Finally, here’s a scene with Julie and Armand–who’ve had rather a tough time of things, due to secrets, misunderstandings, and Armand’s past friendship with Julie and Marc’s mother. This comes from book two–Old Sins, Long Shadows–and takes place shortly after the twins arrive in San Francisco.
The damp city streets gleamed faintly in the light of the street lamps. Armand breathed in the scent of the woman who walked beside him and smiled. He’d enjoyed tonight, even more than he’d expected to. Probably more than was wise.
For almost fifty years, he’d been guarding his heart against the possibility of loss. He’d thought the habit was second nature now, an ingrained response. But as this evening had made abundantly clear, he’d been fooling himself with that thought.
The feel of Julie’s body moving against his as they danced, the pleasure he’d experienced as he watched her feed, even the enjoyment he felt right now just being near her—it all made him yearn for things he shouldn’t even be thinking about.
He was satisfied with the life he’d crafted for himself. He’d made his peace with this path he’d chosen. He was content. Why risk it all on a gamble that might never pay off? In fact, why risk even part of it on anything less than a sure thing?
He glanced around at the night, calculating the hour. He’d timed their departure carefully to coincide with Brennan’s lunch break. He didn’t want to take Julie home again until he was certain the human would be off work and safely out of the way. He’d been waiting months for the chance to spend some time with her, to get to know her better. There was no sense in spoiling things at this stage with reminders of a love affair he sincerely hoped was now ended.
From practically the moment they met, he’d felt a connection to Julie he could neither explain nor completely resist. Right from the start, she’d made him wonder what it might be like to feel more than satisfied or peaceful, more than merely content…
But was she worth the chance he’d be taking if he let himself become more than casually involved? Even more to the point, was she worth his heart’s hard-won happiness, or the lifetime of regret that could very well result from making the wrong choice? These were the questions he’d been asking since the day they’d met. Tonight, more than ever, he suspected the answer might possibly be yes.
Even so, he would not be rushing into anything. One of the most enduring benefits of living forever was the freedom to take his time. That was exactly what he intended to do. He took hold of her hand and tugged her closer. “So, what would you like to do now?”
“Hmm, I wonder,” Julie replied, playfully bumping her shoulder into his. Armand was about to offer suggestions, but one look at her face changed his mind. The expression in her eyes was unexpectedly sly and thoughtful, as though she, too, were considering her options, carefully weighing her decision. Perhaps she was calculating her own set of risks? Curious, he held his tongue and waited to see what she’d say next.
Before either of them had a chance to say anything, however, a figure emerged from one of the doorways in the deserted street in front of them, and stepped straight into their path. “Stop right there,” the man ordered, his movements jerky and imprecise. As he waved his arms, the
knife in his hand caught the light on its blade. “Hand over your money.”
Armand stared at him in surprise. Usually, even the most desperate of the city’s undesirables seemed to possess an instinct that warned them away from his kind. The thought that it was maybe Julie who’d lured this one into taking a chance he should not have taken, that it was her apparent defenselessness being targeted, left him speechless with fury. Even though he knew her to be anything but defenseless.
“Hurry up, man. And don’t think about making a sound—either of you—or I’ll cut you. I’ll cut you both.”
Armand cast a quick, sideways glance at Julie to see how she was reacting to the threat. If this bastard had frightened her… But no, her expression betrayed only mild curiosity, laced with perhaps a touch of amusement. Armand breathed a sigh of relief. Their would-be assailant would probably never know how lucky he’d just gotten.
Armand couldn’t help but smile. Lucky or not, no crime should go unpunished. “Chérie, could I, perhaps, interest you in a little dessert?”
Julie’s brown eyes danced with mischief. Her fangs peeked teasingly from between her lips as she grinned back at him. “Oh, yes, please, Armand. I think we have to—don’t you?”
“Indeed, Mademoiselle. Your wish is my command.”
Before the startled man knew what hit him, Armand had twisted the blade from his hand and pushed him back into the alcove where he’d been lying in wait. He smiled grimly at the surprised dismay on the other’s face. “Now, it’s you who won’t make a sound, eh?”
Bracing the would-be mugger with an arm across his chest, Armand stared deeply into his eyes, impressing his will upon the human until his struggles ceased. Then, almost tenderly, he fisted his hand in his victim’s hair, turned his head to the side and bared his throat.
“Would you do the honors?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder to smile invitingly at Julie.
Nodding, she slid closer. Her breasts jostled Armand’s arm as she leaned in close and stroked her tongue along her victim’s neck. Armand could not have said which of her actions he found the most erotic. He watched, mesmerized, while she prepared the man with her usual exquisite care and then, just when he was certain she was about to begin her meal, she did something that completely surprised him. She backed away, lowering her eyes in a show of submission as unexpected as it was electrifying. For an instant, Armand had trouble breathing. Never in a million years would he have guessed she’d do something like this. Never in a million years would he have suspected how badly he wanted her to.
He was so startled, so spellbound, he could only stare in amazement until the figure in his grasp began to squirm. Turning, Armand took the man’s throat in his jaws, stunning him with a jolt of venom. He swallowed deeply—allowing himself just the one, warm, satisfying mouthful, and that was enough. He pulled away.
Meeting Julie’s gaze, Armand inclined his head toward the man and murmured humbly, “Please.”
It was all he could think to say and he hoped she’d understand the gesture for what it was, a demonstration of his desire to provide for her, to sacrifice even his own sustenance, to make sure her every need was met…even if it could only ever be symbolic.
After all, it wasn’t as though she couldn’t fend for herself. It wasn’t as though either of them were starving tonight, or even particularly hungry at the moment. Even more importantly, it wasn’t as though they both didn’t still have Conrad to provide and care for them, to sacrifice for them if need be, and to decide for them both whether or not this flirtation they’d begun would be allowed to go forward. In some ways, that was the greatest risk of all.
Right now, however, none of that mattered. She’d given him a gift and he just wanted to do the same for her.
For what felt like a very long moment, Julie studied his face. Her eyes were dark mysteries, revealing nothing of her thoughts. Perhaps her thoughts were not so different from his own. Perhaps she, too, was wondering what Conrad would think about this. Finally, she smiled. Armand sighed with relief—and with pleasure—as her body, warm and pliant, was pressed against his arm once more.
And then, just when he was sure the night could not hold any more surprises, she angled her head, letting him watch as she slowly and deliberately inserted her fangs into the very holes he’d just made. For the second time tonight, breathing became an impossibility.
Armand’s fangs spasmed. Blood surged so quickly through his veins it left him dizzy. The curve of Julie’s neck as she bent to her meal had him aching to taste her. When she paused and glanced over her shoulder at him, and he was certain he read desire in her eyes, his control completely deserted him. He released his hold on the man in his grasp, leaving him to slide, unheeded, down the wall, and seized Julie by the shoulders. The sweet taste of blood was on her lips, still warm and fresh, as he claimed her mouth. He took no notice of the human as he first crawled, then stumbled away. He was unimportant.
The entire world was unimportant. Only she mattered now.
Her scent surrounded him and for one brief instant, a vague sense memory skittered uneasily across the surface of Armand’s thoughts. A faint recollection of something not quite this, but close, very close, tried to form connections within his mind, but then Julie moved more fully into his arms. Meeting him once again on equal terms, she kissed him back and with that, the elusive memory—along with any others that might have followed it—was lost.
Regaining what he could of his control, Armand banded his arms more tightly around Julie’s body. He backed her deeper into the now-deserted doorway, using his own body to shield her from the night, from prying eyes, from any harm that might threaten her. When he came up for air, just long enough to drag one ragged breath into his lungs, she bit softly on his lip. Venom spread swiftly through his system, a warm tide of want that left him reeling with desire.
Worth the risk, he decided as he fell back into her kiss. Their hearts beat rapidly in tandem and now it was his own blood he tasted on her tongue. How was it, he wondered, that his thoughts could be this hazy yet still crystal clear? Or that what once seemed uncertain, should now feel so sure? Definitely worth the risk.