I stared in horror at the shambles that was my kitchen. Skirting the edge of the room, I made my way toward the half-naked man who was standing in front of my stove. It wasn’t that he was wearing an apron and nothing else that bothered me. Kipa was gorgeous and I happily feasted my gaze on his body. But the counters were a disaster. Pancake batter oozed off the counter, dripping on the floor where Raj was licking it up. It looked as though the bowl had exploded, but it was just tipped on its side. A pan of bacon sizzled enticingly, but on the other side of the counter, the jug of syrup had been knocked over, and it, too, was drizzling over the edge to form sticky puddles on the floor.
“What the fuck? Dude, you’re making a mess! Clean it up, would you?” I pointed toward the cleanup items. “Those are what you call paper towels. The sponge is on the edge of the sink, and that shiny thing? It’s called a faucet, and you can get water from there. The soap is right next to it. It’s not rocket science, I promise you.”
This wasn’t the first time Kipa had left a trail of chaos in his wake. Either he was used to others following him around to clean up his messes, or he just didn’t care. I hadn’t figured out which yet. We’d only been together—and I used that word loosely—for a couple weeks.
He blinked, staring at me with a hurt look on his face. “I’m making you pancakes, woman!”
“What you’re making is a mess.” I shook my head. “I’m happy you wanted to fix me pancakes, but Kipa, look at what you’ve done.” I restrained myself from grabbing a towel. It was his mess and I wasn’t his maid. “Raj, quit eating pancake batter. It’s not good for you.”
The gargoyle gave me a guilty look, but said nothing. Raj’s verdict on Kipa was still out, but he was never one to turn down free food, even if it did give him a stomachache. He slowly backed away, then lumbered over to the giant dog bed I’d bought for him and snuggled down in it. With a huff, he rested his head on the pillow and closed his eyes.
Kipa laughed. “Don’t yell at him if you’re mad at me. He was just taking advantage of the situation.”
“I’m not. The batter will give him a tummy ache.” I glared at him.
“I promise, I’ll clean up after I’m done. Now get back to bed, woman, and I’ll bring you breakfast in bed.” He winked at me and my knees went weak.
I tried to summon up a little more outrage, but the way his gaze lingered on my body chased away all thoughts of the spilled batter and syrup. I cleared my throat, then stuck out my tongue.
“You’d better clean up, and dude, you’d better have lots of sweet treats for me.” Wiggling my ass at him, I headed back to the bedroom. I stripped off my robe, pulled on a plum-colored bustier that lifted my boobs till they almost fell out, pulled on a matching thong, and then jumped under the covers. Sometimes, waking up early was worth it.
When Kipa appeared in my bedroom doorway, he was holding a tray with a large coffee cup on it, as well as a rose. He was also fully naked. I felt an immediate ache as I stared at him. His skin was somewhere between golden and brown and his muscles gleamed under the smooth flesh. Scars here and there only strengthened his roguish look. His dark brown hair flowed down past his shoulders. A full beard curved around his chin, and a tidy mustache barely covered the top of his full and inviting lips.
I shuddered, remembering the feel of them as they traced their way down my body, the cool metal of his dolphin bite piercing chilling my skin.
“How about dessert first?” he said.
I slowly threw back the covers, rising to my knees, and let out a little growl.
Kipa silently set the tray on the dresser, his eyes dark as coal. He swept his gaze over me, lingering long enough to set me on fire. I jumped to a crouching position, hand on the mattress to brace myself.
“Come get me,” I said. “I dare you.” I sprang off the bed, leaping for the door.
Kipa let out a loud howl, launching himself in front of me. “You’re not going anywhere, beautiful.” His voice was throaty, raw and hungry.
“Make me want to stay.” I pressed my hands against his chest, pushing him back so I could look at him. His muscles rippled under my fingers, the fierce strength tensing as I leaned forward and slowly ran my tongue down his chest. He was salty, the silken sweat beading on my tongue. I could taste the feral magic in him, like sweet wild strawberries on a summer evening. I fluttered my tongue over his nipples and he let out a husky groan, his eyes gleaming as I looked up to lock his gaze with mine.
Breathing hard, he focused on my face. I could feel his longing. It saturated the room, his pheromones thick, hanging in the air like droplets of moisture.
His whisper cut through the silence as he gathered me up, pulling me to him. He kissed me, insistent, and I opened my lips to welcome him in. As our lips met, Kipa slid his hands under my butt and I wrapped my legs around his waist, my arms draped around his shoulders. I could feel him pressing against me, his arousal long and thick, hard as rock, hot as a shaft of fire. My breath quickened as he carried me over to the bed and, with my legs still around his waist, laid me down on the sheets.
As I lowered my feet on the bed, bending my knees, Kipa hooked his fingers around the sides of my panties and yanked them down, moving so he could pull them off my feet. I spread my legs, letting him watch as I dropped my hand between my thighs and leisurely stroked myself, teasing him with my smile. I let out a long, shuddering breath and closed my eyes. With my other hand, I slowly trailed my fingers over my breast, over the jacquard of the bustier. I was on fire, so hungry for him that I felt like I might burst. I shivered, brushing my mound with my fingers. Every nerve quivered, every inch of my body aflame. I felt like one giant erogenous zone.
“Look at me,” Kipa ordered.
I opened my eyes as Kipa knelt by the edge of the bed, lowering himself to his knees. I propped myself up on my elbows just enough to watch as he brought his head between my thighs. With two fingers, he spread my labia and lowered his lips, spreading me wide so he could reach me with his tongue. I let out another moan, my breath quickening, as he reached his target. As he lightly fluttered quick strokes against me, I moaned again.
I caught my breath, forcing myself to hold still, but I wanted more so I quickly unzipped the bustier, letting it fall open, and began to stroke my nipples, circling them between my fingers as he drove me closer to the edge.
“Don’t stop,” I pleaded.
I had missed this so much. Ulstair and I had been hot and heavy, and I was used to regular sex—a lot of it. But his death had put an end to that. I missed him, but when I met Kipa, our chemistry had combusted. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other, and he had been the gasoline to my wildfire.
Kipa shifted his position, increasing the pressure. I could barely control my breath, and I began to whimper, little cries escaping from my throat as he began to swirl his tongue faster. I could hear the howling of wolves from the astral. They felt the passion of their master and were adding their voices to our union.
Then the wave swept over me, an undulation of golden light, and I gave in, coming so hard that I felt like I was going to pass out. All through it, those brilliant dark eyes of his burned deep in my soul.
As I fell back against the bed, every muscle in my body relaxing, arm crossed over my head, Kipa joined me on the bed.
He laughed a deep, throaty laugh. “I’m not done with you yet, woman.”
Leaning down, he took one of my nipples in his mouth, curling his tongue around it, and then swung up over me, slipping between my legs. I wrapped my legs around his waist again, pulling him down into me, and he slid in deep and hard. He began to thrust, pressing against me, crushing my breasts against his chest.
The fire began to build again as my pulse quickened. I wrapped my arms around him and rolled him over, with him still deep inside me. I rose up, riding him hard, and he cupped my breasts as I set a new pace, one I controlled. Smiling triumphantly, I ground against him, swiveling my hips against his pelvis, so full with his girth that it felt like he filled every nook and cranny of my body. I was slick with hunger, and he dropped his hands to my waist as the passion intensified, holding me as I picked up the pace. I dropped my head back, my hair streaming down my back, and began to rub my breasts as he watched from beneath me.
His eyes were almost black now, and his breath sharp.
“I’m close,” he whispered.
“Hold on, just a little longer,” I ordered as my own desire quickened again.
He slid one hand down between my legs, fingering me as I rode him, and that was all it took to bring me to climax again, the world exploding in one giant orgasm as Kipa let out a long cry, coming too. I stiffened against him, shaking, as he thrust again, and then once more, and then, one last time.
We were snuggled deep beneath the covers. Kipa stroked my face with one hand, his other arm wrapped around me. I lay quietly against his shoulder, feeling both drained and energized. It was as though every drop of tension had fled from my body and left behind a warm glow that buoyed me up.
“That was amazing.” He kissed my forehead.
“Yeah, it was. I’m still basking.” I peeked over him at the clock on the table. It was nearly eight-thirty. “But Raj needs his breakfast, and the ferrets, and I need to eat.” I paused, thinking of the mess in the kitchen. “I think I’ll duck out to buy us breakfast while you clean up the kitchen.”
“Give me a break, woman. I was making pancakes for you!” He laughed. “Don’t I get points for that?”
I snickered, rolling over atop him, straddling his hips. “You would have, if they had turned out and you hadn’t left my kitchen in a wreck. Nope, but you get points for the bedplay. That, you definitely have mastered.” I gave him a quick kiss.
“Another go?” he asked, his eyes twinkling.
The fire in my belly rose again, but I let out a sigh. “No, I need to jump in the shower and get the day started. Will you feed Raj? I’ll take care of the ferrets when I get back. I’ll call and put in an order at Deanne’s Diner, so it will be ready once I get there. What do you want?”
“Pancakes?” He laughed as I hit him with a pillow. “And bacon, sausage, eggs. Coffee. Maybe a doughnut as well.”
“In other words, you want everything on the menu.” I hopped out of bed and dashed into the bathroom through the chill air. It had snowed a little the night before, though it was slated to turn to sleet later today. But sleet or not, it was cold. The high was only forecast for forty-one today, and a humid, wet forty-one at that.
I had washed my hair the night before, so I gathered it into a ponytail to keep it from getting wet before climbing into the shower, where I lathered up with a spicy amber bath gel. As I washed over my curves and the tattoos spread across my body, my thoughts lingered on Kipa’s hands and on his lips. I still didn’t know what to make of the relationship—it wasn’t something I had been prepared for, and I had the feeling he felt the same way. We got along well, I liked him a lot, but we had only been together a few weeks and most of that time had been spent in bed. Whether this was a wonderful, passionate fling, or whether it would lead to something deeper, I had no clue. And I wasn’t in a hurry to rush it.
As I stepped out of the shower onto the heated floor—I had radiant heating—I wrapped a fluffy bath sheet around me and settled myself at the vanity, peering into the mirror. I had no real insecurities about my looks, even though I wasn’t the conventional beauty in terms of human standards. I still wasn’t sure about how I handled the social niceties that went with society, though. At least Kipa was a god. With him, I didn’t have to sort out how I acted, at least not as much as I did—among people, especially humans.
As for me, I was one of the Ante-Fae, the predecessors to the Fae races. We were all a little squirrelly, and we each had unique abilities. While I was cautious with Kipa—the god thing was a double-edged sword—I also felt I could hold my own with him, for the most part. Perhaps it was false courage on my part, but it worked.
I dried off, then put on my makeup. I was a makeup junkie, especially with eyeliner, and I tended to run on the Goth girl side. It was my style, as natural to me as breathing. I applied retro wings to the sides of my eyes, then mascara on my top lashes. As I powdered the foundation down, I realized I was almost out of my favorite color of lip color. I spread the liquid lip lacquer around my bow lips, the deep blackberry shade vivid against my pale skin. Then, shaking my hair out of the ponytail, I brushed the tangle of curls that fell mid-back. With a shake of the head, I gave myself one last look, feeling ready for the day.
As I returned to my bedroom to dress, I could hear Kipa in the kitchen. It sounded like he was cleaning, and I smiled softly. He’d get his props for pancakes when he made them correctly and didn’t dirty up every dish in the kitchen. And when he kept the batter in the pan instead of on the counter, he’d get a few more.
I slipped on a pair of fishnet tights, then chose a black lace dress that fell four inches above my knees in front, and down to my calves in back. It had a sweetheart neckline and lace sleeves, and the overlay of black lace over nude fabric made it look almost see-through. I buckled a purple corset belt around my waist, and then slid my feet into a pair of chunky heeled boots that came up to my knees. They were black leather, with chains on the sides and studs down the front where they laced up. A hidden zipper made them easy to take off and on.
As I headed toward the kitchen, I peeked in the ferrets’ room. Elise stood up against the cage, staring at me.
“I’ll be back in a little bit to clean your cages and feed you. I just need to run out and get some food first.”
She gave me a long look, and then a soft whisper touched my thoughts. Thank you. We’ll be fine until then. I wanted to talk to you about Gordon when you have a moment.
I nodded. “We’ll talk when I’m cleaning your cage. Is everything all right?”
I think so, came the soft thought. I’m just a little concerned, but I don’t think he’s sick.
I shut the door behind me, worried. The ferrets had been with me for over twenty years. I’d found them as spirits up on Mount Rainier, when they were trapped inside a tree stump portal. They were actually spirits of people who had been murdered up on the mountain and then cursed. I had attempted to free them, but in a comedy of errors, had simply transferred their spirits into ferret form. Now they were stuck. But at least they weren’t trapped in the tree trunk anymore, and I could communicate with them while I researched how to break the curse, to free them to go on in their journey.
As I entered the kitchen, I saw Kipa had made good time on cleaning up. The sink was still full of dishes, and there was still batter trailing down a couple of the cupboards, but the floor was clean.
He glanced up at me. “I was about to feed Raj.”
“I’ll do it.” I scooted over to one side and pulled out a dish for Raj. I give him a can of cat food. It was quick, easy, and he liked it. As I spooned the food into the dish, Raj came up behind me, nudging me. I glanced down at him and he gave me a plaintive look. Stroking his head, I realized what was wrong. Kipa had been here for nearly twenty-four hours. Raj and I hadn’t had time to talk. Raj didn’t like speaking in front of other people. In fact, almost no one knew that he could talk besides me. I set the dish down for him, and turned to Kipa.
“Why don’t we just go out for breakfast? I’ll clean the rest of this up later. I have a busy day scheduled, and need to get moving.” I didn’t want to just send him on his way abruptly, but I wasn’t going to betray Raj’s secret. And Raj was having a rough-enough time adjusting to Kipa’s presence. I suspected that the gargoyle was jealous of all the time I was spending with Kipa.
Kipa frowned. “Are you sure? I thought we were going to spend the morning together.”
We hadn’t talked about it, so this was news to me. But I had discovered early on that Kipa assumed that if he liked something, everybody else should as well. And if he had made plans, everybody should be accommodating. It wasn’t rudeness on his part, he was just used to being the leader of the pack, so to speak.
And he was, in his own world. Ember, a good friend of mine, and I had seen just how well he played with others when he and his cousin Herne had gotten embroiled in an argument that ended up with Ember and me down in a pit, facing a deadly foe. The two men hadn’t even noticed we disappeared. Luckily, girl power had seen us through before they found us.
“You never mentioned wanting to spend the morning together.” I stared at him. “This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
He let out an exasperated sigh. “I didn’t know you had anything going on this morning. I just assumed—”
“You just assumed that I’d be available. Well, today’s my day to read cards down at the Sun & Moon Apothecary, so I don’t have the morning to give you. I have to take care of the ferrets, then head down to the shop to meet Llew.” I bit my lip, trying to decide just how bitchy to get. We’d had a wonderful morning, but I wasn’t about to let Kipa start taking me for granted.
“What is it? I can tell something’s wrong.” Kipa crossed his arms, leaning one hip against the counter. It didn’t help that he was so damn sexy.
“Here’s the thing. Obviously, I like you a lot or we wouldn’t be thrashing around in bed so much. And I’d like this—us—to continue. At least until we find out where we’re going. But this relationship won’t work if you keep planning out my days without consulting me. Newsflash: you aren’t the center of my universe. I know it must be hard to hear that, given you’re one of the gods. But I don’t notice Herne doing that with Ember.”
His eyes narrowed and I had a feeling I’d hit a sore spot. In fact, I knew I had.
“Comparing me to Herne, are you?”
“Don’t get your Speedos in a wad. I’m not saying that you need to be like Herne. But it wouldn’t hurt you to be a little more considerate of other people and their feelings, or their time.”
He looked so hurt that I felt a pang of guilt, but it was for his own good. If I didn’t tell him, somebody else might and they wouldn’t do so out of caring about him.
“Listen, dude. You’re fantastic, Kipa. And I know you care about people. You wouldn’t be allowed in my house if you didn’t, god or not. But this is just one example of something I’ve noticed during the past few weeks. You assumed that I would have the time because you have the time. You didn’t bother asking me—and that’s the problem. Understand?” I rested my hand on the counter as I continued to stare at him. I wasn’t going to look away, or let him cow me.
“All right. I’ll try to do better,” he muttered. “I’m sorry. I’m used to being—”
“In charge. I get it. I truly do. But you’re not my boss, you’re not my owner, and you’re not my parent. You’re my lover. And that gives you certain rights, but running my life and organizing my schedule isn’t one of them.” I searched his face, wondering if he would be able to handle me as I asserted my boundaries. It would be a deal breaker if he couldn’t.
He paused for a moment before a crooked smile spread across his face. He held out his hands to me. “Okay, I promise. I will pay more attention to the way I act. I like that you’re not afraid of me. I like that you stand up for yourself. It may take me some time to get used to, but I think I’m going to enjoy being with a strong woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself.” He leaned down, pressing his lips against mine. “Don’t worry about breakfast. I’ll grab something on the way back to my apartment. When can I see you again?”
A wave of relief washed over me. I pulled out my calendar.
“Why don’t you come over for dinner tomorrow night? I’ve got a lot of errands to do tomorrow, but we can have dinner, and then watch a movie. Or not watch a movie, as the case may be.” I blew him a kiss, winking.
I knew very well that even if we started watching a movie, we wouldn’t end up finishing it. The flames burned strong between us. Even now, I found it hard to keep my hands to myself. I wanted to run them up and down his chest. I reached up, smoothing his hair back.
“You are so fucking sexy. If you don’t get out of here, I may throw the day away and drag you back to bed and I really shouldn’t do that.” I caught my breath, shuddering.
Laughing, Kipa stroked my face and, in a husky voice, said, “I’d better get out of here. Or neither one of us will get anything done.” With another kiss, he grabbed his leather jacket, turned, and headed out the door.