He grinned. “Now that’s a whole new group of muscles to work.”
Conah held out his hand to me. “Ready for more?”
“No.” I took his hand, and he hauled me up.
My head spun, and I staggered forward, hand shooting out to brace myself against his chest.
“Shit, head rush.”
He gripped my hip with one hand and my waist with the other to steady me. “I’ve got you.”
His pectoral was taut through the fabric of his shirt, and heat radiated across my palm. I lifted my chin to meet his eyes. They were darker, intense as they drank me in. I took a step closer, drawn by his body heat and encouraged by the flex of his fingers on my hip. I could smell him, meadows and sunshine, and a hint of leather. I should take a step back, break eye contact. I managed the latter, but my attention snagged on his mouth, on the dip in his top lip, on the swell of his bottom lip, on the sexy indents at the corners of his mouth. Desire throbbed at the juncture of my thighs, sudden and violent, stealing my breath. My tongue ached to taste him, to lick the inside of his mouth, and scrape his bottom lip with my teeth.
He was breathing faster. “Fee …” His hand slid up my spine and settled between my shoulder blades, fingers gripping my nape. His head dipped until our lips were mere inches apart. “Stop looking at me like that.”
My throat pinched, and heat flooded my veins. It was the heat of action to come, carnal, wanton action.
“What the hell did you do?” Mal’s angry voice cut through the elastic tension.
Conah released me abruptly and put distance between us. The desire died, replaced by shame and a prickle of panic. What? Why was I feeling that way?
Fucking hell. I took a deep breath and turned to face Mal.
He stood in the doorway, naked except for a towel wrapped around his slender hips. Water droplets dotted his creamy skin and skated down his taut abdominals, and I may have spent a little too long checking out the goods because the asshole had a rocking bod … come to think of it, why did the assholes get the rocking bods?
“What the fuck did you do?” His tone was lethal-soft now, and his expression was pure rage.
My gaze went to his head. His very hairless head.
Oh, damn, it had worked. I stifled a laugh and arranged my face in an expression of wide-eyed confusion. “What happened to your hair?”
“You know what happened.” He stalked toward me, predatory in a fucking towel. “You did this to me.”
The lack of hair brought out his cheekbones, and his startling eyes looked even brighter. The fucker was hot, even bald. Damn it.
Conah halted Mal with a hand to his chest. “Back off. What the hell is going on?”
Mal’s lethal gaze was on me. “Ask her. She did this. She has it in for me.”
Yes, it was surprising what a tube of hair removal cream mixed into leave-in conditioner could do.
I canted my head in confusion. “Me? Why would I have it in for you?”
Conah looked from me to Mal. “Mal?”
“Because I fucked with her yesterday,” Mal snapped.
Conah’s body rippled with tension. “What did you do, Mal?”
Mal tore his gaze from my face and fixed it on Conah. “I messed with her head a bit, a few illusions, that was all.”
Oh, fuck. I hadn’t thought this far ahead. My cheeks flamed. Was he going to mention the cock incident?
Mal slid a glance my way, his lips curling cruelly. “I had her come to my room and watch Giselle and Mary fucking, and then …” His tongue peeked out the corner of his mouth.
I lifted my chin and glared at him in challenge. Do it. Say it. Fuck you, I don’t care.
His gaze dropped to my mouth. “And then I propositioned her.”
“Fucksake, Mal. When the fuck will you grow up?” Conah shoved his shoulder.
“She ran like a scared little rabbit,” Mal drawled.
“Just get out.” Conah turned away from him in disgust.
“Not until she admits she did this to me.” Mal pointed at his head. “Admit it, little rabbit.”
Rabbit? He had no fucking idea who he was messing with. “Yes, I did it. You deserved it, and I don’t know why you’re getting so worked up. It’ll grow back by tomorrow.”
“You did your research.” Mal looked impressed.
“Of course I did.”
Iza had explained how demons were able to grow back body parts. And hair, if shaved, grew back in a day.
He ran his hand over his head. “I love my fucking hair.”
I smirked. “Oh, I know.”
His eyes narrowed. “Question is … how much do you love yours?” He made a fork with his fingers, pointing them at his eyes, to me, then back at his eyes in the classic I’m-watching-you gesture while backing out of the room, and then he was gone.
I clutched my braid. “He wouldn’t … would he?”
Conah winced. “Oh, Fee, what have you started?”
Showered and dressed, I pulled on my boots, then scraped my hair up into a ponytail. My unwashed hair because I wasn’t taking any risks. I’d get Iza to guard my shampoo and conditioner for the next few days. She’d probably be glad for the task.
My body ached from training, reminding me how out of shape I was. An hour and a half, but it felt like five hours. I guess the gym hadn’t been working the right muscles. Still, it felt good to have learned how to land a proper punch. I did a couple of air jabs bouncing on my feet but stopped when the muscles beneath my butt cheeks cried out in protest.
I let out a groan and massaged the offending muscles.
“Let me, Fee.” Iza appeared beside me. “I will take away the pain.” She reached for my butt.
“Whoa!” I leaped away, ignoring the twinge of pain. “What are you doing?”
“Attempting to massage your aching muscles.”
“My butt, Iza, that’s my butt, and you do not get to massage it.”
She frowned. “But you’re in pain.”
“Yeah, but it’s my butt.”
“But I can make it go away.”
“I appreciate that, but I’m not letting you touch my ass.”
She shrugged. “Master Peiter wouldn’t have had an issue.”
Wait. “You massaged Peiter’s ass?”
Iza shrugged. “Among other things.”
Oh, God, I didn’t want to know. “Thank you for the offer, but I’m fine. I’ll be fine.”
“As you wish, but if you change your mind …”
I grabbed my jacket and headed for the door. “I won’t.”
Shit, was I getting stiffer by the second? Walking was going to be a chore today. A long soak was in order later this evening, but first, Conah was taking me to the Academy. The sun was setting here, but it would be late morning at the Academy, which was situated in the human world. Conah had a lecture to give, and he wanted me to see the place.
I hurried down the corridor toward the stairs to the lower floor. Peiter’s room was coming up on my right. I slowed down as I approached, no idea why, but then soft sobs registered.
My feet came to a halt outside Peiter’s room. The door was ajar. I shouldn’t go in, but she was crying. Walking away felt wrong. I knocked on the door, and the sobs stopped abruptly.
“It’s Fee, can I come in?”
“Fee … Yes, please do.”
I stepped into the gloom. The room was around the same size as mine but sparser when it came to furnishings. I would have thought, being married, Peiter would have more of a feminine touch to his chamber, but this space was completely masculine. A dude’s domain from what I could see. The curtains were closed, and only the bedside lamp was lit.
Nera was a small, lonely figure perched on the edge of the mattress. “Conah already searched the room for clues. He didn’t find anything,” she said in a small voice.
“Oh, I didn’t come for that. I wanted to see how you were doing.”
She made a small sound of derision. “My life-mate is dead. How do you think I’m doing?”
Yes, stupid question. “I’m sorry, Nera. I wish there was some way I could take away your pain.”
She studied me for long seconds with her dark, unfathomable eyes, and then graced me with a small smile. “I do believe you mean that. Thank you, Fee.”
I walked into the room. “Look, do you need a hand with anything? Conah said you were coming for Peiter’s things. I can help you pack …”
She sighed and stood. “There isn’t much to take. Peiter wasn’t a materialistic demon. The things he cared for are at our residence in Tulah.”
“You didn’t live here?”
“No. This is a Dominus residence. Peiter stayed here.”
“But, I thought you were life-mates.”
“We were, but as a Dominus, Peiter’s place was here. He would visit me often and stay in Tulah for a week at a time.” Her smile was sad. “You’re a soldier now, Fee. And a soldier’s first duty is to the crown. His place is on the battlefield, not by the hearth.” She reached up to rub the back of her neck, and I caught a flash of a symbol in her wrist. “Thank you for your concern, but I’d like to do this alone.”
Her pain was like a dazzling beacon, drenching me with sorrow. My heart ached on her behalf. “Of course.”
I turned to leave as a shadow fell over me. A man stood blocking my path. He was slender and looked around the same age as Nera.
“Pan, you came …” Nera took a step toward the man.
The pain twisting my insides ebbed a little.
“Of course I came,” Pan said. “I’ll always come.”
They met in the middle of the room in an embrace that soothed the ache in my chest and brought heat to my eyes.
He stroked her cheek and brushed her hair from her face in a gesture that was almost too intimate. There was a mark on his hand too. I couldn’t quite get a good look, but if I was to hazard a guess, it was identical to the one Nera carried.