It was now Monday morning and Emily was awake early. It was decision time. She’d spent almost a whole week wrestling with her newfound knowledge. She really only had two choices. She either took Cullen and Dorian at face value and went back to work, trusting that they really didn’t mean her any harm. Or she called in and resigned, effective immediately, and tried to rebuild her tattered life from scratch. There was no point in any further procrastination.
She picked up her cell phone and saw the message light winking at her. Sighing she dialled her messaging service.
“Just me again,” Cullen’s voice said softly. “Hoping to see you tomorrow, Emily.”
“You’re killing us here, Emily,” Dorian sighed. “Please come back.”
They both sounded so sad and so sincere. Bloody vampires!
She threw the phone down and headed for the shower.
Emily was chatting with Alice just outside her office when she heard the elevator ping open further up the hallway. She looked round and froze in place. Cullen was standing staring at her. He was too far away for her to read his expression but she had a sneaking suspicion that his eyesight was much better than hers and he could see her face very clearly.
They both stood immobile, staring at each other and then Emily looked away, turning her attention back to her PA. When she looked back, Cullen was gone.
She asked Alice to reschedule her meetings and then headed into her office. She stared at the box of books against the wall. She’d ordered them before she left last week. She supposed she’d better do something with them.
She began ordering them into piles on her desk. It would be easier slotting them onto the bookshelf that way. She sensed a presence in the doorway and looked round.
Cullen’s expression was unreadable as he looked at her. He looked even more impossibly beautiful than the last time she had seen him. They stared at each other mutely, both trying to gauge what the other was thinking. The silence seemed to stretch on forever and then Cullen moved, slowly walking into the room.
He reached for the next pile of books and held them out to her. She reached out to take them from him and froze when their fingers brushed against each other. She sucked in a deep breath and put the books onto the shelf.
“Does this mean you’re staying?” Cullen finally spoke, gesturing to the books.
“I guess it does,” she answered quietly, not looking at him.
“I’m glad,” he said simply. He held out another pile of books and she placed them on the next shelf.
“I have questions,” she said, looking at him.
His golden eyes were warm as they gazed at her and a small smile teased at his lips. “I’d expected as much. You are so inherently curious, Emily. I told Dorian it would be a mistake hiring you.”
He watched her stiffen as he said that.
“Not because I didn’t want you here,” he clarified. “I knew you were too observant for your own good. That you would dig and dig until you found out the truth. I didn’t want to be a disappointment to you, Emily.”
Emily walked around her desk and sat down. She could feel Cullen’s eyes tracking her. “I didn’t react very well,” she finally said softly.
“Perfectly understandable,” he sighed.
“I just needed time to process everything, Cullen. It was a lot to take in.”
She looked at him and felt as if he was trying to bore into her very soul with his impenetrable gaze.
“And now you’ve had time?” he prompted gently.
“I’m going with my instincts,” she told him, managing a slight smile. “They’ve never failed me so far and they’re telling me that I can trust you and Dorian.”
“You can, Emily. With your life.”
“Is that not what I’m already doing?” she asked.
Cullen sat down across from her, his gaze so intense that she could almost feel the heat on her body. She sucked in another breath and forced herself not to move back from him.
“Please believe me when I say that we would never hurt you, Emily,” he sighed.
“I do, Cullen. You’ve had ample opportunity, when I was in your home, to do me harm but you never did.”
They sat silently for a moment and then his intense gaze eased and he smiled crookedly at her. “So when do you want to ask your questions?”
“How about you and Dorian come over to the apartment tonight?” Emily said. “Privacy would probably be best for that conversation and I’d prefer somewhere I feel comfortable. “
“Fine with me,” he smiled, standing up. She walked with him as he headed back to his office.
She popped her head around Dorian’s door. He looked up and then smiled a brilliant smile when he saw her.
Emily smiled back automatically. He really did know how to dazzle a woman.
“I’ve invited you and Cullen to my place tonight,” she said.
“Great,” Dorian smiled.
“Be warned, I have about a million questions!” she laughed.
“Cullen said you would have,” he groaned in mock horror, waving his hands theatrically in the air.
Emily burst out laughing and shook her head at him.
“7pm,” she said and turned back to her own office.
The rest of the day went smoothly. She managed to get through quite a few meeting with the heads of department. Her understanding of the processes the company used was improving by the hour.
She jotted down some notes on possible areas that could be improved and then gathered her things. She called goodnight to Alice and headed home.
She had a quick shower and changed into jeans and a T shirt. She fixed herself something light to eat and then spent some time on her laptop while she waited for Cullen and Dorian to arrive.
Dead on seven o’clock, the doorbell rang and she answered it. She stood back as they entered.
They were both wearing their hair loose. She admired the luscious locks and wondered if her own hair looked even half as good as theirs. She’d left hers loose too. It was still slightly damp from her shower.
“Do you eat or drink anything?” she asked as they settled onto her sofa.
“We can drink wine, preferably red,” Dorian laughed, his blue eyes sparkling.
Emily remembered seeing Cullen drinking red wine one time when she’d stayed with him. She went into the kitchen and poured them both a glass of wine. They thanked her and took the glasses.
She curled up in her favourite armchair and watched them. Now that the initial shock had worn off she found herself strangely fascinated by their lifestyle.
“How old are you?” she asked. “You have to be a few centuries old at least because I checked the birth records back as far as they went.”
“We’ve been alive almost two millennia,” Cullen answered, smiling at her shocked expression. “You were partially right about our names. The concept of a familial name was not present when we were first born. We were simply Cullen and Dorian. As time evolved and new traditions came along, we opted to add to our names. Dorian found it highly amusing to stick me with a wonderful forename like Sebastian. I, in turn, gave him the surname Cross to perpetually remind him of how annoyed he had made me.”
Emily laughed as he told the story, a mental image of them taking pot shots at each other coming to mind.
“How did it happen?” she asked, her expression sobering.
“Truthfully? Neither one of us can remember it was so long ago,” Dorian replied. “We have always just been as we are.”
“Do you drink blood?” was Emily’s next question. She was watching Cullen closely as she spoke.
He met her eyes. “Yes, Emily, we do drink blood,” he said calmly.
“From people?” she almost squeaked as she asked the question.
“If they’re willing,” Dorian answered. “We can survive on donated blood if need be but a fresh source is more satisfying.”
Emily stared at them as she processed what she was hearing.
“There are really people out there, like me, who know about you and let you feed off them?” her eyes were wide with surprise.
“There are several private establishments in most major cities,” Cullen said. “Where trusted humans come to spend time with our kind. They receive certain benefits from the exchange.”
“Like what, money?” she asked.
“If that is what they desire,” Cullen answered. “Sometimes they wish for a drop of our blood. It can be very potent to humans. Makes them feel stronger and healthier. It even increases their libido.”
Emily frowned. “Your blood is like a drug to them,” she said disapprovingly.
“We monitor them closely, Emily,” Cullen said softly. “We can smell when one of our humans have had a drop of vampire blood. They may only ask that once every year. So they do not become addicted to the experience.”
She relaxed slightly, her expression smoothing.
“Why were you so irritable when I was living in your home?” she asked Cullen directly. “Did you want my blood?”
Cullen frowned at the memory. “You were driving me insane,” he admitted with a little laugh. “Your scent was so intoxicating. It called to me every moment you were in my home. I had to leave every night and seek out a substitute source at one of our establishments.”
“He was a veritable bear with a sore head,” Dorian laughed with delight. “He practically begged me to get you out of his house, that last day.”
“I really did that to you?” Emily asked shocked at his reaction to her.
Cullen rolled his eyes. “And you didn’t even realise it,” he groaned laughing. “You washed your hair with lavender and you rubbed your skin with coconut oil every time you showered. On the few occasions that you wore perfume, the scent was vanilla and lavender. It didn’t matter which room in the house I went to, your scent followed me everywhere. The night you fell asleep in the library, that was just sweet torture, Emily. When I carried you up to your bed I almost lost complete control.” He neglected to inform her of what kind of control he’d almost lost.
“He was spitting mad that night,” Dorian chuckled. “I had to spend over an hour on the phone talking him down while he ranted on like he was possessed by the Devil himself.”
“I’m glad you found it so amusing,” Cullen snapped which only increased Dorian’s laughter.
“I’m sorry I made your life so difficult,” Emily said quietly.
“Don’t be,” Cullen smiled gently. “It was something I had to endure to keep you safe. I don’t regret inviting you into my home.”
“How do you work with humans all day long?” she asked perplexed.
“We become desensitised to scents from prolonged exposure,” Dorian explained. “It would have been easier on Cullen getting used to you if he just had to cope with the office environment. It was the close proximity in the house that caused the issue.”
“Does anyone else at the office know about you?”
Dorian shook his head. “You’re the only one, Emily.”
“They’ve never noticed that you don’t change?” she asked shocked.
“They will eventually,” Cullen answered. “When it gets near that time we’ll sell the businesses and retire for a generation or so and then we’ll come back again.”
Emily looked crestfallen. “You’ll go away?” she whispered sadly.
“Not from you, Emily,” Cullen smiled gently. “We’ll stay in contact with you. You can visit whenever you want.”
She brightened visibly.
“So, sunlight doesn’t hurt you,” she said rhetorically. “What about garlic and holy water and stakes through the heart?”
“All myths,” Dorian laughed. “The only way to kill one of our kind is by decapitation or fire. Everything else heals though depending on the severity of the wounds, it could take up to twenty four hours to heal.”
“Speed? Mind control?” she asked next.
“Both true,” Cullen answered with a smile.
“Why didn’t you just mess with my mind when I found out about you?” she said. “Wouldn’t that have been easier than waiting for me to complete my nervous breakdown and come back to work?”
Cullen frowned darkly. “You have a uniquely instinctual way of thinking,” he answered. “It’s probably what makes you able to leap across realms of dead data to solve a problem. We couldn’t risk accidentally damaging your mind, Emily. It is what makes you who you are. We promised that we would never hurt you.”
“So you chose to risk me possibly exposing what you are, to avoid the chance that you may accidentally hurt me?” she whispered.
They both nodded at the same time.
“Oh, I rattled off a nice speech about how I would do it if we had to but I knew I wouldn’t,” Dorian said with a wry smile. “We both liked you too much by then and your way of looking at things benefits the business too well.”
Emily rose and brought the wine bottle through. She refilled Dorian’s glass and waited as Cullen opened a second bottle of wine. She filled his glass and then her own.
“I knew going with my instincts was the right decision,” she finally said, a wide smile on her face. “Thank you for not messing with my mind.”
She clinked her glass against theirs and then sipped a mouthful of wine.
Dorian drained his glass and stood. “I need to get going,” he said. “If you don’t have anymore questions?” His lips quirked in a smile as he looked at her.
“I think I’ve exhausted them all for now,” Emily laughed. She hugged him spontaneously. He froze for a second and then his arms came around her and he hugged her back gently.
“Goodnight, Emily, Cullen,” he said and left with a cheery wave.
“Was that wrong?” Emily asked anxiously when she turned back to Cullen.
He smiled at her, his eyes gentle. “I think it just took him by surprise. Most humans instinctively shy away from physical contact with us. It’s almost as if their subconscious screams a warning at them that we’re dangerous.”
“Guess I’m not like most humans,” she shrugged, flopping down on the sofa beside him.
“You most definitely are not,” Cullen chuckled, hoping she didn’t notice how he moved away from her.
“Was it really so awful for you when I was living with you?” she asked suddenly, her violet eyes meeting his golden brown eyes, hers full of innocent curiosity.
Cullen stiffened slightly and a muscle twitched in his jaw. “It was pretty bad,” he admitted, trying to keep his tone light.
“And you really could smell all my shampoos and lotions?”
Cullen groaned quietly and nodded.
“Can you smell them now, Cullen?”
“Emily,” he said, a warning note in his voice. “Let’s change the subject, shall we?”
He stared at her and sucked in a deep breath. When had she moved so close to him? Her face was mere inches from his. He ground his teeth together and tried to move away from her. Her violet eyes were huge in her face as she watched the emotions flitting through his eyes.
She suddenly gasped in shock when she recognised what he was feeling.
Cullen groaned and brought his hand to her hair. He pulled her face closer until his mouth was a fraction of an inch from hers.
“Yes, Emily,” he breathed quietly. “I can smell every scent on you. You smell as intoxicating now as you did then. The control I almost lost, it wasn’t for your blood, Emily. It was for this.”
His lips touched hers and she gasped, opening her mouth under his. Cullen groaned and moved his lips softly over hers.
Emily stayed as still as she could as Cullen explored her lips gently. Her heart was thudding painfully in her chest and her stomach was doing summersaults as his tongue licked along her bottom lip before tracing the line of her top lip.
A little moan escaped her as he deepened the kiss, his lips becoming more urgent. His tongue slipped inside her mouth to duel erotically with hers and Emily found herself wanted to press her body against his.
Her hands moved of their own accord. She ran her fingers through his silky hair, marvelling at how soft it felt. Her touched seemed to ignite something inside Cullen and he groaned deeply and pressed her back against the sofa, his lips demanding more from her.
She felt his body press into hers as he manoeuvred them so that he was lying on top of her. She felt his hardness press against her and she moaned in response. She shifted her body restlessly underneath his, not really knowing what she was doing, just acting instinctively. She’d never been in this kind of position with a man before.
Cullen was trailing kisses of fire along her jaw and down her neck, his breathing ragged. His hand was pushing underneath her T Shirt, finding her breast and massaging it through the lace material of her bra.
Emily moaned and pressed her breast against his hand. She felt him tug her bra up, freeing her breast to his hand. His mouth found hers again and he kissed her hungrily as he rolled her nipple between his thumb and forefinger. Liquid heat so intense blossomed between her thighs and she froze in fear at the unknown sensation.
Cullen stilled his hand against her breast and took a deep breath. His mouth hovered a fraction of an inch from hers.
“Look at me, Emily,” he said, his voice thick with emotion.
She opened her eyes and shivered at the naked desire she could see in his golden brown eyes.
“Have you done this before?” he asked softly.
Mutely she shook her head and watched as he groaned and closed his eyes as if in pain.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, feeling embarrassed.
Cullen smiled gently and looked at her again. His eyes were less fierce, more tender than before. “Don’t be,” he sighed softly. He kissed her lips gently. “Just give me a moment to get some control back.”
She lay there quietly until Cullen’s breathing returned to normal and he sat up, pulling her up beside him.
He brushed her hair back tenderly from her face, a crooked smile on his lips.
“How have you managed to get to your age and still be pure?” he asked softly.
Emily blushed at his directness and looked away. “I just never met anyone who interested me,” she shrugged. “I was always nose deep in a book on mathematics or accounts.”
“I thought Rafael,” Cullen said quietly.
Emily snorted. “I know what you thought about him,” she said sharply. “It is possible for men and women to be friends you know.”
“Not when they look like you,” Cullen laughed. “I can’t imagine any red blooded male not wanting you, Emily.”
She shifted uncomfortably and he sighed.
“I’m sorry I’m making you uncomfortable, Emily,” he said gently. “I need to go anyway. Walk me to the door.”
He stood up and pulled her to her feet.
“Are you going to one of your places now?” she asked quietly, not looking at him.
He tilted her head up to meet his eyes. “Yes,” he said honestly. “Being close to you brings out my hunger very strongly.”
Emily blushed and tried to look away but he held her gaze firmly.
“I won’t lie to you, Emily,” he sighed. “Now that you know the truth, you will always have complete honesty from me.”
He leaned down and caught her trembling mouth with his, drinking in the soft moan that escaped her lips.
“I want you, Emily,” Cullen whispered. “I intend to have you. Maybe not for a while, but it will happen between us. Trust me when I tell you that.”
She sucked in a deep breath and looked at him helplessly.
His golden eyes darkened and for a moment she thought he was going to haul her back to the sofa and carry out his promise right there and then.
Instead he straightened up and kissed her lightly on the forehead. “Goodnight, Emily,” he said and then vanished out the door.
To be continued...