“Are we back to stating the obvious again?” I mumbled against his chest.
I was enjoying the rare treat of having him all to myself, after being forced to spend night after night dealing with distractions.
While it was nice to hear him say the words, I’d come to the same conclusion about two seconds before Kitty lost all nine of his lives in one foul swoop. And I may have only spared him from my embrace, so that I could be the one end the weretiger myself, at some point in the future.
But what else but love would leave Eric feeling so insane?
But it was the peace he’d felt the moment he saw me that confirmed my suspicions for me. The tension in our bond all but disappeared and was replaced with relief.
And unyielding adoration.
He so loved me.
With our bond, it wasn’t like he could hide it from me.
I’d known and felt love before, of course. Maybe not a passionate and intimate kind of love, but love nonetheless. So while I may have been questioning the motives of everyone else who shared my blood – especially those I’d felt love for before – I had no reason to question those same kinds of feelings I felt coming from either one of us.
The only question I had was when I’d begun feeling them.
I couldn’t really be sure, but I was certain I loved him too. And I hadn’t realized a part of me had still been waiting on him to change his mind about agreeing to only be with me, until that worry left me entirely as his own feelings of contented desire filled that space within, when we completed our bond.
He was mine.
I knew it like I knew my own name.
Although perhaps that was a bad analogy since I was still oscillating between Susannah and Sookie.
But I did know the fact I hadn’t said anything back to him in response was driving him even more insane.
And unable to not tease him when he made it so easy, I only burrowed further into his chest and waited for the inevitable.
For a thousand year old being, he certainly had very little patience.
His magic hands left my needy back muscles crying out for more, when he stopped kneading them to grip my biceps and drag me up his chest, so that my face was hovering barely a centimeter above his own.
And seeing the irritation there I had already felt coming from him at my continued silence, I exaggeratedly puckered my lips and kissed his own with a loud smack.
And I laughed when he was simultaneously annoyed and puddled by it.
His glare lost its edge when he could no longer fight back his smile, but at least his voice remained stronger than he felt, when he said, “Say it.”
“Say what?” I teased, knowing full well ‘what’ wasn’t the four letter word he was wanting to hear.
“Say what you feel.”
“Your irritation?” I asked.
It wasn’t a lie.
So when he playfully shook me, with his hands still gripping my arms, I guessed again with, “Amused?”
Also not a lie, since I was certainly feeling it.
“For me,” he grudgingly clarified. “Say what you feel for me.”
My head fell forward, with my hair creating a blond curtain around us, and I slowly traced his features with the tip of my nose, breathing in his scent I would recognize anywhere now. His eyes had closed during my silent exploration, with his head moving in sync with my own, lifting and tilting towards it, as he sought to keep our slight contact intact.
I wondered if he even realized he was doing it.
I doubted it.
But the fact he’d done it at all was enough to melt my insides and put my teasing to an end, so I gave him what he wanted by admitting, “I love you.”
His eyes popped open and he released my arms, so his hands could slide into my hair and he pulled my lips back down to his, while he smiled, “It’s about fucking time.”
“I’m afraid to disappoint you, Your Majesty, but fucking time is over with for now,” I smiled in return. “Your bonded needs a break.”
Also not a lie.
“Goddamn right you are,” he smirked, acknowledging only the ‘who‘ and not the ‘what‘ of my words. But I didn’t really mind because he pulled me down into another scorching kiss in the next moment.
Our bond felt like a physical pulse, connecting us and the kaleidoscope of emotions flowing through us both. His intense need for me still, met my unwavering loyalty to him somewhere along the way and seemed to soothe him back into a more rational state of mind.
And as he calmed, so did the intensity of our kiss, when he finally pulled away and added with a knowing smile, “But you only have yourself to blame, remember?”
No…more like thank.
He gave me a lot to be thankful for.
I could even feel a lot of it stirring in between us now.
So I was surprised when he ignored it to say, “We need to discuss the fairy.”
“I don’t think my legs can handle it,” I chuckled.
Never mind the other more sensitive parts of me at the center of them.
His smile still touched the corners of his lips, although I could see him slaughtering the unknown fairy behind his eyes, so it wasn’t surprising when our bond turned into a river of rage, as he calmly asked, “Do you have any thoughts on how we can catch him?”
“Not really,” I admitted. “He’s old, if he’s been here since the war. And I’ve witnessed for myself how skilled he is with a sword. He’s smart enough to have evaded all manner of prey for centuries, from vampire to his own kin, so he won’t be easy to trap.”
My mind went into overdrive, trying to recall every little detail I could of both the fairy and those I’d grown up with, hoping to put at least a last name to his face. But nothing was coming to me. I would have remembered whispers of a fairy left behind in the human realm. Nor did I know of any other bloodline with the ability to mask their presence other than my own.
But if he’d been of Brigant blood, I would have sensed him when I’d searched my own.
“Or would I?” I asked aloud, with my eyes growing wide.
And seeing the look of confusion staring back at me, I spoke the rest of my thoughts out loud, by saying, “I’d assumed he wasn’t of my blood because I hadn’t sensed him whenever I’d searched for my kin, but I know of no other fairies with the ability to mask themselves other than the Brigants. But he admitted he can hide from his kin, so what if his magic hides his presence from me as well?”
“I suppose it’s possible,” he mused, absentmindedly twirling my hair as he thought over my words. “But wouldn’t you have known of any kin lost or left behind after the portals were sealed?”
My heart sunk and my head soon followed suit, by dropping back down to his shoulder as I softly asked, “Would I? The Stackhouses are my kin and I’d been led to believe I had no human family left.”
The river of rage flowing through our bond was back to roiling, but I was happy for it since it drowned out my own feelings of melancholy and betrayal. However his voice remained soothing as he only said, “Point taken.”
His lips then brushed against the top of my head and after we both calmed down, he changed the subject by asking, “What did the Stackhouse boy want to talk to you about? You felt panicked and then…happy?”
I could easily recall the panic I’d felt, but I supposed I had been happy too. And given his jealousy-fueled fury at the weretiger, a part of me was surprised he was so calm now, but I didn’t ask and only shrugged with my reply of, “He just wanted to apologize. It was a nice gesture on his part, even though it was unnecessary.”
“Apologize for what?”
And there was the fury, although minus the jealousy.
He was more predictable than the phases of the moon.
So instead of answering, I only said, “I am coming to believe he is my brother, therefore I would prefer it if you didn’t kill him. I hold your life above all others’ – however – that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t attempt to protect him from even you. He’s not a threat to you in any way, so you might have to kill me first, if you want to kill him.”
There was literally nothing in between us in that moment, but even fully encased in medieval suits of armor, he would have been unable to hide anything from me. Which was why I could feel his indignation.
At both the idea of killing me and the knowledge he would have to, if he chose to attack the boy.
His mood darkened and his grip on me tightened, but he said nothing at first. So when he seemed to settle down as much as he was able to, he finally offered, “His transgression against you must have been great for you to preface your response with your willingness to protect him from me.”
Implying I’d planned on replying at all.
And yet even so, my response fell to the opposite end of the spectrum with something that was just as true, when I said, “Your actions tonight have been unpredictable. I felt it necessary to warn you there would be consequences if you went after him for something so minor.”
And to prove my point, I pushed myself up to stare back at him with a small smile and reminded him with, “Like when you were seconds away from killing Kitty at just the thought of me hugging him.”
“And I would have,” he admitted with no remorse.
We were more alike than I would have ever guessed once upon a time.
But then he took a deep breath and the intensity returned to his gaze, when he admitted something else, by saying, “I suspect it’s the bond, but I hope – in time – I will be able to control my visceral need to kill anyone who even comes close you.”
Those words did more damage to my insides than any declarations of love he could have recited.
And it turned out my body worked just fine when it was baited with declarations like that.
But it wasn’t until later on that evening when the idea of something along a similar vein came to me.
Eric had insisted he couldn’t get any work done because he needed me near in order for him to concentrate – which was usually the case anyway, whenever he was awake, because I was always at his side. But now his mind only seemed to focus on what was underneath my clothes and how quickly he could get me out of them.
He destroyed four outfits before the clock had even struck midnight.
And while I could mend them with magic, that wasn’t the point. I was just grateful he didn’t have the ability to magically strip them away or else we’d never get anything done.
Other than each other.
But it took my threats of walking out completely nude in order for him to stand down – some parts of him more than others – because I insisted I needed to work on my swordplay.
And my unfortunate choice of words necessitated spending another twenty minutes in his office.
Not that I minded all that much.
I finally understood what my cousins had been going on and on about.
But I was still angry I hadn’t been able to land a single blow to the fairy and since my bonded was the best sparring partner I’d ever had, I insisted he practice with me.
And our bond proved to be a bugger again when our mutual bloodlust rose up during our session in his dojo.
However my stubbornness to improve won out, so I was able to ignore it and use it against him to land a few superficial cuts to his body. But I got the sense he wasn’t really coming at me with everything he was capable of, so I thought to bait him by using his own admission against him and said, “You’re not really trying, so how am I ever going to learn to better myself? Do you want the fairy to get me?”
His fangs were already down, but they appeared to grow even longer – and more menacing – when he flew at me.
But I’d known he was coming thanks to the warning bells in our bond and popped away before he could reach me. But those same warning bells must have rung just as loudly in his ears because he was on me the moment I reappeared. Pinning me against the wall, his eyes were crazy with want.
Want for me, in one way.
Want for the fairy, in another.
And his voice was both heated and cold when he stared back at me and said, “Of course I’m not really trying. To hurt you would only hurt me.”
So I swallowed the urge to swallow parts of him, thanks to his confession, and only said, “If I can locate your child through you – and if he is my blood – then the possibility exists he can get to you through me, regardless of where I am during your daytime rest. He was able to track Madden down thanks to blood magic, so I need to improve, if I’m to have any hope of besting the fairy if he chooses to attack you while the sun is up.”
And figuring it would be best to just get it over with, I told him of my plan to do just that by softly admitting, “I can use myself as bait.”
I was surprised I didn’t burn up under the fire shooting from his eyes.
While his silent but vehement ‘No!’ thundered loudly through our bond, seeing the fire in his eyes reminded me of something else along a similar vein. And as quickly as the idea swept into my thoughts, it instantly fell from my lips.
“I could kill him with sunlight.”
But as certain as I was over my chances at coming out victorious in that scenario, it would only come to pass if he would try to take the bait.