Seize the Night (Page 8)

Seize the Night (Dark-Hunter #7)(8)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

"I know how to laugh," he said lightly.

She pulled him from the stairs and two-stepped around him before she used him as a maypole and continued dancing.

She let go, snapped her fingers and twisted down, then rose back up. "One day, I think you’re going to bust out of those hand-polished loafers and actually cut loose."

Valerius cleared his throat and tried to imagine such a thing. It wasn’t possible. There had been a time once, back when he’d been human, when he might have attempted it.

But those days were long gone.

Anytime he’d ever tried to be anything other than what he was, someone else had paid a terrible price for it. So he’d learned to stay as he was and to leave everyone else alone.

It was for the best.

Tabitha watched as his face turned to stone once again. She sighed. What would it take to reach this guy? For someone who was immortal, he certainly didn’t seem to enjoy life very much.

In spite of all of Kyrian’s faults, she had to give him credit. The former Greek general did enjoy every breath he took. He lived his life to its fullest.

Meanwhile, Valerius just seemed to exist

"What do you do for fun?" she asked.

"I read."

"Literature?"

"Science fiction."

"Really?" she asked, surprised. "Heinlein?"

"Yes. Harry Harrison is one of my favorites, as are Jim Butcher, Gordon Dickson, and C. J. Cherryh."

"Wow," she said, amazed. "I’m impressed. Go, Dorsai."

"Actually, I rather like Dickson’s The Right to Arm Bears and Wolfling novels better."

Now that she found surprising. "I don’t know, Soldier, Ask Not seems more your style to me."

"It is a classic, but the other two spoke to me more."

Hmmm… Wolfling was about a man alone in an alien world with no friends or allies. That further confirmed her suspicions about his life. "Have you ever read Hammer’s Slammers?"

"David Drake. Another favorite."

"Yeah, you have to love the military stuff. Burt Cole wrote a book years ago called The Quick."

"Shaman. He was quite the complex hero."

"Yeah, strangely amoral and yet moral at the same time. Never sure what side of the fence he’s on. Kind of reminds me of a few friends I’ve had over the years."

Valerius couldn’t keep from smiling. It was so nice to have someone who was familiar with his guilty secret. The only other person he knew who read science fiction was Acheron, but the two of them seldom ever talked about it.

"You’re a remarkable woman, Tabitha."

She smiled up at him. "Thanks. Now, I’ll let you go on to bed," she said gently. "I’m sure you could use the rest."

She ached to give him a tender, friendly kiss on the cheek, but thought better of it. Instead, she watched as he headed out of the room, up the stairs.

Valerius made his way silently back to Tabitha’s room. She had such a powerful presence that he literally felt drained just from having been around her.

He removed his clothes and hung them back up so that he wouldn’t wrinkle them, then returned to bed to sleep.

But sleep was something that didn’t come to him. For the first time, he smelled the perfume on her sheets.

It was Tabitha’s scent. Warm, vivacious. Seductive.

And it made him instantly hard for her. He covered his eyes with his hand and ground his teeth. What was he doing? The last thing he could do as a Dark-Hunter was have a relationship with a woman. Even if he could, Tabitha Devereaux was the last woman on the planet he could have.

As a friend to Acheron, she was so far off limits to him that he should call Acheron again and demand he find some way for Valerius to leave.

But Acheron had left them together.

Rolling over, he did his best not to breathe in deeply or to imagine what Tabitha might look like in this bed. Her bare limbs entwined…

He cursed, then pulled a second pillow over toward him. As he did so, he saw a small black silk gown. An image of Tabitha in it seared him.

He couldn’t breathe. Before he could think better of it, he pulled it close and let the cool silk caress his skin. He held it to his nose and inhaled her scent.

She is not for you.

It was true. He’d already killed one woman because he’d been foolish. He had no desire to retread that path.

He tucked the gown back beneath his pillow and forced himself to close his eyes.

But even then, he was haunted by images of a woman who should, by all reason, repel him and yet completely captivated and beguiled him.

Tabitha spent the rest of the day between her store and walking to the foot of the stairs where she forced herself to reverse direction and go back to business.

But she felt a horrible pull toward the Dark-Hunter who slept in her bed. It was stupid. He was an ancient warrior who didn’t seem to even like her.

Yet his kiss had said something else. There for a few minutes, he had been as eager for her as she had been for him. He wasn’t completely repulsed by her.

She waited until four, then went to wake him.

Opening the door slowly, she paused as she caught sight of him asleep. He lay with his back to her, but what made her stop was the fierce scars that crisscrossed his flesh. Those weren’t battle scars. They were the kind of marks you would find on someone who had been beaten with a whip. Many times.

She couldn’t take her eyes off it. Without thinking, she crossed the room and placed her hand on his arm.

He rolled over with a hiss and seized her.

Before she even realized what he was going to do, he had her on the bed beneath him, with his hand at her throat.

"Let go of me, Valerius, or I’m going to hurt you bad."

He blinked as if he were coming out of a dream. His grip loosened immediately. "Forgive me," he said as he lightly stroked her neck. "I should have warned you not to wake me by touch."

"You always assault people when you wake up?"

Valerius couldn’t speak as he felt the softness of her skin beneath his fingertips. In truth, he’d been dreaming of her. Only she had been in his world. Dressed in nothing but a pearl necklace and covered by rose petals.

She was incredibly beautiful. Her eyes were so blue. Her nose pert and her lips… they were the stuff of legends. Full and lush, they begged for his attention.

Before he could stop himself, he lowered his mouth to hers.

Tabitha moaned at the taste of Roman warrior. His kiss was tender and soft, a total antithesis to the steely feel of his body. It melted her as she wrapped her arms around his bare back and traced the scars she found there.

And she was all too aware of the fact that he was completely nak*d.

Valerius growled at the feel of her tongue lightly stroking his. Of her scent and soft curves wrapped around him. The denim of her jeans scraped against his flesh as she opened her legs and cradled him with those long, lush legs. She raked one hand through his hair, brushing it back from his face before she sank her hand deep and held him to her.

He lifted the hem of her sweater so that he could gently cup her breast through the satin of her bra. She moaned deep in her throat, a husky raw sound that sizzled through him.

As Tabitha had pointed out earlier to him, he’d spent far too many nights with women who had never reacted so openly to his touch. She ran her hands over his shoulders, then down to the small of his back.

All he could think of was taking her. Of sliding himself deep inside until they were both sated and weak.

As he fingered the front catch of her bra, a tiny shred of sanity reared its ugly head. She was not for him.

He pulled his hand away.

Tabitha cupped his head in her hands and pulled back. "I know what you are, Val. It’s okay."

She took his hand into hers and led it back to her breast. She pushed the satin aside until he felt her hard, swollen nipple teasing his palm. He couldn’t breathe as he cupped her soft breast. She was so warm, so welcoming that he found it hard to believe he was anything special to her.

"Do you sleep with all the Dark-Hunters?"

She stiffened. "What?"

"I was just wondering if you’d been with Acheron… Talon."

She bucked him off of her at that. "What kind of question is that?"

"I just met you and twice now you’ve offered yourself to me."

"Oh, you arrogant jerk!" She grabbed her pillow off the bed and assaulted him with it.

Valerius held his hand up to shield himself, but she didn’t stop.

"You are so stupid! I can’t believe you’d ask me such a thing. I swear, I will never again be in the same room with you!"

Finally the pillow bashing stopped.

He lowered his arm.

She nailed him with a final blow upside his head, then released the pillow. "For your information, buddy, I am not the town bike. I don’t sleep with every guy I get near. I thought you were… Oh never mind. To hell with you!"

She turned and stormed out of the room. She slammed the door so hard that it actually rattled the windows and shook the beads on her mirror and altar.

Valerius lay on the bed completely stunned by what had just happened. She had beaten him with a pillow?

He knew from his encounter with her last night that she could have assaulted him with something much more painful, yet she had refrained.

In all honesty, he was relieved by her untoward reaction. Her indignation had been too great to be feigned.

And that brought a strange warmth to his chest. Could it be that she might actually like him?

No. It wasn’t possible. No one liked him. They never had.

"You are worthless. I weep for the day Mother bore you into this world. I’m only glad that she died before she could see what an embarrassment you are to the family." He flinched at the harsh words that his brother Markus had repeatedly hurled at him.

His own father had despised him. "You are weak. Pathetic. I should have seen you dead rather than waste the water and food it has taken to rear you."

Their words were kind compared to what his Dark-Hunter brethren had uttered.

No, there was no way Tabitha "liked" him. She didn’t even know him.

He didn’t know why she was so receptive to his touch.

Maybe she was merely a woman of strong passion. He was a handsome man. Not that he was vain about it. It was a simple statement of fact. Countless women had offered themselves to him over the centuries.

But for some reason that didn’t bear thinking on, he wanted something more than a one-night stand with Tabitha.

He wanted…

Valerius forced his thoughts away from that. He didn’t need anyone, not even a friend. His life was best spent alone, far away from other people.

Getting up, he dressed and left her room to go downstairs.

He met Marla in the dining room.

"Ooo, shug, I don’t know what you did to Tabby, but you have her panties in a tight wad. She said to tell you to eat before she poisoned your food or did something worse to it."

Valerius was surprised to see veal marsala and an Italian salad with garlic bread waiting for him. "Where did that come from?" he asked Marla.

"Tony’s from down the street. Tabitha sent me over there to get it. She and Tony aren’t on speaking terms at the moment. God love her, she tends to make everyone irritated with her. But he’ll get over it. He always does."

Valerius took a seat and then bit into heaven. He’d never tasted anything better. Why would Tabitha have gone to such trouble for him?

He was halfway through the meal before Tabitha came out of the door that led to her shop.

"I hope you choke on it," she snarled as she headed toward the kitchen.

Valerius swallowed his bite of food, wiped his mouth, then slid out of his chair to go after her.

"Tabitha?" He pulled her to a stop. "I’m sorry for what I said. It’s just…"

"Just what?"

"People are never nice for no reason." And they were never nice to him.

Tabitha paused at that. Was he serious? "Was dinner okay?"

"It was delicious. Thank you."

"No problem." She pulled her hand away. "You probably know that it’s already dark. I can get you home whenever you’re ready."

"I just need to stop and pick up some lamp oil."

"Lamp oil? Don’t you have electricity?"

"I do, but it’s imperative that I get some tonight and get home."

"Okay. The chariot awaits four blocks over at my sister Tia’s. We can grab the oil at her shop."

"She has lamp oil?"

"Yeah. She’s a voodoo priestess. You probably saw the altar upstairs that she made for me. She’s a bit offbeat, but we love her anyway."

Valerius inclined his head respectfully to her, then returned upstairs for his coat.

Tabitha was about to pick up his dishes when Marla shooed her away.

"I’ll take care of that for you."

"Thanks, sweetie."

Marla wrinkled her nose. "Anytime. You two go and have a wild time for me. I want all the details."

Tabitha laughed as she tried to imagine what a "wild" time with Valerius might entail. It would probably be nothing more miraculous than getting him to wear a pair of tennis shoes and drink out of a paper cup.

Valerius rejoined her. She quickly ushered him out the shop door before Marla saw his coat and confiscated it.

He stopped so short inside her store that she actually ran into him. His jaw slack, he scanned the shop with a look of complete horror on his face. "Where are we?"