Meta:Between the Books: Volume Twentyfive

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Volume Twentyfive: Truth Between Brothers
Character(s) Various
Date October 2006
After The Forsaken
Before The Wicked
Location La Paz, Mexico. At the beach Hacienda
Between the Books Navigation
Volume Twentyfour
Volume Twentysix

The days and nights dragged without Carlos and Damali there to set an agenda. While everything in him told him to be thankful that they'd stumbled upon a serene stretch of time during the post nuptials, much like one would find an oasis on a desert, still there was an unresolved conflict that cloyed at his insides. He needed to talk to JL to make peace with his brother. But where did one begin?

It wasn't as though there was any real outright animosity or open hostility. But the strained civility was getting on his nerves, even though he'd been the primary one to cause it.

Dan laced up his Timberlands with purpose. It was dawn and he needed the fresh air to clear his head. The team would be getting up soon; the household would stir and come alive. Yet the things that needed to be said to JL had to happen in private, man to man, without an audience. He also wanted to mend the fence with Krissy, to make her feel comfortable around him again. and he most assuredly didn't want Heather to pick up on any history. She deserved a clean slate.

It was all too complicated and extremely isolating. A burning wish entered his mind as he quietly left his room and passed through the hallway to stand on the wide porch before descending the steps to the sand. Jose was the only man in the compound that could truly understand what this weird feeling was all about. But to hope that Jose would be available to talk first thing in the morning was stupid. The man had a gorgeous babe, and if he were in Jose's shoes, talking rhetoric about some old leftover bull would be the last thing on his mind.

Dan stooped and pitched a small shell and began a trek to nowhere, skirting the edge of the water. The beach was beautiful at sunrise, everything painted pink and orange, the pound of the surf breathtaking. The baleful call of gulls sounded like they were in mourning, but even that was beautiful. Heather was beautiful and should see this too, he thought. with him. at first light. naked.

He pitched another shell and kept his eyes on the horizon as he walked, nearing a natural pier of jagged rocks that would force him to either climb over it or to walk nearly a half mile to round it. When he looked up he saw Jose sitting on a flat rock high above him, legs crossed yogi style, furiously sketching and engrossed.

The sight of his fellow Guardian brother gave Dan a start. Jose looked up at him for a moment and then went back to his pad with a half smile.

"Took you long enough," Jose said, his hands working on the paper more slowly. "C'mon up."

"Whaduya mean, 'took me long enough?'" Dan's question wasn't an accusation, just a release of deep curiosity.

"Vamp radar," Jose said with a chuckle.

Dan stopped climbing to stare at him.

"Aw, c'mon, hombre. I'm just yanking with you. Be serious. You know I can sorta tell things, and besides, 'Nita pushed me outta bed and said to talk to you-she could feel your vibe trying to get my attention this morning and it was messing with her flow. she couldn't concentrate, feel me? So talk to me, man."

"Damn. I'm sorry, I didn't-"

"It's cool. Have a seat. Whassup?"

Dan met Jose's friendly gaze and then looked away. It was a raw wound, a fresh one that he now had to take the bandages off of. He feared that parts of the protective layer might stick to the new scab as he peeled it back, and instinctively knew that the opening process might make the wound start bleeding all over again. His gaze sought the horizon as refuge.

"It's cool, man," Jose said calmly. "It's just me and you, and no, I ain't gonna tell 'Nita. Some shit is just between the brothers."

Dan nodded and sat with his arms braced around his knees staring out at the surf. "How'd you do it, man?"

Dan glimpsed Jose and watched him turn a new page in his sketch book, growing uncomfortable.

"Do what?" Jose hedged, drawing slowly, the muscle in his jaw now working.

"I thought we were gonna talk?" Dan said, exhaling hard.

"The three million dollar question-deal or no deal, right?"

Dan nodded. Jose let out another long sigh.

"How do you let it go once a new one comes along," Jose shook his head and began scribbling, his voice far away. "Holmes, it was the hardest shit I ever had to do."

For a while neither man spoke. Dan watched the horizon, Jose worked on his art. He was glad that Jose had said that; just hearing it shed part of the burden.

"Just before Rivera took the long walk, he came to see me," Jose said quietly, his voice almost drowned out by the surf. "All I'ma say is, you know how deep he is, right?"

Dan nodded. Now Jose had his full attention and he stared at his Guardian brother, rapt.

"He's got that silver Neteru thing going on, plus we're connected in the old vamp lines, ya mean," Jose said, his voice becoming thick with emotion. "He could have violated my mind easy-gone in at will, dredged my head, and pulled up every secret fantasy I owned about his woman, then kicked my ass-left a meat puddle where I'd been. but he took the high road and basically said, 'peace, let's squash it.' Then he asked me to stand by him as his best man. just like he'd asked me to be that for him before, if anything had ever happened to him."

Jose looked away as though remembering something so profound that he couldn't put words around it.

"Whoa," Dan whispered, rubbing his palms down his face. At least he and JL were a more even match, but he'd never really contemplated what could have happened if Carlos had gone ballistic and given into the temptation of delving into Jose's most private thoughts.

"You know men don't get into the whole Dr. Phil trip. Ain't a whole lot to talk about-some things we know and let go. Then its back to being brothers."

"Yeah. I guess."

"Listen, hombre. It couldn't get no more complicated than this shit we were dealing with. But we let it alone, squashed it man to man, and it didn't take a long discussion. Only time it needs a debate is if the bull ain't done-that's when there's arguing and who shot John, for men, at least."

Jose picked up his sketch pad again and began drawing but much more slowly. "He knew I had feelings deep enough to drown in for D, and I knew he did some crazy shit with 'Nita-but it was over. If we went into bullshit combat, even that silent struggle shit, both females would have been hurt. Stabbed in the heart by us acting stupid. Sometimes you just have to let it go, man." Jose looked at Dan. "Both of us had the woman designed for us by Heaven. so as long as we both knew where the line was, there was no reason for beef to continue between brothers."

"That's how I feel about it," Dan said, his gaze searching Jose's. "But how can I get JL to understand that it wasn't about hatin' him. it was-"

"It was about being human and drawn to a woman that pushed all the right buttons. Shit happens. JL knows that if the shoe were on the other foot, it would have gone the same way. just like me and Rivera knew that, if 'Nita was the only female in the compound, and I had been with her first, the one to own her heart, Rivera would have been bouncing off the walls, too. Some shit is just basic. JL will chill once you chill. he just doesn't know where your head is right now, man. Question is, do you?"

Dan raked his fingers through his hair and studied the surf for a moment, not sure how to answer. "I know, gut deep, that Heather is blowing my mind. but there's times when I see Kris and. I don't know."

Jose chuckled and the sound of his voice snapped Dan out of his contemplative reverie.

"That's because you're still caught-up in the mix."

"Huh?" Dan studied Jose hard now.

"Once you get some and Heather calls you by name, you could see Kris sashay into the kitchen buck naked and you'd ask her if she wanted some orange juice to go with her toast and eggs, man."

Dan cracked a smile and Jose started laughing. "Doubtful, but I'll take your word for it."

"You ain't hit it yet, did you?"

"Aw, c'mon, man," Dan said, now laughing. "That is so foul. why does everything have to be sexual? I'm talking emotions here-about feelings, dude. How I felt about Kris."

Jose shrugged. "My bad. I'm just being real. But you asked me my opinion-and I can't deny there's a little vamp in my DNA. That's just how I process the shit."

"Okay, but seriously. How can I feel. this. I don't know what you call it?"


"Yeah!" Dan whirled on Jose. "That's exactly what it's like. Every time Kris passes by, or she giggles, or she smiles, it hits me right in the stomach. and I keep waiting for that to go away before I talk to JL. We're both tacticals, he can feel it if I'm lying to him, ya know?"

"It ain't never gonna go away, so git to that," Jose said slowly with a smile, drawing each word out. "Ever."

Dan sat back. "Whoa. That's pretty fucked up."

"No. That's real." Jose let his breath out hard and raked his fingers through his hair, seeming to grow agitated. "That's what me and Rivera had to come to terms with, the fact that once there's history, the tingle, the rush of excitement that stabs you in the gut when that person is around you, doesn't go away. But you learn how to harness the beast, and it fades. in time. Father Pat said so."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Father Pat?" Dan sat hang-jawed looking at Jose. "You went to a Covenant cleric about this?"

"It was real bad, man. I was ready to pack and be out-leave the team." Jose looked back at his pad and began sketching furiously. "My situation was different than yours, man. The history was bone deep. you never slept with Krissy, and." His voice trailed off. "Yeah. I went for some help. Aw'ight. Had to get my head together and the old dude was real. Besides, he said that me and Rivera coming to him plus loving this team was what got him through some crisis of faith he was dealing with-so he ain't leave the church, therefore who was I to leave the team. Time, and seeing how close I came to Juanita checking out of here over the pain from this shit, put me in check. Guess we all got our crosses to bear."

Dan nodded, but still couldn't fathom going to Rabbi Zeitloff on the subject. The two clerics had substantially different personalities. If he went to anybody, it would be Monk Lin-Imam Asula was too imposing.

"So, it just sorta died down on its own, then. after talking it out?" Dan stared at Jose with awe.

"More or less," Jose said, his focus on the drawing. "But you know you're creating your own hell, man."

"What. whaduya mean?" Mild terror swept through Dan, wondering what kind of sins just thinking about what he had could cause. If Jose spoke to a cleric as profound as Father Pat, a wise seer, then.

"Relax," Jose said on a weary exhale. "Not actual in the pit battling demons, Hell. But hell nonetheless." He smiled when Dan's eyes widened. "The longer you mentally go back and forth between the old and the new, the longer your new potential mate, Heather, is gonna back off and feel uncomfortable."

"Whoa." Dan didn't even blink.

"That's why she's not ready yet, man," Jose said with a sly smile. "Plus, she's older than Krissy, can feel things, and is a stone-worker. has that prophecy gift, right?"

"Oh, damn." Damn closed his eyes.

"Yeah. My point exactly. That's why I had to get my head right-Juanita is a seer. I was the one keeping her wrapped up in jealousy against D-it was her feeding off my bullshit as much as her own. I'm telling you, the old dude tried to break it down, but at first I wouldn't listen. Then it was in my face so hard I had to. Don't wait till you get your ass kicked to make a change, bro."

"Oh, shit."

"Right." Jose stared at Dan for a moment before he resumed sketching. "Uh, huh, but Heather wouldn't need a gift to see it. Every time you're near Kris or JL you get all nervous and fucked-up in the head. Then Heather shies back, her feelings hurt-you can see it in her eyes, man. So, you'd better stop before you do so much damage that you'll be sleeping alone till this time next year."

Jose laughed when Dan scrambled to his feet. "Uh, huh," Jose said standing. "I thought that might get your attention." He sighed and ripped the page he'd been working on out of his pad and handed it to Dan. "Here. Give this to her as a peace offering. Go take her for a walk on the beach or something, hombre. I'm gonna go get some breakfast and to see if I can coax 'Nita back to bed." He winked and began climbing down the rocks.

"Thanks, Jose!" Dan shouted behind Jose's retreating form. But all Jose did was raise his pad in salute and kept walking.

For a long while Dan stood watching the surf just standing atop of the rock formation. He let the gentle breeze blow through his hair and against his face, feeling as though it was sweeping his soul clean. Finally he looked down at the drawing Jose had given him and he smiled. It was a picture of him embracing Heather in a passionate kiss on a beach. They stood knee deep in water, there was static electricity covering them, a harbor and buildings in the background. The embrace was so visually torrid that the drawing almost came to life.

He wasn't sure why but the heavy lines drew his fingertips to it, and a blue-white tactical static covered the page. That's when he saw it, then most assuredly felt it-the kiss. Not his kiss, Jose's mouth against Damali's. it had happened back before they'd gone to Tibet. The repressed desire latent within the drawing almost stole his breath as he held the paper against the wind.

Dan closed his eyes, tearing his vision away from the too private scene. But it was a confessional, a gift that his Guardian brother couldn't bring himself to speak aloud. This is what Jose was trying to tell him. if he could walk away from that to build a new life, than his bullshit with Krissy was trivial by compare. And yet, it wasn't a mockery at all. To share something so private took a whole lot of courage and serious respect. Clearly it was one man's way of allowing another in pain to see in, to walk a mile in his shoes without making the same mistakes. Jose had to know as he was drawing and putting his soul essence down on the page that only a tactical Guardian could read the feelings between each line. And at the same time he was allowed to feel Damali's conflict, which made him fully understand Krissy's in an odd way. her desire not to hurt the lover who'd be spurned, yet also loving him with her all like a brother. Now he better understood Heathers reticence, too.

"Wow." His murmur carried on the wind and disappeared with the next pound of surf. "Profound."

Truth was enlightening, and it helped propel him down the jagged rocks. He rolled up and held the drawing for the gift that it was and headed back to the hacienda. He needed to find JL. needed to give Krissy a hug and let her know without words that he was happy for them. He needed to also find Heather in the worst way now. The feeling hit him like a ton of bricks the moment he was completely clear.

His determined footsteps in the sand quickly became a jog and then evolved into a flat out dash. He ran up the front steps, barreled through the door, and headed for the kitchen. Berkfield was pouring coffee; Mrs. B was leisurely fixing raisin toast. The pair looked up and gave Dan a sleepy morning greeting and then went back to their tasks that had been etched into the routine of the older couple's lives for years.

"You want anything, Dan?" Marjorie Berkfield asked with a motherly smile.

"No, thanks, Mrs. B," Dan said, escaping the kitchen quickly. "But, uh, you see JL?"

"As long as he's not in my daughter's bedroom, I really don't care," Berkfield grumbled, sitting hard in a kitchen chair and opening a day old newspaper.

Dan was out. There was no way to comment on that without opening a can of worms, but he was glad that he spied JL sitting alone in the family room working on a laptop.

JL looked up and his eyes seemed tired, as though he hadn't slept in days. "Hey, man," he said quietly, and then went back to the computer. "Working on some new locations we could go to, just in case-so when Rivera gets back from his honeymoon, you know. Maybe we'll have some options."

Dan stood by the door knowing that shop-talk had been the acceptable buffer between him and JL since Arizona. Nothing was ever personal, no real laughs shared. Everything was sanitized, non-descript and all too pleasantly about business. Dan wondered if that was the essence of Asian Zen, to sweep things under the rug. But he'd done no less, too.

"Hey, man, I'm sorry," Dan said. "I really, really, am."

JL looked up but didn't speak for a moment. "There's nothing to apologize for. You felt like how you felt-and I respect that." He went back to the computer, and Dan slowly entered the room.

"I was wrong." He waited until JL looked up at him. "She made a choice."

JL glanced out of the window. "But I didn't need to rub it in your face. should have waited until there was another sent for my brother."

Dan chuckled. "Gimme a break-in a perfect world, Confucius. I wouldn't have, I'll be honest."

For the first time in what felt like too long, they both laughed and laughed hard. Dan walked over to JL and pounded his fist. JL stood and gave Dan a brother to brother hug. And just like that, the way Jose had predicted-it was over.

Dan elbowed JL in the ribs. "You look like shit, man. Why?"

JL tilted his head and lowered his voice, watching the door like a hawk. "Why? You've gotta be shitting me, man." He dragged his fingers through his disheveled hair. "She's just turned legal, this hacienda is waaay too small, and her father gets up at the ass-crack of dawn and sits up all night in here like a sentry on vamp watch until the wee hours. Kris can't relax like that. Be serious."

Dan swallowed a smile. "I really hadn't thought of that, dude."

JL briefly closed his eyes. "We've all got our own pain, brother, but at least Heather doesn't have an ex-cop dad living in the compound with you," he added in a low murmur and then grinned. "So, in the end, you lucked out."

Dan pounded JL's fist again, smiling broadly and much improved by JL's astute observation. "Peace. No beef."

"Peace. No beef," JL echoed.

"Tell her for me," Dan said, staring at JL. "I don't want Kris to think. and I don't want to cross your line by saying anything to her, so."

"It's cool. Tell her whatever, man. That's between you guys-and I trust you."

Dan nodded feeling more than deep relief. A part of his heart expanded toward his Guardian brother in a way that hadn't existed before. There was a deeper level of respect and commitment, something hard to define. "Thank you," was all he could muster, and he needed to leave so he could process it all.

JL was right. Once the Neterus returned, it was gonna be time to move out again. The house was too tiny, even though it was a large, sprawling mansion on the beach. He was bouncing off the walls, needed to be moving with purpose. Dan kept walking until he was out on the back deck. This time to contemplate things was difficult, and it made him wonder all sorts of madness. like, what would a man do if faced with a challenger that wasn't an honorable brother? Both Jose and JL were right, every man had a burden to bear, even Rivera.

He stared out at the grass studded dunes while leaning on the deck rail, the paper Jose had given him rolled into a tube, thinking. If what Jose had said was true, and he didn't doubt that it was, how was Rivera gonna deal with any residual electricity that might be there between Damali and Cain? Jose was not the man's problem; that huge Neteru bastard, Cain, was. The thought gave Dan a shiver-it was the first time in his life that he'd seen his hero almost defeated, and the realization had been chilling.

The bond between he and Rivera was like an umbilical cord; Rivera has saved him from being nearly eaten for vamp bait in a garage so many years ago. a time when Rivera had just turned into the undead himself-but still had enough humanity left in him to spare his life. Dan swallowed hard. It was all about a very thin thread of choice. He would never forget that, and would pledge his life in any battle that Rivera fought-ride or die.

A gentle female touch at his shoulders gave him a start. His mind had gone so far away from the present, drifting amongst his thoughts and the dunes that, he hadn't even heard Heather come up.

"Want some breakfast?" she asked with a smile. "I didn't mean to scare you."

She was positively radiant. It took a moment for his vocal cords to work. Her beautiful gray eyes held sudden playfulness, but there was also something smoldering deep within them. Sunlight brought out intense highlights of amber, gold, bronze, blonde and auburn within her lush, shoulder-length profusion of curls, and her toffee-hued skin had soaked up the sun to give her a warm, golden tan. The white cotton sundress she wore seemed almost neon against her skin, and he couldn't help but allow his gaze to drink in her full breasts, tiny waist and long legs. Even her bare feet were pretty, her tiny toes polished with a pink frost.

"I brought you something," he said totally mesmerized, and not answering her question. He handed her the drawing that Jose had rendered and watched her slowly open it.

"Oh, Daniel. it's beautiful. When did you have Jose do this?"

He swallowed hard. His Guardian brother hadn't lied. Just hearing her draw out his name with a gasp had wiped his mental slate clean. And the fact that she knew the artist by sight and touch told him she'd felt something in merely holding the paper. That's when he realized Jose's true gift-his Guardian brother had handed him aphrodisiac on the page. Whoa.

"Uh, this morning at sunrise," Dan finally stammered.

Heather gingerly traced the couple with her fingers and a blue-arc of hard want flicked over Dan's body-but he killed it before she could see just how bad it was.

"You got up this morning just to do this for me, and dragged him out of bed, too, to draw us?"

Her eyes searched his face, her lush lips parting, and her words had escaped on a breathy whisper of pure appreciation.

"Yeah." he said, hoping that the statement didn't constitute as a lie-it was but it wasn't, but one thing for sure, while looking at her like that there was no telling her no.

She flattened the picture to her breasts and closed her eyes. "Thank you, Daniel. This is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me."

He felt the hug against the paper in his groin, just as her voice imploded a pressure of want there, too. "You wanna go for a walk, maybe go into town and get breakfast alone this morning?" He knew he was rushing and sounded a little frantic, maybe even desperate, but it was what it was-he needed her.

"I would love that!" she said, her brilliant smile lighting up the beach. "Let me get my sandals and purse-and I have to put up this lovely drawing. maybe we could buy a frame?"

"Okay," he said calmly as she did a little dance that made her breasts bounce. If she could have read his mind his words would have been more like a stuttered plea telling her, yeah, baby, a frame, breakfast, anything you want. But he was cool and let her slip back into the house before allowing himself to release his breath.

Dan jumped the deck rail and decided to walk over the dunes to round the house rather than cruise through the hacienda to find the front door. He needed the long walk and personal space to walk off the erection. Good thing he'd chosen that course of action, because Heather met him at the front of the house with a wide grin. Krissy and Jasmine, who both had on their suits obviously preparing to head for the surf, stood with Heather waving at him.

All he could do was wave from where he stood, then it hit him; Jose hadn't lied. His sole focus was getting Heather to walk somewhere private with him and so he could spend the morning alone with her. and here Krissy was in a near thong, and it didn't even faze him. Dan briefly closed his eyes and turned his face up to the sun giving quiet thanks.

When he opened his eyes, Heather was skipping toward him like a school girl, her expression open and eager.

"So, to what adventure shall we find?" she asked laughing,

Her merriment and voice threaded through him and he gripped her hand, connecting to her delight. For no reason, he started running, not sure where they'd go, but making her laugh as they just ran and chased along the beach. She broke his hold after a moment, squealing, sending needles of desire into his groin, and headed for the dunes. He spun and ran after her, quickly catching her and hoisting her up around the waist. She laughed and dropped her sandals and purse and pounded on his shoulders.

"I thought we were gonna go eat," he said laughing and spinning them in a circle.

"Put me down, unhand me!"

He grinned at her wondering what she would do if he followed his impulse to bury his face against her breasts. They were exactly eye-level, the tips of them hardened like little pebbles beneath the soft fabric. Pink or brown, he wondered. But he didn't do what could have upset her and instead allowed her to slowly slide down his body until her feet touched the sand.

The friction had hiked up her sundress, the long body stroke briefly erasing both of their smiles. What had just been merriment in her eyes slowly transformed into something far from playful. Unable to withstand it, he tilted his head and gently took her mouth, trying to be careful not to seem too eager, or to push too hard. But her soft warmth almost made him groan as her tongue met his and the sweetest taste of peppermint tingled across his palate and opened his sinuses.

He was trembling he wanted to rove his hands down her body so badly, wanted to just drop her on the sand and take her-but they were in visual range of the house and back deck. He had to let her go and she seemed to understand the dilemma. Owning more willpower than he did at the moment, she broke the kiss and swallowed hard seeming flushed.

She smoothed down her dress and his hands caressed her arms. It made him feel better to see her struggle to regain her normal breathing.

"You wanna go somewhere?" he asked quietly, unable to hold back the question.

She placed a hand in the center of his chest. "Yes. and. I don't know," she murmured.

In that moment figuring out the complexity of the female species was scarier than a vamp alley attack. At least with that entity, a man knew going in where he stood. He could be ready, had weapons for it, and stood a fifty-fifty chance pf making it out unscathed. If they got you, you were dog meat and could get up with fangs. Here, with Heather, he was hanging in the balance, somewhere between salvation and damnation with a boner that was making it hard to breathe.

He searched her face for understanding, needing to know what he'd done wrong. then Jose's words came back to haunt him-he'd been ambivalent, so she was ambivalent. One morning of revelation was obviously not enough to undo all the previous damage that had been done. The woman had to feel all the vestiges of his split focus gone. But what Heather didn't know was that he wanted her so much right now that dropping to his knees and holding onto her waist begging was not out of the question, if it would change her mind. He scavenged his brain for ways to save face, to back off with dignity, and came up with the lamest solution he could-but given that his brain had lost blood flow, it wasn't half bad.

"I meant to go get something to eat," he said after a long pause, his voice ragged and betraying him.

"Oh, of course," she graciously said with a smile. "I'm famished." She touched his face with trembling fingers. "I just want it to be special."

They understood each other and he took her hand, kissing the center of her palm until she gasped.

"That's how it should be," he murmured against the satiny flesh of her hand. "You deserve that. No less than that."

He meant what he'd said and watched her lids lower as her breaths became shallower. The way her breasts rose and fell and her face flushed let him know that the ambivalence was waning, so rather than discuss it, he just took her hand and began walking farther away from the house.

By the time he turned to her, the hacienda was a mere spec behind them. The surf thundered and the sun was high and bright. In truth, if they were going to go anywhere to eat, the logical thing would have been to go a few paces down the front steps and grab one of the vehicles. But they both knew that wasn't the main objective. He wanted to touch her, she wanted to touch him, but she just wasn't ready to go all the way. And the need to be with her was so strong that he didn't care that it would only make him crazy. She seemed to come to the same conclusion at the same time they both stopped walking.

It was so natural the way he simply turned into her and she turned into him, just like the kiss was such a slow, dawning ache that both their tongues began to frantically duel. What started out as a gentle, virginal kiss, became feral and primal, and it sucked all logic out of his mind, removed all previous inhibitions as his hands tenderly covered her breasts and she arched with a soft gasp. That's when he lost it.

Without thinking about consequences, he pulled her down on top of him so the sand wouldn't get in her hair. The groan that escaped his diaphragm felt like it had been trapped there for an eternity. Just to feel her against him, writhing against his touch, her soft friction lifting his hips as his hands finally touched her tight, gorgeous rump. Her skin was fevered, like blistering satin. and damp in the slit of her buttocks as though she'd wanted him that badly during the entire walk.

Yet he held back a tactical charge, knowing that to release that against her would be unfair. She'd never been with a man and had just said earlier that she wasn't sure. If he let that wash over her she might do it, but then never forgive him for forcing her into something she hadn't decided to do in her own time.

Breathless, he could barely keep his mouth against hers. The way her fingers tangled in his hair and her breasts rubbed against his chest, her hips moving in a rhythm that was making him practically sit up, he knew he was a goner. There was no way he could not make love to this woman this morning. The blue-white static of his gift was sizzling beneath his palms and begging for release. Panting, he held it back, needing to let it go so much that tears had formed in his eyes.

His hands found the elastic waistband of her panties and began to tug them down. If she didn't protest, he'd let the charge flow out of his hands to cover her naked hips and the round swell of her backside to sear her bud and open her canal so there wouldn't be pain when he entered her. if she'd just let him, oh God, just let her say yes. But she stiffened. He froze and then kissed her harder, his heart thudding in his chest like a jack hammer.

"I. I shouldn't have let it get this far. it's my fault, Daniel," she said, dropping her head to his chest.

He let go of the elastic band and cradled her face, truly bewildered. "Honey what's the matter? Talk to me Heather." His voice was the plea of a broken man, but he couldn't help it. His hips were still moving as though parts of his body were functioning independently of his brain, each sector coming to the slow awareness that she'd stopped moving.

"I want to so badly, Daniel," she said, biting her lip. "But-"

"I do, too," he said, not wanting her to talk herself out of it. "Oh, baby, you just don't know how much I do, too."

"But you don't love me yet," she whispered, her sad eyes searching his face. "We like each other very, very much. but I really wanted it to be more than that. It sounds daft, but being on this team with the clerics, seeing a wedding. seeing real love 'appen for people, I. I guess I sound like a fool."

Dan allowed his back to hit the sand and he closed his eyes. Her Scottish accent had thickened with her passion and it coated his insides with brand new heat. How could he be so stupid? Of course she wanted that-if he hadn't been so conflicted before he would have seen it. He would have told her before he tried to touch her that he'd fallen in love with her in his dreams, that from the first time he saw her something had punched him in his gut. But to say all that now would sound like a pitiful attempt to get between her legs. even though a significant part of him wasn't above it, given his scrotum felt like it was being sucked up into his abdomen. Damn! Jose had tried to warn him not to look back and to move forward. He should have been on his knees on the beach telling Heather how he felt, and now she'd sensed his hesitancy. Next time would be different.

He could feel her about to pull away, but he held her and caressed her back with a gentle touch. "You don't sound like a fool," he finally murmured. "I'm the one who is a fool for not giving this the time to grow before rushing you. and I do like you very, very, very much, Heather."

She swept his mouth with a gentle kiss in reward for his patience. "I hope you understand."

"I do," he murmured, looking up into her huge, luminous eyes. "I'm sorry I got carried away. especially when you tried to tell me earlier you weren't ready. I won't put my hands on you again until we're both sure that it's more than heavy like or lust, all right?" The promise loomed large, and he hoped he could hold to it, but staring up into her trusting gaze he was fairly sure he could do anything she needed him to.

"We both got carried away," she whispered and took his mouth again so gently that it made his groin contract.

"You have to let me pull myself together," he said honestly with a wince. "Then we can go eat and find that picture frame. but I can't walk at the moment. Not in jeans, anyway." He wasn't sure if it worked the same way for women, but he was gonna be in a world of hurt for hours.

"Oh, right," she said, seeming embarrassed and then lifted herself off him.

He just peered up at her in stark agony. The sudden removal of her warmth and pressure against the ache almost caused him to cry out.

"Daniel. I am soooo sorry," she said quietly, her gaze sweeping his body.

"I'll be all right in a minute. Just let me lay here and breathe, okay?"

"All right," she said quietly, and then sat beside him holding his hand.

He shook his head no and she released his palm. "I'm a tactical," he said in a rasp. "Honey, you've gotta break the connection or I'm dying over here."

She covered her mouth and backed away on the sand, giggling. "Oh. nooo. are we still friends?"

He nodded and smiled through a grimace. "Yeah. Definitely. We're friends."

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • This volume was first made available in October 2006 on the official website.[1]

See Also[edit | edit source]

Novels 1 - 9 Minion • The Awakening • The Hunted • The Bitten • The Forbidden • The Damned • The Forsaken • The Wicked • The Cursed
Armageddon Finale
(10 -12)
The Darkness • The Shadows • The Thirteenth
Anthologies Make it Last Forever in Stroke of Midnight • Ride the Night Wind in Love at First Bite
Dawn and Darkness (Comics) Individual Comics Book One: Ashes to Ashes • Book Two: Dust to Dust  • Book Three: Bygones to Blood • Book Four: Ride or Die
Graphic Novel Graphic Novel (Parts 1 - 4)
Neteru Academy Novels Shadow Walker • Shadow Seekers (Unreleased) • Shadow Slayers (Unreleased)
Between the Books (Official Website Stories) Vol. 1 • Vol. 2 • Vol. 3 • Vol. 4 • Vol. 5 • Vol. 6 • Vol. 7 • Vol. 8 • Vol. 9 • Vol. 10 • Vol. 11 • Vol. 12 • Vol. 13 • Vol. 14 • Vol. 15 - The Ripple Effect • Vol. 16 - Damali's Dilemma • Vol. 17 - Carlos' Dilemma • Vol. 18 - Damali's Dilemma Part II • Vol. 19 - Training Day • Vol. 20 - Training Day Part II • Vol. 21 - A Neteru Apex • Vol. 22 - New Mansion Compound: • Vol. 23 - New Mansion Compound: • Vol. 24 - New Mansion Compound: • Vol. 25 - "Truth Between Brothers" • Vol. 26 - Shabazz: THE FALL OUT • Vol. 27 • Vol. 28 • Vol. 29 • Vol. 30 - "Submerge"
Other Nothing Like the First Time (Prequel) • That First Kiss • Between Man and Wife • Atlantis Rising
Damali's Journal Volume One • Volume Two • Volume Three • Volume Four • Damali's Journal: Special Volume
Carlos' Black Box Volume One • Volume Two
Inside the Mind of a Vampire Volume One • Volume Two • Volume Three • Volume Four • Volume Five • Volume Six
Additional Content & Short Stories Promotional Media Secret Desires • Exotic Contraband: LA Banks' Vampire Huntress Legend Concept Art Book • Vampire Huntress Legend Sampler • Atlantis Rising • VHL Teacher's Curriculum Guide
Vampire Huntress Legend Sampler Nothing Like the First Time • Damali's Journal: Special Volume • The Power Players: A tour by Master Vampire Carlos Rivera • Character Dossiers
Unreleased Vampire Huntress Legend Series Movie (Unreleased) • Vampire Huntress Legend Series Manga (Unreleased)

References[edit | edit source]

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