The touch of Lares’ young, soft lips on her old, used ones cut through the madness she felt, and Hope leaned into his embrace eagerly, returning the kiss with whatever passion she had left in her. His hand reached to cup her face and caress her skin tenderly.
It was nice. Extremely nice.
But too tender, and too sweet. Those things could never make her crumple with desire. Lares could never give her what she needed.
And I will kill him if I keep him here.
Reluctantly she broke away from him. He looked crestfallen, but did not press her for more than she could give. Hope knew he’d make some woman very happy someday. It wouldn’t be she. Can’t be.
“That’s not what I was asking,” she said in response to his last words to her. “I’m old, Lares, and God willing I’ll die soon. But,” she added, cutting off his protest, “but I cannot die in peace without knowing both you and Anala are safe.” She grabbed his hand, squeezing it, and looked pleadingly into his eyes. “Please, Lares. If you love me, do this for me. Keep yourself and my daughter safe.”
He looked at her for a long, long time. Then he sighed, and raised her hand to his lips. “I hear and obey, My Lady,” he said simply, letting her hand drop.
“Thank you,” she said, and closed her eyes and leaned back against her bed. Another battle won.
When she opened her eyes, Lares was gone.