Divine woke up with a terrible need to relieve herself. That was her first and only thought as she sat up in bed and swung her feet to the floor. She hurried to the door, thrust it open, and then paused abruptly as she recognized Vincent and Jackie's borrowed RV. She'd forgotten for a moment that this wasn't her RV. In her RV, the bathroom had been along the sidewall outside the bedroom. In this one . . .
She turned and hurried back across the room, rushing into the bathroom there. Divine hiked up her skirt, tugged down her panties, and settled on the toilet so quickly she probably would have been a blur to anyone watching. Immortal speed rocked, she thought on a little sigh of relief as she proceeded to—as a carnie she once knew would have put it—piss like a racehorse. She'd really had to go. Probably all the blood they'd given her for the healing, Divine thought, and wondered that the noise she was making wasn't drowning out the sound of the rain outside. She'd been vaguely aware of the sound of splashing water as she woke up, but hadn't paid it much attention. Now, however, it seemed louder to her, almost like the water was actually falling—
Her bowed head jerking up, Divine peered at the shower across from her, noted the figure inside, and couldn't hold back a muttered "Oh crap."
Marcus was in the shower with his very bare back to her, but she could hear the amusement in his voice as he said those words and knew he was teasing her. She wanted to give a light chuckle and say something witty. After all this wasn't the first time she'd been caught out in a situation like this. She'd lived too damned long not to have experienced this or a similar scenario a hundred times over. But none of those scenarios had included Marcus, and rather than handle it with the insouciance she wanted to, Divine groaned and closed her eyes as her face flamed what she suspected was a violent red.
"I guess this means the romance phase of our relationship is over, huh?" he teased.
Divine's eyes popped open at the sudden silence as the sound of running water suddenly stopped. He'd turned off the shower. That meant he'd be getting out, she thought with dismay.
"I mean they say once a couple starts doing these kinds of things in front of each other, the honeymoon stage is done and they're into the relationship phase." Marcus stepped out of the very tiny shower, into the tiny room just inches away, and grabbed a towel to quickly dry himself, elbows banging into the wall as he did.
Divine bit her lip and belatedly dropped her skirt, letting it settle around her. She then tried to sit there, pretending she was sitting on a chair rather than the porcelain throne, all while avoiding looking at a very big, very naked Marcus standing just inches away from her.
"Stop staring at my cock, you're making it grow."
Divine blinked at those growled words, mortified to realize she had been staring. So much for avoiding looking . . . and damn, it was growing.
"You're still staring," he warned.
"Well, stop waving it around in front of me if you don't like it," she snapped, forcing her eyes away. "Cover it up or something."
Marcus chuckled and then caught her face with one hand, to turn it back and up so he could press a kiss to her lips. She suspected he'd meant it to be a quick peck. It didn't end up that way. Fire leaped between them at the first touch, both mouths opened, tongues were engaged, and Divine so forgot herself she was about to wrap her arms around his shoulders and climb him like a telephone pole when he suddenly broke the kiss and straightened.
They were both panting and simply stared at each other briefly, then Marcus growled, "I'm going to go lay down. Naked."
Divine's eyes widened and she watched silently as he snatched his clothes off the floor, turned, and slid out of the room, tugging the door closed. She sat there for one more moment, before moved to action. She finished her business, and almost raced out of the bathroom after him, but then caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror over the sink as she washed her hands. She was a mess, hair mussy, skin filthy . . .
Turning to the shower she opened the door and twisted the knobs to get the water running, then quickly stripped her clothes.
Divine spent much longer in the shower than she normally would have, mostly because once she was in there she started to think of all the reasons why she shouldn't have done what she had, and shouldn't do it again. The main reason was that she was a wanted woman, hunted by the man Marcus apparently worked for. Not that he'd admitted as much yet.
What she needed to do was to learn what she could from Marcus, find out what he knew, what Lucian knew, and what she could do to keep her son and herself safe. That thought firmly in mind, Divine finished her shower and stepped out to quickly dry herself. She then eyed her clothes with distaste. They were filthy, but it didn't seem smart to walk out of the bathroom in a towel, not if she wanted to actually talk to Marcus and not end up naked and unconscious in the bed.
Grimacing, she picked up her blouse and gave it a shake, then donned it and used the towel to brush away what she could of the dust and dirt clinging to it. Once satisfied she'd done the best she could with the item, Divine did the same with the skirt. She just couldn't bring herself to re-don her panties and bra though. This would have to do, she decided, took a deep breath, pinned a smile on her face, and left the bathroom.
Divine had expected Marcus to be waiting for her in the bedroom, so was a bit startled to find it empty. After a hesitation, she moved to the bedroom door and opened it to peer out into the rest of the RV, surprised to find him working busily in the kitchenette. He was even dressed. Sort of. The man had his jeans on, but was shirtless. He was a beautiful sight like that, his still-damp hair slicked back, chest muscles glistening in the overhead light and rippling as he sliced cheese on a cutting board on the table.
"Stop looking at me like that or we aren't going to get to eat this lovely fare Jackie made for us," he said without glancing up, his voice light.
Divine relaxed and even managed a smile. Moving toward the table, she said just as lightly, "It looks to me like you're the one making this lovely fare."
"I washed the fruit, took the salad out and put it in bowls, and am now cutting cheese, but Jackie made the casserole that smells so delicious," he assured her and then finally glanced up. His eyes began to glow as they slid over her in her still slightly dusty clothes and then he lowered them again to what he was doing. "Damn, I was sure I was hungry for food when I smelled it, but now—"
"Now I'm hungry," Divine said firmly and sat down at the place setting across from him. She also forced herself to stop gawping at his chest like some lovesick calf and, instead, focused on examining the contents of the table.
The casserole did smell delicious and everything else looked good too. Still, Divine was surprised when her stomach suddenly grumbled. It was a sound she hadn't heard since . . . well, she couldn't remember when she'd last heard her body make that sound. It had been a long time since she'd last eaten food, and just as long since she'd felt hunger. Like most immortals she'd stopped eating after a hundred years or so of living. Eating had grown tiresome and food had seemed tasteless and boring.
It didn't smell boring or tasteless now.
"Here." Marcus picked up the cutting board and used the knife to slide several pieces of cheese onto her plate. He then set that down and scooped up some casserole to add to her plate as well before pushing the bowl holding the grapes and strawberries next to the bowl of salad he'd set beside her plate. "We have a couple of dressings to choose from. Apparently it goes on the salad, but I don't know what's good and what's not."
Divine shrugged. "I guess we'll find out," she said, reaching for a grape from the bowl. She popped it into her mouth, bit into it, and closed her eyes as the sweet juice burst across her tongue. Dear God it was . . . luscious, lovely, sweet, wet.
"Try the strawberries," Marcus suggested when she reached toward the bowl again. "They're even better."
Divine immediately changed direction, reaching for the red fruit instead of the green, seedless balls of juice called grapes. She popped one of the berries in her mouth and bit down and found he was right. The strawberries were—
Marcus glanced up from his cutting with surprise when Divine grimaced and spat out the slightly chewed strawberry. He glanced at it briefly and then wrinkled his nose. "I don't believe you're supposed to eat the stem and leafy bits. I've seen others eat them and they leave that part."
"Oh," Divine muttered, using the napkin he'd set beside her plate to wipe her mouth.
"Try another," he suggested, picking up a large plump one and holding it out. "Just bite the fruit off though; I'll hold on to the stem and leafy bit."
Divine hesitated and then leaned forward and carefully bit into the strawberry, avoiding getting too close to the leafy end. She started out watching Marcus's face as she did, but the sudden flaring of silver in his eyes made her lower her eyes. It was a relief when she finished the action and sat back.
"Well?" Marcus asked, and she didn't miss the husky note in his voice.
Divine was silent for a minute as she concentrated on chewing up the fruit and then swallowing, but she smiled then and nodded. "Yes. They're lovely. Much better without the stem and leafy bits."
Marcus grinned and settled in the seat across from her. They were silent for several minutes as they began to eat. All of it was good, but the casserole was amazing. What had Marcus called it? A sausage, potato, and cheese casserole? The various flavors blended beautifully in her mouth. They hadn't had food like this the last time she'd eaten.
"Hmmm?" she asked, trying the salad next. Not sure which dressing she'd like, Divine had put a creamy concoction called ranch dressing on half her salad and another one called balsamic something or other on the other half. She tried the ranch first and found it surprisingly tasty. But it made her wonder what the balsamic one tasted like and she scooped up a bit of salad from that side to try next.
"Would you tell me a little about your life?"
The question made her pause with the salad halfway to her mouth. Setting the loaded fork back, she peered at him silently.
"Anything," he said quietly. "How long have you traveled with carnivals for instance?"
Divine relaxed a little and contemplated her fork. She didn't suppose answering that would be a problem or reveal anything she shouldn't. "Pretty much since carnivals began," she said, and then added, "Well, I think the first one was around for a couple years before I joined a competitor in 1901."
Marcus nodded and took a bite of casserole.
Relaxing even more, Divine slipped the balsamic salad into her mouth and felt her eyebrows rise. She thought she might like this better than the creamy one. It had a bit of tang to it that she enjoyed.
"And before the carnival?"
Divine swallowed her salad and took a drink as she thought, and then set down her glass and admitted, "Before turning to carnivals I rode and lived with the Comanches."
Marcus's eyes widened incredulously. "Seriously?"
She smiled faintly at his expression and nodded. "They called me Naduah."
"Naduah," he murmured. "That's pretty. What does it mean?"
"That depends on who you ask," she admitted with amusement. "I was told by the chief who gave me the name that it meant ‘she who carries herself with dignity and grace.' However, a rather nasty and jealous maiden once told me it means ‘she who keeps warm with us,' and the way she said it suggested I did so in a rather X-rated fashion."
Divine grinned at the scowl this brought to Marcus's face and shrugged. "As I said she was jealous. The chief listened to me when I advised him and allowed me to ride into battle with the men. I suppose she thought I'd slept my way into the chief's good graces to be allowed to do so." She smiled and then added, "Even if the chief was wrong and it did mean ‘she who keeps warm with us,' it would be true. I shared their fire of a night."
"You couldn't have stayed with them for long. They would have noticed your not aging," he said.
"There were different tribes of Comanche; the Yamparikas, the Jupes, and the Kotsotekas, and they all had different bands." She shrugged. "I moved around the various bands for a while, but no, I wasn't with them for as long as I've moved around with carnivals."
"And before them?"
Divine sighed and set her fork down. "Marcus—"
"Tell me . . . please," he added softly, and then offered, "If you do I'll tell you about myself."
She stared at him briefly, then nodded and picked up her fork again; gathering some casserole on it, she took a bite, chewed and swallowed and then admitted, "Before the Comanches I was with the Romani."
"Gypsies," he said softly and she nodded.
Divine smiled crookedly. "They called me Nuri. It means Gypsy."
"So even to the Gypsies you were considered a Gypsy?" he asked with amusement.
She smiled wryly. "Well, I moved around even more than they did. I'd travel with a group for five or ten years and then leave and find another. I traveled most of Europe with different Romani groups before sailing to America."
"I'm surprised they let you travel with them," he said quietly. "I understood the Romani didn't embrace outsiders."
Divine smiled with amusement and reminded him, "I'm immortal, and we can be very persuasive."
"Ah." Marcus nodded. "A little mind control, a little influence and bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, you're in."
"Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo?" she echoed, eyes wide with disbelief.
Marcus flushed. "There's a little girl named Livy who was staying with a friend while I was there and she had a thing for Disney movies."
"Ah," Divine said solemnly, but she suddenly had an image in her mind of Marcus watching a Disney cartoon with a little girl in pigtails. She had no idea if this Livy wore pigtails, but that was the image that sprang to mind. It was a beautiful image. She thought he'd be good with children. What would their children look like, she wondered, and then pushed the fantasy aside. He might be her life mate, but she could never claim him as one so long as he worked with Lucian.
"And before the Romani?" Marcus asked now.
Divine considered him briefly, and then said, "Isn't it time you told me a little about yourself?"
Marcus paused and then set his own fork down with a nod. "Fair enough."
She was glad he didn't argue the point . . . for two reasons. She really did want to learn more about him, but she also wanted to eat more of the delicious food on her plate, which was hard to do while she was talking.
Marcus took a sip of the water beside his plate and then set the glass down saying, "Okay. My grandparents are Marzzia and Nicodemus Notte. They were a part of the group of original immortals, the survivors of Atlantis."
"Atlantis?" she asked with bewilderment.
Marcus stilled and tilted his head. "Has no one taught you the history of our origins, Divine?"
She almost lied again and said yes rather than look ignorant, but then sighed and admitted, "No. I'm afraid not. My childhood was rather . . ." She frowned and glanced away.
"Unconventional?" he suggested gently, and the word made her snort indelicately.
Covering her mouth and nose quickly, she peered wide-eyed at him over her hand and then suddenly lost patience with herself. She was no shrinking violet. She had taken care of herself for millennia, and would be damned if encountering a life mate she couldn't claim, and recalling a childhood that had been a horror all around, was going to reduce her to the state of a blithering idiot afraid to say what she felt or meant or wanted. Her history was her history and that was that. She couldn't change it, and he could accept it, deal with it, or just get the hell out of her life if he didn't like it.
Letting her hand drop she said, "Unconventional does not begin to describe my childhood. For one thing, my parents were not true life mates." His eyebrows rose at that and she nodded. "My mother, Tisiphone, was older than my father, Felix, and she wanted a child. My father was apparently very likable and easygoing and so she decided he would do."
Divine paused to take a drink of water before continuing, "While my father couldn't read Tisiphone, he knew she was older so thought nothing of it." She grimaced and added, "Until Tisiphone claimed she couldn't read him either and they therefore must be life mates."
"She was lying?" Marcus asked.
Divine nodded. "Yes. She could read him . . . and control him too. She used both skills, plus manipulation and drugs, to make him think he was experiencing the infamous life mate sex."
Marcus frowned. "Was your father young enough to still eat?"
Divine shook her head. "I gather she used mind control, or perhaps drugs too, to make him think he was hungry and that the food was the most delicious he'd ever had and whatnot."
"And she did all this for a baby?" he asked with a frown. "Why not just manipulate a mortal into impregnating her? Hell, she wouldn't even have had to manipulate one. They'd have been lining up to sleep with her."
When Divine raised her eyebrows at that, he explained, "We apparently give off some chemical mix of hormones that makes us seem ultra attractive to mortals."
"Really?" she asked with interest. Divine hadn't known that. But it explained why mortal men seemed always to be making nuisances of themselves around her.
"Yes," Marcus said, and then added. "Even if that hadn't worked, she could have easily influenced any mortal to think she was gorgeous. Although, if you got your looks from her, she must have already been gorgeous."
Divine felt her face heat up at the compliment and rolled her eyes at her own reaction. Seriously? Blushing? She was too damned old to blush, she thought, and then said, "Yes, she could have. But apparently my mother didn't want just any baby. She wanted the baby of a man from a powerful family."
"And your father, Felix? He was from a powerful family?"
Divine almost bit off her tongue as she realized that she'd given something away that might be dangerous. Trying to act as if she hadn't, she shrugged. "Apparently, although I only heard all of this from a servant. And my mother had been a servant herself before she tricked my father into thinking he was her life mate."
"Your mother was older than your father, immortal, and yet a servant?" Marcus asked with surprise.
Divine shrugged. "That's what I was told."
Marcus sat back and shook his head at this news, apparently finding it hard to believe. She could understand why. As an immortal Tisiphone could have controlled and influenced any number of wealthy mortals into marrying her, and with them under her control, they would have let her do whatever she wanted with their wealth. Heck, she could even have just used mind control to make them give her their wealth if she'd been of a mind to. That was certainly no less dastardly than what she'd done to Divine's poor father. But the truth was she'd needed the power of Divine's father's family to get her out of servitude. Because she'd been a servant to another powerful, immortal family to pay a debt she owed for causing the death of one of their children.
Marcus cleared his throat suddenly and Divine glanced to him. He was about to ask a question, and she knew exactly what it would be. What was the name of her father's powerful family? She couldn't answer that, so quickly said, "Of course, her lies and manipulations couldn't hold up forever. I was four when my father eventually figured out that she'd used him. Once he realized that, he apparently snuck out a message explaining the situation and asking for help with one of the servants, who was ordered to take it to one of his brothers."
"She could still control him," Marcus realized with slow dawning horror at the predicament her father had been in.
Divine nodded. "And she could still read him, which she must have done. The night after the servant slipped away with the message, she barricaded the doors and windows of our home and set it on fire."
"And then took you with her when she fled?" Marcus asked.
"Oh, she didn't flee," Divine corrected him. "She barricaded all of us in the house while we slept: myself, my father, the rest of the servants, and herself. She meant for all of us to die."
"How did you get out?" Marcus asked at once.
"The servants," Divine said quietly. "They slept on the main floor and woke first. She tried to control them and make them just sit down and let themselves burn, but there were apparently four of them, too many to control all at once. I gather she gave it a good try though," she added dryly. "She kept them busy long enough that by the time my father woke to their cries, the fire was raging."
"He rushed downstairs, sent one of the servants up to get me, and tried to battle with my mother, but she could still control him. When Aegle, the mortal servant my father had sent to fetch me, returned to the top of the stairs with me in her arms, two of the remaining servants were dead and the third was rushing up the stairs while my mother and father struggled below, the pair of them engulfed in flames."
Divine paused, more to let Marcus digest everything she'd just said than for her own sake. To her, this was an old story, one she'd lived with her whole life. She had no more tears for her long-lost parents and felt only sadness for her father who had been used so poorly and then had died trying to save her and the servants.
"The servants got you out," Marcus said finally.
It wasn't a question, but Divine nodded in response anyway. "They managed to unblock an upstairs window and jump out with me." She turned her fork absently on her plate and said, "I don't know what became of the other servant. I think Aegle said she left us, planning to return to her own family, but Aegle stayed in the area for three days waiting for my father's brother to come before giving up and setting out to try to find my family herself." She glanced to him and grimaced before explaining, "Aegle was actually my nanny, though I don't think they called it that back then. She'd cared for me since birth and had been trusted with our secrets. She knew that I was an immortal and needed blood to survive and did her best to help me get it. But I was young and couldn't yet control the minds of donors which made matters difficult."
"How the devil did she see you fed then?" he asked with amazement.
"I don't remember it, but I was later told that she lured men to a secluded area and then knocked them out so that I could feed on them." Divine smiled faintly. "Aegle was a very intelligent and creative woman."
"No wonder she had to move after a couple of days then," Marcus said with amusement. "I'm actually surprised she stayed in the area as long as she did with those men no doubt out looking for her."
"So she was able to find your family and reunite you with them?" he asked after a moment when Divine didn't continue.
Marcus's eyes narrowed. "How eventually?"
Divine sighed. "I was eleven when we kind of stumbled across an uncle who read my mind, realized who I was, and took us to my grandparents."
"Do you mean to tell me it took seven years for—"
"Yes," Divine interrupted. "I'm afraid the way we were forced to live didn't help. Actually, it hampered it greatly. We could never stay anywhere long with her having to knock out people for me to feed on."
Marcus dropped back in his chair with dismay. "You had no one to teach you to read or control their minds so she could stop knocking them out."
"No," Divine admitted.
For some reason her answer made him frown, and he said slowly, "But surely you began to learn to do so on your own? It is a natural skill. Training helps, but with enough time around mortals you should have begun to pick up on their thoughts, and then started to be able to begin to control them."
"But I wasn't spending time around mortals other than Aegle," she told him. "We were constantly moving, traveling mostly at night to avoid the sun's damage and the need to feed even more often. And then the stories of Aegle's attacks on men became almost legendary and we had to avoid people in case they had heard of her and had been given a description."
"Hmmm." Marcus shook his head. "It's a wonder you found your uncle at all."
"That was pure luck," she admitted. "He happened to be in the same area as us on business. Aegle spotted him while she was looking for a likely man to lure away for my next meal. She noticed that he looked similar to my father, and then she saw his eyes and knew he must be an immortal like me because of the metallic silver in the blue, and she approached him. But when she asked if he knew Felix, he eyed her suspiciously and asked, "Who wants to know?"
Divine smiled softly. "Despite all she did for me and the chances she made herself take to help me survive, Aegle didn't consider herself a brave woman and his reaction frightened her. My father had been such a charming and easygoing man that she felt sure she'd made a mistake and rather than say anything, simply scurried away and hurried back to me. But she'd caught his attention with my father's name, and he apparently read her mind, and followed her back to me."
Her smile faded. "He was a hard man. Taciturn by nature and not very . . ." She hesitated, searching for the right word, and finally said, "He wasn't very sympathetic. He gave us quite a fright when he strode into our little camp, and then simply started barking orders. When we didn't move fast enough for him, he bundled us both up on his horse, grabbed the reins, and simply led us back to the village where Aegle had run into him. It was only then he said that he was my uncle, the one my father had sent a message to. That the family had been looking for me for years and he was taking us to them."
"Aegle went with you?" Marcus asked with a smile.
"Of course. She was the closest thing to a mother I knew at that point. I wouldn't have gone without her," Divine said solemnly.
Marcus nodded in understanding, and then asked, "And your grandparents? Were they happy to see you when your uncle took you to them?"
"Oh yes." Divine smiled. "They welcomed me with open arms. They were both very sweet and loving. They were kind to Aegle too. They offered her a position in the household as my guardian so that we wouldn't be separated, and paid her very generously, promising her a home and enough wealth to retire on when she was ready. We both suddenly had beautiful clothes and plenty of food and my grandparents taught me how to read and control minds. Everything was perfect. It was all like a fairy tale really," she said sadly, and thought that every fairy tale had a monster.
"But they didn't teach you about our heritage?" he asked with a frown.
Divine shook her head. "They spent the next year not only teaching me how to use and control my abilities, but catching me up on all the things I'd missed as possible while wandering around with Aegle. I was eleven years old with no education at all other than how to hide and survive," she pointed out. "I had to learn to read and write and do math and . . ." She shrugged helplessly.
"And after that?" Marcus asked. "Why didn't they teach you once you'd learned the necessities?"
"They didn't get the chance," she said woodenly, and then took another drink of water, set it down, peered at him and said, "I guess you'll have to teach me about Atlantis."
"Oh," Marcus looked surprised by the suggestion.
"After you tell me more about yourself," she added firmly. "All you've told me so far is that your grandparents were Marzzia and Nicodemus Notte and that they were survivors of Atlantis."
"Right," Marcus muttered and then made a face. "I'm afraid my history isn't nearly as interesting as yours. My mother was my grandparents' third daughter, Claudia. Her life mate was a mortal male she turned. My father, Cyrus, died, beheaded in battle shortly before I was born, and my mother returned to her parents to have me. They helped her raise me."
"And then?" Divine prompted, unwilling to let him stop there.
"A few years later my grandparents had their first and, so far, only son, and—"
"So far?" Divine interrupted with surprise. "They're still alive?"
Marcus smiled wryly and nodded. "They're a pair of tough old birds. Nothing short of an apocalypse will take them out."
"Oh," she said faintly and wondered if she'd ever meet them . . . or if she ever had.
"Anyway, they had a son, Julius," Marcus continued. "While he was my uncle, I was a bit older. Still the two of us were close enough in age that we became fast friends. Then one day my grandfather sat me down and told me there was a threat to Julius's well-being. Someone meant him harm and he wanted me to keep an eye out for him and watch Julius's back."
Divine raised her eyebrows at this, but didn't interrupt again.
"I loved Julius like a brother, so of course I agreed to the request," Marcus said. "And spent most of my life working and playing at his side."
"What kind of work?" Divine asked curiously, trying to imagine what it would be. He was very strong and well built, which suggested physical labor, but he was also smart.
"Back in the beginning it was many things; sword for hire, courier, etc."
"Warrior," Divine said, nodding. She wouldn't have expected anything less. He had the body of a warrior who had to wield large weapons.
"Later it changed to other concerns," Marcus continued, "And now we have an umbrella company that shelters several different industries. The main one right now though is an international construction company."
Divine smiled. She could see him in construction. Shirt off, tight jeans clinging to his hips, construction boots, and his body dripping with sweat as he wielded a sledgehammer. A fantasy, she knew. If he helped run the company, it was doubtful he wielded anything more than a pen, but she was enjoying the fantasy.
"Most of the family works for or has shares in the family company," Marcus continued, drawing Divine's reluctant attention away from her pleasant little daydream. "As have I off and on over the centuries."
"Why off and on?" she asked curiously.
Marcus shrugged. "Julius had his moments of rebellion over the centuries and since I was supposed to be watching his back—"
"You had to go where he went," she finished for him.
Marcus nodded. "And then a little over five hundred years ago Julius met his life mate and they had a son, Christian." He smiled wryly and said, "And then a similar situation arose with Christian, a threat to his life, and Julius asked me to—"
"No," Divine interrupted on a half laugh. "Surely he didn't ask you to watch out for his son's well-being and guard his back?"
"Yes, he did," Marcus said with shared amusement.
"What did you do?" she asked curiously.
Marcus shrugged. "What could I do? Julius was all grown up and whatever threat there had been hadn't seemed to manifest itself, but Christian was just a babe and the threat to him was very real."
"What was the threat to him?" Divine asked curiously.
Marcus hesitated and then said, "Julius was away when Christian was born and his mother bore him while away from the house. A servant then brought the boy back in a panic, claiming the mother had ordered him killed."
"Had she?" Divine asked.
"Yes," Marcus said solemnly. "She did give the order, though there was more to it than that. However, we didn't find that out at the time. All we knew was that she'd ordered him killed. He needed protecting."
"From his own mother," Divine said with a shake of the head. It seemed her mother hadn't been the only cold, heartless, crazed bitch out there. At least she wasn't alone in that.
"So you protected and guarded him," she murmured.
"Yes," Marcus said solemnly.
"For how long?" she asked.
Marcus considered the question and then seemed to do some figuring in his head. "Everything was resolved about three years ago."
"And what did you do after that?" she prompted. They were getting closer to the now. Had he started working for Lucian then?
"Well, Julius connected with his life mate at about that time and was a bit distracted so I stepped in and took on the job of running the family company until he got past that, which took a couple or three years."
"And once he was back running the company full-time?" Divine prodded.
"Well, he didn't really come back full-time. Marguerite—his life mate," he explained with a fond smile that suggested he liked the woman—"she and her family live in Canada, so Julius spends a great deal of time traveling back and forth between Italy and Canada."
"Italy," Divine breathed, sitting back in her seat as her gaze swam over his face. She should have known by the name and his looks that he hailed from there. He even had a bit of an accent, although it seemed to have been watered down and distorted, probably by his living in a lot of different places. Divine doubted he'd spent his whole life in Italy. He seemed to have French inflections, German, Spanish, and even English sounds to his speech . . . as she did. That being the case, she supposed she would have classified his accent as simply being European in origin.
Realizing that he was peering at her in question, she shook her head. "Sorry. Go ahead. Julius travels between Italy and Canada so . . . ?" She tilted her head and suggested, "So you run the company when he's not there and step down when he is?"
"I did," Marcus said wryly. "But thanks to developments in technology even that isn't necessary anymore. So long as he has a computer and cell phone handy, Julius can run the company from anywhere in the world. He can bank online, conference call meetings . . ." Marcus shrugged. "It took him a couple years to get a handle on the new technology, but now that he has, he doesn't really need me anymore. And now that Christian has met his life mate . . ." He shrugged and admitted wryly, "I'm pretty much at loose ends."
Divine considered him solemnly. He wasn't going to admit to spying for Lucian and she supposed she couldn't blame him for that. What kind of a spy would admit they were spying?
"Why stay here in North America?" she asked abruptly, wanting to know how he'd explain that away. "Why not return to Italy? Surely they could find a position for you in the family business?"
"I considered that," Marcus admitted quietly. "And certainly they have many things for me to do there, but I found myself too restless to go back to the family company once Julius took over again. It just didn't sound appealing."
"So you just suddenly decided to fly to America and join the carnival?" she asked quietly.
Marcus hesitated, toying with his silverware and avoiding her eyes as he did. After a moment, though, he raised his head to offer her a crooked smile and said, "Actually I drove here and joined the carnival. I was in Canada until a couple days ago."
"I see." Divine stood and began gathering dishes. "I guess we should call it a night."
Despite refusing to look directly at him, Divine caught glimpses of the worried frown suddenly on Marcus's face, so wasn't surprised when he said, "But what about explaining Atlantis?"
"That will have to wait," she said, unable to keep the stiffness out of her voice. "We've been talking most of the night as it is and it's nearly dawn. Morning comes early at the carnival."
"Right," Marcus murmured, and began to gather the salad dressings, and then stopped and frowned as he asked, "Did I say something wrong?"
"It's what you didn't say," she muttered, suddenly angry. He was her life mate. He wasn't supposed to lie to her, was he? Even by omission?
"What do you mean?" he asked at once. "What didn't I say?"
"Oh, I don't know. Why don't you tell me?" Divine suggested dryly as she turned to scrape her plate into the pull-out garbage pail under the sink. She then dropped the plate in the garbage to scoot desperately to the side in an effort to avoid his touch when he went to grab her arm. No doubt he'd merely intended to pull her around to face him, but she couldn't risk his touching her. One touch and they'd both go up like tinder. She was pretty sure of that.
"Divine," he said with exasperation, moving to close the space between them. "I'm not going to hurt you. I could never hurt you. You're my life mate."
"Really?" she asked, backing away from him. "I'm not so sure of that. How do I know you're not just like my mother? You could be lying about being younger than me. You could really be older than me and able to read and control me. Maybe you're just claiming to be my life mate to lull me into a false sense of security or something."
"How could I lie about being younger than you? I never said I was. All I did was tell you how old I am. I don't know how old you are," he said reasonably. "And why would I want to lull you into a false sense of security?"
Because you're Uncle Lucian's spy.
Divine so wanted to say that, but she bit back the words and stared at him.
"Besides, there is no way what we experienced out there beside the RV tonight wasn't life mate sex," he said firmly. "I felt every shaft of pleasure that went through your body, every quiver of excitement my touch raised. And you felt mine. Didn't you."
It wasn't a question but a statement. And he was right, she had experienced his pleasure with him . . . or she thought she had. Either he really was her life mate, or he was one hell of a good faker. And the man was just standing there, so bloody beautiful with his bare chest, bare feet, and tight jeans. His hair was dry now, but lay ruffled around his head. She could remember how damned soft it had felt under her fingers, as soft as the rest of him had been hard.
She'd wanted to feel all that hardness against her softness, Divine recalled. She'd wanted his naked skin against hers. She'd wanted him filling her with the bulging erection she'd felt with her hand . . . and she'd never got the chance. Might never get the chance if she found the opportunity to slip away today, reclaim her motorcycle, and escape.
She shifted her gaze to his face and noted that his eyes were sliding over her body more silver than black. Muttering, "Ah hell," she closed the small space between them and basically plastered herself against his chest, her hands reaching to draw his head down to hers. Divine didn't have to do much drawing. His head lowered eagerly to let his mouth claim hers and then they were on that lovely roller coaster called life mate sex again. Only this ride had a bunch of highs and exciting turns and only one low, the one that waited to drag them under at the end.
That low on her mind, Divine began to move slowly backward, drawing Marcus with her toward the door to the bedroom. He went willingly enough, but didn't stop kissing her and began touching her as well as they went.
His hands slid up her arms, partway down, then simply moved around to claim her breasts through the cotton of her blouse. Divine bit into his lip in reaction, then immediately reached up to tug at her blouse, pulling it down and out from under his fingers so that they were against her naked flesh.
The moment she did, Marcus stopped walking to bend and lash first one nipple and then the other with his tongue. The man had a very talented tongue, she decided faintly, clutching at his head with one hand and his shoulder with the other to keep her feet beneath her as pleasure washed through her.
Divine felt his hand drop to her behind and start to squeeze and then he suddenly dropped to kneel before her, his mouth never ceasing in the attention it was giving her breasts. But when he began to urge her skirt up her legs, she gasped and shook her head as she grabbed for the wandering hand. They were still a foot from the door to the bedroom.
"Oh, no, no, no," she managed to get out. "The bedroom."
"Okay." He rumbled the word around one excited nipple. Then he let that nipple slip from his mouth.
Divine was torn between disappointment that he was no longer suckling her and relief that they were going to move this to the bedroom, but before she could move, he suddenly lowered himself to sit on his feet before her.
"What—?" she began with confusion and then nearly bit her tongue off when he suddenly pushed up her skirt and pressed his mouth to the inside of her left thigh.
"Oh God no," she gasped and would have tried to push his mouth away, but couldn't seem to make her hands do her bidding. They did reach for his head, but instead of pushing, they caught in his hair and tugged encouragingly as he ran his tongue upward. His tongue was a bare inch from the top of her leg, when he suddenly let go of her skirt with one hand and instead clasped her leg to draw it over his shoulder. Before it had even settled there, his tongue had found the nub at the core of her excitement and proceeded to show her just how talented it was.
Divine struggled briefly to keep herself upright, but when his finger then found the center of her and slid in and out even as his lips plucked at her nub and tongue flicked it at the same time . . . Well, she cried out and threw her head back, managing to completely lose her balance. In the next moment she was falling. Fortunately, darkness claimed her before she hit her head on the bedroom door fram