Gabriel's Hope (Chapter Four, page 1 of 16)

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Mid-morning sun warmed Gabriel's face, drawing him out of the deepest slumber he'd experienced in years. He didn't push himself awake but let his senses register the world slowly. The satiny sheets of the bed smelled of the woman he'd made love to for hours last night. The ocean breeze cooled his back, and his heartbeat was synced to the movement of the tide. The restlessness was gone from his blood, his body relaxed in a way he couldn't remember feeling.

Past-Death took him to her bed most nights for thousands of years, and he'd never woken this sated and centered. He knew why: every night was a test. Every night, he had to be better than the night before: More creative, more sensitive to her body. He'd loved her every way he could, knowing the night she was dissatisfied with him, she'd replace him. She never lost control of herself or failed to remind him that it wasn't her fate at risk each night.

Last night was different in too many ways for him to count. This woman had been wild, uninhibited. She'd held no part of herself back from him and surrendered in a way that made him want to memorize each sigh, the softness of her skin, her silky depths and the way her blue eyes grew dark with desire. She hadn't judged him or restrained him. She touched him everywhere, hungry to consume him. She'd wanted him in a way the other women in his life never had. When her body ceased convulsing from an orgasm, she'd kissed him with tenderness and asked him how she could make him as happy.

He had fun. Gabe snorted at the simple thought. She'd teased and flirted with him, adventurous one minute and submissive the next in a way that made him burn hotter for her. He experienced none of the awkwardness he did with Harmony. Though he intended to make the night about the dying woman, he found it was as much about him.

It was one night he wanted to enjoy. His guard hadn't lowered; it crashed as he let himself experience every part of her body, her cries and the passionate spirit that held him captive on the beach. She'd ensnared him with her laughter and touched him with her words about Death.

About him. What he should be. What he used to be, before the events of the past year. He'd once done what she did: faced Death and refused to cower, instead deciding to live on his own terms.

Aroused again, he reached over but didn't feel her body. Gabe twisted his head to see the bed empty. The shower was on, and she was singing. His eyes went to the bathroom door, and he considered joining her. He'd fulfilled his end of the bargain and crossed quite a few things off her bucket list last night.

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