Her limbs were twined with his on the bed.
She craved the liquid fire of his kiss, his lips, so searing upon her flesh. She felt the power of his muscles, playing beneath her fingertips, moving so rhythmically against her. He rose in the night, his eyes on hers, an ebony blaze that burned into body and soul. Sleek, taut, the wolf in the night, the fierce protector, the force of the wind, rather than the predator of the darkness.
He is both, she tried to tell herself.
But it made no difference. She longed to make love, ached to make love. She burned for the feel of his nakedness against her, the slick pressure and friction of his flesh, the feel of him touching her, the sheer burn of him inside her, a fire that imploded and exploded, burned within her, and burned within the night....
“You fool,” he said, at one point, looking down at her with his coal eyes unfathomable. “You shouldn’t have come. Why did you come? Why did you come?” And he held her close, not seeking an answer, but she gave him one anyway.
“Because I love you,” she said simply.
His arms tightened around her. She felt the deep heat and erotic tension of his lips against her flesh.
“Maggie says that... there’s a way. If you love me, too, if you take my blood, drain me, to a point of death ... the chemistry can combine, the stars can collide ... something can happen that can ... that can ...” He’d gone still. Dead still. He lay beside her then. “Something that can make me human again?” he inquired bitterly.
“Yes,” she said softly.
He rolled, his fingers sliding against hers as he brought his weight atop her, his body and eyes pinioning her in the night. “And if she’s wrong? If the chemistry, the stars, the feeling ... the heart just isn’t there enough .. . What if I’m incapable of giving enough . . . What if you’re damned, and no more?” She felt the power of his strength. His hold was almost painful. She didn’t know if he meant it to be so or not. She didn’t flinch. “I am willing to risk it.”
He smiled slowly, then shook his head. “I cannot. I have been far too long damned, far too long a creature of the night. I know that you are suddenly the world, that I ache to be with you, long to be with you at all times, but is that love enough? I know that I would not do this to you, even to have you with me. And there is more. I can’t fall from what I am now; I can’t fail against my enemies. To let them loose upon the world with no restraints, no power strong enough to stop them, to allay them ... the world has changed. I am still what I am, and still with the mock tide, king of my kind, with the only strength to stop Sophia and Darian.“
She touched his face. “I would do anything for you.”
He arched a brow. “You know me now. You don’t know the man I’ve been in ages past. Or the creature, as it may be.”
“I am supposedly so like Igrainia—”
“But you have no vision of a past, no memories, no flashes of a life gone by.”
“No. I am Jade, and no one else. But Lucian, I do love you!” she whispered softly, stroking his face, suddenly hungry for something far beyond the moment. A life. Together.
He caught her hand. “I have told you. I will not risk your life, or your death.”
“Then what have we?” she whispered.
“The night,” he told her.
“And it’s all you’ll offer me?”
“It’s all I can promise you.”
“It isn’t enough.”
“It will do!” she whispered, angry, hurt, loath to want him so badly, when he offered her so very little.
And yet she understood.
And maybe he knew that when his ebony eyes touched her.
He made love to her until they were both sated, exhausted.
Then he held her, his chin atop her head, his body wrapped to hers. She felt her exhaustion, and knew he lay awake. He would leave her, she thought.
“You’re going,” she whispered.
“I need a different kind of peace,” he told her. “When darkness falls again ... we’ll all need to be ready.” He swung on her suddenly. “I will come tomorrow, before the darkness. Stay safe, stay ready. I will be back with you. You understand, Jade?”
“I’ll be fine. They’ll need to rest and be ready as well.”
He was silent
“You could take me with you,” she reminded him.
His arms tightened. He did not accept her suggestion. She held him, almost trying not to sleep. She was not so much afraid of losing her life as she was afraid of losing him.
Shanna let out a shriek that could wake the dead.
Jade jumped out of bed, disoriented, spinning around. She started to run to Shanna’s room, then turned back for Lucian.
But Lucian was gone.
Already. But she had known that he would leave; he had told her as much.
She wrenched the covers from the bed to wrap around her chilled and naked flesh and went flying down the hall.
Shanna was up, standing by her bed in an Eeyore nightshirt. She looked as if she were all right. Jade’s eyes flew to the bed where Renate had been sleeping.
Renate was still soundly sleeping.
Shanna flushed. “I was dreaming.”
“Dreams are dangerous. What were you dreaming?”
“I dreamed that Renate came awake and attacked me with huge fangs. They were so big, she looked like a walrus.“
“Should we check her out?” Jade asked in a whisper.
“Maybe we should get Lucian.”
“Maybe we should, but we can’t. He’s gone.”
“You know Lucian.”
Shanna walked steadfastly to Renate’s side. Gingerly she touched Renate’s lip, opening her mouth to bare her teeth.
She let out a long, soft, sigh.
Renate suddenly swung up. “What are you doing to me?”
“Just checking,” Shanna said. “Just checking.”
Renate looked around, frowning, disoriented. “Where the hell am I?”
“Scotland,” Shanna told her.
“Good God, Renate, you crossed the Atlantic. You don’t remember coming here?” She shook her head. “I think I remember a ...”
“Yes?” Shanna pressed.
“Nothing,” Renate said with disgust. “Nothing but a delivery man. What is going on?” she implored Jade.
“Why does my jaw hurt so badly?”
“Jade hit you,” Shanna supplied cheerfully.
“Sorry,” Jade murmured, staring at her sister.
“It’s okay. You were trying to kill her,” Shanna added quickly.
“Oh!” Renate cried, and suddenly touched her neck in panic. “Oh ... am I all right?”
“We hope so,” Shanna said. “At least as much as usual.”
“Could you please explain?” Renate said imperiously.
The sisters looked at one another. “Long story,” Shanna murmured. “I guess we’re up for the day.”
“Yeah. I guess so. I’ll order coffee,” Jade said.
“You might as well,” her sister told her, pointing toward the window. “It’s actually daylight.” She started for the phone and then stopped. “No room service,” she told Shanna.
“I could really use some coffee,” Shanna muttered. “Have you noticed how we never seem to be able to get any sleep around here?”
“I’ll hop in the shower and go down for some,” Jade volunteered.
“Where’s Lucian?” Shanna asked.
“I don’t know,” Jade admitted. “Somewhere. To rest. Prepare.” She walked back into her bedroom and realized that this time, at least, he hadn’t just left her. There was a note on her pillow.
Oddly enough, that note touched her deeply. She had nothing tangible of him, or from him. And now a note. His handwriting was large, sweeping.
It’s an arrogant hand! she thought, but with no bitterness. In his world, arrogance had meant survival often enough.
He wrote: Preparing for the evening; sun seems very bright today. I, your inhuman friend, need rest as well, as I told you. Stick together, carry holy water, wait for me. I’ll be back in the light; we’ll strike before dark. Once again, stick together. Take care of yourself. For me.
He didn’t sign his name; there was no “Love, Lucian” to finish off the note.
It didn’t matter. It was enough. It had to be. It was all he intended to give.
Take care of yourself. For me.
She showered, meaning to be very quick. But as she stood there, light and water bearing down upon her, she was suddenly afraid.
The cemetery ... she could so vividly remember the cemetery.
Old, with broken-down stones, rusting fences, barren trees with skeletal fingers. That had been the innocence of the place.
Then there had been the tomb.
Creatures rising from spiderwebs and shrouds ...
And she was back here.
She had lost her mind.
She dressed in the warm, ankle-length knit skirt she had brought along and a soft black sweater. The temperature was cool outside, and the outfit was warm and would blend with the darkness this evening.
Night fell early now. Very early. Around four.
“Jade?” It was Shanna calling her. The room she shared with Renate was darkened again. So much for being awake.
“Yeah, it’s me,” she said. “I’m going down for the coffee.”
“Do you think you should?”
“The hotel is a busy place, and it’s broad daylight,” Jade said.
“Come right back,” Shanna murmured sleepily.
“Will do,” Jade said. She left the room and started down the stairs.
She had been right. The hotel was bustling. The restaurant was a hotbed of activity. The place had really packed in just that morning, she learned from a waitress. “Halloween, you know,” she’d told Jade.