tempest reborn (jane true #6) Page 12

I knew how mothers of newborns felt just then, when Anyan took his first strangled gasp of the night air, his naked body arching up in a strong spasm, then crashing to the earth. He took in another long breath, then another, until finally, after what felt like a century, his eyes blinked open once, twice, and then they stayed wide.

His beautiful, iron-gray eyes, without a hint of that dreaded emerald green.

I was crying by that point, great blubbering sobs that sent both tears and snot running down my face. Considering what else my face was covered in, the snot was actually an improvement. My body, meanwhile, was literally paralyzed with a combination of joy, relief, and … I don’t know. I can’t explain what I felt at that moment. After a lifetime of huge things going wrong; after being in this same position so many years ago with Jason, whose eyes never opened … seeing Anyan alive just about broke me.

In a good way.

When he sat up and wrapped his filthy, sticky, shit-smelling arms around me, I sobbed again and held him right back. We must have been quite a sight, me sobbing and crying and him still half-conscious but trying to comfort me, despite looking like we’d all just murdered a family and bathed in their blood.

We kissed then, and despite the fact I probably got a mouth full of dragon poo, I had never experienced anything so wonderful.

Although I definitely planned on brushing my teeth when I got home.

Eventually, Caleb and I got Anyan to his feet. The barghest’s long legs were flimsy as a colt’s after his long stay wherever the hell he’d been stored by the White. I couldn’t imagine how the dragon could be Anyan, but obviously not Anyan, but I guess that was the joy of magic. It defied logic.

When he was up, and supporting his own weight with only a little help from Caleb and me, he looked around at all of us.

‘Thank you,’ was all he said. But his voice held enough emotion to power Hallmark for a good year and a half.

Everyone hemmed and hawed, glowing with their own happiness to see him. I let them bask in his thanks, while I basked in his stinky, dragon-goop-smelling warmth. Anything was better than him actually being a dragon.

Then we took a couple of stumbling steps forward, to help Anyan get his sea legs. I also pointed with my chin at the beautiful silver stone that I’d dropped a few feet away. The labrys had long since disappeared to wherever it got to when it wasn’t needed, but I’d almost entirely forgotten the stone, natural champion that I was.

Ryu went to where it lay and grabbed it, eyeing it as he did so. He marveled at it before raising an eyebrow at me. I grinned at him. We’d done all right.

I felt a touch at my chin, and I turned my face over and up, to meet Anyan’s eyes. He’d let go of Caleb, letting me support him fully. He gazed down into my eyes, a thousand emotions playing over his features.

His next words moved me more than anything I could ever have heard. They told me that everything was going to be okay – that he was still Anyan and that nothing had changed about what the two of us shared.

‘Take me home,’ he said, his growling voice deliciously commanding. ‘Help me clean this shit off me. It’s like a god-damned episode of True Blood.’

Iris rushed ahead of us, darting upstairs. I heard the water turn on in Anyan’s big shower, and I blessed my friend’s considerate succubus heart.

She ran down to help me get him up to his loft bedroom, no mean feat, and then she darted off without a word. But she did pause to take my hand and squeeze it, tears filling her lovely blue eyes. She was happy for us.

Hell, I was happy for us.

‘Call my dad?’ I said.

She nodded. ‘Of course.’

Then Iris made her way downstairs and out the front door. I had no idea where everyone was going, since Anyan’s was our base camp, but I didn’t give a hoot at that point. Certainly not enough to risk this almost sacred privacy I finally had with him. The real Anyan, and not a dream.

I gave him some alone time in the bathroom as I peeled out of my blood-soaked clothes. It took a ridiculously long time to do so, as it was like shedding a second skin. Then I had to figure out what to do with the sodden bundle of nastiness. Anywhere I set them would stain, so I finally just chucked my filthy clothes out of the back window and onto the lawn below.

I could burn them tomorrow.

When I tapped on the bathroom door, I heard a muffled ‘Come in’ from the shower. Anyan was already under the showerhead, leaning against the wall as he let the water sluice off the first layer of gunk.

Dragon shit and all, I’d never seen a more beautiful sight.

Feeling ridiculously energized for someone who’d just fought a Titan, I paced forward toward the shower, practically purring. When I climbed in, the first thing I did was wrap myself around the barghest, just because I could.

I’d never take a hug from him for granted ever again.

He held me back, lowering his cheek to rest it on the top of my head. We stayed like that for a long time, the water running red beneath us as it slowly made us clean.

‘I missed you so much,’ I finally managed to choke out around the knot in my throat.

‘I missed you, too. And I’m so proud of you.’

I raised misty black eyes to his iron-gray. ‘I’ve never been so scared as when I hacked you up.’

He chuckled. ‘It wasn’t me. It was the White. You freed me.’

I shuddered with relief. I’d been so afraid that he’d been aware of the whole thing, from the first ax blow to the last.

‘Where were you?’ I asked.

He shrugged. ‘Who knows? I was in there, but as you saw me. Trapped somewhere, in that space I built the hut. I figured it was just my mind, but I guess it was all of me somehow.’

‘Was it horrible?’

‘Not too bad. Not after you found me, at least.’ His voice was scratchy. I think it had been that bad, although he’d not admit it yet while I was still so shaken up.

I made an inarticulate noise, then reached up my right hand to try to rub some of the blood off his face. He caught my hand, kissing my knuckles.

‘I love you,’ he said. My heart swelled and broke, then swelled and broke again. The barghest was going to be the death of me at this rate.

‘I love you, too,’ I said. ‘Now let’s get you clean…’

The first round of shampooing and soaping was not at all sexy, believe you me. Anyan had bits of dragon stuck in the unlikeliest places, and it took both of us to clean him off. I wasn’t much better, although the fact I’d been clothed helped. We had to clean out the drain twice, since it looked like someone had tried to make stew in it, and I had to be careful to help Anyan keep his feet underneath him. He was still weak, and would probably be so for another day or two, even with some supernatural healing help.

The second round of soaping was a lot nicer, however. The major cleaning was done … this round was just about being thorough. And perhaps also about being able to touch each other for real after so very long.

I did spend an awfully long time gliding the soap over Anyan’s long arms, loving the feel of his biceps under my hands, and the soft hair on his forearms. His chest needed quite a bit of attention, obviously, especially those tender nipples. That I kept licking them just meant I had to soap him up again, and then they were so clean they just begged to be licked when he’d washed off the soap…

And it wouldn’t have been fair just to clean his top half. Those lovely long legs needed attending to. Moving up from Anyan’s calves to his muscular thighs, I soaped him to a fine polish. And that brought my face so perilously close to the other part of Anyan that begged to be tasted. Of course, I couldn’t resist, even if taking him in my mouth was risky since he was already a bit unsteady on his feet. Even with the help of the wall propping him up, his hands were soon in my hair, pulling me roughly away. Another gentle tug let me know he wanted me on my feet, so I obliged.

‘I can’t stay upright. At least not on my legs anyway,’ Anyan said with a chuckle, kissing my mouth hungrily even as he wobbled.

I rubbed my belly against that part of him that was having no problem keeping erect, sucking on the moan he emitted, then his bottom lip for good measure.

‘Let’s get you to bed, then,’ I said, pulling away and turning off the shower. ‘Although I fully intend to take advantage of your current weakness.’

He chuckled, using my shoulder for support as he followed me out of the shower. ‘Finally get your chance at dominance, eh?’

‘I’m a dragon slayer, and don’t you forget it,’ I reminded him as I swept my long black hair up into a towel, then began vigorously drying him off with another. By the time I was done with the barghest, I’d shaken most of the water off myself and only needed a few passes with another of the clean, dry towels that Iris had set out for us.

Then I led him back into his own bedroom, as if he were the visitor, and laid him on the bed. He watched as I pulled the towel off my hair, scrubbing at it vigorously for a few minutes, then pulling my fingers through it so it was only slightly crazy-looking, rather than full-on Mad Shrubbery-style.

But there was no way in hell I was spending another second of my time on my toilette, not with Anyan lying naked in front of me.