I’m not exaggerating when I say she snarled at me. But she picked up the phone and dialed. “Sir,” she murmured into the phone, tone suddenly warm and polite. And breathless. “There’s a Jillian here to see you.” There was a long pause on the other end. I heard a rumble of words from a familiar voice on the other end of the phone. Then a question. “Yes, sir. She’s extremely tall. Black hair. Big breas-” She handed me the phone mid-sentence.
I put it to my ear, heart pounding. “Say something,” a heart-achingly familiar voice growled in my ear. There was a world of menace in his voice.
The sound of his voice triggered the unwanted memory of the last time I’d seen him.
DENVER 7 YEARS AGO
My body was shaking as I closed the apartment door behind me, leaning heavily against it. The confrontation I’d just had, with the present Arch-Druid Declan, had left me scared and in full flight mode. He’d pushed all the right buttons, threatening Dom and my freedom. What Declan didn’t understand was that pushing all of those buttons had only served to open Pandora’s box. A plan was already formulating in my mind of how to use his own proposals against him. I was more than determined that he would not take away the two things dearest to me. Dom and my freedom. Unfortunately, almost everything else was about to go up as collateral. Including my relationship. And the identity I’d been able to maintain for more than a decade.
I made a fresh cup of hot decaf green tea and sat down to drink it, and think. My hands shook every time I brought the cup to my mouth for a drink. I was wound up so tight that, for the first time, maybe ever, I considered having a glass of wine. I’d heard many people found a glass of wine relaxing. Perhaps, in spite of the danger, it would have that effect on me. My kind wisely stayed far away from alcoholic beverages. Bad, bad things happened when we imbibed.
I finally decided against it, opting instead to hit the gym. It was my safest stress reliever. Maybe after a few hours of intense cardio my body would stop shaking. I determined to do just that as soon as I finished my cup of tea.
My body tensed as I heard a key turning the lock on the front door. Dom wasn’t due home for several hours, and I had no wish for him to see me so shaken.
My profile was facing the door, so it was out of the corner of my eye that I saw Dom enter, and head straight for the kitchen. I heard him pour himself something on ice. Whiskey, I thought. He was having a bad day, too.
“We need to talk,” he began.
I tried to stifle a laugh. Why did that strike me as funny? I didn’t know. We’d been going through a rocky patch for the last couple of months. One thing after another seemed to be putting distance between us. Too many people wanted us apart. Team that up with some very unfortunate misunderstandings and we’d had some big fights that weren’t easily resolving themselves, as they always had so easily in the past.
He tried to ignore my rude outburst, starting again. “Declan is sending me out of town for about a week. The timing is bad, but unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of ignoring a direct order. My flight’s in a few hours, but we need to discuss a few things before I go.”
My breath caught at the news of his trip. Of course Declan was sending him away. It was his best chance to snare me in his trap. No wonder he’d gotten so aggressive of late. What Declan wasn’t counting on was that it would also create the best circumstances for me to implement my own plan. A few hours, I thought. So this was what it came down to for Dom and I. My mind seemed to be moving like molasses, but I understood that part right away. This was goodbye for us, and Dom couldn’t know it. I didn’t know what to do with the tightness in my chest, the thickness in my throat that felt like it could turn to tears if I let it. I’d never allowed myself to get this close to someone before, so close that they could tear me apart. I’d never even wanted to before Dom.
“Your behavior lately is baffling to me,” he was continuing in a hard voice. I tried to pay attention. “Is it too much to ask that you show a little civility, a little decorum, when dealing with my people? If you had set out on a deliberate campaign to systematically alienate yourself from the druids as a people, you couldn’t have done a better job. You’ve put me in an untenable position.“
Wow, he thinks I’m trying to ruin his life, I was thinking to myself as he spoke. I hadn’t expected him to make this easier for me, to give a speech that would actually strengthen my resolve to get out of his life.
“First, you throw a jealous tantrum and chuck Siobhan out of a twelve story window.”
I laughed out loud.
“You may think that’s funny, but I don’t think you understand how difficult this has made it for me to protect you and our relationship. Where is your self-control?”
I couldn’t seem to stop laughing, but it wasn’t happy laughter. It was more the hysterical kind. I finally got ahold of myself, wiping my eyes. “You really think that’s what happened with Siobhan? She said something to piss me off, and, in a jealous fit, I couldn’t stop myself from throwing her out a window?”
For the first time since he’d entered the apartment, I looked at him. He met my wild eyes with his own. His were beautiful, and mismatched. One was a jewel-toned blue so perfect it was almost violet, catching the highlights in his raven hair. The other was golden, and otherworldly. A wolf’s eye. They were the legacy of his mothers side of the family, a mark of druid pride carried on only in his powerful bloodline. And he was the last to carry them. They were the most beautiful eyes in the world to me. I could lose myself in those eyes. I had, many times. And right now, they were as angry, and as cold, as I’d ever seen them. “I think Siobhan has a vicious tongue, and I have no doubt that she provoked you deliberately.”
“And that’s it? She insulted me and I threw her out of a window? Does that really add up to you?”
His eyes narrowed. “Why don’t you speak plainly? If that isn’t what happened, tell me what did. I’m all ears.”
I was a breath away from telling him the whole story when I stopped myself. If this was last time I would see him, what was the point in alienating him from one of his staunchest allies? And wasting our last precious hours talking about that bitch. That thought made the decision simple. I remained silent, and shrugged. “It doesn’t matter.”
He raised a brow at me. “That’s all you have to say for yourself? It doesn’t matter? How about your hostility toward my Arch? I left you alone for two minutes at a social function, and you slapped him across the face in a room full of druids. Everyone there says he never laid a finger on you.”