Damn her claws for curling -
"I believe you like everything about me," he rumbled from inside the bathroom.
She gazed at the ceiling, embarrassed as she couldn't remember ever being before. Of course he'd known she was staring, probably by the holes she was burning into his skin. As she dressed, she thought that he was right - she was tantalized, and she did like everything about him physically. The way he'd made her feel last night left no doubt in her mind that he could not only get her to ask for him inside her, but beg.
She needed to escape before then, before he "claimed" her. He hadn't drunk from her and they hadn't had sex. As long as those two things stayed sacred she could get past this patch in her life.
When he returned to the room, dressed like a male dream, she felt like shuffling her feet for her ridiculous getup, draped in his shirt that fell to her knees. She had never felt insecure before. But she didn't have long to ponder it, because he put his hands on her waist. "Are you ready?" he asked, staring down at her. Ready? To kiss him, hug him, go to her knees? What?
He pulled her to his body, wrapping his arms around her. "Close your eyes," he commanded. She did. "Open them."
Suddenly, they were in a garage. This was the first time she'd traced and been able to think about the process. She'd dropped an intoxispell or two in her day and found tracing on par with that. She was unsteady at first, but the air smelled like bayou at high tide, which she liked, and was heavy with humidity. New Orleans, but where? "What is this place?" she asked, breaking away from him to look around.
"An old restored mill north of the city," Wroth answered. "Where I stayed while scouring the streets for you for as long as I could manage every night. Before collapsing in agony and weakness."
She looked away quickly, fighting a flare of guilt - and spotted his cars. She tried to be cool, but of course, Wroth caught her eyeing them - especially the Maserati Spyder - and she knew he'd seen her flicker of appreciation. The Valkyrie prized fine things. They were acquisitive to a fault - it simply couldn't be helped. Her own mother had told her that Myst's first word was, roughly translated, gimme.
He opened her door to the Spyder, and once she was inside, she curled up on the soft leather, loving it. Joining her, he cast her an inscrutable expression. "We are fortunate, Myst. You'll want for nothing as my wife."
She'd already been fortunate. She already wanted for nothing. The coven divvied their collective earnings from investments, and the take was always incredibly generous. She had enough money to buy any clothing that struck her fancy, to purchase two thousand dollar hand-painted lingerie sets to placate her obsession. In a deadened tone, she mumbled, "Oh joy. I'm rich."
He commanded her to direct him to her home, not in itself an unforgivable crime. They didn't hide their address like the Bat Cave, yet they didn't often have trespassers at Val Hall. When his breath hissed in at the sight of the manor, she was reminded why.
"This is where you live?" he bit out, forearms resting on the steering wheel, his tone incredulous.
She tried to see it from his eyes. Fog shrouded the property, and bolts of light illuminated it in a staccato rhythm. There were lightning rods everywhere, but sometimes they didn't catch all the lightning, as evidenced by the massive oaks in the yard still lazily giving up smoke. And the wood nymphs - those little hookers - were way behind on repairing the trees. If Myst heard them whine, "But Mysty baby, there was this orgy," as an excuse one more time -
"Hellish," Wroth said.
She tilted her head. In the olden days they used to stick a sword into the ground to mark a grave, and she'd always fancied that the rods made this place look like one of those mass burial sites. Even at this distance, shrieks could be heard coming from within. The Valkyrie often screamed. If Annika got angry enough, car alarms in three parishes would blare.
Okay, it might be a bit hellish.
"It's time you had someone take you from here," he bit out as he continued closer.
She frowned at him. "You forget. This is where I belong. I'm as much monster as what lies within."
"You're a lot of things, Bride. But you're not a monster."
"You're right. I'm what monsters like you fear beneath their beds."
"But now you're in my bed where you belong."
"So in this life of ours that your crazed mind envisions, I'm not going to fight?"
He shook his head as he parked down the gravel drive. "No. I'm well aware that you're deceptively strong. I know that other beings would rather die than risk your wrath. But I won't ever allow you to put yourself in danger again."
She batted her eyelashes at him and in a syrupy voice said, "Because I'm just so darn precious to you?"
"Yes," he answered simply, making her roll her eyes. He got out of the car, and she followed, but he quickly traced to open it for her, looking at her as if she was crazy not to wait for him to assist her.
Perfect. A gentleman warrior. Which she was discovering she might have a weakness for.
As they walked the drive, he said, "Hold my hand."
"Big vampire scared the wittle Valkyrie will get away?"
He turned to her with his brows drawn. "I just want to hold your hand."
What was that flutter in her stomach? And why didn't she mind that her hand was slipping into his big, rough one to be completely enveloped and secured? They walked like this to the side of the cavernous thirty-room mansion.
He was tense here, ready to trace them away in a split second, and she almost felt sorry for him when she realized he'd never seen anything like her home before. He was of the Lore, and yet in so many ways he was as human as he'd once been.