* * *
“Do you always do that?”
Gabriel started, the soft and smoky voice beside him jerking him back to the present. After a silent walk back across the grounds to the Iargail House, with Rowan trudging along beside him with a ferocious look that quite eloquently said don’t even think about talking to me, he’d been free to let his mind wander in peace. And so it had; up long and shapely legs, under a particular clinging corset to skim a slim waist and bountiful curves, and over one long and ivory neck. He’d
thought, since she was paying him no attention anyway, that he was being discreet enough.
He would have been if he’d been able to quit gulping down the Rowan-scented air that surrounded him, he thought darkly, stopping just at the top of the stairs and turning to look into a face that was indisputably irritated. He opened his mouth to fend off what was sure to be a complaint about his ogling, er, admiring of her exalted person. Instead, he got another whiff of his own personal werewolf heaven.
It was so unfair, he thought, dangling somewhere between annoyance and bliss.
It was also utterly glorious. And in the end, bliss won out.
Helpless to resist, he drank in the smoky musk of a blustery autumn afternoon, exhaling on a sigh after he’d filled his nose with the crisp bite of October air and the warm aroma of fallen leaves. As impossible as it seemed, Rowan smelled just like his very favorite sort of day, the kind he dreamed about when he needed to escape for a bit. He’d done it ever since he was a child; one minute there was only stress, and the next, he was racing through trees turned to Highland fire.
There was nothing childish about his reaction to that scent, though. He would have been mortified about the decidedly girlish burst of butterflies in his stomach, had he been thinking of anything but having this glorious creature beneath him tonight. All night. Every night.
“Do I always do what?” he finally managed in a voice that sounded like he’d recently taken up gargling with razor blades. If only she’d tell him he was driving her mad with lust, or that she found werewolves completely irresistible…
“Sigh,” she said instead, tilting her chin down to give him a beleaguered look that might have been charming had it not so plainly meant she thought he was an idiot. “Loudly. Heavily. And at least ten times since we got in the house. Is it a medical condition, or are you just naturally annoying?”
When the words sank in, he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be offended. It seemed to be the way with this particular Drakkyn, which meant he was well on his way to a headache of epic proportions if he spent much longer with her. Gabriel jerked his chin up, crossed his arms over his chest, and glowered. It was a look that had intimidated many a would-be brawler at his place of business. Unfortunately, Rowan looked decidedly underwhelmed.
“And are you always such a charming conversationalist, or is it just me?” he shot back, keeping his voice deliberately even. He didn’t think it wise, when he knew so little of her, to let Rowan know he felt like throttling her every time she opened her mouth.
“It’s you,” she replied, not quite suppressing what appeared to be an amused quirk of her lips. “I know when I’m being a bitch.”
The honesty, strangely charming, caught him off guard. “Ah,” he murmured, “that’s…astute of you.”
“About as astute as telling you I don’t plan to reform right now,” she said, not looking concerned in the least. “So just quit sighing. It’s giving me a headache, and all I want to do is sleep.”
She might as well have ended with I have spoken, Gabriel thought as he watched her flounce off without him. He found himself in no hurry to catch up, taking the opportunity to enjoy the way her hips swayed when she walked, as though she were moving to music only she could hear. He could imagine her dancing, the sinuous motion of those long limbs and perfect curves to some sensuous, bass-heavy song.
Gabriel shook his head, wishing the motion would clear it, and made himself follow despite every ounce of his better judgment. It was bizarre, his reaction to this acid-tongued creature. He preferred his women on the “doting and delectable” side, of course. But if a man’s tastes ran more to the wild and wicked…and thank God his didn’t…Rowan would be desire personified. She would also, he had no doubt, be more than happy to abuse the besotted into eternity.
Could be interesting, some traitorous part of his mind piped up.
The rest, obviously brighter than his libido, simply retorted, For Chrissakes, you idiot, get some sleep.