Chasing the Shadows / Page 5

Page 5


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“All I need now is coffee, and my life is once again complete." He raised a dark eyebrow, amusement in his eyes. “Really?” His hand slipped between her legs. “You sure I can't interest you in anything else?"


Pleasure rippled through her. “Well, maybe there is one other thing I might be interested in.” Her voice came out a little breathless, and she growled in frustration when his touch left her. He smiled and caught her hand, kissing her fingertips. “I have discovered something over these last three weeks."


"What's that?” She hooked a leg over his hip and pulled him close, so that the hard length of him rested against her. Gently, she began rocking her hips.


Heat slithered through the link between them, wildfire ready to explode.


"I've discovered that celibacy is not something I care for."


"Well, don't come to me looking for pity. You're the one who won't let me accompany you."


"I know, but someone has to keep you safe.” He leaned forward and kissed her with a tender urgency that shivered through her entire being.


"I don't want safe,” she said against his lips. “I just want you." His gaze met hers, rich with desire and love. “You have my heart, you have my soul, and right now, you can have as much of my body as you can handle."


She raised an eyebrow, a grin teasing her lips. “I can handle quite a lot, you know." "I certainly hope so,” he murmured and rolled on top of her. She shifted her legs to accommodate him, and he slid deep inside. “Oh my,” she whispered, wrapping her legs around him. “That's an awful lot of missing you have there." He grinned at her. “You haven't felt the half of it yet, my love." And he proceeded to show her just what he meant.


* * * *


The scent of fresh coffee stirred her sometime later. She yawned and stretched and decided she felt like a cat who'd just feasted on cream—deliciously wicked and terribly contented. It was, she thought with a smile, amazing just how much several hours of good loving could improve your outlook on life. Michael appeared in the doorway. He'd obviously taken a shower because his dark hair was still damp. He was barefoot, and looked damn sexy in thigh hugging jeans and a black cotton sweater—one, she noted with pleasure, that she'd bought him just before he'd left for Ireland.


"Coffee, ma'am,” he said, placing a tray on her bedside table. “And breakfast." She scooted up in the bed and accepted the coffee he handed her. She took a sip—it was strong and sweet and just the way she liked it—and sighed in contentment. “Now I am a happy woman."


"So easily pleased,” he teased and sat down beside her. “How is your arm?" She glanced down in surprise, having totally forgotten about it. The doctor had placed a clear plastic film over the wound, and it was easy to see that there was no sign of infection. “Fine. Doesn't even hurt when I move it."


He touched her arm, gently probing around the wound. “It should nearly be healed, but we'll leave the film on until tomorrow."


She nodded and tried to ignore the sliver of unease. When he'd shared his life force with her, he'd also shared his amazing healing capabilities. It was something she was still trying to adjust to.


"Tell me about the vampire who attacked you."


She shrugged and sipped her coffee. “There's not much to tell. He had to be a fairly new vampire, and he was pretty much convinced of his invincibility."


"Most newly turned are,” Michael said, voice dry. “Comes with the condition, I'm afraid." She raised an eyebrow. “Were you?"


His dark gaze searched hers. She wondered why. “Yes,” he said after a moment, “though it took me less time than others to realize my mortality."


"Why?"


He hesitated. “Elizabeth generally liked her men young and in harems. I was but one of three she turned that year, and the shock of learning that—combined with having to fight for her affections—brought me to my senses sooner."


Pain slithered through her, even though she knew it was ridiculous. They both had pasts—and ex's—that were best forgotten. Yet she hadn't given up life and everything she'd ever known for her ex-. “So why did you stay with her?"


He smiled—a gentle, loving smile that warmed her entire being. “I have never said I was very bright back then."


Which didn't entirely answer her question, but she didn't push.


"Can you remember anything else about this vampire?” he asked. She frowned. “He was wearing a leather jacket. And biker's colors." Though he raised an eyebrow, he didn't seem surprised. “Did you recognize them?" She shook her head. “I wasn't exactly concentrating on them. But he knew my name, which has to mean he somehow knew I was coming."


"Yes. And until we know exactly why that vamp was after you, we had better be doubly careful.” He glanced at the clock. “Jake will be up here in a few minutes. Apparently his friend is getting pretty worried."


It was close to four, so no wonder. Nearly nine hours had passed, and no attempt had been made to find his wife. “I'll just finish this, then I'll dress."


He touched her cheek, his fingers warm against her skin. “Are you sure you're up to this? It could be pretty bad."


She frowned, her gaze searching his. “You're here because of the kidnappings, aren't you?” Not because of her. Disappointment mixed with anger, and she looked away, trying to conceal her hurt. Which was stupid, really, when he could read her thoughts as easily as he breathed. He touched her chin, bringing her gaze back to his. “Do you doubt that I love you?"


"No, but—"


His voice was gentle yet unyielding. “Do you have any doubt about how much I needed to see you?" She grinned faintly. “After this morning's efforts? Not one."


"Then do not doubt me when I say that no matter where you were, that is where I would have gone first. Nothing else was more important to me."


His words sang through her heart, yet part of her remained stubbornly angry. “But you could have told—"


He stopped her with a kiss that stole her breath and left her dizzy. "That,” she said when she could, “is not playing fair."


"Eat.” He smiled and handed her a sticky, fruit-filled bun. She did, but only because she knew he wouldn't let her out of bed until she did. Under normal circumstances that might not have been a bad thing, but she wasn't here to enjoy herself—not right away, anyway. She had work to do first. She drained the remains of her coffee, and he took it from her, placing it back on the tray.


"Why will it be bad?” she asked.


"We think there's a gang of vampires behind the kidnappings. They killed their first victim by draining her blood—but not before they'd brutalized her."


She swallowed. Was the vampire who attacked her connected to the vampires who might be behind these kidnappings? She suspected he was, and that only made the attack more frightening. It suggested they thought her some sort of threat, but how had they known she was even coming here? Only Jake, Mary and Mark had known. A chill ran through her, and she rubbed her arms. “Brutalized how?"


"They shaved her head, scarred her face, and—-” He hesitated. “Cut off her breasts." She shuddered and crossed her arms over her chest—not that she had an awful lot to protect. “Why on earth would anyone do something as ... depraved ... as that? They're sick. Totally sick."


"Yes. And we have to stop them before they can do it again or take any more women."


"We? You're not going to play the heavy and order me to stay put and out of danger?"


"Would you listen if I did?"


"No."


"Exactly. You'd gallivant off with Jake, and no doubt fall headfirst into trouble. At least if you're with me, I can keep an eye on you."


Anger stirred again. “I don't need you to play nursemaid. I am able to look after myself, you know."


"You barely survived Jasper,” he reminded her softly. “And there are six of them this time." Memories rose, and once again she felt Jasper's heated touch against her skin, his teeth in her arm, sinking into her flesh. Saw the desire in his eyes as he sucked her life away. She shivered and thrust the images away.


"You can't be looking over your shoulder trying to protect me all the time. That'll only lead us into trouble.” She hesitated, her gaze searching his again. The resistance she could feel in his thoughts was evident in his eyes. “If we are going to have any hope of pulling this off, we have to work as a team." He touched her face, trailing his fingers down to her lips. “Are you asking me to ignore what I feel?" His caress flushed heat against her skin and sent shivers of desire pulsing through her. She pushed his hand away. They needed to have this conversation, and for once, she would not be distracted. "No, what I'm asking is for you to trust me."


He frowned. “I do trust—"


"No, you don't,” she interrupted. “Not when it comes to taking care of myself. You cosset me, Michael, and it's not what I want. It's not what I need."


His frown deepened, his thoughts suddenly wary. Confused. “After three hundred and sixty years of searching for my heart's desire, you certainly cannot blame me for wanting to pamper you."


"Pamper away—just don't go overboard. Don't wrap me in cotton and expect me to remain happy. I'm not built that way, Michael.” She hesitated. What she was about to say would hurt him, yet it needed to be said, and said now, before time and resentment put real force into the words. “I need to be a full partner in your life, not something you pull out to play with every now and then." Anger surged briefly through the link, a wave of red heat that damn near blew her senses. He stood up abruptly, his face expressionless, dark eyes stony.


"Do you really think that is all you are to me? A toy I will eventually grow tired of?" That's not what she'd said at all, and they both knew it. Yet, deep down some small part of her did think that. Had always thought that. Eternity was a long time. She had no doubt that he loved her, but how could he say now that he would never tire of her? He'd loved Elizabeth enough to give up life for her, and yet he had remained with her less than a century.


She rubbed her eyes. “You're missing my point."


"No, you're missing mine.” He glanced around sharply. “Jake's coming. You had better get dressed." She cursed silently. “We need to finish this conversation."


"Maybe,” he said, voice flat, free of the tension she could feel in the link. “For now, just get dressed." He walked away. She picked up a pillow and tossed it at his retreating back. It hit him between the shoulder blades, and he glanced back, irritation flaring in his eyes. “If you want to be a full partner, start acting like one."


She clenched her fists and somehow resisted the temptation to kinetically smack him against the nearest wall. God, he could be so annoying. “I'll start acting like one when you start treating me like one." He didn't answer, just walked out the door. But she knew his thoughts. He wasn't about to let her walk completely by his side—not when it came to sharing the dangers of his life. And if he didn't, it would eventually tear them apart. He couldn't honestly expect her to sit at home for the rest of eternity while he went out and risked his life. The last four months had given her the taste of what that would be like.


She heard the door open, then Jake's voice greeting Michael. She sighed, gathered some clothes, then headed into the bathroom for a quick shower.


When she entered the living room ten minutes later, Michael was on the sofa reading a newspaper, his bare feet propped up on the ornate coffee table. He looked casual, at ease—an image at odds with the tension she could still feel in him. She didn't bother trying to read his thoughts, simply because she knew he'd block her. Next to his feet were two plastic bags. Dale Wainwright's belongings, no doubt. Jake was standing near the windows. He glanced around, but his welcoming smile failed to mask the concern in his eyes. “I hate to hurry you, Nik, but we really need to get moving on this." She sat down opposite Michael, who made no comment at her choice of seating. “What's happened,”


she said, picking up the plastic bag with the bra in it. Images skittered through her mind, muted flashes of color and sound. She only had to reach a little and she'd be with Dale Wainwright, sharing her thoughts and her feelings. Nikki licked her lips, not sure she was ready to face all that again.


"They found the second victim,” Jake said grimly. “From what the cops said to Mark, she was pretty beaten up. Worse than the first victim."


"Then we'd better hurry.” She took a deep breath and met Michael's dark gaze. “I don't like the feel of the images coming from this. You'll pull me out if things get too heavy, won't you?" Irritation seared the link, though his face remained expressionless. “Of course." She opened the plastic bag and let the bra fall into her hand. Images surged, too fast and too sharp to capture fully. She frowned, trying to gain some focus, trying to see where Dale was. Control it, Nikki. Don't let yourself be pulled too deeply into her mind. Going deep might be the only way I can find out where she is. The images flowed past her, quicksilver thrusts that refused to be pinned. She bit her lip and pushed a little deeper. Fear swam around her, a cloying scent that clogged her throat, making it difficult to breathe. It's too dangerous. Just sort through the images, and we'll see where they lead us. They didn't have the time—Dale didn't have the time. She could feel it in the other woman's fear—feel it in her hurt and humiliation.


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