Sara Dobie Bauer © 2018
All Rights Reserved
My sailor is getting very good at nightmares. In the bed of our rented hotel room in the New Orleans French Quarter, he thrashes against me in the dark and whimpers. When Edmund is lost in the thralls of passion, I adore that noise—but not when he’s afraid like this. I pull his naked body hard against mine and press kisses to his clammy forehead. He claws at me for but a moment before allowing himself to be enveloped in my embrace. He murmurs my name and falls back asleep.
We’ve only been on dry land for a day after an oceanic journey that felt interminable. Perhaps it’s my having been alone for so long on my island of exile, but I now abhor the presence of so many other people. Edmund said I acted like a she-wolf with her pup, my hands on him whenever anyone drew near. Yes, I’m territorial of my dearest, but he doesn’t yet know how other vampires can be.
He’ll find out soon. Michelle demanded we appear at my old vampire coven. I’m to present Edmund to my old friends, but I plan to make it clear that no other immortal will even breathe on my sailor without getting a fist to the throat. Monsters are not to be trusted with something so beautiful, and God, is Edmund ever beautiful.
He danced on the harbor as soon as he set foot on American soil. I didn’t miss the way Michelle’s eyes glittered as she watched. Although he requested to immediately explore, I refused to let him walk New Orleans barefoot in my hand-me-down, bloodstained clothes. I carried him, laughing, away from the harbor before remembering myself. The way I love my sailor isn’t appropriate to many small-minded Southerners. After so much time spent alone, we have to alter our behavior. I can’t very well grab him and kiss him in the middle of a Bourbon Street afternoon, can I?
At our hotel, Edmund marveled at the crystal chandeliers, and although we received several strange looks, my coven’s money guaranteed us a room on the top floor. First thing we did was bathe together in a tub practically the size of our island lagoon. I requested a barber and watched as the white-haired gent shaved Edmund and trimmed his hair. Skin once again soft, Edmund hurried the barber away so we could make love. He has done nothing but sleep and eat since, but in the morning, we will visit a tailor.
It’s been four years since I left. Will old man Peters still be alive?
Edmund shifts beside me. His fingertips press against my chest, and he hums. “You’re awake.”
I run my fingers through his hair. “How did you know?”
“Your breath changes.” He kisses the edge of my jaw. “I know you don’t need to breathe, but you do it anyway, as though your body won’t give up the habit.” He must notice how tightly I hold him. “Did I have another nightmare?”
“Mm. Do you ever remember what they’re about?”
“Water. I think. Lots of water.” He yawns and rubs his legs against mine.
“Don’t tell me you’re now going to be scared of the sea.”
I feel him smile against my skin. “Never. I’d just rather not be dragged under it in a sinking ship.” He sits up and stretches his arms over his head. His back makes a slight popping sound when he twists his ribs and stands, walking naked to the pitcher of water in our gilded basin. Most of the high-ceilinged room is painted gold. A huge bouquet of white magnolias sits on the table by my side, although the sweet, floral scent doesn’t cover the New Orleans odor of sweat, salt, and sewer.
Of course, if I focus, I smell only Edmund. It’s hard to not focus on his bare skin as he drinks straight from the water jug before wiping his face with the back of his hand. The long, angry scar on his back shivers in the moonlight, and the bandage on his arm glows white. I suppose it’s my fault he earned a new scar during our time on the island. His blood was a gift to me that managed to save his life.
He rubs at his shoulder as though sore. “My body is confused,” he says.
I lean up on my elbows. “How so?”
“It’s accustomed to hard work.”
“I’ll work you hard.”
He laughs, and the sight of his lean stomach contracting has me half hard already. He flops into bed on his belly. “Do you even listen when I talk?”
I run my fingers through his dark hair. It’s shorter now than when we first met. “I love listening to you talk.”
“I’ve spent years living at sea. When I wasn’t busy playing sailor on deck, I walked through wild forests and fought cannibals and pirates. Now, I’m here in this bloody posh hotel, eating pastries all day—”
I steal a kiss. “They’re called beignets.”
“And, if we’re not careful, I’m going to end up fat and lazy like all the other British dukes.” His eyes go wide in the darkness. “Jesus, Andrew, I have to write my mother! She might think me mad, but she doesn’t want me dead. And the trading company. Their ship is at the bottom of the sea!”
I tackle him and put my hand over his mouth. “Quiet. Are you trying to wake the entire hotel? It’s nowhere close to morning yet. Your letter writing will have to wait.”
He mumbles against my skin.
“What was that?” I pull my hand away.
“Are we going to see the city in the morning?”
“Yes. I have plans.” I think of my tailor, Peters…and a possible nocturnal enticement.
Edmund’s callused palms run up the sides of my biceps. “I’ll have to pretend I don’t adore you, won’t I? Out in the city. Two men together is frowned upon. I won’t be able to do this…” He cups my head in his hands and pulls me closer until his open mouth finds mine. He sucks on my tongue, and I grind against his hip.
I pull away and press my forehead to his. “Will I ever stop wanting you?”
“No.” He smiles. “Men rarely do.”
He grabs my hand and presses it to the hardness between his legs. “Very.”