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|Ecstasy(Shadowdwellers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Yes, touch,” he said, stroking her throat up to under her chin. “We learn every touch. Touch classes take place long before we ever come to this room.” He turned his hand so his knuckles skimmed her on the way back down to her breastbone. “We are quite used to touching by then. And I am not talking about breasts and cock and pussy,” he said, feeling her twitch with each bald English term he used. “I mean face, shoulders, and hands. Feet, calves, and back. We learn how to turn every nonsexual place into a sexual one. We learn how different one woman’s hair will feel from another’s. We are taught how what stimulates one person will not work on another. That is one of the most important lessons of all.”
“That no two people are alike,” she said, swallowing beneath the touch of his fingers.
“Never. That’s why, in the end, competition is such a fruitless thing.” He chuckled. “Not that it stops us. But it is good to have something to strive for.” He reached up with both hands to filter his fingers through her golden hair. “The first time I came here, I thought I was going to see sex. Finally. And trust me, I was ready. Or so I thought. You see, we don’t have television here, so films are not available to horny adolescent boys. Just thousands and thousands of pictures. Pictures of your race, because ours can’t bear a flash. Unless they were artist renderings; for us it was like looking at alien sex. We couldn’t always get past the differences in your looks. You will forgive me, but that, too, is a maturity issue.
“Anyway,” he whispered warmly against her ear, “here I come, cocky as hell because I had made the cut to see a live class at last, not to mention overrun with hormones and horny young urges. I was ready to see the big hurrah.”
“And?” she asked, already giving a little giggle.
“I spent an hour furious as hell with disappointment as I watched a nude couple engage in hair-brushing and hair-stroking techniques.”
“A lesson I had to re-take later on,” he added, his fingertips burrowing slowly and sensuously against her scalp until she shivered and sighed.
“I can see you paid attention that time,” she said with a soft, kittenish movement into his hands. He let her direct his touch, watching her neck as a run of gooseflesh skipped along her skin down to her breasts. He saw her nipples become taut under the colored silk and smiled with satisfaction.
“But never think anything is ‘practiced’ or a ‘routine.’ We do practice, but only to familiarize. And anyone who tries the same pattern and routine on everyone they encounter is doomed to failure. We do build a repertoire, what we can do and like to do best.”
Trace demonstrated by moving her hair off her shoulder and closing his mouth on the lowest curve of her neck. She gasped, then groaned as she slid silkily back against him while he used his lips, tongue, and teeth to stimulate the vulnerable nerve cluster there. He ended with a long lick that made her tremble.
“There, now, would you prefer I never do that because it is practiced and I have used it before?”
“If people used rules like that, we’d only be able to have sex with one person in our whole lives!”
“This is my exact point. We both know that you and I have had sex with others. When I was young, I confess it was a lot of others. Again, hormones.” He chuckled. “But I have been highly selective of late.” Trace slid his hands around the slender planes of her waist and onto her belly, the dress rubbing smooth and soft between his palms and her skin.
“Yes. And it is okay for you to ask me that because I brought it up first. I did so because I want you to understand something. Before I was with you in Shadowscape, I had not touched a woman in twelve years.”
This time he let her spin around to face him. She stared up at him in surprise for a moment, but then he saw in the pale blue depths of her eyes as she came to an understanding.
“Because of what happened when you were a prisoner,” she said with soft compassion.
“Mostly. Yes.” He swallowed. “Did anyone explain euphoria to you?”
“I was playing with fire that day and I knew it. I couldn’t resist kissing you, and then when you told me you had never felt an orgasm, I couldn’t bear to leave until I made it right for you. But sometime just before you crested, I completely crossed into euphoria, and when I felt and heard you come…Darkness and Light have never heard anything as exquisite as you sounded to me. I forgot all about the woman who had tortured me with her evil touch. I forgot I couldn’t bear to touch or to be touched by a woman. I forgot I despised the idea of ever again being naked and vulnerable in front of a female. All I wanted was to feel you around me, and once I did it was so glorious a feeling that I needed it again and again. Twelve years’ worth and more.
“And you put up with every selfish second of it. To this day I don’t know why. Any woman from my race would have cracked me but good for being so greedy and thoughtless. And then again in that post office. So damn impatient, I was. It was the opposite of everything I had learned.”
“Maybe because you didn’t take your lessons in spontaneity. I loved the post office,” she whispered with a sexy little groan against his neck that sent a hot rush of blood pulsing down the half-erect shaft of his penis and finishing the fullness that had started at her first touch. “Mmm, I remember thinking how warm you were. You still are.” He felt her reach out to caress his sides and belly. “And I was trying to plan all the things I wanted to do to you. I wanted to be brave enough to do it that time.”
“And I just wanted to keep my head and get you home. But”—he breathed into her hair—“I catch your scent and everything unravels. Just like now.”
Trace didn’t want to, but he glanced up at the rotunda ceiling, scanning the glass quickly.
“Jei li,” he said quietly, swallowing back a pleasured sigh when her small hands ran up over his chest. “Don’t forget we are in the temple proper. There are rules here.”
“Rules?” she repeated. “And this is the temple?” She looked around at the room that in her world might very well have been illegal, depending on the age of the students.
“Yes. In our religion, we believe that all teaching and all learning is a blessing. We believe it should…” His voice skipped when her traveling hands began to slowly slide down the muscles of his belly, making them clench. “It should be done by our ministers.”
That made her stop still, and he sighed with relief and regret. He couldn’t think straight when she touched him. It was the most outstanding reaction, and it baffled him because he had never felt so profound an impact at anyone else’s hands.
“You mean priests and nuns teach this class?” she asked in shock.
“Handmaidens. And yes. But that isn’t my point. When in the temple, we follow temple rules. No exception. And in this room, the rule is if you choose to make love, you are fair game for modeling to a class.”
That made her jump away from him so fast that he had to chuckle.
“Oh my God!”
“Only if we’re caught. But we will be.” He pointed to the glass rotunda. “That’s the second story. It’s an observatory window that sits in the middle of a very busy hallway. This section of the school is very sex intensive, so it makes sense for students to be able to study whenever they want. The lectern’s voice will carry and they can hear the lesson if they like.”
“We have to leave! Why did you bring me in here?”
She grabbed his hand and tried to pull him toward the door.
“Because the rooms on either side of us are holding class,” he informed her, making her stop still. “And the ones across the halls are the private lesson chambers. You came in this direction, I followed. It was my only choice when you pitched your fit at me. Every other room that might be remotely private was pretty far away, and I didn’t want you screaming and cursing all through the Sanctuary.”
“Oh,” she said meekly. “I forgot…I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“It’s okay. No one expects you to learn all the rules instantly.”
“But what about being in here?” She looked up nervously. “Are we going to have to do s-something? We should leave.”
“A few more inches below my belt with those sweet little hands of yours and we would have,” he told her as he drew her palm up for his kiss. “Any overtly sexual behavior makes us fair game. That means being caught crossing into any of the major erogenous zones.” His eyes tracked down over the round swell of her breasts. “I want you to tell me where your rooms are.”
“My…? I’m in the women’s dormitories.”
“There are three floors to the women’s dormitories,” he reminded her with amusement, never once looking up from the memory replay he was having of how fair and pretty her breasts looked when she was naked.
“Oh.” She backed away from him and waved a hand across his eyes. “Stop crossing my zones!” she whispered fiercely.
“I have no intention of sharing you with the entire winter semester,” he rejoined in a low rumble as he closed the space between them, “but I very much intend on crossing every damn zone on your body, so you better tell me where your rooms are.” He took hold of her by the back of her head, making her face the hard heat of need he knew was in his eyes. It had been banked there for two very long weeks as he had given her space and time to recover. “Unless you no longer want me for you, jei li. The choice will always be yours.”
Ashla looked up at him with unreadable eyes for a moment, her expression closed in that way she could sometimes have when she wasn’t afraid or nervous. He had watched her closely these past days and noticed she was not as afraid of everything as she had been in Shadowscape, despite the fact that the world she was in now was just as strange. Her wild show of temper had been a bracing example of that, but it made him nervous suddenly to not know what she was thinking. Despite his generosity of power of choice, he didn’t want her to choose against the idea. Against him.
He cursed in his head as he looked back up at the rotunda ceiling. Anything he might do to best convince her would put them in danger of public display, and he knew Ashla would never be able to bear it. At least, not now. Perhaps in the future that might change, and just the thought of that made him painfully aware of the crying need in his body right then, but again he was losing sight of whose was the more critical need between them.
He drew her up close as he dared, bending to touch his forehead to hers. “What makes you hesitate?” he asked. “Why do you still doubt me?”
“It’s not you I doubt,” she admitted in a rush. “You are used to women who are trained and skilled in things that—that I am painfully ignorant of. I look different, act different; I am that alien you once found so strange as a boy.”
“I am no longer a boy,” he reminded her, roughly pulling her body into his to give her a physical reminder of that. “And you are no alien. We have been to this place before, Ashla. Don’t you remember how you satisfied me? How my hunger for you raged then?”
“You weren’t yourself then,” she argued stubbornly. “You said it several times now. What if—”
“What if,” he growled harshly as he swung her full around and began to back her quickly toward the door, “what if we find out for ourselves and then pass judgment, hmm? And let’s do so quickly before I am forced to show a classroom of infants as well. Trust me when I tell you that for me to play model to a class would draw nearly every student in the Sanctuary.”
He hadn’t thought someone so pale could get any paler, but she managed it.
“I’m on the ground floor, just across the courtyard. My room faces it near the onyx fountain.”
Trace didn’t even bother to move. He knew every corner and every best shadowed spot in the building. He had skipped them time and time again in years of practice. He closed his eyes and skipped her quickly into the courtyard, then once again into the hall closest to where she had mentioned. When they materialized outside of the three doors suiting her description of her room, she drew in a loud breath.
“I thought men weren’t allowed in the women’s quarters,” she breathed.
“They aren’t,” he said meaningfully, giving her a little shake to urge her on.
“This one,” she said, pointing.
He moved them into the room so fast that Ashla barely had time to take a breath. Then the door was closed and everything was like pitch nothingness to her before she blinked and details of her room began to define themselves more clearly. Slowly colors arose out of the darkness, showing her how much her sight was improving over time. She realized now that this was what Trace saw when he looked into darkness, although perhaps even more clearly than she could.
That thought just as easily flew out the window, though, when her back was pushed against the door and his large hands curved around her waist and swiftly rode up the length of her torso. She gasped as he crossed one of those promised zones, taking the fullness of her breasts into his palms.
“I want to do this right,” he said, his words like breath as they rushed from him. “But every time I touch you, everything hurries at me with a need I can’t even explain. You fear disappointing me when it’s impossible! Touch me, Ashla. Feel how my body shakes with anticipation.”
Ashla didn’t need to touch him; she could already feel the vibration of excitement resonating through him. But the invitation was irresistible. She curled a hand around his neck and drew him down to her, her lips parting as he came to kiss her. She melted against him the moment their mouths melded, sighing as his tongue sought deep for hers. His hands slid back and around her shape, gliding down the curve of her back and over her hips. She tried not to be self-conscious about how thin she knew she felt. It might be a coveted figure in American society, but here it was just thin and undernourished. All the women she saw here had curves and plenty of them. They couldn’t even find clothes for her at first without needing to tailor them.