“And what will you give me for my help?” Graves’ voice slithered over her skin, crawling over her until she had to grit her teeth against the desire to close her eyes and sigh.
Beckham was steeling himself and his voice had regained its composure when he spoke. “We’ve brought payment.”
“Wonderful.” Graves strode away from them and, seemingly at random, lifted a book into his gloved hand.
She wondered why he was still wearing them inside. Everything else about him made him seem like a worldly gentleman, but the gloves…they didn’t fit.
He flipped to a page near the center and scribbled something in the margins. “Please sign here and here.”
He offered the book to Beckham. “What is this?”
“Confirmation of payment. A receipt, if you will.”
“You will give to me that which I desire of your own free will,” Graves said. “I haven’t had to force anyone yet.”
Beckham seemed to vacillate before putting pen to paper. She could see that he didn’t want to put his signature in Graves’ book. To leave behind a record of their presence here. But it didn’t seem like Graves would let them off the hook otherwise.
“Thank you,” Graves said, turning to Reyna. “And you, my dear.”
Reyna took the pen in a shaky hand. Beckham’s signature was one of a dozen on the ledger. Not a single name was recognizable. It wasn’t as if Harrington had been here and Graves would let them know. She sighed softly and then scribbled her name on the line.
Graves snapped the book shut with a flourish and tucked it under his arm. “Now payment. You were informed of what I require.”
“Yes. I’ve brought you the diamonds of the Lady Charisma. Before I became a vampire lord of the city, I toppled several other cities along the way. A domino effect, if you will.”
“I’m well acquainted with your exploits,” Graves said in a crisp, bored tone.
“This was my first conquest. My very first spoil of the war that I started.”
“Hmm,” Graves murmured. He gestured to Reyna. “And this is the necklace?”
Beckham bristled. “It’s worth a king’s ransom.”
Graves replaced the book on the table he’d grabbed it from. It promptly blended into the rest of the mess. He seemed unconcerned with the worth of the diamond necklace or really with Beckham at all. He had his hands back in his pockets and he was standing less than a foot from Reyna, staring intently at the…jewelry.
“I like the packaging.”
Reyna stifled a scoff. Packaging. Fuck.
“May I?” he asked Reyna.
“I can remove it,” Beckham interjected.
“Now, what would be the fun in that?”
“I…I can get it,” Reyna whispered.
“Lift your hair.” His voice commanded in a way that gave her very little choice.
Her eyes found Beckham’s as she gently lifted her dark hair off of her shoulders and held it to the side. Through his eyes, she could see the torment raging in him. How much he wished they hadn’t come here. How he hadn’t anticipated someone like Graves. Beckham was used to being the highest peg on the ladder. She didn’t like it any more than he did to find out he wasn’t.
Graves examined the necklace with delicate fondness, as if he could identify the piece. Then he slowly, purposefully removed his black leather gloves. Reyna tensed at the deliberateness of the move and inhaled as his hands moved to either side of the diamond choker. The pads of his fingers skimmed the section around her neck. They moved to the hollow of her throat before slowly dragging down the V of the necklace. A finger circling each and every diamond as he dragged his way to the one dangling between her breasts.
His gaze shifted to her eyes for a split second and he smirked. He was enjoying himself. The bastard was fucking enjoying himself.
“Yes, I think this will do,” Graves said.
His hand moved back up the necklace and he shifted around to stand behind her. Beckham’s chest was rising and falling heavily. His hands were balled into tight fists. She could see that Graves wanted to toy with them but she didn’t understand why.
Then his finger touched her.
She couldn’t suppress her gasp. Barely a touch—just his index finger against her shoulder blade drawing a line across her back to the clasp on the choker. And suddenly her cheeks were aflame, her body flushed, her heart beating furiously. Just one touch had made her skin tingle and her knees threatened to buckle.
“Ah,” Graves said behind her. “I see.”
“What the fuck do you see?” Beckham seethed.
Graves carefully unclasped the necklace and removed it from her neck. He took a step back and finally she was able to breathe regularly again. She dropped her hair down her back. She suddenly wished she had her jacket or something to cover herself with. She felt utterly exposed to him. As if what he had done had been more than sexual…more than primal…undeniably intimate. It was as if one touch had bared her soul to him. And she wasn’t comfortable showing that to anyone but Beckham.