Authors: Christine DePetrillo
Tags: #romance, paranormal,spicy
“Great. Love you.” That always smoothed things over.
“Love you, too, Holly Berry.”
She hung up and wiped her sweaty palm on her jeans. She had shut her mother up for now, but tomorrow would be another story.
She came back into the house and decided a long, hot soak in her tub was in order. On her way by, she peeked into her bedroom. Keane was so still in her bed, the quilt right where she had left it at his waist. His hair spilled onto her pillow and his feet hung off the bed at least six inches. He was too big for the room, but man, she liked seeing him in there.
Creeping in, she went to her closet and pulled out a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants for after her bath. On her way to the door, Keane shifted and opened his eyes.
“Sorry.” She stopped and willed herself not to touch him.
“For what?” His eyes were clearer, bluer, and a hot zip of arousal spread through her body.
“For waking you.” She balled her clothes up in her hands needing a barrier between herself and Keane.
“I don’t sleep, Holly.” He winced as he changed positions on the bed.
She took a step closer despite the screaming in her head to keep her distance. “No sleep. Right. I forgot. Have you ever been this…sick…before?”
“Once. Swore I’d never do it again. Guess I’m full of shit.” He struggled to his elbows, but couldn’t support himself. Instead he rolled to face her and slid his hand under her pillow.
Damn. He looked so cuddly. The most snuggly demon killer she’d ever seen. She quickly looked away, hung her clothes on the doorknob, and busied herself with reorganizing the books on her nightstand.
“What made you take a drink tonight?” she asked to fill the silence.
Holly froze. Never in the months that Keane had been with her had he mentioned a woman. Was he seeing someone? Did he have a family? She’d never asked. She’d assumed he was alone in this world considering what he did, what he was. Had she been wrong?
“I missed you,” he whispered.
He bit his lower lip as he stared at her then he let out a breath. “I went to Raven’s Pub because the quiet here was…too much. I ordered a beer so they wouldn’t toss me out. A woman came on to me, and I started feeling so less than human that I drank the beer. A laugh-in-the-face-of-the-curse response. One, two, three, four sips and I barely made it home.” He glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside table. “Probably be another little bit before I’m back to normal. Whatever that means.” He shrugged, a grimace settling on his face.
“I wish I could do something for you.” She hadn’t meant to say that out loud, but thoroughly enjoyed the smile that blossomed on Keane’s lips after she had.
“I wish you could too, but I feel better now that you’re home.” He paused before saying, “I feel better now that I’m not face down on the floor in the hall.”
“Had you been there since last night?” Why did she want to close her bedroom door and seal herself in with him?
“Yes. I walked into the house, tried to make it to my bedroom, but it was too far away.” He furrowed his brows. “Come to think of it, what are you doing here so early? Weren’t you supposed to come home late tonight or tomorrow even?”
“I find that as I age, I can tolerate smaller and smaller doses of my parents.” She finger-combed the end of her hair as she stood just inches from him. If she wanted to, she could drop a hand, press her palm to his scruffy jaw, outline his lips with a fingertip. On those thoughts, she backed up a couple steps.
His gaze shifted to her feet as she moved, and she regretted her choice. He was feeling pretty shitty at the moment. He didn’t need her overanalyzing her reaction to being so close to him. As if to prove a point to herself, Holly sat on the end of the bed by Keane’s feet. She rested her elbows on the footboard of the bed and feigned casual.
“Did you have fun at the beach?” he asked.
“Doesn’t everyone?” She traced a finger around the flower pattern on her quilt careful not to touch him.
“I miss the beach. My brother and I had a cottage with woods in front of it and the ocean behind it. It was a nice place to call home.”
“You have a brother?”
“Had. Eliah’s been dead for ages.”
Of course, moron.
She wanted to slap herself. “What’s the best thing you remember about Eliah?”
At this question, Keane smiled, and Holly wanted to take a picture of him. He was downright beautiful when his lips curved up, and his eyes resembled Caribbean water. He pulled his legs up so she had more room on the bed, and she slid on a little farther. Just a little.
“The best thing about Eliah was his loyalty. I could count on him for absolutely anything. He was the only person I could count on.”
Holly fixed her gaze onto the quilt pattern. Counted the petals on the nearest flower. Picked off some lint. Tried not to look at how comfortable Keane appeared to be in her bed.
“Have you tried finding a witch to undo the curse?” Witches in movies were always doing counterspells.
“Eliah tried. He took responsibility for my situation, but he didn’t find anyone who wanted to mess with this brand of magick. After Eliah died, I looked for a witch who would try to reverse the spell, but with no results. The abra cadaver is a rare hex. It scares even the powerful witches.”
Talking with him so openly about his curse made her chest ache. He was completely in the way of her enjoying her life right now, but his life wasn’t all roses and chocolates either. He was trapped by the curse as she was trapped by having to do something important. He couldn’t get his life back. Neither could she.
He straightened his legs and nudged her with his foot. “Don’t look so sad, Holly.”
She blinked out of her musings. “I think I just realized how hard it is to be you. I feel as if I should be nicer to you.”
He shot her a half-grin that streaked up the left side of his face, and she nearly launched herself on top of him. “You’ve been nicer to me than most of my other saves, but I won’t stop you if you want to make improvements.” He tapped her again with his foot.
Slowly, he sat up and ran a hand through his hair. She was enchanted by the way the black strands fell back into place. Her fingers literally itched with the need to feel his hair against her own skin so she stuffed her hands underneath her legs.
He slid his legs off the bed and, holding onto the headboard, he stood. Holly edged off the bed as well and prepared to support him. He held out a hand as if to tell her to give him a minute. He took a few steps deeper into the room and turned around.
“Feel better?” Sweet Mary, he looked better. Damn perfect standing at his full height and rubbing his stomach with his hand.
“Much.” He came to stand in front of her. He was close enough for her to wrap her arms around him, but she didn’t. “Don’t let me do that again, okay? I felt human for a few moments drinking that beer, but it’s not worth the pain.”
“Guess you need tighter supervision.” A heat washed over Holly’s cheeks as she glanced up at him. His eyes were back to the brilliant sky blue, his skin flawlessly pale.
“Yes, Miss Brimmer. That’s exactly what I need.” He grinned, and Holly forgot the rules.
“You up for a ride?” she blurted.
What are you doing?
She ignored the part of her brain that kept her from doing the completely irrational.
“A ride?” his eyebrows rose, a new light in his eyes.
She glanced toward the windows in her bedroom. Outside, the sun painted pink streaks across the darkening sky. “It’s evening. You can go out.”
He followed her gaze. “I can. Where do you want to go?”
“It’s not that I
to go anywhere, but my mother called. I foolishly left my purse at the beach house. Figured if you were up for a ride, we could go. I mean, I can’t…you know…”
“Introduce me to them.” Keane dropped his gaze to his bare feet. “I understand. I’m not easy to explain.” He slid his hands into his jeans pockets and used his toe to fiddle with the fringe on the throw rug by her bed.
“Although,” she began, “if I did introduce you to my mother, she may quit trying to set me up with random lifeguards.” She put the T-shirt and sweatpants back into her closet. A hot bath alone no longer sounded satisfying.
“Random lifeguards?” Keane sat on the edge of her bed and put his socks and boots on.
“She’s apparently been interviewing them for me. Met one this weekend.” She threw up her hands.
“And?” He tugged on the end of her shirt as she passed, stopping her in front of him.
“Did you like him?” A muscle twitched in his jaw as he waited for her to reply.
“Luke was nice, but…I don’t know.” She shrugged and studied Keane’s hand gripping her shirt.
“Not what you had in mind?” He let the fabric slip from his fingers and stood. He was super close again, super tall, and she fought back urges that scared her.
“Not exactly. I don’t know what I have in mind anymore.”
Liar. You know exactly what you have in mind.
She took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled.
“I know what I have in mind,” Keane whispered, “but I shouldn’t want it. Can’t want it.”
His eyes burned into hers. “You’re right,” she said. “It would never work. Couldn’t work.” She shook her head. “You in for a ride or what?”
“Great. Meet me at the car in ten minutes.”
She left her bedroom before she changed her mind. If she stopped to think about it, she would undoubtedly realize that inviting Keane to drive with her to her parents’ beach house was one of the dumbest things she had done in a long time.
Keane was waiting by the car in seven minutes, not ten. He couldn’t be sure, but he had a strange feeling that he was happy. The emotion was foreign to him, or at the very least, long forgotten, but his stomach no longer ached, Holly was home, and she’d actually invited him to go to her parents’ house with her. Sure, he wouldn’t be getting out of the car. Wouldn’t be walking her to the door, her hand in his, and meeting the lovely people who created her. Driving for a few hours in the tight confines of her small car, however, still sounded perfect.
“And it’s all you can do anyway,” he told himself. He wouldn’t allow himself to have…feelings for Holly. He wouldn’t allow her to end up like Melinda.
He glanced up at the dark sky and found the almost full moon peering down at him. Its soft, pearly light was his version of sunshine. It didn’t warm his face, but something about the moon made him feel less alone in the world. As if something was keeping watch over him.
Holly came down the front steps wearing sandals and a light summer dress that had red flowers on it. Her hair was loose and spilling around her bare shoulders like a copper mane, and a denim jacket hung over her arm. He had the desire to rewind her approach and watch it again and again. When she smiled at him, he wanted to pause time altogether.
“You want me to drive?” he asked.
“You don’t mind?” She stopped and leaned on the trunk of the car.
He shook his head. “Figure you’ve driven the route more times than you care to this weekend. I can have a go at it if you copilot.”
“Okay. Thanks.” She pushed off the trunk and dumped her keys into his waiting palm. Her fingertips brushed along his flesh for the briefest of moments, but it was enough to awaken the longing inside him. Holly paused. Did she feel something too?
He closed his hand around the keys and opened the passenger door. He motioned for her to get in. She hesitated for a moment as if she hadn’t expected the gesture. He knew it had been awhile since he’d driven anywhere with a lady voluntarily, but had the rules changed that much?
After she got into the car, he walked to the driver side and slipped behind the wheel. They both sat there for a few, silent seconds before he put the key in the ignition. Their elbows accidentally touched, and they both quickly pulled their arms away from each other.
“This is weird,” Holly said.
“A little.” Keane gripped the steering wheel. “Would you rather go by yourself?” He closed his eyes as he waited for her response.
Don’t change your mind. Please.
“No.” She refolded her jacket on her lap. “I want you to come.”
He nodded and started the car. He pulled out of the driveway and jetted down Holly’s street.
“Whoa, there.” She slapped her hand to the dashboard in front of her.
He slowed down. “Sorry, it’s been awhile since I’ve been in a car. I’m used to my bike and well…jumping, both of which involve high levels of speed.”
“Well, it’s high levels of speed that almost got me killed once,” she said. “Let’s take it slow, okay?”
Was she talking about more than driving? “Slow. Right.”
She kept her hand on the dashboard as he eased off the accelerator. “What’s teleportation like?”
“At first, it’s like when you sit too long on your leg and it falls asleep. You know, that tingly feeling?”
“I hate that feeling.”
“It only lasts for a few moments, but you feel it all over your body. Then it’s like being thrown from one place to another by a giant hand. One minute you’re here, the next, you’re there.”
“It doesn’t hurt you, does it?” She eased her stranglehold on the dashboard as he leveled out closer to the posted speed limit.
“No. It doesn’t hurt, but I do prefer more conventional means of travel.” He patted the steering wheel.
On the ride, Keane told her a few tales of the things he’d seen over his centuries roaming the planet. The places, the people, the inventions. He focused on the good things living this long had allowed him to see. She listened and never once made him feel like he was a freak.
“I’m sorry I haven’t done something important yet, so you can move along.” Her voice was small, almost shaky.
Was she crying?
He risked a glance at her and caught the quick swipe of her hand across her cheek. Without thinking, he reached over and squeezed her hand. “Don’t apologize, Holly.”