Three hundred years can change many things, but love is not among them.
Forbidden to claim the woman he loves as his mate, Gabriel established a yearly meet with Jael to satisfy their hunger for one another. Time has not weathered their need, or made the pain of every other day more bearable. Christmas Eve together might not be much, but pretending for one night that they can belong together is the only way either knows how to survive.
Except this Christmas, Gabriel can't go on pretending. Living for one night is no way to live, and he is determined that he and Jael will see the new day together. The only question is, after all this time, is she prepared for the consequences of saying yes?
Release Date: December 20, 2010
Tonight was going to be different. He felt it.
Hell, he'd known it the second he stepped into the pub. Seeing her under the soft glow of lights much too cheap to capture her glory. The woman he loved. The woman he lived to see for just a few hours. Every second apart from her constructed another level in his personal hell. He felt cheap for being so easily defined, for being strung along for so many years for the promise of the one woman he could never have; but love knew no reasoning. No boundaries. The rules of the Order didn't apply, and love certainly didn't listen to them.
Time had not healed him. Time had only made his feelings grow almost unbearable. And being so close to her now . . . something was going to change. Something tonight was going to change.
They were at the door now. Her apartment. Her bedroom. Her refuge. The place where he was welcomed once every year to forget his loneliness in the sanctuary of her body. Her body flush against his. His cock so hard he was sure the flimsy zipper on his slacks would pop. Had it been anyone else, he would have been surprised at the depth of his reaction. But it wasn't anyone else; it was her. Jael. His golden goddess. She could smite him with a look if she wanted. So much power in her small, capable hands. It unnerved him to think himself so easily rattled.
There had been no such thing as love in his life before he met her. Before he found her three hundred years ago and was forced to let her go. Forced to forfeit their promised eternity because she could no longer be human. It had been no fault of hers. No fault of anyone's, really, though he would have loved to lay blame on someone's shoulders. Illness was a culprit without a body, and hers had nearly killed her. He'd had no choice if he wanted to keep her in this world, regardless of the consequences. His act of saving her, turning her into a nightwalker, had taken away the only woman to whom he could see himself mated for the rest of time.
A bittersweet pang struck his heart at that. He thought of it sometimes still. Of losing himself and claiming her, to hell with the rest. He longed for the taste of her blood, the feel of her fangs, the promise of her arms. The thought alone was enough to inspire anyone to tears. Anyone who knew the agony of what he felt. Of having everything he had ever wanted right beneath his fingertips and forcing himself to let her go. Every year, he let her go all over again. Every year, he relived that horrible night when she had died in his arms. And every year, he fought the temptation to claim her. To make her his forever.
Of course, any sort of ceremony was impossible, and he felt like a fool for even entertaining the notion. Still, the thought of spending eternity with her was too rich to cast aside, even if such aspirations only filled him with sorrow. He was still so terrified of scaring her off with the intensity of his regard. He felt if she ever knew just how much he loved her, there would be no more of this. No more tempting fate, no more tempting desire, no more challenging the decree of the Order to have their night together. No more sharing this stolen holiday with her. No more tasting each other for hours and pretending it was enough for a year. No more pretending his heart didn't break when he left her before the sun rose and returned to his cold, empty existence.
No more of her guiding him into their bedroom and closing the door behind them.
"Jael . . . ."
Her hands were already busy at her top, revealing the satin of her black bra to his hungry eyes. The cream of her skin against the contrast of the material was surprising in its effect. Gabriel liked fancy lingerie and scantily clad women as well as the next hormone-infused male, but he had never truly envisioned himself being so turned on by something that simple. Logically, he knew Jael wore bras. Hell, he had snapped her out of practically every style the past generations had fed to impressionable women, always eager to feel the weight of her breasts in his hands. He had never known her to wear black. Never known her to go out of her way to look so delectable in her undergarments. She had a rather adorable fixation on her assumption that her panties and other unmentionables were, as she called them, plain and boring. She assumed this despite the fact that seeing her so bare fogged his eyes with lust to the point that she could be wearing a doormat and he wouldn't notice.
His thoughts must have run away with him, for when he blinked, Jael was wearing nothing but that black bra and a pair of matching panties. And he was still fully clothed, unable to do anything but gawk at how gorgeous she was.
Jael shifted uncomfortably. "I . . . I wanted to try something new . . . for us tonight."
Her blush enchanted him. She was his seductress, his only temptation, and she somehow didn't know it. "I was hoping you'd like."
Gabriel released a deep breath, fighting his desire to growl something primitive and throw her on the bed. Instead, his eyes glazed over, and he stepped toward her predatorily, a lump forming in his throat. "Beautiful," he murmured again, fingers entertaining themselves at her left strap. Then his mouth couldn't stand the torment of being parted from her flesh, and his lips descended once more upon her neck, tasting her sweet skin as his arms curled under her shoulders and pulled her against him. "You're killing me."