I couldn’t help but remember what he’d told me in the east wing about that bearing. “About that bearing part. If you’re supposed to be keeping away from me, then what’s stopped you from-um, us-that is-” My cheeks blushed brighter than an exploding dwarf star.
A slight smile touched the corners of his lips. “The suppression of my dragon self by the Bane has allowed me to control my more feral nature.” The humor disappeared as he pursed his lips “But I don’t know what will happen when it returns. I may be able to control the urge, or I may not.” He turned his face away and there was a pensive look in his eyes, as though he was searching inwardly. “Even now I feel it rising up.”
I turned to him and folded my arms as a grin slipped onto my lips. “Sounds like I need to douse myself in Bane perfume until the wedding.”
A strange, wild look slipped into his eyes. I retreated until my back hit the tapestry wall. Luca set his hands on either side of my head and leaned in. His voice was hoarse and held a more growl-like timbre than before. “I wouldn’t like that.”
His musky scent wafted over me, and it awakened within me a strong sensual desire to touch him. I tamped down the urge and swallowed the lump in my throat. “Y-you have to get a hold of yourself, Luca. We can’t do anything in-” He leaned closer and brushed his warm lips against my neck. I closed my eyes as a warm shudder ran through me. God, I wanted his touch so badly.
A soft growl emanated from his throat. His hands slid down the tapestry and grasped my hips. He pressed his body against mine and captured mine in a long, passionate kiss that ignited an erotic hunger inside me. I whimpered as he drew away. The flames of passion burned brightly in his eyes, but as I watched he used sheer force of will to tamp out that forest fire.
Luca turned his face away and shut his eyes. He clenched his teeth, and I couldn’t help but notice that they were a little longer than they should have been. Luca took a deep, shuddering breath and his whole body relaxed. He pushed off from the wall, releasing me from his capturing arms, and half-turned away from me.
I shook off my own carnal desire and clapped my hand on his shoulder. “You don’t have anything to apologize for. It’s not your fault your dragon self wants to-well, um, mate with me.”
“I can guess your search did not go well.”
We spun around to find Mia standing at the end of one of the long bookcases. Luca turned to her and shook his head. “No.”
Mia folded her arms over her chest. “There’s only two hours left until dark.”
Luca nodded. “That’s enough time for me to return Diana to the castle and see if the searches by the guards have come up with anything.”
Mia’s eyes flickered over a group of visitors who were approaching us from the left. “Would you like me to close the museum and initiate a search?”
Luca sighed. “Yes, though you won’t be blamed if nothing comes of it before the hour.”
Mia nodded. “We will do our best. My only regret is I cannot give you more help.”
He smiled and shook his head. “You were a great help to Diana, and for that I’m eternally grateful to you. Besides, perhaps Sfetnic would know to what it refers.” Luca himself didn’t sound convinced of his own words, but he turned to me with that unfaltering smile and offered me his hand. “Shall we?”
I nodded and accepted his hand. Mia watched us go with a hint of trepidation on her otherwise stoic face before she lifted her hands over her head and clapped them together. “Attention, everyone! The museum is temporary closing!”
We passed through the gawking crowds and out into the dwindling sunlight. I couldn’t help but feel my own little bit of dread at the sight of the sun disappearing beneath the horizon.
A quick look up at Luca with his gaze on the bright orb told me he felt the same. I gave his hand a squeeze. “Maybe your guards have found something?”
“Maybe.” He didn’t sound convinced again. I wasn’t.
We hurried past the curious eyes of the tourists and citizens, and Luca guided us onto a side street. He swung me into his arms and his wings spread out behind him. A high leap and we were in the air, though he flew low over the city rooftops.
I couldn’t help but admire and awe at the vast variety of peaks and spires that dotted the metropolis. The rooftops were like a city unto themselves with the different classes, species, and cultures spread out in a lawn of metal, thatched, and terracotta ground.
A question from Luca startled me from my reverie. “Do you like it?”
I gave him a wry smile. “You mean as myself or as your queen?”
“I’d like it to be both.”
I folded my arms over my chest and snorted. “I’m not exactly queenly material. You took me from a pub, remember?”
He grinned. “And never has a woman smelled lovelier than with the scent of good food and drink on her.”
I laughed. “You obviously didn’t try any of the cooking there.”
Luca chuckled. “I was afraid the food would. . .negatively effect my ability to officiate the race up-”
Something hurtled up from the ground and exploded just in front of us. Luca reined himself in as green dust sprinkled the air around us.
I inhaled some of the horrible scent and my eyes widened. “Dragon’s Bane!”
Luca shuddered as the powder rained down on us. Another object was launched from the ground, and I beheld a small can with a string attached to the bottom. At nearing us the string was pulled out and the can exploded, emitting more powder.
Luca flew back, but his wings faltered. We dropped several feet in an instant, but Luca spread out his wings and slowed our descent. We glided over the rooftops and I caught a glimpse of our foes. There were half a dozen of them standing about a short metal pipe with a few holding more of the grenades. They weren’t dressed in the attire of sailors, but were clothed in close-fitting black garb that showed off their prime physiques. The people wore soft black shoes and gloves over their hands, and their hair were also all coal-black, no doubt courtesy of a dye. Masks covered the lower half of their faces and all their eyes were completely devoid of color, showing only their large black pupils.
Luca glided into one of the nearby allies and nearly tripped on the landing. I half jumped out of his arms before he staggered against the wall. The familiar pain of our bond struck my heart as he clutched his hand over his own. His wings shriveled against his back before they disappeared, and with them the pain also vanished.
Luca grabbed my hand and pulled me down the alley. “This way!”
We stumbled along, both weary from pain and my own ignorance of the city causing me to hesitate in such unfamiliar surroundings. Luca led us across a wide street and into another block. I looked over my shoulder at the street and my heart dropped into my stomach.
The six shadows, for I couldn’t quite tell if they were real people, followed behind us atop small saucers made of darkness. The saucers allowed them to float a few inches over the uneven ground, and the distance between us was quickly shrinking.
Luca stopped between a pile of wooden crates and pushed me to my knees. “Hurry!”
With my face only a foot from the ground I could see what he meant. There was a hole in the ground about two feet wide. Mold surrounded the lip of the hard stone entrance and a damp smell wafted into my nostrils. Luca grabbed the back of my collar and pushed me forward. I slipped inside over the mold and let out a scream when I found myself sliding down a small tube into the unknown.