His face turned bloodless, but now it was too late to stop.

“When Kate drove me to the flare to your mother, I kept trying to get out of the cart, because I was sure Aunt B would kill me. That’s what ‘bouda’ means to me, Raphael. It means hate and cruelty and disgust.”

I shoved my pan off the fire to save the half-burned steak.

“So you refuse to be with me because of what I am,” he said. “You can’t be that shortsighted. What happened to you was awful. But I’m not them. I would never hurt you. My family, my clan, we would never hurt you. We protect our own.”

“What you are is only a part of it. If you were a different man, maybe I could get over it. But you’re a typical bouda male. I want love, Raphael. I might not deserve it, after some of the stuff I’ve done, but I want it. I want security and kindness and a home. I want monogamy and consideration for my feelings. What do you have to offer me? You’ve slept with every bouda woman who isn’t related to you. Everybody had you, Raphael. They offered to give me pointers on what you like in bed. Hell, you didn’t stop with boudas. You played with wolves, and with rats, with jackals . . . To you, I’m just another weird thing to hump. For God’s sake, you got stuck inside a jackal girl while you were both in beast form and they had to call Doolittle out to separate you two. What were you thinking? You outweighed her by a hundred and fifty pounds and you aren’t even of the same species!”

“I was fourteen,” he snarled. “I didn’t know any better. She wiggled her ass in front of me . . .”

“You’re like a greedy kid in an ice cream store. You want everything and so you make this giant rainbow mess of a cone and gorge yourself on sweets until you can’t even think anymore. You have no restraint and no discipline. Why would I want to get involved with you? So the next time someone wiggles her ass before you, you’ll take off like a rocket? Please.”

I grabbed a fork, stuck it into my steak, and marched out of the kitchen, carrying off my charred piece of meat. I got outside, climbed in my Jeep, and realized I had left my guns and my keys inside. There was nothing left to do but chew on my steak. I really wanted to cry.

I was so screwed up. I tried so hard to be a human, and he unhinged me. I just fell apart like a doll. The beatings, the humiliation, the fear—I had left those things in the past. I had interacted with other boudas and never once had been bothered by them. But with him all of it came flooding back in a choking painful wave.

Only Kate, the boudas, and the Beast Lord knew what I was. If the Pack found out that I was beastkin, the Beast Lord would protect me from physical harm. Curran had considered the issue of beastkin and come to the conclusion that he wouldn’t tolerate genocide against us. But at least some of the shapeshifters would still despise me. If the Order found out what I was, they would expel me. The Order took a dim view of monsters in their ranks unless they were fully human.

Years of hiding, first in adolescence, then during the grueling training at the Order’s Academy, stressed to my limit, tortured physically and mentally, hammered into shape, into a new me, then service in the name of the Order. I had rigidly maintained my humanity and composure through it all, and what undid me? Raphael, with his blue eyes and warm hands and voice that made me want to press against him and purr . . .

How could I have fallen for a damn bouda?

I slumped forward and rested my head on the steering wheel. Why did I tell him all that? What possessed me? I should’ve just laughed off his dinner invitation. But it had been eating at me for months now and I just couldn’t help myself. There was this bitter emptiness inside me and it made me want to scream, It’s not fair! and I didn’t even know why.

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that I wanted to wake up next to Raphael. It wasn’t fair that he was a bouda. It wasn’t fair that for eleven years boudas tortured me and my mother.

Half an hour later Raphael emerged onto the porch and held open the door. Remaining in the Jeep was childish. Even storming out in the first place was childish. I took my fork, hopped out of the Jeep, and went inside with as much dignity as I could muster.

Raphael closed the door behind me. An odd light played in his eyes. He grabbed me by my shoulders and pulled me to him.

The breath jumped out of my lungs.

His stare was hard. “You will give us a chance.”


“Things happened before I met you and before you met me. Those things don’t matter. You had no control over your past, but here, right now, you control the situation and you’re voluntarily giving it up. You’re punishing both of us because of something that happened half a lifetime ago. It makes no sense.”

I tried to pull away, but he held me.

“There hasn’t been anyone since I met you. I’ve been good, and don’t think for a moment it was because of the lack of wiggling asses. Have you ever seen me with another woman since we met? Have you heard of me being with another woman? The same women who wanted to give you pointers will tell you that I haven’t touched anyone since I saw you. Are you jealous of them? Is that it?”

My face went hot and I knew I had flushed. I was jealous of them. Of all of them.

“Andrea, you can’t be jealous of someone I met before I knew you. I didn’t know you existed back then. I don’t want anyone else now. Has there been anybody for you?”

I shook my head.

“I think of you a lot. Do you think of me, Andrea? Don’t lie to me.”

“Yes!” I snarled, my face burning. “Yes, I do! All the time. I can’t get you out of my head. I wish I could!”

He hugged me so hard, my bones nearly crunched. “You’ve made yourself into a new person and so have I. We deserve a f**king chance. I want you and you want me. Why aren’t we together? I’ll deal with your hang-ups if you’ll deal with mine, but if you’re still too scared to even try, then you’re not worth waiting for. I have some goddamn pride left and I won’t wait forever.”

He let me go.

I could either take control of it now or walk out. I clenched my teeth. This was my decision. I owned it, I took full responsibility for it, and no memories would make me cower and run away from him. I was worth it, damn it. He was worth it.

I did what I had wanted to do since I first saw him. I dropped my fork and kissed him.

We never made it upstairs to the bedroom.

The problem with falling asleep wrapped in a comfy blanket on the floor between the coffee table and the sofa is that in the morning, when the phone rings and wakes you up, you forget the coffee table is there. At least Raphael did. There was a solid thud as he sat up, smashing his head against the table, and then a string of foul curses as he staggered into the kitchen and picked up the phone.

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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