Chapter 12

"...and when one of them meets the other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy and one will not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment..."

Plato, The Symposium

The room painted orange as flames licked wood, the crackle of their dance filling the air.

Hades laid on his back, one arm behind his head, the other curled around Adrianna, holding her against his body. She was laying beside him, one leg over his, one arm over his chest, looking up at him with those blue eyes of hers. Deep blue, like the deepest, clearest sea. He always felt as if he were drowning when he looked into her eyes, making it harder to breath.

He had no idea how long they'd laid there like that, just watching each other, but however long it had been, it would never be long enough. He could stay there forever, held captive by her gaze. He was her willing prisoner and would be for all of eternity.

"I used to mock love."

Adrianna's eyes softened even more on his.

"I saw so many men and women vow their everlasting adoration, their unwavering fidelity…and I mocked them. I thought them fools. I was arrogant, thought I knew everything. But now-" he trailed off, brushing his fingers through her raven curls, trapping a few strands behind the curve of her ear. "If these people ever felt a mere hint of how I feel when I'm with you, then I was the fool."

Her beautiful lips curled before they pressed a single kiss to his chest. When she looked back up, her eyes were shimmering.

"What's wrong?"

She bit her lip, slowly shaking her head. "I'm just happy."

He smiled, watching the orange air cast a warm glow on her skin. She looked so surreal, so impossibly beautiful…

"Ho'ria sou den ypa'rho."

Her eyes widened a little and with a start, he realized he'd spoken Greek. He was usually more in control of himself, but with her, he let his guard down.

"It's Greek," he whispered. "It means-"

"Away from you I can't exist."

He sniffed softly. "Of course you speak Greek.".

"My uncle Finn lived in Milos for a few years, when I was in my early teens," she said. "I loved that place so much I spend every holiday I could there. Where did you learn?"

"I am Greek."

Her eyebrows rose. "You are?"

"You're surprised?"

"Yes." She frowned for a split second, but before he could worry about it, she was smiling again. "Although, I should've known."

He recognized that teasing tone. And his body recognized it too.

"Full lips-" She sang, brushing her fingertips over his lips. "-cut cheekbones, perfect olive skin-" her scorching fingers travelled down. "-chiseled chest."

He laughed, a sound that still rang foreign in his ears. "Chiseled, huh?"

She grinned. "Definitely."

Grinning along, he ran his fingers over her back. There were still a few light discolorations where her bruises used to be, but they were barely noticeable anymore.

His blood started simmering in his veins as the cause of those bruises pushed its way to the surface. Suddenly, he saw that burning car again; heard her say she'd made it crash on purpose.

He tried to stop himself, but it was already too late.

That burned out car flashed in front of his eyes.

The dark curls on that gurney.

That pain in his chest.

And then, his mind started conjuring up things he hadn't actually seen, things he could only imagine in horrid detail.

Adrianna making the decision to kill the driver.

His love flying through a windshield.

Falling off a bridge.

Crashing into a river.

If that river hadn't been there

For a split second, Hades saw her hitting pavement instead, making him shove his fists into his eyes so hard stars appeared in the darkness. He tried to rub the image of her dead body from his mind, but it was there, burned into his retina for all of eternity.

She's fine.

She's alive.

"Stop." Her soft voice broke through his dark thoughts, and when he looked back at her he saw two concerned bright blue sapphires watching him intensely. "I'm here."

He could feel how tight his body had become, how his muscles were straining underneath his taut skin and those eyes were doing nothing to relax him. Gods, those eyes. How close had he come to never seeing those again…

"Shhhhhh," she soothed softly, her delicate hand cupping his cheek. "Don't go there. I'm here and I'm okay."

He let her touch take effect, trying to calm down his heart.

"Distract me," he rumbled. "Talk about something else. Anything else. Tell me about your time in Greece. Ever been outside of Milos?"

She nodded. "After I graduated from high school, I spend two years traveling. I figured I'd see the world before committing to a career."

"You never told me that."

She shrugged. "It hadn't come up, yet."

Hades tightened his embrace on her warm body. He couldn't exactly push the matter, couldn't explain why it was strange she hadn't told him. As far as Adrianna was concerned, they'd only just met. She didn't know they'd been together for four years. Four years spend every night in each others' arms and she hadn't told him about her travels or her gunshot wound.

Probably because she knew what both stories would do to him. The same thing they did to him now. Causing him a headache.

"Anyway, I reached Greece about two months in my trip and travelled through it for about a month until I ended up in Athens. I stayed there until I lost my job-"

"Your job?"

"Oh, yeah, I worked to pay for my travels. I wasn't going to let my parents foot the bill, so I got gigs behind a bar, in a hotel, in a club-"

"And your father let you do this?" Hades rumbled, his headache worsening.

"He wasn't to keen on it, but yes, he did. Although, my uncles or aunt would occasionally show up somewhere and pretend to just bump into me. I'm also pretty sure I saw my brothers on several occasions and once even my mom which means my dad wasn't far off, but they at least gave me the illusion of independence and since I was barely nineteen, I was okay with it. I understood their concern."

"Yeah, so do I," he mumbled, not missing the sweet tilt of her lips. "Where was Margaret during all this? I thought you two were inseparable."

"We are, but after high school, she went straight to med school on a full scholarship."

Another surprise. The blond was smart?

"Don't make the mistake of underestimating her," Adrianna smiled, reading his mind. "That girl is brilliant."

"Then what is a brilliant doctor doing running a magic shop?"

"She didn't get to finish her studies. It's a long story not even I know all the details about. All I know is that when I got home, she was there, too."

"And then she followed you here."

Adrianna nodded. "I didn't expect her to, but the night before I left, she was at my front door, basically begging me to take her with me. So, I did. I didn't have to think twice. Once we settled here, she saw the magic shop and fell in love. I bought if for her with my savings, became her business partner and the rest is history."

She spent her savings on her friend's dream? Why does that not surprise me? My beautiful angel…

"You must miss her."

Her smile faltered a little. "Yes, I do. Especially now."

"Why now?"

"Well, you want your best friend to be there when something big happens in your life and meeting you…is kind of big."

Hades smiled teasingly. "Kind of big? I'm not sure to be flattered or insulted."

That sweet little blush crawled in her cheeks again. Gods, he wanted to lick that blush, lick that body…

"You could let her come back," he offered. "I have plenty of guards. I could keep her safe."

Her blue eyes lit up sweetly. "You would do that?"

"I'd do anything for you."

Those luscious lips curled again, her delicate fingers grazing his stubbled jaw.

"I love you," she whispered, making his blood heat even more. "But you're already protecting me. I don't want you to have to stretch yourself so thin protecting others that you forget about yourself. Rodchenko knows who you are, too. Don't forget that."

"Don't worry about me."

She just sniffed, rolling her eyes.

"Have you heard from Margaret?"

"Not since she called a few days ago. I don't expect too, either. My brother must have her on lockdown."

"I assume that since you felt the need to involve your brother that Margaret isn't a very gifted witch?"

Her eyes turned a little harder.

"I didn't mean it as an insult," he quickly clarified. "I'm merely saying that, if she was gifted, she would be able to protect herself against Rodchenko."

Adrianna shrugged. "Maggie is powerful, every supernatural being can sense it, but I've never seen her do a single spell. She sticks to small stuff like tarot cards and palm reading. Things that attract tourists. She knows everything about herbs, rare books and she can vividly tell you about the history of witchcraft, but she doesn't actually practice it."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. I tried to talk to her about it once, but she just shut down. She claimed she doesn't have any actual powers, but like I said, we can sense the truth."

Hades had to agree. When he'd met Margaret in her shop, he'd felt her power crackling in the air.

"Why such a sudden interest in Maggie?" Adrianna asked, her fingers absentmindedly brushing over his chest.

"She's important to you, so she's important to me."

That earned him a warm smile.

"Well, then you should probably tell me about your friends, too," she sang. "I just hope I'll make a better first impression than you did with Maggie." She shot him a teasing look.

"I'm sure you'd make a great first impression," Hades rumbled, catching one of her curls between his fingers. "But there's no one to impress, Cara."

Those soft eyes of hers turned sad on his. "You must have some friends."

"I'm an acquired taste. Friends were never in the cards for me."

She sighed, pity mixing with the sadness in her gaze.

"Don't feel sorry for me, Cara. I never had time or need for friends."

Adrianna brushed her fingers gently through his hair, never releasing his eyes. She didn't speak for a long moment, just watched him. And then, she said, "Were you lonely? Before me?"

He breathed in deeply, really thinking about his answer. He'd been alone, sure. Always alone, in the dark. His family wanted nothing to do with him, mortals and supernaturals feared him to much to come near him. But he'd never minded. Still…

"I didn't think I was," he answered honestly. "I always thought I preferred solitude, but…then you came along."

Even when he'd just had her in his dreams, those few hours with her had become everything. Having someone to talk to, to be held with affection, to be welcomed with love in someone's eyes instead of fear…

"I didn't know what I was missing until you."

She smiled, but he could still see the sadness behind it. He didn't want her to be sad, especially not for him. It's why he barely spoke of his past, of his family. Sure, he was forbidden to tell her about gods and everything that came with it, but he knew he could've told her stories about his life, disguised as mortal stories. And yet, he didn't, because he didn't want to burden her with his past.

"Well," she said, after another long stretch of silence. "I guess I know what that's like."

"Loneliness?"

She shook her head. "The part about not knowing what you were missing."

He smiled, brushing his fingertips over her spine, al the way down to the curve of her behind. "Well, you're making up for lost time."

She laughed, slapping his chest. "I'm not just talking about sex. Do you remember what I said when you asked me how it was possible that I was still a virgin?"

His lips twitched as he smoothed his fingers through her hair. "You said you'd been waiting. For me."

"I wasn't lying. My whole life I never understood why I didn't feel anything for the men who showed an interest in me. Many of them were handsome and kind and yet, I felt nothing. The closest I got to feeling any kind of affection for them was friendship. After a while, I figured romantic love just wasn't in the cards for me."

"Many of them? Exactly how many men showed an interest?"

She laughed at his jealousy, bringing her hand back to his cheek. "I know it sounds strange, but I swear Lucian…I was waiting for you. No one else interested me, because a part of me knew you were on your way to me. I mean, look how easily we fit into each other's lives. It's like we were holding a spot for one another."

My angel. She has no idea how right she is.

Slowly, Hades leaned down and took her lips, leading her into a sweet kiss.

He'd vowed to be gentler with her from now on. At least, for a little while. He'd been a man possessed tonight, a caveman claiming his woman.

No, not claiming.

Punishing.

If she hadn't stopped him just to prove that he would be able to, he'd be out of the bed already, getting as far away from her as he could, hiding in shame. But his sweetness had known that, had know him. She'd anticipated he'd be riddled with guilt for the way he'd treated her, for losing control, so she'd made sure he knew he hadn't. When she'd told him to stop, he'd done so without hesitation even though it had felt impossible. He'd done it. Because he never lost control to the point of hurting her, of forcing her into anything. His darkness loved her as much as Hades did and she was always safe in his arms even when he was furious beyond sanity.

Adrianna moaned into his mouth, pressing her curves closer to him as her nails bit into his neck.

Gods, he loved how she responded to him. She was such a strong woman, such a power to be reckoned with and yet, when he kissed her, she became his. She melted into his hands, her body obedient and willing. She became vulnerable. And that's not something he took for granted. Adrianna Salvatore was a fighter. Vulnerability was not her default. Only he got this side of her. Only he truly got to have her and with the gods as his witnesses, he'd tear apart anyone who tried to take her away from him. Be it Dimitri Rodchenko, Victor Pierce, Henry Vasquez, Alexander Ryder or even his own family. Blood would be shed, and he would show no remorse for the carnage he created along the way.

"Lucian," she moaned, her lips still warm on his.

"Yes, Cara."

"Please, make love to me again."

He grinned, cupping her neck. "You're body is still new to this, Cara. Not to mention I wasn't exactly gentle tonight. Are you sure you shouldn't rest a little and-"

Before he could utter another word, she was on top of him, her legs on either side of his hips.

He smiled. "You're so stubbo-"

His words turned into moans when he felt her hand wrap around his cock.

"Fuck, Cara."

Adrianna didn't feel like teasing him. Within a heartbeat, Hades felt himself sink into something warm, tight and so fucking familiar it ripped a possessive growl from his chest.

Mine!

The sight of her almost made him come on the spot. Adrianna, watching him as she took her sweet time guiding him into her, her mouth lax, her eyes hooded. Her breasts, her face, and if he looked down, his cock entering her. All were within sight.

"Baby-"

She sunk further down, turning his words into sharp breaths. He fought the need to throw his hips up and slam into her until she begged for mercy. He'd done enough of the taking for tonight, even though the rampant need to dominate still pounded in his blood.

Low, dangerous sounds emanated from his chest as he saw himself sinking further into her, half-submerged, tinkering on the edge of full penetration. He couldn't look away. Watching them become one was the most amazing thing he'd ever seen.

"All the way, Adrianna," he growled, unable to stop the command. Her legs were shaking around him, trying to hold herself up. "Take me all the way."

She gasped, clenching her eyes shut, trying to relax her muscles. He knew all too well that it was harder for her to take him all the way in while in this position, but he didn't care. And when she finally managed to swallow all of him, Hades bucked on a roar, making her scream. The noise satisfied that sadistic part of him that still ached to deal out punishment for how reckless she'd been with her own life in that car. She'd almost taken the most important thing in the world to him, almost killed it. If it had been anyone else trying to hurt Adrianna, he would've…

He didn't even realize he'd balled his hands into fist by his side until those delicate fingers of hers pried them open and guided them to her body.

"I'm here," she whispered, soothing him. "I'm right here."

Slowly, she put one of his rough hands on her hip before bringing the other to her chest. He'd expected her to guide it to one of those succulent breasts of hers…but instead, she placed it a little higher, making him feel something so much better.

Her heartbeat.

That thump underneath his palm, no matter how fast it was racing, calmed him down more than anything ever had. Just like she knew it would. How could this little angel know him so well? How did she peer into his black soul with such clarity and still decide to stay with him?

"Swear it again," he demanded.

Her blue eyes shimmered with passion. "I swear, I'll never try to hurt myself again."

"Swear it on the thing you love most in this world."

"I swear on your beautiful head that I will never try to hurt myself again."

"Christ, woman-"

She moaned loudly when his second hand clasped down on her hips too and he rocked her forward, causing a friction that made Hades' eyes roll back into his head.

Getting lost in the sensations, Adrianna slapped her hands into his abs, her head dropping.

"Lucian-" she breathed, rounding her small hips, sucking in air.

Hades forced himself to remain still, the sight of her having her way with him too fucking irresistible. It took every fucking scrap of strength he had and more. Then she circled again, and he choked, digging his fingers into her thighs.

"Oh God, yes!" she cried, hitting him with another rotation. His woman clearly liked this position.

Hades's world tumbled into a bliss that could never be rivaled as she rode him harder and faster, losing control. Her head was tossed back, her screams now constant, looking like she was already on the cusp of explosion. Good thing too, since the blood swirling in Hades' cock started rushing to the very tip, making his hips jerk, taking on a mind of their own.

"Adrianna." He tried to warn her, tried to tell her that he was about to reach the point of no return, but then she wailed, pinning him down with wide, hungry eyes. She was nearly there, too. And there was no fucking way he wasn't going to watch her ride out her own orgasm.

"Fuck, baby," he choked, starting to guide her motions by shoving her thighs back and forth, stimulating more friction, more feeling, more everything. "You need to come for me. Come. Now. Fuck!"

"Lucian!"

They slammed together in a final few quick strokes and then Hades buried himself as deep inside of her as he could, holding her hips in place as he came…hard and fast, spurting again and again as she trembled on top of him, her own orgasm raging. He could feel her inner muscles flutter and flex as she came all over him, wetting his cock even more as it throbbed and emptied inside of her.

When she finally fell onto his chest in an exhausted heap, his arms somehow found the energy to encase her, her heart beating wildly against his own.

"Lucian?" she yawned after a few minutes.

"Mmmmm," he murmured lazily.

"You'll never be alone again."

Her words woke him up, both his mind and his heart, encasing him in a feeling a thousand times more addictive than any drug in existence.

Love.

Adrianna however, had fallen asleep as soon as she'd whispered her oath and now laid dormant in his arms. He was still inside of her, but he quickly remedied that. She wouldn't be asleep for much longer if he remained there. He could already feel her words affect his body. If she'd been awake, he would've definitely begged for another ride.

Instead, he just held her closer and thanked every power out there for the miracle in his arms before swiftly following her into sleep. How could he not when all that mattered to him was safe in his embrace. As long as she was there, the world could end around them for all he cared.

She'd be safe.

With him.

Forever.


Adrianna wasn't sure what had woken her. The two loud rings piercing the darkness had only halfway brought her back from slumber, Lucian's deep voice rumbling something lulling her right back into sleep. She hadn't liked it when his warm body underneath her was replaced by a mattress, but then his lips had brushed a kiss over her forehead and she'd subdued again. If she had to guess, she'd blame the cold. Not that it was physically cold in the room. The fireplace was out now, but its warmth still covered her better than any sheet could. No, this cold was internal, caused by the fact that she was alone.

Opening her eyes slowly, she ran her palm over the spot where Lucian had been. It wasn't even warm anymore. How long had he been gone?

Rubbing her eyes, she sat up. The curtains were too thick to let in any light, but Adrianna could see the first weak traces of sunlight slip in through the edges of the fabric. Still, a quick check of the clock on Lucian's nightstand told her it was barely five-thirty.

Where is he?

Yawning lazily, she reluctantly got out of bed. Searching the room for something to wear, she noticed the robe draped over the chaise in the corner. She smiled as she realized he'd left it there for her in case she woke up.

"My considerate brute," she whispered, grinning.

Last night he'd been rough, a wild man taking what he wanted and this morning he'd laid out a satin gown for her to dress in. It seemed like such a contradiction and yet, it wasn't. Even when he was rough, he was considerate of her. He never went too far, stopped when she asked, read her body's reaction to things and adjusted what he was doing when needed. Sometimes it seemed like he knew what she wanted before she did.

As she draped the robe over her, she relished the feel of the cool satin against her skin. The blue, shimmering satin. She was starting to notice he liked the color blue on her. Especially the same shade of blue as her eyes. She skimmed the floor for her underwear, but stopped when she remembered what had happened to it. Even if she found it, it would be useless; ripped and ruined.

The second Adrianna stepped out of the room, she listened for his voice, but heard nothing. So, she just started walking, realizing quickly that she'd never actually been on the top floor of his penthouse before. Sure, she'd been there last night, but he'd basically dragged her to his room then. She hadn't had time to take in her surroundings. The floors were wooden and the ceiling was high, like downstairs; the difference being the amount of rooms. While the ground floor was open and airy, this floor was just one hallway with several doors on either side of it. She checked for light coming out from underneath them, but none seemed occupied, so she made her way downstairs.

She was halfway down the stairs when she faintly heard his voice coming from her right and she immediately remembered his office slash library. It's where she'd been when he'd entered last night, angry and hurt.

She shook away that memory. It was in the past. Although, it didn't exactly sound like he was in a good mood now, either.

"Ik begrijp dat het een moeilijke keuze is, Jan, maar als hij zijn werk niet meer serieus kan uitvoeren wordt het tijd voor iemand anders."

Adrianna couldn't quite make out what he was saying - her Dutch was rusty - but whatever it was, he clearly wasn't praising someone. He was reprimanding them.

As a softer voice took over the conversation, Adrianna dared a glance into the room. There he was, sitting behind his desk, a laptop opened in front of him and she couldn't help but sink against the doorframe and watch him. He was so incredibly beautiful. Everything about him. His face was sculpted perfectly, every angle and plain, even as he was getting more and more worked up by the second.

"Ik heb u aangenomen om deze beslissingen te nemen," he rumbled, clearly annoyed. "Dus neem de beslissing. Ik blijf er geen uren over discussiëren."

Lucian's gaze came up from the screen and found her. Those eyes were absolutely gorgeous. Grey, but much more than grey—charcoal was the color that came to mind. With his black lashes framing that brilliant color, he took her breath away with every look.

Blushing, she bit her lip, taking a tentative step into the room. She'd been caught eavesdropping and would've felt embarrassed…if it hadn't been for the smile that had spread across his face as soon as Lucian had seen her. It was like his mood had changed instantly, just from her presence and she didn't think she'd ever felt more welcome.

"Ik moet gaan," he growled without looking away from her. "Ik heb betere dingen te doen."

And with that he just closed the laptop. The man he'd been speaking with didn't even get a chance to respond, although she was pretty sure Lucian had ended the conversation with something along the lines of "I have better things to do"…and what could you really say to that?

The second the laptop closed, Lucian was out of his chair and moving towards her.

"I wasn't eavesdropping," she said, feeling her blush deepen. "I was just looking for you since you weren't in bed and I heard your voice, so I-"

His mouth cut her off, covering hers as his arms encircled her frame and pulled her into a warm hug.

"Hi," she smiled when his lips gave her a reprieve.

A faint smile touched his mouth. "Hi, baby."

She reached up, brushing her fingers through his hair before tracing the little lines by his eyes that betrayed exhaustion. "Is everything okay?"

He nodded before bringing her in closer again and burying his nose in her hair. "Everything's fine now."

She could feel him breath in deeply as she rested her cheek against his chest. He was wearing dress pants and a button-up shirt, but she could feel him as if he was naked, heat radiating through his clothes and into her. Or maybe she was projecting her own feelings. That man had a way of making her body take notice.

"Work?" she asked, trying to keep her voice level. She knew how much he hated his job, how much he despised every aspect of it. She'd talked to him about it in the past and had tried to make him chose a different path, but he didn't seem to keen on taking her advice. She'd talk to him about it again in the future, but she wasn't going to nag about it every time it came up. He was a grown man who could make his own decisions and she'd support him in every single one he made, even the ones she didn't necessarily agree with.

"My club in Belgium," he rumbled into her hair. "There are some difficulties with the new manager."

"Do you have to go there?"

"Not a chance in hell."

She smiled warmly, pulling back from his chest to cup his face, her thumbs brushing over the dark circles under his eyes. "How long have you been up?"

He shrugged. "An hour. Maybe two. It's almost noon in Belgium and before them I had a conference call with France. I sort of lost track of time."

"Maybe you should get some rest."

He leaned down and brushed a kiss across her temple. "I'm not physically tired, Cara. Those calls just mentally drain me."

She couldn't stop herself from sighing, but again refrained from any comment. He understood the sigh though, his long fingers curling around hers in response, bringing her palm to his tight chest and keeping it there. She could feel his heart beat underneath her hand while his thumb brushed softly over the back of it.

"Dance with me, Cara."

She laughed, frowning up at him. He didn't laugh back. Didn't even smile. Everything about him still screamed tension, stress, even anger. Everything she didn't want for him.

"There's no music," she whispered, her heart heavy.

"Imagine there is," he rumbled, his lips brushing over her hair. "Just dance with me."

"Okay," she smiled, taking a step back, out of his embrace. He frowned at her move, coming towards her again…until she started throwing her body around as if having a seizure. Her hair flew around her face, her hands were in the air, her legs pushed her off the ground over and over again as the rest of her body moved in ways it never had before.

She knew she looked like an absolute idiot and normally she would've been mortified...but then Lucian broke out in laughter.

Roaring, deep, belly laughter.

She stopped moving, catching her breath as she watched him, her heart soaring at the happiness she saw on his face.

"You're crazy," he laughed, wiping tears from his eyes.

She shrugged. "Made you laugh, didn't?"

He laughed again, nodding. "Yes, you did."

She closed the distance between them again. As soon as she was within reach, he took her hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing her knuckles softly. Everything hard had disappeared from his face, the lines now soft and sweet again.

"Thank you, Cara."

She just smiled as Lucian brushed his chin with her fingertips. The shadow on his jaw was faint, but she could feel the bristle and that feeling shot straight from her fingertips to her core.

"You possess me. Do you know that?"

She slowly shook her head, holding his grey gaze.

"You do. You possess every part of me. My thoughts, my dreams, my body. You're inside me, Cara. In my blood. And you make me weak."

She blinked. "Is that a good thing?"

"I think so," he said pensively. "And if it's not, I don't care. I can't imagine not having you anymore. You make me whole."

There was such love in his eyes that she could feel herself well up. She knew exactly what he was talking about. Before she'd met Lucian, she'd thought there was nothing missing in her life. Now, she realized she'd only been half-herself. He was the other half and losing him was not an option.

Raising on her toes, she kissed his jaw, his stubble grating against her lips. Her arms wrapped around his neck instinctively, her fingers knotting into his thick hair, her body rubbing against his like a cat. She was no longer in control of herself, her need to feel him driving her.

"Are you trying to seduce me, miss Salvatore?" he growled as her lips moved up his jaw.

"You're a smart man, mister Nox," she breathed. "You figure it out."

He laughed again, his arms enveloping her frame tighter. "I think you are."

"See," she whispered, her lips now ghosting the curve of his ear. "Smart."

She could feel a grown build in his chest when her tongue darted out to flick over his earlobe. She knew that growl. She loved that growl.

"Cara?"

"Yes, mister Nox?"

Another growl, followed by his fingers digging deeper into her back. He liked her calling him mister Nox. She made a mental note.

"One question, Cara."

"Mmmm," she murmured, her lips already back to skimming his jaw.

"When was the last time you ate?"

"Are you sure that's what you want to ask me right now?" She poured as much seduction into her voice as she could, hoping to get his mind of the subject. Because she knew he wasn't going to like the answer and she also knew the answer wasn't going to get him into bed with her. Not as quickly as she wanted, anyway.

"Cara?"

His voice was beautiful. Low. Soothing. Yet at the same time, there was absolute command, as if he ruled the world and knew it.

Unable not to, she followed his order, straightening up again to look him in the eye.

"I'm not sure," she admitted.

"Ballpark?"

She could've lied…but then again, she couldn't have. Lying to Lucian seemed impossible. And not just because it would feel wrong. She loved his eyes and the effect they had on her, but looking into them made her feel as if he saw everything about her. He'd see the lie and he'd be disappointed. She could handle anger, not disappointment.

"Lunch," she admitted. "Yesterday. Although, I had a big breakfast that day so I only ate a packet of saltines."

He cocked an annoyed eyebrow. "A packet of saltines? That's not lunch, Cara. That's barely a snack."

"Well, there was going to be food at the party, but then Victor Pierce happened and I got arrested, so that sort of ruined my appetite."

His thumb swept across her chin. "I get that, but now that you live under my roof it's breakfast, lunch and dinner, Cara. You hear me?"

He leaned in for a kiss but before he could reach her she leaned back, biting her lip.

"What?" he frowned.

"You do realize you've never actually asked me, right?"

"Asked you what?"

"To move in with you."

"Sure I have."

She cocked an eyebrow. "Pretty sure I would've remembered that."

He scratched the back of his neck, his muscled bicep flexing. She was picking up on his little tics and this particular one meant he knew he'd done something morally debatable.

"In my defense," he started, his tone stoic. "I was planning on asking you last night. Then things got hectic and I never got the chance to-"

"-get an actual answer before moving in my stuff?"

That muscle in his jaw ticked. Another tell-tale sign. This meant he was either angry or nervous. She figured right now the latter applied and it warmed her heart. Here was a man who had no trouble standing up to Victor Pierce but asking her to move in with him made him nervous. It was the cutest thing.

"Pretty cocky move, mister Nox," she said, letting him off the hook.

His lips twitched at the teasing note to her voice, relief in his warm grey eyes. Cleary, he'd expected her to put up a little fight.

"Well," he rumbled, leaning in closer to her again. "You of all people should know just how big my cockiness is, miss Salvatore."

She felt her cheeks heat again. God, was she ever going to get used to his dirty mouth?

His mouth claimed hers and before she knew what was happening he'd swept her up in his arms and carried her out of the room.

When he finally stopped and released her lips, she noticed they were in the kitchen and not the bedroom. She couldn't stop herself from pouting, making Lucian laugh again.

"Food first, baby," he said, sitting her down on the breakfast bar. She felt the cold of the granite through her silk robe and squirmed.

"Did I hurt you?" Lucian asked, his eyes soft and concerned.

"Hurt me?"

"Last night," he clarified, smoothing the backs of his fingers over her cheek. "I was rough."

"I remember." She blushed, doing exactly that. "You didn't hurt me. In fact, I've never been more perfect, sweetheart."

She smiled when she said the words, because they were true. Her entire life had been turned upside down by his presence and yet, it had never been more perfect. Which only proved what she already knew. That she was done for. The realist in her had kept thinking that it would fade, that feeling of completion, of being whole, of utter bliss. That she'd come to her senses and find her footing and that the honeymoon-fase would be over. But there was no fading. Not even a little bit. In fact, the more time she spend with him, the deeper their connection seemed to grow. Something had blossomed inside of her and whatever it was, its roots were now entwined with her very soul. He was a part of her. A part she couldn't live without anymore. Didn't want to, either.

"Promise me that if I ever go to far, if I ever do anything that makes you uncomfortable, you'll stop me."

She nodded, fisting his shirt and pulling him closer to her. "I promise I would stop you. And I also promise that you would stop. Like you did last night, remember?"

He brushed a kiss over her forehead. "I remember, baby."

She leaned into his kiss, her hands on his chest. She tried not to notice the muscles there, tried to get her mind out of the gutter, but it was difficult when he was so close, with his scent crowding her.

Too soon, his lips were gone, but he stayed where he was, his hands on the granite on either side of her hips, boxing her in.

"What do you want to eat, Cara?"

"That depends," she snickered. "Are you going to cook? 'Cause if so, I'll take cereal."

He grinned, his liquid grey eyes dancing. "Okay, my last attempt at cooking you breakfast wasn't very successful, I'll give you that, but I've been getting better."

"Don't tell me you've been practicing? For little ol' me?"

"There's nothing little or old about you, sweetheart, but yes, I may have been dabbling with a few recipes while you were with Ryder."

A smile ate at her lips "Dabbling?"

He sighed dramatically. "What do you want to hear, Cara? That I've been practicing with the chef of my restaurant, paying him overtime just to teach me the basics? Fine, yes, I did."

Her smile grew so wide her cheeks hurt. "You did?"

He brushed his thumb over her lips, his hooded eyes watching. "In case you haven't noticed, you have me by the balls, Salvatore."

"Do I?"

He just gazed at her for a few moments, a fond smile on his lips. "You know you do. Besides, I figured that once you moved in, you'd like a home cooked meal every now and then."

Right. We were discussing moving in before he kissed me. Focus.

"Have you ever lived with a woman before?"

He cocked an eyebrow before taking a few steps away from her and leaning back against the double wall oven. He seemed to realize she wanted to talk and gave her the space to do so. Small things like that only made her want him more.

"What do you think, Cara?"

She tried to clear her mind from all lustful thoughts and focus on the discussion. They had to have this talk now before she started unpacking. She had to be sure he knew what he was getting into.

"Aren't you worried it'll feel like an invasion of your privacy?" she asked.

He frowned, his beautiful eyes piercing from beneath the locks of his disheveled hair. "No."

"This place is pretty...sterile. You don't think it might drive you a little nuts to have someone come in here and-"

"Someone? Yes. You? No."

"So, it won't bother you to see my shoes kicked off here and there, or my purse on the chair, or—"

"-your shredded panties on my floor because I tore them off to fuck you the night before?"

She blushed a deep red, making him smile.

"You're such a guy."

"You're just now noticing that? Your observation-skills need work, detective."

She rolled her eyes, pushing back a smile of her own.

"No, Cara," he continued in a serious voice. "I'm not going to mind. I want to live with you. I want to wake up next to that warm body of yours, watch you get ready for work and make love to you every night before falling asleep with you in my arms. I want that." Suddenly, he body tensed visibly. "Do you want that?"

"Yes," she said without a moment's hesitation, making him relax again. "Of course, I do. It's just that, you do realize that as far as everyone else is concerned-"

"-you're still engaged to that fuck?"

"To Alexander, yes. So, as much as I hate it, I can't just come here every night and leave in the morning-"

"-unless your fake-fiancee is renting a penthouse in this building too. For example, the penthouse below this one which I put in his name yesterday."

She stared at him for a long moment, shocked and impressed. He'd really thought of everything.

"Look, Cara," he said, his voice strict and dominant. She loved that voice. Her entire body loved that voice. "I understand you're probably not ready to move in with me-"

"Lucian-" she cut him off, hating that he had misinterpreted her silence.

"-but it's not up for debate."

Her eyebrow got a mind of it's own, cocking up. No matter how much she loved it when Lucian took control, the feminist in her-The Salvatore-had to put up a little fight when orders were given.

"Don't give me that look, Cara," he said, dominance still oozing from his every word, his every pore. "There will be no discussion."

"You don't think I should have a say in where I live?" She'd wanted to sound annoyed, but that dark look in his eyes made it difficult to put any real strength in her voice.

"Not after last night, no. Not after Victor Pierce. Not after the police. Not after-" He trailed off, that anger back in his voice and what was worse…that pain back in his eyes. She'd put that there and she'd hate herself for it for as long as she lived.

"That wasn't last night," she mumbled, shame making her eyes drop away from his. Thinking back she still couldn't believe what she'd done. Not just to those four people in the car, but to herself. So many people she loved would've been devastated if she'd died. Her family, Maggie. And Lucian. He already suffered just knowing she'd almost died. She couldn't even contemplate how he would've taken it if she'd never gotten out of that river alive. Well, actually, she could. She'd felt the devastation when she'd thought he'd died. She never wanted him to feel like that. Ever.

Suddenly, warm fingers were on the nape of her neck and then two on her chin, forcing her gaze back up to his.

"It's done, Cara. You're staying here whether you like it or not. We're on the seventieth floor with only one point of entry, there's security everywhere, no one gets in or out who's not supposed to be there. It's the safest place for you. No arguments. "

Her sex clenched, growing damp and she once again reminded herself to search for a good therapist when all this was over, someone to help her get over this weird new habit of getting turned on by being told what to do. Then again, did she really want to get over it? She loved how he made her feel. Beautiful, desired, something to be protected at all cost.

"Can I at least voice some concerns?" she asked.

"As long as you realize they won't change a damn thing."

She bit back a smile, ordering her mind to focus on something else than his smell surrounding her again. He hadn't backed off one bit, watching her with those assessing eyes of his.

"I know you're worried about my safety-" she began. "-but I'm more worried about what's going to happen right here. It's all fun and games until you start feeling irritated by the day-to-day reality of living with someone. And I've never done this before either. I've never even had a roommate. I went from Italy to living on my own and I have some annoying habits that might drive you insane or-"

"Or what?" he pushed when she trailed off.

She shrugged, as if it was nothing, but the truth was she was about to voice her worst fear. "Or away."

He just stared at her for a few long seconds, unblinking, until he growled, "Away? You think you'll annoy me into leaving you?"

She frowned at his mocking tone. "It's not that insane."

Lucian sighed, a long smooth sigh, his fingers finding the nape of her neck. "Cara, do you really not understand my feelings for you?"

His lips were on hers before she could utter an answer. Soft, nibbling, his teeth biting downing on her lower lip and pulling it towards him before releasing it and licking away the sting. Her mind drifted, the scared voice quieting down into soft whispers as he continued to brush his lips over hers. By the time he pulled back, she wasn't sure what they'd been talking about. Not until he said,

"Do you have any idea how many times I fantasized about having you here when I got home? How many times I pulled myself off in the shower thinking about you in there with me? In my bed? Fuck, I even imagined you sitting next to me on the sofa with a book or eating diner with me or sleeping in the bed beside me. Don't you understand? You've been living here forever."

He kissed her again before she could comment on the forever - part and by the time he released her, she'd forgotten all about it.

"I need you here, Cara," he whispered against her swollen lips.

She swallowed, feeling her heart soar. She wanted so badly to shut up and just believe him, but she had to get the anxiety out of her chest before she could commit fully. "Lucian, this wouldn't be happening if I wasn't in danger and you're not a guy who likes having his hand forced-"

With an annoyed growl, he took a step back again, running a rough hand through those dark strands of his.

"Cara," he said, his voice a touch impatient. "No one's forcing my hand here. I had options. I could've beefed up the security at Ryder's house, or just put you up in the penthouse below with that asshole without ever mentioning moving in. I could've done any number of things, but it never would've been enough. I want you in my life. My home. My bed."

"Me too. I want to be in all those places, too." The words had tumbled out of her mouth without thinking and she was rewarded with a smile that lit up his eyes.

"Good." Warm fingertips brushed her hair away from her forehead, his smile still radiating. "It's settled then."

She knew he hadn't actually given her a choice in the matter, but she could see now that despite his order he'd still hoped for her consent. Hoped, not expected. How could such a handsome man be so insecure at times?

Smiling back, she ran her fingers over his dark stubble, tracing a path down his jaw until her thumb brushed over his lower lip.

"We need to get you fed before I get distracted again," he said, pushing himself away from her with a low groan.

She loved the effect she had on him, the fire she stirred in him. She loved it because it made her realize she wasn't alone in this obsession.

"So," she said when she found her voice again. "What exactly are you feeding me? You don't have any food, remember?"

When they'd come down in the middle of the night, she'd searched for something to nibble and opened his fridge to find it completely empty. In fact, everything had been empty. His fridge, his cabinets. She'd even noticed the stove still had its instruction manual inside of it. It had made her sad, for some reason.

"We'll order room service for now and I'll have someone go to the store later today."

"Did you order all your meals from room service when it was just you?"

"When I was here, yes." He said it like it was the most normal thing in the world, picking up some sort of smart screen device that was in a docking station next to the unused stove. "So, what would you like?"

She shook her head, deciding not to voice how heartbreaking this whole thing looked to her. She did, however, make a silent vow right then and there that he would never have to order room service for himself again. She would fill his place with mouthwatering smells, fresh produce and cozy dinners by the fire. And sure, if they'd spend the whole day cooped up, making love on every surface of this giant penthouse, they could order in. But it wouldn't become the standard.

"You do realize it's barely six in the morning."

"You do realize I own the place?" He tilted his lips arrogantly. "Besides, it's a twenty-four-hour service."

"Is there a menu?"

"They have whatever you want."

"Whatever I want?"

"Yes."

"What if they don't have the ingredients?"

"Then they'll go get them."

"I don't want to put anyone out."

He smiled, staring at the screen. "It's their job, Cara."

"And they do this for everyone? Go out and buy what they don't have, even at the crack of dawn?"

He sighed, but his lips were still curled. "It's a perk as the owner. Now please, name what you want and don't worry about putting anyone out. They don't mind."

"Anything?"

"Anything."

"So, I could order-" she searched her brain for something really outlandish so he would have to admit anything was impossible. "-haggis?"

His eyebrows rose, amused. "For breakfast?"

"You said anything."

He tapped on the screen again and she hoped he hadn't just actually put in that order. She'd just wanted to prove a point.

"What are you having?" she asked.

"Syrup."

"Pancakes?"

"No, just syrup."

"But you generally put syrup on top of something. What are you putting it on?"

"You."

He didn't look up from the screen when he'd said it, as if it was just a regular thing to say. God, that man turned her on.

"Now," he said, finally looking up with knowing eyes. "Are you sure about the haggis?"

She blushed. Busted. "No. I'd actually like pancakes, please. Blueberry, if they have it. And maybe some chocolate chip-ones, too. And eggs. Poached. And toast. Oh and do they have those mini jam-things?"

He grinned as his fingers tapped away on the device. "For someone who doesn't eat as often as she should, you sure have an appetite."

She shrugged. "It's a Salvatore-thing. When we were all still living under one roof, meals were crazy. I mean, if you think I can eat, you should watch my brothers at dinnertime. And technically, they don't even have to eat."

He grinned wider.

"Oh, do they have birthday-cake-flavored ice cream?" She asked, clapping her hands together. "My parents always had birthday-cake-flavored ice cream at home. Asher is still obsessed with the stuff."

"Sure, Asher is," Lucian teased, giving her a crooked smile.

She stuck out her tongue, making his laugh bounce of the white walls. She loved him like this, relaxed and happy. She had a feeling it had been a rare sight up to now, but she would make sure he spend his whole life like that. Smiling and happy. With her.

Getting a little ahead of yourself? You only just moved in.

"There," he said, throwing the device on the counter. "Ordered."

She clapped her hands enthusiastically. Now that she knew food was coming, she realized she might've been hungrier than she'd thought.

"This is some sweet deal you got here," she said, tugging on his shirt until he was between her legs. He growled softly when the satin fell open, baring her legs. "Housekeeping, roomservice, killer views."

"It's something," he simply said, tucking a curl behind her ears. Suddenly, there was a sadness in his eyes she didn't care for, but before she could address it, it was gone again. Replacing it was heat. A heat that spread right into her veins when his hands found her bare thighs. The robe had fallen open just enough to reveal her legs, so the place that burned for him was still covered…but if he just slid his hands up a little higher he could fix that and they could-

"How about some coffee?" He gnarled in a tight voice. It wasn't actually a question. Before she could say another word, he was already turning towards a silver machine that looked just as new as his stove.

"Sure," she said, hearing her voice tremble.

It took mere seconds before the room was filled with loud hisses and puffs of steam, all mixed with a delicious aroma that made her mouth water. It might've been new, but Lucian clearly knew how to work the thing.

"I have milk and sugar, but you take it black, right?"

She nodded as he handed her a steaming cup of black gold.

Wrapping her hands around it, she took in a deep breath, closing her eyes when the bitter smell filled her nose.

"Oh God," she moaned. "That's so good."

Lucian groaned and before she could even take a sip of her drink, he'd grabbed the cup, put it down on the counter and filled her mouth with something even better.

His taste.

Rapid pants and hungry moans filled the room as his hands pushed the satin down he shoulders and her heels hooked behind his back. An intense want consumed her again, settling in her core, making her-

Suddenly, Lucian tore his lips from hers, cursing under his breath. She wasn't sure what was going on until he barked against her neck, "Who the fuck is that? There's no way that order is ready yet."

Someone must've buzzed to come up, but she hadn't heard. Not really surprising since the world could fall apart around her when Lucian was kissing her and she wouldn't notice.

"Ignore it," she begged, unbuttoning his shirt with nimble fingers. "Just ignore-"

He didn't even let her finish, his lips pressing down on hers again, his tongue pushing inside her mouth and taking control of-

This time she heard the sound too, groaning at the same time he did.

"Don't move," he snarled before pressing a rough kiss to her shoulder and then stalking to the intercom by the elevator like a man heading into battle.

"What?" he hissed, slamming his thumb down on the button so hard she heard something crack.

"Sorry to bother you, sir," a woman's voice said anxiously. Clearly, she was picking up on the fact that she was an unwelcome interruption. "I know it's early-"

"Get to the point, Karen."

"There's a moving company here called Books & Boxes."

Lucian's mood only darkened. "What?"

"There's a moving-"

"Yes, I heard you. I just don't understand why you're bothering me with this."

"Well, I mean-" the woman paused, her nerves blasting through the intercom. "Your guest called reception last night and asked Elisabeth to contact a moving company as soon as they were open. To come pick up her stuff, asap."

"What are you talking ab-" He cut himself off, his eyes darting over to Adrianna. He must've seen the guilt on her face, because next thing she knew he barked into the receiver. "My guest is staying. They can go."

The intercom shut off again and Lucian just stood there, arms crossed over that impressive chest of his, staring at her with a cocked eyebrow.

Waiting.

"I thought you wouldn't want me here when you got home, remember," she explained, feeling so stupid. She'd misread the whole situation when she'd made those arrangements. "I forgot to call it off. You distracted me."

His mouth curled slightly, those grey eyes of his dropping to her lips. "So, it's my fault?"

She nodded slowly. "Most definitely."

His arms uncrossed and then, he was on his way back to her, a look in his eyes that told her exactly what was coming. Her skin prickled, her heart thundered in her chest-

And then, the intercom buzzed again.

Lucian froze, his body oozing danger. This Karen-person was lucky she wasn't actually there.

"What. Is. It?" Lucian seethed.

"They're not very pleased, sir."

"Neither am I!"

"Apparently they were promised an extra fee to come in as early as they could, so they refuse to leave-"

"Then pay them!"

"I gave my credit card information to Elisabeth last night," Adrianna yelled at the intercom. "So they can just put it on-"

The look Lucian shot her shut her up immediately.

"Write them a cheque," he ordered the receptionist. "Pay them double."

"I thought you'd say that, sir and I tried to write them a cheque, but-" she trailed off.

"But what?"

"They say they won't take a cheque because you might cancel it the second they leave."

Lucian's hand balled up in a fist by his thigh. "Do they know who I am?"

"Yes, sir. But they won't budge. They want cash and I need your signature to take any money from the register-"

"I'll be down in ten minutes," het cut her off on a snarl.

"I'm sorry," Adrianna groaned when he made his way across the room. "I'm such an idiot."

"Yes, you are," he rumbled, his lips slowly curling into a smile.

She returned his smile, scanning the room for her purse as she hopped off the counter. "I don't want you to pay for this. I only have ten dollars on me, but just let me know how much they charge and I swear I'll pay you-"

His lips swallowed her words, his hands on her back pressing her against him protectively, making her melt into his heat.

"You don't play fair," she whispered into his mouth. "I can't think when you do that."

"I know," he admitted, his palm connecting with her butt in a teasing slap, making her yelp. "That's for ever thinking I wouldn't want you here."

"I'm serious," she blushed, trying to ignore how her stinging behind made her sex clench even tighter. "I'm paying you back, no matter how much you try to distract me."

He smiled that devilish smile of his. "I like a challenge. Now, I'm going to get dressed and deal with this. By then, our breakfast will be ready. We'll eat, take a shower and then we'll go back to bed. For a few day."

"A few days? I have a job, you know."

He didn't answer. Instead, he pulled her in for another kiss before he all but stormed up the stairs.

As she waited for him to get dressed, she let her eyes wander, taking in Lucian's home through new eyes. Because it was her home now, too. And she had to admit, it wasn't a bad home to have. Despite the fact that everything was smooth and modern, she saw potential for making it warm and cozy. Hardwood floors already ran throughout, glass walls gave an expansive view of the city and a giant fireplace took up one wall with exposed brick surrounding it. It was a start. All this place really needed was a nice rug, warmer furniture and some little personal touches to make it a home, like pictures and some artwork. All superficial things, really. The floor plan was already perfect, open with the kitchen off to the side of the living room, and a big dining room to the other side of the kitchen. She loved the idea of being able to cook and still talk to Lucian as he set the table or helped the kids with their homework before dinner.

Wait, what?!

Her stomach sank. Kids? Where the hell had that come from? She wasn't supposed to want kids. She was supposed to turn into a vampire in a few months and never look back… but Lucian made her want things she never knew she wanted. She looked at this man and saw him waiting down the aisle in a tux, rubbing her pregnant belly, bouncing their child on his arm. She saw a family.

And it scared the living hell out of her.

"You okay, Cara?"

She snapped out of her disturbing domestic fantasies to see Lucian come down the stairs, dressed in a suit and looking amazing.

"I'm fine. Just lost in thought," she said crossing her arms over her chest, as if to shield her heart from his sight. Her confused heart.

"You know," she changed the subject. "It's so unfair that men can go from disheveled to gorgeous in no time at all. I would need an hour to look as good as you do right now."

He laughed, pulling her into another one of his warm hugs. The man was all muscle and yet, he felt so soft when he held her. It was the oddest thing.

"You never look better than after I make love to you, Cara," he whispered.

She closed her eyes, marveling in the feel of his warm lips brushing over her forehead. Her fingers curled into his collar, holding him tight as that feeling of belonging took hold of her again. She'd never felt so right as she did in his embrace and she knew that no matter where they would end up, she'd always be home with him. Because he was her home. Her safe haven. Her beginning and end.

"Okay," he said too soon, his voice tight. "I have to go."

"No."

He sniffed sweetly, taking a step back so their bodies no longer touched except for where his hands cupped her cheeks. "Stay here. Don't leave this penthouse."

"I won't."

His thumbs brushed over her cheekbones. "I'll be right back."

She nodded and then, before she could protest any further, he was on his way to the elevator.

"Feel free to explore, Cara," he said as the silver doors opened. "This is your home now too."

"No rooms you want me to stay out of?" she teased.

He just cocked an eyebrow as he stepped inside the metal box.

"No dirty little secrets, huh?"

She saw a strange expression cross his face right before the elevator closed again, but it was gone too fast to really register it, so she decided not to worry.

For a few seconds, she just stood in the middle of the living room, avoiding the kitchen table. That weird fantasy still stuck to her brain like superglue, so she ordered her feet to make in the opposite direction. She was so not ready to deal with that whole thing. Could she see a future with Lucian? Of course she could. She couldn't see a future without him. But what kind of future did she see with him? Did she want with him? A supernatural one...or a human one?

As she wandered around aimlessly - her mind doing the same - she passed a few rooms she hadn't been into yet. She decided not to explore them though. It would feel too much like snooping without Lucian, no matter what he said. So, instead, she headed straight for the room she'd been in already. Her favorite one. Well, second favorite. Lucian's bedroom was hard to best. Still, if one room was a competitor, it was this one.

Letting out a happy little sigh, she ran her fingers over the endless rows of book-spines, breathing in that wonderfulp scent. Something about libraries always calmed her. And she could use a little calm. Her life had been a whirlwind lately. It wasn't just finding Lucian. It was Rodchenko trying to kill Maggie. It was pretending to be Alexander's fiancée and almost getting killed because of it. And last, but not least, it was Victor Pierce suddenly taking some perverse interest in her. Strangely enough, it was the latter that frightened her most. Rodchenko and Alexander's thief she could handle; she could somewhat predict their next move. But Pierce…

Over the course of her life she'd heard tales of the vampire, tales that chilled her to the bone. For many years, he'd been her boogeyman, the thing in the closet, the monster under the bed. And then, she'd grown up and she'd started to notice her parents shielding her from everything Victor Pierce-related. She overheard no more stories, was never allowed anywhere near a meeting about him. When her family had tried to talk peace with him she'd wanted to come, but had been shot down so fast her head had spun. She'd tried to fight the decision, morbidly curious about the man who'd haunted her nightmares, but there had been no debate. In fact, he uncle Elijah had skipped the meeting all together and had stayed with her, just to make sure she didn't try to sneak out. She'd never understood why.

Until now.

When he'd forced her into that dance with him last night, she'd seen the fascination and - even more disturbingly- the determination in those cold eyes of his. He wanted her. He wanted her for all the reasons her mother had warned her about. Because she was the Crescǎtor, because she was a Salvatore. Because of how he could use her. How had he put it again? Ah yes, she could rule men who would kill for her, sitting by his side on a throne of bones. Or there was also the vomit-inducing option of doing the ritual and Breeding with him.

Her family had seen this coming, keeping her out of that sadist's path…until a few months ago, when she'd met him in that bar.

I should've stayed away.

And let him burn down the bar with everyone in it?

No. If she could go back in time and redo that night, she'd do the same thing. Stand up to him. Even if it meant getting on his radar.

Her eyes stayed glued to the books as she walked, trying not to think about Pierce, until she suddenly halted, her fingers tracing gold letters.

Grinning, she pulled an old and fragile looking copy of Romeo and Juliet from between two just as ancient looking books. Carefully, she opened it and her grin only grew wider.

The book had been read.

Many times.

"That bastard," she whispered, turning the pages, gaping at the beautiful illustrations. She would have to tease him mercilessly about this later. After all, when she'd sat through that charity-dinner with him and his niece, after she hadn't seen him for months and he'd still thought she was actually engaged to Alexander, he'd made it sound like he hated the book. Like he looked down on it. She believed his exact words were that he didn't 'see the attraction'. Well, clearly he-

"Did you know that particular Shakespearian tragedy was based on a story in Ovid's Metamorphoses?"

Adrianna dropped the book, turning on her heels at the voice coming from the bookcase behind to her. She couldn't see who'd spoken, the books hid him, but she knew one thing for sure: It hadn't been Lucian.

"Who-"

"In Ovid's work, Pyramus and Thisbe are two lovers in the city of Babylon."

She stayed silent, listening for his footsteps and heading in the opposite direction. "Who are you?"

"They lived beside each other and were forbidden to wed by their rivaling families. Of course, the lovers found a way to stay together. There was a crack in the wall and through it they vowed their undying love for one another."

Adrianna kept backing away and the second she saw his shadow turning the corner to slip in her row, she slipped in the one he'd exited.

You need a plan. Her mind went to Lucian's desk where she knew she'd find a letter opener sharp enough to do harm…but the idea of hurting someone again, after what she'd done in that car, sickened her. She wasn't sure she would be able to do it even if she had no other choice.

"One night, they arranged to meet under an apple tree and make their love official. When Thisbe arrived, she saw a lioness drink from a well, her mouth wet with blood from a recent kill. She fled, leaving behind her veil. The lioness ripped the veil, bloodying it as she did so."

"How did you get in here?" she spoke again. There was only one way in, the elevator, which only worked with fingerprint-recognition. Had they hacked that somehow? Had they been inside the entire time?

At the sound of her voice, she could hear him change directions, moving towards her again. She slipped in another row, keeping to the shadows.

"When Pyramus arrived, he saw the veil and you can imagine his horror. Thinking his love had been killed by a beast, he went back to the apple tree and killed himself where his life was supposed to begin, throwing himself onto his sword. Thisbe, confident the lioness had left, emerged from the cave she'd been hiding in to find her love dead. Overcome with grief, she threw herself on the same sword, still warm with Pyramus's blood and died on top of her love. Do you know what the moral of the story is, miss Salvatore?"

He knows my name. He's here for me. There was a strange relief in that. If he'd been after Lucian, she would've had to kill him.

"The moral is that love is a dangerous thing, miss Salvatore. And can't we all relate to that?"

"If Rodchenko sent you-"

"I don't know anyone by that name."

Not Rodchenko.

"If you were sent here to kill me by the man who's stealing from Alexander Ryder or by Victor Pierce-"

"My my, someone has quite a few enemies."

"Whoever hired you, you don't want to do this."

No answer. She'd feared this moment. The quiet before the storm. Flexing her muscles, she listened for any sign of movement, but if he was on the move he was doing it so quietly she couldn't pick it up.

Slowly, she backed away towards the door, keeping her eyes on the shelves. He was there, somewhere. She could feel his eyes on her, could feel…herself bumping into something hard.

Heart racing, she turned, staring right into two of the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. How had he gotten behind her? There was no way.

Unless he's not human.

He didn't look human, but only in the way Lucian didn't either. He was too handsome. Eyes like the sea after a storm, pitch black hair that had the faintest shimmer of blue in it and flawless, tanned skin.

"What are you doing?"

When he spoke, Adrianna noticed two things. One, his voice wasn't the one that had stalked her through the library and two, he wasn't talking to her. His eyes were on a point behind her, one eyebrow raised.

Adrianna glanced over her shoulder and noticed another man emerging from the shadows.

A man that temporarily took her breath away.

It weren't just his good looks that rendered her speechless, although they were remarkable - eyes that were a cross between yellow and gold, cheekbones you could cut diamonds on and a jaw covered in perfectly groomed stubble. No, what made her pause was just him, his presence. Something about him unnerved her on a molecular level. It was the strangest thing, but she knew instantly that this was a man to be feared. Deeply. The man in front of her didn't evoke the same feeling, but he was just as big as the one behind her, which meant they both wouldn't go down easily.

With one twist of her body, she removed herself from between them, instead moving to the side, her eyes switching back and forth from the blonde one to the raven-haired one.

Waiting.

The blonde one was the first to move, although it were only his eyes that moved. Down her body. Slowly. Making her remember what she was wearing. Or, more specifically, not wearing. No underwear. Just a robe that came halfway up her thighs.

She felt herself shivering under his gaze, but not for the same reason she shivered whenever Lucian took in her body. His eyes felt like cold hands, chilling her to the bone.

"Zeke," the raven one spoke, putting power behind his voice. Still, Adrianna recognized he wasn't the one with the power, the authority. The blonde was. He was in charge.

"Relax, Percy. I'm only messing with the Salvatore-girl." The blonde smiled then, trying to ease the tension in the room. Without success. His smile was measured, perfected to be a tool and she had no doubt it would be an effective one against most women, making them melt. Not her, though. Not even a little. If anything, it made her muscles tense even more.

"How do you know my name? Who are you?"

"We make it our business to know everyone in Lucian's life, miss Salvatore," Zeke answered. "And you seem to be becoming quite a big part of it."

"Why do you make it your business? I swear to God, if you're here to hurt him-"

Zeker laughed and if she'd thought his smile was creepy, his laugh kicked it up a notch. She could actually feel goosebumps spread over her skin.

"Did I say something funny?" she snapped, anger tightening the knot in her chest. She hated that they were there, in Lucian's home, in her home. This was her safe place, a place of love. They had no business being there.

"No, nothing funny," he said, crooking his lips. "I swear to God."

"What do you want with me? With Lucian?"

"I assure you we have no intention of hurting you, miss Salvatore," Percy said, smiling as well. His smile was different, though. Less creepy. Kinder. More sincere. "I apologize for my brother's dramatics. He didn't mean to scare you."

"Yes, he did."

Zeke didn't deny it. He just stared at her with those golden eyes, a hint of something dark appearing there. A dangerous thing. A cross between fascination and something she couldn't quite put her finger on.

"Who is Lucian to you?" she asked again. It was the only question that really mattered. It would determine whether or not they walked out alive. "What kind of business do you have with him?

"The family kind."

At Percy's answer, her eyes shot from gold to blue, frowning.

"What?"

"We should have introduced ourselves," he said, taking a step closer, his hand reaching out. "I'm Percy. And this is my brother, Zeke. One of two. The other one-"

"-is Lucian," she whispered, feeling her jaw slacken. "You're Lucian's brothers."


It had been quite some time since Zeus had descended to Earth. The last time had been back when mortals still worshipped them. He'd been able to come down freely then, without concealing his identity. It had been a marvelous time of strong drink and willing women, both intoxicating and his for the taking. Women now were different. They had a mind of their own and didn't just surrender their bodies as an offering to their gods. Pity, really. Especially when they looked like her.

Zeus had never actually seen Adrianna Salvatore before that moment, had never had the desire to…and he regretted that now. She was magnificent. Thick raven curls that bounced of her flawless skin, delicate features that made her look more fragile than she was, topped off with big blue eyes that were as deep as the oceans Poseidon commanded. And her lips…her lips were so plump and pink Zeus couldn't stop his gaze from dropping to them. And that was just her face. Her body was hidden under a robe that flowed over her curves like water. Perky breasts, wide hips and legs that were slim yet toned. She was all female, but she could stand her own. You wouldn't want her against you in a fight. Not when you were mortal, anyway.

"You two don't resemble your brother," she broke the silence, clearly hesitant to believe them.

He understood why.

From the outside looking in, no one would ever suspect Zeus, Poseidon and Hades to be related. Hades had pitch black hair and matching eyes, Zeus was blonde with golden eyes and Poseidon had black hair that shimmered blue in the right light with light blue eyes to match. Genes worked differently on Olympus. The only thing every male god had in common was their built. Big, muscular, intimidating. Though, this woman didn't seem intimidated at all.

"We'll take that as a compliment," Poseidon remarked in jest at her observation.

She did not find it amusing.

She tried to cover up her annoyance with a smile, but Zeus saw right through the facade. And gathering from Poseidon's form tensing beside him, he saw it, too.

"Contacts and hair dye," Poseidon said in an effort to make up for his badly-received joke. But then, he added insult to injury by saying, "Black eyes are kind of creepy, don't you think?"

Zeus saw the woman's jaw clutch, trying to stop the words from spilling out.

She lost that fight.

"Lucian's eyes are grey. And I think they're beautiful," she blurted out. "They're unique. Like him."

Zeus felt his lips twitch in fascination. She was defending him. It had been a while since Zeus had heard anyone defend his brother. If he'd ever hear it at all. And he seriously doubted this misguided woman would still defend him if she knew who she was truly bedding. And she was bedding him. From the looks of it, not too long ago. Everything about her screamed sex.

When his eyes dropped to her bare legs again, he saw her tense up. She'd caught him ogling. It didn't stop him from enjoying the view a little longer, though.

"Do you have any ID on you?"

Zeus sniffed, his eyes shooting back up to hers. He was not used to being questioned by a mortal. Especially not a female one. He didn't like it. Not even when the questions were being asked by a beauty like her.

"We don't have to prove anything to you, woman."

Now, usually when Zeus spoke as he'd just done, the person he'd addressed would cower away…but not her. In fact, she did the opposite. Instead of retreating, she smiled. And gods, her smile was radiant. It warmed the room and everyone witnessing it. Even, to some extent, Zeus.

"This amuses you?" Zeus could tell his voice was less commanding than before and he didn't like it. She affected him somehow. No one affected him.

"No," she grinned. "I just don't need ID anymore. You're definitely Lucian's brother."

Zeus's glare darkened. Was she insinuating he was anything like Hades?

"Would you excuse me for a moment?" she asked. "I need to go and put some clothes on."

"There's no need."

Her smile vanished and Zeus almost regretted what he'd said. Zeus never regretted anything.

"Of course," Poseidon jumped in, defusing the tension as he took a step aside so he no longer blocked the door.

She didn't hesitate, heading for the exit at once. When she passed them, Zeus breathed in and he could smell Hades all over the girl. He'd never thought he'd be jealous of his brother, but in that moment he undeniably was. Adrianna Salvatore was fiery, he could tell by the way she stood up to Poseidon and him. He could only imagine what she'd be like in bed. The thought alone made his mouth water and his cock take notice.

"He won't like this," Poseidon said the second they heard Adrianna go up the stairs.

Zeus sniffed, moving out of the library back into the living room. The first traces of sunlight were already filling the impressive room thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows that ran throughout. He'd expected his brother's tastes to be different, darker. Both in his choice of home and woman.

"I don't care what he does or does not like, Poseidon."

His brother sighed. "I don't understand why this is necessary, Zeus. He will do as you commanded. He knows the cost of defiance is her life."

"And you think he values her life enough to swallow his pride and actually do as he's told for once?"

"He loves the woman."

Zeus didn't answer, keeping his eyes glued on the horizon. The truth was, he had his doubts about Hades's true feelings. He'd put on a good show when Zeus had threatened to kill the girl, but he was sure that was all it was. A show. After all, his brother wasn't capable of feeling something as profound as love. He was Hades, God Of The Underworld. Everyone knew there was nothing but darkness in his chest. Surely, he just loved fucking the human enough to want to keep her alive. Zeus had always found even that unlikely since Hades had access to multiple goddesses, but now he understood. There was something irresistibly alluring about this Salvatore-woman. Even he could feel it.

"Besides," Poseidon continued. "Aphrodite gives us regular updates and she says everything is going according to plan."

"And you trust her?"

"You don't?"

"Not when it comes to Hades. You know how she gets around lost causes and our brother is as lost as one can get. If Aphrodite sees any hope of redemption for him I believe she would lie to see it come to pass."

"She's isn't foolish enough to cross us or entertain any such delusion about Hades."

"She's the goddess of Love," Zeus simply said pointedly.

Was there any emotion as foolish as love? He'd seen kingdoms fall over it, good men give up their lives, women throw away fortune and comfort for the arms of some penniless buffoon. Love was a useless, dangerous emotion. And today, love had brought him here, to this awful place. He had to make sure that Hades was successfully making the girl fall in love with him, that she would give up immortality for him. He had to see it with his own two eyes. Otherwise, he would never believe it. After all, how could anyone possibly love Hades? His brother was a cold bastard; jaded and cruel.

"Sorry for the wait," her sing-song voice drifted through the room, making both brothers turn in time to see her flow down the stairs. She was still wearing the robe, but had donned a pair of sweatpants that seemed five sizes too big on her.

"For the record, I don't normally dress like this-" Her delicate fingers tugged on the sweatpants self-consciously. "-but my stuff is still in the boxes you see scattered around the room and I can't seem to find Lucian's closet, so-"

"You're moving in?"

Zeus could hear the relief in Poseidon's voice. As if her moving in meant she truly loved Hades. He'd always been quite naive, especially when it came to women.

"Yes, I am," she smiled that smile again, softening something in Zeus he didn't want softened.

Who is this girl?

"Can I ask how you knew about me? About my relationship with Lucian?" she said, reaching the bottom of the impressive staircase.

"He told us, of course," Poseidon said, quicker on his feet than Zeus was. His brother had more experience at being on Earth and lying about his identity.

"Lucian told you about us?"

Poseidon nodded, making her raise a graceful eyebrow.

"This surprises you?"

"Yes, to be honest, it does. I was under the impression you don't speak often."

"Lucian's talked to you about us?" Zeus could hear the venom lacing his own voice, but he couldn't help it. Hades wasn't supposed to be talking to her about them. What else had he told her?

"Not really," she cut of his dark thoughts. "He's told me that he and his brothers are in business together and that you each have your own responsibilities, but that's it. To be completely honest, I didn't even know your names until a few minutes ago."

Poseidon laughed, clearly relieved by her answer as well. He knew that if Hades had said more, Zeus would've killed her on the spot.

It would've been a waste, though.

So, miss Salvatore," Poseidon cut in. "Tell us something about yourself."

She cocked an amused eyebrow. "Are you really going to keep this charade up?"

Zeus straightened his spine, shooting his brother a sideway glance. Poseidon's blue eyes met his, a twinge of fear in them that was uncharacteristic for the god. He wasn't afraid for himself, of course. He was afraid for the girl. Had Hades truly been foolish enough to expose them to this Crescător? If so, he'd signed her death warrant.

"What do you mean?" his brother tried before Zeus could act.

"Oh, come on," she rolled her beautiful eyes. "I'm aware you know all about me. Lucian told me about your family."

That fucking idiot. Her blood will be on Hades's han-

"That you come from a long line of gypsies."

Poseidon let out an audible breath and strangely enough, Zeus felt a weight lift from his chest as well. If he hadn't known any better, he'd say killing this human would've been harder than he'd expected.

"Yes," Poseidon grinned. "Gypsies, right. Sorry, we didn't realize you knew about that."

"Lucian told me a while ago. He said he doesn't have any powers, but that your lineage is pretty famous."

"Not unlike your own."

Her lips twitched. "True."

"So, now that we're speaking freely," Poseidon continued. "Please, explain to me how my brother met a Salvatore."

"It's not like we're that hard to find."

"No, but isn't Italy your family's stomping ground?"

"Technically. My parents still live there, in my childhood home. But my brothers are pretty much traveling all the time and I moved here a few years ago to become a cop."

"Is that how you met Lucian?" Poseidon asked. "Was he doing something illegal?"

She laughed, the sound pleasing to Zeus's ears.

"No, nothing like that. I'm a homicide detective and I was working a case. One of my witnesses was Lucian's bartender. I went to speak with him, he got a little handsy and Lucian stepped in."

"Really?"

She frowned at Poseidon's shocked reaction. "Yes, really. You sound surprised."

"I am. Our brother's not exactly the knight in shining armor-type."

"Maybe you don't know him as well as you think you do."

"Oh, we know our brother, miss Salvatore," Zeus cut in. "Do you?"

All laughter left her eyes. Suddenly, it was like looking into two blue flames. She was that angry…and that beautiful.

"My brother hasn't had his coffee yet," Poseidon once again tried to defuse the situation. "You wouldn't happen to have a cup, would you?"

Adrianna's eyes shifted between them, her jaw still set and in that moment he was absolutely certain the only reason she wasn't throwing him out was because of Poseidon. She seemed to like his brother more than she did him. That shouldn't have stung.

"Okay," she decided, addressing Poseidon. "Sure."

She walked away to the kitchen at the other end of the living room, a sway in her step that made Zeus's eyes drop to her curvy ass. He could definitely see why Hades had fought so hard to keep this particular female specimen alive.

"What are you doing?" Poseidon whispered when she was out of earshot.

Zeus clutched his jaw at his brother's tone. "Apparently, I'm having a cup of coffee."

"Why are you pissing her off? You should-"

Zeus snapped his head towards Poseidon, shooting him a vicious glare. "I should? Are you about to tell me what to do, brother?"

Poseidon swallowed hard, blinking. "N-no. I just-"

"You just what? Forgot who you're speaking to?"

His brother stayed quiet, his blue eyes dropping to the floor.

"Besides," Zeus continued. "You shouldn't care what the girl thinks of us, Poseidon. Do not get attached to this human. Chances are she'll be dead in a few moments."

Poseidon's eyes snapped back up, meeting his with a touch of rebellion in them. "What?"

"We're checking up on Hades's progress with this woman and so far, I'm not impressed."

"His mission was to make her fall in love with him, convince her to do the Crescător-ritual and then leave her, was it not?"

"It was."

"Well, she's moving in."

"That proves nothing, Poseidon. Besides, look at her. How the hell could a woman like her ever genuinely love a thing like our brother?"

Poseidon sighed, but didn't disagree. He knew the depths of Hades's depravity as well and he too must have realized this woman could never logically love him, shacked up or not.

"Okay," Poseidon finally spoke. "You're right. But let's make this quick."

Zeus shot him another authoritarian glare.

"It would be better for everyone if we wrap this up before Hades gets back," Poseidon explained, swallowing hard. "If he finds us here, alone, with her, he might blow the whole thing in his rage."

"He won't find us. I can sense it when he's near and I'll make sure we're gone before he gets back. Right now, he's still in the lobby, arguing with some man."

"Still, it's too ris-"

"Enough."

Zeus hadn't yelled the command, but Poseidon still flinched as if he had. He knew the discussion was over.


Adrianna focused on Lucian's fancy coffee machine, trying to figure out what all the buttons were for as steam spewed out of several tiny holes. She should've paid better attention when Lucian had made her a cup earlier, but she'd been distracted by the way his body looked doing it and now she was paying the price.

She'd used a similar machine when she'd worked behind a bar in Rome, but that had been years ago. Since becoming a cop, she'd basically been living on terrible brews made by old-fashioned coffee machines that still required actual filters instead of expensive pads. Or in this case, actually coffee beans which she had no idea where to insert. On a normal day, she probably wouldn't have had so much trouble figuring out the damn thing, but this wasn't a normal day.

Lucian's brothers?

She still couldn't believe it. Or handle it, to be honest.

As far as she could tell from the handful of times Lucian had mentioned them, their relationship was strained to say the least and she was pretty sure he wouldn't appreciate them just showing up like this. Especially not when he wasn't there.

And then there were her own feelings towards his family. She didn't like the tight hold they had on Lucian or the rage that sparked in him every time he spoke of them. She knew Lucian's past was darker than he was letting on and whatever the whole story was, she was sure his brothers had played a pivotal part in it. This went deeper than just getting stuck with a job he hated.

But…despite all of that, this were the brothers of the man she wanted to built a life with, so she couldn't just show them the door. She might have to deal with them again in the future. Besides, maybe there was hope to mend the Nox-brothers' relationship and if so, she should do everything she could to help that along. After all, she knew what it was like to have loving brothers and she wished that kind of love on Lucian as well.

So far though, they weren't making it easy on her.

Do I know, Lucian? The nerve of the guy. Who the hell does he think he-

"Having trouble?"

She jumped at Zeke's voice. She hadn't heard him or Percy move and yet, they were already sitting at the breakfast bar, only granite separating them.

"No, I'm good," she lied, trying to pull of another smile.

The man smiled back and at once, that strange feeling crawled back in her blood. Her entire body was humming, as if trying to warn her that there was more to these men than met the eye and that she would be wise to tread carefully. She was sure the feeling was biased, though. If she'd met Zeke and Percy without any preconceived notions, she probably wouldn't be so suspicions. They looked perfectly normal. In fact, that looked better than normal, if she was being honest. The men might not resemble Lucian physically, but the Nox brothers had one thing in common: they were all ridiculously attractive.

"There you go," she said, placing a decent lookin cup of coffee in front of Zeke.

He didn't thank her. Nor did he touch the cup. He just watched her, his hands folded on the granite top, waiting. For what, she wasn't sure.

"Would you like something, mister Nox?" she asked, addressing Percy.

"No, he's good," Zeke answered in his stead. "Please, sit down, miss Salvatore."

She glanced at Percy and he gave her a little smile, indicating he really was good. Which meant she should probably sit down. She didn't want to. Every alarm bell in her mind was going off around this Zeke-guy…but he was a Nox and she knew from experience that Nox-men made bad first impressions. And even worse second ones. But she also knew that if you hung in there they were worth the effort. Maybe that applied to Zeke, too? So, even though it went against her instincts, she pulled a stool back and sat down across from the man. His eyes were bright as the sun…and yet, it felt as if she was staring in the blackest darkness she'd ever seen. A cold chill ran up her spine, seeping into her core, clutching her heart.

"So, miss Salvatore-"

A loud ringing cut Zeke off, drawing her attention to the purse she'd abandoned on the couch yesterday.

"Excuse me for a moment," she said, getting up so fast she almost knocked the stool over. She was all too eager to put distance between herself and the Nox-brothers.

When she rummaged through her purse for her phone, she noticed her hands were shaking.

What is wrong with you, woman? Pull yourself together!

"Hello?"

A relieved sigh sounded at the other end of the line. "Jesus Anna, it's good to hear your voice."

"Gabriel?"

"God," he groaned. "I didn't think I'd ever hear you say my name again."

She frowned, confused. "What? Gabriel, are you drunk?"

A laugh rang in her ears. "No, actually, I'm not. For the first time in days."

Her frown grew deeper. "Look, Gabriel, can I call you back? I'm in the middle of something. I'll-"

"Can we meet up? Have lunch, maybe?"

Adrianna was about to decline, when she heard,

"Please, Ana. I need to see you."

Her heart ached at his words. Not so much at what he'd said, but how he'd said it. Broken. Begging.

"Gabriel, is everything okay?"

A long pause.

"Gabriel?"

"I'm fine. Now. I just need to-"

"See me?"

She heard a cross between a laugh and a sob. "Yes."

"Okay," she decided, unable to turn her back on a friend in need. "Let's do lunch. Today?"

"12 o'clock? O'Malleys?"

"I'll be there," she glanced over her shoulder at the Nox-brothers, both of whom were watching her. "Listen, I have to go now, but if there's anything else, just call, okay?"

"Okay. 12 o'clock, Anna. Please, don't forget."

"I won't," she reassured. "12 o'clock. See you there, Gabriel."

"See you there."

She hung up, staring at her phone for a heartbeat, worried. She'd never heard the PI like that. Desperate. Distraught, even.

God, if this turns out to be another crisis, I'm not sure I can add that to my plate.

"Everything alright?"

She nodded at Percy, casting him a smile. She decided she liked Percy. At least, more than she liked Zeke so far.

"Yes. I think so." She gave her head a little shake and sat down across from Zeke again, once again feeling like she about to be questioned by the FBI.

Again.


Zeus watched the girl struggle to keep up her calm facade, her fingers tight around the glass of water she'd poured herself.

"So," she started, breaking the silence. "Are you two in town for long?"

"Not if I can help it," Zeus rumbled.

"Not a fan of our town?"

"Not a fan of anything down here."

She frowned. "Down here? You live up north?"

"You could say that."

She sniffed, a smile pulling at her lips.

Her plump, pink lips.

"Is that amusing to you?" he rumbled, his attraction to her making his seating position uncomfortable. Since when did he find humans this…tantalizing?

"A little," she admitted. "I'm just starting to see a family resemblance. Lucian does that too. Give vague answers and expect no one to really ask follow-up questions because of who he is."

Zeus's golden eyes narrowed. That was the second time she'd pointed out a similarity between him and Hades. He didn't like it. Not one bit.

"We're just in town to check up on some business," Poseidon cut in. "We'll be on our way again soon."

Her sculpted eyebrow furrowed. "When you say you're checking up on some business, you mean you're checking up on Lucian, don't you?"

"In a way," Zeus answered, honestly.

"That implies you need to check up on him. Is something wrong?"

There was sincere worry in her voice. Worry about Hades. She didn't know she should only be worried about herself.

"Nothing's wrong, miss Salvatore," Zeus said. "Just making sure my brother is doing what he's supposed to be doing, that's all."

"Why would you doubt that?"

"Let's just say he's protested a few of my more recent decisions." Like killing you. "And he already has a history of not doing what he's told."

She sat up straighter, color crawling in her cheeks. "Why should he do what he's told? Don't you all run the family business together?"

"Yes, but I oversee everything and make the final decisions."

"You do?" she glanced at Poseidon, her sapphire eyes filled with questions. "Why?"

"That's just the way it is. The way it's always been."

He could tell she wanted to push the matter, but his tone had stopped her. She might not have been intimidated by his appearance like others, but there was no getting around his tone. There was an authority in it that everyone heard and recognized. Even her. Maybe not consciously, but she did.

"Well-" she said, her voice soft again. "-if you do decide to stay longer, let me know."

Zeus frowned. "Why?"

"I could cook you all dinner, if you'd like. Give you a chance to catch up with Lucian. Give me a chance to get to know you."

Poseidon's frown matched his own. "You would do that?"

"Why not?"

"Because," Poseidon spoke, stretching the word out like she was out of her mind. "We didn't exactly make the best first impression. And like you said, we don't speak with Lucian often. I'm sure he's made you aware that our relationship isn't the best-"

"Lucian didn't make the best first impression either and look how that turned out. As for your relationship, perhaps the problem is that you don't speak often. Dinner might fix that. Or at least, begin to fix it. My mom used to say there's nothing that can't be solved with pasta and wine. And I make a mean pasta verde." She offered them both a kind smile.

Fuck, that smile.

It reached into Zeus's chest and did something there he didn't like. At all.

"Besides, you're making an effort," she continued. "And that should count for something."

"Making an effort?" Poseidon asked.

She cocked an eyebrow. "It's pretty obvious that you're not just here for business. You're not here to see Lucian. If you were, you would've asked me where he is by now, when he would return. You haven't done either. You know my name, know that we're together. You're here to meet me. To see who your brother's involved with. It's a sign you care."

Time stretched on as both Zeus and Poseidon stared at this woman. This woman who was nothing like they'd expected. They'd expected someone with a dark edge, a mean streak, someone more resembling Hades. How the fuck had someone like her become involved with something like their brother?

"I don't think Lucian would be open to dinner with us, miss Salvatore," Poseidon spoke first.

"Adrianna. And leave your brother to me. I'll convince him." Something in her face changed when she spoke of Hades, something softened, making her seem more radiant than she already was. He didn't know much about this woman yet, but he knew Hades didn't deserve that look on her face. For fuck's sake, some civilizations had called him The Destroyer. Zeus was the divine one, the one worshipped and desired. His brother spread nothing but pain.

"If you have wives, they're of course more than welcome to join."

Zeus almost smiled at the thought. He could just see Poseidon with his wife Amphitrite and him with Hera sitting at the same table as Hades and Adrianna. If there was ever a recipe for disaster, it was that. Amphitrite might still show some restraint, though she didn't like Hades, but Hera… Well, she did like Hades. Too much. Zeus wasn't a fool. He knew his wife had tried to seduce his brother on many occasions, but Hades hadn't looked at her twice. Not out of respect for Zeus, mind you. He just knew who she was; her conniving ways, her fucked up mind-games. If Zeus had one regret, it was marrying her. Come to think of it, Hera would've been a better fit for Hades than this woman. Their personalities matched a whole lot better. Perhaps they could switch women…

"You're kind."

The way Poseidon spoke those words told Zeus his brother was as surprised by this Adrianna-woman as he was.

"So, miss Salvatore," Zeus said, fixing his cuff links. "Since you know now we're here for you, I can stop beating around the bush. What exactly are your intensions with my brother?"

Her blue eyes widened a little, her shoulders tensing. "My intentions?"

"Do you intend to marry him?"

Her cheeks turned a light shade of pink that made him want to reach out and touch her skin, feel the heat pooling there. He wanted to touch other places too, feel the heat there…

"I-Umh-what?"

If he'd thought she was beautiful angry, she was mouthwatering flustered.

"It's only a question."

"A big question," she said, tucking a strand of her long hair behind her ear. "Look, no offense, but these are things I'm going to discuss with your brother long before I discuss them with you."

"But you see a future with him?" Poseidon tried. He knew Zeus needed a straightforward answer to be satisfied. To let her get out of this encounter alive. He wanted her to get out alive. "You love him?"

She tried to make her smile sincere, but Zeus could tell it was getting harder. "You did hear me say I'm moving in with him, didn't you?"

"That doesn't mean you love him, miss Salvatore."

Every trace of her smile left as she crossed her arms over that divine chest of hers, pushing up her breasts.

"I feel like I'm going to regret asking this-" she sighed. "-but then what does it mean according to you, mister Nox?"

"It means you're a smart woman," he said matter-of-factly. "Someone who realizes that being with a man of Lucian's means has certain advantages that are hard to resist."

She was silent for a long moment, those lips of hers opening just a little, enough to push out a puff of breath. "You think I'm a gold digger?"

"I'm not trying to insult you, miss Salvatore."

"Well, for someone who's not trying you're sure good at it." There was a little trace of hurt in her eyes that hadn't been there before and for a second Zeus wanted to take back what he'd said. It was the strangest thing.

"For heaven's sake," Poseidon whispered to his brother, switching to Greek. "Can you at least try to be civilized to the girl?"

"Stay out of this," Zeus retorted in Greek as well. "I need to establish her motives for being with him."

"Look, miss Salvatore," he said in English again so the woman could understand. "I really didn't mean any offense, but this is the real world and it would be foolish of me to believe my brother's bank account doesn't matter to you-"

"It doesn't. At all."

Zeus couldn't stop himself from sniffing. "You don't care about the billions in his name?"

"I don't." Her voice was firm, not a trace of a lie in it. Either she was a good actress…or she meant it. "I didn't know who he was or how much money he had when we met. I still don't know anything about the latter, actually. And I don't care, either. I-"

"There are countless women out there who would happily take your place simply because of my brother's money. Women who would pretend to love him just to get that ring on their finger. Women who would intentionally get pregnant to trap him and then grow to hate the child when they realize it takes more than a baby to keep a man. Women who-"

"Stop."

She hadn't shouted the command and yet, Zeus obliged her. Not because there was power behind that one word…but because there was sadness. A sadness that seemed directed at him.

"I feel sorry for you if that's how you think the world works-"

"It is."

"Not my world," she said, shaking her head softly, her beautiful curls tricking down her slender neck. Her eyes remained soft on his even though he could tell she was angry. "I love your brother. I love him more than I thought I could ever love anyone. And my love has nothing to do with money. I would give everything up, all this-" she swept her arm around the room. "-if I had to choose between Lucian and his money. He is everything to me and I will love him until the day I die, just as I will love our children-"

She inhaled sharply as her sapphire eyes darted to the kitchen table for some reason, widening just a little. She seemed as shocked by the words that had come out of her mouth as Zeus was, though she couldn't possibly be.

He'd seen the truth. Hades had done what he'd been send to do. He'd made her fall in love with him. He could see it now. She actually loved Hades. She would give up her immortality. She might not realize that herself, might not have made that decision consciously yet, but she would. She saw a life with him, a mortal life, with offspring. She would do the ritual with Hades…and then Hades would leave. As he'd been commanded. And she would be left to live her mortal life alone, barren.

Zeus didn't like the way that made his gut feel.

"You know what, miss Salvatore," Poseidon broke the silence. "I would actually like a cup of coffee after all."

Adrianna gave him a distracted nod and got up, lost in thought. The second her back was turned, Poseidon switched back to Greek, making sure she couldn't follow their conversation.

"Satisfied?"

Zeus had never been stumped in his long, immortal life. But he was now.

"She loves him," Zeus said, sticking to Greek as well. "How the hell is that possible."

Poseidon shrugged, equally bewildered. "Don't look at me. I have no clue."

"How the fuck did he pull this off?" Zeus wondered aloud, watching her work the silver machine again. "I mean, this girl is kind, compassionate, warm. She is everything he's not."

She lost her grip on the cup she was putting under the nozzle, swearing under her breath as she almost burned her hand on the hot coffee pouring out of it.

"She must see something in him we've missed."

Zeus shook his head. "No, not possible. We know him, we know the monster beneath the suit. She clearly does not. He must be putting on quite an act for her to fall for it. She's intelligent, this one. You'd think she'd pick up on his bullshit. I guess our brother's cock renders her senseless. It's the one thing he was always good for, if the stories are to be believed."

Steam spewed out of the machine and Adrianna slammed her palm against it a little too hard.

Poseidon frowned at her, but continued in Greek, "Perhaps there is some good in him after all. I'd like to believe that."

"Don't be a fool. We both know his true colors. He is darkness, our brother. He brings it everywhere he goes. It's a miracle this girl hasn't been infected by it, yet."

"She's strong."

"I hope so, because we both know our brother's a soulless void one can get lost in and she-"

"I need you two to leave."

Zeus and Poseidon's eyes went to her at the same time, watching her. Her back was still turned, but she'd powered down the coffee machine and was now leaning on the counter, her fingers pressing into the granite.

"Now."

Zeus's eyebrows knotted together. He could sense that Hades was still in the lobby. He'd stopped arguing with the movers, but was now making a phone call. They had a few minutes more. Not that they needed it. Zeus had gotten what he'd come for. Still, there seemed to be no reason for the girl to suddenly kick them out.

"Is something wrong?" Poseidon asked, switching back to English, making her back tense even more. "If there's a problem with the coffee, don't bother. I could just-"

"I tried," she said, an icy lining to her voice that sounded wrong on her. "I really did. But I can't tolerate this."

"Miss Salvatore-"

She turned when Zeus spoke and the sight that met him did that disturbing thing to his chest again. Her cheeks were no longer pink, but red. Her lips trembled with what could only be described as reigned in fury. And her eyes, those soft eyes, didn't have a trace of warmth in them anymore. What was worse, they were shimmering. With tears.

"What's wrong, miss Salvatore?"

She laughed, something close to hysteria in her voice.

"What's wrong? I don't know, what do you think is wrong?" She'd hissed the words…in perfect Greek.

Of course she can speak Greek. Fuck.

It was a good thing they were always careful about what they said around mortals, even in languages they thought they didn't understand. Still, even though they'd been careful, they'd hit a nerve with her, which was odd since they hadn't actually insulted her. Just Hades.

"Miss Salvatore-"

"Don't," she cut off Zeus, something the god wasn't used to and didn't like. At all. Still, he let her speak. "There is nothing you can say. You can't come in to your brother's home, to our home, and insult him like that. Certainly not around me and damn sure not around him. I want you out of here before he gets back so he doesn't have to hear the venom you're spewing about him." Her eyes darkened as she caught Zeus gaze and held it captive. "Because he believes it, you know. Every word. Do you have any idea how many times he's told me he's a monster? That he doesn't have a soul? I've always wondered why he would think that, who could've put that poison in his head. I never expected it to be his own brothers, his family, people that are supposed to love him."

"Love him?" Zeus snorted, his temper rising, too. She was blaming him for their fucked up relationship?! Him?! Hades had no part in it?! "He's not exactly easy to love, miss Salvatore. He's arrogant, has a violent temper, barely speaks to us and when he does whatever comes out of his mouth is an insult. He does things behind our family's back-"

"And how exactly did you expect him to behave when you stuck him with a job he hates?!" she snarled, losing whatever restrain she had left. "A job that requires him to spend all of his time in that club, alone, in the darkness?! Did you expect him to be happy about it?! That he'd thank you for screwing him over?!"

"I didn't screw him over. The decision was made, tasks were divided-"

"And what?! Now it's set in stone?! Things can't change?! You can't take turns doing the job no one wants?! Or hire someone else to do it?!"

"It's not that-"

"-easy?" she sighed, shaking her head harder. "Yeah, your brother said that, too. Probably because that's what you told him."

"It's the truth. Besides, you're incorrect to assume Lucian doesn't like the darkness, miss Salvatore. You don't know my brother like I do. He belongs there-"

"He belongs there?" Her teeth clenched harder. "Get out! Now! Before I do or say something I'll regret!"

Poseidon was the first to rise. Zeus followed, but slower, taking his time. He wasn't going to be rushed by a mortal.

"I would ask for one favor, miss Salvatore."

"A favor?" she laughed again, but there was nothing kind in the sound anymore.

"Don't tell my brother we were here. He might get…upset."

"I wasn't planning on telling him. Not for your benefit, but for his. He'd be more than upset and you know it."

Zeus nodded. Maybe she did know Hades after all. At least, on the surface.

"Since we're making demands - because let's be real, you don't seem like a man who asks for favors - I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone about Lucian and I."

Zeus opened his mouth, but before he could speak, Adrianna snapped,

"And don't even think about making some comment about me being ashamed of Lucian or I swear to God I'm going to punch you."

Poseidon made a strangled sound, clearly afraid the girl's threat would make Zeus snap her long neck, but Zeus wasn't even angry. If anything, he was impressed. The girl was a good detective. She'd taken the words right out of his mouth.

"I'm on a case that requires me to pretend to be engaged to someone else," she explained, her voice still deadly. "That's the only reason. When it's done, we'll make it official."

Zeus didn't speak, just gave her a tight nod. She understood that was as good as his word. Dropping her eyes from his, she collected his coffee cup and all but threw it in the sink as Zeus joined his brother on his way to the elevator.

"The pasta verde offer stands," she yelled, her back still turned. "If you can keep your negative comments to yourselves, you're still welcome."

Zeus stopped in his tracks the second Poseidon did, both gaping at the girl.

She didn't look at them, but she knew she was being watched.

Was she serious?

"I have a big family," she continued, still not looking at them. "Including two brothers and I enjoy nothing more than having them all together. There's so much love between us," they could see her stretch her neck, moving her head from left to right, flexing her muscles. "Lucian has no one. No one but me, although my family will welcome him in."

Doubtful.

"Still, family is important and I'm sure he would like you to be a part of the family we're creating together. So, think it over, call me, come to dinner and get to know your brother. Because something tells me you've never actually done that before. Not if you believe all the horrible things you say about him."

Poseidon looked to Zeus for something to say, but for the first time in ages, Zeus was speechless. No one was this good. This forgiving.

"This doesn't mean I don't still need you to get the fuck out of my home. Now."

Zeus's lips twitched. She was a little firecracker, this one. He was happy he didn't have to snuff her out, that it would be Hades who'd hurt her and not him. Although, that ache in his chest disagreed.

Poseidon was the first to move again, as Zeus kept his eyes on her, hoping she'd grace him with another glimpse of her blue sapphires. She didn't. She kept her back turned, her hands clutching the sink, waiting for them to be gone.

"Zeke?"

Zeus moved at his brother's call, slipping in the elevator with him even though they'd never ride it all the way down. They'd disappear before it arrived.

"It was a mulberry tree, by the way," Adrianna yelled over her shoulder. "In the story. Pyramus and Thisbe. Not an apple tree. And the moral isn't that love is dangerous. It's that families sometimes do more harm than good and should just butt out."

And with that, the elevator doors closed and Zeus laughed a genuine laugh for the first time in a very long time.


Hades let out a deep sigh as he leaned back against the elevator wall, rubbing his eyes. Those movers had gotten on his last nerve. At one point, they'd even insisted on speaking with Adrianna herself. They'd acted like they wanted to hear the command to leave from the person who'd actually hired them, but he knew what the real reason was. He'd behaved like a brute and they wanted to make sure she wasn't being held against her will. Luckily, more money had won over their morals, which had actually pissed Hades off as well. What if she had been in danger? They'd just walked away for some cash?

Humans.

He pressed his thumb again the keypad and the elevator sprung into action. At once, his body started to vibrate. The closer he got to Adrianna, the more he felt on edge, the more need consumed him. It was the first time he actually looked forward to going to his penthouse. Before, it had just been a place to sleep when he was on Earth. Now, it was where she was. Waiting.

He excited the metal box before the doors had fully opened, not wanting to waste another second…but found the place empty.

At once, fear gripped at his heart. Had she left? Had she changed her mind about moving in and just…left?

"Adrianna?!"

No answer.

He took the stairs two steps at a time, ignoring the rising panic. If she'd left, he wasn't above throwing her over his shoulder and getting her back here. He'd made it clear that he wouldn't put up with any defiance. She was going to stay there, whether she liked it or not. Though, it had seemed as if she'd liked it. Hadn't she?

He checked her old room first. She wasn't there. He wasn't sure if he'd liked for her to be there, either. His room was hers now. Theirs.

He made it to his own room, the master bedroom, in three long strides.

Empty.

Again.

He was about to lose his damn mind…when he saw light coming out from under the bathroom door.

At once, his entire body relaxed again. His shoulders slumped, his heart slowed down.

Closing the door softly, he walked over to his drink cabinet, catching a whiff of Jack on is way. He had drink cabinets in pretty much every room of his house. He'd needed it, before Adrianna. Not anymore, though. He'd get rid of some. Not of the one in his room, though. He liked Adrianna a little tipsy every now and then.

Grabbing a crystal glass, he poured himself a healthy dose of whiskey and knocked it back. He'd needed it after dealing with those idiot movers.

Insinuating I would ever harm her.

He was about to pour himself another, when he realized it wasn't what he truly needed. No, what he needed was on the other side of that door.

Putting the bottle down, he started unbuttoning his shirt and prowled towards the bathroom, the sound of water pouring down greeting him when he stepped inside. Pouring over her naked body.

He shrugged off his shirt and let it fall from his hands before stopping at the bathtub to remove his shoes and push his underwear and pants from his legs. Naked, he quietly patted on bare feet to the shower, searching through the fog until he could see her through the glass door.

Her back was to him, her curvy body drenched and calling. He could just stand there all morning and watch her as she ran her hands all over her skin, her head dropped back, the water beating down on her face. Her raven hair was drenched and stuck to her back, skimming her gorgeous, pert ass. Her hands came up, bracing on the tiles before her as she dropped her chin to her chest.

Hades's erection lunged, desperate for him to take her, just like that.

Opening the door, he watched her shoulders jump a little. She didn't have to look to know he was there. He was sure she could feel him as much as he could her.

His lips parting to draw in breath, Hades scanned her back as she removed her hands from the wall. Her fragility should've rendered him petrified of touching her, but he knew he couldn't break her. His woman was strong. More, she made him stronger. Every time they made love, every time she smiled at him, every time she laughed, something in him fortified for reasons he couldn't phantom. He fed of her and he liked to think she fed of him. He was showing her new things, getting her to learn about her sexuality. What she liked, what she didn't like, to speak up if she wanted something. And he could tell it was working. Every single time they came together she grew more confident.

Softly growling, he reached out and took her hair, gently gathering it in his fist and moving it to the side so he could see the full length of her perfect spine. His fingertips drifted through the air and came to rest at the base of her neck, the light pressure urging her to push her breasts forward and bow her back.

The monster in Hades shouted for him to slam her into the wall and take her, but the softness in his heart forbade it. Something told him she needed soft. He wasn't sure why, but she did. She needed to feel love, not just lust.

Slowly, he drew a perfect straight line down her back, licking his lips as he went, listening to the increased rate of her breathing. The sound was like a drug, more addictive than any other in the world.

The tip of one finger reached the tiny indentation at the top of her buttocks and circled, before he spread his palm and cupped a cheek possessively. She jerked and slammed her hands back into the wall, a small cry permeating the air.

He moved in, unable to keep his distance any longer, his wet chest merging with her back. Her soft skin slipped teasingly against his as his hardness wedged itself into her lower back, forcing them closer, making him relinquish his hold of her perfect ass. It was no great loss since they were now touching everywhere. The flesh of her neck glistened up at me, and he dipped down, licking across it, his palms finding her breasts and blanketing them.

Her body was singing to him, calling him to take her as much as his dripping cock was.

With a low sound slipping from his lips he moved her forward into the wall until she was trapped between it and him.

"I thought we were going to shower together," he rumbled, his lips so close to her ear they brushed her skin with each word.

"Aren't we?"

His palm slapped down on her butt, the sharp sound filling the shower.

"I needed it," she whispered. "I felt…dirty."

Something in her voice made him turn her around and cup her face, watching those blue eyes of hers shimmer. Not just with lust, but to his horror, with tears.

"What's wrong, baby?" He pushed the words out through the tight knot that was suddenly in his chest. He hated it when she cried. He'd always thought himself a tough being, but he swore that her tears could bring him to his knees and beg for mercy.

She shrugged, more tears mixing with the water streaming down on them.

He reached to turn it off, but she stopped him, her tiny hand on his.

"Don't. It's nothing."

"Don't say that. I hate it when you say that. Talk to me." He put as much authority in his voice as he could, but he knew it would never sound as demanding as it was meant. Not when he felt like cradling her in his arms and holding her until whatever had made her cry went away.

"I just-" she let out a strangled breath, piercing his gaze with hers. "I just love you."

He let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. Closing his eyes, he took her hand in his and kissed her knuckles one by one, sweetly.

"You do know that, right?" she asked, the hand he'd been holding tipping his chin up until he looked at her. "You believe that, right?"

He smiled, but he knew it wasn't the smile she'd wanted. This one was sad and she could see. Because yes, he knew she loved him. But could he truly let himself believe it? How could she love something like him?

"Lucian." That was all. Just his name. And it broke his heart. She'd spoken so softly, with such agony. And those fucking tears were back.

"Baby, I know you love me. But-"

"No, shut up." She pushed her hands against his chest and turned the tables, pressing him against the wall, trapping him with that warm body of hers. The water was till pouring, clinging to her skin, to those breasts, those hips, those impossibly long lashes. He leaned in to run his tongue over her again, but she stopped him, keeping pressure on his pecks.

"Stop," she whispered, barely audible over the water crashing on the tiles. "Look at me."

He did. How could he not?

"There is no but," she whispered, pressing her curves against him. "I love you, Lucian Nox."

"I know."

"No," she cupped his cheeks, not letting him get away with half truths. "I love you. I love everything about you. You're the best man I've ever known."

He sniffed at that and he knew at once it was a mistake. Adrianna's body tensed against his, those fucking eyes tearing up again. It had been an instinctive reaction to hearing those words slip from her lips. It would have been if they had slipped from anyone's lips, but especially from hers. He wasn't a good man, let alone the best. He tried to be halfway decent for her, but he would never be the best.

"Nox," she said, her voice a bossy edge to it that almost made him smile. "You are the best man I've ever know."

His throat closed up and he had no idea why hearing her say that affected him so much.

"Adrianna, baby, don't."

He turned his head away from her, but her hands stayed on his cheeks, forcing him to keep watching her.

"You're kind," she breathed. "Sweet. Considerate. Protective. Loving-"

"Only to you, Adrianna. Or, in the least, only since you. Before you, I was-"

"I don't care."

That took him back for a second and she could tell.

"Lucian," she smiled. "Do you think I was the same woman I'm now before I met you? You changed me."

"But you were kind and sweet before as well. Me, I was bad seed, baby. I still am."

"Bad seed wouldn't have saved me from a sniper. He wouldn't have fought for me when we were attacked in that alley. He wouldn't have hired men to make my apartment safer. He wouldn't have wanted to be with me after what I did in that car." Her voice broke, but only for a second. "Bad seed wouldn't kiss me the way you do, wouldn't have made my first time so perfect, wouldn't make me feel so loved every time he looks at me. And he certainly wouldn't offer to hire security just so I could get my best friend back. The list goes on and on, sweetheart. There just isn't enough time in this life to make you understand what you do to me. What you mean to me. But I need you to believe me when I say I love you, Lucian. I need you to believe that you are loved. Profoundly, deeply, irrevocably. I don't care what you were told before by people. You are loved and you are worth loving. Do you hear me?"

Hades felt her words push down into his chest, felt them burn into his heart. He put a hand on his chest right over it, as if afraid it was going to jump out at any moment. He had no idea why what she'd said made him so emotional, but it did. Maybe it was the fact that no one had said anything like that to him. Ever. Maybe it was the fact that until that very moment a part of him still hadn't dared to believe she truly loved him for all he was. But he believed now. He could see it in those eyes of hers. She meant every word she said. She saw him and she loved him. He was loved. By the most amazing creation he'd ever known.

She must've seen the effect of her words, must've seen he believed her, because suddenly she craned her neck and brushed her lips over his, nuzzling them until he opened and she could slip her tongue inside. The force of her kiss was mind-blanking, momentarily robbing him of all thought.

A rapacious growl rumbled from the pit of his stomach and erupted, echoing through the confines of the shower. He spun them around, reaching behind her thighs, yanking her up his body and slamming her back into the wall. Adrianna gasped and squirmed, wiggling against the tiles as she grabbed his shoulders. The slippery movements did nothing more than increase his hunger for her and a part of him suspected she knew that. If he'd been in a teasing mood, he would've prolonged foreplay, made her beg, but his own desperation wouldn't let him. What she'd said had been too powerful to hold back. Jacking her up, he leveled himself and sank into her. She cried out, her nails digging into his shoulders, biting his skin. He watched her face, those lips parting, those eyes widening, pleasure in every line.

He withdrew, savoring ever second and then slowly and precisely drove back into her, pushing her up the wall on a disjointed cry.

Moaning, her found her lips and kissed her gently, rolling his tongue slowly, exploring her mouth. Her moans fed him, her hands skating, leaving his shoulders to work their way to his neck and holding on there as she returned his kiss with equal passion.

His hips started rolling, grinding, searching for the deeper part of her. With each plunge, it became more difficult to resist release. With each retreat, his cock pulsed harder. The only thing that had him holding on to his control was seeing her get as lost in the moment as he was.

He wasn't ready for this to end.

Surprising himself, he let his cock slip out of her, his hip trembling, telling him to find her warmth again. But he wouldn't. Instead, he pushed her legs down and steadied her before crouching and rubbing his stubble over the inside of her thigh.

"Oh God!" She grabbed his hair and tugged, wrestling him as he kissed his way up to her core.

She almost fell apart when he licked a firm stroke up her center, nibbling on her clit as he did so. Fuck, she tasted divine.

"Lucian!" She started to shake, practically vibrating against the tiles.

"Do you feel good, baby?" He asked, low and rough, watching as her hands started gliding all over her body until they finally stayed on her breasts, squeezing, rubbing. He could make her come in a second if he kept his mouth there. But it wasn't enough. So he forced his tongue up to her stomach, her breasts, moving her hands out of the way.

"I'm a jealous man, Cara," he growled before leaning down and sucking those hard pebbles into his mouth, the water pounding his back as Adrianna went back to pulling his hair.

"You want me back inside, Cara?" he asked, biting down on a nipple, dragging it through his teeth until it popped free and then licking away the sting.

Her head dropped, desperation rampant on her gorgeous, flushed face.

"Tell me what you want, baby."

If you asked Hades later how she'd managed it, he wouldn't have been able to give you an answer, but somehow she got him down on the floor. He could tell she wanted to ride him again, but that would mean she would set the pace. And there would be none of that right now.

The moment she crouched down on top of him, he threw his arms around her and switched positions, making her the one lying on the floor.

"Don't fight me, sweetheart." One warning was all she needed to stop her squirming. She could hear this was not open to discussion. She could ride him later. As much and as long as she wanted. Not now.

Like a predator, Hades came down over her, planting his palms onto the floor on either side of her head, watching her. His heart kicked and his erection ached, feeling heavy and full. He physically burned for her.

"Make love to me, Lucian," she begged, her hands back on his neck, putting pressure, trying to pull him to her. He obliged, because what man wouldn't.

His chest covered hers, his arms bending at the elbow to bring his face closer to hers, kissing her. His groin nestled between her hips, the hot head of his cock nudging her opening. He hissed, freezing and closing his eyes. Searching for restraint. He wouldn't last long if he wasn't careful.

"I try not to remember how good this feels when we're apart," she moaned, so softly he suspected it was more a reprimand to herself than anything else. "I try so hard."

"Why, baby?" He asked, another brush of contact from his arousal against her making his eyes roll back in his head. "Why do you not want to remember?"

"Because if I did, I'd want more."

If he wasn't in such agony, he would've laughed. "And that's a bad thing?"

"Yes," she cried out as he angled his hips. "If I fully remembered what this felt like when we're not together, I'd never leave your side. I wouldn't work, go out with friends, see my family. I'd just want to do this. All day, every day."

"Sounds good to me," Hades moaned as he glided forward smoothly, entering her unhurriedly ever though he wanted to slam home so bad. Instead, he gradually filled her, stretched her as her legs linked around his lower back, pulling him in.

"Oh fucking hell," he whispered, dropping his forehead to hers. "You fit me so fucking right."

She flexed her hips a little, encouraging him on.

"Give me a second, baby." He let the tip of his nose brush over hers. "I need a second."

He could tell she wanted him to move, but if he did, all would be lost. So, he waited to gain some stability, to keep his orgasm at bay just a little longer. Adrianna used that time to draw sweet circles across his back, her fingers ghosting his skin, making him shudder.

"You're not helping, Cara," he gently scorned, rubbing his nose over hers again and withdrawing, sliding free until the tip of his cock was back at her entrance.

He held his breath. She held hers. Then, he dipped his hips and dove deep again, making them both gasp into each other's necks, their broken breaths slamming against their skin.

When he was finally fully submerged again, he hit hard but slow, drowning them both in intoxicating sensations.

His head thrown back, he found his pace, hitting her with stroke after stroke, each one delivered meticulously. He was lost in a world of raw abandon with his delicate treasure, praying that he'd never find his way out. He could live there, inside of her. Forever.

Their moans of pleasure drowned the quiet air around them, their wet skin slipping, their bodies moving together in perfect harmony. It was all so fucking perfect. The sounds, the feel, the rightness of that moment.

Hades maintained his rhythm and extended the bliss for as long as he could, but he could feel himself swell inside of her, a sign that he wouldn't last much longer. And he couldn't slow down. He couldn't stop.

"Put your legs down," he rumbled, reaching behind him to unhook her legs and push them away. "Straighten them."

She stared up at him with a hint of confusion amidst all the lust, but she followed his instructions and straightened her legs to full length.

The reason for his demand became clear to her instantly. He could tell the second her pleasure hit new heights, their switched position putting him right against her G-spot.

"Oh my God!" she cried, but the sound was soon swallowed when he crashed his mouth down onto hers, kissing her fervently.

His hips were rocking quickly back and forth, his cock slamming into her again and again. Hades was beyond all else but the intense pleasure of the moment, the hot coupling of their bodies, the raging fire racing through his body.

"Feel good, baby?" he growled into her mouth. She whimpered and started grappling at his back, her orgasm powering forward fast.

"Hold it," he ordered, groaning at the flash of panic on her face. "I'm almost there, baby. Together." He picked up his pace. Heat raced up his legs, down his spine, pooling in his lower back, ready to burst. It was there. It was coming.

"Oh fuck!" he bellowed and pumped on, swiftly entering and retreating from the luscious warmth of her tight pussy, each drive ramping up the urgency.

"Lucian!" Her scream of his name as she shook violently beneath him tipped him over the edge. His cock exploded, and he roared through the crippling pleasure, feeling her vibrating around him as he found his release in long, pulsing spurts. His climax knocked him out, made him fall to his forearms, trapping her beneath him as he battled his way through.

When he could think again, or at least form a single coherent thought, he realized he was crushing her and quickly turned them so he was underneath. She went with him without protest, draping herself over him, still lost in ecstasy.

Holding her shaking body against his as she rode the aftershocks of her orgasm was beyond any realm of pleasure Hades had experienced in his entire existence. He was lost in the moment, the sensations, his woman…and for the first time, Hades felt something he'd never felt before. An urge for something so primal it scared him. For the first time, he wished the seed he'd spilled inside her could take root. He wished he could father a child with the woman he loved. It was such a heartbreaking wish, such an unattainable one, that he quickly wiped it from his mind as nothing more than the fantasy of a fool who would never be worthy of such a blessing. The blessing in his arms was already a miracle. Asking for more was tempting faith.


Adrianna saw stars. Actual stars. They danced in front of her eyes as her mind and body tried to find their way back from pure ecstasy.

Water was still running down on her, hitting her now sensitive skin. She trembled at the strange sensation, not sure she liked it. It was too much stimulation after what she'd just been through.

The thought to turn it off had only just crossed her mind and already Lucian was lifting her up, holding her in his arms as he turned off the water.

"Are you sure you didn't inherit any powers from your great-aunt?" she murmured against his neck. "Because I'm pretty sure you can read my mind."

"Not your mind, Cara," he rumbled, his lips brushing her hair. "Your body."

She trembled again and she could feel a growl ripple through his chest. He really could read her body.

"Can you stand?"

She wanted to say that was a ridiculous question, because why wouldn't she be able to stand. But then, he actually put her on her feet and she found she had to steady herself on his sink.

"Can you stand?" he asked firmer, his hands back on her waist.

She looked up into his intense grey eyes and nodded, although those eyes did nothing to bring her back from the abyss of pleasure she seemed to be lost in. She still tingled. Everywhere.

She held on to the sink as Lucian grabbed two towels. The first one he wrapped around her hair and the second one he used to dry her body. Watching him carefully run the towel over her legs, she couldn't for the life of her understand how his brothers could have said such cruel things about him. They'd been so foul and destructive that she'd had to take a shower as soon as they'd left. She'd needed to wash them off her, to scrub away the anger and sadness their words had caused.

The towel went between her legs, gently, carefully. There was nothing even remotely sexy or seductive about it. He was taking care of her. Had anyone ever taken care of him? If his brothers were anything to go by, she was sure the answer was no. How could family be like that to one another? They were supposed to love you, no matter what. How could they put that poison in their brother's head?

At least he believes me now, she soothed herself, stopping the tears she wanted to shed for him. He believes I love him.

She'd seen it in his eyes, seen the moment he realized he really was loved. It was the only good thing that had come out of her meeting his brothers. She already dreaded the day she would have to deal with them again, but she knew that day would come. Hell, she'd make sure of it. Zeke and Percy had to get to know Lucian, see who he truly was. And if they refused to change their opinions, then she'd at least know she'd done everything she could to give the man she loved his family back.

"Put this on, Cara," he whispered behind her. When had he stopped drying her off? And where had he gotten this new robe? God, she had to start focusing, get the fog out of her head put there by his mouth and hands and-

"Cara." It was a command, nothing less.

She listened, putting her arms through the sleeves.

"Good girl," he cooed, reaching around her to tie the red silk ribbon together in a loose knot. Adrianna whimpered as his fingertips trailed up her body, ghosting the sliver of exposed skin between her breasts.

"This isn't doing anything for my focus."

"I'm just helping you get into your robe."

He sounded so innocent and yet, as he spoke, his lips brushed her neck from her ear, down her neck, to her collarbone. Sometimes kissing, sometimes licking, always setting her on fire.

"Lucian."

His hands found her hips, fingers digging deep. "Don't say my name like that, baby. We'll never get out of this bathroom."

"You started it."

His laughter teased her neck—hot, harsh, and silkier than the rich material covering her. "I know. I forgot I still have to feed you."

"Oh God, breakfast." She shook her head, tying the robe tighter. "It was probably ready ages ago. They must've been calling-"

"Don't worry, I told them to redo it right before I came back upstairs."

Adrianna groaned softly. He told them to redo it? First, they order at an ungodly hour and then they had to make it twice?

"Lucian, you shouldn't have-"

"Don't, Cara," he warned on a soft growl. "I wasn't going to let you eat cold food just because those fucking movers didn't know when to cut their losses."

She sighed, but dropped it. She was learning to pick her battles with Lucian and any battle about her comfort was already lost before it started. He would never compromise on that.

"Now-" he sang, turning her in his embrace so his front was glued to hers. He was only wearing a towel around his waist and she was very aware of the fact that that piece of fabric could fall down with one little shimmy of her hips. "-normally, I'd insist we eat breakfast naked, but we should probably put on some clothes. Ryder is on his way. He should be here in fifteen."

"Alexander? Why?"

"I made the mistake of calling him before I came up, to let him know you were okay and he insisted on seeing for himself. I would've told him to fuck off, but I still have to tell him about your new living arrangements, so we might as well get that over and done with."

"Why would he think I'm not okay?"

Lucian cocked an eyebrow. "The last time he saw you, you disappeared after dancing with Victor Pierce."

"Oh, right," she whispered, not wanting to touch that topic again.

"So," Lucian said, clearly feeling the same way. "We need to get moving, baby."

She nodded. He was right. Fifteen minutes would be cutting it close, especially since she had no clue as to where her clothes were at the moment.

"Do you have any idea which box has my clothes in it? If not, I'm going to need your help. There are a lot of boxes downstairs and-"

He took her hand in his before she could continue, guiding her out of the master bedroom. She expected them to go sort through her boxes, but Lucian made a right turn instead of left, heading in the opposite direction of the stairs.

"Where are we going?"

"You'll see."

It wasn't a long walk. Only two doors down from his bedroom, he stopped to let her pass, gesturing for her to go in first.

"What's in there?" she asked, cocking a teasing eyebrow.

He smiled. "Go see for yourself, Cara."

With a last questioning glance thrown his way, she opened the door and walked into the darkness…until Lucian flipped on a chandelier, illuminating the grandest closet she'd ever seen. It was about the size of an RV, U-shaped, with clothes hanging on automated racks, dressers that were polished to the point of seeing your reflection in them, walls covered in shoes and a section with only ties and cufflinks. And that was only the left side of the closet. It was the right side that triggered a sharp indrawn of breath from Adrianna.

All the clothes that had been in her apartment were there, as well as clothes she was sure she hadn't bought herself. Not only were they clearly way over her budget, there were also just too many of them. She'd never owned so many clothes in her life. Jackets, dresses, skirts, blouses, all in fabrics that made her fingers itch too touch. There was a wall of shoes there, too, all looking incredibly expensive. And opposite to where his ties were was a wall displaying a variety of handbags that were each worth a small fortune. Each. Individually.

"Holly crap."

Her whispered swear coincided with Lucian's arms encircling her from behind.

"You like?" he asked, those lips brushing her ear again as he spoke.

Did she like? She wasn't sure.

Flabbergasted, she moved forward. Lucian let go of her and just leaned against the doorframe, watching her. She could see him in the mirror that took up the back wall of the closet, waiting expectantly. Waiting for an answer. She just wasn't quite sure what to say.

Of course, she loved the actual stuff in there. Everything was gorgeous…but did she like that Lucian had bought this all for her? Without even consulting her first? And he had bought it for her. She wasn't stupid enough to think these clothes had always been there and Lucian had just put her stuff in with it. This wasn't something he did with all the women he'd been with. She'd believed him when he'd said he'd never loved anyone else and had never lived with anyone else. And even if she'd doubted him, it was pretty obvious everything had been tailored to her. The clothes were her size, many of them in different shades of blue. The handbags were all her taste. Classy, but understated. There were some sparkling ones that matched the formal gowns, but other than those she could see herself using them daily. And the shoes were all her size as well, high heels mixed in with sneakers and dress shoes she could wear to work.

Her mind reeling, she ran her hands through the rows of garments, the materials soft, flowing through her fingers. She could only imagine how they would feel on her body.

"Open the dresser."

She jumped, his voice closer than she'd expected. She hadn't noticed him coming in after her or putting on a pair of boxers. He still kept his distance though, staying on his side of the closet, just watching her.

She swallowed hard and listened, opening the first drawer of the dresser. At once, a deep blush crept up her neck, straight into her cheeks, pooling there.

Lingerie, lots of it.

"Those are just the lace ones." His voice had a raw touch to it now, one she felt right between her legs. "The other drawers are satin, silk, organza-"

"Organza?" She asked, her voice reflecting how overwhelmed she was. "What's that?"

She could hear him move behind her, but she didn't dare turn around. They only had fifteen minutes and she was sure that if she turned around they'd spent them on the suede bench by the mirror. She could already feel her need for him building again, reaching an intensity she would never get used to.

Suddenly, she could feel him against her back and then, his arm was brushing past her thigh to open the middle drawer. He reached in, picked up something red and held it in front of her, dangling it from his finger.

"This is organza."

She could see her fingers tremble as she reached out for the sheer fabric that left nothing to the imagination. The only thing this particular bra and panty would do was give her skin a red gleam. It didn't actually cover anything up.

"Put them on."

Her mouth went dry. "Fifteen minutes."

"Ten now," he growled. "Put them on."

She knew she should say no…and yet, she somehow found herself dropping her robe at her feet and putting on the barely-there undergarments. She could hear Lucian make appreciative noises behind her as the organza slipped in place over her curves, but if she had any chance of getting through this without throwing herself at him, she couldn't turn around. She knew he would have that look in his eyes. That look that made it impossible to think about anything else but his body inside hers.

"Gods, Cara."

She bit her lip as he ran his hands over her bottom, squeezing hard. His rough palms were such a contrast to the soft material barely covering her, but it felt incredible. So incredible she could feel her core getting ready for him again, damping her new panties.

"Wear the red sundress, silk," he growled into her hair. "Second one to your right."

Still reeling from his hands, she barely registered it when he moved away from her, blindly grabbing an outfit and then hurrying out of the closet.

She stood there for another minute, trying to calm her body down again. It wasn't easy. It would never be completely calm, she suspected. Not as long as she was with Lucian. And she had a feeling she'd be with him for a very long time. Though, they would have to talk about this closet later, when she could speak again. He had to know that he shouldn't have done this. That it wasn't normal. And mostly, that she didn't expect it. She'd be damned before she'd ever let him think his money played any part in her feelings for him. His brothers already thought so. At least Zeke did. She didn't want that thought to ever cross his mind, not even fleetingly.

Unwrapping the towel from her hair, she grabbed the dress Lucian had instructed and put it on before heading downstairs.


"For fuck's sake, Ryder. Just take the fucking keys."

The man kept his arms crossed over his chest, his chin up, eyes stubborn as hell.

It wasn't like Hades had expected the guy to be over the moon about these new living arrangements, but he hadn't expected him to flat-out refuse to go along with it. He was getting to stay in a Nox-penthouse, for fuck's sake. For free. Did he have any idea how much they cost? Or how long the waiting list was for one of his properties?

"I'm not doing it, Nox," Ryder bit out. "I'm not going to move here just so you can shack u with my fiancee without anyone knowing."

Hades clutched they keys he'd been holding out tighter, feeling the metal bite his skin. "Stop calling her your fucking fiancee."

"Well, she is."

"No, she isn't. It's a fucking act, Ryder. "

"An act that will be difficult to keep up if she's living with you."

"Hence the goddamn penthouse, you fucking-"

"Okay, time out," Adrianna cut in, moving her fork vertically between both men as if drawing an invisible line that would somehow stop him from smashing that idiot's face in. She'd been silent the entire time, eating her pancakes at the kitchen island they'd gathered around. She'd started on her breakfast the second the trolley had been rolled in, clearly famished. He was really going to have to watch her eating habits. She always let it get to the point of being starved. It wasn't intentional, he was sure. She just forgot to eat.

"Look-" Ryder started, but she cut him off with a pointed look.

"Alex-" she said, her voice too soft for Hades's taste. "-just hear Lucian out before going on the defense. Please."

Her using the word please seemed to have the same effect on Ryder as it did on him, making him pliable. With a sigh, the man sat down on one of the stools, Hades doing the same.

"Now," Adrianna said from beside him, bumping his knee with hers. "Explain to Alexander why this is important to you instead of just shoving the keys in his face."

He glared down at her, getting a bright smile in return.

Fuck, I love this woman.

"This isn't just about you two wanting to shack up?"

"No," Adrianna said sweetly, shaking her head.

"Okay, fine," Ryder sighed. 'What is it then?"

"Your security is shit."

Adrianna let out a sharp burst of laughter at Hades's analyses, slapping her hands over her face.

"You really don't know how to talk to people, do you?" Ryder rumbled, cocking an eyebrow.

"What he's trying to say-" his girl jumped in. "-is that this penthouse is a fortress, Alex. There's only one point of entry and you only get through if your fingerprint is in the system or we let you up. That's it. There'll be no surprise visitors here-"

"-unlike in your house that was broken into and ransacked, the same night she was almost killed."

She laid her small hand on his thigh, palm down, pressing her fingers deep into the muscle there. It felt so intimate and yet, natural. It soothed him.

"Look, I get it," Ryder said. "But that's why I agreed to let your men join my security detail."

"Yes, half your men were replaced by mine, but it's not enough," Hades snarled. "Last night proved that."

"Last night?"

"I left that goddamn party for two minutes and when I got back, you'd lost her. Your men hadn't even followed her. My men were the ones who were on her tail, your men stayed with you. Because you're their priority. Not her."

"Fine, we'll tighten up security then," Ryder sighed. "Put more of your men on her and-"

"Alex, we can't do that," Adrianna sighed, buttering a piece of toast. "It will look suspicious. The whole point of us continuing to pretend we're engaged is so the thief will get flustered by our behavior and slip up. If I'm suddenly surrounded by a flock of guard everywhere we go, it defeats the point and we might as well just call the whole thing off-"

"Fine, it's decided then," Hades rumbled, his arm curling around her waist. "Let's call this charade off."

She glared up at him, her nose crinkling in the cutest way. Gods, he wanted her so fucking bad. Ryder was only making it worse. Having another man near her trigged something raw and primal in him he'd never experienced before meeting her. He'd call it possessiveness or jealousy, but it was more than that. Intenser.

"We're not calling it off," Adrianna said, her eyes boring into his before they switched back to Ryder. "We'll keep security the way it is and when we finish our daily routine, we come here. You go to your penthouse and I come home to Lucian."

"And I want her here before nightfall."

Ryder huffed, crossing his arms over his chest again. "A curfew? Seriously? You don't think you're overreacting just a tad?"

"Overreacting?" He snarled. "Have you already forgotten what happened to her?"

Ryder's face fell, a trace of shame and guilt in his eyes.

"And it's not a curfew," Hades added, not waiting for his answer. "She can be out at night, but only if I'm there with her."

Ryder's face grew confused, but Adrianna seemed to understand why he was establishing these rules. And she agreed with them. He knew because she wasn't fighting him on this and she would have if she'd disagreed. She understood the threat Victor Pierce represented. He was like Rodchenko, only a hundred times as strong, immortal and able to compel whoever stood between him and whatever he wanted. And right now, he wanted her. Adrianna had told Hades about her dance with Victor Pierce, the things he'd said, the plans he had for her. The vampire had his sights set on her and even though he hated to admit it, if he'd wanted to hurt Adrianna last night or abduct her, there wouldn't have been a damn thing Ryder, Ryder's security or even his security could have done. Pierce would've compelled them to forget about it and Hades would've had a difficult time getting her out of that monster's clutches. Hades, however, couldn't be compelled and the vamp was too scared of him to make a move for her in his presence.

"Are you really okay with this?" Ryder suddenly asked, watching Adrianna with a look Hades didn't care for. "You don't have to do this. He can't make you."

Hades felt anger rise in his chest at the fucker's implication. That was the second time that morning that someone had suggested he was keeping her against her will and he hadn't like it the first time either. His muscles tensed, preparing to fight that little shit…but before he could explode and rain down terror, Adrianna beat him to the punch.

"He's not making me live with him," she snarled, her voice sharper. "And shame on you for even suggesting that."

Ryder's cool facade fell. "Adria-"

"No, Alex. I get that you're angry and that you might not understand this decision, but it is my decision to make. Out there, I'm your fiancee, but at the end of the day I want to come home to Lucian. I want to be with him. I love him."

Hades felt his lips curl up at that, a mixture of pride, love and lust coursing through his veins as he watched her sit there with her chin high, declaring her love for him without a moment's hesitation or shame.

Fucking incredible.

"I'll arrange for a moving company to get your stuff here and if anyone asks, you just tell them it's a temporary thing until our business is finished," Hades decided. "We already made the outside world believe we're working together, so it won't raise any suspicion."

Ryder just watched him for another long minute before sighing and mumbling, "Fine."

Adrianna 's hand landed on his thigh again, squeezing softly.

"But you're coming with me to my house for now," Ryder added, stoking the fire in his veins again. "I want us both there when the movers come."

"Makes sense," Adrianna answered before he could, getting up from her stool. "I'll go get ready."

"You look pretty ready to me."

The way Ryder's eyes ran over her then made Hades regret telling her to put on that red sundress. He'd done it for his own pleasure, not fucking Ryder's.

"I'm pretending to be your fiancee, Alex " Adrianna said. "Which means make-up, expensive accessories and heels. You have a type remember."

"Maybe my type changed. Did he just growl?"

Hades hadn't even realized he'd made the sound until Ryder's eyes found his, amused. He wouldn't be so fucking amused if he knew what he was thinking.

"I'm just teasing her, man."

"Don't."

There was a menace in that one word that was palpable. At least to Ryder. Hades could see it in the way his chest stopped moving for just a moment as if he was holding his breath. Adrianna however, endearingly oblivious to how vicious Hades could be, gave his arm a sweet squeeze and then headed upstairs.

Hades had intended to stay put, not liking the idea of leaving Ryder alone in his home. However, he could feel his restraint slipping more and more the longer he sat there and since Adrianna wouldn't like him killing her friend, he decided to follow her upstairs instead.

By the time he got there, she'd already changed into a more modest blue dress, though it still hugged her body just right and made those eyes of hers pop even more. He never thought he'd regret buying her clothes. He'd just never considered anyone else would see her in them. And by anyone, he meant every man whose eye she caught. And she caught ever man's eye.

"What are you doing?" He smiled, watching her pinch her cheeks.

She grinned at him in the mirror. "Makeshift blush. I forgot my make-up is still in a box downstairs-"

"Left drawer."

Her hands froze on her cheeks for just a second before she opened the drawer…and froze completely.

He knew what she was seeing, of course. He'd gone through all of the make-up he'd found in her bathroom and bought her the same foundation, blush, mascara and lipstick, though he'd switched brands. He'd done the same thing with the cleanser, toner, moisturizer and serum he'd found.

He'd made sure to buy the same shades of make-up and had taken extra care to buy the right products for her skin-type, but clearly he'd fucked up somewhere because she looked all but happy.

"Did I get something wrong?"

She sighed, running her palm over her forehead. He'd definitely done something wrong.

"If it's not to your liking, I can buy you other-"

"No," she cut him off, closing the drawer and leaning back against it. "We have to talk."

Something in Hades's stomach turned at her serious expression. "Okay."

"I love you-"

He smiled.

"-but you have to stop buying me things."

"Why?"

"Because you're spending a fortune on me."

"So?"

She sniffed, pushing back a smile. "You really don't get why I would object?"

"It's all stuff you need."

"No, it's not. I have clothes. I have make-up."

"Yes, but the clothes I bought fit you better and the stuff in that drawer is better for your skin. I know, 'cause I asked dermatologists and they assured me these are the best products on the market."

"They're the most expensive products."

"Again, so?"

Her smile grew wider as she softly shook her head. "Babe, I barely make enough money to cover my rent and groceries. People might not see the skincare-stuff, but once this thing with Alexander is over, people will notice when I continue wearing expensive clothes."

"So, this is about what people think?"

"No, it's about what you think."

He frowned, trying to keep up with her train of thought. And failing. "What?"

She sighed, closing the distance between them. Her small hands on his chest made his heart beat faster underneath her palm.

"I don't want you to think I need this," she whispered, her fingers softly brushing over his chest. "The clothes, the shoes, the handbags, the skin care, the make-up. I don't need any of it. I just need you."

Holding her soft gaze, Hades tucked one of her curls behind her ear before cupping her warm cheek, marveling in the way she instinctively leaned into his touch.

"Cara," he whispered. "I buy you things, because I want to, not because I think you expect them. And make no mistake, I don't just buy them for you. A lot of it is purely for selfish reasons."

"Selfish reasons?"

He nodded slowly, his eyes trickling down her face, her neck, noticing the goosebumps spreading over her skin.

"Do you have any idea how stunning you are? Those dresses, those shoes, that lingerie…Just thinking of you wearing them makes me hard. Thinking about tearing them off you makes me-" He just growled, feeling his eyes darken on hers. He could see her swallowing hard, her fingers digging a little deeper into his chest, her breath growing shallow against him.

"I really want to make love to you right now, Cara," he rumbled, his thumb brushing over her lips. "But I don't like the idea of you going home with that fuck after I do. You always look so sated when we're done and I don't want him seeing you like that. That's for me and only me."

She made a little whimpering sound that made Hades's cock even harder and then, she nodded and took a step back. Distance did nothing, though. They'd been worlds apart for years, millennia for him even and he'd still wanted her as badly as he did now.

"So, I'm going to go for a run," he decided. "Get rid of some pent-up energy and I'll see you tonight, yes?"

"Yes."

Her voice had a little tremor in it that pleased him.

"Good. I'll see you tonight, Cara."

He wanted to kiss her goodbye so badly…but they both seemed to realize that would be a tipping point, so instead, Hades reluctantly turned his back on her, headed for his closet, pulled on some workout clothes and got out of there, already counting down the hours 'till he'd see her again.

He was addicted to her.

Lost in her scent, her touch, her taste.

He'd burn in the deepest pits of hell before he'd let anyone take her from him.

Little did he know he would do exactly that.

Soon.