Deadly Desire
Page 21

 Keri Arthur

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"And therein lies our problem, I think." I gave his hands a squeeze, then pulled mine away and picked up my coffee. Despite the need to talk about this, my hands were shaking. Part of me feared his reaction to what I was about to say. We'd been in this sort of situation so often before-even if the reasons had been completely different-and it had always ended with one or the other of us storming off in anger. I'd like to say we'd both grown since then, but the truth was, I doubted it. Ingrained reactions never really changed-not when there were emotions involved.
And there were definitely emotions involved here-his and mine.
"I don't want to take other partners, Riley." He studied me for a minute, then added, "Do you?"
I raised an eyebrow, and pretended not to understand the intent behind that question. "Do I want you to take other partners? I wouldn't be suggesting it if I thought it was a bad thing."
Something flickered in his eyes. Annoyance, and just a touch of hurt. "So there'd be no feeling of jealously? No feeling of hurt if I was with another woman?"
I opened my mouth to say no, of course not, then actually thought about it. And the truth is, I just didn't know. My wolf soul might have free and easy attitudes when it came to sex, but I'd had Quinn to myself for a few weeks now, and the truth was, I liked it. More than I'd ever thought I would.
"I've never really been in that situation with you," I said. "You've been something of a steamroller in your seduction attempts, and I've always been busy turning a blind eye to what lay between us. We never had what could be termed a normal courtship, so I've never had to face the situation of seeing you with someone else. But I am a wolf, above all else, and no matter what else you might be to me, you will never be that!"
The smile that touched his lips held a slightly bitter edge. "That's the second time today you've mentioned that."
"Because it is important. It's what I am." I hesitated, then added softly, "And it's what I desire, above everything else."
He leaned back in his chair. "So we're back to that old chestnut."
Annoyance surged, but I didn't say anything. I really didn't want to get into another argument-and I would, if I opened my mouth at that particular moment.
He stared at me for several long minutes, his face showing nothing but blankness. Yet his dark eyes fairly burned with emotion. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me because I was so in tune with the man.
"So what is it you're actually suggesting?"
"That you take other lovers when you're up in Sydney, and that you supplement your feedings with synth blood when you're here in Melbourne with me. I can't afford to get dizzy and weak in my line of work, Quinn. We both know that would be fatal."
"And you?" he said, voice tight.
"I've never promised to remain in a monogamous relationship with you, just as I've made no secret of the fact I want to find my soul mate." I held up my hand as his anger surged around me and he opened his mouth to speak. "By the same token, I don't want to fuck every wolf in sight-as you're undoubtedly about to accuse me of."
"I wasn't, actually," he said, more mildly than I'd thought possible.
"Well, it is your usual line of attack," I said, with a slight smile. I leaned forward and caught his hands in mine again. "Look, I love being with you. I love being in your bed. Right now, I don't want anyone else, physically or emotionally. But that's not saying it won't ever happen. As we both keep noting, I am a wolf, and sometimes situations happen."
"And if it does, you don't want me acting like an enraged and jealous husband."
"Well, yes."
He sighed. "I don't know, Riley-"
"You have the reputation of a playboy, so don't tell me finding other women to seduce will be a problem."
His smile sent a warm shiver across my skin. "Oh, that's never been a problem. Well, until I met you."
"What, my wild and wicked ways have turned you off women?"
"Not quite," he said, raising my hand and kissing my fingertips. "Your wild and wicked ways have made me want only you."
"Which is not saying you can't be turned on by other women."
"Then there's no real problem."
"Not a physical one," he agreed.
He was still kissing my fingers, and it was making my toes curl in delight. "Then you will take other women to your bed when necessary?"
"I don't want to see you dead, Riley, nor do I want to be the possible cause of it. So if you insist on other women and the revolting synth blood-"
"And I do, because it's better for the both of us."
"That is yet to be determined." He gave me a wry sort of smile. "Okay, agreed. But only if you promise not to tell me about your own conquests. It may happen, Riley, but I don't want to know about it."
"I've never gloated about my other partners to you," I said. "And just because our situation forces us to take other partners doesn't mean we can't be the most important person in each other's life."
"Unless you find your soul mate."
I snorted softly. "You and I both know that may never happen. Hell, fate has done a pretty good job of crushing my dreams of a pack of kids. The whole soul mate thing is probably next in line."
"It's still something I worry about. As I said, I don't want to lose you."
"I'm not immortal, Quinn. You're going to lose me sooner or later anyway."
"You, my annoying beautiful redhead, are both werewolf and vampire. The only thing anyone can say with any sort of accuracy about your life span is that it will be longer than a regular werewolf's."
"Oh, God," I said, pretending horror. "Does that mean I have to listen to you nagging about my sex life for half of eternity?"
He smiled, then rose and leaned across the table, kissing me gently. "I'm afraid it does, my girl."
I smiled into his gaze. "Good. Now, I have one other vital question."
"I should have known." He sighed wearily, but the effect was spoiled by the twinkle in his eyes. "Hit me with it, then."
"Have you ever had sex in a flashy red Ferrari?"
His smile dissolved into a look that was all heat, all desire. "No, but I'm willing to give anything a go once."
"That's what I love about you." I kissed him lightly then rose. "Ready to go?"
"With you, dear werewolf, always."
I grinned, caught his hand, and led him outside.
Okay, so sex in a Ferrari wasn't exactly comfortable, but man, uncomfortable could still be so much fun if you were with the right person. I was still grinning in delight as I headed over to the house of the woman who was going to teach me some of the finer techniques of being a club dancer.
Which turned out to be a whole lot of fun, too. The woman Ben had recommended was a towering amazon with honey-colored skin and amazingly large breasts. And she sure could move her booty.
Over the next few hours she taught me that dancing naked well was harder than it seemed, but by the end she'd declared I'd pass general muster and get employed at any of the upmarket clubs.
Meaning, I gather, than the down-market ones employed anyone with breasts.
I thanked her and handed her a hundred for her time, after which she'd declared I was welcome back anytime for lessons.
Once back in the car, I rang Jack. "Hey boss, just had my dancing lesson, so I'm ready to go undercover if you need me to."
"We will need it," he said grimly. "Kade reckons there's something going on behind the scenes at the club. There's several areas that are overly protected by guards, who get rather nasty if the uninvited go near them."
"I gather he tried."
"Yeah. Got thrown out for his trouble. So you'll have to go in."
"There's one problem. If the woman who was chasing Joe either owns or works at this joint, she might well recognize me." I didn't think she'd gotten a good look at my human form-it had been pitch black in that warehouse, after all-but she was a sorcerer and a shapeshifter, and I had no idea how good a crow's sight was at night. We couldn't afford to take the risk.
"Which is why Liander's waiting for you at home. He's going to adjust your look."
I groaned. "Boss, I really do like my 'look' as it is."
"Too bad. After he's finished, get down to the club. As of yesterday, they're two strippers down. They advertised today for workers. You've got a six o'clock appointment."
I glanced at my watch. It was nearing three now, so we were cutting things close. "Isn't it a little odd to be going in for an interview? I thought you just showed up, flaunted your stuff, and you were hired." Or not.
"This place advertises themselves as a 'classy' men's club. They don't just have strippers, although that is their main business. Word is that any woman caught shooting up or prostituting herself on the premises is escorted straight to a police station."
Meaning they couldn't do it while on duty, but could go home with clients? Because it seemed likely that all our vamp victims had met lovers there. "The cops wouldn't charge them, not on secondhand evidence."
"They apparently hand over the security tapes, as well. There's been one incidence there before, and the woman was fined."
"I bet the club had been clean since." Knowing the owners would follow through with the threat of legal action if anyone broke the rules would surely be warning enough to most. "And my profile?"
"Liander has it already. And Riley? Keep the tracker on this time."
"Will do." I hung up and headed home.
Liander was waiting for me, an array of bottles and other goodies laid out over the kitchen table. I'd barely walked in the door when he pointed an imperious finger in the direction of the bathroom. "Shower first."
I frowned and sniffed. "I don't smell that bad."
"You smell of sex, and sweat, which in itself is usually a lovely aroma, but I prefer to work with a clean subject. Besides, you need to erase your base scent, just in case anyone there is a werewolf that recognizes you. I put the soap in the shower holder."
I started stripping as I walked across the room. "Where's Rhoan?"
"Gone back undercover. I don't expect him to surface for a couple of days."
I stopped and looked at him. "So you'll be here alone?"
"I can cope with being alone," he said dryly. "I did it for many, many years before I moved in here."
"I'm fine, Riley. Really."
"So no more baby-sitting?"
"No. Although you can still pamper me any old time you please."
"Ha," I said. "If you're better, you become just a regular old member of the family. No pampering, and no one running after you."
"Excellent. Now go shower."
I did, taking longer than I should thanks to the fact that half a mountain of dirt seemed to be lodged under my toenails after last night's run.
"So, what sort of look are we going for this time?" I said when I finally sat down. One of the packets on the table was a voice modulator, and my cheek began to throb in pain at the mere thought of having it inserted.
"Brown with red and gold highlights," he said, lifting my hair and running it through his fingers. Which I knew from experience meant he was going to cut it, too. "So we'll be able to keep some of your natural color-both up top and down below."
Thank goodness for that. I mean, dyeing that hair was above and beyond the call of duty. "And it will wash out, won't it?"
I asked this question every single time he did this, and even though the answer was always the same, I still asked it. I liked my hair color, and I hated risking the dyes. Because one of these days, I just knew fate was going to stick me with something goddamn awful.
Liander gave a much-put-upon sort of sigh. "Of course it will, if only because you would be unbearable if it didn't, and I now have to share an apartment with you."
I grinned. "Too right, makeup man. So, are we staying with gray eyes?"
"Nope. They'll be green. And your voice will be modulated down to raspy."
"Raspy? Why that?"
"Because it sounds sexy in a semidark environment. Which the club is, apparently. Now shut up and let the master work."
I snorted softly, but let him get to it, watching him work through the mirror he'd propped in front of me.
The result was surprisingly sexy. The chocolaty brown played against my own natural color, setting it off rather than clashing, and it contrasted nicely against the warm gold of my skin. The green eyes looked startling, and although I'd feared my hair being cut, all he did was give it some shape.
It was me, and yet not.
"Okay, modulator time," he said, picking up the little plastic bag.
"Damn, I was hoping you'd forgotten about those."
"Jack would have my hide if I did. Open wide, darling."
I did, and winced as he inserted the extremely thin plastic chips in either side of my mouth. The surface of the modulators were supposedly covered with an analgesic that deadened the skin as they went in, but it always felt like he was ripping out teeth rather than shoving in plastic. Although at least once they were positioned inside my cheeks, I couldn't actually feel them. I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies.