Home > Fireborn (Souls of Fire #1)(23)

Fireborn (Souls of Fire #1)(23)
Author: Keri Arthur

“It would be a nice change.” I could hear the smile in his voice. “You’ll ring?”

“I will. Just don’t go home in the meantime.”

“I won’t. I’ll bunk down at Rosie’s for a couple of days.”

“Good. But if they know as much about phoenixes as they claim, they could well be watching the fire station and you.”

“I’ll be careful. Just make sure you are. Remember, I want us both to live to old age this time around.”

He hung up. I tossed the phone back onto the pile of my clothes, then finished the Coke and went in search of Jackson.

I found him at one of the desks downstairs. “Do you often work at your desk na**d?”

“Only when I think it might induce a pretty lady to come sit on my lap.” He caught my hand and tugged me toward him. “I was, however, beginning to think said pretty lady was intending to sleep all day.”

I sat astride him and wrapped my arms loosely around his neck. Need stirred within, need that was both sexual and something stronger. Fiercer. “Hunger got the better of me.”

“So it seems.” He dropped a quick kiss on my lips. “Sadly, it seems to be for chicken rather than me.”

“Hey, I’m here now, aren’t I?” I shifted, and his breath hitched. The heat within him rose several notches. I flared my nostrils, drawing it in, allowing his warmth to slither through me, refueling the ragged edges of my soul. I was careful, though. He might be a Fae, but I couldn’t take too much of his heat for fear of weakening him. But then, all I really needed was enough to keep the edge of utter exhaustion away. “So what dragged you out of a warm bed?”

“Thoughts about Mrs. Wilson.” He brushed his thumbs across my ni**les. Delight skittered through me.

“Not erotic thoughts, I hope.”

“Hardly. Although I’m having a few now.”

So was I. “What kind of thoughts were you having about her, then?”

Rather than answering, he shifted one hand, gripping the back of my neck to hold me still as his lips claimed mine again. The kiss became a long, slow dance of exploration and pleasure. Neither of us was breathing very steadily by the time he broke away.

“It’s your fault.”

I ran a fingertip down his abs. “What is?”

The question was absently said. Right now, I wasn’t really caring about anything more than the tension that lay between us. I slid back on his lap to expose his erection, then played my fingertips across it. His c*ck leapt with every light caress, as if begging for more.

“Me being down here instead of in bed.” His voice, little more than a low growl, made my senses hum. “You suggested Wilson’s wife would have had some sense of him being in trouble—even if she didn’t want to confront or admit the situation.”

“So?”

“So,” he murmured, his concentration seemingly more on caressing my br**sts than what he was saying. “It just got me wondering whether Mrs. Wilson was as clueless as I’d thought, so I came down here to do a little investigating.”

I slid my fingers down the length of his shaft, then gently cupped his balls. His breath hitched again. I smiled impishly and began massaging him, the rhythm of my movements echoing his. “And what did you discover?”

“That she is not as clueless as she appears.”

“Surprise, surprise.” I removed my fingers, then slid myself over his shaft, letting my wetness coat him as I slowly moved up and down the length of him.

“Yeah,” he said, voice a little strained. “Seems she and Wilson hadn’t known each other very long before they were married.”

He ducked his head and caught one nipple in his teeth, teasing it lightly. Shivers of delight skittered through me. He released me abruptly, then swirled his tongue around the puckered, aching nipple, his touch light and erotic. I closed my eyes and simply enjoyed. But as my movements against his shaft got ever stronger, he groaned, gripped my hips, then thrust inside me.

For several moments, I didn’t speak, didn’t move, didn’t do anything more than simply enjoy the sensation of him being so very deeply inside. “How did you discover that?”

“Our Mrs. Wilson has a Facebook page. She announced she’d met the man of her dreams in May of last year, then declared they were getting married a month later.”

“Wow. One of them is a fast worker.”

“Hmm,” he agreed; then his lips caught mine again, and there was no discussion about Mrs. Wilson or her Facebook page for many, many minutes—just a whole lot of passion and heat. Heat that ran through me, fed me, even as I fought the urge to take all that I needed and leave him depleted. We came as one, our groans echoing through the large room as our bodies shook and shuddered. He made one final thrust, then briefly rested his forehead against mine, his breath warm against my lips.

“That,” he said eventually, “is a fine way to start the morning.”

“Except,” I noted, brushing the sweaty strands of his hair from his cheek with my fingertips. “It is no longer morning.”

“Let’s not quibble over minor differences.” He dropped a kiss on my lips, then said, “So, Mrs. Wilson. Not only did our loving couple have an extremely fast courtship, but they were married the same month as Wilson began his red plague research.”

“What a coincidence,” I said dryly. I was still sitting astride him, and I couldn’t help but notice that while he might have only just come, he was more than half-ready to go a second round. Fae, it seemed, were insatiable.

“I’m gathering this led you to dig deeper into our Mrs. Wilson’s past.”

“It did indeed.” He slid his hands down to my butt and then lifted me up and deposited me feetfirst onto the floor. To say I was surprised was an understatement. He grinned. “You need to turn around and look at the computer.”

I did so. On the screen was an image of a pretty blonde with pale blue eyes and a cherub’s face. “Easy to see why Wilson might have fallen hard for her, although a pretty face doesn’t mean she was up to no good. And if Sam suspected that she was, he would have already investigated her.”

“Indeed,” Jackson agreed. He reached around me and clicked open another screen. “Especially since dear Amanda has been married a number of times before.”

I raised my eyebrows. “And did those unions all end in a bloodthirsty manner?”

“If you’re asking if she killed them, then no, apparently not. One husband died in a car crash, two were divorced, and I haven’t been able to track down the other, simply because she married him overseas and it apparently didn’t last past the honeymoon.”

“Four—five—husbands?” I blinked and studied the blonde. “She doesn’t look old enough to have had that many already!”

“She doesn’t keep them very long. She’s been married to Wilson the longest.”

I studied the blonde in the picture for a moment, knowing there had to be something else here. I could feel the excitement thrumming through Jackson, and while part of that was undoubtedly sexual, there was definitely more to it than that.

“So,” I said slowly, “it begs the question, what was she after? Money, or something more?”

His lips brushed my neck. “I do so love the way your mind works.” He reached past me and opened another screen. Information scrolled up. “Husband one was a biochemist, hubby two a bioengineer, three worked in the weapons department for the military, and four is a black-market fence, from what I can gather.”

“So, aside from that one blip, it seems she has a thing for researchers.”

“Or a thing for the information or items she could get from them.”

Which we wouldn’t know until we uncovered more about her. Even so, she was looking less like a clueless blonde and more like a schemer. I swung around and faced him. “So what happened to the husbands after she left or divorced them?”

“Ah, that’s where it gets really interesting. Husband one was sacked two days before his accident. Husbands two and three also lost their jobs and were found dead a few days later. Suicide was the coroner’s official verdict. As I said, I’m still trying to uncover what happened to four.”

“Meaning our Mrs. Wilson is something of a latent black widow?”

“Possibly.”

More than possibly, I suspected. “Why did the first three lose their jobs?”

“It seems there were . . . discrepancies . . . in their departments.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Discrepancies?”

“Labs being broken into, research going missing, that sort of stuff.”

“And the husbands were blamed?”

“They took the fall because they were in charge.”

Uh-huh. “We really need to talk to her.”

“We do.” He dropped a kiss on my nose, then caught my hand and tugged me toward the stairs. “But not before I’ve ravished you senseless.”

“I really think talking to Mrs. Black Widow could be a little more important than sex.”

“Well, yeah, but Mrs. Black Widow is currently at the hairdresser, and that usually takes at least an hour, doesn’t it?”

I followed him up the stairs. “How do you know this? Facebook?”

“Nope. I read her calendar when I was interviewing her.”

“How do you know she’s not just getting a quick trim?”

He gave me a long look over his shoulder. “Anyone would think you were looking for an escape clause. All you have to do is say no, you know.”

I grinned. “I’m just worried that Sam will get there before we do and that he’ll somehow ensure we lose any clues we might otherwise have gained.”

“If he were investigating the wife, he would have done so by now.”

We reached the top of the landing but continued toward the shower rather than the bed. He was obviously intending to combine two necessities. “Now, how about we quit the questions and just concentrate on the business at hand?”

I grinned as he tugged me closer. “Concentrating as ordered, sir.”

And I did.

• • •

“So,” he said, stopping his truck several doors up from Mrs. Wilson’s house. “Who were you talking to when you first woke up?”

He had good ears, because I hadn’t been talking that loud. “Rory.”

“And who’s Rory when he’s home?” He shifted in his seat to look at me, but his expression was nothing more than curious.

“Every phoenix is one of a pair. He’s mine.”

His eyebrows raised. “He’s your mate?”

“Not exactly.” I half shrugged. “He’s my lover, my friend, the other half of my soul, and the only man I can ever have children with. But we cannot, and do not, love each other. Not in the romantic sense.”

“Really? What the hell did your people do to earn that sort of curse?”

“That is a million-dollar question, I’m afraid.”

He shook his head. “Does that mean you’re unable to fall in love at all?”

“No. We can and do, but it’s part of the curse that our relationships end badly. I don’t think I’ve heard of one phoenix having a happy ending in all the centuries I’ve been alive. Certainly, I’ve never had one.”

“But just because you haven’t heard about it—or experienced it—doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”

“Well, no. And I certainly keep hoping every time I’m reborn that this will be the one time it’s different.” I shrugged. “But I know for sure it’s not this lifetime.”

He eyed me for a moment, then said, “Because of Sam.”

“Another one loved and lost, I’m afraid.”

“That sucks. Big-time.”

“Living forever always has a drawback. This curse is ours.”

“Vampires don’t seem to have many drawbacks.”

“They live on blood and they can’t ever walk in sunshine.” My voice was dry. “Those are pretty big drawbacks in my book.”

“Neither would worry me—especially if it meant more time chasing luscious ladies.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “So have you and Rory had any kids?”

“We’ve only had five, because we aren’t fertile every rebirth.” I shrugged. “I haven’t seen any of our children for a generation or so. Phoenix offspring don’t tend to linger near the family nest once they find their mate.”

“And how does that happen? I take it there’s a bit more involved than dating until you find the right one.”

I smiled. “We don’t date. At the age of sixteen, a ceremony is performed and our mates are revealed. From there on in, you’re bonded for life.”

He frowned. “What if you happen to hate your bonded partner?”

“That would totally suck, but it’s never happened. Fate’s not that cruel.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that.” He glanced at his watch and his frown deepened. “How long does it normally take to get your hair done?”

I blinked at the sudden change of topic. “Around two hours if she’s getting it dyed.” Not that I actually knew for sure, as I never got anything other than a cut. Phoenixes aged normally through each cycle, but I’d grown rather fond of the gray over the years. “Why?”

“Because she should have been back by now.”

“Maybe she went shopping or something afterward.”

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