-- "Don't look don't look" the shadows breathe
Whispering me away from you
"Don't wake at night to watch her sleep
You know that you will always lose" --
The Cure, "Burn"
Ď "Donít do that," said Hobbie from his stool at the bar. His voice was more mournful than ever.í
"I never told him I was mournful." Derek tossed the paperback novel across the room. Well, at least Allston got Wedge and Wes right. And that other writer, Stackpole, had nailed Tycho, Corran, Gavin... His friends were memorialized well, even if no one really believed that they existed. Overall, Derek was happy with the writers heíd chosen to tell his story.
The blonde man sighed and looked at the clock. The club was jumping as usual, no real trouble brewing; it was probably safe to go home early. Lilian would be waiting up for him. Three days had passed since her confession, and by silent assent, neither had mentioned it afterward. On second thought, maybe heíd call her and they could spend some time together on the dance floor.
Someone knocked quietly at the door. Derek looked up hopefully. "Enter."
A lithe Toreador female nervously poked her head into the office. "I thought youíd like to know... Robert the Bruce just pulled up outside."
"Oh." His shoulders slumped. "Well, wish him happy hunting."
"Um, no. Heís here for you."
A confused frown creased his forehead. "Why?" His eyes widened.
The door swung open wider and the girl stepped in, brushing at a spot on her leather skirt. "I tried to read him, but heís on the defensive. I can see that heís pretty sure you wonít like what he has to say." She straightened suddenly, proudly. "New York. Heís thinking about New York."
With an exasperated groan, Derek stood. "He probably wants me to go to the Christieís auction with him. I swear he has the most appalling taste Iíve ever seen."
The young Kindred laughed and held the door open with her foot. "Are you coming up to meet him, or shall I send him down?"
"No, Iíll meet him upstairs. Maybe heíll get distracted by one of our guests."
He ambled up the stairs, taking the entrance that led to the door behind the bar. Robert the Bruce, Ventrue Prince of Edinburgh, stood with his entourage near the entrance, looking about imperiously. Derek silently sidled up beside him, hiding a grin when the Bruce jumped.
"Ah, Klivian..." The older Kindred tried to cover his surprise.
"Ahem... sir?" Derek glanced around.
"Oh yes. MacDonald, isnít it, these days? Sorry."
"Is there something I can do for you?" Derek put on his most gracious smile. "Iím sure we have someone here whoíll suit your tastes."
"Thank you, no. Iíve already dined." Robert looked regretfully at a passing female. "No need to be gluttonous." He nodded at the two alert men flanking him and they moved off into the crowd. "If I could speak with you privately...?"
With an inward sigh, Derek led the Bruce down into his office. The older Kindred had him already, and they both knew it. If Derek didnít acquiesce quickly, the Bruce would use his handy mind-control skill to ensure agreement. And heíd probably make me think that it was my idea in the first place. Derek snorted. He simply didnít have the strength to resist.
The younger man settled into his chair behind the desk and watched the Bruce appraise his decor.
"Itís a bit plain," the other finally pronounced, "but itís quite like you. So." He sat across from Derek. "Shall we get right to business?"
"Please." Derek tried to read Robertís aura; his failure indicated that the other man was trying unusually hard to block him.
"I have an acquaintance in New York, a friend, really, one of my clan. We trade favors; help each other when we can. Thereíve been a great many favors traded lately." His eyes darkened. "You are aware of the recent troubles?"
Derek nodded. Though Edinburgh and its surrounding area was largely unscathed, he had heard rumors of a veritable Kindred holocaust. All clans, save the Ventrue, were under attack.
"I want you to know that I intend to protect all my people. Even the troublesome ones," the Bruce smiled ruefully. "Itís my duty." He sat forward in the chair. "My acquaintance is devising a plan to put an end to all this, and he needs you."
"Me?!" Derek started, then laughed scornfully. "Does he need a poem written? ĎOde to a Martyrí?"
"He asked for you by name."
"Who is he? Do I know him?"
"I daresay you do." The Bruceís lips pulled back in a menacing smile. "But I wonít tell you his name."
"I hate secrets," Derek said, his voice more mournful than usual. He silently digested this strange order and grew even paler as a thought crossed his mind.
"If whoever is behind the killings finds out that Iím involved, he might... Lilian." His voice sounded hollow and helpless.
Robert nodded sympathetically. "I have thought of that. You know that my compound is completely secure." He frowned as Derek shook his head. "Sheíll be perfectly safe, I assure you."
"Sheíll never go for it."
"Come now. I know sheís fond of me, as I am of her. I may not agree with you divulging our secret to her, Klivian, but I do recognize my obligation to her. She belongs to you, therefore she is part of my realm." The Bruce stood and Derek shook the proffered hand.
"By the way," the blonde man asked, "I heard that Livingstone went underground. Whoís in charge there now?"
Robert hesitated, then-- "Thereís a flight tomorrow at 7:30. Youíll be in New York before dawn; a driver will be waiting for you." The door swung shut as he left.
By the time he got home, Derek had settled on a lie that he was pretty sure he could stick to. If Lilian didnít ask too many questions. He stood on the steps for a moment, looking up. The practice room light was on but the window was shut. Of course-- it was after midnight and few of their neighbors were night owls. Derek quietly let himself in and trudged up the stairs, debating whether to tell her right away. If I wait until I wake up tomorrow, she wonít have time to question. Sheíll be furious, though.
No music came from the occupied room, only the rhythmic sounds of the rocking chair and the quiet whisper of pages being turned. Lilian sat facing the window. Derek could just see the side of her face where she rested her cheek on her hand. Quickly, quietly, he slid across the wooden floor behind her.
"Youíre getting rusty," her soft voice laughed. She beamed up at him, the happy light in her eyes obscuring the small lines on her face. Derek shrugged, then knelt in front of her and laid his hands on her knee. Resting his chin on his hands, he smiled up at her and peered at the cover of her paperback book.
"Stephen King? How ghastly." His voice was artificially arrogant.
"Itís no worse than what youíve written." Lilian refused to take the bait. " ĎThe Doom that came to Sarnathí. Really."
"It wasnít that graphic."
"Huh." She held the book in front of her face while Derek idly toyed with a string on the bottom of her shirt. He smoothed the wine-colored velvet between his thumb and forefinger, intrigued by the way it darkened and lightened as he changed the angle of the fibers. A small hand, fingers callused by decades of musicianship, came to rest atop his.
Lilian lowered the book slightly, peering at her love over the top of it. Derek gazed up at her, feeling that old enchantment take hold. How many hours had he spent simply admiring her? A small smile crossed his lips as he remembered the night they met. How heíd stared at her, unable to move, watching her talk, watching her look up and catch his eye, watching her slide across the dance floor and walk up to his table, watching her hand flash out and slap his cheek as she demanded to know just what the hell he was staring at.
Slowly, Derek reached out and took the book from her hands, his eyes glinting as he recalled the words to the erotic poem heíd written the night before. He opened his mouth--
"I have to go to New York tomorrow." Oh bloody hell. I didnít mean to say that... "I have to, um, meet with my publisher."
Lilian appeared startled, then she laughed. "That certainly wasnít what I expected to hear. Well," she thought for a moment, "I start rehearsals for the benefit concert in two weeks, but Iím free until then. Itíll be a nice change for us."
"You canít..." She frowned at his somber expression. "Itís not necessary that you go. I mean," he trailed off.
"Youíd rather I didnít go."
Derek nodded miserably and she continued, her voice mild. "May I ask why?"
Wrong answer. Derek looked away from the hurt in her eyes. Wordlessly, Lilian pushed his hands away and stood, then marched out of the room.
Sighing, Derek leaned his head on the chair, wondering if it was possible to have handled that any worse. And he still had to tell her about Robert. He gathered himself together and walked sedately down the stairs, determined to handle his irritable girlfriend swiftly and firmly.
Lilian was leaning against the kitchen counter, boiling water for tea, when he strode purposefully in.
"Youíll need to gather some things together," he said without preamble.
"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow.
"Yes," he said firmly. "Youíre staying with Robert while Iím gone."
"I donít recall being invited to his house. Did I miss that conversation the last time he was here?"
"We decided tonight that it would be for the best."
"How thoughtful of you."
"Lil..." How he hated her sarcasm.
She crossed her arms and glared. "Are you in trouble?"
"No." Damn it, donít make me lose my temper. You donít know how hard this is for me.
"So, whatís this about?" She rinsed her hands under the faucet and grabbed a handtowel.
"Just do what I ask." Derekís voice tightened.
"Iím not doing anything until you tell me why."
He gripped the edge of the counter, fighting to keep his voice even as fear and anger took control. "Robert will pick you up at 8:30 tomorrow night. You will be ready for him. You will not give him any trouble. Do. You. Understand. Me."
The look of shock on her face was almost enough to make him back down. Her aura shifted rapidly-- first the dark blue of suspicion, then pale green and orange before finally settling on an intense angry red. She started to speak, then threw the towel at him and stalked out of the room.
Absolute silence reigned. Derek stared hard at the walls, the cabinets, the table, counting out the seconds as he tried to calm himself. He jumped and spun around when the teapot began to whistle shrilly, then swept his arm across the stovetop, sending the pot and its contents spilling onto the floor.
He stared at the mess for a moment, fighting his anger. Calm down, Klivian. Thereís no excuse for such uncivilized behavior. Moving slowly, counting in his head, he turned off the burner, ignored the mess on the floor, and headed after Lilian.
The bedroom door was shut, but Derek could hear movement inside. Opening the door a hair, he watched Lilian throw clothing into a suitcase, apparently at random. Every now and then she raised her hand to her face to wipe away moisture, and Derek had to wonder if she was packing to obey, or to leave him.
Finally, her back to the door, she spoke. "Quit lurking. I hate that."
He slid into the room, then crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall. Lilianís hands shook as she carried garments from her armoire to the luggage on the bed. His eyes followed her movements, flitting from her hands to her stern-set face as he listened to the angry, rapid pounding of her heart.
She slammed the lid shut and dragged the suitcase onto the floor. "Donít you ever talk to me like that."
Her eyes cut right through him. "Donít even try the puppy dog eyes. It wonít work."
Helplessly, Derek held out his hands. "Iím not trying anything. Iím sorry that youíre upset," his eyes narrowed, "But I wonít take it back. You canít come with me."
Lilian tried to speak, but the sudden fierceness in his face silenced her. When he spoke again, his voice was low.
"The Kindred are in danger. Iím going to New York to meet with someone about it, and youíre staying here so Iíll know youíre safe."
Shock raced across her face. "Whatís going on?"
"Iím not sure. If itís what I fear, it could mean a full-scale blood war." Her sudden fear ripped his heart, but he couldnít sugar-coat it for her.
Her eyes searched his; for what, he didnít know. Whatever it was, she seemed to find it, because her shoulders straightened and her voice was firm.
"Iím going with you."
"No, you arenít. At the very least, youíd be a distraction."
"Deal with it. Iím not sitting in Robertís compound wondering if youíve got a stake through your heart." She tilted her chin up. "At the very least... Iíd be there to pull it out of you."
Derek crossed the floor and stood beside her at the end of the bed. "Youíre already in danger because of me," he reminded her, gently smoothing back her hair.
Lilian laid her head against his shirt. "Iíd rather die with you than live without you."
Laughter rumbled in his chest. "And you say Iím melodramatic."
"Who do you think I learned it from? Donít change the subject."
He clutched her tighter, trying to memorize the way she felt in his arms, the feel of her breath against his skin, the rise and fall of her breasts. "No."
"At least tell me youíll be safe." Her voice held a softness that Derek hadnít heard for too long. "Lie to me."
"Fear not, fair maiden, for alas, though I journey into great peril-"
Lilian tried to push him away. "Itís not funny."
"I know." He smiled sadly and felt Lilianís breath hot against his chest as she sighed heavily. Pulling her closer, he laid his cheek against her hair and inhaled her scent. For the last time? I donít know. If they were at the end, he wanted her to know his heart. To love her one last time...
Keeping his hands on her waist, Derek backed toward the bed, sat down, and drew her to stand between his knees. A mixture of exasperation and amusement crossed her face.
"What are you doing?" Her eyebrows raised as he looked up at her, desire sparkling in his deep blue eyes.
"You know..." Derek toyed with the lowest button on her shirt, ďtheyíre shipping me out tomorrow." He moved on to the next button. "Care to give this soldier-boy a night to remember?" He finished with the third button and pressed his lips to her bare stomach.
Quiet laughter filled his ears. "We havenít played this game in a while; Iím not sure I remember how."
Derek undid the last button and reached around her to unclasp her bra. "Let me remind you," he said huskily as he removed her shirt and undergarment. "You lay back and relax, and Iíll drive you out of your mind."
Lilian gasped as his mouth closed around her breast, tonguing her nipple. She tangled her hands in his hair and pulled him closer, then ran her hands down his neck to massage his shoulders. Derek focused every heightened sense on his love-- the rhythmic pressure of her fingers on his flesh, the silky softness of her skin, the sweet, warm taste of her.
"Derek!" He smiled at the tremulous quality of her voice. The mattress shifted as he maneuvered her to lie next to him on the bed, her legs dangling over the side. Looming over her, he plundered her mouth, exploring her hidden crevices anew. Cool air assailed his still-warm skin when she tugged his shirt out of the waistband of his pants and ran her hands over his muscled back.
His fingers drifted down her stomach, tickling for a moment before they deftly unfastened her pants and slid under the fabric. Lilian moaned and arched her back as he brushed her curls, slipping between her folds to stroke her nub. His lips trailed down her neck to suck gently on her collarbone.
Careful of his fangs, Derek nibbled his way down her body, then rose and stood between her knees. His eyes burned into her, hungry and lustful, and Lilianís heart raced as she raised her hips to help him slide her pants off. He gazed down at her vulnerable form, remembering how, long ago, the sight of a woman spread and ready would have stirred his desire almost beyond control. Now, with a woman he dearly loved, he had to force his body to undergo the change needed to be with her. He willed his blood to drain away from the surface of his skin and concentrated until his blood moved south, filling his organ.
She watched from under heavy-lidded eyes as Derek lifted her right leg to his shoulder, massing her calf before dropping to his knees. He trailed kisses up the inside of her leg, paying special attention to the back of her knee, then lavished the same treatment on her other leg.
Lilian hissed when he nipped too hard at the tender flesh of her inner thigh, drawing a tiny drop of blood. Derek looked up apologetically, but she shook her head, murmuring "Donít stop."
The ravenous man smiled and resumed his attentions, placing feather-light kisses to her mound, darting his tongue between her folds until she whimpered and arched against him. Her moans reverberated through his body as he tasted her, flattening his tongue to lap at her nectar. Her hands clenched the bedclothes, anchoring her as his teeth grazed her clit, then retreated to let his tongue dance across her sensitive spot. Sobbing breath ripped through her lungs as her body convulsed and heat sliced through her.
Derek rose up, swinging her legs onto the bed. Hands clutched at his forearms, and Lilian pulled herself up and reached for her lover, pulling him onto the bed. He sat back against the propped-up pillows as she straddled his narrow hips, leaning forward to capture his mouth. Her tongue searched him as she rocked against his hardness. A quick hand snaked between them and swiftly unfastened the button on his trousers.
Derek groaned into the kiss. Yes, this was nice. A tingle ran over his skin when she peeled open his clothing, stroking his hardened flesh. Not the intimacy of feeding, but still nice, still close. His engorged member jutted up proudly, filled with all the blood that had seeped out of his limbs, turning his skin into a luminous white.
Then her heat encompassed him and Derek crushed her to his chest and thrust upward. Lilian tore her lips from his and rested her forehead against his shoulder. Her breath tickled his skin as he moved inside her. Her hips jerked against his in a quickening rhythm, and she sat up straight, her dark eyes drilling into his soul.
Her sheath contracted and released, and Lilian threw back her head and moaned raggedly. Sweat glistened on her upper lip, and Derek leaned forward to taste the salty condensation, savoring her impassioned flavor. Tremors wracked her body as the couple moved faster, reaching for the pinnacle of their lust. Nearing the edge, Lilian tilted her head to the side, offering her defenseless throat to her lover.
"Make me yours," she whispered, and Derek nuzzled her exposed neck.
"Youíve always been mine," he murmured against her throbbing vein, scratching her delicately with his fangs. "Mine, and no otherís."
Lilian cried out as Derek pierced her skin. Her body convulsed in pleasure, their double joining forcing her over the edge. Thick blood poured sweetly into Derekís mouth and he drank deeply, relishing the unity of their embrace, the tender play of her skin under his lips. Her arms tightened around him and his world exploded.
Later, in the quiet moments before dawn, Derek held his beloved while she lay dozing in the circle of his arms. "How could I have thought of leaving you here?" he wondered aloud. "I canít live without you."
Kissing her sleepy, pliant lips, he vowed, "I will kill anyone who hurts you. I promise you that."
On to Chapter Eight