Happy Holidays to and from all my friends at
Weekend Writing Warriors!
Amber stepped inside, immediately turning on the welcoming glow of the kitchen overhead, illuminating an image that burned from widening eyes to the pit of her belly, and below.
Frederick Terriot stood on her doorstep, hair plastered to his skull, raindrops hanging from his obscenely long lashes, the rain turning his white dress shirt all but transparent as it clung in graphic definition to his divinely sculpted torso. Her mouth went dry, probably from hanging open like a gawking teen-age girl, but another part of her came awake as if from a long winter slumber.
Rico Terriot was the stuff of dreams . . . lately, all of hers.
“I shouldn’t,” he began, wary now and worried about her, about taking advantage of a situation she’d been trying to push on him like a frontend loader since the first day she’d seen his lovelorn features on the other side of the bar.
“Don’t be silly,” she coaxed with a smile. “You’re drenched and more than a little drunk, so come in to dry off and get some coffee for the road.”
“I figured this would be a late night so she’s at the sitter until morning.” She didn’t confess she’d hoped it would be a night she didn’t spend alone, and because of the friendship she used to artfully disguise a rather desperate seduction, Rico shrugged and stepped in from the cold.
It was the bravest damn thing he’d ever seen. She was only a little bit of a thing, so delicate she might have been confused with a girl as she’d dashed in front of his stopped car. While others watched, himself included, she’d scrambled into that compact, heedless of the danger, to bring out the little boy, and if that wasn’t enough, she’d gone back toward certain death to save the kid’s parents, which she couldn’t, of course—Jess had known that the moment he saw the fuel ignite, but it hadn’t stopped her from trying. She’d fought him like a madwoman when he’d pulled her away, barely seconds before she’d have been engulfed in the same fiery ball that consumed the car, fought with such an amazing strength in such a tiny package, that he’d been awed by her. Until this event had played out before his disbelieving eyes, he’d shunned stories of heroism, and then he’d felt the frantic beat of her big, big heart against his chest, felt the helpless trembling of her despair as he held her in his arms, and never had anything touched him so strongly, so powerfully, so tenderly as that moment, as that woman.
Why had she taken the money?
He saw so much ugliness, so much greed, he’d wanted to believe unselfish goodness was possible, to believe the tears he saw on her face were genuine, in her anguish over others instead of her own pain, and he’d wanted to hold on to the emotions that filled his soul with such possessiveness as he’d cradled her close and tried to give her comfort. In that brief slice of time she’d reached inside him and torn out his heart . . . and then broke it by proving all his illusions false. Charlene Carter wasn’t a saint willing to throw down her life to save another’s. When she’d been quick to snap up the fee for her bravery, in his jaded eyes that made Miss Carter a mercenary, not a Samaritan, and Jess hated her for it . . . because he’d wanted to believe.
“Now, I may not be able to convince anyone that you are a . . . a vampire, sir, but, if I give this information to the newspapers, they will hound you unmercifully, and without access to your monies, you’ll have no means to flee the city.”
Silence as the dark night creature pondered this, unperturbed, and that alarmed Percy, as did the words that followed.
“And if I were to just tear out your throat before you could give that information to anyone?”
The casual way he presented Percy’s death made the lawyer’s blood run icy because it was no idle threat when dealing with a dangerous being who’d survived centuries by preying upon human lives, and would snatch his soul without a moment’s remorse. But prepared for that, too, the solicitor told him, “The original papers are in a safe place with instructions to turn them over to the authorities should anything happen to me, and be assured, they might not believe what you are, sir, but they take murder very seriously.”
A frustration of rage pulsed from Gerardo Pasquale in palpable waves. Suddenly, Percy knew an instant of true terror as the solidity of Pasquale’s figure seemed to flicker before his eyes, becoming so faint as to be transparent, edges shifting, transforming into something else, something horrible, alien and monstrous, but exactly what was not quite clear. Standing frozen, Percy feared he’d made an irrevocable error in believing himself safe.
Then, to his relief, Pasquale assumed his human shape once again and with a deadly quiet, asked, “What do you want?”
“I want you to marry my sister.”
“Aren’t you carrying your princely House of Terriot gold card?” Sylvia asked, turning to him with a cat-in-tasty-cream smile and the sizzling double entendre, “Remember, you get what you pay for.”
What was he thinking? What was he thinking with? Sylvia Terriot had been entrusted into his care by his king, his only duty getting her safely and securely to their mountain compound, not horizontal in the closest hotel room.
As if unaware of his moral dilemma, Sylvia passed the clerk her choice of drool-worthy undergarments, a pair of slim black jeans and a stretchy red top that took no imagination at all to envision hugging her tempting curves. “I’d like to try these on.”
Seeing the clerk’s gaze widened as it followed the chain from her cuffed wrist to his, Sylvia laughed, unconcerned, then leaned close to whisper, “Consider it like one of those bungie cord things that parents use to keep track of their children in crowds.” She winked, letting a sultry glance slide up Turow’s inseam and torso to flirt with his round-eyed stare as she added, “Only for consenting adults.”
Forget the hotel—the dressing room would do!
“If you were thinking of bringing Wes here to finish my job and send me home in shame, you might as well finish me right here, right now, because if I leave, they’ll think we’re weak and all talk. They won’t respect any of us if we’re that easily broken. I’m a Terriot: We don’t bend; we don’t break; and, we don’t run, not from anything! It’d be kinder for you to just put me down right here than to ask me not to act like a prince in our House. I’m not afraid of them, and next time, I’ll be ready to bring hell down on their doorstep. Don’t you do this to me, Cale. Don’t you sideline me while I can still stand on my own hind legs and howl . . . unless you don’t trust me to take care of things, and then that’s something else altogether.”
The long beat of silence brought Colin’s worst fear home as he felt something from his king he’d never experienced before - doubt.
“You’re my brother, Colin,” Cale began carefully, “and if you say you can handle it, I believe you.”
Belief and trust weren’t quite the same thing.
“There’s nothing I can do to change this; I wish I could.”
“I don’t want you to, Cale.”
His answer surprised them both, but once he’d put it out there, Turow realized the truth in his own heart. He had no doubts or regrets over what he’d done, and wasn’t ashamed to admit it.
“I chose her, Cale, I want her, I have since the first time I saw her and I haven’t been able to think about anyone else. I don’t want to be with anyone else.”
Cale palmed the back of Row’s head, clenching fingers in his hair to give him a hard shake. “You blind sonuvabitch, she’s going to eat your heart and crush your soul, and it’s my fault. Kendra warned me that you had feelings for her but I didn’t want to believe her.”
“I’m sorry, my king, not for how I feel, but because I’ve failed you.”
“When I asked you about James and Las Vegas, did you tell me absolutely everything?”
The cooling of her gaze frostbit his hopes. “Oh, you mean like am I here on Jamie’s behalf to assassinate our king, is that what you want to know? Have I been playing a game with you, becoming your mate, bending under Cale’s rules just to lull you into complaisance so I could exact some terrible plan I cooked up with James?”
It sounded even worse when she accused him out loud, because that was what Cale suspected.
“Please, Syl . . . it’s not that I don’t believe you.”
Very deliberately, she withdrew her hands from his to slowly and precisely go through everything again, in excruciating detail, never once looking away from his hopeful stare, until subtly, her eyes canted down.
She was lying to him.
He’d disappointed her, and she was hiding something from him. What couldn’t she trust him with and how could he pursue it without damaging their fragile relationship farther?
Waking to sunlight slanting across his face and the crawly feel of someone staring at him, Turow quickly straightened, nearly falling off his chair to the cool amusement of the female eyeballing him from the edge of the bed.
She wore the same crumpled clothing from the day before, her glorious hair bound loosely back, her face scrubbed clean of any make-up, and for a moment, he forgot how to breathe, until he caught the undercurrent of her temper.
“Is it your plan to starve me into submission? I haven’t had so much as a sip of water since yesterday afternoon except out of the bathroom faucet, but I’m sure the thought of me safely tucked away under lock and key never crossed your mind while kowtowing to our king. You at least owed me the courtesy of letting me know he didn’t have you murdered!”
She’d been worried about him?
Before a silly smile could escape, she skewered him with her glare, demanding, “Am I a prisoner in this room?”
He considered it then said, “For a while it would be best for you to only go out with me.”
“And what part of that doesn’t say prisoner . . . or am I in danger?”
“Did you think you wouldn’t be?”
Turow Terriot, who would have thought?
For now, she happily held that secret close. For the moment, he was hers to hold and enjoy like there was no tomorrow, because for her there probably wouldn’t be.
She’d let him rest and recover, but not for long, too aware of the clock ever ticking. She’d cushion his heavy form for now, then demand as much as she could from it throughout the hours of the night. She’d let him fill body and mind with delirious pleasures, selfishly taking everything he could give, because his strength and confidence fueled hers, and she’d need every ounce of it to get through what was to come, leaving him behind, again, as her restless life’s ambitions drove her to greet her fate without a whimper.
She felt him stir, gradually, inexorably, forcing her from grim thoughts to heady anticipations. She accepted and returned his kiss, his touch, his hurried demands, becoming aggressive challenger and responsive lover beneath his increasingly urgent claim. Lost to what once could have been, but would never be. Except for this night.