Born of Fire (Page 45)

Born of Fire (The League #2)(45)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

He handed her a small computer ledger and she started to sign her name an instant before she thought about how stupid that might be. Instead she made up one.

The waiter inclined his head and left her.

“You can come out now,” she called out to Syn. “It’s safe.”

While she waited for him to rejoin her, she starting pulling off lids. Her stomach growled at the wonderful scent of roasted meat and vegetables. Her mouth watering, she took a pinch of the softest roll she’d ever seen before.

It was marvelous.

Syn came up behind her again, silent as a ghost, and pulled her back against his chest so that she could tell the interruption hadn’t dampened his mood a bit.

She realized then that he always moved that way. Graceful and quiet like a feral hunting beast. If she didn’t know better, she’d swear he had assassin training. But then, given his father, his training had probably been even harsher.

He looked at the food, then back at her. “I don’t know which aching need to quench first. I think I’d rather take a bite out of you.”

Catching his chin in her hand, she laughed. “Take care of the food first. I assure you I won’t get cold.”

His deep laugh joined hers, and he gave her a kiss of promise and a tantalizing stroke between her legs before taking a seat at the table.

Shahara went for their drinks before she joined him.

Sitting down, she stared at all the cutlery the waiter had brought them. There were three different forks—obviously for different foods. Which one should she use? It was a foolish concern, she knew, but after what he’d said about Mara, she didn’t want him to find her lacking in any way.

As she struggled to put her peas on her fork the same elegant way he did, he reached over and touched her hand. Looking up, she was captivated by the tenderness in his dark eyes.

He took the fork from her grasp and stabbed the peas with it. “I quit caring about such stupid things a long time ago. Manners don’t make you decent and it doesn’t make you a better human. Trust me. Eat your food in peace and know that you’re more of a lady than any noblewoman I’ve ever met.” He handed her the fork.

Swallowing the bite, she watched him from under her lashes, somewhat embarrassed that he’d noticed what she’d been doing. And that she’d failed so miserably at having etiquette.

A painful lump settled in her stomach. “When I was little, I used to sit in the market down the street from where we lived and watch the upper plebs come in to shop. They were always so elegant and beautiful. I used to pretend I was one of them. Did you ever do that?”

“No. I used to pretend I was Vik. I’d send him out to fly, and I’d wear vids so that I could see and hear what he did. I wanted his freedom so badly that I don’t think I’d be sane today had I not made him.”

She sighed as she remembered her own childhood. While bad, it was nothing compared to his. “Did you move a lot?”

“Constantly. We weren’t allowed to keep anything that couldn’t fit into a pack that we could grab and go whenever the authorities got too close to my father. I can’t even count how many times Digger would wake us up in the middle of the night to run.”

She sucked her breath in sharply. “I always hated that feeling of panic most.”

He cocked a brow at her words. “You ran, too?”

“From creditors. My dad would wait until the day before eviction and we’d have to flee before they arrested him. I remember when I was ten, my pack got left behind because I was helping Caillen.”

Syn paused as he heard the raw hurt in her voice. “What was in it?”

“Stupid girl stuff. A diary, my clothes, but what I missed most was my Agatha doll. She was the only thing new I’d ever gotten.” She shook her head. “Ridiculous, right?”

“No. It’s not. Objects are the markers of our humanity. Everything we hold onto has meaning for us. Those things are a souvenir that can transport us to that exact moment in time and make us feel that emotion all over again. Take Vik, for example. He reminds me of the need I had to be free, but I also remember the beatings I took while I worked on him. One in particular was brutal because I was so focused on him that I didn’t hear my dad call me.”

“Is that why you left him behind?”

“Yeah. I wanted nothing to do with my past. It wasn’t until Mara left me that I had Digger send me the picture of me and Talia. It was only then I came to terms with the fact that my past, for better or worse, has made me who and what I am. My father and the anger I will always have for him gave me the ability to kill anyone who ever came at me, but it was my sister and Digger who made me human. Without them, I would be my father’s son. And because of them, I can never victimize someone like them, no matter what it costs me.”

Shahara took his hand in hers. “You are a good man, Syn.”

Syn froze at the only thing no one had ever accused him of before. Coming from her lips, he wanted to believe it.

But he knew better.

“I’m just a piece of shit, Shahara, trying to survive.” He pushed his chair back and left her to finish eating in peace. He knew he couldn’t stay there anymore and watch her. The pain stabbing his groin was too ferocious. But it was nothing compared to the ache in his chest that wanted things to be different.

That wanted him to be different.

Tossing back a deep gulp of wine, he walked over to the music console and chose a soft melody.

Instead of distracting him, it only made him crave her more.

What are you doing, you idiot? Stop the torture. The more you’re with her, the harder it’s going to be to leave.

It was true, and he was going to have to leave. He was a filch and she was a seax—even if he was dumb enough to think about trying to have a relationship with her, those two things were incompatible. She would have to give up everything she valued to be with him.

Even her brother. Or at least Caillen’s respect.

And that was something he could never allow.

Still, he couldn’t bring himself to stop this moment of tranquility. This was what he’d always wanted. A beautiful woman who set his blood on fire and a comfortable, lush place to share with her.

Besides, Shahara deserved this. He still felt guilty for taking her on the cold floor of the shuttle. He’d satisfied his lust without any thought to her comfort. That had been wrong of him. He should never have treated her that way.

“What are you thinking?”

He looked up with a frown. “What?”

She set her fork down. “You look so intense. I was just wondering why.”

Moving closer to her, he noted that she’d finished her food. He set the empty glass down on the table next to her plate, then held his hand out to her. “Dance with me.”

She leaned away from him. “I don’t know how.”

“C’mon,” he nudged. “You can do it.”

Shahara bit her lip in indecision. This wasn’t her fortè, and since she’d never tried to dance before, she didn’t want to embarrass herself. “Are you sure?”

He nodded.

Taking a deep breath for courage, she took his hand and allowed him to pull her into his arms.

“Just follow my steps.” Leaning down, he kissed her lightly on the lips while he placed her arms around his neck.

Syn savored the feeling of her holding him. Her steps were awkward and she kept stepping all over his feet. Trying not to grimace or laugh, he whispered quietly in her ear, “Listen to the music and follow the beat.”

She improved immediately. Smiling, he reveled at the strange feelings that coursed through him. He wanted to give her this, the one thing she’d never known—a tender moment with a man. She deserved someone to treasure her.

If only it could be him.

“Did you dance with Mara like this?”

He cringed at the mention of his ex-wife’s name and shook his head.

“Why?”

“I never wanted to.”

She opened her lips to speak again. Syn covered the softness with his fingertip. “Shh, love. I don’t want you to ask me any more questions and I don’t want you to ever mention her name to me again. She belongs to a part of me that died a long time ago and I don’t want to think of her. I just want to be with you.”

Shahara bit her lip at his words as a thick warmth spread through her. Her throat tight, she looked up at him and smiled. No one had ever said such a thing to her. “Thank you.”

He smiled in response before he reached up and took her right hand from around his neck. Holding it tightly, he brushed her fingertips with a kiss before laying it against his chest.

Shahara placed her head on his chest and stared at their entwined hands. His grip tightened around her waist and he laid his cheek against the top of her head. A thousand emotions tore through her at once and the only one she could name was the love that welled up and filled every part of her.

What she wouldn’t give to stay like this forever. To hear his heart beat beneath her cheek while his breath stirred her hair and the music flowed all around. She’d never danced with a man before and she wondered if all men felt this good.

Deep inside she knew the answer. Only Syn would ever stir her emotions like this.

And one day, all too soon, he would hate her. Of that she was certain.

He stopped dancing and pulled the tie from her braid. His look deadly serious, he unbraided the strands of her hair and ran his fingers through it. “I’ve wanted to do this since the moment I first saw you.”

She smiled as her hair spilled around them. “Your turn.” She reached up to free his ponytail.

Taking her hand, he led her to the console and pushed a few options. The lights dimmed to a faint glow.

“What are you doing?”

He pulled her to his chest and gave her a tender kiss. “I want to bathe with you,” he whispered against her lips.

A tremor of shyness shot through her, but she banished it. She wouldn’t let her modesty ruin this. Not when he meant so much to her. “I’d like that, too.”

He left her to fill the tub.

Shahara followed him into the bathroom where there was a huge gold and black marble tub that would have probably fit a dozen people. Man, as a kid, they could have swam in it.

Syn chose one of the multitude of ornate glass bottles of scents and bubbles that had been set at the foot of the tub and poured it into the rushing water.

“I’ll be right back.” He headed out the door.

Deciding it would probably be less embarrassing to get undressed while he was gone, she quickly disrobed and hid herself beneath the mountain of bubbles that stretched the length of the tub.

Syn returned with their glasses and the bottle of wine. The moment he saw her in the tub, he let out an irritated grunt. “Hey . . . You were supposed to wait on me.”

She pouted at him. “I’m sorry. I wanted to watch you undress.”

He set the glasses down on the edge of the tub beside her. “I’d rather you undress me.”

Reaching out, she grabbed him by the waist of his pants and pulled him into the tub on top of her. “Glad to oblige.”

“Shahara!” There was no missing the irritation in his tone. “I’m glad you want me this way, but you could have gotten out of the tub first.”

“Oh, don’t be such a baby.”

“I’m not,” he said with a sigh. “But these are the only clothes I have and you’ve soaked me all the way to my boots.”

Laughter bubbled up through her as she realized what she’d done. “I’m sorry.”

“Sure you are.” Grimacing, he tossed his boots over the side where they landed with a soggy thud.

She grabbed his shirt by the hem and pulled it off over his head, then tossed it to land beside his boots. His pants and socks quickly followed.

“Now where were we?” he asked, crawling toward her on all fours.

Giggling, Shahara pressed herself back against the cold marble. He placed his arms on either side of her and gave her a hungry kiss that set her heart pounding. Water splashed against her body in a warm, sensual rhythm that only accentuated the heat of his lips. Moaning in pleasure, she wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders and held him close.

As he started to pull her away from her position, she grabbed his hands. “Wait.”

He cocked his brow curiously. “What?”

A wicked smile curved her lips. She wanted to give him the same pleasure he’d given her.

Moving over, she pressed him against the tub where she’d been. “You’re mine to toy with,” she said in a deep husky voice.

“What do you mean?”

She spread his arms out and placed them on the edge of the tub. “You heard me, love slave.”

“You’re being silly.” His eyes darkened. “But I’m loving every minute of it.”

“Good. Now be quiet and obey.”

“Yes, mistress.” Syn marveled at her as she reached for a bath sponge and soap. She lathered it up well, then returned to bathe his neck and chest. Her soft hands glided over his body in a way that nearly drove him mad. It took all his control to keep his hands where she’d placed them. In fact, the only way he could keep them still was to grip the edge so fiercely that his knuckles ached.