He cleared his throat and moved out of the way for her— but not far enough that they didn’t brush against each other as they passed. “See you when you get out?” He made it a question.

“Maybe.” She raised her eyebrows, and saw the answering spark in his eyes.

“You’re killing me.”

“You deserve it, don’t you?”

That got her a pants- melting smile. “Most likely.”

She shut the door on him and leaned against it, suddenly and wonderfully short of breath, and it took her a moment before she could push away, put down her clothes, and start stripping for the shower.

It was still warm and steamy when she got in, and she used Eve’s herb- scented shampoo and body wash, then— with all ap- propriate mental prayers for forgiveness— borrowed Eve’s razor, too, because the state of her legs and underarms was especially bad. The water began to run cold by the time she was done, so she rinsed her hair and scrubbed soap off quickly, then ducked, shiver- ing, out into the cooler air.

After drying herself off, she combed her wet hair back and con- templated the pile of sad clothing she’d brought in with her.

Then she wrapped the towel around her body and carried the stack back into her bedroom instead of putting it on.

It didn’t really surprise her to find Shane there, sitting on the edge of the bed and still in his own towel. But it did feel good. Really, really good. She put her things on the bare top of the dresser and pretended not to notice him as she put the clothes away again.


“Really?” he said. “That’s what you’re going with in this situa- tion? Ignore me?”

“Absolutely,” she said. “At least until I do this.”

She walked over and shut the door, and locked it, just in case . . . Well, just in case. Then she turned, leaned against it, and looked at him.

“Oh,” he said.

“So,” Claire said.

“Uh- huh.”

“You’re sitting on my bed.”


“Wearing a towel.”

“Apparently so.”

“And . . . nothing else.”

“Why, do you have on long underwear under yours?”


“Prove it.”

“You first.” She took a step closer and folded her arms.

“Why me?”

“You started it.” Another step forward. She didn’t consciously plan it, but it seemed like the world had tilted itself toward him.

The floor was sloping. Not at all her fault, really, that she was moving in his direction. She could feel the air changing around her. Growing warmer.

“I think you actually started it, stalking me outside the bath- room door,” Shane said. He had that look in his half- closed eyes, that unmistakable, intent expression that made her skin feel too tight on her body, made all the heat snapping in the air between them draw in and down and glow golden inside her. “So you first, then.”

“I’ll make you a deal,” she said. One more step forward, one she didn’t consciously even take. Her knees were brushing his now, and it wasn’t possible for the brushing of knees to be sexy, was it, except it was, it was, and her heart was thundering inside her chest now, flooding her body with tingles and pulses like starlight. “I’ll help you take that off if you help me with mine.”

He pretended to consider it, but he wasn’t fooling her, not at all, not even a little. This was a game, one that was lazy on the surface and full of tension underneath. What was it Eve had said to her once? Restraint is the sexiest. At the time, Claire had thought she meant it in the ropes- and- handcuffs sense, but now she was start- ing to realize that it meant something else entirely.

It meant enjoying the anticipation.

Shane reached out and put his hands on the outside of her legs, just above the knee. Just about where the towel ended. Then he slowly slid them up to about mid- thigh, and she could feel the warm ghosts left by his palms. The rest of her shivered in response, and she bit her lip.

His eyes widened, and his smile took on a wicked slant. The room seemed so quiet, except for the soft rasp of their breathing, the whisper of the towels moving.

She reached out and tugged on the fabric around him, and at the same moment he closed his hands on the hem of her covering and pulled.

And then she was falling, falling, falling into his arms, into a bright and burning fire that only blazed hotter as their bare, damp skin met . . . and then their lips, in an explosion of need and want and desire.

And for a while, anyway, in the breathless brush of his skin on hers, in the deep and perfect whispers, she forgot about Morgan- ville.

She forgot about everything.

Claire woke from a sleep so deep and contented that it was like floating on clouds. She became aware of the world around her gradually— the sunlight striping over her bare leg, and the rustle of leaves on the old post oak tree outside her bedroom window.

She felt warm and heavy and perfectly home.

She turned her head, and saw Shane was still sleeping beside her, and she rolled toward him. He murmured something and put his arms around her, but it was more reflex than conscious action, at least until she kissed him. Then the mumbling became a low sound in the back of his throat, almost a purr, and his hand ran slowly down her spine, fingers brushing over each and every bump.

“Well,” he said, when there was space enough between them for words, “that’s a pretty nice start to a day. God, is it morning? How much morning?”

“Um . . . eight thirty of morning.”

“Breakfast?” He sounded hopeful. The whole world sounded hopeful, at least for the moment, and she laughed and kissed him again and sat up. The clothes she’d gathered to put on last night were in the drawer, so she got them out and put them on, glancing behind her as she zipped her jeans to see him noting the lack of his clothes on the floor. After a sigh, he picked up the towel, wrapped and tucked it, and kissed her on the way to the door. “Back in a minute.”

The locked door ruined his suave exit for a few seconds, but he managed, and Claire sat down on the bed to pull on her shoes.

The good feeling was still there, bubbling and humming, but real life started bearing down, too. . . . And the shadows, though driven out by the morning sun, were slowly taking hold.

She ran a brush through her hair, which needed it badly, and dashed into the bathroom to scrub her face, brush her teeth, and take care of normal bathroom business. By the time she was done, Shane was in the hall, waiting, dressed in comfortably loose jeans and a Transformers tee about two washes away from dissolving into rags. “Eve’s downstairs,” he said, and there was something un- happy in his voice. “You’d better talk to her.”

That . . . didn’t sound so good, and Claire hurried down the steps even before he’d shut the bathroom door.

She found Eve in the kitchen, standing at the sink, gulping down the last of a gigantic cup of coffee from a black mug with red skulls on it. Eve had gone full Goth today: black cargo pants; heavy, thick- soled boots; a tight dark red shirt with bright red crossbones over the heart, like a pirate’s badge. A thick choker of chain links, shining with silver plate. Equally thick silver bracelets on both wrists. She’d put reddish streaks in her black hair and twisted it back into a bun, into which she’d thrust silver chopsticks— although they were rather pointier than normal chopsticks. Her makeup was more like a mask— rice- powder pale, with vivid red eye shadow and plenty of liner.

She had a heavy backpack leaning next to her feet.

“So let me guess. . . . You’re going jogging?” Claire said, and opened the cabinets to pull out her own coffee mug. It was one Shane had found for her, with strange little aliens on it. She edged past Eve to take the coffeepot from the burner, and poured. Then she held the remainder out silently, and Eve just as silently extended her cup. It filled her cup only a quarter of the way. Claire put her cup aside and tackled the coffeemaker, trying to seem as normal and domestic as possible. “You look awesomely Gothic today.”

Eve nodded.

“Going somewhere?”

“I’m going to the mall,” she said. “And I’m going to get Mi- chael out.”

Claire filled the water reservoir, replaced the filter, and spooned in more ground coffee. “I see you’ve totally thought out your plan, which obviously involves getting the support of your best friends before tearing out to get yourself killed.”

Eve gave her a scorching look, made all the more effective by the war paint. “I’m not taking any more crap from the Daylighters.

We tried talking it out. Talking got me five minutes of face time with my own husband, who doesn’t deserve any of this . I’m done with the subtle approach. This time I’m not taking no for an answer— and don’t try to talk me out of it, Claire, because you don’t know how this feels. We just got Michael out of a cage back in Cam- bridge, and now he’s— he’s just in a bigger cage, held by the same people who want to hurt him. I can’t stand it, and I won’t stand it.”

The passion in her voice, and the determination, was scary.

Claire swallowed hard and tried to concentrate on what she was doing with her hands— swing the door shut with the coffee, put the pot back in place, press the brew control— and it did help slow her down and keep her voice rational as she replied, “I didn’t say you had to, did I? I just said you should involve us.”

“So you can talk me out of it?”

“So I can make sure you don’t die, Eve. Because Michael doesn’t deserve having to deal with that, does he? He doesn’t deserve to see you hurt, or killed, because of him. You know he’d tell you the same thing: be smart, and be careful. Pick the battle you can win.”

She held Eve’s stare, hard as it was. “Tell me if I’m wrong.”

She knew she wasn’t, and so did Eve, who changed course.

“Look, I’m not some fragile flower everybody has to shelter all the time. I may not be as much of a total- destruction mayhem machine as Shane, but I can wreak havoc when I want.” She paused for a second, distracted. “Why is it you can only wreak havoc, anyway? Why not, I don’t know, world peace?”

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