Dark Hunger


Page 11



“She is no threat to us,” the burly one holding her left arm said in Italian. “Only another of their mortal servants.”


The third, a tall, lean man with sad eyes, nodded. “Take her down to the tunnels and lock her in the dungeons with the others.”


At the downtown gallery, Will parked the car where it would be easily accessible—long experience serving as Robin’s second had taught him to always prepare for a hasty departure—before he opened the rear door and helped the contessa out.


“Grazie, seneschal.” She shook out her skirt, spreading the scent of marigolds around her before she surveyed the gallery building. “Are you sure this is the place? It looks too small.”


Will didn’t like Salvatora Borgiana or her aura of lazy contempt. So far tonight she had complained about the weather, which she considered too humid, the mortals in the city, whom she decided overcrowded it, and even the limousine ride from Robin’s building, which she felt had taken too long. She might be a refugee seeking sanctuary, but she conducted herself like a disgruntled queen among peasants.


You were a peasant, he reminded himself. “I shall go in first and scout the premises,” he told his master.


“That will not be necessary.” Robin took Salvatora’s arm, but he had eyes only for the gallery. “Check their security measures and then report back to me inside.”


Will almost refused—he took his duty to keep Robin safe very seriously—but then saw the glitter of copper in his master’s eyes. “Yes, my lord.”


A quick and quiet reconnoiter of the building revealed the federal agents strategically posted at the front and back entrances as well as the roof. He noted that the windows and doors had also been wired with sensors, doubtless connected to a monitoring station inside. The mortal authorities had fashioned the entire building into a trap, but their crude methods were no match for Robin of Locksley.


Once he felt satisfied, Will went inside the gallery and looked for Robin. He spotted him with the contessa, but saw no sign of Chris Renshaw.


“That scowl on your face makes me think the woman with the titian locks is your Agent Renshaw,” Salvatora was saying to him. “She was staring at you just before she scurried off to hide.”


Will was tempted to join them, but decided to watch from a distance. Robin guided his companion away from an eager young girl who had inexplicably dyed her short, spiky hair a glowing shade of pink, and accompanied her to a pedestal case set somewhat apart from the other exhibited artworks.


He had never seen The Maiden’s Book of Hours, but the ancient manuscript inside the glass case atop the pedestal seemed to match the description Robin had given him. It seemed the thing his master had coveted for so many centuries was finally to be his. The odd thing was, once standing before it, Robin barely spared it a single glance. His gaze, bright with hostility, kept straying toward the closed door to the manager’s office on the other side of the room.


“Did we come here for the book, or for her?” Will muttered.


Will moved toward an unoccupied corner, where he stood with his back to the walls and kept watch over his master and the contessa as well as the crowd of mortals surrounding them. Standing guard was, for the most part, boring work, but he usually had no difficulty keeping his mind on his duties. Nor would he have tonight, if not for the call he’d made to Reese from the car.


He wondered why her voice had sounded so strained. She’d made the excuse of a sore throat, which must have pained her greatly, for when she had first started speaking she’d sounded like a man. But under the hoarseness he’d heard something else—sadness, or perhaps loneliness—exactly as he had before, when they’d met in the club. It made little sense to him, for Reese had always been a happy, energetic woman. It had been the first thing that had drawn him to her.


No, there was more to it than that. Will rarely got involved with mortal women, but from the first time Reese had come to his master’s city home, she had made her attraction to him quite transparent. Accustomed to females being immediately drawn to his master, Will had felt both startled and flattered by her attention. He didn’t mind standing in Robin of Locksley’s shadow, but it had been quite pleasing to step out of it for once.


All of that had changed since last night. Something had happened to Reese, perhaps, something that had persuaded her to think differently of him. But Will would swear that she still cared, even more so than in past. He had felt it in her looks. He had heard it in her voice. It had called forth the same response from him.


He dragged his thoughts back to the present as he saw Robin abandon the contessa and stalk across the room and force his way into the manager’s office. Suppressing a groan, he went after him.


By the time Will reached the door, Robin had closed it and jammed the knob. Will had no choice but to stand outside and listen.


“I didn’t notice you coming in,” he heard Chris Renshaw say.


Robin’s response was quick and vicious. “You are a better liar than that, madam.”


“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Rob. I have to get back to the show.” Her footsteps came toward the door. “Excuse me.”


“No,” Robin snapped. “I do not excuse you.”


Will put a hand on the knob. He knew his lord was greatly put out by how Chris Renshaw had used and deceived him, but she was still a mortal. In his anger, Robin might forget that.


“I know you saw me,” his master continued. “Why did you not come to me?”


The female’s light footsteps retreated from the door. “All right, I did catch a glimpse of you and your companion when one of the press asked me about you. I didn’t come over because I felt awkward about approaching you.”

“Awkward.”


“I didn’t want to say anything that might embarrass you in front of your date.” Chris’s voice paused for a long moment. “I didn’t mean to be rude. Again, I apologize.”


“You were protecting me. I see.” Heavier footsteps moved across the room. “Tell me, what did you think would embarrass me most? That you might slip up and mention that you used me for sex? Or perhaps that you never told me your full name? Or that you left my bed this morning without bothering to wake me or say farewell?”


Will winced.


“I wrote you a note—”


“Oh, God, yes, how could I forget? The effusive, affectionate, one-line note of thanks.” Like Chris’s, Robin’s voice came from the back of the office now. “I’ve not earned such an unstinting amount of gratitude since the last time I held a door open for an elderly woman using a cane.”


“Rob.”


“Robin. That is my name. Say it. Say all of it.”


“Robin.” Chris’s voice grew so soft Will could barely make out her next words. “Listen. I’ve never done anything like that, and I really didn’t know what to do except leave. I told you, I don’t pick up guys in bars. I don’t have one-night stands.”


“There, now, that has a ring of truth to it.” His master’s tone changed as well, and became deceptively soft. “But technically speaking, I wasn’t a one-night stand, was I? You didn’t stay the night. By my calculations, love, you owe me two more hours. I’d like to collect.”


“Excuse me,” the young woman with the pink hair said as she appeared before Will. She eyed the door. “Is there something going on in there?”


“Nothing to concern us.” Will guided her away from the office and into the short hall beyond it, where he deliberately shed some scent. When her pupils expanded, he said, “Leave the gallery and return to your home. Think no more of this night.” He glanced at her vivid locks. “And please stop putting that color in your hair.”


“Leave. Forget. Color.” She nodded vaguely and wandered off toward the front entrance.


Will resumed his listening post in time to hear Chris say, “Someone is going to come looking for me any minute.”


“Let them try.”


“Robin.” Garments rustled. “Please stop.”


His master’s next words came as tentative as the hurt coloring them. “Did it truly mean nothing to you?”


“Maybe it started out that way,” Chris told him, “but when I woke up and saw you sleeping next to me, and remembered…I didn’t know I would feel like that.” She hesitated before she added, “I didn’t even think about you, not really. I got dressed as fast as I could, and I ran.”


Will understood her actions then. She hadn’t used Robin and left him. She’d fallen in love with him, and run.


“You can’t regret being with me,” his master said, sounding appalled. “Not how we were together.” When the woman didn’t answer him, he said, “Chris.”


“No. No, I don’t.”


Her voice went too low for Will to hear as she murmured to his master, but he felt a wave of relief. Now that she had explained, surely it would dispel Rob’s anger.


“If that is true,” Robin said, “why did you run away?”


“Haven’t you ever done something amazing and dangerous and exciting,” she asked him, “that you later wished you’d never done at all? Because you know it could change everything you have, everything you are?”


Reese, Will thought, awash in his own regret. If he had let her go two months ago, when he had first sensed that their affair might be coming to its conclusion, she might now be happy. Was that it? Had he held on to her too long?


“So you ran away because you wanted more.” Robin uttered a bitter laugh. “Yes, actually, I have done that myself. I believe this is where my severely bruised pride takes a tumble.”


“It’s not you. It’s me. My life. My choices.” Chris sounded better now, more sure of herself. “I am glad you understand. I’ll never forget you, or the night we spent together.”


The bluntness of her rejection made Will rub his eyes.



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