Fantasy Lover (Page 28)

Fantasy Lover (Dark-Hunter #1)(28)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Julian paused as they passed by a strip club. To his credit, he didn’t gape at the scantily clad women in the window, but Grace sensed his shock plainly enough.

Staring at Julian as if she’d like to devour him, the exotic dancer bit her full bottom lip, then ran her tongue around her lips suggestively as she groped at her br**sts. She crooked her finger for him.

Julian turned away.

"Never seen anything like it, have you?" Grace asked, trying to mask her discomfort at the woman’s actions and relief at Julian’s reaction.

"Rome," he said plainly.

She laughed. "They weren’t that decadent, were they?"

"You’d be amazed. At least no one’s having an orgy on the…" He broke off as he walked past a couple making out on the corner. "Never mind."

Grace laughed.

"Ooo, baby," a prostitute called to Julian as they passed another club. "Come inside, and I’ll do you for free."

He shook his head without breaking his stride.

Grace grabbed his hand and pulled him to a stop. "Were women like this before the curse?"

He nodded. "It’s the reason Kyrian was my only friend. The men around me couldn’t stand the attention I received, and women followed me everywhere I went, trying to shove their hands under my armor."

She thought about that for a minute. "And you’re sure none of these women loved you?"

He looked at her drolly. "Love and lust are not the same thing. How can you love someone you don’t know?"

"I guess you’re right."

They headed down the street. "So, tell me about this friend of yours. Why didn’t he mind the way women gawked at you?"

Julian flashed his dimples. "Kyrian was deeply in love with his wife, and couldn’t have cared less about any other woman. He never saw me as competition."

"Did you ever meet his wife?"

He shook his head. "Even though we never discussed it, I think we both knew it would be a very bad idea."

Grace watched him as his face changed. He was remembering Kyrian, she was sure of it. "You’re blaming yourself for what happened to him, aren’t you?"

Julian clenched his teeth as he thought about what Kyrian must have felt when the Romans captured him. Considering how badly the Romans had wanted the two of them, there was no telling what else they’d done to Kyrian before they took his life.

"Yes," he said quietly. "I know it’s my fault. Had I not angered Priapus, I would have been there to help Kyrian fight them."

And there was little doubt in his mind that half of Kyrian”s fate had come from the fact that Kyrian had been foolish enough to befriend him.

Julian sighed. "What a waste of a brilliant life. Had he ever learned to master his recklessness, I know Kyrian would have made a fine ruler one day." He took her hand in his and gave a light squeeze.

They walked in silence while Grace tried to think of some way to cheer him.

As they passed Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, Grace stopped, then dragged him inside.

She explained the origins of voodoo to him as they toured the miniature museum.

"Ooo," she said, picking up a male voodoo doll from a display. "Want to dress him up like Priapus and stick little pins in him?"

Julian laughed. "Want to pretend it’s Rodney Carmichael?"

Grace suppressed a smile. "Now that would be unprofessional of me, wouldn’t it? But it is tempting."

Grace set the doll down as her gaze fell to the glass display case that held assorted amulets and jewelry. In the middle of the case was a necklace of black, blue, and hunter green threads braided so intricately that it looked like a thin black wire.

"It brings good luck to the wearer," the saleswoman told her as she noticed her interest. "Would you like to see it?"

Grace nodded. "Does it work?"

"Oh, yes. The thread pattern is strong magic."

Grace didn’t know if she believed that, but then, a week ago she would never have believed two drunk women could conjure a Macedonian general to life, either.

She paid the woman for it, then turned to Julian.

"Lean down," she told him.

He looked skeptical.

"C’mon," she teased. "Humor me."

The saleswoman laughed at them as Grace fastened it around his neck. "That boy don’t need no luck charm, chere, he be needing a spell to thwart the attention of those women staring at his rear while he’s stooped over."

Grace looked past him to see the three women who were indeed ogling his butt. For the first time, she felt a vicious stab of jealousy.

The feeling evaporated as Julian kissed her cheek tenderly before straightening. His look devilish, he draped a possessive arm over her shoulders.

As they passed the women, Grace couldn’t suppress her own mischievous impulse. She paused by the women. "By the way, he looks even better nak*d."

"You would certainly know, my sweet," Julian said as he put his sunglasses on, then draped his arm back over her shoulders.

Grace slid her hand around his waist and into his front pocket as he hugged her against his side.

"You know," Julian whispered to her. "If you want to move that hand a little lower in my pocket, I wouldn’t mind a bit."

She squeezed him, but kept her hand where it was.

The women’s envious stares followed them all the way down the street.

For dinner, Grace took him to Mike Anderson’s Seafood to eat. She cringed as they brought out Julian’s oysters and , placed them on the table.

"Ew," she said as he ate one.

Offended, he scowled at her. "They’re delicious."

"I don’t think so."

"That’s only because you don’t know how to eat them."

"Sure I do. You open your mouth and let the slimy thing slide down your throat."

He took a swig of beer. "That’s one way of doing it."

"That’s how you just did it."

"True, but would you like to try another way?"

She bit her lip in indecision. Something in his demeanor warned her it could be most dangerous to take him up on this challenge. "I don’t know."

"Trust me?"

"Hardly," she scoffed.

He shrugged and took another swig of beer. "Your loss."

"Oh, all right," she relented, too curious by now to continue declining. "But if I gag, remember I warned you."

Julian hooked his heels around her chair legs, and pulled her so close to him that their thighs were pressed together. He wiped his hands on his jeans, then picked up the smallest oyster on his plate.

"All right, then," he murmured in her ear. He draped his arm over her shoulders. "Tilt your head back."

She did. He stroked her throat with his fingers, causing chills to erupt all over her body. She swallowed, amazed by the tenderness of his touch. Amazed at just how good he felt by her side.

"Open your mouth," he breathed as he nuzzled her neck with his nose.

She obeyed.

He tilted the oyster to slide into her mouth. As the oyster slid down her throat, he ran his tongue up her neck in the opposite direction.

Grace shuddered at the unexpected sensations. Her br**sts tingled and a thousand chills went through her. It was incredible! And for once, she didn’t mind the taste of the oyster at all.

Her face flamed as she remembered where they were. Opening her eyes, she was immediately grateful that they were seated in a dark corner.

"Did you like it?" he asked playfully.

She couldn’t resist smiling. "You are incorrigible."

"I endeavor to be, anyway."

"And you succeed admirably."

Before he could respond, her cell phone rang.

"Ugh!" she said, pulling it out. Whoever it was, it had better be darn important.

She answered it.

"Grace?"

She cringed as she heard Rodney’s voice. "Mr. Carmichael, how did you get this number?"

"It was in your Rolodex. I came by to see you again, but you’re not home." He sighed. "I was so looking forward to being with you today. We still need to have that talk. But that’s okay. I can come to you. Are you down in the Quarter again visiting your psychic friend?"

Fear cut through her. "How do you know about my friend?"

"I know lots of things about you, Grace. Hmmm," he breathed into the phone. "You scent your underwear with rose potpourri."

Grace froze as her terror swelled to titanic proportions. Her hands started shaking. "Are you in my house?"

She could hear drawers opening and closing on the other end of the line. Suddenly, he let out a curse. "You slut!" he snarled. "Who is he? Who the hell have you been sleeping with?"

"Now that’s-"

The line went dead.

Grace shook so badly, she could barely turn the phone off.

"What is it?" Julian asked, his brow knitted with concern.

"Rodney’s at my house," she said, her voice quaking. She immediately dialed the police to notify them.

"We’ll meet you there," the officer told her. "Whatever you do, don’t go inside until we get there."

"Don’t worry."

Julian covered her hands with his. "You’re shaking."

"You think? I only have a psycho in my house sniffing my lingerie and calling me names. Why should I be shaking?"

His deep blue eyes soothed her with their protectiveness. He tightened his grip on her hands. "You know I won’t let him hurt you."

"I appreciate the thought, Julian, but this man is-"

"Dead if he comes near you. You know I won’t leave you."

"Not until the next full moon anyway."

He looked away then, and she saw the truth of it. "It’s okay," she said bravely. "I can handle this, really. I’ve been on my own for years now. He’s not the first client to harass me. I doubt he’ll be the last."

Julian’s eyes snapped blue fire as he met her gaze. "Just how many of these people harass you?"

"It’s not your problem. It’s mine."

He looked as if he were ready to strangle her.

 

Chapter 12

Grace reached her house at the same time the police arrived.

The young, heavy-set officer cast a suspicious glare at Julian. "Who’s he?"

"A friend," she said.

The officer held his hand out to her. "All right, give me the keys, and let me search the place. Officer Reynolds will stay out here with you until I finish."

Grace dutifully handed over her house keys.

She chewed her thumbnail as she watched him enter. Please let Rodney be in there.

He wasn’t. The police officer came out-a short time later, shaking his head.

"Damn," she breathed.

Officer Reynolds walked her to her house with Julian one step behind. "We need you to come in, and take a look around, see if anything’s missing."

"Did he make a mess?" Grace asked.

"Only in the bedrooms."

Heartsick, Grace walked into the house and up the stairs to her room.

Julian trailed behind, and watched the way she held herself rigidly cool. Her face was so pale that it made her freckles all the more apparent. He could kill the man responsible for this. No woman should ever be this afraid, especially not in her own home.

When they reached the top of the stairs, he saw the door at the end of the hallway ajar. Grace ran to it.

"No!" she gasped.

Julian rushed in behind her.

The grief on her face made him see red. He felt her pain in his heart as if it were his own.

Tears streamed down her face as her gaze darted over the shambles. The bed had been torn apart and drawers overturned as if Zephyros had come through on a tirade.

Julian put his hand on her shoulder to comfort her.

"How could he do this to their room?" she asked.

"Whose room?" Officer Reynolds asked. "I thought you lived alone."

"I do. This was my parents’ room before they died." Grace looked around in disbelief. It was one thing to go after her, but why would he have done this?

She looked about at the scattered clothes, clothes that reminded her of so many wonderful moments. Her father’s shirts that he’d worn every day to work. Her mother’s favorite sweater that Grace used to beg to borrow. The earrings her father had given her mother the anniversary before they died. All of it was now tossed about as if it were worthless.

But it wasn’t worthless to her. It was all she had left of them. The hurt stabbed deeply into her heart.

"How could he do this?" she asked as rage tore through her.

Julian pulled her into his arms and held her tight. "It’s okay, Grace," he breathed against her hair.

But it wasn’t okay. Grace doubted if it would ever be okay again. She couldn’t stand the thought of that animal running his hands through her mother’s clothes. Of him stripping the sheets off their bed. How dare he!

Julian looked at the police officer.

"Don’t worry," the man said, "we’ll find the guy."

"And then what?" Julian asked.

"That’s for the courts to decide."

Julian raked him with a disgusted sneer. Courts. He had no use for modern courts that could turn such an animal loose.