Fantasy Lover (Page 17)

Fantasy Lover (Dark-Hunter #1)(17)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Julian’s head ached from all the information she unloaded, and the words she used that didn’t make sense to him. "Is that a problem?"

"Just a little scary," she said, her hand shaking. "He’s a stalker who was released from the mental ward."

"Stalker from a mental ward? What is that?"

As she explained it to him, he actually gaped. "You let these people loose on your society?"

"Well, yes. The idea is to help them."

Julian was aghast. What kind of world was this that the men in it refused to protect their women and children from such? "Where I come from, we didn’t let people like that near our families. And we damn sure didn’t let them loose on our streets."

"Welcome to the twenty-first century," she said bitterly. "Here, we do things a little differently."

Julian shook his head as he thought about all the things in this time that were so alien to him. He just couldn’t comprehend these people and the way they lived. "I really don’t belong here," he said under his breath.

"Julian…"

He pulled away as she reached for him. "Grace, you know it’s true. Let’s say we break the curse; what good does it do me? What am I supposed to do here? I can’t read your language. I can’t drive your car, or work. There’s so much I don’t comprehend. I’m lost here."

Grace flinched at the underlying anguish he was trying so hard to conceal. "You’re just overwhelmed by it all. But we’ll take it in tiny steps. I can teach you to drive and read. As for work… I know there are things you can do."

"Such as?"

"I don’t know. Other than be a soldier, what else did you do in Macedonia?"

"I was a commander, Grace. All I know how to do is lead an ancient army into battle. That’s it."

She cupped her hands around his face, and gave him a hard stare. "Don’t you dare give up on this. You said you weren’t afraid in battle, then how can you be afraid of this?"

"I just am."

Something strange happened then as Grace realized he had let her inside him. Not very deep, but she could tell by his face that he had made himself vulnerable to her by admitting that. She knew in her heart that he wasn’t the kind of man who often made such admissions. "I will help you."

The doubt in those blue eyes twisted her gut. "Why?"

"We’re friends," she said gently as she brushed his cheek with her thumb. "Isn’t that what you told Cupid?"

"And you heard his response. I don’t have any friends."

"You do now."

He leaned down and kissed her forehead, then pulled her against him into a tight hug. The warm scent of sandalwood filled her head as she listened to his heart beating fiercely under her cheek while his tanned biceps flexed next to her face. His tender embrace went deeper than just a momentary physical gesture, it touched her profoundly.

"All right, Grace," he said quietly. "We’ll try this. But just promise me that you won’t let me hurt you."

She frowned up at him.

"I’m serious. Once I’m shackled, don’t release me for any reason. Swear it."

"But-"

"Swear it!" he insisted sternly.

"All right. If you can’t control yourself, I won’t let you go. But I want you to make a promise to me."

He pulled back and looked at her skeptically, but left his soothing arms around her. "What?"

Grace braced her hands against the strength of his biceps. She felt chills spread over his arms the instant her palms made contact with his flesh. He glanced down at her hands with one of the tenderest expressions she’d ever seen.

"Promise me that you won’t give up on being free," she said. "I want you to try to beat this curse."

He gave an odd half-smile. "Very well. I shall try."

"And you will succeed."

He laughed at that. "You have the optimism of a child."

She returned his smile. "Peter Pan all the way."

"Peter who?"

Reluctantly, she withdrew from his arms. Taking his hand, she led him toward the bedroom door. "Come with me, my Macedonian love-slave, and I will tell you of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys."

"So, this boy never grew up?" Julian asked as they made dinner.

Grace was actually amazed he hadn’t complained when she asked him to make a salad. He seemed to like using knives on food.

Unwilling to investigate that little idiosyncrasy, she concentrated on her spaghetti sauce. "Nope. He went back to the island with Tinker Bell."

"Interesting."

Grace dipped a spoon into the sauce. Cupping her hand under it, she blew across the top of it, then took it over to Julian. "Tell me what you think."

He bent down and opened his mouth.

Grace fed it to him and watched the way he savored it. "It’s delicious."

"Not too much salt?"

"Perfect."

She beamed.

"Here," Julian said, holding a piece of cubed cheese for her.

Grace opened her mouth for it, but he didn’t give her the cheese. He took advantage of her open mouth to kiss the daylights out of her.

Goodness, but someone ought to be able to bronze a tongue that could move like his, or do something to preserve it. Such a treasure should never be lost.

And those lips…

Mmm, she didn’t want to think about those delectable lips and what they were capable of.

He splayed his fingers against her lower back and pressed her against his h*ps where he bulged in his jeans. Mercy, the man was heavily endowed, and she trembled at the thought of having all his sexual powers unleashed on her.

Would she even be able to survive it?

She felt his body tense as his breathing changed. He was seriously getting into this and she was seriously beginning to fear that if she didn’t stop it, neither one of them would be able to pull away.

As much as she hated to leave his hot embrace, she stepped back.

"Julian, behave."

His breathing ragged, she saw him fighting with himself as he dragged a hungry look over her body. "It would be a lot easier to behave if you didn’t look so damn good."

His words shocked her so much that she actually laughed at them.

"I’m sorry," she said as she saw the irritated look on his face. "You have to remember that, unlike you, I’m not used to people saying things like that to me. The biggest compliment I’ve ever gotten from a guy was from Rick Glysdale when he came to pick me up for the prom. He took one look at me and said, ‘Damn, you cleaned up better than I thought you would.’ "

Julian scowled. "I worry about the men of your time, Grace. They all seem to be great fools."

Laughing again, she kissed him lightly on the cheek, then went to get their pasta off the stove before it overboiled.

As she dumped the noodles into the sieve, she remembered the bread. "Can you check the rolls?"

Julian moved to the oven and leaned over, gifting her with one luscious view of his rear. Grace bit her bottom lip as she forced herself not to go over there, and ran her hand across that tight, firm butt.

"They’re about to burn."

"Oh, shoot! Can you pull them out?" she asked, trying not to spill the boiling water.

"Sure." Julian grabbed the dish towel from the counter, and started to pull them out. All of a sudden, he shouted an expletive that caught her attention.

Turning, she saw the cloth had caught fire.

"Over here!" she said, moving out of the way. "Drop it in the sink."

He did, but not before part of it caught her on the hand.

Grace hissed.

"Did I get you?" he asked.

"A little toasted."

Julian grimaced as he took her hand in his and examined the burn. "I’m sorry," he said an instant before he placed her fingertip in his mouth.

Stunned, she couldn’t move as he ran his tongue around the sensitive flesh of her finger. In spite of the burning sensation, it felt good. Really, really good.

"You’re not helping my burn," she whispered.

With her finger still in his mouth, he smiled wickedly, then reached behind his back to turn on the cold water. He twirled his tongue one last time around her finger before opening his mouth and moving her hand under the cool stream.

While he held her finger there with one hand, he reached to her potted plant in the windowsill and broke a piece off her aloe plant with the other.

"How do you know about aloe?" she asked.

"Its curative powers were known even before I was born," he said.

Chills swept up her spine and coiled around her stomach as he rubbed the gooey gel over her finger. "Better?"

She nodded.

His gaze warm, he stared longingly at her lips as if he could already taste them. "I think I’ll let you handle the oven from now on," he said.

"Probably for the best."

She moved past him and took the bread out just before it was too cooked to eat.

Grace made them plates, then led Julian into the living room to eat on the floor by the sofa while they watched The Matrix.

"I love this movie," she said as it began.

Julian set his plate on the coffee table, then sat next to her. "Do you always eat on the floor?" he asked, before placing a piece of bread in his mouth.

Fascinated by the symphony of movement of his body, she watched the way his jaw flexed as he chewed.

Was there any part of his body not mouth-wateringly gorgeous? She was beginning to understand why his other summoners had treated him the way they had.

The idea of keeping him locked in a bedroom for a month was seriously starting to appeal to her.

And they did have those handcuffs…

"Well," she said, forcing her thoughts away from what all that glorious golden skin would look like if he were indeed spread out nak*d on her mattress. "I have the dining room table, but since it’s just me most nights, I pretty much do a cup of soup on the couch."

He twirled his fork expertly in the bowl of his spoon until the noodles were wrapped around the tines. "You need someone to take care of you," he said before he bit into it.

Grace shrugged. "I have myself for that."

"It’s not the same."

She frowned at him. There was an underlying note to his voice that told her he wasn’t taking a shot at her being a woman. He was speaking from his heart and experience.

"I guess we all need someone to take care of us, don’t we?" she whispered.

He looked back toward the TV, but not before she caught the flash of longing in his eyes.

Grace watched him watch the movie for several minutes. Even while distracted, he had the most impeccable table manners she’d ever seen.

She had spaghetti sauce flying everywhere while he never splashed one single drop. "Show me how you do that," she said.

He looked at her curiously. "Do what?"

"That whole spoon thing you’re doing. It’s making me crazy. I can never get my noodles to stick to the tines of my fork. They flop all around and make a giant mess."

"Well, we certainly can’t have giant noodles flopping around making a mess, now can we?"

Grace laughed at his words, knowing he wasn’t talking about the spaghetti. "Anyway, how do you do that?"

He took a drink of wine, then set it aside. "Here, it’ll be easier for me to show you this way."

He squeezed himself in between her and the couch.

"Julian…" she said in warning.

"I’m just showing you what you wanted to know."

"Um-hum," she said doubtfully.

Still, she couldn’t help but feel him all the way to her bones, to her very soul. The warmth of his chest invaded her back as he surrounded her with his marvelous arms.

He had his legs bent on each side of her. And as he leaned forward, she felt his erection against the back of her hip. For once it didn’t shock her. Oddly enough, she was growing accustomed to it.

As his lithe, toned body moved around her, she felt his power, his strength. It left her breathless and unsure.

Unfamiliar feelings washed over her with an intensity she had never known before. What was it about Julian that made her feel so happy and safe?

If this was the curse, then it should be renamed, because there was nothing malevolent about the sensations spiraling through her.

"Okay," he breathed in her ear, sending electric waves through her. He picked her hands up in his and, together, they held her silverware.

Julian closed his eyes as he inhaled the sweet, pleasant floral scent of her hair. It took every ounce of his willpower to focus on the task and not on how badly he wanted to make love to her.

Her fingers slid provocatively between his, heightening his awareness of her warm, soft skin. A new kind of desperation seized him. One he couldn’t name. He knew what he wanted from her, and it wasn’t just her body.

But he dared not think those thoughts.

Dared not hope.

She was beyond his grasp. He knew it in his heart, and in his soul. And all the longing in the world would never change the one basic fact that he wasn’t worthy of a woman like this.

He had never been worthy…

Opening his eyes, Julian showed her how to use the spoon as a bowl for the fork to tuck the noodles together.

"See," he whispered, bringing the fork to her lips. "It’s simple."