Dark Legend (Dark #8)

Chapter 14


"The couple will arrive today, Gabriel," Francesca said. She was sitting at her desk, rather absently weaving together abstract designs. They looked a jumble of materials to Gabriel, but he could see how her fingers traced each swatch lovingly, even though her mind didn't seem to be on what she was doing.

Gabriel crossed the room to stand behind her, wanting the closeness of her slender body. "I am well aware of their arrival, Francesca. What is it you are trying not to say to me?" There was a hint of laughter in the richness of his voice. He was her lifemate, he had only to share her mind to uncover her worry.

Francesca took a deep breath. Her fingers sought a piece of cloth and unconsciously began to rub her thumb over it. "Aidan has requested we do not take their blood."

There was a small telling silence. The air was heavy with the weight of his disapproval. Francesca understood completely. There were only a handful of humans who knew of the existence of the Carpathian people. Gabriel was an ancient, a hunter unsurpassed by any, other than his twin. He had remained alive by concealing his sleeping chambers, by blending in among the human race. Carpathians could easily control the behavior of humans they took blood from, yet Aidan had asked that they not do such a thing. If the human had knowledge of their race and lived in their home, he held power in his hands. To Gabriel it was putting the lives of his family at risk, trusting two people he did not know.

"What do you say to this strange request?"

Francesca felt her heart leap. "Gabriel." She breathed his name silently, held it to her. She had been her own person for so long, making her own decisions just as Gabriel had, yet he remembered it was important to consider her opinion as if she was his partner.

Gabriel found a smile curving his mouth. Francesca was his partner, his other half. Her opinion counted where no other ever could. He was extraordinarily proud of her achievements. She didn't seem to realize just how much she meant to him. That astonished him. She needed to see herself through his eyes. In his opinion she was without equal in the world. "Of course I value your opinion. You may not have mixed with our people all these centuries, but you have kept up with the news. You managed to hide your identity from those in power and from the evil ones continuously searching for females of our race. I believe you are better equipped to judge this strange request than I, who have been buried in the earth for nearly two centuries."

"I have heard it said that Aidan does not control this family, has never used them to feed, that he respects them greatly. They have helped out other members of our race in times of need. Not all of them are privy to our secrets, but those who know have never betrayed us. If Aidan has recommended two of his human family to aid us, then I believe he must trust them implicitly. He has said this is the son of his housekeeper. This man has known of our people for some time. I believe his wife was told only recently, but she has proved to be loyal. Her husband has assured Aidan that she is trustworthy."

"I do not like the idea of the wife not being under our control," Gabriel admitted. "Obviously the husband has known for many years and has proved his loyalty, but this woman is a huge danger when we are under siege. She could turn into a liability."

Francesca nodded. "What you say is very true, especially now, when Lucian is here and hunting us, but I think we can monitor her thoughts well enough to control the situation. If we believe there is danger, we will have time to contact Aidan."

Gabriel's eyebrow shot up and Francesca turned away from him to hide her sudden amusement. Gabriel did not like her idea of consulting Aidan Savage over any matter, let alone one within his own household. It was all she could do to keep her face straight.

Gabriel reached out lazily and held her shoulder. "Are you laughing at me?" he inquired very softly. His voice purred with menace.

"Would I do that?" Her eyes were so dark they were black, and they glinted with laughter.

He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her right into the shelter of his body. "Yes, you would do that," he whispered, bending his dark head to the invitation of her neck. His mouth skimmed over her satin-soft skin. "Are you so busy with these people, you have no time at all to discuss my ailments? I need healing."

She reached up behind herself and circled his neck with her arm, leaning into him so that his every muscle was imprinted on her slender body. She found his mouth with hers. The earth seemed to stand still beneath her feet. For one heart-stopping moment breath ceased to be important. Their hearts had a single beat, their minds were fully merged, their souls one. Francesca melted into him, her body soft and pliant. He could do that with his kiss. Send molten lava coursing through her blood and raise her temperature several degrees in seconds.

"We have a child," she murmured softly against his throat. "She's moving toward us right at this moment."

Gabriel groaned softly. He had heard the soft pad of Skyler's small feet as she explored their home. At the first rising, Gabriel had hunted prey, feeding well for himself and for Francesca. They had much to do, seeing that Skyler was settled in her new home. Gabriel approved of the bodyguard Francesca had summoned. Jarrod Silva was a man of almost thirty who looked very capable. He wasn't the least bit intrusive and Gabriel easily read his desire to do a good job. Gabriel reinforced Jarrod's determination with a subtle compulsion and was satisfied the man would protect Skyler should the need arise.

Francesca turned all the way around in his arms, to press her slender body along the length of his. He laughed softly, holding her close. "I look at you, Francesca," he whispered softly as he framed her face with his hands, "and I cannot believe my good fortune. You are my life, my very breath. I hope that you always know that and carry the knowledge in your heart. You make the torment I endured all those centuries worthwhile."

Francesca felt tears gathering behind her eyes. She sensed his utter sincerity, the intensity of his emotion. Certainly he wanted her body, she could feel the heat and need in him rising like the inevitable tide, but even stronger and more intense was the love he felt for her. She told herself to breathe, just to take a breath and inhale his scent.

A soft sound had both of them turning their heads. "I love that about the two of you," Skyler announced. She was moving slowly, carefully, her small body still battered physically. "The way you look at each other. I've never seen anyone else do that. You look at each other with such love. It shines between you."

Francesca immediately held out her hand to the girl. "And you wonder if there's any room for you."

Skyler looked very fragile. Her skin was pale, almost translucent, her eyes enormous in her delicate face. She looked far younger than her fourteen years until one looked at her too-old eyes.

Skyler ducked her head, her long lashes veiling the expression in her eyes, but she moved forward and took the outstretched hand. Francesca drew her gently to them. Gabriel covered their hands with his. "We have enough love to go around, Skyler," he replied gently. "More than enough. We are family, the three of us, and we always will be, no matter what the future brings. It starts here, with us. Francesca has lived her life alone, as I have. You also. We do this together, helping one another." His voice was beautiful and compelling. He could command the heavens and make the very earth rise up beneath their feet. He made Skyler a believer without any hidden compulsion.

Francesca smoothed back the ragged ends of Skyler's hair. "Our housekeepers arrive today. They will be living with us on a permanent basis, we hope. Gabriel and I have many duties to perform and for a brief time during the daylight hours we will not be home and it will be difficult to reach us. I want someone I trust with you at all times so you feel safe. But you remember this is your home. If something is done or said that you do not like, I expect you to convey it to me so we can deal with it together. If you have fears or wish to change something in the household, please say so. Your happiness and comfort matter to us. It is no bother. We want to do things for you."

"My room is beautiful, Francesca," Skyler said, her voice still so soft and thin it made Francesca want to gather the girl into her arms. "Thank you for going to so much trouble for me."

"It was fun. Shopping together will be fun." Francesca laughed softly. "You turned pale at the thought of shopping. Most girls would be thrilled. I finally get my daughter, or younger sister, whichever label you prefer, and you do not want to shop for clothes."

Skyler brought a trembling hand to the thin scar on her face and rubbed it self-consciously. "I haven't been out in public in a long time," she confessed.

Gabriel took her hand gently and brought the worst scar to his cheek. "When you decide you are up to it, we will all go and look at the strange people out there together. It will be much more fun that way."

Skyler stared up at him for a long time, her eyes moving over his harsh, sensual features, studying every inch of his face. Her smile was very slow in coming, but when it did, it lit up her eyes. "I think you are almost as afraid of all those people as I am, just not in the same way."

Francesca laughed at Gabriel's wry expression, the joyful sound filling their home with love. She could do that, Gabriel thought. Francesca could fill up every inch of that huge house with love. Each moment spent in her company only deepened his feelings for her. There was so much light spilling out of her it fascinated him. Gabriel had lived in a world of darkness, of violence, for so long, he could only stare in awe at Francesca. His black eyes met Skyler's dove-gray gaze and they shared a small smile of mutual understanding. She felt the same way. Both of them wanted to bask in Francesca's healing light for all eternity.

Francesca slipped her arm around Skyler's waist, a gesture so natural to her, Skyler didn't think to pull away. "We won't have to worry about going out in public until you're ready, honey. I just want you to feel comfortable and safe here at home. I think you'll like our new housekeepers."

Skyler made a face and exchanged another quick look with Gabriel. He was making the same face. Francesca laughed at them. "I can see how it's going to be. You two are a couple of hermits. There will be no ganging up against Francesca, you two. Skyler, you like your bodyguard, don't you?"

Skyler shrugged. "I try never to look at him."

"Well, you should. He's quite nice-looking," Francesca replied.

"That will be enough of that," Gabriel interrupted. "You do not need to find any man good-looking other than me."

Francesca smiled very sweetly. "But then, I don't remember ever saying you were good-looking."

Skyler found herself laughing. For one moment in time, she forgot. She forgot the scars on her body. She forgot the scars on her mind and soul. She was a young girl enjoying a moment of happiness with two people she was growing fond of. It was nearly impossible to believe she could trust them so quickly, but she did. "Are you going to let her get away with that?" she asked Gabriel, her eyes sparkling. "You are good-looking and she's noticed. I know she has."

He shackled Francesca's wrist when she would have run, and dragged her close. "I am going to hypnotize her and plant all kinds of suggestions. You can help me, Skyler. I think she should revere me."

"While you're making suggestions, you can tell her no one else needs to take care of me, I only want her," Skyler said softly, more than half serious.

"No one else has authority over you, Skyler. These people are coming to help you during the hours I'm away," Francesca replied gently. "They are doing us a tremendous favor so that you will not be alone." Her voice was musical and seeped into Skyler's mind with a healing compulsion.

Gabriel made a rude noise, drawing Skyler's attention to him. "I noticed she used the words 'no one else.' Did you catch that, Skyler? Is she excluding me? I think I'm the authority in this house."

"You're not even good-looking," Skyler pointed out, laughing despite the seriousness of the situation.

"Oh, so now you need to be hypnotized, too," he threatened. "I should have known you women would stick together. Just remember this when you find yourself barking like a dog in your room and wondering how you got there."

"I'd be wondering why I was barking," Francesca contradicted. "The barking would be a bit much."

"I don't know," Skyler mused. "If the housekeeper came in and found us all barking like dogs, she'd hightail it out of here and I'd be very happy."

"You will give them a chance, won't you, Skyler?" Francesca asked gently.

Skyler sighed softly. "I guess I don't have much choice. But I know I could stay by myself. I'm not a baby and I've spent most of my life alone."

"You have a point," Gabriel acknowledged. "Please do not misunderstand, Skyler. Francesca and I want you to have a housekeeper because we want to ensure your comfort and safety, not because we don't trust you. We are wealthy, little one, and you may become a target because of that. Francesca would spend an inordinate amount of time worrying if we did not adequately protect you."

Skyler's eyes were fixed on his face while she determined whether he was telling her the truth. Eventually she nodded. "I didn't think of that. I wouldn't want either of you to worry about me."

Francesca's touch was soothing, as always. "Try it for a while, honey. If they don't work out, we'll find someone you like."

Skyler made an attempt to ease the concern on Francesca's expressive face. "Aren't you worried about spoiling me just a little?"

At once Francesca smiled, her dark eyes brilliant with laughter. "I hope that we do. It will be such fun."

"You don't know the first thing about parenting, do you?" Skyler chastised. "I'm going to have to be the one to run things around here.".

The doorbell cut off any further byplay between them, wiping the smile from Skyler's face. Francesca immediately circled the young woman's too-thin shoulders with a comforting arm. "They're here, aren't they?" Skyler whispered it, as if she were afraid to speak any louder. Francesca could feel her small body trembling.

She glanced at Gabriel, clearly worried.

"Perhaps we are pushing her too hard, expecting her to accept too many people in her life too fast." "She must be protected, my love. Our only other choice is to command her acceptance and we both agreed we would not do so unless necessary."

Gabriel reached over to take Skyler's hand. "I do not like strangers in my home either, little one. Perhaps you will be my strength while Francesca performs her magic. If neither of us feels anything wrong with these people, we will attempt to integrate them into our home. Is that a deal?"

"What if I don't like the man?" Skyler asked, voicing her worst fear.

"Understand this, Skyler," he said softly. "If you ever have misgivings about any man, myself included, whether you have concrete reason or not, go directly to Francesca. Do not think about it, or worry about it, or hesitate in any way. Tell her immediately. Promise me you will do that." His voice was magical, so gentle and perfect it was impossible to resist.

Skyler stood still for a moment before she nodded solemnly. She found herself gripping Gabriel's and Francesca's hands as they moved through the house to the front door. Somehow, physical contact with them made her calmer. There was something extremely soothing about the couple. When she was between them, their peace seemed to fill her up and keep her fears at bay. She couldn't remember a time in her life when she wasn't afraid. Not until Francesca had found her huddled inside her own mind and had swamped her with waves of warmth and reassurance. Even the fact that Gabriel was a very overwhelming male didn't bother her. She knew he was powerful, she could feel it when she was close to him, yet Skyler found Gabriel's power comforting. He had given her his word and she believed him. She believed in both of them. They were determined to make her whole again, make her understand love and kindness and what true safety was.

Above Skyler's bent head, Francesca's black gaze met Gabriel's dark one in mute understanding. Both of them easily read the teenager's thoughts. Gabriel smiled his reassurance, wishing he could take Francesca into his arms and hold her close within the shelter of his heart and his mind, in the shelter of his body.

She always thought of others, always wanted to help those in need, and her compassion was slowly rubbing off on him.

"I love you very much, Francesca."

The emotion was so intense, the words spilled over from his mind, into hers.

Francesca felt the color rising in her cheeks. Gabriel could make her feel like a teenager, her heart fluttering at the brush of his hand. Sometimes he allowed himself to be so vulnerable. It was a very unusual trait in a Carpathian male.

His soft laughter echoed in her mind as she opened the front door.

"You do not know the first thing about the Carpathian male."

Francesca gave him her haughtiest look when what she really wanted was to fling herself into his arms. Instead she smiled a welcome at the couple standing on her porch. "Please come in. Aidan sent word to expect you. It's very kind of you to help us out when we are in such great need."

The man stepped forward with an easy smile and held out his hand deliberately to Gabriel. "I'm Santino and this is my wife, Brasilia." He was clearly at ease despite the fact that he suspected what they were. He was completely unafraid to have Gabriel "read" him, and Gabriel liked him for that.

Santino was a good man with a sense of duty and a determination to do whatever it took to protect his family. He had been through sieges with vampires and their minions and knew the danger and what it took for the hunters to protect humans and Carpathians. He had willingly joined the ranks of the fighters by accepting the responsibility that came with knowing that vampires really existed. He had a quiet confidence about him, an air of capability that Gabriel liked immediately.

Gabriel could almost see Francesca's inward sigh of relief. Skyler was very quiet during the introductions, her face very pale, but both Santino and his wife were extraordinarily gentle with her. Drusilla was a small woman, with much the same build as Skyler, only rounder and soft-looking. She was more nervous than her husband, but neither Carpathian could detect anything other than sincere compassion for Skyler and determination to be of assistance to a child in distress. Francesca liked her immediately for that. Skyler obviously read only good in the couple because she began to slowly relax, loosening her death grip on their hands and even managing a faint smile once or twice in the course of the conversation.

Francesca showed the couple around the house, purposely excluding Skyler's bedroom. It was important the young woman felt she had her own privacy, a sanctuary no one would intrude on without permission or invitation. Drusilla was particularly happy with the kitchen and garden area. Santino was unhappy with the easy access from the street. To him protecting the household was a logistical nightmare. Both spoke French fluently with a distinctly American accent.

It was impossible not to feel at home and at peace in Francesca's home. There was something soothing and tranquil about the house. Drusilla smiled at her husband, suddenly happy with the decision they had made. It had not been an easy one. Their two children were in college and they were ready for a change, but coming to France had not been in their plans at all.

It had been the thought of the little girl so terribly abused and in need of someone to love and care for her that had tipped their decision in favor of the move. Still, it had been particular frightening for Drusilla. She loved Aidan and his wife Alexandria, but she had known them a long time. The things her husband had told her were so far-fetched, she was uncertain whether she believed them or not. It was true she had never seen either Aidan or his wife during the day, although her memories seemed to be vague. Before Santino had told her the truth about Aidan and Alexandria, she would have sworn she often had been with them during all hours of the day. Now she knew she hadn't.

She looked at Francesca closely, sneaking quick looks in an attempt to judge her personality. Would she be easy to work for? Drusilla wanted to make this house feel like her own home. She wanted to love poor little Skyler like a daughter. And she wanted to love Francesca and Gabriel as she did Aidan and Alexandria. Santino's parents had worked for Aidan all of their married lives. Santino had grown up in Aidan's home and loved him very much. She knew her husband's loyalty ran deep, a bond almost as strong as her marriage. Maybe stronger. She sighed and looked at her husband. Santino. She loved him so much. And she was very proud of him.

Drusilla caught Francesca smiling at her and hastily gave her a tentative smile in return. "I really love the house," she said, hoping to break the ice.

Francesca's smile reached her magnificent eyes. "Thank you, I've lived here a long time and it feels like home to me. I'm hoping it will feel the same to you. If the rooms aren't to your liking upstairs, or you need anything for the kitchen, please say so. It is, after all, entirely your domain."

"I can cook," Skyler said suddenly, surprising everyone. She had been very quiet, simply watching the others as they moved through the house. She stayed very close to Francesca and sometimes reached out and touched her arm as if to assure herself she wasn't alone.

"That's wonderful," Drusilla said immediately. "You'll have to show me all your favorite recipes. I know what Santino likes. Just about anything edible."

A ghost of a smile appeared on Skyler's face, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. This time she curled her fingers in Francesca's. Even as she did so, a strange look crossed her face. She leaned toward Francesca. "You asked me to tell you when the other was here. I can feel him right now."

Francesca went very still, her fingers forming a loose chain around Skyler's tiny wrist. "Do not look at anyone in the house, honey, just concentrate on something else to keep your mind occupied."

"Gabriel, he is with Skyler now. I am afraid he will use her to harm someone. Skyler couldn't bear that." "Do not enter her mind while he dwells there. I will do so and see what it is Lucian is seeking. More than likely it is information and mischief. He does like his games."

Gabriel smiled his reassurance at Skyler even while he sent a silent signal to Francesca to keep the conversation going with Santino and Drusilla.

"Be careful, Gabriel,"

Francesca said worriedly. She was very afraid of Lucian. She knew his power; knew he was a force unlike any other.

"You believe he will use Skyler against me, but I fear he will use her against you."

Gabriel's only answer was a flood of warmth in her mind. "Come with me, sweetheart," he instructed very gently and took Skyler's hand in his, walking her to the den. As he passed the bookshelf, he handed her a book he had taken at random. "I am certain you will enjoy this very much."

Skyler took the book without question and opened it. She read in earnest, but even as she did so, a small smile was tugging at the corners of her soft mouth. "All this cloak-and-dagger stuff is interesting, isn't it, Gabe?"

Gabriel's black eyebrows shot up nearly to the ceiling. In all the long centuries of his existence, no one had ever thought to call him Gabe. "More respect, young lady, and less of this Gabe stuff." He merged his mind with hers quickly, not giving her time to think about it or tip off Lucian that he was joining them. Immediately he could feel the surge of power that signaled his twin's presence in the girl's young mind.

Lucian felt him at once. "

A little crowded for the two of us." "When were you reduced to using children to get your way? I thought perhaps you were strong enough to meet me face-to-face, but I see that your power has been slowly dwindling away."

Gabriel spoke in a soft, pure voice, his tone hypnotic.

"You persist in taunting me. It has never worked, Gabriel. I doubt if I will be driven to accept your challenge. While you grow soft in that house surrounded by women, I am building a kingdom to rule."

Gabriel sighed softly.

"You sound like a child, Lucian. You would be bored ruling a kingdom. Find a monastery and read some books." "I have already done just that."

Before Gabriel had a chance to "see" through Lucian's eyes and give him an idea where his twin might be, he felt the withdrawal. Lucian was gone from Skyler's mind that fast.

Skyler looked up at him, "He knew you gave me the book. He quoted from it and told me to look on page eighty-two. I looked up the quote and he'd repeated it word for word." She sounded awed by the feat.

"Lucian is a genius, Skyler, and he has a photographic memory."

She turned her wide eyes on him, old eyes. "You have one, too, don't you?"

Gabriel nodded. "Yes, I do, honey. Lucian is my brother, my twin. He likes to play games, not always nice ones. I do not want you to be afraid, but he has power and sometimes misuses it."

Skyler shook her head and handed Gabriel the book. "I'm not afraid of him, not at all. Why did Francesca tell me not to look at anybody?" She asked the question to see if Gabriel would tell her the truth.

His white teeth flashed and for the first time Skyler felt a small shiver run down her spine. She could see the predator in him clearly for a moment. "Lucian can do more than talk to you mind to mind. He is telepathic, but he also has other powers. He can use you if he is merged with you."

She hadn't expected this answer. Skyler stopped walking and stared up at him. "You really will answer my questions, won't you? No matter how bad it is, you will tell me the truth."

"What were you expecting, Skyler?"

She shrugged. "Most people lie to kids if the truth is difficult." Skyler ducked her head so that her hair spilled around her face. "I shouldn't have tested you like that. I suspected it was something like that."

"Is it too far-fetched for you to believe?" Gabriel asked curiously.

"Isn't it far-fetched that you and Francesca can talk to me in my mind? Isn't it far-fetched that I can talk to animals?"

He raised one eyebrow. "Can you?"

She nodded without looking at him, half afraid he might not believe her.

"I knew you had a built in barometer for trouble, but I did not realize how gifted you really are. We will have to work on that particular talent. Do you like animals?"

"Better than people," she admitted with a little grin. "Much better than people. I relate to animals. They have a code they live by. An honorable code."

"Some people have codes, sweetheart. Some people actually have honor and integrity. You should know that; you are one of them."

"Can you really help me speak to animals better?"

"I can help you develop what talent you have," he answered. "And it is very possible Francesca and I might be able to teach you to shield yourself from unwanted emotions when you are with other people."

"I'd like that." Her small teeth tugged at her lower lip.

"You have a different accent. It's nice. I like the way you twist your words."

"How did you learn to speak both English and French?"

Skyler shrugged again. "Languages are easy for me to pick up. I don't really know why, but I think my mother was the same way."

"She must have been a remarkable woman. I wish that I had known her, Skyler."

"Thank you," Skyler murmured. Her voice was soft and sweet, reminiscent of Francesca's. She did a peculiar little skip toward the stairs.

Gabriel moved through the house, silently listening to the sounds of the humans. It wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as he'd thought it would be sharing the same dwelling. He had touched Santino's mind and found him to be a loyal, courageous man. He had never spent much time among humans, could call none his friend. But Santino was solid and had a good heart. There was no hidden agenda in the man. And his wife was sweet and good-natured. She was uncertain whether or not she believed the things Santino had told her about Aidan and his lifemate, but she was willing to live with Santino anywhere he chose and she was determined to make his home a happy one.

Gabriel found himself smiling as he moved through the large house. The noises were becoming familiar, almost comforting. The different scents that filled the air made the house all the more homey.

"You like them." Francesca made it a statement as she slipped up behind Gabriel to circle his narrow waist with her arms. She rested her head against his broad back.

"Yes, I like them," he conceded. "I do not know whether the woman will run screaming from the house if a vampire should actually attack us here."

"I don't know if I'd run screaming from the house," Francesca laughed. "Skyler has gone to bed. She's very tired. I sat with her for a few moments to be sure she was healing. But you know, my love, I'm incredibly hungry." There was a soft suggestion in her voice.

He placed his larger hand over hers. "Again? Just how often am I going to have to feed you?"

Her hands moved over his body, shaping his muscles, exploring the most intriguing places. "It isn't just for me," she reminded him. "In any case, you know perfectly well that isn't the hunger I'm talking about."

He turned around to pull her into his arms, cradling her as if her weight was no more than a child's. His black eyes burned over her face with such hunger and intensity it took her breath away. "And what kind of hunger would that be, Francesca? I love when you ask me for what you want."

"Gabriel." She breathed his name with a kind of wonder, drew a caressing hand along his stubborn jaw. Her Gabriel. Her legend. So incredibly sexy. "I am not asking, lifemate, I am demanding. My body hungers for yours. I'm burning inside and only you know how to satisfy me."

They were moving quickly through the corridor to their bedchamber. "I can do no other than please you."

"Hmmm, I think I wish to please you. I want you in my mouth, I want to see your face as you make love to me, I want to feel you hard and hot and so much a part of me I will never, never be able to get you out."

His mouth found hers, rocking her world while clothes littered the corridor. Already his fingers were deep inside her wet, welcoming core, pushing deep, stroking the heat, while he kissed her until she didn't know where he started and she left off. In the chamber she pushed at the wall of his chest, insisting on her own right to taste him, to tease him, her mind merged with his to share the experience, to allow him the heady satisfaction of knowing she wanted to drive him over the edge of control. Gabriel, who was always so controlled, was thrusting helplessly, a harsh cry torn from his throat as she tasted his essence. He pulled her into his arms and settled her onto his lap, filling her completely, his hands guiding her hips while he watched her slow, lazy ride, her hair covering her body so that her breasts could peek provocatively at him.

"You are the most beautiful, sexy woman on earth," he whispered softly. He had absolutely no intention of sleeping or allowing Francesca to go to sleep for a long, long while.

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