"It’s good for you."
"Oh," she said, as if she were talking to a child. "You poor baby. I’m so sorry."
"No you’re not."
"Not true. I am sorry I don’t have anything a big he-man like you can stand."
Talon sat back and shook his head at her. He should have had Kyrian bring him a burger along with his clothes. Even so, he had thoroughly enjoyed the day with her.
Even if it did mean eating things that should be classified as toxic waste products.
Cringing, he reached for another cracker, more prepared this time for the disgusting taste of it. By sheer force of will, he downed six crackers with cheese, though they barely took the edge off his hunger.
Thank the gods he had his Pez. Grabbing Snoopy, he quickly popped three Pez cubes into his mouth to kill the taste.
"How can you eat that?" she asked. "It’s nothing but flavored sugar."
"Yes, but it’s good sugar."
She wrinkled her nose at him.
Talon gave her a wicked grin. "You know the best way to eat these, don’t you?"
She shook her head.
He pulled Snoopy’s head back and took the small square out with his fingers. He held it up to her lips. "Bite down gently on it and hold it between your teeth."
She hesitated, then obeyed.
For a full second, Talon watched her sitting there nak*d with the cube between her teeth. Then, he leaned forward and used his tongue to pry it loose.
Sunshine moaned at the taste of him combined with the sugar. Opening her mouth, she gave him a long, hot kiss. "Now, that was nice."
"Worth polluting your system for?"
"Umm-hmm," she breathed, running her fingertip along his jaw.
Once all the Pez were gone, she picked up the Snoopy dispenser and looked at it. "This seems so out of character for you, Mr. Tough Man. I find it hard to believe a guy who can fight off six criminals single-handedly would haul around a Peanuts Pez."
He brushed her black hair back from her shoulder and let his hand linger in the strands. "Actually, I collect the dispensers. This one is a vintage 1969 one."
She looked at it again. "Is it worth much?"
"A couple hundred dollars."
"Wow. And I almost fed it to the washing machine."
He laughed at that. "I’m glad you didn’t. Me and Snoopy go way back."
He took Snoopy from her hands and set it on the coffee table. When he turned back to face her, the gleam in his eye was one she’d become quite familiar with.
"Are you really sore?" he asked.
All things considered, she should be, but his touch was so gentle that she wasn’t. "I’m not. You?"
He leaned back on the floor and pulled her across him. Sunshine straddled him and moaned at how good his steely abs felt against her.
To her amazement, he was already hard again. "You don’t ever wear out, do you?"
He cupped her face in his hands and gave her a dark, serious stare. "It’s you, love. Definitely you. With anyone else, I would have been curled up and sleeping hours ago."
"You mean that?"
He led her hand to his swollen shaft. "What do you think?"
"I think I should have taken more vitamins this morning."
"And I’m thinking there are still several positions we haven’t tried."
Talon woke up in Sunshine’s bed just as the sun set. He smiled in sleepy pleasure as he smelled the scent of turpentine and patchouli on his skin.
She was still nestled in his arms, sound asleep. To his amazement, he felt his body starting to harden again.
After this afternoon, he should be sated for at least a day or two, if not for a full week.
For that matter, he shouldn’t be able to move.
Yet he wanted to take her again. Right now. He wanted to feel her arms and legs wrapped around him, holding him close as he lost himself to the sensation of her flesh sliding against his.
Only Nynia had ever made him feel like this. He had been completely insatiable with her. To look at her was to burn for her.
He’d never thought to find another woman so appealing. And yet all he wanted to do was spend the rest of the night inside Sunshine. To feel her breath against his neck as he buried himself in her moist heat over and over again.
But he couldn’t. He was supposed to meet Acheron at Jackson Square.
Not to mention that there were Daimons on the street ready to kill, and he had innocent people to protect.
Inwardly, he cringed at the sound of her sleepy voice. He’d hoped to make a quiet exit while she slept.
How he hated messy exits.
"Evening, love," he murmured, kissing her brow.
She smiled a smile that dazzled him. "Are you leaving?"
"Yeah, I have to go meet someone."
"Okay," she said.
She got up from the bed, and wrapped a sheet around herself. "It was really great meeting you, Talon. Thanks for a wonderful day."
She left him alone then.
Talon frowned. This was normally the part where his lovers begged him to stay, at least for a little while longer. Where they told him he was the best lover they had ever known and then cried at the thought of never having him again.
But Sunshine seemed completely fine with his leaving. She didn’t seem to be the tiniest bit sad.
What was this?
He scooted out of bed and left the room to find her in the kitchen, holding a rice cake between her teeth while she poured herself a cup of pink juice.
"Sunshine, are you okay?"
She took the rice cake out of her mouth and looked at him. "I’m fine."
Her face paled a degree. "Oh Lord, you’re not going to get possessive or weird on me now, are you? Please tell me you’re not one of those guys Trina told me about who gets a little sex from a woman and then thinks he owns her."
A little sex?
A little sex!
Talon was dumbstruck. He was used to leaving his lovers, but this had to be the easiest time he’d ever experienced, and he found it strangely disconcerting.
Especially given the way the two of them had carried on. This had been the best marathon of sex he’d ever had. She had met his passion and stamina in a way that was unbelievable.
Now she was fine with him just walking out the door?
"Are you sure you’re okay?" he asked again.
"Look, it’s cool, okay? I knew when I agreed to this that you wouldn’t be hanging around afterward. I’m not stupid, you know. I’m a big girl. You’re a really big guy and I’m sure you have a life to get back to." Panic drifted through her eyes. "Oh God, you’re not married, are you?"
"No, I’m not married."
She let out a relieved breath. "Then, no harm, no foul."
She crossed the short distance to her fridge to return the juice jug.
She paused to give him a peeved stare. "What, Talon? You’re not having separation anxiety, are you? Today was fun and it was worth it, but I’ve got to get back to work. I have a ton of stuff that I need to do tonight."
"Yeah, but…" He didn’t finish the sentence. He refused to.
He clamped his jaw shut. Fine, if she wanted him gone, he was gone.
He shouldn’t have spent the day with her anyway.
This close to Mardi Gras, he couldn’t afford any distractions. Never mind one that came in the form of a dark-haired temptress.
"Nothing," he said.
She looked relieved. "Since you have to meet someone, you go ahead and shower and I’ll make us some dinner."
Talon took her up on the shower, but when he was finished, he declined eating her tofu salad and soy steaks.
"Thanks again, Sunshine," he said as he shrugged his leather jacket on over his T-shirt. "I had a really good day."
"Me too," she said with a smile while she nibbled her salad and flipped through an art magazine.
He still couldn’t believe how well she was taking his leaving her. Damn.
A part of him continued to expect her to at least beg him to call her.
Ask for his e-mail.
But she didn’t.
Man, how he hated the twenty-first century.
She looked up as he headed for the door. "You take care of yourself, Talon. And in the future, please try and stay out of the way of runaway Mardi Gras floats, okay?"
Talon lifted both brows in stunned shock. "Excuse me?"
"Don’t you remember last night when you got mowed down?"
Talon nodded hesitantly, unable to believe that that was what had slammed into him. "I was hit by a Mardi Gras float?"
"Yeah, it was Bacchus."
Now that was adding insult to injury. Jeez. He only hoped Nick didn’t find out about it. Ever.
Nicholas Ambrosius Gautier had come into this world with not a lot of prospects. Born the bastard son of a career felon and a teenage Bourbon Street stripper, he wasn’t exactly the most law-abiding of folks. In fact, his junior high guidance counselor had once voted him Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty.
But one night when Nick had made a stand against the gang he ran with, fate had changed his life and sent in a Dark-Hunter guardian angel who had taken a smart-mouthed kid, cleaned him up, and given him a real future.
Now, nine years later, he was a pre-law student, and instead of playing penal roulette like his father, he was almost a respectable citizen. Almost being the operative word.
All thanks to Kyrian of Thrace and Acheron Parthenopaeus.
There was nothing he wouldn’t do for them and that was why he was sitting in his car, parked in a vacant field just after sunset, instead of being off with his latest girlfriend, putting a really big smile on her face.
Even with the car running, it was cold out here. That damp, frigid cold that could go deep into the bones and make them ache. His thermos of coffee all gone, Nick just wanted to get back home and thaw out.
Instead, he was waiting for Talon’s Mardi Gras reinforcement to be delivered, because Zarek, having spent the last nine hundred years in Alaska, had no idea how to drive a car. Apparently, cars weren’t the transportation of choice for snowbound Dark-Hunters.
Yee-freakin’-haw. This was one event he could have waited his lifetime for.
"Nick, you there?"
"Yeah," he said into the portable radio he had in the passenger seat of his Jaguar that kept him in touch with the incoming helicopter. "What’s your ETA?"
"About two minutes," Mike said.
Nick started scanning the dark sky for the black H-53E Sea Dragon Sikorsky helicopter. It was a long-range, custom-built military-class chopper that the Squires often used to transport Dark-Hunters. The helicopter was fast and versatile, and could be refueled while in flight.
Its back section was equipped with a steel passenger area that kept sunlight from touching the Dark-Hunters. The windows in the passenger compartment could be lightened with a flip of the switch to allow a Dark-Hunter to see outside after dark should he desire it.
A few Dark-Hunters such as Acheron owned their own helicopters and flew them when needed.
Tonight, though, Mike Callahan, who was a Dorean Squire (meaning he didn’t have a particular Dark-Hunter he served) was bringing in Zarek from Alaska.
Nick had heard a lot of rumors through the on-line Squire bulletin boards about Zarek of Moesia being psychotic. He wasn’t sure how accurate that information was, but in a few minutes he’d find out firsthand.
"Hey, Mike," he said, radioing the pilot. "How bad is he?"
Mike snorted. "Let me put it to you this way. If you have a gun, unload it."
"Because if you don’t, you’re going to shoot this ass**le which will only piss him off more. For once, I actually pity the Daimons."
That didn’t sound encouraging.
"What? He’s worse than Acheron?"
"Nick, take my word for it. You ain’t never seen anything like this one. I now know why Artemis and Ash locked him in Alaska. What I can’t figure out is why on earth Artemis wanted him moved into a large population. My opinion, it’s like tossing a grenade on a gas station."
Oh yeah, his gut was knotted now.
Nick waited as the helicopter landed on the private airstrip Acheron used when he visited. At one end of the field stood a building that appeared to be a dilapidated barn. In actuality, it was a modified modern hangar equipped with an alarm system and doors so thick it could double as a bomb shelter. That barn currently housed the twenty-eight-million-dollar MH-60K Sikorsky helicopter that Acheron used to transport himself and his custom-built Buell motorcycle.
Ash had arrived in style the day before.
Yup, Mardi Gras was starting to look scary.
Nick got out of the car and locked his radio in the trunk, then stood to the side of the field until Mike cut the motor and the blades stopped spinning.
When everything quit moving, the lean, middle-aged Squire got out of the helicopter and removed his helmet. Mike had never been overly friendly, but tonight he looked thoroughly disgusted and extremely irritable.
"I don’t envy you this," Mike said as he tossed his helmet back into his seat.