He shook his head. His eyes watered from the strain of trying to retract the fangs while he was still so hungry.
"You look like you're in pain." She touched his shoulder. "Please, let me see."
"Mmm." He shook his head, retreating another step. Damn, this was embarrassing. But he probably deserved it, as close as he had come to biting her.
"I shouldn't have kissed you with the splint in your mouth." She grimaced. "Jeez, I shouldn't have kissed you at all."
The left fang finally obeyed and slid back into its hole. He spoke with his hand in front of his mouth. "I'm all right."
"But I broke a very important rule - never, ever date a client. I shouldn't be involved with you at all."
He lowered his hand. "In that case, you're fired."
"You can't fire me. You still have my splint in your mouth." She moved close to him. "Now open your mouth and let me see."
He did as he was told.
She nudged the splint with her fingers. He tickled her fingers with his tongue.
"Stop that." She jerked her hand from his mouth. "I can't believe this. The splint's loose."
"Well, you're one hell of a kisser."
She blushed. "I don't see how I managed to.. Don't worry. I won't kiss you again. As your dentist, I'm responsible first and foremost for your dental health - "
"I fired you."
"You can't. Not as long as the splint - "
"I'll rip the thing out myself."
"Don't you dare!"
"I'm not losing you, Shanna."
"You won't lose me. We'll only have to wait a week or so."
"I'm not waiting." He'd waited more than five hundred years to experience something like this. He wasn't waiting another damned week. And he wasn't taking any more chances with his questionable amount of control. He strode toward his bedroom. Black dots swirled around his head. He ignored them, ignored the hunger raging inside him.
"Roman!" She ran after him. "You can't take out the splint."
"I'm not." He yanked open a dresser drawer and dug beneath a pile of underwear. There, on the bottom, was a pouch of red felt. He pulled it out. Even through the felt, he could feel the warmth of the silver inside. Without the felt, his hand would now be covered with burning welts.
He held it out to her. She didn't notice since she was pivoting in a circle, checking out his bedroom. Her gaze lingered on his king-sized bed.
She looked at him, then noticed the pouch in his hand.
"I want you to have this." He swayed on his feet. He had to eat soon, one way or another.
"I can't accept more presents."
She winced. "You should work on your bedside manner."
He leaned on the dresser. "I want you to wear it around your neck. It will protect you."
"Sounds a little superstitious." She took the pouch, loosened the drawstring, and let the contents fall into her hand.
It looked much the same as it had in 1479 when he'd first taken vows. The silver chain was plain but good quality. The crucifix displayed medieval craftsmanship at its best.
"Wow. This is beautiful." Shanna examined it closely. "It looks really old."
"Put it on. It will protect you."
"Protect me from what?"
"I hope you never find out." He eyed the crucifix sadly. He had been so proud when Father Constantine placed it around his neck. Pride. That had been his downfall.
"Help me put it on?" Shanna turned halfway, gathering her hair into a ponytail. She offered the necklace to him.
He stumbled back before the silver could burn him. "I cannot. If you will excuse me, I need to go to work. I have a lot to do tonight."
She eyed him warily. "Fine." She released the ponytail, and her brown hair settled onto her shoulders. "Are you sorry you kissed me?"
"No, not at all." He grabbed the edge of the dresser for support. 'The crucifix. Put it on."
She continued to study him.
Her eyes widened. "I didn't think that word was in your vocabulary."
"I reserve it for emergencies."
She smiled. "In that case.." She looped the crucifix around her neck and flipped her hair over the chain. The cross rested on her br**sts like a shield of armor.
"Thank you." He gathered up his strength and escorted her to the door.
"I'll see you again?"
"Yes. Later tonight. When I get back from Romatech." He closed and locked the door. Then he stumbled into the office, grabbed the bottle from the microwave, and chugged it down cold. God's blood, his life had been turned upside down by Shanna. He couldn't wait to kiss her again. He was a demon getting a taste of heaven.
Hell was definitely freezing over.
On the way down the stairs, Shanna's thoughts centered on Roman. Thank God he was alive! The question now was should she stay under his protection or make other arrangements with Bob Mendoza? It was very tempting to stay with Roman. She'd never felt so attracted to a man. Or so intrigued.
She sauntered into the kitchen and found Connor at the sink, rinsing out bottles and setting them in the dishwasher.
"Are ye all right, lass?"
"Sure." She noticed a box of Band-Aids that was sitting on the counter. "Did you cut yourself?"
"Nay. I thought ye might be needing one." He peered closely at her neck. "Och, a silver chain. That'll protect you."
"Roman gave it to me." Shanna admired the antique crucifix.
"Aye, he's a good man." Connor swept the box of Band-Aids into a drawer. "I shouldna have doubted him."
Shanna opened a cabinet. "Where do you keep your glasses?"
"Here." Connor opened a different cabinet and retrieved a glass. "What would ye like to drink?"
"Some water." Shanna motioned to the dispenser in the refrigerator door. "I can get it myself."
Connor reluctantly handed over the glass, then followed her to the refrigerator.
"I'm not helpless, you know." She put in some ice and smiled at the Highlander who was leaning against the refrigerator door. "You guys are too sweet. You're going to spoil me rotten." She filled the glass with water.
She sat at the table and peered inside the box of brownies. "Yum." She took one out. "Do you think you could find some dental instruments for me? I need to tighten the splint in Roman's mouth."
Connor sat across from her. "Aye. We can take care of that."
"Thanks." Shanna pinched off a corner of the brownie. "Is there anything to do around here?"
"We have a well-stocked library across from the parlor. And there should be a telly in yer bedchamber."
Bedchamber? Shanna loved how archaic the Highlanders could sound. She finished her brownie, then hunted down the library. Wow. Three whole walls were lined with books from the floor to the ceiling. Some looked very old. Some were in languages she didn't recognize.
A wide window, covered with thick draperies, stretched across the fourth wall. She peeked out and saw the dimly lit street with cars parked along each side. It seemed so quiet and peaceful. Hard to believe there were people out there who wanted her dead.
She heard voices in the foyer. Female voices. She moved toward the door. She had to admit, she was curious about these mysterious ladies who watched television in Roman's parlor. She peeked around the doorjamb.
There were two beautiful women approaching the parlor. The first one, dressed in a black spandex catsuit, looked like a model and moved like an anorexic panther. Her hair was long, black, and loose down her back. Sparkling rhinestones studded the black belt around her tiny waist. Black polish gleamed on her long fingernails, and each nail boasted another rhinestone.
The second woman was petite, with her black hair cut into a bob. She wore a tight black sweater to show off her generous cle**age and a black mini-skirt to reveal her pencil legs encased in black fishnet stockings. She was cute and tiny, but her clunky black shoes made her walk like a water buffalo.
The woman in the catsuit was gesturing angrily, her fingernails glittering under the foyer chandelier. "How can he treat me like zis? Does he not know I am a celebrity?"
"He's very busy, Simone," Miss Clunky Shoes replied. "He has a million things to do with the conference starting tomorrow."