Sounding nonchalant, she edged closer, gazing at the book and read over his shoulder. Dread pooled in her stomach. She wasn’t sure if it was the book, and there was no way to know without taking it from him.
Without thinking she asked, “What’s the Tribunal?” Before she could take another bite of her protein bar, Eric slammed the book shut and rounded on her.
Eye to eye they stood, Eric with the book tucked under his arm. “Where’d you hear that word?”
Natalia looked at him like he was crazy, “In the book. It said something about the Tribunal of Martis. Sorry, I didn’t realize you didn’t want me to see.” She held up her hands, and started to back away. Her eyes locked on his. Did he believe she was harmless? Why did he think she wouldn’t be able to read it? Natalia didn’t know what she had done, but she wanted that book. It would tell her everything. And it would destroy her relationship with Eric, but she had to know the truth.
Eric was already intrigued. The idea that someone could read his book was wonderful and horrible at the same time. Did she really read his notes? Natalia’s eyes drifted from Eric’s face, lingering on his smooth chest. When Eric caught her staring, she met his gaze defiantly—as if challenging him. So he did. Eric cracked the book open to a random page, and tossed it on her bed. “Read it.”
Natalia stepped forward, her shoulder brushing against Eric’s chest as she passed. He fought the urges that exploded inside of him at her touch. Her voice was confident as she read from the page. “The realms are ruled by three beings. The Underworld is governed by a powerful demon,” she glanced at him, “there’s a notation of species—that’s the closest word in English—is unknown. The drawing next to it is of a half-naked girl and says it’s a prophecy of thirteen. The Middleground is filled with humans, Martis and Valefar,” Her eyebrows rose as she spoke these words, as if she didn’t believe what she was reading, “the Heavens are the angel’s realm. Notation of governess is a name I can’t pronounce. And the leader of the Middleground says,” she paused, leaning closer to the book, “unknown.” She turned back to him. It felt like her mouth was filled with sand. This was the book, but the way Eric was looking at her, she knew she did something wrong.
Eric’s eyes were wide, watching her like he’d never seen her before. “Who are you?”
Natalia laughed, not taking his question seriously despite the shock on his face. “The same messed up girl I was yesterday—except this psycho fed me some demon blood last night. That might have had…” but she didn’t finish.
Eric moved toward her swiftly, stopping in front of her without touching her. “No one can read that. No one has ever been able to pick that up and read it,” Eric said. Natalia just shrugged, acting like it was no big deal, but to him it was. He took a step toward her. She slid her foot back. For every question, he took another step forward. “Who are you? How can you see through me? How can you decipher codes in languages that are dead? What the hell are you?”
Natalia’s back hit the wall, the wall with Eric painted on it. Meanwhile, the real Eric was standing in front of her shirtless, pressing her back with no way to escape. Her heart hammered in her ears. He figured her out. That had to be it. Natalia tried to act calm, her icy blue eyes met Eric’s, “Don’t look at me like you don’t know me. I’ve been like this the entire time. It’s not my fault you just noticed.” As she spoke her lips were nearly touching his.
Eric leaned closer, watching her answer, searching for lies but not finding any. “You’re human?”
Her voice was barely a breath, “Yes,” she lied. Her cool blue gaze locked with his. He believed her, she could feel it. But there was more, he knew there was more to her than that, then being mortal.
“Tell me what you see.” His eyes were locked on hers. The icy blue shallows melted as he watched her. He wasn’t sure what happened, but he had known what she saw in him. The paintings on the walls said that she could see past the surface and into his soul. No one saw the Omen and lived, but Natalia was alive. Maybe she was an anomaly. Maybe she could survive Eric, too. Then there wouldn’t be a reason to complete his plan. He felt safe around her, like the part of him that he feared most was muted. Natalia must have seen it in him. Desperation coursed through his veins. He had to know what she saw. All of it. She had to tell him.
His question threw her off balance. He still didn’t suspect her. Instead he went down another path, one that she didn’t want to walk. “You don’t want me to answer that, Eric. I…” but he cut her off, slamming his hands on either side of her head. She didn’t flinch, or cower. Natalia wasn’t afraid of him. She never was. He didn’t understand why.
“Tell me,” he growled, trying to evoke the demon blood, but finding he couldn’t. He pressed his forehead to hers. She had sight—visions of the future. That had to be it. She was a mortal that was touched and could see fragments of what was to come. Could she see him? Did she know his fate? “Tell me,” he repeated, gently, near pleading with her.
“Eric,” she whispered his name, pushing back a little, taking his face in her hands. Feelings warred within her. She wanted to taste his lips, but she was certain she found her mark, and it was Eric. He’d die at her hand, and yet, she couldn’t stop holding his face, feeling his smooth skin between her palms.
Eric began to pull away when she didn’t speak, but she held him in place, finally saying, “I see you…” Her hands were splayed on the sides of his face, his lips a breath from hers. “I see the remnants of a good man. I see the darkness that’s consuming him so quickly that he’s drowning in it. I see him fighting, trying to keep his head above the waterline, trying to save himself, but he can’t. He revels in pain and lusts for women who fear him. He’s cruel and bitter. He’s twisting into something evil, something I can’t see yet. He shies away from compassion. He alienates those who care about him. He leans toward the depths of darkness that he’s about to fall into, never to rise again. We are all made of light and dark, Eric, but your light is nearly gone—and soon it will vanish.”
His scent filled her head as she spoke, saying words that broke her heart. Eric’s golden eyes didn’t leave hers. His lips remained parted like he wanted to contest what she said, but he remained silent. Natalia continued, looking at him from beneath dark lashes, not wanting to say it—but something compelled her to finish, “It’s like there’s darkness where your soul should be. I see through you, like you’re a sheet of glass, but there are places that have blackened and become opaque. Soon all of you will be like that—dark. Evil.” She blinked, glancing down. “That’s what I see… ”
Golden eyes stared back at her as she spoke. Each word felt like a knife in his heart. Eric wanted to tear away from her. He wanted to make her stop speaking, but he didn’t. Instead he listened to this woman describe the monster that stood in front of her. She knew he could sense fear, that it made him lust. And yet, she stood there, talking to him like he was anyone else. She said that parts of him were blackened, that she couldn’t see into him fully. Did she know what he was? What he was capable of?
“How much do you know?” he asked. “Can you see what I really am? What I’ve done?”
“What does it matter?” she replied, gazing into his eyes, feeling the curve of his chest against her body as she leaned closer. Her mind was caving in, allowing her body to speak for her. The connection she felt to him overrode every other thought in her head. His lips were so close. One taste. One kiss. What harm could it do? She leaned closer, her lips so close to his mouth that she could feel his breath. “We’re more alike than you realize, Eric Masterson, you just don’t see it yet.”
Eric was enthralled with Natalia. He wanted her, and she wasn’t resisting him anymore. The way she spoke, the way she moved her body, pressing it into his made him know her intentions. But, when she said his name it shattered the moment, yanking him back like a slap in the face. He snatched her hands away from his face, slamming them above her, into the wall. “How do you know my name?” He pushed so hard that she screamed. It felt like the bone was cracking beneath his palm. The weight of his body was crushing her.
Natalia had no idea why it mattered. Who cared what his name was? She was spewing out the answer before he snapped her wrists. “The book! It was in the book! Your name was in the book!”
Eric could feel her fear course through her body in full force. Finally. It bubbled out of her stomach, twisting into every inch of her body. It was intoxicating, filling his mind, pulling him farther and farther away from who he wanted to be. His hands could slip over her throat, and silence her. Terror pulsated through her body, steadily increasing with every heartbeat. Eric couldn’t move. His instincts were at war with his mind. His hands were moving to crush her throat, his head telling him to release her. It was her fear, it was so thick. He couldn’t stop. He could barely speak, “Fight me off.”
Natalia ignored him. Instead, she pressed her lips to Eric’s. It felt right, and she couldn’t fight it anymore. Something inside of her came undone when he tried to hurt her, when Eric lost control of himself. The only thing she could hear was her pulse pounding in her ears. The threat evoked who she was and she couldn’t help it. Eric’s hands on her throat made her hotter, her stomach twisting, igniting her longing so she couldn’t hold herself back. When Natalia’s soft mouth brushed against his, Eric’s eyes closed. Natalia kissed him again, this time harder, sucking his lip into her mouth, nicking it with her teeth. Eric’s eyes flew open. They were like liquid gold, surrounded by burning blood.
Her heart raced faster, the pit of her stomach coiling tightly. Natalia’s eyes watched the trail of red as the drop of blood rolled down his lip. She lunged forward and kissed him harder, tasting his blood. Eric pressed himself against her, feeling the curve of her chest pressed against his. He wanted to touch her and feel the soft swells of flesh in his palms. Eric’s rage, the fire that burned within him completely transformed when she kissed him. His hands slid away from her neck and down her curvy body. One hand lingered on her breast. Feeling her like that, it made him want her even more. The moans, the soft sounds that Natalia made in the back of her throat were drawing out the part of him that couldn’t be with Natalia, the part that he kept hidden. Sliding his other hand lower, he felt the small of her back, and pulling her tighter against him.
Natalia didn’t stop kissing when Eric released her throat. Instead she deepened the kiss, acting like she’d die if she stopped. Her fingers tangled in Eric’s hair, pulling it hard. He tasted better than she imagined, and she wanted more. The way his body felt, all hard muscles and firm, she wanted him. Natalia could feel his hands on her, and she wanted them there, craving more. There was no longer any regard for protecting her identity from him. Her nature overtook her, and she gave into it.