Chapter no 45

The Ashes & the Star-Cursed King

At first, I thought I’d heard her wrong. But no.

I want your blood.

Those words, coming out of those perfect lips. Those perfect lips

that had lapped my blood from my thumb weeks ago—those lips that I’d dreamed about ever since, thinking about them with my hand around my own cock with the curtains drawn in the day.

My head was foggy. So much about this last day had felt like a dream. But hell, did I mind all that much, if this was the hallucination I got? Oraya next to me in bed, naked, the light caressing her flawless moonlight-pale skin in a way that made me jealous.

Oraya in bed, naked, asking for my blood.

I could smell her arousal, thick and sweet. Could hear her heartbeat, hard and fast like a rabbit’s.

But even sensing her neediness—neediness that I was desperate to fulfill—I still could have spent an eternity just kissing her. Just making love to that poisonous, perfect, beautiful, dangerous mouth.

I never thought I’d get to kiss Oraya ever again. Now, I couldn’t bring myself to question it. I just wanted to take whatever she’d offer me.

And in exchange, give her anything—everything—she desired.

A faint flush rose to Oraya’s cheeks. I wondered if she knew that she blushed, and easily. I didn’t want to tell her, because I didn’t want her to stop.

“You want my blood,” I repeated.

And still, she didn’t so much as blink as she said, “Yes.” Sun take me.

Yes, Oraya wanted my blood, alright. She’d wanted it for months. And I was damned lucky that this was how I got to give it to her.

I rolled over and grabbed her dagger from her pile of clothes. “No poison in this thing, right?” I said.

She shook her head.

Good. That would have been an embarrassing way to go.

I drew the tip along the side of my neck, just hard enough to break the skin with a fleeting stab of pain. Immediately, the warmth of blood bubbled to the surface, trickling down my throat.

I sheathed the dagger and tossed it aside again, turning back to Oraya.

“You have it, princess,” I said. “My blood. As much of it as you want.

Yours by right, after all.”

Because I’d already promised it to her, months ago.

I give you my body, my blood, my soul, my heart.

And from the moment her tongue had touched my skin that night, the moment the words left my lips, I knew that I meant them. They were true, even if she didn’t want them to be. Even if she didn’t return it.

I was hers.

Oraya’s stare was hard and steady, those moon-bright eyes spearing me more sharply than any blade. Her throat bobbed. Her gaze lingered on my throat—on the streaks of red-black blood.

The scent of her arousal—her hunger—thickened in the air. My cock twitched in response to it.

“Sit up,” she said.

My brow quirked. I did as she ordered.

She swung her legs over mine, straddling me. My hands fell to her hips. The closeness of her, her scent, her warmth, so much stronger than a vampire’s, left me momentarily dazed.

Immediately, I knew what this was. A recreation of that night in the cave.

Goddess fucking help me.

I was destroyed. I was done.

For a moment, she stared at me, the two of us meeting each other’s gazes, unblinking. A knot tightened in my chest. I recognized that look— fear mixed with the hunger. Fear of herself, and her own desires.

My thumb traced a circle on the bare skin of her hip. “You’re safe, Oraya,” I whispered. “Alright?”

Her eyes narrowed at me a little, as if calling out my bullshit. And though I hadn’t meant to lie to her—now, or ever again—I understood it. Because nothing about this was safe. Oraya and I and this monstrous, beautiful, terrible thing we’d created between us was so fucking far from safe.

She leaned forward, pressing her breasts to my chest, hands braced against my arms, and brought her lips to my throat.

First, she licked up what had dripped down my neck, starting at my clavicle and traveling up, ending with a little twinge of pain as her mouth pressed to the open wound.

And then she drank.

My breath was a little shaky, my fingers tightening into her flesh. My muscles tensed.

No one had ever fed from me since… since Neculai, or Simon and the other nobles he had loaned me out to. I’d never, ever allowed it since then, not even with consensual lovers long after. My skin didn’t scar as easily as Oraya’s did. Those fangs didn’t leave any marks on my throat. But centuries later, I still felt them. I’d never let anyone open those wounds ever again.

My body remembered that, tensing in anticipation, even if my mind knew differently.

But from the moment her mouth touched my skin, I knew right away it was different with her.

I thought she would make me remember, even briefly, those old wounds. Instead, every stroke of her tongue repainted them with something new.

This wasn’t Neculai or Simon or any other of the countless unwanted invasions to my body.

This was her. Oraya. My wife.

It was almost funny at first, how tentative she was. Her tongue lapped awkwardly against the wound like a kitten at milk, like she didn’t quite know how to drink. Still, my flesh seemed to open for her, as if I was intrinsically made to give her this.

“You don’t have to be gentle.” I couldn’t help it—a hint of amusement slipped into my voice. “You won’t hurt me.”

Alright, maybe the weight of her body against my wounds did hurt a little—but I wasn’t going to complain about those breasts against my chest.

She pushed deeper against my throat, taking my advice to heart. With a long, rough inhale, she drew in a mouthful of my blood, and swallowed.

Her exhale was a groan against my flesh. Fuck, I echoed it.

I hadn’t known if Oraya had venom. I would have thought she didn’t, without the fangs. But this—this did something to me. Something very different than what the venom of other vampires had, drugging me in sickening ways.

I didn’t know if it was venom, or her tongue, or just the intoxication of having her naked body straddling mine. Suddenly, nothing in this world mattered except for her, and her mouth, and the scent of her desire, thickening with every passing second.

Her tongue rolled against my throat again, with a tiny sound of pleasure I didn’t think she realized she had made. My head tipped back, giving her better access. Her body had melted against mine. Her back arched, thighs opening.

I was so hard it was physically painful. The only thing I was conscious of other than her mouth and her exhales of pleasure was the fact that her slit was so fucking close to my cock, it would take barely a tilt of her hips to lower herself onto me.

She was drinking so fast that she choked a little, pulling away with a tiny spatter of coughs. I tilted my head just enough to look at her, and the pure lust on her face—eyes heavy-lidded, lips swollen and parted, a trickle of red-black smeared at the corner—left me vaguely dizzy.

“Good?” I murmured.

Instead of answering, she kissed me.

My blood tasted salty and iron-strong. Different than hers had—not nearly as good, but better for the fact that I was lapping it off her tongue. The kiss was demanding, not waiting for breath, her tongue slipping into my mouth as she forced my head back.

Her hips lowered. Her sex ground against my length in one long roll, making my fingernails dig into her skin, a low wordless sound rolling from my throat.

“So you have my blood,” I murmured. “What else do you want, princess?”

Another roll of her hips answered my question. Fuck. I had never known what it was to need someone before I met her. I had always thought

that kind of talk was silly and overdramatic.

No. I needed Oraya. Needed her, like another bodily function.

I knew what she wanted. She knew what she wanted. But I knew she couldn’t bring herself to say it aloud. The final vestiges of our game, shaky gates still in place between us.

So she whispered, against another desire-drunk kiss, “Beg.” It was so damned easy to beg for her.

I pushed down on her hips—just enough so that my tip sat at the slick of her, so sensitive that I felt it tighten at the presence of my cock.

“Let me in,” I rasped. “Let me inside you. Let me feel you come around me. Let me watch you. Please.”

She let out a strangled sigh, pressed her mouth against mine, and lowered herself onto me.

When I disappeared into her wet warmth, everything else fell away. Immediately, a sound tore from her throat, a mangled moan, and

Goddess, it was the most incredible sound I’d ever heard. I thought I’d made myself forget it, put it out of my mind forever.

Stupid of me to even try. And hell, why would I want to? I wanted to drown myself in her. Drown myself in her sounds, her breath, her body— her blood.

She moaned again as she lifted herself off me, lowering again, again, hips rolling, helping me hit where she wanted me. Goddess, I loved it— loved the way she used me. My body still hurt, uncooperative in letting me take her the way I wanted to, but she was more than willing to take what she needed.

My hands trailed her body, memorizing the shape of every muscle, every expanse of skin, from the taut shape of her waist to the full softness of her ass. I kissed her, hard, swallowing all those breathtaking sounds— offering her all of my own.

Our pace was frantic now. Neither of us had patience for this. I wanted everything, and I wanted it now. With every time she took me inside her, grinding against me, allowing me to reach the deepest parts of her, I only wanted more.

I wanted to brand her.

I wanted her to brand me.

My hunger for her was suddenly insatiable, driven to a frenzy by the sensation of her sex around me, the scent of her desire, the taste of my own

blood on her lips and the tantalizing scent of hers beneath that sweat-slicked skin.

She broke our kiss, gasping a curse against my lips as I drew her down against me roughly in one particularly deep thrust, her body spasming—and fuck, I almost lost it right there.

“Raihn,” she whimpered.

“Take it,” I rasped out. Knowing, somehow, exactly what she wanted. “All of it. It’s yours.”

She let out a fractured sound between a sob and a sigh of relief, and lowered her mouth to my throat again, drinking deep as she rocked around me.

When she pulled away again, blood smearing her lips, I chased her, desperate to taste her again however I could. But instead, she lifted her chin

—exposing the elegant column of her throat.

I paused, a sudden absence of movement that made her tighten around me in protest.

She couldn’t be offering—couldn’t be asking me to— “Take it,” she said, throwing my words back at me.

My jaw closed. Tightened. It was almost—almost—enough to cut through my haze of lust.

I knew what this meant for her. Knew, too, that the chemical draw of my blood and our sex and everything else between us was probably just as addling to her as it was to me.

I didn’t want to be something else she regretted. “Are you sure?”

I barely managed to form the words.

She lowered her chin just enough to meet my eyes. What I saw within them stripped me bare. Far deeper than the lust.

“Yes,” she whispered. No hesitation.

I didn’t even have words to give her after that, just this animalistic growl that came out in a mangled burst as I pulled her closer. Her hips resumed their rhythm, drowning us both in a sea of pleasure that couldn’t be matched, except—

—Except for when my mouth came to her throat.

Her skin there was delicate. Smooth, save for the little scars—two old, two newer. Just as I had once before, I kissed both of them, tenderly,

offering some softness before I let the sharpness of my teeth settle over her vein. I could practically taste the beat of her blood beneath, hot and sweet.

My bite was quick, firm, piercing the skin in a single painless strike before withdrawing.

She drew in a little gasp, her hands clutching my shoulders, walls tightening around me.

Her blood flooded my mouth, thick and rich. Nothing had ever tasted like this—like her, at her rawest essence, every nuance and contradiction. From the first moment I had tasted it, I had known it would change me forever.

Better than any wine. Any drug. A pleasure I’d be chasing for the rest of my life.

Maybe it was the sensory overload of the sex, or maybe the venom just worked particularly quickly. Because I scented the sudden spike in Oraya’s arousal rising to an unbearable crescendo. A moan vibrated through her, and I could taste that sound with my next swallow, with every stroke my tongue worked across her skin.

Her pace grew faster now, harder. My fingernails dug into her, leveraging whatever remained of my strength to help her through each thrust.

“Don’t stop,” she begged, the words fractured by ragged breaths. And thank the fucking Goddess she said it, because I couldn’t—I was fucking gone.

It was too much. Everything culminated. Pressure built at the base of my spine. I could feel her getting close, too, her muscles coiling, her strokes growing frantic and her fingernails dragging deep over my back and shoulders.

I needed to feel her come even more than I needed it myself. I wanted to give her everything.

I tore myself away from her throat, the taste of her blood still thick on my tongue. For one endless moment, her eyes met mine—and so much honesty passed between us, both of us exposed with only our flesh and our desires and our primal impulses.

“Yours,” I ground out. “It’s yours.” My blood. My body. My soul.

I had given her all of that a long time ago. I even had given her my life. And I’d do it all again.

I urged her head down as our bodies writhed around each other, rushing to the end. She accepted eagerly, her mouth falling to my throat again, drawing in a deep mouthful of my blood.

I felt her swallow, and then, a moment later, felt her climax take her. A desperate cry, one she didn’t even try to stifle, rang out against my skin— long, whimpering, holding fragments of torn-up curses and pleas.

“Raihn,” she choked out, like she was hurtling through oblivion and desperate for someone to anchor her.

I knew that, because I felt it, too.

I know, I wanted to say. But my own orgasm stole the words, my cock buried deep inside her, muscles seizing. She was shaking, whimpering, as her body tensed through wave after wave of aftershock.

I held her, and filled her, nestling my face into the space between her throat and shoulder as we both relinquished ourselves.

For a few incredible seconds, everything disappeared in a hazy, soft mist of her.

When the world returned, it all felt… different.

I’d had plenty of sex before. Some bad, some good, much of it ill-advised. But this didn’t feel like sex. It felt like a religious ritual—like finding faith.

Oraya had collapsed against me. A sudden wave of exhaustion hit me— and with it, a fresh awareness of the pain of my wounds, which I’d strained something fierce in all the activity. Not that I could bring myself to be too broken up about it.

Her breath was deep and hard. My hand fell to her back, rubbing softly.

Finally, she sat up. She licked my throat with a little flick, cleaning off the rest of the blood. I tipped her head back and did the same, relishing the final tastes of her. The shift of her hips with the movement reminded me that I was still inside her. Another kiss, another minute, and I could’ve had her again.

But that blood-and-sex-drunk weariness had settled over me, and I could tell Oraya was fighting it, too.

I fell back onto the bed, turning on my side and gently guiding her down to the blankets as I slipped from her.

She curled up on her side and I folded around her, our bodies fitting easily together.

Already, I sensed her heartbeat slowing, her breath calming.

Already, my own eyelashes were fluttering.

I kissed her shoulder, her cheek, settled down in a nest of her hair. Her scent surrounded me. Oraya had always smelled so damned alive—not the scent of incense or withered flowers like so many vampires, but the scent of spring.

I felt the overwhelming urge to say something to her, even though I wasn’t sure what that would be. But Oraya’s hand fell over mine, and that touch somehow seemed to mean more than all the words put together.

Maybe for the best, because sleep took me so fast, they slipped through my fingers like sand, anyway.

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