My living room clock read two-forty-six a.m. It was no longer Hallowe’en night, but All Hallows Day. Or, as some called it, All Saints’ Day. But it was no saint who held me in his arms—it was a wærewolf.
“I think you’d like my apartment, Red.” Red. That’s me. Persephone Alcmedi to the rest of the world. Seph to some. Red only to Johnny, my not-exactly-Big-Bad-wærewolf. “It has that open-living concept.”
I wasn’t fooled. “It’s a glorified dorm room, isn’t it?”
“If, by ‘glorified,’ you mean it has a private bathroom, then yes.” Johnny sniffed, affecting annoyance. “Something I sacrificed when I moved in here.”
I’d had to forfeit my home’s vampire defenses three weeks ago to save a friend’s life, Johnny had temporarily moved into the third-floor attic room—for protection purposes only. In the three weeks since, those defenses had since been reinstated, but he’d remained. Being the epitome of “tall, dark, and handsome,” I hadn’t complained.
“C’mon.” Johnny’s deep blue eyes glittered seductively. His voice dropped low. “Nothing’s more romantic than a bachelor pad.”
We’d both had a hell of an evening. Words like “hectic” or “demanding” didn’t begin to cover it. I must have been the only one suffering from fatigue.
His band, Lycanthropia, had played at the Hallowe’en Ball. Johnny was the vocalist and guitarist for the techno-goth-metal band, and he’d given his all on stage. He should have been as exhausted as I was.
Of course, I’d made quite an effort on that stage, too. I’d fought and killed a fairy in front of hundreds of witnesses who’d applauded afterward, thinking it simply part of the Hallowe’en show.
Killer fairies and rock-n-roll: that was only a small part of what we’d dealt with this evening.
“Do you honestly want to show me your apartment now?”
“My one bulb is burned out so there’s not much you’d actually see.” His lean-muscled arms slid around me. I felt so grounded and safe in his embrace. “But I promise, what you feel will make up for it.”
What Johnny wanted was crystal clear, and so was the reason why he thought going elsewhere was a good idea. I’d already mentioned my fears about the rest of the household learning we were intimate, so he was trying to keep the secret. At his apartment we could have assured privacy and we wouldn’t have to retire to separate bedrooms like we did here. Cuddling and sleeping together after sex would have been nice.
Apparently, to him, if we weren’t actually seen together we had plausible deniability. Not that my live-in grandmother, I call her Nana, would ever believe that we’d visited his apartment in the middle of the night just so he could give me the nickel tour.
Nana and my nine-year-old foster daughter, Beverley, were asleep in their bedrooms—each just a hall’s width from mine. The old saltbox farmhouse had paper thin walls. Even the layers between second-floor ceiling and attic floor lacked the ability to dampen noise. I’d heard Johnny playing his guitar up there when the little amplifier wasn’t cranked up to “1.”
Still, there were things he didn’t know. Like, “The lucusi is coming here at dawn, Johnny.”
He pulled me closer. He’d gotten a shower after the show, washing off the smell of leather stage-clothes and leaving only the cedar and sage that was his unique scent. “Had to try.”
His breath on my neck was warm, his voice just rough enough to catch in my ear and tingle down to my toes. Parts of me were suddenly insisting they didn’t qualify as weary. It made me reconsider the definition of tired. “It’s just so far to drive. All the way back to town, only to turn around and come back here by dawn.”
But people in the throes of new love did crazy things like that.
Did I just think the ‘L’ word?
I stiffened just as he suggested, “You could fly.”
He was right, I could. Due to my performance a few days earlier in the Eximium, a high priestess competition, I’d been inducted into the powerful lucusi led by the Eldrenne Xerxadrea that was due at dawn. A real witches broom was one of the perks. “But…”
“You don’t want to fly?” He nuzzled my neck.
“It isn’t that.” Running my fingers through his long , dark hair, I looked up—way up, he’s six-foot-two—and let him see I wanted him, too. “I have a better idea.”
“Do share.” Another nuzzle.
“There’s only one place in my house with any kind of soundproof privacy.” Tiptoeing, I kissed him lightly before answering. “Your kennel.”
“Oh, that is sooo hot.” He rubbed up and down my backside and couldn’t suppress his grin.
Carrying a lit jar candle and blankets, I led him outside and around the house. Johnny pulled the slanted metal doors open and I descended the concrete stairs.
While Johnny shut the cellar doors, I placed the candle in the middle of the floor and spread the blankets over the freshly straw on the floor of the cage. I glanced into the shadows at the door of the rearmost steel kennel. This was where his beast was unleashed, where the animal in him took over. A shiver of desire ran through me.
When I heard Johnny’s footsteps had reached the bottom stair, I asked over my shoulder, “I don’t suppose you could help me out of this costume?”
He stopped in his tracks.
I tugged on the lacings of the bell-sleeved velvet mid-driff bustier—part of my costume for the Ball—and smiled.
“Actually—” His voice was a little higher than he intended. He stopped to clear his throat and started over. “Actually, I can help with that.” He was by me in an instant, deftly working the knot. Seconds later, the fabric loosened and I took a satisfyingly deep breath. Then those skillful fingers touched the bare skin at my waist, thumbs drawing little circles. “Anything else I can help you out of?”
“I’m not technically out of this.”
“Oh,” he said softly. “My bad.” He began loosening the lace-up strings even more. “Up or down?”
Though I knew he meant should he lift the shirt over my head or push it down over my hips, I went with the word that had more impact. “Definitely up.”
He was so gentle, moving so slowly, careful of my hair and the mask. He was just removing my shirt, but he made it sensual, as if he were rubbing lotion all over me. Tanning lotion. The cellar was suddenly so warm I could have been standing in summer sunlight. The bustier fell into the blanket-covered straw at my feet.
As I kept my arms raised, Johnny placed my hands on the bars atop the open cage door, and squeezed my grip to indicate I should let them remain there.
His warm fingers traced every contour of my arms, slowly descending until he could brush my hair away from my ear on one side. He put the line of his body against the back of me and nuzzled against my ear. While he sucked gently on my earlobe, his hands shifted toward my breasts.
A trembling resonance fluttered up my spine. Heat was building low in my abdomen, and under my sternum. Sensations jolted through me like electricity, and all thought of tiredness fled.
Abruptly, the cellar door creaked open and crashed loudly against the ground outside. “I locked that,” Johnny muttered.
Someone was coming down the steps. We turned as one to see who—