More so than she would ever know. He stared down at her, at those parted lips that beckoned him. It had been centuries since anyone greeted him when he returned. Centuries of untold loneliness and solitude.
Loneliness and solitude that had vanished the instant he woke up in that abandoned factory and had looked into those wide, intelligent blue eyes that seared him.
Amanda was completely unprepared for Kyrian’s next actions. He kissed her like a man possessed. His tongue stroking and delving as his hands roamed her back, then cupped her derriere.
It still amazed her that she allowed him to handle her like this, and yet she didn’t mind it in the least. She’d never thought of herself as a particularly sexy person. Not until she met him.
When it came to Kyrian, she couldn’t get enough.
She wanted him around her all the time. Wanted to hold him, touch him, be with him.
If she could, she would handcuff herself to him forever.
Without breaking from the kiss, he slid his hand beneath the bottom of her shirt, seeking her wet heat that throbbed for him. She moaned as he touched her, as his fingers slid and teased her mercilessly. Heaven, how this man made her yearn for him.
"Kyrian, your soup," she said breathlessly.
He pulled back, his breathing ragged, his lips swollen from tasting her. "It’ll wait."
There was something more untamed than usual about him tonight. Something wild and wicked. He carried her to the table and laid her across the top of it.
His eyes hot and hungry, he stood between her legs and looked down at her. "Now here’s a banquet fit for a king."
And then he fell on her. Amanda gasped at the fury in his questing hands that seemed to be all over her at once. His touch electrified her. Satisfied her and left her craving more.
As he kissed her insane, she reached down between their bodies and unzipped his pants so that she could touch him. He was already rock-hard and throbbing and when she cupped him in her hands, he moaned against her lips.
He amazed her. This immortal warrior who needed no one and yet he was so tender in her arms. This man who trembled as she stroked his shaft and cupped him gently in her palm.
Kyrian couldn’t think with her hands on him. All he could do was smell her, taste her.
He wanted her completely.
Wild with desire and unable to think past the moment, he pulled her hands away from him and drove himself into her.
Amanda groaned at the incredible feel of him deep inside her. He was so thick and hard. She felt so wonderfully full. She wrapped her legs around his waist as he rocked his h*ps hard and slow against hers.
"Oh yes, Kyrian," she moaned, arching her back.
He ran his hand over her gauze-covered body, and cupped her br**sts in his hands as he continued to thrust into her.
They made love without any hurry. Amanda writhed at the power of his thrusts as he nibbled her throat, scraping her skin with his fangs. Closing her eyes, she again felt that incredible bonding with him. They were one.
He trembled in her arms and whispered her name against her lips, making her quiver with desire.
And when the world shattered, she swore she could see colors everywhere.
Kyrian watched her cli**x, felt her body clutching his. Gods, how he yearned to satisfy himself, but he didn’t dare. Already he felt his powers waning. Powers he needed to keep her safe.
Grinding his teeth, he reluctantly withdrew from her.
He straightened his clothes in silence, but his entire being ached. Pressing the heel of his hand against his jeans, he tried to loosen the fabric that bit into his erection.
It was useless.
Amanda felt sympathy for him as she watched his stiff, awkward movements. How could he satisfy her and not take pleasure himself? It had to be sheer torture for him.
Yet he said nothing about it.
As he ate in silence, her heart wept for him. Her poor warrior.
And in the back of her mind came the little voice warning her that no matter how much she might want him, they could never have a relationship.
Amanda woke up a little after three in the afternoon. She got up, showered, and dressed while Kyrian continued to sleep.
Goodness, the man was handsome. He had one arm raised up around his head and looked more like a little boy as he slept than an immortal dark warrior.
Impulsively, she leaned over and kissed his parted lips. He reached for her, catching her about the neck. He held her so tightly that she could barely breathe.
"Kyrian?" she whispered, trying to get loose. "Honey, you’re making me turn blue."
He paid no attention. It took her a full three minutes before she was finally able to extricate her head from his arms.
"Okay," she breathed as he turned onto his side. "Remind me not to do that again."
Amanda pulled the covers over him and tiptoed from the room.
She found Nick in the living room downstairs wearing a pair of Rollerblades as he zipped from one end to the other, sorting papers.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
He paused and shrugged. "Kyrian gets pissed when I use my skateboard in the house."
Amanda laughed. "Okay. But I imagine he’s not fond of the skates, either."
"Probably not, but damn, this place is huge and I need to get from point A to point B without wearing my legs out."
She laughed again. Nick was infectious once you got used to him.
He turned a tight circle and skated to the kitchen. Before she could get halfway through the living room, he returned with a glass of orange juice for her.
"Thanks," she said, taking it from him. "What’s the word on Rosa?"
"Miguel said she’s better. She was up watching Wheel of Fortune when I called."
"Yeah, Kyrian will be happy."
Suddenly, a loud crash sounded behind her. Terrified it was Desiderius bursting in, she whirled around to see a huge pile of gold and diamonds on the floor where a twelfth-century hand-carved table used to be.
"Oh man," Nick said with a disgusted look. "Kyrian really liked that table, too. Boy, is he ever going to be pissed."
"What is that?" Amanda asked, getting up to go look at the king’s ransom in gold bars and diamonds.
Nick sighed. "It’s payday."
He shrugged. "Artemis hasn’t caught on to the fact that she could just wire the money into her Dark-Hunters’ accounts. So, once a month we end up with a wad of gold and diamonds somewhere weird. It was a real bitch the time it landed in the pool."
"No kidding," Amanda said, awed by the amount. "Someone could get hurt."
"That ain’t no lie. It’s what killed Kyrian’s third Squire."
She turned to look at him and quickly learned he wasn’t joking.
"So, what do you do with all that?" she asked.
He smiled. "I get to play Saint Nick. There’s a Squire in town who will convert it into currency. From there most of it goes to charities. Two percent of it is funneled into a Squire’s fund that takes care of the families of Squires who die in the line of duty or Squires who retire, and another two percent goes to a research facility that makes nifty toys for the Dark-Hunters."
"How much does Kyrian keep for himself?"
"None. He just lives off the interest of the money he had from when he was human."
Wow. The man had been seriously loaded as a mortal. "Okay, can I ask a really nosy question?"
Nick smiled. "You want to know how much I make?"
"Enough to make me a very happy man."
The phone rang.
Nick skated off while Amanda took her juice to the couch and sat down to read the paper. She set her juice on the black coffin coffee table.
A few minutes later, Nick came rushing back in, his brow furrowed. He didn’t speak to her as he moved to the armoire against the far wall. He opened the locked door to display an entire arsenal of weapons.
Dread consumed her. "What’s going on? Who was on the phone?"
"That was Acheron calling with a full-alert warning."
She frowned. By his frenzied movements, she knew it wasn’t good. "What does that mean?"
The look on his face chilled her. "You know the phrase ‘All hell’s breaking loose’?"
"It was invented for full-alert. For some reason, there is a high concentration of Daimons leaving bolt-holes in this area, and when that happens, the Daimons reach their full power and they feed whether they need it or not. The only thing worse than a full-alert is a solar eclipse. Tonight, things will get ugly."
At seven o’clock, Amanda learned firsthand what he had meant by that.
She was cleaning up Kyrian’s "breakfast" while Nick briefed him on what Acheron had said.
Kyrian had chosen twice the weapons he normally went out with and he was on his way out the door when the phone rang. Amanda answered it.
"Mom?" she asked as she recognized the crying voice. Her heart stopped. "What is it?"
Kyrian went rigid at the door, then rushed to her side.
"Mandy," her mother said through her sobs. "It’s Tabby…"
Amanda didn’t want to hear anything more. She choked on her sob and dropped the phone. The next thing she knew, Kyrian held her in his arms while Nick talked to her mother.
Kyrian’s sight dulled as he listened to her hysterical mother talking to Nick while Amanda trembled in his arms. Her tears soaked him, and as they fell, he vowed to kill Desiderius.
"It’s all right," he whispered against Amanda. "She’s just hurt."
She pulled back and looked at him. "What?"
Kyrian wiped the tears from her cheeks. "He didn’t kill her, sweeting." Though she was in bad shape, from what he could gather from her mother, Tabitha would survive.
Desiderius, however, would not.
"Tabitha is in the hospital," Nick said, hanging up the phone. "Luckily, there were only two Daimons and her group was able to fight them off." He looked to Kyrian. "You know, it sounds to me like Desi was just toying with her to make you mad enough to lose your head in a fight. There’s no other reason why he would send only two Daimons and not more."
"Nick, shut up!" Kyrian snapped. The last thing he wanted was for Amanda to be any more upset. He kissed her lightly on the lips. "Nick will take you to the hospital."
He pulled out his cell phone and called Talon, who was already on his way into the city. He told the Celt to get over to his house and escort Amanda just in case Desiderius was waiting for them.
"Kyrian," Amanda said as he hung up. "I don’t want you to go out tonight. I have a really bad feeling."
So did he. "I have to go."
"Please, listen to me-"
"Shh," he said, placing a finger over her lips. "This is what I do, Amanda. It’s what I am."
As soon as he could, Kyrian had her in Nick’s car with Talon tailing them while he headed downtown to find that bloodsucking, soul-stealing pig and do what he should have done the night they met.
Hours went by as Kyrian scoped out the French Quarter, looking for Desiderius. The Daimons would replenish their strength tonight, and sooner or later, he knew they would make an appearance in their prime feeding ground.
Desiderius, much like the rest of his brethren, preferred to haunt the French Quarter where unwary and often drunk tourists could be found.
So far, there was nothing.
"Hey, baby," a prostitute called as he passed her. "You want some company?"
Kyrian turned to face her, then pulled out all the money, about five hundred dollars, he had in his wallet and handed it to her. "Why don’t you take the night off and go get a good meal?"
Her face stunned, she grabbed the money and ran.
Kyrian sighed as he watched her dodge through the crowd. Poor woman. He hoped she put it to good use. Even if she didn’t, she could certainly use the money a lot more than he could.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of silver. Turning his head, he found two young men in the crowd. They were definitely human.
At first, they appeared to be the typical kind of street-gang youths Nick had once been, tough as nails and wearing black jackets, until he noticed the way they watched him.
As if they knew what he was.
His instincts alert, Kyrian returned their stares. The tallest, who appeared to be in his early twenties, crushed out his cigarette and crossed the street, his eyes never leaving Kyrian.
He raked a cold look over Kyrian’s body. "You the Dark-Hunter?"
Kyrian arched a brow. "You the flunky?"
"I don’t like your tone."
"And I don’t like you. Now that we’ve dispensed with the introductions and have declared our mutual distaste for one another, why don’t you take me to the one who holds your leash?"
The man narrowed his eyes on him. "Yeah, why don’t I do that?"
It was a trap. Kyrian knew it. So be it. He wanted this confrontation. Was more than prepared for it.
Willingly, he followed after them.
They led him down the back alleys into a small, enclosed courtyard. Shrubs obscured most of the walls and tall plants blocked the streetlights from the area.
Kyrian didn’t recognize any of it. But it didn’t matter.