"Okay," I said, glancing from one to the other. "What are you two up to?"
"Nothing," Liander said. His hair was plain silver today - no garish highlights, no glitter. It sharpened his features and made his silver eyes glow. "And everything. Sit down for dinner."
He disappeared back into the kitchen, leaving me with my oddly euphoric brother. It had me stumped, because it had to be something big for them to be reacting this way, and yet there was only one thing that I knew of that could make Liander this happy. Only it was the one thing I'd thought my brother would never, ever do.
I met his gaze and said, "Don't tell me you've finally agreed to fully commit to the man?"
A loud snort echoed from the kitchen. Rhoan merely grinned.
"Then what the hell are you two so giddy about?" Another reason hit me, and my stomach dropped. "God, you haven't bought a place of your own, have you?"
Some of his happiness faded. "You don't really think we'd do that to you, do you?"
I took a deep breath to calm the hammering of my heart. "No."
"Good, because we wouldn't. Ever. And don't expect that you and Quinn can get away from us, either. We're pack now, whether he likes it or not."
"This whole pack equation doesn't come easily to a vampire," came Quinn's dry comment, "but I am slowly getting used to the idea."
My heart leapt at the sound of his softly lilting tones, and I swung around. He was standing in the doorway, one hand on the door knob and a smile twitching his oh-so-kissable lips. His gaze met mine and, as ever, I felt myself getting lost in those gloriously dark depths. Kye might be what my wolf had hungered for, but this man - this vampire - was everything else. He was my night and my day and my heart, and I didn't want to lose him.
But that possibility was a malignancy that lingered in the background of everything we did, everything we planned.
Because of Kye.
Because none of us knew whether the pull my wolf felt for her soul mate would in the long run be stronger than the pull I felt for Quinn.
He closed the door behind him and walked towards me, a dark haired vision of male perfection in a grey suit. I bounded towards him, wrapped my arms around his neck, and dragged his luscious lips to mine. As kisses went, it was pretty delicious.
"Missed you," he said softly, when we finally parted.
"And we're missing dinner," Rhoan said dryly, "So get over here and eat."
"You won't let him eat at the dinner table," I said, grinning as Quinn draped an arm around my neck and guided me over to the table. His fingertips brushed my breast, sending little surges of desire coursing through my body, and I momentarily debated dragging him off to the bedroom.
Then the smell of roast lamb hit my nostrils, and hunger won out.
"That's because it's not polite to get orgasmic at the dinner table if you're not sharing the sensation," Liander said, placing a plate of food down in front of me and a pack of synth blood in front of Quinn. "And Quinn keeps insisting he doesn't do guys."
"Not unless it's an absolute do or die situation," Quinn agreed.
I raised my eyebrows as he pulled out a chair for me. "So you have done guys?"
"As I said, it's not my preferred option." He kissed my nose before sitting down himself.
"That's not what I asked."
A smile touched the corners of his luscious lips. "Yes, I have taken blood from men. No, I have never actually had sex with them."
"But isn't that your preferred way of feeding?"
He raised his eyebrows at me, the amusement touching his lips finally reaching the dark depths of his eyes. "You prefer men, but that hasn't stopped you from kissing women, has it?"
"That's different - "
"How?" he interrupted. "We both do what we must when it's required. It doesn't mean we enjoy it."
I guess he had me there. I'd kissed Vinny solely to get information that might have helped solve a case and save lives, and he fed off people to survive. His might be more necessary than mine, but we were both doing what we had to.
His gaze flicked from me to the two men on the opposite side of the table. "Now, how about you two explaining the highly charged buzz I'm getting off you both?"
I began tucking into the lamb. The meat just about melted in my mouth and I groaned in delight. Quinn glanced at me, his thoughts reaching for mine. You do realize I'm planning to make you groan like that later.
Unfortunately for us both, I have to be at work by eight.
He glanced at his watch. I can do quick.
I leaned sideways, dropped a kiss on his cheek, and said with a mental grin, Quick would be good.
Liander placed the remaining plates on the table, then sat down beside Rhoan. His smile was a mile wide, and there were little crinkles of happiness lining the corners of his eyes. Rhoan was almost as bad.
"Well," my brother said, picking up his utensils and cutting into the thickly sliced lamb. "We do have an announcement to make."
"Color me surprised," I said dryly, munching down more lamb.
Rhoan's smile grew, though I wouldn't have thought was possible. "We have decided to have children."
I just about choked on my meal. The meat lodged somewhere in my throat and I started coughing violently. Quinn gave me several hard thumps on the back, which didn't exactly help. As I wheezed and wiped the tears from my eyes, he pointed out the obvious. "You're both guys. Neither of you can actually carry a child, and one of you is sterile."
"We do realize this," Liander said, eyes twinkling. "Which is where we hope Riley comes in."
"Me?" I squeaked. "In case you've forgotten, I'm as barren as Rhoan here."
"You may be barren, but you have frozen eggs," Rhoan said. "We're twins, Riley, which means you're as close as Liander's going to get to having a kid with me."
I looked from one to the other. "You're serious, aren't you?"
Liander nodded. "My sister has agreed to carry the child for us. It's our chance to have a child, Riley. It's our chance to carry on the family name." He paused. "But if you're not comfortable with it, that's fine. We'll just pick another donor. We don't want it to seem like its you or nothing."
"Either way," Rhoan added softly, "It leaves Liander with something to hold onto if the worst ever happens at work."
Something unfurled inside me - a desire long acknowledged and yet long forced away. My fingers began shaking - in fact, I think every part of me was shaking - so I put my knife and fork down on the table and leaned back in my chair. Quinn caught my hand, his fingers so steady and warm against mine. I squeezed his hand, more grateful than ever that he was there.
"We're different packs," I murmured, more to break the expectant silence than out of any real concern over whose name any resulting child might bear
A child. Liander's and mine.
God, I wanted to get up and dance at the prospect and yet, at the same time, my stomach was churning with fear.
After everything that fate had thrown my way of late, it was hard to believe I was now being presented with this opportunity. Hell, part of me didn't want to believe that it might actually happen, because I didn't want to face the pain of yet more disappointment.
"Told you she'd say that," Rhoan murmured, then leaned forward, his arms crossed on the table. "We're starting a new pack. The Jenson-Moore pack, which currently consists of three werewolves and one vampire. Said vampire will be expected to play uncle and change diapers along with everyone else."
"Said vampire" Quinn said dryly, "seems to be getting the raw end of the deal. No surname involvement and excrement duty. Do not expect joy at the prospect."
"You did get off midnight bottle duty, even though you're usually awake," Rhoan said, glancing at me. "Well, what do you think?"
"I think I'm too shocked to actually think," I muttered, then leaned forward and studied the two of them. Though it was good to see the two of them so excited - so happy - the sick fear churning my stomach wouldn't let me give in to that same happiness. Maybe because I'd been right where they are - had my hopes up for something good, only to have it pulled out from under my feet - and I didn't want them to go through the same sort of pain.
"You do know this won't be easy," I said slowly. "My eggs are viable, but no one can say what effect, if any, the drugs Talon once gave me will have had on them."
"We're aware of that, Riley," Liander said, twining his fingers through my brother's. "We're willing to take the chance."
Yeah, but was I? Those drugs were still changing me, and no one had any idea where or if it would end. Did I have the right to put any child of mine through that sort of uncertainty?
And yet, the eggs couldn't remain on ice forever. The doctors had already warned me that there were no guarantees that they would remain viable after more than a few years. If I ever did want children of my own, this might be my one opportunity.
But was I ready for a child? Was I ready for the heartache that might just come with it? Because, right now, those eggs represented hope. What if we went through with the surrogacy, only to discover that the eggs weren't strong enough - or had been changed too much by the drugs that had been forced on me - to ever become a living entity?
Confusion and hope and fear swirled through me. I didn't know what to do. I really didn't. And I was clinging so hard to Quinn's hand I was probably on the verge of crushing his fingers, and yet it felt like a lifeline.
"We're not asking you to make a decision right here and now," Rhoan said softly. "We know this has probably hit you like a ton of bricks. We just want you to think about it, and let us know."
I took a deep breath and released it slowly. "Have you asked anyone else about donating eggs yet?"
"No, but we have several options. As I said, don't feel pressured into this if you're really not comfortable with it. We're okay if you say no."
Yeah, but would I be? "But another donor would make the child of your line, not yours and Rhoan's."
"In the end, the blood lines doesn't matter, only the child," Rhoan said. Then a grin split his lips. "Of course, we could imitate Talon and try the whole cloning issue, but setting up the lab and finding a willing scientist could get messy and expensive."
I smiled, as my brother had no doubt intended. "When do you need an answer?"
"My sister reckons she'll be good to go in a couple of months. Her own pups will be past the diaper stage by then, and she'll have more energy for the pregnancy."
"And you've sat her down and explained the dangers?" My gaze jumped between the two of them. "Does she really understand that this may not be a regular pregnancy in any way, shape or form, simply because no one knows what my eggs will do once they're fertilized?"
"She knows," Liander said, face somber. "I wouldn't risk my sister's life by not giving her all the facts, Riley. But she really wants to do this for us."
Then she was a sweetheart. But I guessed I would have done the same for my brother, had I actually been capable of carrying a child.
"Okay, I'll get back to you on it soon." I hesitated, then grinned. "You do realize, of course, that a week of roast dinners could influence the outcome."
Rhoan snorted. "Have belly, can be bribed."
"Totally." I shoved some lamb in my mouth and chewed happily. "I think breakfast should come into the equation as well."
Liander glanced at my brother. "I can see her stretching this out for as long as possible."
Rhoan gave me a warm smile, happiness in his eyes. "We can fix that easily enough. I'll just start doing the cooking."
I just about gagged at the thought. "God, no. Anything but that."
His smile gave way to an outright grin. "I cook as well as you do."
"Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of. Quinn will have to start paying for more dinners if that happens."
The vampire in question snorted softly. "Even I would struggle to support your appetite full time."
I met his gaze, a sensual smile playing about my lips. "Oh, I don't know," I said archly. "You're doing a pretty good job of it now."
He leaned forward and kissed me. His lips were so warm, so inviting and delicious, that the kiss quickly deepened, becoming a sensuous exploration that had me aching in an instant.
"Oh, get a room you two," Liander said dryly.
I grinned, twined my fingers through Quinn's, and stood up. "Good idea."
I dragged him to my bedroom, closed the door, and kissed him again, this time fiercely. His arms wrapped around me, dragging me closer, until my body was molded against his and I could feel the slow beat of his vampire heart and every intake of breath. He might not be human in any sense of the word, he might not be a werewolf nor the man I'd spent half my life longing for, but he was very much the man I needed in my life. The vampire I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
And no matter what fate had planned, I would fight for this. Fight for us. It might have taken me altogether too long to realize just what this vampire meant to me, but now that I had I had no intention of letting go.
"I can see you as a mother," he murmured, his fingers sliding underneath my t-shirt, sending delicious tingles of desire scampering across my flesh as he lifted my shirt up and over my head. "I think you'd be a good one."