Authors: Michelle M. Pillow
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #Werewolves & Shifters, #Demons & Devils, #Science Fiction
“I’m not hungry,” she said, even as she glanced at the food table. “Honestly, I just want to go home. I’m so tired. I’ve been awake for days.”
He considered her for a long moment. Finally, he nodded. “There is nowhere to go tonight.” He touched her cheek. “Lie on the bed. Rest. I will take you home tomorrow.”
Kendall looked at his crystal and then back up to meet his gaze. Slowly, she pulled her face from his hand. He hadn’t noticed the tired marks under her eyes or the sleep-deprived red edging the brown irises. Normally he was observant, but he’d been so excited to have finally found her he had missed her need for rest.
“I won’t be able to sleep, even if I do need it. Every time I try, I…” She didn’t meet his gaze and he wondered at it. “Thank you, but I have imposed too long already.”
“Rest,” he repeated. “No one will harm you here. The festival ground is no place for a tired bride. They will be drinking well into the night in celebration. If it is rest you seek, this is the best place for you.”
She swayed lightly on her feet. “All right. You saved me twice—from the forest and from those men. I have no reason not to trust your word. I can sleep on the floor. I don’t wish to put you out of your bed.”
Relief filled him now that she no longer spoke of getting off his planet.
“The floor is no place for you,” he said. “Take the bed. Rest.”
Kendall considered the unit in her hand. She went to a chair along the edge of the tent and tilted it back so a leg came off the ground. She placed the unit underneath the leg and slammed it down. The casing dented so she could pry it off and expose the delicate insides of the device. This time when she crushed it with the chair leg it gave a loud electrical pop and then died.
He laughed. “I would say it is disabled.”
“I have no use for it, but I clearly have cause to disable it.” Kendall set the broken pieces on the floor near the edge of the tent, out of the way. “Are you sure you don’t mind me taking the bed?”
“I insist upon it.”
She considered him for a moment before moving toward the bed. She kicked off her shoes and pulled back the fur coverlet to crawl onto the high mattress. Stretching out on her side, she studied him. “No one will come in?”
“I will make sure of it,” he told her, though he knew no one would come unless summoned. She sighed at his reassurance, and he hid his small smile of pleasure to know she trusted his word without question. It was a very good sign as to their future together.
“Thank you, Alek.” She rolled over, putting her back toward him.
Alek took the three torches from the walls and dipped them into the bath water, putting out the fires. The tent became dark and quiet. There was soft glow from the outside bonfires shining through the wall. It bathed the slope of her form in the gentlest of orange lights. In the years to come, he was sure he would always remember the way she looked in this moment.
Alek helped himself to wine while he listened to her breathing. He knew the moment she started to slip into a deep sleep. Setting the goblet down, the wine in it unfinished, he lightly touched the glowing crystal. This was not how he’d imagined his marriage ceremony. Most men believed there would be moments of discovery, touching and kissing, whispering and playing, and a bit of pleasurable-torture as their new brides did their own exploring. Still, he would not complain. If sleep was what his bride desired, then sleep was what she would have. With the blood pumping in his veins, granting her request was not as easy as it first appeared. He wanted to touch her and feel her and taste her.
The bed was large enough to hold them both and he crawled next to her and lay on top of the fur coverlet. He made no move to hold her. For now he would be content that she was in his tent, that his crystal glowed and that finally the gods had seen fit to send him a wife.
Kendall knew she was not safe in her quarters the moment her mind woke from her dreams. Her bed did not feel like this one. Her room was not so warm. In those first gradual seconds, she expected to be jarred by her captors into the harsh reality of her new life. Where were they keeping her now? Did it even matter?
She opened her eyes to her dark surroundings and felt momentary confusion at the peacefulness of them. No tight space or metal walls closed her in. No stasis chamber. No ship’s prison hold. The soft orange glow along the wall was the only light. It flickered, coming from a fire outside of the canvas enclosure. Kendall was amazed she’d slept. Normally the fear of being helplessly stuck back into stasis kept her mind alert. Her eyes adjusted and she was able to discern the surrounding shadows—a table, the platter of chocolate, a pitcher. She slid her hand to her mouth. A strange material was clutched in her fingers. As it neared her nose she detected a familiar smell. Alek. His mask. The material tangled in her fingers.
Kendall pushed up on the bed and tried to make out shapes on the floor. Then, looking behind her, she found what she was searching for. Alek was on the bed next to her. He rested on top of the coverlet. Since she was beneath it, the material kept them from touching. She detected the outline of his form. Muscles formed ridges in the flesh. His arm lifted above his head, framing his face and drawing her attention to his parted lips and strong nose. She stared, mesmerized by the look of him.
Perhaps it was the sleepy haze she was under, or the quiet surrealism of the tent, or even the relief of no longer being under the thumb of her captors. She reached to him and let her finger move down the slope of his nose. Kendall shivered, as if that touch proved this was real and she was finally free. It was a light touch but she could feel his heat against her cooler skin. She traced the divot above his lip then along the seam of his mouth to his chin. His eyes blinked open and he looked first at the ceiling before slowly turning his gaze toward her. The shadows hid his eyes when he looked at her until a hint of gold pierced the darkness. He’d shifted his eyes into that of the dragon.
“Thank you for saving me from them,” she whispered. She moved her hand to his neck. The intimate moment seemed natural somehow. The crystal glowed brighter, casting his shadowed features into light.
“What did they want with you? Why were they tracking you?” he asked.
She liked the sound of his voice. It was low, almost gruff, yet soothing. She couldn’t bring herself to answer. Her eyes searched for the tracking unit, finding it broken on the floor where she’d left it. The truth was too humiliating. How could she say her father had signed her over to a casino to cover a gambling debt? She knew her father loved her, in his way, but he’d lost her in a game of chance.
“They made a mistake, but no amount of protesting seemed to make a difference. I’m sure you know how those types of companies operate. They are too large and the departments don’t talk to each other. My protests were ignored. They thought they had the right to bring me here as a bride. It doesn’t matter. They’ve left thanks to you. It’s finally over. I don’t think I can ever repay you for your kindness.”
He rolled onto his side. The move forced her fingers to fall across his collarbone onto the bed. A hand came for her and he touched her as she had him. Lightly, he traced her nose and mouth, dipping over the curve of her chin to her throat. His finger paused by her pulse, as if gauging the pace of her heart as it beat a rhythm in her neck. “You are safe with me.”
“You have already done so much, I hate to ask for one more thing.” She was well aware of his touch. Her heart quickened and she felt herself leaning closer to him. “Can you help me find a ship willing to give me passage to the X Quadrant? It’s important.”
“What is in the X?”
“My home. I don’t have anyone else I can ask.” She covered his hand with hers, holding him against her neck. “I give you my word that I will pay you for your trouble once I get back. I don’t have much, but I am good to my word.”
“I cannot send you to the X. I’m sorry.” He moved his finger along her jaw line.
“I understand.” Kendall tried not to let her disappointment show. She would just have to find another means of travel. It was quite possible this man didn’t have the funds to lend her the passage fare to another quadrant. It would be an expensive trip. This wedding ceremony probably cost the participating men a great deal. The plate of chocolate alone could easily equal the price of a flight off world. Knowing Alek would not have a bride to show for it, she felt sorry for him.
“I have a good home,” he offered.
Kendall covered his mouth before he could say more. She knew what he would offer. This was a bridal ceremony after all. His whole purpose in participating would be to find a wife. Really it was sad. These poor men had to settle for whoever would have them because fate had taken away their female children. What a horrible way to find a partner. She could just imagine some of the nutcases who agreed to this. Actually, she didn’t need to imagine. She had seen them on the ship. Riona, the degenerate gambler always making wagers on the most mundane things. Olena, who acted more like a pirate than a bride. Gina, with her enormous breasts and nauseatingly horrific laugh. Trinia, a woman constructed of biological plastic.
“What are you thinking?” He touched the center of her forehead where her brows had furrowed together in concentration.
“Of how I’m going to find a way home,” she said.
“Everything will work out the way it is meant to,” he assured her. Alek leaned toward her. His lips neared hers until she could feel the gentle brush of his breath against her mouth. She didn’t move, mesmerized by the glow reflecting in his eyes. He kissed her lightly, sweeping his mouth gently across hers.
This was new territory for her. She didn’t move, only stared at him, waiting to see what he intended to do next. He kissed her again, moving his lips firmly against hers. Arousal and awareness unfurled inside her. Alek captivated her senses, holding them hostage as she awaited his next move. The third kiss lingered as he parted his lips. The action urged her to mimic his movements. She sucked in a shaky breath. Alek ran his tongue along the seam of her mouth. The feeling was wickedly decadent.
Kendall wasn’t some sheltered recluse. She knew what he wanted from her. Her body wanted it too. Luckily for her body, her mind didn’t seem to be working at the moment.
Alek kissed her again and probed his tongue deeper still. He let his hand travel down her throat to her chest. The material of her shirt did little to protect her from his heat. He cupped a breast, running a thumb over the already sensitive nipple. He moved his fingers slowly over her chest, along her collarbone to tease her aware flesh. Her eyes closed. She inhaled a deep breath, silently willing his hand more fully against her breast.
He traced the tip of his tongue along the seam of her mouth to entice her to participate in his plans. Kendall inched closer. She wanted to feel more of him.
Alek’s touch stayed light and teasing. He explored the curve of her side and hip before reaching around to cup her ass. She gasped into his mouth as the hard, unmistakable press of his arousal fitted against her. The intimacy of the act took her by surprise. She’d never been held so intensely, as if each of his breaths depended on hers.
The feel of male flesh was intoxicating. Since he only wore the fur loincloth, there was nothing to stop her hands from journeying over tight peaks and valleys. Muscles flexed as he moved subtly against her. He slid his knee between her thighs. She clamped her legs, automatically trying to stop him. It was useless. A thick thigh pressed up into her sex and she gasped at the way he rubbed against her.
A low moan sounded as he deepened the kiss. Their tongues began to war, fighting for control. Hands pulled and grabbed. She heard the rip of cloth seconds before feeling strong fingers on her naked body. Torn material tickled where it still clung to her. Alek massaged her butt and drew her forward so that her softer skin molded around the erect length of his shaft. The fur loincloth padded them, keeping them apart.
Alek groaned, pausing long enough to jerk the impeding material aside. With the cushion of fur gone, she now felt his length in long, intimate detail. He breathed heavily, “
,” before rocking harder. Almost mindlessly, he tugged at her waist to force her pants down her ass and hip. With his leg between her thighs, he couldn’t undress her further. His cock hit her exposed hip and stomach.
The pressure of his leg along her slit and the sound of his harsh breathing stoked the fire inside her. Self-pleasure had never felt like this. She made a weak noise and grabbed hold of his arm as his hand kept her tightly to him.
“We must…” He moaned before rocking faster. The hand on her ass moved to her hair and he roughly pulled her head back. Her chest arched and he instantly lowered his mouth to suck a peaked nipple between his lips.
Kendall tensed. It was too much. The pull of her hair, the tug of his mouth, the press of his thigh, they flooded her with pleasure.
“We must not finish.” The words were a growl against her breast. “We are only meant to discover each other, learn, reveal ourselves completely, but we are not supposed to finish.”
She was barely listening. Kendall hooked her leg around the back of his knee. The angle of her body opened her to the most gratifying of sensations. “Oh, please, please, please,” she begged as her body was pushed over the edge of pleasure.
“By all the gods!” Alek swore.
She trembled against him, every muscle tense and every jerk of her body uncontrollable. Sticky warmth flooded her stomach as he found release. When she touched him, her fingers glided over his sweat-beaded flesh. Her hand found his ass. He groaned, jerking again as another wave of wet heat erupted between them.
Alek gasped for breath and whispered, “By all the gods, Kendall. We should not have done that.”
He hardly sounded disappointed. In fact, the way he held her tight said he quite enjoyed what they had done. Her heart pounded wildly.