- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Max’s frown deepens. “Do you two know each other?”
“No,” she says at the same time Luc says, “Yes,” and it’s not fair, the way his voice carries and hers does not.
“He’s an old friend,” she says, a biting edge in her tone. “But—”
Again, he cuts her off. “But we haven’t seen each other in a while, so if you’d be so kind…”
Max bristles. “That’s quite impertinent—”
It is just one word, but the air ripples with the force of it, the syllable wrapping like gauze around her date. The fight drops out of Max’s face. The annoyance smooths, and his eyes go glassy as he rises from the table, and walks away. He never even looks back.
“Dammit,” she swears, sinking in her seat. “Why must you be such an ass?”
Luc lowers himself into the vacant chair, and lifts the bottle of Champagne, refilling their glasses. “Your birthday is in March.”
“When you get to be my age,” she says, “you celebrate as often as you like.”
“How long have you been with him?”
“Two months. It’s not so bad,” she says, sipping her drink. “He falls for me every day.”
“And forgets you every night.”
The words bite, but not as deeply as they used to.
“At least he keeps me company.”
Those emerald eyes trail over her skin. “So would I,” he says, “if you wanted it.”
A flush of warmth sweeps across her cheeks.
He cannot know that she has missed him. Thought of him, the way she used to think of her stranger, alone in bed at night. Thought of him every time she toyed with the ring at her throat, and every time she didn’t.
“Well,” she says, finishing her drink. “You’ve stripped me of my date. The least you can do is try and fill the space.”
And just like that, the green in Luc’s eyes is back, brighter.
“Come,” he says, drawing her up from her chair. “The night is young, and we can do far better.”
* * *
The Cicada Club buzzes with life.
Art deco chandeliers hang low, shining up against a burnished ceiling. It is crushed red carpet and stairs sweeping up to balcony seats. It is linen-covered tables and a polished dance floor set before a low stage.
They arrive as a brass band finishes its set, trumpets and sax spilling through the club. The place is packed, and yet, when Luc draws her through the crowd, there is a table sitting empty at the front. The best in the house.
They take their seats, and moments later a waiter appears, two martinis balanced on his tray. She thinks of that first dinner they shared in the marquis’s house, centuries ago, the meal ready before she even agreed to have it, and wonders if Luc planned this in advance, or if the world simply bends to meet his wish.
The crowd erupts in cheers as a new performer takes the stage.
A narrow man with a wan face, narrow brows arching beneath a gray fedora.
Luc stares at him with the sharp pride of something owned.
“What’s his name?” she asks.
“Sinatra,” he answers as the band lifts, and the man begins to sing. A crooner’s melody, smooth and sweet, spills into the room. Addie listens, mesmerized, and then men and women begin to rise from their chairs and step out onto the dance floor.
Addie stands, holding out her hand. “Dance with me,” she says.
Luc looks up at her, but doesn’t rise.
“Max would have danced with me,” she says.
She expects him to refuse her, but Luc rises to his feet, and takes her hand, leading her onto the floor.
She expects him to be stiff, unyielding, but Luc moves with the fluid grace of wind rushing through fields of wheat, of storms rolling through the summer skies.
She tries to remember a time they were this close, and can’t.
They have always kept their distance.
Now, the space collapses.
His body wraps around hers like a blanket, like a breeze, like the night itself. But tonight, he does not feel like a thing of shadow and smoke. Tonight, his arms are solid against her skin. His voice slides through her hair.
“Even if everyone you met remembered,” Luc says, “I would still know you best.”
She searches his face. “Do I know you?”
He bows his head over hers. “You are the only one who does.”
Their bodies press together, one shaped to fit the other perfectly.
His shoulder, molded to her cheek.
His hands, molded to her waist.
His voice, molded to the hollow places in her as he says, “I want you.” And then, again, “I have always wanted you.”
Luc looks down at her, those green eyes dark with pleasure, and Addie fights to hold her ground.
“You want me as a prize,” she says. “You want me as a meal, or a glass of wine. Just another thing to be consumed.”
He dips his head, presses his lips to her collarbone. “Is that so wrong?”
She fights back a shiver as he kisses her throat. “Is it such a bad thing…” His mouth trails along her jaw. “… to be savored?” His breath brushes her ear. “To be relished?”
His mouth hovers over hers, and his lips, too, are molded to her own.
She will never be quite sure which happened first—if she kissed him, or he kissed her, who began the gesture, and who rose to meet it. She will only know that there was space between them, and it has vanished. She has thought of kissing Luc before, of course, when he was just a figment of her mind, and then, when he was more. But in all her conjurings, he’d taken her mouth as if it is a prize. After all, that is how he kissed her the night they met, when he sealed the deal with the blood on her lips. That is how she assumed he would always kiss.
But now, he kisses her like someone tasting poison.
Cautious, questing, almost afraid.
And only when she answers, returns the kiss in kind, does he deepen his advance, his teeth skating along her bottom lip, the weight and heat of his body pressing against hers.
He tastes like the air at night, heady with the weight of summer storms. He tastes like the faint traces of far-off woodsmoke, a fire dying in the dark. He tastes like the forest, and somehow, impossibly, like home.
And then darkness reaches up around her, around them, and the Cicada Club vanishes; the low music and the crooner’s melody swallowed up by the pressing void, by rushing wind, and racing hearts, and Addie is falling, forever and a single backward step—and then her feet find the smooth marble floor of a hotel room, and Luc is there, pressing her forward, and she is there, drawing him back against the nearest wall.
His arms lift around her, forming a loose and open cage.
She could break it, if she tried.
She doesn’t try.
He kisses her again, and this time, he is not tasting poison. This time, there is no caution, no pulling back; the kiss is sudden, sharp, and deep, stealing air and thought and leaving only hunger, and for a moment, Addie can feel the yawning dark, feel it opening around her, even though the ground is still there.
She has kissed a lot of people. But none of them will ever kiss like him. The difference doesn’t lie in the technicalities. His mouth is no better shaped to the task. It is just in the way he uses it.