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|Wicked as She Wants(Blud #2) by Delilah S. Dawson|
And then it hit me, for one perfect, clear moment.
This must be what it felt like to be a Pinky. To spend your life hiding your true desires and feelings, feigning politeness and manners, always waiting for the moment when your neck either bent for your master or was snapped in her hand with one flick of angry fingers. For the first time in my entire life, ever, I realized that the threat of death from blud loss was a very real thing, that I wasn’t invincible. The euphoria turned into panic.
I started flailing and bucking, and Casper’s hands moved from cupping my jaw to pinning down my arms so I couldn’t scrabble at him. His weight held me to the rugs and sheepskins, his mouth working against my throat and his ankles heavy on my legs. I whimpered softly, but I had no hope that he heard me.
“Casper?” I rasped, but he didn’t respond.
I couldn’t move, but I had to get his attention, and I didn’t have long. My thoughts went back to the book I had found under his bed, long before I knew him and even before I learned that the sentiments weren’t his own. But I couldn’t remember the words written there, only scribbles and scratches. I was getting weaker and weaker, my mind growing sluggish. My mouth opened and closed wordlessly, until I finally recalled the first sound I had heard from him, even before I had seen him.
“Hey, Jude,” I whispered, voice cracking. I went through as many lyrics as I could scrape together, certain that the song made no sense. And yet it was there in my subconscious, as if it had become a part of me and I couldn’t quite escape it. I told him not to be afraid, to make things better. When I got to the part about skin, he pulled back, and I felt his breath whistle cold over the rip in my throat.
“Ahna? What . . . ?”
He moved to my side, touching my face. I could feel blud puddled in my hair, sticking it to my neck and ear. He had fed like a child, fast and messy, and I myself felt very much like a broken doll forgotten on the floor. I tried to move my arm and couldn’t. My mouth opened, but I was finished singing.
“What do I do? Oh, God, Ahna. I can’t believe I . . . what do I do?”
I moaned and rolled my eyes toward the scrap of paper that had fallen from my hand to the floor. He didn’t understand at first, but then he picked it up and scanned it. I knew he’d found the right part when he sighed and said, “Is there no end to it?”
In response, I mewled like a kitten, my entire being focused on his wrist, where the tiny blue veins fluttered like leaves in a chill autumn wind. He grimaced and looked at his arm.
“I don’t think I can. I mean, not my wrist. Try this.”
He picked me up, one arm under my knees and one around my shoulder. Emptied of blud, I weighed no more than an empty dress, and he carried me over to the wall and slid down until he sat with his back against a pillow. My mouth opened and closed uselessly, inches away from his neck. He pulled me close, cradling me as he smoothed back his hair with one hand to expose the golden skin underneath.
“Can you bite?” he asked. “Are you strong enough?”
“Closer,” I managed to whisper, and when he obliged, I used every bit of strength I had to scrape him with a fang, just enough to start a dribble of red. As full as he was, it didn’t take much to get the wound flowing and me drinking. Within moments, I was strong enough to wrap my arms around his neck and latch on for real. The more I drank, the tighter he held me. But this time, it didn’t take so much. I was able to stop long before there was any danger to him. That had to mean it was working.
I pulled away, licking my lips and feeling suddenly ladylike. It was one thing being taken over by the beast, especially when on the verge of draining. But it had always been important among my people to show control and restraint whenever possible. My hair was plastered to the nape of my neck, the back of my gown sodden and sticky.
“I brought towels and rose water,” I said, suddenly self-conscious. “For after.”
His face was dark, shadowed with a beard and dominated by eyes gone cloudy and glittering like crushed sapphires. “How much longer?” he whispered. “How much more?”
“Until it’s done.” I looked him up and down, as much as I could see from within the cage of his arms. “I don’t think we’re there yet. You’re still hungry?”
“It’s the strangest hunger I’ve ever felt. Not in my stomach . . .”
“More like in your heart?”
He nodded, brow drawn down.
“That’s how it is. Because what you need now isn’t food.” He stared past me, focusing on the sparkling Moravian lamps. In the darkness of the windowless room, they held their glow close, the deep indigo of the corners as fathomless as the night sky. It was a beautiful scene, peaceful and magical, a moment stolen out of time. I moved my hair aside and bent my head, saying only, “Go on, then.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I volunteered. And it’s getting easier, isn’t it?”
“I feel strange. Not weak, like I did before.” His voice was ragged and deeper than it had been. He swallowed hard and went still, and I knew that he had noticed the vein in my neck, thumping so close that there was no way he could avoid smelling it, no way he could stop the hunger.
“When will I want blood? Instead of you?”
“I can’t say. What do you want now?”
“Then have me.”
He sighed, a long and heartbreaking sound. His lips found my neck, kissing first, almost nibbling, as if he didn’t quite know how to break the skin or was trying to fight the beast within. Then, as I had, he nipped just the tiniest bit. I jerked in his arms, surprised by the feeling it woke in me. His lips, the bite. The way he was sucking gently. It felt . . . good.
There was a primal rhythm to it, to the warm, wet pull of his mouth. I was still in his lap. One of his hands was splayed across my lower back, his other cupping my jaw and holding me in place. He moaned and shifted underneath me, and I realized that he felt it, too. He felt it and liked it . . . very much. Tingles shot down my spine, and I let my head fall back a little more. The blud he was taking—it made me feel lightheaded and weightless, as if I were floating. When he pulled away, a whimper escaped me. Before I could even open my eyes, his lips were sealed over mine.
His mouth tasted of home and hunger and wine and the spice of lingering magic. I kissed him back, my body uncaring whether I craved his blood or his blud or his hot, probing tongue. He tasted me, drank me in, growled into my mouth as if upset that he couldn’t eat me in one big bite. I could feel the sharpness of his fangs with the tip of my tongue, and I reveled in the fact that he was no longer some weak prey animal, waiting for a tragedy or a stupid mistake to take him away, possibly at my hands. He was more substantial now, more real, more solid, tethering me to my body and the moment with the surety of the moon acting on the tides.
I felt him pulling away from me, and I sucked on his lip as he left, reluctant to be without him.
“Ahna, I feel so . . .” He trailed off, and I nipped his lip again.
“Strange. Hungry but full. Powerful.”
His arms held me loosely, and I liked how light I felt, how empty and malleable and open. Carefree and drunk on what little blud I had left, I swooned a little, and he caught me tighter against his bare chest, his skin so hot it felt like liquid flame.
“Kiss me, Casper.”
“I can’t kiss you. You need blood. And I can’t control myself.”
“Don’t. You don’t have to. I don’t want you to.” My voice slurred a little.
“The things I want to do . . . they scare me. It’s like everything’s washed over in red.”
“Give in to it, Maestro.”
“I don’t know how.”
I tried to kiss him again, but he held back as if afraid he might break me. The beast in me rose to the surface, furious at being denied. With that extra burst of ferocity, I pulled myself to his neck and latched on to the same place where I’d bitten him before. He was almost bludded but not quite finished, and he hadn’t healed yet. I sucked hard, blissful at the heated rush of satisfaction, of blud and blood perfectly mixed. Old Verusha had never hinted that it would be anything like this. Bloody and messy and hideously painful for us both, yes, but delicious and sweet? I could not have imagined it. The charm was strong, the spell well cast. Whoever that Criminy fellow was, we had cause to thank him.
As I drank, savoring the rhythm of his heartbeat, his wide palm made circles on the small of my back. I couldn’t escape knowing that he was enjoying it, too, his body’s readiness apparent under the tangle of my dress. But it wasn’t enough, being gathered in his lap like a child or a favorite dog. I had told him to give in to it, and bit by bit, as his hand inched around to caress the curve of my hip, I found that I couldn’t escape giving in myself. With one last swallow, I pulled myself away from the blud, its call dampened by new urges. I licked my way up his neck, found his lips, and kissed him the way I wanted to be kissed. When his hands fastened around my waist, I turned to straddle him, my knees on either side of his legs.
“You need more,” he murmured into my mouth, and I answered, “I’ll take what I need.”
When he tried to pull back again, I settled my hips against him, rocking from side to side as I kissed him, hard and demanding. His grip on my waist slid down, settling possessively on my hipbones. He jerked me closer and pulled up his knees behind my back. We were lined up in the most primal way, and I found that in this sense, at least, I liked being trapped.
“I need more,” he whispered in my ear, and I turned my neck for him, anxious for the sharp pain that preceded the strange euphoria of him feeding on me.
He bit down harder this time, as if testing his fangs. I gasped as he latched on, and he moved against me, hip to hip, rubbing sensuously through the layers of fabric to reach the most secret part of me. Tentatively at first, then more pointedly, I moved with him, his thrusts matching the pulse of his lips sucking at my neck. It all moved together like the waves I’d seen at the ocean and never, ever dared touch. They were dangerous, those swells and crests, and I knew that they held the power to destroy me instantly. But this—these waves—they felt right, and if there was any threat of me flying apart, it was from pleasure.
The rhythm was timeless, and I caught on fast, my breathing and heartbeat a high counterpoint. I wanted something, something more, something I couldn’t describe. My hands found his bare shoulders, broad and muscled and warm, my nails digging in with urgency. I began to understand what could inevitably unfold between two people, but at the same time, I was somewhere else entirely, floating again. And hungry, so hungry. For him.
With one last, wild lick, he pulled back from me, his hips still moving, his mouth wet with my blud.
“Do you need more?”
“I’m . . . I need . . . I don’t know.” And I didn’t.
“Do you want me, Ahnastasia?”
“I don’t know what I want, but if I don’t get it, I’m going to rip you to shreds.”
“No,” he barked, and when he stopped moving against me, I hissed and focused on him, our eyes but inches away. He chuckled and drew back, holding my face in both hands as if daring me to look away, his smile kind and dimpled but his eyes stern. “No, darlin’. No. We’re way past that adorable little vicious act of yours. If we’re doing this, we’re doing it as equals. I’m not your pet anymore.”
I whimpered and tried to kiss him, but he was stronger than he had been and kept me at arm’s length.
“Why does it matter?” I said. “Don’t you need it, too?”
“I need you, not it. And I’m done being used. If you’re going to take from me, you’re going to start giving back, and I’ll start with your heart.”
For that second, I swear my heart stopped beating. All the want and hunger and desperation faded in the face of his demand. Could it be possible that Casper . . . loved me?
I had been raised in wealth and coldness, receiving more warmth from Verusha than from my own family. Personal greetings were mannerly and swift, a polite peck on the cheek. Hugs were almost unknown, for how could my mother draw me close when her dress was encrusted with diamonds and weighed more than she did? Love and affection were things you felt for your country, for your favorite hat, for the wolfhound that greeted you without fail at the door. But to expect love from a royal match—it was laughable. Almost unheard of. I had never considered, in all my life, if my parents loved each other. I knew for a fact that they didn’t.
And here we were, tangled up and blood-spattered on the floor of a Moravian inn, and this man, this Stranger, wanted my heart. He wanted my mouth to say words I had never heard spoken. He wanted me to declare myself just for the privilege of rutting with him as I’d seen the passengers of the Maybuck meet, flesh to flesh. The day before my final stand, before I planned to murder a dictator at a holy rite in front of my people, he wanted me to make a commitment that no princess, no Tsarina, could make. A Tsarina’s heart belonged to her country.
The feelings he had awakened in me were tempting, and I was curious. But those feelings, that satisfaction—they weren’t worth lying to him, making promises I couldn’t keep. Maybe the intimacy I felt was part of the bludding process, part of the powder’s magic. Maybe I had to admit to myself that my beast had desires, and blood was apparently not the only one.
Or maybe . . .
I swallowed hard and sought my answer in his eyes.
It hit me like an arrow, thudding in my chest. In Casper’s eyes, I saw more than pleas and lust. I found recognition, acceptance, and dedication. It was all written there for me to read, in the shadows dancing against the blue. This man, this new Bludman, had feelings for me. Fierce ones that couldn’t be denied. And he was no longer confused, lost within himself. He was strong like me, powerful like me. And he wanted me, he loved me, as sure as his blood beat in my veins.