Read Beyond the Shadows Online

Authors: Cassidy Hunter

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Romance, #erotic, #Fantasy

Beyond the Shadows (10 page)

Chapter Twenty-one

 

She wanted little more than to be by his side. To have him love her, for the rest of her life.

She rubbed her wrists. They were a little sore from the violence with which she’d fought the restraints. He’d removed the cuffs without a word but had gently caressed the slight marks on her skin.

Tracing a finger through the sheen of sweat on his smooth chest, she cleared her throat. “Kai?”

“Hmm?” Half-asleep, he lay with one meaty arm thrown over his eyes.

She cleared her throat again. “I just realized something.”

“Yes?”

“I mean, I understand now. I, uh…I care for you. You’re meant for me. I know that.” Damn it, did she have to sound so stilted? It was just so important. He had to realize how she felt.

And not because she wanted to use him for Constantine, but because she truly knew he was part of her. It was more than love. Almost more than she could comprehend. She just knew.

“Really.” He didn’t sound impressed.

“Kai.” She rose up on her elbow and shoved his arm away from his face. “You have to believe me.”

He lifted an eyebrow, eyes still closed. “I don’t really have to.”

“Are you ever going to trust me again?”

“Sarah.”

“Yes?”

“You talk too much.”

Wounded, she flopped onto her back. “It’s important.”

“Don’t pout.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

“Of course I’ll tell you what to do. It’s what a master does.”

“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had one. Asshole.”

“Do you care for me a little less now?”

She turned away from him, disgusted. “I wish I didn’t care. My life would be less complicated.”

“I doubt it.”

“Ah, so you acknowledge how I feel?”

“I acknowledge that you’re trouble.”

“I need you to know. I need you to forgive me…” She turned back toward him, her temper already cooled. “I need you to accept how I feel about you.”

“Damn! I must be
killer
in bed.”

“Kai, stop it. Please. I’m serious.”
And yes, you are.

“It’s not always about what
you
want or what
you
need, Sarah.”

Her voice was small, humble. “I know that. If I could go back—”

Finally, he looked at her. Silent and waiting.

“I’m sorry for betraying you,” she said, putting every ounce of earnestness she felt into her eyes. “I know you understand, for he is my brother.”

“You should have talked to me. You should have trusted me.”

“I know.” She shook her hair out of her eyes, curiously near tears. “But
why
should I have trusted you?”

He stared at the ceiling. “And now?”

She held her breath, afraid to hope. “Now everything is different. Now you know, and…”

“Go on.”

“And I love you.” Simple words, full of meaning. Full of truth.

He swallowed. “God help us.”

“You must trust me, Kai. I swear I will never again betray you. Or your love. That is…if you love me.” A frozen lump of ice surrounded her heart. She meant the words to sound nonchalant but doubted severely the success of that wish.

His chest rose in a deep breath, then fell. “Damn you, Sarah.”

“What does that mean?” Her voice was quiet. He could never admit she’d actually hurt him.

“It means…I don’t know. Just give it some time, will you? Now come here and let us sleep. I haven’t slept well of late.”

“I know the feeling.”

“You deserved more than a little time in holding.” His voice was rough, grumpy.

She smiled. “You wanted me out of there.” She snuggled up against his warmth and nipped gently at his chest. “Is that the reason you couldn’t sleep?”

“Hush, witch. Let me have a moment of peace.”

But as she drifted in his arms, her thoughts went to Constantine, tormented in his cell. How could she relax in luxury while he suffered? Surely now Kai would release him. He must. If he cared for her, he would release her brother.

In one way, they’d made peace and settled things. In another, uncertainty loomed like a deep black hole.

Chapter Twenty-two

 

Kai walked the streets, fingers close to his gun. It was no secret that Sampson would have men lurking as often as possible. Maybe he should have let some of his men keep him company, but right now he wanted nothing more than to be alone with his thoughts.

Alone with his thoughts of Sarah. She was a knife blade in the gaping wound of his heart. His feelings for her went beyond mere fondness. She had attached herself to him, and he couldn’t force her loose. Maybe he didn’t want to.

Scents of roasting meat caused his stomach to rumble. He should go home to her, have dinner, and fuck her until he’d had his fill. But somehow he didn’t think he was ever going to get enough of Sarah.

The sunshine brought people into the streets, some standing outside their shops gossiping. It looked almost peaceful. One could imagine that danger didn’t lurk, constantly looking for a chance to slip past carefully maintained defenses. That desperate men didn’t hide in the shadows, watching for the moment when they might steal a fish or a coin or a loaf of bread.

“Fresh doughnuts, Commander!” yelled the baker, wiping his hands on a stained old apron.

“No, thanks, John.”

The baker shrugged, took a huge bite of his own doughnut, and went back inside his shop.

“What are you doing out here alone, Commander?”

He looked up at the sound of the sheriff’s voice, regretting the loss of his solitude.

“Walking, Amelia.”

“Well, I can see that,” she said, snappy as ever. “But if I must speak in a more exact manner, what in hell are you doing moping about on the streets?” She glanced around. “
Alone
, even. That’s just—”

But even Amelia wasn’t quite brave enough to refer to her commander’s actions as
stupid
. She pursed her lips and looked away from his glare, but he got the feeling she was biting back a smile.

His attention was diverted by two hulking men backing a much smaller man against the weathered wood of the fishmonger’s shop. He started toward them, but Amelia put a hand on his arm.

“Let me, Kai.”

He inclined his head, smiling at the eagerness that caused her wiry body to visibly vibrate. “Be my guest, Sheriff.”

He watched as she ran toward them, her weighted baton at the ready. Amelia liked an excuse to fight.

She drop-kicked one of the thugs, then a few quick, hard strikes with her baton sent him bloodied and battered to the ground. The second man backed away, his face pale. He stumbled as she started toward him, then turned tail and ran, leaving his buddy writhing in the dirt.

Amelia looked at Kai and grinned, her white smile a beacon in her dark face. “Did you see that, Commander?”

He laughed. “I saw, Amelia.”

But she was already walking to the young man whose neck she’d just saved. Kai watched her hold a hand to the boy. “Come on, sugar.”

Amelia and her strays. Just like him and his. And watching her tenderly lead the victim away, he realized something. He didn’t think of Sarah as a stray or a victim or one of his protected ladies.

She made him happy. Oh, fuck him. Mooning about like a love-crazed idiot, softened by one black-haired girl who’d betrayed him and would no doubt do so again.

Because when it came to a choice between him and her brother, she would choose the brother. Every time.

“Now what am I going to do about it?” A couple of hurrying women clutched each other and scurried by him, throwing fearful glances at the big man muttering to himself. He laughed, which he was sure only caused them more distress.

There
was
a solution. He just wasn’t sure he could allow himself to stomp his pride beneath his boot heel to take advantage of that solution.

He could let the brother go. Then Sarah would belong to him. If Con were safe, maybe Sarah would be content. But would she, really? If she had a choice of leaving with Constantine or staying with Kai, which would she choose? Could he take that chance?

Could he really forgive her and forgive her brother? A family of traitors and murderers…

But her voice, small and sad, echoed in his mind. “
I love you
,” she’d said. “
I love you
.”

He couldn’t allow himself to believe her. If he believed her and returned that love, and she betrayed him again, it could destroy him. She had the ability to break him.

How the fuck did he end up in these situations? He sighed again. “I’m just lucky, I guess.”

He strode home, still undecided and more confused than ever.

Chapter Twenty-three

 

Sarah sighed as she watched Teddy bustle around her bedroom. No matter how much she argued, Teddy was determined to tidy her rooms. “I can do that myself, Teddy.”

Teddy ignored her. “Are you sure you’re all right, Sarah?”

“Of course I am. He wouldn’t really hurt me.”

“You don’t know Kai.”

“Oh, I think I do.”

“I just don’t think you ought to push him. You could get hurt.”

“I’ll be fine.”

Teddy pursed her lips, coolness peeking from the inky depths of her eyes. “You shouldn’t hurt him either.”

Sarah softened. “I will not hurt him, Teddy.”

Uncomfortable, Teddy pulled at her nose. “See that you don’t, and we’ll be fine.”

She wanted to ask Teddy about the woman in his past, the one who’d hurt him, but didn’t. His past was his own. He’d tell her when he was ready.

“Thanks, Teddy.” The woman was like a mama bear. And Sarah was pretty sure that if
she
were threatened, Teddy would be the first one to offer her protection. “Teddy, can you take me to the other women?”

Teddy paused, her eyebrows raised in surprise. “You want to see Kai’s women?”

Well, when she put it like that, not so much, no. “Uh…not right now. I just thought it’d be nice to talk with them.”

“Well. Whenever you’re ready, I’ll ask Kai.”

“What do they do all day? Does Kai… Does he go to them?” She studied her fingernails. “Does he have a favorite?”

“They work all day, Sarah. They’ve all come from terrible situations, and they’re happy here. Kai treats them very well.” She shrugged, a smile playing about her lips. “They earn their keep, and not like you’re thinking. They help keep this place running. It is enormous, you know. And I can’t possibly do
every
thing.”

“Oh, I’m quite sure you can do everything, Teddy.” She grinned as Teddy bustled from the room with rosy cheeks and a pleased smile. Her spirits were buoyed by the talk, even though Teddy had managed to sidestep the real question.

Kai had pretty much restored her former privileges; she could roam the yards, had freedom to go where she might, as long as it was inside the gates, of course. Only this time, he had a shadow on her anytime she left her rooms.

For days, she’d self-consciously taken walks in the sunshine, having the good sense to stay far from the jail, though her feet wanted so badly to carry her there. Not yet.

As soon as she was surer of him, she’d once again broach the subject of Constantine’s freedom. And she wouldn’t stop until she either nagged him to death or he released her brother. But she would never again betray him. She’d spend the rest of her life proving that to him, if he’d let her.

Each night he came to her, did Kai, full of furor and passion, his days away from her seeming to fill him with his previous doubts and angers. She coaxed the beast from him each time, soothing him with kisses, relaxing him with quiet determination, meeting his passion with her own overflowing desires.

“Erik!”

He looked up at her voice, hesitating. Glancing behind her, he picked up his pace once again, ignoring her.

“Erik, please. I just want to ask after my brother.” She plucked at his sleeve as he passed her. “Please.”

“Con’s fine,” he muttered and walked on, his steps hurried.

Damn the guards. She swirled around and glared at the two men leaning casually against a tree. “Go away!”

They stared at her with blank faces, not deigning to so much as reply. When she walked back the way she’d come, they followed.

“I can’t stand the guards you put on me,” she told Kai that night. They were having supper in her rooms, and she hoped the exceptional meal would relax him and aid her case. “They watch me constantly. Take them off me, Kai. Please?”

He broke a chunk of bread, slathered it with honey, and held it to her lips. “Try this, Sarah. It’s the best honey you’ll ever taste.”

“Kai…”

He slipped the sweetness into her mouth, his gaze on her lips. “Good?”

She nodded. “It’s delicious.”

“Poor Sarah.”

She looked at him, surprised. “What?”

“Nothing.” He took a quick drink of wine, then pushed his chair back. “I’ll give you a bath now.” He held his hand toward her. “Come.”

She flushed at the eagerness with which she took his hand. He was like a drug. A very, very good drug. “Shall we make love outdoors again and get dirty enough for a bath?” She grinned up at him, impish, only half kidding.

He shook his head. “Not tonight, Sarah.”

She was mildly disappointed, but only for a moment. No matter where Kai made love to her, each time was more powerful than the last. And if he wanted to bathe her…

Tingles ran over her skin like fingers, straight to her clit. “I will never get enough of you.” She’d never been more serious.

His smile made her knees wobbly. “Nor I you, in all honesty.” But still, he seemed reluctant to impart this bit of candidness.

In the bathroom, he sat on a bench and pulled her between his legs. Big hands gentle, he pulled her shirt over her head, freeing her breasts to his gaze, his lips. With his hands at her waist, he pulled her to him and closed his lips over an already stiffening nipple.

His hair was thick in her hands, and she leaned her head back, groaning. “You make me feel so good.”

Pulling away, he looked up at her as he cupped her breasts, running his thumbs over her nipples. Slowly, he slid his hands to the hem of her skirt, up over her trembling legs, under the edges of her panties.

She shuddered as he squeezed her buttocks. He hooked his fingers in the thin material and pulled the underpants over her hips, before letting them fall to the floor. “Open your legs wider, Sarah.”

She did as he commanded, closing her eyes, hands still buried in his long hair. Holding her breath in anticipation, she waited.

He ran his hands up and down her legs, each time getting closer to her center. At last he grazed her lips, his hooded eyes watching her as she gasped and shivered. “You’re so soft,” he murmured.

She caressed his chest, teasingly traced his nipples before leaning over to grasp his cock through his pants. “
You
are so hard.” Tracing the long outline, she smiled. “And so very big… I do love you this way.”

He returned her smile, his eyes growing darker at her touch. “Are you saying size matters?”

“Oh, honey,” she replied and bent over the slightest bit to bite his shoulder. The easing between them was golden, wonderful. She wanted to tell him how happy she was at that fact, but wouldn’t speak of things that would bring back the tension. But she could show him…

“Let me bathe
you
, protector.”

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