Fantasy Lover (Page 37)

Fantasy Lover (Dark-Hunter #1)(37)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Grace.

For her own sake, he had to let her go.

He felt her enter the room. Opening his eyes, he saw her standing in the doorway, looking straight at him.

"I wish I could destroy this thing," he snarled, returning it to the coffee table.

"After tonight, you won’t have to."

Her words made him ache. How could she do this for him? Her worst fear was to be used, and here he was using her the way he, himself, had been used so many times.

"You’re still going to let me take your body just so I can leave you?"

It was the sincerity in her gaze that held him transfixed. "If it means your freedom, yes."

The next question stung his throat, but he had to know the answer to it. "Will you cry when I’m gone?"

She looked away and he saw the truth of it in her eyes. He was no better than Paul had been. He was every bit the selfish abuser.

But then, he was his father’s son. Sooner or later, bad blood always showed itself.

Grace turned then and left him alone with his thoughts. Julian let his gaze roam around the room. When it fell to the space in front of the couch, his chest tightened even more.

He would miss those nights of hearing Grace’s voice. Her laughter.

Most of all, he would miss her touch.

It was so tempting to stay, but he didn’t dare. He hadn’t been able to protect his children, how on earth could he protect Grace?

"Julian?"

Julian started at Grace’s voice coming from above. "Yes?"

"It’s eleven-thirty. Shouldn’t you be up here?"

He glanced down at the swollen lump in his jeans. It was time to finally put it to use.

He should be delighted. It was all he’d wanted since the moment he’d first seen her.

Yet, for some reason it pained him to think of taking her now.

At least you won’t hurt her.

Won’t I?

Indeed, he doubted if Paul had done half the damage to her heart as he was about to do.

"Julian?"

"I’m coming," he said, forcing himself to leave the couch.

At the doorway, he took one last look around.

Even now, he could see Grace lying on the couch, her br**sts drenched in whipped cream as he slowly, carefully licked them clean. He heard her drifting laughter and saw the light in her eyes as he brought her to cli**x.

"Don’t leave me, Julian." Her whispered words had scorched him last night when she’d uttered them while she thought he was asleep. Now they lacerated his heart.

"Julian?"

Turning away, he went to the stairs and dragged his hand up the banister. This would be the last time he climbed these stairs. The last time he walked down the hallway to her room.

And this would be the last time he ever saw her in her bed…

His chest tightened to the point he couldn’t breathe.

Why did it have to be this way?

He gave a bitter laugh. How many times had he asked himself that question?

When he reached her door, he stopped. The room shimmered in candlelight, but what caught his attention most was Grace wearing the red negligee he had picked out.

She was breathtaking.

He suddenly felt the need to pick his tongue up off the floor and roll it back into his mouth.

"You’re not going to make this easy on me, are you?" he asked, his voice hoarse.

She smiled mischievously. "Should I?"

Transfixed by her, he couldn’t move as she approached him. "Aren’t you a bit overdressed?"

Before he could respond, she grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled it off, over his head. After dropping it to the floor, she reached out and placed her hand on his chest, just above his heart. In that moment, she was the most beautiful woman in the world to him. Not even his mother’s beauty could compete with hers.

Julian stood as still as a statue as she ran her hands over his skin, raising chills all the way through him.

No, she wasn’t going to make this easy at all.

He felt her fumble with his button and fly. "Grace," he said, pulling her hands away.

"Hmm?" she asked, her eyes dark with hunger.

"Never mind."

She left him and climbed into the bed. Julian sucked his breath in sharply at the sight of her bare bottom through the sheer negligee.

She lay down on her side and faced him.

Shedding his pants, he joined her. As he rolled her onto her back, her gown parted, gifting him with her right breast. Julian availed himself of it.

"Oh, Julian," she moaned.

He felt her quivering under him as he swirled his tongue around the taut peak. His body was liquid fire as it screamed in need for hers. But it wasn’t just her body he wanted. He wanted her.

And leaving her was going to destroy him.

Julian swallowed as he pulled away. He had waited an eternity for this night. An eternity for this woman.

Tenderly, he brushed his hand over her face, committing every pore and curve of it to memory.

His precious Grace.

He would never forget her.

His soul weeping for what he was about to do to her, he parted her thighs with his knees.

Involuntarily, he shook with the force of how good she felt lying beneath him as their bare skin touched. And then, he made the mistake of looking into her eyes.

The sorrow there took his breath.

"You never had anything in your life you didn’t steal from someone else." Julian tensed at the sound of Iason’s voice in his head. The last thing he wanted was to take from the woman who had given him so much.

How can I do this to her?

"What are you waiting for?" she asked.

Julian didn’t know. All he knew was that he couldn’t tear his gaze away from her sad, gray eyes. Eyes that would cry if he used her and left. Eyes that would cry in happiness if he stayed.

But if he stayed, his family would destroy her.

And in that moment, he knew what he had to do.

Grace wrapped her legs around his waist. "Julian, hurry. We’re running out of time."

He didn’t speak. He couldn’t. In truth, he didn’t trust himself to speak for fear he would change his mind.

Over the centuries, he had been many things: an orphan, a thief, husband, father, hero, legend, and finally a slave.

Yet, never once had he ever been a coward.

No. Julian of Macedon had never been craven. He was the commander who had stared down an entire legion of Romans, and laughingly dared them to take his head.

It was that man Grace had found, and that man who loved her. It was that man who refused to hurt her.

Grace tried to move her h*ps to bring his body into hers, but he wouldn’t oblige her.

"You know what I’ll miss most?" he asked as he reached down between their bodies and gently touched her core.

"No," she whispered.

"The way your hair smells when I bury my face in it. The way you cling to me and cry out my name when you release. The way you laugh. But most of all, the way you look first thing in the morning with the sunlight on your face. I’ll never forget it."

He moved his hand, then rocked his h*ps against hers. But instead of sliding into her body, his move ended up as nothing more than a glorious caress that made them both moan.

Julian dipped his head to her ear where he nuzzled her neck. "I will love you forever," he whispered.

Grace heard him draw a deep breath in her hair at the same time the clock struck midnight.

In a bright flash of light, he vanished.

For several heartbeats, Grace couldn’t move.

Horrified, she kept waiting to wake up, but as the clock continued to chime, she knew it wasn’t a dream.

Julian was gone.

He was really and truly gone.

"No!" she screamed, sitting straight up. It couldn’t be! "No!"

Her heart pounding, she ran from the bedroom, downstairs to where the book was still lying on the coffee table. She flipped it open to see Julian standing just as he’d been originally. Only now, there was no devilish smile in place, and his hair was short.

No, no, no! her mind repeated over and over again. Why would he have done such a thing? Why?

"How could you?" she asked, as she cupped the book to her br**sts. "I would have given you your freedom, Julian. I wouldn’t have minded. Oh, God, Julian, why would you do this to yourself?" She wept. "Why?"

But in her heart she knew. The tender look on his face had said it all. He had done this to keep from hurting her like Paul had done.

Julian loved her. And since the moment he’d appeared, he had done nothing but protect her. Guard her.

Even at the end. Even when it meant he’d lose his own freedom from eternal imprisonment and torment, he had placed her first.

Grace ached at the truth and at the sacrifice he had made. Now, all she could think of was him being condemned to the darkness. Alone and in agony.

He had told her of the hunger he felt when he was trapped in the book, the thirst. And in her mind, she saw the way he had been tortured on her bed. But most of all, she remembered what he told her afterward.

"The pain on the bed was nothing compared to what it’s like inside the book."

And now he was in there. Suffering.

"No!" Grace said. "I won’t let you do this to yourself. Do you hear me, Julian?"

Cradling the book to her br**sts, she ran to the back of her house. She slung open the sliding glass door and moved to stand in the moonlight.

"Come back to me, Julian of Macedon, Julian of Macedon, Julian of Macedon!" She repeated it over and over again as she begged for his appearance.

Nothing happened. Nothing at all.

"No! Please, no!"

Her heart broken, Grace returned inside her house. "Why? Why?" she sobbed as she sank to her knees and rocked back and forth.

"Oh, Julian!" she whispered brokenly as memories assailed her. Julian laughing with her, holding her, or just sitting quietly in thought. The feel of his heart as it beat in rapid time to hers.

She wanted him back.

She needed him back.

"I don’t want to live without you," she breathed against the book. "Didn’t you understand that, Julian? I can’t live without you."

Suddenly, there was a flash of light in the room.

Gasping, Grace looked up, expecting it to be Julian returned to her.

But it wasn’t Julian. It was Aphrodite.

"Give me the book," Aphrodite said, reaching for it.

Grace pulled it back. "Why would you do this to him?" she demanded. "Hasn’t he suffered enough for you? I wouldn’t have kept him. I would rather he be with you than trapped like this."

Grace brushed away her tears. "He’s alone in there. Alone in the darkness," she whispered. "Please don’t leave him that way. Send me into the book with him, please. Please!"

Aphrodite dropped her hand. "You would do that for him?"

"I would do anything for him."

Aphrodite’s gaze narrowed. "Give me the book."

Blinded by her tears, Grace handed it over, praying Aphrodite would help her join him.

Aphrodite took a deep breath and opened the book. "I’m going to catch serious hell over this."

Suddenly, another light flashed, making Grace’s eyes sting. Her head spun in a dizzying blur that made her feel sick to her stomach. Everything around her swirled.

Was this what Julian went through every time someone summoned him? She didn’t know, but this alone was sheer torture, and terrifying.

Then suddenly, everything went eerily black.

Grace fell into a deep hole where the darkness pressed in on her, stinging her lungs, making her eyes burn like fire.

She reached out to stop herself from falling and felt a peculiar softness beneath her.

The lights came back and she found herself lying on her bed, with Julian on top of her.

He looked around as if dazed. "How-"

"You two better not screw this one up," Aphrodite said from the doorway. "If I try this again, there’s no telling what the powers that be might do to me."

She vanished.

Julian looked from the doorway back to her. "Grace, I-"

"Shut up, Julian," she said before he wasted any more time, "and show me how the gods meant for a woman to know a man."

Then, she pulled his head down to hers and gave him a hot, penetrating kiss.

He kissed her fiercely, and with one, strong masterful stroke, he drove himself deep inside her.

Julian threw his head back and growled at the warm, sleek heat of her body welcoming his. The feel of it shook him so profoundly that even his bottom lip quivered. Dear gods, she felt even better than he had imagined.

And he remembered what she had said to him.

"I don’t want to live without you. Didn’t you understand that, Julian? I can’t live without you."

His breathing ragged, he looked down at her face as he felt her body so warm and tight around his shaft. He ran his hand down her arm to capture her hand in his grip and hold it tight. "Am I hurting you?"

"No," she said, her eyes warm and sincere as she brought his hand up to her lips and kissed it. "You could never hurt me by being with me."

"If I do, tell me and I’ll stop."

She wrapped her arms and legs about him. "You leave me before dawn and I will hunt you down through eternity and beat you."

Julian laughed, not doubting it for an instant.

Grace ran her tongue along the column of his throat, delighting in the way he shuddered in her arms.