Cannot Unite (Vampire Assassin League)
Author:Jackie Ivie

chapter NINE



Their fall was swift and smooth. At first. Jeannette had never felt safer. More secure. Almost like this entire chain of events was fated and well-ordered. And if she closed her eyes…

What was she thinking? She didn’t dare violate Rule Number One again.

Jeannette’s eyes snapped open. She stopped the wooziness with a good dose of rapid breathing. Massive blinking. She was about to try singing when their freefall started dragging with intermittent jerks, almost like he was using tree limbs to slow their descent. Jeannette peeked. What a bonus. She still wore the night vision goggles. Wind speed didn’t hamper her vision, nor did the dark, although everything had a strange greenish cast. Just like films always showed.

Nice to know movie-making people had it accurate.

Well, Jeannette. Look at that. It hadn’t just felt like KayNan was slapping against trees. He was slapping at them, and then grabbing at broken limbs. It wasn’t to slow them. It looked more like he was breaking off wood to bring it along.

“What are you doing?”

If anyone had told her she’d be talking in a moderate, calm voice, despite falling out of the sky and then swooping among treetops, carried in a man’s arm, well. She’d have labeled them crazy. And been right.

“Gathering firewood,” he answered.

“Firewood?”

“Yeah.”

He reached out with his free arm and smacked another limb free, caught the resultant chunk of wood, and his speed kept them from the blizzard of slivers he was probably leaving in their wake.

“Why?”

“Humans have four requirements of survival: Shelter. Water. Food. And I think…fire. I’m preparing.”

“Actually, if you study physiology, you’d know its shelter, water, food, and—”

Sex.

Oh geez. She’d almost said it. Jeannette sucked in her bottom lip as he looked down at her. Damn. He even looked good with a greenish haze coloring him. And he was just too close. Thank goodness the goggles gave her an inch or so of space.

“Not fire?” he asked.

“Uh…forget I said anything, okay?”

“Is this another bit of modern verbiage I don’t understand?”

“No. And yes. We’ll just call it fire. I’m good with that,” she replied.

He looked down at her for long moments when he should probably be watching where he was going. And if he didn’t take care, they wouldn’t need a plane to smack into a mountain. The view darkened, even with her goggles on. And then he slowed.

“Where are we?”

Her whisper trembled. His arm tightened about her. She felt it even through the blanket.

“Shelter. A cave.”

“You know where to find caves in the wilderness area of the Canadian border?”

“Yeah.”

“How?”

They lowered. It felt cold and clammy enough to be cave floor. She almost lifted her toes back up, forcing him to hold her a bit longer. And he acted like he knew it. The long, considering look he gave ratcheted her heart a notch. She watched his eyes widen, as if he’d felt it. And that just made her heart skip another beat. And that got his brows raised, and this was just getting ridiculous. The entire night had that problem – especially the mating/turning part. It wasn’t possible.

He was a vampire.

She wasn’t.

End of story.

Jeannette had to admit she felt something for him, though. A wild attraction. A primal lure. A magnetic draw. Something that should be abhorrent and yet felt amazingly wonderful. Jeannette suffered an instant rush of shivers from just thinking about it. But that was more nonsense.

“We’re close to my home,” he replied finally.

“Then why stop here?”

“Dawn is an hour away. Maybe two. At most.”

“Must you bring up a frailty now?”

“Frailty?”

His brow furrowed as he looked at her, sending her pulse into overdrive. And that was without the intense green shade of those fascinating eyes! Was she ever glad she still had these goggles on!

“Uh…daylight. You know. Sun. I hear its murder to a vampire.”

He smiled. That was more devastating. Jeannette quickly looked away. At the walls of what could be a cave. But if it was, it wasn’t large. It didn’t look much larger than the front of her shop back home.

“I don’t have a problem with daylight,” he said.

“Well, let’s just toss another bit of vampire lore…right out the window.”

“What?”

“Vampires are supposed to fry in the sun. Turn to dust. You know. Wither away. I’ve seen the movies. That’s what happens. No?”

He dropped the wood from his other arm. She heard it. She didn’t move from watching his eyes. He didn’t look, either. It was pure luck nothing bounced onto a bare toe.

“Only the newly turned. Age brings immunity. And I’m old. Only a bright Mediterranean sun bothers me. And then I’d just need a hat and dark glasses. Maybe.”

“Figures. So, why stop here?”

“You.”

“Me? I have absolutely no problem with sunlight. All I might get is a bit tan. And that’s iffy, since it’s not even summer yet and I’ve been outdoors already this year.”

“Humans are weak. Fragile. They need rest. I think that comes after fire. And that’s after water.”

“I’m not thirsty. And…we need to talk.”

He licked his lips. There he stood; rock solid, perfectly crafted male. Wow. Jeannette pulsed against him, completely surprised at the reaction. And worse. She wanted more. To an incomprehensible level. Almost like she craved him. Needed him.

Jeannette had never been fainthearted. She’d embraced her specialness years ago. In that padded room. She lived with images and impressions that others scoffed at; dealt with impossibilities on a daily basis; welcomed oddities. She was open-minded. Interpreted strangeness. Channeled weirdness. She probably should have violated Rule Number One earlier. Maybe she’d have seen KayNan coming into her sphere. Her heart rate sped up again. He stiffened.

“I’d…better see to the fire.”

He released her, the move dropping her fully onto cold, clay-like floor. And then he stepped back one step. Another. Jeannette grabbed at a blanket end before it fell off her. He didn’t notice. He looked completely occupied with breaking the limbs into smaller pieces as if they were toothpicks.

“KayNan.” Jeannette dragged the first syllable of his name out, using a low tone.

He went completely still. Taut. She watched as it looked like a shudder ran his frame. And then it passed, as he efficiently assembled the broken wood into a pile.

“Fire first. Then water. You’ll need water. You know you will.”

“KayNan,” Jeannette said it again, exactly like before. He stilled again. And this time, she could swear she saw a nerve sticking out one side of his jaw as he looked down at this kindling.

“And then I’ll hunt you something. To roast.”

“I’m not hungry, either.”

He dropped to his knees beside his wood pile, scuffing the material at his knees. The man obviously didn’t know how to treat a thousand dollar suit. And he’d lost his tie somewhere in their adventures, for his collar gaped open at least two buttonholes. He still wore his jacket, fastened at the lowest button. She watched him fish through his pile for two short logs.

“KayNan. I don’t need food. Or water. And I don’t need fire. I need to talk. With you.”

Jeannette watched his fingers tighten on the logs, and then he moved. He probably rubbed them together, but it was so rapid, all she saw was a blur, a thin opaque smoke thread, and then a lot of flame. She yanked the goggles off. Those film-makers had that right, too. Instant bright light was debilitating. It took some time to see clearly again. The view was impressive. KayNan’s every facial feature was imbued with fire glow. She’d thought him attractive before. She’d been wrong. He was very handsome. And he was avoiding looking anywhere near her.

“KayNan,” she said again.

“Water.”

He stood. And if she didn’t say something to stop him, he was probably planning on flying away.

“Something happened to me in that place. That…prison place.”

“The underbelly of Khanate Palace.”

“What?”

“That place. It was beneath the palace of the Khan.”

“I…look. KayNan, I need you closer. Okay? I’ll just spread this nice space blanket out…like this. And we can sit and watch the fire. And we can talk. Fair?” She’d been spreading the blanket as she spoke and now went to her knees as she waited.

At least he’d looked at her, although his eyes were wide, his expression indecipherable.

“You don’t know what you ask.”

“Probably not. I’m still asking it. Come here.” She patted the blanket beside her. He stiffened and went straighter.

“Oh, come on, KayNan. You’re acting a bit immature now. I only want to talk. And I’d really hate to chase you down. Now come over here. We need to talk.”

“I don’t think…that’s wise.”

“No lie. It’s probably plenty un-wise. Besides, there’s no way I’d catch you.”

“Very funny,” he replied.

“Come on, KayNan, you destroyed a hotel room, jumped from a plane with me and then stuck me in a cave. The least you can do is give me the time of day.”

“I did not destroy the room. Hunters did.” He looked at his wrist. “And it is four twelve. In the morning.”

“What?”

“The time of day.”

She giggled. He stiffened even more. “Honestly? That’s…uh, cute. I didn’t mean that, though. It’s an expression.”

“Another one? Why does everything have a different meaning now?”

“Progress. And what that particular phrase means is that after everything I’ve been through, the least you can do is explain. And that means we need to talk.”

“What do you wish to talk about?”

“You’re not going to join me?”

He shook his head. The rest of him trembled afterward for long moments. The man was eye-catching gorgeous and radiated virility. And doing strange things to her pulse.

“Fine. We’ll talk across a fire.”

“I am trying not to frighten you.”

Jeannette raised her brows and did her best to look skeptical. “I’ve got a special gift, KayNan. I’ve seen some scary stuff. I had to come to terms with it a long time ago. That means I don’t frighten easily.”

“You’re not frightened of me?”

“Should I be?”

He looked up at her and his eyes no longer looked green. They looked obsidian black, reflecting red and yellow hues of the flames. Jeannette’s eyes widened, and then her lips parted.

“Never. You are my mate. The one. The only.”

“That’s um…yeah. That’s one of the things I want to talk about. This mate thing. I mean, it’s not that I’m totally against the idea, but—”

“A vampire only gets one mate. One. And that only if we’re lucky. Some of us never are.”

“I get it. Sort of like soul mates?”

“No. Like real mates. There is nothing sort of about this.”

“You seriously think I’m your mate?”

“No. I do not think it. I know it. Everything on me knows it.”

“How?”

“Finding your mate…brings sensation back. Emotion. Feeling. I touch something and I can actually feel it again. My heart even began beating. Everything on me came to life.”

“Everything?”

It looked like he glanced down at his crotch and then back up, guiltily. He also looked ruddy with a flush, and she hadn’t even meant that.

Well…maybe.

“Look KayNan. I’m not saying I’m for or against this idea. I mean, I’m not buying it wholesale or anything, but something happened back there…something strange. I can’t explain it.”

“How could anyone buy an idea?”

“What? Oh. That’s another expression. It means…screw it. I need an answer to this.”

Jeannette lifted her hands to him, palms outward. He immediately jerked his head away and stared at something to her left. That was definitely a nerve in his cheek, too. The fire highlighted it for her. It also glanced off the cleft in his chin. The perfect nose. The strands of hair that trailed his face, having escaped from the queue.

“KayNan.”

“You have…blood on your hands.”

His voice was a growl. It somehow matched the view. His massive body pulled taut. Poised. All strength and barely-leashed might. Power.

“Yes I do. I have blood on my hands. I scraped them. At that Khanate torture chamber place. And they sting, and now they’re bleeding. And I need to find out why. Why? I’ve never had physical manifestations of my vision. Never. Ever. You understand?”

“You have blood. On. Your. Hands.”

He said it again, stabbing the words into existence with a snarl that lifted his upper lip. And he had fangs again. Even keeping his face in profile to her, it was obvious. As was the shuddering that seemed to encompass and overtake him.

“KayNan?”

The name made sound a moment before he reached her.