Of Blood and Bone (Page 28)

Of Blood and Bone (The Minaldi Legacy #1)(28)
Author: Courtney Cole

“I couldn’t impose on you in that way, either,” I tell him.

“So, I’ll stay here.  No problem,” he replies, as though he knew that I wouldn’t come to Chessarae.  “Just give me a blanket and I’ll be fine on the sofa.”

I look at him doubtfully.  “Are you sure?”

He nods.  “Quite sure.  Trust me, no harm will come to you while I am standing watch.”

His words actually comfort me and I feel a sense of relief that I won’t be alone tonight.  He sees the acceptance on my face.

“Wonderful,” he says as he takes the last gulp of his wine and stands up.  “All I’ll need is a blanket.”

I smile at him in gratitude.  “I can’t believe I’m letting you do this. But thank you.  Very much.”

He shakes his head. “Don’t mention it. You came out to Chessarae and calmed my mother down when you didn’t have to.  I am in your debt.”

We return into the house and Luca locks the door.  I find him an extra blanket and then pause at my bedroom door.

“Thank you,” I say again.  “Really.”

He settles onto the couch, with his legs hanging off the end.  “It’s not a problem.”

He looks horribly uncomfortable on the small little sofa, but I smile at him anyway and close the door to my bedroom.

I am so weary that I don’t remember even changing into pajamas before I fall into a heavy sleep.

Dreams instantly plague me.

Nightmares.

I see Annica washing up over and over on the beach, but this time, she is right below my cottage.  She rolls in the surf, her skin gray and cold and dead.  Her arms and legs are still torn off, but she is facing upward this time. Her eyes are glued to mine and her mouth is speaking.  I bend to hear her.  Help me, Eva.

And then she starts to scream and snakes slither from her mouth; huge black snakes with red eyes. There are so many of them and they all head straight for me, moving quickly through the sand.  And behind them, my brother Christopher replaces Annica. And more and more snakes slither from his decomposing body and glide through the sand toward me.

I scream.

And hands are restraining me.

I open my eyes and Luca is with me.

I grow still as I look at him.

He stares back at me in concern and he is not wearing a shirt.  His skin is warm against my arm and my eyes meet his.

“You were screaming,” he says uncertainly.

I don’t say anything.

Instead, without thinking, I grab him and clutch him to me, hiding my face in his bare, warm shoulder.  He startles, then wraps his arms around me, holding me close.  I don’t even realize that I am crying until his skin beneath my cheek turns wet.

“Shh,” he soothes me, stroking my hair with his smooth hand.  “You’re alright, Evangeline.  I’m here.  You’re safe.”

I sniff, trying to choke back the tears, trying to hide my distress.  But emotions that I keep well-hidden are erupting and there is nothing I can do but let them come.

Luca holds me for the longest time, waiting until I have cried myself out, holding me closely and not asking any questions.  His voice is soothing and low in the dark and honestly, it is the sound of it that brings me back from the edge of hysteria.

When I am finally quiet and still, Luca pulls away from me and stares into my eyes.  He lifts a thumb and wipes an errant tear from my cheekbone.

“Are you going to tell me what is making you so upset?”

I sit still for a moment.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him and my voice is so quiet in the stillness, in the night that wraps around us.  “My brother died years ago, when I was seven and he was four.  I found him.  He was floating in the lake behind my parents’ house.  Finding Annica like I did brought the memories back and I had a horrible nightmare about both of them.”

Luca pulls me to him again, but not before I see the sympathy on his face, tender and gentle.

“That must have been horrible for you,” he murmurs as he strokes my back with his fingers.  “You were too young to have seen something so horrible.”

“It was horrible,” I agree, burying my face once again in his chest.  “For so many reasons. It was the downfall of my parents’ marriage.  My father, who has always been a little irresponsible, was supposed to have been watching Christopher while my mother worked the night shift at the hospital.  Sometime in the night, Christopher got up and ventured outside.  We don’t know why he went into the lake.  I found him in the morning.”

I’m all cried out now. I have no tears left, but I remain ensconced in Luca’s arms.  He is a comforting presence right now and even through my distress, I marvel at how his personality can change in an instant.  He can go from impassive to commanding to sympathetic and comforting in the space of one moment.  Mercurial. 

“I’m sorry that happened to you,” he says softly, ducking his head to look into my eyes.  “I really am.  I can’t imagine what I would do if that had happened to one of my brothers. You must be a very strong person.  You were a very strong little girl, too, I’m sure.”

I shake my head.  “I don’t feel like it right now,” I admit to him. “I don’t feel strong at all.”

His dark eyes are understanding, so fathomless and black.  They seem like such deep pools that I might fall into and drown in.

“It’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes,” he tells me.  “You’re only human.”

“You’re very kind,” I answer.  I push the hair out of my eyes and try to ignore the warmth that being near him generates, the fluttery feelings in my belly.  I want him and try as I might, there is no ignoring that.  I have to recognize and admit that I want this man.

On impulse, before I can think the better of it, I lean forward and kiss him. I wrap my arms around his neck and pull him to me; inhaling, feeling, touching, absorbing.  I am lost tonight, sad on a very basal level, and Luca can fill the void in my heart.

If only for tonight.

His mouth is soft, yet masculine.  His day-old stubble grazes the softness of my cheek and he tastes like warm wine.  He is hesitant at first, holding his body very still as I press myself into him.  My softness meets his firmness and I sigh into his mouth.  At the sound, his hands grip at my back, sliding and moving until they are running along my spine and up into my hair.  His fingers are strong and he deepens the kiss, pushing his tongue into my mouth as he pulls me tightly to him.