Though I liked Desmond’s presence, I had played up my annoyance with Lucas a little longer than I should have. I told him I would accept a live-in guard, so long as it meant Lucas didn’t make any further decisions about my life without discussing them with me. He’d agreed on the condition I had to become a more active part of the pack. We were trying to work things out, but Lucas and I were like gunpowder and a lit match. Sparks flew whenever we were together, and it wasn’t always for the good.
With Desmond it was different.
I sat on the loveseat, and he knelt on the floor in front of me, pushing up my dress to look at the scar. I no longer tried to stop him when he did things like this. One, he was only trying to help, and two, I sort of liked it.
His warm hands brushed over the snow-white scar running in a three-inch line below my fifth rib. On my back the scar was only an inch and a half long and almost completely healed. A similar mark trailed ten inches down my forearm. They were all getting better, but with the aching slowness of silver wounds it felt almost like healing at a human pace.
I would never take my speedy recovery skills for granted again.
All the glass cuts were only memories, and my eyes were back to normal again. I had looked like a human punching bag/pincushion the day after the incident, but the smaller wounds healed within a day.
Seemingly satisfied I hadn’t ruptured the scar, he bent down and kissed the white mark. A telling shiver thrilled through me. He must have felt it, because his eyebrows rose and a dangerous smile was on his lips. We hadn’t had sex since the night of my fight, owing to the precarious manner in which I was healing. I’d been willing, but he didn’t want to risk hurting me.
I ran my hand through his hair and gave him my best seductive smirk.
“Are you sure?” He was already starting to second-guess it.
“Desmond.” My voice was loaded with heat. “You’re not going to kill me.”
He rose on his knees, hands seizing my face and pulling me in for a soul-jarring kiss. It was the kind of kiss long-lost lovers share when decades of time have passed since they were last together. He buried his fingers in my hair, and I held him close while his tongue explored my lips, gently at first, and then finding them willing to open for him, he deepened the kiss with a breathless intensity.
His cheeks were rough, having not been shaved in days. I dragged my fingernails against the short hairs, then down his neck, over his back and to the hem of his shirt, which I tugged upwards and off.
He broke away from the kiss to allow for the shirt to be removed, then reclaimed my mouth as he pushed me backwards on the couch. He held my thighs firmly, pushing my legs upward, and his fingers trailed with teasing lightness down the outside of my thighs, before backing up as he raised the skirt of my light cotton sundress.
I was so interested in touching his skin my fingers fumbled stupidly with the fly of his jeans, until I was able to release the snap and lower the zipper. Without hesitation, I slipped my hand inside and cupped his erection within my hot palm. He growled against my lips, lowering his mouth from mine to let his teeth graze my neck. This brought a gasp from me, and he teased my pulse with the flick of his tongue.
I clawed at his back, and he arched his hips against my grasping hand. I released him, which made him bite down harder on my neck. Ignoring his protests, I pushed him backwards off me, and before he could question why, I climbed onto his lap, hiking my dress up so I was nestled against the hard length of him.
I looked down, smiling, and kissed him again while I rocked my hips against his. Reaching one hand in between us, I released him from his underwear. He pushed my panties aside with rushed, deft fingers. Neither of us was interested in wasting time undressing. I raised up on my knees enough that he was positioned below me, then lowered myself onto his shaft with a painfully slow restraint that made his head roll back against the couch and a low moan escape his throat. I went as low as I could, until he was lodged as deep inside as I could take him, then I began to lift up again, but he grasped my hips and held me.
He was looking right at me, and what I saw in his eyes made my heart pound.
He released me so he could brush a strand of hair off my face, and he drew my mouth to his for a kiss that was almost too delicate, given our current position.
“I love you,” he whispered against my parted lips.
My pulse quivered, and my heart beat faster than I’d ever felt before. It was what I’d wanted to tell him before I left that night, and what he’d told me not to say. Now my words were coming out of his mouth. I stared at him dumbly, robbed of my ability to speak. Any movement threatened to take me out of the moment by reminding me what we were in the middle of doing.
“I love you too,” I said when I was finally able to form words.
He smiled, kissing me softly, his hands brushing over the bare skin of my arms, making me shiver all over. When he held my waist again, the rhythm had changed into something slower and more deliberate than our previous frenetic efforts. We were building towards a perfect finish when the first knock came.
Desmond paused, but I wasn’t so willing to stop.
“Ignore it,” I begged, my teeth worrying at the sensitive skin of his throat.
He began again, but the second knock came. Followed by a much louder third.
“Fuck,” I breathed hotly against his neck. “Hold that thought,” I directed before climbing off him and smoothing out my wrinkled dress the best I could.
My hair was in disarray, and even with the blanket pulled over his lap my disheveled boyfriend and I left nothing to the imagination for whoever had come calling. Oh well, I wasn’t going to pretend they weren’t interrupting.
I yanked the door open in the middle of the fourth knock with an unimpressed, “What?”
Holden, hand still raised in the air, stood smirking on the other side of the door. Being a vampire, he knew perfectly well what he’d interrupted. Smug bastard.
“Sorry to bother you,” he said, his voice sweet with charm.
“No you’re not.” But it was difficult to stay mad at him. Seeing him in my doorway, his hair cut and his clothes clean, looking like his old self and no longer a wanted man, made me joyful. Unable to contain myself, I wrapped him in a fierce hug. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
He hugged me back, then pushed me away. He gave Desmond a polite nod from the doorway. The werewolf waved halfheartedly. “Sorry, chap. I need to borrow Secret. Won’t be but a minute.”
“Sure?” What else could he say, though? Holden had already pulled me through the door and shut it behind us.
Outside the apartment the wall of heat I’d been hiding from in the air conditioning sucked at me like a hungry ocean, threatening to drown me. Holden walked me up the short staircase to street level where, parked in front of my BMW, was a long, sleek, black stretch limo. The overhead streetlights reflected in each of the glossy windows.
I looked questioningly at Holden.
He opened the door for me. “Just get in.”
I followed his instructions and he climbed in beside me. Sitting opposite us against the driver’s window and half-hidden by the low lights inside the cabin were Sig, Juan Carlos and Rebecca the French vampire I’d met at Havana.
I shot a glance at Holden, but he leaned back in the leather seat and laced his fingers behind his head like he was settling in for a good movie. I looked back at the trio of vampires, all of whom were watching me patiently. I didn’t have much to say to them, so I watched them right back.
Sig broke the silence. “We want to thank you for the excellent job you did.”
“You’re welcome,” I replied. Something was wrong with this. The Tribunal had never come to thank me in person for anything. Come to think of it, I could count on one hand the number of times I’d been thanked, period.
Silence again. Juan Carlos was looking especially unhappy, his jaw clenched so tight I thought he might break his own teeth. Rebecca was staring at Holden.
“Well.” I slapped my hands against my bare legs. “If that’s all.” I moved to climb over Holden, who stayed put, letting me attempt to clamber over his lap.
“Not quite,” Rebecca said.
I sat back down.
“I want to thank you personally,” she began. “You see, I may have neglected to mention when we met that Holden is of my line.”
I turned from her to Holden. He gave a small nod. “Must have slipped your mind,” I mumbled.
“I am grateful to you for saving his life and restoring his reputation.”
What she didn’t mention but must have known was that I was also responsible for killing one of her other vampire children. A few years earlier I’d been tasked with killing the actor Charlie Conaway, who turned out to be a vampire rogue using the thrall to feed from and kill his young female fans.
No one mentioned this because the whole event was a rather ugly history that was better off not being discussed. I appreciated that Rebecca didn’t bring up Charlie.
“It was my pleasure,” I said. “Your help was…instrumental.”
“There is one more reason for our being here,” Sig said, and Juan Carlos groaned. The others ignored him, but I’d definitely heard it.
“You are aware there is now an open seat on the Tribunal since Daria’s death,” Sig continued. “This, of course, is unacceptable, as a Tribunal of two is no Tribunal at all.”
“Right.” I didn’t see what he was getting at.
“Another must rise to fill the position, and we have been dealing with this matter since the night of Daria’s passing. We have now arrived at the natural conclusion, and a third member has been chosen by the elders of the council.”
“Oh.” They made a house call to introduce me to my newest boss? I looked at Rebecca. “Congratulations. You’ll make a great—”
She’d already begun chuckling before my words were formed. Even her laugh sounded highbrow. “Non, non, Secret. I am not the one. I am here as a representative of the elders to ensure our decision is properly carried out.” She shot Juan Carlos a meaningful look, then smiled back at me. “You see, dear, there has been much discussion among the elders about this situation. If Daria had passed by her own hand or been executed in another fashion, a member of the elder council would be chosen to replace her. In such a case I might very well sit before you as that replacement. However, according to tradition, the only true way for a vampire to become a member of the Tribunal is if they kill the existing member in a declared fight. That night at the park, I understand Daria initiated the fight against you, which qualifies it as a declared fight.”