- The Darkest Craving
Wife. Was there a more beautiful word? “I’m starved, actually. Husband.” Oh, yes. That one. She might never get tired of saying it.
“Me, too,” he said, his voice going low, “but I doubt we’re talking about the same thing.”
“Well, are we talking about sex?”
He gave a bark of laughter. “Yeah, but your body needs to heal before that particular appetite can be sated. A fourth time.” He hugged her tight and rolled, then rose from the bed. “Cover those dangerous curves, woman, and I’ll take you to the diner next door.”
“Yes, sir.” Long locks of hair tumbled down her shoulders as she sat up. Her body still ached, and her heart...well, her heart had yet to calm down. In all the futures she’d imagined for herself, she’d never seen one like this.
Muscles flexed as Kane gathered his weapons, his underwear, slacks, and a shirt. His hair was rumpled, his gaze heavy-lidded and sexy. Naked, barefoot, he padded into the bathroom and showered with the door open.
When he emerged on a cloud of steam, wearing the very clothing he’d gathered, he crooked his finger at her. “Your turn.”
The tension he’d sported all these weeks was completely gone.
Smiling, Josephina walked past him—naked. He moaned, his eyes locked on her, as if in pain. She brushed her teeth and showered, then dressed in the hated maid uniform. “I’d rather wear the curtains,” she grumbled as she joined him by the door.
“We’ll go shopping after we eat.”
A short time later, she was sliding into a booth in the back of the diner, Kane across from her. The place was packed with old school charm, the tiled floor black and white, the walls covered with fifties memorabilia.
“Do you have enough money to pay for your breakfast?” Kane asked as he studied the menu.
“No.” He’d left her bag in Séduire.
“I guess you’ll have to find a way to pay me back. Waffles aren’t free.”
“Hey. We’re married. You insisted. That means whatever you have is mine.”
His lips twitched at the corners. “So you now agree that we’re married?”
“Answer a question for me first,” she said, wanting to tease him the way he teased her. “Are you loaded? I mean, the stories say you are, but I just want to be sure before I pledge my life to yours.”
“I’m more than loaded. Torin could turn anyone into a billionaire.”
“I knew there was a reason I liked him. But to answer your question, yes, I agree. Your money and I are one.”
He stopped trying to hide his grin and dazzled her with a display of pearly whites.
I’m so falling for this man.
A waitress wearing a poodle skirt approached their table, making Josephina feel less conspicuous in her gown. The woman had a notepad and pen at the ready.
“Can I take your...uh...” She locked eyes with Kane and her words tapered off. She fluffed her hair. “Hi. I’m Claudia. My friends call me Claude.”
Uncomfortable, he tugged at the collar of his shirt. “We’d like—”
The building began to shake and the patrons to gasp. The ketchup bottle resting on the side of the table shattered, every glass shard arrowing toward Josephina, several even slicing into her arm. Blood beaded over the wounds.
Kane muttered a curse, threw down his menu and stood, pulling Josephina to her feet. “Come on. We need to leave.”
“Disaster?” she asked.
“Wait,” the waitress called.
He ignored her. The moment they stepped outside, a car slammed into another car directly in front of them. Impact tore a scrap of metal from the wreckage, tossing it at Josephina’s head. Had Kane not jerked her to the ground, she would have been decapitated. But he did, and the piece cut through the diner window.
Glass shattered. Cars honked. People shouted obscenities. Footsteps pounded as bystanders raced away.
Forcing her to stand, Kane’s grip tightened on her, the pressure almost enough to snap her bones.
“What do you need?” she asked. “How can I help you?”
Silent, he led her inside their hotel. The building was tall and well kept, with plush carpets and pretty paintings on the walls. There was a chandelier overhead, though nothing as grand as those in the Fae palace.
He remained silent as they stepped into the elevator, strode down the hall and finally entered their room.
“Talk to me, Kane. Please.”
“You’re going to stay here.” There was a grim quality to his voice, and he wouldn’t meet her eyes. “Leave and you’ll regret it. And don’t open the door to anyone. In fact,” he said, withdrawing a gun from the waist of his pants, “do you know how to use one of these?”
“No. Fae women are forbidden from learning how to defend themselves.”
His features darkened. “I should have started training you, as promised, and I’m sorry I didn’t. But don’t worry. The gun is ready to go, complete with silencer. All you have to do is point and squeeze the trigger.” He set the weapon on the nightstand, his hand trembling.
“Where are you going?”
A moment passed in silence. “I plan to feed the demon so he’ll stop trying to hurt you. At least for a little while.”
JOSEPHINA PACED IN front of the massive bed she’d shared with her husband only an hour ago, her hands wringing together. The change in Kane had startled her. In seconds, he’d gone from affable and flirty to downright mean. And there’d been guilt in his eyes...so much guilt, made all the worse because it had been ringed by a toxic mix of self-disgust and shame.
Just how did he plan to feed such a terrible demon? If he placed himself in danger...
Having trouble catching her breath, she eased onto the bed, propped against the pillows and closed her eyes. She had only ever projected her image into other people’s minds; never had she attempted to see the world through another’s eyes. Here, now, she had to try.
Kane needed her, whether he knew it or not. If she could figure out where he was, she could race to the rescue. No longer did he have to fight against the evil on his own, and she would prove it.
* * *
“YOU WANT A disaster,” Kane muttered, “I’ll give you a disaster.”
Want the girl dead was the demon’s snarled reply. Dead, dead, dead.
“Well, you’re not getting that one.” He would die first. But then, that wouldn’t help, either, would it.
He would distance himself from Tink, go so far away from her the demon wouldn’t be able to reach her. After seeing those cuts on her arm...the drip of crimson...yeah, distance was what was needed.
Where could he go?
No. Not him, he realized. Her. She had to go. He would call Lucien. He would send the warrior to pick her up, and have her escorted to the fortress in the Realm of Blood and Shadows, as he’d originally planned. Kane would stay away from her, and she would be safe.
The demon would be satisfied.
He pressed his thumb against his wedding ring, spun the metal. Soon, the band would be his only connection to Tink. He punched the building beside him, and the brick cracked. He never should have tried to create a normal life with her. Not until the demon was dead.
Kane turned the corner of the sidewalk. A window shattered as he passed. People shouted with fright and scrambled away from the sea of glass. “What are you doing now?” he gritted. “I’m giving you what you want.”
You give, even while you plot my demise. Perhaps it’s time I ended you, and freed myself.
“You’ll be crazed, mindless.”
Aren’t I already?
He wouldn’t panic.
An SUV slammed into a lamppost. A biker swerved, hit a curb. The bike flipped end over end and crashed into Kane.
Teeth grinding, Kane kept going. “You’re hurting innocents.”
I know. Isn’t it great?
Let’s bargain. I won’t try to kill you, or others—if.
See that woman over there? I want her. Give her to me.
Across the street, a pretty woman stood outside a shop, watching the chaos down the way.
“No,” Kane snapped.
The water main broke, liquid suddenly shooting into the sky. Two cars collided.
“No,” he repeated, wiping cold droplets from his brow.
A black bird careened from the sky, slammed into Kane’s chest before falling to the ground. There was a pained squawk as feathers rained in every direction. Struggling to breathe, he bent down to check the damage to the bird.
It died before contact was made.
The girl. Give me the girl.
Kane straightened, closed his eyes for a moment. He knew what Disaster really wanted—for Kane to betray his wife, ruin the trust they’d only just managed to build and destroy any hope for a future. Then, when Lucien carried Tink away, the distance between husband and wife would be more than physical. It would be mental, emotional. And it wouldn’t matter if Disaster died or not. The damage would have been done, all hope torched, Kane’s life ruined.
What better catastrophe was there than that?
I can’t do it, Kane thought. I won’t do it.
And yet, a second later, when a billboard fell from the side of the building, and humans rushed away to avoid being crushed, the word apocalypse reverberated in his head and he found himself crossing the street, approaching the woman.
Maybe your Fae will never find out, Disaster said, glee in his tone. It can be our little secret.
No. There were no secrets. Truth had ways of seeping out. More than that, he would never keep something like this secret from her.
In the back of his mind, he suddenly thought he felt another presence. Someone soft and gentle, sweet and innocent. Someone who smelled like fresh-baked bread.
He frowned, searching the area for any sign of her, finding none. His guilt must be playing tricks on him. Either that, or Disaster was.