Aldrik’s eyes picked up the faint moonlight and flashed in the darkness. He stilled, as if waiting for her to send him away. Vhalla held her breath. The crown prince was sneaking to her side under the cover of night. It felt like another world, as though the day was the dream and this moment was real.
The door sighed softly as he closed it the rest of the way. Aldrik crossed to the bed, his breathing slow and heavy. He stared down at her with eyes she’d only seen once before but was pleased to already see again. Vhalla propped herself up onto her elbows, pulled by attraction to meet his mouth as it descended upon her.
The mattress yielded at his weight, and the prince chased away all thoughts by heaping his adoration upon her. He tasted of metal and smoke and of the sweet tang of liquor. Magic was hot on his tongue, and it melted across her skin. Vhalla relinquished her control, tipping her head back and allowing the prince to take what he had wanted.
She savored the confidence of his palms as they smoothed away the toils of the day. They discarded the ugly scraps of fabric that confined her, leaving Vhalla’s emotions bare before him, the raw essence of who she was.
The dexterity of his fingers and hips had her breath hitching in seconds. Now that the initial fears of having her faded, there was a new flame ignited in the crown prince. He moved leisurely, exploring Vhalla as though she were an enigma crafted for him—and only him—by the gods themselves.
Deeper than physical, her magic called out to and coiled around his. It tangled hopelessly across their Bond, their Joining, and made a raw and beautiful mess out of them. Aldrik was wonderfully fearless. He didn’t wall off her body or mind, and Vhalla explored and savored every dark and secret corner of him.
By the time the first rays of gray sunlight crept into the room, they had only managed a few hours of sleep. She lay on her side, Aldrik’s face buried in her hair and his breath hot on her neck. One of the crown prince’s arms was snaked around her bare torso, the other underneath the pillow.
Vhalla blinked tiredly at the unrelenting dawn. The light was so harsh, burning away the fever-heat dreams of the night. She felt Aldrik stir.
“Don’t go,” she whispered.
“It’s dawn and my father thinks I’m staying with Baldair.” His voice was thick and graveled with sleep.
“I will go mad if you leave this bed.” She gripped his hand tightly.
“And I may go mad if I stay.” Aldrik sunk his teeth into the tender flesh where her neck met her shoulder.
“You couldn’t possibly ...” Vhalla’s words trailed off when he ground his hips into her. “You’re insatiable!”
She wriggled in his arms to face him. Aldrik had a half-drunk smile, lazily tilted between his cheeks. His hair was a mess of raven, spilling partly over his shoulders, tangled against the pillow. Vhalla had discovered a prince no one knew existed, and she had made him hers.
“I had the most wonderful dream,” he breathed.
“Did you?” Vhalla ran her fingers through his hair, catching on a snare. “What did it involve?”
“The most wonderful thing I have.” The prince caught her hand, bringing it to his lips. “You.”
Despite everything, he could still make her blush. “Do you have such dreams often?”
Aldrik paused, answering hesitantly, “I actually do.” He pressed his mouth against hers. “Then again, maybe that isn’t so surprising, for I am quite enamored with you.”
Vhalla grinned against his lips, and Aldrik ate her elation hungrily. They delayed the dawn as long as possible, but the moment was shattered with the sound of the door down the hall closing. Vhalla’s blood cooled, and Aldrik tightened his grip on her. This time the motion was purely protective.
The Emperor’s footsteps grew closer, before turning into the main room.
“I should go,” he hastily whispered.
Vhalla sighed and gave no further objections. Aldrik stood and Vhalla shamelessly watched him dress.
“I will see you shortly.”
She lay in bed, ignoring the rising sun for longer than was proper. Vhalla finally pried herself away when the covers relinquished his warmth. She dressed slowly, pleased to discover that the small pile of clothes she’d generated from staying in Aldrik’s room before he’d arrived hadn’t been removed.
Vhalla was met with an almost empty main hall when she finally emerged. Baldair sat alone, perusing some papers, mostly empty plates scattered around him.
“You missed breakfast.” He glanced over at her.
“I can see that.” Vhalla sat down at an untouched plate, one she could only assume was for her.
“It was a real treat too.” Baldair rolled his eyes.
“I bet.” Vhalla tore off a hunk of stale bread unceremoniously. Silence passed between them, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Vhalla had begun to understand Baldair, at least she thought so. In the time she’d spent with his brother, and with the man himself, she’d begun to learn and see more about how the younger prince ticked. “So he told you then?”
Baldair nodded. “He told me and Father last night. Is it true?”
“Is what true?” Vhalla was left wondering if he had somehow misunderstood her.
“That there’s this Western group helping the North to kill us?” Baldair asked gravely.
“Do you think I would lie about something like that?” She frowned.