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Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction, #General, #Anthologies (Multiple Authors)

Hotter Than Hell (57 page)

BOOK: Hotter Than Hell
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“I love you,” he said, his voice husky and standing too close to see his face. “You can’t hurt me. It worked, Mia. I can feel it. It worked.”

He gently slid her dress from her shoulders, and the patterned silk fell softly to her waist to leave her shivering in the chill of the kitchen. She looked deeply at him, seeing her hope reflected in his eyes, feeling it pool about them like a heady wine. A tremble took her, but if it was from the new coolness on her skin or the effort she was exerting to let his love continue to build in the room, she didn’t know.

Maybe she didn’t care.

He believed, and that was enough to soothe her fear.

She closed her eyes, and with that as an invitation, Tom pulled her to the living room. He sat on the edge of the couch amid the pooled emotion of his music, bringing her bare middle to his face as she stood before him, breathing her scent, his hands at her back. Her hands were among his hair, holding him there so he knew his touch was welcome.

“Mia,” he whispered, and at the sensation of his words on her skin, she threw her head back to the ceiling. Desire cascaded from him, and she caught her breath, wire-tight as she refused to taste its strength, made doubly hard as it was directed to her. Her hands clenched once, and mistaking it for desire, he brought her to sit atop one knee.

He nestled his head between her small breasts, holding her to him with one arm as he nuzzled her, promising more. A wave of sexual heat hit Mia, and dizzy with her conflicting emotions, a slip of his need cracked the barrier she had made of her aura. Groaning, she went limp, basking in the depth of it.

He responded by taking her in his mouth, pulling, tugging, not aware that she was growing tense with a hunger older than his religion.

“Tom, stop,” she breathed, but he didn’t. It was too late. He was filling the room with his desire. It would be up to her to keep from killing him outright, to take everything he was giving her. She could do this. It would end well.

His breath grew heavy, falling into a deliberate pace. Mouth never leaving her, he fumbled with the rest of her dress. It slipped to the floor at her feet when she leaned into him, pushing him back into the couch. Shifting his weight, he moved her, settling her light weight into the cushions and holding himself above her.

He pulled back, strong and dangerous with the heat of his emotions falling from his hands to warm her.

She gazed at him in a bewildered haze, struggling to keep even the smallest bit from getting through to her again. She loved seeing him like this, strong and alive, and she reached up to undo the buttons of his shirt.

It was a bold move for her, for despite her confidence, she had little experience with men. Usually they were dead by this point.

Tom’s smile grew gentle as he saw her fingers tremble, and as she got the last of the buttons free, he worked his pants from himself, easing down beside her. The rain was a hush against the glass, insulating them from the world.

Softer, more gently now as if knowing how rare this was, Tom caressed her middle with all the skill of a musician pulling a gentle note into life. She sighed, feeling his touch crack her aura. Everywhere his fingers alighted, every stroke he made, melted through the barrier she had made to give her jolts of his passion and desire, filing her with an almost never-tasted depth of feeling.

She moaned, and he lowered his head to take her breast again. A flash of need struck through her, and blood pounding, her hands darted into his hair, pressing him into her. Spurred on, he became aggressive. The pinch of teeth was like knives in her, slicing through her defenses to lay her bare to his lust. There was no love anymore. This was raw, animal hunger, and she relished it even as she strove to mend the tears in her aura he was making. She had to keep from taking it all. She shouldn’t take anything. Even this little bit would show.

But his weight atop her was delicious, and the heat from his body drove everything else out. Mia shifted under him, tracing her hands down his back, feeling the muscle and bone, running lower as his mouth broke from her to rise and find her lips.

Her need quickened, and panting from effort, she met his eyes once, reading her desperation in her reflection in her gaze. And then he kissed her.

Once more he broke through her aura, and she moaned, clutching him and arching her back as he drove his tongue into her with an animalistic fervor. Wave after wave of strength flooded her. She simply couldn’t shield herself from this intimate contact that reached far past her aura and into her soul. She was alive, alive and scintillating. But she was taking too much, and she felt it in his faltering heartbeat.

“No,” she whispered, groaning in despair. “Tom, stop.”

He wouldn’t, sending a pulse of heat through her when his hands grew stronger on her, demanding.

Fear that she couldn’t do this, fear she couldn’t wall herself from him and it would all be for naught, was a sharp goad, and with a sudden realization, she knew what she had to do.

Desperate to regain control and keep from draining him of his life force, she took his face in her hands and turned his mouth to hers. Panting from a desperate need, she held him to her, and forced a kiss.

Again, his desire broke through her aura, flooding her with an almost unbearable emotion, but this time, she pushed her own desire into him—redoubled.

He gasped, his entire body shaking as it rested atop her.

Mia felt the heat of tears under her closed lids. It was hard, so hard to push what he had given her back into him. It went against every instinct she had, but clearly he felt it, and his kiss and his hands upon her grew rough, savage. He hadn’t several centuries to learn how to control such an influx of power and strength as she had.

His grip upon her waist hurt, and she did nothing as he forced her legs apart. She wanted this. Exalting in the savage response she could invoke, she gave him more, feeling it leave her in a scintillating sensation of sparkles.

A guttural sound came from him, and Mia gasped in an exquisite pain as he entered her, pushing to fill all of her in one move. She groaned, arching into him, wanting this. Wanting it so badly that she gave him even more of herself.

Wave after wave of emotion drenched her, running off her to pool in the room as if to drown her in lust. He moved against her, dominating and aggressive. Every motion was like knives in her aura, breaking it, destroying what she had built to protect him. But she gave back more than she took, and he grew wilder, more demanding. He forgot all as he sweated above her, and she moaned with every breath, feeling an end coming, the wait an exquisite pain.

And in a sudden pulse, it broke upon them. A twisted groan eased from him, and he clenched her to him as wave after wave of ecstasy fell on them. Mia’s barrier shattered. Gasping, she clutched at him, feeling his entire soul empty into her as she reached fulfillment, her body wracked with tremors as they hung unmoving in a haze of bliss.

Emotion shook the room in silent thunder only she could feel, and she almost passed out, taking breath after heaving breath until the sensation gave a final pulse and vanished.

“Tom,” she panted, feeling his breath in her hair as he lay atop her, too spent to move. “Tom, are you okay?”

He didn’t answer, and she pushed on his shoulder. “Tom?”

“I love you, Mia,” he whispered, and he sighed, his full weight coming to rest against her.

“Tom!” she exclaimed, shoving him to the back of the couch and wiggling out from under him. The air felt thick, like sunshine pooled at the bottom of a valley, eddying about her feet with the heaviness of honey. She hadn’t kept any of the emotion from the room. It was all here, cloying and thick, making her dizzy with a repressed need. But Tom…

Clutching her discarded dress, she stared as his aura went wispy and thin. An unbearable brightness began to emanate from him, and seeing it, a single tear trickled from her. Her hand trembling, she reached to touch him, shaking at the taste of his aura. It was fading, spreading out, becoming silver and thin to fill the room with unseen sparkles. Any other banshee would take it, gorge on the last life energy and dance in exaltation—but she didn’t. Mia walled herself off, and a tear slipped down as she watched his life fill the room in a bright, ever so bright, light.

“Tom…” she whispered, weary even as her body still sang with the ecstasy he had filled her with. She had seen this before. He was dead. He was dead, and there was nothing that would bring him back. In that single moment of fulfillment, his emotion-rich aura had washed over her, laying his soul bare. She hadn’t taken it, and it lay pooled about her feet to rise like a slow fog shifting from gold to purple. But she hadn’t given him anything back, either, not like a human would have, protecting his soul until he gathered it back unto himself again.

Mia fell to her knees before him, still touching his shoulder warm with the last of his life. Misery twisted her delicate features, and then a sob broke free, harsh and pain-filled. It was followed by another, and she knelt beside him, her hand trembling as she gripped the wish that had caused his death.

The tears falling into her lap turned from salt water to black crystal, the mark of a banshee’s pain, and they fell soundlessly as she wept.

The glow from Tom’s soul filled the room, and she closed her eyes, the light too painful for her pale eyes. The doors were shut, the windows locked, and though his soul was gone, the energy of his death lingered.

And Mia cried. She had killed him, sure as if she had driven a knife into his lungs. Sob after sob filled the apartment, her crystalline tears soaking up the energy of the room until the brightness dimmed to a memory, and then, even that vanished and the air was pure. The love was gone, the fear, the comfort, everything was gone, as if no one had loved, lived, and died sheltered by these walls. She kept none of his energy for herself. It had been hard, but to take it into herself had never been her intention.

Slowly, Mia’s tears abated until her breathing steadied and her breath no longer came in racking gasps.

The tears falling from her had eased from black to gray and were now perfectly clear, reflecting the dim sun from the ended rain. The emotions of the room were condensed and pooled in them. There would be nothing to link her to the death of this man, nothing to indicate that he had died in anything other than peaceful sleep.

Tom’s body lay facedown on the couch, an arm trailing to brush the floor. Not looking at him, Mia slowly got dressed, drained and tired. She looked once at the wish about her neck, then left it to hang.

The tears she gathered like photos of lost children, love and pain mixed in equal parts. If she didn’t, someone would find them, recognize them, and she would be pulled in for questioning. The law knew what a banshee was capable of, and she would not allow herself to be jailed for this.

Fingers slow and clumsy, Mia felt the back of her dress to be sure the buttons were done up properly.

The coffeepot was steaming, and she carefully put her empty cup away in the cupboard before unplugging the pot and setting his filled cup on the coffee table beside him. She turned the music down, and guilt prompted her to drape an afghan over him as if he was sleeping. His clothes went into the hamper.

Silent, she stood above him in her coat. “Goodbye, Tom,” she whispered before gathering her groceries and quietly leaving.

Fatigue hit her anew when she found the sidewalk. The rain had stopped, and the sun was peeking past the heavy clouds. Fumbling, Mia put her sunglasses on. Traffic hissed wetly, and she breathed deep when a couple passed her, hotly discussing the amount of the tip one of them had left. It was a sour taste after Tom’s love, and she let it eddy behind her unsipped.

She glanced at her watch and picked up the pace. Digging in a pocket, she found her wedding ring and put it back on. With a shamed slowness, her fingers slipped back into the pocket, running through Tom’s life force, pooled and condensed.

Delicate features pulling into a grimace, Mia took out a handful of tears, slipping the lightest one between her lips and sucking guiltily on it. His strength poured into her, and her pace quickened, heels clicking smartly against the concrete shining with the new sun.

Stupid man, she thought as she waved and jogged to catch the bus. The wish did work. Well, perhaps it would be more fair to say it had worked. It had worked very well when she met Remus—savage, angry Remus whose psychotic rage had been strong enough to bring Holly into existence. The love had come later, until now, she, Holly, and Remus were a real family. Like any family on the street, and Mia was proud of it.

Holly was the first banshee child to know her father, plying him with innocent love and devotion. It had been watching father and daughter that Mia learned it was possible to force emotion back into a person, lulling them into thinking they were safe while making themselves more vulnerable. The child had, in her innocence, returned to her species all the cunning and power human laws had taken from them, and for that alone Holly was going to be revered among her own. Once she learned how to walk and talk, that is.

Breathless, Mia smiled at the bus driver as she just made it to the door, fumbling for her bus pass.

Tom, dead in his apartment, was hardly a glimmer of memory as she settled beside a young man smelling of cologne and shedding lust Mia knew to be from a new girlfriend. Easing back, she soaked it in, sated.

Her lids fluttered as they rumbled over the railroad tracks, and she looked at her watch, mildly concerned. Remus would likely throw a bloody-hell tantrum that she was running late, being unable to go to work until she got home to watch Holly. But they would both enjoy her kissing him into a calm state, and he’d get over it.

Besides, little Holly was hungry, and it wasn’t as if he could do the shopping.

LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

TANYA HUFF lives and writes in rural Ontario with her partner Fiona Patton, six cats and an unintentional chihuahua. Her third novel in the Confederacy of Valor series, Heart of Valor , was published from DAW Books in the summer of ’07 and she is currently working on book four, Valor’s Trial. When she’s not writing, she’s keeping an eye on the production of Blood Ties, her Vicki Nelson books adapted for televison. She’s recently become addicted to homemade chai latte and thinks life would be pretty much perfect if the crawlspace would just quit flooding.

BOOK: Hotter Than Hell
4.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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