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Authors: Billi Jean

Tags: #Erotic Romance Fiction

Eternal Embrace (10 page)

BOOK: Eternal Embrace
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She did love him. Deep inside she was filled with so much pain she thought she might break. They’d had such a short time, but she could remember every word, every time he’d watched her, and now she could see—too late—that he had always seen Joey the woman, beyond the façade she’d built to protect her heart. He’d seen her and wanted her.

Knowing that, she tried hard to deny he wasn’t coming back. But inside, where she felt torn in two, she feared she might never feel complete again. Rubbing her fingers over his wooden chair, she sighed.

“Time to go, Joey. Do what he said, stay alive and just maybe, he’ll get his handsome butt back to you.”

With that, she turned and left his sanctuary, a part of her missing, because inside she knew she needed him and something deep inside warned her that this time, he needed her.

* * * *

The weight of salt shifted around Jaxon and he suddenly surged awake, scenting blood. He needed blood. He needed to get the hell out of this damn salt burial. And more than anything, he needed Joey—to see her, touch her, know she was safe and his and
with
him.

A strangled sound broke free, startling him with the animalistic quality to it.

Easy, man, easy. Joey doesn’t need you going batshit crazy.

When the salt mine had collapsed on top of him, he had tried shifting and when that proved impossible, he’d dug at the salt until the white stained bright red from his blood. At first, he heard someone calling his name, but the muffled, distant sound had been too faint and far away for him to make himself heard above the ton of salt crushing him.

Ten rising and fallings of the sun he thought had past while he lay buried. The rising and setting of the sun had burned through his vampire until he’d been forced to seek the deepest sleep of his kind, simply to survive the crushing emptiness. Now small sounds filled his entire world.

Joey. She’d have left my home by now.
He somehow doubted she’d left after seven days. The wildcat would have stayed longer. He knew it with a certainty that gave him hope through the torture of his solitary existence.

A voice suddenly broke through the silence.

“Jaxon! Jaxon, are you here, man?”
Ranger. Bless his big Lykae heart
. “Shit, man, come on make some sound, do something!” More scrambling and cursing. “Baby, I am trying here, he’s been here too long. Here, let me.” Ranger cursed again, and suddenly the ton of salt crushing Jax’s chest eased up enough for him to call out.

“Here!” He sounded fucking pathetic, like weaker than shit. But after only a second more, he heard Star’s excited yell.

“He’s here, oh, gods, Jaxon, we’re here, we’re here.” She sounded like she was crying, and when he heard Ranger mutter for her to calm down, the fears he’d tried to keep down rushed to the surface. Too many days of not being able to move abruptly hit him, and he struggled in a panic, too out of it to stop until, with a growl, he broke his arm through the surface. A hand grabbed hold, clasping his hand tightly.

“We have you, man, we have you. Shit, you fucking scared the hell out of us. Here, come on, try with me, hold on.”

More salt loosened around him, and suddenly he was free. He gasped in a lungful of air. Before he’d fully broken out of his tomb, Star handed him a bag of blood. He broke into it, even as he shoved his body upward and crawled free. The liquid power rushed his cells, filling his body with a pounding, painful flash of life.

Around him, he sensed only Ranger and Star, but farther on he could sense the presence of other immortals. He tore into the second bag within seconds. Star handed him another and Ranger swore.

“Shit, man, you look like jerky.”

“Ranger!” Star sounded scolding, but Jaxon felt just like salted and dried jerky.

“Sorry, buddy, but damn, drink that and we have two more. You’re gonna scare everyone with how fucking emaciated you look.”

“Fuck you,” he managed, and rolled to his back, then gingerly sat. He was still weak, but emaciated? No fucking way would ten days make him this weak. Unless he’d sent himself into too deep of a sleep and slept longer.

“Give me the other.” He drank it, the flood of blood hitting his muscles and renewing his energy instantly while he tried to make sense of his surroundings. Not the best meal, but for now the blood would repair the damage caused to his internal organs and bones. The last of the broken ribs knitted together. He threw the empty bag aside and speared the concerned pair with a frown. “I was the only one down here?”

They nodded. Both crouched on their haunches, worry clear on their faces. Star swung her braid over her shoulder and glanced at Ranger’s formidable expression. The wolf looked pissed off. For one, he scanned the area as if danger still lurked nearby.

“What’s wrong?” Jax demanded, beyond being polite.

Finally, Ranger exhaled and nodded to the bag of remaining blood. “You took the brunt of it because you shoved Torque and Beauty the hell out the way. They thought you shifted, but when we couldn’t find you, we realised you must have been left behind.”

“We didn’t leave you down here, Jaxon,” Ranger said. “We’ve been fighting this cell constantly, trying to reach you. Star couldn’t shift through the salt, and Aidan claimed the same. He’s worried over you, but when we finally broke the cell, we headed here first thing.”

“I know, I get it, don’t stress over it, man,” he assured Ranger. “Look I want to head home—”

“No one is there,” Star whispered. “I went by, worried about your female, but no one was there, Jaxon.”

He tried not to snarl at her for going near his home, and for even knowing
where
his home was located. No one should know that, but Star stared over at him, worry clearly outlined on her soft features. He swallowed his anger and managed to ask, “How long?”

“Have you been down here?” Star asked, sounding as if she dodged the question.

Jaxon frowned. “No, I’ve been here ten days, how long has—” He broke off when both immortals looked away uncomfortably. “What?” he demanded.

Star looked at Ranger, but the Lykae shook his head and turned to him, his eyes flashing light silver with his wolf. A chill settled over Jax at the look.

“Man, you’ve been here a bit longer. The fight has raged for—well, shit, for months. We tried to get to you, really, man, we did.”

Jax stopped listening.
Months
. He’d survived in deep sleep for months.

Could Joey survive months without him? Had she? Had she been hurt? Was she still alive?
Shit.

He stood, too swiftly, because his head swam with the suddenness of it, but he kept his feet under him. “I have to go.”

Chapter Eight

Joey struggled with the load of firewood, unsteady on her feet on the icy, snow-packed pathway from the barn to the small farmhouse. Slipping, but catching herself from an all-out fall on her butt, she sucked in a cold breath and managed to recover from the fright. She did drop several pieces of wood, though.

“Dammit.” Juggling the armful of wood, she nudged the back door open wide enough to get in, nearly tripped over Snowball, recovered and, with a gusty sigh, dropped her armload next to the wood-burning stove and straightened her aching back.

God, her back hurt. Being immortal, one would think back pain would be non-existent. Snowball rubbed against her leg. The small cat was content to sit in front of the stove all day until it came time to bring the wood in, then the infuriating kitten liked to weave between her feet.

Death by cat stalking. Interesting idea.

She picked the cat up and rubbed her little white head, loving the way she immediately purred as if the world revolved around her. She petted the cat once more and set her on the back of the couch. The small bundle of fur had made her grandfather’s last days full of laughter—for that, she’d love Snowball like he had.

“Well, guess what, kiddo? Life does not revolve around you. I have work to do, so you need to behave. Go eat or something.”

Joey tossed her hair out of her eyes and contemplated what to do next. She had work, but she also needed to check on the house’s pipes. The latest storm had blasted through the mountains hard enough and cold enough to knock her electricity out. If the pipes froze, she’d have a hard time flushing the toilet, let alone getting any drinking water. And ew, Porta-Potties did not appeal.

The shrill ring of her phone made her pause halfway out of her Carhartt. No one really had this number. In fact, she frowned, not able to remember the last time her cell phone had rung.

Flipping it open, she frowned to see the hospital on the ID. Her shift at the morgue didn’t start until nearly ten pm. She’d made sure of that when she’d taken the job as a medical examiner. “Hello?”

“Hey, Joey, sorry to call, but we have a bit of an emergency.”

“An emergency?”
Of dead people?
She kept the thought to herself though, and asked: “What’s up?”

“Roy’s been taken to Seattle, his heart gave out, and we need you in early. There’s been a murder.”

“A murder?”

“Yeah, listen, Joey, I know you’ve not been the same since you came back, but, well, it’s Evan.”

Holy shit. Evan. An image of her first and best friend, Evan, with his sandy hair and easy smile, flowed through her mind as if she’d seen him yesterday, not over four years ago.

“I’ll be in as soon as I can.”

She stood for a long moment staring at the phone. Evan dead. How could something like this happen? He’d been so solid, dependable, so…there.

And Roy. The old medical examiner was old, but she’d never have guessed his heart was so weak. He’d seemed so full of life. With him gone, though, things could get complicated for her. Things like why she only worked night shifts. Things like why she lived so far out that it took her an hour to drive to the hospital. And why, after four years away from home, she’d come back, but never went into town during the day.

Sighing, she flipped the phone closed and went to get her duffle bag and see to those pipes before leaving.

* * * *

Jax shifted to Joey’s flat, found it empty, without even a hint of her perfume, and slammed his fist into the drywall. She’d left—gone where? To the States, but what the fuck had he been thinking telling her to go there? Go there
where
? He knew she’d come here straight from LA, but he’d got the impression that California wasn’t her home.

What the fuck was he going to do?

Why didn’t I drink from her? Force her to drink from me?

He knew why. He’d never do that to Joey. Never take her choices away. Every molecule of his body wanted her to want him—want him so damn badly she’d overlook the bad and focus on what was left of his good. And take him, exchange blood and bond with him for the rest of eternity.

“Shit, damn, fuck!” He hit the wall again, only feeling worse because he’d now punched two holes in her apartment.

Something shimmered in the dimness of a corner. He walked over slowly, only gradually making out the outlines of an earring she’d often worn—a silver hoop, plain, elegant, simple. He bent and picked it up carefully, sensing her on the silver.
Did she leave in a hurry? Is someone after her? Even now, is she in trouble?

Fuck!
Gripping the small piece of jewellery like a lifeline, he shifted home hoping to find some clue of where she could have gone. A note, anything.

His home smelt like her. More so in his bedroom, and even more powerfully in his bed. She’d made it, cleaned his room, and he noticed she’d even stacked his books on his worktable. She was gone, though.

He swallowed hard and settled his heartbeat to normal before heading to his hidden chamber. Inside, he scented her—pain and something like tears radiated from the place, as if she’d stayed in here and cried.
Was she hurt? Did someone break in?

His wards were still strong. Nothing could have tampered with them enough to come in and leave. He spotted a piece of parchment and nearly knocked over a chair to get to his desk.

Jaxon,

I’ve waited and didn’t know what else to do but go home. Come to me if you can. My thoughts are with you, hoping you are safe and unharmed.

Love,

Joey.

“Fuck! Joey! Where, where did you go, baby?” Didn’t she know he didn’t know where in the US she lived?

He fisted his hand around the paper, then freaked and smoothed it back out again. He brought it to his nose. It smelt like her. So little to say, but the essence floored him. She cared. She truly did. But why such a short note? Had he pissed her off again? He could see her railing at him, ranting and swearing at him for leaving—for taking too long to get back—but this note didn’t convey anything beyond concern.

She had to be safe. He just needed to find her. Go to LA. Start there. Maybe. How could she get there? Had she learned to shift?

Confused, frustrated and needing to hit something, he stalked from the room, already planning his next move. First go to the coffee shop here, then go to LA. If she was there—

He growled and tossed everything from his worktable, watching the neat piles of books land on the floor and knock into the trash bin, spilling its contents.

Did she want him? What did she mean leaving him such a short note for fuck’s sakes? Where was the passion, the fury at him he’d witnessed before? Had he blown everything by leaving her alone? She’d barely been able to drink bagged blood with his help each time. What if she hadn’t been able to drink without him?

He kicked the trash bin on his way to the fridge, stumbled and landed on his face. “Shit!” One of the crumpled papers from the trash rolled near him. He immediately recognising Joey’s flowing script and reached for it.

Damn it! I waited and waited for you Jaxon! I am so pissed at you. How could you do this? Rip out my heart again! Wasn’t it enough the first time, you jerk?

She
did
love him. She did. Holy hell, did she love him.

Relief shot down his body, making him weaker than when he’d dug himself out of that salt tomb. He fell back on the stone floor with his arms wide, then rolled over and crawled to where he’d scattered more balled-up pieces of paper. He found ten more scratched-out notes, all in different degrees of cussing him out or crying over him being hurt and her unable to come to him.

BOOK: Eternal Embrace
5.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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