Avenari - Chapter 26
Despite the labyrinthine passages, we knew our way back fairly well at this point. Nick left me at my door, claiming that the Elementals had given him some tasks to practice before nightfall. Apparently, if he couldn’t do them, they would make him perform something embarrassing and ridiculous, though he refused to elaborate further.
I just laughed. “You have fun, then. I’ll talk Andris into being nicer to you, okay?”
“Er, yeah. Just don’t...you know, make me sound pathetic.” He gave a sheepish grin and quickly made himself scarce. What on earth were the Elementals planning for the poor boy? It was looking more and more like a fraternity initiation.
Sighing, I decided to wait until nightfall and ask them myself, and entered my room.
As I closed the door behind me, I noticed that Andris wasn’t in the bed. Before I could even try to come up with a possible reason, something yanked me to the side and I found myself pinned to the wall by a feverishly warm body
I yelped in surprise, looking up into eyes so deep and beautiful that I couldn’t remember what someone had told me to do with that one thing and...just...wow.
“No more waiting,” my demon whispered, frowning hard at me and holding my shoulders tightly. His hair was tousled and his lips were mere inches away, pouting just enough to make my blood stir. The wild look in his gaze alone was enough to disarm me completely.
I stared for a long moment, taking in his every detail. I wanted him, to make him happy, to let him make me happy.
Slowly, I rose on tiptoe and placed a gentle kiss on his hot, silken lips, whispering almost inaudibly, “I wish my body wanted you as much as my heart does, as much as you want me.”
There was no pause this time. The amulet drew in the sunlight that filtered through the window, and I could feel it grow warm against my skin. Then brighter than any star in the sky, brighter than the noonday rays of a summer sun, the ruby flashed, nearly blinding me with intense white light before fading away to a delicate, rosy glow.
Just as Andris opened his mouth to ask if it had worked, my heart shuddered and my legs gave out from beneath me as the earth dropped away. He caught me when I fell, frantically asking if I was okay, apologizing for making me do this, telling me to cancel the wish...
Unable to speak, I shook my head with some effort, calming him with my thoughts.
That was all I could manage. He knelt at my side, holding me against his bare skin as all strength left me. My senses vanished into smoke as the magic forced its way into my blood.
Then everything reconnected, and suddenly I could feel.
It was like warm silk melting across my skin, seeping into my cold flesh, spreading sensation as powerful as an electrical shock, yet gentle as the brush of a feather. Nothing in my life had ever felt quite like this. It was desperate and profound, more powerful than my thirst had ever been. Within my mind, yet another voice appeared. It was too faint to be heard as well as my blood, but demanding enough not to be ignored.
“Andris,” I whispered hoarsely. My body ached wherever he touched. I had forgotten what it was like to want someone. How could I have forgotten something so amazing?
He bent down, level with my gaze, and I could almost see lavender shadows floating behind the crystal darkness. “What’s going on?” There was real fear in his voice.
Only one response seemed appropriate. I gripped his hair and pulled him to me, and when our lips met, something stirred in my belly, something I had been sure was dead. It was the most exquisite pain, an urge I hadn’t felt for so long.
“Lynn?” he breathed in surprise when he found the opportunity to speak.
“Please, Andris, please now,” I said, snatching him back and refusing to let go.
In an instant, he understood and was more than willing to obey. He gathered me into his arms and carried me to bed, refusing to give up my lips as he joined me on the silk sheets and slid the shirt up my body.
Sighing, I let him go for a split second to remove the inhibiting cloth and toss it away, before dragging him back down with me. His hands wandered across my skin, softer than the silk around us, gentle and insistent despite their infinite strength as he unhooked my bra and gently slid the straps off. He held my waist firmly and left my lips to kiss along my throat and shoulder, then wandered to my breast and made me moan. He caught the peak between his teeth, sending a shock down my spine that bowed my back.
It was like I had never been touched, never felt this wondrous sensation before.
As if in response to my noises, he kept his mouth at my breast and slid his hands to my hips to nimbly undo my jeans, sliding them off in one swift motion. He was already hard against my thigh, a lovely gem, like a pearl flushed with the faintest pink glow, giving off more heat than the rest of his skin and pulsing with his remarkable heartbeat.
So close...what I wanted was so close. My heart was in my teeth, throbbing through my head and sending shudders through parts of me that hadn’t felt anything since my mortal years. His naked skin was a dream against my own, as though spider silk and white rose petals had come together to form a living, sentient being. The sheer red cloth surrounding the bed stole the sun from the open window and cast him in rosy light. It was the sweetest pleasure ever devised—a treat for all senses.
“Lynn?” His voice was softer than air as he captured my wrists to pin them over my head. His hips glided between my thighs as though they belonged there. “Are you sure?”
I shook my head, trying to ignore my heart’s frantic beats. “Please.” Even his sweet scent made my thoughts numb. I’d never been so aware of a man’s presence before. It cramped my belly, made me gasp for air I didn’t need. I loved him so much, and he was so beautiful, and I wanted him as if he were my first taste of blood after a thousand years of fasting. I was completely lost, ruled by this new and desperate hunger.
Andris released my hands to slide his fingers up my ribs and pull me higher against a pile of pillows, and I was utterly helpless to his hungry, covetous kisses. He chuckled at the sounds that escaped me, baring dagger-like fangs as the shadows in his gaze deepened to something more primal. It was easy to forget that he came from a time when humans were just like the animals, but that look in his eyes was enough to make me remember.
I liked it. It made my skin hot—made my insides burn with a need so different from the thirst, so different in its ability to crush my free will. This was the basest of human instincts, the instinct to share flesh, but I had almost forgotten it completely. As a Shima, I had lost the most sensual aspect of my being, yet with one wish it had flooded back as if it had always been there, waiting for this day to come.
“Make love to me,” I whispered, wrapping my arms around him, drawing him closer.
“I’ve waited seven and a half millennia to hear you say those words,” he breathed.
Taking gentle hold of my hips, he moved forward and slid himself slowly inside, pressing deep and forcing a desperate gasp out of me when a sudden jolt of pain radiated through my belly. It made my skin tighten and my muscles tense to watch him disappear within me.
He was my demon, the love I had fought to reject, only to be crushed under its limitless weight. Like a lightning strike he had burst into my life, destroying my cage and letting me out to take those first hesitant steps into the vast expanse that was the world.
We looked at each other and he froze, his breath hitching in his throat as he realized what he had finally accomplished, and I squirmed slightly beneath him, sated and hungry all at once. When I moved, he gasped, his hips instinctively pressing him deeper into me, and I watched in heady fascination a he struggled to maintain composure.
But after a brief effort, Andris crumbled and bowed his head, burying his face against my throat and moaning breathlessly, “Qálnera sai. Sai tire qeo, si Halea.” I could feel him trembling as he gripped my back and took in the scent of my hair.
He was speaking Shimari—beautiful, flowing words like air and water.
He rolled his hips, forcing a wonderful shudder through my spine that made me gasp.
“What did you say?” I breathed.
He chuckled, meeting my lips halfway and kissing me sweetly, before drawing back and replying in a sheepish whisper, “I said, ‘I love you. You possess me, sweet Princess.’”
I returned the smile, brushing my nose and lips against his forehead. “I love you, too.”
Everything before had been nothing compared to this. It was the difference between cold and hot, ice and fire. Nothing in this world or the next could have felt more perfect, so perfect that I completely forgot about the blood and the thirst—forgot that I wasn’t human anymore. I forgot about everything except the sensation of his burning heat, of sharing this perfection.
“Ah, Lydian...” He kissed me again.
I moaned softly, my body rising to meet him, taking him in as deeply as he could go. His hips pressed firmly to mine as he met my limit, and I marveled at how hard I tried to hold him there, shuddering when he stretched me tight and glided smoothly through. I’d never made love like this before, with my heart pounding so desperately in my chest, but even Andris seemed almost overwhelmed. My demon’s lids lowered as he bent to my lips, whispering my real name. He was trying so hard not to lose himself, but I didn’t want him to hold back.
“I love that look on your face,” I breathed, tilting my head back and kissing him softly. “I get the feeling that it isn’t very often that a person can see you helpless.”
He pressed his forehead to mine and smiled. “Only you have that privilege, Lydian.”
I gasped when my insides tensed in pleasure and craned my neck to reach his lips again. “If you make me wait any longer, I’ll never forgive you.”
He gave me a dark, crafty smile, and without giving me a chance to brace myself he rolled us suddenly, pulling me on top. I cried out when he settled deeper, unfamiliar with the position, and groaned softly against his neck. My lids fluttered and my hands slid eagerly up his smooth, solid muscles as he helped me move over him. They were like shadows beneath the pale water of his skin. I could spend hours just touching him, memorizing his shape.
He kissed me again, long and deep, and drank my cries. With him inside of me, and with his tongue sliding between my teeth to taste me, my self-control was like so much mist.
I bit his tongue and took his blood, whispering in his mind, Andris, please.
Then scream for me, he replied. In one swift stroke, he shoved inside, filling me to the edge of madness, tearing a breathless cry from my lungs when he rolled us again and left my lips to bury his fangs deep into my throat.
There were stars in my eyes, winking in and out of existence as he took my blood. I stared through carmine tears at the scarlet canopy above, floating in an ocean of red, too overwhelmed to do anything more than whisper his name. My body, which had been so cold only minutes earlier, stole his heat and began sweating drops of blood. It was sheer insanity to feel so human again, to know a touch of fear at how completely he could possess every fiber of my being, to know that I would rather die than let him stop.
I loved him. I loved him so much that it hurt my heart to imagine a world without him. And now, making love with him, I felt complete. Andris was everything, now. The one who had ruined my mortal life had become the highlight of my existence, shining brighter than the sun and equally capable of destroying me.
“I love you, Andris,” I breathed again, clinging to him and gasping with each thrust as he took me closer and closer to that glittering abyss.
Precious Lydian, he murmured, biting harder.
Cold fire swept across my skin like a shockwave, and I instinctively turned to sink my teeth into his throat, closing the circuit and freezing against him as our blood flowed together.
We remade our bond while we made love—for an eternity, it seemed, until at last my body outran the blood, sending a shudder through me, forcing me away from his throat to moan shrilly against his satin hair as I lost my grip on reality.
He wouldn’t stop. He just wouldn’t stop, and so I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t let my heart rest for a moment, couldn’t hold my cries in, until he suddenly broke away and gasped, pushing one last time and holding himself there as we brought each other.
Glorious heat like the core of the earth spilled into me, spreading its warmth through my body. I unhinged, clutching him tightly and riding out the amazing cascade of sensation. He dropped his forehead to my shoulder and gripped my waist, groaning my name.
His breathing grew shallow, and eventually he was spent, but after a moment’s rest he pushed himself up and leaned over me, staring silently into my eyes.
With more affection than I could have expected, Andris caressed his hand down my hip to hold my thigh, raising it up and kissing it reverently, trailing his lips up my skin as he gently slid my leg back to the bed and drew out. I squirmed in pleasure, moaning, and he dipped his head down, nipping my inner thigh and licking up the ruby drops.
Then he turned to more delicate flesh.
I thought my head would burst when he pressed his hot mouth to such a cool, sensitive place, kissing me as though kissing my lips, licking deep and spreading my thighs wide as he stared up my body to watch my gasping reaction. His tongue slid far inside, curling up to stroke that one special spot—and faster than I could ever have imagined, he brought me again with a shrill cry. My hand reached out instinctively for his hair, gripping tight and seizing with the rest of my body when he delved deeper.
Before I had a chance to catch my breath, there was a sharp pinch, and his fangs slipped though like surgical scalpels, painless but noticeable as he stole the air from my lungs. I loved it; loved the strength in his hands as he pinned me down, loved the silky brush of his hair between my legs, his hot, sweet breath warming my skin.
He truly possessed me, like my own guardian demon.
“It’s all blood,” he sighed, licking the red from his lips when he finally let me go. “Blood, and something more human, but mostly just your blood.”
I gawked at him, flushed and panting, but his response was a boyish smile. He was thoroughly pleased with his work.
“You’re bad,” I said, wearing a mock-chastising frown and struggling not to sound like I’d just run a marathon.
“Possibly the worst of them all,” he chuckled, bending back down and kissing my belly. “But you accept my wicked ways, so I’m going to reward you for the rest of our lives.” He murmured something against my skin, but again I didn’t understand the language, and I shivered like the last leaf clinging to autumn when his kisses brushed between my breasts, past my collar, up my throat, and finally to my lips. He tasted like our mixed blood, like the essence of the bond which tied us together with taut, fragile strings around our hearts.
I returned the kiss, too overwhelmed to speak, but perfectly capable of letting him know through my touch that I wanted him.
I love you, Lynn, my Princess, my precious love, my one and only Lydian...
His arms twined around me, holding me tightly against him as he devoured me and whispered sweet, silent words of adoration.
I let him crush me gently into the mattress and melted against his skin.
I sighed, sliding my hands around his chest. You’re amazing.
His silent chuckle was for my mind alone. You flatter me, cara mea.
Don’t make fun of me for enjoying that, I argued weakly. Sweet sanity, I had no idea sex could be this good.
He reached up and caressed his fingertips along my jaw, bending to lick the blood sweat from the hollow of my throat. His tongue was like a spark of heat leaving a trail across my skin. Are you tired?
Curious, I pushed him back to see his face. “Why do you ask?”
He brought his lips to my ear, grinning darkly. “I want to make love to you again and again and again, until you can’t move a muscle, until your voice gives out from screaming my name,” he whispered, the hunger in his words sending a shiver of pleasure down my spine.
“As many times as you want,” I breathed.
* o * o *
Andris and I made love many times by nightfall, slowly and passionately and desperately. It was magical how tightly he held my heart in his hand, how easily he could bring me to ecstasy. Nothing in the world could have felt so wonderful. I wanted him so badly that no matter how many times he gave himself to me, I wanted more. He was turning me into a desperate animal. We even made love as the sun set, which he seemed to enjoy the most. He held me so carefully, as though I was the only person in the world at that moment. It was truly sublime.
By the time I called time out and collapsed in an exhausted heap beside him, his smile had become something radiant and feral. It made me happy and sent ecstatic shivers through me all at once.
“I’m spoiling you,” I panted, grinning as I reached out and tousled his hair. Everything around us had taken on a soft, golden glow in the final rays of the drowsy sun. The trees around Ivanarke blocked most of the light, and darkness was falling quickly now that the massive fireball had sunk below the horizon.
He chuckled. “I never thought it would be so easy to capture you. I’d assumed that you would never feel anything for me.” He piled some pillows against the headboard and drew me against his chest, shielding me from a faint, chilly breeze coming in through the open window. Already, I could see stars peeking through the shrouded heavens.
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t nitpick. It’s bad form when you’re getting everything you want.”
“But you’re the only person I can be myself around,” he said, hooking his arm around my neck and tucking me more tightly into his embrace. He kissed my temple and sighed. “It’s nice, having this freedom. Before you came into my life, I was alone in every sense of the word.”
Frowning, I brushed my lips against cheek. “In that case, you can whine all you want. Whine until my ears bleed.”
“Maybe I’d more rather hear you say my name a few more times,” he chuckled, sliding a skilled hand down my belly and dipping a finger in to test the waters.
A wave of sensation snapped through my flesh like a bolt of lightning. “Ah! No more!” I grabbed his wrist in an attempt to maintain composure despite my spine’s immediate arch to accommodate him. “Let me rest a little, you insatiable demon!”
“But I have this overwhelming urge to take you again,” he crooned in my ear, his voice silkier than ever and ten times more seductive than any normal person’s voice could have dreamed of becoming.
“Andris, please, I can’t have you stealing my dignity every waking moment.” That was a lie. My dignity wasn’t even a concern, but I was exhausted. I desperately needed a break or I really would pass out. I was practically human again, though human lovemaking had never been so exhilarating and passionate. Andris, on the other hand, was a machine. I’d always thought that men couldn’t keep up that kind of pace for so long, but apparently I had been sadly mistaken. My demon was breaking all of the rules.
He sighed dramatically, and after a long moment his arm relaxed and slid around my waist instead. “I suppose it would be foolish to anger my Princess so early in the relationship. I should just be grateful that you’re mine, correct?”
He smiled sweetly and curled himself around me with his chin on my shoulder. “Just holding you is like breathing for the first time,” he whispered, burying his face against my hair and taking a deep breath.
“About an hour ago we tried it this way, too, so it’s kind of hard to believe that your motivations are really that innocent,” I muttered, eying the arms tucked under my breasts with utmost suspicion. “You’ve got a real kinky streak, you know that?”
“You didn’t seem to mind. I went a little wild because you wanted me to.”
“Still, have some consideration. I’m not a contortionist.”
“No, but close.” He leaned over my shoulder and grinned at me, baring wicked fangs as his eyes glittered like emeralds from behind the fall of ebony hair. “Want to test your limits?”
“What I want is a bath. I don’t mind the fact that that is blood like everything else, but your blood is messy. It doesn’t dry up properly. You could have held back.” I wiggled a little, uncomfortable with the stickiness. I was used to blood just flaking off.
“No...no I couldn’t have. I’ve been holding it in for centuries upon centuries already. It was about time I got it all out of my system.” He held me more tightly, pressing his heartbeat against my back as we cuddled. His phenomenal pulse resonated through my core. “You have no idea what this means to me. It really is like learning to breathe.”
“Fine, but vulun-ris makes me dizzy,” I said, giving up and sinking into his embrace. His scent was like a drug sucking me into the depths of addiction and making even the simplest thoughts a chore. It was an opium dream, minus the opium and the dream—no, this was the blinding reality of having Andris as my blood partner. He was inside of me in every imaginable way when we made love. He flowed within my veins.
“Do you want to sleep?” he asked quietly against my neck, his breath soft and warm. “I can’t, but I still think it’s customary to fall asleep in your lover’s arms, don’t you?”
Vaguely, I shook my head. “No, just hold me like this.” I’d had enough horrifying dreams for a lifetime—I didn’t need another one ruining this sweet afterglow.
He fell quiet for a few minutes, and I could feel his thoughts moving around like echoes within my mind until he finally said, “I want so badly to behave, but you feel so tiny in my arms. Your scent...the taste of your skin...the peculiar fact that the only warm part of your body is buried so deep within you that I can only touch it if we’re making love—it all makes me feel so protective, yet I enjoy hearing you scream.”
“That’s called male ego. Lately, you seem to have that in excess.”
“Well, I am the only properly functioning male immortal in this dimensional plane, so I have a right to my ego. Besides, your ego is just as enormous.” His sweet, innocent smile was well crafted, but I knew too well that nothing about him was innocent. No, once he had me in his sights there was nothing I could do to stop him from pinning me down and making me want him. Andris was the most seductive thing I’d ever seen. The guy needed a warning label or something—Danger: Seduces on Contact or Caution: Sucks Free Will at Will.
“No,” I said simply.
He blinked. “What?”
“No, we’re not going to spend the whole night here; and no, I’m not going to abandon my mission just so you can have more happy-time. I understand that this is a big deal, and you have no idea how happy it makes me to know that I’m making you happy, but there are still important matters to attend to, and I don’t have time to play all day and night.”
Clearly, I had hit the mark. With a heavy sigh, he slouched against me and muttered, “I hope you’re not going to deprive me forever now that you know my weakness.”
“No, but I have priorities to keep straight. You’re just tagging along for the ride, you insatiable demon.”
Chuckling, he leaned to my throat and licked a hot, thin line from my collar to my jaw, forcing me to shudder and lean into him involuntarily. “You’re rather insatiable yourself,” he teased, kissing my temple once he was satisfied.
“Oh, yeah?” I reached between us and took him in my hand, giving a squeeze and smiling when he gasped and lost contact with reality for a brief moment. He immediately grew hard. “You, my love, are in a state of constant arousal, I’ve noticed. The smallest thing turns you on.” I let go and his muscles relaxed all at once.
He shot me a disgruntled frown. “Princess, that’s unfair. My sense of touch is like a live wire. Everything I feel, I feel more strongly than I ever did as a mortal.”
“Is that why you always wear silk?” I asked, curious.
He pouted a little, automatically on the defensive. “Most material itches,” he grumbled under his breath.
“So you’re not the chic prince you appear to be. You’re just oversensitive.”
“You make me sound so pathetic.” His emeralds rippled into rubies for an instant before returning full force. “I’m not oversensitive—I’m hypersensitive. At least use the right terminology.”
“My apologies, demon.” I brought a finger up to trace his satin lips, lost in the forest behind his eyes. Though his daytime scheme was stunning, I preferred seeing his nighttime colors. “I wasn’t a virgin, but you make me feel like one—the good kind, not the awkward, ‘I have no idea what the hell is going on’ kind.”
“At least I can say I took your Shimari virginity,” he chuckled, nosing under my hand and licking my wrist like a contented kitten. “You’re the first woman I’ve ever shared a bed with who didn’t make the first move. It’s almost strange that I was the one chasing you. Your stubbornness is astronomical.”
“It’s a defining trait,” I replied smugly, ignoring the twinge of annoyance at the thought of anyone else touching him like this. “I’m not that shallow.”
He frowned a little, searching my eyes. “In that case, why did you give in?”
“You talk as though you have no virtues other than your good looks,” I said in disappointment. “I didn’t give in because you’re pretty; I gave in because you’re sincere and remarkably persuasive. This may be the first time I’ve lost such a major argument.” The thought irritated me, just a bit. But in this case a loss had led to a decisive victory. For the price of a fraction of my pride, I’d gained a friend, lover, blood partner, and an absurdly powerful ally—all in one. I had conquered the terra incognita of Andris, the most intimidating force in my world.
Take that, Alexander.
“Don’t call me ‘pretty’—it’s embarrassing,” he sighed. He stared at the pillow for a little bit, his thoughts ebbing and flowing like a warm tide in my head.
“Oh, I’m sorry—I meant gorgeous and irresistible,” I said, poking his cheek.
He laughed, and his muscles rippled like warm water beneath me. “So how did it go with Yoko? I apologize for accosting you at the door, but I really was at my limit.” Happier than I’d ever seen him, he clasped his hands behind his neck and sat back.
“Forgiven,” I sighed, the recollection of what Yoko had told me dampening my mood substantially. “I brought some papers, but I dropped them when you dragged me into the bed.”
“Again, my apologies.” He didn’t look sorry at all. No surprise there, really.
“Right. Anyway, Simone contacted her and emailed scans of an old file he had. This thing apparently explains exactly how to go about making the last amulet, but first the bloodline’s guardian spirit has to contact me, and then there’s the whole curse thing, and the morphing into other people thing, and...well, it’s kind of crazy.”
He stared at me briefly, his expression inscrutable. “Morphing, you say? That sounds an awful lot like the girl who was sometimes a cat. So the amulet did it? It wasn’t just some spell?”
“I suppose. I’m still fuzzy on the specifics.” I shrugged.
“Interesting…and the curse? What curse?” That part seemed to catch most of his attention, not surprisingly.
I held up a finger. “First, you have to promise not to throw a hissy fit.”
His eyes narrowed to scarlet slits. “Lydian, you know you can trust me.”
“Quit whining. Anyway, Yoko believes there’s a good chance that the bloodline was cursed by one of the links. She also hinted that your little semi-proverbial witch hunt might have been at least partially the result of this curse, since you started taking out my family within a few months of its supposed inception.”
“I beg your pardon, Princess, but I’m almost positive that I wasn’t manipulated by outside forces when I started...that.” He cringed a little at the reminder. “There were other factors involved, not just your family. They weren’t the real problem—it was their choice of allies.”
I didn’t bother to hide my skepticism. “Yeah, yeah, we all know how proud you are, but still, it’s compelling. Anyway, the reason why I want to make the amulet quickly is because I’ll gain all the powers of the previous amulets, including the transformation thing—morphing—whatever. Yoko thinks that the curse won’t recognize me if I’m someone else.”
“And who do you plan to be, if not yourself?” Andris demanded, more disturbed than ever. “I don’t like it.”
“Bah. I’ll still be me...or maybe you.” I grinned suddenly, and his eyes paled in horror.
“Lynn, don’t make jokes like that! Awkward is one thing, but if you become someone else—especially someone who looks like my reflection—ye gods, that would be traumatic.”
I rolled my eyes and patted his chest. “Calm down, demon. I’ll try not to traumatize you, though the thought makes me laugh, as cruel as that sounds.”
“Cruel, indeed! It’s not funny in the least!”
“Okay, fine, I’ll spare your sanity, but I wouldn’t mind hanging around as a housecat or a puppy or something. You can still cuddle me as a kitten.” The idea was actually very attractive, lazing around in his lap and sleeping while he petted my fur.
Okay, it was weird, but I still wondered what it would be like.
“Or maybe the curse is all a massive coincidence and you won’t have to alienate me.”
“Aww, but I love you!” Pouting, I threw my arms around his neck, nuzzling his cheek in playful apology. “Forgive my cruelty, demon.”
He frowned at me from his peripheral then broke down, capturing me in his embrace and stealing a lingering kiss. Abuse me all you want—I’m still not giving you up.
That’s my demon, I sighed. Have confidence. You’re secure in your conquest. Just let me have my freedom, and you’ll have everything you want.
You misunderstand, Princess. I don’t want you to be free. Honestly, nothing excites me more than the thought of chaining you to one spot and stealing you from the world. My life has always been devoid of love, but now I have you, and it’s made me impossibly greedy. I know it sounds terrible, but I want to be the only thing you need to live, the way you are for me.
I smiled a little. You are and you aren’t, Andris. I’d die without you, but I can’t live without a life, ergo I would be dead anyway.
He paused and drew back, giving me a look. “Sorry, but none of that made any sense.”
“That’s okay. Basically, let me think I’m free, and I’ll chain myself to you forever.” Smirking, I pulled him back to my lips and whispered sweetly, “Let’s make love again, demon.”
“I was just getting to that,” he said with a laugh.
Grinning, I knelt above him, and he pulled my hips closer, trailing kisses up my skin as I ran my fingers through his hair to push it out of his eyes. “Really, Andris, you’re more important than anything to me right now. There’s no need for you to be so absurdly paranoid.” However, my expression softened when he looked up at me with that raw, unbidden adoration in his fathomless emerald gaze. It was crippling. “I just want to make you happy,” I whispered.
“Your happiness makes me happy. Come here, cara mea.” He gripped my waist and gently drew me down.
“My sweet demon,” I breathed, before moaning softly and scratching my nails down his shoulders as he slipped inside of me.
He had a habit of staring at me as we made love, which was both exciting and embarrassing. I felt like I was drowning in his mercilessly tender gaze. My hands acted on their own to gently caress his face, and I moaned he helped nudge us closer to ecstasy.
The feel of his powder-soft skin sliding against my breasts, the impossible strength of his muscles as he embraced me, the feather-light brush of his ebony hair against my cheek, the hunger in his lips—it was a deadly combination. Before I knew it, I had to break away, crying out his name as the climax struck me like a hit-and-run.
Without giving me a chance to breathe, Andris lifted me again and brought me back down, driving deep to pour inside and shudder against me. He groaned, holding me tightly, and when my back bowed in pleasure, his fangs sank into my breast.
I gasped, digging my nails into his shoulders and seeing more twinkling stars. His tongue drew me into his mouth and sent near-painful shocks of pleasure through me. My hips moved against him, desperate to make it last. It was like dying and being born again in a crimson dream.
And then, suddenly and with no warning whatsoever, there was a disturbing click from the vicinity of the door.
Startled, I jerked upright despite the tight spasms in my belly, and Andris growled as he turned to look over his shoulder, sliding his arms possessively around my waist to pin me against his chest. There was nowhere to run, no possibility that I could pry myself out of his embrace.
Quelos stood framed in the doorway.
The latter gaped in shock and horror, as though his eyes were bleeding, yet he couldn’t look away. The former just squinted, clearly intrigued.
Before I could stammer an excuse, Andris snapped, “Come back later—we’re busy!”
“Augh!” I shouted at him, too mortified for words.
He frowned at me, confused for some inexplicable reason. “What?”
Fortunately, Quelos finally noticed Nick’s traumatized expression and quickly ushered him out of the threshold, then returned to step in and close the portal.
“Sex, eh?” he said after a long pause, his tone more curious than anything else. His metallic gold eyes glinted in the firelight as he looked to Andris. “Let me guess—Nariuvnen are virile, and her amulets can bridge the gap?”
“This discussion would be easier in a less awkward setting,” my demon pointed out, equally frank. I just tried to sink down and hide behind him. It was difficult, since he didn’t seem all that willing release me, instead holding my hips firmly in place until it became nearly impossible not to pant against the sensation as my arousal faded. Feeling him now, I was actually surprised that he fit. Passion did amazing things to a person’s body.
“Yeah, but I’ll forget if I wait.” The Elemental frowned, appearing to listen for something we couldn’t hear, then said after a thought, “You weren’t planning to tell us, and least of all, Nick. Wouldn’t it be better to tell him outright than to discover this the hard way?”
“Well, he seems pretty scarred at the moment,” I grumbled dryly behind my shelter, blinking to clear my thoughts. “It’ll take years just to get the image out of his brain.”
Andris sighed and patted my head. “You worry too much. He’s young—it’ll pass.”
“Like a kidney stone!”
“Anyway,” the Elemental said, drawing our attention once more, “it’s fascinating. Most Shimaren see you as a monster, but you’re basically a highly evolved mortal. You’re more normal than we are. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were even capable of reproduction.”
“How can you talk so calmly in a situation like this?!” I demanded impulsively, glaring over Andris’ shoulder. “Does the word ‘privacy’ enter anywhere into your thought processes, or are you just a little slow?”
He smirked, raising an eyebrow in amusement. “I don’t see any point in feeling embarrassed. I’ve seen almost everything there is to see—much worse, in most cases—and besides, I’m a regular Shimare. I couldn’t possibly care any less about mortal lust.”
“See?” Andris smiled reassuringly at me. “It’s nothing to worry about.”
“If that’s true, then Nick should be equally detached!” I hissed.
“Oh, Nick’s like Andris,” Quelos said. “The only differences I’ve seen so far are that he can sleep as much as he wants and drinks human blood just fine—that must be the whole half-breed thing. Otherwise, his sex drive is as normal as any human’s.”
I was going to scream...or run...or run away screaming until I had hidden myself away in a dark closet somewhere to wait for the next century to come. However, Andris sensed my panic and held me still, preventing even the slightest possibility of escape.
Princess, relax, he whispered urgently in my head. If you start struggling it will be awkward for both of us! I’ll lose my concentration!
It’s already awkward! I shouted in near-hysteria. And if you even think that I’ll let you have your way with me in front of a stranger, I’ll undo the wish and never speak to you again!
“Oh, hush. Don’t say things you don’t mean.” He patted my head again, and I mentally calculated my chances of knocking him through the wall and out into the wild blue yonder on the other side. He turned back to the Elemental. “All that aside, why are you really here?”
Quelos blinked in recollection, and he chuckled to himself. “Oh, yeah. We can discuss this when Lynn is less distraught. For now, you should finish up. I’ll send Sakura to pick you up and take you to the Elementals’ chambers.” He turned to go, still smirking.
“Wait, why?” Andris called after him in curiosity.
The Lightning Master grinned fiercely and suddenly, baring fangs almost as long as my demon’s, though in lesser quantity. “We have only a few nights until we leave, and neither Lynn nor Nick knows a thing about fighting Shimaren. I understand that you’ve already mastered the art, but those two need practice, and my pupil and I are more than happy to assist. Fortunately, their blood will learn quickly.”
Laughing almost maniacally, he headed for the door, but paused with his hand on the knob to glance back at Andris. “Besides, it’s been a while since my last worthy opponent who wasn’t an Elemental. I expect not to be disappointed, Kurenai-sama.”
“You’re asking for more than you can handle,” my demon replied with an arrogant smirk.
“That’s exactly what I’m asking for.” His eyes almost glittered as he spoke.
At that, he left us to our activities, and the moment the door clicked shut I wrapped my hands around Andris’ neck and throttled him in frustration.
“I thought you locked the door!” I shrieked.
“Princess, c-calm d-down!” he cried. He was caught off-guard for a brief few seconds, but quickly took hold of my wrists and pried me off, pinning me beneath him. “Strangling me will solve nothing! What’s done is done!”
“I don’t give a damn!” I declared, knowing full well that I was charging into battle with an inadequate force. I struggled regardless. “I’ll have your head for this! You’ll never see another sunrise!”
He rolled his eyes in complete exasperation. “My head? Fine, have it.”
Without even a moment’s hesitation to give me a chance to realize his double entèndre, he shoved his hips forward to plunge hard and deep into my taut center, causing my entire body to seize in pleasure.
“No—no fair!” I gasped, unable to find the strength of will to resist. I just lay there, my physical half shuddering under his thrall in complete disobedience to my psychological half. Unconsciously, my hands twisted in the sheets as I tried to regulate my breathing and will the blood’s new roommate away.
“Hush and be reasonable, Princess...wow, you really are helpless when I’m inside of you,” he noted in pleasant surprise, smiling triumphantly despite the intensity in his eyes. Slowly, he drew out and slowly pushed back in, and I writhed in anger and passion, completely helpless, indeed.
“Ah, sweet Princess,” he groaned, bending over me to trace his tongue up my throat, all the while rendering me defenseless with slow, gentle strokes. “Someone was bound to figure it out. Better now than later.”
“Damn you.” I shut my eyes and tried to pretend I was in England, but my body was far too interested in being right here.
“Even if I am damned, death can’t take me to where I’m supposed to go,” he chuckled, torturing and pleasuring me all at once with his words and his body. “At any rate, you’re stuck with me through blood and flesh, through love and hate. You can’t undo a blood bond, cara mea. Only death will do that, and I won’t let you die.”
I grit my teeth and refused to respond, hating my weakness all the more when his response was to plunge deep and rip a moan from my lungs. “Ah! I hate you!”
“Then try to act like it,” was his smart reply.
I glared at him, and he merely smiled, his eyes like faceted jewels throwing off shattered emerald light. Cursing inwardly, my defense crumbled. “Last time, Andy, then I’m taking a cold shower and we’re going to see Quelos.”
“Good to see that you’ve come around.”
His grin made me want to punch him and kiss him all at once, and I realized that he’d gained that much control over me, that my freedom was compromised by exactly that much. It actually scared me a little.
“Promise you won’t take my wings,” I said quietly, frowning.
His grin melted away when he noticed my worry, and he tenderly brushed his lips against mine. “I would never take them from you, never cage you,” he promised, his words weighed down with sincerity and devotion. “Just…please never leave me. You’re still so young. I want you to know the world, but there are terrible things out there. I want to protect you from them, but I would never deny you your right to know them.”
I was going to cry. People like him shouldn’t have been possible.
With effort, I willed the tears away and pulled him into my arms, shivering against the faint current of immense power flowing just on the other side of his skin. “Damn it all, none of it makes sense, but I love you, Andris.”
“And I, you,” he whispered.
“One more time,” I said at last, wanting nothing less than everything he could give.
He groaned when I tensed around him, and licked a path along my throat. “Anything you wish, Princess. Anything at all.”
His fangs drove deep a moment later, and he took me again to paradise.