Assassin's Heart(9)

By: Sarah Ahiers



Our mother hadn’t been pleased, since Rafeo’s chosen bride didn’t bring any money or status, but Mother had relented when their marriage produced a son almost immediately.

Through the gap in the curtains, I watched as Val and Claudia argued. She placed a hand on his elbow, and he jerked it away.

“Because Mother and Father aren’t here!” Val snapped, his voice rising above the sound of the other diners. Claudia jerked him closer, whispering harshly.

Time to take my leave.

I stepped past the curtain and strode calmly and confidently to the front door. The only people who gave me a second glance were those of the common who recognized me as a Saldana.

Outside, I walked into an alley across the street. I waited only a few moments before Val found me. Anger flowed through him, visible from the tension in his shoulders and neck.

“What was that about?” I asked.

“Nothing.” He waved his hand, dismissing the fight with Claudia. “It was only stupid Family stuff. I don’t want to talk about it.”

I took his hand and stroked his knuckles. He didn’t have to tell me, but I wanted him to know I was there for him, regardless. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”

He sighed and rubbed his face with his palm. “It really was nothing, Lea.”

“Okay. But even if it was something, you know you can tell me, right? I’ll keep your secrets.”

He snorted. “You’re my only secret.”

Behind Val, a man walked across the street. He wore a brown robe and a strange cylindrical hat. He carried a wooden staff with some sort of green gem at the top.

“What is that?” I stared at the man as he slipped into a back door of the restaurant.

Val looked over his shoulder. “What?”

“A strange man just walked into the restaurant.”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. And perhaps we should take all this drama elsewhere?”

All thoughts of the strange man escaped me as my skin flushed.

Val offered me his hand and I placed my palm in his, the tough calluses on his fingers pressing against my own. His hand was warm, and his pulse beat rapidly in his thumb. His lips parted.

My own pulse raced, and we left the alley. We needed to find somewhere more private. I desperately wanted to get him alone.

We stumbled a few streets away and ducked out of sight into an empty garden.

In the shadows, he pushed me against a brick wall, lips crushed against my neck, one hand releasing my hair as his other slid down my bodice to my hip. I held my breath until I was dizzy and had to break away for air before I pulled him back to my lips.

This was what I loved about him. How quickly he could make my heart pound, my breath catch. Being with Val was like the best kind of job, an exciting chase followed by a satisfying capture.

I slid my hands beneath his shirt, running my fingertips across the smooth skin of his stomach. He flinched.

“Your hands are cold,” he murmured against my throat.

“I need you to warm them up.”

He reached for my fingers. I made a token gesture of trying to avoid him, but when he clasped my hand with his own, I let him pull me against his chest. His well-worked muscles made his body lean and hard.

He pressed his lips to mine. I returned the kiss, hands gripped on his arms. He made me feel wanted, beautiful. Heat rushed across the skin of my throat and up to my cheeks until they burned. Val’s lips scorched my blood like the most exquisite poison in the world. But only one tasted sweet.





four


VAL TORE HIS LIPS FROM MINE. “STAY OUT WITH ME tonight.”

I kissed his jaw. He still smelled like his leathers. “I have a curfew. My parents would suspect something.”

He ran his fingers through the back of my hair. “Break it. For me.”

I snorted. “Like you break your rules for me? Marking your kills, for example?”

He pulled away. The humor had disappeared from his eyes. “That’s different. That’s Family rules, not family.”

“Sometimes Family and family are the same thing.”

He scowled. “Don’t be naive. You damn well know Family comes before family.”

I released his hand. I wasn’t a child, and I wouldn’t be patronized. “Not to me. Not when you’re asking me to disobey my father’s rules.”

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