Shades of Midnight (Chapter Thirty-three)

Kade stood outside his quarters at the Darkhaven compound in a black silk robe, leaning against the timber post of the back porch that looked out over the property's vast acreage. It was now a few hours after the sun had retreated, and darkness blanketed the region once more. He was lost in his thoughts, staring out at the far horizon, where the greenish glow of the aurora borealis streaked across the starlit sky. Alex drifted outside to join him. He heard her walking up softly behind him, closed his eyes as she gently wrapped her arms around his waist. She made a soft noise in the back of her throat, then sighed when he skimmed his fingers tenderly under the white satin sleeve of her robe to stroke her bare arms. They had spent most of the day in his bed, lying in each other's arms. His body was still healing from the funeral rite, though much improved, thanks to the blood Alex had given him. Now his skin was merely red and tender, no longer blistered and searing with pain. His libido reminded him that he was well enough to want Alex. God knew, there was nothing that would keep him from desiring her.

"I didn't mean to wake you," he murmured as they stood together as one under the starlit sky and watched the aurora dance in the distance. "You've been through a lot the past few days. You should rest some more."

Alex moved around to the front of him and burrowed into his warmth. "I came out here to tell you the same thing. How do you feel?"

He grunted, gave a brief nod. "Better, thanks to you. And all the more so when I have you in my arms."

She lifted her head to meet his gentle kiss. The brush of her lips was warm, inviting. Filled with tenderness for all they'd been through, and ripe with a tentative hope for what may still lay ahead for them.

"I needed you today, Alexandra," he whispered against her mouth. "I tried to convince myself that I didn't, but you are all that I need. Thank you for everything you did for me today. Thank you just for being here."

She smiled up at him, her voice soft with emotion. "You never need to thank me for that."

"God, I love you," he murmured, his chest tightening as he gazed down at her. "You honor me, Alex. You humble me. I don't think you realize how much. You could have any male you choose–" She reached up to caress his cheek with aching sweetness. "There is only one male I would choose. Only one male I could ever love."

His words perished on a low moan as he bent his head to hers and caught her mouth in a deep, passionate kiss. Need surged within him, hot and demanding. He wanted Alex–wanted her in his bed, passionate kiss. Need surged within him, hot and demanding. He wanted Alex–wanted her in his bed, beneath his fangs. He wanted her in every way he could have her.

So total was his desire, he hardly heard the rapid knock that fell against the front door of his cabin. He would have ignored it completely if Alex hadn't drawn back, breathless. "Someone's here."

"I don't care." Kade moved to kiss her again.

The knock came again, louder now. Insistent and demanding.

Kade snarled a curse as he caressed her beautiful face, then withdrew to stalk toward the door. He knew who he'd find on the other side, even before he opened it.

"Father," he said, his clipped tone hardly able to be interpreted as a greeting. Kir stared at him, then glanced past Kade's shoulder to where Alex had drifted in from the back porch. "We need to talk."

Kade stood firm, blocking the threshold with his body. "I've said all that I needed to."

"But I have not." Another look went in Alex's direction. "Hear me out. Please, son." Kade had never heard his father utter either one of those words in conversation with him before. Perhaps that was why he finally loosened his death grip on the door handle and stepped aside to permit his father entry.

But he wasn't about to budge where Alex was concerned. "Anything you have to say to me can be said in front of Alexandra. She is my mate. I will keep nothing from her." Kir's brows rose ever so slightly on his proud forehead. "Of course." He inclined his head in Alex's direction, a gesture of respect that won him a few small points with Kade. "Is it all right with you if we sit for a while, son?"

Kade nodded, then held his hand out to Alex in a motion for her to join them. She glided over and sat beside him on the sofa, Kir taking the leather chair across from them. For a long moment, the elder male merely looked at the both of them, his expression unreadable, his shrewd eyes unblinking as he silently appraised them.

"Today was a day I prayed would never come," he said at last. His deep voice sounded hollow, still raw from grief. "For a very long time, since you were mere boys, I have lived in fear of the thought of losing your brother."

Kade dropped his gaze, fresh shame rising up on him. "I know you're disappointed, Father. I know … ah, Christ." Alex slipped her hand into his, her fingers wrapped around his own. Kade swallowed past the ash that seemed to have settled in his throat. "I know you must wish that it was me, not Seth."

"You know nothing," Kir snapped. Kade's head came up at that, and his father's voice gentled. "You don't know what I wish, or what I feel. How could you know, when I never gave any of myself to you? I poured everything into Seth instead. I gave him too much."

Kade shrugged. "He was your son. You loved him."

"You are also my son," he replied. "And I love you both, Kade. But it was Seth who needed it more. He never had your independence. He wasn't born with your courage."

Kade frowned. "You doted on him. Everyone did."

"Yes," he admitted. "Because you were stronger than he, Kade. In every way, you were his better. Seth knew that as well as I did. I tried to compensate for his failings by giving him more attention than I did you, but it spoiled him even more."

"You let him handle Darkhaven business for you," Kade pointed out. "You seemed to be grooming him for a Darkhaven of his own."

Kir slowly shook his head. "A father's futile hopes, nothing more. I tried to give him the chance to make something of himself. Time and again I tried. Seth would never have made a good leader. He was too weak, too insecure."

"And me?" Kade asked, the question blurting out of him before he had the chance to bite it back.

"You," Kir said, thoughtful as he looked at him. "You were untamable. You were unstoppable, from the moment you came howling and kicking out of your mother's womb. You were a force of nature, Kade. Everyone who looked upon you saw that you were something unique, something special. I knew a child once who was not so different from you."

"Grigori," Kade murmured, watching his father's expression mutate from mild surprise to remembered regret.

"Grigori," Kir repeated quietly. "I presume you heard something about him from my other brother, Maksim."

Kade nodded. "Max told me a little. I know that Grigori meant a lot to you, and I know that he went Rogue."

Kir's brows rose a fraction. "Yes, he did."

"And you thought I would end up like him one day."

"You?" He scowled, then gave a small shake of his head. "I never thought that of you. It was Seth I worried about. You reminded me of Grigori, that is true. Everything vibrant and robust and strong in him, I saw in you, Kade. Seth, however, had none of those qualities. He was only like my brother in that he possessed the same flaws and insecurities that eventually doomed him. I knew it, and I lived in dread of what might become of Seth. As for you, I could only hope that you would never be put into the position that I had been with Grigori. I prayed you would never be faced with that kind of decision." Something cold coiled around Kade's heart at his father's words. Alex's fingers tightened around his as if she, too, felt the dread of what Kir might say. "Tell me what happened, Father."

"I never wanted you to have to shoulder the burden of having to destroy something you loved." Kir's eyes dimmed with regret. "I thought that if I kept Seth close enough, if I gave him every opportunity to prove himself, my strength might be enough to hold him up. If I could keep Seth from giving into the weakness I saw in him from the time he was a child, then maybe he wouldn't end up like Grigori. Maybe you would not be forced to do what I had to do."

"Max said Grigori was never seen or heard from after your family received word that he'd gone Rogue and killed someone in his Bloodlust. Max said you refused to speak of Grigori after that." Kir nodded grimly. "There was no need to speak of him again. He was dead. As his brother, I felt it was my duty to make sure that he could never kill again."

Alex exhaled the smallest gasp at the sober confession. Kade was stunned to discover how similar his father's path had been to his own, how much he never knew about the male who'd sired him or the life his father had led before Kade and Seth had been born.

He muttered a curse, but there was no venom in it. There never could be again, not after tonight. "I have resented you nearly all my life," he admitted. "I thought you despised me." Kir clucked his tongue, gave a remorseful shake of his head. "Never. I only wanted the best for you. For both my sons. And now, for the two new ones who will be born in a few short weeks, as well."

"We have wasted a lot of time on secrets and festering fears," Kade said to him. He turned a look on Alex, swamped by love for the female who owned his heart. "I can't waste another minute like that." Kir stood up. "Nor should I waste any more of your time when you and Alex could be spending it together. I want you to know that I am proud of you, Kade. And I am glad to see that you have found happiness. You've found love, and next to all your other strengths, that is the one that will see you through any challenge."

Kade swallowed, gave an awkward nod. "Thank you, Father."

"How long will you and Alex be staying here at the Darkhaven?"

"Not long," Kade replied. "A few more hours at the most. Some of my brethren from the Order are waiting in a town not far from here. We have a mission to wrap up, and then we'll be heading back home."

"Both of you?" Kir asked, glancing from Kade to Alex.

"I guess I'd better make it official and ask her," Kade said, smiling as he stroked Alex's cheek. He drew her gaze to his. "What do you think, Alex? Any chance I can convince you to come back with me to Boston?"

Her soft brown eyes gleamed. "I've never been to New England. I think I'd like to see it." Kade's grin burst across his face. "I'll show you the whole damn world if you'll let me." They kissed, interrupted a moment later by Kir's slightly awkward clearing of his throat. Alex was blushing furiously. Kade felt no embarrassment for his affection, meeting his father's amused look with an unapologetic quirk of his brows.

Kir smiled, then strode to the door, Kade and Alex walking at his side. When they paused at the threshold, Kade held out his hand, but his father didn't take it. Instead, he pulled Kade into a firm embrace.

"I know that you have made a family in Boston with the Order," he said as he drew back to meet Kade's eyes. "I'm glad for you. But you have a family here, as well. You and your beautiful Alexandra both have family here."

"May I hug you, too?" Alex asked, turning her warmth on Kade's gruff father. Kir's mouth curved into a rare smile. "I would be honored if you did." As Alex embraced him, the elder male glanced at Kade, his gaze filled with too many emotions for Kade to name. Pride, forgiveness, regret, hope … years of emotions that went unspoken between father and son. Maybe now they would have the chance to repair the things that had been buried under so many secrets, so many useless fears.

And then there was Alexandra.

Kade looked at the female he loved–his female, his mate. His heart overflowed with all the things he wanted to say to her, things he wanted to share with her … promises he intended to give her now, in the hope that he would have the rest of his life with her to make good on them.

Kade wrapped his arm around Alex's shoulders as they stood together and watched his father stroll across the moonlit snow toward the main house. When he was gone, Kade turned to Alex and swept her up into his arms.

She gasped as her feet left the ground, then laughed as he pivoted around and started walking with her toward his bedroom. "Put me down! You're hardly recovered from your burns, Kade. You really shouldn't be doing this."

"Oh, yes, I should," he replied, gazing into her eyes with a hunger he wouldn't have been able to mask even if he'd tried.

They made love together, at first a tempestuous, fevered joining, both of them lost to the swell of their emotions and to the urgent demands of their desire for each other. Kade ravished her body, made her climax so many times she finally gave up trying to keep count.

Alex's senses were filled with him, her body thrumming as she came down from the crest of another wave of pleasure, nestled in the protective shelter of Kade's arms.

She loved him so deeply she ached with her devotion. And in the afterglow of their passion, she knew that he loved her, too.

His touch was tender as he stroked the sensitive skin of her neck, his fingers skating like velvet beneath her ear. "I haven't done right by you," he murmured quietly. "When I drank from you that first night at your house in Harmony. It should have been your choice, Alex. I took that from you. I should have told you what it meant before I bonded myself to you. I should have had honor enough to earn the right, not steal it the way I did."

"It doesn't matter to me," she murmured. "All that matters is that we are together now. I want you forever, Kade. I want …" The words trailed off, not out of fear or uncertainty, but out of the depth of her longing. She turned her head to look at him. "All I want is you, to be bonded to you as your mate."

"And all I want is to make you happy, and to know that you are safe and protected."

"I am. There's nowhere I could be happier–or more secure–than here in your arms." She caressed his handsome face, seeing the torment that still lingered in his expression. The measure of self-doubt that hadn't quite faded from his eyes, and might never fully disappear. "Together we are strong, Kade. Stronger than the wildness inside you. You heard what your father said: Love is the greatest strength. Nothing is more powerful than that."

"You really believe that?"

"More than anything," she replied. "But the question is, do you?" He stared at her for a long moment, his silver eyes searching. "So long as I have you beside me, I can believe that anything is possible. I love you, Alexandra. You are everything to me." He brought her closer and kissed her–the most tender, reverent kiss she had ever known. Alex melted into him, her body responding in a fluid rush of warmth that pooled in her core. She tipped her head back as his mouth traveled down the line of her jaw, to the side of her throat.

Kade reared his head back on a growl. He stared at her, his eyes blazing with amber sparks, his fangs glowing white. Already he was panting with need, fierce with hunger for her. He scowled, dark emotions tossing in the depths of his silver eyes. "Forever?"

"Forever, Kade." She let her fingers drift over his sensual mouth, where the points of his fangs glinted behind his parted lips. "Bind me to you now. I want to taste you. I want to have forever with you." On a deep growl, his gaze locked on hers, he brought his wrist up to his mouth. He parted his lips, then sank his fangs into the flesh and muscle. Blood dripped from the punctures and down his chin. Tentative, he held his arm out to her.

Alex took him in her hands and brought his wrist to her lips.

The first taste of him was a shock. She didn't know what she'd expected, but none of her imaginings had prepared her for the reality of drinking from Kade. His blood was a sweetness that rolled over her tongue, a stunning wildness that stole her breath. She drank in the scent of his skin and the earthy spice of his blood as she drew from his open vein.

his blood as she drew from his open vein.

Power surged through her like lightning.

Kade groaned with pleasure and she drank more, greedy now, desire pulsing through every nerve ending and making all of her senses come vividly to life. Heat roared deep inside her, and she whimpered as the first wave of orgasm rose up on her and swept her away.

Kade's growl was purely male, purely triumphant.

Alex was still riding the crest of rapture as he licked the wound at his wrist, then spread her body, opening her thighs to the searing heat of his hungry gaze.

"You are mine now, Alex. God help you, you are mine forever now."

"Then show me," she whispered, her voice roughened from pleasure. She swept her tongue along her lips, savoring every last taste of him on her mouth. She tipped her head to the side, presenting her throat to him. "Show me that I will always belong to you, Kade."

His lip curled away from his fangs, which shone as sharp and pristine as diamonds in the dim light of the aurora dancing in the distance outside the cabin. Alex took in the savage beauty of his face, feeling nothing close to fear when she looked at him now.

He was her heart, her lover, her mate.

Her everything.

"Love me, Kade," she murmured.

"Forever," he replied.

Then, with a groan of pleasure and surrender, he bent his head and sank his bite deep into her flesh and showed her just how pleasurable their forever was going to be.