The sitting room is decorated in shades of navy and gray. A fire blazes in the hearth and though it is only there for my benefit, I suddenly find it stifling. I tug at the collar of my sweater. I feel a coolness sweep over my body as Ash puts a hand to the back of my neck. The coldness I feared such a short time ago is a distant memory. I now seek out his cooling touch and even find myself missing it in his absence. He keeps me calm and he knows it, settling into the role with ease.
“You two seem to have taken to one another,” Killian comments and I can’t read the masked expression he hides behind, “I bet your mother hates that.”
Ash simply inclines his head in agreement, “What are you doing here, Killian?”
“Well, old friend, if I am being completely honest, I came to inquire if you would be willing to part with the girl?” he asks, pouring himself a tumbler of vika, raising the bottle toward Ash in offering.
Ash eyes the glass for a moment, as if warring with himself over whether to take it. He shakes his head and ultimately declines and inside, I feel relieved that he’s making an effort to keep the promise I wasn’t sure he even remembered making. But, my heart beats rapidly at Lord Killian’s suggestion and I begin to panic that Ash might agree to it. For the right price, who wouldn’t get rid of a human?
“Absolutely not,” Ash says firmly, “It’s out of the question.”
“Interesting, indeed,” Killian says, scrubbing a hand over his chin, eyeing me carefully.
“If that is all…” Ash says, trailing off. He seems cool and casual, but I can feel the tension radiating from him.
“Have you bound her by blood?” Killian asks eagerly, eyes on me, sweeping over my body as if searching for proof.
Ash shakes his head, “No. Not yet.”
“What are you waiting for?” Killian asks, sounding truly surprised, “It’s obvious that you are—,” he tries to finish but Ash cuts him off.
“You don’t know what you are talking about. That isn’t possible, it is a myth,” Ash waves the Vampire off.
“You’re in denial, my friend,” Killian says, sounding amused, “Though, I’ve never heard of it happening with a human.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask, unable to stay silent any longer.
Killian’s eyes flash with interest at my outburst and Ash’s hand tightens on my neck in warning.
“She speaks!” he says sarcastically, “What is your name?”
“You have such an interest in me,” I say with annoyance, “Yet you speak as if I am not in the room. So, I hardly think it concerns you, what name I go by.”
“Oh, she is a feisty one, isn’t she,” Killian says excitedly, his fangs elongating to protrude over his lower lip.
“Killian,” Ash says with a warning look.
“I do see how she tempts you so. Her blood smells just as sweet as I imagine her soul looks to you,” Killian says.
“I think it’s time for you to leave, Killian,” Ash says.
“Aye,” he responds, “Perhaps you are right. Though, I must warn you, there is much interest in the human girl who managed to trigger the cold and calculating Reaper Lord. Many will come simply to see her, but others,” he pauses, “Others will seek to take her for themselves, or destroy her.”
“Enough!” Ash roars, “I must ask you to leave now.”
He stands from his seat and walks over to the door, opening it and gesturing for the Vampire to leave. Killian does, giving me a bow before he strides out of the room.
Ash turns to me, not meeting my eyes, “Go to your room,” he commands.
“Ash—,” I try to say.
“Now!” he barks, making me jump and hurry into my room, shutting the door firmly behind me.
I pace back and forth, too anxious to go to sleep. I hear the clink of ice against glass and I know that whatever is affecting Ash has driven him to turn to his familiar habits. It is his weakness. I have seen the pain and sorrow in his eyes and I wonder what happened to him during his long life that caused such grief. Before meeting Ash, I would have never thought I could feel anything but hatred and disgust for a Nokturn. I cannot deny that he has awakened something inside me that I didn’t know I was capable of.
By the time I hear him refill his glass for a third time, I muster the courage to crack open the door and peek out into the parlor. He’s sitting in front of the fire, staring at the flames, the already half-empty tumbler is gripped tightly in his hand. My heart aches for him and I can’t fight the urge to go to him.
“I thought I told you to go to your room,” he reminds me, not looking at me.
I ignore his words, looking down at him as I stand next to the chair. I slide onto his lap and swiftly take the tumbler from his hand, placing it on a small table. He looks at me with a flash of anger and surprise before his expression changes to one of pure curiosity.
“You promised you weren’t going to drink anymore,” I say, a little disappointed to find he hadn’t kept his word, though I shouldn’t be surprised. He is a Reaper and he has no reason to keep promises he makes to humans.
He raises a brow in question, “What are you talking about?”
“Nothing, it doesn’t matter,” I sigh, moving to get up, but his arm snakes around me and keeps me in place.
“Tell me,” he demands softly.
“The other night, you came to my room and you were drunk. I told you that you should lay off and you said you would,” I summarize, leaving out the more intimate things he said.
“Forgive me, Lark,” he says kindly, “I do not recall that evening, but if you say that I made you such a promise, then I believe you. I will not have another drink.”
I nod, “You don’t owe me anything,” I say.
“That’s where you are mistaken, Lark,” he says, “I owe you everything.”