"Me and Julian."
Talon cringed again. An ex-Dark-Hunter and an Oracle. Great. Just great. They would never let him live this down and by nightfall one of them would be guaranteed to post this on the Dark-Hunter.com Web site for everyone to laugh about.
"All right," Talon said, tamping down his ire. "See you in a little while."
"You know," Sunshine said as soon as he hung up. "I could just go buy you some clothes. I do owe you."
Talon glanced around the loft. It looked as if a bottle of Pepto-Bismol had exploded, or the Cat in the Hat had come for a visit. There was pink everywhere. But what struck him most was the dilapidated condition of her furniture and her piecemeal decorations. Definitely a starving artist, the last thing this woman could afford was a pair of two-thousand-dollar pants, and the earth would stand still and shatter before Talon ever put denim on his body.
"It’s all right," he told her. "My friends will take care of it."
She brought him a plate of muffins and what appeared to be grass. "What’s this?"
"Breakfast… or lunch." When he didn’t take it, she added, "You need to eat. It’s good for you. It’s a cranberry bran muffin with flaxseed and alfalfa sprouts."
There was nothing on that plate that came close to resembling food. Especially to a man who was born and bred to be a Celtic chieftain.
Okay, Talon, you can cope with this. "Do you have any coffee?"
"Ew! No, that stuff will kill you. I have herbal teas, though."
"Herbal teas? That’s mulch, not a beverage."
"Oooo, Mr. Picky woke up on the wrong side of the bed."
No human had ever been so flippant with him. Even Nick knew better. Feeling totally out of his element, Talon gave up.
"Fine. Where’s your bathroom?"
Then right behind that came the thought, Please tell me you have one inside this loft and not out back in a parking lot.
She pointed to a dark corner of the loft. "Right there."
It was another area sectioned off by a hanging curtain. How wonderful was this?
And he’d mistakenly thought the Middle Ages were over.
Oh, what fond memories… not.
Talon walked over to it and had just pulled the curtain closed and dropped the blanket to the floor when Sunshine joined him. She held a pink towel and washcloth in her hands and stopped dead in her tracks when she caught sight of him standing there nak*d.
She put the towel on the sink and moved around him, looking him up and down. "You are just simply male perfection, you know that?"
He would have felt flattered had she not looked like someone sizing up a car. It wasn’t desire for him that made her say that. Her tone was detached, the way her mother’s had been.
She ran her warm, smooth hand down his back, over his tattoo. "Whoever gave you this tattoo was a very talented artist."
Chills spread over him as her hand glided down his spine to his hip. "My uncle did it," he said before he could stop himself. He hadn’t spoken of his uncle with anyone in centuries.
"Really? Wow." She slid her hand up across his shoulders to the Dark-Hunter bow-and-arrow brand on his right shoulder blade. "Where did this come from?"
Talon shrugged her touch away. That was one mark he would never talk about to an uninitiated human. "It’s nothing."
It was then her gaze fell to his erection. Her face turned as pink as the towel. "Sorry," she said quickly. "I tend to not think before I act."
"I noticed." But what made it so bad was that she continued to stare at his erection. She had yet to look anywhere else.
"You really are a big man."
For the first time in over a thousand years, he felt his cheeks warm. Grabbing the towel, Talon covered himself.
Only then did she look away. "Here, let me get you a razor." She dropped to her knees, giving him a nice view of her bottom as she rummaged around in a makeshift pink wicker cabinet next to the pedestal sink. Her h*ps moved provocatively as she searched, only adding to his desire.
He clenched his teeth. That woman had the sexiest bottom he’d ever seen. One that made his groin burn even more as he thought about lifting that gauzy skirt and burying himself deep inside her. Of sliding himself in and out of her moist heat until they were both sweaty and spent.
Oh yeah, she was definitely a woman who could satisfy a man. He’d always been partial to women with lush curves and…
She emerged with a pink razor and toothbrush.
Talon curled his lip at the thought of using such girly items. "Do you own anything not pink?"
"I have a purple razor if you’d rather."
She pulled out a darker pink one.
"That’s not purple," Talon said. "It’s pink too."
She rolled her eyes at him. "Well, that’s all I have unless you want my X-Acto blade."
Extremely tempted, he took the razor from her.
Sunshine didn’t move until he got into the claw-footed tub and pulled the shower curtain closed. Only then did she allow herself to bite her knuckles at the luscious view of his nak*d backside. She was definitely going to have to sketch him.
That man was hot. Burning. And every time he spoke with that wildly exotic accent of his, she melted. It sounded like some unique combination of English and Scottish.
Fanning her face, she forced herself to leave the bathroom and head back to her kitchen. But what she really wanted to do was peel her clothes off, climb into the shower behind him, and lather that lush, tall, lean body of his until he begged her for mercy.
The feel of all that supple, hard skin under her hands… Heaven. Pure heaven.
And he hadn’t even gotten mad about his pants! She still couldn’t believe how well he took it all. Normally, guys would be shouting at her by now and she’d be giving them the heave-ho out the door.
But he had merely shrugged it off. Oooo, she liked that.
Now that she thought about it, he really didn’t have a whole range of emotions that he showed. He was patience incarnate, which was a very nice change of pace.
"Hey, Steve?" she called.
"My name isn’t Steve," he said from the shower. "It’s Talon."
She smiled. Talon. It suited him.
"What did you want?" he called.
"What?" she asked.
"You called me like you had a question. What do you need?"
Sunshine bit her lip as she tried to remember. Oops. "I forgot."
She actually heard him laugh. Wow. That was a first. By now most guys would be flaming mad at her.
Sunshine spent the next five minutes trying to find her sketchbook, which she had somehow placed in the refrigerator. Again. She took a seat at her breakfast counter and started sketching her newest find.
She took her time drawing the well-sculpted planes of his face, the intricate tattoo on his body. She’d never seen any man with proportions more perfect. And before she knew it, she was lost in those lines. Lost in her mind as she let her creativity flow and reproduce the things she found so incredibly fascinating about the man in her shower.
Before she realized how much time had passed, he turned the shower off and came out from behind the curtain with a damp towel draped around his lean hips.
Sunshine once again felt the urge to bite her hand in appreciation. With the exception of the two thin braids that swung with his movements, his golden-blond hair was slicked back and his jet-black eyes flashed with intelligence and arcane power. She’d never seen eyes so dark, especially on a blond man.
He had such a powerful presence that it made her breathless just to look at him. It was as if the very air around him were rife with energy and strength, and she wished most of all that she could capture that with her art.
But no one would ever be able to duplicate or create an aura so intense. It was something that could only be experienced in the flesh.
With every step he took closer to her, her heart pounded harder. The man was so overwhelmingly masculine. So very choice.
His intensity, his raw animal magnetism… set fire to her blood.
He’d been handsome last night in her bed, but upright and conscious, he was totally devastating.
"You know, Talon," she said, tracing the lines of his perfect muscles with her gaze. "Towels look really good on you. You go outside like that and you’ll start a whole new fashion craze."
An amused smile hovered at the edges of his lips. "Do you always say everything that comes to your mind?"
"Mostly. I do have some thoughts I keep to myself. I used to not care and would say anything at all, but then one time my college roommate called the psycho unit on me. You know, they really do have white coats."
Talon arched a brow at the sincerity he sensed from her. That was a true story. The woman was eccentric, no doubt, but far from a crackpot.
Well, maybe not that far.
She reached over to his untouched "breakfast" and picked up the so-called muffin that had shiny little particles in it he couldn’t even begin to identify. "You still haven’t eaten your muffin."
Yeah, right. He still hadn’t eaten his boots either, and he’d rather feast on one of them than that thing in her hand.
"I’m not hungry."
At least not for food.
She dropped the muffin to the counter and he swore it thunked. Her brow furrowing, she reached out and touched his tore. Her fingers brushed against the skin of his neck, raising chills and other things on his body.
"This is so beautiful. I’ve always wanted a tore, but never could find one that seemed like me." She ran her thumb over the right dragon head. "Are you from Scotland?"
"Not exactly," he said, watching the way she studied the piece, which had been a gift from his aunt on his wedding day. Both he and Nynia had received matching tores from her. He didn’t know why he still wore it, other than the fact that taking it off would cause him more pain than he was willing to deal with. In some odd way, removing the tore would be like losing Nynia all over again.
Against his will, his mind drifted back to the moment when Nynia had placed the tore around his neck. Her smile had been blinding and her face filled with love as she kissed him on his lips.
Gods, how he missed her. Even after all these centuries.
There were times when he swore he could still smell the warmth of her hair. Feel her touch. It was like the ghost itch of a missing limb that, even years later, you swore you could still feel.
There was something about Sunshine that reminded him of his wife. And it wasn’t just the fact that both women possessed the ability to drive him crazy.
Sunshine was strangely fascinating. Much like him, she saw things on another level, things that were hidden from this plane of existence.
Her mind flashed from one thing to another like bursts of lightning, which was as intriguing as it was confusing. Nynia was the only other person he’d ever met with that trait.
As a mortal man, he had often been confounded by Nynia’s unique logic.
"You know," Sunshine said, "you say ‘not exactly’ a lot. You’re not exactly a vampire. You’re not exactly from Scotland, and you’re allergic to daylight. What else?"
"I hate bran muffins and grass."
She laughed at that, a rich, throaty sound that warmed him. He watched in fascination as she used a stained rag to clean the charcoal from her long, elegant fingers. "So how long until your friends get here?"
"A couple of hours, no doubt. I live way outside of town."
Sunshine looked down at the towel around his hips. If she kept him here like that, there was no telling what might happen.
Actually there was, which meant she really needed to get some clothes on him… fast.
He took a deep breath, the gesture accentuating the muscled indentations of his hard, defined abs.
Oh yeah, she needed to cover up that temptation.
"I tell you what, Mr. Talon No-Last-Name. Why don’t I go out and get you something to put on until your friends get here?"
Because I don’t want you to leave. Talon blinked at the bizarre, uncharacteristic thought.
Where had that come from?
There was something compelling about this woman. Something strong and at the same time vulnerable. He felt in her a need to make amends for what she’d done to him. Why, he couldn’t imagine. Especially since she had saved his life.
Had she left him out on the street, he would be dead now. A fried stain on the sidewalk.
"You don’t have to, you know."
"I know. But I insist. It’s the least I could do since I destroyed your pants."
As he looked at her kind, compelling face, which was framed by straight, jet-black hair, he became fascinated by the way her lips curved. The way they held a hint of a smile even while she was relaxed. Sunshine was more than just her name, it was also her attitude. Happy, warm.
She was totally irresistible and he wanted a taste of her so badly that he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t already sampled her.
He needed to taste her. To feel her.
Sunshine watched while Talon studied her lips. There was enough heat in his obsidian gaze to set fire to a glacier. He had yet to touch her and still she swore she could feel him surrounding her with heat, with need.