She found that she was doing her best not to stare at the windows, to pretend they didn't exist.
"Those stairs there," she directed. Her face felt as if it were redder than the heart-shaped, strawberry-flavored edible thongs on the mannequin closest to the stair side of the shop. If Lucian noticed her severe discomfort, he was tactful enough not to comment on it.
They brought Danny up. He began singing as they climbed the steps, carefully, one by one. At the top he laughed. "Come in, come into my parlor! And my kitchen, bedroom, and elegant dining room, too, of course."
Lucian carried him in. "Give me a sec-I'll get the pullout open." Jade opened the couch. Danny crashed down on it.
Jade looked at him, shaking her head. "I've never seen him like this."
"All men have a limit; sometimes they have to lose control."
"Hm." She stared at him. "Tell me, do you ever lose control?"
"Not often. Shall we go?"
"Have you ever lost control?"
"Yes, shall we go?"
"Let me get his shoes off. And maybe you could pull him up. He's going to have an awful twist in his neck in the morning if we don't"
Lucian leaned over and picked Danny up, straightening his cramped length. Jade took off his shoes, then set them by the side of the bed.
"The lower lock will click automatically when we leave," she murmured. "I wish there were a way to turn the top bolt."
"He'll be all right"
"How can you be so certain?"
"Why wouldn't he be?"
"Because he's afraid of something."
"He's in his home, sound asleep. He'll be fine."
She wasn't sure why, but she believed him. She started down the steps again, aware of him behind her, aware that they had to pass by the sex shop, aware that she had the ridiculous feeling that she'd already been with him. Well, she had been, in a way, at least. He had admitted to saving her life in Edinburgh, and she had been found in a shroud, so he was certainly familiar with her.
All of her.
She felt her cheeks growing red again as they walked. He took her hand, leading her through the throng of people. There were more costumed party goers on the streets now. A weaving werewolf nearly crashed into Lucian, looked at him, and found much better balance. Jade felt as if she were with Moses-and the Red Sea were parting for them.
She stopped suddenly, the tug of her hand pulling him back.
People milled all around them.
"Why am I dreaming about you?" she asked him softly.
He didn't reply, then said lightly, "Because I'm devastatingly good-looking?"
"I've been dating a man who is kind and sweet and absolutely, positively devastatingly good-looking," she told him.
"But you don't dream about him," Lucian noted quietly.
She felt her cheeks warm again. She started walking past him. "I didn't say what I'd been dreaming," she reminded him.
"No, you didn't."
She felt his closeness.
They reached her house and entered it through the upstairs hallway. He seemed to pause a minute in her doorway-not hesitant, just observing. He strode in then, toward the mantel. He looked at the pictures there. "Your sister," he said.
"How do you know?"
He shrugged, amused. "She looks just like you."
The tension in her shoulders eased a bit. "Can I get you a drink?"
"Are you having one?"
"Oh, you bet. Maybe a bunch."
"Whatever you're having."
She opted for wine, a rich cabernet that Matt had brought back for her after a publicity tour in California. Lucian accepted a glass from her gravely, seeming to study the deep, rich, bloodred color of the wine, then pointing to another of the pictures. "Your parents?"
"Father and stepmother."
"Is she a terrible, fairy-tale stepmother?"
"Not at all. My mother died when Shanna and I were in our teens. My dad was devoted to her until the very end. Liz came later. We have baby brothers-there they are.
Petey and Jamie. Names right off the old MacGregor immigration papers."
"Handsome little towheads," he remarked.
"They are. Just as cute as can be. Totally into their terrible twos. Why did you disappear when we were in Edinburgh?"
"It was necessary."
"You could have helped the police."
He shook his head. "No, I couldn't have."
"You could have told them who-"
"It wouldn't have done any good."
She stared at him, frustrated. "They've killed again."
"Yes, they have."
"In New York?"
"Why are you here, in New Orleans?"
He hesitated a moment, then shrugged. "Because of you."
Her heart seemed to slam against her chest. She didn't know him. She really didn't know him at all.
A few really decadent dreams.
She approached him at the mantel. She set down her wine and stared into his eyes. They were so curious. Like the wild contacts opticians, sold for Halloween: normal, deep, and very dark one minute, touched with bloodred fire the next.
"You're here because of me."
"And ... you were in Edinburgh because of me?"
"No," he replied with a rueful smile. "I was in Edinburgh because I'd heard about a guide and an underground tour... and I suspected those who were involved."
"And you were right."
"And you're out to stop them?"
"But you're not a policeman."
"No." He hesitated again, then touched her cheek. "Let's just say that I'm the head of another group with a vested interest in what's happening."
"And what's happening?" she whispered. She felt his fingertips on her cheek. Nothing in life had ever felt so compelling. So seductive. She ached to feel more of that touch. She took a step closer to him. His knuckles brushed her flesh; he cupped her chin in his palm, meeting her eyes.
"What is happening?" he repeated.
"You said that you're here for me."
"Because ... ?"
"You could be in danger."
"But I ..."
Date a cop.
The words didn't quite make it from her lips. She had moved closer. Closer. Arched up on her toes.
Logic reminded her that he was highly suspect; she barely knew him.
Instinct told her she knew all she needed to.
There was no question when his lips touched hers that either of them expected any other outcome from the evening than what occurred.
The heat of his mouth was delicious, white-hot, staggering. His tongue invaded like the smooth shaft of a sword, and her own was quickly wrapped around it. His kiss was passionate, hard, staggering. Before she knew it, her arms were wound around him, and he was lifting her against himself. She felt the pressure of her breasts against his chest, his groin against her hips, and that, like the thrust of his tongue, aroused her to a sweeping pitch. Her fingers threaded into his hair, working down his nape. His mouth lifted from her, moved to her throat. For a moment it lingered there.... And she could feel a pulse. A rampant pulse. The beating of his heart? No, her own. It was a thunder, a cascade. She felt as if the beat permeated her limbs, throbbed at a place between her thighs. She could feel the denim of her jeans against her flesh, the fabric of her panties, the air, the night, even the tick of time. He held her there, breathed in, breathed out, and the fire of his breath teased her flesh, her throat. ...
Then he was moving with her, unerringly, to her bedroom. She didn't know quite how he got there so easily; she didn't care. She didn't know what she had become; she couldn't slip his jacket from his shoulders fast enough; her fingers clawed at the fabric of his shirt. He shed the garment himself, coming down against her on the bed, his shoulders broad, rippled with muscle, touched with the iridescence of the moonlight streaming in. She was naked herself.
She didn't know how... didn't remember. Her clothing was cast into a tangle of cotton and silk by the bed. His jacket, shirt, and pants lay there as well. He was gorgeous, huge, powerful, encompassing her.
His tongue was on her flesh. His ringers were gliding over her. An erotic brush of his teeth swept past her collarbone; his palm closed over her breast. The length of him seemed like molten steel, forming to her length, setting her afire to the same pitch of fire that burned within him. His mouth closed over her breast; she surged against him, white-hot streaks of desire flashing through her. She reached for him, felt the shaft of his erection, the fierceness of the heat that seemed alive with that wicked beat of her heart, her being.
She touched him, stroked him, felt a shimmering burst of pleasure within, felt his kiss, his lips, his fevered hands, moving more, moving farther, moving deeper. His tongue teased at her nipple, slipped into the valley between her breasts, laved the tiny silver ring at her navel. She shifted with pure lust. His fingers stroked slowly down the length of her thigh. His head settled lower. He palmed the soft mound of her sex, parted it with his fingers, invaded it with his tongue. She shrieked, her fingers tearing into his shoulders, pleas on her lips, no, yes, no, yes, oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, yes . . .
She was limp when he rose over her, shaken, soaked, certain she could feel no more, do no more ... but he moved into her, steel again, molten steel, invasive, searing, awakening ... he moved, and dear Lord, the way that he moved ...