|Home > Jacquelyn Frank > Shadowdwellers > Ecstasy (Page 23)|
|Ecstasy(Shadowdwellers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“I’m not absolving myself of anything,” he returned with a dark frown. “That’s my whole point! I am taking responsibility for the—”
“Great! Wow, you are a stellar example of honorable manhood,” she said sarcastically.
“—animalistic and horrendous excuse for lovemaking I subjected you to!” he finished.
“Oh, well, you—” Ashla cut herself off as his words sank in. “W-what?”
“There is no need to mock me,” he said stiffly. “I know there was no honor and certainly no respect on my part for what passed between us, Ashla.” He reached down and absently gripped the hilt of his sword. “I beg you to understand that I was not myself. Had I been…”
“I know,” she sighed. “You’d never have done it. Don’t you think I know men like you don’t pick girls like me? Not for real, anyway.”
“Sutaptu!” He exploded with the word, a palm shooting out to strike against the counter just beyond her shoulder. “Deish sata apth atu mename! Who would dare imply such a thing?” He reached out with his free hand, leather and muscle gripping her hard by the chin and forcing her to look into his furious eyes. “What kind of world did they raise you in, that you would come free of it thinking such bald, black lies? What have I done to make you think me so shallow and—”
His fury seemed to bleed out of him in an instant, his eyes going wide for a moment. She realized then that he was finding, with tormented shame, those faults in his behavior he felt answered his own query. But the truth was, he had treated her like no one else ever had. Since the moment she had set eyes on him, nothing had been usual or normal. And now, when she weeded out her emotions and reconsidered all he had tried to say to her, she realized that he honestly thought himself some kind of villain for his treatment of her in New York. He was expecting her to condemn him! To shun him or whatever it was that women did to men who fell below their standards. She certainly wouldn’t know what that was. Below standards, yes; opportunity to tell them so, no.
But regardless, he had hardly been criminally blackhearted.
“You didn’t do anything to make me think that,” she said gently, a mittened hand reaching to touch him on his chest a little hesitantly. “I just…I’ve learned to expect the worst of everybody and just go from there. I’m sorry, it’s wrong for me to do that. You don’t deserve to be mistreated for what others have done.”
“No,” he agreed, “but perhaps I do for what I myself have done.” His hand turned and gentled along the side of her face, the leather on his fingers soft and worn from time and familiarity. “You deserved better than what my feverish brain and body gave you, jei li.” His dark head lowered closer to hers, the longer fall of his hair in front brushing her forehead soft as feathers as his eyes bore deeply into hers. “I want to give you…” He stopped, a hard swallow punctuating his change of heart in expressing his thought. But Ashla wanted to beg him to continue it. What did he want?
Trace pulled away and looked up at the ceiling, taking a moment to collect himself. She didn’t realize the full scope of the internal battle he was waging over her. He had come there with a different purpose, and yet that crucial and critical purpose had dissolved into nothingness as the ghosts of euphoric memory combined with the reality of the chemistry that flared between them in harsh, stunning sparks. But Trace forced himself to keep on task. His time was short. There was no telling how long twenty-four hours in Realscape would translate to where they were, and there was just so much to tell her. It was an amazing burden on his soul to decide where to begin. He had made more than enough mistakes, and any he made now could cost her life.
“Listen,” he said instead of untold numbers of other things he felt the urgent need to say, “we haven’t much time and there is much to discuss. We should go somewhere more comfortable so we can sit and talk.”
“I don’t want to go anywhere,” she said, the words a bit numb as they came, almost as if someone else were saying them. She tugged off her mittens, throwing them to the ground to emphasize she was staying put. “I want to know what you were going to say just now. Before you stopped and thought about it.”
“It’s not im—”
“Let me decide what’s important,” she interjected.
“Immediately imperative, I was going to say. Actually, to me, it is very important. But, jei li, what is more important is your life and your safety. I will sacrifice everything, especially my own selfish desires, in order to protect that.”
It had to be the most amazing thing anyone had ever said to her. In fact, since she’d never heard anything even remotely like it before, she had no concept of how to react. She realized on some distant level that she should be afraid of his implication that her life was somehow in danger, but all she kept hearing was everything after that part.
Trace’s culture was quite formal, for all its seductive ways and freedoms, so he had never actually had a female throw herself impulsively into his arms before. He certainly wasn’t expecting it from his little mouse who took orders far better than she expressed ideas of her own, but as her fingers scraped up through the hair at the back of his head and took hold to pull him down to her mouth, he forgot all about that.
He forgot all about everything the moment her lips touched to his. Trace felt her kiss like lightning; from its electric power to its burning bright light, it all scorched a path straight through him. He was inside her mouth before he realized it, and once he did realize it he was absolutely hooked. Had he forgotten the incredible way she tasted? Or had he just been so far gone that first time that he hadn’t taken the time to notice the subtle sweetness of her? And damn if she didn’t kiss like the flashes of a sudden strobe, sizzling hot pulses that burned beautifully and in Technicolor lights. Her small tongue was gifted and wicked as the shy mouse bowed out of the picture and the woman starved for passion stepped up for notice.
Trace reached up to cup her face in his hands, but he cursed against her lips when his gloves impeded his ability to feel her delicate skin. He kept her mouth, reaching both hands behind her to strip off the offending leather. When he had her back in the cradle of his palms it only fired his desire for more. Only then did he allow himself to realize just how much he had wanted her since the moment he had left her side. Convincing himself that any impulse he’d had for her over the past days had been just dregs of the disease to him, something to be repressed or hidden, he hadn’t allowed for the possibility that the power he had felt had been real. So very real. What was more, now that his mind was wholly clear and the euphoria well distant from his actions, all that was left was the vast need between them.
He hadn’t thought he could feel anything more powerful than the euphoria-induced obsession for her. Trace was now being taught a sharp lesson in the power of mind and spirit over its own flaws and weaknesses.
“Ashla,” he said, meaning something and forgetting what he meant between one kiss and the next, she was that bewitching.
“I don’t care,” she whispered with half incoherence. “Just don’t stop kissing me. Please.”
“Ah, jei li,” he sighed. “How can I say no when you beg so prettily?”
And that was the end of Trace’s struggles of conscience. He lost himself in the moment as thoroughly as he could, drinking her into himself however he could, and growling with frustration when her clothing prohibited some of the best ways.
As if she spoke the same guttural language, she began to rip and tug at her garments. Together they shucked off her many ridiculous layers, the sheer number of them allowing the couple to build a wild sort of momentum as they went. He only left her mouth in brief breaks to accommodate the unwinding of her thick muffler. Once it was gone he was sealed back to the divine fire of her kiss.
Ashla had never known kisses could be so stunning. It didn’t matter that they had done it before. It was suddenly all new, as if it had been two other strangers who had spent those hours tangled together in the heat of sex. This time, she could feel the exquisite tenderness lacing his obvious hunger. It was all in his hands. Whenever he bared the smallest patch of her skin, he paused to cup and cradle it, to feel every inch and contour he could before reaching feverishly to continue freeing up his access. He clearly didn’t realize he had reached her final shirt until he had stripped it off and his hands landed on hot, bare skin.
“Oh, God!” she gasped, the contrast between her overheated skin and his much cooler hands causing the exclamation.
Trace gave no quarter. Now that he had hold of her, he wasn’t letting her go until he absolutely had to. Nothing in his lifetime had prepared him for the kind of desire he was feeling. It went so much deeper than flesh, so far beyond the boiling pulse of his blood as it rushed through his starkly livened body. All his dread about how it would be to have a woman touch him, to have this woman touch him, once he was in his right mind, simply vanished as her small fingers sneaked over his rib cage and then his back without so much as a flinch echoing into his body movements. He went utterly still, a sensation of total awe and pleasure rushing him as her touch crept up the deeply scarred line of his spine and he not only felt it, but felt it like sweet delight as it radiated to his entire nervous system. He paused to catch his breath against her lips, his throat tightening with overwhelming emotion. He had thought those nerve pathways forever destroyed, tragic casualties of a wicked bitch who would burn in Light for her sins. But try as she had, Acadian had not won. In fact, the smallest wisp of a woman had just defeated months of Acadian’s best efforts with a simple touch of her hand.
Trace was so ecstatic about this revelation and the victorious delight that followed that he scooped her up under her arms in both hands and hoisted her with airy ease onto the countertop behind her. This brought her up a good distance in height, relieving the significant difference between them and opening up all new possibilities to his reach and hers. She burrowed her hands into his coat until he took his hands off her long enough to let her push it off his shoulders. The weighty leather plopped heavily onto the floor, but he was already distracted by the feel of her hands at his belt. It was only his weapons belt, but since it buckled directly across the fly of his slacks, he could feel her fingertips stroking against him as she worked the leather free of the clasp.
“Aiya,” he exclaimed in a heated burst of breath. “How is it that something so simple can bring a man to his knees?”
“But you’re not on your knees,” she returned, smiling against his lips. She felt the belt come apart in her hands, but she held on to it with her fingers as she laid her palms against him and quite boldly stroked over him through the fabric of his twill slacks. She could feel the ready swelling of his erection clear as day, but she lengthened her search all the same, slowing it down to an infinitesimal caress.
“Aiya,” he repeated fiercely, “if you keep that up, you’ll be on yours,” he promised her.
Ashla tsked her tongue at the lewd suggestion, even as he grabbed hold of her hands and made her drop the weapons belt to the floor with a clatter before he pushed it to relative safety behind her back.
“We didn’t get a chance to try that,” she noted with a provocative feint for his kiss. “Then again, you never ordered me to.”
“Oh, I see. And I should have?”
“You’re the one who said I was submissive.” She gave him a bare-shouldered shrug, drawing his attention to the shell pink bra she wore, which actually looked dark against her moon-white skin.
“I did say that,” he agreed, “and you said otherwise, I recall.” His fingertips reached to track the path his eyes were taking down over the slope of her breast. One hooked beneath the upper rim of her cup on the left, the low edge of the design bringing him directly across the path of her hidden nipple.
“I-I’ve had time to think about that,” she informed him a bit breathlessly. The change in her voice and in the texture of the nipple he teased made him smile. So did her conversation.
“Oh? Did you come to a conclusion?”
“Yes. I am submissive,” she admitted, but then added her caveat, “to you. Only to you.” Trace’s gaze shot back up to hers in unadulterated surprise, making her grin. “Don’t look so surprised. It seems only right since you were the one who figured it out.”
“You knew,” he said.
“I suspected. Or maybe I considered the possibility. But…I never thought…it never…” She released a mighty sigh, blowing up the short curls lying against her forehead. “I was never turned on until you started bossing me around. It just came so easily. God, it made me so hot,” she whispered as his head bowed to hear her confession. “You don’t take orders, whatever it is you do for a living. You give them. I can tell. It comes so naturally to you. But you don’t bully. I can tell that, too. I can just sense how you seek to give pleasure with your commands. Well, pleasure for me.”
“When I can, yes. But I am not shy about giving the unpleasant commands, either. But that is my work. You, jei li, are strictly for pleasure. Everything I do for you, whether you realize it or not at the time, is to bring you pleasure. At least, it is now that I have my head on straight again.”
“Yeah, you’ll have to tell me about that one day,” she said softly as she drew enticing patterns across his shirt with her fingertips.
“I should be telling you about it now. I should be telling you a lot of things.”
“It has to wait,” she told him, leaning forward to touch soft kisses to the side of his neck. “There’s so much I didn’t get to do last time.”