Dinner at the Trowbridge Manse
Approximately two hours after I sent my brother to Merenwyn~
Robson Trowbridge pushed away his dinner plate, and knuckled his red-rimmed eyes. There wasn’t much left on the chicken carcass. The bones had been picked clean.
He ate a whole bird. On his own.
I poured another measure of maple syrup into my bowl. Not too much, just enough to coat the bottom of it. I was saving some space for the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies that sat on the counter.
“You need to sleep,” I said quietly. My mate was all cheekbones and blue eyes now that he’d lopped off his dreads from hell. It made his skin look thin and taut, and only served to emphasize the blue smudges under the line of his thick black lashes.
Despite his exhaustion, he was still utterly beautiful.
Trowbridge nodded. “I will after I—“
“Uh huh.” I cut in. “After you’ve battened down the hatches. Set the picket lines. Shored up the defenses. Got all that. But anyone could see that you’re about to do a face-plant into your plate. You might want to talk fast.”
I’m hell with the love talk. But we were both exhausted, even though it was only eight p.m. It was taking everything I had not to crack my jaw into a yawn. I wouldn’t mind going to bed even if it meant lying flat on a mattress and going ‘ah.’
Gorgeous sat up straighter. “I don’t need much sleep.”
I licked at the spoon, tasting the sweetness of the maple syrup. Damned if Trowbridge’s gaze hadn’t shifted to the point of my tongue. A little flicker of a single blue comet did a quick circuit around his widening pupil.
I gave him a faint smile before my gaze drifted to the black felt bowler sitting on top of refrigerator. I’d done very well not looking at my twin’s hat through the meal but now its presence could not be ignored.
My palm went from warm and safe in Trowbridge’s grip to a trifle damp and sweating.
I slipped it free.
Goddess, spare me. I’m going to Merenwyn to rescue Lexi. Where, according to the few facts I’d chiseled out of Trowbridge, there were no four-lane highways that had service stops every hour or so, where you could pee, and buy some coffee, and order a sandwich. Nope. Apparently, the Fae rode horses. And they shot arrows at people they didn’t like. Silver tipped. Who does that? An arrowhead piercing your spine had to hurt worse than a bullet. Hell, just shoot me and get it over with. Having something stick out of you and bob with every one of your breaths? I’ve done that. It sucks. I don’t ever want to do that again.
If the Fae don’t get me, the wolves will.
I’d demanded to be there when the Old Mage destroyed the Book of Spells. And I’d made a pledge to myself—yeah, we all know how well Hedi sticks to pledges—that I would destroy the old wizard’s soul, and in so doing, free my twin’s.
Sounds noble. Until you deconstruct the act. Take it down to a step-by-step event. First, I had to summon the Gates to Merenwyn and travel to the Fae realm. Usually calling the portal to this world posed a real problem for me, (as in hah-hah-impossible) but now, finally, Hedi Stronghold Peacock Trowbridge had the means to call the gates. All because last night—Goddess was it only last night?—a man named Knox tried to kill me. He’d been sent by the NAW (the Council of North American Weres) to call me on the carpet for a blatant case of treaty-breaking plus two counts of murder.
For the record, I only killed one person and she totally deserved it. Though in reflection—and I try so hard not to waste time doing that—I don’t think my guilt or innocence really mattered. There had been a whiff of kangaroo to the trial that had followed.
The outcome of that inquiry hadn’t ended well for my accuser.
He’d died. I lived.
C’est la vie.
But before he was dispatched with a one-way ticket to the happy hunting ground, the fool had actually captured the Fae portal’s materialization—from the first notes of the summons all the way to the end of the big event—on his cell phone. With his last breath, he’d hit send, and a copy of video had been delivered to his girlfriend’s e-mail address.
I’d seen the tape. Trowbridge had played it for us once during dinner. In the last frame the Gates of Merenwyn hovered over the fairy pond like something out of a Disney movie. All myst and lights and magic.
What had seemed like a sour lemon last night—just who the hell was Brenda Pritty and what damage could she do to us?—had turned into big glass of sweet lemonade. Now, thanks to the video, all we had to do was hit replay. The song would be sung, compliments of the recording, and the portal would appear. Trowbridge and I would step through the gates (whoosh), then take a stroll through Merenwyn’s countryside (Who me? Sure I belong there) to find my twin (no sweat), and somehow maneuver to be in the right place (beside Lexi), in time to watch the Book of Spells being destroyed (tadah!).
Following that, I planned to effortlessly transport my soul to Threall where I would tear the Old Mage’s soul free from what remained of my brother’s and earn freedom for all.
All of which would be doable if I wasn’t Hedi-the-mousehearted.
“Stop thinking,” murmured Trowbridge. His hand lay lax on the kitchen table. There was an odd calus on the top of the first knuckle of his thumb. I should ask him about that, I thought, studying the way his veins forked like warm tributaries.
Truth? I could stare at his tendons, scars, large knuckles, and oddly caloused skin all night. To me, his paw was beautiful, even if the world deemed it ugly because it only had a thumb, a pointer, and an f-u digit left.
It was the hand that stroked my hair and killed Knox.
It was a very good paw.
The tap ran as Harry filled his glass. His white hair gleamed in the light as he tilted his head back for a long drink. Once finished, he used the back of his gnarled hand to wipe his mouth dry.
Biggs scratched his shoulder as he stifled a yawn.
“Close your mouth, Chihuahua.” Cordelia brushed past him, pen and notebook in hand. She’s big on lists, and sublists. She sat, adjusted her red wig, then put nib to paper. “What do we really need on this trip, Bridge? Can we take weapons across the portal?”
They shoot at people in Merenwyn. They trap wolves. And they’ve probably never met a six-foot ex-drag queen. All right. That. Was. It. I fixed her straight. “You’re not coming with us. It’s just going to be Bridge and me.”
“If this is about me being—“
“This is about the fact that I’m not losing any more people that I care about.”
Especially not another mother. I stared her down. Gritty eyed and stone faced. I’d accepted that I couldn’t change the course already set for me and Trowbridge—our lives would always be irrevocably entwined. It’s the downside, the hidden clause to the wonder of the mate bond: if a Were dies, his chosen mate soon follows.
But their lives—Cordelia, Anu, Harry, and Biggs—would not be added to the butcher’s list. I wasn’t giving up another family member to satisfy retribution’s appetite.
I’ve lost too much, and I’m very sore loser.
It took three “Mississippis” before my mother-who-wasn’t lowered her eyes.
Feeling a sweep of queasiness, and a general unwillingness to catch my lover’s penetrating gaze, I took refuge in the deep contemplation of the dregs of syrup coating the bottom of my bowl.
All hail, Hedi.
Queen Bitch of the Trowbridge kitchen.
This sudden need to assert myself—where’d that come from? Last week I’d been the slacker. Now, I was kept trembling on the edge of hear-me-roar-Hedi. Had some until now untapped portion of me finally realized the urgent and somewhat tardy need to haul ass?
Silence hummed in the room—appliances’ motors filling in the place where words should be spoken. Feigning calm, I picked up my spoon.
Don’t say anything, Trowbridge.
Let it be my decision.
I knew it must be mine, just like I recognized that I needed to catch up to everyone else in the worst way. Yes, Hedi had been a slacker; not doing much more than dozing over the last ten years. Okay, we’re talking figuratively now—I didn’t spend a decade lying on some posy-strewn bier, pale hands folded over my maidenly chest, eyes closed, lips sealed, whiling my way through a fairy princess’s enchanted snooze.
But nonetheless, I’d not been here either—participating in life like other people my own age, getting my requisite bruises, learning how to self-heal. I’d been both awake and asleep. You can do that—move through life in a dazed semicoma. Seriously. People do it all the time. They go to their job. They come home, watch television, or read a book. They eat, and drink, and shower, and do the laundry, and play who-gets-paid-now with the bills, and sometimes, they watch people from a window, wondering what it would feel like to embrace life again…
I traced a circle in the bowl with the edge of my spoon.
Yes. You can do all those things without being really here. Three-quarters asleep. Just doing the stuff you needed to do, while some part of you dozed and waited to be brought to life.
That sounds sad, and I’m not a sad person.
Biggs suddenly asked, “Do you think Whitlock doesn’t know that Knox is dead?”
“Oh dear God,” I heard Cordelia mutter. “The longer I’m around you, the less I’m convinced that you have anything between your ears other than the cheat notes for Skyrim. Do you really think the head of North American Weres doesn’t know that two of his men are dead? Of course he knows. Reeve Whitlock probably knows what we had for dinner.”
“I have thoughts,” said Briggs, clearly aggrieved. “Deep thoughts.”
I listened to someone pick up the liter of pop and give it a cautious shake.
“Anyone want the last bit of Coke?” asked Biggs.
I felt for the point of my ear, traced the sharp peak and felt absolutely no cessation of anxiety.
“There’s one more thing I have to do,” my mate said.
“What’s that, boss?” asked Harry.
“I have to call the Sisters.”
The silence that filled the room after that pronouncement was simply deafening.
Trowbridge’s belly button was kind of amazing—the tip of my baby finger fit perfectly in its shallow divot. Underneath it, the muscle was a hard slab. I stroked it again, marveling how two opposites could be such a good fit.
For instance, if you’re talking navels, I have to admit mine is deep. Only my Goddess knows exactly how deep. I’ve never stuck my finger in it to check, possibly because you don’t do that sort thing when you have an inner-bitch taking a snooze by your spine. She might bite it. Or worse—my Fae might grab it because she’s the type of ride-along persona given to doing ‘gotcha’ crap like that.
Shortly after Biggs had drained the bottle of Coke, Trowbridge and I had come upstairs to our personal sanctuary to catch a couple of hours of sleep before ‘The Sisters’—what the pack calls a certain coven of witches who practice dark arts—arrived at eleven.
To be honest, I’d anticipated lust—after all, he’d given me a slightly worn wink as we’d stumbled up the stairs, and let’s face it, Weres are randy as hell—but by the time I’d come back out of the washroom from my presleep tinkle, he’d crashed into a sleep that bordered a coma.
I knew he was exhausted but how does a person do that? Close their eyes and fall instantly asleep? I wish I could do that. But sleep was an avenue for dream-walking, and that activity was a potential doorway to Threall. Unfortunately—given that most of us mystwalkers found the realm of souls kind of fascinating—every trip to the land of myst was akin to playing roulette with a loaded weapon. Why? Because every time a mystwalker traveled to that realm, she reduced her chances of remembering how to return to her own.
Goddess, this feeling I keep smothering—a touch self-hatred melded to worry and fear—better not be the new normal.
“Trowbridge?” I whispered to my mate. “Will it get better?”
No answer. The bed hog lay flat on his back, one arm folded over his head, the other loosely wrapped around me. He’s pretty, my Trowbridge. Though, in my opinion, he was too thin, even if he was sporting some new and disturbingly magnificent muscles.
I wrote “Move over, Stud-muffin” on his chest. With my nail. Very lightly. Because there’s such a thing as poking a stick at a sleeping bear. And because he had a thatch of hair between his nipples. Not terribly dense. Just enough to say “here be a manly-man,” and I enjoyed the feeling of the curve of my nail sliding through it.
I glanced at the clock, wishing someone had reset it. How much longer before the witches flew in on their brooms? Neither Trowbridge nor I had any love for women who practice dark arts but we required their services. Tomorrow at sunset, we planned to summon the Gates of Merenwyn. Ideally, we wanted to do that without the pack noticing because the return of the portal would prompt awkward questions, like, “Hey, are they breaking the treaty again?” Or, “By golly, have they brought back her brother? I thought he was dead?”
Either topic is a line of inquiry we’d like to avoid.
However, keeping our trip to Merenwyn on the down low was going to be difficult without some help. The portal has a distinctive floral scent which even a Were with a head cold could detect. And then there are the pink-white lights, and the chime of bells.
No. We needed another illusion ward, set precisely where Mannus had ordered one cast six months ago—right over the entire fairy pond. That way we could go to and fro without anyone being the wiser.
Though for the record, there was an additional and far less optimistic reason that we required a sheet of magic pulled over the pond like a piece of plastic wrap—failure. What if our seminoble quest ended in disaster? What if we couldn’t rescue my brother and destroy the Book of Spells? Bad things could drip into this world through the Fae portal. Trowbridge worried that the lives of his wolves would be threatened. I couldn’t quite muster the same level of concern.
It would require more saintly qualities than I possessed to forgive people who’d tied me to the old oak tree. The scent of their blood lust had filled my nose.
Enough. I need to move. If only to get up and trot around to the other side to restart the whole roll-over game.
Merry was hanging from the lampshade, right where I’d placed her before turning the light out. I hadn’t wanted to put her on the bedside table because the wooden surface hadn’t been wiped down with Pine-Sol (the cleaning product choice among Weres), and there was still a touch of the fugly Mannus scent to it. An oversight on the part of the cleaning team who’d karate-chopped the throw pillows?
I think not.
Score another point for the League of Extraordinary Bitches.
Ralph, the amulet beside Merry, hung unmoving beside her on the parchment shade, either asleep or pretending to be.
Trowbridge said something like “Mrrrph” as I squirmed over him to reach for her.
My amulet gave me a little wink of light as I pulled her chain over my head. In another life, Merry would have done well as a mime. She can’t talk, as she’s imprisoned inside a hunk of amber that’s been set into a pendant fashioned from a nest of Fae gold, but she manages to express herself very well through movement and color shows.
She hadn’t interacted much with Ralph since she’d returned from the Fae realm. Which was interesting as her amber stone used to pinken at the sight of him. Understandable, to an extent. The Royal Amulet was astonishingly pretty, what with his brilliantly cut jewel and his manly Celtic setting. Though, in my opinion, even the artistry of his setting couldn’t make up for the fact that personalitywise, he was a pain in the butt.
Evidently, she no longer considered him the rockstar among her people.
I wish I knew why. One day, maybe she would tell me in her own way. I hope so, because I count her as my friend. Matter of fact, I don’t like going anywhere without her. Even if all I needed to do was pace the threadbare carpet that still carried the faint scent tones of the master bedroom’s former occupant.
Put that on the list: replace all soft furnishings and strip the wallpaper.
The second I rolled off Trowbridge and swung a leg over the side of the bed, he woke up—fast. None of this bleary-eyed stuff for my guy. He went straight from limp to warrior. Lunging for me as if someone had snatched me right out of his arms, at the same time blindly reaching for something beside him. Which wasn’t there. With a downright feral snarl he turned to check for the weapon that he’d obviously grown used to sleeping with. The one he’d evidently left in Merenwyn. What was it? A blade? An axe? A wooden staff?
His gaze did a lightning sweep of the room, taking in all the doors—the bedroom, the closet, the bathroom—then the window and finally, me and Merry.
“Go back to sleep,” I told him. “The witches aren’t here yet.”
But that was as pointless as expecting a Jack in the Box to fold up and close his own lid. He was awake. Tired blue eyes studied me.
I tugged my arm free with a wince. I had a bite wound that I’d received in Threall and it was throbbing again. “I’m going downstairs.”
“Stay,” he said.
“That’s got to be your favorite word.”
“Second favorite word,” I said, walking to the window.
“That’s two words.” He swung his feet over the side of the bed and scrubbed his hands over the stiff bristles of his hair. “I’m awake.”
But you shouldn’t be—not with those purple smudges under your eyes.
“Come back to bed,” he said, his tone all butter and temptation.
I eyed his body in all its near-perfection. The few scars he’d kept looked good on him. “If I get in that bed, you’re going to make love to me.”
Even in the half dark of the room, I could see his decidedly naughty grin. “And that would be a bad thing?”
Normally, all I had to do was inhale the clean scent of him, and I was a goner. And if he’d been awake when I’d sashayed out of the ladies, we’d have enjoyed each other. But I’d had time to brood. Guilt asked, in a withering voice, “Hedi, do you have any right to enjoy being held and loved, after you sent your twin to hell?”
My face must have reflected my answer to that puzzler.
“Oh,” he said.
“Oh,” I echoed, a tad sadly.
Trowbridge’s wistful gaze dipped toward the girls and I turned back to the window before all parts of him woke up. “Do you know what time it is?”
The mattress protested as Trowbridge got up. He came up behind me to wrap an arm—muscled, hard, warm—around my ribs. He eased me against his hard body as his hand slipped upward to cup my boob. He lifted it, so that it plumped in his palm, as he considered the night sky. “Around eleven, maybe twelve.”
“Does the sky look the same there?” I asked him.
“In Merenwyn?” His chest rose and fell. “No, the stars are different. There’s no Big Dipper or Northern star.”
“What does it have instead?”
“The moon is lower and bigger.” He studied the sky silently, perhaps lost in his memories. “There’s a cluster of smaller stars called Caitlin’s Daughters. People make wishes on them.”
“Do their dreams come true?”
“Not that I can see.” His palm slid along my skin until it encountered the chain I wore low around my hips. That sent the soft leather pouch hanging from the end of the Bride belt, swinging. Inside the little bag were seven stones, clear as diamonds, but far more valuable. “Why can’t you sleep?”
I gave him a mute shrug.
“The first obstacle has been passed, Tink,” he said softly. “The Old Mage must have succeeded in merging his soul with your brother’s.” His thumb absently brushed my nipple. It hardened.
Hedi, the mouse-hearted.
Hedi, the betrayer.
“What makes you so sure of that?” I asked.
“We’re not dead,” he said with his usual bluntness.
Trowbridge rubbed his chin against my shoulder. “You’re worrying about him.”
“Did you get any sleep?”
I shook my head. “I can’t stop thinking.”
His exhale spoke volumes. “We’re going to have to work on that.” Then he leaned back a bit, so that he could gather my hair and draw it over my right shoulder. He set to gently untangling the knots in my rat’s nest. Immediately, my nipples beaded—the backs of his knuckles were warm on the slope of my breast.
I let out a sigh, part pleasure, part sadness.
“Tell me what’s bothering you most,” he said, working on a difficult snare.
I swallowed. “I spent ten minutes as the Old Mage’s nalera…and it almost drove me insane. You’re naked. Every secret, every weakness, everything you like to hide from others, it’s there. Accessible for your mage’s interest and use.” I waited for him to say, “Don’t feel bad,” or maybe, “Clearly, love of my life, you had no choice.”
Instead Gorgeous finished with the knot, then said gruffly, “Go on.”
The stars blurred.
“Lexi’s the Old Mage’s bitch now,” I said in an anguished rush. “Every single thought he has is being examined—“
“Hedi,” Trowbridge cut in. “You have to remember that your brother lived a long time in the Faes’ Royal court. He’s had lots of practice shielding his thoughts.”
I slumped against him, thinking how we’d waited until Lexi was so weak that he couldn’t stand, couldn’t talk, couldn’t walk.
“Sweetheart,” he said, moving his leg so that I could be cradled closer. “One day you will be required to become a leader, and there are going to be things you’ll need to do that will leave you awake at night. It will harden you. And eventually you’ll wonder if you have any humanity left inside you. But you’ll have to push past that. You’ll have to force yourself to grab sleep when you can. To eat when you must. To keep going, no matter what.”
“What are you talking about, Trowbridge?” I turned, lifting a shoulder. “I have as much interest in leading people as I do in sitting for a group sing. I’m not a leader. I’ll never be one.”
He said something under his breath that sounded a whole lot like “Not yet, anyhow.”
I pushed away and leaned against the window frame. The glass was cold. I covered Merry with my palm and she sent me a throb of heat.
“Sweetheart, look at me.”
I considered that, and didn’t resist when he turned me gently to face him. Gravely, he cupped my face. For the longest moment, he studied me, with an intensity that made me feel like he was memorizing my features.
“What is it?”
“If I could keep you like this,” he said fiercely, “untouched and safe from everything harmful, I swear to God I would. You are perfect, just like this.” Mouth set in a flat line, he stroked my jaw. “But I can’t keep you out of trouble, no matter how much I want to, Hedi Peacock.”
He was freaking me out.
I gave him a weak smile. “If we live through all this, I’m going to turn into the most boring person in the world. I’m going to take up knitting. And baking.” Then I tipped my head toward the window. “Also, I’m going to fix your front yard. It needs flowers, Trowbridge.”
One corner of his mouth lifted, so I added, “After that? Maybe Tai-Chi.”
“Good luck with that.” My lover tucked a strand of my hair behind my pointed ear. “Tink. You’re attracted to danger.”
“I am not. Whenever I see it, I run like hell.”
“No, you don’t. You run right into trouble.”
Real amusement softened his tone. “Let’s see what you’ve done in the last twelve hours. You bargained with a mage and stared Cordelia down. Of the two I don’t know which is the bigger deal.” His gaze went to my mouth, clung there. “Sweetheart, you defy me every chance you get. You wrote ‘Stud-muffin’ on my chest.”
“I thought you were asleep.”
“I was concentrating with my eyes closed.” A ghost of a grin flitted across his face. “You came close to losing me with the double ff’s.” He gazed at me, face somber. “We’re heading for a shit-storm, Tink.”
“I know,” I whispered.
Blue eyes turned predator cold. “Remember this. Whatever happens—whatever it takes—we can’t allow the Black Mage to walk through worlds. That bastard has no place in ours.”
Unsettled, I dragged my gaze from him. Searched for something calming, and found it in the blue flower sprigs peppered across the wallpaper. Very small, very sweet. Oh Goddess, let me be wrong. “You’re going to Merenwyn to kill him, aren’t you?”
“There will be no peace for the Raha’ells until I do.”
I closed my eyes briefly. Them again. “The Black Mage has magic. And guards. While you’ll be armed with nothing more than hatred and the notion that his death will right a wrong that’s based on prejudice and fear. I know you miss your Merenwyn pack and feel responsible for them. But risking your life—“
“That’s what an Alpha does for his pack.”
I’ll never think that way. “Would killing the Black Mage change the Fae Court’s opinion that wolves are a lower order? Would it stop the trapping, or the—“
“It will buy them some time.” His fingers soothed my tense jaw.
“Until I find the Safe Passage.”
I’d sent a rogue across the gates six months ago. In some ways, he’d been easier to deal with than the ‘Son of Lukynae.’ Never in a million years would rogue wolf Robson Trowbridge have lifted a clenched fist in the air and cried, “Freedom for all!”
“Trowbridge.” I paused to pick my words carefully. “If there really was a portal keyed to recognize and accept Were blood, wouldn’t someone have used it by now?”
“Are you saying there is no Safe Passage for the wolves of Merenwyn?”
“I’m saying that…” The Raha’ells are no longer yours to lead. “My wish list is a lot shorter than yours. I’m not trying to save the world. I just want the seven of us safe,” I said. “That’s all I want, Trowbridge. You and me, Lexi and Anu, Cordelia and Harry…even Biggs. Everything I do is for that, and because of that.” I bit my lip. “You’re confident you can take on everything that comes your way. While I… What if I haven’t got what it takes? ”
Knuckles brushed my cheek. Calloused. Heated with blood. Smelled like forests and the wild. “Stop worrying,” he said softly. “We can do this. And you have everything you need inside you to finish this.”
“How can you be so sure?” I whispered.
“I just am.”
I forced my lids open and lifted my chin to gaze at Gorgeous. I love you—that’s what I tried to telegraph.
He frowned. “You look really tired.”
“Go ahead, Trowbridge,” I said sourly. “Keep drowning me in compliments.”
His thumb lightly grazed the circle under my eye. Then naked as a jaybird he gave me a smoldering look. “I’ve got an idea.”
Trowbridge steered me into the bathroom, his hand warm on the small of my back. “I could spend the next year in a shower. Hot water. Lots of towels. Soap…damn, I missed good soap.”
The League of Extraordinary Bitches had gone over the en suite with their sponges and Pine-Sol. The tub gleamed, the sink had been swiped down.
“I’m not sure if I want one right now.” An absolute truth. Though a lot of our conversations seemed to take place in one bathroom or another, we’d only really ducked under the spray once together. And that had been in a motel that had smelled of strangers, puke. and booze. Not one of my warm and fuzzy memories. Robbie Trowbridge had turned the water to cold, then held me under it.
“It will relax you,” he murmured, pulling aside the curtains.
Sure it will. I leaned against the bathroom vanity.
His body was marble. All tendons and definition. Thanks to his zero body fat, even his veins were on display—blue ribbons beneath golden skin. One led a trail down his massive bicep, curved into his elbow, then forked—three times—on his forearm.
My One True Thing turned on the taps, then stood, holding his hand under the spray. On one level, he was just a man waiting for his shower to warm. Palm turned upward to accept the dancing spray. Weight balanced on one foot, hip cocked. But this was My One True Thing. I didn’t even know how to describe the way his hip and groin met. He looked like a Ken doll, except for the fact he is an awesomely functioning male, and Ken has the anatomy of…well…a Ken doll.
Poor Barbie. She could have done so much better.
Trowbridge plucked the desiccated soap from the soap dish. His bicep flexed—pumped—as he lifted the cake of Irish Spring for a sniff test. Goddess. With Trowbridge, watching my man wait for the shower to heat was a mouth-drying, pussy-tightening event.
“This stinks of Mannus,” he said in disgust, before pitching the bar into the empty wastepaper container with enough force to overturn it.
I did not bend to right the wicker basket.
But I did spot an item that had escaped the league’s attention. Head tilted, I stepped back to get a better look. Half hidden under the skirt of the vanity was one of Trowbridge’s dreadlocks. I leaned to pick it up. Fuzzy. Surprisingly soft. Smelling of him and Merenwyn. Should I get one of the crafty bitches to make a bracelet out of it?
“What’s that?” he inquired.
“Nothing.” I slid it off my wrist and tucked it in the drawer.
When I lifted my eyes, I caught him watching me in the mirror. Oh, goodie. He’d offered me a full frontal. Ever the happy homing pigeon, my gaze traveled to the thin line of hair beneath his amazing navel, following the trail all the way to the promised land. I can’t help it. If he’s naked, I’m going to do a status check. Why? Because there’s really such a thing as male beauty and it can be found in a pair of heavy balls and a cock that was growing thicker under my approval.
“Sweetheart,” said the guy in the mirror. “When you look at me like that I want to—
“Eat me up?”
The man doesn’t blink when he wants sex.
“That’s my T-shirt,” he said.
“You want it back?”
“Uh-huh. Take it off.”
“You’re a bossy man, Robson Trowbridge.”
His eyes gleamed wickedly. “Sweetheart, lose the shirt.”