Gillian St. Kevern © 2016
All Rights Reserved
Heat burned a line across his exposed skin.
Ben startled awake instantly. He knew he was in trouble, even before he saw the dim light filtering through the drawn curtains. No ordinary light. Sunlight. Death.
Ben grabbed the blankets lying around him, tugging them over his body as his heart raced.
How did this happen? I never take chances! Other vampires might play chicken against dawn’s slow approach, but Ben was always back in the crypt well before daylight. Along with the fangs, the blood lust, and the lingering sensation of something missing, being a vampire brought with it an ever-present awareness of the coming sun. Ben’s body should have screamed at him, every sense straining with the awareness that dawn—and a horrible second death—approached. Instead, he felt nothing beyond the adrenaline of his near escape.
Ben dug deeper beneath the blankets. Something is seriously wrong—
He collided with something warm. It shifted, murmuring a sleepy protest.
Ben froze. That was a body. A warm, living body—
A rough hand reached out to wrap around him, pressing him against the almost indecently hot body lying beneath the blankets. Naked, Ben realized. And most definitely male.
Most definitely aroused male.
“Not a morning person?”
The words were slurred, but Ben was confident he understood them. His heart switched gears, accelerating in a different way. “Says the guy who sounds more asleep than awake.”
Nate chuckled, shifting to press a sleepy kiss to Ben’s neck. His movement dislodged the blankets covering Ben, leaving him exposed to the light, but Ben didn’t try to hide.
I’m alive. The sun couldn’t hurt him now. Alive.
Ben turned his head to catch the next kiss on the full. Nate’s mouth was just as hot as he remembered, searing like the sun but infinitely kinder.
Nate seemed happy to share a tender moment, too sleepy or too content to pursue needs beyond the reassurance of Ben’s presence. When Nate broke the kiss to burrow back into the pillow at Ben’s neck, Ben left his eyes open. He followed the curve of the sheets over Nate’s body to the sliver of sunlight coming through the curtain that made his dark hair shine. Everything about Nate was warm, from his healthy tan to the heat of the arm around Ben’s waist.
Their first night together, he’d watched Nate sleep, but he’d retired to the crypt before Nate woke, leaving Nate to be unceremoniously bundled into a taxi. That should have been it. A simple tryst Nate didn’t remember and Ben didn’t regret. And here they were. Him, a vampire, lying in sunlight next to a man who looked human but remained a mystery.
Ben shifted so he could study Nate’s sleeping expression. Nate made a vague sound of protest but relaxed as he realized Ben wasn’t going anywhere.
This shouldn’t be possible. Ben frowned, reaching out to stroke his fingers through Nate’s hair. I shouldn’t be awake at all. And Nate…
Ben looked quickly away, but the memory came too fast to avoid. Nate, paler than he should ever be, lying still in the dirt, his blood mingled with the dead leaves and his throat—
Ben’s fingers stilled to a halt. Nate shouldn’t be alive.
ARX had a clear procedure for encountering an unknown supernatural being. Ben sat up, mentally running through the checklist. First, assess the immediacy of the threat.
Ben bit his lip. Unless the threat is never getting out of bed again, I’m safe. Nate clung to the pillow with the dedication of a poor swimmer to a flotation device. He didn’t bat an eyelid, even as Ben shifted and the crack of light fell directly on him.
That’s dedication. Ben studied the rise and fall of Nate’s chest and the slight flutter of his eyelashes until, with a guilty start, he remembered step two—gathering all available information.
What do I actually know about Nate? Apart from the fact that he is incredibly distracting, even when half-asleep? Ben considered his companion.
When they’d first met, Nate displayed the sleek, self-satisfied confidence of a well-fed tomcat, too smug to know he should be ashamed of himself. Given his job as an escort, it made sense. Nate was polished, confident, and annoyingly, gloriously sexual. Ben had disliked him purely on principle. He could never have imagined that Nate concealed a thoroughly selfless heart, or that he would risk his neck—literally—for Ben’s right to feel.
Now that Ben looked closely, he could see traces of the intense strain of the last week. There were exhausted shadows beneath Nate’s eyes, bruises on his arm from their narrow escape in the cemetery. Holding his breath, Ben leaned forward to get a closer look at Nate’s neck.
Where there should have been an ugly gash, there wasn’t even a scar.
Not even a werewolf heals like this. Nate made a plaintive grumble, and Ben settled back, thinking hard. A skilled magic user might have been able to pull it off, but there was no way they could do it without leaving their magical traces all over Nate. The only thing Ben detected was a warm, gooey feeling that he suspected had its origin less in Nate’s magical state and more in Ben’s proximity to him. Which leaves what Nate told me. He healed himself.