Now her nipples budded against her camisole, her breaths quickening. She was wet for him, aching for more. She turned onto her front - which was worse, so she flipped back over. Glaring at the ceiling, she realized there was no fighting it.
Her hand eased into her panties.
Something woke Garreth, putting him on edge. It was an uncanny feeling, as if the air were crackling with electricity. Shouldn't be surprising - lightning struck constantly in this bizarre place, like ongoing mini-explosions.
Some bolts hit so close, the entire manor quaked, dust raining from the ceiling - ominous signs in a structure built so long ago. And between the lightning strikes, he heard Valkyrie shrieks, the drone of the TV, and jaunty video game music that was like nails on slate.
Adding to his misery, Garreth could scent Lucia at every hour, could hear her voice, hear her whispers to the glowing freak:
"I sense he's getting more powerful than ever before," Lucia had said this afternoon. Who?
"Then I'm glad we have a back-up plan," Regin had replied. Back-up to what?
"Everything depends on finding it. If I have to go inside for this round, then I want to be able to get back out." Find what? Where the bluidy hell is she going?
"How much time do we have?"
"Maybe a year. Before they come..."
Before who - or what - came? What had Lucia meant?
It maddened him, and she wouldn't return no matter how much he bellowed. The most mysterious female he'd ever imagined, and all day and night, the mystery deepened -
Suddenly, he caught the scent... of her desire? He felt the current in the air, sensed it came from her.
Realization hit. No, it canna be. She would no' be....
Lucia's eyes slid shut as her fingers dipped into her panties, seeking - and finding - wet flesh.
With a sigh, she gave a stroke against her swollen clitoris, fantasizing about MacRieve's body. The already continual lightning built. Another stroke as she envisioned his poor battered chest, packed with muscle. She rubbed faster... faster...
His torso tapering to his narrow hips. She moaned. That trail of dusky hair leading down to his shaft -
"Lousha!" he bellowed.
She shot up in bed, yanking her hand away. He couldn't know... surely not.
"Come to me!"
He did know! Oh, gods, what do I do now? Her sisters were already suspicious, intimating that maybe the interest went both ways. What to do? Her eyes darted around the room.
When he yelled her name again, she leapt from the bed and snatched a robe from her closet. Hastening from her room, she stole down to the basement.
Once she entered, he quieted. Like the trapped beast that he was, he eyed her every move.
"What's the matter with you?" she demanded as she neared the cage. "Why do you keep roaring for me? I'm the one with no power to free you."
"You can unlock this."
"I won't. Save your breath."
Studying her expression for weakness, and apparently finding none, he changed tactics.
"Then come to me." His irises wavered from blue back to gold.
"So I can finish for you what you started in your bed."
She felt her cheeks flame. "I don't... wh-what are you talking about?"
"Come here, Lousha." His voice was as mesmerizing as his eyes.
"If you think to seduce me to free you, it won't happen."
"Seducing you is its own end, love."
She hesitated, glancing over her shoulder.
"Remember how good it was that night in the bayou? How I made you feel?"
A night of sweat and need and lightning. She shivered at the memory. "That was a mistake - I shouldn't have encouraged you."
"Come to me." He had that look in his eyes again.
"And do what?" Mind going blank. Damn him, what hold did he have over her?
"Let me kiss you."
Her lips parted and lightning struck just outside. "Through the bars?" That aspect actually appealed to her. The bars were about six inches apart, so it'd be possible for them to kiss - but unlikely to get out of hand.
I could control the situation better than before.
"Aye. Just need to kiss you. Touch you."
"No, I can't," she whispered, even as she found herself easing closer to him, as if drawn by a magnet. "Why do you keep pursuing me - when you say I'm not your mate?"
"Because, Valkyrie, you're the most desirable female I've ever known."
And you're the most desirable male I've ever imagined. Yes, through the bars. She could satisfy her curiosity - determine his appeal. So I can better fight it.
Her legs felt weak. I could control it; we'd just bring each other pleasure. When she reached forward to steady herself, putting her fists on the bars, he snatched her hand. He sucked the tip of her finger - the one she'd masturbated with - between his lips, growling, "Ah, gods, woman, your taste..."
Lightning built to a furor, and she melted for him.
Garreth sucked, shuddering in bliss. Licking her honey from her own finger. When he'd scented her desire earlier, every muscle in his body had clenched with want. Lykae males yearned to pleasure their mates, and he was crazed to satisfy Lucia.
The cage, her deceit, the unsettling news she'd delivered earlier - all became secondary to the need to make her come, as she obviously yearned to.
Slowly, he withdrew her finger from his mouth. Cupping the back of her neck, he brought her face close to the bars for a kiss, slanting his lips over hers. With each stroke of his tongue, she began to relax. She grasped his shoulders, her wee claws digging into them.
He broke the kiss to say, "If you start this, Lousha, you finish it."
Her eyes were half-lidded. "What does that mean?"
"It means that unless you're going to make me come this time, you'll be icing down my aching bollocks, just as I did that last night."
She frowned, "Why didn't you, you know...?"
"I did," he rasped. "Again and again with those sleek panties of yours wrapped around my shaft. I could still taste you on my lips. It maddened me."
Her breath hitched at that, her eyes growing silvery.
"Do you want to start this, then?"
She looked dazed. "I... we..." With a hard shake of her head, she said, "We can't have sex." Her eyes darted. "Because of the bars."
"They're half a foot apart - I should be able to squeeze my shaft between them."
"MacRieve, I'm serious!"
"The bars would no' stop me. I could take you from behind, just spread you in front - "
Garreth narrowed his eyes. Could she be... virgin? At a thousand years old? Maybe that was why she'd stopped them the other night. "Verra well, no sex," he lied. Until I seduce you into it.
"Then... then what do you want from me?"
"I want to stroke you until you come and have you do the same for me."
She swallowed. "Would you turn again?"
"Nay, lass," he said absently, struck anew by how lovely she was. Her long hair curled around her elven face, the tresses as shiny as the modest silk robe she wore. Her whiskey-colored eyes were sultry, her cheeks flushed.
But he wanted to see her body, naked to his gaze. "Let me take this off you." He reached forward to tug free the sash on her robe, then skimmed the material over her shoulders. When it pooled at her feet, she was left in skimpy panties and a filmy camisole top. Her nipples were hard, her lips parted and moist, so sensual....
My mate's incomparable.
At this point, he wanted to chew through the bars to get to her.
Even more so once he worked her top off, baring plump, perfect breasts that taunted his grasping palms. The peaks were dusky rose and begged for his lips around them.
In a moment of insight, he realized he could forgive much in the face of those exquisite breasts. He'd best never let her know that.
"Look at your nipples pouting to be sucked." He reached forward, pinching one to hold it in place as he lowered his head. She seemed to stop breathing.
He brought his mouth close, tickling her with his breaths as his free hand skimmed down her flat stomach, but she tensed.
"Uh, wait. What about you?" Her hands went from clutching his shoulders to exploring his body. "You said we'd both touch each other."
Her words made his shaft go so hard, he thought he'd bust through his zipper. When she brushed her fingers near his cock, he shot upright. "Take it out for me, then."
As he shook with anticipation, Lucia drew down his zipper. Tentatively she reached into his pants for his shaft, gasping when it sprang forth. He thought she whispered, "Oh my." She also seemed to be about to lose her nerve.
"Ease me, Lousha."
Though she nodded up at him, she acted as if she'd never done this before. Sensing her hesitation, he took her hand, placing his cock in her warm palm. Just preventing himself from running his shaft over it, he grated, "Make a fist."
She couldn't close her fingers around it. "I can't," she murmured, then glared at him when he had to bite back a chuckle.
"Then just stroke it like that." With her first tentative glide up and down, his breath whistled out. "You doona know how good that feels tae me."
As she began slowly stroking, she gazed up at him, her dark eyes studying his reaction. His little mate was learning what pleased him. The idea of that gratified him beyond measure.
"There's my good lass. More." When she did it harder and faster, he groaned, "I've got tae touch you now. Take off your panties."
She shook her head.
He growled with frustration. "Woman! When I finally do get your panties off, I'm going tae be wedged so deep inside your body, you will no' know where you end and I begin."
"They stay on."
"Then I'll be going in." As he eased his fingers into her panties, he felt her body trembling - with nervousness? Eagerness? He kissed her again, twining his tongue with hers, as he dipped lower through soft curls.
When he found slick flesh that wept at his touch, he groaned against her mouth. She gasped against his. Between kisses, he grated, "Gods, you feel so damned good... hot and wet for me."
But when he delved near her opening, she tensed. So that's the way of it? She was a virgin. She began to draw back from the kiss.
"Shhh, Lousha, I will no' do that again. Only this." His forefinger covered her swollen little clitoris and slowly rubbed.
With a moan, she tightened her grip on him, panting as she stared up into his eyes.
Building her pleasure, he lazily stroked her while thrusting into her fist. His hip bones banged against the bars, but he didn't care. Once she was ready to receive him, was wetting his fingers with need, it was everything he could do not to turn her around and take her. He could force her back to him, capturing her wrists behind her, then be inside her slick heat in a heartbeat's time.
- She'd never trust you again. -
Yet it was so close. A thousand years I've waited for this....
Just as he'd taken her right to the edge, MacRieve slowed his touch to keep her in agony, murmuring "Do you ache here?"
Her toes curled - she realized she loved it when he talked to her like this, with his accent growing so thick. In fact, she was learning much from this time with him.
She'd been amazed to discover how such a small touch, a mere caress on his shaft, affected him so strongly. But if that caress had affected him, this hard, steady milking made him crazed. As she neared her peak, the head of his penis grew moist, and he bucked his hips madly.
"Just hold me tight. I'll do the rest." At her ear, he grated, "Now do you feel we're enemies, Lousha? When I'm about tae come in your hand and you on mine?"
The last thing she considered him at that moment was an enemy.
"Has another male made you feel this?"
"Then tell me I'm the only one." When she didn't, he slowed his fingers and she whimpered in distress. "Tell me, Lousha." He kissed her hard, seeming to brand her.
Against his lips, she moaned, "You're the only one."
In reward, he cupped her flesh completely, pressing the heel of his palm against her clitoris. As he worked it against the swollen bud, she went boneless, her eyes sliding shut. In a harsh rasp, he commanded her, "Look at me when you come!"
Her lids fluttered open. Their eyes met. Lightning, heat, tension building, building. Then release.
He covered her mouth with his own, drowning out her scream, as the pleasure went on and on....
But when she could take no more, he wouldn't let her stop. "Again!" His fingers rubbed her clitoris so fast it was like he'd put a vibrator against her.
"MacRieve, oh, gods!" And she climaxed so easily for him. He kissed her once more as she cried out against his lips.
He finally broke away to say, "Watch me coming for you. I want you tae see it." His shaft was throbbing under her fingers... he seemed in torment, his expression agonized as she worked his engorged flesh.
Then with a brutal yell, he began to ejaculate. "You madden me, Lousha. Madden me!" As his semen spurted before her dazed eyes, he buried his face in her hair, groaning deeply, grinding his shaft into her fist as arc after arc of seed poured from him....
When he was spent at last, he drew her hand away. As they fought to catch their breath, he leaned his forehead down to hers. "That was why I keep pressuring you. I knew it would be this way with you. You pleasured me well, lass. Tell me I did for you."
She murmured, "You know you did."
He grinned. "Oh, aye, just wanted to hear you say it. And it will only get better between us."
She drew back, shaking her head. "We can never do this again - it was a mistake."
"Because I'm a Lykae? We're no' so bad, Lousha."
"This won't end well between our factions. The Valkyrie are ready to go to war." Already, Annika planned to storm Kinevane castle to retrieve Emma. They were to leave at dawn.
He gave a harsh laugh. "Again, the Lykae will no' war with Valkyrie, no' while I'm king."
"That's just it, MacRieve - you're not."
She spied a flare of hope in his eyes before he schooled his features. Earlier, she'd wondered how Garreth would feel about Lachlain's return. Would he be gladdened to have his brother back? Or angered that he'd be demoted to a prince?
She should have known Garreth MacRieve loved his brother. As much as the Lykae were known for their ferocity, they were also known for their loyalty.
"If I'm king or my brother is, there will be no war."
"MacRieve, the Valkyrie will get Emma back, and if Lachlain comes after her... he'll lose his life. Just when he's gotten it back."
Yesterday, a band of Valkyrie had gone to Kinevane Castle in Scotland to retrieve Emma, but had returned empty-handed.
Today, Emma had escaped by herself. She'd found her own way home, teleporting back to Val Hall, having somehow finally learned to trace.
Now, she lay in her little princess bed... dying. Something had attacked her, something with claws.
Lucia sat at the edge of her bed, gazing down through her tears at Emma - the niece she'd held as an infant and watched grow to womanhood. Emma's skin was ghostly pale, her body frail and bruised. All along her side ran long gashes, as if she'd been gored by an animal. The serrated flesh around them was angry with infection.
Though Emma was an immortal, she showed no signs of regeneration. Unable to keep blood down, she was wasting away from thirst. She muttered delirious ramblings about random things: their missing queen, an obscure rebel vampire king, wars she'd never been in.
At times, Emma had screamed that she was being put into a fire.
Lucia could do nothing but watch - and remember. Like Emma, Lucia had been a young immortal on the verge of death....
Emma's lids fluttered open, revealing frightened blue eyes. "Aunt Luce, am I dying?" The fear in her gaze. Lucia knew exactly what she was feeling.
"Of course not, sweet," Lucia said, choking back a sob.
Who could have hurt Em like this? When they'd asked her, she'd answered unintelligibly. Annika was beside herself with worry, inconsolable and casting the blame at Lachlain, but Lucia knew it was not him. Gentle Emma had faced something far more horrifying than even a crazed Lykae.
Em raised a hand to Lucia. "Please..."
Just like Lucia had pleaded a thousand years ago. But I have no power to save her.
The pain, the fear... I feel it as if it were yesterday. Tears tracked down her cheeks. Just don't let her suffer.
Damn that bluidy dart. Garreth slapped his neck, too late.
Outside his cell, Regin cackled. "Watch big werewolf go boom!"
As his body dropped to the floor, his last thought was: I'm going to kill that glowing bitch....
When he came to, his hands were shackled behind him, and Regin was shoving him up and out of the cell, while Lucia quietly admonished her for being unnecessarily rough.
He must be getting inured to the tranquilizer - he was shaking off its effects much faster than before. He could have escaped, was longing to block Regin's next hit and toss her on her arse, but he knew where they were taking him, had heard their whispers. The Valkyrie, at least, believed Lachlain was alive.
And they believed some dying vampire female named Emma was his mate. Regin and Lucia were taking Garreth to her.
Lachlain's mate a vampire? The idea was laughable. No one had despised leeches like Lachlain.
Once they entered a bedroom upstairs, Garreth saw Annika, standing beside a bed. A female lay atop it, shivering as she fitfully slept, though she was covered to her chin with piled blankets. Her face was pale, her cheekbones jutting. She hardly looked like a proud werewolf's queen.
Seeming to shake with rage, Annika pointed at her. "Is this who Lachlain should take his vengeance out on?"
As if Lachlain would harm an insignificant female like this. If he even lived.
"We've all suffered at the vampires' hands," Annika continued, "yet that dog thinks to punish our Emma, who is nothing but innocent and kind." She snatched the blankets from Emma, uncovering her leg. "Look at these gashes! They won't heal! What has he done to her? You will tell me or - "
"Christ," he murmured. Annika had also uncovered the vampire's neck. Was that a Lykae's mark? Is it my brother's mark? "That's his... no, it canna be." He strode forward, but Regin yanked on his bonds. "Let me closer," he growled over his shoulder. "Closer, or you'll get no help from me."
When Garreth closed in on Emma, he lost a breath. My brother's claimed her. As well as Garreth could recognize his brother's signature, the beast within him recognized the mark as Lachlain's.
He truly was alive.
This should be a time of jubilation, but the relief he felt was replaced by dread. Lachlain's pale-haired little mate would not last the week.
If she succumbed, Lachlain would be lost all over again. Garreth's voice grew deadly. "Get her well."
"We've tried everything!"
"Why will she no' drink? Aye, Valkyrie, I hear your whispers. I know what she is. What I doona know is how she is my brother's mate." A vampire, a blood drinker. He gazed at Lucia. Her expression was inscrutable.
Annika answered, "Emma will never be a 'mate' to one of you!"
But 'twas done. A male marked his woman to keep other males away, to brand her as his. Yet since the bite was done in the throes of taking her for the first time, it could also be an indication of how much he wanted his female. Any doubt that Lachlain wanted Emma for his own vanished with one look at her neck.
Lachlain had marked the ever-living hell out of her. Vampire or not, he desired this female desperately.
Any thoughts of escaping vanished as well. Garreth knew he had to remain here. This was where Lachlain would be. Just a matter of time. "It has been done," he grated. "I assure you."
Annika struck him.
He gave her a killing look. "He's marked her," Garreth bit out. "He'll be coming for her. I'm just surprised he's no' here already."
Annika raised her hand again, but Emma had awakened and murmured, "Annika, don't...."
"Force blood down her throat," Garreth said.
"You think we have not tried that? She can't keep it down."
"Try other blood, then." Though being bitten by a vampire was considered deeply shameful by Lykae, Garreth said, "Take mine!"
"Why do you care?"
"Because that's my queen, and I'll die for her."
"Now do you believe me?" Lucia asked in a deadened tone. Hours after MacRieve's confrontation with Annika, she was sitting outside his cage once more, watching him pacing within. "Your brother abducted her in France."
"Aye, but he would no' harm the female like that!"
"We know Emma was with him for weeks, and now she returns to us delirious, talking about fires and war and blood. She mumbles about Furie, our missing Valkyrie queen, and about Kristoff, the rebel vampire king. Lachlain captured Emma, and now she lies dying."
MacRieve shook his head hard. "It was no' Lachlain."
"How do you know what he's capable of?" Lucia asked. "You don't know where he's been for nearly two centuries. He could've been trapped somewhere, tortured. He likely was - there are rumors that Demestriu has Furie chained to the bottom of the ocean, dooming her to die and regenerate back to life over and over. Maybe he did the same or worse to your brother." She shuddered. "Lachlain was famous for his hatred of vampires, and Emma is one. You can't speak for him."
"You'll never convince me of this. I know my brother."
"Annika will exact retribution for this."
"And what will you try to do to him?" Garreth demanded. "Kill him?"
"MacRieve, you can't just abduct one of our own and not suffer repercussions. Your clan would do the exact same thing."
She was right. "Lachlain will be coming for her."
Lucia met his gaze, her face hard, another facet of her revealed. "We're counting on it."
That night, Garreth shot upright on his cot. He sensed Lykae all around Val Hall. Were they planning to war with the Valkyrie to free him and retrieve their queen?
Please, gods, let his brother be one among their number....
"I'm taking Emma from this place tonight," Lachlain called from outside the manor.
His brother's voice. Garreth's eyes slid shut, and he sagged with relief. Just doona war with them, doona hurt Lousha.
Annika called back, "Never would I give my daughter to a dog."
Good luck with that one, Lachlain.
"Then trade me for my brother."
Wait, bargaining himself for Garreth? Oh, bluidy hell no. Brotherly irritation - so welcome to Garreth - flared. In Gaelic, he bellowed, "Goddamnit, Lachlain, I just got into this house!"
"Or take both of us," Lachlain amended. "Just let me talk to her."
More whispers from within. They'd be fools to turn down his offer - and the Valkyrie were no fools. Moments later, Garreth heard louder footsteps upstairs and scented his brother inside. They were bringing him to the basement. So I can see him for myself.
Once they led Lachlain down the stairs and into the cell, Garreth stared at him as though seeing a ghost. Lachlain didn't resist, even when the door clanged shut behind him.
Since the last time Garreth had seen Lachlain, his brother's appearance had been altered - his build was rangier, his countenance more haggard. But it was Lachlain before him. Running a hand over his face, Garreth muttered, "My eyes doona betray me?"
"No, it's me."
Garreth rushed to him, grin in place, and whaled slaps on his back. Now everything would come together. Lachlain would explain what really happened to the vampire, and they'd figure out how to heal her. Lucia would see that the Lykae weren't that bad. Aye, all will be better with Lachlain's return. "Well, brother, what have you gotten us into now?"
He raised his brows. "It's good to see you as well."
"I thought you were..." Garreth trailed off. Gods almighty, my brother is just here before me. Shaking himself, he said, "When they said you'd taken Emma, I thought they were mad. Until I saw her, saw you'd marked her." He frowned. "Marked her hard, no?" He shook his head. "Ach, anyway, it's good to have you back. Under any circumstances. I've so many questions."
Where have you been that I could no' find you? Why did you leave against our warnings?
Are the rumors of Demestriu's tortures... true?
Yet Lachlain looked so tormented with worry over his mate, Garreth said, "But that can wait. You need news about her?"
At his nod, Garreth said, "She's injured, Lachlain. She has gashes down her side, and she could no' drink though she was... she was about to die in just the first couple of hours."
Now the scent of blood arose. Garreth glanced down, saw Lachlain's claws stabbing into his palms. His voice a rasp, he said, "What saved her?"
When Lachlain's brows knit in confusion, as if he'd never heard the term, a jolt of dread ran through Garreth. Where had his brother been? Lucia had said, He could've been trapped somewhere, tortured.
Garreth explained, "They gave her blood through a tube that fed it straight to her veins. They think she's stabilized, but the gashes will no' heal. I suspect whatever got her had poisoned claws. Maybe a ghoul, but I doona know."
"I do." Lachlain ran his hand through his hair. "Demestriu did this to her. I saw it all."
Demestriu. Garreth gnashed his teeth. For millennia that evil fiend had been a scourge on their family. What else had he done - what else could he do? This time I will find him, destroy him -