"Bloodsuckers." Giacomo smiled slowly. "Don't you just hate them?"
Did he really expect a response to that? She frowned at him. "I hear some of them carry disease."
He laughed. "I like her, Angus."
"Ye'll like her from a distance," Angus muttered as he set a diet cola in front of Emma.
With a grin, Giacomo raised his glass. "To amore." He drained his glass dry.
"Miss Wallace, may I ask how ye slayed the Malcontents?" Robby strode toward her. "Did ye use a sword or one of yer stakes?"
She coughed, then cleared her throat. "I - I'd rather not."
Angus snorted. "Ye were never too shy to show them to me. I had to destroy a few that came too close for comfort."
Giacomo laughed. "She tried to kill you?" He leaned forward to peek at her bag. "They must be terrifying."
"Nay. I'll show you." In a flash, Angus grabbed the bag from Emma's lap. He opened it, looked inside, and blinked. He dipped his head for a closer look.
Giacomo stood, smiling. "What is it? Have you discovered her secret weapon?"
"Nay, a souvenir." Angus stuck his hand into the bag.
"Here ye go." Angus slapped two stakes onto the table. "Souvenirs from the slayer." He returned Emma's bag to her lap.
She sighed with relief. She should have known he would be a gentleman.
Robby and Giacomo each picked up a stake to examine it.
Robby shook his head. "Too small. I prefer my claymore." He dropped the stake into his sporran.
"And I'll rely on my dagger." Giacomo slipped his souvenir into a jacket pocket. "We should be on our way." He bowed to Emma. "A pleasure to meet you, signorina."
"Likewise." Emma stood, clasping her bag to her chest. "Thank you both for protecting the park." She waited for both men to leave the room, then sat down with a relieved sigh.
Angus retrieved his glass of Blissky from the counter and took a long drink. "How did yer knickers get into yer bag?"
She gave him an aggravated look. "They were prominently displayed on the kitchen table for the entire world to see. I had to hide them somewhere. That reminds me - " She removed the paper from her bag. "There was a note on the table, too."
Angus strode toward her, his hand outstretched. "That's probably for me."
She glowered at him. "My knickers, my note." She unfolded the paper.
He waggled his fingers in a gimme gesture. "'Tis my note. And I claim yer knickers as spoils of war."
She snorted. She was too irritated to give him the note, even though it was clearly addressed to him. "Don't tell me you collect women's underwear."
"Only yers, love." He leaned over the table. "And only if I've had the pleasure of removing it myself."
Did he realize he'd just called her love? Or was it simply a common word to him like it was to many British? Although she couldn't recall him using the word before.
He snatched the paper from her hands.
"Hey!" She stood, slamming her bag on the table. The rascal had probably said the L-word just to distract her. And worse, it had worked. She was getting in way too deep. She should just take her underwear and leave.
But her curiosity got the better of her. She sidled up beside him to read the note.
Phil found these unders in the living room and asked which of us he should congratulate.
We need to talk.
Brilliant. Emma groaned. Connor knew about them. "Who is Phil?"
"One of the daytime guards." Angus wadded up the paper and tossed it into the litter bin. "'Twill be easier for me to protect ye if ye live here."
Move in with a vampire? Was he crazy? "I appreciate your concern, Angus, but I don't expect you to protect me. I got myself into this mess, so it's my problem."
"I willna be brushed aside." He tilted his head, studying her. "Yer pulse is racing."
Thanks for the reminder. She squeezed her hands into fists, then slowly relaxed them. "Living here is out of the question. If Sean sees me, he'll fire me and blacklist me from any other job I would ever want."
"Then ye can work for me. Whatever yer salary is, I'll double it."
Her mouth dropped open, then snapped shut. "That's not the point."
"Actually, it is. Ye could help us find Casimir, and that's a damned sight more important than any work ye're doing for Sean Whelan. What is he accomplishing? He's wasting everyone's time, hunting for his daughter when she's perfectly safe and happy." His eyes narrowed. "Yer heart is pounding. I can hear it."
She gritted her teeth. "I don't need the play-by-play commentary on my bodily functions."
"I only mention it because ye're struggling with yerself, and 'tis no' necessary."
She crossed her arms. "You think I should just give in to you. Live with you, work for you, and do everything your way."
Caveman! It was too much like total surrender, and she couldn't do it. "I have my own life to live."
"But yer mission is to protect mortals and kill evil vampires. In the end, yer mission is the same as mine." He took her gently by the shoulders. "Ye doona see how alike we are?"
"No. What I see is you would be the boss and I would be the employee. You're the immortal vampire, and I'm the lowly mortal. You're faster and stronger than me. Good heavens, you even own a castle, while I have a little rundown cottage."
"No! I want to... feel more equal. There's an imbalance of power between us that I cannot - "
"Ye think I would take advantage of you? I have sworn to protect you."
"It's too fast." She pulled away. "A week ago, I hated all vampires and I was slaying them. I've only recently come to trust you and... like you. I can't... live with you."
"Are ye ashamed of me?"
"No! Not at all." She was so attracted to his strength and power, but at the same time, she knew she would be completely overwhelmed by him. "I have to protect myself."
"From what?" he shouted. "I have sworn never to harm you."
She closed her eyes briefly. "I know you mean that, but it doesn't change the fact that we're from two different worlds. There's no future for us."
"To hell with the future. We're alive now."
"And you'll still be alive a hundred years from now."
His jaw shifted as he ground his teeth. "Ye reject me because of what I am?"
Good God, she hated to hurt him. "You're the most wonderful man I've ever met. But I need to protect myself."
He wandered to the counter and finished his drink. He kept his back to her, his hands fisted on the countertop. "This changes nothing. I have sworn to protect you, and I will. Where do ye wish to go?"
A heaviness dragged her heart down. It was better this way. Better to end it now before she was completely lost. "If the Malcontents figure out my name, they'll go to my apartment, so I think Austin's place will be safer. If you could teleport me there, I'll be fine on my own."
"I'll stay till shortly before dawn." He turned to face her. "Doona worry. I'll stay in the living room, watching the telly. Ye'll never know I'm there."
He must be pouting, Emma decided. He'd been so quiet. But he'd done everything she'd asked. He'd teleported her to her apartment so she could pack more clothes. Then he'd brought her to Austin's apartment. He'd even insisted on paying for the Chinese food she'd had delivered.
He sat quietly on the couch. She turned on the telly and found some old sitcom reruns. He didn't object. She sat on the other end of the couch. The remote control rested on the cushion between them, unclaimed by either of them. She slanted a look his way every now and then. He wasn't laughing at the funny parts. His jaw was set, his brow furrowed. He was so still, you would think he was dead. She groaned inwardly. Not quite true. She could sense the energy in him, straining to explode.
By four-thirty A.M., she was yawning. She covered her mouth when a big yawn overwhelmed her.
"Ye doona need to stay awake," he said softly. "I'll be leaving soon."
She rose slowly and stretched. "I guess I'll take a hot bath and go to bed."
"All right." He picked up the remote and turned on the Weather Channel.
"I'm sorry we don't get DVN here."
"This is fine." He turned down the volume to a whisper. Apparently, with his super hearing, he could still hear. "I have employees around the world. I like to know what kind of weather they're facing."
"I guess you need to know the exact time of sunrise, too."
He gave her an irritated look. "Good night."
Definitely pouting. She wandered toward the bedroom.
She halted at the door. Had she heard that? It was so soft, she wasn't sure he'd actually spoken. Maybe it had only sounded in her mind. She glanced back.
He was still staring at the telly.
In the bathroom, she filled the tub with hot water and bubble bath. She was down to her underwear when she recalled the red panties in her tote bag. When Angus left, would he confiscate her underwear as spoils of war? He'd been the one to pull down her panties, but she'd kicked them free. She'd been an eager and willing participant. Even incomplete, it had been the best sex of her life. Was she being a fool to reject him?
She unhooked her black bra and flung it at the door. Dammit, why couldn't she fall for a normal guy who breathed 24/7? She pushed her black lace underwear to the floor. Was falling for Angus a betrayal of the memory of her parents? Or would her parents tell her to follow her heart and embrace love where she found it? They had loved each other so much. Wouldn't they want that kind of love for her?
She stepped into the tub and settled among the white fluffy foam. The smell of jasmine soothed her frazzled nerves. She lay back with a long sigh.
"Mum, Dad," she whispered. "I'm so confused." If only she could hear them. In the first few weeks after their death, she had thought she'd heard her father's voice a few times. A whisper on the wind or a thought that suddenly appeared in her mind. But that was years ago. Now she was all alone.
She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, easing the tension from her body and opening her mind to any advice, whether from her natural father or the Heavenly One, any help would be welcome.
Her breasts tingled when a few bubbles popped. She smiled as the flowery fragrance wafted up to her nose. A clump of bubbles that was clinging to her neck sluiced down her throat, caressing her skin. It felt almost like real fingers.
Mmm, good bubble bath. She dragged a puffy cloud of foam up to her breasts and covered them. The bubbles clung to her skin, tingling her and gently teasing her nipples. Wow, scrubbing bubbles.
She gasped at the sound of Angus's voice. How? She sat up and peered around the shower curtain. "Where are you?"
Still on the couch.
His voice was in her head. He was in her head. Good heavens, she'd opened her mind.
Nay, doona shut me out. Ye look so beautiful in my mind. All pink and flushed from the heat of the water.
Her breath hitched when she felt a hand cup her breast. She looked down and saw nothing except bubbles sliding down her torso and her nipple growing hard. "How are you doing this?"
His thumb teased the hardened tip. At least, she thought it was his thumb. She jolted when something lapped at her other nipple. His tongue?
"What are you - " She fell back with a gasp when she felt him suckling her. The sensations were incredibly strong, yet he wasn't there. She covered her breast with her hand, but the suckling continued. God, he was good. "What are you doing?" She didn't expect an answer. How could he talk with his mouth full?
"Then why am I feeling it?" Her eyes crossed when he tugged at both nipples. Obviously he could talk with his mind while his mouth was busy elsewhere. "I'm not a vampire."
But I am. And I want to pleasure you.
She sank lower in the water, but it made no difference. Even immersed under water, the sensations continued. God, it was wonderful. He was wonderful. Oh no! Could he read her mind? "I haven't given you permission."
But ye will. Ye want to scream like ye did last night. His hands massaged her breasts. Another hand skimmed down her belly and delved into her curls.
She moaned, then blinked. "Wait a minute. How many hands do you have?"
As many as I can imagine. He cupped her between the legs. Meanwhile, his hands continued to toy with her breasts.
She felt something hot and moist on her neck. His mouth. His tongue rasped a trail up to her ear.
Are ye ready for me? His voice was soft inside her head.
I'm loving you. He planted a soft kiss on her brow. Close yer eyes and enjoy.
Oh yes. Her eyes drifted shut.
She suddenly felt hands all over her, outlining the contours of her arms and legs, her stomach and back. She groaned when fingers massaged her shoulders. His tongue teased her nipples. His hand moved between her legs. His fingers caressed. She cried out when he located her clitoris.