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|Damien(Nightwalkers #4) by Jacquelyn Frank|
"I think you have a spider in your hair."
Syreena gasped, reaching for her hair as she spun around to face Damien. "Where?"
"Right behind that part of your head that likes to contradict me in front of half a dozen or more visiting dignitaries," he said dryly.
"Damien!" She slapped his shoulder, very hard, forcing him to take a step back for balance as he chuckled at her. "That is not funny!"
"The big bad former Monk trained to kill with her bare hands being afraid of spiders?" His smirk told her he thought otherwise.
"It is my job to contradict overinflated royal egos, especially when they want to run off and get their heads chopped off," she retorted tartly.
"I never realized you had so little faith in my abilities," he said.
"Yes, actually, you did. You told me yourself that you would never take on Ruth by yourself."
"When did I say that?" he demanded.
"The minute you rescued me," she pointed out.
"Explain that, if you please. I seem to recall you being unconscious at the time."
"Answer me this, then," she countered. "Why didn't you face down Ruth then and there? You had opportunity, time, strength, and all of your power. Why not take care of her once and for all?"
"Because I was busy saving your impertinent, ungrateful backside!"
"One life in trade of the dozens of others you would have been saving?"
"One very important life," he argued, although a bit more gently. "Very important to me."
"Good. Remember that the next time I contradict you in front of half a dozen visiting dignitaries."
Damien sighed deeply, reaching to rub at his temples. "Remember, or regret?" he asked blandly.
"Ha. Ha. Ha."
He smiled at her, unable to help himself. Even when he was angry with her, she delighted him.
"I have a feeling," he said, reaching out to brush a remnant of webbing off her hair, "that this thing we have might actually work out in the long run."
"I am glad you think so," she said, giving him an impish grin.
"Provided I do not kill you before then."
"Good provision," she agreed.
Damien was silent for a moment, and then he grasped her wrist, using it to tug her closer to him.
"Will you be happy here?" he asked as they mutually settled her against the fresh warmth of his body. "Will you be happy away from your home?"
"Goddess, yes," she breathed, as if with relief. "I have outgrown the Monks, and Siena does not need me any longer. Perhaps my absence will help her get over her fear of having children, when people start looking at her even more closely in search of an heir."
"Siena is afraid of children?"
"Terrified. She just does not realize it yet. She thinks she is doing it for convenience or because her marriage is too new. Lucky for her, her husband is pretty much a huge chicken about fatherhood, too. Though I suspect he might come around faster than she will."
"Elijah as a father," he mused, his humor at the thought evident. "He is used to getting them from someone else, fostering them as Siddah after the age of eighteen or so. He will not have a clue what to do with a baby."
"I know," she giggled. "Come to think of it, I am quite glad I will not be there for this. They would exhaust me."
"No, the parents!"
He laughed. "And what of our children, sweetling?"
She tilted her head and looked up at him with arched brows. "Do you want children, Damien?"
"It is one of those more important questions we have not gotten to yet, is it not?"
"Yes. It very much is. I am not certain if you know this, but I have always wanted to have a lot of children. To fill the house."
"Not this house, I hope," he chuckled.
"No. Definitely not enough to fill this house." She flashed a grin. "I guess we'll have to get a bigger house when the time comes."
"Very cute," he said, reaching around to pinch her bottom in punishment.
"Then be serious. Tell me what you really want." His tone became serious to make her understand it was important to him that she put her taunts aside for a moment. "I want to know what you want."
"I want to be happy," she said simply. "One day at a time. One discussion at a time. One baby at a time. Life is too volatile to plan too far ahead. Especially now."
"I understand your point. But at the same time, I do not want us putting our lives on hold because of fear of what Ruth will do next."
"No? But we can run off at the drop of a hat and risk our lives? That is okay?"
"I'm serious, Damien. I do not understand your distinction. Safe some of the time, reckless others? You want me and children, yet an hour ago you were contemplating something tantamount to suicide." She shuddered. "I don't expect either of us to sit idly by while others risk themselves for us, but I do expect you to remember you are not the only one you have to consider anymore. Don't you know that you take my heart with you everywhere you go?"
"Just as you take mine," he assured her softly, bending to kiss her forehead gently, his eyes sliding closed. "You are right, and I am sorry. I promise I will take more care for your feelings and thoughts in these matters in the future. I was upset earlier. I am still adjusting to this new depth of emotion I find myself privy to all of a sudden."
"You have always felt strongly. You could not be the leader you are if you did not."
"Yes. But now it is even stronger still."
"Damien, do you trust me?"
"What kind of a question is that?" he asked abruptly, pulling her head back so he could look down into her odd-colored eyes.
"I was just wondering if you were ever going to complete the Exchange with me," she said directly.
"Why would I not?"
"Because it is daunting, to give away a part of yourself without knowing what it will be." She reached to stroke warm fingers over his cheek. "I did not know what I was doing when you first received the part of me that makes you the raven. I did not have a choice to make."
"Do you regret that?"
"Actually, I don't. I am glad things happened like they did. I might have been too hung up to make the choice myself. Remember, I was not very good at deciding things for myself then. I still am not."
"But you are improving," he noted.
"Yes, I know," she laughed.
"Do you want to complete the Exchange, Syreena?"
She hesitated a moment, knowing his expectant gaze was on her face the entire time she considered the question. She had only known about this thing for a couple of hours, and the information on it had come from Jasmine, a source that had proven to be untrustworthy when it came to complete disclosure. It was not that Syreena was squeamish about the act of drinking blood, either. She was mostly an animal, when it came right down to it. She had dined on an omnivorous selection all of her life. The main concern was what an added power might do to one of her design.
Then again, what was she if not a guinea pig? Her entire existence was the result of an experimentation in the combination of Nightwalker abilities. When she had been ill as a child, Windsong had Spirit-sung Syreena back to life, sharing her spirit with Siena's and Syreena's own spirits. Syreena now suspected that this was where her avian half had come from. Mistrals only became birds. It could not be a coincidence that one of her forms was a falcon. With all of those spirits in her at once in that moment of near death, anything could have caused her to become the combined soup she was, the split being that she was.
Now a whole because of Damien's spirit linking it all together at last.
It would only be fitting to truly add his blood to hers in such a way, also adding whatever part of himself that seemed to belong mixed in with the rest of her soup.
"You make it sound like minestrone," he teased her softly.
"Would you rather I used a mixed-nuts metaphor? With you being the biggest nut of all? Stop nosing around in my head."
"Sorry. I could not resist. You looked like you were working so hard at your thoughts. Curiosity got the better of me."
"So now you know my answer."
"Yes. I do."
Damien reached to pull her close, grasping her beneath her knees to slide her toward him. She slid easily over the sheets until her hips touched the insides of both his thighs and he was leading her legs around his back. They sat facing one another, so close now that her thighs rested atop his and they each had their ankles linked behind the other's back. Damien's hands slid up her beautifully shaped legs until they rested lightly on her waist. Their foreheads touched, their noses rubbing gently together as he reached to kiss her several times. The tips of her naked breasts brushed lightly against his equally bare chest, and he liked the reaction that immediately followed.
"I love the way you feel," he said softly against her swelling lips.
Syreena smiled briefly before he kissed it away, exchanging that pleasure with another and then another as he slowly searched the taste and moisture of her mouth, feeding her the same from his own. Her hands slid around his rib cage to his back, the warmth and smoothness of his taut skin such a sensual delight that she spread her fingers far apart to cover even more of it. She liked how his muscles contracted in little twitches every time she moved her palms and fingertips to new places. If nothing else did, this would tell her how much pleasure he took in the exploration of her hands.
Damien's hands moved into her hair, making the living strands curl happily around them, trapping them to the warmth of her head so it could constrict his fingers and wrists like a hungry nest of boas. Within moments, he was wrapped up to his elbows in it, his forearms snugly held in its pulsing shafts.
She kissed him as her hands continued to move over his skin. She forgot about the dust and barrenness of the enormous household around the master suite he had taken them to, even though every breath she drew seemed to echo into every near corridor. The must and cobwebs around them seemed to disappear, replaced solely by his masculine scent in combination with hers as they wafted together around the small world they had created between their close bodies.
They were both completely nude, save for the bandage and hard splint still dressing her right arm. But even that small restriction could not interfere with the total access they desired for this moment. Syreena felt as though it had been ages since they had touched one another, in spite of the fact that she knew she had never been touched by another being in her lifetime as much as Damien touched her. It seemed as though he could even caress her from a distance, with only his eyes and the very obvious desires within them that always took away any and all space between them.
"Let go of my hands," he said with humor as he gave a curl of her hair a tug.
"Why should I?" she asked, her thoughtfulness and mischief coming through loud and clear.
"Because I know you want me to touch you," he said with the assuredness of a telepath.
She could not argue with him, so she relaxed, releasing the stranglehold her hair had on him. Once he had slipped free of the loving snarl, he stroked his fingers over her face, down her throat and shoulders and arms. He started over the pulses in her neck, working his way down the path of the pounding arteries all the way to her fingertips.
Damien laced his fingers with hers, giving them a momentary squeeze. He released her almost as quickly, so he could stroke the backs of his knuckles down her chest, starting at the hollow in her throat. He followed a straight path over her collarbone and breasts. After briefly slipping his caressing fingers past her erect nipples, he turned his hands so he could cup the full weight of her within his palms.
For Syreena, every moment of the searching caresses was a slow beat that thrummed like a bass drum through her body. She closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath as his hands flexed around her, their heat somehow more than the steady temperature that was normal for him. Perhaps it was her own hot skin that made it so, the eddy of it warming him incredibly, but if that were the case, how would she note the difference?
"Damien, I love the way you touch me," she murmured against the rub of his lips.
"I know," he told her before catching up her mouth with a depth that transcended the physical capabilities of their meshing lips and tongues.
His right hand released its loving hold on her breast so it could skim over her side and hip. He grasped her firmly and drew her completely up his thighs and into his lap, seating her with incredible intimacy against him. It was contradictory for him to be so blunt and bold when he had been so patient and tender until then. She made a gasping sound of surprise as iron hardness and heat swam through the exterior dampness of her body, but surprise immediately gave way to pleasure, and the gasp turned to a long, sweetly pained moan.
"I have missed you," he said suddenly, pulling her ear to his lips so she could hear and feel the heat of his whispered words. "It cannot be more than a day since I was last here, close to your body, wrapped in your heat, but still I missed you."
"You are not yet wrapped in my heat," she argued, her entire being squirming against him in clear frustration over that fact.
She felt him smile against her ear.
"You seem impatient, sweetness," he teased her, his teeth scraping over her earlobe and then releasing the sensitive flesh so he could blow a gentle breath over the dampness his mouth had left behind. She shivered as goose bumps raced along her spine and a fresh wash of liquid invitation flowed from her body and onto his.