Anthology - Burning Up By Nalini Singh, Angela Knight, Virginia Kantra & Meljean Brook

Her hose was shredded, Ria thought, staring uncomprehendingly at the bottoms of
her feet. Where were her shoes? Lost somewhere in the alley where that bastard had tried
to rape her as "down payment" on the protection money her family refused to pay.
Something fluttered over her shoulders and was tucked around her, warm and
thick. A blanket. She gripped it tight, then winced as her bloodied palms made contact
with the wool. Her hands spasmed open. Released, the blanket began to slide to the floor
of the large paramedic van.

"I've got you." Following the deep voice, she blinked into a face she didn't know.
The changeling who'd thrown her attacker against the wall had been blond and blue-eyed,
reminding her of the cocky youth of her younger brother, Ken. This man . . . he was hewn
out of rougher material, his jaw shadowed, his eyes the rich amber shade of aged
whiskey, his hair thick and dark, a hundred shades of brown and gold intertwined. "Come
on, sweetheart, speak to me."
She swallowed, tried to find words but they lost their way in the chaos of her
brain, leaving her dumb. Instead, her mind filled with the terror of the lifetime she'd spent
in that alley only minutes from her family home, in one of the streets surrounding the
bustle of Chinatown. It had taken mere seconds for everything to change. One moment
she was smiling, and the next, her excitement at finishing her final night class had given
way to pain and shock as he hit and pawed--
A smooth burst of Mandarin, so unexpected, so welcome that it broke through the
haze of pain and fear. She looked up again, astonished. This man, this stranger was
speaking to her in the language of her grandmother, asking her if she was okay. She
nodded, found the words to say, "I speak English." She rarely had to say that. Unlike her
half-Caucasian mother, Ria had inherited little from her grandmother but her bones. Her
hair was stick-straight, but a dark brown instead of jet black. Her eyes were faintly
almond-shaped, but only if someone was really looking. She'd gotten the majority of her
features from her brown-haired, brown-eyed All-American father.
"What's your name, darling?" A hand cupping her cheek.
She flinched, but this hand, though big, was gentle. And patient. She relaxed into
the warmth after long minutes, reassured by the calluses that spoke of a man accustomed
to working with his hands. "Ria. Who are you?"
"Emmett," he said, his voice holding nothing of laughter. "And I'm in charge of
Her brow furrowed, the real Ria fighting her way through the fog of shock.
"Who're you to be in charge of me?"
"I'm big, I'm strong, and I'm pissed as hell that someone dared touch a woman on
my watch."
She blinked. "Your watch?"
"Dorian's part of my team," he said, nodding to the blond man who'd turned her
attacker into a sack of broken bones. "Wish he hadn't done such a good job--I would've
liked to bloody the piece of shit myself."

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