Chapter no 48

Iron Flame (The Empyrean Book 2)

“The things she said…” I clench my aching fists and notice I’ve busted the skin across my knuckles.

“I know.” His gaze rakes over me in a look I know all too well— assessing me for injuries.

“She said I’m just a convenient placeholder for you to fuck.” “I heard. How hurt are you?”

“I’m fine.” Unless he’s asking about my pride. “My shoulder’s a little pissed, but I think my face took the worst of it.”

“All right.” He wraps his arm around my waist, pulls our lower bodies flush, and moves forward, forcing me to step back so the backs of my thighs hit the chair behind me. “Sit.”

“Sit? I just lost my shit and threw my control out the window in front of the entire quadrant because of the venom she spewed—the emotions she shoved down my throat—and all you have to say is sit?”

He lowers his head, invading my space. “Nothing I could say right now is going to erase her words from your head, so sit, Violence. We’ll do the talking afterward.”

“Fine.” I sink down onto the thick cushion, and my feet come off the ground. This particular piece of furniture was definitely built for someone Xaden’s height. Two of me could sit in this thing. “She wants you for your name.”

“I know.” He braces his hands on the arms of the chair and leans in, brushing his lips over mine. “And you love me in spite of it. That’s one of the many reasons I will always choose you.” He drops to his knees in front of me and works the laces on my boots with quick, efficient movements.

“What are you doing?”

His mouth curves in a wicked smile that instantly elevates my pulse and transforms the heat of anger simmering in my blood into an even hotter fire.

My lips part as one boot hits the dais, the other following immediately after.

“In here?” I glance over his head at the empty hall. “We can’t—” There go my socks.

“We can.” He flicks his wrist, and the clicking sound of a lock echoes off the stone. “My house, remember? They are all my rooms.” His eyes lock with mine, holding me willingly captive as his hands slide up the length of my legs, caressing my inner thighs, waking every nerve ending along their path before he reaches for the buttons of my sparring pants.

My breath catches.

“My house. My chair. My woman.” He punctuates each claim with a flick of his thumb, popping button by button free. Need floods my body, flushes my skin with a heady, addictive rush.

He grips my hips with both hands and yanks me to the edge of the chair, then cups the back of my neck and pulls me into a devastating kiss. My lips part, and the second he licks into my mouth, his tongue stroking mine, my core fucking melts.

The kiss is slow and sensuous, our mouths meeting again and again as I weave my fingers through his hair and completely, totally surrender. He senses the shift, growling low in his throat, and the kiss spins out of control in less than a heartbeat, turning wild and urgent, tasting of that sweet madness that only exists between us.

He’s the only person in this world I can’t get enough of. The only one I constantly crave. Love. Chemistry. Attraction. Desire. Everything between us keeps me constantly burning like an ember; a single touch is all it takes to send us both up in flames. By the time he breaks the kiss, his breathing

ragged as he orders me to lift my hips, I don’t care where we are as long as he puts his hands on me. The whole Assembly could walk through those doors and I wouldn’t notice, not with the way Xaden’s looking at me. The heat in his eyes could melt iron.

He hooks his fingers into the waistband of my pants and my underwear, then tugs them down my legs, kissing the tops of my thighs, the curves of my knees, and every inch of skin he uncovers, drawing soft sighs and impatient whimpers from my lips.

Fabric hits the dais, leaving me bare from the waist down.

“Xaden.” My fingers tug at his hair, my heart pounding so hard I can’t help but wonder if he can hear it, if the whole world can.

Instead of rising so I can get my hands on him, he pushes my knees wide.

I gasp at the cold rush of air between my thighs, but an instant later, his mouth sets me on fire as he drags his tongue from my slick entrance to my clit. White-hot pleasure streaks through my body like lightning, and I cry out, the sound filling the hall.

“This is what I fantasize about when I’m away from you,” he says against my heated skin. “Your taste. Your scent. The little gasps you take right before you come.” He settles in, his hands splaying wide on my inner thighs, pinning me in place as he uses his tongue to rob me of every thought. He swirls around that sensitive bud over and over, teasing, arousing, driving me higher and higher, but denies me the very touch I need. “Is this what you think about? My mouth between your soft thighs?”

Gods, how can he think, let alone form coherent sentences?

He scrapes his teeth over me delicately, and I gasp at the sensation, then whimper when his tongue follows. I can only moan when he slides a long finger inside me, and his answering groan vibrates through every nerve in my body.

“Yes.” It feels so exquisite that I muffle my next cry with my fist.


It’s always more when it comes to him.

He alternates between quick, teasing flicks and long, lazy licks, building an ever-tightening spiral of pleasure deep within me. Another finger joins the first, stretching me with a delicious burn, and my hips rock as he thrusts them in a slow, hard rhythm that makes me crave every part of him.

Power rises, scalding my already flushed skin, crackling in the very air around us.

Without stopping, he releases my thigh and reaches around my hip, then retrieves the conduit. “Take it.”

“I want you.” My fingers slide from his hair to grasp the orb, my hips chasing every stroke he gives me, my breaths coming in uneven pants.

“You have me.” I whimper at the mindless pleasure that rushes up my spine. “And I have you exactly where I need you.”

Even my hand can’t muffle the primal sounds he drags from me as his tongue matches the rhythm of his fingers, pleasure whipping through me with every stroke, gathering, building, stringing my body tight as a bow.

Gods, the sight of him kneeling, fully clothed, the leather of his flight jacket against my bare thighs, pushes me all the way to the edge and burns itself into my memory.

My thighs tremble when he curls his fingers inside me, stroking that sensitive wall that makes stars blink in my eyes. “Xaden…” My breaths stutter.

“Right there. Those gasps. That’s what I hear when I wake, already hard for you.”

With the next caress, pleasure and power crest through me, over me, in simultaneous waves that crash again and again. There’s no thunder, no strike, only the hum of energy in my hand that flares with the strokes of Xaden’s mouth and fingers.

But there’s no release, either. No gentle letdown. Only the waves of infinite ecstasy that come without breaking.

He lifts his head, keeping me in a suspended state of indescribable bliss as his eyes lock with mine.

“I can’t take it,” I manage to say as the waves come and come with no end in sight.

“Yes, you can. Look at where you are.” He grasps my hip and surges upward, propelling me deeper into the chair until my back hits the blackened wood, and still, he keeps stroking, holding me prisoner with my own pleasure. Brushing his lips over mine, he smiles. “Look at how beautiful you are, Violet, coming for me on Tyrrendor’s throne.”

Holy shit. I’d known that’s where we were, but I hadn’t known.

He grasps one of my thighs and drapes it over the arm of the throne, then braces his knee at the edge of the cushion and lifts my other leg over his shoulder as he slides down my body, lowering his head as he works his fingers ceaselessly, beckoning the endless waves.

Oh gods. I’m going to die. Right here. Right now.

“Every time I have to sit with the Assembly, I’ll be thinking about this, about you.” He slides his hand under my ass and lifts me to his mouth, then replaces his fingers with the thick stab of his tongue.

Searing pleasure rips through me, arching my back, and there’s no time to muffle the cry he wrings from me, but he doesn’t exactly stifle his deep moan, either.

“I can’t.” My heart has to give out at some point.

“You can and you will.” He strums his thumb lightly over my swollen clit, and my hips jerk.

The pleasure is sharper than a knife.

Shimmering onyx wraps around my mind and everything intensifies. A driving, pounding, uncontrollable need courses through me with every beat of my pulse, demanding an outlet, demanding I rip through the confines of the leather and trade her sweet taste for the incomparable perfection of sinking into her when she comes.

Xaden. I gasp for breath, gripping the conduit so tightly I prepare for the sound of breaking glass. It’s his desire flooding our bond, compounding my own. His desperation. His power brushing against mine.

I need to fuck her, to flip her over the arm of this throne and drive into her, but I can’t. I need her nail marks in the wood, need her cries filling this whole fucking house, need her knowing what I can be for her—anything and everything she needs. She’s heaven in my mouth. Flawless. Mine. And

she’s almost there. Gods, yes, her legs are shaking, her walls are fluttering around my tongue. I love her so fucking much.

I shatter, splintering into a million glittering shards of bliss as I scream out his name. Power and light course through me without burning, and I arch again and again, coming apart at the seams of what I think is me but might be him.

He untangles from my mind, and I mourn the loss even as my body slackens. It’s my lungs I feel draw air, my own power that crackles through the orb in my hand before settling, my own heartbeat that finally slows as the last of the orgasm fades.

“What the hell did you do?” I lift my head, my eyes flaring when I realize Xaden isn’t tangled with me.

He’s three feet and a million miles away, backed against the Assembly’s table, gripping the shadow-covered edges with white knuckles, his eyes squeezed shut so tightly I wince.


“Just need a second.”

I manage the awkward task of sitting up and move to stand. “Stay right there.” He holds his hand out.

Every line of his gorgeous body is drawn tight, and his leathers… Gods, that has to be painful.

“Come here,” I whisper. “No.”

My head draws back. “You can’t possibly think I’m going to let you get me off twice, let alone whatever the fuck that last time was, and not—”

“That’s exactly what’s happening.” His eyes flash open, and the heat, the longing, the desperation I see there feels like it could be my own…because a few seconds ago, it was.

“I felt how much you need me.” I shift forward to the edge of the chair

— throne—whatever. “You want me over the side of the throne, right? Grasping onto the arm so my nails scar it.”

“Fuck.” The table groans under his grip. “I should not have done that.”

“Oh, you definitely should have. It was quite possibly the hottest moment of my entire life. You ever want to bring me to my knees or win an argument? That’s a sure bet.”

A tight smile curves his mouth at the reference to his words from last year.

My toes touch the dais. “You gave me what I fantasize about—”

“Please don’t.” The words are forced through gritted teeth. It’s the “please” that stops me in my tracks. “I’m hanging by a thread, so I’m begging you. Please. Don’t.” He hangs his head, and shadows slip across the dais, pushing my clothes toward me.

Confused is an understatement, but I stand up and quickly get my clothes back on down to my socks, then pick up my boots. “Do you want to clue me in on why you’re keen on torturing yourself?”

He exhales just a shade short of a sigh. “Because I need you to see I’m more than capable of worshipping your body without reciprocation. You’re not a convenient placeholder for me to fuck.”

This is about Cat?

“I know that.” So much for the afterglow of the world’s longest orgasm.

I’m right back to pissed.

“But you don’t.” He releases his death grip on the table and points at the throne. “Sit.”

“For a repeat performance?”

A corner of his mouth quirks upward. “So I can help you with your boots. You’re too short for the chair.”

“Well aware,” I mutter, sitting back on the throne and letting my feet dangle. “I don’t like…not reciprocating.”

He lifts my left foot, slipping on my boot.

“I don’t like you thinking you’re not the center of my fucking world, yet here we are. And before you start another argument, I’ll fuck you later tonight. Trust me. I’m making a momentary point, not a lasting vow of masochism.” He braces my foot on his thigh and ties the laces.

The sight eases some of the tension in my chest. No one would ever believe that scary, badass Xaden Riorson would tie anyone’s shoes.

“I thought you were going to kill her,” he says quietly. Right. Back to Cat.

“I almost did.” I lower one foot, then raise the other at his cue. “Would that have been unforgivable to you?”

He finishes tying my boot, then lets go of my foot. “Nothing you could ever do would be unforgivable to me.” Stepping back, he leans against the edge of the table again. “And I don’t particularly care if Cat lives, but I’m not cheering for her to die, either. She’s a necessary yet volatile ally, and Syrena would be a disastrous enemy to make. But I do care that you would have regretted killing her.”

And in that rage, I would have if he hadn’t shown up. “How could you ever love someone like her?”

“I didn’t.” He shrugs. “You are the first and only woman I’ve ever loved.”

“You were just engaged to her for…” I pause. “I don’t even know how long you were engaged for.” I feel…stupid.

“I would have told you if you’d asked. That’s the problem here, Violet— you don’t ask.”

“It’s not like you ask me about my exes.” I cross my legs.

“Because I don’t want to know, which I suspect is the same reason you continue to not ask me about the things that actually bother you, but let’s just ignore that like we usually do. Seems to be working out for us.” He lays the sarcasm on thick.

I look away because he’s right, damn him. Avoiding the potentially devastating questions, like why he’s never told me about the deal he made with my mother, seems prudent when there’s a possibility of losing him over a wrong answer.

He moves on when I fall quiet. “Cat and I weren’t engaged, we were betrothed—and yes, there’s a difference to me.”

“Now who’s arguing semantics? Let alone on behalf of the woman who just warped all of my emotions and turned me into an abyss of rage.” Some of which is creeping back in.

“We’ll get to that in a second. The betrothal clause of the alliance kicked in when she turned twenty.” The table creaks as he fully sits back against it. “We tried it out for about three-quarters of a year, but we weren’t compatible, and it came to light that Tecarus was never going to let us have the luminary anyway. He wanted us to use it there. I ended the betrothal, which, as you know, caused some problems.”

“Weren’t compatible?” I can’t blame the insidious stab of jealousy on Cat this time. That burning sensation in the pit of my stomach is all me. “That’s not exactly what she implied about your sex life.”

“You don’t have to like someone to fuck them.” He shrugs. My jaw slackens, considering what we just did.

His head tilts as he watches me. “As I recall, you didn’t exactly like me

the first time—”

“Do not finish that sentence.” I jab my finger in his direction. “On the other hand, I was already in love with you.”

My posture softens. That right there is why I’m hopelessly in love with

him. Because no one else gets to see him like this. Just me.

“Hardly seems fair, now that I think about it.” He drums his fingers on the table. “And I wanted you too badly to care that you didn’t feel the same way about me, not that I’d given you any reason to. Fuck, I wanted you to run in the opposite direction.”

“I remember.” Our gazes lock, and my fingers curl with the need to touch him. I reach for the conduit instead.

“Good. Maybe you’ll remember that the next time Cat goes digging around your head.”

“Digging? She made me jealous!” The word is bitter on my tongue. “She didn’t make you anything.”

Felix won’t miss the conduit if I throw it at Xaden’s head, will he? “Oh really? You heard what she said. How would you feel if one of my previous lovers had you on the mat for a challenge, then told you that he knows how I taste?”

He tenses.

“How I feel on top of him?” I lower my tone, letting sex slide over every single word. “How he had me first and insinuates that he plans on having me last, too?”

His jaw flexes, and shadows curl around the legs of the table. “She wasn’t my first by a long shot.”

“Not the point. You want me to ask more questions? Then don’t avoid them.”

“Fine. None of your previous lovers are riders, unless there’s history I’m unaware of when it comes to Aetos, so they’d never have me on the mat. I’m guessing infantry, but again, I don’t want to know, so I don’t ask.”

“I didn’t sleep with Dain.” But he’s ridiculously on the mark with the infantry guess.

“I knew that the second he kissed you after Threshing. It looked awkward as fuck.” He shoves his hand through his still-mussed hair. “And to answer the question, I’d feel jealous, which is something you have a unique ability to bring out in me. And then I’d kick his ass, partially because that’s what I do when someone challenges me, and more importantly for implying there’s any other future besides the one where you and I are endgame.”

My breath abandons me in a rush I refuse to call a sigh. Gods, he ruins

me when he says things like that.

“What else were you feeling on the mat?” he asks.

“Anger.” I glance up at the high, beamed ceiling in defeat. “Inferiority.

Insecurity. She threw everything she had at me, and it worked.”

“Anger, I understand. She said a lot that pissed me off, too.” He shakes his head. “But inferiority is something you’ll have to explain, considering you’re more powerful than any other cadet.”

“It has nothing to do with signets.” I gesture to the giant chair I’m seated on. “She pointed out that you’re a Riorson.”

“You’ve known that since Parapet.” He taps the rebellion relic along his neck.

“That’s not what I mean. You just called this chair a throne.”

“Because it is. Or it was before the unification.” Another infuriatingly casual shrug.

I blink as realization smacks me straight in the face. “Wait. Are you… are you the king of Tyrrendor?”

“Fuck, no.” He shakes his head, then pauses. “I mean, yes, technically, I’m the Duke of Aretia by birth, but Lewellen’s on our side and doing just fine at governing the province. Even if Tyrrendor became independent, I’m more useful on the battlefield than on a throne. We’re off topic. I know damn well you don’t feel inferior to me, so who? Cat?”

I press my lips between my teeth. “I think I liked you better before you decided that feelings were something we need to discuss.”

“Sorry to inconvenience you, but this year the role of Violet Sorrengail”—he points to me—“will be played by Xaden Riorson”—he taps his chest—“who will drag her, kicking and screaming if he has to, into a real relationship with real discussions, because he refuses to lose her again. If I have to evolve, you do, too.” He folds his arms across his chest.

“Is he done talking in third person?” I pick at the metal band around the orb. “Cat was right in one regard. She is the better match. She’s noble by birth, brave for becoming a flier, driven, ruthless, and mean as hell, just like you.” Fuck, they’re pretty much the same person.

His eyes flare, then narrow. “Hold on. Do you somehow think that find you inferior to her?”

My shrug isn’t exactly nonchalant.

He shifts like he’s about to move toward me, then stops himself, putting his hands firmly back on the table. “Violet, you were just in my thoughts. You know I think you’re perfect, even when you frustrate the shit out of me. Now tell me about the insecurity. I thought we handled that last year.”

“Sure, before I knew you were leading a revolution, and before you declared you’d always keep secrets, and way before some beautiful aristocrat who you used to be betrothed to but conveniently was never mentioned appeared with her big brown doe eyes and sharp-ass claws at our bedroom door half naked—”

“She what?” His eyebrows rise.

“—and then has the nerve to tell me I’m not special just because you like to fuck me.”

“I do like to fuck you.” A slow smile curves his mouth. “I love it, actually.”

“Don’t side with her!” My nails dig into the cushion beneath me. “Ugh!” The shout echoes off the rafters, and I cover my face with my hands. “Why does she turn me into such a fucking mess? And how do I make it stop?” I’ll end up killing her before solstice.

I hear his bootsteps, then feel his warm hands gently clasp my wrists. “Look at me.”

Slowly, I lower my hands, and he holds them in his as I open my eyes.

He’s right where we started this chat, on his knees in front of me.

“I don’t want to have this discussion again.” He uses the wingleader voice, then softens. “But I will. You’re about to get some hard truths, because I wasn’t clear enough in Cordyn.”

My shoulders straighten.

“You raged today because you were angry.” He strokes his thumbs over my pulse. “You got jealous because you were jealous. You grappled with inferiority because for some reason I can’t understand, you feel inferior. And you lashed out with insecurity because I think both of us are just figuring this out as we go. Own your feelings like you did last year and be honest with me. Cat can’t plant emotions, warp them, or even sway them unless you are already headed that way. Cat can only amplify what you’re already feeling.”

I swallow, but the lump forms in my throat anyway. It’s all…me.

“Yeah, it’s a shitty realization. I’ve been there.” He laces his fingers with mine. “She can take you from irritation to full-on rage in the span of a minute or two. And yes, she’s really fucking powerful, but so are you. But the only weapons she wields are the ones you hand her. You want to keep control of your emotions? You need to have control in the first place.”

“I can’t…” A pit forms in my stomach. “I haven’t been in control since Resson,” I admit in a whisper. “I let Tairn’s emotions take over. I’m carrying around a conduit so I don’t set your house on fire with my own

damned power. I failed at the wards and now nearly failed tests, making shit decisions, fucking up left and right, and people’s lives are in the balance. I keep hoping I’ll find my feet, but…” I shake my head.

He lifts a hand to my cheek, avoiding the swollen lump where Cat hit me. “You have to find your center again, Violet. I can’t do it for you.” He holds my gaze, letting his words sink in, before adding, “You are a creature of logic and facts, and everything you know got turned upside down and shaken. You’ll never know how truly sorry I am for that. But you can’t just sit there and hope. You want it to change, then you have to figure it out, just like Gauntlet. You’re the only one who can.” He says it a hell of a lot kinder than he did last year.

“But how do I find my center while in the middle of a Cat storm?” I moan.

He glances away. “Look, Cat got to you because you weren’t wearing your daggers. The one with the intertwined Vs? It’s runed to protect you from her gift. Keep them on until you find your feet, and she can’t fuck with you. Same thing happened in Cordyn. You took them off to wear that lacy thing you called a dress. Fuck, I wanted to rip it off with my teeth.” His jaw ticks.

“You gave the daggers to me last year.” My hand slides to his wrist.

“I figured she’d find a way to make my life difficult for breaking the agreement, and that would inevitably involve you.” He leans in. “I love you. She will never sit in this seat. She will never wear a Tyrrish crown. She’s never had me on my knees in front of her.” His mouth curves into a wicked grin that makes me instantly ready for it to be tonight. “And I’ve also never fucked her with my tongue.”

My lips part and heat stings my cheeks.

“Now, can we consider this matter discussed? Unfortunately, I have a briefing to get to.”

I nod. “I have class.”

“Right. Physics?” he guesses as we both rise to our feet.

“History.” I take his offered hand and we walk off the dais. “Which I’m surprisingly awful at, it turns out. Something about having read all the

wrong books.”

“Maybe you should find the right ones.” His smile mirrors mine, and for a blissful second, it all feels…normal. If that’s a word that could ever apply to us.


When we reach the bustling hallway, he cups the back of my neck and pulls me in for a quick, hard kiss. “Do me a favor?” he says against my mouth.


“Come to bed early tonight.”

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