Yes? No? I saw the woman who had been riding the man under her still, her back bowing as the man behind her pulled her close to his chest.
“The newcomer is either moving inside her or against her,” Casteel explained as his finger moved in those damn circles above the gown and along the crease of my thigh and hip. “Did Willa’s journal explain the technicalities of that?”
The heat from my skin had entered my veins, stirring up my blood as I nodded. “It did.” I wet my lips. “It sounded like it could be…painful.”
“It can be if not done with care,” he said. “And it appears that they are taking care.”
No one appeared to be in pain, and no one seemed to be paying any attention to where we sat on our blanket. A breathlessness entered me as I slowly inched my thighs apart and asked, “Are they taking part in the Joining?”
“I do not know.” The fingers against my bare skin slid toward the elicit ache. A strangled sound left me as he lazily drew a finger through the gathering wetness there. “A Joining is not required for such acts.”
“Have you—?” I bit down on my lip as his finger pierced my flesh. My entire body jerked, spasmed, just like the three in the tent. I really needed to stop looking.
And, of course, I found myself looking to where Kieran and Lyra were. They were kissing now, but her arm still moved at his hips in a slow rhythm.
“Have I what?”
Pulse thrumming as Cas’s finger slowly plunged in and out of me as he continued worrying the sensitive flesh, I gave up on remaining still before I even started to try. I lifted my hips against his hand as I forced my brain to remember how to form words. “Have you ever done that? What they’re doing under the canopy?”
His lips moved down the side of my throat, tugging gently on the column of my neck. “I have.” He nipped my flesh, wringing a gasp from me. “Does that bother you?”
Some of the passion faded enough for me to ask, “Why would it?”
“The pasts of some haunt the future of others,” he said, his hands stilling.
My brows lowered as my gaze flickered. “You’re over two hundred years old, Cas. I imagine you’ve done all manner of things.”
His fingers moved again. “With all manner of people?”
The way he said that made me giggle. “Yes.” Though my smile faded because I wanted to ask if he’d done that with Shea. A moment later, I realized that I could simply ask the question. So, I did.
Casteel kissed my neck. “No, Poppy. We didn’t.”
Surprised, I started to look back at him, but he curled his finger, hitting a spot inside me that caused my legs to stiffen and my toes to curl into the blanket. “W-why not?”
“We were friends, and then we were more,” he said, the tension curling deeper and deeper inside me as my gaze darted across the fire, the canopies, and the shadows. Somehow, my focus ended up on Lyra and Kieran. They were no longer kissing. Lyra’s head was at his waist again, and his hand was balled in her hair, his hips moving— “But our relationship was never one of raw need. That doesn’t mean I cared any less about her, but it wasn’t like this. There was no constant need to be inside her in every way imaginable, and even ways not yet thought of. I never found myself constantly hungering, and I believe you need that to find yourself exploring those things with someone you’re committed to,” he said, and my breaths became shorter and shallower. “I never had what I have with you with her, Poppy.”
I don’t know if it was the things he was doing to my body, what was going on around us or his words, but I teetered on that edge and then tumbled over it, falling and crashing like the waves rolling against the beach. The shattering release left me trembling.
Once my heart slowed enough for the pleasure-induced fog to clear, I turned my head toward him. “Do you…do you want to do that with me?”
He kissed me as he eased his hand out from under my gown. “I want to do everything imaginable, and things no one has ever thought of with you,” he said. “But I only need you, Poppy. Now. Always.”
My heart skipped and then sped up as my chest swelled with so much love I felt as if I could float right to the stars. I twisted in his embrace, clasping his cheeks as I rose onto my knees. “I love you.” I kissed him, hoping that everything I felt for him could be communicated with that kiss, and then decided the kiss wasn’t enough. A tendril of excitement swept through me as I rocked back, grabbing his hands. “I want to go somewhere…private.”
Amber glowed from within hooded, sensual eyes. “We can go back—”
“No.” I didn’t want to wait. If I did, I would lose my nerve. “Is there not somewhere private here?”
The tips of his fangs became visible as he bit down on his lower lip and looked over his shoulder. “Yeah,” he said. “There is.”
Without another word, we rose. Under the moonlight, Casteel led me farther down the beach, to where I hadn’t seen the tree-heavy dunes in the darkness. He guided me around the first outcropping of trees and then stopped. It was so dark that I could barely make out his features as he looked down at me. “You’re up to something, aren’t you?”
“Maybe,” I admitted, grateful for the heavier shadows here as I took hold of the front of his shirt and stretched up, bringing his mouth to mine.
My heart thrummed as our tongues touched and danced, much as I had around the fire. We kissed and kissed, and even though he had to know this wasn’t why I’d sought privacy, he didn’t rush me. He just followed my lead, saying nothing as I pressed tiny kisses to the base of his throat. Sliding his palms up and down my arms, he remained quiet as I drew my hands down his chest. When I reached his stomach, I sank to my knees.
His hands fell away from me, hovering at my sides as I unhooked the flap of his breeches, feeling the rigid thickness there.
The taste of smoky spice consumed my senses as I reached in, wrapping my fingers around his warm, hard skin. He was breathing heavily now, and my heart raced as I eased him out. His skin felt like heated steel encased in silk as I tipped forward, halting when I felt him spasm in my hand.
“Poppy,” he ground out. I lifted my gaze, momentarily stunned by the churning flecks of bright gold in his eyes. A shudder worked its way through him. “You don’t have to do this.”
“I want to,” I told him. “Do you want me to?”
“You can do anything to me, and I’ll want it.” Another tremor worked its way through him. “This? My cock in your mouth? I’d have to be dead and nothing but ash to not want that.”
My lips twitched. “That’s…kind of flattering.”
He choked out a rough laugh. “You are—” He groaned as I glided my fingers from his base to his tip.
His fingertips touched my cheek. “Everything.”
Smiling, I lowered my head. The salty taste of his skin was a surprise, dancing over my tongue. Tentatively, I moved my hand down his length, exploring as I brought him deeper into my mouth like I had read about in Willa’s diary.
“Poppy,” Casteel groaned, his palm flattening against my cheek.
She’d written about other things, stuff that reminded me of what Casteel had done for me, and I wasn’t sure if he’d enjoy that or not. But I…I wanted to do those things. I drew my tongue over his taut skin, finding a little indentation under the ridge of his head and swirling my tongue over it.