Выбрать главу

And understood that she had possessed him as unexpectedly—and as certainly—as he had her.

Oh, God. It wasn't supposed to have been like this. He was Anthony, her friend, and she loved him dearly for it—but it wasn't supposed to be this. She would not mourn for him when he left again—this would shatter her.

She'd been a silly girl who'd dreamed of love, and a stupid girl who'd declared love a fraud; but she'd never imagined that when she found it, it would be richer, more powerful than dreams, and the impossibility of keeping it more painful than the worst betrayal.

"No, Emily." The words seemed ripped from him, hoarse and broken. He sat up, shifting deep within her, and rolled her onto her back. He pulled and thrust, the strength of it chasing the wind from her lungs. "Just feel. Don't think of what can't be." Her back bowed as he drove into her again. "Just this."

And she allowed herself that fantasy; she rose to meet his heavy thrusts and let him withdraw each time as if she could hold him to her forever. He pressed into her, over and over, and each deep plunge seemed to push that inevitable parting a little farther away.

He braced his hands beside her head and never took his eyes from her face. She felt him watch as she gave herself over and writhed beneath him. She felt him memorize her as she clenched and arched, as he wrung the last bit of pleasure from her exhausted body.

A moment later, when he drove into her a final time and pulsed deep within her, she watched him.

Chapter Ten

Battles must be fought, demons and nosferatu would destroy human souls and lives. Guardians must thwart the creatures before irreparable harm is done.

The Doyen Scrolls

Anthony poured the final pail of steaming water into the copper bath and gave Emily a dubious look. "Are you certain you wish to do this?"

She finished tying her apron and nodded. "If all goes well, he'll be better by the end of the night. I won't have him waking up look-in like he does now."

Anthony walked over to Colin's bed. Coal dust had darkened his blond hair, which was matted and stringy. Other than his hair, however, he was clean.

He turned back to Emily, ready to protest, but she silenced him with a frown.

Undaunted, Anthony suggested, "Why don't you and I take a bath instead?"

Her severe expression faded, replaced by a warm, feminine smile. "Later."

That sultry promise rolled through him, and he fairly leapt across the room to kiss her before she recalled that there would probably not be a later for them. "I'm only doing this because of this—and earlier," he said when he lifted his lips from hers.

"Kisses as payment?" she said breathlessly. "Lilith would be proud."

He laughed, and her eyes darkened with pleasure. With regret, he released her and strode back to the bed, reached down, and tugged Colin's nightshirt over his head with one quick movement. He lifted his friend's naked body, mumbling as he crossed over to the bath, and set him gently in the water.

"What did you say?" Emily asked as she propped Colin's neck away from the rim with a cushion of folded towels.

Anthony blushed. "I said it isn't natural to see a friend naked, let alone carry him around that way."

Grinning, Emily began soaping Colin's chest. "I'll never tell him."

"Good." He watched her efficient movements and then helped hold Colin out of the water when she pushed him forward to wash his back. "You are good at this," he said with admiration.

Pink tinged her cheeks. "I don't make a habit of washing grown men, if that is what you are thinking."

Surprised, he met her gaze. "No," he said. "I wasn't thinking that at all. Just that you have a talent for caring for people."

"So says the poor doctor who resented having to become one," she said. She glanced up, her eyes wide. "I didn't mean that like it sounded."

He smiled. "I am glad I'm not the only one; around you, nothing I say seems to come out as I want it to." A hint of a smile curved her lips. He added, "And you are correct, I didn't want to be one. But now that I have this Gift, I am grateful I studied."

Nodding, she began lathering Colin's hair. "The unexpected pleasures are often the sweetest," she said softly. Her eyes took on a faraway cast, a mixture of sadness and love in their warm depths. "I did not know how much joy Robert would bring to me. He brought me out of it—that resentment I nearly let destroy me, my family. I was searching for someone to love me, a way to humiliate my father, and what I really needed was to think of someone other than myself."

"Surely it wasn't that simple," Anthony said. He dipped one of the buckets into the bathwater and poured it over Colin's head at her signal.

"No, it's not that simple," she agreed with a shake of her head. "But it feels that way now. Being with Robert made me remember how good it felt to believe in love, to regain that optimism and innocence—hope without naivete. I was able to let go most of that bitterness I'd let consume me."

She looked up at him. "I blamed my father—but he was not a bad man for ignoring me, was he? Nor was he really a good man." She wrapped a dry towel around Colin's head and rubbed. "He was just a man who fell in love twice."

Her words made his chest ache. "Yes," he agreed, his voice hoarse. "You will, too."

"I hope that is true," she said. Tears dripped from her lashes and landed with a splash in the bathwater. "Help me lift him out, then hold him up while I dry him."

He did as she bade, watching as she pressed a towel to her face before turning toward him, briskly wiping the water from Colin's body. "In the letter, I apologized to Mrs. Newland," she said. "When I visited her that day, I was horrible. I called her terrible names."

"How did she react?" Anthony said quietly, unsurprised. He'd seen the name she'd written on the paper for Hugh.

Emily smiled in reluctant admiration. "She held her own. When I accused her of using her courtesan tricks to entrap my father, she told me exactly what those tricks were." Her smile faded. "And then I found you in the library, and took out my disappointment on you."

Anthony lay Colin on the bed. "Did your father ever mention the sword after you sent it to her?"

"No—I meant to make him ashamed, to let him know that I knew about her—but I don't think he ever was. And that made me angry." She worked Colin's arms into the sleeves of a clean nightshirt.

"Hence the other men." He tucked the blankets under Colin's still form.

"Yes. I thought if he could buy love, then I could, too." There was no shame in her eyes, no regret. "I am just human. Just a woman."

His woman. For a short, short time.

She met his kiss halfway. With a growl of need and hunger, he scooped her into his arms and strode from the room. Her hands roamed everywhere. His face, his chest, his back all felt the branding heat of her touch—a heat he feared and hoped he'd never forget. Her fingers slipped down, measured the rigid length of his cock, and he did not have the strength to make it to her bedchamber.

He entered the first room he found, turned, and pressed her up against the door, using her weight to push it closed. She gasped against his neck as he palmed her breasts and rubbed his thumbs over their hardened peaks through her bodice.

Desperate to feel her skin, he ripped her dress and chemise lengthwise from neckline to hips, muttering an apology. Her shuddering laugh ended on a moan as his lips closed over her nipple, suckling, biting.

Her hands fisted in his hair. "Tell me, Anthony," she demanded. "There is no one to hear."

The words pierced through him, but he could not speak.

She tugged, insistent. "I need to hear it."

She deserves to bear it. He laved his tongue along the underside of her breast and found his voice. "I love you," he said, and her breath caught. "I love the softness of your breasts, and the way you shiver against me when I worship them with my mouth, my tongue."