Giving my hair a final scrunch with the towel, I tossed it on the floor and crawled onto the mattress. He was splayed across the middle, but I squeezed onto the narrow space beside him and even got my head on the edge of the pillow. Once I was horizontal, fatigue washed through me like ocean waves, dragging me under.

His eyes cracked open. His gaze was dull with drugged exhaustion, but faint surprise sparked. With fumbling motions, he grabbed the blanket and flipped it across us. As the light fabric settled over me, erasing the chill of the air on my wet skin, I sighed in relief.

Then I was asleep.

Chapter Fifteen

Nothing like hard work and a mild poison to ensure a deep sleep.

I stirred awake to the pleasant warmth of a body pressed against me. Or, to be fair, me pressed against another body. In my sleep, I’d wormed my way closer to the Ghost and was now plastered against his back. His bare, muscular back.

And I was wearing nothing but a slightly damp bra, panties, and a crystal caught painfully under my side.

Sitting up, I pulled the crystal off and tossed it onto the nightstand, then looked down at my bedmate. Though the room was dark, a bright glow leaked from the bathroom where we’d forgotten to turn the light off. He was sleeping on his side, back to me, one arm tucked under the pillow.

Slipping out of the blankets, I perched on the edge of the bed and indulged in a lengthy stretch and yawn. Fatigue clung to me like a stubborn fog but I wasn’t dizzy anymore. Flattening my frizzy hair with one hand, I crossed the room, scanning the eccentric assortment of stuff as I went. Several long tables were buried in strange gizmos, shelves and cabinets lined the wall, and boxes were stacked in the corners. In the only real open space, a white circle, five feet across, had been painted on the floor.

After using the bathroom, I pulled the door most of the way shut, leaving just enough light to navigate the room. Though most of it was devoted to his alchemy workshop, the far end resembled a studio apartment, with the bed, a worn sofa with a coffee table buried in books, and a kitchenette in the corner.

I made my way to the kitchenette, snooped around until I found a glass, and poured myself some water. In the dark, I couldn’t make out much of the magicky stuff piled everywhere, but my fingers itched to explore. Not being an idiot, though, I knew better than to touch anything. Cursing myself with a black-magic spell would be a great way to top off the last two weeks.

My stomach rumbled, so I pulled the fridge open, discovering leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, snacks, a few bottles of boutique soda, and a crisper drawer full of apples from the orchard. I grabbed one and wandered back to the bed. Standing at the footboard and tapping the apple thoughtfully against my lips, I stared down at the sleeping rogue.

He’d saved the young dragon, and he intended to hunt down the mythics who’d run a hooked harpoon into the poor thing’s ribs. I now had an idea why his criminal record included murder.

Vigilante justice. He wouldn’t file a report with the MPD and wait for someone else to arrest the dragon hunters. He would find them and deal justice himself—and all the MPD would ever know was that the Ghost had killed again.

It probably should have bothered me that he was planning to murder people, but all I had to do was think about the young dragon’s agonized screams for my anxiety to evaporate. The Ghost wasn’t a good person, but in a lot of ways, neither was I.

I set my teeth in the apple, about to bite down, when a quiet knock sounded on the door across the room.

“Druid?” a muffled voice called. Morgan. The others must have returned from their day trip and I’d slept right through it—that, or their homecoming was what had woken me.

I glanced at the Ghost but he didn’t stir.

Another knock, louder. “I have news.”

“The druid isn’t here right now,” I whispered, watching him sleep. Yeah, he was out cold. He’d been covered head to toe in dragon blood and I suspected a dump truck crashing into the house wouldn’t be enough to wake him.

“Druid!” Morgan called, irritation lining her voice. “I heard the water run. I know you’re there.”

Aw, shit. I pursed my lips, then lifted a discarded black t-shirt off a chair. Giving it a cursory check—seemed clean—I pulled it on. It fell past my butt, covering my underwear. Good enough. Apple in hand, I crossed the room and pulled the door open.

Morgan stood on the top landing, arms folded. “Finally! I need to—”

She broke off, her eyes widening to the size of saucers. Her gaze snapped down to my bare legs, came back up, then stuttered to a stop on the shirt I’d borrowed.

Leaning one shoulder on the doorframe, I took a bite of my apple and waited.

A choking sound wheezed through her clenched teeth. “What are you doing up here?”

Oh my. That was some intense derision. I didn’t bother hiding my smirk. I knew exactly what conclusion she was jumping to, and I really didn’t care.

“Where’s the druid?” she demanded, glowering as though I’d confirmed every suspicion and uncharitable thought she’d ever had about me.

“Sleeping,” I said around a mouthful of apple. “What do you want?”

“Druid!” she yelled, craning to see around me.

“He’s sleeping,” I repeated coldly. “Quit shouting.”

“He—he would never—with you—” She spluttered into silence. “I need to speak with him.”

I took another bite of apple and chewed slowly. “Is it urgent?”

“Not particularly, but …” She took a threatening step closer. “Move, Victoria.”

Did I have any reason to keep her out? Aside from my petty dislike of her, vague discomfort kept me rooted to the spot. The Ghost was out of commission, and I didn’t think it was a good idea to let anyone near him until he was up again.

Was I protecting him? I wrinkled my nose. Maybe a little. The guy was poisoned, after all.

“No can do,” I said. “Either tell me what the news is, or come back in the morning.”

She glared stonily. Well, whatever it was, it couldn’t be that important.

I gave her a toothy smile. “Have a nice night, Morgan.”

And with that, I shut the door in her face and walked away, mentally dusting off my hands. Business taken care of.

“Ha-haaaaa,” a hoarse voice cackled.

I gasped, almost choking on my apple. The Ghost hadn’t moved—nor did he sound like a gravelly old geezer. My attention snapped across the room and halted on two faint spots of red light. Heart skittering under my ribs, I minced toward the cabinet.

On the shelf was a round shape, pale in the darkness, with twin lights glowing in it. I crept closer—and realized what it was.

“Red-haired vixen.” An old, yellowed human skull sat on the shelf, faint crimson light emanating from its empty eye sockets. The exposed teeth seemed to grin at me as gruff words echoed from the unmoving jaw. “I am entertained! How long I’ve waited for the pale witch to choke on her wanton fantasies.”

“You … what?” I muttered, my brain stuck on a loop of, “The skull is talking, the skull is talking.” Why the hell did the Ghost have a skull in his room, let alone a talking one?

“The pale witch will weep tonight, knowing another woman warms his bed.” A vicious snicker. “How long she has dreamed of being in your place.”

“Uhhh … maybe you didn’t notice while you were creeping on us, but all we did was sleep.”

“But you will,” the skull leered. “You are female. You can’t control your passion. You can’t contain your lustful drives. All females are the same, compelled by their—”

“Yeah, okay, got it.”

“The pale witch possesses the same salacious perversion, though the druid has foolishly ignored her advances. He denies his natural—”

“Whoa, okay, that’s enough of that.” I rolled my eyes. “Does the word ‘boundaries’ mean anything to you?”

A dismissive sniff. “What boundary could possibly fall upon a being such as my—”

“Never mind.” Sarcasm apparently didn’t work on chauvinistic talking skulls. “You can shut up now.”

The red glow in its eye sockets blazed. “You dare speak so boldly to me, deviant wench? I am the most feared of the Drangfar Lords who once ruled the—what are you doing?”

I stooped to pick up an empty cardboard box. As I turned it over, I spotted a rune circle drawn on its side. Hmm, interesting. Whatever the box was, it was nicely skull-sized.

“Lay that down, wench! Do not dare so much as consider—”

I set the upside-down box over the skull, and its voice cut off with surprising abruptness. Giving the rune circle another appraising glance, I stepped back, nodded sharply, then returned to the kitchenette to throw out my apple core and wash my hands. Stifling a yawn, I returned to the bed and pondered the sleeping druid.

Lethargy permeated my body, too intense to be natural—a lingering side-effect of the dragon blood. I sure as hell wasn’t going downstairs after the confrontation with Morgan, so that left one option.

With a little smile to myself, I crawled into the bed and scooted under the blanket. Warmth suffused me and I wiggled closer to the Ghost. Damn, I hadn’t realized how chilly the room was. Since I’d already thrown personal space out the window when I forced myself into his shower, I tucked my cold feet against his legs.