Yay! We are nearing the end. Only one chapter left.
“Emmett,” Kacy called over her shoulder, hands fisted in the soft cotton of Sam’s sweatshirt.
“Yeah, baby doll?”
“When I wake up, don’t ever let me eat Hawaiian pizza or drink merlot ever again, m’kay?”
The warm chest she was cradled against vibrated. Sam’s husky chuckle filled the air and sent a shiver all the way down to her toes. She melted him against him for a moment before sanity returned. “Put me down!”
“I will when we get there,” Sam said. “Charles isn’t faster than me, but he is faster than you. I need to protect you.”
“Oh boy,” Emmett groaned. Kacy was not the type of woman who liked to be “protected.” He blamed their mother for that attitude. He and his father were used to indulging their ‘fierce womyn,’ but how would a man-incubus-whatever supposedly born with sixteenth century notions handle liberated, twenty-first century Kacy?
“You will put me down right this minute, Samuel Crowder, if that is your real name!” Kacy wriggled insistently until Sam had no choice but to set her on her feet. She planted her fists on her hips and glared up at the face she’d dreamed of for months. “If you expect me to believe any of the crap John’s been feeding me, I’m going to need more of an explanation.”
“Your name is Katya Clover Jacobson. You were born in Richmond, Virgina to Robert and Mariska Jacobson. Your father was an incubus, but your mother was human. That makes you part-succubus and part-human.” Sam shrugged and ran a hand through his hair. “It’s not as terrible as it sounds, though. Eventually you’ll get over being half-human.”
“One would think it was the energy-sucking demon part I’d need to get over,” Kacy bit out icily. She liked Sam better when he was a long-dead soldier who wrote letters so full of longing and devotion they made her heart ache. At the thought of the letters, white-hot fury rushed through her veins. “Those letters. Major Sam Crowder. The soldier your commanding officers wrote so glowingly about. Was any of that true? Do I have a box of lies in my house?”
“No. It’s all true. I wrote those letters to Mother and I regretted that John and I could not see eye-to-eye on certain issues.” Sam wanted to pull her into his arms and feel her heart beating under his fingertips. Years of watching her from a safe distance had satisfied his need to be near her, but nothing compared to touching her. “John was supposed to return to the house after Mother ‘died’ and retrieve the box, but was intercepted by a clan of vampires. I had utterly forgotten the letters until you purchased the box.”
“So it was all one big coincidence? I just happened to buy a box of letters that belonged to the incubus who knew my parents?”
“Not at all.”
Kacy’s brow furrowed. She prided herself on being a logical person, but she was having trouble keeping up with the details. “So you arranged for me to somehow purchase the box.”
“Of course not!”
Stung by the vehemence of his denial, Kacy drew herself up to her full height, which she admitted wasn’t all that imposing, and gave Sam her most withering glare. “I swear, if I the next words out of your mouth aren’t a clear explanation…”
“You’ll what?” Sam arched an eyebrow, lips twitching as he fought to conceal his grin. She was still the fierce little kitten he remembered: all bristling hair, needle-sharp claws, and determination.
“I-I don’t know.” Kacy’s glare softened slightly. “But I can promise it won’t be pleasant.”
“We need to keep moving,” John reminded them grimly. He shot his brother an exasperated look as he brushed past to take the lead. Emmett shrugged at Kacy as he followed John. He didn’t know what to make of any of this, but if demons said to run away, he was going to run. At least until he figured out what sort of trouble Kacy’d managed to stumble upon.
Sam twined his fingers with Kacy’s and tugged her along. Their pace was fast but not brutal. She was glad she’d chosen to wear her tennis shoes and not the pretty powder blue ballet flats that matched her sweater. The thin soles weren’t meant to be worn on rough asphalt.
“Charles likely manipulated the situation so that you wound up with the letters,” Sam said as they ran.
Kacy wanted to scowl at him, but was too busy concentrating on keeping up with his long stride. She envied his ability to speak without sounding the least bit out of breath. Her lungs burned and beads sweat trickled down her spine. She wished they could pause just long enough for her to take off her sweater. Surely her camisole wouldn’t be too scandalous to wear in front of Sam and John.
“He’s been looking for you since you disappeared. For me, too, since I left around the same time you did. He likely assumed that I would be nearby keeping an eye on you.” Sam squeezed her hand and pulled her closer when she stumbled on a loose rock. “Someone must have seen you, but couldn’t be sure. You’ve colored your hair.”
“Had… t’get… respect…” she panted, prickling at the accusatory tinge in his observation. What business of his was it if she’d dyed her hair? It was her head.
“Charles gave the historian a juicy story she couldn’t resist and then sat back and waited. You went on television and, damn it, that was a stupid move. The hair might’ve fooled his underlings, but there you were with all the passion and intelligence and joy you’d had as a kid. He’d have recognized you in an instant.”
“Yes. I caught him outside your house last night and then again this morning. As I said earlier, I chased him off, but he was on his way back with reinforcements. He’s not going to let you go twice.”
“T-twice?” Kacy dug her heels in until Sam stopped. She felt a pang of fear when John and Emmett disappeared from sight. She was alone with a man who claimed to be a centuries-old incubus and, possibly, her babysitter. Exactly how much wine had she had the night before?
Sam’s lips dipped into a frown. He brushed a smudge of dirt off her cheek with his thumb. “Your father was Charles’ best friend for two hundred years. They were close as brothers until one morning Robert was feeding at a high school and met a young English teacher.”
“W-wait a minute! You feed off of students?” Her stomach churned with disgust and disappointment. How could she have forgotten that demons were killers? Child-killers, to make matters worse. “That’s… God… that’s….”
“We don’t drain them completely. Well, not always and not usually on purpose.”
“Yeah, that’s real comforting.”
“What kind of parasites would we be if we killed off the things that feed us?” Sam chuckled grimly. “High schools and hospitals are our preferred feeding grounds. Teens are bursting with hormones and emotions. It’s practically an all-you-can-eat buffet.”
“Stop! Just… stop.” Kacy held her hand up to silence him. “So, you, what? Spend eternity as high school students… when you’re not masquerading as war heroes, that is?”
“Students? No. That’s just ridiculous. We’d go mad with boredom after the first decade. We either take jobs as teachers or principals. The hospitals work, as well. I’ve been a doctor seven times in the past century. War, of course, also provides adequate food.”
“I don’t want to hear anymore.”
“You won’t be able to hide your head in sand for too long, little Clover. You’re one of us.”
Kacy shook her head, hoping if she shook it hard enough she’d dislodge the terrible images his words conjured inside her brain. “What happened to my parents?”
“Your typical love triangle, I’m afraid. Charles fancied himself love with your mother. He wanted to make her like us, but she refused. Robert stood up for her. It was her decision, after all. We lived in an uneasy peace for several years.”
“You were born. Charles claimed that you were his destined mate. Your parents fled. The clan split into two factions. My family accompanied yours.” Sam cupped her cheek. His thumb caressed her quivering lower lip. “Charles lied. There is no such thing as fated mates for our kind. Love is… wonderful and frightening and dangerous… but it is just something that happens without rhyme or reason.”
Kacy swallowed. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips. She tasted salt, grass, and something heavy like bitter dark chocolate. Sam. “What happened to my parents?”
“Charles caught up with us. He killed your parents and tried to abduct you. In all the confusion of the battle, you managed to escape. The authorities picked you up before we had the chance.” Sam’s eyes grew dark and haunted. Regret radiated off him. “When we finally found you, Mother insisted that we keep our distance. Charles could track us much easier than he could track you. We went to Africa to lead him on a chase. By the time we’d gotten him completely turned around, you’d been adopted and had settled into a life with humans.”
“I am human,” she insisted stubbornly.
“No, you’re not. Not really. You could have lived a human life if you’d never met any of us ever again, but being near us… activates the other half of your heritage.” Sam smiled gently before pressing a kiss to the corner of her mouth. “You’ll need to feed soon. I can sense your hunger.”
“This is completely crazy! You can’t just turn someone into by being near them. I didn't go to bed last night human and wake up a succubus!”
"You know it’s not crazy. You may not remember your parents or me, but something inside you knows I’m telling the truth.”
He was right. She should have been screaming for Emmett or for help, but she wasn’t. She wasn’t calling him a liar or accusing him of playing a practical joke. A spark of something in the back of her mind brightened and filled her veins with warmth. Hunger gnawed at her stomach.
“Come on. We’ve got to catch up with the others,” Sam urged.
“Oh, I’m afraid it’s far too late for that.”
A large, tanned hand clamped down onto Kacy’s shoulder. She whimpered at his bruising grip. Torn out of Sam’s grasp, she was roughly spun around so that she faced their attacker. The man was almost a foot taller than Sam, and his shoulders were twice as broad. He would have looked right at home on the football field with Emmett. The sun haloing his blond head gave him the appearance of an avenging angel, but his sinister black eyes were downright malevolent.
“Charles,” Sam growled, reaching for Kacy but blocked by two snarling minions.
“No need for theatrics, Samuel. I’ll just take my bride and be on my way.”