She saw he was already hard and grew nervous. "Hands stay put?"
Unable to stop herself, she eased forward, took his shirt with her fists, and sank her fangs into his skin. Rich warmth and pleasure exploded within her, and she moaned against him. She felt his groan reverberating beneath her lips. When she almost toppled over from the rush of sensation, he bit out, "Straddle...me."
Never taking her lips away, she did, gladly, better able to relax and revel in the taste and feeling. Though he never removed his hands from the headboard, he thrust his hips up against her. Then, with another groan, he seemed to make an effort to stop.
But she liked the sounds he'd made, liked that she could feel them, and wanted to hear more. So she lowered herself fully to his lap, uncaring that her skirt was slipping up her thighs. The heat that met her made her ache. Thoughts grew dim. So hard... Gone nearly mindless, she rubbed against him to ease it.
Release me from my vow, Emmaline."
She didn't respond, wouldn't release him, and damn it, it had begun to matter to him if he broke his word to her. Her only answer was spreading her knees wider over him, then slowly, sensuously rubbing his length between her legs, with only his trews and her silk between them. "Ah, God, yes, Emma," he grated, shuddering with need, disbelieving that she was doing this to him.
He would use this against her, he thought hazily. If his blood on her tongue made her lose control like this, he would force her to drink him until she surrendered everything...
Force a vampire to drink him...what was happening to him?
She put her hands on the headboard between his and held on as she ground against him, making his head fall back. The scent of her hair, flowing just before him, the feel of her bite, and her own obvious pleasure were sending him over the edge. "You're going tae make me come like this. If you doona stop..."
She didn't. She continued grinding against him as if she couldn't stop. The frustration was like nothing he'd ever known. To not be able to touch her, or put his mouth to her flesh...She brushed her breasts against his chest and back again. The headboard began to crack under his hands.
The throbbing pressure built up inside him, had been building all night from her first taking. Now his breaths grew ragged as she moved faster, riding his length. Just when he perceived she'd stopped drinking, she whispered in his ear, "I could drink you forever."
"Taste so good," she said, moaning the last.
"You drive me mad," he grated, then threw his head back and yelled out as he came hotly under her movements, forced by the firm bucking of her hips against him. The wood beneath his hands disintegrated to splinters and dust.
When he finally finished shuddering, he clenched his ragged fists beside her legs. She fell against his chest, clinging to him, her small body quivering.
"Emma, look at me."
She faced him, her silvery eyes mesmerizing. He knew her, she felt familiar, and yet he knew he'd never seen anything like the stunning creature she was. She tilted her head, regarding him with an unsure expression.
"I want to touch you. I want to bring you to come."
She glanced at his torn hands with raised eyebrows.
"Then I'll kiss you. Pull your undergarments aside and kneel up right here."
She shook her head slowly.
She whispered, "Because these things keep escalating."
"I dinna break my vow now." Hands still clenched, he lowered his voice to say, "I ache, I want to pleasure you so much."
He saw her eyes grow soft just before she put her forehead to his. As if she couldn't help herself, she leaned in to lick and tease at his lips. Her hair fell forward, brushing his neck. Her exquisite scent washed over him, and he felt himself growing hard again.
Between her kisses, he rasped, "Why can this no' go further?"
"This isn't me," she murmured. "I'm not like this. I barely even know you."
Sheer frustration welled in him at her ridiculous assertions, said between tonguing his lips. He believed they were sentiments she felt she ought to be saying. "Yet you've taken my blood directly from my body? That's as intimate an act as two can have."
In an instant, she stiffened and drew back. "That's true and regrettable. But I couldn't share myself so completely with someone I don't trust." She rose and then curled up in the chair. "Someone who's been so unkind..."
"Emma, I - "
"You know you have been. And just three nights ago, you frightened me more than I've ever been in my entire life. Yet now you want something from me?" She was trembling. "Just leave. Please? For once?"
He growled in frustration, but he did limp to the door. At the hallway adjoining the rooms, he turned and said, "You've bought yourself a few hours. The next time you drink, you're mine and we both know it." The door slammed behind him.
Emma lay in her nest on the floor, tossing in her blankets. When had her clothing become so textured? She seemed to feel every line of thread against her sensitive breasts and belly.
And she wore silk.
Just thinking about what she'd done to him made her hips undulate as if she could still feel him beneath her. She'd made him...have an orgasm, by riding him.
Her face burned hot. Was she becoming Emma the Wanton?
And she'd almost experienced one, too. When she'd bathed, she'd found herself wetter than she'd ever been. She was beginning to suspect that blood lust for her wasn't the craving to drink, it was sexual lust because of drinking.
He was right - the next time she took from him, he could make her his, because tonight, she'd temporarily lost her mind, forgetting why she couldn't sleep with him. Though she'd desperately wanted to convince herself otherwise, she wasn't the type of person who could give it up without some kind of bond or commitment.
She didn't think of herself as old-fashioned about sex - there was, after all, a reason for her familiarity with Skinemax - and she had a very healthy attitude about the whole subject, for all that she'd never had an orgasm. But she knew deep down that she would need something lasting - and that it could never be with him.
Besides the fact that he was a crude and menacing Lykae who delighted in her discomfort, she couldn't imagine taking him among her friends. She couldn't see him watching movies at the manor, eating the popcorn she always made just so she could smell it and throw it at anyone who stood in front of the screen. He wouldn't fit in with her family because they would be sickened at the very sight of "an animal" touching her. And because they would always be plotting to kill him and such.
Not to mention that in addition to all of their differences, he had another female out there who had some cosmic destiny to be his.
Emma was up for a little healthy competition, but against a Lykae's mate...?
Well. Now she was just being silly -
He knocked on the adjoining door, opening it without a decent pause, but luckily she'd cut out all that lolling and petting her breasts business.
His hair was wet from a recent shower, and he leaned against the doorway in jeans that rode just a little below his waist and just a little loose - as they should. He wore no shirt and she noticed one of his palms had a knot of cloth around it. She swallowed. Injured from when he'd cracked her headboard as he came.
He crossed his arms over that muscled chest. Her appreciation for it bordered on idolatry. She would so give him another amen...
"Tell me one thing about you that I doona know," he demanded.
When able to force her gaze to his face, she debated, then finally said, "I went to college and got a degree in popular culture."
He appeared impressed, but of course he hadn't been around this time long enough to know that most people thought pop culture was a do-you-want-fries-with-that degree. He nodded, turning toward his room, and because he didn't expect her to, she said, "Tell me one thing."
When he faced her again, he did appear surprised she'd asked. His voice gravelly, he answered, "I think you're the most beautiful creature I've ever seen."
She was certain he heard her gasp before he closed the door.
He'd called her beautiful!
Before, she'd only felt a sad resignation, but now she was giddy. Oh, she was in a bad way. Her emotions were like a crazy compass dial, spinning wildly -
She narrowed her eyes, realizing what this was. Stockholm syndrome. Surely. Identifying with your bullying captor? Check. Forming an attachment to him? Check.
But in all fairness to herself, how many captors - actively acquiring - were six-and-a-half-foot-tall gods with delicious, sun-darkened skin, the coolest accent, and the warmest, hardest body she'd ever dreamed of? All this and the predilection to wrap that body around her? All this and he thought she was beautiful.
Not to mention the fact that he couldn't seem to give her enough of his luscious blood.
Was she becoming this Lykae's Patty Hearst?
Didn't matter. The bottom line was that she wasn't his mate, so even if he did seduce her and they had a little some-something going on, she'd be merely idling time until he found his true one. And if she got herself nailed and bailed by a man like Lachlain, she thought she might turn into one of those blubbery, weepy females. Which was not an option.
She was relieved she wasn't this mate of his. She was. If she had been his mate, it would have been like a life sentence. He would never let her go, she'd be browbeaten and miserable with him, and if she escaped he would come for her until her aunts finally killed him.
Her coven would delight in it. If they found out he'd kissed her and touched her intimately, they would unleash hell on him and his kind. As far as she knew, she was the only one of her coven ever to be touched by a Lykae.
And her mother had been the only one to fully succumb to a vampire.
Emma woke at sunset, sensing something.
She scanned the darkened room, popping up her head, peeking over the side of the bed, but saw nothing. She told herself it was nothing, even as she hastily dressed and packed, then rushed to Lachlain's room.
She found him still clad only in those jeans, with no blanket to cover him because he'd used his to secure her window. Right before her eyes, he began shuddering as though in the grip of a nightmare. He rumbled words in Gaelic, and his skin grew slick with sweat. All the muscles in his body tensed as if he was in great pain.
"Lachlain?" she whispered. Without thought, she hurried to him, reaching out to run her fingers down his cheek and through his thick hair, trying to soothe him.
He did still. "Emmaline," he murmured, without waking. Was she in his dreams?
She herself had had a doozy of a dream, the most realistic one she'd ever experienced.
She absently stroked his forehead as she recalled it. It seemed to be from Lachlain's point of view - she could see things that he saw, smell scents he smelled, feel as though with his fingers.
He was in a shop under a tent. Jewels were spread before him, and a beautiful woman with long, coffee-colored hair streaked from the sun and sparkling green eyes was by his side.
He selected a pounded-gold and sapphire necklace and purchased it from the shopkeeper. By the design of the jewelry and the currency he used, Emma knew this was long ago.
The woman sighed and said, "More gifts."
"Aye." Lachlain was irritated with her because he knew what she was about to say.
The woman, whose name Emma somehow knew was Cassandra, said, "Nine hundred years you've waited. I've waited almost as long. Do you no' think that we - "
"No," Lachlain interrupted sharply. How many times will she broach this? he thought.
Cassandra might not believe, but he did.
"I'd accept a night with you."
"I doona see you as more than an old friend. Know that that can end." His ire was growing. "And you are of the clan and will meet her. Do you possibly think that I would put her in that uncomfortable position?"
Emma shook her head at the bizarre dream, still thrown by how authentic it had felt. He only had to mention jewelry and she was dreaming up wonky scenarios.
She glanced down and saw with a blush that she'd begun stroking his chest. She didn't stop, just marveled at how gorgeous his body was, marveled that he wanted to make love to her with it -
His hand shot to her neck, tightening before she could scream.
When he opened his eyes, they were completely blue.
Emmaline was touching him gently, murmuring his name. More of the nightmare - she would never do that, would never seek to comfort him. He saw nothing but a red haze, felt nothing but fire melting away his skin. He'd sensed his enemy for three days and now it was near his mate. He attacked.
When the haze cleared, he couldn't comprehend what he saw. Emma's neck was clenched in his tightening grasp, her claws embedded in his arms as she gasped and fought for her life. Before he could even react he saw a vessel in her right eye burst.
He yelled and released her, lunging away from her.
She fell to her knees, struggling for air, coughing. He rushed to her to try to help, but she flinched, shoving her hand out to ward him off.
"Ah, God, Emma, I dinna mean...I'd sensed something...I thought you were a vampire."
She coughed, then rasped, "I - am..."
"No, I thought there was...another, one of the ones that imprisoned me." The bite, the blood, must've triggered the nightmares in full fury. "I thought you were him."
"Who?" she bit out.
"Demestriu," he finally grated. Against her weak protests, he drew her in his arms. "I never wanted to hurt you." He shuddered. "Emma, it was an accident."
But his words had no effect. She shook in his arms, still afraid.
She didn't trust him - never had - and he'd just reminded her why.
Out of the corner of her eye, Emma saw him take one hand from the steering wheel, reaching out once more to touch her. As he had each time before, he closed it to a fist and brought it back.
She sighed, leaning her face against the cool glass, staring out, seeing nothing.
Her emotions were so torn over what had happened, she didn't know how to react.
She wasn't angry with him over this particular incident. She'd been stupid enough to touch a Lykae in mid-nightmare and had paid the price. But she regretted that her throat hurt and that she couldn't take a pill to ease it. And she regretted what she'd learned about him.
She had wondered if it was possible that the Horde had imprisoned him, but she'd dismissed the idea because prisoners simply didn't escape the Horde. She'd never heard of a single instance. Even her aunt Myst, who'd actually seen the inside of a Horde stronghold, hadn't escaped until rebels had taken the castle - and until a rebel general had freed her in order to make love to her.
Having ruled out the Horde, Emma had figured that since he was the Lykae leader, this was political, possibly some kind of coup by his own kind.
Yet it had been Demestriu, the most evil and powerful of all vampires, who'd imprisoned him. And if the rumors were true about Furie, if the tales of her torture at the bottom of the sea were correct, then what had he done to Lachlain? Had Demestriu ordered him drowned as well? Chained him in the earth and buried him alive?
For one hundred and fifty years they'd tortured him until he'd escaped the inescapable.
And she feared he'd somehow lost his leg to do it.
She couldn't imagine the pain - endless pain that he'd experienced for so long only to culminate in that...?
What had happened tonight wasn't his fault. Though judging by his bleak expression he certainly thought so. Yet now, knowing what she did, she resented him for keeping her with him. What in the hell had he been thinking? After what he'd been through, Emma now knew that the incident tonight had been inevitable. Eventually he would have exploded in rage at her, and might do it again.
She wouldn't allow this to happen again. She might not survive it. And if she did, she didn't want to have to tell people she had bruises circling her throat and a starburst of blood radiating from her pupil because she'd run into a sodding door. Why had he kept her with him?
To take out his pain on her.
He'd treated her like a vicious vampire. Disdained her as one for days. If he didn't watch out, she'd begin to behave like one to protect herself.
They'd make Kinevane tonight, and at sunset tomorrow she'd be gone.
Emma leaned against the window and had that thing in her ears, though she didn't sing as she had last night.
He wanted to remove it and talk to her, apologize to her. He was fiercely ashamed of his actions, had never been more ashamed, but he thought if he took it away from her, she would break. Since he'd seized her, he'd terrified and hurt her, and he sensed she was at her limit, barely coping with the events of the last four days.
The streetlamps shone down from overhead, illuminating her face - and the bruises on her pale throat, making him wince again.
If he hadn't come to his senses when he did, he could have...he could have killed her. And because he didn't understand why he'd done it, he couldn't ensure it would never happen again. He couldn't guarantee her safety around him -
A bell pinged, startling him.
She leaned over to look, nodding at the fuel gauge that was now lit red. She pointed out the next exit, still without saying a word. He knew she was silent because it hurt her to speak.
He was distracted, restless in the car that now seemed far too small for him, clenching the steering wheel. Yes, he'd been through hell, but goddamn it, how could he have choked his mate in any state of mind? When all he'd wanted to do was find her?
When she'd been his salvation?
It didn't matter that he hadn't claimed her - if he hadn't found her and been near her, been eased by her soft words and gentle touches, right now he'd be in a back alley, irretrievably mad.
In return, he'd made her life into a hell.
Off the exit, he spotted the sign for a gas station. He turned into the dirt lot, parking in front of the fuel pump she indicated. Just as he shut off the ignition, she pulled the things from her ears. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say anything, she gazed upward, sighed, and held her hand flat out - which meant he was to give her the credit card. He did, then followed her outside to learn how to fuel the car.
While they waited, he said, "I want to speak with you about what happened."
She waved her hand. "Forgotten." Her voice was hoarse, belying the ridiculous statement. Under the harsh, unnatural lights of the station, her right eye appeared awash with red. She had to be furious again - why hide it?
"Why will you no' confront me? Rail at me? I give you free leave to scream at me."
In a low tone, she said, "Are you asking me why I avoid conflict?"
"Aye. Precisely," he said, then, seeing the glare on her face, wished he hadn't.
"I am sick of everyone accusing me of that! Now someone who doesn't even know me has thrown that my way." Her scratchy voice was rising with anger. "The better question would be, why wouldn't I want to avoid conflict, because you'd be avoiding it too if..." She trailed off and looked away.
He placed his hand on her shoulder. "If what, Emma?"
When she finally faced him, her eyes were anguished. "If you always lost."
His brows drew together.
"Lose enough times, and guess what that makes you?"
"No - "
"When have I won a conflict with you?" She shrugged from under his hand. "When you kidnapped me? When you got me to agree to this insanity? When you got me to drink from you? You were imprisoned by vampires, Lachlain, and had just escaped them when you took me. Why in the hell would you keep me with you? You hate vampires - have shown me more disgust in less than a week than I've encountered in my entire life. Yet you kept me with you." She gave a bitter laugh. "How you must have loved your little revenges. Did you get off making me nauseated with humiliation? Get a perverse thrill by insulting me one second then shoving your hand up my skirt the next? And at every opportunity to let me go, you demanded I stay, knowing the entire time that I was in danger. From you."
He could deny nothing. He ran his hand over his face as everything she said sank in. His feelings for her had become clearer to him, just as hers had reached a boiling point with him. He wanted to admit to her that she was his mate - that he hadn't kept her with him solely to hurt her. He knew he couldn't tell her now.
"Like everyone else, you walk right over me and never even look back to see how I fared," she said, her voice cracking at the end, making regret cut at him. "Whoa, better shut myself up before I get too upset. Don't want to offend you with my repulsive tears!"
"No, Emma, wait - "
She slammed her car door shut, seeming surprised by her strength, then stalked away over the dirt lot. He let her go, though he moved to keep her in sight.
He saw her sink down on a bench beside the station building and put her forehead in her hand, sitting like that for many moments. Just as he finished refueling, a strange chill wind blew, bringing a mist of rain with it and brushing a flower against her knee. She plucked the spent flower, smelled it, then wadded it up in frustration.
He realized she'd never seen one blooming in the sun. His chest tightened with some unfamiliar feeling, so strong it shook him.
The problems between them weren't because he'd been given the wrong mate. They were because he couldn't adapt -
Three vampires appeared out of nowhere just beside her.
To take her away from him forever.
In an instant, he knew he should let her go to her family and free her from his hatred and pain. Earlier, as he'd tightened his hand around her throat, she'd stared up at him, begging him. She'd believed he was going to kill her. He could have so easily.
The bruises on her neck stood out like an accusation in the harsh lights.
But she gaped at them, as if shocked they'd just appeared when this was the way they traveled.
The scene hit him as wrong. He leapt over the top of the car for her and they turned. The largest one was...a demon? Yet all of their eyes were solid red. A demon turned vampire?
"Stay back, Lykae, or we'll kill you," one of the vampires grated.
As Lachlain charged for her, the oddest thing happened.
Crying his name, she sprinted for him.