Authors: Kresley Cole
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Fantasy, #Paranormal
Orion was still hitting all the right notes with Jo. “Where does that leave you now?”
“I hope starting anew with my beautiful mate. Those days are past for me, Josephine.”
She almost ghosted through the floor with happiness. Wait . . . “You had a phoenix feather at Val Hall. Didn’t you get it from Meliai?”
He closed in on her again. She craned her head up, meeting his eyes.
“I stole the feather, threatening her and the covey with a bonedeath arrow. Apparently, that’s frowned upon. I’m banned from all coveys.”
Jo’s lips parted. He would do that for her? “But you’re so admiring of them.”
He laid his hands on her shoulders. “I admire
more than you.” His words were silky smooth—but his voice was rough with emotion.
“You waited a week before approaching me? Weren’t you dying to tell me you hadn’t boned the nymph?”
“I was! But I wanted to put your needs before mine. I listened to you and Thad talking, and you were so happy. When you gave him a week, I promised you one as well.”
She’d hoped he would live up to her memory of that groom; Rune was schooling the groom.
“I want . . . I
you’ll start drinking from me again—then you’ll experience my feelings.”
Her fangs sharpened for his skin so fast she gasped.
But then his brows drew together. “Unless my memories are hurting you. What were you dreaming of before? You have Thad with you, under the same roof—so why else would you float away?”
Her yearning had been sharp before she’d drifted off. “Because I didn’t have you.”
He swallowed thickly. “Did I hear you right?”
She laid her hand on his chest. Beneath her palm, his heart was
. “I was thinking about you before I slept. Wanting you. Knowing I could never have you after that night.”
“Can you forgive me? My actions were idiotic, my words to you hateful. I flinch to recall them. But I will atone if you give me the chance.”
Could she? “What do you want from me?”
“Eternity. Everything. I want to start with marrying you. If you’ll have me.”
She was opening her mouth to say yes, then she recalled another obstacle. “You should know something before you commit to me. You’d talked about a promising lead on a dark fey female. She’s here in the city. I think she’s even an assassin—”
“I’ve met her.”
If it took the rest of his immortal life, he’d erase that doubt from Josephine’s eyes. “She came by to see Thaddeus. I thought her presence might upset you, so I intercepted her. Once I made it clear I was lost for you, we had a nice conversation.”
Josephine nibbled her bottom lip. “Lost for me?”
“I told her you are everything.” He rubbed his hands from Josephine’s shoulders to her neck and back. How much he’d missed the luxury of simply touching her. “I also put in a few good words for Thaddeus.”
Her hazel eyes widened. “Get the hell out.”
“You don’t have any reason to trust me, but I need to convince you I’ve changed. I know a way you can feel confident in me.” He gazed down at her beloved face, solemnly saying, “Josephine, I vow to the Lore I’ll never—”
She slapped her palm over his mouth. “Ah-ah, Rune. When you’re faithful to me, it won’t be because a vow compels you to be. No more vows to the Lore for either of us, okay?”
She released him when he nodded. But he needed to make her
, as he knew. “You trust I’ll be true to you?”
“Maybe you’re not a
He grinned. “Then I vow
I’ll never be with another. I love you, Josie.”
She sucked in a breath. “I love you too. Even when you’re a dickwad.”
“You said if we had sex, I’d be telling you things. That I wanted a commitment and a bond between only us, and I would never want another female as long as I lived. I was telling you that”—he ran his knuckles along her cheek—“I just didn’t know it yet.”
When she leaned into his caress, he knew she had truly forgiven him.
tell you that you loved me?” She reached up to twine her hands behind his neck. “I completely called that! When are you gonna realize I’m always right?”
“First step of matehood.” The empty aching in his chest faded, warmed by a fire that would never die.
“You need to meet Thad.”
He nodded. “I plan to apologize to him for our terse interaction.”
She raised her brows, pleased. “What do we do about his Vertas preference?”
Rune tucked her hair behind her ear. “We do nothing.”
“He’s a smart kid. If he’s around us enough—and them enough—he’ll make the right decision.” Rune could tell she liked that answer.
“You gotta meet MizB and Gram too. Hey, you could actually eat all the food they insist on cooking.”
“If I must,” he said. “Over the last week, I might have contemplated sacking that kitchen for leftovers.”
“I want to live with you, somewhere close to them.”
With a thoughtful expression, he said, “I’ve got my eye on a condo in Trollton.”
Dazzling smile. “I’m supposed to do breakfast in a couple of hours. I could tee up everybody, and you could show.”
“I’ll bring the ladies flowers. I’m smooth like that. Speaking of breakfast . . .”
Her gaze focused on his neck, on the pulse point that must be fluttering like mad. Her demeanor turned from cheery—to lusty. “My blood is red again. Black’s more my color.” She leaned up to graze his neck.
Just when he’d been thinking this day couldn’t get better . . .
“Have me back in time—for now take me somewhere so I can bite you till you scream.”
Like flipping a switch.
o’s reading lessons had started today, and they’d just finished her first session.
Rune took this as seriously as her continuing rune studies. Their new place was covered with spelling Post-it notes. He’d rewarded each stride she made with kisses, making her a highly motivated student.
After Rune had deemed her brilliant, those kisses had landed him in bed. Well, what had he expected? When the first sentence he’d had her put together was
Rune loves Josie
, and he’d held her gaze? She’d been all over him.
Now they were lazing between the sheets, about to get ready for dinner at the Braydens’. Though their new crib (a badass ranch) was in Australia, Rune had used a spell to connect their side entrance to a closet in the carriage house. A knock on the door there was a knock here. They lived a nanosecond away.
He’d also tricked out their new bedroom. Directly above their bed was a barrier spell to prevent sleep-ghosting. It matched the one on the floor. Nobody was going anywhere with Rune on watch. Not that she could when he held her tight, even as he slept. . . .
After Jo and Rune had reunited that first morning—again and again—she’d taken Thad aside. She’d eloquently explained her and Rune’s previous relationship issues: “Thought he’d boned this nymph. He didn’t. My guy’s solid again. Gonna marry him when his people get here.”
Thad had looked as happy about that development as Rune had about Mount Hua.
“Just give him a chance, kid. He’s funny and smart. You’ll like him.”
Thad hadn’t been disappointed so much by Rune’s Møriørness; he’d been bummed Jo was moving out: “I just got you back.”
“You’re not losing me—you’re gaining him. He’s already protective of you. Since I’m his mate, you’re his brother by fate.”
“Brother.” Oh, she could tell Thad had dug that. “Huh. Two siblings in a week?”
When the guys in her life had met, Rune had told Thad, “I want to apologize for being so brusque with you last week. I was panicked over my mate’s well-being, and I reacted badly. My name is Rune Darklight, and I’m very pleased to meet you.” He’d offered his hand.
Thad had taken it. “Thaddeus Brayden. And I totally get it. I could’ve listened better, but I was freaking out because I’d just been strangling my big sister and all.”
Rune had nodded thoughtfully. “I doubt she’ll let
happen twice, no?”
Thad had grinned. And Jo had known
all is right in the world.
Since then Rune had traced her and Thad to new dimensions, showing them wonders. The guys got along great, despite Thad’s Vertas leanings. Today, he’d gone to meet with some of them to plan Val Hall’s rebuild.
But that was okay. With Nïx missing and Orion still a universe away, the war had hit the snooze button. . . .
Now Rune pressed a kiss to her head. “I hope we’re having fried chicken tonight.”
“Based on your reaction the first time, I think a repeat is guaranteed.” No matter how far afield they traveled, Jo, Thad, and Rune convened with MizB and Gram for at least two meals a day. Rune had been the delighted recipient of home-cooked dinners; the women were overjoyed to have someone to cook for.
Jo now had tons of people in her life, interacting.
And there would only be more. Rune wanted her and Thad to meet his allies.
When Rune had heard her talking about Apparitia, he’d feared his liege had destroyed her world. But Rune had chosen to, well, have faith in his faith. “I was right to,” he’d told her. “Orion strikes hard at his enemies, but he had nothing to do with Apparitia.”
Rune’s fellow Møriør, Blace, had once lived on the periphery of the Elserealms where her home world had been located. The vampire might be able to help uncover more information about her parents.
She would ask Blace once she visited Tenebrous. Not anytime soon, though. She didn’t want to leave her brother behind for the days it’d take to get there and back. When she’d invited Thad to go with them, he hadn’t wanted to leave MizB and Gram. Not yet . . .
Rune stroked her hair and exhaled with satisfaction. “Meadowberry.”
She grinned against his chest. She’d dreamed his memories of those fields, of the bliss he’d felt lying among them, with sugar from the berries on his lips and breezes rustling the leaves.
When she’d recounted her dream, he’d cradled her face. “Every day with you is like that now. I’ll know that bliss forever. And I’m determined you will too.”
The future was so bright. . . .
She’d thought there was no greater connection than destiny decreeing them joined. But there was—the
they’d made to love each other.
Rune shifted her in bed so he could rise above her. “I want you to learn one last word today.”
one?” she grumbled, acting put-out.
“Uh-huh.” Rune pierced his finger for blood, and her eyes went heavy-lidded.
He drew four letters over her chest. Over her heart.
In a breathless voice, she asked, “What does it say?”
His eyes darkened as he rasped,