She grinned wickedly, feeling like a wild youth.
“I can see her pants on the floor!” Baldair’s hand appeared in the doorframe as he motioned toward the foot of the bed. Vhalla sat, holding the blankets to her chest. That was indeed where they had ended up. “And, you have—Gods, Vhalla, I didn’t know you were rough!”
Vhalla bit her lip, but it couldn’t suppress a small giggle. She looked back to Aldrik and the red lines she had left on the skin of his shoulders. The crown prince smirked proudly, as if they were badges of honor.
“Father?” Aldrik said again, folding his arms over his chest. “Yes! Father is there. Do you still need privacy?” Baldair struggled with the notion.
“Perhaps,” Aldrik mused. Vhalla shifted her legs, wondering if he was serious or simply teasing his brother further. Her face flushed red hot at the implications and his boldness.
“Who are you and what have you done with my brother?” Baldair forced out.
“Blame the woman in my bed.” Aldrik shrugged, dropping his hands to his sides.
“I have little other option!” Baldair said, exasperated.
Aldrik ran a hand through his hair with a chuckle, and Vhalla savored the way his muscles moved, the exposure of his side, how his hair almost stayed in place. She wanted him all over again.
Vhalla swallowed the desire, suppressing it. It didn’t matter what she wanted. They were playing a dangerous game with certain expectations, and they had already taken far too many liberties for the day.
“You should eat,” Vhalla started. Aldrik’s face fell into a disappointed frown. “You’ve been sleeping for almost two weeks, Aldrik. You need real food.”
He pouted like a petulant child. “Come to me tonight?”
“I don’t think that’s ...” Vhalla’s words burned away in the blistering want that his eyes radiated. She nodded. “When everyone is asleep.”
“We’ll be out shortly, then.” Aldrik turned back to Baldair, who disappeared with another shake of his head. Aldrik dragged his feet back over to the bed. “I don’t want you to leave.”
“I don’t want to.” Vhalla couldn’t help but laugh at his pouting. “But we have no excuse, my prince.” Vhalla ran her palm up his arm to his shoulder and back down to his hand.
“You’ll be with me again soon,” he reassured them both as he brought her fingers to his lips.
They both dressed slowly, giving into distractions. But only so many kisses could delay the inevitable, and Vhalla found herself buttoned up once more, in tow behind him. Aldrik paused just before they neared the entryway into the main room. The sounds of the men and women laughing and drinking, giving into the evening revelries, were dull compared to the beautiful chorus she and Aldrik had sung the whole afternoon with their muted sighs and hushed whispers.
“I love you,” he breathed, glancing down at her.
“I love you, Aldrik,” Vhalla repeated back, not appreciating the nervous glint to his eyes.
They plunged into the room, made bright by hovering flames, and all eyes instantly went to them. Vhalla wished her face didn’t immediately flush such an incriminatory shade of scarlet. She averted her eyes, hoping no one would notice.
“So good of you to join us,” the Emperor finally spoke.
“I hope we have not been the cause of any delays.” Aldrik’s mannerisms clearly conveyed that he didn’t care if they had been.
“I would like a primary report of your findings.” The Emperor froze them both in place.
“Well—” Aldrik began.
“From her,” the Emperor interjected.
Vhalla tore her eyes off the floor in surprise, only to find all attention on her. She suddenly wondered if she’d smoothed her hair enough, or if it still bore remnants of Aldrik’s eager hands. She wondered if there was a bruise somewhere visible from his ravenous hunger to taste her. She wondered if she smelled of him.
“My lord, it’s all, it’s very complex ...” Vhalla struggled to say something, anything.
“Is it?” The Emperor arched an eyebrow. “Did you not see within Soricium castle with your own eyes?”
“I did,” she lied.
“Then tell me what you saw; I so long to see the inside those walls.” A predatory sneer spread across his lips. Vhalla knew she was being tested, and she knew she was failing.
“I saw...” Her eyes flicked to Aldrik and hopelessness filled his expression at the inability to help. Her treacherous mind was filled only with images of his naked form. “I saw ...”
Aldrik’s lips parted. His mind raced behind the dark of his eyes, trying to formulate an excuse for her that wouldn’t incriminate them both.
“Mother, Jax!” Daniel suddenly jumped out of his seat at the crash of a flagon.
“Sorry, sorry!” The Westerner stood also, eagerly patting at the Easterner’s soaked crotch.
“Jax!” Daniel jumped back. “I don’t need that. I need a new pair of trousers.”
“Could I help you change?” Jax straightened and cocked his head to the side.
“Gods, no!” Daniel groaned.
“Fine, fine.” Jax sat with his hands in the air in a sign of defeat. “But if you’re going, take the Lady Vhalla with you, she looks like she hasn’t slept in days.”