I saw my face set into familiar neutral lines as I schooled my expression. “What look?”

His face was sad but rueful. “Your running look. As though you’ve rested too long and you’re about to get up and start running again. That look makes me want to tie you to my bed. I would, if I thought it would keep you there. For someone who can fly, you sure love to run. Do you suppose you’ll ever stop?

I smiled at him sadly. “I hope so. But it’s all I know. We’ve always been running. And hiding. And scheming. And lying. But I’m sick to death of it all. It’s no life we’ve lived, for all of these centuries. Leaving behind or destroying the things we love.” I swallowed hard past the lump in my throat, trying not to let my feelings show in my eyes. His contrasting eyes were so intense, cutting into my soul.

“Not today, though. I need to find Lynn. And get her back. I have my work cut out for me. I’ll be running, as usual, but this time I’m running into the fight, and not away from it.”

His mouth hardened. “Yes, I know. The druids can help you. You have but to ask. And no more lies, Jillian. I’m sick unto death of your lies.”

He was silent for a long time after that, and I lay unmoving against him.

Finally, he spoke again. “I’ve lost count of how many women I’ve been with since you left seven years ago.” Ouch. “And it wasn’t even for comfort that I turned to them. Not even for lust. It was all to punish you. To remind myself that we were done for good. And that you were dead to me.”

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. He didn’t let me lick my wounds before he continued. “And, sometimes, when I was really having a bad time of it, it was even a misguided attempt to find you. Some part of me just couldn’t believe that you would let me get away with defiling our love like that. I had some dysfunctional fantasy in my head that you might come back to me, like some avenging angel, to punish me for what I was doing. But it didn’t matter how many times I did it, or with who, every single time it felt like I was breaking faith with you.”

“That may have been what enraged me the most. That it still felt like breaking vows for me, even though you were the one that betrayed us. I felt like a bastard, when you were the one who had moved on, long before I.”

“And even hating you so much, all the while, I was still sick with worry, because I knew that, even with your betrayal, fear is what had made you run. It was my last thought before I slept, for every single night of your absence. There was something that you feared, and I had no way to know if it had caught up to you, or even if you were alive. It killed me, every single day, that instead of staying where I could protect you, you had left me in purgatory, and made yourself more vulnerable. And made me think that you had f**ked my nemesis on your way out the door…”

“And now I find out that it was all an elaborate lie.” His mis-matched eyes had turned positively malevolent in the mirror by the end of his confession. The golden one was glowing like a torch. “Sloan told me, when she finally regained consciousness, about your little scheme with Caleb.”

Tears had started running down my cheeks at the beginning of his speech, tears of pain. But they turned to tears of relief at news of Sloan. “Sloan is okay?” My voice was raw, holding back sobs. How I’d hated myself for dragging her into my mess, and thinking it had gotten her killed.

He stroked my wet cheek, his expression softening at my tears. “She was in real rough shape when we found her, but she’s fully recovered now. It will take Cam far longer to get over it.” He smiled slightly. “You might want to avoid him for awhile.”

“I usually do. Those two are something, huh? They almost make us look stable.”

A corner of his mouth kicked up. “I wouldn’t say that. But their story goes back just as far. The same year, in fact. 1947 was the year for tempestuous lovers to meet, perhaps.”

This was news to me. My brows shot up. “I didn’t know that. I would pay good money for that story.”

His gaze turned speculative. “I’m sure we can come to some sort of agreement. Some other time. I had something else in mind for the moment.”

He lowered my legs, one at a time, very slowly, to the floor. They felt like jelly. I leaned back heavily against him. He watched me, his lids heavy, while he arranged my uncharacteristically wavy golden locks around my torso, curling them around my br**sts just so. “Put your hands on the mirror,” he ordered hoarsely. I did. “Spread your legs further apart.” Another order. I complied.

He stepped away from me, moving to my left and closer to the mirror. I could see him more clearly now in the reflection, but he was out of arm’s reach. His exquisite eyes never left me, his hair falling against his face as he bent forward slightly to unbutton his long, dark robe. I noticed for the first time all of the intricate patterns embroidered into it, in a deep purple thread. It was covered in runes. Powerful ones. Whatever the druids had been up to tonight, it was strong magic. Something that required the most powerful druid I had ever seen to also have to dress himself in power. “That is an intimidating piece of clothing. Am I allowed to ask what it was for?”

He smiled enigmatically. “It’s best if you don’t. Druid business. Some things gain power when you speak of them.”

I thought immediately of that terrifying grove I had witnessed. “The grove,” I guessed.

He gave me a level stare. “There is a binding ritual that the guardian must perform in order for us to maintain…peace. I am the guardian. That is all I can say about it. Please, speak no more of this. As I said, words give it power.”

I nodded slightly. Giving that thing more power was the last thing I wanted. It had been added to the very small list of creatures in the world that scared me shitless. And I had only had one run-in with the thing…

I gasped, my mind going suddenly, perfectly, blank. Dom had finished unbuttoning the robe and let it drop to the floor. He stood gloriously naked now, and I was transfixed. My eyes soaked in the sight of him. He was massive, of course, towering over my own six foot height. And his muscles bulged in a most distracting fashion. But for all that, he was lean and sinewy. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on his entire, perfect frame. He was almost..elegant, for all of his monumental size. That perfect body combined with his aristocratically beautiful face. He was an exquisite work of art. How many hearts had he broken since I’d left? At least one, I knew firsthand.


Tags: R.K. Lilley Heretic Daughters Vampires
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