Aiden caught a strand of my hair between his fingers. “I know. I trust you, Alex. But that doesn’t mean I trust him.”
There was no winning this with him. “Anyway, I can talk to Seth and let him know what’s going on with the Order and what people fear.”
“And you think he’ll go along with that?”
“I do. Seth won’t force me into anything by using the… connection against us.” I wiggled up Aiden’s chest and kissed his chin. “Seth once told me that if things ever became… too much, he’d leave. So there is a way out.”
“Huh, he actually said that?” His eyes burned silver. “Maybe he’s not so bad.”
“I don’t like this, but like I said, I will support you any way that I can.”
“Thank you.” I kissed his cheek again.
A sigh shuddered through him. “Alex?”
He leaned back, watching me through heavy lashes. “Did you guys eat all the cookie dough last night or did you actually make any cookies?”
I laughed at the turn in conversation. “We made some. I think there might be a few left.”
“Good.” He placed his hands on my hips and tugged me forward, pressing our bodies together. “What’s Valentine’s Day without cookies?”
“I think the mortals put a lot of emphasis on chocolate this time of the year.” I placed my hands on his shoulders, and the stuff with angry gods, Order members, Seth, and everything else took the back seat. “But cookies work.”
One hand slid up the curve of my spin, slipping under the mass of tangled hair and sending a fine shiver over my skin. “So there’s no lame Christmas tree involved?”
“There’s no such thing as a Mortal Holiday Tree.” My breath caught as he guided my mouth toward his, stopping just as our lips brushed. “But… but I’m sure the mortals would appreciate the thought of that kind of tree.”
“You do?” He pressed his mouth to one corner of my lips and then the other. Eyes drifting shut, my fingers dug into his shirt. When he kissed me slowly, pouring all his unstated passions into that one act, his powerful body tensed under mine.
I couldn’t remember what we were talking about. There was just the heady, wild rush of feelings that stormed through me. This was Aiden—the man I’d loved for what felt like forever, in my arms, under me, against me, and touching me.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” he murmured.
Aiden held me close and still, and in those moments, he showed rather than told me just how much we were in this together.
I’D FANTASIZED SO MANY TIMES ABOUT WHAT IT would be like to be in a relationship with Aiden. There had been days, not too long ago, that I would’ve smacked that dream right out of my head because it seemed so hopeless. But for a week I lived that fantasy to the fullest.
We stole as many moments alone as we could, filling them with deep kisses and quiet laughter. And plans, we actually made plans.
Or at least we tried to.
My back arched and a giggle escaped.
“Oh, so you are ticklish?” Aiden murmured against the flushed skin of my neck. “This is a very interesting development.”
It seemed that, when we were together, we could never keep our hands off each other for very long. Aiden had to be touching some part of me. Whether it was just a slight contact of skin, his hand wrapped around mine or our bodies flush with our legs tangled lazily, we were always touching.
Maybe it was because he’d fought it for so long or maybe we both were crazy, intoxicated by the simple act of just lying together, and we were addicted to it. Our legs pressed together and our heads rested on the arm of the couch in the room with the family portraits. It was safe in here as no one dared to enter it. What had once been Aiden’s sanctuary had become ours.
Today was no different.
But it wasn’t all fun. As the days passed and I knew Seth’s return was approaching, anxious energy built inside me. There was also barb-tipped guilt that sank in deep. Sometimes, when I thought of him, I remembered those glimpses of vulnerability he’d shown after our midnight swim in the Catskills and the day after I’d been given the brew. Seth was a lot of things, almost a complete enigma at times, but under it all, he was a guy who… who cared, and he cared about me. Maybe more than I did for him. Maybe not, but I didn’t want to hurt him.
I wiggled on the couch beside Aiden, trying to shake the sudden dark cloud that’d settled over me. Talking to Seth wasn’t going to be easy. Then again, I had no idea how he would respond. He’d been with Boobs…so maybe it wouldn’t be that hard.
“So tell me,” Aiden continued idly, drawing me back to the present—to him. “Where was that spot again? Was it here?” He trailed his fingers over my stomach.
“No.” My eyes closed as my heart jumped and tiny shivers skated through me.
“Here?” His fingers danced over my ribs.
Beyond words, I shook my head no.
“Now where was that spot?”
His agile fingers skipped over my stomach and along my side. I clamped my mouth shut, but my body shook as I tried to restrain my natural reaction.
“Aha! Is this it?” He increased the pressure slightly.
I squirmed, but he was relentless. He laughed when I jack knifed, and I would’ve tumbled to the floor if it weren’t for his quick movement. “Stop,” I gasped in between fits of giggles, “I can’t take it.”
“All right, maybe I should be nice.” Aiden pulled me back to his side and leaned over me. He plucked a strand of hair and twisted it around his two fingers. “Anyway, back to the question at hand. What place other than New Orleans?”
I ran my hand down his arm, loving the way his muscles seemed to clench under the skin I touched. “How about Nevada? There’re no Covenants nearby. The closest is the University.”
He leaned down, brushing his lips over my cheek. “Are you suggesting Las Vegas?”
I fixed an innocent look on my face. “Well, there’d be a lot of daimons, since you pures like to party there, but no real Hematoi establishments of any kind.”
“First New Orleans and now Las Vegas?” He brushed his lips back and forth as his fingers tipped my head back. “I’m starting to see a trend here.”
“I don’t know.” My breath caught as he pressed down. “Maybe you can’t handle Las Vegas.”
Aiden smirked. “I love a challenge.”
I giggled, but all humor fled the moment his lips touched mine again. I could go on just kissing him forever. They were gentle kisses at first, soft and questioning. My fingers sank through his hair, clenching him closer, and the kisses deepened. I shifted and wrapped my arms around him, wanting to be able to push the stop button on time. I could stay here forever, feeling his body molded to mine, melting together—I froze against him.
The feeling slithering down my spine was unmistakable. The three runes that had been dormant since Seth left now woke up with a vengeance, burning and tingling. The cord snapped alive, responding to its other half.
His lips moved down my neck, over my collarbone. “What is it?”
There was no stop button for time. Dammit. “Seth’s here, like he’s right outside.”
Aiden lifted his head. “Seriously?”
I nodded stiffly.
He swore under his breath and sprang to his feet. I started to get up, but he held out his hand. “Let me just check this out first, Alex.”
Swooping down, he clasped my shoulders and kissed me until I almost forgot about the way the cord was unraveling in the pit of my stomach. “Just let me check this out, okay?” he whispered.
I nodded and watched him prowl toward the door. With a quick reassuring smile, he left the room. It was probably a good thing that he was going out to greet Seth. I needed a few moments to collect myself after that last kiss.
Nervous energy rushed me and the cord thrummed happily. Agitated, I rose to my feet within a minute and crossed the room. Seth was near. I knew it deep in my bones. I stopped in front of the cracked door and held my breath.
They were in the hallway, alone. And of course they were arguing already. I rolled my eyes.
“You think I don’t know?” I heard Seth say in a smug, knowing way. “That I didn’t know this entire time I’ve been gone?”
“Know what?” Aiden sounded surprisingly calm.
Seth laughed softly. “She may be here with you, right now, but that’s just a moment in time in the big scheme of things. And all moments end, Aiden. Yours will, too.”
I wanted to throw open the door and tell Seth to shut up.
“Sounds like something on the back of a twisted Hallmark card,” replied Aiden. “But perhaps your time has already ended.”
There was a stretch of silence and I could picture the two of them. Aiden would be coolly looking down on Seth, who would be smiling arrogantly and secretly enjoying the whole confrontation. Sometimes I wanted to smack them both.
“It doesn’t really matter,” said Seth. “That’s what you don’t get. She can love you and it still doesn’t matter. We belong together. It’s fated. Have your moments, Aiden, because in the end, it really won’t mean a damn thing.”
That was it. I threw open the door and stormed out into the hallway. Neither of them even turned around, and I knew they heard me fly out of the room. Beyond them I could see the shadows of the Guards through the tiny square windows on each side of the door.
“You really think that?” Aiden cocked his head to the side. “If so, then you’re a damn fool.”
Seth smiled. “I’m not the fool here, pure-blood. She doesn’t belong to you.”
“She belongs to no one,” Aiden growled as his hands flexed by his hips, where his daggers normally hung.
“Debatable,” Seth said, so low I wasn’t even sure I’d heard him correctly.
I shoved between the two idiots before one of them did some damage. “You don’t own me, Seth.”
Seth finally looked at me, his eyes a cool amber. “We need to talk.”
That we did. I glanced at the furious pure-blood beside me. This wasn’t going to be pretty.
“In private,” Seth added.
“What can you possibly need to say that you can’t say in front of me?” Aiden asked.
“Aiden,” I groaned. “You promised, remember?” I didn’t need to say any more. Aiden knew. “I do need to talk to him.”
“Nothing will happen to her. Not when she’s with me.”
I spun around. “Just let me get my hoodie. Try not to kill each other.”
“No promises,” Seth smirked.
Grabbing my hoodie off the back of the couch, I quickly hauled it on and hoofed it back to the hallway. Gods knew a second of those two together was a second too long. I passed Aiden a meaningful look as I followed Seth to the front door. He looked severely unhappy, but nodded.
Brutal temperatures sucked away my breath as I stepped outside. I was unable to remember the last time it’d been this cold in North Carolina. Seth wore just a black thermal and cargos. Nothing else. I wondered If I got built-in weather padding once I Awakened.