Home > Firelight (Darkest London #1)(3)

Firelight (Darkest London #1)(3)
Author: Kristen Callihan

“A concerned subject of the Crown.”

She harrumphed but did not drop her fists. Shockingly, she came closer. He backed away into the dark and collided with the alley wall. The deep-hooded cloak hid the mask he wore. Even so, he didn’t want to scare her. A ridiculous notion, considering she tracked him like a falcon, drawing near, sensing his reticence and acting on that weakness. Admiration filled him.

“Lower your hood. Let me see your face.”

He should walk away. Leave her be. “No.”

Heated energy flared around her, almost palpable in the cold air. Anger made her lovely, powerful.

“I could make you.”

In the shadows, he grinned. He could not account for the utter confidence in her, yet it made him… exhilarated. “An intriguing idea. Perhaps you ought to try.”

Had he been a normal man, her movement would have been a blur. Even so, it shocked him how quickly she was upon him, a knife in her hand shoved firmly against his ribs. He ought to teach her a lesson in taking on strange, large men in the night, but the sweet, grassy scent of her distracted him, and he was curious as to what she would do.

“Turn around.” Her voice was forged iron. “Your hands to the wall.”

When he simply stood there amused, she flushed. “I don’t care who you are as long as you go. But I will check you for weapons before I send you on your way.”

Foolish girl. He really ought to set her straight. “Of course,” he said.

The damp on the bricks seeped through his gloves as she reached around to skim her hand over his chest. The moment she touched him his senses snapped to attention. A light shiver passed over him. He tapped it down, thought of the Queen, pickled eels, or… the fact that no woman had been this close to him in years. For a moment, he was dizzy.

“Quality clothing. Carrying the scent of the sea. The sea and…” She trailed off with a noise that made him wonder what she detected. Did the unnaturalness in him carry a scent?

“You’re here to harass my father.”

His head snapped up, and she made a sound of annoyance.

“You are not the first to ooze from this alleyway in the dark of night, nor will you be the last.” Her hand slid over his belly. His gut grew twitchy, aching. “I assume he owes you money. Well, it is gone. There is nothing left. You cannot get blood from a stone, and I won’t let you take his blood in payment.”

He winced at the hurt in her voice, at what she had to face for the deeds of her father. It changed nothing; save he wanted to keep her away from her father’s inevitable demise. Tenderness warred with the deep, tight-chested anger that was his constant companion.

“How am I to respond?” he asked. “Deny it, and you accuse me of lying. Admit it, and you cut my throat.”

The tip of the knife dug in a little farther as her soft voice rumbled at his ear. “I may do both yet.”

He could only chuckle. “I am honored. You had this pig sticker in your boot, and you saved it for me.”

“I hadn’t the opportunity to use it on those fools. Not with you blundering in my way. But make no mistake, I would have done so.”

Brusque pats flanked his side. The touch was impersonal, and driving him mad all the same. His flesh tensed before each hit, waiting for the contact with taut anticipation.

“They might have taken your point to heart had you pulled out the knife from the first.”

He could feel her head shake. “Not those two.” A smile hid beneath the professional tone of her voice. “They would have leapt at the opening. They wanted the fight.”

Archer had to agree.

“Besides,” she said crisply as she ran a hand down his outstretched arm, before kneeling to check his boot. “I do not particularly like violence.”

Ha! “I’d say you excel at it.”

Her breath puffed warm against his thigh, making his quadriceps twitch. “Sweet talk won’t save you.”

He affected a sigh. “My own folly for protecting a child.”

“Child,” she scoffed. “I am nineteen years old. Older than most Mayfair debutantes offered up for sale. Hardly a child.”

Ah, yes, and didn’t he know it.

Cautiously, she felt along his right leg, before moving on to his left. Oddly, she didn’t pick his pockets. She left his money purse alone.

“Pardon, madam.” He glanced down to watch the top of her head bobbing about like a copper globe by his upper thigh. Illicit thoughts flared hot at the sight. He struggled to keep his tone light. “Save when one has lived as long as I, nineteen years is little more than a flicker in time.”

Amusement danced in her voice. “You’re an old lecher, are you?”

He was thinking of becoming so. Should she, say, move her hand a few inches to the left… He cleared his throat. “Old enough.”

She made a noise under her breath. “Liar.” She was at his left hip now. “Your form doesn’t feel elderly in the least.” If she only knew. “You’re musculature is quite—”

He felt the precise moment when everything changed—the subtle increase in tension in her hand, a stutter in the efficient way she moved, the shift in her breathing from strong and determined to light and agitated. The answer in him was instant, painful arousal. For a moment, he couldn’t think. He hadn’t been noticed as a man in so long that his mind barely held the echo of such memories. But his flesh… his flesh remembered the pleasure of touch all too well.

Slowly, her slim hand smoothed over the swell of his buttock, lingering there. A shocked laugh choked his throat, the sound muddled by a stifled groan that her intrigued touch elicited. The saucy little sneak thief was copping a feel. He felt inclined to turn around and let her get a handful. Christ, this was madness.

Her breath came in hard rasps, audible and so like those of a woman being tupped that Archer’s head grew light, all available blood surging down to the throbbing pain in his cock. His forehead fell against the brick wall with a thud. Bits of mortar drifted like dust over his wrists as he clung to the wall like a buoy.

Inquisitive fingers combed his inner thigh, testing its hardness, and surely feeling the trembling there. His cock swelled, drawing so tight and hot it quivered. Sweet Christ. This time he could not bite back the low groan that filled him. It broke whatever spell she was under. Her breath caught sharply, and she snatched her hand away as if scorched.

He forced himself to turn, grateful for the protective cover of his cloak. She stood gaping at him as if she couldn’t quite understand what had happened. A lovely rose tinted her cheeks, her fiery hair swirling in the cold wind. Already she was fading away, stepping back into the moonlight. The heat in him cooled, leaving him with a familiar hollowness just under his breastbone. His throat closed in on him.

“No weapons,” she whispered.

“No.” He clenched his fist to keep from reaching out.

“Well, thank you, then.” She backed up another step. “For speaking out. Unnecessary, but kind.”

“Wait.”

She halted.

He stared blankly for a moment, not knowing what to do. When she looked as though she might move, he fumbled with his pockets. Give her something. Make her stay.

“Here.” The coin in his hand flashed in the weak light as he held it out. “Take it.”

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