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Authors: Sylvia Day

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fiction

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BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
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Turning away from Lindsay’s vigilant gaze, Adrian breathed carefully through his seething wrath. He was a seraph, a Sentinel. He was expected to stand above the vagaries of human emotions. Betraying otherwise—through his tone of voice or actions—exposed an unconscionable vulnerability. What was done could not be undone; his mortal love tethered him to the earth, holding him away from the serenity of the heavens.
“You have no idea what I’m authorized to do,” he said evenly. “She attacked in broad daylight, proving that one of your Fallen ranks—maybe
you
—fed her in the last forty-eight hours. That opens the door for me to defend myself and my Sentinels in whatever manner I see fit. Think harder before sending another suicidal minion my way. I’m not Phineas; you and I have already established that a fight with me is one you can’t win.”
It was the truth . . . albeit oversimplified. Syre lacked the formal combat training that honed the Sentinels, but he’d had centuries to perfect guerrilla tactics. He was also older and wiser for his mistakes, and growing as restless as the lycans. His vampires would follow him into Hell if he asked them to. All of which made him exceedingly dangerous. While Adrian knew he could best Syre again, it would not be as easily accomplished the next time.
And Lindsay Gibson would be caught in the middle.
“Maybe winning isn’t the goal,” Syre taunted.
Casting a possessive glance at Lindsay, Adrian was acutely aware of the misery he was destined to bring into her life. But he couldn’t walk away. Between himself and Syre, he was the lesser of two evils.
“If you’ve got a death wish,” Adrian said, as thunder rumbled across the sky, “pay me a visit. I’m happy to assist.”
Lindsay frowned at something, and he followed her gaze. The woman with the antsy kids was still fighting with the elder. The boy’s voice rose to a volume that drew attention from everyone in the immediate area.
The vampire leader laughed. “Not until I’m certain my daughter is free of you.”
“Your death will take care of that.”
Adrian would forever curse the weakness that had driven him to Syre when Shadoe was fatally wounded. He’d mistakenly believed the Fallen leader’s love for his child would ensure he would act in her best interests, but Syre’s thirst for vengeance was as all-consuming as his thirst for blood. He would do anything to prevent his daughter from bringing happiness to the Sentinel who’d punished him. He’d attempted to turn her into a vampire like himself—a soulless, bloodsucking creature who would have to live in darkness for eternity—rather than allow her to love Adrian with her mortal soul.
Once Adrian had realized Syre’s intent, he’d stopped the Change, with unforeseen consequences—her body had died, but her naphil soul had been immortalized. The partial Change had caused Shadoe to return again and again in an endless cycle of reincarnation, because, unlike a mortal, her soul was half angelic but independent of wings. Mortal souls died with the Change and angel souls died with the loss of their wings, but the nephalim had neither vulnerability. When Shadoe’s body had been prevented from completing the transformation, her naphil soul survived to remain tied to the individual who’d sired her into vampirism. Killing her father should free her by severing Syre’s hold on her soul; only the vampire who initiated a Change could complete it.
But time was Adrian’s enemy. He had only Lindsay’s uncertain life span in which to work. It was a terribly small window for an immortal.
“Selfish bastard,” the vampire hissed. “You would rather Shadoe die than live forever.”
“And you would rather she suffer your punishment, even though she doesn’t deserve it. You broke the law, not her.”
“Didn’t she, though, Adrian? She lured you to fall as well.”
“The decision was mine. Therefore the fault is mine.”
“Yet you don’t suffer as we do.”
“I don’t?” Adrian challenged softly. “How would you know what I suffer, Syre?”
He looked at Lindsay again. She watched him from her seat with those dark eyes that seemed to catch everything. They were far too worldly for a person of her age.
Her brows arched in silent inquiry.
He affected a reassuring smile. She was as attuned to him as he was to her, but she couldn’t recall the history between them that had created the affinity. He would have to take care not to cause her concern or distress. His mercurial emotions were a sign of how far he’d fallen. They were a testament to how human his love for her had made him. The heavens lamented his mortal weakness through the weather—raining when he mourned, thundering when he raged, the temperature fluctuating with the heat or chill of his moods.
“You covet her soul,” Syre purred, “because it’s the one thing that binds her to you.”
“And to you.”
“Yet you won’t let me bring her into full awareness. Why is that, Adrian? What are you afraid of? That she’ll weaken you all over again?”
Nearby, the defiant young boy kicked his mother in the shin. She cried out. The startled baby in her arms flailed backward. Off balance and clearly beyond frustrated, the frazzled young woman lost her grip on the child.
Adrian rushed forward, forcing himself to move at a natural human pace—
—but Lindsay caught the infant first. Too swiftly. So damn swiftly it seemed as if the baby had never been in danger of hitting the floor at all. The mother blinked, her open mouth betraying her confusion at finding Lindsay directly in front of her instead of seated a few feet away.
“Don’t forget,” Syre continued, “that soul you prize is clawing to the surface with every incarnation whether I help it along or not. Can you get to me before my daughter regains sentience? What will Shadoe think of you when it all comes back to her and she remembers the pain of the many lives you’ve cost her? Will she still love you then?”
“I don’t forget anything. I certainly won’t forget what you owe me for the losses I’ve been dealt today.” Adrian killed the call, his focus narrowing on the woman who’d just revealed a colossal complication with her preternatural speed. Shadoe’s naphil gifts were strong in Lindsay, suggesting a deeper entwining of the two women than had been manifested in previous incarnations.
He was running out of time. Souls grew in power with age and experience. It was an inescapable fact that Shadoe would one day have the strength to overpower the soul of the vessel she occupied.
None of them was prepared for that.
Shoving the phone in his pocket, Adrian closed the distance between them.
 
Adrian Mitchell had immaculate feet.
From her ridiculously comfortable seat in first class, Lindsay stared at the end of Adrian’s long, stretched out legs and realized she’d never paid much attention to a man’s feet before. Usually, she thought they were ugly: callused skin, crooked toes, absently trimmed and yellowed nails. Not Adrian’s. His feet were flawless in every way. In fact, everything about him was precisely symmetrical and expertly crafted. It was arresting how
perfect
he was.
Looking up, she met his gaze and smiled. She didn’t explain her preoccupation with his sandaled feet. It didn’t seem necessary, considering the way he was looking at her. The sexual attraction was a given. It was hot and edgy and made her body go a little haywire, but there was something softer in his regard, too. Something tender, almost intimate. She responded to it with fierce propriety. A primitive part of her was growling,
He’s mine.
“You’re not eating your pretzel,” he noted, with that low sonorous articulation that made her want to settle in and stay a while.
He was so stringently contained, rigidly controlled. Even when she sensed turmoil in him, he gave no outward indication of it. His voice was always smooth and even, his posture relaxed and confident. Even when he’d been pacing, he had done so leisurely. The combination of that tight leash and his unrestrained sexuality was a potent turn-on.
It was her nature to make waves and stir things up, and she was going to do that with him. She was going to dig beneath that calm surface, because she was pretty damn certain still waters ran deep in him.
“Do you want it?” she offered. “I don’t want to ruin my appetite.”
His eyes sparkled with amusement and she realized he had yet to smile fully. Her life was dark enough as it was; she usually went for guys who were lighthearted and fun-loving. It was a testament to his appeal that his subdued intensity didn’t dampen her interest.
“What would you like for dinner?” he asked.
“Anything. I’m easy.” The moment the words left her mouth, she regretted them. “That came out wrong.”
“Don’t ever worry about what you say around me, as long as you’re honest.”
“Honesty is my policy, which gets me in trouble a lot.”
“Some trouble is worth getting into.”
She twisted within her slackened seat belt, canting her torso toward him. “What kind of trouble do you get into?”
“The epic kind,” he said wryly.
The faint touch of humor hit all her hot buttons. “I’m intrigued. Tell me more.”
“That’s third-date material. You’ll have to stick around.”
What would it be like to keep a man like Adrian?
Just for a little while . . .
“That’s extortion.”
He looked completely unrepentant. “I’m ruthless about getting what I want, which leads me back to the topic of what to cook for dinner. What’s your guilty pleasure?”
“You’re cooking?”
“Unless you object.”
Her mouth curved. Adrian was clearly used to getting his way with no questions asked. “I should probably deny you at some point, just to keep you in your place.”
His gaze smoldered. “And where would that be? The place where you’d like to put me.”
“The place where I set the pace.”
“I like it already.”
“Good.” Lindsay gave an approving nod. He was becoming more approachable by the minute. More real. “As for dinner at your place, I’m okay with that. But I want you to decide what’s on the menu. Impress me.”
“No allergies? Nothing off-limits?”
“I’m not a fan of liver, bugs, or meat that’s still bleeding.” Her nose wrinkled. “Aside from that, you’ve got carte blanche.”
Her stipulations elicited his first real smile. “I’m not a fan of blood either.”
The sensual curving of his lips caused heat to spread outward from her tummy, pushing languidness through her limbs even as it gave her a potent headrush. She felt flushed and totally smitten.
It figured that the one guy to set her off like a rocket was also one who obviously had a lot more to him than met the eye.
As if what met the eye wasn’t enough . . .
 
“Why do you need bodyguards?”
Adrian lifted his shoulder in an offhand shrug, his gaze trained on Lindsay as it had been since they’d entered his local organic grocery. She was long and lean, athletic. Her body was a credit to the Creator, and she kept it in prime shape. The way she carried her weight on her feet was notable for its predaceous grace. While her outward appearance was relaxed, he sensed the edge to her. His mood was affecting her strongly, yet she rolled with it, maintaining an admirable level of control.
She was in a lot better state than he was.
Shadoe’s return was shredding his equanimity. Shopping for dinner ingredients seemed absurd, considering the violent need tensing every muscle in his body. Here, finally, was the one woman who made him hunger and crave and
feel
as no other could. The one woman capable of making him acutely aware of every second of his two hundred years of celibacy . . . and he couldn’t have her. Not yet.
“Notoriety leads to unwanted attention,” he explained with studious evenness.
Which was why he avoided going out in public when Shadoe wasn’t with him. He did so now because it served a variety of purposes—it continued his campaign to appear unfazed by the morning’s attack, it established normalcy and intimacy with Lindsay, and it gave her the opportunity to select the ingredients she preferred.
BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
2.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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