The Reluctant Vampire

Chapter Fourteen

Casey Co age was dark and silent when Leonora dropped them off. Anders didn't waste any me but got immediately into the SUV he and Drina had driven down in. He started the engine and was backing the vehicle out almost before Alessandro had cleared the driveway. Drina shook her head at the man's impa ence. Really, he was so rude some mes, she thought, as Harper ushered her up the sidewalk along the garage.

The house was heavy with the smell of smoke when they entered, and Harper heaved a sigh as he closed and locked the door behind them. "I hope the insurance people can get this cleaned up and back in shape before Elvi and Mabel return. They'd be heartbroken to see it like this."

"Yes," Drina murmured, reaching ins nc vely for the light switch and glancing around with surprise when Harper caught her arm to stop her.

"It's probably be er not to," he said quietly. "The wiring may have been damaged in the fire. If we turn on the juice, it might spark something and get it going all over again."

"Oh, of course." Drina let her hand drop when he released it and shrugged. "It's probably for the best anyway. It's doub ul anyone would be watching the house now it's uninhabitable, but there's no sense advertising we're here."

"No," he agreed.

Drina glanced around. It was a clear night, dim moonlight creeping through the windows. With their night vision, they didn't really need the lights anyway.

"Maybe we should collect some clothes too while we're here," Harper suggested, bending to slip off his snow-covered boots. "They'll probably reek of smoke from the fire, but a good wash or three might take care of that."

"My own clothes," Drina said on a sigh as she shrugged out of Teddy's coat and laid it over the radiator. She didn't mind going without a bra and pan es so much, but had spent most of the day tugging up the joggers Stephanie had brought to her. They had a drawstring, but she'd only been able to ghten it so far. The darn things were loose enough they kept dropping to ride her hips rather than staying at her waist, where she would have preferred them.

Harper tossed his own coat over the radiator next to hers and chuckled as she stepped out of Teddy's overlarge boots without undoing them. He then caught her hand and headed for the curving staircase.

"I'm sure Stephanie would appreciate it too. The poor kid has no hips yet and has had to hold her pants up since she put them on."

"I'll pack her things too," Drina murmured, as he led her upstairs. When he reached the landing and turned le rather than right toward the bedroom she shared with Stephanie, she asked, "Where are we going?"

"We'll start with my clothes and then stop for clothes for you and Stephanie on the way back down," he announced.

"Or I could gather Stephanie's and mine while you get yours. It would be faster," she said with amusement, but Harper shook his head at once.

"I'm not le ng you out of my sight un l this business is finished and I don't have to worry about your getting hurt in sudden attacks."

"But Stephanie isn't with us," Drina pointed out gently, as he turned le at the end of the landing to head for the stairwell leading to the third floor.

"No, but you are," he said at once.

"Yes, but Leonius isn't interested in me," she pointed out, and Harper came to a halt and turned to peer at her solemnly.

"Drina, you're an incredibly vibrant, sexy, and beau ful woman. If he's been watching us, he's seen you, and if he's seen you, he might be tempted to take you as well as Stephanie. Hell, he might even decide not to bother with her and just take you. You'd be incredible breeding stock."

Drina blinked. That had all been really sweet right up un l the bit about her being incredible breeding stock, she decided. That last part just hadn't sounded as fla ering as she suspected he'd meant it to be. Or maybe other women would find it fla ering, and she was an oddball for taking umbrage at being talked about like a broodmare.

She opened her mouth to point out that it was unlikely anyone even knew they were in the house, so they should be safe, but paused as she noted that Harper's gaze had slid past her to the door to Elvi's room and that a haunted look had entered his eyes.

Frowning, she glanced toward the door and s lled when she noted the dark stain on the hall wall beside it where the paint had been charred . . . as if something on fire had leaned or slumped there. Her gaze then dropped to the floor and she saw large charred spaces - two of them, one larger, one smaller. That must have been where Anders and Edward had encountered Harper and Stephanie and doused the flames consuming them, she realized, and released a slow breath.

Turning back, Drina stepped forward and kissed Harper. He remained s ll under the caress, but she kept at it, nibbling at his closed lips, and then trailing her mouth to his ear, then his neck, her mind working fran cally. She liked this house, she liked the town too, and she liked Teddy. She also liked the other lifemate couples she'd met here, but she especially liked Stephanie. Drina wanted to be able to visit the girl here on occasion, but would never inflict that on Harper if coming here would s r bad memories for him. She needed to try to replace his bad memories of the fire with new, more pleasant memories, and this was the only thing she could come up with. Drina wasn't sure if it would work, but she was going to give it her damnedest, she decided, nipping and kissing his neck as she began to tug his T-shirt upward so she could play her hands over the skin of his stomach and chest.

"Drina?" he said uncertainly as if coming out of a fog.

She li ed her head and kissed him then, relieved when Harper slowly began to kiss her back. Even so, Drina wasn't sure she'd fully reclaimed him from his ghosts un l she slid her hand down to find him through his jogging pants and felt a shaft of pleasure stir between her own legs.

"Let's go to my room," he muttered, breaking their kiss and reaching for her hand.

"Next me," Drina promised, evading his fingers and dropping to her knees, her eyes never leaving his face.

"But - " Harper began, and she saw his gaze flicker to the wall several feet behind her, but then his gaze jerked back to her on a sucked-in breath as she tugged his joggers down and clasped his growing erection. When she took him into her mouth, he let that breath out on a moaned, "Next time."

Harper woke up crumpled on the hardwood floor with Drina's head in his lap. He li ed his head to peer at her and smiled faintly, but the smile faded as he peered at the marks on the wall beyond her. He stared at them for a moment, recalling how they had got there, then let those memories fade away and looked at Drina.

He knew exactly what she'd tried to do, and he loved her for it. It had even worked for the most part. At least, Harper thought it had. When he'd first seen the charred mark on the wall, and then the others on the floor, his ins nct had been to abandon the idea of ge ng clothes and rush Drina back downstairs. Or at least go wait for her downstairs while she collected clothes for herself and Stephanie. He'd wanted to be away from it and the bad memories it roused in him.

Now, however, while he wasn't exactly happy when he looked at them, Harper didn't feel an immediate need to get away, either.

Drina s rred sleepily, her hand ghtening around his sha , and Harper bit his lip and closed his eyes as the damned thing began to awaken too. Honest to God, he was bloody insa able where she was concerned . . . and short on staying power. Not that new life mates were supposed to have great quan

es of that, but seriously, there were things he wanted to do to her that this shared-pleasure business really put a kibosh on. He just couldn't keep their excitement level down long enough to get to them.

For instance, he wanted to e her to his bed and kiss and lick his way from the ps of her toes to her nose, and then kiss her as he plunged himself into her. But he doubted he'd make it halfway up her thighs before they were both screaming and fainting.

And that was another thing, Harper thought with disgruntlement. He had never fainted in his life, and while he knew it was this whole life-mate, mind-blowing-sex business, it was s ll damned demoralizing to be fain ng like a breathless virgin at the end of every encounter. And he couldn't even blame her for exciting him too much or driving him wild with passion until he lost control. Well, perhaps he could this last me, Harper acknowledged with a smile. Drina had definitely been the one in control of this last round, and she had driven him wild with passion, so fast and so hard that he'd performed no be er than an inexperienced fourteen-year-old with a high-priced hooker. He swore she hadn't been on her knees two minutes before he'd been throwing his head back and screaming like a madman . . . only to wake up on the floor in a heap.

Which was precisely why he normally tried to take control of the situa on. It was an effort to slow it down and try to make it last longer than two grunts and a gasp. Unfortunately, so far that wasn't working. It didn't mean he wouldn't keep trying, though, Harper thought wryly. Drina deserved for him to make slow love to her, to be appreciated and -

These thoughts paused abruptly as another occurred to him. Why did she let him take control in the bedroom? Drina was a woman who had fought for independence and control her whole life, yet she'd never once protested his taking the lead when it came to passion.

Harper dropped his gaze down to her and frowned, now worried that his doing so might be taking away from her pleasure. Well, not pleasure exactly, because he knew damned well that she enjoyed it as much as he, but Drina might resent it at the same me. He scowled at the thought, and then a creak drew his gaze to the stairwell. There was nothing there. The sound had just been the house se ling, he supposed. But it made him realize how reckless they'd been indulging themselves here in the hall. While Stephanie wasn't there, Leonius might decide to add Drina to his list of desirable females. Allowing themselves to get caught up in a passion that le them passed out and vulnerable just hadn't been that smart. The least they could have done was move to his room, where the door could be locked, he thought and began to sit up.

Rustling and the sounds of drawers opening and closing drew Drina from sleep. Blinking her eyes open, she sat up slowly and peered around what she knew must be Harper's room. He had said it was a nice room, and he hadn't been kidding. It really was lovely, with the bed, closet, and chest of drawers in one corner and the rest of the room taken up with a li le si ng area complete with television, music system, and bookshelf as well as a love seat, chair, and then a small dinette set. It was like a small bachelor apartment, she thought, her gaze sliding to where Harper was quickly dragging clothes out of the chest of drawers and packing them away in a suitcase. Drina watched him for a moment, and then slid her feet off the bed to sit on the edge.

"Oh, you're awake." Harper smiled at her, then closed the drawer, shut his suitcase, and quickly carried it to what she presumed was the door to the rest of the house.

Drina stood up to follow him, thinking they were leaving, but stopped a er a couple of steps when he merely set the case down by the door, and then turned back.

Smiling, he walked back to her and slid his arms around her waist.

Drina relaxed against him with a li le sigh, and then asked with annoyance, "Why is it you always wake up before me? I'm older than you. Surely I should wake up first?"

Harper chuckled at her complaint and bent to kiss her nose. He then countered, "Why do you always make me so crazy with passion that I ejaculate far too soon, and then swoon like a girl?"

"I'm not too pleased about the fain ng bit either," she assured him. "It's rather alarming. I didn't even faint when those damned corsets were all the rage, and they wore them so ght you couldn't breathe."

She grimaced, and then leaned back, and met his gaze as she added, "As for the other, I don't think it's too soon."

"No?" he asked with a smile, his hands sliding up and down her back.

Drina shook her head, and then smiled and admi ed, "Well . . . there are some things I'd like to do to you that I don't think we're going to get to for a decade or so un l this new-life-mate madness passes, but

. . ." She shrugged. "I guess I can be patient."

"Decade?" Harper asked with a grimace. "I thought it was a year or so before it slowed down?"

"So they say," she agreed. "But I'm not holding my breath."

Harper grinned, and then bent to kiss her. It started out a sweet, gentle kiss, but soon turned more carnal. When Drina pressed close and wrapped her arms around his neck, he began to back her up, then turned them and fell back on the bed so that she landed on top.

Breaking away on a laugh as they bounced, Drina sat up to straddle him and grinned wickedly. "Now I have you right where I want you."

"I thought that might be the case," Harper admi ed solemnly, and when Drina s lled and eyed him quizzically, he explained, "It occurred to me that you're a woman who has fought for independence and control all your life, and yet in this area I keep taking that control from you. I don't want you to hate me, so it's time I gave up the reins and - " He paused with surprise when she suddenly covered his mouth.

"First off," she said softly, "I don't hate you for being dominant in the bedroom."

She felt his mouth move under her hand and lifted it.

He was smiling crookedly, and now that he was free to speak, said, "I'm glad to hear it."

"Secondly," Drina began, smiling back. "As it happens I . . ."

When he raised his eyebrows at her pause, she sighed and shrugged her shoulders helplessly.

"Surprised as I am to admit it, I don't appear to mind. I don't understand it myself," she added in a rush.

"I mean, I no ced in Toronto that you liked to be in control, and since I'm all about control, I wondered myself why it didn't bother me, but . . . it doesn't. I even like it. It kind of turns me on." She frowned, and then admitted, "Which really rather bothers me."

Harper smiled gently at her confusion, and then raised a hand to brush her hair behind one ear, murmuring, "Or maybe you're just tired of having to be in control all the time and are enjoying a break."

"That's possible," she admitted wryly, and then warned, "Which means it may change."

"I sincerely hope so," Harper assured her and when concern fli ered across her face, he said, "I'm sure it will change for me too. We have time immortal ahead of us, Drina. Change is good."

Relaxing, she nodded. There would be mes when he was dominant and mes when she was, and mes when neither was, she supposed. There might even be mes when they wrestled each other to be on top. But that would probably be fun too. Definitely never boring, she decided.

"Take off your T-shirt."

Drina blinked her thoughts away at his words - which had most definitely been an order, not a request -

and met his gaze.

"Take it off," he repeated. "I want you naked."

She smiled faintly, aware that her nipples were ghtening, and moisture was pooling low in her belly, then sat up straighter, reached for the hem of her T-shirt, and slowly began to pull it up and off. She swiveled her upper body slightly to toss it to the floor, then turned back and simply waited as his eyes slid over her breasts, taking note of her already erect nipples. The sight made his eyes begin to glow.

"Now take off your pants," he said gruffly.

Drina hesitated, and then slid backward along his thighs to get off the bed and stand up. He immediately sat up, and she was aware of his eyes following her every move as she slipped her thumbs under the waist of her joggers and began to ease them down. When she bent forward to finish the job, he reached out with one hand to fondle her breast briefly, and she paused as excitement jumped through her. The moment she stopped, Harper stopped and withdrew his hand.

Devil, she thought affectionately, and finished removing the joggers. She then straightened.

"Come here."

Drina stepped forward, stopping just short of their knees touching. He took her hand then, and she swallowed as the slow pulse of excitement beating through her gained an echo.

"Someday, I'm going to tie you to the bed and lick every inch of your body," Harper said quietly. Drina closed her eyes as the words evoked an image in her head that had the pooled liquid in her lower belly overflowing and sliding toward the apex of her thighs. Who knew she was secretly into bondage?

she wondered faintly, and then opened her eyes with a start as his free hand suddenly slid between her legs.

He smiled at the wetness he found there, and then watched her face as his fingers moved across her slick skin. Drina bit her lip to keep back a moan as pleasure shimmered through her in double waves and wasn't at all surprised to see that his jogging pants had formed a tent. It looked like it was going to be another one of those "too soon and swoon like a girl" encounters, she thought. If they even got to the encounter part of it. She was already on the verge of exploding.

Really, Drina decided, new life mates were just pathetic . . . and then she stopped thinking as he released her hand to reach for one breast as his mouth moved to latch onto the other.

"Here, try this on."

Drina set down the suitcase holding her and Stephanie's clothes next to his by the door to the garage. She then glanced at the bomber jacket Harper was holding out. It was the coat Tiny had bought for Stephanie and that they'd replaced on their shopping trip to Wal-Mart. It had been a bit large on Stephanie, but Drina was bus er and it would probably fit. Certainly, it would fit be er than Teddy's borrowed coat.

When Drina took the offering, Harper turned back to the pantry closet and began to dig through items on the top shelf. Leaving him to it, she shrugged out of Teddy's coat, slung it over the suitcases so they wouldn't forget it, and pulled on the bomber in its place. She then stepped in front of the full-length mirror that hung on the wall across from the door to the garage.

The coat wasn't quite her style, but as expected, it fit. It would do un l she could replace it, Drina decided, and then blinked in surprise as Harper stepped up behind her and pulled a white wool hat over her head. He took the time to tuck her hair under it, and then smiled at the results in the mirror.

"It's cold out," he said for explana on, then held up a pair of flat-heeled, black leather boots. "Try these. They're Elvi's, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind, and they look like they'll fit."

The moment she turned to take the boots, Harper moved back to the closet to con nue his search for treasure. Drina slid her feet out of Teddy's huge boots, and leaned against the wall to try on one of Elvi's, smiling when she found it fit almost perfectly. It was perhaps half a size large but didn't slide around on her feet as Teddy's boots did.

"Good?" Harper asked as he shrugged out of Teddy's other coat and tossed it on the suitcases as well before pulling on his own.

Drina nodded and set to work pulling on the other boot. "Very good. Thank you."

He smiled faintly and turned back to the closet to quickly find his own boots and switch them for his borrowed ones, then collected Stephanie's boots and new coat.

"Is there anything else we need?" Harper asked as he closed the closet door and carried Teddy's boots over to the suitcases.

Drina considered the ques on, but shook her head. "Not that I can think of. We can always come back if something comes up."

Nodding, Harper snatched his car keys from the key rack beside the door and began to gather his suitcase and Teddy's borrowed clothes. He managed everything but one pair of boots and her suitcase. Drina picked those up and followed him out into the garage.

They quickly stowed everything in the trunk of Victor's car, then got in.

"Chocolate and Coke?" Harper asked as he hit the bu on to open the garage door, and then started the engine.

Drina opened her mouth to answer, but paused as the garage lights automa cally came on, and she recalled his worry about using electricity and sparking another fire.

Harper grimaced, but then sighed and simply shi ed the car into gear and pulled out into the driveway. He hit the button to close the door then, and they glanced back to watch it lower and the lights go out. Frowning, he eyed the house warily, mu ering, "I don't think the garage is probably on the same circuit as the porch. At least I hope not. And I'm not an electrician, so might be completely wrong about the possibility of a fire, but . . ."

"Why don't we sit here for a minute to be sure nothing happens," Drina suggested. "Be er to be safe than sorry. I'd feel awful if we left, and something happened."

Harper nodded and shi ed the car into park, then drew one leg up and turned sideways in the seat so that he could see both her and the house. Reaching out, he took her hand in his and drew it onto his knee. He began to toy with the fingers as he asked, "Do you think Lucian will want you and Anders to take Stephanie back to Toronto?"

Drina sighed and leaned back in her seat. "Stephanie asked me something similar earlier, but I don't know. We can't stay here un l the house is repaired, so he probably will unless he finds somewhere else in town for us to stay."

They were both silent. Drina was wondering what Harper would do if that happened. Would he want to come with her? She thought so, or hoped so, but -

"Maybe he'll replace you now that there is a threat and you're a distracted new life mate like Mirabeau and Tiny," Harper commented, sliding his thumb back and forth over her palm. He glanced to her, and asked, "Would you stay here if he did that?"

Drina hesitated. She wanted to say yes. Truthfully, she wanted to pull him back inside the house, drag him to bed, and simply stay there . . . forever. However, she couldn't do that. As for saying yes, while she wanted to with all her heart, she didn't feel she could. She had assured Stephanie that she would be with her if she had to go back to Toronto and didn't want to let her down.

Aside from disappoin ng the teenager, though, Drina was worried about what would become of the girl once in Toronto in close proximity to Lucian. If he decided she could go no-fanger and was a possible threat, he might . . . Well, at the very least, he would probably insist she remain at the enforcer house, and the kid would be miserable there, with no chance at any kind of normalcy. Drina didn't even want to think about the worst of what he could do.

Harper released her fingers suddenly and turned to shi the car into gear again. "We've waited long enough. I guess we'd better get Stephanie's stuff and head back to the house."

Drina glanced around with surprise. She hadn't realized she'd sat in thought so long, but judging by the disappointment in Harper's voice, she'd been silent quite a while. And she hadn't answered his ques on. Which, judging by his closed expression, he was taking as a no.

She needed to explain her promise to Stephanie, Drina realized, but before she could, Harper reached out and turned the radio on. He also cranked it up several notches so that loud music filled the car. Rather than try to shout over the radio, Drina let it go for now. She would explain when they got back to the house . . . and then she would ask him to come to Toronto with her if Lucian did order them back. They could decide from there what to do a er that. There was no doubt in her mind that she wanted to be with him. The question was where that would be, and it was something they both had to decide on.

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