Lucky stirred against Josef's chest, and his arms tightened around her sliding over the satin she wore

Lucky stirred against Josef's chest, and his arms tightened around her sliding over the satin she wore. She was transfixed by the feel of his tongue, rough as a cat's, licking shut the fang wounds in her neck. Usually he drank from a wrist, but since his return from that last trip to New York, he'd been more—passionate, more intimate in his blood-taking. She drew in a long, shuddering breath, and laid one shaking hand against his chest, against the dark silk of his shirt. She wanted to reach up, to put her hand at the back of his head and hold it there against her neck, to feel the softness of his hair under her fingers, to make the moment last, just a little longer, a little…longer. The wounds were healed.

Josef kissed her neck lightly, just above the pulse, before he raised his head, as the color bled back into his dark eyes, savoring the feel of Lucky shivering with pleasure in his arms. Damn, but he loved making these girls react like that. Her warm weight felt very pleasant in his arms, very tangible. He wasn't sure if she knew, if any of them knew, how much he depended on them to keep his own particular demons at bay, the phantom regrets that sometimes overtook him in these last hours before the dawn. The contact, the communion was—important. The sweet taste of her blood lingered in his mouth, and he could feel it moving in his veins, strengthening and sustaining him. He rested his cheek against her forehead.

"Lucky, doll," he said very softly, "are you awake?"

"Yes, Josef," she murmured, not moving. "Do you want me to go?"

"No," he said, lifting his head again, this time to stare out into the pre-dawn sky above the city. He was silent for a long while.

Lucky waited patiently. If he had something to tell her, something he wanted to say, he would do it in his own time, in his own way. She had nowhere else to be, no need to press for confidences. And every moment he remained lost in his thoughts was another moment for her to remain close. Even so, when he spoke again, so softly she had to strain to hear him, it came as a surprise, unexpected.

"I fell in love with a mortal girl once, Lucky," he said without preamble, "years ago. "Sarah was—is--everything to me." He quirked one corner of his mouth, smiling down at the girl in his arms. "She has red hair like you—not the same color, exactly, a few shades darker, perhaps. She—I can't say it ended badly. It never ended, it may never end. But I can't be with her the way that I want." He paused, a tightness in his throat, in his chest, preventing him from going on. Lucky curled closer to him, trying to comfort him with her nearness. "I've tried not to care much for any mortal, since then, but, you know, it's hard. It's damn near heartbreaking, sometimes. And when I see the way Beth looks at Mick, the way she fights for him—it's almost enough to make me believe in possibilities again."

Lucky closed her eyes, and Josef could hear her heart beating softly, beating faster for him. It wasn't love between them, not like that, not like Sarah, but it was something, and for now, it would suffice.