Without opening her eyes, she turned her head toward him. Under the pillow, her hands had closed into tight fists.
“One of these days,” she mumbled, still half asleep, “I’m just going to do it.”
Vincent’s hand rested on the top of her back, right in between her shoulder blades, and he stroked lightly. His skin was warm against hers, soft and strong all at once.
“Do what?” he asked.
“Give you fangs. Whether you like it or not.”
His hand stilled. Long seconds passed, and the silence only seemed to heighten the howling of the wind in the trees outside, or the rain beating the windows. Storms had never seemed so loud back in Vincent’s townhouse, but Lilia had never been afraid of them. They were only an expression of nature’s forces – the same way she was.
“Not funny,” he said at last, and his hand lifted off her back. She pictured it in her mind, strong fingers holding the cigarette as gently as when he caressed her, his lips tightening over the damn thing like they tightened on her nipples, sometimes, before he used his tongue or teeth.
“Not trying to be.” Her voice was louder now, heavy with reproaches, the lightness of sleep ebbing away. “I asked you to quit. I stole your lighters. I bribed you with sex. If you insist on killing yourself with those things, what else am I supposed to do?”
Her fists flexed under the cover of the pillow. She would not watch him die, not like that, not if she could do something about it.
The idea that the death of her Mate would ineluctably cause hers never even touched her mind.
Vincent sighed her name softly. “Lilia. Look at me.”
She opened her eyes, already frowning at him before the veil of sleep cleared her vision. He was sitting back against the headboard, as she had guessed he would be from the sound of his voice, washing over her from above. The candle lighting the room was on the night table behind him, but even so she had no trouble seeing his features. His lips were set in a thin, lopsided smile, but no cigarette adorned them. As she watched, he raised both his hands – and both were empty.
Her frown deepened in confusion. She gave a tentative sniff, and failed to find the smoke she had just known had to be there.
“I heard the match,” she muttered. “I heard you light up—”
“A candle,” he finished for her. “The power is out. I was about to go check the fuse box when someone started making threats.”
The last remnants of sleep lifted, and Lilia realized that the constant humming of electricity, that slight buzz she was so used to, was conspicuously absent. She shrugged and offered Vincent a small, apologetic smile.
He leaned down and pressed a kiss to her lips.
“I know what you thought. But I told you I’d stop, and I did. Now I’m going to go check that box, and when I come back I expect reparation.”
He slipped out of bed as he finished, and Lilia turned onto her side to watch him better. In the pool of light cast by the candle, his body, lean and long, almost glowed. She licked her lips and repeated, “Reparation, huh?”
Vincent chuckled as he bent down to pick up his boxers and offered her a lovely view of his ass. Judging by his glance back when he straightened up, he had done it on purpose. “Yes. Mental distress or something,” he said, perfectly deadpan. “My own Mate doesn’t trust me. It’s shattering, really.”
Kicking the sheet off her, Lilia stretched onto her back, arching her body in a shameless display of all she had to offer. “Well,” she purred, “if you were that traumatized, maybe I ought to offer reparation right away.”
In the blink of an eye, Vincent slipped out of his boxers again. His cock was already at half-mast when he set the candle down on the night table again and climbed back in bed.
After all, Lilia mused as she drew him into her arms and on top of her body, if he really had quit smoking, a bit of positive reinforcement couldn’t hurt.