Book: Cursed by Fire: The Immortal Brothers

Previous: Chapter Seventeen
Next: Chapter Nineteen

CHAPTER

EIGHTEEN

 

Selinda walked into an alcove just down the hall from Dethan’s rooms. She checked carefully to see if Hanit had distracted the lookout watching the rooms. She had waited until well after juquil’s hour—nearly an hour past—before coming. She fretted that he would think she wasn’t coming. Nothing could be further from the truth. She was looking forward to this night in a way she had not realized she was capable of. Her entire body felt as taut as a bowstring. Ever since she had left him earlier her clothes had felt too heavy … too confining … almost scratchy against the sensitive tenderness of her skin. She couldn’t explain it, could barely understand it. It was such a new feeling to her. Logically she understood it was because she craved him, but logic did not encompass the actual feeling of it.

She saw the way was clear and she hastened to his door. She did not knock; she just swept into the room in a swirl of skirts, shutting the door tightly behind her. She exhaled a breath of relief. She could not be seen. It would mean catastrophe for her and her family. It was crazy to even do this, but here she was just the same and excited to be doing it. She must have gone utterly mad, she thought. It was the only explanation.

She felt and saw his hand covering hers where it laid against the door, his body moving up against hers and radiating incredible heat. She turned to see him dressed in spite of his burns. He’d had an hour to heal already and it showed, but he still must be in pain.

“I thought you would not come,” Dethan whispered softly as he touched his face to her hair and breathed deeply of her. She had no idea how good she smelled when all that had been in his senses previously was the smell of burned flesh.

She wore her hair loose, the shining black curls falling down her back. It was so rich and beautiful and he had no choice but to touch his fingers to it.

But he was burned still and did not want to touch her until he was healed, so he immediately withdrew from her.

“Come,” he said, taking up her hand. “Come to bed. It has been a long day for us both.”

She followed him, and when she reached the bedside, she turned and sat him down. Then she dropped the cloak from her shoulders, revealing her dressing gown. She had not wanted to come to him armored with all her clothes. She had put on the thin, nearly transparent gown with its intricate gold embroidery and scarlet color and had hoped he would like it.

“By the grace of Weysa,” he breathed fiercely upon seeing her, “you are beyond tempting to a weary soldier’s eyes.”

“Thank you,” she said, flushing prettily for him under the compliment. Gods, how he wanted to grab her and throw her down on the bed right then.

Softly. Easy. There will be time for that, he chided himself.

“Come to bed,” he urged her. He needed to feel her in his bed beside him, if nothing else.

“Not yet,” she said firmly. “First, we address these burns.”

“They will heal,” he said dismissively.

“They heal faster when I tend them,” she pointed out. It was the truth and he could not refute it. Plus, her ministrations made him feel better.

He watched her move as she worked, the very sight of her agony, never mind the feel of her. Every time she bent forward he got a glimpse down the front of her loose, deep-necked gown and he could nearly see the whole of her pretty, lush breasts. It took every ounce of his self-control to keep from pulling her toward him, putting his hand down the front of her gown just to feel her, and then lifting the weight of her free of the clothing, raising her to the hungry drift of his mouth.

He grew hard just thinking in those ways and he had to grit his teeth against the subsequent pain of it.

“You need to disrobe,” she said to him once she reached the edges of his clothing.

“No. This is enough,” he said hastily.

“You will disrobe this very instant,” she said firmly, her tone telling him she would not be moved on the matter.

Slowly he took off his shirt. When he reached for the drawstring of his breeches he hesitated.

“Go on,” she urged him. “I have seen you before.”

And she had seen him in an aroused state as well. But then she had been reluctant and shocked. Now … now she was different, so it made the experience different. He could not execute anything just yet, but the promise of it was right there, hovering close to them. It made him long for her in a way he had never longed for a woman before. But he would heal in a few hours and then he would have her, he reminded himself fiercely. He would have her.

Slowly he drew his pants from his body, the relief of having them off so profound.

“Do not do that again,” she scolded him softly. “Do not dress. I know how much it hurts you and I do not wish to see you in any more pain than you already must suffer.” He saw her glance at his aroused penis, but she made little note of it as she went about the business of dressing his wounds.

When she was done she gingerly climbed over him and settled in the bed next to him, drawing the covers around herself but not around him. She snuggled down and laid her head on her pillow.

“I am so very tired today,” she said with a yawn. “It was a busy day for me.”

“Me as well,” he said.

“What did you do today?”

“Mostly prepared to build the barracks. It is a huge undertaking.”

“I can imagine it would be. Where will you be doing it?”

“Just outside the fairgrounds. We will use the fairgrounds as training grounds, since there is no other use for it once the fair is done.”

“The fair is done as of today. It only lasts a week.”

“So I was told. All the better. The newly drafted men can focus on the task of building the barracks.”

“But where will you get the lumber?” she asked. “The Redoe …”

“There is a full row of vacant, run-down houses in the swells. Even more in other places. We will tear the houses down and reclaim the wood for the barracks.”

“Why not simply use those houses?”

“They are in a bad location, too deep into the swells and too far beyond the fortress. I want the army to stand between the city walls and the fortress. When this is over and we have access to more supplies, I will see to it a new home for the royal household is built back behind the city, in the mountain. It will be impenetrable, unlike this so-called fortress with its open bailey and not so much as a moat to stand between it and an invading force. No. You need to be behind stone walls, with a moat of pikes and water, and anything else I can think of.”

“Pikes and water?”

“An old trick I’ve used before. You dig the moat, and before it is filled with water, you bury metal pikes in the bottom of the moat in a dense amount, then fill the moat so they are covered by water. Then if anyone decides to jump into the moat to get to the walls, they will find themselves run through on a pike.”

“I see,” she said with a little shudder as she envisioned just such an act. “And what of children who think the moat will be fun to swim in?”

“That’s for their parents to warn them,” Dethan said, but reading her worried expression, he added, “If it will make you feel better, I will build a wall around the outer edges and put spikes along the top of the wall. That should discourage anyone from taking a dip and add a little extra difficulty for anyone with a nefarious intent.”

“Thank you,” she said with a smile. “That does make me feel better. But all this building of walls and moats … it feels as though it will distance us from the people. I do not want that to happen. I do not want us to sit up here in our spiked cage while the people lose touch with their rulers.”

“Then we will make certain to keep the drawbridge down and the bailey open as long as there is no immediate threat beyond the city walls. I will set up a strict guard, though, to see you and your family are protected. Just as I will see to it no one like Grannish will ever hold sway over your father again. It is time your father is rudely awakened to his blindness.”

“I know it is,” she said softly. “I wish it did not have to be a rude awakening, but all my gentle prodding has done nothing, so I see there is no other choice.”

“I am glad that you see that.”

“It is what I have wanted all along,” she assured him. “I want my father back. I want him to rule his own land instead of leaning on others.”

“I do not think that is possible,” he told her gently. “Your father leans on Grannish for a reason. He uses him as a man with a limp uses a crutch. Take the crutch away and the man cannot walk. There is something flawed within your father that makes it impossible for him to rule without a crutch. I mean to make you his new crutch. You and me. Us,” he said, meeting her eyes firmly. “Me with my strength and you with your connection to the people. Together the three of us can run this city. I have complete faith in that.”

“As do I. Even crippled we would be far better than Grannish is. He rules with an iron fist. A cruel one. He rules using fear. I mean to rule using love and kindness.”

“Yet stern, like a disciplining parent,” he injected.

“Yes. I suppose we are a little like parents and the people are our children. They need guidance and caring for.”

“Yes.” He paused a beat. “Along with the fortress, I mean to raise temples to Weysa. I must win this city in her name. I must bring the people to her faith.”

“You can do whatever you wish to do,” she said quietly. “After all, the city will be yours. We would not be worth our ruling blood if not for your strength behind us.”

“You will find your own strength,” he assured her. “And once you do …” He trailed off.

“Once I do, you will leave me,” she said.

“I have no choice,” he said fervently. “I wish it could be otherwise, but I have no choice. I must conquer in Weysa’s name. But as I do, it will bring riches to Hexis. The wealth of the other cities will be ours as well.”

“I do not care about the wealth of other cities,” she said bitterly, looking away from him.

He caught her chin in his hand and turned her face back to his. “You should care,” he told her firmly. “I have a feeling that Grannish has been robbing the coffers of this city for years. If that is true, you will be near destitute. It is part of the way he holds sway over your father, I believe. The Redoe have hurt the city’s profits for years now. You have to imagine just how badly this city is ruined financially because of it.”

“Because of him,” she said tightly. “Why can we not just kill him and be done with it?” she asked him.

“That may be the only way,” he agreed. “But if I run Grannish through before gaining your father’s trust and his promise to your hand, then all will be lost. I must play this game with your father and Grannish smartly … not with impulse. I will win you,” he promised her. “And I will protect you in the process.”

Selinda did not respond to that. She did not want him to know that he had already failed to protect her. She did not want him to know just how much danger she was in. She was afraid he might react rashly, in spite of his words of acting with methodical patience.

“Once I take care of the Redoe, then I will kill Grannish. And quickly too because once he knows he has lost you, he will act with haste and vengeance.”

“I know.”

“But this is not to be worried about right now,” he said then, rolling in bed and gathering her close to him. She could feel the incredible heat coming off him and wondered if it was because of the burns on his body. Was he burning even now? Did it never truly stop?

“Sleep, Selinda. I will wake you in a few hours.”

Selinda met the startling green of his eyes and knew, just as he knew, what that would mean.

“Do not forget. Do not let me sleep too long,” she said.

“Do not worry,” he said softly. “I won’t.”

With a sigh, Selinda closed her eyes and fell asleep.

Hours later, Dethan was looking down on her, watching her as she slept, her features soft and quiet. He touched her face, the barest of caresses, with the very tips of his fingers. She was sleeping on the scarred side of her face, so all he could see was perfection and unblemished beauty. Not that it would have mattered to him otherwise, but …

Something caught his attention. She was wearing makeup, he realized. Heavily, by the look of it. How strange. He would have thought she would have washed it off before retiring for the night. Perhaps she had simply forgotten. He smudged it with a finger.

She woke with a gasp, some kind of instinct making her strike his hand away from her. Her sleep-dazed eyes went wide and she shied away, sitting up and turning her face away.

“I-is it morning?” she asked, looking to the window. It had not even begun to grow light.

“Not quite yet,” he said sitting up. “Selinda, are you afraid of me?” he asked.

“No!” she cried, immediately turning back to him, her whole body coming toward him, her hand resting on his bare chest. Her fingertips brushed against scarring, but he could feel them just the same. The smallest touch and it did amazing things inside him. It stirred him, drew him. He had stripped away his bandages an hour ago and was well into the healing process … but he was not certain if he was healed enough that she would not be repulsed by him.

“I am still not healed,” he said, withdrawing from her before her touch made him feel too good … made it impossible for him to think clearly about what would be best for her.

“That doesn’t matter to me,” she said, catching him at his shoulder. “You are remarkably healed for so short a time … and even if you weren’t … it does not matter to me.”

She proved it to him by leaning toward him and touching her lips to his. She had never instigated a kiss before, so she was a little unsure, but that slipped away the moment their mouths meshed together.

Oh, but she was like the sweetest sugar on his tongue, he thought passionately. There was absolutely nothing sweeter in the world and he had tasted confections from many lands. But she was all the confection that was needed. There was no craving for anything else. Had he ever wanted another woman? Right then he could not even recall. He did not wish to recall.

He cradled the back of her head, her silky hair filtering through his fingers, and held her mouth to his. The sweet taste of her quickly turned erotic and he felt an instant fever in his blood. Oh, he knew, he absolutely knew, there would be a fire here to rival what he suffered every night. But unlike his suffering, this fire would bring bliss.

He let his big body crowd her smaller one, raised himself over her until she was fully beneath him, right where he had wanted her to be for what seemed like ages. Had it only been a matter of days? How can something feel so intense with so short a prelude?

He did not care. He threw himself into the feelings, pressed his naked body all along the length of hers, the silk of her dressing gown sliding against his hypersensitive skin. Was it a curse that the process he went through made him so raw to sensation, or was it a blessing?

A blessing, he thought as he felt the soft contours of her body against his. Oh, what a blessing. He broke from her mouth to tell her so but found he could not speak. He simply stared into those magnificent teal eyes, one hand pressed into the bed and the other hand in her hair, both clenching as he tried to rein in his fevered emotions. Gently, he told himself. This is her first

The thought was interrupted when he felt her hand touch his hip, caressing him over the pronounced bone, her fingertips flirting with his backside, her wrist coming into contact with the part of him that was already heavily aroused by her.

“I will not break,” she encouraged him on a soft voice. “You will not break me. I know this,” she said with an utter confidence he did not share. “You would never hurt me.”

“By the gods, I don’t know whether to think you amazing or addled,” he said fervently. Then he was back on her mouth, his bigger body pressing hers down deep into the bed. It had been so long since he’d had to care about a woman’s feelings, her sensitivities as a lover. In an army camp there were camp followers and whores to be used with perfunctory need, not with any great care for how they felt in the matter. And even so, he had rarely availed himself of such things for many reasons, not the least of which was disease and general distaste. Those women were dirty and coarse. This one was fresh and refined.

“I am going to make my way through your body, Selinda,” he promised her against her lips. “And then I believe I will do so again.”

At that, her eyes widened with surprise.

“Again?” she asked, pulling back from his mouth and blinking at him.

“Yes. Think you once will be enough for me?” he asked her, amusement and intensity sharing space in his voice. “I plan to use you well, Selinda. I insist you do the same.”

She thought about that for a moment and then she gave him a slow nod. “I think I would also like to use you well,” she said softly.

Her words made him instantly harder. The full weight of his erection pressed between their bodies, a loud pronouncement of his intentions.

Curious for some time now about this part of a man she had never seen, before she had first seen him naked, she pressed her hand low against his stomach, urging him to lift up and away from her just far enough so she could look at him. And then, with a bravery she didn’t know she had, she touched him.

“No!” he cried out, making her pull sharply away.

“I’m sorry. Did I—?”

“No. No, of course not. I just … I fear if you touch me there, it will turn me rough and desperate. I wish to be gentle with you. I need to keep control of myself to do that, and your touch … It makes it easy for me to lose control.”

“But I have to touch you,” she argued with him. “There and everywhere else. It is what will make us lovers. A sharing of such touches. Not simply me receiving yours.”

He hesitated, the war inside him all too clear. “I want to share everything with you … I just … I am a coarse man, Selinda. It takes effort for me to be soft with you. The feel of your hands on me makes the effort nearly impossible.”

“How do you know? I have hardly ever touched you.”

“I just know. Gods, just looking at you here beneath me, how lush and fine you are …”

He reached to run his hand down her chest and over the swell of her right breast, finally putting the full weight of it in his hand, feeling it through the silk of her gown. He brushed his thumb over the silk covering her nipple and she drew in a sharp little breath.

“Do you see what I mean?” he said, bending his head down to her, his breath penetrating the silk of her gown and coating her sensitive breast in heat. Then he extended his tongue and laved her directly through the fabric. The muted wetness of it was dynamic and she released a surprised little cry. Then she moaned as he took her into his mouth, his teeth biting at the silk in gentle, erotic slides.

Quickly he grew tired of the fabric barring his way, and he reached for the neck of the gown and pulled it, trying to expose her breast to him. The delicate fabric tore and she gasped as he tore it even more in his frustration. Then her chest was fully bared to him and he was on her with the full force of his passion. He took her nipple in his mouth and sucked at it until she literally felt her toes curling. Her head fell back and her chest lifted up as her spine curved with need. She fed herself to him eagerly, her hand stabbing through his hair and then gripping it tightly.

She couldn’t possibly know how much it aroused his passions to feel her doing that. It spurred him on. It was her, something about her—whenever she did something that felt like a raw invitation, he simply went mad in his effort to take up the gauntlet.

He grabbed the front of her gown with vigor then, tearing it from her body, ripping it in two straight to the hem, making her utterly naked before him. He knew very well it meant sending her to her rooms stark bloody naked under her cloak, but he could not help himself. Nor did he want to. It was this heedless feeling he had been trying so hard to get her to be wary of. But now it was out. Unleashed like a wild beast, and he could not help her any longer.

He devoured her … her breasts, her nipples, her mouth, her neck. Anything he thought of he covered with open-mouthed kisses and the laving of his tongue and the scraping of his teeth. He bit at her nipple before he could stop himself and was surprised to hear her cry out … and then moan with pleasure. Then her hands were both in his hair and pulling him to where he must be in order to repeat the process on her opposite breast.

His body was hard with distended muscles, but his skin was soft under the frantic touch of her hands. Selinda knew he had asked her not to touch him, but she could not help herself and must defy him. She drew her hands out of his hair and down his neck. She felt the flexed strength of his muscles at the base of his neck and then the rounded, rock-hard power of his shoulders. Skin, both soft and scarred, ran beneath her hungry fingertips. Each patch of it was different, but each was warm and covering the undeniable power of a very strong man.

Her hands moved to his back and he made a low, pleasured sound as she touched him, his body rocking forward, his erection pressing into her now naked skin. He was hot all over, but there … there he was burning like a fiercely hot forged metal. Or so it seemed. She wondered then if, when he put himself inside her, she would be burned to ashes. It certainly felt as though that were possible. He was fire itself. He owned it. Held it to himself like a lover. Burned her with it. Every touch of his body, every stroke of his tongue.

And now that tongue was running down her belly, below her navel, coming so close to—

“Wait! W-what are you doing?” she demanded of him, her hands rushing to stay him. He looked up at her through his lashes, a devilish sort of smile toying with his sculpted lips.

“I am making love to you, Selinda. Every way I know how.”

“But you cannot mean to … to kiss me there.”

“I mean to kiss you and more,” he told her intensely. “Now hush and let me love you.”

She lay there tense and resisting, afraid of what she did not understand, but he pressed on in spite of her, his mouth drawing hot streaks down her belly and then beyond her pubis. He worked his shoulders between her thighs, spreading her open wide for his mouth. When his tongue first touched her, she squirmed under the sensation of it, still determined to resist the strangeness of it.

But after a moment her resistance cracked, when she began to feel the dance of his tongue, sure and hot, against her most private of places. After another moment she felt a frisson of pleasure wend through her tense body. And then that frisson multiplied once, then again, until she was lying under the onslaught of a wave of pleasure. Her body melted in his grasp and against the play of his tongue.

Dethan was thoroughly aware of the fact that her body was not experienced in taking pleasure this way. In any way, really. Everything was brand-new to her. So it was up to him to build a roadway for her to follow. To wake her body to this kind of indulgence.

His fingers drifted over her as he momentarily lifted his mouth away. She made a little mewl of disappointment. Untried she may be, but she had such a passionate nature. She may not know exactly what she wanted, but she knew she wanted it.

And he gave it to her, finding her entrance with the touch of his fingers, breaching her tight body for the first time.

She was wet. So very wet. And the readiness of her body had a twofold effect. One, it made it easier for him to slide his finger inside her. Two, it drove him utterly, wildly mad. His desire for her seemed to magnify exponentially. He ached to breach her body in the most intimate of ways. He wanted to know what it would feel like to work himself inside her, feeling all the wet tightness every step of the way.

His fist clenched atop her breast, but then he forced himself to open his hand, to stroke over her breast gently, to pull her nipple in synchrony with the stroke of his tongue across her clitoris.

Her hips lurched upward, the onslaught of pleasure almost too much for her to bear. Selinda didn’t know what to think … what to do … how to breathe! Her body simply lost all regular function as it focused on the pleasure of his touch inside her body and his mouth outside it.

It was such a crescendo of building pleasure and she let herself fall into the music of it. She sang out with it, harmonizing with it, the unique song completing her in a way she had never conceived of.

Her body suddenly replete, she exhaled in a burst of breath, everything relaxing. He withdrew from her then, moving his body up along her, his mouth seizing hers. With wonder, she realized it was herself she could taste on his lips. She would never have thought something like that could give her satisfying pleasure, but it did.

He invaded her thighs with his hips, holding the hard heat of himself against her as she panted for breath and tasted his tongue. He too was drawing hard for breath, and his big body was tight with strength and tension.

“I must have you, Selinda. My little juquil. You sing so prettily … and I must hear it again.”

He reached to grip himself in his own hand, forcing himself to wait, trying to squeeze patience into himself. But it was no use. He wanted her much too badly to force any semblance of logic or thoughtfulness onto himself. It almost made him pull away from her entirely. He could, should, wait for another time. Should wait until he could exercise more control.

But he realized that time would never come. He realized this wasn’t just about him not having had a woman for hundreds of turnings. It was about Selinda. The woman herself. Sweet to the touch and sweeter to the taste, she was incredible. Undeserving of a beast like him. But beast that he was, he did not have it in him to pull away from her.

“Please,” she whispered then, her hands coming to frame his hips, her legs falling wide open. She dug her nails into his buttocks and urged him forward. Unable to resist so perfect a lure, he set the head of his erection at the crucial entrance to her body. He pushed forward and had to grit his teeth because it felt so amazing to breach her like this, the warmth of her pressing over and around him, the tightness of her beyond anything he could have imagined. It didn’t take long for him to lose control over himself, to go from gently making his way into her to pushing harder through impossibly tight muscles. He needed to be inside her … completely inside her. To have her wrapped around him with perfect heat and tightness. He got his wish quicker than he should have, but thankfully she gave way to him easily. If she felt pain, she didn’t reflect it to him, didn’t let him see it. Perhaps that was why he felt no compunction about thrusting fully into her. He filled her until their lower bodies connected perfectly. And then he stopped, took stock, simply enjoyed the feel of her. He looked down into her face and saw a gamut of emotions and thoughts there. Wonder. Curiosity. A little fear, he knew, as she understood the gravity of the action they were taking. There was certainly no turning back from this now. And for a moment he feared she regretted it.

“Are you …?” He couldn’t ask. What if she wasn’t all right? What if she wanted him to pull away and leave her be? He didn’t know if he would be able to do such a thing. Not now. Not after he had finally claimed her.

“I’m fine,” she said on the softest breath. “Please, don’t stop. I want this. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want this,” she assured him.

“Good,” he said fiercely, “because I want this too and I am not going to let you leave me until I am ready to let you go.”

After that the entire tenor of the encounter changed. He no longer held back, no longer worried about her delicate nature. He remembered she was stronger than that, and she was proving to be even stronger than he was right then. She had made up her mind and was completely invested in it. It caused a level of excitement to wash over him that he had never felt before. Actually, she was responsible for a lot of things he had never felt before.

He withdrew from her, almost completely, his hand moving down to where their bodies had been joined, slipping between the most intimate folds of her body and touching her as he returned to her. He did this for several strokes until she was moaning … then several more until she was crying out in lusty passion. It didn’t take long for her to reach orgasm and he gritted his teeth as she came around him almost violently, her body clamping down tightly around him.

“Gods, you were made for passion,” he swore to her. “I’ve never seen a woman so unused to it take to it so easily.”

“You’ve had many virgins, then?” she asked, a twinkle in her eyes.

“I’ve had my share,” he said, putting both hands in her hair, resting his weight on his elbows, and looking down into her eyes. “But none like you.”

Selinda wondered if he was just saying that to make her happy. Then it didn’t matter to her because he was moving inside her again. She was floored. “You mean there’s more?” she asked dumbly.

“Yes, little juquil,” he said with a chuckle, “there’s more.”

And just like that, the tempo changed. He began to thrust increasingly harder, increasingly faster. “By all the gods …” he hissed, “it’s more than a man can stand.”

She didn’t know why, but the comment pleased her no end. Now this, she thought, she believed. There was something frenetic about what he was doing to her just then. He reached back with one arm, hooking her leg into his elbow and drawing it up nearly to her chest. Muscles unused to flexing like that twinged, but not enough to make her want to stop. She would get used to it, she told herself. Because she would do this thing as often as possible with him. She had never felt anything like it. It was by far the most joy in one span of time she could ever remember feeling in her whole lifetime. Oh, she’d had a happy enough childhood, but her adulthood, starting with the deaths of her mother and then her brothers, had been overshadowing that. Now here was something new and wonderful, a desperately needed bright spot in a life fully in the dark.

She threw herself into the moment, lifting herself to meet him as best she could from her position, working hard to please him as he had pleased her. She didn’t know much about any of this, but she did know he hadn’t come close to feeling those brilliant moments of pleasure that he had made her feel … and it was very necessary that he do so. At least it was to her mind. She wanted to do anything she could to make him happy. She desperately wanted to make him happy.

In the end she didn’t have to work that hard or that long at it. He devolved into short, hurried, slamming thrusts, sweat shining on his skin, his breathing ragged. He released a mighty groan, thrust into her hard and gritted his teeth through the savagery of his orgasm. He held himself to her, everything seemingly suspended, and then suddenly he released, collapsing on her, gasping for breath.

On a growl he said, “Gods, that felt good!” More good than a man like him deserved, he thought heatedly as his pleasure-saturated body grew more and more lax. He rolled away from her, not wanting to crush her under the weight of his heavy body. But no sooner had he done so than he was ringing an arm around her and hauling her up and over, using her like a blanket to cover his sated body. She was warm and sleek and beautiful with her tousled hair falling all about her pretty face. Sex looked very good on her.

“Oh no! Look at the sky!” she gasped suddenly. And just like that she was off him and on her feet, her hair flying. He watched her naked body move as she scrambled for her cloak and covered herself with it. “Hanit said the boy who watches your rooms would be back at first light. I must go before he returns.”

He knew it was true, that it was dangerous for her to linger, but he was loath to let her go. He moved out of the bed and came up to her, drawing her slowly into his arms, bending her back as he caught her tense mouth against his. He kissed her until she relaxed, until she melted into his arms. Then finally he lifted his head and gazed down at her wet mouth and dazed eyes.

“I had to do that. I needed it to take me through the day. Now, let me make sure the boy isn’t there and then you can go.”

He reached for his pants, pulling them on quickly. She watched as he left the room and then waited with hurried breaths for his return. If Grannish were to find out …

He came back shortly. “The way is clear. Hurry, now,” he said, knowing as well as she did what it would mean if they were caught. She jumped up to give him a fleeting kiss, then ran from the room, naked save for her cloak. Luckily she did not have far to travel and the household was still asleep. In the future he would remember to be kinder to her clothing … provided she didn’t look so damn good in them.

Gods, he thought heatedly, what kind of trouble had he found?

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Next: Chapter Nineteen