Excerpt from Blurred Bloodlines

The three boxes were lined up on her bed, exactly as she had found them when returning after a day spent training new recruits. She knew who had left them even before opening the note that accompanied them; only Blake had a spare key to her room. The first two boxes were plain cardboard, but the smallest one was blue suede, and her fingers itched to pick it up and finally open it. She could guess it was some kind of jewelry, and she was a little anxious to discover what it was. Knowing Blake, it could be anything from a lovely bracelet to a nipple ring. She hoped it wasn’t the latter—for his own sake, she hoped he had listened when she had said no to that.

On top of the largest box, the note she had opened earlier lay half open. She picked it up and read it again, the butterflies in her stomach fluttering a little faster as she did.

I hope you’ll like these. Be ready at eight.

She touched the words, then Blake’s signature. His handwriting was a little slanted, the cursive letters slightly rough and irregular. It fitted him.

Putting the note down again, she lifted the cover of the largest box—and immediately gasped. A dress lay in the box, white and silver with large black flowers across the bodice and down the skirt. Her hands trembling a little, she lifted it out of the box, and noticed the lace inserts in the ankle-length skirt. It was silky smooth between her fingers, and she could just imagine what it would feel like on her skin. She had never seen anything so lovely, let alone worn it. It looked like something from another age, before breaches had opened all over the world and demons had started their relentless attacks on the human civilization. These days, simple fabrics and clothes that were both utilitarian and easy to make were the norm. She could only wonder where Blake had found something so extravagant.

Moments later, her wonder turned to awe when she slipped the dress on over plain cotton panties and bra, and found that it fit perfectly. She could have sworn it had been made for her. Surely, though, that was beyond Blake’s means. There was at least one seamstress in each town who could sew special garments, usually for weddings and celebrations, but their prices were supposed to be exorbitant—not that Kate had ever had the need for one.

She smoothed her hands down the sides of the dress as she turned to the second box. In her haste to open it, she dropped the lid. It fell to the carpeted floor with a whisper but she barely noticed as she pulled out the shoes from inside the box. She remembered Blake checking her boots, a few days earlier, and commenting on what small feet she had; she hadn’t thought anything of it at the time. These weren’t anything like her combat boots, though. Black with a white trim, they had heels—not very high ones, but still higher than she had ever worn—and a curved opening at the toes. These, she noticed, weren’t new. The soles bore some signs of use. Although not anything like what she was used to, they were lovely, and surprisingly comfortable once she slipped them on. She walked back and forth through the room, getting used to the heels, and was almost surprised when she didn’t immediately trip over her own feet. All those balance exercises were paying off, she thought with an inward grin.

Only the suede box was left. She sat on the bed after picking it up and held it on her knees for a moment before opening it. Rectangular and about as large as her hand, it had to be too big for a nipple ring. A necklace, maybe? The lid flipped back easily, revealing not only a necklace, but also a pair of earrings in the center of the box. The pieces appeared to be silver. The necklace, short enough that it would sit close to her throat, was made of three flat strands, the links that formed the strands so small that they were barely distinguishable. The three strands were entwined in a tight braid. Three similar strands of differing lengths dangled from the earrings.

Kate touched the necklace with the tip of her finger, following one of the strands as it wove over and under the other two. It was all a terrible idea, she thought as she snapped the box shut. She put the box on the bed and rubbed her hands together; her palms were damp. She ought to call the whole thing off. Yes, that was what she was going to do. She would call Blake and—

A knock on the door made her jump to her feet. She swallowed heavily and went to open it, absently throwing a glance at the alarm clock by her bed. It wasn’t time yet. It couldn’t be him.

She wiped her palms on her dress before clasping the doorknob and twisting it open. Blake was standing there, hands in his jeans’ pockets. When she saw him dressed so casually, she became even more aware of her attire, and his eyes, detailing her from head to toe, only added to her discomfort.

“You look scrumptious,” he said as he walked in. Taking her hand, he made her twirl in front of him. The dress fanned over her legs. Blake hummed his approval. “You’re just missing…”

He looked around and found the jewelry box on the bed. He let go of her hand and picked it up. She made herself keep still as he threaded the stems of the earrings through her ears, then laid the necklace at her throat and did the clasp, but when he stepped back again to admire his work, she shook her head. The earrings swung lightly, the strands brushing her jaw. The necklace seemed almost tight enough to choke her.

“I don’t think I can do this.”

Blake’s smile did not waver even for an instant. “Not only can you do it, but you want to. Don’t lie and say you don’t, now.”

She opened her mouth to do just that—lie—but found that she couldn’t say a word. She could feel heat rising in her cheeks. Stepping to him, she pressed her face to his chest, hiding her embarrassment. His arms closed around her and he stroked her back up and down in soothing motions.

“I do,” she admitted, no louder than a whisper. “But it’s not…”

She didn’t know how to finish. He slipped a finger beneath her chin and tilted her face up toward his. The smile was still there, but softer, somehow.

“It’s not what, sweetheart?”

She grimaced and replied instinctively. “Don’t call me that.”

Blake laughed, and she smiled. They were back on familiar ground, and she found her words more easily. “It’s not… decent.” “As long as all parties concerned consent, I don’t see what’s indecent about it.”

Did he not get it? “Blake…”

The smile faded at last, and a serious expression, one she rarely saw him wear, settled on his features. “Listen, nothing needs to happen tonight.” He carefully picked a strand of hair that had fallen across her cheek and tucked it behind her ear. “If you want to stop after a drink, that’s fine. If you want to stop after dinner, that’s also fine. If you want more than that, it’s up to you.” An impish grin pushed forward on his lips even as amusement sparkled in his eyes. “And if you want to make it a threesome, you two know where to find me.”

She heard a heavy sigh behind her, and turned to find Marc there. Contrary to Blake’s jeans and t-shirt, he was wearing black slacks, a fitted shirt, and a tie. What was it Blake had called her? Scrumptious? That certainly applied to Marc. She could feel her cheeks heat up again, but this time it wasn’t from embarrassment.

… continued in Blurred Bloodlines

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