her eyes on the wash of tears that threatened, Ireland ignored the wailing of
her heart … and laid a palm to each of their cheeks. One lone tear snuck
between her lashes at the cascade of tingles seeping up her arms.
can’t blame them for not understanding,” a familiar voice drawled behind her.
spun as he neared, leaving Rip and Noah wheezing for breath—or, more likely,
completion of her task.
flowers bloomed in a colorless world each time the sole of Ridley’s shoes met
the earth. The crisp cut of his white, tailored suit was accented by a burst of
color from the button-down shirt beneath that changed in hue to match the
species of flowers that sprung to life. Hydrangeas blue. Orchid purple. Lily
fuchsia. Rose coral. As he neared, Ireland noticed his eyes morphed to match as
well. The result hypnotic.
haggard and troubled façade was a thing of the past. The man before her exuded
confidence and a zest for life from every pore. The draw of which was so
magnetic Ireland had to fight to keep her feet planted while her body insisted
she close the distance between them.
them this is a thrill, a game of chicken against the Reaper himself.” Ridley
paused beside her, his shoulder skimming hers. Even then he didn’t grace her
with a glance, his attention fixed on Rip and Noah. Tipping his head toward
her, the warmth of his breath teased over her breast bone. “For us, it’s
moment he stepped away from her, the chill of solitude lashed at Ireland’s soul
and cut deep. Bending eye-level with her withering subjects, Ridley pursed his
rose petal lips to blow a soft, healing breath over both of them. Wan
complexions of the dying were ripened to plump apricot. Both men blinked away
their disappointment before dipping in a low bow—foreheads to the ground in a
show of respect.
“No need for that, boys.” Ridley smoothed
the front of his suit coat, a self-depreciating chuckle playing over his lips.
Neither humbled servant budged.
“You’re like me?” Pacing in a slow circle
around him, Ireland’s eyes narrowed.
He matched her steps, leading them in an
intimate waltz normally reserved for predators—or lovers.
“Like you?” He tsked. “Oh no, my darling
flower. There is no other like you. Our only similarity is being pawns in a
game that began centuries before either of our fathers got an amorous gleam in
Ireland’s gaze lingered over the soft curve
of his mouth, wondering if his lips could possibly taste as delectable as they
looked. “How do we play?”
Curling one finger into a ruffled tuft of
her skirt, Ridley pulled her to him. Bowing his head, he brushed his cheek over
the delicate curve of her collarbone. “The game is already in motion,” he
murmured. “The rule sheet not meant for our eyes. All we can do now is stay
Ireland weaved her fingers into his hair,
yanking his head back with a passion driven force that bordered on violent.
“I’ve taken lives. I’m a monster,” she snarled against his lips, tormenting
them both with the agonizing veil of energy that denied their touch.
His hand snaked up her arm to find her
fingers and loosen her grasp. Palm to palm. Fingers entwined with fingers.
“Does granting it make me any better?”
Ridley didn’t give her time to answer. With
one hand pressed to the small of her back he crushed her to him. Their lips met
with a desperate urgency that caused Heaven and Earth to quake in nervous
anticipation of what was coming …