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A Fistful of Charms
A Fistful of Charms

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A Fistful of Charms

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2019
Добавлена: 29.06.2019
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My eyes slid shut at the concern in his voice. He had wanted to come over last night, and I appreciated that he hadn’t when I asked him not to. “I’m fine,” I said, toying with the idea of telling him that they hadn’t played fair, five alphas binding into a round to give their bitch the advantage in an already unfair fight. But it was so unusual an occurrence that I was afraid he would say I was making it up—and it sounded too much like whining to me.

Instead, I leaned my head against him and took in his scent: a mix of dark leather and silk. He was wearing a black cotton tee that pulled tight across his shoulders, but the aroma of silk and leather remained. With it was the dusky hint of incense that lingered around vampires. I hadn’t identified that particular scent with vamps until I started living with Ivy, but now I could probably tell with my eyes closed whether it was Ivy or Kisten in the room.

Either scent was delicious, and I breathed deeply, willingly taking in the vampire pheromones he was unconsciously giving off to soothe and relax me. It was an adaptation to make finding a willing source of blood easier. Not that Kisten and I were sharing blood. Not me. Not this little witch. No how or ever. The risk of becoming a plaything—my will given to a vampire—was too real. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the mild buzz.

I could hear his heartbeat, and I lingered while his fingers traced a yummy path to the small of my back. My forehead came to his shoulder, lower than usual, since he was in boots and I was in socks. His exhaled breath stirred my hair. The sensation brought my head up, and I met his blue eyes squarely from under his long bangs, reading in the normalsized pupils that he had slaked his blood lust before coming over. He usually did.

“I like it when you smell like dirt,” he said, his eyes half-lidded and sly.

Smiling, I ran a fingernail down his rough cheek. He had a small nose and chin, and he usually kept a day’s worth of stubble to give himself a more rugged cast. His hair was dyed blond to match his almost-beard, though I had yet to catch him with darker roots or a charm to color it. “What’s the real color of your hair?” I asked impulsively as I played with the wispy strands at the nape of his neck.

He pulled away, blinking in surprise. Two slices of toast popped up, and he shifted to the counter, bringing out a plate and setting the bread on it. “Ah, it’s blond.”

My eyes roved over his very nice backside, and I slumped against the counter, enjoying the view. The rims of his ears were a faint red, and I pushed into motion, leaning to run a finger along his torn ear where someone had ripped out one of the twin diamond studs. His right ear still held both studs, and I wondered who had the missing earring. I would have asked, but was afraid he’d tell me Ivy had it. “You dye your hair,” I insisted. “What color is it, really?”

He wouldn’t look at me while he opened the cream cheese and spread a thick layer on the toast. “It’s sort of brown. Why? Is that a problem?”

Dropping my hands to his waist, I turned him around. Pinning him to the counter, I leaned until our hips touched. “God, no. I just wondered.”

“Oh.” His hands went about my waist, and clearly relieved, he inhaled slowly, seeming to take my very soul in with him. A spark of desire jumped from him to me, going right to my core to catch my breath. I knew he was scenting me, reading in the slight tension of my body pressing into him my willingness to turn our embrace into something more. I knew our natural scents mixing was a potent blood aphrodisiac. I also knew Ivy would kill him if he broke my skin even by accident. But this was all old news, and I’d be a fool if I didn’t admit that part of Kisten’s allure was the mix of deep intimacy he offered along with the potential danger of him losing control and biting me. Yeah, I was a stupid, trusting girl, but it made for great sex.

And Kisten is very careful, I thought, pulling coyly away at the low growl rumbling up through him. He wouldn’t have come over if he wasn’t sure of his control, and I knew he teased himself with my off-limits blood as much as I tested my will against the supposedly better-than-sex carnal ecstasy that a vampire bite could bring.

“I see you’re making friends with your neighbors,” he said, and I eased from him to reopen the window and wash my hands. If I didn’t stop, Ivy would sense it and be out here glowering like a shunned lover. We were roommates and business partners—that was all—but she made no attempt to hide that she wanted more. She had asked me once to be her scion, which was sort of a number-one helper and wielder of vampire power when the vamp in question was limited by sunlight. She wasn’t dead yet and didn’t need a scion, but Ivy was a planner.

The position was an honor, but I didn’t want it, even though, as a witch, I couldn’t be turned vampire. It involved an exchange of blood to cement ties, which was why I had flatly refused her the first time she’d asked, but after meeting her old high school roommate, I thought she was after more than that. Kisten could separate the drive for blood from the desire for sex, but Ivy couldn’t, and the sensations a blood-lusting vamp pulled from me were too much like sexual hunger for me to think otherwise. Ivy’s offer that I become her scion was also an offer to be her lover, and as much as I cared for her, I wasn’t wired that way.

I turned off the tap and dried my hands on the dish towel, frowning at the butterfly wings drifting closer to the garden. “You could have helped me out there,” I said sourly.

“Me?” Blue eyes glinting in amusement, he set the orange juice on the counter and shut the fridge. “Rachel, honey, I love you and all, but what do you think I could have done?”

Tossing the dish towel to the counter, I turned my back on him, crossing my arms while I gazed out at the cautiously approaching wings. He was right, but that didn’t mean I had to like it. I was lucky Matalina had shown up, and I wondered again what she wanted.

A warm breath touched my shoulder and I jerked, realizing Kisten had snuck up on me, unheard with his vamp-soft steps. “I would have come out if you needed it,” he said, his rumbly voice going right into me. “But they were only garden fairies.”

“Yeah,” I said with a sigh. “I suppose.” Turning, my eyes went over his shoulder to the three books on the table. “Are those for me?” I asked, wanting to change the subject.

Kisten reached past me to pluck an early daisy from the vase beside Mr. Fish. “Piscary had them behind glass. They look like spell books to me. I thought you might find something to Were in them. They’re yours if you want them. I’m not going to tell him where they went.”

His eyes were eager for the chance to help me, but I didn’t move, standing beside the sink with my arms crossed, eyeing them. If the master vampire had them under glass, then they were probably older than the sun. Even worse, they had the look of demon magic, making them useless since only demons could work it. Generally.

Uncrossing my arms, I considered them again. Maybe there was something I could use. “Thanks,” I said, moving to touch the top book and stifling a shudder when I felt a slight sponginess, as if my aura had gone from liquid to syrup. My torn skin tingled, and I wiped my hand on my jeans. “You won’t get in trouble?”

The faint tightening of his jaw was the only sign of his nervousness. “You mean in more trouble than trying to kill him?” he said, flicking his long bangs from his eyes.

I gave him a sick smile. “I see your point.” I went to get myself a cup of coffee while Kisten poured a small glass of orange juice and set it on a tray he pulled from behind the microwave. The plate of toast went on it, shortly followed by the daisy he’d taken from the windowsill. I watched, my curiosity growing when he gave me a sideways smile to show his sharp canines and hustled into the hallway with it all. Okay, so it wasn’t for me.

Leaning against the counter, I sipped my coffee and listened to a door creak open. Kisten’s voice called out cheerfully, “Good afternoon, Ivy. Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey!”

“Shove it, Kist,” came Ivy’s slurred mumble. “Hey!” she cried louder. “Don’t open those! What the hell are you doing?”

A smile curved over my face and I snickered, taking my coffee and sitting at the table.

“There’s my girl,” Kisten coaxed. “Sit up. Take the damn tray before I spill the coffee.”

“It’s Saturday,” she snarled. “What are you doing here so early?”

As I listened to Kisten’s soothing voice rise and fall in an unrecognizable patter, I wondered what was going on. From families of wealth, Kisten and Ivy had grown up together, tried the cohabitation thing, and parted as friends. Rumor had it Piscary planned for them to get together and have a passel of children to carry on his living-vamp line before one of them died. I was no expert in relationships, but even I could tell that wasn’t going to happen. Kisten cared deeply for Ivy, and she for him, but seeing them together always gave me the feeling of a close brother/sister relationship. Even so, this breakfast in bed thing was unusual.

“Watch the coffee!” Kisten exclaimed, shortly followed by Ivy’s yelp.

“You aren’t helping. Get out of my room!” she snarled, her gray-silk voice harsh.

“Shall I lay out your clothes, love?” Kisten said, his fake British accent on full and laughter in his voice. “I adore that pink skirt you wore all last fall. Why don’t you wear that anymore?”

“Get out!” she exclaimed, and I heard something hit the wall.

“Pancakes tomorrow?”

“Get the hell out of my room!”

The door clicked shut, and I met Kisten’s grin with my own when he came in and went to the coffeemaker. “Lose a bet?” I guessed, and he nodded, his thin eyebrows high. I pushed out a chair kitty-corner from me with my foot and he settled in with his mug, his long legs going out to encircle mine under the corner of the table.

“I said you could go on a run with David and come home without turning it into a slugfest. She said you couldn’t.” He reached for the sugar bowl and dumped two spoonfuls in.

“Thanks,” I said, glad he had bet against her.

“I lost on purpose,” he said, crushing my vindication before it had taken its first breath.

“Thanks a lot,” I amended, pulling my feet from between his.

Setting his mug down, he leaned forward and took my hands in his. “Stop it, Rachel. How else could I find an excuse to come over here every morning for a week?”

I couldn’t be mad at him now, so I smiled, dropping my gaze to our twined hands, mine thin and pale beside his tan, masculine fingers. It was nice seeing them there together like that. The past four months he had not lavished attention on me, but rather was there and available whenever the mood struck either of us.

He was incredibly busy running Piscary’s affairs now that the undead master vampire was in jail—thanks to me—and I was occupied with my end of Ivy’s and my runner firm, Vampiric Charms. As a result, Kisten and I spent spontaneous snips of intense time together that I found both extremely satisfying and curiously freeing. Our brief, nearly daily conversations over coffee or dinner were more enjoyable and reassuring than a three-day weekend backpacking in the Adirondacks dodging weekend-warrior Weres and slapping mosquitoes.

He felt no jealousy about the time I spent pursuing my career, and I felt only relief that he slaked his blood lust elsewhere—it was a part of him I was ignoring until I found a way to deal with it. There were problems brewing in our future, as blood-chaste witches and living vampires were not known for making long-term commitments. But I was tired of being alone, and Kisten met every emotional need I had raised and I met all of his but one, allowing someone else to do that with no distrust on my part. Our relationship was too good to be true, and I wondered again how I could find comfort with a vampire when I’d never been able to hold onto it with a witch.

Or with Nick, I thought, feeling the expression leave my face.

“What?” Kisten said, more aware of my mood shift than if I had painted my face blue.

I took a breath, hating myself for where my thoughts had gone. “Nothing.” I smiled thinly. “Just thinking how much I like being with you.”

“Oh.” His bristly face creased into a worried smile. “What are you doing today?”

I sat back, pulling my hand from his and putting my sock feet to either side of his lap so he wouldn’t think I was drawing away. My eyes drifted to my shoulder bag and my checkbook. I wasn’t desperate for money—wonder of wonders, since the calls for my services had dropped dramatically after the six o’clock news last winter had featured me being dragged down the street on my ass by a demon. And because I was heeding David’s advice to take a few days off to mend, I knew I ought to spend the time in research, or balancing my bank account, or cleaning my bathroom, or doing something constructive.
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