Akane pulled up outside the Dunne farmhouse. It was an old Victorian, stately and tall. It was difficult to tell the color in the dark, but it was a soothing blue, the trim a blinding white. A huge wrap-around porch with a real porch swing gave the old Victorian a homey feel.
Hell. There was that word again: home. She couldn't let herself get too attached to this place, or the people in it. She was a Blade, and one of Robin's finest assassins. She couldn't afford what a loving family would do to her.
Akane yawned so hard her jaw ached. Gods, she was weary. At least Robin had put his personal plane at her disposal, allowing her some peace on the long flight from Nebraska to New York and back again. But the drive from Omaha to the farm had forced her to acknowledge exactly how exhausted she was. She could use a good long soak in the tub and a quiet night to recharge and refresh. She'd never learned the knack of sleeping on a plane. Something about sleeping while flying just sat wrong with her.
She stepped out of her brand new Porsche Boxster and ran her fingers down the gleaming black finish. God, she loved this car. If Shane did anything to her new baby she'd rip his gonads off. It was his fault the last one had gotten blasted to smithereens. If he hadn't hidden it in the barn the day Charles Malmayne had sent the redcaps to attack the Dunne farm, the salamander would never have blown it to bits.
At the sound of a deep bark she grinned. "Sal!" She crouched down, accepting ferocious doggie kisses from the fifty-pound German shepherd. A lick of fire danced across her skin as the dog wiggled, happily welcoming its mistress home.
"Do I get a kiss too?"
Akane fell on her ass at the sound of that deep drawl. "Fuck."
"Well, I thought that might come later, but if you're that eager..."
She glared up at the man who'd managed to give her more than one sleepless night. He was grinning down at her, his big, scarred hands deep in his pockets, his butt resting on the hood of the car. He had one ankle crossed over the other.
"Get your ass off my car, Jethro."
That grin widened a hair. "Well, shucks, Miz Akane. Is this one of those ek-spen-sive cars?"
She rolled her eyes and took the hand he offered her. She found herself standing way too close for comfort. "It's worth more than your hospital stay will be if you don't move."
He chuckled, the big bastard, and rolled easily up and off the car, his arms wrapping around her. She reared back as much as she could as his big head lowered, but despite her dragon heritage she couldn't quite bend back far enough. Shane took her mouth in a careful, questing kiss, as if he understood she could and would bite him if he pushed too far.
Part of her hoped he would do just that. Shane tasted incredible, with just an undertone of something rich and metallic. Her inner dragon purred, but Akane held the sound back. No way could she let him know how much she enjoyed the intimate touch.
He released her and took a step back, staring at her with wistful greed. The wistfulness was gone almost as quickly as it appeared, but the fact it had been there, that he wanted her that badly, sent her heart racing. "Welcome home, Akane."
She hid her shiver as best she could, but damn it. His voice did things to her, especially when he used that deep, warm tone he only directed at her. "This isn't home." She sniffed and almost stomped past him, remembering at the last minute the dirt driveway beneath her three inch heels.
"More home than you've ever had before."
She paused; something about his tone set her back up. "I don't know what you're talking about."
His rich laugh followed her into the brightly lit house. The cream-colored walls and dark, sturdy wooden furniture wasn't her taste, but Aileen and Sean Dunne fit right in here. They'd blended early American with a number of pieces they'd moved from Ireland for a look uniquely their own. Framed prints of Ireland mingled with family portraits. The dark green fabrics of the furniture grounded the softer, cheerful yellows Aileen had strewn about the room in the form of pillows and flowers. The only odd note was an amethyst vase Leo Dunne had given his mother, sitting in pride of place on the mantelpiece. Akane took a deep breath and felt something tight within her ease at the now familiar scents of raw earth, polished wood and family.
Family? Since fucking when?