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|Wicked as She Wants(Blud #2) by Delilah S. Dawson|
He pulled away to chuckle against my mouth, and I nipped his lip, tasting just the tiniest hint of blood. He growled as I sucked his lip and moaned, trying to draw in more of the marvelous, wild taste of him. No wonder I’d tried to kill him when I’d first woken up. Under that odd, musky odor, he was just a step below the bludwine. Casper was intoxicating.
He pulled back, eyes afire. Trailing a finger down my face, he ran his thumb between my lips. Remembering the sensual dance of his fingers over the harpsichord’s keys, I wrapped my mouth around his thumb and sucked until he pulled it out with a tortured groan.
“No more blood,” he said, his voice as ragged as I’d ever heard.
“Tit for tat,” I said with a brazen smile. Now that I’d had a taste of him, I wanted more.
“Is that how it works? You try to kill me, so I cut you; I make amends and you kiss me until I bleed?”
“I could do without the first two parts,” I purred.
“Could you, now?”
I just smiled, my eyes focused on his lip and the single bead of blood there. I shifted under him a little, noticing his weight now that we weren’t kissing, wanting more kisses. When I tried to move my leg, he caught it against his side. “Oh, no you don’t,” he muttered, stopping my wiggling by pressing up against me in a way that made me gasp and then settling his lips over my open mouth.
My heart was thumping against my corset, and I lost myself in the kiss. I didn’t know where I ended and he began, whose tongue was whose, how much of the beast took me over. I wrapped my other leg around him, and he pressed against me with the rhythm of a spring river crashing against rocks. I found myself moving with him, my hands fumbling with his cravat.
He caught my throat in one hand, and I hissed on principle. He laughed and kissed his way down my neck, making me squirm and pant. He paused between kisses, and the hunger when his hot mouth wasn’t on my skin was interminable. When his teeth grazed my jaw, I leaned my head farther back. My beast didn’t care if my throat was ripped out, so long as his hands stayed on me.
I was lost in sensation, feeling things I’d never felt, never considered. The fire arcing down my spine, settling in my belly like lava, trickling deeper to a need I’d never known, a deep ache between my legs worse than any hunger for blood. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I’d never wanted anything so badly. When he reached down to unlace the front of my dress, I caught his ear in my teeth and whispered, “Don’t stop.”
“I don’t plan to.” He unpicked the ribbons with nimble fingers. I surged toward him, needing his hands on my skin, responding to his body on instinct.
He jerked my dress open and found the corset instead.
“Fucking corsets!” he growled.
I went for the first hook and eye, to show him how it was done. Instead, he caught my hands and pinned them over my head, running his tongue down my neck and over the tops of my breasts, crushed as they were against the corset. I moaned and bucked, and he ran one hand down my side and over my hip, to the place where my dress and petticoats puddled in velvet and lace. As his hand plunged into the mess of fabric, hunting for my skin, he caught my mouth again in a kiss barely less fierce and somehow more intimate for its control.
I pressed myself against him, ablaze inside as his hand stroked closer and closer to the place where I knew I truly wanted him. I kissed him as if he was air, as if there was nothing but him and me and blood and blud and tongues and claiming.
He finally stroked me in a place I hadn’t dared to think about, a single finger slicked between my thighs, and I cried out in amazement and passion and fierce joy.
And that’s when I heard the door open and Keen howl, “Goddammit!”
Her boots clomped away down the hall as I sat up, trying to put my skirts to rights, my face flushed to have been seen in such a state. Was it so wrong, what we had done? Did Casper hate me now that Keen had seen? I pulled up my knees, tucking my skirts tightly under my legs. I was looking down, but I could hear Casper putting himself to rights, too.
“This isn’t over,” he said, his voice half growl and half whisper.
When I didn’t look up, he put a gentle hand under my chin and forced me to meet his gaze.
“Don’t blush,” he said, as serious as I’d ever seen him. “Don’t you dare be ashamed.”
“Are you telling me what to do?” I said, trying to muster my usual arrogance. The quiver in my lip betrayed me.
“Yeah, maybe I am.” He sat down on the bed beside me.
Everything was hazy, like the dregs of a dream. The bludwine, what had passed between us—it was like waking up suddenly, cold and confused in harsh daylight, not sure what was real. I fidgeted, not knowing what to do with my hands. A single, shiny chestnut hair was caught in one of my fingernails. I picked it out and watched it fall to the ground.
“Aren’t you going after her?” I finally asked.
He smiled sadly. “She doesn’t want to be chased. She needs to sulk alone. She’ll come back when she’s ready. Believe me—it’s happened plenty of times before.”
“It’s—I mean—oh,” I said, feeling more silly and pathetic than ever.
Of course, I was just one in a long line of girls he’d seduced. No wonder Keen was always angry at me. She seemed to think of Casper as a father; she must have felt about his women the same way I felt about my mother’s string of disposable lovers. Disgusted and hateful.
What little rapport I had recently found with the girl would be gone. Strangely enough, that made me . . . sad. Thousands of miles from home, surrounded by strangers, it had been nice to talk to someone who didn’t want me dead.
Casper paced the small room, his fingers drumming hard against his thighs. I couldn’t imagine what the song might be, but it was hard and pounding. His breathing was fast, and when he stopped to look at me, his pupils were pinpricks in the darkened blue of his eyes. As much as I had liked meeting his beast, what I saw in him now was madness of a different sort, and it worried me.
“Ahna.” It came out ragged, harsh. Tortured.
“Maybe you should go,” I said. I realized that my dress was unlaced, showing the white corset underneath. I held the velvet together over my chest and struggled to lace it, sure that my face was redder than blood.
“Maybe I don’t want to go.”
I turned my back, hiding my shame and the damning tears that I couldn’t stop.
“Just call me Anne,” I answered quietly. “It will be easier that way.”
For one long moment, he stood there. I imagined his hand held out, something holding him back from touching me, comforting me. But I didn’t let myself look to see if it was true. Maybe he was counting his money to see if he could afford one of the courtesans tonight instead. Maybe he had a deal with Miss May. I just wanted him to leave so I could cry in peace.
“Just go, Casper.”
He sighed sadly, and I heard his boot turn on the wood. Just then, the airship shuddered, throwing him onto the bed with me. I stifled my protest with a hand over my mouth at my sudden nausea. Screams erupted overhead, and the Maybuck bucked again.
“What is it?” I croaked, bloody bile rising in my throat.
Casper went into a defensive crouch. “I don’t know, but it’s wrong.”
Feet thundered above us, and I stared at the ceiling, quite positive that there shouldn’t have been that many heavy boots on the ship. Casper opened the door to look out, and the sounds of screams and clashing metal rang down the hall.
“Stay here.” He tossed something onto the bed, and I picked it up. A dagger, barely more than a letter opener. “I don’t know what’s happening, but lock the door, and be ready. I’ve got to find Keen.”
I turned the blade over in my hands and slipped it beneath my leg. Casper held the empty bottle like a club and staggered toward the hallway as the ship tilted again. Something dark flew through the open door and thunked heavily against his bare head, and he crumpled to the ground. The form that filled the doorway was wild, with matted hair and a single eye that gleamed in the lamplight like Tommy Pain’s.
With a hiss, I was on my feet on the bed, Casper’s knife clutched in hand.
“You’re holding that all wrong, missy,” the man said with unexpected humor.
“I’ve got other weapons.”
“It ain’t your weapons I’m wanting to see.”
As the pirate stepped closer, somehow both menacing and tentative, my predator’s eyes scanned his every detail. His hair was dark and fell in long, tangled locks down his back, wrapped with bits of rope and shell and bone. He was built like a bear, with huge arms and callused paws. One of his eyes was the color of honey, and the other was covered with a black leather patch. Weapons hung from every inch of him, swaying with each step. A strange C-shaped piece of wood was in his hand, matching the one that had clattered to the floor beside Casper.
“What do you want?” I asked, voice low.
In answer, he smiled slowly, showing a mouth filled with metal. “This here’s the Maybuck,” he said before spitting on the plush rug. “What do you think I’m here for, poppet?”
I started to whimper and turned it into a growl. He chuckled and stepped closer, and two more figures shoved each other through the door like pups on the heels of a big dog, hoping for his leftovers.
“You try to touch me, and I’ll rip your throat out, I swear it.” I had to raise my voice to be heard over the shouting, stamping, and fighting from overhead and spilling down from the deck. A quick glance at Casper proved that he was still unconscious and breathing but unable to save me yet again. Not that I needed to be saved.
“What’s this, eh?” one of the new pirates asked, his voice high and excited. He was small and as twitchy as a mad bludlemming.
The third man was silent and slight, holding a crossbow and wearing a Freesian coat with a high, funnel-like neck and a bowler pulled down low over leather goggles. Something about him tugged at my memory. I breathed deep, hoping for clues.
“McHale, you fool. Shut the door.” I’d barely noticed the big pirate getting close, but he was near enough that his thick legs pressed against the bed frame with a creak. “Gandy, get ready to catch her if she bolts.”
I squeezed my back against the wall, waving my knife, seconds away from showing my teeth and revealing myself as a Bludwoman.
The door shut gently, and the air went still. While I studied McHale, the first pirate reached for my ankle and yanked me down hard. I landed on my back on the bed, the air bursting from my lungs. One of his big hands plucked the knife from mine as if it were a child’s toy, and I realized that I wasn’t wearing my gloves, but he didn’t seem to notice or care. With a shriek of fury, I twisted away from him, trying to claw my way off my back and out of a helpless position. The big pirate laughed and pulled me back with sure hands, inch by inch toward him.
“Stop!” It was McHale, his hand on his crossbow.
“You forget yourself, Bluddy,” the big pirate barked. “You’ll get thirds and be glad of it.”
“Can’t you see she’s not a whore? She’s terrified, man.”
With one meaty mitt wrapped around my ankle, the big pirate slowly turned to face McHale.
“I ain’t in here because she’s a whore. I’m in here because she’s a woman. You want in on this, or you and Gandy want to go belowdecks and blow each other’s bilges?”
“I ain’t a poof!” Gandy shouted, unbuckling his belt and trying to shove himself closer to me. “Let me in, and I’ll prove it! I’m smaller than you, anyway. I’ll get her started for you.”
With a leisurely swing of his fist, the big pirate sent Gandy into the wall and to the ground beside Casper.
“This one”—he pulled lips back over teeth of glinting gold—“is mine.”
With animal quickness, McHale launched himself at the big pirate, driving him into the bed across my legs. I smelled the blood before I saw it, and the beast took me over. I had slipped my legs out from under the big pirate’s body and pressed my face to his wrist before I noticed McHale poised over the pirate’s red-splattered neck. The body danced beneath us as the big man screamed and fought for his life. Together, we held him easily.
“You,” I growled.
“Eat first,” he said with just a hint of a Freesian accent. “Then we’ll talk.”
My eyes held him for one moment, not trusting my good luck. My savior was a Bludman, and one more than willing to share, which was a prize rarer than rubies.
“I am honored to share the kill.” He took one long pull and bowed his head to me, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. “My princess.”
It was oddly intimate, sharing someone’s kill for the first time. The room was a warm cocoon of comforting sounds. The polite slurping of blood rose gently over the rhythmic breaths of the still-living men, and I sighed in contentment to feel my hunger sated for the first time in days. The big pirate was fantastically full of blood.
I left the last pull for my host, as it seemed the polite thing to do. But he sat back, too.
“Please, my lady. It’s yours.”
I paused, considering. But the princess in me won out, and I drew the last of the hot blood down my throat and wiped my mouth off on the dead pirate’s sleeve.
With a nod, McHale tidily looted the big pirate’s body. When he held out a handful of coins, trinkets, gems, and pearls to me, I shook my head. Not because I didn’t need money but because now that he was dead and bloodless, everything about him struck me as disgusting.