Authors: Donna Grant
She had to know.
After so many thousands of years, the pain should have diminished, and even stopped. But it didn't. She didn't help matters by returning to Dreagan again and again. Each time she set foot on that land it was a reminder of what she'd once had, of what was the happiest time of her life. A time that had ended all too quickly.
Rhi pushed away from the door and walked past the living and kitchen area to her bedroom. She came to a halt in the bedroom doorway when she saw the bottle of nail polish sitting in the middle of her bed.
She drew in a breath and released it before she dared to step farther into the room. It hit her like a blast.
had been there, in her room. His scent of sandalwood and wind was one she could never forget. It brought back memories of his kisses, of how he knew just where to touch her to bring her the most pleasure, the fiercest orgasms.
Rhi walked to the bed and bent to lift the polish. It was her favorite brand, OPI. Unable to resist, she turned the bottle over to read the name.
“Gaining Mole-mentum,” she said with a little laugh.
The shredded gold and chunky pink glitter looked fabulous in the bottle, and she couldn't wait to see it on her nails. She wondered why he chose that particular color. Rhi turned and sat on the corner of her bed. The light on in her closet caught her gaze. There was another set of clothes hanging there.
The ones from earlier that she hadn't chosen were pushed to the side so that she would see only the new set. Rhi had to admit she liked the goldish khaki skinny cargos. Paired with the soft pink, silky, sleeveless shirt and cream jacket with three-quarter-length sleeves, it would make a beautiful outfit. Just as before, there was a pair of shoes. These were a pair of Vince Camuto open-toed booties in a camel-colored leather.
But it didn't stop there. Around the hanger, draped down the shirt was a long necklace of various shades of pink from pale to magenta, with gold beads throughout. Rhi didn't have to look to know there was a pair of earrings and a bracelet to go with it.
The old Rhi would have jumped to wear such an outfit, but she wasn't the old Rhi. She was still trying to figure out who she was.
She stood and set the new polish with the other pinks on the shelf.
It wasn't time for pink yet.
Not even when
wanted her to wear it.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Lily watched as a new door and locks were installed. She knew it wasn't an accident that her flat had been targeted. Oh, she told Cassie and Hal exactly that, and thankfully they bought her lie. But Lily knew the truth.
The past she had tried to elude had found her again.
Her first instinct had been to run. It took her years to get up the courage to leave the first time, but once gone, she hadn't looked back. She reached around with her right hand and traced the scar on her left shoulder. It was a reminder of what her life had beenâthe fear, the terror, the anxiety.
It took her six months to be able to sleep after she ran away. Nearly a year later the nightmares finally stopped. She had no doubt that when she attempted sleep that night that the nightmare would return.
Running had gained her freedom. The safest thing would be to leave again, but she didn't want to. She had found a new life, a job, and friends all at Dreagan. No one there knew how much that job meant to her, or how much knowing she felt safe while there helped her carry on each day.
It was all an illusion. She knew that, but whatever helped, right?
Run or stay and fight? Lily hadn't been so cowed when she was younger. She had been strong and determined. It was time to find that Lily again. She liked the person she'd once been, and hated what she'd turned into before she leftÂ â¦ the past.
Lily jumped and jerked her gaze to the two men who were installing her new door. “Yes?”
“We're all done here.” One of the men, the younger of the two with short dark hair held out her keys. His kind brown eyes held a hint of concern. “You have three locks now. Are you sure you'll be all right?”
“Yes, thank you.” She took the keys. “I appreciate you working so quickly.”
The men gave a nod, gathered their things, and left. Lily steeled herself by straightening her back before she entered the flat. She quickly locked all three bolts.
She set her purse by the door and turned to look around. Everything had been overturned, broken, and scattered. Nothing had been hers since she rented the flat fully furnished, but there was still something soÂ â¦ discomfiting about someone going through her things. She felt violated.
A knock on the door startled her. Lily whirled around, afraid to even approach. How could she expect to stay and stand her ground if she couldn't even go see who was at the door?
Her knees were knocking as she tentatively walked to the door and rose up on her tiptoes to peer through the peephole. She dropped her head to the door when she saw Cassie. Lily unlocked the three bolts and opened the door.
Cassie wore a bright smile as she enveloped Lily in a hug. “You didn't think we would let you do this yourself, did you?” Cassie asked as she stepped back.
Lily looked from Cassie to the flat. Since Cassie and Hal had returned to Dreagan hours ago, Lily expected just that. She opened her mouth, trying to form words, when Hal, Jane, and then Banan walked in. They began to clean before Lily could tell them otherwise.
She hadn't had anyone help her since she walked away from her family. Her eyes filled with tears that she quickly blinked away.
“Is kindness such a foreign thing that it brings you to tears?”
She stilled at the sound of the silky, deep voice she heard even in her dreams. Her skin warmed, her blood heated, chasing away the cold numbness that had been with her since she found her door standing ajar.
Lily turned her head and saw Rhys leaning casually against the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest. As usual, he looked gorgeous with his long, dark locks loose about him and his aqua eyes ringed in navy focused on her. Every time she looked at him her stomach fluttered.
“The world isn't exactly a nice place,” she finally answered.
He glanced down and gave a small shake of his head. “Nay, I'm sorry to say it isna. Was anything taken?”
“No.” She was thankful to have something to think about rather than how she would do anything to have his arms around her.
“If they didna take anything, then why did they destroy your flat?” he asked with a deep frown.
Lily shrugged, turning away so he wouldn't see her face. “Good question.”
“You doona know who did this?” His footsteps indicated he had pushed away from the wall and walked toward her.
She had suspicions, but she couldn't be sure. Nor would she tell him anything, because it would lead to questions about her past that she didn't want to answer. “No.”
When he didn't say anything else, Lily looked at him to see his gaze pensive as he stared at her counter. There was something different about Rhys. Gone was the sardonic smile, the easy swagger. “Are you all right? You've no' been yourself lately.”
“Myself?” he questioned as he raised his aqua gaze to hers.
Lily shrugged. “You used to go out every night with such beautiful women. Has someone finally stolen your heart?” she asked with a smile she didn't feel.
He stared at her for several seconds before he said, “I've just had a lot to do lately.”
Lily didn't know whether to be excited that no one woman had taken his interest, or upset that he would continue bringing the women around.
He turned away then and righted the couch. Lily sighed and grabbed the broom to sweep the dishes that had been broken.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Iona basked in the sun as she lay curled next to Laith. He had promised her she would scream, and she had. Multiple times.
“You're still smiling.”
She looked up to find Laith's eyes slit open as he gazed down at her. Iona laughed. “I am, aren't I? I can't seem to stop.”
“Good,” he said and pulled her tighter against him.
It was a first for her that she was thinking about how long she could spend with him instead of coming up with a way to leave as she usually did. “I've never met another man like you.”
“That's because I'm no' just a man,” he teased.
But it made her remember what she had been doing at the waterfall. “The spot is close, isn't it?”
His smile faded. “Aye.”
“Where?” When he didn't immediately respond, she said, “Laith, if my father knew, then I need to know as well to keep an eye out.”
Laith sat up and pulled her up with him. The fact she could sit there with him completely nude and not want to cover up, said a lot about how comfortable she was around him. Another first.
“There,” he said and pointed to the top of the waterfall.
Iona shook her head. “I was up there. I didn't see anything.”
“Because you can only see it at night.”
Her head swung around to him. “Why only at night?”
“I doona know, or ever cared to know really. It's how it's always been.”
“Will you take me to see it?”
Laith moved a lock of damp hair away from her face. “If you really want to see it.”
“You believe someone is trying to find it, right?” At his nod she said, “Then I need to know.”
He got to his feet and held out his hand. “Come. Let's get some food.”
She let out a shriek when he swung her up in his arms and then jumped into the water. Iona broke the surface laughing. That's when she spotted Laith swimming ahead of her.
Her competitive side took over and she swam as fast as she could. When she reached the shore he already had his jeans on. Iona threw him a glare. “That was a dirty trick.”
“All's fair,” he said with a wink.
Iona put on her bra and panties over her wet skin and then shrugged on a new red shirt and white shorts. It wasn't until she had on her shoes that she looked around for her camera case.
“What is it?” Laith asked.
“My camera case. I put it right here with my clothes.”
She began to spin around looking for it, her heart hammering in her chest. That camera meant everything to her. Sure, she could buy another, but it had been a gift from her bosses after her first year with them.
“Here it is,” Laith called.
Iona whirled around to see him standing near a tree holding the case. She hurried to him and clutched the camera to her. “I don't remember leaving it here.”
She saw the way Laith's stance instantly changed as he surveyed the area.
“It's okay,” she said and put a hand on his arm. “I'm sure I did it. I've been doing a lot of stupid things like that lately. Besides, if someone were here, wouldn't you have known?”
Laith's response was a grunt that only made her nervous.
Laith was still disconcerted by Iona's camera case not being where she said she'd left it. He then brought her to Dreagan, the place he knew she was the safest. He couldn't take his eyes off her as she sat in the kitchen at Dreagan Manor eating. She glanced up and saw him, a smile forming as she popped a raw baby carrot in her mouth.
All Laith could think about was making her his mate. Iona was a Campbell, a guardian to the hidden doorway of Dreagan. She was part of their world now, but that's not why he wanted her. He wanted her because she made him burn, made him long for things he never wanted before.
He wanted to see the dragon eye tattoo on her arm, branding her as his. He wanted to always have her near. No, that wasn't right. He didn't wantÂ â¦ he
“That satisfied look will last how long?” she asked slyly.
“You mean the look of a sated man, or the look of a man who got you to scream?” He asked the last part in a whisper.
Iona rolled her eyes. “Both. But I think it's more of the second part.”
“So you've really never screamed before?”
She laughed and leaned back in her chair. “Never.”
“I'll have to make sure you do it every time from now on,” he vowed as he put his arms on the table and leaned forward.
Her head cocked to the side while she stretched out her long leg and rubbed her foot on his thigh. “I like the sound of that.”
Laith reined in his desire. Barely.
“Uh-oh,” Iona said as she dropped her foot to the ground. “That's a very serious look you're now wearing.”
“Because there's a serious issue still at hand. I can no' be with you all the time.”
She frowned as she sat up. “Why not?”
She had tossed out the question nonchalantly, but Laith knew there was nothing casual about it. The Iona he'd first met would never have asked that. Did that mean there was a chance he could make her believe in love? That she might give them a chance?
“I want to, Iona, but I'm also realistic. I've duties here and at the pub. I could take you everywhere with me, but you're no' used to that. You're used to doing your own thing, and I want to take that into account.”
“What are you thinking?” she asked, her tone just as serious.
“We watch the border between your land and ours. Always have, actually, and kept an eye on the Campbells that were there. But that isna enough now.”
Her lips compressed. “How, exactly, do you keep watch?”
“Mostly at night, but there is usually a King nearby in case our enemies breach the doorway.”
Comprehension dawned on her face then. “Ah, but that's near the border. That's not anywhere else on my land being watched.”
“Precisely. I'm no' comfortable with that. Our resources are great, but we're stretched thin now. We let John down because we assumed that secret was safe. We know now that it isna.”