Untouched

Book #2 Amoveo Legend

SHE SHOULD BE SEEN, BUT NEVER TOUCHED…
Kerry Smithson’s modeling career ensures that she will be admired from afar, which is essential since mere human touch sparks blinding pain and terrifying visions.

EVERY GOOD MODEL NEEDS A HEAVENLLY BODYGUARD…
Dante Coltari is hired to protect Kerry from those who know who she is—or more importantly what she is—and want her dead because of it. Nothing could have prepared him for the challenge of keeping her safe. But, strangely, his lightest touch brings her exquisite pleasure rather than pain, and Dante and Kerry have an otherwordly connection that might just pull them through.

Untouched (The Amoveo Legend, #2)


 

Reviews of UNTOUCHED:

“Red-hot love scenes punctuate a well-plotted suspense story that will keep readers turning pages as fast as they can.”
Starred Review—Publishers Weekly

“The second installment in Humphreys’ Amoveo Legend series is full of fast-paced action and complex characters. Untouched gives readers an inside look at the shapeshifters from these amazing clans, as well as the evil that lurks at the edges of this amazing group.”
4 stars– RT Bookreviews Magazine


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Excerpt:

Chapter 1

“You are one sexy bitch.” Kerry grinned broadly and shut the door to Samantha’s bedroom. She leaned back and folded her arms to get a better look at the bride. “Seriously, does Malcolm know how freaking lucky he is?” she asked skeptically. Kerry bent down and smoothed out the train of Samantha’s simple ivory gown.

“Oh he does, and so do I.” Samantha smiled serenely and adjusted the bodice of her strapless silk wedding dress. Kerry stood behind her best friend and removed the one or two kinks in the delicate veil. She smiled at their contrasting reflections in the oval antique mirror. Kerry was a good head taller than Sam. Sam’s hair, swept off her neck, was as blonde as Kerry’s was black. Samantha had always been beautiful, but today she was truly radiant.

Tears stung at the back of Kerry’s eyes. Her best friend, her only friend, was getting married. She took a deep breath, wrapped her arms around Sam’s waist, and braced herself. It was always a gamble touching another human being. Samantha was the only person Kerry could bear to touch. Everyone, including Sam, thought it was a germ phobia. The truth was much more complicated.

It was far more frightening.

She embraced Sam and saw the one image that always burst into her mind, an enormous gray wolf. As odd as it was, that unique image gave her comfort. Since they were children that was the only thing Kerry saw when she touched Sam. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when she touched other people. Kerry let out a heavy sigh, a mixture of relief and comfort as Sam gave her arms a squeeze.

“I’m not going to Mars, you know. I’m just getting married.” Sam laughed. “Now I’ll be two houses down the beach instead of one. At the very most I’m a phone call away.”

“That’s what they all say.” Kerry sniffled and released Sam from the embrace. She turned quickly and wiped the tears away, feeling foolish for such a display.

“Besides, you’re the famous model,” Sam said with a teasing lilt in her voice. “You know… always jet-setting around the world on photo shoots. We only get to see each other a couple of times a year anyway. Who knows? We may see each other more now.”

Sam took Kerry’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. The wolf image burst into Kerry’s head, but at least there was no pain. She could almost tolerate the visions. It was the crippling pain that terrified her. Kerry’s body stilled, and she prayed her friend wouldn’t notice.

“I promise nothing will change! Look at it this way, every time you come to your parents place for a break at the beach, you can count on me being here.”

“He better not be one of those Neanderthal types that won’t let you have a girls’ night out. I mean I don’t even know this guy. Are you sure this is it? You’ve only known him for a month.”

Even as the words escaped her lips she knew what the answer was. In truth, she’d never seen her friend this happy. Ever since Samantha met Malcolm, she glowed. Kerry had heard about that but hadn’t witnessed it until now. Her lips curved. She had always been envious of Sam because she’d been raised in a household with real love and affection. Sam’s family was a far cry from the icy environment of her own childhood.

Sometimes she wondered if her parents’ cool behavior was a reaction to her unusual… sensitivity. They hadn’t tried to embrace her or touch her in years. They had tried a few times when she was a child, but whenever they did she screamed bloody murder and wouldn’t speak for days. Soon they just stopped trying. It saddened her to know that they never would’ve adopted her if they’d known how different she was.

To top it all off, she didn’t exactly fit the preppy, upper-crusty mold that the Smithsons were cut from. She towered over everyone in the family and was built more like an Amazon than a delicate WASP. In every picture she stuck out like a sore thumb. Tall, big-boned, dark-haired, dark-eyed… loner. They didn’t know human contact brought not only horrifying images, but excruciating pain.

Except for when she touched Samantha. There was something special about Sam. Thank God.

“Hey!” Sam snapped her fingers and brought Kerry out of her trance. “Hello in there? You okay?” Sam knitted her brow worriedly at Kerry. “Maybe we should’ve postponed the wedding? I don’t think you’re quite yourself since…”

Kerry put her hand up in protest before Samantha could finish her thought. “Don’t even think about bringing up that ugliness, especially today! I’m fine. I don’t even remember any of it. I mean it!” She clapped her hands and quickly changed the subject. “Hey, why are we standing around here? You’ve got a big hunk of man waiting to marry you underneath that beautiful tent on the beach.”

Sam smiled and gave a quick nod, knowing her friend well enough to know the subject was closed. She picked up her bouquet of red roses and headed out the door toward her new life. Kerry held Sam’s train off of the floor, a traditional maid of honor duty, and followed her down the stairs. She tried to concentrate on the smooth fabric between her fingers, instead of the fact that she’d just lied to her best friend.

She did remember.

She had a vivid memory of one thing from the day she was attacked. A pair of eyes had been fixed on her, eyes that glowed like embers in a fire, accompanied by a deep guttural growl. Every night since the attack, her dreams were haunted by that memory. As she walked into the bright September sunlight, she couldn’t help but wonder if she would ever sleep soundly again.

***
The music from the lively band flowed lightly around Kerry and the rest of the wedding guests. She sipped the cool, crisp champagne as she watched Samantha dance with her new husband and could practically feel their happiness mixed with the late summer breeze. Her gaze drifted over the intimate group of guests gathered around the bride and groom. They all had that same serene look while they watched Malcolm and Samantha share their first dance as husband and wife. He towered over her as he twirled her around the dance floor, and the sound of her laughter peppered the air.

The two of them hadn’t taken their eyes off each other for one second. If Kerry didn’t know any better, she’d swear they were reading each other’s minds. She chuckled quietly and sipped her champagne from the delicate crystal flute. The guests were limited to only thirty or so close friends and family members. Her own parents had sent their regrets from Europe, which was something of a relief. Kerry could only handle them in limited doses and didn’t want their chilly demeanor ruining such a beautiful day for Sam.

“May I have this dance?”

The deep voice rolled over her like sudden thunder in the distance. She jumped with a yelp and splashed champagne onto her red satin gown. “Shit,” she hissed under her breath. Kerry brushed at the droplets, which were now making dark stains on her dress, and shot an irritated glance at Malcolm’s best man, Dante. “I don’t dance.” Something about this guy threw her off balance. Kerry prided herself on her ability to stay in control, and this guy rattled her.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I’d have that effect on you.”

The amusement in his voice made her want to punch him square in the mouth.

Or kiss him. Shit, she was in trouble.

She glared at him through narrowed eyes and put on her most stuck-up and obnoxious tone, hoping she could frighten him away. “Don’t flatter yourself, Tarzan. I got startled. That’s all.”

He had moved in next to her without a sound. How long had he been standing there? He didn’t go away, but instead, he moved in closer, just a breath away from her. The warmth of his body whispered along her bare arm and all the little hairs stood on end. She was terrified he’d touch her and at the same time worried he wouldn’t. She quickly turned her attention back to Malcolm and Sam, trying to ignore him, but failing miserably.

He was a difficult man to ignore. At five foot ten, she was usually taller than most men, and this guy towered over her, even in her Jimmy Choos. He was massive, well over six feet tall-a solid wall of muscle. He had a handsome, masculine face with the most enormous amber eyes she’d ever seen. His thick auburn hair was almost the exact same color as his eyes.

Not that she’d noticed him or anything.

Kerry scolded herself. There was absolutely no point in getting all hot and bothered over some guy she’d never be able to touch. I must be the oldest living virgin that isn’t officially a nun. She drained what was left of her drink.

Her goal was to be as horrible to him as possible and get him to go away. Dante smiled as though he knew she was doing her best to upset him, and she could feel his gaze wander down the length of her body.

“You’ll dance with me. Maybe not today,” he whispered seductively into her ear. “But eventually… you and I will dance.”

Kerry turned to give the arrogant bastard a piece of her mind, but he was gone. Vanished, it seemed, into
thin air. Her breath came quickly, and her eyes darted around the tent. Her body still quivered from the soft whisper, laden with innuendo. She was horrified that everyone in the tent would see how he’d thrown her entire body into overdrive. Her cheeks burned with anger, fear, and lust-a potent combination. Kerry straightened her back in an effort to calm her quaking limbs as a welcome voice wafted over her.

“Well now, missy. I hope you’re going to keep coming to visit me even though our girl is married off.”

Kerry let out the breath she’d been holding and smiled at Sam’s grandmother Nonie. “C’mon Nonie, you’re not getting rid of me that easily.” Kerry placed the empty flute on a passing waiter’s tray and quickly scooped up a fresh glass. Perhaps a little more booze would calm her nerves.

“Well, you know you’ve always been like a granddaughter to me. You and Samantha are practically sisters, so you can’t blame an old lady for worrying.” She smiled up at Kerry with twinkling eyes that reminded her of the summer ocean.

“Well, since Sam and Malcolm aren’t even going on a honeymoon, and they’re living right next door to you… I don’t think you’ll be that lonely.” Kerry took a fresh swig of the champagne and hoped she didn’t sound as jealous as she felt. “I have to leave tomorrow for a photo shoot in New Orleans, but I’ll be back after that. To be very honest,” she said with a sigh, “I’m getting really burnt out and sick of traveling.”

“You’re going on a shoot already? Well now, don’t you think you’re jumping back into things awfully fast?” Nonie’s voice hovered somewhere between panic and anger. Kerry couldn’t quite tell which was going to win out. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Nonie, so she kept her eyes trained on the happy couple.

“I’m fine, Nonie. Sheesh, did you and Sam go to the same worrywart school? I’m not in any more danger from AJ. My cousin was obsessed with Sam, remember? I just got in his way,” she said flippantly. “He’s long gone from here anyway. Every cop in Rhode Island has his picture, and Westerly is a small town. I mean, for Christ’s sake, Millie’s even got his picture up at the diner with a big danger sign plastered above it. I’d be more worried about Samantha.”

Nonie’s mouth set in a grim line. “Samantha will be fine. She’s stronger than you think, and besides she has Malcolm. I worry about you, Kerry. You shouldn’t be traveling by yourself. You just never know what can happen, and I would think you’ve learned that as a result of recent events.”

Kerry rolled her eyes at the scolding tone and turned to face Nonie. She looked into her worry-filled eyes set in a soft, wrinkled face, and any irritation she felt melted away with the ocean breeze. She had the overwhelming urge to scoop the old woman up in a hug but knew the cost would be too great. Instead she swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat and turned quickly to face the calm, blue sea.

Nonie and Sam were the only two people in the world she really loved, and she’d almost lost them both because of AJ. He’d been completely obsessed with Samantha and had coerced Kerry into luring her into his sick trap. Her mind drifted to that awful night. She had fought back as much as she could, but he’d overpowered her. She was disgusted with herself because if she had touched him before that, just once, she would’ve seen what he was up to. She would’ve seen through the facade to the evil underneath, but she’d been too weak. Her stomach roiled at the memory of her cowardice.

Samantha’s bright laughter tumbled through the air and brought a smile to her lips. Nonie was right. Sam would be fine. If it weren’t for Malcolm, AJ would’ve killed them both. He’d scared the little worm off, and there’d been no trace of him in the weeks following the attack. It was as though he’d vanished from the face of the earth. Samantha had been hurt because of her, and she would never forgive herself for that.

Nonie stood silently by her side as they watched the waves roll gently onto the sand. Kerry wanted to tell Nonie and Sam the truth, but was terrified at what they would think. They were all that she had, and she couldn’t afford to lose them. What was she supposed to say? Hey, guess what? I have visions when I touch people. Oh, by the way, it’s so painful I want to vomit. How about a hug? They would think she’s insane just like her twisted cousin AJ. She cringed at the very thought of it.

If she lost them, then she would really be alone. Kerry pulled the burgundy wrap tightly around her as the cool ocean breeze picked up. She shivered, knowing it wasn’t from the wind. Taking a deep breath, she finally broke the silence.

“I’ll be careful, Nonie. Listen. I’m going to New Orleans not Iraq. I’ll be perfectly safe.”

“Yes, you will.” Samantha’s all too chipper tone came over Kerry’s other shoulder. “Malcolm and I have hired someone to make certain that is the case.”

Kerry narrowed her eyes and looked warily at Samantha. “What are you babbling about? Has marriage made you lose your senses already?”

“Oh, I make her crazy. There’s no doubt about that,” Malcolm said softly. He stood behind Sam with his arms wrapped around her waist and nibbled on her ear.

“Malcolm,” Sam giggled. “Cut it out. This is serious.” Kerry rolled her eyes but couldn’t resist smiling at them and fought the urge to look around for Dante. “You two are gonna frighten the guests. Get a room. Jeez.”

“What my lovely bride is trying to tell you is that we’ve taken measures to be sure you’re kept safe on this next trip. It’s only been a few weeks since the unfortunate events of late. We just want to be certain that you have an extra measure of security. That’s all.”

Kerry eyed the three of them one at a time. Each of their faces held steely resolve, and she saw there was no point in arguing. “I can see that I’m being totally ganged up on. Aren’t I?”

“Yes!” Samantha wriggled out of Malcolm’s embrace, popped up on her toes, and planted a quick kiss on Kerry’s cheek. The wolf image whisked fleetingly through Kerry’s mind, leaving as quickly as it came, and she shook her head as Malcolm led Samantha back to the dance floor. “It better not be some crotchety old cop or something,” she shouted after them.

“I’m not crotchety or a cop.” Dante’s deep, male voice rolled over her, and she was instantly aware of his body behind hers. So close. Too close. Kerry held her breath and whipped around to face him.

“No way!” She placed her hands firmly on her hips and glared up at him defiantly.

“Inferno Securities has the highest reputation. We’ve provided personal security for kings and queens. I’m sure I can handle a princess like you.” Dante delivered a wicked grin and remained stone still, unwilling to retreat. He smiled as her deep brown eyes flashed angrily back at him.

He might be there to protect her, but little did she know, she was the one who would be saving him.