“You sure you want those?” A solemn question. “You’ve only been in half the stores on the island.”
“Go ahead,” she said, “make fun of the new traveler.”
He kissed her on the cheek instead, the warmth of his body a caress she’d missed. “I like seeing Venice through your eyes.”
A tiny bud of hope sprouted in her heart. “Thank you for showing me this shop.” It had been hidden, a secret treasure trove. “What’s that?”
He held up two small glass boxes in different colors, tied with glass bows of silver. “I took my mother one last time and she told me she needed a set. And for her highness, Marisol, I’ll be grabbing a big box of candy.”
It was impossible not to adore a man who made no bones about how much he loved the women in his life. “Your niece is a lucky girl,” she said, rising to drop a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “And your mother raised a good man.”
His arm slid across her waist to settle on her hip. “Pierce found something he thinks you’ll like.” Tapping her on the nose, he nodded to the other end of the shop. “I’ll have this wrapped for you.”
“Thanks.” The tiny bud within her grew a single whisper-thin leaf of vivid green: Sex was one thing, but giving and accepting such sweet affection—tender and public and playful—it took their relationship to a haunting new place. A place that might cause her terrible hurt, and yet one she knew she couldn’t walk away from.
It was too late for that.
CHEST TIGHT WITH the realization, Adria crossed over to Pierce and peered inside the glass case beside which he stood. The sculpture displayed within was frankly bizarre—it looked like someone had smashed up a hunk of puke-colored glass, then put it back together. Badly.
“Isn’t it magnificent?” Pierce touched the case with reverent fingertips.
Not wanting to hurt his feelings, she scrambled for a response. “I can see it speaks to you.”
“Oh, yes. The artistic flow is indescribable.”
Adria wasn’t sure quite what to say to that, but he was waiting for her to respond with such an expectant expression on his face that she knew she had to speak. “Yes, it’s … ah … imaginative.”
Pierce began to talk about the absorbing ambiguity of the shapes and how the power of the piece was a subtle fusion of light and darkness. It was almost two minutes later, just when she was plotting her escape, that she caught the glint in his eye and realized she’d been had. Intense, passionate, and intelligent Pierce was a playful wolf at heart.
“Yes, yes,” she said when he paused, “you’re so right. In fact, I think it’d be the perfect gift.” Biting the inside of her cheek to keep from bursting out laughing, she took one of his hands in between her own. “I’m going to buy it for you—no, no, I insist. You’ve been so great today, so patient.”
Distinct alarm. “No, there’s no need. I already have—”
“I insist.” Turning, she quick-stepped it to where Riaz was standing at the counter, the bag containing her souvenirs in hand. “Riaz, I found the best gift for Pierce.”
“If you give me that monstrosity,” Pierce growled from behind her, “I will regift it to you on your birthday.”
A snort escaped Adria. Pierce’s eyes narrowed. And then she was laughing so hard, she had to walk outside and collapse against the wall. Following her out, Riaz tugged on her braid. “Pierce is not amused.” Deep gold, his eyes told her his wolf most definitely was.
Pierce’s snarl made tears come out of her eyes. “Serves you right,” she managed to get out to the glowering male.
“Hey! I was—” An abrupt pause. “I think that’s my cell.”
Adria hadn’t heard anything, but perhaps he had it on vibrate. As he walked a few steps away to answer the call, she turned to Riaz. “Do we have time to sneak into the glass museum I saw?”
Riaz wrapped his arm around her shoulders, tucking her close. “Come on.”
Wanting to nuzzle at his throat, she gave in a little and pressed a kiss to the hollow. His response was a teasing snap of his teeth by her ear.
We’ll be okay.
The bud greened with health, but deep inside, she knew it would never be so simple.
TRAVELING under an assumed name, and with his features disguised to avoid attention, Judd stepped off an airjet at Marco Polo Airport late that afternoon, then caught a water bus to Venice. He could’ve teleported in and negated the need for the subterfuge, but there was no point in using up his telekinetic reserves without cause.
When he reached the island, he found a corner out of sight of passersby—and of security cameras, concentrated on the images Aden had given him, and teleported to the location where he was to meet the rebels. It proved to be a small indoor courtyard, the walls creamy with age and covered with some type of a dark green vine.
There was no need to make a cell phone call.
“I was told I was expected,” he said to the armed man who watched him with the flat eyes of an Arrow, though he was dressed in faded denim jeans and a blue T-shirt.
The slightest hesitation, the man’s eyes flicking to his hair. It was currently dirty blond, his eyes a pale gray. “Who sent you?” The other man didn’t lower his weapon.
Instead of answering, Judd—having built up the correct focus—bent the muzzle of the gun downward, rendering it ineffective. The rebel Arrow threw it aside, hitting Judd with a telepathic blow at the same time … but Judd had his psychic hands in the cells of the male’s heart. He shifted things enough to pinch a blood vessel.