He shouldn’t feel anything for her and yet there was no denying the raw emotions he felt every time she met his gaze.
"Are you okay?" he asked, shrugging off his jacket and holding it up for her.
She nodded as she allowed him to help her into his jacket. "Did you hear what happened? Some guy went nuts in the alley where I park my car and killed two men. Then, he attacked the police. It’s terrible!"
Before he could think, Talon pulled her into his arms and held her close. She was shaking and cold, but she still felt so wonderful that he didn’t want to let go of her. "I’m glad you weren’t hurt."
The man who’d been talking to the police officer looked at them with a stern scowl. "You know, bud, I don’t know you from Adam, but that’s my baby sister you’re hanging on to. So I’m thinking the wisest course of action for you is to let her go and introduce yourself. Pronto."
Talon bit back a smile. He knew exactly what the man meant. Some things were very sacred and little sisters were one of them.
Reluctantly, he withdrew from her.
Sunshine punched her brother gently on his arm. "Talon, this is my brother Rain. Rain, meet Talon."
Her brother snorted. "God, with a name like Talon your parents must have been holdover hippies too."
"Something like that."
"That’s his pet phrase," Sunshine told her brother. "That and not exactly."
Rain sized him up, then offered him his hand. "Nice meeting you, Talon. I better get back to work. Sunny, yell if you need one of us."
The implied threat wasn’t lost on Talon, who bit back a smile. If the man only knew how much power a Dark-Hunter wielded…
"Us?" Talon repeated.
Her brother indicated two men over Talon’s shoulder who were also talking to the police. The older man was a Native American whose shamanic powers were easily discernible, and her other brother was almost a facial clone of Sunshine. "Our father and older brother, Storm, work in the club too."
Talon gave a tight-lipped smile as he turned back to face Rain. "Storm, Rain, and Sunshine, huh?"
She grimaced. "My mother’s doing. I’m just glad she stopped at three. I was told the next one would have been named Cloudy Day."
He laughed at that. Gods, how he’d missed her. All he wanted to do right now was take her into his arms and run her up to her bed and inspect every inch of her to make sure she was unhurt.
Yeah, okay, so he had another, less pure, motive for that thought too. But still he felt an insane need to prove to himself that no one had touched her.
That she was completely whole and safe.
He darted his gaze all over her body, assuring himself that she was fine. His concern for her was so unlike anything he’d experienced in such a long time that he wasn’t really sure how to cope with it.
Rain excused himself and drifted back into the club, leaving them alone.
An awkwardness fell between them as he tried to think of something to say to her.
Finally, she cleared her throat. "I didn’t think I’d see you again."
He didn’t know what to respond to that, especially since that had been his intention. "I… um…"
"Oh, you want Snoopy back."
"No," he said quickly. "I came back for you."
A slow, seductive smile spread over her face. "Really?" she asked.
"Yeah. I heard about the attack and was worried," he said before he could stop himself.
"Really?" she repeated.
Smiling wider, she walked herself into his arms. "That was very sweet of you."
Not really, Talon thought as he held her and inhaled her warm patchouli scent. But he had to admit she felt good in his arms. Her br**sts were flattened against him and all he could think about was how delicious they had tasted, how soft and good they had felt in his hands.
He groaned inwardly at the thought.
Walk away from her…
I have to protect her.
He was sworn to protect humans. Especially those the Daimons would prey upon. It was his duty to keep her with him. To watch over her.
Hey, how stupid do you think I am, Talon? This is yourself you’re talking to and all the lies in the world aren’t going to convince me that you have a moral or noble reason for this. You want in her bed again. Admit it.
Oh, come on, I can control myself for a few days. She has to be protected and who else could do it?
Zarek was out of the question. He’d end up feeding off her and Talon would kill him if the psycho dared to touch her. Valerius would sooner die than watch over a "plebeian." Nick would make a move on her, and he’d have to kill the horny toad. Kyrian had a new baby and was too exhausted to think, and Acheron…
He had too many responsibilities pulling at him to worry about baby-sitting.
That left him and him alone.
"You know, Sunshine, I don’t think you should stay in your loft alone."
She stepped away from him. "Believe me, I’m not. I’m going home with Storm tonight."
Talon paused. That wasn’t an option either. Her brother was a big man, but no match for a Daimon.
"I don’t know, Sunshine. I’m thinking…" Well, he couldn’t really say what he was thinking, especially the part that bordered on salaciousness.
But then he didn’t have to. She smiled a wicked smile. "You know, if you want me to go home with you, all you have to do is ask."
"I didn’t think it would be that easy."
She rose up on her tiptoes and gave him a devilish look. "For anyone other than you, it wouldn’t be."
Those words made his heart soar. He really liked this woman. She was bold, quirky, and sassy.
Sunshine took his hand and led him into, and through, the club to a door in the far right rear corner. It opened into the back hallway that Talon recognized from earlier in the evening. On the right was the door to the outside where her car was parked and on the left was the steel staircase that led up to her loft. She headed for the stairs.
Sunshine held tight to Talon’s hand as she mentally castigated herself. She probably shouldn’t be doing this, especially since two murders had been committed tonight. But instinctively she knew Talon would never hurt her.
He’d saved her life and he’d done nothing even remotely harmful to her.
Besides, she liked being with him. She could take her art supplies with her and get back on schedule tomorrow.
Tonight, she just wanted a few more minutes with him. One more evening to bask in his warmth before she went back to the rigors of her life.
It had been so considerate of him to offer her his jacket. His warmth and scent clung to it, making her want to snuggle in deep.
She entered her loft, gave him back his jacket, and left him by her white and pink striped couch while she went to pack an overnight bag. In all honesty, she’d rather stay with him than Storm anyway.
Not to mention that the last time she had gone to her brother’s place, she’d had to spend two hours cleaning it before she was able to touch anything in the apartment without cringing. He was an absolute pig and he didn’t care about making her feel welcome. Rather, he treated her as a live-in servant who should be happy to do for ole big brother.
And ole big brother stunk. Not literally, but in the figurative sense.
She grabbed a change of clothes, shoes, and hair ties and shoved them into her wicker tote bag along with her toothbrush and moisturizer-a woman always needed her moisturizer-then she rejoined Talon.
He stood at the rear of the loft, near the windows, looking through the landscape paintings she’d done of Jackson Square. Her breath caught in her throat.
What was it about this man that was so powerful? His wavy blond hair fell around his face while his two thin braids hung down to his shoulder. His black leather pants cupped a butt so fine that it should be stamped with Grade A Prime on each cheek. And his back… Even with his jacket on, she knew how perfect and well sculpted it was.
She stared at his large, tawny hands that held her work. They were so strong and at the same time tender. She loved the way they had felt on her body, the way his fingers had tasted when she nibbled them.
The man was simply scrumptious from the top of his blond head to the bottom of his black biker boots.
He turned slightly as she joined him. "I like the way you painted the sun coming in over the cathedral. I can almost feel the sun when I look at it."
His compliment warmed her. An artist never heard enough compliments on her work. "Thank you. My favorite is the sunset over it. I love to watch the light fading around the buildings. When it hits some of the signs and glass, it makes them glow and sparkle like fire."
He reached out and cupped her face in his warm palm. "You have such an incredible way of capturing things."
She bit her lip and gave him an impish smile. "Yes, I do." And little did he know it, but she fully intended to capture him as well. At least for a little while.
He was like some wild, untamed creature that you could keep and feed for a time, but in the end you knew you’d have to let it go for its own sake as well as yours.
"So, tell me, where do you live?" she asked.
He cleared his throat and dropped his hand from her cheek.
The uncomfortable look on his face made her stomach sink. "Oh Lord, you do have your own place, don’t you? You don’t happen to live with your mom or some creepy old aunt?"
He looked offended by that. "Of course I have my own place. It’s just…" His voice trailed off and he looked away.
Oh sheez, here it comes… "You have a live-in girlfriend?"
Ugh! It was even worse than she thought. "Live-in boyfriend?"
He gaped at her while his midnight eyes flashed with indignation. "Jeez, Sunshine, what do you think I am?"
"I don’t know, Talon. I asked a simple question and you got all weird on me. What am I supposed to think?" She swept her gaze down the expensive biker’s outfit he wore. The man had a body to beat the band and was too bodacious to be real. That tended to make a woman go, hmmm…
"And you do wear a lot of leather."
"What’s that supposed to mean?"
She gave him a duh stare. "I am an artist, you know. I tend to hang out with an awful lot of homosexual and bisexual guys."
If he had looked offended before, it was nothing compared to the look on his face now. "Now there’s a stereotype I hadn’t even considered. Thank you very much. For your information, I happen to like leather since it tends to protect my hide on the occasions when I wreck my motorcycle and go skidding down asphalt."
"Well, that’s true too. So why did you get all weird on me when I asked you where you live?"
"Because I figured if I told you where I lived, you’d get all weird on me."
She hesitated as a million scary locations came to her mind. He lived in a cemetery or crypt. A run-down shack. A cardboard box. A dock house. A broken-down camper or bus. Good Lord, in this city there was no telling where he might make his home. "Okay, you live somewhere freaky, don’t you?"
"I live out in the bayou."
Relieved, she scoffed at his evasiveness over something so silly. "Oh please, I know several people who live out by the bayou."
"Not by the bayou, Sunshine. I live in the bayou."
Was he serious? Who in their right mind lived in the bayou with the snakes and gators and other things she didn’t want to even think about? Things that carried guns and did lots of illegal activities like feeding murdered bodies to gators.
"You live in the bayou?"
He nodded. "It’s really peaceful out there. No modern sounds to intrude on you. No neighbors. No traffic. You can almost feel like you’re living centuries ago."
There was a wistful look to him as he said that. "That means a lot to you, doesn’t it?"
"Yes. It does."
She smiled. Yeah, she could see Talon out in the bayou all alone. He reminded her a lot of her father, who loved to spend hours outside just soaking up nature. They both shared that quiet kind of peace-with-the-universe attitude.
"How long have you lived there?"
He avoided looking at her. "A really long time."
As they started for the door, she dropped her wicker tote and retrieved her Studiopack French Easel Backpack from the corner. She always kept it well stocked in case she decided on a whim to go some place else and paint.
"What is that?" he asked.
She winked at him. "An artist on the go, that’s me. I never go anywhere without supplies."
He smiled as he took the backpack from her. "So, you’re still feeling adventurous, huh?"
"Always. Just bring the gator-be-gone spray and I’m all yours."
Talon stared at her as he felt another stupid urge to grin. His face was starting to ache from the effort it took to not expose his fangs to her. She was extremely funny and amusing.
If not, to an extent, insulting.
He was still chafing over her assumptions about his clothes. The things this woman got into her head…
But he liked that about her. She didn’t play games with him, but spoke whatever thought, no matter how outrageous, was on her mind.
Sunshine locked the door, got halfway down the stairs, then stopped. "Oh man, I forgot my overnight bag." She made a disgusted sound before sprinting up the stairs and rushing back inside her loft.