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“I thought I could bring you out here, talk to you, comfort you,” he said, his voice strained. He leaned closer. “But all I can think of is being inside of you.” He kissed me, dragged his lips across my jaw, then back. “And staying inside of you,” he whispered against my lips.

“I’m comforted, so let’s go,” I said hurriedly, because I wanted the same thing.

With a laugh, Eli gave me a quick kiss, grabbed my hand, and led me back down the steps of Tybee’s lighthouse.

I’d never look at it the same again.

The drive back to my apartment was excruciatingly long and sensually painful at the same time. We didn’t speak—not with words, anyway. Eli read every sexual thought I had, and I knew it, so I let my mind wander freely. It was so easy, and almost amusing. I’d think about how I wanted to run my hand along his thigh, to his crotch, and before the thought actually was completed, Eli had my hand in his and had moved it to his leg. I edged as close to him as my seat belt would allow, and nuzzled his neck, drew his earlobe into my mouth and sucked while my hand roamed over his thigh, cupped his crotch. Slowly, I unfastened the buttons of his jeans and eased my hand inside, and the sound of his pained groan and my name on his lips made a flash of heat spread between my thighs. I was so turned on that I didn’t think either of us would make it back to Inksomnia. We did—barely.

We parked, and Eli reached over, clicked my seat belt, and dragged me onto his lap, our mouths melding together as we tasted, kissed, panted. Stumbling out of the Jeep, we somehow made it to the door; somebody—I can’t remember whether it was Eli or me—opened the door, and once inside we fell against the wall. His kiss was fierce, desperate, and we didn’t linger there. He carried me up the stairs and straight into my bedroom. With a loud slam he kicked the door shut. He crossed the room, and we fell onto the bed together, writhing and pawing at each other until every stitch of clothing lay on the floor. Our kisses were no longer gentle; they were frantic, and we each struggled for control. Eli touched me everywhere, dug his fingers into the flesh of my hips as he pulled me on top of him, and I straddled him and took his hard length deep inside of me. My head dropped backward, and I gasped with pleasure as the sensation of Eli filling me rushed through me. His hands left my hips and covered my breasts, trailed the dragons on my arms, and grazed my thighs.

In the next second, he flipped me, and Eli was on top of me, his weight resting on his forearms, and as he began to move inside of me, he lowered his head and pressed his mouth to mine. I wrapped my legs around him and moved with him; his mouth left mine as he buried his face in my neck. I shoved my hands through his hair, and as the orgasm gained strength I cried out Eli’s name, then went breathless as shots of light fired behind my eyes. Eli found his release at the same time, intensifying mine, and it went on and on as our bodies writhed in pleasure. The residue of orgasm began to retract, slowly, and as it did, Eli’s mouth moved to my lips. He kissed me, his hands buried in my hair and cradling my head gently; then he pulled back just enough that our gazes locked.

“Mine,” he whispered against my mouth. He kissed me again. “You are mine.”

In the shadows I stared into the eyes of a vampire, grazed his mouth with my finger. “No, you’re mine.”

Over the next few days I felt rejuvenated. Where I’d felt catatonic before, now I felt ready to kick some ass. It wasn’t so much because of what I’d seen at the warehouse. It’d been gruesome, absolutely. Horrific. And, strangely enough, it wasn’t my amazing relationship with Eli, although I have to admit, it was seriously empowering. But even that wasn’t it. It was the deep responsibility I felt for that man’s life, for all the kids’ lives in that freaking warehouse, Zac the almost marine, the woman in the park—everyone who had been slaughtered just so a couple of satanic undead creatures could revitalize their powers. It pissed me off. Even deeper was a responsibility to end it. To destroy the monsters. I wanted to do something, not sit around on my ass and wait.

Every day that passed, I missed my brother even more. We were so close; it was like a part of me was missing, like I’d lost a body part. It hurt. My chest actually, physically hurt—especially knowing where he was, what he was doing, and what he was fast becoming. Every time I’d look in his room, my body went numb. Seth was the only blood family I had left. I wanted my baby brother back, dammit.

Despite Eli’s run to Da Island to get protection against killing me, and the threat that was always present, I wanted him. Desperately. I mean, I hated sounding like some weakling who can’t make it in life without a man, but damn. We’d clicked. I’d felt it. And I wanted it. I wanted him. And he wanted me—he made no effort to hide it. I didn’t care that he was undead, and I didn’t care that he’d outlive me. Yet Gilles’ words rang in my head continuously—almost as though he kept doing it on purpose to keep me from caving in to my desires. Actually, he did put a thought into my head. He literally told me that Eli would have his head better in the game if he wasn’t preoccupied by me. Say what? It was hard—don’t get me wrong. I’ve never experienced so much difficulty keeping my hands off a man in the whole of my life. Worse than that, I had to pretend that it didn’t bother me so much, that I didn’t care. Goddamn, I did care. Too much for my own good. And he affected me. Whoa. Did he ever. And who am I kidding? He knew it. The guy freely dug into my thoughts.

I did pretty well, keeping my distance those few days, and Eli actually allowed it. I’d made it perfectly clear that we needed to focus on this mission and not get caught up in a lust affair. Eli had made quite an effort, too, at the urging of his papa; he’d stayed away, and Phin continued to be my babysitter.

The dreams continued.

I had two more nights at the apartment. I’d agreed to spend the rest of Seth’s quickening at the House of Dupré, mainly to train. If anything, I was a workaholic, and hell yeah, I’d train my ass off if it helped take down the Arcoses. I’d dreamed the two nights before; I’d kept them to myself because of the nature of the dreams. They were highly intense, erotic, at times freakishly kinky, and part of me thought they came over me because of what I went to bed each night thinking of: Eli. The first night, after the warehouse, I found myself back at the Panic Room, in one of the back rooms, completely naked, my limbs spread and roped to the bed—something I’d never been into. I liked control too much, I guess. He was there—always the same beautiful, flawless, freaky guy—and he did nothing more than stare at me. He whispered nasty-bad things in my head, things he wanted to do to me with his tongue, how many different positions he wanted to take me in, and it was like a drug. I wanted to break free and escape the panic rooms, and put as much distance between us as possible; I wanted him inside me first. It was insane. Not once had this dream guy ever physically touched me. Afterward, I felt wicked guilty.

The following night I found myself alone at an amusement park on the waterfront—sort of like Coney Island, I guess. He pursued me through the park, slowly, never relenting. I ducked into the house of mirrors, only to find him there, watching me. When I looked in all the mirrors, I saw us, naked and entwined. I ran to escape, and ran so hard I woke up with chest pain. Weird. Both very weird. I’d never seen this guy in my life, and all I knew of him was that he was one horny little toad who had some major control over my brain.

I climbed out of bed and got ready as usual. I had only one client, and then I’d be heading over to the Duprés’—along with my entourage of Gullah bodyguards. I don’t know why, but I felt safe with them. I know it sounds crazy, but I firmly believed the Duprés were a much different breed of undead than . . . any other undead out there. Besides, Estelle had given me a canister filled with my special brew.

No sooner did I pull on my jeans, black fishnet long sleeve, and white ripped Inksomnia tank than a harsh banging at the back entrance made me jump. When I stepped into the living room, Phin watched me; I shrugged, and jogged downstairs to see who it was. When I opened the door I was surprised—and repulsed—to see someone I’d hoped never to lay eyes on again.

“Well, Ms. Poe,” Detective Claude Murray said. His eyes regarded me a little too closely for comfort. As they always had. “All grown-up, I see.”

I inspected him. “And I see you’re still packed into that suit like a sardine.”

He grinned—looked like he still chewed tobacco—and shook his head. “Grown-up but still a smart-ass, eh? Figures.” He glanced at his watch. “You need to take a little trip down to the station for some questions, little miss tight pants.”

“Why?” Phin said from over my shoulder. I could feel his tension rolling off him in waves. Phin might look innocent, but he was anything but. I knew he could rip Claude’s arms off in less than five seconds.

Claude ignored Phin and stared hard at me. “You’ll find out. Let’s go.”

I gave a short laugh. “If you think I’m riding anywhere with you, you’ve grown senile in your old age, Murray.” I grabbed my keys off the hook. “Why am I needed for questioning?” I asked, hooking my pack onto my back.

Claude Murray, a graying man in his midfifties and getting more portly by the second, gave me a hard stare. “Looks like your past is coming back to bite you in that little ass of yours, Poe,” he said quietly. “Your old boyfriend Kelter Phillips just turned up at the city morgue.” His gaze raked over my body, and I literally felt like I needed a bath. “And according to his girlfriend, you were the last to see him alive.”

Part 9


I was pretty sure that perv Murray noticed the shock on my face about Kelter, and was even surer he took pleasure in delivering the information. Not that there was any love lost—not by any means. It’s always a shock when someone dies unexpectedly—even a scumbag like Kelter. I was actually surprised he’d lived as long as he had.

On the way to the police station I gave Phin the skinny on my background with Detective Claude Murray. I stared at a traffic light through my shades and began. “Ol’ Claude had a thing for me back then—yeah, gross, I know. Even though I was just a kid, I could tell he was a freak. I’m sure I wasn’t the only juvy he had a thing for.”