Smaragd was a long way from home in this arid desert town. She'd last been home five years ago, but it was no longer the home she remembered. So it went. These days, she found herself longing more and more for the stinking, cobbled streets of her youth. These nights, she'd paint her pale face and put on a costume. She'd go out to watch people being alive and try to imagine how it must feel. Last night, she had put up her hair and slipped into a play. It was full of conversations like the rapid fire of automatic guns. She watched the majority of it through her fingers as she fought against the hunger coiling in her gut.
Tonight, she was going to leave her hair down; tonight, she was going to see Rey. She painted her lips red, her eyes black. She wore a thirty-year-old black dress with a slip but no stockings. Her bare feet slapped against her leather sandals as she walked paved streets tinted yellow by the buzz of lights high overhead. The hunger twisted in her like a dagger.
She hopped a bus downtown. The driver did not even glance at her as she climbed on. Three other people were scattered across the seats. Smaragd chose a spot comfortably away from anyone. She stood, fingers resting on the safety bars, and studied the reflections on the windows. The bus jerked and hummed along the streets.
As they continued along, they collected and traded passengers until twenty others were bumping along through the night with her. The bus approached the next stop. A couple started forward from the back of the bus. As they were moving past her, the bus jumped. She fell against them. Her hand touched skin; someone grabbed her arm.
The hunger roared in her. Her teeth itched. She was so cold, and their body was so warm against hers. The warmth overwhelmed her.
Jerking away, she grabbed the bar. She held herself up straight and forced herself to take deep, even breaths. She would not have to wait much longer. Narrowing her green eyes, she struggled to see through reflections and lights for the green of a street sign. If she had to, she could find a phone somewhere and ring Rey up.
But she wouldn't have to do that, she saw then. Fifteenth and Grand—it was only a few blocks from the stop on Ninth and Grand to the lot where Rey was staked out. She could manage that.
The bus slowed and settled at the stop, and she set out with quick, determined strides. The path she walked weaved through streets and alleys until she rounded a corner illuminated by the flickering neon of a diner. Across from the diner and dark office buildings was a lot half full of cars. Parked in the shadows of a far corner was a grey sedan. She continued right up to the car. A man sat, slouched, behind the wheel, and as she bent over to lean against the top of the car door, he startled. She watched him with hooded green eyes. He scowled.
"O, Rey—you look so lonely and bored," she grinned. "A terrible combination."
Rey was a thick cut man. With an open, strong featured face, dark skin, and bright brown eyes, Rey was a handsome man. Even when he scowled. He narrowed those brown eyes at her.
"I'm working," he mumbled.
"So, take a break."
"I can't. I have to wait for—"
She reached out, intending to trail her nails across his dark skin, but he grabbed at her wrist.
"You want to play, you can come by my place after five. But I do not have time for your shit right now." Letting her go, he looked away.
She gripped at the door and straightened. Green eyes glared down at him, but he remained focused ahead. Her eyes slipped down to the curves and lines of his throat. Her teeth itched. A pang of hunger lanced through her and set waves of pain tingling under her skin.
She could force the car door open. She could drag him out of the car by his throat. She could smash his face into the truck behind her until it was nothing but a bloody mess of bone and flesh. She could fucking kill him, and he had the audacity to talk to her like that?
"Hey," he said, and she blinked.
The world came back into focus. He turned a bit to face her and placed a hand on the door—not on hers, but close enough that she could feel its proximity.
"You're shaking. You want a jacket? I got one in the—"
"No," she snapped.
Looking down, she saw now that the pain tingling under her skin was causing her to tremble. She lifted her head to hiss in a deep breath between clenched teeth.
A sharp bang echoed over the quiet block. She startled; he swore.
"Problem?" she asked.
She stepped back from the car, and he stepped out. With one hand, he slammed the door shut. With the other, he slipped a handgun from under his jacket.
"I mean it: don't you fucking move."
He jogged off through the cars. She scowled. Slipping off her sandals, she started after him.
Rey worked for Baluta and his family—or, no, coven. That was what they called it.
It was all fucking absurd.
After he'd lost his job, after the storm had taken his home, he'd moved in with his cousin. Thomas delivered pizza for [NAME] and smoked a lot of weed. Thomas put in a word for Rey at the pizza joint. It was a local chain. They made minimum wage, plus tips. When the owners discovered Rey's background, he had a meeting with them: Baluta, Usat, and Nebt-het. (The twins' actual names were Simone and Vivien, but he wasn't supposed to know that. Baluta had a tendency to run his mouth while stoned, though.) Now he was an errand boy for their coven of fucking vampires. But now he was making over 50k a year. With health benefits.
It was absurd. He had a hard enough time with their names.
So he wasn't surprised at all when Smaragd popped into his life and was even less surprised when he reached the edge of the lot and found Caleb crumpled over with blood pooling around him. He just felt numb to it all.
Swearing, he holstered his revolver. He bent down and started picking through the dead man's pockets. A wallet with a few twenties, a few personal items, but no sign of the package. Rey mumbled more curses to himself and stood to survey the lot.
"Hey, could you—"
He stopped when he saw she was shaking again. Her eyes were on Caleb.
She did not respond, only stared at the body. He walked over to her.
"I need to get the car."
She was still but for the trembles. He touched her arm, and she jumped, recoiling from him. Her eyes snapped to his, and they were wild, wide, full of rage and hunger.
"You need to leave. I need to—"
"No." Her lips curled into a snarl and revealed teeth like daggers. "You do not own me."
He frowned. "Did I say that? You wanna follow me around tonight, then fine. I need help getting him into trunk. Come on."
She nodded. They went to get the car and then unceremoniously stuffed Caleb into the trunk. He took a towel from the trunk and wiped the blood from his hands. When he offered her the towel, she glanced between him and the towel. Her eyes were still wild, pupils dilated so full only a thin ring of green surrounded them. Like a cat, ready to rip its prey to shreds.
"Hold out your hands," he said.
Her hands curled into fists. She glared at him.
"You going to lick them clean?"
Scowling, she held her hands out to him. He took them and thoroughly wiped them clean. Back into the trunk he tossed the towel then slammed it shut. They got in. As he slid the key into the ignition, he realized she wouldn't stay in the car, she'd insist on following him. That was going to be a problem.
"Where can I take you?" he asked.
"I'm going with you."
"I know where you are going," she said, her eyes focused ahead. "You are not bringing a dead courier to Baluta without me."
Sighing, he shifted in his seat to dig in his jeans' pocket for his cell. He thumbed the speed dial then counted the rings.
"What is it?" sighed the receiver.
"Caleb is dead."
"You killed him?" Baluta demanded.
"What—no. No, I didn’t."
"I'll send [someone] to replace you. What's your ETA?"
Rey glanced at the clock. "Quarter after." There was silence. "Or sooner."
"The sooner, the better. Usat and Nebt-het will be waiting."
He turned the key. She flicked on the radio then leaned back. The radio was a low buzz as they rode through the city. He never knew what to say to her. She had grabbed him in [that ridiculous club] two months ago. Her eyes had been wild that night as she held him down in the backseat of his sedan.
While they were stopped at a light three blocks from the house, she brushed her fingers along his sleeve.
"Someone is following us," she whispered as she leaned over. Her eyes flicked up to the rear view. "Maybe a coincidence. Maybe they shot your friend? One of them... is like me."
The light changed. He made a sudden left into traffic. The car behind swerved to follow.
"Shit—shit," he hissed and hit at the wheel. The horn punctuated his rage. "I don't have time for this."
"It's just one car—two guys, one vampire. Go on to the house. I can handle them," she grinned.
He glanced over at her. She had that wild look in her eyes, and her teeth...
Shuddering, he mumbled, "What a fucking mess." He dug out his phone again and thumbed the speed dial. When the ringing stopped, he blurted, "I'm being followed. Almost to the house."
The receiver was silent for a long moment. "I'll let Usat and Nebt-het know." The man on the phone paused. "Be careful, Rey."
"Baluta," he began to say, but the line was dead.
Squeezing at the wheel, he ground his teeth. This was fucking absurd. His eyes flicked now and again to the rear view mirror. The car followed them around every curve and turn. The glare of street lights across its windows hid the occupants. His pulse was rapid fire, but his breath was even.
Those were the longest blocks of his life.
He jerked the wheel. The tires screeched, and the bumper scrapped along the gate as it swung open. Usat and Nebt-het were already coming down the front steps. Usat, her afro held back by a red ribbon, had a shotgun; Nebt-het, with red beads in her braids, had two silver-plated handguns. It was like a scene from some ridiculous action movie.
He hit the brakes and jerked the car into park. Smaragd was already climbing out. He grabbed for her wrist. The car lurched forward, and she slipped from his grip. A man shouted. Rey looked back just in time to see Usat blow a hole in his chest. The man fell back against the car. Two others emerged, but before they could take shelter behind car doors, Nebt-het peppered one with bullets. Smaragd was upon the other. Rey could not see see but could certainly hear the thud of flesh and bone against metal. Again and again and again.
Climbing from the car, he slipped loose his revolver. He scrambled across the conjoined mess of trunk and hood, and Smaragd stood as he came up beside her. Her pale face was spattered with blood, and it dripped from her nose, her fingers. Licking at her lips, she stared down at the body. Rey could hear it, gurgling and struggling to breathe, and his stomach turned.
"Who's the white bitch?" Usat snapped.
"The enemy of our enemy," Nebt-het grumbled. "We need to get inside. Now."
"He's not dead yet," Smaragd said, her voice low, her eyes hooded.
They were intent on the bloody mess at her feet as it gurgled and twitched. Its arms jerked, thrashing, until a hand smacked against her calf. It gripped tight, but she kicked it away. Then stomped her bare foot on remaining white and pink of its head. It squished.
Rey shuddered. "I don't think anyone else—"
An SUV came screeching around the gate. The twins immediately opened fire. Guns came out of the windows. Rey grabbed for Smaragd. Dragging her with him, Rey ducked behind the car door. She slapped his hand away. Nebt-het shouted, but the words were lost under the exchange of bullets.
Smaragd nodded. "You can't stay here."
The glass shattered above them. Peppered with glassy pebbles, she grabbed at his shirt and shoved him back.
"Around the car," she shouted. "Go!"
Crouched, they scrambled around to the front of his sedan. The twins and the assailants in the SUV were still firing at each other. Rey poked his head up around the front fender. He could only see Usat and Nebt-het, sheltered from fire behind a car door, before Smaragd pulled him back by his collar. He glared at her, and she glared right back at him. In any other situation, he might have smiled.
"We're going to run," she said.
"We'll be shot."
"Your friends will cover for us." Grabbing at his wrist, she slipped around him and shouted, "Ready—go!"
He ran, legs pumping as hard as he could manage, and she slid along beside him. Their backs were exposed as they raced up the steps. For a moment, it was quiet. He jerked his head back around. The twins were reloading their guns. One of the gunmen popped up. Rey had a moment. He stared at the man, at the gun in his hands. The muzzle flashed. Smaragd pulled him up the stairs and into the house. The guns resumed their frantic exchange.
She touched his arm. "You—are bleeding," she breathed, her fingers brushing along his skin.
Glancing down, he frowned. "What?" he mumbled. There was a tear in his jacket and shirt. And blood. His lip twitched. "Fuckin' shit. Those mother fuckers. This jacket cost—"
He was slammed back against the wall. The back of head thudded against the wood, and his vision exploded in flashes of white and red. Smaragd pressed up against him. Her breath, hot and heavy, tickled at his neck, and her fingers, long and thin, squeezed hard over his injury.
"Smaragd," he snapped, "let go."
She dropped her head to press her forehead against his shoulder. Tremors ripped through her. He slipped a hand up her back, and her muscles jerked under his touch. Her grip relaxed. She lifted her head, and there was a sad shine to her eyes now. She let go of him.
"Get the fuck back," Nebt-het barked as she slammed the door shut.
Smaragd jerked away from him. Usat and her sister braced against the door and reloaded their guns. Glaring at Smaragd, Usat mumbled something to her sister. Nebt-het, as ever, was stone-faced. His ears were ringing, but the shots had stopped.
"Give her your gun," Nebt-het said, "and go out the back. You can take the truck. We'll call you—"
"Like hell. How many are left?"
"Two," Smaragd said. She had gone to peer out the narrow window by the door. "Vampires?"
"Yes," Nebt-het replied.
"This is bullshit. They killed our boy, took our shit, and now they're shooting up the house?" Usat snarled. "It's gotta be because of this white bitch. What's your name?"
"Speculate later," her sister said. "There must be more coming. We should go upstairs before they start—"
Guns banged, and glass shattered. Everyone dropped to the ground. Usat and Nebt-het crawled toward the stairs, and Rey started after them. There was a deep boom over the crack and snap of splintering wood. Glancing back over his shoulder, he saw a white man, sawed off shotgun in hand, standing in the remains of the front doors. A hole in his gut from Nebt-het's shotgun gushed blood down his legs, riddled by smaller wounds oozing dark blood.
Rey dropped to his back and fired at the man's face. His head jerked back. There was a sound, between a raspy hisp and a gurgle, then the man looked back at Rey. The white man's left cheek was gone, replaced by a mess of torn flesh and shattered bone. The rest of his face was twisted in a dark grin. He lifted the shotgun. Rey fired again, and the shotgun boomed.
It took him several moments before he realized his lungs were burning from lack of air. Blinking, he saw that the man was gone.
Rey sat up as Usat and Nebt-het went running out the front door. The world tilted. He twisted, retching, then struggled to find his feet. They were right where they should be, but his limbs were heavy, his gut still uneasy. Wiping at his mouth and mumbling curses, he stumbled toward the door.
The three women stood at the base of the front steps. They were speaking quietly. Rey had come out intending to survey the carnage and wreckage, but all he could focus on was Smaragd. She was covered in blood, and there was a hole where her left breast had been. Bone and flesh and blood and—
He retched again. Shame burned under his skin, and he glared down at his shoes. They had cost more than his jacket. Could you even clean vomit off leather?
"Are you okay?"
Looking up into green eyes, he sighed, "You're the one who got shot."
A faint smile tugged at her lips. She turned back to the sisters. "I do not mean to be rude, but I am—tired."
"You can stay here," Usat said, and Nebt-het quirked a brow at her. "Don't look at me like that. The bitch took a slug for Rey. She can at least sleep it off."
Smiling, the braided sister nodded. "You can stay in Rey's room. Do you mind, Rey?"
"Never use it anyway." He offered Smaragd a hand. "Come on. Let's get you cleaned up."
Hesitantly, she accepted. "I don't think Baluta—"
"How do you know that name?" Usat hissed.
For a moment, Smaragd only stared at her. Smaragd began to sway, but then, stepping forward, she mumbled, "Rey mentioned him."
The twins were both glaring at him then, and he shrugged. "Later?"
"You better fucking bet later," Usat spat, and Nebt-het nodded, her brows hard lines above her golden brown eyes.
He could feel those eyes on his back as he led Smaragd back up the steps. Her grip was tight, and with every step, she leaned toward him a bit more. When they went through the doorway, her shoulder was against his; when they were out of the twins' sight, she was sagging to the floor and grabbing for him. He grabbed at her arms and held her against him.
"Is it far?" she asked.
"Up the stairs," he replied. "Can I carry you?"
"How many stairs?"
"Too many—come on."
He coaxed her arm about his neck. She let him lift her without protest, and he carried her up the stairs. He bent to let her open the door. When he went to lay her on the bed, she started to protest.
He laid her down. "I don't fucking care. "You need to rest."
"Are you going to leave me here?" she asked. Her voice was so small. "Please—Rey, I can't stay here."
Frowning, he shrugged. "I... You knew who I worked for. "You knew where I'd be tonight."
Shaking and jerking, she wrapped her arms about herself. Between hard spasms, her hands clenched around her arms. She stared up at him with those old eyes, and for the first time, he saw that she was a woman. When her eyes went wild, her teeth like daggers, it was all too easy to mistake her for a monster.
"Yes," she sighed. "If you mean to kill me—"
"I won't leave you here."
"Good. It is awful late." Smiling, she touched his cheek. Her fingers brushed along his skin, and her eyes drooped. "You could be..."
She chuckled. "Not yet. I still owe you..." Her voice trailed off as her eyes slipped closed.
He grabbed at her hand and squeezed, hard, once and again, until she blinked up at him.
"There you are," he smiled faintly. "If I take you to my place, then—then what?"
"I'm going to sleep. For—days." She started to look away, but he touched the side of her face. "I'll be hungry when I wake up... Your eyes are—" She bit at her lip and turned her face into his hand.
"It's okay. Rest."
He started to pull away from her. Her hands grabbed at him.
"Rey, I'm sorry," she mumbled. "I shouldn't have..." She sighed, frowning.
"You didn't plan on sleeping with me."
She smiled, "You don't believe that."
He shook his head. "You're the one who said 'hello' by grabbing my cock."
"Had to get your attention—get you alone," she mumbled. "I planned to talk once we were."
"Talk? You?" He grinned and shook his head again. "We're alone now. Just tell me if you were using me."
She sighed, "Yes."
He grunted a mirthless chuckle.
Tugging at his shirt, she started to say, "Rey, I'm—"
"It's okay," he said. Her voice had been strained, wavering, like a whimper, and he couldn't stand to hear it. Not from her. "We're okay. I'm going to take you to my place, and you're going to be okay."
She nodded, slumping back into the bed. "I'm trusting you," she mumbled.
Even then, she fought against sleep. It was at least another thirty minutes before her breath finally evened out and her grip on his hand slacked. Those words rung in his ears for days after.
She fell into darkness, into strange dreams. Shadows and ghosts danced behind her eyes, and his voice tickled the edge of her consciousness. Then, for a moment, it was still. She rolled over, sliding through cool sheets, and sighed. Her eyes slipped open, but the room was dark. Voices, like muffled bass, called to her, and she fumbled with heavy limbs [then the door knob]. Incandescent light and sticky smoke overwhelmed her. Rubbing away the flashes from her eyes, she stumbled to lean her frame against the door's. She hurt down into her bones, and she looked down at the bandages and bruises covering her pale skin—her just rewards for playing hero. What had she been thinking?
Voices, liked muffled bass, drew her attention. Two strange men watched her with dark eyes beneath furrowed brows. One had what appeared to be a cigar, but the smoke was far too sweet for tobacco. He inhaled deeply and then held it out to the other man.
The first man exhaled tendrils of smoke and asked, "You—uh, want to put some clothes on?"
Glancing between them, she frowned. "Where's Rey?"
The other man shouted for Rey and then took a drag from the not-cigar. Holding it out to her, he said, "Someone beat the hell out of you."
Her eyes flicked to the not-cigar. "They were after Rey." Taking it, she looked back up at the other man. He held her gaze as she drew on the not-cigar and filled her lungs with warm smoke.
"Damn," he grinned, his white teeth bright against his brown skin.
Rolling her eyes, she let the smoke trickle out her nose. Rey came around the corner then right up to her. The strange men were talking, and Rey was talking. Her eyes watched his lips move, but she wasn't listening. She was floating. His lips stopped to tighten and twitch.
"What is it?" she asked.
He looked over at her, and she could see his features relax. Her teeth itched. She reached out to grab at his shirt.
"Smaragd, what—?" was all he could manage before she jerked at his sleeve hard enough to pull him closer. "Let go."
She clenched her jaw so hard that her teeth hurt. Her nostrils flared around a long, deep inhale. She held that breath and the urge to grab at his throat and pull until his blood covered them both, and she held them deep inside the hollow of her chest. Tears started to well in her eyes. She retreated back into the dark of the room. Wrapping her arms about herself, she squeezed at her battered body. The door clicked shut. Dark enveloped her, and those voices...
She forced herself to breathe. Relaxing her grip, she straightened then turned. As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she saw him. She clenched her fists.
"I'll leave if—"
"Leave? You need to feed."
She stared at him. The longer she stared, the more she could see. His eyes were on her shoulder. His mouth was slightly open, and his tongue wet his lips. His expression meant nothing to her. She did not know what to say.
"What's wrong?" he asked. "Just a moment ago, you looked ready to tear my throat out."
Her fingers twitched, her teeth itched, and her body—the hunger and the pain were all twisted up inside her. They roared in her veins, the sound echoing in her ears, and they clawed at her insides and her bones. Her head gave a small jerk of a nod.
"That is what is wrong. I..." Turning away, she went to sit on the edge of the bed. "You've killed. You've hurt people that—"
"Yes, but you're not going to hurt me."
She sucked in a breath and looked up at him. He always sounded so fucking sure of himself. Stepping toward the bed, he reminded her, only for a moment, of another black man, in another room, in another time. His name had been Ghislain, and his dark skin had been covered in scars. He had the only man she trusted in that wild land full of heartless men and tall, dark trees, and she had terrified him and threatened his life with her favor. She could still remember how that broad-shouldered frame had trembled against her, and she could feel bile burning up the back of her throat at the memory.
Taking a deep breath, she stood. "No, I'm not because I'm going to leave. Where are my clothes?"
"And where are you going?" he asked.
"None of your business."
"What the fuck is going on?"
"Bullshit," he snapped, and she glared at him. "You told me you'd be hungry. I'll take you back to your place or wherever after you..."
His voice trailed off. He leaned over to flick on a lamp by the bed. His eyes considered her, and she stiffened under his gaze. He walked over to the dresser and pulled out something dark.
Tossing the folded cloth at her, he said, "Sorry, I... I threw the dress out. It was soaked with blood and—"
"It was just a fucking dress. It doesn't matter."
She fumbled with the fabric until she figured out it was a shirt and pulled it on. Sighing, she tried to work fingers through the tangled mess of her hair. He threw more folded cloth at her. After pulling on the shorts, she tied them tighter and sighed, "Thank you."
"I'm going to drive you—" he started to say.
"You don't need to do that."
"And you didn't need to get shot up, but here we are."
"I'm sorry if a woman saving your life—"
"That's not the problem here. Is it?"
Staring at the dresser, she shrugged. "I don't have a problem."
"You need to feed," he said. "You've fed from me before, but you won't now." He paused. Her eyes did not move from the dresser. Exhaling harshly, he leaned against it and rubbed at his temples with both hands. After a moment, he dropped his hands. He folded his arms across his chest and said, "Okay, Smaragd. You don't have a problem, and you don't want a ride. So, what are you waiting for? Go. I'll be here next time you get fucking bored."
"Is that what you think this is?"
"Yes. That's why I fucking said it." He paused, his jaw clenching and relaxing. "Or are you just using me to get into the coven?" They glared at each other. After a long moment, his eyes softened. He stepped toward her, and she glanced down at his hand as it reached out to touch her arm. "We're alone now. I'm sorry I wasn't here when you—"
Closing the distance between them, she pressed herself up against him. Strong hands rippled up and down her back, and his breath was hot against her ear. She squeezed her eyes shut. She was always so cold, but here, his arms around her, she was burning. It was always like this; it didn't last. She knew that. But when those dark eyes looked into hers, he saw her.
"This is why I couldn't stop you," she said. "I didn't want to—I wanted this; I wanted..." Shaking her head, she stepped away. "This is stupid."
"Yea," he said, his hands pulling at her, "but who cares? We're alone."
They stared at each other. For a long moment, neither spoke.
She studied his eyes, his face, then said, "I need Baluta's help."
His lips curled in a smile, but it did not reach his eyes. "This is business, isn't it?"
Her eyes were on his throat, and his were on her face. She pressed a hand against his chest.
"Supposed to be," she mumbled. "I've never been good at playing at their games. I always..." Her voice trailed off as her mind wandered to past mistakes and old regrets. More to herself than him, she said, "That isn't true. I deceived you. I tried to use sex to manipulate you. Because I didn't realize—I don't know. This is stupid."
"What didn't you realize?"
"The kind of man you are."
She smiled, one corner of her mouth quirking up. "I respect you, Rey. I want to do business with you, but we—I am..." Her smile faded, and she dug her fingers into his flesh. A flicker of something almost recognizable rippled over his features. "I want to be straight with you. I want to talk this out, but I am so hungry, and you are..."
Like he had that night they met, he cocked his chin up and exposed his neck to her. She hesitated, as she had then.
"Take what you want. I'll stop you."
Swallowing, she threaded fingers up his neck. His vein pulsed and throbbed beneath her fingers. She grabbed at the back of his neck and bent to kiss at his skin. His hands were in her hair, on her back. "Smaragd," he started to say, and then she bit at him. She pressed her teeth down into his skin until it broke under the pressure. He groaned. The heavy taste of his blood flooded her mouth, and she sucked hungrily at the wound. Relaxing against him, she pressed a thumb up under his jaw. His pulse raced under her touch, but his chest contracted and expanded in a slow rhythm.
That night had been a mistake. Not because she approached him, but because she had been so drunk on so much wine. She couldn't stop herself, and he hadn't wanted her to stop. He had been so eager. His hands defied her and had threatened to destroy what little self-control she had in that moment, bent over him in the back seat of his sedan. She had tied them behind his head with his own shirt, and he had still tried to touch her.
She bit at him again, teeth ripping into him, and he gasped, trying to flinch away. She clung to him. He moved, and she followed him back onto the bed. His hands, warm and gentle, slipped up her back. She should stop him, she realized, but his blood was so warm, his body was—
Jerking away, she pressed a hand over the wound. She glared at her hand, so stark against his skin. His eyes were heavy on her face, but she refused to meet his gaze.
"What's wrong?" he mumbled, his fingers still caressing her skin.
She squeezed her eyes shut. "Please—don't touch me. I can't—"
"I want you," he said, sitting up.
She shifted back to stare at him. His eyes were on her lips, sticky with his blood, and she looked away.
"You can tie me up again if that's what—"
"No," she snapped, the bile burning up her throat again. "I shouldn't have done that."
"I liked it." He leaned closer, eyes still intent on her lips.
Closing her eyes again, she mumbled, "I know."
His lips brushed against her cheek, and she reached up to push him back. Looking down at him, she remembered grinding her hips down into his until he was cursing and begging. In that moment, he had seen her—the wild look in her eyes, the jagged mess of her teeth—and he had known what she was. "Bite me," he had said. "Fuck me." Simple as that. She could have—she should have stopped things, then. She should have told him, then, what had she really wanted, what she needed from his boss, but instead, she had given in.
And now, he was tangling fingers in her dark hair and slipping a hand under that borrowed shirt, over her pale skin.
"Isn't this why you came to see me?" he asked.
She shrugged, and he chuckled.
"So, why hesitate?"
She should stop this now. She should tell him now. But his fingers were inching up her ribs. Filling her lungs, she grabbed at his arms and squeezed. His hands slipped around and up her shoulder blades.
"I don't want to hurt you," she said then exhaled.
"Do you want to stop? I'll take you home. It's—"
His hands had started to slip away again, but hers traveled up his arms to pull at his wrists.
"Fuck me, Rey."
They fumbled with each other's clothes. As she jerked his boxers down, he leaned over to rummage through the nightstand. She nipped at his jaw, and he groaned in frustration. He started cursing and then finally found a condom. After he had rolled it down his length, she rubbed against him. He gasped. Grinning, she rolled off him, onto the bed. Through hooded eyes, she watched him. Deliberate, eager, he stood at the edge of the bed and grabbed for her. She arched into his touch and then shook as fingers slid inside. A hand palmed at her breast then squeezed as those fingers worked in a slow rhythm.
Hands reaching for him, she moaned. "Come on—don't tease me."
"This is hardly teasing," he grinned, rolling her nipple between his fingers.
She gasped, head rolling back on the bed. "You know what I want. Give it to me." Her ankles hooked around his waist, she pulled at him.
He bent over her, sliding into her, kissing at her cheek, the corner of her mouth. She wrapped herself around him, and he settled against her. For a moment, she lost herself to his heat, his scent—earthy and coppery and so alive. It overwhelmed her. Trembling and gasping, she clung to him, and he worked a rhythm like a heartbeat in her. She licked at his wounds, and he bucked, sudden and hard.
"Take what you want," he said, and she did, until they were both spent in a sweaty, tangled mess of limbs.
He slowly removed himself from her. When he stood, he swayed, and she grinned, "Careful." His face was almost ashen in the light. She watched him, gingerly touching the bite marks on his neck, and sat up to coil her legs under herself. "I can help with that. If you like."
He glanced over at her. "Was thinking of showering. Come with me?"
Chewing at her lip, she looked down at her hand on the sheets. There was a spot—cold and damp—beneath her. This had been a mistake. Sighing, she shook her head. "I should probably go," she mumbled.
His fingers brushed up her arm, and his touch drew her from the bed. He was so warm. She felt drawn to him, and he seemed, at least for now, to feel the same. That should be enough, when he was touching her cheek like that and looking into her eyes, when he was rubbing soap over her skin and kissing her shoulder. It was always like this; it didn't last. She knew that.
She left once he had fallen asleep. It was awful late, and she had a long walk back to her hotel.