Eternal Guardians, Novella

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Chapter One

Water lapped gently at the shore of the white sand beach, a swish and sigh echoing through the warm night air. High above the pristine coastline, palm fronds rustled, but Zakara’s focus was on the surf swirling around her bare feet and the fine sand squishing between her toes.

She’d never been to this beach. She didn’t know if it was somewhere in Argolea—the blessed realm created by Zeus for the ancient heroes’ ancestors—or if she was somewhere in the human realm. All she knew was that she liked it. She liked how peaceful it was. Liked how breathtaking the scenery was. Liked that here—wherever she’d taken herself this time—no one was telling her what to do or pressuring her to be something she wasn’t.

“I’d say you look lost, but something tells me you are exactly where you want to be,” a deep male voice said at her back.

Kara whipped around, her long blonde hair blocking her vision before she brushed it aside, and stared at the man reclined on a padded chaise lounge on the beach. A man and chaise that hadn’t been there only moments before. A man who was vaguely familiar though she couldn’t figure out why.

“I…who are you?” she asked.

“Who do you want me to be?”

His question made her blink. Who did she want him to be? She had no idea. All she knew was that an odd heat was building inside her. One she’d never experienced before.

When he only continued to stare at her, she narrowed her eyes, running her gaze from his thick dark hair down his very muscular body. With his hands clasped behind his neck, his expression expectant, he looked relaxed and just the slightest bit amused. But there was a mysterious glint to his blue-green eyes that belied his stress-free exterior. And though he was gorgeous—tall, dark, and handsome in every way with that chiseled jaw, lush lips, and mesmerizing eyes—something in the back of her mind warned her to be careful.

“Where did you come from?” she asked hesitantly. “We both know you weren’t here two seconds ago.”

One side of those perfect lips curled. “I’m sure if you concentrate, you’ll know exactly where I came from, Zakara.”

She didn’t like his riddles. And she didn’t like that he knew her name when she was still struggling to figure out who he was and why he was so familiar. But the longer he stared at her, the warmer she grew. And as his words circled in her head, it suddenly hit her like a baseball bat right to the forehead.

“You’re that guy…” Her eyes grew wide with disbelief. “From my dreams.”

He chuckled—a low, deep, captivating sound that was too perfect to be real. “That I am.”

He pushed off the chaise—no, pushed wasn’t the right way to describe what he did. He all but floated off the damn thing, his beautiful bare feet sinking into the fine sand, the thick muscles in his long legs encased by dark jeans . And as he moved toward her with the thin, white, short-sleeved dress shirt hanging open on both sides, all she could seem to focus on were his chiseled abs and magnificent physique.

“You seem surprised to see me.” He stopped in front of her in the surf, the hem of his jeans soaking up the warm water, and gently tipped her face up with one finger. “Though not surprised to be on this beach.”

“I…” Kara was having trouble thinking. She was surprised to see him. Surprised and elated and holy-freakin’-horny. But confused as all get out at the very same time. “How…? You came from my dream?”

“Dreams are nothing more than portals to other dimensions. And I didn’t come from your dream, fantasía. You drew me into your dreams.”

He slid his fingers into her hair, and when he leaned down and brushed those lush lips she’d imagined countless times against her temple, she swayed, hypnotized by his heat, his fresh, masculine scent, and that word—fantasía…my fantasy—that he’d used to describe her, echoing in her brain.

“Mm…” He skimmed a line of whisper-soft kisses down her cheek toward her ear. “Your skin is as soft as I imagined.”

Oh gods… Her eyes slid closed, and tingles rushed over her skin everywhere he touched. He wasn’t real. This couldn’t be real. She was dreaming again. Losing herself in a fantasy world, her mother would say. But when he moved into her and all his hard perfect muscles brushed against her body, when his warm breath rushed down her neck and he whispered, “I’ve been waiting for you, fantasía,” she couldn’t seem to stop herself.

Her hands lifted to his chiseled abs as if they had a mind of their own. She turned her face toward his, searching. And almost as if she’d planned it, his lips met hers and opened, drawing her into a spellbinding kiss that curled her bare toes into the sand.

He was wrong. He was the fantasy. He knew just how to kiss a woman to make her weak in the knees. He didn’t rush things, didn’t push her lips open and plunder her mouth. He licked and nibbled until she was breathless for more, and when she opened and drew him in, he took his time tasting and savoring every inch of her mouth as if she were the sweetest wine.

She felt as if she were floating. And maybe she was. Because when she finally pulled back to catch her breath and opened her eyes to look up, she realized she was no longer standing but was laid out on that chaise that had looked only big enough for one before but was now double the size.

She blinked and glanced around. No, it wasn’t a chaise anymore. It was a plush, four-poster bed with thin gauzy white fabric hanging from each corner, creating a cocoon right there on the beach.

“You are a delectable treat,” he whispered, trailing a hot line of kisses down her throat. “One I can’t wait to devour.”

Oh gods…his deep voice vibrating from his chest into hers, his silky-soft lips nipping and licking at her skin, his heavenly weight pressing down on her, nudging her legs open…it was all exactly what she wanted, the very scene she’d dreamt of time and again. And too picture-perfect to ignore.

“Wait. This…this can’t be possible.” She pushed a hand against his chest. “You can’t be real. And, and…I don’t even know your name.”

His hand shifted to the mattress near her head, and he eased back and looked down at her, not the slightest bit irritated or angry that she’d stopped him. “But you do know my name.”

She blinked up at his captivating eyes, completely confused by his words. Eyes that weren’t just a unique blue-green color as she’d assumed. They swirled with a mixture of blues and greens and purples that seemed to almost sparkle, much like the heavens at night. “I…”

“You know me, fantasía. You’ve always known me.” He skimmed his thumb across her bottom lip, his entrancing gaze following the movement until every inch of her body felt alive and tingly. “Say my name and I will take you somewhere you only ever dreamt existed.”

He leaned down and brushed his lips against the spot he’d just teased with his thumb. And still confused, she wracked her brain, trying to come up with a name that made sense. But all she could think about was how much she wanted this man—this whatever he was—right this very second. Even if he was a complete stranger. “I…”

His lips slid down her throat again, leaving a line of heat that seared her from the outside in. His weight shifted, and he nudged her legs wider, making room for himself. Unable to fight the sensations he was building inside her, she closed her eyes and thought, Screw it. It’s just a dream. Nothing bad can happen in a dream.


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