The night was too quiet. M’Rhal hated quiet nights. She’d suffered too many in her years already. She expressed her displeasure with a huffed sigh, and then stretched languidly, like a cat, yet more graceful and lithe than anything of the feline orientation. She settled on the sofa, her head resting on Nicolucci’s hard thigh. He brushed her hair back from her face as he smiled down at her.
“Would you like me to take you out?” Nicolucci asked.
“My dear friend,” she whispered reverently. They’d been together since the beginning. At first he was her guardian, her teacher, and her sire’s right hand man. Now he was her cherished companion, friend, and advisor. Always by her side, even after Dante betrothed her to another, and later left her behind to run his family.
“Oh no.” Nicolucci flashed a playful smile. “Please do not tell me you’re feeling melancholy and nostalgic tonight.”
She shook her head. “I want Angelo to take me out.”
She scowled up at him. “You presume too much familiarity again.”
Nicolucci laughed, a deep, soft chuckle that shook her where she rested against his lap. M’Rhal snorted and looked away, a smile creeping over her lips. Somehow he always knew when she was playing with him.
An authoritative knock echoed through the small room just before the door opened. M’Rhal’s smile shifted from comfort and adoration of her constant companion to unadulterated love and lust for her bonded. “Angelo, betrothed, have you come to whisk me away from all of this?” She waved a hand in the air, but made no move to sit up. Nicolucci smirked and shook his head, still trailing his fingers through her hair.
“Not now,” Angelo said gruffly. He walked swiftly to his desk and dropped into the large leather chair behind it. “Nico, where is that girl?”
“Nica?” he asked, wrinkling his nose and making a face at M’Rhal. She’d been teasing him about the similarity in their names since Judas showed up with her and Max and a half-dozen others in tow.
“Yes.” Angelo hissed out the word.
His patience obviously running dangerously thin, Nicolucci raised an eyebrow to M’Rhal as he answered Angelo’s question. “Blood Moon. She’s befriended that human Chaos has been playing with.”
“Why the fuck is she not addressing this hunter bullshit?”
M’Rhal rose to her feet all liquid and grace. “She’s working another angle,” M’Rhal said. “This human is in the same band as your hunters and claims to know how to manipulate the troublesome one.”
“They’re not my hunters,” Angelo grumbled. “She needs to pick it up. I want calm.”
“Anch’io, betrothed.” M’Rhal settled into Angelo’s lap, draping her arms around his shoulders. “I miss my playful, fun lover.”
Angelo broke a smile just for her, and tenderly brushed his fingers along her cheek. “Says the woman who was all prim and proper not so long ago.”
“Prim and proper? I think not.”
Angelo shrugged, caught her wrists, and said, “It sounds nicer than saying ‘had a sick up her butt.’”
Her eyes widened and she struggled to pull her hands away. As usual, she managed, but barely. Their bonding had made them equals in many ways. Starting a wrestling match with him was just as likely to end up with him pinning her face down on the floor as it was to have her straddling him at her mercy.
She crossed her arms over her chest, but did not get up from her seat on his lap. “Now, it is you who has a stick… in an inappropriate place.”
Angelo sighed and wrapped his arms around her waist. He rested his head against her arm until she unfolded them and embraced him. “I know,” he said. “If I could, I’d finish Judas off just to get peace and quiet in this city again.”
“Nico,” M’Rhal frowned at her friend, “Go tell Nica she needs to make progress tonight.”
Nicolucci rose to his feet but shook his head. “I’ll tell her, but she knows I have little authority over her.”
“Seniority.” When Nico gave a her a doubtful look, M’Rhal said, “Never mind. I will speak with the pup. She’s been spoiled, and needs a firm hand to understand expectations and duty.”
“My, my,” Nicolucci said with an amused smirk. “M’Rhal speaking out against an elder? I thought I’d never see the day.”
“Funny,” she said with a sneer that said it was anything but. “If you repeat that, I’ll deny it.”
“Go,” she said. “I’m sure you have something better to do than push me.”
This time he knew she wasn’t kidding. He bowed his head and backed to the door. Before he slipped out he bowed his head to Angelo as well, but didn’t leave without muttering something low and teasing under his breath.