Ten years after watching life drain from her first love’s eyes, Linden Hill’s skills for divining the predictable are lost.
When Cyril returns, he’s still gorgeous, but this time he’s beyond human, far less dead, and pissed. His lack of memory drives him to desperate acts, and their turbulent re-acquaintance pulls Linden into a war with a creature hell-bent on his destruction.
His group of six supernatural men share a tantalizing secret, but despite the hunger, it’s love that leads her to sacrifice everything to save him.
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“Your eyes are so lovely; please don’t hide them from me. Don’t be afraid. I would never hurt you.”
His sincerity must have been contagious because the words slipped through my lips without permission. “I know you’d never hurt me intentionally. It’s the unintentional consequences I fear.”
He brought his other hand up to cup my other cheek and, with my face firmly held he said, “Linden, I’m not fool enough to think that the gods don’t intentionally f**k with us.”
His use of that word was unexpected. Always a gentleman, but always something more carnal beneath the surface too. The inconsistency seemed natural.
“But if that ever happens, I will spend forever trying to atone. Don’t turn away from me.” He stared at me for a moment and when his face started to move toward mine, I thought for sure he would kiss my lips, but instead he placed a lingering kiss to my forehead and pulled me into a hug. If he felt anything for me other than friendship, that was his moment to prove it. I had my answer. I gave a forced smile and pulled away.
“Please, play,” he said while trailing his hand over my back.
Facing the piano, with my fingers lingering above the keys, I tried not to allow disappointment to lace my words. “How did you know about the song?” My racing heart slowed as I realized the kiss wouldn’t happen.
His response was casual. “I have very keen hearing and you start to hum it every time you walk away from me to return home. Where is the song from?”
Strange. Maybe I was louder than I thought.
“I don’t know where I learned it. I think I made it up, but it’s hard to know for sure.”
“It’s beautiful, please...” He motioned to the piano.
He stood and I pressed one key to test to see if it was in tune. Pitch-perfect, of course. I should have expected no less. I stretched to measure the distance to the pedals. After my assessment, I began to play. As I pressed the keys, I tried to forget he was even in the room, but that became impossible as he provided subtle hints as to how I should adjust my posture. He pushed back on my shoulders and lifted my elbows with a light touch. The adjustment made a difference, and in time my composition transitioned to something more graceful.
He placed his hands on my shoulders as he stood behind me and whispered, “Now relax, the music is in control. Give in to it. Let it take you, command you, while you find freedom in its control.”
His finger made small massaging circles on my neck and shoulders, and the more he touched me, the more at ease I became. I played better than I ever had.
He ran his hands up and down my forearms, coaxing the notes from my fingers as he whispered in my ear, “That’s it. You are much more relaxed. Music is energy, Linden. With energy, you must first make yourself an attractive conduit. Energy does not like resistance. The less resistant you are, the more it can take hold, become stronger—make you stronger. Allow it to embody you, become one with you, and embrace its possession.” His breath teased as his words sent waves of electricity through me.
I added improvisational parts to the song I had never imagined. I played sequences far beyond my skill level without effort. As I neared the end of the song, the magical feeling broke down, and with it went my newfound ability. It was as if I took a drug to make me a better musician and it had begun to wear off, but I knew it wasn’t a drug. It was Cyril.
As the last notes breathed their final whisper to the air, I heard him say, “Well done! I bet you even surprised yourself.”
“How did you do that?”
“I didn’t do anything. I simply taught you to sit up and concentrate. Other than that, it was all you. Music can’t possess the unwilling.”
I shot him a suspicious glare. “All right...your turn.” I went to get up.
“No, please stay. Let me see...I’ll play something you know. How about Beethoven’s Sonata quasi una fantasia? You may know it as the Moonlight Sonata.”
I nodded. He could have played Chopsticks and I would have been happy.
He began with the solemn phrasing of the piece. Every languid note held so much emotion. My fingers mindlessly stroked the side of his leg in the slow melodic tempo of the first movement. The mournful timbre accented the sadness I felt knowing that every minute I stayed with him, it was going to be much harder to accept I could never have him.
I had only heard the first movement of the piece but as the somber melody transitioned into a more energetic strain, I knew it would be an experience I would never forget.
His enthusiastic gestures, the bounce of his hair as he pounded out the rapid notes, all added to the look of determination on his face. The notes were saturated in passion, and violence defined him. I watched him with intense concentration and wondered if he brought that same passion to his kisses, his bed, and his love. It would be a miracle if one person could harness him.
When he played the last note, his breathing was heavy and a thin film of perspiration coated the skin of his brow and neck. He looked down at the floor and then slowly into my eyes. That instant, the connection formed again. He reached up and brushed the hair from my face and I did the same to him, draping his thick, dark, sweat-moistened locks behind his ear.
“That was magnificent. I’ve never...”
His hand reached up to cup my face. His thumb caressed my lower lip as I spoke.
“Heard...or seen...anything like you. I mean that.”
He smiled and continued to outline my lip.
“Linden...” he said with a breathy whisper, “there are so many things I want to show you, teach you. I want you to make me a promise.”
I answered without hesitation. “Yes.”
“The way you are looking at me right now... Please, always look at me this way. Stare into my eyes and see me for who I am and know that there is nothing more than this. When the world calls things into question, you need not question me because I will always be here for you. The comfort I find in your eyes is new and frightening.”
I found it difficult to believe anything frightened this man. He cupped my cheek and with tenderness that mirrored his words, he caressed my face and trailed his hand to rest on my chest just below my neck. I wrapped my hand around his wrist, holding him to me.
He leaned in, pinning our arms between us, and breathed, “Promise me.”
I closed my eyes, reveling in his closeness, his scent, his heat. “OK.”
He inhaled. “I will make you a promise in return. I cannot bring you into my world as I would like, so I will not ask you to indulge me further. I should let you go, but I’m sorry, I am far too selfish to break all ties. I do promise to always be your friend, your mentor.”
Deep down, hopeful he might love me and see me as a woman, I opened my eyes and managed a smile filled with sadness and disappointment.
Protégé was the title bestowed upon me, not girlfriend, lover, or wife. I looked away from him to try to pull back the tears that escaped my eyes.
“Already breaking your promise?”
I looked up and he brushed my tears away with his thumb.
“I’m not immune, Linden. I feel it too. I just need to be stronger than this, for you.” He pulled me into his embrace.
His arms were tight around me. He smiled but something sad lingered behind it. “It’s getting late. I should get you home.”
About the Author
When she isn’t putting pen to paper crafting sensual stories filled with supernatural lovers, she spends time with her beyond-supportive husband, two wonderful sons and three loving but needy cats.
Her debut novel, Symphony of Light and Winter, finished second for Best New Paranormal Series of 2013 in Paranormal Cravings Battle of the Books and received a third place award for Best New Paranormal Romance of 2013 in The Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewers Choice Awards.
She is also a founding member of Coffee Talk Writers and the Coffee Talk website–a site designed to support established writers and foster new talent.