Page 24

“Your C-word is a very different C-word than the one Mick at the bar always shouts out,” I said.

He chuckled softly. “That bar…”

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to sponge off of Miles, anymore. In fact…I may have burned that bridge. Though he thought he was having a heart attack, so maybe not.”

“I’ve heard the lease on the building might be up for review soon,” he said in a rough voice. “Would the neighborhood care if that bar shut down?”

The neighborhood, huh? I smiled to myself. He was so transparent it was funny. Too bad Miles wasn’t a nicer person, because it looked like karma was about to deliver him a swift kick, courtesy of Kieran, and I wasn’t going to do a thing to stop it.

“That particular bar shutting down?” I rubbed my hand up his chest before touching my fingers to his chin. I turned his face my way and strained up to kiss him. “No. But hopefully a new bar will take its place. One that isn’t haunted, preferably. And still has a broken-down stool in the corner for Mick, though, because he doesn’t like anything too new or fancy.”

Laughter rumbled in Kieran’s chest. He squeezed me against him. “Anything else?”

“The bartenders should get to keep their jobs. It isn’t their fault Miles is a douche.”

“Right. Hypothetically, if a new bar were to go up there, Mick’s stool—”

“His whole corner. He’s territorial about that particular corner.”

“Mick’s corner, including his stool, and the bartenders, would need a place in the new establishment?”

“Don’t forget the bit about it not being haunted.”

“Can’t you take care of that now?”

“Yes, but I feel bad.”

“Right. So Mick’s corner and the bartenders get to stay, and the ghosts have to take a hike.”

I kissed him again, smiling as I did so. “Yes. Hypothetically, that’s about right.” I ran my fingers against his strong jaw. “So when are you going to clai—”

He slid his hand across my mouth. “Now you’re playing with fire.”

I peeled his hand away. “I like the fire. I like when you take me.”

He chuckled softly. “Give me a few minutes to work up more energy. Otherwise I’ll be a one-pump chump.”

I laughed, squeezing him.

Silence gave way to the crash of the waves beyond the cliff. The room darkened around us as the brilliant colors of the sunset faded away. The mood changed subtly, more subdued, until he said, “When my mother went back to the ocean—which my father should’ve expected—he went crazy and ended up torturing her for the rest of her life.”

I drew a line down the center of his abs. “Your dad is a shit-show, and I don’t need to go frolic in the ocean.”

He didn’t seem to hear me. “He must’ve still loved her. I can’t imagine this feeling will ever fade.”

My stomach flip-flopped and goosebumps spread along my skin. I held my breath.

“Out of spite, he tortured her even though he loved her.”

“Like I said, your dad is a shit-show. And unlike your mother, I’m not the epitome of a lady. If you fuck me over, I will wipe the world with your blood.”

He huffed out a breath that didn’t quite turn into a laugh. “That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.”

“Really?” I pulled back and leaned on my elbow, facing him. “I let you claim—”

He pushed his hand over my mouth and his cock straightened to attention. He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. “Not yet. Seriously, I’m not kidding. I won’t last long if we go again so soon.”

I laughed and pushed his hand away.

When his eyes opened, they were soft. He pulled me closer. “Ending up like my father is my worst nightmare.”

“Well. Just don’t lock me in a castle. My hair isn’t strong enough for someone to climb up.” I held up a finger. “But I’d be happy to stay in said castle, with unlocked doors, now and again. You know, in case you want to go back to visit.”

“It’s my father’s property. I will inherit it should he die.”

I didn’t want to mention that there was likely a clause that forfeited the inheritance should the son kill the father. It seemed in bad taste.

“Listen…” I ran my fingers across his smooth skin. “Did you ever think of contacting the Fire Elemental in Sydney? It seems like she’d have a vested interest in your cause.” I shrugged, keeping it light. “Can’t hurt at this point, can it?”

His breath rose and fell with his sigh. “When I learned my father had spies in the non-magical government, I worried he’d have them abroad, too, so I didn’t contact her. And he probably does, but after checking it out, it seems Dara has seen through his tricks and blocked his attempts.”

“So…that’s a good thing, right?”

“Yes. Which is why I finally made contact.” He stared at the ceiling. “She’s a no-go. She wants what I want, but I don’t think she wants to get in league with Valens’s spawn. She was entirely professional about it, but I got the feeling that she didn’t want to trade one tyrant for another.”

A buzzing interrupted our conversation. Kieran rose a little, lifting me with him, looking beyond the end of the bed. He flopped back down.

“Go get my phone, will ya?” he said.

“No, thanks.”

He sighed. “Worth a try.”

I snuggled into the unbelievably soft pillows as he rolled out of bed and hunted for his phone.

“Well. To hell with her,” I said to ease the blow, feeling the cool bedroom air drift across my skin. “Long story short, despite what people might think, you won’t end up like your father. Not in anything you do. Even if I lost my way and allowed you to control me, Daisy would put her foot down.”

A handsome smile lit up his face as he dug his phone from the back pocket of his discarded jeans. “I suppose that’s true. I’m impressed with how she stands her ground against the guys. She’s as strong as Mordecai is reasonable. They’ll land on their feet. You’ve raised some good people.”

“Thanks,” I said, my heart full.

Kieran looked at his phone for a moment before his gaze came back up to mine. He slid back in beside me. “Speaking of the kids, they want to go home.”

My heart sank. With all that was happening right now, home wasn’t a good plan. I’d recognized the logic of that from the beginning, I’d just been wary about the strings attached to the place Kieran had bought. That ship had sailed.

“What about Henrietta’s place? Will they stay there?” I asked.

Kieran’s stare held mine. “That’s what they meant by home.” He paused for a moment, and I knew what was coming. “Will you accept it?”

A tear welled in my eye, though I wasn’t sure why. “Yes,” I said softly, and just like that, I knew everything between us had changed.

18

Kieran

Kieran awoke as light filtered into the room. A warm body snuggled up to his side and Alexis’s sweet, feminine fragrance delighted his senses. He took a deep breath and let his head fall toward the window, listening to the soft crash of the distant waves. His body ached because of all the intense love making last night. He’d been a machine. Every time he’d so much as thought about the act of claiming her, all systems had fired up.

Arousal hardened his cock and a flash of desire stole his breath.

There it was again, the need to take his woman until she was panting in pleasure. It was more primal than the usual fire he felt for her. It was a fundamental need to mark the female he’d chosen. And that need had kick-started the foreign part of his magic that had exploded out of him last night. A magic he didn’t understand the purpose of. After climax, it dissipated, leaving no trace of its use behind.

She had liked it, though, so he hadn’t worried about it. Besides, she’d done her own job on him with her magic. She’d strengthened their soul connection. For a brief moment, a weird scene had filled the room—a midnight black line slashed through with glowing blue-purple, pulsing at him. It was Death, waiting to call him home. He could feel his soul’s acceptance of it. Its need to be swept away. And though that should’ve scared him, he hadn’t been afraid. The feeling had been welcoming, as though the great beyond were no big deal. It wasn’t forever, it was just another area one could visit in life.

The logic made no sense, but then, that was often the case with magic.

He pressed his lips gently to her head and slid his fingertips over her exposed upper arm. He listened to her rhythmic breathing, nestled comfortably in his arms. Peace settled over him and the song of the ocean drifted through his blood. Their soul connection hummed softly.

Fuck, he was happy. Staying with her—lying with her—made him content in a way he hadn’t known a man could be.

To love a woman is to admit your ruin, son. You’ll lose your sense, and with it, your dignity. Don’t be a fool like I was.

Kieran swallowed hard and pulled his arm up from around Alexis. That was the warning his father had given him when he was young, one he’d repeated recently, after Kieran’s mother died. He now understood the words in a new way.

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