Dark Gold Chapter Ten

The kitchen was already warm from the blaze Stefan had built in the stone fireplace. The aroma of coffee and cinnamon laced the air. Alexandria walked beside Aidan into the room, their bodies brushing occasionally. He glanced down at the top of her bent head. She was wary now, afraid of him and the implications of her physical response to him. Yet now, without her knowledge, her body instinctively sought the shelter and comfort of his. She was beneath his shoulder, his arm sliding easily around her waist, across her back. She didn't even seem to notice.

The feel of her skin against his was driving him mad, but he walked with his usual easy grace and revealed none of his emotions on his face. He smiled at Marie as she turned from the counter, where she was beating an egg mixture in a bowl. She had so much warmth and affection in her for so many, not least for him. She humbled him with her ability to take so many into her heart.

"Aidan! Alexandria! I had no idea you were in the garden." She was smiling at them, but her sharp eyes were taking in his carefully blank expression and the shadows in Alexandria's eyes. "Joshua slept a little fitfully - I think he's really missing you, dear. He's such a sweet little boy. And his beautiful curls!"

Alexandria smiled. "He detests those curls."

Marie nodded. "What little boy wouldn't?" Alexandria wasn't nearly as pale as she had been all the other times Marie had seen her, and she certainly didn't look dead, as she had when Aidan carried her into the house. She had been well fed by Aidan, Marie was certain. She took a deep breath. "I wanted to thank you for what you did for Aidan the other night. It took courage. Stefan said Aidan would have died had you not gone to his aid. Aidan is like a son to me, or a brother. He is our friend and our family. Thank you for bringing him back to us."

Aidan stirred restlessly beside Alexandria, but she ignored him. "You're welcome, Marie, although I'm certain he would have found a way without me. Aidan is nothing if not resourceful. I'm indebted to you for all you've done for Joshua."

Aidan bent his head to brush a kiss onto Marie's temple. "I have told you for years that you worry too much about me. But you are correct. Alexandria saved my life."

Alexandria made a face at him. "And it was such a brilliant decision on my part, too," she whispered for his ears only.

His hand came up to caress the nape of her neck. "I thought so."

Stefan came in with an armload of wood. "Aidan! You're up." He beamed at them both. "And Alexandria, you certainly look better than the last time I saw you. But I give you credit - you know how to get things done."

Self-consciously she brushed a tendril of hair from her face. "I can be rather bossy, Stefan. I didn't mean to be. It's just that I've lived for so long on my own, caring for Joshua, that I'm used to doing everything myself and figuring things out. Besides, Aidan is so stubborn, and he seems to have everyone around here buffaloed."

She was taunting him, the little devil! Aidan knew it, and something inside him responded to the teasing. He felt, for the first time in centuries, for the first time since he was young, that he was not alone. He was in his home - not a house, but a real home - with his family surrounding him. Joshua slept peacefully in his bed, Marie and Stefan were laughing and joking in the kitchen, and beside him was the woman who was his life, his very breath, the blood in his veins. She had given him a heart, so he was now capable of knowing love and laughter and appreciating the miracles he had been favored with.

"That handsome man came back," Marie suddenly said, her eyes bright and innocent. She remained very busy at the counter.

Stefan choked on his coffee, and Aidan had to pound on his back. He looked suspiciously from one to the other. "What handsome man?" But he was beginning to have a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Marie touched Alexandria's arm lightly. "Your Mr. Ivan. He was quite upset and worried about you. He even called the police when we wouldn't allow him in. They were by yesterday morning. Nice, polite officers. I believe you've met them, Aidan, a time or two." Marie was beaming.

"Thomas Ivan came by again?" Alexandria asked, shocked.

"Oh, yes, dear," Marie said guilelessly. "He was quite worried about you."

"He called the police?" Alexandria couldn't take it all in.

"Two detectives. They insist you and Aidan contact them as soon as you return. We told them Aidan had taken you to a private hospital, that you were very ill. Aidan has donated money many times to their causes and even helped a few out individually when they needed it. All on the up and up, of course. Loans with very little interest but certainly within the law. I had the impression Mr. Ivan had angered them with his accusations against Aidan."

"I can imagine he did," Aidan said dryly, glaring at Marie.

Marie didn't seem to notice the signal. "I thought it sweet that he was so worried about your safety. One could hardly blame him for his concern." She smiled. "He wanted them to search the house, but of course, the officers refused. He left his number and wants you to call him, and he left something else. Let me just get it for you." She sounded like an excited schoolgirl.

Aidan leaned one hip lazily against the counter, but there was nothing lazy about his golden eyes. He followed his housekeeper's every movement, unblinking, his stare like that of a great predator eyeing its prey. Stefan moved closer to his wife uneasily, but Marie didn't seem to notice, bustling over to the refrigerator.

"I have to talk to the police?" Alexandria asked, completely unaware of Aidan's menacing stance. "I can't talk to the police. Aidan." She reached for his arm, her hand shaking. "I could never do it. What if they ask me questions about Henry, or something about those women? Thomas Ivan will have told them I was there that night. I can't talk to the police. What has Thomas done?"

With a great sense of satisfaction, Aidan curved an arm protectively around her shoulders. He swept her close to him, offering comfort. Marie pulled open the enormous refrigerator and turned, a huge bouquet of roses in her hands, the vase cut crystal. He felt Alexandria's swift intake of breath.

"For you," Marie said blithely, ignoring the black scowl on Aidan's face. "Your Mr. Ivan brought these for you."

Alexandria moved away from Aidan to cross the room. "They're so beautiful. Roses," she said breathlessly. "I've never received flowers before, Marie. Never." She touched one dewy petal. "Aren't they wonderful?"

Marie was nodding and smiling in agreement. "I thought we might put them in the living room, but if you want them in your private bedroom, that would fine, too."

Aidan's hands itched to strangle the woman. He had known Marie from the moment of her birth - sixty-two years ago - and they had never exchanged a cross word. And he suddenly wanted to strangle her. He should have ripped Ivan's throat out. Flowers. Why hadn't he thought of flowers? Why hadn't Marie mentioned it to him first? Why had she accepted them? Whose side was she on, anyway? Flowers! He had the urge to rip those petals off one by one.

"Look," Marie cooed, "he even had the thorns removed so you wouldn't hurt yourself. What a thoughtful man."

"What time did you tell the police we would see them?" Aidan interrupted, afraid that if he didn't he would erupt into violence. He detested the way Alexandria kept caressing the petals of one of the white roses.

Stefan cleared his throat and glared at his wife. "They asked that you contact them at your earliest convenience. It seems that Ivan is particularly insistent, especially since two bodies, burned beyond recognition, were found a few miles from here. I told the police I was returning from the store when I saw the blaze and called it in from the car phone."

Alexandria's face went white, and she looked up at Aidan as if for direction. "Are they going to question me about that, too?"

Aidan reached out a hand, gently fingering her silky hair. "Of course not, cara. Do not be so alarmed. They believe I had already taken you to the hospital. If necessary, we will be able to prove such a thing. The police want only to answer Ivan's ridiculous concerns by seeing you alive and well. I assured him you were safe when he was here last, but he would not take my word. He has thoroughly insulted me."

In spite of her fears, Alexandria laughed. "You were lying to him, you idiot. I wasn't safe. A vampire had bitten me, remember?"

He raised an eyebrow at her. "


In all the centuries of my existence, no one has ever called me an idiot."

"Well, that's because everyone's afraid of you. Thomas had good reason to think you were lying. Don't act like one of those ridiculous men in whatever century who fought duels of honor."

"I have fought more than one duel in my time."

"Idiot," she said disrespectfully, but she was laughing. Alexandria buried her face in the flowers, inhaling the sweet fragrance. Then she raised her head and caught Aidan looking at her with that possessive, masculine intensity that caused her heart to turn over. "Do I really have to talk to the police? Can't you just do it?"

There was some satisfaction in her blaming Ivan, Aidan thought, but it didn't help to have her cuddling those accursed flowers.

Stefan shook his head. "Actually, Aidan, the police are very interested in those bodies. It seems the way they burned was quite remarkable, as if the flames were burning from the inside out. There was nothing left but ashes. They couldn't ID the bodies through dental work either. I think they'll insist on speaking to both of you."

Alexandria slumped against the counter, leaning heavily on Aidan. "I'm not very good at lying, Aidan. Everyone always knows when I'm lying."

She sounded so dejected, as if it was a terrible sin that she couldn't lie, that he smiled. "Do not worry, cara. I will handle the police. All you have to do is sit in a chair and look fragile and delicate," Aidan assured her.

She frowned at him as if she thought he was making fun of her. "I can't look fragile. Or delicate. I'm sturdy, Aidan."

He laughed then. He couldn't help it. The sound was deep velvet, a pure note that made Alexandria smile even as she nudged him. "Don't laugh, you ape. I swear, Aidan, you're so completely arrogant, it's scary. Has he always been this way?" She was smiling at Marie - her first genuine smile at the other woman, a sharing of feminine minds.

"Always," Marie said solemnly, her heart lightening. She had not realized just how afraid she had been that the house hold would change, that she and Stefan would no longer be welcome. She knew Aidan would never throw them out, but if the tension between Alexandria and herself was not resolved, sooner or later she and Stefan would have to find their own place. And Aidan's home had been her home her entire life. When she married Stefan, he had moved in and accepted the life she led, had accepted and grown to love Aidan Savage, too.

"I think the living room is the perfect place to put the flowers," Alexandria agreed. "When Thomas comes over, he'll be able to see them."

Aidan found himself gritting his teeth. Alexandria was already flitting from the kitchen. He caught Marie by the shoulder before she could follow, leaned down, and put his mouth to her ear. "Couldn't you have thrown the damn things out?" The words came out somewhere between a hiss and a growl. "And just for the record, you traitor, Ivan is not her man. I am."

Marie looked shocked. "Not yet, you're not. I believe you still have to court her. And of course I would never throw roses out, Aidan. When a man goes to the trouble of giving a woman flowers, she should at least have the pleasure of seeing them."

"I thought you didn't like this bum."

"He can't be all bad. You should have seen his concern for her. I tell you, Aidan, he's really taken with her." Marie was deliberately, innocently enthusiastic. "I don't think you'll have to worry about her when she's with him." She attempted to sound reassuring.

Behind them, Stefan was choking again. Aidan swore eloquently in three languages and followed Alexandria out of the room, shaking his head over the workings of the female mind.

Stefan put an arm around Marie. "Wicked, wicked woman."

She laughed softly. "This is fun, Stefan. And it's good for him."

"Be careful, woman. He is not like other men. He might kill to keep her. His nature is that of a wild predator," Stefan warned gravely. "We've never seen him like this."

Marie sniffed. "He will behave himself. He wouldn't dare do otherwise. That girl wants to run. She has sense, that one, and plenty of courage."

"Spirit," Stefan agreed. "She will lead him a dance. But she doesn't realize the danger she will always be in. Or the danger Joshua will be in."

"She needs time, Stefan," Marie said softly. "She will have us to help her, and Aidan will guide her."

Aidan paced after Alexandria, pushing down the swirling demon raging against that soft, faraway look that had crept into her eyes. Intellectually he understood the lure Thomas Ivan represented to Alexandria. She wanted to be human. She wanted to feel human. She wanted to work and live in the human world. She believed Ivan could give her that. Even more, she would not have to deal with the unfamiliar, frighteningly intense sexual feelings Aidan evoked in her.

He reached out and caught the length of her hair in his hand, bringing her to an abrupt halt. "Do not worry about the police, Alexandria. They will not ask you anything about the vampires. They have no idea they were vampires, and they believe you were in a hospital. If they ask, just tell them you do not remember anything."

She was quiet a moment as she arranged the roses. He could sense her unease. "Aidan? Can I leave here? Would you let me go?"

Involuntarily his hand tightened in her hair. He let his breath out slowly. "What brought this on, piccola?"

"I just want to know. You said I wasn't a prisoner here. Can I come and go as I please?" Her teeth were tugging at her full lower lip.

"Are you planning on dating this joker?"

"I want to know if I can leave this house."

He wrapped an arm around her slender waist and pulled her against his hard frame. "Do you think you could survive without me?" His mouth was close enough to her neck that she could feel the warmth of his breath. Despite her every intention not to respond, her body caught fire.

Her sapphire eyes searched his face. He gave nothing away; she had no idea what he was thinking, and she wasn't going to merge her mind with his to find out. He was drawing her deeper and deeper into his world, a world of the night. A world of sexuality and violence. Alexandria wanted her old life back. She wanted familiar things around her, things she had some control over.

His perfect mouth touched her throat. A brush of flame. His golden gaze met her eyes. "Do not ask questions you do not really want the answer to. I will not lie to you, even to make it easier."

She closed her eyes as warmth flooded her body. He made her feel cherished. Made her feel beautiful. Made her feel unfulfilled and empty without him. Her fingers tightened around the stem of one of the roses. She jerked her hand away with a little cry, cradling one finger.

"Let me see," he said softly. His voice was tender, his touch gentle as he pulled her hand to him for his inspection. A pinprick of blood welled up from her index finger. "Sir Galahad left a thorn," he murmured as he bent his head and took her finger into the healing heat of his mouth.

She couldn't move, couldn't speak. Her body blazed with need. She stood as still as she could, watching him the way a cornered mouse does a cat. He had already taken over her life. It was there in her mind, in her body, her terrible need of him. She wanted to cry. Even if she managed to escape, to somehow get Joshua out and run away from him, she would carry him with her everywhere she went.

Abruptly she jerked her hand away from him before the flames leapt any higher. "His name is Thomas Ivan, not Sir Galahad, and I doubt very much if he personally took the thorns from the roses."

Aidan nodded solemnly. "You are right, piccola. He would not think of such a thing himself, nor would he perform the task. He would think it beneath him and a waste of his time." He reached around her and removed the thorn, then examined each stem carefully to assure himself she would not get hurt again.

"Why do you have to make him sound so petty?" she demanded, exasperated. She was determined to be attracted to Ivan. Women all over the world had multiple lovers. If other women could be attracted to more than one man in a lifetime, so could she. It didn't have to be just Aidan Savage. He was worldly, sensuous, impossibly attractive with those haunting eyes and that perfect mouth. Any woman might fall for him, but all it was physical attraction. She could get over it like a bad case of the flu. A virulent case of the flu.

Aidan turned away from her to stare out the window. He didn't know whether to laugh or be angry at her wild thoughts. She was so determined to find someone, anyone, other than him.

"Aidan?" Stefan walked in. "I informed the police that you and Alexandria had returned and that she would be up to speaking with them this morning. I made certain they understood she would be unable to go to the station or even to stay up long. They're sending a couple of detectives over now."

"Detectives?" Aidan raised an eyebrow. "For so trivial a matter?"

Stefan cleared his throat and shifted his weight uneasily. "I believe Mr. Ivan has some political pull. He went above the department's head and even, according to the detective I spoke with yesterday, went so far as to check to see that all of us were in the country legally. I believe he wished to have us deported."

Alexandria gasped, her chin lifting. "He did what?"

"I'm sorry, Alexandria, I should not have repeated that within your hearing. Mr. Ivan was terribly upset at not being able to get in touch with you," Stefan said.

Aidan could have strangled the man for attempting to get Ivan off the hook. Alexandria had been annoyed. Without her even being aware of it, she was already thinking of the members of his household as part of her family.

"That is no excuse for Thomas to throw his weight around and try to get you and Marie deported. He didn't even care about completely disrupting your lives. And what about Joshua? He would have had to go into a foster home." Her anger at Thomas Ivan was rising. She detested people who thought they could have their way because they had money. Though she would never admit it to Aidan, never concede that tiny bit of power, she was less and less inclined to work with the man or be involved with him in any meaningful way. Surely she would find other creative outlets.

"Actually," Stefan confessed, avoiding Aidan's sharp gaze, "I believe it was Aidan he was more interested in deporting. He had an investigator run a background check on him, hoping, I think, to come up with some hint of criminal activities. Unsavory is the descriptive I believe he used."

Alexandria bit back a sudden laugh. "Perhaps Thomas has more intuition than we gave him credit for. Unsavory is an apt word, don't you think, Stefan? I wouldn't mind having Aidan deported myself."

"I think it would be prudent to retire to the kitchen and eat my breakfast, Alexandria," Stefan said diplomatically.

"Your only choice," Aidan growled.

Stefan grinned at him unrepentantly and paused in the doorway. "You might want to give Mr. Ivan a call, Alexandria. The detectives said it might stop him from harassing them every ten minutes."

"He's been calling them every ten minutes?" A slow smile curved her mouth. "He must really be worried. Isn't that sweet, Aidan? He's worried about me. He must really want me to work for him. What a break. With the money he pays me, Joshua and I can..." She trailed off, looked quickly up at Aidan.

His hand curled around the nape of her neck, his fingers moving in a soothing massage. "I am proud of you, Alexandria. Your work must be extraordinary to have Ivan after you to this extent. You deserve to feel good about yourself." He didn't believe for one moment that Ivan's interest in her was purely business, but he knew she was truly talented. Aidan was a shadow in her mind, seeing her vivid pictures spring to life in her imagination.

She smiled up at him. "I used to dream about working for Thomas Ivan. His company is always on the leading edge of graphic designs, and his games are like full-length movies. When the rumor hit the street that he might be looking for another graphic designer, I started sketching night and day. I didn't believe I'd really get a chance to show him my work, let alone that he would want to hire me."

"From what I saw of your drawings, you are very talented," he acknowledged softly. "But perhaps you might want to correct some of his false impressions of vampires." Her eyes flashed at him, but a dimple deepened in her cheek. "Make them more ruthless and merciless, you mean?" she asked mischievously. She touched the petals of the nearest rose and bent once more to inhale their fragrance. "I can't believe he sent me flowers."

A rude noise escaped from somewhere deep in Aidan's throat. "I just saved your life. What are roses compared to that?" He was glaring at the long-stemmed flowers, his golden gaze intense and menacing.

Alexandria glanced up at him, saw the dark, determined set of his mouth, and burst out laughing. She spun around and went up on her toes to cover his eyes with her palm. "Don't you dare. If my roses wither, I'll know exactly who's responsible. I mean it, Aidan. You leave my flowers alone. You can probably destroy the entire bouquet with one ferocious glance."

Her body was soft against his, her laughter warm against his throat. His arm circled her small waist, locking her to him. "I was only going to make them droop a little. Nothing too dramatic."

His velvet voice turned her heart over. Little butterfly wings were brushing at her stomach. She could feel his muscles, hard and masculine, imprinted on her form. Why did her body have to melt every time she came into contact with him? Even when he was being bad, a petulant, jealous child, he made her laugh. Why did all this have to be happening with him?

"I'm going to take my hand off your eyes, but you aren't even to look at my roses. If I catch you..." She trailed off, meaning to intimidate him. Slowly her palm slid from his eyes, her fingers accidentally touching his mouth. At once her heart slammed hard against his. Or was it his heart slamming against hers? She didn't know, but the electricity was crackling, and he was too close.

"Don't you dare, Aidan." She made it an order. His eyes had gone hot, liquid gold, blazing possessively down into hers, melting her insides.

"Dare what?" he whispered, his sorcerer's voice slipping under her skin like a flame. His gaze was so intense, she felt the same flames licking along her nerve endings.

His mouth was now mere inches away. Her tongue touched her lower lip. Enticed him. Tempted him. She closed her eyes as his mouth came down on hers. Fire swept through her, consumed her. His arms crushed her to him, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered but his perfect mouth and the earth moving beneath her feet.

She belonged to him, with him. There could never be another. Only Aidan. Only the two of them together. She was his.

The words beat in her head, imprinting themselves forever on her heart. On her soul. Alexandria reluctantly pulled her mouth from his, burying her face on his chest. "You aren't playing fair, Aidan," she said, the words muffled in his shirt.

The warmth of his breath touched her neck. "This is no game, cara. It never has been." His mouth closed over her pulse, sending it racing. "This is for all time."

"I have no idea what to do with you. I don't even know if you mean the things you say." The confusion in her mind was very real. He was swamping her, giving no relief, no time to figure things out for herself.

That wasn't what Aidan wanted. Alexandria needed to trust him, to see him as a friend as well as a lover. The urgent demands of his body and nature gave them very little time, but he was determined to make the most of it. She could laugh at him, make him laugh at himself. It was a start to friendship. Slowly, reluctantly, his arms released her, and he stepped away, providing a measure of relief for both of them.

"Thomas Ivan needs to be taken out and shot," he said deliberately to make her smile. "He's a spoiled brat who made too much money too fast."

She relaxed visibly. "I wonder if he thinks the same thing about you."

"With his vivid imagination, he probably envisions a stake through my heart," he muttered. "That man has a sick mind, to make up all that nonsense. Did you happen to pick up his last game, the one with the vampires and their army of women slaves?"

"Well, it's obvious you have," she pointed out, pouncing on that. "Secretly you probably love his games. I'll bet you own every one." Her eyes widened, and a slow, wicked smile spread across her lips. "You do, don't you, Savage? You have all his games. You're a secret fan."

He nearly choked. "A fan? That man could not find the truth if it was staring him right in the face. As it was the other evening."

She raised an eyebrow. "His games are fiction, Savage. No truth intended. Only imagination. That's why they're entertainment, not truth. Admit it, you like his games."

"It is never going to happen, Alexandria, so do not hold your breath. And another thing - when you talk to that pompous ass on the phone, do not go all syrupy." He folded his arms across his chest and looked down at her from his superior height.

"Syrupy?" she echoed indignantly, outraged at the accusation. "I never sound syrupy." Her large eyes flashed a warning at him, daring him to pursue his point.

He dared to. "Oh, yes, you do." He clasped his hands together and made a face, his voice rising an octave as he simpered. "Oh, Marie, the flowers are so beautiful. Thomas Ivan gave them to me." He rolled his eyes as he mimicked her.

"I did not say that! And I never act that way. For some reason, you just can't bring yourself to admit you like Ivan's games. It must be some macho kind of nonsense, although a lot of men play them and enjoy them."

"They are pure trash," he insisted. "And there is not a grain of truth or sense in any of them. He romanticizes vampires. It would be interesting to see what he thought if he was introduced to one." It was a veiled threat, nothing less. Aidan fairly purred with satisfaction at the mere thought of it.

Alexandria was horrified. "You wouldn't dare! Aidan, I mean it, don't you even think about doing something so evil."

"Was it not you who said there was no such thing as a vampire?" he inquired innocently, his white teeth very much in evidence.

His mouth again. She found herself staring up at it, fascinated. His smile had softened its lines into pure sensuality. She blinked to bring perspective back into her life. He should be outlawed.

His smile widened, dispelling any hint of cruelty, and he leaned close to her. "Remember, I can read your mind, piccola."

Her blue eyes flashed at him, and one small fist thumped the middle of his chest. Hard. "Well, stop it. And don't flatter yourself. I wasn't exactly giving you compliments."

"No?" His hand touched her face tenderly. "Keep fighting, Alexandria. It will not do you any good, but if it makes you feel better, go ahead."

"Arrogant, primeval ape," she sniffed, turning away before he could read her need of him in her eyes. She deliberately went to the telephone. "I believe you have Thomas's number?"

He reached around her, his arm brushing her shoulders, his scent enveloping her. Any of his kind would recognize his brand, would know she belonged to him just from his scent on her. The human, however, would never notice. Irritated by the thought, Aidan found the business card beneath the phone and handed it to her.

"Call him," he dared softly.

Her chin went up. She was human. She would be human. Even if she wasn't, this... this creature, whatever he was, would not rule her life. Defiantly she stabbed at the buttons on the phone.

To Alexandria's amazement, Thomas himself answered. It seemed so out of character. "Thomas? This is Alexandria Houton," she said hesitantly, not certain, now that she had him, what to say. "I hope it isn't too early to call."

"Alexandria! Thank God! I was beginning to think that man had you locked up in a dungeon somewhere. Are you all right? Do you want me to come and get you?"

Thomas sat up, pushing at the hair falling across his forehead. The sheets had wound around him so tightly for a moment, he had to fight just to move.

"No, no, I'm fine. Well, still a bit shaky, and I have to rest a lot, but I'm doing much better. Thank you for the roses. They're beautiful." She was acutely aware of Aidan standing close to her, listening to every word, listening to the tone of her voice. She had an impulse to try for syrupy. The man had no right monitoring her personal conversations.

"I'm coming over, Alexandria. I have to see you." Thomas said it almost belligerently, determined not to be denied.

"I believe I have an interview with a couple of detectives this morning," she said in a gentle reprimand.

Beside her Aidan stirred restlessly. Her voice was far too soft for his liking. Far too sexy. She was a Carpathian now, with all the sensuality and the mesmerizing effect on humans of one born to his kind.

Aidan's subtle, possessive movement brought his body even closer, and she could smell his scent. It invaded her very being, sending liquid warmth pooling unexpectedly in her midsection. Alexandria hunched her shoulders and stepped away, backing up against the antique cherry-wood piece the phone rested on.

"I was so worried, Alexandria. And that strange man. How well do you know him?" Thomas had lowered his voice to a conspirator's whisper.

Alexandria was acutely aware that it did not matter how quietly Thomas spoke. Her own hearing was so sharp now that she could hear at great distances if she chose. It only stood to reason that Aidan's hearing would be even more intense and his ability to control it far better than hers. She felt color wash into her face.

"You don't know Aidan at all, Thomas. You barely know me. We only met for one dinner, and that was interrupted. Please don't say things against someone who has been a great friend to me." For some unknown reason, Thomas's slights against Aidan annoyed her, but it was the last thing she wanted Aidan to know.

"You're very young, Alexandria. You've probably never met a man of his caliber before. Believe me, he's way out of your league. He's likely very dangerous."

Her fingers tightened around the receiver until her knuckles whitened.

What did Ivan know? And, therefore, how much danger might Aidan be in? Her teeth bit down hard on her lower lip. She really couldn't bear it if someone suspected the truth and... and drove a stake through his heart or something. She might not want to feel that way, she might even be betraying mankind, but she couldn't help herself. The idea of losing him was terrifying.

Aidan reached around her and gently covered her hand with his. In her mind danced the image of a shark with Thomas Ivan's white, practiced smile. Deliberately Aidan teased her with the image until she was forced to laugh.

"This is no laughing matter, Alexandria," Thomas said huffily. "I'm coming over to discuss this. You can't stay in that house with that man."

"I wanted to work for you, Thomas," she replied softly, "not have you dictate my personal life." She closed her eyes. She had wanted the job so much. She also wanted to be human, to live and breathe and function in a world she understood.

"I'm coming over," he said decisively.

Alexandria was left with a loud click and a dial tone. She glared up at Aidan. "Do I look like someone to push around?" she demanded as she banged down the phone. "Is please order me around tattooed on my forehead?"

"Let me see," Aidan said, leaning close. His mouth was inches from hers. "Hmm. Not at all. It says, extremely kissable."

She pushed at the wall of his chest but found him immovable. "Don't try your winning little ways with me, Savage. I've been told you're a dangerous man and that I'm way out of my league, whatever that means."

"How could I be dangerous?" His body was trapping hers with its heat, with its aggression. She ached for him so easily. "Am I dangerous?" His voice whispered over her lips like silk against her skin.

"If you don't get out of my way right this minute, I'm going to..." She pictured bringing up her knee hard and watching him writhe in pain on the floor. The image in her mind was as vivid as his shark's image had been.

Aidan leapt away from her, laughing as he did so. "You have a nasty little temper, Alexandria."

"Another annoying habit," she said smugly.
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