Taking his vacated seat, Amanda looked up at the ceiling and laughed nervously. All she’d ever wanted in her life was normality. Now she had a vampire lover and a Dream-Hunter, whatever that was, poofing in and out of her sister’s house while yet another vampire was trying to kill her.
Life was nothing if not ironic.
She turned her head to watch Kyrian. His breathing was easier than it had been before and the stern frown had faded from his features. The marks on his body were horrendous, but even they appeared to have faded out some.
Just what had Desiderius done to him?
Kyrian came awake to the moonlight streaming through the open windows. At first, he couldn’t remember where he was, until he tried to move and pain sliced through him.
Clenching his teeth, he sat up slowly and found Esmeralda standing with a huge cross in front of her and a garlic necklace around her neck.
"You stay right there, buster. And don’t try any of that mind-meld stuff."
In spite of himself, Kyrian laughed. "You know, crosses don’t work on us and neither does garlic."
"Yeah, right," she said, inching closer to him. "Would you still say it if I touched you with it?"
When she came close enough, Kyrian grabbed the cross out of her hand. "Ow, ow, ow!" he feigned, then he held it to his chest. "Really," he said seriously, handing it back to her. "It has no effect. As for the garlic, well, it’s garlic and it stinks, but if it doesn’t bother you, I can live with it."
Esmeralda pulled the necklace off. "So what is your vulnerability?"
"Like I’m going to tell you."
She cocked her head. "Mandy was right, you are infuriating."
"You should have talked to my father before I ate him."
Esmeralda paled and took two steps back.
"He’s teasing you, Es. He never ate his father."
Kyrian turned to see Amanda standing in the doorway behind him. "Are you sure about that?"
She smiled. "Very much so, and you must be feeling better to taunt us." Amanda came forward and checked the bandages on his arms. "Good Lord, they’re practically healed."
He nodded as he reached for one of the shirts Nick had dropped off that afternoon while he slept, and put it on. "Thanks to D’Alerian. After another few hours, they’ll be gone completely."
Amanda watched as he slid off the couch. Only the slowness of his movements betrayed the fact he was still recovering. "Should you be up?"
"I need to move, it’ll help with the stiffness." As he walked past her, he mumbled under his breath, "Some of it anyway."
She helped him into the kitchen. "Essie, is there any spaghetti left?"
"He eats spaghetti?"
Amanda looked up at him. "Do you?"
He cast a menacing glare at Esmeralda. "It’s not as good as sucking the necks of Italians, but it’s not bad."
Amanda laughed at the horrified look on her sister’s face. "You better leave her alone or she might stake you while you sleep."
He took a seat at the kitchen table and cast a hot, longing stare at her body. "Personally, I’d rather stake you while we’re awake."
She smiled at his double entendre as she fixed a plate of spaghetti. "I’m so glad to have you teasing me again. I was terrified I’d lost you this morning when we found you."
"She’s fine. They’re sending her home even as we speak."
"Good." By his expression she could tell he was deeply troubled.
"What is it?" she asked as she set the microwave timer.
"Desiderius is out there and he will kill again. I can’t just lie down and-"
Amanda stopped his words by placing her hand over his lips. "If you get yourself killed, what good would it do anyone?"
"It would help Nick since he would inherit all my property."
"You’re not funny."
"You say that to me a lot."
She smiled tenuously. "Before you go after Desiderius again, we need to think this through. Right now, he believes you’re dead, so we have one shot at surprising him."
"I’m not going to let you fight him alone again. He threatens me and mine and I’m through sitting on the sidelines waiting for him to strike."
Kyrian reached up and cupped her face. "I don’t want you hurt."
"Then teach me what I need to know to help you kick his butt."
He smiled at that. "I haven’t fought with anyone else in over two thousand years."
"Well, you’re never too old to learn."
He snorted. "You can’t teach an old dog new tricks."
"There’s no time like the present."
"Time is of the essence."
"God helps those who help themselves."
He laughed. "You’re not going to let me win this, are you?"
"Nope. Now let me get you fed, then I’ll show you the research I did while you were sleeping."
Kyrian watched as she dribbled cheese over his spaghetti. He’d never in his life come across a woman like her.
After Desiderius had left and he’d been waiting to die, he had spent the last moments with his eyes closed, remembering the way she looked in his bed. The way she felt in his arms.
It had given him more comfort than he had a right to ask for.
What if you fail again to kill Desiderius?
The idea horrified him. Amanda would be alone. He closed his eyes and thought of her lying in the hospital like Tabitha. Or worse.
No, Amanda was right, he needed to teach her to protect herself.
Desiderius was too dangerous. Too crafty. Worse, the bastard had delivered on his promise. He knew exactly where to hit.
He looked up at Amanda.
She brought the plate of spaghetti and salad over to him and set it on the table, then placed her hand against his brow. "Don’t think about it."
"Think about what?"
"Desiderius. You were thinking so hard, I swear I could hear your thoughts."
Esmeralda stuck her head in the kitchen. "I’m headed out to deliver Cara’s baby. Are you sure you’re all right alone with him?"
"I’m fine, Essie. Go, shoo, begone."
"All right, but I’ll call later."
Amanda growled at her sister and looked at Kyrian. "Have you ever tried to live with nine mothers?"
"No, I can’t say that I have."
After he had finished eating and called Nick, Amanda took him upstairs to bathe.
Kyrian stood completely still as she unbuttoned his shirt and removed it, then she undid his pants. He hardened as her fingers brushed against him. "You know, I haven’t had an actual bath in decades. I always shower."
"Well, this will be more fun-I promise." Rising up on her toes, she kissed him lightly on the lips.
Kyrian followed her lead as she placed him in the tub. The hot water felt wonderful against his skin as she lathered a washcloth. He traced the line of her jaw with his fingers.
Amanda removed her clothes, then joined him in the tub.
Kyrian wrapped her in his arms, but as she moved against him, old memories assailed him.
All of a sudden, he was in his old home and he could feel Theone against him. See her cold face.
Amanda felt him stiffen. "Did I hurt you?"
"Let me up," he said, pushing her away.
Something was wrong with him. Something bad. "Kyrian?"
He wouldn’t meet her eyes and suddenly she understood what D’Alerian had meant earlier.
Determined to rid Kyrian of his demons, she grabbed his face in her hands and forced him to look at her. "Kyrian, I am not Theone and I will never betray you."
"Look at me!" she insisted. "Look into my eyes."
"I fed you, I didn’t drug you. I would never hurt you. Never."
She moved higher up on his stomach, her body sliding against his. "Love me, Kyrian," she said, placing his hand on her breast. "Let me erase those memories."
He didn’t know if it were possible, but as he felt her bare, wet skin against his, her hot breath on his neck, he realized he didn’t want to push her away. He had been so long without a woman’s comfort. So long without a caring touch.
She slid herself against him, banishing his thoughts. "Trust me, Kyrian," she whispered in his ear an instant before she swirled her tongue around the sensitive flesh of his earlobe.
Fire shot through him. "Amanda," he breathed, her name a prayer for salvation on his bruised lips.
He had tried so hard to let go of his past, tried so hard to banish it, and yet it was always there just under the surface waiting to stab him when he least expected it.
But not now. Not with her in his arms.
Amanda saw the veil in his eyes fall. For the first time, she saw the soul of the man who had no soul. Better still, she saw the heat and the yearning. The need he had for her.
Smiling, she gently kissed his lips, careful not to hurt him any more.
To her surprise, he deepened the kiss and slid his arms around her. He buried his hand in her hair and held her so tight against him that it stole her breath. His tongue stroked hers with a hunger that fired her own.
Amanda reached down between them and took him into her hand, then led him slowly, inch by wonderful inch, into her.
She rode him slow and easy, careful of his injuries.
Kyrian leaned his head back and watched the satisfied look on her face as she stroked his body with hers. Reaching out, he cupped her chin in his hand. "You are so much more than I deserve."
Amanda took his lips with hers and kissed him hard, tugging at his lips with her teeth. Goodness, but the man could kiss. Her tongue grazed his fangs as she quickened her strokes. His moan reverberated through her.
He cradled her head with his hands as he deepened his kiss. Overwhelmed by her emotions, she came fiercely in his arms. He kissed her even harder.
"That’s it, Amanda," he whispered, taking her breast into his hand and gently squeezing it. "Come for both of us."
Amanda opened her eyes and saw the raw hunger in the midnight depths. "This is so unfair to you."
He smiled. "I truly don’t mind. Just being inside you is enough."
Not believing it for a minute, Amanda helped him from the tub and toweled him off. She tucked him into the bed in the guest room, then carefully sealed the windows to make sure no daylight would leak through in the morning.
She watched as Kyrian slept, his ravaged body healing so fast she could almost see it.
If only she could heal his damaged heart as easily.
Damn his wife for her cruelty.
She heard a knock on the door downstairs.
With one last look at her guest, she crept to the hallway and went downstairs to open the door and found Nick standing on the porch with a small suitcase.
"I thought he’d need some more clothes and a few other things."
Amanda smiled at his thoughtfulness and let him into the house. "Thanks. I’m sure Kyrian will appreciate it."
Nick set the suitcase by the couch. "Where is he?"
"Upstairs, sleeping, I hope."
"Listen," Nick said sternly. "Talon’s dogging Tabitha on the way back to your mother’s to make sure she’s okay and I have a couple more Squires looking after Esmeralda and the rest of your family. Now that Desiderius thinks Kyrian is dead, there’s no telling what he might do, or which one of you he might go after. Tell everyone in your family to watch their backs."
Kyrian listened to them as he lay in bed. He could hear the fear in Amanda’s voice. The anxiety. And he knew one way to dispel it.
If Desiderius knew he was still alive, he would wait to go after Amanda’s sisters. Kyrian was the prime target to the Daimon; they were merely bonuses.
Slowly, painfully, he rolled out of bed and dressed.
"Kyrian, I hate to disturb you-" Amanda broke off as she opened the bedroom door and found the bed empty.
"Where is he?" Nick asked, moving into the room behind her.
"I don’t know, he was here a second ago."
Cursing, Nick pulled his phone out, then stopped. "Dammit, he doesn’t have a phone with him."
"Surely he wouldn’t leave."
She started to go check the bathroom, but he stopped her with a "duh" stare.
"Surely he would." He went to the window and they watched as Kyrian pulled Nick’s Jag out of the driveway.
Kyrian’s first stop was the doll shop. His intention was to find one of Desiderius’s flunkies and the last thing he needed was to be unarmed when he met him.
It was just after eight when he swung open the door and heard the little bell tinkle above his head. Liza came immediately from the back, her wrinkled face warm and friendly until she caught a look at the healing bruises on his face.
"General," she said, her voice chiding. "Are you all right?"
"I’m fine, Liza, thank you. I just came to pick up my order."
She frowned. "I gave it to Nicky yesterday, didn’t he tell you?"
Kyrian cursed silently. It figured. The one time Nick had remembered to pick up something would be the one time Kyrian wanted him to wait.
Then, Kyrian heard a faint rustling sound in the back of the shop, behind the burgundy curtains. Kyrian felt a strange stirring. One he hadn’t felt in a long time.