Love’s Neglect Preview
I saw him before he even opened the door of the command center. I happened to glance up and saw the thick arm through the glass reaching to push on the metal pads. At first I didn’t think anything of it and started to look back at my assignment until I caught a glimpse of the rest of him.
Then I did a double take and my pulse caught in my throat as my eyes drank in the most gorgeous male specimen I’d ever seen in real life. He was big, at least six-seven, and three-fifty of solid muscle. But it was his face, the hard lines, high cheekbones, thin lips, short, perfectly-kept blond hair that made my heart race. It was even as if his hair knew not to fuck with this guy.
But then I saw his dark, piercing green eyes sweeping the room and I was done for. My stomach fluttered and I was surprised I didn’t melt into my chair as my hormones took over. He was magnificent.
“I’m looking for Rune Newman,” his deep baritone voice announced, echoing off the walls it was that deep. I shivered. God help me, but I did. I was totally enraptured by him.
“That’s me,” Rune muttered, raising his hand and not even looking up from his station. “What do you need?”
“I’m one of the transfers to fill your vacant spots. Roarke Lendar. I’ve been informed you’re who I have to challenge first to work up the food chain here and get to the job I want.”
“Yeah, great, take my spot,” Rune chuckled, waiving him off.
The delectable man’s eyebrows shot up as he stepped closer to Rune. “Just like that?”
Rune finally looked up, smiling. “Yeah, I could care less. I will have my job no matter my rank because no one can top my skills with a computer and security systems. If they can, they should have my job. I could give a shit what number I am here. You want it, take it. Nice to meet you.”
“Um, you too.” He scratched his chin, and Rune went to go back to his work, but Roarke cleared his throat and stopped him. “Not to push my luck, but is everyone so lax? I agreed to transfer here because there was no chance of me getting the job I wanted at my last camp, and I was told there was a shot for me but I’d have to fight my way up.”
“No, I’m one of a kind,” Rune snickered. “What job are you wanting?”
“Spot three or five.”
I winced for Roarke but Rune had another reaction… He burst out laughing. “Dude, my mate has spot three and there’s not a chance in hell you’ll take him. He’s Wyrok and could take our top spot if he wanted but he likes the third spot job. Five, I guess. I don’t know who handles that or how they fight. Hell, I’m not even sure what spot five is.”
“Lead on council escort missions,” he murmured, scratching up to his cheek this time. Anyone else I would have wondered if they had a rash or caught something, but on him it was just a sexy and endearing gesture that showed he was thinking. Hot. “I’d prefer that over three, which you know the job then if it’s your mate.”
“Um, not really, only that Helios likes it and it’s something to do with scheduling and the post-trans.” Rune shrugged and focused on his computer screen again.
Roarke blinked at him a moment and then shook his head as if he couldn’t believe a warrior would be so odd and uninvolved in the goings on around them. Yeah, he didn’t know Rune. But there was no one better than Rune at his job which was why our camp was one of the most secure, and now that Rune’s mate had informed the council and Wyrok of that, they were all trying to get their hands on Rune or his programs.
Something Rune’s mate wasn’t having any of.
I watched the new transfer spin stiffly on his heel and walk out of the command center, his muscles flexing in a yummy way as he yanked on the door handle. Wow, I really had it for him bad.
“Wally, you got those reports ready?” Rune called over, snapping me out of my lustful thoughts.
“Right, almost done,” I mumbled as I tore my eyes away from Roarke’s ass as he walked down the hall. Even through the glass’s glare, his ass was fine enough to still gaze at.
* * * *
When I was done with my assignment, I found myself heading over to the challenge circle. I didn’t even realize I was doing it—my feet seemed to have a mind of their own and took me there. It wasn’t hard to figure out why once I realized where I was going.
Roarke had been looking to challenge Rune to move up in rank to get to number five. Rune was last of the normally twenty-five warrior spots at the camp. There were two less now that Ben and Dean were at council headquarters awaiting trial for unknowingly colluding with Zakasacs, and Roarke along with someone else had transferred in I guessed.
Zakasacs were once vampires, but they went dark side for power. They didn’t drink blood because we needed it, but liked the kill, the rush or high. The only way to become Zakasac was to drain someone completely. They might gain more strength and speed, but they gave up the sunlight and their souls.
The legends of vampires came from what Zakasac really were—soulless demons who slaughter for fun, and burn in the sun or if they touched Holy items. They were why we had warriors and the camps to train them. Our job was to protect vampires and humans from the threat of the Zakasac.
Okay, fine, the warriors did… I was still a post-transition, or post-trans for short, which was basically a bitch or intern for the warriors. Whatever. At least I wasn’t a twerp anymore. I went from five-five to six-three after my transition. I was still working on the bulking up part, but I was at two-thirty last week so not bad in my mind for only having only been at my new height less than a year.
I heard the cheering get louder the closer I got to the challenge ring and found myself breaking into a jog. Right as I got there, I saw Roarke knock Cornelius’s sword from the vampire’s hand. So Rune was last, and normally there were twenty-five warriors stationed at the camp in Nowhere, Wyoming. With Ben and Dean gone, that left twenty-three, but then the two new ones came in and jumped over Rune. Which gave us twenty-five again.
If he was fighting Cornelius, that meant he had already won against Xana and they were fighting for spot twenty-one in rank. My head whirled that one around for a moment as I watched Cornelius drop to his knee in defeat.
“You straight or gay?” Roarke asked, his chest glistening with sweat even though he didn’t look tired at all.
“Does it matter?” Cornelius grumbled as he looked up.
“It does to me. Just answer the question.”
“Then strip,” Roarke chuckled. “I don’t do the straight losers. That’s just not my thing whether they agreed to what they were getting into or not.”
“What about the gay ones who don’t want you?”
Roarke raised an eyebrow as he smirked. “You saying you don’t want me?”
“Not like this.”
“That’s your cross to bear for losing the fight, but yeah, if you were mated or had some serious objection, I’d let it slide.”
I felt my stomach flutter again. A man with morals. Wow. I really was done for.
Too bad he didn’t seem to notice me, especially as he grabbed lube from his stuff off to the side and tossed it to Cornelius. The other warrior got himself ready, probably grateful for the slick—another point in Roarke’s favor in my book. Roarke watched Cornelius the whole time he hydrated, first with a couple bags of blood and then a huge bottle of water.
I gripped the railing until my knuckles turned white as I observed Roarke yank off his shorts, his hard cock slapping up against his stomach. Holy crap his dick was big compared to even as huge as he was. It made my mouth water just seeing it. Then he got behind a naked Cornelius and screwed the warrior like a porn star. I’d never seen anything like it or been so turned on in my life.
Even as I was fucking green with envy that it wasn’t me on my hands and knees before Roarke. God, how I wished the man paid me any attention. I was a post-trans though. We couldn’t get in on the challenges unless we screwed up majorly and the warriors wanted to teach us a lesson.
And I wasn’t risking some other form of punishment or my place as a warrior just for sex—even with Roarke.
When they were done, Roarke stood up, pulled on his shorts, and called out the next person he wanted to challenge.
My mouth fell open. He was going to challenge three people in a day? And I was pretty sure Xana was gay, so he’d already fought twice and had sex twice, and he was raring to go again.
“He’s a machine,” I whispered.
“No, kidding, right?” Lance chuckled from my right. I hadn’t even realized he was next to me. “And gorgeous. I’d lose to him any day, every day, and all night long. I wonder if he likes blonds.”
“Whatever. Don’t be stupid.” I smacked him upside the head even as my stomach turned sour. Everyone noticed Lance. He had flashy looks and the old-money last name. He always got the attention—good or bad, and I was just Wally. Dependable, reliable, ask Wally he’ll do it.
Wally Abram from nothing to handle whatever was leftover or blend in with the wall. Yeah, people loved that pun. It wasn’t even clever.
I blew my ear-length chocolate brown hair out of my eyes and tried to ignore Lance.
Roarke won his next challenge as well but that warrior was straight so he let him off with a tap on the ass with his sword, smiling that he’d tapped that ass now. Oh god, he was a goof too. He laughed at his own joke, and I leaned my head on my hand, my elbow resting on the railing like a love-sick kid.
Everyone started to peel off from the show to head to dinner, already barely going to make it before the cafeteria shut down the hot food on us. I didn’t move with everyone else right away, trying to act like I wasn’t in any rush instead of wanting to stare at Roarke more.
“Hey, you,” Roarke called up out of the challenge circle. It was dug down about five feet which kept the chances of spectators getting hurt or jumping in illegally to a minimum. “Post-trans!”
I realized Roarke was looking in my direction, so busy trying to act like I wasn’t staring I hadn’t actually been paying attention. I glanced around and realized no one else was standing at the railing with me anymore, so like a complete idiot, I pointed to myself.
“Yeah, you, genius,” he chuckled as he grabbed the rest of his gear and easily jumped out of the opening of the pit. He walked towards me, shirt still off, and I forced my feet to move towards him even as I felt like they were made of concrete for the moment. “If you’re done daydreaming, I need you to tell these three guys that I’m challenging them tomorrow, okay?”
I took the ripped-off page of paper from him and nodded. “I wasn’t daydreaming.”
“Oh, then what were you doing?” Those piercing green eyes studied me closely.
“Just waiting.” I shrugged and spit out the first idea that popped into my head. “What’s the point of rushing for grub when you’re at the bottom of the food chain? I’d rather chill out here where it’s nice than wait in line with a tray in my hand.”
“Not a bad point,” he conceded. “All right, post-trans, show me where the shooting range is then while we wait for the food line to clear up.”
I nodded and led the way. “Wally.”
“My name’s not post-trans. It’s Wally Abram.”
He bit his lip as if he was going to start laughing. “Wally? Really?”
“I didn’t pick it.” I quickened my steps to the shooting range, mortified that I get to talk to the god of a man and this is our conversation.
“Hey, sorry. It’s just you don’t look much like a Wally. I mean, I think of, like, an old human as a Wally.”
“It’s cool. At least you didn’t make some lame holding up the wall reference.”
“Wow, people think they’re funny, don’t they?” he drawled.
I wasn’t sure if he was picking on people or me for not liking the lame jokes they made about my name, laughing at me as he just had. I decided saying nothing was best, instead walking towards the gun range and showing him around. He did a quick check, asked the code to the gun storage, and then nodded.
Then I led him to the cafeteria. Wow, this is the closest you’ve ever gotten to a real live date, Wally. It’s going about as well as you expected.
Yeah, I pretty much wanted to groan the entire time. Roarke didn’t seem to notice though, taking in his new home with interest.
We walked through the doors, and he clapped me on the back. “Don’t forget to tell those guys. I want all three of them ready tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Wally. See you around.” He shot me a smile before heading over to the trays, giving me a kind brush-off and the hint we parted ways there. Because heaven forbid he could eat with a post-trans when he knew no one there.
Or maybe it was your engaging conversation skills, dumbass. That was a lot more likely. I walked over and got something to drink first while he loaded up with food and then I hurried to grab some myself right before they took the serving containers off the line.
I set my tray with the other post-trans, minus Nate who always sat with his mate, Matteo, and their friends. Lance, Mark, Zibon, Bowie, and the newest post-trans, Verge, were all giving me funny looks because of who I walked in with, but I couldn’t answer the questions I knew they were going to pester me with yet. I quickly delivered Roarke’s message to the three warriors, the guys looking like they wanted to shoot the messenger, and then I got the hell away from them before they did.
“What were you doing with Roarke?” Bowie hissed the second I sat down.
“Nothing, he wanted a post-trans to deliver his challenges so I ran the risk of getting chewed on and not him,” I muttered as I cut into my dried-out steak. Normally the food was great, but it had been out under the lights for a while since they’d been about to close dinner. “And then he asked to see the gun range. We said like ten words to each other.”
“Damn, man, we gotta teach you some moves,” Mark chuckled, bumping his shoulder with mine.
“Yeah, you go talk to Roarke then.” I rolled my eyes. He was about as smooth as I was.
“I get the feeling the only move a guy like Roarke wants is I’m ready,” Lance purred, staring at Roarke who sat down across the cafeteria alone and opened a book. “Maybe he’d read me a bedtime story if I showed up to his room naked.”
I snorted. Lance was actually bold enough to pull that. “Let us know how that goes.”
“Maybe I will,” he chuckled, rubbing his hands together as if the chase was on. I looked over to Roarke again, feeling as if the man would eat someone like Lance alive. A man who could challenge three men in a day, two days in a row was focused. And a guy who read alone instead of trying to make friends when he knew he was going to be challenging people who would be pissed at him for that was even more fixated.
He didn’t want some fling with the camp’s biggest rumor-mill topic whether that was Lance’s fault or not. No, a man like Roarke wanted to get to the job he wanted and keep to the work, having his personal life on the side.
I respected that.