His lips pressed against the bare flesh of her breastbone, her pulse jumping against his skin. Fingertips ran across the line of her jaw, pulling free a sigh as her eyes lit with a smile, curving the corners of her soft mouth. Her gaze sparkled on his.
“Why did you come back for me after all I did?”
He smiled and stretched out beside her in an easy move. The golden light of the harvest moon gave his skin a warm sheen as if he was really alive. Eyes glittered while he watched her with a slow spreading grin.
“What do you mean?”
“Why did you come back?” Her lashes shifted to hide her thoughts, her gaze shifting downwards as she twisted away from him. “I broke your heart… I tried to break you… I don’t understand why you would want me back. I thought you would hate me…” Her words fell small into the silence of his breathing.
He said nothing, hands skimming her naked sides as his chest pressed against her bare back. She couldn’t see his face or tell what he was thinking, but his aura pulsed like waves on a warm beach.
“That day with the vampires… When I’d stepped through the sixth gate… You could have left me to pass the seventh. You could have let me die…”
Hot breath tickled her ear followed by the butterfly caress of lips upon her skin. “I could have.” His fingers threaded through her hair, sliding the strands back from her face as her lashes flickered close.
Her breath shivered in her throat. He didn’t seem to understand what he was doing to her with every little touch. It shouldn’t be that way. He shouldn’t even be able to touch her, but he could. Perhaps it was her special affinity for death that allowed his wraith skin the feel of hers. She didn’t know.
“Why didn’t you?”
His arms locked around her, pulling her warm and tight against his torso. She could feel him breathing her in as he always did. Anyone would think she was oxygen to his starved soul. But she had always wondered if that was true.
“Nobody would have blamed you.”
Soft kisses fluttered over her shoulders. She squeezed her eyes shut, fighting fear and longing. These words had to be said. They had to be heard.
“Not after I left you on our wedding day…”
“You could never leave me. I’ve always been there, waiting.”
She twisted further away from him, hiding her visage in the cloak of shadow. It didn’t matter that he’d been there despite what she had done. What mattered was her act of betrayal. What mattered was the way she had abandoned him. Why couldn’t he see that?
It had been so frightening to think what he was giving up for her, her who deserved so very little. He knew what she was. He knew her unsavoury need for death, the power that made every mortal passing so delicious to her… It was disgusting and yet he’d still wanted her.
How could he?
She’d had to run away. She’d had to save him from herself and all that was so ineffably wrong with her. So why had he trailed after her?
It had been for his own good. She couldn’t bear to see him waste his immortality when she was so undeserving. He was so much better than her…
“I couldn’t let you go through that seventh gate, Sadie, no more than I could let you go without following you.” He paused. “I had to make sure you were going to be safe…”
Her mouth barely moved as she spoke. “Of course I was safe…”
The rasp of his breath against the back of her neck told her he was unconvinced, but he tightened his hold on her body. It was hard to remember the last time they had lain awake curled thus in each other’s arms. Then she’d been contemplating her escape, thinking she could thwart his inter-dimensional skills. It had been the night before their wedding. And when he’d said those three words she’d thought her heart was going to break, but she was too afraid to stay.
“I know you enjoyed your other lovers–”
“Please,” she cut. “Do we have to do this now?”
He ignored her protests and continued, hot air feathering her nape. “But I don’t think you cared for them. I don’t think you wanted to.”
She twisted in his arms, looking up into his face with dew dropped eyes. Her lip was caught between trembling and the catch of her teeth. “Did you only save me so you could have your revenge?”
“Then what, Alex? I don’t understand. When are you going to destroy me for what I did?”
He blinked, confusion staining his translucent brow. “Never.”
His chest heaved gently against her erratic breath. The ticking life clock in her breast battered her ribs, begging for some kind of response that would make a sort of sense. He should want her maimed and broken. He should want her begging on her knees, not lying sated in his ethereal arms.
“Why not? Why won’t you?”
Fingertips caught the scrap of hair that curtained her brow and tucked it deftly behind one of her pretty ears. Old eyes searched her face with star spangled significance, then the smile eased his lips again. It was the same as it had always been; the world trapped in his eyes held still only for her. It was his world and his heart, his vulnerability and his everything.
She heard the words before he said them, felt them conveyed through that faultless stare. And even though the fear grew inside her like the most poisoned of apples, for the moment she no longer cared. All that mattered was what he said and that he truly felt the words he uttered. But would they make her run back to the vampires?
“I love you.”
She didn’t know…
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