The hands of the mounted wall clock moved with the speed of a turtle. Kian couldn't help but stare at it in fascinated disinterest. Soon, Jessa had said. That had been six hours ago and he'd since come to the conclusion she had no concept of time.
"Coffee?" Remy lisped coyly.
His head snapped up. Remy stood in the doorway, one hand braced against his hip and the other holding a steaming mug.
"It's Italian," he continued, ignoring the fact that Kian hadn't responded. "I don't keep that disgusting swill Americans call coffee in this house." He shuddered delicately.
Kian wondered briefly how he pulled off the delicacy with such a large, imposing frame, then dismissed his curiosity when he realized Remy was still staring at him with a raised eyebrow.
He shook himself. "No," he replied, "but thank you."
Remy shrugged. "Suit yourself. Cameron lives off it. Her drug of choice and all."
Kian tucked that snippet of information into the back of his mind for later use. "I don't know what could be taking this long," he offered conversationally, sighing. "I'm really not all that hard to find."
Remy paused in the middle of taking a sip of coffee. "I believe Jessa sent her to Erin," he replied, lowering the mug. "She charges by the hour."
"Lovely," Kian murmured, in a tone that didn't sound lovely at all.
"She's very good at what she does," Remy reassured him. "In fact, she should have figured out that you're here by now and Cameron should be getting home…"
A key rattled in the lock and the door swung open. "Now," he finished, as Cameron glided through the door. "Ma chère, it took you long enough."
She was staring at Kian in surprise. "I forgot to bring something to burn," she admitted. "We tried something else and found your apartment instead. You weren't there."
"No, I was here," Kian answered, looking amused. "A lot of effort for nothing, wasn't it?"
"I wouldn't say nothing," she murmured distractedly. Memories of Kieran's kiss assailed her, threatening to overwhelm. Her eyes slid shut, but all she could see were those dark violet eyes burning darkly at her. She snapped them open again. "What are you doing here?"
"I couldn't let it end like that," he said. "And the threat of being staked seemed unimportant compared to seeing you."
Remy rolled his eyes. "Cameron, the boy's in love with you and you threatened to kill him. Where are your manners?"
"Drowning in the Atlantic next to yours," she replied sweetly. "Don't you have someone more pressing to harass?"
"Not particularly," he shrugged, dropping down on the plush couch and slumping into the soft cushions. "Ruining your day was the only thing on my 'To Do' list."
"How lucky for me," she muttered, crystalline eyes shooting warnings at him.
She walked away from the doorway, finally coming to a stop in front of him. He blinked, alarmed, and when she sat sedately on the couch next to him, he picked up his coffee mug and stood up. The look in her sky eyes was one he preferred her to direct at someone else.
"Actually," he said with a quick glance at his expensive silver watch, "I seem to remember promising Xanthe and Damalis a day at one of those trite human movies. It started about an hour ago, if I have the time right. I'm going to find them and see if we can catch the late one."
"Have fun," she called as he disappeared down the hallway.
His voice floated back like memories in the lazy summer heat. "You owe me."
She bit her lip, trying not to send a biting retort in response. Kian levered himself out of the chair, stretching his cramped muscles. "Are you leaving?" she asked, surprised once again.
He laughed. "No, I'm moving," he responded. "The couch looks much safer with you on it than it did when Remy was sitting there."
He lowered himself to sprawl next to her, his long legs stretching as far as they could before the coffee table got in the way. He wore khakis again today, but these were a darker color and in the cargo pant style. Her eyes traced the lines of those khaki-covered legs silently, simply looking.
"Why did you threaten to kill me?" he asked quietly.
"I was scared," she admitted. "You look just like Kieran did and when you touched me…"
He smiled gently. "Alarming, isn't it?"
"Almost more so than being stalked by a pack of rabid 'wolves. Except that you can escape them. This…" she sighed. "It just stays."
"It could be worse," he offered. "You could be stuck with someone like my brother. Although I think Fate may be too kind to do that to anyone with any semblance of humanity."
Cameron glanced at him quickly, deciding now was not the time to inform him otherwise. "Fate does strange things to people."
"Too true," he agreed. He hesitated, then took her hand in his, wrapping his warm fingers around hers and sending shivers darting down her spine. "Cameron, I won't let him hurt you this time."
Those words were like ice washing over her. "I don't think you can stop him," she answered succinctly, pulling her hands away. She idly pushed a strand of pitch dark hair away from her face.
"I can try," he said, reaching for both of her hands this time and pulling her to face him. His purple eyes glinted with all the emotion and fury of a winter storm, just as fierce, but protective instead of destructive.
"You can," she affirmed. She smiled humorlessly. "I'm safe for now, though. I -- I saw him right before I came home. He's given me until my next birthday to die on my own."
"How generous of him." Kian stroked one finger gently over her palm. "Maybe if I took you away, somewhere he wouldn't think to look… Maybe you would be safe then."
She shook her head. "Kieran would find me. He made a promise that he's kept. Do you really think he'll break it now?"
"No," he sighed. "But I can hope."
And that was the thing. Neither of them could give up hope that something would work out this time. It was all either had.
"We have months to figure out a way around it," she said. "We'll find a way."
He nodded, disentangling one of his hands from hers and reaching up to trace the curve of her bottom lip. The motion was poignant, sensation burying itself deep into her heart and touching her already raw emotions. The brush of his thumb against her mouth sent shivers racing through her once again. She raised her hand and ran it through the silky strands of his burnished hair.
He seemed to understand. His other hand disengaged from hers as well and he drew her forward to rest in the comforting cradle of his arms. ~You are safe~ he reassured her, tightening his hold just briefly.
She sank into him, relaxing, allowing herself to trust for these few brief moments. In Kian's arms, she did feel safe. His broad chest was warm against her cheek and his stroking hands soothed her with startling ease.
Sighing contentedly, she slid her gaze up to find him watching her, a protective light gleaming fiercely in his eyes. He seemed to hesitate slightly, then his mouth dipped down to meet hers. She welcomed this affirmation of what she'd found, this sealing of a promise neither had voiced, but both had agreed to. She tilted her head up, dark hair falling back over his arm in riotous waves.
It was nothing like kissing Kieran.
The gentleness was there, but instead of being overwhelmed, she was simply… joined. Where Kieran invaded, Kian became a part of her. They were two halves made whole, like the pieces of a puzzle laid to form a single picture. His mind was not shadows and jagged edges, but soft colors and smooth planes. Kian had his shadows, too, but they did not consume him.
She sighed happily against his mouth, lost in the serene recesses of his mind. When one of those shadows grew, moving toward her like lightning, she was completely unprepared. It swallowed her in its darkness, eclipsing the quiet serenity she was floating in and ripping her away.
Somehow, she and Kian became separated. She sailed into the dark void of his mind while he remained behind, oblivious to anything but the kiss. In these shadows, memory waited.
It was raining.
Torrents of drenching water plastered her clothes to her body. They chilled her in the cool night air and she shivered uncontrollably. She could find no escape from the beating drops. A hand grasped her arm roughly, dragging her through the sinking mire while she struggled to keep pace.
The raindrops fell too thick to see through and the person who led her was only a darkened blur. The hand yanked her to the right, pulling her under the leafy canopy of a tree. She shook the water out of her eyes and pushed her hair off her face. Her vision cleared. Shocked, she stared at the face of the last person she expected to see in this memory.
It was Kian. His face contorted with anger, complete with flushed cheeks and eyes burning with all the hate of a betrayed lover.
Which, in a way, he was.
"Why?" he growled, shaking her none too gently. Even through the disgust shining from his eyes, he looked… shattered. As though the pieces had scattered so far apart that they could never be found and repaired. Now those lavender eyes were pleading for a way out or for some excuse that would erase the incriminating evidence.
She yanked herself out of his grasp. "Why what?" she gasped, tears springing to her eyes as blood flowed back into her arm. She had no choice in what she said or what she did; she could only follow the actions and feelings of her past self as this drama played itself out.
He eyed her coldly. "Kieran." He spit the name out distastefully. "I'd have thought you would know better by now."
"I don't know what you're talking about," she answered, her voice equally cold and as distant as a shooting star. She tossed her dripping hair back and met his eyes proudly.
"Yes, you do," he accused. The self-assurance and certainty in his voice made her long to hurt him the way he was hurting her.
She shook her head, sending drops of water flying in all directions. They fell like crystals on his rapidly drying skin. "If I knew, do you think I would be asking?"
Those darkly lashed violet eyes narrowed. "I think you're playing a game you can't win." He reached out to grasp her upper arms, his fingers digging into her already tender flesh. "If you're trying to use him against me, it won't work."
"Use him against you how?" she cried, trying not to flinch. The stinging pressure of his fingers was making her head cloud with pain. It hurt.
"As if you don't know," he replied sullenly. He let her go, shoving slightly as he did.
She stumbled, barely managing to catch herself before she fell in a graceless heap. "I don't!" she insisted. Tears threatened to fall at any moment.
He rolled his eyes. Impatience lined every plane of his face. "Don't try to tell me you're not involved. Giacinta already told me everything."
The tears spilled over. "I don't know what you're talking about!" she shrieked. Her fists clenched into tense white balls at her sides and her fingernails dug into her palms. The pain only made her angrier. "Who is Giacinta?"
Short laughter exploded from his chest. It complemented the pouring rain, echoing its wildness and its untamed power. "You can't kill me, Camryn," he continued. She doubted he'd even heard her. "You are a part of me! Kieran is only using you to get at me," he finished. His expression was pained.
Her eyes softened. She swayed toward him, full of compassion and understanding. "I don't know about any plot to kill you," she said achingly, "and I don't know anyone named Giacinta. Kian, I love you."
"She told me you'd say that," he replied grimly. He turned away, pain radiating from every gesture and dripping from every word. He stared through the branches of the tree, where the rain beat against the leaves in careless abandon.
Her expression tightened and her eyes narrowed, hurt by his statement. That he'd believe someone over her, his soulmate, when he could see into her soul… "If you need the truth that badly, then look. I can hide nothing from you. You said it yourself: I am a part of you. But, don't -- don't -- base your accusations on what someone I don't even know has told you."
He smiled sadly. "She told me you'd say that, too. Don't you think I know there are spells that can hide things? That can make me see what I think I want?"
"Not if you don't let them!" she snapped. "The soulmate bond is stronger than that! Haven't you figured it out by now?"
He ignored her. "There's only one thing to do, Camryn." Another shout of short, bitter laughter. "It's almost ironic, considering that I've been trying to stop this for thousands of years, don't you think?"
Terror coiled like an oiled snake in the pit of her stomach. "Kian, why won't you just listen for a minute! You know I didn't do anything! Listen to yourself!"
"I can't hear myself anymore," he whispered sadly. "I've been broken too many times and the pieces… they just don't fit." He reached out, tracing the edge of her lower lips with so much gentleness she thought she would cry. The gesture was highly reminiscent of the kiss that had brought this memory to life.
She opened her mouth to protest or to convince him otherwise, but then shut it abruptly. Kian was in no state to listen. Determined and terrified, she racked her brain to find some solution or some way to make him see. Her eyes brightened and she reached out, cupping his jaw gently in the cradle of her palm.
It was the wrong thing to do.
She had thought that once you had shattered so far, you couldn't be damaged further. She had thought that the dust of memories past would settle, so tiny and swept so quickly away. She hadn't expected the chasm in his eyes to widen and crack, revealing a void that was curiously empty.
He slipped away from her hand slowly. His fingers tightened on her jaw, drawing her closer, and his lips moved to hover by her ear. She felt his warm breath skate over the skin of her neck. And then she heard the last thing she expected to hear.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
One hand gently caressed the nape of her neck, tilting her head back with such sweetness that she didn't realize what he was doing until it was too late. The pale skin stretched before him. Not even a second passed, then he sank his teeth into her throat.
She waited for the lightening and the warmth to envelop her, but it never came. Only darkness. She could feel blood being drawn from her body. He drank and drank and drank… And finally she felt herself slipping away to where she was one with the darkness instead of only encompassed by it.
Then the darkness receded, leaving her to stare into Kian's worried violet eyes. No longer shattered, they still somehow seemed broken, as though a part he was not even aware of was missing. "Are you okay?" he asked, worry evident in his voice.
She was breathing heavily and painfully, the air entering her lungs like fire.
It took her a minute to catch her breath. "You bastard," she hissed, when she could finally bring herself to speak again.
Shock painted itself over his face. "What?"
She laughed, but wanted to cry. The tears would not come. "You don't even know, do you?" she asked. "You don't even remember what you did."
"Get out!" she snapped. "Get out and don't ever -- ever -- come back." She stood, turning her back on him and walking away.