"I'm not jealous - but I think Maddie does have a crush on you."

"Unlikely. It's probably just author worship." He gave me a pointed look. "Like some people I know. If anything, she's got a crush on you."

"Oh, for God's sake, stop with the lesbian fantasy thing."

"Nah, nothing like that. She just idolizes you, that's all. You're chipping away at that insecure exterior of hers, and I think she's starting to really see how much she's capable of. You're sort of setting the example."

I hadn't considered that. "Really?"

"Yup. Keep training her up, and we'll have a mini-Georgina on our hands." Seth chuckled as we made a painstakingly slow turn. "Between her, that new succubus, and my nieces, you should start a Ladies Finishing School. How can you be such a good influence and have such a..."

"Demeaning job?" I supplied.

"Something like that. Of course, I suppose it could be worse."

I gave him a sidelong glance. "Could it?"

"Yeah, you could, like, sell Amway or be trying to get me to move large amounts of money out of Nigeria."

"Definite deal breakers in any relationship," I said solemnly.

He looked over at me, rather brave considering the intense attention he'd been giving his feet. Under the rink's soft lights, his expression was tender. His lips curled into a small, fond smile, and his eyes shone with an affection that almost made me go weak in the knees. Maybe it was a trick to get me to fumble my skating. It nearly worked.

"For you?" he said, coming to a stop. "It might be worth it."

"Worth cleaning out your bank account?"


"Worth being part of a pyramid scheme?"

"They say they don't do that anymore."

"What if they're lying?"

"Thetis," he said with a sigh. "I'm going to say something to you I've never said before."

"What is it?"

"Be quiet."

And then he leaned down and kissed me, bringing warmth to my cold lips. Nearby, I heard children giggle at us, but I didn't care. I felt the kiss down to my toes. It was brief, like always, but when Seth pulled away, my whole body was filled with heat. Every nerve in me tingled, alive and wonderful. I barely noticed the chilly temperature or the way our breathing formed frosty clouds in the air. He laced his fingers through mine and lifted my hand to his lips. I had gloves on, but he kissed exactly where I wore his ring.

"Why are you so sweet?" I asked, my voice small. My heart beat rapidly, and every star peeping through the clouds seemed to be shining just for me.

"I don't think I'm that sweet. I mean, I just told you to be quiet. That's one step away from asking you to wash my laundry and make me a sandwich."

"You know what I mean."

Seth pressed another kiss to my forehead. "I'm sweet because you make it easy to be sweet."

We linked arms again and continued our circuit. I had a sappy urge to rest my head against his shoulder but figured that might be asking too much of his coordination.

"What do you want for Christmas?" I asked, my thoughts spinning ahead to next week.

"I don't know. There's nothing I need."

"Oh no," I teased. "You aren't one of those, are you? One of those people who are impossible to shop - "

One of Seth's feet slipped out from under him. I managed to stay upright, but he went down, his legs crumpling underneath him.

"Oh my God," I said, kneeling down. "Are you okay?"

"I think so," he said. The tight set of his lips informed me things were a bit more painful than he was letting on. Putting my arm around his hip, I helped him up. The leg he'd fallen on started to buckle, but he managed to keep it steady in the end.

"Come on," I said, steering him toward the gate. "We should go."

"We just got here."

"Oh, suddenly you're a fan, Scott Hamilton?"

"Nope, but you are. It was just a fall."

Maybe it had been just a fall, but the thought of Seth getting hurt had made my heart seize up. "No, no. Let's go. I'm hungry."

The expression on his face informed me that he knew I wasn't that hungry, but he didn't fight me anymore. When we'd shed our skates for normal shoes, I was pleased to see he didn't walk with a limp or anything. That would have really been too much: him getting hurt and having it be my fault.

"I'm not made of glass," he told me as we drove to dinner. He was remarkably good at guessing my thoughts. "You don't have to protect me."

"It's instinct," I said, lightly. But in my mind, I recalled the grim conversation he'd had with Erik. They were mortal. They could get hurt. They could die.

It was something I'd witnessed over and over throughout the centuries. Each time I grew close to a new mortal, I'd try to pretend that it wouldn't happen to him or her. But it always did, and eventually that cold reality would hit me, no matter how hard I tried to push it aside.

In fact, that knowledge consumed me for the rest of my night with Seth. I knew it was stupid to make such a big deal out of one fall, but I'd seen too many small things lead to disaster in my life. Lying in bed beside him later on, I found myself thinking back to a series of events that had also started small and ended in tragedy.

Several centuries ago, I lived in a small town in southern England. I'd called myself Cecily then and worn a body with flaming red hair and big, man-eating eyes the color of sapphires.

Funny thing about the Middle Ages. Modern folk always harbor this image of devout, God-fearing people strictly adhering to the letter of divine law. While they were certainly devout back then, that whole adherence thing left something to be desired - even among the clergy. No, scratch that. Especially among the clergy. Powerful churchmen often lived very well in an age where commoners desperately tried to scratch out a living. Ironically, that desperation contributed to the Church's wealth since the population hoped their lots would improve in the next world and gave money accordingly. Wealth and power lead to corruption, however, and the bishop of the town I lived in was one of the most corrupt around.

And I was his mistress.

Ostensibly, I worked as a servant in his household, but most of my laboring occurred in bed. He fawned over me and kept me supplied with nice clothes and other trinkets, and everyone knew about our relationship. People accepted that it was technically wrong, but most just lived with it. A lot of other bishops - and popes - had mistresses too, and like I said, not everyone was as devout as modern romantics like to believe.

Simply living in sin with a crooked bishop didn't satisfy my job requirements. After all, I was a real go-getter in those days, and it hadn't taken too much to lead him astray. If I hadn't done it, someone else would have.

So, I slept around on him when I could, getting regular fixes and a great deal of entertainment along the way. One day of said entertainment came from two monks who pulled knives on each other after discovering I'd slept with both of them. I don't know what good they thought it would do. I hardly ever saw them anyway since their monastery lay so far outside of town. Besides, considering how mediocre both liaisons had been, I didn't have much interest in revisiting either one.

Nonetheless, they fought ferociously, drawing a lot of blood until a local priest managed to separate them. I watched the conflict with an innocent face, hidden among the enthusiastic crowd. No one suspected my involvement, save the intervening priest.

His name was Andrew, and I adored him. Bishops performed masses and other sacraments, but they also had administrative responsibilities. Consequently, Andrew performed a lot of day-to-day ministering. He frequently visited the house where I lived and would speak to me both as a friend and a pastor while traveling to and from his duties.

"Do you hate me?" I asked him after the fight.

We sat in the garden outside the bishop's house. A couple other servants tended the grounds nearby but were still too far away to overhear us. Andrew hadn't specifically cited my involvement in the fight, but he had mentioned the incident when he arrived, lamenting what a shame it was that two brothers had been driven to such extremes.

Closing his eyes, he tipped his head back into the sunshine. A heavy gold cross - a gift from my bishop that Andrew continually wanted to sell - rested on his chest, gleaming in the light. "No, of course not."

I studied him, admiring his young, handsome face and thinking the real shame was his celibacy. Wind ruffled his silky brown hair, and I imagined running my fingers through it.

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