Home > Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark #5)(8)

Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark #5)(8)
Author: Kresley Cole

"What about their vow?" What vow?

If possible, Nikolai paled even more. "For all his faults, Conrad never broke a vow in his life. Unless it happened before he'd turned thirteen... " Unless what happened?

The two were silent for long moments, Sebastian's expression grave while Nikolai's was filled with guilt. "His life had been given over to a cause greater than himself. I should have" - Nikolai ran his hand over his forehead - "I should have talked to him, given him, and you, the choice that night."

"I wouldn't have chosen the turning, and then I wouldn't be with Kaderin." He spoke as if he'd sidestepped the direst tragedy. Sebastian was lost for his Bride. "Besides, Conrad was too far gone. The soldiers gutted him before me, hours before you and Murdoch came. I don't believe he would ever have regained consciousness."

She floated in front of Conrad to face him. He'd been stabbed in the stomach, she in the heart. Then against their wills they'd both been changed into something else entirely. Neither of them had asked for their current existences.

He'd been a hero, his life given over to a greater cause. She sighed, waving her hand to send a gentle touch along his cheek. What happened to you out there, vampire?

Sebastian said, "But he'll never reconcile himself to our existence unless we can convince him that we aren't evil."

Shaking his head hard, Nikolai said, "We can't convince him of anything until his mind heals more. Let's get this over with."

They stripped off his pants, leaving him na**d.

And she swayed weightlessly. Le dément est exquis.

Her gaze slid from his navel, following that trail of black hair. Oh, my, my, my. Even flaccid, his size was brow-raising.

"Conrad, look at me." Nikolai waved in front of his vacant stare.

Conrad blinked as if he had no idea where he was or how he'd gotten there.

"Do you want to wash yourself?" Nikolai asked. "If we chain your hands in front of you?"

Seeming to shake off some of his confusion, Conrad eased his muttering. A flicker arose in those red eyes.

He's calculating. At length, Conrad grated, "Alone."

The brothers shared a glance, no doubt reviewing all the ways Conrad couldn't escape. "Very well," Nikolai said.

Conrad held his wrists up behind him, and all the rippling muscles of his torso flexed into sharp rises and indentations that spoke of a terrible strength.

After removing the cuffs, Nikolai refastened them in front, then pulled a pin to loosen the chain between the wrists so Conrad could have more freedom. When Conrad made no attempt to escape, they glanced at each other as if their brother was making outrageous progress. Which, she supposed, he was.

"I've left a towel and a change of clothes on the rack," Sebastian said. "They should fit. But if not, we've brought plenty more - "

"Alone!" Conrad snapped. When they finally left, he entered the spacious shower stall.

Still facing her direction, he stepped under the water and let it cascade over his back. He appeared exhausted from the medicine, as if his limbs felt heavy and ungainly, but he seemed to enjoy the simple pleasure of the water sluicing over his body.

I envy him every drop!

He picked up the bar of soap, smelled it. Finding it acceptable, he lathered his face, then leaned back against the tile so that the water ran over his front.

And all she could do was stare because, as the blood, plaster, and burn marks washed from his skin in thick, grimy rivulets, a handsome visage surfaced.

No, not merely handsome, more like extraordinary.

She'd known he had pleasing features but hadn't been able to look past the unnatural eyes and dirt to truly appreciate his firm lips and wide, masculine jaw, or how his nose was aristocratic and strong.

Punch-drunk. That's how she felt about seeing his clean face and unclothed body as a whole. She'd heard women talk about encountering a man so devastatingly gorgeous they'd felt breathless, dizzy. Now she understood.

It dawned on her that though she'd spied on men before, never had any male as sexually attractive as this graced her shower stall.

When he began to rub the soap over his chest and under his arms, the slick muscles in his torso bulged in a breathtaking display. It'd take her weeks to learn just those muscles alone - how they flexed, how his body could move... .

The soap went lower.

She swallowed.

Lower still... 

She didn't think she breathed when he lathered between his legs with his big, scarred hands, washing his long shaft and the flesh hanging behind it without interest, while she was dumbstruck.

Am I shaking? For eight decades, she'd never yearned to touch anything as much as his body. Even though she knew she couldn't feel him, it was everything she could do not to reach forward.

His hands abruptly stilled at his privates, and his handsome face flushed. His gaze landed directly on her, before skittering away. He acted the way a reserved, inexperienced man would when he'd realized he was washing himself in front of an audience of one.

Her eyes went wide. He damn well can see me. She frowned. Then that means I'm being... ignored.

"Vampire, look at me. Please talk to me."

But he gave no reaction. The one man on earth she could communicate with wouldn't talk to her.

Which meant...

"Do you think I'm pretty, Conrad? Beautiful, even? After all, you can see me, can't you? And I know you can hear me, too. Now I'm going to prove it. You dare throw down that gauntlet to a woman who entertained for a living? You can't simply shut me out."

Few knew there was a second reason that Néomi had chosen her dream of ballet over following in her maman's footsteps, tempting crowds of men as a femme fatale: Turning males into frothing, gawking, mindless beasts had been too... easy.

With merely a throaty laugh and a dab of her tongue at her bottom lip, Néomi could send a man diving for his hat - to cover his stirring lap.

Too easy. And Néomi had always craved a challenge.

With a wicked grin, she decided it was time to draw on her shady background, time to put away the popguns and engage the cannons. And Néomi had a hidden arsenal he couldn't even comprehend.

10

Perhaps I haven't been stimulating enough for you, vampire?" Néomi made her voice a breathy murmur. "And didn't I promise that I'd show you more than a garter if you could only see me?"

She tugged her skirt up slowly, making the fabric appear to bunch in her hands. "I have a bit of experience with what men like to... be shown."

When she'd bared the tops of her thigh-high hose, she asked, "Still not stimulating enough? Maybe Conrad wants to see my panties instead?" Just before she revealed them, she floated into the corner, the one that was farthest from his vision. He'd have to turn fully to see her there.

"The line... the line... " he muttered urgently.

He must be talking about some line with her that shouldn't be crossed. "Yes, Conrad, the line! Let's cross it! Or am I going to have to up the ante? Very well," she sighed. "You drive a hard, hard bargain. But I feel overdressed anyway, and since you're so deliciously na**d... " His body shot upright with tension, muscles bunching in his neck and shoulders. "Here I am, in the corner, unlacing my dress." She made her voice drip with sensuality and her dress rustle as she removed it. "I'm doing it slowly for my vampire. Oh... so... slowly."

Did he just growl?

She moved forward to dangle her dress in his line of vision. Like a lure for an animal, she eased it back toward the corner.

He gave a groan as if defeated and turned. His jaw slackened.

She stood with her back to him, peering over her shoulder, wearing only her garter belt, hose, and her tight black panties. "I knew it, vampire," she said with delight.

His riveted gaze lingered over her face, descending to her back, her ass, and her legs, then slowly back up again. His voice broke when he rasped, "Turn around for me." Had his accent ever sounded so heavy?

He was talking to her, the first person to address her in eight decades. She was trembling with happiness and gratitude, elated by the interaction - and helpless not to be excited by his heated looks. She faced him with her arms crossed over her br**sts, not shyly, but provocatively.

He ran a palm over his mouth. "Y-your arms now."

Standing against the wall, she removed one arm, then the other, raising them above her, appearing to rest them against the wall. With his gaze locked on her br**sts, he clenched and unclenched his hands as if he was imagining squeezing them. She felt a thrill when he subtly rubbed his tongue over a fang, those red eyes smoldering like embers.

"Did you think I was bluffing?"

Never glancing up, he gave her a sharp nod, as if he didn't trust himself to speak.

"I never bluff. If it took baring my body to prove you can see me, then look your fill, Conrad." When he finally raised his eyes to meet hers, she tilted her head and cast him a flirtatious smile. "But why have you ignored me?"

He said, "Because you're not... you weren't real," then winced as if he found his comment idiotic.

He'd thought she was a hallucination! Poor vampire! He hadn't ignored her for any reason other than the need for self-preservation. "Do you want me to be real?" Drifting away from the wall, she sauntered toward him, her eyes holding his. He didn't seem to realize that he was easing toward her, leaving the spray of the water. "I'm Néomi," she purred.

"Néomi," he repeated absently. "Does nothing abash you?"

She shook her head, and her hair bounced over her shoulders and lower. When the locks swayed across her ni**les, his gaze dipped once more. "And it's difficult for me to regret undressing when my vampire's giving me a look that makes my toes curl."

He swallowed hard, his Adam's apple working. "I make your toes curl?"

She nodded. "Would you like me to come in with you?"

His brows drew together. "Why would you want to?"

She told him honestly, "Because right now you are my favorite man in the entire world."

A half-naked ghost with high, plump br**sts wants to get into the shower with him.

And he has no idea how to go about processing this. He starts sweating, his teeth grinding. He has no experience like this to draw from.

He was born and raised in a conservative culture. As an adult, he's never been wholly unclothed in front of a woman, certainly has never washed himself in front of one.

Yet this female is standing before him, clad in only her hose, garters, and a pair of wicked panties. They're black and lined with a tight band of jet lace that cuts up across the generous curves of her ass. Her br**sts are proudly bared.

She's acting as natural as if he and she were wed. I don't even know her last name.

Unable to help himself, he rakes another hungry gaze over her body. She's surprisingly defined, her legs taut and strong. The lines of her form are lithe - a dancer's body, with softly flaring h*ps and a tiny waist he can span with his hands.

And those br**sts...

He shakes his head. She's too pretty. A half-naked beauty dropped into his shower? Into his life? This simply isn't in keeping with his fortunes over the centuries. "You're probably not real." When she grins, he curses his clumsiness with this. He wishes for Murdoch's ease with women - he never has before, even when he'd recognized at a young age that he lacked charm.

"Do you often see things that aren't real?"

"Daily." But if she is real... "Come in. If you wish to."

Her gaze holds his as she drifts toward him. She has sultry blue eyes, knowing eyes. Hypnotic. He finds his body arching toward her of its own will.

She floats into the stall with him. Inside, the water doesn't wet her, instead sparking off her like minuscule electrical flares, seeming like glitter.

A dream - an erotic one. Can he really be na**d with an almost nude dancer? Enjoy it.

Bloody how? He can't feel lust. He isn't erect. And... she's a ghost!

That doesn't seem to be stopping her. He can sense her energy, as strong as it's ever felt to him. It radiates off her in waves, slingshotting from her to him and back again.

"Le dément has a magnificent body, n'est-ce pas? So strong, virile."

He feels that increasingly familiar heat on the back of his neck. "Do not call me that again."

"So you speak French among all your many languages?" When he replies with a curt nod, she says, "Well, what shall I call you, then? Conrad the Mad? Conrad the Crazed? Or I could call you my vampire?" Softening her tone, she says, "I think you like that."

How can she read him so well?

She murmurs, "If you can hear me, and you can see me, I wonder what else is possible. Perhaps I can... maybe I can try to feel you?" The yearning in her voice staggers him. "I feel nothing, you see. My hands pass through everything."

She can't touch, and he can't get erect. But at least he still experiences pleasure - the tang of blood on his tongue, the exhilaration of a bracing wind.

"Maybe if I concentrate very hard, maybe with you... I could feel." Before him appears a fragile, pale hand with shining dark nails. A petal lies starkly on the back of her wrist, then tumbles away to vanish. "Can I try to touch you?"

At least she asks this time. His voice a rasp, he says, "Do as you will."

Her hand begins to tremble as she inches it closer to him. Electricity pricks his skin as she nears. Can she feel him? Does he truly want this? Yes, Christ, yes, he does. But it glides right through his chest. His skin tingles at the spot, making the muscles tense, but he has no perception of pressure.

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