Sacrifice (The Gryphon Series Book 3)(6)

By: Stacey Rourke

I closed my eyes and tipped my head back. “If it was heaven, I wouldn’t have to take Dramamine to get here.”

The sand crunched as Caleb set his guitar down. “The Dramamine is just so ya don’t turn green when we teleport. Has nothin’ to do with the end location.” He rose from the rock he’d been sitting on and rounded the fire pit. His bare foot nudged my hip. “Sit up. The show’s about tah start.”

I pushed myself up and brushed the sand off my hands. Caleb slid behind me, and pulled me back against his chest. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly to savor the moment. I was right where I was meant to be—where I belonged.

Purple, pink, and gold zigzags decorated the sky. Their image reflected off the water turning it the color of melted gold. “It’s gorgeous.”

“As are you, my love.” He dotted a kiss just below my ear.

I snuggled deeper into his arms and watched as the sun disappeared behind the water’s edge and the sky darkened. Unfortunately it also signaled our time together was drawing to a close. “What time is it in Tennessee?”

Caleb rocked onto his hip to slide his cell phone out of his pocket, and then clicked the screen to life. “Ya’ve got about thirty minutes until ya’re curfew.”

“Thirty minutes, huh?” In a brazen move totally out of character for me, I swung both my legs over one of his and tried on a saucy grin. “What could we possibly do in thirty minutes?”

“Well, not that.” His emerald eyes burned with barely concealed desire. “’Cause this beach isn’t quite that isolated. But there are other things … ”

He freed my hair from its ponytail and weaved his fingers through it to shake the strands loose. Gently at first, his lips found mine but the heat and intensity quickly grew.

His hand slid up my leg and lingered on the curve of my hip. “Ya know,” he whispered, his voice low and husky, “it’s been far too long since I’ve made ya purr. I’m beginning to think I lost my touch.”

I brushed my cheek against his and moved up to deliver a soft kiss to the tip of his ear lobe. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve been stifling it. Didn’t want you to get lazy.”

His head fell back as he laughed. “Lazy? With you on me arm?” He wrapped both arms around my waist and flipped me so my back was in the sand. Raven locks fell forward and framed his handsome face when he leaned over me. “That’s an impossibility if e’er there was one.”

I ran my hands up his chest, over the raised ridges of the lacework of scars that decorated his torso, and linked them behind his neck. “And you love it.”

In a blink his humor vanished, burned away by the intensity of his gaze. “No,” he corrected. “I love you.”

Our lips met in a fiery explosion and we lost ourselves in each other’s touch. My hands raked down his back, wanting to free him from the burden of his shirt.

He caught my wandering digits and tried to pull away. “Celeste, the fire … ”

“I know. It’s fantastic,” I murmured and reached for him again.

He swatted my hands away and nodded past me. “No, lovey, the fire. Look!”

I didn’t want to look. I knew whatever it was would ruin the moment. I wasn’t wrong. From within our small fire visible hands had formed. I sat up and cocked my head to watch; my eyes narrowed in confusion. The flaming fingers clawed and reached skyward, digging their way out. The fire blazed up toward the evening sky. Arms grew from the hands.

“What the heck is that?” I asked, more irritated than surprised.

“Safe to say it’s demonic in nature, aye?”

“Of course it is,” I grumbled.

One fire arm slammed against the sand and dragged itself in our direction. The center of the fire pit crumbled away and the head of the demon appeared—a flaming skull with vacant eye sockets and a wide grin. Horror movies had become significantly less scary since I became the Conduit.

Caleb pushed against my back. “Up we go!”

Sand kicked up as we scrambled to our feet and got some distance between the demon and us. Its fiery fingers dug into the sand to pull the lower half of its body out. Caleb shoved me behind him and held up a protective arm to keep me there—as if that would work.