Authors: Alex Kidwell
5032 Capital Circle SW
Suite 2, PMB# 279
Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
© 2013 Robin Saxon & Alex Kidwell.
© 2013 Anne Cain.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/.
Digital ISBN: 13978-1-62798-320-4
Printed in the United States of America
My lovely Robin,
I think we dream, it is said, so we don’t have to be apart for nearly so long. I dream of you so we can be together all the time.
To hear your voice is pomegranate wine to me:
I draw life from hearing it.
Could I see you with every glance,
It would be better for me
Than to eat or to drink.
(The Flower Song, 1539-1075 BC)
vacation, Jed was finding, was a lot fucking harder than planning a job. For one thing, it required far less calculation of the correct amount of C-4 to use and a whole lotta discussion about
. One was math that Jed was good at. The other made him want to set things on fire. Redford had also strictly limited the number of deadly weapons he was allowed to take to ten. Ten! He was practically going to be naked. The thing was, for as long as Jed had been talking about taking his dream fishing experience, he was ill prepared for the
of the whole thing.
A reality that included searching for a cabin that had both private beach access and a king-sized bed, but one that didn’t require him to clean up after himself. Seriously, this was a vacation. If he wanted to play maid, he’d buy a feather duster and high heels and stay home. In the three months since they’d gotten off the plane from Cairo, Jed’s life had turned from plotting out the best sniper posts to deciding if they wanted to fly, drive, or take a train. Driving had won out, because public transportation seemed to frown on people taking bitchy Siamese cats and shotguns.
Dealing with vampire politics and crazy daddy issues had
on planning a vacation.
“Babe?” Jed was sitting on the couch, surrounded by piles of clothes, fishing gear with the tags still on, his chosen ten weapons, and two bags filled with road snacks, like a little fortress of things to pack. He’d abandoned shoving everything into duffel bags in order to page through the book Redford had insisted on purchasing. It had pictures and everything. “How do we get the worms?”
Every picture in the fishing guide had happy people with funny hats and worms. Jed had a funny hat—two of them, actually, one for him and one for Redford—but the worms he’d been kind of at a loss about. Flipping through the book, he scowled. Fifteen fucking pages of how to hold the goddamn reel and not one page on worm hunting.
Jed tossed the book aside and figured he’d just wing it. Surely he could dig for them. Worms were in the ground, right?
There was a crash, a loud, churlish yowl, and Knievel stalked out of the bedroom, tail twitching in irritation. Redford trailed after her, a long scratch on his arm, looking positively crestfallen. “She doesn’t like the life vest,” he explained as Jed vaulted over the back of the couch, immediately fussing over the wound. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to make sure it fit.”
“Fido? Shut up.” The words were biting, though his tone was anything but, absolute distress radiating from the set of his shoulders, the tenseness of his body as he herded Redford to the couch. With a muffled curse, he threw all of his piles of stuff every which way to make room for Redford to sit down. His weapons were treated with a passing iota of care, his clothes, not so much. Jed grabbed the first aid kit and started to clean off the scratch, calloused fingers gentle as he smoothed a bandage across the reddened skin. Yes, he was aware it was just a scratch. It’d barely be a mark by this time tomorrow. Didn’t stop Jed from pressing a kiss to Redford’s wrist in apology, huffing a sigh as he took the vivid-pink cat-sized life vest away from him.
“You are going to wear this,” he told the cat, who was washing herself vigorously on the opposite chair, ears flattened back. “It’s a floatation device. Everyone wears them while we fish.”
Turning back to Redford, Jed cupped his cheek, searching his eyes. He could read Redford’s face like one of the books the man loved so much, those blue-gray depths that he’d drowned in, the worried little crease between them that seemed to insist Jed lean in to kiss it away. Every line and curve of Redford’s face, Jed knew. It was like the light in Redford’s eyes was written on the very bones of him, in the breath of his lungs, in the muscle and blood that made him up. “You okay?” Jed rumbled, concerned.
A little sigh was huffed out, Redford’s lips twitching upward fondly. “I think I’ll live,” he intoned solemnly. His hand twisted up to catch Jed’s, bringing their joined fingers in to rest over Redford’s heart. “It’s just a scratch, Jed. We’ve both had far worse and been just fine.”
Inevitably, Jed’s eyes went to the scars on Redford’s face, the long, jagged tears that marred perfect pale skin, sloping over the bridge of his nose to his cheek. Leaning in, Jed kissed them, like he did every night before bed, a quiet promise to the both of them that he failed at more often than not. So Jed made it again. He wasn’t good for much, Jed knew. Fucking and fighting and pretty much nothing in between. But Redford, he was
. He was heaven, as much as a man like Jed Walker could hope to touch. He was glory, more than Jed would ever know outside of him. So he kissed those scars, he kissed the scratch their spoiled cat had given him, and he swore to himself, one more time, to never let Redford get either one again.
“Yeah, well,” he muttered gruffly, covering his tenderness with a glower. “Doesn’t mean the cat’s not a bitch.”
Knievel seemed to take that as her cue. With a chirping purr she hopped lightly off the chair and wound her way around Redford’s legs, apparently in apology, before jumping into Jed’s lap. He rolled his eyes, rubbing a hand over her ears, chuckling quietly when Knievel immediately sprawled out for better cuddles. “Goddamn cat,” he said, but he was smiling again.
Jed snagged the life vest, holding it up to Knievel. She arched her neck up lazily, sniffing it twice before batting it with a paw. Jed let her fuss with it as she bit the straps, showing it who was boss. In the end, she apparently decided that having a tummy rub was distracting enough, not noticing when Jed and Redford slipped her front paws into the vest. Jed buckled it up, making sure her fur wasn’t caught in the straps.
“There you go, Miss Priss,” he crooned, setting her down on the couch. Knievel immediately fell onto one side with a mournful look, as if the life vest itself was so heavy her body was unable to hold it up.
Jed rolled his eyes at her. “You are such a drama queen.” Redford had found the jar they kept the cat treats in and Jed offered her one. With great difficulty, Knievel reached out to touch her nose to it. The martyr act didn’t last long. In a moment she was gnawing happily on the tuna fish flavored snack.
“So that’s how you get a cat into a flotation device,” Redford mused, voice that low little rumble that sent all kinds of electricity along Jed’s skin. “Bribe them.”
With a grin, Jed pulled out a matching adult-sized vest in the same eye-searing pink. “Want to see how I get a wolf into one?”
Knievel had picked out the color. Or, rather, she’d head-butted the screen when Jed had clicked onto the pink vests, but Jed figured that was good enough. Now licking her paws, Knievel looked content enough in her life jacket. Redford, however, gave Jed a horrified look, holding up one finger to stop Jed from talking.
“No,” he insisted firmly. “Just
With a positively wicked smirk, Jed pounced. The life jacket was forgotten in the first flurry of movement, in Jed blanketing Redford and Redford, with a howl, rolling them off the couch onto the floor. They turned again, Jed laughing loudly as Redford got the best of him, pinning his arms in a very dirty move that involved grinding their hips together and then sitting on his chest.
“No fair,” Jed protested, but he was grinning. “Who taught you to cheat like that?”
With a smug smile that looked
too good on him, Redford leaned over, hands braced on either side of Jed’s head, knees still pinning Jed’s arms. “You did,” he said, lips just barely brushing against Jed’s.
That little coil of heat in Jed’s gut surged into flames, and he moaned softly, head tipping upward, chasing the kiss Redford was holding back. “Fuck yeah, I did,” he muttered and grinned as Redford crashed down onto him, as their mouths found each other in panting bites, in a long, slow kiss where Redford’s tongue fucked into his mouth and Jed twisted under him, desperate for more.
Redford pulled back first, ghosting his lips across Jed’s, chuffing a laugh at Jed’s frustrated growl. “There are two men outside our door,” Redford whispered.
“Good for them.” Jed narrowed his eyes, and he reluctantly turned his head to stare at the doorway. “Who—”
Redford took a deep breath, smiling suddenly. “It’s Victor.”
A knock sounded, sharp and brisk, and Jed groaned loudly. “Goddamn it.” Heaving himself upward with one last regretful look at Redford, Jed went to answer the door. “You know,” he mused conversationally, “I can’t decide if you doing that is freaky or sexy.”
Jed swung the door open, then leaned against the frame as he took in the sight of one Victor Rathbone, in all his sweater-vest-loving glory. Behind him, standing nervously at attention, was some kid with dark hair curling to the nape of his neck and thick glasses that he awkwardly shoved up onto his nose. “Princess,” Jed drawled, dismissing the flunky for now. He did look oddly familiar, but Jed didn’t feel like playing a game of Who’s Who, Nerd Edition. “I didn’t know we had a tea party scheduled.” The time since Cairo had turned the professor freaky pale again, all the better to highlight the dark circles under red-rimmed eyes. He had the decided look of a man who’d been in a bed other than his own last night. Probably one he couldn’t have found again with a map and a flashlight. So Victor was doing the whole one-night stand thing. Of course Jed recognized the signs. He’d practically
the signs. It was a perfectly valid way of coping after a breakup with a vampire.