“Of course not,” Kimmy blurted out just as Aidan muttered, “Never seen her before in my life.”
I frowned at Aidan after he finally dragged his gaze from Kimmy to meet my hard stare. I raised an eyebrow at him. He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, as if daring me to call him a liar.
“I’m working. You’re bothering me. What do you want?”
I frowned. Her attitude hadn’t been fantastic before, but she hadn’t seemed hostile. “I’m here about a man.” I kept my blank cop face on.
“Looks like you got one.”
I just stared, cop face holding steady. “Have you seen him?”
“No,” she said, flatly. “I told you I’d call you if he came in.” Her eyes darted to Aidan, and then she turned on her heel and walked back to the bar.
“She was lying,” Aidan said.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” But were you lying? “What was that about?”
“What was what about?”
“The way you were looking at her?”
“Suspiciously?” he asked.
I frowned at him, not entirely sure I believed him. I turned my attention to my beer. Then I scanned the crowd, looking for a man with long, dark hair.
As I sat with Aidan, I got antsier. Any second I might burst out and ask him exactly what he meant by “promises” and why he couldn’t make them—whatever they might be—just because he was on the job. I needed to focus. Out there somewhere, maybe in this bar, was the man who killed my partner.
Amanda’s face flashed in my mind, her long hair, the muscles she was so proud of. I missed her twisted sense of humor, and her unspoken but clear support of me and the choices I made in my life. God, I was an idiot. My partner, the closest person I’d had to a friend in years, was dead. And here I was, wondering if the guy I’d used to drown my sorrow had feelings for me. I was such a piece of work.
I got up from the table and muttered, “Keep an eye on Kimmy,” to Aidan. I walked toward the crowd at the other end of the bar. The dance floor and tables on the far side of it were bathed in shadows, making it difficult to make out a lot of detail on the patrons. No one resembled the man Kimmy described. Then again, given her actions, she might have lied about that, too. I walked back across the bar, pausing to elbow one guy who got a little too close. When I reached Aidan, my mood had gone beyond the irritable funk I’d arrived in. I was well into pissed territory.
“Let’s go,” I said.
“Yeah, he’s not here.”
“He might be. Later.”
Kimmy stood at the bar, and she watched us as she poured a beer from the tap.
“I don’t think so.”
As we drove, my emotions were jumbled. The irritation remained, but my awareness of Aidan grew. I watched him in my peripheral vision. The fine muscles of his arm working as he steered, the way his jaw tensed like he was thinking about something that made him angry. His strong hands and their firm grip on the wheel. My instincts told me to trust him, even as my mind said I was an idiot for considering it.
We drove in silence, and when we got to my house I unlocked the door and left it open behind me. I struggled to find the right words. The door clicked shut, locking. I turned, meeting his dark blue eyes. Desire rushed through me. His gaze drowned me. Suppressing a gasp, I stepped away from him and looked down, fisting my hands tightly at my sides to keep myself from reaching out and touching him.
Realization hit me.
“You lied to me,” I said. It wasn’t a question. I’d been trying to figure out what kind of otherworlder he was and the whole time it had been right in front of my face.
“Oh?” He didn’t sound surprised.
“You’re an incubus.” I knew it was true, but hoped somehow that I was wrong. That he’d deny it. But the pieces fit. I was like a teenager every time we were in the same room together, instantly hot and horny. That wasn’t normal, no matter how attractive he was, no matter how long it had been since I’d had sex.
“I never lied about that.”
My heart sank and I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Yes. You did.” Here I’d been trying to work out what he was when he’d practically admitted it to me when I asked. A sex god, he’d said. I was so stupid.
“Why? Because I didn’t tell you I’m not human? You didn’t actually tell me you weren’t human either, sweetheart. If I hadn’t figured it out on my own, you wouldn’t have told me.” His voice was harsh and low, but there was no anger in it. Shivers ran down my spine at the sound; something about the timbre elicited even more of a reaction than his normal voice. Suddenly I realized that more than a tingling sensation went up and down my back, a soft touch moved there as well. I stifled a gasp at his caress. It wasn’t right, but my reaction felt out of control. The realization that I was swiftly losing it finally hit me, and I stepped away from him, out of his reach unless he chose to follow me.
“Maybe I didn’t tell you that I’m a banshee, but you knew anyway.” Stay with the subject. Don’t talk about the touching. Don’t mention how he makes you feel.
“Not at first,” he admitted. “But I figured it out pretty quickly.”
“How did you know, anyway?” I turned to face him, realizing my mistake when his eyes caught me again. A chunk of his dark hair had escaped from its proper place and sat over his eyebrow. I reached out toward him to push the hair back, but caught myself before I touched him and made a firm fist at my side.
What the hell was wrong with me?
“I’ve…been around a while. There’s a resonance in your voice. Nothing obvious, a human would never notice, but I’ve met banshees before. I know what to…listen for.” He moved closer to me, taking my hand in his. He rubbed his thumb across my palm softly. I let him.
“Why would the OWEA send you to hunt your own kind? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?” I couldn’t concentrate; the light touch of his thumb distracted me, more so than such a simple touch should be. I willed myself to pull away, but try as I might, I couldn’t.
“About that…” He grimaced and looked down.
I stepped back again, away from Aidan. “What? I knew there were things you still weren’t telling me.” He wasn’t the killer; I knew that. He didn’t fit Kimmy’s description, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a heartbreaker and a liar.
“It’s just…incubi can be difficult to track and take down. I’m uniquely qualified for the job.” He reached out for me again. “Just because we share the same race doesn’t mean we’re at all alike, Kiera. I’d no more support a rogue incubus than you’d support a rogue banshee.”
“No, you just run around the country after a bad guy—leaving God knows how many thralled women in your wake. Do you get a kick out of making them fall for you with your power and then leaving them behind?”
He flinched as if I’d hit him. “First of all, my power doesn’t work that way. I can elicit lust, passion, desire. A certain amount of that is part of my natural state, and I could no more block it than a lycanthrope could block the bit of wildness that lingers around them, or the fear that vampires naturally cause. If I were juiced up, I could thrall women—if I wanted to. But I can’t make anyone fall in love with me. Truly loving someone, caring about them, that can’t be manufactured by my powers or anyone else’s.” He leaned toward me and I met his gaze. “And if you really think I’m the kind of man who would use my powers like that—”
“I’m sorry.” I swallowed hard. “That wasn’t a fair assumption. I just—” I stopped. Telling him I was scared shitless of how he made me feel was a bad idea, for so many reasons.
I let him pull my hands into his, and as he stepped closer to me my mind and instincts continued to battle. I wasn’t at all certain I could trust him, but what he said made sense. I knew I’d hunt down any otherworlder—banshee or incubus or whatever freak it might be—if I had to. I would hunt and execute them if the situation called for it. That was my job. His job, too. And he never claimed to be human, or denied his incubus heritage—he just didn’t offer up the information. A private person too, I understood, even if I didn’t like it.
Aidan leaned down, putting his face in my hair, his mouth next to my ear. He took a deep breath, and then sighed.
My breath quickened, and I held myself carefully still. “But you’ve been affecting me, haven’t you? With your thrall?”
He didn’t step away, but he pulled his head back so he could meet my eyes. “There is an aura that we carry as a species, just like succubi. Just like vamps and the aura of fear they carry. It isn’t something I consciously control. It’s just part of who I am. I can’t help that. You understand that, don’t you?”
I could. And I did. How many times had I wished I’d been born a normal human? Banshees were outcasts because of their nature. And though my underpowered status allowed me to live a fairly normal life, I’d never be anything but what I was. A freak trying to do the best she could with the life she’d been given.
Could I blame him for doing the same?
Something of my assent must have shown in my expression, because he moved his face back to my ear. “God, you smell good,” he whispered. Touching his lips to my neck, just above my collarbone, he left small kisses in his wake as he moved his mouth up to mine.
He smelled pretty damn good, too.
Tender kisses made me squirm in his arms, and he moved his mouth from mine and chuckled softly in my ear. Stepping back, he took my hand in his and tugged me toward my bedroom. I followed him, shooting a longing glance toward the living room floor over my shoulder.
Aidan stopped, a smile on his lips. “Don’t worry, it’ll be even better starting off on an actual bed.”