Home > Arctic Bite (Forgotten Brotherhood #2)(6)

Arctic Bite (Forgotten Brotherhood #2)(6)
Author: N.J. Walters

   But what about her?

   A relationship was out of the question. It could, and probably would, be used against her. Those searching for her might threaten to take his soul if she didn’t return to the fold.

   Assuming she still had a place there and they weren’t just looking to end her.

   Like a shot of arctic air blasting over her skin, the thought cooled her ardor. She shoved against the same shoulders she’d clung to only seconds before.

   He released her immediately, his hands dropping back by his sides. “What’s wrong?”

   It wasn’t something she could easily explain. Her life was too complicated and unbelievable. And while she might no longer be on the job, secrecy was ingrained into every molecule of her being. “Nothing.” She shook her head. “Everything.” Her laugh was strained, filled with desperation, longing, and loss. She wasn’t normal and never would be.

   “You should probably go.” It would be safer for everyone concerned if he went away. The sense of loss threatened to crush her, which was ridiculous. It was impossible to miss what she’d never had.

   Alexei slid off the stool, towering over her. Damn he was big. It would be impossible to make him leave if he didn’t go willingly.

   He hesitated for a split second, then nodded and headed toward the door. That was it. No objection. No questions.

   She followed, waiting as he pulled a knit hat out of his back pocket and jammed it on his head. After unlocking the door, she opened it and peered out at the parking lot. There was no vehicle there.

   “How are you getting back to town?”

   “Walking.” He went outside and inhaled the chilly night air. Standing in the doorway, she shivered.

   “Is there anyone I can call to give you a ride?” She didn’t like sending him out in the dark, frigid night alone. It had nothing at all to do with not wanting to let go of this evening.

   “I’ll be fine.” He started to walk, his boots crunching against the snow. The wind gusted around him, flicking the tips of his hair that extended from beneath his cap.

   It would be stupid to ask him to stay. Right? Having him leave was the right thing to do.

   Don’t do something you’ll regret.

   Sighing, she ignored her rational reasoning. “Wait.”

   He stopped but didn’t turn to face her.

   “It’s late and it’s a long walk back to town.” She was nervous and she was never nervous. Something about him both unsettled and excited her. “I have a sofa you can crash on.”

   It was the sensible thing to do. While she might not be ready to quite jump in bed with him, she didn’t want to let him walk away, either.

   As he turned, the snow blew between them, a filmy white curtain. He looked perfectly at home in the wintery setting while she was trembling with the chill.

   Then the corners of his mouth tilted upward, and she was lost.

   After making sure the door was secured, she held out her hand, and he took it. His skin was warm despite his lack of gloves. “Just the sofa,” she reminded him. And herself.

   He nodded. For some unknown reason, she trusted him to keep his word. She wouldn’t have to stay awake all night fearing he’d try to sneak into her bed uninvited.

   “This way.” One of the perks of her job was the small apartment above the bar, which was part of her salary. Not having to pay rent and getting decent tips along with a regular wage gave her enough money to live on. Things weren’t cheap up north.

   She hurried up the stairs, very aware of him following right behind her. Her hands shook as she unbolted the lock. She, a woman who’d guided the spirits of beggars and kings alike, who’d seen the rise and fall of every civilization since the dawn of mankind, was nervous.

   “Come in.” When she hurried inside, he was right behind her. The door closed with a solid thunk and the lock was engaged with a click.

 

 

Chapter Three


   He might be part vamp, but he didn’t need an invitation to enter her home. That was nothing more than folklore. Still, it was nice to be asked. And totally unexpected.

   Walking away from her earlier had been more difficult than he’d anticipated. Pure relief had struck him when she’d called him back.

   Getting inside her home was smart. It would allow him to access more information about her. It had nothing at all to do with what they’d done earlier. Okay, maybe not nothing.

   He could still taste the warmth of her lips—the richness of the coffee, the sweetness from the sugar she’d used in it, as well as an indefinable essence that was all woman.

   The unfortunate side effect? His fangs were itching to come out and his gums ached. He’d hoped to have the opportunity to grab a bite—literally—from the four men. A few sips of blood from each wouldn’t have impaired them—at least not any more than they already were—and would have helped him settle. But there’d been no time or way to get them on their own.

   Now he was alone with Cassie. No way would he take her blood. Keeping his vamp side in check was of utmost importance. If he got out of control—

   Fear skated down his spine. Not going to happen.

   He rolled his shoulders and forced himself to relax and take stock of the situation. Having her ask him to come home with her was the last thing he’d expected when he’d taken a seat at the bar earlier tonight.

   Did she do this sort of thing often?

   From the way she hovered just inside the door with her hands clenched by her sides, he’d say that was a definite no. That made him feel special.

   And in a good way. Not in a “you look like a freaking serial killer” way.

   She confused him. He’d never had the urge to kiss any other target. Of course, all the others had been men, but that was irrelevant.

   Giving himself a mental shake, he surveyed the space, curious to see where she lived. It wasn’t large, but it was comfortable. The sofa looked inviting, if on the small side, but that wasn’t unusual for him. A matching chair and coffee table filled out the room.

   All the furniture could have been purchased from a 1970s catalogue. The orange, yellow, and green flowers splashed over the brown background were almost blinding. The short galley kitchen was off to the right. A small table was jammed under the window at the end. Straight ahead were two doors. He assumed they were the bathroom and bedroom.

   “It’s nice,” he told her.

   Giving a short laugh, she removed her boots and hung her coat on a hook by the door. “You’re being kind. It’s dated, but it’s clean and warm.”

   It was also impersonal. There was nothing of her to be seen. No books or magazines, no trinkets or pictures. Not even a pillow interrupted the wildflower pattern on the couch.

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