by Teresa Cain
I woke up realizing I'd been asleep and stared blearily at the clock by my bed. God, five o'clock. I'd been asleep for 2 measly hours. No wonder I felt like shit. I could feel the dried tracks of my tears on my cheeks and scrubbed at them with the back of my hand. Glancing down at myself, I realized I was still wearing the clothes I'd been wearing before my breakdown, which were now wrinkled beyond hope of anything but an experienced dry-cleaner.
Sighing, I slid out of bed and padded across the room to the bathroom, where I stripped down to skin and slipped on the green silk robe Aerael had bought me as a birthday present. Well, it hadn't been just the robe. He has great taste in lingerie... but then, I suppose he sees a lot of it. I just wasn't sure he was going to see it on me. Well... maybe.
You know, of the two of us I think he got the better deal in life. Maybe in my next life I'd reincarnate as a succubus. Or at the very least some bad ass fey that could smash Eli with one mighty fist. I wondered what I'd have to do in this life to be born as a troll in the next while I ran a warm wet washcloth over my face.
The cloth just wasn't enough. I wistfully stared at the huge tub set in the tiled floor then decided, hell... if I was gonna die, I was going to die clean, relaxed and smelling of lavender.
Ten minutes later I was up to my chin in steaming water and fragrant bubbles and quite content to stay there until the water simply evaporated. Water to me was sort of like covers to a five-year-old. Maybe the monsters can't get you as long as you're in the tub. Yeah, it was silly, but the childish logic appealed to me right then.
I didn't even realize I'd fallen asleep again until a quiet padding on the tiled floor jolted me into panicked awareness. Water flew everywhere as I suddenly thrashed to the back of the tub, searching wild-eyed for danger. Instead, my eyes fell on a bemused Aerael, who was wearing nothing but some weird skirt-like thing that looked like an ankle-length black Egyptian kilt and holding a stack of towels.
"And you looked so peaceful," he sighed, setting them on top of the toilet. "Sorry to wake you, Roselyn. I know you must need your sleep. But I was worried for your safety."
"Well, people have drowned in the bathtub before."
"And wouldn't that be embarrassing," I grumbled, settling back down in the rapidly disappearing bubbles. "Drowning in the tub before the great Eli Thorn can finish me. I'd never be able to make a troll in my next life if that happened."
"Never mind." I pushed a few bubbles up onto my chest for modesty's sake and glared at him. "And shouldn't I be outraged there's a half-naked incubus in the bathroom with a totally naked me? Are you doing some of that weird horny magic voodoo shit of yours?"
"Not on purpose. Why? Feeling particularly horny?"
"Yes, suddenly, and I'd like to know whether it's me or you that's doing it."
Aerael smiled and patted the towels. "You never check for these before you get in. And you never have any. I figured you wouldn't want to wake Jade or Morte yelling for towels, so I thought I'd bring you a few."
"You didn't answer the question."
He raised one elegant eyebrow, then let the smile widen into something almost evil. "Well, when you figure it out, you know where I sleep."
I blinked at him, but he had already turned his back and was walking out. Well, not walking... strutting, perhaps. Oh yeah, that was definitely a strut.
Well, that was certainly weird, I thought to myself, sinking deeper into the water. Here I'd been legal for three months now, and though he did love to tease Aerael had always been the perfect gentleman around me. Well, all right, not always. I'd gotten a couple of pinches on the butt in the time I'd lived here. And he did have a bad habit of sometimes "forgetting" to gird his loins... not that I ever complained. Neither did Jade, for that matter. It didn't take me long to realize why she kept him around. I mean, if you're rich, you simply must have a gorgeous piece of art in your home.
But why make his move now?
Well, I'd once told him that I didn't want to die a virgin. Maybe he didn't think much of my chances either. That really hurt, no matter how realistic it was, and I actually found myself a little peeved. I was the only one who could be pessimistic about my chances here. Everyone else had to be upbeat and cheer me on!
But like hell I was passing this up.
The evil little smile that spread across my face actually reheated the water around me.
And another few minutes later I was out and drying myself off in front of the huge mirror, staring at myself speculatively. God, I was scrawny. I could shift myself into a more pleasing piece of eye candy, but I doubt I could have held it in the throes of passion. And did I really want to let myself be distracted by an even better piece of eye candy while my father was prowling the city for me, bumping off any non-human being he came across while he did so?
Hell yes. I ran a comb through my hair, slipped on the robe again, and drifted out of the bathroom, out my bedroom and down the hall to Aerael's room. The door was cracked invitingly, the gap filled with the tempting, flickering glow of candlelight. I laid a hand against the heavy oak of the door and slowly pushed it inwards, following its path.
With my first glance, I could see every surface in the room was covered in lit candles of varying lengths and sizes, their tiny lights casting dancing shadows over the walls. Ooo, how romantic. The bed was turned back, the dark sheets strewn with rose petals... white ones, a sight that made me sigh dreamily. I hate red roses. They make me think of blood. And I was touched that he'd remembered this little fact. But I didn't see Aerael. I had to turn my head to the chair by the door before I spotted him.
He sat slouched there in a chair that very nearly looked like some old throne, his hands resting on his stomach and his wings spread and curled around him as if framing him for view. His thick white mane looked tousled over his forehead and shoulders, messy and sexy as hell. His golden eyes were hooded and a small smile played about his lips. And if that wasn't a pose held for sheer maximum effect, well.. .just call me the Queen Mother.
I couldn't help it. I had to ruin the moment. I let out an inelegant snort and muttered, "Drama queen."
He raised one elegant brow and lazily held out a hand, not saying a word. I hesitated, thinking for a moment, then slowly laid my hand in his, watching as it darkened to its truly normal shade of shadow black. I let myself slip into my truest form and smiled at spark of approval in his eyes.
"Are you sure, Roselyn?" he asked in a low voice that made things jerk in my belly. "This way... with me?"
"I-I can't think of any better time," I replied truthfully with a small shrug. "And frankly, I... really couldn't imagine this with anyone else."
I watched pensively as he rose with a leopard's grace and stepped close to me, bringing those impressive wings around us both, pinning me to his chest. His hands cupped my face gently and tilted it upwards, and I met his golden gaze fearlessly... if not a little shyly.
"Wonderful," he murmured, lowering his face to mine. "I couldn't imagine it either."
His lips met mine in a soft, almost chaste kiss. Then his arms wrapped around me beneath his wings and it changed to a hot, searing seduction of lips and tongue that caused a red hot chill to race over every nerve within me, leaving me limp and breathless in his grasp. I braced my hands against his chest and let it sweep me away; shutting me away from the harsher reality that awaited me later on.
Hang Eli and his damn sword. For a few blissful hours, my world was going to consist solely of me, Aerael and this maelstrom he was creating within me.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Bargains ©2000-2001 by Teresa Cain
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