“Again?” she asked, and shivered with excitement.
“Again.” After he’d rolled the rubber over his length, he framed one side of her face in his ungloved hand, traced his thumb along the rise of her cheekbone, and softly kissed her lips. “The appetizer was delicious, sugar. Now I’m ready for the meal.”
Eight days of bliss. Galen and Leila stayed in bed, making love, talking, and laughing. But something major was bothering his woman, and he didn’t know what, or how to make it better. He only knew his foreboding had returned and redoubled.
Many times, he’d caught Leila standing at their bedroom window, gazing out, lost in thought. Lost in fury, her body drawn as tight as a bow, her hands fisted. He’d asked what was wrong, had begged for answers, but she’d merely kissed and fondled him until he’d forgotten his name.
His Leila loved her pleasure, and he loved giving it to her. Loved when she gave it right back.
The demons did everything in their power to rile Galen up, but he refused to take the bait. He trusted his woman, not the fiends. Leila would tell him what was wrong when she was ready, and they would find a way to work it out. No other outcome was acceptable. Because, for the first time in his life, a true happily ever after was possible, all thanks to Leila.
In those eight days, other changes had come over her. Her fear? Gone without a trace. She smiled often, and always welcomed him into her arms, her bed. Sometimes he was the aggressor, sometimes she had the honors; they took turns. She slept deeply, nightmares no longer plaguing her. And now that he knew the joy of holding her as he slept, he couldn’t fall asleep without her nearby. She was his peace. His family. His everything. He belonged with her, and to her.
Some days, she even joked with him. We should clone you. One Galen to fight wars, one to clean our room, and seven others to see to my sexual satisfaction. I’m not sure you can keep up on your own, lover boy.
He grinned, remembering, but the amusement didn’t last long. He hadn’t confessed his love yet. Even though he knew she loved him, too. She must. She’d started collecting the feathers he shed. But she’d made no mention of it, either, and he had a feeling the reason revolved around her fury, and whatever had sparked it.
That fury… he’d tasted it as they’d trained. The one responsible for it was going to die in agony, no doubt about it.
Leila’s skill amazed him. The more she’d remembered her combat training, the more she’d taken him to the ground. In his defense, he’d been distracted by her breasts. And her legs. And her mouth. And every little noise she made. And the pulse that hammered at the base of her neck. Mostly, the smile she unleashed every time she succeeded.
Yesterday, Keeley had joined their session and shooed Galen away. He’d left the room, but had stayed nearby, listening to their conversation, telling himself he eavesdropped just in case his woman needed him.
“You mentioned you have questions for me,” Keeley had said, “and I’m ready to answer.”
“Cronus,” Leila had begun, a quiver in her voice. “He invaded my mind. How do I protect my thoughts, my memories?”
Galen’s stomach had twisted.
Keeley had made a little hmmm, that’s interesting noise. “To invade someone’s mind, you must establish a psychic link. Unless that someone has mental shields. To establish mental shields, you need practice. But I’ll be honest. I’m surprised Cronus did this. A psychic link is the worst possible way to extract info from another person. You don’t just see their memories, you feel the emotions they experienced. Why torture yourself in such a way?”
Did Leila still harbor fears, and she’d just gotten better at hiding them? Did she expect Cronus to find and harm her again?
Must find him first. Must stop him.
If Leila did fear another kidnapping, she didn’t show it. Earlier today, she’d gone shopping with the other ladies, a few of the Lords acting as guards—for the mortals they came across. Gwen, her half-sister Kaia, plus Lucien’s girlfriend Anya, the minor goddess of Anarchy, often acted like the emotional equivalent of children hopped up on caffeine combined with Disney villains.
Galen had remained behind, a difficult feat, even though he’d known Leila would be well protected. It was just…he wanted her to have normal experiences, like girls’ day out. Fine. She’d told him to keep his ass at home so she could relax with her girls.
Now he lounged on a lawn chair beside Aeron, drinking ice cold beer on the porch, waiting for their women to return. Living. A ray of sunlight broke through a wall of gray clouds, a gentle breeze scented with pansies.
“You make her happy,” Aeron said, sounding resigned.
“I know. But she does the same for me.” He just wished they’d made headway with Cronus. So far, there’d been no more sightings or whispers from spies. Galen had his best people searching. “I will take care of her for all eternity, this I swear to you.”
A pause. A sigh. Then, “I believe you.”
His chest clenched. “I don’t deserve your trust, but I thank you for it. And though I can’t regret the past that brought Leila and me together—yes, you uncouth tyrant, that’s how you say it—I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused you over the eons.”
Another sigh. “You are forgiven. We’ve all done things to hurt others.”
Clench. “Not to complain but…this forgiveness would have been nice days ago.”
“Days ago my female hadn’t given me an ultimatum. Forgive you for real and for good, or sleep on the couch.”
Galen winced, as if embarrassed for him. “You are so whipped.”
An SUV with blackened windows sped up the drive, screeching to a stop in front of a massive marble waterfall. The girls had returned! He leaped to his feet and rushed down the winding stone pathway.
“Yeah, I’m the whipped one,” Aeron called.
Without turning, Galen lifted a hand to flip him off. The vehicle’s back door opened. Leila spilled out, bags dangling from her hands. Oh, yes. I’m whipped. She wore a black leather halter top and a very short mini-skirt; he had to wipe away drool.
As soon as she spotted him, adoration lit her expression. The look he loved and craved. It made him remember the early days of his life, when he’d believed every life mattered and redemption was possible. But even still, his sense of foreboding kicked up a notch. She might be adoring, but tension thrummed from her, stronger than ever.
Bags jumbling together, she ran over and leaped into his open arms. “Guess what?” she said, making him forget his doubts. “Keeley told me I’m not pregnant, that I won’t have a kid for another couple of years. Only when we’re good and ready.”
Disappointment and relief mixed, an odd sensation. “Doesn’t mean we should stop practicing.”
He turned and strode past a wealth of roses growing along wrought-iron trellises, closing in on the fortress, a structure both tall and sprawling, with two side towers and copper steeples. Ivy covered several stone walls. Around the border, amazingly detailed stone statues of men and monsters stood sentry.
As Galen carried his woman through the front door, Aeron called, “Hello to you, too, Legion.”
winced. “Sorry, Aeron. Didn’t see you out there.”
Galen sent a mental F-U to Jealousy, and the demon whimpered.
Leila pressed a swift kiss to his lips. “Wait till I show you what I bought.”
“Something sexy?” he asked, nearly undone by the thought.
“Something suuper sexy. Spoiler alert. The G-string is going to drive you wild…when you wear it while dancing for me.”
* * * *
I have to do this, and you have to let me.
The words whispered through Galen’s mind, accompanied by the tick tick tick of a bomb nearing its detonation. Drowsy but alert enough to know his woman wasn’t in his arms, he rolled over and reached for her, intending to pull her close. Cold sheets greeted him. Tick tick.
He frowned. Blinking open his eyes, he sat up. Bright light streamed through the window, illuminating pink walls, and the framed oil painting she’d hung yesterday. In it, Galen posed like someone named George Costanza. Whoever that was.
Yesterday, Leila also strung twinkling Christmas bulbs around the four-poster bed, and decorated the mantel with stuffed road kill she’d dressed in doll clothes.
“They had terrible ends,” she’d said. “Hopefully, this tribute honors them.”
He’d grinned then, and he grinned now. Her whimsical style appealed to the boy he’d never gotten to be. The boy he’d always wanted to be.
No sign of her, or even the clothes they’d scattered over the floor last night. Tick, tick.
“Leila?” he called, refusing to worry.
No response. Tick, tick, tick. He kicked his legs over the side of the bed. His feet sank into the plush carpet as he stood. Cool air brushed his bare skin. Naked, he rolled his shoulders and stretched his arms over his head. His wounds had healed completely, no longer complaining when he moved.
Shaking out his wings to leave feathers on the floor, he strode into the bathroom. Tick. The walk-in closet. Tick.
Was she in the kitchen, eating breakfast, maybe? He’d zapped all of her energy last night.