"You’re the best," he breathed, fingering her lips.
She suckled his thumb. "Not really, but I’m glad you think so."
He helped her to her feet, then turned her so that her back was to his front. He wrapped his arms around her and held her to him. She could feel him nuzzling against the back of her head.
"What’s going to happen to us, Ravyn?" she asked quietly.
"I don’t know. But right now I’m glad that you’re here with me."
Susan ached with the knowledge that they couldn’t stay like this. And the worst of it was the fact that she couldn’t go back to her old life. She knew things about the world now that would haunt her forever.
But none of them more than the fact that she would have to deal with Ravyn in the future without being a part of his life. Why did she feel this way for a man she knew she couldn’t have? It wasn’t right for her to crave the one thing she could never claim.
Then she felt it, the soft tickle of his fangs against her neck. She groaned at how good that felt as she arched her back in expectation of what was to come.
Ravyn cupped her br**sts in his hands and teased her sensitive ni**les with his palm as his breath scalded her skin. Then he lowered one hand to tease her before he slowly slid himself into her one sweet inch at a time until he was buried deep inside her.
She ached with how good he felt thrusting into her. He took her hand into his and led it to his mouth so that he could nibble on her palm.
Susan couldn’t explain it, but she felt like she was a part of this man. Like they were connected. It didn’t make any sense to her. There was no explanation. She’d never felt like this in all of her life.
She didn’t feel alone. Even though tomorrow should scare her, she wasn’t afraid. Nothing seemed to matter to her while she was with Ravyn.
Ravyn inhaled the sweet fragrance of her skin. There was nothing on this earth that smelled better than his Susan. Nothing that felt better than her skin gliding against his. Her hand touching his face. Closing his eyes, he savored that precious touch.
He didn’t know how they were going to get out of this, but one thing was certain. He wasn’t going to let anything happen to her. Ever. He would give her her life back. She deserved at least that.
And then he felt her tighten around him an instant before she cried out in orgasm. He clenched his teeth and held her tight in his arms while he quickened his thrusts until he could join her there.
They were both breathing raggedly as they stood by the door. Ravyn didn’t want to move, but unfortunately his body slid from hers and left him feeling strangely vacant. He didn’t want to leave her. Not even for a second.
She turned around to smile up at him before she nibbled his bottom lip.
"You still stuffy?" he asked.
"Yes, but you’re worth it."
He laughed at that before he kissed her. He’d barely tasted her before he felt an awful stinging pain in his palm.
His heart stopped beating at the sensation he hadn’t felt in hundreds of years.
It couldn’t be…
Susan hissed, shaking her hand as if to cool it. "What on…" Her voice broke off as she saw on her palm what he knew was on his.
"Ravyn?" she breathed.
His vision darkened as conflicting emotions tore through him. "I can’t mate." Not as a Dark-Hunter. It wasn’t possible… was it?
What the hell was this?
Confusion furrowed her brow. "But that is what this is, right?"
He nodded, unable to believe his cursed luck. He was dead. How could he mate? It defied logic. He couldn’t have children, he couldn’t commit.
And after this, he wouldn’t even be able to have sex again…
"Damn you, Fates," he hissed. What were they thinking?
Susan clenched her hand to conceal the ornate scrollwork. She didn’t know what she’d expected from him, but this anger sure wasn’t it. "I didn’t know I was so repugnant to you."
The anger melted from his face. "How could you think that? But damn, Susan, do you understand what this means?"
"Yeah. You’re screwed."
Ravyn leaned his head back. "I can’t believe this."
"Well, look on the bright side, in this day and age if I told people you guys existed, they’d lock me up and laugh about it with you."
"You’re not funny."
She reached up to cup his face in her hand. "I know. Look, I’ll make this easy on you. You mate with me and then I can just leave and you’ll be free to, pardon the pun, cat around all you want."
"It doesn’t work like that."
Susan frowned. "What do you mean?"
"So long as you live, I can’t have sex with anyone but you. Ever."
"And if we don’t mate, you’re a eunuch."
A tremor of fear went through her as she considered what he’d just said. So long as she lived…
"You’re not going to kill me, are you?"
He looked both offended and baffled by her question. "What? Are you insane? Why would I do that?"
"Let’s see, ten seconds after I met you, you ripped out a guy’s throat, and now you’re telling me that so long as I’m alive you’re screwed. Murder seems like the best course of action for you even though I strongly vote against it."
"Don’t worry. I can’t kill you. I took an oath to protect human life."
She didn’t know what offended her most about that. The fact that he considered killing her or the fact that the only thing that kept him from it was an oath. "Well, gee, thanks, hon. I’m so glad I mean so much to you. "
His face lightened up. "I wasn’t serious."
He leaned his forehead against hers and let out a frustrated breath. "I can’t believe I’m mated to someone who’s allergic to me."
"You? I’m the one who should be having a hissy. How do I introduce you to people? Hi, this is my… what? Significant other? Mate? Pet?"
He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. "Why must every relationship I have be so damned impossible?"
Susan pulled back and tilted his head so that he met her eyes. "Hey now, defeatist talk from a catman like you? I’m the one who should be freaking out here. I mean, damn, you could give me fleas or something. "
He laughed. "I’ll give you something all right." He popped her playfully on the rump.
"You better stop that. I could lure you out in daylight and then take you to be neutered. "
"You don’t need daylight for that. All you have to do is walk out that door and stay gone for three weeks."
Her humor died at his dire words. "I won’t do that to you, Ravyn."
"Why not? What does it matter anyway? We can’t live together. Acheron will never allow it. "
"He’s not stopping Cael."
Ravyn paused as he considered that. She was right. "Have you any idea what living with me would entail?"
She wrinkled her nose as if she smelled something foul. "If you’re like most men, it probably means dirty underwear and socks on the floor. Toilet seat left up at night. You eating all my peanut butter and not telling me. But," she said in all seriousness, "you better not expect me to clean out that cat box. Erika needs chores, too."
He was stunned by her. She could always find humor in everything.
"Your life will be in constant danger."
"Excuse me? Do you have amnesia? Did you miss the last four dozen attacks on us? And that’s not counting the doorjamb that almost decapitated me."
"Susan, I’m serious."
"So am I. I mean, yes, I would rather have had time to fall in love with you and I’d really like for you to be human. But no one’s perfect. Granted most men are dogs and not cats… and I am allergic to you-"
He cut her words off with a kiss. "Look, we don’t have to settle this right now. I’m asking you for the rest of your life. Literally. There’s no such thing as divorce in our world. We have three weeks to act on this. So I want you to really understand what you’re signing on for, okay?"
"Okay, but let’s not forget that in three weeks, we could be dead or in jail, which for you would probably mean death anyway."
Susan let him pull her into his arms. She honestly wasn’t sure about this, and she was glad he was giving her time to think it over. But she couldn’t let him be alone and not have any shot for making a human connection again. That was just wrong and cruel. Especially given how kind he’d been to her through all this.
Still, they had a long way to go and it was getting scarier by the minute. She didn’t know what tomorrow would hold. She only hoped that for them, there was a tomorrow, period.
"What do you mean, they got away?"
Trates sighed as he faced the human bastard he’d rather suck dry than deal with. But Stryker wanted this human alliance even if he thought it was completely stupid and beneath them. So here he was, playing nice with the chief of police when what he really wanted to do with Paul Heilig was rip his throat out and drink in his putrid soul.
"We had them trapped in an alley when Acheron showed up and killed every Daimon there. Now we’re going to lie low until he leaves."
"Bullshit! You promised me my-"
"Listen to me, human," Trates sneered through his clenched fangs. "You don’t want to mess with this Dark-Hunter. He’s not like the others."
"They’re still bound to the night and when something lives perpetually on the dark side of the moon, all you have to do is drag it into daylight to kill it."
Trates held his hands up. "I’m just here to tell you what Lord Stryker said. You do what you want. It’s your funeral." He turned to summon the portal to return to Kalosis.
But as soon as he had his back to Paul, the chief of police ran at him.
Trates hissed as he felt a deep, biting pain in his heart. Gasping, he looked down to see a small sword blade piercing his chest… right through his Daimon’s mark.
Paul jerked his sword out an instant before the Daimon exploded into gold powder. "You’re wrong about that, Trates. It’s your funeral. "
And soon there would be a lot more of them. If Stryker was too big a coward to do what was necessary to protect his children, then that was his loss. But Paul wasn’t the same.
He’d already lost his wife to one Dark-Hunter, he wasn’t about to lose his sons. No matter what it took, he was going to keep them safe.
Ravyn Kontis still lived and as long as he did, Paul could hear his wife’s voice calling out to him to avenge her. And as long as a single Dark-Hunter roamed the streets of his city, his sons were at risk.
That he couldn’t allow.
Pulling his cell phone off his belt, he called his deputy chief. "Hey, I need a search warrant."
"The Happy Hunting Ground." If Trates wouldn’t tell him where Ravyn was hiding, he knew one person who would.
Cael paused as he heard Acheron’s voice behind him. He turned around on the sidewalk to see him walking through the night’s mist. There was something really spooky about Acheron. There always had been.
He’d first met Acheron on September 15, 904, on a cool night much like this one in Cornwall. Cael had been covered in the blood of an entire raiding party of Vikings that night. The fires he’d started had singed his hair and blistered his skin.
But he hadn’t cared. All that had mattered had been avenging his wife, brother, mother, and sister who had been slain by the Vikings.
Even after all these centuries, he could still see Morag’s beautiful freckled face, hear the gentle lilt of her voice as she called out his name. With hair redder than the sun and a smile every bit as radiant, she had been his entire world.
Her and his baby sister who’d been on the brink of adulthood.
Corynna had held eyes so blue they rivaled the sky and a laugh so musical that it should have belonged to a songbird.
And his father had sold them all into slavery to save his own life. But the Vikings hadn’t wanted slaves. They’d wanted victims to practice on. Bound in chains, Cael had watched helplessly as every one of them had been tortured and killed for fun while their cries of pain and pleas for death had echoed in his ears.
Not even his own death had been able to silence their agonized voices. It hadn’t erased the sight of them being beaten and dismembered. There were times even now when he came awake, shaking from the memory of it.
Acheron had appeared to him after he’d taken his vengeance on those who’d preyed on his family, and had shown him, a simple peasant bastard, how to fight the Daimons and how to live again when he had nothing in this world worth living for.
He owed everything to the Atlantean leader of the Dark-Hunters. Had Acheron not shown him how to put the past behind him and go forward with his life, he’d have never made it to this time and place.
Never made it to Amaranda.
Through her, he’d found the one thing he’d thought was lost to him forever.
Most of all, she gave him solace, peace, and acceptance. She was his haven in a harsh life that had been nothing but violence and fighting until the day she’d entered it. And he would do anything to hold on to that and to her.
Except hurt Acheron. Cael was nothing if not loyal, and he hated being torn between the two people he loved most in this world.