Seize the Night (Page 31)

Seize the Night (Dark-Hunter #7)(31)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

She went cold. "And yet he didn’t kill any Daimons?" she asked in disbelief.

Otto’s gaze narrowed. "What are you saying?"

"Desiderius needs a body… Valerius said back when all this started that if a Daimon ever took over a Dark-Hunter-"

"That’s bullshit, Tabitha. I saw Ulric last night myself and he was fine."

"But what if I’m right? What if Desiderius has taken him over?"

"You’re wrong. Desiderius wouldn’t be able to lay a hand on him. He was a medieval warlord. If there’s one thing Ulric knows how to do, it’s protect himself."

Maybe.

The buzzer sounded for the gate.

"It should be my sister."

Otto swung his chair around to the small video console that showed an image of the car’s driver. It was Amanda.

He buzzed her in.

Tabitha went to meet her at the door, even though she couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right with Ulric. In spite of what Otto said, she wanted proof that she was wrong.

Tonight, she’d meet the Dark-Hunter herself and decide if her fear held any validity and if it did, he would be Daimon dust.

Swinging open the door, she saw Amanda getting out of her Toyota in the driveway. She was dressed in a pair of nice black slacks, a dark green silk top, and black sweater. It was really good to see her again.

Silently, Tabitha stood in the open doorway as she waited for Amanda to draw near.

Amanda gave her a tight hug as soon as she reached her. "I’ve missed you."

"I’m only a couple of blocks away."

"I know, but we haven’t talked much lately."

Tabitha squeezed her back, then let her go. "I know. It’s kind of hard to talk right now."

Amanda brushed the hair back from Tabitha’s face in a very motherly fashion and smiled. "You look happy underneath that suspiciousness; are you?"

Tabitha frowned. "You are seriously scaring me." She looked past Amanda and scanned the street. "Has someone replaced my twin with a pod person?"

Amanda laughed. "No, goofball. It’s me. I’ve just been worried about you."

"Well, as you can see, I’m fine. You’re fine. Everything’s fine. So what brings you here?"

"I want to meet Valerius."

Tabitha couldn’t have been more stunned had her sister hit her. "Excuse me?"

"Ash said some things to me a couple of weeks ago that got me thinking. And with every day that passed without you racking this guy and moving in with me until this is over, I did more thinking. You’ve been with him night and day, haven’t you?"

Tabitha shrugged with a nonchalance she didn’t feel. "Yeah, so?"

"And yet I haven’t had a single call from my homicidal twin telling me she’s going to cut his head off and put it in a bowling bag if he says or does such-and-such one more time. Why, Tabby, I do believe that’s a record for you."

Tabitha fidgeted guiltily. It was true. Not once in all their lives had she been with anyone that she wasn’t threatening to kill the guy every other hour for some annoying habit.

But with Valerius…

Even when he annoyed her, it wasn’t so bad. And the truth was, he very seldom annoyed her. They talked about all kinds of things and even when they didn’t agree, he respected her opinions.

"You love him, don’t you?"

Tabitha looked away.

"Oh God, Tabitha," Amanda breathed. "You’ve never done anything the easy way, have you?"

"Don’t start on me, Amanda."

Amanda cupped her face and turned her head until their eyes met. "I love you, Tabby. I do. Of all the men-"

"I know!" she snapped angrily. "It’s not like I woke up and said, Hmmm, who is the one man on the planet guaranteed to alienate me from my entire family for all eternity? Oh, I must go and find him immediately and fall hopelessly in love with him."

She took a deep breath before her anger overwhelmed her. "God knows, I didn’t want to love someone like Valerius. I keep thinking that you are his perfect woman. You’re elegant, sophisticated. Hell, you actually know which fork to eat with when you go out. I’m the idiot in college who went out with you and Dad and drank out of the finger bowl because I thought it was some kind of f**ked-up clear soup."

Tabitha scoffed at her own words. "For that matter, listen to my language. I have to be horrifying to him and yet when he looks at me, I shiver."

Over and over, the arguments of why she didn’t belong with Valerius ran through her mind. They should be completely incompatible and yet they weren’t. It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t right.

Tabitha sighed. "The other night he took me to Commander’s Palace and we sat down where they had this really elegant display sitting in the middle of the table. It was made up of all these exotic veggies and fruit and looked really tasty. So, stupid me, I grabbed my butter knife and started hacking at it to eat some of it. It wasn’t until I looked up and saw the gape on the waiter’s face that I realized I’d done something completely stupid. I asked him what his problem was and he said that he had just never seen anyone actually eat the centerpiece before. I was so embarrassed I wanted to die."

"Oh, Lord, Tabby."

"I know. Valerius, God bless him, didn’t miss a beat. He reached over and started eating it too, then he gave one of those haughty, regal stares at the waiter, who quickly ran off. After he was gone, Val said for me not to worry about it. That he spent enough money in that place that I could eat the tablecloth next if I wanted to and if that didn’t make me happy, then he’d buy the restaurant just so I could fire the waiter."

Amanda burst out laughing.

Tabitha had laughed too when he said it and the memory of his kindness still warmed her.

She gave her sister a sincere stare. "Don’t you think I know that I don’t belong with this man? I really, really don’t. To me fine dining is slurping down oysters and drinking beer out of a bottle. To him it’s a fifteen-course meal where people actually put the napkin in your lap for you and reset the silverware between every course."

"And yet you’re still here."

"And I don’t understand why."

Amanda smiled gently. "All I ever wanted was a nice, normal life with a nice, normal man. Instead, I end up with a husband who used to be immortal who has friends that are gods, demons, and animals that can take human form. And I don’t even know how to begin to classify Nick. Let’s face it, I’m married to a man who gave me a daughter who is able to talk to animals like Doctor Dolittle and who can use her thoughts to move just about anything in the house. And you know what?"

"What?"

"I wouldn’t trade it for all the normality in the world. Love isn’t easy. Anyone who says differently is lying to you. But it is worth fighting for. Believe me, I know, and that’s why I’m here. I want to meet this man and see if there’s any way I can soothe over Kyrian enough to where he can at least say Valerius’s name without rupturing a vein."

Tears blurred her vision as Tabitha pulled her sister into another hug. "I love you, Amanda, I really do."

"I know. I’m the perfect twin."

Tabitha laughed at that. "And I’m the psychotic one." Stepping back, she took Amanda’s hand and led her into the house.

Amanda gave a low whistle as she came inside and looked around the elegant interior. "Very nice place."

Otto stepped into the foyer to shake his head at them. "Kyrian will stroke if he ever finds out you were here."

"And you’ll be limping if you enlighten him," Tabitha said.

"Don’t worry. He won’t hear it from me. I’m not that stupid." Otto headed for the door. "I’m off to meet up with Kyr and Nick. We’re going to get together tonight and do some patrolling of our own and see if we can run some of these bastards to ground."

Tabitha nodded. "You guys be careful."

"You, too." He inclined his head to them, then left.

"Why don’t you wait in the library?" Tabitha said. "I’ll go see if he’s up yet."

Amanda nodded.

Tabitha sprinted up the stairs and headed to Valerius’s room to find him still asleep in his bed.

She lifted the silk sheet up so that she could nip his hip with her teeth.

He made a sound of pleasure before he rolled over onto his back.

Tabitha’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of his nude body. She could stare at this man all day or night long.

She particularly loved the area of his body where short crisp hairs ran from his navel to his groin. Unable to stand the temptation, she bent over him and nibbled the little hairs there.

His c**k hardened. He placed his hand gently on her head. "You certainly know how to wake a man up happily, don’t you?"

She laughed at that before she lightly nipped his skin, then pulled away. "I need for you to get up."

"I am up," he said, glancing down to the part of his body that was standing at full attention.

"Not that," she said, rolling her eyes. "My sister is downstairs and she wants to meet you."

"Which sister?"

She gave him a meaningful look.

His face went ashen. "I can’t meet her?

Tabitha refused to listen to his argument. "Get dressed and meet her. It’ll only take a minute and then she’ll leave."

"But-"

"No buts, General. I’ll be waiting at the stairs and if you’re not there in five minutes, I’m going to bring her up here."

Amanda sat in a burgundy chair near a heavily draped window. She looked around the formal, elegant mansion. Unlike her home, there was nothing inviting about it. It spoke of a man who was stern and formidable, pretentious and condescending. Cold. Even a little evil and scary.

Everything she’d been told to expect from Valerius Magnus.

How had Tabitha ever hooked up with such a man? Her sister was none of those things.

Well, Tabitha could be evil, but in her twin’s case that was an almost endearing quality.

It seemed to take forever before she heard Tabitha coming down the stairs.

"Tabitha!" The hushed tone was stern and commanding.

When Tabitha didn’t lash back with a caustic retort, Amanda got up to investigate. She stayed in the shadows so that she could see Valerius with Tabitha on the stairs.

He was dressed in black pants and a black button-down shirt. From what she’d heard of him, she’d assumed his hair would have been cropped very short. To her surprise, it brushed down to his shoulders. His face was elegantly sculpted. Perfect.

Power and control bled from every part of him. This was definitely not the kind of man who attracted Tabitha.

Ever.

He glared at her sister as if he wanted to choke her. "You can’t have her here. She has to leave immediately."

"Why?"

"Because Kyrian would die if he ever found out his wife was in my home. He’d lose his mind."

"Val-"

"Tabitha, I’m not kidding. This is cruel to him. You have to get her out of here before he finds out."

Amanda was shocked by his words. Why would he care how this affected Kyrian when Kyrian would gladly see him dead?

"Amanda wants to meet you, Valerius. Please? Just for a minute and then I’m sure she’ll head home."

She scowled at Tabitha’s calm, rational tone. Normally when her sister didn’t get her way, she turned rather violent. Or at the very least, shouted.

His face softened instantly as he reached out and cupped Tabitha’s scarred cheek in his hand. "I hate when you give me that look." He brushed his fingers over her eyebrow and smiled gently at her. "Okay." He dropped his hand to hers, then pulled it up and kissed the back of her hand.

Tabitha kissed his cheek before she stepped away and headed toward the library.

Her heart thumping at what she’d just seen, Amanda stepped back into the room so that they wouldn’t know she’d been spying on them. But as she waited, images of their encounter played through her mind…

Valerius couldn’t believe he was about to meet his enemy’s wife.

Tabitha’s twin sister.

He’d never been more nervous or unsure of himself.

But he refused to let that show. Stiffening his spine, he walked into the library, where Tabitha greeted her sister.

It was extremely odd to listen to them speak to each other. The only way he could tell their voices apart was their vocabulary. Tabitha had a unique way of speaking, whereas her twin sister was more eloquent and proper.

Amanda’s eyes widened a bit as she scanned him from head to toe. Whatever she thought of him, she gave no clue.

"You must be Valerius," she said, stepping forward to offer him her hand.

"It’s an honor," he said formally before he shook her hand very briefly, released it, and stepped back six paces.

She looked at Tabitha. "You two are the odd couple, aren’t you?"

Tabitha shrugged before she tucked her hands in her pockets. "Thank God he’s cuter than Tony Randall and I don’t have Jack Klugman’s nose."

Valerius became even more rigid.

Tabitha ran her hand affectionately down his arm. "Relax, hon. She doesn’t bite. Only I do that." She winked at him.

The problem was, he didn’t know how to relax. Especially not while her twin was staring at him as if he were something sinister.

Amanda watched her sister with the Roman general she had assumed she would hate on first meeting. To her surprise, she didn’t.