Dangerous Games Chapter Thirteen
Rhoan plopped down on the roadside curb beside me and offered me one of the two coffee cups he held. ’’It's only regular.’’
’’I couldn't give a damn.’’ I wrapped my hands around the cup, letting the hot liquid chase the chill from them. ’’How's the cleanup going?’’
He shrugged. ’’Same as usual. How's your hand?’’ I glanced down. My little finger stuck out at an angle, all swollen and angry looking. Shifting shape had stemmed the bleeding, but it would never, ever replace what was taken. I'd have a permanent, stumpy reminder of my time with a dark god. ’’It's sore.’’
’’Jack wants you to be checked out in a hospital.’’
’’Jack's already been told what he can do with that suggestion.’’ I glanced at him. ’’So he's sent you to try and con me?’’
Rhoan sipped at his coffee, then nodded. ’’He thought it worth the try.’’
’’That they do.’’
’’And they stink.’’
’’Yes, they do.’’
’’And I will heal without going there.’’
I grinned. ’’Not pressuring me won't work either, you know.’’
’’I can but try.’’ His gaze met mine, gray depths filled with so much concern my determination wavered. ’’You lost a lot of blood, sis.’’
I grimaced. ’’Nothing a good steak won't fix.’’
’’Not according to Quinn, and he is the expert in all matters blood related.’’
I took a sip of coffee as my gaze found its way to the house across the road. According to Rhoan, Quinn had arrived in the downstairs chamber about five seconds after I'd fainted. He'd ordered my brother to carry me out and had slammed the metal door shut behind him.
Finally finishing what his family had failed to finish so long ago.
I understood his actions, understood his need to complete what had been left undone for so long, and yet, at the same time, part of me was angered by it.
If he'd cared for me as much as he said, shouldn't his first instincts have been to take care of me himself? Take me upstairs, look after me? To hold me, kiss me, reassure me that the dark one was trapped, that he could never escape, that nothing of him lingered within me? The chamber and the dark god weren't going anywhere, after all. The silver knives had done their job, and his spirit was trapped, as Quinn's sister had been trapped.
But no. It was always business before pleasure with Quinn. Always mind before emotion.
I sighed and rubbed my good hand across my eyes. What was the good of dwelling on it? Quinn wasn't going to change, any more than I could. And I was never going to find what I wanted with him. Because what I wanted was my soul mate, and kids, and a quiet life.
Some of that dream might have disintegrated, but not all of it. And I had every intention of hanging on to the little that did remain as fiercely as I could.
There was still hope for me. And right now, I had a wolf ready and willing to explore those options with me.
He deserved a chance.
We deserved a chance.
I took another sip of coffee. ’’Is Kingsley going to be mummified and sealed away like Caelfind?’’
Rhoan nodded. ’’Deep in the vaults of the Directorate. Quinn will magically seal the coffins and vault doors. They won't ever get free.’’
’’Good.’’ I looked beyond him, studying the sky. The softest of pinks was beginning to infuse the night, heralding the beginning of yet another day.
’’A new day, a new start,’’ I said softly, then met his gaze again. For no good reason, tears formed. ’’I wish I could begin again.’’
He put down his coffee, wrapped an arm around my shoulder, and drew me close. For several minutes, he didn't say anything, just held me against his chest and hugged me tightly. My rock, my island. The one bit of sanity left in the insanity that my life had become.
’’There's nothing done that can't be undone,’’ he said eventually, his breath stirring the hairs across the top of my head. ’’Nothing so wrong in your life that can't be changed.’’
I snorted softly against his chest. ’’There's lots of things that can't be changed and we both know it.’’
’’But it isn't lots of things causing you grief. Only one.’’ His hand slid down my arm, rubbing gently. ’’I think what you need is a break. A nice long holiday to regain strength will do you wonders, I think.’’
I half laughed, half sniffed, as I pulled away from his grip. ’’Has Kellen been in your ear?’’
He smiled. ’’No. You're the one that mentioned he wanted to take you away on a holiday. Why not extend it? Why not explore the depth of your relationship with him? You've got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.’’
’’I don't think Jack - ’’
He held up a hand, forestalling my argument. ’’Jack's agreed to give you time off.’’
’’What?’’ I stared at him blankly. ’’How did that miracle occur?’’
Rhoan smiled. ’’It's wonderful what the threat of losing his best two guardians can do. You have six weeks.’’
’’Yes. Use the time wisely, young pup.’’
I smacked his arm. ’’I'll use it to harass and annoy you if you're not careful.’’
’’Which is what you normally do, and the aim of this time off is new directions.’’
New directions. A new start and the time to explore dreams. Just the possibility had a smile breaking out. Six weeks of doing nothing except what I wanted to do. Six weeks of exploring new horizons, new places, new people.
Six weeks of finding out if Kellen and I really could be soul mates.
Excitement bubbled through me. I wanted that. Wanted it badly.
But new beginnings also meant endings, and there was one thing I needed to do before any fresh start could truly begin.
Quinn chose that moment to come out of the house. His gaze swept the darkness and came to rest on mine. Even from this distance, I could feel the turmoil in him.
It pretty much matched the turmoil within me.
I held out the coffee cup to Rhoan. ’’Hold this for me. I won't be long.’’
He didn't say anything, just accepted the cup. I rose and walked toward Quinn. The soft breeze swirled around us, tugging at his dark hair, catching his scent and spinning it around me. Heat prickled across my skin, and my hormones did their usual giddy dance.
I couldn't ever imagine not wanting him. But I was not the sum of my hormones, and I was tired of our game. I needed this new start Rhoan had offered, I truly did.
We stopped in the middle of the street. His gaze met mine, his eyes obsidian stone and expression shuttered. The emotions I'd sensed earlier were gone, carefully concealed behind the wall of his careful non-expression.
It only served to reinforce the Tightness of my decision.
’’It ends here, tonight.’’
’’It'll never end between us, and you know it.’’
’’What I know,’’ I said softly, ’’is that you've used me, and continued to use me, these last ten months. You swear to care, and yet I am never first in your thoughts, never the one you rush to when things go wrong. Your own aims and needs are always first and foremost. You proved this by using the link we'd formed to leash and control the very desires that make me what I am.’’
’’What did you miss out on?’’ he said, a touch of anger in his voice. ’’A few nights with strangers? Big deal.’’
I stared at him, unable to believe he couldn't see the wrongness in what he'd done. ’’What you did is really no different to what Talon, Misha, or even Starr have all done to me. You tried to force me down a path that was not my choosing. Damm it, you hated it when it was done to you, Quinn. You stripped your so-called fiancee of her identity and her life in retaliation. And yet here you are, using a psychic connection rather than a drug to force me down a path of your desiring.’’
He didn't say anything. Hard to refute something that was nothing more than the truth, I suppose - though I am surprised he didn't try. He usually did.
’’Jack's given me six weeks off work,’’ I continued. ’’And I want double that to sort out my life. During that time, I don't want any contact from you. I don't want to see you, I don't want to hear from you, I don't want you in my thoughts or in my dreams. I want a total and absolute break.’’
’’For only three months?’’ His voice was still flat, and yet I had an odd feeling he was controlling himself very tightly.
Which was half the damn problem.
How could I trust what I never, ever saw?
How could I trust emotions he kept telling me about but never really showed in action or deed?
’’After three months, I'll see where my head is at. There's no guarantee whatsoever that I'll ever be with you again, Quinn.’’
He didn't say anything for several heartbeats, just stared at me, his obsidian eyes darker than the night and a hell of a lot more dangerous.
Then he grabbed my arms and crushed me against him, his mouth finding mine almost savagely. I could have fought. I really could. But I didn't want to. If this was a good-bye, then I sure as hell intended to enjoy it.
And if it wasn't? I'd enjoy it anyway, and smack him later.
Because this kiss was like nothing I'd ever felt before. It was a wild, erotic, and very unapologetic affirmation of what he wanted. What he felt. He might never, ever have said the words or hinted at emotions, but it was there, right there now, in his kiss, in the press of his body, in the thick, desperate heat that swirled around us.
But it was too little, too late. I needed time. I needed to think. I broke off our kiss, pulled out of his grasp.
’’No,’’ I said, holding out a hand and backing away from him. ’’Enough. You owe me time, Quinn. If nothing else, you owe me that.’’
’’Don't ask for things you don't really want,’’ he said, voice little more than a harsh rasp. ’’Because you might just get them.’’
With that, he wrapped the shadows around his body, spun around, and walked away. I let out a slow, shuddery breath.
’’Well, that went a whole lot better than I expected,’’ Rhoan said from across the road.
I laughed softly and spun around.
And suddenly, gloriously, felt free.
’’How about we go to the pub and I buy you a steak and a beer?’’ I shoved my hands in the pockets of my borrowed coat and offered him my arm.
He handed me my coffee, then hooked his arm through mine and began walking down the street. ’’And after?’’
’’I call Kellen and start making plans.’’
It was good.
Because for the first time in ages, I was actually looking forward to the future. My future.
And that, after everything that had happened over the last ten months, was an excellent place to be.