Chapter no 20 – ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌WILDFLOWER

Nightbane (The Lightlark Saga Book 2)

The kiss had been its own sort of key. It unlocked emotions she had pressed down deep within her soul. Positive ones, for once. She hadn’t realized how much good had been buried beneath the gloom. Love was a wildflower, she realized. It grew best in secret.

Love made her bold. “I have an idea,” she told Oro the next morning. “Two ideas, really.”

“Tell me.”

“First—I want to celebrate Copia. Here, on Lightlark.” She imagined Oro had heard of it when Wildlings lived on the island. It was a day of celebrating abundance and creation. Isla had only ever seen the celebrations from far away, as a figurehead, but even with her people in a weakened state, she remembered flowers in hair, trees growing fruits, music, and dancing. “Not to the full extent, of course. But just with a dinner. Here, in the castle gardens.” She shrugged. “It seems like a good way to introduce the people here to the idea of Wildlings potentially coming back. And to showcase my powers in public. Show the rebels that I’m not afraid of them.”

“Would you want to bring your people here for the celebration?”

Isla had considered it. None of the Wildlings alive had ever stepped foot on the island. And the people here were . . . unwelcoming, to say the least. She didn’t want to bring the Wildlings to a place where they would be ogled, and judged, and potentially harmed. Especially with the rebels still at large. “No. Not yet.”

“What is your second idea?”

She smiled. “When my people do end up being ready to come back . . . I want them to have a place to come back to. I want to make a place for Lynx, if he ever decides he likes me.”

Oro flew them to Wild Isle. She started with a hand against the ground. A rosebush, blooming from the dead dirt. “I want us to bring it to life again,” she said. She reached for his hand. “Together.”

Using her power, Oro made an oak. Another. Isla turned to a mummified tree and ran her fingers up its peeling bark. At once, it exploded in color and leaves. She went around, painting Wild Isle in vibrant hues, shades of green and red and purple and blue and brown. Flowers, everywhere, in every shape. Trees, huddled together like gossips, their branches scraping in the wind.

By the time the sun came down, part of the isle was alive, so alive. She beamed.

Isla had created hundreds of little lives, little threads, all reaching toward her, glimmering, shining.

And—as if it had never happened before, like the Nightshade power in her had withered away—nothing died.

Every time Oro used her power, she felt it, like a hand stroking down the rivers of her ability. It was an intimate experience. He had used her power before but never for this long. Today, they had worked for hours. By the time they reached his room, she had never felt closer to him.

“Tonight . . . stay with me,” Isla said.

Oro looked down at her, and she didn’t think he had ever looked so exhausted.

“Nothing needs to happen,” she said, her voice a smooth whisper. “We can talk. We can sleep. We can dream, side by side. That’s all, unless you want more.” And, even though she wanted him now more than ever, it sounded like more than enough.

“This is what you want?” His eyes searched hers. “This will make you

. . . happy?”

She nodded. He entered.

Isla went to the bathroom to change. She wore what she had been wearing to bed every day for the last week or so: one of Oro’s shirts. He had a lot to spare. They all smelled like summer, and soap, and faintly of citrus.

She didn’t even really think about it until she stepped out of the bathroom, and Oro looked at her as if she had stepped out naked.

He looked almost horrified.

“I—I’m sorry.” She moved one foot back into the bathroom. The marble was cold beneath her feet—everything was cold compared to him. “I found

them in your room. I didn’t think you’d mind. I can change.” Oro laughed.

He laughed.

His hand slid slowly down his face, then curved to the back of his neck. He groaned. His voice was dark as midnight as he said, “Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare wear anything else.” She had never heard him so . . . possessive before. It made the bottom of her spine curl, made her think about them, and the bed, and the fact that they would soon be in it, together

Any hope that something would happen between them died when Oro changed and slipped beneath the covers before she could diligently study what he wore to bed. Then, the flames of the room were extinguished.

She squirmed beneath the covers. Her nerve endings were on fire; she felt everything. The sheets against her legs, her shirt against her chest, prickling with need, the fabric of that shirt riding up, nearly showing the lace she was wearing underneath.

Oro was silent behind her. Warm, as always. She tried to even her breathing. Suddenly her heart was beating far too quickly.

Isla slowly smoothed a leg across the sheets until it met his, scalding her in heat that dropped right through her.

He was there. He was always there for her, wasn’t he?

“Oro.” The word was swallowed by the dark silence of the room.

Seconds passed.

“Isla,” he said, his voice free of sleep, like he had been awake this entire time as she had shifted uncomfortably with need. Need for him.

She turned around to face him. “I—” she said. She closed her eyes tightly. What was she doing?

He reached a hand to her shoulder, likely to comfort, but she wanted more than comfort. She immediately placed her hand over his.

She found his amber eyes in the darkness, clouded with concern. No, she wanted them to be filled with something else. She looked him right in the eye as she said, “I need you.”

Oro stilled. He swallowed. His gaze sharpened, suddenly on high alert. “Isla—”

“No.” She shook her head. “Please, don’t tell me that it will confuse me, or it’s the wrong time.” She shifted closer. “I want you. Right now. I need


Intimacy. Pleasure. Those were the words she didn’t say, but the way his eyes closed for just a moment, his jaw clenched, told her he knew her meaning.

Her body shifted closer, until the hand that he had placed on her shoulder fell to her hip. She slid the sheets down, so he could see her, all of her, in his shirt.

He took in her every inch, and his hand clenched the excess fabric at her side, as if he was physically stopping himself from touching her skin.

“Touch me. Please,” she said. His own rules were forgotten.

She wasn’t sure she was breathing as his fingers slipped up her leg, then beneath the waist of her underthings. His hand curled around her backside, his thumb stroked the inside of her thigh, so close, so close

Isla looked from the sight of her body nearly exposed, his hand on her, to him, now just a few inches away. In his eyes, she saw torture.

She frowned. “Oro, if you don’t want—”

Before Isla could finish, he flipped her around and gripped her hips. She gasped as he pulled her toward him, up against him and the proof that he wanted this just as much as she did. The pulsing heat within her became a wildfire. She arched her back and ground against him, making him curse.

Oro slid his hands up to her waist. He leaned down to whisper in her ear, in a deep voice that scraped against the back of her mind. “Knowing you’ve been wearing my shirts to bed, Isla,” he said, “it drives me mad.” His lips touched the edge of her ear. “That’s what I’m going to think about when I’m alone.” He pulled the shirt up, exposing her underthings. He looked and drew a sharp breath, taking in the lace. “You. In my clothes.”

Her heart was going to break out of her chest. They both watched as his fingers slowly, slowly, too slowly, slid their way down to where she wanted him most. Finally, he reached her, and she closed her eyes tightly as he found the proof of her own desire. He stilled, his hand right there, right there

She froze too, wondering if she should be embarrassed. . . “Do you want this?” he asked.

She looked over her shoulder at him. She had never wanted anything more. “Yes.”

He was a man unleashed. Suddenly, his shirt and her underthings were on the floor, and his hands were on her chest. In the dark, all her focus narrowed to the heat of his touch as his calluses lightly brushed across the most sensitive parts of her skin. She seemed to melt against him, making all sorts of sounds as he swept his knuckles down her bare stomach and murmured in her ear. “Tell me what you like, love,” he said. “Show me.”

“Here,” she said, squirming. She found his hand and started to guide it down again. “Please.”

But his fingers were long and practiced and needed little direction, even though he seemed to enjoy the sight of her hand over his. When he was right where she needed him, she reached back to weave her fingers behind his neck and said, “Don’t stop. Don’t you dare stop.”

His lips were right over hers; his breath was hot against her skin, and he groaned as she began moving on him.

Her head fell back and she made a sound that he seemed to like, because he kissed across her pulse. He knew where to touch her, where to linger, where to explore.

It only took moments for her to be panting and at the edge of the world, and nothing had ever felt this good, this sweet. “Oro, I—” she said, because she could feel sparks traveling up her spine.

“Not yet,” he said. He kept going, and she gasped as his teeth scraped lightly up her neck, until he reached her ear. “I want you so much I think it might actually kill me,” he whispered, before he curled his fingers, and the world shattered around her. He held her close, both arms tight around her body. “Never doubt that.”

She never would again.

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