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The Dark Prince(The Dark Light Series #2)(4)

By:S.L. Jennings

I don't stop myself from brushing my hand against his cheek, feeling tiny prickles of stubble along his jaw. Dorian turns his face into my palm and inhales before exhaling his serenity.

I raise an eyebrow with question. "When you do that … ?"

"I breathe you," Dorian answers with a sigh, finishing my thought. "You intoxicate me, Gabriella. I told you that. Breathing you has become somewhat of an addiction for me."

I pull my hand back and frown. "But can't that … kill me?" I think back to the passage in Natalia's journal, warning me against those that may seek my presence in order to steal my essence. Part of me always knew that Dorian's ritual was no coincidence.

"It can, if I'm not careful. I try to be. My affections for you are the only way I'm able to show an ounce of restraint," he chuckles.

I plaster on a strained grin, slightly daunted by Dorian's buoyancy at my fragility. I hate feeling so helpless, so feeble. But I know what he's saying is true. He could kill me easily, even accidentally.

"I won't let myself do it. I won't lose control," he mutters, reading my discomfort. "Look at me." Dorian's finger lifts my chin to meet his solemn gaze. "You know that, right? That I won't hurt you?"

I nod weakly, trying not only to convince him but myself as well. "I think so. I hope so."

"Remember, I can't lie to you, Gabriella. You are safe with me." He gives me a forced half-smile laced with pain. "For now."

My eyes cast down to his mouth, unable to look him in his eyes. I focus on the curve of each lip, the tiny dots of black stubble just breaking the surface of his skin. Anything to distract my mind from the inevitable.

Eventually, one of us will have to die.

"Why the sudden change of heart, Dorian? Come on, five minutes ago, I was a goner. You were ready to do it. I need to understand why you didn't carry out your plan a long time ago."

Dorian sighs, and leans back into the sofa, pulling me into his arms. The contact is immensely comforting, and I find myself nuzzling into the patch of bare skin above the collar of his shirt. He's still fully dressed in his suit and I'm tempted to loosen his tie and unfasten the buttons of his dress shirt.

"I told you, I felt it too," he begins in a quiet voice. "The shift when we first met. From that moment, I couldn't get you off my mind. It was maddening, and I was literally sick with myself for feeling so … drawn to you. I wanted to resist you completely. But there was this intense magnetism between us that made it impossible."

"I know," I nod against his chest. The moment I laid eyes on Dorian, I knew there was something uncanny about him that drew me to him. I, too, knew that I couldn't resist him from that point on.

"I told myself that once I spent some time with you, got it out of my system, the allure would fade. That I could focus on what I needed to do." Dorian brings my hand up to his face and gently brushes the back of it with his lips. "But then I tasted your lips. I couldn't stop myself from doing it. And I knew I couldn't leave you alone."

"That's all it took? A kiss?" I ask doubtfully. "And just like that, you're off the hook?"

I feel Dorian's jaw shift into a smirk. "Not exactly. When I left after that, I went to Greece. To my home. To try to buy you- us- more time. I told them that I could possibly persuade you to align with the Dark. And if you did, there would be no reason to kill you."

My eyes grow wide with a mixture fright and understanding. I sit up and turn to Dorian. "The messages … It was you?"

"No," he shakes his head. "Not me personally. But I knew."

"Something tells me you knew about everything," I mutter with an accusing tone, my eyes piercing the layers of his obscurity.

Dorian doesn't respond. What could he possibly say to make me feel better about his deception?

"I had to, Gabriella. To save your life," he finally says, answering my unspoken question. "I needed more time to figure things out. I'm sorry if it frightened you."

"Are you the killer, Dorian?" I ask, growing tired of dancing around the question.

"No. Of course, not." Dorian pulls me back into his embrace and I let him, despite my uncertainty. "I have no need to kill innocents, Gabriella."

"Not even for … power?" I ask with a wavering voice.

"I don't need power, little girl."

"Then who?"

Dorian strokes my disheveled mane, making me suddenly conscious of the ragged state I arrived here in.

"I don't know. There was no mandated order outside of mine. We have rules, Gabriella. We don't kill for sport, despite what the Light may believe."

An involuntary yawn escapes me and I try to muffle it against Dorian's chest.

"You're tired," he observes.

I shake my head. "No, I'm fine." There's so much more I need to know, so much I want to ask him. About what he is. About what I am. "Are there others? Like you?"

"Yes, of course. Everywhere. Hidden in plain sight."

"I think I saw one. Like you. The night after our first date, in the parking lot. I think it was coming after me. Scary as hell, like some type of freaky ghost-like figure. All distorted and demonic looking. It looked like you did. When you … changed. But it wasn't you, was it?"

Dorian chuckles, and I sit up to check if he's delusional. What the hell is so funny?

"Aurora," he snickers. "She has a flair for the dramatic."

Aurora? I knew it! "So she's … "

"Dark, yes. She wouldn't have hurt you though. She was just curious, maybe even a bit jealous. But she has been helping us, watching you when I can't be here. Luckily, her involvement with that boy has made that task easier."

Aurora's sudden infiltration into my life has been more than a nuisance. But the realization that her involvement with Jared was orchestrated to get closer to me brings a tiny smile to my face. I know I shouldn't be pleased with the charade but I can't help but find comfort in the fact that their relationship isn't real.

Way to be a bitch.

"So what's the plan? If it's not you, and it's not Aurora, than how can I possibly elude whoever is out there hunting me? Especially when you don't even know who it could be?" I stifle another yawn with the back of my hand.

"Well, for starters, the necklace," Dorian says, tugging it gently from the inside of my sweatshirt. "It's spelled to track you. You mustn't take it off. This necklace … is you, Gabriella. The pearl signifies your human life- delicate, effervescent and so precious- protected by dazzling white brilliance. Yet you are also surrounded by the allure and equally radiant darkness. Just a little girl thrust into the very heart of all of us. Both Light and Dark."

I reflexively place my fingers over the pendent of pearl and diamonds cradled in Dorian's hand. He cups both it and my hand and smiles sweetly, taking my breath away. I don't stop myself from tipping my head up and placing my lips on his. They feel so soft and warm, and before long a light moan erupts from my throat which Dorian relishes. My hands tug at his tie, unsuccessfully trying to loosen it. Luckily, Dorian removes it swiftly, giving me access to the buttons of his shirt where I begin to go to work on furiously. I straddle his lap, fumbling with the buttons as Dorian kneads my backside through my jeans.

"Wait," he says suddenly, pulling my lips from his.

"What?" I ask breathless and confused.

"I have to give you something. And I don't know how you'll take it."

"Ok," I enunciate slowly. "What is it?"

Dorian opens his palm, revealing a tiny vial of iridescent liquid. I have no idea where it came from and I know it hasn't been in his hand the entire time.

"What is that?" I ask, picking it up between my thumb and forefinger.

"Magic," Dorian answers. "My magic, specifically. At least in part." He takes the vial from my fingers and unscrews the top. "It will connect us. I'll be able to feel your emotions, especially when you are in danger."

I look at the pearlescent liquid skeptically then gaze up at Dorian with a raised brow. He rolls his eyes then sighs, taking the tiny bottle from me. He dabs a bit onto his finger and sticks it into his mouth. Just the sight of him sucking his finger causes my breath to hitch.

"See, perfectly safe. You have to believe me when I say I won't hurt you, Gabriella. Besides, poison isn't my style."

My eyes widen with morbid curiosity. "Well, what is your style?"

Dorian scoffs before flashing me a sinister half-grin. "Let's hope you never have to find out. I'm very good at what I do." He brings the vial to my lips. "Now drink up."

With a final deep breath, I let him tip the substance into my mouth. It's sickly sweet and syrupy and I cringe a bit. A cool sensation sweeps through me, like winter in my veins. Yet, the cold evolves into a burn- a crackling fire in the midst of a snowstorm. It soothes and stimulates me all at once, sending my senses into a frenzy.

"Good girl." Dorian shifts my body so that I am cradled in his arms, laying my cheek against his bare chest. "You will need to rest."

"But I'm not tired," I lie with a yawn.

Whatever was in that potion has suddenly intensified the fatigue. My eyelids feel like lead and even my breathing has grown deep and heavy. But I don't want to sleep. I am afraid of waking up and finding that Dorian is gone. And all this- the reconstructed remains of our shattered relationship- really will be over. I need to see him, feel him in my arms, just so I know he is real. That what we have is real.