Read The Stubborn Lord Online

Authors: Michelle M. Pillow

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #Werewolves & Shifters, #Demons & Devils, #Science Fiction

The Stubborn Lord (8 page)

BOOK: The Stubborn Lord
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He wasn’t sure how to answer without sounding conceited. “My family is, yes. As the nephews of the king, we are one of the premier houses on the planet.”

“That is why you were worried about the marriage thing,” she said, as if it now just made sense to her.

They might not be standing close, but the stablemen could easily listen to what was being said. Not liking the fact she spoke about such things within earshot of the others, he announced, “We will take this one.” Alek patted a particularly large and somewhat temperamental ceffyl. The beast would cause him problems, but he was not in a hurry to get home. The stableman hesitated at the choice but didn’t question it as he got the steed ready.

“Do you require food before we leave?” he asked, leading Kendall out of the stables into the sunlight. “My uncle has invited us to the palace.”

The Draig palace, much like his home, was made to be a fortress. From the ground, because of the angle, it was impossible to see the windows or balconies that adjoined to the royal family quarters on the upper levels. They were carved so that even from a distance it looked like a mountain cliff. Within the surrounding valley, near the festival grounds, a small village was nestled under the protection of the House of Draig. The roads were of rocky earth, smoothed flat and even. The village was kept immaculately clean, built with almost a military perfection of angles. The houses were of rock and wood, so that even the poorest of families were well provided for.

“Your uncle the king? I suppose we cannot refuse such an invitation, but…” She looked at the two guards at the mountain’s base. They protected the entrance to the palace.

When they were several yards away from the stables, he stopped. “But?”

“Please, don’t make me. It was hard enough standing in front of all those people to finish the ceremony. Do you really want me to embarrass you by not knowing your royal dining customs?”

She had a point. He didn’t really want to expose their marriage to more scrutiny. “It will be as you wish. Honor demanded I extend the offer to you. I’ll politely decline.”

“Thank you, Alek.” She sighed in relief. For a moment, he almost returned her slight smile, until she added, “Besides, I really think we should leave. It’s already late in the day and the sooner we go, the sooner we will get where we are going. I need to find a way off planet, the sooner the better.”

 

* * *

 

The ceffyl rocked back and forth, each step cumbersome and, frankly, a little angry. Kendall stared at the center horn on the beast’s head, watching it twitch and sway, waiting for a sign the animal would thrust its head back and stab her in the stomach for daring to ride it. Why did Alek have to pick this animal with so many others in the stables? Its horn was much longer and much sharper than the other creatures. In fact, the longer she stared at it, the more certain she became that the horn was growing sharper by the second.

“You will not be as sore later if you relax into the gait of the beast instead of fighting it,” Alek said behind her. At first, his hands had been on her hips, holding her upright. Now, he barely touched her. Her rigid posture put space between their bodies, though she could still feel the warmth of him against her back.

They were on a wide red-gray path. Mountain peaks spread out over the distance, forming a surreal view with their jagged tops piercing the green-tinted sky. From their vantage point on the path, she could see well into the distance. There was so much space, so many places for wild things to hide. The higher up the mountain they rode, the grayer the earth became until there was no red tint left.

Kendall took a deep breath, not sure why exactly she was having a hard time breathing. She suspected it was a combination of the ugly beast beneath her and the incredibly sexy beast behind her. As her focus shifted more to the man in back, she noticed the brush of his thigh rocking along her hip.

“Relax.” He slipped his hand onto her side. Fingers curled around her waist, letting her feel the natural rhythm of the ceffyl. She closed her eyes, no longer concerned with being impaled—at least not by the animal. The passion she’d shared with Alek but had been unable to fully consummate worked its spell over them once more.

With each movement of the animal, she slipped back by a small degree. His hand stayed firm, not pulling, merely guiding her to him. Thighs lightly touched the backs of her legs, only to press more insistently with each stride. She slid against the unmistakable lift of his arousal. He rolled his hips, thrusting forward in a fluid motion. There was purpose in his caress. She closed her eyes, letting her head fall back against his chest. The fingers along her waist spread wide over her stomach.

Alek moved his mouth to her ear. The whisper of his breath tickled her skin seconds before he flicked his tongue against a sensitive lobe. “Now that it is day, there is no reason we cannot finish what we were doing last night.”

Kendall shivered at the feel of him moving his lips softly down the back of her neck. He pushed her hair to the side for better access. A throaty moan reverberated against her flesh. Alek lifted his hand from her stomach to her jaw, angling her chin. He placed gentle kisses along her nape, moving as if the simple act was the most important thing in the universe. He pulled at her gown and soon her bodice was loosened. His hips rocked into her. When he uncovered a breast, he massaged his fingers over a peaked nipple.

Kendall reached for his leg. She kneaded the thick muscle she found there. Everything inside her focused on him—his warmth, his smell, his kiss, his touch. Their bodies rocked, steadily moving back and forth as the animal lumbered forward.

“Turn around,” he whispered.

At the request, her eyes flew open, back to the center horn. The animal had begun to jerk its head forcefully to each side. “I think your animal needs to rest. It looks agitated.”

Alek lifted his head to look at the beast. “Perhaps you are right.”

Before she could speak, he dismounted and was pulling her against his chest. He turned her, putting his back to the ceffyl as his lips met hers. A stiff breeze swept up the mountain, encasing them. Her skirt billowed around the backs of her thighs. Alek enticed her tongue into his mouth.

Kendall traced the length of his arms beneath his tunic shirt, holding him to her. She liked the taste of him, the wet texture of his open mouth. He seemed to touch everywhere at once—her hair, back, arms, hip and ass—before working the skirt material at her waist. He exposed her calf, inching the dress higher even as he continued to kiss her.

With each second, he kissed harder. Alek reached for his waist, eagerly trying to remove the barriers between their bodies. She felt his hand bump against her sex. What was it about this man that could make her forget everything but the very basest of needs? Before last night, she never would have believed herself capable of such passion. Sure, she had needs before Alek, but nothing she couldn’t take care of on her own.

She reached for him, intent on rubbing against him as they had the night before. Swaying, she was held up only by his embrace. A throaty laugh left him, vibrating against her mouth. She smiled into his kiss as he pulled back to look at her.

“Oh! Ah!” For a moment, the sound didn’t fully register. She looked at his mouth, but his lips hadn’t moved to release the feminine, higher-toned squeal of alarm. Reason dawned in his eyes as they both turned their heads to the side. She recognized Aeron from the Galaxy Brides’ ship. The woman stared at them, her eyes wide as she said, “I… Apologies… Walking…”

Kendall looked at Alek’s face and then down his body to where her hand gripped him in an intimate manner. Embarrassment heated her face as she let go of his arousal. His hands were much slower in releasing their hold on her. When he finally let her go, Kendall swept her hands over her body to make sure she was covered.

“I didn’t mean to intrude,” Aeron said, clearly regaining her senses. “I’ve been walking for a long time.”

“Who are you?” Alek questioned. “What are you doing with that ceffyl?”

Aeron glanced behind her to the animal following her over the ridge. The smaller ceffyl lowered its head and moved toward Alek’s surly beast. The two of them began rubbing horns. Alek seemed unconcerned with the animals’ ritual.

“It followed me,” Aeron answered. She looked almost desperately at Kendall for help. The woman wasn’t a friend, but Alek’s harsh tone had clearly frightened the poor thing. Kendal felt sorry for her.

“Alek, this is Aeron. She was on the Galaxy Brides’ ship with me,” Kendall explained. She tried not to look directly at Alek for too long. Her body still stung with the disappointment of the interruption. However, perhaps it was better they didn’t continue. She should consider what she was doing logically, not in the heat of his kisses.

“Aeron Grey,” Aeron said, belatedly.

“What are you doing out here alone, Aeron Grey?” Alek asked.

The woman looked as if she might cry. She shook her head back and forth. “I don’t know.”

“Where is your husband?” Alek took an aggressive step toward Aeron. Kendall watched his actions closely, unsure what to make of his hard attitude. It was obvious by the woman’s expression that she was frightened. She was alone in the wilderness on a new planet. Shouldn’t the question have been, “Are you all right?” Not, “Where is your husband?”

“I’m not really married. I mean, I am, but I’m not. It’s hard to explain,” Aeron said.

Alek shot a sidelong glance to his wife and mumbled under his breath about how there seemed to be a lot of complications with the current bridal shipment.

Kendall looked to the ground, not liking his harsh tone especially now that it was directed at her. She took a step away from him towards Aeron, putting herself between the two of them to diffuse the tense situation. To Aeron, she questioned, “What happened?”

“I don’t know. There was the ceremony and then the king drugged me with this yellow pollen thing and then I was taken to…” Aeron turned and pointed up the mountain, clearly flustered and not making a lot of sense, “…to this cabin home in the mountains. I took a bath, went to bed and I woke up alone.”

Alek took another forceful step in a clear effort to intimidate Aeron, which wasn’t necessary considering the poor woman already looked unnerved. “The mountain cabin? What happened? Where is your husband?”

“I…” Aeron stumbled back. Alek grabbed the woman’s arm and jerked her to stand before him. He gave her a rough shake and forced her to stay upright when she swayed. Panicked, Aeron said, “I don’t know.”

“What have you done?” he demanded.

“I did nothing!” she yelled. “I woke up and he was gone.”

“Who?”

“My husband,” she answered, desperately tugging at her arm. “I waited for him for hours, most of the day, but I think he must have gone out the night before and he didn’t come back. He didn’t say what he was doing. I tried to find him, but it was as if he was just snatched from the ground into the heavens. I couldn’t even see footprints.”

Kendall watched, unsure what to do. From what she could guess by the time that had passed and the haze of light, it was late in the day. Aeron had been at the bridal ceremony the night before. Kendall wondered if the woman was drugged, or perhaps simply confused by the daylight.

Every muscle in Alek’s body was rigid. Surely this wasn’t a reaction to being interrupted during sex, before completion? She waited breathlessly, staring at his hand on Aeron’s arm. No, this was something more. Why was it this man had come to her rescue like a chivalrous gentleman and was now treating Aeron like some kind of alien invader?

“Who is your husband?” Alek demanded more than asked.

“B—Bron,” she stammered. “He’s the High—”

“I know who he is,” Alek snapped. He let go of Aeron’s arm. He looked at Kendall and then Aeron. “We must go to the cabin. Bron would not have left her alone. Not for so long. Something must have happened.” He looked suspiciously at Aeron. “Or someone did something to him.”

“I—”

His look stopped Aeron from finishing. “We ride to the cabin,” Alek ordered.

Kendall frowned, not liking his high-handed way. “What about your home? We were going—”

“Our home will have to wait,” he broke in. “Get on the ceffyl.”

Aeron moved, slow to obey as she went to the smaller animal.

Kendall didn’t readily follow his command. She crossed her arms and gave him a stern look. This was not the Alek from the night before, the man who had saved her from the trackers, the man who smiled at her and kissed her. This Alek was hard and frankly a little mean. She didn’t appreciate this side of him.

“Get on the ceffyl,” he repeated, directing the command at her. There was a stubbornness in his expression, demanding to be obeyed without question. Not even her father dared to order her around like that. In fact, she’d been in charge of her own life since she could remember—not counting the whole repossession ordeal.

Kendall shivered as anger started to unfurl inside her chest, and still she didn’t move. He narrowed his eyes. She tried to keep his churning gaze but found herself looking away first. Strong emotions boiled beneath his surface, held back by the hard shell of his exterior. She tried to stand her ground, but he won. This was a strange land and she was at his mercy for the time being. Even in her irritation, she was rational enough to realize that much. She kept her distance as she moved past him to go to the large beast. The giant animal didn’t seem so fearsome now compared to Alex’s liquid-gold expression.

She felt more than saw Alek behind her. He touched her waist and she tensed.

“I did not mean to speak so harshly. He is my brother, Kendall,” Alek said softly. “He would not disappear on his new bride. Something must have happened to him. I must find him.”

Kendall nodded, sensing more than seeing his concern. Her anger faded as fast as it had risen. Sibling worry was something she understood all too well. Her own worry for her sister filled her. She allowed Alek to help her onto the animal. He took his place in front of her, forcing her to hold on to his waist. Soon the ceffyls were running at a hard, fast pace. They traveled in relative silence. Only once did Aeron speak, venturing to ask Kendall if she’d seen Riona Grey, Aeron’s sister. Apparently, the woman had left without saying goodbye to Aeron. Kendall knew enough about Riona to not be surprised. Riona was a known gambler and had made no attempt to hide her profession. Kendall couldn’t respect the woman, not after what her own gambling father had done to her. Some said gaming was a disease. Kendall didn’t care what those some called it. Gambling had ruined her life. It had been all she could do growing up to keep the fueling station in one piece, and her father away from the gaming chips. Even with her diligence, she’d clearly failed to watch him at all hours of the day. She told Aeron everything she knew about Riona’s whereabouts, which was absolutely nothing.

BOOK: The Stubborn Lord
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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