His kindness reminded her of a time when she’d been like him. When her feelings had been her own and when she’d owned her life. When she’d been free to make her own decisions. She missed that so much…
Most of all, she’d missed feeling connected to someone else. Being a vital part of them-aching when they were on a trip, knowing that someone was out there missing her and counting the heartbeats until they were back together again. There was nothing else like living and breathing for the smile of someone she loved.
Aidan drew a ragged breath as he cupped her head in his hands. He wanted this to be plain, animal sex. No commitment, no promises. Nothing but the two of them scratching a biological itch.
And yet, as he watched her pleasing him, that disgusting, tender part of himself that he hated stirred. It was the part that wanted a woman who didn’t cheat on him. One he could trust not to hurt or betray him. One person who would stand by his side no matter what was thrown his way.
Other people had it. Why couldn’t he?
Because you don’t deserve it…
He didn’t want to believe that. Surely to God, given all he’d been through in his life, he was worthy of someone’s loyalty. Someone’s love.
"Did you ever cheat on your husband, Leta?" He cringed as the words left his lips.
Mentioning her husband would probably be a sex-kill for her.
But even so, he needed to know if she’d been trustworthy or like Heather, a liar who sold herself to the highest bidder.
Her eyes were pain-filled as she pulled away from him. "No. Never. I loved him completely, and so long as he lived, I didn’t even look at other men. There was never anyone else in my world except him."
"Was he a god?"
She shook her head as she made slow circles with her hand over his abs. "He’d been a warrior. A kind man whose dreams I’d once visited. For a soldier, he’d been amazingly artistic and his dreams had been vivid with colors and sounds." She swallowed as if it were almost too much for her to think about. "And when I saw him tremble from holding our daughter for the very first time… every part of me loved him more."
Aidan’s stomach tightened. That was what he wanted. Someone to love him like that. "Did he ever cheat on you?"
Her gaze fired. "I would have killed him."
Aidan cupped her cheek in his hand as he stared into those luminescent eyes. "Do you think he ever knew what a lucky bastard he was?"
"I wouldn’t call him lucky. Because of me, and for trying to protect my back, he was gutted on the floor like a pig."
Aidan felt sorry for her loss, but it didn’t change the fact that he’d kill to have what she’d shared with her husband. "I don’t know. I think to have one day of what you described would be worth being gutted."
Leta was amazed as she felt tears for him sting her eyes. "You didn’t deserve what happened to you, Aidan."
"Deserving’s got nothing to do with anything. You didn’t deserve to lose your family. And they definitely didn’t deserve to die because Zeus was an idiot."
A single tear fell down her cheek where it was stopped by his finger. Inside, she felt something she hadn’t felt in centuries. An emotional bond with someone else. He understood her tragedy. Most of all, he felt for it.
Wanting to take him away from his sadness, to give him even a moment’s worth of peace, she crawled up his body so that she could kiss him deeply.
Aidan’s head swam at the fierce passion of her kiss. He couldn’t remember anyone ever kissing him like this. It was demanding and hot, and it fired every nerve ending in his body. All he wanted was to touch her. To feel her.
To be inside her.
She clutched his body close before she dipped her head to tease his throat. Aidan growled as her tongue danced across his flesh. All thoughts fled his mind. She was the only thing he could focus on, the only thing he could feel. Her touch branded itself into his flesh as he let her take him away from a past he didn’t want to dwell on.
Leta rolled him over, onto his back. She was molten inside and all she wanted was to feel him deep inside her body. Unable to wait, she straddled his h*ps and impaled herself on him.
He threw his head back as if he’d just been electrocuted. "Oh, God, Leta," he breathed. "Don’t… stop."
She hesitated at his words. "You want me to stop?"
"No," he all but roared. "You stop now and I swear I’ll die."
She laughed at his desperate words before she resumed her strokes.
Aidan couldn’t breathe as she thrust against him. He honestly wanted to die in this one perfect moment. Nothing had ever felt better than the woman on top of him. She was like an angel sent to save him from his isolation.
And he never wanted to let her go. He wanted this time to freeze and stay right where it was as he gripped her soft thighs with his hands. He lifted his hips, driving himself even deeper inside her. This was where he wanted to stay. He wanted to pretend there was no world outside this cabin, no one waiting there to rip him to pieces. No one out to do him harm.
There was only Leta and the pleasure she gave him. This, this was heaven.
And when she came, he bit his lip so hard, he tasted blood. An instant later, he joined her release.
Her breathing ragged, she collapsed on top of him. Her sweet breath tickled his chest as he watched shadows moving on the ceiling. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this relaxed. That he’d been so at peace.
Yeah, he was definitely insane. This entire day, including her presence, had to be some kind of hallucination. He must have fallen and struck his head. Hard.
But honestly, if this was a dream, he didn’t want to wake up from it.
Leta pushed herself up on her elbows to stare down at him as he watched her through half-hooded eyes. She cocked her head in curiosity. "What are you thinking?"
He smiled at her very human question as he wound his hand in her silken hair. "I’m thinking about how wonderful you feel in my arms."
Her smile made his heart soar and his groin jerk. "I’ve only been with you and my husband. I’d forgotten how incredible this could be." Her eyes turned stormy. "Unlike you, I don’t like being alone."
His grief and pain gathered in his throat to choke him, and he confided in her something he hadn’t confided in anyone-not even himself. "Neither do I. Alone sucks."
She closed her eyes before she covered his hand with hers and turned her face into his palm to kiss it.
That single act shattered him. "If you betray me, Leta… Kill me. Be kind and don’t let me live in the shadow of your cruelty. I can’t take another blow like that. I’m not that strong."
A tic started in her jaw as she released his hand and gave him a hard stare. "I didn’t come this far to betray you, Aidan. I came here to fight for you, not against you."
His vision blurred and he despised the tears he felt welling. He hadn’t cried in so long…
He wanted his anger back. Anger didn’t hurt. It didn’t make him feel worthless or powerless.
Not so with these confusing feelings that he couldn’t even sift through enough to identify. They left him vulnerable and weakness was something he’d learned to despise early in his bitter life.
I will be the last one standing. It was the one motto he’d always lived his life by. It was what had gotten him through countless attacks from other actors. Countless brutal reviews that had assaulted everything from his wardrobe, to his looks, to his past, to his abilities as an actor. Reporters and studio execs who’d laughed at him and his ambitions.
He wouldn’t let them win.
He would be the last one standing.
Leta frowned as she felt his turmoil inside her own body. He was standing on a precipice. Scared. Furious. Strong and at the same time weak.
"Together we will see this through, Aidan. I promise."
He blinked as if her words had jogged something loose in his memory. "Alabaster."
She scowled at the unexpected response. "Alabaster?" What on earth? "There’s no alabaster here."
"No," he said quickly. "It was a movie I was in a couple of years ago. One of the ones I won an Oscar for." A slow smile spread across his face. "It was a movie about a man’s wife who was being targeted by an unstoppable serial killer."
That was not a pleasant thought after the sex they’d just had. "Okay…"
He looked at her. "Don’t you see? That’s what Dolor is-he’s a sociopathic serial killer. And in the movie we didn’t wait for the killer to come up on us unawares. We took the matter into our own hands. We chose the battleground and we chose the time and place to fight. The killer didn’t come to us.We went to him."
It was a brave move. "I’ve never drawn Dolor into a fight before."
He nodded. "Exactly. It’ll surprise him."
Leta froze as she remembered something Lyssa had said to them. "For pain to be returned to its place,
"You must confront it to its face." Maybe this was what Lyssa had meant. "You’re brilliant!"
"Not me. Allister Davis is the one who wrote it. I’m just taking a page from his script. You said Dolor needed to come to this realm, but what if instead we fought him in yours?"
"What do you mean?"
"In the mortal realm, he’s immortal, right?"
She nodded. "He’s immortal in dreams too."
"Yeah, but like you said earlier, in dreams, we can create weapons to fight him with, right? We’d have an ax if we needed it or better yet the fabled Hollywood gun that never needs reloading."
"True. But he’s stronger in dreams than he is here. He’s had a lot more experience manipulating that realm than you have. If you kill him without knowing his weakness, he will regenerate. If he kills you there, you’re dead."
He brushed her hair back from her face before he smiled, then kissed her. "I didn’t say it was a perfect plan, but it’s the best shot we have. Besides, I have a really good idea…"
"And that is?"
He answered her with another scorching kiss. "Just hang on, dream lady. We’re about to take the home team advantage."
Leta stood on the top precipice of the tallest mountain on the Vanishing Isle. She held a vial of sleeping serum that she’d borrowed from her uncle Wink-the Sandman. With it, she and Aidan would be locked into the realm of sleep and Dolor wouldn’t be able to throw them out of it. What Aidan planned was so risky…
She shouldn’t care. She shouldn’t even be able to care, but as she stood there watching the ocean waves crash down on the rocks below she realized that she did. Aidan’s pain did more than fire her emotions and powers, it touched her heart.
It had been so long since she last experienced real tenderness. She didn’t want to lose it again. She didn’t want to lose Aidan. He wasn’t just an assignment to her.
He was so much more.
How that could be she couldn’t even begin to understand. They’d only known each other in his dreams and for one human day. Yet she knew him on a level that defied logic. Her soul felt him.
And she didn’t want to let him go, or worse, watch him die the way she had her family. She couldn’t stand to go through that again.
Leaning her head back, she let the salt-scented breeze soothe the restlessness inside her. The weight of the vial lay in her palm like a heavy piece of iron. She didn’t want to make a mistake. Trapping Aidan in the dream world might kill him.
He was certain it was their best chance to defeat Dolor. But she wasn’t so sure. Dolor could be crafty and, most of all, he was deadly. Aidan had courage, there was no doubt. Unfortunately courage didn’t always win the fight.
"Give me strength," she whispered to the gentle breeze that danced around her. In the back of her mind, she saw the slaughtering of her family. Nothing could dull that pain. Nothing.
But at least that pain showed her that she was alive. She wasn’t completely empty and devoid of feelings.
Closing her eyes, she tried to channel it to anger. Aidan was right. It was the only way to cope with it. And yet at the mere thought of Aidan, her anger faded and a strange sense of peace overcame it.
She turned at the sound of M’Adoc’s voice behind her. He was dressed in a loose white shirt and white pants. His black hair curled becomingly around his face as he slowly approached her.
"What are you doing here?" she asked him.
"I heard you asked Wink for serum."
There was a deep understanding in his blue eyes as his gaze held hers captive. "It’s a brave move to call Dolor out. Highly risky."
She didn’t want him to know of her uncertainty. As one of the dream god leaders, he’d be honor bound to tell Zeus of any Dream-Hunter who might be getting their emotions back. That was something she couldn’t allow. "Victory never goes to the coward."
He inclined his head respectfully to her as if he agreed with that. "By the way, I should warn you that you’re not feeling Aidan’s emotions."
A chill of strange apprehension went down her spine. "What do you mean?"
He leaned down to whisper softly in her ear. "Zeus’s curse is weakening. Every year more and more of our emotions are coming back."
Leta paled at his disclosure and the ramifications of it. "Does he know?"
M’Adoc shook his head. "And we can’t afford to let him learn it either. He will rain down on us with every thunderbolt he has."