The ​Crown of Gilded Bones

Page 80

“I’m being serious,” he said.

“I am, too. I would want to be doing this—all that we’ve done today,” I said. “You?”

“The same,” he said quietly, and I knew he spoke the truth. “But with you naked and more sex.”

I laughed loudly at that because I also sensed that to be true. “I’m glad that I chose to spend right now this way.”

“Me, too.” He pressed his lips to my cheek.

I really didn’t know when we would have another day like this one, or at what point there would even be time. But I didn’t want to think of the reasons why it would probably be a while. That wasn’t how I wanted to spend right now, so I watched those dancing around the fire with avid interest, entranced by the joyous frenzy of the dark outlines of their bodies, how they moved from one partner to the next, both male and female, with the kind of reckless abandon I’d shared with Casteel in the garden. What I felt from them could only be described as a release, as if they danced to toss away the chains of what preyed on their minds and souls, and in so doing, found freedom.

A body peeled away from the fire and moved toward us. Sweat glistened off Delano’s bare shoulders as he bowed at the waist. Pale hair tumbled across his forehead as he extended an arm. “Would you like to dance?”

I started to take his hand, but uncertainty filled me. Was it appropriate for me to do so?

Casteel dipped his cheek to mine. “You can dance with him.” His arm loosened around my waist. “You can do whatever you want.”

Do whatever you want.

Four words I hadn’t heard for most of my life. “I…I don’t really know how to dance.”

“No one does,” Delano said, grinning. “Until they do.” He wiggled his fingers. “What do you say, Penellaphe?”

Excitement bubbled up in me as my gaze darted over his shoulder to the figures moving around the bonfire. Do whatever you want. The breath that left me was heady. Twisting, I curled my fingers around Casteel’s chin and pulled his mouth to mine. I kissed him quickly. “I love you, Cas.”

His arm tightened briefly around me. “Have fun.”

Turning back to Delano, I placed my hand in his. “Poppy,” I told him. “Call me Poppy.”

Smiling, Delano pulled me to my feet. “Then let’s dance, Poppy.”

Stomach skipping, I followed him toward the rippling flames. Delano turned to me as the warmth of the fire pressed against my skin.

“I really don’t know how to dance,” I told him apologetically.

“Look around us.” Keeping his fingers wrapped around mine, he picked up my hand and placed it on his hip before resting his on my waist. “Do they look like they know how to dance? Or do they look like they’re having fun?”

Glancing around, I saw nothing like what I saw when I’d snuck through the back halls to spy on the balls held in the Great Hall of Castle Teerman. There were no rigid movements, nor was everyone paired with someone. A girl with long, blonde hair danced alone, her arms stretched above her head as her hips moved with the tempo. A brown-skinned man also danced alone, his body moving with fluid grace. Couples spun around each other, and others danced so close to one another it was difficult to tell where one body ended and the other began. I spied Kieran with the dark-haired female. With her golden-brown arms twined around his neck, they were one of the couples who danced so close that tongues would’ve been wagging in Masadonia. Kieran lifted the female, spinning her as she threw her head back and laughed.

“What do you see?” Delano prodded.

Dragging my gaze from them, I looked up at him. “They’re having fun.”

He smiled. “You can do that, right?”

I peeked over to where Casteel sat on the plush blanket, one arm resting on a bent knee as he watched us. A tiny part of me wasn’t sure I knew how to have fun, but I…I’d had fun today. I’d had fun when Tawny and I had snuck out together to visit the lake. I hadn’t been thinking about having fun those times. I was just…living. And that was the key, wasn’t it? To not overthink and to just live.

I looked up at Delano. “I can.”

“I know.” His smile widened, and then he started to move, taking small, swaying steps to our left and then the right. I followed him.

His steps were far surer, while mine were rigid, and I was sure I looked foolish, my arms stiff and cockeyed as I clutched his hand. Others moved faster around us, but as we continued dancing in our little circle, I realized that each of his steps was in tune with the steady beat of the drum. My muscles loosened, as did my grip on his hand. Delano stepped back, lifting our connected arms. The skirt of my gown billowed around my legs as he spun me. The hum in my chest sparked as my hair lifted from my shoulders when he turned me again. A quiet laugh escaped me, and then a louder one as he raised our arms once more and spun himself. His hand came back to my waist, and we moved faster in our little circle, swirling around the fire.

The hum in my chest found my blood as the hem of my gown twirled around my ankles. A new hand closed around mine as Delano let go. Whirling, I found myself held by Kieran.

I grinned up at him. “Hi.”

His lips curved up. “Hello, Poppy.” He stepped back, spinning me. I stumbled, laughing as he caught me. “You surprise me.”

“Why?” I asked as we moved around the flames.

“I didn’t think you’d dance,” he said, pulling me to his damp chest. “You honor us by doing so.”

Before I could even begin to question why that would be an honor, Kieran spun me out, and another hand folded around mine. I turned to find that it was Lyra who now danced with me. We were nearly as close as she and Kieran had been, her legging-clad thighs brushing mine with every sway of her hips. Taking hold of my other hand, we moved together around the fire. Strands of hair stuck to my neck and temples as we weaved in and out of those flowing with the beat around the fire, each spinning into different partners. On and on, I danced, both with people I didn’t recognize and those I knew, and all the while, that buzz in my chest and my blood vibrated in my skin. My head tipped back, my face exposed to the flames and moonlight as I was whirled into Delano’s arms and then into Kieran’s, who lifted my feet from the sand. Grasping his shoulders, I laughed as he turned us around and around.

“Someone is jealous,” he said when my feet touched the sand once more. We spun—

Kieran’s chuckle tickled my cheek as Casteel snagged me by the waist. I all but fell into him as he said, “I am definitely getting jealous.”

“No, you’re not.” All I felt from him was smoky spice. “You’re…”

“What?” he asked as he led me away from the fire, the dancers, and back into the moonlight-flecked shadows.

Breathless, I followed on tingling feet. “You’re turned on.”

He dipped his head, pressing his forehead to mine. “When am I not turned on around you?”

I laughed softly. “Good question.”

“Admittedly, I am more turned on than usual.” He drew me down onto the thick blanket, pulling my back to his chest. “It’s your fault, though.”

“How is it my fault?” I wiggled back, grinning as I heard him groan.

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