Hawke’s smile turned to smoke and became just as sinful as his blood. “Would you rather I show you instead of telling you?”
My skin flashed hot. “No.”
“Liar,” he whispered, eyes closing.
The warmth in my skin started to spread as if it were a spark, and I shifted, feeling less…floaty and more…weighted. I tried to ignore it. “Are…Naill and Delano okay?”
“They will be fine, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to know you asked about them.”
I doubted that, but something was happening, changing.
My body didn’t feel like it was mine, not when the heat was seeping into my muscles, flushing my skin, and pooling in my core. I imagined it was him—Hawke’s blood slowly making its way through every part of my body.
He was inside me.
I felt out of control, just like the night in the Blood Forest, and when we were in the room above the tavern.
My chest suddenly ached and became heavy, but it wasn’t from pain, lack of air, or coldness. No. It was like when Hawke had touched me, when he’d stripped me bare and kissed me—kissed me everywhere. I felt loose. My insides tingled, just as my skin hummed. Razor-sharp lust pulsed straight through me, a dark desire that burned.
Hawke’s nostrils flared as he inhaled, and then his chest seemed to stop moving. His features were still hazy, but the longer I stared at him, the hotter I felt.
“Poppy,” he bit out.
“What?” My voice sounded full of honey.
“Stop thinking what you’re thinking.”
“How do you know what I’m thinking?”
His chin lowered, and his stare was a caress. “I know.”
Shivering, I shifted my hips, and Hawke’s arm tightened around me. “You don’t know.”
He didn’t respond, and I wondered if he could feel the liquid fire in my veins, and the damp heat of my core.
Biting down on my lip, I tasted his blood and moaned, closing my eyes. “Hawke?”
He made a sound, and maybe he said something, but it was indecipherable.
I stretched, taking quick, shallow breaths. The coarse shirt and breeches scraped my skin and the sensitive, hardened tips of my breasts. “Hawke,” I breathed.
“Don’t,” he said, stiffening. “Don’t call me that.”
There were a lot of things I shouldn’t do or say, but everything in me was focused on the way my entire body burned and throbbed with need. My hand moved, sliding up my stomach, over the ruined, clawed shirt, to my breast. Guided only by instinct and need, I closed my fingers over the shivery flesh, molding it to my palm. An aching shudder worked its way through me.
“Poppy,” Hawke ground out. “What are you doing?”
“I don’t know,” I whispered, back arching as I stroked myself through the thin, worn shirt. “I’m on fire.”
“It’s just the blood,” he said thickly, and instinct told me he was watching me, and that made me all the hotter. “It’ll pass, but you should…you need to stop doing that.”
I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. My thumb rolled over the pebbled hardness, and I sucked in air. It reminded me of what Hawke had done, but he’d used more than just his hands. I wanted him to do that again. An intense, pulsing ache between my legs twisted my insides. Hips shifting, I pressed my thighs together, but that didn’t help. The pressure only made it worse. “Hawke?”
“Poppy, for the love of the gods.”
Heart thrumming, I opened my eyes, and I’d been right. His gaze was fixed on me—on my other hand, the one that had a mind of its own and was slipping down my stomach.
Taut lines formed around his mouth. “You don’t want that.”
“I do.” My fingers reached my waist, where the breeches gaped. “I need it.”
“You only think that right now.” His face cleared, and there was no mistaking the way his features had sharpened. “It’s the blood.”
“I don’t care.” The tips of my fingers brushed the bare skin below my navel. “Touch me? Please?”
Hawke made a low sound in the back of his throat. “You think you hate me now? If I do what you’re asking, you’ll want to murder me.” He paused, and his lips curved upward. “Well, you’ll want to murder me more than you already do. You don’t have control of yourself right now.”
What he was saying made sense, but it also didn’t. “No.”
“No?” His brows lifted, but he didn’t look away from my hand.
“I don’t hate you,” I told him, and there was a pained twist of the heart that told me that was the truth. I should be upset by that.
He made that sound again, and when his hand closed over my wrist, I almost wept with joy. He was going to touch me.
Except he did nothing more than hold my hand in place.
“I plotted to take you from everything you knew, and I did, but that is nowhere near the worst of my crimes. I’ve killed people, Poppy. There is so much blood on my hands that they will never be clean. I will overthrow the Queen who cared for you, and many more will die in the process. I am not a good man.” He swallowed hard. “But I am trying to be right now.”
A nervous flutter filled my stomach. His words…they should infuriate me, but I…I wanted him, and thinking was…well, it was all I ever did. I didn’t want to do it anymore.
“I don’t want you to be good.” Without even realizing it, I had lifted my other hand, fisting the front of his shirt. “I want you.”
Hawke shook his head, but when I tugged on the hand he held, he bent over me. My grip on his shirt tightened when he stopped with his mouth mere inches from mine. “In a few minutes, when this storm passes, you’ll return to loathing my very existence, and for good reason. You’re going to hate that you begged me to kiss you, to do more. But even without my blood in you, I know you’ve never stopped wanting me. But when I’m deep inside you again, and I will be, you won’t be able to blame the influence of blood or anything else.”
I stared at him, some of the fog of lust lifting from my mind as he lifted my hand and brought it to his mouth. He pressed a kiss to the center of my palm, surprising me. It was such a…tender act, one I imagined lovers did all the time.
I pulled on my hand, and he let go. I placed it against my chest. The tingling was fading from my skin, but the ache of unspent desire was still there. Not nearly as all-consuming as minutes before, but the part of me that felt like it was starting to wake up knew he spoke the truth. What I felt for him had nothing to do with the blood.
What I felt was…it was messy and raw. I hated him, and…I didn’t. I cared for him, as idiotic as that was. And I wanted him—his kiss, his touch. But I also wanted to hurt him.
We weren’t lovers.
We were enemies, and we could never be anything else. I was surrounded by people who hated me.
“I never should’ve left,” he said. “I should’ve known something like this could happen, but I underestimated their desire for vengeance.”
“They…they wanted me dead,” I said.
“They will pay for what they did.”
I shifted, feeling less…floaty and more solid. I moved my arm along my leg, still surprised that there was no pain. “What will you do? Kill them?”
“I will,” he said, and my eyes widened. “And I will kill anyone who thinks to follow their path.”
I stared at him, not doubting that he meant what he said. Hawke couldn’t question every one of his supporters or his kind. I wasn’t safe here. “And me…what are you going to do with me?”
He lifted his gaze from mine. A muscle clenched in his jaw. “I already told you. I will use you to barter with the Queen to free Prince Malik. I swear, no more harm will come to you.”
I started to speak, but then I remembered the name Kieran had called him. My entire body seemed to seize up as I stared into those beautiful eyes. “Casteel?”
He froze against me.
“Kieran…Kieran said the name Casteel.” My gaze swept over his striking features as Loren’s words came back to me. She claimed that she’d heard that the Dark One was handsome, and his looks had gained him entrance to Goldcrest Manor, allowing him to seduce Lady Everton….
And Hawke’s own words came back to me, the ones he’d spoken to me at the Red Pearl. They have led quite a few people to make questionable life choices.
My heart had seemed to stop, but now it sped up, racing. Things began to click into place. Inconsequential things like little comments he made here and there, bigger things like how he’d silenced me when I called out his name the night we…the night we made love. The way everyone followed his orders, how Jericho had obeyed him in the barn, seeming to not want to cross him, even though it hadn’t stopped him. How Kieran and the others said his name as if it were a joke.
Because Hawke wasn’t his name.
And we hadn’t made love. He’d fucked me.
“Oh, my gods.” Stomach roiling, I pressed my hand to my mouth. “You’re him.”
He said nothing.
I thought I might be sick as I dragged my hand to my chest, to tear at the already torn shirt. “That’s what happened to your brother. Why you feel such sadness about him. He’s the Prince you hope to use me to get back. Your name isn’t Hawke Flynn. You’re him! You’re the Dark One.”
“I prefer the name Casteel or Cas,” he replied then, his tone hard and distant. “If you don’t want to call me that, you can call me Prince Casteel Da’Neer, the second son of King Valyn Da’Neer, brother of Prince Malik Da’Neer.”
“But do not call me the Dark One. That is not my name.”
Horror rolled through me. How could I now just be figuring this out? The signs had been there. I’d been so, so stupid. Not just once. I hadn’t gotten any wiser after I learned that he was an Atlantian. I hadn’t seen what was right in front of my face.