Aidan tensed as emotions he didn't understand flowed through him. "Lyssa Bates?"
Connor nodded, and rubbed his hands together. "Whatever your fascination is with her, I hope it lasts awhile longer. Trading places with you rocks. Now, if you'll excuse me…"
The other Guardian stepped into the dream and his outward appearance instantly altered to suit the woman he approached. Aidan turned away and departed swiftly, his thoughts once again fully consumed by the Dreamer he should never see again, but couldn't seem to resist.
A month had passed since he'd last been with her. A month of questioning other Guardians to find out who had spent the evening with her, and then grilling them about what had been said and what she was doing. She was seeing someone now, a man named Chad, and Aidan told himself it was best that her life was now back on track. He had tried to follow her lead and forget her, taking on assignments that would have distracted him in the past.
Now he moved through the Twilight with barely suppressed excitement, his heart racing at the prospect of seeing her again. The sweet tone of her voice and softly flowered scent stayed in his mind, as did the deep color of her eyes and the golden strands of her hair. But like a Twilight morning, the details were shrouded in mist and fading. If he gave it a little more time, he could forget.
But he didn't want to forget. For the first time in many, many centuries his blood ran hot, and for the first time ever his heart ached with yearning. He couldn't let her think she was only a job to him. Before he moved on, he needed her to know that he'd made love to her because he wanted to and for no other reason.
Lowering to the ground, Aidan paused before Lyssa's door. He wanted to hold her again, to be the recipient of her passion and seducing caresses. Did Chad benefit from such play? The thought burned, making him sweat.
She hadn't fucked the other man… yet. Aidan knew because he inquired every day.
Growling his anger at the thought, he reached for the shiny new handle that hadn't existed the last time he was here. He stepped inside without forewarning, and found the same beach he remembered from before. A short distance away, Lyssa swung in a hammock between swaying palm trees, her long legs revealed by the part in a sarong, her lush breasts barely restrained by the tiny triangle cups of a crocheted bikini top. In her lap, she held a drawing pad, and her lovely features were shielded by the wide brim of a straw hat.
Arrested by the sight of her golden skin and the loose strands of hair the tropical breeze blew across her glossy lips, he stood unmoving.
Why did she affect him this way? He was so eager for her, he could barely walk. A woman had been nude and masturbating before him, eager for a hard cock, and he'd felt nothing. Nothing. Just like all the other women he had avoided over the last month.
Steeling himself inwardly, Aidan walked toward her. As she raised her gaze to meet his, the wariness in her dark eyes tightened his chest. The trust she'd given freely when he'd bedded her was gone, and he felt its loss keenly.
Sighing, she moved to a seated position and tossed her notepad to the sand. Kicking her lithe legs, she set the hammock rocking like a swing.
He came to a halt before her. "Hi."
"Hi," she said in a husky whisper, her dark eyes watching him carefully.
"How are you?"
"Fine. And you?"
The meaningless banter made his teeth grind. "Not so well."
"Really?" Her demeanor changed instantly, became more genuine, less stilted. It was her nature to feel concern for others. It was one of the reasons he liked her so much.
"I'm not supposed to be here, and I can't come back after tonight."
"Why?" The hammock slowed to standstill.
"There are laws." He stepped closer. "We are forbidden to form attachments to Dreamers."
"And I can't allow it to happen even if it were permitted. Not with my job being what it is."
Lyssa pushed up the brim of her hat. Her beautiful face so open, so revealing. "Are you speaking hypothetically?"
He shook his head.
"Are you saying it would be possible for you to form an attachment to me?"
"It's not just possible," he admitted gruffly. "It's highly likely."
Frowning, she turned her head to stare at the ocean. Aidan watched the fall of her sunlit hair as it cascaded over her bare shoulder. His mouth went dry and his fists clenched. The desire to rub those golden strands between his fingertips was nearly overwhelming.
"So why did you come then?" she asked, dropping to the sand.
"Because of the way we parted."
She returned her gaze to his.
"I couldn't let you think that what happened between us was part of my job."
Lyssa was so much shorter than he was, she had to tilt her neck back to study his features. "Thank you."
Her quiet dignity was too much for him. Closing the distance between them, he tossed her hat aside. Then he cupped her nape and kissed her. A hard, quick kiss. "I made love to you because I couldn't bear not to. Because I wanted to more than anything. I don't regret it, and I don't want you to regret it, either."
Her small hands circled his wrists. "I don't."
He rested his forehead against hers and breathed in her scent of soft flowers.
"I feel as if I've known you a long time," she whispered. "As if I'm saying good-bye to an old, dear friend."
"I will miss you, too," he admitted, before taking her mouth and kissing her deeply. A kiss that was meant to say farewell, a memento to last him an eternity. Then her taste, sweet and heady like wine, flowed over his tongue and intoxicated him.
"Lyssa." He groaned his misery and need into her mouth.
Her slender arms tried valiantly to encircle his broad shoulders, then gave up and slid down to embrace his straining back. All the while he drank the flavor of her, stroking his tongue between her parted lips as he wanted to do with his cock, sliding his callused hands down the smooth skin of her sides.
His eyes closed, Aidan tilted his head, fitting his lips to her softer ones, swallowing her whimpers with a shudder that wracked the length of his frame. She gave as good as she got, her hands sliding beneath his shirt, caressing his bare skin, her hips arching into him, the invitation blatant and tinged with the same desperation he felt.
When her tongue tangled with his, he pulled away with a curse, every muscle on fire with tension. He nibbled her jaw, licked and bit at her neck, distracted her as he cupped her full breast, kneading it, feeling it grow heavy with her desire. Impatient, he shoved away the fabric that intruded, and caught her nipple with his fingers, rolling it, tugging it, squeezing it with varying pressure.
"Yes…" she breathed, urging him to take all that he wanted, failing to see how starved he was for her, starved for the feeling of connection he had found with her.
Lowering his head, he took her in his mouth, her nipple a hard, silken delight. He suckled her with hunger, his cheeks hollowing with every drawing pull, his tempo rhythmic and designed to make her cunt clench for him, to make her ache as he did.
She cupped his ass, squeezed, urged him against her. Through the thin fabrics between them, he felt her heat, and he squeezed his eyes shut, his nose pressed to her skin so that every breath he took was Lyssa, a scent that would forever be imprinted on his memory.
Sadness welled within him, and he lifted his head. How much worse would his attachment be if he took her again? Already all other women had lost their ability to entice him.
Her eyes fluttered open. With her ravished mouth and swollen nipple, she was a picture of wanton abandon. He could lower her to the sand, and free his cock. A quick tug would pull her swimsuit aside, allowing him to sink into her creamy depths. In all his life, he had never wanted anything as much.
"I'm afraid of what will happen," she breathed, her chest rising and falling with her labored breathing, "if we make love again. I want more, Aidan."
Pulling her tight against him, Aidan rested his cheek on the top of her head. "I'm sorry I can't give it to you."
He forced himself to release her, to relinquish her warm, curvy body. Forever.
She righted her swimsuit and looked at him with big, dark eyes. "I'm happy you came, even though you can't stay."
His thumb caressed the curve of her cheekbone. "Goodbye, Lyssa."
Turning on his heel, he left her.
He felt her watching him all the way until the door shut and became an impassable barrier between them.
* * *
"You have broken one of our most sacred laws, Captain Cross." The sea of gray-shrouded faces before Aidan nodded as one. "We do not choose the assignments given to Guardians lightly. It is not your place to reassign yourself and others to suit your own needs."
He stood impassive, his hands laced at his back, his stance wide as if prepared for a blow, which he was. He'd known the risks when he went to Lyssa. He had accepted them in return for a few moments with her, and the price was worth being able to hold her as he had.
"You set the example for others," the Elder continued. "Any transgressions on your part can start a chain of disobedience. Because of this, you will spend the next fortnight at the Gateway."
He flinched inwardly. The contrast of his new assignment to the joy of Lyssa's presence was similar to the contrast between hell and heaven.
But perhaps his time at the Gateway would be good for him. He certainly would not have the luxury of thinking of her there.
"You will begin immediately, Captain."
He bowed before turning on his heel. Having expected some onerous task, he had dressed for battle, and his glaive hung securely in the scabbard that crossed his back. His boots tapped ominously on the marble floor as he left the harden and descended the steps to the open courtyard. Around him, casually robed Guardians stared. Some furtively, others openly. He'd broken a law that had not been broken in centuries, and everyone wanted to know what the punishment would be for so grave an offense.