Beyond Twilight (Wings in the Night #4)

Chapter 4



He'd eaten, injected his insulin, and searched the house from top to bottom. For what it had been worth. The most interesting thing he'd found had been a sled in the basement and some harnesses hanging on the wall. No dogs, though. No outbuildings where any might be kept. So the sled was useless. Everything he'd found had been useless.

Interesting, but useless. He'd left her bedroom for last. He figured the longer he waited, the more deeply she'd rest. Now he stood at the foot of the fanciful bed and stared at her through the sheer red bed curtains. She lay uncovered, curled on her side, hugging her pillow. A gossamer bit of a nightgown hid very little. Her legs were not long, but so shapely he caught his eyes roaming them from her exposed slender hip to her small toes.

He blinked fast and forced himself to look somewhere else. He'd come to see if she had secrets hidden in her bedroom, hadn't he? Well, he ought to be looking for them, not gawking at her perfect little body and wondering if she would wake up if he went over there for a better look. He hadn't expected this. He didn't know what he'd expected. Maybe that she'd seem like a corpse as she rested, lying flat on her back, hands folded over her chest, not breathing, cold, white.

Instead she looked just like any other woman. Relaxed. Warm. Breathing deeply and steadily. No, not like any other woman. Much better. Almost irresistibly innocent and vulnerable right now.

He swallowed hard and walked to the dresser against the stone wall. There were three black-and-white framed snapshots of Cuyler and another young woman in full flapper regalia. He didn't like looking at her that way. He knew she'd been mortal when the photo had been taken. Vampires didn't show up in photographs.

But, honestly, he couldn't spot a single difference in her. Mischievous grin, sparkling black eyes, innocence and sex appeal all wrapped up in the most appealing package imaginable.

He turned from the photos to examine the books. There were at least a hundred of them lining the shelves that stood against the wall, and as he scanned the titles, he noted they were all high fantasies. Sword and sorcery stories, with knights and dragons and magic. She was really into that stuff.

He gave up on the bedroom, because no matter what he chose to investigate, he found his gaze drawn back to her again and again. He couldn't stay in that room with her. It was dangerous. God, could she weave spells even in her sleep?

He headed back downstairs into the dining room. He hadn't examined the books on the shelf there, but as he did, he noted they were the same. Fantasy stories about other worlds where good always won over evil. Ironic.

Then he spotted a few that were different. He pulled one out, frowning. He grinned as he scanned the blurb. It was about vampires, of all things! He slipped the book back into its place, wishing he had time to read a little of it, see what the latest fiction writer had dreamed up and whether it compared with the real McCoy. But he had to catch a few hours' sleep while he had the chance. From the looks of things, there wasn't much else he could do right now.

She writhed in her bed, knowing all of this was just a dream, but dying of sheer, tormented pleasure all the same. He was kissing her. His mouth was warm, wet, eager as it moved from her fingertips over her wrist, along the inside of her arm and into the hollow of her elbow. He tickled the sensitive skin there with his tongue, then moved higher, up to her shoulder, over it to her neck. She tipped her head back, closed her eyes, moaned softly. Her fingers buried themselves in his hair as he pushed the nightgown from her shoulders. Then he moved to her breasts, taking one in his hungry mouth, feeding on it like a starving man while he tormented the other with his fingers. His knee moved between her thighs, nudging them apart.

She touched his unclothed chest, raked her nails lightly over his nipples until he panted. Then her hand slipped lower, finding the smooth, rigid core of him, encircling it, squeezing, running her fingers over the tip.

He stared down at her, saying nothing, just watching. Then he closed his eyes, and she knew his need was almost painful. She opened to him, and he settled himself on top of her, nudged against her slick opening. She lifted her knees, desperate for him, for fulfillment. She needed this, needed him. No one else could fill the emptiness inside her. And she knew that he needed her just as desperately. Only she could soothe his wounded heart, erase the pain that darkened his soul, replace his anger and hatred with tenderness and love.

Her hands reached for him, to pull him to her…

But there was only air. Her eyes flew wide and she screamed in frustration, tugging at her hair. She punched the pillow, threw it, knocking half a dozen pewter figurines from the stand beside the bed, then pressed balled-up fists to her eyes and moaned like a wounded animal.

Her door banged open and he stood there, staring at her. His face was flushed, beads of sweat stood on his brow. His breathing was uneven. He looked at her, and when their eyes met she knew he'd had the same dream. Every image she remembered was reflected in his eyes. He must know it, because he averted them, as if that would stop her from seeing.

"You cried out. Are you okay?"

She drew three open-mouthed breaths, closed her eyes, and finally shook her head. Her palms rose to her face and she lowered her head. "I can't take this anymore, Ramsey. I can't. I'm gonna go stark raving-"

His weight made the mattress sink, and then his hands gripped her shoulders.

"You think I don't know? It's driving me to the edge, too, Cuyler."

She sobbed, and he drew her head to his chest. She felt the warm skin, the muscle, smelled him, wanted him. She slipped her arms around his waist and clung tighter.

"Dammit, Ramsey, why'd you come in here? You're only making it worse. She turned her face to his chest, pressed her mouth to his skin and tasted it. She kneaded his shoulders with her nails as her pulse thundered in her temples.

One of his hands lowered to her waist. The other crept over her nape, up into her hair, and he tipped her head back. Then his mouth came to hers. She parted her lips, and his tongue dug into her, stroking deep and pulling back in an erotic pattern. She fell backward on the bed, and he came down on top of her, feeding on her mouth, crushing her body to his. She felt his arousal pressing hard between her legs, and she arched against it.

Then he stiffened and rolled off her. Sitting on the edge of the bed with his back to her, he pushed both hands into his hair, clenching fistfuls of it, and swore in a voice rougher than tree bark.

"Damn you, Ramsey…" She rolled onto her side to face the other way and tried to stop the flow of frustrated tears.

"I can't. I can't do this."

"Then why did you-"

"I didn't mean to. Hell, Cuyler, I was still half-asleep, probably having the same dream you just had."

He got up and paced away from the bed, the front of his jeans poking out like a tent.

"This is crazy. It's crazy."

She blinked, sitting up and fighting the tears into submission. "Maybe if we just did it, the dreams would stop…"

He turned slowly to face her and his eyes were hard, cold. "No."

The finality in his tone cut to the quick, and for a second she thought she saw the reason. "You're afraid of me, aren't you? You're afraid I'll take more than just your body."

He faced her head-on, not flinching. "Wouldn't you?"

Cuyler closed her eyes, grated her teeth. As much as she wanted him, who was to say she wouldn't lose control of her deepest desires in the heights of passion?

Bracing her shoulders, she forced herself to be honest. "Maybe I would. But I'd never hurt you, Ramsey. You have to know that. I couldn't if I wanted to."

He searched her eyes for a long moment, and she felt as if her very soul were being scoured. "If you'd been capable of hurting me, I doubt I'd still be breathing. So I guess I have to believe that."

"Then why-"

"Look, I told you, I can't. It'd be unnatural for…" He stopped midsentence, maybe due to the shock and pain that must have shown on her face, or perhaps it was the involuntary cry she uttered. "That isn't what I meant. Wait-"

"Go to hell, Ramsey!" She was on her feet and through the bathroom door almost before he could blink. She slammed it so hard she loosened the hinges, then she turned the locks.

She didn't say a word to him when she came out, freshly showered, dressed in dark gray stirrup pants and a long, fuzzy, white sweater. She didn't have to say anything. He could see the hurt in her eyes. He felt like an assassin's bullet, like a cobra's venom. He felt like the lowest, meanest form of being in the universe for blurting what he had. Worst of all, he hadn't meant it. It had been his own voice of self-preservation trying to convince him to keep his hands off her. It had been desperation, searching for any excuse that would pull his hormones off the scent and tame his libido. Hell, he'd been holding himself back by believing she'd do him some kind of harm if he took her. But he hadn't believed it. Not really, and once his conscious mind admitted that, he'd had to come up with another reason to abstain from the erotic feast he imagined every time he looked at her.

Unnatural. He'd blurted it and she'd looked as if he'd just kicked her right in the gut. It hadn't been what he really thought. And that was kind of odd, when he considered it. Because it used to be what he really thought. When had his spin on things undergone such a radical change?

She plopped down onto the bed and leaned over to pull on slouchy white socks. He walked over and sat down beside her. The second his backside touched the mattress she shot to her feet as if she'd forgotten something in the bathroom.

"Cuyler, listen for a-" The whir of a battery-powered hair dryer cut him off.

Ramsey blew air through his teeth and went into the bathroom with her. She sat on the vanity's padded stool, hair flying all over the place as she whipped the dryer through it. There was no mirror. He wanted to say something. He just wasn't sure what. He didn't want to make amends, exactly. Hell, she was still his enemy. The fact that he was burning up inside for her didn't change that.

But he'd hurt her. And despite his years of learning that vampires had no feelings, he regretted it.

Opening the cabinet, for want of anything better to do, he found his kit right where she'd left it. He unwrapped a fresh needle and took out a color-coded strip. With a quick, practiced flick of his wrist, he poked the forefinger of his left hand, squeezed a fat drop of blood out, and smeared it on the strip.

Then he watched for the color change. He was moving like a robot, doing the things that came automatically, without really giving any thought to them.

He felt her gaze on him, heard the hair dryer flick off, and looked at her.

"Are you sick?" If her eyes got any bigger, they'd swallow him whole.

"Just checking the blood sugar." He glanced at the strip again.

"And how is it?"

"Fine." He put the used needle and strip back into the container. He'd dispose of them properly when he got back to civilization.

"Do you have to do that every day?"

He nodded as he held his finger under the cold water tap for a second or two.

"Has it ever been out of whack?"

"My sugar level? No. It's always within normal range. I have a good doctor who keeps me in great shape. Hell, I'm the healthiest diabetic I know."

Her eyes narrowed to slits as she studied him. "And who is this Marcus Welby of the nineties?"

"Just one of the best hematologists in the country."

"Don't tell me. A DPI staffer."

Ramsey shrugged, wondering about her line of questioning, but relieved she'd apparently forgotten his earlier slam. "Yup. One of the perks of being an agent."

"Kind of balances out against having to work around us animals, doesn't it?" She got up and brushed past him, going back into the bedroom, yanking a pair of huge, fluffy slippers with unicorn heads on them from under her bed.

"Look, I didn't mean that."

"Sure you didn't." She lifted one foot, put a slipper on it. "Ramsey, if you didn't mean it, then why are we both dressed and vertical?" She never even looked at him. Just hopped on the slippered foot and dressed the other one.

It came out before he could order it not to. "Because I know damned well it'll do me in. Cuyler, once wouldn't be enough. I'd be addicted, and I know, as sure as I'm standing here, that I could OD on you. You really think I could take you to bed and then take you in? If I had you once, I…"

He glanced up at her, saw her blinking rapidly, staring at him in something like childish wonder. "What?"

Her lips curved upward a little. "I just didn't know you wanted me that much."

And she shouldn't have known. It didn't do any good tipping his hand to the enemy. But he'd been honest, if nothing else. He was determined to take her in, and he knew he couldn't do it if he ever made love to her. He lowered his head, refusing to meet her eyes. "I didn't say I did-"

"Sure you did, Ramsey. Don't try and take it back now." She took his arm in her warm hand and tugged him along beside her back into the bathroom. "Come on downstairs after you've had your shower," she told him softly. "I'll get you some breakfast I don't want you getting sick."

Then she left him. And he had to wonder when he'd stopped seeing her as something abnormal, something frightening, and started seeing her as a woman with a few special needs. One of which he'd really love to fulfill for her.


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