"He has decided that despite the unlikelihood of a vampire being accepted in London's fashionable drawing rooms, he will enjoy being immortal." She laid her head against his chest, listened to the beating of his heart. "Apparently, the prospect of a future sans inevitable baldness convinced him. Henry was already becoming quite thin on top, if you remember, and my grandfather's skull could have given the nosferatu a fright."
He shook with laughter and quickly kissed her temple.
"Let me see your wings," she said.
He sighed and focused, and she felt them erupt seamlessly through the back of his shirt. Stepping out of his embrace to walk around him, she trailed her hands along the sturdy, downy frame that rose from his shoulder blades to the wings' apex, feeling them quiver under her fingers.
"Take off your shirt."
It vanished, and she skimmed her fingers the length of his spine, his naked skin golden in the candlelight. His muscles were taut, the hands by his sides clenched into fists. She pressed her breasts against his back, nestled between his wings, and licked his nape. Her arms slid under his, her hands running over his chest and stomach, tracing the ridges of muscle with gentle fingers.
"Have I told you how beautiful you are?" she said.
His laugh was strangled by his arousal, and he nodded his head. "Twice."
She smiled against his skin, remembering, and quickly slid under feathers and flesh to face him again. Her fingers pulled at the front of his breeches as her mouth trailed wet kisses over his jaw, neck, and chest. Her tongue swirled around his flat nipple, her teeth nipped the small bud, and she dropped to her knees.
She felt him watching her as she drew his rigid erection from its confines and laid its pulsating length against her cheek.
His breath sucked in sharply between his teeth, and she glanced up, saw his face harsh with desire, his eyes heavy-lidded. His voice was rough, sensual, gravel and silk. "Is this when you'll make me do whatever you want?"
She held his gaze. "Yes." She whispered the word against the sensitive tip of him, lingered over it in a wet, suckling kiss.
His skin tightened across his cheekbones, and she wanted to take away the despair that warred with his arousal. "What will you make me do?"
Stay, she thought, but he could not give her that. To ask would only cause him pain, that the one thing she wanted he could not offer; it was not his choice. To voice it would be selfish, unbearable.
"Let me fly with you," she said instead, and licked the creamy drop of moisture that beaded on the taut crown. "I want to feel what you do. When I think of you, I want to be able to imagine myself with you." She traced the veins that lined his cock with her tongue, drew the heavy sac beneath into her mouth, and suckled with soft pressure.
"Emily," he breathed, and his fingers threaded into her hair. He guided her over him again and groaned in tortured bliss as her tongue stroked the sensitive underside of his shaft.
The sounds of his pleasure pulled her nipples tight and pooled beneath her womb with liquid heat. She pushed the tip of her tongue into the weeping slit to catch his flavor and felt the melting ache within her. His hips jerked as her tongue slid around the smooth head, and he thrust against her mouth. She took him deep and stroked with her lips and hands, lingering at the top with each suckling pull.
He tensed and tried to back away, but she insisted with her lips and teeth and tongue. She held him against her and drank him in and then gently licked the lingering seed away.
His chest heaved with short, shuddering gasps. She leaned in against him, wrapped her arms around his hips, and smoothed her palms over the small of his back. Their skin was slick with perspiration, her core swollen and hot with need.
"And then bring me back here, bend me over that bed, and tup me like a footman," she said, and held him to her as he laughed.
The cold night air stung her cheeks, numbed her nose, and brought tears that streamed like fire down her face.
It was glorious, she thought.
She'd screamed when they'd plummeted from her window, but it had turned to delighted laughter as they dipped and then soared. Each powerful beat of his wings took them farther, and they went over the Peaks faster than she could have dreamed possible, the moonlight shaping the stone-lined fields below into dark squares and rectangles.
How could anyone give this up? she marveled and knew that when the one hundred years was completed he would not Fall or Ascend but continue on as a Guardian. The thought brought her no pain, only a deep sense of awe and wonder and loss.
Though the wind took her words, she knew he heard them. "Will you watch after Colin?"
He tightened the cradle of his arms and banked toward the waxing moon. "Yes. And your grandchildren."
She touched her belly. "Do you think—"
He stopped her hopeful words with a kiss before lifting his head, aiming for home.
An ache spread through her at that wordless denial, but the tears that slipped from her eyes were only from the cold. The others, the ones that were hot and burned… those were for later.
"They told me you were here," Hugh said.
Anthony briefly nodded his acknowledgment, never taking his eyes from the parchment in front of him.
The muscles in the back of his neck tensed as Hugh silently looked over his shoulder. "I do not remember you showing interest in the Scrolls before," he observed.
Anthony finished reading the one in his hands before answering. "I spent my life in study. I did not want to repeat the process in my death." A blooming frustration started in his stomach, but he tamped it down. Yet another scroll without the answer he sought—and though he could search forever, he did not have that long to find it. It had already been a month.
It would help if I knew what to look for, he thought bleakly.
"So what brings you to the Archives now?" Hugh lifted a roll of parchment from a nearby table. He began tapping it against his opposite hand, and Anthony could not recall a moment when he'd resented his mentor more. "I have been told that when you are not decimating your opponents on the practice field, you are here."
"You should be proud," Anthony said, unable to keep the impatient tone from his voice. He picked up another scroll. "The perfect student."
"Did you promise her you would return?"
Anthony sucked in a breath. He could not erase the image of Emily's pale determination when he'd left. She had smiled and thanked both Guardians with polite gratitude; but he had heard the racing of her heart, saw how her hands had been shaking. Her face had still been flushed with their lovemaking, her lips swollen from their final, desperate kisses.
As his own had been.
"No. I did not want to give her hope if there was none."
"And yet you had already decided to search for a way."
Anthony met Hugh's gaze and held it, unwavering. "Yes. I had no other choice."
Hugh ceased his tapping and tossed the scroll to Anthony. "There is always a choice," he said. "It is a rare man who makes the right one."
Unrolling the scroll, Anthony skimmed its length. Halfway through, he paused, reread carefully, and closed his eyes against a rush of gratitude. "Thank you."
Hugh's expression didn't change. "You would have come across it. Eventually."
Anthony pushed away from the table with a burst of energy. He paused and turned. "I made a promise to Emily that I would look after Colin when she could no longer do it."
"And her grandchildren. I will," Hugh said. "For as long as I can."
My grandchildren. The overwhelming pleasure that swept through him at the thought almost caused him to miss the hesitation that crossed Hugh's features.