An excerpt from Stay the Night
a novel of the Darkyn
by Lynn Viehl
to be released in January 2009
“Don’t go yet, love.”
The mortal female didn’t resist Robin of Locksley’s hold. For this he was glad, absorbed as he became in the texture and warmth of her silky skin against his. From the moment she’d walked into the club, her presence had held him riveted. Many human women had fetching features, effortless grace, or engaging wit, but rare were the ones who possessed all three.
“There’s no reason to stay,” she said.
Along with her obvious virtues she had a manner as direct as a man’s and as pitiless as one of Robin’s arrows. That, too, he found captivating; it had been centuries since any mortal female had denied him anything.
“If you go now,” he countered, “we may never see each other again.”
She gently eased her wrist from his grip. “I’ll try not to let that ruin my life.”
Her resistance puzzled him. A small percentage of people were slow to be affected by or were immune to l’attrait
, the scent his immortal body shed to attract and control humans. But his talent, the ability to charm any mortal he touched, had never failed to sway even the most defiant human.
Perhaps it had more to do with her than him, Robin thought. Everything about her attested to her character, from the dignified set of her shoulders and spine to the clever choice of her garments. A business woman, her well-cut dark rose jacket and slim skirt said, one who disdained hiding or apologizing for her sex. The pale pink silk scarf she wore knotted around her slim neck suggested that equally delicate lingerie lay beneath the lace confection of her cream-colored blouse.
Then there were her legs, which could only be called superb. Robin imagined easing the thin straps of her heels from her feet and sliding the shimmering stockings from those long, curvy limbs. He might have done so, had she succumbed to l’attrait
. Bespelled by his scent, she would not have been able to leave his presence, or resist any request he made.
The woman’s obvious intelligence and confidence indicated a very strong will. Perhaps she could not easily be swayed by anything, even his Kyn talent.
“It is getting late,” she was saying.
Robin knew he should let her go – such humans as she were dangerous to the Kyn – but found he could not. Not until he further tested her remarkable restraint. “You will never know, then.”
He took her hand again, lifted it and brushed a kiss across her knuckles. “What my stratagem was.”
The intimate gesture seemed to amuse her. “So tell me before I leave.”
Robin wondered how she would react if she knew that he’d deliberately sent the brunette call girl over to distract the last inebriated male who had pestered her at the bar, or that he’d cleared everyone from the tables around him to create an oasis of calm in the noisy club. An oasis for her
“I have endeavored to keep you from discovering” –he turned her hand and touched his lips briefly to the thin blue veins on the inside of her wrist— “that I came here for you.”
At last gratifying surprise rounded slightly her cognac-colored eyes, revealing the glints of fawn and gold in her irises. A moment later it was gone. “Seeing as we’ve never met, I doubt that.”
“In life, perhaps not.” He admired the play of the light cast by the mirrored ball over the strands of fiery hair she’d tamed into a smooth twist at the back of her head. “There are other worlds. Other lives.”
She studied him just as closely in return. “I don’t believe in quantum theory, past lives or reincarnation.”
“Nor do I.” Slipping into the old way of speaking was dangerous, but he didn’t care. “It matters not, as long as you will stay.”
“I don’t know you,” she replied, her tone remaining maddeningly reasonable, “and I never pick up strange men in bars.”
“I’m Rob.” He gave one end of her scarf a playful tug. “Tell me your name, and we’ll no longer be strangers.”
“It’s Chris.” Her head turned as the music slowed, and the humans gyrating on the dance floor embraced and began swaying together. Without looking at him, she added, “I really can’t stay. I have to go into work early tomorrow.”
As she made her excuse, Robin could hear a wistful note in her voice, and saw a glimmer of envy in her eyes as she watched the other mortals dancing.
She might not want him, but she wanted to dance.
“Then we shall not waste another moment.” He laced his fingers through hers. “Stay for this song, Chris. Stay and dance with me.”
She regarded him for the space of ten heartbeats before she turned and led him toward the crowded dance floor.
Robin enjoyed many of the freedoms of this modern era, but none so much as the dances which permitted a man to take into his arms and hold close any woman who gave her consent. During his human lifetime, such scandalous contact would have resulted in the instant ruination of the woman’s reputation and an immediate end to her partner’s bachelor status, if the woman’s father didn’t demand other, more lethal forms of satisfaction.
Once on the dance floor, Robin guided her around to face him, encircling her waist with his free arm while lifting their entwined fingers to hold her hand over his heart. She was tall for a woman; if she moved two steps closer she could tickle his mouth with her curly red eyelashes or kiss the hollow of his throat.
Chris did neither of those things, but stepped back until several inches separated their bodies.
Undaunted, Robin spread his free hand over the gentle curve of the small of her back, where a delicious amount of body heat permeated the thin material of her dress to caress his palm and fingers.
“You feel very warm,” he said, bending his head so that his breath stirred the smooth strands of hair coiled above her ear. “Are you uncomfortable?”
“I’m fine.” Chris did not press herself against him, nor did she strain away as she followed his lead. She maintained that respectable distance between them as she danced. She did not look up at him, however, but kept her eyes on the band’s gray-haired singer as he crooned the words to the gentle tune.
“It’s a pretty song, isn’t it?” she asked. “I think it was the only hit Spandau Ballet ever had.”
“Spandau Ballet.” He’d heard of many dance troupes, but never that one. “I cannot say that I am familiar with them.”
“Before our time,” Chris said. “My mother loved this song.” Her shoulders tensed and her voice changed, growing crisp and impersonal again. “How did you know what I was drinking? Did you ask the waitress, or the bartender?”
“Neither.” She guarded herself better than a Scotsman did his purse, Robin thought, while asking questions better left unanswered. He decided to tell her the truth and see what she would make of it. “I could smell the ginger ale on your breath.”
“You couldn’t have done that,” she told him flatly. “You were sitting at least ten feet away from me.”
“Alas, I’m cursed with a sensitive nose.” He took in the scent of her on a slow, deep breath. “You also smell of rain, herbs, honey and . . .” He bent his head close to her mouth. “Maraschino cherries. Did you steal them when the bartender wasn’t looking?”
“No, he put two in the first drink he made for me.” Her fine cognac eyes grew wary. “That’s quite an impressive trick.”
He moved his shoulders. “It’s nothing.”
“I washed my hair with rain-scented shampoo and conditioner today,” Chris said, “and I drank a cup of herbal tea with honey.”
He grinned. “So I was right.”
“I did all that,” she continued, “when I got up this morning.” She waited a beat. “Seventeen hours ago.”
Robin’s smile faded as her words invoked an image of her in his bed, her pale skin and auburn hair glowing against the dark sienna of his silk sheets, her arms open and welcoming. Unless he found some way – and quickly – to lay siege to the fortress she had built around her heart, he would never see her there.
“If this is a practical joke, it’s a good one,” Chris continued. “Did Hutchins put you up to it?”
“I don’t know anyone named Hutchins.” He could barely speak as primal need surged through him, demanding he find some manner in which to turn the fantasy into reality. Feeding earlier lent him a certain measure of control he might otherwise have lost in this astonishing rush of desire for her, but Robin did not trust himself. “I am not joking with you.”
“You’re not.” She sounded uncertain now.
Robin couldn’t jest with her, not with the urgency of his hunger pounding inside his head. He could not tolerate another moment of this. He had to have her. Tonight. Now
. He kept a suite of rooms at the hotel where he frequently used willing females. The only thing that kept him from sweeping her up into his arms and carrying her off to the nearest elevator was the sound of her voice, asking him more questions.
“Do you know a fair-haired man who wears a lot of red?” She nodded toward the other side of the dance floor. “There’s one over there staring at you.”
Robin glanced over to see his seneschal, Will Scarlet. He made a simple gesture behind Chris’s back, and Will scowled but retreated into the crowd.
“Pay no heed to him.” He noticed the other couples staring and smiling at him and realized how badly his control had slipped; somehow he’d flooded the entire dance floor with his scent. No wonder Will had come to see what the matter was. Soon every occupant of the bar would fall under his spell.
Except one, it seemed.
Robin peered down at the woman in his arms to see if her pupils had dilated, but the dark color of her eyes made it impossible to tell. “How are you feeling?”
“This is nice.” She sighed. “I don’t want to go home.”
At last, her fortress was crumbling. He didn’t know if it was due to his talent or l’attrait
, and he didn’t care. He tugged her closer, fitting her body to his. She did not pull away, and indeed the movements they made caused her abdomen to rub lightly over his.
Robin gritted his teeth. “What if I ask you for more than a dance, love?”
“You can ask.” She emphasized the last word oddly.
Robin knew women, delighted in them. He had spent several lifetimes enjoying their company, learning their ways and recognizing their wiles. He knew the subtle changes arousal caused in their voices and their bodies, the tantalizing signs that showed their interest in a man.
Although Chris was perhaps the most reserved human female he had ever encountered, and possessed great skill in masking both her true thoughts and emotions, he did not doubt now that she desired him. No mortal he touched had ever resisted his charm for long. Not even this stubborn wench, who had wanted nothing to do with him but five minutes ago. Fool.
Inside Robin’s skull, his father’s angry voice shouted across seven centuries. You only want her because you cannot have her.
The scent of bergamot thinned as Robin’s self-disgust grew, and gradually the other couples on the dance floor lost interest in them. When the song ended, he released Chris and stepped away from her, breaking all physical contact. As long as he didn’t touch her, his talent could not influence her decisions. As soon as he left, the effects of l’attrait
would rapidly dissipate.
And he would never know her, and that was how it would have to be.
Robin bowed to her. “I thank you for the dance.”
Chris began to say something, and then hesitated as if choosing her words.
“It’s all right, love. This is not your doing.” Because he couldn’t help himself, he added, “My home in the city is on the penthouse floor of the Armstrong building. It is that unsightly tower of black glass and steel at the end of the street. Do you know it?”
“Good.” At least he could offer this much. “Come to me there, whenever you wish.”
“Come to you? Rob—”
“Listen to me now.” He felt his dents acérées
emerge into his mouth, fully extended and aching for a taste of her flesh. He slid his hand to cup the back of her neck and pressed his cheek to hers, using his talent to enforce his words. “I want you, love, more than I can say. But it must be what you want. When I am gone, when your head clears, then you must choose to do as you wish. Nothing more. Do you understand me?”
Robin pressed his scarred fingers against her lips. “You know where I will be. I do not sleep until after dawn.” He put his mouth to the back of her hand, careful not to let her feel the sharp tips of his fangs. “I hope that we meet again, my lady.”
Chris watched Rob walk out of the club before she retreated to her table and sat down alone. She’d enjoyed the dance, and the rare opportunity to be treated as nothing more than a pretty woman, but something she had said or done had given Rob the wrong impression.
Maybe he’d read her wrong when she’d mentioned how nice it was to dance and that she didn’t want to go home. Somehow that innocent remark had driven him wild. So much so that he hadn’t even bothered to conceal the lust that he’d assumed was mutual. I want you, love, more than I can say.
Chris had worked in a male-dominated field for years, and she knew how fragile men’s egos could be. She also avoided being cruel whenever possible. She would have let him down gently; she’d had every intention of doing so as soon as the song was over. But from the moment he’d made it clear that he wanted more than a dance, he’d hardly let her get a word in edgewise. In fact, he’d behaved as if she
were the one acting out of control. It matters not, as long as you will stay.
She’d noticed immediately the odd shift in his speech when he’d become aroused, too. Maybe he was an actor. He’d certainly been so preoccupied with being noble that in the end he’d done the dirty work for her. . . . it must be what you want.
Had she sent him some mixed signals? It wouldn’t violate Chris’s cast-iron principals to admit that Rob was
one of the most attractive men she’d ever met. Or that being in his arms had brought back to life feelings that she’d thought the job had smothered long ago. No, that wasn’t true. She’d forgotten the job and her responsibilities, and for a few minutes had enjoyed simply being a woman. That could have been what set Rob off. Then he’d had that panic attack or whatever it had been, and seemed as if he couldn’t get away from her fast enough. She still felt a little guilty for allowing him to leave in such a state. It’s all right, love. This is not your doing.
Chris left the club and took the elevator down to the lobby, where a doorman offered to hail a cab for her. Without thinking she shook her head and glanced down the street. You know where I will be.
That she did. She could see the Armstrong building from here. It was exactly as he’d described: an ugly column of dark glass and polished steel girders. All the windows were dark, except for the rows on the very top floor. Those windows glowed with diffused light from within. I do not sleep until after dawn.
She wouldn’t sleep at all tonight, either. Not after this. . . . you must choose to do as you wish.
Without knowing exactly why, Chris began walking down toward the end of the street.
Labels: excerpt, Stay the Night