Cassie ended her call to Elise and Nadia as Kaitlyn handed back her phone. The two girls had been enjoying their freedom in the castle sized Manor, watching movies on the humongous flat screen and eating their way through the platters of food Mrs Philpot had left for the pair, while listening diligently through the baby monitor for any signs of Grace stirring. That was until Kaitlyn had given Elise the news of their grandfather and Teagan, quickly putting a dampener on their evening. Regardless of Elise's concern for her sister, both girls insisted on staying at the Manor for as long as needed, giving Cassie and Alaric the opportunity to help Teagan if needed when she woke.
The group talked in hushed voices around Teagan as she lay still on Saladin's oversized bed, the surly vampire right by her side, his thumb absently tracing circles on the back of her hand as he willed her to wake.
Saladin found himself in a quandary. It had been two years since he had last been this close to her. Seeing Teagan face to face, touching her, her scent saturating his pores, and knowing she was in serious danger, his dominant nature was threatening to take over his rational thoughts.
He had chosen to live a life apart from her in the hope that she might have a full and happy life without the burden of carrying her family's curse and being Mated to a vampire. He couldn't bear it if his selfish need for her made her unhappy.
Despite his conviction however, he doubted he could let her go again.
"What do you think happened to grandfather?" Kaitlyn asked.
"I think he was in that multi level car park that come down in the earthquake in Mexico." Abby answered.
"Do you think he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time?" Paige asked.
"No." Alaric stated flatly. "That earthquake was no natural occurrence."
"So, you think that Morgan caused it, that she killed Richard?" Raif queried.
"No. If Morgan killed the Druid, she would have gotten her spell back and I'm guessing Teagan wouldn't be wearing that ring right now. I think Richard may have caused the quake himself, that maybe Morgan had finally caught up with him and that was his way of making sure she didn't get what she came for."
Saladin silently listened to the conversation and processed the information. If the old Druid had been powerful enough to cause a quake and Teagan now carried that power, he shuddered at the thought of all the things she could do to him when he pissed her off.
And he knew he would, he always did in the past. There was no reason to think he could control his possessive, dominant nature now any better than he had before. In fact, he predicted she would only be awake ten minutes before he did or said something to upset her. Then again, just seeing him might be all it takes to rile her. He wasn't exactly on her Christmas list.
Saladin shifted closer to her on the bed when she groaned. Everyone fell silent and crowded around, eager for Teagan to finally wake after their two hour long vigil by her bedside.
Teagan woke slowly but she didn't feel rested. Her head felt like it had been filled with fairy floss, her mouth was so parched she could drink her own tears, but that might have had something to do with all the alcohol she had consumed.
Her brow furrowed as she struggled to lift her lashes, her rich brown eyes opened as she tried to focus on the hazy figure in front of her, and failed. Ah,…but she knew that scent. She must be dreaming again, she thought to herself happily as she leaned forward to capture those sensually full lips with her own.
For a moment Saladin couldn't move from shock as Teagan sat up in bed and kissed him, hard. A delicate, intimate sound passed her lips as their bodies aligned, her fingers reaching to entwine themselves in his dark hair as his arms wrapped about her waist to pull her closer.
Joy bubbled in his veins, even as his furious arousal heated his blood to boiling point. Their lips nestled together, a sensual synaesthesia. Her kiss was like a hug, and as she slipped her hands beneath his T-shirt he shivered. The touch of her warm fingers caressed his skin like a kiss.
"Teagan. Teagan," a smoky voice whispered into her ear sending a rush of heat to her loins. But, something wasn't right about this dream, she thought desperately as the arms holding her began to release their grip, letting her fall gently back into the pillows.
He smiled. He couldn't help it.
As her mind cleared, the breath caught in her chest and her heart decided to go into arrhythmia. "Saladin?" she blinked in confusion.
Maybe she was a bit of a drama queen but seeing him sitting there was like,…like…her favourite dream and worst nightmare rolled into one. She wanted to lick him from head to toe and punch him all at once.
She snapped her eyes shut tightly, blocking out reality. An impossible task. He was real. It hadn't been her recurring lust filled dream…She'd really kissed him, she realised belatedly. Even worse, they weren't alone. Everyone was there to witness her embarrassing exhibition.
"What the hell is going on?" she asked, forcing open her heavy lids once again, her breath squeezed from her lungs as she encountered a pair of luminescent sapphire blue eyes. Spectacular eyes. Clear, cunning and lethally male.
As he came into focus, pushing aside the cobwebs in her mind, she took in the rest of him, his face hovering only inches from her. He was drop-dead, do-me-now gorgeous. Just how she remembered him. Wide brow, a narrow sculptured nose, high check bones and sensually curved lips. Teagan felt a surge of female appreciation tingle down her spine.
Saladin sat beside her and tried like crazy not to breath her in, but it was impossible. His lungs had her scent of sudden arousal and ached for more. His nostrils flared as he drank her in.
Ahhh…Her scent was intense, intoxicating.
His hands itched to touch her, encircle her waist once more, rake up her stomach and ribs until he captured her creamy breasts.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't know what I was doing. I thought I was dreaming again," she apologised, breaking the stunned silence, her frayed nerves making her babble like an idiot. With a shake of her head, she turned her attention to her surroundings, feeling a stab of annoyance as her sisters surged forward, pushing Saladin from his place on the bed to comfort Teagan.
Her eyes followed him, narrowing with anger brewing behind her glassy glare, as she tried to remember who kissed who first. Clearly, ten minutes was an under estimation of his talent for pissing her off, he thought. He'd managed it before she was even fully awake. A new record, he thought sourly.
Dreaming again? Her confession replayed in his mind. Did that mean she had thought she was kissing him in her dream? That she had kissed him in many dreams?
Saladin moved away to hover in the periphery of her vision, watching intently as her sisters fussed over her. He didn't want to antagonise her further, she had a lot more to deal with right now than a hang over and a possessive vampire.
The way everyone stared at her, she felt like an insect on a corkboard.
"How do you feel?" Kaitlyn asked.
"My head fells like there's a drunk marching band in there," Teagan said, gingerly rubbing her temples. "And they're way off key."
That got a half hearted laugh from the girls, the men however didn't twitch a muscle of amusement.
"What's going on? Where am I exactly?" she asked, looking around the semi lit room. With only the bed side lamps on she could still see clearly enough the enormous size of the room with its decadent wall paper, Persian rugs on the floors and the vibrantly coloured cushions on the chaise lounge by the window. Otherwise the room was fairly bare of furniture or personal possesions.
A man's bedroom?
"What is the last thing you remember?" Cassie enquired.
"Dancing at the nightclub, then…then…nothing." Deep creases etched into Teagan's brow as she tried in vain to remember.
Both Kaitlyn and Paige sat beside her, their distressed expressions sending Teagan's anxiety through the roof as they looked to each other in silent conversation as to who would tell her.
"What. Is. It?" Teagan practically yelled at them.
Without a word, Kaitlyn lifted Teagan's right hand before her to show her the ruby ring on her finger.
Almost instantly what little colour had been in Teagan's cheeks drained away to ashen grey and her hand began to shake before her.
"No, no, no, no." she repeatedly mumbled, staring numbly at her hand as if by denying it, it would simply go away. "This can't be happening. Not now."
A slow motion avalanche of conflicting irrational thoughts descended upon her, accompanied by an imminent melt down and panic attack.
Her heart palpitated wildly before sinking into the icy pit of her stomach which insisted on doing back flips.
"I feel sick. Where's the bathroom?" she demanded as she scrambled from the bed and ran for the doorway to the ensuite which Saladin held open for her, every eye in the room followed her with concerned expressions which just sucked. She couldn't even have a moment to implode privately.
Teagan stumbled toward the basin, gripping its rim like a life line, drawing in deep breaths in an attempt to stave off hyperventilation. As her panic slowly subsided, she once again stared at the heavy gold ring with the large ruby now adorning her finger.
She had been preparing for this for almost sixteen years, since she became next in line for the curse after her mother had died. Somehow, up until this very moment, the prospect had never seemed real. She'd always thought that somehow it would skip her and go to some obscure relative she'd never met or heard of.
Now, the fantasy was over. This was reality. She was cursed until the day she died.
Teagan drew in another deep breath, one of resignation and lifted her chin defiantly to look herself in the mirror, half expecting a wart or two to have appeared along with the accursed ring, but of course there was nothing. She had not changed in any way, except that she had just inherited her ancestors power.
This was her life now, she had to accept it. She couldn't afford to let herself wallow in self pity. She had just graduated university and had her whole life ahead of her. She'd be damned if she was going to let her family's legacy ruin that for her.
Straightening her skirt, her top and her hair, Teagan took a deep breath and turned toward the door, opening it to a sea of worried faces.
"Before you say anything. I'm fine. It's just a lot to take in at once, and if someone would be so kind, I'd like to go home now."
"Teagan, you can't go home." Kaitlyn grabbed Teagan's hands, pleading for her understanding. "It's not safe there anymore. Morgan will be looking for you now that grandfather is gone."
"You'll be staying here," Saladin growled irritably from the corner of the room, his dominant form quickly filling the space between them as he moved to stand before her, his expression grim and unforgiving.
"You can't tell me what to do. I'm a grown woman, capable of taking care of myself. I'm not some helpless, brainless bimbo you can order about, you know."
"I wish," he muttered beneath his breath, inwardly cringing at the barely audible rebuff. If only today's women were like they were in his time back in the twelfth century when they obeyed their men, he wouldn't have to argue the logic of his decision, he thought.
"Do you know how to use the new powers of yours?" he asked.
"No. Not yet," she answered contritely. "I'll figure it out."
"And do you think Morgan will be courteous and wait for you to learn how to use your power, or do you think she might take advantage of the fact that you're vulnerable right now?"
Teagan didn't answer. She knew he was right but was pigheaded enough not to admit it, at least not out loud.
Irritation snaked through his veins, ratcheting up his foul mood yet another notch when she lifted her chin defiantly. He dropped his fangs and bared them dramatically. "You're staying here. End of story."
"Oh, please. Are you trying to intimidate me?" she scoffed. "A circus clown is more threatening than you."
Most people cowered from him, but oh, no. Not her. Not the woman who was supposed to be his Mate.
"Clearly you've never watched Stephen King's movie, It, he answered with forced calm.
"I want to go home."
"And, if Morgan or the Guild is waiting for you?"
"That would suck. Okay, I get your point, but…" Her options were limited. "I could stay with Kaitlyn in Fey," she suggested.
"Have you considered what might happen to your sister's if Morgan comes after you? That they might become collateral damage in her wake to get to you?"
No. She hadn't. He really knew how to dowse a girl's hopes.
Protection was one thing, but she wasn't keen on the vampire's version of a hermetically sealed hamster cage either. She had a life and she was damn well not going to let Morgan or an over protective vampire destroy that.
Staying at the Manor wasn't an option. It was too far from town. She needed to work to pay bills just like everyone else and find a new job, hopefully one more reflective of all the hard work she'd put in to get her Business degree. She also needed to find a way to get rid of her family curse and save Kaitlyn from the same fate. She couldn't do that without her freedom.
That left her with…Saladin, who looked at her like she was his personal human wine cellar and live-in sex kitten. Teagan heaved a heavy sigh of frustration.
Seeing that she might be wavering, he dangled a carrot he hoped would appease her. "I know I might come across as an arsehole sometimes,…"
"You could say that," she snorted haughtily, taking a stance that made her appear as though she was looking down her nose at him. She did that very well.
As hard as she tried to give her best show of indignation, she couldn't help leering at his implausible pecs behind his body hugging T-shirt, emphasising his manscaping with annoying definition.
Saladin's growl disengaged her tempestuous thoughts like a cold shower. Her head jerked up, her embarrassed gaze cutting toward him. His eyes shone, his heavy lidded expression was languorous and wickedly knowledgeable. His cock was harder than it had ever been. His balls, twin rocks of misery.
"You don't need to agree with me quite so enthusiastically," he countered between gritted teeth. "Will you let me finish?"
Teagan pursed her lips and crossed her arms beneath her breasts, pushing them higher and exposing more of that creamy flesh over the low cut top, grinding every thought in his head to a halt, except the one telling him touch them, taste them, bury his face between them and suck their rosy nipples to hard peaks between his teeth.
"Well? I'm waiting," she snapped, her foot tapping impatiently in time to her rapid heart beat.
"While you were unconscious, I arranged for something of yours to be delivered here, to help you feel a bit more comfortable," he said with less confidence than she could ever remember hearing in his voice before. He was almost sheepish.
That spiked her curiosity.
Saladin quietly left the room for a moment, her sisters giggling with excitement in the background.
She watched him as he made his way back toward her, carrying something.
"Hector." Her black cat with a smudge of white on his nose and paws, purred in Saladin's arms. Well, he was her cat now. He used to be Kaitlyn's cat until she moved to Fey with Raif. It was decided not introduce another species of animal to the other land, they'd already learnt first hand here on Earth what the repercussions of that was.
Teagan's face broke into a broad grin as she took the fur ball from him and scratched fondly behind his ear. What the hell happened to her willpower, her strength and determination to not let this man get to her?
But he did. It certainly wasn't his 'smooth' words or even the honest intent behind them. It was the longing in his eyes, the vulnerability, the joy that sparkled in them when he saw her happiness when she took the cat from his arms.
She pretended not to notice his presence hovering over her possessively. He was a forbidden temptation and more than a little bit dangerous to her. Just as she pretended not to notice the manner in which his T-shirt clung to the chiselled muscles of his chest or how precisely his jeans outlined his legs, or his…Oh, Lord, the massive erection pressing against the zipper. She licked her lips and groaned with despair all at once.
"We'll have all your personal things brought here in the morning and your furniture will go into storage. When Morgan's been dealt with, you can go back to your normal life once again," Alaric advised.
All she could do was nod and pray that didn't take too long.
Saladin had never been one to rely on this thing called hope. He was a cynical creature from tip to toe, and no one who knew him to any degree would argue to the contrary. Likewise, he was not a man used to giving explanations or apologies for his actions, which only made his inner turmoil all the greater when he rushed to do all three at once to this frustrating female before him.
"Teagan?" Teagan's eyes once again met Saladin's. "I'm really sorry about all this. I know you don't want to be here, so I promise to try and make it as easy for you as possible. I'll give you as much space as I can. Okay?"
He'd meant every word of what he'd just said. But did she believe him? He hoped so. Could he keep that promise? That would depend on how loosely he defined the boundaries of 'space'.
He knew in the back of his mind he shouldn't have her stay with him if he couldn't get his feelings for her under control, but there seemed little choice. Logistically she needed to be here, and he needed her to stay for his own soul's survival.
He needed her like she needed air to breathe.
Teagan looked to each of the people in the room, unanimously encouraging her to accept Saladin's offer.
Maybe it was shock cutting the oxygen off to her brain, but it appeared the bad decision making lobes of her brain were in charge. She should be looking for other alternative accommodation. Staying with Saladin could mean nothing but trouble. He hounded her relentlessly the last time they stayed under the same roof, what would he be like now, in his own home? Without as many distractions. The idea that she'd be so close to him unnerved her. Terrified her. Excited her.
At the very least she should be angry, not with just Saladin but all of them. They all plotted behind her back and made arrangements on her behalf without consulting her. Okay, it would have been a bit hard when she was unconscious, but they could have waited until she woke up.
Despite their interference she wasn't angry. She knew deep down they only had her best interests at heart. How could she be angry with them for that?
"Fine. But let's get a few things straight, I'm still going to live my life just as I always have. I'm going to work, go shopping and go out whenever I like. Got it?" she dictated, stabbing a finger in Saladin's direction to get her point across that she was in control.
Saladin didn't respond. No verbal berating, no arrogant show of authority. He just stood there with his hands in his pockets casually.
"Well. I think that's all settled," Alaric said breaking the silence in the room. "Teagan if you need anything, you know where to find us," he said, grabbing his wife's handbag and shoes, ushering Cassie toward the door with Abby in tow.
"Same goes for me," Abby told her.
"We have to go too," Kaitlyn winced, wishing she didn't have to leave her sister so soon. "Raif has to get back to Fey to call a meeting with the Nephilim. They need to be told what's happened. Oliver Harlow will bring Elise over tomorrow to see you, and Paige will be going back to Cadley with him. She'll be coming to stay in Fey for awhile with Raif and me," she said with another pained expression. She felt as if they were all abandoning Teagan just when she needed them the most.
"That's a good idea," Teagan agreed with a smile she hoped didn't look as forced as it felt. "I'm sure it's safe enough for tonight for Paige to stay here but I don't want to take any chances with any of you getting hurt when Morgan comes looking for me.
"We're not going to let her get you. You know that right? We're going to find a way to remove the curse from you and then you can live a normal life without having to look over your shoulder every minute." Paige proclaimed determinedly.
Teagan smiled again at her sister. She really wished she believed in fairy tale endings too. She much preferred Paige's view of life than the reality she now faced. She would love nothing more than to find a way to be released from carrying this curse, but when no one in her family had managed it in fifteen hundred years, why would she believe she would be any different?