Miss Me When the Sun Goes Down (3 page)

BOOK: Miss Me When the Sun Goes Down
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“Tonight, I thought we should all
try to get to know each other better since we’ll be spending so much time together.”

Ellie snorted.  “You want us to sit around in our dainties and braid each other’s hair?”

“No, but I do want us to talk.”  I pulled open my laptop, searching for the right document and printing five copies.  “So… I found these questionnaires for us to fill out.  You guys too.  Time for us to get to know each other.”  I’d found them online from an old RPG website, designed to introduce new members to the group.  The list of questions included some of the staples –
If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?  Thunderstorms: scary or cool?
  All in all it was about forty questions long, and while some of them were silly, it was designed to identify common interests and spark lively discussion. 

“I think it’s a lovely idea.”  Maggie caught onto my enthusiasm at once, accepting hers and perching on the edge of the couch with dainty grace. 

The boys accepted the papers with twin looks of dismay, holding the pencils with their fingertips as though they might contract some flesh eating disease from them.  They both resisted when I invited them to take a seat, but did accept a book to make it easier to fill out.

“Come on now, get your butts in gear,” I clapped my hands at the rest of them.  “The sooner you guys fill these out, the sooner we can get to the games.”

“Alright, I’ll give it a bash,” Ellie sighed, flopping down onto her belly to write against the scarred, wood floor. 

Once they got started, I was gratified to see how much they all put into the effort, smiling up to see Isak’s face scrunched in deep thought over one of the questions.  I ordered the pizza online, and set to answering my own questions, trying my u
tmost to share some of myself with them as well.  Putting on some music, I kicked off my shoes and made myself comfortable. 

The pizza came, and Ellie got her “taste”.  If the guys thought it was strange for me to supervise the feeding, they didn’t give any indication of it.  They didn’t even glance in our direction as I murmured soothing encouragements to Ellie.  My own fangs came out at the
scent of blood in the air, but I didn’t need to eat for another night or two.  I still had to pull her off of the delivery guy in the end when I gauged she’d had enough, but I consoled myself with the thought that she’d learn control with time. 

Soon the guy was on his way with a big fat tip, no worse for wear, and we were seated in a circle to share some of our responses.  At first Maggie was the only one to volunteer a response, talking about her favorite places back in England, but Ellie soon caught on, sharing that she was afraid of thunderstorms (had been since she was a little girl, and
her family’s barn caught fire during a freak storm).  And here I’d thought she was a city girl through and through!

I had to order Gunnar and Isak to take off their silly sunglasses and share something from their lists, but after that first awkward round, they loosened up.  Especially after Isak divulged he had a weakness for chocolate pudding and I produced a
Snack Pack from the cupboard. 

Little by little we started to get to know each other.  I insisted th
e guys call me by my first name, and Isak (buoyed by the sugar rush from the pudding, no doubt) volunteered that they were not biological brothers, but shared the same Sire.  It turned out Gunnar had a regular green thumb and missed his garden in Denmark so much, he actually got misty eyed when I offered to let him keep a few plants up on the roof deck.   

Ellie opened up about her childhood on the farm, revealing that she had five brothers and sisters growing up
.  She’d run away at age fifteen, desperate to find a life that didn’t involve mud and sleeping three to a bed.

My life seemed awfully dull by comparison, and I felt bad for having to lie to them about some of my past experiences, sticking to the script I now knew backwards and forwards as part of my Anja Gudrun identity.  But I did pepper in facts from my own childhood, like th
e fact that I had a sister growing up, and that my parents encouraged me to pursue a life in the arts. 

To my utter surprise, Maggie proclaimed that she’d wanted to act on the stage when she was younger, and the highlight of her childhood was playing Liesl in
The Sound of Music
in secondary school.  It was hard to believe such a shy girl would want to pursue something so public, but from the way her face shone as she talked about it, I could tell she meant every word.  I put the movie on right away, more as a backdrop, as conversation rolled right along now.  

“I love this song!” Ellie exclaimed as Fraulein Maria sang about raindrops on roses, and the next thing you know we were all singing along, even my big bad bodyguards.  The second it was over, there was a titter of nervous laughter between u
s, and Isak still looked somewhat uncomfortable, but it was alright.  I felt it would all be okay if we could come together even for a few minutes like that. 

After that, I dug out a deck of cards and we played a few hands of poker (Ellie emerged the big winner there) and crazy eights (Isak kept getting stuck with all the cards).  I begged off of gin rummy, excusing myself to go and freshen up.  Not that I needed it, but the game reminded me too much of those hours spent playing with Rob, and I was trying my best to look to the future instead of the past. 

It’s funny how the past has a way of reaching out to trip you up though. 

A knock at the door had Gunnar and Isak off the couch in a flash to flank the door, guns drawn.  I rushed to beat them to it, not wanting to have to explain to any casual acquaintances who happened to drop by why I
harbored armed guards in my apartment. 

“Oh for the love of… will you two knock it off?  Put those away!” I hissed.  “Bad guys don’t knock first.”  Waiting patiently for them to get rid of the hardware, I looked through the peephole, stunned to see who waited on the other side of the door.

“Anja?  Who is it?” I heard Maggie ask the question, but I didn’t have any words as I threw the door open with a rush of cold air. 

“Hello, petal.”  His voice was dee
p and rich, with an odd accent formed over nearly three millennia. Jakob looked as good to me as the first time I’d seen him, practically bursting with life, wheaten hair falling wild past the tops of his shoulders.  His crisp white shirt was open at the throat, revealing a hint of a bronzed chest, the shirt tails un-tucked over tailored, black pants and shoes made from soft, buttery leather.  I’d chosen Bishop over my own Sire, but it didn’t make him any less magnificent of a specimen. 

Doubt clouded his brilliant smile as I made no move to greet him, the words sticking in my throat.  “Are you not happy to see me?”  There was sorrow and sympathy in his eyes, and I knew he understood what I’d lost from the touch of pity gathered there. 

Good intentions forgotten, I went into Jakob’s arms without a word and burst into tears. 

Chapter
Three

 

“Leave us.”

There was no mistaking the air of authority in Jakob’s voice as he gave the order.  Despite their duty to protect me, Gunnar and Isak took one look at us and filed out, Maggie catching hold of Ellie’s elbow to do the same.  I was too upset to protest, having kept it together for far too long.  Now that the dam was breached, my roiling emotions flooded my senses, overriding anything else.  Jakob guided me to the couch, gathering me into his arms as my shoulders shook with
wracking sobs.

In the corner of my mind I wondered how long it would take for me to master my emotions again, or if I’d be doomed to years of irrational mood swings thanks to my vampire nature.  Sure, the highs were dizzyingly wonderful, but the lows… I felt Bishop’s loss so keenly in those moments, I didn’t know how I would go on without him.  I didn’t know if I wanted to. 

Gradually, I became aware of his whispered words of encouragement, soothing as a balm to my tattered soul.  Jakob rained kisses on my hair, his hands soothing as he comforted me like a child afraid of a storm, until the despair began to dissipate and I could think clearly again.  Jakob was there, in my living room.  The others were likely out in the hallway with their ears pressed to the door, dying to know what was going on. 

Taking in a deep, shuddering breath, I
swiped at my wet cheeks as I pulled back to meet his gaze.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean for that to happen.  I’m sure it’s not what you had in mind when you came to see me tonight.”

“Shhh…” He stroked my lower lip with the pad of his thumb.  “Having you in my arms is no small boon,
älskling.
I could ask for nothing less.”

The formal cadence to his words made me smile, almost as much as his words warmed my heart.  “How did you know where I’d be?  The last time I talked to you I was in England.”

“Rob was good enough to share your movements with me.  I came as soon as I heard you’d returned.  I’ve missed you.”

“I missed you too.”  It was true.  Probably not the same way he missed me
, based on the glow that came into his eyes at my words, but I’d missed him all the same.  With my closest companions gone, it felt like my world was crumbling around me.  Jakob’s sudden presence was comforting and familiar. 

“Good, then you’re ready to give up this foolishness and take your place by my side.  I’ll make arrangements at once, we can leave this place before dawn.”  His lips stretched into a smug smile and I pulled further away from him.  Were we back to that already?

“Whoa, hold on a sec.  I said I missed you. I never said anything about running away with you.” 

“Surely you have no reason to resist what I offer now that Ulrik has cast you aside.”

Cast me aside?  A ribbon of pain sliced through me at the harsh words so carelessly spoken, and I scooted farther away from him, putting some much needed space between us until the urge to lash out at him passed.  Did he truly think that’s what I wanted?  “Do you really expect me to jump into your arms just like that?  I’ve only been single for about five minutes.”   

“You were the one who did the jumping at the door…” he pointed out, miffed, and I had to admit, I could see how he
might interpret that response as something else. 

“That was different.  I needed comfort from someone I know and care about
. I needed a friend.”

“Then you do care.”  There was hope behind his blue eyes, and I felt the stirrings of something inside me.  The ties that bound us together were still there, but I couldn’t even think about pursuing him when the pain of losing Bishop was still so raw.

“Jakob… I never said I didn’t care.  But you have to give me some time to adjust to everything.  You don’t honestly want me on the rebound, do you?”

“As long as it puts you in my arms, who am I to quibble?”  Jakob grinned wolfishly at first, but his gaze softened as he reached for my cheek.  When had he gotten so close again?  The heat of his thigh pressed against mine, palpable through the thick fabric of my jeans.  “There
’s a sadness in your eyes I haven’t seen before, even with my transgressions against you.” 

“It’s been a rough week,” I shrugged, trying for a smile and failing miserably.  Tears hovered, but I choked them back, determined not to break down again.

“I would not see you in such pain.  Say the word and I’ll take it all away.  A single glance and I can make you forget the man altogether.” 

It was a
tempting thought.  I hated feeling so miserably mixed up inside, but would it really be better to forget about Bishop completely?  Or what if I only had Jakob remove the bad parts?  If all I remembered was the good stuff, would I still be pining for him?  It was enough to make my head spin, and I shook my head. 

“No, it’s my pain
. I deserve the right to work through it, not just slap a Band-aid on it and pretend like it doesn’t exist.  Like it or not, this is the way things turned out, and I have to put on my big girl panties and ride it out like a normal person.”

“I’m very interested to see these panties you speak of.”  The wolfish smile was back, and it was suddenly easier to roll my eyes and return to familiar footing with him. 

“Fat chance of that,” I muttered, but a faint smile returned at his exaggerated pout.  “Are you going to be in town for very long?”

“That depends entirely on you.  You are the sole reason for my return.”  Jakob picked up my hand, pressing a kiss to the back of it.  “There
’s nothing to stand between us now, petal.  Let me take you away from this sorrow and show you what it truly means to be mine.”  His eyes held me prisoner and I felt the heat spring up between us – a purely physical reaction, but exhilarating all the same.  Finding myself leaning towards him, I pressed a hand to his chest, half to keep him at arm’s length and half to feel the heart thumping there, warm and alive.  It would be very easy to surrender to the delights he promised, compulsion or no compulsion, but I wasn’t ready to lose myself in another man yet.  Besides, I had responsibilities. 

“I can’t up and leave, even if I wanted to.”  It was easier to speak once I tore my gaze from his.  “There are people here counting on me.  Maggie, Ellie… and I accepted a pretty
major job as Jarl of the Northwest.”  I steeled myself for the derision I expected at the mention of the position, but all I saw reflected back at me was light amusement. 

“Jarl of the Northw
est, that’s quite an undertaking.  But properly suitable for someone of your position,” he nodded in approval.

So it was only Bishop who thought the idea was a train wreck waiting to happen.  “Then you think I can handle it?”

“I think it a fine way to distract yourself if you will not allow me that pleasure.”  He stroked the back of my hand, his fingers spreading warmth through my cool flesh.  “Anything but sulking over that weak minded fool.”   

“Hey, he’s not a…”

Jakob let go of me to spread his hands.  “Let’s not speak of Ulrik any longer, petal, unless you speak of his demise.  I would gladly dispatch him for you.”  There was a gleam to his eye that made me worry.

“No, you stay far away from Bishop.  In fact, I’ll make you a deal.  I won’t bring him up any more if you don’t.”

“Already I like the sound of this deal,” he grinned, scooting closer, but I held him at bay with the lightest touch.

“But if you want there to be something real between us, you have to give me a little space.  We need to spend more time together, get to know each other better.” 

“I already know you,
älskling
.  Intimately.”  His eyes glowed, making me wonder if there was more to those shared dreams than I remembered. 

“There’s more to knowing someone than like that.” 

“I know all I need to know,” he declared confidently.  “But if this wooing you seek allows me to spend more time with you, I am for it.” 

“Um, sure.  We can spend more time together.”  Was that what I’d agreed to?  Jakob had me all off balance, as usual.  I wasn’t sure if it was jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire by agreeing to date him so soon after my breakup with Bishop, but there were worse things in life to distract myself with than a gorgeous vampire who only wanted to worship me.

“Agreed then, starting now.”  His arms encircled me, pulling me close.  I opened my mouth to protest, only to find my breath swallowed by his lips on mine.  I’d forgotten what it was like to kiss him;
Ellri
were not undead like regular vampires, they were bursting with life.  Heat poured off of him wherever our bodies touched, and I felt the throb of his pulse calling to me with a siren’s song – all in the space of a few heartbeats.   

My body hummed along, eager to reconnect, but I wasn’t ready for it.  I tore my mouth from his, and Jakob took the opportunity to nibble along the underside of my jaw, his tongue rasping against the delicate skin, making me lose my train of thought for a moment.  “We should um… let my friends back in.  They’re probably wondering who you are.”  I managed to come up with. 
Lame.

“Let them wait,” he rumbled, his breath hot against my neck. 

“Okay, but we should at least let my bodyguards know I’m alright, don’t you think?” I squeaked when his teeth caught at my earlobe.  This was taking things slow?

“Bodyguards?” he scowled, pulling back, a deep furrow appearing on his brow.  “Where is Rob?”

“He left.”

“He left you to the care of those children?  When is he to return?”

“They’re hardly children,” I mumbled, though I could see how he might think so.  “I don’t know, he sounded like he might not ever come back.”  I swallowed, not liking the prospect one bit. 

“Rob left.”

“Yep, that’s what I said.”  I’d thought Jakob would be in the know about this; how else would Rob get the blood he needed to survive?  Jakob sat stunned, and I worried that I’d gotten Rob into trouble.  “Why, is that bad?”

“I specifically ordered him to see to your safety.”  His fingers were already moving over the touchpad of his phone, probably seeking Rob’s number.

“And he did.  He hired me the two bodyguards you ordered outside.” 

“That was not my intent.  I intended for him to see to your safety himself.”

“He had something personal he had to do.  He’s entitled to a personal life after all.”

“Rob has no personal life,” Jakob snorted, lifting the phone to his ear.

“I think he’d disagree with you there.  He had to go take care of something important, something that might leave him out of touch for a while.” 

“Rob serves at my pleasure, he does not disagree with me.  He
won’t ignore my call.”  The utter confidence in his voice was betrayed by the fact that his call went straight to voicemail, and I heard Rob’s gravelly voice on the outgoing message.  The furrow on Jakob’s brow deepened, and he sent a text, his fingers moving too fast for me to track the words.  “I’ll get to the bottom of this.”

“Jakob…” I pulled the phone out of his hands when he was through.  He seemed entirely too agitated over the prospect of Rob going walkabout.  Was there something he wasn’t telling me?  “Jakob, what difference does it make?  It’s not like I’m in any real danger here, everybody knows me.  I’m the Jarl, remember?” 

“With such a position comes added risk.”

“And I can take it.  I’ve got the guys to be my visual deterrent, and I’m not on the weak side myself.  Besides, you’re sticking around for a while, right?”

“True.”

“So don’t go getting all grumpycakes with Rob.  If it was urgent enough for him to leave like that, it must be important, right?”

“We shall see.”  Jakob rose to his feet abruptly, pocketing his phone.  “Tomorrow night, I will come for you at dusk.”

I did a swift mental calculation and figured I’d have to take care of some things first.  Namely taking Ellie out to eat, and I should probably feed myself.  The hotter my blood got, the less I’d be able to resist his charms.  “Let’s make it eight
o’clock.  Unless you want to have my friends tag along.”

“Isn’t it enough that I share you with them when I
’m not here?” He gave me a pained look.  “Let me at least have you to myself, the better to discuss things away from prying ears.”

That caught my interest.  He wanted to talk about private stuff?  I still remembered the fascinating insight he’d given me to the origin of our species, and I couldn’t wait to return to the subject.  “Okay then, tomorrow at eight, I’m all yours.”

“I’ll hold you to that.”  With a final heated look, he swept out of the apartment without a backwards glance to my entourage waiting patiently in the hallway. 

“Blimey, who was that?”  Ellie stumbled into the room, her mouth hanging half open. 

“Um…”  I couldn’t come out and call him my Sire, not when Jakob wanted to keep out of vampire society.  “An old friend.”

She gave a knowing smile.  “An old boyfriend, more like.” 

“Something like that.” 

“Now we’ve got something to have a chinwag about
,” Ellie grinned, flopping down on the couch to stare up at me expectantly.  Maggie joined her, remaining silent but no less interested.  Isak and Gunnar filed in a minute later after checking to see if Jakob really left the premises or not. 

BOOK: Miss Me When the Sun Goes Down
2.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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