THIS JUST IN! Exclusive excerpt from Lindsey Piper’s BLOOD WARRIOR, Book Two in the Dragon Kings series: Kavya, a telepath, needs a distraction for her mind to stay safe–and the sensual, sexy Tallis has just the thing…

Soon, she and Tallis carried plates of rice and palak paneer up to a room with a single bed and a washbasin. Stark, cold, with one window, it was the closest thing to sleeping outdoors in the flash blizzard. But the food was warm and smelled delicious, and they were safe for the night.

As if the conversation about sex and Kavya’s virginity hadn’t taken place, Tallis shed his weapons and his pack. He kept the filthy leather coat on. Kavya shivered all the more for remembering how that coat had felt when wrapped around their bodies. He’d held her and carried her and made her feel small, sheltered, cared for.

The smallness didn’t offend her, despite that irrationality.

Had she needed to portray Tallis by telepathy, she would’ve used her gift to transform him into a living god. One touch handsome man. One touch skilled warrior. One touch raging beast with a pulse-pounding undercurrent of violence.

A protector.

But Tallis only sat cross-legged on the bare wooden floor and started eating.

“Not going to wash up?” she asked.

He cocked an eyebrow while inhaling another bite. His throat tightened over a swallow. So many new responses to how he behaved, and she didn’t understand any of them—not truly, not in person. She was a telepath. The physical perceptions she’d collected through the years were like a child’s primer. The basics. Tallis could teach her so much more.

“Your food will get cold,” he said. “Then when you’re ready, there’s a change of clothes for you in my pack.”

“How . . . ?”

He grinned. “Don’t ask. Kullu’s a big city and we walked a lot of streets. We’re not going to Karachi or wherever with you standing out like a vagrant at a wedding. Or me, for that matter. But eat something first. You look ready to blow away.”

Her stomach agreed with a loud rumble. She dragged a thin blanket off the bed and sat beside him, her legs outstretched. Both of their backs were against the wall, with a clear view of the door. The room was small and spare, but taking up that position seemed automatic for Tallis—with his eyes trained where an enemy might invade. Kavya’s caution came from how she thought about the world, constantly tripping from mind to mind in search of hostility.

That means of defense was so draining. She was exhausted.

But finding no present threat, she finally ate. No, she savored.

And she pushed her thigh against his.

Tallis shifted his shoulder so he could face her. She expected to see sardonic mockery, and in that, he didn’t disappoint. “Hello there.”

“It’s for practical reasons.”

His grin was cheeky, daring her to make thigh-to-thigh touching into something practical. “Do tell.”

“Remember how you kept me disguised from those gathered in the encampment?”

“I liked that part. The rest of the day not so much. But those few hours in my tent are well worth remembering.”

“You kept my mind occupied.”

“I did.”

“So . . .” She ate another bite, chewed, hesitated, procrastinated, and finally swallowed. “Do it again. Keep touching me. My mind will stay with you. My brother won’t be able to find me if I’m disguised that way.”

He affected a contemplative look. “You’re telling me that the best means of keeping you safe is to have my way with you, until you can’t think of anything else? Just complete focus on the man who wants to seduce you?”

Kavya forced calm into her next deep breath. “Yes. Keep me distracted. But I need to know I can trust you.”

“I can do that.” He set his plate aside. “Just remember you’re the one who mentioned touching. And I won’t need to, if distraction is the goal.”

Kavya stared into his ocean-blue eyes and tried to imagine what tricks he intended. He was a Reaper but he had a great deal in common with the Tricksters of Clan Tigony. He was smooth, cultured in the ways of human beings, and had no sharp edges. Everything about him said, Calm down. Trust me. I can make this happen.

Only, she knew the difference between his slick exterior and the berserker that lurked beneath. She knew the difference, and she liked it.

“Very well,” she said. “How would you distract me without touching me?”

“We could always talk. Stay concentrated on my accent, which I’ve been told is marvelous for lulling women out of their knickers and into my bed.”

Arrogant isn’t a strong enough word for you.”

“We could fight,” he said, grinning. “That worked well last time, too.”

“That’s a given, not an option. It’ll happen no matter what you do.”

“True, that.”

He stood and left the room. Kavya waited, finishing up the palak paneer that was, indeed, growing colder by the second. Only a sliver of heat remained under the deep center of the rice. The whole time, she watched the door. Waiting. He wouldn’t leave—not when he had hooked her with intrigue and attraction. Maybe this was part of his intention. He was distracting her by causing her to wonder where he’d gone and what he was doing.

After finishing her food, she used water from the basin—water that may as well have been ice cubes—to wash up. True to his word, Tallis had stashed a modest maroon sari in his pack. She felt almost feminine again when she wrapped the intricate folds around her chilled body, and used a comb to untangle her hair.

She was sitting on the bed, impatient, huddled with a blanket around her shoulders, when Tallis returned. He held a steaming cauldron of water, with his hands protected by two mitts.

He took one look at Kavya and laughed. “Impatient, were you? Too bad. But for me, ice baths are only for those intending to get rid of one’s arousal. I want to stoke mine.” He set the cauldron on the floor and dunked a washrag. “Kavya of Indranan, I’m going to strip for you.”

What happens next? BLOOD WARRIOR, the sequel to CAGED WARRIOR, comes out July 30th!