Night Embrace Chapter 10

After gleaning every juicy detail she could from Selena, Sunshine packed up her stand early and decided to go back to her loft. When she got there, Talon was still sleeping on the sofa.

Her lips twitched as she watched him. He looked so adorable and uncomfortable. He was really much too large for the pink and white couch, and his arms and legs dangled off into nothingness.

He'd pulled his shirt and jacket off and left them folded neatly on her coffee table, and his large Harley boots were on the floor underneath it.

His blond hair was tousled and his features relaxed while his sinfully long lashes were nestled against his cheeks. His two thin braids lay on the pillow as he breathed in blissful slumber.

He had one large, tanned masculine hand up by his face.

Looking at him now, she found it hard to believe he was an ancient immortal warrior whose very name was synonymous with death. But one who made her heart soften and her pulse race.

He was scrumptious.

Sunshine stared at the intricate tribal tattoo on his body. So, he really was a Celt. A real live, breathing, run-naked-through-the-heather-and-moors Celt.

Her grandmother would love it.

Closing her eyes, Sunshine let her memories as Nynia wash over her. But those memories weren't really hers. They were like memories of a movie she had once watched.

They were real to her and, at the same time, they weren't. She was no longer Nynia, and Talon...

He wasn't the same man he'd been then either.

Speirr had been full of fury and volatile emotions. Talon had bursts of emotion, but for the most part, he was calm and detached from his feelings.

Neither one of them was the same and yet she couldn't shake the feeling that they were somehow meant to be together.

But if what Selena had said was true, then he had a much higher calling than being her lover.

Not to mention that she was no longer Nynia. Parts of Nynia lived inside her, but she was a whole new and other person.

Did she love Talon because she was Sunshine or was it something left over from her previous life?

Would she ever know for sure?

"I will never love anyone but you, Nyn." His Celtic words echoed in her head.

Bit by bit, all her memories of their former life together were coming back to her. It was as if someone had opened a sealed door and the memories came pouring out.

She knew about his sister, his mother, his father. Even his uncle and aunt and bastard cousin.

She remembered the way he had looked as a young boy the first time the two of them had sneaked off together to play by the lake.

She remembered the way the clan had treated him. The scandal of his queenly mother being seduced by his Druid father. How Talon's parents had run off in the middle of the night to keep the clan from killing his father and beating his mother for their forbidden affair.

Everyone had hated Talon because of it. They had blamed him for his mother's weakness, for the fact that she had seduced their High Priest and left them without leadership.

They had blamed him for the fact that his mother had put her needs and wants above those of her people.

To atone for her actions, Talon had put everyone's needs and wants above his own.

Sunshine's throat tightened as she remembered everything he had suffered.

Nynia had been there that cold, snowy night when Talon had stumbled, frozen, into the hall, holding a screaming baby in his arms. His cloak had been wrapped around his sister to keep her warm. His shoes had been sold to buy Ceara milk that she had refused to drink.

Talon had stood defiantly before them all. His young body braced to take whatever malice they offered. Even now she could see the raw determination that had made his young amber eyes blaze.

"Your mother?" King Idiag had asked. "Where is she?"

"She has been dead almost two weeks now."

"And your father?"

"Six months past he was killed during an attack, protecting us from the Saxons." Talon had looked down at the screaming baby he held, then back up at his uncle. His face had softened and betrayed his fear. It was the only chink in his brave facade. "Please, Your Majesty, please have mercy on my baby sister. Don't let her die too."

Idiag had eyed him curiously. "And what of you, boy? Do you ask for mercy for yourself?"

Talon had shaken his head. "No, Majesty. I ask nothing for me."

His uncle had adopted Ceara as his daughter, but he had never really acknowledged Talon. He had scorned him just as everyone else did.

Idiag had never protected him from the clan's malice or blows.

Instead, he had told Talon to take it like a man because he deserved it and to never snivel.

And so Talon had.

Sunshine couldn't count the times she had found Talon by the lake practicing with his sword.

"I will make them accept me, Nyn. I will be the best warrior ever born and they'll never dare to speak to me with anything less than respect."

She had watched the angry, hurt boy grow into an embittered, fierce man. He had walked with a deadly swagger and a scowl so stern that even the stoutest of heart shrank at his approach.

He had fought his way into his uncle's heart. Fought until even the clan that hated him knew he was the only one capable of leading them against their enemies.

No one had dared meet Talon's gaze and only in fearful whispers did they dare to disparage his mother or him.

His uncle had had no choice but to accept him. It was either acknowledge Talon or lose his throne to him in war.

Talon had been invincible. Strong. Unyielding.

A man of power.

Until she was alone with him. Only then did his features soften.

Only then did he dare to laugh and smile.

And what haunted her most was the memory of Talon whispering his love to her as she died in his arms...

Her throat tight, Sunshine set her bag and thermos of coffee on the table, then knelt on the floor by his head. Tenderness flooded her.

She really did love this man.

She had changed in many ways.

In many ways, Talon had not.

He was still the same fierce warrior who walked alone. The same man who put others before him.

She traced the line of his brows with her fingertip. Then she leaned forward and kissed his cheek.

Startled, he jerked awake so fast, he actually fell off the couch.

Sunshine stifled her laughter. "I'm sorry."

Talon looked around groggily as he slid back on the couch, upright. It took him a few seconds to remember where he was. Clearing his throat, he frowned at Sunshine who was sitting back on her legs and watching him with an odd, weepy kind of look on her face.

"What were you doing?" he asked.

"I was kissing Sleeping Beauty awake."

He frowned at her words until he smelled something almost as enticing as her patchouli scent. "Coffee?"

She handed him the thermos from the coffee table. "And beignets. I thought you'd rather have those than my guava juice and cranberry muffins."

Talon looked at her suspiciously and wondered if a pod person had kidnapped her and was using her body. This couldn't be the same woman who had scavenged his cabin for hours looking for something "nontoxic" to eat. Nor the angry temptress who had banished him to a miserable day spent alone on her couch. "You're not mad at me anymore?"

"I want you to trust me, Talon. That hasn't changed."

Talon glanced away, unable to stand the pain in her eyes. He didn't want to hurt her, didn't want to keep anything from her. But he had no choice.

In so many ways she was his wife and in so many more she wasn't. He was having to learn her all over again.

But what surprised him most was how much he enjoyed getting to know her.

Sunshine was an incredibly sexy, entertaining and fun woman to be around.

She pulled a sugar-coated beignet out of the sack. "Hungry?"

Yes, he was, and not just for food. He was hungry for her body, hungry for her company.

Most of all, he was hungry for her eyes to laugh at him again and not be shadowed by hurt.

She lifted her hand toward his lips, offering him the pastry. He didn't take it from her hand. Instead, he leaned forward and took a bite of it, all the while watching her watch him.

Sunshine shivered as he nibbled the pastry, then he moved to kiss her lips. She moaned at the sugary taste of him.

Sighing in contentment, she forced him to sit back on the couch so that she could straddle his hips.

"Mmm," he breathed. "I like waking up like this."

She set the beignet aside and carefully poured him a cup of coffee from the thermos.

He looked a bit nervous as he watched her. "Please don't spill that on me."

She gave him an arch look. "I'm forgetful, Talon, not clumsy."

Still, he took the cup from her hand as soon as he could, and drank the chicory-flavored coffee. She screwed the top back on the thermos and set it aside.

Sunshine ran her hand through his tousled hair while he drank, letting the golden waves wrap around her fingers. His muscles rippled with his movements, making her burn with desire. He really was a gorgeous, irresistible man.

"Just think how much nicer I would be if you told me something personal about yourself."

He clenched his teeth. "You are relentless."

She ran her finger down the line of his whiskered jaw and watched his eyes darken as he hardened underneath her. "Only when I see something I want."

Talon pulled another beignet from the sack and held it up for her to eat.

She pulled back with a grimace. "That stuff is hazardous to your health."

"Baby, life is hazardous to your health. Now take a little bite and I'll answer a question."

Skeptical, but willing to try, she took a bite, then groaned at how decadent and good it tasted. It reminded her a lot of Talon.

Talon smiled as he watched her savor her beignet. Until he noticed the sugar that had fallen from the pastry to her breasts. His body hardened even more.

She took another bite and more sugar fell over the tops of her breasts.

His throat went dry.

Before he could stop himself, he dipped his head and licked the powdered sugar from the flesh in the deep V of her sweater.

She moaned in pleasure as she cupped his head to her. She laid her head on his and spoke. "So, how long have you known Wulf?"

Distracted by her taste and scent, he answered without thinking. "A hundred years."

He went rigid as soon as the words registered. "I mean, I um..."

"It's okay," she whispered before licking his ear and sending chills over him. "I know you're a Dark-Hunter."

He pulled back and frowned. "How do you know that?"

"A friend told me."


"Does it matter?" She slid herself against him and placed her hands on his shoulders so that she could stare at him. Her dark brown eyes scorched him with sincerity. "I told you I would never betray you. I meant that."

"You're not supposed to know that term."

"I know."

Talon glanced away as he feared what would happen to her if anyone found out she knew about the Dark-Hunters and their world. "What else did your friend tell you?"

"That you're immortal. She didn't know how old you were, but said that you sold your soul for vengeance against your clan."

He narrowed his eyes. "Did she tell you why?"

"She didn't know why."

"What else did she say?"

"That true love could restore your soul to you and free you from your oath to Artemis."

It was true and yet in his case it didn't matter. Free or not, he could never have her. "Provided I want my freedom, you mean."

"Don't you?"

He looked down at the floor.

She cupped his chin in her hand and forced him to look at her. "Talon?"

He took her hands in his and kissed each one, then held them. How he wanted a lifetime with this woman. It was all he had ever wanted.

It was the one thing he could never have.

"It's not an easy question to answer, Sunshine. I took an oath and I always stand by my oaths."

"Do I mean anything to you at all?"

Talon flinched at her question. He would gladly sell his soul all over again for them to spend the rest of eternity together. "Yes, you do, but you have to admit that we barely know each other."

"I know and yet when I look at you, Talon, I do know you. I can feel you so deep in my heart that it aches. Do you not feel that too?"

Yes, he did. But he couldn't tell her that. He didn't dare. There was more than just feelings standing between them. There was the wrath of two ancient gods who would be extremely unhappy if he chose to be with her.

"I live a dangerous life, Sunshine. There's no guarantee whatsoever that Artemis will ever hand over my soul. There have been numerous cases in the past where she's refused Dark-Hunters that request, and even if she does give it up, there's still no guarantee you will pass her test and free me.

"Not to mention the small fact that I pissed off a major Celtic god centuries ago and every time I allow myself to love a human, he kills them. Why do you think I live alone in the swamp? Do you think I enjoy being a hermit? I would love nothing more than having a Squire or a human friend, but I don't dare."

That familiar steely look came into her eyes as if she had a plan. "Who did you tick off?"


"What did you..." Her voice trailed off and she had a faraway look, as if she were remembering something. "You killed his son."

Talon closed his eyes. How he wished he could go back and undo his actions that day. Had he just stayed home with Nynia and grieved for his uncle, none of this would have happened.

"Yes," he breathed. "I thought his son had led the attacking party that killed Idiag."

"Because you chose to marry me and not his daughter."

He nodded. "I was blinded by grief and didn't take time to learn that his daughter had married someone else." He swallowed as he remembered that day and the agony that still lived inside his heart.

"Nynia tried to stop me and I wouldn't listen. After I had slain their warriors and king, Camulus came to me on the battlefield and cursed me. I didn't learn until afterward that my uncle's attack had been staged by his illegitimate son, who was trying to get me and Ceara out of the way so that he could be king. Then it was too late. The die had been cast and all our fates sealed. The truth of it all didn't come out until my death."

He cupped her face in his hands as the agony of that day washed through him anew. "I'm so sorry for what I did to you. What I did to us. There hasn't been a day in my life when I haven't wished that I could go back and right that wrong."

"You didn't do it, Talon. You did what you thought was right." Sunshine held him close to her, trying to soothe his guilt and pain. "Surely there is some way to beat Camulus's curse. Isn't there?"

"No," he said. "You have no idea how powerful he is."

She pulled back to look at him. "But have you ever tried to appease him or talk to him about it?"

Before he could respond, her door crashed open.

Sunshine gasped, then scooted off Talon's lap. Her heart pounded as she saw a man coming slowly through her doorway, walking as if he had all the time in the world.

He wasn't nearly as tall as Talon, probably no more than six feet. He had long black hair that fell freely around his face and he was dressed in a pair of black leather jeans, a gray henley, and a black V-neck sweater.

He was startlingly handsome, but at the same time there was a dark, sinister aura around him. One that said he delighted in making other people suffer.

Talon got up, ready for battle.

The stranger gave a cocky, arrogant smile. "Hope you don't mind the intrusion, but my ears were burning. Naturally, I just had to come and see what the two of you were talking about."

Without being told, she knew this was Camulus.

Talon let out a curse, then the next thing she knew, two daggers came out from under Talon's coat on her coffee table and flew into Talon's hands.

He sprung the release with his thumb, ejecting the blades into a circle of three blades, then crouched into a menacing stance that said he was ready to engage the god.

"Wait!" she said, hoping to avert a fight that could cost Talon his life. She looked at Camulus. "Why are you here?"

Camulus laughed evilly. Coldly. "I'm here strictly to torture Speirr by killing you. Why else would I bother coming?"

Horrified, she stepped back.

So much for negotiating with this man. He was evil incarnate.

Talon leapt across the couch, straight for the god's throat.

Camulus pulled a sword out of thin air. "Oh Speirr, how I have missed you. No one ever fought like you."

Sunshine's eyes widened as they engaged each other. She'd never seen anything like it in her life. Forget Hollywood. It had nothing on the two of them. They fought with malice and with consummate skill.

Talon deflected Camulus's sword with the srads, then ducked the next swing. While the god prepared his next attack, Talon swung about and caught him on the arm with one dagger.

The god hissed as his blood flowed from the wound.

"I won't let you take her," Talon said from between clenched teeth. "I'll kill you first."

Camulus attacked even harder than before. Faster.

Talon met him stroke for stroke. Lethal assault for lethal assault.

"You never could learn your place, Speirr. You never knew when you should just lay down the sword and play nice."

Talon caught his sword between two blades. "I don't play nice with enemies. I execute them." He head-butted Camulus, who staggered back.

The god shook his head. "You've improved."

"I've had fifteen hundred years to perfect my skills."

As Talon lunged, six more men came through the door.

Two of them shone bright flashlights into his eyes.

Talon cursed and ducked, covering his eyes as if the lights were searing to his senses.

"I really wish I had more time for this," Camulus said. "But I fear I'm bored now."

Talon turned toward Sunshine who grabbed the lamp from her end table and brought it down on the head of the first man who reached her.

"Damn you, Camulus!" he snarled.

"Och now, Speirr. It's you who are damned."

Talon tried to reach Sunshine, but one of the men opened fire on him. The bullets weren't lethal, but they were extremely painful as they lacerated his chest, back, and arms. He staggered and then fell.

Sunshine screamed as she saw Talon hit the floor. Terrified, she started for him and then felt a bullet rip into the back of her shoulder. All she could think of was saving Talon and herself. She didn't have a gun in her house, but she did have a baseball bat in her bedroom.

She had to get to it.

It was little protection against a god. Still, a slim chance was better than none at all.

As she ran for her bedroom, she realized it wasn't a bullet that had hit her.

It was a potent tranquilizer.

The room swam in front of her eyes as she struggled to walk. Her legs were heavy, hard to move, and felt as if she were trying to walk through murky concrete.

It was too much effort to move.

The next thing she knew, everything went black.

Bleeding and hurt, Talon fought as best he could. Every time he got up, someone shone another light straight into his eyes and shot more bullets into his body. His eyes burned like fire and he could barely open them.

He struggled to reach Sunshine.

Camulus hit him with a god-bolt and slammed him against the far wall.

Talon stared at him, his body throbbing and aching as he bled.

Nonchalantly, Camulus picked Sunshine up in his arms and stared at her. "She's a pretty little thing, isn't she? Even more lovely than she was the first time." He looked back at Talon with a sinister grin twisting his lips. "You have no idea what I intend to do with her." He kissed her on the cheek. "But I promise you, you will find out."

Talon roared with the weight of his rage. "So help me, Camulus, I'll kill you if you harm her."

Camulus threw his head back and laughed, then strode casually from the room.

Talon could barely breathe from the pain as Camulus lowered him and he fell to his knees. He was covered in blood, which made it even harder to move across the now slippery hardwood floor. But it didn't stop him from trying.

Keeping Sunshine safe was all that mattered.

Someone started ripping the blinds down from the windows, spilling sunlight into the room.

Talon growled as the daylight singed his skin and he lunged for the door where Camulus had vanished.

Three men rushed him, knocking him back.

He kicked and punched his way through them and followed Camulus.

He ran after them to the back door of the club where they vanished into the alley.

Thinking only about saving her, Talon didn't realize he was in the sunlight until he felt his skin catching fire. Cursing, he fell back into the club and watched helplessly as Camulus paused at the car and held Sunshine's head up so that Talon could see her face.

"Say goodbye to your wife, Speirr. Don't worry. I'll take really good care of her."

Camulus put her in a car and drove away.

"No!" Talon shouted. He wouldn't be the death of Sunshine.

Not again.

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