Authors: Kathryn Smith
The thought was like a punch to the stomach. Molyneux knew him too well. He knew Chapel
would not be able to leave Pru while the chance of danger remained.
“No. But we both know the chances of the order returning are slim.”
“True.” Molyneux’s gaze never left his. “But the Rylands are not the only ones I am concerned for.”
Chapel stared at him with a sense of wonder. “You are worried about me?”
The priest nodded. “I see how much she has come to mean to you,
I know what you would do to the man who poisoned her and attacked her family.”
He would kill him. Painfully and slowly. The church obviously didn’t want him dead. They wanted to uncover the man’s plan, discover how deep the roots of his order burrowed. Chapel understood it, but he didn’t like it.
“Without your blood…” It was a feeble grasp to hold on to the familiar.
“I think we both know you can take care of that on your own.” Molyneux’s tone wasn’t accusatory, merely matter-of-fact.
Chapel’s brow pinched. He had nothing more to argue. “You will keep me informed of your progress?”
There was only kindness and understanding in the priest’s expression. “
And when you are needed, I will send for you.”
“I will be ready.”
“I hope not,
Sickening dread curled inside Chapel’s stomach as the meaning of his friend’s words sank in. Molyneux knew the truth just as he did.
The only thing that could make him ready to leave Rosecourt was Pru’s death.
“When is Father Molyneux leaving?”
Chapel and Pru were strolling through the abandoned stillness of the garden. Crickets sang a gentle song and in the distance an owl hooted. Farther still was the beach, where waves sloshed gently against the shore, scenting the air with a breath of salty richness.
“Tomorrow.” He paused as she opened the door to the hothouse, and then followed her inside.
“Will you miss him?”
Warm, humid air welcomed them, thick with fragrance. There were easily a dozen tables piled with potted plants and flowers. Larger flora lined the floor and walls.
“Of course,” he replied. A trellis of roses caught his attention. “But it isn’t as though we will never meet again.”
“Do you think you and I will ever meet again?”
He turned toward her. She wasn’t looking at him, but staring through the dark at some indiscernible point. It was unlikely, and they both knew it. Damn it. “How do you mean?”
Now she turned to him. He could see her sad smile. “Someday in heaven.”
He swallowed. Hard. The lump refused to budge. “I’d like that.”
A small sound escaped her. It sounded like laughter, but it was too mocking and self-deprecating to be true. “I do not want to die a virgin.”
Like a boy, he jumped at her shocking confession. A sharp, tearing sensation scored the pad of his thumb as he jerked his hand free of the roses.
It was light enough that she saw him jump. And no doubt she heard his soft hiss.
She came to him, closing the scant feet between them, a frown creasing her fair brow. “What happened?”
“It’s nothing. A thorn.”
She took his hand in her smaller, more slender one. Her touch was as light and delicate as the fall of night. She handled him as though he were something to be treasured, something special, not a creature who could snuff out her life like the flame of a candle.
She lifted his hand to her mouth. He knew her intent and it both frightened and disappointed him. Had she planned this? And what exactly did she want from him? Did she want him, or what she thought he could give her?
“It won’t change you, not this way.”
She smiled, the tip of his thumb resting against her full lower lip. “Poor Chapel, so suspicious. Did you ever stop to think that maybe I’m trying to seduce you, not use you?”
Before Chapel could stop her, Pru opened her sweet mouth and took the ball of his thumb inside. Her warm tongue swept across his flesh and his heart stopped.
Seduce him? She was killing him.
It was a death he would gladly embrace.
hapel’s skin was warm and salty against Pru’s tongue, his blood faintly coppery and sweet. There was nothing distasteful about it. In fact, there was something highly arousing knowing that she was taking some part of him inside her, a part that could never be taken away. Knowing what he was, knowing that blood was so integral to his survival—it was like joining with him in a way that was more profound than even lovemaking.
She opened her mouth and let him go. Only a few seconds had passed, but it had felt like an eternity.
His hand slowly moved away from her. Chapel watched its progress as though he thought it might burst into flames at any moment. His gaze
raised to hers, wide and pained in the moonlight. He looked so vulnerable, so touched yet horrified. How was she going to make him understand that she would be with him even if she did have something to lose?
“Why?” His voice was a ragged whisper.
Tilting her head, Pru raised her hand to his cheek. Poor, poor Chapel. “Because I want to take a little of you with me when I go.”
He knew what she meant by “go.” Were it possible, his gaze became even more raw. “I wouldn’t take anymore—not if you want to get into h-heaven.” He frowned and swallowed hard.
Pru’s heart twitched. How bittersweet it was, discovering that the thought of her death affected him so. She moved toward him, closing the scant distance between them until there was nothing but a sliver of night and the reach of a breath between them.
“I would like to give you something to take with you,” she murmured, reaching out so that her palm pressed flat against his chest. She held his gaze. What if he rejected her?
His frown faded into shock. He shook his head, golden hair mussing in the breeze. “No, Pru. I won’t take your blood.”
Her fingers against his mouth shushed him. “That’s not what I want.”
He blinked, eyes going from bright to dark as he realized what she meant.
“You said you’d help me do the things I want,” she reminded him, not giving him a chance to
deny her just yet. Her legs brushed against his, his torso pressed against her chest as she closed what little distance there was between them. “I want to experience passion, Chapel. I want to know what it is to make love. With you.”
He was so pale in the darkness. Lips parted, but nothing came out as he pressed a hand over hers, holding it tight against the place where his heart seemed to struggle to beat. He looked at her as though she had just shoved a dagger between his ribs.
“Don’t do this to me. Please. I don’t want to hurt you.”
He was hurting her now, just by allowing her to see his pain. “I don’t want you to hurt me either. I want you to make love to me.”
She cut him off. “I want to make love to you. When was the last time someone loved you, Chapel?”
Were those tears in his eyes, or just the moon playing tricks on her? “Never.” His voice was barely audible.
No, the tears were in her eyes. “Then let me, please.”
His free hand came up to cup her cheek. The other still held her palm to his chest. “I’m sure I’ve done nothing to deserve you,
but I’m not strong enough to deny you, even though I’ll no doubt be damned for it.”
Pru parted her lips to argue, but never got the chance to speak before his lips came down on hers.
One thought made its way through her mind. His angel. He had called her his angel.
His mouth was hot—insistent yet surprisingly gentle as it claimed hers for his own. Joy overwhelmed her as she clung to his shoulders. Her knees trembled and her heart slammed against her chest. She was nervous and afraid and so terribly impatient now that she knew where this night was headed. Their tongues stroked and teased, a pale substitute for the dance their bodies would soon perform.
One by one, he plucked the pins from her hair. They fell to the floor with soft pings. She would never find them again—not that she cared. At least it was late enough that no one would be up to see her as they sneaked in later. Soon he had her hair free and tumbling down her back, his fingers combing through the heavy strands. Pru moaned, her head falling back into his hands, offering him her throat as she rubbed herself against his fingers like an affectionate cat.
The fingers in her hair slid down her back to her waist and then farther still to cup her bottom. His mouth slid down her jaw as her spine bowed. Her hips pressed against his, welcoming his hardness. Through her skirts he was a delicious pressure that sent little spirals of pleasure radiating throughout her. She arched against him, retreated and then arched again, the ache within her growing as his lips traced a heated trail along the sensitive skin of her neck.
He lifted his head. In the gray light, she could see the chiseled beauty of his face. His golden
eyes glowed with a heat that melted her insides, and this time she knew it was no illusion.
“Are you certain?” he asked.
Pru’s heart clenched at the tenderness in his tone. And he thought himself a monster. How could anyone so wounded and gentle be anything but good and pure? Her hands pulled his shirt from the waist of his trousers. Thank God he dressed so improperly with her. Her fingers slid underneath the fine lawn, itching to feel the warm velvet of his skin.
“Yes,” she told him.
He kissed her again, almost reverently, but with a hunger that hadn’t been there before. This was it. Elation and anticipation flooded her blood. For a time, even if it was just this night, she was going to hold this man in her arms. She would know what it was to be treasured and wanted. She would know what it was like to be one with another person.
She wanted to be one with Chapel.
His tongue teased hers with sweet, forbidden promise as his fingers made short work of the fastenings on the back of her gown. The soft blue silk sagged about her shoulders, but only for a moment, and then he was sliding it down her arms.
When the gown pooled at her feet, he lifted her out of it, sitting her atop the one bare spot on a nearby table. The wood was rough against the back of her thighs through her delicate chemise. Wantonly, she hadn’t worn any drawers, in the hopes that the evening would culminate in precisely this.
She had chosen her prettiest corset—pink satin with lace trim. The top was low, just covering her nipples and pushing her breasts upward. She shivered as Chapel’s rough but gentle fingers brushed the sensitive swells above the pink lace. His fingers crept lower, inside the corset, cupping her breast to lift and release it from the satin cage.
Cool air tightened her nipple, and when his thumb brushed that same hard peak, Pru sighed into his mouth.
His mouth left hers, trailing along her jaw and throat and down her chest, building the knot of anticipation in her stomach with every soft kiss. Finally, the wet heat of his mouth closed over her nipple, replacing his fingers. Pru moaned in pleasure, arching toward him.
Chapel’s hand slid down the smooth front of her corset to grasp the gauzy fabric of her chemise. Slowly, he drew the garment up her thighs until it bunched about her hips. The flat of his palm caressed the inside of her leg, sending tingles of pleasure snaking across her sensitive flesh. The ache within her grew as his fingers drew ever so slowly toward the heated part of her that craved his touch.
All her life she had been taught that “good” unmarried ladies did not indulge in this kind of behavior, that it was wrong to do so if one wasn’t married—and sometimes even if one was! Somehow, she couldn’t bring herself to think that what she and Chapel were doing was wrong.
His hand slid farther, nudging her legs apart. Her body jumped as his fingers stroked the curls
there, teasing the cleft between. Pru gasped, her hands clutching at his hair as his mouth drew insistently on her breast.
One of his fingers parted her, moving with tortuous slowness between the slick folds of her flesh. Jolts of pleasure flared deep within her, rolling into one tight, pulsating ache that demanded release even as she wished it would go on forever.
His teeth nipped at her breast, drawing a cry from her. Lifting his head from her swollen, glistening flesh, he gazed down at her, his ruthless fingers still stroking the wetness between her legs. The bright gold of his eyes made her heart thump with excitement.
God, the way he made her feel.
“Do you want more?” His voice was low and thick. Pru nodded, unable to speak.
Chapel held her gaze as he unfastened the buttons of his waistcoat. He tossed it behind him without a glance. The white linen of his shirt followed. Dry-mouthed, Pru watched with greedy eyes as the tautly muscled flesh of his stomach and chest was revealed.
He was beautiful and golden as a Grecian god. His shoulders were wide, the bones there sharp. Tawny hair dusted his chest, drifting downward to the waist of his trousers.
There was no trace of the wounds he had endured during the attack on the house, nothing to mar the perfection of his body, save for a satiny scar high on the back of one shoulder in the shape of a cross.
“Did you have that when you were mortal?”
“The church branded each of us when we turned ourselves over.”
Branded them? Like animals? Wide-eyed, she stared at him, tears threatening. “I’m so sorry.”
The depth of his gaze shifted, softened. It was as though her words affected him greatly. “I am not a man, Pru. As far as the church and world is concerned, I am an abomination. Is that what you want as your lover?”
Reaching up, she smoothed the silky strands of dark blond hair back from his face. “I want
as my lover. I don’t care what anyone else thinks of you, I think you are wonderful.”
He stood between her splayed thighs, so close that she could feel his heat. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
She smiled. How sweet he was, this man she had seen kill with his bare hands. “So don’t.”
He kissed her again, his lips achingly tender as they claimed hers. Too soon he pulled away, staring at her for one long puzzling moment before sinking to his knees. The movement put him at a most embarrassing level.
“What are you doing?” Her heartbeat sped up as he seized her by the hips, pulling her closer to the edge of the table.
“I want to taste you,” he told her, his golden eyes holding hers. “I want to give you pleasure.”
And how was he going to do that from down…oh! Pru fell back on her elbows as his tongue stroked her, exploring the dampness of her sex in the same manner as his fingers had
before. Hot, wet and firm, his tongue was like rough silk against her sensitive flesh. His jaw was rough against her inner thighs, and his hands came up to press her legs apart, as though he realized he was scratching her. Held as she was, Pru was wide open to him, totally vulnerable to the sensual assault of his mouth as he licked her into an aching, wanton state of submission.
Pru’s fingers clutched at his hair, tangling in the thick strands as her hips undulated against the onslaught of his mouth and tongue. She cried out as he found the tightest, most sensitive part of her and ruthlessly stroked it. The ache grew, building and building as her hips rose and fell. Her knees came up to give him deeper access and she dug her heels into the tabletop, bracing herself as she pushed her hips upward.
One more stroke sent her over the edge, reducing her to moaning mindlessness as pleasure swept over her.
His mouth left her, but she scarcely noticed, so acute were the aftershocks racing through her.
He stood between her spread knees. She watched as he unfastened his trousers. They fell down his legs with a soft whisper.
The lower half of his body was as tanned as the upper, and dusted with the same fine golden hair. Between his legs, nestled in a thick downy thatch, was his penis. Long and broad, the sight of it both frightened and excited her. He was going to put that inside her, fill her.
She watched as he guided himself to the entrance of her body. He stroked the thick head of
his sex through the slick cleft of hers, igniting that familiar inner fire once more.
“Do you want me, Pru?”
Raising her gaze to his, she met the burning of his eyes without flinching, without shame. “Yes. I want you. All of you.”
Slowly, he fitted himself against her. He pushed—not hard, but insistently all the same. Pru gasped as he slowly filled her, stretching her. He held her ankles with his hands, keeping her heels on the table, her legs spread wide. There was a slight pinching sensation, and then he was fully inside her.
He felt alien and too big. This wasn’t what she’d hoped for. It wasn’t as bad as she’d heard the first time could be either, but it hardly compared to the feelings he’d aroused in her earlier.
“Just be still a moment,” he told her, as if reading her thoughts. “It will get better.”
Forcing her muscles to relax, Pru trusted him. He was right. After a few moments her body seemed to adjust to having him inside. One of his hands left her foot and glided up her leg to where their bodies were joined. Gently, his thumb parted her, finding that tiny nub that his tongue had tormented earlier. He stroked her, sending sparks to the tinder within her, until her hips began to move, seeking the burning where his body joined hers.
He moved inside her with deep, gentle thrusts, churning his hips more than pushing. There was very little discomfort now, and whatever was left
was nothing compared to the sheer pleasure of being joined with him.
But it wasn’t enough. She wanted more of him, wanted to give more of herself. Slowly, she pushed herself upward, wrapping her legs around his waist as she rose into a sitting position.
His arms went around her back as hers went around his shoulders. He pulled her closer for a kiss, but she tilted her head back, offering him her throat. She didn’t know much about vampires, but the neck featured in everything she had read and heard.
“Will it change me if you bite me?”
His movements stilled and for a brief second she saw pain in his eyes. “No.”
“So there is nothing to stop you from taking my blood?”
His eyes widened. Obviously he was only now realizing that she didn’t want anything from him, but that she was offering herself, trusting him with her very life.