Devotion and Desire

Chapter 12

See below for an extremely apologetic author's note.

Updated: 3/18/13 Check out my profile for out takes from the story.

She was running; that was all she knew. Juliet could feel the danger behind her but all she saw was darkness surrounding her. The blackness warped and contorted within the shadows of itself; she could feel its hate convulse in burning waves. The twisting, anguished mass was chasing her making her heart pound erratically.

A wail of violent desperation slashed the dark, filling the endless space with echoes of chilling horror. The ground rolled beneath her feet like boiling water before it disappeared. The weightless sensation of falling plagued her as she flailed for anything to grasp in the black expanse.

She opened her mouth to scream but no sound came out. She tried to fight the shadows that clawed at her skin to no avail. They wanted to devour her, eat her alive. There was a pulse to the darkness that terrified her; its hatred intensified and coiled around her falling body. Choking on the gloom, she could feel an icy hand reach out to grab her. Two violet moons crowned the darkness above her. Death and decay radiated from them, so evil that it poisoned her lungs until she couldn't breathe, until she felt like dying…

Juliet jolted upright and out of the dream with a strangled gasp. The darkness faded into a dimly lit room illuminated by a beam of moonlight. The silver glow streamed across the bed she found herself laying in. Her heavy panting was the only sound she could hear.

A shiver zipped down her spine as her dream frayed into scraps that teased her memory with no real solidity. The snippets of unconscious images were gone as soon as she tried to recall them. The fantasy had evaporated, leaving only a lingering coldness that made Juliet cross her arms over her chest.

The sheets she was under ruffled with her movement drawing her attention to the unfamiliar bedspread. Nothing out of the ordinary appeared in the room and Juliet wasn't sure if this was another dream or if it was reality. Usually her dreams involved something more exciting than lying in a bed. She sat up, determined to explore this dream.

Just when she was about to swing her legs off the bed, the teen was startled when she heard the purring of a cat sounding loudly in the room.

Juliet whipped her head around to the source of the noise. With the moonlight shinning bright enough to see in the dark room, the brunette was surprised to see Marcus lying next to her. Unlike most dreams, this one lacked the annoying fuzzy film that blurred the details. She was able to see her hero clearly and noticed that he looked slightly different than normal.

For starters, his eyes were a glowing red. A shade that reminded her of molten lava his gaze burned her with its unblinking intensity. Those eyes looked like they belonged to a wild animal; there was a feral sharpness to them, processing a hypnotic quality not found in the real world.

Her heart rate doubled when he sat up next to her, moving slowly into a crouched position and Juliet got the sick feeling that he was stalking her like she was prey. Eerie, red eyes never blinked as Marcus tilted his head, nostrils flaring and leaned in closer to her.

Juliet was frozen with apprehension, she was always told not to make sudden movements in the presence of a wild animal and right now her hero was acting like a caged beast. The purring noise that she heard rumble from his throat only confirmed her suspicions. The sound was low and muted but it was powerful enough to vibrate through her body.

Why would her mind make up something like this? Marcus sounded like a lion with glowing red eyes; Juliet made a mental note to look this up in some dream dictionary.

Another measured shift closer brought the Marcus look-alike within touching distance. Of course she did no such thing. In fact, she scrambled backwards hitting her head on the headboard when he opened his mouth to purr louder. Fear pumped into her system when she saw his pointed eye-teeth protrude past his lips.

He had fangs; sharp, deadly-looking fangs.

Juliet wished she would wake up already; she didn't like this dream at all. It could be classified as a nightmare because her gentle hero was replaced with some kind of wild animal.

Wide hazel eyes snapped back to red when the purring stopped. Marcus was watching her retreat with rapt attention. He took a deep breath and froze, staying unnaturally still.

Neither of them moved as he stared at her with wide ruby eyes. It seemed like several minutes passed and nothing happened; he sat and watched her, not even blinking. Her pounding heart slowed on its own accord and the burst of adrenaline waned from her system. She relaxed the death grip she didn't even realize she had on the sheets and eyed Marcus warily.

It was then she noticed he was half-naked, bare torso gleamed in the moonlight. In the real world, his muscled physique would have made her do a double-take but whatever animal was impersonating Marcus could do some serious damage with all that power.

He made a move to crawl closer but she scooted back away from him. His face scrunched in pain and a small sound bubbled out of his throat.

It sounded like…

Marcus moved forward again and she plastered her back deeper into the headboard. He made the sound again and Juliet was sure this time; it was a whimper. He whimpered every time she moved away.

She tested out her theory by acting like she was about to get off the bed. Instantly he whined, hunching his shoulders and ducking his head. Juliet stared in bewilderment; one moment he was a terrifying lion and now he acted like an obedient dog with its ears drooped.

If he whined because he wanted her company then maybe this wasn't a nightmare after all. Cautiously she situated herself fully back onto the bed, watching dream Marcus for any sign of movement.

He kept his head down but looked at her through a curtain of black hair; those red eyes trained on her every movement.

Juliet just sat and stared at Marcus, waiting for something to happen but nothing did. He kept perfectly still in his crouched position on the other side of the bed while the lull in activity from him slowed her heart rate to a more peaceful rhythm. She took the time to study him, once again noticing his exposed skin. His huge shoulders were bunched from supporting the weight of his upper body but still he didn't move an inch, he didn't even purr.

This was so beyond the scope of normal even for a dream. Usually there wasn't this much waiting the action just happened and her dream self would follow along but in this one apparently she had to take to first step.

"Marcus?" she whispered, hesitant to move just yet.

He didn't even blink. The teen didn't really think she would get an answer from him but she tried again, "Can I touch you?"

No response but his eyes did shift briefly to her mouth. Taking that as a yes, Juliet slowly and deliberately slid her hand across the sheets aiming for one of his large hands that were bunched into fists. They dipped into the mattress forming two craters and her target was the closest fist.

Her eyes never left his face as her hand moved closer to him; his eerie, red eyes were glued to the movement. When her fingers were inches from his fist she stopped, wanting to be absolutely sure it was okay with dream Marcus if she touched him.

When she didn't move for a few moments his dark head lifted and he pinned her with glowing red eyes. He looked hopeful as he stared at her, his wide eyes almost appeared innocent with child-like anticipation. His expression coupled with the fact that he still didn't move his big body gave the brunette enough courage to cover his fist with her hand.

His eyes flickered shut as he shuddered; the slight tremor traveled all over his body. His mouth opened slightly, as if her touch made him short of breath. Juliet watched his face smooth into bliss as a low purr rumbled out of his throat. He sounded content, like the touch of her hand was exactly what he wanted.

Empowered by the now tame animal, the teen slid her hand up his corded arm, traveled over his heavy shoulders and lingered on the patch of skin connecting to his neck. She watched enough Animal Planet to know the animal kingdom revered the throat, taking it as a symbol of life and death.

Wild animals always aimed for the throat of an intruder and they bared the precious column in a sign of submission. It was a big deal to them and Juliet wanted to know how Marcus would react if she touched his throat.

She didn't move her hand an inch but the brunette traced circles on the skin beneath her fingers. The purring got louder but this time she wasn't afraid he might attack; he sounded more like a big cat getting his ears scratched than anything threatening.

He sat still for a few seconds, enjoying her ministrations but soon he stretched his neck up revealing the smooth column of his throat. Despite waiting for some kind of reaction, Juliet was a little startled by the act. Why was he submitting to her?

Maybe in this dream she was a lion tamer, able to soothe the savage beast. That thought made her laugh a little. The sound bubbled up before she could stop it, sounding loudly in the quiet night.

Marcus tilted his head in curiosity and his eyes were trained on her mouth waiting for the sound to come out again. She just smiled and shook her head. Unfortunately, in his curiosity Marcus had lowered his head and she missed her chance to touch his neck.

She frowned, for some reason that bothered her; it was like an itch she had to scratch. Maybe that was the whole part of this dream. She had to establish some sort of ranking by touching the vulnerable column of muscle.

"Can you tilt your head up again?"

His eyes stayed focused on her mouth but he made no sound. Okay, it seemed that he really was an animal in this dream. She could work with that, "Like this," she told him tilting her own head up to expose her throat. The teen didn't keep it that way for long, despite feeling relaxed enough to touch him she didn't want to push her luck by setting him off to attack her.

She still had her hand on the juncture of his neck and shoulder and was able to feel his muscles move as he copied her. Juliet hummed her approval and moved her fingers carefully up the thick cords of his neck. His skin was warm under her touch and she could feel his tendons pull tight as he swallowed. Her eyes followed the movement with a surreal sort of fascination.

Juliet felt something warm stir her hair as it brushed her shoulder and she glanced over to see his fingers against her skin. She jerked slightly but did not pull away. The brunette wondered how she didn't see his huge hand reach out to her. Even in her dream, this Marcus had the swift grace that her real hero did.

Very slowly, not wanting him to tighten his hold, she glided her fingers to gently lay her palm against his cheek. He closed his eyes and nuzzled her hand while he took a sniff of her wrist. Mimicking her movements, the man in front of her tried to cup her cheek but his fingers tangled in her hair, tugging slightly. His actions were clumsy as if he didn't know how to move his hand.

He simply looked at her with wide, red eyes that glowed with child-like curiosity. Like she was a new toy and he didn't know how to play with her.

Juliet cringed at that analogy, that wasn't the best way to describe the lion-like creature her hero resembled. As if to prove he was an animal, Marcus let out another low purr. She felt the rumbling through her palm. The teen slowly, soothingly ran her hand up to tease his hair and down to stroke what she could of his muscled back.

She bit her lip to keep from giggling at the comical picture this Marcus made. This had to be the strangest dream she ever had.

Juliet felt the growl vibrate under her fingertips a split second before it erupted from his mouth. He moved so fast she couldn't track him. Her center of gravity spun as her back hit the bed. Before she could figure out what was going on, Marcus straddled her with his face looming above her prone position.

He was a huge male who caged her with his massive body but he didn't frighten her in the slightest. Not even when he leaned down so close their noses almost touched. The weight of his chest pinned her to the bed and his long legs trapped her hips. Dream Marcus only leaned his upper body on top of her, covering her like a living blanket and chasing away the chill of the night. He was panting hard, eyes positively glowing as he tucked his face into the crook of her neck.

Flinching slightly, Juliet tried to stay still as she felt his sharp fangs scrape lightly against her skin. She idly wondered if he was going to bite her, but before she could even react to his teeth he withdrew them. She couldn't feel them against her skin anymore. She heard him sniffing before he let out a gruff purr against her skin.

With the hand that wasn't trapped between their bodies, the brunette reached up and ran her fingers through his hair. The animal on top of her allowed her to repeat the motion, even purring in appreciation. "If this wasn't a dream, you would scare the hell out of me." She told the huge male on top of her. His lips brushed against her pulse in response, telling her that he was harmless. Without the fangs this feels kind of nice, she thought as his smooth lips traveled behind her ear and disappeared into her hair.

She started to feel drowsy as his body heat flooded her entire being. "You know," a yawn interrupted her tired musings. "I changed my mind. I don't think you're all that scary," she whispered to Dream Marcus, positive he couldn't understand her. His dark head lifted from the crook of her neck to pin her with a bright stare. Those eerie eyes shone with vulnerability and their gentle, almost awe-like expression gave her an instant sense of security.

Her movements were unhurried and pronounced, and eventually she lifted her hands to cup his face. His sharp inhale was comical coming from such a fierce man. The brunette leaned up and gave him a soft kiss on his forehead, "Goodnight," she whispered before another yawn broke free.

She gave him a few soft pats to his shoulder to encourage him to move. He obeyed reluctantly, rolling over to rest at her side. He kept a heavy arm around her middle and once more buried his face into her hair. With a tired and affectionate smile, Juliet settled onto her side facing away from the tame animal.

Without a thought to deadly fangs or unnatural red eyes or even how odd it was to fall asleep in a dream, the brunette shifted comfortably against her dream hero. The heat from his body had her eyes closing as she relaxed completely next to her companion. As sleep tugged heavily at the teen, she was vaguely aware of Marcus nuzzling the side of her neck.

She stirred slightly when a roughly whispered "Mate," sounded next to her ear, but she wasn't awake enough to give it much thought. Content with her dream, she turned her face deeper into the pillow and let out an exhausted sigh. By the time red eyes closed behind her, Juliet was sleeping soundly; her waking dream already pushed back far into her subconscious.

"Juliet?" a soft voice murmured. The hum drifted into her ears, slowly awakening her ability to hear. The voice twisted and turned in her sleep heavy brain, alerting her senses to the outside world.

She vaguely heard the chirping of birds and the rustle of sheets. Both sounds were unwelcome in her attempt to ignore the feeling of alertness creeping into her consciousness. Juliet rolled over away from the sound and the glowing sunlight she saw beneath her eyelids.

She had always despised mornings and her body agreed by never waking up quickly. It didn't matter how necessary it was, she just hated getting out of bed and facing the responsibility of going to school and work. She gathered the sheet tightly around her and curled up into an anti-morning ball.

"Juliet, wake up" the voice beckoned. The sound traveled through her mind quicker than before as her brain gradually turned on.

The teen groaned loudly in refusal, letting the person know she didn't want to wake up. She was comfortable and warm wrapped up snugly in the blankets; she didn't want to move and buried her face deeper into the pillow, trying to capture the last whispers of sleep she felt slipping away.

A deep chuckle sounded close to her ear, stirring darkly spiced air across her skin as warm fingertips swept the hair away from her face.

She inhaled deeply as the scent grew stronger. It smelled really good, in fact it almost smelled like…


Her drowsy brain kicked into high gear at the familiar smell. Her body shot forward, hazel eyes snapping open. Sitting up, Juliet was disoriented with the flashes of memories from last night. A wave of vertigo clouded her vision as she struggled to piece together how she ended up sleeping next to Marcus.

Slowly, she blinked back the vague memory of her frightening nightmare; the sadistic laugh of her attacker echoed in her head. Juliet shook herself away from the half remembered dream.

Turning slightly to glance over her shoulder, the brunette saw the face of her hero gazing at her with a serene expression. It took her a long moment to realize that he was the one calling her name, and then reality hit her; she was lying in bed with the most amazing man she had ever met.

Marcus was a picture of a Greek God as he lounged on the bed with one hand propping up his head. His black hair was in slight disarray with strands sticking up at all angles. His green eyes glowed minutely as a small satisfied smile stretched his chiseled features.

But the beauty of his face couldn't hold her attention for long because as her gaze drifted she saw his spectacular bare chest. Her breath caught in her throat; he was magnificent. His huge muscular chest flexed and bunched with the effort of pushing himself into a seated position.

His ripped torso was supported by his corded shoulders and bulging biceps. Damn, they were impressive. His tan skin stretched over defined muscles and Juliet traced his masculine perfection with rapt, hazel eyes. His heavy shoulders sloped down, leading to his smooth pectorals that moved fluidly as he shifted into a more comfortable position.

The sheet that was covering him slid down to pool at his waist, revealing an absurdly toned stomach. He had the very definition of washboard abs; they cut his midsection into delicious ridges that made her hormones go haywire.

He was built stronger than a weight-lifter and more toned than any body-builder she had ever seen at the gym. His body would make Michelangelo's David jealous.

There wasn't an ounce of fat on him and here she was trying to lose weight. That snapped her out of her daydreaming; Juliet looked away with a blush, embarrassed with her ogling. She suddenly found the covers to be very interesting and she stared at them, trying hard to get control of herself.

"Are you hungry?" his smooth voice interrupted her embarrassment.

At the thought of food, her stomach rumbled loudly. She put a hand over in a failed attempt to stop the sound; she didn't have much to eat yesterday and it was catching up and embarrassing her now.

"I guess I could use something to eat," she confessed, rubbing her belly.

She glanced sideways at him and was rewarded with a dazzling smile that made butterflies dance in the pit of her stomach. Vivid, green eyes brimmed with happy excitement that had her mouth twitch in a matching grin.

She didn't want this to end, simply the pair of them together, sharing a moment of quiet amusement.

But unfortunately her stomach grumbled again, the obnoxious sound ruining the silence. Marcus was amused at her chagrin if his sexy half-smile was any indication.

She resolutely did not look when he got out of bed. She knew her hero's naked torso would only leave her tongue-tied. So she tried to ignore his amazing body and all that exposed flawless skin.

Shaking her head to get focused Juliet pulled off the sheets, deciding to get out of bed but when she swung her legs over and stood up, a rush of early morning vertigo had her plopping back down with her feet dangling off the edge of the bed. Her head spun when she tried to get up too fast so soon after waking up. It was in her genes; she was not a morning person. Unless she had a cup of coffee, then she could function.

A deep, musical chuckle sounded to her right and she instinctively turned. Marcus was standing next to a large dresser, leaning casually against the dark wood, his arms folded over his broad chest, making all those lovely muscles bulge.

She felt her jaw drop as she took in the wide expanse of his bared chest. It was thickly padded with well-defined muscles, same with his washboard abs. She'd only seen a male body like this in ads, or on romance book covers. Running her gaze over every hard-muscled inch of Marcus' upper body, Juliet yearned to touch him. To trace his strength with her eyes and fingers and in her wildest dreams with her lips and tongue.

She snapped her mouth shut when her eyes met his green gaze realizing that she had been ogling him again. Damn it, she tried not to look but he was so magnetic that her gaze was always drawn to him.

He reddened faintly when he caught the reason for her staring. He quickly turned around and rummaged in one of the drawers he was leaning against, giving her a tantalizing view of a very smooth and rippling back. The enticing, muscled v-shape tapered down to low slung, faded jeans. His golden skin was soon covered up by the dark shirt he put on. Turning back towards her, Juliet saw how the black crew neck shirt clung to his muscular body highlighting his bulging arms and thick chest.

Juliet quickly snapped back to the present. She remembered with a blush of her own that she was wearing his shirt, sitting on his bed after spending the night sleeping in his room. She groaned, maybe she should just wait for the hole to swallow her now. She plopped down on the bed again and buried her face in her hands, wanting to hide how mortified she was. What must he think of her? Crying then demanding to spend the night with him; he probably thought she was a basket case.

"I'm sorry" she mumbled into her hands, unable to face him.

"For what?"

Her head snapped up so quickly that she felt a bone pop in her neck. She didn't hear him move but he was crouched right in front of her slumped form. His face was severe as he pried her hands away. Holding them as if they were made of glass, he ran his thumb over the back of her hand in a comforting motion. She remembered him touching her like that last night as he explained what happened in the park. He must think she was some kind of emotional yo-yo, running hot then cold.

Juliet ducked her head and took a deep breath, "Sorry for being all over the place, emotionally. I'm so embarrassed by how many times I've cried on you and-"

Her rant was cut short when he touched the tip of his index finger to her lips. Startled, she looked up and froze at the intensity of his eyes. Juliet gulped, very aware of how the flushed warmth of his eyes brought a blush to her cheeks. Stunning green eyes bored into her dazed form as they shone with a sincerity she had never seen before, especially directed at her. She could stare into his eyes all day and never get bored.

Her attention shifted as he moved his finger to cup her cheek in his big palm. His thumb lingered along her lower lip making the brunette suck in a quick breath. She forgot all about being embarrassed when he leaned forward on the balls of his feet and settled near her knees. The warmth from his skin carried the dark spice she was beginning to love; the pure masculine scent of Marcus was disarming as she breathed in his cologne.

If his plan was to shut her up then he passed with flying colors. Juliet could only watch as his green eyes strayed from her lips to meet her stunned gaze. She was still frozen watching as he rested his large hands atop of his thighs, "I do not mind that I am the shoulder you cry on."

His expression was placid, and tenderly affectionate; and at that moment, his deep, hypnotic voice erased her doubts. Without the fear and confusion of inadequacy she felt completely at ease in his presence.

"Juliet," he whispered, his warm tone effortlessly making her heart melt. His eyes were soft as they stared directly into her; his fervor made the green irises practically glow. "I have never slept as well as I did last night. I do not mind your presence here, at all."

Her mouth parted in a mixture of shock and pleasure. "Really?"

He nodded his face lighting up like a child on Christmas. Mirth and excitement stretched his smile wide and Juliet could only look on in wonder at the passion in his eyes. He was so genuine in his words even without knowing him for long Juliet knew he was true.

And perfect; his incredible body housed a spirit that she was drawn to. Her hero in every sense of the word.

And too damn energetic for this early in the morning. She was struck again at how lively he was in the early hours of the day and decided to take the opportunity to change the subject before her heart beat out of her chest.

"You must be a morning person," she murmured hoping he would meet her humor.

He laughed, easily lightening the mood between them. "And apparently you are not."

Juliet couldn't help but smile back at his teasing tone. His statement was completely true about her; she always had a difficult time functioning in the morning. She was like an old dial-up internet connection, there was a lot of groaning noises that came out of her and she was sluggish to the point of frustration but eventually her brain kicked online.

"I am definitely not a morning person." She covered up a yawn with the back of her hand, "but coffee helps."

"Well then, I will make a pot for you." Marcus rose gracefully to his full staggering height. Juliet tried not to gape at how unreal he looked just then. He was so tall and huge as he stood up dwarfing her, looking the part of a hero. She found herself drawn to his eyes again. The rich green against his black hair and tanned skin was spellbinding especially when the entirety of their focus was on her.

"I will go downstairs and make some coffee. Claire left a change of clothes for you in her room. Breakfast is ready but please, take your time getting dressed."

Juliet almost missed what he said because she was too busy staring at him but eventually she managed to nod.

Marcus gave her an award winning smile before he left the room on silent feet and shut the door softly behind him.

The brunette sat still for a few moments before her excitement bubbled over. A ridiculously huge grin split across her face and let out a truly, care-free laugh. Juliet drew her arms over her head and fell back onto the bed. Stretching, she let the soft sheets welcome her as she thought about one of the best mornings she ever had.

It was known to the world that she wasn't exactly a morning person but Juliet could easily see it becoming her favorite time of the day as long as Marcus was around. The teen couldn't help but laugh again.

Marcus pushed the brew button on the coffee maker and soon the scent of freshly made coffee filled the kitchen. He leaned against the counter and closed his eyes waiting for the drink to brew. He could hear the scraping of pans as his sister moved about the kitchen.

Since the King and Queen counseled with the Fay Court this morning, Claire had taken on the duty as chef and he could smell the variety of breakfast foods she cooked. Even though his sister did not know about his mate's allergies, she made several dishes Juliet could eat without trouble. That unexpected fragility was just another concern to add to his ever growing list of worries over his mate.

His mate.

Those two simple words brought an astounding amount of peace. A gentle smile tugged at his lips as he let his mind wander freely, filling itself with the beauty of the morning to replace his concerns.

He had gotten a good amount of sleep and his beast was silent in the early dawn. Marcus slowly woke to the feeling of warmth in his arms and was startled to discover his mate curled in his embrace. He didn't remember how they got into that position and he didn't care. He had sent up a silent prayer thanking Fate for his good fortune and simply stared at his sleeping mate as the sun began to rise. She was beautiful as she slept peacefully beside him. Her brunette head nestled perfectly into the crook of his arm. The rightness of her body pressed against him as he enjoyed the feel of her shallow exhalation across his skin filled Marcus with the absolute knowledge that as long as he held his mate everything would be right in the world.

Unfortunately his control was not strong enough to make the moment last forever. With Juliet cradled safely in his arms his body responded swiftly and urgently. He cursed himself for ruining something so precious but the feel of her back pressed snugly against his chest had desire rushing through his veins. Holding her proved too tempting to remain innocent so, with great difficulty, he had left the bed, not wanting to wake her up. He had taken one last look at her, branding the image of her sleeping form tucked in his sheets into his memory before he left to take a cold shower.

Since then, his peaceful mood had turned foul. The unit of soldiers that accompanied Zivan for clean up last night informed Marcus that they had found no clues as to who sired the vampires. In his haste to keep Juliet safe, he had destroyed any evidence the newborns might have carried. The squadron did not detect any other supernatural scents in the area.

The reminder sent another wave of dark fury pounding through him.

He wanted to return to the park last night and search for the creator of the newborns himself but his mate had needed him, clung to him and he could deny her nothing. Even though it left an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach, Marcus would have to keep watch over the vampires near her home and would soon plan a visit to the master of the area in an attempt to discover more information about the attack. He didn't intend to be in the dark for long.

A loud voice interrupted his train of thought, "Since when do you drink coffee?"

Marcus cracked one eye open to glance at the speaker. Zivan had his characteristic grin in place as he sat down at one of the stools surrounding the large marble island in the middle of the kitchen.

The older demon simply shrugged in response to the question. He felt protective of revealing anything about Juliet. It was irrational, he knew, but that did not stop how he felt. Anything she revealed to him was private and he would protect her secrets.

The younger demon would not be deterred. "Maybe our guest likes coffee, hm?"

At the sly comment, Marcus opened both eyes to pin his brother with an irritated glare. He caught Zivan's eye briefly and didn't like the mischief he saw there. "Behave," he warned but Zivan's grin continued to grow.

Deciding to ignore his brother for now, Marcus reached into a cabinet to pull out a coffee mug and rinsed it in the sink.

Zivan had no tact in social situations and the Demon Prince was nervous that he would say something that might upset Juliet.

Just thinking of her made him tilt his head towards the ceiling in an attempt to hear his mate. Subtle footsteps accompanied the slight movement coming from upstairs, letting him know Juliet was getting ready to come down.

He sighed mutely, watching as the coffee maker brewed the hot liquid and filled the glass pot. He nearly laughed just thinking about how vital caffeine was for his mate. She was adorable this morning with her rumpled hair and sleep heavy eyes. He was amused with her dislike towards mornings but noticed with a smile how alert Juliet became when she realized it was him trying to wake her.

Marcus sensed it was a side few saw and was pleased he was able to see his mate act so naturally around him. She was usually reserved and shy but this morning her defenses must have been down because she opened up to him let him know her fears and that left him feeling incredibly strong. If he could conquer his mate's uncertainties and dry her tears then he could accomplish anything.

In hindsight however, Juliet only opened up to him after he covered himself. His mate seemed very uncomfortable with his exposed skin and that had been a mistake of his own. Marcus should have diverted from his normal routine of sleeping shirtless and dressed appropriately. The way she had stared at his bare chest with a wide-eye gaze made him suspect Juliet wasn't familiar with a man-

A loud wolf-whistle broke his thoughts and Marcus immediately glared at his grinning brother. The younger demon turned away from his glower to ask Claire, "Did you see that smile on his face?"

His sister tried to hide her mirth as she set a large plate of bacon and eggs on the island and made a show of returning to the stove but not before Marcus saw her knowing smile.

He shook his head at his siblings; the light banter was refreshing given that it had been a long time since he truly enjoyed a family breakfast.

"So," Zivan began as he picked up a piece of bacon and started munching on it. "You're up late this morning." His expectant tone hinted at a question with heavy implications but Marcus did not rise to the bait.

Not to be deterred, his brother tried a different tactic to rile him up. Turning in his chair he asked, "Hey Claire, don't you think it's odd that Mr. Up-before-the-sun is just now waking up?"

Zivan put on a picture of innocence, as if his question was simple curiosity. Marcus nearly snorted at the pitiful acting.

"No, he woke up same time as usual today." Claire turned from the stove and set down a large plate stacked high with French Toast, grinning at him all the while. Marcus got an uneasy feeling when she went around the island and leaned into Zivan. In a very loud stage-whisper she blurted, "But he went back to bed this morning."

The Demon Prince narrowed his eyes on his sister, her voice was full of mischief and Zivan caught on quickly to her little game of harassing him. The younger demon turned in his chair giving Marcus a wide grin. "Really?"

He didn't appreciate the way his brother elongated that one word. "Enough, you two." He tried to sound stern but his response only earned him bigger smiles.

Marcus didn't want to comment on it but after getting the disappointing news all he wanted to do was watch over his mate. There had been nothing terribly pressing that needed his attention so for once he skirted his royal duties and went back to his room. He had lain down beside his sleeping mate and was content to wait until a more appropriate hour to 'wake up'.

It was the most incredible feeling in the world, being able to escape reality and just enjoy the closeness of Juliet. It wasn't the first time he watched over his mate while she slept but Marcus was positive it was a feeling that would never diminish. The tranquility of hearing her deep, even breaths lulled his beast to near sleep. The feeling was indescribable; to have the beast still was an anomaly Marcus never thought he would experience.

Just then the coffee maker beeped to signal it was done brewing; the sound brought him back to the present. Ignoring his siblings for the moment, Marcus filled the mug with steaming, hot coffee for Juliet and set it down at an empty spot on the marble island.

He suddenly heard footsteps from upstairs getting louder. Marcus stilled and waited, muscles tensing as the sound of her movement got closer to the second floor hallway. His heart picked up speed when he heard a door close softly. Juliet may have tried to be quiet, but his senses were attuned to her now. She would never be able to sneak up or hide from him. His mind would always try and seek her out, needing that connection with her.

He could hear her take a deep breath and exhale it quietly, could practically feel her heart beat strongly as she started down the stairs.

Marcus fixed his eyes to the landing as he counted the steps she took to reach him. The Demon Prince stood tall and tugged at his shirt; he may have seen her only a few minutes ago but that didn't stop his eagerness from mounting into anticipation.

Several, long seconds later, he was treated to his mate's lovely form at the bottom of the stairs. A breathless sigh left him as he stood motionless against the kitchen counter, content to silently observe her.

She was no longer dressed in his shirt; Marcus silently mourned the loss of the exposed skin the nightshirt had given him. His shirt had been several sizes too large but she had looked more tempting than any female he had ever seen.

Even now, wearing casual clothes he couldn't help but notice the way her jeans and soft green top hugged her curves, accentuating her hourglass figure. It sent a shiver of desire crawling deep in his veins that threatened to overpower his good manners.

Marcus cursed his body's eager response but he couldn't look away from Juliet with her full hips and snug blouse. He watched wide-eyed as her head turned in his direction.

As she caught sight of him, her face lit with a bright smile that rivaled the morning sunlight streaming through the windows. Her stunning, dimpled expression was meant just for him and Marcus felt his heart melt towards his small human.

His eyes followed her every move as Juliet made her way into the kitchen, taking in every delicate detail. She had her chestnut-colored hair pulled back into a ponytail with pieces framed around her freshly washed face that begged him to touch its softness.

His heart thudded in his chest as she stopped in front of him with a serene look on her face. He fought a shiver as hazel eyes flickered down his body in a quick sweep before settling on his face. He felt the trail of her eyes as if it was a physical touch.

With his famous, iron-clad will Marcus resisted doing the same to her curvy body. He kept his eyes focused on her face and not on the tempting column of her throat that stretched to look up at him. If he were to follow that line, it would lead into the gap of her shirt that was pulled tight by her chest.

The simple courtesy of meeting his eyes was enough to wreak havoc to his otherwise impenetrable body. It was easy to forget that she barely reached his shoulder when she held such power over him.

Movement out of the corner of his eye refocused his attention; Claire was had just set a large pitcher of orange juice on the island, the color mildly distracted him. Blinking back his desire, he was pleased to see her soft expression still remained. It seemed Juliet was unaware of the heated turn of his thoughts.

He gave her a small smile, hoping to calm the rush of passion she unknowingly invoked in him. "Would you like sugar for your coffee?"

At her assent, Marcus was glad for the distraction. He turned away from his alluring mate and took a steadying breath to cool his fevered want.

That proved to be a mistake as he breathed in the intoxicating scent of Juliet.

The delicious perfume of mangos flowed through his nose, into his lungs and embedded itself deep within his being as if imprinting on him. The corners of lips turned up at the thought and he breathed deeply letting her scent wrap around him, enjoying the aroma of mangos. Her unique scent was potent enough that he could almost taste her on his tongue but instead of fueling his inappropriate thoughts, her fragrance served to soothe him. It reminded him that she was near and safe. Marcus found security in her scent.

Claire's polite voice dragged him back on task. "Have a seat, Juliet. Are you hungry?"

He grabbed the sugar jar and a stirring spoon as Juliet responded, "Definitely."

A chair scraped across the floor as it was pulled out and Marcus turned around just in time to see Zivan offer Juliet the chair next to him.

He watched as she sat down next to his brother, narrowed eyes trained on the young demon. Marcus set down the sugar with a purposeful thump wary of his brother so close to his mate.

Juliet had no such trouble sitting near Zivan perhaps because she did not know of his mischievous nature. However she did know he wasn't human, that no one in the room was human and yet there wasn't a care to mar the perfection of her placid face. Marcus swallowed thickly hopeful that there was a possibility she would not reject him after today.

Juliet thanked him and quietly poured two scoops of sugar into her mug. He was oddly memorized by the repetition of her fingertips swirling the spoon around the cup. His hypnotized gaze fixed on the curve of her mouth as she blew across the steaming cup of coffee before her lips wrapped around the edge of the mug to take a small sip.

"Mmm," she sighed in satisfaction, savoring the coffee as he expected she would. She set it back down, the tip of her tongue sliding along the edges of her mouth.

He quickly averted his eyes. Marcus was determined to be a gentleman and it was rude of him to stare at her like a starving man (which was a more accurate description than he would care to admit).

Catching sight of the food Claire made, Marcus instantly remembered that Juliet was hungry. He rushed to get a plate so she could eat. He made doubly sure that there was nothing in the food that could harm her before piling a little bit of everything onto her plate. He ignored the orange juice on the counter and set down the food in front of her.

"This smells so good." She gave him a smile and began to eat with a flourish.

He resumed his silent post against the counter and watched Juliet eat her French Toast. Seeing how much she enjoyed it, Marcus made a mental note to learn the recipe. He should know how to cook her breakfast without burning the food. He mentally cringed at the reminder of the cooking disaster last night but resolved to learn a few culinary skills for her sake; it was basic instinct to provide when she was hungry.

A loud burp interrupted his musings. His eyes turned to Zivan, the likely suspect, but his brother's eyes were on Juliet who had a hand over her mouth as she wore a mortified expression. Marcus' lips quirked up but he tried hard to refrain from laughing; he was surprised that such a loud noise could come from his little mate. He didn't want to embarrass her but unfortunately, Zivan had no problem expressing his amusement. His loud outburst echoed in the kitchen and had Juliet turning a shade of pink.

Claire covered her laugh with a hand but he could see the mirth in her eyes that Marcus himself was trying to hide.

The Demon Prince shook his head with a bemused grin. To alleviate her embarrassment, Marcus crept behind Zivan and smacked him upside the head to stop his amusement. That should teach him not to laugh at Juliet especially in front of him. The shock on Zivan's face was enough to elicit a giggle from his mate. That small, pure sound easily held his attention, leaving him craving for more.

She looked at him shyly with those soft hazel eyes and Marcus felt himself melt under her gaze. Any lingering tension from this morning's disappointing news drifted away. It was as if there was a switch buried deep inside him only Juliet could reach.

He smiled at that, immensely pleased with the changes she was already bringing about in him. The simple connection of meeting his eyes was enough to calm him in a way that had never been so easy before. His emotions were volatile but with the peace she was able to give him Marcus could loosen the stranglehold he had around himself if she was near.

Juliet resumed eating at a more subdued pace as his siblings filled the silence with idle talk. The conversation flowed easily and Marcus relaxed against the counter glad that she was able to converse with his siblings comfortably. She fit into their family breakfast routine effortlessly.

A faint buzzing vibrated through the air. Juliet jerked in her seat, the pounding of her heart beat faster as hazel eyes widened and focused on him. Marcus pushed himself off the counter and met her distressed gaze with concern. Why did she look so scared?

Swallowing her food with obvious difficulty, she took out her phone and looked at the screen. This seemed to upset her more and her skin paled rapidly. He was instantly at her side, moving faster than she could see.

"What is wrong?" he worried softly, hovering over her shoulder to glance at where her hand clutched the phone tightly.

She flinched back with a gasp of surprise and Marcus mentally cursed himself. Just like before in his bedroom, he moved too quickly and startled her. Before he could apologize she told him, "It's Erika."

Puzzled by her statement, he watched as she glanced from her phone to him several times. Juliet worried her lip and focused on the phone, refusing to look up at him. "My friend knows I'm here," her voice was small and frightened. Marcus noticed her tense posture and was horrified to realize she was scared of him. His nose wrinkled at the scent of fear that tainted the air between them and he immediately backed away from her. The smell of her bitter emotion agitated his beast and set it on edge.

Do something. The creature paced inside of him but Marcus had no clue how to handle this.

Confused and desperate for a remedy, the Demon Prince floundered for a response. His hands fluttered uselessly in front of him wanting to comfort his mate but uncertain how. She wouldn't look at him as her heart pounded loudly with alarm. Her silence worried him.

"Don't you know why she's scared?" At Claire's soft murmur he immediately glanced up and met his sister's eyes. Since she wasn't a skilled telepath he appreciated the fact that she spoke in a tone indiscernible to human ears to preserve some privacy. A single shake of his head told her he needed help.

"Put yourself in her position, Marcus. Juliet knows nothing of our kind or your true relationship with her. She thinks she broke our secrecy law and is going to be punished for it."

He was stunned. The thought never crossed his mind. As his mate, she was above their laws; there should be nothing barred to her and if there was Marcus could simply change the law. He did not think about how she might view their situation with her limited knowledge.

His head whipped back to Juliet, observing her still frame and the tension tightening her shoulders. Her eyes were fixed on the counter in front of her, lashes fluttering as her eyes traced the veins in the marble.

She worried her bottom lip and he cringed at the obvious sign of nerves. She should never feel that way with him.

"Juliet," he pleaded gently. When she did not respond, he reached under her chin with one finger to draw her gaze to him wanting her to see his sincerity as he spoke to her. He dropped his hand when she reluctantly looked up. "You are not in trouble. There is nothing to be afraid of."

Hope warred with trepidation in her hazel gaze, "Really?"

"Yes," he declared, relieved as she lost the sickly pale tone to her skin. The situation was not dire; it was easy enough to erase a human's memory but the troubling part might be the fact that this human was a friend of Juliet. He would be uncomfortable tampering with someone close to his mate so he had to find out how much damage control might be needed. He sniffed the air between them, thankful that the bitter scent of her fear was gone.

Some privacy, please. It was a command, not a question to his siblings. He wanted to speak with Juliet alone. Claire left graciously and silently but Marcus had to smother a growl when Zivan grumbled about missing the fun. It was difficult to control the surge of annoyance at his brother but he managed not to let it show on his face knowing Juliet was still watching him.

Zivan had to learn that his mate was not a source for entertainment before the Demon Prince did something he might regret. He held his exasperation in check to avoid scaring his mate again.

He waited until the kitchen was empty before he took a measured step forward, slowly so as not to startle her. He gave her a gentle smile hoping to put her at ease. "Just tell me what happened."

He saw her swallow deeply, her throat flexing with the movement. His stomach tightened at how uncomfortable Juliet was with him.

"Erika sent me a text last night, wondering where I was because I was supposed to spend the night at her house." She paused slightly and she flicked her gaze to his hands, which were resting on the marble between them. "But after what happened in the park and I didn't show up she wanted to know what happened."

Juliet turned in her chair to fully face him brow furrowing in her vehemence, "I swear I didn't tell her anything but she guessed I was with you."

He raised one eyebrow in contemplation; so the human only presumed that Juliet was with him. Perhaps this Erika did not need her memory erased after all.

"Then what did you tell her?" he asked curious but not overly concerned.

His mate's face smoothed out as tension visibly left her shoulders. His gentle tone had the desired effect, and he was glad to see her worries about her friend alleviated. "That I plead the Fifth."

The American right to protect oneself against self-incrimination; Marcus smiled at her wit. "Did that deter your friend?"

"No, but it bought me time." A quick glance to the phone still in her hand had Juliet slightly cringing again. "Well, at least 'till now." She held out the phone for him to examine the text message on the screen.

I want every juicy detail! The who, what, where, when, why and how of everything that happened last night.

As he was reading the text, another message popped up on the screen. He read it quickly before Juliet could pull it away.

Actually you can skip the how, I know that one already (wink face)

Marcus restrained a smirk when he read the second message. It was clear Erika had no idea as to what really happened last night. This friend would only be a slight annoyance to them both with her questioning for details but otherwise she was not an issue.

Juliet's lips parted her heart racing as she read the message. Her eyes flashed quickly to him and Marcus was amused by her responding blush. He found it charming that she was flustered by her friend's innuendo.

She put the phone in her pocket, muttering words he was not supposed to hear, "God, that's so embarrassing."

Silence followed, blanketing the couple with a weighty energy that spoke of the nervousness in each of them. Tension pulled from the unknown they both faced and it made Marcus restless. He looked away from her magnetic eyes and hoped he could explain his nature properly.

His attention centered on the garden he could see through the kitchen windows. It was a sunny day and perhaps the golden rays and green scenery would relax them both.

"Would you like to go outside for some fresh air?" he suggested in a deceptively calm voice.

She nodded mutely and tucked her hair behind one ear. Juliet didn't quite look at him as he led the way out of the kitchen.

Marcus opened the French doors that led to the Estate's large garden. This was his mother's pride and joy and the attention to detail showed in the various plants and flowers that all bloomed around them.

Juliet stepped out and stood gaping at the foliage. He gently shut the door and took to watching her admire the greenery. Her eyes lingered on the ivy vines that wrapped around the thick tree trunks that separated the garden from the forest that thrived behind the Estate. He remembered when they were first planted, scarcely more than twigs that he dug into the soil years ago.

"It's a gorgeous garden." She whispered as her eyes swept across the garden.

Now that you're here. "It is my mother's pride and joy," he remarked casually, paying little mind to the carefully manicured greenery. The tension that carried from the kitchen dissipated into the clean air.

She took a few steps away from him to inspect a flower blooming nearby tucking her hair behind an ear as she bent down. Marcus tried to see the garden through her eyes, over the years he had become jaded to its beauty. There were plenty of plants and flowers here he did not even notice anymore and he was curious as to how Juliet saw the greenery. Coming from such a flat state with little more than palm trees for foliage, he could imagine how disorienting this would seem to her.

During their date she had told him her family rarely traveled out of state and he wondered if she took the news well of course, whether Juliet would want to visit the garden again. He knew the Demon Queen would love someone to share her hobby with since the rest of the family did not have a green thumb.

"Do you garden?" he questioned, curious to know everything about her and if it was an effective way to prolong their talk, then so be it.

She shook her head slightly, "Not really." Her focus was on the tall willow trees far off to the right that let a few filtered rays of sunshine through. Just beyond those trees was a quiet lake that he liked to swim in occasionally; Marcus wondered if she could see it with her human sight.

She stood and stepped off the patio and onto the grass, the breeze softly stirring her hair.

Unable to stay away he followed silently behind her, watching her linger around the many plants in the garden. Without looking at him she spoke, "I have a tiny herb garden outside the kitchen window at home."

She reached out and stroked the petals of a nearby rose bush. He kept a careful eye on her fingers, making sure she didn't prick herself on the thorns.

"Most of them die during the summer, either from the heat or the torrential rain." She withdrew her hand from the bush and turned to face him. "A couple of months ago, I built a make-shift pergola for the herbs with a few pieces of plywood." She shrugged slightly, brushing some dirt off her hands, "hopefully they'll make it through this summer."

The Demon Prince listened avidly, eager to learn more about his mate. He didn't care that he were delaying the inevitable conversation; all he wanted was for her to continue looking at him with that serene expression on her face. He was certain once they started talking about his inhuman status the light would leave her eyes.

Marcus gave himself a mental shake and focused on Juliet. "Under your green thumb, I am sure they will survive any harsh condition," he complimented easily.

She bowed her head as an inviting blush rose to her cheeks. He watched with fascination as her lashes brushed against her pink skin. She glanced back down to the rose bush and gave him a quiet thanks.

Marcus didn't have the strength to resist the pull of her innocent allure any longer. His feet moved forward, coming closer to that intoxicating blush. He hovered behind her, a quiet guardian content to simply watch her explore the garden.

Juliet turned her head to look back at doors they entered from and jerked in surprise when she noticed he had moved directly behind her. Marcus frowned to himself; he did not realize how silently he moved. He would need to remember how muted a human's hearing was to avoid scaring her again.

"How did you move?" Juliet licked her lips as her eyes darted from the patio back to him again. "Did you use…was it magic?" she whispered as softly as the wind around them. Her innocent question made Marcus want to smile but refrained for her sake.

He shook his head, "I can move much faster than a human."

Juliet's lips parted when he spoke and she blinked several times before asking, "Because of what you are?"

His muscles tensed, as if preparing for battle which in a way was the truth. He was going to fight for Juliet's acceptance and her trust. He nodded in answer and knew it was time for his explanation.

In a deceptively calm wave of his hand, he gestured toward a dirt walkway to their left that led deeper into the property. "There is a bench just down that path. Perhaps we should discuss this over there?"

Juliet glanced to her left and almost immediately nodded at him. Marcus was a little stunned by her quick acceptance but realized she must be anxious to get some answers. She walked towards him, nearly touching his side as she steadily met his gaze. She was ready for their conversation but as he stared down at Juliet Marcus doubted he was ready.

With a gesture of his hand, he led the way down the path that was framed with large trees growing over each other to create a shaded tunnel with patches of sunlight that scattered along the ground.

He kept his head forward and tried to remain calm but the Demon Prince couldn't help but peek at Juliet from the corner of his eye. He watched the way the sunlight played in the tendrils of her hair, making her chestnut locks shine brightly.

He knew the softness of her hair, had briefly felt it several times now and it only made his fingers itch for one more touch. He swallowed hard and increased his pace. He did not want Juliet's allure to distract him and weaken his resolve.

He stopped when they neared the wooden bench he mentioned that sat underneath a large oak tree. He deemed this was a good place to talk because it was far enough into the trees to protect them from prying eyes yet it was close enough to the house that if Juliet decided to run from him, she could find someone to take her home quickly.

Anxiety tightened his chest as he imagined her running away from him, demanding to go home.

As soon as the thought entered his mind, his beast sat up and took notice, refusing to settle in the back of his consciousness. The creature didn't bother much with his thoughts unless they involved Juliet. The very idea of letting her go, never seeing her again, had his beast snarling a warning at him. Keep mate.

It didn't understand that the situation wasn't so simple. Marcus visualized fear entering her hazel eyes as he told her of his demonic nature. If she was frightened of him, the Demon Prince wouldn't have the strength to keep her by his side.

His gut clenched in anger; everything had happened so quickly. She had learned of the supernatural before they had gotten a chance to really know each other. Frustration sparked in his mind ready to rekindle his dark anger directed at the newborns but when Juliet walked in front of him to sit, she unknowingly brought him back to the present. His irritation died quickly as her delicate scent brushed past him, easily distracting him. The beast settled down, the smell of mangos was enough to make it sit quietly, content to watch Juliet through his eyes.

She sat on one side of the bench leaving enough room for him but Marcus was too tense to sit. He needed an outlet to expand some of his nervous energy; he paced in front of her clenching and unclenching his hands. Where did the centuries of self-control go? His iron-clad will lie in shambles at her feet; he stood no longer the impenetrable Demon Prince but just a man who desperately wanted his woman's approval.

Juliet's voice broke his silent turmoil, halting his steps.

"You can sit down, you know, I'm really not afraid of you." Her voice was timid but strong, and even as he added not yet in his head the sound was very welcome.

His eyes followed that compelling voice to the equally charming woman. Those beautiful, hazel eyes were both pleading and apprehensive as she looked up at him. She was utterly irresistible and he felt himself moving forward without any coherent thought to do so.

He breathed a little easier when she patted the spot next to her in an obvious invitation for him to sit. He nodded at her silent request, carefully sitting down to her right. This close he was assaulted with her tropical scent that mixed heavenly with the foliage around them.

She smelled of sunshine and of the fruit he was rapidly becoming addicted to; a combination that drew him like a magnet.

Marcus shifted infinitesimally closer, wishing he could be touching her. He was about to tell Juliet something nearly impossible to hear with her human conventions. But if last night was any indication, then this conversation might not end up with her running away from him.

He swallowed heavily before beginning. "Human folklore is full of legends about creatures and monsters that walk the night and live in fairytales. You call them myths but they are just another species. They exist, just as I exist, secretly alongside humans."

Juliet tilted her head, seemingly taking in that bit of information. He could practically feel her rapid thoughts as she tried to make sense of his words. Her curiosity, so sharp, shone through her hazel eyes making him believe she was doing her best to view the situation with an open mind. He took strength from her, let her willingness to understand fuel his resolve to tell her everything. He would answer her questions truthfully, including the one that was on the tip of her tongue. He could see Juliet struggling to say what was on her mind, editing her thoughts.

"So," she said after some time. "What are you? A werewolf?"

If he wasn't so restless Marcus would have laughed at that. She thought his comment about the creatures of the night applied to him and while he applauded her calm tone he had to correct her. "I am not, but they do exist."

Her eyes widened, "No way." Her soft exclamation held wonder and awe and it was at that moment when he looked down into her soft, trusting face that he couldn't resist touching her anymore.

He reached out to tuck a stray curl of hair behind her ear. His fingers brushed across her smooth cheek and curved around her ear to gently trace the line of her jaw. He marveled at the fragile skin beneath his touch, his hand lingering for a moment to soak in the warmth of her beating pulse. The feel of her blood rushing so close to his fingers captured him for a mesmerizing moment before he wisely pulled away from temptation. It would do him no good to dwell on the source of her wonderful scent right now.

Marcus could hear her breathing; its shallow beat gave reason for her rigid posture. She sat quietly, expectantly waiting for him to speak again. She was still but not at peace; her hands were clenched on the edge of the bench. The white knuckled grip dimly reflected his heart's anxious rhythm and he got the horrible impression that this was the calm before the storm.

"I will tell you," he told her while convincing himself of the same. His voice grated against his throat as he floundered for speech. He took a moment to rehearse what he wanted to say, able to hear her pulse speed up slightly. He could sense that she was nervous so he hurried to continue, "Remember that just because a word has a certain meaning in your mythology doesn't necessarily mean that is the truth."

Her large hazel eyes pleaded with him, "What is it?" Her forehead was creased with worry and she chewed her bottom lip in anticipation.

He released a long sigh. This was the moment he dreaded since he realized she was human. She needed the truth but he hoped she was ready for it. He took a deep breath, the rich mango aroma was a balm to his nerves, solidifying his resolve to be strong as he told his secret.

"I am a Demon." He paused to let her absorb that information. Her face smoothed out at his admission and she released her lower lip. Her eyes raked his body, as if searching for proof of his statement. Starting from the top of his head, down his torso she lingered on his hands clasped rigidly in his lap as if they would sprout his energy again.

When she found nothing out of the ordinary she met his eyes again. He could see no fear in her hazel depths, only curiosity. Gaining strength from her reaction, Marcus took a deep breath and continued; "We are a race of immortal, magically-gifted creatures who follow a set of ethics and morals just like humans do. I am not a creature of hell, just simply another species."

He paused again to swallow the lump in his throat, hoping the facts sounded plausible to her. Her face gave nothing away and it frustrated him that their bond wasn't strong enough for him to read her emotional aura yet. The temptation of reading her mind filtered through his head for a desperate second before he dismissed the idea; she was his mate and she deserved her privacy.

Her gaze dropped down to the small stretch of stone that separated them, her eyes glazed over unseeingly. Marcus felt the urge to dip down until his face was in her line of sight to read her expression but barely refrained from doing so. She needed time to sort through the information he just gave her; it was the least he could give her.

Minutes stretched between them without a sound being uttered but Marcus would not break the silence. He became impossibly still as he waited for Juliet to react or say something; he would let her set the pace of their discussion.

He held his breath when she began to blink rapidly and wrapped her arms around herself. Her shoulders hunched slightly as if protecting herself from what he said. That small action made him feel like a lead weight settled in his stomach.

"Immortal?" Her voice would have been inaudible to anyone other than him.

"Yes," he allowed, wary of where her thoughts were heading.

"Immortal, that means you're…" Juliet couldn't seem to finish her sentence as she stared at him with wide trepidation in her eyes.

"I am centuries old." He finished for her, his voice low and cautious. He could see the information finally take root in her mind. He cringed at the flash of panic in her eyes as her face lost its healthy color and turned white as she seemed to weave in place a little bit.

He waited, unable to breathe as he anticipated what she would do next. Every muscle in his body wound tighter with tension.

This was the reaction he expected and the one he dreaded. Her mango scent turned bitter as some strong emotion ruined her pure fragrance. It wasn't fear exactly but Marcus knew it wasn't a positive emotion either.

Panic sparked inside him. What if she couldn't handle his world? What would he do then? His beast whimpered at their situation and unfortunately Marcus had no idea what to do.

He went with his instincts that demanded he comfort his distressed mate. "Just breathe," he murmured, reaching out a hand to soothe her but drew it back immediately when she began to cry.

Choked sobs shook her small shoulders as she tried to restrain them. He grew anxious as numbing dismay spread through his body; she wasn't taking the news as well as he hoped but he didn't blame her. Part of him had been expecting this reaction but he was still staggered by the hole in his chest her tears were creating.

He shut his eyes against the pain of her rejection, his body trembled with helplessness. The great and feared Demon Prince had to clench his teeth as a flood of toxic emotions twisted into a knot of awful, dizzying heartache. The hurt was brutally accurate, stinging at his fears of a lonely existence.

His beast was in no better shape; it was agitated by Juliet's tears and could only snap and snarl in reaction. Troubled growls replaced the beast's ability to whisper disjointed words but Marcus knew it was begging him to stop their mate's hurt.

But he had no idea what to do; he couldn't win this battle with brute strength, couldn't use his magic to make it disappear.

Marcus leaned closer hoping his pleading words would comfort her. "Please do not be afraid of me. I am still the same man as before. Nothing has changed now that you know the truth."

His whispered words seemed to have no effect, he wasn't sure if she even heard them. She only cried harder.

Nausea made his stomach churn at her rejection and he could barley breathe at the sound of her sobs. Marcus cringed at her pain and turned his head away from Juliet; she couldn't see how much her rejection hurt him. Her leaving would kill him but it was her choice to make whether to accept him or not.

A sharp pang dug its way into his chest, she chose the latter option, the scent of her tears and the way she was hunched into herself only proved that. He could feel himself slipping into a depression; the emotions she stirred in him were dying at the thought of her departure. He would vanish from her eyes, reduced to watching her from afar and be content with his role as a shadowed guardian. He would not frighten her with his presence but neither could he leave her unprotected. Juliet would always be his mate, no matter the circumstances.

His beast howled mournfully inside his head but Marcus ignored the creature, he didn't have the energy to deal with it now. They both had to suffer in silence because he would not pressure her to stay out of obligation to him. Something knotted in his chest when he faced her, knowing he was about to let her go.

Marcus tried to keep his face smooth while he kept his chaotic emotions in check. "I will take you back now," he murmured uneasily. He kept his voice was devoid of the pain he was feeling and he saw that Juliet flinched at his emotionless tone.

Her hazel eyes sparkled with tears when she looked at him, "Now?" Her voice cracked slightly but Marcus caught the edge of desperation in her soft lilt. Something clicked in his head at the undercurrent of her voice; he inhaled again, scenting the same emotion tainting her mango scent. This time he was able to recognize it as despair and desperation. It was as if she didn't want something to happen.

Confused, Marcus could only watch as she got even more upset. Her voice shrilled when she spoke again, "I thought we would have the rest of the day, and then I'd have to leave."

The look in her watery eyes said she was fearful of his answer. His brows furrowed at what she said, "You wish to stay here?" He didn't understand. If she was upset about what he was then why did she want to stay with him any longer than necessary?

"Of course I want to stay here! I thought you'd feel the same way, that we could have one more day together before I have to leave." Juliet shakily rubbed the tears from her eyes; she looked hurt and lost as her red-rimmed eyes gazed up at him.

Marcus could feel the breath catch in his throat as comprehension flickered in his mind. He thought about her last statement, before I have to leave.

His heart pounded in his chest when he studied her posture again. He stared into her hazel eyes and saw longing in their depths along with something else. Not just the desperation that tainted her scent, though that was clearly there as well, but it was something that pulled on their fragile mating bond. Something that stilled his beast's agitated pacing at the instinctive feeling.

Using that feeling he finally put into words what he saw in his mate's eyes. Hope. It was clouded by hurt and desperation but Marcus could clearly see the spark of hope in Juliet's eyes.

He clung tightly to that emotion before it slipped away; have to leave. An overwhelming wave of warmth spread throughout his body and soul, filling the holes his early depressing emotions had caused.

As understanding snapped into place he could feel his body start to shake as relief screamed through his veins.

As her mate, his empathy toward her emotions was far superior than the average couple. It gave him an accurate reading of what she was feeling and a guess as to the why behind it. He used his extra sensitivity to figure out why his mate was upset and his conclusion was like a breath of fresh air to his deprived soul.

His beast, however, was a little behind, why happy? Mate is sad.

Marcus could barely contain himself from shouting with joy; Juliet assumes we must separate. She thinks we cannot be together. Juliet's tears were an obvious indication that she didn't want to leave, the very thought upset her.

Yes together, keep mate!

Instead of answering his beast, Marcus just let his smile stretch across his face. Juliet's brow creased in confusion and her eyes locked onto his growing smile.

A surge of happiness washed away any lingering panic he had; Juliet's reaction at the thought of leaving him meant that they were one step closer to strengthening their mating bond. Of course he had to correct her mistake first.

"Just because I told you what I am does not mean you have to leave." His voice was patient and gentle but inside he held in the excited emotions rushing through his body. He couldn't wait to lift this oppressive misunderstanding from her shoulders.

Her lips were parted slightly and she still wore that confused expression. Her hazel eyes searched for clarification, "So even though you're a.." she hiccupped a deep breath, "a demon, we can still be together?" her voice was small as if she thought speaking any louder would make her statement false.

He let out a joyful laugh, overwhelmed with the happy emotions threatening to break free. "It does not matter what I am, I will always want you," he answered truthfully, letting all the adoration he had for her show in his face, something he was not accustomed to doing. He didn't even think about being reserved around his mate, he had no qualms with her seeing his emotions.

He could tell the second his words sunk in; a light hit her hazel eyes making them sparkle with hope. Slowly, with some hesitation and a few sniffles, Juliet began to smile. It was filled with uncertainty but that small action made his breath catch in his throat and had his heart beating loudly in his chest.

But soon her smile began to tremble around the edges of her mouth, faltering slightly as her brow creased with worry, Marcus waited with bated breath as to what she would say next. "But how will this work?" she gestured between them.

Now it was his turn to look confused, "I do not understand."

She gave him a look that said he was missing something obvious. "You're immortal and I'm not. How can we be together?"

Understanding came more quickly than before but his joy at her wanting to be with him was much more subdued. How could he tell her that they were fated to be together, forever? He wanted to reassure her that her fears were groundless but at the same time he didn't want to frighten her with the full truth of their situation.

"There is no reason to worry about that, Juliet." He simply told her what she needed to know right now, he would reveal the rest later and at his own pace. "Trust me, it is not an issue."

She gave him a skeptical look and regarded him thoughtfully, "There's more isn't there?"

He didn't pretend to misunderstand what she meant; in their short time together Marcus learned that his mate was very perceptive especially when it came to him. The Demon Prince didn't mind in the least, the fact that she could read him so well was encouraging.

Looking down into her face he saw her wipe away any lingering tears and tilted her chin up in a heartening display of understanding. She was ready to push aside any fears and face the truth head on.

Marcus felt his heart flip over at the picture she made just then. Her eyes were enormous, clear pools of hazel that shone with innocent trust. They were slightly red and puffy but even that couldn't detract from her beauty. Her courageous spirit, acceptance and trust made her shine with a radiance he did not deserve to see but would protect with his life. He was resolved to do everything in his power to make sure her warmth never faded away.

With the utmost honesty he answered her, choosing his words carefully, "There is, but I do not believe you are ready to hear everything just yet."

She eyed him warily, no doubt concerned about what he was withholding from her. Marcus knew that this early in their relationship there was no way he would tell her about the beast he fought inside himself nor would he tell her about the path Fate had chosen for them. Explaining the concept of mates to his fragile human was something that must be brought up gently and gradually and most importantly, on his own terms.

He leaned in close; letting her mango scent surround him, calm him. "I promise to tell you everything, but now is not the time." He swallowed hard before continuing because his next statement was as close to the full truth as he dared right now. "Trust me in this."

He heard the desperation in his voice but he couldn't help it. He needed her trust, her understanding; he wanted to provide and protect her. His beast was in need of the stability and guidance a mate could bring and they both desired someone to accept them. He would not pour his heart out now but Marcus knew that before he told her everything he would have to find a way to win her over.

Her soft sigh interrupted his thoughts. "Marcus," she chided softly. His name was a command on her lips and the Demon Prince could do nothing but obey.

Her hazel eyes demanded his full attention as she calmly met his gaze. "This is all so new to me and I'm not sure if I'm handling it right. I'm confused and a little scared."

"But for some reason, despite all my conflicting emotions, I know I can trust you. Marcus, you saved me from those vampires last night; you were willing to sacrifice yourself for me. Finding out that you're a demon is weird but I feel safe with you. I know you won't hurt me."

Her words burned straight to his soul. She looked at him with strength and bravery, vulnerability and compassion and Marcus could feel his throat tighten with unshed emotion. She was more than he deserved.

"Thank you," he whispered from the bottom of his heart, humbled by this little human. Looking at her smile at him, like he wasn't a monster from children's stories, fueled a powerful want to protect her. To always keep that blissful smile on her face.

Strands of her chestnut hair fell across her face as wind rustled the leaves around them; she stirred in him a deep, desperate desire for her touch.

Moving slower than a human, Marcus stretched his hand out to Juliet, determined not to startle her again. He wanted her to see his intent before he pushed those errant strands back behind her ear. He didn't want anything to obscure his vision of Juliet's beauty.

His hand lingered briefly in her hair before he dropped it next to hers on the bench. It was impossible not to notice the size difference between them. Juliet's hand looked so small and fragile compared to his; protectiveness swelled inside him at the sight.

His size alone should have scared her but she didn't run from him. Even after the fight in the park, he didn't detect an ounce of fear directed at him. The trust it took for her to stay with him was something he had never experienced before.

The joyful high from her acceptance dimmed as he thought about what it entailed.

He brought this innocent angel into a world filled with the nightmares humans only dreamed of, their fictional characters were the frightening reality he lived with. He'd grown to be a hard man, distancing himself from others in order to protect them. That did not give him any perspective on how to court his human mate. Why would such an innocent creature be destined for him? A cursed demon that no one knew how to handle.

The gentle brush of fingers across his brow snapped the Demon Prince from his dark thoughts. Marcus focused back on his mate, mesmerized by the feel of her soft touch smoothing away the worried creases on his forehead. He did not move an inch in fear that she would pull away.

Hazel eyes so focused on her task did not notice how her warm and caring touch caused his eyes to widen and his nostrils to flare. Her action was an unexpected treasure he did not plan to squander; with inhuman clarity he allowed his senses to be filled with Juliet. Her heat and scent burned his throat, the sound of her heart pounded in his ears as a soft breeze caressed her chestnut hair.

"What are you thinking about?" Juliet questioned him, obviously concerned with the conflicted expression on his face. He saw himself in the reflection of her eyes and watched his face automatically soften under her soft fingers.

Completely enthralled by her, the answer easily slipped past his lips, "You."

Her fingers, which had made their way to trace the contours of his cheekbone, stilled in their exploration. A wide smile spread across her face; joy brightened her eyes, bringing out chips of gold and green. Seeing her so happy had his gut clenching against a surge of desire. She looked so damn beautiful when she smiled and his little mortal unknowingly, expertly, drew him in like a moth to a flame.

His chest tightened when he concentrated on how well their conversation was progressing and the thought of mates wasn't so impossible. He wanted forever under her gentle touch being the sole focus of those bright, mesmerizing eyes.

"What about me?"

Her voice forced him to concentrate on something besides the surreal allure she held over him. He was hyper aware when her hand dropped back to her lap, felt the loss of her touch keenly.

She turned to fully face him on the bench tucking one leg underneath her body which carried her honeyed scent straight to him, teasing his senses.

Innocence stared back at him when he met her gaze. He was powerless to resist her especially when she tilted her head back, blinking up at him with those soft, hazel eyes.

So without reserve, he happily told her the truth, "I wished to take our relationship slowly, court you like humans do. I had planned a picnic on the beach for our next date."

He had gotten the idea from one of the romantic movies Claire and his mother always made him watch. While he dreaded every minute of the sub-par acting, Marcus had to admit the torture had its benefits where Juliet was concerned but he would never confess to it.

And Marcus knew all his suffering was worth it when Juliet's face lit up with a radiant smile at his words. Her eyes searched his and the Demon Prince held absolutely still for her perusal. Seconds later she twirled a lock of hair around one finger and asked shyly, "A date, like … boyfriend and girlfriend?"

Marcus blinked at that. Juliet looked so expectant of his answer but her question took him off guard. Boyfriend was such a foreign word that he didn't know how to properly respond.

He knew it was a term humans used when dating each other but it didn't hold the same permanent standards as a mate. The human movies had taught him that, but Marcus believed this meant the next step in their relationship and given the eagerness he could sense from Juliet he was certain she felt the same. "Yes, absolutely."

His mate let out a carefree laugh and Marcus wanted to join her but the sound of her elation sent a wave of heat rushing through his body. Her joy caused his stomach to tighten and as electricity hummed between them. He lowered his gaze to her mouth, the inviting shape of it making him thirsty for her taste.

Marcus couldn't restrain himself this time; the joy of her acceptance coupled with the knowledge that she wanted to continue their romantic relationship destroyed the last of his self-control.

He gently gathered her close and hugged her, trembling with the effort not to crush her. He wanted to use his strength to hold her tightly and never let her go but was afraid of her fragile, human body. Marcus gauged Juliet's reaction to being held by him. Her eyes were wide with nothing other than anticipation and excitement; a perfect match for his emotions.

Dipping his head, he kissed the corner of her mouth, the touch soft, a barely-there caress. He wanted to thank her for her acceptance before he acted on his baser desires.

Her eyes fluttered shut and the hitch in her breath was all the encouragement he needed. Marcus tilted his head and their lips met in a tender kiss. This one lacked the desperate edge from last night but it still sparked a fire in his belly. He was acutely aware of the soft contact of her lips, of the increased beat of her heart, of the heady change in her scent.

Her soft lips shyly moved over his and the Demon Prince trembled at the delicate sensation. Strict control stiffened his touch as he moved to cup her burning cheek. His guarded action forced him to be gentle and not move things too quickly. He followed the pace she set with the light pressure of her mouth.

He was captivated by the sweet warmth that blossomed between them, the knowledge that she did not pull away. She wanted this, too.

He was so focused on their kiss that he was surprised when her small hands gripped his shoulders. The timid caress was a temptation he wanted to explore, wanted it to grow bolder, caress more of his body. Her intoxicating scent and the warmth of her soft body so close to him created the perfect drug. She could have asked for the world right now and he would instantly obey.

He separated their lips when her heart began to gallop rapidly. She panted against his lips, out of breath from their kiss. Marcus had no such trouble and continued his gentle exploration of his mate. He trailed his kiss down past her jaw toward her fragrant neck. He nuzzled her, taking in a deep breath, filling his senses with her enthralling scent and the sweet lure of her rushing blood.

His pants grew uncomfortably tight and that was when Marcus realized how quickly he was getting lost in their kiss. He quickly pulled away from her skin even though his body craved the contact. He was reluctant to leave her inviting warmth but he needed to focus. He could not get carried away from a simple, tender kiss.

Marcus looked down to see Juliet's reaction. Her cheeks were flushed, lips parted drawing in rapid breaths that filled the air with her irresistible scent.

Slowly, she brought her gaze to his and his breath caught when a feminine smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She was so radiant he almost claimed her lips again. Desire was hot in his veins but with a tremendous amount of effort, Marcus straightened away from his sweet mate.

Juliet brought a hand to her mouth, her fingers tracing rosy lips. He licked his own at the electricity that still lingered; the taste of mangos making him shudder.

A small giggle escaped past her hand and into the air. The quiet sound captivated him and even made his beast raise its head in awareness. He grinned as her mirth escalated into full-blown laughter, the intensity sparkling in her eyes.

He chuckled along with her and soon they were both grinning at the joy of the moment, sharing some kind of emotional high.

Their laughter slowly faded but amusement stilled danced in her eyes. "This is amazing."

If she was describing the feeling that swelled in his chest then he had to agree. This pure contentment was unparalleled to anything he had ever felt before. It was addictive and Marcus would do anything to see her beautiful face smile in unrestrained happiness again.

Unfortunately, the world outside of the shaded bench interrupted their peaceful moment. He sensed the current of electronic waves before her phone rang. Technology had its own signature trace that was easily discernible for one of his kind. It was an essential skill he had to learn in the recent years in order to maintain secrecy.

Juliet jumped at the first ring, not expecting the sound. Over the electronic noise, Marcus heard her heart race in surprise. She stood from the bench and reached into her jean pocket. He noticed with male satisfaction that standing his mate was barley a head taller than him seated.

She pulled out her ringing phone and her eyes widened when she saw who was calling. "Oh crap," she muttered as the second ring shrilled loudly. Marcus stood as she began to pace nervously. Juliet threw him a worried look before answering, "Hi mom."

Marcus' expression had smoothed out from concern to understanding once he knew who was on the other line. The call connected and he could hear both sides of the conversation perfectly.

"Honey, I'm need you to come home and watch Danny. I'm driving your sister to a friend's house and Robert is too sick to watch him."

Juliet began playing with a strand of her brown hair, absentmindedly twirling it around one finger. "But mom, I'm kind of-"

"No buts. I have a coupon on the kitchen counter for one free admission to the zoo. It's a nice day out and I already said you would take him and he is sitting here waiting for you."

Juliet scowled and groaned deliberately into the phone. "Thanks for the choice," she grumbled sarcastically.

"Oh yes, what a hardship for you. Tell Erika goodbye and come back to the house." And with that maternal authority, the call ended. Juliet started at her phone, mouth slightly open in irritation.

Marcus couldn't help but smile at the interaction between the two women. It was normal and human which made it delightfully refreshing. A small chuckle escaped his lips and she looked up at the sound. Her cheeks darkened and she gave him an embarrassed smile, "Sorry about that."

His shoulders lifted in a mild shrug, not at all bothered by the exchange.

"That was my mom," she said while gesturing to her phone. He politely nodded, pretending he had not heard the entire conversation. Eventually she would learn how superior his senses were compared to a human's but during this new found acceptance was not the time to highlight his demonic nature.

"She said I had to come home." Her head was ducked low and her shoulders were slouched. His heart thudded painfully loud in his chest, jolted by a sense of longing that swept though him at the thought of leaving her.

She looked down at her feet, shoes intentionally scuffing the ground. "I have to take my little brother to the zoo." He wondered at the hopeful tone in her voice, worried by how hesitant she sounded. Juliet glanced up at him but quickly ducked her head.

Concern rang in his mind as she bit her bottom lip in nervousness. Did he miss part of the conversation that caused this reaction in his mate? What was said to make her so shy around him?

Her accompanying shrug was nonchalant but Marcus knew better as he heard the doubt in her voice when she spoke again, "Do you, maybe, if you're not busy, want to come with us?"

His eyebrows lifted in surprise. She wanted to spend time with him, but thought he would deny her? As if he could ever refuse her; Marcus would have to demonstrate that her fear of rejection was groundless.

"Of course I will come," he assured her gently.

Her head snapped up in a moment of shock before a beautiful smile tugged at her lips. He stopped breathing; her joy from his acceptance brought out the green in her eyes, making them even more entrancing than before.

Sheer joy lit up her expression. "Awesome!"

Yes, this is, he agreed. Her expression was tenderly affectionate, filled with pure warmth devoid of any fear and it left him craving more.

He was incredibly grateful for his understanding mate. She could have easily rejected him, scared of his true nature but instead she welcomed him into her life.

And best of all, she asked to spend more time with him, wanted more of his company. Just like him, Juliet did not want their time together to end. Well, whatever his female wanted, Marcus was only too eager to give.

"I will take you back now" he suggested with a grin. Not even an hour ago he said those same words with a heavy heart thinking Juliet rejected him. Now he said it with confidence, secure in the fact that his mate had accepted him.

Juliet brushed some stray locks of hair from her face and nodded. She took a step back and began walking away. Panic gripped him and he acted instinctively. Marcus stopped her with a hand on her shoulder, turning her around before she could take another step away from him.

"Why are you leaving?" He cringed at the desperation in his voice but the sight of her walking away from him did not sit well with Marcus or his beast.

Confusion tightened her brow. She idly pointed her thumb behind, indicating the Royal House. "I have to get my stuff. My keys and everything."

Relief calmed him at her words just as embarrassment filled his mind. He had panicked over nothing; Marcus inwardly frowned at his overreaction.

His magic flared as he conjured her car keys by pretending to retrieve them from his back pocket. They jingled as he held them out for her to take. "All your belongings are in your car already."

Juliet's lips parted in surprise, "Oh." She met his eyes slowly as she took her keys, "Thanks."

He nodded, watching her put away her keys and lifted her head to stare at his chest. Her lips parted to speak but then she stopped after inhaling. Marcus waited patiently to hear her voice; he would not push her for anything. She caught her bottom lip between her blunt, white teeth; a habit he noticed she did when she was nervous.

"We're going to 'poof' again right?" she asked with trepidation clear in her voice. He would have chuckled at her terminology if she didn't look so small and vulnerable. Marcus had an overwhelming urge to soothe the lines of worry that creased her brow. With a moment's hesitation, he acted on the urge.

His fingers brushed across her forehead and up to capture a lock of her brown hair, delighting in the silky texture. "It will not be like last time," he promised. "I will make sure you do not feel anything."

Last time he had been rushed and it was his first time breaking through the barrier that protected the Royal House. Now that it was peaceful and he knew his own power, the trip would be seamless.

Dropping the lock of hair, Marcus held out his arms hoping to adopt a similar stance like the night before. Juliet cautiously stepped into his embrace and he gave her an encouraging smile. She had nothing to fear this time since he was completely focused on erasing her wariness of his magic. Her arms crept up between them grasping his shirt in two white knuckled fists. She turned her head and leaned in close enough that her hair brushed his shirt but before she made contact with his chest she jerked back.

Marcus could feel her embarrassment as she glanced at him before lowering her eyes as she straightened away from him.

He was quick to reassure his mate that her touch was always welcome. He lightly touched her back between her shoulder blades and gently coaxed her closer. Juliet took the hint and stepped fully into his embrace. Her arms dropped to slip around his waist and she leaned closer to rest her cheek on his chest.

It felt wonderful, no, she felt wonderful. Marcus sighed as his beast settled in his soul; they both felt completely at home with Juliet in his arms. He couldn't believe how tender this moment made him feel. He never expected her to accept him so easily. It was more than he could have hoped for after telling Juliet his secret, after waiting countless years for her.

He tucked one hand into her silky tresses not because that hold was required for the transportation but simply because couldn't resist touching her hair. Her soft, chestnut locks threaded through his fingers and he sighed in appreciation while his other hand settled on her lower back to keep her steady.

Closing his eyes, he sent out his magic to their sunny destination. Marcus had to be sure no one would see their arrival; he focused his senses on the park he rescued Juliet from and pinpointed what he needed to know. There were only a few humans jogging on the running track but the rest of the park was empty which suited his needs just fine. He found a quiet spot hidden in the shade he deemed was far away from the humans.

Satisfied with their privacy, Marcus opened his eyes to question his mate, "Are you ready?" The last thing he wanted to do was scare her with something that came so naturally to him.

With her head pillowed against his chest, Marcus felt Juliet shake her head 'no'. Concern invaded his calm and he heard her heart speed up with disquiet and adrenaline. He pulled back to read the expression on her face but she allowed no space between them and followed his backward movement. With her head still on his chest he watched in silence as she threw her arms around his neck and lifted her body to step on his feet.

He shivered as she pressed the front of her delectable body to the front of his for an even closer fit. Her soft curves settled against his hard frame as she hugged him tightly with all her human strength. Her silent body language was not lost on Marcus; her slight weight on his toes spoke of her complete confidence in his ability to take care of her.

His beast purred at her trusting action and Marcus was in total agreement. Their mate was brave and strong in the face of the unknown. The hold of her slim arms around his neck was unbreakable; even though her strength was no match for him, Juliet could keep him locked there forever, so long as she touched him.

Absolutely everything she did was endearing. He carefully tightened his hold and nuzzled against her hair.

"Relax," he breathed into her brown tresses. He felt her body tremble slightly and decided to transport them quickly. "Count backwards from ten," he encouraged her, ready to leave the estate. His stomach clenched uncomfortably at seeing her so nervous.

Juliet whispered the numbers with a slight quiver in her voice. When she got to seven, Marcus released his magic. It might be unfair but he knew she would continue to fret the longer he waited. Besides, with the nervousness he could feel in her, he wasn't exactly sure Juliet would make it to 'one'.

The familiar cool breeze brushed against his skin as he wrapped his power tightly around them. The Demon Prince felt the once-impenetrable barrier protecting the Royal Estate but with a mental push he was able to easily pass through the ancient border. Marcus made sure the spell was back in place before he solidified in their sunny destination.

Within the span of a second they were safely tucked in the shadows of the park unnoticed by the few surrounding humans.

With a discerning eye, Marcus scanned the area for any threats but as expected he found none. The sun was too bright for vampires to linger; there was no trace of any other supernatural creatures that he could detect making his ire flare. He had wanted to find something to trace the bastards who attacked Juliet but it was just as Zivan had said. Not a hint of their paranormal scuffle remained.

He looked down at his mate and felt his heart pound loudly for her. She still gripped him tightly and looked incredibly small and fragile in his arms.

He felt it necessary to announce their arrival since she had yet to lift her head off his chest; Marcus did not enjoy the tension that still laced her small frame. "We are here, Juliet."

As soon as he spoke, her muscles instantly relaxed and her hold loosened slightly but he was pleased when she did not completely release him.

"Are you sure?" she asked lightly, her voice somewhat muffled by the fabric of his shirt.

He chuckled, recognizing the attempt to quell her own unease with a small amount of humor. He nuzzled the tip of his nose against her hair, the sweet scent of mangos flowing down his throat. "Yes. You can open your eyes."

Hazel eyes cracked open slightly, gradually taking in her new surroundings. Juliet lifted her head off his chest to glance around at the scenery around them. The way her eyes widened and her lips parted in a silent wow made him feel immensely proud. She was impressed with his magic and best of all she was not scared of it. Apprehensive yes, but not fearful.

He watched with keen interest as she cautiously stepped off his feet testing the ground first before fully taking her own weight again. He was absolutely charmed by her hesitant curiosity.

Her arms slid from his neck and he held back a shiver as her fingers trailed innocently along his throat. The touch was unintentional and gone before he could savor her warm caress but it still managed to heat his body. He reluctantly let his arms fall away, following her lead and instantly missing the contact.

When she directed her attention back to him, Marcus saw her awed expression brighten with a cheerful giggle. The thrumming vibration of her laughter warmed a lonely place deep inside him. "I still can't believe it!"

His responding laugh was low and care-free enjoying this moment under her inquisitive eyes. He wanted to show her everything he could do, amaze her with his unparalleled abilities but he would do so in time and on his own terms. Her acceptance was too new to risk a display of his power.

Her laughter quieted and they were left standing in the shade protected against the morning sun. Birds chirped in song as nature gave them a moment of peaceful silence. Marcus simply stared at his mate as her amused smile gently dimmed.

He was content to study her as her eyes wandered around the park. They drifted slowly to the left and then narrowed when something caught her attention. He followed her gaze as she focused on a curved part of the jogging path but found nothing out of the ordinary; when he saw her tremble slightly he could only assume she was thinking of last night's attack.

"What happened?" he asked in a calm voice that betrayed his indignation at her in danger. He wanted to know how the attack began since he arrived only after she was in trouble.

Juliet pointed a finger towards the curve in the trail, "I tripped over there. It felt like someone grabbed my ankle."

Anger sparked in his gut at her words rising to burn its way through his body. Marcus was glad his mate wasn't looking at him because she would have been scared of the terrible fury that tightened his features. It galled him that she had been attacked while under his watch, again. The pathetic human thief had been easily dealt with but this threat carried a dangerous feeling that perhaps something ominous was still lurking in the shadows.

Juliet continued talking, unaware of the struggle with his temper. "I was getting up when I saw him."

His voice was thick with emotion as the memory of Juliet standing against that hungry vampire surfaced but he had to ask, "Did he mention others?"

She shook her head no, "Just that I looked tasty."

Marcus clenched his teeth hard enough to make his jaw hurt in order to prevent the roar of frustration from escaping. He was shamed by how the newborns made her feel like prey. He closed his eyes and let the worst of his fury pass through them, knowing they turned a feral red. Marcus tried to smother the fierce emotions before Juliet looked back at him; he did not want her to see his monstrous eyes, didn't want to be compared with the vampires who attacked her. Just the thought of her fear iced his beast's fury and cooled his indignation.

"Then I ran like a chicken. I was so scared."

Green eyes snapped open. "No," his denial was swift and loud enough to startle Juliet. In contrast with his tone, he gently reached down and took both of her little hands in his, enjoying the way she curled her fingertips between his fingers, trusting him regardless of all she had learned. "You faced an unknown danger and you won." He gave her hands a light squeeze to emphasize his point. "You were very brave." He let his admiration color his words.

Only a strong female would have fought like she did. He admired her courage and was very impressed with how she handled the situation last night.

A vulnerable look crossed her face, "Really?" Her voice quivered almost imperceptibly.

"Absolutely," he declared with vehemence clear in his tone. Not many humans would have been clear minded enough to hold their own against a hungry vampire but Juliet proved to be a fighter and he was so proud of her.

She bit her lip as her eyes lowered to their joined hands. Strands of chestnut hair fell across her face, "I always thought I'd crack under the pressure in an emergency situation."

Dropping his mouth close to her ear, he whispered his reassurances. "You handled yourself remarkably well." Like a warrior born on the battle field, he could still picture her mask of concentration as she wielded her clever weapon.

She blushed under his praise and Marcus couldn't resist reaching for a soft strand of stray hair. One hand broke free from its fragile prison to brush a chestnut lock off her cheek, letting the silky strands slide against his fingers. He wanted to bury both his hands in its silkiness, bring it to his nose and inhale her sweet scent. His body responded in anticipation, but he did not shift under the heat of her allure. Until Juliet was more comfortable, Marcus would keep his desire in check. But he did want a small taste of his mate.

He leaned down to brush his lips with hers- a goodbye, for now. A spark of warmth shot from their joined lips to pool achingly low in his body. He knew Juliet experienced the same spark when he felt a shiver course through her body. Marcus broke the connection before he reacted to that delicious heat.

Pulling back, he had to stifle a moan of frustration when Juliet leaned into him a little, silently asking for more. He nearly groaned at the temptation but he had to keep his hands off her in order to cool his body's aching demands.

He watched with eager eyes as his little brunette pulled out her keys to unlock her car then got inside. She turned in her seat to meet his stare and he braced himself against the open door and the body of her car, craving her closeness.

Marcus discreetly inhaled her pleasing scent, willing it to linger on his skin after she left. For half a moment, he nearly lost himself in the heady appeal of his mate but held completely still to curb his hunger. His clothes held her mango aroma which would placate him and his beast until they saw her again.

With a mental sigh he closed the car door. He watched as she turned the key into the ignition and started the engine. The window rolled down and he couldn't help feeling a twinge of longing. It didn't matter that they would see each other in a couple of hours, he would still miss her.

Today had gone better than he had dared to hope and was reluctant to let go of that connection. Would the few hours apart scare his mate away?

Marcus stared at his young mate as she peeked her head out of the window. With a brilliant smile Juliet gazed up into his face, hazel eyes focused solely on him and he could feel a peaceful comfort wash over him, easily melting away any worries he had.

"I'll see you at the zoo, right?" her voice was soft against the roar of the car but he heard her perfectly.

He nodded eager to see her again. "Drive carefully." He took a measured step back to allow her room to pull out of the parking space.

He watched as she drove out of the park, made a left turn and disappeared down the street.

Marcus took a deep breath, lungs expanding with the humid Florida air and released a heavy sigh filled with relief.

A low chuckle began in his chest and escaped his smiling lips. He wanted to shout with joy at his victory. Juliet accepted him, his mate wanted him.

Massaging the nape of his neck, Marcus prayed the rest of their relationship would go as smoothly as today. There was still much for her to learn about demons and he was determined not to rush the rest of his secrets. With a deep sigh, he disappeared from the park. Marcus would leave those worries for another day.

Right now, however, he needed to discover what exactly being a boyfriend entailed. The Demon Prince nearly gulped; the human term suddenly seemed very daunting.

AN: Please don't kill me! I am so sorry readers for the absurdly long update. I have not forgotten this story but I have been crazy busy. In the last year I got engaged, obtained my Associates degree, started a full-time job, planned my wedding, started a paralegal program and finally got married.

Whew! So, unfortunately, my writing has taken a backseat but I never forgot about Marcus and Juliet and you guys didn't either. I am very thankful for the amazing reviews I got during my hiatus and every time I saw a new review pop up in my email I got super excited. Thank you, readers for your support; you are my motivation.

I have got some of the fluff done for chapter 13 but I am having trouble with the important, plot-advancing stuff. So once again the next update will be slow going but I am always getting ideas for random outtakes for the story. In fact, I have posted a new story titled Devotion and Desire: Outtakes. The first chapter is about Marcus getting revenge on the human thief who tried to rob Juliet. Please check it out.

Also, I need a last name for Marcus and his family. I have tried looking up some online but haven't found anything I think is appropriate. I want it to start with a K and it needs to be strong and powerful. Any suggestions would be helpful!

Thank you again for all the support. If anyone wants to Beta this story just let me know. A Beta would definitely help kick my butt in gear when an update takes too long. Having said that, I apologize for any grammar mistakes.

Lastly, I have updated a few of the earlier chapters. I fixed grammar mistakes and tweaked the plot slightly. Marcus behaves more rationally when he first sees Juliet in chapter two, for example and I added a few interesting components into the story. I have also changed Juliet's last name to Moore and her little brother is now Danny.

I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter; please review and tell me what you think. As always, I would love to hear what you guys want to see happen in the story. Until next time,