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She followed the signs and let herself through a glass door. “Jorick?” she called as she pushed out onto the balcony and looked both directions. A wrought iron railing stopped people from jumping into the bright blue pool below, and scattered chairs gave visitors a place to sit in between large potted plants. Doors were set in the wall, no doubt private entrances to some of the higher priced rooms. But there was no sulking vampire, no dark angry shadow.
Damn. Maybe he went outside looking for food.
Something stirred behind a huge palm, and Verchiel stepped out, his face neutral, but his eyes still hard. “He’s in Brandle’s room. They’re having a meeting.”
Shit. She’d followed the wrong vampire.
He leaned on the railing and looked out over the pool. “You’re welcome.” When she didn’t move he added, “You’d better run along before he decides to blame that on me, too.”
She rolled her eyes. “I wish the two of you would stop it.”
“Two?” He glanced at her, then back to the scene below.
“Oh come off it. You’re not that innocent. You spend a lot of time antagonizing him. I just don’t know why. Sometimes I think you’re hoping he’ll kill you.”
It was a joke, but neither of them laughed. Finally, Verchiel said, “I can’t hate him. I want to, but I can’t. Blame it on Kateesha. I think some of her affection for him got passed along.”
Katelina wasn’t sure what to say to that. “Why do you want to hate him? Because he’s always giving you a hard time? You do some of that yourself.”
Verchiel scoffed. “No. I’ve wanted to hate him for most of my life – or the life I can remember. Ever since Kateesha started on about him. He was her god, her hero, her strong beautiful perfect angel. She’d have sold me a thousand times over for him. She did, in the end. Not so much sold me as abandoned me.”
Ah. (didn’t Oren mention this somewhere? If so have her remember that and be like “Hmmm”)
Verchiel went on. “The most amusing part is that he wasn’t the one who summoned her. Malick commanded her to join him and Jorick in the New World. She could have ignored it – would have except that it mentioned him. She saw his name and lit up, and I knew that was it. Stupidly, I thought she’d take me too, that I could at least be a third wheel. Instead I got handed an insincere apology and the chance to watch her walk away.” He cleared his throat. “I know you hate her. I know you killed her. But…”
He broke off and Katelina caught her breath. But what? She’d never thought about that before. She was the one who’d killed his master. (something)
He looked at her sharply, and she wasn’t sure if he’d heard her thoughts or guessed them. “I don’t blame you. Not really.” He looked to the pool again and leaned his chin on the railing. “It’s like everything in life, it depends which lens you looked through. In your view she was a jealous woman who tried to take what was yours at any cost, even your life. In her view, you were a pesky human in the way of what belonged to her. If I’d come with her, if I’d been by her side, I’d have seen things her way. But I didn’t, and I don’t. From where I stand, no one was right.
“But it doesn’t change things. Logic, reason, they don’t change things. You asked me about my connection to Kateesha before. If you really want to know, yes, I loved her. She was my entire universe. My mother, my lover, my teacher, the only thing I knew, the only thing I had. And then she left and I had nothing. Just a weak, sporadic talent to mind read, and the ability to move faster than everyone else. Without memories of what came before, I didn’t understand any world except hers, and when she left, that world disappeared with her. I tried to replace her, but that…” He gave a mirthless chuckle. “Two girls in…was it Romania maybe? I don’t even remember. I couldn’t speak the language but it was all right, because I knew French and so did one of them. And do you know what happened?”
He fixed her with a probing stare and she gave an uncomfortable shrug. “No.”
“Oh, it was great. After three months I found out that their nightly visitors were tourists and locals who paid to ‘look at the demon’ –the demon being me. Apparently I could grant wishes just by looking at them. The girls made a tidy profit, not that I saw any of it. And that was when I learned what the world really was. After that I spent decades studying vampires and humans alike, trying to learn how to fit in, what to say, what to do, how to be, how to avoid that ever happening again.” He straightened. “And in case you can’t guess how the little tale ends, I still haven’t figured it out. Not that it matters anymore. I gave up long ago.”
Katelina rubbed her arm uncomfortably. She’d seen him serious a handful of times, and hadn’t known how to handle it, but this…This was way beyond that. What in the hell was she supposed to say?
“This is where you turn around and run back to Jorick.”
She shifted uncomfortably. She should take the chance, escape now. But she didn’t. “You said he was in a meeting. What’s the point?”
He made a frustrated noise and ran his hand through his hair, messing up the gelled perfection. “Because if you don’t, we’ll both be sorry.”
He closed the distance between them and met her eyes. The intensity in his gaze made her breath catch in her throat, and her stomach tighten. A small voice in the back of her head was screaming; screaming at her to turn, to run, to get the hell out of there before his prediction came true. But she couldn’t move. She was pinned down by the heat in his eyes.
He reached out and traced her cheek with his fingertips. His violet eyes darkened, and she saw his chest tightened as he caught his breath. Her attention moved from his eyes, down to his mouth, to his perfectly shaped lips.
Oh God. He’s going to kiss me.
The revelation didn’t fill her with horror, only a sort of expectant excitement. The screaming voice came louder, trying to be heard over her heart pounding in her ears.
Her name came as barely more than a breath, then he leaned close and brushed her lips with his. She knew she should pull away, she should scream, she should stop him. But she couldn’t fight the heat that flooded her veins, setting every nerve on fire.
With a gasp, she kissed him back, their mouths melding, meshing. He moaned and slid his arms around her, pulling her against him. He clutched handfuls of her shirt, like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver, as though letting go might kill him.
He broke the kiss, but not his hold, and pressed his forehead to hers. His eyes were closed and his breath was ragged, heavy, desperate. “You need to go. Now. I can’t…” He gulped air, and opened his eyes. “You need to go.”
Except she didn’t want to. She wanted to lose herself in his violet eyes, in the warm summer twilight they offered, in the scent of him, the feel of him. The taste of him. “No.”
He groaned and tightened his hold, pressing her so tightly to him that she could feel his heart beating in her chest, racing in time to her own. “Katelina, if you don’t…If you stay…everything they say…all of it…there won’t…there won’t be any defense and he’ll know. He’ll know the minute he sees you, the minute he smells me on you.” He closed his eyes. “He’ll already know, but then at least he won’t hate you.”
“But I’ll hate myself.”
He crushed her lips with his. She heard herself moan as he tipped her head back and slipped his tongue into her mouth. Warm and coppery, he tasted like blood, like life, like everything she craved. Hot desire coursed through her to settle between her thighs and in her mouth, at the roots of her teeth. Instinctively she bit, and caught his lip. A blossom of blood touched her tongue and she lapped it down, hurrying to catch the injury, to suck his lip into her mouth.
He moaned into the kiss and pushed her back against the wall. He ground against her and pulled his mouth away to nip at her face, her ear, the sensitive skin just behind it. A shudder rolled through her and her knees buckled, leaving her upright only because of the sandwich of his body and the wall.
She felt his amusement as he teased the sensitive spot with the tip of his tongue, stroking slow circles. Her body shuddered and her mouth opened, but no sound came out. Her teeth flashed, snapping at nothing, seeking release. She wormed her hands under his shirt and skimmed her palms over his chest, his tight stomach, down to the waistband of his jeans. She dipped her fingers inside it, but he broke off, and caught her hand, pulling it away.
“Don’t t ease me,” he gasped, pushing her back into the wall, and coming back to press his face millimeters from hers. “God, Kate, don’t tease me.”
“I’m not,” she mumbled as he moved his lips to her jaw. She slipped her hands under the back of his shirt and ran them up his back, to grip his shoulders and pull him closer, tighter, as if she pressed hard enough she could climb inside of him and forget about the whole world.
He moved his kisses up the curve of her cheek and then to her ear. “Tell me to stop,” he begged. His breath tickled her ear and sent goosebumps racing over her. She gasped softly and he ground his body against her. “This is your last chance, Katelina.” He traced the cup of her ear with the tip of his tongue. “God, tell me to stop.”
But she didn’t want to. She didn’t want him to stop, not now, not ever. “Please,” she moaned softly. “Oh God, please. Please don’t stop.”
He groaned and ground into her, his desire a hard knot that threatened to bore through her thigh. She shifted, angling her hips, and unconsciously sliding against him, grinding, rubbing.
“I want you,” he panted desperately, releasing her to pull her jeans open. She shoved his hands away and pushed both pants and panties down, struggling one leg out, leaving the clothes around the other. His fingers slid into her heat and she sobbed out, eyes closing and back arching as she tried to force him inside her.
He pulled away, and she looked to see him pulling open his own pants, freeing himself. He was back in an instant, the hard length of him sliding against her. He didn’t speak, but she saw it in his eyes, the final question, the final chance to stop this.
I already told you I don’t want to.
He boosted her up, wrapping her legs around his waist, and thrust into her. She gasped and clutched him, leaning back, opening herself so he could press in even deeper.
He moaned her name, and nuzzled his face against her neck. With a shudder of surrender, he sank his fangs into her. She arched against him as the pain disappeared, replaced with coursing pleasure. Desperately, she snapped at the air, hungry lips aching for him, for his skin, for his blood.
She twisted until she tasted his neck. His skin was smooth, hot, tight under her teeth, and then she was through it. His blood filled her mouth and she swallowed. Once. Twice. What was left of the world disintegrated and warm twilight wrapped around her, painted purple like his eyes, scented with fresh cut grass, and the soft smells of a summer evening. Like a first love, a first kiss; sweet, intoxicating, all consuming and all encompassing.
He was in her mind, not teasing her memories, but touching her feelings; stroking her joy, her longing, her ecstasy, drawing them out into a song only he could play. She moaned to the tune and let go, flowing with the melody through a scented garden, twisting in and out of shady pools and quiet moments, only to plunge headfirst into a climax of ecstasy, and then back out, again and again, until she lost count. At last, she reached the peak, and the world exploded in a crescendo of light and sound, rushing all around her, painting every inch of her with release.
The balcony came back slowly, and she blinked to bring it into focus. She half lay on the floor, her body tangled with his, her face buried against his neck, his gelled hair tickling her cheek. His arms encircled her, and he clung tightly, one palm splayed on her naked back, the other cradling the back of her head, fingers twined in her long hair.
They were no longer physically connected, instead she straddled one of his legs. Her jeans hung around one ankle, and her shirt and bra were gone, obviously ripped away while she was lost in that other world. His shirt was no better, torn down the front so that her hands could slide inside.
She took deep slow breaths and tried to come to terms with where she was, what she’d done. What they’d done. What it meant.
His voice came soft, reverberating against her skin. “It means you’ll have to choose, Kately. He won’t stand for less.” He pulled back, but kept his head bowed, his face invisible behind his hair. “Not that I blame him. I…” he trailed off and then his head snapped up. “I’m not sorry. I should be. I should have walked away like I usually do but…” He cupped her cheek and his expression turned fierce. “I’m tired of walking away from what I want, of denying it, of turning it into a joke so I can hide behind the laughter.” He swallowed hard and his voice turned husky. “I’ve wanted you since I saw you in Claudius’ mansion. Then it was just a whim, maybe because we shared Kateesha’s blood. But it’s turned to more, to a hard, burning ball in the pit of my stomach, and I…I can’t keep walking away. I can’t keep watching you with him, knowing…wanting.” He pulled her to him. “I don’t know what’s going to happen now, or even what I want to happen. I just…I just know I’m not sorry.”
She closed her eyes and breathed him in, the sweet heady scent of fireflies and watermelon as the sun sank. What was going to happen now? Would she go back to her room, back to Jorick? How long would it take him to see this in her memories?
“He won’t need to,” Verchiel said softly. “I told you, he’ll smell me on you, the way I can smell him. The way I can always smell him. If you’re smart you’ll claim it was my fault, that I made you, that I…that I took you against your will again.”
“In the Citadel. Jorick knew what it was, the same as you did, though you’ve done a good job pretending you didn’t. I might not have known you initially, but when I tasted your blood I did. I knew you with every fiber, and I made love to you right there, while Malick watched, and I didn’t care. That’s why he brought you down there, because he knew I wanted you, he knew what I’d do, and he knew it would burn Jorick alive inside.” He gave a soft sigh. “Just like this will.”
He was right. She imagined Jorick’s fury, his betrayal, and yet…and yet she couldn’t find real regret, only the fulfillment of something that had been there, hovering at the edge of their words for months.
He pulled back and cupped her face in his hands. “Or we could go. Now. Just leave and never look back. Let The Guild deal with this mess while we run.” The hope in his eyes made her chest ache, but indecision crippled her.
He lowered his hands slowly. “It’s your choice, but either way, I won’t be here tomorrow. It’s not that I’m afraid of him, or what he’ll do to me, but I can’t stand to see you with him anymore, especially not after this. I don’t want to force you to choose, but you’ll have to. You can come with me, or you can stay here. The choice is yours.” He wrapped her hands in his, his eyes locked on their intertwined fingers. “You know which I hope you choose, and should you…if you choose me, you know I’ll do everything I can for you…You’ll never be bored.” He looked back to her face and offered her a smile. “That much I can promise.” The smile faltered. “But if you choose him, I won’t interfere, I won’t try to change your mind, and I won’t be back.” He looked over his shoulder. “I wish I could give you time to decide, but we don’t have it.” He released her reluctantly and stood, pulling his jeans up and closed.
She followed his example, pulling up her jeans, then tugging her shirt over her head. He looked back to the door, then pressed a quick kiss to her lips. “Now, Kately. You have to pick now.”
She took a quick breath for luck, and whispered, “Where are we going?”
P.S. Be warned, I may re-purpose parts of this scene later for someone else :p