Chapter dedicated to AlessaClearwater. Thanks for reading and sticking through the hard bits of the book! Not everyone makes it through without giving up, but you did, so well done, you!

Chapter 161—Appointment


Cage's domain, inside of Armand's kingdom, was vast. In addition to a multi-storied atrium housing apartments for several hundred vampires, it contained common areas that included several great rooms, a game room, library and a fully stocked modern kitchen with industrial appliances.

However, Talon's apartment was located in the same block of luxury suites where Cage and I resided, and I made quick progress as I walked the familiar passageway, turning right and then left, before I reached two large double doors across the hall from each other. Kieran lived in one and Talon had moved into Talia's previous suite.

I knocked on the door. It only took a second for Talon to open it wide. He ushered me inside, extending his hand toward the living room, chastising me softly, "You know you don't need to knock. You have a key."

I crossed the elegantly styled room and settled down on a plush bisque-colored sofa, pulling my knees up, and tucking my legs by my side, to get comfortable. Talon joined me, his movement surprisingly sleek and elegant, given his large frame. He sat down and leaned back against the couch cushion with his legs spread comfortably, his hands in his lap.

I grinned over at him and teased, "But what if you were walking around naked?"

He rolled his eyes and replied with a smirk, "I think we've seen enough skin of each other by now, that it no longer matters."

My smile widened. There was truth in his words. When we first met, he was as naked as the day he was born. And after spending so many weeks with Marku, he'd probably seen enough flesh of mine to last him a lifetime.

I changed the subject, getting to the reason I was there. I bubbled in excitement. "Did Cage tell you we're going on vacation after my Reception Gala in three weeks?"

Talon's face fell and he averted his gaze as he answered noncommittally, "He mentioned something about it." He picked at a nonexistent piece of lint on the sofa.

I frowned, surprised at his response and upset at the anxiety in his tone. Had Cage told him we weren't taking him with us? Surely not. Cage and I hadn't discussed it, but I just assumed it was a given that Talon would join us. Cage understood that neither Talon nor I were ready to be separated from each other right now, not for an extended period of two weeks, not after I spent two long months away from him, submerged in one of the Pools of Morenth while I was searching for Cage. I needed Talon close by my side just as much as he needed me.

I spoke quickly to reassure him, to make him understand his importance. "Of course you're coming with us. You know we'd never leave you behind."

He shook his head, bringing his eyes back to mine. "But this is your vacation. I don't want to interrupt or be a burden."

Oh...he wasn't worried about being left behind. He was uncomfortable about joining us. I turned on the couch toward him, and got up on my knees so I could reach his face. My fingers gently traced the sharp crest of his cheekbone. He leaned his head into my palm, and the tightness in his shoulders relaxed a little. I murmured softly, "How can you possibly even think that? You are my family. I need you with me. It stresses me when you're not around."

I saw the determination in his expression waiver. He understood exactly what I meant, because it was hugely stressful for him as well when we were apart. I rambled on, "And if that were not already enough motivation, Cage and I will need a security detail while we travel, and you're the most bad ass vampire I know."

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