Shadow Boxer is book 2 of the Lightning Rider Alterations.
I wanted to answer a reader request and give The Best Readers in the World! (that’s you guys) a teaser.
This scene comes after *spoiler alert* Evy saves Constantine’s daughter, Aurelia. Evy has seen him once since the cliffhanger in book 1, but only from afar. This is their first meeting in book 2.
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback!
Lover, mentor, friend. There’s never been a comfortable fit for my feelings where Constantine is concerned. He’s intelligent, well-spoken, a fierce warrior, and he looks hot in a tunic. I’m insanely attracted to him on every level, and he lives in first-century Rome. I’m supposed to live in present-day Utah. There’s long-distance relationship, and then there’s us.
But now his daughter is alive.
Thanks to me.
I can hear him back there, rustling the grass with each movement so I’ll know he’s back there. Pretty sure I’m about to say or do something stupid. I need to remember that to him I’m a stranger.
Even so, my flight instinct of jumping into the rushing waters seems an excessive escape.
He pulls up even with me at the edge of the water, close enough for conversation, but far enough away to defend and protect, as always. “Did you lose someone in the flood?”
His voice a mixture of sinful chocolate and cyanide. I draw in his strength. He may not know who he is to me, but that doesn’t mean I have to forget just yet. Bracing myself, I turn.
He is everything I remember, but buoyed now with the life and love of his daughter. Gone is the mask of sorrow that permanently concealed his feelings. Now his blue eyes are bright, even with the concern for my welfare. Blond hair tight around his face, he’s still Constantine—finely tuned, powerful, deadly. And constantly assessing. In a handful of seconds he takes in my T-shirt molded to my curves, my barbarian pants, my fisted hands. His own clutch a journal at his waist and tighten as his demeanor changes ever so slightly. Now he’s cautious. Unsure how to categorize me.
I offer him an olive branch in a lame attempt to introduce myself. “I almost lost several someones… but we all managed to survive. You?”
My heart squeezes. “I’m sorry.”
“No, she didn’t die.” He shifts the journal to one hand and stares at it. “This… this book tells me she did once.” He tugs his ear, clearly uncomfortable with the concept. “But someone—”
His head jerks up and he assesses me again. “Not possible.”
“Why?” I whisper, begging him to believe it.
To keep my hope alive that we are possible.
To believe I am possible.
“I have heard accounts of sorcery before… and Rom said much of your bravery.”
Really? The thought is so preposterous I can’t even voice it. Rom hated me. That he said something positive to Constantine of all people… Wow.
“I trust Rom with my most precious. He’s never given me a reason not to.” He’s talking more to himself than to me, still trying to work through this.
“And in this?” I hold my breath. Not daring to hope that his being here means anything for us. But maybe if he believes in me… well, it’s something.
“I suppose I must.”
Air whooshes from my lungs. “I’m Evy, by the way.”
He tips his head. “A fine warrior name.”
We stand awkwardly. I clear my throat and step closer, managing not to fling myself at him.
He fidgets and I freeze.
I narrow my eyes. “Did you just fidget?”
He straightens and takes a large, sure step toward me, reducing the distance between us to a few feet. “I do not fidget. I’m merely unfamiliar how to behave with a sorceress from the future.”
“Well you don’t start by calling her a sorceress.”
He lifts an eyebrow. “You tease me.”
I shrug. “It’s kind of my thing.”
He nods slowly like he’s cataloguing that for a later test. You’d think I just told him my swordsmanship strategy the way he’s taking everything so serious.
I opt for simple. “How is Aurelia?”
“She will have a little readjusting. Though the flood scared her, she’s still willful as ever.”
I smile at his description.
“I needed to see this place.” The tension in his shoulders releases. “To piece together the story. Your heroics. I haven’t slept since Penya left me. I read the journal, and though it seems odd to read things that have not happened… Things that will never happen now… Because of you. Reading the words, the events… my heartbreak. All together, they layered a dual memory of being without her, and now to have her back—” Emotion clogs his words. “I cannot thank you.”
“You’re welcome anyway,” I whisper.
Before, he’d have wrapped his arms around me and I’d have melted into his strength. His fingertips would have played at my spine and a thousand fireworks would have erupted at his firm touch. Then his hands would roam across my hips and follow the curve of my ass. He’d fill his hands with me and lift my legs to wrap around his waist. I’d bury my face in the warm heat of his neck.
My skin would catch on fire, and he’d rake his teeth across the crazy sensitive skin at the base of my neck. He hasn’t shaved today, and the thousand piercing quills of his beard would incite a chill across my body. I’d squeeze my legs tight and run my hands across his shoulders and into the thick hair at the base of his skull.
But none of that happens.
Instead, I swallow the tears and emotion down. It’s not possible for us to have a future. Even when it’s so very tempting when we stand in the same time.
“It also seems… ” He clears his throat and fidgets again. A red stain creeps up his neck and he looks everywhere but at me. Then he raises the journal. “It also seems that we were intimate.”
I choke. “You put that in your journal?”
He straightens and jerks the journal back. “I wrote many things in here that make no sense. Penya assures me they’re all true.”
I recover and fight the surge of elation. His diary—he wrote about our sex in his diary like a freshman girl. Part of me wants to ask if he said it was good.
“Were we?” His voice is strained.
Oh yes. We were very good.
Now it’s my turn to clear my throat and blush. “Were we what?”
“Intimate,” he says harshly. “Intimate, were we intimate?” he says again, softer.
I nod and stare hard, waiting for his response. Willing him to somehow remember. Willing his curiosity to override any niceties or protocol or fear and see if it was true. Right here, right now.
He scratches behind his ear and runs his hands through his hair. Then asks quietly, “Did you like it?”
Wow, straight to the dirty talk. Nice.
I bite my lower lip to keep from grinning. I nod again.
“Hmm.” He rubs his thumb across the front of the journal, and my nipples pucker as they remember that movement. “I only ask because apparently I did, too. But then you… left.” He lifts his head and I see the question there again. The one he asked me so many nights from now on our favorite training field.
“I came to ask you to train me,” I blurt before I apologize for things that haven’t even happened yet. There was a good reason then to tell him I couldn’t stay, and it’s still the same right now.
One of us needs to keep that in mind.
His head snaps and I feel bad for tromping over our quiet moment, but I can’t do this. I can’t put my heart through that again.
“Train you?” He recovers and glances at the journal and then up at me. “Like these journal entries?”
“Kind of. I need to learn what the different-colored lightning does.”
“How would I know?”
I curl one hand around the end of my braid. “You always just did somehow. If anyone can figure it out, you can.”
He relaxes now that I’ve put him back in his comfort zone. He transfers the pad of his thumb to the hollow below his mouth and swishes it back and forth, pondering the mechanics of my request. “Yes. I will train you. Tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow.” My chest swells with the promise and I struggle to breathe. “Where?”
He looks around at the decimated bank, flattened reeds, and washed-out road. “Here.”
“Okay.” Not a bad idea. All the travelers who clogged the roads are probably finding new ways into town until the bridge and road are repaired. We’ll have the place to ourselves.
I’m not sure where that idea came from, but it’s genius. Now I’ll get to be around him, we can start over where we exist best together, and maybe we can add a few more entries to his sex journal.
Maybe I’ll buy him a new one. A moment of elation rises in my chest, making me smile.
He tips his head. “You are curious. And not what I expected of a sorceress.”
Oh, you just wait.
He turns to leave then stops a few feet away. “It seems I also owe you an excessive amount of gold for teaching me how to travel as you do.”
I still. “I forgot about that. We got so caught up our last alteration—and then… ” My hands flail while I try and sum up the disaster that is my life.
He interrupts before I can sink back into my despair. “I have some for you.” He digs a small bag out of his pocket and tosses it through the air. “You’ll have to come see me to arrange for the rest of it.”
I catch it and almost drop the bag as he smiles. “And to finish what you started.”
Want to keep reading? You can download the first book in the series, Lightning Rider, for free.