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|Ecstasy(Shadowdwellers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
She might have envied him his rushes of pleasure if not for that strange valley of angst within him that marred them.
Just the same, she winced when he slowly burrowed into her swollen sheath. But since her face was buried in the bedding, he never saw the expression. Ashla wasn’t sure it would even have mattered if he had.
“Aiya, you get tighter every time!” he cried out, reaching under her to tilt her pelvis up to receive his downward stroke. She gasped when he hilted well and truly deep inside of her, and then again when he withdrew. Tears smarted in her eyes and she muffled a sob. He felt as swollen as she was, too much to take, but she allowed it just the same.
Maybe he was right. Maybe she was some kind of sexual freak. Why else would anyone quietly bear what he was doing?
By the third stroke there was finally relief. The soreness disappeared, just as it always did, and he began to glide into her with an amazingly swift rhythm. He spoke to her, sometimes in English, sometimes not, sometimes just with noises and rough caresses. It wouldn’t take him long, she realized, to reach climax this time. She could tell because of the desperation in his grip, the fierceness growing in his cadence. At least, she prayed that this was the case. Sometimes he would reach his breaking point and nothing would happen. Not immediately, anyway. He would stay trapped in that moment just before release, what looked like torturous pleasure cutting through him like unrelenting knives. It had brought him to tears more than once. It had made him shout like a savage.
He covered her tightly as he moved inside her, his hot, rapid breaths against her neck and ear, rushing through her hair. He was groaning in increasing crests; just listening to him making her body shiver with pleasure she hadn’t expected to feel.
“I’m going to come inside you,” he promised on a fierce, fast whisper. “I’m going to fill you up, mark you with my scent. Make you…” He stopped long enough to roll out a wicked warning growl. “Burn…you make me burn!”
Burn was the perfect word for it. For Ashla it was friction and haste that made her burn. For Trace, however, it was his insane demands on a body incapable of keeping up with him…and incapable of stopping. His testicles were on fire, his thigh muscles cramped, but there was no denying the glory of heated, wet flesh sucking him with each move he made. Tight. Hot. Wet. Tight. Hot. Wet.
When Ashla moaned, instinctively shifting to get him to hit her where she felt the best pleasure, it unraveled his coherence and coordination. The burn exploded into rushing wildfire, as relentless as he was as he dove into her over and over, with a painfully triumphant cry to mark the harsh spasms of his ejecting seed.
It was an endless minute before he finally rolled away from her, gasping for breath, almost sobbing for it. Ashla couldn’t have gotten up if she wanted to, her aching body content to simply lie quiet, but when she shifted position, his hand fell on her hip and he was there, holding her still.
“Don’t go anywhere,” he rasped.
“I won’t,” she promised, closing her eyes when his damp hand started to glide up and down the length of her body, as if he took delight in the mere shape of her. She smiled at that, content to feel, for once, that she wasn’t too thin, or too hippy, or too delicate. He certainly hadn’t been treating her as if she were fragile. It was a dramatic turnaround from the past two days where he had cared for her as if she were made of porcelain. Still, she had been healing, and she might have treated him exactly the same despite his strength and size.
She rolled over and looked at him, her thoughts leading her eyes over all the places he had been injured when they had first met. He healed with astounding speed, because now the wounds were all just new places of salmon scarring streaked over him. Some of the more shallow cuts were even fading entirely.
Beyond that, he was perfect.
She loved the jewelry thing. The dual metal armbands, a strangely knotted and beaded necklace of simple polished copper, and rings on the last two fingers of both hands. The one on the left side might have made her a little nervous, except that it was in the shape of a falcon and looked nothing like any wedding band she had ever seen. Still, would it even matter? What with the way the world was so vacant all of a sudden? He had probably lost everyone just like she had…although he had acted as though there was somewhere very important he had to be, and she had gleaned that there were many people there.
Except now he didn’t seem to care about leaving. As silent a compliment as that was, it bothered her. The longer he stayed, the stranger he behaved. It was almost as if she were dealing with two different men entirely, the Trace of two days ago versus the Trace of now.
She sighed, shivering a little. She had learned not to bother covering up. He didn’t like it. Instead she risked snuggling up to his much warmer body, hoping he wouldn’t take it as an enticement.
Ashla screamed, shocked to hear a strange male voice coming from the foot of the bed. Now she scrambled for covers, yanking the comforter askew over her body as she stared wide-eyed at the large male figure standing there with no regard for the intimacy of their situation at all. He was easily taller than Trace, and while just as broad in the shoulders, he was a bit leaner. His long black hair was slicked into a waved tail long enough to curl well below his shoulders. He wore black, but there was an exotic fit and style to his clothing that broadcast possibilities of a Middle Eastern origin. He was quite breathtakingly beautiful for a man, pure eye-candy, as Diana would say. The sensuality of his facial features, from the arrogant tilt of his lips to the dark speculation in his glittering eyes, told her he was a man very used to coming out on top of any situation.
But it was the glint of a metal sword pommel at his waist that made Ashla’s heart race. What if this one was like the other one? The one who had nearly killed Trace in that boutique? Trace’s weapon was rooms away, back where their sexual marathon had started.
But Trace seemed unconcerned, not even bothering to sit up or display the modesty that she did with an attempt to conceal his nudity. He lazily looked over the intruder.
“M’itisume,” he greeted the man in return. “Tristan, what brings you to me?”
“You do,” the man named Tristan replied as he rounded the foot of the bed a bit. His hand came to rest on his sword, almost as if in challenge. Ashla saw Trace’s brow rise.
“That is odd, as I don’t recall summoning you, M’itisume,” Trace noted, a certain amount of steel present in his tone. Ashla saw Tristan’s step hesitate and his eyes narrow with obvious displeasure at the terminology of Trace’s words, but he recovered and moved steadily forward.
“I am here with Magnus.”
That made Trace sit up quickly.
“Magnus is here?”
“He is near. We are all here in search of you, my friend. You have been away too long.”
“All?” he echoed.
“The priests. Others.” Tristan’s eyes flicked back to Ashla. Now Trace reacted, banding an arm around her and sealing her to his back behind himself. “It is time to come home, Trace.”
“I am going to. I just need a few more hours…”
Even Ashla could tell it was a lie. Tristan stepped closer and she squeaked in surprise when Trace jerked forward and gnashed his teeth at the other man, the warning growl that followed giving cause for the armed man to step back again.
“Trace, I have no desire to make a war of this with you, but I am charged to bring you back. Come of your own free will and this can be resolved in peace. Come before you become too ill for us to help you.”
“Ill!” Ashla exclaimed in spite of herself. “He’s ill?”
“Yes, he is.”
“No. I’m not,” Trace countered harshly.
“He is ill,” Tristan persisted, meeting her eyes. “He just does not realize it. The longer he stays with you, the worse it will become. It puts you both in danger. His mind is in fever, and the worse it gets, the less he will care about accidentally hurting you. Soon, he will be purposely hurting you, though he will not realize it any more than he will care. Trust me when I tell you, the man I know Trace to be would be horrified and devastated to realize he had done you harm.”
“The longer he stays with me?” she echoed. “You mean…Is this my fault?”
“Nei, avet…not any more than it is his,” Tristan said, the answer evasive and disturbing. “Trace, I implore you to come with me now.”
Trace looked from his adversary of the moment to face his lover. He engulfed the back of her head in his hand and drew her in for a fierce, desperate kiss.
“Don’t listen to them. It’s all a lie,” he said softly. “A trick. To separate us.”
“But why would—?”
Trace jolted at the boom of Magnus’s voice but refused to turn and look at him. The intruding men represented a wall of negativity that his mind wouldn’t accept. They were an interference to feelings he had fast become addicted to. They wouldn’t let him keep her where and how he wanted her. Even now, as he looked at her troubled blue eyes and the brilliant fairness of her hair framing her elegant features, his heart pulsed with renewed desire for her. He caught her wrists and pushed her slight figure down into the bed with a mere shift of his weight.
“All that matters is what I want. I want to stay with you. I want to be with you…inside you, where I belong! It’s where I belong!” This last was shouted as the two intruding males grabbed Trace by his arms and wrestled to yank him back off Ashla.
Ashla couldn’t watch the humiliating and manic picture Trace made as he fought them with all of his strength. She scrambled away the minute she was free and wrapped herself in a sheet, falling to the floor on the opposite side of the bed and hiding her face in the bedding as she burst into terrible tears.
But the instant she heard the crash of breaking furniture she was on her feet and running after the trio as they took their fight into the open areas of the next room. The one whose eyes reminded her of gold, the one called Magnus, had a knee in Trace’s back as they forced the struggling man to the rug. The other reached into his boot to flip open a strange-looking pair of handcuffs. It was as if Trace was being arrested, like some kind of criminal.
“But he didn’t do anything wrong!” she cried. “You said he was sick!”
“We have no choice,” Magnus explained, his voice strained as he used all of his strength to control his captive. “He must be contained or he will hurt himself or someone else. He will never leave willingly, surely you see that.”
“I…Please, don’t! You’re hurting him!”
Trace bellowed in fury and pain as his arms were manipulated toward his back. The other male paused in the fight to turn on her with fierce anger.
“If you have a better idea, by all means speak! If not, be quiet and let us handle this!”
Ashla’s first reaction was to recoil from that powerful voice and its harsh commands, but even as she cringed, his words rang through her brain.
If you have a better idea…
The pile of violent men and their wildly emotional struggles was one of those entities that Ashla had always avoided, wisely knowing when it was best to get out of the way or risk getting injured or worse. But this time she moved forward, her heart pounding as she did so, her spirit aching as if it, too, were in the midst of Trace’s struggles. She believed these men. Trace was ill. It explained so much, and yet made no sense at all. But explanations could wait. Right now, they were fighting so hard to contain him, someone was bound to get hurt.
And she did have a better idea.
She reached Magnus first, her hand curving onto his shoulder so gently, so firmly, that he immediately looked up at her. Her gaze was fixed on Trace, so she only felt the way he hesitated and, for just a moment, relaxed. He watched her with intense curiosity as she reached for the bare expanse of Trace’s back. She ran her hand up his scarred spine, and, as if she had injected him with a drug, he went completely still. He was breathing hard, his skin damp from exertion, and he tried to see her by turning.
She touched Tristan on his hand where he held the cuffs, pushing him gently away even as Magnus also backed off. Both men barely understood why they responded to her silent, gentle urgings. Nor did they understand the way she had calmed the madman who had fought them so hard, but now lay docile under her sweeping, pacifying touch.
“Shh,” she soothed Trace. “It’s okay now.”
Ashla laid herself against his back, her cheek touching his over his shoulder as she ran warm hands down both of his arms.
“Don’t let them take me from you,” he begged her on a roughened choke of words. “They don’t understand. We’re Sainted. We’re…”
“Special,” she finished for him softly. “I know, Trace. I know. Just promise me one thing, okay?” she asked, her voice trembling a little as he reached to hold her against himself.
“Anything,” he swore. “Whatever it takes.”
“Promise me…that you’ll come back to me. Even if it’s just once to tell me you’re okay. Please…”
“But I’m not leaving,” he argued.
“Yes, jei li, you are.”
With only that warning, Ashla closed her eyes and healed him the only way she could think of.
She sent him to sleep.
Magnus watched the small wraith with no little amazement as she petted Trace’s hair one last time before moving off his relaxed body. She was perfectly solid, there was no denying it. Magnus had never seen anything like it in Shadowscape before. A human woman. Or rather, a full physical manifestation of a human woman. His eyes traveled over her, his senses opening wide and sinking deep. She felt pain, both physical and mental, in this state, he realized. He could sense the abuse her body had taken at Trace’s hands. As she wiped at hot tears quickly, he was amazed to find her holding no resentment toward him for that. The nature of the promise she had wanted to glean from him had told him as much. It was the request of a woman who did not feel the victim—even though she probably should.