handful of people standing beneath her craned their necks, waiting in absolute silence to see what would happen next. They wouldn’t save her either, but she had their undivided attention.
Show them how to live. Let go…or I will.
Pushing away that disturbing thought, Aziza listened for the cue of the music through the pounding of blood in her ears. When she heard it, she relaxed her pose and let go of the silk. Her body dropped, twirling down, the floor rising up to meet her so swiftly that to the untrained eye it may have seemed accidental. But she was in complete control. That was the point. She wasn’t falling. She was in control.
Of this, if not her love life. If not of the Jinn or the Niyr or her emotions. Of this, if nothing else.
The silk that had been coiled purposefully around her waist was now held in both her hands as she swung her legs upward and wrapped the fabric around her ankles. The swaying rigging helped as she used her body’s weight and momentum to spin in a dizzying circle through the air.
The music she’d brought to practice on the aerial silks—a club-style remix of “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine”—reminded her with every precise movement who she was. The vocals were haunting, the beat hard and invigorating.
It was how she felt. Just a little…off. Not completely herself. She was missing something.
Brandon. She wavered on the silks before pushing him out of her mind. The song. Focus on the song.
The tune from her nightmarish dreams had now become a sort of anthem, a melody meant to keep her mindful of what she’d done…what she’d been told she still needed to do. The more she listened to it, the more familiar it became. Not only from the dream, but from a childhood memory that remained frustratingly out of reach. Sometimes she saw flashes of laughter and her father’s smiling, bearded face, but nothing else.
She never forgot anything. Every word she’d heard spoken and every moment in her life was filed away and easily accessible in her mind. Even the memories she’d rather not keep—like the lifeless eyes of last night’s victim—would always be with her. So why was this apparently happy memory eluding her?
Her arms and legs straightened as they’d been trained to do, slowing her spin and pulling her body up with a strength she’d never had before, a strength that had only grown in the last few weeks, giving her this newfound agility.
Aziza pushed her legs back against the silks, her body curved and breasts jutting out like the busty carving on the prow of an ancient ship, her skin warm, more from excitement than exertion. Forgetting her pain and fear, she let herself fall forward once more, loving the momentary sensation of weightlessness as she did flip after perfectly controlled flip until she landed on the padded mat and the music came to an end.
Back on solid ground again, she sighed in disappointment.
The smattering of applause made her grin in spite of her dark mood, as her instructor, Anthony, left the others who’d been watching her and came to her side.
“Either I’m a miracle worker, which you are perfectly free to profess to anyone within hearing distance,” he said with the self-effacing British charm that was so much a part of his personality, “or you, Aziza Jane Stewart, are a prodigy. One week at your American school and not much more time here, and already you’ve given our seasoned performers some true competition. That was inspired. Are you quite sure you won’t join in this season’s student performance?”
Aziza laughed, placing her hand on his arm as she bent down to grab her towel and water bottle. “Thanks, Anthony, but I’d rather be in the audience than in the spotlight. It’s the best place to watch your show.”
“I am glad of that.” Anthony cupped her shoulder in a friendly gesture before dropping his hand awkwardly. “Though my joy is tempered with the knowledge that my charm is not what it once was. Both you and your handsome friend have turned me down again.”
Handsome friend. Her instructor was no more immune to Ram’s charms than anyone else in this city. He drew people to him like moths to a dangerous flame. From what little she’d seen, the Jinn had the market cornered in the sultry and breathtakingly beautiful department. And Ram was a prime example of his species, even without his powers.
“Ram was here today?” She looked around, attempting a casual air, as if she weren’t dying to see him. To warn him about the murders. To be near him. Usually she passed him on her way in or saw him watching her practice, but she hadn’t caught a glimpse of him yet this morning.
She’d talked him into coming with her a couple of weeks ago when she saw him at Underbridge. Dared him, really, since “talking” implied a conversation between two people and Ram tried to avoid those whenever possible. She’d had to do something. His body had healed but the rest of him was taking longer. Whether he admitted it or not, he was hurting and she owed him.
Luckily, the dare had paid off. He still wasn’t back to his old self—with her, at least—but as soon as he arrived here, so many people had fallen all over themselves to be near him, she wasn’t surprised when he came with her the next time. And the next. Ram had trained as a warrior most of his life, and he had enviable skill and control over his body—and enough arrogance and ego to appreciate the way everyone here admired it. Admired him.
“He’s still here.” Anthony tilted his head, his smile broadening. “I understand he and another man are having an impromptu sparring session in one of the training rooms. I believe that’s why it’s so empty in here. Shall we go take a look?”
Smiling back, she nodded and followed him through the grand room crisscrossed with ropes and wires, carefully staying out of the way of a young man in a harness who was running along the wall.
The Hangar was a large industrial building in Greenwich, a little bit hard to get to but more than worth it for Aziza. The Aircraft Circus held performances throughout London, and The Hangar was where they all worked and trained in aerial silks and trapeze, among other things. With four studios, acrobatics, yoga and flexibility classes, along with these one-on-one sessions, this was the best place to get the kind of workout she needed. One where she was her only competition, and all her battles were internal. It was her meditation, her workout. And it was by far the preferable option to werewolf boot camp.
Thank God she’d discovered this place—this very human, no-magic-needed-for-feats-of-daring place. When she’d marked “running away to join the circus” off her bucket list back in Texas so long ago, she’d been sad to leave the small class behind. Because of her memory—the woman performing on an aerial hoop beneath a hot air balloon—but also because of the atmosphere. The acceptance…the feeling of joy and family. The trust.
When they arrived in a crowded hallway, Anthony steered her through the huddled group so she could look inside.
“Speaking of perfection,” a woman behind her muttered. “You ever seen anything tastier than those two fit devils grappling shirtless?”
Aziza was too busy catching her breath to answer.
Ram and a man she didn’t recognize moved together in a dance-like circle on the exercise mat, close enough to either kiss or beat each other bloody as they ducked kicks, dodged punches and held each other’s arms down. The spectacle was breathtakingly erotic.
Her Jinn was still godlike and beautiful, but the word “pretty” was no longer entirely accurate. His time in exile had hardened him, made him look more like the warrior he was than the mischievous, deviant devil she’d first met. He’d cut his hair close to his head in a militant look and his side still carried the slashing scar from the wound he’d suffered that fateful night. The solid cuff on his wrist that she knew couldn’t be removed glinted as he threw a punch, reminding her that his actions had left more than physical scars behind.
He was stronger, his lean muscles more defined than they had been a few weeks ago. When she first met him she’d thought, despite his behavior, he looked like an angel. Now, he was all man.
Ram bent his knees and rolled, a move that should have knocked his opponent on his ass, but instead the man jumped with a laugh and winked at the audience. “Fool me once…”
A collective sigh echoed through the crowd, and Aziza wasn’t any more immune than they were to the smiling stranger. She’d been surrounded by hot men for months, and yet this man still managed to startle her with his attractiveness. It was as if someone had taken all the best qualities of her hunky entourage and poured them into one cool, lean package that reminded her a little bit of a young, short-haired Lenny Kravitz.
And she’d had an all-out, posters-in-her-high-school-locker crush on Lenny.
The man had obviously been getting a workout because his light-brown skin was gleaming. He wore low-riding black sweatpants and nothing else, and what she’d at first assumed were tattoos, on closer inspection merged into a series of scars across his chest, raised marks that had form and had obviously been put there on purpose. Designed. Scarification? He had small-gauge piercings in his ears as well. They only made him look more masculine and dangerous. So did his eight-pack abs.
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