Todd held her, held onto her, all of her. The warmth he’d never possess himself, the fury that defined her, the guilt and grief that found their match in him. He felt her bury herself against him, felt the caress of her lips, and he let her give those to him. Holding her like he was holding the sun around the waist, the way a man who’s only ever known the depths of winter and the darkest night would hold the sun.
They really were quite the pair. Summer and winter, day and night, although his sun scowled at the first signs of real daylight. Todd smiled fondly as he followed her gaze to the sky. Daybreak was when predators went to sleep.
“I’d have to change before I go back to my place.” He ran a hand through his curls, then pulled his mask back down. His eyes shifted back to black, and his voice dropped to something soft and gruff. “We could head back to the Malibu so I can at least take my coat and vest off. It’s my day off, so… we’ve got all day to ourselves.”
He let his voice turn growl for the last part, but never lost his smile. Even though is brain immediately snapped to all the reasons why bringing Sam back to his place, to his one refuge where he could let himself just be for any length of time, was a bad plan.
“The gym might be better, though. I’m basically living out of a cardboard box at this point. Barely room for one, let alone two.”
A shiver ran through Sam at the implications in Todd’s growl. She would definitely take him up on that later. For the time being, she gave him a sideways smile, rising to her feet. She dusted off her leathers and then paused. She tilted her head to the side slightly and then started to ball her hair up to tuck into her hood.
“Is it really that bad? I– wow this is going to sound kind of desperate I think, but there’s a second apartment about the gym that I renovated and was thinking about leasing out. If you’re living somewhere really shit, you’re more than welcome to have it, no charge.”
She cringed a little at how excited she had sounded at the idea of him moving in next door. Maybe that was going a step too far. Hopefully, if he said no, he did it gently so she didn’t have to hear him laugh at her or something to that effect. Not that Todd seemed like the kind of guy to laugh at such an offer.
And after all, he was hers now, and she was his, and that meant they were going to look out for each other. That meant she could offer him the empty apartment next door to hers and not feel weird about it. She was allowed to do these things with him, so she forced herself to relax a bit more, not realizing how she had tensed up after asking the question. She offered Todd a hand, a soft look overtaking her.
“I’d like it if you took it, actually. Would save me a lot of trouble of having someone next door who might ask about my schedule. And, well. I want you as close as possible, and I figure this is better than me just flat-out asking you to move in with me so soon.”
That would be a mistake. To be so close to her – so close at all times – to bring the blood and the hunger back with him, to where she lived, worked, slept, filled him with a dread and an excitement that only compounded that dread. It would be one thing, to find her in the field, on patrol, and to be near her when her heat burned bright and could protect her from his cold was different from being so close to her when she was containing herself, when her want was as controlled as his.
But the want was there, in that soft look she gave him, in the way she offered him her hand. The want was there in the territorial rush that flooded the beast, the part of him that still said mine the way a bobcat’s instincts identify a rabbit. If it couldn’t have her, then it wanted her where he could be near if anything happened to her.
And the part of him that wanted her whole, wanted her safe, couldn’t argue with that.
And the predator in him was careful, wasn’t it? He could hide. Their closeness would let him hide it better, he reasoned, because – well, because she trusted him. Because she wanted him to trust himself in return, and he’d promised her.
He smiled, though it couldn’t be seen behind his mask, as he took her hand. “I’d like that. We can do it today, if you want to help. Rent’s due this Friday, so I have until then to tell Jen I won’t be renewing the contract.”
He looked down at his coat, then into her mask, and laughed a little.
“We should change first. If you drop me off at my car, I’ll give you the address and we can meet up after we catch some sleep.”
“That sounds like a date.” Sam tugged on his hand and pulled him to his feet. Then, she kept hold of his hand. She hesitated for just a moment and then let go, jumping up and wrapping her arms around his neck. She breathed out in a shudder, holding him tight, letting her body fall against his.
“Just one more hug. Just one more, then we’ll go.” She whispered the words next to his ear, resting her head on his shoulder. She craved so much more than just this hug. She wanted so much more from him. She wanted everything from him. She had already resolved to take it slowly, to go at whatever pace he decided to set, but that would be… difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.
So for the time being, she just focused on the touch she could have. She focused on his hands at her waist as he caught her, on the feeling of his shoulder under her cheek, and the warmth that she felt chasing away that cold that Obsidian had left her with. That cold had haunted her for eight years, but being in Todd’s arms chased it all away and reminded her that she was warmth and that she had been allowing that man to win. She’d been allowing her heat to be tempered inside by whatever it was she still clung to.
So she clung to him, her hand playing with the curls at his neck, her other tightly gripping his coat. She let the warmth she felt leak out and into the air around them. God, she hoped that Todd would never get sick of her heat. She hoped he would never get fed up with her obsessiveness.
She hoped he’d never leave.
She let go, letting her body brush against his as she came back down to her feet. She smiled up at him and took his hand in hers and gripped it tight as her smile expanded to become a brilliant grin.
“Well, cheekbones. I guess it’s time to go. Shall we?”