Avenari - Chapter 29
If I had thought that Andris’ power was impressive before, I had clearly been mistaken, because it took all of three seconds for him to bring the Elementals’ fight to a screeching halt.
During those three seconds, he vanished entirely, replaced by what felt like an erupting supervolcano. An immense scythe of scarlet energy exploded from his initial location, rending the lightning sphere in half and driving apart the combatants within, and before either could retaliate or resume the fight, they were each enclosed in twin barriers of that same dark energy.
I stood agape for several long moments before I realized that he’d reappeared at my side.
“That was fun.” He gave me a brilliant smile, and I slowly turned to look at him.
“Andris, you turned into energy,” I said, hoping that he wouldn’t write it off as something perfectly normal and at least acknowledge that normal people couldn’t do that.
He seemed to notice my inner turmoil, and with a soft laugh he hooked his arm around me. “Princess, considering how old I am, is it really so farfetched? Besides, I didn’t turn into anything. I just move so fast that nothing can get in my way—not even air. I charged the sword with my powers and smashed my way through.”
I glanced back to the lightning bugs, who had seated themselves abruptly on the ground and now stared at my blood partner in awe and resentment. “Okay, but was it really such a good idea to display so much power in front of people who could easily become your enemies?”
“It’s fine,” he said with a shrug. “Somehow, I think those two would be much more eager to be my allies.” He lifted a finger and the crimson domes melted to the ground, vaporizing into visible energy which immediately sought its master.
He had a point. Instead of attacking, they approached at a leisurely pace.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Quelos called, as though nothing could be more fun than getting attacked by the most powerful vampire on Earth. “Do it again! Cut that tree in half!”
Something was seriously wrong with his head to be thinking such insane thoughts.
“Should I?” Andris mused absently.
“If you do, I’m grounding you from happy-time,” I hissed, dead serious.
“Oh. Then I guess I won’t. Not worth it.” He pouted a little in malcontent. Had he actually believed that I would allow such wanton destruction?
“You’re such a weirdo,” I muttered.
“What’s wrong with that? I happen to enjoy cutting loose every once in a while.”
“I’m still not letting you do it.”
He sighed and guided his sword back into its sheath as the Elementals reached us. “There goes my fun. I assume you’ll make it up to me?”
“We can do it until you pass out from exhaustion for all I care. I just don’t want you thinking that you can go around destroying things for fun.”
“And why the hell not?” asked Quelos, propping his hands on his hips in indignation. The patina of dust made him look like a dirty raccoon. “What else is there to do around here?”
“Shut up!” I said. “Don’t go filling Andris’ head with your demented philosophy! The last thing I need is him actually believing all that nonsense.”
“It is not nonsense. About the only thing which Lord Tatsune permits is sparring here on the training grounds. Rarely are we afforded the joys of real battle.” Akuro sheathed the scimitar and slipped off his soiled robe. He, too, wore normal clothing...well...normal for clubbing.
Black leather vest, tight black jeans, and several silver chains...
Quelos noticed, and for some reason he quickly snatched up the robe and threw it back over his fledgling. “What the hell is wrong with you?! Aho!” he cried.
“Aho de wa nai. Kitanai desu yo.” Akuro frowned, but pulled the robe back on anyway.
“Keep it on until you can wear something normal,” ordered his Maker, before turning abruptly to us. “Pretend that never happened.”
I stared at him, somewhat unnerved. “What’s the big deal?”
“Nothing for you to worry about.” Before I could demand elaboration, he nodded to the weapons on the wall. “Pick one, and be quick about it. Night doesn’t last forever, and I think it would be best if I took you out to feed before sunrise.”
Realizing that I wouldn’t get anywhere with arguing, I sighed and followed him to the display. Andris tagged along, but Akuro remained behind to sit on the bench and sulk.
Once more, the sword Shinryu drew me in. Something about the light playing gleefully across its surface, the graceful sweep of the barbed edge…it called to me. My hand hovered over the blade, feeling the air around it from point to pommel. My spatial sense could feel a presence within, the faintest signature of something powerful and fierce. Still cautious, I placed a fingertip against the steel, and then jerked back in surprise.
“What’s the matter?” Andris asked.
“It’s so cold. The blade is like ice, and I think something’s alive inside of it.” Frowning, I studied the metal, and noticed the barest flakes of frozen condensation on its edge.
“Zanthir Srissello forged it,” Quelos muttered impatiently. “His swords are some of the most powerful ever created, and each one was given the essence of an element. Shinryu is ice. That scythe over there is earth. Shimari weapons tend to match triggers.”
“You’re ice, huh?” I whispered, turning to the blade.
I reached out and slid my hand around the grip, feeling the smooth bumps of the eel skin, like microscopic beads of glass. It was weightless in my hand as I removed it from the hooks, but I could feel its presence like a heavy stone. The chill in the sword called to my triggers as strongly as the darkest, coldest winter night.
This was mine. I could feel it in my blood, in the energy of my triggers.
“Show me how to use this,” I said.
Quelos and Andris glanced at each other and smiled, flashing their fangs.
“Time for lesson one,” Quelos said, drawing his katana and setting it on his shoulder.
Andris sidled up to me, leaning down to kiss my cheek. “I think you’ll enjoy this. If you do well, I’ll give you a present.”
“You already gave me the best present,” I replied, nuzzling his throat. His scent made my blood shiver with his energy, and the sword made my triggers add to that power.
“I’ll come up with something. First, though, I want you to learn how to control this sword.” He drew away and nudged me towards the lightning bug. “He knows what he’s doing, and I don’t doubt your ability to handle it.”
Andris smiled, and my heart gave a happy skip. “Go on, Princess.”
My hand tightened around the blade as though it had known this feeling since my birth, and I faced Quelos with a fierce grin. “Let’s go, Sparky.”
“Sparky-tte itai dare?”
* o * o *
“Your lessons will come in three parts,” Quelos said, squaring off with me while Andris leaned against the wall of arms to watch. “You’ve already seen the first lesson, so the second and third should go by quickly. Shinryu has chosen you, so your blood will fill in most of the technique gaps. If anyone along your bloodline has ever used a sword, your blood will remember it—being a Shimare has definite perks.”
“I’ve already seen lesson one? What was that?” The blade vibrated in my hand like a tuning fork, but my blood helped to rein in the restless feeling.
The lightning bug indicated Andris and the distant slouched figure of Akuro. “The cardinal rule in all Shimari fights—and thus lesson one—is that one must, in no uncertain terms, understand that the opponent is not human. This is absolutely essential to your survival. Humans are easily defeated when pitted against preternatural abilities. However, all Shimaren have preternatural abilities, each one associated with unique blood composition and strength. Triggers also play a part, directing the flow of energy according to the element’s particular behavior.
“That is why I wanted to show you a fight between Andris and myself. The tiff with Akuro wasn’t planned, but that also served its purpose.”
“Crafty,” I said, beginning to see the point. “Then what’s lesson two?”
He shrugged. “Next is defense, and perhaps tomorrow night I’ll train you in offense.”
“Sounds good.” I brought Shinryu up to rest the flat against my shoulder, the way he stood. “Let’s get started.”
“I’ll show you some blocking techniques. Once for each, then I’ll test you. Trust your blood to remember the movements, and you’ll be fine. Wakaru ka?”
“Um…what?” I made a mental note to brush up on some Japanese while we were here. It bugged me that half of what he said meant nothing at all to me.
To my increasing annoyance, he chuckled, “I asked if you understand.”
“Fine, yes. Now hurry up or dawn’s going to burn you to a crisp.”
“It won’t take that long.” He beckoned with a downturned hand. “Come on, then.”
Quelos had me go through nearly a dozen blocking techniques, and my hands acted almost autonomously as my blood whispered how to move. If anything, it was too easy. The blade hummed against my skin, whispering to my blood and my triggers. It felt like they were negotiating, trying to figure out where I was in terms of skill. My blood was confident, and the sword eventually relaxed, apparently satisfied with the answers it had received.
The test wasn’t as hard as I had thought it would be. Quelos made things simple, and pretty soon I could block his slower attacks without much effort. Most of it was the sword’s doing. It wanted to move, to clash against another blade, to hook around the steel and rip it from his grip—and my blood was happy to oblige.
“The fourth line certainly doesn’t disappoint,” Quelos said, backing off after a flurry of attacks to test my reaction time. “I think we should see what kind of style your blood prefers.”
“How?” I asked, brushing off the dirt from a quick tumble that I’d been forced to make.
“How about a little bit of sparring?” Though the words were innocent enough, his wild grin betrayed what was really going on in his head. He wanted to push me a little.
I smirked, fully prepared to let the blood lead me. “Let’s do this.”
He stepped up the pace, and let me improvise my own style according to Shinryu’s capabilities. The cold sword’s powers swept around me, tugging sweetly against my triggers, and soon even the lightning bug’s full-speed attacks were easily parried.
Quelos’ style was very straightforward, but my own felt like a cold wind. The blood rose in my consciousness as a ghostly hand, holding the grip and directing where to swing the blade as I let go and placed my trust in its innate skill.
Once we had warmed up, Quelos decided that it was time to toss some power into the lesson, and he charged his blade as before, using his trigger to increase the speed and force of his movements. In response, my moonstone amulet took on that familiar icy glow, and within seconds I moved past blocking and jumped into my own attacks. His lightning couldn’t touch me while the shell of power protected my body, and every time he tried to break through my defenses, the blood’s whispers showed me what to do.
I’d never felt so alive, so strong. At last, the cold power in my blood had an outlet, and I danced, letting the flow of energy carry me through blocks and attacks to rise to my teacher’s level. Until that moment, I’d had no idea at all how fast I could move, how easy and satisfying it was to plunge myself into the icy river of my powers and follow it with utter abandon. Nothing felt better in those few hours than the sensation of steel striking steel, of vibrations rattling through my arms and shoulders, of using my greatest speed to flit around the way Andris had.
This was what true power felt like, and I couldn’t wait to use it in a real fight.
Too soon, however, Quelos called the lesson to a close. Disappointed, I lowered Shinryu to the ground and fell into a relaxed stance. I hadn’t even noticed that time was passing. The moonstone dimmed to darkness once more, and the power ebbed away, but my heart still pounded in excitement. My blood quieted, taking a peaceful break from all the activity, and after a breather I looked over to Andris.
He was laughing, wearing the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. It made my heart ache to see how pleased he was with my progress.
“That was excellent,” Quelos said, chuckling in apparent surprise and sheathing his sword. “For a few seconds there I thought that you were actually going to try and kill me.”
“I’ve never had that much fun before.” The laughter bubbled up, and I couldn’t control it. It simply poured out with my excitement. I dropped to my knees and laughed wildly, hugging the icy sword and whispering silent thanks.
The sword seemed happy, and the power within it rolled around like a tired puppy searching for a comfortable sleeping position. It had been a long while since its last master had left it. At last, it could live again on the battlefield, where it belonged.
“Is that all for tonight?” Andris asked after a bit, still smiling.
Quelos nodded and glanced at his fledgling. “Hey, Akuro. Get over here!”
“Yes?” the second lightning bug inquired upon arrival. In spite of his Maker’s earlier comments, he also seemed to think that the lesson had gone well.
“Go grab Nick from Mizumi,” Quelos said. “He’s still a newborn, so we need to bring him hunting with us. We’ll meet you in the chambers in two hours.”
“Understood.” Akuro turned to me with a smile. “You have exceeded expectations.”
I grinned, far beyond pleased with myself. “Thanks, but the blood and Shinryu did pretty much all of the heavy lifting.”
With another faint smile, he left to get Nick.
When I turned back, Andris was already at my side like my personal phantom, and before I could speak, his arms were around me, holding me tightly in the heat of his embrace.
“Princess, that was stunning,” he whispered against my hair, slipping his fingers into the strands and tugging my head back so that he could claim my lips.
The reaction he produced in me made even the sword hum with unrepentant joy, and I hooked my free hand around his warm, strong neck to delve deeper into his taste. We only parted when Quelos cleared his throat impatiently, and I stepped away from my blood partner with a sheepish grin. I couldn’t help myself. Andris did inexplicable things to me.
“Before you start breaking all the rules by which we Shimaren have existed for the better part of ten thousand years, let’s go back inside and get you two ready for our little outing,” the Elemental muttered, shaking his head and giving us his most exasperated leer.
“Where are we going?” I asked, lacing my fingers with Andris’ as we followed Quelos back into the passageway we had taken to reach the training grounds.
“Because there’s such a high concentration of Shimaren in this location, the old man decided to set up specific locations where we can feed without arousing the suspicion of the locals. We have a donation flock of about one thousand, all of whom frequent these places of their own free will and receive monetary compensation for their silence. It keeps the deaths to a minimum, and if an accident does occur, Ivanarke makes an anonymous donation to the family of the deceased—about twenty thousand to half a million, in your currency.”
“I’ve never heard of feeding like that.” I looked to Andris, and he shrugged.
“I’ve seen some of the places near other brood manors, but I haven’t been here in a long time, so I don’t know what Ivanarke’s setup is like. It’s a good idea, at any rate. Unwanted attention is more difficult to handle than a fairly small group of obedient donors.”
“But you feed on Shimaren,” I pointed out.
“Have some confidence, Princess. As long as I have you, I should be fine until my next opportunity.” His warm fingers tightened around my hand.
“Please tell me you’re done,” sighed Quelos.
Luckily, I was in too good a mood to feel embarrassed.
He guided us back into the torch-lit stone passage and nodded for us to make our way up. “Tatsune apparently wants to rid us of the ‘dark and scary monster’ image, make us seem like regular people. Obviously, we can’t go in looking like vagrants, so we try to present ourselves in a way that both impresses the humans and helps them relax around us.”
Andris cast a shrewd look at the lightning bug. “You’re going to dress us up, aren’t you?”
“I’ll take care of you, but Lynn would be better off in Shina’s care. Akuro will fix Nick up, though I may have to adjust some things if my fledgling fails.”
“I don’t wear colors,” my blood partner stated flatly, leaving absolutely no wiggle room for any sort of discussion to the contrary.
“Honestly, I don’t care. You just have to look presentable enough to get past the gate. If anyone’s making a big change, it’s her.”
I balked. “What about me?”
Simultaneously, they gave me a quick, critical once-over. Acid green and lurid blue seemed to make the Elemental cringe a little inside.
“I think this is an appropriate time to tell you that favor,” Andris said. “I want to see you in a dress.”
Quelos nodded. “Indeed. They’ll never let her in if she’s wearing legs, let alone this.”
“A dress?” I demanded, suddenly afraid. I hadn’t worn a dress since my father’s funeral, and even that had been my first time since my mother’s. Dresses were something to be worn when people died—that was my only experience. Even back when Simone would take me to meet friends like Dorian in public places, he let me wear pinstripe suits.
Andris grinned, tightening his hold on my hand and making sure that I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried. “You’re wearing a dress.”
“Hell no! I’ll look awkward!”
I’ll bet anything that you will look ravishing, Lydian, he whispered in my head.
I almost fell for it, but then Quelos laughed and—oblivious to Andris’ silent comment—said, “Oh, I’m sure you’ll clean up nicely.”
That made my mind up. “No dice. I’ll stay here.”
“I almost had her!” Andris snapped at him, before turning to give me a conniving smirk. “It looks like the only way to make this work is to use force. Come on, Princess. Make another of my dreams come true.” He took my arm and tugged me along.
“I think I’ve done plenty already!” I cried, unable to fight his swift pace. “Now you’re just pushing your luck!”
“You’re going to agree sooner or later—may as well save yourself the time.”
“Andris, you bastard!”
“I’m not listeni—ing.”
* o * o *
My eyes darted frantically around the room, but the only way out was guarded by the worst foe imaginable. The enemy within was no weakling, either. I felt like Schrödinger’s cat, trapped in a box. I was alive, yet may as well have been dead.
“This won’t hurt a bit,” she crooned, approaching with her weapons drawn.
I flattened against the wall and shook my head violently. “Get it away! I’ll scream!”
“Just hold still. It’ll be over in a moment.”
* o * o *
Twenty minutes later, I burst out of my paradox in a rage. “Damn it all, this thing is uncomfortable!” I shouted, throwing a searing glare at Shina.
She sat herself in the chair beside the desk and smiled placidly. “Sure, but look in the mirror and tell me it doesn’t look positively gorgeous.”
Uttering unutterable curses under my breath, I stalked over to the mirror behind the folding screen and froze.
Crap, she wasn’t kidding.
Never in my life had I worn something so risqué, yet I found myself gawking at my reflection and wondering how Andris would react when he saw me.
The strapless dress was form-fit, with a vintage corset to pinch my waist and hold my breasts up to formerly unattainable heights. Honestly, boobs were boobs—but the dress gave me cleavage I never would have thought possible in standard clothing.
The corset transitioned smoothly to a silk skirt, which hugged my hips like my own skin and showed off the most dangerous curves I’d ever seen. Slits on either side shot up my thighs, almost reaching my hips and baring my pale olive skin to a sinful degree. Shina hadn’t allowed me any underwear, claiming that it was both unnecessary and threatening to the line of the dress.
It was red, too; deep ruby with a darker burgundy corset—colors which caught my eyes and hair to lend them garnet highlights—and the top had black ribbons to lace it up.
Even the heels shocked me: ridiculously tall, strappy black numbers I would never have touched under normal circumstances. Shina had lent me black lace gloves, as well, which coated my skin from my fingertips to halfway up my upper arms in delicate, handmade ivy patterns.
Well...okay, it was pretty, but I was still glad that she hadn’t touched my hair. I liked it down—no fuss to make my head feel confused.
“So, are you going to thank me?” Shina stood and sauntered into view beside me, wearing a black skirt and baby blue blouse as her civvies. “Andris is going to lose his mind.”
I shook my head, unable to tear my eyes away from my image. “No, he’s already done that. Rather, he might pass out.”
“Excellent.” She laughed, propping her hands on her hips. Shina had age in her young face, the glint of a powerful grown woman in her eyes. Being physically older, it didn’t show as much on my face, but I knew how old I really was, and exulted in the youth I possessed. I doubted very much that a normal old lady could pull this off.
There was a knock at my door, and Shina cocked her head to sense who it was. “Hmm, I suppose we’ll find out what he thinks sooner than I had thought.”
Without giving me a chance to hide myself, she flickered out of sight and reappeared at the door, pulling it open and admitting the visitor with a flourishing bow.
“I present to you the lovely Avenari. You two play nice now—and don’t stain the dress!”
Andris stared at her in bewilderment for a brief few seconds as she slipped out and shut the door, and then turned to me. “Is it just me or do all of them know about...about...oh, dear gods.” His eyes widened, and citrine switched directly to the brightest, deepest emerald yet.
While he was busy gawking, I couldn’t help but do the same.
Sweet sanity, he was my undoing.
It was as though he’d been dipped in black paint, and from his shoulders to his feet it was nothing but the darkest black imaginable. The light seemed to bend around him, drawn in by his slender, athletic frame and utterly commanding presence. His silk dress shirt had embroidered geometric patterns all up the arms, binding him tightly to show off his shape, though the cuffs were open to soften his edges. The first few buttons were undone, giving me an excellent view of his smooth, pearly throat.
And the leather. Oh, sweet merciful heavens, I wanted to touch him.
“How did you fit into those?” I muttered in disbelief, unable to take my eyes off the leather pants. They ran down his long legs as though airbrushed on, yet somehow loosened up enough around his calves to fit easily over his black steel-toe boots. He was a feast for my eyes.
“I’m a little worried that I won’t fit in a few seconds,” he whispered, his eyes raking almost tangibly down my body. “Lynn, you’re crushing me into a helpless creature.”
“Look who’s talking,” I countered, fighting the aching need to jump him right there. Black was perfect on him. He didn’t wear black—he owned it. That color had been created specifically for this beautiful man before me, it seemed.
My attention must have wandered momentarily, because when I blinked again he was winding his arms around my waist and capturing my mouth in a burning, desperate kiss.
It happened too quickly to register in real-time. One second I was clutching his wonderful hair to deepen the kiss, and the next he had my back pinned to the wall beside the mirror. He’d somehow freed himself from the restraining leather, and before I knew what was going on, he swept the dress aside, bunched the rest around my hips, and thrust himself deep.
I cried out, locking my legs around his waist and gripping his shirt as he plunged into me. His tongue pushed its way into my cleavage, and I threw my head back, letting him press me against the wall and allowing his pleasure to consume me. My body burned, stealing the heat from his skin until beads of scarlet sweat began to spring up across my throat and brow.
“Harder,” I urged, raking my fingers through his hair and moaning when he obeyed.
His fingers dug into my thighs as they tightened around him, drawing him in deeper with every movement of his hips to fill me until he couldn’t reach any further. I shuddered when he looked up at me, and buried my face against his throat, scratching my fangs across and lapping up the blood that welled in the cuts. His heady taste and scent made me dizzy.
With a gasp, Andris brought his mouth to mine and pressed deep as he kissed me. Sharp fangs and soft lips captured me. Warm breath tickled against my skin as he drank me down and pulled the soft moans from my lungs.
“Leave my throat be, Princess,” he groaned against my lips, holding me in place as he drew out, then slid slowly back home. “The way you look right now, I’ll be lucky if I last long enough for you. I’d hate to ruin your beautiful dress.”
My gloved fingers slid up the bare skin of his throat to hold his face, and I pressed my lips to his, kissing him slowly and whispering in his thoughts, Please, Andris…
He shuddered hard and pulled away. “Honestly, Lynn, you’re going to break me.”
I laughed, half-moaning when he started making complete strokes. “Go ahead—let your blood run down my legs,” I teased breathlessly, ignoring his request and lunging for his throat.
My fangs drove through his heat, and then it was his turn to moan. His blood gushed out, filling my mouth quickly with each beat of his ancient heart.
His control evaporated in an instant, and soon he was crushing me against the wall, shoving hard and fast into my tight center. Sweet sanity, he made my body so tight around him, and when I felt the pinch of his own fangs driving into my nape, I cried out against his skin.
It was wild and hungry and so unbelievably satisfying. He stole the air from my lungs, his kisses drank down my soul, and his hands rendered me helpless to his endless, all-encompassing devotion. He tugged me closer and closer until my belly ached with the building wave, until my muscles began to spasm, forcing him to lose himself as we renewed our powerful blood bond.
And then the strings holding me together snapped. I pulled away from his throat, moaning his name against his neck as the ecstasy shook me to the core. He drew his fangs out to save from spilling my blood, and a moment later a devastating convulsion swept though me. It tore away his last shred of control, shoving him into the abyss.
Andris cried out in surprise and delivered that final, deepest thrust. The force threw me back against the wall, but his hand was there to cushion my head. He trapped me beneath his hips and at last allowed his own release, moaning breathlessly as his thick heat spilled into my belly.
My demon held for a long, long moment, shuddering against me and panting hard as I gasped his name. I writhed in pleasure, but he held me so firmly, pressed so deep that I thought I would melt into him.
And then, at last, he took a breath and groaned, dropping his head to my shoulder. “My Princess,” he whispered, his voice rough and smooth all at once, like silk on stone.
“I guess that means you like the outfit,” I joked, dizzy from his taste and scent and touch—everything about him made me dizzy with happiness, it seemed.
“That has to be the biggest understatement ever spoken.” He gasped again when another shudder chased through us, and then smiled tenderly at me once it passed.
Silently, he brought me away from the wall, then knelt on the ground and laid me back on the sheepskin rug, careful to move my dress out of danger. Once the material was safe, he slowly withdrew, making me moan a little at the sweet sensation.
He paused for a moment and just watched me gasp for breath as I fought the corset for every cubic inch of air to calm my body. His eyes lingered on my face, my heaving breasts and the tight inward curve of my waist, the flare of my hips and my naked legs.
“You’re more beautiful every time I look at you, cara mea,” he whispered, moving to crawl up the length of my body and caress my lips with his own. Carefully, he slipped in between my thighs, moving oh, so slowly as he kissed me.
This time he was impossibly gentle, his strokes slow and deliberate as he nudged me towards a less frantic climax, and my body tensed in the thrall of his sweet lovemaking. The corset actually helped, deepening his thrusts until my breaths came in short gasps.
I had my arms around his neck, holding his lips to mine and drinking his essence as slowly as he made love to me, but when release came all I could do was whimper helplessly. Ripples of heat slid up my skin through every inch of my flesh, and I gasped softly, lifting my hips to take him in deeper. It was so different from only minutes before, now just a hungry pang in my belly, which freed a moan from my lips.
“My Andris,” I whispered, staring up into his eyes and nearly drowning in his gaze.
He kissed me again as his whole body tensed, then once more spilled into my center with a shuddering groan. The heat filled me and spread through my whole body, and I shuddered again, reveling in the moment and his endless love.
“Ye gods, Princess, you slay me,” he said once he found breath.
I laughed, luxuriating in the heady rush of his blood and kisses. “I’d chain you up if I could, demon, but it’s more likely that you’ll be the one tying me down.”
“As long as we can make love as often as we want, I really couldn’t care less if you kept me in a dungeon.” He nuzzled my cheek, brushing gentle kisses down my skin until his mouth found my breast. “Truly, though, you in this dress does terrible things to my sense of decency.”
“You’re pretty hot yourself.” I grinned and combed my fingers through his hair, marveling at its softness.
His tongue flicked out to trace a shivering line across my skin. “By the way, may I bite?”
The question made me chuckle. “You’ve already bitten between my legs, Andris. You can’t get much more invasive than that.”
He gave me a tiny, embarrassed smile. “I couldn’t help myself, but I should have asked.”
I drew his head down to my chest. “I love it when you bite me. You don’t need to ask.”
Laughing softly, he parted his lips against my pale flesh and bit down as if it were an apple. The pinch made me tense all over, and I dropped my head back to concentrate on breathing past the beautiful sensation.
A minute later, he drew away to lick the perfect semicircle of puncture marks, and within moments his blood had returned my flesh to its normal state. He watched it heal, then looked up at me and smiled, leaning forward to kiss me sweetly. “I love you, Lydian,” he murmured.
“I love you, too, my demon.” I wrapped my arms around his neck and watched the emerald in his eyes for a brief few seconds before muttering halfheartedly, “But I guess we shouldn’t keep them waiting.”
He grinned. “I guess.”
“Is the dress okay?”
He pursed his lips, tracking his gaze down my body before shrugging. “My opinion is biased. You’ll have to see yourself in the mirror if you want a critical eye. All I can say is that you’ll be lucky if I don’t pounce on you again later, regardless of who’s watching.”
I rolled my eyes. “Is it stained? You can tell me that, right?”
“I was careful, Princess...though we should clean you up a bit.” He frowned and got shakily to his feet. “You’ve wrecked me!” he laughed, strolling over the Shoji door. “Don’t move. I’ll be back in a moment.”
I smirked. “Put yourself away, Andris, before you forget and walk out of here like that.”
He just chuckled and went into the bath.
I could hear running water and the rustle of terrycloth, and he returned moments later with a damp cloth in hand. Thankfully, everything was tucked back into his impossible pants.
“I’m fairly certain that Shina will have my head if I allow you to ruin this dress,” he said, laying the cold cloth across my thigh and wiping our blood away. “It was my idea, after all.”
“I guess I can endure it if it makes you that happy.” I bit my lip when he brushed against more sensitive places, holding my breath until he was finished.
At last, he set the cloth aside, offering his hand. “All done. Let’s go, Princess.”
My legs trembled as he helped me to my feet, and I leaned against him for support while I smoothed the silk back down. Fortunately, it had been treated to resist creasing, and quickly returned to its sleek, flattering shape. “It does look nice,” I grudgingly admitted. “Considering how you reacted, I’m kind of scared that someone else will react the same way.”
He stepped behind me, placing his hands on my hips and resting his chin on top of my head as he gazed at me through the mirror. “I’m certain that I can make it obvious to any overzealous worshipers that you belong to me.” When I gave him a dubious frown, he pulled me back, winding his arms around my waist and breathing in the scent at my throat.
“Understood,” I whispered.
“I love you, Princess.”