Jason Crosby was nearly two thousand years old, and in all his days as a vampire, he’d never seen anyone quite like her, not that he thought that was a good thing. He didn’t. She was his mate, and he was only going the tolerate her because he had to….
Spencer Graham had been trying to get a hold of Jason Crosby for weeks, but he didn’t seem to answer emails, mail or the telephone. She had an idea that would make them a great deal of money, but she needed him to invest in her project before it was too late. So, barging into his home at 4 a. m. was the only solution as far as she was concerned. She didn’t, however, expect him to answer the door naked and proposition her as soon as she walked in the door. Spencer did the only thing that came natural to her, she knocked him on his ass….
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The woman in his arms was weak. Crosby wasn’t sure that she was going to make it, not the way she’d been burned. As soon as he laid her on the soft earth, she opened her eyes and looked up at him. Crosby felt his heart skip several beats. My goodness, she sure was a pretty little thing. “The others?” He told her that his sons were getting out as many as they could. “Thank you. The house, it just exploded into flames. We had no time to get out.” “We caught him.” She frowned but let her eyes flitter to a close. Asking her if she was all right enough for him to leave her for a moment, she nodded. Crosby went to the house to help his boys. They had no way of knowing how many faeries were in the house. A few of them had died, whether from smoke inhalation or fire. They pulled out as many as they could, dead or alive, and laid them on the ground. Soon there’d be nothing left of the building, but he didn’t want to leave anyone behind if he could help it. The faeries, even the smaller ones, were worth any kind of pain they might get from the hot flames to save them. “They’re all out, so far as we can tell. We’ve made an area over there for the dead. The ones that can be saved are being helped by the others.” Jason, his oldest, dropped to his knees. “I don’t think we missed anyone, but it’s burning too hot for us to go back in. I’m sorry, Dad.” “We did the best we could, son. You have to believe that. That house, it went up fast. I’m thinking that the man who did this, he knew what he was about.” He glanced over at the woman he’d brought out. She was resting, which he was glad for. And her body seemed to be healing slowly. “I think she’d be the one in charge. If she’s awake, ask her how many were in the place, please.” Jason stood up just as the rest of them were coming out of the falling down building. Just as the last of his boys came out, the entire thing fell down behind them. Grayson jumped back when his shirt caught on one of the embers. Luckily, Elliot was able to help him out. Crosby dropped to the ground and counted his blessings after counting his sons. He didn’t want them hurt either. This had been a hell of a night so far. They’d been simply walking along the path, none of them in any kind of hurry, but they’d heard the blast and then the screams. Even as far away as they’d been, nearly two miles, he’d heard them in pain. The man, running from the scene and smelling like death, was caught and taken back. His confession was also his death warrant. Jason had snapped his neck and left him where he lay. Jason returned with the woman walking slowly next to him. She looked a good deal better than she had when he’d found her, and she was wearing Jason’s shirt. Sitting down between the two of them, she thanked him again for his service. He told her it was his pleasure and waved away her offer of a reward. “It wasn’t anything for us to come to your aid, my lady. We were just out and about when we smelled the smoke. The explosion brought us from our business. The house,
well, it was over almost as soon as we got here.” She nodded. “I’m sorry about your family, miss. There was no cause for this.” “You said that he’d been caught. Is he…did you kill him?” Crosby told her that he was dead, yes. “Thank you for that. Had he been able to get away, I fear that he would do more of the same to my kind. I wish to repay you.” “No, that won’t be necessary. I know what you are and what they were, but we’ve no desire to take anything else from you. You have lost enough, my lady.” She nodded and Crosby introduced her to his sons. “This is Jason, my oldest. Then in order of birth to youngest, it’s Chase, Elliot, Grayson, Ryan, and the youngest is Sean. This is the Lady Kilian, the faerie queen.” He was proud of his boys, all of them men now but still his little boys. As they shook her hand he spoke of them, just little things that he was happy to share with her. How they’d been taking lessons from the neighbor lady to learn how to sew and knit. Things that men should know how to do in the event of an emergency. How Sean could do some doctoring if necessary, even on a human. All notes of the pride that Crosby felt for his sons. When she turned to him, he could see that she had completely healed and was feeling like herself again. She looked at the dead and injured. “The man who did this, he was out to kill all of us.” Crosby said that was about right. “Had you not come here when you did, he would have succeeded. By killing me, without someone to take the place of the queen, all faeries would have perished. And you know as well as I, that would be the death of a great deal of magic.” “We only came to help out the people living here, miss. We would have done the same for anyone.” She smiled at him. “You’re very beautiful, my lady. I’m glad that we could save you and the others. I’m sorry that there wasn’t more time for us. We’ll help with the dead, should you wish. As I said, it won’t be any trouble at all.” “You have given the world around us a great gift, Crosby. As well as your sons. Because of your bravery, only a few died rather than all of us.” Crosby nodded but felt embarrassed. “I have given a gift to your sons, and now I shall do the same for you. ‘Tis only a touch to give to you, but I should like more.” He didn’t know what to expect from her. But when she wrapped her arms around him, Crosby felt his entire body shake with it. She was giving him something, something that he did not deserve but was going to get anyway. And when his sons fell to the ground when he was released, he watched as she staggered to the boys then dropped herself. Christ, whatever she’d done to them, they’d be lucky to make it home before the sun rose. It would be just about his luck to save faeries from a fire only to be burned up by the sun rising. “You will be fine, Crosby. All of you will.” He was still too sick to wonder what she was talking about as he laid back on the grass. His head was still spinning, and he was slightly sick to his belly. “I will leave you to rest now so that I might take care of the wounded and our dead.” Crosby looked at his sons, each of them laying there as if they were dead. He knew that they weren’t, he could hear each of their hearts beating. As the sun crested over the mountain, he tried to stand. Getting to his boys was much harder than he thought it
should be after a simple thank you gift. Every inch he crawled toward them, it felt as if he was taken several feet back. Christ, he was going to die right there. “Dad?” He nodded at Jason as he got to his knees too. “I’m sick. I mean, I feel like I need to puke and my legs are weak. What did she do to us?” “She said it was a gift. For saving her and the others. Doesn’t feel that way, but that’s what she told me.” Jason cursed as he stood up on his wobbly legs. “We have to get to shelter. Can you get the others going?” “I’m not hurt.” He looked at Sean, who was standing with his arms wide. He wanted to tell him to grab up one of the others and go, but he looked at him, with the sunlight streaming behind him, and didn’t see any blisters. His skin wasn’t peeling back. And he looked…. Well, he looked happy. “The sun isn’t hurting me. I bet it’s not going to hurt any of us. And it feels fantastic.” Crosby looked at his own hands. They were covered in soot but not from his own flesh. Wiping them on his pants, he noticed that he wasn’t blistered either. His skin was just like it was when he was indoors, hiding from the very thing that would end their lives. Looking at the sun, he felt the warmth of it on his face and none of the terror that usually came with being outside. He’d not felt this good, this warm, for as long as he could remember. “She gave us the gift of sunlight.” Crosby nodded at Jason. “Do you think that it’s only for today? I mean, if it is, then I want to stay out here all through it. I have never felt the sun before.” No, neither had he. Once, long ago, he’d felt it for a fleeting moment when his wife had died. It had been in his heart to join her, but the boys had needed him. And the promise that he’d made to her before her passing had made him go into hiding again. He missed Rena every day. He’d lost his wife to man. Not a human, but just as bad. There were a few good humans—he wasn’t stupid enough to think that they’d all come from the same mold— but when they were bad, they were murderous. The creature had torn her throat out, for no other reason than that he could. Crosby had felt her death like his own heart had stopped beating along with her. They did stay in the sun all day. He’d been worried for a bit when Elliot had started to burn. But it turned out to be nothing more than too much sun. A strange feeling for a vampire, even as old as he was. Crosby was able to get them to rest a bit, knowing deep in his heart that this was going to make it harder for them to go back to the darkness. But it was so much fun for them. They’d even made their way to the little pond behind their lair. Swimming with the sun beating down on them burned their tender skin a little more. He’d been sore for about a minute, then it wore off. He was going to tan, he thought, the funniest thing he’d ever thought of. But relaxing in the sun-warmed water was a heavenly feeling, one that he’d never forget. By nightfall they were all exhausted. There hadn’t been any need for them to rest during the day, and he thought they’d have to pay for it later, but he could have no more
told them no than he could have told himself. Being in the sunlight, while fleeting, was the most fun he’d had in a very long time. Crosby loved his children. All six of them. They had kept him going these last decades without their mother. He was tired, however. Not just today and how special it had been for them all, but he was tired of living. They no longer needed him, they had proven that to him over and over. Tomorrow night, he decided, he’d talk to them and tell him of his plans. It was well past time for him to join their beloved mother.