Sei didn’t care much for Valentine’s Day because he’d spent so many years believing love wasn’t possible. The idea that I had a valid excuse for giving him gifts and showing the world how crazy about him I was made the day important to me. I just had to figure out how to get my holiday reluctant boyfriend to join the festivities with me.
The jumble of ideas kept distracting me from balancing the books for Bloody Bar. Technically at midnight, it would be the big day, and at the moment, Sei was upstairs in his condo, sleeping. Maybe I could wake him up with a little sweet love-making, convince him to stay in bed with me for a while, or take a long bath together. It’d almost been a week since we’d last had sex, only because he’d been working long hours and came home so tired he fell into immediate sleep.
Tomorrow he had the day off as I’d requested mostly because I planned on spending the entire night with him. The elevator dinged. Jamie stepped out when the door opened. He had a big box in his hands. The smell of chocolate and sugar filled the condo. The sweet treat was a special order from Sei’s favorite bakery.
“It smells amazing, but I haven’t dared to open it,” Jamie said as he set it on the counter.
I shoved the computer aside and pulled open the top of the box. The flourless chocolate cake was capped in a delicate layer of gently folded whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. A sculpted plaque made of chocolate simply said “I love you.”
“Wow,” Jamie whistled.
“I hope he likes it. Since this will be our first Valentine’s Day as a couple.”
“In Sei’s eyes at least.”
It was the first time he didn’t have an excuse to tell me not to celebrate the holiday with him. I grabbed the glass cake dome that Sei kept in my kitchen and carefully placed the pastry inside. I had a box full of rose petals that needed to be spread out. Sei didn’t care much for cut flowers, but I was pretty sure he’d like the live orchids and mini cherry tree I’d gotten for him.
“Do you want me to wake him up?” Jamie asked as he headed for the elevator.
“No. I’ll do it. Thanks, Jamie.”
“You’re welcome. And if you need to extend your activities to Sei’s condo, don’t worry. Kelly is upstairs at my place for the night.” He left with that, the smile on his face telling me more than enough.
I began decorating. By the time I finished it was quarter to midnight and the four bottles of QuickLife I’d had were swirling in my belly with unease. When I finally made my way upstairs, the whole five feet to his door made me anxious enough to nearly turn around. The last time I’d tried a romantic adventure, he’d run from me. He preferred simple tokens of my affection, like passing kisses and nights curled up reading together. This was so far beyond that.
But while he liked the little things, I wanted to do bigger things. Like buy him a house, or a room full of dolls, or fly him to a private island for a weekend together. The irony was that I’d spent two thousand years searching for someone who loved me just for being me instead of for my money or power, only to find him and I wanted to give him those things.
I used my key and snuck into the dark condo. Sei slept peacefully on his side, arm wrapped around a pillow. I crawled in beside him, and curved my body to spoon him from behind and tugged a blanket over the both of us. There was no immediate need to wake him. The morning was hours away and sharing a warm bed even for sleep was a sweet little treat. I closed my eyes and let myself settle in.
The soft touch of a hand on my cheek awoke me. I hadn’t realized I’d dozed off until that moment. Sei had turned in my arms and was watching me with a gentle smile on his face.
“Hi,” I said.
“You’re so beautiful,” Sei told me.
“Not as beautiful as you.”
“Gabe, shush,” Sei protested and kissed each of my cheeks. “You’re beautiful. I love your curly hair, your pretty green eyes and long lashes. I love your neck.” He licked down my neck. “And your strong shoulders.” He pushed back the buttons of my shirt and kissed each shoulder.
I directed his head up so our lips could meet. The kiss lasted wonderful ages. He pressed against me. I held him tight and just enjoyed the taste of him, the closeness, and his happiness. When the kisses finally ended, Sei gave me a sleepy sigh, but I had no intention of letting him fall back asleep just yet. “Come with me.” I pulled him up from the bed.
He looked down at his clothes, a pair of sleep pants and a tank top. “In my pajamas?”
“I promise you won’t need them long.”
Sei put his hand in mine and rewarded me with a sultry smile. I led him downstairs to my condo. The orchids were set out on the counter next to the cake, and rose petals made a small heart around them. He traced the stem of orchids, and grinned at the cake. “Yum.”
I carefully lifted the top off the dome and handed Sei a plate. The slice I cut was probably larger than he would normally eat, but the night was really about sensuality rather than hunger. I restored the dome and left Sei at the counter to head into the bathroom where I’d set up the rest of the evening. The tub filled with warm swirling water and the scent of something green, a gift from a certain nosey redhead.
Petals trailed to the bathroom and the tub. I could hear Sei moving around the apartment slowly, as if unsure what to do, but I stripped out of everything, putting a towel around my waist so he would understand that sex wasn’t the ultimate goal, though it would be had if Sei had any say in it. I poured two glasses of the sweet dessert wine Seiran loved and waited for him.
He appeared in the doorway only a few seconds later, plate in hand, cake untouched, eyes curious.
“Gonna eat that?” I asked him. He stepped closer. I took his fork and swept a small bite into my mouth. The chocolate tasted sweet and slightly bitter and I fought not to swallow, but nearly lost the battle when Sei’s expression turned to one of concern.
“You’ll make yourself sick!” He launched himself at me. I took the plate from him and set it on the tray beside the tub before catching him and meeting the ferocity of his kiss. Sometimes having vampire speed was a good thing. He licked away all the chocolate he could find in my mouth and didn’t pull away until I dropped my towel and stepped carefully back into the tub.
The flush heating his cheeks made me smile.
“Going to join me?” I asked him, making room on my lap.
“I don’t understand what all this is,” he whispered.
“It’s called a romantic interlude for Valentine’s Day. I’m pretty sure there are scenes like this in some of your novels. It’s also pretty much the only work out I get in the winter, since I’m not into running like you.”
“Like you have to work out. Vampires don’t change.”
I glanced down at the proof of my change. “No?”
His blush deepened, but he looked away, examined the walk-in shower across the room with interest. “Maybe I could sit on the edge of the tub?”
“Okay, who are you and what have you done with my boyfriend?” I demanded playfully. Sei loved the water almost as much as Kelly did.
“I just-” he stopped like he didn’t know what to say. Finally he clipped his hair up on top of his head, tugged off his top, and shoved his bottoms and underwear down in one swipe then stepped into the tub with me. Instead of cuddling into my lap he sat across from me.
The distance made me swallow back a gulp of worry. I thought we were beyond this, but maybe I’d been wrong. “Talk to me, Sei.”
“You’ll be mad,” he whispered, still refusing to look at me.
“How often am I ever mad? Seriously, what is wrong?”
Instead of saying anything he turned his back to me, rising just far enough from the water to leave the sleek line of his back free of the suds. The last of the lather slipped down, trailing onto his tight little butt cheeks, and revealing colorful words scrawled across his back from right shoulder to the middle of his back, my name. Gabe—not Gabriel—which I’d spent most of my life recognized as. Sei had started the trend of calling me Gabe and it stuck. The letters bloomed in red with roots of green stems. The center of the “a” and “e” were paw prints instead of empty space.
I wanted to kiss him, to taste that skin, and show him how much I loved seeing him branded with my name, but the slightly raised edges meant the ink was fresh and still healing. This was commitment. I was more than a little shocked. He shuddered, and I realized I still hadn’t said anything.
“Christ, Seiran, I love you so much.” I pulled him into my lap, careful not to touch the sensitive skin of the tattoo.
“Do you hate it?” His wide sapphire eyes searched my face with all the fear of a child seeking acceptance. Someday that fear would leave him, and he’d realize that all that mattered to me was him, whatever he was and whatever he did.
“It’s beautiful.” Beyond beautiful. “I love it. You know you didn’t have to do that for me. It must have hurt.”
“It wasn’t so bad,” he lied, his bravado obvious. “You have my name. It’s only fair that I have yours.”
So that’s what it was. I’d had Sei’s name tattooed over the top of Titus’ years ago. The Japanese letters gave it some flourish, and I’d had some color and detail added in the past few months simply because I wanted that connection to him to be visual. I’d been grateful numerous times for choosing to have his name in Japanese instead of English because I’d fear he’d panic if he knew the truth. “How’d you know?”
“I drew a picture of it and asked my mom.” He looked away again. “You were doing things to it after I found out what it meant. So I was worried you were going to cover it up. But then you added the new moon, and the paw tracks, and the leaves….”
“I’ll add even more to it when your babies are born.”
“Our babies,” Sei corrected. “They’re yours as much as mine. Just like they are Ally’s as much as Hanna’s. I hope you’ll be their daddy too.”
“Of course. I look forward to it.” I massaged his neck until he finally rested his head on my shoulder. “Two months until you’re a full-fledged, card-carrying, diaper-changing, daddy.”
“We should make the most of our alone time right now then.” He reached over and took a forkful of the cake, then turned his head toward me, after swallowing, for a kiss. It was a game we often played. I licked the edges of his lips before diving inside for a taste of the chocolate over him.
We picked up the glass of wine and raised them to clink together.
“Will you run away from me if I say Happy Valentine’s Day, Seiran?” I took a hesitant sip of the wine watching him for subtle changes that meant he wasn’t happy about celebrating my frivolous holiday.
“Nah. I’m comfy.”
“Oh, so I’m a pillow, eh?”
He bit back a smile, and then sipped his wine to cover it up. “I love you, Gabe. Pokey bits and all.” His hand slipped beneath the water to touch me, and his eyes peered up through his long lashes. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Prep time: 30 min | Cook time: 40 min | Total time: 1 hr 10 min (plus cooling)
Yield: 12-14 servings
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 6 eggs
- Powdered, for garnish
- Fresh strawberries, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Grease a 10-inch round cake pan (a springform pan is easiest).
- Bring water and 1 cup of the sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and add both chocolates. Stir until chocolate is melted. Add butter and stir until melted.
- Heat a kettle of water (to use for a water bath) on the stove.
- Combine remaining half cup of sugar and eggs in a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Gently fold chocolate mix into egg mixture.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the cake pan into a larger, deep baking pan and set the larger pan inside the oven. Pour the hot water from your kettle into the larger pan, filling about halfway up the side to create a water bath. Bake in the water bath for 40 minutes.
- Remove cake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Heat on top of stove for 30 seconds and then unmold onto a cake plate. Chill the cake for at least an hour.
- Garnish chilled cake with powdered sugar and fresh strawberries.
- Optional: If you’d like to garnish with whipped cream as well, whip 1 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar together until thick.
Read more about Gabe and Seiran in the upcoming rerelease of Inheritance: