Authors: Christine DePetrillo
Tags: #romance, paranormal,spicy
“That’s so comforting, dear.” Mona shook her head.
“So, what do you have, Keane?” Charlie asked again.
“I’ve had a bunch of bikes, but right now I have a Harley Road Glide,” Keane said.
Charlie whistled. “Nice. That has fixed front fairing, right?”
Holly’s father got more animated as the motorcycle conversation continued. It was the most excited she’d seen him since he explained to her how to do an emergency tracheotomy with a pen a few years ago. She so hoped she never had a need for that information.
“Yep. Great at high speeds and heavy wind. Easy to handle,” Keane said.
How easy would Keane be to handle? Quickly, Holly grabbed another cookie and drowned her sexual needs in chocolate chips.
Charlie nodded. “I’ve looked into Harleys, but I’m not sure what I’ll get.”
“Hopefully, you’ll get nothing,” Mona said. “I think motorcycles are dreadful.”
“Well, you don’t have to ride it.” Charlie rested his hand over Mona’s. “It’s something
need to do.”
“Man’s got to have his hobbies.” Keane nodded at Charlie, and Holly thought if she looked up male bonding online, she’d find a picture of this exact moment.
“Man’s got to be careful, too,” Mona added. “He’s not young like you, Keane.”
Holly nearly choked on her tea.
. If her mother only knew how old Keane was.
“I’m sure Charlie wouldn’t do anything to ruin all the fun he has with you.” Keane winked at Mona, and her face softened.
Despite Holly’s worry about her parents discovering Keane, he was somehow winning them over. Winning them over like a master. He’d even managed to get the conversation focused on something other than the nature of their relationship. Damn, he was good.
“Have some cookies, Keane.” Mona pushed the plate toward him.
Pain wiped across his features as he stared at the cookies.
“Keane doesn’t eat sweets.” Holly edged the plate away. “Special diet.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. And here we are grazing like a couple of barnyard animals in front of you. No wonder you look so fit.” Mona popped out of her seat with the plate and deposited it on the counter by the sink. “There. Out of sight, out of mind.”
“Thank you,” Keane said.
“Now, what do you do for work, Keane?” Mona asked.
“Oh, work!” Holly blurted. She pretended to check the clock in the kitchen as if the time was a huge concern. “It’s getting late. We’d better go, Keane, so we can be home…I mean…so we can be back at a reasonable hour. Where’s my purse, Mother?”
Mona jumped into action at the urgency in Holly’s voice and disappeared into the living room. Charlie took their mugs to the sink, but stopped when he picked up Keane’s.
“Don’t drink tea either?”
“Not really, sir, no.” Keane gave Holly’s father an apologetic look.
“More of a beer guy?” Charlie asked.
“Sure.” Keane stood, but Holly could see how stiff he was, as if he were afraid to do or say the wrong thing.
“Next time you’re here for a visit”—Charlie paused and arrowed a glance at Holly—“we’ll break out the beers as we admire my new motorcycle.” He smiled and extended his hand to Keane.
Keane shook Charlie’s hand. “You got it, sir.”
“Here you go,” Mona sang as she handed Holly her purse. “I know it was a pain to drive back here for it, but we’re glad we got a chance to meet you, Keane. It was a pleasure.”
“For me as well.” Keane bowed his head slightly, and Holly couldn’t resist picturing him as a noble Celtic warrior from the fourth century B.C. as he claimed he used to be. He fit in well with modern men, but every once and a while, like when he’d held open the car door for her, Holly got a glimpse of what he must have been like during his time. Would she have been attracted to him then, too? Why was she attracted to him now? Shit, she hated when she couldn’t answer her own questions.
Holly shouldered her bag and hugged her father. “See you, Dad.”
“Hope so.” Charlie dropped a kiss on her forehead.
Mona corralled Holly into a hug. “Now you be sure to bring Keane around again, you hear me, Holly Berry?”
“Yes, Mother. Will do.”
Mona released Holly and threw her arms around Keane. Holly could tell he wasn’t used to being hugged. He stiffened and fumbled with where to put his hands. Finally, Mona worked her magic, and Keane settled into the embrace. He closed his eyes and looked as if he needed that hug from her mother. Holly had a little trouble swallowing around the lump in her throat.
After Mona released him, Holly ushered Keane to the sunroom door and waved good-bye to her parents. She led him down the steps to the driveway, and Keane tugged on her arm when she took a left instead of a right toward the car.
“Where are you going?”
Holly turned to face him, and lost her breath as moonlight illuminated Keane. His pale skin almost glowed in the darkness. He resembled a beautiful vampire, and what scared her was that she wanted nothing more than to bare her neck for his bite.
“You didn’t think I’d take you all the way out here and not let you see the beach, did you?” She stepped closer and took Keane’s hand. “Thanks to you, I do have a working heart. C’mon.”
Keane didn’t fight her. He simply fell into step beside her, and when they hit the sand behind her parents’ beach house, he removed his boots as Holly shed her sandals. He paused when he sank his bare feet into the sand and sighed. The sound awakened a hungry beast inside Holly.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
Holly wanted to reply, but in that moment, she’d forgotten every word she knew.
Soft. Cool. Amazing. The sand between his toes made Keane think of Eliah and how they used to run from their cottage to the sea when they weren’t fighting off some enemy. Those lazy days when they could just be two brothers enjoying the sun and the water. When nothing else mattered in the world except letting the sea surround them and wash away the blood of the slain. The sea always forgave them. Always.
“C’mon.” Keane grabbed Holly’s hand and led her to the water. In the darkness, the ocean was a black abyss. Only streaky shimmers from the moon broke up the perfect, unending reach into the nothingness.
He splashed into the shallow water at the shore’s edge and laughed.
Gods, I feel like a child again!
“Wow,” Holly said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard that sound come from you before, Keane.”
“Laughing feels good.” He kicked up a stream of water and got her legs wet.
“Now, let’s not get carried away.” She tossed a handful of water back at him, and giggled when he opened his mouth in shock.
“Getting carried away might be fun.” He rushed forward and scooped Holly off her feet. She let out a hoot and clung to him as he threatened to wade out to deeper water and dunk her. He loved the feel of her body pressed against his. She was so light, so soft. So real.
“Don’t you dare!” she said around her squirming. “I don’t want to drive back soaked for two hours.”
He backed up and set her down though every instinct in him said to hold onto her for as long as he could. Forever, maybe.
She straightened out her wet dress, and the simple movement had him aching to see her out of that dress. He shook his head and focused his eyes on the almost full moon overhead. He couldn’t afford to let feelings cloud his judgment. Last time he did that, people got butchered. He had to stick by the rules he’d set up for this solitary life of his.
“Is the beach how you remember it?” Holly said.
“Better.” Keane bent down and let his fingers rest on the surface of the water while small waves licked at his ankles. “Listen, I didn’t mean to have your father see me. I was waiting in the car, and he was just suddenly there.”
“Good old Doc Brimmer,” she said. “He’s a regular ninja.”
“Is it wrong if I don’t entirely regret being invited into your parents’ house?” He knew it was wrong, but did she think so, too? Keane looked over his shoulder at her. She swayed one leg back and forth in the water.
“No. I’m just sorry the people you got to encounter were my parents. They can be a bit much. Especially my mother.”
“Your parents are wonderful.” He stood and shushed through the water toward her. He stopped in front of her though his mind screamed at him to keep his distance and not say another word. “You’re wonderful.”
“So are you. I think my parents actually believed we met because I had engine trouble. You were pretty calm back there.” She gestured up to the beach house. “You won Charlie and Mona over quite easily.”
“How about you?” Keane said. “Did I win you over?”
He took another step closer to her and coiled a tendril of her hair around his wet finger. He shouldn’t be touching her, but under the moonlight she looked like a fairy, shimmery and perfect.
“You won me over when you saved my life, Keane,” she said. “I know I haven’t always treated you nicely while you’ve been staying with me, but I realized something when I came to visit my parents this weekend.”
“What’s that?” he released Holly’s hair and trailed a finger along her cheek. She closed her eyes for a moment, and he wanted to float away in the ocean with her. Not even the heated kisses he’d shared with Melinda so long ago compared to the feel of Holly’s skin against his fingertip.
“I realized I like having you around.” Holly opened her eyes and stared up at him.
Before he could think too much about it, he leaned down and brushed his lips against Holly’s. His entire body rejoiced when she pressed against him and kissed him back. Her hands slid up his bare arms, and he shuddered at her touch. When her fingers snaked into his hair, he deepened the kiss. He gave. She took. The world around him dropped away. There were no saves. No kills. Only the two of them, standing in the water, holding and kissing.
What did Holly truly taste like? Keane felt the silk of her lips, the gentle caress of her tongue against his, but he couldn’t get her flavor, couldn’t savor what made her uniquely Holly. How he wanted to.
She rubbed her leg against his, and water dripped melodically from her foot back into the sea. He dug his feet into the sand and ran his palm along her thigh under her dress. She hummed as she continued to kiss him, pressing closer. He loved the way her slender form fit against him. Loved that he could wrap his arms all the way around her.
A sudden gush of water made Holly break away from his kiss, his hold. They were both wet in spots above the knee now, and a large German shepherd barked at them a few feet away.
“Shhh,” she soothed. “It’s okay, Zima.” She reached out her hand, and Keane feared the dog would chomp it off.
Instead, the dog ran off, then splashed back to them. It churned up waves that smacked against their legs, further soaking their clothes. The dog let out a low growl at Keane and bounded over to Holly again.
“I think he wants to play with you.” Keane sloshed over to Holly, but the dog snapped at him and growled a warning.
wants to eat you.”
Holly coaxed the dog out of the water and onto the sand so it would stop splashing them. It followed her and ran around in circles, darting close and then bolting away. Whenever it got within a few feet of Keane, the dog went wild with barking. Teeth bared, it crouched to the sand as if it were ready to attack him. The dog purposely kept him away from Holly, and he knew the dog was right to do so. At least someone was using some sense.
“Animals don’t like me. Not anymore anyway.” Keane slid his foot around in the sand, letting the grains stick to his wet toes. “They know I’m cursed.”
The blissful buzz he’d been feeling while kissing Holly was quickly wearing off. The reality of what he was, what his life was like, came crashing back to him. He had been foolish to kiss her. He couldn’t have her, and she would never love him.
“We should probably get going. Got a bit of a drive ahead of us.” He didn’t wait for Holly to follow him. He let the dog roar a stream of rapid-fire barks at him, then walked toward his boots. After picking them up, he continued onto the sparse grass of the beach house’s backyard. Within moments, he was sitting in the car, dusting the sand off his feet so he could put his socks and boots back on.
From the driver’s seat, Keane watched Holly run alongside the dog as she guided it to the beach house beside her parents’. She knocked on the side door, spoke to the neighbor, and let the dog scoot into the house. In the driveway, she gathered the end of her dress and wrung it out like a dishtowel. A steady stream of water dribbled to the ground before Holly smoothed the material again.
She opened the car door and hesitated a moment before getting inside. When she settled in the passenger seat, she plunked her purse down between her feet and looked at him.
“Animals may not be fond of you,” she started, “but I am.”
She reached over to rest her hand on his, but Keane slid his hand away and started the car. He had no right to want her. None at all, but desire burned hot inside him. Holly had somehow managed to awaken a part of him he’d completely shut down. Why couldn’t he have met her back in his time when he was a regular human, a successful warrior? Maybe he wouldn’t have been wounded in battle if he’d had a woman like Holly waiting for him at home. He wouldn’t have been so reckless, so damned overconfident in his combat prowess. He wouldn’t have taken foolish risks on the battlefield. He’d have wanted to be able to come home to Holly, to take care of her, to love her.
Instead, he was stuck. Stuck between wanting to love her now and knowing he shouldn’t. Trapped between waiting for her to do something important to release him and wishing she would never release him.
He let out a grumble as he merged onto the highway and headed back home.
To Holly’s home
. Why couldn’t he remember that?
“Keane?” She touched her hand to his arm. “What’s wrong? I thought we were—”
“We were,” he snapped. “That’s the problem. We shouldn’t be. You don’t want me, Holly. I’m a fucking monster.” He lifted one of his hands to her. “See this? It’s plunged daggers into thousands of demons. Hundreds of thousands. It’s been coated in demon blood and entrails. How could you ever want it to touch you?”