Vhalla left the other truths surrounding them unsaid: the fear of her own mortality, of having almost lost him. Any day could be the day this beautiful yet fragile thing they were creating could break. The number of things trying to pull them apart was daunting, which made every heated desire to come together even stronger.
She felt the same way she had at the gala, what seemed like a lifetime ago. Vhalla wouldn’t let him be taken from her, in any capacity, without really knowing him first. She had wanted him for so long without realizing it, and now she had. She was going to be lost if she wasn’t able to use his skin as a roadmap back to sanity.
“I don’t want you to be some cheap camp whore on the wrong side of the sheets.” Aldrik’s thumb stroked her cheek.
“Then have me as your lady.” Her soft laughter turned into a cooling sigh as she relented to his protests. “Aldrik, if you don’t truly want—”
Vhalla tasted the kiss he gave in on. She felt the final scrap of his self-control dissolve and his hands were moving once more. They were hasty and desperate to cast aside the last of the physical and mental barriers that separated them.
Everything culminated in stunning intensity. Vhalla was certain the men and women in the other room would hear each piece of clothing that was discarded on the dusty floor, the falling fabric rang so loudly in her ears. He swallowed her every moan and she breathed out his air.
His hasty words, asking once more for her consent were almost lost to the heartbeat in her ears. Vhalla wanted to scream it to him: yes! She wanted to shout to the Gods above that the man in her arms would never be stripped from her again. But a gasp of affirmation was the only noise she could manage.
They were a tangle of limbs, kisses, and magic. It was like the Joining all over again, compounded with the taste of skin and sweat and heat. She lost herself in him, in that place of peaking emotions and sorcery. Vhalla gave into a bliss that was far too sweet to last.
Boneless and spent, Aldrik’s arms curled lazily around her. Her legs snaked with his, and she rested her head on his chest, two forms of unbroken skin. The prince pressed his lips to her forehead.
“Vhalla,” he whispered.
“Aldrik?” she replied softly.
“Are you all right?” His fingers ran thoughtfully though her hair.
She laughed. “How is that even a question? I am beyond wonderful,” she whispered, her voice barely audible, even to her own ears. “I wish we could stay like this forever.”
“Would it scare you if I told you I felt the same?” Aldrik’s voice was a tender whisper, soft as silk. It was a voice she doubted anyone had ever heard before. “Vhalla, Gods, Vhalla.” He sounded frightened, lost, and nervous. She tightened her grip on him and held onto the closeness they had cultivated. “I know I am not supposed to love you. But I do, and nothing will change that fact now.”
It was a pained confession, and his arms tensed. He acted as though his brain fought an internal struggle, a struggle to which his body firmly objected. Vhalla shifted closer to him and took a deep breath. The world was full of the heady smells of him—smoke, sweat, and fire—combined with the tangy notes of sex. It was a scent of their making that carved a satisfied little smile into her lips.
“I love you, too,” she whispered.
His throaty laughter was like music. “You are mine.”
“You are mine.” Vhalla was eager to lay claim to the man in her arms.
Aldrik paused, as if bracing himself. But when he opened his mouth to speak, nothing more than a large yawn escaped his lips.
Vhalla giggled softly. “I think you should sleep, my prince.” “Stay with me?”
“Where else would I go?” Vhalla nuzzled closer to him, her eyelids growing heavy.
“I don’t know, but anywhere else would be wrong.” Aldrik’s words grew sluggish with sleep.
Vhalla wasn’t sure if she spoke her agreement or just thought it. But she was too tired to confirm either way as sleep took its hold on her.
She shifted with a yawn. Warm, she thought as she nuzzled her face into him. Her prince was so warm. Underneath the covers, it was like sleeping with a small furnace, and Vhalla wiggled closer against him, her legs still wrapped around his.
“My love.” His voice was thick with sleep.
“Aldrik?” She rubbed her eyes tiredly. The afternoon was turning the slats of the window’s shutter bright orange.
“You are soft.” He nuzzled her hair.
“And you are warm,” she said groggily, her palm caressing him stomach to chest. A low chuckle rumbled through him. Vhalla paused her movements. “Are you ticklish, my prince?” She tilted her head up with a grin.
“Not really.” Aldrik smirked before kissing her lightly. “I simply cannot recall the last time I slept midday.”
“What time is it?” Vhalla yawned, feeling like she’d be perfectly content to sleep the rest of the day and night away in his arms.
“I would love to tell you, but my pocket watch is in my trousers, and I’m not sure where they are at present.” He laughed again. “Would you like me to leave to locate them?”
“Of course not.” She smirked, her hand snaking around to hold him tightly.
“Am I your prisoner, Lady Yarl?” Aldrik grinned. “Quite so!” Vhalla laughed.
“And here I was of the mind to turn you into my prisoner when we returned to the palace.” Aldrik shifted onto his side to face her.