Kiss of Steel Page 37

All of which he’d overheard before he entered. “I’m not askin’ ’bout why you’re ’ere.”

Barrons took a careful step away from her. “I’m not poaching.”

“I ain’t askin’ you.”

Her fists were clenched, her lips thinned. And yet it wasn’t anger that shone in her dark eyes but hurt. “You claim to trust me.”

“I do. But Barrons just seems to keep comin’ between us, and you won’t tell me what ’e means to you.” He couldn’t help himself from giving way to frustration. Taking another step forward, he almost reached for her, almost grabbed her by the arm, but that was the angry, hungry part of himself. No. She’ll take fright. His nostrils flared and he drank in the scent of her, still warm from his bed. She had cleansed with rose water, but the faint underlying tang of sex and blood stained her skin. “I’m tryin’ very ’ard to trust you.”

A little quiver went through her. “I wish that you could.” Her voice was soft with hurt. “Leo?”

Barrons stiffened. “No.”

Honoria turned on him. “I’ve had enough of secrets. And I’m tired of protecting you when you don’t seem to give a damn about any of us. Perhaps you’ve been too long in the Echelon not to recognize when a man doesn’t give a damn about all of your little games. Blade won’t use this information to harm you.”

That depends.

“I don’t trust anybody, and with good reason. Or have you forgotten who infected me in the first place?” Barrons glared at her.

She blanched. “He didn’t mean it. He was trying to prevent you from succumbing to the disease.”

“He was trying to test his bloody vaccine,” Barrons snapped. “He didn’t care whether I succumbed or not. I was never anything but another test subject to him.”

“Who the ’ell are you talkin’ ’bout?” Blade demanded.

Both of them looked at him with thick-lashed dark eyes. The expression in them was almost identical. Just a moment, and then she turned away, the angle of her face changing the perspective. Yet he couldn’t forget what he’d seen. Christ Jaysus. He froze in his tracks.

“You’re ’is sister,” he said in an incredulous tone. “You’re ’is bloody sister.”

The blood drained out of Barrons’s face, but Honoria slumped in relief. “Yes,” she whispered. “Half sister. Leo and I share a father but little else. I’m the only one who knows. Lena and Charlie have never met him.”

Blade’s mind was racing. There was little similarity between their features, only a certain look about the eyes. No wonder he’d missed it. Charlie shared more in resemblance to Barrons, which would probably strengthen as he matured. “Who’s Barrons’s father? The duke or Artemus Todd?” Then he answered his own question. There was no other reason to hide this. “It’s Todd, ain’t it?”

That’s why she’d gone to Barrons for help before she came to him. The thought almost brought a smile to his lips. He had been worried about nothing.

Barrons shot Honoria a dark look. “What are you going to do with the information?” he asked Blade.

Blade rocked back on his heels. A little bubble of euphoria burned within him. He felt like sweeping her up and swinging her around in his arms. She was his. All his.

“Nothin’, most like,” he shrugged. “After we catch the vampire, I don’t reckon I’ll see much o’ you. Or give a damn.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Barrons replied flatly.

“You would, wouldn’t you?” Barrons was a blue blood to his soles. He would never understand that Blade simply wanted to be left alone with his little family…and Honoria.

As if uncertain how to take the words, Barrons glanced between them. “I do have a confession to make. But I’ll tell you. Only you,” he said, his gaze locking on Blade’s.

Honoria stiffened, but Blade held up a hand, stalling her. “Wait for me in me rooms.”

“Don’t think you can order me about like one of your…your…”

“Thralls?” he suggested, with a slight arch of the brow. Color flooded through her cheeks, but he wasn’t about to let her off the hook that easy. They needed to talk. Last night had done a great deal, but it was evident that they needed to have words as well.

He could sense her stiffening, putting up those walls that she protected herself with. Hell, after hearing Barrons’s confession, he could almost understand why she had those walls in the first place. Her own brother barely gave a damn about her circumstances.

Blade stroked his hand across the small of her back, trying to soothe her. He leaned close and whispered in her ear. “Please.” A slight bending of the pride to ease her own. She would have to learn to yield too, but he could do this for her.

Honoria’s eyes softened and she put a hand on his wrist tentatively. He could almost see the thoughts spinning behind those liquid, dark eyes. She would never be easy to manage, but he found that he liked that. A man could weary of a woman who never challenged him. Honoria would be a constant puzzle.

“I’ll wait for you,” she said quietly.

He brushed his lips across hers, startling her. “Thank you.”

She turned and started for the door, yet something stopped her from leaving without saying a word to her half brother.

“Be careful,” she said. “I know Father would never accept you as his, but you were a fool not to realize that I would have opened my arms to you. If you’d ever let me.”

Then she left the room, leaving Barrons staring after her with a slightly stunned expression on his face.

Chapter 25

Blade climbed the stairs with a heavy tread. Damn the man. His mind was reeling with the depths of the confession that Barrons had just shared with him.

Far too quickly, Blade found himself in front of his own door. Barrons and his men could wait in the yard. This was nothing to rush, and it was the least the bloody bastard could do.

“I know who the vampire is,” the other man had said with quiet conviction. “You have to understand, I thought it was justice. Todd was preparing to vaccinate himself with the specimen he’d found that worked. He’d waited all those years to make sure it was effective when he’d bloody injected me with a trial. And so I switched the samples. He injected himself with the same vaccine he’d trialed on me.”

Blade’s breath had caught. “Sounds more like revenge than justice.”

Barrons’s composure had broken down, his eyes wild with anger and pride—and strangely enough, grief. “I never wanted this. He promised that it would prevent me from turning when I reached my fifteenth year and the blood rites. He promised.”

A part of Blade understood. He wouldn’t have chosen this life with the craving virus either. A lifetime of hunger, of watchfulness. And at the very end, the inevitable spiral toward madness as the vampiric part of his nature took over. “You’re the duke of Caine’s ’eir. Surely he’d ’ave demanded that you become a blue blood.” In the world of the Echelon it was considered not a curse but a blessing. Power, strength, invulnerability toward mortal concerns. The cost of it was minute compared to the power to be gained.

“I am nothing more than my father’s pawn.” Barrons gave a bitter laugh. “Both of them.”

Blade considered it. “You know she’ll never forgive you for this.”

A nonchalant shrug, as if the man didn’t care. But why, then, had he threatened Blade with death if he didn’t treat Honoria well? A liar, both to himself and others.

“You poor bastard,” he’d murmured. What a bloody mess. And there was worse to consider. “The boy. Charlie. He’s got the cravin’. Honoria couldn’t understand…” Blade raked a fist through his hair, knotting it in frustration. “The vaccine worked for ’er and Lena.” He’d met Barrons’s eyes then. “But not for the boy. Or the father, so it seems. Guess the boy got the wrong vaccine too.”

The words had taken Barrons like a punch to the throat. He’d ground his teeth and turned away. “Fuck.” Slamming a fist against the wall, he had ignored the plaster dust that rained over his shoulders. “Fuck!” Shoulders shaking with fury—or perhaps something else—he’d pounded the wall until his fists were thick with the scent of blood.

Honoria might have forgiven Barrons for what he’d done to her father, Blade now thought, but she would never forgive him for doing the same thing to Charlie.

How to tell her? Or should he tell her?

“Curse ’im to ’ell,” Blade muttered, pushing open the door to his room.

Light streamed in, gilding Honoria with gold. It picked out faint mahogany highlights in her coffee-brown hair and kissed the creamy curve of her cheek as she lifted worried eyes to his. Clasping her hands in her lap, she composed herself, but the scent of fear lingered.

“It wasn’t my secret to tell,” she blurted. “I’ve never breathed a word of it. Not to anyone. If they found out, they’d destroy him. And I didn’t realize you were jealous of him.” Color washed through her cheeks and she dropped her gaze to his feet. “I told you he meant nothing to me.” There was a faintly accusing edge to her voice.

Blade took a step toward her. “Aye. I know what you tole me.” He paused in front of her, reaching out to stroke her hair. He couldn’t help himself. Honoria looked up, her breath in her throat. She was so beautiful. And his heart was hers. Had been from the moment he started chipping away at that damn wall of ice she hid behind. But was she his?

Blade traced the curve of her jaw, a sigh easing through his throat. Honoria cupped her hand over his, pressing his palm against her cheek. She turned her face to press her lips to his skin, looking up at him as if to gauge his reaction.

“I thought you would be angry,” she admitted.

“You were tryin’ to protect your family—”

A scowl twisted her eyebrows. “He’s not—”

“’E is,” he corrected. “You can tell yourself what you want, but your first instinct is to protect ’im.” He knelt on the bed, pushing her onto her back.

Honoria tumbled onto the mattress, staring up at him. Blade straddled her hips. Sinking his face into the curve of her throat, he clenched his fist in a handful of her hair and breathed in, filling his nose with the scent of her body. A little gasp caught in her throat, and she pressed hesitant hands to his shoulders.

Blade kissed her neck, sliding his fingertips down over the silk of her bodice. He found her nipple and stroked concentric circles around it, slowly tightening the circles until his fingertips barely circled it. Honoria arched beneath him, catlike.

“It’s one of the things I love about you,” he said, burrowing his face in her hair. “You’re proud and stubborn, but you’re so fierce when it comes to your family.” Looking up, he met her startled gaze. “Let down your guard, Honor. Let me in. Let me love you.” He kissed her lips, tasted the sweetness of her breath. “Trust me. I won’t ever ’urt you.”

A part of him waited, holding his breath for her reply, but it never came. She captured his face in her hands and dragged his mouth to hers hungrily. The taste of her was intoxicating. Her tongue met his—a slow, sensual slide that mimicked the movement of their hips.

His c**k ached. Honoria rocked against him, her molten core shielded from him by layers and layers of silk and crinoline. He could feel the press of her stays and the hoop of her pannier crushed between their bodies. Sinking his hand into the wealth of fabric, he yanked her skirts up, seeking soft, smooth skin.

Her thighs trembled beneath his touch. Little gasps punctuated the air until he was whispering, “Easy now, luv, easy.” Fingers sliding over her garters, over the smooth, na**d skin of her inner thighs, he found her heat through the silk of her undergarments. It clung to her, wet and dewy as he took her mouth in another blistering kiss.

Honoria’s hands came up, sinking into his hair. He felt her thighs part, felt her give in to the teasing tickle of his fingers. Sneaking between the slit of her drawers, he groaned hard and flexed his h*ps at the feel of wet-slick flesh.

She wanted him. God help him, he was lost. It didn’t matter if she could never feel the same way he did, but he was too damned selfish to let her go.

She tore her mouth away. “What about…about Leo?” Breathless. “Won’t he be waiting?”

“’E can damn well wait.” Blade stroked his fingers through her lush wetness. Honoria shuddered, burying her face against his throat. She licked him, tasting the sweat of his flesh, and he turned and bit her ear, grinding his teeth against the smooth skin of her lobe.

Honoria cried out and he stiffened.

Too much. She was only new to this. He would scare her if he unleashed his full passion upon her. Blade froze, trying to rein in his growing hunger. His vision dipped to gray—then back again—but Honoria was grasping, grinding her body against his fingers.

“Easy.” He stilled his touch. The vein in his temple throbbed. “Damn it, Honor. Give me a moment, or I’ll be ruttin’ on you like a beast.”

Their eyes met. He was surprised at the determined gleam in hers. “I’m not fragile. As I believe last night proved.”

He withdrew his fingers from between her legs, earning a sigh of frustration. “Compared to me you are.” He pressed his forehead against hers, trying to regain some control. He was damnably close to taking her.

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