“And did any of these witnesses happen to overhear what he was saying to me?”
His nostrils flared, as though sensing a threat. “No. Enlighten me, please. You keep telling me he’s a danger to me, but you never elaborate. What has he been saying to you that would elicit such a reaction?“
I debated what to tell him. It all seemed so pointless, with only a few hours left between us. I tried one last time. “You need to challenge him. You can beat him in a fair fight. But if you leave it to him to try to assassinate you-”
He made a slashing motion with his hand. “We’ve been over this too many times to count. I don’t believe in killing my way to the top. I’m not afraid of him. If he wants to kill me, let him try his best-”
“He won’t be challenging you to a fair fight! This won’t be a test of your strength or his! He’s feeling out all of the people close to you, looking for a weak link. It would only take one to get you a knife in the back!” I hadn’t meant to, but I was almost yelling at the end.
He raised his brows in a question. “And this is what he’s been saying to you? He’s trying to solicit your help to kill me?”
I inclined my head. “He wants your head on a platter, and he has no scruples about how he gets it. You can’t fight someone who’s fully armed, with your hands tied behind your back. You think because your’e stronger than him, that you can take him lightly, but he didn’t get that position by being a pushover. What he lacks in power, he makes up for with deception and cunning. He’s pulling strings that you aren’t even aware of. You need to wake up and realize that the world is not going to follow your set of rules for decency. It’s pure ignorance to believe that Declan will!”
He ran a hand through his dark hair, his face showing his obvious weariness for a subject we had beaten to death. “It’s becoming clear that we aren’t going to settle any of this in the short time I have before I need to leave. And I don’t want to spend our last hours together arguing. Can you just promise me that you will at least try to stay clear of Declan and Siobhan while I’m gone? You don’t need any more bad press with my people, especially if I’m not here for damage control.”
I nodded, my jaw clenching. I wanted to argue with almost everything he’d just said, but I knew none of it would matter soon.
I stood, walking to the kitchen and placing my teacup in the sink. My head fell forward as I leaned heavily against the sink, feeling impossibly tired.
He pressed his full length in behind me, as I’d longed for him to do. His arms folded around me. He buried his face in my neck, breathing in deeply. Strands of our long hair mingled together in my line of vision. Just the sight of of it, his blue-black, and mine pale gold, touched something deep within me. There wasn’t a thing about him that I wouldn’t miss all the way to my core. “I’ll miss you,” he said into my skin, his voice thick.
I arched back against him, feeling the fever take me. “Now,” I said hoarsely, and as always, he obliged.
Later, we lay entwined, lingering together until the last possible moment. He cupped my face in his hands, looking intently into my eyes. “I know things have been bad lately, but I need you to trust me. And I want you to swear to me that you won’t run.” He knew me so well, knew that would be my first and strongest instinct. Years ago, when we’d reconnected after decades apart, I’d sworn him a blood-oath that I would never run again. Those things were a bitch to break.
It was because he knew me too well that I made sure to respond quickly and convincingly, looking straight into those beloved eyes. “I swear it.”
He stroked my cheek. “You know you’re the world to me, don’t you? There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.” His voice held a tenderness that was rare for him, a softness in his character that only I had ever been witness to, because it was a softness for me.
I never looked away from his beautiful eyes as I responded. “I feel the same.”
The Sun's Orbit
BACK TO PRESENT DAY
“Hey there, Darlin’,” I said into the phone. It just kind of slipped out.
“Hand Amy the phone,” he bit out. I felt the geas that had bound me slip from my wrist. It turned to dust as it hit the floor. Apparently, speaking to him had been enough to break it. The realization started a debate in my head. Perhaps I could just slip away. I was a pro at running. I quickly decided against it. In for a penny, in for a pound. And he was so close. He was the sun, and I was in his orbit now.
I handed Amy the phone and she listened for a minute before saying, “Yes, sir,” and hanging up. She turned and spoke to the nearest guard. “Rufus, Dom has asked that you escort Jillian to his office immediately.”
The guard didn’t say a word to me as the elevator sailed it’s way to the top floor of the hotel. Vaguely, I felt his power and hostility at my back, but it was an abstract sort of observation. I didn’t even get a clear look at his face. I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup. Usually I tried to take in details, but I was too distracted just then to care.
It was one of those elevators that faced a spectacular view of the city. I tried to enjoy the beautiful skyline on the long ride to the top, grasping at anything so as not to let my nerves get the best of me.
I was led to his office right away. I was more than a little surprised that he hadn’t made me wait.
My first sight of him in seven years nearly stopped me in my tracks. He was so familiar, yet so changed. His raven hair was cropped much shorter than before, shaved very close to his head, as though he cut it often. The last time I’d seen him, it had been a black waterfall down his back. It broke my heart a little to see that he had cut it.
The first time we’d been together, I’d run reverent fingers through it. It had hung longish then, just past his jaw. “I love your hair,” I’d told him at the time, “I can’t get enough of it. If you love me, you’ll never cut it again.” I’d been joking at the time, but he’d taken me very seriously, only trimming the ends of it for the decade that we were together. I’d grown my own hair down to my knees, because he’d loved it so much. It only reached my mid-back now. I’d cut it very short in a temper, after we had ended.
His pale, mismatched eyes had changed, gotten colder and harder, but they were still just as beautiful. They seemed to be lit with some inner fire that the years hadn’t dimmed. He had always been an intense and dangerous man, but there was a harder edge to him now. I could read clearly a bitterness, and perhaps even a touch of cruelty, that the last years had given him. Or maybe it had been me.