|Home > Jacquelyn Frank > Shadowdwellers > Ecstasy (Page 14)|
|Ecstasy(Shadowdwellers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“And what makes you think he is in ’scape?” she countered. “He could be anywhere on this planet, a victim of a dozen fates as you just pointed out. Why are you obsessing about him being in ’scape?”
“Because I know him! I know how his mind works, and so do both of you!” Guin pointed to the women sharply. “This wraith he discovered will fascinate him. The Lost’s unusual properties alone would challenge a mind like his. But add to this that she saved his life and it makes her an irresistible question in need of a reply. Also, K’yatsume, you all but demanded he go back and seek her out.”
“I did no such thing,” Malaya countered almost primly. “I merely suggested it would be a course of wisdom worth pursuing.”
“She said, and I quote, ‘I am astounded you would let so unique an opportunity pass you by without taking proper advantage of it’!” Guin countered to Rika with a snort. “She baited the poor bastard.”
“Sua vec’a!” Malaya burst out as she dropped the beading she was working on and got up to cross away from her warden. “You’ll not blame me for the actions of a man of free will.”
“I’ll blame you for being a cunning little manipulator,” he shot back at her, striding up on his heels and more than ready for one of the confrontations they seemed to thrive on. Now it was Rika’s turn to sigh a little, but it was strictly to herself. If she had prestige for every time they butted heads like this, she’d be royalty herself.
“Of course,” Malaya scoffed, “and the fact that a vizier is a professional manipulator shouldn’t have anything to do with his ability to see right through me? I mean no offense, Anai Rika,” she added quickly to her vizier.
“None taken,” the older woman replied.
Rika carefully set aside her own beadwork, placing her supplies in their proper places so they would be easier to retrieve when she continued later on. She and her young mistress often did beading together as a form of relaxation.
This wasn’t going to be one of their more successful times.
Rika supposed she should cut into the brewing argument while she still could. Guin and Malaya could nip back and forth at each other for hours, the entire thing simply dissolving into an exercise in wits. Since the female vizier was beginning to find that time was a precious commodity, she intervened with the soft clearing of her throat.
“Trace is in ’scape. Regardless of how he was motivated, we all know him well enough to know that his conscience would not rest well if his encounter with this strange wraith ended as you say it did.” Rika turned her face toward where she had last heard their aggressive voices. “Whether he is injured, captive, or any of that, is pure speculation. The only thing I can be certain of is that he is not in Realscape at this moment, nor has he been for several days. You say five, but I am only certain of the past three nights.”
“It’s been too long,” Guin said with low concern, his frown evident in his tone. “He has stayed too long. He must be recovered before his mind is damaged.”
“Be easy,” Malaya said to him gently, understanding his concern in spite of their bickering. “Trace is strong. He has great power.”
“He was injured,” Guin reminded her. “Severely so.”
“Guin is right. It has been too long,” Rika agreed. “We should call for Magnus. He and the other priests can track Trace far easier than we can.”
“Rika, would you be able to sense him if you went into Shadowscape?”
“Yes, of course I would. But I’m afraid I cannot help you like that. If he is in euphoria and I touch his mind, I will be intoxicated as well. I am sorry, but that is just the way it works.”
Guin made a sound of frustration at that, his hand absently gripping at the pommel of his sword. He knew very little about the type of special abilities certain ’Dwellers like Rika, the regent twins, and the religious sect exhibited, but he had been around the pretty little vizier long enough to know that she would have found a way to help if she could have. Despite her worsening blindness and the increasing frequency of her bouts with illness, she was one of Malaya’s most valuable assets and she had been proven unafraid to risk herself when necessary.
“Very well. I will contact Magnus at once.”
“I am certain Trace’s father is already on the verge of action himself,” Rika noted. “Magnus may preach about his son’s independence, but there is a tether between them that will never be severed.”
“K’yatsume, I will send Killian in to be by your side,” Guin said to Malaya before giving her a curt bow. The guard then made one of his very rare exits from Malaya’s presence, leaving the Chancellor to sit back down near her advisor with a sigh.
“It is interesting to see Guin show so much concern for Trace,” Rika remarked. “He is usually quite withdrawn about such things.”
Malaya huffed irritably. “He has only noticed Trace’s dilemma because he has ulterior motives for wanting him here. Guin wants Tristan’s vizier to talk me into assigning him the mission of seeking out Baylor’s compatriots. He believes I will listen to Trace or that Trace will make me see the errors of my stubborn ways.” Rika waited while her mistress drew out a moment of silence filled with palpable tension and disturbance. “He is angry with me,” Malaya said at last.
“Furious, I would say,” Rika mostly agreed.
“I don’t care,” Malaya lied. “If he thinks I am going to let him become a target to a blind and deceptive dagger like Trace did, he is out of his mind. Trace only survived by the grace of Darkness and luck. Let Guin scoff and pout, but I will not release him so he can ferret out a den of deceivers who will all want him dead!” Malaya sat forward in her seat and Rika could hear the agitated jingle of the bangles she wore as she toyed nervously with her own fingers. “If I am a target for an assassination, the worst thing to do would be to cut loose my guard!”
“Killian would replace him. He is trustworthy and quite good,” Rika noted. “None could ever match Guin for dedication and undeniable skill, but he would keep you alive well enough.”
Malaya gave an unattractive snort. “Why must men insist on such foolhardy escapades? They seem to thrive on sticking their necks out.”
“I see. And instigating civil war had no effect on the safety of your neck as you mounted your throne?”
“This is hardly comparable!”
“I think it is perfectly comparable. I also think Guin merely wants to do his job, which is protecting you. I fail to understand why you insist on interfering with the very thing you keep him around for. It also amazes me how you trust this man to protect your life every moment of every day, yet you do not trust him to protect his own.”
“Because he doesn’t care about his own!” Malaya blurted out. “The man has a death wish!”
“No, he is simply unafraid of death. He welcomes all possibilities, which makes him fearless and all but undefeatable in battle. However, given his position by your side, he does not need to actively seek means of death and danger. They quite readily come to him. This issue of Baylor is a prime example.”
“Stop! I am tired of everyone coaxing me to send that man to his death! I’ll not talk of this anymore!” The Chancellor’s voice was terrible and unmistakable. Rika knew when she had tested her mistress to the limits of her emotional tolerances, so she wisely backed off for the moment. Malaya was very rarely intractable and unreasonable, and the vizier was left to wonder why she was suddenly being so prickly.
A short while later, the doors to the sitting room opened, sending a wash of cool, displaced air against Rika. The scent of incense tumbled in from the corridor, the other parts of the house constantly burning the fragrant powders. Malaya refrained, knowing that Rika depended on her other senses like scent to compensate for her blindness and that the heavy perfumes could have an obscuring effect.
But despite the entrance of sage and sandalwood, Rika still instantly recognized the darkly exotic scent of masculine musk and coriander. There was also the distinctive little chime of metal charms every time Tristan took a step, the sound of the anklet of small gold medallions he wore whenever he was barefoot.
“Sister, we must talk,” he announced, the force of his tone telling Rika that his usual playful demeanor had been set hard aside.
“What is it, Tristan?” Malaya was on her feet in an instant, hurrying to meet him in a series of tinkling steps Rika followed all the way across the room with her.
“I am going into Shadowscape with Magnus and the others. Trace is my responsibility and I will not sit by idle while he is missing.”
“But…” Malaya seemed to check what she was going to say. “Of course,” she agreed quietly. “I would do the same if it were Rika missing.”
“Fear not. I will have Xenia by my side at all times.”
“I feel I should go as well. Guin will want to join you, yet he will not leave my side.”
“No, jei li, that is not wise. While I have deep respect for your skills as a fighter, I fear this could be a trap baited for one or both of us. After Trace’s report about Baylor, I can only assume and anticipate the worst. In this case, it is best we each take separate realms. You remain here with Rika and Guin. If Trace returns, have Rika locate us. I will take Xenia and follow the priests’ progress. It should not take long. Magnus and the brothers have tracking in their very souls. They will find him quickly.”
“I beg you all to be careful,” Malaya said with passion, her jewelry jingling as she wrapped her arms tightly around her brother. “Good luck, my brother. Keep faith. Darkness guide you.”
“Darkness protect you, my sister. Stay safe.”
Tristan gave his sibling a fleeting kiss before exiting as brusquely as he had entered.
Ashla grunted loudly as she hit the bed, catching air with a hearty bounce. Before she could draw breath, Trace was on her back, his hands sliding over her sweat-slick skin until he held both of her wrists well above her head. She gasped when his teeth suddenly tested her flesh on the back of her shoulder, then the bend of her waist, and then the rise of her buttock. She squirmed as he transferred both wrists to a single powerful hand, leaving the other free to seek her breasts, her belly, and then between her thighs.
He said nothing, only sounds of satisfaction rolling out of him as all her various parts met with his approval. He never stayed anywhere long enough, her head spinning with internal whimpers of disappointment every time he moved quickly on to whatever next struck his fancy. He rolled her over and dove to suck at her breasts, nipping and tugging before squeezing her tight in his hand and rubbing his face all over her, burning her with the shadow of his unshaven face.
“I should…yes, I really should…” he muttered as he abruptly seized her by her thighs and pushed them wide apart.
“No…wait!” she protested.
He ignored her, grabbing the hand she used to stay him and twisting her wrist against the bed.
“Never say no to me,” he growled at her, his dark eyes flashing dangerously.
He cut her off with the wicked darting of his tongue directly at her clitoris, the tenderness she was trying to warn him of making her jolt up against his lips. This only seemed to encourage him as he suckled and nibbled at her until she was screaming with overstimulation. She couldn’t help herself as she grabbed at his hair, pushing him back as she tried to wriggle away.
“Hard to get, eh? Want to play, do you?” Ashla was back on her belly with a bounce and he covered her completely, probing at her from behind. “I’m hard, too. See? Feel me?” He pressed into her, thankfully in slower increments than the last time. Or the time before that. In fact, it could technically be considered the gentlest he had been with her since their bout of repetitive couplings had started almost eight hours beforehand. Considering there had been very little in the way of pauses, she was astounded at his stamina. She kept waiting for exhaustion to take hold of him the way it took hold of her, but it never did. He was voracious and inexhaustible. He would ejaculate and then become erect again quickly, or never even lose his erection to begin with.
She had never known anything like it. Ashla had only been used to what Diana liked to call “One-Shot Charlies.” They came, they went, end of story.
Not so with Trace. He seemed completely obsessed with having sex with her. He was impossible to deny as he tuned out all her protests of soreness and fatigue. On the one hand, it was irresistible to be wanted so much. To feel him as he grew more and more excited within her, telling her in barely coherent ways how wild she made him. How hot she was. It was amazing and she found it hard to refuse him, even if he wasn’t exactly asking.
But there was also the small detail of her failure to achieve another orgasm. There had been that first brilliant explosion of pleasure, unlike anything she’d even dreamed of, but since then even her closest moments had been disrupted for reasons she couldn’t fully understand, or because he finished before she could catch up with him. The frustration and disappointment aside, now she couldn’t even get close to started because she was so tired and tender.
Yet something inside of her realized he needed her almost with maddening desperation. She somehow knew that to call a definitive stop would be bad for him…or for her. Not that she was afraid he would hurt her—not really hurt her—but sometimes she would look into his eyes and, behind the rising wash of ecstasy, he would be struggling with a depth of pain she didn’t comprehend. It was as though he didn’t want to continue any more than she did, but he simply couldn’t make himself stop. Not when it felt so good for him.