Darkness Dawns

Page 32

“Oh.” Seth had done that teleportation thing again.


Sarah wrung her hands in front of her in a vain attempt to stop their trembling.

Pausing several feet away, Roland studied her, his crimson-streaked brow furrowed. “Are you all right?”

She nodded, lowering her gaze when her vision wavered with tears. A lump lodged itself in her throat as the trembling spread from her hands to the rest of her body.

“Sarah?” he asked, voice soft with concern.

Shaking her head—she was so not all right—she strode forward until her forehead met his chest.

His arms came around her, strong and reassuring.

Sarah slid her own around his waist and burrowed closer, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Shh,” he whispered. “It’s all right.” His large hands slid up and down her back in long, soothing strokes. “Everything is going to be all right.”

She nodded, embarrassed by her tears, yet helpless to stem their flow.

He rested his chin atop her head and held her tight. “I’m so sorry about all of this, Sarah.”

Shaking her head, she spoke between sniffles. “It isn’t your fault some jerk wants to kill you.”

He laughed and tightened his hold on her. “Yes, but I didn’t have to drag you into it.”

“You didn’t drag me. I pretty much plowed my way in.”

“And, though it’s selfish of me to admit it, I’m very glad you did.”

Her tears abated beneath his tender, calming influence. Raising her head, Sarah took a step back, a little disappointed when his arms fell away.

“I’m sorry I keep crying.” She swiped at her damp cheeks. “You must think I’m a total basket case.” Her body was still racked with shivers, yet he was as relaxed as though they had just spent a pleasant day sightseeing.

He raised a hand, brushing the hair at her temple back with gentle fingers. “If you knew what I truly thought of you, you would never stop blushing.”

She stared up at him. “I wouldn’t?”

He slowly wagged his head from side to side. “You were magnificent today. Confronted with a dozen men armed with semi- and automatic weapons, you didn’t panic. You wielded your 9mm with cool precision and faced down three of them on your own, then saved my ass. Again. And Marcus’s.”

His view of what had happened sounded a lot better than her own. “I was terrified,” she countered. Not cool under fire. Not magnificent. Terrified. “I thought you were going to die. When I saw you with all those wounds and the sun scorching your skin … I thought you were going to die, Roland.” And damned if more tears didn’t well up and spill over her lashes just at the thought of it.

He stared at them as though mesmerized. “Blood loss will not kill me. It may hurt like hell, but it won’t kill me. I can slow my pulse and metabolic rate so that I can survive as long as it takes for another blood source to come along. But the sun … The sun will roast me, Sarah, when I’m that injured and I don’t know that I would have made it to the forest if you hadn’t hauled us there, then called in the cavalry. Are those tears for me?”

She almost didn’t catch the question tacked onto the end with no pause. “Yes,” she admitted. “I’ve gotten a little attached to you.”

His brown eyes turned amber, began to glow. “I’ve grown attached to you, too.” He stroked a finger along her jawline.

She didn’t know what to say to that. “I can’t seem to stop shaking.”

Taking her hand, he gave it a squeeze. “I can remedy that.” He turned and strode through the living room.

Sarah let him pull her along after him into a hallway with several closed doors.

“It’s been a couple of decades or so since Marcus came to visit me,” he said, opening a door on the right. The room inside appeared to be a library. “But he stayed here when he did and I seem to recall him mentioning …” He opened the door across from it and Sarah peered past him into a stairwell that led down into darkness. “A basement,” he finished with a smile. “Excellent.”

She didn’t know how a damp, chilly basement was going to help her, but tromped down the stairs behind him anyway. Perhaps, after the incident with the sun, he found the idea of being underground soothing. She probably would if she were in his position.

The wooden steps were cool beneath her bare feet.

At the bottom lay a wide carpeted hallway that led to the left and to the right. Roland went right and opened the first door they encountered.

When he flicked on the overhead light, she saw it was a lovely bedroom. Not cold or damp at all. “It’ll do,” he announced dismissively.

She glanced up at him. “I liked yours better, too.”

He gave her another of those heart-stopping smiles over his shoulder and drew her forward through the room and into a bathroom nearly as large as the bedroom.

Jeeze. Immortals really had a thing for luxurious bathrooms.

As she glanced around at her opulent surroundings, Roland took her by the shoulder and steered her away from the sinks. “Don’t look in the mirror.”

Which, naturally, made her gaze fly straight to one of the two mirrors mounted above the double sinks. When she saw her reflection, her eyes widened. There was blood smeared all over the middle and left side of her face from forehead to chin. She looked like friggin’ Carrie on prom night.

Roland’s reflection in the mirror grimaced. “Sorry about that. It came off my shirt when I held you.”

“That’s okay.” She refrained from mentioning that seeing her pale, wide-eyed face liberally coated with ruby liquid gave her the creeps.

Crossing to the shower, Roland opened the glass door and leaned in. The faucet squeaked a little as he turned on the hot water. Almost instantly, steam began to spill forth. He turned on the cold tap, adjusted the temperature to suit him, then straightened and turned to face her.

“Now,” he said, prowling toward her, “let’s get those clothes off.”

Her pulse skittered wildly. “What?”

“The best thing we can do to stop the shaking is get you into a nice hot shower. You’ll feel much better once you’re warm and the remnants of the day are washed away.”

Sarah had no idea what he had just said. She couldn’t concentrate when he was staring at her with those incandescent eyes. Especially since he was pulling his ragged T-shirt over his head while he spoke. Beneath lay bloodstained muscles that rippled and flexed as he tossed the material aside. There were no signs of any wounds. Only pure perfection.

“What am I supposed to be doing again?” she asked absently.

“Taking your clothes off and enjoying a steamy shower.”

“And your plans are?”

He smiled and reached for the hem of her shirt. “To enjoy it with you.”

Sarah let him pull her shirt over her head, her tongue inconveniently tied.

“Seth wouldn’t have brought us here if he didn’t think it was safe,” he went on. “But until I double-check the security myself, I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

She nodded. That worked for her.

“Don’t worry.” His face softened, though his eyes still glowed. “I’ll respect your No Sex with Strangers rule and keep my pants on. You, however”—a teasing glint entered his eyes—“should feel free to take off as much as you want.”

Even covered with blood, he tempted her.

She had told him she didn’t have sex with men she had just met, men she didn’t really know, but … when Sarah took into account what she did know about Roland, were the things she didn’t really that important? So she didn’t know his favorite color or his favorite ice cream flavor. No, wait. Actually she did know those. His favorite color was green and he liked banana nut soy cream, one of her own personal favorites. She didn’t know his favorite movie or what kind of music he preferred, what his favorite television show was.

But she knew he was honorable, that he had spent every night for nearly a thousand years defending and protecting humans like herself from those who preyed upon them, suffering untold injuries in the process, then turning around and doing it all over again the next night. She knew he placed her safety above his own and wouldn’t hesitate to risk his life in order to save hers. She knew he had willingly drawn her pain and injuries into himself to ease her discomfort and would do so again.

He had been nothing but kind to her since the moment they had met. He was patient with crazy kitties. He was very loyal to his friends and clearly felt affection for them, though he hid it behind a gruff facade when in their presence.

She knew his troubled past, some of it anyway, and suspected he was as leery of surrendering himself to another as she was. Yet he was capable of such tenderness, such passion, as she had learned firsthand last night. Just thinking about it made her body clench.

That little practical voice that usually stayed her when tempted instead taunted her by pointing out that, since he was immortal, she didn’t have to worry about STDs. And this was a safe time in her cycle, which meant no pregnancy fears either.

What the hell was she waiting for?

Sarah smiled and unbuttoned the waist of her jeans.

She knew she felt as comfortable with Roland as she would with an old friend. And more drawn to him than she had ever been to another.

His gaze dropped to her hands.

She knew he wouldn’t touch her if she didn’t want him to, even with an erection already straining against the front of his slacks.

He watched every movement avidly as she slid the zipper down, then peeled the jeans down her legs and stepped out of them.

And she knew she wanted him to touch her. Needed it. Almost desperately.

“Roland,” she said, reaching around behind her and unhooking her bra.

“Hmm?” His hands curled into fists at his sides as the black lace fell away.

“You aren’t a stranger.”

* * *

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