Chapter Nine
Two months later, Sara stared at her reflection—the woman who looked back at her appeared both poised and quintessen tially elegant in a strapless black sheath. Her hair had been styled in a sophisticated bun at the back of her head, her new bangs swept to the side with an elegance she’d never have been able to achieve in the field, and her face made up with skill that highlighted her cheekbones, brought out her eyes. “I feel like a fraud.”
Simon chuckled and walked to stand behind her. “But you look precisely what you are—a powerful, beautiful woman.” His eyes dropped to her necklace. “Good choice.”
It was that shiny serrated blade. Deacon’s blade. She’d had it strung on a silver chain. “Thanks.”
“Some of the people you meet tonight will try to sneer at you. There are a few who see hunters as nothing more than jumped-up hired help.”
“Oh, like Mrs. Abernathy?” she said, tone dry as she named the society matron whose party she was about to attend. “She asked me if I’d like some help with ‘appropriate clothing, dear.’”
“Exactly.” Simon squeezed her shoulders. “Here’s some advice—anytime one of those ‘blue bloods’ tries to bring you down, remember that you deal with angels every day. Most of them would pee their pants at the thought.”
She choked. “Simon!”
“It’s true.” He shrugged. “And someday, you might even deal with a member of the Cadre. No matter how important they think they are, most humans will never come within touching distance of an archangel.”
“I’d probably pee my pants then, too,” she muttered.
“No, you won’t.” Unexpectedly serious words. “As for the upper-crust vampires, remember, we hunt them. Not the other way around.”
Sara nodded and blew out a breath. “I wish we didn’t have to do this crap.”
“Angels might scare us, but hunters scare most other people—including a lot of vampires. Reassure them. Convince them we’re civilized.”
“What a con.” She grinned.
Simon grinned back, but it wasn’t his face she wanted to see beside hers in the mirror. “Okay, I’m ready.” This was her first solo outing as Guild-Director-in-training. The transition would be complete by year’s end.
“Go get ’em.”
The party didn’t bore her silly. It was the last sign—had she needed one—that she was the right person for the job. Ellie would’ve shot at least five people by now. Sara smiled and parried another nosy question while soaking up the relentless flow of gossip. It was all intelligence. Hunters needed to know a lot of things—like who a vampire might run to, or which individuals might sympathize with the angels to the extent of going vigilante.
Of course, to all outward appearances, she was simply mingling—just another well-dressed female among dozens of others. Mrs. Abernathy had beamed at her when she arrived. “Probably surprised I didn’t turn up in blood-soaked leathers,” she muttered into her champagne flute during a moment’s respite on the balcony.
“Would’ve worked for me.”
The smile that cracked her face was surely idiotic, but she didn’t turn. “Is it the leathers you like or the body in them?”
“You got me.” Warm breath against her nape, hands on her hips. “But I could get used to this dress.”
“Hey, eyes up.” She put the champagne flute on the waist-high wall that surrounded the balcony. “No scoping the cleavage.”
“Can’t help it.” He turned her with a stroking caress.
And the air rushed out of her.
“Oh, man.” She leaned back and twirled a finger.
Of course Deacon didn’t give her a fashion show. He flicked at her sideswept bangs instead. “I like it.”
“Ransom said it makes me look like I have raccoon eyes.”
“Ransom has hair like a girl.”
She grinned. “That’s what I said.” Throwing her arms around his neck, she kissed him with wild abandon, and it felt way beyond good. So she did it again. “The debutantes are going to wet their panties over you.”
He looked horrified.
“Don’t worry.” She pressed a kiss to his jaw. “I’ll scare them away.”
Deacon caused such a stir she thought they might have a Chanel No. 5-scented stampede in the ballroom. She also thought it’d make him turn and run. That he’d come . . . well, hell, it had stolen her heart right out of her chest. But she didn’t expect him to stand at her side with quiet focus, as if the attention didn’t even register.
A few of the men tried to use his presence to ignore her—male chauvinist pigs—but Deacon deflected the ball back at her so smoothly, the others never knew what hit them. Sexy, dangerous, smart, and he knew how to deal with dunderheads without making a scene. She was so keeping him. And stabbing a knife into the heart of any debutante/trophy-wife-wannabe who came within sniffing distance.
“I expect,” he whispered in her ear during a rare minute of privacy, “large amounts of sexual favors for being this good.”
Her lips twitched. “Done.”
And she was. Done over thoroughly.
By the time they reached the apartment, she was burning up for him. They didn’t make it to the bed the first time. Her pretty, slinky dress ended up in shreds at her feet as Deacon took her against the door, his mouth fused with hers. She came with a hard rush that had her clutching at his white dress shirt with desperate hands.
The second time was slower, sweeter.
Afterward, they lay side by side, face to face. It was an indescribably intimate way to be, and she hardly dared speak for fear of breaking the moment. “There goes your secret identity. As of tomorrow, you’re going to be in gossip columns from here to Timbuktu.”
He nipped at her upper lip. “I bought the tux.”
She blinked. “You bought the tux.” Bubbles of happiness burst into life inside her, rich and golden. “More cost-effective than renting one if you plan to use it a lot.”
“That’s what the guy at the store said.” Shifting closer, he stroked his hand over the sweep of her back, his skin a little rough and all perfect. “But . . .”
“No buts.” She kissed him. “I’m too happy right now.”
A smile against her lips. “This ‘but’ you have to deal with, Ms. Guild Director.” Light words. Serious tone.
She met his gaze. “What is it?”
“I have to resign as the Slayer.”
“Oh. Yes, of course.” As of tonight, he was too well-known, and more importantly, by staying with her, he’d get to know too many hunters . . . make too many friends. “We’ll find a replacem—”
“That’s what I was doing. I have a candidate for you.”
Nodding, Sara stroked her fingers over the square line of his jaw. “I can’t be your boss.” It was a solemn realization. “I need to be your lover.”
Deacon reached out to draw a circle around the spot where her necklace had rested before he’d taken it off. “I figured I’d go totally independent with the weapons.”
“That works.” The tightness in her chest eased. “Kind of seems one-sided though. You’re giving up everything.”
“I get you.” A simple statement that meant more than she could ever articulate.
She swallowed the knot of emotion in her throat. “I talked to Tim a week ago.”
Deacon frowned. “Tim?”
“Lucy’s pregnant.”
The frown turned into a slow, spreading smile. “Really?”
“Yes, really.” She threw a leg over his and snuggled close. “He’s going to keep one of the pups for me. I was going to call it Deacon.”
He started laughing, and it was infectious. She buried her face in his neck and gave in.
The puppy was black as pitch, with big brown eyes and feet so big he promised to become a monster like his mom. Since it would’ve been a little confusing to have two Deacons in the house, they decided to call him Slayer.