My female, in my home. No longer would he pass nights alone down here. He had a mate, a companion.
As she leaned closer to the fire, the light flickered over her raven-black hair, the flames reflecting in her green eyes. She had the sultriest eyes. And he couldn't seem to pull his gaze away.
At last, his woman was with him. Here to be sheltered by him, to be claimed by him.
The idea of protecting her aroused Malkom. As did the idea of providing food for her. He could imagine her expressing her gratitude with her body ... or her mouth.
Eyes locked on her full lips, he stifled a groan, recalling what she'd said in Demonish. He envisioned her asking once more when she was on her knees, naked before him. In their negotiation earlier, she'd said nothing about his using his mouth on her - or her doing the same.
Malkom had never had his member sucked, had never received that pleasure. No matter how many times I was forced to wring it from another, he thought darkly, his muscles knotting with tension before he shook away that age-old resentment.
He'd always wondered how it would feel - wondered what was so remarkable about the act that it could make a male weak in the knees, could make him crave it again and again.
Could she be coaxed to satisfy his curiosity once and for all?
Maybe she would let him do even more this night? Yes, she'd stipulated no intercourse, but only out of fear that he'd hurt her. Naturally, he'd made no vow about that, because as soon as he'd proved he could touch her without paining her, he intended to take her body.
But he had vowed not to drink her, and he would try to honor his oath, at least until he could explain what the act meant to him, and why she could deny him no longer.
On the hike here, he'd realized that with this woman, the Thirst didn't rule him.
The sense of connection did. As he'd taken her neck, he'd never felt more bound to another in his entire existence.
But did I really make her head hurt from drinking her? He thought back to his youth, trying to remember his own reactions....
For now, he'd sate himself on animal blood, would be forced to even this night. Though he'd drunk her blood, he'd lost still more defending her.
Her stomach growled then. Reminded that she must be starving, he shot to his feet, promising to return with a feast of game birds for her to cook.
He held up his forefinger, telling her she should wait there. She would be safe within his den. Beasts avoided this place instinctively. And his foes like Ronath couldn't trace. Even if the armorer had learned that skill in the intervening years, he couldn't teleport directly into the mine shaft, a place he'd surely never been.
When she gave no response, Malkom scowled and held up his finger more insistently.
With a roll of her eyes, she gestured to the fire, plainly saying, As if I'd leave this.
Filled with a new purpose, he set out into the night, hunting swiftly, determined to provide for her. A half hour later, on his return, he stopped at a small collection pool to refill the canteen. As usual, he was uneasy beside the water. He began to sweat whenever he neared anything larger than a puddle, had since he was a boy.
For the first time in centuries, he forced himself to kneel so he could look at his reflection. Wondering how she saw him, he peered down.
He had horns and fangs; she did not. While her skin was smooth and clean, his was dirty, his face covered with stubble. His clothes were rough-hewn and tattered.
And those were merely the detractions that could be seen.
He could neither read nor cipher numbers, and his birth could not be lowlier. I was a slave and ill used....
I killed the only friend I ever had. With a scowl, he hit the water, scattering the reflection.
While he was gone, Carrow peeled off her boots and hose, casting a spell to heal her feet, courtesy of the demon. Once her skin was mended, she wiggled her toes in the fine sand.
And she still had some power left over. If she got enough happiness out of him, she could do some bigger spells, maybe even a three on the Wiccan scale of five. She had a particular one in mind.
Determined to keep some juice on tap, she decided she'd allow herself only one more healing - either the bite on her neck, the bruise on her chest, or her wrist. The wrist was healing on its own, and the bite mark wasn't nearly as bad as the first. This time he'd pierced her skin cleanly, with no tearing.
As if he'd gotten better at it. She shivered again, recalling how it'd felt. A spike of pain, then warm pleasure.
She gazed down at her chest, cringing at the bruised outline of the demon's huge hand. The discoloration stretched nearly from shoulder to shoulder. Chest it is.
Another spell, and the bruise disappeared.
Shortly after, Slaine returned with a full canteen and two dead fowl of some sort. They looked like a cross between a pheasant and a chicken.
His eyes briefly widened at her unblemished feet, then he tried to hand the "phickens" to her.
"What do you expect me to do with them?" She shrugged with an I got nothing expression.
He launched into another spate of low Demonish, this time using her name. She felt like a cartoon dog listening to its owner: "Blah blah blah CARROW blah blah."
"Whatever." She pointed to the canteen.
At length, he handed it to her. As she drank, he ripped off one bird's head as smoothly as pulling a cork out of a wine bottle. When he lifted the body to guzzle the blood, she spit out the water, about to throw up.
With a scowl at her reaction, he took the creatures outside, returning once the cheasants were cleaned, dressed, and doubtless drained.
She turned away as he spitted them over the flames. But once they began roasting, she couldn't take her eyes off them. Though she was starving, and the meat smelled so good, she didn't know if she could eat it.
Carrow wasn't a vegetarian by any means, but if he had handed her those birds before he'd killed them, they would've become pets. Part of her mourned CluckCluck and Chanticleer.
Even so, her mouth watered, her stomach growling loudly, and he smirked, his expression saying, Bet you're glad you came with me.
"Lap it up, demon. Any more satisfaction from you, and I'll fry that look right from your dirty face."
As the birds roasted, she padded barefoot over to the pile of soldiers' packs, and began rooting for anything that might make life in hell a shade better.
Every pack had a name tag on it, but instead of Sgt. or PFC, every last tag bore the title Officer, like security guards. Officer Hostoffersson had an all-purpose knife and even a small Dopp kit. If I bean the demon in the head with that, would he take a hint?
Officer Lindt had carried no chocolate, but he had a flask. She opened the cap and took a whiff. Had to be Jack Daniel's.
The larger packs contained changes of clothes - black T-shirts, camo pants, socks - and sleeping bags. She'd be trying out one of those tonight. Ah, to sleep under the covers, with food in her belly and warmth all around? Without getting mauled by beasties? Luxury.
Surely once she was rested, she could reflect on everything more rationally, could determine the best way to free Ruby and all her friends and allies.
Carrow glanced over at the demon, wondering if he was tired, as well. Did a vampire demon sleep as much as other immortals? She found him staring at her, those blue eyes stark against his streaked face.
"I bet you didn't sleep much last night either, demon. Running around after me. And here I am."
She looked away from him to survey his lair. So this is where I'll be making time. The area seemed secure and protected from the elements. As long as the demon was gladdened by her very presence here, she could milk some energy, at least enough to keep him in check.
But it definitely needed a woman's touch. That's me - so domestic. With a sigh, she started straightening up. He didn't try to stop her, which was good since Carrow wasn't accustomed to entering into all these negotiations, much less miming them.
Instead he gazed on in fascination as she collected the animal - fingers crossed! - bones in her arms, carrying them like firewood to cast out into the main shaft.
Next she coiled the ropes and myriad chains, stowing them and the countless blades in an empty corner. Finished with that, she turned to his pallet. The one he sat on. "Shoo, demon," she said, waving him away. She got the sense that this amused him, but he did move.
She pinched the corner of the worn material, lifting it with disdain, then tossed it out as well.
Once she'd replaced it with a new sleeping bag, she said, "You can come back now."
But when she selected a second bag to lay on the opposite side of the fire, he finally conveyed an opinion. He smirked, holding up a pair of fingers together, as if saying, You can set up two pallets if you like, but we'll still be using one.
Ignoring him, she began unrolling it, but he hastened forward, startling her with his incredible speed. She tripped back, her arms cartwheeling and her ring flying - into the fire. "My ring, my ring!"
He looked from the fire to her with a raised brow.
That ring was the only thing she had of her parents, the only personal gift she'd ever received from them. She clasped her hands to her chest in a pleading gesture.
Sharp nod from the demon. He shoved his hand into the flames, rooting through the embers to retrieve the ring. He held it out to her, then snatched it back at the last minute, blowing on it to cool the band for her.
How could this being - who'd decorated his home with severed heads - also be so ... thoughtful?
Once he offered the ring again, she breathed a sigh of relief and slipped it back on. But when she noticed the damage to his burned hand, she cried, "You crazy Neanderthal!" Before she thought better of it, she'd knelt beside him and seized his hand in hers.
Malkom's lids went heavy. He felt no pain, only the pleasure of her touch. After being alone so long...
Keep your eyes open, Slaine, to enjoy this more.
She spoke, sounding breathless, but he didn't understand her. Still, he suspected this behavior of hers was akin to affection. And he craved more. How to get it?
He tried to draw on what he knew of females, to determine how to make this one stay pleased and affectionate.
His knowledge was ... limited.
He'd barely known his mother. She'd been a whore who'd despised his very existence, selling him into slavery - and eventually attempting much worse. She was no example to him. Then, in the years when he'd been a se"uestered slave, he'd rarely even seen females, and always from a distance. At fourteen, he'd encountered young highborn demonesses who'd laughed as he'd eaten from their garbage or begged them for a drop of water.
I know naught of females.
As he pondered this, he absently brushed Carrow's hair from her cheek. The touch had been gentle and she looked surprised, maybe even ... hopeful. Again he marveled at how revealing her expressions were. She was so easy to read; he realized he could learn - from her - how to put her at ease.
I know naught of females. He took her delicately boned hand in his own, pulling her closer. But this one will teach me.
What is wrong with me? Carrow didn't know what had possessed her to cross to his side of the fire, much less to touch him. When she tried to extricate her hand from his, he clutched it too hard. "You're going to hurt me again!" She yanked back, freeing herself from his grip.
His eyes darted, his mind working. To her horror, he shoved his other hand into the fire.
"What are you doing?" she cried, leaping forward, hauling his arm back.
His chin jutting, he presented his latest burned hand to her.
With a defeated exhalation, she took it, skimming her fingers over it. "You'd go through that pain just so I'll touch you?" Sympathy bloomed in her. After centuries alone, he was so starved for attention he'd harm himself, seeking more.
She could relate....
Unbidden, a memory arose of her eighth birthday, which her parents had celebrated with a soiree. The dazzling gathering had been out on their terrace, with lanterns dangling from oak limbs, stretching out over the laughing guests.
Carrow hadn't been invited.
She remembered trembling with desperation, feeling as if she'd die without their attention. She'd ditched her nannies and jumped her pony over the hedge onto the terrace. She hadn't cared if she crashed or made it - either would result in her parents having to acknowledge her existence. Desperate, shaking, please look at me.
She'd fallen from the saddle, breaking her arm and cracking her skull for her troubles. Once she'd awakened, her parents had already departed for the summer - abandoning her into the care of new, sterner nannies.
When Carrow thought back on her youth, she remembered most that clinging neediness. Sometimes, she still woke with a yawning lack aching in her chest.
And amazingly, anticipating a future with Ruby was the first thing that had ever made that yearning ebb.
"Ara?" he rasped.
"What?" He was studying her again. "I'm fine." Even though they didn't speak the same language, when he watched her for every tiny response, she felt like he was "listening" to her better than any man before.
He held up a finger again, then shot to his feet and away from the fire. When he returned, he had her backpack. He must have collected her things last night.
He presented it to her as if he'd known she was sad and wanted to cheer her.
"That was really nice, demon. Thank you." He truly wanted to please her. Which meant he was manageable.
I'm going to get him to that portal, and now I know how.