Perhaps this was the best way for it to work out. This way he wouldn’t mourn her.
No, the voice in her head said. She wanted more than that from Wulf. She wanted what they had shared in her dreams.
Stop being selfish.
Cassandra swallowed at the thought. She was right. It would be kinder to stay away from Wulf. The last thing she wanted was to know he would grieve for her.
The fewer people mourning her, the better. She hated the thought of people hurting for her the way she hurt for her mother and sisters. There wasn’t a day that went by where they weren’t in her thoughts. Where a part of her didn’t ache that she could never see them again.
Once she had the T-shirt and sweatpants in her arms Wulf walked with her back through his house. His powerful presence touched something deep inside her. She’d never imagined feeling like this.
"You know, you have quite a place here," she said.
He looked around as if he hadn’t noticed it in a while. "Thanks. It was built at the turn of the century by Chris’s great-great-grandmother. She had fifteen boys and wanted enough room to raise them and their children." There was a tender note in his voice whenever he talked about his family. It was obvious he had loved every one of them deeply.
"So what happened to them that Chris is the only one left?"
Sadness darkened his eyes and it made her heart ache for his grief. "The eldest son went down with several of his cousins and uncle as passengers on the Titanic. The influenza plague of 1918 killed three more and made two more sterile. The war took four more. Two died as children and one died in a hunting accident as a young man. The other two, Stephen and Craig, married. Stephen had one son and two daughters. The son died in World War II and one daughter of illness at age ten, the other in childbirth before the baby could be born."
Cassandra winced at his words and at the pain she heard in his voice. It was so obvious he had loved each of them dearly.
"Craig had four sons. One died in World War II, one as an infant, one in a car accident with his wife, and the other was Chris’s grandfather."
"I’m sorry," she said, touching his arm in sympathy. No wonder he guarded Chris so zealously. "I’m amazed you let so many go to war."
He covered her hand with his. The look in his eyes told her how much he appreciated her touch. "Believe me, I tried to stop them. But there’s only so much you can do to keep a stubborn man home. I finally understand how my father felt when Erik and I left home against his wishes."
"But you don’t understand why your mother refused to welcome you home."
He paused mid-step at that. "How did you know that?"
"I…" She paused as she realized what she had just done. "I’m sorry. Every now and again I can read passing thoughts. I don’t mean to and I have no control over it, it just happens."
His eyes were stormy again.
"You know." She tried again, hoping to comfort him a little. "Sometimes people say and do things in the heat of anger that they later regret. I’m sure your mother forgave you."
"No," he said, his voice low and deep. "I had forsaken the very things she had raised me to believe in. I doubt she ever got over it."
Cassandra pulled at the silver chain around his neck until she held his necklace in her hand. Just as in the dream, it held Thor’s hammer and a small crucifix. "I don’t think you have forsaken everything. Why else do you wear this?"
Wulf looked at her fingers that cradled his mother’s cross and his uncle’s talisman. Ancient relics he had worn for so long that he barely remembered their presence.
They were the past and she was his future. The dichotomy reached deep inside him. "It’s to remind me that words spoken in anger can never be recalled."
"And yet you speak so often in anger."
He snorted. "Some faults can’t be broken."
"Perhaps." She rose up on her tiptoes and kissed him, intending it as a friendly gesture.
Wulf growled at the taste of her as he pulled her close and held her tightly against his chest so that he could feel every inch of her feminine body.
How he wanted her. Wanted to tear her clothes off her and sate the burning ache in his loins that he felt every time she looked at him. It felt so good to have a woman who knew him.
One who remembered his name and whatever he told her.
It was priceless to him.
Cassandra moaned deep in her throat at the sensation of his lips on hers. At his fangs gently grazing her lips, his tongue spiking against hers.
She felt his muscles flexing under her hand, felt the coiled steel of a body that was finely honed and ruggedly dangerous.
He was so overwhelming. So fierce and yet strangely tender. A part of her didn’t want to ever let go of him.
A part of her demanded that she do so.
Aching at the thought of it, she deepened their kiss, then pulled away reluctantly.
Wulf wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms again. He stared at her as his heart raced, his body burned. Why hadn’t he found her as a human man?
What would it have mattered? She would still be an Apollite and he another species.
Theirs was an impossible relationship and yet they were joined together by a conniving goddess. He was captivated by Cassandra’s spirit and passion. Her voice, her scent. Everything about her spoke to him.
Their relationship was damned from the beginning.
She’s going to die.
The words sliced through him. He’d been alone for so long, his heart bruised and bloodied by loss. And she was going to be another scar there. He knew it. He could feel it.
Wulf only hoped that this one would heal, but something told him it wouldn’t. Her presence would linger within him just as the rest had.
Her face would haunt him…
In that moment, he hated Artemis for her interference. Hated her for forcing him into this life and for giving him a woman he had no choice except to lose.
It wasn’t right.
And for what? Because Apollo had become angry and cursed his own people?
"Bloodlines are so fragile." He didn’t realize he’d spoken out loud until Cassandra nodded.
"It explains why you protect Chris the way you do."
She had no idea.
He led her down the steps that descended into his rooms. "I have to admit that I’m surprised Apollo hasn’t taken better care of his own. Especially considering how important it is."
"Like you, we started out as many and quickly dwindled down to me. Of course it didn’t help any that we’ve been hunted to extinction."
Wulf paused outside his locked door, which had a keypad on the wall next to it.
"Paranoid?" Cassandra asked.
He smiled slightly in wry amusement as he entered the code. "We have a lot of servants who work here during the daylight and they know nothing of me since they can’t remember my existence. This way, they don’t stumble into my room and scream out that they have an intruder while Chris is at school."
That made perfect sense to her. "What’s it like to be so anonymous?"
He opened the door and turned on a dim overhead light. "It’s like being invisible sometimes. What’s so strange to me is being able to see you and Kat again and not have to reintroduce myself to you."
"But Acheron and Talon remember you too."
"True. Dark-Hunters and Katagaria Were-Hunters can remember me, but I can’t be in the physical presence of other Dark-Hunters for long and the Were-Hunters get nervous and cranky whenever I come near them. They don’t like the idea of someone being around them who isn’t one of their own."
Cassandra looked about as he moved toward his bed. The room was huge. There was a computer station against one wall that reminded her of NASA, right down to the silver Alienware computer on the black contemporary desk.
But what startled her was the large black bed in the far right corner. It was exactly as it had been in her dream. The walls around them were a black marble so shiny that it reflected, but unlike her dreams, Wulf cast no reflection in them now. Nor were there any windows.
On the wall to her left were more portraits and a long, mahogany buffet stood below them. The top of the buffet was littered with hundreds of silver picture frames. A black leather sofa and recliner like the ones upstairs were set before it along with a big-screen TV.
Looking at the myriad of faces from the past, she thought of the woman upstairs in the portrait outside of what was now Kat’s room. Wulf had known a lot about her and it made her wonder how much he knew about every face on that wall and buffet. Faces of people who most likely had had little knowledge of him. "Did you have to reintroduce yourself constantly to Isabella?"
He closed and locked the door behind him. "With her it was a little easier. Since she was from a Squire’s family, she understood that I was the cursed Dark-Hunter so whenever she met me, she would smile and say, ‘You must be Wulf. Nice meeting you again.’ "
"So all their spouses know about you?"
"No, just the ones who are from the Squire families. You can’t exactly explain to the average human that there’s an immortal Viking living in the basement who they won’t remember seeing or speaking to. So the ones like Chris’s mother never know I exist."
She watched as he sat down and pulled off his boots. The man had exceptionally large feet…
"Chris’s mother isn’t a Squire?" she asked, trying to distract herself from the fact that those bare feet made her long to see more bare parts of him.
"No. His father met her while she was working at a local diner. He was so in love with her that I didn’t interfere."
"Why did they only have Chris?"
He sighed as he placed his boots under his desk. "She couldn’t carry children very easily. She had three miscarriages before his birth. Even Chris was born seven weeks premature. Once he was born, I told his father that I didn’t want either of them to go through another pregnancy."
She was surprised by that, given how important his lineage was to him. "Did you really?"
He nodded. "How could I ask them to keep doing that? It almost killed her to give birth and the miscarriages always broke her heart."
It was an admirable thing he’d done. She was glad to know he wasn’t truly the barbarian she had feared him to be earlier. "You’re a good man, Wulf. Most people wouldn’t have thought of someone else."
He snorted. "Chris would disagree with you."
"I think Chris would disagree with a signpost."
She was rewarded with a real laugh from him. It was deep and pleasing, and sent a raw shiver through her. She really loved the sound of his accented voice.
Oh, don’t go there…
She had to do something to keep her thoughts off how delectable he was.
"Well," she said, yawning, "I’m tired, barely pregnant, and really could use a good night’s sleep." She indicated the closed door behind her. "Bathroom?"
"Okay. I’m going to change and then go to sleep."
"There’s a new toothbrush in the medicine cabinet."
Cassandra left him to get ready for bed. Alone in the bathroom, she opened the cabinet and paused. Inside were all manner of medical supplies, including a scalpel and sutures. Wulf must not be able to go to a doctor any more than she could.
As she reached for the new toothbrush, she remembered the shots the Daimons had fired into him.
Her gaze went back to the supplies.
He must have had to tend his own injuries. Alone. He hadn’t even said a word about them. Nor had they existed in her dreams.
Then she thought of the way Stryker had healed when she stabbed him and wondered if Wulf’s body had the same regenerating ability.
"Poor Wulf," she breathed as she changed her clothes.
It was so strange to be here. With him in his domain. Not once had she spent the night with a man. The few guys she’d slept with had been momentary flings and she had left their places as soon as she could. There was no need to stay and have them become attached to each other.
But she was attached to Wulf. A lot more than she should be. Or was she? He was the father of her baby. Shouldn’t they have some degree of closeness?
It only seemed right.
She left the bathroom to find him sitting fully clothed, except for his bare feet, in the recliner in the sitting area.
"You can take the bed," he said. "I’ll take the sofa."
"You don’t have to, you know. It’s not like you can make me pregnant or anything."
He didn’t look amused by her words.
Cassandra closed the distance between them and took him by the hand. "C’mon, Big Guy. There’s no need for you to wedge that extremely tall body into a small couch when you have a perfectly good bed waiting for you."
"I’ve never gone to bed with a woman before."
She arched a brow at that.
"To sleep," he clarified. "I’ve never spent the night with one."
He shook his head.
Boy, they were a lot more alike than she would ever have imagined. "Well, you’re never too old for new experiences. Well, maybe you are, but in most cases that’s a true statement."
His scowl deepened to that familiar level. "Is everything a joke to you?"
"No," she said honestly as she led him toward the bed. "But humor is how I get through the horrors of my life. I mean, come on. It’s laugh or cry and crying just takes too much energy that I need to make it through the day, you know?"