My head was swimming, and I probably should have let myself sober up before seeing Lucas, but I had to admit I needed the extra courage the booze had given me. As I waited for the elevator, I heard a loud, intentional cough from the desk.
“Excuuuuse me, miss, do you need help?” The voice was shrill and annoying, and I knew right away who it belonged to.
During my second visit to Rain Hotel, I’d been accosted by an unpleasant desk clerk named Melvin. Melvin was a were-ferret, which made him the first of such I’d heard of, but he was weaselly enough to fit the bill. I turned my head and fixed a withering glare on the shrewd-looking little man. His mouth fell open and his eyes widened.
“No, Melvin, I don’t believe I’ll be needing any help from you.” I waved my black keycard at him and faced the elevator.
“Apologies, Miss McQueen. We weren’t expecting you.”
I grunted and the doors swished open. “No one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition.” It was a foolish reply and I almost regretted it, but I was too busy chuckling to myself to let it show. His face was red.
I punched in my penthouse access code on a hidden keypad above the regular numbers and gave Melvin a satisfied wave as the doors shut between us.
The elevator whirred to life, which put at least one fear to rest. My key code hadn’t been revoked. The higher the elevator numbers climbed, the more my heart sank until it was swimming in my stomach, doing backflips in the beer. I let out a shaky sigh as the ride came to an end with a slight jerk and the doors opened into the foyer of Lucas’s penthouse.
The main hall was dark and quiet, and I stepped into the hallway, listening for any sign of life. All I could hear was my own breathing. I followed the hallway for a few steps and saw a light on in a room I remembered being a small office. With as much stealth as possible given my shoes, I moved towards the light and, after a moment’s hesitation, pushed the door open an inch, asking, “Lucas?”
“No, he’s not…”
The speaker and I both froze simultaneously and stared at each other from across the dimly lit room. I didn’t need more light to know who it was. I had known the second I opened the door and was assaulted by the tart, bright flavor of limes. My eyes watered from the overpowering emotional response to the taste.
“Secret?” He didn’t seem to believe it. He put down the book he’d been reading and stood by the far wall, licking his lips tentatively. I tasted sweet to him, like crème brulee or spun sugar, and he was probably checking for the sweetness. With that much flavor in the room, there was no way for him to pass my presence off as a flight of imagination.
He looked different somehow. His dark brown hair had grown out but was cut more evenly, so instead of being short in the back and longer in front, it was uniformly shaggy and had been left to hang in his face. His big violet-gray eyes held a hint of pain that tore at my insides and sobered me up better than a cold shower. It was the same way he’d looked at me when he thought I might be dead. He was wearing dark jeans cut to show off the muscular build of his lower body, and a crisp white dress shirt, rolled up to the elbows, paired with a skinny black tie, loosened enough he had undone his top shirt button. Under the lime, I could smell a musky cologne on him, and the combined package made me take a step closer.
In response, he moved backwards.
“What are you doing here?” The words were loaded with unspoken accusation. I had anticipated it, but nevertheless, it stung.
“I’m back,” I replied. “I’m home.”
His face clouded with anger. “Lucas isn’t here.”
I looked around the room, as if he meant here with us, which seemed obvious enough. Then I realized he meant in the penthouse.
“Where is he?”
“He’s upstate, dealing with pack business. He’s had to do a lot since you left. There was a big mess to clean up and no one to help him with it.”
I couldn’t imagine exactly how my killing Marcus Sullivan might result in a big mess for the king, but I suppose there were a lot of things about the pack I didn’t understand.
“Oh,” was all I could say.
“Is that all?” His tone was cold and painful for me to hear. I stepped closer to him again, and this time he didn’t retreat, though I could feel anger coming off him in hot waves.
“I’m so sorry, Desmond. For everything.”
He growled a little, still glaring, but he didn’t stop me from edging towards him. I was within inches and could feel his rage in a searing, red aura. He was shaking.
“Why?” he asked.
“Why?” He looked beyond me. “Just…why? All of it.”
“I left because I was scared. I didn’t know what you and Lucas would think. And more than that. The vampire council came to me at the Oracle’s and gave me a job I was too scared to deal with.”
“Is that why you’re back?”
“That’s part of it.”
He raised a hand as if he wanted to touch me, but reconsidered and let it drop.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.” I lowered my voice and found I couldn’t look at him. “I missed you. I missed the taste of you.” I didn’t mean it in a sexual sense, though I had missed that too. With the sweet limey taste on my tongue, I was able to accept how much I missed the literal flavor of him.
Desmond made a small sound, somewhere between a whimper and a sigh, and then his mouth was on mine. His large, warm hands cupped my face, and he was imploring my lips to open. I sighed against him and wrapped my arms around his back, feeling the heat of his body through the thin layer of his shirt.
He pulled back again, holding my face, and looked at me with dark seriousness. “Don’t you ever leave me again.”
I nodded, no hesitation to my agreement. I’d longed for the warmth of his touch every night while I’d been gone, and now that I was with him once more, I never wanted to leave. “Shut up and kiss me,” I demanded, and he didn’t wait to be told a second time.
Picking me up, he walked us over to the desk and put me down on the hard wood surface. The few items that had been there—a phone, a penholder, a stack of papers—were showered onto the floor as he climbed onto the desk with me. I lay back and his body covered mine. I worshiped the heat coming off him as we kissed each other with the pent-up desire of a long separation. He clipped my lip with his teeth, breaking the delicate skin, then pulled back and gently sucked the blood off my lower lip.
I shuddered, and my lids fell closed as he tilted my head back and trailed kisses down my jaw, to my neck, then to my throat, then almost to my…
“Secret?” He stopped.
“This is the stupidest shirt I’ve ever seen.”
It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about until I looked between us and remembered the shirt I had borrowed.
“Oh. My other one was covered in blood, so I—”
Desmond froze. His body went rigid on top of me, and not in the way I would have hoped given our position. He slid back and climbed off me, standing almost out of reach and looking at me with a frightening expression. I sat up, shimmied to the edge of the desk and took his limp hand in both of mine.
“What just happened?” I asked.
“Why was your shirt covered in blood?”
Oh, yeah, I probably could have worded things a bit better. “Um. I guess I haven’t been entirely honest about what brought me back. It wasn’t really my decision.”
“What does that mean?” He took another step closer and placed one hand on my wrist, brushing his thumb down it.
“I was kidnapped?”
“You say that like it’s a question.”
“Well, it wasn’t a kidnappy kidnapping. It was more like the time you guys kidnapped me, you know?”
He raised an eyebrow, and I couldn’t blame him. I tugged him closer and wrapped my legs around his waist. He was still hard, but he didn’t take the bait. He didn’t pull away either, and I was happy just being close to him again.
“Sig needed me back, so he sent some people to come and get me. The teen wolf and I got into a bit of a scuffle, and we both got a little bloody, that’s all.”
“That’s all?” He cupped my chin and moved my face from left to right, most likely checking for any signs of damage. He seemed satisfied my healing had done its job, and let his fingers trail down my face and rest on my shoulder. “Teen wolf?”
“Yeah, some kid. Definitely a wolf and seemed familiar. Might have been cute before I got him in the face with a tire iron.”
“That’s my girl.” He smiled. A part of him was trying to piece together everything I’d told him, but a more substantial part of him was pressed against my pelvis. Now that his worry had faded, I was more likely to get what I wanted most out of the situation.
“Yeah?” He was absently rubbing his hand from my clavicle to my throat and back down again, making my pulse sing.
“About the shirt?”
He looked at my shirt and made a face.
“If you hate it so much, maybe you should take it off.”
My shirt was off before I’d finished the sentence. His was much less patiently removed in a tinkling shower of buttons hitting the floor and the satisfying sound of shredding cotton.
“I liked that shirt,” he said with a laugh as he pushed me back down onto the desk and kissed my exposed stomach. I grinned and ran my hands over his smooth, warm back.
“I’ll buy you a new one.”
There was little opportunity to joke around once he kissed me again. I fell into the abyss of his attentions, drowning in each deep, probing kiss. I dragged my fingers through the new length of his hair as he moved his hands between us and undid the button on my shorts. He found his way to the waistband of my underwear, and his sly fingers slipped under the cotton. He slid one finger inside me, and I gasped from the unexpected roughness of his warm skin.