"I don't mind." He hesitated and gave me a sidelong glance. "You look beautiful."

"Thanks." I had on a red sleeveless dress with a corset-like top.

"It could use a flannel shirt, though."

It took me a moment to remember the ensemble I'd worn to his brother's, a moment longer still to recall I'd never given him the shirt back.

"I'm sorry," I told him after I pointed the same thing out to him. "I'll bring it back soon."

"Not a problem. I'm still holding your book hostage, after all. Fair is fair. Feel free to wear it some more, so it smells like you and that perfume."

He abruptly shut up, apparently fearing he'd said too much, which was probably true. I wanted to laugh the comment off, ease his embarrassment a little, but instead all I could imagine was Seth holding the flannel shirt to his face, inhaling deeply, because it smelled like me. The image was so sexy, so utterly provocative, that I turned slightly away from him, looking out the window to hide my feelings and suddenly heavy breathing.

What a shameless strumpet I was, I decided as the rest of the car ride proceeded in dead silence. Crying over Roman one minute, suddenly wanting to jump into bed with Seth the next. I was fickle. I gave out mixed signals to men, flitting from one to another, beckoning with one hand and pushing away with the other. Admittedly, the Martin energy ride was fast coming to an end, so most males were starting to look pretty good again, but still... I had no shame. I didn't even know who or what I wanted anymore.

When Seth parked but refused to come in with me to Emerald City, I felt guilty, knowing he thought that I thought he must be a pervert or something for the perfume comment. I couldn't let that go, couldn't stand the thought of him feeling bad over me. Especially when the perfume remark had been kind of a turn-on. I had to fix things.

I leaned toward him, hoping the corset top would do half my work for me in smoothing the matter over. "Do you remember that one scene in The Glass House? The one where O'Neill walks that waitress home?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Um, I wrote that scene."

"If I recall, doesn't he say something about what a shame it is to abandon a woman in a low-cut dress?"

Seth stared at me, expression unreadable. Finally, a not-so-dazed smile flickered onto his face. "He says, 'A man who leaves a woman alone in a dress like that is no man at all. A woman in a dress like that doesn't want to be alone.' "

I looked back at him meaningfully. "Well?"

"Well, what?"

"Don't make me spell it out. I'm in this dress, and I don't want to be alone. Come inside with me. You owe me a dance, you know."

"And you know I don't dance."

"You think that'd stop O'Neill?"

"I think O'Neill kind of goes off the deep end sometimes. He doesn't know his limits."

I shook my head in exasperation and turned away.

"Wait," Seth called. "I'm coming."

"Cutting it close, aren't you?" Cody asked me later when we arrived in the cafe of the now closed bookstore, practically running.

I gave him a quick hug, and he and Seth nodded cordially at each other before the author blended off into the crowd of staff. "It's a long story."

"Is it true?" Cody whispered in my ear, leaning toward me. "Is Carter hanging around right now?"

"No, actually. He was, but then he just bailed on me. That's why I'm late. I had to call Seth to pick me up."

The young vampire's serious mien relaxed. "I'm sure that was a big sacrifice for both of you."

Ignoring the jibe, I rounded up the troops so the lesson could get under way. As we had observed last time, most were about as ready as they would ever get. We didn't teach anything new, choosing instead to review old techniques, making sure the basics were solid. Seth, as he had stated, did not dance. He had a harder time resisting, however, as most of the staff knew him well by now. Many of the women tried to entreat him. He remained obstinate.

"He'd dance if you asked him," Cody told me at one point.

"I doubt it. He's been refusing all night."

"Yeah, but you're persuasive."

"Carter implied the same thing. I don't know when I got this reputation as Miss Congeniality."

"Just ask him."

Rolling my eyes, I walked over to Seth, noticing his gaze was already on me.

"All right, Mortensen, last chance. Are you ready to make the switch from voyeur to exhibitionist?"

He inclined his head toward me curiously. "Are we still talking about dancing?"

"Well, that depends, I suppose. I heard someone once say that men dance the same way they have sex. So, if you want everyone here to think you're the kind of guy who just sits around and - "

He stood up. "Let's dance."

We stepped out, and despite his bold declaration, his nervousness came through loud and clear. His palm was sweaty as he grasped my hand, his other hand almost too hesitant to fully rest its weight on my hip.

"Your hand swallows mine up," I teased him gently, easing mine inside his. "Just relax. Listen to the music, and count the beats. Watch my feet."

As we moved, I had the impression he had done the basic step before. He had no trouble remembering the pattern. His problem was coordinating his feet with the music, a behavior which came instinctually to me. I could tell he literally counted beats in his head, forcefully lining them up with his feet. Consequently, he spent more time looking down than at me.

"Are you going to come with us when we go out?" I asked conversationally.

"Sorry. I can't talk and count at the same time."

"Oh. Okay." I did my best to hide a smile.

We continued on this way, in silence, until the lesson ended. It never became a natural process for Seth, but he never missed any steps, paying attention to them with steadfast determination and diligence, sweating profusely the entire time. Standing so close to him, I could again feel something akin to static in the air between us, heady and electric.

I made the rounds with Cody as things closed down, telling everybody goodbye. Seth was one of the last to leave, approaching Cody and me as we walked out the back door.

"Nice job tonight," Cody told him.

"Thanks. My reputation was on the line." Seth turned to me. "I hope I redeemed myself with the whole dancing-sex comparison."

"I suppose there were a couple of notable similarities," I observed, holding a straight face.

"A couple? What about attention to detail, heavy exertion, lots of sweat, and single-minded determinedness to get the job done and done well?"

"Mostly I was thinking you just don't talk during sex." Mean perhaps, but I couldn't resist.

"Well, my mouth has better things to do."

I swallowed, my own mouth dry. "Are we still talking about dancing?"

Seth told us good night and left.

I watched him go wistfully. "Anyone else here feel like swooning?"

"I sure do," came Carter's jovial voice behind us.

Cody and I both jumped.

"Christ," I exclaimed. "How long have you been back?"

"No time for small talk. Hang on, kids."

After giving a quick glance around to ascertain we were alone, the angel suddenly grabbed our wrists. I felt that nauseating, rushing feeling again, and the next thing I knew, we stood in a very elegantly decorated living room. I had never seen this place before, but it was beautiful. Coordinated leather furniture adorned the room, expensive-looking art hung on the walls. Opulence. Style. Magnificence.

The only problem was, the entire place had been trashed. Slashes marred the posh furniture, tables had been knocked 'over, and the art was either askew or defiled or both. On one wall, a huge symbol I didn't recognize had been spray-painted: a circle with one line crossing it vertically and another cutting through at an angle, left to right. The glamour mixed with such desecration left me utterly dumbfounded.

"Welcome to Ch?teau Jerome," Carter announced.


"My apologies for the abrupt transport," Carter continued. "Jerome started freaking out that I'd left you alone for so long."

"I've never 'freaked out' in my life -  er, existence, er whatever," mused Jerome, strolling into the room. Studying him, I could believe his words. Dressed immaculately as ever, he held a martini in one hand and looked utterly at ease amid the disarray.

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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