I waited up until I couldn’t keep my heavy eyes open a moment longer. The candles I lit for Kane’s visit had long since puddled, swallowing their wicks whole and drowning the room in shades of blue and black. I had hoped Kane would come see me before he left in the morning, but he hadn’t, and I steeled myself against the nagging hurt. I wasn’t a child. He was a king heading into a greater war than I had ever known, and the worst
was yet to come.
He had more important things to do than say goodbye to his… to me. I wasn’t sure what I was to him.
We definitely weren’t lovers, but we were more than friends.
I slipped into my nightdress and crawled under the covers. Sleep was a welcome drug, pulling me under a fog of rest and away from emotionally complicated thoughts.
I woke to the familiar smell of woody fir, and surprise gave way to warmth, unfurling inside me as I buried my face in Kane’s chest.
He was here—in my bed. I nuzzled even closer.
We had never really cuddled before, except maybe when I was dying— which, of what I could recall, wasn’t all that romantic. I took a moment to enjoy his strong hands around my back, pressing me to him.
“You feel good,” I murmured.
He hummed his response against my ear and ran a gentle hand down my back. My nipples pebbled at his touch, my breasts becoming tight and full against the silky fabric of my nightdress.
When his finger brushed my tailbone I shivered, and a dark chuckle
rumbled from his chest. I pulled back slightly and looked up at him. His body felt languid against mine, but he was breathing as heavily as I was, desire filling his eyes like endless pools.
“I thought you weren’t coming,” I said.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.” He brushed a few hairs away from my face, and ran his hand up my bare thigh, his touch rough and warm and setting me on fire. I wanted to devour him—to feel him everywhere. I had wanted this for so, so long, every minute we were both still fully clothed was a tragedy.
And his extraordinary gentleness was killing me.
My eyes focused on his full lips, and I parted mine, breathless.
He leaned in as his hand ran lazily up and down my thigh, pushing my nightdress up ever so slightly. His mouth was close—
But when his fingers grazed my hip bone, he pulled back, jaw rigid and pupils flaring.
“What is it,” I breathed.
“You’re… not wearing anything under your nightdress.”
I flushed, my face somehow going hotter than it already was. “No.” “Why not?”
A laugh slipped out at his confusion. “I don’t usually sleep in them. I don’t know. I can put some on?”
He barked out one dark, cruel laugh and then rolled onto his back with a deep, pained sigh, and a forearm draped across his eyes.
“Are you all right?” I asked, breathless, and confused by the shift in his energy.
“Not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’m losing my mind a bit.” I slunk closer to him, my breathing still uneven, and planted a single, soft kiss on his warm neck. Balsam and leather filled my senses, and I released a
soft hum against his skin.
A groan, guttural and raw, fell from him and he stood, climbing off the bed all together.
I sat up, raising an eyebrow in silent question. “Do you really not want
this?” I asked, slightly sheepish.
“You know I do,” he said through clenched teeth. “More than I’ve ever wanted anything.”
“So you wouldn’t prefer I sleep with someone else?”
I was only kidding, but he stalked closer, eyes blazing. He looked like he wanted to crush mountains.
I bit my tongue.
“Arwen, you aren’t—” he fought for the words, though they looked like they physically pained him to say. “You aren’t mine. You don’t belong to me. You can spend your time with whoever you please. All I hope is that they treat you with the respect you deserve, and I will try every single day not to think of ripping out their still beating hearts.”
I tried to hide my smile. I loved imagining Kane jealous. It was twisted, but his barely contained fury sent a thrill through me.
Silly king—as if there could be anyone else. “Have you ever thought about it?”
He raised a brow. “Of you with another man? I’d rather gouge my eyes out.”
I laughed out loud. “No, of what it would be like. Between us…” “Ah, of course.” His voice had dropped to a low growl.
It was the most profoundly erotic sound I’d ever heard.
He stalked closer to me. “Ever since that day we rode back from the woods together, I have thought of little else. Each night I rub myself raw thinking of your long legs, perfect breasts, and gorgeous laugh,” he lifted one single strand of my hair and rubbed it between his fingers. “I imagine you on top of me and come apart faster than I care to admit.”
I was panting now, resisting the urge to bring my hand between my legs and release the tension building up inside me. He must have read the wanton desire in my eyes because he sighed, thick and heavy, released my hair from his fingertips, and paced over to the chair across the room.
He looked miserable. And so tired.
“Arwen, I came to say goodbye.” He said it like he was convincing himself, not me.
“And that,” he gestured to the bed behind me. “Would not be a very fair goodbye.”
I huffed, crossing my arms. “Don’t be so condescending. I’m an adult woman. I can make those decisions for myself.”
He paused, running a hand through his hair. “I meant for me. I’m a selfish bastard, remember? Having you, and then… leaving you. It would kill me.”
“Oh,” I said, a little dumbly. “Maybe it doesn’t have to be goodbye?”
“Our deal is done. You’re safe now, you have your family. Your mother is healing. It’s all I could have hoped for you. I can give you enough coin to live a long and healthy life with them here. All I would do is put you in danger.”
I knew he was right. We could have a real life here in Siren’s Cove—a happy one. I could picture it in my mind with perfect clarity—Leigh’s chickens and cows, Mother, finally healthy, cooking and dancing in the kitchen like she used to. Ryder would continue his woodwork. I would still heal, but maybe I’d open a tropical flower shop too, one day. Maybe Kane would visit every few years. We could share nights just like these, tangled together under clandestine moonlight until he left before sunrise, his kingdom calling him back. Until one day I built a life with someone new. Someone else…
How could I want more than that? More than safety for myself and my family?
But I did.
I wanted him. All of him. All the time. Preferably, forever. The reality of my feelings for him hit me with the force of a tidal wave, nearly knocking the wind out of me.
“Our deal,” I repeated his words. “Why did you have me stay? It wasn’t just to heal your soldiers or pay off a debt. Was it just to keep me around?”
Kane rubbed his eyes. “Doesn’t matter now.” He stood to leave. I felt a wave of unrelenting panic. Was this the last moment I was ever going to have with him? It couldn’t end like this.
I stood from the bed and raced to stand in front of him before he reached
the door, my heart thundering in my ears. “Don’t leave,” I whispered.
His eyes were punishing. “Arwen, we can’t.”
But he made no move to push past me, so I stood on my tiptoes and took his face in my hands, gently.
“I know you said I’m not yours. But…I want to be.” I swallowed hard. “I want to be yours, Kane.”
His eyes simmered with heat and anguish.
Before I could protest even further, he caught my surprised lips in his.
Groaning into my mouth, he physically stumbled toward me, as if the relief of our kiss had made his legs weak. I stifled a moan and wrapped my hands around his broad shoulders, feeling the soft hair at the nape of his neck. His breathing was harsh and ragged as he sucked my bottom lip into his mouth, savage and restless and hungry.
Finally, finally, finally—
His hands, the ones that had been so gentle, teasing along my thigh in bed, were now grasping at my entire body. It was making me hot and needy, knowing his fingers were so close to all the places I wanted them.
And his taste, his mouth—like sweet whiskey and mint from the earth—it was more than overwhelming. All-consuming. This was nothing like his soft, chaste kiss in the gardens. That had been searching, careful, cautious. This was—
He ran a single finger across my pointed nipple producing a soft hiss from me that turned into a shudder as his finger worked its way down, brushing right up against my waistline, but no lower.
I tugged at his shirt. I needed to feel his skin, to taste it. Breaking our kiss, he ripped the linen over his head in one swift motion. I ogled him shamelessly, the breath punching out of me. Even in the moonlight, his chiseled, tan skin glowed.
“You’re beautiful,” I murmured. I wasn’t even ashamed. It was true.
“You’re one to talk,” he stared at me in reverence before his eyes turned wholly feral. Gripping my ass he hoisted me up, capturing my mouth in a
savage kiss, and slamming us into the wall beside the bed, careful to cradle the back of my head in his hand. Immediately I felt his length against my core, hard like solid rock and pressing angrily through his pants. I clawed at his back, his neck, his jaw, fingers roaming with minds of their own.
But still, I needed more.
I wanted to be compressed between his body and the cool wallpaper behind me. Pressed like one of the flowers in my books under his delicious weight. I was needy and aching, grinding myself against him like a cat in heat.
He released my lips and trailed a line of feather-soft kisses down the column of my throat and my fingers tangled in his silky hair, eliciting a pleasant growl from him. The noise made my breasts pinch and ache, and I ground my hips into his impressive length, wrapping my legs around him even tighter. He slipped one strap of my nightdress down and bit at my shoulder.
“More,” I begged.
“Don’t tempt me,” he purred against my collarbone, nibbling and biting until he reached my breast over the silken fabric. He pulled back and traced a reverent finger down the scar on my chest.
“This is healing very quickly.”
“That happens with me sometimes,” I breathed, but Kane was lost in his own thoughts.
“I thought,” his voice cracked, and my heart stumbled over a beat. “I’d lost you. I couldn’t eat. Sleep. Move,” a sad smile tugged at his lips. “Shave.” He considered me with something akin to awe. “I did not want to live in a world without you in it.”
I felt the energy in the room shift at his words. We had danced around the chemistry and emotion between us for so long, that admitting our feelings felt unthinkable. His eyes shone like stars and for a moment all I could hear was our ragged breathing.
But he saved me the words that lodged in my throat by placing a single kiss along my new scar, so carefully I could have cried. His lips traced down my chest, along the silk of nightdress, until his mouth circled my
pointed nipple over the silky fabric. His teeth were sharp yet gentle around the sensitive bud, and I mewed out a wild-sounding noise.
“That’s it,” he said, grasping my other breast with his hand and softly massaging it. I tipped my head back, nearly going cross-eyed at the sensation, and bit down on my lip, trying not to make any more silly noises. The throb between my legs was teetering on pain.
He brought my mouth back down to his and carried us to the bed, laying me down and climbing on top of me. He tried to slow our kisses, worship each angle of my jaw, my neck, but I kissed him with a fiercer desire than I had ever felt, needy and wanton and desperate, likely bruising his lips.
Emboldened by my searing want, I looped a leg over his waist and rolled us until I was straddling him. He sighed into my mouth and wrapped two large hands around my waist. He was so big, his thumbs nearly touched under my belly button. One hand came up to cup my breast and rub my nipple lightly, and I whimpered on top of him.
I felt alight like a flickering flame.
“You’re not making it very easy for me to savor you, bird,” he joked, voice husky and eyes wild.
Ignoring him, I trailed light kisses down his naked chest, basking in his salty, sweet skin.
He tasted like pure moonlight—dark and sensual and all too tempting.
When I reached his waistband and my hands grasped for the laces of his pants, Kane groaned. The guttural noise made my thighs clench.
But his hands snapped to mine, stopping them. “Fine. No savoring.”
Before I could argue, he brought me back up to him with a wicked grin, and tucked me into his chest, my back pressed flush against his front. He slid one hand under me, around my stomach, holding me to him. When his other hand slipped beneath the silky fabric and found the soft skin of my breast, we both arched further toward each other.
Kane swore and pressed his mouth to my neck. “You’re even better than I ever could have thought. All those months, thinking I’d never get to be with you—it was the worst torture I could’ve imagined. I want to bury my mouth in between your pretty thighs.”
His words were unraveling me. I was soaking wet and rocking against him rhythmically. I needed his hand lower.
A positively filthy idea crossed my mind.
“You know,” I managed to breathe, “you aren’t the only one with indecent thoughts from that horseback ride together.”
Kane stilled behind me before releasing a shaky exhale. His hand still held my breast under my nightdress, and I rocked myself against his length, making myself whimper with need.
“You are forbidden from not finishing that thought.”
Humor played at my lips, and I moved against him again. He grunted—a brutal and depraved noise, and moved his hand to slide my nightdress up.
“Do you remember when you barged in, and I was in the tub?”
He laughed lightly. “I could never forget. You were so cute wielding that candlestick.” He traced lazy circles on my hip, while he licked and sucked at my neck. “Being that close to you, knowing your body was naked and glistening… It was agony,” he whispered, pulling the fabric of my dress all the way up to my stomach.
“Well,” I said, breathless. “I had been touching myself before you barged in. I had actually been right about to come.”
He snarled in satisfaction at my words, and thrust his hips into my ass. I loved how powerful I felt in his arms.
“Please, do not stop.” His voice was hardly more than a whisper. He pushed my legs apart and took his time tracing across my inner thighs, stilling when he felt the wetness that had pooled there. “Oh, fuck. So wet for me. What were you thinking of that day, my pretty bird?”
“You,” I breathed. “Fucking me.”
That seemed to be enough to push him over the edge. He turned me to face him and kissed me roughly, his tongue exploring my mouth slow and hard. As if he didn’t kiss me deeper, he would drown. Like I was oxygen. He finally traced his fingers lightly over the single spot I had been aching for, and stars clouded my vision. His light strokes were making me shudder and clench.
He exhaled through our kiss, and it came out like a choke. But his fingers
were unrelenting—teasing and massaging, playing me like an instrument and making me sing. I was so close, and he hadn’t even—
Finally, he let one finger slip inside of me, and I cried out just a little as his thumb continued to circle. We both sighed at the sensation, and I kissed him harder, my hands roaming his chest as he thrust his finger in and out of me.
Slow, controlled strokes, so tight, so full—
“Can you take more?” he asked, and I released a low hum of need. Yes, yes, please, yes. More.
When he slipped a second finger inside of me, I writhed on his hand and shuddered out a moan as he filled me further—plunged his fingers into me, wrung each breath and sigh from my lips.
“Arwen,” he growled. It was nearly my undoing. Keening and bucking, I gave myself over to him, impatiently waiting to be gifted the release I craved.
The boom of cannons shook us violently from our intimacy. I looked up at Kane, and he hopped from the bed over to the window lightning fast.
“Get dressed,” he choked out. “Now.”
Flustered and with still-shaking knees, I climbed off the bed. I had a feeling he wasn’t talking about putting on the blue Peridot number, so I scrambled for my leathers and slipped my nightdress off, the silk puddling at my feet. Laces flew between my fingers as another cannon rocked the fortress.
He crossed the room and threw his shirt on, his expression sharper and blacker than I’d ever seen it.
I knew before I even asked. “What’s happening?” “The castle is under attack.”
Then came the screams.