"Well, there’s the door," she said, pointing toward it. "Don’t let it hit you on the rump on your way out."
"Believe me, if I could leave, I would."
Grace hesitated at his words, and their significance. "Are you telling me that I can’t wish you away? Or make you go back into the book?"
"I believe your word was bingo."
She fell silent.
Rising slowly to his feet, Julian stared at her. In all the centuries he’d been damned, this was the first time this had come up. All his other summoners had known what he was, and they had been more than willing to spend the month in his arms, happily using his body for their pleasure.
He’d never in his life, either this one or his mortal one, found a woman who didn’t want him physically.
Could it be that the curse was weakening? That maybe at last he might be free?
But even as the thought crossed his mind, he knew better. When the Greek gods handed down a punishment, they did it with style and with a vengeance that not even two millennia could mellow.
There had been a time once, long ago, when he had fought against his damnation. A time when he had believed he could be free. But over two thousand years of confinement and unrelenting torture had taught him one thing- resignation.
He had earned his hell, and like the soldier he’d once been, he accepted his punishment.
Swallowing the gall that stuck in his throat, Julian spread his arms out, and offered his body to her. "You can do with me as you wish. Just tell me how to please you."
"Then, I wish for you to leave."
He dropped his arms to his side. "Except for that."
Frustrated, Grace started to pace. Her hormones finally whipped back under control and her head clearer, she yearned for a solution. But no matter how hard she tried, there didn’t seem to be one.
A terrible ache began throbbing in her temples.
Whatever was she going to do for a month, a solid month, with him?
Again an image of him poised above her, his hair falling around them in a soft canopy while he plunged himself deep inside her body, tortured her.
"I need something…" Julian’s voice trailed off.
She turned back to face him, her body still begging for his.
It would be so easy to give in to him. But that would be wrong. She refused to use him that way. Like…
No, she wouldn’t think about that. She refused to think about that.
"What?" she asked.
"Food," Julian repeated. "If you’re not going to use me right away, would you mind if I ate?" The sheepish, half-angry look on his face told her he didn’t like asking for anything.
Then it dawned on her that as odd and difficult as this was for her, what on earth must it feel like for him? To be snatched from wherever it was he lived and thrown into her life like a slingshot? It must be terrible.
"Sure," she said, motioning for him to follow her. "The kitchen’s in here." She led him down the short hallway to the rear of the house.
She opened the fridge and let him look into it. "What would you like?"
Instead of sticking his head in, he stayed about three feet back. "Do you have any pizza left?"
"Pizza?" she repeated in shock. How did he know about pizza?
He shrugged. "You seemed to really enjoy eating it."
Her face flamed as she recalled her earlier play. Selena had made another comment about food substituting for sex, and she had faked an orgasm while savoring her last slice. "You heard us?"
His face stoic, he spoke quietly. "The love-slave hears everything said near the book."
If her cheeks turned any hotter, they would explode. "I don’t have any pizza," she said quickly, wanting to bury her head in the freezer to cool it off. "I do have some leftover chicken and pasta."
His commanding tone really set her ire off. It was one of those "I’m the man, baby, get me some food" Tarzan tones that just set her blood to boil.
"Look, buster, I’m not your cooking wench. Mess with me and I’ll feed you Alpo."
He arched a brow. "Alpo?"
"Never mind." Still irritated, she pulled out her chicken primavera and prepared to nuke it.
He sat at her table with this oozing aura of male arrogance that just grated on her tolerance. Wishing she really had a can of Alpo, Grace forced herself to dump a heaping serving of pasta into a bowl.
"Just how long have you been in that book, anyway? Since the Dark Ages?" At least that’s what he acted like.
He sat as still as a statue. No emotions, no nothing. If she didn’t know better, she’d swear he was an android.
"The last time I was summoned, it was eighteen ninety-five."
"Get out!" Grace gaped at him as she placed the bowl in the microwave. "Eighteen ninety-five? Are you serious?"
"What year was it when you first got trapped?"
Rage flashed across his face with such high intensity that it startled her. "One forty-nine B.C. by your calendar."
Her eyes widened. "One forty-nine B.C., as in one hundred forty-nine years before Christ? Holy guac. When I called Julian of Macedon, you really are of Macedon. Of the Macedon."
He gave a curt nod.
Her thoughts whirled as she closed the door to the microwave and turned it on. This was impossible. It had to be impossible!
"How did you get trapped in the book? I mean, the ancient Greeks didn’t have books, did they?"
"I was originally entombed in a scroll that was later bound to protect it," he said darkly, his face still impassive. "As for how I ended up cursed, I invaded Alexandria."
Grace frowned. Now that didn’t make a bit of sense, not that very much of any of this made sense to her. "Why would invading a city get-"
"Alexandria wasn’t a city, she was a Priapine virgin."
She tensed at his words, and the implication of how invading a woman might get a man trapped for eternity. "You raped a virgin?"
"I didn’t rape her," he said, meeting her gaze with a hard stare. "It was by mutual consent, I assure you."
Okay, there was a nerve there. Grace could see it clearly in his icy demeanor. The man didn’t like talking about his past. She would have to be a little more subtle in her questioning.
Julian heard the strange bell toll before Grace pressed a bar and opened the black box where she’d placed his food.
She set the steaming bowl of food before him with a silver fork, knife, paper napkin, and glass goblet of wine. The warm aroma filled his head, making his stomach ache with need.
He supposed he should be shocked by the way and speed with which she’d cooked, but after hearing about things called a train, camera, automobile, phonograph, rockets, and computers, he doubted if anything could take him by surprise now.
In truth, there was nothing left for him to feel since, out of necessity, he’d banished his emotions long ago.
His existence was nothing more than snatches of days strung along centuries. His only purpose to serve his summoner’s sexual needs.
And if he’d learned anything over the last two millennia, it was to enjoy what few pleasures he could during each incarnation.
With that thought, he took a small bite of food and savored the delectable feel of the warm, creamy noodles on his tongue. It was pure bliss.
He let the smell of the chicken and spices fully invade his head. It had been an eternity since he’d last eaten anything. An eternity of unrelenting hunger.
Closing his eyes, he swallowed.
More used to starvation than nourishment, his stomach cramped viciously in reaction to the first bite of food. Julian clenched the knife and fork in his hands as he fought against the brutal pain.
But he didn’t stop eating. Not while he had food.
He’d waited so long to finally quench his hunger that he wasn’t about to stop now.
After a few more bites, the cramps eased, allowing him to actually enjoy the meal again.
And as the cramps lessened, it took all of his willpower to eat like a human and not shovel the food into his mouth by the handfuls in a desperate need to quench the gnawing hunger in his belly.
At times like this, it was hard to remember he was still a man and not some feral, rampaging beast that had been freed from its cage.
He’d lost most of his humanity centuries ago. What little was left, he intended to keep.
Grace leaned against the counter as she watched him eat, slowly, almost mechanically. She couldn’t tell if he liked the food, but he kept eating it.
Yet what amazed her were the perfect European table manners he had. She’d never been able to successfully eat that way, and she wondered when he’d learned to use his knife to balance the pasta on the back of his fork and eat it.
"Did they have forks in ancient Macedonia?" she asked.
He paused. "Excuse me?"
"I was just wondering when the fork was invented. Did they have them in…"
You’re rambling! her mind shouted at her.
Well, who wouldn’t? Just look at the guy. How many times do you think someone has acted like an idiot and had a Greek statue come to life? Especially one who looks like that!
"The fork was invented sometime in the fifteenth century, I believe."
"Really?" she asked. "Were you there?"
His features blank, he looked up and asked, "What, for the invention of the fork, or the fifteenth century?"
"The fifteenth century, of course." And then thinking better of it, she added, "You weren’t there when the fork was invented. Were you?"
"No." He cleared his throat and wiped his mouth with the napkin. "I was summoned four times during that century. Twice in Italy and once in England and France."
"Really," she said, trying to imagine what it must have been like back then. "I bet you’ve seen all kinds of things over the centuries."
"Oh, come on. In two thousand years-"
"I’ve mostly seen bedrooms, beds, and closets."
His flat tone gave her pause as he returned to eating. An image of Paul pierced her heart. She’d only known one selfish, uncaring jerk. It sounded as if Julian had known many more.
"So tell me, do you just lie in the book until someone calls you?"
"What do you do in the book to pass the time?"
He shrugged, and she homed in on the fact that he didn’t possess a wide range of expressions.
She moved forward and took a seat across the table from him. "You know, according to you we have a month together, why not make it pleasurable and talk?"
Julian glanced up in surprise. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone had actually conversed with him, except to issue encouragements or suggestions to help heighten the pleasure he was giving them.
Or to call him back to bed.
He’d learned very early in life that women only wanted one thing when it came to him-some part of his body buried deep between their legs.
With that thought in mind, he drifted his gaze slowly, leisurely, over her body, stopping at her br**sts, which grew tight at his prolonged stare.
Indignantly, she crossed her arms over her chest and waited until he met her gaze.
Julian almost laughed. Almost.
"You know," he said, using her words. "There are far more entertaining things to do with a tongue than talk- like run it over your bare br**sts and through the hollow of your throat." His gaze dropped down to the table to the approximate area of her lap. "Not to mention other places it can go."
For an instant, Grace was dumbstruck. Then amused.
Then very horny.
As a therapist, she’d heard much more shocking things than that, she reminded herself.
Yeah, but not from a tongue that she wanted to do things with other than talk.
"You’re right, there are other things to do with one, like cut it out," she said, taking some satisfaction in the surprise that flickered in his eyes. "But I’m a woman who likes talk and you are here to please me, are you not?"
There was only the subtlest of tenseness to his body as if he resisted his role. "I am."
"Then, tell me what you do while you’re in the book."
His gaze bored into hers with a heated intensity that she found unnerving, intriguing, and a bit frightening.
"It’s like being trapped inside a sarcophagus," he said quietly. "I hear voices, but I can’t see light or anything else. I just stand there, unable to move. Waiting. Listening."
Grace cringed at the very idea. She remembered once, long ago, when she had accidentally locked herself in her father’s toolshed. There had been no light, no way out. Terrified, she had felt her lungs seizing up, felt her head go light in panic. She had screamed and pounded on the door until she had bruised her entire hand.
Finally, her mother had heard her and let her out.
To this day, Grace was slightly claustrophobic from the experience. She couldn’t imagine what it must be like to spend centuries in such a place.
"How horrible," she breathed.
"You get used to it. In time."
"Do you?" She didn’t know, but for some reason she doubted it.