Authors: Shona Husk
Tags: #General Fiction, #Erotica
When Lilith fell into lust with musician Aidan, she never expected it to last. And she was right. Her doctor has given her months to live, and telling Aidan is the hardest thing she’s ever done.
Aidan has been keeping his own secret. He is a Vampire…but he can’t turn Lilith to save her. The solution he proposes is illegal and dangerous and breaks every rule set up to protect non-humans from humans. He doesn’t care. He will do anything to save the woman he loves.
Discovering the kiss of a Vampire and reveling in the erotic thrill, Lilith realizes her feelings are deeper than lust. But is giving up her humanity worth it?
Ellora’s Cave Publishing
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Kissing Phoenix Copyright © 2011 Shona Husk
Edited by Briana St. James
Cover art by Syneca
Electronic book publication February 2011
The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Buffy swirled around Aidan’s ankles and meowed more plaintively than usual. He bent and gave her a scratch between the ears. “You can sleep on my feet tonight. Promise.”
The brown cat head-butted the takeaway bag, then sauntered down the concrete steps. Probably to the park to torment the dogs. That was how he’d found her, as a scrap of kitten left for dead. He wasn’t a cat person. He wasn’t a pet person. He didn’t need an animal reminding him how quickly time slipped past—people did that.
Yet somehow he’d ended up taking her home after the vet had patched her up. Six months later he’d taken the vet home. Thinking of Lilith brought a smile to his lips. With dark hair, blue eyes and a heart that cared too much about her furry patients, she was everything he hadn’t known he was missing and now couldn’t live without.
He opened the front door, his stomach a ball of nerves pulled too tight, hoping dinner would make up for him not coming home last night. Tomorrow night they’d go somewhere special—assuming tonight went well. He couldn’t ask Lil to marry him without telling her what he was. And while he’d bought the ring, he still hadn’t found the right words to tell Lil he was Vampire.
“Lil?” His voice rolled through the terrace house as he shut the front door.
She was here. He could hear her heart beating faster than usual. She didn’t answer.
“Lil?” Aidan walked into the kitchen and dropped the takeaway bag on the table. He’d bought her favorite. Indian. The English version was nothing like the curries served in Madras, but it was passable flavor-wise. Nutritionally, it didn’t have what he required. The meat was too well cooked and the vegetables not fresh enough to contain the etheric he needed to survive. While blood was optional, etheric wasn’t.
As he moved through the kitchen, he saw her, leaning against the window frame in the lounge-room. She would’ve seen him come up the stairs. How long had she been waiting for him to return, staring out of the window?
She didn’t usually wait…was she pissed with him for staying out? He wasn’t going to tell her the truth if she wasn’t in the mood to listen. He didn’t want to screw up what he had with Lil by rushing. He was going to do it right this time—no secrets. Aidan swallowed the words burning his tongue. He could wait, but would there ever a perfect time to tell Lil Vampires existed and he was one of them? The engagement ring in his pocket grew heavy. And once she knew would she still want to be with him?
He took a breath. One obstacle at a time. “Hey, Lil. Want to have some dinner with me?”
“In a bit.” She walked toward him with a faint smile on her lips. “I didn’t think you’d be this late.”
Lil slid her arms around his neck. Her fingers were warm against his skin as she pressed against him. He trailed his hand up the curve of her back, relived she wasn’t annoyed with his late return.
“Neither did I.” The song had taken over and they’d all stayed until it was complete.
He kissed her gently, hoping she wouldn’t feel the ring box in his jacket pocket. He would’ve been home sooner if he hadn’t stopped to pick it up. He hoped he’d get a chance to give it to her.
Lil’s hands skimmed over his shoulders and pushed his jacket off. The ring fell silently into the folds of fabric on the floor. Hidden for the moment. He relaxed, happy to let dinner grow cold since Lil was also keen on the delay. He traced the contour of her lips with his tongue, ignoring the rising pressure in his jaw as his fangs wanted to descend.
Soon, but not yet.
He hated lying to Lil about what he was. What held him back was the uncertainty of how she’d react to the truth. He didn’t want to destroy what they had, yet he knew it couldn’t last if he wasn’t honest.
Her mouth opened, inviting a taste, but he couldn’t risk that intimate contact. Lil finding a fang by accident would be worse than anything he could tell her. His lips brushed her cheek and tasted the sensitive piece of skin below her ear. She leaned back in his arms as his tongue swept over her pulse. Her heartbeat was fast, but not from lust. The beat was heavy instead of light. He drew in a breath. Beneath the sweet scent of Lil’s skin and the cooling curry there was fear.
Aidan drew back. “What’s up, Lil?” He forced light into his voice when all he felt was dark. As if night were closing in, rapidly and permanently.
Something wasn’t right. Her smile was hollow and her desire was forced, as if she didn’t really want his arms around her. He’d stayed out all night before and she’d never cared.
“Nothing. I just want to spend some time with you.” Her fingers rubbed against his shirt as if she was afraid of letting go.
“We’ve got plenty of time to be together.” Longer than she knew.
Her gaze lowered and she stepped back as if touching him hurt. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
The temperature in the house dropped as his stomach unraveled. That was supposed to be his line. A frown creased his forehead. There was nothing non-human about Lil. He would’ve sensed it—hell, if she wasn’t human she would have known what he was and he wouldn’t have spent the week wondering how to start
. The one that went along the lines of,
Hi sweetheart, I’m a Vampire.
“What’s going on?” He scrubbed a hand over his face as the lack of sleep caught up with him and jumped on his back, digging its claws into his shoulders and dragging him down.
Aidan was sure everything was good between them. Had he misread every sign? Every smile? Every sigh? Had she met someone else? Someone with an easier dream, one that didn’t swallow up nights and spit them out as days? Someone who didn’t hide fangs and a desire to sink them into her every time they made love?
He moved silently over the carpet toward her. If she couldn’t look him in the eye, what reason could she give that would satisfy?
“Another all-nighter.” She shook her head and her chocolaty-brown hair shimmied over her back.
He loved to bury his face against her neck and feel her hair tickling his skin as he imagined being able to bite her. His fangs ached at the thought, but he pushed the longing aside. He wouldn’t bite without invitation, even though it had been a long time since he’d enjoyed both a woman’s body and blood.
He wanted Lil. But she no longer wanted him. The pink diamond ring might as well be a lump of coal. He wasn’t going to get a chance to use it, or tell her what he was. The dream he’d been holding onto began to fray.
“You work six days at your veterinary practice,” he countered. They both worked long, often strange hours, yet it had never mattered because the time they did spend together was magic.
Lil turned, her arms crossed just under her breasts. Her face was set in a scowl that was betrayed by her sad eyes. “At least I work.” She swept her hand over the room. “You, you play at being rock star and live on your inheritance. Have you ever lived in the real world?”
Aidan flinched, but didn’t retreat. His inheritance had been accumulated over nearly two hundred years of blood, sweat and battle. He’d earned every damn shilling. He was entitled to take time out to do what he enjoyed.
“You don’t know everything about me.” His gaze flicked to the framed nineteenth century posters. Promo for the
William Black Quartet
. Life had been simpler back then. And while they’d played together for over a decade, the good times had ended. Spending too long in the spotlight drew too many damaging whispers and none of them wanted to be responsible for the next witch hunt. Unlike the other Vampires that had been part of the
William Black Quartet,
his history was on display. He didn’t hide it, but he didn’t discuss it either. He let people draw their own conclusions. But this wasn’t about him or the reformed band or the time he’d spent working on the album.
This was about Lil.
He ran his hand down her arm, half expecting her to brush him off. “What’s wrong?”
Her face scrunched, then she took a breath and blinked, finding calm where there was only turbulence. “Do you love me?”
“You know I do.” He could prove his love, but not until she knew the truth about him. He’d learned that mistake the hard way, thinking it would be easier after the wedding. It hadn’t been. In the end he’d said nothing and headed off to war.
He cupped her face. “I won’t do any more all-nighters.”
What he felt ran deeper than the casual love most humans experienced. The last time he’d cared this much, he’d walked away with a broken heart.
“I don’t care about the nights or the days or—”
“Then what? What is it? I thought we understood each other. I thought we had something.” He kissed her to see if he could taste the lie on her tongue.
She responded to his touch and her lips parted as his tongue swept past, enticing a response that couldn’t be hidden behind cold words or washed away by tears. She wanted him as much as he wanted her. His cock hardened and pressure built behind his incisors. The scent of her blood pulsing beneath her creamy skin was a delicacy he craved to sample. Lil never wore perfume to mask the sweetness. Every time they lay together, he longed to taste her. He couldn’t lose her. Whatever the problem was, he would fix it.
Her hands landed on his chest and she shoved him back. It was too late though, he’d seen through her act and it gave him hope. He wasn’t going to let her go without a fight, not while she loved and wanted him.
“I love you, Lil. We can work through this, whatever it is.”
“I’m dying.” Her words were rough, as if each one cost her dearly.
“Everyone is dying.” Except him and the other Vampires and Lil while she was with him, sharing the energy that surrounded him—but she didn’t know that yet.
Lil stared up at the ceiling and blinked. “Maybe I should leave. It would be better than watching you run.”
Those were the first truthful words she’d spoken, but they cut deep. “Why would I run?”
What secret could she have that would trump his? His secret made most people reach for the nearest sharp implement and aim at his chest. His heart slowed. Was she really dying?
She stared at him, her lips tight and thin. “I have cancer. I have three months. Maybe four.” The words shattered in the air. The brittle points cut everything they touched and tore open his now still heart.
Memories of his first wife, his only wife, rose from the grave. Her frail body had fought to hold on until he’d gotten home from patching soldiers on the front.
“No. They catch it early these days. There are treatments.” He pushed his fingers through his hair and held the back of his head to stop the memories from spilling out. His house was filled with too many ghosts and too much pain. This wasn’t happening. Not to his Lil.
“I was treated three years ago. It came back.”
“There must be something. It’s 1998, not 1888. Surgery. Chemo.” His mind scrambled for solutions he’d read about. He knew of the advances, had kept up with the latest studies even though he no longer practiced medicine. At first he’d done it only to convince himself he’d done everything he could to save Eve. Then it had become habit.
“It’s chemo resistant. Last time they cut it out…this time they can’t.”
“Why not?” Miracles happened every day in medicine.
“It’s around an artery.” Lil spoke without emotion. She’d had time to plan her answers and come to terms with her mortality.
Aidan turned his back and snarled. His fangs dropped. His fists clenched at his side as molten rage stripped his control. He struggled for composure and failed. Cancer was once again trying to steal what he loved because it couldn’t have him. He forced out a breath that tore at his throat.
A shouting match wouldn’t solve anything. The cancer wasn’t Lil’s fault. He wasn’t angry at her, he was angry at the doctors who shook their heads and did nothing. From the shelves black and white photos of his previous lives glared, daring him to do something. Eve’s portrait smiled.
What would he do this time?
He’d planned to let Eve think he’d died in World War One so he never had to tell her the truth about what he was. He’d gone home for once last glimpse. When he’d seen her, he couldn’t leave. She was waiting for him, waiting to die in his arms. Her letters had said nothing of the tumor eating her insides; they’d been filled with love. Love that would’ve died if she’d known he was Vampire. He’d tested her by dropping hints and each time her response had been either fear or disgust.
In his darkest moments, he was glad she’d died before he’d had to tell her and watch the love in her eyes burn. Would Lil react the same as Eve?
No. She’d been open to the possibility of other beings, curious even. But she hadn’t trusted him enough to tell him she was sick. That was the most wounding.
“You weren’t going to tell me.”
“I didn’t know how. Then I realized I had to. That you’d notice something was wrong when I started throwing up blood.”
He knew that uncertainty too well and it had nothing to do with trust and everything to do with doubt. He uncurled his hands, forced back his fangs and turned back to Lil looking like any other man. Maybe another man would’ve taken the news better, but he wasn’t an ordinary man and he wasn’t going to let Lil die. She reminded him that there was beauty and kindness still in a world that delighted in killing and cruelty.