Thank you Jeaniene Frost for creating these lovely characters, the world they inhabit and for letting us play with them.
Thank you Sonny, Malia, Candace, Helios, Van, Ash, Leanna, Jasper, Johanna, Sam, and the Pizza Guy - we had fun creating you. Maybe we'll see a few of you again sometime...
Thank you Kristin Elizabeth and A Redhead Thing, our amazing beta readers, for the time and support you have given this story.
To Ehee-this chapter is for you. Your reviews made us think, on a regular and constant basis. You picked apart our chapters and gave us amazing insight and feedback. This is a better story and a complete story because of YOU.
Ten days later...
Kira approached the two vampire guards who stood waiting near the railing at the bow of the upper deck. The final lantern was lit, and it flickered in the night along with the others. There was nothing left to do. She turned to the guards and spoke quietly. "It's perfect. Thank you."
The vampires inclined their heads in a show of respect. She wondered if she would ever get used to that, but then again, at least they weren't giving her the full bow-at-the-waist treatment they had given her a few days ago. Besides, she didn't want to insult them by telling them to stop. It wouldn't be polite.
She took one last look around. Everything had come together just as she planned.
"I'd like to be alone, please. Thank you again for all you have done."
The guards left silently down the stairs to take positions toward the stern of the boat. She knew they would still be watching and that she would not really be alone, but it was as close to privacy as she was going to get, and that was fine with her. No sense being careless when a demon might be stalking you.
Kira stood on the sun deck and turned into the wind, the skirt of her white chiffon dress rising and falling just like the linen curtains hanging from the canopy. The warm breeze feathered across her skin, and she leaned into it, raising her eyes to the sky to gaze at the stars. Soft strains of music rose from the lower deck. It reminded her of the night Mencheres taught her to tango, and for the first time in a week, she felt like her old self. Almost. The night was perfect, except for one thing. Mencheres wasn't sharing the moment with her.
Five steps separated the upper deck from the lower deck on what might be considered a vintage yacht, although it was more of a luxury houseboat with a private stateroom below and multiple decks to watch the world float by. After only a few days, Kira had her special spot up at the bow, where she could rest against the rail and watch the boat cut through the water. It was her happy place and, like the warmth of Malia's amulet, she found comfort there.
The truth was, she felt more relaxed when she was outside in the open air, where there were no concrete ceilings to fall down on anyone. Confined spaces, or any room with a ceiling for that matter, made her twitchy. As to whether this was a permanent condition, only time would tell. She shook her head and laughed a little. Who ever heard of a claustrophobic vampire? She had gotten over traumatic events before, and she would lick this problem eventually, it was just going to take some time. A little more than one week wasn't long enough to forget what had happened in the train station.
But she could push it out of her mind for a little while. She had always been good at compartmentalizing the bad stuff, locking it away and moving on. The last thing Kira wanted was for the memories of the past three weeks to spoil the evening. With Tina safe, Candace and Alexander Helios dead, and Bones, Ian and Vlad finishing the clean-up in Detroit and Chicago, she could put it all out of her mind. At least that was the plan.
After turning up the music and lighting a single lantern on the lower deck, she checked herself in the accent mirror by the wet bar. The new dress fit perfectly, and she felt pretty. Glamorous, even. The strappy sandals made her legs look amazing. As a private investigator, she didn't have much opportunity to wear a cocktail dress like this, and it had been an extravagance to buy it for vacation, but she knew Mencheres would love it.
She held onto the rail and closed her eyes. In spite of everything that had happened, she knew she was exactly where she was supposed to be. Even though her life was more dangerous now, she wouldn't trade it for her old one. She still had her sister, and she knew beyond a doubt that she loved Mencheres, and he loved her, and that was more than most people had.
Kira kept her eyes closed, and a smile formed as she remembered how his energy reached out to her, in gentle wisps that tingled her skin. It was as if his fingers caressed her bare back, trailing sensually down its curves and around her waist. She felt his touch on her shoulder, the lightest brush of his fingers along the long line of her neck until she tilted her head so he could explore his favorite spot. She shivered when tendrils of his power touched her most sensitive places. Kira kept her eyes closed, letting herself feel him. For the first time in weeks, she smiled an easy smile when she turned and saw him standing at the entry to the stateroom, around ten feet away.
He wore a loose fitting white silk shirt and matching slacks, and when he smiled at her, she thought she might burst from the happiness that filled her. He was so incredibly gorgeous, and he was hers. She opened her arms to him, and he gathered her up in his, spinning her around before pulling her against him for a kiss that made her legs go weak. His power wrapped all around them, caressing and teasing her as if that swirling energy had a mind of its own.
He broke the kiss and touched her cheek. "You wanted to go dancing tonight. Why didn't you wake me?"
"You were sleeping so peacefully, I didn't have the heart to wake you. You need to rest."
"You look beautiful," he whispered in her ear. "I promised you dancing. I'll be ready shortly and we'll go find a nightclub."
She threaded her fingers in his silky hair and smiled up at him. "Why don't we stay right here? We have music and enough room on this deck. And the moonlight—oh."
His lips slanted across hers. Mencheres explored her mouth, then nuzzled her neck, pressing and probing with his tongue, lips and fangs, enjoying the little sounds she made. He wrapped his hand around her waist and took her into a dance hold.
"I approve of your choice of dance floor, my lady. Now what dance would you like to start with? A Latin dance, perhaps?" He twirled her around the deck.
"Well, you could give me a refresher on the tango...what other dances do you know?"
"All of them." He stopped for a minute, thinking. "Yes, all of them. Ballroom, Latin, Caribbean—"
She giggled. "Really? Then by the time we finish this cruise, I want to know them all, too."
"It will be my pleasure to teach such a lovely partner."
Then he spun her around, and they danced in the moonlight until they were both laughing. Thank goodness she didn't have to worry about sore feet as a vampire because if she had been human, Kira would have needed a bucket of ice to sooth her feet for how much they danced. Finally, a slow song played, and she leaned up against him, her arms curled around his neck.
"So, how does it feel to be home?" Kira asked.
"To be here, in this area, I would say it feels…familiar." He held her tight. "But as for it being home, I would only call it that because I am here with you, for my home is wherever you are, Kira." He kissed her gently.
"I feel the same about you," she whispered when he freed her lips. "I was so worried about you."
"No more worrying, darling. I have healed, and my telekinesis returned. And as you can see, my dancing is quite up to snuff. Have I not convinced you that I am better, stronger... bigger?" He said with a wicked smile.
"Would it be crass of me to say I noticed that? Your fangs and other places—" She raised her eyebrows and smiled as she started to unbutton his shirt while they swayed to the music. The sensual growl that came from deep in his throat as she raked her nails down his chest sparked something in her, and she felt his energy curling around her, touching her in all the right places.
"Are you trying to seduce me, Kira? Because you are doing an admirable job of it." He pressed against her.
"Very perceptive of you, Mencheres. Don't you think it's time?"
"I'd be most pleased to take you below and prove to you that I have recovered fully, my littlest vampire." He inhaled at her throat, taking in her rich, sweet scent. He felt her stiffen, just a little.
"Is something wrong?" he whispered.
"I thought we would go up on the sun deck, instead of below. It's such a beautiful night," she said as she unbuttoned the rest of his shirt and wrapped her arms around him, laying her cheek on his chest. They stood like that until the song was over, and then he took her into his arms and flew them to the upper deck.
In the center of the sun deck was a great feathered mattress and piles of pillows on an elegant black and gold frame. Small lanterns shimmered and left shadows on the dark, silk sheets. Privacy curtains hung from the frame, but the top of the canopy was open, the stars visible between the wooden cross beams. "When did you do all of this?" he asked.
"Earlier. You have a very good crew, and they have been instructed not to disturb us." She reached around behind her neck, and her dress fell to the deck in a heap, leaving her standing there in her sandals and a tiny pair of white lace panties.
Mencheres hissed, staring at her with green swirling in his eyes, his fangs extended fully.
"Suddenly, I feel overdressed." With that, his pants fell apart at the seams.
Kira smiled. "I love it when you do that," she whispered, her voice soft and inviting.
He swept her up in his arms, kissing her hard, holding her tight. She wrapped herself around him, her body craving the contact with his. Maybe it was just the return of his telekinesis, but the energy emanating from him had a different quality since Detroit. More powerful. More commanding. More like Malia. She clutched him to her as his kisses became more insistent. He took her to the bed.
Hours later, Kira watched the stars as they moved downriver, while Mencheres dozed next to her. She glanced over at him, drinking in his contented aura. Her heart filled with joy at seeing him relaxed like this after those tense days as they waited for him to recover, and the equally awful days afterward when he sent her back to Chicago with Tina and Cat, while he "finished things" in Detroit.
But here on this boat with Mencheres sleeping peacefully beside her, none of that mattered. And whatever went down in Detroit, she didn't want to know about. She had mixed feelings about Ash and Leanna though. Their situation was harder to resolve. Mencheres couldn't very well give protection to someone who had attacked and deceived her, and he had not said what had happened to them. She tried not to think about that though, and the sound of her cell phone vibrating was a welcome distraction from where her thoughts were leading.
She grabbed the phone and got up from bed, taking care not to disturb him. Kira threw on his shirt which had somehow remained intact, his scent making her smile while she made her way to the lower deck and her favorite spot on the bow. It was a text from Tina. Going out with G. Hope you are enjoying vacation. Will call tomorrow. T.
Kira stood at the rail, listening to the current as it rushed past. She didn't think she had been standing there for very long but soon she felt him as he came up behind her. He wrapped his arms around her, and she leaned back against him, as his lips and tongue teased strategic places on her neck.
"Your sister is well?" He whispered when his lips grazed her ear.
"Yes, she texted. She has a date with Gorgon and no time to talk." Kira laughed.
Mencheres took the cell phone from her hands and dropped it into the pocket of the black silk sleep pants he wore while he continued to taste the soft skin at her throat.
"Good. I was thinking I would give them that house, and we can find another. One we can select together. Is that acceptable?"
She turned around to face him, placing her hands on his broad shoulders. "I would like that very much. Thank you. And thank you for this trip. It's been wonderful." She kissed him.
Mencheres placed his finger under her chin and lifted, looking deep into her eyes. "I'm not fond of waking and finding you gone from our bed. Will you tell me what has been troubling you?"
Kira hesitated for a moment, then answered. "Everything is fine, Mencheres. It's just that—" She looked away, not wanting to ruin the moment with talk about Detroit, and how she couldn't stand to be in closed places. But then she really looked at him and saw the worry in his eyes, sensed it in his emotions. She knew how that felt. "A lot has happened, and I need some time. That's all. As much as I try to forget about what happened with Candace and Sonny in Detroit, I can't seem to shake it. That demon, what he did to you. The building coming apart. I don't know, but it's made me claustrophobic or something." She shuddered and then calmed. "It will get better. I just need time," she repeated.
He pulled her closer, stroking her back. "Then we will spend our nights under the stars, and I will watch over you while you rest, my darling. Have you had any visions?"
"No, not a one, and that's okay by me." She touched his face. "I'll be fine, Mencheres."
His arms tightened around her. "I have no doubt about that, my darling. Will you tell me if there is anything I can do?"
"All I need is you, and for us to be together. Everything else will work out in its own good time."
She reached up and kissed him again, believing every word of what she just said.
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