Archangel's Shadows(147)

By: Nalini Singh

Vera’s smile turned affectionate. “I’m glad to see you understand that.” Glancing up as Kirby brought across the tray holding the coffee, Vera’s expression softened. “And you, Kirby?” She tugged Kirby into a seat. “Have you found someone yet?”

“I’ve only been in the city two weeks,” she said, conscious of Bastien going preternaturally still for a single, taut moment, the green of his eyes no longer human, before he rose to get the cake.

“From the accent,” he said, “I’m guessing . . . Georgia?”

Kirby nodded, happy he’d changed the subject, but Vera wasn’t done.

“Two weeks, schmoo weeks. It’s never too early to start looking.” The older woman’s eyes glinted, flicking from Kirby to Bastien. “You two would make pretty cubs together.”

Kirby wanted to die. Dig a hole, jump inside, bury herself for good measure.

Bastien, on the other hand, served up the cake without missing a beat, his body heat lapping against her like a tactile caress where he stood between her and Vera. “Undoubtedly,” he said, “but not if you terrify Kirby away with warnings about the likelihood of ending up naked while with me.”

Kirby responded in pure self-defense, driven by that strangeness in her that said she couldn’t permit him to overwhelm her. Not now, not ever. She might not be a dominant, but it was critical he didn’t see her as weak. “That likelihood is getting less and less with every word you speak,” she said, ignoring the strange thoughts in her head, the continuing stinging in her fingertips.

Laughing, Vera slapped her hand against the table as Bastien took his seat with a meek expression belied by the fact he’d shifted his chair so his thigh pressed against Kirby’s. It incited an escalation in her clawing awareness of him, her skin prickling in a way that felt as if it came from inside and out both. Almost as if she had a leopard under her skin, too, one that was rubbing up against it in an effort to get closer to this gorgeous cat who made her nerve endings go haywire.

Shaking off the odd sensation, she focused on his conversation with Vera. Intelligent, witty, a little bit wicked, Bastien was definitely the kind of man who’d never have trouble attracting a woman. Kirby was far from immune. If she was brutally honest, she’d never reacted to anyone as she’d done to Bastien.

That raw wave of need, of want, at the start, followed by an increasing desire to know more about him, know everything . . . It was unsettling. As was the tearing disappointment that had her nails digging into her palms when he glanced at his watch and said, “I’d better get into the office. With the instability caused by the Psy political situation, I have to keep an extra-sharp eye on things.”

“All work and no play.” Vera shook her head as Kirby stared deliberately into her half-empty coffee cup in an effort to hide her disturbing reaction, her skin flushing alternately hot then cold. “Be careful you don’t become a dull boy.”

“I thought I was making women naked on a regular basis?” Rising with that quip, Bastien went around to kiss Vera on the cheek. “Can I give you a ride anywhere, Kirby?” he asked, his hand on the back of her chair.

Scared by how much she wanted to lean back, rub her cheek against his arm, tug him down to her mouth, she shook her head.

“Don’t be silly,” Vera said. “You haven’t got a car.”

Her fingers flexed, the tingling in her fingertips increasing in strength. “It’s no trouble to catch the—”

Bastien’s breath whispered hot and silken over her ear, his face a caress away from her own. “I promise I don’t bite.” It was a dare.

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