Authors: Christine DePetrillo
Tags: #romance, paranormal,spicy
“Sure, okay. We can role-play if you’re into that.” Her lips turned up into a mischievous grin. “You have a car outside?”
She’d leave here with me just like that?
Keane shook his head. Jessica needed to be more careful. Didn’t she realize he could sink a dagger into her heart and end her life in a nanosecond whether she was a demon or not? In fact, it’d be even easier to kill a human.
“Motorcycle,” he said.
At this, Jessica’s eyes lit up. “It’s a lovely night for a ride, Keane, and I adore that much power between my legs.” She traced a slender finger along his hand on the table. “There are lots of things I adore between my legs.”
He took a perilous third swig of his beer, and a terrible cramp built below his ribs. He flipped his hand over and inched Jessica’s hand back toward her side of the table.
“Thanks for the interest, Jessica,” he said, “but I need to go now.”
Her ruby lips puckered out seductively. “What’s the rush? You got a wife you hiding from or something?”
“Boyfriend?” Jessica cringed a little as she waited for his reply.
“Then why do you need to go, handsome?” She pulled on one of her curls until it uncoiled. When she let go, it sprang back up to the others.
“Because you deserve better than me, Jessica.”
He crossed the line into senseless torture and tossed back a fourth gulp of beer. When he stood to leave, his belly seized as if someone had punched him in the gut. He made it to the door, stumbled down the steps and draped himself over his motorcycle seat. A couple of patrons smoking cigars outside wisecracked about him not being able to hold his liquor. Actually, the opposite was true. His body could hold the liquor. What it couldn’t do was get rid of it.
He managed to right himself on the bike, start her up, and ease onto the road back home.
To Holly’s house,
he corrected. It wasn’t his home. Home was a place you could stay and share with those you loved. A place that belonged to you. He didn’t belong anywhere.
He somehow made it to the farmhouse and parked his motorcycle in the driveway. Teleportation would have been so handy if he had control over when he could use it. He slid off the bike, and using the porch railing for support, wobbled to the front door. Once inside he aimed for his bedroom, but was hit with a pain in his stomach so intense he collapsed to the ground in the living room. He crawled ahead a few more feet, but his insides spasmed, and the burning grew to such a level that he curled up into a ball on the hard, hickory floor. He pressed his cheek into the cool wood, but nothing eased the fire in his stomach.
He wished for death, but knew it wouldn’t come. He wouldn’t be granted that sweet reprieve.
He wished for Holly, but knew she’d never want him. He was no better than the demons he hunted. Holly was an angel. Demons and angels didn’t live happily ever after.
Holly pushed her key into the lock on her front door and let out a hiss when she realized it wasn’t locked.
“Nice, Keane,” she said. “Maybe you don’t care about my home, but I do.”
Shaking her head, she opened the door and stepped into the house. Leaning against the door once she’d closed it, she shut her eyes and inhaled. The smell of lavender potpourri welcomed her home and a smile slid across her lips.
“Love you, Mother and Dad, but it’s good to be home.”
She let her overnight bag fall to her feet. It was late Sunday afternoon, and though her parents had begged her to stay another day, she had desperately wanted to come back home. She needed to be in her own space. She needed to be away from Luke whom she had seriously reconsidered sleeping with. Twice.
Maybe she would swing back to the beach house and have her way with him next weekend. At least he didn’t leave her front door unlocked.
She picked up her bag and headed for the laundry room, but something wasn’t right in the house. Too quiet. Too empty for the middle of the morning on a bright sunny day.
“Keane?” She waited by the couch, listening. Birds chirped outside. Sugar, a stray, white cat she often fed, scratched at the back porch door. Her grandmother’s antique clock on the mantel above the fireplace tick-tick-ticked. Every normal house sound was there except the ones she’d actually missed while at the beach house. Change jingling in a pocket. The whisper of a newspaper page being turned. The creak of a loose floorboard in the guest bedroom. All sounds only Keane made.
Holly set her bag down on the couch and peeked into the kitchen. No Keane. She poked her head out to the porch swing where he liked to sit sometimes. He wasn’t there either. Coming back inside, she jogged to the hallway and stumbled over—
“Keane!” She kneeled down next to his body sprawled on the hallway floor. She brushed his hair back with shaky fingers and gently shook his shoulder. “Keane.”
His legs were pulled up to his chest and one arm was slung across his stomach. His dark brows were creased as if he were in pain. Had a target hurt him? Did he get cut with one of his own daggers? Holly quickly looked around but didn’t see any blood. She pressed a hand to his head, but felt no fever. She wasn’t sure he could get a fever.
“Keane, what’s wrong?” She hated not knowing how to help him. She hated
to help him.
He rolled over so he was on his back and sucked in a sharp breath. Again, Holly checked him for wounds and found none.
“Stomach.” His voice was gravelly.
Holly moved his arm. “You’re stomach hurts? Why?”
His eyes fluttered open for a moment. The blue that she had been picturing all weekend was washed out, like faded denim. He didn’t actually look at her, and she wondered if he knew where he was.
“Drank. Beer.” Those two words sapped what little strength he had mustered.
“I thought you didn’t drink or eat.”
“Don’t.” He coiled his legs up again and clutched his stomach. “Shouldn’t.”
He wasn’t drunk. That much she could tell. Instead, it was as if he’d been poisoned by drinking beer. She wasn’t exactly sure how his body worked, but she knew he was in serious pain.
“Can you stand?” She slid her arm under his and prepared to help him up. She got him to sitting before his body stiffened and he groaned.
“Leave me here, Holly. It’ll pass.”
She looked all the way down the long hallway toward Keane’s bedroom then glanced to her own bedroom, a mere door over from their current position. “I’m not leaving you on the floor, Keane. C’mon.”
She muscled him to his feet and slipped under his arm. This was officially the closest she had ever been to him. His skin was cool, and he smelled like a crisp winter day, clean and frosty. She slid her arm around his waist, and something stirred in her chest, as if a butterfly were trapped behind her ribs. She’d always considered him to be more like the demons he hunted. A supernatural. Touching him like this, however, told her he was more human than she’d thought.
Taking the brunt of Keane’s weight, Holly maneuvered the two of them into her bedroom. She sat him on the edge of her bed and pulled the light summer comforter down.
“Lie down,” she said.
His eyes flicked up to hers for a moment, and she could almost hear the conflict happening inside his head.
“Go on,” she prodded. “It’s okay.” Gently, she pushed on his shoulders until he was on his back in her bed. Another groan escaped from his lips, and he squeezed his eyes shut. “What can I do to help?”
“Nothing.” He opened his eyes again. His skin was paler than usual. Not that flawless porcelain pale, but more of a human sick pale. “My own fault. I was foolish.”
“We all do foolish stuff sometimes. Cut yourself a break.” Holly pulled off Keane’s boots and socks. She took a moment to consider what else to remove, but pushed that thought aside. Instead she slid the quilt up to his waist and paused when he grabbed her hand.
“Thanks.” His eyes were a little more focused now, though he still sounded weak.
“Will you be all right?” She studied his hand around hers. Only a day ago, Luke had held her hand, but his touch hadn’t felt like this. As if something inside her had broken open and begged to be filled.
“The beer needs to evaporate or something, I guess. I don’t know how it all works. Or doesn’t work, for that matter.” He shrugged and shifted in the bed so he was on his side, still holding her hand. She had a near uncontrollable urge to slip into the bed with him. To hold him while he ached.
“Well, I’m going to unpack, do some laundry, and get caught up. If you need something, give me a yell.”
And I’ll come running.
Keane nodded and slowly released her hand. She turned around quickly, afraid she’d do something crazy if she didn’t get out of that room right away. Outside her bedroom, she steadied herself against the wall and put a hand to her chest. Her heart pounded so hard, as if it wanted to explode right out of her body. She took a few deep breaths and centered herself.
. Keane needed rest. She would let him sleep off his ailment in her bed and stay away until he was back to his old self. No. Scratch that. She’d stay away from him. Period. Getting too close had proven to be a huge upset to her system. Wild notions were running amuck in her brain because she had touched him. She wouldn’t make that mistake again.
After pushing off the wall, she collected her overnight bag and tugged it to the laundry room. Chores would get her mind off the over six feet of vulnerable handsomeness currently residing in her bed, between her sheets, in the very spot she slept night after night.
“Calm down.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head over her stupidity. “Should have had sex with Luke.” At least then her body would have been sated and not crying out for an intimacy she couldn’t have with Keane.
And yet, she wanted the impossible.
“One trip to the beach house, and you’ve thrown all the rules out the window.” She huffed as she dumped soap into the washing machine. Living with Keane was an exercise in following rules she’d set up in her mind. Rules she’d never shared with him, but her house wasn’t a democracy. She ran it, and everything was supposed to go her way. No exceptions.
Until she almost died, of course. Her grip on her self-imposed rules had been slipping all summer with the appearance of Keane. She avoided him. She ignored him. She pretended to loathe him, but if she were being honest now, her body wanted to run toward him, not away. Seeing him writhing on the hallway floor with a body that was both fragile and virile at the same time, her heart realized it agreed with her body.
“Chores. Focus, Brimmer.” She stuffed her clothes into the machine and turned it on. Placing her palms on the washing machine, she listened to the water filling. She’d let Keane sleep, then check on him later. Much later. When her hormones had settled and her mind had come back from wherever it had run off.
After an hour of house cleaning, the phone rang and she sprinted to the kitchen to answer it before it disturbed Keane.
“Hello?” she whispered.
“Holly Berry?” her mother whispered back. “What’s wrong?”
“Why are we whispering?”
Holly cleared her throat and took the phone out to the porch. “I don’t know. What’s up?”
“You left your purse here, dear.”
“Shit, I did?”
“I’m looking at it right now.”
Holly stomped a foot on the porch floor. She’d been in such a hurry to leave she wasn’t surprised she’d left something behind. But her
“Your father has to drive inland tomorrow. He can bring it to you.”
“No!” Holly jumped off the swing. “I mean, I can come get it.”
“But Holly Berry, your father doesn’t mind, do you, dear?”
Her father mumbled something in the background, and she paced on the porch, her own stomach suddenly feeling like crap. She could not have her father visit. No way. Out of the question.
“Tell Dad thanks, but it’ll be no trouble to swing by and get it myself.” She hoped her voice sounded cheery, as if driving a couple of hours was no trouble at all, which it was. She came back into the house and glanced toward her bedroom. Fact was, she didn’t
to leave. She wanted to make sure Keane was all right. She wanted to be around if he…needed her.
Why would he need you?
He had said he’d be all right. He could take care of himself. He needed some time. He didn’t need her hanging around, checking in on him every two minutes, but shit, she wanted to check on him every two minutes.
“Holly, what’s going on with you? You’re acting weird.”
“Weird? I don’t know what you’re—”
“Enough.” That one word made Holly feel as if she were ten years old again. “You hardly said two words while you were here with us. You let gorgeous Luke slip through your fingers after all the work I did finding him for you. You left early. Something is up and I want to know what it is right now.”
Holly opened and closed her mouth several times, but her throat was so tight she couldn’t get a word out. What was she supposed to tell her mother? She wasn’t in the habit of lying to her parents. She’d never had to in the past. Keane was something her parents definitely couldn’t handle. Even if she merely said she had a roommate, played it off as no big deal, her mother would make it a very big deal. There would be questions. Millions of them.
Why did you get a roommate?
How long have you had a roommate?
Where did you find a roommate?
Are you in financial trouble?
Are you going to lose your house?
Who is this roommate?
And all this before her mother found out Holly’s roommate was a male.
“Nothing is going on, Mother.” She fought to keep her voice steady and firm. “I just don’t want Dad to have to go out of his way or anything for my stupidity. I’ll come by and get my purse.”
“Well, if you insist.”
Holly circled to the front of the house and stepped onto the porch. She rang her own doorbell. “Someone’s at the door. I’ll see you, okay?”