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The Alpha’s Mark by Sassa Daniels – Sample

Chapter One

Even in the semi-darkness, Maddie could tell the man didn’t belong here. He wasn’t one of her students and her lectures didn’t typically attract drop-ins—certainly not ones who made every nerve in her body bristle with awareness. She had good instincts and something about the hulking brute at the back of the auditorium screamed danger. He’d slipped in halfway through her talk, causing her to temporarily lose her train of thought. For several long, uncomfortable moments, she’d been so flustered, she’d had to cover by shuffling through her notes and taking long sips of water. It was disconcerting that a man whose face she couldn’t see had made her pulse race, her heart flutter. For some reason, she felt a visceral pull toward this stranger. It wasn’t something she’d ever felt before. Eventually, she’d recovered her composure enough to continue with her lecture, but it took everything she had in her to maintain some semblance of professionalism.

The funny thing was this wasn’t the first time in recent weeks that a stranger had come in unannounced during a lecture and had an unsettling effect on her. A fortnight ago, there’d been another man, smaller in stature than this one, but carrying a similar air of quiet menace about him. He, too, had put her on high alert, but there’d been no danger of him making her panties melt.

“And so you can see,” she said, thankful to have reached her final remarks at last, “the representation of female sexuality in these texts is not a straightforward one and requires careful analysis.” She cleared her throat. “Does anyone have any questions?”

As the lights came back on and a dozen hands went up, her eyes drifted to the back of the lecture theater just in time to see the broad-shouldered man in what looked like an expensive, well-tailored suit exiting. To her surprise, a wave of disappointment crashed over her as the door closed behind him. She was curious to know who he was. She hadn’t seen his face but from his clothing, he looked like he had money, so perhaps he was a potential donor to the university. If he was, she might have an opportunity to see him again, to get a better look at the man who’d set her pulse racing. Aware she was standing in front of a large audience, she put it to the back of her mind.

For the next fifteen minutes, she fielded questions from students, mostly about deadlines for assignments rather than her lecture.

“Okay, for the last time,” she said, beginning to grow irritated, “if you want an extension to your essay deadline, get your student counselor to put a request in the system for you. Now, have a good weekend, everyone.”

Before anyone could assail her with tales of woe to explain why they couldn’t complete their work on time, Maddie gathered up her papers and headed out through the side door. She loved her students—she really did—but there were times when they drove her up the wall. She supposed she should be grateful they’d finally stopped asking her about the unusual color of her eyes. Each semester she had to explain at least half a dozen times to her new intake of students that her practically glow-in-the-dark amber eyes were the result of some genetic quirk. Their curiosity didn’t bother her as much as it would have at one time. As a teenager, she’d tried to mask her distinctive feature by wearing tinted contact lenses, but it hadn’t really worked. After a while, she’d learned to embrace her uniqueness.

Although it was past five o’clock, she knew she wasn’t getting out of work for several hours at least. She had a mountain of papers to grade and a presentation to prepare for. She could take the work home with her, but she knew once she got into the house, the temptation to sink down onto the sofa with a nice glass of wine would be too great. There was a new drama she wanted to watch on TV, and she hadn’t been on social media for a while, so it was calling out to her. If she wanted to get anything done, it was better to stay at the office where there were fewer distractions.

As she was walking up the stairs, she saw her colleague, Dr. Lisa Hunter, coming toward her and suppressed a sigh. The other woman had been pressing Maddie to join her for dinner for weeks now and it was starting to make her a little uncomfortable. They didn’t know each other well, but Lisa seemed to have taken a shine to her and wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“Maddie, dear, you surely aren’t heading back to your office?”

“I am.” Maddie tried to inject some regret into her tone.

“But it’s Friday,” Lisa said in the wheedling voice Maddie hated. “Why don’t you come to my place and relax for a change. I’ve got a lovely lasagna in the freezer.”

It would have to be the best lasagna ever cooked to persuade Maddie to spend an evening in Lisa’s company. There was something about the woman she didn’t like but Lisa was on the university finance committee and Madeline wasn’t about to be rude to someone with the power to bestow extra funding on her department.

“That sounds tempting, but I can’t.”

“How about tomorrow night, then?” Lisa suggested. “We can order pizza, open a bottle of wine, perhaps. It’ll just be us girls.”

It sounded like Maddie’s idea of hell, but it was getting difficult to refuse without things getting seriously awkward, so she smiled and nodded. It wasn’t as if she had anything else planned anyway. Folding laundry was about as exciting as her weekends got lately.

“Okay, tomorrow night sounds great.”

There was something about the triumphant look on the other woman’s face that made her uneasy. Was it really such a victory to get her to agree to have dinner? A strange prickle ran down her spine. Why did she get the feeling she’d walked into a trap?

“Great,” Lisa said, smoothing her features into a more neutral expression. “I’ll text you the address.”

It wasn’t until Maddie got to the top of the stairs that she realized the other woman didn’t have her cellphone number. She tried to call out to her, but she was already gone. Perhaps it was for the best. She really wasn’t in the mood for a girls’ night in with a colleague she barely knew.

She walked along the corridor to the office she shared with six other members of the academic staff and found her friend, Jane, getting ready to leave for the night. Everyone else was long gone. Maddie sank into her chair and kicked her shoes off. Her desk was cluttered with books and piles of paper covering most of it. At home, she was a bit of a neat freak, had everything organized just the way she liked it but here she just went with the general flow of the place and let chaos reign supreme.

“Long day?” Jane asked.

The weariness Maddie felt must be obvious on her face.

“Yes, and it’s not over yet.” Maddie waved a hand at the stack of papers on the desk in front of her.

“You work too much.”

Maddie didn’t want to complain she had nothing better to do as that would invite attempts from Jane to set her up on a date with one of the dozens of unattached males she seemed to have on speed dial.

“Someone has to make the department look good.” Maddie frowned as she thought about the man who’d come into her lecture. “Jane, do you know if we’ve got any potential donors visiting the campus, or something like that?”

If there was someone considering making a gift to the department, Jane would know. She tended to have her finger on the pulse of the university.

“No, why?”

“Well, this guy came into my lecture.”

“What guy? The same one as before?”

“No, he was different.” Maddie furrowed her brow. How to explain this? “No, this one felt more… attractive.”

Jane snorted as she laughed. “He felt more attractive?”

“Well, I didn’t see him properly because it was dark, but there was something…”

“Attractive?” Jane supplied when she struggled for the right word.

“Yes, attractive,” Maddie agreed with a grin. “He was tall and sexy, and he just reeked of testosterone. He didn’t hang about, so I have no idea who he was or why he was there, but there was just something about him that made me want to know more.”

“Well, I’m sorry I can’t help but I do hope you find out who he is.” Jane got to her feet. “Don’t work too late now.”

“I won’t,” Maddie lied.

As her colleague left the room, she picked up the first paper from the pile on her desk, read the first line of the essay and sighed. How had a student taking her class managed to misspell literature? It was going to be a long night.

“You were right, Ross.” Finn slipped into a booth at the quiet pub close to the university campus where he’d agreed to meet his right-hand man. “She is the one.”

A grin of smug satisfaction worked its way onto Ross’s lips. “Told you. Eyes like that are rare.”

Rare was an understatement. Only a tiny proportion of the world’s population had amber eyes, and fewer still had a shade vivid enough to stand out in the dark. It wasn’t only her eyes that marked her out as special, though. The moment he’d walked into the auditorium, he’d caught her distinctive scent. It was subtle, barely there in fact, and he doubted even Ross with his heightened senses would have detected it. Finn had, however, and it had stirred his blood. It was hard to describe the smell but if he had to liken it to something it would be the wild raspberries that grew on his estate. The scent was familiar, comforting, and yet arousing. It had damned near driven him mad. A man used to being in control, he’d been thrown off balance and had found himself fighting the urge to claim her right there and then. That would have given her students something to talk about but making such a reckless move would have jeopardized everything. He’d searched for someone like her for years and had almost given up hope of ever meeting a woman who could bear his children. He had to make sure he handled things right.

“It’s not just her eyes.”

“No, she’s got the whole package,” Ross agreed. “Brains and beauty.”

Finn took a long sip of the beer his friend had ordered in anticipation of his arrival.

“Aye, she’s something special.”

“She’s got great legs.”

Finn hadn’t seen them since she was wearing a long skirt, but it was typical of Ross to have noticed her physical attributes straight off. What had struck Finn first was the melodious quality of her voice. He could have listened to her for hours as she spoke with such passion about poems few people outside of academic circles would ever have heard of. Dr. Madeline MacKinnon was bright, intelligent, and, as his friend pointed out, pretty. No, more than that, she was stunning. Tall and curvy, with an air of elegance, she had wavy golden hair that she’d tried unsuccessfully to tame into a ponytail. Her lips were full, her nose long and straight, and her eyes utterly beguiling. She was everything he desired in a mate, and more. She was the key to unlocking the mysteries of the past. It could be no coincidence, surely, that she specialized in medieval Scottish texts. The fates, it seemed, had put in his path a woman who could give him offspring and also decipher the precious documents he kept in the vault at his country retreat. It was almost too good to be true and he had to admit that made him nervous. He couldn’t put a foot wrong here.

“So, what are you going to do?” Ross asked.

“I want her.” It was as simple as that. “I need her with me—the sooner, the better.”

“Aye, but now’s not the best time to approach the lass,” Ross cautioned. “We’ve only just got through Samhain.”

Finn had already considered that. Samhain marked the start of a precarious time of year when boundaries between worlds blurred and strange, supernatural things occurred. The first full moon after the thirty-first of October was fraught with difficulties for a man like him. Although he’d never fully embraced the myths passed down through the generations from father to son, he couldn’t deny his family was different. Like his ancestors before him, Finn was part wolf. The full moon after Samhain was one of the few occasions when nature overruled his self-control and the beast within him was given free rein. It was when he was at his most dangerous, but also his most vulnerable.

“I know it’s risky,” Finn said, “but you found her easily enough so there’s a chance others could as well. You know the danger she could be in.”

“Aye, I do. Should I go and fetch her, then?”

Normally it was the sort of thing he would send Ross to take care of, but he felt a sudden surge of protectiveness toward Madeline that further confirmed she was fated to be his. He didn’t want another man, not even one he trusted with his own life, anywhere near her. He shook his head.

“I’ll get her myself,” Finn said. “I’ll talk to her, get her to come with me to Glenlogie tonight.”

“And if she doesn’t come quietly?”

“I’d prefer she did, but at the end of the day, I don’t intend to give her a choice.”

Keeping her safe until he could claim her was now his top priority and he could do that most effectively at home on his country estate. Deep in the heart of the Highlands, it was secluded, and privacy would be guaranteed there. He hoped he’d be able to persuade her to come with him but, if necessary, he was prepared to use force. She didn’t know it yet, but Madeline was his and she would soon learn exactly what that meant.

Maddie threw her pen down on the desk, stretched her arms up over her head, and glanced at the clock on the wall opposite. Nine thirty-five. She’d been at this for a little over four hours, but it felt like it had been a lot longer. After a busy week, she was tired, but it was the sudden rumbling of her stomach that convinced her it was time to get out of there. She was hungry, and anyway, she really didn’t like being in the building when it was so quiet. For the past two weeks, she’d been having unsettled dreams and it made her more jittery than usual. Other than the ageing security guard who rarely left the comfort of his office, she was sure she was the only person whose life was so empty she was still working at this time on a Friday night.

She logged out of the computer she hadn’t yet got around to checking her emails on and gathered together a few papers to grade at home. As she put her shoes on, she realized she’d left her flash drive down in the lecture theater. It was probably fine to leave it there until Monday, but she wanted to work on a presentation over the weekend and the first few slides she’d created were on there. Slipping the strap of her handbag over her shoulder, she headed out into the darkened corridor.

The building was old, and she hated walking around on her own when it was this quiet. Although there was some light from the streetlamps coming in through the windows, the corridors were shadowy, and she couldn’t see far enough in front of her to feel secure. Not wanting to be in the darkened passageways a moment longer than necessary, she quickly made her way down the stairs and along to the lecture theater. She pushed the door open and ran her hand over the wall to find the light switches she knew were there. It took several attempts to get the right ones to come on. The moment her eyes adjusted to the light, she retrieved her flash drive from the laptop that was connected to the projector. Her heart skipped a beat as she heard a noise from the corridor. Freezing on the spot, she listened for a moment, but no further sounds came. Clearly, her imagination was playing tricks on her. A hazard of working alone in a big, old building, she supposed.

Despite telling herself there was nothing to fear, her nerves were still frayed as she hurried back out along the corridors to the front door. She sighed as she found it locked. Just her luck! Most of the other exits were for emergency use only and setting off an alarm after hours would make her extremely unpopular, so she headed for the back of the building, hoping that door was still open. It was darker on the ground floor than it had been upstairs. She had no idea where the light switches were, so she got her phone out of her bag and used its torch to navigate the maze of passageways.

Thankfully, the back door was still unlocked, so she exited the building and made her way around to the parking lot. As she crossed the wide, empty space toward her car, she heard footsteps echoing in the silence. She glanced back over her shoulder but couldn’t see anyone. Quickening her pace, she rummaged through her bag for her car keys and wished she’d remembered to take them out before she left her office. With so much crap in her bag, she couldn’t find them.

As she got closer to the car, someone grabbed her shoulder. She whirled around to find a man of stocky build. Seeing the glint of a blade in his right hand, Madeline froze. The tiny hairs on her forearms bristled and her mind seemed to go completely blank. As he raised the knife, she instinctively lashed out, her fist hitting him in the throat. He stumbled backwards, grunting in pain and her own hand throbbed from the force of the impact. A look of shock flashed across his face that quickly turned to anger. His thin lips curled, and his dark eyes narrowed. He would make her pay for that. Before he had the chance to recover fully and use the weapon, she kicked him in the balls as hard as she could and took off running.

She sprinted back across the parking lot toward the building she’d just come from, hoping to get to the security office before the man who’d ambushed her could catch up. Hearing his feet pounding on the gravel some distance behind her, she hurried inside and ran for the nearest classroom. Fortunately, the keycard she needed for access was still attached to the waistband of her skirt, so she scanned it and dashed into the room, slamming the door behind her. She sank to the floor and raked in her bag for her phone. It wasn’t there. She must have dropped it in her panic.

Her pulse raced, and her brow sweated as she tried to think what to do next. She could climb out the window but if her assailant realized what she was doing, he might run outside to head her off. As she tried to weigh up the risks, she spotted the computer on the desk at the front of the room. She could use it to try to summon help. When she got up and ran to the computer, she heard a scuffle in the corridor. It sounded like a fight, with someone being slammed up against the wall. She had no idea what was happening out there but if her assailant was distracted, she might be able to get herself out after all. She hurried to the window and opened it. Just as she was about to climb up onto the windowsill, there was a pained shriek outside, followed by a loud thud. Then, suddenly, the door was wrenched clean off its hinges. Maddie shrank back, pulse racing, as a large male figure filled the doorway. She blinked in disbelief as the man from the lecture theater entered the room, holding his hand out toward her.

“Come with me,” he said, his words more command than invitation. “I’ll keep you safe.”

Chapter Two

Finn slid the cappuccino across the table to Madeline and watched her take a sip. He’d have thought a chamomile tea would be more appropriate after what she’d just been through, but she surprised him by insisting, quite vehemently, that what she wanted was a strong frothy coffee. He sat back and studied her carefully. He hadn’t intended to approach her yet but when he saw someone following her across the parking lot, it gave him the ideal opportunity to swoop in and save the day. He’d seen the knife in her assailant’s hand and had been poised to intervene when Madeline herself leapt into action in a way that surprised and delighted him. Rather than collapsing in a quivering heap, she’d given the guy an eye-watering kick in the groin before taking off. She’d backed herself into a corner by hiding in that classroom, but Finn doubted the other man would have been able to break in as he had.

If he’d imagined rescuing Madeline would make her fall into his arms, he was sorely mistaken. Instead of swooning like a damsel in distress, she’d glared at him with deep suspicion and demanded to know who he was, what he thought he was doing on college property after dark She’d only reluctantly come with him because he’d promised to give her answers. Even when he’d assured her he meant her no harm, she’d insisted they find somewhere public to talk, so she would have witnesses if he tried anything. She’d suggested this cozy little coffee shop close to the campus. She seemed to feel comfortable here. Perhaps it was one of her regular haunts. Finn found himself wanting to know more about her habits. But before he could ask her anything, she set her cup down on its saucer and looked at him with what seemed to be a glint of challenge in her eye.

“I should go to the police,” she said.

“Probably,” Finn agreed, although he’d no intention of letting her do any such thing. He didn’t know who the man who’d attacked Madeline was, but Finn suspected he knew who he worked for. An organization dedicated to eradicating his kind, they were ruthless in their goals and would never allow one of their people to be arrested. “I should come with you and make a statement too. I probably got a better look at the guy than you did.”

Madeline nodded, then screwed up her nose. She stared down into her cup as though deep in thought. When she finally raised her eyes to his, she pinned him with a piercing glare.

“You still haven’t told me how you happened to be there, er…?”

“Finn,” he said with a twisted smile. He’d already told her his name and wondered if she was trying to trip him up. “I came looking for you, actually. It was a long shot at this time on a Friday night, but…”

“Why were you looking for me?” she asked snippily. He wondered if her being at work when most people were already out enjoying their weekend was a sore spot. “You came to my lecture earlier, didn’t you? Why not speak to me then?”

“I had a meeting to go to.”

“I see.” She pursed her lips. “What were you doing at the lecture? Do you have a particular interest in medieval poetry or was it the female sexuality bit that drew you in?”

Finn smirked. It was going to be fun taking this woman in hand. There was such challenge in her tone as she interrogated him. Defiance shone from her eyes and he knew he would enjoy sparring with her. Of course, he would win every time, but still…

“Can’t say I have much interest in poetry, but I found your talk fascinating.”

The glower on her face told him she doubted his word. She had, in fact, been extremely interesting to listen to but he suspected the topic was one that lacked mass appeal. She was probably used to being told her favorite topics were not everyone’s cup of tea.

“But I do have an interest in medieval manuscripts.”

She seemed to perk up at that. “Really?”

“I have several in my possession which I believe are written in Older Scots. I need someone to decipher them.”

“And you came to me?” Her eyebrows drew down into a frown. “There are better qualified academics in Edinburgh.”

It was true she was younger and less firmly established in her field than a lot of her colleagues, but Finn had done his homework when Ross first spotted Madeline and he was impressed by what he’d found. At only twenty-six, she’d already started to gain a reputation for her understanding of medieval forms of the Scottish tongue.

“My home is here in the Highlands, so I wanted to try someone local first.”

She nodded, apparently accepting his explanation.

“And,” he continued, “I understand you’re a very talented young woman.”

The way her cheeks flushed and her eyes darted off to the side as she played with the handle of her cup told him she wasn’t comfortable with being complimented. Strange, he’d have thought a woman like her would be surrounded by flatterers, eager to tell her how wonderful she was.

“So what are these manuscripts?” she asked. “How do you come to have them?”

“They were passed down through the generations. There are several documents—family letters, that sort of thing.”

“Personal documents would be a rare survival from the Middle Ages,” Madeline said. “If they’re genuine, it would be quite a find.”

“They are genuine, I assure you.”

A look of skepticism passed across her face. “Have you had someone verify their authenticity?”

Finn shook his head. If what his father had told him was right, these documents contained information that couldn’t be trusted to just anyone. As curious as he was to find out exactly what they said, whether there was any truth to the rumor they prophesied the future of shifter kind, he hadn’t wanted to risk them falling into the wrong hands. Madeline might not know it, but she was in a unique position to study them. She was the woman he intended to take as his mate and that meant he could ensure whatever secrets they held stayed safe.

“So, how can you be sure they’re medieval?”

“It’s what my father told me.” Finn fished his phone out of his pocket and scrolled through the photos stored on it. He found what he was looking for and turned the screen to Madeline. “Look, see what you think.”

She took the phone from him and stared at it for a moment, screwing her eyes up as she focused on some small detail. Then she enlarged a portion of the image and bit her lip as she studied it closely.

“What do you think, Dr. MacKinnon?”

“Well, I mean, it’s hard to tell from this image alone, but it looks like it could be fourteenth, fifteenth century. I’d have to see the real thing to say with certainty.”

Finn nodded. This was good. He could see in her eyes that she was pretty much hooked. Perhaps it would be easier to lure her back to his country estate than he thought. He preferred to do it without resorting to extreme measures if possible.

“So, are you interested in looking at the documents?”

“Of course. When can you bring them to me?”

“Actually, I was hoping you’d come to me. They’re in a vault at my home in Strathspey.”

He could see the conflict playing out across her face. She wanted to see the documents, to find out if they really were as old as he claimed, but she was cautious about the idea of going to a strange man’s home. After what happened tonight, he would be disappointed if she wasn’t wary.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said eventually.

“I understand.” Finn reached across the table and took both her hands in his. He looked into her eyes as he caressed the soft skin of her wrists with his thumbs. Her eyes widened a fraction and he felt her pulse quicken beneath his fingers. She was attracted to him but reluctant to act upon her obvious desire. He needed to push a little harder. “But I can’t allow the documents to leave my house. I need you to come home with me.”

“Uh, sorry,” she said, wrenching her hands free from his grasp and getting to her feet. “I can’t. I, uh… need to use the…”

Her words trailed off behind her as she turned and walked off, heading for the ladies’ room. She’d left her bag by the chair so at least she didn’t intend to try slipping out while he wasn’t looking. Finn took his phone from the table and texted Ross to let him know he’d be going with plan B. He put the phone back into his jacket pocket and sipped his coffee as he waited for Madeline to return.

Madeline splashed a few droplets of ice-cold water on her face and glanced up at the mirror. She was conflicted. On the one hand, she was desperate to see the documents Finn claimed to have in his possession; on the other, she was wary of trusting a man she’d met under such unusual circumstances. Sure, he’d saved her from her attacker but something about him scared her. Beneath the civilized exterior lay a hint of darkness. It appeared as a shadow in his eyes every now and then when he let his guard down. She wasn’t sure she could trust him. His presence on the campus still seemed off to her. Perhaps he’d been working with the other man to… to… what? The notion that Finn had put her in such a scary situation just so he could play the knight in shining armor was ridiculous. What would he have to gain by it?

She dismissed the thought. She was only entertaining such silly ideas to distract herself from the real issue—that Finn MacDonald was the first man she’d been attracted to in a long time. Despite the slightly dangerous air he exuded, she responded to him on a very basic level and she wasn’t sure how to handle what she was feeling. Although she’d only just met him, she wanted to spend more time with Finn. As weird as it was, she couldn’t shake the idea that fate had brought them together.

“Don’t be daft,” she said, giving herself a scathing look in the mirror. There was no point indulging in romantic daydreams. Finn was the type of man who could have any woman he wanted. He’d approached her for her academic expertise, nothing more. Unfortunately, if he wasn’t prepared to bring the manuscript to her, then she wasn’t going to be able to help and that probably meant she’d never see him again. As tempting as the thought of accompanying this sexy stranger to his country retreat might be, it wasn’t a risk she was willing to take.

Realizing she’d been hiding away in the restrooms for too long now, she quickly fixed her hair and went back out to where Finn was waiting. As she approached the table, he rose from his seat.

“Can I get you another coffee?” he asked, solicitously pulling her chair out for her.

Maddie remained standing.

“No, I should go.” She had to report the attack while the details were fresh in her mind. “Do you have contact details I can give to the police? They’re bound to want to talk to you.”

Something she couldn’t read flared in his eyes and, for a moment, she thought he was going to refuse to give her his information. Then he smiled and took his wallet from his jacket pocket. He fished out a business card and handed it to her.

“Finlay MacDonald, Glenlogie Lodge,” she read aloud. She studied the coat of arms embossed on the card. She was no expert in heraldry, but she was sure this wasn’t the usual MacDonald crest. “Is that a wolf?”

“It is. The wolf is one of our family emblems. There’s a beautiful carving of one over the front door to my house. It’s a shame you’ll not see it.”

“Maybe someday.” Maddie wasn’t sure why she was keeping the door open when she had no intention of ever going to his home. She gathered up her bag and accepted Finn’s help to put her coat on. His gentlemanly manners weren’t making it any easier for her to maintain her resolve not to throw caution to the wind and go with him.

“I’ll walk you back to your car,” Finn offered.

“Oh, there’s no need.”

Finn raised an eyebrow and Maddie realized it would be more sensible to accept his protection, given what had happened earlier. Even if she didn’t feel entirely comfortable in Finn’s presence, she had a gut feeling he wouldn’t allow harm to come to her. She bowed her head in surrender and he gestured for her to lead the way.

As they walked back to the parking lot, they barely spoke. In the silence, a thought that hadn’t occurred to her before set off alarm bells in her mind. “You pulled the door off its hinges,” she said.


“The classroom door. It was locked, but you ripped it open. How the hell did you manage that?”

He was a tall man, broad-shouldered and obviously muscular beneath that beautifully tailored suit, but tearing a locked door off its hinges like that would require superhuman strength, wouldn’t it?

“It was probably just adrenaline,” he replied. “People have been known to perform incredible feats in the heat of the moment.”

Maddie wasn’t sure how plausible an explanation that was, but in the absence of any other ideas about how he’d managed to get through the door, she let the subject drop. They walked in silence to the parking lot. Maddie stopped dead when she saw another car, a large black Range Rover next to hers. A man got out of the driver’s side. He was well-built, at least six-two in height, but not quite as impressive a figure as Finn. It took her only a moment to recognize him as the man she’d seen in the lecture hall a few weeks ago.

“It’s okay,” Finn assured her. “That’s just Ross. I asked him to bring my car so I wouldn’t have to walk back into town.”

Obviously, he hadn’t intended to take no for an answer when he offered to escort her.

“Oh, right,” Maddie said. She had wondered if Finn had a connection to the other man who’d made an unexpected appearance in her lecture. “Sorry, I’m just a little nervous, I guess.”

“That’s understandable after what you’ve been through. Now, are you sure you don’t want to come home with me?” Finn asked.

Maddie shook her head regretfully.

“Well, you can’t say I didn’t try,” he said with a sad smile.

She was about to respond when he suddenly grabbed hold of her, pulling her arms behind her. The other man stepped forward and, as she parted her lips to scream, he shoved a rubber ball into her mouth. It wasn’t until he secured it in place with leather straps that she fully registered it was a gag. Then Ross bound her wrists with metal cuffs. She struggled helplessly against Finn’s superior strength as he opened the door of his car and lifted her onto the floor before shutting her in.

The two men had a brief conversation she couldn’t make out and then there was laughter—presumably at her expense. Maddie fumed as the driver’s door opened and Finn got into the car. She protested behind her gag as he put the car into gear and moved off.

“Behave yourself, sweetheart, and you’ll be just fine. Make a fuss or do anything to draw attention to yourself and you’ll get the spanking of your life.”

Maddie’s eyes widened in shock. She was bound and gagged, at the mercy of this darkly handsome stranger, and now he was threatening to spank her. It was outrageous. Just how the hell had she gotten into this situation? More important, how was she going to get herself out of it?

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