"Aren't you going to...retaliate?"
He groaned, and as he took her mouth, he lifted her onto the counter and pressed himself between her legs. His hands palmed her backside and yanked her against his unyielding hardness.
When she gasped, he touched his tongue to hers and she met him, wanting him to take her mouth deeply, to kiss her as he had that first night in the hotel. But it was better than even that. He was aggressive but masterful. He made her melt for him, undulating her hips up to his erection, seeking more.
He growled low, then rasped against her lips, "I canna stand to see you hurt. I will no' let you be hurt again."
She leaned forward, now kissing him, twining her hands in his thick hair. Her legs had wrapped themselves around him as he squeezed her backside, grinding her against him.
She attempted his buttons with tremulous fingers and made a sound of frustration. Instantly, he ripped off the shirt, and she wanted to thank him for displaying the muscles flexing and tensing beneath her palms. Aroused even more, shameless with it, she glided her hand down past the waist of his pants to grasp him.
He put his head back and yelled out, then snatched her sweater and bra up just above her breasts. He nuzzled her nipples, his breath hot against them, then suckled them until she thought she'd die with pleasure.
Screw the future and commitments and fears and whatever else. "I want you," she said on a breath, thumbing the moist head of his penis. When he took her nipple between his teeth and growled against it, she cried in response, "All of you."
He groaned against her damp breast, then rose up to face her with an incredulous expression. "You canna know how much hearing that pleases me."
With her free hand, she unzipped her pants. He reached down to pluck off her boots, then snagged the ends of her jeans and tore them from her with one movement.
Then he went back to kissing her as if he knew she would lose her nerve, making her arch her back to him as she ran her hand along his impossibly large shaft. Shuddering, he lifted her legs to place her feet flat on the counter. Spreading her knees wide, he pulled aside her panties, groaning at the sight of her bared flesh.
For some reason she wasn't embarrassed as he stared, his eyes dark and hungry. In fact, his gaze made her tremble, made her wetter.
"How long I've waited." His voice was husky. "Canna believe it," he said, before taking her mouth so thoroughly, she was left panting and stunned.
He sucked one nipple, then the other between his lips to tongue them. Her hand squeezed his shaft, and her shaking intensified as her body throbbed for release. Why wasn't he touching her? Thrusting inside her? Why had she ever said to take this slow?
She was close, she felt it, on the verge of finally knowing the pleasure she'd never experienced, had only imagined.
Did he want her to ask as he had in the shower? She was no longer above it... "Please touch me here," she begged as her knees fell open in surrender. "Touch me. Kiss me. Whatever you want to do..."
He groaned. "I'm going tae do it all," he bit out. "I'll make this good for you..."
She gave a sharp cry when his fingers gently caressed her sex.
"So wet," he rasped. "You feel like silk." Fingers up and down slowly, leaving her flesh trembling in their wake, coaxing her even wetter. Then one dipped fully inside her, giving her no quarter as he had before, forcing her body to accept it, pressing her back into the mirror. Nothing could feel that good. She moaned in bliss, running her fist up and down his rigid erection.
"Why did you never make love before?" he rumbled in her ear, then hissed in a breath when she cupped his heavy sack.
He knew? Could he feel? "There's no one...For what I am, there was no one who..." She struggled for a word that meant no one my family wouldn't kill. "No one - "
"Who was no' disqualified from the competition." His lips curled. Wicked grin. Wicked Lykae. With his slow, hot touch.
"Then it's good we found each other." He grasped her neck, holding her to face him. With his other hand, he thrust his finger and stroked his thumb over her clitoris. She was glad he held the back of her neck or her head would've lolled. "Look at me."
Her eyes fluttered open.
"You're mine, Emma," he grated between ragged breaths. "Do you understand what I'm telling you?"
Another thrust. Her hips lifted to meet it this time, and she ground into his hand, needing release, needing him deeper.
"Do you understand me? Always."
Her brows drew together. "You have someone else - "
"It's you, Emma. It's always been you."
His words were like a promise, like a...vow. She whispered inanely, "Not Australian for buddy?"
He shook his head slowly, his thumb stroking her, making it difficult to comprehend what he was telling her.
"B-but you said..." Why'd he have to tell her this now, while he made unhurried, perfect circles with his thumb? She vaguely understood what he was saying, and still she wanted his fingers playing, wanted him full and thick inside her. "You...you lied to me?"
He hesitated, then said, "Aye, I lied to you."
She groaned with frustration. Damn it, so close! "Why are you telling me this now?"
"Because we begin this tonight. With the truth between us."
"Begin this?" she asked in a bewildered tone. "What do you mean? Like our lives together or something?"
When he didn't disagree, she tensed. Lives together. For a Lykae, that meant forever, and forever for an immortal was literal. She scrambled away from him, pulling her panties back, and curled her legs under her. "You never intended to let me go." She worked her shirt and bra down, shivering when the material covered her nipples.
"No, I dinna. I had to keep you with me. And I'd planned to entice you to stay by then."
She repeated dumbly, "Had to keep me with you?" Her unfulfilled desire was making her body feel wrong, burning out of her control.
"In all the years that have passed, I have waited for the one woman who was meant to be mine alone. You are that woman."
"Are you still crazy?" she snapped, angered that her body felt bereft of him. "I'm not that woman. I'm just not."
"You will realize soon enough that you were given to me above all others. You'll understand that I've searched relentlessly for you in every age that I have lived." His voice went low and gravelly. "And, Emma, I've lived and I have searched a verra long time."
"I'm a vam" - she patted her chest - "pire. Vampire. You've forgotten that."
"It stunned me as well. I dinna accept it at first."
"No kidding? I never would have known! What if you were correct then? You could be wrong now," she said desperately. "How can you be sure?"
He leaned over her. "I scented you from...afar, and it was beautiful and eased my mind. I saw your eyes for the first time, and I recognized you. I tasted your flesh, and" - he shuddered violently above her and his voice went guttural - "there is no way to describe it. But I can show you if you let me."
"I can't do this," she said, trying to dislodge herself from her pinned position, disgusted that when he'd shuddered, she'd gone soft for him once more.
Dawning horror. Her suspicion that she'd harbored and resisted was true. How could she have been so stupid - She stopped herself. No, the idea had been easy to discount because how could she, a half-creature who was part vampire, be a Lykae's mate? A vampire and a Lykae bound together?
And then there had been his convincing, ego-crushing lie...
"So what had you planned to do with me?" She feinted right, then ducked left out from under his arms, snaring her jeans. She knew he'd allowed her to get away and faced him, shaking with anger. "Really planned? Am I to, say, live with your pack? The one you were quick to point out will rip me to bits?"
"No one will ever hurt you again, from my clan or outside of it. But you will no' live among them, because I am their king, and our home is here at Kinevane."
"Wow, I landed European royalty! Somebody call People!" She stormed from the bathroom, then wriggled into her pants.
What she wouldn't give to be able to trace, to disappear her ass out of this castle. She hated being lied to. Since she could never lie back.
Mimicking his accent, she said, " 'Ye're no' my mate, Emmaline. Nothing so serious as my one mate, but I would no' mind keepin' ye for my mistress. I want ye, but no' for that.' How condescending you were!"
He followed, gripping her arm and forcing her to face him. "I regretted having to lie, but what's done is done. I want you to at least listen to what I have to say."
"And I want to go home and see my family." And get her mind straight and ask them, Why do I dream his memories? Why am I always overwhelmed and confused, like someone put a chaos spell on my life?
"Will you no' even consider that this could be true? You would leave me, even knowing what we could have?"
She frowned as a sudden thought occurred. "You said 'every age that I have lived.' So how old are you? Six hundred? Seven hundred years?"
"Does that matter?"
She shook his hand free. "How - old?"
"Roughly twelve hundred years."
She gasped. "Do you know what 'robbing the cradle' means? I am almost seventy-one. This skeeves me out!"
"I knew it would be difficult to accept, but you'll come to see it in time."
"Come to see what? That I want to live in a foreign country away from my family and friends in order to stay with the dishonest, unbalanced Lykae who keeps lying to me?"
"I will never lie to you again, but your place is with me. Here."
"Here. In northern Scotland. And we're coming up on summer. Gee, Lach, how long are the days in the summer way up here?"
"I've thought about that. We'll go to wherever you can be comfortable in the summer. And the nights are longer in the winter. Do you think I would no' take you where I could have more hours with you?"
"You've got it all figured out. You're going to make me say 'I do' whether I do or don't."
"I do?" He frowned. "As in marriage? This is much more serious than marriage."
"That's about as serious - "
"Marriages can end."
Her lips parted. "Well, that certainly puts it into perspective. No way out for eternity. Did it ever occur to you that I might like to take one day at a time? I'm young, and this is everything. You're asking me for - no, you're demanding - everything, and I've only known you a week. You may have this cosmic certainty about me, but I don't have the same about you."
"If I asked you, would that make a difference? Will you stay with me?"
"No, I won't. But I'm not saying we would never see each other again. I'll go home and we'll take things slowly, get to know one another."
He closed his eyes. When he opened them, they were full of pain. Then his face hardened. "I canna allow that. You'll remain here until you can answer that question differently."
"You would separate me from my family?"
He seized her arm, hard. "You have no idea how ruthless I will be to keep you, Emma. I'd do that and more. I will do whatever it takes."
"You'll never hold me prisoner here."
For some reason, that clearly angered him more than the rest. His body tensed and his eyes flickered blue. "No, I canna. You're free to go. But you doona get a car. You doona get to direct someone here to pick you up. We're a hundred miles from the nearest town, which is inhabited almost solely by the clan, so walking out of here is no' recommended."
At the door, he turned back. "I canna keep you a prisoner here. But the sun can."
"Nïx!" Emma cried into the receiver when her aunt picked up the phone.
"Why, Emma, how are you? Enjoying Scotland?" she asked in a distracted voice.
"Just let me talk to Annika."
Emma inhaled a deep breath, drumming her nails on the desk in the small office she'd found. "Nïx, this isn't a game. I don't know when I'll be able to make another call, and it's imperative that I speak with her."
"What do you mean?" Emma demanded. "She's either there or she's not."
"She's negotiating with the wraiths right now."
Stunned, Emma sank into a cool, leather chair. "Why would we need them?" The wraiths were a final measure when a coven was in grave danger. Their price to circle the manor, protecting it from outsiders with their ghostly power, was steep.
"We were attacked!" Nïx said delightedly. "Ivo the Cruel's vampires ambushed the manor and attacked us - not me, actually, because no one woke me for this, understand, and I'm quite put out. And they weren't all vampires exactly. One was a demon vampire. I want to call it a dempire from now on, but just to be contrary, Regin insists on naming it a vemon. Oh, and then Lucia's arrow missed the dempire and I heard she dropped like a rock, screaming, which burst every light in the house. But in the dark this Lykae came to the rescue, prowling inside. Lucia's screams seemed to really put him out. Hmmm... So he stalked in and he and Regin united and fought side by side to slay the vampires. Except Ivo and his dempire escaped. Anyhoo. Vampires, Valkyrie, and Lykae, oh my. Or as Regin calls it - the 'fucking monster mash.' Hilarity ensued."
Nïx had finally lost it. Dempires? Lucia missing her target? Regin fighting side by side with a "dog"? Emma gritted her teeth. "Tell Annika I'm on the phone."
"Hold on, let me just finish up here."
Emma heard typing sounds and asked slowly, "Why are you on the computer?"
"I'm blocking all e-mails from your accounts and any that have the extension 'uk,' like from Scotland. Because I'm clever like that."
"Nïx, why are you doing this to me?" she cried. "Why are you stranding me here?"
"You can't possibly want Annika to come get you now."
"Yes! Yes, I can."
"So, the leader of our coven is to come after you, when we're under siege, Myst and Daniela are missing, and Lucia is in pain and alarmed by her when-animals-attack admirer? If you can tell me you fear for your life, then maybe, but otherwise you'll just have to take a number."
"You need me there! Nïx, you won't believe this, but I've got madskills going on. I can fight. I beat up a Lykae female!"
"That's wonderful, sweetling, but I can't talk much longer or this GPS thingy Annika has attached to the phone might actually track your call."
"Nïx, she needs to know where - "
"You are? Emma, I've known precisely where you are. I'm not insane for nothing."
"Wait!" She gripped the phone with both hands. "Do you...do you ever dream others' memories?"
"What do you mean?"
"Have you ever dreamed things that have happened to someone else in the past - events that you couldn't have any knowledge of?"
"From the past? Of course not, sweetling. Now, that's just crazy."
Lachlain returned to his study, pinching his forehead and favoring his good leg. His injury was killing him, and after the buildup with Emma and its bitterly disappointing ending, weariness washed over him.
Bowe had already returned to the scotch. "And how'd that go?"
"Poorly. Now she believes I'm a liar. Probably because I lied to her." He sank into his chair, massaging his leg. "I should have told her the news after."
When Bowe raised his eyebrows, he explained, "I had to convince her earlier that she was no' my mate. Scoffed at the idea to convince her. She was sure to mimic that."
"You look like hell."
"I feel it." Explaining the fire to Bowe earlier had been excruciating. Though Lachlain had said little, merely having to revisit the memories pained him. And that had been before he'd seen his mate get struck in the face and strangled by a fellow Lykae.
"Do you want to hear more bad news?"
"Why the hell no'?"
"My discussion with Cass went poorly as well. She dinna take the news as well as we might have hoped. The idea of no' having you is bad enough, but to be beaten out by a vampire appears to be intolerable for her."
"I could care less about that - "
"She brings up issues that the elders will. She pointed out that vampire females are usually infertile..."
"We canna have bairns. And I for one am glad of it. Anything else?" He was glad she couldn't have children. Shocking for a man who'd craved a family almost as much as his mate, but there it was.
After twelve hundred years of searching for her, he wasn't about to share her.
Bowe raised his eyebrows. "Aye. Do you see that red button on the phone there? Means someone's on the line. I just passed Harmann, and Cass would have a cell phone. Looks like your queen's phoning home."
Lachlain shrugged. "She canna give them directions to this place. She was unconscious until we got to the gate."
"They keep her on the phone long enough and she will no' have to. Lachlain, they can track where this phone call is coming from. Satellites above us and such."
Lachlain exhaled and mentally added "satellite" to his list of things he didn't bloody understand and would look up later. He'd thought satellites were for television, not for tele-phones.
Bowe continued, "Depends on how high-tech they are, but they might need as little as three minutes - " The light went off. "Good, then, she hung up - " The light resumed. "She's calling again. You truly might want to stop her." The light went on once more, then off, repeating several more times while Lachlain and Bowe watched in silence.
"Does no' matter," Lachlain finally said. "I will no' forbid her to speak with her family."
"They'll descend on this castle like the plague."
"If they can find it, and get past our protections, then I'll think of something to pacify them. Are they no' obsessed with shiny things? A bauble or two should suffice."
Bowe raised his eyebrows. "Let me know how that works out for you."
Lachlain scowled, then limped to the window, gazing out. He saw her a moment later, gliding out across the greens.
"Ah, I see you've spotted her."
"How do you know?" he asked without turning.
"You tensed and leaned forward. Doona worry. Soon you will be out there with her on nights like these."
As if she felt his gaze, she turned to the window. She was eerily beautiful with the fog swirling about her, her face as pale and captivating as the moon above her. But her normally expressive eyes now revealed nothing to him.
He wanted her so badly, but knew the harder he tightened his grasp, the more she would slip from it like quicksilver. The only thing about her that responded to him was her body - tonight her need had been strong - and he could use that.
She turned from him and stole into the night. She was born to haunt this place. To haunt him. He continued to stare long after she disappeared.
"Maybe you should just tell her why there's an element of time," Bowe offered.
He exhaled. "She's no' been with a man." Lachlain had debated telling her the truth again and again, but the truth involved admitting he was desperate to have her so he wouldn't hurt her. "So should I say, 'If you cooperate, then I will no' hurt you as badly'?"
"Christ, I dinna know she was innocent. No' many of those left in the Lore. Of course you canna tell her, else you'll terrify her and make her dread the night - "
"Bloody hell," Lachlain bit out when Cassandra followed in Emma's direction.
Bowe moved to another window facing out. "I've got this one. Why do you no' relax for a while."
"No, I'll go." He lurched for the door.