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Chapter 17

The house was so quiet after her sisters had left. Jared was in the guest room on the opposite side of the house, refusing to leave his sire unguarded. Gabby watched as Nicolas inspected her bedroom.

“This painting is marvelous,” said Nicolas. “This looks like early New Orleans.”

“Very good. It is. My great-aunt Temperance painted it,” said Gabby. “She still lives there. I spent summers there when I was a teenager.”

“I spent time there after the war. I still miss the food,” he said absently as he picked up and scrutinize a few of the knickknacks she had on the bookshelf.

“Which one?” she asked as she watched him move. He had taken his jacket and tie off after they had come into the room, so she could see his muscles moving underneath the silk of his dress shirt. The view made her want to purr like a kitten. And he was all hers.

He turned and met her eyes. “The Revolutionary War. I had taken the death of my eldest son pretty hard. Jared and Constantine thought the Bon de Temps of New Orleans would help cheer me up.”

“Did it help?” she asked.

“No. Nothing helped the pain until St. Leger lay dead at my feet,” he answered. He watched her shiver. “I need you to understand two things,” he said softly.

“What is that?” she asked as she wrapped her arms around her middle.

“One, I protect what is mine, always,” he said. He walked over to her and pulled her arms loose without breaking eye contact. He then wrapped her in his arms. “There is no one who I will protect more than you.”

Gabby’s eyes filled with tears just as her heart filled with tender feelings at his words. It was bizarre how quickly she was accepting this. She should run away from him screaming, but here she was relishing his strong arms and clean, woodsy scent. A single tear slid down her cheek. He lifted his hand and wiped the tear. He leaned in a kiss the trail the tear had taken. He then kissed her lips as he pulled her closer to him. He licked the seam of her lips to gain entrance.

Once she opened, he began his full out assault. He slid his hand up into her hair and snapped the band holding it in place, making all her glorious hair tumble down around her shoulders. He slid his fingers through the silk and sighed. He pulled back and smiled at her. “Wow,” he said.

“Yes, wow,” she repeated. She tugged on his tie. “Does this ever come off?”

“Yes, it does,” he said before chuckling. “Just a few people see me without it.”

“Well, as your mate, I would think I would qualify as one of the few, don’t you think?” Gabby asked.

“Yes, you do,” he said and then smiled. He pulled on the silk and the tie easily slid apart. He stuffed it in his coat. He shrugged out of the coat, folded it neatly and laid in over the armchair near the fire.

“And no coat, too? You are positively Bohemian,” she said and then laughed.

“You’re sassing me, aren’t you?” he asked.

“A little. This is a nice look for you,” she said, tugging on his collar after she loosened the top two buttons. She waved her hand and a soft jazz sound came out of the stereo. He slowly waltzed her towards the bed. He waved his hand and bent the covers backwards. She turned her head to see the bed and grinned. She turned back to him and said, “You seem to have a plan.”

“I do,” Nicolas said.

“Hmm,” Gabby said. “I have one, too.” She waved her hand and their clothes disappeared.

“I find myself stuck between cool trick and I wanted to do that myself,” he said before kissing along her jaw and towards her neck.

“Well, I could put them back on,” she offered.

He just growled in response. He kneeled on the bed taking her with him as he crawled towards the pillows. He settled her in the middle with her glorious hair fanning around her head. He settled between her legs and balanced his weight on his forearms. They locked eyes. “You are so beautiful,” he said softly. He leaned down and took possession of her lips.

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