“You cannot run forever.”
Raul halted. He pressed his lips together and closed his eyes for a brief moment. The amulet pulsed as the power within the inscription worked magic. Unfortunately, the strength he had found to walk away in the past was fizzling. That familiar sense of calm he had experienced multiple times curled around his spirit, embracing him as he fought to escape it. He couldn’t buckle now. He couldn’t.
Raul opened his eyes a moment before Victor rounded on him from behind. His fingers curled against his legs. His heart punched at his chest and his breaths tried to shorten to gasps until he focused on keeping them steady.
Victor turned to face him and his world shook.
Violet eyes perused him from his waist to his head. The fine cuts of Victor’s face held nothing but a gentle expression that contradicted the sharp pain in his gaze. His pale golden hair was pulled back, chin length strands brushing over his cheek. He held himself with envious poise, his shoulders straight and his hands folded behind him.
The battle to keep his gaze level with Victor’s and not trail over the lithe form decked out in the finest Victorian goth clothing ignited tremors along his arms. He tightened his fists until the tips of his wolf’s claws bit into his skin.
A mistake, he realized. Victor’s pupils dilated and the thin ring of violet brightened. His straight, sharp nose flared at the nostrils.
“When will you stop?” Victor asked. His voice, soft and soothing, was a drug. Raul staggered in his resolve to keep his walls up. He managed to fling a hand in front of his chest when Victor reached toward the amulet. Gods, he hated himself for being cold and cruel. He hated that he was forced to push his mate away. Victor’s hand pulled back slowly, but didn’t lower. “Let me heal you, in the very least.”
“You have been healing me. Your generosity is most appreciated,” Raul assured. His words were stiff, stilted, and sharp-edged. His wolf refused to be restrained, the underlying rumble as he spoke a potent mix of man and beast. “I must be going.”
Raul fractured at the longing in Victor’s voice. He bit down on his lower lip.
Victor took a small step closer. Close enough to infiltrate every honed sense of both Raul and his wolf with the smooth, exotic scent that belonged to Victor, and only Victor. A scent of crisp air and sultry fire, something sweeter with an addicting dash of something sinister.
Raul’s mouth literally watered.
“Please, if you wish to walk away, I will respect your decision. But allow me a moment to look at your wound.”
Victor’s hand reached toward his injured shoulder. Yes, he had sensed the increase in the poison. The last blood transfusion he received, the last dose of Victor’s healing blood, was wearing off. The only reason it lasted as long as it did was because of their status as mates.
Victor’s fingers brushed the edge of his leather jacket before he shook himself out of the trance and took a step back. A fine crease formed over Victor’s sloping brow before he lowered his hand to his side. His mate’s powers were untapped. His ability to calm and sooth a person until they lost touch with reality had definitely increased.
“You can’t use your power on me, Victor. It doesn’t hold and will only irritate me.”
Harsh words from the broken hearted.
Victor’s chin lifted slightly. Then he bowed his head. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
Raul groaned. He bit his tongue before he tried to explain his cold response. Anything to push Victor away was for the best, as much as it killed him inside.
“Stop bowing. I don’t deserve that respect.” Raul snorted and forced his feet to move around Victor. “Trust me. I would be the last person you bow to if you knew half of who I am.”
“Are you referring to why you continue to ignore me? The pact?”
Raul spun around, narrowing his eyes on Victor. The innocence in his mate’s expression belied the true nightmare of what he could create.
Victor folded his arms over his chest. “I assure you your secrets cannot touch mine. And you know the worst of those.”
Yes, he did.
“This is not up for discussion. The pact is off limits.”
“It involves me, Raul. And you. How can I be left out of something that directly affects me?”
Because you’d kill your father if you knew the truth.
Raul stalked to the piano and shoved the bench back. Victor leaped to his feet, backing away until he bumped into the stands holding his violins.
In that brief moment when Victor was distracted, Raul caught his head between his rough hands and crushed his mouth to his mate’s. Victor stood, frozen, against him, hands gripping Raul’s wrists. Raul pressed his kisses deeper, allowing the raw hunger and primal desires to flood Victor until, at last, his mate returned the maddening kiss with a delicate fervor only Victor could master.
Raul instantly realized his mistake. The touch of their lips, the heat of the kiss, the connection of their skin…
It unleashed twenty years of pent-up frustration and desire that even the strongest of mental and physical restraints couldn’t hold back. Reason fled him, leaving him armed with nothing but need and want and fierce, burning hunger.
Slipping a hand into Victor’s silky hair, he fisted at his mate’s scalp, tilted his head, and angled his mouth to deepen the kiss. Victor moaned, the sound as beautiful and seductive as the man himself. He tasted as sweet and succulent as Raul had dreamed. Those lips he’d imagined kissing time and time again were as pliant and accepting as they were firm and resenting. Dropping a hand to Victor’s lower back, taking liberty to learn even a slight portion of his mate’s frame, he pulled, bringing Victor flush against him.
Victor gasped, his hands smacking against Raul’s chest. Raul growled in response, indulging in the cool fingertips that bunched at his shirt. He splayed his hand along Victor’s back, sliding down to the firm mound of his ass and squeezed.
Victor’s hands left his chest, finding refuge tangling in Raul’s hair, his arms wrapped tightly around his neck. He rose up on his toes, pressing hard to Raul’s body.
Raul paid no heed to the tender man within him screaming to take it easy. Take it slow. Don’t devour him with their first shared kiss.
The wolf pawed down that voice to a mere whisper. Raul plundered Victor’s cool, sweet mouth over and over, drinking in the taste, the feel, how graceful his mate’s tongue danced with his in a fashion as starved as he. Over and over, he claimed Victor’s mouth, possessing, impressing, and still unable to fill the void in his spirit.
Then Victor arched his hips, pressing a hardness he had only dreamed of against his own burning cock and he damn near lost his mind.
“Victor,” he exhaled.
“Don’t you dare stop kissing me to speak.”
Raul chuckled at Victor’s telepathic demand, earning a pleasurable shiver from his mate. He released his grasp on Victor’s hair and spun him away from the precariously displayed instruments. The muscles in his legs resented his movement, quivering beneath his weight. He moved blindly, unwilling to part with Victor’s lips, unable to give up this stolen moment.
They stumbled over the piano bench, bounced off the side of the piano, until Victor turned him around. He gave the vampire this small ounce of freedom, guiding him backward until his knees hit into another piece of furniture.
He opened his eyes when he twisted Victor in his arms, and caught sight of the settee behind him.
He laid Victor down, bringing his hips to rest in the open cradle of his mate’s. The bench provided little room, but it was enough that he remained on one knee, his other leg braced against the floor to keep them from sliding to the rug. Somewhere amidst the heady fog and the fiery need, their hands moved, peeling off layers of clothing until Raul slid his bare chest up against the vampire beneath him.
This first intimate connection made every muscle along his body tense in anticipation. His cock bit hard into the seam of his jeans, thankfully still intact. Blinded by need, he wasn’t sure he could keep this from proceeding if they were completely naked.
Victor arched, his head tipping back, a low hiss escaping his kiss-swollen lips. Raul nuzzled the pale flesh beneath his ear, his breaths hard and hot along his shell. “I can’t have you.”
“I won’t let you go.”
Raul’s wolf howled, comprehending that one way or the other, Victor would be the death of him. He would never allow his actions to extinguish his bright, promising light from this earth.
Licking along the elegant curve of Victor’s neck, he paused when he reached the juncture of his shoulder. A deft pulse hammered against the inside of his skull. His teeth began to change, his fangs dropping first.
One bite. One bite and he’ll be mine.