Authors: Donna Grant
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #General, #Gothic, #Fantasy, #Urban, #Sagas
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Kelly Mueller –
You helped save my sanity.
I owe you. So pick your Dragon King!
To my editor, Monique Patterson, miracle extraordinaire. Sums you up perfectly!
To my agent, Natanya Wheeler, for always being ready with an answer no matter what my question might be. And for our mutual love of wine, pasta, hunky guys, and the written word.
To everyone at SMP who was involved in getting this book ready including, Alex, Erin, Amy, the truly amazing art department, and marketing. Y’all are astounding. Thank you!
A special thanks to my friends and family for the endless support and love.
Ryder stood and watched Kinsey. The minutes ticked by as she slept the sleep of the dead. She’d always had the ability to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime. And once asleep, she was hard to wake.
He briefly thought about taking off her boots, but her reaction when she found him carrying her kept him at the door.
When he lifted her in his arms in the computer room, it had felt as if he finally had what was missing from his life. He’d simply held her as she rested her head on his shoulder, savoring the moment.
It had felt like heaven. Ryder even contemplated lying next to her in bed. Then she had lifted her head and jumped out of his arms as if he were some monster.
Except to her, he was.
And that’s what hurt the most.
Ryder looked to the side when he felt someone approach. Dmitri said nothing as he peered inside the room. Ryder knew he should shut the door and back away, but he couldn’t make his feet move.
“If you want her, fight for her,” Dmitri said.
Ryder wished it were that simple. “She’s terrified of me.”
“She didna look too scared earlier when the two of you were talking.”
“That is until she remembers what I am.”
“Then show her she has nothing to be afraid of,” Dmitri said, as if the solution was so simple even an idiot could figure it out.
Ryder glanced at the ceiling in frustration. Then he said, “I left her.”
“That makes you a proper bastard then.”
Leave it to Dmitri to state it so succinctly. “Aye,” Ryder said. “It does.”
“The two of you had something special. Find it again.”
“She’s moved on with her life.”
Dmitri snorted loudly and glared at Ryder. “She doesna have a man. That tells me you still have a chance.”
Did he? Ryder wasn’t so sure. “You didna see the way she looked at me when I shifted. Or hear her scream.”
“Give her some slack. She was in a war zone, Ryder.”
“Just now she practically flew out of my arms when she woke to find me carrying her.”
At that, Dmitri twisted his lips. “You might have more work than I expected. But answer me this, do you want her?”
“Do you love her?”
Ryder nodded. “Verra much so.”
“Is she worth fighting for?”
“In every way.”
Dmitri slapped him on the back. “Then that is what you need to do. Now. Get your ugly arse in there and remove her boots while I get some food for her.”
“Food?” Had Ryder forgotten to feed her?
Dmitri rolled his eyes. “I knew you’d forget. You become focused on those damn computers, and you ignore everything else.”
“No’ everything,” Ryder mumbled as Dmitri walked away.
Ryder slowly moved into his room. He hadn’t known where else to take Kinsey. As he walked around the four-poster bed stained so dark it was nearly black, he imagined crawling into his bed and having Kinsey curl up next to him like they used to sleep.
It was a fantasy of his from the first time they’d made love. Once he returned to Dreagan and took a look at his bed, it had been impossible to sleep there and not think of her. Which is why he hadn’t used his bed in three years.
One of her feet was hanging off the side of the bed. He tenderly grasped one leg and unzipped the boot before tugging it off. He repeated the process on her second foot before placing the boots beside the chair.
Next, he gently gave her a nudge at her side. Kinsey immediately rolled over, allowing him to tug down the comforter.
When he saw her blazer, he knew he had to remove it. Ryder grasped the hem at her wrist and pulled upward at the same time he got her to turn back onto her stomach. One arm fell out of the jacket.
It took some doing to get her other arm from beneath her so he could tug it free. Ryder then folded the blazer and laid it over the back of the chair.
He turned back to her and had the urge to sink his fingers into her wealth of dark hair. It was so silky smooth that he’d never tired of touching it.
It wasn’t just her hair he longed to touch. It was her. All of her. To have held her, and had her all to himself for a year had been the most amazing time.
If only he could reverse time and remain with her. If only he had known Ulrik broke the spell binding their feelings. If only he had returned to her after Hal and Cassie fell in love.
If only he’d had the courage to embrace the love he felt.
But love—the soul-deep, life-altering emotion—was new for him. It had terrified Ryder, especially since he was the one always in control.
Computers—or any electronics—were easy to manipulate and get to do what you wanted. Ryder was at ease around them. Mostly because they did whatever he wanted.
His feelings for Kinsey, however, were completely out of his control. He couldn’t get a handle on them. Even now, years later, he felt as if he was just learning to walk again.
Kinsey was unpredictable and stubborn. She was wildly seductive without even trying. She twisted his insides until he wasn’t sure which way was up. All Ryder knew was that with her beside him, the future didn’t look so bleak.
“Kinsey,” he whispered and touched her hair.
He shouldn’t have dared even that, because now he couldn’t walk away. Ryder rubbed his jaw as he contemplated an idea. With as hard as Kinsey slept, she’d never know if he climbed into bed with her.
And he’d be gone long before she woke.
Dmitri walked in at that moment with a tray. There was a covered plate and a bottle of water. He set it on the table near the fireplace and straightened. Then Dmitri looked from Ryder to Kinsey before he turned on his heel and left the room without a word.
Ryder closed the door after him so no one else would disturb them. Then he returned to the bed and rolled Kinsey into his arms so he could lay her head on the pillow.
She sighed contentedly, making his balls tighten.
He should leave. It was the right thing to do. Kinsey was frightened of him, of who he was. She didn’t want him touching her or even being too close. It didn’t seem right to secretly sleep next to her.
Why then was he walking to the other side of the bed?
Ryder sat down on the mattress and kicked off his boots. He lay back on the bed to stare at the ceiling. This might be the closest he’d ever come to being in his bed with Kinsey.
That thought made his chest ache so badly he rubbed it with his hand. How could he have screwed this up so royally with Kinsey? If only she hadn’t seen him shift there might still be a chance between them.
To his surprise, Kinsey suddenly rolled over and snuggled against him. Ryder pulled her closer before he tugged the blankets over her.
He closed his eyes and put every detail to memory. The sound of her even breathing, the feel of her hand on his chest, the warmth of her body.
He wished he had gotten beneath the covers with her, but this was all he dared. Nothing was going to happen. No matter how much he might want it.
Kinsey was a kindhearted person. She didn’t hold a grudge long, but then again, he had left her. As well as not mentioning what he really was.
Yet there had been something profound and deep between them. Looking back, he thought she might have been falling in love with him.
If she cared for him once, she could again. It just depended on how far Ryder was willing to go for her.
Besides, Dmitri was right. She was worth fighting for.
Ryder tucked his free arm behind his head and smiled.
* * *
Kinsey woke famished. She rolled onto her back and rubbed her eyes. Her stomach was rumbling fiercely. She wondered if she could get to the kitchen without running into anyone when she turned her head and spotted the tray.
She jerked upright and yanked the covers off before jumping out of bed. Kinsey opened the bottle of water and downed half of it. Then she took the lid off the plate and gazed at the array of bread, crackers, and cheese. Without hesitation she began to eat.
After the entire plate was cleaned, she realized her boots were carefully placed beside the chair she was sitting on. Since she couldn’t remember taking them off, she wondered who did.
Was it Ryder?
A shiver raced over her as she imagined him touching her without her knowing it. If he was going to place his hands on her, she wanted to be awake so she could remember it.
She looked down at her white T-shirt. Where was her blazer? Kinsey rose and turned around, looking for it. She spied it on the back of the chair.
Someone had obviously undressed her that far. She might not toss them on the floor, but she certainly didn’t take that kind of care with her clothes.
She recalled how meticulous he could be with his things. He must have removed her blazer and boots. And she slept through it all.
Kinsey hurried back to the bed and looked to see if there was evidence that he’d stayed with her, but the other pillow had no indentation on it.
She should be thrilled about that. Why then was she disappointed?
You don’t want him, remember,
she told herself.
He’s bad for me.
Ryder made her forget everything but him. All she cared about was being with him, sharing her life with him. It had taken her forever to remember the person she had been before him, and she didn’t want to go down that path again.
A knock at the door startled her. She took a deep breath before she padded across the wood floor and the thick rug to the door. She cracked it open and stared into hazel eyes.
“Good morning,” Ryder said with a warm smile. “Did you sleep well?”