Home > Lost Talismans and a Tequila (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #7)(7)

Lost Talismans and a Tequila (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #7)(7)
Author: Annette Marie

Our frenzy of kissing and roaming hands slowed. Deepened. His mouth savoring. The grind of his hips sweet, slow torture.

“Ezra,” I moaned in a faint, breathless whisper. “Can we … please?”

His lips softened, and he sucked gently on my lower lip before he lifted his head. “We …” His breath caught, voice hoarsening. “Not … not now. I can’t …”

I didn’t understand why he couldn’t or what was holding him back, but I didn’t argue. “Okay.”

We stared at each other—and I couldn’t stop myself from pulling his mouth back for one more inferno-stoking kiss. His weight came down on me in a fierce press of strength, muscle, and desire, and I locked my legs tighter around his hips, needing just a little more, a little more.

Braced against me, he pushed his face into my neck. “Shit, Tori.”

I squeezed my eyes shut, panting for air. With effort, I unclamped my arms and legs. Letting him go felt all wrong.

He pushed off me, stared insatiably at my heaving chest, then turned away. Shoulders moving with his own deep breaths, he sank onto the floor. While he leaned back against the bed, I remained sprawled across the mattress. Minutes slid past as my heart rate gradually calmed, my lungs slowing their greedy panting.

When we’d both recovered, he stood up. I scooched over, making room as he flipped the blankets back and slid into bed. He settled his head on his pillow, and I stretched out beside him, on top of the blankets where I couldn’t misbehave.

He’d left his sweatpants on. Pretty sure he didn’t normally sleep in them, but I could guess why he wasn’t removing them.

I swallowed hard, trying not to squirm against the slow heat rolling through me. I wouldn’t press him for more, or for an explanation. He was the one going through hell right now, and I wasn’t going to push his boundaries.

There were other things we needed to talk about—badly—but a soft silence that had fallen between us and I didn’t want to disturb it. The things I needed to tell him wouldn’t be fun, and I needed just a little longer.

Just a little longer before I faced the consequences of decisions I’d made weeks ago.

Chapter Five

“Tori. Tori.”

A hand roughly shook my shoulder, and I jerked my head up with a jagged inhale, bleary eyes scrunched. Had I fallen asleep?

Ezra was sitting up in bed beside me, the blankets pooled in his lap. My attention caught on his bare chest, delaying the moment when I got my gaze up to his face.

Burning crimson eyes stared down at me.

Fear jolted through my gut, and I sat up with a curse. “Crap, sorry. I didn’t mean to drift off.”

Eterran’s mouth thinned with displeasure. “We don’t have long. He isn’t sleeping deeply—too restless. I wonder why?” he added mockingly.

“Butt out. You might be sharing his body, but you don’t need to be a perv about it.” I straightened my shirt, reminding myself to keep my voice low and soothing so Ezra didn’t wake up.

Eterran watched me, too still and predatory, his glowing stare devoid of Ezra’s warmth. I hated seeing the demon in his face.

“All right,” I whispered in a businesslike tone. “Our plan. Two parts—the amulet and the summoner.”

“The amulet may be all we need.”

“But it might not get your body back,” I countered fiercely. “That’s our goal. Not to give you control of Ezra’s body, but to free you both. To do that, we need to know how you two are bound together—exactly how. And we need to know exactly how that amulet works.”

His jaw tightened.

“After our last talk,” I told him, “I spoke with Darius. He’s going to wait to act. So are Aaron and Kai. You and Ezra just need to focus on keeping calm and levelheaded while we figure this out.”

“Are we leaving soon?” The faintest shadow of fear touched his cold expression. “Every day counts.”

“Tomorrow morning.” I rubbed my hands together nervously. “You said last time that the summoner who turned Ezra into a demon mage died during the Enright extermination.”

“Along with all the others.”

“But you’re sure the summoner’s grimoire is still in Enright?”

“I am not sure.” He rested his elbows on his knees, hunching forward. “I was summoned first into a circle, and during that time, I observed everything. There was a hidden room beneath the ritual area—the summoner’s lair. I could hear faint noises through the ground. When we returned after the extermination, that hidden place hadn’t been uncovered.”

“But that was eight years ago.”

“Why would anyone excavate the ruins?”

“Good point. But would the summoner have left anything down there?”

“The group,” Eterran sneered, “treated summoning and rituals as performances. Their leaders shared a large, ornate grimoire. It contained all their rituals and spells.”

I puffed out a breath. “So it wasn’t a personal grimoire. There’s a good chance, then, they stored it in the ‘lair.’”

“That is my thought. If it isn’t there, you may find other information.”

“We’ll need your help to find the hidden room. And that means …” I steeled myself. “I’m going to tell Ezra everything.”

“No.”

“He needs to know before we—”

“No.” Eterran bared his teeth. “He won’t believe that I would help him—help us—without betraying him.”

“You two worked together once before, didn’t you? Ezra told me—”

“After his parents and everyone he knew were slaughtered because he ran away, he turned all his guilt and self-loathing on me. He hates me down to his soul.”

“They weren’t killed because Ezra ran—”

“If he hadn’t run, they wouldn’t have searched for him and the Keys of Solomon would never have found his family.” Eterran made an impatient rasp in his throat. “Humans cannot accept the senselessness of death. They need reasons for death. The only reason he can find is his own choices.”

His hand closed around the back of my head, and he dragged my face close to his.

“Understand, Tori,” he growled. “There is only one thing Ezra cannot bear. He will endure any pain or suffering himself, but he will not allow his family to die because of him—not again.”

I stared into the demon’s burning lava eyes, my throat too tight for words.

“If he finds out I have this level of autonomy, he will find a way to die—immediately. I will have no choice but to fight him for control, and that could destroy us both.”

Swallowing back nausea, I gripped his wrist. “Let me go.”

He opened his fingers. “You cannot tell Ezra.”

“I can’t not tell Ezra. He’s way too smart to believe any half-baked cover story about why we’re going to Enright, and as soon as we need your help in locating that hidden room, he’ll find out that—”

“Then we wait for him to sleep.”

I set my jaw stubbornly. “I’m not lying to him anymore.”

“Zh’ūltis!” he snapped. “Worry about his forgiveness after you have ensured his survival! We cannot—”

His eyes went wide, his arm shuddering in my grip. “He’s—”

He jerked, throwing his head back. It hit the wall with a thud. Gasping, he buckled forward, tearing his arm from my grasp as he pressed both hands to his face. His shoulders heaved.

He slid his hands down, revealing Ezra’s human eyes staring blankly ahead as he panted.

My hammering heart lodged in my throat, muffling my voice as I whispered, “Ezra?”

He jolted as though my whisper had been a slap. His wide-eyed stare shot to me, whipped across my face, and stopped on my hand still hovering in the air.

Lowering his hands from his face, he looked at his wrist. The one I’d been holding.

“You were talking to me …” he muttered hoarsely.

“I—” Panic rushed through me, and I blurted without thinking, “I was telling you to calm down. You were having a nightmare—”

“You were talking to him.”

My voice died.

His eyes regained focus. “He was—he was talking—but I was—wasn’t I sleeping?” He sucked in a lungful of air and expelled it in a rush. “I was sleeping and he was—and you were—”

Shit, shit, shit. The decision about when to tell him the truth was no longer up for debate. “Ezra, I need to—”

“What happened? Was Eterran in control? What—” His frantic questions cut off. Mismatched eyes swept across my face. “Why are you so calm?”

I reached for his arm. “I can explain. Just—”

“Explain?” He jerked away from my hand. “Didn’t Eterran just take control while I was sleeping? How could you possibly explain that? How …” He broke off, his face losing what little color remained. “Wait. No. No.”

He flung the blankets aside and rolled off the bed. As his feet hit the floor, he clamped his hands to the sides of his head. “My insomnia in December. It’s not—he wasn’t—was it him?”

Panic bled into his voice, and my anxiety ratcheted in response. Ezra’s usual levelheadedness was rapidly losing out to the realization that one of his worst nightmares had come true.

He whirled on me. “What do you know?”

I slid to the edge of the bed and swung my feet down to the floor. “Ezra, please calm down. It’s okay. Let me explain.”

“My demon controlled me in my sleep! How is that okay?”

“I’ll explain it,” I replied, keeping my tone even despite the fear clogging my lungs. “Please, Ezra. Just sit down and let me talk.”

His chest heaved as he fought to bring his emotions under control, and I shivered from the tension gripping me. Too dangerous. This was way too dangerous for him. The lethal feedback loop of emotion that had almost destroyed him a few days ago was too close.

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